• Cat Got Your Tongue, Girl?

    I don’t know why I have no words sometimes.  I really wish I did.  Instead I sit there squirming in awkwardness, wishing everyone were more comfortable with fewer words.  The words I like tend to be printed where they are parceled out and the length of the communication is finite.  The words that come to me via my ears are fraught with how I am going to answer them.  I think slowly so I know I won’t answer what my real answer is, what my thoughtful answer is.

    Or if I say something, I’m afraid it is going to be flung out in to a new world, where everyone can say, “Oh, so you mean…” or use it against me like, “But you said…” Well, maybe I said because I wasn’t ready for it and I had to fill the air with something, anything before my silence was taken as agreement with the talker.  I am not allowed to express my thoughts if I stay quiet.  It bothers me though that the thoughts had to be prematurely expressed when they were ephemeral and unformed, coiled with potential energy but no kinetic energy.

    If you are a person who is constantly talking, it might be hard to imagine what it is like, how physically exhausting it is, to focus on a conversation that your own train of thought is not on board with.  It is a constant bifurcation, of swimming upstream to get back in to the right braid of the river.

    I have struggled with this language issue all my life.  It’s one of the reasons I love being alone, or being with someone who is patient in their words.  I like being around someone who is not going to verbally yank on my leash when I’ve found something interesting to sniff.

    I have been reading an interesting book about language that had a message I didn’t expect.  It is called Language and the Pursuit of Happiness by Chalmers Brothers.  The book promises to allow you to have peacefulness and productivity by using a tool you didn’t know you had.  As you may have guessed based on the title of the book, this tool is language.

    I expected the book would  be about using language as a tool to make us feel a certain way about our thoughts.  For example, I have used the tactic of “power words” I learned when I read Anthony Robbin’s  Awaken the Giant Within .  The way this works is when I am feeling sullen, exhausted or overwhelmed I sometimes smile and tell people I am “introspective” or “stimulated” when they ask how I am because using positive words allows me to color my situation.  It’s similar to the idea by Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project who says that acting the way you want to feel is one of the keys to happiness, instead of it being the other way around.

    I originally bought Language and the Pursuit of Happiness because I thought it would build on this positivity tactic. The message was different than what I expected though.  It was as follows: language is generative.

    Language is generative.

    Wow.  How simple and obvious but I never actually thought about it!  Until you express an idea or a fact, it may as well have not existed for the listener.  For example, “I want a divorce” or “You have received a promotion.”  Did those things exist before they were spoken?  Yes, they did but someone had to say the words to you in order for it to be so.  And then the whole world changes.

    Coming to this simple conclusion has really helped me speak up when I need to.  I have been complacent far too many times because of my fear of speaking up.   But speaking creates possibilities.  It generates outcomes.  Staying quiet is shutting doors.

    If something is bothering me at work, no one will probably know until I tell him or her.  If I am appreciative of something Chief is doing for me, he will probably never know until I tell him.   If I have an idea about something being discussed in a meeting, no one else will get to hear it until I speak up.

    I might be wrong and I might be put on the spot.  I think that is what used to stop me but I have finally decided that the risk is worth it.

    I actually heard a really interesting broadcast on BBC the other day.  I wish I could find the resource for it because I wasn’t paying attention until something caught my ear.   A female economy modeler was speaking and the interviewer was asking her why so few women go in to her field.  The interviewee, who was also a professor, speculated on the answer.  She noted that very few women would ask questions in the classes she taught.  She said that she herself used to be afraid to speak up earlier in her career for fear of saying something wrong and maybe it was this fear of being “wrong” in front of others that prevented women from choosing this career path.

    She said that often times she would have the exact same question or comment in her head that a male counterpart would ask a little bit later and then she would kick herself for not speaking up.  I have been noticing this a lot about myself lately and have realized I need to work harder about not really caring what people think.  I might say something wrong.  I might express something controversial that I don’t really care to argue about (either because I want more information before I have the argument or I don’t feel like being attacked and putting up a stand) but staying quiet can be a greater risk.  I might honestly ask a stupid question but at least if it’s something burning in my head, I have expressed it.  And that is what language is intended to do.

    Around Chief, and my close friends and family, I don’t have a problem speaking up, but I know that in the world at large it is something I need to continue to work on.  I know being quiet is part of who I am but I also know that part of being successful means speaking up at the right time.

