Saturday, January 31, 2009

Repeating Patterns - Fake It Until You Make It

One of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project, posted an interview with a guy talking about how relatively few unique things happen to us day-to-day and that most of what we do can be seen as repeating patterns. My takeaway from that read was to make sure my patterns promote my daily happiness and find ways to improve those patterns that don't.

First I went about identifing the basic repeated patterns within my day and wrote them down. Since I use my iPhone and Toodledo to manage my to-do tasks, it made sense to use the same tools to manage my newly identified daily patterns. Defining each of my daily patterns as Contexts in Toodledo, I prefixed each with a number so they sorted in the order in which they occur in my daily routine. Here's the Context patterns I defined:
1 Getting Up
2 Drive to Work
3 At Work
4 At Lunch
5 Drive Home
6 Arrive Home
7.0 At Home
7.1 At School
7.2 At Store
8 Going to Bed
9 On Weekend
Then I went through my pre-existing To Do list and identified into which Context each item belonged (some didn't have a context). Next I started thinking about the patterns I want to change. Mine was an exercise of what I wanted to add. Most of these items are things I SHOULD be doing but don't, like doing my morning stretches and abdominal crunches, using my WaterPik, and starting my weekly studies/homework on Monday night instead of Wednesday night. None of these things will bring me immediate happiness, but long term each will add to my overall well-being.

Stretches and crunches will reduce the back pain I experience from my scoliosis, if done regularly. I complain about the pain a lot. I don't do the stretches or crunches. Same goes with the other items. If I use my WaterPik, I don't have bloody gums when I brush my teeth, which simply grosses me out every morning, but I never take the time to use it. And if I start my studies earlier in the week, I have more free time on the weekends.

So I added these items to my To Do list as recurring items that repost upon completion. When my iPhone alarm goes off in the morning, I open Toodledo, where my contexts are displayed, selecting Getting Up, I see everything I need to do. When I get into my car, as I plug my iPhone into the car stereo, I select Drive to Work in Toodledo and see if there are any errands I need to run that morning, and it reminds me to do keggle exercises during my commute (that's embarrassing to admit!). As I transition to each pattern, I try to remember to check Toodledo.

This feels, at least initially, like the ultimate form of personal micro-management. Yet, I believe in the motto, Fake It Until You Make it, so if I keep doing these new tasks, eventually they will become second nature, just another piece in my daily patterns. The other nice thing is that I love to check things off my list, I mean I LOVE checking things off my list, so I am rewarded for doing each item because I get to check it off my list!

I've been using this new technique for a few weeks now, and it's actually working. The great thing, is that I have been starting small, adding little things, and as I realize some success with this, I am motivated to add more. I started with stretches, and then I added abdominal stretches. Who knows, maybe I'll be running again soon?

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Book for Learning Beading Stitches

I've received a few inquiries regarding the book I've been using to learn the stitches for the bead pieces I've been making. Here's the only bead stitch book in my craft library thus far. If anyone has recommendations on other books with advanced (or different) bead stitches, please post them in a comment! Thanks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sweet Peace

"Sweet Peace"

Sweet peace, like cool waters licking at my bare feet, lolling in the wash of a stream. It does not eliminate the ache in my arch, only time off my feet will accomplish that. But that peace makes the pain more bearable somehow, like those waters playing with my toes lessens the relevance of the sore appendage. Sweet peace. Calm. Steady. Reliable. Comprehensible. Lovely peace. A restoration of the inner fountain from which I sustain my spirit. A smile inside me begins its journey through my being and I look with anticipation for each new day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Book for Learning Chain Making

I've received a few inquiries regarding the books and resources I used to teach myself chain making. I have only purchased one book thus far on chain making which I bought through Ring Lords along with the matching beginner's kit. You'll find both here: I've been very happy with the service with this company too. I just ordered my first order of sterling service and plate gold. If that goes well, I'm considering a 10k gold project! Stay tuned for more chain making posts.

A great site with a huge collection of chainmaille and chain weaves is: I can get lost on this site for literally hours dreaming of the possibilities.

