sarahmichigan: (fitness)
Remind myself that it's not selfish to make time to exercise, and things that need to get done will get done, even if I spend an hour on "frivolous" things like exercise.

July 4

Jul. 6th, 2010 10:18 am
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I was in the UP for my 20th HS reunion over July 4 weekend. Weather was great, we had a hotel room that looked out over Bay de Noc, got to catch up with old friends and see some family. Good time!

At the reunion, though, it reminded me that there always has to be That One Guy. It can be That One Woman, but usually, it's that one guy. You know: the one who takes it too far, gets too drunk, hits on people a little too obviously. Yeah, we had one of those guys.

If you can help it, don't be That Guy!
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I mentioned frugality as a value when I was talking to a friend recently, and it reminded me of the fact that while there's a lot of info out there about how to be frugal, there's not as much about why. Sure, there are some bloggers out there who discuss the "why"of it, but that info is buried under mountains of info about how to coupon, save money, etc.

For me, the answer to, "Why do you value frugality?" is simple: Debt is slavery. And, related: Stuff is slavery.

I value freedom, and therefore, I value frugality.

For some people, I think frugality is an end in and of itself. Because of some religious or ethical principals, they believe in keeping finances tight, no impulse buying, saving as much as possible, etc.

For me, frugality is not the end but a means to an end. I'm very frugal (not cheap- there's a difference) on things that I don't care about so that I have the money to splurge on things I DO care about.

So, I don't buy books, I get them from the library. I have a lot of used furniture that was picked up from a curb or gotten cheaply at a rummage sale. I buy many of my clothes from thrift shops. I try to cook at home as much as possible and feel guilty if I eat out or order food in two days in a row.

You might see some of my other decisions and wonder if I'm really frugal. For instance, we have a projector and a big screen. I pay pretty big money for bras and some athletic clothing. I purchased a $300 bike (on sale) from a high-end bike store instead of a $90 Huffy.

This is the whole "means to an end" thing. I save on things I don't care about (I'll take the store brand facial tissues, thanks!) so that I have money to spend on things I do care about (good quality bras from Lane Bryant, thanks!).

I also am frugal because the more debt you have, the more enslaved you are. You can get tied down to jobs, to locations, to relationships you despise because you don't have the money to make the changes you want. When you're debt-free, or nearly so, you have more options. You can leave the bastard who's abusing you because you have a nest egg to start over. You can leave the high-paying job you hate and try that home business you've been thinking about if you're not drowning in debt.

Also, more things make you more enslaved. You must work to get stuff, and then you have to work to buy stuff to store your stuff. And if you've really accumulated a lot of stuff, you can't travel unless you pay to have someone watch your stuff while you're gone. You can't quit your job, because you still have five years of payments until you own "your" stuff outright. And so on.

One person that I think does a good job of articulating some of the "whys" behind frugality is Trent from The Simple Dollar blog. If you aren't already reading him, I think you'd find his "Road to Financial Armageddon" posts pretty interesting. He talks about how he got to the point that, even with a good salary, he was stuck in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. He also explains some of his thinking behind why he wanted to get out of debt and why he embarked on a more frugal lifestyle.

One of the biggest barriers to adopting frugality, I think, is this sense that, "I've been scrimping and saving all along. Now that I'm making more money, I deserve to splurge on whatever I want." I understand that mindset, and we did some of that after we got our first professional jobs and didn't have to live like students any more. But quickly, we returned to a mostly frugal lifestyle because we realized that sense of entitlement - "I deserve to have nice things" - is really a trap. After your basic needs are met, stuff usually doesn't make your quality of life better- it just limits your options.

Also, along the same lines, [livejournal.com profile] popfiend just posted a great link over the weekend:

25 Inspiring Blogs To Help You Sell Your Crap, Pay Off Your Debt, and Do What You Love…

Unpacking

Feb. 23rd, 2010 10:48 am
sarahmichigan: (Default)
So, I'm feeling rather ashamed of myself that I've just now sort of unpacked and examined a stereotype/prejudice I didn't really consciously realize I had: that gay men are apolitical.

Lesbians? Sure, I expect them to be politically active.

But, come on, Sarah, there were gay men at Stonewall, and you don't get too much more political than that!

I think it comes from the fact that most - though certainly not ALL - of the gay men I've known personally have been apolitical, some to the point of apathy and/or intentional ignorance. But there are plenty of examples of gay men who are making things happen in the area of GLBT rights but also anti-racism and other social justice issues.

And by "political," I don't necessarily mean going to protest marches or organizing boycotts, ala Harvey Milk. You can have a political consciousness and not do marches; you can influence people just by the way you choose to live and the causes you choose to support with your money or by leveraging your fame.

Most recently, I've been respecting the hell out of gay men who were out and/or active pre-Stonewall. Two examples: Christopher Isherwood and Quentin Crisp.

I just finished Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" and reading up on him on Wikipedia. Definitely not apolitical.

And Quentin Crisp? I recently watched "The Naked Civil Servant" on Watch Now, with John Hurt playing Crisp. Hurt's performance is FUCKING FIERCE, and he deserves every award he got. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. Crisp is oddly passive in his love life in the film depiction (and likely in the memoir its based on), and yet the way he lived his life was so brave- he refused to be anybody but Quentin.

In an interesting coincidence, when I was googling the made-for-British-TV-movie, I found out that John Hurt will be playing Crisp again, as an older man.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
In many ways, I have a very cool life. I find getting back into more original reporting and interviewing is so interesting. I learn something new weekly, if not daily.

Yesterday, I talked with a patent lawyer who, as a hobby, flies planes and is part of the "The 99s," a group of women aviators started by Amelia Earhart.

Today, I talked to a man who practices traditional Chinese medicine and was served tea from a 300+ year old tea service that was once used by royalty.

Yeah, pretty cool life. Remind me not to bitch about it. :)
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I got a cracked filling replaced at the dentist office yesterday, and it wasn't too traumatic. I'm quite pleased with how it looks and feels today.

But...  you know how the dentist tells you to be careful about eating and chewing while you're still numb from the novacaine? Yeah, I should have listened. I accidentally bit up part of my lower lip and now it's all swollen today. :(

Other than that, having a good, if busy, week.

I lost one freelance client but picked up another temporary gig and got offered additional work by someone I'm already freelancing for. Rock!

J. and I made a deal that we'll start looking at getting a new cat after Penguicon. It seems like good timing since it wouldn't feel right to get a new cat and then go away soon afterward for a long weekend. I'm still missing Mumu terribly and I'm not in a huge rush to get a new cat, but I do feel I want another one, especially if I can help provide a home for a kitty in need.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I dunno about you, but in my case...

Sometimes I just have to cross my fingers and hope people - especially the ones who know me best - find my fumbling and bumbling to be endearing or at least amusing, instead of annoying.

*crosses fingers*

Surreal

Feb. 1st, 2010 09:24 am
sarahmichigan: (kitty)
Thanks for all the nice words of comfort people left on my previous post about Mumu's passing.

I'm still sad, but it's also very surreal. She lived with us for 12+ years, and we had a routine. She woke us up in the morning scratching at the bedroom door. I shoed her away. I got up, made coffee and fed her. Then, I let her lick the milk out my bowl. She'd beg for dinner and come sit on my lap while we watched videos in the evening.

Now, I hardly know what to do with myself in the morning.

I also have to keep telling myself I can leave any door open I want to- as other cat-owners know, you have to be careful with doors and cats if you don't want them getting outside or getting into rooms where you don't want them. I half expect her to trip me up as I'm cooking in the kitchen or walking down the stairs to the laundry room. I have to stop and realize she's not underfoot anymore...

She was sick with cancer for nearly 2 years, and at the end, she only had any kind of quality of life because we had her on pain meds. The meds were not a long-term solution as they'd have eventually destroyed her liver. So, it was time to let her go, but it was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I'm so thankful my vet will do housecalls for end-of-life appointments.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
If you suffer from chronic anxiety in any shape, you probably understand when I say that I wish I could just talk myself out of being anxious. But it doesn't work.

I mean, sure, there are some cognitive-behavioral type things I can do in terms of changing my "self talk" that help, but I can't just give myself a pep talk about how it'll all work out and how I'm overreacting and have the anxiety go away.

My office job ends Tuesday of next week, and while I have several part-time/freelance gigs lined up for when it ends, I am exceedingly anxious. I am a creature of habit and routine, and I hate the adjustment period to a change in my routine. I think the fact that my two solid gigs and one almost-sure-but-not-quite gig are going to be on a regular schedule will help, but it's still an adjustment.

