Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: What I did this Memorial Weekend

When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend was a time for visiting the graves of my grandparents, uncles, and great-aunts & uncles and for spending a day at the local VFW lakes for fishing and a huge picnic. I haven't been to the VFW lakes in over 30 years, and I didn't visit the cemetary this year, either. Instead, I . . .

1. Spent Friday visiting juntique shops in my home town with my daughter. We had a wonderful time!   FYI: "juntique shops" is my name for those really interesting shops -- usually with booths for individual vendors -- that carry everything from antiques to vintage items to stuff picked up for almost nothing at the end of garage sales or when cleaning out Great-Aunt Gertrude's house after she's moved to the local elder-care facility.

2. Listened to and occasionally watched 4 St. Louis Cardinals baseball games on television.

3. Knitted 24 more rows on a scarf that is tantalizingly-close-yet-maddeningly-far from being completed. For those of you who don't knit, think back to your last vacation, to those last 2 hours in your 12-hour drive that seem to be taking longer than the previous 10.

4. Exercised Saturday and today; I walked far more than 10,000 steps Friday as well.

5. Attended church service Sunday morning at a nice little country church 10 or so minutes away from my house.

6. Fixed dinner for my daughter this evening and had a very nice visit with her.

7. Found out my son will be able to come home for several days!! He'll be here Saturday evening and will have to leave again Wednesday morning. Three days -- I'll take them and cherish every moment.

8. Arranged to have our family pictures taken by a wonderful free-lance photographer who just happens to be my nephew's wife. We haven't had a family photo taken in about 5 years, and I'm very excited about having a new one.

9. Sorted through some more "stuff" and filled a couple of boxes to take to a local charity thrift store. The boxes are in my trunk and ready to be delivered tomorrow!

10. Started (writing) a novel.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Oh, the Things that Give Me Pause (Dream Save Do #6)

I made quite a bit of progress this week in sorting through my stuff in an effort to eliminate everything I don't love/use. I am excited to share that I have now gone through every room on the main level of my house. Notice I didn't say I am *finished* going through each room; I know myself -- I will get the urge to purge (nice catchphrase) again and probably even again, and I will find more things to sell or throw away or donate.

Some things were oh so easy to throw away. The bag of 299 rubber bands that I was forced to buy 2 winters ago when I had to have 1 rubber band. Yes, I had to have it; the instructions for whatever I was doing at the time clearly said a rubber band must be used, so off I went to the dollar store to purchase a bag of rubber bands. I haven't used even one of the remaining 299 rubber bands in over 24 months, so I threw caution to the wind and tossed them in the white plastic bag I was using for things to be discarded. I did the same thing with 4 plastic rulers -- 1 apiece with each of my offspring's names on them and 2 spares; that leaves me with one very nice wooden ruler for my measuring and line-making needs. Other items met a similarly quick move to either the plastic bag or the "sell" pile in the spare bedroom.

A few items required a slightly more consideration. Interestingly, though, it wasn't the cost of the item or even its usefulness that slowed down the decision-making process. When I first picked up the stack of 5 unpainted wooden frames, just the right size for 4 x 6 snapshots, I instinctively placed them in the "sell" pile. But when I turned to take the next item out of my "projects" cabinet, something made me stop and reconsider those frames. I remembered getting them for next to nothing at a store closing sale 5 or 6 years ago, planning to paint them and . . . well, you get the idea. The purger-me said, "You haven't painted these in 5 or 6 years, and let's be honest, you probably won't do it now!" The crafter-me quickly responded with, "Yes, but once I get settled in my next home, I am *finally* going to create that wall collage of favorite family snapshots, and these will work great for that. So there!" When I retrieved the frames from the sell pile, I noticed the little easel mechanism on back and saw that they aren't wall frames after all. Decision made -- they stayed in the sell pile.

I continued working my way through my projects cabinet, gaining momentum until I came to an item -- or rather, group of items -- I've pondered more than a few times the past few years. I know I don't need 25+ fine point black Sharpie markers. In the past 5 years, I've used exactly 1 fine point black Sharpie marker, and that was to label packing boxes when I moved. Other than that, the Sharpies go unused. It should be so easy to toss them in the "donate" pile, but I hesitated nonetheless.

They aren't a reminder of unfinished projects; instead, they were my husband's. He wasn't a hoarder, but there were certain things that he would say "you can never have too many of", and one of those things (obviously) was fine point black Sharpie markers (others were screwdrivers, nuts/bolts/screws, and batteries). I worked around them, considering every other item in the cabinet before coming back to them. I put them in the donate pile; I retrieved them and put them back in the cabinet; I did that a few more times. I held them in my hands and considered them as carefully as if they were cute pieces of costume jewelry.

Silly? Maybe. I can't explain it, but sometimes it's the small things that are most difficult to consider rationally, to place in the sell pile or even the trash. When I read somewhere a few months ago that keeping a deceased loved one's toothbrush is quite common, I nodded in recognition. I've never shared this with anyone, but in a white jewelry bag at the back of my lingerie drawer is my husband's last toothbrush. I never take it out and look at it; I simply cannot bring myself to throw it away. Not yet.

But I can throw away the Sharpies -- and I did. I retrieved a rubber band from the small bag in the trash bag (okay, I've technically used 2 of them now, but I still threw away the remaining 298) and bundled all but 3 of the Sharpies. Still not quite trusting myself not to retrieve them yet again, I carried them out to the large trash bin in the garage; something would have to be very, very important for me to dig through the trash in there. And yes, I hesitated one more time. But I did it. I threw them away.

And I cried when I got back inside the house.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: Things I Want to Try

The assignment this week is to list 10 things -- foods, hobbies, travel, etc. -- I would like to try. Time is short today, so without any further ado, here's my list:

1. zip-lining

2. white-water rafting

3. rock climbing

4. living on an island off the Eastern seaboard (of the U.S.) for at least a month

5. contra-dancing

6. living (traveling as the mood strikes) full-time in a (small) camper

7. supporting myself on my creative endeavors

8. metal-stamping

9. practicing yoga on my own (one-on-one instruction is needed first :))

10. living without any satellite/cable TV service

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Test-Driving Reductions & Additions (Dream Save Do #5)

I spent my Dream Plan Do time this week figuring out ways to implement -- even just a little bit -- the reductions/eliminations from and additions to my life that I listed in steps 3 & 4. Even better, in some ways I actually began cutting out some things and adding/increasing others!

One item on my "would not miss if it magically went away tomorrow" list (aka things I would like to reduce or eliminate) is "large house/unused space". First of all, it's very doubtful that you would consider my house "large". At about 1246' sq, it is considered modest by today's standards; therefore, my list would be more accurate if that item was amended to "too-large house/unused space", as I don't need or want both a spare bedroom and an office. Nor do I  need or want a basement, other then to retreat to when bad weather strikes. Monday morning, I worked out a plan whereby I will, over the next week or two, move everything from the basement to the spare bedroom and then, over the next few weeks, cull those items down to what will fit in the (much smaller) office. If all goes as planned, when I move {fingers crossed that my buyers get an offer on their home}, I'll be able to move into a much-smaller place -- maybe even one with just one bedroom.

Also on my list of things to reduce/eliminate is "so many monthly bills". Of all the bills I pay every month, the one I find most aggravating is the satellite TV bill. I have great service, pay far less than most people I know (I'm aware of this because griping about satellite or cable-TV pricing seems to come up quite around here), and like the plan I have except for one small thing. I am paying almost $60 a month in order to watch one category of programming -- sports. I do watch other programs. For example, I love Big Bang TheoryJustified, and Elementary, but I can watch my favorite programs -- and any others, for that matter -- online within 24 or so hours of their original airing. I can also watch various series that I missed originally and now want to watch, as well as movies, via Netflix. If television shows and movies were all I wanted to watch, I could ditch my satellite service right now.

Unfortunately, though, without some sort of satellite or cable television service, I can't watch sports without purchasing an expensive package; even then, with one of the sports I love, local games -- the very ones I want to watch -- are blacked-out! I've read about families that have ditched their television and watch sports at friends' homes or bars. Neither solution works for me; the former feels too much like mooching, and while I don't mind visiting a sports bar occasionally, I don't want to do that all day Saturday and Sunday and again Monday night during football season. This week, though, I tested canceling my satellite television service by watching almost no television (and what I did watch I could have watched online) and by listening to 3 radio broadcasts of Cardinals' baseball games. Quite honestly, I enjoyed not watching the games; as I listened, I painted a piece of furniture, made quite a bit of progress on a scarf I'm knitting, etc. Football games, though, are a different matter, so I'm still on the fence about this change.

