Detox Notes – 72 Hours In

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Food / Health & Fitness / Musings / Women's Health

Part of me wants to say that this isn’t so bad. And overall, I guess it’s not. Or at least that it hasn’t been until around an hour or so ago.

The last time I had a cup of coffee was Sunday morning. Now that I’m looking back on it, it seems like I was kind of weaning myself off of the black stuff during my Chicago trip. On Thursday I had my customary few cups, and on Friday I had probably three or four. Then on Saturday I had a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts, and Sunday just one cup at brunch. Oh, yeah, and an Irish coffee later that night – coincidentally one of my last alcoholic drinks before heading into this month of detox. Man, I wish I’d have had an Irish coffee from Molly’s at the Market instead. That would have been a proper sendoff…yum.

Anyway, I’m getting away from myself. Where was I?

Oh yeah – so I officially haven’t had any coffee since around 7pm on Sunday, August 30th. I’m around 72 hours out from my last sip of liquid happiness, and just starting to feel truly terrible.

I’ve been tired – bone tired, that kind of exhaustion that you get when you’re coming down with the flu and you can barely keep your head up – off and on for the last three days. I’m also kind of stressed out at work, plus on my period, neither of which has helped with energy levels. Nor has being vigilant about not “treating” my stress with carb-y goodness. Speaking of which, it’s been less than 72 hours since my last major jolt of sugar juice (aka. alcohol), and less than 48 hours since my last hit of bread. I should be starting to go into junk food/carb withdrawal in 24 hours or so, though I’m clearly already dealing with some preliminary symptoms… the sweats I started to get about an hour ago. I can’t tell if I’m feverish or not, but I’m definitely having hot flashes. Less glamorously, I’m also gassy, but that’s probably my body reacting to the dandelion tea I was drinking earlier, plus the banana and peanut butter I had tonight for dessert. Still no headache, though there’s a little something brewing behind my brows. I’m hoping that I can avoid that infamous symptom, but we’ll see.

Thankfully, my person just showed up to keep me company while I sweat my way through this mess. I’m going to get off of the computer and get in some quality time with him. He has a way of taking the “ick” out of “sick” – lol. (Unfortunately, having a super lame sense of humor is NOT a side effect of coffee withdrawals; you’re just gonna have to live with it, folks.)

Clean Days

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Beauty & Style / Green Beauty / Health & Fitness / Wine & Whiskey / Women's Health

So yesterday was the beginning of 30 days without alcohol, coffee/Diet Coke, meat, bread/pasta/processed foods, or dairy. I’m sticking to whole foods. Lots of veggies and fruits, water and green tea, and I’m sure a lot of lethargic mid-afternoons until I learn how to live without stimulants again. Not to mention really boring evenings as I trade in my wine for herbal tea, or whatever it is that people typically drink at the end of a long day when they’re trying to avoid chugging liquid sugar for a month.

Yesterday was Labor Day, and I went to a house party. To avoid drinking wine or beer with the rest of the guests, I brought a 12-pack of coconut club soda. That worked pretty well. I stayed hydrated and still had a drink to hold the entire time. I polished off all but two last night, and made short work of those remaining cans today at lunch. No coffee yesterday or this morning, either, which probably explains why my eyes are feeling so heavy right now. I could really use a nap.

Since I was at a party, and didn’t feel like hating my life completely, I went ahead and ate whatever I wanted yesterday (bison burgers, sausages, chips and fruit w/yogurt dip). Figured for Day 1, it was a big enough accomplishment to be avoiding liquor and coffee. Today, however, I haven’t had anything that’s on my “no” list. So far, I’ve had steel cut oatmeal & fruit for breakfast, and a big bowl of miso soup with tarrow root and tofu for lunch. My head is swimming right now, though. I’m feeling majorly worn out, which is probably a combination of not enough food, and my body detoxing from coffee. Sigh.

OK, time to figure out what I’ve got to do to keep myself alert and productive for the rest of the afternoon. So much work to do, and definitely not enough time for napping or indulging in brain fog.

Notes on Addiction

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Food / Health & Fitness

I’m on vacation this weekend, so I’m going to keep this short, but I just wanted to pop in and jot down a few notes. Before leaving for vacation, I made an agreement with myself that this trip would be kind of a last hurrah. When I get back, I’m going to have a lot of work to get done, and to do it, I’ll need to stick to a schedule and really keep my eye on the prize (since apparently I’m all about speaking in idioms today).

You may have guessed it from my posts, but I have a bit of an addictive personality. Luckily, the bad habits that I can’t break aren’t illegal, or immediately health threatening. But maybe that’s unlucky, too, because if a friend or family member sees that you’re addicted to a drug, they start to worry, and hopefully talk to you about your problem, maybe even help you seek help. When you’re addicted to something the rest of unhealthy America is addicted to, like animal products, cigarettes, sugar, caffeine, television, internet, physical inactivity, (insert unhealthy norm here), the only time you hear a peep out of anyone else is when you decide to quit and they try to dissuade you to make themselves feel better. As a result, I went years without seeing anything wrong, and then once I did, it’s been more years of me not knowing how to stop. In the mean time, things have gotten worse.

