Sunday, January 10, 2016

One big post

I am trying to catch up before the next birthday list is to start. Instead of one small post for each of the following, I'm going to lump them together. This is what happens when I don't keep up with things. So I obviously didn't complete the "update the blog every month" goal.

Goal: Arctic circle

When H came to visit over Thanksgiving, we took a bus tour of the Arctic circle. It was a 19 hour bus ride, but totally worth it.

Goal: Bible study group

I'm going to count this one covered by the Life group meeting every Monday at the Covenant church. The whole point of this goal was to get to know more people in the church, as well as to grow spiritually, and that was duly accomplished.

Goal:Sunday school for at least one month

I am so glad this was on my list. My church offers a few classes on Sunday before the whole service. I went for a one month goal and have been attending ever since.

Goal: Women's group

Thursday nights are my favorite.

Goal: Finish two online classes

While sitting on my parent's couch watching all of "Parks and Rec."

Goal: Move up on the pay scale

I needed two more credit classes to be able to move up on the pay scale, so the goal above really was doubly helpful.

Goal: If:Equip bible study

After the If:Event, I looked into the bible studies that this site offers. I've completed a few ever since. You can go to the site everyday, or get the reminder sent to your email Monday-Friday. I like the format. There is a bible passage to read, a short clip of two women discussing the passage, an open ended question to consider, and a comment board to answer the question and respond to others.

Goal: Read the news everyday for a month

A friend told me about when I was discussing my birthday list. The Skimm sends you an email Monday-Friday. It summarizes the big events in the news that day, along with links to news sites to read more, and sometimes background stories to understand the context. I also checked the ADN daily during this month.

Goal: Underwater camera

I got it in time for Mexico snorkeling. I had been inspired by H's camera while we were traveling Australia.

Goal: Netflix

The goal was to work my way through some more classics and documentaries. While I did complete the goal of signing up for Netflix again, it didn't go well. I don't go to the post office often enough, and movies sit unwatched for weeks. After a few months, I deleted my account.

Goal:Overnight camp with the dog

Completed on my hike in Minnesota this summer. Yakko is a great hiker. Terrible camper. He could not calm down, even at night. He was on super alert mode. I was so glad for A's offer to take him for the rest of my trip, because after 3 nights camping with him, I was done.

Goal: 30 box for Kelly

My good friend A picked this up from a friend of hers, and I've adopted it for my sister's big 3-0. I collected 30 items that I thought she would like, enjoy, or need. I wrapped them up and sent them to her. On her birthday, she got to open 1 present, then 1 everyday afterwards. I had received my box from A when I was traveling Australia, and it was fantastic.

Goal: Two week hike

I hike the Superior Hiking Trail from the northern most point down to Silver Bay. It was much hotter than I expected, and the dog only made it for the first 3 days before I sent him with A for the remainder of the trip.

Goal: Life coach

The Covenant church offers Spiritual Direction. I had no idea what this was until I went to a women's retreat last fall. I attended a small session that was a Q and A about this subject. As it was described, I kept thinking, Is this like life coaching, only we get to pray together? I then even asked during the session is one could call this service "life coaching?" She said...."Well....I suppose so...." and I was hooked. We had our first meeting face to face in September and scheduling Skype session following.

Goal: Prayer board

I wanted a visual reminder in my house about the people I wanted to be praying for consistently. I set up a post-it area in my kitchen (because I live by post-its). I occasionally add a few notes around their names. But it's been good for at least catching my eye as I walk by as a reminder to take a moment in my day and pray.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Goal: Rejoin Postcrossing

Postcrossing is a site to send and receive postcards from around the world. Once you sign up, you request an address and one is randomly assigned to you, along with a ID code. When the recipient receives the postcard, they report the card as received using the ID code. Then your address is released as assigned to someone else. Then you start checking your mailbox!

I had been very active on the site a few years back and really enjoyed the postcards. This go around, I wasn't as into it and cancelled after only a few postcards. 


Goal: Complete Level 8 in Spanish on Duolingo

I discovered Duolingo when I was in Spain, gearing up to go to Italy. I was able to work my way through enough Italian, that when I was staying with my host who’s wife only spoke Italian, I was able to understand the basics of what she was saying. I was also able to communicate with country woodworker as my olive picking friends and I found shelter from a downpour while we were on our way to the grove. 

I started working on Spanish when I decided to go to Mexico for spring break. I don't remember how far I got before leaving for the trip, but I made it to Level 8 by the summer. 

Kentucky Derby

"A" hosted a Kentucky Derby party this past May, complete with hat making party the week before. I’d say the pictures speak as to how successful it went. And it gave me an excuse to use my Suffragette costume again.

Alphabet Collage

Goal: To make an alphabet collage index.

While in Mexico last spring break, I spent some time sitting in the sand, making the letters of the alphabet with seashells. Once they were all done, I noticed there was a smudge in the corner of all of them! I did not have the enthusiasm to do it all over again.

