jakebe: (Buddhism)
Today is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and contemplation for those of us who practice Christianity. It begins with Ash Wednesday, where Christians are marked with the ashes of palm leaves that had been blessed during last year's Palm Sunday and told "From dust you are, and to dust you will return." Over the next six weeks -- ending with Easter Sunday -- worshippers engage in prayer, penance, the giving of alms, and self-denial. For most of us who are a bit more secular, Lent is mainly a way to feel a bit better about falling off of our New Year's Resolutions by vowing to give up a bad habit for 40 days or so.
I've always been fascinated by festivals of self-denial and contemplation. Shortly after 9/11, a friend of mine still in high school practiced Ramadan as a show of solidarity with the local Muslim community and I joined in. I learned an awful lot about my relationship with food over that time and just how hard it is to deny yourself something if you've gotten used to indulging in it whenever you wanted. As the month went on, I cultivated a significant appreciation of food -- getting up before sunrise every morning to make breakfast helped me to spend some time in the quiet, loving the small bit of food I'd take in to last me the rest of the day. And eating at sunset -- often with other people -- was almost always something special. The whole month brought a mindfulness to eating and gave me a newfound respect and joy when it came to breaking bread with other people. I may not act on the lessons I've learned there right now, but I still remember them.
The period of Lent is meant to give Christians a small taste of what it must have been like for Jesus Christ those forty days he wandered in the desert before beginning his public ministry. It's a way to take a step back, focus on the things that are really important to you, put yourself in a space where you think about things a little differently. The most popular aspect of Lent -- self-denial -- can still be useful even to those of us who aren't practicing Christians by showing us just how much we've come to rely on certain things and just how little we actually need them.
If you're Christian and about to embark on the forty-day contemplation of Lent, I wish you a wonderful and holy season. If you're non-Christian and using this as an opportunity to examine your relationship to something you think you can't do without, good luck. You absolutely can, and I hope you'll have a deeper appreciation of yourself and how you work when Easter Sunday rolls around.
Me, I'm going to do my best to give up mindlessness over Lent. It's a bit of a cheat, but really zeroing in on habitual behaviors -- especially when they're negative -- is something I could really use. It's all right to get some down time, of course; but it's so much better when that's a conscious decision I've made as opposed to a default behavior I fall into whenever there's free time. I will do my best to cultivate mindfulness, to speak, write and act with purpose, to strive to make myself, my surroundings and my fellow man better.
Now it's just a matter of figuring out exactly how to do that! Are any of you giving up something for Lent? What does the observance mean to you? Have I gotten anything wrong in my understanding of it? Let me know in the comments!
jakebe: (Cheeky)
It kind of snuck up on me this year, but today is the first day of Lent. I know a lot of us are waking up hungover from the Mardi Gras parties, but I'm curious to know who's observing it this year.

Are you observing Lent this year? If so, why? What does it mean to you? And what are you giving up?

I started observing Lent several years ago as a show of solidarity with [livejournal.com profile] belly4you, who is only the most awesome Catholic this side of the Pope. It can be lonely being the only one sacrificing something if you don't have someone in the trenches with you, after all. Since then, I've tried to at least think about the nature of sacrifice, denial and discipline, even if my own resolutions don't quite pan out.

This year, I'm just going to stick to my current resolutions. I'll meditate every day, I'll write 3500 words a week, and I'll stick to 1600 calories or less a day. I think I'll also add giving up meaningless 'filler' responses when someone says something to me. I know it's a perennial pet peeve for my dear husband. :)

Day Five

Feb. 26th, 2007 08:10 am
jakebe: (Default)
A few thoughts on the Oscars:

+ Ellen did a pretty good job this year; she was a perfect fit for an awards show that didn't want to get too pointed or mean, and that wanted to make people feel at ease. I do hope they ask her back next year. :)

+ The Departed wins Best Picture? I was pretty aware that Scorsese would win the 'futility vote' and finally nab Best Director, but let's be honest: this was not his best work. And with the other contenders in the field this year, Best Picture should definitely have gone somewhere else. My vote was for Babel which was just as complex as The Departed and carried out better. I definitely have to see Little Miss Sunshine, though, and Notes From a Scandal, The Lives of Others and West Bank Story.

+ Best awards speech? I'm now smitten with Jennifer Hudson, who goes from American Idol-loser to Best Supporting Actress 2006 for Dreamgirls. There's just something about someone who lets their emotions run away with them up there on the stage in a completely honest way. And she's also endearingly ghetto. :) Helen Mirren and Forrest Whitaker gave pretty good speeches, too.

+ Pan's Labyrinth got upset for the Best Foreign Language Oscar? The Lives of Others looks like quite an interesting movie, and now I have to see it all the more to gather what the fuss is about.

+ I picked 13 categories correctly (though to be fair, a few of those were just lucky guesses), swiping second in the Oscars Derby amongst the party-goers. *shakes his fist at Malin* Next year, victory...WILL BE MINE!

