Thursday, July 06, 2017

Lisa Reads 2017 - Second Quarter Update

I just realized that my year-division skills were woefully lacking in my last "Lisa Reads" post. I did my first quarter update in's the 5th month Lisa. 12 divided by four is three, not five. Nice try though.

Let's get this train back on track, yo! I've got two months to work with for this post, but they were some good months for reading!

I read Rubin's book on habits earlier, and I did not expect to love it and be influenced by it as much as I was, so when my pal Nadine offered to lend me her other books, I jumped at the chance to read them for free! The Happiness Project surprised me - again. I have lots of thoughts about happiness, and how to actively search for it and do things in my everyday life that contribute to my (and the folks around me) happiness. In fact, I'm going to start up my own Happiness Project, and plan to start blogging about it soon.

There are a few science fiction/fantasy series that stick out in my head as being "memorable, transformative, mind-blowing": Tolkin's LOTR, The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, anything Discworld. I am going to add NK Jemison's The Broken Earth series to this list. The first two books were so rich...what a beautiful and terrible world she has created. The third book comes out this year sometime, and that's too far away.

Honorable Mention: I find that I am still sitting with parts of The American War. This book was disturbing in its relevance to current events. Essentially, the book takes place after the second American Civil War, far into our future. The earth has warmed, Florida is a sea, the US capital had to be moved to Columbus because Washington DC is under water. Most of the west belongs to Mexico. And the entire state of South Carolina has been quarantined thanks to a plague that was released there by the US government. The war started because the south doesn't want to give up fossil fuels when pressured by the north to do so. The story follows a black girl from the south as she grows up in a refugee camp, which is - spoiler alert - not the best place to grow up, but she makes the most of the time with her Mom, brother, and twin. Well, shit happens and she is essentially groomed to be an "insurgent" for the southern cause. She grows up, becomes an adult, and again shit happens and she ends up in a pretty terrible northern prison for a big chunk of time. Trigger Warning here for descriptions of torture. Her story doesn't end there...but I don't want to spoil it.

There are so many parallels to our current world it's a bit gobsmacking. But one of the biggest takeaways for me was "who is the bad guy?" Our first instinct - thanks to the outcome of the real Civil War - is to say "the south", but it is so much more complicated than that. And that is the reality of war.

I read some poetry last month, and it reminded me:
1) I haven't read poetry since school;
2) I need to read more poetry.
So if anyone has a favourite book of poems, or fave poet, drop it in the comments!

And finally - and I say this every year - how is it already July?! I feel like these past months have disappeared into a haze of moving, moving, and volunteer training. I am looking forward to longer, lazier days this month, enjoying my backyard, exploring my new neighbourhood, and going on some adventures with my boys. Summer feels so "short" in Edmonton, and I really enjoy making the most out of it!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Travel Journal - Iceland 2017

I wanted to document our weekend in Iceland in detail, so I knew my daily Moleskine wouldn't be sufficient, and I was continuing my #100daysofstampcarving throughout so I needed somewhere to test the stamps I created. I ended up bringing a dedicated book that would work as a journal as well as a place for stamping!

A note about Field Notes:
BFF bought me a three pack of the Moon Field Notes awhile back, and I have been using one as a simple notepad. The paper is divine - a perfect colour, pattern and smoothness - for both writing and stamping. And it turns out there are just enough pages to document a weekend trip!

What's In My Travel (Journal) Bag:
- Field Notes Memo Book
- An assortment of pens, both fine points to use for journaling and pens to add extra colour
- Ranger Archival Ink Pad, jet black
- Stamp carving rubber, scraps
- Carving tool (in my checked bag!)
- A few stamps I had already carved
- Paperclips
- Instax camera & extra film

Blah blah blah let's get to the photos.

Other Things to Consider in a Travel Journal:
- I didn't want to risk having my carving tool confiscated, so I put it in our checked bag. I didn't bring any scissors along, but those would have gone into my checked bag as well.
- Since I had to pack everything in my small backpack, I was limited to the amount of supplies I could bring, which actually enhanced my creativity!
- I LOVE using stamps in a travel journal, so bringing some of my already carved stamps might have taken up a bit more space, but it was worth it. I did try and be very mindful of the stamps I brought - ones that could be used as a title, basic shapes (heart, circle), and ones that represented things I might see on my trip (mountains).
- I am still getting comfortable sketching and drawing while traveling, so I didn't put too much pressure on doing a lot of that on this trip. That, and there just wasn't a lot of time to sit and sketch...we were kept busy by our limited time period. I did a couple of doodles, and let my Instax take up the bulk of the visual storytelling in the journal.
- Paperclips are excellent when you pick up memorabilia or want to attach your Instax photos to a certain page in your journal without using a more permanent method (stapler or glue). Also saves you from having to bring a stapler + extra staples, or a glue stick or other adhesive. And you can always change your mind when you get home about how you want to store or display your photos or other memorabilia.

I think that's all I want to say about that. I've talked your damn ear off haven't I? Any thoughts or questions about travel journaling can go in the Comments and I'll get back to you!


Monday, June 12, 2017

One Little Word - Self Care, Action & Chores

At the end of each of my Volunteer Training sessions, we do a feelings check-in and self-care statement. The other day my self care was something along the lines of: "I am going to go home and do chores! Take out the garbage and recycle! Do the dishes!"

Now, this may sound like the opposite of what we know as "self care", but in actuality, self care just means doing something that makes you feel ....[not sure about the word I am looking for here. whole, balanced, in control, something like that]

It took me a reaaaalllly loooong time to recognize that I need a certain kind of structure in my life, and more specifically in my daily life, in order to feel good and in control. I mean, I was 36.5 before I realized that washing at least one dish everyday was integral to my overall mental health.

