Course Correction: The Little Audacious Plan

I was going to start a Big, Hairy, Audacious Plan on October 1st. It was going to be awesome. It was going to last more than a year and by the end I was going to be fitter, healthier, better rested. I’d know how to play the piano, would speak Spanish fluently, would be submitting stories and essays for publication on a regular basis, and would have read and comprehended at least one dozen literary classics.

But then reality sunk in.

At first I mistook reality for my husband being a naysayer for questioning my plan.* I called him that and many other things and then I went to bed. Even though I have not been sleeping well at all (~5 hours a night, interrupted by my three-year-old), I could not go to sleep. I lay there for an hour trying to fake my way to sleep until I finally got up and made my jittery, anxious self go to the kitchen and journal while I ate a snack.

It was during this time that I realized that I was just totally fried. The insomnia, the digestive symptoms, the eczema, the weight fluctuations, the anxiety—all of it was related. And none of it would be solved by my Big, Hairy, Audacious Plan.

So I devised another plan. A Little Audacious Plan. A Gentle Audacious Plan.

It goes like this:

1) Deactivate my personal Facebook profile. Yes, I know it was less than six months ago that I reactivated it with my cleverly devised pseudonym and all of that. I had very good reasons for doing so, but over these months I realized that, although it’s not the only cause of my being fried, my interactions on Facebook certainly weren’t fostering calm and a sense of wellbeing. On the contrary, they were making me anxious. They were making me irritable. They were making me want to move to the frozen north of Canada and live in a travel trailer with nothing but caribou and lichen and permafrost to keep me company. I lamented the fact that I would not be able to grow a beard in this scenario. Instead, I deactivated my Facebook account in a fit of insomnia. Also a rash decision, but perhaps not as rash as Option A. (My Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page remains intact, as does my @imperfecthappy Twitter account.)

2) Meditate. Like a lot of meditation. Formal meditation twice a day and informal (reminding myself to take a deep breath or, if necessary/possible, lying on the floor with my eyes shut for a few breaths at least once an hour).

3) Practice Gentle Yoga. At least thirty minutes a day of the slow-moving, breath-led variety as part of my bedtime routine. This isn’t for physical fitness; it’s for activation of my parasympathetic nervous system.

4) Write. Since I was seven, I’ve been told that I was a “great writer.” Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more bogged down by the contradiction between being told that I was a “great writer” and struggling with that very activity. If I’m a great writer, why is it so difficult? If I’m a great writer, why didn’t I get more than a polite rejection letter for that short story I submitted in 2004? Why did I get rejected for that incredibly competitive writing fellowship with the famous author’s name attached to it? Why didn’t I get into the renowned MFA program? Why didn’t I win higher than fifth place in that writing competition in seventh grade? I could reason through only one very painful conclusion: I am not a great writer. After several years of mourning, I finally decided that even if I wasn’t a great writer, I still wanted to be a writer. I don’t have to be great to have fun. So, that’s what I’ll be trying to do with Brenda Miller and Holly Hughes’s The Pen and the Bell. With a different focus area in each chapter, this book leads the reader through exercises designed to access the shared benefits of both writing and contemplative practice. I’ll focus on one chapter a month, writing every day using the exercises outlined at the end of each chapter. With any luck, this will help me to rediscover the joy and fun that writing used to hold.

There are some other nitty-gritty guidelines I plan to practice around internet usage, media consumption, fostering compassion, and building relationships, but these are the high points. I’ll plan to check in weekly and let you know how I’m doing.

The formal writing practice will begin October 1st. For items 1 through 3, I’m not waiting until October 1st; I’m starting right now.

*I still think my husband was being a naysayer, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong.

 

The Belly of the Beast, or Why I’m Back on Facebook

Last summer, after debating it for months, I deleted my personal profile on Facebook (when I typed that word the first time, I ended up with a typo that read, “Fecebook.” Perhaps my subconscious is still not happy with my decision to return to the world of social networking).