Most of you don’t know me in person, but if you do, you’ll know that I’m the girl who gets the large popcorn and large soda at the movie theater – and eat/drink every drop, all by myself if necessary. I know I don’t need to, because sometimes I buy the large sizes and share both, and it’s just fine. But somehow in my mind, bigger became better, and now I gravitate towards that in my food decisions. Why buy a slice of pizza when you can buy an entire pizza? Once full, why save that pizza for later when you can just shove the entire thing down right now and feel awesome about “taking care” of it? It’s hard to explain if you’re not part of what one of my friends calls the “clean plate club,” but I feel like the rules my family had for cleaning your plate when I was little have slowly morphed into this monster for me. I can’t cook bulk meals and put stuff in the fridge for later, because there is no later. If I cook a huge casserole, I’ll sit and eat the entire thing. Maybe sometimes I’ll have the willpower to put half away, but not always, not reliably. Except…

Except when the dish doesn’t contain meat, dairy, bread or pasta. When the drink doesn’t contain caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. Without fail, if the food substance isn’t processed, and only contains whole food, vegetarian ingredients (and sometimes fish works, too), my self control works just fine.

So I’m going to go on a little cleanse for the month of September. Starting Monday, I’m cutting out alcohol, coffee, land animal meat (I’m still going to eat fish), dairy, and wheat, just to see if I can kickstart my brain and body into a new norm. I’m also going to get 8 hours of sleep a night, go to the gym at least three times a week (I’m not trying to win any awards, here, I just want to get in the habit of trying harder), and look into taking yoga classes at the studio down the street – maybe just one class a week for now.

I’m also going to eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables, drink green tea and plenty of water, dry brush in the mornings, take epsom salt baths weekly, and get a weekly massage. Then we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the month, as far as anxiety levels, sleep efficiency, work habits, and hopefully some weight loss, as well.

But now it’s time for me to get going – Chicago’s been so fun so far; I want to really squeeze the rest of the fun out of my next 24 hours here :-)

Creating a 5 Year Plan – Part 3A (Health)

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Beauty & Style / Green Beauty / Health & Fitness / Women's Health

If you’ve been following along as I attempt to build a comprehensive 5 year plan, you’ll know that I started piecing together the plan by writing out my overall life goals, with a plan to then break each goal down into sub-goals and smaller sub-goals. Are those called sub-sub-goals? Tasks? Mini-goals? I don’t know. Give me a break, I’m still figuring this stuff out.

Anyway, my first stab at this was all about debt, and getting out of it. You’ll be happy to know that since I last posted, I’ve generally been pretty good about staying on target – I’ve cut back on social spending, stopped buying so much food, and I’m set up to start making more money in the near future. All of these are good things, and actually affect some of my other major life goals, like going on pilgrimage, seeing the world, and eventually having the freedom to do more writing, sing in a band, and who knows, perhaps even have my own home. We’ll see. It’s going to be a slow and steady process – at least 5 years, lol. (See what I did there?)

I’ve been holding off on writing this post for a couple of weeks now, mostly because I had some kind of harebrained idea that if I just took a little more time to think about it, I’d magically come up with all of my health-related subgoals and how to achieve them. Since the point of constructing a 5 year plan is to help you effectively sketch out your goals and start mapping out how to achieve them, procrastination didn’t get me anywhere but two weeks late on posting. That being the case, I’m just going to start throwing out ideas, and possibly have more than two blog posts related to the goal of health. It’s not like there are solid rules here, so let’s get going!

One of the things that’s had me stumped is that there are a few different things going on in my head when I think about my health. Health can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so beauty and femininity and lifestyle issues all kind of fall into the “health” category for me. It’s a LOT to digest. Here are some of the things I’ve been considering, in no particular order. Many of them overlap, so bear with me, here:

  • Legitimate health concerns, based on family history (Hypothyroidism, Anxiety, Obesity, Macular Degeneration, Cancer, and High Blood Pressure, for instance)
  • Legitimate health concerns, based on current physical/mental symptoms (Hypothyroidism, Anxiety, Obesity, Back Pain, Eating Issues, Concentration Issues)
  • Other health concerns, not based on family history or personal history, but rather just general fear (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Type II Diabetes, Cancer, Fertility Issues, Autism (potential future children))
  • Beauty / Perception of Femininity, which includes elective procedures based solely on vanity (braces, Lasik surgery, laser hair removal) plus other pretty regular stuff, like hair styling, mani/pedis, facials, waxing, makeup application, and of course, my weight.
  • Living a chemical-free lifestyle (household products and health & beauty products)
  • Being in great physical shape, then maintaining that to age gracefully
  • Obtaining a greater range of motion
  • Stress-relief
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Sleep issues that affect my daily routine (mostly not being able to wake up before 10, no matter how early I go to bed)
  • Reproductive health
  • Aging concerns (mostly vanity-related, but also related to mobility and weight)
  • Sexuality

That’s a lot of stuff to think about, and I’m having trouble finding a good way to break it all down into bite-sized chunks. Most of it seriously overlaps in multiple ways, as well. For instance, my sleep issues and procrastination are intertwined, and cause major stress on a daily basis. Both of those most likely affect my concentration, and definitely affect my eating issues. Those, in turn, affect my weight, which affects my mobility and perceived beauty, leading to more stress/mental issues/aging concerns, PLUS negatively impacting my health and leading to Diabetes, heart issues, impaired thyroid function (which is a two-way street, since it’s possibly the reason I’ve got the sleep issues and anxiety to begin with)…and so on.

