December 28, 2010

What I Do

I've always hated the question "What do you do?" It seems like the answer people are looking for is something simple, something they can use to quickly categorize me - administrative assistant, sex educator, retail salesperson - but that's never the answer I want to give. Sometimes I just say "It's complicated..." and wait for their response. Recently I've taken to saying things like "I'm marginally employed" or "I volunteer a lot" or "I am gainfully unemployed." Occasionally I'll start rattling off a list of projects and commitments (personal and otherwise) that I have on my plate at the moment, which usually includes but is not limited to Binghamton Urban Farm Project/VINES, Food Not Bombs, Southern Tier AIDS Program, knitting group, raising chickens in my backyard, and thinking about starting my own business.

I guess this relates to being a "scanner" (mentioned by my mom in this post), a term coined by Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams. I have so many hobbies and interests and projects it often feels impossible to represent myself in a nutshell or elevator spiel. It's also not uncommon for someone to be extremely surprised by some aspect of who I am (former sex-shop employee, former vegan,  farmer, world traveler, hunter, knitter, rock climber, etc.) based on knowing certain other things about me.

This also challenges me when it comes to getting to know new people - not just how to represent myself accurately but also how best to tease out the important stuff about them, which that question "what do you do?" usually fails to bring out. Sometimes I ask about hopes and dreams, but a lot of people are reluctant to talk about those in casual conversation. I've had limited success in asking new acquaintances what they are passionate or excited about. Sometimes I just bring up political or social issues and ask them their views.

I'll write more about some of the specific things I do in future posts, but I imagine this is something I will continue to struggle with.

What about you? Do you have a good way to represent yourself quickly in an elevator or at a party? How do you best get to know others in more than a superficial way?

December 27, 2010

Monday's Inspiration – December 27

A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow. From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life. -- Ali Edwards
Some people recommend choosing a theme for a new year. I find that inspirational. The theme should be succinct. What is my focus, my intention for the year -- in one word?

For me, the One Word serves, depending on the day and my mood, as a filter, a mantra, or a pep talk. On days when I am floundering or feel overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list, if I reflect on my One Word I choose better, I make sure I add some task – no matter how small -- that connects me with my One Word, with focus and intention.

In past years I’ve done this informally, by myself without sharing the concept or word with others, but without a specific plan, my focus was somewhat haphazard. Sometimes I’d remember to return to my word, sometimes I’d forget about it for weeks or months. In the past I choose active encouraging words – words that to me had flow and movement – like The Year of Vitality, or Creativity, or Exploration. And our sabbatical (June 2008 – May 2009) was titled The Dream Year.

This year I’ve decided I could use some inspiration and encouragement …and have signed up for an online workshop titled One Little Word offered by Ali Edwards (author of the above quote) at Big Picture Scrapbooking. Here’s how Ali describes the class:
I plan to bring my word into my life more consciously and concretely and make it more visible by creating an album to hold my thoughts, challenges and inspirations. You're invited to join me on this journey.
Each month you'll receive an email and an invitation to visit the One Little Word classroom. Inside the classroom, you'll find a gentle reminder message, encouragement to refocus, and a simple creative project to complete related to your word. At the end of the year you'll have an album that celebrates and honors your word - making it that much more concrete and visible in your life.
I’m looking forward to it. And, with some hesitation,  my word for 2011 is Aging.
Perhaps not as active or expansive as my former themes. With Aging I want to consciously explore the changes in my thoughts and feelings, plans and questions about Turning 60.

Hope you join me on this journey…formally or informally.
What’s your One Little Word for 2011?

December 20, 2010

Winter Greens!

My dad and I have been experimenting with extending our growing/eating season for fresh veggies. Most of the information we have used comes from Eliot Coleman's excellent books, including The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses and Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.

A page from Four Season Harvest showing a sketch of a cabbage stalk sprouting in a bucket inside.

This is how it turns out in real life! 