For the most part, I liked being away. I kept my Page, and Facebook converted all of my “Friends” to “Likes” for my Page. It was fun to see my “Likes” jump so quickly (even though I realized it was artificial). I enjoyed not having a News Feed, too, since that’s where my willpower often broke down. Consumed by a need for escape, I would stay up ’til all hours commenting on everything my friends posted and reading (and…ugh…commenting on) often inflammatory posts from friends-of-friends, including the one woman who made remarks about my daughter (whom she does not know) and suggested that I might not have a bible in my possession (me, the religion minor. I counted, and I had no fewer than FIVE bibles on my bookshelf, not to mention innumerable other religious texts—from The Book of Mormon to the Bhagavad Gita—and books about religious texts. I had to force myself to stop engaging in that comment thread). When I finally went to bed, I would lie awake for hours, agitated and anxious about the comments I’d made, sure I’d said something very, very wrong. I’m prone to anxiety and I do this after social gatherings, too, so it’s not new, but I also don’t attend social gatherings every single night.

So, not being on Facebook stopped this pattern, and that was nice.

But there were downsides, too. For one, I found myself isolated socially in a way that I hadn’t expected. When I first deleted my profile I thought, “This will be great! I’ll just go back to what we all used to do before Facebook. I’ll call friends. I’ll get together with people in person. I’ll send birthday cards and write actual, physical letters!” What I didn’t bank on was how completely everyone else’s social interactions centered around Facebook. I didn’t get notes about people having babies. I didn’t know when people had moved or lost their jobs or experienced serious illnesses. I was out of the loop.

For months I decided I would just try harder. There was a bit of improvement, but I still felt disconnected from my friends. I started to wonder if my friendships had been as close as I’d thought they were. And I started to wonder if, perhaps, I just needed to meet my friends where they were. Which was on Facebook.

This month, two things happened that pushed me over the edge to opening a new personal profile and re-friending all (well, some) of the people I’d lost touch with last summer. First, two members of my extended family passed away. At the memorial service for the first relative (which I was not able to attend; all of my family are hundreds if not thousands of miles from me), one of my cousins told my mom that she was interested in reconnecting with me after 16 years. I had no idea it had been that long. She mentioned she was on Facebook and maybe she could connect with me through my sister. But I wasn’t on Facebook anymore. I realized that when I lost access to my “Friends'” profiles, I’d also lost access to the only contact information I had for some of these relatives I’d not seen in years.

The second thing was a very pleasant hour-long telephone conversation with a friend from Utah. She told me she was getting ready to have fairly involved surgery. We talked for a long while and then she said, “Well, I’ll update Facebook and let everyone know how I am after the surgery. [pause] Oh, wait…you can’t see that stuff anymore, can you?”

That was it. I wanted back in.

My compromise was to join using a variation of my name. Anyone who knows me will know who I am, but even if my profile ends up being publicly searchable (which it’s not supposed to be based on the super-duper-lockdown privacy settings I have), people who don’t know me fairly well hopefully will feel enough doubt that if I ignore their friend request, they’ll just think I’m not who they thought I was.

So, here I am, back again. We’ll see how this goes.

Update: A Compromise

Update of the Update: The link to the new Page should work now. Sorry for leading you astray.

After posting yesterday, I discovered that I could, in fact, migrate my personal profile to a Facebook Page. Moving my pictures from the old page to the new one appears to be complicated, but for the most part, it was deceptively simple (it was done before I realized).

If you’ve “liked” the old page, head on over to the new page HERE and like that one. I’ll delete the old page by August 1st. Otherwise, I’ll be way too confused having two pages with the same name.

I figure this gives my friends a Facebook-based way to keep track of me (or at least my blog) but keeps me from spending hours on the fun stuff that always showed up in my news feed.

We’ll see how this goes. Regardless, there’s no going back. May as well enjoy the ride!

The Social Dilemma

Here’s the deal: I watched The Social Network the other night. I realize that it’s a fictional portrayal of Zuckerberg and the real life of this real person was Hollywoodized for mass appeal. However, it served to rekindle the undercurrent of ickiness that I feel when I use Facebook.

And I use Facebook a lot.

My friend, Jenny, introduced me to Facebook about three and a half years ago. She and I were friends in middle school and she tracked me down through LinkedIn. She shared her blog (Something Made Different, which showed me that her quirky sense of humor had survived adolescence intact) and suggested I check out Facebook.

Even back then, I had an anti-Facebook stance. Jenny understood, but still encouraged me to join.

“The dark side, though, has turned out to be pretty fun,” she wrote. “Even a little addictive, so watch out…”

Is it just me, or is this like something you’d see in an Afterschool Special?

