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New Project: Minimalism in 90 Days

I’m taking my minimalism project to the next level. When I moved to Phoenix ten years ago, I moved into my parents’ second home – lovely two bedroom, two bathroom, 1800 square foot, furnished place with a pool and a yard. It’s been a wonderful home but it’s time for Rosie and me to get our own place. I recently found a condo that I loved from the moment I saw it – 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 900 square foot place with a patio and a nook that will be my home office.

I’ve been systematically cleaning out my stuff for the last eighteen months but for this move, I’m stealing an idea from Ryan Nicodemus, one of The Minimalists. When he decided to become a minimalist, he and his fellow minimalist friend Joshua Fields Millburn had a “packing party” where they packed up all his stuff as if he was going to move. For the next twenty-one days, he only unpacked what he needed as he needed it. After the twenty-one days, he went through his boxes, pulled out a few extra items, and got rid of the rest. By packing up his stuff, it opened his eyes to how little he actually needs to be happy and comfortable.

I suspect my new place will look like this for a few weeks. Charted by Shelah from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I suspect my new place will look like this for a few weeks. Charted by Shelah from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

So here’s my plan for the move. I sold or gave away all my furniture before I left Oregon. (As a joke, I signed a lot of it – does anyone still have any of that stuff?) Once I take possession of my condo, I’m going buy a few staple furniture items that I know I’ll need – bed, couch, desk, and probably not much else. (Oh, and I promised Rosie a memory foam bed for her birthday.) I’m going to box up all my stuff – and probably use file size boxes so their easy to use and stack. Each box will be filled based on where the things were stored in the house and labeled so it will be easy to find stuff after I move. I’ll also go through my boxes of kitchen stuff and linens from my Oregon apartment and get rid of the stuff I know I won’t need in my new place.

After I move, everything will stay in the boxes. I’ll only unpack or buy things as I need them. I’ll probably do this for three months. By then, the weather will have changed from warm to cold so I should have all the seasonal items I’ll need unpacked. I’ll probably spend the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s going through the boxes one more time before giving away whatever I’m not using. If I get to the point where I know I’m not going to be going into the boxes anymore, I’ll call it early and do the final clean out then.

I’m curious to see how many boxes of stuff I actually own right now compared to what I actually use. There’s nothing like moving to motivate you to get rid of your stuff.

New Business Cards – Pretty Freakin’ Awesome

I’m sure plenty of people who don’t know me but hear that my name is “Ruth” and that I’m lawyer envision me to be a stuff old Jewish woman who embodies all the lawyer stereotypes.  I suspect that’s who my co-panelist at Phoenix Comicon thought he was pair with when he heard he was doing a panel on Comic Creator Rights with “the lawyer.” He was probably surprised to see a young pixie of thing in a pink geeky t-shirt instead. We had a great time doing our panel. He said we looked like gurus but I think we look like a couple of Muppets in the photos.

It’s always been important to me to have effective non-boring business cards. I made a joke after Phoenix Comicon that I should have business cards made that say, “Ruth Carter, Esq., Not That Kind Of Lawyer.” Recently, I needed to order more business cards and I figured, since I’m paying for shipping for two boxes of cards, I might as well make it four – so I made them! I’ll probably use them at events where I’m more likely to meet people who are likely to wrinkle their noses when they hear I’m a lawyer.

New Business Card - front

New Business Card - back

What do you think? A friend mentioned that these fit in well with my goal to becoming a minimalist.

I love these cards. We’ll see if these become my standard business card. It takes me about six months to go through two boxes of cards so we’ll see how I feel the next time I need to reorder.

New Running Mantra: “You Forgot Your Flash Drive”

It’s monsoon season in Phoenix, so I got to go running in the rain last week. A rainy day means I can’t run with my iPod which means I’m left with the frightening experience of running with only my thoughts to keep me entertained. (And trust me, my mind is frightening place that no one should visit alone.) I set out on my 4.5-mile run. I’m sure I looked like a drowned rat within five minutes, but it warm outside and so the rain was a refreshing change to being covered in sweat which has a tendency to sting really bad when it gets in my eye. At the beginning of the second mile, I was settling into my pace and listening to the rhythmic sound of my feet pounding the pavement.  I randomly started thinking of the train episode of The Big Bang Theory and the phrase, “You forgot your flash drive,” started repeating over and over in my head.

