Saturday, June 29, 2013

Project 333 Update: Week 12

I have been participating in a minimalist fashion experiment called Project 333. This is an update at the end of Phase 2 (April-June) and Beginning of Phase 3 (July-September).

Phase 2: Reflections
It is time once again to change my 33 items for another season, and prepare a wardrobe for the next 3 month phase: July, August and September.  At this point, I have successfully followed Project 333 for 1 ½ phases, or 18 weeks.  It has been a huge learning process for me and I have developed a completely different attitude toward the purpose of clothing in my life. 

My Phase 2 April-June list and a larger photo of my wardrobe items can be seen here.  I only made one additional change since my last post: my sun hat had a short brim and no SPF protection, so I swapped it more a more effective wide-brimmed model.  For the most part, much like in Phase 1, I was able to find clothing suitable for every occasion from staff meetings and awards nights to book clubs and baby showers.  Overall I’ve come to realize that a small number of quality items can create a versatile and simple wardrobe.

Phase 3: Looking Ahead
In the next phase, I have six weeks of vacation, followed by the first six weeks of a new job.  The first six weeks will be full of casual days at home and outdoors, while the last six weeks will require a more polished professional wardrobe.  Over the course of doing Project 333, I have learned that the demands of my weekend/casual wardrobe are different from my work wardrobe.  While both are casual, my work clothes are of a better quality that I want to preserve and protect.

As I started to decide what items to include in the next phase, I felt overwhelmed by having to limit my choices to 33 things that would be work-appropriate yet could withstand the rigor of my active vacation and weekend lifestyle.  I decided that if I wanted this project to continue to be a source of growth rather than a source of stress, I would need to change the rules of the game. 

Over the past four months I have learned to identify clothing that I love and that I actually wear.  I have come to better understand what clothes suit my lifestyle.  This has enabled me to see how the basic guidelines of project 333 can be modified to better meet the needs and demands of my life.  Here are the basic guidelines for Project 333, with my modifications for the next phase:

  • When: Every three months 
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
    • I expanded this number to 58 items in two categories: 33 “work worthy” items and 25 “weekend wear” items.
    • “work worthy” are basically my nicer professional clothes
    • “weekend wear” are more versatile items that can meet the demands of housework, gardening, errands, biking, walks, on the beach, etc.
    • Many “work worthy” items can also be “weekend wear” depending on what I have planned, but all “weekend wear” is too casual for work.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
    • I’m including my sunglasses in the same group as my watch, ring, and earrings I never take off.  I only have one, functional and stylish pair that I love and wear everywhere.
    • I’m changing the category of “in-home lounge wear” to “weekend wear” and limiting it to 25 items.
    • I’m not counting “all-weather gear”: my 2 rain jackets and rain pants.
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of site.
    • I’m adding the guideline that the boxed up items can be off-season only… all fall / winter or all spring / summer.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.
    • When the “work worthy” clothes in my wardrobe wear out, they will become “weekend wear”
    • When I buy new clothes they should be “work worthy”
    • New clothes should be as locally and ethically produced as possible, or secondhand.
Over the past few days I’ve been thinking of what new things I might need to add to my wardrobe and planned to go shopping.  But when I opened my box of stored clothes I had so much cute summer stuff that I realized I have plenty of clothes right now.  I only need two or three new things, not the six or seven I had imagined.  In the past, with a new job on the horizon, I would certainly have used the occasion to go shopping for a whole new wardrobe.  It is a sobering realization that what I already have is, indeed, good enough.

In the next few weeks I will post a list and photos of the items I have selected for the next three months.  As always thanks for reading and I hope you have found some inspiration for your own projects in happiness and simplicity.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Midday Ride

Yesterday the sun came out for the first time in a few days.  I rode my bike around town in the afternoon, enjoying the weather.

Clockwise from top left: A trio of roosting cormorants; crab pots; a black-crowned night heron; a crazy decorated convertible art car; and paddleboards, a fishing boat, and kayaks in in the harbor.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Inspiration Points

This week, I am reminded to stop and smell the flowers.  As each "free" day of vacation passes, it is hard not to mentally check things off an endless list of summer projects.  Decluttering, cleaning, organizing, writing; all of these tasks are important and can be enjoyable and fun.  But sometimes I get caught up in how much I can get done, instead of how much I can enjoy living life.  This week, remember to enjoy the moment!
"Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing." -Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Monday, June 24, 2013

Week # 25: Working

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

This week I forgot to take a themed picture.  Being "on vacation" sometimes makes it hard to keep track of the days of the week, and the Sunday deadline passed before I realized it.  So this morning I looked back over my photos from this week to find one that fit the theme of "working".  Since I'm on vacation, and the photos from this week are from camping, there was not a lot of work being done!  