It’s way too much to nail down in one blog post, but since I’ve been holding back on finishing this one up for so long, I’m just gonna go ahead and post it, then move forward with maybe revising the way I’m thinking about all of the different layers of health. Maybe I should think head to toe, inside out, and ignore diseases while looking to repair the core issues first. Whatever that means. Have patience with me, folks! And in the mean time, let me know if you’re working on your own 5 year plan for health and wellbeing, and how you’ve tackled it. I’d LOVE to know what other people are doing in this realm.


Creating A Five Year Plan – Part 2B (Debt – Mini Goals)

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Two weeks ago, I figured out my three main pathways to crushing my current debt problem, then I worked out a number of goals to set me on those paths. Today, I’m going to break up those major goals into smaller, measurable goals. After that, I can work on tracking the steps I take to achieve each of those mini-goals. As I’m typing this, I can’t believe that I have to go through this time-consuming (and ultimately quite soul-crushing) process for each of my major life goals. I’m so bored. But we only get where we’re going by sticking with it, and this is me doing just that. Sticking with it. Being annoyed at the whole idea of sticking with it. It’s do or die time, folks. It’s ramen or air time. It’s have a roof over my head or lose my apartment time. You get the picture. OK, it’s not quite that dire. My rent is paid up for the month, at least.

So my main goals are to:

  • Make More Money
  • Spend Less Money
  • Pay Off Debt

And the sub-goals I’ve devised are to:

  • Earn more money at my job.
  • Sell things that I own.
  • Keep a budget document.
  • Stop overspending on food.
  • Switch to Simple.
  • Pay bills first before spending any other money.
  • Cut back on expenses
  • Pay more than the minimums on my CC’s.
  • Make a plan (with dates) for paying off my debts.
  • Put all of any secondary income into my savings account.
  • Cut back on life.

Let’s take each of those sub-goals and start thinking of how to make them happen, shall we?

1) Earn more money at my job.

  • Talk to my boss/major client about getting a raise. I’ve done this already, and have been promised a raise if we get a couple more major clients to fully commit. This business (especially in NOLA) is feast or famine, so I’m not that hopeful.
  • Get a second major client. This is happening. I had a phone date last week with an old employer about a part-time gig. It’s going to be a long-term position that should substantially increase my income and give me a way to start putting a nice, solid chunk into debt repayment, plus eventually saving for my pilgrimage (finally!!!).
  • Take on more small clients. I have a few people for whom I’m doing little one-off jobs now and then. Typically, it’s a lot of stress for a little paycheck, so I waver between loving the money and hating how the job makes me feel. But I might have to just to suck it up for a little while.
  • Start my origami business. I’ve been dreaming about making origami professionally for years. My ideas are solid, and I think I should just go for it. It takes money to start, though – I’ll need paper, books, and eventually some better lighting.

2) Sell things that I own.

  • I started selling stuff around my house over the course of the last couple of weeks, and it’s going pretty well. I’ve sold about $75 worth of stuff on Craigslist, plus another $100 worth of stuff on Ebay and Amazon so far, and I’ve got a decent collection of other stuff to sell after I’ve shipped off this first grouping.
  • One unexpected byproduct of selling off stuff is that I’m taking this time to think carefully about my possessions, and what they mean to me. Turns out, not very much at all. So I’ve decided to start culling my collections (books, craft supplies, jewelry I never wear, and the collectible crapola that I buy, appreciate for a second, and never look at again, etc.). My goal is to have all of my possessions fit comfortably in my apartment, and for the overall apartment to look chic and minimalistic.

3 – 5) Keep a budget document / Stop overspending on food / Switch to Simple

  • All of these goals are pretty closely related, so my subgoals here will be a little more interconnected than with the other goals, I think.
  • I’ve been keeping a budget document in Excel (and now on Google Drive) for years. It lists all of my bills (reoccurring and one time), the dates they’re due, the amounts that are due, the dates I paid, the amounts I paid (if I pay more or less, I need to keep track of that) and any other notes I need.
  • Pay more attention to my bills and repayment plans in Mint. I joined up a few years ago, and it’s terribly useful, but I’m also quite lazy and haven’t been using the program as well as I should. If you aren’t familiar with Mint and how it works, it’s a website that brings together information on all of your financial accounts in one place, allowing you to track due dates, payments, and charges, and giving you a framework to whip you into financial shape. Click through the above link to go directly to their “About Us” page, which has a helpful video and more info on how to use the service to your benefit. Best of all, it’s free! (No, I wasn’t paid by Mint to advertise – I just think it’s a helpful site.)
  • Stop bringing my debit card with me to work. Most of my impulse food buys are made when I’m tired of being at my desk at work, so if I stop bringing money, the problem will be (mostly) solved.
  • I’m going to deposit my next check into Simple, and gradually move my entire checking account over after that. Like Mint, Simple also helps you set goals. Unlike Mint, it includes no-fee internet banking with photo direct deposit, and the phone app tells you when you’re out of “safe to spend” funds. Basically, it’s a card that’s set up for savings-challenged folks like myself, who need a gatekeeper to remind them when they should be paying bills instead of buying another sandwich. I’ve read a few different reviews on how well Simple works, and my boyfriend has been using it successfully for awhile now. It’s time to make the switch. (BTW, I’m not getting paid to advertise Simple, either.)

