Archive for the ‘Monthly Challenge’ Category

It’s October.  Where has 2010 gone?  I am enjoying the first turning of leaves here in the Northeast, and the cool evenings, but the impending long winter makes me queazy.  At least I have a month in tropical SE Asia to look forward to.  I hope Maine gets dumped on while I’m gone and then things clear up nicely for February.  See, I’m evil.  Moving on…

At the end of the quarter, I like to review the yearly goals I set for myself last December.  Since the end of June, I was able to mark off several goals including:

  • Take a photography class (July 2010)
  • Visit Laura in Ithaca (September 2010)
  • Visit Lisa at Allegheny (September 2010)
  • Read 52 books this year (already done with this at 53, and working on 54 and 55)
  • Finish house projects (new dishwasher, carpet, oil tank and I forget the fourth…)

I also took several items OFF the list of goals.  For example, I originally wanted to go to Central America this fall, to maybe Nicaragua, but since we’re now planning Asia 2011, we decided not to spend the cash to do another trip.  Also, we originally thought of selling our house this year because we hate yardwork and being responsible adults, but the market here is still unfavorable so we decided to wait.

I still want to take Basil to a class (maybe agility?) but that was on my list of goals for 2009 and I never did it.  I also want to watch 20 classic films this year and I’m only through 8.  Number 9 is on its way here – thank you Netflix, my library has NO classic movies – and I’m pledging to watch four this month. 

I think I should probably stop my rambling.  To use my favorite new phrase, I think I’ve geeked out enough here.  Oh, and this weekend, in addition to running in a marathon relay (easier than it sounds, I’m only running 6.2 miles), I’m spending the weekend sewing.  So there’s that.


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I went back today and read the post I did at the beginning of August on my monthly resolution (to adhere to my values).  I’ll admit – I kinda lost track of time this month, and while I don’t think I did anything specifically AGAINST my values, I also wasn’t super on top of things.  Oh well.  Fortunately for me, a brand new month starts today and I can start over.

I have been thinking hard about what to focus on for the month of September because it’s one of my favorites.  I love the weather, and I always get a little geared up when school starts (even if I’m not actually in school…) because it feels like a time of new beginnings and of promise.  I am also looking at my calendar and this month is BUSY.  I’m going away for two of the four weekends, my mother-in-law will be here for one weekend, my last semester of business school starts, I have relatives coming to town, and a gift to complete (will elaborate later).

So, the theme for this month will be to…savor.  One of my core values is to practice contentment, enjoying what I have when I have it.  Here are the specific items I hope to work on:

  • Act how I want to feel
  • Take an interesting walk (spend time outside)
  • REALLY spend time with people
  • Listen, and don’t talk so damn much
  • Live with boredom

I really want to work on what I do when I’m alone, which is frequently.  I spend at least three evenings a week by myself and those times are not spent very well.  I tend to zone out, watch stupid television and before I know it, I’m fast asleep on the couch.  I do have some things going on this month which will automatically decrease my TV time (homework, gift-making, evening plans), but it’s important to me that I at least make the *deliberate* choice to zone out rather than just waking up the next morning wondering where my night went.  I hate that. 

So there you go.  In honor of this month of savoring, I just put up two sticky notes to myself on my computer that say “Relax and Smile” and “Life is as it should be.”  And it is.

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Fun! See? I have it!

Well, July has somehow come and gone.  I can’t believe it.  It seems like just yesterday that I boarded a flight to Salt Lake City for a fun road trip vacation with my little sis and mom.  On the flip side, since I’ve been home I’ve been struggling through an intensive summer business school class that leaves me incredibly drained and makes the weeks drag on at a snail’s pace.  So, the month of July, in retrospect, seems both long and short.  How’s that for a deep thought?  Sorry, all I can manage on a measly six hours of sleep. 

By the way, the class that I complain so much about is actually quite interesting and I am really enjoying the several hours spent actually IN class – it’s the commute down and back that’s the killer. 

