Category Archives: Inspiration

Resolution Revolution

Alas, I have returned from a far away land called Productivity.  Since my last posts in which I set my goals for personal improvement and identified my obstacles, I’m happy to report that I have achieved perfection!!

CUT!  O.K.  Let’s run that back a bit . . .

Several months back, June to be exact, I took a long, hard look at my life (aforementioned posts) and realized that a new chapter is fast approaching.  To the point, in the Year 2020 (cue Zager and Evans) everything changes.  I will be turning 50, my daughter will be heading to college and I  will more than likely be moving closer to work.  Now, the part about being alone, single and responsible for my bills, home, etc. is not intimidating.  I’ve always been independent.  (Go, Mary Richards!) But the part where everything will be all about me, is quite frankly, unfamiliar.  I’m a caretaker at heart.  And I suppose I will always be checking on, helping out and doing for others.  But at the end of the day, it will be me, myself and I.  And none of us know what we want to be doing in our spare time in 2020!

So, I’m happy to report, that these past few months, while not actually attaining perfection, I have made great strides in getting up, getting out and getting on with things! That’s not to say I’m rolling down Route 66 in a Cadillac convertible a’la Thelma and Louise. (Although if a young Brad Pitt were to point his gun at me and say “give me all ya got” . . well, I would.)  No, I still treasure my alone time on the couch reading a good book or enjoying a Golden Girls marathon in my tank top and yoga pants.  But I did do one thing that expanded my world, opened my mind and taught me many wonderful lessons.

This thing, this very simple action, came by way of a New Year’s Resolution.  In 2016, I vowed to do or try something new at least once a month.  And while there were many firsts such as going to a college Lacrosse game and taking a train trip, for the most part, I didn’t really keep track.  But I knew I was on to something.  So this year, I decided to do just that . . keep track. (I think I just unknowingly made a pun regarding the train trip.) But I digress . . .

My daughter, who is always supporting my goals and teaching me new things (she’s pretty much the most awesome human EVER), introduced me to the millennial trend called bullet journaling.  If a diary, a scrapbook and a calendar had a baby it would be this thing.  Being somewhat creative, I was quite excited and researched ideas, formats and pictures.  And I have to admit, I really did enjoy it.  But I soon found that unless you have whole afternoons to devote to mapping out your squares, choosing color palates, and writing your months and dates in cute curlicues, you will soon fall behind.  And I won’t have that kind of time until 2020!

But I liked the idea of succinct bullets to organize activities.  The OCD part of my brain loves a good bullet list.  And while it isn’t a unique concept, the allowance of not completing a task and moving it to another day with a simple “>” was life changing!!   If you do not have any form of OCD or don’t consider yourself a perfectionist, you should just skip to the next paragraph because you won’t get this.  But in my mind, it often makes more sense to not do a task than doing it without complete success.  Which is why I have failed at blogging in the past.  I would either continually go back and feel the need to edit, re-edit and edit some more or say for instance, if I went too long between posts and felt I had not adhered to some proper blogging timetable, I would just give up entirely.  Same with a bullet list.  Before the use of the “>”, if I didn’t complete a task in the given day, it was angrily scratched out and the whole list went in the trash.  But this forgiving little symbol allowed me to have no shame in my game!  And that includes going nine months without a blog post!

So, the combination of my simple goal to try or do something new and my nifty purse size weekly calendar from Barnes and Noble, allowed me to focus on this promise to myself.  No writing down work appointments or reminders . . . that’s what my office calendar is for.  Yes, I list a day off and sneak in a reminder of a board meeting but for the most part it’s a to-the-poimt to-do list of no more than five personal items.  And I have found in those five items, I can not only fit in household tasks that make me feel productive but also fun little items such as “go by store for starfruit” or “make appointment to visit alpaca farm.”

And beyond the fact that I have learned that starfruit are delicious and alpacas are the cutest little mop headed babies in the world with crazy bad onion breath is something even more illuminating.  No matter your age, financial status, experiences in life, whether you’ve lived all over or in the same town your whole life . . .  there is ALWAYS something new to be seen, enjoyed, learned, tasted, heard and experienced.  ALWAYS!  You just have to do it. Sounds simple but ask a family member or co-worker when they last did something completely new.  Most will struggle to think of an answer.  And to my delight, there were unexpected returns from my Resolution Revolution.  My daughter, when trying to persuade me into an activity, has started using the phrase “this could be our something new” and my Mom and Dad, 77 and 80 years old respectively, often call and say “guess what we did new today?”

