Brace Yourself •Photo credit: Eric Lanning•

“Brace Yourself”
Photo credit: Eric Lanning

While it might sound like I am complaining about the weather, I’m not. It is what it is – and what it is, is hard. Those are just the facts.

I haven’t mentioned the house problems that I’ve had because of it: giant ice dams (my roofer said they were the largest dams he had seen in 23 years in the business), water leaking into my house, gutters ripping down because of the ice, (and slamming into the house all night long during a windstorm,) my front door being frozen shut, and of course, frozen pipes. The good side is that the roof didn’t collapse (I have a friend whose did), the gutter ripped itself off like an old band-aid, and the water damage is quite minimal. It is a pain in the butt and a filthy mess, but nothing serious. The pipes have (so far) all thawed with the generous use of a space heater and I don’t use the front door anyway. Annoying? Sure, but not all that terrible. A lot of people have had to deal with a lot worse.

There is even a silver lining to having to hire a roofer to work on the ice dams. He gave me some great advice. Adding more insulation and cold air vents will prevent some of this in the future and make my house energy-efficient. (Things you don’t want to hear from your roofer: “Is your house over a 100 years old?” Yes... “Thought so. It has 100 year old insulation.”) But then again, it’s an easy problem to solve – all it takes is money. Problems are not always so easy.

On the money side, I am still thinking deeply about my next career move. I’ve seen a few things that have caught my eye and that gives me hope. The job market was so bad for so long, I was just grateful to even have a job. Now I am starting to see signs that positions in my field are starting to open up. I’ve been working a lot on building an online portfolio of my work as well as brushing up the old resume.

All of this is part of my confusion. I’m just not sure what to focus on. My house needs repairs, I’d love to find new work, and at the same time I have loved ones and friends I haven’t spent enough time with lately. I also need to focus on myself. I was in a deep funk for a while, and I want to get back to feeling like a badass. If I do go looking for a job, having a little badassery on my side would not be a bad a thing at all!

I’ve also let this blog go and I miss it. I know that there are only so many hours in the day and blah, blah, blah, but still, when I write here I feel good. It helps me pick out the important things and I when I make commitments here, I trend to keep them. That’s good for my overall mojo. The trick is trying to put it all together. What does get dropped? How to I make it all happen?

I don’t know. Still working on that one.

Big Bills, Garage Sales and Pup Recovery

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks.

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks. I think you should give me some ham.

Hermes had the staples from his surgery removed on Tuesday morning. He’s almost like a new dog. He has so much energy right now – I love it! We just started getting back to full half hour walks at close to our old speed. (I’ve been taking it slow with him to allow for full healing.) Having him feeling better has helped my mood as well.

August was a hard month. I can’t complain – everything resolved itself well, but it was still a tough month. For one thing, it was expensive. My house is a two unit with a one bedroom apartment in it that I rent out. As a rental property, it has to be inspected by the city every few years and the furnace and hot water heater have to be checked by experts. The house passed with flying colors, but the furnace failed the inspection. Not a huge deal, it was old and I was expecting it to go any time, but still a fairly large outlay of cash to have it replaced. Then, of course, I had to pay for the inspections as well. Add to those bills all of Hermes’ emergency pet care, and I’m pretty depleted. I had to pull money from all my “extra” accounts to pay for everything. That means a few of my big plans are on hold.

It was a busy month too. I am wrapping up my freelance work for the summer. I am on the final leg, thank goodness. While I love doing it, it will be good to take a break. Plus there are all the “normal” activities that keep me busy – friends, family, my nonprofit work, my for profit job… all this plus working out 5-6 times a week. Life is good and I like doing all of it, but again, you add on extra things like meeting with furnace repairmen and running to the animal hospital twice a day, and it isn’t only my bank accounts that are depleted – it’s my energy levels as well.

That being said, I thought Labor Day weekend was going to be a turning point. While Saturday was really productive, the rest of the weekend ended up being more of the same – especially the freelance work. That took up the most time. I didn’t get any running in and I only got one of the several naps I had hoped for! (I do love naps.) The bright side was that I started work on my annual garage sale – it’s a huge project, and I have just one month.

Every year for several years now, (I think this will be our eighth,) my best friends and I have held a garage sale at my house. We keep the prices cheap, the booze flowing and good people all around. We’ve pretty much got it down to a science and we do quite well most years. I am hoping for a particularly good year – I would love to replenish some of those bank accounts I mentioned! Since the summer was so busy, we’ve pushed it all to the fall. We are planning on having it October 4th and 5th. We’ve found fall sales to be good in the past, people are still in the mood to hit sales, but there are less of them, so we get good traffic.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to do in preparation. Not only do I have a lot to sell, but the house and yard needs to be put into shape. That’s what was great about last Saturday. I managed to get started on it, and started putting a plan into place how to finish it. A plan is needed – four weeks isn’t far away at all!!

