Saturday, December 29, 2012

Self Help Flaws - Funeral Eulogies

Recently, I read an article on where the author found her life purpose by imagining her funeral eulogy. She was quite emotional, and realized that she was not going in the direction of where the eulogy she wanted was going.

I've always hated the question, "If you were at your funeral, what would you want people to say about you?"
Thoughts about your own mortality aside, this question is completely abstract and misleading. The real question under this question is, "What do you want to see yourself as?" "Who do you want to be?" There's no way to control what people really think of you, and it would be impolite to go into negative territory. I know this firsthand from going to my father's funeral. I didn't really know him too well, but I got the impression that he wasn't too influential on the community and that he didn't have anyone to vouch for him. So his funeral wasn't just bland, but the priest decided to take some religious leeway and turn my father's death into a lesson about fearing the Lord. Awkward.

I've been to other funerals that weren't so negative, but I don't remember a whole lot about them.

There are other issues I have with this question, which don't pertain to funerals in particular. In my life, I've transitioned friends, careers, and locations multiple times. Even with Facebook, I think my "close friend" network is about five people, and I'm not sure how long that will last. At the time of my funeral, I expect any eulogy to represent a snapshot of my life at that particular point, regardless of who I am today.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happiness Research - Identifying Joy

Every so often, my path crosses with Oprah, specifically, her magazine, O. Last night my internet research on happiness came up with this article on her site. I read it because I am intensely curious about the questions relevant to navigating towards happiness. Is it a life purpose type of question? More dinners at the table with family?

There were two questions -
What brings you joy?
Does your life reflect what brings you happiness?

Let's get back to the basics. I haven't really considered there being a difference in Joy and Happiness, but a connotative nuance might be that happiness is a fleeting emotion. As in, you may or may not have control over it, but happiness could be induced with fun or rewarding activities. Joy, on the other hand, seems to be related to contentedness, which is sort of an emotional-spiritual-mental variable running in the background of life. In that sense, joy has more permanence than happiness, although both are worth increasing.

What I liked about this article was that it focused on things that you could be doing more or less of, which is somewhat controllable. I enjoy baking, so I could feasibly spend more time doing this than a time-wasting activity, like web-surfing.

Up until now, a lot of my happiness research has focused on way harder tasks, like practicing gratitude, increasing your self-esteem (can you just will this to happen?), and forgiving yourself (which seems worthy if I could figure out what this means). Don't get me wrong, I'm inspired to do all of those things, but I don't really understand how I would know my self-esteem is increased.

What brings me joy?

Feeling smart
Not fixating on anything, including joy
Making someone's day
Laughing with Jason about things that don't matter
My nice, comfortable house
A creative outlet

That's it, although I have a weakness for 'free kitten' signs. I want to adopt all of those kittens so they'll have a safe and warm home. I don't feel the same way about puppies or ducklings for some reason, even though they are equally cute.

Things that don't bring me joy (that traditionally bring others a sense of joy or happiness):
Cooking for my family, or keeping up a nice house (outsourcing is amazing!)
Feeling connected through social websites
My degrees
My skillset, although I'm trying to change this so that I can feel smart.
My inner voice. It's actually a mime doing hand puppets and Pictionary.
Organized religion

The article says that you should spend 80% of your time doing things that bring you joy. The biggest switch in the last year has been to unfocus on accomplishment. I have a bad habit of putting up a posture that I need to get everything done in the world, or stick to a formula that most people use (school-job-family-kids-retirement). My emotional kryptonite is thinking that I should spend more time doing things that fall outside of this JoyList.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What I Learned from Going Pseudo-Vegetarian for a Month

At least once a year, I decide to revamp my life to be 'healthier.' I'm usually inspired by my own health, or seemingly, lack of control over it. If I take care of my body by feeding it the right foods, sleeping enough, and working out a few times a week, then I should be relatively free of pains and ills. But sometimes, this isn't enough, or I get wrapped around the axel about the "right" foods. Even unprocessed tomatoes have a cycle of being good or bad depending on the growing source, preparation, storage, etc.

