Posts in Category: Experimentation

My body is strong, who knew?

Strong

A few days ago I made a mistake. I went along on a fun family outing and it turned my day upside down.

We left home thinking we were heading to a Zipline course where we would zip from one tree to the next among a canopy of trees. It would be a thrill to fly fast through the forest, far above the ground. It would be cool in the green shade with the air rushing past. Two of our group were checking off an item on their bucket lists. Fun!

We arrived to find the “zipline” course was more of an athletic obstacle course, only one that was far off the ground. This “fun” activity would require strength, a lot of sweat, and result in shaking, wobbly muscles more than once or twice.

Here are the basics:834b96f2c6827cdd6891d25179458c8d

  • Five sections in the course
  • To start each course you climb a rope and wooden slat ladder to the first platform
  • Navigate from platform to platform in each section via a series of elevated bridges
  • From the final platform jump off! and zipline across a pond.

On the company’s website I learned: the highest platform is 48 feet, the longest zipline across the water is 700 feet, the longest crossing is 57 feet and the total course is 3,166 feet. It took us three hours to finish. The last ladder up was probably double the length of the first one.

I almost pooped out just before the last two rungs…

But it was FUN. It was worth all the effort to get to the end and zippppp so fast across the water. The view was spectacular and the thrill caused hysterical scream-laughing to fly out of me as soon as I left the platform, every single time!

I learned things about myself, too. Like when I almost pooped out right before the end of the last ladder? I had no other option but to gather whatever strength was hiding inside of me and use it. Sure, I could have climbed back down the ladder and decided I was done. In that moment the thought never occurred to me. I could have slipped off the ladder and taken a moment’s rest. I was harnessed in and would have been fine hanging there for a minute or two. Again, the thought never crossed my mind. I’m not sure if it’s because I am more stubborn that smart sometimes or because I never seem to allow myself the easy out, or that I would have been embarrassed to climb down and walk past the group of people waiting behind me. To be fair, it was probably a combination of all of that, but now I know that, by nature, I choose to keep moving forward. It’s something I’m sure I already knew about myself, but not to that extend. Any way I look at it, the reminder was a good one.

I also learned that I’m not afraid of heights. I always feel wobbly and nervous when I’m up high looking off the edge of a mountain or down into a canyon. I’ve assumed from that feeling it meant I was afraid of heights. But I didn’t have a bit of trouble looking down from way up there. I purposely did it. The forest floor and treetops, looking down from so high up, are beautiful. What I am, I discovered, is afraid of falling. Ahh! I was securely harnessed in and tethered onto a thick gauged safety wire with not one but two clips. I felt like there was no real danger of falling so it left me free to completely enjoy. It was so freeing! And what a cool way to clarify a tiny corner of my psyche.

Another thing I learned is that I don’t challenge myself nearly enough. Not physically I don’t, anyway. I challenge myself mentally and creatively on a daily basis. But I rarely put myself in positions where I need to work hard, strain and stretch my muscles. I assume I won’t like it much, but that’s the thing. I’m not terribly athletic by nature. I’m uncoordinated and I think it takes my muscles more time to develop that memory thing everyone always talks about with sports, so I usually opt out of feeling clumsy. But I definitely should not do that. I had a whole lot of fun on the zipline course and I would have missed it if I’d known what I was signing up for. I’m glad I was clueless!

The best thing I learned, hands down, is that even though I’ve packed on quite a bit of extra padding (FAT) over the past couple of years, underneath it all I’m still strong. I’ll be 51 next month. Aging is on my mind more than I like to admit, to be 100% honest. I don’t necessarily worry about it, I’m not a worrier, but I think about how I move now in comparison to how I moved a decade ago, two, three… I’m more cautious. I’m slower. I take care where and how I step on uneven surfaces. I feel weak and slouchy and round much of the time. But now I know under all that, I am still strong in my body. It’s a relief to me.

