Careful packing

If you've been paying attention, you know I've been participating in Project 333.  Over the past year I've also been reading the Vivienne Files and been so inspired by the various wardrobe and packing ideas.  So when it came time to pack for a 5(ish)** day trip, I asked Janice's advice and tried to pack carefully.

While I can't replicate her layout, here we go!


In the bag:

I could have done without one pair of pants, but it was Seattle and January...

** the "ish" is because I took the redeye, which turned a normal 24-hour day into one lasting nearly 40 hours

Creativity - #Reverb12

Creativity. What was the most creative thing you did in 2012?

One of the truisms of my life is that I am singularly untalented in many, many ways.  My two biggest talents are reading and organizing.  I'm not belittling those!  It's just a comment to underscore that being creative isn't my strong suit...



Last week I scheduled a mail hold through the USPS website; it was supposed to start on Thursday and end tomorrow, Wednesday the 30th.  Here's what I got in my e-mail today:

Very far sighted, our postal service!

Maybe I'll see if it knows today what tomorrow's lotto numbers were.


Ordinary Sparkling Moments / Rituals - #Reverb12

Ordinary Sparkling Moments. Reflect on the ordinary moments that bring you joy (e.g., the tea pot whistling, the sun setting). What moments would you like to relish in the coming year?

Rituals. What ritual(s) would you like to introduce into your life?

The taste of the first crisp apple of fall... the juiciness of fresh berries on homemade yogurt... the purring of The Herd... hearing that a friend has truly enjoyed a book I recommended... the sight of the Tower as I drive up Pawling Avenue... spending time with friends... the smell of freshly mown grass as it starts to rain... the first snowfall... a fire in my fireplace... soaking in a bathtub with a glass of wine and a good book....

Having done a 40-week Journey with Parker Palmer in 2012, I was open to a new journey.  My aunt and uncle have both studied Mussar and after talking with my aunt on New Year's, I've decided to do the work myself.  It won't be easy, doing this alone, but my Ritual will be to spend some time each day thinking about/journaling the Mussar traits.


Ease / Giving - #Reverb12

Ease. What can you do to add ease to 2013?

Giving. “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” (David Viscott) What is your gift to give?

A friend of mine once said that there are three things you can give to others: Time, Treasure and Talent.  I'll talk about talent in another post, but Time and Treasure fit the bill here...

Time to me fits in with ease.  First, there's taking time to really be there for others, being present in their lives - caring about them and truly hearing what their needs are, rather than imposing your needs on them.  And then there's not rushing through things - taking the slower route to and from things, not driving as fast as possible just to save a few minutes here and there.  It may mean waking up 15 minutes early or not scheduling things back-to-back, but time = ease.

As for Treasure, it's something I've thought about a lot and struggled with often.  Living in NYC you see so many needy people, but then there's the question of those scam artists.  I've seen both, and knowing how best to help the former is difficult.  My aunt carries change in a special purse to give to those she sees on the streets that are truly in need (her husband wrote movingly about compassion).  Does helping always equal money?  What about donating things to charities that will help... volunteering... being more a part of the community?  Most important, love and compassion are treasures you can easily give to others.


One Word 2013 - #Reverb12

 One Word | 2013. Imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2013 for you?

I'd like for it to be serenity - having found a balance in my life between work, play, family, friends, obligations, etc..  To not hoard the emotional stuff in unhealthy ways but to deal with the joys and sorrows as they happen.  Getting rid of even more physical clutter (and weight) so reduce my footprint.


One Word - #Reverb12

One Word | 2012. Encapsulate the year 2012 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. 


For me, silence became more and more important in 2012.  Silence during Meeting.  Turning off the tv during the election season and after the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings.  Sitting quietly every day, reflecting on the day past and the day to come.

Deliberately not turning on the computer until late on Sunday - silencing the electronic tether. Reading fewer blogs and tweets, silencing the echo chamber and that voice that says "you must read everything if you're going to keep up/be aware)."

