Mayberry, baseball, birds, & Grub

So, I’ve had an exciting week. After realizing last week that I was way overscheduled and overstressed at work, I made a conscious effort to slow down my schedule this week. When I have an abnormal reaction to a normal situation, I know that its time for an adult time out.

My time out started on my day off Sunday, when the weather finally cooperated enough for me to go to baseball. After an almost solid two weeks of rain outs, it was nice to see the sun and support the local team. While there is a minor league team about an hour south of me, I took in a college game about 4 miles down the road, and I had a better time there than I did my last time at a minor league game. The kids are talented, it was great ball, and the atmosphere couldn’t be beat.

On Monday, I headed up to Lake Ontario hoping for some surfing. The waves were okay to kind of glide on, but not good surf like we had last year. Still, I enjoyed the water for most of the day, at least 6 hours. I also got pulled into a football game and some Frisbee.

The only snafu came around lunch time, when the scene was reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Birds. I eat on the beach all the time, and the seagulls typically land around hoping for scraps. I had never seen them be aggressive as they were this past Monday.

If my lunch break was a newscast, the headline would have read, “Asshole Seagull Steals Hummus Pita.” I kid you not, these birds were not just hanging out begging for food per the usual seagull experience. I actually had one swoop down and steal hummus pita out of my hand. It was so cleverly orchestrated, it made Ocean’s Eleven look like child’s play. Luckily, my apples, raisins, pickles, and everything else was safe. The taking of hummus pita was conducted with stealth swat-like precision.

While I work nights, and very much prefer working nights, I am actually home three evenings this week. While unusual, it is a welcome change every once in awhile.

My favorite classic TV channel that I get on bunny ears has ramped up showings of Mayberry in the nighttime line up. That means I have three nights this week that I am home to see both Mayberry and Happy Days.

If I could slow down my life to a state of perfection resembling a sitcom, I would love to live in the world of Mayberry. Baseball, surfing, and Mayberry are the things summer nights (and days) are made for.

Finally, I went out to dinner tonight for the first time since being diagnosed with my autoimmune disorder. Eating out with 4 food allergies and an autoimmune disorder is nearly impossible. Anytime I eat prepared food, I run a risk of cross-contamination, if not an all-out reaction.

I had passed by this new restaurant for a few weeks now, that advertises as paleo (whatever that is), vegan, and allergy friendly, so I decided to stop. I usually pick vegan items because it knocks out half of my food allergies, so I only have to check for the other two.

To my delight, not only was the menu easy to navigate with a surprising abundance of options given my allergies, but the staff was able to handle my warning label without batting a eye.

Normally when I want to eat out in a restaurant, it becomes this huge production. As soon as staff find out I have food allergies, the manager gets called over, numerous servers and cooks start running around; its chaos. I appreciate the extra effort in taking precautions that I don’t die, but it just makes eating out embarrassing, so I rarely do so.

The staff at Grubs tonight wrote them all down, nodded like they get this all the time (which maybe they do, because they are the ONLY restaurant I have EVER seen that advertises as allergy friendly), and delivered my food, only noting one substitution due to my allergies. Said substitution was presented in the nicest manner: We know you couldn’t have X, so we gave you some of our homemade Y. It was delicious.

My meal was even prepared in a designated “top 8 free” cooking area, so I am pretty sure this was my first experience eating out having a significantly reduced risk of cross-contamination. If only every restaurant could handle food allergies this way.

While my journey in rewinding real slow has primarily been about minimalism, reducing possessions, and focusing on life priorities, it is also important to remember to slow down our time.

Spend time doing what we truly love to reduce stress levels, ensure happiness, and be more productive in our daily lives and at work. I’m sure I have been much more pleasant to work with this week than I was last week now that I have made a conscious effort to slow down. I don’t know about you, but I do better at work when I make the effort to take care of myself.

How can you take care of yourself this week? What does your version of Mayberry look like?

