Saturday, December 31, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

[Life Evidence] We Can Grow by Doing

In 2009, my first time leaving the USA, I brought a frisbee along with me to Madrid for the year.

My ultimate frisbee playing experience before then involved some indoor playing in high school before school, some pickup in the summers, a semester of intramurals at college, and a summer of MUFA's rec D league. I think someone had tried explaining the force to me, and I didn't really understand it.

Prior to my just-for-fun ultimate frisbee playing, I'd never competed in any team sport. (I mean, not counting elementary softball/baseball in the summers, which I was forced to do and strongly disliked.)

I was often super nervous in gym class growing up, because I was not athletically inclined. It was embarrassing to suck so badly in front of classmates, or to be picked near the end when choosing teams. I didn't know how to just enjoy playing and have fun—I was always so worried about how terrible I was. (I mean, you remember my history of swimming, right?)

It wasn't until later in middle and high school when some of these nerves started subsiding. In high school I remember loving our weightlifting unit, and my senior year I joined cross country (wha wha?).

So jumping back to Madrid, at some point during the year I googled "ultimate frisbee Madrid," curious if anyone played it abroad. The Quijotes+Dulcineas website was the top result. I saw that they had pickup (pachanga) on the weekends, but was definitely intimidated by the organization and officialness of it all.

I faintly remember at least a few Saturdays where I lightly considered going to play pickup.

But I never went.

• • •

Friday, December 23, 2016

Noticing Life's Fluidity in the Snow

As you know, I sent out a holiday letter again this year, my second time doing so. I wanted to give one to my neighbors, so rather than sending it through the mail I just wrote their first names on the envelope and then propped it up on the floor in my room—a reminder to drop it off when the holiday got nearer.

The days kept passing, and suddenly tonight I decided to run over and drop it off. It was snowing and not yet dark; about an inch of snow had already fallen. I made footprints in the light snow as I walked over.

First I went to their mailbox to see if they hadn't yet gotten that day's mail. It was empty, so I ran up to the house.

As I ran up the driveway, I noticed a pair of glasses on the ground in the snow, partially covered up by the falling flakes. I picked them up, dusted them off, and carried them with me to the front door.

I rang the doorbell. No answer. I left the glasses with the card on the front porch, and then called to let them know.

Had I delivered the card a little earlier or later, would someone have stepped on or ran over these glasses? As it continued to snow, you really couldn't see them there.

Or if my day had gone just a bit differently, perhaps I wouldn't have been looking downwards as I moved up the driveway.

Or, if I had delivered the card a day (or days) earlier, perhaps the sequence of events that followed would have resulted in the glasses not falling off into the driveway at all. Every tiny action affects so many others, whether we realize it or not.

Life is all so fluid, constantly changing.

This fact can be comforting and humbling, yet also frustrating and upsetting to think about—depending on your situation.
• • •

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Conflicting Thoughts About Labels

Writer, humanist, slow traveler, minimalist, trilingual, volunteer.

Imagine that person.

Now here's another: Singer, religious, fast-food consumer, monolingual, in debt.

How are these two people different? How are they the same? Can we even guess?

I've been thinking a lot these past couple of months about labeling people. I understand that labels can be useful to get a general gist of someone—artist, workaholic, single mom, Republican, Mormon—to find groups of common people, and to change your self-identity. Labels are often necessary for tasks like government applications, research, business, and the like. But labels can be a lot more divisive than we realize.        
• • •

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Calligcast #11: Debbie Millman

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: Good Life Project

Episode: Debbie Millman

Starting near the 29 minute mark, I liked Debbie's reaction to a college student asking for advice on how to be more successful when she'd only started her blog six weeks earlier:
... and this is—I think—a really unfortunate ramification from this 140-character culture is that people in their 20s, when they graduate from college, expect that they will be—that they have to be successful. And then if they're not successful in their '20s, or if they're not successful sort of right out of the gate, that there's something wrong with them. And then that builds to this real sense of hopelessness, because they haven't achieved something quickly. 
First of all, I don't know that I would even want to achieve something in my '20s looking back, anything significant, because then you have to maintain it! Then you have to keep doing it over and over and over, you have to keep hitting the home runs. Rather—I'd much rather build to something that could conceivably be sustained because of the length of time it's taken for you to get there...
• • •

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Facebook-free: Emily Meier


Last Friday night I had an awesome time reconnecting with Emily Meier, a friend from high school, and hanging out with Hannah, the friend I teach English with on Tuesdays. The three of us talked for hours, oblivious to how much time was passing. In conversation, it came out that Emily had also left Facebook—so of course I had to see if she was interested in being interviewed for this project. She was!

