Writing While Barefoot :: Passionately Curious http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/ Mon, 06 May 2019 17:53:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.11 64166080 DIY: Cellphone Charging Station http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/08/27/diy-cellphone-charging-station/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/08/27/diy-cellphone-charging-station/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:00:09 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=3374 In our tech-heavy house, we have three cellphones and two tablets between the two of us, and all of these devices use a corner of our kitchen as a charging spot. It’s convenient because it’s right inside the door to the garage, and it’s also centrally-located on our main floor so everything is right at hand and/or within earshot.

What wasn’t cool was the constant mess of tangled cords that seemed to get more and more unruly the more I tried to contain them. I didn’t like how disorganized it looked or the fact that it was, at times, barely functional (more than once a phone slid off the counter, dangling by its charger, the victim of a nearby cord that had pushed it over the edge).

It was definitely time for a new solution.

I first spent some time on Pinterest and Google looking around at different ideas and products, but everything I saw was either too complicated, too expensive, too big or too ugly. So, I decided to make my own. After wandering through Michael’s to see what was available, I spotted a nylon woven basket and knew just what to do. And, if I do say so myself, it’s a rather clever solution!

The hidden bonus is that now we also have a place to set our devices while they’re being charged – something that’s not on the kitchen counter and is away from the surface of the stove and any potential spills. This wasn’t something I intentionally designed into my charging station, but it was a very happy accident indeed. I certainly hadn’t anticipated how handy of a feature it would be.

DIY Cellphone Charging Station

For those of you interested in duplicating this project, I’ve put some more photos and a write-up below. Everything I did centered around the Targus charging station I already had (pictured above in the “before” shot, it contains three outlets and two USB ports), so your implementation might look a bit different. Regardless, here’s the concept, and a little bit more on the behind-the-scenes.

DIY Cellphone Charging Station

Supplies

  1. Nylon Woven Basket
    This one was from Michael’s (I think it cost about $6.00 after coupon) but I couldn’t find a link to it on their website. Even if you don’t have a Michael’s nearby, I think lots of stores carry this type of product. They are sold in a variety of colors, but I chose brown because it was the best match for our decor (and because it would make the whole thing less noticeable). I also got one without the handle openings on the sides because I didn’t want any of the cord mess underneath to be visible.
  2. Ground Converter Adapters
    Since the plug on the Targus charging station was 3-pronged, I needed a converter to hook it up to my extension cord (which only accepted 2-prong plugs).
  3. Extension Cord
    This was needed to give me the extra reach so the Targus unit could plug into the wall. I only needed a 3′ cord, but the store was out of stock, so I opted for the 7′. It worked out fine, but there is quite a bit of extra cord bundled up underneath the basket. I also opted for the slimline plug so the final look was more elegant.

Note: If you’re starting from scratch with this project, you can skip #2 and #3 and just get a power strip.

Process

Assembling it was pretty straightforward: plug everything in, poke the ends of the chargers up through the openings in the basket weave (in whatever location is desired), and then push everything else underneath the basket as you settle it in place. That was the benefit of this style of basket: the weave has enough give/flexibility to allow cords to be poked through, but still had enough structure to keep them from falling back down inside again.

Usage note: Sometimes you have to pull a cord out a bit to get enough slack to comfortably charge a device, so don’t bundle the cords underneath too tightly or completely. Leave extra at the end, or don’t bundle them at all. Also, when not in use, I always push the cords back into the basket until just the end is sticking out. Hey, they don’t tease me about my inner Sheldon for nothing.

Happy charging!

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Weakness: Pixar’s “La Luna” http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/08/09/weakness-pixars-la-luna/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/08/09/weakness-pixars-la-luna/#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 02:25:54 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=3378 Weakness: Pixar's La Luna

This is one of those things that I love so much it causes my heart to swell from the sheer perfection of it. It’s got all of my favorite elements: lovable characters, masterful subtlety and metaphor, wonder, humor, fantasy and charm.

Directed by Italian filmmaker Enrico Casarosa, Pixar’s “La Luna” follows the story of a young boy as he begins work with his father and grandfather. You’re not quite sure what they’re doing until the end, yet you are immediately pulled into their world. There is no recognizable language in the film, either, so it is very much the expressiveness of the young boy – and by contrast, the lack of it from the other two – that carries this story.

By the end, you may be surprised to discover only six minutes have passed; it feels much longer than that. Then again, elegant and delightful things usually do. With not one second of screen-time wasted, “La Luna” proves that storytelling doesn’t have to take the long road to be satisfying.