As anyone who has watched Into Great Silence knows, there is very little true silence in our world. Trying to find more of it for myself has been the challenge for 2012 and beyond.



I've been thinking a lot about integrity recently - in part because I've been reflecting on 2013 and thinking about 2013 as part of the Reverb12 program, in part because of my uncle and friend's deaths, and in part because recent events have shown it to be shockingly lacking in today's world.

There's someone in my life with a decided lack of integrity.  They've lied so many times that if they said today was Friday I'd have to check my calendar, their only real concern is for themselves and what works for them, and they've stolen from me (items I ultimately didn't value that much, but it's the sheer act of theft that bothers me, not what was taken).

Perhaps it's unsurprising that they thought Lance Armstrong was a hero*, because like Lance, their apologies never accept responsibility for their actions or the effect on others. What I mean is, when you've hurt someone, you should say "I'm sorry I hurt you" or - at a minimum - "I'm sorry."  Saying "I'm sorry you were hurt" is just plain wrong.  When caught in a lie, admit your fault, don't bully the other person into letting it go.

The past couple of days, with all the hoopla over the Big Confession, and the NRA's incomprehensible comments and ads, and the questions over Manti T'eo and so many more incidents, I've started to question why, if there are so many people Out There who are acting with a lack of integrity, I need to have someone I choose to have in my life acting with an equal lack.  Ok, perhaps not question exactly - more like, berate myself for continuing with this relationship.

And, sadly, realizing that perhaps I just can't.

* why can't more sports figures be as honest at Charles Barkley? Always admired him for this.

12 for 2012 / Year in Review - #Reverb12

12 in 2012. Reflect on 12 moments in 2012. Or create a timeline, and focus on one
moment/experience from each month in 2012. Get creative with the number 12 and what 
this number means for you in 2012. 

Year in Review. As you reflect back on the happenings of 2012, what were your high 
points and what were your low points? What do you notice as you look back on the year 
as a whole?

I'm combining these two (and ignoring the reading prompt because, well, just go here for that).  For me, 2012 was a year of sorrows and joys - here are six of each.

  1. Losing my Uncle Robert and Patti, a friend from high school.  They taught me so much about living while dying.  
  2. Hearing "no" once too often.
  3. The election, about which I've ranted before.
  4. Learning that a former student found that life was too difficult and couldn't go on.
  5. My Big Boy being diagnosed with chronic renal failure (at 17, it's not unexpected but still...).
  6. Watching my mother's health slowly fade.
  1. Being accepted as a Member of the Religious Society of Friends.
  2. Losing weight, losing clutter - gaining peace and space and serenity.
  3. The Big Trip.
  4. Finally(?) getting some of my health issues under control.
  5. Family and friends -  Angela, Alice, Robert, Michael, Lisa, Karen, David, Betty, Phil, Gail, Karli, Renee, Cathy, Sue, Susan, Jessica, Michele, Suzy, Waits, Danny, Bill, Flavia, Julie, Julia, James, Caroline, Deb, Wendy, mk, Courtney, Kath, Ray, Lucia, Carol, Amy, Ebit, Mac, Max, Chuck, Jean and, of course, The Herd.


Well-Being - #Reverb12

Well-Being. How was your overall well-being in 2012? You can think of your overall well-being as a composite of six domains: Interpersonal, Communal, Occupational, Physical, Psychological, and Economic (I COPPE; Prilleltensky, 2011). Do you notice that your overall well-being was influenced by one of these domains more so than the others?

This is pretty easy - having Epstein-Barr means that much of my well-being is governed by how well I'm doing physically.  Am I practicing ECAM?  What am I overdoing and can I cut back or is there some other way to do things?  Beyond that, this year of not working full-time has been one with a lot of occupational and economic stress: keeping up with what's going on while not being in a library and being able to collaborate with colleagues, watching my (already low) finances dwindle even further... Luckily, my friends helped keep things in perspective and my spirits never completely plunged.


