Resolutions are for a Legislature

I do NOT make New Year’s Resolutions. I do, however, write goals every year. EVERY YEAR. I have a record of them for the last twenty three years! Some people might think this is absolute craziness that I have done this with such consistency. Some others might simply be astonished that I can find all twenty three years of them. For me, it’s been a dependable ritual that I complete each year.

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This was when I was still working and a goal planner was included in the day planner I used at work.

At the end of each year, I assess how well I met the year’s goals (I do award myself partial credit and sometimes delete a goal when it is unaccomplishable due to circumstances beyond my control) and give myself a completion grade. On average, I seem to make it into the sixties as my percentage completed. I do not consider this on the standard “school” percentages, it’s not a D. In my eyes, every time I meet over 50% of the goals I set for my year, that’s a winning year. If my completion percentage is too high, I probably didn’t set my sights high enough for the year. In the week before and after January 1st, I get busy crafting my goals for the coming year. I usually use the same categories year after year, changing them only when a category really isn’t suiting my needs anymore. Sometimes I transfer an unmet goal to the next year if I think it is still important. Other times I realize that since I didn’t get to it after a full year, it’s really not all that critical to my success or happiness.

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Deep into kid-dom, I was a scrapbooker and the final product reflected that for a couple of years.

In 2016, I added the category “Creativity” because art has become a more significant element in my life than in years past. I also decided to break Personal into two categories “Self Care/Personal Development” and “Personal Interests” since doing things for myself weren’t necessarily the same thing as interests I have. As an example, in the former category I had “try guided meditation” and “learn something new” for this year. But the Personal Interests section included “throw two parties” and “go the the Balloon Fiesta in NM”. In my mind those things are different and needed different headings. The other categories I am using are “Kids/School”, “House/Material Possessions”, “Health & Fitness”, “Finances”, and “Personal Relationships” for a total of eight. 2017’s goals will be using the same categories and I am crafting them now. I always show one person when I consider it done (it makes sure I actually finish it) and I may or may not post it here. Depends on how I feel after I write them.

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Now I just just keep a list.  It is kept in Evernote all year, but I do print it out after I assess my success level so I can put it in the book with all the others.

Resolutions are destined to fail so no one ever feels good about them. Goals are almost always a positive way to structure your life. And if you do as I do and consider greater than 50% to be a victory, success is easily assured. I cannot tell you the satisfaction it gives me to be able to look over my successes for more than 20 years. I can see patterns and know where I went wrong (and right!) I love seeing how hard I tried in some areas. I love seeing how I let go of others. I had no idea I would still be doing this so many years later when I started, but I am very glad I am.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Stella, Nirvana Rose, Florence, Tea Rose, Petale Noir, Jessica – those are the other names for rose. At least in my perfume collection. I love perfume. LOVE it. I have 40 different perfumes right now and 40 others as samples.

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My very favorite perfume in the world is KL by Karl Lagerfeld. kl-women-by-karl-lagerfeld-2

It is no longer made, and hasn’t been for a really long time. About five years ago I hauled everything out of my linen closet in the hallway in order to redo the unholy mess that it had become. Wonder of wonders, I found a sealed bottle of this precious elixir in the morass. I was over the moon. I’ve seen sealed bottles of this go for $300 on eBay, so precious indeed. It’s a warm spicy scent, all cinnamon and amber and yes civet , back when they still used the real thing. And oh so sensual. It epitomizes the perfumes of the 80’s, which is, of course, when I bought it. It made me feel mature and sophisticated at a time when I still looked like I was in high school. It made me feel like I had a place in the world. Wearing it now still transports me to a time when I was young and feeling powerful. I am now less young, but more powerful and still love the way it makes me feel.

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My current avenue to new fragrances is a subscription service called Scentbird. For me, it’s perfect because I can try many different (and rather pricey) perfumes at a much lower cost. My test tube rack is filled with the ones I have gotten already (and the scent Spicebomb by Viktor + Rolf is in the black holder.) For just $15 I get my pick of over 400 fragrances. It’s rebottled from originals so while the 8 ml per vial is more expensive per ounce than buying a full bottle, there are not many places where you can buy a partial bottle! This way I can get six different perfumes for the cost of a single $90 full bottle. If, for any reason, this seems like a cool idea to you, you can get a free perfume by using my link. The hitch is that you have to buy the first month and then your second month is free. Still, that’s $15 for two perfumes!

You can see that I have some men’s fragrances – Polo Supreme Oud and Spicebomb from Scentbird and a full sized Tom Ford Noir. Because I like dark, spicy, woody scents sometimes the ones designed for men are perfect for me. In general the broad category “oriental” is the one that appeals to me the most. Recently, I nabbed myself two drugstore perfumes that have been around FOREVER. The first is Tabu (1932) a sweet, amber, and clove concoction that smells like a burgundy velvet tapestry in a dark paneled study. I think I paid $10 for the full bottle and I love it so very much. The second is a replacement from high school called Toujour Moi (1921) – got it at Walgreens! This one is sandalwood and white florals and smells like a cashmere shawl feels.

Picking out a perfume each morning gives me such joy. I spent a solid decade not wearing scents at all because Evan couldn’t handle it. I am now happily back to indulging my spice nose (haha – I made that up as a corollary to “sweet tooth” ūüėÉ ). Let me know if you want to sniff my neck.

Weights: Not Just for the Guys

I am a weightlifter. In fact, of all the exercise I have ever done in my life (other than dance) lifting is not only my favorite, but the one I return to time and time again. I’ve tried other things over the years – Jazzercise, swimming laps, aerobics classes, yoga, Zumba, running, cardio machines a the gym – none of them get repeated over the long haul. I started lifting just out of college. I had access to a gym and time to kill. I had no idea what I was doing, but I liked it anyway.¬†Since then, I have returned again and again to lifting when I endeavor to exercise.

I am now working out at the seventh gym I have ever belonged to. ¬†I have belonged to gyms associated with my workplace, ones just for women (can you believe that was a thing?!), super posh ones, and military ones. ¬†Right now,¬†Planet Fitness meets my financial needs (cheap!) and has plenty for me to do even though I know it is a bare bones gym. When I started, I wanted to lose weight and decided that although I preferred to lift, I would make an effort to spend time on the cardio machines instead. That failed miserably. Not only did I not lose weight, I ended up not liking even going to the gym. I have never once experienced what people call a “runner’s high” – that endorphin release that comes from exercising really hard; or even a general upbeat feeling after a good sweat session. I wish I did, it would make exercising so much more appealing. Eventually, I managed to lose weight by changing my eating, which for me has always been the ONLY way it ever happens, and I ditched the cardio.

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Right now I am in the gym every morning. Over the long haul, it averages to about 6 days a week because life does happen. I’m not there for long, either. I wonder what some people think when they see me come in and then see me leave, all while they are still slogging away. What they don’t know, obviously, is that I am there everyday. I get about 3 1/2 hours of lifting in each week. That’s quite a bit. It might even be a little too much, but I need the consistency of “every day” and am currently working to re-sort my exercises so that I am resting the right muscles at the right time.

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The other good thing is I seem to have a body that responds well to weight training. Having shed a noticeable amount of body fat, the muscles are now making their appearance. Despite my mother’s dismissive “what are you going to do with all those muscles?” I love the way it looks. That’s my positive feedback, getting to see the muscles emerge and be defined.

I like the system I’ve got right now, my eating and lifting plans have gotten me where I am happy with my body again. Even if life gets in the way and I slack off for a while, I know I’ll go back to lifting. I always have.

[I had wanted to add a song about lifting, but there are very few. I found one I really liked by Disturbed, but it’s totally NSFW and Disturbed is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you have never heard THIS Disturbed song, you really need to listen. Surely everyone knows the song, but their interpretation is incredible. ¬†The poignancy due to the political state we are currently in is also not lost on me.]