So this past July, we purchased half a cow, which was raised on a farm somewhere in the county on grass and grain. For three months, I ate beef every other day. Who could deny that steaks and hamburger from a local cow taste 10 times better than what's at Walmart?

As it turns out, there is a health cost to eating that much meat. See, I wasn't just eating red meat 4-5 times a week, but all other sources of protein (and some veggies) in my diet were replaced with delicious sirloin or short ribs drizzled in a smoky BBQ sauce. My muscles after a workout had the most amazing rippling effect, which doesn't sound that attractive, but the novelty was cool. The problem was how I felt after eating red meat. Gradually my complete satisfaction with a porterhouse turned into being so zonked after a meal, I wanted a nap (or a good cry - low energy is my kryptonite).

I also noticed that my pee had a weird soap-foam look to it, which can mean too much protein being excreted.* I thought of all the health sites I read where too much protein can wreak havoc on your kidneys. I tend to panic in these situations, and I realized I wanted to do an immediate diet makeover.

So I'm giving myself until Thanksgiving to be a psuedo-vegetarian, getting protein from eggs, fish, and maybe chicken once a week.

A psychological bit about 'vegetarianism.' When I was growing up, all the vegetarians I knew were fat, probably because they ate french fries and cake every day (lots of it). Not pointing any fingers, mind you… When you're a kid, the only food you really can eat is whatever your parents buy. I'm sure they ate healthier foods at the dinner table. I certainly have found that eating unprocessed foods gives me a mental edge (and it helps the abs), so my plan was to substitute animal protein sources with vegetables, soups, nuts, yogurt (ugh), and non-tropical fruits like apples and avocados.

Vegan is extreme. It deviates too much from what I grew up with (and what my ancestors typically ate, which involved a lot of gravy and potatoes). Red meat was a staple in our house, so I don't know if I could ever go whole-hog into vegetarianism for more than a month. Also, soy just doesn't taste good, although I've eaten it off and on for at least a decade. I know people who go vegan for a bit, but it's a temporary switch. Eventually, their bodies need some vitamin or mineral that only can be obtained from eggs or something. Also, vegan, like any other strict diet, can be isolating. I'm still not aware of too many restaurants that cater to vegans.

In the last few weeks, I've learned quite a bit that is worth mentioning:
  • My ripply muscles have become even more vascular (move over Madonna), and I enjoy the way I look just the same as when I was on my SuperProtein diet. I know vanity shouldn't be the first thing on the list, but I work hard to fight office-ass.
  • My energy level was immensely higher, which I attribute to the extra vitamins and fewer calories. More food = sluggish in most cases. 
  • Despite avoiding beans because I hate them, my insides have been rather musical.
  • Supplementation becomes super important if you cut out meat. I freaked out about the bubble bath I saw in the toilet, so I went cold turkey on my vitamins. Three weeks in, I started waking up in the middle of the night because I had jerked myself awake. My hand would cramp for a second, I'd wake up for twenty minutes, only to wake up again to my leg twitchme out of my doze. After four or five episodes of this, I Googled "insomnia caused by twitching" and came up with magnesium deficiency being a possible cause.** After resuming a daily dose, the twitching subsided.
  • I hate yogurt too. It's basically a novelty food with sucky commercials.
  • Finally, I don't crave sweets as badly as I did a few months ago. This could be a placebo effect, or the fact that I changed jobs, not necessarily something I can attribute to less red meat. But it's an interesting observation, nonetheless.

Maybe this psuedo-vegetarian theme can continue for the next six months. I can't tell if my experience is temporary relief or if there are more diet changes I can make to feel amazing.
We'll see after the holiday season!

*I was diagnosed with acute interstitial cystitis about this time, which has no known cause.
**I'm not a doctor, and I don't necessarily recommend looking health issues up on Google. However, my mind is hungry, and if I don't figure out some potential leads for fixing an issue, I'll incessantly worry myself into a state. The power of observation has served me way better than any Google site, and sometimes, even doctor's advice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Make this Work For You!