Sigh... this is probably true.

Sigh… this is probably true.

Hey! This Whole “Working Out” Thing Seems to be Working

Run Seventeen

A representation of the view from my driveway.

A representation of the view from my driveway.

I’ve been really, really busy lately and so certain things have fallen by the wayside. In particular – I have been ignoring my lawn. See, last year we had a drought. Without water (and I don’t care enough about my landscaping to actually water it,) grass does not grow. Grass that doesn’t grow, doesn’t need to be mown. I think I ended up mowing my lawn four times max. last year.

This year we have had rain… and more rain…. and more rain. So much rain we’ve had flooding. And despite the fact my dog is doing his best to urinate in every spot on the lawn and kill it for me, the grass continues to grow. In fact, the urine seems to insure that the grass that grows is a mutant weed variety that is tough as nails and grows three times as fast as regular grass. It had gotten to the point where my lawn was starting to resemble a field of corn more than a lawn and small children were getting lost in it. Even though my embarrassment was growing by the day, I had no time mow!

Finally, I did the only thing left… I took a half day off from work. But before I put on my pith helmet and grabbed my machete to do battle with the lawn, I decided to treat myself: to a run.* I also treated myself with a new park. You know that I am always looking to go someplace new – it keeps things interesting. This particular park, which we will call Township Park (because actually that is its name,) is fairly close to my office. It has a really nice picnic and playground area and gets really busy with kids and families. I figured, though, that the walking trails wouldn’t be too bad in the middle of the day.

I was right – while the park itself was fairly busy, the walking trails weren’t bad at all. Mostly they were being used by local office workers who were out getting a few laps in on their lunch hour. My training guide had me doing 1 minute intervals for 26 minutes. The day was sunny, but there was a nice breeze and the trails were going to be mostly in the woods where it was shady.

Now, there was one thing about Township Park that I hadn’t taken into consideration – there were hills. Not the really steep hills of the other day, but long steady ones. I pretty quickly realized that running up and down a hill or two for fun is a whole different ball of wax from running hills regularly for a half hour. Wow – I felt it! I made it, though I admit: the last ten minutes I was struggling. I kept thinking things like “Eight minutes left, that means only 4 more minutes of running left! C’mon!”

Afterwards though, I felt great. Okay, I was a sweaty mess, but I felt really good. I walked back to my car, toweled down a bit, and grabbed my water bottle and sat in the grass for awhile. Even though I was tired – I wasn’t as worn out as I have been in the past. I actually could tell that I am getting a little stronger and building my endurance! Awesome!

Later, I went home and went to work on the yard. I was using the weed whacker, and happened to glance down at my arms… and my forearms totally caught me by surprise. I saw muscles I have never seen before! I spent 80 minutes working on the yard (and its a post stamp sized lawn – I told you it was long!) and again, when I was done, I was hot and sweaty, but not completely exhausted. In fact, I ended up taking the dog for a walk afterwards.

You have to understand, last year just mowing the lawn would have been enough to cause me to collapse. I would have spent the rest of the day in a lawn chair with a cold beverage There is no way I could have ever dreamed of going for a run first, then mowing, then walking the dog, and finally hopping in the shower and then heading to a Board meeting! When I starting losing weight, and even when I started running, it was more about health than anything else. I was also looking to look a little more fit. I was not expecting this kind of energy though. I love it! In fact, the energy alone might be worth every bit of effort I have put in.


Photo credit: ReneS

* When did a run become a treat?!? Who have I become?!?

What Makes You Happy?

I ran across this question in a blog today:
question mark by Bilal Kamoon
“What if you were to write down the top ten activities that make you happy and are good for your long-term happiness and health, then start spending most of your time doing those things?”

The blog is about managing finances through a frugal lifestyle, and it interested me enough I’m going back to the beginning and reading my way through. (You’ll see if you click the link that it is from an early entry.) When I read this question it got me thinking.

I thought I would pop over to my own blog and answer it.

  • Spending time playing with my nieces.
  • Long rambling conversations with my boyfriend.
  • Talking with and spending time with my sister.
  • Hanging out with my girlfriends.
  • Preparing food – especially trying new and interesting recipes.
  • Spending a quiet weekend up at my cabin.
  • Long walks with my dog where we explore new places.
  • Spending an hour or more with a great book.
  • Writing – in this blog, in journals, wherever.
  • Being creative, working on projects, building things and making art.

Hmmm… why does it seem like these are the things I spend the least amount of time doing?

Photo credit: Bilal Kammon

The Next Big Thing

I am embarking on a new project.  

