The push for generosity

February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

I read Joshua Becker’s post last night titled “We Are Wealthy. And Why That Matters” (which was truly profound for me, btw and I highly recommend reading it, sharing it and maybe printing it out and sticking it on your frig,) and one of the comments (related to the article’s discussion about how we might be more generous once we realize how wealthy we really are) seriously pushed my buttons because the commenter made the assertion that “The fewer [people who attend church] each week, each year, each decade that we see in western society, the less virtuous we become.”

I come from an unchurched family and spent my early years on a quest to find my religion — started with the Methodist church of my babysitter, then the Greek Orthodox church of another babysitter, a Catholic church with my best friend and even a brief stint with the Mormon church — all before I graduated from high school.  In the decades since, I’ve found my religion only twice — at a Unitarian Universalist church when my kids were little and we were looking for “religious tolerance” in the Bible belt and again at a Unity church we visited for an Easter service one year.  In all cases, I’ve been turned off by the “virtuous” at these churches and have repeatedly confirmed that virtuosity and church attendance are two completely different things.

But the question is not one of just defense for my own lack of church attendance — it’s really about what motivates us to be generous.  I have found that as my personal beliefs have moved away from traditional religions (where we are physical beings trying to become spiritual beings in the afterlife) to non-traditional spiritualism (where we are spiritual beings learning from this physical experience in order to evolve our souls) my generosity has expanded.  I am now much more concerned with relieving (or at least acknowledging) the suffering and plight of others.  I am called to learn from my experiences and question them.  Did I do something to “deserve” this relatively easy western-culture lifestyle that those in third-world countries did not do? (I don’t think so) And if I did nothing to deserve it, how is my journey in this life related to that affluence?  This is the wellspring of generosity for me.

What motivates you to give?

Decluttering: Core Desired Feelings in 2015

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment


For 2015, I’m embracing the ideas detailed by Danielle LaPorte in her book, The Desire Map.  Specifically, rather than setting resolutions — which have never worked for me — I’ve focused on which feelings I want to have this year.  After much deliberation, I’ve settled on Inspired, Intentional, Present and Worthy.

The book includes a workbook section that walks through how to convert your desired feelings into intentions for the year and I’ve kicked off my activities with a big declutter (as part of being Intentional about how I use  my space) starting with my office and den and doing my closet this morning.

My closet was the most difficult because I love clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry, though thankfully, I’m “minimalist” on the types (black clothes, bags and shoes, silver jewelry).  My closet rules for semi-minimalism include limits based on space and hanger availability.   The down-side of these rules is that if you aren’t continually decluttering, any excess ends up piled on the floor and in the bedroom chair.  For 2015, my intention is to declutter in smaller portions more regularly … a drawer, a shelf, a file, a box.  Hopefully, this will help me stem the chaos.


I didn’t count them, but I’m sure I had close to 60 pairs of shoes and I donated 1/4th in order to fit back into the allowed shelf space.

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I wanted good drawer storage for undergarments and pajamas, so I moved a discarded dresser into the closet.  This also allowed me to shrink the boundary for the amount of hanging clothes I keep.

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How about you?  How are you kicking off 2015?

How to minimize being impacted by “cultural imprinting” in advertising

September 29, 2014 § 3 Comments

I read an article this morning about how ads work (and how they don’t work) and the author describes the difference between how we think advertising works:

  • ads make you want something by associating the thing being advertised to a feeling/value/state-of-being you want, (“emotional inception”)

And how he thinks advertising actually works:

  • ads make you want to associate yourself with a value that has been agreed upon by a group of your peers as being associated with the thing being advertised, (“cultural imprinting”)

Cultural imprinting relies on the fact that even if you have lived under a rock and avoided television, radio, magazines and advertising of all forms, your peers have not and they have agreed upon a value being associated to a specific thing.  Because of the widespread viewing of the Corona ad above, for example, if you show up at a party with Corona, you may be perceived as a relaxed, beachy kind of person.

The beneficial part from what I can tell, is that this type of advertising doesn’t always drive you to purchase, it is more of a purchase decision influence … kind of like the “Choosy mothers choose Jif” ads of old that ensured you would buy Jif when you were in the market for peanut butter, but didn’t make you feel the need to run out and buy peanut butter.

The downside, though, is that some of things I try to do to minimize my shopping desires — things like eliminating commercial television and canceling magazine subscriptions and catalogs — are of no use against this type of advertising.  If I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I may feel compelled to run out and buy an Apple product or a Moleskine to get a needed boost.

So how do I minimize the impact of this type of advertising?  First, I do not assume that these ads speak the truth.  Second, I continually strive to know myself.  Is buying water in a recycled plastic bottle really consistent with my environmental values or is carrying my own reusable bottle more in-line?