I did, however, catch this shot of shorebirds off Seacliff SB diving for fish in a huge bait ball.  I imagine these birds are working hard for every calorie.  I edited the photo into black and white because I think it has a less literal, more abstract quality this way.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camping at New Brighton State Beach

This week Jason and I went down to New Brighton State Beach campground, this time for a two night stay. We were there for one night back at the end of May.  Even though it is only 10 minutes from our house, it is an awesome place to camp.  We don't have to tow the trailer very far, and if we forget anything we can just run back to the house!  But it is still a vacation away from home and therefore a break from routine and daily expectations.

This time we got reservations on short notice (just 2 weeks ago) so I had to take the only site available in the park, space 56, which is a trailer only site.  We used to have an old Coleman Redwood popup, but we traded up last year for a 2003 Coleman Yuma, which is larger and in much better shape.  This space has an electrical and water hookup for trailers and RV's, and we did use the electrical but not the water.   There is a bathroom with coin showers right across from the site.

The fire pit and bench are not very private but there is ample space between the seating and fire areas and we had decent neighbors.  As you can see from the photos, the site goes straight back from the parking pad, and if you look left or right you can see the neighboring campsites.  There is minimal shade in the middle of the day, but in the morning the parking pas was shady and by late afternoon the fire pit area is shaded.  Our trailer has an awning and we used that as well.

The good thing about this spot is that it is relatively close to the back access, which is a long downhill trail with stairs.  The descent allows for some great views of the coast, from Seacliff to Pleasure Point.  It was hot  (by Santa Cruz standards, anyway) so we swam in the ocean both days.  

We won't be back to New Brighton probably this summer, but have three nights at the end of July booked at Sunset State Beach, about 20 minutes south.  Another one of our favorite sites that is conveniently close to home!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Inspiration Points

This week, I was scared.  In fact, I experienced more visceral terror than I have in a long time... perhaps not since I rode the Sky Jump on the Stratosphere in Vegas over a decade ago!

But, I also took my first baby steps toward conquering this fear.  Crying, screaming, protesting, terrified baby steps into the Pacific Ocean.  I paddled my surfboard out for the first time.  I got suited up, went right to the edge of the water, looked out at the powerful ocean and cried, "I can't do this!"  My wonderful husband Jason, who believes that I can indeed to this, took my hand and led me out into the water.  I literally just paddled out past the break and right back in again (under 10 minutes total), but that is a huge step for me because I am scared of being out in the ocean.  It is an irrational fear; in fact I could have stood up in the water pretty much the entire time I was out there so it would have been very hard to get seriously injured, but the mental struggle is huge.  I will try again next week.  Right now, going in the water is about having a better relationship with the ocean more than it is about learning to surf, but that is the ultimate goal.  With one of the best surf spots in the world in my backyard, I want to be able to play, too!

I've never done this before!!!

And that's not the only scary thing I did this week!  last night I also taught my first self-choreographed zumba routine!  I was not as scared about this as I was excited and a bit nervous.  It went well, I didn't forget the routine and many people told me it was a fun one!

Each time I step out of my comfort zone I realize that facing my fear and doing it anyway is crucial to reaching my dreams.  Of course, some fear is healthy and necessary so we don't die.  You know, the kind of warning fear that characters in the movies should actually heed instead of heading into a dark basement when an axe murderer is on the loose.  But that's different.  I can't let fear hold me back when everyone is telling me I can do it, and it is only my own doubts that keep me from moving forward.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Week #24: Macro

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

This week the theme was "macro" or "close-up". On the last day of school  this year, one of my students gave me this amazing bouquet of rainbow dyed roses.  I've never encountered dyed flowers quite as bright or colorful as these (usually I see only simply colored carnations), and I knew they would be the perfect subject for a close-up shot.

Rainbow Rose

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2013 Resolutions: May Update and June 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.

Ladybug MacroMay Update

Last month, my focus area was "Dreams".  Since it is difficult to set concrete resolutions in this area, I chose to continue to work on the goals and intentions I had initiated earlier in the year.  Here is a little reflection in each area:
  • Taking care of myself (Jan): I am undoubtedly taking better care of myself.  I continue to keep to morning and evening routines and I have a much lower level of stress overall than I did even a year ago, and considerably less stress than two or more years ago.
  • Fostering deeper relationships with my loved ones (Feb): I have spent more quality time with family and friends and continue to make plans.  Jason and I have kept up the good communication habits we started in February and it has resulted in less arguments and conflict overall.
  • Transitioning to my new job, which starts in August (Mar):  This has been one of the toughest changes, but also one with a lot of potential reward.  I was able to find closure at my old site and pack up and move my stuff out of my old classroom, which is the first major step in the physical movement from one job to another.
  • Practicing conscious eating habits (Apr): I continue to struggle in this area.  I am committed to being more conscious of not just what I eat but more importantly how much I eat - portion control.  I still have a tendency to say "I can just eat whatever, whenever!  Woo hoo!".  This is of course not true, even if everything I eat is vegan and gluten-free.  
Overall, I came to recognize last month that I want to continue to simplify my life and have systems and routines that reflect my intentions and help me spend my time and energy in a positive way.