:: Watch the Film ::

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Aging and the Perception of Time http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/07/26/aging-and-the-perception-of-time/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/07/26/aging-and-the-perception-of-time/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 06:00:31 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=3173 This is a guest post by Rachel Gold. But first, some background from me:

Some people say time is a funny thing, but I don’t really find it amusing; mostly it just makes me anxious. It feels like it goes by too fast. It feels like I have too many ideas to fit into one lifetime. How am I supposed to accomplish all of what I want to do when I blink and three months have gone by?

Maybe I just get too focused on my day-to-day life and need to lift my head and look around once in awhile. Or maybe it’s something I’ve become more aware of now that I’m hovering close to the big four-oh. (40 seemed ancient to me when I was a child; now it just seems like… 40. It’s a number, just like any other age.) So what’s this all about, then? Where does this anxiety about time come from? I never gave it a second thought when I was in my 20s and early 30s.

I must have commented on this to Rachel one day, because she then proceeded to talk me off the ledge using her unique explanation of time. It had a very calming effect on me and I was grateful for the new perspective. However, it didn’t last. Months later I found myself feeling that same anxiety again, as though time was slipping by too fast and I needed to hurry, hurry, hurry. That’s when I asked Rachel if she’d write a post about this for my blog. It was something I thought would be great to share, but I also just liked the idea that I’d have it nearby so I could read it whenever I needed to shift my thinking again.

If you’ve ever struggled with a similar mindset about time, perhaps this will help you, too.


After I demonstrated my revised age math to Kristin over coffee, she asked me to replicate it for her blog. Maybe I should call it “inspired age math” so we can abbreviate it IAM.

I started doing IAM for myself a few years ago because it seemed like most people, myself included, have a very poor sense of how long a life really is. (In general we actually have a very poor sense of time, but that’s a topic for another blog.) This could be because we’re actually better at living in the present than we think; let’s hope so.

When we get so down on ourselves about age — at least when I do for myself — it sounds like this: “Dude, you’re 42. John Green is 36 and he’s got bestselling novels and a movie. You’re such a slacker.” I compare my age like it’s a simple score and lower is better. That’s not how lived human lives actually work.

Let me show you one way that they do work. I’ll start by assuming you’re 42, because that’s how old I am so it’s easy for me to work with. Also it’s just over 40, which is an age that gives a lot of people trouble.

So let me ask you, how many years have I lived? 42, right?

Nope.

How do I figure that?

Let’s start with the first tricky part of that question — the word “I.” Who are we talking about when we ask how long “I” have lived? From age 0 to 23 I was a kid — my pre-frontal cortex wasn’t fully baked. I had some of the same personality traits I have now, but there are some new ones, some changes, maturation, all that. So let’s count the “I” that is an adult.

How long have I lived? 19 years.

In that time:

  • I’ve had some major relationships and made many amazing friends
  • I’ve had three major jobs, spanning two career fields, plus some freelancing
  • I’ve bought four houses (and sold three)
  • I’ve drafted nine novels and sold four
  • I’ve learned a TON of stuff

Bonus opportunity: pause reading and calculate how long you’ve been an adult and make a quick list of some of the things you’ve done and learned as an adult.

What if we had that time to live all over again? What if we had that time to live over again but knowing all the mistakes we made the first time so we don’t have to repeat them?

We do have that time.

Between now and when I turn 61, I have 19 more years. I could theoretically do all that stuff again, only smarter. Or I can do new stuff. I can live my entire adult life over again.

And then between 61 and 80 I can live that smarter adult life over yet again. I can effectively live my entire adult life over again twice and I’ll only be 80 years old. Actually 19 years is probably too big a chunk. I don’t feel that connected to my 23 year old self. In my 20s I was still just really figuring out how the world works.

If I look at the time from 32 to 42, that’s a hugely productive and amazing time in my life. When I look at how much I did and learned and changed in those 10 years, I’m blown away by what I could do between now and 52.

At the same time it takes some of the pressure off. I didn’t have to get everything perfect from 32 to 42 (I made some really epic mistakes). So I don’t have to have everything right in my life between 42 and 52. I can try some things, work on what’s important to me but know that what’s important can change over time. I can test and tweak because I know that at 52 I have another huge span of time in front of me, and then another, and another…

Okay, but what if you’re 65 years old and just retired from a career you didn’t really like and you feel like you wasted your whole life? This math will still work for you.

