Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We make plans and God laughs

I have a plan - with a date associated and everything! May 28th, I'm throwing my stuff in a trailer and heading down to Durham, North Carolina with my beau, my dog, and my two cats. I will buy myself a little cheap multi-family house. If that works out well, I will buy more income-generating properties until I no longer have to work for money. Until that time, I’ll almost definitely end up back in high tech. I don’t seem to be qualified to do anything else. I was recently turned down for a job as a dog washer.

We just set the moving date, but this plan has been in the works for months now. People keep asking me, “So, you’re definitely moving to Durham?” To which I always respond, “Well, that’s the plan.” My resistance to speaking in absolutes is always taken as a lack of commitment to the plan, but that’s not the case at all. It’s just that I have had so many “definite plans” in just the last year alone, that I feel like an idiot claiming to know, with any certainty whatsoever, that I will definitely be doing anything ever. Every one of these plans was sure enough that I declared it to various friends. For those who are not aware of all the plans and when they were announced, let’s review:
  • October 2004 – January 2006: I will move to Panama with my (now ex-) boyfriend, build rental properties and live off the income.

  • January 2006 – April 2006: I will move to Ecuador with my (now ex-) boyfriend, build a little house for cheap and run a cafĂ© and/or retreat center.

  • April 2006 – May 2006: I will travel around Mexico for a couple of months. Maybe I’ll move there if I like it.

  • May 2006 – June 2006: I will move to Auckland, New Zealand and get a software job.

  • June 2006 – July 2006: I will move to Austin, TX for several months and take month-long trips to various countries around the world until I figure out what I really want to do.

  • Some brief period during the summer of 2006: I will go live with my sister in Mesa, Arizona for a few months while doing software contract work.

  • July 2006 – November 2006: I don’t know where I’m going but I’m getting the hell out of Seattle before winter hits, no matter what.

  • November 2006 – Present: I’m moving to Durham, North Carolina and will invest in rental properties until I no longer have to work for money.
I’ve learned to accept, and even enjoy, living with uncertainty. It helps me to appreciate what I have going on right now. With all my current free time, I have the luxury of spending my days doing anything I please. What a waste it would be to squander this opportunity by dreaming of a future that could very well never come. “Once I get to Durham, then my life can really start.” Plans can be a great tool for living a satisfying life. Relying on plans coming to fruition is a sure path to disappointment, suffering, and a whole lot of wasted time.

Raw food dish of the week - Mini Eggplant Pizzas

It might not look like much, but it was very delicious.

Soaked pine nuts, Celtic sea salt, date, soaked sun-dried tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, and spinach, blended in the food processor, spread on eggplant slices, and dehydrated for 10 hours at 105 degrees.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Reading list for would-be new age freaks

I finally finished The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a 12-week program for recovering your creativity. I started it 16 weeks ago when a friend got tired of me claiming to have no creative ability whatsoever. If I'm going to be honest, I was actually whining about having nothing to offer the world other than to take my place as a soulless cog in someone else's great machine.

I was feeling well past my self-help book phase, but this one seemed compelling. I've always hoped there was more for me out there somewhere. I didn't love the book. It seemed geared toward severely battered and bruised artists with a lot of personal issues. Sure, I've got my baggage, but I didn't need quite so much help. Still, the book prompted some very monumental and long-term changes in my life; I quit my job, learned to draw, created all kinds of cool cards and gifts for friends, and lost a lot of the money guilt I'm prone to feel over not working. Most importantly, art no longer seems like something that other people are able to do.

Delving back into the world of personal development books got me thinking back on how I got to where I am. How did a godless, rational, high-paid software developer become the godless, unemployed, new-age freak that I am today? Here is my reading list, in chronological order:
  • The Mastery of Love by Miguel Ruiz: This is the first new-agey self-help type book I ever seriously read, sent to me by my Aunt Kathie in 2001ish. The realization that my unhappiness had to do with me and was not caused by others was earth-shattering.

  • Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray: Understanding for the first time that my miserable relationship at the time was my own damn fault, I decided I had to learn more. What I learned was that I had been a complete bitch throughout all my relationships. Oopsie, sorry about that boys!