And of course the next e-mail I wrote to her lamented the fact that I was letting my anti-Facebook ideals languish in a corner while I set up a profile for myself.

In the dramatization of my life, this e-mail exchange would be followed by a musical montage of me sending hatching eggs, poking people, playing Facebook-based games, updating my status 57 times a day while getting angry at my daughter for interrupting me, and going on an orgy of finding and friending people I’d not talked to in nigh on twenty years, including some I didn’t even remember after I looked them up in my high school yearbook.

My addiction to Facebook, however, never will be dramatized because it’s not a unique story. Not remotely. If my life gets dramatized it will likely be for being the last person under age 70 without a smart phone. I just have to hold out for another year or two.

So, I’m thinking again about deleting my Facebook account. Even this isn’t unique, even to me. Every few months I think about deleting my Facebook account.

It used to be that even a deleted Facebook account would lie dormant on the site, just waiting for the escapee to reach the nadir of their exclusion from online social life and come crawling back. When they did, they found that all of their friends were right there waiting for them. They’d start back up on Facebook and it was like they never left.

Their escape really was no escape after all.

Then there came the apps that helped you commit “Facebook Suicide”, allowing you to watch as each of your friends was unfriended, all of your photos were deleted, each of the tags mentioning you were erased. One, Seppukoo, even created a memorial page for you. These apps themselves were quickly killed by Facebook.

Now, so Facebook says, they’ve made it easier to leave the site and delete your profile. I’m not sure I buy it, and I suppose there’s just one way to find out.

But…

I stopped posting photos of myself and my kids about a year ago, but there are still dozens of photos of us on Facebook (and elsewhere) that others have posted. Even if I leave Facebook, I’ll still be on it. I just won’t know what about me is on the site anymore.

If I leave Facebook, I can no longer promote my blog there. That would be a blow since I still get most of my page views via Facebook. I can’t commute my personal profile over to my blog Page. The only way I could have my Facebook Page without having a personal page is if I delete myself and the page, then go back in and create a new blog Page from scratch. Which is possible, but kind of a lot of work. And I’d still be on Facebook.

Then I think about all of the other positive things Facebook has brought me.

It’s let me reconnect with dozens of people I barely knew in school and stay connected with the people with whom I actually want to keep in touch and with whom I’ve not kept in touch actively since we parted ways in the real world. Which I think includes about three people.

It’s helped me to get rid of possessions when we were moving away from Utah. I posted a note with the things we wanted to get rid of and within 48 hours, it was all spoken for (well, except for a table and a trunk, which I donated to a yard sale for a local nonprofit). I could have listed those on Freecycle or Craigslist, though.

It’s alerted me to nurse-ins and other protests, allowing me to give vent to my righteous indignation about a host of issues.

It’s provided a more reliable means of e-inviting people to parties and recitals.

It’s allowed me to quickly poll my Facebook-using friends about the best housecleaners and babysitters in the area.

It’s been a place where I could ask my friends to have their kids write my daughter letters to ease her loneliness after our recent move.

It’s reconnected me with my cousins.

It’s how I learned that my great-aunt had died.

On the other hand, it’s sucked hours and hours of my time away as I comment on even the most mundane topics and refresh endlessly throughout the day. It’s led me to yell at my kids for interrupting me while I’m trying to comment on something. It’s ruined my sleep when I’ve been unable to calm down after a particularly contentious comment exchange. It’s triggered arguments with my brother about homeopathy. It’s caused me to be proselytized by members of various Christian religious sects. It’s made it easy to be rude to people I care about.

I want to think I want to leave Facebook to uphold some kind of pure ideal. I would be leaving in order to hold myself to a higher standard. But really, I’d be leaving to fight this addiction I seem to have to the network.

And if I stayed, it would be for the sake of page views on my blog and because I worry about being left out of the loop. I worry that, if it’s not easy for my friends and family to keep in touch with me, as it is on Facebook, they simply won’t.

So the question really is, do I feed my insecurity by staying on Facebook, or do I cut myself loose and force myself to make personal connections or none at all?

Would deleting my Facebook profile help or hinder my pursuit of a more positive public life?

I suppose there’s always Google+.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

via Flickr”]Never have traffic lights looked that good.......