Consider this: you could take the next 5 years and just do whatever you want, try a bunch of stuff, look for activities you really love. At 70, look back over those five years, pull out the very best stuff, and now you have another five years to do all the best stuff over again. Then look back again and do five more years of the most enjoyable parts of the previous five. Five years filled with enjoyment is a long time — one week filled with enjoyment can be a long time — and don’t even get me started on Eternity, which isn’t a time outside of this time, but a timeless quality that reaches us in time.

The poet Mary Oliver asks, “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” I love this quote, but I love it even more when I realize that I can have one wild and precious life after another.

Update: Read “Age & Time part 2” over on Rachel’s blog.

– – – –

Rachel Gold grew up on mythology and fairy tales, to which she has added a deep love for fantasy literature and gaming. These days, you can often find her in the company of literary werewolves and entrepreneurial elves. Rachel’s novel “Being Emily” is the first young adult novel to tell the story of a transsexual girl from her perspective. Her second novel, “Just Girls,” will be out this September. For more information, visit www.rachelgold.com.

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Tips for First-Time NYC Travelers http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/07/07/tips-for-first-time-nyc-travelers/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/07/07/tips-for-first-time-nyc-travelers/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 05:30:53 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=1712 A friend of mine is headed to NYC for her first-ever visit this summer (woo hoo!) and so I figured it was about time I dusted off the “things I’ve learned over the years about traveling to NYC” list and turn it into a post. Since I’m the sort of traveler who likes to blend in at my destination, anything I can do to remove the idiot/tourist factor is good, and so that’s what I’ve included here: all the things I wish someone had told me before my first visit.

Airport Transportation

You can take a taxi from JFK to Manhattan, but that will run you about $52.00 + toll/tip (or more, depending on your destination). If you’d prefer a more economical approach and have time to burn, take the train. It’s $5.00 for the AirTrain (connects the airport to the subway system) and $2.50 for the Blue A train into Manhattan. Travel time from the airport to 42nd Street/Port Authority (a good central hub that connects to just about everything else) takes a generous hour; more if you’re riding during peak times.

If you’re heading back to the airport by train at the end of your stay, make sure you hop the Blue A Express train that reads “Far Rockaway” or “Rockaway Beach” as the route; otherwise, you’ll end up at Lefferts Boulevard with no access to the airport. It’s easy enough to backtrack, but it takes time – sometimes a lot of time, and that’s not always a luxury you have when you need to catch a flight on time. (Update as of May 2014: NYC Transit is getting better about labeling JFK routes in stations that service the A trains, which is really helpful.)

Dealing with Luggage

Pack smart and bring the smallest bag you can get away with – and make sure it has wheels. Your bag will be following you on all of your transportation adventures (which, for most people, means a lot of trains and buses). If you hop a New Jersey transit bus (the big Greyhound style), simply make the driver aware that you have luggage so it can be stowed in the compartment underneath the bus (accessible from the outside). Some drivers will hop out and help you; others will expect you to do it yourself. For city buses within NYC, your luggage comes on board with you.

If you use the subway, you will be lugging your suitcase up and down lots of stairs. (Elevators are a rare and precious jewel indeed.) If you have a tiny suitcase that can easily be lifted above a turnstile, you can enter/leave a station that way; if it’s too big for that (most are), you’ll need to use the Emergency Exit/alarm-will-sound gate. Ask or gesture to a ticketing attendant to open it when entering a station (they’ll need to see you swipe your ticket in a turnstile first). When leaving a station with luggage, push the gate open yourself. The alarm will go off, but that’s okay – no one will bat an eye, and the noise will stop after a few seconds. You should also use these access gates with wheelchairs or other accessibility needs, strollers, bicycles, and large/awkward objects you wish to bring on the train with you.

Undergound Navigation

Above ground, I am an expert navigator. Drop me in the middle of any city and I’ll orient myself with ease. But send me below ground on a subway line, and suddenly my navigational awareness goes out the window. It’s an entirely different beast underneath the streets. Once you wind your way down several flights of stairs, turn corners and pass through a turnstile station, chances are good you’ve lost your sense of direction. The reason this can mess you up is because in your head you are carrying a map of Manhattan, and you know you need to head south towards Battery Park. Yet you swear the train you’re about to board is pointing the wrong way! You have to go south, yet the train appears to be going north. It’s confusing and utterly disorienting if you try to get around by what you are visualizing in your head. Instead, you have to trust the signs in the station. It doesn’t matter if it seems counter-intuitive – if the platform says the train is heading to Battery Park, believe it. Trying to out-smart this by using your navigational instinct will only cause you to make many annoying and time-consuming corrections.

If you aren’t sure which direction you need, you can always wait for a train to stop and peek inside at the route map. It will list or show the next stop in sequence. If it’s heading where you want, you’re good. If not, hop out and grab the train going the other direction (sometimes you have to go up and around to get to the platform on the other side). When in doubt, you can always ask other travelers in the station (or on the train). People are generally happy to help.

Forget Your Compass

This is a corollary to the above. Since the island of Manhattan sits at a slight angle on the map, directions (north, south, east, west) are relative to the island, not necessarily to the Earth’s poles. For most people, this won’t be an issue, but if you’re a faithful compass user, you’ll have to relax your standards. West will be more west-ish. South will be more south-ish. Navigating is generally done with landmarks and subways in mind, anyway (see below), which will all make sense once you look at a map and navigate for awhile.

Train Lingo

The subway system is easy to follow once you understand the layout of Manhattan and the meaning behind the dots. First off, the area people think of as NYC is actually Manhattan – one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City. The others are Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Navigationally, south is the tip of the island (Battery Park, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn – “downtown”). North is Harlem and the Bronx (“uptown”). Times Square and the Broadway theatre district are in Midtown. Queens is east (eventually) but trains for this will also go north/northeast, too. West is New Jersey and the Hudson River.

As for the dots on a subway map, white designates express trains and black designates local trains. Express trains only stop at the white dots. Local trains stop at every dot, black or white. MetroCards are sold in every subway station and you can refill them with just about any amount (it never seems to work out evenly and you may not want to “strand” money on a card). Lastly, note that some trains don’t run late nights or weekends, or change during late hour service. Signs will be posted in applicable stations if there is maintenance happening or a route change is in effect. See the section on smartphone apps below, too.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

The public transit system is wonderfully convenient, but it can also be really time-consuming. At rush hour especially, things can become completely packed, and it may take 2-3 trains before there’ll be room for you to squeeze onto one. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize that could mean an extra 30-45 minutes of wait time. Late nights and weekends can also be tricky, as some trains cease service, run infrequently and/or alter routes after a certain time. Bottom line: if you need to make a show or event by a specific time, either plan to leave really early so you’re in the area you need to be ahead of time, or take a cab. Except when it’s raining. When it’s raining, an available cab will become the single scarcest resource on the planet.

Cabs

To hail a cab, step off the edge of a curb (but not out into the street) and hold your arm in the air until a cab pulls over. You’re looking for one where the medallion number on top of the car is lit. If it’s not, the cab already has a fare. If the medallion number is lit along with the side lights, the cab is off-duty. Cabs are an affordable way to travel when you have a small group of people (max four – one in front, three in back), as fares are calculated based on distance, not number of people. It is customary to tip (usually 15-20%, but you’re welcome to adjust as you wish – it’s your ride!). Most cabs take credit cards now, so you can conduct the whole transaction (including the tip) from the screen in the back of the cab. Tolls during the ride are the responsibility of the passenger. Also, don’t grab a cab in gridlocked traffic – the meter keeps on ticking whether you’re moving or not!

Smart Footwear

There is a lot of walking to do – topside on the streets, underground in the subway stations, stairs that connect the two, events/attractions you wish to see, etc. – so be smart about footwear. This doesn’t mean you have to wear the white I’m-a-tourist tennis shoes, but you will undoubtedly do more walking in NYC than you’re used to at home, so wear something that accommodates this: cute flats, sandals, low heel boots, comfortable wedges, or artsy sneakers. Also, topside walking surfaces are not always smooth and even – there are lots of grates, cellar access panels, dips, uneven stones, cracks and seams that could make walking in fussy shoes dangerous.

However, for special occasions where you just can’t imagine going without those sexy, four inch heels (which absolutely make your outfit, of course!), then implement a sneaky trick: buy a pair of foldable flats. Wear those to/from the venue and carry the heels. When you arrive (and leave), switch. The flats will fit in your purse or clutch.

Dress in Layers & Bring a Bag

From air-conditioned restaurants to sweltering subway stations to windy streets to lots and lots of walking, you may find yourself alternating between getting the chills and breaking a sweat. Weather conditions/temperatures can change quickly, too, so it’s best to wear a variety of layers so you can adjust as needed. Most travelers are staying in a hotel or similar lodgings, which means that once you set out for the day, you probably won’t return until the evening – it’s just too time-consuming and impractical. It’s not like being at home or having a car, where you can just stash an extra coat or a lighter shirt in case you need it. In NYC, you carry what you need each day with you. A backpack, tote or large purse is standard fare for locals and tourists alike. Myself, I carry a backpack. They’re convenient, hold a lot (and hold it securely), and are comfortable to carry for extended periods of time.

