My Best Decade


Today is my 40th birthday. Birthdays are my favorite holiday. They are proof I’m still here and survived another year of what life threw at me. 40 is great because I get to move up another age group in running. 40 is significant because I have now outlived my paternal grandmother, who passed away from a stroke at age 39. Each decade I’m alive keeps getting better, so here’s hoping that 40 is awesome.

Looking back on my 30s, they were pretty amazing. My 30s were definitely better than my 20s.

The three major challenges I had in my 30s were the heartache of Kip’s death, the heartache of Kitty’s death, and my stroke at age 37. There were other really bad things too, but these three were the worst.

With those notable exceptions, my 30s were (so far) my best decade.

In random, but somewhat chronological order, here are 10 things that made my 30s the best decade ever:

  1. I completed my bachelor’s degree.

It took 15 years to do so. In those 15 years, I did get an associate’s degree, live in at least 4 different states, battle homelessness, and work 3 jobs 60-70 hours per week, but I got it done. My bachelor’s degree was the only degree for which I was not valedictorian, and it was the only graduation ceremony I attended. Out of all my degrees, finishing my bachelor’s was definitely not only the most challenging, but also the most fun.

  1. I ran marathons.

More than one. I’ve ran in Philly, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Scranton, and a few other cities. Each one is precious. I ran a marathon down the longest street in the world (true story). I ran my first point-to-point (city-to-city) marathon. I represented Team USA internationally. I had the opportunity to run into an Olympic Stadium (not during an actual Olympics). I’ve gotten a high five at the finish line from the Mayor of a major American city.  I’ve had limo service to my pre-race dinner as a “visiting athlete.” My medals actually mean more than my degrees.

  1. I got to see my MLB team play on home turf.

Every baseball fan should have this experience at least once in their life. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is completely magical to be at the stadium on game day, to watch the maintenance people prep the lawn, and then finally see your heroes take the field to play the best game on Earth. If you have not yet had this experience, it should definitely be on your bucket list. Pro sports tickets are extremely expensive, but try to save to go just once. It’s one of my favorite memories of all time.

  1. I got to see my MLB team win the World Series (on TV, not in person).

This is another experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. I’ve seen road wins and I’ve seen home wins. The home win is just something everyone should be able to experience once. No one should have to die without having seen their team win the World Series.

  1. I fell in love.

You hear this all the time. In my 20s, the remark was almost flippant. In my 30s, this phrase took on meaning. I don’t mean the lightning strike love-at-first-sight moment that is a complete whirlwind and then all of a sudden fizzles. I’m talking about the kind of love where you have known a person for decades through good and bad and are 100% supportive of that person, even when they are doing things that are not necessarily great. I’m not talking about being a door mat. I’m talking about actually being someone’s partner and having the ability to love a person so much that you are always there for them even if their life choices take them away from you. The kind of love that you know that is your person and there is no one else you click with like that, who knows you so well.

  1. I finished my Master’s degree.

If my bachelor’s degree seemed an impossibility, then grad school was a pipe dream. I actually think I was in the final year of my bachelor’s when I started asking people to explain grad school to me. No one in my family had ever even gone to college and the only people I knew with graduate degrees were my professors. It was like some hidden Holy Grail that I was finally able to unlock. I am now a Jill of all trades and master of ONE!

  1. I rode the unicorn into extinction.

By this I mean that I had that elusive experience of all adulthood – I had my dream job. I had a job I loved so much that it didn’t feel like work. I just showed up to do what I wanted to do – what I had spent 20 years of my life preparing to do – and happened to get paid to do that every day. I would have been so happy to do that every single day until I died or retired. How many people in this country have the privilege of being able to say “I love what I do” and actually mean it? Or should I say, how many people can actually say “I love what I do” and are getting paid to do it at a level that meets all their living expenses. All dreams must come to an end, and the company I worked for decided to pull out of New York State. So I rode the unicorn to the end of the rainbow not to find a pot of gold like I had expected, but just an empty void that I still have not figured out how to fill. Once you’ve had your dream job, nothing else will ever live up to that experience. Especially when the job you find to replace the dream doesn’t even respect you. Now, this is extinction.

