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? 

Five Reasons Garmin Rocks!

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These are the true confessions of a technology convert. For the past 11 years of my running career, I have used a simple sports watch with stopwatch for running. I figure out math like splits and pace in my head.  I have gone through two sports watches over the past 11 years. They cost $30 apiece.

Running is a cheap sport. When it comes down to it, all you need to do is put on a pair of shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. There are even people out there who run barefoot, so you can technically skip the shoes. That’s cheap. Just go.

I have always said that my running shoes are the most important piece of equipment I need for my sport. Therefore, my running shoes should be the most expensive piece of equipment and nothing else – shorts, tops, etc. – should cost more than the shoes. It’s logical.

As you know, this year I am completely changing my training plan for the first time ever. I have always trained for time. Runners who train for time tend to be in the minority. Hey, don’t knock it – even Meb, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014 and represented USA in the Olympics, trains for time. More commonly, runners train for distance.

This year I am training for distance instead of time and incorporating whole new things that include a lot of math, into my training plan. I decided it is time to break down and buy a GPS watch.

I have been extremely skeptical of this whole watch thing. I don’t believe I spent more money on a watch than I spent on my running shoes. I also don’t believe I now own a watch that not only has an on/off button but also has to be plugged into the wall to charge. This thing is completely alien and absurd. Plus, it’s smarter than me.

I have now completed two 4-mile runs with my new GPS watch, and I have to confess, I have fallen in love. Here are the five reasons why Garmin rocks:

  1. It can math. Hard.

I have decided that I am doing the Canadian 10:1 walk plan this year due to my age and injuries. This means I will be running for 10 minutes, then walking for one minute and repeating continuously for 26.2 miles. The math inside my head was getting complicated. Walk from :10 to :11, then run from :11 to :21, then walk from :21 to :22, then run from :22 … You get the idea. It’s actually very simple math, but when you are running a marathon, any math is hard.

I know calculus. I can find the square area of a horse if you want. But no way am I going to be able to do that running a marathon. The only thing I am thinking during a race is:  “Am I breathing? How much longer? Why can’t I feel my legs? Did I die?”

The Garmin is doing all of that math for me. All I have to do is learn to let go and trust the watch and stop trying to math inside my head. Not only is it giving me the 10:1 schedule, but it tells me when I have completed each mile, and my average pace for that mile so I can be sure I am staying on track. I know exactly where I am and how fast I am going at all times.

This means that instead of doing all that math inside my head, I can get “in the zone.” This makes running a much more pleasurable experience mentally. When I’m running distance, I like to think of myself as an airplane. It typically takes me until about mile 6 or mile 8 to get “in the zone.” When I do, I imagine that if I were an airplane, it would sound something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved cruising altitude. Feel free to just drop out, tune in to your body, and settle in for the next 18 or 20 miles. Let the crowds carry you to the medal stand. See you in about 4 hours.”

With Garmin doing all the running associated math for me, all I have to do is respond to the little beeps and keep running. Now, I sound like Pavlov’s dog. I digress. Let’s continue.

  1. Dear Fashion, Meet Practical.

I’m not all that into fashion. No one looks good after running 26.2 miles. Except maybe Shalane Flanagan. She looks good at all the miles. But the rest of the world looks like a hot mess that’s been through the blender and then chased by a pack of rabid squirrels when coming across the finish line of a race.

This watch is pretty. The package says the strap is blue, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s blue or green. Compared to my old sport watch, it’s very attention getting. Not only does it look good, but it is practical too.

The screen is large print, so I can see the display no matter how much sweat and tears I’m covered in. It’s waterproof. I would even go so far as to say it’s sexy. I also just finished a run, so I could be pushing it a little. What can I say? I’m in love.

3. My own personal cheerleader.

Now, when I first programmed this watch for the 10:1 sequence, I thought I messed it up. The watch beeped and there was a 1 and 8:00 on the screen. All I could think was “Noooooooo. I don’t want to walk every 8 minutes. I want to walk every 10.” Then I realized it was telling me I had just ran an 8-minute mile. All was right with the world. The watch was performing even better than I expected.

