Saturday, July 31, 2010

Update: 41 Things

12 Down, 29 to Go? Here's a rundown:

1. Take a class in letterpress printing (have looked into schedule but nothing fits yet)

2. Go to visit my Grandma again (pricing this now)

3. Visit a cave

4. Sightsee in my own city for several days (I led a tour group around SD recently, so..... done)

5. Write to someone in secret code

6. Plan a scavenger hunt for someone and follow through and do it

7. Paint something (a project)

8. Mosaic tile something (a project)

9. Sew a piece of clothing from scratch (I started a vest but didn't finish it)
(Just finished--although I had help from a friend who is an expert)

10. Finish the clock I started to make but never completed

11. Paint a wall some color other than off white (every room but our bathroom is white)

12. Buy and wear some funky, impractical sandals just for fun

13. Roll down a grassy hill

14. Try new recipes
Sorta Done because of 15 and 16 but will do more

15. Make eggrolls DONE although need to find better version of the wrappers and try again

16. Make Cornish Pasties from scratch DONE although they weren't very good so I'll be trying a different recipe at some point

17. Make some of my own jewelry (beads, perhaps?)

18. Go to the desert to look at wildflowers

19. Go Antique store shopping in LA

20. Go to the Rose Bowl/Pasadena Swap meet on the day antique dealers are there

21. Bargain for something at a garage sale

22. Try a fruit I've never eaten before DONE: Tomatillo was awful. I have a Pluot in the frig right now because I've never had one of them either, to my knowledge.

23. Cut up a whole pineapple the proper way (I've read about it but never done it)

24. Give a speech in public on a topic I care about (I've not had the chance to do
this lately)

25. Get something I've written published (either fiction or nonfiction)--I just self published so sort of done, but I meant beyond that when I wrote the list, so I'll keep working! I've submitted a few things but only rejections so far. Self published but not really published yet!

26. Take a fiction writing course (I've done it before but want to do it again)

27. Make a Christmas Ornament

28. Paper mache something

29. Try a new board game or two with friends/familyDONE

30. Get a few readers on this blog (and have a few of them comment kindly)

31. Try a new hairstyle DONE

32. Dress in a costume in public (I've done this before; I want to do again) DONE--twice and have another occasion planned for this week!

33. Get my face painted like the kids do at carnivals or fairs

34. Bungee jump (or the equivalent fair ride where they fling people upwards). Missed the County Fair this year so this may not happen before my birthday. We'll see.

35. Ride a train longer than two hours--preferably a day long trip or overnight

36. Have a massage and a facial

37. Try at least three different types of cheeses I've never had before DONE--deliciously so

38. Make my own ice cream

39. Make my own bread, with yeast I raised myself

40. Act in a scene or play in front of an audience at least once this year

41. Have a dinner party where more than one couple is invited to our house
(family doesn't count in this case)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cleaning Out Old Decisions

I'm cleaning my closet out today. It is hard to part with clothing. Today I am getting rid of a beautiful sequined top I bought for my 10th reunion (1997) which I think I wore to special events twice. It doesn't fit me anymore, just like its beautiful flowing black skirt. I've had these in the back of my closet for ages and they survived several closet purgings because I told myself that I'd wear them again someday.

The same goes for three blazers I used to wear a lot in the early 90s. They are good quality and very practical in design. While they still fit, mostly, they are old and don't button closed (a little tight in the waist, but I never buttoned them anyways so I kept them for years, seldom wearing them).

I also found some clothes which I had bought recently but found that I didn't like that much. Some pulled funny (material issues) or just didn't suit me as well as I thought in the store. Because it is hard to admit that I'd made a mistake in buying these (and wasting money on things I'm not wearing), I had a hard time putting them on the donate stack as well.

However, that is what I've been doing. I have 8 items on the donate stack so far and will be adding more soon. The bad decisions of buying clothes that don't suit me are in the past. No use burdening my present self with those mistakes. The beautiful clothes of past days are not part of my future and I need to accept that. How will I have room for the beautiful clothes of my present and future self if I don't get rid of the old clothes from my past?

