Tag Archives: life

Corona living: a few things we’ve come to appreciate

What a bizarre world. As I’ve told many of my colleagues, this isn’t the spring we wanted, with so many canceled trips and weddings and live classes. But it’s the spring we got. And so here we are.

Covid 19 sucks.

Let’s get that out right away.  Let’s find a few silver linings. 

We’ve stumbled into a few good things this spring that made corona quarantine a little better. My writing brain (and working brain in general) has struggled, but at least these things work ok!  Raise your hand if you can’t keep two thoughts together right now. 

Sharing these in case you might benefit. Adding my affiliate links so you can find each service; sometimes with coupons or referral bonuses for you.

Eat without going to the store as much

My husband laughs at my accidental Covid-19 planning — I’d ordered cat food, litter, a huge box of toilet paper, and paper towels back in February before the quarantine surge stripped grocery stores of so many essential items. We got lucky. 

I also signed us up for HelloFresh with our first box delivered the week everything blew apart in March and shut down pretty much American life.  Turns out, not having to go to the grocery store as much during a pandemic is a nice perk. 

We’ve been doing HelloFresh for about 2 months now and will try a box from Gobble this coming week. 

HelloFresh mini review

*Use this link to save $40 off your first box from HelloFresh!

The meal box services are all pretty similar, and you can find multitudes of reviews online. I wrote a longer review of HelloFresh here. 

In brief, HelloFresh dropped a box of 3-4 good meals including a solid protein, a good carb, and a vegetable at our door every week during the worst of the quarantine for about $80-90 a week. We supplemented with our own sandwich food (for lunch) and breakfasts, and we even did the 4-person HelloFresh for a while to ensure we had some leftover food for lunches as we transitioned to eating entirely at home.

HelloFresh meal kit review May 2020

HF and other box services aren’t cheap. On average, a box costs $70-100 a week depending on how many meals you order and whether you’re doing the 2-person or 4-person size. You can also upgrade some meals by choosing a nice steal or salmon meal instead of their standard weekly fare. 

But there are intangible benefits to having someone else plan your menu and just hand you everything you need to cook. Put your brain on autopilot (if you’re skilled in the kitchen) and follow the recipe.  The food tastes good. Or throw out their recipes and make your own. Either way, someone else did the shopping for you, and if you aren’t in an area doing grocery delivery, this can be a lifesaver.

Avoid the toilet paper scramble – get a bidet!

Bidet living, man.  It’s a thing!   I’ve always been a bit afraid of bidets, because the installed ones I saw in Europe were so bizarre.  

Happily, there’s a whole market now of bidet attachments that you can install on your toilet with minimal fuss and get a clean butt without using toilet paper.  Our box box of Charmin that I ordered in February won’t last far into June, but we’re definitely using a lot less since installing the bidet. 

Luxe Bidet 185 - quick review

The model we purchased is the Luxe Bidet model 185, which offers both hot and cold water for your bum and a variety of nozzle positions so you can clean [whatever] — a handy thing for us ladies.  Amazon link

Installation was … mixed.  No complaint against Luxe; they did a good job with their directions and all the hardware they sent for installation was high quality. Plumbing is just a bitch.  

We experienced a few leaks in the 2-3 days after installation, requiring some trips to YouTube, Google, and Reddit to figure out what we’d messed up.  Everything boils down to tightening every connection enough but not too much. The bidet’s hot water line popped off its under-sink nozzle, spewing hot water throughout the vanity and requiring me to throw out a lot of expired cold medicine that got soaked.  I guess I can’t complain? It was exciting, that’s for sure. lol

Eventually, we got it sorted out, and since then not a problem at all.  The hot water hookup for the bidet (which sits to the right of the toilet if you’re doing your business) runs behind our toilet and the vanity to connect to the hot water behind our bathroom sink. The cold water comes from the same line as the toilet water supply (clean water, obviously).  The nozzles have a self-cleaning feature, so you can set the water to warm and run it for a few seconds to warm it up, then hit your bum. 

And boy does it give you all the fresh tingly clean feelings you could ever want. 

Cannot, will not ever go back to wiping my bum with paper.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  We’re hooked on bidet living now!

