Paige Doster-Grimes

Reflections and Ramblings from North Carolina


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Lessons from Krista Tippett

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Krista Tippett, host of On Being.

Since discovering the On Being radio show a few years ago, I’ve been pretty enamored with Krista Tippett. On Being (available as a podcast) dives into the difficult questions that plague us as human beings – questions about our place in the universe and the meaning of our lives. Krista, the show’s host, is a fantastic interviewer. She has probed some of the most influential minds in science, religion, spirituality, activism, poetry, and more. Some of her interviews – like her dialogue with poet Mary Oliver – expose new dimensions to public figures I already admired. Others – like that with computer scientist and Bach enthusiast Bernard Chazelle – illuminate ideas and individuals that I (and, I expect, many other listeners) had never previously considered. Krista has a soothing and somewhat ethereal voice, which is fitting for the nature of her questioning, often cosmic conversations.

 

In the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to read Krista’s new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, and see her be interviewed by Frank Stasio here in Raleigh. I had high hopes for both the book and the talk, and while each were enjoyable in their own ways, I felt they lacked the depth that she achieves with her guests during On Being. Nevertheless, the ideas she presents are worthy of exploration and she brings a critical perspective to the crazy world we currently inhabit.

Speaking of the world we live in, one of the metaphors she used in her talk has stuck with me. She likened the current state of humanity to that of a teenager’s brain – alight with incredible creativity and sense of possibility, constantly making new connections, tapped into the great potential of technology… and yet also totally reckless, flooded with emotion and uncontrollable yearning, teetering on the precipice of self destruction. I picture an MRI scan coursing with surges of beautiful white light as synapses fire in rapid procession while explosions of red, like a volcano burst, disrupt the flow and threaten to bring down the whole dang system.

Krista also spoke of an idea I’d never considered which is that we are reaching a time – the first ever in the evolution of humanity – where we have the technology, the tools and ability, to act as an entire species. It sounds kind of wild at first, but then you consider how technology connects us in a way we have never known previously. Social media has given many of us a voice and a means of organization. Global reporting has connected us to people from around the globe in more and more personal ways. And yet, with all this opportunity for connection and collective action, our tendency is to use these mediums and opportunities for the opposite. Instead of primarily uniting, we have largely divided. All too often we use the news, social media, and our own daily interactions to strengthen an underlying “us versus them” mentality instead of as an opportunity to recognize that we are all so very similar.

One example Krista sites of this “us versus them” mentality is the seeming divide between science and religion. Her argument is that pitting science and religion against one another is a distraction, and one (I would argue) primarily used by those with something to gain on either side of the equation. From her perspective, science and religion continually reveal ways to support and uncover new mysteries for the other. Not exactly the message being sent by mass media. Stories of fundamentalists fighting the evidence of evolution in text books is much more dramatic and bite-sized than, say, a nuanced exploration of the discovery of a microscopic animal fossil from half a billion years ago that reminds both theologians and scientists alike that we will always possess more questions than answers. Or, as Alan Watts puts it in The Wisdom of Insecurity, “The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. It has shown that all systems of definition are relative to various purposes, and that none of them actually grasp reality”. If we believe this to be true, the fascinating relationship between science and religion becomes much more productive.

During her conversation with Frank Stasio, Krista suggested that future humans will laugh at our current pervasive belief that the body, mind, and spirit are three different things. “How quaint,” the future humans might say. I think she is probably right, and that this is an interesting example of science and religion supporting one another and leading us in the same direction – recognizing the inseparable connectedness of body, mind and spirit. But when you consider the detachment and division that is so pervasive among us humans in our outward view of the world (the “us and them” mentality mentioned above), it would be crazy to think that sense of detachment and division doesn’t have strong governance over how we also view ourselves. Nevertheless, I hope Krista’s vision of a cultural norm – where humans see the mysterious and wonderful oneness of body, mind, and spirit – comes to fruition. It would signify a greater paradigm shift of acknowledging the interconnectedness of many, many other aspects of our universe.

