Finding Religion, or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof.

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 29, 2008
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I recently posted about this over at Stephanerd, but I thought it would be good to do a pared-down, less excruciating version of that post over here.
To start with, Sunday mass was something I did out of habit as I was growing up. Or not even that. It was something I did because I had no choice, and if I grumbled about it, I would get a monster guilt trip from my mother.

Especially if my grumbling happened to fall upon Mother’s Day.


(notice the look of fear here?)

The Roman Catholic dogma itself — or, by extension, my faith — was never something I ever thought about or questioned. It was just something I was.



How to Become a Dating Superhero! !!!

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 27, 2008
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match game.
Because I am an attention whore, here‘s my latest non-MM piece up at It’s a Q&A with Shula Melamed, a dating consultant/belly dancer/psychology student/generally awesome person. My only beef is that, in the editing-down process, Shula has magically becoming the owner of her own dating consultancy. Which is not true. ::sigh::


When I met Shula for dinner, we ended up chatting for a few hours and, let me tell you, the conversation was damn good. Probably because Shula is a dating superhero. That plus the fact that her consultant work is sort of fascinating.

The common thread, however, seemed to be that a date will go well, if you engage the other person…are attentive to the other person…it’s sort of similar to what I posted on way back when, when I suggested approaching social interactions in a more journalistic manner.

Check out the piece if you’re interested in learning more about Shula.

How to Find More Time, Part Eight — Play

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 25, 2008
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Hallelujah people, we’ve finally made it.

Because all work and no play means that you obviously don’t have enough toy–um, I mean, you’re working too damn hard, here I present to you the natural conclusion of Laura Stack’s Find More TimePlay. Because when you’ve mastered efficiency, you might actually have the time for it.

  • Create a wall between Life and Work. At the moment, I have been working since 8:30 this morning (and it is now 9:30 at night; ignore the time stamp on this post). I woke up and immediately started blogging for the Modern Materialist, then traveled into the city to proofread pieces at the paper (say that three times fast), then made my way back here where I’ve since been catching up on other blogging and freelance responsibilities. I am pooped. So…do as I say, not as I do.
  • Take a vacation. It’s good for you to get away and recharge every once in awhile. Michael (the hubby) and I plan on taking one major vacation each year. We’ve already drawn up a wish list that includes a Disney cruise, a road trip through the southwest, a trip to Portland, etc. We knocked Burning Man off the list because we were afraid we might die in the middle of the desert.
  • Just say no! I believe we’ve gone through this one before, but it bears repeating. Cut back on your commitments if they’re unenjoyable and overwhelming! Make times for the things that benefit you holistically.
  • Take a ‘Just Me’ Day. Every month. Just do it. (This is the opposite of “just say no.”)
  • And finally, Carpe Diem. This makes me think of Dead Poets’ Society, which I love, because I’m a writing dork, and that one scene where everyone stands on their chairs gets me all worked up. But seriously. Since I’m telling you to say no, I want to make sure you’re saying no to the right things (or would they be considered the wrong things?). Say yes to everything else. Your life will become richer for it.

The Powers of Gender

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 22, 2008
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drag king.

Okay, you’re going to have to endure another of my self-help-via-memoir posts, as I’ve been reading a lot of those lately. Though this one wasn’t necessarily meant to be self-help. It just made me think…and I thought you might enjoy hearing about it.

So I just finished reading Norah Vincent’s Self-Made Man (yes, I know, I saw her read over a year ago; better late than never). For the purposes of the book, Vincent drag king’d herself up and passed as a man for over a year in order to study the sociological effects of gender. During her time as a man, she infiltrated a men’s bowling league, a men’s therapy group, and a monastery, and scored multiple high-paced sales jobs, visited strip clubs, and went on dates with both men and woman. Throughout the course of this experience, she gained a deeper understanding of the male/female and male/male dynamics and, oddly enough, developed a deeper connection to her feminine side.


How to Find More Time, Part Seven — Post

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 20, 2008
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For the love of God, it seems as if this series will never end, right? Well, in case you haven’t just up and purchased the book already, here’s a summary on Laura Stack’s chapter about your “post,” or your set of responsibilities.

Though Stack goes on at great length about hiring out tasks and being more efficient, here are the tidbits that spoke to me the most:

  • Relish Your Role as Social Chair. Though I didn’t fully embrace my nomination to social chair way back in my sorority days (don’t ask and don’t laugh), I’ve since realized the importance of making the effort to be social in an age when we’re so overwhelmed by work, errands, and the like. Find yourself some couple friends. ::waves to Nicole&Mike and Dawn&Jay:: Don’t neglect your old, non-couple-y friends. Plan family gatherings and host guests on the holidays (and any other old day). Just because there’s work to be done, don’t let the human element seep out of your life, or you’ll be the worse for it.
  • Don’t Wait for It to Pile Up. Perhaps clean-ups wouldn’t be such a huge, insurmountable undertaking if I had just put things exactly where they belonged once I ceased needing them, or if I at least did a little bit of tidying up every day. In short, I need to stop being so damn lazy.
  • Don’t Be Caught Unawares at Dinnertime. I will invariably come home from work, exhausted and hungry and just the tiniest bit cranky, and my husband will already be there, in his pajamas, at the computer, and be all: “What’s for dinner?” Is it not an absolute miracle that I have not yet smothered him in his sleep with his own pillow!? Stack’s brilliant tip? A meal plan! This is something we are planning to put into effect quite shortly so that we stop standing around in our pajamas, wondering what we could possibly eat, and then eating ramen noodles and Hungry Man TV dinners.

The next post will be the last in this series: Play!


Is that preemptive?

Previous Posts

The Infinite Wisdom of Others: How to Create Your Own Traditions

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 19, 2008
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I know. I know. Since I started blogging for the Modern Materialist, my posting habits have become even more erratic. As in nonexistent. I’m still trying to get the hang of this pro blogging thing, and am even considering seeking out help from the master himself.

I have to admit that, though my regular proofreading gig in the city is a nice, relaxing way to bring in some money, I get frustrated by how much the commuting time cuts in to my at-home writing time. Should I work longer at-home hours? Should I broach the topic of telecommuting? Should I wait it out until things change (as they inevitably do)?

Eh, this is all the subject of another post. Mostly, I just want to say that I’m sorry for being so inconsistent. I’m still searching for that ideal brand of time management.

In other infinite wisdom-type, news, Gretchen has posted on the positive effects of creating your own traditions, which led me to muse upon my own desire to create new traditions with my husband. At the moment, and with less than a year of marriage under our belts, we’ve been mostly riding on the coattails of our families’ holiday traditions, but we’ve been attempting to create new ones of our own. Sadly, pizza Fridays were short-lived, as were sushi Sundays (our fave sushi bar is closed on Sundays), and date night has been on-and-off, but we do attend Santacon every year since he proposed to me there our first year.

Aside from giving us something to do, traditions give us the satisfaction of having something that is completely ours. And as new marriage is something that sometimes seems surreal, it helps to have something ongoing to remind us that this is real, and that we’re in it for the long haul, and that we share a lot more than just a bed and a bathroom.

How about y’all? Have you and your Someone Special started up any new traditions that are All Yours? I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with. Maybe it’ll give us some new ideas!

Self-Help for the Home

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 11, 2008
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Ever since moving into a one-bedroom condo with my hubby almost two years ago, I’ve been a woman possessed, determined to assert my design aesthetic in the limited space I was given. After all, I’ve been reading Real Simple and lusting over Williams-Sonoma and Container Store inventory for years, and the lack of square footage we were able to afford was not about to keep me reined in.

I’ve been decorating like hell, taking advantage of budget-friendly decor collections — such as Target’s new Global Bazaar line and the shabby chic furniture at HomeGoods — and bookmarking high-end products for the future.

It’s an obsession.

And it’s finally paid off. If you’re interested in self-help for your home, check me out (and my two fellow bloggers) at the Modern Materialist, a new blog over at highlighting awesome products for urban living.

Yes, I am being paid to keep a running list of all the things I want Michael to buy for me. Life is tres good.

Photo: miraentuinterior

How to Mix Tape Your Life

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 8, 2008
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mix cd.

I recently finished reading Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Not a self-help book, but rather a moving memoir written by a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, who strings together moments in his life using the various mix tapes he has created as jumping-off points. At the center of this musical-memory storm: an ex-wife, who died young in his arms from a pulmonary embolism.

Not an incredibly uplifting topic, but Sheffield manages to make the reader smile. And the conceit — which could seem forced in anyone else’s hands — comes off well.

Which reminds me…

  • of the boyfriend who once marveled at my ability to find the connections between moments or phrases and corresponding songs…
  • of all the mix cds I received every birthday and holiday from my now-husband in his attempts to educate me in the ways of decent music…
  • of my enduring wish that I was living in a song & dance film, where people would break into, well, choreographed song & dance at odd moments.

Music obviously has the power to lift up moods, or even indulge them. This is nothing new. A sweet and low Norah Jones song can rock you to sleep, and a rousing rendition of Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” or or Hannah Montana’s (yes, this is embarrassing) “See You Again” can have you bopping around and pretending to be a rock star. Or at least a backup dancer.

Sheffield wrote about the many types of mixes that exist, from the party tape to the “I want you” tape, from the sexy-time tape to the heartache tape, from road trippin’ to rambling, and on and on.

If you had to create a soundtrack to life right now, what would be on it?

mix tape.

I imagine that mine would include Ben Folds’s “The Luckiest,” mine and Michael’s wedding song and a testament to how well we’re doing together. Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” would be a good strut song, something to remind me of the fierce woman I want to project. Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire” illustrates the exhilaration and determination that his been getting me through these past six months or so, with the words “I’m going to burn this city” revealing the take-over-the-world feelings I’ve been feeling. And though I’m from good ol’ suburban northern New Jersey, Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” makes me proud of how grounded I am.

Oh, but there’s more. Jewel singing “Have a Little Faith In Me” in that raspy, sweet voice of hers reminds me of the time I asked Michael to take that leap of faith and support me in my plans to leave the comfort and security of my full-time job. And Kate Nash’s “Foundations” makes me think of the ways in which we’ve antagonized each other when the tension and fear were high.

Throw in with all of this Kt Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See,” Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” and Tris McCall’s “Commuter’s Prayer” and you have a somewhat dorky, guilty-pleasure mix that defines my life as it stands right now.

What are the songs embodying your life at the moment? How would that soundtrack alter if you burned a new CD for every year? Could it possibly create an extremely insightful soundtrack of your life…a map of the years in music?

The Infinite Wisdom of Others

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 7, 2008


Whenever I’m feeling down or frustrated, I eat unhealthy foods until I feel completely gross, or I go shopping and buy things I can’t afford, making me feel completely guilty. In both cases, the things I do to assuage my unhappiness only make me feel worse.

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project has 13 tips for dealing with a really lousy day that won’t end up making you feel worse! Good stuff!

How To Find More Time, Part Six — Paper

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 5, 2008
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I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together, in order to file for taxes, but my filing cabinet (and everything in the vicinity of my desk) is an absolute disaster area. In Laura Stack’s Find More Time, Stack writes about what I should have been doing with this mountain of loose paper for the past year.

I’m always amazed to find different aspects of my life in such disarray, especially since I’m so enamored of organizational tools in general. Whether or not , personally, get it together, I was just tickled by some of the tips stack had to offer:

  • Put together a binder. I love binders. Really I do. In the past, I’ve had binders for decorating ideas, favorite quotes from both books and songs, work stuff, choir music, etc. Stack suggests filing things (I find a mixture of the binder format and the filing cabinet format easiest for the following) in three different areas: action, project, and reference. Those project- and reference-related papers can go in the filing cabinet. As for the action papers, organize them by the date in which they need to be done, so that you’re never scrambling (or just missing deadlines entirely) at th last minute. Stack goes into this at some depth in her book, and I thought it was just about the awesomest idea ever.
  • Consider that you might possibly die tomorrow. Okay, this is more of a reference tool than a tip, but Stack gives a comprehensive list of all the personal info you should have gathered together in a convenient place in case you ever do kick the bucket. I suppose this could be construed as, um, morbid, but a good amount of the info (attorney, physician, tax consultant, safe deposit info, location of marriage and birth certificates and mortgage papers, bank info, etc.) could be quite handy to have at the ready anyway.

I could go on, but Stack’s action-filing idea is really the mot priceless thing ever. If you’re curious about what other tips she has to offer, you’ll have to crack open the book.

Previous Entries in This Series:

  1.  Plans
  2. Priorities
  3. Personality
  4. Pests
  5. Possessions
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