6 – 7) Pay bills first before spending any other money / Cut back on expenses

  • I’m already not doing too well at this. I bought a few things when I got my last paycheck on Friday, but they were all things that I needed: underwear and a shopping cart type thing to take my clothes to the laundromat (about a mile away by foot, which is a little far to lug 45 lbs of laundry – yes, I’ve had it weighed). I also bought two tickets to a concert I really wanted to attend on Friday. Oops. I’ll do better.
  • One thing I can do re: cutting back on expenses is to seriously consider how much I need something before I buy it. For instance, I could have continued to lug those huge bags of clothing to the laundromat every other Saturday, but one of the bags rubs a raw spot in my shoulder. Without the laundry cart, the only other option I’d have for getting to the laundromat without serious injury would be the bus, which is $1.25 each way. The cart cost me $40, which is the equivalent of 20 laundry days. Plus, now I can take it with me to Costco if I need to, eliminating the need to take a cab to/from Costco, which is a huge savings. I think it was an OK purchase. As for the concert tickets, I didn’t NEED them, exactly, but it’s a band that I really, really dig, and sometimes a girl has to splurge. It was a relatively tiny purchase in the whole scheme of things, and the show’s going to be great (hopefully).
  • Cancel some reoccurring payments. I have a few memberships and reoccurring payments that can be cut, like Massage Envy, my storage unit, and a monthly membership to a dance school that I never attend. If I quit all of these, I’ll be about $100 ahead each month.
  • Stop getting my nails done and getting waxed. Honestly, I’m not sure how long I can last with not doing either of these things. There are some small treats that I need to have in my life, and having my nails done on a semi-regular basis is one of those treats, as is getting my hair tamed. I’ve already cut back substantially (I used to have my nails done every two weeks or so, and now it’s happening about every other month), so we’ll see. It’s just that I seldom feel very feminine or pretty, and these little treats make me feel like I’m at least passing as a woman. The bigger problem there is my wardrobe, but since I haven’t had money to buy new clothes in years now, that’s not getting fixed until the debt is gone. Ugh.

8) Pay more than the minimums on my CC’s. 

  • In general, I’m already doing this. I always try to pay at least $5 to $10 more than what I owe, but I can probably start to do more than that soon.

9) Make a plan (with dates) for paying off my debts.

  • I’m logging on to Mint as soon as I’m done with this blog post. Will provide more info on how it advises me to pay off my bills as soon as I’ve figured it out. Also, if you’re looking to pay off your CC debt the same as I am, here’s a great LifeHacker article that provides step-by-step directions on how to get out of debt.

10 – 11) Put all of any secondary income into my savings account / Cut back on life

  • Secondary income is for saving, not spending. I’m not going to touch a dime of any secondary income that I make outside of my main client. It’s all going straight into my high-yield savings account at Barclays. At the end of the year, I’ll pay my 2014 taxes with my savings. When that’s paid off, I’ll use whatever’s left to pay off my 2013 taxes. Any leftover funds will go to paying off credit cards.
  • Put life on hold for a little while, as much as it hurts. If all goes well, by January of 2015 (five months from now), I’ll have my taxes and back taxes all paid off. I’ll still have a few more months before I need to refile paperwork and increase my student loan payments, and if I’m socking away as much as possible then, I’ll be able to save for taxes and probably pay off all of my credit card debt in the early months of 2015. This doesn’t mean that I won’t have any money to play with. I’ll still have some spending money from my regular paycheck every couple of weeks to buy a bottle of wine or go to a concert now and then. I just can’t go crazy and start buying new clothes or planning fancy vacations.
  • Plan meals and shop wholesale. My waistline and my wallet will thank me, I know it. I’m just the worst at planning ahead for food, though. How am I supposed to know what I’m going to want to eat a week from now? It’s time to learn.

OK, I could keep making up subgoals from now until the cows come home. It’s taken me over a week to write this one post, just because I kept thinking of more things to say. Right now my immediate goals are to keep cleaning out my house and selling off pointless crap, to start making money at a second job, to figure out how much money I’ve been wasting each month on food / stop wasting that money, and to get my budgeting goals set up in Mint and Simple. I’m headed off to start building the goals out in the apps right now, and will let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

Creating a Five Year Plan – Part 2A (Debt)

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Inspiration / Musings

Since I spent the greater part of the day obsessing about my current state of debt, I decided that tonight’s foray into the confusing business of creating a five year plan would be to think about said debt and come up with some solid strategies to start eliminating it. Here’s what I said about debt in yesterday’s blog post…namely that it was time to: “Get my debt under control. It’s going to kill me. Literally – the stress will kill me if I don’t get it under control, and the #1 thing that’s on my mind 24/7 is student loan, credit card, and tax debt.”

So where do we start? I can identify a few different reasons that I’m currently experiencing so much stress re: my debt. While some things can never be changed (off the top of my head, I’d tell my young self to go to state school instead of a Southern ivy, avoid wasting money on pointless bouts of graduate school at all costs, and to never, ever get more than one credit card), there are definitely some goals that I can set right now and then try to work towards. These are (in no particular order):

  • Make more money.
  • Spend less money.
  • Make paying off debt my top priority.

See, that was easy, right? Totally. Kinda. Not really. But whatever, I have to try. So let’s break those major goals into smaller tidbits that start giving me at least the semblance of a debt-destroying road map, shall we?

