Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Once Upon a Time...



...there was a little girl who loved reading fairy tales. She had a two-volume set of Grimm's, one book blue and one red. As time went by, she lost track of those books. Fast-forward a few (okay, many) years, and that grown-up girl happened to come across one of the same books in a second-hand store. She bought it, because eight bucks is not bad for a big dose of nostalgia. In reading through it, she remembered a) how much she loved fairy tales, and b) she had bought a complete Grimm's Fairy Tales from Barnes and Noble a while back for next to nothing, and that big book was just hanging out in her stack, waiting to be rediscovered. So the next week's Take It or Leave It was born...

I read (at least) one fairy tale every day for a week, and I think I've identified what it is about them that captivates me: the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm are flippin' nuts. I mean, just absolutely wacko. Yes, they are full of deep symbolism and archetypes--witches, roses, mirrors, tricksters, and so on--but they're also like the craziest fever dreams a person could have. Talking animals? Of course--and also trees, streams, rocks, and bones. Glass mountains which open up and swallow whoever or whatever happens to be near? Yes, sir. A guy the size of a thumb? Sure, why not. Children made entirely out of gold? Got 'em. Well, how about a child who is a hedgehog on top and a human boy on the bottom? Him, too.

And don't forget all the scheming, double-crossing, lying, homicide, wisdom and stupidity, patience and haste, laziness and industriousness, dying and resurrection, sinning and redemption. So many themes. So many lessons and cautionary tales. So much potential for creative inspiration.

I'm glad I spent the week getting reacquainted with Grimm's tales and will continue to read through them, including the great Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm. For now, I'll leave you with the first two lines from a story called Fitcher's Bird, which stopped me short:

There was once a wizard who used to take the form of a poor man, and went to houses and begged, and caught pretty girls. No one knew whither he carried them, for they were never seen more.

Sweet dreams!

Image result for grimm's fairy tales




Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Siesta Fiesta

In many countries--Spain, Mexico, the Philippines, Italy, Nigeria, and more--the afternoon nap is an integral part of the day...and an opportunity to get out of the heat. In America, we've come a ways since the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza had to curl up under his desk to get some shuteye. But we still haven't gone all in on this napping thing. Kids, sure. Adults, though? It seems lazy and unproductive, two things we Americans like to pretend we hate (when in actuality, we enjoy lying down and putting up our feet as much as the rest of the world does, gosh darn it). Plus, we're absolute lunatics about air conditioning, so escaping the heat isn't a problem.

Image result for george costanza under his desk
The science suggests America would be well-suited to adopt the siesta culture. A power nap (around 20 minutes) can boost creativity, productivity, problem-solving, reasoning, and learning. Napping three times a week has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Plus, the general reduction in stress can make us happier and, one would imagine, more pleasant to be around.

I am always tired when mid-afternoon rolls around, so for my Take It or Leave It this week, I decided to try a daily nap. In the interest of being consistent, I set a couple of ground rules: I would lie down at the same time every day, and I wasn't allowed to read or look at my phone. Just set a timer, close my eyes, and hopefully catch some winks.

Image result for I Need a Nap Meme
Honestly, I thought I was going to crush this napping thing. After all, I've been known to fall asleep in class, in cars, in movies, in airplanes... But I struggled with the planned nap. On Saturday, I forgot about it altogether. Out of the other six days, I had only two where I felt like the nap did all those magical things for me that naps are supposed to do. On the other four days, I woke up feeling just as tired as I was before, but with the added bonus of also being grouchy.

Even though this week wasn't terribly successful, I'm not quite ready to throw in the nap towel. In fact, I feel challenged now to figure out what constitutes a perfect nap for me. To start, I think I'll shoot for the thrice-weekly siesta and maybe even check into one of the "power nap" apps that I only now discovered exist.

I guess that means this week's Take It or Leave It is a little bit of both.

Happy napping!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

This Just In...

Image result for newspaper deliveryIt's Take It or Leave It, Week 4!

When I was a kid, my best friend had a paper route. She'd get up early, use rubber bands to secure the papers into tight cylinders, fill up her canvas sack, and walk the neighborhood. I admired that she had a job, but I wasn't exactly envious of the work. Or the hours. Now, the relatively few home-delivered newspapers are done so by adults in cars under cover of pre-dawn darkness.

It's no secret that the way we consume news has changed dramatically. What used to require perhaps a half hour of reading in the morning and an hour or so of TV in the evening has truly become 24/7. And it's not nearly as passive. The news actively seeks us out with chimed alerts on our phones and scrolling feeds at the bottom of even our non-newsy shows.