Even though I didn't get a great database out of this activity, I did discover how meditative writing in the sand over and over can be. I was reading "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson at the time. I found myself praying for all the people I could think of who's name started with the letter I was working on. It makes me want to put "make a prayer sandbox" on next year's list.

I think I deleted all the sand pictures, because I can't find them. But I took a few pictures on my hike in Minnesota this summer. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Can I tell you the hardest things about living alone? Small talk and conversations. When I had someone around all the time, I was engaged in constant small talk; little ideas that pop into my head, small but funny moments throughout the day. They are not in themselves important or significant, but they were tiny threads of a relationship that was built over time. I learned how this other person thought and processed the world from this vast expanse of data collected over small talk. And it’s a way of opening up and connecting. “Hey I had this private thought that I treasured and I could have taken it to my grave greedily, but I trust you enough and care for your input and perspective, that I decided to share it with you.” These small everyday moments are like tiny sparks that just keep adding up to….something (I lost the metaphor that I was going after, so I just don’t know what those sparks add up to. Something on fire I’m assuming).
But now that I live alone, there is no sounding board. I sometimes talk to myself or the dog, but it’s not the same as that interaction with another soul. My thought patterns have changed. I stopped thinking, “I should remember to tell this to ____,” because there is no one to tell. Yes, I can pick up the phone and call family and friends. But when I normally would have just looked up from making dinner to say some small thought (like “I saw a leaf shaped like a squirrel, and then I saw a squirrel”), it doesn’t seem to merit a phone call.
Even if I did make that phone call to share that random thought, I am now involved in a much longer conversation than I was looking for. The thought was just to be shared, with maybe a response of “huh,” or “funny,” and then back to that comfortable silence of living life in a house with another person right there. Or I could make that random though call and hang up, only to call again with the next random thought (“then I saw a leaf shaped like Barrack Obama but this girl walking in front of me stepped on it and it stuck to her shoe and I wanted to start humming “Hail to the Chief””) but this would undoubtedly become annoying and disruptive to others, as they are trying to tell the other soul that lives in their house that they saw a man at a restaurant eating soup and now they’ve been wanting soup all day.
            With a real life sounding board soul in the room, who can read my tone and facial expressions and gestures that go along with such stray thoughts, the responses vary from non-committal grunts to eye-rolling to talky-talky word using. Then it’s a conversation! It’s connection. Lots of big-idea-life-stuff-conversations are spurred from sharing these simple random comments (“Do we have pepper?”)
But now that I live alone, these thoughts fizzle to nothing. I don’t ask if there is pepper, I just go look in the spice drawer. It’s not interactive, not relational, just task completion (I just did a thing robots can do). And my thoughts become robotic. I don’t think in conversations, in questions, in relations. My default mode is task completion (because I don’t have to ask anyone if they want chicken or beef tonight, so I just do it). And if I am just talking to myself, not many of these little thoughts are then spurred into those big-life-talks-ideas. And even if they are, NOW WHAT?! I am alone.
Again, yes, I can pick up the phone and now share this big deal with a friend, but now there is now of that building up conversation, just MY BIG THOUGHTS AND FEELS with barely a hello. And the other person can’t see that I’m standing in front of the stove making stir-fry with a far away look (so I’m ok), or I’m on the bathroom floor staring up at the ceiling in my underwear (usually not a good sign). Either way, here’s a blast of a whole lot of me at 100 mph when they might still be at the squirrel-leaf frame of mind because there was no build up to that conversation. And then do I keep calling them every time I have these BIG IDEAS? It wouldn’t be happening as much as the random thought calling, but it would be much more intensive in energy to follow as respond (please the whole thing with picking up the phone and pushing the buttons, so hard). It becomes habit to call expecting big thoughts and high energy and that can be draining for both sides.
            So I don’t call, I hold off, muddle on the idea (maybe obsess), waiting until I see them next. But most of the time, these thoughts are lost and forgotten before I see again (if I even had a specific THEM in mind) so the thoughts are never shared. My big thoughts and big ideas on life itself aren’t shared because timing and proximity are such big deal in real life. These thoughts are never shared, and a piece of me floats off into space, unclaimed.
The reverse side of that situation is that I DO remember that big thought because I want to share it with them soooo bad, that it’s all I think about until I see them next. But again, I don’t want to lead with everything on full blast, because I’ve learned people stop answering their phones because they are not ready for so much energy in a conversation starter. So I try to start with the small talk, the warm ups. Only I’ve forgotten how to do this thing! I’m a robot brain, remember?! So awkward stumbling ensues. I’m trying to stage and recreate the precursor conversation that would have happened at home(if only the dog spoke English). But even the most graceful conversationalist would find it tricky to lead the conversation in an “organic” way to open the door for this BIG IDEA to be shared, and since I’m not that thing, I get no where fast. All the while that BIG IDEA is in my brain and blaring into my conscious thoughts like gaudy casino lights, which is very distracting. So my awkward conversation skills are punctuated by awkward pauses as I try to push this THING away so I can speak those normal words that people say (all while trying to PUSH the conversation to that THING).
And I’ve thought the same thought that you are thinking, “Why all the pretense? Just be brave and say what you want to say (Thank you Sarah Bareilles).” But think about that. Imagine if you had a friend that started most conversations with BIG THINGS as soon as they see you. Before you say, “I would welcome that conversation,” please also imagine these conversations are happening before your coffee kicks in, or while you are just trying to get in and out of the grocery ASAP, or “for the love of God I just wanted to sit in quiet at lunch and read/stream/play Candy Crush on my phone.” I get it. I would want those things too if I knew I was going home to small talk and little thoughts that lead into big thoughts, so “I’ve already had my share of BIG THINGS, thank you very much.”
It sounds all brave and real and Top 40’s chart to just spew it all out there. But think of what that would really look like, what that would mean if you were on the receiving end of someone’s zero to Warp 9 BIG STUFF talk. And imagine they were coming to you often because you were kind enough (maybe even willing and excited if they caught you in a good mood) to listen the first time. But after while, it would be too much for a relationship, because there would be foundation of all that small stuff that supports and strings BIG STUFF moments together. It becomes an exhausting ordeal, for both sides.
And I understand that, from both sides of that situation. So sharing becomes such an ordeal to get to (out of practice small talk, pretense, manipulative conversation steering, anxiety of finally just getting to it already!) that it seems not worth it sometimes. And I hold on to less of those big thoughts to share, and only a small amount of them are shared. Poof! More of my existence on earth evaporates into the atmosphere without bumping into a single soul . Relating and conversations become harder, so they become shallow. Sharing only comes when there are convenient platforms, but even then I hesitate on how much to really share. Even when I do find those friends I can see daily or weekly (those I feel comfortable with sharing all those THOUGHTS), there is always that little voice in the back thinking, “Is this too much? Maybe this conversation should just be light, fluffy stuff. I’ll be funny for the next four conversations because that last one was a little heavy and we don’t want to tip the scales too seriously.”
Why are there even conversation scales in my head?! And why does one “heavy” conversation weigh the same as four “light” ones, besides the figuratively weighty words (so many puns). Why do I feel like I have to make up for a conversation because I had big feels to feel out loud? And I hear a part of my brain saying, “You shouldn’t have to,” and “That’s a ridiculous notion.” But darn it Sarah, it’s just not that easy to always tell people those BIG FEELS! I know I have this notion because, in my less than graceful state, I would describe a person like this a drag, needy, too much, over emotional, too serious, depressed (though now I know what that word really means and it might not necessarily apply to this person, it still can be a hurtful term to use against someone), depressing, disturbed, and exhausting.
We say we want to be open and truthful and take off these masks, but the responsibility on the receiving end can be harder to accept. We can’t say what we want to say until we’re ready to hear what someone else wants to say. If I can’t practice the grace of receiving someone else’s words, when I so desperately want a life where all the masks come off, how could I trust anyone to listen to my words, or even deserve to say them? I need to have the time and gentleness to listen to others if I ‘m ever going to dare to speak out and take off this mask. There is a two fold responsibility there, and one can’t happen without the other.