Also some other things going on in the personal relationship sphere that are a little anxious-making at the moment, which doesn't help. I think I gave myself a stress headache yesterday (with possible complications from allergy and sinus issue), the kind that felt like my brain was going to blow out the top of my head. Today, I woke up sick to my stomach.

I wish "just stop it!" therapy worked...
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I'm trying to excise the word "retarded" from my vocabulary as an all-purpose insult or synonym for "stupid." I've seen some discussions online about why it's offensive to some people-- similar to the reason a lot of people aren't really crazy about the use of the term "that's so gay" to mean "that's so stupid and/or corny."

But old habits die hard- I just busted out with it a few days ago, totally out of the blue, without thought. It's not even a term I use that often, but it was just odd that I used it pretty much within a few weeks of deciding I was going to stop using it that way.

Incidentally, it's OK if you think I'm a dork or being overly-political-correct about this- it's a personal decision I'm making to try to be more sensitive and thoughtful in the way I speak.

sarahmichigan: (Default)
I feel like somehow the universe has conspired to educate me about other cultures and expand my mind. Or maybe I just "put it out to the universe" without realizing it.  In the last week, I've had some really fun conversations with strangers from fairly diverse backgrounds.

1) The most shallow but funny conversation happened last week with an older black guy who was waiting at the auto shop for his car to be looked at. He told me that he'd been hit by a drunk that morning after dropping his grandchild off at work. He told me some other horror stories about crazy Ypsilanti drivers, including the time he was sitting in his car at a red light and got hit by a cop. "They're worse drivers than we are!" he said.

2) Last night, I hung out with a guy from India who reccently came to the states as a contract I.T. worker. We talked for a little over an hour, and I learned a lot about his take on Indian family life, racism (he thinks it's worse in the U.K. than in America, but I noted that he hadn't spent much time in the South) and a variety of other topics. One interesting thing I learned was that he became an atheist after witnessing the 1992 ethnic and religious riots in Bombay (now Mumbai)  when he was a student there. He said at that time he had the most Muslim friends of any Hindu he knew, and he was really scared through the whole thing. He thought it was ridiculous and awful and had no use for religion after that.

3) I was at the auto repair shop AGAIN today and had another incidence of having a total stranger just start talking to me. He was a nice Vietnamese man who had spent some time under communist rule. He saw I was carrying a copy of "The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" by the Dalai Lama and talked to me for about a half hour about Tibet, Buddhism and how I handle Jehovah's Witnesses who come to the door (I just don't answer the doorbell, typically).

This last incident flowed from a recent interest in learning more about the Dalai Lama. I'm not Buddhist, though I respect a lot of the teachings of Buddhism and especially the Dalai Lama's forward-thinking approach to harmony between science and Buddhist thought. A few years ago, I read Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I loved the fact that-- unlike religious leaders from many other traditions-- when science contradicts his faith, he's more likely to revise his philosophy of religion than to reject the science. I'm also fairly interested in brain science, psychology and the idea that we can choose to be happy and content even when outside events and circumstances are trying or tragic.

Fast forward to a few months ago: I watched Seven Years in Tibet which was a flawed film but gave me some information about the history of Tibet's conflict with China. More recently, I watched 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. The New Age music and the documentary maker's somewhat overly-reverential tone made it more of a 3-star film than a 5-star film, but the cinematography of the Himalayas, the streets of India, the ceremonies and festivals was spectacular. I also love listening to the Dalai Lama speak- he sound a bit like Yoda with a hint of PeeWee Herman. (As an aside, is it really sick and wrong of me that when they showed old black and white footage of him at age 19-20 I thought he was kind of hot in a nerdy sort of way?) I also learned more about the politics of the Free Tibet movement and Chinese communist disdain for Tibet's religious tradition and so on. Also, did you know that both Google and Yahoo! agreed to censor the results of searches for keywords like "Tibet" and "Dalai Lama" to only show Chinese government-approved pages?

It's been strange, fun and educational. I wonder what's next...

sarahmichigan: (fitness)
1. I've mentioned we did some house renovations/fix-ups in previous posts. J. did a nice post in words and photos, with bonus pictures of the Cutest Cat in Our House here.

2. I enjoyed the inauguration party some friends hosted last night. They had hamburgers, hotdogs and apple pie for an all-American meal. We brought veggie burgers and potato salad and many other yummy side dishes were contributed by others. And champagne while we watched the re-play of the ceremony.

