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January 25, 2015


So far so good on goals, in terms of reaching them *technically*, but I'd like to do better. For example, here it is Saturday night at 11:40 pm and I need to have a blog post up within the next 20 minutes. What's more, I don't know that my batteries will last that long, and I conveniently left the power cord at work.

But I did make a big pot of chicken curry today, so I'm on track for cooking. And I spent 20 minutes on the bike at the gym reading Switch.

Who has read "Switch"?

It's a book about change, and change-making. On a personal level, on an organizational level, on a societal level. One of the premises: Change is hard. Or, it can be. One of the reasons change is hard: Making decisions takes energy. (Studies show!) If we don't know *how* to change, if we don't know what to do, it's hard to get there. Because before we can even do it, we need to figure out what it is.

Man, does this ring true. If we give ourselves a clear path, and a why, we're much better able to reach those goals. I want to make an impact on this world. But what does that mean? It's so very vague. It takes energy to figure out what that is. I have this feeling that once I figure it out, I can do it. It's the figuring out that feels like the hard part.

They also (two authors) talk about analysis paralysis. Not that I'd have any experience with that. But what they said, had I ever had that experience, makes sense. It takes energy to make decisions. If we give ourselves fewer decisions or, and this one's huge for me, we give ourselves *guidelines* on how to make those decisions, we facilitate the whole process. We keep things moving forward.

That last part really struck a chord for me. I've lamented to myself for years that I just don't have a clear framework anymore for much of my life. I don't have a financial framework (when I had less money, my framework was clearer), I don't have a values framework (easier when I went by religious teachings, and then everything was somewhat up in the air for a while), and I don't have a general life framework (having a full-time job with externally determined goals helps with that, and I struggled with lack of structure when I didn't). How do I prioritize my time? What matters? Is it okay to spend money to change a plane ticket? How much is okay to spend? There are no clear guidelines for these choices, and once guidelines are in place these decisions are easier to make. Boundaries. And those boundaries can absolutely be determined by the individual. So, I think it's time to be thinking about some rules for myself. As I said, I've thought about this quite a bit in the past--or lamented, rather, as I put it--but reading about this in the book affirmed my idea that it's easier to live within a framework. And not necessarily easy in a bad way. So, new goal: Build a personal framework.

I'll get out my hammer and nails tomorrow.

Posted by beth at 6:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2015

Some Weekend Thoughts on Chick Science Lit (Sort of)

My goodness. I have a lot that I want to write about. But time is short right now, and I'm afraid it's going to keep getting shorter. I've had this nice, quiet lead in for the new year, where the office was quiet and I was actually laying some groundwork for projects rather than just responding to things coming up and was leaving work at a reasonable hour and having the evenings for what I wanted my evenings for and was feeling somewhat organized. At least, like I was moving toward being more organized. And that's not all changed, but I do have the feeling that things are starting to pick up at work. The more things I have to do, the more scattered I feel, and the less time I feel I have to spend on any one thing, and the less engaged or accomplished I feel. I'm sure this is a *completely* unusual work complaint. I'm pretty sure I've never heard it before.

I also kept forgetting until yesterday that this is a three-day weekend. So, there's still time for organizing, writing, and doing. I have a few back-entries on the burner I'd like to get up: One on the Channel Islands, one on Washington, D.C., and one on Mount St. Helens. Plus, there's a book I'd like to write.

This is what I decided last week about writing a book:
I'd like to write the book I'd like to write.
Duh, right? But...
I spend a lot of time thinking about the book(s) I *should* write. I should strategize, so that I use the content as effectively as possible. Do I write a book about volcanoes and tectonics and adventures of the Philippines, and a separate one about GPS field stories in general, and a separate one about... whatever? Do I write a book about the history of GPS as it's been used in Earth science, which I started in on interviews for before I took this job?

And then I thought, why don't I just start writing. Because *a* book would be better than *no* book, even if after the fact I realize I could have saved some of the content for a different book. And I just can't get excited about the GPS history book. Besides, someone else is writing one that's kind of similar. I'm just not that into the technology. And I like to speak from experience. So, I think I'll just write my own book. About volcanoes and hot weather and cold weather and good food and bad food and stray animals and serenading MCs and bruises and cuts and snowmobiles and helicopters and bogs and women and men and enormous frogs and tiny scorpions and what the journey's been like from my perspective. I know other people who have traveled more or more recently, have had crazier adventures, know the science better, know the engineering better, have more letters after their names. are more connected or older or younger or whatever. But, I may as well do it. I may as well write my version.

Around that same time, I was thinking, what if it's a chick book? What if it's a chick science book? Because I'm, you know, female, and it's all from my perspective, and I could sanitize it and take out all the bits that distinguish me as a woman--the romance-y bits, or the I'm-conflicted-about-my-role-in-this-situation-based-on-gender bits--but then it would have to be less personal, and that's just not as fun--but also just not as real. So what if it ends up being a chick science book? Would it be that gender-heavy? I don't know. I think my 19-year-old self would definitely not approve, if it was. But I think I was still more concerned with proving that women were (and especially that I was) worth taking seriously. Which meant taking gender out and having it--whatever it was--be either masculine or gender free. I'm not 19 anymore. Maybe it's okay to write a book from not only a person's perspective, but the perspective of a person who is a communicator with some science background who likes a lot of different stuff who is also female. And it's okay if all of these things matter. And it's okay to get started on whatever it is and see what works and what doesn't. What it is and what it isn't. I realized it's okay to not know right off, and see how the writing unfolds.

