Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Community Drumming Circle

Perfectionism and Procrastination

A sense of community, especially the community in which I live, has been something that I have wanted to foster for some time now. I find myself wanting to come up with the perfect solution, the perfect plan, the perfect event, and as is often the case, I end up not taking any action at all.

It’s only in recent months that I have been able to connect the dots on the fact that my perfectionism is linked a great deal to my procrastination. Putting things off until they feel perfect or until the perfect fit comes along has been a real detriment to my personal growth. I am making efforts to ensure that this does not hold me back during my MEfurbishment.

Get Out There!

As an exercise in taking action, just for the sake of taking action, I decided to give myself 10 minutes of reflection on what ways I could just “get out there” and get involved. I was surprised that I only ended up needing two. Recently I have adopted a vegan lifestyle.  There are a variety of ways that this fact will work itself onto the pages of MEfurbish in the future. In this case I thought of getting more involved in the Vegan Meetup in my area.  While this is something  that I expect I will do in the future, right now I want to try and choose things that I am hyper motivated to do. Fun and Music are always high on my list so I started to think in this way. This reminded me that recently while I was looking for a used Djembe on Kijiji someone replied that I should consider a drumming circle. He indicated that someone always has an extra drum to play on and I would meet lots of fellow drum lovers as well as sharing ideas and tips. That’s it!

A drumming circle is exactly about community. It’s not a drumming squiggle or drumming cubicles. It’s about getting to know and connect with people and sharing a common interest – in a circle. What could be more community sounding than that?  This morning I replied to that email and said that I would be super interested in coming out to the next event. I’ll keep you posted!

If you hear thumping and tapping in the weeks ahead, you never know I could be just around the corner.

Peace,

Leslie

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March 30, 2011

Tender Fingers

It Begins In Earnest

It began in earnest last night with my daughter’s ½ size cherry red guitar. Learning the guitar has begun with phase one – grow calluses. I mentioned in a previous post that one of the showstoppers I have had in the past with learning the guitar was the annoyance and time of callus making. I do not find playing the guitar enjoyable without calluses. I have never gone long enough to actually have calluses form on my hand so it goes without saying that I have never actually been at a point where I have ENJOYED playing the guitar.

My thought here is to get the annoying part out of the way at the beginning. So before my first crack at actually learning the instrument I am focusing on the thing that has kept me from the prize in the past. I found a two part How to Grow Guitar Calluses Quickly and Easily document on eHow and started with these exercises. Upon noticing that there were two strings missing from the guitar I have now dubbed “Half Cherry” I was miffed to think that I would have to wait another day and get some stings. Upon reading the steps involved in part one though, I was happy to see that I would only use the number 6 string.

Start Plucking

Basically all you do is start with your index finger on the string, pluck a few notes and slide your finger back and forth until you can’t take it anymore then move to the next finger. I ended up doing this for about 30 minutes twice yesterday. The advice in the article was to focus on the sound and making a little riff pattern because it would take your mind off the pain in the fingers. This really worked! I was actually having fun.

At one point I even put my headphones on and fired up good ole Lyle Lovett, someone who often inspires me to learn to play.  I focused on the music, which is super easy for me to do, and kept the exercises going the whole time. After day one, I am thinking that this might actually work. Today as I am typing with my tender fingertips, I think I can actually feel the beginnings of my first calluses. I’m so proud! To think, just last week, these calluses were just a glint in my eye.

Check out the acoustic version of Up In Indiana from It’s Not Big It’s Large by Lyle Lovett on the MEmusic page.

March 29, 2011

Spring Bike Cleanup

High Fun Factor

In looking at my buckets today I noticed that while I have been working on my health bucket in a few different ways, I have not been filling my bucket yet in physical health. One of the reasons that spring always excites me is that I can get out on the bike path. Funny thing about the weeks following this excitement every year is that the excitement eventually seems to diminish. Like many other things in life, those that are in our lives daily tend to lose at least some importance over time.

This year I am examining what I can do to maintain the level of enthusiasm that I have in a daily bike ride. I am not sure if I should alter my route, time myself, ride to points of interest or all of the above. I want to keep the fun factor high! I have a few ideas of how to work this into my MEfurbishment. Working objectives into my daily writing will help in a few ways. Posting about where I am riding and how I am doing will generate a feeling of community surrounding my cycling. There is also a certain level of accountability that comes from discussing with you what I am doing here on MEfurbish. I shouldn’t underestimate the benefit of seeing my progress in black and white as well!

Today I took my bike off the rack in the garage and gave it a once over. A little lube, a little air in the tires and I am ready to hit the trail. I am also kind of a gadget junky so I think eventually I would like to get one of those little bike computers from MEC so I can track how far I am going and what kind of speeds I am averaging etc. This will just give me an indication of how much progress, if any, I am making on my physical health.

