Saturday, January 24, 2015

There's this thing about having grown up mostly in Europe... never leaves you. I was eleven when I came back to the states where everyone called home, but where I'd only lived for around a year when I was a newborn. And then I read these travel books when I can't travel, and even about places I've never been--this is from Frances Mayes's Every Day in Tuscany--I find these little nuggets of wisdom that still apply.

I miss it, and by now, it's been so long I feel like it was something I read about, something dear to me a long time ago, like Narnia. But I also know that it's a real place, where countries are smaller and have so much history, and aren't all burning hot all the time. 

There's a paragraph before this passage about this idea that if you live "inside te sound of the bells", you belong to the place. There aren't any bells here, and part of why I wanted to live in St Augustine in Florida was because it did have bells--it was as close to something European as I could find. But St Augustine was drowning in tourists and the summers were killing me. Up here, in the winter, I can see why so many Scots and Irish and Germans moved up here, and my sense of self matches the sense of place better, but the city is shaped wrong and the culture is wrong. I'm still looking for my way back to that balance little towns in Europe and UK have.

I know I'm romanticising--but I'm also yearning, wanting to go back.

Where do you ache for?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tea review - Buddha Teas' Oolong

A few weeks ago, the nice dude in charge of the Buddha Teas social media saw one of my posts on Instagram about tea and asked if I'd be interested in trying their tea for review. Of course, I said yes about as quickly as I could master the urge to type back in all caps.

They sent me Oolong, which, as it happens, is one of my favorite teas of all time, and they sent it even though I forgot to tell them that fact when they asked if there was any tea I particularly liked or didn't--so good job, Buddha Tea peeps!

The tea is certified organic, the company is concerned with holistic health, and they use unbleached tea bags because bleaching leaves dioxins which could be dangerous if they build up enough.

Look how pretty all their packaging is! 

See that little nub on the side of the tag? That's a hole I managed to year in the bag, but that's probably more my clutziness than a flaw in the packaging.

This oolong is so nice. It smells toasty and maybe almost savory when it's dry, sort of the way a good genmaicha does. It brews up warm-brown and mellow, flavorful and toasty without getting bitter or being too bland. It tastes like a perfect middle ground between grassy green and deep black--which is exactly what oolong should be.

I got two brews out of the one tea bag; I might've gotten more if I hadn't broken it, but since I did, I got to see that the tea in the bag is actually recognizable as leaves, not as dust like more ordinary tea! 

All in all, I was super-impressed, and if I can afford it, I'm definitely going to get more from this company!

Now to find somewhere to put it in my shelf...

This was provided for review, but the opinions are mine and honest--I'm just impressed by how nice everyone was.

The website is right here at sure to check them out!

What are we telling ourselves with our stories?

I was listening to a mini-seminar by MarketingForFashionistas this afternoon, and she was talking in part of it about our 'money stories'--how the way we talk to ourselves about our finances and how we feel about what we say determined whether we see the opportunities we have. Whether we see deficit or abundance. It got me thinking in broader terms about how any story we tell will define the possibilities we see. Which got me thinking about how I stopped watching the news years ago. See, it was giving me panic attacks--even the ones that were supposedly more balanced than the scaremongering ones were all about exactly what is going wrong and what exact details that wrongness has, and none of them spent more than a few seconds, at the very end, sometimes, on things that were good and uplifting.

If even.

Then, of course, I started drifting on that line of thought and I came to connect these ideas:
  • All we hear is about how corrupt and useless every government is
  • All we hear about is how badly we're damaging the environment and how it's all going to collapse any second
  • All we hear about is how badly people are treating people for really stupid things like religion and skin color
  • We never hear about how there are people trying to fix, trying to help, trying to make things better
It paints a pretty dire picture of loss, violence, threat, fear, and perpetual hopelessness.

And then I was listening to my usual gothy mix as I packed up orders, and I thought--this is a better story, because in this world, there's beauty and mystery and something to learn even in loss.

See, as I writer, I've trained myself and been trained to look for the story in everything. And I've read a lot about how the human brain is wired for story--how if you can find a narrative, it'll sink into people's minds and define their worlds. It's how marketing works.* It's how history works.** It's also how fearmongering assholes work, because there's a loophole in this, that people remember badness a lot more sharply than goodness, that people are basically going to choose themselves and their loved ones over strangers, and that if you only have one worldview presented, it's really hard to even find another, let alone adopt it.

Well, I call bullshit on all that mess.

Because we're telling ourselves this really awful story about how there's no options other than taking over other people's stuff because there's not enough, even though we live in a stupidly rich country. We're telling ourselves that all this violence is justified when we're causing it and terrorism when others do, and that there's no other way to handle disputes. We're telling ourselves that grinding away at things is the only way to live, and that people who don't do the job-house-kids-giant car-huge debt thing are weirdos that you can't take seriously. We're telling ourselves that it's the end times, so we're telling very few stories about any sort of future--so we're not even trying to avoid the collapse.

And it's causing the same things we're afraid of.