Good accessory:  Put a basket of clean, cheap washcloths next to your toilet plus a spare trash can or basket.  Dry off after washing yourself, and throw the cloth into the bin for washing later. One use per cloth; wash each week.  You might try these inexpensive, soft cloths  And grab a trash can that’ll fit small spaces, like this one

Drink better coffee – from small roasters

Nobody is saying a good cup of coffee can downplay 100,000 dead Americans lost to Covid-19.   But supporting small local roasters right now is important too. We’re going to lose so many independent businesses through the economic downturn. Did I mention how much this all sucks? 

I saw an ad for Trade coffee and decided to give them a shot.  For a reasonable fee ($15-20), they’ll ship a pound of good, fresh-roasted coffee to your house. You can go for a subscription and get a new bag to try every couple weeks (a cool surprise to look forward to!) or just order coffee from them.  

Everything is sourced by local roasters across the country, and you can pick your order to ship the day after coffee is fresh roasted.  They offer good blog posts too about various ways to make a better cup of joe.  We’re huge fans of our bodum, as I’ve explained here.

Verdict?  Delicious!  We’ve gotten 3-4 coffees from Trade in the past month (some by subscription and mostly ones I’ve ordered to keep us resupplied), and they’ve all been good.  I could even order Methodical coffee!  We’ll keep running down to E-City for Tanzanian Peaberry, but if you’re trying to reduce errands and exposure, Trade is filling that niche well without forcing all your dollars to Starbucks.

DrinkTrade.com

Buy used books

I’m worried about our independent bookstores. They were already on the precipice before everything closed in March. Amazon relentlessly chews up everything in its path, so I’ve begun looking for alternatives. 

I’ve been searching at Thrift Books before resorting to Amazon. They carry a decent range of used and new books, and I was able to get about half of my recent books from them.

Some of their prices are better than Amazon’s and some are worse. Free shipping helps soften the blow of not using Prime.  

You can stockpile points to get free books as well, but the freebies have to be cheap ones, so maybe not as useful if you’re using Thrive only to purchase particular books (which is what I tend to do).

*Coupon for 15% off your first ThriftBooks order

Play games at a distance

No surprise to those of you already in the board game or TTRPG hobby, but it’s worth discussing tools to let you get some game time in even if you aren’t spending time around people in person.

Roll20 is a web-based service that allows people to share the same virtual space as a map for RPGs in place of a tabletop map.  Most folks combine this with a phone call or Discord voice server, but Roll20 does offer video and audio connection options. I have found them a bit unreliable, personally, so my group uses Discord. 

https://roll20.net

Tabletop Simulator has been around for a while, and board game designers are getting better and better about porting their game designs into TTS for remote / online play.  We recently played Iniš with a friend, and it was a great experience.  We used Discord for voice, but you could do any conference call / video call / group call option for audio.  You can also just play online if the game doesn’t require personal interaction (like some Euro games).

Tabletop Simulator runs within STEAM. 

Bonus recommendation: Iniš

By the way, Iniš is an incredible game, and I give it a 10/10.  Gorgeous game in print, absolutely glorious art by a Hugo-nominated fantasy artist, and a fantastic game set in a fantasy-style Ireland.  Plays 2-4 people.

The gameplay is so tight! You’ll be trying to claim territory or control areas with your limited clans. Strategy is key. The amazing artwork brings huge tarot-sized cards in your hand to life, and these cards generate the actions you can take during the round. Special cards introduce crazy powers that can suddenly change the course of a whole turn.  We’ve played it once on TTs and once in person, and both times everyone came within a few moves of each other of winning the game. 

Buy Iniš (Amazon link) 

Inis board game

 

2019’s good discoveries

Sometimes in the course of my day I stop and realize that I’ve been enjoying something good which others should probably hear about so they can enjoy it to. Those moments spark these kinds of posts. 😉 Enjoy this laundry list of things that have been bringing us joy…..


Wingspan – board game, 2019

Buy it: Amazon | publisher

We just came back from a board game conference where game designers are working to refine games-in-development and pitch them to publishers. Probably should post about that elsewhere; it was a fascinating weekend in many ways. But I mention it here to note that there still aren’t many women or minorities in the roomful of board game designers — it’s predominantly full of white guys between 28 and 50.

