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Mar
9
2012
Photo Friday: This is What Perfectionism Looks Like

On the surface, it may seem counter-intuitive for a perfectionist’s office to look like a cyclone hit it. But those of you who have the perfectionism affliction, or love someone who does, see the truth.

Am I comfortable with this picture? No. Do I enjoy working in this environment? No. While a normal person might think, “just spend a few minutes cleaning this up,” I know it would take hours or even days (hours and days I don’t have at work) to clean and organize it the right way. To do anything less is not comfortable, so it will just have to wait until I can do it right.

I’m a perfectionist; I’m hardwired to do shit the tediously inefficient but right way.

I think I would have skewed this way no matter what, but my first grade teacher didn’t help. She split my classroom into the “good side” and the “bad side” and placed me on the bad side because I’d forgotten to turn in a permission slip. Mistakes, no matter how small, would be noticed, would be punished. Got it, thanks!

This experience lodged itself into my amygdala, where it still drives me toward a goal I can’t reach. When I was little, my thoughts on perfection were simple, “if I stop making mistakes, people will like me more.” I even had a code word, “NOW,” that I’d say to myself as a pep talk to be perfect from that point forward. Until the next time I made a mistake, of course. These days, “NOW” has been replaced by exhausting post mortems on what I could have done differently to avoid a mistake and often an internal berating for not knowing this already.

I’m sick of it and I’m trying to recover from perfectionism. I’ve realized there’s so much I want to do. I just don’t have time to do everything I’m interested in doing as well as my brain tells me I have to do it.

But letting the perfectionism go has been hard, for at least two reasons:

1. My brain doesn’t seem to have the capacity for the kind of flexible thinking needed to create shortcuts.

2. Even if by some miracle, I think of a shortcut or someone offers me a different solution to a task, I don’t feel comfortable implementing it. It feels half-assed to me.

I didn’t even realize how crazy my methods seemed until the running shoes conversation. You see, a few weeks ago my knees started feeling wonky and I wondered if it might be time to buy new running shoes. I thought nothing of my process until I talked to a normal person about it. I mentioned how I needed to add up the mileage I’d run on my current pair of shoes, but before I could do the calculation I had to enter the back log of data from my Garmin GPS watch into my workout log spreadsheet.

I’ll never forget the look that passed across the normal person’s face.

Her: “How long will entering all that data take you?”

Me: “I’m not sure…probably two to three hours at least.”

Her: “Uh, what would be the harm in just buying new shoes without doing all that data entry?”

This suggestion blew my mind.

Today I reached two personal milestones. I achieved a goal I’ve had for over two years; to get my work email inbox of almost 1,600 emails back to zero. And, perhaps more importantly, I did it by implementing a shortcut that my perfectionist brain had previously convinced me was “cheating. ”

I moved everything older than 2012 into a separate archive folder labeled “unsorted.” If I get around to culling that great, if not, c’est la vie. I had told myself I needed to wait until I had time to cull 1,600 emails. But that was going to be never. After removing the old emails, I culled the 404 emails left in my inbox to zero in a few hours. Yea!


PishPosh

Feb
24
2012
Photo Friday: A Complex Food Colloid

From Ice Cream Sixth Edition by Robert T. Marshall, H. Douglas Goff, and Richard W. Hartel:

“Ice cream is a complex food colloid embodied in a product the consumer associates with pure enjoyment. It is paradoxical that what can seem so simple is indeed so complex.”

And that about sums up Ice Cream 101, y’all. In a word…overwhelming. Leave it to me to select a food to sell that is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations. I was trying to get away from working for the man.

If I wait any longer to write about Ice Cream 101, I won’t, so here are my thoughts: 

  • “Ice cream” has a standard of identity defined by the federal government (so recipe development is not as simple as you might think, unless you are willing to sell something you have to call “frozen dairy product.”).
  • The mix must be pasteurized (even if your dairy ingredients are pasteurized). Before the professor hammered this point home, he said, “now is when I shatter your dreams.” We were told 98% of ice cream shop owners purchase their mix and most of us sighed dejectedly.

Who knew ice cream could be such a pain in the ass?

This was hour one of a two-day course. Quite frankly, I tuned out a little the rest of that morning. I want to MAKE ice cream, not flavor and freeze somebody else’s mix.