I have a cabbage stalk sprouting in my apartment (I cut the stalk off the cabbage and planted it in a bucket of potting soil), and I have been eating the leaves on sandwiches. There is not much greenery, but it helps satisfy my urge for fresh greens.

Also on the sandwich are Tofu Kan (a local baked marinated tofu which I love), local cheese (Baby Rand from CNY Bounty), hummus (leftover from Food Not Bombs), canned banana peppers (store bought), and our own homegrown carrots. The carrots did amazingly well this year - growing huge, keeping a good flavor, and storing well so far, in both the ground and the fridge.

Monday's Inspiration - Dec 20

Reading online, clicking links, finding sites that aggregate -- that have done the work for me, to find diverse resources that I can peruse for education and entertainment especially online resources that I might not have found by myself.
A waste of time?? Yes, certainly sometime. And I can be a couch-computer-surfer in the same stereotypic way as a TV couch-potato.
But this is fun...
Here are two sites I find interesting.

The tagline is "create, propagate, motivat" and they highlight a Word section that describes itself as
"Weekday distractions, inspirations, and the rediculous," (yes, their intentional change of spelling)


Brain Pickings

Their tagline is "Curating eclectic interestingness from culture's collective brain."

We believe that in order to improve or even fully understand a concept (or product, or idea, or argument), you have to first understand all the little pieces that surround it. Pieces across art, design, music, technology, philosophy, religion, politics, philanthropy, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, anthropology, ecology, you-name-itology. Pieces that make your original concept stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.

This is Brain Pickings. It’s about tidbits of stuff that inspires, revolutionizes, or simply makes us think. It’s about innovation and authenticity and all those other things that have become fluff phrases but don’t have to be. Mostly, it's about ideas — revolutionary new ideas that no one has seen or thought of before, and old ideas that most have seen, but no one has thought of in this way before. Because the cross-pollination of ideas is what allows us to harness our own creativity by building a fascinating, diverse, relentlessly inspiring library of other people’s.

And, yes, despite the pageantry fluff of it, we do all want to “make the world a better place.”

You can also follow them on facebook...which means you'll get headlines and links in an easy succinct format.


December 13, 2010

Monday's Inspiration - Dec 13

 I am inspired by...reflecting on the past year and thinking about hopes and goals for the new one approaching.
And I like pithy questions or writing prompts to help me.
 In that vein,
have you heard about reverb10?
Via email or their website, there are daily end-of-the-year writing prompts. Simple questions that you can pass on by or stop and muse for awhile.

Here is how they describe themselves...
Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. Use the end of your year as an opportunity to reflect on what's happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead. With Reverb 10 - and the 31 prompts our authors have created for you - you'll have support on your journey.
I especially liked this one posted recently:

Prompt: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? 
(written by Author: Sam Davidson 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need)

I'm thinking....what about you? Anything come to mind immediately?

December 10, 2010

Local Cheese Showdown!

At Thanksgiving, we had a local cheese showdown - three NY cheeses vs. three Wisconsin cheeses (local to a visiting relative) plus homemade crackers and local apple slices.
 And the winner of the showdown is...
 All of us! (Because we all got to eat a bunch of really delicious cheese.) The crowd favorite was the 15-year-old cheddar (WI). I was a big fan of the aged raw milk cheddar which tasted more like parmigiano (WI) and the baby rand (NY). They were all super tasty though.
We all had a great time!

December 7, 2010

TV and Movie Diet

I just finished a one month TV and movie diet. Originally I was going to do a fast (as in no TV or movies for one month) but that seemed unrealistic, so I set some conditions - it's OK to watch TV or movies with other people (so if it has some sort of social component) or if I am feeling sick. I took advantage of these exceptions a few times, going out to the movies with friends once, and watching a few TV episodes and a movie with friends on 3 or 4 occasions. I also had two days during which I was not feeling well and allowed myself carte blanche to watch whatever junk I wanted.

