Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
My good friend Julie shared this video with me and I loved the message so much I wanted to share it with you. After spending a great deal of energy searching job postings today and feeling increasingly discouraged about the employment front, this video gave me just the gentle reminder about priorities I needed.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Assembly line photo found here
I often find myself lamenting the pressures of specialization. The social structures we have created, and indeed the capitalistic society we live in, reward specialization of tasks and skills. After all – it was specialization that made Smith’s Wealth of Nations such a hit and sent the industrial revolution into overdrive with assembly line processes. However, I hate to think that I am only of worth to my country or economy if I possess high levels of specialization in one limited skill set. It makes for an unbalanced individual and certainly does not mesh with my personal goal of embodying a renaissance woman.
But today I began to question my own grim view of specialization. As I strolled the aisles of my local mega-grocer, where I could fill my cart with baby formula, cut roses, imported stuffed green olives, reading glasses, rat poison, and even a firearm (should the poison not do the trick I suppose), I began to yearn for more specialization. Thinking back to my time abroad in Athens, Greece, I remember the small, specialized shops and have yet to find stores in the US that offer the same high quality goods. For example, a short walk would take you past the baker, the pharmacy, the outdoor produce market, the sweet shop, and the paper store. Because each shop was so specialized, you could be certain that every minute of work went into perfecting the specific, if not somewhat limited, line of goods offered. The result? A far cry from the stiff baguettes, bruised tomatoes, waxy chocolates, and generic stationary filling our “one stop shops”.
While there are some convincing arguments for diversification (it is convenient to find such a breadth of product offerings in one location and may provide a company with increased financial stability), there are also many downsides. Think about the mediocre dining at one of many Asian fusion restaurants. In theory, you can sit down to a dinner of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai items that satisfy whatever your appetite calls for that evening. In reality, you wind up eating an okay-at-best-meal in which no one cuisine is prepared to its full potential. When one institution attempts to excel at offering such an extensive product line, one, and more frequently all, of the goods produced will suffer.
Maybe specialization is not so bad after all.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Today’s valuable investment can cost as much or as little as you want it to: regular exercise. Now I will not spew facts about how important a weekly run is for your heart or how daily sweat sessions are directly correlated to a longer life. We have all heard these claims from doctors and annoyingly fit friends alike, and a simple Google search will give you more information than you could ever possibly digest. Instead, I would like to share a few ways I notice that regular exercise has directly improved my own quality of life and offer some inspiration for making regular exercise a part of your own habits.
I confess: I have become so wrapped up in homework, job searching, and my own personal challenges the past couple weeks that exercise has been pushed straight off of my to-do list. By the end of the day I would much rather eat a cookie (or five) and zone out in front of the TV before dragging my softening figure into bed.
The thing is, many of the side effects I am experiencing due to increased stress levels (trouble sleeping, tiredness, indigestion, lack of focus, feeling anxious, low self-esteem, etc.) can be decreased or done away with entirely by maintaining regular exercise. Of course, for many of us, exercise is the first habit to go when we face difficult times. We reason with ourselves that a trip to the gym will take too long or that a big bowl of ice cream is a preferable way to deal with our busy lives.
In reality, regular exercise should always stay at the top of our to dos. When I exercise with regularity I find my entire quality of life improves. I sleep soundly at night, and awake ready to roll out of bed – no snooze button necessary. My thoughts are more controlled and my focus is heightened; it takes me less time to complete mental tasks and I am much more productive. Indigestion and discomfort begin to ease and making healthier choices at mealtime becomes much more appealing, not to mention the improvements to our natural body functions, skin clarity, flexibility, and muscle tone.
Perhaps the most important change I notice is that my body image improves drastically with regular exercise. This has nothing to do with actual body shape or size, mind you. Rather, regular exercise is a wonderful way to appreciate the glorious capabilities of our bodies and helps each of us to develop a sense of personal achievement. For anyone, like myself, who has struggled with even looking at them self in the mirror, regular exercise is an important step towards reconciling body image distortion. For additional resources regarding body image issues, please visit the links provided at the bottom of this article.
Ok, your thinking, I know exercise is good but does this mean I’m supposed to start wearing spandex unitards, taking zumba-powerlifting fusion classes, and suddenly develop a taste for a bunch of whole grains I can’t pronounce?
Of course not. The thing about regular exercise is that it is not a one-size-fits-all practice. I have discovered that what works well for me is taking long walks after meals, practicing yoga with a supportive teacher 3 or more times a week, and riding a bike or rollerblading in the park whenever the mood strikes. Some of my friends prefer hitting up the gym first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day. Others have taken to finishing the day with a run and some weight-lifting. For others still, exercise means a daily walk with their spouse to connect with one another.
One rut people get into is not allowing themselves to make changes to their exercise routine when necessary. The time may come when forcing yourself to get on a bike, lace up your sneakers, or pull that yoga mat from the closet is no longer meeting your body or mind’s needs. When that time comes (and this is likely to happen many times throughout our lives), you must be willing to try something new. Sometimes this need for change is thrust upon us, such as having to give up running due to a chronic knee injury. Other times our need for change is more intuitive, such as no longer being refreshed after what used to be a favorite gym class. If you sense you may be in an exercise rut, give one of these fun workouts a try:
Swimming slowly and mindfully
Belly dancing with a group of friends
Taking a stroll through the park
Riding a two-person bike
Playing catch or Frisbee
Doing 20 minutes of high-intensity workout before lunch
Learning a dance with your partner
Trying Tai Chi
Lifting kettle weights
Using an exercise therapy ball
Taking a SCUBA diving course
So go ahead and add in time to exercise to your day-planner now. Commit to moving your body more this week, and observe how it makes you feel. Be willing to experiment a little until you find just the right combination of activities that has you sleeping like a rock and feeling radiant.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I am kicking off day one of Valuable Investments week at Apartment 303 with a simple and free service we should all be utilizing: our local public libraries. If you cannot remember the last time you saw the inside of your own town library, now is time to dust off that long-forgotten membership card. For those whose wallets are without this priceless piece of plastic, there is no time like the present to head over to your closest bibliophile haunt and sign up. Public libraries are a tremendous source of value for our selves, our communities, and our planet; a literal trifecta of value!
Value for Our Selves
Public libraries are a wonderful way to enrich our lives and minds through reading; one of the most time-tested forms of entertainment and knowledge sharing. I do not need to explain the many reasons why it is important to spend less time in front of the television and more time engaged in a book that challenges our assumptions and helps us to see the world in a new light. If it has been a while since your last visit, you may have forgotten the many services Librarians provide as well (after all, they do have a Masters in Library Science). These services include research help, book recommendations, locating old newspaper and journal articles, and ordering in books from affiliate libraries for your convenience. In an era where each of us considers our Wikipedia and Google search skills to be sufficient, it is remarkable how efficient and effective the aid of a Librarian is.
Your library card is your ticket to unlimited free entertainment and knowledge, and not just through books. Libraries also stock DVD collections, journal and magazine subscriptions, books on CD, music scores, online news subscriptions, and free Internet access. That’s right, all of this for free*! *tax dollars notwithstanding
Value for Our Community
Public Libraries serve a vital role in any community and are a great place to find out about upcoming events, local history, and all different types of community organizations. Most libraries offer various book clubs, free or low cost lectures and classes, and children’s programs to boot. So if you are looking for a way to get more involved in your community, or if you are new to an area and don’t quite know how to find your niche, start with your local library.
Value for Our Environment
Since the publishing industry is such a major polluter, it seems counterintuitive that hitting up your local library is good for the environment. However, borrowing a book will always be greener than buying your own personal hardback copy…which is likely to be quickly tossed on your bookshelf where it will promptly begin gathering dust for next 25 years. The concept of sharing resources in the same manner as libraries can also be applied to many other goods and services in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way (think the bicycle sharing program in many European cities, or the popularity of the Freecycle Network). Many libraries also allow you to access e-versions of books they carry – a convenient and entirely paper-free way to read.
Given all of the value public libraries provide, it is amazing to think that so few people take advantage of their services. So this week, pay your closest library a visit. The investment of your time will reap major dividends, all around.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
It seems since we’ve entered the recession everyone and their mother is sharing new tricks for saving a quarter here and a dime there. “I take the toiletries offered at hotels”, boasts one commercial. “I save on tea by using each bag twice”, claims my friend. I would not be surprised if someone is advocating turning your dried sweat into table salt. Times are tough for everyone right now, but that does not mean we should suddenly demote ourselves to using low quality goods (or eating our own by-products). Rather, economic downturns can be a great time to reassess what true value is... and I'm not talking about True Value hardware store here. To me, value is not just getting more items for your dollar, despite what the Wal-Mart commercials may lead you to believe. True value is investing in goods or services that yield long-term increases to your quality of your life.
This belief is why I choose organic and natural foods for my kitchen, a high quality day planner with all of the features I need, and a properly fitted and well-padded Swiss backpack. Each time I eat a healthful homemade meal I know I am setting my body up for a long and active life. Everyday when I consult my planner and can quickly locate my to-do list, my monthly calendar, and the business card I need, I have the confidence to tackle everything I want to accomplish in the short 24 hours I’m given. And as I pack my bag to the brim with ten pound text books I sigh with relief, knowing that I invested in a back-pack that will not dig into my shoulders or misalign my spine. Notice how each investment is not only providing me with quality service now, but it is ensuring that my quality of life continues to improve. After all, that’s what an investment is, right?
This week I will be blogging about some of my most recommended, high value investments. Some are more expensive, and some won’t cost you a penny. Some are goods or services, and others are personal commitments. All of them are great examples of true value. I also hope that if you have not left a comment on my blog before you give it a try! I would love to hear your feedback and I hope you will share some of your own everyday investment ideas.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Summer is sweat and tomato juice running down my chin. Tasting soil as perfectly scarlet fruits burst over my tongue, still warm from the afternoon sun. Sweaters in the evening keep stargazing warm, but shorts and bare feet remain a mark of freedom. Fingers stained like a mulberry bruise that endless hours in the pool won’t erase. Lying still on the hottest nights waiting for relief in a cool breeze that never comes.
Rushing in comes Autumn. The crisp air fresh in my lungs sends a surge through my body. I relish in watching the trees catch fire in golden flame, then envelope in one last crimson breath before the leaves take their final bow. It may seem like a time of decay, but the excitement that comes with new school notebooks and carefully selected first day outfits is etched deeply in my own circadian rhythm. Autumn is a new start. Not just a blank page, its a whole book to fill.
Winter brings anticipation. Eagerly awaiting the next storm, the next snow day, the next holiday…one countdown runs into the next disrupting any chance at a regular schedule for months on end. Childhood fantasies of jolly characters linger and fill the season with a romantic hopefulness that makes sunless days spent wandering the indoors tolerable.
But slowly comes Spring, the most taunting mistress of all. She comes in waves - flirting with you one day and leaving you hollow and wanting the next. She doesn’t slip by undetected, however. You can feel her approach in the air before she appears at all. Stepping outside this evening I felt the trademark breeze of Spring, easing the tension between Winter and Summer. Trails of her warm breath grace my cheek while the cool zephyr of a loitering Winter whips around my calves; extremes melding to create a perfectly balanced whole. Autumn may be my favorite season, but Spring delivers the lesson I need to understand most: Balance.