Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stuff I Got Rid of This Week

It's been another successful few weeks of getting rid of stuff. I got started again when I was mailed a packet by the Vietnam Veterans of America including a large PINK trashbag I could fill with items to donate. They had a scheduled pick-up day, and all I had to do was put stuff in the trashbag. Easy! At first I was thinking, "I know nothing about this organization. Is this stuff really going to help out veterans? What if this is some sort of scam?" Then I decided, if they are willing to come get my stuff, I don't really care what they do with it.

I went immediately to my garage sale box, which might have netted me maybe $6.25, and added those contents to the PINK trashbag. That box included an old reading lamp, a few dishes (hopefully they don't break), some picture frames, & some movies (VHS so it's kind of like giving away cassette tapes, oh well). I then went through my closet and found a few more items to add. And as promised they came and picked up my stuff!

My mind was definitely on a roll for donations, so who could use some random towels? Maybe the Humane Society needs those? YES! I checked their website for items they are accepting & ended up gathering a bag of towels, used tennis balls (helped out with the garage de-stuffing!), dog shampoo & a few cans of wet dog food I received as samples. Beats me if they'll be able to use everything, but if they pitch it, that's totally fine.

I pitched a few other things too, like some product-endorsing mini footballs (not quite sure why I had those in the first place). One big step I had was only picking up one vendor item at the conference I was at this last week, and I'm planning on giving that item away anyway. I'm already thinking of what else I can do without because I don't use. My thoughts are toward my DVD's right now. The only one I occasionally watch is Nacho Libre. I think the rest can easily find other homes. For me, it's way more fun to borrow/rent DVD's anyway. I've got a few other items to get rid of from the garage, but I might need to use craigslist for those (fairly old women's golf clubs with wheel attachment & a mini-grill. If in my general vicinity & you are interested, let me know).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Confession: while walking the Jack Russell, I am fascinated by looking in people's open garages as I pass by. Voyeuristic, probably. Creepy, probably. I just like seeing what people have in their garages since it can frequently be the dumping grounds of a person's house. The dirty items, the unloved items, the large items, the single-purpose items, the forgotten storage and the well-loved hobbies all seem to end up in the garage.

Sometimes I wonder how often they use the items in their garage. I don't use my garage items frequently except for the broom and the dog food bin. The only portion of my garage that has been covered in my minimalization efforts was my Christmas stuff/gift wrap box. I'm definitely due for a serious go-through!

But since it's more fun to look at other people's stuff, I've categorized my neighbor's garage styles:

  • Lots of stuff, unorganized. Dump it all in the garage! Old mattresses, couches, boxes, boxes, boxes, cereal boxes, broken toys, multiple lawn mowers, who knows what else, it's all in a pile.
  • Lots of stuff, organized. Much like the previous style, but tidier. People do this in two ways: either the garage is completely packed but with little paths here and there or completely packed with room to park a car.
  • Kid oriented. Plastic playlands! Bikes, Barbie cars, lots of sports equipment, but usually enough room to get in & out of the van/SUV pretty well. Well-pathed grocery route.
  • Hobby oriented. These people's activities (or intended activities) can be clearly seen based on their garage choices. Woodworking, yard maintenance, sports, golf, car repairs, etc. There are typically shelving systems & some version of organization that makes using hobby equipment easy.
  • Car parking oriented. The car must have easy access! All extraneous stuff is either hung up on the walls or strategically placed to provide the most efficient routes to the car possible.
  • Garage? What? This is my hella-cool porch! Most of the duplexes near me take this approach, whether college students or families (but I have yet to see it in a single-family dwelling). Lawn chairs, couches, grills, refrigerators, dart boards, ping pong tables, pool tables, oh yeah. But these garage-porch devotees really use their garages!
I am a mostly car parking oriented. What's your garage style?

And the award for "Most Creative Garage" goes to the college boys at the end of the block for turning their garage into a ping-pong haven and hookah lounge.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays: Triage

It's Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays #7!