Why? Because I can still choose to up my physical game. My body will still allow it. My mind is all for it! Which is a little surprising to me, but I’m glad. I get bored in the gym. I’m not a fan of running (again with the boredom). I need variety, I want to be out in nature, I want to be able to run circles around my little grandbaby when he’s old enough to run and play.  I guess, in the end, I’ve learned that I’m ready to get moving again. Thanks, Universe! The search is on…

 

Leaving

Leaving

Everybody seems to be doing the “list” thing these days. Buzzfeed started it; I think that’s how it went, anyway. But then everyone else followed suit. It’s quick and easy internet fodder, ammiright? And unfortunately, clever gets mistaken for talent online all day everyday. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying there aren’t some entertaining lists out there. I’m just saying I have a problem with the trend.

A list is a way to say something, but without putting a whole lot of heart in it (not to mention soul). That’s super sad. Me? I like to get at the heart of a thing.

Now, I’d be lying if I claimed I’ve never been entertained by a list like “10 Organ Recipients Who Took On The Traits Of Their Donors” or  “21 Hilarious Tweets That Will Make You Question Everything.” However, I can honestly say I only go to sites with lists like that when I’m irretrievably bored.

This list thing that’s overtaken the interverse is also sad because, well? It seems so on-trend with the direction America is taking these days. They’re bundled up cheap thrills that keep us occupied from otherwise having any kind of productive, provocative or creative thoughts.

This morning I thought I’d try to dump that premise – the one that says we’re becoming less productive, provocative, and creative because things – on its head and ask: WHAT IF I write a story in list form? Hmmm, interesting… Besides, I’m always up for a challenge, so here, uhhh, for better or worse, is my first try at it.

To Do:

  1. Pick up dry cleaning
  2. Dogs to groomer
  3. Pay bills
  4. Mani-pedi @2
  5. Lawyer’s office
  6. Gas up car
  7. Finish packing
  8. Leave key on table (w/note?)

(It’s certainly not the best story I’ve written, but I’d say it’s not completely smelly-bad for a first try.) What do you think?

Scones, and other scary foods

cranscone2Recipes intimidate me. Or some of them do, anyway. Here’s one silly example: I never attempted to make pie crust until I was almost 50. My Grandma used to make the thinnest, crispiest, most delicious pie crust and I always figure I wouldn’t come close to measuring up to hers, so why bother. Until one Thanksgiving a few years ago, that is. I had a hankering for homemade pumpkin pie and nobody else was planning to bake one, so I did. And surprise of all surprises, pie crust wasn’t hard to make at all! Huh.

This morning, I decided to make scones. I’d never tried to make scones, either.Because? Well, because I am very picky about my scones. I they must be crumbly – not bready or cakey. They must be sweetened, but not sweet. And they should be flavorful, but not over-the-top bold. That’s a tall order, right? Especially for someone who doesn’t have a great understanding of how to experiment with baking recipes. I generally love to experiment in the kitchen, but baking is different. If you mess up in baking you may just end up with soup or something… Not that I have anything against soup, I love soup. But, if you’re expecting a pretty bundt cake and you end up with soup? It’s a little disappointing.

Anyway, today I made scones. I actually did do a little experimenting. The recipe called for orange zest and I’m not a big fan of orange-flavored baked goods, so I used apple cider instead. Now hold on a second before you go yelling at your screen. I know apple cider is nothing like orange zest. But I did look up substitutes for orange zest and the page listed orange juice or lemon juice, so I figured apple cider might work. Plus, the scones I made were cranberry and I like apples and cranberries together, so I gave it a shot.

I’m not sure if it was the little bit of extra fluid (just a big T of apple cider), but my scones turned out much too cakey 🙁 And while the cranberries were bold, I wish I’d chopped up some dried cranberries instead of using the whole, fresh ones the recipe called for. Plus, salt — there was no salt in the recipe! I’m not a huge user of the stuff, but it goes so far by way of sprucing up other flavors. I think a little salt would have been a good thing in this instance.