I'm thrilled to share her thoughts with you today. Emily's bio below will give you a taste of her world, and then we'll go straight into the questions.

Emily is a communicator, educator, and non-profit nerd who recently quit her job so she could do more: more designing, more creating, more diverse communications work, and more connecting with really interesting people and projects. To see some of her work, visit

The basics:

Age: 27

Location: Wisconsin, USA

Interests: Spending time outside, especially hiking; art and creating; graphic design and communications; perusing for useful old antiques; rural life and culture; gardening and native plants; visiting National Parks; community building and relationships.

Length of time with FB account: 2006-2016...I can't believe Facebook was such a big part of my life for nearly 10 years...

Date you left FB: I left in early September 2016, so I'm a Facebook-free newbie
• • •

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Yellow Envelope Project

It all began with a yellow envelope gifted by friends.

Inside was a check with instructions to give the money away as Kim and her husband traveled around the world.

Kim Dinan (of So Many Places) and her husband were about to set out on a journey, after having sold their possessions and saving up for several years. This gift of the yellow envelope and its impact has been documented in Kim's forthcoming book The Yellow Envelope, but that's just the beginning.

The Yellow Envelope Project

In November 2016, Kim offered her blog readers a yellow envelope. She'd mail it to you anywhere in the world, you just had to use it as a vehicle of kindness. In four days she ran out of envelopes, but readers donated to buy more envelopes and postage. The movement has spread, and The Yellow Envelope Project is now a campaign to spread kindness around the globe. (See what people are doing with their envelopes on the project's Facebook page.)

Then the other week it hit me—I could give out yellow envelopes with my holiday letter! I'd been working on addressing all of the 70+ envelopes with calligraphy, so they'd be getting mailed out anyway. And I'd already bought the postage... hurray, action!

• • •

Friday, December 9, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Calligcast #10: Sara Blakely

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: The School of Greatness
Episode #397: Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx.

This podcast episode was recommended to me by Kim Dinan, and it was an excellent listen. I'd never heard of Sara Blakely before, but she is now on my radar as someone with integrity to learn from.

I listened to the podcast while finishing the calligraphy on the envelopes for my holiday letter. There were several quotes that I stopped to jot down:

• • •

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Calligcast #9: Dan Collins on The Creative Path with Matt Olson

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: The Creative Path Podcast with Matt Olson
Episode #40: Dan Collins

Tonight I practiced Q-Z (uppercase) of lesson 3 in my Kaitlin style calligraphy course while listening to musician Dan Collins being interviewed on The Creative Path Podcast with Matt Olson—thanks to the following tweet I saw earlier today:
(Yes, I'm not on Facebook but choose to use Twitter. They're different.)

• • •

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Celebrating 2 Years Facebook Free

I left Facebook exactly two years ago: December 1, 2014.

A month and a half later, I wrote about my reasons for leaving on Culture Glaze. And several months after that, I began the Facebook-free interview project here on the blog to feature other people who have also left Facebook.

So what does it feel like now?

Honestly, it feels fantastic.

I don't want to imagine what my life would look like today if Facebook were still a part of it. You see, the on-the-surface difference between then and now is that I have removed Facebook from my life. I don't think about it; it's not part of my day-to-day life.

• • •

Resolutions Checkpoint 2016: November

Taking a look back at my focus points for November, here's what progress has been made on those in the past month:

November Progress

1. French
  • (  ) Take at least 100 quizzes on Progress with Lawless French (PLF) — I only did 60 total, but I didn't cancel the auto-renew on time and thus have paid for another month, so I'll try for 100 again in December.

    In my PLF improvement timeline below, you can see that when November began (aka premium account), my level increased at a much faster rate.
• • •

Friday, November 18, 2016

Integrity inspiration from a girl in Rodez

Note: OVS—OnVaSortir!—is a website in France where users can create and attend events listed on the site. It's a great way to meet people, kind of like Meetup, but without the groups.

Back in February, E.—a friend in Rodez—put up an event on OVS to grab drinks at a bar in town on Saturday night. In the name of the event, he included "<40," to limit attendees to those under 40 years of age.