And now that I wash at least one dish everyday, I can keep up with and focus on other things. It frees up my mental space, and the domino effect this has on other things in my life is astounding.

For me, self care means having a plan and a routine.

For me, self care means doing chores.

For me, self care means creating "good" habits.

For me, self care means making a bunch of meals and having them in the freezer on days when I didn't plan ahead.

I am filing this under One Little Word, because it was thanks to my word - ACTION - that I came to this realization this year.

It seems so simple, and some readers might be shaking their heads at me, but I have never been really good at creating structure for myself and sticking to it. It feels surprising and amazing now that I have figured this out and have seen such benefits happening already. With this momentum and energy I feel like I can tackle pretty much anything.

Any other amazing revelations out there from my fellow readers with a OLW? Or just my readers in general?!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I'm Fucking Done - A List

I am finding it very therapeutic this week to write down some of the overwhelming stuff I am dealing with right now.


Office Move this week. I’m not the official Coordinator, but I’m 50% the unofficial coordinator. So many last minute details. Don’t have all the info I need. Haven’t yet mastered the ability be in two places at once. Or say no to my boss.

House Move this month. Fighting with my landlords over utility payments, lawnmowers, cleaning. Misread my lease, so I owe an extra month’s rent I didn’t anticipate. I have too much stuff.

Volunteer Training. Until the end of June. 6 hours every week. Mental exhaustion is a bitch. I miss the gym. I miss "free time".

Taxes. Government decided they paid me too much money. So I paid it back. Government then decides to take some” of that money off my tax refund, but of course they don’t offer a breakdown. Now I have to figure out how to get money back from them. Which should be very easy and straightforward.

And now I react.

Like an adult.

I swear, I sigh, I put my fucking head down and figure it out.

And I take whatever time I can for all that self care hullabaloo I was writing about earlier.

Being an adult is hard. If someone figures out a way to prevent that from happening, I would appreciate a text.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

One Little Word - Action & Inaction

A major realization for me this year in relation to One Little Word – Action – it in turn related to the opposite of my word: INACTION. I’m still working through all the potential and possibilities, but an early discovery and adjustment to my schedule toward this is meditation. Initially, I was trying to tick off this box, this meditation “to do” in the evenings, thinking that it would be a great way to end my day. But I was getting overwhelmed with all my Daily Practices piling up at the end of the night.

So when I shifted this practice to my lunch hour, my sole thought was to accomplish it without having it stacked among other practices. But holy shit has this small scheduling change ever made a huge difference to my overall day! Just taking 10 minutes for myself in my car allows me to regroup and start my afternoon with a fresh and clear mind.

Some days I can tell that I really needed it – that time I shouted at the app for example – and I may not be 100% focused for those session, but they still have a huge impact on my mental energy.

About the app
I use Headspace, which is a free app…for the first 10 sessions. Which, to be honest, is a great start and you can get a lot out of those 10 freebies. I’ve been doing them pretty consistently for a few months, and I am still enjoying the free sessions. All I need is a guide, a reminder, and I am not looking to more into more complicated or specific meditation just yet. If you’re looking for an app to help you get started, I would definitely recommend this one. Cute cartoons, soothing, slightly accented voice…it’s nice and I feel like 10 minutes is totally doable for most people. The app is free to start, and very easy to use, so it is fairly accessible as well.

I am thinking about “Action” & “Inaction” in terms of self-care right now, incorporating each into each other, and thanks in part to my current volunteer training sessions, I have been thinking about accessibility as it relates to self-care, and what messages we get from society around self-care. Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist, womanist and civil rights activist, and she has a great quote about self-care that is stuck in my head: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

She was speaking specifically to her role as a black woman, and while I don’t want to separate that aspect of her work and writing, I also think this quote can apply to other marginalized identities and poor folks. When privileged people seek self-care, it appears in a magazine with a glitzy headline or in Mom’s groups on Facebook with a lot of emphatic head-nodding and encouragement. And when a poor or marginalized person does it, they’re considered lazy or selfish, spending money on something they “can’t afford”, a luxury item.

Self-care is not a luxury item.

We also put a lot of emphasis on the idea that self-care should cost money. Whether we’re talking about yoga classes, spa days, shopping sprees, or whatever other “buy this and feel better” message we are inundated with in our daily lives. In reality, all that is needed for self-care is a thing you love to do, which can be as simple as a snuggle with your dog, a quiet moment in your car before you head to your next shift, going for a walk with your friend or partner.

We don’t do a good job teaching people how to engage in self-care, but we are a capitalist society so we are really good at telling people to buy things and putting a monetary value on everything. And as an extension of that, putting a status marker on it.

Taking time for ourselves – especially as women, especially in a society that (over)values productivity and work, especially in a society that tells us that as women our role is to serve and care for others – is a radical act, because it is not valued unless it is done within approved societal parameters. That is, unless you buy something, or reinforce your role as worker or as caregiver.

And yes, I realize that I am snarking on capitalism over here, at the same time as I am recommending an app BUT why not use the tools of our oppression to break those chains?!

Okay. That got a little heavy at the end there. Many people have explored this topic more eloquently and in more depth than I have here. I have posted links to some of those articles below. Please feel free to add more in the Comments! I am also on the lookout for more info on the intersection between self-care, politics, feminism and oppression!


Further Reading:
Caring About Self-Care
Self Care as "An Act of Political Warfare" (exploring a quote from activist Audre Lorde)
The Politics of Self Care
For Black Women, Self-Care is a Radical Act