Make more money.

  • Earn more money at my job. This could entail getting a new job that pays me more, getting a second job, asking my clients for more money, or any of the above. I happen to like the freedom of my freelancing schedule, and I’m counting on that freedom to give me the ability to take off for Santiago de Compostela one day in the next couple of years, so I’d like to keep the job I have. This means that I need to get a second job. However, since my primary job isn’t paying me what I’d like, to make it viable I also need to ask my clients for more money. 
  • Sell things that I own. I’m getting ready to go home and do this tonight, in fact. I’ve been a collector for much of my life. I’m constantly picking up knick knacks and trinkets and electronics that I really want at the time, but later just leave laying about the house. When I first moved into my own place a few months ago, I sold some of those things. Now it’s time to catalog and sell the rest. 

Spend less money.

  • Keep a budget document. I have a budget in an Excel file. It helps me keep track of my bills, but it’s not helping me keep track of how to cut costs.
  • Stop overspending on food. It’s my #1 expenditure each month. I spend WAY too much money on food, and that’s got to stop. As much as it pains me, I need to create a strict weekly budget for groceries and entertainment, and stick to it. $50 a week ($200 a month) should be about right for groceries, one movie a month, and a cocktail with friends every now and then. 
  • Switch to Simple. I’ve already signed up for a Simple account, and have the card, but I’ve yet to have enough money in the bank to switch my funds over to Simple full time. When I do, though, I’ll have a system through which to estimate savings goals and spending limits, and a card that will straight up tell me “No, you can’t spend any more money if you want to be out of debt any time this century.”
  • Pay bills first. From now on, bills have to be paid first, while I have the money. Being a freelancer means that you never know when you’re going to get paid next. Luckily, I work for a great company that pays me every two weeks, like a regular employee, almost. But since they’re freelancers, too, sometimes they’re not paid on time, which means that it’s inevitable that there will be times my paycheck will be late. Every time that happens, I’m going to be subject to late fees and overdraft fees for bills due during that pay period. To keep this from happening, I’ve got to pay my bills first, and worry about everything else later.
  • Cut back on expenses. I can quit Massage Envy, Netflix, and dance classes, plus cut back on data use on my phone. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get rid of my storage unit soon, too. All of that would save me about $150 a month, maybe a little more. I still want to join the gym eventually, but we’ll figure that out when I get there.

Make paying off debt my top priority.

  • Pay more than the minimum fee. The longer I pay the bare minimum for credit cards, the longer I’ll be paying them – and the more money I’ll eventually have wasted on them.
  • Don’t use credit cards unless it’s an absolute emergency. Lately, I’ve fallen back into using my credit cards when there’s a gap between pay periods. This can’t happen anymore. If I’m not going to be able to eat, I’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it. The credit card is not a solution. Making more REAL money is. I can keep a credit card around for dire emergencies, like the loss of a limb or something, but really craving a cheeseburger does not an emergency constitute.
  • Make a plan (with dates) for paying everything off.
  • Put all of second income into savings account for debt. If I’m honest about what it takes to scrape by, my primary job will allow me to pay the minimums of all of my bills, eat a simple diet, and go to the movies or out to a friends’ house now and then. If I could double my current income, I’m pretty sure that I could pay off all of my tax debt from last year and put away at least a little bit of money to pay this year’s taxes. It won’t be everything I need to cut my debt by the end of the year – not even close – but it will be considerably closer than where I am now.
  • Cut back on life. There has to be a balance. I need to look good to get ahead in my career, but I need to stick within a budget. Maybe $100 a month could go to my upkeep. That would let me get my hair cut every three months, buy most of an outfit every three months, and get my nails done every three months. OK, I need to budget more than that. But we’ll just have to work on that in the budget document, shall we?

That’s as much patience as I have for this right now. Tomorrow I’ll start making micro goals for each of these. Right now I’m going home to sort through my things and see what I can get rid of. Maybe I’ll have a yard sale this weekend…

Click here for the second part of my post on creating a plan to get out of debt.

Creating a 5 Year Plan – Part 1

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Health & Fitness / Inspiration
Click through to view the full article on simple ways to be happy. (via Huffpost)

Click through to view the full article on simple ways to be happy. (via Huffpost)

In five years, I’ll be nearing 38. Not old, by any means, but old enough to have accomplished a few things. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem like I’m going to be that close to achieving any of my dreams at the rate I’m going. That being the case, I’ve decided to draft my 5 Year Plan. After reading multiple articles on the subject, it looks like the first thing I need to do is define my overall life goals, then start breaking them down. So today we’re going to start at the very beginning and sort out the overall life goals, then move on from there bit by bit. You with me?

