15 July 2012

Spirit Walking

I've always felt most at peace in the comfort of the Great Outdoors. I spent hours as a girl, digging up toads, hunting snakes and chasing wild barn cats. I got grounded for playing in the tall prairie grasses behind our house, because Mom didn't particularly appreciate the job of removing ticks that had found their way onto my skin as I made "snow angels" in the weeds.

So why my longing for the city? Well, with my addiction for adventure, I also wanted to explore what else was out there. There were only so many trees to climb and animals to admire, so after I turned 18, I moved to the city. And though I love my lifestyle and am constantly bemused by all that surrounds me in this beach city, the great outdoors is where I still seek comfort, inspiration, and most importantly, some much-needed OCD therapy. Here are some of the ways that I continue to keep the earth's natural abundance in my life while I'm far away from my farmland upbringing.

I try to spend several minutes in every day, connecting to the air outside even if I don't have time to indulge in an outdoor activity; even if that means just stepping onto my outdoor patio to breath in the scent of the blossoms from my citrus trees.

I also take bi-weekly 5-mile walks with my friend and neighbor (Joni Oldfield - who founded the county's leading personal pet care business: http://www.animalamour.com/.) Our form of walking meditation is great exercise, but more than that, it has become trading-stories soul therapy. We both adore animals, so when I interrupt our walking conversations to point out a cotton tail or a cute dog or a plant I want in my yard, she understands. Our morning strolls create that sense of calm from the outside in as I imagine the natives might have felt when journeying through a spirit walk. I try to imagine myself in that space even though I'm still surrounded by so much white noise.

A giant bird landing in the Back Bay where we walk.
One dewy morning we witnessed a female coyote and her pup playing amidst the grasses of the Back Bay. We stopped at the fence and just stared ... taking in the beauty of that moment in nature we happened to come across. You can't plan or control an occurrence like that, and I think that's what is so soothing to my OCDite mind. It instantly curbs the madness.

Another morning we decided to change our route and explore an area I'd always wanted to see, but stayed away because it was marked "PRIVATE." Braver with the support of each other, we ventured down the hill and discovered a serenely private lake! A tropical paradise in its sounds and smells - it was almost eerie - as if we'd stepped through a magical curtain to another world. We both looked at each other, like, "where are we?" And then we heard the cries of some very large birds - almost prehistoric looking. They were perched in a nest high up in the tallest trees, resting in the sky with their babies. It was breathtaking, majestic. It was one of those moments where you imagine hearing orchestral music in the background, because it couldn't be real. 

I've also recently taken up paddle boarding. It really isn't as hard as it looks, and is another fantastic reason to be outdoors. I highly recommend it even to those of my readers who aren't near the ocean - a lake location is perfecting for paddling. Gliding across the bay with only a board separating you from the jumping fish in the water and the flocks of birds landing beside you ... these are the kinds of experiences that ground me and bring me out of my daily OCD mind.

The view from my paddle board ...

So, my OCDites, I advise you to take a few moments everyday - especially now that summer has officially arrived - to step outside and breathe. Walk. Jog. Swim. Boat. Paddle Board. Kayak. Camp. Garden. Ride your Bike. Whatever you choose, try to notice the difference in your demeanor (or don't and just enjoy), but try to carry that feeling with you throughout the rest of your day and the rest of your week. We are meant to connect rather than separate ourselves from nature. We become so wrapped up in making homes for ourselves that we forget that the clarity we seek might just be outside. So get outside, my OCDite friends, and enjoy the beauty of Summer!

***Back Bay photos courtesy of my paddle buddy Jay Ryu

13 April 2012

Coupons, Consignment Stores and Items I Adore ... Oh My!

I got the idea from my Mom. Always helpful, my Mom is my rock, but Dad is usually my go-to for financial advice and/or lectures. He is often much more logical than Mom and I when it comes to spending. (I inherited my shopping habit from her after all.)

But on our daily check-in as Mom was walking the dog and I was immersed in systematizing my spice rack, she offered, "Why don't you apply your OCD to saving money? Make it a challenge to see how much you can save!"

At first, I appreciatively responded with, "that's not how it works, Mom." But considering the fact that I'm living on a starving artist's salary these days, I paused to give her Momism moment a second thought. I've spent the past two years doing what I love, dispensing my creativity with everything that relates to writing from technological press releases to advertisements to beefed-up bios for friends in diverse professions to editorial features in So Cal's hottest magazine. I've recovered my voice and myself after a 7-year snooze. However, at the same time I am struggling to maintain the So Cal lifestyle this OCDite has sold her soul to achieve.

Because most OCDites strive to be surrounded by consistent items of comfort in order to cultivate control and order in our lives, I find that it is a much larger challenge for us to make financially necessary lifestyle changes than your average person. And I feel, that it's necessary to explain why some sacrifices can be paralyzing once we're used to having them.