This week I also turned my attention to adding a few of the things I would like to have more of in my life. For the 2nd week in a row, I focused on "better fitness and  health", deliberately making choices that would help me meet most, if not all, of my 6 health/fitness goals every day. I met at least 4 goals each day; several days I met 5, and 1 day I met all 6. I'm definitely a work in progress!

I also made an effort to "increase non-family social activities". While I'm not a hermit, I am to a large degree a homebody, but I've missed having a healthy social life since my husband passed away and I moved 2 hours away from our friends. I have gone out for dinner with ladies from work several times over the past few years, but that's not enough. This week I went out to lunch with one colleague (a younger woman who I greatly respect), and I made plans for lunch tomorrow with another coworker (a woman whose children are grown). I also "attended" a meeting of a group of ladies that meets weekly to knit chemo caps. The results were somewhat mixed.

Lunch with my younger colleague was a delight. We chatted about the many things we have in common -- lots of laughter! On the other hand, only one other lady attended the knitting group; she said she wasn't surprised at the lack of attendance as very severe weather was predicted.  Bad storms did blow in as we were knitting, so I used that as an excuse to leave a bit early. Truth be told, the evening was not, as they say, an unqualified success. The other lady was nice, but what little conversation we had was stilted and a bit odd. Of course, I'm going to return at least a few more times; if things don't improve, I'll continue knitting the caps on my own and look for another activity/group to check out.

This step of adding to and subtracting from my life will, I'm sure, be a lengthy one, full of trial and error, and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. I'm enjoying this step and seeing where it takes me!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Empty Nest -- and Making it even Emptier

My daughter, her dog, and about 99% of her stuff left my house yesterday, leaving me with an empty nest (again). I thought the last time she left it was for the last time, but she graciously agreed to move home and house & dog-sit for me while I was in England. The last time she moved out, I didn't make many changes, but this time I'm already using the freed-up space to create more freed-up space.

Yesterday evening, I cleaned the carpet in the master bedroom, which I had insisted my daughter use (more privacy and quiet for studying) and moved my clothes to that bedroom's closet. Today, I plan to move -- and here's the key to this entire process -- only the items I want to keep permanently and that belong in my bedroom from my old bedroom to the master bedroom.

No more storing scrapbook supplies under the bed; left behind is the stack of Sports Illustrated magazines I'm keeping until my son's next visit; not making the move is the basket holding my rudimentary first aid kit. If it doesn't belong in my bedroom on a permanent basis, the item will be left in the now-spare bedroom. So how will that enable me to create an even-emptier nest? Here's the plan.

As I gear up my preparations for moving to a smaller home, anything I do not love and/or use will go to one of 6 places. Things I plan to donate will immediately go into one of the large bins or bags I've placed in the garage for that reason; as soon as a couple of  bins or bags are full, I'll drop them off at a charity resale shop. Anything I don't want to keep and know neither of my children want will go directly into the trash bin in the garage.

That leaves the 4 areas I've sectioned-off in the spare bedroom. The large walk-in closet will hold all my scrapbooking supplies, photos, and memorabilia, as well as any items I want my son and daughter to have first dibs on. In the bedroom itself, one section will hold items I intend to sell but haven't yet listed on the neighborhood facebook sell/trade site or on ebay. A second area will hold the items that have been listed but remain unsold, as well as my postal scale and shipping supplies. The last area will be reserved for boxes and bins already packed for the move;  Christmas decorations, stored off-season in large plastic bins in the basement, will go there, for example.

My goal is to remove from each room every single item I don't want to keep long-term and to empty out the basement; additionally, I want all of the things I want to get rid of to be very visible, very much "in my face". You see, I know myself pretty well. I don't like basements and only go in them when 100% absolutely necessary (think tornado sirens blaring). As a result, I can easily forget all about the accumulation of stuff down there. I can't ignore stuff that's right under my nose, however, and I hate clutter, so walking past that bedroom (I'm going to leave the door open except if/when I get company) every day and seeing all that stuff will spur me to get rid of it.

I also want the items I'm going to keep, but that I "store" (seasonal decorations), to be very visible. I don't want to lose sight of how much stuff I have. My hope is that seeing it all, en masse and consuming the space I have available to live in, will provide the impetus I need to purge even more.