Thus, Wingspan stands out not only for its excellent game design and beauty on the table, but also as a game designed by a woman – Elizabeth Hargraves – and developed by Stonemaier Games.  She loves birds and loves games, and found a way to take her real knowledge of birds and their habits and habitats, and translate it into something that plays well as an actual game.

Read more about Elizabeth in this NYT article.

Wingspan is an “engine-builder” game about, well, birds.  In other words, as the game progresses, you’ll collect various birds and add them to your board, increasing the number of things you can do each turn because individual bird cards have different abilities.  It’s also a “point salad” type of game, where you can earn points toward your score in a whole bunch of ways, and it won’t be obvious till you add everything up at the end who’s won.

The watercolor aesthetic is just gorgeous, and the bird drawings remind me of the color plates in my parents’ well-worn Audobon bird-watching guide that sat near the back patio window in our house so they could identify unusual birds when they stopped by our bird feeder. My parents were avid bird watchers (out our window, at least) and I kind of wish I had a similar spot outside my window too.

Give Wingspan a try. If we’re friends IRL, stop by the house and we’ll play it!

*Update: There’s a new edition available that includes a “starter pack” to get your first game off the ground quickly if you’re a new player. If you’re very familiar with Euro-style, recent board games and like learning from rules or let’s play videos, you may not need that scaffold, but if you’re buying Wingspan for a less-experienced gamer, definitely get the one with the starter set. 

Buy it: Amazon | publisher


Native deodorant

Native DeodeerantI know deodorant is a weird thing to recommend, but personal care is important, and not swabbing aluminum  on your body every day is probably a good change given the link between it an Alzheimer’s disease.

I tried a sample of Native deodorant last year on a lark, and it was such a great experience that our household has switched over.  It’s a transition, for sure, because the consistency is different. But they offer a range of really lovely scents, and it’s extremely comfortable.

Native’s product is a genuine “de-oderant” more than an antiperspirant, so this product may not be for you if you’re really adamant about not sweating at all. (But, I mean, sweat is healthy so maybe reconsider?)  But Native works great in keeping me spelling fresh, and it doesn’t irritate my skin the way some of the other “natural” deodorant products do.  Also, it doesn’t make a mess on clothes, and it easily washes out of fabrics since it’s made of natural waxes and moisturizers. I think my shirts are going to write me a thank-you note.  (see below for more on this)

Last thing – Native is more expensive than deodorant in the store, but it’s also lasting me  longer than a stick of Degree ever did. And it shows up at my house every several months (I do a subscription), meaning I always have one on the way before I run out. You can grab 1 oz testers if you don’t want to commit.

They offer scents for women or men or very neutral scents that would make anyone happy.

Buy it:  Amazon (singles) | website (singles or subscription)

BONUSDollar Shave Club — if you’re still buying razors in the store, you are 100% wasting a lot of money (or using super crappy $1 razors).

C& I share DSC monthly – we bought two of the mid-grade handles (for $5 each) and spend $5 a month to get blades delivered. I change blades every 7-10 days (I don’t shave my legs every day) and C swaps his every couple weeks since he doesn’t shave daily.  He also loves their shave butter, so we get a tube of that about every other month.

Anyway, $5 a month for razors is hard to beat, and they show up without me having to remember them. Now that CVS puts razor cartridges behind Fort Knox *AND* charges like $15 for refills, I don’t understand why everyone isn’t a member of DSC or Harry’s or similar.  Seriously.  Make this change for yourself.

Dollar Shave Club (our sharing link)


Arcadia Power

A couple years ago, I stumbled across an ad for Arcadia Power and did quite a bit of research to make sure it wasn’t a scam.

It sounded too good to be true: Arcadia Power takes over your power bill (ie: they pay it on your behalf) and you pay a small upcharge (between 5-10% more) to allow Arcadia to buy renewable energy certificates on your behalf to offset your electricity usage.

In other words, you pay your power bill, but you also pay a little more to ensure that the equivalent renewable energy is put into the grid to offset your coal or nuclear or natural gas power.

Why bother?   Two reasons:  One, we need to make renewable power more of a thing. Climate change is going to hit us all (it already is) and this is a small way to make a difference in your own power usage if you can’t afford your own solar or alternate methods.

