Monday, October 28, 2013

Free time activities, take two.

 So it's been almost 6 months to the day since I posted about the reorganization of my hobbies & free time. It went pretty well overall. I decided it's time to switch it up, with a few lessons learned:
  1. 3 months is too short. 6 months seemed better, although I may need longer for some projects/hobbies.
  2. I think it might be a good idea to have some specific goals for each hobby/project.
  3. I have to be more realistic about the amount of time I actually have to do things, especially when I'm not including in my list things like roller derby, which take up an enormous amount of the free space I have in my week.
  4. I need to “pay myself first” so to speak, with my time. I have a tendency to sign up to do extra tasks/activities and just generally put a lot on my plate, but I think this round I want to focus on sticking to the plans I make and only taking on extra stuff if it fits around my own goals.

    I made a giant list of possible hobbies I wanted to switch off to, but narrowed it down greatly. Also, I decided to add some things to this list which I originally didn't think of as hobbies, or stuff I needed to think of as free time activities but that I want to be doing on a regular basis. So for instance, even though roller derby and working out are hobbies and take up a big chunk of my time, I don't need to put them in a specific free time plan because they are already incorporated into my daily life. There are some things that I would like to be doing habitually and am not. So my list for this next round looks a bit more boring, but I'm actually quite pleased with it.

  1. Cooking – I would like to be cooking more. I grab quick meals more than I'd like and also would like to get better at cooking. My goals are to cook at least 4 out of 7 dinners per week with at least one of those meals being a new recipe. To do this, I will need to make meal plans every week. Sunday's seem the easiest day to do this on. I tend to grab prepared meals on days where I'm working late and/or have practice so meal planning will allow me to see which days I'll need to prep ahead. 
  2. Sewing – I'm carrying this hobby/activity over to this next round because I just want some more time with it. I want to be a bit more focused with this one as well. I was thinking I'd need to drop this and just substitute it with generic “crafting” as the holidays are approaching and I want to make hand-made gifts, but I think rather than have a sporadic number and type of gifts, I'll give only sewn (or possibly, cooked) gifts. I think it will make it easier to pick what I'm making for people and will also get me to practice some skills with sewing that maybe I wouldn't otherwise. So my general plan here is to map out the holiday presents I want to make and then make time to work on them for at least 2 hours every week, probably on weekends. I also want to pick out at least 3 projects for myself and get through those. This is a little less specific because I still need to sort through some project books, lists, etc.
  3. Classes – There are a bunch of free college courses online that I've been toying with taking for a while now. I've taken bits and pieces of some on Coursera but I wanted to actually integrate them into a plan. So I'm picking one philosophy class on MIT's open course site and taking that. My plan will be to work on it at least 2 hours per week, likely on the weekend, and then I can add extra time as I feel like it.
  4. Meditating – This is another activity where I want it to be just part of my daily life but it's not. I go in phases where it is, but I want it to be more integrated. I didn't add it to my original plan because I thought of it like working out; I don't always want to do it, but it's part of healthy living for me so I don't necessarily need to plan for it or think of it as something to do in my down time. Writing this now, I think it sounds a bit silly, like obviously I should have planned for it, but I think at the time I was meditating a more and felt like it was a non-issue. Also, I was more concerned with structuring my free/fun time. This time around I'm less interested in thinking about what I do for fun and more interested in what I do, period. And unlike working out, I don't already have a solid meditation practice in the way that I'd like. So my plan with this is to meditate for at least 15 minutes every morning, directly after having 2 cups of coffee. If I have less time in the morning, i.e. I've gotten up late or need to go to work early, then I get 0-1 cups of coffee first. I am putting this weird coffee rule in because I often tell myself I'm going to meditate as soon as I'm done with my coffee and then lo and behold I've run out of time and I need to go to work. Also, I've fallen into the habit of listening to a Buddhist talk or podcast over coffee and never actually going to meditate. I'm also hoping to taper my coffee drinking eventually but am not actively working on this yet. At least two mornings a week (probably Wednesday and Saturday) I'm going to do the morning sittings at the Zen Center. Which means on Tuesday night I need to make sure my clothes and food are ready for work.