Watching empty spaces appear as the movers, my daughter, and I took things out was bittersweet. I'm sure, though, that seeing even more empty space as unwanted and unneeded items leave my home will be liberating.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: I Wish I Knew More About . . .

I love to learn -- always have and hope I always do! I thoroughly enjoy learning about a subject or  how to do something, and that was, I know, a huge factor in my choosing to become a teacher. This week, I've been challenged to list 10 things (or subjects) I wish I knew more about. And in no particular order, here we go!

1. I know several people who have participated in long bicycle trips/vacations and have always thought doing that would be a great adventure. The problem is that while I know how to ride a bike, I don't understand the principles of or how to operate a multiple-speed bike! Therefore, I wish I knew how to operate a multiple-speed bike.

2. I learned to knit when I was a little girl but only learned the very basics -- cast-on, knit, purl, decrease, bind off, and reading very basic patterns. That's it! Equipped with that knowledge, I could knit anything that was square or rectangular in shape -- prayer shawls, scarves, pot holders, etc. Last Summer I took a beginner's class to refresh my skills, and I learned to increase and read slightly more complicated patterns. But I want to know more. I wish I knew more about knitting! I want to be able to knit socks two-at-a-time from the toe-up on 2 circular needles (not on a magic loop), to be able to look at a mistake and know not only what I did wrong but how to fix it, to read more complicated patterns, and to feel confident in tackling any project that catches my eye.

3. Last Spring, I spent an absolutely-delightful week at the John C. Campbell Folk School. One evening while I was there, a contra-dance was held in the main hall. I went and watched for awhile; the dancers were having a wonderful time, and I wanted to join in (I could have, as everyone was welcome to participate), but I didn't. Between my hearing problem (wasn't sure I could hear and understand what was being called well enough to keep up), my life-long lack of coordination, and timidity, I sat and watched. I've been thinking about contra-dancing since then, and I found a group about 40 minutes away that meets several times a month. Now I just have to get up the nerve to show up by myself, because I wish I knew how to contra-dance.

4. I have no idea why, but I wish I knew how to use sign language fluently.

5. I like to "travel light"; in fact, I'm thinking of investing in some fisherman-type khaki shorts with lots of pockets so I don't have to carry a purse. But I digress. One thing I hate to carry is a camera, and because of that I've missed out on some great pictures over the past several years. To avoid that in the future, I wish I knew more about how to take really good photos with my iphone. I'm excited to share that just a week or so ago, I downloaded a free book(let) written by a professional photographer on taking great pictures with an iphone, and I'm planning to start reading it tonight while waiting at the airport for my daughter's plane to arrive.

6. Obviously, I blog, and I read other people's blogs as well. I don't mind confessing that I turn multiple shades of green when visiting other women's blogs and seeing how artistic their entries look -- multiple font types and sizes, use of photos (and in such creative ways!), special effects (I don't even know what they're called, but I like them), etc. As a result, I wish I knew more about how to use WordPress. To that end, I signed up for an afternoon workshop on that exact topic at a blogging conference I'll be attending in August. I can't wait!

7. I'm a jill-of-many-trades-and-master-of-none, and I love being able to quilt, scrapbook, knit, and do other odds and ends of self-taught crafts. However, I wish I knew more about one or two specific crafts, enough that I could make a nice little side income from it/them. It would be nice to have a business that could grow and augment my retirement income when that day comes. 

8. I took 3 years of Latin in high school and a semester of Spanish a few years ago just for fun. Nobody speaks Latin, of course, and about all I can do in Spanish is count to ten and  ask for mas aqua and the bano (I helped build a latrine while on a week-end mission trip to Mexico 10 years ago). I've always wanted to be bi-lingual, so I wish I knew how to speak fluent Greek or Italian. Why one of those two? Well, I think Italian sounds beautiful, and I feel in love with the idea of visiting Greece after seeing the film Mama Mia!

9. I would love to be more self-sufficient and live debt-free, and it's long been a dream of mine to live in either a small, self-built (for the most part) home or in a camper-trailer with solar energy, etc. Either way -- small home or camper-trailer,  I lack the knowledge and skills needed, so I wish I knew more definitely which route I want to take and

10. the skills I need to make that happen. 


I love this week's topic; I've been forced to face the fact that I could learn all 10 of these -- I just haven't done it, and I've made excuses for not getting started. But it's time for me to get off my duff and get started!