Second, the energy industry and our politicians don’t believe people will pay for renewables. Pretty soon, I don’t think we’ll have a choice, but for now, Arcadia offers a way for you to put your power bill toward renewables to help prove that you at least give a care.

We have a referral link. You’ll get $25 off your first bill and we’ll get a few bucks off next month too if you sign up.  Check them out:  Arcadia Power


Make better coffee

So vital, I’m going to turn this into its own post!


Piri-piri

Before reading an issue of Milk Street magazine, I’d never heard of this Portuguese spice until one of the recipes in the magazine mentioned it. A few days later, we ran into a small jar of this spicy-yet-not-too-hot blend plus a bottle of it in liquid “hot sauce” form. Bought both.  LOVE THEM.

It’s spicy without being overpowering.  Hot without taking out your sinuses or causing weeping.  It pairs super well with red meats or BBQ, but I’ve used it in nearly everything — I put the dried blend into marinades and rubs for chicken, pork, and steak; we stir both kinds into a big pot of pinto beans (which I try to work into our household eats at least twice a month).  And into our grain bowls, which I will describe in a minute.

You can buy piri piri at a lot of spice shops, or hit up Amazon for the liquid stuff or the dry variety, available from many sellers — or like me, get both and use them liberally. We found it at the olive oil store on north Main Street in downtown Greenville (near the Starbucks at the base of the Hyatt).

By the way, this is the brand we are currently using of the dry spice.


Grain bowls

This is like the home-run of the Ramey kitchen in 2019. I’m going to post the recipe as a separate post and link it here.

Monday Nights – Fast Whole Grain & Protein Bowls | RameyLady

If you’re making a shopping list and live in Upstate SC, hit Ingles for affordable sesame oil (check the Asian food aisle) and the downtown olive oil store for spiced Moroccan chili oil and sherry vinegar — and piri piri (mentioned above).


Sriracha & Honey

We’re dumb. We didn’t hop on the sriracha train till, like, last year.  *sigh*  But we’re on it now! Yeah, boy!

Use it: Sriracha-Honey glazed chicken with roasted brussel sprouts


Chocolate-covered Blueberries | Trader Joe’s

I know it sounds weird to combine blueberries and chocolate–at least, it was to me– but I promise this is a delicious combo!  We regularly grab chocolate for snacking at Trader Joe’s because  it’s a good quality chocolate at an affordable price, and we rotate through a winner’s list for end-table snacking:  dark-chocolate almonds or caramels or the shockingly good peanut butter cups.

(seriously, the dark chocolate PB cups will ruin Reese’s for you, forever)

But if you’re trying to “be good” with your snacking habits, and especially if you make hot cereal in the mornings, the chocolate covered blueberries are an unusual and delicious addition.

Buy them at Trader Joe’s, of course, — but if you need an online supplier, I was slightly surprised to find that you can purchase them on Amazon


She-Ra and the Princesses of Power | Netflix
The Dragon Prince | Netflix
Castlevania | Netflix

Look, I know that I’m not 9 years old and we aren’t in the 80s anymore. But if you also remember rushing home after school to catch She-Ra or ˆ cartoons, then take a minute to watch the Netflix reboot of the series which drops the exhausting moralizing in favor of good, solid episodic cartoon stories — child-friendly but enjoyable by adults too.  It’s happy and bright and carries a great message of empowering women to be all they can be. We’ve devoured both available seasons.

The creator of the animated series The Last Airbender (one of our absolute faves) has returned with a new series on Netflix called The Dragon Prince. The storytelling has been great, and it’s a nice reminder of how good Aaron Ehasz stories are. The characters confront difficult choices regarding family, friendships, and loyalty, and the series is poised to investigate the cost of grasping after power, even in hopes of using it for good. One of the key supporting characters is deaf – and I wish that weren’t so rare in media as to be notable here.

Finally, it’s worth noting the Castlevania short sereies on Netflix, if you’re in the animated mood. This builds on the lore from the beloved Playstation games, retelling Dracula’s story (kind of) and exploring the dark consequences of human tribalism, xenophobia, and power abuses.

she-ra-and-the-princessess-of-power-main


 

Cowboy Bebop

I don’t know why it took us THIS LONG to watch Cowboy Bebop. It’d been recommended to us numerous times by friends who love ainme, but we didn’t start watching until earlier this year — and it’s been a delight. We’re savoring the episodes, watching them slowly because you can experience something “the first time” only once, and we want it to last.