  1. I bought a house.

If my masters degree was a pipe dream, well, I’ll tell you right now that buying a home was never on my radar. At all. I have never lived in a house. I have spent a chunk of my life being homeless. I never figured a “person like me” would even own a home. I never entertained the idea or even saved for one. Owning a home was a joke. My back-up plan for housing was – well, if things go bad, I’ll just move back to Massachusetts or buy a house, insert excessive laughter literally rolling on the floor laughing here. Buying a house is one of the scariest things I have ever done in life. So far, it’s also been one of the best choices I have ever made. I kept my family together and the cats are so much happier here than they were in the apartment. Funny, I never thought they were unhappy in the apartment, it’s just a contrast to see how well they are doing in the house.

  1. Anything less than 110% is … okay?

I spent almost 25 years of my life burning the candle at both ends. I slept 4 hours a day. I worked 3 jobs to make ends meet because really, who can survive on minimum wage? I worked 60-70 hours per week while going to school full-time working on my degrees. I excelled in school. Some call me an overachiever. So, when my stroke completely knocked me down a few years ago, it is quite a shock to only operate at abut 86%. Which, by the way, is considered my “level of functioning.” I am also considered “fully recovered.” Even though the doctors consider me fully functional, it is hard for me to accept that this is all I can do now. I’m used to doing so much more. What my stroke has taught me, is that it is okay to slow down. I can rest and still get things done. I’m pretty grateful to have learned this lesson now and be at 86% than to have just worked myself into the ground – it could have been worse. Listen to your body is the greatest lesson I have learned in my 30s.

  1. Family First

Family first has been carrying me through life since Kitty, as a 4-month old kitten, first climbed up onto my shoulders at the animal shelter and would not get down when I was 19. He picked me out. I took him home. We were together until he passed away from cancer just before his 19th birthday. Every major life choice I have made has centered around keeping my family together. Through everything that has happened with work, school, running, and health, at the end of the day, I come home to my furkids. They are always here, happy to see me with unconditional love. Family first is the tenant that will carry me into my 40s. As long as we are all together, everything is okay. My primary job is keeping us all together, loving my cats and being loved by them.

Of course, none of this would be possible without God. That’s the bottom line. God has done great things in my life through my 30s. I can’t wait to see what’s next for 40. Thanks for making my 30s my best decade so far.

My life verses:

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

Slow Down does not mean Stop

A few months ago, before the shit hit the fan both literally and figuratively, and my life turned into a Dickens tale, I remember sitting in church listening to that day’s sermon, and the phrase “slow down does not mean stop” stuck with me. I honestly don’t remember what the sermon was actually supposed to be about, but that one phrase stuck. I’m pretty sure it was sometime in mid-September that I heard it.

Since hearing that phrase in mid-September, I have successfully survived a bout of the flu that completely flattened me for a week, and took a total of almost three weeks to fully recover; I survived being rear-ended on my way to work by an impaired driver while I was sitting completely stopped at a red light; and I survived being in the hospital for a possible stroke, and all the cardiologist and other doctor visits that ensued trying to figure out why I was suddenly blacking out all the time. If bad luck comes in threes, then I have had my share for this year.

Slow down does not mean stop stuck with me because in addition to my recent challenges, I passed my one-year retirement anniversary. For the first time since I started kindergarten at age five, I have been out of school for an entire year from Nov 2015-Nov 2016. After spending twenty years of my life as a college student working multiple jobs, I have spent the past year working one job trying to slow down my life.

Slow down does not mean stop.

Whether a warning or a premonition, that phrase has come to apply to my life more than you can possibly imagine.

In some ways, my life has stopped.

No one talks to me now that I’m not in school. When I was in school, life was a flurry of activity, and with that came emails, text messages, and a slew of things on facebook. I deleted my facebook account almost nine months ago now, and I can still say it was the best thing I have ever done. I have no regrets on that one. What I would like to know is, where did all the people go now that I am not in school? I’m lucky if I get four text messages a month now.

I have no goals and no purpose. I have been mindlessly wafting. When I was in school, I was in constant action working toward a goal of finishing a degree and building a better life. I do not know what the definition of “a better life” is, but since I have been retired, I am simply working, reading, and hanging around home.

Probably the scariest, worst, and most significant way in which my life has stopped was that I stopped running. This is a problem on multiple levels.

Last spring, I was training for a full marathon and had to stop training when my work schedule became so overwhelming that I literally could only work and sleep. My work schedule was messing with my autoimmune disease, which means I was not sleeping, and was too tired to run. When I finally got my work schedule and sleep schedule around so I could run, I got the flu. Life has been a downward spiral. It quite literally took being in the hospital going through stroke protocol that gave me a very alarming wake up call.

