Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Failing at meditation

(for Audrey, with love)

There are things in life that are empirically good for you. Love is good. Laughter is good. Drinking water, eating vegetables, and wearing sunscreen seem to be habits that are universally accepted as good. Meditation, from what I’ve read, can lessen PTSD, ease depression, calm anxiety, help the mind to focus, and actually changes the brain so it can be a better brain. All good, right? So why don’t I meditate? Why don’t you meditate?

meditation-timemagazineIn my case, meditation sounded like this

Ok, so I’m meditating. Don’t think. Don’t think. DON’T THINK! Focus on breathing. In. Out. What was that thing I meant to do earlier? Shit, stop thinking! In. Out. Good god, why does 5 minutes feel like an eternity? (open eye — one minute down) Ok, breathing. In. Out. In. When I get done I really need to call about that thing. (trail off thinking about that thing) Shit, get back to breathing. In. Out. (repeat for 5 minutes)

Yes I meditated like this, faithfully, at least once every month or so. I did not reap benefits. In the meantime, I bought lots of things that would help with meditation: a special cushion to sit on, really good headphones, CDs with Oprah and Deepak, and app after app after app. I tried some guided meditations and liked them, but could never get up the steam to use them regularly. When you want to do something, and believe it would be good for you, but you don’t do it, it chips away at your sense of efficacy and your faith in yourself. Not good.homer_001

A few weeks ago and friend and I were talking about meditation (hi Laurel) and she said she was using an app called Headspace. I’d seen Headspace but stayed away from it because you had to subscribe after the initial 10 free meditations. Well Laurel told me that on Headspace you can have friends and you can encourage each other to meditate. Hmmmmmm. I have a fitbit, and the friend component has helped me to be more active. So I decided to try it.

For me, Headspace has been the key to starting a successful meditation practice. (I’ve meditated for 10 minutes a day on 11 of the past 14 days. Yep. I’m pretty much Ghandi!) Let me tell you what works about Headspace for me:

  • The meditations are guided and I like Andy’s voice. (Andy is the guy behind Headspace.)
  • For most of the 10 minutes, Andy’s telling you what to focus on.
  • He actually says “meditation is not about getting your mind not to think!”
  • I have 2 friends (3, now that Tim’s trying it) on Headspace and I can encourage them to “get some Headspace.”

When I completed the 10 free sessions, I decided to take the plunge and pay for a year of Headspace. This is where it got interesting for me. As an information junkie, I like to have information, but having it and using it are two very different things. When you subscribe to Headspace, they don’t just give you access to every meditation they have. You need to complete two more 10 session modules to unlock access to all the other stuff. Having to “earn” access is great, because it’s like there’s a prize for consistently meditating. And as I worked my way through the first 10 sessions, there were a few days when I would think “I want to meditate.” This, friends, is a new thought for this ADDish girl.TypeABuddhistHeader

If you decide to try Headspace, please let me know so we can be friends there. (No ulterior motives here — you don’t get referral credits or anything.) And if you have found ways to successfully meditate, I’d love to hear about them.


How to do laundry better

ProductDetailHero-Shout-Color-Catcher-ImageThere are some certainties in life, and one of these is laundry. In college, I did not wash my sheets until I absolutely had to. And then I’d usually sleep for a week or so on the bare mattress before I slowed down long enough to put the sheets back on the bed. And the clean laundry pile would just grow and grow, because anything was more fun than folding laundry.

Once I got married and had kids, laundry got more complicated. It’s the micro-decisions that take the biggest toll. So figuring out whose shirt was whose (which got more difficult as my sons got older and their shirts were closer in size to my husband’s shirts) and which person’s clothes got hung up vs folded — well, it makes me tired to even type this. I used to tell my husband that I was going to make everyone be naked for a day, just so there would be a moment in time when all the laundry was clean! Another problem was getting the laundry to smell clean. With gymnastics and dance, and running, and golf, we’re an active bunch. And sports clothes are notorious for retaining smells. Yep, I’ve been a laundry failure for a long time.

But I have learned from my mistakes and an pleased to share with you here some ideas that work for me. I hope you’ll find something in this that helps you too.

1. Ask people to take stuff out of their pockets before the laundry goes into the hamper. just one pen, one innocent looking pen, can cause hours of cleanup with all the ink it can deposit on a load.

2. Ask your people to bring their laundry hamper into the laundry room. They have to be a little invested in the process.

3. Separate out clothes by the person who wears them. When all the clothes in a load are for one person, there are no micro-decisions to be made.

4. With the possible exception of deeply died reds or turquoises, all colors stay together. This is because I use “Shout Color Catcher sheets.” I didn’t know about these until Austin moved out of his dorm room freshman year. His roommate was already heading back East. I saw two big boxes of the color catchers on the floor and asked if I could have them. They’re now a standard part of every load.

5. Fabric softener is overrated. I think it was more needed when everything was made from cotton. And it interferes with towel absorbency. I rarely use it and things seem to turn out fine.

6. Regarding the sweaty smell that can linger, the solution is OxyClean in every load. Baking soda works too if you’d prefer a more natural alternative.

7. If you’re doing laundry for other people, get those people to help. I am hopelessly bad at asking for help and assigning chores to my kids, so I didn’t do this. I wish I had. Not only would it have made the process go tons faster, but it would have helped teach them an important life skill from an early age. Well, as I always say “nobody escapes childhood unscathed!”