But how do we even begin deconstructing the figurative (and literal) walls that divide us? One place to start is with generous questions – a topic Krista details in her book. We go into so many of our conversations in life with an agenda (explicit or subconscious) or simply lacking the willingness to listen and be present with those around us. As Krista writes, “It’s not true what they taught us in school; there is such a thing as a bad question. In American life, we trade mostly in answers – competing answers – and in questions that corner, incite, or entertain”. Krista suggests that we trade in leading questions and lack of attention for the art of generous questioning, and it’s counterpart, generous listening.

listen-cartoonWhat is generous questioning and generous listening? It’s the verbal equivalent of the old adage that life’s about the journey, not the destination. It means going into conversation with another not seeking resolution but instead, “to invite searching – not on who is right and who is wrong and the arguments on every side… Learning to relate to each other with dignity, without rushing to common ground that would leave all the hard questions hanging”. Interesting, right? And not as Kumbaya as I expected.

What Krista is suggesting is that we listen to one another and ask questions that dive deeper into topics that are often difficult or uncomfortable. When it gets uncomfortable, we don’t get defensive and we don’t try and dismiss or retreat back to safer territory. In fact, in doing so we would deny ourselves the opportunity to understand others. If we only ever stay on common ground, how can we possibly begin to comprehend what makes us see the world differently and the basis of our divisions?

In addition to encouraging the practice of generous questioning, Krista’s book was a fantastic reminder of the difference between optimism and hope – and how our mindset of choice impacts how we relate to one another. Hope is rooted in the facts of our present reality while optimism is based on a sugarcoated present or hypothetical future. As Krista says, “[Hope] is a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be”. Optimism, on the other hand, not only requires a level of detachment from life as it is but has the added disadvantage of predisposing us to future disappointment when we’re forced to face reality once more.

Ok, so what does this have to do with how we interact with others? In comes one of the most touching stories of Krista’s book, pulled from a moving On Being episode titled The Soul in Depression. In it, Parker Palmer – a very successful and world-renowned author, educator, and activist – speaks about going through a period of deep depression. During optimismthis time many people tried to “cheer” Parker up. They talked to him about all the good he had done and would do in the future, how beautiful the day was and how he should enjoy it, etc. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you’ll know that this sort of attempt at helping often only serves to make one feel worse. But the one friend who truly helped was a Quaker elder who came to Parker’s home each day, sat with him (often in silence), and would simply massage Parker’s feet.

This story is an excellent depiction of the power of hope versus the disconnection of optimism. Parker’s optimistic friends were speaking of his past and a hypothetical future, but in doing so they were not connecting with him and his present pain. It is no surprise then that their well-intentioned efforts to change him proved futile. On the other hand, the elder who sat with Parker for days on end was willing to be with him in his present experience without judgment or even optimism. He certainly had hope that Parker would recover from his depression; otherwise I don’t imagine he would have been so persistent in his act of kindness. But his hope was deeply rooted in the reality of Parker’s state and that’s what allowed him to connect with his depressed friend in a way that enabled Parker to begin recovery.

While the On Being radio show continues to be my preferred medium for Krista Tippett’s work, I have learned a great deal from her new book and it was really enjoyable to see her speak in person. The ideas of generous questioning/listening and trading optimism for hope are two concepts that I think we could all benefit from practicing more of – I know I sure can. If you’re unfamiliar with Krista’s work and enjoy grappling with some of the ideas I’ve written about, I highly recommend giving her show a listen. She’s been doing it for years so there’s an incredible volume of work to savor.


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The Convenient Kitchen

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Crispy tofu bowl with spicy quick-pickled veggies and sriracha aioli.

Meal delivery companies are proliferating these days. Blue Apron, Green Chef, Purple Carrot, Chartreuse Spatula… ok I made that last one up, but you get the idea. The appeal is undeniable – they mail you the pre-measured ingredients you need to make tasty meals at home and much of the ingredient prep is already completed. Of course, I don’t have to tell you this. You’ve no doubt seen their relentless advertising on social media or heard the spiel on your favorite podcast. The novelty of the meals and time-saving promises of these companies was intriguing to me, but with most plans running a minimum of $70 a week for a 2-person household, my wallet was not on board.

Cut to Christmas, and I became the happy recipient of gift certificates for two of these scrumptious subscriptions. Over the last 3 weeks we received and whipped up 9 meals. Here’s my take on the cooking craze sweeping the upper-middle class, and some feedback for the companies selling the goods.

