Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to cook well on the cheap

I continue to be without internet, and also without a lot of funds, but this isn't the first time I've been too poor to buy a lot of food. So here are my tips for maximizing your budget.

Seasonings
Seriously, seasonings. Look for the Badia ones at your grocery store's Hispanic isle. All the main ones will be there, plus some best ones specific to Hispanic-country food styles, and they're generally cheaper than the ones in the main spice isle.

Also, look into mixes--I and my sister swear by adobo, I love herbes de provence and 'italian seasoning', and those little packs of sazon make otherwise bland food savory and delicious. There's also recaito and sofrito,  a wet seasoning available in jars and frozen, that kick up almost anything.

Watch out for large amounts of salt though; thats not good for anyone.

Ethnic Groceries
There are all sorts of staples that you can pick up at asian markets our at the local bodega that would cost you a whole lot more at your usual grocery store.

Look into the native foods of places that have simple staples but a lot of variety of preparation--Asia, Mexico, northern and eastern europe. Look into your own heritage and see what the traditional foods and country standards are.

And be adventurous. Pick up something you've never had before and give it a try. Extra points if there's no english on it and you try it anyway. A wider palate is easier to please when funds get low!

Fallback favorites
Keep a list of family favorites, things you can make quickly if you don't have much time, things you can feed everyone on if monger it's really tight, and refer to those lists when you're trying to decide what to make. Because, let me tell you, if you can't afford to shop for a while month, you'll be answering that question a lot. And fallbacks are a good thing to have.

Casseroles
Any time you can throw your veg, protein, starch and dairy into a single pot or dish and serve a whole family is a good time. Learn how to make a filling, crowd-feeding casserole out of anything, and you have a lot of variety without a lot more effort.

Soups
A good way to use up leftover veggies, our ones that will go bad soon. A good way to use bits of meat from other meals. A good way to make cheap things like beans go a long way. A god way to keep eating for two our three days. A good way to make one person's protein feed three people.

Basically, make friends with soups and stews.

More for your buck
If you get a whole chicken instead of boneless bits, you get maybe two meals worth of meat, another meal of meat-shreds for soup or to mix into gravy or to make a salad out of, and you get all those bones (and skin, and fat, and maybe organs) to boil into a very nutritious broth for your next pot of soup!

If you freeze leftovers, that's a free meal later. If you use leftovers again, that's less on your grocery list next week.

Look for things you can get extra food out of for the same funds.

Sale
Find out which grocery store has the best prices, the best selection of things you'll actually use, and the best sales. I miss Winn-Dixie because they had weekly two-for-one deals, effectively making posters of our grocery list twice as productive.

Be flexible
Whatever proteins are on sale, put those in your meal, regardless of what the original recipe called for. Almost any chicken recipe could be used for pork, fish, tofu or beans. Almost any pork recipe could be used for chicken or fish. Most beef recipes could be used for pork or chicken. Almost any neat recipe could bee used for vegetarian proteins.

See what I'm getting at? If you plan on sweet and sour meatballs, but pork our chicken is on sale, our there's a great deal on tofu our fish, our even just that the meatballs our beef are sold out, just sub in something with a better price.

Seasonal
Things in season will be much more abundant, and therefore cheaper. There's also evidence that they're fresher and not forced or brought from far away, and so have more nutrients and cause less damage to the ecosystem. Plus, they taste better!

Do it yourself
Why spend four dollars on a jar of sauce when you can make it yourself? If youre poor, you literally can't afford not to cook at home, so get thee to the used book store our the remainder bin, and find some cook books. Cooking isn't hard, it's just a series of steps. Start easy and get more complex as your skill develops.

If time is the problem, get a slow cooker to do the work for you, or pre-chop everything so you only have to throw it in a pot, or delegate dinner to your spouse, room mate, kid who's big enough, our whatever.

Know when to invest
Sometimes cheap isn't best. Most of the time it is, but once in a while, you might need to spend more. Like, on your cooking utensils--better knives, a heavier cookpot, a slow cooker, a food processor. Look for good-quality second hand stuff, shop on big sales, see if someone had one they don't need, or use layaway.

Buy higher quality oils, healthier-raised meat and eggs, yogurt with less sugar and thickeners and more actual yogurt. Buy trail mix instead of snack cakes. If you're going to spend more on food, buy at least some of it of higher quality.

