Friday, January 31, 2014

CEOs of Nothing + The Next Big Thing

Since our road trip, and my realization that the break did me a world of good, I've felt myself saying, "I need a break from this," whenever I'm doing just about anything. It's definitely time for some changes.

For some years, I've been following people online who've left their more socially acceptable lives in pursuit of a back-to-basics life.

I was attracted to their freedom, but I've noticed one group who I might call CEOs of Nothing. I'm sorry to say it, but they don't really do anything. Their stories are all kind of similar: they left their cushy life in a big move and are now living unconventionally, and boy oh boy, are they happy.

They survive by writing e-books about their big move or becoming life coaches. Their big move was their big contribution; it wasn't a jumping off point for something even greater. Others' previous experiences have allowed them to become consultants or freelancers. 

They seem to be not just resting on their laurels but building empires on them, and I'm over it. I don't fault them for making a buck, but ultimately, their lives aren't models for how I can live. We can't all write e-books for a living.

And I'm not saying people shouldn't try different lifestyles for their own sake, but how much can we celebrate living in voluntary poverty when that's the norm for much of this world? 

On the brighter side, the message still holds true: Less is more. There are people living basically socially acceptable lives out there who manage to live by that message. Some of them work full time, some work freelance; some of them live in small spaces, some live in larger homes. It's a spectrum.

I need a break from my unfocused life. My quest for freedom hasn't been particularly liberating after all. 

I'm going to focus on the one thing I do best and the one thing I actually get recognition for, and that's teaching. I'm applying to full-time teaching jobs, and I'm going to put all my effort into being the best teacher I can be. No more side jobs unless they'll help me further this professional goal. The good news is that my job entails a lot of dabbling, so I don't think I'll be getting dull anytime soon.

As always, thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

8 Good Things

1. Jarritos mugs. I'm still kind of obsessed with them, but I don't own any yet. I almost bought one at the Indian Market in Denver, but they only had one, and that seemed a little unfair for a household with two adults. Anyway, I stole the photo above from a Facebook post because when I saw it, I immediately loved everything about it.

2. Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe's. It's surprisingly filling. Pictured above is the grains mix with sauteed leeks, celery, and pears, topped with some dried cranberries. I believe I added in some rosemary and sage too.

3. My husband's guacamole. I had no idea he could make guacamole, let alone the world's best guacamole. Now I guess I have to stay married to him.

4. Celery with hummus (or guacamole). I've never been much of a celery stick person, but recently I found myself with hummus to finish up and nothing to dip in it except celery. It was magical combination.

5. Vacation! Before our trip, I hadn't left California for 3 years, and I hadn't had complete time off for a long time either. I realized how much I needed to take time off and see different things. My plan for the trip was to sleep, read, and knit, and I'm happy to report that I did all of those things in abundance.

6. My favorite cafe (to work in). It's a strange place--it's adjacent to and shares a lobby with an indie movie theater, so it smells like popcorn in there, but their wifi passwords are amusing.

7. Swimming. I got back into the pool today for the first time in a long time. It felt great (despite people saying that my gym's pool is gross--whatever--I don't think about it).

8. Finishing Star Trek: Voyager on Netflix. That makes it the fourth Star Trek series I've watched in its entirety. And I'm officially a huge nerd. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Office Hours

I kind of hate home offices. Am I the only one?

Oh, sure, they look cute.

I could get so much done here. And mason jars!
A chair with wheels!
Seriously, I love crap like this. The problem, though, is that if I ever had a room like these ones, the following would happen:

1. I'd never use it.
2. I'd use it, but I'd sit on the floor, spreading all my papers out everywhere, disregarding my nice desk and storage compartments.
3. I'd force myself to sit in the god damned chair, but I'd be so distracted by my own daydreaming that I wouldn't get anything done.

In the last year, I've grown quite fond of working in cafes. For now that works, but it's not always convenient. There may come a time when I need a home office or when I have my own office at work (imagine!), and I'd like to figure out a way to be productive in a more traditional setting. So, my question is: what is it about the cafe experience that is conducive to getting work done?
  • A big, flat area for spreading out all my stuff so I can see it and reach for it easily.
  • An open room that doesn't make me feel isolated but where I won't be interrupted by others.
  • A space that's slightly uncomfortable (I do not work well while sitting on the couch. I think maybe the discomfort is like a built-in signal for a break). 
  • A space that isn't completely devoted to me where others are likely to come and go around me. 
  • A space where I can have a beverage of choice. 
I'm not sure I can duplicate these things elsewhere. Basically, I want a place that's both open and private where I can drink a coffee or a beer as the mood strikes me.

The thing about being at home is that I'm home. I'm not at work. I don't particularly want to have an office at home because home is where I do home things, not work things. I dislike deliberately separating myself from the other human and cat I share my home with because they are the reason I go home every day. It feels like I'm being sent to my room.

The thing about being at work in an office is that the spaces are made for nobody in particular. They're not made for all people; they're made for no one. What person actually prefers being surrounded by colleagues for hours on end and taupe? Cafes are made to attract people; office spaces assume that you have to go there. 