On Friday, I celebrated Earth Day by going screen-free for 24 hours. I did a Facebook Fast for the month of November and quite enjoyed it. The Earth Day screen fast took it a few steps further and involved fasting from both the computer and the television.

To help my daughter understand nutrition, we talk about green light, yellow light, and red light foods. Green light are things like veggies that we can eat as much of as we want. Yellow light foods are things like meat and grains that provide essential macro- and micronutrients but which can be unhealthy in excess. Red light foods are those that provide little to no nutritional value but which we eat for flavor or to participate in cultural rituals.

Facebook, is a red-light food: fine in moderation but it’s all too easy for me to overdo it.

Blogging is more like a yellow-light food. It provides enough value to me it could be a green-light food were it not for the blog stats. I refresh blog stats dozens of times a day, if left to my own devices. They are a source of anxiety, and while blogging itself is a nourishing experience, I need to watch that I don’t go overboard. I think of it like a ribeye steak. Even having been a vegetarian for seven years, I recognize the nutritional value of a lean-ish cut of meat from a grass-fed cow. But ribeyes have that yummy marbling of fat through them and often have that tasty ribbon of fat around the edges, too. That’s good energy, but too much is going to raise my cholesterol in the long run and give me a bellyache in the short run.

I think Twitter is another red-light food. I think of it like marshmallow Peeps. I understand that it’s a cultural phenomenon and that many people really love it, but I personally don’t really understand it. I’m pretty sure that this lack of understanding is protective and that if I truly understood Twitter (or Peeps), there would be no stopping me from becoming totally immersed.

E-mail is darned near a green-light food now. Back in college it used to be fluff. It was a way of passing around Smurf-related pornography and keeping in touch with high school buddies. It was sort of the electronic equivalent of writing notes: fun, but not at all necessary. Now, though, it’s practically vital to have interactions via e-mail. Even during my screen fast, I needed to check e-mail once to pick up an important note from my daughter’s accompanist. For better or worse, e-mail has become a necessity in my life. And most of the fluff has been moved to Facebook, so there’s little unnecessary stuff in my e-mail inbox anymore.

All this is to explain that I have a nuanced view of technology. I don’t think that new technology is inherently evil. Neither do I embrace new technology immediately (but mostly because I’m cheap and paranoid and still haven’t figured out what the heck Twitter is for).

But once I go for the new technology, I have trouble creating balance.

I discovered three things from the screen fast this Friday:

  1. My kids and I get along with greater harmony if I’m not distracted checking my blog stats and commenting on Facebook twenty-nine times an hour.
  2. I can’t really get by without some online interaction. To do so, I would have to rearrange the way I interact with my friends and many of my relatives, and I would have to change how I receive information. I look up schedules and directions and operating hours online. I download recipes and coloring pages and craft ideas. Yes, I can do all of this with a library, a road atlas and a phone book. But that’s not how I’m used to doing things now, and it would take a pretty significant shift to move back to this way of operating.
  3. I have trouble engaging with online media with moderation. I do better with all-or-nothing scenarios, much like I do in the food world with refined sugar. I do pretty well with a complete prohibition against sugar; I did it for two years and didn’t feel like I was missing out at all. But give me the go-ahead to eat any sugar at all, and I go nuts.

I play this odd mind game in which I romanticize pioneer days and say, “Nineteenth-century farmers ate little to no sugar and they were fine. I would be fine without sugar, too,” and “Mormon pioneers pushed handcarts across more than a thousand miles of grassland and mountain ranges to get to Utah. I can do errands without my car.”

Trouble is, in order to buy into this one part of the truth, I also need to buy into the rest of it. It diminishes the effect of this reasoning when I admit that nineteenth-century farmers also routinely suffered from hunger and malnutrition and food poisoning, and that a large percentage of those in the handcart parties didn’t survive the journey. None of those people had Facebook, but neither did any of them have antibiotics or x-rays or indoor plumbing.

I want the benefits of a screen fast while still maintaining my connection with my family and friends both online and off. I want that sense of harmony and connection I get with my kids when I’m not online, and I want that sense of harmony and connection I get when I’m riffing off of my friends’ comments and blog posts online.

I want the creamy middle, but I don’t know how to find it.