Smartphone Apps Are Essential Gear

Here are three apps I use religiously when I’m in NYC. There are lots of other options out there (availability may vary by OS), but these are the only ones I can speak to personally. Note: links are all for iTunes.

NYC Subway contains subway maps, which is really handy to have on your phone instead of trying to wrangle a paper map. (See also: not looking like an obvious tourist.)  The app doesn’t require WiFi or phone service to view the maps, either, which is ideal. This app also has a section for “Lines” that provides up-to-date information on the service status of all lines (including delays, construction, reschedules, etc.), which can be a real time-saver.

HopStop is your pocket routing specialist. Type in your destination, let GPS determine your origin, and voilà, it will tell you exactly how to get there. This app does require phone service or WiFi, though, so use caution when setting up a route. Once you are below ground, you will rarely have connectivity of any kind, so be sure to plan things out beforehand and then leave your route info open in the app – it does not seem to cache well, so if you click away from the active screen or try to view more information, you will probably lose access to your route instructions.

Yelp will not only tell you what’s around – activities, food, lodging, etc. – but it’ll also give you reviews and a map to guide you. You can even orient the map to show you which direction to walk (that is handier than you might think).

Pack an Extra Battery

Few things will soak up your smartphone battery faster than being in Manhattan for the day. Not only are you clocking up usage in looking at maps, taking photos, planning your train rides and finding a great place for lunch, but having to constantly query for tower service in such a dense population takes what is normally good battery life and sucks it dry. And don’t count on using an outlet in a coffee shop or restaurant somewhere, they can be really hard to find. (Plus, you have to sit there while your phone charges – so inefficient!) My advice: invest in a case that contains an extra battery, or buy an external battery pack. I love Mophie’s Juice Pack Powerstation Mini – it’s about the size and weight of a deck of cards, so it fits easily in a purse or backpack and can charge your phone on the go. This trick has saved me many times. Then at night, just be sure to charge it back up again so it’s ready for another day (it’s an easy thing to forget).

Staying Safe

It wouldn’t be a post about New York if I didn’t address safety. NYC gets a bad rep for this, but it’s entirely unfounded in my opinion. Sure, bad stuff can happen, but that’s true of any large city. The biggest key to safety, no matter where you’re traveling, is just to be aware of your surroundings at all times. I also recommend never storing your wallet or cellphone in your back pocket (too easy to lose or be lifted); instead, keep your cellphone in your front pocket, separate from your backpack, wallet or purse. You tend to use your phone all the time, anyway, and this keeps your valuables separate. That way, if you should ever be relieved of your bag, at least you’ll still have your cellphone – something that can be an important lifeline in a pinch. (But chances are good you’ll have no issues on your trip.)

Pronunciation

For most of us, the word Houston brings to mind a large city in Texas. However, for New Yorkers, it’s a large street (and a subway stop) on the red line. The surest way to sound like a tourist is to pronounce it HEW-stin, like the city, instead of NYC’s version, which is HOUSE-tin. A couple other common mispronunciations: Greenwich Village (GREN-itch) and the Flatiron Building/District (literally “flat iron” – you just smoosh the two words together).

A Cool Freebie

If you’re interested in seeing the Statue of Liberty but don’t want to purchase the ticket/wait in long lines, take the ferry to Staten Island. It runs often, it’s a quick ride, and it’s completely free. The boat takes you right by Lady Liberty, too, so even if that doesn’t make for a great photo, the southern tip of Manhattan will – it contains a lot of the iconic skyline, including the new World Trade Center. Also, while not quite a free activity, be sure to grab a hot dog from a street cart vendor somewhere – it’s just part of the NYC tradition!

Off to the Races

Okay, you now know way more about your first trip to NYC than I did. I hope you find it helpful to have this information in advance and that it makes for a smoother and more enjoyable trip overall. (It also pleases me to know that my hard-won “derp moments” can actually be good for something…) Now get out of here and go have fun!