  • The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider: Laugh if you want, but this book is awesome. I wish more people would read it - men and women - so they might stop humiliating themselves when they interact with the sex of their choosing.

  • When I Say No I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith: I didn't even know I needed this one until I read it. Go ahead, tell me to do something I don't want to do. Pull out all the stops, beg, cry, yell, manipulate me as best as you can. I will demonstrate how good I am at sweetly telling you to go fuck yourself. I don't need a reason.

  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: I knew Tolle was onto something when he started talking about that incessant repetative voice in our heads - the constant inane dialogue. After reading this and other of his books, I have very little interest in dwelling on the past or looking forward to some uncertain future. His recorded lectures continue to remind me to make the most of right now.

  • Office Politics by R. Don Steele: Maybe this didn't turn me into a new age freak, maybe it turned the dial in the opposite direction, but it definitely changed me. Ladies, please don't wear hoochie outfits, walk around in loud clicky shoes, or talk about your way-too-personal problems in the office. It embarrasses us all.

  • The Yeast Connection by William G. Crook: I always knew that I had no use for doctors, but this book really brought home the idea that I can take control of my own health and that diet has nearly everything to do with the fact that we are all very very sick, both physically and mentally. Long story short, this eventually led me down the path of raw food which has fundamentally changed who I am.

  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron: See above.

  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards: Holy crap, you mean, I can draw??? That's so freakin' cool!!!
So if you don't want to run the risk of giving up your lucrative career and watching thousands of dollars pour out of your bank account while you indulge in the beauty and bliss of life, DO NOT read these books! They might have an impact.

Drawing Exercise - Human profile

This is my niece, drawn from a photo of her playing on a rocking horse. A lot of people ask why her lip looks so weird - she's sucking it in.

Raw food dish of the week - Easy Lasagna

This dish was decent. Nothing to write home about.

Marinara sauce: Tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, red bell pepper, olive oil, Celtic sea salt, garlic, cayenne.

Layers: marinara sauce, sliced thin zucchini, mashed avocado, and spinach

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Everything is beautiful when you're upside down

On my way into yoga today, I was informed that my one month membership, which I got very cheap in a silent auction, was about to lapse. Bummer. I love yoga, not just because it feels so good physically, but because it is always full of little lessons that translate into every day life.

I was in some crazy upside down yoga pose today, looking out the window at a tree. In the tree there were two white feathery objects, fluttering in the wind. They looked so beautiful. I thought maybe they were two white birds with long tails. Whatever they were, they were mesmerizing. I could have held that pose for twice as long, just gazing at them.

When I flipped right side up again, I looked at the tree to see what was really there. Oh, right, those two old shredded rags that have been pissing me off for the whole month I’ve been coming to yoga.

That was what I took from class today. The rags are not an eyesore. I only thought they were because of all my thoughts about them. The rags represented some jerk who was thoughtless enough to put them in a beautiful tree and all the people that left them there, day after day until they became tattered and dirty.

There is a trick I learned from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. If you take a picture and turn it upside down, you can copy it so well that anyone would think you were a talented artist, even if you couldn’t draw at all. This works because when the picture is upside down, your brain can’t quite see what it is and so it can’t confuse the lines of the picture with irrelevant mental concepts. You are free to draw just what you see.

It is the same with the rags in the tree. I didn’t know what they were so I couldn’t assign “good” or “bad” to them. I just accepted and appreciated them as they were.

If only my dog would smell like roses, or my cat’s incessant whining would sound like a symphony if I stood on my head.

Raw food dish of the week - Valentine's Day cookies

Apple Raisin Cookies: sunflower seeds, fuji apples, bananas, dates, vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, walnuts

Strawberry Frosted cookies: cashews, walnuts, dried apricots, raisins, agave nectar, vanilla, water
frosting: frozen strawberries, agave nectar, cacao butter

Friday, February 9, 2007

Way too soon

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had made my resume searchable on in order to be entered to win a plasma TV. Apparently, it didn't really get updated because doesn't work properly with Safari. I had been a little concerned that no one thought I was worth contacting, so this was something of a relief.

