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Archive for May, 2009

I know this entry is a day late (since I said I was going to post weekly on Tuesdays and it’s now Wednesday), but with good reason and I think you’ll find it fits the content to post a day later anyway. 😉

Over this past week, I took a long weekend and vacationed in Boston. I attended an academic conference on Harry Potter, which was sponsored by the Leaky Cauldron, entitled LeakyCon2009. My roommate and I drove from DC to Boston in my little Toyota Prius and blasted AC/DC and Journey with the windows down. Once we arrived, we napped and showered and met up with some other friends for dinner in the North End. We walked leisurely and took the long way from our hotel via the Freedom Trail, which features many of the historic sites in Boston. I didn’t check my email once.

We spent the next day wandering around the downtown area and met up with more friends and family for lunch, before heading to Cambridge for some shopping (and a new tattoo!), then went back to the hotel for the Welcome Feast on the first night of the conference. By this time, I had all but forgotten about email. I was revelling in the fact I hadn’t touched a computer in 48 hours (though I do admit to having posted and checked twitter once or twice).

The conference was in full swing and I immersed myself completely in academia, discussing religious allegory and feminism in Harry Potter, learning how the publishing of one novel (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or for the Brits out there, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) led to increased enthusiasm for fantasy in children’s literature and excitement for children’s literature in general, and how the fans of Harry Potter took values from the books and implemented them, starting the HP Alliance. During the day, I was an academic, taking notes on lectures by speakers such as Lev Grossman, John Granger (aka HogwartsProfessor), David English, Melissa Anelli, and Gwendolyn Limbach; by night, socialite, connecting with friends and spending way too much money on great food and atmosphere.

It was so energizing and refreshing to get time away and connect with friends on such a purely personal level, face to face and without deadlines looming. I felt like I could get time to myself and that I wasn’t being selfish just taking little bits of time for myself. Without worrying about obligations, my schedule was flexible. No one cared if I wandered into a talk a few minutes late (to quote John Granger, “Don’t worry. Come on in. We’ve just gotten started.”), no one faulted me if I took notes they couldn’t read (they simply asked for translation), and everyone was eager to offer their own ideas and take questions.

It was a lovely little break. Walking through the Commons and the Public Gardens in the sun just made for grand getaway and I wish I could have stayed longer. But, here I am, back at my desk and back to the same old grind. Now, what I need to do is find out how to unplug on a regular basis.

How do I bring a bit of vacation into my everyday life?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for ages… how do I take the proper amount of time for myself without falling behind in the steps I need to take to fulfill my goals. Or, as the professionals say, how do I find my work/life balance?

I need to set aside time everyday to go to the gym, exercise, or just take a walk; I need to read more; I need to journal more. These things sound like a list or resolutions, though. And, in a way, they sound like additions to my to-do list. What I really want is a permanent vacation. And by that, I don’t mean never working or lounging around a pool all day. I mean that I want to find more time to take care of myself.

I plan to do this in steps:

  1. Find out what it is I need.
  2. Make a list of those needs.
  3. Set aside time and money to fulfill those needs.
  4. Reevaluate needs.
  5. Repeat Steps 1.-4.  every so often.

So far, my list of needs includes:

  • reading
  • journaling
  • exercise
  • eating healthy
  • a clean and organized living space
  • adequate sleep
  • face time with friends and family
  • singing (even if it’s just along to music in the car or in the shower)
  • keeping a finances balanced
  • spending time outdoors

I’d really like to know: What are your needs? How do you keep a good work/life balance? What do you consider a ‘vacation’?

Now, it’s just setting aside time and money to fulfill these needs. Wish me luck!

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While I was out in Bethesda, Maryland this past weekend, taking in what was to see at the Front Row fashion events, I was inspired by the artwork of Maggie O’Neill (O’Neill Studios LLC). Though she has an undergraduate degree in Political Science, O’Neill continued her education in Photography and Digital Imaging before pursuing a Masters Degree in Fine Art. It wasn’t until she completed her first exterior mural that she decided to go into utilitarian and public artwork.

painting35

Girl's Night Out Portraits by Maggie O'Neill

O’Neill now has a 2500 square foot studio in Kensington, Maryland and a team of professional artists to work with. There is no doubt that this is what she was meant to do, but it took her a long and winding road to get there.

When I spoke with her on Saturday, she told me that she just “fell into it”. And that sounded appropriate enough.

Even with my own background in International Relations, I’ve recently been working in a field that doesn’t utilize those skills or draw on my area of expertise. However, I’ve taken great joy in the parts of my job that allow me to draw on my own creativity, especially those which allow for design and aesthetics.

So, I guess you could say that I fell into my passion.

I have always and forever been an artistic and creative person and took more joy in learning about artwork than any other subject in school. I never thought, though, that being an artist could be a profession. All my life I was fed stereotypes of the starving artists; the Beatnick, the wandering writer, the sojourning painter, the sketch artist at the street fair. Never once had I thought I could make a liveable wage working in aesthetics. And so, when the time came to go to college, I didn’t study drawing or painting or crafts. In fact, I didn’t study any kind of skill at all, really. I went to school in the discipline of International Relations.

Now, in my later twenties, I appreciate so much more the need to have a skill and the motivation it takes to build a career in a profession that I both love and feel I contribute something absolutely unique to and, of course, can make money from – at least enough to live on.

I’ve discovered, or fell into, a new passion: graphic design.

Graphic design is everywhere. It’s accessible, it’s necessary, it’s a part of every organization and business. It’s not as lofty or noble a goal as my original (an international mediator), but there is something gratifying in knowing that you’ve created something both beautiful and useful.

I fully intend to keep creating beautiful, useful pieces of art, for that is my passion.

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Some of the brightest, best, and most interesting blogs I read all seem to have something in common. Each of the writers has a specific blog strategy. While it may not be rigid, the most successful blogs all have some kind of guidelines under which they publish.

So, I have decided to come up with a strategy myself, instead of just writing whenever the mood strikes. From this week forward, I will read and comment on other blogs on Monday and will write new blog content for Visions of a Sweet Paper Doll on Tuesday. This way, I will be sure to have at least one day a week I set aside to interact with others in the blogosphere and will ensure new content once a week for my own blog. Of course, this strategy is subject to change and evolution and, should inspiration strike, perhaps I’ll end up posting more than just once a week. In any case, I wanted to make my strategy public so that it will force me to live up to it.

Expect updates from sweetpaperdoll starting tomorrow and every Tuesday afterward.

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For those of you who don’t know, I work in the field of aging and May is Older Americans Month. While this may seem on the surface to have nothing to do with my foray into graphic design and website development or what has come to be known as social media, I actually do a lot of work maintaining the site for the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Initiative, where I work doing grant administration.

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog and does in no way reflect the opinions or the position of my employer, the Gerontological Society of America. For more information on The Gerontological Society of America, please visit their website at http://www.geron.org. For more information on the Geriatric Social Work Initiative, please visit http://www.gswi.org.

In the last year of employment working here, I have learned much about what I would like to do with my life, but also much about the needs and care of older people. This May, the focus on older people comes to the forefront with President Obama’s new Older Americans Month.

Living Today for a Better Tomorrow

Living Today for a Better Tomorrow

So, in honor of this month set aside by President Obama and in celebration of becoming a part of the awesome 12for12k Challenge Network, I’d like to alert everyone to the charity of the month: Hospice of Peel. It’s an issue that is close to my heart since my grandmother was on end-of-life care before she died a few years ago and although, in her case, the care wasn’t needed long-term, it made a world of difference to her and everyone in our family, as well as her huge circle of friends. Not only did they take great care of my grandmother, but they also made sure that her visitors were well treated with kindness. They provided us with food and drink when needed, as well as care when someone else simply could not be in the room with her. I have tremendous respect for care workers in general, and especially high esteem for care workers who deal with the terminally ill.

If you or a family member has ever been helped by a hospice worker, I encourage you to check out the Hospice of Peel website and see what they do. If you like what they do, I encourage you to donate.

These are the types of services and help that donations to the hospice help to provide:

  • $20 provides care to a family for a week
  • $50 can help with special interactive “kits for kids” for children with terminal illness (Hospice of Peel helps all ages)
  • $100 can sponsor home visits by volunteers to offer support for Hospice of Peel patients
  • $130 provides transportation for day hospice patients for a whole month
  • $200 can provide bereavement care for one year
  • $520 provides professional 10-week training for volunteers
  • $1,000 provides much-needed craft supplies for the Day Hospice for six months

While this charity is based in Canada, there are many other ways to celebrate and honor Older Americans Month (if you have a desire to be geo-specific). Regardless of the name, setting aside a month to honor the elders of our community is a great idea no matter where you live.

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