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What Does Balance Mean To You? http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/15/what-does-balance-mean-to-you/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/15/what-does-balance-mean-to-you/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 08:00:12 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=1820 A few years ago, I stumbled upon Dan Blank’s article about creating balance (specifically between the often warring forces of work and leisure). It was an interesting read and ultimately thought-provoking for me. I wanted to share the comment I left for him:

“Thanks for this article. I found myself nodding my head as I read down the page, but by the end, I also realized something. When I read about how you prioritized your career, and cut out your commute and other things that weren’t serving your purpose, and then how you also made it a priority to spend time with your family whenever you wanted… well, to me, that is balance. I think what’s outmoded is the notion that balance must be a perfect split of time, or always giving everything equal attention (which, for most people, includes a lot of meaningless tasks and activities — ‘noise’). Instead, I’d say it’s about giving the things you value most intentional attention, and that by making room for all of the things you value, you create a balanced life.”

(To which he responded: “That is an EXCELLENT POINT! You really hit the nail on the head there – thanks!”)

Although his article and my comment ended up being a nice exchange of ideas, I had hoped my thoughts would generate some further discussion. I think I was looking for “the answer” even though I knew one didn’t exist. Then again, if the “definition” I’d just suggested to Dan was true, balance would be different for everyone, anyway.


I’ve had the above in my drafts folder for about two months now. I never turned it into a post because I couldn’t figure out what else I wanted to say about it or how it might apply to me three years later – until yesterday. I was in the process of making some decisions about my blog, readying the content you see below, when that draft sort of waved its hand at me and said, “Now do you understand?”

And I finally did.

You see, when I started this blog, I set an arbitrary posting schedule for myself that consisted of two posts per week (with the option of as many as four, if you counted sharing quotes and music). You’re probably laughing at how business-like I made that. It’s true – I did. But since this was my third attempt at blogging, I really really wanted to succeed at it this time, and knew if I didn’t set up some structure for myself, it’d be too easy to put it aside.

And therein lies the irony. I was so focused on getting two posts completed every week that my blog ended up taking over other areas of my life. Areas that were equally important. Projects that were patiently waiting for their turn – and not getting it. (Balance? What balance?) I wasn’t making room for all of the things I valued.

Add to that the discovery that my chosen pace was too ambitious for the sorts of posts I set out to do. The ones that take more than a day or two to write (and/or photograph). The ones that I often have to think about for awhile so I can organize and distill my thoughts down. The ones that are born from my intentional attention, not just my desire to stay disciplined and keep to a twice-weekly posting schedule.

Some weeks I may continue to do two or more posts, but overall I’m going to stop pressuring myself to produce on a schedule. I need more balance, so I’m adjusting to something that feels more natural and authentic to me.

I’m going to take the time to create the things that really fuel me – longer, more in-depth posts that share my passion projects, a sprinkling of DIY endeavors, and reflections on life, work, spirituality and relationships. The stuff I like to think and wonder about, and the stuff that (I hope) gets you to think, too. Of course, I’ll still do the shorter, lighter, goofier posts as well. I just don’t know how often I will be posting.

I realize this kind of ad-hoc posting schedule isn’t to everyone’s tastes, so that’s why I’m announcing it. I think sharing my “why” is also important. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to do things our own way, and at our own speed, regardless of convention or the expectations of others. If there’s one thing that has become clear to me after writing this post, it’s this: balance does not have to be about giving equal amounts of time and energy to all of your priorities, it just means you need to give them all something. Otherwise, they’re not priorities.

Time to take my own advice.

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The Sphere Beyond Us http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/12/the-sphere-beyond-us/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/12/the-sphere-beyond-us/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 08:00:57 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=3009 Sometimes on rainy weekends, existential things cross my mind. This one occurred to me after observing my cats.

Cats have such a tiny view of what life is. They don’t have any comprehension of what they don’t know, of how vast life gets in the sphere just beyond them. They accept their reality for what it is: a moment to moment reflection of their basic needs, the warmest napping spot, and the little entertainments and curiosities they discover throughout the day. They don’t understand what it means to drive a car, to hold a job, to make money, to pay the utility bill, to grocery shop, or to anticipate the next episode of some TV show. They aren’t aware that they live in a house, that there are other cats who live next door, or that there’s lots of other countries – some situated halfway around the world – that also occupy this orb of luminescence we call Earth. Their life tends toward the simple; the routine. Yet to them, it’s very complete. Their cognizance doesn’t allow them to see beyond the space they occupy.

Kinda makes you wonder what’s out there beyond us, doesn’t it? The stuff we can’t comprehend or don’t yet know; the things for which we have no awareness. What’s in that sphere?

