Less is everything. (Minimalism.)

It has begun!

Minimalism is happiness, I’m finding. Less is not just more. Less is everything.

In all actuality, I don’t have as much “stuff” as the average person. Since I want to own as little as possible, though, what I do have seems to be a lot. I’ve been going through it slowly, over small increments of time, and I’m happy with the dent I’ve made so far.

There’s a growing mountain of stuff in our dining room area. (The wall that divides our living room from the dining area conceals it, so you don’t see it when you walk into the house.)

This project has been interesting as well as cleansing. I’ve found things. I’m keeping a small, important thing that I didn’t know I’d lost. I’m setting aside (for donation) things that I didn’t know I still had.

Items high in sentimental value go in a separate box; some of these are probably higher in dollar value, too. They’re nice things. I’ll gift them.

I’m sparing items used as decor around the house. I’m sparing books, as previously mentioned. Household items such as kitchenware will be evaluated with Callaghan at some point, as he’s been wanting to trim that down, too.

I made a sweep through my makeup case and modest collection of personal products, wincing at the waste and vowing to stop accumulating such things.

Looking at my shoes, I realized that I have three pairs of a brand that doesn’t align with my ethics, so I did a lot of research and honed in on a brand that I’ll feel good wearing. They’re not cheap, but they’re not much more expensive than the others. (Hopefully, the new pair will feel as good and perform as well as the ones I’m replacing. They’re athletic shoes for working out.)

This is a good example of how I’m moving forward: purchasing one pair of shoes to replace three. To avoid accumulation, I’ll donate an item if I acquire something new of the same kind. The plan is to replace things, rather than to add to them.

Progress report #1 conclusion: I’m happy paring down my life, and I’m happy to make donations out of the effort. Nothing is a waste if it can benefit someone else. (Plus, donations are tax-deductible.)

All in all, minimalism feels right to me. I’m looking forward to continued progress!

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50 (no, 41) facts about me. (Meme)

Every once in a while, I’m browsing blogs or social media posts and I come across the “50 facts about me” meme that’s gone around on-and-off ever since the internet was invented. I don’t remember ever doing it. Last night, I revisited a friend’s blog post in which she did this, so today, I’m going to see if I can think of 50 things about me that most of you don’t already know. I’m feeling weirdly self-indulgent just thinking about doing this, so I’ll jump right in.

 

 