Introversion and the Virtual Community

My friend sent me a link to an article from 2002 entitled, “On the Internet, No One Knows I’m an Introvert”: Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Internet Interaction (Yair Amichai-Hamburger, Galit Wainapel, Shaul Fox. CyberPsychology & Behavior. April 2002, 5(2): 125-128. doi:10.1089/109493102753770507.)

The study looked at how forty users of internet chat viewed the importance of online interactions in relation to their personality characteristics (ie, was there a correlation between how people see their relationships online and whether they’re introverts or extroverts?). The conclusion of this small study: “It was found that introverted and neurotic people locate their ‘real me’ on the Internet, while extroverts and non-neurotic people locate their ‘real me’ through traditional social interaction.”

While I bristle a little bit at the grouping of “introverted and neurotic people,” this conclusion makes intuitive sense to me, at least as far as the “introvert” part goes. If someone does better with less stimulus and more processing time, it would make sense that online interactions would help them feel like they could be more like themselves (if, in fact, that’s what it means to locate one’s “real me”).

I generally think of my interactions online as “fake” and my interactions in person as “real.” But then I remember the number of times I’ve been misunderstood or negatively assessed by others based on my in-person self, and the number of times that a social situation has turned out very differently than I expected and I just could not figure out what had happened. I think about how disconnected from people I often feel in real life, despite Herculian efforts to push myself towards being a more social person, and I think online interactions can’t really be much worse, can they? It’s not like the alternative is a fruitful, amazing social life filled with warm and loving relationships. If it were, clearly online relationships would fall short. After all, when you have a baby, friends three states away with whom you interact hourly on Facebook can’t bring you lasagna.

A lot’s happened online since 2002, though. I wonder what differences would be observed if a similar assessment were made today. What percentage of bloggers, for instance, are introverts? What percentage of frequent Facebook users consider the face they present on Facebook to be their “real me,” and how many of those are introverts?

But I also wonder what that means for me as I put boundaries in place for my introverted child. If she’s likely to feel more like herself online, should I still limit that? Should I encourage her towards only in-person interactions until some as-yet undetermined age? I didn’t have e-mail until college (e-mail didn’t exist widely until I was in college) and still I had few deep relationships. Would access to e-mail have enhanced my closeness to others or hindered it? And would it be the same for my daughter?

I would love your feedback about this, online community. Do you feel more comfortable being yourself online than in person? Is your online community as strong as your in-person community? Is one more real to you than the other? Or do you find that your online and in-person communities fill different but equal roles in your life? I know I have friends I only speak with on the phone, friends I only interact with online but once knew in person, a couple of people I’ve only met online (I’m not sure if I can call them “friends”, but they’re kindred spirits at least), and even one or two people with whom I only interact via letter. (Yes, letter as in writing things down on a piece of paper and sending it through the post so that the person on the other end holds in her hand the exact same sheet of paper I once held in my hand.)

Book Review: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love StorySuper Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book reminds me of both Brothers by Yu Hua and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, which Shteyngart mentions in the course of the story. It shares with these other two books a similar sense of confusion and well-meaning main characters hurtling towards disaster. I found Super Sad True Love Story to be pleasantly disorienting; it was just similar enough to present day to leave me in a mildly confused state about what was Shteyngart’s dystopia and what was the real world (I remain confident in my ability to tell fiction from reality, it’s just a mild surface fog through which I find it pleasant to rise in the course of my daily reveries).

I read a review that said that Shteyngart had used George W Bush’s America as a jumping-off point for the world of this book. While I did see similar abbreviations of personal liberties that reminded me of the Patriot Act, Shteyngart’s world extends well beyond the political. It took many elements of current society to their logical and often absurd conclusions, elements which include the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our growing reliance on electronic media and social networks for interpersonal interaction, and the current US recession and housing market implosion. It’s also got a fatalistic edge to it. Even when a revolution does occur, those that take over are just the same as those who were in charge before. The new world is largely indistinguishable from the old. The only thing that’s changed is the names of the major players and the wording of their rhetoric.

I also see it as something of a cautionary tale about what could happen if we continue to rely more and more on the quick, opinion-based media that seems to be attending the demise of traditional reporting and print media. As a newly minted blogger and erstwhile Facebook addict, I took this warning very much to heart. Perhaps that’s why I stayed up until 3am wrestling with my temperamental booklight to finish this book.