Last month my best friends and I had our annual garage sale. It’s a huge multi-day event that is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We have it down to something of a science – with a vast collection of brightly painted (and hilarious) garage sale signs, professional shelving and display racks (thanks to one friend who works trade shows), more card tables than you can shake a stick at, and a whole lot of drinking. (Alcohol is mandatory for a successful sale.) By the end of the last day, we are making deals and giving things away left and right.  It is quite thing to see.

One question always seems to arise – how can we manage to have a huge sale every year? I mean, shouldn’t we eventually run out of stuff to sell? We probably will someday, but so far every year someone has just moved, gotten married, had someone move in with them, or had some event that generates major closet cleaning. Personally, I keep a box in the basement with labels and pen nearby all year round. When I decide it is time for something to go, I slap a price sticker on it and pop it in the garage sale box right there and then.

Inevitably, I also end up walking around my house looking for more things to get rid of… while the sale is happening.  It isn’t about the money, we tend to price our stuff cheap. Our goal is to move it out of our homes (where it has been collecting dust,) and into the arms of someone who will love it. So, every year I end up walking through my house searching for more stuff to add to the sale. I love watching things go down the driveway with someone who is happy about their find. Then I see what my friends add to the sale and that inspires me more.  Someone might throw in a hat, and that reminds me that I have one I haven’t worn, or I see pile of purses and it makes me look through my own to see if there are any I am done with.

The night before the second day of our sale I had a dream about having the “biggest garage sale ever” and all of us putting everything we have ever thought of getting rid of in the sale. In my dream the tables were groaning, the customers were shopping like crazy, and we knew we would never have to have a sale again.  Perhaps that dream is part of what is inspiring my current project. Continue reading

Simplification – What Would You Keep?

I recently read a short blog post by Tammy Strobel about simplifying her life.  This, in particular, got my attention:

As my friend Dee Williams said, “Take a moment and think about what thing you want to hold in your arms as you die. What favorite room in your house or space could accommodate that last breath?”

If we asked these questions more often, I think many of us would stay out of the mall. Remember that stuff is replaceable, people aren’t. Shift your attention toward the people you love and the experiences that make you happy.

Simplification is one of those things I struggle with.  As the date for my annual yard sale approaches, I spend a lot of time opening drawers and looking in closets for things to get rid of.  Throughout the year I add things to the yard sale pile in my basement as I come across them, but as the big weekend gets near, I tend to look for even more.  I usually find a few things, but not much.

It’s a strange thing, I know I have more than I need, but I can’t really say that “stuff” contributes to my unhappiness.  Except for a few treacherous vertical surfaces, (namely the kitchen island counter and my desk,) my house isn’t cluttered.  I am slowly accumulating a preponderance of books and magazines that is getting a touch out off control, but really, if having too many books is a problem, my life is pretty good.

I like the idea of only having the things that mean the most to you – but I also like having a well stocked kitchen so I can easily prepare delicious foods for myself and my family.  Do I really need a Kitchen Aid mixer?  Will I want to die with my muffin pans in my arms?  No, of course not.  But does the act of making homemade blueberry lemon muffins make me happy?  You bet.  While I certainly don’t need all the books I own, especially in this age of electronic e-readers, does having them make me feel good?  Yep.  I’m not sure I am comfortable with how they are starting to accumulate throughout my house in stacks and piles on every surface, but on the other hand, it is always how I imagined I would live.

The second question in the quote: What favorite room in your house or space could accomodate your last breath, now there is something there to ponder.  My house is presently in transition.  For the last few years I have been transforming it into a place that I enjoy, but it still has a ways to go, honestly.  I like the idea of looking at each room with new eyes – asking myself if I had only a short time left, what would I want to see?  What would it take to make me happy?  Does it mean getting rid of somethings?  Does it mean getting something new?  The picture on the wall that my mother gave me – yes, it works, but should I replace it with something that is actually meaningful… rather than just something that was free?

It seems so easy to decide to redo a house or a room.  I see it done on tv in less than a half hour all the time.  The reality is different, however, and that is where I need to be patient with myself.  I’ve been working on my upstairs bedroom for over a year.  It’s taken so long not because I am lazy or uninspired, but because I have been incredibly busy with work and volunteering.  It takes time to paint, fix, redo.  It also takes time to shop and find “just the right thing.”  It also, honestly, takes money.

Somewhere in all this is a middle ground that is right for me.  I picture clean, uncluttered rooms (with maybe a few books scattered around.)  I see organized closets and cupboards, but stocked with the things I use regularly.  I see rooms that have colors that are pleasing to my eye and furniture that is a huge mix of styles and ages – but all functional and comfortable.  I want a home that is tidy, but not so severe that you can’t kick your shoes off and relax.  I don’t want empty spaces, but I do want ones that I could spend my last days in.  It isn’t something I am going to be able to do overnight, but it’s something I am going to spend a bit more time thinking about.