For example, I recently had to part with my beloved 2009 Honda Hybrid, because it turned out to be a lemon - just my luck. I searched for a deal on that damn car for nearly 3 years! But, it was obvious that this car was defective, so I set out to purchase a new vehicle, surrounded by anxiety due to the entirely sudden situation. So although I should have sought a more suitable bargain car due to my decreased income, I could not avoid the plague of already having my mind set on a particularly perfect car. Purchasing anything less would have been a 5-year burden I was not willing to carry, so I "wheeled and dealed" and came home with my shiny, sporty new car. But in avoiding one weight I added another - I now have to figure out how to compensate for my slightly higher car payment. Mom's advice is ringing in my ears.

Now, I wouldn't say that challenging myself to live on a lower budget is necessarily OCD behavior; however, tracking, monitoring and calculating feed right into this disorder and in some cases, can be very useful.

I am and always have been acutely aware of my finances - tracking and logging each penny that I spend - thanks to my Dad. The money my brother and I earned from doing daily chores wasn't given to us to put in piggy banks. It was smartly whisked away into our very own checking accounts, which Dad also taught us to balance. I remember cherishing my first little leather log of minimal finances. Now I place every detail of my financial activity into efficient - and of course pretty - Excel spreadsheets. But back to the object obsession that occurs inside an OCDite's mind: I know I should consult with my categorized budget before purchasing an $800 anthology of beautiful leather bound books, but it would just look so stunning on my bookshelves!

So how does an OCDite take her organized tracking and turn it into saving since so often the obsessive compulsive urge is to obtain rather than to dispose? Start engrossing your urges in ways to save! Here are a few tips on how I took Mom's advice and practically applied it to my disorder:

  1. Recycle. If you live in Orange County, our waste management service sorts and does the recycling for us; however, why not make the extra effort, do it yourself, and make an additional $20 a month!
  2. Pay attention to coupons. Usually, I get my mail, and throw half of it away, because it's advertisements, but there really are usable coupons in there. You should also go to the websites of the stores you shop in, because they always promote more savings on the sites than they do in the stores.
  3. Have a rummage sale. (aka a garage sale to you SoCal natives) It can be a lot of work, but if you invite your neighbors, it can be a really fun way to spend your Saturday morning while making money. Post a couple signs on the street corners, maybe post an ad on Craig's list, and I promise, the people will come. But make sure you start early - like 7 am - because that's when the bargain shoppers shop. I made $200 before 10 am during our recent rummage sale. Electronics and unique finds seem to be the most popular items. I also sold nearly $100 worth of jewelry at $1 each. The pieces were unique and trendy, but they were all inexpensive costume jewelry items. I find that the sale is all in the display, so rather than throw a bunch of earrings and necklaces on a table; I hung the items from wire cabinets and picture frames, which drew people in. A creative display makes items look more expensive - more special. One woman liked my display case idea so much that she purchased the actual cabinet, which I didn't originally intend on selling!
  4. Order your necessities online. If I run out of Bliss body lotion or Dior mascara, I order those items online from sites that don't charge shipping. Why? Because if I make the short drive to South Coast Plaza, I'll end up picking up a new fragrance or eye cream and then be drawn into the shoe store next door, and pretty soon, I've spent the rest of my month's budget on items I adore but certainly don't need.
  5. Make a list of at-home projects to keep you busy in your free time. There is always a closet to clean or a crafty idea to organize, so make a list to refer to when you have extra time instead of heading out the door to see what's new at The Hidden Jewel. (my favorite boutique in Costa Mesa! Sorry - I know that's not helping.) 
  6. Get the bulk of your groceries at your local farmer's market. Sure, you'll need to stop by Ralphs to get milk and butter and maybe bottles of water, but purchase most of your products at the farmer's market and you'll find that it's a lot easier on your budget. In addition to fabulous produce, many farmers markets are starting to carry beef and seafood and eggs as well as bread, so grab some greens, some fruit, fresh salmon and even some snacks for the week, and you'll have saved enough to dine at your favorite new restaurant over the weekend.
  7. Recycle those clothes that have been unworn for more than a year at your favorite consignment store. Let's be honest, if it's been more than a year and you're still waiting for the perfect occasion to wear that sparkly French Connection sweater, it's not going to happen. So why not sell it to someone who will get some use out of it? Keep in mind that the stores that will give you the most money for your precious pieces expect to see on-trend, in-season items when you sell. So if you have a gorgeous Marc Jacobs wool sweater, don't try to sell it in the summer. Stash it away until next season. My favorite local consignment shop is Crossroads Trading Co. in Costa Mesa. It continues to expand and can be a little daunting if you're trying to shop, but their window displays prove that those girls know what's in, and they're willing to pay fairly when they see suitable fashion. Address: 1835 Newport Blvd. (at 19th and Harbor) crossroadstrading.com
So whether you're saving money for emergency funds or that unique vintage find, try applying these ideas as a way to reach your goals without breaking the bank - all while fulfilling your own crazy compulsions.

