Project 52

This is kind of like Project 365 where you take a picture a day but different. I committed to read one book a week in 2016. That’s 52 books. Yikes! But that means once a month I can share the bounty! This first fine month of January I read:

Greatest Physical Impact: The Life Changing Magic wins this hands down. I have been Kon Mari’ing my clothes according to the author’s insights:

  • what brings me joy and what doesn’t
  • if you hang onto something that doesn’t bring you joy it’s because you are afraid of the future or attached to the past or ashamed about your choices
  • the question of what you want to own is actually a question about how you want to live your lifeIMG_0866

The result? 8 bags of clothing and 3 boxes of books are gone with more to follow. All those book binding books? I don’t make books anymore right now. I use Artifact Uprising or Blurb. So those books are gone. And some crazy clothes I’m embarrassed to have spent money on? Gone. I have miles to go but I am started.

Favorite Quotes: This goes to The Art of Asking

  • Asking for help with shame says: You have power over me. Asking for help with condescension says: I have power over you. But asking for IMG_0864help with gratitude says: We have the power to help each other. (p48)
  • Our first job in life is to recognize the gifts we’ve already got, take the donuts that show up while we cultivate and use those gifts, and then turn around and share those gifts – sometimes in the form of money, sometimes time, sometimes love – back into the puzzle of the world. Our second job is to accept where we are in the puzzle at each moment. That can be harder. (p306)

Amanda is a street performer, now author and always musician. After reading her insight on the experience, I now tip all street performers.

On Saying Yes

I learned from the Year of yes that of course, saying yes can mean saying no to one thing so that you can say yes to something else. And saying yes can mean saying yes if…. Practice saying yes! (Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday nights on ABC. She made a way for a cast that looks like a bag of Skittles to work. And btw, she is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People Who Shape the World.)

On Saying No

From 7 I learned that saying no to more and yes to less like only eating 7 foods for a month, or wearing 7 items of clothing for a month, can be quite revealing.

I really enjoyed learning from other women’s experiences and explorations. There are so many amazing women out there right now. I am amazed at how deep the talent pipeline is!

In Pursuit of Dreams

Whether young or old, you’ll never have more time than you have today. So, all those things you’ve been meaning to do. You should do them.

Beer Bottles for WebI’ve been saying I want to brew beer. But I wasn’t taking any tangible steps. So last summer, I bought an extract kit, went to a UC Davis brewing short course and gave it a go. I brewed a second batch, learned many brewing lessons, and realized you have to love it more than I do. I have one more batch in me and I plan to do it at You Brew in Portland.

IMG_0862Another thing I want to do is run a 50K or 31.25 miles on trails. I’ve been racing half-marathons on a spotty training plan and doing okay. An occasional 1st or 3rd. Moving up in distance meant more intentional in training. So I went to a Run Voyages running training camp with Ultrarunner of the Year, Magdalena Boulet and got some structure so that I can go from a haphazard training plan to 1 core workout (Pilates, weights or Barre), 1 speed and hill repeat run, 1 easy run, 1 long run with some tempo each week. Yikes!

I ran my first 30K or 18.75 miles this month and while it was muddy with sideways rain, I am ready for another one.IMG_0860

The last outlandish thing that I’ve been wanting to do that I will share with you is to be a peony farmer. However, instead of buying land and trying this out, I am going to Chateau CharMarron gardens in San Jose near the Calaveras Reservoir every 2 weeks during bloom season this year to see if I can buy a bunch of peonies. If that satisfies my itch, I can stop there.

The funny thing about all this is that it is about what I want. But what God wants is quite different.

Isaiah 1:17 says “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

When I look around there is plenty of injustice. The Big Short, a recent movie about when four outsiders saw the global collapse of the economy and decided to short it, is a GIANT story of injustice. Martin Luther King Day celebrated earlier this month is a celebration of a man who sought justice. What can I do that’s in-line with what God wants?

Inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo (more on that in another post soon) within a month I had several bags of women’s clothes that needed a good home. Serendipitously, I found out that a co-worker of mine was doing some volunteer work for Freedom House, an organization in San Jose and San Francisco that provides a new life for survivors of human-trafficking. She let me know of their need for clothing and voila those bags had a home!

Through another book (whose title I have forgotten) I found out about International Justice Mission, an organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. They are “inspired by God’s call to love all people and to seek justice for the oppressed. We protect the poor from violence without regard to religion, race or any other factor, and we seek to partner with all people of goodwill.” So I donated.