Notable Quotes

The shadow life of reading begins even while we have the book in hand -- begins as soon as we move from the first sentence to the second and start up a memory context.... Here is the power, the seductiveness of the act: when we read, we create and then occupy a hitherto nonexistent interior locale.... No less exalting is the sensation of inner and outer worlds coinciding, going on simultaneously, or very nearly so.  The awareness is enforced regularly.  I am reading, caught up in my book, when the phone rings. I am shocked back into the room, forced to contend with some piece of business.  Then, a moment later, I am back.  I have jumped from one circuit to another.  The book is there, waiting, like one of those rare dreams that I half-awaken from and then reenter.

- Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies

Vulnerability - #Reverb12

Vulnerability. Brené Brown writes powerfully on the topic of vulnerability. She is a pioneer in bridging the research of vulnerability with the living of vulnerability. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené writes about her experience at TED, how she gained the courage to expose herself as vulnerable in order to most powerfully demonstrate what it means to be vulnerable. Two lines in her book resonated me with the strongest: 

Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.
What’s worth doing even if I fail?

Reflect on your vulnerability in 2012. Specifically, here are three questions suggested by Brené to explore when thinking about your vulnerability: (1) What do I do when I feel emotionally exposed?; (2) How do I behave when I’m feeling very uncomfortable and uncertain?; and (3) How willing am I to take emotional risks?

Whew.  This is a difficult one.  Let's see...

1. When emotionally exposed, I tend to act like a pillbug. Don't we all?  My first instinct is to curl up in bed with as many of The Herd as possible and just not come out.  Ever.

2. If I can't curl up in bed, I get stiff and defensive.  Again, don't we all?  Some people I know cry - there's something about doing that at work that just seems wrong.  I'd rather go some place private and cry, or scream.  But in public? No thanks.

3. I'm trying to be more willing.  It's never easy, and when you're trying to find consulting gigs or a permanent job, it's putting yourself out there.  Hearing that "no" is even worse than hearing nothing (at least you can get angry with the other person over nothing - no, on the other hand, is about you).  Outside the professional arena, though, I've been even less willing... here's to trying to be better about that in 2013.


Links Galore

Connection - #Reverb12

Connection. Have you connected with new people in 2012, online or offline? Name five 
people you’ve connected with in 2012. And (bonus!) name five people you would like to
connect with in 2013

Have I connected with new people? Not really - but I have deepened my connection with several people.

  • Members of my Meeting.  It's not just being a Friend now, it's just that for some reason I've grown closer to several of them.  We share more of our personal lives, not just our spiritual lives.  
  • Friends. Last week I spent time with my BFF, a woman I met over 40 years ago in third grade.  Over the year I've Skyped and Gchatted with others, and not just for professional reasons.  Best of all, the people who live near me and I have spent many happy hours together, at breakfasts, lunches and dinners... not to mention over cupcakes and assorted beverages. One friend takes the time to stop by on her many-hour journey from home to her daughter's school, priceless, precious hours.
  • Family. While there was the loss of my uncle to contend with, it also opened the opportunity to grow closer with his two children and wife - not that I wasn't close with them to begin with, but we are closer now.  It was also good seeing some of my nieces and nephews (and greats), even though the times weren't always happy ones.  
In 2013 I hope to do the same, to continue to deepen those connections and perhaps to find new ones.  Getting a new job, obviously, will increase that opportunity.  But if there's one thing that I learned from my uncle and my high school friend, it's that friends and family are the most important thing in our lives - we need to celebrate and cherish them daily.


Perspective - #Reverb12

Perspective. What is one thing you’ve seen differently in 2012? How has this shift in 
perspective influenced you?

As part of my Quaker practice, I've tried to be more understanding and patient with others - and tried to forgive those who have hurt me in the past.  Letting go of those feelings has so lightened my load...