I am also still working  to let go of perfection and of doing everything right.  It is very easy for me to see what I haven't yet achieved instead of recognizing the amazing things I have accomplished.  This is an ongoing struggle for me and one that keeps me from trying a lot of new things.

In taking time to focus on those intentions I have for my life, I am forced to realize that growth is imperfect and I can't just set goals and then check them off a list as complete.  I have to make slow progress, and sometimes fall back into old habits, but I can't give up on the intention of having a happier life.  I'm not going to be able to do everything right the first time and need to let go of the expectation that I should or will.

Clean DishesJune Goals

For June my focus area is "Home" and I have two goals in this area: to stick to a system of keeping the house clean and uncluttered, and to keep better track of how we spend our money.

I am not a naturally gifted housekeeper.  I have the ability to step over a mess on the floor or ignore dirty dishes in the sink for way longer than is necessary or appropriate.  I just never learned how to get organized to keep a house clean.

When I stumbled across The Flylady's cleaning system about 5 years ago, everything suddenly began to click.  Flylady recommends developing daily and weekly routines to tackle basic chores (like dishes, laundry, and vacuuming the floors), and dividing the house into zones with 1-2 rooms per zone to tackle larger cleaning projects (like wiping down kitchen cabinets or vacuuming the sofa).  There are 5 zones, so your whole house is pretty much cleaned in a 5 week cycle.

Like any habits, doing chores takes practice and commitment.  As I said, it does not naturally occur to me to do these things so I have to have a system to help me get stuff done.  Over the past five years I feel I have learned how to keep the house clean.  Now, it is just a matter of prioritizing my time so that necessary tasks get done.  Things like doing the dishes each night are still hard for me, just because I never developed the habit.  So this month, I am simply focusing on following the system I have developed to keep the house clean, with the goal of making these steps habits so that they become more subconscious behavior for me.

While I want chores to become second nature, I do not want to continue to have the same attitude toward spending money.  Money is really not all that important to me and not something that I highly value (hence my choice of occupation) so it is hard for me to pay attention to how it is used and spent.  It's just not that interesting to me.

A recent book I picked up by John Robbins, The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less, has really inspired me to take a closer look at our spending habits in relation to our quality of life.  This is something that has been on my mind for a while, since it is a common theme of many of the books and blogs I read about happiness and simple living.  But until now I have been hesitant to do the difficult work of really looking at how we spend our money and what that means about our priorities.  Only after we become aware of where our money is going, can we begin to align our spending habits with our priorities.  So this month, I am simply focusing on keeping track of where every dollar comes from and goes, with the intention of getting a clear picture of our overall spending habits.

Both of these goals, I hope, will help to create a happier and more harmonious home.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Aptos Women's Five-Miler

For months now, my friend Erin and I have been running about 4 miles every weekend.  Last sunday, we ran our first race together!  The Aptos Women's Five-Miler has been an annual event for over thirty years, although this is the first time I've run it.  This definitely a girl-power event, with an all-women field and sister and mother-daughter team entries available.  The course begins in Aptos Village Park and goes straight up the fire road just past the steel bridge, and then returns back on the fire road with a detour to the left on the Buggy trail.  It was a super fun, smooth run and I had a great time with my friend by my side.  I have run several races, but this was the first one with a partner, and it made the whole experience more fun and rewarding than going it alone.  We finished right in the middle of our age group which is very respectable considering our abilities and experience!  Next up for this dynamic duo: The 10K Wharf to Wharf in July.

Before the race

Finishing strong!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Inspiration Points

As I end one school year and begin a period of rest and relaxation, it is easy to feel lost without a routine or system to get things done.  Summer vacation, while completely awesome, can also be somewhat overwhelming.  A terrible problem to have, I know.  But so many teachers have grand plans for what they will accomplish over the summer, only to begin another year feeling behind and overwhelmed before they even enter the classroom in the fall.  It can be very difficult to transition from a highly structured, routine-filled day to no plans and no structure.  There is so much to do, where to start?  This summer I feel more anchored in routines that don't change (doing the dishes at night, making the bed in the morning) and have less anxiety about spending my time the "right" way these next two months.  One thing I do know is that I will need to establish new, simple routines in order to have time to tackle the larger things I want to accomplish.  I have a new clarity about what I want to prioritize and where I want to focus my time and energy.  I'll write more about this soon in my upcoming May update and June resolutions post.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Week #23: High Key

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

This week, the theme was "High Key" which is a technical term for photographs that tend to be overexposed  and have overall bright tones and no shadows.  The effect is achieved by the correct combination of camera settings and lighting.  I was lucky to be able to light this shot with a natural source through a window,  although I did have to stage the shot with a piece of blank white paper placed behind the subject.

