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Archive for March, 2011

I promise this is the last time I will complain about the weather of the newly passed winter.  Pinky swear.  After spending January in flip-flops, while our home was battered with weekly blizzards, we hoped that February and March would be good to our thinned blood.  Um, no.  Old Man Winter had his way with the Northeast in early 2011, and all I can say as we approach April is good riddance!  Actually, I hear that our first April weekend might see some snow!?!?!  Seriously?!?!?  How is one supposed to remain sane during this cruel April Fools joke?

Anyway, I thought I would post a few shots that I took over the past couple months – the first snowy series is from mid-February, and the last couple are from last weekend (end of March).  What a difference a month makes, true, but these non-snowy pictures were taken in 30 degree temps, so it’s not as amazing as it looks.  And we still have a snow pile on our driveway.  Hello April.

Basil clearly doesn't mind the snow in his eye.

this picture is of the 'shallow' area that we dig for him to run in.

the melting snow means that the ground is atwitter with good smells and dead animals

Clearly, the line between winter and spring is still a little blurry in these parts

And with that, my lips are sealed and my complaining finished for the year….unless we have a crazy Nor’easter like we did back in 2006 that people still talk about and then I can’t promise anything…

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In the weeks since we gave up our cable TV, both Drew and I have slowly begun to make more changes that reflect our desire to spend more time/money/energy in areas that we really care about and less of those things in areas that we really don’t value.

For example, early this month Drew joined our local YMCA.  He and a buddy play squash twice a week there, and for months, he was just paying the per day fee each time they played (when they were playing once every week or so).  They decided to increase their visits, which made getting a membership a better solution than just paying the fee each time.  It was a pretty big financial commitment (at least in our city, where you can get many gym memberships for less than $30/month), with a large starting fee, but he figures that not only will the monthly payment motivate him to use the membership but now he can go more frequently to play pick-up basketball games and racquetball with other people. 

Another health related item that I’ve reconsidered is my devotion to hot yoga.  I love it and it’s important to me to include it at least once a week in my fitness regimen.  However, it ain’t cheap – each class is $12 – $15 depending on the studio, etc.  I have 11 classes left in a package at my favorite studio (Christmas gift) so in a couple short months I’ll need to decide how I want to move forward.  A local athletic clothing store has a cool marketing tactic where they ‘sponsor’ free yoga classes once a week at surrounding studios – it’s a way to develop brand loyalty to the clothes, and get new people in the door at studios.  With this little discovery, I can essentially double the amount of yoga I do without any added cost, and try out new studios and instructors as I please. 

Finally, and maybe most groundbreaking, I decided to downgrade my cell phone.  I’ve had a Blackberry for a couple years, and I’m not gonna lie, the iPhone is also a tempting little toy.  All the bells and whistles that these fancy phones provide are a nice time killer in a waiting room or airport, but I honestly don’t use those features much beyond that.  Plus, I don’t really care about getting all of my email the second it lands in my Inbox – I sit near a computer for most of my life and can check it every minute if I want to.  Our contract was up recently, so I just bit the bullet and went back to a ‘normal phone.’  I was surprised when we were browsing in the store that the sales associates readily refer to the most expensive phones as the better than the lesser expensive phones (as in, “when I upgraded to a better phone…”).  I think it’s an interesting observation given that in reality, these phones do essentially the same things.  Heck, I even refer to this switch as a downgrade, but it’s a brand new phone and it still able to support any and everything you could want.  My phone switch will only save me about $30/month, but it’s not so much about the money as it is about making a conscious decision about how I spend my $30/month, and I can think of other areas where I would enjoy it more.  In this arena, Drew and I have very different opinions – he really needs his email accessible for work, and he messes around all the time online.  So he remained with Blackberry, though he got the newest version for free and it’s really spiffy.   

Out with the old...

 

...in with the new

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In my quest to read TIME’s best books ever written I try to read five a year, in the hopes that in 10 years or so, I will be fully cultured (is that even a word?).  The point of this little project is to continue to learn and stretch my mind, which often finds itself in the gutter reading books with pretty covers, and I hope I’m not the first person to realize that the cuter the cover, the trashier the book. 

I just finished reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.  Written in 2000, it has been awarded several major literary awards, including the Booker Prize and the Hammett Prize, and is one of the most recently written books on TIME’s list.  My good friend Lisa adores Margaret Atwood, though I must admit that my previous attempts to read her have failed miserably.  As an author, Atwood is known as a writer of science fiction (thanks to the The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake) and I have never read a science fiction book I’ve enjoyed.  In fact, I vividly remember struggling through Dune in eighth grade for my Humanities class and wondering why anyone would actually read such a book for fun.   