First, here’s a list of things I think 85-year old me will be sad if I didn’t do:

  • See the world. I’ve seen a bit, but it’s far too early in my life to stop traveling. In fact, if I were able to figure out how, I’d be going on trips around the world until I’m old and decrepit…and hopefully then, too.
  • Go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This is technically part of “See the world,” but it’s deeper and more personal than just taking a vacation or learning about local architecture, so it gets its own bullet point.
  • Work in event coordination. I love to organize things and people, and I really “get” event logistics. Looking back over the last few years, the times I’ve been happiest are all centered around setting up events and making sure they run smoothly. To even get started in thinking about this kind of career move, I’d need to take care of the next bullet point…
  • Get my debt under control. It’s going to kill me. Literally – the stress will kill me if I don’t get it under control, and the #1 thing that’s on my mind 24/7 is student loan, credit card, and tax debt.
  • Stop feeling so dependent on everyone else. This one is hard to explain, but I guess what I’m really saying is that I want to be comfortable in my own skin, and not feel like I need everyone else’s approval to feel like I have a right to be here. It would be amazing to be the person that other people respected and looked to for advice and love, if only just sometimes. I always feel like I’m on the outskirts of the conversation, the edge of the in-crowd. I’d love to have the self-confidence to start feeling like I’m important, too.
  • Sing in a decent band. I have no illusions of grandeur on this point. I just want to sing with a group of musicians who like each other for the most part, and who can manage to have fun on stage together a couple of nights a week for any length of time longer than 6 months.
  • Be known as a writer. I know that I have several books in me, but I also know how difficult it is to get published AND noticed these days. I don’t want to win the Hugo or anything – I just want for people to know me for my writing. Right now I’d settle for a popular blog.
  • Make spiritual practice more central to my life. If life is about finding Truth, I should be seeking it out with more energy and consistency.
  • Build something solid and lasting with the right life partner.
  • Have children. This one is open to interpretation, I think. I’d really love to have children of my own, but I’m not opposed to adoption or fostering, given the proper resources. Also, if I never end up getting married, or if it becomes clear that children aren’t within my scope of physical or financial capabilities, maybe it just means moving closer to my friends’ children so I can be a spectacular aunt.
  • Be responsible for my carbon footprint / impact on my environment.
  • Stop putting so many chemicals in / on my body by choice. Obviously I can’t help everything that I’m exposed to, but I can do something.
  • Take care of my body, so that it’s in great condition for as long as possible. I deserve to be able to be physically active and pain free. It’s more than a right, though – it’s a requirement for a long life, full of adventure, where I can be present and active with my loved ones.
  • Learn to like food. Real food. Learn to eat vegetables and fruits and really like it, and to seek out fruits and vegetables for every meal. I’m already bored with this statement, but I’m pretty sure that it’s intrinsic to a bunch of the other goals on this list.
  • Have a house / condo / living space of my own. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It just needs to be a place that I can live in when I’m old and unable to work any longer.
  • Have a reliable method of transportation that is not my own two feet. Although my own two feet are a perfectly great way to get around 90% of the time, and I hope to be using them for many years to come. But seriously, if I can’t afford to buy my own damn car at some point over the next 50 years, I’m going to be pissed.

That’s enough for now. Tomorrow I’ll work on narrowing in on the sub-goals for each (or maybe just a few) of these major life achievement-type goals. In the mean time, does anyone out there have any ideas or helpful hints for putting together a detailed 5 Year Plan? Tweet me at @compassandquill. I’d love to know how you created your own plan, and if there are any resources you’d suggest. Thanks!

Click here to read my next post about taking a personal stab at creating a 5 year plan.

Nerd Girl Meets Geek Boy – Take 1 (aka. Let Me Love You To Death)

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Geekery / Musings / Nerd Girl Meets / Relationships

When I was 15, I met a guy at summer camp. It wasn’t just any summer camp; at the time, I was enrolled in Air Force JROTC at my school, and during the summers I attended a special officer’s training camp at Fort Bragg. The week-long camp acted a little like a mini bootcamp. We slept in barracks, woke up at 5am to attend PT, slept/ate/drilled/etc. with our flights (groups of about 25 kids), and did all sorts of training exercises, like rappelling, doing a ropes course, crawling through the mud under barbed wire, running until we puked, that kind of thing. It was mostly pretty fun.

There were around 20 flights, named alphabetically; I was part of Bravo Flight. Weird to remember that, considering that it was almost 20 years ago. Even though there were teenage cadre who ostensibly held the reins for each flight, each group also had an adult advisor to make sure we didn’t go all Lord of the Flies out there in the summer heat. Ours was this really nice Senior Master Sergeant whose name I’ve long ago forgotten. Early on, he suggested that we all pick nicknames. There was Eggs, my best girlfriend at the camp. Before bed, she wore a beautiful red corduroy bath robe with a black velvet collar, and once she told us that she could squash a watermelon between her thighs. The SMSgt. started calling her Eggs after she puked during our post-breakfast drill exercise on the second morning of camp. Maverick was my camp crush – he even felt me up on the bus once. He had named himself after Top Gun, but I didn’t get the movie reference. At the time, I thought he’d named himself after the TV show character played by James Garner, and later I thought he might have been referencing that sweet early 70’s car, the Ford Maverick. I didn’t get the Top Gun thing until maybe five years ago. I used to be so blindly hopeful that other people I met might have imaginations.

My name was Flower Child. In early high school, I was really into everything 1960’s, but mostly mod/British invasion culture and fashion (you know, like Mary Quant, Twiggy, definitely crazy about anything Beatles-related and everything that Pattie Boyd wore during the Beatles’ stay in India…blah, blah, blah). But by the time I got to summer camp, I was also embracing Woodstock, Vietnam news coverage, the peace movement, anti-war protest art, everything Haight Ashbury, and of course, all things psychedelic. Almost all of my school outfits were deconstructed vintage 1960s and early 1970s fancy dress gowns – lots of floor length dresses in man-made fabrics, with flowing sleeves and floral motifs, which I then ripped up and sewed back together in weird ways. Still, I wouldn’t have voluntarily called myself a flower child, but the SMSgt. gave me my title, too.

