Tuesday, June 28

Find Your Extraordinary

Have you ever picked up a book expecting it to be fair, and been pleasantly delighted to find it far exceeds your expectations? At first glance, Find Your Extraordinary looked like another average business/positive thinking/self-help book. I figured it would be good for a few fun quotes, but didn't have terribly high expectations.

What I found, once I got started, was a funny, upbeat and refreshingly down to earth book that I'm so glad I had a chance to read. A veteran of the tech industry now happily founder and CEO of the Stella and Dot family of brands, Herrin is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In FYE, she reaches out to set others (primarily women) straight about what being successful is (and is not) and what takes (and what you'll need to leave behind) to get there.

Along the way, she covers a smattering of the usual subjects but - much more importantly- tells readers the kinds of unvarnished (but positively portrayed) truths they need to really find success. (Pursue your own definition of success, not others'. You can't have it all, but you CAN have all what's truly important to you. You will fail and have setbacks; it's not the end of the world - get up and try again.)

Best of all, she completely sidesteps or intentionally diffuses some of the bitterest and oldest standing feuds in the field: working moms vs. stay-at-home-moms, glass ceilings, work/life balance, and how women treat each other personally and professionally. Direct and firm, but kind, she lays waste to most of the things that women get hung up on and lines readers up on a healthy path to a better future.

All things considered, I think my favorite quote from the book encapsulates both Herrin's upbeat and encouraging writing style, and the pragmatic perspective that makes this book worth every penny and minute spent reading:

Do not confuse passion with fantasy. Living your passion will include doing things you detest doing. Things you are not good at. Things that scare you. Things that bore you. This is because you live in the real world, not on a unicorn farm.”

Monday, June 27

Sunscreen That Won't Make Your Skin Crawl

Okay, another short post today of stuff that's just randomly been on my mind. Today's topic: Sunscreen.

I'm not going to rant about the nasty crud stuffed into most commercial sunscreens, or wail about how sunscreen causes cancer – honest. All I'm here to do is point you in a helpful direction if, like me, you struggle to find a sunscreen that: 

(a) Isn't full of scary things;
(b) Doesn't feel horrifically gross and make your skin crawl; and
(c) Can consistently be easily found/ordered/purchased.

After lots of research and some experimentation, I'm officially a fan of Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen (SPF 30).

(This is not a sponsored post. Just trying to save other people time and energy I wish I hadn't had to invest in this project.)

Anyway, long story short, this stuff is clean, won't bother your skin (even if it's sensitive), and can be conveniently ordered from Amazon if your local grocery store doesn't have it. (Note: Lots of them do.) It's not quite as durable as some of the other stuff out there – you'll need to reapply if you're spending all day in the sun, but for me that's a fair tradeoff.

Is sunscreen something you worry about?

Saturday, June 25

Your Scrabble Word for the Day

Have you ever run across a word somewhere and just thought to yourself “that would be the best freaking Scrabble word ever”?

It happens to me all the time. Most recently, with this little gem I thought I'd share in case you've got a game planned or just generally appreciate slipping fancy words into conversation to enjoy other people's blank stares… not that any of us ever do that, of course…

Word of the Day: Machiavellianism
Definition: Viewing others as self-serving.

What do you think? Good Scrabble word? Yeah, I think so, too!

Thursday, June 23

How To Recondition A White Board

Clean Shiny White Board (Not mine, because I suck at
DIY photos... source)
Today's post is short and sweet, but I'm putting it up anyway because it's been on my mind.

Did you know you can recondition a white board for dirt cheap? The secret? WD-40.

No lie! All you do is scrub the white board down thoroughly (one of those nylon scrubby sponges works really well for this – you don't want to scratch it, but you do want to get all the old marker and dirt out). Dry it, then spray the surface with WD-40 and rub it in. Let it dry, and repeat if needed until you get a nice, fresh, glossy finish.

Tip: Much like waxing a hard wood floor, several thinner layers work better here than fewer, thicker ones. (See, Love? I was paying attention when we waxed the floor this year…)

I am a big fan of white boards for a lot of things, and the big one I keep just off my kitchen (which, incidentally, has been used daily for something like eight years) periodically needs redoing. I just finished reconditioning this past weekend, and thought the process might be worth mentioning in case it helps someone else.