So perhaps trying new things in an effort to find a hobby to enjoy in my empty nest years . . . turned out to be my new hobby!

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Focus Pocus

When it comes to making the most of my time, I am my own worst enemy.  Truth be told, I have the attention span of a toddler.   Things start off strong but I end up bored and distracted and eventually wander off.  This lack of long-term focus has dogged me my entire life.  I was always the kid reading the book the day before the report was due.  Despite penning copious vacation to-do lists, I end up packing the night before we leave.  And who needs to keep the house tidy when you can wait until someone is on their way over to fly into a panic induced cleaning frenzy?

The kicker is . . . at work I’m uber-organized.  I manage calendars, schedule meetings and am the primary assistant to an agency director, department director and a fifteen member Board.  Minutes, meeting notes, policies, binders and reports are maintained with OCD precision.  I color code, alphabetize and can tell if someone has used my stapler by the manner in which it was returned to my desk without placing it at a 90 degree angle with the corner.  Organization is a measurement in which I am consistently graded high during evaluations.

But they pay me.  They can fire me.  Maintaining income is quite an incentive.  Do you think I’m going to be replaced at home?  There are no union scabs waiting in line to fill the position of washing dishes, mowing the lawn and folding laundry.  I could only hope for such a demotion.  I attribute this contradiction of being on point at work and lackluster at home to somehow inheriting both of my parent’s management styles.

My mother marks productivity much like Chinese Dynasties.  She is an incredibly talented woman but focuses intensely on a specific project for a finite amount of time.  Then as quickly as it arrived, it is gone.  There was the year of the afghan in which every single extended family member received a crocheted Chevron pattern afghan in their favorite colors (before Chevron patterns were the rage).  There was the wool hat period that involved an extensive multi-step process of felting with scalding hot water and shaping over soup pots.  They were such a hit that she started selling them for a hundred bucks a piece.  And who could forget the era of the knitted socks.  Not only were these foot cozies soft and warm but sported incredibly complicated patterns.  Have you ever tried to knit two socks with stripes that align perfectly when holding your feet together? My point being, she dives head first into each project and comes up completely exhausted never wanting to jump into that pool again.  This may explain my two cross stitching projects.  One beautifully hung and the other unfinished in a craft basket by the couch.

My Dad, however, was full-time military and all about being prepared ahead of time.  I have vivid memories of shoes shined to the point you could apply your make-up in the reflection.  They were lined up on the floor of his closet which was divided into the section for his uniforms and the section for his “civies”.  Those were then divided even further into pants, shirts, short sleeves and long sleeves.  He labels everything in his shop and divides screws and washers by size placing them in clear jars that are attached to a large magnetic board by their metal tops. And he exists in perpetual motion.  Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.  This may explain my need to place everything in a line and feel guilty for taking a day off work.

Much like the light and dark that joined to create Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, my parents different styles collided to create an organizational enigma that is my life.   And given my once dedicated free time with my teenager has been whittled down by school activities, summer jobs and hanging out with friends, I feel an unfamiliar sense of urgency to get my ducks in a row. So, my first order of business is to . . . well, get in order.

After much thought and observation, I have found there are three bad habits that consistently suck the hours out of my days.  They are:

Distraction:  The biggest culprit comes via my cell phone.  A typical task goes somewhat like this.  I need a new recipe for dinner.  I search some vegetarian dinner options.   “Let me see if I have the ingredie . . . oh look, an alert that someone has played me on Words with Friends.  Wow . . . I have six games to play. While I’m on here, let me check Instagram.  Madalyn’s in Rome?!   That guy from that band really has a green thumb and . . . PUPPIES!!”  An hour later my daughter walks in eating the dinner she prepared while I was looking up “recipes”.

Justification: I can justify the Hell outta anything. That mid-day nap before I’ve finished folding laundry. Well, according to a study I read by the Mayo Clinic, it’s good for me. And those extra pieces of milk chocolate contain calcium which a woman in my age group needs to be concerned about. Those Dove Promises might say “Get out there and change the world” but I’m hearing “Take a load off and fight brittle bone disease.”