  • During the tasting lab, I ended up being quite attracted to the version of vanilla made with artificial sweetener instead of sugar. Oops. My taste buds must have been exhausted by then…
  • A presentation on the business side of opening an ice cream shop likened the process to having a baby. Unfortunately, conception is the only part of pregnancy that sounds like any fun, and I worry the ice cream business might feel the same. The part of his talk that stuck with me most was the following off the cuff remark:  “if I could get rid of all my staff and I could get rid of all my customers I would have the best business in the world. Just go down and make ice cream.” Uh-oh.

On the afternoon of day two, several batch freezer (basically a huge expensive ice cream maker) representatives hawked their wares. They demonstrated their machines and let us taste the ice cream. The moment I saw fresh ice cream extruding from the first machine, I was back on board. I wanted to remove the bucket from under the spout and replace it with my open mouth.

  • I’m a very risk-averse person. I learned there is a lot I didn’t know about making ice cream. And I know even less about starting and running a business.

In the short term, I plan to make a lot of ice cream. We’ll see if it’s as much fun as I thought and whether my friends and family think it’s any good. My lovely husband ordered me a snazzy new ice cream maker for Valentine’s Day. Last weekend, I made my first batch of my signature flavor idea, basically ice cream that is supposed to taste like chocolate chip cookie dough (I threw in actual cookie dough for good measure). I couldn’t decide if I should share the full view or close-up, so you get both.

Feb
22
2012
An Ambush of Alarms

How do you feel about getting up in the morning? Do you need an alarm…or four?

When my alarm goes off on work days, I sometimes ask God to kill me. I don’t mean it, of course, but that gives you a taste for how much I hate waking up.

Thus, I use several alarms. To steal a phrase from Elvis, circa Aloha from Hawaii, I’d like to introduce the members of my alarm clock team to you, before we go any further:

For those of you counting at home, there were three alarm clocks in my reenactment video. Some of you might also remember Tocky, my fourth alarm clock who has been on the injured reserve list for several months.

While I waited to see if the Tocky people would send me a replacement (and they did, yea!), I purchased the light alarm clock in the first video. I thought it would be a more natural, less jarring way to wake up. Less jarring is right…zzzzzzzzzz. Also, the chimes gave me tinnitus. Well, I never stop hearing them anyway.

I had hoped being exposed to that light would make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. But that hasn’t happened. That will require more sleep.

A 14-year veteran of Catholic school, I find Lent to be a tonic for my otherwise weak will. So even though I’m no longer religious, I continue to make use of the Lenten season to work on stuff. I’m pretty sure Jesus won’t mind.

Even though I failed miserably last year, I still need to work on my sleep issues, so this year is Lenten promise: Sleep Edition, Part 2.

Lenten Promise 2012

1. No screens after 11pm.

2. In bed by midnight.

So let it be written…so let it be done.

Speaking of writing…since I do most of my blog-related crap during the late evening/night hours (as you can see by the clocks in the first video!), I expect my post frequency here to suffer. But if I get more rest, maybe I’ll make more sense when I do post. We can all look forward to that.

Do you give up anything/do something special for Lent? 

NOTE: For the title, I wanted to use an animal group name that starts with “A” for alarm or “C” for clock. Did you know a group of tigers is called an “ambush?” Seemed appropriate for my alarms. Also seemed appropriate given the mini stuffed cheetah who stars in the first video. Dave gave him to me after I finished my first half marathon and I mistook it for a tiger because I am a moron.

So I call him “chi-ger” now. By the way, a group of cheetahs is called a “coalition,” which I considered using for the title (“a coalition of clocks”), but that sounded a little too civilized for alarm clocks.

Feb
14
2012
At the end of the funnel

I didn’t notice life was a funnel until I looked back and saw the light grow fainter and fainter. Each decision made reduced the infinite possibilities of youth as if I were living in a “choose your own adventure” book.

I never felt I had finished one of those books until I read each ending.

I hate the idea that decisions made at twenty can extinguish the light from other paths forever.

I’m ready to shine a light on all those other paths. While I wish I could see the ending before choosing, those paths are still there to take.