         What about you? What would you like to learn more about? 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Adding & Increasing (Dream Save Do #4)

As I move (slowly, I admit) through the Dream, Plan, Do process, I arrived this past Monday at an especially-fun step: determining what I would like to add to or have more of in my life. When I first read what Betsey & Warren Talbot (authors of Dream, Plan, Do) had to say about this step, I said to myself, "Grab the paper -- this is going to be a long list!" I curled up in my favorite spot on the loveseat with a glass of raspberry tea and got started. My plan was to jot down everything that came to my mind -- no editing -- and then come back to the list a few days later and do any necessary editing, so that's what I did.

Monday morning found me brainstorming and listing all of the things I already have/do but want more of as well, as things I want to add to my life. I was surprised to find that even after racking my brain, reading over recent journal entries, etc., my list held only 25 items. I left it on my desk, figuring I'd think of things to add as the day went on, but I didn't. Tuesday morning I read over the list again, and I still couldn't think of anything to add. I even asked my son and daughter to share with me all the things they could remember me saying I wanted or wished I had more of; the few things they could think of were already on my list.

I let the subject rest for a day and came back to it Thursday morning. After combining items that were very, very similar, my list held 20 items. A few of the items on the list are tangible, but somewhat unspecific; for example, I would like a home that is cozier (i.e. smaller) and "comforting". I could, if asked, define that more clearly, but that is specific enough for the purpose of this list.

The vast majority of the items, however, were not tangible.  Non-material items such as a circle of close friends, joy, volunteerism, and (of course) more time with my son and daughter added up to 16 items.

On Friday morning, I read over the list again and felt very satisfied with it. Just for fun, I flipped back in my notebook to the page listing the things I would like to eliminate or reduce and read over that list as well. I closed my eyes and daydreamed for a bit about a life that had more of the things I want and less/none of the things I hope to eliminate/reduce. In short, it felt "right".

I'm excited about this process, about putting into words and onto paper how I want to live, and I can't wait to move on to the next step bright and early Monday morning.

 

Now that I'm home and back into a more regular routine, I'll be working on the Dream, Plan, Do process every morning and sharing a recap of the week's "work" with you each Sunday. If you'd like to Dream, Plan, Do yourself, please check out Betsy and Warren Talbot's book Dream, Plan, Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Getting Physical (Week 1)

Once upon a time there was a girl who was physically fit, who played hours of tennis or softball or touch football with wild abandon without stopping to bend over, hands on knees, gasping for air. This young woman paid nary a thought to cellulite, thunder thighs, and saddle bags, and she went merrily about her way, eating whatever she wanted, as much as she wanted, whenever she wanted without any repercussions.

No, that's not a fairy-tale; for most of my life, even as I moved from girl to young woman and then to woman, that description fit me. Oh, perhaps "hours" became "hour", but for the vast majority of my life I have been active, strong (for my size), and physically fit.

Unfortunately, about eight years ago, that began to change. Long story short, between several moves, my husband's death and my lack of interest in much of anything for quite some time afterward, a physical condition that pretty much limited my exercise options to walking for over a year, and a general lack of get-up-and-go, I am now very familiar with saddlebags and cellulite. Worse yet, I now sport upper arms that flap so well I should be able to fly!

Armed with information gleaned from my son (a fitness buff and doctor), my own general practitioner (a savvy man with common-sense), my bone-loss specialist (very highly respected in her field), a friend and chiropractor, a friend and personal trainer, a friend and nutritional fanatic of the best sort (common sense), and several well-trusted books including Younger Next Year, You Staying Young, and Thinner Next Year, I've devised a very basic plan for getting back into shape and (God willing) staying there for the long haul. I shared my plan with my general practitioner and bone-less specialist, and I am not above a little shameless bragging that they both declared it outstanding.

My plan involves 6 daily goals:

1200 mg of calcium (dietary, not supplemental)

110 g of protein

4 veggies (minimum) & 2 fruits

64 oz of water

10,000 steps

exercise -- 4 days of cardio/weight-bearing (brisk walking, riding my bike)

2 days of strength training (at the gym for now)

1 day (Sunday) - a 1 1/2 -3 hour activity (hiking a trail, long  bike ride, etc.)