    So that's it for my activity planning for right now. I stopped using a planner after nursing school and I'm going to use it again, at least for a bit, while I build these new habits/activities into my free time. Sometimes I think building new habits is a matter of remembering to do them so the planner will be useful. I'm thinking of setting the time frame on this round of activities to 6 months, but will extend the time based on whether or not the goals I set down were accomplished or not. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Activities and Sloth

      A couple months ago I was looking at a half finished stuffed animal, a 3/4's finished bracelet, and multiple half read books. I was thinking about how I have a gazillion hobbies and I don't feel particularly skilled at any of them. I also often felt sort of restless with them. I'd wonder if I should finish up a book and then think, “no, but I was going to take that online Spanish class” and I'd end up feeling or being rather inert. Like I sort of know how to sew, and I can kind of make my own jewelry, and sometimes I'm decent at drawing depending on how much I practice, and I know a couple cords on the guitar, and like 50 phrases in ASL, etc. Then I became curious to see if anyone else has noticed this about themselves. I Googled something like “too many hobbies” and of course the internet was happy to tell me that yes, indeedly-do there are a lot of people out there who are wondering how they ended up with so many extracurriculars and what it meant to have a lot of half finished projects in your life.

    Most of the posts I read landed in one of two camps. The first and most dominant camp are those who believe that it's fine to have a million interests/hobbies and you should just let yourself do whatever you feel with them. After all, it's your free time, why feel it necessary to limit yourself? As one writer stated: “Try not to get hung up on completing things as the end goal of a particular hobby or's not a fun hobby anymore if you're only doing something just to get it over with. Sometimes having a bunch of half-finished projects lying around can be a bit of a source of guilt, but again...this stuff we do in our spare time is supposed to fun and fulfilling...” (link here). A lot of people in this camp hold one woman, Barbara Sher, as their champion. She wrote a book, “Refuse to Choose!” in which she discusses this very concept. She argues that rather than a problem, having this wide variety of interests and hobbies is really a gift and that those with this “problem” are actually unique, creative individuals. The most appealing conclusions I found coming from these writers is the notion of just enjoying the process of whatever you're doing and not focusing on the end result. This “journey not the destination” argument is compelling. I hold beliefs around the importance of process over end results, for sure. But I think there's a lot to be learned and gained from sticking through a process when it stops being all rainbows and butterflies. I think there's a way to still be process focused but also finish something. I get that it's my free time and the notion that I should enjoy doing whatever hobby I've chosen but there's going to be aspects I don't like about every hobby I choose. I love the act of sewing, I hate the cutting part. I love drawing, I dislike choosing what to draw. I guess my point is that the boring, infuriating, tedious, complicated parts of whatever activity I pick up are also part of the process or journey and I'm missing a huge chunk of learning if I bail on a project when I start to feel something unpleasant. I don't think that means I'm necessarily attached to the end result, but that I'm staying open to all aspects of the process at hand.

    The other camp, which I really didn't find too many people in, posited that this sort of activity jumping is a kind of laziness, or at least is not a quality people should cultivate in themselves. This camp's notions seemed best detailed in an article from 2008 in Cabinet magazine. Daniel Rosenberg wrote a piece entitled “The Young and the Restless”. He discusses a children's book from 1818 where a boy is able to do whatever activities he wants instead of going to school to prove to his parents that he can learn more about the world on his own. He ends up in complete disaster with nothing done. Rosenberg uses this book to discuss the term “sloth” and how it used to have more than one meaning. “Historically, sloth is a bipolar concept, signifying a kind of dissatisfaction that may be expressed equally through immobility or restlessness. And it was precisely to capture this ambivalence that the term was first adopted in Latin”. He spends a fair bit of time discussing the etymology of “sloth” and then discussing the book some more. He doesn't offer any solutions to this problem but the notion that this sort of restless activity jumping was a form of sloth really resonated with me. I definitely found myself in this camp.

