New Thing #10: I Meet a Badass


In which I go back in time, fall in love with a library and pay good money to drive through Ohio.


In my last blog — which was much too long ago — I said my next new thing would be a Spinning class. I did not do this, mainly because the only available spinning class at my gym that was not during work hours was at 5:00 a.m. The only cycle I’m working on at 5 a.m. is a REM cycle.

However, a much more interesting opportunity arose. Jen Sincero, one of my favorite self-help gurus and author of the books You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Making Money,  was doing a book tour, and though she had foolishly overlooked Detroit as a stop on the tour (what’s more badass than Detroit, Jen?), she had two stops in the cursed land of the Buckeye.  I chose Hudson, Ohio.

Hudson is the town that time forgot. This place is so relentlessly quaint I kept looking for Jimmy Stewart to come running down Main Street, flailing his arms and yelling, “Merry Christmas, you old Building and Loan!”  Whoever has the contract for supplying historical markers really made a killing in Hudson (founded in 1799 by David Hudson in a region once known as the Connecticut Western Reserve). Even the new buildings in Hudson have been designed to look like old buildings, without the dirt. And the best new-old building of all was the library.  Two floors, with a giant rotunda on the main floor, sunlight streaming through skylights in the roof like God was browsing the books.

I have never attended a book signing event before, but this one seemed like a slam dunk, because I’d listened to Sincero’s books on audio, and she was a hoot. She was equally hootworthy at this event. She was also warm, friendly, and inspiring. And patient. During the Q & A session, a few fans asked her questions which basically translated to, “I don’t know what to do with my life. Will you tell me?”  Since the message of the book is essentially, don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your life, these people seemed to have missed the point. After an entertaining talk, she signed everyone’s books,  and let people take pictures. I gave her a card with the URL of this blog on it, so I know she’s reading this now. Ha ha.

This new thing was  kind of two new things, because the 3 1/2 hour road trip to Hudson was considerably more challenging than my trip to Indiana.  It was also my first solo road trip (my daughter was with me on the last one), and my first time driving on a turnpike (for which I paid $16.50). And I only screwed up once, which was really the GPS lady’s fault.

I’m not even going to preview my next new thing, because I don’t know what it will be. It will be soon, though, because my blogging pace lately has been pitiful.   Time to rev it up!

New Things #7 and #8: Going gray and getting quiet

In which I rediscover my roots and try to tame what’s underneath them.

You may notice that these two new things do NOT include writing a song, which I had planned to do as New Thing #7.  I did work on a song, a funny song about Trump (lots of material there); I had a melody and about 2/3 of the lyrics when the whole Charlottesville – Nazi thing went down. And it just didn’t seem funny anymore. So I moved onto my next new thing: Going gray.

Though it may seem possible for a mother with a teenage boy, I’m not saying I just instantaneously sprouted a head of gray hair.  I have lots of gray hair, which I’ve been dyeing for about 20 years. For the last 5 years or so, I’ve been curious: What’s happening under there?  If I didn’t dye it, would it all be gray? I could tell the hair around my part was nearly white, but it was harder to tell with the sides.

So for the last couple of months, I’ve been letting the gray roots grow out, making them look presentable in the meantime with a Loreal product that is basically spray paint for your head.  Every morning for the past 8 to 10 weeks, I’ve shellacked my head each morning and gone about my day. Finally, last week I took the plunge and had all the dyed hair cut off.

The result was a little anticlimactic. The hair on top was gray, nearly white, and the hair on the sides was a darker gray — just like the roots foretold (DUH). What was more unexpected was how much I like the super-short cut. It looks cute and has bought me a good 15 minutes in the morning.

New thing #8: Meditation

I’ve actually been meditating for about a month straight now. I didn’t start doing it as a New Thing, just as a way to cope with my nutty schedule (the panic attacks weren’t doing the job for me). Then I got on a roll.

I’m using an app called Calm. My daughter downloaded it on her phone, but because my kids all use my Apple ID to get their apps, their apps show up on my phone (which is why my phone screen looks like I’m having an identity crisis, with My Fitness Pal next to Magikarp Jump and Pokemon Duel). Calm has an assortment of guided meditations, in which a serene, unstressed woman whose kitchen is probably really clean talks you through the meditation process.  There are about 8 or 10 free ones, and a long list of ones with a little padlock next to them that require you to spend money to unlock. So far the free ones have worked fine for me.

