Monthly Archives: September 2011

Oh Crap. I feel another phase coming on…

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I’m feeling a phase I’ve had in the past trying to make a comeback. This is both fantastic and frightening all at the same time.  It is the “de-cluttering my life” phase. It’s a dangerous place.

My de-cluttering phases of years past have usually grown out of necessity. When I moved from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 400 square foot studio, so I could return to school at the age of 30…I sold or donated tons of my stuff. It felt really good. I enjoyed knowing what all of my possessions were and I only kept things I needed.

After finishing school, securing a job and not being a starving college student anymore I began purchasing/obtaining/finding stuff I liked. Over the last few years the amount of crap stuff I have has grown exponentially. I moved into my current dwelling almost 2 years ago. I have a huge indoor storage/attic area that is full. I’ve only been in there once to look for something. Once. So that tells me that all of the stuff in there is really not important to me. At all. So unimportant that I don’t even know what is in there!

I also have a glorified storage closet guest room. It too has become a haven for misfit items. From the guest closet (which, by the way, is bigger than the closet in my room) to under the guest bed. All areas that could hold stuff… have stuff.

So…you ask…how do I know this phase is trying to make a comeback? The proof is in the 9 garbage bags full of clothes I am going to donate and the 6 reusable grocery bags full of books that will be sold at my local Half-Priced Books. I have also filled my recycle bin with stuff…and have only filled one trash bag with actual trash (trying to be eco-friendly in my de-cluttering). Luckily most of the stuff I have can be given away or sold.  This part is the FANTASTIC part.

The frightening part, you ask?

All of this crap is from the guest bedroom/closet and the bookshelf downstairs. I haven’t even opened the storage closet upstairs. And it is bigger than my whole guest room and guest closet combined.  I think I’m going to need to tackle that space with a plan (and a bulldozer).  No. You don’t need to call A&E to let them know they have a new episode of Hoarders ready to go in ATX. Yes. I do have a lot of stuff, but luckily I also have a home that has lots of closet space. Space to keep crap I don’t need.

To be honest, I kind of know what has spurred this little de-cluttering adventure. I am thinking about returning to school next year. If I do that, I know I will downsize and actually have a need to get rid of some of my stuff. I guess I am really just being proactive!

Thinking about going back to school reminded me of the last time I downsized… and I lived a pretty de-cluttered life then. Not just de-cluttered of stuff, but everything else seemed a little more organized. It was nice. It was simple. It worked for me… better than having all of this stuff.

I will be making a trip to Goodwill and Half-Priced books in the morning. My goal is to have the whole downstairs of my house clutter-free before I go to bed tonight. It might be a late night…I wonder if a glass of wine will help?

e~

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A girl without a 5 year plan

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I saw the video below on one of my favorite blogs [the blog is at best, Pg-13…if you are offended by profanity, I’d tread carefully]

Jenny [The Bloggess] wrote about the fact that she is someone who doesn’t have a 5 year plan. I love her even more for posting about it!

 Last weekend when I was deciding if I needed to purchase another journal, I ran across a journal to help someone develop a 5 year plan.

[It was serendipitous that The Bloggess wrote about this topic]

I started thinking about the fact that I don’t have a 5 year plan. I really don’t even have a 1 year plan. OK. I don’t have any plans. I have dreams, aspirations, wants, desires, and goals…but not much of a plan.

I am realizing each day that I don’t need some big elaborate plan…because what seems to happen to the elaborate plans that most people make is that life gets in the way of their plan; or they are working SO hard to stick to their plan that life passes them by…and they miss out on so many lovely opportunities to live their life.

Sure…it’s good to know how you are going to meet your basic needs..but I keep thinking about how we have gotten so far away from our basic needs that we really don’t even know what our basic needs are. That is something I am working on doing. Getting back to the basics. Figuring out what things bring me joy, and finding a way to make the joyful a part of my everyday.  I’ve been there before. It was when I let things be simple. When I made sure I was doing work that brought me joy, used my strengths and made me excited to get out of bed each morning. I’m not there right now. I like what I do…but I don’t love it…and the gap between like and love is a pretty big one. Big enough for joy to fall into the abyss and get lost.