Take the best atmospheric storytelling you’ve ever seen on TV and move it to space.  Take the most beautiful framing in cinematography and make it anime. Hand the score to a blues + jazz group who assembled just for this soundtrack. Cap the story at the end of a single season so there’s an actual arc to the story (rather than dragging things out like Lost or nearly any other anime).  Offer some of the most singular characters I’ve ever seen on TV. Make your opening title season sizzle with graphic design hott enough to match the opening theme song (below). Steal style from mid-century Modern and marry it to film noir and pulp detective fiction. Throw it into the future.

That’s Cowboy Bebop

You can watch it right now on Hulu as part of your subscription, buy it on Prime, or watch on DVD/Blueray (Amazon).


Better cleaning, fewer headaches

All three of these products hit my radar thanks to those random Buzzfeed articles usually titled “25 products you can’t live without” or “15 ways to make your life easier.”  Don’t roll your eyes; I often find  gems that way.

I hate the chemical smell of strong cleaning products; they give me a headache.  I can’t even be near the bathroom if my hubby is using one of the strong tub cleaners, meaning he was always on tub duty.

So there was much rejoicing when I ordered Better Life Tub & Tile Cleaner from Amazon and gave it a try.  Short review: It’s fantastic.  Spray it on after a shower, give it 15-20 minutes to work, come back and rinse the tub; scrub if needed. We think the cleaner works even after you rinse it off; I swear the tub continued to brighten after the first time we used it.  And the smell is much less “chemical” than the typical cleaner. It’s not scent-free, but it’s bearable (open a window, turn on the fan) and I don’t get headaches

Better Life – Tub & Tile Cleaner – Amazon

Second, someone in one of those Buzzfeed articles said they’ve been mixing Castille soap with distilled water (5:1 water to soap) in a clean foaming soap dispenser, saving them quit a bit from buying hand soap.  Why not? I thought.  Ordered soap and dispensers (below) and set them up upon arrival.  The soap spells very nice and it foams well. It’s not as “sudsy” as what we were used to, but I’ll take the 75% savings over high-end soaps from BBW or the increase in quality and scent over cheap stuff from Walmart.

Quinn’s Pure Castille Soap with Peppermint Oil, 32oz from Amazon

mDesign modern square glass refillable soap dispensers – set of 2, from Amazon

I fill the soap dispensers about every other month in the kitchen and bathrooms. My bottle of castille soap is going to last for the year AT LEAST.

Finally, in my search for a better laundry detergent (and I don’t have the patience to make my own), I stumbled across Charlie’s Soap, which is apparently a favorite among the community of folks who can’t handle artificial scents. We don’t have that issue, but some of our friends do and it’s made me more conscious of the sheer number of chemicals dumped into my life from all sources -for no good reason, really.

Charlie’s Soap is a simple white powder. A tablespoon or so will handle an entire load in our washer. Clothes come out sparkly clean (we wash in cold nearly all the time) and smelling “clean” without any added scents.  It’s been fantastic.

Charlie’s Soap – Natural Washing Detergent, Amazon

Also worth mentioning that since I’ve switched to Native deodorant, I don’t have to scrub white residue off my clothes before (or after) the wash.  Makes Native worth the extra dollars.


I’d love to hear what you’re currently enjoying in 2019 — whether media, food, good reads, or household helpers. Drop me a comment!

Your Morning Routine Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect – The Atlantic

This night owl appreciated an article that pushes back against the lionization of early morning routines. Y’all can get out there at 6am if you want. I’m going to keep rocking 9am-1am over here.

In essence, morning routines have been repackaged as sacred rituals, safeguarded from the cursed bits of the rest of the day. As a label, routine doesn’t quite capture the sense of spirituality that imbues self-care behaviors. “There’s something unsexy about a routine; it doesn’t sound like you’re living your best life. It has this sort of sterile sound to it,” says Daphne Javitch, who offers nutrition and lifestyle coaching through her company, Doing Well. “When I think of the word ritual, I picture moving to Santa Monica and warming up some raw goat milk from my pet goat in my yard.”

via Your Morning Routine Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect – The Atlantic

Yo-ho, let’s Kondo!