When I reached the 10 minute mark, the watch did a series of 3 beeps to let me know I needed to slow down for my 1 minute walk break. When I got to the end of my 1 minute walk break, the watch beeped twice, then instead of the third beep, it played “Charge.”

Yup. That’s right. It plays that 6 note sequence right before everyone yells “Charge!” Whoever programmed this watch has a sense of humor. They must also be a runner. How cool is it to have your watch cheer for you to start running again after your 1 minute walk break? I have my own personal cheerleader right on my wrist.

Not only does it cheer for me to run, but when I reach “Goals” there is a display of fireworks on the screen. I honestly have no idea what “goals” I’m reaching. I didn’t program any in, and I have no idea what it means. The watch gave me fireworks once after my run when I was in cool down. I got fireworks again on mile 2 of a run. I have no idea why. But, I’m glad the watch is happy and giving me fireworks. I’m wondering if it likes my heart rate or something, but I honestly have no idea whatsoever what the whole “goal” and fireworks thing is about. Who cares? I’ll take them.

  1. Technology for the challenged.

Part of my reluctance in getting a GPS watch is all the technology involved. I have a hard enough time using my cell phone. I’ve had the same phone for 3 years and I still don’t understand it. I do not need two devices that are hard to use. Plus, I had heard a lot about GPS watches and satellite signals, synching, etc. It just sounded like way more technology than I could deal with.

I am happy in that I was able to program the watch to do exactly what I wanted it to do. Not only that, but it does some things that are surprising to me but I am really happy about. This watch is definitely very user friendly for the technology challenged. I have not had to plug it into a computer, internet, or sync it to anything, so that is even better. I just charge it, turn it on, the buttons are easy to use, and I can read everything easily on the large print screen.

The watch is also making the math easier for me for my running statistics and spreadsheets. Yes, I am that kind of runner. That is part of why I completely changed my running plan this year. I analyzed 10 years of data to figure out what I did during my best year and then try to replicate it in the safest way possible. But the watch is making my math and data analysis easier too. I like it when technology helps me, even if it is smarter.

  1. Worth the splurge.

While I keep saying I can’t get over spending more on a watch than my running shoes, it was worth the splurge. I got one of the entry level models that does everything I need to do, so at least it is not one of the watches that costs say, one month’s rent. This watch was the equivalent of buying one and a half pairs of running shoes.

Yes, the watch was more expensive than my shoes, but at least it wasn’t double the price of my running shoes. So, I can live with it. It was worth the splurge for all the data I am getting out of it and for how much easier it has made running this week. I have enjoyed my runs so much more when I don’t have to think so hard and can just go. After all, that’s what running is supposed to be is fun. It’s not all data, pace, and negative splits.

These are the true confessions of a technology convert. I have 3 more weeks to play with the watch and become comfortable with it before I officially start training for my fall marathon. So far, I can honestly say that Garmin rocks! I’m looking forward to incorporating this new piece of equipment into my training plan.

The Price of Convenience

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I had an errand to run on my day off yesterday in a city about 40 miles away from my house. It was a good drive with little traffic. I had no frustration in my travels. I realized that it took me the same amount of time to reach this city 40 miles away as it does to drive the 10 miles to work every day. That’s how bad the traffic and parking situation is in the city where I work.

In my efforts to slow down my life, I have been trying to cut out all of the unnecessary fluff so that I have more time, money, and resources to devote to things truly important to me. The fact that I spend 2 hours commuting every day to a place 10 miles from my home is ridiculous to me, but I really like my job.

While I was trying to save money by giving up my parking pass for my work location, doing so added an hour to my commute every day. Not only was I fighting traffic, but it typically took me an additional 60 minutes to not only find a parking space but also to walk the 1-3 miles from the parking space to work. That was one hour out of my day that could be spent doing something else that I want to do – like spending time with my sick family member.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to pay for a parking pass for work again. I decided that spending $80 a month for parking is worth 5 hours a week of my time. I now have 5 hours per week more to be at home that I am not fighting to find parking and then having to walk from a parking spot to work.

This is the price of convenience.

Life seems like an endless series of opportunity costs. Which do we value more – time or money?