Find other proteins
In most shopping lists, it's the neat that costs the most. So maybe think about releasing yourself from a meat-centric diet. Get chicken instead of beef. Or use eggs and cheese to get your protein. Or get it from beans. A meal our three a week with no meat saves money, adds healthy nutrients, and expand your options.

Just make sure if you take the meat out of a recipe, you put some other protein back in. we don't need as much as the beef commercials imply, but we do need some!

Stretch it with veg
When things are tight, the inclination of a lot of people I know is to add more starch to make up for the less meat. Instead, stretch it with veggies! Onions, carrots, potatoes or other root veg, and cabbage are all super cheap year round. Just throwing in an onion and two chopped carrots into any sauce will give you a lot more food without a lot more calories. And if things get really tight, those veggies alone can make a meal.

These are my tricks. What are yours?

Friday, July 18, 2014

How would you build a new society?


I've been thinking about that new show FOX has coming up, Utopia. I have reservations about the gameshow part of it where people can be voted off--because I feel like an actual new society would literally require everyone to get along, and there'd be no out. If you didn't get along, you'd all die, and voting off people will basically negate that realism. On the other hand, it looks like the society is the point, so the people voted off will be replaced by other people, and that might make it less competitive and more actual...

I don't know.

But it has me thinking about how I would do it. I'm pretty sure I'm not good for the show--too many health issues, not enough early-social-set-up skills--but I still think about things like that, in a sort of just-in-case* sort of way, and as a writer, I'm basically building societies that try to make sense all the time. So how would I apply that?

I think I'd build in layers.

Layer One: Basic Survival - Food, Water, Shelter
Because you die if you don't have those things. Nothing else can happen if you don't have water, food, and a way to be protected from weather, cold or heat, and predators. I'd also include here, at the very bottom of the list, at the foundation, a strong emphasis on foraging and on sustainable gathering and hunting, which also includes preserving the ecosystems of the things you're gathering and hunting.

Also, building things like bathrooms, compost heaps, the infirmary. And scouting the lands so that we know, as a group, exactly where to find everything we need. And when we build basic passive defenses--ways to keep out predators of ourselves and our food sources, ways to keep people who aren't willing to play along at a safe distance, but not to attack them or antagonize them, and to leave the way open for them to join if they agree to the basic ideas of the community.

Layer Two: Buffering against the future
This is where the food storage and preservation stuff comes in, where water reserves would be built--I'm thinking dams and cisterns and wells. I'm thinking granaries and smoke houses and root cellars. I'm thinking home gardens for vegetables, one per house rather than huge fields of them, and a few small fields of grains or staples.

I think this might also be the level where more cultural future-stuff is built in: some way to record the history and the knowledge of the tribe you're building and the people in it, a way to teach kids basic information** for the future, maybe a simple sort of religious or spiritual practice or artistic expression to keep the community together--something along the lines of nighttime storytelling, seasonal celebrations, building family totem poles or painting family flags or something, or dancing and singing. Nothing all that codified--something that is defined by the group so it can grow organically.

This is also when the basic rules of the community, and the consequences for breaking the rules would be laid down, probably by vote and extensive discussion, and with an eye toward scalability as the community grows, non-violence, rehabilitation rather than punishment, community togetherness and strength, and preservation of community functioning.

In these early stages, people can't be selfish or disruptive, or nothing will work.

Could start building the basic foundations of:

  • A stuff-library where people can go to find the cookware, tools, storage, or household items they don't really need to own themselves.
  • A community food storage place, where if the winter is hard, or the summer kills the crops, there's always backup food for everyone.

This is also where we can look back a bit and recreate the best parts of the cultures we all came from, and the knowledge bases we all had before--cherrypicking the most useful tools and ideas from our collective pasts to help the future, which leads into...

Layer Three: Additional culture and innovation
Here's where you'd bring in trades and specialization, but with an eye to improving the lives of the community, not to making one person a lot of wealth off the others--I think that idea is a basic problem with the society we already have, and we're not rebuilding the mother culture, we're inventing a better one.

I'd send people into the woods (or whatever wilds there are) to tend them and make sure they stay healthy and support the populations of plants and animals we need. I'd encourage really creative people to start inventing new tools, new ideas, new works of art. I'd send a few people off to domesticate and start breeding useful animals--hunting dogs, milk creatures, chickens and other egg-creatures, meat-creatures or a replacement for them, fish for the rivers or lakes or dam-lakes or whatever.

