Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My People

Until a few months ago, I didn't know a single person who was living the lifestyle I dream of. When I mentioned to family or friends what I was hoping to do, they were supportive, but none of them had ever done anything more than camp for short periods of time.

Now, though, I can chat with hundreds of full-time RVers at any time of the day or night. And if everyone else is busy or asleep, I can still be inspired by and learn from them.

In my search for others who were living the life I dream of, I first looked where I always look -- books. On amazon.com I found a couple of books that looked promising and immediately ordered them.

While waiting for them to arrive, I googled "full-time RVing blogs" and similar terms; they yielded several blogs that I bookmarked and began reading.

Two of the bloggers mentioned a couple of different Facebook groups they are members of, so I immediately logged onto Facebook and requested to join those groups. Each group accepted me, and I now had blogs and Facebook groups to read.

When the books arrived, I read those and discovered a few more great blogs and another Facebook group.

Within the course of a few days and by following leads given both on Facebook and the first blogs I'd found, I had surrounded myself with hundreds of people who had the same dream I have and who acted on it.

Over the last few months, I've gradually added to and deleted from my list of blogs and groups as I figure out which ones best fit what I am looking for and which ones have the "atmosphere" I'm looking for.

I left one group, for example, because its most vocal members were often snippy and snide. Another group was less about the RV lifestyle and more about homeschooling while RVing. One of the blogs I stopped following focused primarily on photography, and another was filled more often with survivalist and anti-government talk than conversation about life in an RV.

I've whittled my Facebook groups down to four and the blogs down to five.

That may seem like an awful lot of reading, but I skim the Facebook posts very quickly, looking for topics that are of particular interest to me, and I only read a small fraction of what is posted overall. The writers of the blogs I follow post once or, at most, twice a week, and their posts are never very long. On the average, I spend about 20 minutes a day reading about the RV lifestyle.

This has proven to be time very well spent. I keep track of information about the reputations (quality and reliability) of various makes of RVs, and I've learned all kinds of great information that has led me to better narrow the parameters of my own RV search.

I've also created a few "documents" and cut-and-paste useful information from posts and blogs into those documents for future reference.

Being part of these Facebook groups and reading about other people's experiences on their blogs has been inspirational, eye-opening, informative, and entertaining. It's also fueled my own desire to purchase an RV and begin traveling as I can.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded, positive but realistic individuals can be immensely helpful. If you haven't yet found those people for yourself, I encourage you to search for blogs and Facebook groups of people who are doing what you dream of doing.

Go find "your people"!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Changing My Ways

I have a close relative who hates having a birthday. She always has. Even when she turned 30 -- over 30 years ago -- she greeted her special day not with smiles and happy anticipation of the year to come but with a crankily snarled "Don't even mention that number".

I never understood that.

Until this past Spring.  When I turned 50-something. I won't even mention the number.

When I realized in early May that I wasn't looking forward to my birthday, I began contemplating why I was not only dreading the day but even feeling downright depressed about it.

It didn't take me long to figure it out.

First, I'm aging. There, I've said it. No matter what the upbeat Facebook memes declare about the glories of the senior years, my "best years" are no doubt behind me.  My knees ache, my shoulder hurts, the wrinkles grow more pronounced every day, and don't even get me started on the state of my upper arms.

Another reason is that I felt as though I've lost the last almost-8 years. I was alive and productive, yes. But I was in a fog or depressed or just putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn't living fully and or with any sincere enthusiasm. It's nobody's fault, Heaven knows, but it saddens me to think that such a large chunk of my life was spent merely going through the motions.

Try as I might, I couldn't stop time. My birthday came and went. But the dissatisfaction with the state of my existence didn't lessen when May 22 passed into the history books.

It lasted a few more weeks until one morning when I was on my 45-minute cardio walk, a once-familiar but now almost-forgotten emotion gripped me:  determination. 

The intensity of the sudden commitment to change the status quo literally caused me to stop where I was. Which was pretty ironic, given that I decided right then to stop going through the motions and start making things, positive things, happen.

It felt pretty heady, actually.

I went home and spent hours, that day and the next, taking stock of where I was, every single thing I spent time on, and how I felt physically and emotionally. A whole-life check-up, if you will.

The results weren't pretty.

I came to the conclusion that I had been doing far too many things for the wrong reasons. I'd been doing things because this or that expert said I should. Trying one thing and then shifting direction when someone else said I should be doing something else. Not living true to myself.


For years.

But no more. Gripped with my new-found sense of determination to change my life and to live authentically, I pulled out a single large piece of unlined paper. At the top, I wrote, "What do I really want? What do I want to accomplish?"

Answering those questions was easy.

The next part was not only easy, it was also fun.

I chucked everything. All the advice and admonishments of experts. All the hoops I was clumsily trying to jump through. All the shoulds and musts.

And on that large piece of paper, I wrote what I instinctively knew was right for me to do.