I can understand why my conservative or libertarian friends and acquaintances might not be thrilled with Obama, but I have a harder time understanding the bitter criticisms from some of my progressive friends. I don't think Obama shoots rainbows out of his butt or anything, but he's a big improvement. I'm not crazy about some of his picks for cabinet, not crazy about Rick Warren to lead a prayer at the inauguration and I have other nitpicks. But I don't want to hear any bullshit about the political parties all being the same, because they aren't. "Not different enough as I'd hope for" is not the same as "No difference." I listened to a bit of Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" as a book on CD, and it made me optimistic about having a Constitutional scholar in the White House. I imagine I'll disagree with him from time to time in the next 4 years, but overall, I'm pretty freaking thrilled.

3. Freelancing just picked up in a big way this month, and now, my office job may want to offer me some additional hours. Someone who had been working the web content part-time quit for a full-time job, and I may be able to pick up additional hours and additional pay while being able to do it from home. That'd be sweet. I'll take what I can get while things are flush, because you never know when those kind of opportunities will dry up...

4. A friend asked on her journal, "What does your weight mean to you?' It's something I've been thinking about a fair amount, largely because it's New Year's Resolution time, and there's stuff about getting rid of your belly and finally finding that right diet for you in the media, plus some friends and acquaintances (real life and LJ) are starting new diets of various kinds. This is what I said in response to her question:

"Rationally, my weight is neutral info. It indicates if I'm stressy or if I'm working out a lot. Unexplained weight loss/weight gain *may* indicate an underlying medical condition.

Non-rationally, my weight is an indication of whether I'm doing it "right." If I'm on the low end of my usual weight range, I'm being righteous. If I'm at the top or go over the top of the usual range, I must be doing something "wrong." Years of conditioning are hard to overcome, even when you're a dedicated fat-pozzer."

I've been about in the same weight range since I stopped dieting about 7 years ago. Since leveling off, I would swing up about 3 pounds, then down 5, but I was always somewhere between 201 and 208. Occasionally, like when I was having a rough time with hypo, I'd go above the range, and other times when I was super active, I dropped down to 199 or 200. But I was fairly rock steady 99 percent of the time in that range. Then, last year, I had 7 or 8 pounds creep up on me, above the top of the range. My weight started fluctuating in a higher range, between 212 and 217.

It's been hard to not see that as a "failure" on my part. I wanted to blame it on some underlying health condition, but all my labs are fine and I'm actually feeling pretty good in general. Then, I blamed it on being less active after the cold weather set in, but the initial gain happened in mid 2008 when I was the most active I've ever been in my life.

Instead of deciding I need another weight-loss diet to "fix" the problem, I've finally decided to get back to fat-acceptance/body-positive basics though. No scales for the last 2 months or so. I even turned backward on the scale at the doctor's office and asked not to be told what I weighed. A few of my pants are a little tight, and I plan to pick up one or two new pair on clearance or from a second-hand store. I want to get back into a regular exercise routine, not in hopes of losing weight, but in hopes of managing stress and anxiety and improving my health overall.

I'm pretty clear that losing weight and keeping it off long-term is not the right focus for me (or 98 percent of other humans). So, it's back to the basics of HAES. I want to focus on eating in ways that makes me feel good (from scratch, lots of fruits and veggies) and putting some fun back in my workouts. Not really a resolution, here, just a re-focusing.

sarahmichigan: (Default)
I'm feeling old and boring.

I've always said only boring people get bored. And I think my sense of ennui is probably related to the fact that I've become boring. I'm all about work-eat-sleep and do it again.

I'd like to go out and do fun things, but I suspect my idea of fun things don't always match up with other folks' ideas about this. I'm contrary and ornery. I really want to learn something new, do something new- listen to new music, pick up a new skill, create something. Not sure what.

Perhaps, from this life-angst, something wonderful will be born. I hope so.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I had the good fortune to be able to attend Innovation: The Business of Green for free today. Got a nice lunch and saw Thomas Friedman talk about his book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded." He is a good speaker, if not excellent, and his ideas were really well thought out. I liked that he didn't just identify the problems with energy consumption, biodiversity decline, climate change and inequality of resources but also provided some possible solutions and some optimism.

In and of itself, the event was very cool. However, what was so electrifying is how the event and his talk tied into what I've been reading, David Quammen's "The Song of the Dodo: Island Geography in an Age of Extinctions". Quammen's opening metaphor about divvying up the rain forests and nature in general haunts me: if you take a priceless oriental rug and cut it into 24 pieces, you don't have 24 small priceless rugs-- you have trash.

