Life Outside The Box

I’ve been reading this book entitled The Things That Matter, written by interior designer Nate Berkus. I’m finding it fascinating, funny, and in some parts, quite moving. This is not a “how to” book of home design, there are no rules or tips to follow. Instead, it’s all about the things we own that make up who we are.

So many out there say that we aren’t our things, that things shouldn’t matter, and maybe on some level that’s true. We could probably all stand to pare down a bit. But what Nate talks about in his book is also true: some things, maybe not all things, but some important things that we amass over our lifetime tell our stories.

As a blurb about the book says, “they reflect the places we’ve been and the people we’ve loved along the way…” A favorite book with an inscription from a friend in the opening page, a ticket stub from a concert, a cherished teacup that was once part of a great-grandmother’s set brought all the way to North America from Europe during World War II, a pillow from your childhood that goes with you no matter how many times you move and is the first thing you make sure to unpack. Whatever the cherished item, in putting together a real home for ourselves we should take the things that matter most to us and find a way to highlight them rather than box them away for ‘someday.’

What this means to me… (read more)


Waiting for Captain Picard to say “Engage.”

After graduating from college, I wanted to start making regular posts again. I was excited at the thought of extra time in my evenings where I might be able to do other things, like write. I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive when I could jump back in.

You know… it’s tougher than I thought. To jump back in.

Writing’s something that comes naturally to me, much more than, say, public speaking (no, thank you). I thought I’d fall back into writing immediately, no problem. So much to say, so many stories to tackle.

But I just feel so disconnected. Not just to blogging, but to everything.

Maybe it’s a side effect of going back to school. I spent the past 3 1/2 years in the mindset of “keep your head down and get it all done.” There was a ton of work and homework and late nights, some stress, some fun and enjoyment, but mainly just a lot of deep focus.

I spent so much time shoving everything else to the side. Writing, singing, going to the movies, spending time with friends, spending time with family (outside of the holidays, I mean), taking care of myself and my health, you name it, I put it on the backburner. That mentality got so deeply ingrained, I feel like I don’t know how to let go of it. Like someone who goes undercover for a couple years and when the final bust goes down, what are they supposed to do next? How are they supposed to let go of the persona they’ve been playing for two years? How do they get back into their own headspace?

I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

It feels like I have all these ideas about what I’d like to do with my time, but I’m so used to telling myself, “No, there’s no time for that right now, wait until after school is done.” It’s gotten so that I don’t know how to rev myself up to dive in and tackle some of these ideas.

I figure the thing is to just do it, just open a book or read through old story notes or join a group, anything to get involved again. No pressure or schedule about it, just see what energy stirs up and where my thoughts and ideas take me. See what I find myself getting passionate about enough to make the time for it.

But it’s more challenging than I thought. I find myself feeling a bit aimless, like I know there’s something out there I should be doing but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Maybe it’s a side effect of this extra-long-and-lingering winter we seem to be having this year. Maybe it’s a sign that I need a change of venue, something outside of Wisconsin and Illinois, someplace new to invigorate my senses again. I wish I knew what I needed.

I feel like I’m trying to figure it out.

In the meantime, I did say I’d try to post messages with a more positive slant to them, so here’s one:

Happiness is… the kindness of a stranger.

Today I stopped at the grocery store for a few items, and while I was bagging some onions, my scarf got caught on the edge of the bin and knocked a few onions off the stand, sending them rolling across the floor. I made some sort of noise of surprise and mild annoyance, and bent down to pick up the small mess. Another customer walking by joked about how that’s happened to her too and very kindly helped me retrieve the runaway onions from the floor.

It’s so silly, because it’s such a simple moment. But more and more it seems people get caught up in their own worlds (see above commentary about my own ‘stuck’ life right now, LOL) and they stop paying attention to one another out there in the day-to-day environment. That woman could have walked right on by with her cart and left me to take care of the issue myself. It was only about 2 or 3 onions, no big deal, really. I was perfectly capable of dealing with it, but instead she took time to help me out. In doing so, her friendly remarks and generosity in the moment really stuck with me the rest of this day.

So, thank you, Kind Stranger. You brightened my day. I hope someone does the same for you.

Happiness Is…

I’ve been away for a while, with plenty of reasons for it, but rather than get into all that deep dark stuff, I want to take a different approach for a while.

Remember those old Charlie Brown comic strips that said things like “Happiness is a warm puppy”? Or “Happiness is a big pile of leaves” (that you can take a running leap into, like a kid)?

I was thinking about that today while I was doing the laundry. As the mind tends to wander when one does the laundry.

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to be more positive, think more positively, see the world more positively, see myself more positively… approach things with more joy and mindfulness and “here and now” sort of attitude, you know what I mean? I’ve spent too many years focused on the negatives instead of the strengths (my own as well as others).

So — just to get things going — I thought I’d start or end each day with a “Happiness Is” statement, and see how long I can keep that up.

For today, happiness is… a basket filled with warm towels fresh from the dryer.

I just want to create a cozy towel cave with me wrapped up in the center of them!


Choices are everything

This was not going to be the subject of my next post.

