Archive for musing

i could get used to this

day #4 at my parents’ house in jim falls, wi

i could get used to this…

…spiff running around care-free in my parents’ back yard, off-leash – 40 acres of quintessential rural wisconsin land.  pouncing on grasshoppers and chasing butterflies and bees.

…flannel sheets – even in the summer, my mom knows that flannel sheets really are the coziest.

…sleeping in til 8, 9, 10… waking up whenever my body feels like it.  no alarms.  no immediate sense of panic about what i have to do, what i’m late for, what i’ll never get done.

…napping on the porch swing.  enough said.

…sitting on the deck in perfect summer weather.  just sitting and being.

…slowly preparing food to share with loved ones.  no rush, no stress.  i can clean fresh green beans all afternoon.

…my parents’ endless bad ‘jokes’ and the way jess laughs every time.

…my mom sneaking spiff extra treats, like a grandma spoiling her grandkid.

…the lakes.  the rivers.  fresh water.

…the deep relief and comfort of home, and family.  admiration, respect, gratitute and love for the amazing people who raised me to become who i am.

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marshmallow recipe for success

i’ve been listening to radiolab (this american life‘s scientist cousin) ever since my brother introduced me to it over christmas last year.  as with most things, i go in streaks where i don’t listen to it (or simply forget about it) for weeks, and then suddenly listen to a bunch of episodes back to back.  tonight was one such night when i’ve listened to 4 so far, and the night is still young (and there are plenty of rows left to knit on this curtain…).

the last episode i listened to was called “Mischel’s Marshmallows”, about this 40-year-long experiment that has been studying the relationship between four year olds’ ability to delay gratification, and how successful they become later in life.

the experiment starts with 500 four-year-olds in the 1960’s – each is taken into an empty room and given a marshmallow.  they are told that they can eat that one marshmallow now, or, if they wait, they can have two marshmallows. then they are left in the room while people watch their struggle with temptation through a two-way mirror (apparently, wildly entertaining).

i remember learning about this experiment in psychology 101, but i didn’t remember some of the conclusions that were drawn from it.  first, there appears to be evidence that human brains go through a cognitive development around the age of 4 that gives them the ability to delay gratification – ie will power (3 year-olds couldn’t resist the marshmallowy temptation).  ok, fine.

however, they also started drawing correlations between the existence of will power at age 4, and general success (scholastic aptitude, physical fitness, career) as those 4yo’s grew up; as well as the lack of will-power at age 4, and general non-success growing up (they cited getting suspended from school, obesity, “at-risk” youth, etc.).  namely – the kids who didn’t cave in to the marshmallow, grew up to be smart and successful (by whatever mainstream standards that is measured); and those who couldn’t resist, were deemed failures.

i can’t say anything for sure about the experiment itself’s official conclusions, but i was disappointed with how radiolab presented these correlations.  there’s the famous scientific principle that correlation does not equal causation, but the show seemed to get dangerously close to ignoring that.

the experiment seemed to wholly ignore any sort of assessment of the subject’s life when they were four, at the beginning of the experiment.  and in fact, the whole thing was an afterthought – Mischel decided to re-study the original subjects five or six years after the original test after a casual conversation with his daughters which seemed to reveal that the kids who had failed the temptation test were not doing as well in school as those who had succeeded (in the daughters’ estimation).  so presumably no data was collected about the kids originally – only in subsequent tests.  so we have no idea how successful or unsuccessful the kids were doing when they originally took the test.

i’m no scientist, and not a parent (unless you count my dog spiff), but it seems pretty evident to me that the kids’ environment growing up must play a significant role in whether or not a kid is able to exhibit will-power at the age of four.  and this most likely sets them up on a life path… “successful” or “unsuccessful” (and, i would argue – many places inbetween, outside of, etc.).  there are so many factors in the kids’ lives – parenting methods, class, race, location, etc. – that impact how many opportunities kids have to learn about will power and its possible benefits, as well as tools for resisting the need for instant gratification.  it is really a shame that the experiment didn’t have data like this about the original four-year-old subjects.

i also wonder about kids who gained will power later than 4 years old.  if they were simply “late will-power bloomers”, did that diminish their rate of success later in life?  was their fate really determined by whether or not they had it or not at age 4?

this experiment certainly is interesting, though, in how it shows just how early some life habits and learned tools impact a person’s overall path in life.  that a simple will power test at the age of 4 can be a pretty reliable indicator of how much a person has learned so far, and is likely to carry with them throughout life, is pretty amazing.  human development is crazy if you ask me.

this also begs the question – what would a will-power test look like for adults?  how do we measure the ability to delay gratification later in life?  billions of dollars in advertising are spent specifically to wage war on people’s will power, and our economy thrives on people’s need for instant gratification.  what would the wall street bailouts say about bonus recipients?

i bet they all ate the marshmallow when they were little.