 

I've also cut out "white stuff" (sugar, flour, pastas, etc), grains, and dairy products. I easily get the 1200 mg of dietary calcium per day without ingesting a single dairy product, and my stomach & intestines are much happier. :)  I purchased a heart-rate monitor and on cardio/weight-bearing days am careful to keep my heart rate in the correct range.

It's a work in progress; 6 days in, and I'm not yet to the point of achieving all 6 goals every day. On my best day this past week, I met 5 of the 6; on my worst days, I met only 3. The goals I've had the hardest time reaching are the 110 g of protein and the 10,000 steps. I was surprised that the latter presented was such a challenge because I love to walk. What I've learned is that in my day-to-day routine I don't walk nearly as much as I thought I did!

 

Even though I only met 1/2 of my goals on 2 days and haven't yet reached all of my goals even once, I'm pleased with what I've done so far. It took me more than a few years to develop some bad habits, and I know it's going to take more than a few days to develop healthier ones.

Even more important, to me at least, is that having these goals to work for and then working to meet them has proven to be very uplifting not only physically but also emotionally. I feel good about getting out of my rut, and I have more energy than I've had in quite some time. I feel better about myself.

Hopefully, it won't be long until I'm able to post that I went 6 for 6 every single day. I hope you'll journey along with me, read my weekly (Saturday) updates, and maybe even join me!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Post-Vent Update

If you read my blog this time last week, you know I let loose with a mighty vent about some of the less-than-great things going on in my life. I've been asked (both via a couple of comments and a few emails) if venting helped and how things are going now.

First, venting did help, and I knew it would, as putting any problems or issues down in words and working through them (see "Beating the Blues" from last week) has always been productive. I know that strategy doesn't fit everyone; a good friend, for example, has shared with me that when she writes everything down, she begins to wallow and sink further into her bad mood. She turns to exercise; that works for her. Another friend cleans house.

But what helps me most is the final step I take -- implementing the strategies I've identified; I began that step last week and will continue it until all of the problems are resolved, at least to the best of my ability and to a level I can live with. Briefly, here's what I've done so far.

Problem: feeling unsettled re: my housing situation

I have prayerfully determined that this is something I have little control over. There are too many variables -- when the sale on my current home finally occurs, where I move from here, etc. -- to set any kind of goal or specific plan. In general, though, I am determined to keep taking tiny steps toward a more permanent, more authentic home.

Problem: my daughter moving out; loneliness 

I had already signed up to play on a team in a bocce league (first game is tomorrow night), and I feel good about that. While at the library last Friday, the lady checking out my books noticed I had a few books about knitting, and she told me about a group that meets weekly to knit chemo caps. I plan to attend that this Thursday evening. I also googled an activity I've been interested in pursuing for over a year and found a group that meets 3 or 4 Sunday evenings a month, and I'm planning to attend this coming Sunday. Getting out of the house and being active in the company of others will, I believe, be a great antidote to loneliness.

Problem: too many projects

This past Saturday morning, I settled onto my metal glider on the front porch with a cup of hot tea and a note pad. I listed all my unfinished projects I could think of (I'd forgotten some!), priortized them, and got started on the first one that afternoon. I finished it this morning and will move on to the next tomorrow morning. I've designated time each day except Sunday as "current project time", and I'm hoping to have the all of the items on my current list (I'm sure more will pop up) finished by the middle of June. One item is going to take much longer, but I'm okay with that.

Problem: miss my son 

This one is a bit trickier. I can easily drive to see him every few months, and he is perfectly fine with that. Except for one thing. However, he works 80 hours (or close to it) every week and has few weekend off. In his time off, he takes care of things he needs to get done and studies for his Boards (he is a medical resident), so visiting frequently isn't really doable. For now, I will focus on enjoy his texts and talking on the phone or skyping when we can. I'm also focusing on the fact he is healthy, doing what he loves, etc, as I know many parents who are missing their son/daughter are not so lucky.

Problem: knitting class

I dropped out of the knitting class and am going to focus on finishing a scarf I've started and then learning how to knit socks two-at-a-time toe-up using a fantastic book I found at the library. If I'm not successful, I'll look for a class somewhere else. I'm also very excited about learning to knit chemo caps and being involved in that ministry.