   I made a list of all the activities I wanted to do or liked to do currently. (Here's a picture of my brainstorm next to a weirdly doodled heart).

      I decided I would conduct an experiment for myself to see if I felt more fulfilled and less restless with my free time, i.e. my time not at work, if I narrowed my focus for a few months. If on Saturday morning I found myself with a whole day of unstructured time ahead of me, I could pick from any of the few activities on my short list and do those as much or as little as I wanted. It was hard for me to think about crossing something off the list at first as it felt uncomfortable and limiting to narrow my scope. I decided I would pick 3 hobbies/activities plus reading and these would be my focus for 3 months. I figured that reading always be in the mix but decided to pick a topic or area that I'd be reading about for this time frame. So I landed on: sewing, drawing, and restorative justice tasks/activities. Part of my thought process was that by choosing just a few hobbies I could become more expert, or at least more skilled, in them. For instance, I've sewn a lot of projects but they've been very haphazard and I'm lacking a working knowledge of how to do some pretty simple, basic sewing techniques. Even things like cleaning my machine are sort of a mystery. I decided I would work through projects in a couple of the sewing books I have, even if I don't find the projects particularly exciting, I would go through them so that I could gain the basic skills I tried to leap frog with my sewing adventures in the past. For drawing, I decided I could work on any drawing projects I liked but if I felt like drawing and didn't know what to draw I would pick from a list here. I already had a lot of plans with some restorative justice groups in Rochester so it seemed like RJ had to be on the list as it was already taking up a lot of my spare time. For reading I decided I'd focus on classic literature first. There's a surprising number of classic lit books that I've never read and I've often thought about getting through some, but never do. I almost always opt for newer novels.

    I made this plan in the beginning of March so it's been about two months now. I think all in all the 3 month time frame is too short. Maybe something like 6 months before switching hobbies would be better. I'm not sure yet, I'm going to reassess at the end of May.
   The sewing hobby has gone well and by that I mean, I feel as though I'm becoming more skilled at it and I'm finding it more fulfilling. I've completed a number of projects that were more fun and turned out better than I was expecting. Two of my favorites are a Star Wars apron I made for my step-mom and a comic book themed clutch:

   Drawing has taken a back seat – I really haven't worked on it too much. I don't really have much of a feeling about this other than maybe it makes more sense to just pick two hobbies. I'll ponder this more at the end of May.

    I haven't been thinking about RJ stuff as a hobby although it's probably taken up most of my free time during the week. I'm working on several transition circle cases at Monroe Correctional Facility and am now part of a working group planning for trainings on restorative practices for life time inmates at Attica. I have wondered during this time if I should have made my reading material choice focused on restorative practices, but I think this would have left me feeling like it was too much of one thing. I've also already done a huge amount of reading on this topic as it was a main focus of mine in graduate school.

    The classic lit activity is going well, albeit slowly. I'm finishing up Crime and Punishment at the moment, which I've found both exasperating and enjoyable. I'll be reading the Great Gatsby next. Again, I'm wondering if 3 months is too short of a time frame. Also, I didn't really have an end goal here – like how many classic lit books did I want to have read? I guess I didn't pick an end goal because I didn't care, I figured I'd just keep at it until the three months were up. I've also found that I really didn't stick to my original plan with reading, unlike the other activities. I've read a lot of other books during this time that were not classic lit and I think most of them have been on my phone. I'm fine with this. I wasn't particularly concerned with narrowing my reading scope, more like spending time accomplishing some reading goals that I put off for some reason. I don't know if I ever would have read Crime and Punishment if I hadn't made this plan and I'm quite glad to have read it (almost).

    Overall, I do think this has been a helpful or useful experiment for me so far. I feel less restless with spare time, more focused, more fulfilled, more mindful of what I'm doing. Of course, some of this could also be because I'm meditating way more but I think I'm enjoying this more planful approach to my activities. 

