Current Affairs

Progress and Momentum: Broken Windows Theory - Applied to Ourselves

The Broken Windows Theory is, in summary, the notion that small visible "broken" things, like windows, may lead to other/additional broken things (say, peeling paint), and can create downward momentum (the neighborhood in decline). Also, that replacing or fixing small visible features can create positive momentum. Basically, it's the Butterfly Effect as applied to how our environment looks and makes us feel. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind, and all that jazz.

What if this applies to us - our individual physical selves?

  • Broken windows could be - stopped wearing makeup, unkept hair, wearing unflattering clothing, not using a moisturizer/wrinkle cream, an untrimmed mustache/beard, cracked nails.
  • Fixed windows could be - the opposite of the above

I think it does, and I'm experimenting with reversing the downward momentum with the positive. To be clear, this is not intended to be a commentary about how to define beauty - like that everyone OUGHT to _______ (wear makeup, have neat appearance). It's more about bringing out your best - whatever that is.

  • The quirky artist
  • The elegant book lover
  • The sporty sportsperson
  • The anti-trend good neighbor
  • The natural looking best friend

Whatever is uniquely and authentically YOU is the unbroken version.

Speaking personally, since the stay-at-home pandemic started, I've stopped: getting my hair cut and colored (rightly so!), wearing any makeup (I never wore much), using moisturizer (why????), wearing earrings, using the "good stuff" face cleaner (makes no sense), and I haven't updated my eyeglass prescription in 3 years (perhaps understandable during the pandemic). In total, this adds up to a lot of broken windows and a general malaise about myself.

For the last week I've been using my good face cleaner and wrinkle cream again. Didn't have to purchase anything because I already had it. And I've made an appointment to get a fresh haircut and color (in 5 weeks), and will be getting an eye exam next week. This momentum feels good and I think will lead to other small and positive changes that might also reverberate.

It's OK and understandable that a yearlong pandemic has had an impact. And I'm happy to be reclaiming a bit of myself in spite of it still being a challenging time. Fewer broken windows seems like a good thing!


"Kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick" - Life in slow-sucking quicksand

As I watched a story on the CBS Sunday Morning show about Suleika Jaouad's challenge to move forward from leukemia, a Susan Sontag quote she shared stuck with me. Here's the quote:

“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” Susan Sontag

While I've felt challenged for several years, the last two have been particularly difficult and this quote gives me a bit of insight about why.

I have serious chronic health issues - medullary thyroid cancer (stage 4b), non-symptomatic multiple sclerosis, obesity, and osteoarthritis. Solidly in the kingdom of the sick.

And I have, in spite of this, interests, abilities, and what looks like a relatively normal day-to-day life that resides in the kingdom of the well.

It's hard to stay in a place of sickness. And it's hard to live like you're in both kingdoms at the same time.

  • We rise to the occasion, determined to fight, but when the fight is slow and constant, it's easy to let our commitment slip. I think this is one reason the covid-19 crisis has been so difficult for many - it has endured longer than our emergency coping strategies were designed to perform. This rings true regarding several of my chronic challenges.
  • I'm not built for this brand of steadiness. Chronic anything goes against my nature and strengths. I'm a starter. I'm an adventurer. I'm an innovator. I'm not an ultra-marathoner. I'm not a patient person.
  • Although my day-today life looks fairly normal and well, I struggle to improve my situation or heal my chronic maladies. I want to believe that many things are possible if I think and act in alignment but have discovered that this is often not the case. 

What can I learn from this observation? How might I help myself live solidly in both kingdoms and thrive?

My nature tells me I need to try something different. To attempt to generate a breakthrough. It is tiresome, however, to do this repeatedly with no meaningful results to show for my efforts. But this is my skillset and I don't know how else to be. 

What can I learn from this observation?


Unconventional Ideas for Valentine's Day

We've been swirling in the covid pandemic neutral zone for a year. It's draining, right? And here comes another holiday dreamt up by marketers (my money is on jewelry stores or florists). Why not try something different? Here are a few fun and covid-compliant ways to celebrate with your bestie (aside from the obvious bedroom antics and I'm not going there).

Adopt a Three-toed Sloth. Nothing says I love you like a sloth photo and plushie. 

Do a lip-synch performance of poetry read by celebrities. Like The Raven read by Vincent Price. Sure, you could just read the poem using your own voice, but let's face it, you're no Vincent Price.