Long story, short: Will I try the recipe again? I think so. But I’ll make some of the changes I mentioned above and also research why the texture was off. T tablespoon of extra fluid doesn’t seem like it would make that much difference. I dunno.

Why did I want to bake scones this morning in the first place? Remember yesterday’s post about being frugal? Well, I had extra cranberries in the fridge from a delicious cranberry cake I for Christmas and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Pinterest to the rescue! Although, now, sitting here, eating my scone with a nice cup of coffee? Now I wish I’d make muffins.

Frugal McDougle and the month of saving

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As a family, we decided that January 2016 will be a month of cutting out excess expenses. Why? Uh, to be honest, we’re not the most frugal of people. Actually, we are much too loose with our wallets much too much of the time. So we decided to cut out the crap and see what we have, in the way of extra money in savings, by the end of the month.

We definitely have challenges facing us, though. For one, we have friends who will be in town later this week for the Consumer Electronics Show. We don’t technically “host” them while they’re here (sometimes they stay with us other times not), but we always go out for dinner once or twice. In case you couldn’t guess, a dinner out in Las Vegas can get pricey before you’ve even finished ordering appetizers. Also, we have an anniversary coming up toward the end of the month and that usually warrants a date night. Then we have a cleaner scheduled to come clean, dogs who need grooming, and my Starbucks latte habit to feed. (Side note: See? I told you we tend toward the frivolous rather than the frugal.)

It’s true, we’ve come to be in the habit of free spending. All that means, though, is that we can come to be in the habit of tight-fisted spending. Mostly we need to change the way we look at money and what are appropriate ways to spend it. For example, during the past several months I have been feeding my latte habit almost on a daily basis. I would go, every day, notebook in hand, order a latte, and sit for four or five hours and write. I got in the habit of writing at Starbucks and also in the habit of spending $5 everyday for fancy coffee.

This year (all five days of it, thus far) I have been writing at home. I drink the coffee that’s in the pot in my own kitchen. Am I less inspired to write? Not so far, but I haven’t sat down to a writing spree of 5 hours yet either. So far, I’ve saved myself $25, though I have to admit, because complete transparency is the thing to do these days, that I bought myself a latte during my writers group last night. We’ll see what happens next week. I might decide that a latte once a week is okay with me and my budget goals.

That’s the thing, though, right? My budget, my priorities. A weekly latte would have sounded too decadent 20-some years ago, but my life was very different back then. I’m not willing to give up my writers group meetings; improving my writing is a top priority for me. However, I don’t need a latte to join the group, so…. I obviously have some more prioritizing to do.

Putting all the challenges aside, I can say I have planned out a few strategies:

  1. Cook all the food stuffs in the house before I buy more food. It’ll require some creativity, but I’m always up for that. Plus, Pinterest is everybody’s new best friend in the way of new and interesting recipes!
  2. Eat my leftovers!!! I’m not so great about that all the time. And sometimes, even, I’ll buy some unusual veggie with plans to cook it, then get unmotivated for that particular experiment and it ends up going bad in the crisper drawer. I know, I know. I’m a bastard of a wasteful American.
  3. List my expenditures every week. That way I can review what I’ve spent and decide what still feels too frivolous.
  4. Pinterest (again!) ideas for a fun and free anniversary date. Date night doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. Plus, I love making my own cards 🙂
  5. Clean my own damn house. House cleaning is not my favorite thing to do, by far. But it’s a nice chunk of change to add to the + column. I won’t even try to guarantee it’ll be a consistent life change, but I’ll give it a shot.

I think that’s a good start. I’ll update here with my weekly expenditures as well as new ideas.

What about you? Have you ever purposely made plans to save more money? What worked? Did you feel deprived? What did you do with the extra windfall at the end of the month? Please share!

Who wants to run around motivated all the time?

IMG_2100We are constantly told – by the media, employers, spouses, reality TV – that what we need is motivation. We need to get it or face sure failure. But doesn’t it seem that all that energy we waste finding our motivation would be better spent doing the thing we’re supposed to be finding motivation for?