In July I focused on having more fun.  I made plans in advance and had some people over for dinner one lazy Sunday.  I didn’t watch as much TV as I usually do (though, as a break to myself, I haven’t actually kept track of this…it just feels like I haven’t watched as much).  I hung out with friends, went to a bachelorette party, took a photography class and volunteered. 

But most importantly, I realized this month more than ever before that just because other people might find something fun, I don’t necessarily find pleasure in it.  Bowling is a good example.  I have several friends who love going bowling.  I understand why – you can hang out and chat, it’s relatively simple and low-key, you can drink beer, etc.  But I don’t like to bowl.  That’s it.  I can’t make myself like it.  Another thing?  I love happy hour.  99% of the time, I would rather go out for a quick drink after work, be home by 7pm (at the latest!) and spend the rest of my evening at home.  I hate, HATE, going home, hanging around until 9pm or 10pm and THEN going out.  And, by the way, this is not because I’m rapidly approaching 30 and have become a bit of a loser.  I never liked late nights in bars, or dance clubs or whatever.  I also like taking classes for fun.  It’s fun for me to take a photography class at 9am on Saturday mornings.  I definitely get why some (most?) people would find it to be a mild form of torture, which is why I’m there and they aren’t! 

And that’s all I have to say about that.

For August, I’m going to work on Values.  I have done some work identifying things I value, but it’s interesting to note that just because one values something, doesn’t mean they seek more of it in their life.  Typically, if you do try to have more of what you value, it correlates to more happiness.  I’m still working on how best to manifest my values so I’ll post again about this later in the week hopefully, but for the time being, here’s my list of values and my personal definitions of them:

Adventure: Say Yes! Do what is scary.  Plan exotic trips and take them.  Look for new things to do and DO them!

Partnership: Be a good partner to Drew.  And my family.  And others.  Always.

Contentment: Know that I am in the right place at the right time and that everything is as it should be.

Change: Shake it up, look for novelty, keep it interesting

Fun: Have more. See more friends.  Plan for it.  Make room.  Plenty of time for lots of fun! Find delight and bliss!

Achievement: Indulge my ambitious side.  Set big goals and go ahead and do them.  Nothing is out of reach.  Nothing.

Connection: Nurture existing connections (family and friends) and build new ones.  Put down roots.  Get involved.

Abundance: Have all I need and then some.  Believe that my needs will be provided for.  Be generous to myself and indulge in treats!

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In photo class last weekend we went manual. For real.  No more auto settings (and my camera has about ten, including one for pet portraits).  It’s fun to decide how I want a picture to look and then just override the camera’s tiny pea-sized brain, but it also takes a lot of time.  You need to be deliberate.  As a little test, I took a picture in manual and then I took the same picture in auto – just to see what the camera would have chosen.  The difference is dramatic.

Manual Version

The manual version of this photo (above) is a little darker, and the colors richer.  The auto version looks more ‘blown out’ to me.  If I were to edit these photos in Photoshop, the manual version would be easier to manipulate since it’s slightly less developed.

Auto Settings Pier

Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about it.  Not really.  I just take good notes.  In today’s photo class we’re learning about white balance which should be fun.

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In July I’m working on having more fun.  I’ve realized that as I get older, friends aren’t always just available when I want to do something, and planning for fun is becoming more important.  It took me a while to realize the shrinking of free time because I never view my own schedule as that full (even when it technically is).  Five years ago, I would have viewed an evening at home with no plans as a lost opportunity to have fun, but these days I appreciate a quiet evening at home, and will plan for those as well.   

So far in July, I’ve done well having fun.  I went on vacation, which was a blast (and I didn’t think about work until the last night which is good for me).  I have made plans ahead of time for the rest of July to catch up with some infrequently seen friends.  I’m taking a photography class which is fun for me (also recently realized: what I find fun, not everyone finds fun…wow, it took me a long time to figure that one out!).  I’m making the most of my Saturdays, which often just dissolve into chores and lounging and boredom.  One thing I had hoped to do this month was to do something fun in Portland, see a play or do something ‘cultural.’ I think I’ll look into that for this weekend. 

