Wonderful Year 2021

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The past two years have been hard for everyone. I’ve lost so many people to COVID that I don’t bother to keep count anymore. It’s more than 10. Last year was especially difficult. Despite the challenges, I have to say that 2021 was a wonderful year.

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. It’s about the lowest point in a person’s life and how a community came together to help them. It sounds cheerful, but the ending is only happy in contrast to the dark depths of despair that led to the conclusion.

This year was one of my most challenging. I lost my job for the first time ever. In over 25 years of working, I have never been unemployed before. On top of that, someone stole my identity and committed fraud on my social security number so I was not able to access unemployment. To add insult to injury, my former employer knew about the fraud – at least 5 months before they terminated me – and never told me about it or did anything to respond to the Department of Labor’s inquiry about suspicious activity, 

I was absolutely terrified last spring that I was going to end up homeless, separated from the cats, dead from COVID, or some combination of the three. I’ve lived through some pretty tough times, but last spring was the worst.

One friend from childhood stepped up and organized a GoFundMe for me. People I’ve never met donated. It took a community, but that community and those donations paid our monthly bills while I was unemployed and searching for work. It took me two months to find a new job.

Thankfully in the middle of this mess, internet service and improved cell phone service finally reached my rural little area. I was able to find a permanent remote job. I am able to pay the bills and keep us all together.

Much like Bedford Falls came together to help George, the pets and humans of Cats of Twitter (and also just kind humans), came together to help me. I cannot express how thankful I am and always will be for the kindness and generosity that helped us through that trying time. Unemployment is not something I ever want to experience again.

It truly has been a wonderful year.

I am thankful that I am able to work from home. I can be home with the cats. They are my favorite coworkers. I will always treasure this time I am getting to be at home with them. 

I am thankful that 2021 was the best year of my running career in nearly a decade. This was my highest mileage year since 2015. In 2016, I was in the hospital with a bad MS epsiode. It’s been a long, hard road to get back to this point. Not only was this my highest mileage year, but I successfully completed two half marathons within a week of each other. 

I typically have to space my races 5-6 months apart. I have never had races this close on the calendar before. I was able to achieve medals 19 and 20. It’s hard to believe that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and I currently have 20 marathon medals. 

Sometimes I do get sad and lonely about all of the people I have lost in the pandemic. I can list on my fingers the number of people I know from before the pandemic who are still alive. The people I lost cannot be replaced. However, this past year, I have made new friends. I think I have more friends right now than I have ever had in my life. I am so grateful for each one. I treasure every one.

All of the friends I have made, I have not met in person. I have met them online through the amazing Cats of Twitter community. Yes, we are on Twitter. My cats are very popular on the internet and they don’t even know it.

I treasure the friends I have made. Some talk to me daily. It’s nice to have people to talk to again about my day and to hear about how their day went. I love learning about new people, new places, new cultures. In a world of pandemic cruelty, there are still good and kind people in this world.

We sent more Christmas photo cards this year than we have ever sent. (I do still have some left, so if we missed you, let me know,) I do Chrsitmas photo cards so people can see the cats. The past few years in the pandemic, they have become the only way people get to see me too.

I have a friend in England who sent me a package of the most beautiful Chrismtas presents I have ever received. We have never met in real life, but I feel like she knows me. Each gift was useful, meaningful, and precious. The artwork above was done by her daughter of the three cats for me.

Another package arrived the week before Christmas unlabeled. I had to figure out who sent it (I did). It was from another online friend I have never met and was filled with presents. It’s not the presents themselves that mattered. It’s the kindness and the thoughtfulness in them. Again, this person has never met me in person, and yet every item seemed like it was chosen just for me. Every present was perfect.

I was in foster care when younger. I remember getting Christmas presents and feeling like a third wheel. I was one of those kids you “adopt” for the holidays – the ones where you pick a tag off a charity tree to shop for a 15 year old girl. Yes, I received lovely, age appropriate gifts. Yes, I was thankful to receive the gifts and to be remembered on Christmas. Yet, the gifts were not personal. It was just a tag on a tree where some stranger bought presents for a child they never met.

Even though I have not met my online friends in-person, the gifts they sent me were all personal. I feel so special and so loved. For the first time in my life, I am not just a tag on a charity tree. People cared enough to do something nice for me.

Of course, the best gift this Christmas is the fact that the cats and I are still together. We are together thanks to the kindness and generosity of strangers who stepped up and helped us during our time of need last spring. I will be forever grateful to all the people who donated to keep us all together this year. I am in awe and amazement of your kindness. It is humbling.

As challenging as 2021 may have been, it really has been a wonderful year. 
Thank you to everyone for loving us and supporting us through these challenging times. I am amazed and delighted that there is still kindness in the world. I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with the cats helping them live their best lives. 

My Second Favorite Holiday

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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. Birthdays are a celebration of life. You only stop having birthdays when you are dead, and that’s a problem.

Many people like Christmas. I like Christmas too, but it’s not my favorite holiday. I like the peaceful feeling of Christmas. Christmas is something we should try to replicate year round. We should aim to be kind and generous to others. While I enjoy Christmas, it is my third favorite holiday.

My second favorite holiday after birthdays is Labor Day and Labor Day weekend.

I spent over 20 years working 2-3 jobs for 40-60 hours per week. We do not have paid sick time in the United States. We do not have paid vacation time in the United States. The only time I would be able to get time off from all of my jobs was holidays.

Labor Day weekend is my favorite because it is a celebration of the worker. We should have the day off. American workers are treated the most poorly of any industrialized country. We can be fired at will, do not have to be offered health insurance, vacation pay, or sick pay. We work long hours for low wages.

The sad part is that for the United States of America, Labor Day is just another day. For many it signals the end of summer and return to school. We have forgotten that Labor Day is about the worker. Workers deserve much, much better than we receive in the United States.

Labor Day weekend has typically been my camping weekend. I like to get away to relax. It’s the only weekend of the year when I truly have a break. For one weekend a year, I can take a vacation and pretend I am just like any worker in any European or other industrialized country.

The saddest part of Labor Day weekend is that although we get the day off, we do not get paid to have the day off. You get the weekend whether you like it or not.

We need to have a revival of the worker’s rights movement in this country. We deserve better wages, shorter hours, healthcare, paid sick time, paid vacation time, and much more. I know that we will never get any of this in my lifetime, but I can dream.

I also dream of moving to a European country that has all those benefits.

Labor Day weekend is my second favorite holiday because it is the only time of year I am truly at peace. When I go camping to a remote area in the Adirondacks, I am typically surround by ducks and other wildlife and not many people. It is the only time I get to slow down and be peaceful. That peacefulness is something I wish I could bottle and have for the entire year.

The past three years or so, Labor Day weekend has not been very restful or peaceful. When I bought my house, my employer at the time only gave me 3 hours off work to complete the closing to purchase the house. I was not allowed to take any time off for moving. Moving was done haphaxardly after work and on Labor Day weekend. 

Now, in the pandemic, I have not been able to travel to go camping for Labor Day weekend. The last time I was able to go camping was October 2019.

This year, we are camping. It will not be the Adirondacks. It will be on our own property. I’m not sure if I will put the tent up inside or outside, but we will camp. We will pretend it is just like any other year in the Adirondacks. The exception will be the obnoxious, threatening neighbors, but hey, we do what we can.

Happy Labor Day weekend. May you find peace. And then after a peaceful weekend, let’s do something to ensure hard working Americans are treated better. We deserve to be treated as humans, at least. 

Four Coffee Dates

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Whether you love or hate the 12 Days of Christmas song, most everyone knows it and will belt out “Five golden rings.” I like to think of the 12 days of Christmas in terms of Christmas vacation. Those are 12 days when I get a little bit of respite from some of the enormous amount of responsibility I shoulder.

When I was a student, I would try to cram as much leisure time into Christmas break as possible. It was the only time when I had the time to read a novel not associated with my degree field. I would schedule game nights, soirees with wine and food, coffee dates, movie dates, and would pretty much say yes to any party to which I was invited. Spending 20 years working 2 or 3 jobs while being a full time student on the Dean’s List left little time for socialization, so I lived Christmas break to the fullest. Even though I still had work and home obligations, at least I had a break from school.

We have had about a week and a half holiday break from my work, and it has been awesome. It is nice to be home and not have to worry about work. I have time to rest, time to read, run, and attempt some of the items on my to-do list. I just wish it would snow. Of course, when I have off from work the roads are bare. Mother Nature waits until work days to make the roads impassable, causing me to use all my vacation time on snow days.

However, with the nice weather, I have had the opportunity to connect in ways that I usually do not have energy for given my disability. I have been on two coffee/tea dates so far with two more scheduled. I am scheduling my coffee dates around my running schedule to reduce the amount of driving I am doing into town. I have had at least three days this week that have been completely home days and it has been awesome.

So while I may not be living it up with house parties, game nights, and nights out dancing like I was ten or more years ago, I am making meaningful connections. Coffee dates allow me to spend an hour with a person in meaningful conversation. Or, sometimes just silently enjoying someone else’s company while people watching out the coffee house window. 

As I get older, I am discovering that spending quality time with people is more important than the quantity of time you spend with them. I may be spending an hour with someone. That hour of quality time sustains me through three subsequent days alone with the cats. I have to admit, I am thoroughly looking forward to the time when I can finally retire completely (not just from my career as a student) and my time is my own. 

The most important part of Christmas is the gift of time, which you cannot buy in a store. I have been enjoying taking time to see people outside of work. I am looking forward to more positive, relaxed interactions. 

How are you spending time with people this holiday season? 

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.

 

Home is Where the Cats Are

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Jude in the new house Christmas 2018

Many people get upset and emotional when they move from a place where they lived for a long time. It’s understandable. There was a lot of living done and may memories created when we stay in one place for a long time.

You would think that I would have had an emotional reaction when I moved out of the apartment I had lived in for 14 years. It was the longest I had ever lived in one place and the only place I lived that ever truly felt like home.

The second day I was in the house, I had a single moment of meltdown. I remember sitting on the bed in the new house, tired, dirty, drained, and stressed, crying because I wanted to go home and didn’t know where that was. Ten minutes later the moment passed, and I continued with unpacking boxes and getting settled into the house. That was the only “moment” I’ve had.

When some people move to a new location after living someplace for a long time, they will have a moment of confusion when driving and accidentally drive towards the “old house” before realizing that they have to take a new way home now. I’ve heard of this happening, but have never experienced it myself. From day one of when I moved, it was pretty clear to me where I was supposed to be.

I always return to where ever my cats are. I knew exactly where my cats were, so that’s where I go, no question. Home is where the cats are.

Within two hours of closing on my house, I moved the cats. The cats moved first before anything else.

I know that when moving with pets, this is counter intuitive. You are not supposed to move the pets first. You are supposed to move them last so that they do not get lost. In my case, I had to move them first before I even gave notice to the landlord that I was leaving. I had to be sure that the cats were safe and stably housed, since they were part of the “problem” for a landlord who was going pet-free.

Once the cats were in the house, this is just where I return. Every day. Every time I go out.

I think this is part of why I am NOT emotional over the whole move. Other than my one “moment,” which I think was mostly exhaustion and frustration from the move (who wouldn’t be exhausted and frustrated when moving?), I haven’t had any other break downs over the move.

I moved and did not look back. Yes, the situation was unfortunate. I am mostly mad at the circumstances of the move – that it was a forced move and not something of my own volition. However, the goal in that hellish situation was always to keep my family together. By purchasing a home, I have been able to keep the three of us together. That’s all that really matters.

People ask me if I like the house. I like it well enough. It is taking some time to get used to. It does not feel like “home” yet. That will come in time. I hate the stairs – I never wanted a two story house. I love my kitchen. It’s my favorite kitchen I’ve ever had anyplace I have lived or ever seen anywhere.

What is most important, is that the cats are happy here. They each have their favorite window for optimal bird viewing. I am so happy there are birds here for them to watch, as that was one of their favorite activities in the apartment. They seem to be happy. They both cuddle with me.

Jude has been spending a lot of time rolling around and on his back. He did that a little bit in the apartment, especially when I first adopted him. Jude likes to roll. However, I noticed on Christmas that he was so happy over one of his presents that he laid on his back with all his legs in the air. I’ve seen him do that a few times in the new house. He never did that in the apartment. I’m thinking he must like the new house if he is that comfortable here to expose himself like that.

Over the past 4 months we have been in the house, Jude spends less and less time hiding in the kitchen cupboard. In fact, the only time I see him go in there now is when someone comes to visit. Sometimes, he doesn’t even go in the cupboard, he finds other places to hide. The fact that Jude is so comfortable in the house that he no longer hides in the cupboard on a regular basis speaks volumes.

Simon is happy every place. This is the cat that even purrs at the vet office when getting his rabies vaccine. Nothing seems to phase Simon. Except thunderstorms. We discovered this summer that Simon is terrified of thunderstorms.

We are still getting settled into the house. We are getting into new routines and moving things around. We are all together, and that is what is most important.

I literally could have lived anywhere. Given the situation when the new landlord took over the apartment building last spring, I was fully prepared to be homeless again and was trying to figure out how to live in my car or an RV or someplace with both cats. I’m really glad that it did not come to that, but I was literally prepared to live anywhere with them. We are a family and we have to stay together.

So while it doesn’t really matter where we live as long as we are all together, this house is by far the nicest place we have ever lived. It’s home because this is where my cats are located. I come home to them every night.

As long as Jude and Simon like the house, then I’m happy.

Home is where the cats are.

Home for the Holidays

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“We should count all our blessings at Christmas.” – Frank Sinatra

Every year, people around me seem bothered by the fact that I stay home for Christmas. I don’t understand why. I stay home with my family. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about – family?

This year was one of the most challenging years of my life. On top of an ongoing and escalating bullying situation, I had a major threat to the only stable housing I have ever had in my life.

This Christmas, I am thankful that my family is together. If we had not been able to buy this house, we would not have had a place to live. I’m thankful that for the first time in my life and theirs that we truly have permanent housing. Now we just have to keep it (which the bullying situation makes challenging, but I digress).

Recently, someone criticized me that I wouldn’t “let go of” or “move on from” what the new apartment landlord did to me that precipitated the buying of the house. When someone comes in, doubles your rent with 2 weeks notice, threatens to evict you if you don’t give your children up for adoption, calls you every single week for 3 months wanting to know how you’re going to pay rent (and suggesting you ask your boss for a $8,000 raise to cover the rent increase), and tampers with your drinking water, it’s kind of hard to let go of.

I’m sure that eventually I will get to the point of forgiveness over this situation. It was suggested that I over reacted and was “emotional”. Well, I’ve been homeless before, and when you’re housing and family are attacked like that, it’s a little hard to not get upset. I have moved on from from this situation. I have now been thrown into a whole new crisis – that of reluctant homeowner. I never wanted to buy a house, but that was the only solution to keep my family together.

So this Christmas, I am counting my blessings, and this house is the biggest one. Even though I am a reluctant homeowner, this house is what is keeping my family together. I may not like the responsibility, but this is the price I pay so that we can all stay together and not be homeless.

Keeping my family together is priceless and the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.

For the first time ever, I can truly say that we are Home for the Holidays.

In 2019, I will be looking for a way to extradite myself from an ongoing and escalating bullying situation I am experiencing. Hopefully, I will be able to do it in a way that offers me some stability.

One of the scariest parts about being a homeowner, is that now I am stuck here. There is no option to move someplace else for a job or healthcare or some other opportunity. I’m stuck with what is here and dealing with this economically depressed area of Upstate New York.

Being “stuck” is not completely bad. “My house is always parked in the same place.” Each year at Christmas, when I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, most of the movie makes me laugh. There is one part that always makes me cry.

The part where the little girl is saying how happy she is to stay in their home instead of the motorhome because their “house is always parked in the same place” makes me cry. I remember growing up like that. We spent a good three years (including New York winters) living in a motorhome when I was growing up.

When I moved into the house I bought, it was the first time in my life I have ever lived in a house. I’ve always lived in either a motorhome, a car, a trailer, or an apartment. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that your house is always parked in the same place.

So while there may be problems around me, at least I know where home is now. Hanging onto our home is the challenge I face daily. But as long as my family is all together, it is a challenge I can keep facing until we are able to find stability in all aspects of our life. We will face one crisis at a time. At least we are able to face them together.

This house is my biggest blessing this year, and I am very much looking forward to staying home with my family for Christmas this year. We are finally Home for the Holidays.

Redefining Freedom

My family – Jude, age 6 (right), Simon, age 2 (left)

Freedom means different things to different people depending on circumstances. For many, travel means freedom. It is even popularized in a commercial as being “free to roam the country.” I had this grand Freedom at Forty plan that I would finally be able to go someplace to have a stamp in my passport.

While I would love to travel, I have had some life circumstances lately that are not only making travel impossible, but literally threatening my day-to-day existence. When faced with a life-changing crisis, we quickly realize where our priorities are and fight to make sure they are met. For me, that means that this year I am redefining freedom.

Freedom now means the ability to live with my family someplace safe and in peace. As long as the three of us get to stay together, nothing else matters. This has always been my first priority, but it tends to become more pronounced when your family unit is threatened with ultimatums such as “separate or get out,” or “choose between your children because you have too many.” Sometimes even just keeping a family together feels like a losing battle.

That losing battle straddles a fine line between freedom and survival. There are ways to keep families together and survive. It could be living in a car, a RV, or migrating somewhere new where you will hopefully be able to stay together safely. Freedom is more than survival. Freedom is being able to keep your family together in a way that enables you all to be comfortable, safe and to build a life where you can transcend survival and be able to thrive.

Right now, I am in survival mode trying to keep my family together and find safe, affordable housing that will accept us as a family unit. I’m hoping that the Fourth of July will be some sort of good luck charm to finding freedom to live with my family intact.

It’s pretty sad in this land of alleged plenty that keeping a family together is seen as a privilege and not a right. If keeping a family together is a privilege, then we truly are not free at all. Everything can be taken from you with only a moment’s notice – including those you hold dear. The whole point of minimalism is not to have nothing. The point of minimalism is to have just what you need so you can focus on what’s important. Being able to be a minimalist is also a sense of privilege in a country where some people are struggling to obtain even just what they need and to hold onto what’s important.

Freedom should include the right to keep a family together. As people spend the Fourth of July having barbeques and watching fireworks with their family, they should think about whether that family is a right or a privilege. Currently, in this country and as I am seeing in my own life right now, family is a privilege. True freedom would include the right to keep a family together in a safe environment.

The Fourth of July is also an anniversary. It was Fourth of July weekend back in the late 90s that I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I have gone back and forth over the years whether or not that movement was something I regret.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not regret leaving Massachusetts because of the positive things that have happened since I arrived in New York. I was finally able to achieve my degrees and I would not trade a single minute with my family to go back and do it over differently. However, the moving that I did that long ago Fourth of July weekend has had significant impact on the course of my life over the past 20 years.

While I do miss Massachusetts and wish I could afford to move back, I realize that in New York, I achieved a level of freedom that I would not trade. I now have education to bring in income that buys freedom (unless you are looking for affordable housing). I have the freedom of being with my family and that is the greatest gift I have ever received.

This Fourth of July, I am redefining freedom. My Freedom at Forty plan no longer includes international travel. Given my current circumstances, that is not a realistic goal. This year, I am redefining freedom as the ability to keep my family together. If I can keep us together in safe, affordable, stable housing that will be even better. The outcome is yet to be seen.

How are you redefining freedom this Fourth of July? What does freedom mean to you?  

 

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.

Vacation

lake trail sign bridge

I’ve been working 23 years. For the first time in my work life, I just completed having a week’s paid vacation. I have never before had employment that gave me paid vacation. It was wonderful.

At one moment, I was lamenting that I did not take as many day trips this year as I have in years past. Then I realized that my life has slowed down enough that I no longer have need for the day trip escapism that was so essential to keeping me going when I was working two jobs and going to school full time. Now that my life has slowed down, I actually have a few hours each week in which I can relax without having to leave town and take a day trip. Having an entire week off completely blew my mind.

I was amazed at the fact that even though I had a week’s vacation, what I wanted more than anything was to be home. I do a lot of driving. I drive every single day. I am sick of driving. Especially where I live in the Finger Lakes, the traffic is so bad in the city in which I work that it is worse than Manhattan, Boston, or L.A. I have driven in those three cities, and would rather drive in them than drive through the city in which I work. So one of the nicest parts about being on vacation was that for nine straight days, I did not go anywhere near the city I work in, which is about 10 miles away from my house. It takes me almost an hour to drive those 10 miles one way to work on a daily basis. I did not miss it.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of hiking, a lot of sleeping, and a lot of relaxing on my vacation. I also planned some fun things for the coming fall and winter. Vacation was a great time to stop and assess where I am in life and to be sure that I am on the right track.

I am so relaxed; I don’t have anything to say.

I have heard many arguments for vacations and many for staycations. I would say that my week was a hybrid. I had four “away” days where I went on a trip, and five “home” days. I read that staycations became popular after the recession. Family vacations of the post-war period were typically camping trips that centered on family togetherness. As the extravagance of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s took over, families go to Europe or Disney. Personally, I needed home days before and after my trip just to prepare and decompress. I go from point A to point B every day of my life. The last thing I want to do on “vacation” is the same thing I do in my everyday life except in a different location. That just does not seem like vacation to me.

What fun are you having this summer? Vacation or staycation?

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.