  • Packing a Toiletry Bag – with Video and List

    I travel a lot and if I don’t have my toiletry bag all ready to go, it only adds to the stress of trying to get everything done and get out of town.  To counteract that, I keep my toiletry bag fully packed and stocked and separate from my everyday routine.  It costs a little bit more up front, but the hassle it saves later is really valuable.

    I have two kits for travel.  One is my liquids which all have to be less than 3 ounces and fit in a quart-sized plastic bag and the other kit has all my other stuff.  Inside the second kit, I keep a pouch with all my make-up brushes and other long, skinny things like eyeliners, mascara, concealer and lipstick.  I have the contents of each listed below where I give the nitty gritty and a packing list PDF at the end if you don’t want the details.

    Liquids
    – Shampoo and conditioner.  If you don’t already have travel-size containers, Pureology or Aveda make great shampoos and conditioners in travel sizes.  Aveda sends free samples with shipping which are nice for travel too.
    – Facial Cleanser – Aveda and Eminence Organic make great travel sizes.  Lately I’ve been doing the oil cleansing method so I just bring a small bottle of oil.
    – Moisturizer.  Consider asking Sephora for a sample and try a fancy new one in a small size at no cost!  Any time I need something from Sephora, I mail order it because then I get the samples (and I have a mall phobia, shudder).
    Dr Bronner’s Soap.  This can do duty as cleanser, shaving cream, clothing detergent, or shampoo.  If all else fails, bring this one thing!
    – Lotion.  I never trust the nasty scented stuff in hotels.  I’ll often mix a fragrance free organic one with vanilla oil.
    – Sunscreen (Bring a lotion with sunscreen to further limit products.)  I also love this Colorscience powder SPF and keep it in my purse to apply to my face.  I can also apply it to Chief to protect his face as he sits patiently and curious onlookers giggle as he begins to sparkle like a teenage vampire.
    – Eye drops – this is a lifesaver after traveling!
    Morrocanoil Hair Oil This stuff is great for keeping hair silky without adding weight.  You may also want to get a travel-sized container of whatever mousse or finishing product you use.  Pure argan oil works great too and can double as night eye cream, as pomade for hair, or can be added to your cleansing oil.
    – Travel size perfume.  Ask at Sephora or a department store for your favorite scent. The vanilla oil below can also work as a subtle perfume.
    Vanilla oil in jojoba oil (for moisturizing, eye cream, perfume, taming flyaways or frizzies and eye-makeup removal) or to add to your cleansing oil.
    – Toothpaste.  Chief recently discovered you could refill the small tubes by “kissing” the big tube to it.
    Coconut oil.  I have lately been packing it in to a small glass jar I had leftover.  It works great for the beach (for body or for putting in your hair and braiding), moisturizing (instead of lotion), or as a personal lubricant.
    – Egyptian Magic Skin Cream in a small container.  I just scoop some out of the regular full-size jar and put it in a travel container.  This stuff is amazing for a night cream and can be smeared over the whole face to moisturize eyes and lips as well.  It also works as a pomade or body moisturizer.

    Other items:
    – Baby powder or dry shampoo.  I like to keep the powder I make in a brush with a refillable base.
    – Venus razor with cartridge.  No shaving cream is needed.
    Smile’s PRID Drawing Salve.  This stuff is great for scrapes or surprise blemishes.  It’s antibacterial.
    – C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve.  This can be used for a unisex lip balm, for chapped faces, for a dewy glow, or for eye make-up removal.  I talk about using it on the eyes in this post.
    Ceramic Velcro rollers.  I assume wherever I’m traveling will have a hair dryer.  If not, go natural or twist hair in small sections and pin up with bobby pins until it dries.
    – Brush.  I was extravagant and made this purchase about 6 years ago, assuming I will have it forever.
    – Small wide-tooth comb for wet hair
    – Rubber bands and bobby pins.  These can be lifesavers when hair is wacky from traveling.
    – Toothbrush
    – Floss
    – Deodorant.  I really like the LaVanilla mini deodorant trio while I’m still perfecting my homemade deodorant recipe.
    Body brushBody brushing really helps to invigorate you after a travel and helps fight off some of the infections that can result from lack of sleep or germs in the airplane.
    – Empty spray bottle.  You can fill this with water later and a couple drops of essential oil to get wrinkles/smells out of clothes, hydrate your face, or spritz flowers for macro shots!