Where Isn’t Google

I was not surprised that Google has figured out a way to be involved in this endeavor. In lieu of a bike computer, Google Maps can actually tell you how far your route is on a bike. You can then add destinations along the way and drag your path around to certain routes. When you are done you have a reasonable estimate on how far you have ridden.

Tomorrow it is supposed to be a little bit warmer and sunnier so I have planned out my first route of the year. It’s not very far at all, coming in at 7 kilometers. The route is actually 3.5 km and close to home. I will do it twice as it will be a good trial run to make sure the bike is working as it should before I start to explore further away from home in the days ahead. I will keep you posted on how I am progressing!

Peace,

Leslie

March 28, 2011

Have You Heard The Fire?

At The Water Cooler

Today at the water cooler folks were talking about the Juno Awards. While I am not a big fan of awards shows I was happy to see Arcade Fire get the recognition they deserve. In the discussions I had though, I spoke with several people who did not have a clue who Arcade Fire was.

Album of the year winner Arcade Fire, you know….for “Suburbs”.

Wake up folks!

If you are one of the few who have not heard Suburbs, please do yourself a favor and take the time right now.

You can listen to a sampling of Suburbs on the MEmusic page HERE.

Peace,

Leslie

March 28, 2011

Guitar Here I Come

Thanks Universe

Putting goals out into the universe has come through again! On the weekend I posted about my love of music and shared that it is my goal to learn to play several of my favorite instruments. There are a few instruments that I am drawn to and each of them is pretty far apart from each other on the musical spectrum.

I have always had an affinity to percussion. When I was growing up my idol was Neil Peart of Rush. In recent months I have decided that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. There are in fact other ways of exploring percussion that don’t involve a 35 piece cherry red drum kit. I have decided to take up the Djembe when the opportunity presents itself. This is something that is portable, affordable, and more community oriented. A local African dance and drumming school offers group classes and there are many drumming circles that are throughout the city to explore. I’ll post more about that once I take some MEsteps in that direction. I also have a great deal of interest in learning the Bansuri. The Bansuri is an Indian flute that I find absolutely magnificent.

Guitar is perhaps the instrument that I am most motivated to take up at the moment. When I was celebrating Earth Evening with friends this weekend I mentioned to them that I was hoping to get a guitar in the near future. The conversation moved on and I thought nothing of it. The next day I received an email from one of my friends who was there and she mentioned she too wanted to get back to the guitar and suggested we get together a few times a month to practice and learn together. She even has a guitar I can use!

In the past when I have thought about learning the guitar I have often thought of the pain of developing calluses and this has probably contributed to my lack of motivation in pursuing it further. This time when these thoughts started creeping into my consciousness I decided to look into how others have dealt with this in the past. Not surprisingly, many others have had the same complaint but others still have found solutions. I made a commitment today to try at least trying one of the suggested techniques for expediting the process of developing calluses, and with that I am on my way.

So, I have taken MEsteps towards my Creativity, Fun and Relationships buckets with this action. My MEfurbishment is moving ahead at full speed!

Peace,

Leslie

March 27, 2011

My Photoshop Skills Need Work!

Not Quite Right

I have been trying to think of a visual representation of the things that I am working on in MEfurbish and had some great ideas about how to make this happen. After spending the better part of the morning messing around with Photoshop, I have determined I could benefit from some training on the software. Originally my thought was to have an image of a jar and for each bucket I work on I would throw a pebble into the jar. Over time the jar would fill up visually and this would show how far I have come in my MEfurbishment. For technical reasons that I am not even capable of explaining, this did not work.

In my mind’s eye now, I see a Zen Garden with stones etched with each step I take being piled up. Again, over time I will see the stones starting to fill the garden and this will encourage me along the way. For other technical reasons that I am still not able to explain, this is still a work in progress. I have added to my task list a Photoshop class!

MEsteps

For now, I am going to just post the stones themselves and stick them on a page of their own called Footsteps. Look for updates on the MEsteps page in the future!

Peace,

Leslie

March 26, 2011

The Lengths I Will Go To – Meursault

Music and Me

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows that Music is a huge part of my life. I would like to learn a few instruments with enough skill to be able to jam with friends and have campfire sing-along’s and that kind of thing. While I hope to take some more serious steps involving music in the near future in my MEfurbishment, today I need to get my musical fix in a more accessible way. I don’t want to be a rock star, or a star of any kind for that matter.

