Taking the Time for Self-Care and Trying Not to Fly So Close to the Sun

Every now and then, you read something that really resonates with you. Five years ago, I read this post from Kristen Howerton on Rage Against the Minivan, which says: “Mark and I have a little phrase we use when we’ve tried to do something awesome that ended up being too much of a good thing: we flew too close to the sun.”

That phrase, flying too close to the sun, is my life so much of the time. Wonder Boy and I get invited to things and our discussion usually goes something like this:

We got invited to do XXX. Wanna do it?


It’s been too long since we’ve done XXX. Let’s schedule some time!

Here’s the part of the discussion we almost never have: ”Hey, our schedule is pretty full. Should we just say no?” Or, “Hey, you look like you’re about to fall asleep walking you’re so tired. Why don’t we pass and take it easy?”

In short, we don’t often say no. When we do, it’s couched in reasons and apologies and niceties. “No” is a complete sentence.* I need to say “No” more often. It’s a part of self-care that I’m not doing.

Around the new year, I did something really unusual for me. I signed up for a daily subscription meditation, self-improvement thing from Daily Om called “A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back!” My reaction to it is about 80% skeptical, but the $10 I spent has been worth a few of the helpful nuggets. This week the focus is on self-care and the question today asked about types of self-care that take us out of our comfort zone. It’s a timely question for me.

Several months back I won a Snooze or Cruise at work, which is a half day you can use without dipping into days off. As a rule, I don’t use time off unless I’m going somewhere. Days off are like gold to me and I carefully protect them. This free half day has been burning a hole in my pocket, though, and I decided to be frivolous with it – at least frivolous by my standards.

Last night I went to the Tegan and Sara concert and it was wonderful. I sang, I danced and stayed up past 1 am on a school night. Before I went to bed, I didn’t set my alarm so I could snooze and show up at work late. You guys! I got out of bed at 11 am. It was glorious! I feel refreshed and happier than I did yesterday. That contest prize was one of the best ones I’ve won and it has me reconsidering (only a little!) my take on the best ways o use paid time off. Doing nothing but sleeping when I could be going somewhere instead is outside of my comfort zone, but this morning was also much-needed self-care.

I’ve been flying way to close to the sun and I need to make some changes. I need to say no more often and with less excuses and I need to take care of myself more.

How do you make time for self-care? And how to you keep from flying too close to the sun? Seriously, I need tips because I need to make this a priority.

*”No” is a complete sentence is not an original thought, but too many people claim it online and in print for me to attribute to anyone accurately.

Very Important Poll: Do you iron your sweaters?

Ironing sweaters: the way to go or a waste of time?Every morning during the work week, and I do mean every morning, my husband irons his clothes. Me? I use that iron maybe once a month. No, that’s not even true. Every other month. Tops. He uses it so much that even the best of irons only lasts about two years in our house. This morning I was watching him get ready when I noticed him ironing his sweater. His sweater!!! Which leads me to this question:

Do you iron your sweaters?

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Raccoons and Ransom Notes

We found another ransom note in our backyard.

Sort of. Maybe I need to back up a bit.

Back in 2008, Wonder Boy and I found an ugly ceramic racoon in our backyard accompanied by the note, “Next time we take the cat.”

This igly raccoon statue was left in my yard alongside a ransom note.  A ransom note left in my backyard.

Fast forward two years and we found another ugly raccoon statue, accompanied by a note and a lot of golf balls. This note read, “We want our balls back. You know what we’re talking about.”

A ceramic raccoon left alongside a ransom note left in my backyard.A ransom note left in my backyard.

There are some trends here. Ransom notes that definitely refer to cats and also talk about either golf ball, or, potentially, cat testicles if this is some ardent non-believer of fixing cats.

After each of the notes, queried friends and family. Honestly, we never looked past friends and family. No one claimed it.

And now we’ve got another note, this time accompanied by two ugly raccoon statues. This one reads, “Cats, rats, freedom. Let them go, I’ll be watching.”

Raccoon statues and a ransom note found in my bacykard.

Once again, this leaves me wondering whodunnit. No one is laying claim. But I have other questions. Where does someone find so many raccoon statues? And are they spending money for them? I hope not much! And the notes… they take time. Who cares enough to take this time?

Reactions when we show people range from laughter to people being creeped out. I’m pretty entertained, though a little troubled by our growing collection of ceramic raccoons…

ISIS / Daesh & the Trade in Cultural Antiquities

I don’t know about you, but when stories about ISIS come on the news, I tend to change the station. It’s all dark, depressing stories of beheadings, cultural terrorism and people being cruel to people. But.

What I’ve seen happen in Facebook during the past week about Syrian refugees makes it obvious that we as a nation can’t have civilized dialogue about the situation and instead need to polarize it into an us versus them situation: Democrat versus Republican, conservative versus liberal, good Christian versus bad Christian, good religious person versus hypocritical religious person.

On the one hand, I’m over it and it’s barely started. On the other, this is clearly going to be a big issue for all of presidential candidates so I don’t want to check out too quickly. I want to be an informed citizen who can intelligently engage in the sort of healthy debate that our democracy was founded on.