Motivation, by itself, requires energy, right? If you always need extra oomph to do what you’re doing, maybe you’re doing the wrong things. Isn’t that a possibility? Live life the way you’re meant to and you’ll find motivation is a foundation of living, not some extra, added ingredient, like salt or something.

Here’s another thing: helping to find our motivation has become big business. I’ll use FitBit as an example. I know it’s a helpful little piece of equipment, but it’s also kind of addictive and unnecessary. Sure it tells you exactly what you’re doing, but how much do the precise numbers actually help you? Just like I know when my scale is going to tell me I overate, I also know when I walked more than usual. Does the Fitbit motivate its wearer to move more? Maybe it does, but why not design your life so that you move more?

I also wonder, on a social level, if this selling of motivation and cool motivational gadgets is doing a disservice to those who can’t shell out $$$ for a Fitbit because, rent. Nobody should be made to feel they don’t have the wherewithal to live life as it should be.

I want to make this personal too, though, because the thing is, I do want to move more and I don’t want to spend money to do it. I’d like to save some, if I could, actually.

Here’s my plan: I like to write outside of my home. I like coffee and drinking it while I’m writing. Cliché, yes, but I like to write at my local coffee shop, which is a Starbucks since the little indy place closed last year. Google maps says it is 1.7 miles from my house and that it’ll take me 32 minutes to walk there. I could easily add an hour onto my day to walk to and from Starbucks.

Will it save me money? Well, the little bit that it would otherwise cost to drive my car there and back. Here’s the thing (or the things, really):

  • I like to walk places, not just around.
  • I’d like to be fit again, and this is a good start.
  • Walking gives me thinking time and what better time to think than right before and right after writing?

So there you have it. My plan; no extra motivation necessary. You can even check back in a week for an update! It’s just a little experiment.

Not a resolution:

I’m gonna make my 2016 about exploring and experimentation. Last year I focused on writing: finding my voice, finding my confidence, finding a rhythm to write by. Now that we’re at the end of 2015, I find that I like my voice. I think I write from interesting angles and I like to explore.

This coming year, 2016, will be my time to figure out where the people are who might want to read what I’ve written. My tribe. I need to learn where I can make my writing a profession. Need is an interesting word to use, though. I guess I don’t really need to, but I want to contribute my share doing what I love to do. That’s my goal; by year’s end, but by July 1st would be even better!

I’ll write a blog about exploring, whatever strikes my fancy to explore on any given day. I’ll write blog posts freelance. I’ll tweet and text and email and post when I’ve written something. I’ll learn how to promote myself without feeling like an asshole.

My question is, who wants advice from a 50 year-old woman who admittedly doesn’t have it all together? Although my intent is not to advise, actually. It’s to demonstrate how I go about experimenting my way through life. It’s how I like to frame things.

Experiment 800.1

So how will I measure? I guess the biggest difference in the way I do it is that I measure quality of life first. If I’m not happy with the way I’m spending my time, I’m just wasting it, and there’s nothing I hate worse than to waste stuff.

Curious

Curious 800(Day 25 of 30)

“Child-like curiosity” It’s one of my favorite phrases and I hope to always keep mine.

Today I went on an internet hunt for ways to remain ever curious. I found some pretty great stuff, so of course I have to share.

Curiosity.com: This site’s tagline is “Learn Every Day” and I love that. Each day these folks post little informational blurbs about all kinds of interesting things. Then you have the option to click through and learn more. The facts are referenced to respected sites like National Geographic and Cambridge University, too, so it’s not crap.

Here’s an example of what I learned today: How many poppy seeds are too many? Because heroine is made of poppy seeds and you wouldn’t want to OD on a bagel or anything.

The site is apparently attached to a free mobile app, so you can access these interesting little factoids while standing in line at the grocery store. It’s better than checking Facebook for the 12th time in the past hour, right?