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Said Gary Provost http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/08/said-gary-provost/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/08/said-gary-provost/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 06:00:03 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=2979 “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

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Celebrating Month Five http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/05/celebrating-month-five/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/05/celebrating-month-five/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 08:00:08 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=2893 My first blog never got past the design stage. My second blog never made it past the third post. My third blog – the one you’re reading right now – has thankfully surpassed both of these milestones and is currently celebrating month five poolside with a fruity drink. And while I realize this does not constitute blogging longevity (or perhaps it does? ha), I’m pleased to see my early efforts and preparation have given it a strong start.

So what’s been my secret this time? Two things: topic curation and Facebook cover photos.

The main thing my earlier blog attempts suffered was the age-old question: “But what will I write about?” For me, that was an even more perplexing question because I’m not the sort of person who enjoys writing in a niche. (You may have noticed this.) I need randomness. My interests are too far-reaching to do otherwise. However, simply deciding I wanted to embrace randomness as a theme wasn’t enough. I still needed to have some idea of what I was going to write about. Gone were the days of assuming I could just sit down at my computer and something would magically occur to me. That’s fine for day one. Perhaps even day fifteen. But day one-hundred and twenty? Not likely. I needed a plan.

Enter: topic curation.

For over two years (after the slow demise of my second blog), I kept notes about things I wanted to blog about. In the beginning, there were just a few, but that quickly became several, which eventually became a small list – and then a longer list, and then an even longer list – until finally I had amassed over 150 topics. They have since been sorted into a binder I keep for my blog, which houses one tab for each of my twenty categories. The downside of having this is that it can be slightly overwhelming to peruse. The upside is that I don’t ever have to sit around scratching my head, trying to figure out what to write about. That had already killed my two previous blogs; it wasn’t going to claim a third.

Which brings me to my second secret: Facebook cover photos. Many of you are aware that I change mine out monthly, and have for about two years (I always enjoy the comments or discussion they inspire, too!). This practice was directly inspired by one of the blogs I follow. Every month, this woman designs a new masthead for her site – usually some goofy graphic or photo with her logo on it – and then adds the month and year to it. I was drawn to the concept because it’s a great way to routinely freshen up a site without having to overhaul it (like anyone has time for that). It also showed discipline and intention; it said, “This project has my attention.”

That is how cover photos became my precursor to blogging. I knew if I could stick to doing one every month, without exception, then I would be ready to give blogging another try. Sure, some months I’m more inspired than others, and occasionally I have to force one, but mostly I’m delighted by how they turn out. The point is, I did it. I proved to myself that it could be done, that I could stick with a routine month after month and still find enjoyment in the process. Now when I look back on this series of graphics I’ve created, I just see it for what it is: accomplishment, expression, creation, entertainment, community.

Sounds a lot like a blog to me.

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The Bucket is Partially Full http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/01/the-bucket-is-partially-full/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/05/01/the-bucket-is-partially-full/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 07:15:11 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=2713 Okay, so maybe the bucket isn’t partially full – it’s probably more like a few drops – but progress is progress and that’s what I’m celebrating! After the recent debut of my Bucket List, I thought I’d keep the momentum going by sharing a few stories for things I’ve already completed, as well as announce two that are upcoming. Here we go!

#67: Go to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – July 17, 2012
Jay Leno was my go-to nighttime show for probably fifteen years. I rarely watched his stand-up, and only occasionally stopped to catch the antics of his regular segments (with the exception of “Headlines”) or listen to the musical guests. I was there for one purpose: the interviews. I loved Jay’s style: warm, effusive, funny, humble. He made it about the other person. He didn’t interrupt his guests, or keep trying to draw focus to himself – it wasn’t about him. He just asked questions and then got out of the way. Love. That.

Over the years I also got to know his cat, Cheese, and his wife, Mavis. Despite being an incurable flirt, Jay always got a little doe-eyed and affected when talking about Mavis, which, on any man, is pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

When the network first ousted Jay, I was heartbroken. Going to The Tonight Show had long been on my list and now it seemed I wouldn’t get the chance. Then the startling news: they were going to reinstate him! When that happened I knew I’d also been given another opportunity and had to seize it. I’m so glad I made it happen.

Episode #4288 featured guests Kate Beckinsale, Adam Carolla and musical guest Lionel Richie. Before the taping, Jay came out on stage to say hello and welcome us all to the studio. (If you know anything about Jay, you know his off-camera wardrobe consists of denim, denim and more denim, and sure enough, there he was in his denim duds!) He invited a few people to come up on stage for photos, answered some questions, gave us a quick overview of what to expect, and then left to go change into his suit. The atmosphere was comfortable and inviting; it felt like we were all sitting around in his living room.