This is where people can start exploring their own interests, so long as the work to support the community is done--and everyone will have to do community-support work of some sort, because I'm pretty sure that another trap our current culture fell into is putting more and more of the infrastructure on less and less of the people, leaving everyone else with unfulfilling busywork, and a few with way too much time and money on their hands.

Layer Four: Refining of the culture
Here's where things really get laid down--the seasonal and cultural traditions, the art styles, the methods of food prep and the sorts of meals the community will make. The ways the foods are preserved, and which foods, exactly, will be grown and how. Which animals are used for what, and which breeds are preferred. Which seeds are saved. How people are expected to behave, and their relationship to the world, history, the future, and each other. Any sort of religious or spiritual traditions.

This is also when independent shops can be set up for non-required things, like art pieces and books. This is when a town museum could be built to preserve the history that has been chronicled this whole time. This is when theatre or some other kind of mass entertainment could be a full-time thing for some people. Restaurants could start to exist.

Goals:
Because this is meant to be a better culture, I'd have everyone who joins define what they think went wrong with the old one, and we'd set up goals and traditions and social rules early on to avoid those things--personally, I'd set as goals:

  • Sustainability in all aspects of the culture and how it interacts with the environs
    • Seriously. No waste, no destruction, only guidance and maintenance.
  • Togetherness of the community--ways to get to know each other, ways to bond as a group, ways to avoid and resolve conflict
    • I'd include a lot of celebration right from as early as I could. Celebration brings people together--just think of that great rush you get at a concert when everyone is singing the same song because they love it!
  • A way to capture the skills and knowledge of the people coming in so that they can use the best of it to enrich and improve the community as a whole, and to get rid of the stuff that feeds into the old culture's vices
    • Everyone will bring in stuff we can use--education, skills, beliefs, experience, hobbies, information. We need to preserve that stuff and pass it on. Culture is made of stories, facts, games, songs, art, and artifacts.
  • Healthiness of the people, the mental state, and the land before anything else
    • Every new thing should support the health of the community and the people in it; if it doesn't, it's not for us.
  • Ways to combat the corruption of damaging ideas that might filter in from outside, but not to block them from getting in
    • If the community is successful, people will travel out of it and come back, or people will come from outside and try to settle; there has to be a way to teach people to leave behind their prejudices and selfishness and damaging behavior. Not something smothering, but something that offers better options and protects the wholeness of the society we're building.
  • Flexibility
    • Everything will be in flux. Some early ideas won't work, and there has to be a built-in looseness that allows new and better ideas based on circumstance and experience to replace them. The original shape of the society's idea will stay the same, but the particulars will change as the situation does and as the practicality of ideals are tested.
  • Democracy
    • Everyone is educated about every aspect. Everyone knows how the rules work and when people are breaking them. Everyone has a say, even when the majority vote outweighs them, and even dissenting opinions are recorded and added to the available knowledge base. Everyone knows what we're aiming for, and can spot when something goes off the rails or someone goes rogue.
  • Stories
    • The stories of where the founding members came from and why are going to be important later. The stories of how the ways of the community were chosen and why are always going to be important. Also, the basic cultural ideals, the myths we form, the hey-remember-when stories, the pop cultural tales we bring in and the new ones we make up--all of those, and knowing all of those, are what tie communities together.
  • Basic encouragement of curiosity
    • Societies that crush curiosity are the ones that have things to hide or vested interests in ignorance. We're not doing that. So ask questions, seek answers, try new things, invent new recipes and medicines and tools and music and ways to know the area.
  • A basic outlook that sees a good, strong, better future, so that there's something to work toward, and to combat the roughness and struggle of the daily lives at the beginning, and any fear or jadedness brought in early on.
  • A mindset toward sharing stuff early on, so that later on, there's less doubling up of stuff, and therefore less consumerism built in. Animals belong to the community. Tools and farming implements do, too. Food storage beyond the needs of your household go to the community backup stores. And so on.
  • A love of useful technology, but a healthy skepticism of things that disrupt or damage the ideals of the society, or distract from work, or don't help things go easier, smoother, or prettier.
How would you do it? What would you include early on?




