Reflection: 2.5 months as an intentional shopper

Like many projects that I have embarked on before, I start strong and then, after some time, the great fade comes.

I blogged earlier this year about my goal to become a more intentional shopper after being inspired by Ann Patchett’s “My Year of No Shopping” essay in The New York Times. Many friends shared their own pursuits to live a more minimalist life; to increase support for local business; and to break the habit of instant gratification.

January = I rocked out. I crafted detailed lists when I went to the grocery store and stuck with them 100%. I shifted out of the “I need to buy” mindset; I evaluated what already lined our pantry and freezer shelves and attempted to become creative in the kitchen again, letting go of adhering to recipes. For meetings scheduled at coffee shops, I carried a bag of change from our collection to pay for those 12 and 16 ounce drips. Less reliance on the credit card. Using resources I already had. More shopping at the Farmer’s Market and at Compare Foods. More coupons. One Amazon purchase where I could cash in my points. And, no, I didn’t buy a book.

One month in, and I was winning! 

Then…February.

I’m not sure what happened during those 28 days, but I essentially pulled the rug out from underneath myself. More eating out; less accountability on how and where I was spending my dollars. Now, I didn’t completely fail in my goal for that month; some ways that I tried to be more intentional about my shopping included:

  • Using a gift certificate at The Scrap Exchange to purchase supplies for Valentine’s Day card-making rather than buying cards elsewhere
  • Cleaning out my bookcase and selling more than a dozen to Letters Bookshop in downtown Durham [transparently: yes, I have absolutely leveraged that credit to acquire a new book]
  • Seeking out more free activities/spaces where I felt less pressure to make a purchase.

Yet, I still slipped. Instead of purchasing one item to bring to a meeting, I justified purchasing two. I had more drinks out.

And this is why it is wonderful to have such thoughtful friends. One of my favorite nonprofit & public television rockstars, Sarah, forwarded me another NYT article on March 1st as she checked in on my shopping challenge. One of the “a-ha” moments for me in reading this piece was the advice to “confront your triggers.”

I can definitely be an emotional shopper. Running by the grocery store after finishing a workout or before eating a meal spells trouble for my ability to stick to a plan. I’m hungry and tired; I want to reward myself and that’s when I see my cart filling with items like Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream or Kite Hill cheese that are both delicious and unnecessary (and really expensive!).

Another one of my triggers is seeing products and events on social media. I want to do it all! But, I can’t — due to time, money, and capacity. But the desire remains and can propel me into purchasing tickets or showing up to a space where I will no doubt spend money.

Like I reflected in my prior post, none of these actions are inherently bad or wrong. It’s more about recognizing the “why” behind these choices and being at peace that there will always be more. Our world loves to promote scarcity, which is so far from reality.

After taking a few steps back last month, I’m feeling good about getting back on track. It’s about finding a balance between militancy and blowout.

 

Applying a ‘beginner’s mind’ to leadership

Do you consider yourself a goal-setter? Do you derive pleasure from crossing off items from your to-do list?

Gray brick wall with black painted soccer goal with "gol" written above

No matter the language, goals matter

Have you ever put an activity on your to-do list that you already did but wanted to release those oh-so-coveted endorphins as you drew a line through it?

Yeah, me too.

Here’s the good news for any of you who identify (even at times) as a Type-A person: we can still be mindful leaders. But, it’s not something that we can knock out of the park in one swing. It’s a process — at times, a painful one. It requires us to challenge our modus operandi and the behaviors deeply ingrained in our brains.

Fortunately, leaders like Robyn Ferhman are here to help. I had the opportunity to attend Robyn’s workshop last Saturday at Carolina Yoga Company entitled: “Attention to Intention: A Mindful Start to 2018.” You can see what was covered in this two-hour block of wonder and exploration here. Needless to say, I wasn’t ready to leave when time was up.

One of the key learnings that I took away from the workshop involved the concept of “beginner’s mind,” which is one of the core attitudes that make up a mindfulness practice. It is exactly like it sounds: approaching situations as if it were your first time ever experiencing it.