I was going to be all organized and talk about the workout I’m doing and give a breakdown of each DVD and what it contains, and then have a post talking about ‘month 9’ and how it went and how I’m now on ‘month 8,’ all setting up the stage (so to speak) for semi-regular posting about my progress with all of that. I clung to that plan, making time to write it all up. It was going to be so structured and… blah blah blah.

But then today happened.

Actually, this week happened, and all of those plans went right out the window. (For now.)

What happened today?

I decided NOT TO WORK OUT.


*cue record coming to a screeching halt*


I’m on a journey to lose weight and get in better shape and I deliberately chose not to work out? How is that possible? That’s not how this works! I have to get off my butt and get moving! I’m such a lazy bum!


As with most things in life, it’s more complicated than what it seems on surface level. Since I’m all about digging past the surface level, I’m going to talk about why it’s more complicated. At least, why it’s more complicated today.


Stop being so damn hard on yourself!

Before I get into the whole song and dance about what steps I’m taking to take better care of myself, what has worked, where things have faltered on occasion, and start talking about that on a semi-regular basis, I want to explain a few things.

Today’s focus involves a ‘get up on the proverbial soapbox’ moment, to explain a piece of why this topic of body image and better health (physical and emotional) has become increasingly important to me.

For one thing, this is something I continue to work on every day, this inner mental tug-of-war between loathing and loving. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid.

However, I’m finding that sometimes my surroundings are at odds with what I’m trying to do to build up that positivity within.

I’m currently taking classes, working toward an associate’s degree in web design, and one of the classes I took last year was all about media and how things are presented in the media. My final project for the class involved a paper about how advertising often uses false images of women (doctored by programs like Photoshop) to the point that we desire to live up to an image that doesn’t really exist because it was made by computer software.

My research has found that eating disorder associations and the American Medical Association state that only about 5% of the female population is of the ‘model’ or ‘supermodel’ size. Five percent! That means 95% of us are something entirely different, and we’re not being properly represented.

Genetics have given the 5% long limbs and small hips and breasts, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that… that is their size and body type.

The problem is that the majority of the media does not present any other type of size or shape, so we grow up seeing this model size as if that is what we are all supposed to be, when in truth we are all individuals and there are far more sizes and shapes out there than we are shown.

There are things that we can do to shape ourselves, but some things we cannot change. How are we supposed to grow up with a healthy image of our bodies when we think there’s something wrong with us because ads and TV and film and media tell us that we’re all supposed to look like this one size and shape? Not to mention, it’s pretty damn boring to think we’re all supposed to be clones of one another, this single ‘perfect’ size and shape. It’s just not right. Sometimes I wish we could get the media to understand this and alter their approach. Some companies have taken baby steps, but it’s not enough.

Those of us who are working to lose weight are trying to get healthier and stronger and leaner, but perhaps we also have to come to be better friends with our own bodies. We can take care of ourselves and work to be our strongest and healthiest selves, but at the same time understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us. Even when we whittle away the fat and tone ourselves, what lies underneath is our own individual shape and size.

Some of us have curves, some of us are more narrow or straight in body shape, some of us are tall, some of us are short. I wish we could all learn to appreciate and love those shapes, whatever they are, and eventually understand and see that the world is made up of so many shapes and sizes and they are all wonderful and beautiful and powerful and strong.

Perhaps when we all learn this, we will stop being so hard on each other and on ourselves, trying to be something we are not, and instead we will be able to look in the mirror and say, “I like what I see. I like how I look. I like who I am. I’m taking care of myself and being my best self.”

Your thoughts?

A new year. A fresh start forward.

Originally posted on LiveJournal on January 21, 2013,
included here as a first post on this blog (interestingly, exactly one month later)…

A lot has happened in the past six months. As Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride would say, “Let me explain. (long pause) No. There is too much. Let me sum up.”

Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Still going to school. Only five classes left before I complete my associate degree in web design and development. Whoo!

Worked part-time for a year and a half. Due to some terrible circumstances, I lost my job. Am still dealing with the issues caused by that.

Currently working to create an online portfolio website for myself, for new job applications.

I lost almost 40 pounds in progress toward the six-month goal I gave myself in my dedication to working out and getting healthier. So much more to do in that regard, but it’s a very good start.

I brilliantly and gracefully injured myself, and had to stop working out. I gained back a little over 10 pounds of the weight that I’d lost.

I turned 40 years old.

I had my first mammogram, and ended up having to go through a series of mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies to make sure what they found was not cancerous. To my great relief, it was not cancer. To my great annoyance and dismay, despite the help from insurance this health scare has caused me to wrack up some ugly medical bills and I am still dealing with that.


As I say on the “About” page, that’s a lot of stuff to deal with, both the joyous and the not so much.

What I’ve learned so far in this journey is that time and patience are everything. There is no quick fix to be what you want to be or achieve what you want to achieve. It takes monster amounts of time, hard work, and the flexibility to understand that nothing may go as you want it to or expect it to. Sometimes life will take you in directions you hadn’t planned.

The trick seems to be: rather than fight your way backward to where you were before, find something good about your new location and move forward from there, wherever it may lead. Who knows? It may be just the direction you were meant to take, after all.

For better or for worse, here I am, at this point in my journey.

It’s a new day, a new year, and I’m ready to move forward again.