NOTES:
*I don't count myself as a prepper, because I don't really thing that everything will come down in a huge scary disaster. But I do think that things are getting untenable as they are, and I'd rather be in the solution pile than the problem pile, and there's always ways we can learn to be gentler, healtheir, more sustainable, and better for everyone and everything involved.
**Not necessarily schools, unless they're going to be super-comprehensive--but comprehensive schooling takes kids out of the workforce, and at this early stage, they'll be needed for helping around the house, delivering stuff, and learning basic survival and trades. So maybe an apprenticeship system? Or a hybrid of three-R schooling and apprenticeship?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Home of the Future


I don't remember how I started getting The Red Bullitin, Red Bull's extreme lifestyle magazine (Klout? Some promo thing?), and I certainly don't have an extreme lifestyle unless you count, like, making things myself and trying to not eat junk, but sometimes there's a neat article in it*. This month's issue had an article about the home of 2030, as they see it, and it has some really neat ideas.

  • Instead of having a separate living room, dining room, media room, workout room, tinkering room, etc, you'd have one space that is configurable for any need. And the really cool part is that it would configure itself, with a home-computer-controlled system of moving walls, self-moving furniture, customized lighting, etc.
  • Most of a home's food needs would come from a mini-farm back garden for each house, tended by a tiny (by farming standards, anyway) automated gardener / farmer bot that would make sure everything grows the best it can and stays healthy.
    • Including raising chickens, and having a built-in greenhouse that uses no energy from the grid but allows people to grow out-of-zone exotics and off-season basics.
  • Everyone's work spaces would be customized to perfectly suit their work AND their own particular best ways of focusing, reaching that flow state everyone wants, and coming up with new ideas, innovations, and ways to be creative.
  • And everyone will have access to video games that also keep them healthy and help them wind down heathily so they can sleep well and have lucid dreams that help them be stronger, faster, better, more accurate, and more creative.
Sounds like a pretty good life to me, and if you add, like, totally renewable power, souped-up recycling that integrates into the community so everyone is recycling and composting, and maybe walls that can be big computer or TV screens, it'd be a perfect close-future home!





NOTES:
*And always neat pictures--I use them for collaging all the time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things I could do with myself instead of worrying about how I have no internet or cable

It's been a few days since poorness required me to take time off from my close and loving relationship with the internet on my computer, and it's hard. Me and the internet were made for each other, and it's still weeks before I can upgrade / properly replace my phone to one that almost works like a computer, and get back online more easily and naturally through my data plan. In the meantime, here's a pep-talk-list for myself--and for you, if you're in a similar situation:

  1. Meditate on the ways the world likes to block my dependence on dumb things, and see if there's some deep and meaningful epiphany hiding in there.
  2. Read the rest of those three books I've started and not finished this week, and then move on to other books.
  3. Figure out how to bake a gluten free cake, because a situation like this sort of requires cake.
  4. Sleep more.
  5. Spend some time outside.*
  6. Write more. Because, yeah, I need to anyway, and now there should be more time and less distraction, right?
  7. Watch through the DVDs that I own but mostly ignore because we have Netflix and On Demand and Hulu and cable, most of the time.
  8. Depend on phone-app-Tumblr to tell me everything I need to know about my shows, if we're still without, when everything starts coming back.
  9. Cry some. And make myself cry by composing terrible fanfic to fill the void.
  10. Focus on the garden until it's super-flourishing, because there's nothing else to distract me, and also because plants will start going on late-season sales soonish.
I don't like this at all. I joke, but it's only partially because of my love of TV; it's mostly about how I hate being so poor that I have to sacrifice basic parts of culture (basic cable) and the literal most basic needs of my online business (internet) just to keep feeding myself. Which, really, is another point in favor of #10; I can focus on building up a garden so impressive that I can cut a large chunk of the food bill, and maybe free up cash? Even if I can't right now, halfway through summer, I can tell myself I'm doing that and maybe feel better about being so damned poor, right?


NOTES:
*This one is a possibility, but not likely, as it's about a million degrees outside all day long, and full of biting insects, and also smotheringly humid.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Have a twitchy eye? Try tonic water!