These are hard lessons to learn. I'm taking small steps by going through my closet. I'm also continuing my office clean out project.

It's hard to get rid of things sometimes because of what the things represent: old memories I want to keep, a sense that this thing will be useful in the future, or a decision which I don't want to admit was wrong. I think we all have this habit of investing our things with these extra invisible burdens. What I need to remember is that I will still have the memory (and, indeed, a picture) of my 10th reunion without having the dress I wore that night. Even if I lose some weight, I don't have very many events where I could wear that sort of dress, so I need to let it go. I can't hang onto it on the hypothetical hope that sometime it will both fit me and be suitable for an event (at the same time). The same goes for the other clothes and for many things in my office. I need room for my future and for that I need to let go of some of the less useful remnants of my past.

It is sort of like I was saying on Wed's post--I'm starting over on my quest. Both mentally and in some of my possessions, I have to let go of my past mistakes or past memories so that I can move forward.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

4 Month Progress Report: Getting Started Again

I started this quest on March 28th. Here I am in July and I am starting all over again.

I am afraid that this is common in my life. I have lots of plans but the follow through can be a problem.

I've decided it is time, now that my big event from almost 2 weeks ago is done, to take stock of what I've done since my birthday and start fresh. I will forgive myself for falling short of my rather ambitious goals. It's important that I'm still on the journey.

Progress made:
I've kept up with this blog, missing only two of my posting days. This is the longest I've ever maintained a blog, although I had good intentions the three other times I started one (on various topics).

I've partially organized my home office (I can walk in it again--it had been the household equivalent of a junk drawer).

I've made my "41 Things To Do Before I'm 42" list and accomplished 5 things on it (I've got to get back to doing more of them).

I did some good unpaid work for several organizations (adding to my graphic design and publicity portfolio) and ran a large event 1.5 weeks ago which went well.

I was laid off from the job I wanted to quit the same week I started this blog. Although I've not found a paying job yet, I've applied to a lot of great places and remain hopeful.

Things to do:
I have a list of projects to do--and I need to finish a bunch of them which have been hanging around for a long time.

I have a novel to write and I want to get back to writing--preferably several hours each week will be set aside for writing--starting next week.

I want to do more with my "41 Things" list and have some great experiences.

Hopefully I'll find a job before my 42nd birthday--preferably something I like and feel motivated to do (instead of my last job which I took purely for the paycheck and hated every second of the day).

My Monthly Theme will be "Starting Fresh" and I will restart my quest. I will look at my to do list and my "41 Things" list and see what I can get accomplished. I've done so much in the past few months. I'm sure that if I set my mind to it, I can do even more now.

To anyone reading this blog, thank you for being on the journey with me. Do you have a quest you are trying to fulfill? Sometimes it is easier when you are on the journey with others. Comment here to share your quest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Mom Turns 63 and Retires

That's right, I may be 41, but my Mom is now retiring. It feels weird. I generally feel about 26 or so, but I can remember my real age without too much work. However, my mom and dad never feel particularly old. 63 is not old at all, but the combination of that and her decision to retire makes it seems like a big deal.

I honestly don't know what she'll do with her time. She has no hobbies, other than reading and walking the dogs. I think she'll drive herself and my dad nuts, honestly. However, I know that it is great that she is able to afford to do this when so many other people cannot afford to give up work. One of my grandmas was working until the day she died for just that reason.

Since I'm still trying to find work (with no success) I think about what it will be like for me, when I reach retirement age. I have little saved because I was in grad school for so long and then I've not been able to find work. We have some money put away but not nearly enough. What will it be like when I reach 63? I don't know. I'm still getting used to the idea that my parents are retiring.

In addition, it seems like everyone I know is losing a parent. Two people I know this week had their last remaining parent die suddenly. There is nothing that makes you feel more like an adult than that thought.

We're lucky. Both of our parents are living. They had us young so they are only in their 60s. With luck, we won't be losing them anytime soon. Still, it's scary when so many friends who are not much older than us are finding themselves without living parents.