How Much Worry?

The last time I saw a therapist in person, I filled out what seemed like reams of paper questionnaires. When we spoke, it was clear she thought I had an anxiety disorder. It kind of surprised me though because I never figured I had any issues. I knew what anxiety looked like, my son has suffered with it mightily since he was a small boy. I had never before considered it was an issue in my life because I never had Evan’s problems. Nothing I dealt with looked anything like what Evan dealt with.

Evan has suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It was actually diagnosed at around seven, but I was on the front lines dealing with it, in all its forms, when he was tiny as well. We had a brief and disastrous medication trial but decided to create an environment where he could thrive and his anxiety could be managed without it. I often thought to myself “it shouldn’t be so hard to be eight” – or nine, or ten. Of course we went to many, many professionals of all ilks and stripes. I don’t remember exactly when it was that we found Steve – but he was the one. Even now when things get tough, “I need to talk to Steve” will prompt a call for an appointment. As a teenager, things have leveled off a bit. But every once in a while something will happen to set him off and it will hit me in the face, “Oh yeah, this doesn’t really go away, does it?” My old skills kick in and try to help him rebalance. But sometimes I no longer have the patience to deal with an almost grown boy when my own stuff is looming over my head. And believe me, I’ve got stuff. When he was little, I didn’t allow myself to have “stuff” (again, a topic for another time.)

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I remember the first time I actually considered whether or not I had an issue with anxiety, I was reading¬†this article¬†about having an outgoing personality but an anxious mind. ¬†All the points in the article hit home surprisingly hard for me. While I probably suspected that some of those things were iffy, I truly did not understand that they were not the norm for most people. Think about it, if you aren’t someone who is comfortable sharing stuff like this in the first place, how can you possibly know that what you are feeling is not the common, universal experience? The one that that really got me was #8 – you mean other people don’t worry that someone has actually died if you don’t hear back from them. That’s real for me. I don’t even know why.

One of my significant issues is that I have a hard time opening up enough to share my problems with people. I don’t know if it is because I have trouble trusting people, or it’s because I inherently don’t believe people want to hear about me. I also worry incessantly over things I have already said and done. I understand the futility in that, and still it literally keeps me awake at night. Oddly enough, “anxiety” would also explain my absolute abhorrence of calling people on the phone. I have a repeated pattern of closing myself off, going into myself, shutting down, when things get tough. I even know it’s happening. What I don’t know is when to come out, when it might be appropriate to prevent it, or how to reverse it. Guess I still have work to do.

My son definitely has an anxiety disorder; but maybe I do, too. It’s hard to say whether or not what I deal with would rise to the level of “disorder” or not, but I have come to realize that there is something going on. After all, did I really think Evan’s issues came out of nowhere? (For the record, yes. Yes I did think they came out of nowhere.)

This was harder to write than I thought. I’m going to have to try again later and say more.

OMG I Just Signed Up to Host a Sofar Show at My House

Sunday night I went to my third Sofar show and it was just as great as all the others. I managed to find a friend to go with me and she liked it just as much as I expected her to, which was nice. This time the first act on was the best one of the night – Mobley (https://www.facebook.com/mobleywho/) from Austin and I highly recommend him. Second act was OK, and the last act was a Latin style guitarist on a loop pedal. Both good, but not great.

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Mobley on his brother’s guitar, he even unplugged and took a jaunt through the crowd to sing

The best part of the evening is that I stepped up. I started chatting with a guy about other shows I had been to and it turned out he worked for Sofar. He asked about the locations of the other Sofar shows I’ve been to and complained about when he’s had to do them in people’s houses when the hosts themselves don’t know how to be quiet. I casually said – I’d love to host a show and his eyes lit up. Really, he asked? ¬†Yes, really. And next thing you know, I was giving my email address and being told I’d be contacted and given the opportunity to pick a preferred date. Bing, bang, boom.