I had a cardiologist years ago who had told me to try running to strengthen my heart and to overcome problems with a faulty valve I have. It worked. Fourteen marathon medals later, my echocardiogram is showing improvement in that compromised heart valve. However, the fact that I stopped running for five months, the longest amount of time in almost ten years that I have not ran, is a problem.

Stop running is what caused this “I almost had a stroke” mess.

Slowing down my life does not mean to stop doing what I love. Slowing down my life is supposed to give me more time to do more of what I love.

Instead, I have spent the past year in a dazed haze because I feel as though I no longer have an identity now that I am not in school.

Slow down does not mean stop. I learned that if I stop, it could kill me.

Since my hospital scare a few weeks ago, I have started walking every day (this came highly recommended by the cardiologist). I am working on getting myself back up to a point where I am running again on a regular basis. I do have a race picked out for September 2017, and plan on training for the 2017 season. These are all things that the cardiologist is excited about as well. Hopefully as I get to more running than walking, my “I’m going to pass out” symptoms will be gone.

I still don’t have a goal or a direction for my life. Honestly, I am very much lost now that I am no longer in school. What I do know is that while I want to slow down my life, I need to enjoy my life also. I haven’t been doing that. I just kind of slowed down and stopped.

Somehow I have to figure out how to keep myself going without school. That has been the hardest lesson to learn this past year. I am not doing very well with that.

We always say we want more time; we want more hours in a day. I believe that to be true. We will always want more time. It is easy for people who are on the outside looking in to say to someone “you need to slow down.” That may or may not be true. Only you know what’s best for you. Even if you do decide to slow down your life, be sure to remember: Slow down does not mean stop.

Lost & Found


I’ve thought about calling this year the Lost Year. In the now 10 months that I have been retired/out of school, I have felt completely lost. A huge chunk of my identity (student) is no longer there. I don’t know what to do with myself. On top of that, this is the first year that I am not running a major race or getting a medal. That has never happened before. I have run through pretty much everything. This year, I have been waylaid by my autoimmune disorder, my work schedule, and now the flu that has simply rendered the requisite 5-month training schedule an impossibility.

I’m seriously starting to wonder if NOT being a student is making me depressed. In what seems to be a bottomless pit of despair, there have been some pinpricks of hope this year. These are the three top aspects of “found.”

One of the major things on the list given to me by the doctors for how to manage my autoimmune disorder is to reduce my stress levels. It has now been over 6-months since I completely deleted my facebook account and canceled my home Internet service. Getting off of facebook is the #1 thing that I have done to decrease my stress levels. Words cannot express how much happier I am now that I am not online. To be honest, people talk to me a lot less, yet I do not feel lonely. When I was on facebook, a lot of people talked to me, but I always felt lonely. So now, I’m lucky if someone sends me a text message once a month, I am actually less lonely than I was before. Strange, but true.

Out of all the things I have done to decrease my stress levels, going offline has taken the most burden off my shoulders. I drink green tea and meditate, and I still want to slap someone. Going off facebook is better than yoga and jazz and all the new age relaxation techniques combined.

Second, when I had the flu last week, there was one day when I was trying to watch football, and just physically couldn’t. That’s when I said, you know what? I can’t do this, I don’t have to do this, and then I shut off the TV set and went to sleep. Having the flu last week was the first time in my life that I have been sick and was able to listen to my body 100%. If I had been in school, there was always something to read or something to write, and I would have fought through the flu because I had schoolwork to do. Last week, I did not have schoolwork, so I was able to say “no” to everything around me, and give my body what it needed to heal, which was pretty much sleep.

Third, I had less beach days in 2016 (in retirement) than I did in 2015 (in school). When I first realized this, I was dismayed. Why would I have less beach days when I have taken great pains to slow down my life and my schedule to have more time to do what I want? And that’s when I realized that life cannot be measured by beach days. When I was in school, I made a point of scheduling beach days so that I could relax. Scheduling a day to relax is about as much fun as making a schedule to have sex. It’s not. Fun. It’s more fun when it’s spontaneous. Looking back at summer 2016, I may have had less beach days, but here is what I had more of: baseball, live theatre, movies, time with family, time with friends, picnics, hiking, camping, sunsets, swimming, reading, and sleep. I did so many things this summer other than going to the beach.