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God’s dreams for my life are different from mine but they are such a rich addition. I am having fun and feeling fulfilled pursuing them.

 

 

 

Pause and Reflect

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A quiet moment to pause and reflect, to contemplate and intend

It’s the perfect time of year to pause and reflect over the last year and contemplate and intend for the coming one. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been working through Lara Casey’s book Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose with an intent to cultivate what matters in 2016.

One of the exercises in the book is to examine what has been working in the past year so you can carry it forward into the new year. For me, having a regular conference or seminar experience has been pivotal in developing my professional skills. The Grove Consulting Company’s Graphic Facilitation Skills Workshop was probably the best experience of the four I tried. On the other end of the spectrum, having a goal for trail running (six half-marathons) helped me stay in shape. What has been working for you? What would you like to carry forward to 2016?

As you might expect, the most improvement occurs when looking at what has not been working in the past year and that is the next part of the exercise. For me, the way I manage my time has not been accruing to the purposes I would like to accomplish. For example, I spend too much time worrying. Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Nope. So any time at all spent worrying is wasted time. Especially when that happens at in the wee hours of the morning. What hasn’t been working for you?

The lessons I learned from this examination are that having a goal in trail running is good for me so I’ll be setting one in 2016. In addition, rather than spend my time on worry, it matters way more to spend it with others.

I have another week or so of exercises in Lara’s book to go but already I am liking how my January is shaping up with my new intent to cultivate what matters and to live on purpose. I know that doesn’t mean everything will be neat and tidy but I am in a better position to make decisions as things come up after having done the work than before.

How’s January looking for you?

If you’d like to learn more about this process, check out Lara Casey’s blog.

7 Takeaways from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic

Big Magic

I love this book. Read it twice in 2 weeks and am making some serious changes as a result. My key takeaways along with a very impressive illustrative quote from Gilbert:

1. Be your own patron. “To yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

2. Chose your shit sandwich. “Every single pursuit–no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem–comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects…The question is ‘What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”

3. There is no enough. There is only do. “Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support or patronage or reward…and yet still they persist in creating….They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary.”

4. Give your mind a job. “Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.)”

5. Forget about perfect. “Putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin’.”

6. Your ideas need you. “The earth is not indifferent to us, but rather calling for our gifts in return for hers–the reciprocal nature of life and creativity…Nature provides the seed; man provides the garden; each is grateful for the other’s help.” Later “If the only thing an idea wants is to be made manifest, then why would that idea deliberately harm you, when you are the one who might be able to bring it forth?”

7. Work with stubborn gladness. “Inspiration is always trying to work with me. So I sit there and I work, too. That’s the deal. I trust it; it trusts me…..The work wants to be made and it wants to be made through you.”

There’s much more of value in there. There’s the antidote to every wrongheaded though historical concepts that plague artists. Like pain? There’s an antidote in here. Think your art needs to destroy you? There’s an antidote in here. Think it’s all about your genius? There’s an antidote in here. Seriously, if you are an artist or know an artist, this is a must read. It will help you continue to create art in partnership and with stubborn gladness.

Learn Better

How We Learn

How We Learn

I was curious. Learning better seemed like a great skill to have today. So I picked up  Surprising Truth About How, When and Where We Learn and Why it Happens by Benedict Carey (2014). He integrates very old (1874) and newer studies (up to 2012) about various learning topics. I read the book, despaired of remembering all the conclusions, and then found a handy-dandy Appendix with the summary of the most important points.

Here are my 5 favorites out of 11 conclusions:

  1. Mix it up. As a dedicated generalist I worried that focusing on many areas like trail running, choir, writing and photography would cut my skills in each. But it turns out that focused practice in one area limits our development of each skill. “Mixing or ‘interleaving’ multiple skills in a practice session, by contrast, sharpens our grasp of all of them.” So pausing on a trail run to rehearse the chorus of a new song or take a photograph may actually improve my skills. Action thought: Just enjoy all those various interests.
  2. Interruption is percolation time. Some of my creative projects take a long time to finish. The painting that I am working on has taken a few months and I have a few months to go.  It turns out that “stopping work on a big, complicated presentation, term paper, or composition activates the project in your mind, and you’ll begin to see and hear all sorts of things in your daily life that are relevant.” And, what this means is, I need to start early on large creative projects to leave time to walk away. Action thought: Start early and walk away. 
  3. Self test is best. I’ve recorded my work presentation practice and watched it back. It turns out that self-testing, like this, is one of the highest ROI study techniques there is. “Self-examination improves retention and comprehension for more than an equal amount of review time.” Explaining something to someone else is a form of self-test. Action thought: Keep recording my presentations and watching them back. 
  4. Space your study time. I hadn’t yet figured out how to best learn new choir songs. This helped. “Breaking up study or practice time – dividing it into two or three sessions instead of one – is far more effective than concentrating it.  It works because you have to dig up and restore what you learned the previous session and this improves memory. Action thought: Work time into the schedule of a project to walk away. 
  5. Memory is a muscle. Just like our muscles, it needs a little “rest” aka time to forget in between study times or jam sessions, to build stronger memories. “The brain can sharpen a memory only after some forgetting has occurred.” Action thought: Work time into the schedule of a project to walk away. 