Oh, and in case you were interested, you shouldn’t eat more than a teaspoon of poppy seeds for every seven pounds of body weight. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even know where to find that much poppy seed in one place anyway, so I think I’m safe.

BabyCenter.com had some valuable tips for how parents can encourage their children’s curiosity. I was able to flip them a bit and apply them to myself.

Turn small outings into adventures. Say you have to go to the grocery store, make a pact with yourself to smile at every single person you pass. Mentally count how many smile back! It’s a great way to discover just how much your own smile can brighten someone else’s day. Especially if that grouchy looking old guy with a limp catches you smiling at him. You might get a wink in return!

Slow down. If you move too fast you miss the most fascinating sights. When I walk out in the desert, I walk very slowly and with my eyes trained to the tiniest details. I have photo upon photo of the sweetest little desert wild flowers that I would otherwise have missed.

Let each question lead to a quest. I’ve learned so much about geology since moving to the Las Vegas area four years ago. The mountains here are made of many different types of rock and were formed by different geological activities. Out driving or hiking in all this stark beauty just begged for me to study more, and that’s exactly what I did. I even found an old guidebook that maps out roads to follow in the area and pinpoints different land masses. Score!

That’s just a short list of the tips on the site. Please! Click that link up there and check out the rest of them 🙂

Even Forbes is down with curious. Their article discusses how to “think like a genius” by embracing curiosity. While I’m not a huge fan of Forbes and the ideas that no matter what we do we should always yearn for bigger, better, louder, whatever, I like the focus here. Basically, the article is about how we should keep asking WHY.

Adults get fixed into patterns of thinking. Like if I have always parted my hair on the right it means that’s just how it should be. Except that I have could part my hair on the opposite side of my head any morning I choose. Why do I drive to work on the same road to work? Why should I be nice to that mean lady when she’s never nice to me?

Simple questions like that, and their simple investigation for answers, can lead to habit changing behavior. Maybe eventually they’ll lead you to think, “Why do I keep this same boring job when there are so many more interesting jobs in the world?” Or maybe you’ll just learn that you’ve always parted your hair on the right because you have a weird cowlick on the left side and it makes your hair look all wonky. That’s also possible.

And that’s my point, I think, in the end. Anything is possible. But you have to be open to anything, open to see all those possibilities. So take off those blinders and practice being that curious little tyke you used to be!

Experimentation

Experiment 800.1(Day 24 of 30)

I live my life as though I am one big experiment. See, if I’m an experiment, I can’t expect to get things right. It takes a load of stress off me because experiments aren’t about getting it right. They’re about discovery. What better way to look at life than as a big project of self-discovery where right and wrong don’t matter?

I’m not talking moral choices of right and wrong, to be clear. Sure there are the rare few who do “bad” things just to feel what it’s like, but that’s out of character for me. I’m referring to what’s right and wrong as personal choices. Like, how do I want to live my life? Make a living? Spend my time with? Make a life?

I see the path that I’ve walked to this point as a giant spiral, slowly turning in, moving closer and closer to the center of… me. My core self, I suppose. I spot the same sights over and over as I move, and by sights I mean issues/life challenges. At each turn, though, I see them from a different perspective and with different experiences under my belt. So, in essence, I learn the same things about myself over and over, but each time the learning is more in-depth and nuanced.

I imagine some would think that sort of relearning is too tedious. And reading it over, it sounds it. Or maybe that I’m incredibly hard headed because I, apparently, need to get clobbered by the same life lesson time after time before I finally learn. There’s at least a grain of truth in that, too, most likely.

Ultimately, though, this is the form my life has taken. I don’t see a need to fight it. So I’ll just keep moving in this life’s spiral, experimenting and filling my days with discovery.

I can think of worse ways to spend my time…

Creative

Creative 600(Day 9 of 30)

This is one trait I actively work on from one day to the next. I write. I photograph. I weave a little bit (which is a hobby I’d like to expand on in the next year). I do some paper cutting. And when I’m feeling fun-ish, I am likely to be involved in some sort of crafting something or another. The last and quite successful crafty project I did was tube sock snowmen. What a fun craft night that was!