Imagine: how routine is brushing your teeth? How many of us spend that time up in our heads, running through memories or thinking about the events awaiting us tomorrow? What would happen if we approached brushing our teeth each morning and night like it was the first time? We would focus on making sure we addressed our gumlines; used circular motions to eliminate the plaque from those problem areas our dentist reminds us about every six months. How many fewer cavities would we have collectively? How much more in-tune would we feel with our bodies?

What does a “beginner’s mind” approach in leadership look like? Meetings are often a place where leaders are called upon to provide direction, make decisions, and build consensus. What if we approached the next meeting on our calendar as if it were our first ever meeting to run? What questions would we ask or anticipate others asking? How would we want to feel in the meeting? What baggage would we be able to leave outside of the door so we could fully participate, without judgment, in the space? How would a fresh perspective add value and contribute to your ideal workplace culture?

How about bringing a “beginner’s mind” to building relationships with others? Whether with our co-workers, fellow board members, or even our friends, we have a shared history, whether shallow or deep. This often results in us pre-judging outcomes or perhaps not investing our full attention into our time together. While our co-worker is sharing a new project idea, our mind drifts to: “How is this going to impact me and my time?”

A real hamster between two stuffed hampsters on a shelf

With a beginner’s mind, the impossible may appear a bit more real.

In my search for ways to incorporate a “beginner’s mind” into life, I stumbled upon this post from Amira Posner, a Mind-Body Fertility practitioner at Healing Infertility, featuring a well-known eating meditation credited to Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Take a raisin and put it in your hand. Pretend you have dropped off from another planet, and you have never seen a raisin. With an inquisitive, open, non-judgmental perspective, examine the raisin. Explore it. Smell it, feel it, taste it. Engage your senses, in the moment, in a non-judgmental way. With all your attention, be one with the raisin.

Note: if you’re not a fan of raisins (or happen to be participating in a Whole 30 program), another food item can be easily substituted.

Upon first reading, it can sound and feel a bit silly. But, I would pose the question: hasn’t the way we’ve been operating — passively, automatically, re-actively — silly? We have kept ourselves from being fully present and engaged in our world; a world in which we only have so much time to be present.

How could a “beginner’s mind” alter your relationships with other people, with your career, and with yourself?

Shifting from “resolutions” to “feelings” for 2018

Four days into the new year: how are you holding up? How are you making progress to the goals and commitments you set for yourself as you seek to be healthier/happier/more sane in the days, weeks, and months ahead?

Perhaps you didn’t set a single resolution. In fact, you’re scoffing at this post: oh, another piece on goal-setting in the new year. How cliche, Katie.

First: I kind-of like cliches, so there.

Second: Fine! Whether you are have established intentions for who you want to be and what you want to experience in this new year is moot. Because, I’m going to throw out a question that I bet you haven’t asked yourself yet:

How do you want to feel in 2018?

During an annual girls’ weekend last November, our friend Michelle posed this question to our group as we tromped through the woods in Uwharrie National Forest, our feet crunching the remnants of fall foliage into dust while the nearby shooting range provided a constant and eerie soundtrack.

How do you want to feel next year?

Michelle had been asked this question as part of a recent yoga teacher training and found it to be incredibly illuminating. Feelings don’t typically factor into goal-setting. Our resolutions are most commonly born from desired behavioral shifts (“I want to spend less money on Amazon” or “I want to spend more time with my friends”) and measurable accomplishments (“I want to lose X pounds” or “I want to work out X number of times each week”).  But, it’s not often that we associate particularly feelings with these goals.

Sure, we can assume that we will likely experience greater happiness due to successful integration and completion of our resolutions. But, is happiness the only feeling we want in our lives? And, are our goals really means to an end goal called happiness? If so, we may need to re-evaluate how we craft our resolutions moving forward.

Post of Pushkin, the cat, showing the difference between New Year's Resolutions expectations and reality. The expectation is to workout, so Pushkin the cat is wearing a headband and has weights. The reality is Pushkin sleeping in a chair next to a remote control.

Oh cats. Always living the dream, right?