It’s not easy shutting up my mind. Just when I think I have it quiet, a stupid little voice peeps, “Look! We’re doing good!” So I’m essentially thinking about how I’ve achieved not-thinking.  I only meditate for 10-minute sessions, and I have yet to get through the whole time without drifting off to thoughts about breakfast or whether we need light bulbs or which sister is dead, Joan Fontaine or Olivia DeHaviland? (ANSWER: Joan Fontaine).  But I’m stringing together more quiet moments each time.

The next New Thing: Pho or Sushi

I’m not sure what my next New Thing will be, but I’m considering a new food experience. I’m generally a pretty picky eater for an adult, but I’m trying to expand my horizons. We’l see how it goes.

New Thing #6: A vegetarian week

In which I am unjustly taunted by a package of vegan tacos.

Because I was too busy to get to the grocery store, I had to limp along the first couple days of my vegetarian week, eating whatever was on hand in the pantry. I had salad two days in a row for lunch, and for the first night’s dinner I had makeshift black bean burritos (topped with leftover Taco Bell sauce packets). Midweek, I finally had an opportunity to browse the natural food aisle at Kroger, where I found quite an array of weird vegetarian and vegan concoctions.  I bought some Morningstar Farms spicy black bean burgers (which I’ve had before), some fake buffalo chicken patties (never tried but I’ve had the faux nuggets and they’re pretty tasty), and the pièce de résistance, Carla Lee’s Nut Tacos (see pic). For some reason, “Nut Tacos” just really cracked me up, and I felt I had to try them, if only for the novelty of seeing the words “Nut Tacos” every time I opened the freezer.  It sounded more like a creative insult than a food (“Learn how to drive, you Nut Taco!” *HONK*). Either that, or a fast food invented for an animated movie about squirrels.

The vegetarian days went pretty smoothly. One night I made homemade marinara sauce for pasta. Another night we had a hash brown casserole made with Greek yogurt and gruyere cheese, topped with sunny-side up eggs (I took leftovers for lunch).

Thursday was my designated Vegan Day. It wasn’t horrible, but I did take comfort knowing I could have cheese the next day. The day started off with a snag when I couldn’t have any half-and-half in my coffee, which made me crabby. Word to the wise: almond milk does not cut it as a coffee creamer.  Things got better at lunch: Nut Tacos to the rescue!  They were far tastier than I would have imagined. I did find it irritating that the package told you to garnish them with cheese.  I felt like Carla Lee was just taunting me, dangling the forbidden food in front of me when I had done the right thing by choosing the vegan tacos.

For dinner, my daughter made some delicious Asian lettuce wraps with tofu, which tasted just like the chicken lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s. I had several servings.

Here’s what I learned from my vegetarian week: it is not that hard to be a vegetarian (for me, anyway), but being a vegan takes a lot more work. For instance, I love baked goods (who doesn’t?), but I realized that most sweet baked goods (cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and other things that make life worthwhile) contain eggs. Sure, you could use some vegan substitute in your own creations, but that won’t help you when someone at work brings in their famous chocolate-caramel cake with coconut topping, and you have to resist it all day, sternly reminding yourself of persecuted chickens.

Speaking of baked goods, here’s another thing I learned: being a vegetarian is not automatically healthy. Halfway through my week, a media rep brought in free donuts, and as I was passing them it dawned on me: donuts are vegetarian! So naturally I had one. Or maybe two.

Since my vegetarian week, I haven’t eaten much meat.  Most of the meat I’ve eaten since then has been accessory meat — pepperoni on pizza, a few shrimps in my pad thai, etc.  I could live without it.  Just back off my cheese, you Nut Tacos.

The next New Thing: Writing a song

To be forthright, I must admit I have written songs before. But the last one was in the ’80s, so I feel like anything I have not done in thirty years still qualifies as a New Thing (my blog, my rules).

I’ve always wanted to try writing a funny song – satire, parody, weird novelty song – so that’s my goal for the week ahead. As proof of my success, I will record my new creation and post it on the next blog


New Thing #4: Sunday at the Unitarian Church

In which I quietly, calmly and vaguely worship with the Unitarians.

As I said my previous post, I was intrigued by the all-accepting philosophy of the Unitarian Church — all faiths welcome, even if your faith is having no faith at all.  As a writer I was also a little curious about how you craft a sermon for such a group without offending anyone, or being incredibly vague.

I arrived at the church and was greeted by one of the only people under 65 in the whole place, who had me stick a red newcomer’s name tag on my chest (so much for blending in). The church building is a low-slung Frank Lloyd Wright-ish sort of affair with a lot of doors and courtyards (I kept finding myself accidentally outside). The most notable thing about the sanctuary is the absence of pews– instead, there are rows of chairs with cushions. Very comfy.