My New and Improved Amazon Wish List

When a friend or relative asks you what you want for your birthday, do you often just look at them with that glazed over look of one without a clue? On the spot like that, I can never think of those great little suggestions that would be perfect. Then, when I get those clunker gifts, I deeply regret that I hadn't planned ahead so I was better prepared for this inevitable and reoccurring question.

I started keeping a wish list in my portfolio, then later on my PDA. Then I started using web based wish lists. Most online shopping sites have a wish list feature, but it's specific to their store. I tried a site called TheThingsIWant that let me create a list linking items for any website, but my luddite friends and family really had a difficult time accessing my lists on that site and it became more trouble than it was worth.

Recently Amazon rolled out their Universal Wish List. They've offered a wish list for a long time, but now you can link to items not sold on Amazon. An answer to my prayers, I tell you! Like other universal wish lists, when I see something I'd like to add to my list, I hit the installed browser button "Add to Wish List" and it's captured by Amazon. Now, friends and family need only go to Amazon, and type in my name in the "Find Someone's: Wish List" section of "Gifts & Wish Lists" drop down found at the top of the main Amazon page. One stop shopping for Tracy, if you will. Are you reading this, mom? :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

iPhone FM Transmitter - That WORKS!!

I love my iPhone for so many reasons. One of which is that it holds all my favorite music just the way I want it. But I have a 2004 Escalade that doesn't have an input jack on the in-dash radio. I'd replace the radio, but it's an integrated part of my in-dash navigation system. I don't have a cassette player so that's not an option either. So, as I see it, my options are:
1) pay hundreds to have a tech shop install a 3rd party input jack into my existing radio/nav system ($$$),
2) upgrade my entire nav/radio system with one that has an input jack ($$$$), or
3) buy one of those crappy FM Transmitters that never work ($).

But wait! I found this great little FM Transmitter on Amazon ( and the reviews are awesome in contrast to the other iPhone FM Transmitters on their site, and it's only $30 (that's a 3rd the price of some lesser units)!!! It seemed low risk so I bought it, AND I LOVE IT.

Dial your radio to a station that doesn't have a signal, I used 87.7. Plug the FM Transmitter into the iPhone (I have a 3G but this works with my boyfriends 1G also), and change the tuner to 87.7. Pick your music on your iPhone and hit play...and you hear it coming through your car speakers. It's that simple. It doesn't come with written instructions, but it's so easy you don't need any.

I have about an hour commute each way, and it only breaks up for a second or two a couple of times the entire commute, around really large overpass intersections when I drive under them.

Also, it comes with a charger but it's optional. AND, the really cool thing is that I can use this in the tanning booth too. I just tune the tanning bed radio to 87.7 and hit play on my iPhone and voila, no more listening to the crap everyone else is listening too!

My boyfriend has an entirely different route to work and he also has the same performance I've experienced with the same FM transmitter. It's not CD quality mind you, but for $29 I can't complain.

The Wrestler

The Wrestler is a one of those movies that doesn't come along very often. After seeing the trailers, it seemed to take forever before it was showing in Austin. And as luck would have it, it's at the Alamo Drafthouse. This movie scored off the charts on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, Darren Aronofsky made another sad movie, no surprise there. But it was done extremely well. Mickey Rourke should win something for his role. It was an amazing performance. Marisa Tomei had no problem holding up her end of the movie either. And what an incredible body at any age, but off the hook at 44. This movie is gritty, no glamour, no sunshine up your skirt and it is delivered with incredibly real performances. Go see it. You won't be disappointed.

The United States of Tara

When I saw the first trailer for this new series, I was intrigued. Steven Spielberg. Diablo Cody. A family with a mom that's got multiple personality disorder.

I loved the writing in Juno so I've been looking forward to the next Diablo Cody work. The cast was top notch. But how were they going to pull this off?? A couple with two kids living with this disorder in a comedic drama. Could it be done?

After watching two episodes, I'm already thoroughly hooked. Toni Colette and John Corbette are perfect. The writing is simply incredible. The whole thing works on so many levels. It's funny and authentic and relevant and clever (all the same things I loved in Juno). This is definitely a keeper. I've already added it to my DVR series list, and I'm looking forward to next week.

My only complaint. I wish it were longer than 3o minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Limerick from Childhood

I wrote this as a kid when I first learned about the limerick form.