  1. Pressing lightly on my left eyebrow or running my finger over it sends a tickly-sneezy feeling down through the left side of my nose.
  2. I often sneeze while doing the eyebrow part of my makeup because of that eyebrow-nose nerve connection on the left side.
  3. I believe that I’m addicted to lip balm.
  4. I believe that I’m addicted to peppermint gum.
  5. I don’t think of my wisdom teeth procedure (that I had when I was 17) as a surgery, even though it was (as it is for many of us).
  6. Therefore, I usually accidentally lie when I’m filling out a medical form and I’m asked how many surgeries I’ve had.
  7. I used to drink, and sometimes, I got really, really drunk.
  8. But I’ve never had a hang-over in my life.
  9. I believe I’ve inherited some crazy English drinking genes.
  10. I don’t drink anymore.
  11. I’m uncomfortable to the point of anxiety attack when I’m around people who are drunk.
  12. So I avoid hanging out in bars, unless it’s a sports bar and they’re airing an event I want to watch but can’t watch at home.
  13. I especially avoid bars because not only do I not drink, but I don’t eat bar food.
  14. I always order club soda/sparkling water at a bar.
  15. My club soda is free because I’m the designated driver.
  16. I am a cheap date.
  17. My first job was at a dentist’s office in Honolulu the summer I was 14.
  18. I once tripped on something while walking to work at the dentist’s office.
  19. I thought I tripped on a large rock, but it was a snail the size of a tennis ball.
  20. My roach-phobia started with a terrifying roach incident in Honolulu when I was 12.
  21. I read both The Amityville Horror and Helter-Skelter when I was still in grade school.
  22. Also horror-related, I was probably 7 or 8 when It’s Alive aired on cable, and my parents didn’t want me to watch it, but I low-crawled into the family room so I could watch it while lying on the floor behind some furniture, and they didn’t know.
  23. It’s Alive scared me and I loved it.
  24. Horror has been my favorite film genre ever since I watched It’s Alive.
  25. The most scared I’ve ever been at the movies was during Alien when I was 11.
  26. Alien petrified and traumatized me and had me crying and literally begging to leave the theater.
  27. Horror was still my favorite film genre, and Alien also spawned my love for sci-fi thrillers.
  28. I’m always looking for movies that creep me out, and so far, only The Ring has come close.
  29. I love all forms of entertainment-provoked fear.
  30. But I will not see The Human Centipede.
  31. I don’t understand how I developed a roach-phobia after a traumatic childhood roach incident, but the total opposite thing happened when I had a traumatic childhood movie incident (Alien).
  32. I used to be a republican.
  33. I switched from republican to democrat.
  34. I was a democrat for less than a year.
  35. I switched to “independent.”
  36. I’ve been an independent for more years than I belonged to any political party.
  37. I generally avoid discussing politics.
  38. I strongly dislike the word “ditto.”
  39. My biggest grammar pet peeve is when someone ends a sentence with “at.”
  40. When I hear someone say “where’s it at” I have to physically contain myself.
  41. My thoughts on the Oxford comma are more complicated than my thoughts on politics, and I will not discuss the Oxford comma.

So there’s 41. I would try to think of 9 more, but I’m out of time, so The End for now.

p.s. I guess my mind went to a Halloweenesque place in this post because it’s feeling like fall around here. In Arizona, summer is over when you can open your windows in the early mornings.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

501 posts in TALC! What would you like to see here in the future?

I noticed the other day – looking at a stat figure I don’t normally visit – that I’ve written 501 posts for this blog, and I’m thinking, how did this happen?! It’s an astonishing number, actually, when I think about it. But I published my first post toward the end of 2012, so TALC is almost five years old now. It just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.

On this occasion for positive reflection, I’m also thinking ahead. This brings me to my question: what would you like to see more of in this space?

I’ll continue with what I’m already doing, of course. There are my recurring topics: writing/poetry, garage gym/fitness, kitty updates, Buddhism/spirituality, monthly favorites, non-review movie reviews, mental health/motivation, etc.

I’ll keep up my random, topical posts, too: thoughts on current/specific matters, life updates, personal/confessional-type posts, the occasional Q & A, frivolity and all manner of silliness. I’m happy to share the shenanigans.

I plan to write more about my adventures in minimalism as I (slowly) grow into that lifestyle.

Those of you who’ve been here for the last year or longer: you will likely not see further posts about the sensory deprivation tank (my weapon against claustrophobia) in the foreseeable future, as it’s been months since I’ve had time to carve out for that endeavor. Things are only getting busier! That tank has not seen the last of me, though. I just don’t know when I’ll be able to get over there again.

Whatever the case, it all amounts to a fair range of miscellany; I’m also game to consider writing about sundry other topics. Please let me know what you’d like to see, or see more of! If you have ideas or requests for me, I’ll try to oblige. I can’t promise that I’ll answer every question or cover every suggestion, but I’d love to hear them all, and I’ll do what I can.

And as always – I can’t say this enough! – thank you for reading here. You guys are the bee’s knees.

My life without Sex in the City. (My pop culture deficiencies!)

I don’t remember watching much in the way of T.V. series when I was a kid. I know that by the time I graduated from high school, the only channel I liked was MTV. Almost five years later, post-army, I found that something had happened to MTV while I was away. MTV was still there, but it had met with disaster of some sort (I’ll spare you the gory details – if you’re Gen-X, too, you probably remember the trauma of it), and I could no longer watch.