A charismatic older woman in a bright top greeted us and lit the chalice — which looked kind of like a giant fruit bowl with a candle in the center — to begin the service. We sang a hymn, the words for which were conveniently projected on the wall. The hymn did not mention God, but it did have the word Alleluia in it several times.

The woman in the bright top (I believe her name was Penny) related her experiences with meditation. She was warm and funny and authentic — if she had delivered the whole sermon, I would have really enjoyed it.  After another vague  hymn about flowing water and trees and compassion, however, she passed the service off to the guest minister, a novice Soto Zen Buddhist priest from North Carolina.

The Buddhist woman was a lovely, sweet and gentle person, but sadly, she was not a gifted orator. She seemed so nice that I was rooting for her to get better at it, right up to the end of her disjointed and meandering talk. Within the talk, there were some very nice metaphors and genuinely good insights, strung together with a lot of “ums.”  The two main ideas I gleaned were these: 1) Independence is an allusion. We are all dependent on one another, on the earth, on the air we breathe. We are all interconnected in our dependence. 2) One thing meditation teaches us is that in most moments, if we are in the moment, everything is okay. If we remember that, we can draw strength from it in those relatively rare moments when things are not okay.

Here is what I learned from my visit to the Unitarian church: in choosing a church, I thought that the philosophy of the church would be the most important factor. I was wrong. The atmosphere and the energy, it seems, are more important to me. The Unitarian church was lovely, but there were only a handful of people there under 70.  And there was no choir. According to their website the choir only performs on alternate Sundays. I really missed it.  The place was calm, clean, uncrowded, and sterile. Where were the moms hissing at  kids to shut up? Dads dozing off and snoring?

I guess to me, church is less about beliefs and more about community. Beliefs are portable.  If there is a detail of a sermon I don’t agree with, I can choose to ignore it.  But I can’t manufacture a feeling of belonging by myself.  Next Sunday I’m going to try a church closer to home.

The next New Thing: Road Trip!

My son is attending a rock and roll camp in Indiana this week.  On Friday, I will make the 4-hour drive to Indiana to see his camp band perform.  Not exactly the Odyssey, I know, but believe it or not, I have never driven on my own out of the state of Michigan. My husband usually drives on road trips.

I’m hoping to take a more epic road trip later in the Fifty Things, so this will be a good warm-up.







New Thing #3: Styling with Stitch Fix

If you asked a friend to describe me, I think they would use some positive adjectives — smart, funny, etc. But I don’t think “stylish” or “on trend” would be included. Fashion and I have had a love-hate relationship since the 7th grade, when suddenly all the other girls started caring what they looked like, instead of what was most comfortable during a game of kickball. Some fashion gene seemed to kick in for them. I think it may have been paired with the straight-teeth gene, because I didn’t get that either.

So Stitch Fix sounded like a godsend. Some stylist picks out clothes for you, based on your preferences, and sends them to you in the mail. I filled out a questionnaire answering questions like, “How do you like clothes to fit on your upper half?” and “What do you like to flaunt?” (Answers: Loose and Nothing). They also asked how much I wanted to spend (Answer: as little as possible). I signed up to receive a shipment every other month. The least frequent option was quarterly.

I paid a $20 styling fee, which I could deduct from any items I purchased. They told me my first “fix” would arrive on June 29 (not sure the addict language is entirely appropriate, especially for my first shipment). It showed up a day early. I love getting packages in the mail, even if it’s just a trial sample maxi-pad, so this was a treat.  The package contained three summer tops, a necklace and a pair of jeans.


There was a navy blue sheer sleeveless top with a gathered back (first two photos), an orange dolman-sleeve top, an orange-print halter top and a long gold and silver pendant necklace. The jeans (not pictured) were basic dark-wash straight leg jeans.

Everything fit! This was shocking, right off the bat. And everything looked pretty good on me. The halter top was the least attractive, because of my pasty white shoulders, but it still fit very nicely. The only exception: the blue jeans were at least a half a foot too long. To be honest, I was glad to have an excuse to send them back, because they were $88, which is a LOT more than I normally spend on a basic pair of jeans.

If you buy everything in the the shipment, Stitch Fix gives you a 25% discount, but I opted to keep just the navy blue and solid orange tops and the necklace (which I loved).  They supply you with a postage-paid plastic shipping bag — you just put the rejects inside, seal it and drop it off at the post office. They also encourage you to give them feedback on the pieces they send you, so they can hone in better on your style (if you have one).

The whole experience was really exciting (granted, I live a pretty quiet life), and I can’t wait for my next “fix” in August. My only complaint: I did ask for the clothes to be “as cheap as possible,” and two of the tops were $38, one was $58, and the jeans, as I said, were $88. This isn’t exorbitant, but I would hardly characterize it as cheap. But since my wardrobe could use some classing up, I was willing to splurge a little.