He also named my other camp friend, Jody. Over the years, I’ve conveniently forgotten Jody’s real name, mostly because I was afraid that one day he’d turn into a stalker and kill me. (Which is still probably a possibility, and also a great reason to actually remember someone’s name, now that I’m thinking about it.) Jody had come to camp equipped with a book of marching songs called jody calls, and he took it upon himself to teach our flight a few of them to make running and marching easier. In particular, he taught us one that I still sing to myself when I’m running and feel like dying. It goes like this:

Call: “We like to party!”
Response: (We like to party!)
Call: “Party hearty!”
Response: (Party hearty!)
Call: “And when we like to party -“
Response: (And when we like to party -)
Call: “- we like to party all night long!”
Response: (- we like to party all night long!)
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Get on down!”
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Your left!”
Response: “Right!”
Call: “Get on down!”
Everyone: “Get on back, get out of our face, Bravo Flight’s gonna rock this place!”

Sounds complicated, but actually super easy and really fun to yell together. Anyway, Jody taught us a few jody calls to keep us going, and it really did help unite us as a group. I’m just now realizing that it might have been my first experience in seeing how instrumental teamwork is to making music with feeling – even if it is just a silly marching song. During camp, I got to make out with Maverick a couple of times, but Jody was the one I kept in touch with. He was a geeky little skater kid, rather anxious and seriously smart. I hadn’t ever met a guy I could geek out with about books and poetry, plus there’s something kind of romantic about meeting a boy at summer camp and exchanging letters for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, over the next year, things got weird. (Seriously, did you not expect them to? Do you even KNOW me?)

Jody lived in a small city about two hours away from me. For much of the next year, I sent him poetry and letters, and he wrote me back in short stories and plans for the future. We were both in JROTC for the sole purpose of having the military eventually pay for college. We both hated high school, wanted to see the world, wished people could understand us. But where my yearning to be heard expressed itself through 60s pop music and fantasy novels, his was darker, more primal, possibly just more male. I was yearning to open like a flower (and looking forward to the day when I’d subsequently be deflowered), and he was looking to jump into the ring swinging. When he found me, that frustration and anger underwent a softening and was redirected at me as a form of near-obsession. Pretty much every guy I’ve met since then who was hopelessly nerdy and ignored in high school went through something like this phase (whether the girl was real or not), so now it doesn’t freak me out so much. Then, though…eek. What really put it over the edge for me, however, was a mix tape.

During high school, “normal” for me was a mix of too many overlapping activities with which I still somehow managed to be bored and under stimulated. In the Fall, this meant performing in the color guard team at every home football game and attending every drill team competition within a 200 mile radius from my home town. In the Winter, there were color guard and drill performances during basketball games. Every weekend that I wasn’t attending a Quiz Bowl competition, I could be found doing something drill or color guard related with my other Air Force wannabe buddies. Eventually, at the end of my Junior year, my school hosted our own drill competition. Jody showed up with his school’s team. I was pleased to see him, if shy. He brought his skateboard, so he could show me some tricks he was learning. He also brought me a pair of green corduroy JNCOs that he’d outgrown and knew I’d dig, and the mix tape. I gave him one of my prom pictures, and at the end of the day, a kiss.

Once home, I put the tape into my tape deck, expecting music I’d heard before, or maybe even music that I hadn’t heard before but that I’d still find a way to like. Out of the speakers came this creepy gothic sound that built with intensity until it turned into harsh, wailing guitars and throbbing base. The lyrics were insane. It was obviously demonic in nature. The lead singer was talking about sweaty breasts, candlelight, sex, death. I listened to the song again, my trepidation building. My penpal was a psychopath, out for blood. He wanted to kill me, and just today I’d kissed him! What was I thinking?

Things did not go well from there. I wrote to tell him that we couldn’t be friends anymore, and through a series of letters and phone calls, eventually he came to terms with the fact that I was scared of him. We didn’t talk again for years, until he found me on MySpace when I was just finishing up with undergrad, and he was coming to the end of his first enlistment period in the Air Force. Conversation remained scarily obsessive on his part, and eventually I gracefully retreated.

But surprise! This post isn’t how a hippie nerd girl meets a goth geek boy and breaks his heart. It’s about how a hippie nerd girl finds out that she’s actually a witchy nerd girl, then goes on to fall in love with Type O Negative. Oh, and later find out that the goth geek boy she thought might kill her in high school turned into a legitimately creepy 20-something guy.