Days before I was completely flattened by the flu, I had made plans to return to school. Yup. That’s right. I have talked about teaching, but I actually have that opportunity at work. I am enjoying the “teaching” I do at work so much, that I do not feel the need (at the moment) to teach in academia. I am truly blessed in that I have a job doing what I love.

But I’m a person who likes to finish what I start, and I was thinking I have some unfinished business. I would like a PhD, but my student loans are maxed. I know I cannot get financial aid, so the PhD is off the table. There is, however, the question of the physics degree I started and never finished. Three years into that, I switched to psychology, and stuck with that field. Plus, there is the fact that I actually looked through my high school yearbook this summer given that it was technically my 20-year class reunion. One of my future plans under the Senior Directory was to “get my PhD in Chemistry.” I’m thinking of going back and finishing a degree in either chemistry or physics. Of course, I would have to pay for classes out of pocket, but I could take one at a time.

I could, theoretically, complete my 5th degree by the time I turn 40.

That was the plan before the flu. Now post-flu, I am thinking “hell no.” Going back to school must have been part of my flu-induced delirium. There is no way I want to go back to school and be stuck in that schedule again. Especially now that my time is my own, I enjoy being homework free.

However, it is only October. The spring semester does not start until January. We will see what happens and what I think over the next three months. Apparently, I had a lot more wisdom at 17 than I do at 37. At 37, I feel like this past year has been lost and found. At 17, my quote in the yearbook came from Luke Skywalker: “I’m ready for anything.”

If I can hang onto that, maybe this year can turn around from lost to Found.

For Better or For Worse


Many people today seem to stick around for the better and disappear at the worst. They say to truly find out who your friends are: screw up and see who is still there for you. Then, there are the people who are there for you when you are down but leave when you are up because they enjoy wallowing in misery and simply cannot stand to see other people happy.

While earlier generations seemed to embrace the for-better-or-for-worse notion more whole-heartedly than our own, it is an important concept to apply to all areas of life, from relationships to hobbies to passion.

After spending almost four months on the waiting list for the oh-so-popular Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, it has finally been my turn to have the novel out of the library. I have spent those past four months reading reviews and blogs of people not only mentioning the book but also downright gushing over it.

I finally read the book, and while it is certainly not my favorite, I stuck through the entire novel, for better or for worse, and read the entire thing. There were times in the beginning of the book where I almost put it down and stopped reading because it was not interesting to me, but I thought that there has to be some reason why this novel is now so wildly popular, and I was determined to find out why.

So I stuck through the worst part of the book, and it finally did get better. About the last 100 pages of the novel were okay. Perhaps the idea that stuck with me the most, simply because it so clearly articulated an idea that I have been struggling to find words to describe over the past 20 years has been the idea of the Shit Sandwich.

That’s right, Shit Sandwich.

According to Gilbert, the essence of shit sandwich in a nut shell can be boiled down to how much suffering you are able to endure in order to achieve what you love. Of course, this is an extreme simplification of the concept, and if you would like to have a more elegant explanation, then you simply have to read the book. The pages explaining shit sandwich were probably the most profound part of the novel for me, and I could personally leave much of the rest. Basically, the concept of for-better-or-for-worse applied to all areas of your life, not just a marriage ceremony or some other type of elaborate rite of passage.

I had a brief moment of weakness a few weeks ago when the reality of being retired from spending 20 years as a professional college student finally set in and I completely panicked. It was something like a baby who did not want to be born but wanted to return to the womb. I sat there pleading and plotting about how to return to school, and what type of degree I wanted next. I sat there and thought that before completing my psychology degree, I had started a physics degree. I spent three years as a physics major before deciding, after taking calculus 1,2,3,4 and differential equations, that I had had enough of math and did not want the physics degree anymore.

I was not prepared to eat the shit sandwich that accompanied pursuit of a physics degree. I was in physics for the better portion. I love astronomy and motion and dynamics, and particle physics. However, I was not able to deal with the for worse portion of having another four advanced math classes to take after the five I had just completely suffered through.

I then decided that I could not go back to school to finish the physics degree. Not only am I not committed to eating the shit sandwich, but I also already have four degrees, and while I would not trade any of the degrees or any moment I spent working on obtaining them for the world, I do not, in fact, wish to relive that portion of my life. That is simply not my flavor of sandwich.