How about you?  Have you found yourself buying into a product’s image rather than the product itself?  How do you minimize the impact of cultural imprinting in your own life?

Tolerance is so yesterday …

September 24, 2014 § Leave a comment


I’ve seen this bumper sticker … a take-off on the similar Co-exist but this one leaves me feeling less enthusiastic … jaded, even.  (Don’t believe me, google “tolerate” and check out the images — it’s not as pretty as it sounds.)  And the definitions of tolerance confirm my feelings:


transitive verb \ˈtä-lə-ˌrāt\

: to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done

: to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed

: to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)

The time for tolerance was when you didn’t have a choice … because you grew up in the same town where your parents and grandparents lived and leaving wasn’t so easy … because your best friend married that schmuck from science class … because you grew up being a minority in your community in some way … whatever your reason was, tolerate was something you did because you had to.

Today, the ability to surround ourselves virtually and even literally with “like-minded” folks is easier than ever.  To simply tolerate, therefore, is no longer a valid benchmark.  I am now setting my sights on celebrating.  Care to join me?



10 Things I learned at a Privacy/Security conference in Silicon Valley

September 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

  1. Hipsters in Silicon Valley look just like hipsters where I live — plaid shirts, unnecessary knit caps (it’s 85 degrees?!); skinny jeans, no socks, etc.
  2. “Business” culture is changing — while DC lawyers are still pretty easy to spot, casual attire and behavior is definitely the conference norm.  (At my first privacy conference held in DC at the Federal Trade Commission, I remember saying to the grey-suited woman next to me, “I thought this was business casual.” to which she replied, “This IS my business casual.”)  This conference even included a block party (with live music, bottled beer and a photo booth).
  3. Privacy and Security are finally in the same room.  They’re not speaking the same language yet, but it’s a start.  (And I heard that some of them danced together …)
  4. Keynote speeches are now designed to look and feel like TED talks.  They’re shorter and speakers generally are more engaging and move around more.  My favorites this conference were Judith Donath and Julie Hanna — both with inspiring content, engaging speaking styles and a way of seeing old things in a new way that was (honestly) a little life-altering.
  5. Networking has become a little easier for those of us who are introverted.  Instead of awkward small talk, you get to spend your time pulling out your smartphone and showing each other how to find your profile in LinkedIn so you can connect.  (Plus, as an added benefit, you can pull your phone or iPad out at anytime to avoid awkward conversations in between sessions and the conference even had its own app.)
  6. Conferences are still planned by extroverts.  Even in the world of Privacy and Security (which surely has a high percentage of introverts some of whom might even be called “anti-social,”) this conference included cocktail hours, speed networking and a dance.  The up-side is that activities like these drove like-minded souls seeking escape from excessive stimulation to meet up in quiet hallways where conversations and meaningful (LinkedIn) connections happened.
  7. Technology is really, really, really changing the world.
  8. Being a geek is good.  The most fascinating sessions were the ones where Privacy/Legal/Techno geeks could dig deep into their field.  I never thought I would be interested in search-and-seizure laws, but listening to the lawyers in there geek out about case law was actually fascinating.
  9. No approach to privacy is perfect.  While I appreciate the “fundamental human right” adopted by Europe, it also is clear that this approach slows innovation.  And while I strongly believe that America’s greatest strength is innovation, our wild-west mentality often results in negative unintended consequences.
  10. Privacy and Security are both growth industries with lots of opportunity to be of service to others, if you just keep sight of why you’re here.

Know Yourself

May 31, 2014 § 1 Comment

Gretchen Rubin maintains that the most important rule of happiness is to know yourself (Be Gretchen is her direct rule).  This has become my latest mission because I feel that so many of my previous labels and definitions are fading … I’ll soon be an empty-nester (no more “working mom” “band parent” or “pit crew” … and I’m working my way toward retiring from my day job “manager” and I find myself really questioning what I like.  What do I like to do?  How do I want to spend my time?  Who do I want to spend my time with?

And because there are no obvious answers to those questions (other than spending time with my husband when he’s not traveling), I find myself in the process of redesigning my life.

I am (almost) not sad about this.  I LOVE the process of designing my life when it’s my choice.  And I WILL get to the point where I fully embrace the fact that my children growing up and leaving is good.  And when that time comes, I’ll be ready.

Here’s what I know about myself so far:

  • I am an introvert.  This means that although I love public speaking (only-child who likes to be the center of attention), I don’t network or make small-talk.  And I realized last night that having people unexpectedly knock on my door is unpleasant for me.  This knowledge will help me determine what will work best for work, housing, social networks, etc.
  • I am a rebel. I resist both inner and outer expectations.  I like this about myself, but it means I have to get sneaky to move forward in areas that are important but not urgent.
  • I am a minimalist.  Not yet in practice, but in my heart I am weighed down by the consumption and maintenance of stuff.
  • I am an environmentalist.  Again, not always in practice, but I am saddened by the unnecessary waste of natural resources.
  • I am a geek.  This is one area where accumulation of stuff is not an unwanted weight.  I also justify because this is my work as well.
  • I am a creator.  This is one I struggle with because as I mentioned here I’ve tried many ways to create and haven’t found “my thing” yet … but I’m not giving up.