A while ago, I had a twitchy eye. it's not that unusual to have an eye twitch for an hour or a day, but I was waking up with it, and it was staying on and off all day. And it lasted for a month. It feels weird anyway, but when it goes on that long, it starts feeling like there's something seriously wrong, and the worry basically makes it worse.

Now, I'm too poor to go to the doctor over a twitchy eye, and that's definitely not enough to go to the ER for, so I decided to look up home remedies. I'm a big fan of fixing for myself what a doctor would either brush off or give me a pill that would just cover it up without telling me what caused it to begin with.

I can't find the sources I found in my research, but it seems a twitchy eye can be caused by chronic stress, lack of sleep, or eye strain, and the cheapest way to fix it is a mild muscle relaxant. It just so happens that the quinine in tonic water IS a mild relaxant!

If you aren't used to it--like I'm still not!--it can taste pretty bad, and it usually was a lot of calories because of sugar you totally can't taste in it. But it goes really well with lemonade or limeade, and is actually pretty drinkable that way.

I drank one whole cocktail-sized bottle a day with lemonade, for there days, and the twitch wasn't come back in over two months!

Notes:
• Be sure it's tonic water and not seltzer, because it's the tonic that makes it medicinal.
• This would probably also work on other small-muscle problems, but I haven't had any to try it out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm NOT churchy; I AM spiritual


This is just going to be my picture for when things are getting spiritual up in here.

I tend to outright avoid discussions of spirituality with people, because I live in the South and the only way you're allowed to be spiritual is that one specific way that involves a lot of fire and brimstone and blaming all your problems on everyone else. And there's too many contradictions in that for me.

I also tend to avoid discussions of which church I go to, because I don't go to one, and I'm super-tired--like actually, physically exhausted--with that horrified face people of the above persuasion get when they find out that you don't.

I have faith. I'm pretty consistent with it, and working on expressing it more consistently as I go. But it's not the kind that tells me that everyone not like me is going to hell, or the kind that is built on separating out the ones the leadership doesn't agree with--in fact, I'd generally group myself with those who are being separated out, what with my tendency to rather learn the actual proven history of events, and ask questions, and think my own thoughts.

We were raised Christian, but it was a Christianity that really only made an impact on me because we had Easter and Christmas. I was too busy learning about mythology, the local history and traditions of wherever we were living, and running wild in the woods. Church was somewhere we went when we were new to a place, not something we did every week without fail. People around us, generally, didn't much care, and it didn't occur to me that others might.

And when we moved back to the States and suddenly it mattered, and things were hard and we were supposed to turn to the church, and we started going every week? By then I was old enough to know that the particular churches we went to were terrible, and it made me physically ill. I couldn't handle being told that everything I knew was me was wrong and devil-spawned, that all my culturally-diverse friends, no matter how good they seemed, were all evil and going to hell, and that I'd go to hell if I didn't change everything about the way I thought about the world.

So I stopped going. And had several long, upset years dealing with all that.

And I came out the other side knowing what I believe, and knowing also that it's not anyone else's business unless I say it is.

Maybe it's just that we were in the South, where things are supposed to be simple and really they're tending more and more toward oppressive and narrowminded. Maybe it's just that we came back right at the time when every church seemed to want to be a big, rich TV church--and all the news about what those actual big, rich TV churches were about was everywhere. Maybe other churches are less horrible. But all I know is that I went to seven or eight different churches over a decade and all of them were flat-out wrong, or built on the idea of hating everything, or hurtful, or close-minded, and so I stopped trying.

I found my own ways to have faith, quieter, more personal, more accepting ways. Ways that no one told me to do, and no one told me I shouldn't do. And I don't regret it, because it's what matters to me, it's what gets me through the hard parts of life.

So that's how I am. I'm not churchy--and I'm pretty sure most of the people who are churchy, and not just holding their faith in a church, are missing some aspect of critical thought or interpersonal compassion. But I am spiritual. And that's how it is.

And now I want to hear about your story. How did you get to what you believe? Be nice, and we'll all talk about it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I gave up on online dating despite wanting to date


I'm not that great at meeting people in person, and I'm much better at writing what I think and feel than saying it--which is why I have blogs instead of a YouTube channel, ya know? So a while ago (and by 'while' I mean 'several times over the last several years') I thought, "I should try online dating". My friend met her husband that way, and he's wonderful and they're happy and strange and perfect, so why couldn't I do it, too?

