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.

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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.
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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.        
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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...
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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.
• • •