Which is stupid, because we can tell ourselves other stories.

We could tell stories about how we can get through this rough patch in history with smarter spending, better diplomacy, a shift away from damaging practices across the board, and toward sustainability not just for the environment, but cultural and emotional sustainability. We could be telling stories about how every problem has a solution, and those solutions could come from anywhere and should be looked at seriously and celebrated. We could be telling ourselves stories about how we can own more of our own lives, get our hands dirty, take care of our own neighbors better so that there aren't opportunities for mistreatment and famine and violence and really vicious lies--because we have better stories to combat them.

Worldview is a story we tell ourselves about how the world works and what our role is. Isn't it better to find a better world, to make a better one, than to just sit there and accept a crappy one, passively?

I'm done accepting.

*Even though marketing is supporting unhealthy ideas about masculinity and femininity, and social expectations that are ridiculous, but that's a rant for a different day.
**And that's why history taught in schools leaves out all the divergent and interesting stuff--really strange and alarming details make it hard to impose a narrative, even if they make for a more accurate view.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Personal holidays

Today and tomorrow, I'm taking personal holidays. It's incidental that today is also MLK Day--I decided, when I was deciding how I want my life to be, that every two weeks I'll take two days off on the full moon and the dark moon, so that I can rest my carpal tunnel and my brain.

Today, of course, I had to fill orders and I spent a lot of time setting up future posts on Professional Fangirl, but I didn't worry about getting up early, I didn't do a single word of my daily writing or a single line of my drawing practice, I didn't do laundry or clean my room, I didn't do anything that I usually have to do unless I wanted to.

I took a mini vacation.

And lemme tell you, my brain feels so much better for it.

See, a mind is like a virtual muscle--if you use it too much, it can get strained, and it can twist itself up and lock down and not be any real use to anyone. But when you schedule in days to have off--which is very important when you don't have an external schedule dictating when your days off will be--you know when you can rest. You can look forward to those days off, work hard the rest of the time*, and when you get to the days off, you can actually be off.

So when's your next day off? What day-off thing will you do--or not do--to let your mind and soul and body unwind a little? Schedule that baby in and do something for you, because you want to do it. Or don't do a damned thing, because you're always doing something. Or do something, but not as much.

The important part is to know ahead of time when you have these days, and to keep that appointment with yourself.

*Or as hard as you can. Half this past week I got very little done, but I worked as hard as I could and I'm still exhausted. Sometimes the best you can do is try, and trying is as tiring as doing your peak-best.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hair update!

It's been three or so weeks, and my hair is still blue! This actually is something along the lines of long-lasting like the box says, though it's a dynamic long-lasting. Like, no matter what shampoo I use--cheap-ass, regular, color-safe--it strips the color, big foamy handfuls of blue at a time. If I used the shampoo on the length of my hair ever, it'd probably be as faded as the top. 

That place that looks like a bald spot in this pic? That's the first of the bleached white showing at the top. The rest is almost back to brown.

Through te length, the cobalt is only really still at the ends; the middle of my hair is turning this sort of vintage peacock that I actually sort of love. If I could find that in a bottle, I'd go for that next time!

It's not quite ready for the purpling, but I think in another month it will be.

Oh, andast time I washed it, I used ACV and Baking Soda because the shampoo was irritating my scalp like it does, and it came out...waxier, so I'm assuming the ACV/BS would eventually strip it as much as regular shampoo does, it's just slower.

How's your hair doing?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Aunt-tea feels

I drink tea several times a day, and in the winter, basically all day long. The baby (who is four now and I'm supposed to be calling him the kid or the big boy now, but I keep forgetting) likes to open the microwave for me when it dings--he just calls out "your tea is ready!" From wherever he is and comes running. I won't let him pull the hot cup out yet--it's still over his head and I don't want him burning himself--but he loves being helpful with this thing I do every day.

A few weeks ago, when it first got cold, the kids wanted cocoa when they came in from playing after school because their faces and hands were cold, but we didn't have any, so I made them "milky sugar tea", and they loved it.

So I made it a few more times. 

Then yesterday, they were out of milk and I'd already claimed the jug for garden purposes, and A1, the older one, just looks at me with his little Farkle-from-girl-meets-world face and goes "can we have tea with just sugar then?", and how could I say no? I just wanted to squish his little squishy face, I was so proud.

Their sister, who is 15 started drinking tea before I moved up here, and it was one of the things we bonded over when I moved up here. But this is directly because of me--and now I really want to squish his face. And when the not-baby got up on the table and stuck his face into my mug, took a deep breath, and went "mmmmm, smells GOOD!", I just can't handle it. Their parents both drink coffee--this is me, rubbing off something good and healthy and me on their impressionable, thick, hard-to-get-through-to minds!

I just can't even.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reading list - Thoughts on the "give advice on productivity" thing from Sacha Chua

This is something that's been sort of nagging at me, too, this idea that everyone wants tips on how to be productive, but also everyone sort of just says the same thing? And that thing doesn't always apply to me? The blog thoughtfully goes over the problem and comes around to the fact that these articles need more variety, and should be used to bring readers new ideas. New methods. Not to repeat.