Recently, I was inspired to restart the blog. Since November is "Write a Novel Month," I wanted to do that (maybe I could make a gazillion dollars on Amazon!), but this wasn't meant to be this November. After 15,000 words, I lost steam. Honestly, I don't have the skills right now to write fiction for 40,000-50,000 words. I'm still learning the character development formula, and how to fit the story into a 3-month timeframe. Currently, my sweet spot for a 'write session' is more or less 750 words, which is more appropriate for a blog post. 

Do you care? Probably not about my novel. However, I am taking suggestions for things to write about on this blog. I've come up with some posts that I'd be interested to write about, such as:

  1. Navigating Your Life
  2. Top Performers
  3. Happiness Research (and my addiction to being depressed)
  4. Skin Research
  5. Troubleshooting Insomnia
  6. Falling from the Fail Tree
  7. Expiration Date of Friends
  8. Cutting out the Fat (i.e. useless things)
  9. What I Learned from Not Completing a Novel
  10. Things I'd Like To Do
  11. The Void (of choosing to not have kids)
  12. Learning How to Trust Yourself
  13. Surprising Truths
  14. How Paying Attention Can Be Your Most Important Asset
  15. Ridiculous Desserts
I plan to go through them (and more), but I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finding the Sublime

A few weeks ago, I saw this article on Zite, which was titled the same as this blog post. It was a photography post, and this particular quote inspired me to find sublimeness in my own world: Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless...

So here are a few things that are deliciously wonderful and filled with enough mundane to not be "beautiful":
Knowing all the words to a song you just heard
Perfect humidity for a good hair day
Speeding past a cop
A great night's sleep (or sleeping while its raining)
Our cat putting on a "performance" for us
Screened in porch in a yard of mosquitoes
Eating a delicious pizza after talking it up for half an hour
Having friends over
Getting away with talking in half-sentences/pheromones with someone
Big fuzzy socks after a hot shower

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Things I Don't Know How to Do at Age 30

Photo credit

I'm not expecting to know everything, but I'm becoming more aware of things that I don't know, for instance:

  • How to sew - But maybe I can fix this once I take some classes, buy a sewing machine, and buy a house that would fit a sewing machine. I'll consider my first scrunchie a success.
  • Photo credit
  • How to cook things that smell good. I'm ok with baking, especially cupcakes that have multiple layers of candy like this...
Photo credit
  • Layer clothes and jewelry. My general philosophy is if you have to put something on top of something else, then that first thing wasn't that great in the first place. Like Ritz Crackers and Peanut Butter. No faith in the product itself. Imagine layering shoes for example.
  • Effectively use a pistol in a first person shooter. I guess the same goes for real life, but watch out when you see me with a Nerf gun.
  • Draw. This is a function of pure non-interestedness. Drawing well takes time to figure out, which I would rather be playing a first person shooter (with an assault rifle) or hanging out laughing with my husband.
  • Wearing long nails or nail polish on my fingers. The closest I came was using Sally Hansen's Salon Effects, which are essentially stickers for your fingernails. 
  • Troubleshoot the router. If the internet goes down, I take a nap. If it's still down, I'll go shopping until it's back on.
  • Fast rap. However, I can fast type took about 30 seconds to type this blog post.
  • Remember how long we've been dating. Next year I might think it's six or seven years, which was my answer this year.
  • Properly enjoy free time. I think you get good with free time when you have a LOT of it, which I don't compared to some. My Pintrest isn't that great, and my Facebook updates aren't much more than philosophical opinions. Anyone who talks about the hamdogger is a low-level free time spender.
What am I good at? Not much. Right now I'm half way decent at packing, only because this will be my 14th move (I pretend the stuff in boxes is like a game of Tetris).

I know being good at something isn't a function of how old you are, but hopefully in 5 years I'll be better at stuff than I am today. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Marketing BS and the truth about health

Let me preface this post by saying you should NOT Google skin conditions unless you've got a strong stomach or desire to see gross things.

As some of you know from my previous post that included "zit-hydra monsters," and my ability to temporarily turn into a hippie with green smoothies, I suffer from a variety of dermatological woes. Mainly, my skin is very sensitive to stress, humidity levels, and irritating products.