It was 1992. I’d just moved to Phoenix. I was 23. I started watching Beverly Hills 90210 because I heard it was good. I watched it for a year or so, and when Melrose Place happened, I started watching that, too. Then I got into NYPD Blue. (I did enjoy Hill Street Blues when I was in high school, come to think of it.) Somewhere around 1994, I stopped with the T.V. series because college and work and homework and martial arts and grad school and work and etc. in a big, long-running snowball of busy, and there was no room in my life. I did find time to watch boxing and basketball, though. I don’t know if you remember, but the Suns were on fire in the 90’s. And movies. Always movies!

I finally started watching T.V. series again with Callaghan in 2011. We were living in the boondocks of the Alpes in France and needed some entertainment. But guys – I watched no T.V. series at all for almost 20 years. I missed out on almost 20 years of pop culture!

At least my time watching NYPD Blue led to my grasp of the significance of Dennis Franz’ bare ass running into the ocean in the film City of Angels. And thanks to my time watching Melrose Place, I knew who was responsible for the mainstream popularization of ambient-electronic music (I’m looking at you, Enigma). Melrose Place also explained Bohemian-inspired fashion with short, edgy haircuts on women.

The landscape of T.V. changed over the years, as I was well aware due to people buzzing around me in hysterics. High-quality cable series took off, starting with The Sopranos. Someone invented reality T.V., starting with Survivor. People were losing their minds with these developments. I had no sense of FOMO.

Here are some of the popular series I missed while I was away from T.V.:

  • Seinfeld
  • Ally McBeal
  • Friends
  • The Sopranos
  • Survivor
  • The Osbournes
  • Sex in the City
  • Lost
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Office

I’ll probably never see any of these, especially not Lost, as I remember the furor of the general public when the finale aired. Everyone was pissed off at the way the series ended, and that’s enough of a spoiler alert for me. Plus, I was already in therapy. I didn’t need another reason to go.

Callaghan and I did go back to watch/start watching:

  • Arrested Development
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • American Horror Story
  • Breaking Bad

And perhaps some others. I wrote these lists off the top of my head. Currently, we’re catching up on Parks and Recreation.

The point of all of this? No point, really. This post is brought to you by a Facebook comment (again, you know who you are) that led to musing on my pop culture deficiencies. I guess all of this is to say that pop culture references originating from these series are mostly lost on me.

For more Tuesday randomness, in lieu of an image that makes sense with this post, have this pic of Callaghan with someone’s dog:

 

Callaghan with dog.

 

Actually, the pic goes perfectly with this post.

Looking forward to fall!

Summer is fading, and I can totally feel it, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday. The sun is rising a little later, setting a little earlier. People are getting their fantasy football teams together. The snowbirds from up north and back east are preparing to migrate to Phoenix Metro. Soon, we’ll see them on their jaunty walks in their shorts and t-shirts (while we desert denizens put on light jackets.)

I love summer giving way to fall. We do have seasons here in the Sonoran Desert part of the Land of AZ… maybe not in the traditional sense, but we do. The desert just expresses itself differently. The desert is a season-rebel. It does not conform to the norm. You have colorful fall leaves? We have colorful, blazing sunsets. You have chilly, moist temperatures? We have perfect temperatures… dry temperatures in the 70-80-degree range.

I love the heat, but hospitable temperatures make certain things possible. At some point in the late summer, I start anticipating aspects of the fall, as I know everyone around here does. Some of them can’t come soon enough. Here are 10 off the top of my head:

1). Garage gym workouts.

Cooler weather will put our garage gym back into the equation of my combat-sports fitness training.

2). Opening the front door.

Sitting in the living room at dusk with the fall breeze coming through the screen door is one of my favorite things. In the world.

3). Roasting veggies.

Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Sweet potatoes. Purple Peruvian potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Fall in our house smells delicious.

4). Pears.

We eat pears year-round, but they come into season in the fall, and they are rapturous.

5). Pomegranates.

Pomegranate season! The flavor of pomegranates also signifies fall to me.

6). This is Us (Sept. 26) and Stranger Things (Oct. 27)

This fall, the two T.V. series I’m anticipating are This is Us and Stranger Things. I’m seriously emotionally invested in the family members of This is Us, and, like all fans, I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens next in Stranger Things.

I would normally look forward to American Horror Story, but its early start this year puts it more in the summer than in the fall, as far as I’m concerned. Homeland is another fall series that isn’t starting in the fall this time around. Seems that the new season won’t be out until spring.

7). Candlelight writing in the early morning.

There’s something about writing in the early morning dark with just the glow of a candle flame to illuminate what needs illuminating.

8). Fall cleaning.

I’m more eager to deep-clean the house in the fall than in the spring, and the house feels so good after it’s done!

9). Creative inspiration.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of “back-to-school” mental conditioning, but I’m more inspired, motivated, and revved-up in the fall than at any other time of the year. This is especially good this year, as I’m working on the toughest part of my book right about now. The fall magic will arrive just in time.

10). An extra cover on the bed.

For me, a heavier cover at night somehow leads to a more satisfying sleep. (By “heavier cover,” I mean the bathrobe I throw over just my side of the bed at night.)

Nenette shares my enthusiasm. Earlier this morning, I talked to her about fall, and she looked out the window like “Where is it?”

 

Late summer Nenette, awash in the early morning light.

 

Happy weekend!

 

September writing updates!

I last came to you with an official writing update on August 4. It’s one month later, and I’m back to report my progress, as promised. This is where I fill you in on big-project writing developments, with numbers and everything. (SNOOZE-FEST WARNING for those not interested in dry details.)

So let me tell you where we stand.

Last month’s challenge/goal: to “control the pace and manner of unraveling” in this final stretch of the project.

This month’s challenge/goal: having gotten a grip on last month’s, I’m now focusing on creating and sustaining the tone and mood I desire for the completion of the story. At this point, I want to demand more from you, the reader. This means that I have some intensified atmospheric building to do. In other words, I’m ramping it up.

(When I started this project, I had no idea that I was essentially writing a mystery novel, of sorts. But here we are.)

Last month’s completion status: my word court as of August 4 was 56,952. My goal word count, I said, was “a moving target.” I was done trying to nail down a goal word count; I speculated that I was between 80% and 90% finished.

This month’s completion status: I’m back on the word-count train! Surprise! I didn’t think I’d bother with this nonsense again, either… but I did some projecting, which is much easier to do at this point, and I came up with a rough estimate. I believe I’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of 75,863 words. This means that the project is about 84% complete. (I will not be changing this word count goal again. It’s a rough estimate, and I’m leaving it at that.)

Breaking it down: I currently have 64,462 words. Roughly 2,137 of those words belong in future chapters (I tend to write ahead a little bit, now more than ever), so about 3% of my 84% completion is made up of future content.

Looking at just my current, finished work, I’ve got 283 pages, and I’m on chapter 26.

I’m also projecting that I’ll have this first draft completed by the end of November.

 

manuscript, 84% complete (minus 3%) (Sept. 5, 2017)

 

So that’s where we stand! Thank you for reading and for sticking with me, as always.

August Favorites!

Here we are in September. Let’s just be blunt: August was a shit show from start to finish in the U.S. and in some parts of the world. Of course the month had to go out with the tragic devastation of Houston and other cities in Texas; I swear I’ve never seen a month slam the door behind it like August just did. It was like, HERE’S THIS ONE LAST THING TO REMEMBER ME BY. Well, good riddance, August. Despite silver-lining moments and suggestions of hope and restorations of faith in the human race, I’m especially glad to be here sharing some of the little things we enjoyed.