But now that I personally grasped the notion of for-better-for-worse and read about shit sandwiches, I started to apply that idea to other areas of my life. For example, I am not a morning person. Pretty much everyone who knows me in real life knows better than to wake me up in the morning. I am a night owl and always have been. I have spent over a decade on either second or third shift; the few brief years I did have a day job was hell on earth for me. I am just not a day person.

However, I have absolutely no problem getting up at 4:30 am and spending hours preparing for and running a marathon. When it comes to running, the shit sandwich that is getting up at 4:30 am is something that I am not only willing to eat gleefully, but also has me coming back for more. There is no other aspect in my life in which I am willing to eat the shit sandwich of 4:30 am, but for running, I am.

You see, running and I have this special relationship. I will wake up at 4:30 am. I will run in the rain, the snow, the cold, and the heat. I will run when it’s hard. I will run when it’s easy. I am in love with running, and over the years, I have definitely been able to take the good with the bad.

Once I found degree programs that were the right fit for me, I did the same with school. I spent years only sleeping from 2am-6am to ensure that I was able to complete all my schoolwork in addition to piecing together multiple jobs to make ends meet. I sacrificed many relationships and much leisure time in my pursuit of education. I swallowed that shit sandwich hook, line, and sinker for 20 years.

The significance of reading Gilbert’s Big Magic for me was the realization that now I am in retirement, I have the option of choosing what flavor of shit sandwich I want to eat next. I have been trying to figure out what to do with the ridiculous amount of time I now have on my hands since I am no longer working 70 hours a week and trying to be a full-time grad student.

I have been trying to decide what type of activities I want in my life. Do I want to join a club? Do I want to volunteer my time? With each option I have considered, I have begun to think of what flavor shit sandwich I want to eat. Now that my time is my own, I am less likely to eat shit sandwiches than I have before. Call it growing up, call it privilege, but I have found myself deeply protective of my newfound time.

What new activity do I want to try for better or for worse? Where am I willing to put my time? I have no problem with failure. It is possible I will decide on a volunteer opportunity and then discover that I am not prepared for that shit sandwich. That is fine. I will find another activity. However, I am trying to make an informed decision on how to not only enrich my own life but also enrich those around me.

Now that my time is my own, how do I want to fill those hours? What fills me with so much passion that it will endure for-better-or-for-worse? As we slow down our lives, this is the type of first-world problem we create. How best to spend our leisure time to ensure that our time is exactly that – leisure. It’s a wonderful problem to have.

When we identify that which we are able to live with for-better-or-for worse, not only do we make ourselves happy, but also we increase the love that is in the world. Relationships, activities, places, employment are all areas of life in which we can apply the for-better-or-for-worse principal. When we identify the areas that we are able to make that commitment, not only does it make the shit sandwich palatable, it also makes it almost delicious.

The people, activities, and relationships that stay in our lives for-better-or-for-worse are those that will likely last a lifetime. I don’t know about you, but that is the type of Big Magic I want to have in my life.





I can Adult (sort of)


Back in the 90s, MTV brought us one of the trailblazers in the reality TV movement: The Real World, with all of is spin-offs such as Boston, LA, Miami, and San Francisco to name a few. I just googled, and they are currently readying to start season 31. Phew. That’s a lot of drama, lies, sex, and cheating.

I finally finished grad school this past Monday. Yes, I did it! I defended and lived to tell the tale. I have taught preschool for over 11 years and have no problem standing in front of a room full of 3 year olds singing the “Baby Bumblebee” song, yet when it came to a 13 minute presentation to a room of only 6 people, I totally forgot to breathe when I was talking and almost passed out. But, I did make it, and they will be mailing me the oddly shaped piece of paper with the pretty writing on it in a few weeks.

I have now entered The Real World.

I have been in the Real World for a while now. I’m in my mid-30s after all. Yet, when you are juggling full-time school with full-time work, somehow people expect you to fall apart and marvel at your ability to keep it together. I think once you officially enter The Real World where you are only working full-time and trying to adult that the opposite is true: people expect you to keep it together and wonder what is wrong with you when you don’t.

In the past few days, I am in total awe of my own ability to keep it together. Weird, I know. I am noticing that certain things have happened in the past few days would have caused me to have complete meltdown if I was still in school. When you are overbooked and trying to juggle too many things, sometimes even the most innocuous incident can be the tipping point that pushes you to lose your mind. I am able to handle crisis situations much more calmly these past few days than I have in the past. There is hope for me yet. I can Adult.