Overall it felt really good. The idea was not that all TV or movies are bad, just that I tend to get sucked in and watch more than I want to once I get started. Sometimes they are a good way to decompress and when I am watching them I am entertained, but often when they end I feel a little crappy - sometimes headachey, not energetic but also not sleepy, not inspired, and unsure what to do next. Other things I do to decompress - reading, writing, doodling, knitting, going outside, physical activity, dancing, hanging out with friends - engage me more and make me feel better not just during, but at the completion of the activity. I feel like my time was well spent, which is not usually a feeling I have after watching TV or movies. So I wanted to create more of those feelings in my life, and also make more space and time for engaged and potentially creative time.

The other piece of it is that I am a fairly busy person and I wanted to make more time in my life for certain things, especially creative pursuits. While I want to make sure I allow myself time to veg out and decompress when needed, there are several activities that fill that need while still bringing out my creative side.

Overall, I feel like this "diet" was a success. I stayed within my guidelines and felt better about the way I spent my time. I still felt like I was taking care of myself, but had more time for reading, writing, knitting, and other things I enjoy. I intend to continue this diet with occasional exceptions or "treats" and am thinking about imposing some sort of restrictions on my computer/internet usage as well.

My mom does something similar by going "computer-free" one day per week. There are a number of bloggers out there that have similar computer or electronics policies (check out here and here).

Do you impose any restrictions on your technology usage?

December 6, 2010

Monday's Inspiration

I love lists and I like reading about what others find here's today's choice. Written by a man from India - isn't the internet a great connector? And check out the last one on the list -- follow the link -- it IS funny.

What do you find inspiring?
What shakes you out of the winter doldrums?

Life isn't always hunky dory. No matter how good we are at what we do, and how well we plan things out, we do get stuck. That's when we need inspiration - inspiration to move on, to do what we are supposed to do, to start something new, to build what we were trying to build...inspiration to carry on with life.

This article has a number of tips to help you find inspiration. They are written keeping in mind everyone who's stuck at something, doesn't matter what it is, is looking to get inspired. Hope you find some of them useful.

1. Talk to someone you love.

2. Watch a kid play. Watch how he lives in the present, enjoying every moment.

3. Watch a movie.

4. Read a book.

5. Read an inspirational story.

6. Watch a TED video that inspires.

7. Watch a Youtube video that inspires.

8. Recall great moments from past.

9. Think about the things you are good at.

10. Strike up a conversation on Twitter.

11. Connect with someone on Facebook.

12. Join a LinkedIn Group.

13. Browse through Flickr photos that inspire.

14. Check out's Big Picture.

15. Listen to music.

16. Attend a music concert.

17. Get back to that sport you stopped playing.

18. Read an autobiography.

19. Read about the life of your favorite sportstar.

20. Read about successes and failures.

21. Read about underdogs who overcame.

22. Find a date.

23. Get married and start a family.

24. Draw something.

25. Read about something you've never read.

26. Visit a place you've never visited.

27. Learn a language you thought you could never learn.

28. Get some inspirational wallpapers for your computer.

29. Read some inspirational quotes.

30. Take a walk.

31. Go on a long hike with a group of people.

32. Call up your old friends and relatives.

33. Sing out loudly.

34. Join a dance club.

35. Use StumbleUpon.

36. Go out with your camera and click some pictures.

37. Scour through the archives of your favorite websites.

38. Write anything. Don't think, just write as the thoughts come.

39. Meditate in solitude.

40. Spend some time with nature.

41. Break your routine. Do something unexpected.

42. Read poetry.

43. Watch a play.

44. Explore religion.

45. Exercise. Do yoga.

46. Scour through Delicious.

47. Watch the sunrise and sunset.

48. Volunteer for a noble cause.

49. Help someone with a task.

50. Teach and share knowledge.

51. Create a blog on Blogger or Wordpress.

52. Get started with Tumblr or Posterous.

53. Play with your pet.

54. Cook something amazing.

55. Celebrate a festival you've never celebrated.

56. Camp in the woods for a few days.

57. Form a new habit.

58. Quit something you've always been trying to quit.

59. Take part in a marathon.

60. Listen to what people around you have to say.

61. Remember, only Google has the answer to life, the universe and everything. ;)

December 4, 2010

Winter Feast for the Soul - will you be meditating in 2011?