So there is what is so hard about living alone….ie starting a random thought and ending with BIG DEAL LIFE conclusions, but not having someone right there to hear it. But I got it down on paper this time, and it was so helpful. And everything that was dark and scary about all of that seems not so bad right now. And I think if I share this out, it would shine that healing light that much more.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Make Soap

Last fall I attended a one evening soap making class. All participants walked away with one pound of homemade soap. The biggest hurdle overcome in that class was the lye handling. We didn't mix the lye ourselves in the class, but we did observe it, then used premixed lye solution to make our soap. It's one of those things that seems like mad scientist or voodoo witch doctor practices, but it wasn't as scary as I thought. Even so, I was glad to do the process at home with A who is well practiced in the art of chemistry.

We started planning our "flavors" of soap we wanted to create and started to gather our materials. we were both interested in using items from the tundra, but A scored big when she brought back a big bushy chunk of tundra that looked just like a black loofah. We shall make scrubby soap! She had also gathered some fireweed for indoor decoration and we made use of that as well.

I have to highly recommend as a great resource for soap making. There is a great lye calculator that creates a recipe and calculates the exact amount of lye needed. Based on our ingredients that we had handy, we ended up with three slightly different batches that consisted of olive oil pomace, olive oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil. We used tea tree and violet oil for two batches, and blended orange zest and aloe into the third.

They are sitting on a shelf in my kitchen curing for the next few weeks, but when I washed the molds we had used, the water turned sudsy. That was a great sign!

Scrubby soap cut and curing.