"No Oats for a Goat"

When you leave let me know that you've gone
So that I may wake up before dawn
So I may have a day
Where I won't have to pray
That you will stop eating my lawn

The Psychology Lover - Intro to My Boat

This past week I read my first ugly comment left on my blog. It was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. Being someone that tends to take things to heart, it was difficult. I often put too much weight on what others think of me. Nothing I haven't said before. But this was just a plain and simple mean post, and it hurt. I didn't blog the rest of the week as a result. I didn't want to think about it. Eventually, though, I decided this was something I was going to have to work through and that's what I've done. The really interesting thing, for me, was how I did that.

It seems like a lifetime ago. I was married. I was abused. I was in a pretty horrible place and I was just trying to keep myself safe from the barrage of verbal/emotional abuse that I was inundated with on a daily basis from my spouse. During that dark time, I developed some tools that were instrumental in my getting healthy. They were tools, unbeknown to me at the time, about establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. These are tools that most emotionally abused individuals haven't effectively developed. Most such people go to a therapist and spend years learning these tools. I happened to stumble upon it myself one beautiful summer day when my husband was out of town.

My friend Tessa was talking to me over a chat app. I told her I felt particularly good and that I wished I could stay in that emotional place forever. She asked me to describe it. I said, "I feel like I'm out in the middle of a large body of water in a boat. I can see other boats out in the distance but I don't feel like I need to go to them. I think, yes, I do have oars in the boat. I could go to those boats if I wanted. But, I don't. I'm content to be right here, in my boat."

Over the next 6 months I developed on this concept of "My Boat." After my spouse returned, I used My Boat as a means of protection. First when he said hurtful things to me, I'd retreat when I could and I'd bring up a mental image of paddling my little boat out to the middle of that body of water. I'd paddle and paddle. And then, I'd just rest, there, by myself, in My Boat. I was safe.

Later, I added to this concept. As my spouse would say hurtful things, I could imagine me in My Boat and him in his boat, in my mind's eye, during the fight. Perhaps this is the trait of a female multi-tasking mind, as I'm not sure everyone is capable of doing this, but it became a very effective tool for me in learning to fight healthier.

During the fight, I'd try to translate the things he'd say to me into acts that he'd do in his boat to me in My Boat. For instance, he might say, "You're just lazy!" And I'd envision him ramming his boat into mine. He might say, "It's all about you, you don't care about me at all!" Depending upon the context of that message, I might envision him throwing a grappling hook into My Boat and pulling my boat around with his. Now this may not seem particularly useful at first glance. But let's take a deeper look.

Let's say he said, "I don't have any friends because you scared them all away." Without My Boat, I might become defensive, and say that I didn't scare his friends away, that I like his friends, that I am sorry he doesn't have friends and I'm sorry if it was because of me...and then I'd start doubting an emotional abuse victim, trust me, it always ends being the victims fault, even in the victims own mind.

BUT, try out this same scenario while in My Boat. He says, "I don't have any friends because you scared them all away." I translate the message into his boat and My Boat and see him scooping up water out of the bottom of his boat and trying to pour it into my boat. I immediately think, "Woah! That's not my water...that's YOUR water, YOU keep it!" Now, instead of the message above, I say to him, "If you think you don't have friends, that's your problem, not mine. Don't blame me for your problems." I've effectively just removed myself from accepting blame from my abuser. I have established a healthy boundary. Instead of the fight escalating into what a horrible person I am, the attempt at abusing me is thwarted. As time went on, I became better and better at this. The great thing that this did was it stopped me from being hurt from emotionally abusive garbage. I didn't need to internalize it. It never made it into My Boat. It never got past my established boundary.

There is more that I learned from My Boat, but it's not relevant to today's post. While I was sitting there, feeling bad about the hurtful anonymous little comment on my blog, the idea of My Boat came to mind. It was shocking, as I'd not thought (not needed to think) of My Boat for quite some time. But there it was. In reality, it makes perfect sense. That comment was abusive in nature. It was meant to hurt for no reason than to hurt, to take something from me and transfer it to the abuser. Plain and simple, that's how abuse works.

