Another reason to knit

Good news, keeping our hands busy can fill our brains with feel-good chemicals, according to a study. Score one for the likes-to-keep-busy team.

I’m the type that has trouble sitting still. When talking to people, I fidget, which I find to be an annoying habit I wish I could break. I don’t just sit and watch TV. I have my laptop open, a magazine in my lap or my knitting needles moving. I’m doing it right now! I’ve been looking forward to Thursday night TV (my fave!) all day. I managed my time well. Laundry is done, my body is worked out, dinner is made, eaten and cleaned up and my chapter for class is read. TV started. I sat still for a minute before I opened my laptop and started typing.

At this rate and with this motivation, maybe I’ll finish knitting my blanket before the end of the year!

Because you’re worth it

“Do what feels good to you today.”

The exact wording can vary, but it’s something often said in yoga classes. Basically, it means go as far as your body wants you to today. Maybe it’s not as far as the person next to you, or even as far as you went yesterday, but it feels right to you today.

It’s also a little mantra I like to carry with me, and apply beyond yoga. Sometimes it feels right to skip the complicated hair styling in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep. Sometimes I need to turn off the “Outsourced” and go to bed a little earlier. Sometimes I need to call a friend, or read a book or just give in to that cupcake craving already.

You get the idea. Now go forth and be nice to you.

Gossip, or learning?

I have to admit, I’m not opposed to gossip.

“If we didn’t talk about people, what would be left to talk about?” my smartest friend in college once posed.

A fair point. But gossip can be even more than that. I think we can learn a lot from one another’s stories. We all go through rough times, and I, for one, feel comforted to know I’m not the only person who has ever gone through something. You’re welcome to spread my story. Maybe you tell it in a guess-what-happened-to-my-friend way, but it’ll help someone anyway. Share away, I say*.

OK there is mean-spirited gossip, too. That I am more opposed to. If you spread speculation or make things up, well, that’s just lying and we were taught better than that.

What’s your take?

* Be merciful though. Don’t say, “Guess what Candace did” to my boss or co-workers, for example. At least say “my friend.”

Bring it, 2011!

Happy new year, Rail readers! Let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions. Do you make them? I do. Kind of. I like to think of myself as a goal-oriented person. I set goals all year ’round. But, in addition to the usual eat better, exercise more and save money resolutions, I have two official ones.

1.Cable knit a throw blanket. My sister taught me to knit over Christmas. I’m still practicing on a scarf, but my real goal, the blanket, is next!
2.Read all the books on my bookshelf. I moved a dozen books that had been on my shelf, unread. It’s time to read them.

So, that’s my list. I’ll update you as progress is made. What do you have planned for 2011?

The Secret

I think my friend Tara has superpowers. She’s one of those girls who everyone loves. She makes friends in a minute.

I watched her. And I’ve discovered the secret to her success. She makes people feel good about themselves. She’s quick with a compliment and gives a lot of them. She asks thoughtful questions and genuinely cares about the answer. She shows interest in everyone she encounters.

It sounds so simple! So, I’ve tried to mimic her style. I made it my goal to hand out more compliments. At work, when someone writes an especially good headline, instead of appreciating it myself, I take a minute to shoot the writer a e-mail and let them know. The response has made me feel so good!

The other day, I told a co-worker how much I appreciate the good work she does. She helped me out when I was in a bind. She replied that I made her day and that my words came at exactly the right moment because she was literally just feeling unappreciated.

I’ve still got work to do. I haven’t exactly stopped anyone on the bus or in the supermarket line to tell them I love their shoes. But I like this. I feel like a difference can be made. Has anyone ever told you you’ve made their day? What did you do?

My awesome friends

It’s been a rough two months for me, but I’ve been reminded how awesome my friends and family are. In no particular order, here are 10 reasons why:

1.A text conversation. Friend: Oh, no! I forgot to check in with you today. I am so sorry! Me: No worries. I’d have called you if I was miserable. Friend: Good! You better!
2. My niece sang me “Happy Birthday” twice. My birthday was in April.
3.A friend brought her newborn over for lunch and let me hold him the whole time while she served up lunch.
4.More friends than I can count shared their own personal stories & struggles.
5.My parents and brother flew to Seattle on short notice, moved me without one complaint – even when we all had to sleep on the floor because I had no bed.
6.When I mentioned needing a distraction to a friend, she started grabbing books off her shelf for me.
7.My sister takes my calls at any hour of the day. Even if she has to say, “give me 10 minutes & I’ll call you back.” She also just starts telling me stores to cheer me up when I need it.
8.My co-workers have been so cool about me taking a minute when I need it, or working from home when I don’t feel like going in.
9.My friends have been so patient when I monopolize the conversation.
10.Several friends, but one in particular, has been awesome with the pep talks. She never fails to tell me I’m strong, or beautiful or talented, or whatever I need at that moment.
I hope you all have as much support in your lives as I have.

Perfection

I don’t do everything right. I don’t even want to be perfect – not at everything anyway. Just at the things that matter to me.

I spend my day reading articles. That’s my job. Need “Rules for cohabitating,” “Tips to get a celeb booty,” “Healthy, dinner ideas ready in under 30 minutes” or “10 great funds you should own”? Give me five minutes and I’ll get you the article. I’ve read them all. I know what I should be doing.

It’s not that I take these things as gospel and, frankly, I don’t care if I don’t have Kim Kardashian’s ass (mine’s pretty good). But cheesy as it sounds, knowledge is key. If I know I can easily sneak in a little exercise by walking past my regular bus stop to the next one, wouldn’t I be foolish not to do that if I had the time? If I know the healthier and more environmental choice is to buy my lettuce at the farmers market instead in a bag at Safeway, how could I not do that?

I stress about things too much. Here are some recent examples:
1.the website I built for my dad’s business looks awful. It needs to be better.
2.I didn’t email a friend before she left to climb Mount Rainier. She deserved my support.
3.I’m planning a baby shower for a good friend. I want to order cupcakes instead of making them.
4.I eat way too much bread. I love bread. My grandpa was a baker. I need to cut back.
5.I skipped the gym Saturday … and Monday, too.

That’s what this blog is all about: Striving to be better. And I want it to be the perfect blog. I don’t want it to be a place for bragging or complaining. I don’t want to come off as narcisistic. I want to be humorous and honest. I’m not judging people who don’t strive to be perfect. In fact, I envy them at times.

Please tell me I’m not the only one. Please?

No gag gifts, please!

Two ideas disturb me: storage units filled with things that are not used for months (or years) at a time and gift exchanges.

That’s right. I dread the annual family gift exchange that involves buying something with no intended recipient, rolling a dice and ending up with a piece of plastic that no one wanted to begin with.

At Thanksgiving this year, my grandma passed around copies of letters from my cousin Jessica, who is volunteering with the Peace Corps in Panama. She wrote about eating two meals a day, consisting of a scoop of rice and a few kidney beans. She described her biweekly trek out of the mountains and into the city of David, where she collects her mail, picks up any items she needs and spends a bit of time at an Internet café. Then she hauls whatever needs hauling back up to her mountain home with a dirt floor. It takes two hours. She reported that she has never seen such poverty.

In lieu of gifts to each other, our extended family has decided to collect items Jessica requested for some craft classes she’d like to lead for the people in Panama. She asked for yarn, jewelry hardware and general supplies for the kids.

I think this is what Christmas should really be about. Who needs a countertop popcorn machine or a bedazzled phone sleeve when there are real human beings suffering in the world? How do you give back during the holidays?

Real (Estate) Love

When I was 31 I fell in love. No, I don’t mean to the man I met and married years ago. That is a different story about love. No, this was a new kind of love for me.  It was a love that surprised me even though in the end it was just like every other love story.

I’m talking about real estate love.

It began with a searching and a desire.  Much like any young teenager hoping for something they only dreamed of, read about, or imagined; we began browsing for a match. There was many a happy hour (okay, afternoons…fine… days & days) spent ogling house listing after house listing online. Maybe I was a bit addicted to Redfin, but this was young love. An often foolish, unreasonable thing.

Flush with my first infatuations I talked about them all the time, sent my husband email after gushing email.  Every day was filled with anticipation and eager hopefulness. What would I find today? When would I feel that rush?

Then it stopped being a casual browse and became an earnest search. We had our matchmaker. We were going on dates.

We had made a list of everything we wanted. Our ideal match, the house of our dreams all prioritized. We said we didn’t expect to find everything on that list, but of course we did. A fireplace? We hardly used our apartment’s, but this was our house. Of course it had to have a fireplace. And I always wanted a gas stove and wouldn’t a garage or basement be great? Wood floors, a claw-foot tub, charming touches, modern updates, and of course affordable.  I said it was an idyllic list, remember?

Every weekend we’d go receive a listing full of numbers, facts, and images taken to showcase the best features & carefully hide the worst. In between all those numbers I would picture a new life. I’d imagine us together, the happy days we would spend together. Us and the house.

The meetings were both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Every time we turned a corner and pulled up front my heart would rise. Could this be it? Would I walk inside and just know?

Some encounters were just awful, maybe even a bit depressing. Was this the best we could get? I mean we’re not the hottest things on the market either, but didn’t we deserve a bit more?

Others went pretty well, they had great moments right beside a few painfully awkward ones.  I loved its kitchen, its charming porch, but that obtuse floor plan, the meh finishes, and the repairs I could already hear adding up on some evil cashregister in my mind. Maybe we were just better as friends.

Continue reading “Real (Estate) Love”

It’s not all about you … or me

I often think about how I’ve grown since my junior high years. I’d love to go back and tell young Candace, “Everyone else is so concerned about him or herself. They’re not paying attention to what you are doing.”

Like most adolescents, I went through an awkward stage. I thought everyone in school noticed every wrong answer in class and non-cute outfit I wore. As I grew up, I found myself wondering insignificant things like: Did I wear this shirt last week? Then I realized, I don’t remember what my co-workers wore last week. Surely they don’t know what I wore either – especially if I don’t remember what I wore!

OK it’s not just about clothes. I’ve had co-workers thank me for not letting them look stupid. I usually smile, say “you’re welcome, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Just like anything else, I didn’t notice what they were self-conscious about, and they didn’t notice the things I was self-conscious about.

So remember that next time you feel stupid. The woman next to you didn’t even notice because she was too preoccupied wondering if she wore the right shoes.

What advice would you like to go back in time and give yourself?