Sort of.

It still feels fake. I have all these degrees and fancy credentials, which scream to the world, “look at me! I know something!” Really, I don’t. Yesterday, I could not even figure out how to use a scanner machine. No amount of education in the world will ever replace common sense.

Even though I may have the ability to Adult in the Real World, I still feel stuck in this student mentality that says that I am only getting through this moment so that I can continue with and finish school and move onto something better. Except, now I really am done with school, and everything has come to a dead halt. It’s like riding a galloping horse that suddenly decides to stop and completely throws you off, ass over ankles.

I’m just a little scared. I have no idea what I’m doing or what to do with myself.

Education is this cozy little cocoon that cradles you in the Ivory Tower of academia. Now, that ‘m out, I have to do it on my own and that is completely frightening. One of the things I have realized that came with being a student for the past 20 years is that I quite regularly received an allowance twice a year. Every semester, the student loan money would release and help me to get caught up on everything I either neglected or was not simply able to deal with in the whirlwind that was school and employment in low-wage jobs for long hours.

Uncle Sam has been my sugar daddy (in the form of student loans), and now I’m cut off. Not only do I have no one to bail me out, but also I have 20 years worth of allowance to pay back. Being an adult is kind of hard. I don’t live in the Real World of the TV series that is full of parties, drama, and relationships. I’m in the Real World of work, bills, and student loan debt.

Reality is scary. To conjure another 90s media reference, Reality Bites.

So while these past few days has shown me that I am capable of acting like an adult, it has also shown me that I bumble. I am far from perfect. One thing I do know is that being an adult is a lot easier when you are not trying to be in school full-time on top of all your other Real World obligations. Life is so much easier to handle when you slow down and have less on your plate.

While I fondly remember watching the Real World in my dorm room in the 90s (love him or hate him, you gotta remember Puck!), I am so glad that my life is not full of the drama of the TV series. I may be in the Real World, but in this world, I can Adult (sort of),

It really helps to adult when you rewind real slow.

Out The Window


I’m working on writing my now second masters thesis, and I can tell you that in this process and many others, lots of things go out the window. The first is my APA (American Psychological Association) publication manual. Literally. Anyone who has written a document of any length can attest to the frustration, tears, and sometimes screams that accompany the creative process. Sometimes, in frustration, I throw my publication manual.

If it happens to be a nice day, and the windows are open, it flies out the window.

What is not okay to throw out the window are our positive coping skills and ways in which we engage in self-care. Yet of course, those are always the first things to go when things get busy. Schedules change from summer to fall and all of a sudden after work; we are rushing to this club or that game or some event. We no longer have time to engage in the yoga, reading, whatever it is that we do to replenish and rejuvenate our soul.

It’s very easy to do when things are rough financially as well. You are so worried about paying the light bill, the rent, and all the other necessities that there is no money left over to do anything fun. That may be true; it is reality for a lot of people. Yet, when we are at our most busy and overwhelmed times are when we need self-care and fun things the most.

You cannot keep pouring juice out of an empty pitcher. Unless you are a magician of some sort, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Yet repeatedly we overextend ourselves and run on empty.

How is that going for you?

It’s time to stop. The time you are most busy is the worst time to throw self-care out the window. If you have been going at a pace that makes a marathon look like a sprint, then it is time to slow down and embrace those things that nourish your psyche.

Sometimes we are forced to slow down. Major life events, usually an emergency, illness, or injury can force us to slow down whether we like it or not. It is usually karma’s way of saying, “hello, don’t throw self-care out the window.”

What have you done to be kind to yourself today?

Can you take even 5 minutes to turn off the phone and electronic gadgets, shut the door, and just close your eyes? Can you escape the whirlwind that is your racing mind?

I have been receiving massage to help the healing of the hip muscle I tore in my most recent marathon. I have not received massage in quite a while – not since I had employment at which I was making double what I make now. I am not sure if it is busyness or just thinking that massage is a luxury I cannot afford, but the thought to schedule a massage has not crossed my mind.