Without further ado…

Entertainment:

1). Atomic Blonde (film)

 

 

Atomic Blonde was the one movie I saw in the theater in August. Callaghan ended up having to work the day we’d planned seeing it with a friend, so he hasn’t watched it yet. I know he’s going to like it as much as I did, because we have pretty much the same taste in movies. Atomic Blonde is the type of movie we’ll see when we’re in the mood for a thriller on the campy side of the 80’s. (Like there’s any other side of the 80’s.) Charlize kicks ass with stylized aplomb, and the soundtrack took me right back to high school, only now I can actually enjoy those songs, because I’m not in high school anymore and therefore life is much better. Anyway, if you’re into cheesy thrillers, I recommend this one.

 

2). Department Q (film trilogy: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith… in that order.)

 

 

We watched the excellent Department Q film trilogy at the recommendation of friends, and I’m passing that recommendation along to you who also enjoy getting caught up in dark and brooding crime thrillers. We’re fans of Scandinavian noir in television and movies; we’ve had a penchant for the genre since Bordertown (Sorjonen). The Department Q trilogy can be found on Netflix. It should be watched in order: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith. The films are in Danish (I believe) with English subtitles.

 

3). Bob’s Burgers (S7) (animated T.V. series)

 

 

We like Bob’s Burgers, in general, but some seasons make us laugh more than others. Season 7 was one of those! Warning for those unaware: some of the humor in Bob’s Burgers is not for the little ones.

 

4). Parks and Recreation (T.V. series)

 

 

We started a Parks and Recreation marathon. We’re nearing the end of season 4. I don’t know why it took us so long to get into this series, but it couldn’t have come at a better time! The only other series that makes us laugh so much is Black-ish. Enough cannot be said about comedy that works for us.

 

Food:

5). Watermelon.

 

Fresh watermelon

 

Fun fact 1: Callaghan doesn’t like watermelon. Fun fact 2: In August, I learned that it only takes me three days to eat an entire mini watermelon by myself.

[Sidenote: How can you NOT like watermelon?!]

 

6). Kiwi fruit.

 

Kiwi fruit

 

We love the tart sweetness of Kiwi fruit. Slicing them makes them easier to eat without making a mess, but I like to eat them whole after peeling them… sinking my teeth into a whole Kiwi fruit is somehow exhilarating. The fruit is tender and dense and juicy, and those tiny seeds add the lightest crispy crunch that’s hardly a crunch at all. Kiwi fruit is like the Krackle or Nestle Crunch candy-bar of fruit.

 

7). Pistachios.

 

Pistachios

 

This pic is from my Instagram. We bought two of these big pistachio nut bundles from Sprout’s, but by the time I got around to gathering pics for this post, I’d long since eaten them all… by myself, too, might I add. Callaghan likes them, but he ate maybe a handful of the pistachio haul. I love how they’re salty without a coating of salt granules. I love their flavor. We’ll probably get more before the season’s up.

 

8). Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagels

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel: toasted, melted cheese sandwich with Daiya cheddar-style slices. That’s a pickled jalapeno pepper on the side. AZ-style.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread is our staple bread of choice, so when we saw that they now have everything bagels, we were all over it. They’re called “Epic,” which they totally are: they’re organic, vegan, delicious, and satisfying, and each bagel has 12 grams of protein. So good!

 

Products:

9). Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream.

 

Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream

 

I used up my Yes to Blueberries night cream. I love it, but I cheat on it all the time, as I often do with skincare… there’s just so much to try! This time, I decided to get a night cream from Derma-e, who makes my holy grail sunscreen. I’m impressed. This cruelty-free night cream is light and smooth, and vitamin C products are so good for the skin. I layer it over my vitamin E serum-in-oil (The Body Shop) at night, with Yes to Blueberries eye cream in between the layers. It’s like my skin is drinking a smoothie. Or something.

 

That wraps up this “monthly favorites” installment! September holds fresh promise. I’m all in.