Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

100 Things....Really?

You either love or hate Oprah...there seems to be no middle ground when the topic turns to her empire.  Perhaps, it's just someone having that much power in the media turns people off yet they can embrace her message and pick out what they want to keep from all things that she "knows for sure".   I can't lie, I look forward to getting my monthly magazine subscription delivered to my door--sort of a gift I give myself to sit with and pick apart over a glass of wine.  It isn't Oprah so much that I enjoy, but the fact that she has surrounded herself with some very wise and interesting individuals who contribute or edit her magazine making for some very insightful reading.  This month's issue really packed a wallop.  

One of my favorite columns is written by Martha Beck, a life coach that helps individuals find their true "North Star" in terms of how to live their best, most fulfilling life.  She tackles daily ups and downs with a sense of humor that is easy to understand and with practice can be applied to ones own life.  Her column in this month's issue looks at three women all struggling with being stuck and wanting to get from point A to point B but can't.  Looking at themselves through lens' that their life experiences have imposed on them, they in one shape or form, shortchange themselves by believing that what they have done so far in their life isn't good enough or big enough or true enough to what their inner voice is telling them to do: a voice that they can't hear.  

One woman's exercise was to "write down 100 things that you have accomplished that are clearly valuable to you--no one else".  Not your parents, your siblings, partner, children.  Just you.  I could relate to all three of these women's issues but this one in particular felt closest to home.  So I got out my journal and started my list.  I say started because after an hour of thinking and writing and crossing off and debating about if it was about me or what I have done for others, I ended up with 14 things.  14!!  I am almost half a century old and that is all I could come up with so far.  Granted, some were big things, like living in Paris for a year, but still. I stubbornly refuse to give up on this.  The homework is ongoing as I continue to work on it and discuss it over dinner with my family.  There HAS to be more than 14 things....really, I am not a doormat.  

I share this because I am sure some of you who read this might want to try the same exercise. Or you might relate to the two other stories and want to try their homework designed to help them get "unstuck".   Whatever cement shoes you are wearing, maybe this article will help.  

One thing I know for sure....there are more than 14 things.  I'll keep you posted.  

Additional information:  Are You On The Right Course?

Photo credit:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back To School

I have come to realize that my thirst for knowledge is endless.  I am not parched for lofty, complicated, large scale information like say, the theory of relativity.  That would leave me cross eyed and frustrated (by my inability to understand it!).  The knowledge that I seek is on a smaller scale; the books on my bedside table are more often than not non-fiction, speaking to a topic that has caught my attention and I want to know more about it.  Lately, it has been the perfume industry, neuroscience and memory or the business of luxury and how it is evolving into something other than what it has been and why the evolution.  Travel essays that take me to places I haven't been are another source of education for me--either I hope to get there or know I might not but have spent some time in a place seeing it through someone else's eyes.  

Being in Chicago has opened doors to all sorts of classes that I can take advantage of--cooking at Sur La Table just around the corner, seminars at the Art Institute that my daughter has introduced me to and starting today, twice weekly French conversation classes at Alliance Fran├žaise.  I can't tell you how excited I am to get back into learning French.

Living in Paris for a year, one would think my grasp of the language would have been complete. I can read it with no problem, understand about 90% of what is spoken to me (making for some interesting misunderstandings where the other 10% is concerned) but alas, when it comes to speaking, my brain and my mouth act as though they have never met and I sound like I have swallowed a bunch of marbles.  And of course I panic trying to remember gender--is it masculine or feminine and conjugating verbs--well, forget it.   

So the terror will set in this afternoon as I put myself out there among others who love the French language as much as I and want to be able to pull off having a conversation in what I feel is the most poetic way of speaking in the world.  I feel as though the language fairies are on my side.  A new family just moved in next door to me--a family of four who have just been transferred to Chicago from the 15th arrondissement in Paris.  The boys, about 8 and 11 years old offered to help me in my education and have promised to speak to me only in French, correcting my mistakes as we go along.  I think it's all meant to be!!

Photo credit:  Avolore@flickr, Renee!@flickr

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Living Economically

Now that I am FINALLY getting settled into my new life in a tinier space in a much bigger city, I find that one must change every part of their daily life from what they knew out in the sprawling suburban spread.  It is challenging and often times frustrating, but I am finding it to be rather freeing.  Let me explain.

Our apartment is "cozy" which is a real estate term for small.  Luckily, our space really is cozy as we have made it that way by filling it with bits and pieces of who and what we are as a family.  Many things are in storage as they could not possibly fit here--some of our larger pieces just wouldn't make it through the front door.  The pieces that I did bring with me, feel huge and overpowering almost compared to how lost they were in our home.  A friend of mine came into the city to visit over the weekend and kept asking, "Where did you have that piece?" or "Are those chairs new?".  You walked by it every time you entered my front door and no.  So many things went unnoticed in my home because, well, there were so many things.  Not any more.  Cleaning, purging, selling off stuff--it felt so liberating.  A lot of work but well worth it in the end.  Even now, as I continue to unpack boxes, some things are just staying right where they are in those boxes so Goodwill can pick them up this week. 

Living in the city as I do necessitates being economical in every action you take.  Grocery shopping--if it is last minute on my way home late in the day I can only purchase as much as I can carry.  For "big" loads I pull my little "bubby basket" behind me--you know, those baskets on 2 wheels that grandmas all over the world pull behind them to do their marketing.  I have gladly joined their ranks.  If I can get enough for 3 meals I consider it a good trip.  And I really can't overbuy.  Storage is practically non-existent so you make sure you have just enough.  Finally, brains are no longer growing in our vegetable drawer!! It's awesome.  

Last, I find that I, not being the neatest person in the world but not a slob, pick up after myself all day long.  With counter or closet space at a premium, you can't leave things thrown all over the place.  My closet looks like a display in a Gap store with everything hung in the same direction and sweaters folded just right to make more space.  It's feels crazy for me, especially if you saw my previous closet.  I used the one year rule and had to extend it to two with all the crap I had in my closet and I am now down to only those articles of clothing that I absolutely love putting on.  OK-yes, that I know is going to change as all the fall collections make their way to the stores.  All my purging however will pay off as I get to economically (or not) fill some of my unused space.  

Move over honey, your shirts are on my side.

Photo credit:  tolemaker@flickr