I am beginning to understand how tasks end up on the Ultimate To-Do. We mentally sort tasks by several key factors: desirability of task action, need for end result, and if the task has a definite deadline. Since our time is not unlimited, our minds have to form a triage mentality to see what has to be done immediately versus what can wait. Unfortunately, the more tasks that must be done immediately continue to postpone the ever-growing Ultimate To-Do.

For a practical illustration, I am playing keyboards for church on Sunday. I need to practice the music. However, upon arriving home from work, I discovered the Jack Russell had peed in her crate. That particular event created a string of immediate to-do's that took up the time that could have been spent practicing my music. Although the desirability of the task of bleaching out her crate & giving her a bath was low, the need for a clean crate & dog was highly important & needed to be completed before friends came over for the evening. Thus dealing with the dog situation was accomplished, practicing music was not.

In a way, I tend to resent these immediate tasks since they throw my plans for a loop. They get in my way, take up the time I thought I could devote elsewhere & generally put me in something of a sour mood. But I seriously need to get over that. In reality, I don't own my time. I don't have a claim on doing a specific task at a specific time; I have no right to believe my plans are the way things should go. Hence, the Ultimate To-Do grows, but it keeps me on my toes. :)

And for your viewing pleasure, a sunrise over Twin Sisters in Colorado (elev. 12,000ish)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Simplicity: Music Analogy

If I could shadow someone for a year, it would be Marian McPartland of NPR's Piano Jazz. Not only is she an amazing jazz pianist at age 92, but she gets to play with and interview some of the top jazz musicians in the world. Her guest on the show I heard this evening was saxophonist Phil Woods (he's 79, a young-un).

During a portion of the interview, they discussed how their perceptions of music and improvisation had changed during their long careers. Woods said (not verbatim), "When I was younger, it was all about getting in as many fast notes as possible. Hearing an early recording of myself I wondered when I had time to breathe."

But his next comment made me think a bit. "Sure the sixteenth notes can be fun to play, but it's the sustained whole note that really means something."

My first reaction: "Whoa, that's applicable to life on so many different levels."

Second reaction: "But if he hadn't experienced all those sixteenth notes, would the whole note carry the same meaning?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays: The Motivations, Cont.

I'm finally getting around to continuing my thoughts on the motivations behind anti-procrastinating, mostly because I realized one of my reasons yesterday while madly chore-ing around the house. I wanted Sunday to be a day of rest.

I didn't want any tasks hanging over my head that would distract me from relaxing or thoughts of "ack! I should be darning my socks!" while watching the next installment of the Hallmark-esque "Love Comes Softly" movie series (and boy howdy did I just do that. I'm going to have to watch some action movies when I'm done with this Hallmark/Lifetime stuff).

So now I can blissfully relax in the sunshine listening to Ella Fitzgerald with the Jack Russell while I pour my thoughts out to the interwebs. Only thing on the schedule this afternoon: sand volleyball with friends. My week usually starts better when I've had a weekend to both accomplish things and to relax and rest.

Sometimes we get so caught up in productivity that we forget to celebrate our productiveness by relaxing. Since productivity is often a stamp of "worth" in American culture, it's hard to admit enjoying time spent simply watching a movie or sitting outside with a cold beverage appreciating the breeze. Why would I take a day to rest? Why would I intentionally avoid certain types of commitments? Doesn't that signify a lack of commitment to excellence & a sign of laziness & dereliction?

No. I'm just a lot pickier in the activities I pursue, mainly so I can leave a time margin in my life. I don't want to waste my time on activities that aren't worth my time, just so I can have a calendar full of activities and brag about how busy I am. I don't want to wear my activities as a badge of honor. Perhaps my new love of uncomplicated has altered my perspectives in strange ways, but I inwardly cringe when I hear the line "I've been SOOO busy lately!!!" I'd rather be able to take care of the basics consistently (anti-procrastinating!) and be able to randomly enjoy extra activities purely for fun, and for now I'll only do extra activities that don't come with to-do lists, responsibilities or excessive time investments. This philosophy has been hard to implement, but I believe I have succeeded for the time being. However, I know that I will consistently need to fight to maintain margin in my life.

That being said, to prove my worth as a productive human being, yesterday I: vacuumed/detailed my roommate's car (Christmas present), swept out the garage (while sporting a bandit-style yellow bandanna & a man passing by with his walker gave me a strange look), recoiled the garden hose (almost had to write a FAIL blog about that), swept, vacuumed, dusted, changed sheets, did major laundry, washed out the dog crate, cleaned the shower & bathroom, walked the dog twice, visited a local lemonade stand, got my expenditure spreadsheet updated, clipped the dog's toenails, brushed the dog's teeth (with beef flavored toothpaste. yummy?), & much later got the name "Walter Cronkite" stuck in my head after a game of Mad Gab with friends.

So in a way, I anti-procrastinate so I can relax.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let's Make a Deal?

People love "If...Then..." statements since they imply some kind of conditional agreement for what is supposedly an arrangement for achieving either mutual benefit or some sort of personal equilibrium. "If you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert." "If I eat this super-size meal, then I should work out today." We all make these conditional arrangements with our families, friends, co-workers & ourselves everyday. Some statements follow a rational causality sequence and generally work quite well in everyday life. Unfortunately, some conditional statements have infiltrated how we interpret information, generate certain emotions, & even place unfounded hopes.

"If he looks my direction, then he's interested in me."
"If she talks about her lousy boyfriend one more time, then I'm going to stop talking to her!"
"If I buy lots of stuff, then I'll be happy."
"If I get rid of all my stuff, then I'll be happy."
"If people just liked me more, then I'll be happy."

I only know me, so here's my experience. Maybe yours is similar? I try quite hard to attach my actions to happiness, self-worth & general peace of mind. However, I've been learning lately that those areas of life really don't work with conditional statements. I can't leave my self-worth up to "if" I did the dishes or "if" I felt good about accomplishing a project at work. I can't place my happiness on "if" Boy X decides to glance at me or my peace of mind on "if" someone compliments my new shirt.

Recently while reading C.S. Lewis's 'Mere Christianity', I ran across a statement that made a lot of sense & tied in with what I'd been thinking about: "Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it." No "if" in any conditional statements can ensure an ending of "then I will have comfort, be happy, & have peace of mind." So how to we achieve this all-elusive comfort? It can only come from unconditional sources.

For some this could be the unconditional love and support of a spouse or good friend. Some decide to unconditionally accept themselves. However, we as humans are somehow wired for conditionality, so anything involving people typically ends up with fragments of conditionality. Back to square one? Not really.

"Come to me, all you who are weary & heavy laden, & I will give you rest." - Jesus (Matthew 11:28). He will give rest to anyone, no matter what, anytime to whoever comes because he truly unconditionally loves all people, every single person. I appreciate that the action "come" has no qualifiers of "if you come to me trying to be a perfect person" or "if you come really really fast" or "if you come eating your vegetables." It's either "come" or stay where you are. For me though, I'm typically up for some rest.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Brazilian Fish Stew

I tried this recipe out for my mom last weekend and it's definitely a have-again! I got the recipe here from You should check out that recipe since they have pictures plus a recipe for rice (which I didn't make). This recipe is a bit more complicated than most of my cooking ventures, but it's quite tasty especially with crusty bread! Here's what I did (basically taken straight from
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut, swordfish, or cod, rinsed in cold water, pin bones removed, cut into large portions (I used about a pound of tilapia & the stew still tasted great!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped spring onion, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped or sliced
  • 1/4 cup green onion greens, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped (or sliced)
  • 2 cups chopped (or sliced) tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp paprika (Hungarian sweet)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish ("1 large bunch" is an undefined unit of measurement, so I decided that meant "whatever")
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk (I used the low-fat kind)
Place fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice so that the pieces are well coated. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the soup.