Problem: lack of exercise

I joined a very affordable gym and have my introductory session with the personal trainer tomorrow. But I'm excited to share that I've already begun implementing the wonderful exercise program outlined in Thinner This Year, after reading about the basics of the program in Younger Next Year. I've strapped on a heart-rate monitor every morning (except Sunday), slipped my iphone in my armband and earbuds in my ears, and set out. I'm not quite where I need to be, but I'm closer than I thought I would be, and that's encouraging. I'm sure all that walking while in England helped tremendously.

So do I feel better? Absolutely. Is everything now perfect? No, and I don't expect it to be. But I feel better, and I feel as if I'm moving in the right direction. I'll keep you posted, and we'll definitely celebrate when I finally finish all the projects on my to-do list!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Beatin' the Blues

I did something yesterday that I typically try very hard not to do -- I vented to other people. In the past, my journal was my sounding board when I was feeling blue, but now that I've put away (at least for awhile) my journal, I vented here instead. It wasn't easy; in fact, it was downright scary.

What would anyone stopping by think? Would they consider me horrible for whining publicly? Would they never return? Hours after I hit "publish", I these questions still ran through my head, and more than once I almost deleted the post. I'm glad I didn't, though. I remember how alone I felt in the first two years after my husband passed away; even though I knew there were other widows "out there", nobody I knew, nobody I talked to had been in my shoes, and I felt so alone in everything I was feeling. So if even one person finds yesterday's post and is comforted even a bit by the fact that  another person feels the way they do . . . well, that would be absolutely wonderful.

I wish I could say that while I slept last night, the various situations I vented about magically resolved themselves, causing me to wake up to a grand and glorious day in which not a negative thing could be found. But I can't. Instead, I woke up today, kicked myself in the pants, and resolved to do what I could to set at least some things right. Yesterday, I vented about the crummy stuff going on in my life; today I'm going to share with you my personal tested-and-proven method for getting over the blues, the very method I employed this morning.

First, I begin implementing tried and true strategies for lifting myself out of the doldrums. I pray. I turn on uplifting music, I very intentionally add at least a few items to my gratitude journal. Sometimes I take a walk or watch an episode of a favorite television program that makes me laugh. Sometimes I lay down and cuddle with my dog or fix myself a cup of hot tea and read a chapter or two of a favorite book.

Then I take stock and determine what the problems are. For me, taking stock is best done through writing. Sometimes I journal, other times I just list items in a concise -- even blunt -- list. The practice, not the specifics of the form is what's important. I didn't have to take stock this morning; I'd already done that when I wrote yesterday's blog entry, but I did go back and read again what I had written.

I next consider which, if any, of the items are within my control, even if only to a small degree, and I brainstorm things I can do to change each of those items. The key word here is "brainstorm"; in other words, I jot down all the ideas that pop into my head without censoring them. One of the items on yesterday's list was, for example, that I miss my son; when I brainstormed this morning, I wrote down "quit my job and move to Texas". Of course, I'm not going to quit my very good job and move to Texas. BUT because I didn't dismiss it out of hand and actually articulated it, I had some internal dialogue ("I'm not going to quit my job. But is there an in-between measure -- something that's not so drastic but is a mid-way point? Hmmm . . ."). And that internal dialogue led to a few more ideas that are more doable.

It's finally time to implement at least some of those more-doable strategies. This morning, for example, I visited a local gym, discussed my fitness goals with a personal trainer, and signed up for a very basic gym membership that is (at $10 a month) well within my budget. He looked at the list of exercises I had put together, made a few suggestions, and shared with me that while my goals are reasonable, it's going to take more than a few months for me to see the progress I'm looking for in my arms. Rather than feeling discouraged by that, I appreciate his honesty and feel ready to get to work. I also visited the shop where I'm taking the knitting classes and discussed the sock-class situation with one of the ladies who works there. She offered a few strategies and, after discussing how I feel with my colleague and discovering she feels the same way I do, I've decided (as has my colleague) to drop out of the class. Sometimes, I've found, it's best not to push and pull and force a situation but instead to cut my losses and walk away -- this is one of those times.

I'm implementing other strategies as well, and I feel better already. It feels good to attack the very things that were attacking me, that were making me blue. I'm not going to fix everything -- I know that. But I'm addressing what I can, in the best way I can, and that's really all I can do. And that's enough for me; I can live with that.

How do you get past the blues and deal with life's circumstances that are dragging you down? Please share via the comments below or email me at www.aliferedesigned.com. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Warning: Vent Ahead

I'm sitting here, fingers poised above the keyboard, trying to figure out how to begin, even wondering if I should begin at all. You see, I'm having one of those days -- more like one of those weeks and maybe even months -- when things are not going well, and I'm struggling.