So what is my plan? The only plan I have now is to figure out what’s next. Not 5 years from now “next”…but tomorrow or next week…or possibly next month. Sure…I may know what I think I want to do a few months from now….but I don’t set the plan in stone because then I am not open to what other possibilities might be out there for me.

If you are a 5 year planner, that’s fantastic. It just doesn’t work for me. Anyone who has been through as many phases as I have, can’t really be a planner. It just isn’t in my DNA. (OK..that’s a lie. My Dad is a super-planner. He wishes I had received that DNA strand..but I didn’t. Sorry Dad….but he can’t say that I haven’t made life stressful interesting for him with my lack of a plan. LOVE YOU DAD!)

So…I will remain a girl without a 5 year plan. And that’s OK.

 I think this video says it perfectly:

love,
e~

Large metal letters and other important obsessions

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I have a few obsessions. They are somewhat random but they all make sense to me.

Saturday morning I went to my local Farmer’s Market. I haven’t been in a while, but I was craving some of their offerings…and the dairy products you get at the F.M. can’t be beat. On my way home I decided to get off the highway and take the neighborhood streets home. In a random parking lot I could see that some kind of art show was being set up. As I glanced over, I saw them… I couldn’t breathe… I had to have them.

Leaning against the wall were these huge letters. The letters M and K were both metal and the A and E were made of wood. (spelling MAKE).  Each letter was approximately 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. They were magnificent!

The logical part of my brain told me that I had dairy products from the Farmer’s Market that needed to get to the fridge…so I couldn’t stop. It just wasn’t practical to allow Farmer’s Market priced milk to go bad while perusing the art show.
What I love is that the logical part of my brain said NOTHING about the fact that I have NO reason and/or space in my home for these beautiful useless letters… Nope…only the groceries kept me from pulling into the parking lot.

After arriving home and unloading my Farmer’s Market goods, I decided I “needed” to go to the bookstore. I really never need to go to the bookstore. I generally go because, for some reason, walking around the bookstore for a good chunk of time makes me feel good.  As I was on my way to the bookstore I noticed that I was traveling in the opposite direction of said store… I was heading toward that parking lot that held the letters that were meant to be mine. I guess I was subconsciously obsessing about the letters. obsessing.

I pulled into the lot.
I walked around looking at the other art, as not to show my excitement for the letters…. You never want to look too eager to purchase art.
I stealthily walked towards them trying to act disinterested.

They were stunning. They were awesome. They cost TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. yes. $2000 for 2 metal and 2 wooden letters. Seriously??

I can be disgusted by the high price tag… since I don’t have a cool $2000 burning a hole in my pocket.
Because I know think if I did, I would have been loading up my 2002 Ford Explorer with these fantastic letters without batting an eye. yes. seriously.

Instead I had to settle for a photograph of the M. The letters were too far apart to get them all in one photo…and since I wasn’t going to buy anything and the guy working there was looking at me suspiciously (possibly because I gasped loudly at the price and the began quietly weeping when I realized the letters weren’t coming home with me) I quickly snapped a photo and left.

Here she is..in all of her glory, the letter M:

I guess I will just have to continue to dream. Maybe one day I will have extra-large useless letters in my home. (I currently own a small metal E and a small letter Q…they are only about a foot-and-a half tall. Small beans compared to these monsters.)

I left the parking lot, blotting my tears as I drove away and onto the bookstore where my next 3 obsessions can be found. These next three items can also be what spurs a new phase, or can be part of a phase.

They are Journals, Calendars & Books.

 It is rare that I ever leave a bookstore in less than an hour. Today’s adventure was about an hour and-a-half long. Not a record…but I have some other things to accomplish yesterday…so I was on a time crunch.

Since it is September they have all of the calendars out on display. I walk by the display.

I think to myself: “I have an IPhone that has a great calendar that can hold all of my work obligations as well as my personal plans. I don’t need a paper calendar.” I high-five myself (in my head…because high-fiving yourself in public leads to sideways glances and whispering by others.)