Lest you think that it's all goody-goody, I have to confess that hearing that one person who Done Me Wrong has run into difficulties has also lightened my load.  I'm no angel:  I still enjoy a good case of schadenfreude.  But the overall forgiving of others has truly made things easier.

As for perspective, part of the forgiving has been to try to understand the why.  Were the other person's actions because they're so self-centered they don't see the effect they have on others? Was it because they're insecure?  Did I do something to case this - inadvertently or vertently?  What could I do differently next time, either with them or with another?



This morning I read an article that made me cringe: Sony is producing a phone that is waterproof, so you can use it in the shower.


It's partly the issue of multitasking - when I call during the work day, or at night for a work-related thing, it's fine for the other person to be working.  But when I call at night, please back away from your keyboard and turn off the tv.  Talk to me.  Focus on me.  (yes, it's all about me!)  I'll do the same for you.  Now I get to compete with your personal routines? NO THANKS.

My time in the shower or bath is relaxing time.  It's "me" time.  It's not "oh, could you hold, I have to rinse my conditioner" time, or "wait a sec, I have to wash my [insert body part]" time.  Yes, I realize that this opens up many possibilities for those who enjoy phone sex, but for me?  NO THANKS.  


Questions - #Reverb12

Questions. What questions did you ask in 2012?
  • why is this country so divided?
  • how can we learn to live together if we refuse to listen to each other?
  • can I be a good friend?
  • can I be a good Friend?
  • what can I do better in the coming months?
  • what can I do better right now?
  • am I living the life I should be living?
  • what legacy am I leaving behind?
  • why are there so many bad trilogy books being published? can't editors chop them down to a book-and-a-sequel or simply one book?
  • what more can I declutter from my life?
  • how can I be a good thing in others' lives?
  • why do most of The Herd snore?
  • should I get a bigger bed (because 1 human is no match against 5 felines in a full-size bed)?


PSA: Fever Kills

It's flu season out there - do not take a fever lightly.

Many years ago, a young woman I knew, Heather, went home from work feeling a little unwell.  She and her husband Larry worked together at the company at which she'd met, and that night he did the right thing with Tylenol and soup.  The next day, she still wasn't feeling good so she stayed home and made an appointment with the doctor.  The following day, Larry waited to hear about what the doctor said... at first, he wasn't worried (doctors and waiting times, after all) but then he grew concerned.  Finally he called the office: she hadn't come for her appointment.  Larry raced home from Midtown to Staten Island - she was dead in their bed.  They'd been married only a couple of years.  Heather was in her 20s.

Yesterday, Thing One sent me an e-mail about a colleague of his, a many in his 60s just inching toward retirement.  He'd had a mild fever on Thursday, but it had gone away.  Friday it was back, and 103.  But why worry?  It had gone away before.  Saturday his girlfriend couldn't get him on the phone... Sunday she used her key to go into his apartment and... dead.

If you have a fever, and it's inching up past 102, call your doctor.  Tell your friends.  Take something to bring it down.  Be careful.  Please.

One Event - #Reverb12

As with last year, I'm participating in the Reverb Remix - this time, it'll be 20 posts throughout January, half looking back at 2012 and half looking forward to 2013.  January is the Janus month, right?

One Event. Reflect on a major event that occurred in 2012. Select an event that was experienced by people outside your immediate community.

For me, the incredibly interminable, divisive election was the major event that has stuck with me.  I know, there were shootings and other events that affected people, but the rhetoric that followed all of them was so partisan and frequently hate-filled towards the people who didn't share the speaker's position - all part of the election process.

Whether or not Obama had a record to be proud of, or whether Republicans stymied his every move doesn't matter.  Nor does it matter whether Romney cared about only 53% of us or liked firing people.  What matters is the level of vitriol, the disgust for anyone on the other side. Maybe it's just me.  Maybe it didn't stem from the Republicans trying to get back at the Democrats for Watergate... or Iran-Contra.  Or the Democrats trying to get back at the Republicans for Whitewater.  But it sure seems that way.