The experience:

  • Many of the meals we made were really good – the type of meal I’d happily have paid for in a restaurant. My husband always tells me my cooking is yummy, but the compliments for these dishes were on a whole new level (I recall at least two involuntary, audible moans of delight). I attribute it mainly to making more complicated dishes with new spices and special touches than I would do on my own. For example, I typically shy away from recipes that require several spices and garnishes I don’t have on hand and am unlikely to use again. But when you’re delivered these novel ingredients, and just the amount you need for the recipe, culinary nirvana is suddenly within reach.
  • On the flip side, the per-meal cost for both services we tried works out to what we would typically pay at a restaurant in our area ($10-$12 a meal)… a restaurant where we don’t have to do any of the work or the dishes. For us, the cost is just too high for it to be realistic beyond our fun free trial. Plus, while it’s convenient that you receive several meals of food, it’s not like these services remove the need for grocery shopping altogether. If you have the disposable income to use these services regularly and really enjoy cooking new meals at home, I totally get it and more power to ya!
  • So did we take anything tangible away from our free trials? Yes! Over the course of 9 meals, I learned lots of new techniques I can easily bring to everyday cooking. Chief among them was how to crisp things. I mastered how to make crispy fried onions for topping a veggie burger, sage-infused crispy panko breadcrumbs to add crunch to any savory dish, and oven-baked crispy tofu to step-up any Asian entrée. I discovered a new way to fix broccoli that makes the side as grand as the main course (it involves sautéed carrots, bell pepper, and red onion, all dusted with garam masala seasoning – so warming and addictive). I even made crepes for the first time ever! Considering that we make pancakes every single week, you’d think I’d have made that leap sooner. But that’s just the thing – none of these new-to-me methods were difficult, I just needed an extra push to give them a try. These meal services are a great way to expand your repertoire and take some risks in the kitchen… likely to great reward.

Feedback for the companies:

  • If you want to keep your customers, hook them with your proprietary
    spice-pack

    I have no idea what this is, other than delicious.

    y spice blends and sauces. One of the services we tried did this really well. They sent little baggies of pre-mixed spices and their sauces were usually pre-made in adorable little bottles. This meant I had no idea what it was that made my meal so dang tasty. If I wanted to recreate the magic, I depend on them. In the case of one spicy peanut sauce in particular, I would have happily forked over some dough for a larger bottle of that liquid gold. The other service we tried did not seem to embrace this concept. They used minimal spices, and what they did send came individually packaged (oregano in one bag, thyme in another). For one thing, this decreased the perceived value of the meal to me as a consumer. I have 2 giant bottles of oregano in my cabinet right now – couldn’t they have used something a little more exotic for effect? The other thing is, since I know exactly what’s in the recipe, I can recreate it easily on my own. That’s good for me, but it decreases my need for a service like this when I can recreate the exact same meal myself for much less.

  • Please, don’t make me use special equipment. One recipe I made required both a blender AND a food processor. I only do that level of dishes for federally recognized holidays – certainly not a Tuesday night in. Since we’re operating under the assumption that your service makes cooking amazing meals at home easier, minimizing the number of tools I need and cleanup required will help me feel like you delivered on that promise.
  • I’m not your target market, but I could be! I’ll be honest; paying for your service every week is not where I want my hard-earned cash to go. But I would be interested in purchasing the occasional meal for special occasions, and I’d pay a premium for it. If you could give me everything I needed to make a really special dinner for 6-8 people, I would totally give that a shot. If you make it seasonally appropriate and throw in some heirloom ingredients that will make my guests think I’m some kind of purple-carrot-growing wizard, you will have my loyalty.

We had a ton of fun making our 9 special meals. As far as gift-giving goes, this was a perfect choice for us. If you have someone in your life that enjoys cooking, I highly recommend gifting them a week of meals from one of the many meal-delivery companies out there (we were partial to Green Chef). It would also make a great gift for someone recently diagnosed with celiac disease or someone who is going vegetarian or vegan. Most of these delivery services have gluten free and veg options available, and I can’t think of a better way to help someone ease into a new way of eating than making it fun (and less intimidating) than with meals like these.


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Favorite Passages from 2016

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Mary Oliver – always a favorite.

“Off again, on again” is an accurate descriptor for my relationship with reading. My hours spent with a book in hand have ebbed and flowed over the years. Like many people (I suspect), my reading binges tend to cluster around long journeys. Crime and Punishment was consumed over the course of two appropriately turbulent cross-country flights. I tore though half of Tony Hillerman’s collection during the long bus rides of my study abroad experience. The fifth Harry Potter was devoured from the backseat of a rental car weaving up the California coast on Route 1. Yes – it made me carsick. No – that didn’t keep me from finishing.