This vintage piggy bank is a special item that belonged to my grandparents.  On the top it says "For my trip to Las Vegas", except my grandmother put a piece of tape over "my" and replaced it with "our".  Considering that my father had four brothers, I'm sure that this was a planned family trip and not a romantic getaway!  This bank sat in my grandparents' living room for as long as I can remember, and it is one of a few inherited things by which I now remember them.

For "Our" Trip to Las Vegas

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Inspiration Points

These are the last few days of school for the year, and everyone is anxious for it to be over.  It is bittersweet for me, since I have been teaching at my current site for 8 years and I will be transitioning to a brand new job in the fall.   I will miss my students terribly and of course I worry about them.
As I was leaving work yesterday, lugging 8 years worth of teacher-hoarding to my car, I heard a baby bird in the tree outside our classroom.  I stopped and looked up to see a mama bird teaching her little one to make its first flights from the nest.  How appropriate, huh?  It seems like nature is telling me that there is a season for everything, and right now is the season for change in my life and the lives of my students.  I have to be patient and have faith that everything will turn out the way it should -- it's not something I can control.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week #22: Bird's Eye View

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

This week's theme was "Bird's Eye View" or looking down on a subject from above.  On my way home from the courthouse last week I was watching ducks in the San Lorenzo River under the pedestrian footbridge.  It was really bright outside, hence the sparkling water effect.  This is a bird's eye view of a bird using its bird's eye view!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunny Stanford

Yesterday I traveled up to Palo Alto to attend the 6th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Update at Stanford University.  This conference includes many of the scientists and researchers who are on the cutting edge in autism research, and the purpose of the update is to let the autism community know where researchers are in terms of developing treatments and interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  I work primarily with students who have emotional disabilities and/or autism, so I try to keep up with the most current recommended practice in the field.

One of the more interesting sessions was about the DSM-5 (which is a revised version of the diagnostic manual used to identify mental disorders) because with the newest release (last month!) the subcategories of autism which include Asperger's syndrome and PDD-NOS are no longer separate diagnosis but have been included in the larger umbrella designation of "Autism Spectrum Disorder".  There has also been a new and very controversial separate diagnosis of  "Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder" added to the manual, which is not considered autism but a communication disorder.  Many, many parents and patients are anxious about what these changes will mean for insurance coverage and services.  The experts at Stanford were optimistic but the truth is, only time will tell.  I should add that the medical and educational qualifying criteria for autism are different, so IEP-driven services (which are based on the student's areas of need, not their disability) should not change.  The main concern I heard is from parents and service providers who rely on health insurance or agencies such as a Regional Center for services.  Advocacy, as always, will remain the most crucial intervention for any individual with special needs.

Another session focused on transitioning to postsecondary living, which is basically life after high school.  National data was presented on what individuals with autism are doing after leaving high school, and the results are distressing. The data is interesting, and included students with disabilities other than autism. It can be found at the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 website.  Basically there is a big drop-off of services and corresponding growth after students leave the public school system.  Researchers believe that we need to be focusing on the transition to adulthood at a  much earlier age, and we need to be providing ample opportunities for students to practice real-life skills outside of the classroom as much as possible.  The challenge is, of course, balancing academic demands and the need to directly teach and practice social and independent living skills.  It is a puzzle that no one has yet put together, but as more data is collected, more policy makers will see the need for programs to support transitioning to adulthood and hopefully that is when funds will be made available.  Researchers project that this change will happen within the next 10 years.

We have learned a great deal in the past decade about how to help teens and young adults with autism.  Unfortunately, the public school system is not particularly innovative and it often takes a great deal of work to make creative and effective programming work at a large comprehensive high school.  In large part, that is  the challenge of my profession as a SPED teacher in public education.  I left feeling positive that my philosophies and practices align with those of the leaders in the field, but concerned that we are not keeping pace with the needs of our adolescent population with ASD.

Between sessions, I walked around the gorgeous Stanford campus.  It was a scorching, crystal clear 95 degrees.  The majestic old buildings gleamed among carefully curated gardens shining like precious gems.  I also had a chance to pop into the art museum and some sculpture gardens.  Full size versions of my photos can be seen on flickr.