Thursday, December 30, 2010
Well, none of that got done. There was a blizzard, for one thing, which required hours of staring out into the snow and bad TV and internet surfing. And then it later required serious digging to find my car; well, the back half, to be precise, since the snow drifted so much. This was a tad problematic, as my shovel was in the trunk of my car. Yesterday, I had to take the cat to the vet, and now know way more about feline anal glands than I ever wanted to. I was happy to know hers were just a bit clogged up and there was nothing serious, but phew. The smell was just indescribable, and certainly not fit for public consumption. And for the past few days, construction crews have been in the downstairs apartment tearing out the floor and playing loud Latin rap music, which has sent me into PTSD mode from flashbacks to my NYC apartment, where I endured months of the walls vibrating from the exact same music. (So much for quiet meditation and writing.)
Friday, December 17, 2010
Awhile back I mentioned that I read the book “Half the Sky” and it really had an impact on me. I wanted to start a little personal side project related to women’s empowerment issues, and for lack of anything else I’m referring to it as my “Half the Sky Project”. I don’t think the authors will mind, since they want to start a movement, but just so I don’t get sued let me be clear: this project was inspired by the book Half the Sky, but is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the authors or Mercy Corps.
It’s charitable donation time again! As part of my project, I decided I would contribute to one charity per month that supports women's empowerment. Admittedly, these are small donations ($25 or so), but I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector long enough to know that every little bit helps, particularly when the big checks are few and far between.
I donated to Kiva in October, and in November I contributed to my (nonprofit) employer’s staff campaign (which may seem a little self-serving to some people, but I didn’t *have* to contribute, and our mission is to support women’s economic empowerment, so it counts). December’s little check was mailed today to the Maine Women’s Fund. In addition to leadership programs, MWF provides grants for a number of nonprofits in
One thing that I am trying to do is balance giving to international organizations with giving to US-based organizations. I find that having a small budget makes the international organizations far more tempting – $25 in Africa goes a lot further than it does in
this guy out - he's giving $5 a day, every day, to charities. A really interesting social experiment!
As we get closer to the end of 2010, don't forget to support your own favorite charity! If you are looking for some inspiration, check
UPDATE: Nicholas Kristof, one of the authors of Half the Sky and a NYTimes columnist, has a great list of organizations worthy of support this season - you can find it here.
this guy out - he's giving $5 a day, every day, to charities. A really interesting social experiment!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
But onward. The second Reverb10 prompt was about writing: December 2 –What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)
Pertaining to my own writing (as opposed to the grant writing I do at my job), I feel like I thought more about writing this year than I actually wrote. I will exceed my goal of 52 posts here on this blog (one per week), so that’s something. I did send three or four essays out, all of which were rejected. I’m actually not so fussed about those rejections, mainly because the pieces I sent out had been workshopped and I know they were well-written enough such that I am not embarrassed about them. I did, however, recently contract with a writing instructor to review one of the pieces; she gave me great feedback, and I will be reworking that over my Christmas vacation. I kept a fairly good personal journal until I changed jobs, but that kind of petered out. Last month I started using 750words, although I have rarely managed more than 3 days in a row. But it’s something. Also, I have about 70 pages of something drafted. I’m not sure what this “something” is, whether it is a collection of essays or the beginnings of a little book. I’m not sure yet what it wants to be. I suspect 2/3 of it is garbage, but there’s enough there to make me want to keep going.
There are a million things that keep me from writing as much as I want to, but the biggest problem is that there is always something else to do. Knit, sew, read, watch a movie, surf the internet, watch TV, play with the cat, call my sister, read in the bathtub, etc. For all that I do to avoid writing, one would assume I hated it. But I don’t – I actually really love it. So, then, why is it difficult to carve out time for something I love? It’s not like I have kids or a husband to take care of. (Although, conversely, this means everything gets done by me or it doesn’t get done – full time job, paying bills, oil changes, trash duty, laundry, dishes, errands, making dinner, cat wrangling, it’s ALL on me.)
Despite all this, though, I actually do a pretty good job most week days of writing something, even if it is dashing off a page or two at lunch. But I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to really work - to revise, rewrite, mash things up, etc. And the one day of the week I have such time? Sunday. The day I always *say* I'm going to go to church/yoga class/brunch with friends but inevitably wind up sleeping until noon and spending the rest of the day in my pajamas on the couch watching chick flicks and sewing. And I really love having that one whole day with no commitments (Saturdays are guitar lessons and errands and family things. And why, yes, there IS a nagging little voice in my head that is clearing his throat, suggesting that the guitar lessons make an early exit, but I'm committed until June. And I'm determined to be a decent guitar player.) In my fantasy life I work part-time for just this reason, but right now that isn't feasible.
So I don't quite know yet how to solve this dilemma. It's a privileged dilemma, I know, but thorny nonetheless. If I could just function without sleep...
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
“It” is REVERB10, which is a series of daily prompts to encourage people to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. It's sort of ingenious, really, and complements so much of my blog reading this year, including The Happiness Project and The Art of Non-Conformity (specifically, the author's encouragement to create yearly plans). Plus, I'm a big fan of navel-gazing, particularly my own. I may not post a response to every prompt here, but rest assured I am following along. (Incidentally: one new writing tool I discovered recently is 750words, which is a place where you can write privately about things, based on the Morning Pages concept from The Artist's Way. It's free - right now, anyway- and provides a simple way of making sure I get at least some writing done every day, even if it is stream-of-conscious whining.)
But I digress! On to prompt #1: Find a word to describe 2010, and identify one for 2011.