And so, last night I attended one of the Insights Lecture Series at the Cincinnati Museum Center: “The Fight Against Cultural Terrorism: Disrupting the Trade in Blood Antiquities.” There was a lecture by Marion F. Werkheiser, a founding partner of the law firm Cultural Heritage Partners. The goal of the talk wasn’t to inform people about ISIS in general. Rather, it was to discuss how ISIS makes used of cultural terrorism and racketeering to fund their efforts and make their mark in communities they invade. I learned a lot and wanted to share some of that.

One of the first things Werkheiser shared was this video from ISIS destroying a museum in Mosul. It’s s terrible video in terms of the culture and history being lost, but it’s safe for work and includes no violence.

Werkhiser also introduced me to a new label for ISIS: Daesh. This is an acronym for Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham, the full Arabic term for what English speakers translate as the Islamic State. Doubly offensive to folks in ISIS. Acronyms are rarely used in Arabic so they sound ridiculous to Arabic speakers. AND, Daesh sounds a lot like the Arabic word “dais,” which means something that crushes or tramples. To folks in ISIS, that’s a horrible connotation.

Following Werkhiser’s lead, I’ll refer to ISIS as Daesh in the rest of this summary of her talk.

Because of my open-minded stance on news stories about Daesh, I was not familiar with what they were doing beyond terrorism to people.  I had no idea that they were funding their work through the looting of antiquities. Shame on me for this because I was vaguely aware of hearing about the murder of archeologist Khaled al-Asaad a while back but didn’t put the pieces together on why he was killed. If you’re like me and need a recap, the overly abbreviated version is that al-Asaad had been leading work at Palmyra and was doing his best to preserve and protect that site. (Get more details about Palmyra and why it’s such a big deal.) Daesh doesn’t want to encourage dialogue between cultures or people identifying with an era before they were in power and so are destroying things pre-them and in the destruction of a place like Palmyra, they were able to loot antiquities, which they can later sell and fund their work (think weapons and ammo).

When Daesh takes over an area, they often charge taxes in the form of antiquities instead of cash. It’s more valuable. When they start looting a historical site (many UNESCO World Heritage Sites), one tactic they use is to build homes on top of the site and then do their digging through living room floors. Activities occurring in someone’s home are much more difficult to monitor.

All of this is terrible, but what does it have to do with those of us in the US? Guess where the stolen antiquities are being sold? Lots of places, but the US is high on that list. And the amount of antiquities being sold? It’s gross.

As one example, Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham “and her colleagues examined satellite images taken before and after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution of two major sites in Egypt, el Lisht and el Hibeh. The team measured the extent of looting holes in each image and compared the results. In a case study published online by DigitalGlobe, Parcak “found a 400 to 500% increase since the events of 2011.”

– from “New Evidence Ties Illegal Antiquities Trade to Terrorism, Violent Crime” in National Geographic

If you want an example that’s a little closer to home, how’s this? The FBI is investigating the owners of Hobby Lobby, who are in the process of building the Museum of the Bible. (SourceSource, Source) While I applaud the museum on a very clever logo, it’s remarkably irresponsible if the museum is filled with stolen items whose purchase inadvertently funds international terrorism.

Werkhiser proposed a few things that could curb this cultural terrorism and racketeering. The one I most understand is a move to referring “blood antiquities,” building off of the success around encouraging to buy conflict-free diamonds. By using familiar terminology, it will be easier to help people to understand the problem with buying antiquities that aren’t certified as being an authentic, legitimate sale. Another is to not purchase antiquities, which to me sounds obvious but apparently more people buy them than I know. The last, which is potentially the biggest and most effective, is for the Arab League members to form a regional coalition that calls on countries like the US where antiquities are sold and to ask them to assist in stopping those sales.  I’d like to think that countries would be super cooperative with this, but getting issues like this through our government has proven harder than it sounds.

In the meantime, organizations like CyArk are making 3D scans of precious heritage sites so people can see simulations of them. It’s not the real thing, but it’s something. Another preventive measure being taken is that museums threatened by Daesh are being emptied with items being sent to safe havens to protect them.

Three Things That Mean Home

Home is where the heart is. – Pliny the Elder

This place you return to is home. – Kirsty Gunn

Where though art, that is home. – Emily Dickenson

Quotes about home abound. But what makes a place a home? I don’t know if there are things that apply to everyone, but here is what makes my home … home.

1. This Face. Wonder Boy the perfect travel partner, as trips around the world for the past ten years have proven, and he makes my life and home a happier place.

Jason in a Haka Topi Kathmandu, Nepal.

Wonder Boy at Brew Ha Ha in CIncinnati in 2012.

Me and Wonder Boy in a workshop at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, making trim for costumes.

2. This Face. Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie, is my not-so-little shadow. He hates to be picked up (see his face in the first image below) but loves to nap in my lap. When he rests his little chin on me, it’s perfection.

Biggie spends half of his time looking terrified of me - mostly when I'm picking him up.

Biggie sleeps soooo much. My favorite is when he naps right on top of me.

3. History. Throughout my home are details of both mine and Wonder Boy’s pasts. An antique bookshelf by the front door. And old clock on the fireplace mantle. Photo albums that pictures going back to long before either of us were born. Mementos from all of the trips I’ve traveled in with Wonder Boy. Stuffed animals and toys from when we were little. I try not to dwell too much in the past, but the past is what makes me who I am and what prepares me for what comes next. Having pieces of my history around me helps me feel armed for the future.