Friday, May 31, 2013

Monthly Scavenger Hunt May 2013

Here's my entry for May's scavenger hunt on flickr.  Some are photos from this month but most are from my archives!

MSH May 2013

May 2013 Scavenger Hunt
1. On A Clear Day (mine and everyone's)
2. Bye, Bye Birdie (mine and everyone's)
3. Wish You Were Here (mine and everyone's)
4. Old Man River (mine and everyone's)
5. The Best Things In Life Are Free (mine and everyone's)
6. Back to Before (mine and everyone's)
7. Everything’s Coming up Roses (mine and everyone's)
8. Defying Gravity (mine and everyone's)
9. The Egg (mine and everyone's)
10. Put On A Happy Face (mine and everyone's)
11. Somewhere That`s Green (mine and everyone's)
12. Dancing Through Life (mine and everyone's)
13. Hair (mine and everyone's)
14. Footloose (mine and everyone's)
15. Ya Got Trouble (mine and everyone's)
16. Classic (mine and everyone's)
17. Many hands make light work (mine and everyone's)
18. Travel (mine and everyone's)
19. Sugar and spice and everything nice (mine and everyone's)
20. Self Portrait (mine and everyone's)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jury Duty

I have been serving as an alternate juror for the past few days, but I'm done now so it's back to work tomorrow.  I did get to ride my bike to the courthouse each day, which was nice.  I took my time coming home today and captured some of the beautiful weather.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Week #21: The Sky

I am doing a weekly themed photo project on flickr. Here are my photos so far.

This week's theme was "the sky".  Obviously this is a wide open category with a lot of possibilities.  I have taken many amazing photos in the past of the sky with the sun rising or setting, but this week I was most amazed by the almost-full rising moon.  I took this shot is low light without a tripod, but it captures the dreamy effect of seeing the moon rise overhead while sitting by the campfire.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Camping at New Brighton State Beach

On Thursday night we took a quick trip down the street to New Brighton State Beach for a one-night campout.  Jason already had everything set up when I got there from work.

Campsite 108

This California State Park campground is generally in high demand because of the adjacent beach access.  We stayed in campsite 108, which is nice and roomy and feels private despite having few trees.  Low brush blocks your view of surrounding campers.  The site is near the end of a row with little drive by traffic and the bathroom is conveniently located across the street.  

We have camped in New Brighton many times, and it is always pleasant.  It was a nice evening with a big, almost full moon.  We stuck close to camp, built a fire, and enjoyed this quick trip to cook, eat, and sleep away from home for one night!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Week #20: Dyptich

I am doing a weekly themed photo project on flickr. Here are my photos so far.

This week was especially challenging because it was a collaboration. The theme was "dyptich" which is an image created by placing two different photos side-by-side, in this case created with another group member. To complete this challenge I had to find a partner who is also in the flickr group. Luckily the lovely eraggi agreed to partner with me. She lives in France, and after some email back and forth we decided to focus on the theme of "water".

I had a heck of a time with my part of the assignment.  My first trip out was a fail due to dead camera batteries, and then when I finally did get some shots my camera was somehow set to the lowest resolution.  Nonetheless, I think my photo is decent and the collaboration turned out great.  Last year, this is the week that took me out of the challenge for good.  I just didn't have it in me to find a partner.  So I am extremely proud of myself for completing this week's theme.

On the left side is eraggi's image, taken in Grenoble, France on the Isere River.  On the right is my image, of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz, California.

Week #20 Diptych with another  member

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Inspiration Points

Today's inspiration is about letting go.  There is so much in our lives that we simply cannot control.  I have spent many hours worrying both about what might happen in the future and about any ramifications for my past actions.  Both of these ways of thinking robbed me of the opportunity to be happy and present in the moment.  There are always changes on the horizon, but right now feels like a period of intense change for many people in my life, myself included.  We do not know what the future will be like, but we can be confident that when problems or challenges present themselves, the solution will become available and that is the right time to address issues. Otherwise, you're just making stuff up to worry about.  And that is where anxiety begins.  Don't waste another minute worrying about what you cannot control and what may never happen, anyway.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Inspiration Points

Two blog posts inspired me this week.

In this post, Leo Babuta of Zen Habits reminds us that, "we can feel happiness, in some form, any moment we like, even in the midst of stress or sadness" and that the key is to remember to smile and have a gracious attitude.

In her Monday inspiration, Tsh of Simple Mom offers this advice: "May you remember to not see your children, your daily work, or whatever you’re called to cultivate, as interruptions to your day. May you remember that they are your day."  She reminds us that the grass is greener not on the other side, in the future or in the past or in some other reality, but in the moment where we direct our energy and intentions.