I love this idea as I like succinct, even if the concept rarely applies to me. And I had actually been thinking about this anyway, as I wanted to spend 2011 focusing on one concept and thought that it might be helpful to find a word to sum up 2010. After much thought, I came up with the startling realization that 2010 was all about “Better”. Things got better in 2010. And, hallelujah…because for awhile there I thought I was truly doomed.
There are a host of reasons for this. 2009 was a really horrible year, for reasons I won't get into, and there really wasn't any way to go but up. My job change in August was a key factor in making 2010 "better", as was getting my cat. Having my family back from California also really helped. My guitar playing got better. My stress levels plummeted. While you wouldn’t know it to look at me, my health got better too, including my tension headaches (while they haven’t completely gone away, they became much less frequent after I changed jobs). And, save for a few icky weeks in October, I did not endure a raging case of seasonal affectedness disorder or a major depressive episode.
There are still a million things that need improvement, but for once: things got better. And there is much gratitude for that in my little heart.
As for 2011...I’m turning 40. Forty!!! My life is officially more-or-less half over, and I have so little to show for it that it is embarrassing. I’ve wasted so much TIME that I get anxious thinking about it. And a couple of recent conversations have left me rattled – one with my friend S. about the notion of ambition, and another with my guitar teacher about having a passion for something (in his case, guitar). At the moment I seem to be lacking in both the ambition and passion departments, and I’d like to end 2011 having one or both figured out. On a less ethereal plain, I need to lose weight, exercise, and start saving money like crazy so I can buy a house or a condo in the next few years so I can retire without a mortgage.
So despite the obviousness that I loathe, 2011 is the year of Forty. I don’t know exactly how this will manifest itself – lose 40 pounds, write 40 blog posts, write 40,000 words, read 40 books, sew a 40-block quilt…at the moment there seems to be enough possibilities to justify the theme. And let’s face it: it’s what I’m going to be thinking about anyway, so I may as well get something productive out of it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I don't know what's happened to me lately, but for the past couple of weeks I have been completely unable to sleep before 2 am. I find myself in bed watching stuff on Hulu -- like old Mary Tyler Moore episodes, and most recently this cancelled ABC Family show based on the movie "10 Things I Hate About You", which wasn't quite "My So-Called Life" but actually pretty good. I was a lot like Kat in high school...and my sister was a lot like Bianca. In some ways, it's kind of scary how close to home it can hit...for example, in one episode an elderly woman chastises Kat and tells her, "I know a lot of girls like you who wound up being old cat ladies", a fate I am beginning to wholeheartedly embrace. (Except that tonight the cat managed to drag my sort of heavy wool coat off the chair and onto her wet cat food, which she likes to cover up despite my regular reassurances that I have no interest in eating it.)
But back to the not sleeping thing. It's not stress. I'm not depressed. It might be caffeine but I don't think so. The last time this happened I had a week of really bad dreams about an ex-boyfriend of mine who was being exceedingly mean, and it got to the point where I didn't want to sleep because I didn't want to dream about him being mean anymore. But there are no bad dreams this time. Mostly it feels like...procrastination. Possibly my worst habit; in fact, sometimes I worry I will procrastinate my entire life away, with a college friend's words echoing in my ears: "I could have wasted my time in much better ways". And it's weird because I have a list a mile long of things I want to do (or need to do...), but I cannot get any of it done to save my life. It's not just finishing knitting projects or cleaning out the fridge, either; it's stuff that is really important to me, like my writing projects. I'm avoiding them big-time. I don't know why.
The other thing is, my hair has been giving me fits. It's too long now, to the point where about all I can do is put it in a ponytail. I fantasize about taking my pinking scissors to my ponytail, just to see what would happen. While I'm not a big drinker anyway, I am currently avoiding all alcohol just so that I don't act on the scissor impulse. It's a pretty strong compulsion, actually; even just writing about it is making me think about those scissors, which I happen to know are on the dining room table. The problem is that every time I cut my hair short I hate it and instantaneously regret it. But...wow. Just...chop. So tempting...
Sunday, December 5, 2010
3) Knitting. There has been an inordinate amount of knitting mittens around here. Alas, the knitting has been accompanied by a ridiculous amount of un-knitting. I knit this mitten for my 10-year old niece J. (from the new Cascade 220 book), using yarn she had picked out. Stupidly, I thought that knitting the mittens just as the pattern instructed would result in mittens that would fit J. I was, alas, hugely mistaken. Thankfully, I only knit one of them, and this one fits her mother (my sister). So not all was lost. But it's taken me several tries to rework the pattern in order to get something that fits J., and that's where the ripping out has come in. I *will* figure this out though!
Meanwhile, I had my own mittens to knit. For the past two years I have knit myself mittens, with matching hats. And for the past two years, I have lost what I have knit. Come spring, these things just disappear. I assume I've left them on the train, but they never turn up in the lost-and-found.
This year, I had a picture of exactly what I wanted in my head, but couldn't find a written pattern so....well....I winged it. And all was good until I got to the increasing part. You'd think I would have anticipated this, it's not like I haven't knit mittens before, but no. Totally didn't occur to me that my two black/one red scheme would get thrown out of whack when more stitches were added. So, there was a lot of "improvising" (also known as, "screw it, its yarn, what's the worst that could happen?"). Ultimately these were a pretty quick knit, but I was honestly *this close* to ripping them out because I didn't like the way they tapered off. In the midst of my indecision, it got cold out, and that was the end of the deliberating. Plus, since it's stranded knitting, they are really warm!