I love it. Go read it.

Sent from myMail for iOS

Ritualizing your life

As I work through my Leonie Dawson Shining Life workbook, one of the things I keep coming back to thinking about is the idea of ritualizing-- of making things into rituals.

On the one hand, it means building a habit, which really also means dedicating time to something you think is worthwhile. 

On the other hand, it means making something sacred or it means finding the sacred in something. It's a sort of low-grade spiritual way of looking at the world, as I read it, and that makes everything feel softer, sweeter, calmer, more soulful (if I can use such a hippie-woo-woo word for it). I've never beed super concerned with my soul in the traditional sense, except for that spiritual crisis I flailed through when I decided I couldn't go to church anymore if I wanted to stay sane, but looking at the world through a more spiritual lens is much nicer than looking at it in that harsh grey light that calls itself "realism" and is actually just too sharp and hard to live in.

Combining the two meanings, I come up with this feeling of...I don't know if I have words for it. A cheerful connectiveness. A feeling that I'm working for my own good and showing the world how to be better--more gentle, less violent, less strict. I'm stating out loud (or at least on paper and blog) what I think is worthy of attention and what isn't, and I'm devoting time to those worthy things--time and energy and thought and personal agency. It's the way I choose to live, codified so I can remember it when things get stressful or anxious or hard.

Here's some stuff I'm trying to find ritual in:
- Daily writing and art practice, because how can I get better if I don't practice?
- Organization, because I'm not naturally organized and I tend to like clutter.
- Growing my own food in as much vast abundance as I possibly can.
- Sharing--being generous with you guys, with the world, with myself.
- Health--because I let it slide way, way, WAY too long and that was dumb, and I've learned from that to do better.
- Morning routines, because a good morning sets up for a day without the dithering and indescision I tend to live in.
- Self-care of the warm-bath / pretty clothes / new book / yummy tea / sleep in sort. Not every day, because I'd never get anything done, but more often than I have been, because I tend to push off and deny myself the stuff I know will make me feel better, and I don't know why.

What do you value? What things would you make into a ritual?

My affiliate link for the workbooks:
See last post for more on how I use the workbooks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The lovely Leonie Dawson workbooks!

(Affiliate Link, just so ya kno)

Guys guys guys.

I had a super-hard 2014, and when I got here to 2015, i decided that I've had enough. So I went to find ways to help me get out of that track--the one where I'm angry and trapped and poor and sad all the time--and into a new one where I'm happier, healthier, more balanced, more alive, more myself. I found a handful of workbooks that I'm working through now, and I love these particular two so much I had to say something about them. 

I did the Biz Workbook last week, and it clarified a whole bunch of things about my nailpolish business that I hadn't even thought about, and has already helped me lay down a plan of action for the year. I'm going to run through it again for this blog to see if I can parry it into a business of some sort, and again for my self-publishing / writing career. And then I'm going to find a way to smoosh it all together into one unified Plan.

I started on the personal one last night. It's harder, looking at the more personal stuff that consitutes "life" rather than "work", but it already makes me feel calmer, stronger, braver, and more open, just reading through it and answering the questions, and it's amazing to feel that way when I haven't actually changed anything yet. 

If you're looking for clear, caring, honest guidance that happens to also be really uplifting and super-pretty, click on that picture up there (or the same link under it), and let's get started! Sometimes all it takes is someone outside yourself asking the right questions, and things get a whole lot more clear.

Here's what I did:

It comes with a calendar that's supposed to go on the wall, but I already have a wall calendar, so I printed it two-pages-per-sheet and folded it accordion-style, taping up the edges to it's a book. 

Then I put that calendar into my home-made makeshift Midori-style planner (I'm calling it my Jankidori because it's pretty janky, but it gets the job done!), and as I work through the workbook, I'm putting dates, notes, deadlines, days off, ritual days, whatever on that calendar.

The month-in-review pages are paper-clipped to the back, waiting. The reminder pages are in the front folder. The pretty poster-pages, I'm keeping out and hanging around my room. And the pages of the workbook itself, which I also printed two-per-sheet, I'm taping and stapling into a notebook as I work through them, section by section, so I can see everything and have an easier way to look through it all later, when I  need to re-evaluate, remind, check, remember, or anything else. She says at the beginning of each book that we should aim for a well-worn workbook, and I so am. And I'm loving the basic creativity of pasting and taping and stapling those pages into the notebook.

Have you ever used one of Leonie Dawson's notebooks? How do you use it? Do you use any other workbooks to get your ducks in a row each year? Share in the comments below!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Monthly Me - January 2015

I weigh 163lbs, which isn't bad considering all the winter foods I've been gobbling, but is higher than I want.

I start the year with a cold.

My hair is still blue, but even the color-safe shampoo is quickly stripping the dye out, so I think it'll be mostly back to blonde by the end of the month. It'll be purple next.

I'm doing okay, I think.

How're you guys starting the month and the year?


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