Strong Currents

Today was the first day this season that we have not had an epic storm on my day off, so I was determined to take my wetsuit north to walk the board. It is only 45 degrees out today (in the middle of June!), so anyone who dares to surf in this has got to be pretty diehard.

However, emergency alerts came through saying that the Coast Guard has declared no boating, swimming, or other water recreation in this weather due to high winds, strong currents, and unpredictable undertow.

Now, pretty much any surfer will tell you that riding the waves coming in on a storm is pretty epic. However, I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. If the Coast Guard says no water sports, then I’m not about to become another casualty of bizarre weather conditions.

So, I’m spending my day off at home, yet again, realizing that there are some pretty strong currents in life itself that manifest in other ways.

Strong currents are usually indicative of danger. Stay out of the water so you don’t drown or crash. Yet, there are some experiences that run strong currents in our lives, and instead of being threatening, actually serve to anchor us in times of need.

It could be a familiar routine from childhood that makes us feel safe. Notice patterns in ways we react in times of stress. What calms and soothes you? Have you gotten into the adult coloring craze? Do you reach for the remote for some mindless TV or head to the movies? Some of these activities may be strong undercurrents in our lives that help us to cope when life is hard and overwhelming.

For me, one of my strong currents is running. I am now in week 2 of my training for medal # 15. While it is challenging to get back in the groove of training, it brings some much needed consistency and structure to my life. Running is something on which I depend no matter how I am feeling in life – happy, sad, tired, excited. Running has been the backdrop to both some of my best and some of my worst moments in life.

I’ve said that every major decision I’ve made in life has been made while running. This is mostly true. I’ve had some creative and powerful ideas while running that have helped me to navigate many obstacles in my life.

While some currents in life are generally positive, like running, we are bound to have some strong currents that are not-so-positive as well. These are negative coping skills in which we engage and continue to cling to, even though we know they may be bad for us.

Be crazy, but not stupid. It’s better to go with the strong currents than to get dragged into the undertow. Be sure the coping skills you are using are going to actually get you through adversity from point A to point B without pulling you under and making you drown.

What strong currents are carrying you along? Is the current pushing you forward, or are you being dragged down by the undertow?

The Perfect Day

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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?

Feels like the first time

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When was the last time when you did something for the first time? In the hamster wheel of life, many adults tend to lose that childlike joy of discovering something new or trying something they have never done before. Many of life’s biggest moments are “first times:” the first time you drove a car, your first dog/cat/pet, your first job, maybe the first time you went scuba diving, or sky diving, or even the first time you ever went to Disney.

It’s never too late to have a first time. One of the best things about being an adult is that you can make your own choices and do the things you have always wanted to do. When I was growing up and it was time to choose a musical instrument in grade school, I wanted to play the drums. My parents told me that little girls did not play drums. I ended up with a flute, which I played from fourth all the way up until twelfth grade, and still have to this day. A few years ago, I went to the professional music store in town, bought my first pair of sticks, and took drum lessons at the ripe old age of 32. I now go through the house banging on everything, and it is awesome. I like to drum at about 1 am, when I get home from work, am bouncing off the walls, and trying to calm down. I’m sure the neighbors are thrilled. (They haven’t said anything yet, so I’m lucky there.)

Another hobby I have is surfing. It’s been so long since I have had the opportunity to surf, not many people know I have that hobby. Back in the day when I was hitch hiking the west coast in the 90s, I learned to surf on the Pacific Ocean. I bought a board in California, brought it back east, and my surfboard has resided in a friend’s garage on Cape Cod for at least the past decade. Every so often, I get out to Massachusetts to use it, but definitely not as often as I like. I am currently landlocked in Central New York, so it is at least a good 6-7 hour drive to any oceanfront.

Then recently, in the course of using my park pass, I got this bright idea to surf the Great Lakes (okay, so there may have been some wine involved, but it was still a great idea). After doing some research, I have learned that surfing the Great Lakes is possible. Definitely on a completely different level than ocean surfing, the Great Lakes tend to have good wake in the early spring and late fall. Great Lakes surfing is generally not as challenging as ocean surfing, as the waves often lack the power. However, given that many ocean beaches recently had shark week, I’ll take the Great Lakes for now, thanks.