It depends.

Mostly, I value my time.

Another cost of convenience that I have been evaluating recently is car repair. I have my vehicle maintained and repaired in the city in which I work. I have been doing so for at least the past 15 years. The logic is that if I have to leave the car to have work done, that I can walk to work, and then walk back to pick up the car later in the day when it is done. What has been happening lately is that I get an appointment, and end up having a few hours to kill in between the appointment and when I go into work.

There is not enough time to go home; I end up stuck in the city in which I work with some down time. Again, this is down time that I could be using to do other things that mean something to me.

Starting next week, I will be having my vehicle repaired some place close to my home instead of my work. Of course, that means if I need a significant amount of work done, that I may have to take a day off from work and stay home. To me, that situation is a better scenario than being stuck in the city where I work. At least if my car is repaired closer to home, I can be home, and it alleviates the stress of trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B (mainly from work to home).

These simple changes in life will hopefully free up more of my time to be home and to do the things that I want to spend my time doing. I want to be more in control of situations, not simply responding to whatever crisis presents itself at the time.

What “conveniences” in your life take time away from what matters most? Evaluating the simple things we do each day and why we do them can help to figure out solutions to challenges that may not have been available before. By changing my perspective on how I look at things that need to be done, I am freeing up more time for people and things I love to do.

Time is a Gift

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I’m not going to lie. The past month (the first month) of my retirement has been wicked hard. No matter how much I giddily anticipated the slow down, transitions never quite go as planned. As mentioned in an earlier post, my life did not just slow down. It came to a screeching halt.

As painful as that transition was, it served as a wake up call. I definitely got a reality check. I have always thought of time as a commodity. I have never valued my time. My time has always been bought, bartered, or sold, and it has never been my own. In the past few weeks that my life has slowed down, my time has been my own. When you are so busy going from one thing to another, you never have time to think. When your life slows down to a point where you once again retain ownership over your time, it can be an uncomfortable process if you are not used to having time on your hands and are unsure of how to handle this newfound gift.

Old coping skills die-hard. My first thought, in a moment of panic, was that I have to go back to school. I need a fifth degree. I don’t know from where or in what, but I need another degree. Then, I was able to stand back and ask myself, “Do I really want to go back to school?” The answer is no. Twenty years of college was enough.

This transition probably would have been easier on me if it had occurred at another time of year. In spring and summer, my life is full of outdoor activities such as running, surfing, and spending time at the parks. In the winter, I have a tendency to hibernate. While I have plenty of things to do and plenty of ways to entertain myself and stimulate my brain, what I lack is human interaction.

The biggest benefit to slowing your life down is that not only does it leave you with more time on your hands, but also gives you the power to control what you do with your free time. Once I determined that I do NOT, in fact, want to return to school, I asked myself what I do want to do.

I came up with some ideas.

Some of those ideas I decided I do not want to do right now, but in the fall. Some of those ideas I decided were more of a time commitment that I am willing to give right now. While I need human interaction, I do not want to trade school for some other all-consuming activity. I want my time to be my own.

I have identified two activities that I want to do that seem to require a level of time commitment with which I am comfortable. After the holidays, I plan on putting my plan into place to engage in the two activities and hope to pull myself out of the rut into which I have fallen.

I have checked into many different volunteer opportunities with a great many deserving entities. While I would love to help them all, I simply cannot. The beauty of having time on my hands is that I get to choose what to do with my time. Time on my hands is not only a gift to me, but also what I choose to do with the time I have been given can also be a gift to others.

Part of my intention in slowing down my life is to identify what is important and what is not and to be able to focus my energies on the important things. Life is too important not to do so. Time is a gift and not a commodity has been a very challenging but very deserving lesson I have been learning the past few weeks.

Do you view your time as a commodity? Are you constantly working just to get ahead when really, it would mean so much more to your family if you could come home even an hour earlier one day? At the holidays, we purposefully take the extra time to spend with family and friends and to engage in activities that bring us joy.

We should be doing that all year round, not just at the holidays. Time is a gift both to you and to others. Take this time of year as an example of how much joy could be in your life year round if you only view time as a gift and not as a commodity. We have so much when we rewind real slow.

