Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Bluebird of Randomness

There are a lot of things in this world that I assume I would enjoy if I put more time and energy into them. Knitting, for example. Podcasts. Riding horses. And definitely social media.  The thing with that last one, though, is the return never seems worth the investment of my time and energy. At least with knitting, I'd presumably have something to show for it, even if it is just an awful lopsided hat.

Image result for twitter logoAnyway, this week I decided to jump back onto my twitter account for the first time in months. To be clear, I don't dislike twitter. I dislike some of the ways it is used--trolling and hate speech and making policy at the highest levels of government. You get the gist. But the rest of twitter can be fun and/or informative in a way that feels...efficient and ephemeral. It's full of breaking news, random facts, cute animal photos, and poignant moments. It's also an overcrowded marketplace where people can sell their ideas and books and jewelry and services 24/7.

But the question is, do I need it?

After seven consecutive days, my answer is...I don't know. I had fun with #AdviceFromYourDog, and I was definitely pleased to read some of the many wonderful #WorldBookDay tweets. I enjoy seeing what other writers are up to, and I like a funny gif as much as the next person. And it really is powerful to witness thousands of people pulling together in times of adversity. The flip side is that twitter does seem like the wild west in some ways, and I'm always afraid I'm going to stumble across a bit of ugliness that will make me want to Windex my eyeballs.

And twitter always, always, feels like a waste of time to me. But maybe that's not such an awful thing, in small doses. Moderation, right? Just like with potato chips.

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As for Take It or Leave It, twitter has earned a probationary Take It. For now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I Think That I Shall Never See...

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A poem as lovely as a tree.

That's the first line from Joyce Kilmer's 1913 poem, "Trees," which is one of the more familiar American poems, possibly because it is often parodied. (For example, "I think that I shall never see a dog who does not like a tree.") The original poem was an immediate hit upon publication in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, and Kilmer earned a whopping six dollars from them for his efforts. Fun fact: I didn't know until very recently--as in yesterday--that Joyce Kilmer was a man. Huh.

In recognition of April being National Poetry Month, I spent the week reading (at least) a poem a day. My two sources were the internet, and a book entitled A Year in Poetry: A treasury of classic and modern verses for every date on the calendar. Yes, all 365 of them, plus Leap Day.

Some of the poems I read were brief, such as the 12-line "Trees." Others were longer and much more dense. James Dickey's "Falling" is 2,162 words inspired by an air accident in which a 29-year-old stewardess (this was some years ago) was sucked out of an airplane emergency exit while in flight. I do recommend it if you're looking to spend a bit of time contemplating very poignant imagery of a woman plummeting through the air to her death.

I've always liked poetry. I never fail to be impressed by how much poets can do with their carefully chosen words. So, I was surprised that I didn't enjoy this week more. Poem-a-day felt kind of like a school assignment, and I found myself procrastinating and then sort of grudgingly getting through it so I could say I did. It rather reminded me of a mental version of planking.

As much as I would like to say that I am the kind of person who would eagerly make room for a poem or two every day of my life, I just don't see that happening right now. For the time being, I guess I'll stick with my usual habit of reading fewer poems less often but enjoying them more.

This week's Take It or Leave It is an unexpected Leave It.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

An Om of My Own

Image result for meditation imagesHappy Wednesday! I don't know about you, but 2019 has been a stressful year so far. Not in any earth-shattering way, thank goodness, but to the point where I frequently feel on the verge of being overwhelmed. Some of it is good stress--what they call eustress, which is physically or psychologically beneficial--and some of it is definitely distress. (And that's without throwing politics into the mix.) There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done, which is nothing new or unusual for any of us, I'm sure.

For years, I've toyed with the idea of starting a meditation practice. I was never sure how to go about it the right way, though, and I wasn't convinced I was that kind of person (whatever "that" means). Books were helpful but a little too static, and joining a class seemed too intimidating. What if my chakras started acting up in public or something? But now, well, this is one place where I have to give technology credit, because there are multiple meditation and mindfulness apps that made dipping my toe into the calm waters of meditation a whole lot easier.
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After a bit of trial and error, I ended up using the (inadequately named, IMHO) app called InsightTimer. It offers 15,000 free meditations, which was a little overwhelming at first. But they are easily filtered by length and focus. I did have to set up an account, but just name and email, no credit card information. Then, I was up and running. (And by that I mean sitting and still.)

I tried a variety of meditations during the week. The shortest was a minute long, the longest was twenty. Most of them were guided, but a couple of times, I just listened to some relaxing music. I meditated in the morning, at night, and occasionally in between. Even though the guided meditations were fundamentally similar in nature, they varied a lot depending on the presenter. Different accents, different pacing, different background music... Some of them didn't quite click for me, but with 15k to choose from, it was easy to find a better fit.

Frankly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my meditation time. On the whole, I felt happier and less stressed this week--though that might be because we also had some very lovely spring weather. Maybe when the blizzard we're expecting hits and drops the temperature by 40 degrees F, I will be back to my normal grumpy self.

Although the Take Its are definitely piling up, I have to add this one to that list, as well.

Have a relaxing week!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Penny Saved

A very happy April to you! The first quarter of 2019 is in the books, so I thought I'd start with a Take It or Leave It update. So far, I've tried making twelve small changes in my life and decided to keep most of them, which is great...but the flip side is that I started losing track of what I'm supposed to be doing and when. So I set up a spreadsheet to organize what I need to do every day, every other day, or a few times a week. I think that's going to help, and hopefully I won't have a hot mess on my hands by mid-year.

April is also the month for Blogging A to Z. I'm not doing that this time around but will be visiting as many blogs as I can. I really like seeing the fun, smart, wise, and poignant themes people come up with. And I met a wonderful group of bloggers last year, whose blogs I still very much enjoy.

All right, back to Take It or Leave It...

I love a bargain and always feel good when I can save a bit of money, so one might assume I'm a whiz with coupons. I'm not. For years, my MO was to cut them out and then find them crumpled in the bottom of my purse three weeks later. These days, I'm inundated with coupons and "special offers" from all sides, so I thought I'd devote a week to trying to maximize my savings potential.

Digital coupons are much easier to use than paper ones and do not result in purse trash, so those were my go-tos at the grocery store. Before I went to shop, I scrolled through the store's app and clicked on the coupons I thought I might use. This took some time and patience and honestly didn't result in much savings over and above the store's sale prices. Ditto for Target. Maybe I didn't buy enough, or didn't buy the right things, but it really didn't seem worth my while.

Kohl's is a different story. Even my sons, who are not shoppers, know not to ever pay full price for anything at Kohl's. My 20% off mail coupon was digitally upgraded to 30% off, plus an additional $10 savings. That's all very well and good, but the thing about coupons is that I often end up buying things I don't need, from a box of crackers to a polka-dotted jacket. Stores know this, of course, which kind of makes me resent the whole process. Plus, having to download all the various apps, each which requires setting up a separate account so I can receive dozens of emails I don't want, drives me nuts.

I didn't do as much shopping this week as I thought I might, but, hey, not buying something is like saving 100%, so I no doubt came out ahead. Going forward, I will still look for a good deal for big ticket items, clothing, and admission fees to theme parks and the like. For routine purchases, however, I just don't have the commitment to make the coupon lifestyle pay off, so this one is a Leave It.