So be present in the moment, and smile!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week #19: Contrast

I am doing a weekly themed photo project on flickr. Here are my photos so far.

This week's theme was contrast.  I snapped this cool shot of spiky plam tree shadows on a white canopy.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Resolutions: April Update and May Goals

This year, I am working on new resolutions each month and am using Gretchen Rubin's monthly resolution system to create and track behaviors that I hope will increase my overall happiness.

Note: This turned into quite a long post.  Scroll to the end for the short version :) .

Better DaysApril Update

Last month, my focus area for resolutions was health, and I developed two goals in this area.  One was becoming a licensed Zumba Instructor (which I did!) and the other was to lose an additional 10 pounds to have a healthy BMI (which I did not!).

I have been continuing to work on my Zumba practice.  I have choreographed two routines so far and am working on a third, and have gotten feedback from my mentors on my work so far.  Luckily and much to my relief my choreography is decent (yay!) so I am focusing on refining and sharpening my technique.  Much like becoming a high school teacher, the process of mastering Zumba to the level necessary to teach is slow and challenging and requires patience.  But it is an awesome journey nonetheless.  It is all the sweeter for me since this is a new kind of success; I have always done well in school and intellectual pursuits, but learning to love and use my physical body is a whole new thing.  

While I did not lose any weight this month, I have come to some strong and important realizations about weight and my body.  Many factors have led me to this decision: my own weight loss journey so far, my attempts to dive into and follow the "Beck" eating plan in April, my book club's April pick "Hungry" by plus-size model Crystal Renn, and my discovery of Geneen Roth's concept of natural or intuitive eating.

I have struggled to lose weight, be fit, and not overeat for most of my life.  I have come to the point where I can say that I have had a disordered relationship with food since at least middle school.  That is, I never really learned to eat to satisfy physical hunger, and instead developed habits where I used food for a lot of reasons, very few of which were to fuel and nourish my body: to satisfy boredom, to celebrate, to feel better, to calm down, to comfort myself.  

For at least the last 20 years, my weight and the size of my body in relation to others has pretty much been always on my mind.  I tried many things over the years to lose weight, sometimes trying to eat better and sometimes working on fitness alone.  In 2007, at age 30, I decided things had to change.  I was sick and tired of being fat.  My weight had climbed to its highest (250 lbs) and I was having health problems like allergies as a result.  Ever since then, I have been on a conscious journey to do whatever it takes to get healthy and stay that way.  Early on, I had success with Weight Watchers.  I also lost some weight simply tracking calories in, calories out using the free program Fitday.  Finally, I hit the home stretch with the assistance of the Beck Diet for Life book and the cognitive therapy it provided.

I see now that those cognitive therapy techniques were the necessary missing step to raise not just my awareness of what I was eating but to help me recognize my fundamental relationship to food, my deep beliefs about food, and the ways I used food in my life.  Over the course of a year I began to see that I was addicted in many ways to food and to using it to meet my emotional needs.  I changed many of my eating habits with the help of her program while simultaneously increasing my fitness level, and I reached my current weight of 175 lbs. just after becoming vegan about a year ago.

The reason I have lost weight and kept it off is a fundamental change in my relationship to food and to my body.  I have experienced a total mind-body transformation.  I am infinitely more conscious of my own behavior and motivations in many areas of my life yet still have infinite room to grow.  It is a pleasant and empowering feeling, and the source of much of my happiness.  I am increasingly in control of my habits and therefore my health.

So when I started this month with the goal of losing the additional 10 pounds, dropping to 165, and being "fitter" I was pretty confident that I could do it.  I would just use the Back plan again, follow it religiously, weigh and track every bite of food, and lose the max healthy 2 pounds a week.  In five weeks I would accomplish what had eluded me for over a year... my goal weight!  Amazingly, even after two decades of this kind of unrealistic setting of goals,  I really expected it to be that easy.

In truth, it is never that easy, because it is not really about the food tracking program.  It is about listening to your body and not eating when you are not hungry.  For those of us with disordered eating habits, it really is that simple and that complicated at the same time.  Because the problem is that stopping when I am full is exceedingly difficult for me.  I may even know that I am eating something as comfort instead of nourishment  want to stop, and not be able to stop (Hello popchips! You are too delicious and crunchy!).  It is an addiction like any other.  

As I began to read Dr. Beck's book again, I realized that I did not have the interest to commit to the steps and tracking tools she recommends for weight loss.  I am past that point in my journey now.  After weighing myself daily and tracking my weight for a month I was amazed.  I lost exactly zero pounds.  I was 175 the day I started and 175 the day I ended.  I looked up my weight logs for last year (Every chronic dieter has weight logs.  Mine go back to 5/7/2003.  I was 220 pounds that day) and found that I was... 175 pounds.