In 2011, I spent close to $500 on skin products. Hours of research were poured over each purchase, and two things on the list were repeat purchases. Otherwise, most of the items didn't work as advertised. Likely, my skin just doesn't respond to the ingredients as most people's skin does.

This is nothing new. Six or seven years ago, I went to the dermo about a tan circle on my elbow. The doc labeled it as "localized morphea," which happens to some people sometimes for some reasons - all unknown. Today, I question the diagnosis because the information about morphea suggests that the coloring or shape changes over time, which mine hasn't.

Last month, I came across an iodine article (which I can't find, dang it) in my quest to find the right combination of vitamins and antioxidants. It said that there is little known about how the body uses iodine in the tissues, all the blood test measures is what is being circulated through the bloodstream. Similar messages are throughout medical studies germane to psychology, metabolism, and (you guessed it) skin conditions. Because everything is related to everything else, like how hives are an immune system reaction, it's hard to pinpoint what exactly is happening (thus how an individual would react to anything). It's frustrating because you would never be able to prevent a reaction to something unless you tried it, which is why I'm still on a quest to figure out if there is some magical lotion or cream that won't sting the bejeezus out of my skin or leave me high and dry.

So, given that my skin is finicky, my sun exposure is minimal (less than 1 hour a week in the winter and less than 4 hours a week in the summer), and I still get acne when I'm stressed, here is the lineup from 2011:

Soaps and washes:

Cetaphil - Does this stuff do anything? I feel like it just moves dirt and oil around. I'd rather use water.

CeraVe Face Wash - A little stronger than Cetaphil, but not by much. I like bubbles, what can I say? I don't know if I'd buy this again.

I used to use Topix Replenix, which was actually something I got for my husband. I might switch back to this in the summer, when water as a cleanser isn't sufficient.

African Shea Black Soap - This should have been good, but I didn't find the soap's effects to overcome the dark brown trails going down the drain. Dove or Ivory is just as good if you're into bar soap. The Suave perfume free stuff is also OK (even with the irritation and potential toxicity of sodium laureth sulfate).

Face moisturizers:

Neocutis Biorestorative Cream with Psp - Smells faintly like plastic, but this moisturizer is very nice to my skin. I've never had a reaction to it, and I'll likely buy it again. I like to use this over sunscreen or at night.

NIA24 Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen - I've consistently used this for two years and my skin loves it. It doesn't moisturize, but I usually layer this under other products. I've tried the trial kit from this brand, and the other products don't impress me that much. Of course, I only noticed a difference in my skin from using this after about two months (it takes a long time for my skin to look better from something). I'm allergic to most sunscreens (anything that ends in "-zone"), as in, they sting before I get into the sun. 

Perricone MD Face Finishing Moisturizer - This stings if I use it on my whole face, maybe because of the amount of Vitamin C (asorbic acid) in it. My plan is to use this as an eye cream, because it doesn't bother my crows feet one bit. My mom had a similar reaction, and our skin is very different, so it was probably designed for someone who is resistant to having acid on their face.

Clarins UV Plus Day Screen High Protection SPF 40 - My goal was to find an alternative to the NIA that would moisturize. No such luck. This stuff doesn't sink in, so I get a nice mineral sheen after using this. I didn't react to it though, so I might recommend it for sensitive skin; however, it is more expensive than NIA, so nevermind.

Aveeno Smart Essentials Nighttime Moisture Infusion - I bought this from Target because I thought this would be a nice, low-cost way to supplement my moisturizing routine. What a load! There is technically moisture in the product, but no infusion with the skin. It sits on top of your skin and comes off in little balls. Not sure what they were going for here, except to get my money.

Body Moisturizers:

VaniCream - There are loads of people who like this product, and I can't understand why. I got through about half of the product before I just threw it away. It wasn't even good for layering (which is how I use up some of the crap products I buy).

Tree Shea Body Butter - You need something cheap to use after a shower? This stuff would be good in the summer time, since it's rather light. 

