Tuesday, February 17, 2015
So I’m at the post office a week or two ago to mail some things and pick up some stamps. Hearts and flowers are okay but usually they have better options too. I like to see what they have that’s interesting. I’m checking the board where they put up which stamps they have on hand, mostly seeing things that didn’t do much for me — Charton Heston, Wilt Chamberlain, Battle of New Orleans.
But then what catches the corner of my eye but Julia Child!
It’s the Celebrity Chef series!
Of course I had to get that.
I’m not so keen on the picture, though. I wish they had taken one from the early French Chef days, maybe the mallet-wielding one that’s on the cover of The French Chef cook book.
She looks a bit bloated in this picture. I bet it wasn’t one of her favorites.
And the celebrity chefs stamp series reminded me of a story from 15 (or more) years ago, when I got a card in the mail from my friend Molly, and the stamp on it was Emily Post. And I’m like what in the world…? What stamp series is this? Advice mavens?
So I send a quick email and thank Molly for the card and ask about the stamp and she says that is so funny that I noticed that because she and her husband had just been having a conversation about how neurotic she was about stamps and how she refused to use boring flag stamps and Ari was like why do you bother with this, no one is going to notice anyway. And then like three hours later I emailed and asked about the stamp.
I responded, “Of course I would notice an Emily Post stamp. I was wondering if maybe it was the ‘Etiquette Series’ and I was going to run right out and get a few Miss Manners stamps, or possibly the ‘Advice Mavens Series’ where I could expect — in addition to Emily Post — Ann Landers, Heloise, Beth (from Ask Beth) and all my other newspaper friends.”
She said it was from a series on the 1920s, and she was holding onto the stock market crash stamp trying to decide who deserved that one.
I said I was a bit disappointed, but maybe the USPS just hadn’t thought of the Advice Mavens series yet.
And on that note, I will leave you with a great live version of this classic from John Prine
with these words to live by:
Unhappy, unhappy you have no complaint,
You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t.
So listen up buster and listen up good,
stop wishin’ for bad luck and knockin’ on wood.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
This post is for the NC locals (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and environs). Everyone else can just be jealous.
The Scrap Exchange is hosting a Swap-O-Rama Rama community clothing swap on Saturday, January 31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Full details on what a Scrap Exchange Swap-O-Rama looks like can be found in a blog post I wrote for the Scrap Exchange in 2009.
I also wrote about it here, for Story Number Three in my ten days of Scrap Stories for my 2011 fundraiser.
Best event ever! Come out if you can.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
[Ed. Note: This is from the drafts folder, written October 2013. Don’t know why I never posted it, seems good enough to send out into the world. Even though it will bump Julia from the home page, and put Dave Ramsey there. That’s an unhappy trade if ever there was one. But in the interest of Fresh Content, I am hitting the “publish” button.]
For a while, I’ve been thinking of doing a new feature on this blog called Where I Read Books So You Don’t Have To.
I was reminded of this recently when I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Man. Talk about stretching things out. That book is barely a magazine article, it’s maybe a Reader’s Digest article, yet the author and publisher managed to stretch it out for 280 completely excruciating pages. Holy schmoly.
I’ll save the full analysis for a future post, but in the meantime I want to talk a little bit about I what I found to be the biggest flaw with Dave Ramsey’s strategy in that book. (Okay, one of the biggest flaws. There were quite a number of flaws, but I’m going to stick with just this one for now.)
One of the main flaws I found with The Total Money Makeover is that Step One is Save $1,000.
Most people I know who are struggling with their finances are struggling BECAUSE THEY ARE UNABLE TO SAVE MONEY. How is telling them to save a thousand dollars useful? If they knew how to save a thousand dollars, wouldn’t they just do it?
Maybe I’m missing something here.
So personally I would suggest a few preliminary steps to get people to the point where they can save a thousand dollars.
The very first step is to think about why you want to fix your finances. What problems are you having that you do not want to have anymore? What goals do you have that you will not be able to achieve living the way you are currently living? What do you hope to accomplish with the program you are thinking of starting?
It might seem like you can skip this step, of course you want to fix your finances, who wants to live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of their life, but the reason you want to do this is because it’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a while and you are going to run into things that totally knock you off track. You need to be motivated enough to get through the hard things, to get back on track, to keep working.
I learned this lesson when I was trying to be more organized.
Progress was slow, and sometimes I felt like I tried as hard as I could but I kept ending up back in the same place. When I started to feel like it wasn’t worth it, I just wasn’t going to be able to do it, maybe I just didn’t have it in me and who cares anyway, the thing that worked to get through was to remember what I was trying to accomplish. Not the grand plan of “being organized,” but living in a house that didn’t always have piles of laundry, or not being late. Those are the things that bothered me, so those were the things I focused on. And those are the things I fixed.
I’m still not organized, but I’m not late anymore, and I always have clean clothes when I need them. [2015 note: Hmm, okay. May have to revise this now that I’m in school. I always have clean clothes when I need them, but they are not always folded and put away. Clearly experiencing some backsliding on this particular goal.]
So think about specifically what you want to fix, and why, and keep that foremost in your mind. Especially when it all feels hopeless.
The other thing you can work on if saving a thousand dollars sounds like taking a trip to the moon is imagining yourself saving money.