I have, what I would call, a spiritual connection to Music. (Notice that I capitalize the word reverently!) I am not talking about transcendental departures or blissful awakenings; though I have had moments close to what some might call these things while experiencing great music. I am referring to enjoying something so much that life’s challenges somehow seem diminished and for a short time, you feel a semblance of joy or happiness that often eludes us in our day. You feel connected to something bigger than yourself.

All Creatures Will Make Merry

Those of you that are music junkies know exactly what I am talking about. Those of you who are confused right now, just turn off any distractions that you currently have happening, put on some good headphones and check out the video below.

I recently stumbled across Meursault while having coffee with a friend in an eclectic and funky coffee shop in Ottawa called Raw Sugar Café. I was focused on my friend, but my spidey senses were tingling about what was lilting out of the speaker system as well. Finally I couldn’t resist any longer and asked the Barista who we were listening to. She told me and I made “mental note”. Me making a mental note is as good as putting my to-do list through a paper shredder before I start on it. Upon arriving home I spent about 20 minutes Google-ing words and fragments that were bouncing around in my melon. Finally I looked up the phone number to Raw Sugar Café and called there in a panic. Of course the staff had turned over by that point and I had to explain in detail (fragments) what I recalled about the music and that no, this was not some sort of weird prank. In the end, the Barista found what I was looking for and I have been a huge fan of Meursault and Raw Sugar Café since.

This video is a live documentary version of One Day This’ll All Be Fields from the CD All Creatures Will Make Merry. I LOVE this CD!

Enjoy!

Peace,

Leslie

March 25, 2011

Earth Evening is the way to go!

Earth Hour 2011 is fast approaching!

This year’s hour of no power is at 8:30PM Saturday March 26th and there are many great reasons to participate that have nothing to do with the Earth. For those of us that are working on our MEfurbishment there are many possibly buckets that this event could fall under. For me, I can start with the obvious Environment bucket, but then I can easily throw this into every bucket I have. Let’s take a moment to explore how that is.

This year during Earth Hour I will be taking part with friends. We are doing our first (of many more I expect) Earth Evening. With the exception of our food preparation, the entire evening will be candle lit. We have committed to using no other power for any purpose; no light, no music, no TV etc. for the entire night! Just good friends and our ever-present laughter will be the prescription of the day. We are going to prepare a menu of Moroccan food, and I am going to have some fun veganizing a Lamb Tagine recipe for the shindig.

Health

There are a few ways to look at this one. It goes without saying that the health of our planet is of paramount importance to me but let’s not forget that this stuff trickles down. Invariably, the things that are healthy for the planet are good for us too. Clean air and water, normal weather systems, complete ecosystems and the like all have a direct impact on our own personal health.  Closer to home, during Earth Hour specifically, spending time with close friends and laughing is exceptionally good for our health.

Finances

The financial impact of the evening on its own is not all that significant at first glance, but the evening is about realizing that we can do more with less.  We can at least do the same with less! We will save money on limiting our use of electricity, but also by staying home for the evening instead of eating out. Further still by preparing our own meal as group thereby maximizing efficiency and minimizing food costs and waste will all help the bottom line.

Creativity

Creativity perhaps is a little harder to see in our Earth Evening plans but a few things still come to mind. The planning of the evening itself has been a creative endeavour for those of us involved. Figuring out what we will do, the preparation of the meal and of course writing here about our escapades are all things that are very creative.

Environment

This is a pretty obvious one but it is still worth having a look at. Aside from the impact on the environment that a no-energy consumption hour across the planet would have (the more participants the better!) the seeds that are being planted are equally important. Folks pick up new interests, become more aware, have more discussion and make more informed decisions. The real hope here is that over time the movement will reach some form of critical mass and true and measurable impact will be felt globally.

Community

Any time there is a celebration with friends, a sense of community is being fostered. There are indeed many layers of community that are touched by an evening like this. In our living room, the feeling of community will be palpable with great friends present. Thinking about the fact that others may be doing the same (creating enjoyable evening without the use of electricity), makes the world seem just a bit smaller. The global community of like-minded people feels more connected. Let’s not forget that if we are not watching TV and instead getting off our collective butts for a walk, we may just bump into another actual person. This can only help develop a sense of community.

Fun

Simple but not to be minimized is the fun bucket! I have been excited all week about my Saturday evening plans. So the event itself will be fun on the day of but my mood and attitude have been directly affected all week.  I choose to surround myself with great friends who have an incredible sense of humour and play so fun will be rampant. Fun is good for our physical and mental health and put plainly is just good for the soul.

Relationships

Spending time with good friends, some of our most important relationships, is crucial to happiness and health.  One of the ways we show people that we care about them is by just being present. The conversations are apt to range from serious to comical and everywhere in between. As part of my MEfurbishment, I want to make sure people know that they are important to me.  Hanging out, sharing a meal and laughing till all hours of the evening is a good start.