After the show, in the parking lot, a small group had gathered around whatever crazy antique car he was driving in an attempt to shake his hand or try to catch a few words with him. Even there he was every bit the gracious and goofy guy he always seemed to be on TV, and that made me happy – for a lot of reasons, but really because it had just validated all the time and energy I’d invested in Jay over the years. Authenticity is important to me. Passion is important to me. That afternoon in Burbank, I got both.

#62: Visit Ghirardelli’s in San Francisco, CA – April 20, 2014
I knew going in this wasn’t going to be one of those life-changing sorts of list items. It was just for fun and interest: I simply wanted to see the famous home of one of my favorite chocolate companies. Turns out it takes up a whole block near Fisherman’s Wharf (a place aptly named Ghirardelli Square) and features lots of shops, dining and – you guessed it – chocolate. I saw it at night, which is cool, because the building is outlined in lights and there’s a huge Ghirardelli sign above it that’s visible from the Bay. Even though you can buy their chocolate anywhere now, it was still cool seeing this historical landmark. The only thing I missed was a factory tour. They have chocolate-making equipment, but it’s a demonstration, not a factory. Guess I’ll have to hold out for Hershey’s to see that!

#49: Go to The Oprah Winfrey Show – April 6, 2011
Anyone who ever wanted to attend a taping of Oprah’s show knows it was a major coup getting tickets. Some people reportedly spent years trying to do it, and without success. If you were one of them, I’m sorry – for the frustration of it all, and because of what I’m about to say: I got two tickets on my very first try. (Excuse me, I think I’ll just type the rest of this post from underneath my desk. It’s quite cozy there. And much safer.)

Perhaps it will soften the blow to say it wasn’t a “Favorite Things” episode (ours was one of those “Where are they now?” recap shows), and that while the process itself was a well-oiled machine, it ended up being a very formal, technical thing, with lots of waiting around and people ushering you about. I know production isn’t necessarily a glamorous thing – that’s not what I’m referring to. It was the fact that so little of Oprah’s personality infused the proceedings. It was just so… official, or something. Perhaps it was just that day, or maybe just that episode, I don’t know. I guess I was hoping it’d have more of the magic that I was used to seeing from the TV side of things. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very grateful I had the experience. It just wasn’t what I expected it would be. That’s not a bad thing. I still got the chance to drag a friend along, enjoy a road trip to Chicago, revel in the behind-the-scenes action (something both of us geek out for), be part of Oprah’s 25th/Farewell Season, spot myself on TV once the episode aired, and check off one more thing on this crazy list of mine!


And here’s what I’ve got coming up…

#32: Learn to play the Ukulele
I have ordered my very first ukulele and it should be here this week! It’s a darling little Makala Dolphin Soprano in black, thanks to a recommendation by Brett McQueen at Ukelele Tricks. I’ve been looking through some of his free web training already, but I also know if I really want to give this an honest try (and I do) then I need one-on-one instruction. To that end, I will turn to TakeLessons to find a fellow enthusiast to teach me.

There are times (like now) where I bemusedly wonder what I am doing. What on Earth will I do with this skill? I have no aspirations to play publicly. I don’t sing. But then I find another video of someone playing a ukelele and I don’t have to wonder anymore, because I am hopelessly charmed all over again. Sometimes that’s all the answer I need.

#47: Try Curling
In a few weeks, I will get to try my hand at Curling for the first time! I’m quite excited about this one. Turns out my local Four Seasons Curling Club offers a training course that costs $10 for 2 hours. How much more no-brainer can you get? Plus, three-quarters of that time is spent on the ice, learning the practicals and then playing a short game, which makes all the difference. I don’t want to listen to someone talk about the sport, I want to play it! Oh, and in case you’ve always wanted to give this a whirl yourself, there’s still space open in May!

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Random: Peach Fuzz http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/04/28/random-peach-fuzz/ http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/2014/04/28/random-peach-fuzz/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 05:15:33 +0000 http://writingwhilebarefoot.com/?p=2587 Gaffney's Peach Water Tower
According to Wikipedia, The Peachoid is a 135-foot tall water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina that resembles a peach.

Hmm. A peach, they say? That’s interesting, because a peach is certainly not the first thing that came to my mind.

I’m sure the people of Gaffney are proud of their peaches, and their peachy water tower. But seriously, is there no one at the public works office who ever says, “Hey, George (in my mind that guy is always named George), don’t you think we should round out the shape of this peach so… well, you know, so we don’t make an ass of ourselves?”

Just curious.

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