Since I knew I had tons of willpower today I head over to journal section. Whoever said I wasn’t a glutton for punishment doesn’t know me very well.

I think to myself “You have approximately 10 journals at home. You don’t EVER write in them.”

At this point I am telling myself to quit rationalizing all of my desired purchases…but I know I am right to stop myself. If not, I would end up with another journal I don’t use and a calendar that ends up being twice the work since I would have to write in all of the stuff from my IPhone calendar so I don’t forget anything. It makes logical sense…but for some reason I always find myself wanting these things.

I know that part of it is that the paper calendar doesn’t really work for me right now. My job is one that all of my appointments are done via email/outlook and I have to be able to access my calendar quickly. Lugging around a paper calendar isn’t practical.

As for the journaling… I’ve wanted to be someone who journals, but my handwriting can get sloppy and journaling isn’t really meant to be edited. I like to edit. I think that is also why journaling

I walk away from the calendar and journals empty-handed. It was a small personal victory.  Yay Me!

As I finish up my bookstore adventure, I run across three books that “need” to come home with me. They are:

My purchases actually made me laugh a little. Finish This Book in some ways is forced journaling. It is in workbook style and it also includes whimsical tasks to complete. Since my track record in following through with journaling is an epic fail, maybe this format will help move me along.

thx thx thx is also somewhat aligned with my journaling obsession. This book is filled with little thank-you notes the author wrote to everyday things in her life. It is brilliant! It also falls into my current phase of trying to have more gratitude (which is aligned with  my desire to be more “mindful”). The book itself takes 30 minutes to read, but it will be one of those treasures that stays out on the coffee table to remind me that there is a lot to be thankful for. Which is A WHOLE lot! I also might try her method in being thankful. It’s quick, simple and pretty awesome.

Lastly, (insert justification here) I just really like Malcolm Gladwell’s books. This purchase made some sense. I like the author and it seems like it will be an easy read.

Honestly, it really doesn’t make much sense. I don’t need another book. I probably have 40 books here at home that I have yet to read….

hum…

Maybe I’ll make a list, I LOVE a list… a list of the unread books in my house. Then I NEED to buy the paper calendar so that I can organize my time to get all of the unread books read. And THEN I need to purchase that journal so I can write about all of the books I read in the next year, as well as ideas I get from the books. Plus, I didn’t spend $2000 on the metal and wooden letters…so a little calendar and journal are such minor purchases.

Yep…that is how my brain works. I have a pretty amazing justification process. The likelihood of a future calendar purchase is pretty-much guaranteed.  As for the journal, I am getting my “journal fix” through blogging. Luckily blogging doesn’t cost anything….and it allows me to edit. 🙂

Happy Sunday!
~e

Planning is key….if you don’t want to be left to die on the Mexico/ Guatemalan border)

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When I travel there are some basic things that have to be planned before I head for my destination…transportation and lodging. Since the Mexico trip involved being transported to many different locations it was important to me to know where we would be laying our heads each night.

Talking with the girls about the trip they were more “free” with the thoughts of planning. They were good with just seeing how things worked out. Uh…no. That doesn’t quite work for me. So… I volunteered to act as the planner for the trip. Think “Julie” from The Love Boat…but without the Dorothy Hamill haircut or the boat. (I have added a link for those of you too young to get this reference).

The farming part of the trip was the focus because it would be fun, would keep our costs down and would allow us to be in Mexico for a longer period of time.  We went through the WWOOFing organization. For a small fee you get a listing of farms located in the country or region that you are planning on traveling. You are then responsible for contacting the farms yourself and making arrangements. The list for Mexico was quite long.

I began going through the list, reading the descriptions and deciding which farms to contact. Some of the farms had very specific needs and time requirements, some had age/sex requirements, some sounded a bit frightening and then there were a few in the mix that sounded like they could work for us.  I began sending emails, and had Carolyn send emails in Spanish… as most of the farms provided email addresses and I didn’t want my total lack Spanish to keep us from finding the perfect farm. The emails went out…then the wait began.

It took a few weeks to hear back from anyone. Out of the 15 or so emails we sent, we had only one reply. It sounded great! It was a small farm where we would stay in little tree houses where the windows were made out of the front of old soda machines. We would get to help the families in the villages near the farm and there was also the opportunity for us me to learn Spanish. The head “farmer” was American and he stated that he had moved to this area of Mexico (near the Guatemalan border) to help out the indigenous people.

Awesome! I email the girls to let them know we had found the perfect farm!

 Now…I’ve been told I am a pretty good judge of people and that I have a pretty good instinct…..

As I was emailing back and forth with Farmer guy to solidify our plans, there were some interesting weird things in the emails. First, he seemed a little too excited to have us there. Second, part of the WWOOFing program is that you work to pay for your room and board. Farmer guy started asking us if we could pay him a little bit of money…you know…to help out the people in the village. I found this quite strange. I tried to not let it bother me, since this was the only farm that we had heard back from…and we really wanted to farm.

An email from another farm had arrived in my inbox, but I put it aside. I emailed Farmer guy #1 to go over the plans for our arrival in a couple of months. I sent an email with more questions about the farm and a couple of questions about finding out about getting to the farm, the exact location of the farm and a few other traveling questions.  He replied to the farm questions. It sounded OK, but I was still getting a weird feeling. I couldn’t quite figure it out…but I didn’t like it. I emailed him back to get the answers to the questions about getting to the farm and travel plans….you know, the ones he didn’t answer in the first email.

Oh…this is where the weird feelings came from.

 He stated that we needed to have cash in hand at the airport… and that he would pick us up. He also had raised the price since “he would provide us transportation” since buses couldn’t get us there.   He also let me know there were ATM machines at the airport to get said cash, again stressing that we needed cash in hand…and that since he was driving us to the farm, which was about 3-4 hours from the airport. we didn’t need the exact location. Umm….can you say I DON’T THINK SO?? (to me, it meant transportation of our dead bodies, after he had cleaned out bank accounts and murdered us…I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it could have happened ya know!)

At that point I had a feeling that we were planning a trip… to be the next headline that later would be made into a Lifetime Television movie, starring Tori Spelling. (Tori would have to play Melissa, since she is the only blonde).

Hell NO! I waited a couple of days to email psycho Farmer back. I politely lied let him know that we were not going to be traveling to Mexico due to [insert lie here] and that I appreciated all of his help. It’s important to be nice to people that you fear might want to kill you…even if they live in a different country. Just an FYI.

He emailed me back a rant that was SO incredibly disturbing that I had to delete it from my inbox. He was livid. He blamed us “spoiled American women” for the downfall of our country as well as the plight of the women in Mexico.

Uh, excuse me? Weren’t we the people who were trying to come there to help?!?

 He spewed some other hateful and frightening things that let me know that my instinct was dead on. This guy was off-the-chain nuts.

I wasn’t going to let psycho Farmer ruin our trip. I called the girls to let them know that I had just saved us from horrific death and our deaths being made into a Lifetime Television movie…and that I would keep up my search for a farm. They were thankful that I saved their lives [it was more like  “Ok Ellen, we trust you, if you don’t like that farm, we’re cool” ]  and I continued my search.

I emailed Farmer #2. He sent some information, but never confirmed that we could come to his farm. We went ahead with our planning knowing that it might have to wait until we get to Mexico to figure out where to farm. I did some research on hostels…and we began building our itinerary, at least for the first week of our trip. We decided to start in San Cristobal.

Now we had a place to start. We booked our flights….and in July, we headed to Mexico.

Next post….Introducing Melissa, Carolina, Natalia and Eyen 

What exactly did I agree to? aka I’m going to Mexico

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I am going to apologize in advance for the quality of the photos of my Mexico adventure. My hard drive crashed and all of my Mexico pictures were on it. It’s just too expensive for me to try to recover the photos right now…but luckily I had created a photo book of the trip…so I just took pictures of the photos in the book so I would have some visuals to share.

Also, this adventure will be shared over several posts…there is a lot to share and I don’t want it to become a novel.

Viva Mexico!!

In the Fall of 2007 I took a job that I had no idea would change my life in the way it did. It wasn’t the actual job that caused the change but the friend I would make because of this job. I became fast friends with one of my new co-workers, Carolyn. This friendship would be what it took to get my butt to travel across Mexico for a month and work on an organic farm. For some, that isn’t a shocking thing to do…but for me, it was a big deal.
 Now, I’ve traveled quite a bit…and I’ve lived in New York and London; but the only time I’d ever carried a backpack was at school,…and when I think of an “organic farm” it generally involves the nice people I get to interact with at my local farmer’s market. I’m just not the “outdoorsy” type.

How it all began… 
 Carolyn invited me out to meet up with some friends to hear a local band play. We were all outside talking between sets. All of us were teachers. Carolyn, Natalie and Melissa had been friends for about a year and they all had similar interests (camping, hiking, biking etc…) The girls started talking about the possibility of a trip to Mexico for the following summer. It was obviously an idea they had been throwing around. I was standing around listening to them talk about their plans to go to Mexico for a month… backpacking through southern Mexico and working on an organic farm.  Since they were all bilingual teachers, they all had experiences in places like Mexico and had “backpacked” across various lands. The young ladies (all at least 10 years younger than me) were getting excited about the idea of their trip. I was really excited for them!

Then…
 Carolyn looked over at me…

c:  You should totally go with us! That would be so much fun!”

 I looked over my shoulder to see who she was talking to. Maybe another one of their young, “outdoorsy” friends had arrived.  No one was standing there.

 Oh..she was talking to me!

In our short friendship, Carolyn knew that my idea of camping was a night at a hotel and my trips to Mexico always involved an all-inclusive wristband and free airport transfers. I wasn’t even a kid who “camped” in my backyard.

me: Uh….really?? I’m not sure…camping, farming and carrying my belongings on my back  across a foreign land where I don’t know the language….um…..is not really my thing.

At this point the other girls were encouraging me to come with them.
 It was weird. It only took about a minute for me to decide that this is something I needed to do, even if it was something I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do.

me: I’ll go! It sounds really scary exciting! Now, what do I need to do to get ready?

The girls started laughing. It was October. We weren’t going until July of the following year. To me, it was time to get planning.

I got home that evening and began to freak out a little. Was I REALLY going to backpack across Mexico? The thought of it was really scary to me. Would I be able to keep up? Is it safe? How much Imodium can one take without dying?

 I got a text from the girls telling me how excited they were that I was going to go.

There was my answer. Yep…I was going to Mexico….. What in the world had I agreed to do?

next post……..planning is key (if you don’t want to be left to die on the Mexico/ Guatemalan border)

40….. is the magic number

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I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. My friends threw me the most FANTASTIC party! I knew it was going to be awesome, but I had no idea how awesome. I mean…what kind of friends make jello shots that looked like little orange slices?  AWESOME friends! That’s who!