If you can imagine yourself saving a thousand dollars, that’s great, you can start working on saving a thousand dollars. If not, get it down to an amount you can imagine saving, in a time frame you can think about. How much can you save each week? Can you save twenty dollars? Ten? One? Start with whatever you can think about starting with and build from there.
As Marilyn Paul says in It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys, it’s very difficult to make something happen if you can’t even think about it.
Think about what you want your life to be like. Think about being able to save money. Then imagine yourself doing it.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Honey badger doesn’t care.
Ann tells a story about her friend Claudia going to see the performance artist Laurie Anderson speak in New York City. Someone in the audience asked her how she handled comments or criticism about her work, about what people thought about her. And her answer was something along the lines of “Oh I don’t worry about that at all. No one else really cares what you’re doing.”
Her point being that people are more or less self-absorbed, they’re too worried about themselves to worry about what anyone else is doing, so it’s really not worth thinking about.
So that’s really been a guiding princple of ours. Just do what you want to do, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks you should be doing. Who cares about them anyway.
I don’t think I realized when I wrote last year about Julia Child and quoted the Laura Shapiro biography with Julia’s quote from a French Chef episode talking about needing to have what the French call “je m’enfoutisme” that that’s basically what that means. (According to Google Translate, the literal translation of “je m’en foutisme” is “I don’t care attitude”.)
So I’ve been talking about that a lot lately.
In an interesting coincidence, I turned on the radio last week for the first time in ages and the People’s Pharmacy was on and the guest was researcher Brené Brown.
Brené Brown had a TED talk go viral a few years ago and is very popular among a certain segment of the internet, especially the personal growth and development folks. A friend and I had a series of conversations a few years ago about her and her research.
So it was kind of funny that I turn on the radio for the first time in who knows when and here is Brené Brown, and she’s talking about the things she usually talks about, connection and vulnerability and shame.
And I don’t remember the exact context, but she’s giving an example that involves a scenario at work where people are asked to take ownership of a project, and someone might speak up and be excited about it, and others will ridicule that person for caring.
She said this idea of not being willing to care about things is a big problem, people who just don’t care.
So that seems funny to me, I’m going around telling everyone they need to channel Julia Child and have je-m’en-foutisme and Brené Brown is talking about how bad it is to not care.
And that reminds me of another story that Brené Brown tells that made me think of a similar story that I liked better.
Brené Brown tells a story about how her daughter was at a sleepover and decided she didn’t want to spend the night, she called home and asked to be picked up. Brené went and picked her up and told her she was very proud of her for being so brave and calling home and admitting she was scared, for realizing she just wasn’t ready to spend the night at someone’s house.
This made me think of a story I read that Duke basketball’s Coach K told. He said that once when his daughter was young, after Duke had lost badly to UNC, she called home crying and asked him to come get her, kids were taunting her and being cruel. She wanted to come home. He told her he wouldn’t come get her, that that’s not how they did things. He said, “I’ll bring you a Duke sweatshirt.”
I love that story. I’ll bring you a Duke sweatshirt.
So I’m not sure what the point of this is, except that maybe I’m old school, taking Coach K and Julia Child over Brené Brown. I dunno.
And I feel like when I came up with the idea for this post I actually did have I had a point, but now I don’t, so I’ll just leave it at that.
I’m done with school on April 29 and I am hopeful that my brain will recover enough to allow me to start writing again. Right now just getting from one day to the next is the best I can do.
Onward and upward, and happy 2015 to everyone.
Friday, November 14, 2014
I’m spending a lot of time on the bus these days. And this has been making me think about some of my favorite bus metaphors.
My favorite of course is the Ken Kesey quote from Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: You’re either on the bus or off the bus.
My second favorite is the great bus metaphor that the late Kenyan scientist and environmental activist Wangari Maathai outlined in a speech I heard her give in 2009. She talked about how to know when the approach you’re taking isn’t right — what happens when you are not on the right bus.
I think in response to a conversation I had with a friend about that bus metaphor (though I don’t remember the details right now), my friend sent me a link to a piece by photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen that describes his Helsinki Bus Station Theory.
I re-read the Minkkinen piece the other day and was struck by the phrase, “We find out what we will do by knowing what we will not do.”
Life is a process of elimination.
If you are lucky, you get to something you want to do before having to go through too many things that you will not do.
If you’re not lucky, you get stuck doing something for a very long time that you really don’t want to do at all. And maybe you eventually get to something you do want to do, and maybe you just watch a lot of tv.
We find out what we will do by knowing what we will not do.
Monday, September 29, 2014
“My mind clicks on and off, as though attached to an electric switch with which some outside force is tampering. I try letting one eyelid close at a time when I prop the other open with my will. But the effort’s too much. Sleep is winning. My whole body argues dully that nothing, nothing life can attain is quite so desirable as sleep.”
–Charles Lindbergh in his book Pulitzer-prize winning book The Spirit of St. Louis about the first successful transatlanic flight
Sunday, September 14, 2014
“The Things to do are: the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done. Then you will conceive your own way of doing that which needs to be done — that no one else has told you to do or how to do it. This will bring out the real you that often gets buried inside a character that has acquired a superficial array of behaviors induced or imposed by others on the individual.”
—R. Buckminster Fuller, designer/inventor/philosopher (1895–1983)
Quote sourced from Wikiquote. (Wish I had a more authoritative source, but time is short these days. The internet is the best I can do.)