Halfway There

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The world is going to hell and it better be my day off. This phrase actually came from my mother, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s true that the past few years have been difficult for me.

I’m pretty sure the last time I made New Year’s Resolutions was 2017. I only set three, and I did not accomplish any of them. I thought I had set realistic goals. In general, I think they were. It was just the fact that my life fell apart that year in multiple ways.

We are currently halfway through 2019, and I am happy to say, that I am officially halfway through accomplishing those New Year’s Resolutions I had set in 2017. Better late than never, right?

One of the goals I had set was that I wanted to read the entire Bible in a year. I have read the Bible in it’s entirety multiple times when I was younger, but it’s been awhile since I have done so. I have my favorite books and passages that I keep coming back to over time.

This year, as in 2017, I am once again following the Our Daily Bread schedule of reading the Bible in a year. I am happy to say that so far, I have been reading the Bible every day this year and am exactly on schedule to read the entire thing through from start to finish this calendar year.

On the Old Testament side, I have currently arrived at my favorite book of the Bible, Nehemiah. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I read through Nehemiah a few times last year. It’s always great to read it again.

I’m honestly not sure what my other 2 resolutions were from 2017. I’m sure I can find them somewhere on this blog. But for now, I am on my way to completing this one resolution.

Daily Bible reading helped me to get through my housing crisis last year. At that time, I was just reading what would give me comfort, which was typically Nehemiah or Psalms. I can honestly admit that when I was going through that situation last year and bought this house that it was the very first time I ever “let go and let God.” I did it in a huge way.

I have no idea whether or not I will set a New Year’s resolution in 2020. But for now, I am halfway there to completing one of my 2017 goals. I’m just making up for lost time. There’s another saying “if you’re going through hell, keep on going.”

I’m going. I’m going. Halfway there.

Master of Two

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The kids (indoor only cats) safely enjoying fresh air outside on the porch in a borrowed dog crate.

Jack of all trades; master of none. This was my mantra for a good many years. Spending almost two decades working 2-3 jobs at a time while completing 4 degrees means that I have a breadth of experience.

It was significant and exciting when I completed my master’s degree a few years ago. I was so proud to finally be able to shout: “Jack of all trades and master of ONE!” I am very proud of my forensic psychology degree. It would be even better if I could use it. I digress.

I am now a master of TWO!

Apparently, once you turn age 40, you automatically enter the “Masters” category of running. There are other categories beyond Masters for higher age groups. For now, I am a master of running.

After 12 years and 15 medals, it’s about damn time. Masters runner? I’ll take it!

I am currently in training for a half marathon this year, which will only be my second distance event since getting out of the hospital a few years ago. I’m super pumped. I am also using the Canadian method of training this year to hopefully contribute to the longevity of my running career. Instead of taking 9 weeks to train for a half marathon, I am now taking 17 weeks to train for a half marathon. I’m going with a slower build.

A slower build will allow me more time for rest and hopefully decrease my chances of injury.

Another factor in this choice is that I am now training solely on paved roads, as opposed to a packed trail bed. Paved roads are a pounding for joints, so I’m trying to be gentle. It would be quite a drive for me to get to the packed trail bed now.

Last year it was a huge deal because I finally broke down and bought a Garmin, which I chronicled in 5 Reasons why Garmin Rocks!

This year, I am proud to report, that I have completed my longest run since obtaining the Garmin. When I did my long run last week, the watch cheered as I reached a new goal – longest run with the Garmin. It was only 5 miles. The fact that it’s taken me over a year since I have done a 5 mile long run … well, I’m not happy about that. I am happy that I am now back to doing 5 mile runs. I am completely fine with them.

This week’s “long run” is another 5-miler. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying the slow build with this new Canadian style training plan. If I truly plan on being a master of running, then I need to be sure to preserve my body for the long run.

I may be considered a masters runner at age 40, but I want to be sure that I am still doing this at age 70. I may be running a little bit slower now than I was 10 years ago, but I’m running smarter. I’m riding this masters thing for as long as I can.

I am always stoked when I enter a new decade and get to change age groups in running. Entering the masters category is one of the best privileges I’ve had in years. I am really looking forward to being able to race in the masters runners category this year.

Respect, people! Respect!

Jack of all trades, master of TWO!

This is the New Year

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Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

Another Ride Around The Sun

My 38th birthday is approaching this week. One of my favorite phrases is that “a birthday is the start of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride!” After everything that happened at age 37, I am very much looking forward to this birthday and getting another year.

I love birthdays more than any other holiday, because every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Life threw me some doozies this past year.

I am not normally one for resolutions, but I do usually have goals. My three goals for 2017 are:

To resume my normal running schedule (completely shot to hell by health problems)
To plank every day
To read the entire Bible (again) this year

So far, I am on track for 2 of the 3. I have planked every day since January 1, with the exception of 1 day. So, given that this is now March, the fact that I have missed only 1 day of the past 2-3 months is impressive to me. I had the goal of planking every day back in 2016. I wasn’t even close last year.

I have this reading schedule that is helping me break up the Bible into manageable portions. Have you ever read the Bible? I’ve actually read it many times, but not in the past decade or so. Getting through some of those Old Testament books like Numbers can be really hard. I found a great schedule that breaks it down into manageable daily chunks. It fits well into my morning routine and helps me to ease calmly into my day.

My running schedule is something else. I had medical clearance to run back in January and was successful for a few weeks. I have been sidelined by debilitating fatigue the past few weeks. The health concerns that have been dragging me down since the fall have been a huge curve ball in my life. I am hoping that with my birthday this week and (hopefully) warmer weather that I can put the priority back on my running schedule. I think part of the reason why I feel like I want to curl up and die sometimes is that my health problems have made it impossible for me to run for about 6 months now.

I have a half marathon on my calendar this September and am looking forward to spending the next 6 months preparing for my race. I have the motivation and the mindset; if only my body would cooperate.

Note to self: 38 is the year we need to get it together again.

Years ago, I had read a British study on happiness that said that the happiest age was typically age 33 and the most miserable age was typically 37. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I still say that age 33 was the best year of my life. This was closely followed by age 36 as being a great year. The two worst years of my life have been ages 34 and 37.

That’s a lot of up and down for one decade. Although my 30s have been way better than my 20s, I did not expect things to be so tumultuous. I’m not sure what the predictions are for your 40s, but at this point, I’m hoping that age 38 is just a nice, evenly keeled year that allows me to get back on track and meet all my goals.

I honestly can’t complain too much. I am getting this huge gift this week of being blessed with another year of life in which to ride around the sun. It truly is a wonderful life. I have friends and people who love me, the best job of my life, and my retirement is going great. All I need is my health to cooperate and get with the program. Once that is in place, I would have to say that life is pretty great.

After being in the hospital last fall, I feel that I am truly lucky to be alive and looking forward to another birthday.

So here’s to another ride around the sun. I’ve been able to survive another year of what life threw at me.

School’s Out Forever!

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“If you’re not building the future, you don’t believe there is a future.” – OITNB

I never planned for life after college. I loved being in school and spent a grand total of 30 years in the organizational silo that is the education system in this country. School was something I was good at; it was an escape from a shitty childhood that I honestly never thought I would survive. I never planned for life after college because I did not think I would live to see life after college.

After four degrees, I am officially done with school, and I have been enjoying my retirement these past few months working at a job I enjoy, and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I have not really had any distinct direction. This time has been perhaps the closest thing approximating a vacation I have ever experienced.

After what seemed like a lot of bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary aggravation, my diploma finally arrived today from my most recent and final degree. Not only do I feel a huge sense of relief, but I also have a sense of closure. I have never felt this sense of closure upon obtaining any of my other diplomas; that is partially how I know and am so sure that this is, in fact, the final degree. I have a sense of peace I have not had when completing any other degree.

While my formal education may be complete, I am now a student of the world and continue to learn from books, people, and experiences that surround me. I used my formal education to help me navigate the world of hard knocks and have lived to tell the tale. I quite literally have this great big world at my feet.

Everyone has been asking me about my plans. Thus far, I have had none. I have had ideas. I may teach. I do not feel like teaching right now. I enjoy my job and am enjoying the newfound freedom that I have now that I am not in school. I have joined both a book club and a writing club so that I am still engaged in intelligent conversation on a regular basis with people who are stimulating and authentic.

In addition to my vague notions of potentially teaching on the collegiate level sometime in the future, I also have dreams of travel. I have a passport that has never been stamped. I ran a marathon in Canada shortly after a passport was required for Canada, before the introduction of “enhanced driver’s licenses” for those residents in border states, yet Canada does not stamp the passport. I have a desire to see the world beyond my own country. We only get one life and it is very short. I want to make the most of it while I am here.

My dreams of travel have also been vague. I keep saying that I want to backpack through Europe. I do. It also seems unattainable to a small town girl who never thought to survive childhood and finish school.

I have decided to come up with a three-year plan and to choose a specific destination and start making plans for travel. I figure that if I can put my dreams down on paper and start crunching numbers, then I have a more concrete goal of the amount of money I need to save to fund my trip, as well as a destination, and an anticipated travel year.

I have chosen a three-year plan instead of a five-year plan because that is when I turn 40, and I want to do it big. I am starting to think of how I really want to retire in life in 30 or 40 years after I am done working and not just done being a college student. I am thinking of all the things that I want to see and do and trying to come up with a concrete way to make that happen. I am now planning for a future that I never thought I would have.

School may be done for me. I have finished all of my degrees. I will never stop learning. I love to learn and I know that travel will only help to broaden my horizons. While I look to and build the future, I am enjoying my present. I now have time to read all the books I wanted to read but did not have time to read when I was in school. I now have time to do all the things that I want to do and did not have time to do in school because I was always rushing from home to work to class and trying to fit in all my housework and other obligations between homework and paying bills.

School may be out forever, but I am now building a future. While I have a bunch of fancy degrees, perhaps the greatest thing I have learned in my 30 years of education is that I have a future and it is mine for the choosing. It seems like it took an awful lot of education to learn one simple thing, but I am grateful. I would not change a thing or want it any other way.

KonMari is the new Carpe Diem

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It all started with the wish for freedom and a desire to travel. While it seems like only yesterday, five years ago I finally completed my bachelor’s degree after a 15-year marathon quest to acquire an education. The best-laid plans are always those fate chooses to detour the unsuspecting into some unforeseen fulfillment. The original plan was that I would complete my master’s degree in New York, providing me with the employment leverage to be able to pull in an income that would allow me to finally move out of state in pursuit of the PhD.

Although I have finally achieved the master’s degree and it was completed in New York, I no longer have the desire either to move or to pursue the PhD. However, part of that original plot was the seed that also started my journey into minimalism. In anticipation of a large inter-state move, my purpose was to decrease all my possessions that were duplicates or frivolous. I did not want to take everything I owned on such a journey.

In 2011, I closed my storage unit. Everything that was in the unit I moved into my house so that I could begin the process of downsizing to be able to move. That means that literally everything I own is currently in my house. This includes all photos, mementos, and other paraphernalia from growing up; there is nothing in storage at any relatives’ house. While closing the storage unit and moving everything into my house provided me with much anxiety over the increase in the amount of clutter, the immediate gratification was that I was no longer wasting money to store items that were not in every day use.

Not only are storage units a huge waste of money, but also according to some studies, there is currently enough storage spaces and storage units in this country to be able to provide every homeless person with housing. If only we would close our storage units and find a way to keep all of our belongings within the walls of our housing abode.

I have always viewed my minimalist journey as a work-in-progress. While the goal was freedom and travel, I did not anticipate what life would be like at the end of the minimalist journey. I fully embraced minimalism as a lifestyle change, and have been surprised and delighted at some of the unintended consequences in my feelings and psyche that this journey has brought to my life.

I have voraciously read about minimalism, and picked and chose which tenets are helpful for me and those that are not, as I have forged my own individual journey. These past few months, I have, in fact, begun to wonder: “when does it end,” and “what happens when it does.”

The past five months I have been on the waiting list for Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it was finally my turn this week to read the novel. I was a little skeptical at first. Some of the bestsellers I have read recently, I found to be extremely disappointing and do not understand their widespread popularity. Also, I consider myself to be rather well read on the topic of minimalism and was skeptical if Kondo would be able to add anything to what I already know.

I was wrong. I completely understand why this book is so popular. Kondo offers a fresh perspective with a unique point-of-view when it comes to minimalism. So fresh, that the novel reminds me of why I started on this journey and has helped me to see the end and the end result.

I plan to go all KonMari on my own ass.

While I have to return the book back to the library in a few weeks, I will definitely be re-reading the book before I do so and may even purchase it to serve as my guide over the next several months. My goal is now to KonMari my life for 2016 and for my minimalist journey to reach a destination so that I am able to life the life I envision.

Over the past five years, I have grown stagnant in my minimalist journey. I have lost sight of my goals of freedom and travel. It is time to realign with my goals and to work to achieve them. Kondo reminded me of the purpose for my minimalist journey, and to that I say: KonMari is the new Carpe Diem.

The concept that struck me the most was that if one looks at minimalism as a journey, one will never arrive. Yet, broad, sweeping, widespread changes will enact a butterfly effect that touches every aspect of our lives. I am hoping to put her premises into effect in my life over the coming months so that I may experience joy on a daily basis and start living the life I envision.

Sometimes we become stuck in our ways of doing and our ways of being and it takes some sort of wake up call for us to see that we have become mired in gunk. Kondo’s book was just the type of shot in the arm that I needed to be able to redefine my life and kick-start my goals.

I have always had the goal of being able to travel to Europe and to backpack through the various countries. Now that school does not tie me down, I am able to move forward making life changes that will help me to realize my goal. Once we put our house in order, everything else comes into order as well.

How will you carpe diem?

Lines in the Sand

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New years is always that huge page turned in the book of life that represents a new chapter of opportunity. Many make (and break) resolutions as hope for a better future, a brighter year.

A new calendar on the wall is not the only opportunity for change. Many resolutions fail due to the inordinate amount of pressure placed on a certain day of the year. While there may be some astronomical significance to the date, it is, in fact, arbitrary.

A new goal can start any time of year, not just January 1. Choose a Monday, choose your birthday, choose any day on the calendar and draw a circle around it.

What do you want life to look like? What is reality? What positive changes can you enact to make reality align more with your desires? Keep in mind that the journey is just as significant as the destination. I often say I know what I want, but I don’t know how to get there. The beauty of life is that we each have our unique process of reaching our goals.

Dates on the calendar are simply lines we draw in the sand to delineate change. Change in actions, change in attitudes. January 1 holds a lot of pressure. Many times if people break their New Year’s Resolutions, they shrug their shoulders and proclaim, “there’s always next year.” Yes, there is always next year. There is also tomorrow.

If you have made resolutions for this new year and they do not make it past January, you do not have to admit defeat and wait for a new year to start fresh. Those goals you so boldly proclaimed on December 31 or January 1 can be realized at any time of year. Just try again.

If you are able to make it through the month of January without breaking the resolution, chances are that you have made a life change that will stick. Usually major changes in habit take about 3 weeks to firmly root into one’s routine.

I have not made any resolutions for the new year. The new year tends to be meaningless for me for a few reasons. First, after 20 years in college, I seem to be stuck on the school year calendar. Labor Day weekend is the most meaningful time of year for me. That is when leaves start to turn, the last light of summer fades into fall, and a new school year is typically set to begin.

Second, I consider birthdays to be more meaningful than a simple change in page of the calendar. Each birthday is proof that I was able to handle another year of what life threw at me. When I turned 36 in March of 2015, my wish was for a quiet year. After tumultuous times the two years prior, I have been looking for some respite from the tribulations I have lived through. So far, I have gotten it. But the new year is not the reset for me. My birthday in March will determine the success or failure of that goal for the year.

As many approach the month of January with hope that things will improve, keep in mind that things can improve any time of the year. January is just one line in the sand. Feel free to draw your own. If you are not able to keep your resolutions to which you have so dutifully pledged, that does not mean all is lost until the next flip of the calendar. Take some time to evaluate why your plan was not successful and regroup. The only true way to fail is to stop trying.

New Year’s is only one line in the sand. The masterpiece comes in creating your own.