Kiehl's Creme de Corps Body Moisturizer - Holy grail of all body moisturizers. If you are as dry as the Sahara, or like taking hot showers, Kiehl's will not disappoint. Of course, you will also pay an arm and a leg. I was disappointed that they basically redid the formula for the "lightweight" version to make it "light," as it didn't have the same effect as the original. 


Peter Thomas Roth Viz-1000 - This is the only serum I use, and it's because it allows my skin to absorb even more moisture than just on its own. I've since bought hyaluronic acid in bulk instead of sticking to a particular brand, as the ingredients are the same in each product.


Clarisonic Mia - I use this off and on, depending on if my skin looks dull or extra sweaty. It's a great product, and I would recommend it to other folks if they want a squeaky clean type of feel to their skin. It's also rechargeable, so you don't need a circulation of batteries going to your bathroom.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle/Anti-Blemish Treatment - Benzyol peroxide be damned! It breaks me out all over in a red rash. This Neutrogena product, on the other hand, uses a gentler salicylic acid and retinol. Plus it comes in an opaque tube, preserving the light-sensitive Vitamin A. So yes, now Liz Lemon can have a buddy that gets both wrinkles AND zits. :)

Hopefully this helps someone. I am still questing, and would love to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience or some better products to try.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mansion Apartment Shack House (M.A.S.H.) - What will you live in when you grow up?

We are moving. I've already moved a dozen times or so, so it's not a big deal. What WILL be a big deal is moving into a house like a real adult would own. Since I used to trash most of the stuff that wouldn't fit into my car (and I may well do this again), this leaves the new house incredibly bare (or perfect for a trampoline and a pair of skates).
Photo credit
Sometime around 2003, I idly dreamed of being an interior designer. Of course I skipped to the good part where I was making millions designing rooms for people who had incredible amounts of money. Since I had no plan or money, all of my decorating attempts at this point have been C- at best. In fact, I vaguely knew what furniture belonged in what room, which is surprising given my mom ordered Southern Living and other room-project-magazines during the entirety of my life.

Using the term "design" loosely, I came up with rooms that included:
A swing under my loft. Typing on a computer is a little weird at first, but now they have these mechanisms.
Presenting, the Hawaii Chair, that allows you to perfect your abs at the office.  Photo credit

Rope lights, a cheaper cousin of the neon sign.
Catwoman costume and cats are separate. Photo credit

Sheets. Do you remember sheet forts when you were a kid? They are inspiring like how this is inspiring.
Photo credit
Spray painted picture frames.
Cat furniture.
Fake ivy leaves.

Well, I didn't decorate with cat furniture per se, but it was one of the bigger pieces of furniture in the living room. 

Anyway, I'm not sure what I'll do with the rooms in the new house. I have briefly considered something with pink and zebra, but I just don't have that kind of commitment. I mean, zebra rugs can be over $350, and that's not great considering it got a 3/5 star rating. Then there are creepy furniture and rug stores you can go to where you're not allowed to actually sit on the furniture and everything is "on sale for a limited time only."
Perfect for my Addams family room...I will take the whole set! Photo credit
I could get a real designer, but if I had that kind of money, I would retire.
Ah, first world problems...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cool Stuff that Should Be Made in the Future

Forget the 1949 cartoon on the "House of Tomorrow" with its automatic sandwich maker. We need real products right now. Here's a list, in no particular order, of things I think we should have today or at least this year:
Women's wrinkle free shirts under $60 - ... That aren't muumuus.
Red nose cream - To transform you from Rudolph to Prancer!
Mood recorders - Is there an app for this?
Condiment deathmatches - My money is on BBQ sauce, but I know any white sauce (including salad cream) will win.
Salad cream? Hell yeah!

Teleport machines
Clothes that wash themselves - We want the clothes to also dry and fold themselves, but inventions follow a cycle of iterations.
Super absorbent movie theater seats - Just kidding. I think they are made this way naturally.
Personal zombie entourage - Wait, isn't that redundant?
Equal pay for equal work
Alerts for dropped calls - Who hasn't said half of their life story before realizing they were cut off half a minute ago?
High water pressure in all buildings - Anything less is unacceptable.

I'll take one of each, but one is actually better than nothing.