Now, if I had made the event, I wouldn't have ever put that because a) it's not inclusive and b) I have lots of older friends, and appreciate the fresh perspective that people not my age—both older and younger—can offer.

But alas, Damien and I wanted to meet people our age as well, so we signed up to attend without second thought.

A day after the event had been posted, a user (age 60) RSVPd as attending, and then commented something like: "I see the age limit, but I'd still like to come. Is that okay?"
• • •

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

[Post-Election] Bridges, Gratitude, and Action

Yesterday was a dark day, but today I see the light.

It was a devastating loss. I cried, grieved for all of the hatred/suffering people will now experience, lost sleep, and managed to get physically ill in the process.

I thought nearly everyone could see the danger in that man's sexist, racist, and xenophobic words, which would prevent him from getting votes.
I was wrong.

I also thought for some moments that this was one of the most terrible things that could happen; days would be dark now.
I was wrong, my vision blurred by anger and disbelief.

Now don't get me wrong, it's serious, and this is not okay. But there is much light. How did I get from point A to point B in the past 24 hours? I'll walk you through it, starting with building bridges, then turning to gratitude, and finally taking action.

Build Bridges

There is common ground to be found with Trump voters. As Elizabeth Warren points out in her post "President-Elect Donald Trump":
"Two-thirds of people support raising the federal minimum wage. Three-quarters of Americans want the federal government to increase its infrastructure investments. Over 70 percent of people believe students should have a chance at a debt-free education. Nearly three-quarters support expanding Social Security."
So let's work together on those issues and make changes we all want to see.

Aside from that, this election has taught me we should get out of our social bubbles more often to interact with people whose views greatly differ from our own. I didn't realize that my state (Wisconsin) was going to vote Trump because I've really only ever spent time in the blue bubble of Madison. What if last summer I had traveled to schools in the north of the state and shared my experiences abroad? What if I had written letters to editors in local newspapers of other counties? I need to step up my game and fight for the values I believe in. I need to do things that make me uncomfortable, speak for those without a voice, and have a bigger impact.

Social media makes it extra easy to think most people share your views, but that's because you've curated who you follow and what you see. So start dialogues from human to human. Realize that everyone's life experiences are not the same as yours, and try to understand how someone else's such experiences have led them to the opinions they hold today.

For me, having a personal connection to something is when my views have changed most rapidly or when my eyes have been opened on an issue. So I'm aiming for more nonjudgmental face-to-face interactions outside of my "bubble," and I'd urge you to try the same. (Think: Gran Torino.)

These bridges will create light, just as gratitude will.

Turn to Gratitude

In times of trouble and fear, it's always reassuring to turn to gratitude.

I reminded myself that this was the result of an election in a Democracy where we have the right to free speech, not in a totalitarian regime.

I am not living in a war zone; I have not been forced to flee my country to spare my life. (Though this cannot be said for all in our country, as refugees live here.)

I have a comfortable roof over my head and a loving family. (This, too, cannot be said of all Americans. Yet another reason to take action.)

We have many people to thank, as Hilal demonstrates here:
And take a look at how today's youth voted. This is definitely something to be thankful for:
Also, there's this:
And have you seen the strides we did make from this election? Sara Benincasa so graciously reminded us on Tuesday night in "We Who Choose to Stay and Fight" that:
"In the history of the Senate, only two women of color have served. They were elected 20 years apart. 
Tonight Americans elected three women of color to the Senate in one night. 
Do not forget that tonight, on this sad and stressful night, the great state of Nevada elected Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, our nation’s first Latina senator. 
Tonight my own adopted home state of California elected Sen. Kamala Harris, who will be the first Indian-American and second African-American woman senator."
These are victories to be celebrated.

And then I focused on the fact that all of the people who did not vote for Trump are all still here and vocal. It's not like they've been rounded up and kissed by Death Eaters for goodness sake. Hillary Clinton is among us. Tim Kaine is still serving in the Senate. Michelle, Barack, and their daughters are here. And all of their supporters are among us. Even Pawnee's Leslie Knope is speaking up!

Those are the big names, but names like yours and mine are just as important. In the past month alone I've had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside bright forces like Laura, Marty, Genna, Hannah, and all of the tutors, learners, clients, and volunteers I've met thus far through my local volunteering in Waunakee. These wonderful people inspire me to give, and have shown through example that small actions have huge outcomes. Working together we can accomplish even more.

Plus, now we're all charged with anger.

Anger which can be channeled to fight even harder for the injustices in our country and world.

Kim Dinan closed her recent "Dark Days" post with these beautiful, strong words:
I will not run from this disgraceful moment in our history. Because this is my country too. Instead, I will stand in the blinding white hotness of my own pain and despair. I will never forget the way I feel right now. I will use this feeling in the days, weeks, months and years that follow. This feeling will fuel me as I fight for everything I believe in: Love, diversity, equality, inclusivity, reproductive rights, a healthy planet and freedom and justice for all. 
Friends, you will see me marching. You will hear my voice on the phone as I lobby for a world that supports and loves us all. You will find me on the streets. I will not be silenced and I will not stand for this. The fire that burns in my belly is growing ever stronger. Bring your fire. Meet me there.
Which brings me to my final point: the action.

Take Action

Now, more than ever, is the time to get involved in causes you care about and to speak up, however you can.

Check out what this NYC photographer is offering:
The ladies from the Letter Writers Alliance made and shared this free printable yesterday:

It's a great example of a single, simple kind action (making and sharing the printable) which will have a ripple effect of spreading love and funds to those in need.

Emma Watson left Maya Angelou books in the New York subway, another act of kindness that will have an exponential effect.
Remember, you probably won't hear about every positive action on your social media or on your local news. In fact, this is a great time to reevaluate where you get your news, what type of bias it has, how much time you spend there, and how it makes you feel. (If anyone's looking for a replacement, why not start reading Positive.News weekly, for example?)

Be aware of the fact that it's hate-filled stories like this one which will naturally stick out in our minds:
So for every one of those, let's create thousands more that are positive and full of love—to counter them. Make these interactions meaningful and the stories visible. I will be challenging myself to take more action, and to share more of the good stories going forward as well. (I'm seeing it weekly around town in our English Group classes with immigrants and at the WNC store, for example, but have yet to share that here!)

You don't have to fix every problem. Start small, but make it an action. If you—like me a month ago—haven't volunteered in a long while, take this as your sign. Find somewhere nearby whose mission you support, and volunteer an hour a week.

Now is also the perfect time to donate, an action that takes less than a minute. Why not give donations in the names of friends and family for Christmas gifts this year? Many of us have more than enough material things as it is. So save the planet and help a cause at the same time!

Here are some groups whose missions I support, but donate wherever it's meaningful for you.
If you're not sure what else is out there, here's A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support from Jezebel.

And that, my friends, is how I went from a pile of hopeless despair, sick in bed, to an optimist on the mend. By taking action, turning to gratitude, and building bridges, we can create a brighter tomorrow together.

Thank you.
• • •

Friday, November 4, 2016

Calligcast #7: I've Killed People and I Have Hostages

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: Reply All
Episode #15: I've Killed People and I Have Hostages

Blair Myhand is a police officer in the sleepy, 40,000 person town of Apex, NC. One night, he received an unusually disturbing phone call where a person claimed to be holding a woman hostage after murdering several people. Myhand assembled his team, and went to the house, but what they ended up finding was much more bizarre.
It's just a 20-minute podcast, so the length ended up being perfect for this single envelope. It was an interesting topic to say the least—crazy what people will do for entertainment/"fame," but I'd rather be aware than still in the dark about it.

• • •

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Calligcast #6: The New Norm

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: Invisibilia (Season 2)
Episode: 1 - The New Norm

From NPR:
You probably don't even notice them, but social norms determine so much of your behavior - how you dress, talk, eat and even what you allow yourself to feel. These norms are so entrenched we never imagine they can shift. But Alix Spiegel and new co-host, Hanna Rosin, examine two grand social experiments that attempt to do just that: teach McDonald's employees in Russia to smile, and workers on an oil rig how to cry.

Calligraphy notes: The paper I printed these worksheets on way back in April (before I knew that type of paper matters) was not a good choice. So the ink bleeds, but I'm using the sheets anyway. On the plus side, I'm finding my oblique pen easier to use than the straight pen!
• • •

[Book Recommendation] Tara Mohr's "Playing Big"

A week ago I finished reading Tara Mohr's "Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message" and I gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Luckily I wasn't scared off by the title, which isn't the best representation of what you'll find inside. The focus isn't on searching for your one life mission, but rather the book gives tons of specific, practical advice for "playing big"—how to deal with your doubts, how to gain freedom to say what you wish to say, and how to feel confident to make the changes you want to see—both in yourself and in the world, big and small.

• • •

Monday, October 31, 2016

Resolutions Checkpoint 2016: September & October

We've got two months lumped together again this time. So taking a look back at my focus points for September, here's what progress has been made on those in the past two months:

September & October Progress

1. French
  • (+) Read Harry Potter books #4 and #5 in French. — I finished both in September before leaving France!
• • •

Saturday, October 29, 2016

La Crosse Visit: Dark Radio Show, CommuniClaytion, and an Astronaut

With my feet well protected by rain boots, I caught a bus up to La Crosse on Wednesday (thanks to T.J.) to visit the younger brother for a few days. Grandma joined us there on Friday, as she and I both attended the Dark La Crosse Radio Show that night.

Artistic Inspiration

While Luke took a nap that afternoon, post-Indian buffet, I accompanied Grandma on her hunt for a very specific type of potato masher and "the perfect purse." (The hunt is still on.) On our way to an antique store to look for the masher, we popped into the La Crosse Gallery, where a few pieces caught my eye:

I liked the bright colors in both of these
• • •

Monday, October 17, 2016

Calligcast #5: How to get away with murder

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast] 

TV Show: "How to Get Away with Murder"
Season: 2

I somehow got started watching this show on Netflix since I've been back in the states (if you haven't seen it, don't start it—use the time for something else!), and have gotten hooked simply to see what happens.

So today's calligcast session was done while watching this TV show, not while listening to a podcast—but I wanted to log it anyways.

I just bought my very first oblique pen (seen below), so today I started on the Kaitlin Style workbook sheets (from The Postman's Knock).

• • •

Exhibit: Rebecca in Montpellier

Most known for her photograph "This is the first day of your final three days in Montpellier," Rebecca Thering spent a majority of her first French year (Oct. 2015 - Sept. 2016) living in or near Montpellier. This exhibit is a collection of artifacts from this time of her life.

Tinkerbell sculpture: Created by Rebecca in Rodez during a 3-hour beginner's session, this Tinkerbell sculpture was last seen in Montpellier (September 2016), hiding in shrubs along a footpath in the Las Rébès neighborhood.

Did the neighborhood kids find and destroy it, or is it still there hanging out with the chickens? We may never know.

Cover of the March 2016 issue of The Atlantic: Rebecca tore off this magazine cover and used it again and again to show new acquaintances where Wisconsin is located. You'll see two pen marks which point out Madison, WI and Chicago, IL. The magazine cover lived in her purse, folded into thirds.
• • •

Monday, September 26, 2016

Brotherus-inspired photograph on my third-to-last day in Montpellier

A week ago I went to check out the current exhibit at the Pavillon Populaire, a space in the center of Montpellier which always has a free photography exhibit of some sort (open to the public).

From June 29 to September 25 the exhibit was of Finish artist Elina Brotherus's photography and videos (works from 1997-2015). The displays there said that she's one of the most important photographers of her generation, but I don't really understand why.

When looking at some of the collections, such as "Annonciation," I could tell what they were supposed to represent. (That one's about her five years of unsuccessful infertility treatments, for example.)

There's another collection called "12 ans après" (12 years later), which has pictures taken in 1999—the first year she lived in France—and 12 years later, on a recent return visit:

Elina Brotherus
• • •

Friday, September 23, 2016

Calligcast #4: Los Frikis

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Podcast: Radiolab
Episode: Los Frikis

How a group of 80’s Cuban misfits found rock-and-roll and created a revolution within a revolution, going into exile without ever leaving home. In a collaboration with Radio Ambulante, reporter Luis Trelles bring us the story of punk rock’s arrival in Cuba and a small band of outsiders who sentenced themselves to death and set themselves free. 

Calligraphy notes: Since I leave Montpellier in less than a week, I've already packed away my TPK calligraphy course worksheets, so I wasn't working from any models.

I don't think this practice pad is the best paper (although it's labelled "calligraphy" practice paper), because I the tiniest bit of paper fibers are scraped off on my down strokes, and get stuck at the tip of the nib. Upstrokes are shaky and seem to get stuck on the paper.
• • •

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The joy of being an adult beginner

At our weekly Couchsurfing event on Tuesday, I mentioned that I’d gone to Parc du Peyrou the previous day to read and paint.

“Watercolors,” I clarified, “I just bought them a few weeks ago.”

“Are you good?” the Polish girl immediately asked me. 

“No! I just started — that would be crazy.”

After a few startled seconds, I saw the realization come to her face that my answer made sense logically. Most of us forget this, though — that beginners start at zero, and that adults can be beginners. There seems to be this belief in the adult world that if you do something, it must mean you’re good. Or the contrary: If you’re not good, you can’t say you do something.
• • •

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 2016: Final week in Rodez

Last Friday, the 9th, Pascal (my roommate) had friends over for a BBQ. Bem, my roommate for a month back in May (as he finished up the semester), was also able to come that night, so here's a picture of the three of us:

Then on Saturday I took a BlaBlaCar to Rodez in the evening. On Sunday we went biking in the afternoon with Seb and Vanessa:

Prior to and after biking (and during any other unaccounted for time the next couple of days) I read "Harry Potter et la coupe de feu," the fourth Harry Potter book, which is ~770 pages long.
• • •

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Calligcast #3: Britney

[Calligcast = Practicing calligraphy while listening to a podcast]

Episode: Case #2 — Britney
Podcast: Mystery Show

"The case: Andrea’s a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery."

I learned of this podcast episode from a monthly email I receive, called Snail Mail. Here was Kyra's blurb about it, from the newsletter:
Andrea Seigel wrote a book called "To Feel Stuff," which, she claims, was a total failure. But then she noticed a paparazzi snapped photo of Britney Spears holding none other than Andrea's book. Starlee Kine (of This American Life fame) goes on a journey - hilarious, sad and heartwarming in equal measure - to meet Britney Spears and find out why she was holding Andrea's little known book. This a stunning, unforgettable piece of audio that makes you want to be a better person. - Kyra

• • •

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Resolutions Checkpoint 2016: August

Taking a look at my focus points for August, here's what progress has been made during that time:

August Progress

1. French
  • (+) Finish reading "Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers" — I've now finished HP books 1-3!
  • (+) Watch two more films on Netflix. — Watched way more than two French films this month, including the first two Harry Potters after I finished each book. Maybe something like 7-8 movies total?
  • (  ) Copy down lyrics to two more songs. — Whoops.
  • (+) Analyze / learn lyrics / sing along — I did go through two of the songs whose lyrics I'd already copied into my notebook, picking apart structures and vocab: "La Marseillaise" and "Le jazz et la java"
• • •

Monday, August 29, 2016

Create > consume

I've identified several directions for my personal compass (act > think was the first one I wrote about here), and the one I'll highlight today is create > consume.

I've written several times about this topic; it first started seeping into my consciousness at the end of 2014 when I was making resolutions, and has come up again and again—most recently documented on the blog in April with my attempt to go a month without Twitter.
• • •

Monday, August 15, 2016

Calligcast #2: How to become Batman

Episode: How to become Batman
Podcast: Invisibilia

Tonight I listened to the third episode from "Invisibilia"'s first season, which is an awesome NPR podcast about the invisible forces that control human behavior (i.e. ideas, beliefs, assumptions, emotions).

The particular episode I listened to had to do with how others' expectations affect your ability, and featured a neat story about a blind man who can see.

Here's the episode description from the site:
In "How to Become Batman," Alix and Lulu examine the surprising effect that our expectations can have on the people around us. You'll hear how people's expectations can influence how well a rat runs a maze. Plus, the story of a man who is blind and says expectations have helped him see. Yes. See. This journey is not without skeptics.

• • •

[Life list] Riding Segways in Aveyron

Last week Saturday, I headed to Rodez for a visit and canoe outing planned with some Rodez friends that Sunday. When I got to Damien's, we were going to go pick up something to eat—but first he had to make a quick phone call. He was confirming the time for something, and I clearly heard the word "Segway."

What?! Then he said he had a surprise for the afternoon—but, you heard on the phone, right?

Yup, I heard, and boy was I excited.

It's been on my life list (and is now crossed off!) for some time to ride a Segway.

We drove about 40 minutes to Saint-Geniez d'Olt and rode Segways for an hour with the owner of Gyrofun12—Aveyron's first (and only, at this point) Segway tour company—and it was awesome! Completely surpassed any expectations.

• • •

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Action vs. thoughts: Getting hung up on what would make the greatest impact

One of the things I struggle with again and again is that my mind seems to always be so concerned with efficiency when I have an idea of something to do.

For example, after some blog reading yesterday, I'm pretty convinced that it would be really good for me to do a 100-day project. Meaning I want to do a 100-day project, but I haven't yet committed to a start date nor what I would do. I did calculate though, that if I start on September 23, 100 days will take me through to December 31. (Here I go again, thinking, thinking, not doing, doing.)