Marie Kondo made a splash a year or so ago when she brought her style of de-cluttering spaces into the mainstream with her book (and website and Instagram and … and….)

Kondo’s services command a waiting list a mile long in Japan, but for the rest of us, her book breaks down her radical, two-pronged approach to tidying. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

from this post about 8 lessons one author learned when she tried the Kondo method

Of course, almost as soon as Kondo’s method went mainstream, so did the critiques: does this woman really expect us to talk to our spaces and objects? And isn’t it the height of privilege to spend a month or a year lovingly handling every item you own, giving it a lovely goodbye, and moving a mass of materials to Goodwill or friends down the line?

Well, sure.

But I think Marie Kondo is on to something I’d like to get behind as well: Modern life dulls our senses. We own SO MUCH CRAP that we can’t even remember what we own.  The drive to earn so that we may buy is a nasty form of idol-worship, often excused when the items we buy are good things in themselves.

For example, I love books. We have hundreds of books. I’ve never counted all the books I’ve read in my life, but it’s probably a thousand or more. Bookstores fill me with glee. Books smell good, feel good, make my brain happy.

But do we need two rooms of our house devoted to them? Increasingly, we’re both starting to answer that question with No. Modern living is wearing all of us down to nubs, shells of empty people with shouty social media friendships lacking meaningful relationships. Piled higher and deeper with stuff but all of it will burn.

Yesterday’s pile of books culled from our shelves, ready for the trip to Mr. K’s Bookstore for trade-in (*fingers crossed*)

Kondo, who is Japanese, raises eyebrows among Westerners in the way she enters a home of one of her clients for a deep cleanse. She seats herself on the floor to meditate, and asks the permission of the home or space to be part of it for her mission to pare down the owner’s objects to the core.

Sounds weird, right? Sounds “Eastern” …. I can still recall the disdain the devout people who raised me threw toward anything mystical or Eastern or “New Age.” (Anybody else remember how Christians were terrified of the New Age in the 1980s? Is the New Age here yet? lol)

Seems to me that there’s wisdom in Kondo’s respect for a space and its arrangement. Like we Westerners would consume less if we were more aware of what’s already here.  I don’t think Lewis or Tolkien or James KA Smith would rail against Marie Kondo’s recognition that spaces themselves can have meaning beyond their physical structures. Is there a “spirit” in my house I need to placate? Nah. But that doesn’t mean my home isn’t more than the sum of the nails and boards that hold it together.

In the Kondo method, you go through your belongings by category (clothes or shoes or kitchen dishes or books) and handle each one. Your goal is to determine whether that object still brings you joy. If no, then give it away or get rid of it. If you’re not sure, then consider whether the item has outlived its usefulness to you. Thank the item for serving you well, and let it go.

Let it go.

What’s left will be more precious, more valuable because it’s not drowning in the flotsam of our consumer culture, with our “planned obsolescence” and throwaway junk. I’ve walked ruins built by Romans two millennia ago, or the Etruscans centuries before them. They laughed in the face of obsolescence.  We’re still paying good money to walk through the foundations of their houses.

*****

I’ve decided to embark on a lot of Kondo-ing in 2018 –for more than just my possessions, though I hope to pare down what we own significantly by the end of the year.  But I’ve realized that I can Kondo a lot of things: my ambitions, my to-do list, my time spent on Facebook, my relationships that I spend emotional energy trying to maintain but that no longer bring me joy.

I don’t think I’m in danger of turning into an ascetic monk living in a cell, but my 40s have become a decade of heightened clarity and awareness of a deep drive for meaning across the entire spectrum of my life.

There are some friendships I’ve realized have run their course. Like Marie Kondo’s method of thanking and releasing a beloved souvenir that needs to go, I’m taking time to think through the people in the more distant edges of my life. I tend to feel guilty about not keeping up with so many folks who have fallen out of my regular orbit because our lives no longer cross paths. And I’m realizing it’s ok to examine those relationships, thank them for making my life richer at the time, and let those people go. (For clarity, let me note that I’m not calling people up and saying, “Bye, Felicia!” None of these folks have interacted with me in years, and if they were to pop back into my life, I’d be happy to reinvest.)