About two years ago Beans on Toast was looking for places to do house shows in the U.S. I contacted Xtra Mile Records to see if I could do it, but to my chagrin, my friend Cheryl and her cousin Amy had beaten me to the punch for this area. Ever since then I have harbored the desire to have a show at my house. Of course, I don’t have a McMansion, so I am going to have to do a little work to make the the house suitable. You’ve all seen the living room, but you haven’t seen “the mess behind the screen.” This is not a paraphrased Wizard of Oz reference, I have a literal screen behind my sofa segregating off the former dining room area. It’s currently a sloppy mess of a room that houses sundry homeschooling books, science equipment, and assorted junk. From now until the day someone stops by to assess how many people can fit in my house, I will be cleaning that area up so I can rearrange the furniture just a tad more to accommodate a show. I’ve often said that it’s a good idea to throw a party to induce oneself into cleaning one’s¬†house, this is a HUGE inducement to clean up an area of my house that I have ignored for YEARS.

I don’t know how far out they schedule shows, but I am looking forward to being on their calendar and having an honest to god show in my house. You can be sure I will have pictures and make a full post about the experience.

I am Arwen

I just named my son’s life’s work! OK, let’s back up.

Evan is 17 and dual enrolled at Northern VA Community College while he completes high school. He’ll be getting his A.S. in Psychology before transferring to George Mason to get a B.S. in the same, and also enter their accelerated Masters program in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. This is a tailor made program for him and I cannot believe it was the last school we looked at. In his idealized 17 year old brain, his life’s goal is to be remembered for doing, making, or discovering something, in the textbooks famous. In the crudest of forms, he is interested in pursuing eternal life and mental telepathy. That makes him sound crazy, doesn’t it? However, if you talk to him long enough, if you listen behind the teenage bluster, if you take what an adult knows and how things can possibly apply in the real world, he’s got a point.

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After his biology class the other day, Evan was telling me about one of his theories. The degradation of telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes is responsible for the aging process. After a certain point, the telomeres are diminished to such an extent that accurate cell replication can no longer occur and dying of “old age” can happen. It is noted that in cancer cells, the telomeres do not deteriorate. Evan speculates that it is not an infinite failure to deteriorate, but possibly an order of magnitude of seven. So, he wants to figure out how to isolate the greater telomere regeneration in cancer cells and transfer it to healthy cells. He speculates that he’d be able to get the growth phase of humans to extend. But, I said, if the telomeres had that much more regeneration and created an extended growth phase, wouldn’t that create “bigger” humans? Yes, he thought, bigger humans, with more mass, for a longer time period before degeneration (aging) began. We would be a race of taller, younger looking humans – we’d be elves. To which I responded, YES Project ELF – Elongate Life Force! You need to call your thesis Project ELF! ¬†I then demanded credit for the name when he used it to submit his research grant at George Mason. We laughed. And then I told him I was serious, I wanted credit. In the textbooks.

Well I was born in a small town

In the last post, I marveled at “what a world we live in” because I feel like my experiences are now so wide. I want to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, and why I was so eager to leave it behind.

I grew up in a small town, with conservative (although not religiously conservative) parents, and a privileged upbringing. I married a conservative Marine/cop and held my tongue in liberal Northern Virginia for many, many years, most of the time not caring enough about politics one way or the other to make a stink. But my views have changed. They say that if you aren’t liberal when you are young you don’t have a heart and if you aren’t conservative when you are older you don’t have a brain – well, I just screwed that up!