But, a while later, I gave up. I just can't do it anymore. And here's why.

The stress-factor is too high
It's hard for me to keep meeting new people, even if I'm only meeting them through a chat box. It's also hard for me to go looking for new people--it feels predatory in a really skeevy way, judging people and weighing pros and cons. And there's a constant, constant low-level fear that someone will turn out to be a killer or an abuser or a kidnapper, and it's very stressful, reading profile after profile, trying to see if someone sounds rapey. I'd much rather believe that most people are good, but that's not something I can afford to do when I'm looking specifically for love like that.
"Looking for love" is totally stupid
I've come to the conclusion that you can't force it. E and R worked because they would have worked anyway, not because they met online and went on a date. And I'm not E or R, and I can't expect a repeat performance of that. Plus, looking at people's profiles specifically to see if they'd make a good mate feels needy and hollow, and is not at all how I want to start a relationship.
Matchmaking is hit or miss
And, unfortunately, you never can tell whether it's a hit or a miss until you're in a room with them. And then mostly, it's miss. Someone reminds you too much of the specific tics and quirks of your brother. Someone else is too forward. Someone else is too broken. Someone else is totally not how his profile described him or his interests.
And then there's the whole thing about the "numbers game"; I tended to talk to one dude at a time, trying to make it work, but more than one guy I actually spoke to was talking to lots of girls, trying to make lots of them work, and that means lots of "sorry, I've found someone" messages--or no message at all, and just silence.  
Stupid names and illiteracy
Vast, disturbing quantities of functional illiteracy. I'm okay with not being as educated as I am--I'm over-educated, really--but a total lack of punctuation, capitalization, complete words, AND thoughtful sentences? Combine that with intentionally calling yourself by some macho, pushy, idiotic handle, and I'm just done.
False sense of relationship
There seems to be an idea that if you exchange a few messages, you're dating. Or, if you get along well in your messages, everything else is a foregone conclusion. Or, there's the idea that you know someone--and then you find out they're different in real life, no matter how great they seemed in writing, and then there's all this stuff they never mentioned--baggage, hangups, weird opinions, behavior strangeness, lack of effort. This isn't how relationships work, and I can't be the only one putting in an effort to be fully honest. It puts me at a disadvantage, and that's a power struggle that shouldn't even exist, but does.
Concentrated weirdness
I met some nice guys. But I met many, many, many more who were bizarre. Most of those, I never even acknowledged. Guys who couldn't write a sentence, but thought so highly of themselves that they were basically trolling my profile. Guys with really strange ideas of how girls and guys should behave toward each other. Guys with previously-formed opinions that were so wildly different from mine that they were just ick from the first line.
And then, also, lots and lots of middleaged men who already had kids and didn't want more, and who were carrying around so much baggage they were being crushed under it. Guys who were lonely to the point of desperation, and starting to sound borderline crazed. Guys who were less experienced than me, and it's obviously because they were so awkward around people that they were probably needing help of some sort--which I can't give them--and which they weren't admitting to or coping with. 
 And, you know, the kinks. Like, can't two people just maybe decide they'd like to have sex once in a while? And if that's the first thing you put on your profile, it's so not going to be with me.
Far too much cut-to-the-chase, in the bad way
Which brings us to this: the vast majority of these guys I didn't even answer were of the 'hey, I don't need your name, let's just meet somewhere' sort, and that is so gross that I don't even. What life produces a guy who thinks just any old stranger will agree that that sort of thing is a good idea? Not one I want to deal with.
The wrong market
And ultimately, I think I was just a chunk of meat in the wrong market. First of all, I don't want to be a chunk of meat. Second, I can't afford to pay 35-40$ a month just to see if maybe someone might want to date me--I get that for free right where I am. And third, the guys I met were just not my sorts of guys, with only a few exceptions. They had totally different interests, hobbies, backgrounds, philosophies, life goals, education levels, opinions about everything, that no matter how great the algorithm said we'd be, not one matched up that way did a single thing for me.
 And it was exhausting. So I called it quits. I'd rather be alone than be a piece of bait in a tank full of predatory and mostly gross guys. I'd rather hope that I meet someone at the bookstore or at a con or in a coffee shop, than go specifically looking for him on one of those sites. I'd rather never meet the person I want than slog through more and more and more people who make me question the sanity of the culture we live in.