But I have a problem with my creativity that I feel makes me a little less than artistic. I am always much too concerned with getting it “right.” Replace the “it” with whatever project I’m currently involved with, but the “right” part? Well, that’s the conundrum. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong when it’s a pure product of my imagination? I suppose that would be me, but I usually feel like there’s some external judge looking over my shoulder saying things like, “Hmmm… That line could be cleaner.” Or “The angle of that photo is not quite right. Should have moved to the right three inches and knelt down on one knee.”

If I’m writing, those criticisms range anywhere from choosiness for what word is right, to whether I really need this comma or that one. Then there’s the structure of the story, not to mention how the story will unfold, etc., etc., etc. It’s all a bit ridiculous. I am a little bit ridiculous, to be particular about the issue. Right?

I know I’m not unique in this struggle for creativity vs. perfection. It’s the cause of writer’s block, yes? It causes some of the most creative people to freeze and keep their amazing work trapped in a notebook tucked away in the bottom of their sweater drawer. It causes heartbreak, misgivings and probably more than a sleepless night or two.

I recently visited a Picasso exhibit which may have cured me (fingers crossed!!) of this unreasonable need for perfection I have. In it was displayed a series of 18 lithographs Picasso created of the same subject “Two Nudes.” Each was dated and named State 1 through State 18. Although each was unique in its way, some were very similar, but the progression was obvious and moved from authentic depictions of two nude women, unusual for my idea of Picasso’s work, but then moved by the last few pieces to his more typical (is typical even a valid description of Pablo Picasso?) stylized vision of the human body.

I spent more time in front of that series than I did the entire rest of the exhibit. Picasso, this master of Modern creativity, was so playful in his work. Gazing from one to the next to the next made me realize that he was not concerned about getting it right as he was about getting it out, then moving on to the next piece.

So what if my next word isn’t quite right? So what if I didn’t get that dialogue perfect? Sometimes the imperfections add the special quirks I love most.

As a result of seeing that series of works by Picasso, I have started a series of my own. I am sticking to 18, like he did, but mine are 18 written pieces based on a single subject. It’s a fun little experiment. And if nothing else, it’s a creative endeavor. I’m not letting those judgey voices pop up inside my head, or whisper in my left ear as they stand over my shoulder or wherever it is those damn judges usually stand. I’m just not allowing it. So there.

Careful

Careful 600

(Day 3 of 30)

I am a careful person.

I am careful of others’ feelings. I am careful about jumping over a creek so I won’t get my shoes wet. I am careful to say the right thing. I am careful about my money.

Except when I’m not.

After only three days into this little experiment into my mind, who I am, and what I’m all about, I’ve come to the conclusion (actually it’s a concept that I’m revisiting) that of all the things that I am, every one of them needs to exist in balance.

Careful is a good example of that. I am very careful of wanting to say the right thing so that I don’t hurt somebody’s feelings, but sometimes I have to go ahead and say it anyway. Somebody has to speak the hard truth and a lot of times that somebody is me.

If I’m too careful about jumping over that creek, I might not get to the other side, and that is so limiting. That’s the thing about careful. It can be limiting. But it can be really good for me, too.

When I’m being careful it means whatever plan I have in mind is very well thought out. I’ve spent a lot of time running through what should be or might be, and what I most want to happen, so that I head in the right direction when I actually get going. It’s a good way to do things, mostly. Except, again, when it’s not. Sometimes no matter how much I plan, things go the way they’re going to go anyway. Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, the trip will take you to totally unexpected places.

But that’s where adventures happen!

I guess the best thing I can say about me and being careful is that I like that I’m a careful person. BUT… I have to be careful not to be too careful because I might miss all of those exciting things I was working so carefully to avoid.

Just one more question. Can I be a careful adventurer? Sure! Who’s going to stop me?