 

Nothing to wear

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One of my favorite bloggers is Courtney Carver, who authors both Be More With Less  and Project 333. Courtney helps to bring minimalism into the realm of reality acknowledging that the movement is not an exercise in sacrifice or denial, but rather an effort to live life more fully with the people and experiences most important in our lives.

To this end, I have been following the Project 333 movement, without exactly conforming to its specifications. I honestly am completely unaware of how many items of clothing I have. My efforts have been to strive for an amount that is enough without being overwhelming. Over the past few years, I have been trying to move away from the familiar distain of standing in front of an overstuffed closet complaining I have “nothing to wear” to a more simplified and streamlined morning routine. My goal is for all of my clothing to fit into my closet and dresser without having numerous storage bins scattered around the house trying to contain the overflow. I want to be comfortable in my clothes while being able to meet the demands of the activities in my life. I want to wear things that I love every single day.

Since following Project 333 and putting many of the suggestions into action, I have found that I spend less time doing laundry, less time worrying about going shopping for certain items of clothing, less time packing when I travel, and more time enjoying things in my life that were previously lost due to never ending cycles of laundry.

I have less decision fatigue and less stress in my life. I am no longer running late in the morning throwing various items of clothing around only to come home to a mess of shirts and pants scattered around the bedroom.

Perhaps some of the most helpful tips I have garnered from Project 333 include only wearing what I love, and choosing items that are timeless. If I wear something and find it to be completely uncomfortable or frumpy, then it is the last time I wear that outfit and it ends up in the donate pile. I am then left with items in which I am comfortable wearing every single day. I have noticed that this has left me with a uniform of sorts – dress pants or jeans paired with v-neck tops in various colors. While uniforms sound boring and remind me of private school when I was a teenager, they are in fact, quite versatile. I have plenty of colors to choose from and can mix and match items if I stick to solids and minimize prints.

Minimizing my wardrobe is definitely a work in progress. I am still not quite sure what to do with all my race shirts, and I still have one storage container full of clothes that is too many for my comfort level. My goal is to have all my clothes fit into my closet and one dresser with perhaps one storage bin of seasonal items that rotate in and out. I am currently at two storage bins, mostly due to race shirts and some sentimental items that I have been putting off facing.

Getting dressed for the day is quite simple. If I hit the snooze button too many times, I am no longer slowing my morning down even further by trying to decide what to wear. I can virtually pull any pair of pants out of the drawer and match them with the nearest top. I have kept my dress slacks and dress skirts with blazers for more formal or professional events such as when I defended my thesis. I have some sundresses that I love to wear for the summer.

Laundry has always been something that stresses me out. I was typically doing two to three loads per week. I don’t understand how one person can produce so much laundry! Now that I have streamlined my wardrobe, I typically have one load per week, sometimes two if I am washing a load of running gear. Growing up, I remember laundry day was always this huge event, where the car was literally loaded with clothes. Once a month, I would be dropped off to do 10-15 loads of laundry. We needed a huge amount of clothes to be able to make it to laundry day once a month. They were not even in laundry baskets – there would be huge trash bags full of clothes. I do not ever want to spend one entire day each month doing laundry again. Creating a capsule or minimalist wardrobe may mean that you have to do smaller loads more frequently, but it is better than losing one entire day per month to laundry.

I am fortunate that I now have a washer and dryer at my house and can avoid the Laundromat. However, if you do have to use the Laundromat, it may be easier to spend two hours twice a month than an entire day once a month. Can you pare back your clothes so that you have enough to last two weeks instead of an entire month? Less clothes means less stress in maintenance and ensures that you are only wearing what you truly love and not items that don’t fit well or don’t feel right.

I have learned that my experiences are more important than what I am wearing. I do not need a t-shirt for every place I visit or event I attend. Memories of the experience are more important. With a streamlined wardrobe, I can easily find what I want, and am not spending a lot of time washing, drying, folding, and ironing. I take that time and spend it with my family and friends.