Looks like Earth EVENING 2011 is a perfect way to MEfurbish.  I’d love to hear your ideas and plans for Earth Hour –what are you doing?

Peace,

Leslie

March 24, 2011

Me Creative?

The Artist’s Way

One of the first great steps we can take to bring something new into our life is to just put it out into the universe. I am always surprised for example at how often I get help with something I am working towards or trying to accomplish. Just  having it in my consciousness and being willing to share it with another has a dramatic effect.  Having something be ‘top of mind’ is pretty easy to accomplish. You can use your daily planner, sticky notes, task lists, pop-up reminders and a variety of other means to be reminded of what you are working on. I have created a kind of “vision board” that helps with this purpose.  On my vision board I have pictures of things that I am trying to bring into my life. Some of these are possessions, some are ideals, and others still are places I would like to visit. One section of my vision board though has simple reminders. Not your basic, pick up milk kind of thing (I have other tools for this), but rather reminders like to “be helpful”, “think before speaking”, and to “be creative”.

With “be creative” on the top of my mind as of late, I recently opened up to a friend about some of my desires to write and explore a more creative side. In our discussion, she mentioned that she had worked on a program called “The Artist’s Way” and was very happy with what it was doing to help her own creativity.  After thanking the universe for this new nugget of information, I rushed home to do some research on what “The Artists Way” is all about.  At first glance I was not all that keen on what I read.  The reality was that I was a little put off by some of the ‘cooky’ ideas that this book held. In a way, many of the exercises seem childish to me.  What I decided after a great deal of reflection is that it is this type of attitude that has stifled me in the past. If I am going to start seeing some transformation in my life, I need to be willing to take different actions.

Don’t Be Insane!

There is a well know quote that goes something like “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I am not sure I endorse this logic wholeheartedly but in this case I feel it applies significantly. So with that in mind I have decided to throw myself into this process of discovery.

One of the first things that Julia Cameron, author of “The Artists Way” asks us to do in our quest to unblock or discover our creativity (regardless of the medium), is to start writing every morning. Ironic that I want to be a writer when I grow up and Ms. Cameron has me start by writing every day. Huh – go figure. So that’s what I shall do. I will follow this program until the end and see what kind of impact it has.

It is interesting that in my hunt to bring more substance into my life, I chose to CREATE a blog of WRITING.

Like Hannibal always says in The A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together”

Peace

Leslie

March 23, 2011

Pick Up Your Feet!

Relationship Idiosyncrasies

Perhaps for you it is a spouse, a sibling or a co-worker. We all have relationship idiosyncrasies that drive each other crazy; this is part of life. Today I am struggling to figure out if trying to control them in others is really worth all of the grief.

It’s possible if you are a parent or caregiver you have caught yourself uttering words like “pick up your feet!”  I caught myself saying them to my daughter when I was dropping her off recently. After what seemed like a lackluster hug and goodbye, I was left with my thoughts as I drove away. Where did this comment come from? Is it an important enough concern to me to generate stress and tension in our day? Does it foster a feeling of connection between my daughter and me or take away from it? These are important questions that need answers.

What brings me to a point that I say something that I don’t really want to say? A combination of frustration, habit and my general mood at that moment is likely to blame. In this case, after some reflection it was clear to me that it was mostly habit. Do I really care if someone else drags their feet, daughter aside? No, not really. I guess if I am honest with myself, it is a mildly annoying sound. No more annoying a sound than someone talking on their cell phone at the cash register. No more annoying than the sound of a thumping sub-woofer coupled with squealing tires. The only difference in the case of my daughter is that I am in an implied position of power that I can abuse occasionally.

Good Parenting?

I convince myself that it somehow falls under the guise of good parenting. “She needs to learn to (insert anything I am trying to control here).” I tell myself, well she could care for her stuff and she is reducing the life of her boots by dragging her feet so frequently. Seriously? Has she ever needed her boots replaced because her soles were worn? No. Is she going to grow up a boot abuser?  The reality is that she will never really learn anything from my nagging except to nag herself. If it’s really that important to me, I can model picking up my own feet.

I am deciding to just let this one go, for the sake of harmony in my relationship with my daughter but also for clarity of mind. I just don’t need the mental gymnastics that go along with trying to control others. As in any undertaking, I will make mistakes; the odd boot comment might slip out. That’s OK. I can apologize for nagging and then move on. Does this mean I get a free pass from parenting? Of course not. Not all parenting requires my mouth. Imagine being able to role model harmony and tranquility in relationships, now that’s something to aspire towards!

Peace,

Leslie