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vacation day 1: neighborhood foraging

i am on day one of a week-long vacation from work.  or rather, a stay-cation, as i like to call it.  we’ve had some recent changes at work (the ruckus society), and when i go back to the office december 1st, i will officially be the new “managing director”.  so i’m taking this week off not only for the rest (yay), but also to intentionally transition out of my old role and into the new role.  i’m planning a cleanse for mon-fri just to bring that transition concept home for me, in mind and body.

so today was day one of vacation (but not starting cleanse until monday).  i started by making waffles, one of my favorite breakfast meals (and i’m definitely one of those breakfast-anytime types).  jess came home from her overnight shift with a bag full of plant cuttings she liberated from sidewalks and yards on her bike ride home from work, and that kind of gave us our direction for the day.  after she gave the cuttings some new homes, we decided to go for a walk and check out what our own neighborhood had to offer.

i used to love going for walks, and realized i haven’t really done that in years now, so it was nice to get out, especially since we haven’t done much exploring of our neighborhood since we moved in in october.  based on the results of a heated discussion at a neighborhood potluck we went to that some friends hosted awhile ago, we thought our neighborhood was clinton park (oakland), but upon closer examination of this map i guess we’re technically “ivy hill”, part of the “san antonio district”. it’s also now known as “eastlake”, but we’re told that’s the developers’/gentrified name (i’ll save the topic of gentrification for some later post…).

map of ivy hill

map of ivy hill

so anyway, we walked around the neighborhood, jess foraging for plants and herbs, while i carried the growing bag of plant cuttings, and took some photos.

we found a bunch of houses that were using their small city plots to grow food in their front yards, which was exciting – it’s definitely on our list of things to plan out for our sad little dirt-packed back “yard” at our apartment.  and it sounds like we may be part of starting a community garden in our friends’ backyard just 2 blocks away.  hooray!

front yard edible garden

front yard edible garden

we also passed by an awesome weeping willow (at least i think so??) which reminded me of a tree from my minnesota neighborhood when i was little.  i used to ride my bike around our big block to visit that huge tree.  i just love the dangling branches and leaves like a canopy, and always wished we had one in our yard.

weeping willow

weeping willow

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all in all, we ended up with rosemary, fennel, mint, nosturtiums, succulents, sweet grass, a few ferns, some plants whose names we’ll have to look up, AND a few free books and a bunch of silverware which we found sitting out on the sidewalk, which just added to the scavenger hunt feel of the whole thing.  we’re suckers for free books.

we then spent the rest of the afternoon burying their little roots in new soil, and re-potting all of our old plants which were all in a pretty sad state for having neglected them in awhile, distracted by our move and whatever else.  at the end of the day we had a house full of happy plants and herbs, old and new alike.

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(yes, we paid for these)

(yes, we paid for these)

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a saturday shopping adventure by bike

my partner jess and i started out our saturday with vegan brunch at fellini’s in berkeley, meeting at the restaurant after jess got off an overnight shift for work.  after french toast and soy bacon, and their fresh-squeezed orange juice (i love that orange juice machine!), we set off on our bikes to browse thrift shops, a yarn festival, antique stores, farmer’s market, and… paint stores.

my bike with a dahlia jess gave me at brunch

my bike with a dahlia jess gave me at brunch

we stopped at some thrift stores first, but not surprisingly didn’t find any furniture for the new apartment.  i’m going to have to be patient on this one.  the searching over the last few weeks has yielded us a sweet old sewing desk, but that’s it so far.

