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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Grace in Small Things: 5 of 365

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*Not the actual Volvo of #4

*Not the actual Volvo of #4

1. A car battery that starts – it’s amazing what you can take for granted until it disappears

2. Personal referrals: if you know someone who is great at what they do, tell three people this week. You never know what might come of it; a neighbor of mine just connected me with a whole web of great people with one conversation.

3. TV on the internet: I never have to miss a show I love, but it’s a half-step farther away than a remote control, and that changes everything. It’s harder to look up and see you’ve wasted half a day watching TV when you have to keep clicking to the next episode…

4. Used Volvos. Namely the one that my Him has purchased so we are no longer a one-car-couple. Not that I ever minded carpooling (after all, it made me a 1/2-car user, in a way), but I look forward to getting picked up for a date soon!

5. People who honor the stories in life. Like the neighbor of mine who just traded a used Volvo (see #4) for a surfboard, because he promised never to sell it. Or the Brazilian guy who passionately relayed the genealogy of surfboard-craftsmen who led up to the creation of this very special surfboard.


Botox Yourself Happy

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Smile Your Way HappyThe idea that you can cheer yourself up by putting on a smile, even if you don’t feel like it, is so oft-quoted as to be practically a fact. I happen to be a big believer and am always intrigued by related studies.

So my ears perked up when I read recently that people who use Botox are less prone to anger; the hypothesis is that because their faces can’t express anger, they’re less likely to feel anger. I find this fascinating. Perhaps it’s also true that they don’t incite anger as easily in others because their faces can’t show it, leading to fewer angry encounters?

It also ties into a discussion I was having today with a girlfriend about being around people who like drama. While she and I are both well-positioned on the “mellow” side of the scale, we were commenting on how hard it is to stay that way with certain long-time friends who are notorious drama storms. Their emotion is contagious. As is the non-emotion of the Botox’d face. As is your own smile, even if you really feel like punching a pillow. We are completely susceptible to the emotions of our environment.

And as a corollary, I’ve heard a number of times recently that studies are showing that “venting” doesn’t help. Conventional wisdom holds that you need to “get it out” and that raging about your frustrations relieves some measure of stress and eases the burden. However, it actually just makes you feel worse, the way that putting on a smile makes you feel better.

I often tick people off when I don’t participate in (or even want to listen to) their venting. I’ve learned that I’m especially capable of altering my moods by adjusting how much negativity I let in, and I’m very sensitive to the smallest doses. Then again, I can put on a new mood with a smile and some sunshine, so the effect works both ways. Perhaps it’s like not drinking coffee for a few weeks – that first cup will keep you up for days. Cut out the negativity (perhaps start with the news?) and see if you don’t find yourself drifting into (even) happier territory, no matter where your benchmark started.

It Alone Protects Me

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“I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool.” — Theodore I. Rubin, MD

As Kyran’s Post so charmingly put it, “Provenance: Maggie Mason’s post, begat by Joanna Goddard’s post, begat by Creature Comforts post. Thanks to all for passing these words intact to me. Never break the chain.”

Agreed – only wish I’d said it myself.

Volunteer Vacations or HumaniTourism

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RoadMonkey: Volunteering meets Adventure

RoadMonkey: Volunteering meets Adventure

I got a link in my inbox today that sent me reeling – I am so excited about what RoadMonkey is doing. Small groups of people taking amazing adventure trips to areas of the world that need great help. Volunteering on vacation.

Their next trip involves climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro, and painting an orphanage in Tanzania. If it weren’t a only couple months away I’d be packing my bags. Their trips remind me of my volunteer journey to Russia, and all the college trips we took to help out those who needed a couple dozen hard-working kids to paint something or man the charity yard sale.

We had some amazing times, probably the best times of that era. I loved the camaraderie that came with working shoulder-to-shoulder with friends for a good cause. It really is the best vacation you can imagine, even though it’s hard to believe at first. You work hard, you play hard, and you just feel good about what you’re doing. Not to mention the other people who choose to spend their free time there are usually pretty cool. Some great friendships form over hard labor, let me tell you.

Can’t wait for the chance to tag along…

The Secret is Non-Attachment

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Pema ChodronAs I’ve mentioned before, Pema Chodron is one of my very favorite thinkers, a philosopher with a great sense of humor and a gentle but tough way of reminding us to get out of our own heads.

I was searching through files and found the first article of hers that I stumbled upon, and it’s as good as it was the first time. She talks about shenpa, the feeling of being hooked, the emotions we struggle with even when we know we should just back down.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did: Pema’s article on Shenpa

Excerpt from the article: “I recently saw a cartoon of three fish swimming around a hook. One fish is saying to the other, “The secret is non-attachment.” That’s a shenpa cartoon: the secret is—don’t bite that hook. If we can catch ourselves at that place where the urge to bite is strong, we can at least get a bigger perspective on what’s happening. As we practice this way, we gain confidence in our own wisdom. It begins to guide us toward the fundamental aspect of our being—spaciousness, warmth and spontaneity.”

Grace in Small Things: 4 of 365

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Salvaged Records

Salvaged Records

1. Getting something done. Like helping a great neighbor clean out her garage. Just feels good.

2. Said neighbor donating all sorts of fun things in gratitude (hello, old record collection!)

3. Borrowing found Lemony Snicket books for a little light reading (see post below)

4. Fresh fish and rice pilaf – yum!

5.  Unexpected calls from Dad  to say he misses me :)

My Reading List (or Avoiding Something I Love)

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My Reading List

My Reading List

Faced with a stack of unread books and the prospect of a fairly open weekend, I decided that I would spend some time whittling a few off the stack. Then I had an unsettling realization – I want to be done with these books, but I don’t particularly want to read them. Those of you that know me well probably re-read that line – Jenny doesn’t want to read?  – but it’s true, I have been dodging this pile for weeks.

For a moment I (sadly) pondered the idea that I had outgrown my love of (addiction to?) reading that had characterized me as a child. (To this day, if you asked a family member of mine to draw a cartoon of me, my nose would be in a book, I have no doubt.) Had I gotten lazy? Had the internet stolen my ability to focus on anything longer than a blog post? Were other things simply more important to me? I quivered at the idea.

But I think I diagnosed the real problem: closer inspection of the stack revealed a good dose of things I think I should read and none that I had chosen for fun. At least ten Fourteen of them have something to do with my new business, from learning PHP and MSQL for website design, to surviving as a freelancer, to the latest and greatest ideas in marketing. The others are mostly deep-thinking non-fiction: philosophy, poetry translations, and a history of discoverers. The one piece of fiction on the pile is Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, who isn’t exactly light either. Whew! Just reading the titles made me tired!

Is it any wonder that last night I picked up Barrie’s Peter Pan, just for fun? Despite the stack, I think a trip to the library just might be in order this weekend…

Hope your shelves are filled with things you can’t wait to read and a free hour finds you soon.