I guess I need to enjoy the time I have left with mine, including finding time to spend with my newly retired mom.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

With a Little Help from My Friends

My big event this past weekend only succeeded because of my friends and family (and in one case a total stranger who volunteered to help for two days!). I had five pairs of hands there for two days just because my family and friends wanted to support me.

This is the power of Social Capital. I help my friends and family and when the chips are down, they do the same for me.

I am so grateful to these people. I saw so much generosity and kindness the past few days, with people who had no interest in my event, other than that it was mine, spending 10 hours or more sitting around at a desk to do cashier duties or lifting heavy boxes to help us load or unload the event.

It is amazing how much that can mean to you, when you are planning an event.

I thought I could handle all of this on my own, but in the end the whole thing never would have happened without the dedication of my volunteer friends and family.

It was humbling to remember the power of friendship and family--and how much of a difference it can make in our lives.

I don't want to ever cut myself off from people. There was a time when I did not have a very large social circle, but I've gone out of my way to meet people and make friends, and this weekend reminded me of the benefits one gets from that. Some of these people became a lifeline for me during a stressful time. True, many of my friends were also remarkably silent and missing from the past few weeks (including some I've had for years), but I'm surprised by how many of my newer friends were there and helped me.

I'm very lucky. Look around you. If you don't have anyone who would volunteer for you, just for the sake of your friendship, it isn't too late to build those relationships. I have built some of these relationships in the past two years, and for that I'm forever grateful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Through to the Other Side

I'm now done with an event which has been a year in the planning (and has dominated my life since March, particularly). I've got some house cleaning and some loose ends to tie up with expenses and vendors, but it's basically over! My feet are sore and I'm tired, but generally pretty happy as it went well (there were glitches but generally it was great).

Now that I'm past the big day, it feels rather strange. For months now I've had things I wanted to do or thought I should do, but I'd say, don't have time for that now. I'll do that after July 18. July 18 was a barrier to everything, from writing my novel to getting organized. I needed to work on the event. I put off making decisions on some things because I couldn't deal with it until after July 18.

In some ways, it's like starting a new life. There was my recent life before the event and now I have all of these things waiting for me on the other side of the event--things I said I would do when I was done.

It's rather daunting but exciting.

I have to put the house back together a little today, as we have company coming in a few hours. Mostly we're resting today and tomorrow but since some of that resting will be spending time goofing off on the computer, I think I will start writing out all the possibilities and spend time enjoying thinking about what I might do with my life now.

I'm 41 and I have a lot of living to do. I just need to find ways to do it which make me happy (and help me making a living). :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Sleep for the Crazy

As so often happens with big events where people dream big but take on more than they can chew, we're trying to do too much with too little time.

It probably means little sleep and lots of hassle and work over the next few days.

I'll be back on Monday with a report of how I've handled the craziness of the past few days.

So, to my few readers, have a good weekend and forgive this lack of post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Things Come Together

Sometimes things just come together. Today it feels that way, thank goodness. We are in the last day before the big event begins. The next few days will be "constant on" but today is the day for last minute errands, arrangements with vendors, printing and copying, etc. Thank goodness it has been fairly smooth so far.

This is a good reminder to me that sometimes I worry and panic without need. I thought things were going to be much worse off today than it has been so far. It almost makes me nervous that things are smooth still.

I'm going to keep this post (and Friday's) short because the event must take my attention right now, but here's hoping that sometimes things just come together okay.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Crunch Time

I'm just days away from a big event. As is often the case when I'm really busy with one event, other things have gotten rather chaotic.

The house is a mess. There are dishes in the sink. Other projects are on hold. One of my other groups has a meeting tonight I might skip. Life can get out of control and "put on hold" when a big event is coming up.

I don't like it. It is actually harder to plan for an event when the house is chaotic. I forgot to take something with me to a meeting yesterday because the table was covered with crap and I didn't see the thing I was supposed to take.

Disorganization and the chaos which comes from it--they are things I constantly struggle with and constantly say I will deal with and fix. So far I've never gotten a real hold on it. I've temporarily improved things but the fixes are never permanent.