We're a culture that doesn't seem to know when we've had enough, and news is no different. I've had a longtime habit of reaching for my phone first thing in the morning, even before my eyes focus, to see what happened in the world while I slept. I knew it wasn't a great way to start the day, but it was just too easy. Plus, I love the validation of reading articles that agree with my views. These are divisive times, and I'm not above the occasional feelings of superiority at being on what I consider the right side of history.

When I decided that for my next Take It or Leave It, I was going to quit checking the news on my phone, I felt a little panicky. In fact, the night before, I binged on my favorite apps and websites, until, like any binge, it started to make me queasy. The next morning, I got up and got going without looking at my phone, and my world collapsed I was absolutely fine! Better than fine, actually, as I had freed up a few extra minutes. (I don't know about you, but for me, five minutes in the morning is like twenty minutes any other time.)

To be clear, it wasn't a news blackout. I scrolled past the news on Facebook, but I still listened in the car and occasionally sat down to watch Lester Holt. I stayed informed; I just wasn't mainlining news straight into my eyeballs anymore. As the week went on, I was very surprised to find that I didn't miss phone news one...little...bit. It was also nice to steer clear of those pesky rabbit holes, where I click one link and come back to my senses forty minutes later while reading 10 Overrated Tourist Destinations.

All in all, I feel pretty good about reclaiming a bit of my self-control at the Never-ending News Buffet.

Today's headline from Take It or Leave It:
Leave It.






 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Sound of One (Non-dominant) Hand Clapping


Hello! Welcome to Week 3 of my Take It or Leave It Challenge.
When my mom was a little girl, her older sister taught her to write left-handed. But in elementary school, her teachers determined that she might be more comfortable being right-handed. As a result, she's still ambidextrous enough to write with both hands. That's the cool part. The downside is that she's had lifelong confusion about which hand she should use. 



Image result for Funny ClappingI have no such problem. If my brain needs something done, it knows to ask Righty. For all intents and purposes, Lefty is just there for symmetry. But I've heard for years that it's good for the brain to call upon the non-dominant hand to help with routine tasks. In fact, ambidexterity training is a thing now, and its proponents claim such benefits as improved neuroplasticity, increased creativity, better memory, less stress, more positive mood... (The other side to the story is research showing that ambidextrous people tend to perform more poorly on certain cognitive tests and may have greater age-related decline in brain volume. Yikes!)

Out of curiosity, I thought I'd try ambidexterity myself. For the last week, I've been calling upon Lefty to help me out with everyday activities: brushing teeth, brushing hair, opening doors, vacuuming, cooking, eating, and the like. Frankly, the results were mixed. First of all, it was really hard to change my ways. I'd be halfway finished with something before I remembered to switch hands. I also learned that there are certain tasks I can't trust Lefty to do. Cutting, for example, with knives or scissors. Anything to do with my contact lenses/eyes. And the hairdryer was fine, but even though I only use a curling iron for smoothing out bed head, Lefty just couldn't manage it. Afraid to go to work with random facial burns, I quickly gave that one up.

To cap off the week, I did the Sunday crossword left-handed, the result being something between a third-grader's homework and a ransom note.

I didn't feel any more creative or less stressed--the opposite, really--but the exercise did present many deep, philosophical questions, such as: Why is there toothpaste on the mirror? Why is my belt on backwards? Who spilled coffee grounds all over the floor? All in all, I'm not a convert to this opposite-hand business, with one exception. Using my non-dominant hand for eating slowed me down and made me much more thoughtful, which is a good thing.

For Take It or Leave It, this one's mostly a Leave It.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Water, Water, Everywhere


Image result for Water Glass

There's apparently a magical substance that, when ingested regularly, can increase energy, improve complexions, reduce bloating, encourage weight loss, prevent headaches, lubricate joints, and flush out toxins. And that magical substance is...Diet Dr. Pepper! Hooray!

No, that's ridiculous. Of course, I'm referring to water. Nutritionists and other health-oriented people recommend drinking 8-8 ounce glasses a day. (Or, if you want to do a bit of easy math, drink half your body weight in ounces.) Drink more after exercising or on hot days or whenever you've been extra sweaty. (FYI, I'd rather not know what made you extra sweaty, thanks.)

Because Colorado is a dry climate, you might assume that drinking 8 glasses of water is a no-brainer. Except that it's not! Not for me, anyway. I have tried many times to get into the habit. It usually lasts about two days, and then I go right back to waking up in the middle of the night feeling like my tongue is velcroed to the roof of my mouth.