And as Gretchen points out, knowing yourself includes knowing what you are not.  As she says, this is the more painful part … deciding when to let go of previous aspirations or beliefs and embracing yourself fully.

  • I am not outdoorsy.  Although I loved going to and working at a summer camp growing up, the allergies I’ve developed as an adult (trees with leaves and grass) make it far less enjoyable.  If I move back to the ocean or into the pine tree forests, I can re-evaluate but for now, I prefer my walks in downtown.
  • I am not athletic.  This one is really tough to let go of because I played so many sports growing up — softball, volleyball, tennis, soccer.  If I come across an “old sucky sports” league, I can re-evaluate.

So that leaves a lot left in the unknown category … good for me because I also like to try new things!

Hobbies and labels

September 23, 2013 § 1 Comment


One of my areas of clutter is what I think of as “aspirational” clutter — stuff that I hang on to because it’s something I plan to do.  I feel like hobbies are good … men have them, women need more of them (I don’t know why I think this, I’m still analyzing this but I think it has to do with how my husband has this thing — golf — that he can turn to whenever he needs to let off some steam or get together with his friends.  I don’t have anything like this and most of my girlfriends don’t either.)

I pursue new hobbies with gusto for at least a couple of weeks  (maybe even months or years in a few cases) — and then I’m done.  I think of it as a “trial run.”

So far, I’ve “trialed;’


  • bought the book on best places for day hikes in Nashville,
  • took the family out each weekend for a month to new and exotic hiking spots;
  • decided the best one was close to home;
  • decided that it was just as pretty to walk in my neighborhood;
  • decided that I should walk my neighborhood every morning;
  • decided that was “exercise”
  • haven’t “hiked” since.


  • Took lessons
  • bought the bag, rackets and outfits
  • played twice with the family
  • decided I’m not a tennis player


  • took lessons
  • had clubs made
  • bought shoes, bags, outfits
  • golfed maybe ten times? (though I DID get a hole-in-one which was epic)
  • decided I’m not a golfer


  • Bought the guitars (four, one for each)
  • signed up for the guitar lessons
  • practiced twice
  • stopped lessons after six weeks (if you don’t practice what you learn, the lessons don’t help)
  • decided that I’m not a musician

Crafting – I’ve pared most of my crafting supplies down to what you see in the cabinet above, but it’s still clutter:

  • Scrapbooking — hundreds of dollars of supplies, a dozen scrapbooks, several weekend “retreats” with girlfriends … this lasted probably two years and then petered out for another five.  I finally got rid of all but one bag of scrapbooking supplies.
  • Stamping — more hundreds spent, monthly club joined, an entire cabinet dedicated … lasted probably six months with gusto and then petered out over five years.  Have another remaining small bag of supplies.
  • Jewelry-making — Took a class, bought some materials, bought an anvil, bought some head bandannas (because jewelers wear bandannas on their heads right?)
  • Crochet — took lessons, bought yarn and pattern books
  • Knitting — took lessons, bought needles more yarn and more pattern books
  • Sewing — took lessons (multiple times), still can’t follow a pattern)

What’s interesting is that I would still say that I like all of these things … in small doses.  I think it’s the pursuit of more that ends up spoiling it …

  • burn-out from over-doing something;
  • guilt over the cost of the materials;
  • rebellion against the created obligation to spend time doing a specific thing;
  • labeling” myself in a way that ends up not feeling authentic.

Still on the list of things I might want to try:

  • cyclist (not road cycling, but in-town cycling wearing normal clothes) — need to live in a flatter location or closer to town
  • yogini — I do return to yoga regularly, always starting from the beginning and I enjoy hatha-style in my own home (I do have at least six yoga mats!) — I would like to some day be good enough to stand on my head
  • dancer — I danced when I was young and enjoy it.  Would like to find some good country line-dancing or swing to do with husband, but so far none locally
  • upholsterer/home decor sewing — although I take sewing classes regularly, they are almost always focused on following patterns to make clothes so I’m not as enthusiastic … I would like to be able to make slipcovers or to modify existing clothing from the goodwill
  • Metalsmithing — jewelry is not really my thing to make, but I would love to learn how to solder and weld … again the ability to upcycle existing things is more interesting to me
  • Writer — I don’t think blogging is necessarily my gift, but do enjoy some type of writing … still down the road for me but getting closer

What do you think?  Have you developed a hobby that stuck with you?  How does it make your life better?  Should I keep trying?


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