View all my reviews

Week 14 Review. And Pancakes!

NaNoWriMo Day 7 word count: 13,017

Before I started NaNoWriMo, I was hard-pressed to find anything to blog about. I would be searching around for quotes and writing a lot about the books I was reading or the podcasts I was listening to. Ironically, now that I’m writing so much more every day, I find I have even more to say on the blog. So rather than blog about week 15 and then post about my pancakes tomorrow, I’m just going to do both in one post.

If you just want the pancakes, feel free to skip to the end.

This week, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to keep pace with my goal of writing 1,667 words per day on my novel. Today I’m almost a day ahead because my husband presented me with the gift of about three hours (cumulative) of kid-free writing time. I have a “Ladies Night” scheduled with some mom friends this Wednesday, so I wanted to get a bit ahead, in case I don’t get much writing done that night.

I’ve been avoiding writing much about writing because I feel a little superstitious about the whole process. It’s not clear when the “muse” is going to sit down with me at the keyboard and when she’s not. But I’m encouraged by the “writing begets writing” phenomenon I seem to be experiencing, and the success (so far) I’ve had in just playing around with the novel rather than worrying about whether it’s “good” or not.

I’m kind of approaching it as though I’m gathering raw material which I will later hone into something lovely. In the wake of the Chilean mine collapse and subsequent rescue, there was a story on All Things Considered about Chilean mineworkers. These aren’t the minors who work for companies. These are free agents who work in mines that have been closed down because they’re not profitable enough anymore. They operate without safety equipment or really any oversight at all. If an accident happens to one of these miners, it’s unlikely anyone would even know until it was too late to do anything. The way they get the gold out of these spent rocks is they chisel out pounds and pounds of rock then grind it down. From Juan Forero’s interview with one of the miners,

He’s happy with four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock he manages to pull out of the mine…To get at a few precious particles, though, he has to pulverize the rocks, then scrape them.

While I’m not physically mining more than my weight in rock each day, four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock is about the ratio I’m targeting in my writing.

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami likens writing to digging for water. As a writer, each day you set to work digging, hoping you hit a vein of water. And every time you hit water, you feel grateful to have found it and also somewhat fearful that the spring won’t be sufficient to sustain you.

But if you don’t dig, there’s no chance of finding it at all.

So, my 1,667 words per day are my digging. I won’t know until I pulverize the rocks and sift through the dust just how much gold I’ve mined.

Mostly I try to think of my writing as play rather than as work. More than ever before, I get the sense that this process is about getting to know my characters and letting them reveal their stories to me. In the interview with Lynda Barry on To the Best of Our Knowledge (that I mentioned in September in my post, “Happiness is Like a Butterfly”), Barry talks about how she experiences writing—and teaches it to her classes—as a process similar to recalling a memory and writing it down. I’m pretty good at writing things down from my memory. That’s likely why I felt such an affinity towards creative nonfiction in college. It’s been something of a revelation that I can use the same process to write fiction.

Even if the events I’m recording never happened in reality, there’s some truth that’s trying to speak through them. It’s like I’m opening myself up to the truths of the universe (or at least those questions and fears that lie in my soul and in my psyche) and channeling them through my fingers. At least that’s my hope. I have so far maintained faith that those truths are there, even if they’re buried deep in the rock.

Let’s see…what else has gone on this week? Well, the Facebook Fast has been going fairly well. I spent a few days feeling paranoid that I wasn’t in contact with anyone until I remembered that I had intentionally left Facebook. All of the people with whom I usually connect are still there, and if I go back to Facebook, I can connect with them again. Or I can find another way (the phone, perhaps? Or good, old-fashioned e-mail?) to connect with these friends outside of Facebook. IRL, as the kids say. (Yes, some of these “kids” are older than I am by 10 or 15 years. I use the term loosely to refer to anyone better-versed in the online world than I am.) For the most part, I’m loving the Facebook Fast. I have so much more time, and now that I’m not processing so much information, I feel much less frenzied.

Things are still somewhat in chaos, as I might have expected changing around my entire routine. But the chaos has the feel of the chaos I necessarily created as a part of my decluttering. It’s necessary to the process, and greater clarity will follow.

(Did I mention I attended service at the Buddhist Temple this morning?)

OK, enough about my week. Let’s talk pancakes!