When "Crunch Time" comes up, things get even worse and show me how much I need to get organized and have a system for dealing with things. If it was routine to put things away (indeed, too many things don't have a place to be, so they can't be put away), then it would be harder for things to descend to this level of mess.

As usual, I'm going to promise myself to get organized--next week. We'll see. It would be nice if this was one time I actually managed it and not just temporarily.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Women

A year ago, when we first started planning this event, it all seemed so simple. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, of course. I had, at least, done similar things before--although it was at college, so I had a support team of fellow graduate students to run the event with me, plus the school arranged rooms and such for us fairly easily, so one didn't need to deal with that mess. Still, it didn't seem out of the range of possibility to run (and finance) an event for 100 people with just two people working on it part time.

Perhaps you can see where this post is going. It is, indeed, hard to do a big event with just two people, even two people who spend a majority of their time on it for the past 3 months of unemployment. There is a lot to do, publicity-wise, arrangement-wise, planning-wise, etc. And everything costs more than you expect, even when you priced it a year ago.

I priced a bus tour last year. I made one or two calls, considered that good enough, and tacked on a small amount for other costs and divided by the number of people I thought we would get. That became the price we charged per person for the tour. Of course, I didn't actually book the bus then. No, I waited. Last month I started calling around but now the price seemed to be double what I had in my notes last year. Plus we didn't get as many people and there is an economy of scale which happens with buses. If you are just large enough of a group to not fit in one bus, you rent the larger and more expensive bus. But if you are JUST one person over the size for the smaller bus, the bigger bus is really too expensive for such a small group. There never seems to be a medium sized bus.

Today I rented a van for our event. It is not the same as having a tour bus but our people will just have to survive. They are getting a nice tour at a cheap price and we simply can't afford to lose that much money with a bus, especially unemployed as we are.

I called this post "The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Women" but really I don't think I had the best laid plans at all. I fooled myself into thinking I had planned, but really I should have done much more, both when initially pricing and then, finally, in booking. I should have started sooner and done more. That has been true of so many things throughout this event. I've learned a great deal. One thing I've learned is that planning a big event takes time, and there are many things I should have done 4 months ago which I wish I had done.

Like the poor mouse in the Robert Burns poem, my plans have gone awry. Things are not always going as I want. That seems to be the way of things. But one thing which might have helped is starting earlier.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When Things Go Wrong: Facing Adversity

Things go wrong. We all know it will happen sometime. Whether it is some small thing or a big thing, in any plan we make, something is bound to go wrong eventually.

Yesterday we hit a small snag in our plans for our big event when an expensive item we had ordered arrived in the mail not only late, but damaged. We probably won't be able to get a replacement in time for our event. The company we are dealing with is also being less than responsive although they packed it poorly and its their fault.

When the package arrived yesterday we were very excited. It was several days later than we had expected and we were anxious. When we opened it, we were devastated.

That's often the first reaction to something going wrong, the anger and dismay one feels when a plan has gone off track. At first we were just repeating our concerns--"look at this, it's smashed," "this box was poorly packed," "it wasn't marked fragile," "I can't believe it's smashed," etc. We just went over and over looking at the problem and reacting.

It is easy to get caught in that initial loop of disbelief, dismay, and anger. Unfortunately, that loop doesn't actually help anything. Instead we had to accept what had happened and figure out what to do next. In our case this meant documenting the damage (with photos) and contacting the company.

Our day yesterday became a lot less productive (during a stressful time) because we had to deal with an unexpected blow to our plans. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in that problem, we'll never get the rest of our plans done and this setback will be even worse, because it will affect even more of our plans.

What I've learned from this is that when things go wrong--and they will--we need to give ourselves some time to react (it's natural, after all), then try to calm down, figure out how to move forward, and then not let that problem dominate my attention. None of this is easy, particularly when the problem was upsetting and is not solved yet, but it is important if we are to do anything else and not let this one problem ruin everything else.