So I bought a short board. Part of the reason why my ocean surfboard has resided in Massachusetts for so long, in addition to ocean proximity, is that I have no way to transport my board back and forth due to length. Long surfboards are good not only for ocean waves, but also for beginners just starting out. Short boards are more challenging to handle, but I figure better for Great Lakes surfing given the smaller waves. I’ve been surfing long enough that I’m up for the challenge of handling a shorter board.

After a three-week wait for my short board from California, it finally arrived. Half the size of my ocean surfboard, I can fit the short board comfortably in my car. I used it for the first time on Great Lake Ontario two weeks ago. The waves on the Great Lakes are getting ready to die down for the summer, but I still had a great time. There is definitely a lot more paddling and floating involved in Great Lakes surfing than there is on the ocean, but the feeling of being on the water is the same, and as equally amazing.

My purpose in this Great Lakes adventure was to create a life in which I did not need to escape. If I can access a Great Lake in 2-3 hours, then I can surf and enjoy the things I love without needing to take a significant amount of time and money to take off someplace else and leave the life I have where I am. In my quest to slow down, I am looking to enjoy where I am and live in the present moment. Why wait for the next big thing when you have something pretty amazing in your own backyard?

For the record, my first time out on Lake Ontario with the short board was not perfect. I forgot to attach my armband, the board got away from me, and then my swimming skills were really put to the test trying to chase it down. The waves may not have been as big, and the board was new. As many times as I have caught a wave on the ocean, surfing the Great Lakes really did make it feel like the first time. It was awesome.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Have you completely given up something you loved to do because life/work/school got in the way? What is preventing you from starting again?

I am so fortunate and blessed to be at a point in my life where I have the luxury and the privilege to not only reclaim things I love but to discover new things as well. What would you do if you could do anything? I don’t know about you, but I have some more waves to ride pretty soon here.

From the back of a jacked up tailgate

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On this 4th of July holiday, I think we all take the time and opportunity to appreciate the good things in life – family, friends, and leisure time. Weekends like this make me wish every day was Independence Day. Oh wait, it is. You are in control of your own life. The choices you make decide what you do today, and what you do tomorrow. Granted, some of those choices are constrained by societal constructs and standards, but for the most part, we have a lot of freedom to decide the intricacies of our days.

Some of my favorite moments have occurred during 4th of July festivities, and I look forward to creating many more memories not only on 4th of July, but every day, as I orchestrate my life. Some of my favorite memories include:

  • Sleeping in the back of the pickup truck on the beach of the Pacific Ocean looking up at the stars after a long day of surfing, and an evening of bonfires, singing, and spending time with good friends both new and old.
  • Going to the drive-in to watch the latest movies with the one with whom you really want to spend your time.
  • Hiking the state parks and being able to see waterfalls along the way. For some truly spectacular views, check out Watkins Glen State Park in New York, which boasts over 100 waterfalls along their trails, the most of any park in the state.
  • Barbequing with friends after a game of ultimate Frisbee on the lake and spending time talking well into the night.
  • Fishing on the waterways, enjoying the quiet of nature, and the peace of the waves.
  • Tailgating prior to the DMB concert at VA Tech in the 1990s.

By far, one of my favorite views of the world has been from the back of a pickup truck. Whether transporting surfboards, hanging out with the dog, or sleeping under the stars, there is just something about feeling the calm and enjoying the scenery and the ones you are with.

What are your favorite ways to spend the holiday? While holiday weekends allow us a break from our normal lives, we don’t necessarily need a holiday to take that break. Yes, we all need to work to make money and live, but do not allow your occupation to define your life. You are not your job. How you spend your time when you are not at work is entirely your choice. Many of life’s greatest moments are experiences that do not require money, only time.

Happy Birthday, America.

Remember the freedom for which we have fought and obtained.

Embrace it. Fully. Rewind real slow.