While massage is indeed helpful with my hip injury, it is perhaps even more helpful for my mind and stress levels. As I was lying there allowing someone to work on my injured hip, I remembered how important it is to take care of oneself. Massage is a luxury that I cannot afford, and probably would not be getting if not for my injury. Yet, it reminds me that every once in awhile we need to do something beneficial for ourselves even if it seems to be a little extravagant. Those are the types of things that keep your pitcher full. Those moments when you take time out to replenish yourself so that you can continue to give to others are just as important as what you do for others.

What goes out the window when you are really busy? Can you identify one activity or thing that you can do to replenish yourself at times when you need it the most?

The Best Summer


Despite the still balmy temperatures we have in September, the leaves are starting to turn, the kids have returned to school, and summer is quietly sliding into fall. Summer 2015 is the best summer I have ever had in life. I do not remember a summer like this since 1988. I tried to think about why this is so and to isolate the commonalities that seemingly exist between two so disparate years.

In 1988, I was still a child. This was before I started working at age 14. While my childhood was nothing pretty and everything I have been trying to overcome as an adult, I distinctly remember the summer of 1988 as having a slight respite from the challenges through which I lived in my youth. I remember reading lots of books. I was in Virginia that summer, and the people with whom I was staying had a pool membership. When I was not in the pool, I was next to it reading. Those were the most carefree days of my life. Granted, my tastes have changed. I did not re-read Jurassic Park and all the other Michael Crichton novels this summer, but I actually had time for leisure reading; a rare treat as a grad student.

This summer, I had the gift of time. For the first time in my adult life, I have employment that actually allows me days off. Prior to my current position, I was always working 7 days a week between two or three jobs. The only time I ever got a day off was a holiday. Holidays were not really holidays, they were days to be home and get caught up on school and everything else in the middle of my 60 hour plus survival schedule. My current position gives me at least one day off per week, and often more. I had several days this summer where I had the day off and the freedom to recreate that feeling from 1988 of being free from responsibility and worry. I spent many days this summer at the various parks in the state, on the beaches reading, and doing some light surfing.

Beach days were not relaxing at first. I was so accustomed to the schedule of having to pack school into every free moment due to my work schedule, that my first few beach visits I took my school work with me. Then, as I started to realize my current employment situation allows me privileges I have never before experienced in life, I made a conscious decision that I would not take any schoolwork with me.

That’s where the magic begins.

Beach days became carefree and reminiscent of that childhood summer of 1988. I simply put some food in a cooler, grabbed a towel, a book, and some sunglasses, and off I went. The most “difficult” decision I had to make was which bathing suit to wear, and even that was not hard: wear the dry one that is in the closest reach.

This summer was great because it was probably the first time since I started working at age 14 that I actually had “holidays.” Now I know what the Europeans are talking about. I took off for beach days this summer without school, without work, and without worries. That has never happened for me before.

In some aspects, I feel I was able to reclaim some small portions of my childhood lost due to the difficulties I faced as a child and being forced to grow up way to soon to face them. I felt a little irresponsible “blowing things off” and taking beach days, but in reality, all my work and schoolwork was done, and my bills were paid, so really I was not blowing anything off, I was doing the best thing possible. I was taking care of myself. I was able to experience childhood delight that I never experienced as a child, and able to fully relax and be present in the moment in which I was living. It was one of the best things I have ever done.

As summer slowly changes to fall, I feel I am also losing that feeling. I feel I need to recreate it somehow, so that I do not lose the beauty of my summer beach days. What I am learning, as I rewind real slow, is that peace and relaxation may not necessarily be about your location (although beaches and crashing waves are very helpful), but rather a state of mind that says: “I am here. I am at peace.” Most importantly: “I am enough.”

I have gotten caught up in the whirlwind of fall. The anxiety of back to school (although my grad program runs continuously until its conclusion); it’s that Pavlovian response to the change in season. I find myself trying to jam pack my schedule again.

Then I realized that having the best summer of my life need not be an isolated incident. It is also possible to have the best fall of my life.

Now I’m putting on the breaks.

In the next few weeks, my goal is to refocus myself for a new season not only in weather, but also in life. I am going to remember to enjoy my days off. While I may not be spending them at the beach right now, I need to remember to not fill them with useless and unnecessary things. That beach feeling is something I can recreate in other ways. I just need to figure out how.

Do you get caught up in the fall whirlwind? Is this the time of year you pack your (or your child’s) schedule with activities, meetings, and things to do? Summer is not the only season for relaxing and joy. Fall can have the same feeling of peace if only we know how to find it.