But I did learn from it all.

  • I learned what I most definitely do NOT want in a match.
  • I learned what I DO want, through how much donotwant I got from those guys.
  • I learned what I will and won't make allowances for.
  • And I learned that matchmaking is totally not my thing.
Your mileage may vary. In fact, I hope it does, because that means I was just doing it wrong or looking at things wrong. Do you have better stories? Tell me! And if you have worse ones, tell those, too, and we can commiserate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sami's top ten rules for life


  1. Be nice. Read as Wil Wheaton's "Don't be a dick". When faced with any situation where you can be nice or be a dick, pick nice.
    1. Note that 'nice' does not mean 'be a pushover' or 'be a victim'; it means 'don't needlessly be hurtful or rude'.
  2. Pay attention. Learn to know when people are tying to pull one over on you, but also learn when you should see the wonderfulness around you.
  3. Ask questions and get answers. Don't take things at face value just because someone said them with a strong voice; ask why, ask when, ask 'how does that even start to make sense'. Learn how to find the answers, and teach others how to.
  4. Do you. Aside from being a psychopath or something, you know what you want to do, so do it. Build the life you want. Live in accordance to your own beliefs. Don't be damaging to society, but also don't excuse the badness of society just because it's your culture.
  5. Aim for healthy. For yourself, but also for the world, for your community, for your house and your kids and your pets and your garden. For conflict-resolution. For mental state.
  6. Lessen your footprint. There's always a cleaner, kinder way to live. You don't have to turn eco-terrorist overnight, but think about these things--choose to be better. Pick farm-raised over battery-raised. Pick gas-saving over gas-guzzling. Pick walking over driving less than a mile. Pick up your trash. Recycle. Buy local.
  7. Remember your lessons. Life is made of lessons, and if you aren't learning them--and the lessons your culture should have learned, you aren't doing your best to improve and avoid past mistakes, big and small.
  8. Share. Knowledge, funds, food, stories, art, your talents, your gifts, your experience, this article you just read, this beautiful thing you just saw, this terrible news we can do something about. Share it all. Be open and ambitious with your sharing.
    1. Don't ruin yourself, though; remember "Aim for healthy".
  9. Build family. Not hate. Find the people you would have in your family if you got to choose, and keep those people around you.
  10. Love. It's harder than hate, but it's so much better. Fight against the piles of bullshit that make people keep being mean and hurtful and scared and crazy, and replace them with love.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Fourth of July taught me a lesson about being GF


I've been doing pretty good, GF-wise. Only cheating when there's nothing GF in the house--we've all been sick on and off the last month, and sometimes just no one is up for going out. Tracking what I'm eating and thinking about it before I eat it. Reading labels.

But the Fourth means lots of pie and hot dogs and hamburgers and biscuits with butter. I generally don't worry about staying GF on holidays--I want to be free to eat the traditional foods we always eat, without demanding alternatives that aren't right, or depriving myself of the food I miss the rest of the time.

So I stuck to the diet all week so that I could cheat when it came to the family cookout.

But I cheated too much.

Not only did I eat the pie and hot dogs on buns and biscuits, but I also ate seconds and thirds and stuffed myself with all the food I don't eat anymore, and it was wonderful. And then it very much wasn't.

An hour or so after we got home, I started feeling like a drumhead, pulled tight. And then halfway through the night, I woke up hurting. My stomach hurt, and I was queasy, but I never felt so queasy that I could just throw up and make it better. My back and sides hurt. My lower stomach hurt. My shoulders and my legs were so tight and achy that I couldn't relax and get the pain in my insides to loosen up.

It was bad. For hours.

And I learned a valuable lesson: just because I can do what I used to do, doesn't mean I should. Through my whole life, I would just eat until I was too full on these picnic-type holidays, and I never worried about it--but now, after rearranging my diet and working to be healthier, I can no longer tolerate that much food at all, let alone that much of specifically what I'm avoiding.

So I won't be doing that again. It's four days later and I'm still feeling it.

No thanks.