I wasn't going to share that; instead, I was going to "put on a happy face" and write about . . . well, I'm not sure what I was going to write about. But then I realized that if I'm going to write about my experiences creating a new life after losing my husband, I should do it honestly, even on the bad days. To do otherwise is unfair to anyone traveling this path (changing life after significant loss of any kind) who finds him/herself here. They, too have had and will have days (and weeks, and maybe even months) like mine, and I want them (you?) to know they are not alone, so here goes.

I'm feeling blue -- midnight blue. It's not one thing, but more of a collection of things:

1. My housing situation is unsettled right now. I've been moving, and downsizing, and moving, and downsizing for 4 years, and for 2 years before that we were building and most of our stuff was in storage. I'm tired of being "in process" -- I want to be finished. Finished with less stuff, fewer bills, and less stress.

2. My daughter (who moved home to house/dog sit for me while I was in England) is preparing to move out mid-May. I'm happy for her, I really am. But I will miss her when she's gone; this house will be so empty (see #7).

3. I have too many projects, and a few seem too large for me to deal with. For example, I have 28 years worth of photos and memorabilia to scrapbook (for 2 children); once I get moved (see #1), I know I can make good progress, but it's still there, hanging over my head. Another project is more worrisome (see #4).

4. I have 2 large batches of videos -- one VHS and the other a smaller size -- that I need to either convert or have converted to DVD. Doing them myself would be less expensive (in the long run), but it's such a complicated situation for this non-tech person! The software required isn't all that expensive, but for the VHS tapes, I'd also need to purchase a VHS player. Also, only about 1/3 of the tapes have been labelled, so even if I have someone else (Walgreens or some other company), I need to watch all of the videos to make sure that I don't send off any with nothing more than cartoons or something we taped for the kids to watch when they were little. On one hand, I really don't feel up to watching videos of Christmases and Easter egg hunts, birthday parties and family vacations, and sporting events and school concerts; on the other, I hate having this project hanging over my head, and I would much rather have a stack of DVDs in a basket than the 2-3 grocery bags of tapes sitting in my closet.

Tired of my venting? Unfortunately, I'm not done.

5. I miss my son. I haven't seen him since December 27. I realize that many parents go much longer without seeing their children, and I'm grateful that's not my situation. And trust me, I'm grateful that the reason I haven't seen him is that I was in England and he's in Texas, busy (80-hour work weeks of "busy") with this next step in his career. I know that other parents haven't seen their son/daughter because they're half-way around the world, in harm's way, serving in the Armed Forces. But, still, I miss him.

6. On Saturday, I began a 3-week class in knitting socks from the toe-up, two at a time, something I've been wanting to do for over a year. I was told when I signed up that I'd have a choice between making them with circular needles or with something called magic loop. I was told wrong. We are using the magic loop method -- and I hate it. Really hate it. But I paid for the class and invited a coworker to join me, so I'm stuck. Yes, I keep telling myself it will get better, but . . .

7. For several reasons (some beyond my control), I have not been exercising as I should, and as I used to. My weight is fine and my clothes fit fine, but I am woefully out of shape. And -- gosh, but I hate to admit this -- I have flabby, chicken wing upper arms. Really!

8. I'm lonely. I moved here -- several hours away from my previous home -- 3 1/2 years ago and have met some wonderful people. Acquaintances, yes. Friends, no. I won't go into all of the details as this  entry is long enough already, but between a couple of meet-up groups, work, church, etc., I've met quite a few really nice, friendly people who are busy with their families, friends, career, etc. I long -- and I use that word deliberately -- for a few friends that I could meet weekly or so for lunch or something, who I could chat with on the phone a couple of times a week.

There -- I think that's it. I think the first 7 would be more bearable if #8 wasn't in the mix. But it is, and I don't know how to change that. But that's a post for a different day. It's time now to close my laptop, take a deep breath, pick up my knitting needles, and get to work. Vent over!

What, if anything, is getting you down right now? Feel free to share, to vent and get it off your chest. Conversely, what strategies do you find helpful to not just survive but to actually triumph when life's circumstances are trying to get you down? I hope you'll share via the comments or by emailing me at aliferedesigned@yahoo.com.