I think this is a lesson which can be more widely applied.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The "After the Event" Letdown

I'm exhausted. I'm tired and achy. My face feels sunburned even though it doesn't look like it is and I'm dying of thirst.

What happened? A big event. Since I live on the West Coast of the U.S.A., yesterday was a big day--our Independence Day.

I volunteer with two groups which together put on a big to-do for the Fourth of July. We had over 2000 people there yesterday, enjoying themselves.

I had fun but it was very tiring. Today I woke up exhausted.

It made me think about the inevitable letdown one often feels after a big event. I have a big event I'm in charge of that goes in less than two weeks time. It is taking up most of my time and energy (what I have of it, that is).

Naturally, after such an event is over, there is the physical and mental exhaustion (I'm feeling that today for an event where I was only a worker, not in charge). But more than that, we've been working on this event for months, and since I lost my job, it has been the main focus of my days.

When it is over, two weeks from today, I may have some mixed feelings about it. Hopefully, I'll be basking in the glory of accomplishment (rather than stewing about its failure) but I'll also be tired and a bit letdown. This has been the main focus of my time--and it will be gone. I'll have to move on to other things (I've been saying, "After the 18th, I'll..." for quite awhile).

Today, I am wondering not only how to make the event a success but how to survive the days that will follow it. Does anyone have tips for picking oneself up and starting fresh after a big event is done and how to manage both the emotional and physical exhaustion which is sure to come from three days of long and difficult work like this?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Anticipation: It's Making Me Wait

One of the things I've been doing for this big event I'm helping plan is to make various t-shirt designs, pamphlets, books, etc. to be sold at the event. It's been great fun to be creative and produce some beautiful work which other people are buying.

I've already received copies of several things I've made and I'm really excited about it. I've held in my hand posters, postcards, greeting cards, t-shirts, tiles, and books--all of which I played a major part in designing (CafePress and Lulu are wonders for printing things you can dream up and making them "on demand"). It's been very exciting.

We are waiting for two more shipments of merchandise and one arrives today.

This has made me think about anticipation--the delights of it (and its negative side). As we've ordered each batch of things, I've always had great anticipation about its arrival. We've laid a lot of money into these things and until you hold them in your hands you can't be certain they will turn out as you planned them to be. A mistake could be made, after all. I'm new to this so I could make a mistake or the printing company could. Also, the excitement about designing actual products is pretty high so I look forward to each item. When it looks good, I'm ecstatic.

Part of anticipation is fear of the unknown (but more of the good side). We don't know what is coming for sure, but we are looking forward to it. We are anxious for it to get here so we can actually experience it.

The fear I've experienced in the past has often been the fear of the unknown with the negative side of anticipation (the belief that what is coming may not be good and the dread of it coming). For instance, I used to have an overwhelming fear come over me whenever I'd have to go visit the Chair of my dissertation committee. Since I'd been having trouble with her for a long time by that point, the night before I'd go to see her I'd often wake up in the middle of the night and spend the rest of the night vomiting. This was the negative side of anticipation. Because I was NOT looking forward to something (and fearing the unknown), I'd get sick to my stomach.

Now I'm experiencing the positive side. I still don't know what is coming but I'm generally positive about it.

I always said that it was the unknown that was my problem, but I think now that it was my general feeling that the outcome would be bad (even if it turned out not to be) while here my general feeling is one of pleasure (I believe it will be a good event). The unknown is strong in both cases, but it is my overall sense of what I think it will be that governs my reaction.

So I sit here this morning, a little anxious that the product arriving today will look good, but generally excited and happy. It feels a little like Christmas Eve. I can hardly wait to unwrap my presents.

I have heard the quote "There is nothing so bad but thinking makes it so." Perhaps that is what we should learn from this. What drives anticipation from a positive emotion to a negative emotion is the belief in the general outcome of what is being anticipated. If we believe it is likely to be bad, our anticipation becomes more like dread. I need to work on thinking more realistically and/or positively about upcoming events so that I don't needlessly spend time vomiting over things that will never happen.

I'd much rather experience the positive side of anticipation, like I am today.