This post isn’t going to be about the fabulous party they threw for me or that the party also included a unicorn piñata (what did I tell you….awesome!!!) I can write more on that later; 
You see…. When you turn 40, you become reflective…at least for a few minutes. I think it is because it really could be the middle of your life.   For me it was a time to take stock in the things I have accomplished and my future endeavors phases. My reflective moment had me creating a list of things that I felt were a part of what makes my life awesome. Some things on the list you might have heard before…but I thought I would share anyway.  I will keep the list to 20 nuggets of “advice” ( I use that term very loosely).  Please feel free to comment with your own little nuggets (that sounds weird…but funny weird, so I’m not editing it out) So….here you go:
  1. Don’t “collect” friends. It’s better to have a close group of friends who will really show-up for you, instead of a contact list full of friends who will show up for your Superbowl party… but won’t be there for you when you decide to adopt 2 puppies at the same time and are totally regretting your decision. (that’s a true story… for a later post)
  2. There is nothing wrong with turning down an invitation to do something. If you don’t want to go out, just say so. Don’t  make up an excuse.
  3. Your relationships with your family members can change over time. A lot of it has to do with how you deal with things. Remember…you are now an adult, act like one even if the other adults aren’t.
  4. Don’t be so serious. Make sure you have as much fun as you can… at most everything you do. 
  5. The “fun” (see #4) should include lots of laughter (which might require Depends if you have a weak bladder).
  6. If you’ve picked your friends according to #1… then #2 shouldn’t be a problem. Real friends learn who you are…but you need to do the same for them. They also need to call you out on your shit. That’s what friend do. 
  7. Forgive yourself for stupid things you did as a kid, teenager and young adult. Once you’re 30…you’re old enough to know better and will have to live with that guilt until you die, sorry.
  8. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission
  9. Fart jokes are still funny at 40. If you don’t think so…I’m sorry that you are missing out
  10. Not every friend has to be a best friend. Friends play various roles in your life, and sometimes the roles change as time goes on. It’s OK. Sometimes a friendship might have run its course. It takes courage to walk away from a friendship that isn’t working out anymore, but it is worth freeing up yourself and that person to have the right people in your lives. 
  11. You can have views that are different than your family members and still be able to get along really well…but you have to be brave enough to set ground rules when it comes to touchy subject (ie: politics, religion, paper or plastic) Sometimes the rule is that no one can talk about the touchy subjects.
  12. I would rather live paycheck to paycheck doing something I love than have lots of money that I earned doing something that doesn’t bring me joy. (but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy winning the lottery….even just the $100,000 jackpot….I’m not greedy)
  13. Be sure to have at least one friend who will honestly tell you if your ass looks like a billboard in those pants…and be sure she goes shopping with you every time. 
  14. Don’t do something you know you won’t enjoy doing just to go along with the crowd; but also be willing to try something new, if you have some interest in it…even if it scares you. (example: I won’t go skydiving…ever. I have NO interest in trying it. I don’t understand the concept of voluntarily throwing yourself out of a plane….. I did, however, have a group of friends convince me to backpack across Mexico and work on an organic farm with them for a month, a few summers ago….I had NEVER been camping before this trip. Yes, it was outside my comfort zone…but traveling is something I love…it was a life changing experience…totally worth it!  I’ll blog about the Mexico trip at some point too!)
  15. Everyone should live in a big city for at least 6 months in their life. It’s good for your soul…and it also makes you appreciate the small town you grew up in (hopefully…unless you grew up in a small town that totally sucks…if you did, just skip #15)
  16. The level of happiness in your life solely depends on you. No one else.
  17. If you are still blaming you parents, siblings, exes, 8th grade Volleyball coach, etc…for your problems/unhappiness…you are wasting a lot of time and missing out on life
  18. Your presence in this world changes people’s lives. Think about that. 
  19. Know that everything you post on Facebook or on your blog goes into your permanent record
  20. Just because your opinion is different than someone else’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong it just means that you have a differing opinion…unless it involves the following..then you are TOTALLY wrong:
        • If you like Rick Perry (he is an asshat…I don’t care what you say)
        • If you like Mariah Carey’s music (although I can forgive you for this one… I may hold it against you, but I can forgive you..but you’re still wrong)
        • If you think it is OK to bash someone because of race, sexual orientation or special needs. (policial affiliations are fair game…just sayin’)

I could have gone on and on with my list of nuggets….but I’ll stop (because I’m really tired and want to go to bed)…but I will leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes….


“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
~Dr. Seuss

~e


The importance of being liked…and followed

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No, this isn’t a co-dependent stalker’s manifesto.  It is a request to my readers.

If you like my blog, please become a “follower”. I promise to only use my powers for good and not evil. (most days)
Commenting on my posts is absolutely free! No strings attached. 
Lastly, as your mom taught you…it’s important to share! If you really do enjoy my blog, share it! There are links at the bottom of each post so you can share it on your various social networking sites.
Thank you for being a part of my latest phase! 
e~