How do I want to feel this year? Here’s what I offered to the group and now to you:

  • Challenged: As I outlined in a previous blog post, I felt like I hit a professional wall in terms of my ability to stretch and grow in 2017. Part of that was due to misalignment between what I was doing and what fulfilled me. Part of it was also due to a hunger to take on new responsibilities and tasks that were out of my comfort zone. Lo and behold, this is where I am now: a new job with a great deal of expectations for me and by me. I want to build up my resilience and grit again — and diving into the deep end as a full time development director will put me in the position to be challenged each and every day.
  • Free: I’m not referring to the freedom encapsulated (whether real or symbolic) in the Bills of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. For me, I wanted to feel free to dictate my schedule and calendar once again. By the end of last year, I was fried. I forgot what true relaxation meant (and I also continued to insist upon a life of productivity — look at all that I’m doing every moment! Never waste an opportunity to do something!). Bologna. With freedom comes choice on how to spend my time and remove the shackles of social pressures of what I should spend my time doing. No one should feel shame for taking time to read a book for pleasure. Could you be washing your kitchen floor? Learning a foreign language? Sending out one more work email? Of course. But, what will be lost, forever, if you make one of those other choices is your ability to feel free and empowered to refill your cup in a way that satisfies you. We spend a lot of our time working to satisfy others. Feel the freedom to put your needs and care first when you can.

How do you want to feel in 2018? Acceptance? Joyful? Curious? If you’ve set resolutions, what feelings can you attribute to each of your goals?

Meme of T-rex with a claw under his chin. Text around T-Rex reads: "What if your new years resolution was to not follow your new years resolution?"

Meta.

Making a grand return for 2016

There’s nothing quite like the end of another year to cajole one into revisiting  a lost art. Or, at least, a seemingly defunct blog.

12295462_979561608752927_2711349751519951770_n2015 has been a fantastic year in many ways [pictured on left: the 2016 YNPN Triangle NC Board of Directors – FREAKING AWESOME PEOPLE!). First time kayaking. Vacations to Michigan, New Mexico, Disneyworld, Austin, to name a few. Marathon in Knoxville. Family visits. Hosting parties.

Outside of my own narrow slice of life, it has also been horrific, inspiring, and fiercely unapologetic.

With the goal of doing more reflection in not just the new year but in the years ahead, I won’t view writing in this blog as a “must do” but rather a “want to do.” I hope this mind over matter attitude will prove to be a healthier, more sustainable approach to this desired outlet.

As it is that time in the calendar, I have made a list of eight resolutions/goals/pursuits for 2016. Some offer more specific, tangible results. Others are reminders of what is truly important in my life and to continue prioritizing those above meaningless tasks.

1. Eat fewer meals in front of screens. I’ve developed the bad habit of eating both my breakfast and lunch, during the work week, in front of my computer. Then, I come home, cook dinner, and eat in front of the TV. Food is such an integral part of life; how can I enjoy it in all of its glory if I’m treating it as a transaction? I want to be more present during this special part of the days.

2. Mail 365 cards.  I can hear you adding up the cost of postage already. Handwritten cards are, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts we can send or receive. There are too rare in today’s society. Additionally, I have lost touch with many important people from various aspects of my life – previous jobs, schools, etc. I want to use this goal as a mechanism to reach out and at least let them know that I think of them (and a little more impactful than simply another Facebook wall message).

3. Do an unassisted pull-up. Friends, I have dreamed, since the days of elementary school physical education, to complete an unassisted pull-up. No band. No bar. No help. This will be my year.

4. Use more natural cleaners. To continue removing toxins from our home, I have already begun doing my homework into utilizing more natural, green cleaning agents. Castile soap. Vinegar. Lemon. I am committed to eliminating the dozen cleaning products currently under the kitchen sink and creating homemade, safer agents to freshen our clothes and our shower.

5. Listen more, speak less. A critical component of leadership. I still struggle with being a fully active listener, whether I’m already contemplating a response in my head or finding distraction with some other external force (MY PHONE IS BLINKING. MUST LOOK NOW.) I am also committed to stepping back more, and being more thoughtful in when I pursue that step forward to ensure all voices have an opportunity to share.