Friday, April 5, 2013


      I'm about to go on a 3 day soup bender. Maybe it can be shorter, if I have a good combo of luck and hard work.
     I was driving home from St. Paul Street – I'm not going to explain why and I could feel that tooth in my mouth start to hurt. It starts as a somewhat nonspecific pain. A throbbing raw feeling on the right side of my mouth where, if I didn't already know exactly what's going on over there, I wouldn't be able to tell if it was emanating from my upper or lower jaw. By the time I'm pulling into a parking spot to my apartment building in Penfield, the pain has localized itself with razor precision and is clearly radiating out from the one culprit of a tooth. At this point, I'm keeping my face very still. If I accidentally breathe air in through my mouth, the little Mussolini in the back of my face hole might reward me with a tiny dagger of extra pain. If I make the mistake of smiling at some stray thought or cloud or old couple holding hands on a walk I may spend the next 10 seconds wincing. I walk into my apartment, drop my bags and make a beeline for the bathroom where an industrial sized bottle of ibuprofen waits for me. I don't even take off my shoes which is huge. I always take off my shoes. Not because I care about the shape of my carpet but because I really effing hate shoes and one of my all-time favorite feelings is taking them and my socks (those little bastards), off and feeling the ground. But nope, not this time. Boots stay on as I toss back 600mg with a shot of melted ice water from last night. I don't even care.
     I spend the next 15 minutes doing some dishes and then heating up soup. I'm super hungry and chewing equals misery right now. I know enough not to chew on the side of my face that hurts, even after the ibuprofen kicks in. Because I've favored that side all week, the left side of my mouth has little stab wounds all over it from trying to masticate without being fully equipped. The biggest problem over there with left-y is a cut under my tongue that gets scraped if I move that bad boy around too much. This makes chewing even soft foods seem just not worth the effort. I heat up a can of soup and seriously consider blending it because the chunks of potatoes are looking a little suspect. Like they may require the movement of my mouth to break them up and that seems like mission impossible right now. Somewhere in my head I think that I'm not supposed to put hot foods in the blender though and, at the moment, hunger is beating pain in the uncomfortable feelings octagon. So I'll risk the extra tongue damage.
     So now I'm thinking about this tooth and the emotional baggage and learning opportunities it's presenting to me this past week and right this very moment. The first lesson has to do with pain in general. If I'm meditating and something hurts or itches, I breathe into it, if that makes sense. Like, I move my breath over there and just really let myself feel whatever that feeling is. In some ways, I might consider it a gift because a good annoying itch can do wonders to snap me back to the present moment. This practice has taught me some degree of steadfastness. I can just sit here and feel this tooth. And in fact, if I don't check in with and acknowledge this pain frequently, like I failed to do yesterday, it seems to have some sort of cumulative negative effect on me. I felt totally cranky and miserable yesterday and it took me a hot minute to realize it was because I'd just had constant pain all day. Where as today, my tooth still super duper hurts, but I've just been acknowledging it and letting myself feel it all day instead. This obviously doesn't mean I'm not taking painkillers for it because, clearly, I am. But without going into too much detail, the pain can oscillate and if I've been a couple hours without it, I may be somewhere without oral analgesics and I'm not interested in staying on a 24 hour pain control regimen. Anyway, in some ways then, I'm kind of grateful for this pain, it is of the #7/10 variety in terms of dental pain (I rate other pain outside of my mouth on an entirely different scale). It's pretty bad, but not the worst I've had. I don't get to feel pain like this very often. I bump and bruise myself playing roller derby or being clumsy, but that sort of pain doesn't touch this feeling. So it's a really good opportunity to work with a feeling I don't get to work with very often.
     This little dude in my mouth also has a bunch of emotional baggage for me, weirdly. I didn't get all my adult teeth and I didn't get to keep many of the ones I have. This guy is one of my only guys left that meets up with a buddy to chew. I'm hoping the reason he hurts is because I just had him drilled and then capped with a crown and the nerve and gums are settling. But what it could be is that not everything was taken care before the crown was placed, I have an infection, and I may lose the tooth. This has happened every time I've gotten a crown. It makes me really sad to think this. In fact, I'm tearing up typing this because I just don't want to face this reality. I can't really chew carrots anymore unless they're cooked, which, let's face it, is disgusting outside a good curry. I look at people in awe when they eat those little crackers topped with stuff at parties. Bagels feel like an exercise in futility or a waiting game while my mouth enzymes go to town and it dissolves. This little dude is like my last bastion of hope or something. Every year at Christmas I joke that I want dentures only it's not really a joke. I can barely chew anymore and it's not because of something I did. I didn't do meth, I didn't get in a bunch of fights in a hockey game, I brush my teeth religiously, I floss like a boss (at least my gums are amazing). It's genetic and complicated but this is the mouth I have and right now it can't do much, but I'm bummed thinking about what it soon won't be able to do. Dental implants are VERY expensive and not covered by insurance. The teeth I have are too little to structurally support bridge work. My dentist said implants are really it for me and we can do a payment plan and just do like one tooth a year. I feel ungrateful considering this because that means it will probably be at least three years before I can really chew again, especially if I lose this bad boy back there, and that just feels so long. On the other hand, I know, it's only three years, it's not the end of the world and I'll get used to what I have to do to eat.
So I'm in this weird place right now of just trying to both be ok with feeling bummy about my mouth and also not wallow in it. I'm not the worst person off, by any stretch of the imagination! I have dental insurance, I have a job, I'm smart and I can figure out how to cook and get nutrients sans much mastication. But I also think it's a good idea to go ahead and mourn the loss of chewing carrots. Food is important and it's fun and I just don't get to participate in it's consumption like I used to and like most people can. I'm going to go ahead and feel bummed out and temper it with the reality that it could be a lot worse and it might get better. I actually feel a bit better just processing some of this “on paper” so to speak.
     Here's to a three day soup bender while I let my poor mouth rest and heal! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thoughts on a peace circle