As the breeze blows gently, I am enjoying a fall morning now on my deck with my coffee, and some radio. If this summer has taught me anything, I have learned that it is ok to just sit and be. Doing nothing is not necessarily lazy. Sometimes doing nothing helps to replenish us so that we may fully do something.

What ways are you learning to slow down this fall? Are there things that help you to feel relaxed in the middle of the bustle of back to school and new schedules? Times of transition are often stressful. This is the time when we need to take care of ourselves the most.

Take time to rewind real slow.

The Perfect Day


Perfect days are rare. They are usually some huge momentous event like getting married or the birth of a child. Whatever your definition of the perfect day, it usually looks like those fictional, happy women in the tampon commercials that are frolicking about with their hair blowing in the wind. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I try to frolic like those girls in the commercials, I am usually tripping over my own feet, eating my hair, and trying not to break an arm or something as I fall down.

Some of the perfect days in my life that have held great significance include:

  • My college graduation when I received my bachelor degree after 15 years of trying to overcome the challenges in my life and really fighting for it.
  • My first major league baseball game when I got to see my favorite team play at home. This was huge for multiple reasons (but that is probably a TBT post).

Perfect days usually require a lot of thought, planning, and organization in order to successfully pull them off. In my quest to slow down, I realized that I had the perfect day recently. In fact, I have had more than one perfect day. None of them revolved around any majorly significant event, but they were just days when you are so happy to be alive.

I don’t know about you, but I do not have those days often enough.

I have been taking advantage of my park pass this year by trying to visit parks in my state that I have never seen before. I always take a backpack of supplies and a cooler. The only expense to these day trips, really, is gas money. The first few day trips I took, I also took my schoolwork with me. Grad school never ends. I have spent so many years working 60 hours a week, that every moment I was not working, I was doing school, so to have uninterrupted time to do nothing was rare.

Now that my schedule with my new job is much more manageable and I *gasp have leisure time on my hands, I am learning that I do not have to do my schoolwork every moment when I am not at my job. I now have time to be able to complete my schoolwork at a comfortable pace, and I still have time left over.

My time left over has been spent at the parks, the beaches, running, reading, and on my surfboard.

When I go to the park, I go old school. Remember those carefree days as a teenager when a day at the beach meant a towel slung over your arm and a copy of Ratt magazine? You don’t need the radio flyer wagon full of beach chairs, beach umbrellas, and other paraphernalia. Well, maybe you do. But if you keep your beach list simple, it might be more fun to only carry one bag and not have to try to pull a wagon through the sand.

I realized on one of my excursions last week that it was the perfect day. It was nothing like a commercial. I did not pack the car and have an impeccably planned itinerary. I slept in, left the house when I felt like it, and was in no hurry to arrive. Once I was at the park, I realized it was one of the first times I had not brought any of my schoolwork with me. All my schoolwork was caught up. I had time to spend the day as I chose and was able to read a novel not related to my masters thesis. I went surfing, made sandcastles, and got involved in a pick up game of football in the lake.

Yes, my hair was blowing in the wind, but it wasn’t like some luxurious commercial. It was a hot mess. I had sand everywhere, missed some parts of my body when using sunscreen, and did not pack enough food. But, it was the perfect day because it was one of the few times when I could just BE. I had nothing to worry about, and the freedom to do anything I chose.

I just rolled with the waves I was riding. It was not the perfect day because the waves were great and I never fell off my board. I mean, yes, the waves were great, but I fell off my board. That’s okay. It was the perfect day because I was just totally content to literally and figuratively roll with those waves. I was okay with being tossed in the water. I was just happy to be there.

I know many people who obsess over details and get upset if things do not go just right. Ok, so I may have arrived an hour later than I initially planned, but that did not bother me one bit. I was an hour “late” because I needed the sleep, and once there, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had at the park.

Maybe to have the Perfect Day, we need to relinquish control instead of trying to micromanage every single detail. Maybe it’s not about choosing the fonts of the invitations, but rather, the people that are going to share your moment as the result of those invitations.

The Perfect Day means something different to everyone. To some people, embossed envelopes may be important. To me, they are not.

The Perfect Day is a day when I can just be myself and exist as a person, have no worries, and enjoy the moment I am in. Tomorrow is not promised. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.

What are you going to do to try to have more Perfect Days in your life?