Rebecca and I are women of many projects...we are what Barbara Sher has termed Scanners (a topic we will be writing more about in the coming months).
Both of us also like to look plan projects and at times commit ourselves to challenges and to join larger efforts for inspiration and community. One of our mutual interests is meditation and cultivating a sitting practice.

Last year we wrote about Winter Feast for the Soul       
 which is now an annual 40-day worldwide spiritual/meditation practice.
It is suggested that participants meditate for 40 minutes daily from January 15 - February 23, 2010.
The website is full of related news and resources and during the specified time period they add various free online audios and visuals.

But I know myself...I'd like to return to a meditation practice, just sitting quietly on most days of the week, of the month. I don't want to commit myself to 40 days and 40 minutes.
So I will join in -- peripherally
and use this wonderful program for inspiration.
A reasonable goal for me is 20 minutes on 4 or 5 days a week.

That's one of my goals for the upcoming New Year.
What about you?

What are you doing in the New Year?- Winter Feast for the Soul

  • To create an annual worldwide period of spiritual practice for people of all faiths to come together in prayer and meditation.
  • To support people around the world in finding inner peace in their lives through the creation of a daily spiritual practice.
  • To recognize that every person and every group is entitled to their own unique form of expression of these goals and is encouraged to practice them without discrimination.
  • To work toward a global consciousness of peace.
A Winter Feast for the Soul was born from the inspiration founder Valerie Skonie received through a line from a Rumi poem:
"What nine months does for the embryo,
forty early mornings will do for
your growing awareness."
In its first year in 2008, the event gathered about 150 people in the Wood River Valley and beyond who committed to a 40-day meditation period organized by Skonie, with help from the Light On The Mountains Spiritual Center, in Sun Valley, Idaho. The idea grew beyond her wildest dreams. People in various cities took up the idea. Even the Iranian press wrote about what was happening in Sun Valley. Soon, people from 29 countries had committed to the second annual event in 2009.
The success of the third annual event in 2010 shows participation numbers have more than doubled around the world.
  • We estimate the number of participants doubled over that of the 2009 Feast, reaching totals of about 20,000 people worldwide.
  • Our Children’s Feast for the Soul found its way into countless schools and homes around the world.
  • Our Prison Outreach program found its way to prisoners in state and federal incarceration centers throughout the United States.
  • We expanded our Online Meditation offerings to include:
    • Christian Contemplative Prayer
    • Insight Buddhist Meditation
    • New Thought Meditation
    • Tibetan Buddhist Meditation
    • Universal Interdenominational Meditation
    • Four Minutes of Stillness for Young Children
    • 15 minutes of Stillness for Older Children and Teens.
    The response to the online meditations was overwhelming! A total of nearly 35,000 downloads of these meditations was tabulated during the 2010 Winter Feast and the meditations continue to be used daily since then.
    Listen to the 2010 Winter Feast Mediations Here
  • Our Web Traffic has doubled over that of 2009.
  • Our Daily Inspirational Quotes for the forty-day Feast were translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish by volunteers from around the world.
Charter for Compassion, Dharmata Foundation, Companions for the Silent Journey, Global Coherence Initiative, Oneness Experience, Rising Tide International, Sun Valley Film Festival, Children of the Sun
His Holiness the Dalai Llama, Anam Thubten Rinpoche, Deepak Chopra, the Episcopal Third Order of St. Francis, Scripps Institute of Alternative Medicine, Andrew Harvey, James O’Dea, and Coleman Barks.