6. Read. Read. Read. I seem to go in spurts in the reading realm. Reading can help replace that screen time at meal time space, at least at the workplace. I’ve recently been struck with a desire to learn more about both Southwestern history, particularly around indigenous and native tribes, and East Indian history. The library card will get a workout in 2016.

12019902_10104262292348862_2436860455958088394_n7. Adventures with Aaron. Of course, it seems obvious to note that I want to spend more time with my partner. But, I know that I can push Aaron-time to the back burner (“I need to get this done, babe…”). There will always be work. But the time to travel, to explore, to be with one another is so limited. Our journeys may take us 10 minutes away from home or 1,000 miles. Aaron is so good about creating plans to take those ventures. I want to follow in his pursuits and discover ones for us to take in 2016 as well.

10155330_10104454329963942_9101770707478824613_n8. Make time to laugh. There are days that go by that I’m not sure if I actually laughed. Isn’t that sad? I think so. Whether it’s a pause to watch a YouTube video, to listen to someone share a story, or to play with the cats, I need to ensure laughter is a part of each and every day.

I also refuse to be constrained by the number of items on the list. I really wanted to have 10. But, you know what, I think eight is enough for now.

What are your goals for 2016? Or for life? Or for today?  I’m looking forward to trying my first cauliflower pizza crust tonight and being at home, with Aaron, embracing the craziness that is college football playoffs.

#ResolveToGrow

ynpntrianglencBackground: I have the privilege of serving on the Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN) Triangle NC Board of Directors. You may try saying that three times fast, if you so desire. We’re an affiliate of our national chapter (YNPN), and our mission is:

“To cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals in the Triangle by fostering networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing.”

Fancy, right? Essentially, our purpose is to help bring nonprofit professionals together in various spaces – whether physical, online, etc. – and bridge connections to other people and knowledge. I “joined” in 2012 (we charge $0 for membership currently) and fell into this amazing group of individuals who had the same passion, commitment, and goofiness that somehow nonprofit professionals either are born with or develop over time.

Amazing “When You Work at a Nonprofit” Tumblr

Alright, enough background. We started a campaign for 2015 called #ResolveToGrow. Yes, it’s a sly way of asking folks to make resolutions for the new year, but we would offer some accountability support along the way.

The problem is: it required me to think of how I wanted to #ResolveToGrow this year – what would future Katie be like? Or, should be like, both in my professional and personal identifies.

Initially, I targeted a professional (and arguably super nerdy goal) of how I wanted to grow: to become much more knowledgeable and skilled in the art of Google Analytics. GA is gold, and I had skimmed just the surface of this data dashboard to help inform work at my previous and current job.

Taking this #ResolveToGrow challenge by the horns, I have already completed the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course through Google’s Analytics Academy. Step one of many, for sure. I have even put into practice some of the infrastructure recommendations for tracking our three websites along with testing out some “Goal” conversions and other nebulous Google-terminology meaning “bring people to website and keep them engaged longer.”

Wow, that got in the weeds quickly. In the spirit of always striving forward, I’ve come up with a few other ways I #ResolveToGrow in 2015:

  • Make homemade seitan. It’s been on my vegan cooking bucket list for a few months now. I plan on trying Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe, unless you have a “MUST MAKE” one!
  • Return to the lap pool. I’m not sure sure why I use “return” to imply that I was once there because I never participated in organized swim ever. I learned how to swim, thankfully, as was practically state law in Arizona. And, I spent 90% of my childhood summers in the water. But, to actually move my body up and down in formalized motions is not something I have undertaken outside of a few half-hearted attempts a couple of years ago when I learned that swimming laps is really hard. With enough friends who either are aficionados or taking on the similar challenge, I plan on incorporating this back into my workout routine post-marathon.
  • Plant a garden. So, I literally #ResolveToGrow my own herbs and a few vegetables (peppers, squash, tomatoes) in 2015.