When I haven’t read anything in a while, my desire to read is dormant and the energy flows into other pursuits… if you can call watching TV a “pursuit.” But shortly after I’ve cracked the spine on a new read, I’ll find myself returning from the library with another handful of titles in tow.

Since this past year has been more of a “flow” year, I thought I’d look through some of my Kindle highlights to share some favorite passages. Here is what I found…

Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk was a slow read, a memoir of a seasoned falconer training the notoriously difficult goshawk following her father’s death. I found it mostly meditative although some friends felt it was too much of a slog. Macdonald’s reflections following her loss – and particularly the passages on the non-linearity of grief and the disorientation of depression – nevertheless put words to experience in ways I never could:

“Time didn’t run forwards anymore. It was a solid thing you could press yourself against and feel it push back; a thick fluid, half-air, half-glass, that flowed both ways and sent ripples of recollection forwards and new events backwards so that the new things I encountered, then, seemed souvenirs from the distant past.”

Like Macdonald, philosopher Alain de Botton is usually a nonfiction writer. While The Course of Love is his second novel, the characters serve primarily as a medium for de Botton (in the role of narrator) to expound upon his ideas of romantic love. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but perhaps it’s better described as a salve for the soul rather than a work of philosophical insights or fictional intrigue. This quote nicely distilled one of the de Botton’s key messages and captures the refreshing honesty found throughout the book:

“ … love can only endure when one is unfaithful to its beguiling opening ambitions, and that, for relationships to work, [we] will need to give up on the feelings that got [us] into them in the first place. [We] will need to learn that love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm.”

From romantic love to sibling affection, this next passage is from Courtney Hodell’s chapter in Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed in which she lovingly describes her brother. Honestly, I highlighted this piece aspirationally. Perhaps with practice someone might one day write something as beautiful and flattering of me.

“An atmosphere of calm hangs around about him like a cloud cap on a green mountain. Everyone in need of balm seeks him out: the anxious and the shy, little kids, old people. He’s one of the secret, mighty soothers and nurturers of this world.”

You can’t tell me after reading that you don’t want to be as calm as a cloud cap, or become a mighty soother.

Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is so complex and thought-provoking it is difficult to pull quotes from. A memoir, this book explores her experience of having a gender-fluid partner undergoing transition, becoming a mother, being a teacher and writer, and much more. Any one line or paragraph is so enhanced by the context of her story that it seems a disservice to share bits of it piecemeal. Even so, this passage – following a conversation in which Nelson and her partner are arguing over the merits of an action film – seemed so very fitting in our fractured society today:

“We bantered good-naturedly, yet somehow allowed ourselves to get polarized into a needless binary. That’s what we both hate about fiction, or at least crappy fiction – it purports to provide occasions for thinking through complex issues, but really it has predetermined the positions, stuffed a narrative full of false choices, and hooked you on them, rendering you less able to see out, to get out.

When we talked we said words like nonviolence, assimilation, threats to survival, preserving the radical. But when I think about it now I only hear the background buzz of our trying to explain something to each other, to ourselves, about our lived experience thus far on this peeled, endangered planet. As is so often the case, the intensity of our need to be understood distorted our positions, backed us further into the cage.”

Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air is a haunting and beautiful memoir chronicling his terminal cancer diagnosis and struggle to find his meaning in a life that was supposed to be just beginning (he was finally finishing his residency as a neurosurgeon). My digital copy of this book is littered with highlights. I thought this quote in particular, though, was a fitting accompaniment to Nelson’s perspective above. It’s worth noting that Kalanithi’s first love was not science, but writing:

“Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection. My brief forays into the formal ethics of analytic philosophy felt dry as a bone, missing the messiness and weight of real human life.”

And finally, one more quote from When Breath Becomes Air:

“I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick skulls, into communion. A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form.”

Who could argue with Paul’s assertion? If language is the way to communion with one another, then surely using our voice and truly listening to the voice of others is one of the best hopes we have for achieving understanding and shattering the facades that only ever appear to separate us. That’s what is so exciting about reading to me. The written word has given us an endless well of understanding to pull from and use to strengthen the relationships we build our lives around.

I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and what your favorite quotes from the year were, too. And if you’re on Goodreads, I hope you’ll friend me so I can check out your recommendations.