Play opposites day. For one day, wear each other's close and attend each other's zoom meetings. Drink each other's drinks and sit in each other's favorite chairs in front of the telly. Use makeup and wigs if you've got them. This is an idea that will build empathy, and we all need more empathy.

Bake and eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A different type of cookie for each meal. Cookies are a synonym for happiness.

Speak like Shakespeare or don't speak at all. Just for one day, of course, it would be taxing to keep up. After a full day being the bard, lay your head down on your pillow and whisper alls well that ends well into your sweetie's ear. Hopefully they won't reply good riddance, wench.

I hope you give one of these ideas a try and report back to me. All the best to you and your bestie!

 


Wonder Woman Pose Works Wonders - Art Imitates Life

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I had to laugh. In my editor's comments about my latest novel, STIFF LIZARD, he mentioned that my protagonist seems to put her hands on her hips a lot. Which was not the case in the last three novels that featured the same leading lady.

Why the difference? Why the reliance on the Wonder Woman Pose?

Perhaps it is me, not my character, that needed to invoke the powerful nonverbal stance. Perhaps a year of staying at home and avoiding dangerous misadventures has me needy for the confidence that a well-articulate Wonder Woman Pose can facilitate. 

It's true. The pose works. Watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk below if you want to know the science. But give it a try twice a day for the next week and see if you feel ready to solve mysteries (yours, of course).

 

 


ALWAYS Learn from Others - Adventures and Misadventures in Writing

I'm taking a class from Lit Reactor called, Short Story Mechanics, which is taught by Richard Thomas. Today's homework was to write five hooks (four first lines and one first paragraph) for five different potential stories. I just posted the hooks into the online classroom portal (also below). Richard will review them and select ONE that I will use to write a story throughout the rest of the two-week class. The recovering control freak in me is a bit tense about allowing Richard to choose the story I'll write, but I think it's good for me to surrender to learning. Heh, heh, heh.

I'd ask your opinion about which hooks seem most promising, but I'm already giving away too much power! Kidding... I'd love to know if any of these hooks make you want to learn more!

Lilith peered over the back of her sofa and through the window blind slats to take notes about everything she saw—the lovers, cheaters, crooks, tweakers, dealers, and deliveries—like she’d done day and night for the last week.

Lennox Turtleman felt desperate but hopeful as he lowered his skinny naked body into the sensory augmentation tank, pulled the lid closed, floated with arms and legs spread wide, and began hummed Somewhere Over the Rainbow, just as Madam Naranja had instructed.

Cross-eyed Tommy was not cross-eyed, just a terrible shot, and so much so he now used snakes to guarantee weekly collections were never late.

Fern practiced every night after her waitress shift at the Route 66 Diner for the open mic night at the High Noon Poetry Saloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sebastian pulled the wrecked Chrysler 300 rental car into the Key West Marriott at 7:55 a.m., five minutes before he was expected to deliver the opening keynote speech to a room full of professional gamblers. Right on time, he whispered to himself and then shouted a celebratory shit yeah while pumping both arms in front of his chest. He looked at his shredded jacket, bloody white shirt, and stained pants. He’d have no time to change clothes. He grimaced at his cut up face in the rear-view mirror and then shrugged. A bellhop opened the driver’s side door. Sebastian got out and stood tall and proud. The end of the necktie he’d knotted around his head hung down in front of his eyes. The bellhop looked horrified. Sebastian stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a flattened Banana MoonPie. He handed it to the young man and smiled as he marched into the hotel and headed toward the grand ballroom.


Planning is NOT a Four Letter Word

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Caveat* I acknowledge that some are not comforted by the idea of planning when faced with uncertainty. But I am. It's December 31st, and I've got my new Panda Planner set up and ready to use tomorrow morning. 

  • I've taped my 2021 plan (it's flexible and might change) into the back of my planner. You can see my plan here.
  • The monthly page is filled out - not much information here as it's a snapshot.
  • Week 1 weekly page is completed - lots of great detail here for how I can have a successful week (taking uncertainties into account).
  • Day 1 daily page is ready to go. I'll fill in the first part of the day tomorrow morning. Five minutes. Then I'll complete the End of Day Review and prep the next day's page tomorrow night. Five minutes. Here's what that page looks like.

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Ten minutes each day. Another five minutes once per week. This works for me, but I'm a plotter, a planner, and a recovering control freak. And agile planner, though! I hope you've created whatever plan - or anti-plan - that works best for you.