If you like to follow the ebb and flow of the research and the connections between on these and similar topics, I recommend reading Carey’s book. If you just want a few of the key takeaways without the journey, read  his Appendix. Either way, you’ll learn better, more efficiently and deeper.

The Triangle of Self-Leadership

The Restless Executive

The Restless Executive

I ran into an interesting concept while reading The Restless Executive: Reclaim Your Values, Love What You Do and Lead with Purpose by career coach Jo Simpson. The concept is The Triangle of Self-Leadership.

The Triangle of Self Leadership has 3 sides:

  • Self-Care: You (apply your value) to You
  • Service: You (apply your value) to Others
  • Surrender: Others (apply your value) to You (or not as the case may be).

The theory is that if you are doing a good job of applying your values to yourself (Self-Care) and to others (Service) then it won’t bother you as much when others don’t live up to or apply your values themselves (Surrender). Using the example in the book, if you value recognition and you are not doing a good job of recognizing yourself (Self-Care) and others (Service) then it will bother you A LOT when others don’t recognize  you or others. You control the first 2 sides of the triangle. The question is, are you.

I was able to use this concept to diagnose the source of one of my frustrations (around my one of my values) and take steps to correct it. I did a good job of apply this particular value to others (Service) but had been neglecting to honor the value for myself (Self-Care). Once I started honoring the value for myself (Self-Care), I was able to more calmly accept when others did not honor that value (Surrender).

If you decide to buy the hardcover, this section starts on 116.

Brewing Lessons

We cracked open the first bottle of a Honey Porter that I brewed about a month ago. And it tasted GOOD! That was a first. The previous batch of beer tasted worse than sour. This one tasted like beer AND like a porter. Double bonus!

Honey Porter by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson © 2015

Honey Porter by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson © 2015

Brewing is very time consuming on brew day and despite what people tell you, my experience is that brewing is like most chemical reactions. Very fussy about time, temperature and ingredients.

After the first batch flopped, I had to ask, “Do I love this enough to try again after failing?” It reminded me of what my Dad used to say when I was working to become a better basketball player in high school, “How bad do you want to be able to do left-handed layups?”

So, I went to school. The UC Davis Extension Master Brewers Program offers a Brewing Basic weekend course. From 9am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday you learn to brew from the essentials of sanitation to wort cooling. As a result, I learned several things for the next batch.

  1. Clean, rinse and sanitize are 3 different steps, not 1. Rinseless sanitizer does not clean!
  2. Use a stainless steel spoon to stir the malt and hops. Wooden spoons can carry bacteria and even though the mixture will boil and kill all those bacteria, better safe than sorry.
  3. Don’t squeeze the grain bag! It adds bitterness rather than sweetness to the water.
  4. Take the temperature of the cooled wort with a digital thermometer and make sure it falls well within the best temperature range for the chosen yeast before adding the yeast. You cool the wort with ice around the wort container. My wort became too cold and it took all afternoon to hit that temperature window precisely!
  5. Leave the fermenting wort in the carboy for a full 2 weeks. Don’t try to short the cycle. Be patient. Learn to use the bottle filler properly so that there is very little head space in my bottle.

Things I learned on the second batch:

  1. You also have to be careful of the temperature of water you are using to warm up the yeast, a Safale US-05. I killed it by using water that was too hot.
  2. In the midst of brewing you can’t just run out and buy a replacement package of a Safale yeast. So I substituted an English yeast for the American yeast that was part of the American Porter brew recipe. It worked out okay.
  3. A hot day even in cool house can cause your fermenting wort to go above the desired temperature and kill the yeast!

After all this, I’m willing to brew at least one more batch. I have a Rum Runner Stout and a Bourbon Barrel Porter on the list next.