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What I’ve Learned from my Facebook Hiatus

4c35dfc9dedc5f5e453e68c6170ddd82A month or two ago I decided it was time for a Facebook hiatus. If you have a reasonable amount of self-control, the idea of having to delete a social media profile just to spend less time on that platform probably sounds pathetic. My husband, for example, has no problem using his Facebook account for just the periodic check-in and nothing more – it’s one of the many reasons he’s my better half. But for those of you out there who have trouble resisting the heavy pull of a Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…) wormhole, this post is for you.

This is not my first time bidding Facebook ado; I’ve suspended my account on 3 previous occasions. One thing I’ve noticed in my many departures from The Book is how much more difficult it is to suspend your account nowadays. When you find the page to remove your account, they ask you why you’re leaving. Every one of the options (for example, “I get too many notifications from Facebook”) has a solution for you that doesn’t involve closing your account (“Don’t leave Facebook – just edit your notification preferences!”). This is, of course, a great way to keep people engaged in your product… even if the subtext reads a bit like, “You don’t know what’s best for you – we do!”

What really jumped out to me, though, is that when I selected my reason for leaving this time – “This is temporary, I’ll be back” – it prompted me to pick a date that my account would automatically reactivate. Facebook, quit being so codependent – it’s not a good look on you.

Now that I’ve been logged off for a while, I thought I’d share a few observations:

It’s freeing! Ever accidentally leave your phone at home, panic, and then get a little rush like you’re on the lam? Suddenly you’re paying more attention to the things around you and you feel untethered by being incommunicado. Jumping off social media can be a little like that.

Sending a thoughtful note or giving a friend a call becomes more appealing. When you’re keeping up with someone else via Facebook, it’s easy to go for long periods of time without personally connecting. After all, it seems like you know what’s happening in their life – you could name every meal they ate on their recent weekend getaway to Atlantic City! But there’s no replacement for time spent sharing ideas and memories directly with others, and hopping off of Facebook quickly makes you realize how long it has been since you last spent quality time with certain friends or relatives.

You naturally spend less time comparing yourself to others. Facebook is a great tool for highlighting our best photos, proudest achievements, and portraying just the parts of life we want others to see. It can be really fun to see what our old classmates or childhood friends are up to. But on the flip side, getting a curated peak into the lives of people we don’t really know anymore can be deceiving and create the prime conditions for unhealthy comparisons.

It can be kind of lonely. Facebook is wildly successful in part because it replicates and magnifies what we as social creatures are hardwired to do – see ourselves as part of different communal circles and seek affirmation of our place in the Venn diagram of our unique tribes. It’s not surprising that Facebook became such a festering pool of vitriol during the election. What better place to proclaim to the world what your values are, see who has your back, revel in the “likes” that validate your position, and triumphantly dismiss the haters that are wrong?

We’ve evolved to seek the validation of our peers – it’s a long-held survival mechanism since we’d never last as a lone-wolf species. That’s why it feels so good to be validated by our peers, and Facebook makes it easy to get that hit of dopamine when people like our post or write supportive and flattering comments on our latest pictures. Cutting the social media cord does mean letting go of one of our main sources of positive social feedback. And that can be kind of lonely and take some getting used to.

It’s a great reminder that opting out is an option. Facebook is so ubiquitous now that everyone assumes you have an account. And most of us do. But we certainly don’t have to. It’s not unlike many other things people might assume about us… or we might even assume about ourselves. Things like: I wish to be married and have children. I belong to a major recognized religion. I work a standard 9-5 job. I own a house or desire to own a house. I have to shave my legs (or face) or wear my hair long (or short).

These are can be fine ideals, but they are certainly not universal. If we don’t take time to think about what we really want out of life and what we believe, it’s easy to be swept up in what others expect or do without stopping to make conscious and intentional decisions for ourselves.

I think that’s actually the best thing to come out of my hiatus. I recognize now that I had no idea why I was hopping on Facebook every day. It was a decade-long habit, but aside from that I didn’t really think much about what I was getting out of it and if it was worthwhile to me or not. Opting out – even temporarily – gives us the space to consider if a behavior is enriching our lives or detracting from other life-enriching endeavors.

For me, for now, I’m happier being off of Facebook. And I’m glad for this particular hiatus as it’s inspired me to try taking a break from some other activities, too. Just not Instagram 🙂


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Happy New Year!

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It’s that time again… time for New Year’s resolutions! I used to be very cynical about the resolution frenzy. “If it were so important to you,” I’d decry, “you shouldn’t wait around for some arbitrary day to implement that change!” Oh, what an annoying twit I was.

But as time and life progress, I think it’s fair to say our energy and resolve wear. We can all use an extra push – however “arbitrary” – to make positive changes in our lives. Whatever gives you a feeling of empowerment should be welcomed with open arms – if nothing else, the placebo effect is real.

Need a sage burning ritual before you’re ready to eat a little healthier? Light it up! Convinced you must buy a new planner and fill it with a detailed workout plan before you can hit the gym? Jot away! Find strength in charging some crystals/reading the Bible/quoting the Koran/power posing/meditating on the nothingness of life? Dive on in and let your vessel be filled with universal goodness so you can make it another day.

2016 was a big year of transition for us. Lots of good change, but the life-altering variety that also makes you think you might be losing your mind. Here’s what we have been up to over the past 365 days:

  • Jesse and I quit our jobs (without a plan for new employment)
  • We moved from DC to Virginia to North Carolina (3 moves in 4 months! We didn’t even break anything!)
  • We bought a house
  • We worked at essentially 3 different jobs, each
  • We said goodbye to my Gram and our sweet nephew-dog Bear
  • We welcomed 2 new human nephews into our family
  • We traded one car for two and a walking life in the city for driving in suburbia (What is life, if not a series of trade-offs?! But really, someone please bring me a vegan milkshake cause they don’t exist down here)

I’m not going so far as to make firm resolutions for the new year. Those usually sound like “Eat less ice cream” or “Wake up without hitting the snooze button” and I couldn’t be less interested in either. (Let the record show that after typing that sentence I got up for ice cream).

But I have been thinking about what I want to do more of in 2017, which I guess is just as much a resolution as cutting things out. I hope to write more, do more exploring in our new home state, take action to create a more just world, and stay curious and positive when it’s more tempting to become defensive and cynical. I better go charge up my crystals, though, cause we all know making progress that lasts beyond January 15th requires dedication.

So, I hope you choose to stack the cards in your favor this year by practicing whatever rituals, exercises, or strategies speak to your soul. To heck with anyone who tells you otherwise – your prayers/mantras/accountability partners/vision boards/habit-forming apps/complicated list-making systems/new year’s resolutions will work if you think they do. They’re all ways to reinforce what we know is true – that we are capable of incredible things if we keep on working at it. May you find motivation wherever you can in 2017. And if all else fails, there’s always 2018.


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Reviews as Haikus

best-haiku-ever1-300x165Later this week I’ll be attending the North Carolina Nonprofit Conference and I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn! In the meantime, I was searching for a way to stretch my creativity muscles and decided to write some reviews of things I’ve tried out lately… as haikus.

Being limited to 17 syllables forces you to cut to the chase – good for a quick yay-or-nay ruling. But if you want to try and insert a little personality into the poem, you have to work for it. Honestly, it’s a fun exercise and an easy mental warm-up to get the juices flowing. Here’s what I came up with – if you have a review haiku to share I’d love to hear it! Have other writing exercises you like?  I’d love to hear those too!

terro-ant-baits

Terro Liquid Ant Baits

Marching two by two

Then droves… trickles… solitude.

Am I still vegan?

daves-killer-bread

Dave’s Killer Bread

I won’t buy any

inferior loaf. Killer

bread yields killer toast.

hayes-sofa

Hayes La-Z-Boy Sofa

Marshmallow soft but

less sticky… I can’t get up…

Redact second line.

mr-holmes

Mr. Holmes Movie

Sloth-like pacing: yes

Story’s moral: refreshing

… When’s Sherlock return?

so-bright

SO Bright Peanut Dog Treats

HomeGoods clearance shelf

Flanked by off-season candles

My dog gives five stars


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Selling Limoncello

imagesThis week I sold a piece of my heart. Specifically, the piece that is yellow and shaped liked a 2-door hatchback. It wasn’t my idea. In fact, I’d been engaged in active and passionate defense against the coup on my coupe for a good six months. But my husband’s strategic and persistent assault on my sweet ride began to wear on my resolve, and I finally gave in.

To understand how it got to this point, we have to go back to the beginning. Limoncello came into my life just after college. Between “cash for clunkers” and an already low-priced base model, I became the proud owner of a brand new Hyundai Accent. Her name was swiftly determined – a natural fit given her frosted yellow hue. Sure, she was missing what some might consider “basic features”, but who needs cruise control or vanity mirrors when you’ve got panache?

Her sunny tint always stood out in a sea of drab cars – an important characteristic when you frequently forget where you’ve parked. And her hatchback made moving even large items a breeze. This was especially critical as she saw me through 9 moves in the past 7 years. She braved un-garaged winters and countless feet of snow in New Hampshire and Boston, spent five years on the streets of DC, and bore witness to the mind-boggling amount of road kill that country living in North Carolina brings.

While selling my beloved car was a painful goodbye, it wasn’t the first time I had to accept her mortality.

A few years ago, Limoncello was among the items stolen when a house I shared with three other women was robbed. I can only imagine the glee the burglar felt when he spied the spare key sitting atop my bedroom dresser. Given the layout of the house, my room was likely the last one raided. After scoring four laptops and a pricy road bike (also mine – lest I should have any remaining transportation options), the keys must have been the icing on the cake. I wish I’d seen the look on his face when he activated the key fob, though, to discover that the car he’d be taking off in was the smallest, goofiest ride on the block.

Nevertheless, Limoncello went on a joy ride. When the police recovered her 48 hours later, she was only a little worse for wear – cigarette ashes and some dried blood smears were but temporary reminders of her kidnapping. Did I fail to mention that the robber cut himself on the window he broke to enter the house? He then proceeded to bleed on everything we owned, and Limoncello was not excluded from the primal marking of territory.

In the span of the 48 hours she was gone, I managed to accept that I might not ever see my little lemon again. It was a terrible couple of days for many reasons, but for the first time I had to see my car for what it was… a replaceable object that transported me from one location to another. Despite treating her as if she was another human character in my life, she was just a car. It was just a car.

Limoncello hadn’t actively protected me from that terrible snowstorm on New Year’s Eve in 2009 when it felt like I wasn’t really alone because I was with her. That was just a car being a hollow, mostly-impenetrable object. She wasn’t actually holding me close during the many miserable, crying phone calls I made from the car during a traumatic break-up. That was literally just the narrow seat digging into my frame. And she didn’t actually have the ability to make parking spots open up on the street if I asked nicely. That was probably just lucky timing.

I really had accepted all of this to be true… but then I got the call. She’d been found! It was a miracle! I quickly brushed away all my doubts and let go of the idea that she would ever be replaced. Limoncello had returned from the dead, fully anthropomorphized.

We would have another 4 blissful years together, Limoncello and I, my partner in adventure and errands. But our life-long union was not meant to be. Ever the pragmatist, my husband began to do some research when we moved to North Carolina. No longer living in the city, we drive more often now and for much longer distances. His concern was primarily for my safety, he said, and had nothing to do with his disdain for driving around in an emasculating toy car. To his credit, vanity mirrors aren’t the only features that 2009 Hyundai Accents are lacking… so are decent safety ratings.

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Maverick riding shotgun.

When the opportunity arose to purchase a relative’s fancy sedan for a steal, we took it. I admitted it was time. Limoncello had been good to me, but Jesse would feel better if I was driving something safe and sturdy, and I would feel better if he stopped bugging me about buying a new car. So, off to CarMax we went for our final ride together.

When it was time for the appraisal, I chatted nervously with the car expert. I needed him to know this wasn’t just any ol’ car. I tried to act cool, but I was saying goodbye to one of the only remaining elements of my life that had been a constant over the past 7 years. She had seen me through a lot. Her bright sunny color symbolized the optimism I felt when I began my adult life. Now, it symbolized my desire to remain positive even though life has dealt some curve balls and my open optimism has been traded for something more like cautious hopefulness. Her small and agile frame had fit my independent personality and singular driving needs for many years. Now, her size had become an impediment to the needs of two tall humans, a dog, and their many accouterments.

So maybe this post isn’t really an ode to my car, but about recognizing that moments like selling a car force us to confront our own reality. That we’re not as young as we once were. That we’ve changed. That we’re human and insecure in our own unique ways and we look to objects for affirmation.

When I got the $4,000 check from CarMax, it did soften the blow. I guess you could put a price tag on Limoncello after all. Or maybe I’d finally accepted that I was selling a car, I wasn’t losing all the memories and change that car represented, no matter how fond or profound they were.