The earliest evidence of this sentiment is from an 1875 French biography by Jules Claretie where, “Mr. [Anselme] Batbie, in a much-celebrated letter, once quoted the Burke paradox in order to account for his bizarre political shifts: ‘He who is not a r√©publicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.’‚ÄĚ

I don’t know why I ended up being the conservative one for so long. I have two sisters that were brought up the same way and I think they have always been more liberal than I. Maybe it’s because I was the oldest? Maybe it’s because I have a powerful sense of personal responsibility (that by the way hasn’t always served me well….) I don’t know. But in just the last half a dozen years or so I have been exposed to more different kinds of views than I have been exposed to in the entire rest of my life. My upbringing was provincial, my schooling was insular, my jobs had a narrow focus (government contracting), and my social circle with my husband at the time reinforced all those things. I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to have broken out.

I grew up in a town SO SMALL. How small was it? I once addressed a letter:

BROWNING

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and put it in the mail to prove to my college friends that my parents would get it. Inside it said “Call when you get this.” Three days later they called. My friends were gobsmacked. But I never understood that I grew up rural. You see, I lived in town. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that it dawned on me that you don’t have an “in town” unless you are rural. Somehow the fact that some of my friends’ addresses were Rural Route Numbers, meaning they didn’t have HOUSE numbers, these were just randomly assigned numbers given by the post office, didn’t sink in. Shit MY HOUSE didn’t have a house number, we used a P.O. Box. When we needed something delivered by UPS (which requires a street address) my mother would give them 1876 and the street name. But 1876 is the placard on our house that the town gave us to indicate when the house was built, it’s NOT a house number. We had no gas stations and no stop lights. The only retail establishment was the “little store” across the alley from my house, and across the street was “The Comm”. The Comm, or Waverly Community House, was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and held many vital Waverly institutions.

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I had my first job at The Comm. I was the Saturday morning librarian. It was small, I mean really small. People look back fondly on the days of card catalogs – ha! I was expected to know the names of all the patrons who came in to get books. When they chose new books, all they had to do was hand them to me, I’d pop in their pre-stamped due date card and hand them back. After they left, I would write their name on the take-out card and file it away. Occasionally I’d have to do some detective work if I couldn’t come up with a name. I’d try to remember the last book they took out, go find it and see what name was written down on the card. My school bus stop was at The Comm, which means I had a warm, dry place to wait – kids at school hated us for that. We even had a fire in the fireplace going for us on cold snowy mornings. There was a gymnasium (where we could roller skate on Saturdays), a candy store, a post office, a bowling alley, a playground, a thrift store, a dance studio, a daycare, tennis courts, and meeting rooms (my Girl Scout meetings were there.) So you can see, where I lived didn’t seem rural at all. ūüėČ Of course, we always went to the farm to get our ice cream, but I digress……

When I grew up we had a mall. One. No big box stores, no internet shopping. The “big city” was not somewhere we went very often. As a young girl, I was taught that when we did go, we had to dress up. My dad was an attorney there and I guess my mom (who was from just outside of Philly) didn’t want to embarrass him. Looking back, I really am surprised by all the signs I missed. There was nothing much to do. Not as a kid, not as a teenager, not on a date, surely not as an adult. We had one, yes ONE black kid in my grade. And he wasn’t even there all year. He was the son of migrant workers and was only there seasonally. Even now, the entire minority population is 9% at my old high school, I looked it up. By comparison, where I live now, only 28% of the kids are white! I don’t know the percentage, but I think a lot of kids did not go on to college, but I sure as hell was. I wanted out. Granted I went to a small, mostly white, liberal arts college, but I also never “went back home.” I stayed at my parents’ house the summer after my freshmen year and again after my sophomore year, but then never lived there again.

This might sound like I didn’t like where I grew up. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. I loved the life I was given and I was blessed to have lived it. I regularly went back for visits and thought “What a wonderful place this is.” But it was quickly followed up by “What do people DO here??” I guess I became a big city girl. Which is a good topic for another time. So maybe my transition wasn’t the “expected” young idealist to older establishment, but was more like provincial to worldly. In that light, it makes more sense. ¬†So unlike the song reference in the title, I’m *not* going to be dying in a small town, not me.