Well, that certainly gave me pause.  No matter what I had done for over a year, focusing on my weight or not, it had stayed the same.  Sure, I fluctuated between 171 and 181, but that is pretty normal.  It averaged out at the end.  

As I was pondering the implications of this discovery, I read Jess Lively's post about intentions and change, and was prompted to go back and read her weight loss story, which she sums up as "firing my ego from controlling my eating".  Jess freed herself from the cycle of dieting by following an approach called "natural eating".  She mentioned two authors but the first one I checked out, Geneen Roth, recommends eating guidelines that clicked for me right away.

Yes, Roth is an Oprah person.  She wrote a book with a cheesy title that I would never have picked up on my own.  But her ideas resonate with me at this point in my journey. When I found this interview with Roth and John Robbins, I knew I was onto something.  John Robbins' book The Food Revolution was one of the first books I read as I began to raise my awareness about food back in 2007, and my first real education about food production and vegan and vegetarian diets.

As listened to the interview on the way home Thursday, I understood what the next phase of my "weight loss" journey will be.  I am going to stop trying to lose weight.  I am happy with my weight now.  I really am. I am not happy with my eating habits, however.  I know I sometimes eat too much and want to stop.   for me, that is a mental health issue more than a weight issue.  I simply want to continue to increase my consciousness around food and eating.  I do not want to track, weigh, and measure anymore.  Or ever again, really.  And I don't think I need to, because for over a year, regardless of my actions, my weight has remained stable.  I don't need to obsess over weight anymore or compare my body size to anyone else, ever again.  I need to tell myself and believe that I have reached that goal.  I lost the weight.  I am not fat anymore.  If I stop thinking about my weight, that does not mean that I will automatically get fat again.

This is a hugely freeing decision, but I know it will take continued practice to trust my body instead of my mind when it comes to eating.  Eating when I am not hungry is such an established habit, as is worrying about my weight.  I think that this is more of a way of life than a goal, so I don't think there's an end to it.  I will just grow more aware of my actions and how they impact myself and the planet as I continue down the endless path toward enlightenment.

in my yardMay Goals

This month's focus is on dreams.  I have been thinking for a couple weeks, trying to decide on a resolution or two in this area.  My first thought was to keep a dream journal, but I have tried that before and my dreams are too vivid and expansive to capture when I first awaken.  I feel like I could write for 30 minutes about what I just dreamed.  That, or I don't remember my dreams at all.  

I also thought about focusing on sleep, but I already do that.  Sleep is important to me and I take steps to make sure I get enough of it.  Most nights I'm in bed by 8:30.

I have decided that all of the resolutions I have been working on so far this year are my dreams.  I dream of happiness.  And everything I have been working on this year is moving me in that direction.

So for May I'm going to just keep working on all the threads I have started since January 2013:
  • taking care of myself
  • fostering deeper relationships with my loved ones
  • transitioning to my new job, which starts in August
  • practicing conscious eating habits
Next month, I will return to setting goals with a focus on home.  With the beginning of my summer vacation from work, I can turn my attention to developing and making a routine many of the chores that I have led slide over the year.

Short version: In April my focus was on health.  I became a Zumba instructor and tried to lose 10 pounds.  I'm currently working on my Zumba skills and have choreographed a few routines.  I didn't lose any weight last month, however.  In fact my weight has been stable of over a year.  In the future, instead of focusing on weight loss, I'm going to focus on natural eating: eating when I am hungry and not eating when I'm, well, not hungry.  For May, I'm not setting any new goals, just continuing to work on the habits I have developed since January.  In June, I will set goals in the area of home.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Inspiration Points

A little kindness goes a long way.  Most of the time, we have no way of knowing how a smile, a kind word, or an optimistic attitude may positively impact others.  Sometimes we are lucky to have someone tell us that we have made their day, but generally we must just have faith that our positive energy will help boost the mood of someone who we encounter as we move through our everyday activities.  Stay positive... it's contagious!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Week #18: Love

I am doing a weekly themed photo project on flickr. Here are my photos so far.

This week's theme was "love".  Obviously, this face embodies love to me.  Like many people with pets I value the unconditional love my dog brings to my life.  Even though Tiki is 8 years old now, and getting quite grey in the face, she still acts and plays like a puppy.  Never a dull moment with her around!

Tiki <3

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Project 333 Update: Week 6

I have been conducting a minimalist fashion experiment called Project 333.  This is an update on Phase 2: April-June.