          I facilitated two circles this past week and they both led to some pretty strong emotions and sometimes dramatic actions from participants. I think I just want to unpack one of them here. I had a circle at Monroe Correctional Facility with a woman and her family and despite my efforts to not have expectations, I was expecting it to go poorly.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hello again.

It's been a while. I've decided to change the theme of this blog; although, the title still feels fitting to me. For quite a while now, I've been keeping a journal in which I reflect on my own struggles with attempting to live openly and nonviolently. I decided to move that process here for the occasional feedback I may get. A lot of what I've written has to do with using my everyday, often boring, circumstances to see where I'm struggling with principles I try to uphold, like truthfulness and nonaggression. These little events and moments are my buffalo. All I have to work with is what I'm given right now. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

um, a little late.

Yeah yeah, I know. It's been over a year since I've posted anything. Can we just ignore that and get to the meat of this post?

I'm currently not studying for finals and instead making a list of holiday gifts I will be (mostly) making and giving. Here's a cool link that I looked at last year but did not actually utilize. I'm on the fence about pledges, ultimatums, promises, etc. in general, but I like the spirit behind this buy handmade pledge so I'm using it this year.

I really want to post about what i'm making people for Christmas and other holiday presents but I'm going to hold off on the off chance that someone may still be reading this....

Anyway, one more week of school for this semester and then I have a bit of a break - wish me luck!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

In honor of Buy Nothing Day, here are a few videos and links:

An advertisement for Buy Nothing Day from last year:

A quick trailer of Kids + Money:

"kids + money" by Lauren Greenfield (trailer) from INSTITUTE on Vimeo.

An extended preview of Kids + Money. I've got the whole thing if anyone would like to borrow it:

Rev. Billy Talen on Buy Nothing Day: