Hi, how are ya?

I’ve had occasion to get to know new people within the last year, either through work or Toastmasters (mainly, but occasionally outside those two) and began thinking about how I could quickly and easily help new folks get to know me and… what I came up with is the ubiquitous “25 things about me” meme.  If I could have these printed on a business card to hand out, people would hardly need to ask me anything about myself – it’s all right there. I’ve done this little exercise on my blog before but haven’t updated it.

Without further ado:

25 Things About Me

  1. I am a Taurus
  2. I love cats
  3. I love chocolate (dark; don’t really care for milk)
  4. Favorite color: green
  5. Favorite radio station: XM Alt Nation (FM favorite: Live105)
  6. Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful
  7. Big fear: spiders
  8. My background: Italian, English,Irish, German, Cherokee and Swedish
  9. My middle name is Lynn
  10. I have two art degrees
  11. I am vegetarian (mostly vegan)
  12. I can sing and dance
  13. I am very self-conscious
  14. I am a published author
  15. Most things I know how to do are self-taught
  16. Favorite number: 16
  17. I have synesthesia (letters and numbers have both colors and genders to me)
  18. I have a wacky sense of humor
  19. I cry easily
  20. I grew up in the Bay Area
  21. I am moderately liberal
  22. I can imitate Droopy Dog (a random one, I know!)
  23. I love to read (mostly non-fiction)
  24. I’m a stickler for spelling and grammar
  25. My personality type is INFP/ENFP

I asked my 9-year-old to tell me 25 things about himself, with hilarious results (7 of his 15 are “I love my Mom”, or “I love everybody!” and 25 things that aren’t true about him include “I am a penguin”, “I am a goat”).

What are your 25?


I’ve got a secret and I can’t explain

First, apologies for the OMD reference. One of my guilty little pleasures on Sunday is to fire up the laptop and take a few minutes to read PostSecret. Over the years, Frank’s staggering art project has made me think, feel every emotion, and wonder what my secret from the world would be, were I to send one in.

The truth is that I have no true “no one in the world knows this about me” secrets.  A handful of people out there know at least one or two things about me that most others don’t, but no one person knows all.

That said, there are a few truths that are normally surprising when I reveal them.

1. I’m an extrovert (kind of). 

You know the Myers-Briggs personality test? I’ve taken various forms of it, several times, and without fail the final three letters that, according to the results make up my personality type, are NFP. Always. The first letter varies, however. Sometimes it’s I and sometimes it’s E. It would seem that I am perfectly balanced between introversion and extroversion.

Most people who get to know me eventually make a correct assumption: I am painfully – painfully – shy. Once they learn more about who I actually am, they’re confused. Some of my hobbies, past and present, include theater and karaoke, and, as a friend pointed out a few weeks ago, I do public speaking for fun.

Shyness and extroversion aren’t mutually exclusive, as it turns out; in fact, the description of a person who “A person who performs well socially, but experiences painful thoughts and feelings” made my breath catch when I first read it. Having this type of personality is most definitely not easy (in jr high I was labeled “stuck up” and one of my closest friends told me a few years ago that she thought back in high school I wouldn’t befriend her). Neither is having more “introverted” days, particularly when you’re called upon to communicate with others or take on a leadership role. I wonder if anyone truly fits into a particular box when it comes to personality type. I recently learned a a great new word: ambivert. That seems to be an apt description of my personality – sometimes outgoing, sometimes more retiring.

2. I’m competitive.

A particular quirk – and annoyance – about being both a woman and a mom is that people seem to assume you have no ambition. They also seem to believe you’re a pushover, easy to overpower, easy to beat, etc. Most people haven’t met me.

I remember playing Wii Sports at a friend/coworker’s house and she and I were the only two women there (we do work in a male-dominated field, so this was only natural). Everyone was taking turns at sword fighting and I was put up against one of the managers – a guy around my age who is a sports fanatic and who just assumed he would wipe the floor with me.

To be fair, I am not a petite little thing. I’m 5’8″ when barefoot and have a little bit of upper body strength. But because I live in stilettos and am not naturally athletic, most guys naturally figure I’d be more concerned with breaking a nail than with winning. Again, most guys would be incorrect.

E and I began swinging our wiimotes furiously and at first he seemed to have victory in the bag. But I was just slightly faster and beat his ass, knocking his Mii straight off a cliff into the ocean below.

E took it like a man, groaning loudly before chuckling and turning to the other guys with a “No WAY!! That must’ve been beginners’ luck… or, uh, something.” Then, to me, “Rematch!” I beat him twice more before he eventually won a match.

I behave similarly during other competitions as well… including, but not limited to: Balderdash, Anomia, Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit, Rock Band, Just Dance, Tic-Tac-Toe, and The 20 Minute Challenge. And any and all “let’s see who can design the best page/graphic/whatever” work comes up with. And I have a collection of first place ribbons from Toastmasters.

3. I worry a LOT.

I’m usually pretty good in a crisis. In my life, I’ve had to make a couple of 911 calls, have been through trials ranging from earthquakes to system outages and normally don’t lose my head. This has occasionally been to my detriment, as I’ve had more than one person argue with me that I’m “too calm” and said persons have been known to take offense when I wasn’t reacting in the same fashion.

This is just how I am though. Never in my life have I had blood pressure higher than 120/70 (and that was while sitting at the doctor’s office under a time crunch to get back to work), and only a handful of times have I shown any of the other physical signs of distress: rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, lightheadedness.

This is not to say I am “easygoing”. I lay awake at night a lot. I do tons of research on things that are on my mind. I send needy texts and emails to my girlfriends or call my mom. I’ve locked myself in rooms to cry or otherwise come unglued and then gotten straight back to business once I’m pulled together.

Some folks have to get their anger out so they can; I have to get my worry out so I can do the same. Because a lot of this happens in private (my relatives and friends generally don’t just call me to ask if I’m OK), I get it out of my system and no one’s the wiser.

So there you have it: a peek into what makes me tick. What are some of your non-secret secrets?

Making it look easy

This past Monday was the first week back at school for my husband (a teacher) and my son, who’s in fourth grade. During summers and holiday breaks, my husband does a ton of housework and yardwork, and he takes our son to a plethora of activities, all of which I appreciate as someone with a demanding job (I work in the IT field, and 40 hour weeks are short weeks for me).

When school is in session, however, all that comes to a complete halt. To husband’s credit, he does the daycare pickup and dinner on the nights when I’m working late or at Toastmasters, but I am responsible for 2/3 of the laundry, the majority of the housework, nearly all the cooking and 100% of the morning routine. On Thursday nights and a least every other weekend, I am, for all intents and purposes, a single mom.

Every time a new semester approaches, I panic inside. This year, though, I am determined to find shortcuts, tricks, and outright cheats to make it somewhat easier on myself – and to make myself appear awesome! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

The 20 Minute Challenge. This was borne out of the realization that, with three of us living in the house, I could get an hour’s worth of work in 20 minutes by making it worth everyone’s while. I thought I had invented this as it pertains to housecleaning, but it’s already out on the interwebs. I run mine as a true competition though, with fabulous cash and prizes a prize for the winner of the challenge.

How it works: Each of the three of us chooses a room (living, dining, kitchen, bathroom) and during the Challenge, we compete to see who ends up with the cleanest living area. Winner gets his or her choice of family activity afterward. We play music during the Challenge, and often will take turns choosing the next song to be played (I have an iPad with a speaker dock and will often pick a song out of my iTunes library or a YouTube video). During the final few minutes, we play the finale of the William Tell Overture. The key is for the Challenge to be FUN. Kids will sometimes lose interest in this, but yelling at them for not participating guarantees they won’t want to take part again. If only the adults end up participating, that’s fine.

Enrichment Night. Alas, I thought this was my own unique invention as well, but a quick Google search proved me wrong. My twist on this is that every participant (on Thursday nights, this is my son’s and my special thing) chooses something he or she wants to learn more about and then just does it. This past Thursday, for example, we learned about  Emotional Freedom Techniques (not your usual topic, but we had a need for it this week). Future weeks may include one or both of us practicing stop motion animation – there’s an app for that – learning Italian or practicing bass guitar.

How it Works: There are more resources out there for learning subjects for free than I have room to list, but some that come to mind are Kahn Academy, MIT, eHow and, of course, YouTube. Simply pick your subject and get started!