I don't have a lot of deep things to say about either, but this stuff has really got me thinking. I recommend the Quammen book and now want to get my hands on the Friedman book to see if the whole thing is as good as the excerpts I heard.

sarahmichigan: (Default)
I'm finding I'm less inclined to try to disabuse people of [what I see as] their deluded beliefs. A lot of it has to do with size acceptance and body image stuff, but this is also true in other areas. For one, I almost never get a good reaction, even if I try to be diplomatic, and it's just not worth it to try most of the time. Either people will figure these things out themselves in the long run, or maybe they'll prove me wrong on some point. It's been known to happen.

I do worry that some people WON'T ever learn these things for themselves, and they'll be like my mother who is 70 and still thinks she's too fat and eats "too much." Christ woman! You have one of the best diets in terms of fruits and veggies and fiber and you're a cancer survivor, and you've lived into your 70s, and you're still worried about the size of your ass?

But, you know, it's not my job to change everyone's mind and make sure they're thinking the "right" way on these topics. I can't even convince myself on some points some days. I've been rather annoyed that I've been exercising my butt off and eating fresh fruit and veggies and I've GAINED weight. I obviously haven't gotten to the point of seeing body weight as value-neutral data yet, even though it's an ideal and something I urge on other people when I discuss body positivity.

So, anyway. I need to mind my own business and take care of my own issues first, I do think...
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I've written about this briefly before on my LJ, but I went into more depth in an opinion piece I recently had published. I talk about how the media handled my father's death, both on TV and in print, and how it affected my approach as a journalist to handling stories of death and tragedy.

Read it here.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
It gets on my nerves to be around someone who is in a really negative headspace, especially if I know that person is chronically that way. But even being around someone in a temporary foul mood who can't stop with the negative pronouncements makes me a little crazy.

I think that's a lesson to myself, both to a) be compassionate when others are in that kind of mood and b) when I occasionally get in one of those moods, to be as gracious as possible about getting over myself and not inflicting too much of my negativity on whomever I'm around at the time. It's OK to be in a bad mood once in a while, but it's no excuse to be a jerk.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
It sometimes irks me that my week is so structured that it's difficult for me to do anything spontaneously, to make a coffee date with less than 2 weeks notice, or go visit my writing group that I've abandoned for more than a year, or whatever.

And yet, I thrive on structure and scheduling, and I tend to feel anxious if I don't have at least some structure. Plus, I get more done with a schedule. For instance, if I didn't have my 3 solid "go to the gym and lift weight" days solidly planted in my weekly schedule, I know that I would not be very consistent with those workouts. 

I wish I could find a balance, where I had enough structure and scheduling that I felt calm but wasn't SO tightly scheduled that I feel like it's impossible to find time to make friends or even spend more time with current friends.

I think this balance is one of the things I'm seeking with my new job arrangement- I'll be pretty scheduled 3 days a week, with more freedom the other 4 days a week. If only I could figure out how to apply that better to my social/family/personal life. . .
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I recently ran across "Action Girl's Guide to Living" and I really like it.

I particularly like Rule 2: Support Other's Actions. Even if you're not brave enough or don't have the time or have obstacles that stand in the way of living your dream (write that novel, quit your job to go back to school, start a blog, whatever), then support your friends and loved ones when they take action and do something cool.

I also already try to live by Rule 6. If you spend a lot of time obsessing about how others have done you wrong, or why your boss is a jerk, you're letting them win. They've taken more of your mental energy than they deserve.
sarahmichigan: (Default)

Went to the gym before work and got almost a full workout in
Sat with J. and had some yogurt and juice and coffee for breakfast.
Made it to work just a little bit late.
Gave my 2 weeks notice at work.

It's already been a busy morning!

I'm scared to death but excited. I'm leaving a full-time job at a company I've been with for four years for an uncertain future at a part-time job, trying to freelance on my days off and see how that goes. Everybody at the new place seems nice, and I know I'm going to pick up a ton of new skills. I feel fine about that part (though I can't commute with J. anymore, which bites). I hope I can manage the freelance bit of it. I guess if I fail, it'll teach me that I need more structure and am not cut out to be a full-time freelancer.

But, you keep moving or you stagnate. Onward!

 

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