If you find yourself standing in front of your closet every morning with “nothing to wear,” you may want to consider Project 333. The best part is, you can break the rules. You do not have to feel like it is an exercise in sacrifice or denial, if 33 does not work for you, then try 58 or 75. Whatever works for you is fine! The goal is not the number; the goal is to simplify your day so that you have more time doing things you love. Maybe your goal is not a specific number, but maybe space issues like mine. Maybe you want all of your clothes to fit in a certain container or area. However you choose to incorporate Project 333 into your life, you will feel the effects of the program in all aspects of your life. You will have more time and feel happier being able to engage in activities you love with less stress.

With the holiday season upon us, we can all use less stress and more time with those we love. It’s time to stop standing in front of a stuffed closet with “nothing to wear.”

Triumvirate

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The rule of three. Bad luck comes in threes. Many religions believe in some divinity form of the number three. Two is company; three is a crowd. A hat trick in hockey is three goals by the same player in one game. Stories are told in terms of three: a beginning, middle, and an end. Races are run in thirds: with your body, your mind, and your heart. A triangle has three sides; a pyramid is one of the more stable structures. In baseball, three strikes and you are out. Three is an arbitrary number, really. I don’t even particularly care for the number three. It is not my favorite number. It is, however, quite significant for a number of reasons.

Since I have begun my slowdown, I have started living my life by the rule of three. It is going pretty well so far. My house is less cluttered, my anxiety levels have decreased, and I am able to accomplish more in a day. This is how the rule of three has affected my life:

  • Less clutter. It is really overwhelming to come home after a long day at work, and to see surfaces covered. Maybe it’s the stand when you first walk in the door that is covered with keys, coins, and umbrellas. Maybe it is your kitchen table full of the kid’s homework, leftover dinner dishes, the day’s mail. I have gradually gone through my house and cleaned off every surface. COMPLETELY. So it is empty. Then, I find the three things I love the most in the pile in front of me and put those three things on the table/shelf whatever. Not only does this make it easier to clean, but also I feel more relaxed now that my surfaces and shelves are less cluttered. What to do with the stuff you have removed? If you don’t love it enough to look at it everyday or to clean it or clean around it, it leaves. Yes, this is hard. Put it in a donation box for a month. If you forget about it in that month, it wasn’t that important, was it?
  • Shorter to-do list. I have a honey-do list. Everyone does. Unfortunately, I have no honey, and I have a lot of do. When I was working 60+ hours a week, I was always running around trying to do something. Even though I love Wonder Woman, and sometimes wear the t-shirt with the big bright W on my chest, I finally realized I can’t do it all. Nor should you. Unless you are going to be naked for the day, sometimes laundry can wait. I have cut down my to-do list from 15-17 things per day to 3 things per day. I now have time for the important things, like my family, and am less stressed when I do spend time with them. Sure, it may have been three days since I’ve mopped, but you need to create those memories with your family that give you a reason to mop.
  • Three weeks, or 21 days, is how long it takes to make a lasting change in your life that is going to stick. You hear three weeks about anything from starting a new exercise routine to a new sleep schedule, or basically anything you want to become a habitual form of your behavior. All change is hard, but if it sticks for three weeks, it is probably permanent. I have used this to accomplish goals, such as spending more time at the parks and beaches relaxing. Chose your goal, write it down, and circle a date on the calendar 3 weeks from now. If you do not meet your goal, that does not mean that you failed. Look for progress. My goal for these three weeks was to go to a different beach each week. Did I make it to three beaches? No, I only made it to two. While I may not have met my goal of three, the fact that I made it to two is progress towards my goal of spending more time outside. I am changing my behavior gradually and marking progress.

Can you do it? Can you shorten your to-do list to three things per day? What will really be missed if you do? Focus on the important things and not the minutia so that you can enjoy the moments of your life.

Can you downsize your surfaces so that they only contain three items? Start with one area – one shelf or table. Can you keep that one shelf from becoming cluttered with more than three things on it for three weeks? If so, that’s progress. Choose another surface and do it again.

Three is not my favorite number. Eight is actually my favorite number. It’s all part of slowing down. I’m going from eight to three and freeing myself for what is important in life – family, friends, and experiences.