That large piece of paper now hangs on the bulletin board above the desk in my home office. A photo of it is the wallpaper on my iPhone. I look at it every day, and I ponder it every Saturday before I plan the coming week.

Changes have been made.

I deleted my electronic to-do app. Almost three years of using an electronic planner because that's the "efficient" thing to do was gone with a few taps on my phone screen.

I've stopped mindlessly watching television.

I've stopped reading books just to read them. If they aren't well-written or don't contribute positively to my life, back to the library or off my kindle app they go.

I've stopped reaching out to individuals -- friends and family -- who have made it crystal clear that relationship with me isn't important to them.

I won't be blogging every Monday with a "52 Lists Challenge" post or (nearly) every Friday as part of the Five Minute Friday community.

But I haven't just discarded things. I'm revamping some things, adding others.

I'm back in a paper planner. That's ----------------------------------------->
a stock photo (courtesy erincondren.com) -- isn't it gorgeous?!

I'm getting up at least an hour earlier and walking first thing every morning.

I'm participating every Monday evening in a Fight Back With Joy women's study at my church. Oh, and I changed church membership to the church in which I was baptized, confirmed, and raised.

I'm committed to blogging once a week. Not just to write, but because I finally have clarity about what I want my blog to be and do. Oh, I may write more often, but only if it feels right, not out of a sense of obligation. Not to check another item off the far-too-long to-do list. So you can check in every Tuesday for a new post.

I've cleaned out my closet -- again -- and gotten rid of everything that I don't actually  love to wear. So, yes, you may see me in those denim capris and asymmetrical coral top more frequently, but I'm more than okay with that. 

More changes are coming, as circumstances and finances allow. 

I can't wait to see what happens!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Inspire (fmf)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "inspire" takes me.

  1. 1
    fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
    "his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing"
  2. 2
    breathe in (air); inhale.

It's interesting, the variety of things and people that serve as an inspiration. Pieces of art, music, the world around us, poetry, problems or challenges . . . the list is almost endless.

It can be argued that most people know what inspires them. In fact, many people acknowledge that they have "go to" things or activities they rely on when they need a creative spark. 

Words . . . those already recorded on the pages of books and my own, written in journals . . . have always inspired me. 

As a child, books created in me a desire to travel, to become a teacher, and to do a variety of things forgotten with time. More recently, recorded words have inspired me to attend conferences, long to journey Route 66 in a vintage red convertible, and endeavor to write a book. They have driven me to embark on a more healthy eating plan and to exercise 6 days a week, to visit Alaska, to search for hours for an affordable class B+ or class C camper in which I can travel throughout the United States.

I've found in the past few years another, new-to-me sources of inspiration. Although I'm a minimalist and have never had any issues with weight, televisions shows like Hoarders and My 600-pound Life motivate me. Those brief, 30-minute or so glimpses into a person's struggle to battle their own eating habits or their compulsion to collect stuff sparks in me a desire to accomplish something. Oh, not to exercise or lose weight or even to clean out a closet. But to do something with my life. 

More morbidly, perhaps, is the motivation to accomplish something I receive from the obituaries in my local newspaper. My eye flies down the on-line page, honing in on the age of the recently-departed. If they are much older, my body relaxes with the subtle reassurance that a long life is often a reality. And I'm inspired to do something with those years ahead of me. When I see a number near my own age or even, tragically, lower -- even much lower, I'm gripped with an urgency to do something now. 

Inspiration . . . 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is (A Life Redesigned)

Determine my dream life. Check.

Analyze my budget and identifying items that can be cut or even eliminated. Check.

Until last week, following Warren and Betsy Talbot's blueprint for identifying and living the life of my dreams was proving to be easy and enjoyable.

Last Wednesday, though, I ran into a roadblock. Let me explain.

My next mini-steps in the larger step of saving were on my to-do list, and I knew as soon as I glanced at it that I was going to have trouble.

My first assignment was to "secure the vault". In other words, I was to designate an existing account or create a new one to do nothing but hold (no withdrawing allowed save for the most dire of emergencies) the money I hope to accrue in order to live my redesigned life. That took a quick trip to the bank and about 10 minutes with a very helpful account representative there.

Afterward, I stopped by My Daddy's Cheesecake, a wonderful bakery and cafe here in my hometown. I slid into a booth with my slice of the ultra-scrumptious Scarlett O'Hara cheesecake and considered my next assignment -- putting a number, a dollar amount, on my dream life.

In other words, I needed to figure out what it will cost me to live in an RV, traveling as whimsy and the weather moved me. That proved to be a very difficult task.

Countless numbers of hours spent researching led me to the fact that monthly expenses will be quite variable. Finally, though, I arrived at a dollar figure for monthly expenses that I think is fairly realistic. I divided that figure by 30 (days in a month) and then again in half.

I wrote that number on my notepad, circled it, drew stars and curlicues around it.