But this past week, I did it! Sixty-four ounces of water a day for seven days. (Well, almost.) I tried to drink sixteen ounces before leaving the house, and another sixteen during my four hours at work. No problem. For some reason, however, I apparently go into camel-in-the-desert mode during the afternoon, and all of a sudden, it's almost bedtime and I realize I have two more glasses to drink. So on day 1, I only drank 7 glasses.

Now that I'm adequately hydrated, I feel...pretty much the same. I was hoping for a surge in energy, or to have strangers stop me on the street and compliment me on my dewy, youthful skin. Those things didn't happen, but I do feel less thirsty all the time, especially at night, which is definitely an improvement. And I'm hoping that if I keep hydrating, that dewy thing will be right around the corner.

The Take It or Leave It verdict?
Take it. And toss in a slice of lemon, too.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TIOLI: Number One With a Bullet...Journal, That Is

Welcome to my first Take It Or Leave It report! I've never really been one for personal journaling, but last year, in my perennial quest to be better at tracking my time and activities, I bought a planner--7 rings, loose-leaf calendar pages, shiny plastic dividers and pockets. The works. I stuck with it for the most part, and I think it helped me be more organized. At the very least I had a place to collect all the little bits of paper flotsam--receipts, fortune cookie wisdom, appointment cards--that somehow become important in my life.

This year, I'm trying to refine my technique even further using the Bullet Journal method developed by digital product designer Ryder Carroll. Full disclosure: I'm not exactly on the cutting edge here, folks, as the Bullet Journal, and systems like it, have taken social media by storm over the past few years. Though Carroll's occupation implies that the BuJo® (as it is also known but I will never call it) is a digital product, it is actually a pen and paper notebook system. (At one point in the tutorial, he referred to it as analog, which cracked me up. I'm not old; I'm just analog.)

The shorthand of the system is called Rapid Logging, which allows for quick, brief notations. In the spirit of the process, I will break the general concept down in a bulleted list:

  • Begin with a blank journal.
  • Designate index, monthly, and daily pages as instructed.
  • Track tasks, events, commitments, and ideas using the differentiated bullets: a dot for a task, a circle for an event, a dash for a note. Asterisks and exclamation points signify special entries.
  • Follow up with items as needed. Cross off if completed, strike through if irrelevant, migrate to a different date if necessary.
There are a few other guidelines and details, such as using an index and compiling collections, but not many.  

I spent last week getting acquainted with the Bullet Journal. As someone who has a tendency to overthink things, I'm pleased with its simplicity. In fact, the website describes the methodology as "a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system." It is structured yet flexible, with quite a bit of wiggle room.

Because I had already purchased my 2019 binder pages and didn't want to waste them, I'm not using a notebook, but I am able to insert blank pages as necessary. So far, I've added two symbols to personalize my notations--a heart for gratitudes, and a droplet for exercise--and I imagine that I will continue to tweak things until I arrive at a system that feels right for me. (But I'll probably skip the companion app.)

And the TIOLI verdict...after seven days, I can say that the Bullet Journal is a definite Take It for me.

I'd love to learn about your experiences with bullet journals. And I hope you'll join me next Wednesday for week two!

Cheers!



Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Year of Take It or Leave It


See the source image

Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 is off to a great start. I love New Year's Day, and I love making resolutions. Usually I break them, but, hey, at least I try to effect positive change in my life. One of my 2019 resolutions is to blog more often. But I've realized that to blog regularly, I have to have a reason more compelling than whatever happens to be on my mind at the time. Without at least a little bit of structure, it's way too easy for me to put it off. Case in point, I haven't posted here since the end of October, in preparation for NaNoWriMo. (I survived NaNo, by the way, and came away with 50,010 words of a rough but workable first draft.)

So my brilliant idea for this year is a self-imposed game/idiotic challenge I'm calling Take It or Leave It. (I don't know if this is an original idea. Probably not--some eleven-year-old Pinstagram influencer probably beat me to it--but I'm too lazy to Google it and confirm one way or another. And yes, I know Pinstagram isn't a real thing.) Every week, I will add something to my life or take something away. After seven days, I will report back about my experience and whether I'm going to take it or leave it for the long term.

As usual, I am coming into this sort of ill-prepared and sideways, but sometimes that's half the fun. (This may or may not be one of those times.) Anyway, if all goes as planned, I will make some good new habits this year, break (or at least chip away at) some bad ones, and try some new stuff. Oh, and I'll also throw in a few writing-related posts, as well.

That's it for now, but I'll be back on January 9 with my first week's report. Stay tuned!