No way.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to schedule when you hate scheduling

Confessions:

  • I love office supplies
  • I love datebook supplies
  • I hate scheduling
  • Without a schedule I flounder
This is a tangle of love and hate that I have to deal with ALL THE TIME. When I was in school, scheduling was a must--I had to make sure I had enough time to get everything done on time, as well as whatever I had to do in my life. In Highschool and in College, I had those planner books that come with being a student, and that made things easier; in Gradschool, I not only didn't have one of those books, I also didn't have physical classes, and for a large chunk of it, I didn't have a job, so there was no external way to force a schedule, and I had to learn to schedule myself.

What I learned was that I hated it.

I don't like imposing deadlines on myself. I don't like the feeling that if something goes long, or if I can't sleep at night and oversleep in the morning because of it*, I've messed up the whole plan. I don't like the idea that things can only happen on one day at one specific time. I don't like the constant failure-feeling standard sorts of scheduling was giving me.

But I also learned that I love little pages that tell me what needs doing, I love lists, I love looking back through my notebook and seeing what I did do. From a lifetime of dealing with myself, I've learned that I need a framework to hang my days on, but if there's more than that I start feeling trapped, and then I start feeling like I'm failing, but to stay creative I need to feel like I'm succeeding, and like I have the flexibility to go with new ideas when they come.

So I adapted the old school-style scheduling, and I allow myself to look at it each week and see what does and doesn't work for the week coming up, and to change it totally if my needs change.

Here's how:

Sunday is weekly-schedule day. My week starts on Monday, because I like to keep a weekend together on a schedule, not split it up, so the day before, I do the schedule.
  • I look at what needs doing, and any non-negotioable deadlines I have--usually due-dates for bills, or appointments, or my babysitting schedule.
  • I look to see if it's a pay week, and when money is meant to clear from Etsy or wherever.
  • I set up the things that are the same every week.
  • I look at the wall calendar and the future-dates list I keep to see if any of those things are happening in the week I'm looking at.
And I write all that stuff down--even the routine things, because I WILL forget to write my four pages, forget laundry, forget to do the week's blog posts. I'm super-easily distracted by things like whims, weather, allergies. If it's written down, it has to be done. These all go on a week-at-a-glance sheet. They're available all over the place, but right now I'm using one I found at the Target Dollar Spot last year, the red one in the pic above.

Then, I make a list. There'll be other lists during the week, but I make a master list at the beginning, while I'm thinking about scheduling, of all the things I'd like to do this week. Sometimes it's just in my notebook, since I'll be sticking the schedule in there anyway, but usually, lately, it's on this to-do list thing I also found in the Dollar Spot, the green one up there. This particular page is great because, for whatever reason, it's divided into three different list sections, and I use them for Blog Topics for the week, Shop stuff that needs doing, and writing stuff that needs doing. I'll also write down about three reminder-goals of how I want to be during the week--things like "wake up early", or "do tai chi before getting started", etc. Sometimes I'll write stuff I'm waiting on that's coming in this week--orders that should arrive that the shop is waiting on, books for review that I might get, a magazine that I'm expecting soon, stuff like that.

The important part is that this list is separate from the schedule, so that none of it is bound to any specific time or day and is therefore available to any day, whenever I have time. And that the weekly schedule is not planned down to the hour--only a list of things I need to do on that day, at some point, in whatever order I feel like doing them.

And some weeks, that's all I do. But I have options for more.

A lot of times, I'll take a pen of a different color, and I'll write down what I actually did do on each day on the schedule--especially if there's a lot going on that's memorable, holidays or visits or movie premiers and stuff.

If a particular day is really busy, I'll put one of those spiral-time chronodex pages in the notebook near the weekly schedule, because I like the shape, but I'll color them in as I go, rather than planning beforehand, so I don't have to change it. I'll also add a list of things that need doing, and check them off as I go, as I add them to the spiral.

A lot of weeks, I have a secondary, sort of aspirational list--the week's journal prompts, reminders to start a new writing project, the arts or crafts things I want to get to this week, stuff like that.

If a whole week is busy, instead of a week-at-a-glance, I'll use a two-page-per-week schedule so I have more room to make notes and add details. 

And sometimes I'll find some fantastic new idea that I just have to adapt and add, and that goes into the week's pages, too.

And that's how I schedule myself without limiting myself.

How do you schedule things?




NOTES:
* Which happens a lot, because literally almost anything can throw off my sleeping schedule, AND, my natural pattern tends towards staying up until four or six and sleeping all day, which is not the sort of timing that works with, like, any real-life business in the outside world.

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