My sense of satisfaction at completing another step in the process toward living my dream was very short-lived. Gone in less than a minute.

It was obliterated by an emotion I couldn''t quite put a name to. I still can't.

I tried to banish it, and at times this past week I've been fairly successful. Other times, though, it rolls over me like a huge, angry ocean wave, knocking me off-kilter and leaving me unsteady and unsure of myself.

And that is where I've been for the past few days -- vacillating between anticipation and ennui.

It's something I must work through before I can go on to the next step in the process, so I'll be pausing here until, I hope, next time.

Until then, I hope you'll spend some time considering what constitutes your own dream life. I hope you'll share it via a comment. I would love to be inspired by hearing your dream!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Forget that Rainy Day (A Life Redesigned)

Redesigning my life after the death of my husband almost 8 years ago has been a long progress, marked by the proverbial one step forward and two . . . or three or four . . . steps back. But once I finally had the vision of what I wanted (The Dream Defined), it was time to start making it a reality.

The Talbot's plan, as outlined in their book Dream, Save, Do, calls for specific steps completed in a specific order, but they also acknowledge that while that order made sense to and worked well for them, others in search of a different, better life might deviate as their situation and personality dictates.

With that in mind, I skipped ahead a few steps to "Save". I was eager to get started, to make tangible progress toward my goal. I also knew from reading the book completely through to get a lay of the land, that I could do the intervening steps at the same time as I was implementing steps to prepare financially.

I also did the mini-steps within the larger "save" step out of order, and that has worked well for me.

I already had a budget in place, and most months I stayed under or at budget in every category (housing, utilities, food, fun, etc). To be honest, though, my income at the time allowed me some latitude, and I knew there were ways I could cut my spending.

I pored over my budget, looking for ways I could cut back. Some items were easy to eliminate (so long Starbucks), and I haven't missed them at all. Others are a work in progress. For example, I have about a year left on my DirecTV contract and will be checking tomorrow to see what it would cost to get out of my current agreement and if there would be any long-term savings by doing that.

As a result of funneling the newly-freed up money elsewhere, I'm debt-free except for one credit card and my mortgage. My mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is less than the rent on even a much-smaller apartment in my area, plus I appreciate the deduction on my income taxes, so until I've found the RV I want and am able to live in it full-time, the mortgage isn't going anywhere.

One part of me is ecstatic about these changes. Another part of me is absolutely disgusted with myself for not doing this before now. I shudder to think of the money spent for things that didn't last materially and have no lasting value. But that's the past, and I'm determined to only look ahead.

While it may seem that I'll be living my dream life fairly soon, I made a ginormous life change that will in many ways make my life safer, more positive, and less mentally and physically stressful. In May, I resigned my job as of July 31. In mid-August, I will begin a new job . . . at about 22% less pay.

So my dream may be deferred a bit, BUT had I not made those budget and lifestyle changes when I did and unloaded debt, I wouldn't have been able to take this new job.

Perhaps once I'm settled into the new position and know better the amount of work I'll be taking home on a regular basis and how much time that will consume, I'll be able to think about getting some type of part-time job. But that's a thought for another day.

All of that -- reevaluating my budget, adjusting my spending, and applying freed-up funds to debt, has kept me busy for the past 7 or so months.

And I still haven't completed all the mini-tasks under the larger step of "saving"!

After months of employing my left-brain skills, I get to play around this week with some right-brain activities.

I hope you'll come back next Wednesday to see what the left side of my brain comes up with!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nice Job! (52 Weeks Project, Week 29)

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

Week 29: List your childhood and current dream jobs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be:  

  1. a nun
  2. an attorney
  3. a teacher
  4. a writer

My current dream job:

  1. best-selling author
  2. travel writer/blogger


Friday, July 14, 2017

Comfort from Within

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "comfort" takes me.

From without.

For 50+ years, that's where I sought comfort when life was having its way with me, when I was weary from the struggle or hurting from some jab, when my carefully-organized life with it's planner and checklists hit a snag

When I was a child, I sought -- and found -- comfort in books. 

Eventually, though, I also sought comfort in other people. In their friendship, their company. 

Books were always there, of course, and I even had favorites that I could turn to. And I did. Other people were less reliable, but still . . . I sought them, their understanding, their empathy.

But the day came, as it always does, when the outer things simply weren't enough. Oh, they provided a temporary respite from pain or disappointment, but when I turned the last page of the book or when lunch with a friend ended and I was back home, alone, again . . . 

Now you might wonder why, as a Christian, I didn't find comfort in my faith, in God. The fact is, I didn't try. 

But then, in the span of three years, I suffered two blows, the second significantly stronger, more devastating than the first.

I needed comfort.

And I've finally begun to look for it not from the outside, but from within.

From my faith, yes.

But also from learning who I am, from being true to myself, from being comfortable in my own skin.

I'm a work in progress. 

But the process . . . even that is a comfort.