The next New Thing: Take me to church!

As a kid, I attended (okay, was forced to attend) church most Sundays. The only time I really enjoyed it was around the Christmas season, because the hymns were basically the Christmas carols that didn’t feature Santa, and I liked singing. I also got my own candle to hold on Christmas Eve, to symbolize the Light of Jesus. All I knew was that I was being entrusted with fire, which is a pretty heady thing when you’re seven years old.

After I got married, my husband and I still occasionally attended church, but once the kids started coming, it turned into a project that just seemed too exhausting on Sunday mornings. But I did miss having that time each week to focus on the big picture.

Now that my kids are older, I’d like to belong to a church again, but which one? I’d like to choose consciously, not just troop back to the Methodist church because that’s where I’ve always gone. I’m intrigued by the philosophy of the Unitarian Universalists:  they welcome anyone on a spiritual path, including Christians, Jews,  Buddhists, agnostics, atheists — whatever. So this Sunday I will be attending a Unitarian service near me.

New Thing #1: Hot Yoga


The story of my hot yoga experience, in which I do not die.

Let me admit, right up front, that I fully expected to HATE hot yoga. What few yoga poses I have attempted (usually in the cool-down portion of an aerobic workout video) I did not enjoy, and I don’t like exercising in the heat. But I felt I hadn’t given yoga a fair shake, and the closest studio to my house is Clarkston Hot Yoga. Ergo, Hot Yoga became Thing 1.

I signed up for a Thursday evening class, which I missed due to a massive traffic jam, so I ended up taking the class on Saturday morning. I was scared to take the class. Right before I was leaving work to go to the class on Thursday, a co-worker told me that the first time she tried it, she saw stars, and had to sit down to avoid passing out. This co-worker is in much better shape than I am. In fact, right now she is about eight months pregnant and is probably even now in better shape than I am, at least as far as yoga is concerned.

So before I went to the class I drank enough water to float a small dinghy.  My daughter told me to take a frozen water bottle to class with me, “or you will die.”  So I sloshed into the studio Saturday morning with my rock-hard water bottle and a mat and my health insurance card. I had to fill out a waiver absolving Clarkston Hot Yoga of any blame if I did, in fact, die during the class. With my confidence thus boosted, I took my mat and trudged to my doom.

The room was dim and sitar music was twanging, and about a dozen people were already in there (even though I was early), stretching and conspicuously breathing.  As advertised, it was hot. Like sauna hot, without the steam.  I did the few stretches I know and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. My smartest decision of the day was choosing a spot next to the wall, which would become my best friend.  Turns out my balance really sucks.

The instructor was cute and sweet and of course, extremely bendy. The first part of the class was composed of easy stretches, so I started to relax a little. Maybe I could survive this. Things got harder as we got into the middle of the class. I could do some of the poses, others I could do with modifications, and during the demonstration of some of them, I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. An actual quote from our instructor: “Just bend yourself in half . . . and breathe . . .”  There was one series that involved a lot of reaching back to theoretically grab your foot behind you. “That ain’t happenin'” became my mantra for this portion of the class.

About 15 minutes in, our instructor said, “It’s really hot in here today,” and because I’m a sarcastic bitch, my thought was, “Well spotted, Captain Obvious.” But then she actually went over to the thermostat and turned the heat down. So apparently for the first 15 minutes of class, we were doing Extra-Hot Yoga. And I lived to tell about it.

I did not see stars, or pass out, or have a heart attack. In fact, the biggest surprise of the day was that the heat was my favorite part of the class. It was kind of like slowly exercising while simultaneously having a hot bath. When I got done, I felt really loose and relaxed. And soaking wet.

I liked the relaxation, the heat, the calm feeling, the soothing music. The actual poses were still not my favorite thing to do. But the whole atmosphere of the place was soothing, so I signed up for more classes. And if you live anywhere near Clarkston, MI, let me tell you, they have a great deal for newbies at Clarkston Hot Yoga: thirty days of UNLIMITED classes for $39. They even let me count the $18 I spent for my first class as part of the $39, so I just had to pay an additional $21. And they are not paying me to tell you that. I wish they were, because I could use the money.


New Thing 2: Basic Coding

It seems like everybody knows how to do basic HTML coding these days. I am not part of that everybody. So this week I’m going to take a basic class in coding (I googled and there are many free classes online). After last week’s challenge, you could say I’m going from hot to code (rimshot, please!).  I’m hoping this will at least help me understand the web development guy at work, and maybe help me make the layout of this blog a little more interesting.