We don’t realize the weight of all of this clutter… until it’s gone.  A messy desk IS a sign of genius and a place for creativity, but there’s a difference between productivity and living an undisciplined life.

I realize it’s going to take more than a year’s resolution toward dejunking the corners and weeding my Facebook friends list to provide me the clarity I’m searching for. But I can tell the journey itself IS the blessing.  Forcing myself to confront the way I seek to use objects for fulfillment makes me recognize what really does bring me deep satisfaction.

It’s time to let go:  of dreams deferred but no longer as tempting; of reference books we bought in a former life when we thought we would be in full-time ministry; of people who are good folks but there’s only so much emotional energy in my life.  I want to make room to enjoy the the friendships and books and art and games and food and spaces that remain.

Needing is one thing, and getting — getting’s another.

PS. We’re selling some great theological books on eBay, if you’re into that kind of thing.   I’ve cleared out most of the minor and major prophets; working my way backwards from Psalms to Genesis right now, and I’ll start posting New Testament commentaries in a week or two.  We’re hopeful our lovingly curated collection will go forth to help many others who need it more than we do.

Sunsets, artistry, life…. nothing really to see here.

Man, it’s been awhile. Sorry ’bout that.

Then again, it’s summer. And what is summer but for relaxing, going to the beach, reading books, and seeing horrible news stories about racism and death. Oh wait….

It’s been a rough month with the Mother Emanuel murders, the ongoing burning and vandalism of black churches in South Carolina, the death of Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, the mysterious murder of Sandra Bland. So many people writing and thinking and talking and processing. Not even gonna try to add to that pile. :-/

So let’s see. What else have I got?

Well, there’s this cool hairdo, for one thing:

sunset hair

Yeah, that’s me sporting some sweet locks in a fiery sunset of color. Totally happy right now, enjoying the raised eyebrows from people who are like “Wha–?” when I pass them in the hallway.

OK, OK, you twisted my arm, here’s another pic….

Instagram shot by my lovely stylist Kristina. She rocked.
Instagram shot by my lovely stylist Kristina. She rocked. I, on the other hand, probably could have worn a less distracting shirt.  I need to stick with solid colors for a while!

Kristina was assigned to be my stylist by the receptionist who took my call last week. I explained that I wanted color, and she correctly booked me with Kristina. And when I walked through the door with my normal brown locks, I think K was initially a bit disappointed….. until I whipped out a couple iPhone photos that I’d saved for reference.

“I’d like something like this,” I said, pointing to an Instagram photo of a girl with longer hair tumbling down in cascades of sunset gold and orange. “Do you think I can pull this off without just looking stupid?”

YES. The response was instant.  “You are one of my people!” she told me later. The people who aren’t afraid to do something just plain nuts (if we’re being honest).

Coolest thing about the whole thing:  Usually people who cut/style hair just do what you ask (in my experience, since I rarely splurge on a true salon haircut). I’ve walked away with plenty of decent cuts and highlights, but it’s not like either of us are bouncing with enthusiasm. Not so with Kristina and color.  Oh, no. This girl LOVES color. She lives in it. Plays with it. Studies it.

And she immediately understood the artistry necessary to turn a head of hair into a sunset. She hand-blended the colors together, forming those yummy pinks and reds near the top. She created.  And it was so much fun to just let her go at it, doing her thing and making it awesome.

That’s something I’ve grown to value in the past 5 years of my life: it’s a worthy pursuit to find artisans who love their craft and invest in giving them the chances to ply their craft in my space.  It yields beautiful artistry, a lot of joy, delightful serendipity, some risk, and a tiny sense of adventure to my otherwise non-remarkable life.

And every masterpiece acquired comes with it’s own background story. Totally worth it.

Do it.  Find the locals who love what they do (and do it well), and scrape together the dollars to let them work. It benefits you both.

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Things around here will be quiet for another couple weeks. I want to soak up as many rays of summer as I can before the crush of the returning school year cramps my style. That, and I’m behind on reading the nominees for the Hugo Award, so I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the couch with my iPad reading in the next 10 days.

If you don’t see me before August, keep shining! I’ll be back. I can’t hold in my opinions too long. 😉