Category Archives: Self-Help & Fun

Fashion, health, exercise, psychology, therapy, and whatever else might be helpful to someone on a quest to improve herself or himself. (Who doesn’t need improvement?)

7 tips for a good workspace

After my oldest son’s sophomore year in college, I stole his bedroom.

I asked him first, but it was more of a “I want to make your bedroom into my study. Is that okay?” kind of question. He didn’t care. He was having so much fun at college, we literally had to make him come home to visit. And then he worked at a camp all summer after his sophomore year. And he would be spending second semester during his junior year in London. I knew he wouldn’t miss it.

So yeah. I didn’t feel bad about it. I work from home, and I needed more space. I was teaching and writing from the kitchen table, and my stuff was everywhere. And I have trouble focusing when the house isn’t in order, which is frequently the case in the kitchen/living area. In the kitchen, food is also too available, the T.V. is tempting, and I’m usually doing laundry there (yep, no laundry room, so it’s also the laundry area).

I decided I needed a room with less distractions.  I was writing a few manuscripts and had no quiet space to do it (and working in my bedroom makes me sleepy!). Having my own study was the natural and logical solution to all of these pressing issues. Technically, my son’s room wasn’t even his real room because he grew up in a different room. (I made him switch rooms with his little brother when he left for college. But that’s another story.)

I live in a house of men, so for years I have tempered my girly-decorating juices to match my environment. Apparently, decorating desires die hard, because I still long to make that girly room. Just one. Please. Continue reading

Why branding might be ruining art

All the platform gurus tell you to “build a brand.” Figure out who you are, what you’re selling, and then market it. Define yourself. It makes sense. But, branding is becoming an art of its own, which is fine. I’m just afraid it might be ruining real art. After all, real art is artistry, not perceived artistry. Vert few masterpieces have been appreciated in their own time.

If you’re a regular person like me (or even worse, an artist), branding yourself is tricky business. Because, like I said, you don’t consider yourself a business. You’re an artist. You just want to write, paint, act, play music, create things, or communicate concepts. Your art flows from who you are, not the other way around. But in order to promote your art, you must specialize in something sale-able, and it must be a stereotype that fits you. No one told you, when you were six and drawing up a storm, that someday you’d have to become a marketing gymnast to do anything with your drawings.

This branding routine is like telling a mom to specialize on her mothering perception rather than on the art of mothering. You know, fill her social media pages with professional and i-phone photography of happy children eating their tofu and getting into IB programs. She will get likes on all her social media posts, which of course, she manages easily on top of her real responsibilities. She is adept at posting pictures and videos of herself. Her children comment that she is their best friend, and they can tell her anything. Continue reading

Grief is the team member you didn’t choose but are learning to work with

Lately, Grief and I have been getting along fairly decently, not as old friends, but as associates whom you know well and respect deeply. Grief is the team member you didn’t choose but you learn to work with anyway. By pushing you–by pulling back the habits and feelings you’d rather hide–she moves you towards creativity and re-invention. Grief may annoy and hurt you at times, but you’ve learned how to take her aside and have a brief discussion about how much authority she can actually wield in your life. You remind her of the perimeters of your relationship.

This is what I’ve been doing with Grief while I purge my house for Lent.

Someone suggested collecting 40 boxes of stuff I don’t need anymore in the 40 days between Ash Wednesday to Easter, and I took the challenge. So far I’ve eliminated 4 boxes of dishes (but I replaced an old set with a new one, so I can’t count all 4), 2 boxes of picture frames, 10 boxes of clothes and miscellaneous household clutter, 1 box of cookbooks, and 1 secretary (I sold that, so I figure that’s worth a couple boxes). I’ve thrown out countless pencils, pens, and other office supplies. I’ve re-organized my laundry closet, one son’s room, my office, and my kitchen cabinets.

I say “I,” but I really mean “we.” Grief has hitched along for the ride, voicing her opinions strongly about the things which clutter my house. This weekend, we went through artwork and picture frames.

See, this is how Grief and I are becoming a team. I use her as motivation, because as I purge and re-organize, I take a second look at all the ways she’s imbedded herself into my life. Photographs, dishes, recipes, books, frames, art, furniture–all these remind me of my lost loved ones. Maybe that’s why some people hoard. They just can’t face the emotions attached with discarding something. I get that. With each item I encounter, I consider its sentimental and practical value and decide what gets the boot and what stays to live another day. I will not hoard, though. That’s giving Grief her own room to live in, and I don’t enjoy her that much. Continue reading