Are you a white board fan?

Tuesday, June 21


It's a universally recognized truth that technology is wonderful… when it works.

Almost as often, it does a convincing job of embodying one of the circles of Dante's hell, causing chaos and aggravation where there shouldn't have to be any. I'm sure I'm far from the only person who has sworn furiously at a laptop that refuses to acknowledge the existence of a printer physically positioned less than a foot away, even though both are plugged in, powered on, wi-fi connected, and came in packaging that asserts they'll effortlessly auto-connect. Right.

I've long found ebooks to be a prime example of how the miracle of technology should work in our favor but usually doesn't.

Book Dragon (Source)
After a series of time-wasting, headache-inducing attempts to get ebooks on my Kindle from a variety of sources (such as free book review websites I belong to, the library system, etc.), I adopted a hard-and-fast rule of strategically avoided any ebooks that didn't come directly from Amazon. Everything else just seemed to cost more time and energy jumping through hoops, searching for files, or trouble-shooting why the book wouldn't open and display properly than I would have invested actually driving to the library and picking up a hard copy.

Just about the time I was starting to seriously believe that Dilbert's Mordac Preventer of Information Services might actually be real, my local library system did something amazing: they integrated Amazon with Overdrive! Whoo hoo!

For those of you who are not book dragons too cheap to fuel your own addiction (and therefore independent of the library), Overdrive is an online ebook and audiobook system that libraries can buy into. Library patrons then sign in using their library card info to 'borrow' digital materials. Some people swear by it, but personally I've never found it to be less than a huge pain to navigate and utilize. I mostly just stopped trying a couple years ago, in fact.

Recently, while looking for something in particular, I discovered entirely by accident that my library system's Overdrive setup has been upgraded! Now, when I select an ebook, one of the download options is a direct link to the book's page on Amazon. Instead of “buy now” the the button says “borrow now”. Click it, and the book is sent instantly and directly to my Kindle – no fuss!

End result: I don't have to fight the crazy, construction-mangled traffic patterns to get to the library. Instead, I remain happily hermit-ed away, reading for free on my Kindle, no headaches required.

There wasn't really a point to this post except to (a) post about something good that makes me happy, and (b) encourage you to go sneak a peak at your library's Overdrive page and see if you are the beneficiary of such an upgrade yourself.

After all, with Mordac's efforts plaguing most corners of daily life, sometimes it's a huge win to be reminded that there is hope for the kind of smoothly integrated, make-life-easier techology sci-fi has always promised us.

Sunday, June 12

Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body [Book Review]

I first heard about Cure when it popped up as highly recommended by health guru Chris Kresser. Once I started reading it, the was no question about why he loved it. Author Jo Marchant digs into the question of exactly how accurate the old maxim “mind over matter” really is, how far it actually goes in real life, why it works, and how we could (and in some cases already do) harness our minds' abilities to affect our bodies in radically positive ways.

The book covers a lot of ground, balancing science and research with the wide-ranging stories of real people either benefiting from mind-body science or whose dilemmas are driving the next wave of research. Marchant explores the situations and applications of/for everyone from pregnant women to burn victims to chronic disease patients to children growing up in poverty. She does an excellent job of making the science reader-friendly; you don't have love or be an expert in biology, chemistry, or neuroscience to get what you're reading and follow along. I occasionally thought there was room for improvement in the structure of some of the chapters, but over all it was a well-constructed and thought-provoking read.

The best aspect of the book, in my opinion, was the positive and affirming nature of both the stats and the conclusions. Marchant clearly demonstrates the value and potential of highly controllable factors such as placebos, rituals, and personal, intentional and compassionate care to revolutionize health and pain management in constructive, drastic, and economically powerful ways. She makes a solid case for integrating 'holistic' and 'alternative' health practices based on the mind-body connection with mainstream practices in ways that stand to benefit all of us. Perhaps even more importantly, Cure gives both individuals and care providers what they need to know to be empowered to take better care of themselves, their families, and their communities.