+ Though the party was a lot of fun, I did miss [livejournal.com profile] bamboofae. Oscars night was one more excuse to throw a big party with the proshest hors d'oeuvres and make a day out of fagging out together. Hope your party was just as fun, V. :)

I almost caved yesterday when I learned there would be carrot cake(!!) for dessert. Thankfully, Ryan swooped in as my Jiminy Cricket and suggested we go home early, so I had a box of raisins and tried to put thoughts of cream cheese frosting out of my mind. :)

It's getting steadily easier, actually, so I can focus more on the writing end of the deal then the not-sweets-having. That's been a bit more difficult to maintain. The hardest part, obviously, is getting started, but once I'm in the groove I'm there for a while -- increasingly longer periods, in fact. It's odd, because I'm starting to notice a shift in how I plan my day...things are becoming less geared towards what brings me pleasure immediately, towards what will make for optimum writing conditions when I get to sit down and do it. I do like the feeling.

Anyway, there's a lot of writing I should probably be doing now, as well as cleaning, so I guess I should run off and do that.

Day Three

Feb. 23rd, 2007 05:43 pm
jakebe: (zen-coyote)
The craving for sweets has mainly surfaced as a need to buy *something*; usually I have a cookie or cinnamon bun with my coffe, or chocolate as a small reward for getting something on my 'to-do' list done. Without these small bribes to myself to rely on I've been a little unfocused and lethargic at work. It's interesting to note, actually, that I had somehow managed to turn my addiction to sweets into an impetus to work hard. :)

I've been trying to shift other foods into the snacky realm that cookies had once occupied, but those mini-boxes of raisins are already starting to lose their effect. ("These would be so much better if they were covered in chocolate," I always think to myself.) Mostly, I've been trying to think of ways around my self-imposed abstinence; stuff like banana bread and carrot loafs are technically baked goods, so they can't really be considered sweets. So far I've managed to dodge the moral grey area, but who knows how long I'll hold on. I've compromised a bit and had a croissant with butter and a little single-serving packet of strawberry jam.

Speaking of work, things are going pretty smoothly. I had my first buyer's meeting yesterday, and we spent the entire 90 minutes interviewing a person for my music dept. position and shooting the breeze about various projects that are in various stages of completion, and our repositioning the jobs into distinct 'teams'. It's a far cry from the cigars and single-malt Scotch I had been envisioning, to be sure. It also left me with only 20 minutes for lunch/dinner before I had to take the register. Grr!

Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn is a fantastic album, and don't let anyone tell you differently. :)

Writing is coming along! I was planning to spend my lunch hour getting in my minimum quota, but for various reasons (read: falling into the Teen Titans graphic novels instead) that didn't happen. I'll have to be extra-vigilant about getting the writing done at home instead, which shouldn't be too big a deal. I still have a lot of the story to write if I want to have it done anywhere close to Monday, and I haven't even started on the homework that's been assigned for it. But I work best under the pressure of a deadline. Really. *twitch*

Minigolf tonight, the first game of the new year! Wheee! :D

Day One

Feb. 21st, 2007 01:53 pm
jakebe: (Default)
Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone!

For the next 40 days or so, I'll be abstaining from a good majority of sweets; this includes all cookies and cookie-like confections, most chocolates and fatty desserts, and fruit-based gelatinous candies. I might make the occasional exception for a fruity pastry or something once a week. In place of all the cookies and such I normally eat, I was thinking of learning about what sort of fruit is in season this time of year and stocking up on dried raisins and cranberries, that sort of thing. Also, microwave popcorn is your friend when you can't have Twix. :9

Ryan suggested that I not only focus on the abstinence part of spirituality (because you have to admit, that's the part that gets the most press) and try to replace any negative activity I give up with a positive habit. I like the idea, so I'm making a pledge to write at least 500 words every day throughout Lent's entirety. I figure if I manage to keep up with this, I'll finally start hacking away at all the backlog for stories I've got building up!

Last night we had beans and rice and ground beef for dinner, in honor of Mardi Gras. It was pretty good stuff, especially when paired with Key Lime pie. Yum!

Work is being worky; I'm slowly settling in to the whole promotion thing. Everything officially switches over on March 1st, and after that I have no idea what it is I'll actually be doing. They're hiring a full-time music person to replace me, so I assume I'll go back to shelving books at least some of the time. Non-fiction paperbacks would be a great section to start in with, since it's pretty much the entire bookstore in miniature. And, according to the fellow who'll be leaving that section up for grabs on March 1st, it's one of the best sections in the store!

Still working through Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth. Between all the writing and TV watching and (admittedly) online socializing I haven't had much time to read; usually what I get is the bus ride to work and back. This is another reason I haven't been biking very much to work. It's productive time, but it leaves a bit to be desired as far as exercise goes. I might take up running again to fill in the gap, along with stretching exercises and crunches and the like. How hard can that be?