Our ability to live within echo chambers is harming us more than we can possibly imagine.  If I had the power, I'd force all my friends who only read the NYTimes and the New Yorker and listen to NPR to read the Wall Street Journal and Nation, and watch Fox.  And vice-versa.  I'd force them to listen to the other side, to hear what the other half of the country is hearing and thinking about.  Maybe that'd do some good.

My anger at all my friends, at their narrow-mindedness about what's right and how this country should be run still hasn't abated.  That's the lasting legacy of the election of 2012.


Challenge Accepted... and Met

This time last year I decided to do the Read Your Own Books challenge with the goal of getting to Level 4.  Despite Mt. Bookpile's best efforts, I did it!  32 books read that were bought/given to me before December 31, 2011:
  • The Backwards Glance (Bresland)
  • The Ballerinas (Migel)
  • Being Dead (Crace)
  • The Book of Lost Fragrances (Rose)
  • Byron (MacCarthy)
  • The Children of Hurin (Tolkien)
  • The Citadel (Cronin)
  • Cleopatra (Schiff)
  • Crooked House and The Body in the Library (Christie)
  • Dancing with the Witchdoctor (James)
  • Floating (Bailey-Williams)
  • The Gates of Ivory (Drabble)
  • The Ghost Writer (Roth)
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring (Chevalier)
  • The Green Man (Bedard)
  • Hearts of Darkness (Thompson)
  • House of Meetings (Amis)
  • I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere (Gavalda)
  • The Knitting Circle (Hood)
  • Leaves from the Valley (Harvey)
  • Leeway Cottage (Gutcheon)
  • Lemprière's Dictionary (Norfolk)
  • The Lions of Little Rock (Levine)
  • Losing Mr. North (Kagan)
  • Read Between the Lies (Bryant-Woolridge)
  • Paulina (Howarth)
  • Simone de Beauvoir (Bair)
  • Ship Sooner (Sullivan)
  • The Starboard Sea (Dermont)
  • Summer at Tiffany (Hart)
  • This I Believe (Allison)
  • Waves (Dogar)
I think I'll do this again this year.  Anyone else take this challenge?  How did you do?

Year-end Reading Round-Up

Counting down from last year's 3131 books left to read, I've got "only" 2731 more books to enjoy.  What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here (the totals on the review blog won't match these because I don't add the books I read for the award committee or for professional review). A list of the Best of 2012 has been posted!

And here's the 2012 reading analysis (2011 numbers in parens):
  • number of books read in 2012: 400 (250) 
  • best month: July/48 (August/29) 
  • worst month: October/23 (May/12) 
  • average read per month:  33.33 (20.8) 
  • adult fiction as percentage of total: 22.75 (21.2) 
  • children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 43.75 (54.4) 
  • YA nonfiction as percentage of total: 22.75 (didn't track in 2011)
  • Advance Readers Copies: 181 (177) 
  • e-books: 16 (none in 2011)
  • books read that were published in 2012: 288
  • books that will be published in 2013: 21
  • five star reviews: 31 (18) 
  • one star reviews: 20 (11) 
Last year I was surprised that I'd read 250 books, and said "Given that my circumstances will change in 2012, 250 is optimistic, but we'll try for 200 and further reduction on Mt. Bookpile." Ahem. Mt. Bookpile is down to 263 (so met - and passed - the Reading Challenge I set myself!).  I've more than passed 200 books for the year.  So for next year, I'm continuing to try to reduce Mt. Bookpile, and I'm going to go for 300 books.

Oh, and if you're looking for other lists (and To Be Read inspiration), Sherry over at Semicolon has done an amazing job of collecting booklists and year-end-round-ups.  The Daily Beast has an overview of the Best Books (per several review sources) in both fiction and non-fiction.  Go. Make a list for your 2013 reading. Enjoy.