———————-

I’m linking up with Lance’s 100 Word Song prompt at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. The idea is to write 100 words, inspired by the song. This week’s song was “See A Little Light,” which reminds me of my youth. In the hopes of finding my writing mojo, I’m not grinding over this. I wrote until there were 100 words and I’m not massaging it.

Feb
3
2012
Photo Friday: From Cow to Cone

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post and shared tips. Ice Cream 101 at Penn State was great, but overwhelming. The “it’s 5am and I’m still awake and my alarm is set for 6:05″ insomnia Friday night into Saturday morning didn’t help. I haven’t had a chance to catch up on sleep so I’m still exhausted. In brief, I learned a lot and the class didn’t fully talk me out of this ice cream business idea. I plan to write about what I learned, but only after I’m no longer hallucinating from exhaustion.

In the meantime, here are two photos from the weekend. It was hard to get decent shots with only our small point and shoot and its max ISO of 400.

We got a behind the scenes tour of Penn State’s Creamery. There were pipes running everywhere, all carefully labelled as to their contents (raw versus pasteurized milk, etc…).

I didn’t get any good shots of ice cream being extruded during the batch freezer demonstrations, but here’s a shot I like of ice cream being mixed and frozen in a cool European machine. It seemed like more of a novelty machine than a workhorse. The only way to get the ice cream out of the tub is with this huge paddle-like thing. The company representative demonstrated how you can make the ice cream in front of your customers and then basically shove the paddle full of ice cream in their face offer up the paddle full of fresh ice cream for them to sample. Kind of reminded me of fudge demonstrations at Niagara Falls.

Jan
26
2012
The Second Greatest Gift of All

From The Muppets:
“Walter:  You give people the greatest gift of all.
Kermit:  Children?
Walter:  No.
Kermit:  Ice Cream?
Walter:  No. Laughter. Laughter is the third greatest gift of all.”

I’m going to have to disagree with Kermit and promote ice cream to number one.

Mom ate a banana split daily while pregnant with me. I’ve been obsessed with ice cream since birth. Coincidence? (Probably!) My family visited our friendly neighborhood ice cream shops a lot when I was growing up. One time I had enjoyed my small vanilla cone with Crunch Coat so much that my Dad let me go in and get another one…good times!

My first job was pumping the cream at DQ (ooh, that sounds filthy!) when it was still called Dairy Queen. I also worked at Carvel and I still use a quart container I took from there as a pen holder on my desk at work, 18 years later.

I love ice cream is what I’m saying.

When Dave was still in Syracuse, I caught a glimpse of a certificate of completion for something called the “Ice Cream Short Course” at Penn State while waiting to order at our favorite ice cream shop. It planted a subliminal seed in my brain. In the 15 years since, I have looked into the course several times. But it’s serious: a seven-day course intended for people in the ice cream industry. I filed the course into my mental bucket list.

As you know if you’ve been visiting here awhile, I’ve been thinking about career fulfillment and I appreciate all the encouragement I received after posting about my job apathy last August. Since then I’ve been trying to listen harder for my elusive inner voice.

Last fall, while walking Chuck, I got this idea to throw an ice cream social. Then I thought, I should make all the ice cream for it myself. I brainstormed flavors, toppings, and accompaniments. Then I saw an ice cream shop in my mind…my ice cream shop.

I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head as if savoring a butter rum Life Saver ever since. When I allow myself to daydream about the fun stuff, waves of excitement pulse through me. I have some store names, a logo idea, and signature flavors to develop.

When I force myself to think about the less creative aspects of running a business or things I know nothing about, like developing a business plan and employing people, and things like having to work all the time, including nights and weekends, my brain shuts down. When I remember how close I might be to early retirement if I simply don’t rock the boat, and how my biggest complaint about my current job is how much of my time it eats up, a stomach-seizing anxiety sours the excitement.

I want more free time and I’m a raging introvert. Life as a small business owner in a service industry might be my craziest idea ever.

But I was getting ahead of myself. So I looked up the Ice Cream Short Course and found a newer, two-day “Ice Cream 101” that sounds more like my speed. Before I could talk myself out of it, I registered for the course, booked a hotel room and a flight. I’m going to Penn State this weekend to learn more about ice cream making and running a shop.