In a large covered pan (such as a Dutch oven), coat the bottom with about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. (At least a teaspoon of salt.) Cook for a few minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and onion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables (you'll put them right back in). Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces on the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add back the previously removed vegetables, covering the fish. Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.

Bring soup to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need to add more salt (likely), lime or lemon juice, paprika, pepper, or chili flakes to get the soup to the desired seasoning for your taste.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice or with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays: The Motivations

Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays: Part 3! Truly, this should be part 5 or 6 or something, but I keep on procrastinating writing a blog in time to get it posted on Amy's Anti-Procrastination link party :(

I've been continuing to work on several household projects I have (planning meals by the month, repotting plants, etc.), but I've also been thinking about some of the motivations behind getting stuff done. Why do we want to accomplish things? What will benefit from starting/working on/finishing a project? What gets us started on a project?

Everyone will have different motivations, mine are primarily intrinsic. Most of the tasks on my list don't really benefit anyone other than myself (also probably since it's just me and the Jack Russell), and most of those tasks exist because something in my life feels out of balance & adds additional distractions to my life. I can get distracted so easily, from a dirty floor, unorganized shoes, documents that need to be scanned, or remembering to add to my Netflix queue. What am I distracted from? Primarily two things: peace of mind & focusing on other people.

Arg! Now my peace of mind is shot! Butler lost to Duke! As a Jayhawk fan, I was rooting for Butler, so now I can't focus enough to write, I'm going to bed. Maybe to be continued...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Well, it's Easter!

Woot! No more seasonal decorating items until the 4th of July! Praise the Lord!

But there's even more reason to celebrate. Here's the link to your mood music for this blog (since I haven't figured out how to put Youtube links directly into my blog yet, if you know how, please let me know!). Don't worry about watching that video, just listen to the music, keep reading & I'll explain why the song is here (and even if you don't share my belief system, it's kind of an exciting song! Beats an Easter dirge).

Easter, of course, commemorates the death & resurrection of Christ. This means a lot of different things to different people, whether it was simply the martyring of a good teacher, the event that started the religion of Christianity, or the foundation of the eternal hope of being able to have a relationship with God. Through much of the traditional religious Easter services, a lot of emphasis is placed on the death of Christ, His extreme sufferings, His choice to receive the punishment for the sins of the world, and our unworthiness to think that we might ever presume to accept His gift of forgiveness for the wrong things we have done and a relationship with God. And then come the graphic depictions of the whippings, beatings, crown of thorns & the cross.

I personally don't share this fascination with crosses. No cross jewelry, decorations, pictures, bookmarks, etc. for me. I didn't really like "The Passion of the Christ" all that much. Why? For me, the cross plays a relatively small role in my belief in God. The Romans whipped, beat & crucified hundreds if not thousands of people, so what's one more teacher they decided to kill? If they hadn't crucified Him, they would have stoned Him or thrown Him to the lions or come up with an entirely new way to kill people. But more importantly, there's no hope in the dead.

But that's where the Easter morning comes in and a huge chasm splits Christians from all other belief systems. Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Either He did or didn't, only two options on that one. If He didn't, Christianity is a belief system based on a dead teacher & anyone who says they are a Christian is actively believing a lie & will typically claim that their life was changed by this lie. That is nothing new however, people frequently believe any number of lies & attribute change to those lies.

If He really did rise from the dead, however, this drastically changes things. It means Jesus has power over death. It means Jesus is who He claimed to be, the Son of God. It means He fully accomplished His goal of forgiving our sin so we could have a relationship with God. It means Christians aren't a bunch of lie-believing nutcases.

So what if He really did rise from the dead? We can have a relationship with God. We can have HOPE! We can REJOICE!

And here's some perspectives from some friends on Easter...

I'm New Here

The Expectation of Good