Happy New Year! Yippee for 2021! 


We Live in the Future - So Why Not Dream Big?

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I've written about how we live in the future. We anticipate and prepare for what we think is going to happen. Whether that be a terrific vacation or dreadful 4-day zoom conference with presenters who will read from their busy Powerpoint slides. 

It's a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy and a dash of social construction at work. That's why it's important to have some big goal, maybe an epoch goal, to live toward. 

As we tumble into 2021, we can dwell on the realities of the pandemic and become paralyzed, or we can play full out in our best pandemic-modified way. The former likely feels more natural, but the latter will serve us well. 

We can make better things happen as we're living into an exciting future than we can when preparing for a depressing one.


Netflix for Jigsaw Puzzles? Stress Relief 2021

I love jigsaw puzzles. They're my zen jam because I'm present and focused when looking for pieces. Puzzles also serve my need for immediate positive reinforcement. Each piece found and placed is a mini-win. And because I've bought a few puzzles online, I get a lot of ads in my Facebook feed for jigsaw puzzles. This morning, I got an ad for a puzzle club that called itself the Netflix for puzzles.

Pick a puzzle, get it in the mail, complete it, send it back, and get another puzzle. 

The idea is intriguing to me because I often grumble over what to do with completed puzzles. I usually donate them but worry they'll end up in the landfill. So a subscription service would solve this problem. I found this helpful article that compared the various jigsaw puzzle subscription programs. I had no idea there were so many!

And they vary quite a bit, with most not being very Netflix-like at all. Some ship monthly puzzles that you've bought and don't send back. And options are sometimes limited. That doesn't work for me.

Completing the Puzzle offers unlimited puzzles that you complete and send back, but you don't get to pick the specific puzzle you're getting (you tell them the type you like/don't like). So it's like Netflix but they decide what they'll send you. The control freak in me is a bit freaked out by this idea, but I like that the puzzles are borrowed, not bought. It's $25/month for a six-month subscription. Not cheap. Nicer puzzles are not cheap, either, and they say they select only high quality puzzles (with precision cut pieces that don't fray).

Why, Lisa, why is this worthy of a blog post? We all need to find stress management methods and habits that work best for us. Puzzles help get me into an almost meditative state in that my mind is focused and calm when I work on a jigsaw puzzle. 

I have one wee challenge with what is otherwise sounding like a terrific idea. My dog, Hazel, has on two occasions eaten puzzle pieces. Not just those I've dropped - that would be my fault. She's sought them out from on top of the table. If I got a subscription, I'd have to create a better system for keeping puzzle pieces from her. They let you off with a warning the first time you lose a piece but then charge you $5 for pieces lost. Yes, they count the pieces when puzzles are returned... and then quarantine and sanitize them.

I like that Completing the Puzzle is a small business. 

Hmmm...I thought this blog post was going to be informational, not a persuasive argument, but it ended up that way. Persuasive for me, that is, because I've talked myself into signing up.

It's called stress management and it's very important...Here's the last puzzle I bought and completed. I left it in the cabin in the woods we rented for a week. I hope others enjoy it. 

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Elements of My 2021 Plan with Pics

I've been working on my plan for the year. Here are the elements.

  • Identify major thrusts/fuels that will be at my core.
  • Reflect on and define ONE area that I want to AMP UP and TWO practices/habits I'd like to reduce. 
  • I reminded myself of my decision filter (I wrote about that here).
  • Write a plan story (narrative that expresses what success will look and feel like). Adapted Scenario Based Planning method.
  • Created a digital vision board that corresponds to the story.

Here's my working draft. I've formatted the two rectangles so they fit perfectly when taped inside my Panda Planner, which I will use on a daily basis come January 1.

2021 Plan

And here's the corresponding digital vision board.

Edgy!

And here's my Panda Planner. I like this planner because it's flexible and helps keep me aligned and focused. I spend five minutes each morning and five minutes each evening working in the planner. These pics are from the Panda Planner website here.

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Classic_daily_1024x1024And here's how my 2021 plan will fit in the planner so I can regularly review it. I've just got paperclips on it right now because I'm still tweaking my plan. I'll tape it in so it's smooth.

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And that's what I've got done so far. I have my decision filter graphic as my phone wallpaper, and I'll put my vision board on my computer wallpaper. 

I hope you've been thinking about how to best roll into 2021. Happy New Year!