next we headed up north of the university to check out the “color: fiber festival” my friend kasha (from cultivating domesticity) alerted me to. neither of us really needed any more yarn – we’re still trying to figure out what to do with my current stash in the new apartment – but i was excited to check it out, since i’d missed all the other yarn festivals i’d heard about in the last couple years since i started knitting.  alas, the “festival” was one room containing about 6 stalls of local bay area yarn vendors, and a circle of women spinning wool outside under a tent.  all the yarn was beautiful and hand-dyed, etc., and everyone there seemed to be wearing a garment they had knit themselves.  it was all very cute, but we felt awkward, and got literally trapped by one of the vendors who was eager to tell us all about her yarns, and try to make a sale. we made our way out as tactfully as possible after perusing all the stalls, and were thanked for coming as we got back on our bikes.

the color fiber festival

the color fiber festival

ironically, just a block away from the fiber festival, we ran into a couple garage sales around the corner, and i ended up scoring a ball of yarn for 50 cents.  sweet.  i love when things like that happen.

from there, we made our way over to “mixed pickles”, an adorable antique store on shattuck, where we ogled an old bedroom set of two twin beds with matching dressers and night stands, in an olive green color with little painted flowers. i had to drag jess out, convincing her the dresser was not in our price range right now (always a dream-crusher, i am).  we set off hoping that we would find a dresser that was just as good at a nearby garage sale for only 50 cents, but i guess the yarn score used up that bit of good luck.

next we stopped for a strawberry nut milk shake at raw energy, this cute little juice bar on addison st., where jess is a regular.  the owner is so nice, we even got a discount (that’s how often jess goes…).

we took our nut milk over to the berkeley farmer’s market, where we sampled a few fruits, and bought some apples, persimmons, and grapes, and then found a delicious lavender hibiscus lemonade from this vendor who had all sorts of beautiful canned goods.

canned goods at the farmer's market

canned goods at the farmer's market

after the farmer’s market we biked down telegraph, stopping at a few more garage sales on the way (no scores), to a few paint stores in the temescal neighborhood, and brought home about a million samples, which we pored over, with heavy debate, deciding on colors for each room in the apartment.  right now we’ve picked out a shade of teal for the living room, pink for the bedroom, avocado/lime greenish for the arts & crafts room, goldenrod for the kitchen, and a lighter pink for the bathroom.  next up:  actually buying the paint and going for it.  we’ll see how it goes.

lastly, we stopped at a yarn store on piedmont ave on the way home, where i picked up my size 11 needles so i can start my next sweater:

anyway, it was just a nice saturday, that i felt like sharing with those who weren’t there.

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on learning to bend

i am a rigid person.  i hold fast to my opinions, and am difficult to persuade otherwise.  my tenacity is one of my strongest assets, but there is a certain brusqueness that seems to be coupled with my unyielding nature.  it’s a package deal (a hereditary gift).  it’s not that i don’t care – i am a deeply compassionate person – but a certain warmth in communication gets sacrificed in my pursuit of simply getting shit done. it’s one of those things i can recognize i’m doing, but i can’t seem to change the behavior.  i grew up in the midwest and consciously worked to drop my midwestern accent upon moving to the northwest for college.  but my true roots betrayed me every time i spoke on the phone with family or friends from back home.  i could immediately detect the long vowels of my hometown slipping back into my speech, but i was powerless to stop them.  now that i’ve long since lost my ability to employ my old midwestern accent even if i try, i can see the sadness in my active eradication of something that was central to my upbringing, simply out of a misguided embarrassment.

whereas in the case of erasing my accent i was trying to rid myself of evidence of my small-town roots – an innocuous though regrettable endeavor – my brusque behavior is one that i believe is actually impairing my happiness, and the happiness of those around me.  it’s like i bring one of those little storm clouds around with me everywhere i go and end up sharing a bit of it with everyone around me, against their will.  some call me pessimistic, negative, whatever it is – but the less-than-positive energy i exude is just something i can’t accept anymore.  i’m trying to learn to bend and yield – to maintain the positive aspects of my realistic and practical nature, but learn to communicate more warmly, in a manner congruent with my values.

i suppose this blog is sort of a public declaration of this commitment, in an attempt to hold myself accountable.  my hope is that focusing my energy in a more creative way, occupying myself with things that make me happy, rather than dwelling on the things that stress me out, will start to simply increase my level of positivity.  therefore, my intentions for this blog are to chronicle any projects i undertake, give me incentive to create more, and share my endeavors with friends and family.  there is no question that i will also post just random links and things that i’m thinking about or cool things people around me are doing or things in this world that simply outrage me.  i can do whatever i want!  but anyway – those are my overarching intentions.  please feel free to comment!

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