The "project" isn't about making one final product, but rather choosing one action to do every day for 100 days. It celebrates the process, making, and showing up every day.

And there are lots of cool options that I think would bring me closer to the person I want to be. Here are some quick, rough ideas:
  • Meditate 10 minutes
  • Write three morning pages
  • Write a quote in calligraphy; share
  • Create a piece of flash fiction in 10 minutes
  • Make something for English learners
  • Take a walk and take a picture
  • Make a 1-page handwritten -something- and share
  • Ask a certain question to a stranger
  • Create and send a postcard
  • Get rejected (rejection therapy)
  • 2 minutes of confident superman pose + reading affirmations
  • etc.
Plus a whole bunch of others I haven't come up with yet.

And then I get stuck. I wonder:

Which would be the best for me at this point in time?

Which will bring about the greatest results?

If I choose x, what will I be missing out on by not having picked y?

These ideas of "greatest" and "best" make me freeze.

I want to feel good about my choice, to know "yes, that's the one for me"—but there wasn't a single option that jumped out at me right away.

And even though I think all of these things would be beneficial, there's no way I could do all of them each day. I would never even consider that, though, because it goes against the very idea behind the project; it's just one thing, 100 days. I know this single focus is important—that choosing just one thing is a great way to make progress. So I do want to choose an action to do for 100 days.

Logically, I also know that my hesitations are completely ridiculous. I know that no matter which 100-day project I were to pick, if I actually stick to it and do it for 100 days, I will learn something and be a different person on the other side. No matter how small, and no matter which "thing" I choose, all will be well, and I highly doubt that I'd have any regrets about having done the project. In fact, I think I'll be very pleased and thankful that I'd stuck it out.

This is just a small example of this phenomenon. One hundred days is a decent chunk of time, but pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I'm usually thinking of this idea in the realm of:

How can I best use my skills to make the biggest positive impact in the world?

Man, over the past 8+ years this has been a constant question that reappears over and over in my thoughts. Now that I'm seeing it typed up here, it's pretty intimidating! No wonder it's always scared me away from taking any action. Instead, I usually sit back and consider things like:

Do I get certified to teach, and teach at a public school somewhere in the US?

Do I help English learners online?

Do I learn about prison systems and try to change America's for the better?

Do I try to improve the quality of public education in the states?

Do I help immigrants and refugees?

Do I inspire others to listen to their curiosities and to not let fear win, so they can go on to make positive changes as well?

Do I try to share the health benefits of a whole-food plant based diet, and the dangers of processed foods and industrial farms?

Do I teach students about foreign languages and cultures?

Do I volunteer through AmeriCorps?

Do I get more involved in the secular community, and fight for separation of church and state rights?

Etc. Etc.

I think, think, think about all the possibilities of what I could try to accomplish, but have never been able to answer my terrifying question (which is appearing more and more like the very wrong question to be asking myself).

And once again, logically I know that taking action towards any of these things will create way more of an impact than me simply thinking about them in my mind.

I don't have a solution yet to this personal conundrum, nor a specific strategy at this moment for working around this mind block (suggestions very welcome!), but it is on my personal compass to act > think as I soon embark on a new chapter of this life.

That equation, act > think, doesn't mean that one should always take action and never think; it's merely a reminder to myself to take more action rather than festering in thoughts.

As I added to my quotes book last year after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" (and I apologize, I'm pretty sure this is just a summary and not a direct quote—but I haven't been able to verify yet):
When you take action, you learn, you build skills, you get freer. When you stay still, your doubts fester. Everything is progress. 

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Sunday motorcycle ride through Aveyron

I have a couple of day-outings from the past two months that I have yet to write about here, one of which was a Sunday motorcycle ride through Aveyron with Damien back in July, the day of the Euro finals.

I think I mentioned that back in April, he bought a motorcycle. This was my first (and to date only) time riding with him. I met Damien's best friend's mother earlier in the week in Montpellier to pick up her son's helmet, jacket and gloves to borrow. So on this hot July day, we were both wearing jeans, riding jackets, gloves and helmets. Bring on the sweat!

We were mostly riding, rather than walking through and visiting, so that's why this will be so picture-heavy. So, leaving Rodez, our first quick stop was in Salles la Source, in front of this little waterfall:

Salles la Source

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