Three might be the best, more reasonable start to this life campaign. We’ll see if others make it to the list (Chicago marathon? Brewing my own kombucha? Getting more involved in local government happenings?)

How do you #ResolveToGrow in 2015 and beyond? If you’re on Twitter, you should tweet at YNPN Triangle NC (@YNPNTriangleNC) with your response. Made sure to include #ResolveToGrow!

2014: The Year of the Stress Test

ImageIn the last two weeks, I’ve bit off nails, developed a reoccurring canker sore, and permanently frozen my shoulders in an upright and locked position. Hello, stress. It was inevitable that the “s” word should appear, although I wasn’t expecting it so soon. See, everything seemed to be sailing smoothly, swimmingly, insert your favorite water metaphor here. Our wedding plans are nearly complete with deposits placed, outfits selected, and key logistics shared. In my forward thinking at the end of 2013, I thought that event of the new year would be the one to cause the ulcers, the headaches, and the “s” word to rear its ugly head.

Alas, that has proven to be the least stressful.

We will be listing the town home for sale in the next two weeks. Granted, I was a young lass when my childhood home donned a “For Sale” sign, but I recall the stringent requirements of maintaining order and cleanliness for months. At that time, all I had to oversee was the 12′ x 12′ chamber dubbed my room. Now, it’s 1200+ square feet that lingers in some almost ready state. This upcoming weekend will involve final staging efforts (kudos to our designer genius friend Lara!) and continued minimizing/storing/hiding/sweeping/dusting/unearthing. The actual steps to show the home have to remain free from my mind a bit longer as visions of me driving around Durham with two cats howling in the backseat begins to attract the formation of hives.

Speaking of homes, our future abode is not progressing as we had expected due to delays with city permits and poor weather. Originally, our target move-in timeline pegged us at late March or early April. Now, it’s May – when in May? Not a clue. We did a drive by last weekend and sadly saw zero foundations poured. Keeping our fingers crossed good news is coming down the chute…(oooo – good one, Katie).

And then, as life loves to do, other things have cropped up: an initial tax review for 2013 leaves me owing the government more than I could have imagined; a cantankerous gum is prompting an early dentist visit next week; oh, and THE CATS STILL DO NOT LET US SLEEP. I even took Milo to the vet, explaining to her with hands thrown up in the air, that nine months of not sleeping past 4:45am was just not cutting it anymore. Could he have a hyperthyroid? Diabetes? Kidney problems? $250 and a battery of tests later, we find that Milo has slightly elevated cholesterol, but other than that, he is peachy keen. Lovely. Answer? Give him more food. One week later, we’re still waking up at 4:40am.

Finally, there are some other potential changes that may require me to make some tough choices – positive choices, for sure, but ones that stoke the flames of guilt. While still a work in progress, it’s also exciting to have unexpected opportunities that may, or may not, come into fruition.

With all that obnoxiousness out of my system, I can say that I’m fortunate to have such a committed, compassionate partner who allows me to vent but also ensures that I recognize the blessings we have in our lives. Still, this year will not be easy, and it may not always be fun. But darnit, this year will be the best of my life so far, and one cannot ask for any more!

Goals/Values to Espouse in 2014

Happy New Year! No, I’m not going to use the “R” word for this post. Even with discussions amongst friends last night to ring in the New Year, we avoided articulating our “resolutions” for 2014 and instead focused on what initiatives and visions we wanted to see in ourselves moving forward. There seemed to be a more general focus on processes rather than outcomes, which I definitely adhere to in my own list below. I had created a list last year for 2013 on some old school paper (with an INK pen!) Alas, during the move this summer, that list disappeared in transition. I do recall a few items: run two half-marathons (check!); do not purchase any Ziplock bags (check check!); visit two new states (half-check: I made it to Indiana in 2013); visit the Farmer’s Market monthly (not even close); host a monthly dinner event (ambitious and unachieved); see all the movies nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture in 2012 (I think I saw two).