After ending my weird friendship with Jody the first time, I went on to have a pretty normal summer. I’d totalled my car in May, so from June through August, I rebuilt it from the ground up, with my grandfather and uncles overseeing my progress. In July, I met a boy and got kinda serious. In October, my grandfather died and I got drunk for the first time. In the following months, my family dynamic shifted considerably, I decided I definitely wouldn’t be going into the Air Force, and, oh yeah, I went full fledged skater goth. No skateboard, though – there weren’t any paved roads for me to practice on near my house. No, I’m not shitting you. Sometime in that transition to black lipstick and combat boots, that mix tape resurfaced and started to make sense. I suddenly understood that the words “let me love you to death” are about a deeply sensual moment, not about being ripped apart by a vampire during sex. Which still sounds kind of interesting. But not really. But maybe. I dunno. As I was saying…

Over the years, I eventually started adore Type O Negative. As I’ve gotten older, their lyrics have made more and more sense to me, and have grown to encompass layered meanings – for me, the sign of truly powerful songwriting, even if it is kind of cheesy in its own way. Today, when I hear Love You To Death, I see the story of a man who’s fallen in love with a powerful woman. He loves that power, and is drawn to it, but not weakened by it. He finds comfort in how well he knows her body, and how confidently she inhabits her skin. But he also wants to build on to what they’ve achieved together, to strengthen their emotional bond through physical action. He’s not saying that he literally wants to fuck her until she dies. He’s talking about the joining of life forces, dying together and rising anew. It’s gorgeous. It’s seriously romantic, and by that I mean romantic in a very serious way. Definitely not something you put on a mix tape for your long distance crush at 16, though what 16 year old could possibly come to terms with their first love not being as real as it seems at that precise moment?

Wherever he is, I hope Jody’s found his dream nerd girl. I’ve been through a few more geek boys, myself, but you know what they say: You’ve got to kiss a lot of geeks before you get to love one to death. Or something like that :-)

Past Life Puzzle Pieces

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Fortune Teller, by Anna Harris

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m looking to be amused. Let’s pretend that the unusual things we’re most obsessed with somehow point to what our past lives were, shall we? For me, that would be (in no particular order):

  • Medieval monastic life
  • Walking long distances / the idea of leaving, wandering, seeking
  • Gulags
  • Siberia
  • WWII, as experienced by the non-military in continental Europe
  • Bohemia / Czechoslovakia
  • The Romani
  • Drowning at sea
  • The Alemanni/Suebi (a 3rd through 6th century barbarian tribal confederation mostly focused around the area that’s now Alsace)
  • 12th century Wales / England
  • Weaving and folk medicine in medieval Europe
  • Sheep & goats
  • 16th century trading culture in Italy and the Netherlands
  • Northern Renaissance oil paintings – particularly those depicting architecture and the life of the layperson (vs. religious subjects)
  • Ruby Glass (which also connects back to Bohemia)
  • Late 19th century cabinet cards (photos)
  • 19th century prostitution and drug use

So there you have it. This is the bulk of what I’ve been drawn to time and time again in literature, film, and via travel experiences since childhood. There are TONS more things that I’m interested in, of course – art, music, pop culture, clothing – all sorts of stuff. I love other cities and time periods, too. But these are the things that stick with me. Feel free to piece these together like some weird puzzle, and imagine who I might have been in a past life. Alternately, use it as a suggestion to start connecting your own strange obsessions and making up reincarnation stories for yourself, whatever floats your boat. Happy random Saturday!




Coated In Ashes

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Musings / Relationships


Today I’m thinking about mortality, for pretty obvious reasons, given today’s news reports about the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. I was raised in a household where I was constantly being told that we were on the brink of WWIII, and that I should be ready to fight for my survival when the time came. My father wasn’t a survivalist, but he was – and remains – quite the pessimist. He scared the shit out of me, permanent emotional scars, lasting fears of a coming apocalypse that regularly play themselves out in my dreams (no, not nightmares…my nightmares are of much simpler, far more realistic things).

In hindsight, I guess I’d rather be frightened and knowledgeable about the risks of living than to be not at all worried, and completely ignorant to the world around me. I dunno. It’s a slippery slope between being a conspiracy theorist/alarmist and being well-informed. Today in particular, I’m seeing the headlines and thinking about all the chances people have had to do things correctly. Mostly, my thoughts settle on the fact that there are entire countries full of people just trying to live in peace, but then you add a few asshole nutjobs who feel like killing kids for shits and giggles, or maybe trying to blow up a plane because they think it’ll make them seem tough, and now here we are, millions of good men, women and children who’re about to be brutalized by war for what? Nothing. Idiocy. Pride. Machismo. Religious rhetoric. I’m scared, and I’m tired. Why must it be this way? What can we do, besides keep trying, like countless generations before us, to live lightly and be good to our fellow humans, and hope that it catches on?

I find it hard to believe in reincarnation, but a tiny piece of me identifies with a spinster woman who lives in the woods, away from the village. She helps ease difficult births, and treats common maladies. She is reviled for her knowledge. She will die for her love and goodness, and at the hands of those she’s cared for during their lowest moments. I feel for her. I feel like her. I am scared that I will become her. I’m scared that I will not be good enough to become her. I don’t want my fear to beat the goodness out of me. I refuse to let it.

And then what of hope and trust and love and happiness? And why now am I at the highest of highs in my personal life, feeling stronger by far than I have in so very long, when the world around us seems to be more frail than ever? Do I keep living like there’s more time to get things right, or do I throw caution to the wind, and rise along with it? Is my fear greater now because there’s suddenly so much more to lose? I’m forcing myself to bite my tongue lest I say too much. I’m digging in my heels and straining against my own need to run wild and frantic, this raw emotion burning away anything that stands between us. I am the Phoenix. I am the Crone. I am terrified of what will be, but confident that I can do no more than what I’ve always done: live. At least now there’s someone to hold my hand at night, to watch over as I sleep. The villagers will have to take us both, I guess.