Procrastination:  I have an awesome tote that is perfectly designed to keep me organized. It’s not so big that it is a trap-all but instead the right size to be a veritable secretary with sections to hold my mail, pens, envelopes, postage stamps.  There are even extra birthday and sympathy cards for those last minute mailings.  However, none of this matters when, while placing my bills in the appropriate pocket, I decide to “do that tomorrow.”  Fast forward two weeks and my daughter asks if I paid the Dish bill because the only channels she can find are infomercials on hair removal and how to cook a turkey in a convection oven.

Much like that toddler that knows it feels better after a nap yet continues to fight it, I know I feel better with my life in order yet continue to let things slide.  And while the stack of magazines on my armoire isn’t the end of the world, it bothers me.   I disagree with the adage that there aren’t enough hours in the day.  There are enough, if you manage them wisely.  No magic . . . just good old fashioned stick-to-itiveness.  That’s where real progress will happen.  Having not only the fortitude to do things but the patience to know they can’t all be done at once.  Not throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a real time saver in the long run since you don’t have to keep running out there and picking up the baby.  Or in this case, a toddler  . . .

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Who Am I?

Having put another Memorial Day Weekend in the books and facing the beginning of June, I can’t help but admit this Summer is undoubtedly different.  My daughter has graduated middle school, is set to begin her first real summer job and has a to-do list that includes saving for her first car, driving in less than two years and graduating high school in four.

As a parent, these are the goals I strive for her to set and achieve.  However, they are bittersweet milestones reminding me that the end game here is an empty nest.  That empty nest seemed far away when she learned to read and write, ride a bike and make her own snacks.  But when plans to fly the coop are down to years I can count on one hand, that nest and all of its spacious glory starts coming into focus.

And for the first time since conception was planned and I began downing orange juice for the folic acid, I am having to shift my focus from my child to myself.  It seems almost unnatural.  Sacrilege!  Yes, I have four more years of class schedules, homework checks, sporting events, band concerts and science fairs.  But the days of me having to coordinate all of these events have given way to me being informed of her schedule and knowing where to be and what time to show up.

So, I find myself not only looking to my daughter’s next chapter but mine as well.  While she is fast approaching high school, learning to drive, and scouting colleges, I am fast approaching middle age (I intend to live to 100), learning to make myself a priority and scouting neighborhoods closer to work.  I am acutely aware that the next four years are going to be life changing for us both.

And while there is a road map to help with her transition . . . tests, electives, community service, scholarships and grants . . . my path seems to be more akin to a jaunt through the Haunted Forest in the Wizard of Oz.   I am having to face flying monkeys in the form of very stark realities.

Have you ever stopped to look at yourself in the bathroom mirror? Not while racing to put on morning make-up or brushing your teeth or slathering on moisturizer after your shower.  But to really LOOK at yourself? I did and Honey, it was frightening.  Who is this frazzled woman?  And when the Hell did she get crow’s feet?

It’s as if I’m meeting myself for the first time. I am older, wiser and more patient in some aspects (I can juggle a stressed-out teenager, puking dog and burning dinner like nobody’s business) and less patient in other aspects (Please. Stop. CHEWING!).  My sky-high heels and Keds have given way to sensible Espadrilles and socks with little rubber nubbins on the bottom.  Conversely, my four speed Sentra has given way to an SUV with bluetooth and trendy chunky jewelry has been replaced by Pandora.  This grown-up thing just might have benefits . . .

But I also realize I don’t know what I like anymore.  The things that interested me in my twenties now boggle my mind.  How is it I lived in the DC area and never visited a single historical site yet knew the Metro stops to all the liquor stores and closing times to bars in Virginia, DC and Maryland?  And I have no hobbies.  Wait. What?  How is this possible?

Thus begins my quest.  Who am I?  What do I enjoy doing?  How do I want to spend my free time?  Am I an artist and crafter?  Photographer? A volunteer?  Blogger?  One of the few New Year’s Resolutions I have ever kept was one made this year to do or try something new once a month. Simple acts that force me outside my day-to-day existence to experience the world around me.  I have attended college sporting events, taken a train trip and had my first Insta-meet.  The possibilities of new locales, activities and adventures are as endless as they are exciting! But this isn’t just fun and games, I have a future to plan!

So, I am approaching the next four years as a search and recovery mission.  I need to find myself and plan for the new chapter that lies ahead.  I have given my daughter a strong foundation and as it should be, she is beginning to spread her wings.  So, now I must show her that no matter our age, strong women don’t fade away or shrink from change . . . they flourish and kick ass!

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