8. This is completely unnecessary, but on so lovely. If you can, have hangers that match. It makes the closet feel peaceful.

If you have laundry tricks and tips, I’d love to hear them. And remember, when you’re doing laundry, you are never alone, as there is always someone else in the world doing laundry too.

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Transforming hate into something better

I have a whole post in mind about laundry and you’re gonna see it soon. But yesterday a friend asked this question on Facebook, “What do you do when you really hate something? Can you learn to like it, even a little bit?”

A pet peeve.

A pet peeve.

What a great question. I thought about throwing out some tips, but the more I thought I realized more information was needed. So I asked for, and got, the details of her situation. And I passed on some thoughts that were specific to her situation. Now that got me to thinking (start of rabbit trail)

What if I change the tagline of my blog from “Like having a big sister, but better because I can’t boss you around.” to “Heloise meets Carrie Bradshaw” (because on “Sex and the City” Carrie was always starting her work with, “and that got me to thinking.” But wait. I’m like Carrie Bradshaw minus everything that makes her Carrie Bradshaw, except that question.

Aaaaand we’re back. Then I realized that although there are specifics to each situation, there are a few general principle that apply to anything we don’t like. It won’t work on pet peeves. (I will NEVER fail to be riled up about women leaving the toilet seat cover on the toilet for the next person to deal with. C’mon girls. That’s not nice. And it’s gross.) But a change in perspective is definitely called for because when you don’t like something, it controls you. And you can call it whatever you like: hate, irritation, resentment, negativity. Those things only hurt you. I’ve heard, “Having a resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the enemy to die”

For your consideration I offer some ways to deal with (let’s call it what it is) the stuff that irritates the shit out of you.

  • Beware the roving eye of discontent. I grew up at a time when military shows were on TV a lot. I was fascinated by radar screens, where they would be scanning an area and little blips would show when they found something. That’s what the roving eye of discontent feels like to me. Like I’m scanning, constantly scanning, for whatever is not right in the world. In other drivers. In my house. In my circumstances. In me. For years my strategy for dealing with this was running and while that doesn’t work for everybody, physical movement truly can interrupt a mind gone bad.
  • Find the good. This one’s tricky, because there are some circumstances that are empirically bad, to my way of thinking. I’m not talking Pollyanna thinking, but rather taking your brain and finding something good in whatever you don’t like. For example, “thank God I’m not as giant of an asshole as that guy.” At first glance that may seem inflammatory, but if you really consider the statement, it can go from an exclamation of anger to a prayer.
  • Teachers all around. For years I have loved Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild (a wonderful book) and Tiny Beautiful Things (an even better book). Now she has a podcast called “Dear Sugar” which is based on an online advice column she wrote some years back, under the pseudonym “Sugar.” In the inaugural episode, she talks about “dark teachers.” I won’t reveal the context of this term, but suffice to say that it has to do with an evil act. What blew my mind was the idea that something could be learned, even from something horrendous.
  • What we seek gets bigger. Here’s an experiment to try. Choose a color. Any color. Now scan your environment for things of that color. (If you’re outside in nature, don’t choose green. That’s too easy.) I’ll bet you are able to find matches for the color you chose. So if we’re looking for what’s bad, you’d better believe we’ll find it. But if we’re actively seek the good, we’ll find that too.
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Ever since seeing Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” with his seven identical suits (one for every day of the week) I’ve wanted a uniform. The simplicity of not having to choose what to wear, combined with the assurance you’re wearing the right thing (because it’s the only think you’re supposed to wear) equal freedom to me. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way if I’d ever actually worn a uniform in school. Hmmmmm. Nope. I’d still love the idea of a uniform.

My husband would tell you that at times I did have a uniform. When the boys were toddlers, nearly every photograph will attest to my love of one pair of Victoria’s Secret overalls with a plain white t-shirt. (I loved those overalls so much that when the buckle broke on one side, I fixed it with a bread twist tie. True story.) At that time keeping up with two little boys and their little boy energy took everything I had, and I loved that zero thought needed to go towards what I would wear.

Looks like we all got the uniform memo!

Looks like we all got the uniform memo!

Recently I’ve read a number of article about minimalism, and today I saw a piece about having a capsule wardrobe. The idea is that you have a limited number of pieces that go with each other. I think this is a great idea. And I may try it out. But for now I have a formula for what I wear, and that seems to be working. Here’s the formula:

  • jeans or pants
  • t shirt
  • a third piece

Just knowing that this is how I dress makes it so much simpler. Generally speaking I keep 2 of the 3 pieces neutral, and use a bright color for the other piece or I bring in color with a scarf or a necklace. Right now what that looks like is cobalt/dark teal jeans, a grey Michael Stars sweatshirt (fabric is dressed up, silhouette is casual), and oops, no third piece. This combo doesn’t seem to need it, but I do have a multi-colored necklace on that ties in the pants. At other times the formula is black skinny jeans, white t shirt, and a bright cardigan. The third piece seems to pull everything together and make it look a little more grown up somehow.

Where the formula falls apart is in the summer. Temps in Rocklin are regularly in the high 90s/low 100s which makes a 3rd piece superfluous. Perhaps this summer I’ll try the capsule wardrobe thing. If I figure anything out, you know I’ll let you know.

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