Wish me luck, as spending all of my precious weekend free time traveling and being around four dozen strangers (complete with “group luncheons” and a reception providing an “opportunity for networking,” shudder…) is a little out of my comfort zone. But I’m excited and I think this experience will be telling…will it leave me with any excitement for this idea?

At least I’ll come home having learned how to make better ice cream, no? And that’s at least the second greatest gift of all.

Actually, you can do one better than wishing me luck…do you have any tips for how I can not be completely drained by this weekend? Any networking tips for a serious introvert? Since “ice cream lovers, entrepreneurs, and small-business owners” were all “welcome and encouraged to attend,” it’s probably going to be a mix (ha, a little ice cream humor!) of people already in the field and people, like me, who have a job in a different field and no clue.

Jan
24
2012
Run to the Hills

The alarm sounded, music uploaded onto the clock interrupting their sleep.

Honest to God, she’s never going to change that music, he thought. At least “Run to the Hills” accurately reflects the annoyance of waking up this way.

I hate when she lets the alarm go on and on, it’s so inconsiderate. Doesn’t she realize how exhausted I am?

He rolled around with his anger for a bit and toyed with the idea of turning off the alarm before she got up, but that would really piss her off. He considered an escape from the room, but he didn’t have the energy to right himself. His movements always felt awkward in the morning.

He tried one last time to roll over, but felt like he waded through thick brush. After about 30 seconds, he gave up and allowed himself to roll over onto his back. Positioned just right, he could muffle the sound of the alarm and rest.

He dreaded the days she slept through the alarm. She would check the time, panic, and start spewing profanities about the alarm’s uselessness, making him wince. Yeah, blame it on the clock. Why can’t you just go to bed earlier, woman?

After about a year of this torture, he couldn’t take it anymore. He cracked. Fuck this noise, he thought.

He made sure the alarm would never sound again. It didn’t help her get out of bed anyway. Silence, blessed silence, and rest awaited. 

 

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt on personification: “tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness.”

This post is written in memory of my Tocky, who tried to roll around (as you can see from the video, pretty half-heartedly) and play music (only three songs worth, though it held many more) to wake me up for about a year, and then decided he’d had enough of my nonsense and my thick shag carpet and died an untimely death. After much back and forth with the company, they promised to send me a new one. We’ll see how Tocky2 fares.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
14
2012
It’s Good to Be Matt Damon

Two nights before Christmas, I stayed up late to wrap gifts alone. I kept the TV on for company and groaned when Charlie Rose came on with Matt Damon and Cameron Crowe. I expected shameless plugging of their movie We Bought A Zoo and perhaps some vapid discussion of their “craft.” But about 10 minutes in, the interview took a surprising turn that resonated in a bordering-on-creepy way with the two biggest themes I’ve wrestled with over the last year:  career fulfillment and friendships.

Matt Damon is very articulate. And also one lucky son of a bitch.

Phase 1 (in which Matt Damon and Cameron Crowe Confirm My Biggest Fear about Career)

Matt Damon pointed out how Cameron Crowe’s movies center on a main character doing something in the first act that everyone around him thinks is crazy. They do this because “it’s something they need to do…their inner voice is telling them to do it.” You know, just like we all do to choose our path…Oops. 

Amazingly, just as I was thinking, I have no inner voice, and what the hell does an inner voice say anyway, Charlie Rose said, “an inner voice that told you?…”

Matt Damon: “I gotta do that.”

Cameron Crowe said, “Exactly.” Then they both proceeded to rub it in. Their inner voices. That they both had from their earliest memories (Matt Damon’s Mom knew he’d take this path when he was two). That were encouraged by their parents (both of their mothers worked in education). That they reached the pinnacle of success by listening to and actively pursuing (Cameron Crowe wrote a Rolling Stone cover article at 16.). But I’m not jealous or anything.

Cameron Crowe: “Someone told me…if you don’t listen to that little voice it goes away…”

Me: “Yep.”

Matt Damon: “Boy that’s a terrifying thought.”

Cameron Crowe: …”pay attention because to be out there with no instinct guiding you, that’s truly scary.”

Me: “Welcome to my world. Not sure if I ever had the voice, but if I did it’s gone now. Terrifying? Maybe. But definitely overwhelming and frustrating.”