So I mentally climbed into My Boat. I looked at the blog comment and translated it into the anonymous writer's boat and My Boat. It was amazing. The hurt went away. Literally went away. I no longer owned those hurtful words. It wasn't about me. It was about that writer, that angry little anonymous writer. And I didn't need to expend any more personal energy on it. How liberating.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Elderly Gamers

I just saw this article about the change in demographics of gamers and I had to laugh. My mom is one of those granny gamers. She had some health issues that had her unable to get out a lot, so I put together a gaming computer, bought her a copy of EverQuest2 and away she went. It wasn't long before she had surpassed me in levels and experience. She's pretty hardcore as a matter of fact. When she went in for hip replacement surgery, she was transferred from the hospital to the rehabilitation center afterward, and one of her first questions upon admission was if the center had high-speed internet and wifi she could bring in a wifi gaming laptop and play EQ2 in bed while she recuperated. You should have SEEN the look of shock and confusion on the admission nurse's face. It was truly a classic moment. I hope to be as hip in my elderly years!

The Student

I enrolled in my 3rd to last course toward my undergraduate degree last week. World History. The classes that remain are ones I've been avoiding because they aren't my favorites: Economics, Natural Science, and World History. I'm a Math and English person, not a history and science person. Strange mix maybe but I've met a lot of people like me and they're all fairly creative and artistic individuals. Odd. I wonder what that means. I am fascinated by the relationships to be found in seemingly unrelated things like this. Food for thought.

Back to the subject of school. In just one week, I can already tell you that I had forgotten how much I enjoy learning. I absolutely love learning. There is nothing boring about learning. I would categorize myself as one that really dislikes history and yet I find myself spending literally hours researching home work assignments online, learning about historical movements and philosophies and I'm really engaged in it. Who would have guessed? Certainly not I. The really cool thing is that I'm finding that I'm able to pull concepts and material I learned from prior courses (like Humanities, Literature, and Death & Dying) into my learning in this course. It's a really cool thing to see the pieces of a puzzle fitting together nicely in terms of lessons learned. I really love learning. I am happy today. I think it's because I am learning and because my instructor has let me know that I'm meeting expectations. Today is a good day.

Gran Torino

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see Gran Torino. This film was superb. I think we all probably know an old man like this. And I think many of us know of families like his too unfortunately. It was a real delight to see the goodness in this crotchety ol'koot. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? I came away from this film thoroughly entertained and a bit hopeful that diversity can be embraced more fully in our society. Clint did a fine job.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Limerick

I do?

It's the day, the hour and minute
You realize you did, but you didn't
You married for "love"
Don't fit like a glove
You made your own bed, now you're in it!

A New Page Turned

"A New Page Turned"

Staring at my bed, knowing I will be alone in it for quite some time. A strange feeling washes over me, a sense of freedom and of loss. How I stayed in such abuse for such a long time still perplexes me. Was it love? No. It was always about domination and control. It was never as much about me as it was about building him up. So now I am out of the closet so to speak. The veil pulled back to reveal the extent of my elaborate facade. Such a mixture of humiliation and relief, telling friends and family that my "perfect marriage" was nothing less than smoke and mirrors. And so it was, I struck out on this new adventure of independence and automony, in search of self-identity and a means of healing the damage done over the past fifteen years. A new page is turned.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Memories of a Lost Little Girl

Padding softly through my mind
Memories warm and familiar
Colored trinkets
With which my mind plays
Lovely toys
That occupy my time
Sweet sorrow
A lullaby
That leads my soul to weep
And hope eternal
To find her whole
To love and cherish

Battlestar Galactica Mid-Season Premier

Looking forward to a night at the Drafthouse with friends next week to enjoy the mid-season premier of Battlestar Galactica. Jason and I have been watching this show many seasons now. Cool that we get to do this at the drafthouse too!

Monday, January 5, 2009


And thru the fog, I see you
Standing softly
Waiting patiently
So resolute in yourself
How I long for that freedom
A crossroads in the fog
To stand for myself
Untainted by the winds that blow
A flame so true
And beyond doubt
To burn for its own sake
Instead of for others
A comfort you are
Standing just outside the fog
A beacon calling
The dream is real
You need only step beyond the fog
And stand
Patient and true