You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. I don’t know why this became my mantra. It has nothing to do with running, or exercise, or any real aspect of reality for that matter. But it worked. It gave me a solid 9:00 mile pace for the rest of my run.

Funny marathon signs - Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Funny marathon signs – Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Now here’s the weird part. Two days later it was a beautiful sunny morning and I headed out for a run, happy to have my iPod strapped to my arm and earbuds in my ears blasting my training playlist. Despite my musical distraction, within the first mile my mantra starting playing again my head: You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. So it looks like this is going to be my running mantra this season. It’s so weird but it’s working so I’m not going to fight it. When I start feeling tired, I just play it over again and it picks up my pace. Historically, I’ve asked people to insult me when I’m doing a race. It makes me smile and feel loved. (Thank you to everyone who has ever yelled, “Move your ass Bitch!” at me as I ran past them while fellow spectators looked at them in horror.) I will be running my first marathon at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in January 2015. I think it would be awesome if someone would make a sign for me that says, “You forgot your flash drive” and hold it up as I run by. No one else will get it but that would so make my race.

The Slippery Slope of the Hobby Lobby Fallout

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that a closely-held for-profit company could use their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse to pay for birth control their employees. I think the court was 100% wrong in this decision and I’m annoyed that it’s probably going to take us decades to undo the damage this ruling is going to cause.

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a huge advocate for the separation of church and state and the notion that people can have whatever religious beliefs they want, as long as they don’t try to inflict them on others. This ruling crosses that line. If the federal government passed a law that says companies with 50 employees or more have to provide certain health insurance to employees and a company doesn’t like it, their options should have been to pay the penalty for violating the law or shrink their company so the law wouldn’t apply to them, not getting an exception based on religious beliefs.

This week I read about a similar case – a pharmacy in Washington State wants to refuse on religious grounds to stock and dispense Plan B (the morning after pill) even though all pharmacies are mandated by state law to carry it.

Here’s my take on these situations – laws should be passed for the good of the general public. If you don’t like a law, don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to abide by it. If you’re a pharmacist who dislikes your state’s laws about what products you have to carry, get out of the business or move to a state that doesn’t have that requirement.

There are plenty of laws that I don’t like but I accept that I have to follow them or accept the penalty if I get caught breaking them. I can try to get the law changed, but until that happens, I’m stuck with them.

Having legally recognized exceptions written into laws is one thing, but giving people the ability to refuse to follow the law based on religious beliefs is a slippery slope. When I was an undergrad, I was furious to learn that a pharmacist at the student health center wasn’t filling prescriptions for the morning after pill because of her religious beliefs so students could only get that prescription filled when she wasn’t working. She should have been fired for that. What’s next – a clerk at a sex shop telling his boss that he’s ok with selling sex toys but he can’t sell porn because it violates his religion? Or a biblical literalist who works at a department store who claims she can’t ring up customers who buy garments made of more than one fabric?

If I had to claim a religion, I’d say it’s Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be a dick”). As a business owner, I get to handpick who I do business with, and I don’t work with clients who are dicks. But if there was a law that said I had to, I’d look for a way to change my business to get out of it or make it worth my while. However, if I was ever someone’s employee again, I would never get away with that. If I refused a direct order from my superior, claiming that dealing with dicks violated my religious beliefs, I’d expect to be fired.

(Mental note: If business owners and employees are allowed to violate or get exceptions to the law based on religious beliefs, I need to start documenting my sincerely held religious beliefs which are not affiliated with any official religion so I can use them to get my way when it suits me.)

Top 10 Bonus Skills from being a Gymnast

Although I was a gymnast for seventeen years, I haven’t done anything harder than a handstand without the assistance of a trampoline for at least the last five. Nevertheless, there are certain skills you develop as a gymnast that stay with you for life. Here are the top ten:

Beautiful Erika with a Sunset, used with permission

Beautiful Erika with a Sunset, used with permission

Beach Handstand 2008

I Try to do a Handstand every Place I Visit

  1. How to wash your hair with one hand because it hurts like hell to get shampoo in a rip.
  2. How to change leotards in a parking lot without committing indecent exposure because the line for the bathroom at the meet was too long, also how to pee without taking off your leotard.
  3. How to turn your hair into cement with the right combination of hair products where you can take the rubber band out of your hair and still have a ponytail, also how to cut tiny rubber bands out of your hair without cutting your hair along with it.
  4. How to shave your legs, arm pits, and bikini line in thirty seconds in a shower of any size
  5. How to pick up clothing, pencils, etc. with your toes.
  6. How to flush toilets and open doors with your feet – yay for flexibility!
  7. How to do read and write in the car without getting carsick – because the car ride to/from practice was your only time to get homework done.
  8. How to sleep and do homework while in the splits or otherwise bent in half.
  9. How to ride public transportation without having to hold on anything without losing your balance.
  10. How to eat a full meal before working out and not have any issues.

By far, the best skill that comes from being a gymnast is the ability to focus, compartmentalize, and stay determined. I’ve heard from several former gymnasts that being in this sport gave them the ability to work through physical and emotional pain and “go on with the show” when they’d rather curl up and cry. As my coach, Rocky, used to say, “It’s only hard.”

Once a gymnast, always a gymnast. It’s been over a decade since my last competition and I love that some people can tell I was gymnast by the way I walk and carry myself. Gymnastics is more than a sport; it’s a way of life.

Minimalism Project Update – Cleaning Out My Photos

I’ve been on a roll with my minimalism project lately. I cleaned out my CDs, got rid of most of my Star Trek collection, and most recently I scanned and threw out most of my photos. I got rid of a lot of my photos last year when I cleaned out my dresser, but I still had about half a drawer of photos.

During my down time for about a week, I sorted my photos, sent them through my scanner, and saved them to my hard drive. I kept the prints of the ones that were the most important to me and I threw out the rest. I have less than a shoebox of photos left.

I also threw out all my negatives. I kept all of them for years, taking comfort in the fact that I could reproduce an image if necessary. But really, what’s the likelihood that I’m going to want a photo that I only have a negative of and that I’ll remember that I have a negative of it? They all got tossed.

Scanning all my photos was a fun trip down memory lane. Here are some of the highlights.

I was an adorable baby. (1980)

I was an adorable baby. (1980)

Always an athletic kid (1987)

Always an athletic kid (1987)

USAIGC Regional Gymnastics Championships (1995)

USAIGC Regional Gymnastics Championships (1995)

The Psychotic Friends Network (2000)

The Psychotic Friends Network (1999)

Undergrad Graduation (2001)

Undergrad Graduation (2001)

 

 

I Minimized My Star Trek Collection

It took over a year to fully go through with it, but I finally minimized my Star Trek collection.  I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I saw my first episode of The Next Generation in 1992. Throughout high school and college I bought a ton of Star Trek memorabilia. I got so much Trek stuff from the Star Trek online store and eBay. One of my goals was to get an autographed 8×10 from every regular cast member.

And then I became a minimalist, or at least an aspiring one.

Part of my Star Trek collection - I only own 1 of the items now.

Part of my Star Trek collection – I only own 1 of these items now.

As I started my minimalism project last year, I realized that most of my Star Trek collection was collecting dust, sitting on shelves, or worse, sitting in boxes where I didn’t even see it.  I slowly started getting rid of my Star Trek collection, but I didn’t want it to go to a thrift store. It was important to me that these items would end up in the hands of fans who will enjoy them as much as I did. I also didn’t want to put a ton of energy into getting rid of my collection, which would have been required had I put each item up on eBay.

My Star Trek Pez dispenser set and Uno game went to a local charity auction and were sold – hopefully to a fan. But the rest of the items I was thinking of parting with just sat for about a year. It just wasn’t a priority to find a local shop that buys sci-fi memorabilia and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get rid of my Star Trek autograph collection. I wasn’t a fan who put their autographs on the wall – at least I haven’t for years. They were in protective sleeves in a binder where I almost never looked at them.

Reading Everything That Remains by The Minimalists reminded me that my autograph collection does not add any value to my life sitting in a binder on a shelf. So a few weeks ago, in a fit of minimalist motivation, I got rid of most of my collection at the Collectors Marketplace. They took my Star Trek autograph collection, Klingon dagger, Star Trek mini lunch box, assorted pins, my Captain’s uniform that is too big for me, my Star Trek Encyclopedia, and a few other things. Why did I even have the Star Trek Encyclopedia? I am a walking Star Trek encyclopedia!

Some of my Favorite Photos in my Star Trek Autograph Collection - that I Don't Own Anymore

Some of my Favorite Photos in my Star Trek Autograph Collection – that I Don’t Own Anymore

The shop got a smoking deal on my collection. I didn’t put that much effort into the negotiation because I cared more about getting rid of this stuff than the price. When I told the shopkeeper that I was becoming a minimalist, he told me not to say that too loudly in the store because “We want people to be hoarders.” When he asked me if I’m still a Star Trek fan, and I told him I still love Star Trek, but I don’t need all this stuff to tell me that I love it. More stuff does not equal more love.

Will I ever by Star Trek gear again? Probably. But I will be very selective about it and get things that are high quality and do something to improve my life. This is the first time in a long time that I don’t have a Starfleet uniform in my closet (yes, it’s a uniform, not a costume) so I can foresee myself getting a high-end uniform someday.

Minimalism Project Update – Cleaning Out my CDs

When I started systematically cleaning out my life last year, I got rid of a lot of the obvious clutter in my life. Now I’m going back through my possessions and asking myself what truly adds value to my current life. In the last few weeks, I cleaned out my CDs.

My CD Binder

My CD Binder

Like a lot of people, I saved space in college by getting a CD binder and throwing out most of my jewel cases. I had a big binder – 26 pages, 8 CD slots per page – that was mostly filled with CDs I’ve acquired since high school. When I de-cluttered the house last year, I moved that binder from the top of the dresser into a drawer.  I also had two smaller CD cases that I used when I traveled.

I suspect I haven’t purchased more than 10 CDs in the last 10 years. I certainly haven’t opened that binder since it went into a drawer over a year ago. I probably could have simply taken that binder and moved it to the pile of stuff to be donated to charity. But there was a voice in my head that was afraid that I might regret doing that and that there might be a song that hadn’t burned that I’d want to listen to later. (Because buying it on iTunes would be so expensive.) So I spent my downtime for the better part of a week going through my CD binder and burning CDs.

Some of the CDs I used to Own

Some of the CDs I used to Own

When I first got iTunes, I went through my CDs and burned the songs I loved and enjoyed off each album. Unfortunately, when I put the CD into my computer last week, it didn’t tell me which songs had been previously burned, so I had to re-burn everything if I didn’t want to check what songs I downloaded previously. I probably wasted a lot of time burning songs I’ll never listen to, but by the end of the process, all the albums I wanted were burned into my computer and I had no trepidation giving the originals away.

Burning a binder full of CDs takes a long time. I played a lot of solitaire during this process.

My Current CD Collection Fits in Here

My Current CD Collection Fits in Here

My CD binder and two travel cases have been reduced to one travel case that holds up to 48 CDs – and it’s not even full. I have a CD player in my car and there are handful of albums I rotate through it. I also kept a couple of podcasts that I’ve burned to CDs that aren’t available iTunes anymore and the backing tracks that came with sheet music books. Everything I’ve kept are albums I regularly listen to and expect to continue to listen to in the future.

Cleaning out my CDs allowed me to reclaim about half of a drawer. It doesn’t seem like much but every little bit of de-cluttering makes me feel that much more at peace.

And since I know someone’s going to ask, here are my thoughts about the legalities of burning CDs and getting rid of the originals. A lot of minimalists suggest doing this.

How Could Anyone Not Love This Dog?

My baby girl doesn’t cry. And by “baby girl” I mean my basset hound Rosie. Yes, she howls when the phone rings and she’ll bark when she gets excited, but she rarely cries.

Rosie Bone

Sweet Rosie

Last week we were out for a walk and she walked through a patch of dirt and pebbles. She’s walked over this area many times before without any problems. Unbeknownst to us, a recent storm blew a bunch of dry stickers into the rocks and we didn’t realize it until she stepped in them. She didn’t make a sound, but picked up one of her back paws. It had at least five stickers in it. I removed them, and gently put her foot down on clear ground. I picked up each of paws and removed several stickers from each one. I pulled at least fifteen stickers out from her feet. She didn’t make a sound, not even when one of them drew blood. When her paws were sticker-free again, she looked up at me, turned around, and headed for home. She was done.

Rosie almost never cries when she’s in pain. She didn’t cry when she pulled a muscle in her leg. She didn’t cry when she had valley fever. She didn’t cry when she had tumors in her gums that had to be surgically removed. She didn’t cry when she got a bug bite between her toes that had swelled up bigger than a nickel. It makes me wonder what her life was like before I adopted her and if she learned not to cry because she was punished when she did or because no one cared.

I adopted Rosie from the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue a little over two years ago. She was four years old at the time. As the story was told to me, her first owner took good care of her. I have her AKC registration and her records that show she got a check-up every six months. Then something happen and he gave her away. Rosie ended up with someone who was neglectful for about six months. I don’t know all the details but I know by the time the Basset Rescue got her, one of her nails had grown so long it curled under her paw and was pushing into the pad of her foot. Her teeth were so bad she needed surgery.

Sleepy Rosie

Sleepy Rosie

How could anyone treat my baby girl so badly? How could her first owner never check on her? I can’t let her go to the kennel for more than a few days without checking on her. Rosie is one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. Even people who aren’t fond of dogs in general love her. All she wants is to be loved.

The other day I was getting Rosie’s dinner ready and I added a few bites of chicken to her kibble. She was sitting at my feet and I decided to see if she could catch a piece of chicken if I tossed it at her. I took a few steps back, got her attention, and gently lobbed a piece of chicken at her. Instead of trying to catch it, she cringed. It makes me sick to think that this reaction means that someone used to throw things at her.

I hope Rosie’s forgotten what her life used to be like.  I try not to think about what it used to be like, because it makes me sad and disgusted.  I just try to give her the best life I can from now on. Few things make me smile faster than seeing that tail wag.

New Kicks!

In my last post I talked about my latest running injury. Today, I’m going to share the culprit behind my pain – dead shoes.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my short life as a runner from the staff at Runner’s Den and the physical therapists at Endurance Rehab – running shoes have a lifespan of about 400-500 miles. If you run particularly hard on your feet, it’ll be shorter. If you live conditions that are hard on your shoes, like the desert, it’ll be shorter.  And the soles of a pair of running shoes will rot in about a year even if you never wear them.

Usually the tell-tale sign that I need new shoes is pain in the arch of my foot, but since I added SOLE insoles this year, my arches have held up really well and have been virtually pain free for months. When I started experiencing leg pain last month, my first thought wasn’t that my shoes had worn out, especially considering how fast it came on. With minimal improvement after 2 weeks of home treatment, I headed to Runner’s Den for their weekly injury clinic.

Matt from Endurance Rehab confirmed the inflammation in my leg and speculated that my shoes were dead. Something was letting my arch roll in when I ran which pulled on my soleus and my post-tibialis, which caused the inflammation and pain.

Nate at Runner’s Den confirmed that my shoes were dead. He popped out my insoles and easily bent them in half. Runner’s Den does a great job fitting people for shoes – they watch how you walk, talk about your specific needs, and make you run outside in every pair you try on. Nate noted that the wear pattern on my shoes looked really good so we probably had the right shoe for me. Even then, we tried on another type to confirm that we had the best shoe for my needs – the Asics GT-2000.

My New Shoes

My New Shoes – Asics GT-2000

When it comes to running shoes, function surpasses fashion. I don’t care what color my shoes are as long as they work. And Runner’s Den usually carries my shoes in only one color. Last time, they had the GT-2000 in black, purple, and a touch of yellow. This time they had it in white, hot pink, and neon yellow.

There is something about these white and hot pink shoes that make me smile.  They’re so happy. And I wanted to document how pretty they are because they won’t stay white for very long on my feet.

I think there was something more than the color of my new shoes that made me happy. Buying something usually does not make me giddy, but these shoes did. And I think it’s because these shoes embody hope for me. Running pain-free in these shoes keeps me dream of running the marathon next year alive. It was hard sitting out the 2014 race with injuries and now that I’m so close to getting back into the training groove, I didn’t want to be sidelined again.

I’m excited and optimistic about taking care of this injury and getting back to pounding pavement.