Meal Planning. For my family, meal planning typically goes something like this: Saturday afternoon or Sunday night, go to the store, spend about $100 to $120 buying whatever looks good, take it home. Run completely out of food three days later and make an emergency trip to the closest store on the way home and spend another $75 to $80. Go out for lunch and dinner several times that week whenever you can’t come up with something to make or you forget to bring a lunch to work. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I asked Mr Google for help in this area, after being aghast at just how much we have been spending on food for the three of us, and one of the first results was Veggie Meal Maker. For me, being able to “shop” for recipes, adjust the serving size, and generate a shopping list automatically was just what I need (they also have a mobile site, which I used when I went to Trader Joe’s in lieu of printing out the list).

Now, if you’re not vegetarian or want to see what else is out there, a search for “meal planner app” returned over 400,000 results.

How it Works: Review the list of suggested recipes (or browse), drag the ones you want onto the calendar, click “Shopping List” and print to bring with you to the store or pull up the mobile app on your phone while shopping. Last weekend I spent about $130 and got more than a weeks’ worth of groceries. There are no “weird” or hard to find ingredients and the recipes are crowd-sourced, similar to various cooking websites. Each one requires about 5-15 minutes of prep time and 10-40 minutes cooking time. I’ve had delicious foods such as pancakes and Indian curry and have not only saved time and money but I’ve been able to more easily hit my daily calorie budget.

What about you? What are your dirty little secrets for making it look easy?

Slow down, you move too fast

You likely can’t tell by my lack of recent writings, but I am a go-go-go person, always in motion, either on my way somewhere, or actively doing something. I have a demanding job, and a kid, and friends, and hobbies… and if that weren’t enough, I’m a club officer for my local Toastmasters club. This next six months, it appears I will be fulfilling not one, but two roles – VP of Public Relations (a title I’ve held for the last two years) and VP of Education, the office just below that of President.

This past New Year’s Day, I made the resolution that approximately 95 percent of the people I know make on the first of the year: get back into shape. Like some kind of masochist, I’ve been poring through nutrition websites for everyone from bodybuilders to vegans (and vegan bodybuilders) and reviews on Amazon for products such as Nike+ Kinect. I’ve also been seriously considering trying Insanity, which I own on DVD and which nearly killed me, in a manner of speaking, once again. Yeahhhhhh…

Then IT happened. I had just arrived at work on Thursday and was attempting to stretch when I heard and felt an odd disconcerting “pop”, followed by the sensation of my lower back muscles spasming and, finally, a lot of pain. Pain I haven’t quite ever felt before, as if that part of my back was swiftly torn in two like a sheet of paper.

Once, when my son was a baby, I’d attempted to pick him up while he was in his carseat (and weighing upwards of 30 pounds) and lifted with my back rather than my legs. That had resulted in spasms in my upper back which subsided after a few minutes. This was different. I made it through the work day, occasionally trying to stretch out the knot and grimacing every time, but by the end of the day I could barely walk, let alone anything else. I called off my plans to visit a friend that night and tucked myself gingerly into bed.

“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.” – Nine Inch Nails

By yesterday morning, I realized I was going to be essentially non-functional for at least a day or two. I asked my friends on Facebook for their input, knowing my mom (who’s an RN) would likely have some good advice, and revised my immediate January resolution to a much more subdued one than I’d planned.

As yesterday and last night wore on, I likened myself to Bruce Lee, who spent months laid up before rising to prominence, stronger than ever… eh, who am I kidding? I’m a webmaster, not a martial arts master. My back is vital to me, but only as a support system for my right hand and brain.

Still, I am going to care for myself and see this as the mixed blessing it is: a chance to rejuvenate and truly listen to my body, rather than attempt to rush through things, risking permanent damage. Others I know have received similar wake-up calls. One former boss developed pneumonia. Another ended up hospitalized hours after I’d noticed in a meeting that morning that dude didn’t look so well. It’s a well-worn tale and a lesson everyone seems to know intellectually but which rarely seems to portend lasting positive change.

I intend to listen this time, and trade one resolution for another. After all, aren’t most New Year’s resolutions variations on a theme – to care for ourselves better than in years past? To recognize as precious the fragile gift of our bodies, and treat them with more respect than our material possessions?

It’s possible my torn/sprained/strained/pulled (pending a visit to the Dr) back muscle is nothing more than a reminder not to let my quest to “get ‘er done” get in the way of my overall well-being. A subtle plea from my body to me to be kind to myself.

A resolution I hadn’t realized I needed to make.