In the end, I don't think I'll ever want a home office. And if I must have an office at work (if it's on a college campus), I imagine I'll use it as storage mostly and do my real work elsewhere. A separate room labeled as "my office" or even "the library" is a beautiful concept, but it's not for me. I'm just not wired that way.

Tell me, am I alone in my disliking of offices? Where are you most productive?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our Trip through the West in Superlatives

Best display of rubbernecking: Colorado. We saw a total of 5 accidents all within a couple miles. We were thinking it was because of increased game-day traffic heading into Denver.

Most efficient detour around a major accident: Wyoming. We were rerouted to an access road, and when it was time to get back on the highway, there were bright red flares in the road marking the turn. I was impressed.

Most fog: Utah. It lasted for nearly two hours straight (until we crossed the border to Nevada) and was slightly frozen. Frozen fog, Utah? Really? 

Worst fog: Not to be outdone, Monterey Bay stepped up to the plate about 20 minutes before we got home. It was night time, we'd been driving for 13 hours, and I was at that time nearly blind because of all the headlights in my rearview mirrors. Good times.

Most interesting weather: Colorado. Crazy wind chill, followed by snow, followed by sun and 50+ temperatures. Wee!

Grossest bathroom: Some local gas station in Lovelock, Nevada. 

Cleanest bathroom: The Chevron off the I-80 exit in West Wendover, Nevada. That came as a surprise.

Most wind: Wyoming. Let's say I was relieved when the signs said 35 mph gusts.

Prettiest scenery: Tahoe Forest. Yep, California still takes the cake, but that's probably only because the Tahoe area reminds me of Washington where I grew up. 

Creepiest area: California desert. I hate driving through the area surrounding such beautifully named towns as Boron right next to Edwards Air Force Base. When I drive through there, I'm always reminded of The Hills Have Eyes (which I've never seen in its entirety because I get too creeped out by the thought of mutant and/or deranged hillbillies that want to torture me and/or eat me alive).

Biggest canyon: Arizona. Duh. Of course the Grand Canyon was spectacular, but what moved me most was how connected I felt. More than 4 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. We all come to marvel at nature. That's what's really spectacular.

State that looked most like Arizona: New Mexico. Sorry, NM, but other than an annoying dust storm in Albuquerque, there wasn't anything remarkable. Two days of driving through deserts had me pretty annoyed by that point.

Weirdest purchase: An unfathomably ugly swimsuit at the Big 5 in Kingman, AZ. I forgot to pack mine, but I was determined to sit in a hot tub after a long day's drive. 

Whitest knuckles: Mine, driving in the dark on the winding highway leading up to Salt Lake City. 

Smelliest armpits: Mine, after day one of the drive home. So, driving west in the winter = having the sun on your face and neck. All. Day. Long. 

Sleeper hit: Nevada. The first time I drove I-80 through NV was when I moved to California. It was the last day of a 6-day trip, and NV seemed barren and just plain awful. This time, we saw snow-capped mountains, and there seemed to be a little town every 50 miles or so. It was fairly pleasant.

And a special shout-out goes to Best Western. They are not all created equal; however, the ones we stayed in were clean, spacious, and inexpensive. We stayed in Williams, AZ, for $55! The most expensive one we stayed at was $81. If you add up the total cost of our three hotel stays, you might be able to afford a nice hotel room in Monterey :) 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

8 Good Things

Happy New Year, everybody! It's it funny how eight days into the year, we've already stopped wishing people a happy new year? That was so seven days ago. Here's what I've been up to and happy about lately.

1. "Brainwashed by the Cult of the Super-rich." One of my favorite quotes from the article: "The adulation of royalty is not a harmless anachronism; it is calculated totem worship that only entrenches the bizarre notion that some people are rich simply because they are more deserving but somehow they are still just like us."

2. Bringing Up Bébé. I'm not pregnant. Let's just get that out of the way. I'm not finished yet, but I love it so far. It's written by an American expatriate living in Paris examining the differences between French and American parenting. Apparently, French babies sleep through the night by the time they're 4 months old, and French parenting philosophy is all about teaching patience, behaving with sensible restraint, and raising an "awakened" child.

3. Rosca de Reyes.

4. Knitting my first pair of mittens, which I keep unintentionally referring to in my head as "knittens" (way better name anyway). I always thought mittens looked like they would be difficult, but they're mostly painless.

5. Luggage! Since we're traveling soon, I guess we ought to have some. This set is inexpensive anyway, and I used a gift card we received for a wedding gift, and it came to about $50. Lucky us!

7. Getting two cotton sweaters in good condition from Goodwill for $8. I plan to take them apart and use the yarn for other projects. If you're not a knitter, you might be surprised at how much decent quality yarn costs. This is the first time I've been able to find sweaters at Goodwill for this purpose.

8. Taking somewhat of a hiatus from the online world. I've decided not to take my laptop with me on my trip. There are computers where I'm going, and the husband has his tablet, so I'm not completely detached. I just like the idea of changing things up a bit. That's the point of a vacation, right?