I was pleasantly surprised that this Atwood novel could best be described as historical fiction (with a dash of Canadian history, social commentary and political edge), with lots of plot twists and turns and I really, really enjoyed the book.  I couldn’t wait to get to the end, and I spent the better part of a weekend racing through the last 200 pages.

Here’s a quick five sentence summary (and I won’t give anything away): 

In the main story, two sisters grow up in rural Ontario, Canada as privileged daughters of a manufacturer.  Lots of tragedies ensue and they lose money and family.  The oldest daughter is married off for money, unhappiness reigns, and the younger sister dies.  In the story within a story, a wealthy woman falls in love with a poor wandering writer.  He tells her a fantastic fantasy story, but they lose each other in the end.  The End.

Wow, that summary is terrible.  Clearly, a 500+ page Margaret Atwood novel cannot be reduced to a short paragraph.  And why should it?  Trust me when I say that this book is worth your time and effort, and is much better than my summary suggests.  I promise!

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So many goals, so little time...

I am sick of being realistic.  In my corporate life, it’s my job to ask questions like, “What’s a realistic timeline for x, y or z to be completed?”  Or, “What is a realistic budget for this endeavor?”  At work, my ability to do this quickly and efficiently has made me successful.  My ability to be realistic is a real strength.

In other parts of my life, however, I hate being realistic. 

For instance, if I was always realistic, I would never have chosen to commute two states away for graduate school.  The prospect of commuting like that for several years was tiring, riddled with obstacles, and arguably unnecessary.  Now that it’s all over, and I have my degree in hand, I’m glad I didn’t consider the realistic reasons why I shouldn’t follow this dream.

Another example of this was the recent trip Drew and I took to Asia.  Lots of things about this adventure were unrealistic.  From asking for time off from work, to making sure we had enough money to sustain us on the road and cover our expenses at home, to leaving our furkid Basil for five weeks, to planning the entire thing, etc., etc.  I mean, there’s a reason why people don’t take off on these adventures all the time, right?  They’re just not realistic.  Well, thank goodness we did because it was an amazing journey that expanded our worldview. 

As remarkable non-conformist Chris Guillebeau said in a recent article:

I’m not saying (realistic is) a bad word, that there’s no logic to it, or that it’s completely irrelevant. I’m just saying… who cares whether something is realistic or not? You might as well leave this word to the cynics—let them have it. Let them own it. It won’t do you any good anyway.

I have some aggressive goals for myself over the next two years that I agree may be unrealistic according to many.  Well, frankly, I don’t care.  Unrealistic things happen every single day, so why should I be any different?  I want to have a life where unrealistic (and amazing) things happen, so I’ll continue to set my unrealistic goals and reach for my unrealistic dreams and just watch them all come true!

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After publishing a post a couple days back (which sparked lots of discussions and emails!), my friend and coaching guru, Molly, wrote a comment that hit home.  She said:

“My two cents? Stop planning for a minute and start playing. Take those long weekends and evenings and do whatever it is that inspires you in the moment. Walks in the snow? Making soup? Curling up with candles lit and travel magazines in hand? Calling an old friend? Bring something thrilling to YOU to the moment. Take a break from the spreadsheets.”

My first thought: She clearly doesn’t understand the value of a good spreadsheet! 

My second thought: Why do people always say that rest and play is so important to living a fulfilled and satisfying life?  I don’t have time for all of that!  DO, GO, PLAN…those things are the most important!

My third thought: Thank you Molly, for permission for me to stop with the crazy! 

It’s true that my most clear ideas come when I least expect it, perusing Borders, walking Basil or just sitting around.  Staring at a computer screen and willing a good idea to hatch is not typically the best idea-generating activity.  I wish it were, since I spend a lot of time in front of screens of various sorts, but alas. 

In fact, a lot of my recent revelations about my stuff and my time and my priorities came to me while hanging out in a hammock in Cambodia (Friendly Tip: If you never want to have a deep thought about your life and where it’s going, don’t go to Cambodia).

The hammock where all my crazy life-altering ideas appeared!

As a Type A’er with a competitive spirit, it’s difficult for me to:

  • Come to terms with the fact that slowing down and not trying so hard are keys to tapping into the good stuff of life
  • Give myself permission not to produce, check-off and otherwise plan away my time
  • Admit that some things are illogical, and cannot be explained no matter how much logic I try to force upon it.

My sister, Lisa, is currently in Ethiopia kicking ass and taking names and was noticing how much more enjoyable her time is when she allows herself just to accept the way things are (in particular, the aspects about her life there that she cannot control).  Her post about it is here and she’s an exceptional writer.  She begins and closes her post with reference to the Serenity Prayer (below), which I also really love.  

I think I’m going to take Molly’s advice, allow some serenity in my life, take the steps I can, and trust that my path will unfold clearly.

 

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