Charlie Rose: “Do you think that everyone if they listened carefully would find it, would hear it? Is it easily unheard?

Me: “No and YES!”

Cameron Crowe just looked confused (“I loved writing, loved the written word, I just had to follow that path.”). Matt Damon: “it probably depends on who you are…for some people it’s pouring out of them, and for others it might be a softer kind of voice.”

Sitting on my Mom’s living room floor, I alternated between cutting, wrapping, taping and staring at the screen in disbelief. How did they get onto this topic? Had they read my blog? Why did I have to be the second kind of person?

I closed my eyes and tried to hear my inner voice. My inner voice was so faint I could barely make it out. It said…

your life would be a lot easier if you were Matt Damon.

Phase 1 post script: I saw this billboard off the Pennsylvania Turnpike coming home after Christmas. Even Kermit the Frog has an inner voice.

Even Kermit has an inner voice.

Phase 2 (in which Matt Damon Confirms My Biggest Fear about Friendship)

The conversation turned to Matt Damon’s early days in the film industry with his best friend Ben Affleck. Just when I thought this interview couldn’t get any more surreal for me, Charlie Rose asked, “what is it that makes a great friendship?”

Me: “No way they are going to dissect friendship now too.”

Matt Damon: “For one thing, when it starts.”

Me: “Uh-oh.”

He and Ben met in high school and had the same goals. Charlie Rose summarized as follows, “the point is that you started early, the bond came early.”

Me: “Whoops!”

Thanks to Matt Damon for tackling two of my big life questions and pretty much taunting me.

I’d been meaning to write about this so thanks to Studio30 Plus for throwing out a writing prompt that fit: The Big Question.


Jan
10
2012
Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.

————————-

Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
3
2012
2012: My Last (According to the Maya) Annual Goals

Probably not the most thrilling content I’ve ever written, but I’m pasting my 2012 goals below:

  • because I said I would,
  • to help with accountability, and
  • to serve as a foundation for what I’ll inevitably write about some of these.

As a reward for sticking with a list post in table format, see the end of the post for an embarrassingly unflattering photo of myself–menacing and holding the umbrella I attacked in a vicious rage.

I welcome feedback on any of what’s below, but particularly seek input in the “go cold turkey on perfectionism” area. Too much of my time gets sucked into the perfection spiral of attempting to make the good enough better. “Perfect is the enemy of the good” is my new adopted mantra, but the perfectionism is so ingrained in me it’s difficult for me to devise ways of knocking it the hell off.

Big-Picture Goal

Specific Activities / Strategies

Increase energy/reduce anxiety
  • Get more sleep!
  • Have nightly relaxation time & schedule weekly unstructured time
Go cold turkey on perfectionism
  • Use timer to snap out of over thinking and hyper-focus
  • Viciously cull to do list (stay tuned, I’ll be failing at this soon!)
Find career fulfillment
  • Locate inner voice / expand knowledge
Increase fitness (run faster, build strength)
Maintain intimate and fulfilling marriage
  • Walk Chuck in the evenings/take over 1 weekend morning walk for Dave
  • Real (not visiting family) vacation (London for Wimbledon?)
  • None of your business
Develop and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Host at least two events
  • Develop annual get together tradition
  • At least monthly social event
  • Reach out more frequently to friends (not just Facebook!)
  • Make amends where needed
Continue to write and build blog community
  • Post 2-3 times/week (develop editorial calendar)
  • Visit and comment on favorite blogs
  • Finish blog redesign
Plan for early “retirement”
  • Save refinance and health care savings
  • Confirm plan with financial planner
Simplify and customize house for oasis-like awesomeness
  • Declutter
  • Reorganize basement, get treadmill

There’s other stuff I’d like to do, like read some damn books this year, but this list is already too long. Hopefully there can be some synergy among my goals. For example, I plan to start a nightly reading before bed ritual to ease into an earlier bedtime and get more sleep. Presumably this will also result in my reading more than one book this year.

So I promised you an embarrassing photo, eh? I’d put the umbrella photo here, but that wouldn’t help me pimp the Logy Express Facebook page.

Go check out the photo, freshly published there. While you’re there, why not click the “Like” button?

———————

Do you set goals or make resolutions? What are your plans for 2012?