reframing failure

Today, I had a disappointment. It was big. And I’m okay with that.

Here’s why: I know that true disappointment, deep disappointment, means I’ve identified a goal and tried my darnedest to achieve it. Not getting it is almost beside the point: trying is the point. Failure means I’m trying, really trying, to achieve goals, even if they might be out of my reach.

So, what can I fail at next? I’m compiling quite a list of possibilities over here, things to aim at and — maybe, just maybe — fail.

the abundance project, pt. 2

Because we have so very much stuff and because so much of it goes sadly to waste, I pledged to use, give away, or dispose of at least one household object for every day in September. I covered the first baker’s dozen here, and here are the rest. Continue reading


This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.

I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.

The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.

My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.

But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.

I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.

Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.

Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.

life list: funk yes

This is a little story about goals, serendipity, and the difference between wishing and doing.

A month ago, I listed my personal top 40, and on that list was P-Funk’s Give Up the Funk. After a few weeks of listening to those songs over and over, there are some I would drop and some I love even more. “Give Up the Funk” falls into the “even more” category, or the “more and more and more and more!” category.

For reasons I still can’t explain, in late May I was suddenly, strongly, irresistibly seized with the desire to see P-Funk in concert. I’d heard from friends that George Clinton et al provide a fantastic live show; for a few of my friends, it’s been transformative, transcendent. At the very least, it’s full-on funk and fun. I wanted to see it first-hand. I immediately added “See P-Funk live” to my life list.

And — here’s the thing — I also immediately started checking out options. I thought “Gee, maybe they’ll tour sometime in the next year or two, and maybe they’ll come to Boston.” Is it worth a four-hour round-trip to do fulfill a life-list goal? Sure it is!

But it isn’t necessary. I hopped onto George Clinton’s site and discovered to my amazement that
A) P-Funk is currently touring;
B) they’re playing my small city, at a venue walking distance from my home;
C) the show was two weeks away and tickets were still available.

That’s right: because I didn’t spend time wishing and wondering, because I jumped in and started doing, tonight I’m checking an item off my life list: See P-Funk in concert. Oh, funk yes. That’s a little lesson for me: less wishing, more doing.

Thanks, Hank

Though Hank Green makes some great points in this how-to-vlog video, that’s not really why I’m posting it here.

I’m posting it here because one little snippet went straight into my chest and squeezed something hidden in there.

It’s at 2:20, and it is worth repeating: “Do not be afraid to try. I know that failing at something stings a lot less if you didn’t really… try… hard. But! It is also much more likely!”

ginger beer: sweet and spicy!

Following up on my summer goals, I recently made another batch of home-brewed ginger beer. Sweet, spicy, with a wicked kick, ginger beer makes a refreshing drink on its own or mixed half-and-half with lemonade. For an evening highball, try a Dark & Stormy: ginger beer with a splash of black rum and a squeeze of lime. Mmm, you can feel that summer breeze drifting your way, can’t you?

This is an ersatz ginger beer; real ginger beer requires a ginger beer plant, a symbiotic colony of yeasts that carbonate the drink through fermentation. I decided not to buy or culture my own ginger beer plant. Instead, I followed Dr. Fankhauser’s instructions for fermented yeast carbonation, which gives a nice fizzy lift to a syrup-and-water base.

For my long-ago first batch of homemade ginger ale, I followed Dr. Fankhauser’s directions carefully. The resulting drink was tasty and fizzy and exactly what he promised, but not spicy and dark as ginger beer should be. For my recent batch, I brazenly modified the ingredients and the prep technique to produce a richer spicier drink, but the brewing directions remain the same.

A few improvements I made: cooking the ginger and spices with the sugar extracts more flavor and also eliminates the need to dissolve the sugar after it goes into the bottle. Adding the lemon zest, cinnamon, and clove results in a more complex flavor profile, and the peppers and peppercorns add bite and snap. Straining the syrup makes a cleaner, less cloudy ginger beer that’s far more pleasant on the tongue — no shreds or ginger to tickle your throat! I also added a bottle-sterilizing step for extra safety. Continue reading