Let me just start out by thanking Courtney, the founder of Project 333, for linking to my blog!  It is exciting to be able to share my experience and story with a larger audience.

Nearly 6 weeks into the second phase of Project 333, one of the biggest challenges has been the weather.  I live in coastal central California where, much like Debbie who is doing her own Project 333 down in San Diego, spring and summer bring cool, foggy mornings and evenings.  I think she calls it the "June gloom" which is pretty accurate.  I work, however, 70 miles inland from my house where temperatures reach the low 90s at this time of year.  Sleeveless garments are fairly useless in my home climate, but necessary to survive in the town where I work.  So finding the right balance between sweaters and tank tops has been a challenge.

I have also been reading the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline.  Her book focuses on the hidden social and environmental cost of the cheap, stylish clothing that can be found at places like H&M and Zara.  I already consider myself to be a conscious consumer, but Cline's book has really opened my eyes to the true impact of buying cheap and cheaply made clothes.  Her work and research foreshadows the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh, detailing many of the ways cheap labor is exploited in developing third world countries.

I am only halfway through the book, but it has already changed how I approach shopping for clothes.  Last week, one of the shirts I had purchased in for the project in April had a terrible accident involving myself and a chocolate bar.  Let's just say it did not survive the cleanup effort.  And add that I should not be eating chocolate while driving.  The shirt, a coral short sleeved tee, is a staple in my 33 items and I wear it weekly, so I knew I had to replace it.  As I looked from store to store for an ethical, good quality, affordable replacement garment I grew more and more frustrated.  Either there was nothing in my size, or the color was wrong, or the garment wasn't ethically produced.  Eventually I just went online and bought a significantly more expensive shirt than the original one, but I got exactly what I wanted.  I scoured shops in town for 3 hours.  I was online for 5 minutes.  I'm not sure what this experience means for me in the long run except that I suspect I may be ordering a lot more clothes online rather than waste my time wandering around stores that don't offer the product I want (and plenty of tempting eye candy that I don't want).  I also am willing to pay more for a quality item than to compromise on a mediocre garment, which was not true for me in the past.

Here's the list that shows my process of deciding what to keep:
  • Items in bold are ones that I kept in my wardrobe from the first phase (January-March).
  • Items that were removed after the project started are crossed out, the reason noted, and the replacement item written in.  
  • I have added an asterisk (*) next to those items that were purchased new during this phase, as opposed to taken from my off-season storage box.
  1. purse
  2. sunglasses
  3. coral chandelier earrings broke (silver hoop earrings)
  4. grey sheath dress not comfortable for spring, save for fall (skull earrings*)
  5. silver filigree hoop earrings too heavy (turquoise and coral hoop earrings*)
  6. abalone necklace
  7. sun hat
  8. turquoise scarf
  9. floral scarf
  10. paper bead necklace pretty, but uncomfortable to wear (blue zip-up hooded sweatshirt*)
  11. Levi's
  12. skinny blue jeans
  13. tan cords
  14. black long skirt*
  15. dk blue denim skirt
  16. denim jacket  too tight across the shoulders (striped tank top*)
  17. green ss tee*
  18. coral ss tee*
  19. lt grey ss tee*
  20. tan ss tee
  21. tan white stripe loose knit sweater*
  22. tan / multi loose knit sweater
  23. tan wool long sweater*
  24. tan cotton cardigan
  25. coral cardigan need different type of sweater (coral crop sweater*)
  26. navy cardigan
  27. navy white scallop dress fabric doesn't wear well (Sessions jacket)
  28. black dress*
  29. denim tank dress
  30. grey Converse  worn out (light blue Converse)
  31. cork mary jane shoes
  32. black sandals
  33. black flip-flops
Thanks for taking the time to read my update.  I hope to post again in a few weeks and report on how my choices are serving me as we head into summer!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Inspiration Points

This week I have been working on anger management with some of my students, particularly the skill of communicating assertively instead of resorting to verbal or physical aggression.  On the most basic level, I'm trying to convey the concept that you can't strongarm others into acting the way you want them to.  You can't control other people at all, in fact.  You can only control your own reaction to the behavior of others.  Just be the change you want to see in humanity and your actions will have much greater impact than your fists.   This is a hard concept for a 14 year old seething with rage to process, but I know this is a message that will be considered by my students for years to come.  Just yesterday two of my students said right back to me two things I often tell them about their own behavior: "feeling are a choice"" and "fake it 'till you make it", two quick sound bites I use to convey the idea that our actions lead to our feelings, not the other way around.  Whether they are able to practice these skills in the moment or not, at least they are internalizing the message that they are in control of their own happiness.