    Make-up
    – Beauty Balm for moisturizing, light coverage, and sun protection.  I really like Stila tinted moisturizer and Origins VitaZing cream and have recently been introduced to an obscure brand called Elisha Coy that has an SPF of 30.
    – Double-duty foundation/powder.  I have been using Clinique’s  Superpowderfor literally 20 years.
    – Stain for lips and cheeks.  Sephora brand and Benefit make good ones.  There are probably some great ones on the market I haven’t tried.  Lipgloss or lipstick can also work as blush.
    – Eye shadow palette including neutrals and dark/smoky colors and one bright color if you like.  I had a palette made up at MAC that includes my tried and true favorite colors: Vanilla (for highlighting or sweeping across the whole eyelid), Shroom (for the crease) Black Tied (for smoky eyes or liner) and Atlantic Blue (blue wakes up a tired eye and makes the whites look more white).  I also travel with this Coastal Scents palette (it’s very affordable and has a wide range of colors).
    – Blush (if stain won’t work for you).  Nars Orgasm is a great color that works on almost everyone.
    – Mascara.  I religiously use MAC’s Zoomlash in black.
    – Black eyeliner.  Rimming the inner part of the lower lids is an easy way to glam it up.
    – Concealer.  I love MAC’s Moisturecover.  It draws in and maintains moisture which is key if you’ve been traveling by air or partying at night!
    – Any other lipstick or gloss.  I try to bring my favorite red, pink, and neutral.
    – Make-up brushes.  MAC makes good travel sets but they are only available around the holidays generally.  You can find them at Cosmetics Company Stores at outlet malls in the off-season.  I would recommend the following brushes: Powder brush, blush brush, eye shadow brush, eyebrow brush, blending brush and eyeliner brush.  For a more in-depth tutorial on these, see my blog post on make-up brushes and the tutorial video.

    This list looks like a lot but it is all really compact.  You’ll see on the attached PDF that is is not a lot when broken down without the detail.  I almost never check a bag (carry-on only packing) and it always fits on my person.

    That’s the details that I have also chatted about in this YouTube Video, but I have also made a link to a simple packing list that you can print and/or modify:

    Toiletry Bag Packing List

  • Don’t Complain

    “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.” ~Maya Angelou

    Though this quote is really simple, I feel it’s one of the important rules of life.  I found it a few years ago and have been a much happier person since applying it to my life.  It can apply to anything from the very everyday, like my office situation, or to things as serious as a relationship or illness.

    A simple example is my office situation at work.  Yes, I’ve been waiting to write about this for awhile because I usually wait until any bitterness or angriness about a situation has passed so I don’t write in a bitching or whining tone but I think I’ve resolved at least one part of this equation that is bothering me.

    When I moved to my new group for a temporary assignment a couple years ago that I was really excited about, they told me that the floor was packed and that I would not get a window office.  I’m sure lots of you work in windowless spaces but at the office I’m in, 98% of the other scientists at my seniority have a window office, so it’s something I had an expectation for.  It just wasn’t possible, so I sucked it up and went it to my office and put my head down.

    The temporary assignment turned in to a permanent one and the window offices still weren’t available to me.  I would leave work every day with my eyes burning from the fluorescence, feeling upset and angry and in pain.  It was pain of both a pride sting and physical pain from sitting in that horrible little office.  I used to feel inspired to write poetry every morning when I watched the sun rise out my window.  I’m a big fan of watching weather.  Annoying noises around me seemed to be amplified because I didn’t have visual stimulation.  I was constantly complaining about my situation.  One day I went and asked my boss one final time if the offices weren’t really going to be available to me.  It became clear that there was nothing they could do.  It wasn’t from my lack of trying, I assure you.

    Once I realized my office was not going to be moved, I realized I need to change something so that I wouldn’t leave work feeling so physically poor and emotionally down, full of complaints.

    I went out and bought two lamps along with a sunshine simulator lamp for people that have SAD and turned off the overhead fluorescent lights for good.  I brought in a favorite piece of artwork that Chief had never really liked anyway.  I got three plants and an aromatherapy diffuser.  I brought in a glowing salt crystal lamp and completely cleaned up and tidied my office.  All of a sudden, the space was transformed and all my colleagues were stopping by to take pictures and video and to just stop and sit in my office and take it all in.  They said they wanted to make it the clubhouse of the floor.

    So I still pine for a window office again – it sounds like one will become available right as my maternity leave starts as luck would have it, but I did something about my situation and am much happier and actually look forward to being in my space.

    This can apply to so many situations.  Complaining is exhausting for yourself and the people around you.  Change your situation if it makes you complain.  If it truly can’t be changed, change your attitude and make peace with it.  This could apply to anything from relationships to living situations to goals to economic situations to family situations.