So yay!  So far so good.  Who doesn’t want to have more fun in their life, right?

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Ok, quick background.  This year I’ve been really into e-courses.  They’ve been mostly about dreaming big, making your big dreams come true, and living life to the fullest.  I find them fun to participate in, and it’s also good to keep reminding myself to do those things I want to do.  My Life List came from one such class.  So, knowing all this and the inevitable cheese factor, you won’t be shocked to hear that a large component of these courses is to define your core values.  If you know what is valuable to you, it’s MUCH easier to decide how to make more of that stuff in your life and not as much other stuff.  Make sense?

So, in thinking about these things and doing this work, I’ve realized that among other things, I really value Fun and Adventure.  More specifically, I want to have more of both.  I want to make time for them, plan for them, say yes even when my first instinct is to say no, and just do more…of everything. 

In that vein, I’ve decided to focus my Happiness Project for July on Fun!  I’m going on a fun vacation this month so that’s a no-brainer.  But I’m also starting a grueling MBA class in a couple weeks that is going to be a huge time suck and will leave precious few evenings free for FUN, which is why I’m going to plan ahead and make fun plans so I can get through the craziness unscathed.  I already planned a dinner (three weeks in advance no less) with some friends knowing that when that day rolls around, I will really need some fun in my life. 

Here are the specific things I wrote on a big Post-It on my desk to keep reminding myself all month:

  • Plan for FUN
  • Say yes to plans on weeknights
  • Make plan with people I don’t see very much
  • Look further (geographically) for fun things
  • Research/go to events/plays/free things
  • Turn of the TV already

Ready, set, go!

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I’m working on my own personal Happiness Project.  You can read about my conquests so far Here and Here.  In June, I decided to work on my marriage.  The normal stuff – be nice, don’t nag, plan date night, etc.  I didn’t keep track of my progress every day (see yesterday’s post about my complete tracking FAILURE this month and my crazy overuse of the word ‘track’), but I do think I made some important strides in this department.

I always tell people that Drew and I are a lot alike.  In some ways, we definitely are.  But in other very significant ways, we are practically complete opposites!  My true feelings on the subject are this – at work, Drew is as organized, on top of things, clean and pulled together as I am.  When he has a day off, it’s very difficult for him to maintain a lot of that…he’d rather not be the planner, and other than asking if there’s anything he can do while I’m at work (all of which he does happily…or at least not unhappily), he’s not one to say, ‘hmmm, looks like the yard could use some mulch…maybe I’ll just go do that.’ 

So, this month, when I decided I wanted to institute a planned date night when we did something other than hang out at home, I realized that this was totally on me.  Because Drew is usually happy just hanging at home.  One day this month, on a weeknight (!), we actually went to the movies.  We also spent an entire weekend away without anyone else (hasn’t happened since our honeymoon three years ago!), and we didn’t run out of things to talk about which I was sure we would!  Finally, I also tried to curtail any nagging altogether.  Lesson learned: if I want Drew to empty the dishwasher, let him know that it’s full and it would be helpful for him to unload.  Simple.

I must share one more thing.  Drew and I have started playing our own version of the TV show “Chopped” at home.  For those of you who don’t have cable or hate most stupid Food contest shows, the game works like this: one person gives the other four mystery ingredients (usually stuff that doesn’t really go together very well), and the ‘contestant’ has a half hour to make something edible from it.  Since I’m going out of town tomorrow and we’re trying to get rid of some extra food lying around, we played Dessert Chopped last night.  Drew gave me: whole wheat English muffins (one…that was all we had), shredded coconut, dark brown sugar and applesauce (we had a half cup, max).  Twenty minutes later (at 10pm, yes I stayed up that late), I presented him with: cinnamon-sugar English muffin toast with a hot chocolate and raspberry pudding ‘filling’ and a raspberry/lemon/coconut topping.  We have this brownie mix you can make with applesauce and I didn’t cook it the whole way through.  I think Drew liked it – he ate it at least! 

Not our kitchen but you get the picture*

*photo courtesy of Big Fat Rat and Flickr’s Creative Commons

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