The outlook for 2014 (and sticking with my thematic numerical associations, there are 14 goals and visions thus far) has some similar elements but some departures, again reflecting back to the idea of improving life processes (i.e. PUTTING DOWN MY MOBILE PHONE!) Without further ado…

1) Visit a new state and/or country (This makes the cut again to further my passion for exploration and travel. My sights are set on adding North Dakota to my “visited” list this June).

2) Add practicing yoga back into my life. I departed from this greatly, and I miss it. While I could blame the fact that my favorite YMCA yoga instructor left teaching the 6am class, I would only be making an excuse. I’m good at that.

3) Read, on average, one book a month. As a lifelong voracious reader, I find cracking open the spine of a new book one of the most pleasurable activities imaginable. Instead of spending time with electronics in the evenings, I want to spend more time under soft reading lights and letting my imagination soar.

4) Take a one-time class, whether for cooking, crafting, etc. Learning is good. Learning with friends is better.

5) Take advantage of an evening adventure one night, Monday – Thursday. As someone who works from home, I have discovered that it is very easy to stay at home throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening. This seems to conflict with my extreme extroversion, but it has become a habit. Granted, I know and recognize that some nights are meant to be enjoyed in pajamas. However, there are always dozens of incredible offerings in the community, from free lectures to movies to music, that I want to experience and further enrich my life. It takes some planning, some flexibility, and some willingness to compromise. I’m all in for 2014.

6) Plant an herb garden. I have been talking about this for years, and since Santa brought me my own kit, it’s going to happen!

7) Attend a festival in North Carolina. One of the items on my 2013 goals list was to attend a sweet potato or ramp festival. Since I was unable to fulfill that vision in 2013, it’s going back on the list for 2014. The sights are set on the Mount Olive Pickle Festival that takes place in April. Sweet. (Or, I should say, dill. Who likes sweet pickles?? Blargh.)

8) Hide the phone! Seriously. Hide the phone. I spend too much time on my phone, and it has become a bad habit. Instead of pulling out my phone on the couch, in the car, at restaurants, etc., I want to be present in the moment, even if it means sitting quietly and taking in my surroundings. There is nothing that urgent on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/email that I need to check. The world will go on, even if it means people won’t know what I’m drinking via Untappd until much, much later.

9) Be more responsive to personal emails. Speaking of technology, I have a tendency to read emails from family and friends and then….star them in my Gmail…and then…let them sit. For days. Sometimes even more than a week. While I do recognize that I experience email burnout from work, I also need to be respectful of those who took the time to email me and respond within 24 – 48 hours.

10) Continue to grow in my relationship with Aaron. This might seem like a silly vision or goal to have on a start of the year list, but what is more important than renewing one’s focus to the most important person in one’s life? This year offers some challenges for us: from building a new house, selling the townhome, moving into newly built house, and getting married. And those are just the big ticket items. The ebb and flow of relationships is constant, as we continue to learn about each other, our desires, our quirks, our needs, our fears, our hopes, and our goals. I feel that I’ve made great strides this year in growing as a partner, becoming more in-tune with Aaron and those items list above. Again, it’s a process, and I want to be mindful of that each and every day. Thus far, it has been one heck of a fun, loving process!

engagement2

11) More foam rolling. I live by the foam roller, yet I have drifted away (similar to yoga) from using it daily. So…instead of spending the time waiting for the cats to finish eating by flipping through my Pinterest boards (which, arguably, is highly enjoyable), I want to be more proactive in using that time to roll out. Roll out.

12) More Farmer’s Market visits.  Yes, it’s getting back on the list! I think of the challenges of me going to the market isn’t so much the time – it’s using cash. I never, ever carry cash. I need to figure out a system that works for me to acquire said cash and have it on hand for Saturday mornings. It will be so worth it, both in the quality of food and aligning to my desire to lead a more locally-sourced lifestyle.

13) See more live music. ‘Nuff said.

14) More dance parties. Probably also enough said, but this used to be one of my favorite activities to do in the living room: crank up some hot jams and rock out, whether solo or with AT. It has been far too long, and what a great way to end the day.

What are your goals for the new year? How will you hold yourself accountable?