I modified a recipe from Feeding the Whole Family and made some very yummy GF/CF pancakes this morning. I topped them with the Blueberry Sauce recipe from the same book. Super, super yummy.

Multi-Grain Pancake Mix

1 1/3 c brown rice flour

1 c garbanzo/fava bean flour

1 c potato starch

2/3 c tapioca flour

1 T xanthan gum

1 c buckwheat flour

1 c cornmeal (medium grind)

3 T baking powder

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t sea salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make pancakes:

1 1/2 c pancake mix

1 c buttermilk (1 c non-dairy milk plus 1 T lemon juice)

1 T maple syrup

1 egg, beaten (this can be omitted, but pancakes will be a little less fluffy)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour by 1/4 cupfuls onto a pre-heated, oiled skillet. Makes about 6 pancakes.

Blueberry Sauce

(reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) http://www.cookusinterruptus.com)

2 T kuzu or arrowroot powder

1 c apple or berry fruit juice (I used cranberry-raspberry from Costco)

1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 to 3 T maple syrup

1 t lemon juice

Dissolve kuzu in juice in a small saucepan. Add blueberries and maple syrup and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture turns clear and purple, about 3 minutes. Remove for heat, stir in juice, and serve immediately.

The finished product:

GF/CF Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce. Modified from "Goldie's Whole Grain Pancake Mix" in Feeding the Whole Family

November: Writing Month Kick-Off!

240/365 National Novel Writing Month begins

Image by owlbookdreams via Flickr

Here I am jumping into November with as much enthusiasm as I can muster! I’m excited for this month’s resolutions, but I’m also greeting them with some trepidation as they’re pretty darned ambitious.

November 2010 – Writing
Focus: Jump start my writing practice and make it a part of my daily routine again.

-Write a Novel. November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo for short. Did I know about this before this year? I think I must have. At any rate, I know about it now. One of the biggest hurdles to my writing has always been that pesky inner critic. She shoots down ideas before I can even get them on the page. She’s such a perfectionist that I end up staring at a blank page or an empty screen until I finally just give up and read a book. NaNoWriMo is my attempt to side-step this inner voice. I figure if I set a writing schedule and sit down and write as fast as I can and focus on averaging 1,667 words a day rather than on writing something “good,” I might be able to complete a “Shitty First Draft” (as Anne Lamott calls it in Bird by Bird) before that inner killjoy realizes what’s happening.

-Establish a Daily Writing Schedule. This is the second biggest hurdle to my writing practice. Something is always more important than writing. I recognize that this is largely a reaction to fear of that inner critic (she’s really mean and scary), and I’m hoping that with such a lofty goal as NaNoWriMo to motivate me, I’ll finally figure out how to squeeze in an hour or two of writing each day. I suppose I could always just count the time I spend blogging; in which case, I’m done!

-Facebook Fast. Facebook is the biggest time-suck of my day. It does often add value to my life, but the value I get back is a very small percentage of the time I put into it. The other thing I get back is information overload and a compulsive need to check for updates and comments people have left saying how witty I am, both of which are probably just as damaging as the sucking away of my time. I have my blog set to notify Facebook automatically when I post new entries, but I haven’t figured out how to automatically notify my Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page, so I might allow myself to log in once a day to post the link to my latest blog entry on the Page. If any of you Facebook-and-Wordpress users know how to do this automatically, I’d love some tips. Because I’m not at all sure I can simply sneak into Facebook, update my Page, then sneak back out again without getting sucked in. Also, I will allow myself to reply via e-mail to comments friends make on my profile and links and to messages they send, so if you’re a FB Friend and see me commenting, don’t get your panties in a bunch thinking I’ve broken my fast so soon. I’m just circumventing the spirit of the fast via e-mail, not breaking the rules per se.

I’ll also try to keep my resolutions from August, September, and October, perhaps without quite so much intense decluttering. If you’d like to see my full Happiness Project Schedule, please click the link to the left.

The Little Things…

My friend Maggie (well, I haven’t seen her since middle school but I call her my “friend” because I’m an American and an avid user of Facebook and interested in simplifying my relationship definitions) is traveling around the world and keeping a blog at GirlVentures.net. This post about her visit to some Bolivian salt flats has me smiling every time I look at it. I thought I’d share the joy. Happy Saturday!