Anyway, Twain is really impressive in almost every topic he takes on. He's got the gift of gab, that's for sure. ;) I'm really curious about the circumstances surrounding his complete dismantling of the writing of James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans). One minute he's writing down a bedtime dialogue between himself and his daughters, the next he's just tearing this guy apart. What gives?

Today I was on phone duty when I got a call from a UPS guy in the back; they tend to call when they make deliveries so they can be let in. The guy had a package, specifically sent for me at my work address. Buh? I sign off on it, tear it open right there in the hallway and lo and behold, it's a wine-tasting kit thing from [livejournal.com profile] theottsel! It's a mucho-awesome surprise, I can't wait to get home and try it out. :D Thanks a lot, you!

Today's creepy message from the mini-box of SunMaid raisins I've been snacking on: "A handful of raisins is like a bunch of smiles in your mouth." For some reason, imagining this reminds me of Sprite's Sublymonal advertising campaign. Don't ask me why.

The Oscars are Sunday! Wow, that snuck up on me. This'll be my first Oscars away from Arkansas (*sniff*), so I'll be thinking of Virginia and crew a lot this weekend. I have my theories about who'll win and why, and if I can manage before the envelopes are opened I'll put them up. The Best Picture race should be really interesting; there's nothing that really jumps out from the pack, buzzwise. You can knock a few out of the race by process of elimination (Little Miss Sunshine?, but at least three films have a legitimate shot of taking it.

Oh! Speaking of movies, there are new reviews up on [livejournal.com profile] 2guysreviews. Let us know what you think!
jakebe: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] toob is down south somewhere, finally getting the training he needs for his new job. I've been missing him lots since Sunday, and I'll be *very* happy to have him back tomorrow. :D Ahhhh, Lost and Heroes on Friday night with the best otta in the world. :D :D

[livejournal.com profile] dnapalmhead came over on Sunday and crashed for a few days, post-insano refinery job. It was really great to hang out with him for a while, catch up and chat and everything. He showed me City of God, I showed him Pleasantville, both knocking a hit for our fave movies. He also showed me "Tyrannosaurus Debt," which I had never seen. Anthropomorphizing the national debt is a fabulous idea, especially under this administration. It's growing out of control! ;D

Tuesday night we had dinner with Duncan at an Indian buffet. It wasn't bad food, actually, but the wine left a lot to be desired. To compensate we bought *more* wine and chatted up until late in the evening. Wednesday DNA ninja-vanished for all parts easterly (aww!) and we hosted a poker night at our place that night. [livejournal.com profile] seamusyote ended up taking both tables, though [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi *really* wanted that second one. Next time fox. :D

Today I finally caught up on some much-needed sleep, and I've been just bumming around for the most part. It's the first bit of downtime I've had in a little bit, so I think I'll enjoy it by being totally slothful.

At work, I told the asst. manager that I couldn't afford to keep working there for the pay I was getting, and she told the big boss, who either feigned ignorance and completely forgot about it when I told him about it at the beginning of this week. (At this point, either one of those could be true.) Long story short, I applied for a 'promotion' that was opening at the store, and it looks like I'll definitely be getting it. The pay is a lot better (though, according to Tube, not what I *could* be getting somewhere else), and it puts me in with the actual business of a used bookstore. I'll learn how to tell a good book from a bad one, the histories of publishing companies, how to price a book for buying/trading and selling, etc. etc. Since this puts me on track to become intimately involved with the used book business, I'm kind of excited about it. We'll see how it works out.

With writing, it's been...non-existent since NaPoeWriMo ended. Well, virtually; I've been working on a bit of macrophilic fiction but haven't gotten very far, and the short story I'd like to submit to the writer's group sometime in the next month or so hasn't grown any sort of legs yet. I have one draft finished, but it's awful and only works as a foundation for what I really want to do with the story. Now that things seem to be calming down a little, I can start working on both of those finally, really getting in touch with the characters.

Lent is coming up; I just remembered thanks to a friend's tip. I don't know how people from other religions feel about non-adherents nicking their holidays and practices and rolling them up to a mish-mash of personal spirituality, but I insist on doing just that anyways. This year, I think I'll give up sweets and cookies precisely because they've become my personal vice over the past year. To replace them, I make the vow of writing every single day. Maybe I could have a personal Mardi Gras of an ice cream social/book party. :D

Because I've changed my Netflix account to be merged with Ryan's, I'm afraid I've lost my friends list. I do really enjoy using the Friends feature, but I can't just throw up a nifty page to join with folks; I have to send out each invitation via e-mail. So, if you guys could either throw up your address in a comment or just mail me directly at jakebe at g m a i l d o t c o m, I'd greatly appreciate it!

Now, to have lunch and continue touching bases with people...hooray!

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