Earlier this week, just before the deadline, I used Firefox to re-update my resume. The next morning I was inundated with phone calls and emails from recruiters. Trying to dicuss "what I'm looking for", as though that had any relation to the high tech world, was nearly intolerable. I think I made a sufficiently bad impression on one recruiter when he asked if he caught me at a good time and I replied "Oh yes, I was looking for a good reason to get out of bed this morning since I don't have yoga today." He said he'd get back to me but I haven't heard from him.

I actually went so far as to schedule an appointment with another recruiter. I wrote it in my calendar and everything. Yes, that's right, I said "wrote it" - with a pen. I keep a paper calendar.

Every time my phone rang or an email came in I felt my stomach tie up in a knot. I can't do this. I logged into and changed my resume to "Not searchable". What a relief. I had better win that damn TV. Look for it for sale on Craigslist if I do.

Raw Food Dish of the Week - Stuffed mushrooms

This took just a few minutes to make but was filling and delicious. This would be great for a party appetizer. The recipe called for the mushrooms and the filling to be covered in Bragg's Liquid Aminos, but I left that off.

Shitake mushroom caps stuffed with avocado, shallot, tomato, and Celtic sea salt.

Drawing Exercise - Perspective

This exercise is supposed to be practice in recognizing perspective - how objects form angles with each other and the size objects have compared to one another. In case you are wondering why the cat is white, he got up before I was done. but I kind of like it that way anyway.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Where does the time go?

You would think that with no job and few responsibilities, I'd get bored. I'd certainly have time to do all the fun things I enjoy and still take care of the mundane but important errands. So far, that doesn't seem to be true. No matter what I do, I can't seem to take items off that to-do list faster than I put them on.

Laundry needs to get washed, emails need to be returned, groceries need to get bought, the dog needs to take a bath (quite desperately I should add), and the list goes on and on and on. These things are critical. How can I ever get to the fun stuff - the soul-enriching stuff - when these tedious tasks never seem to run out?

I don't really have that much I want to do: yoga, drawing, fancy raw food dishes. Maybe go to the park once in a while since it's actually sunny for a change. No job, and yet I still can't find the time. Where does it all go?

This is the battle I've been fighting for the month and a half that I've been blissfully unemployed. Today I solved the mystery. It's all about priorities.

Who says that I can't draw until after my "chores" are done? What authority figure of my past convinced me that anything enjoyable must be relegated to the bottom of the list?

Today, I did all the fun stuff first. I spent 3 hours drawing pictures, took a nap for an hour, and made a birthday card for a friend. I didn't do all the things on my to do list. Not even the ones with the "*" next to them, indicating this must get done today or else!

Guess what - the world didn't come to an end. In fact, nothing bad happened at all. The dog sure does stink and I have no clean socks for tomorrow. But dammit, I drew a cool picture.

Raw food dish of the week - Pizza and Chocolate Cake

I made these for my friend's birthday party. Because every boy deserves pizza and chocolate cake for his birthday, no matter how healthy he is. They were both fantastic.

Crust: Sprouted buckwheat, soaked flax seeds, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, garlic, Celtic sea salt.

Cheese: Pine nuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, red bell pepper, peeled lemon, garlic, Celtic sea salt.

Sauce: Tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, dates, olive oil, garlic, parsley, cayenne, Celtic sea salt.

Toppings: Any combination of (I made 4 different pizzas) spinach, shitake mushrooms, red bell pepper, scallions, avocado, cucumber, pineapple. The pizza pictured is pineapple, cucumber, and avocado.

Chocolate Cake:
Cake: Figs, walnuts, ground cacao.

Frosting: Pine nuts, macadamia nuts, blueberries, avocado, ground cacao, dates, agave nectar, water. The recipe called for cashews, but I didn't have any, so I used the other nuts instead. Cashews would have been better.

Decorations: Star fruit, kiwi, blueberries, shredded coconut. It's supposed to be a space scene, with stars and space ships, in case that isn't clear.

Drawing Exercise - Negative Spaces

This is an exercise from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the chapter on drawing negative spaces - the spaces around the objects. I was actually drawing the spaces around the chair and then filled in the details of the chair afterward. I also got up in the middle and accidentally moved the chair, so if you look closely, some things don't quite line up right.