Happy saving or shopping this Spring!

31 January 2012

Wanna Join My Mile-High Club?

Forty-eight pounds and seven ounces . . . awesome! It all fit with enough room for a 1-pound souvenir.

I'm headed to Turks and Caicos for my annual vaca with the fam, and am proud of another perfectly packed bag. After 10 years of flying from my new home to my home where I grew up, I've become an expert. It's kind of like a challenge: see how many tropical outfits I can neatly organize in a 30 x 26 inch bag with coordinating accessories and swimsuits, of course! You might assume that packing for an OCDite is more scary than soothing - and for some, it probably is - but for me, it's kind of like Tetris (which was obviously created by a fellow OCDite). It is satisfying and soothing to know that I am leaving with an impeccably organized case of gear, using each inch of suitcase space for items which are simultaneously suitable for both meeting the man of my dreams and diving for conch.

So the bag is packed and I'm ready for my journey. But the thing I will never enjoy about traveling - no matter how many times I do it - is embarking on the thought of mass transportation. I am not afraid of flying. I don't care if it's by ship, train or soaring through the air on a 747 - the thought of maintaining my space and systematic habits amidst hundreds of people packed like sardines makes my skin crawl . . . every time.

 We had an entire row to ourselves, which was great. However, this was the flight where the attendants claimed there were no blankets (see below), and it was freezing cold. (thus, my fetal position)

Here are just a handful of the undesirable encounters this OCDite has a hard time handling:
  • the guy who gets on the plane last and tries to shove his over-sized carry-on into my lovingly placed bag in the overhead until I'm certain, he's smashed my new sun hat!
  • sneezing passengers who have never heard of covering their mouth
  • chatty Cathy's who won't take a hint
  • travelers who step right in front of you at baggage claim when you've clearly placed yourself in that position for a reason, so now I can no longer see the carousel
  • dumbos who forgot to get that very important item out of their carry-on before they sat down and can't wait 15 more minutes until the regulated elevation to eat their snack, so they hold up take-off
  • the guy who pees on the seat when he obviously knows that's the ONLY bathroom for all of us for the next 9 hours!
  • the woman who rudely steps on your foot to get off the plane 1st even when she's seated 1 row behind me. I mean, unless you have another flight to catch, wait your turn.
  • the flight attendant who says, "I'm sorry. There are no blankets on this flight," when the first classers are clearly cocooned in airline throws. I'm cold!
All of this causes severe anxiety for me. And forget it; if I can't get an aisle seat, I am not getting on the plane. I will transform into the crazy guy from the 80s Twilight Zone movie if I do not have the ability to freely get out of my seat when I choose. It's like the worst claustrophobia you can imagine if I'm seated at a window or in the dreaded middle seat. If we're going down, I don't want anyone blocking my path to that exit, because they can't figure out how to get their seatbelt off. 

For my other OCDite friends who have struggled to stay sane throughout your travels, I do have suggestions or an organized routine, rather, that I have cultivated in order to provide myself a small sense of comfort so I don't elbow the large person beside me who is taking up half my seat.

I get into the navigation zone. I reach my seat and place everything I think I'm going to need during the flight in my seat pocket, so that there's no need to empty the contents of my carry-on and watch my favorite chapstick roll away while I dig for my Ipod. I always keep "airplane socks" in my carry-on, so I pull those out and put them on. (The blast of recirculated airplane air always seems to be pointed straight at the floor.) I dab lavender aromatherapy or whatever flavor I'm carrying at the time behind my ears, on my chest and in my hands, which is an instant mind easer for me. I carry essential oils and travel-sized mists on a daily basis, and they come in particularly handy when I'm flying. The aid in distracting my olfactories from a fellow passenger who must have forgotten deodorant before departing as well as that distinct airplane smell that is impossible to get out of your clothes. What is that? I shut my eyes and wait until the announcement of "it is now safe to use your portable electronic devices," and reach for my Ipod and choose my happy-place playlist. My happy place is filled with the Afghan Whigs, Peter Gabriel and Toto. How about you? And then, I meditate for the rest of the flight on how amazing it's going to be to lay on the beach everyday for the next week and I imagine how the ocean is going to sound when I'm falling asleep at night and how many lobsters I think I can eat in 7 days - until the flight attendant runs over my toe with her cart, and snaps me out of my vision, but thankfully, we're approaching our descent, so it's almost time to get off this vessel of germs.

I start to get excited, and this is why it is worth it for me to put myself through the trek of torture. I get to land in a place like Turks and Caicos where the bliss that ensues upon arrival far outweighs a pre-board panic attack.

Parasailing. I am in that parachute, and as much as I had my moments of wanting down, it was one of the more amazing experiences I've ever had.

Snorkeling. Peace out my undersea friends!
With these travleing tips, you'll survive your next trip with a little more zen, and you will be happy that you did. Bon Voyage!