For what it's worth, I think Tom Horn (is he still out there?) would like it.

Posted by beth at 3:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 7, 2015

New Year 2015

Happy New Year!

I know, it's already almost a week in. But I'm saying it now. Happy New Year.

This year, I'm focused on goals. Hopefully not obsessively, but in a healthy "Wow, I'd really like to get my poop together" sort of way. I have a long list of goals and food for thought, but the ones I want to share here have to do with nuggets I stored up over the holidays. I probably won't do them justice because I've already switched back to work mode, I'm caffeinated, and I only have a half an hour until I head out to go climbing (part of one of my goals), but I'll try anyway.

First, one of my goals is to post a blog entry each week through February 13. Thanks go to my friend Jane for organizing a beginning-of-the-year challenge. We get to pick our goals, put $100 into a pot, and either get it back or surrender it depending on whether we stick to our plan. My plan: post one blog entry a week (already stated), cook one real meal a week (the type that has lots of leftovers), and move my body for at least 20 minutes at least four times a week, with at least two of those times being yoga. It may all sound simple, but I'm going from zero to something, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. A bonus is sitting for five minutes a day in meditation five days a week. So far, starting on Sunday: One yoga, made coconut shrimp, three sits, and I'm going climbing tonight. And this.

There's so much really that I want to write about. (And thank you for emphasizing that, caffeine.) (I considered giving up caffeine but decided against. I did give up solitaire on my phone, which is hard enough.) But this is what I've been wanting to write about for the past couple weeks.

I went home for the holidays. It's not unusual. But this time, I was particularly fixated on goals, on mantras, on perspectives on life. On reflecting on the past and on looking toward the future. I was rewarded with some great insights from the people I spent time with. Thanks, everyone.

[Nothing like listening to that silly Christmas album your cousin sent your mom as a joke about 20 years ago. Steve Berens, look familiar?]

A special thanks right now to Elizabeth Shier. Her advice for her friends these days: Do what you can, with what you've got, right now. (I think I'm getting that right.) AND, in conjunction with that, No excuses. This blog entry is dedicated to her.

[Happy belated birthday, Elizabeth!]

Other nuggets:
Be appreciative. From Julie Grundberg, who is working for Doctors Without Borders and described her experience working and living across the street from a refugee camp in South Sudan. I love being able to eat, drink, sleep comfortably, and have access to health care facilities, let alone everything else I get to do and be from there. Basic needs = met. The group of us who got together on a houseboat in Portland over a weekend were able to talk philosophy, life directions, choices and art and other things we get to worry about since we have what we need. I wasn't the one to point this out, but I can certainly appreciate it.

Learn to live with less. From Rebecca Ricards, who shared that one of the beautiful things she's learned over the past several years, as she's purged and consolidated to spend stints overseas also working with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is that she can live with few possessions. And that it's liberating. She said she'd heard or read (I can't remember the source) that everything we have takes time and energy. If that's how we want to spend our time and energy, great, so long as we're aware of that. I have so much stuff. And it takes me time and energy, at the very least every time I move. On a more constant basis, the extra shampoo and conditioner bottles in my shower serve as just that much more of a barrier to me motivating to clean it. So, one of my goals is to organize, and purge. I'm going to use up the extra products, for example, so I can keep it simple. Sounds silly, but it's just an example.

Don't make plans around others. From Aaron Bartel, my brother. I stress about being in the right place at the right time and about doing right by the people around me. He empowered me to make some plans of my own rather than waiting for things to fall into place around me. Thanks, bro.

[My brother and his dog, Roxxie. She's ridiculous. Apparently even her vet said so.]

[See? Ridiculous.]

[But seriously. She's a silly dog.]

Find the orchids in the onions. From Todd Peterson. One night on the houseboat we took turns sharing a high spot and a low spot from our lives in the past seven years (the amount of time it had been since a lot of us had seen each other). Our orchids and our onions. Todd shared about breaking his back, and his response to that. Which seemed like an onion. Until he said it was his orchid. Because that experience made him realize how fragile we are, how close he came to paralysis, how much of what we have in life we take for granted. This gets back to the be appreciative bit, but also was a great lesson in making the best of things, and not only that but really finding the gift in hardship. I could learn a lot from Todd. (I'll work on it. Maybe I'll sit with that tomorrow....)

Be a giver. From Elizabeth Shier and others, by example. Elizabeth was cleaning while I was cozied into the couch enjoying conversation. It was okay that I was cozied into the couch enjoying conversation, but I also want to be a contributor, in life in general but also on the small scale of sharing a houseboat for a weekend. I'm not always good at that--at being the one who works to take care of a camp or a home--and I'd like to be better. I'd like to be the type of person people want around at events like that because I help make the wheels turn.

[A plate of delicious and nicely presented food is a wonderful way to contribute to a group. I think Sal put this one together.]

Work to help others. From Julie Grundberg, by example. She's working for Doctors Without Borders, for goodness sake. She's found her niche, and I'm terribly happy for her. She's working logistics to get aid to the people who most need it.

Be confident. From multiple friends, by example. I love to see confidence. It inspires me. Not overconfidence, not false confidence, but lack of self-consciousness. The feeling of accepting self. It's a powerful and beautiful thing.

[Part of the crew I spent two nights with over the holidays. Friends from Antarctica. For context... the last time I went down was ten seasons ago. (Yikes!) And it's nice to know I still have good friends from it. This is an amazing and fun group of people. Or maybe just an amazingly fun group of people.]

Hope your year came in gently and happily and that this is a good one for you.

Posted by beth at 2:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack