The Perfect Day

IMG_9373

Perfect days are rare. They are usually some huge momentous event like getting married or the birth of a child. Whatever your definition of the perfect day, it usually looks like those fictional, happy women in the tampon commercials that are frolicking about with their hair blowing in the wind. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I try to frolic like those girls in the commercials, I am usually tripping over my own feet, eating my hair, and trying not to break an arm or something as I fall down.

Some of the perfect days in my life that have held great significance include:

  • My college graduation when I received my bachelor degree after 15 years of trying to overcome the challenges in my life and really fighting for it.
  • My first major league baseball game when I got to see my favorite team play at home. This was huge for multiple reasons (but that is probably a TBT post).

Perfect days usually require a lot of thought, planning, and organization in order to successfully pull them off. In my quest to slow down, I realized that I had the perfect day recently. In fact, I have had more than one perfect day. None of them revolved around any majorly significant event, but they were just days when you are so happy to be alive.

I don’t know about you, but I do not have those days often enough.

I have been taking advantage of my park pass this year by trying to visit parks in my state that I have never seen before. I always take a backpack of supplies and a cooler. The only expense to these day trips, really, is gas money. The first few day trips I took, I also took my schoolwork with me. Grad school never ends. I have spent so many years working 60 hours a week, that every moment I was not working, I was doing school, so to have uninterrupted time to do nothing was rare.

Now that my schedule with my new job is much more manageable and I *gasp have leisure time on my hands, I am learning that I do not have to do my schoolwork every moment when I am not at my job. I now have time to be able to complete my schoolwork at a comfortable pace, and I still have time left over.

My time left over has been spent at the parks, the beaches, running, reading, and on my surfboard.

When I go to the park, I go old school. Remember those carefree days as a teenager when a day at the beach meant a towel slung over your arm and a copy of Ratt magazine? You don’t need the radio flyer wagon full of beach chairs, beach umbrellas, and other paraphernalia. Well, maybe you do. But if you keep your beach list simple, it might be more fun to only carry one bag and not have to try to pull a wagon through the sand.

I realized on one of my excursions last week that it was the perfect day. It was nothing like a commercial. I did not pack the car and have an impeccably planned itinerary. I slept in, left the house when I felt like it, and was in no hurry to arrive. Once I was at the park, I realized it was one of the first times I had not brought any of my schoolwork with me. All my schoolwork was caught up. I had time to spend the day as I chose and was able to read a novel not related to my masters thesis. I went surfing, made sandcastles, and got involved in a pick up game of football in the lake.

Yes, my hair was blowing in the wind, but it wasn’t like some luxurious commercial. It was a hot mess. I had sand everywhere, missed some parts of my body when using sunscreen, and did not pack enough food. But, it was the perfect day because it was one of the few times when I could just BE. I had nothing to worry about, and the freedom to do anything I chose.

I just rolled with the waves I was riding. It was not the perfect day because the waves were great and I never fell off my board. I mean, yes, the waves were great, but I fell off my board. That’s okay. It was the perfect day because I was just totally content to literally and figuratively roll with those waves. I was okay with being tossed in the water. I was just happy to be there.

I know many people who obsess over details and get upset if things do not go just right. Ok, so I may have arrived an hour later than I initially planned, but that did not bother me one bit. I was an hour “late” because I needed the sleep, and once there, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had at the park.

Maybe to have the Perfect Day, we need to relinquish control instead of trying to micromanage every single detail. Maybe it’s not about choosing the fonts of the invitations, but rather, the people that are going to share your moment as the result of those invitations.

The Perfect Day means something different to everyone. To some people, embossed envelopes may be important. To me, they are not.

The Perfect Day is a day when I can just be myself and exist as a person, have no worries, and enjoy the moment I am in. Tomorrow is not promised. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.

What are you going to do to try to have more Perfect Days in your life?

Advertisements

Happy 17th Birthday to my Son

IMG_7812

This is the first in the monthly #FelineFriday series.

My kids have 4 paws and a tail. It’s not a joke or some redneck colloquialism. After having four different doctors inform me that I cannot have children, my cats are the closest to a child for me. They have been with me longer than any human being, including either of my parents.

When I adopt, I adopt for life. I am not a crazy cat lady that lives with 10 or 15 cats. I live with two cats, because that is what is reasonable for me to handle given time, money, love, and other resources to ensure they have a life of true children.

Kitty is my oldest and my first.

Today he is 17.

I’m not sure if I adopted him, or if he adopted me, but in the past 17 years, he has made me a better person, taught me how to grow up, and shown me more about myself and others than I ever thought possible.

The first 7 years of his life were pretty rough for both of us. I was not yet settled, but I kept us together as a family. This was back in the time when my relationships were tenuous, my housing situation even more so, and the most stable things in my life were the fact that I had a car and a cat that made a family.

Kitty has an anxiety disorder, which he was diagnosed with by the Feline Behavioral Specialist at one of the most prestigious colleges of veterinary medicine in the country, which happens to be in our local community. I’m pretty sure his diagnosis is mostly my fault. It probably comes from homelessness.

From times that we were living in the car, Kitty has been my protector. He has always been hypervigilent and very possessive of me. I am definitely his human. At times he acts more like a dog than a cat. Most of the time, I am quite certain that he is more human than any being I have ever known.

As Kitty turned 7, I was finally able to give us some stability in life. We have had stable housing since he turned 7. In fact, the past decade has been the most stable decade of my life. I have worked hard to keep the family together. Yes, there were times that we were living in the car, but no matter how bad things were, I have always made sure that my kids have never gone without. They have always had food, and their medical care has been better than mine. Those are the sacrifices that you make as a parent – when you love someone so much with your whole being that you do everything to take care of them.

Kitty has been with me for 17 years. He has been here every time I walk in the door. He sleeps with me every night. Some days, he is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. He has seen me through multiple relationships, many of them abusive. He has become my litmus test for being able to judge a potential partner’s character. Does my Kitty like you? If so, then I’ll think about dating you.

Kitty has his own personality, and he takes care of me. In fact, his name was never intended to be Kitty. I named him Molecule. He would only ever answer to Kitty. I guess he chose his own name. Kitty is also a purebred Maine Coon with no papers. The breeder turned him in because his traits “weren’t desirable.” In 17 years, I have not found a single thing undesirable about him.

Kitty and I adopted each other when he was 4 months old. We were alone together that first year, and then, his younger brother Kip, entered our life. Kip had a chronic health condition, which contributed to my desire to provide more stability for all of us as a family. Kip passed away from his illness a few years ago, when he was 14.

When Kip was alive, I administered and kept track of all his medications. As he quickly declined, I even took to washing him with a washcloth his last day or two of life when he was just too tired to deal. I will always remember the night before Kip passed away. It was one of those moments when Kitty, in the way he interacted with Kip, showed me the true meaning of love. This is a manner of love so deep, that I have not seen it anywhere else in life.

They say that love is watching someone die. The night that Kip died was the only night in 17 years that Kitty did not sleep with me. He slept with Kip. Then, he woke me up at 3 am when Kip got bad to let me know it was time to say goodbye.

Kitty and I also grieved together. I would not have made it through Kip’s passing without Kitty. When Kitty’s time comes, I honestly don’t know how I will survive that moment. I hope it does not come any time soon, but I know that at age 17, our time together is now more limited.

I have a lot of guilt over the fact that I have worked most of his life. I mean, I had to work 60 hours a week or more in low-wage jobs while going to school just to pay the bills. Yes, I was finally able to provide housing and stability for our family, but the price that was paid was missing out on our time spent together.

I am looking forward to completing grad school and so grateful that I am now only working one job 40 hours a week or less so that I can have more of the short, precious, sweet time together. I know that our time together is shortening. When it is Kitty’s turn to pass away, I only hope that he knows I love him more than I have ever loved anyone. He needs to know how very much he is loved and how he is the best and most important thing that has ever happened to me.

I honestly think that if it hadn’t been for trying to keep the family together, I would probably still be drifting. I don’t think I would still be living in my car, but I would probably still be burning the candle at both ends right up until the wick was gone.

Kitty has been with me every day. He loves me when I’m happy, he loves me when I’m sad, he loves me when no human person in my life has loved me. He has taught me so much in life. I don’t think I saved him. I think he saved me.

When I say Happy 17th Birthday to my son, I really mean my son. Kitty has shown me what family means.

Happy 17th Birthday, Kitty. I love you.

The Penultimate Paper

IMG_1603

Note: The above photo was taken shortly after I completed my first masters thesis, which was 120 pages. Today is nothing like that.

I just submitted the last paper. It’s not a big deal. There is always a final paper, right? Well, right, except this one is huge. After almost 20 years as a professional college student resulting in numerous degrees, this is the last paper I wrote before I complete my thesis. That’s not a huge deal, either. I have already written and successfully defended a 120-page masters thesis in another field. Ultimately, my thesis for this masters degree will be the final paper ever. So, I guess this one is technically, in the words of Monty Python, the penultimate paper.

It took me 7 years to complete an associate’s degree, 3 years to complete a professional degree, 15 years to complete a bachelor’s degree, and when I am done this fall, 5 years to finish a master’s degree. My life has been all about school.

When you ask most kids what they want to be when they grow up, they respond with cute answers like ballerinas, firefighters, or veterinarians. Not me. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response was “college student.” I started giving that response at about age 10. I had literally no plan of what I wanted to do after college. I never imagined a life after school. I just knew that where I was, in grade school, middle school, and high school, was so ultimately miserable that College was like the Holy Grail (Monty Python again – it must be that type of day).

I was so focused on going to college that I skipped a grade and graduated a year early. I did not just skip any grade. I skipped 10th grade. While most girls my age were engrossed in how high they could tease their bang with Aqua Net, which boys were going to light up their see through slim phones, and trying to perfect the ultimate roll on their jeans, I was reading Flannery O’Connor, Jean Paul Sartre, and studying just what really makes poison dart frogs poisonous.

The only thing I’ve been good at is school.

I survived a shitty childhood by being good at school, and basking in the praise and attention of my teachers and instructors for doing such a good job. I just want to stay in school forever.

When I realized I was actually going to finish my bachelor degree, panic set in. What do I do after school? I had no plan for this. Life after college? What is that? Graduation is not supposed to happen. I had a mid-life crisis over graduation. Granted, it was my fourth graduation ceremony, but that one is particular held a sense of doom. I was so clueless, that I remember standing in line at the ceremony getting ready to walk across the stage when someone yelled “Congratulations” at me because I was apparently graduating Summa Cum Laude. I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t even know I was graduating Summa Cum Laude until I was standing in that line to walk across a stage.

I now know that I was 6th in my class of over 2,000. Apparently, that’s really awesome, but to me, it’s just a pretty gold sticker and some fancy looking letters on a piece of paper.

Back to the penultimate paper.

In my panic over graduation and trying to figure out how I cold possibly graduate and still stay in school, I decided to go to grad school. My idea was that with a graduate degree, I could be a college professor, thus staying in college forever. Perfect.

However, after working on two masters degrees in five years, and being buried in an exorbitant amount of student loans, I have decided this is the last degree. 20 years in any field is a career. I have spent 20 years as a professional college student. Tap, tap, I’m out.

The fact that I just wrote the penultimate paper is a huge deal. It signifies the sunset of a huge part of my life and identity for 30 years of my life.

I’m trying not to stress. I am going with the flow. I am looking forward to focusing on my thesis (the real LAST paper), as I absolutely love my topic and my field. I cry over it. I laugh over it. I just love my topic. I am sure once it is over, the panic will set in again. I am hoping that when that point comes, I will be able to take it in grace and stride.

But for now, I just gave a sigh over the submission of the penultimate paper.

I am about to take my last math class ever. Yet another statistics class. After my time in nuclear physics, I have taken a great many math classes. While I may be able to find the square area of a horse, that knowledge has done nothing to help me in life. Don’t even get my started on algebra- I can tell you right now, there is no point in dwelling over your “X” (ex?) because life has taught me that the “Y” is more important – like “Y did I date you?” or “Why am I here?”

I am relieved that the penultimate paper is done. I am unsure what the final paper will make me feel like when my thesis is complete. I am hoping that I will be able to find ways to enjoy my retirement from being a professional college student. I am still slightly unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. Sometimes its fun to ask kids just so I can get some ideas. I’m hoping this time when I graduate, that I do not have the level of panic I had with my bachelor’s degree. Unless, I have to adult now. I just don’t think I can adult.

I may have to be an adjunct. If retirement gets to be too much, I can just go back to school by teaching. But, for now, I am going to relish in the achievement of completing the penultimate paper. I may even celebrate with a mariachi band.

(To get these references, you may need to view Monty Python’s “The Last Supper.” You can find it on youtube).

All that you leave behind

DSCN1632

Disclaimer: Don’t try this in today’s day and age.

Each month I will try to do a #tbt post about how some previous life experience has changed my life and what I have learned.

I did a lot of hitch hiking in the 90s. It wasn’t to be glamorous, or to go on some grand adventure like exploring the country full of glitter and whimsy like the movies. I was trying to survive. I had to get from point A to point B; I had very tenuous social ties, little to no funds and resources, and was trying to enact positive change in my life. I was also still a teenager, a freshman in college, with nothing to lose, no sense of fear, and a will stronger than gravity pulling me to follow my dreams.

One of the more dangerous (although I did not realize it at the time) hitch hiking trips ended up happening on the east coast when I went from Western Massachusetts to Rochester, NY and back again. This was the year that the internet was still being called the “information superhighway,” with internet access only being afforded by the very affluent and some colleges, yahoo was just invented (literally – I am that old), and the Macarena was this jammin’ club song, not just some cheesy dance you do at a wedding. It was Halloween weekend 1996, and the Yankees had just won the World Series. I remember it because I was later in NYC for the ticker tape parade, and I remember there being so much trash in the streets, it felt like walking through someone’s very dirty bedroom, but I digress.

Anyways, I had this grand plan of moving to Rochester from Massachusetts, hence the trip. Being in the pre-internet age of the dinosaurs, I collected as many newspapers and other printed materials I could in an effort to be able to connect with housing and employment to facilitate the move. I had so much material it filled a paper grocery bag. This was in addition to the backpack of clothes and other personal supplies, including my disc man (for the young ‘uns – it was a personal CD player with headphones before iPods were even imagined). I will always remember this as the trip I dropped my Blue Traveler CD on the floor of the Greyhound bus and broke the CD case. I still have both the CD and the case, in 2 pieces, to this day. Some things you do NOT leave behind.

Anyways, as plans fell through, as they do when you are young and clueless, I ended up stuck in a very rural part of Massachusetts called Cheshire, where there was not enough traffic to hitch hike, no pay phones around to call (No, children, there were not cell phones at that time either. We still had phone booths, and maybe if we still had them today, Superman would have a place to change), and my ride fell through.

I began what I did not know then, but know now, to walk my first unofficial half marathon, as it was about 16 miles from where I was to my destination. This was years before I officially started running, I was still a smoker, and so out of shape that I wasn’t a shape. It took me all day.

In the course of my journey, I learned just how heavy things could be. Literally. Baggage. The paper bag full of newspapers I was carrying in addition to my backpack of personal items, my head full of thoughts all conflicting and whirling.

I kept walking. Everything I was carrying got heavier.

I had already shed some items. Prior to the paper bag of newspapers, when I first arrived in Rochester, I was dropped in the Red Light District. Of course, I did not realize it was the Red Light District until I ended up being chased down the streets by some women taunting me, but I learned fast. In the course of that run, I lost things from my backpack. It was okay. They were unnecessary things. While in Rochester, I ended up sleeping in the AKC tunnels, and had things stolen. I don’t even remember what they were. Now, here I was in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts with a paper bag of newspapers and whatever was left of what ever I had packed in my backpack.

Luckily for me, the story ended happily. I was actually picked up by a very friendly police officer about three miles from my destination, who drove me the rest of the way. He told me I reminded him of his younger sister, and “don’t ever do this again.” Of course, I did. I hitch hiked the west coast a year or two later, but that’s another story.

Anyways, by the time I reached my destination, I no longer had the paper bag of newspapers that I so desperately acquired so I would have the information I needed to relocate. I no longer had the backpack or whatever personal items, including clothes, I originally had inside. I had the disc man, and that Blues Traveler CD whose case was now in two pieces from the Greyhound bus I did take from Western Mass to Albany, NY; the only portion of the trip I did not hitch hike.

I don’t remember and have no idea what was in that backpack. I do remember what that trip taught me. Sometimes, the things you leave behind are so painful to part with at the moment, and in retrospect are utterly meaningless. Parting with those items is freeing because it allows you to travel more lightly. Parting with certain possessions allows you to focus on the things right in front of you, and most important to you. For me, my music was important to me. Music has kept me going most of my life. What I would later realize from this experience is that what is most important to me was right in front of me.

I never did end up moving to Rochester. I was accepted to the university to which I applied there, but I did not get what I felt would be enough financial aid to make it a viable option. I ended up staying in Massachusetts, which was the best thing for me.

Now, what I didn’t realize, and that took me over 10 years to learn, was that when I finally did leave Massachusetts the following year, was that I was never meant to leave. That’s part of learning from the things you leave behind. Some of those things are meaningless, and some of those things change you.

What have you left behind? As painful as it is to let go, sometimes, we need to do that in order to see the beauty in front of us. For the record, when I travel, I now only pack one backpack, which makes it quite easy to get through airports with no checked luggage in the baggage claim, and I only pack what I absolutely need to survive (a few days worth of clothes). I have only hitchhiked twice since 2000, which is an improvement, but not something I would recommend.

The longer I live, the more I realize that sometimes you need to let go to get what you want.

Feels like the first time

IMG_9098

When was the last time when you did something for the first time? In the hamster wheel of life, many adults tend to lose that childlike joy of discovering something new or trying something they have never done before. Many of life’s biggest moments are “first times:” the first time you drove a car, your first dog/cat/pet, your first job, maybe the first time you went scuba diving, or sky diving, or even the first time you ever went to Disney.

It’s never too late to have a first time. One of the best things about being an adult is that you can make your own choices and do the things you have always wanted to do. When I was growing up and it was time to choose a musical instrument in grade school, I wanted to play the drums. My parents told me that little girls did not play drums. I ended up with a flute, which I played from fourth all the way up until twelfth grade, and still have to this day. A few years ago, I went to the professional music store in town, bought my first pair of sticks, and took drum lessons at the ripe old age of 32. I now go through the house banging on everything, and it is awesome. I like to drum at about 1 am, when I get home from work, am bouncing off the walls, and trying to calm down. I’m sure the neighbors are thrilled. (They haven’t said anything yet, so I’m lucky there.)

Another hobby I have is surfing. It’s been so long since I have had the opportunity to surf, not many people know I have that hobby. Back in the day when I was hitch hiking the west coast in the 90s, I learned to surf on the Pacific Ocean. I bought a board in California, brought it back east, and my surfboard has resided in a friend’s garage on Cape Cod for at least the past decade. Every so often, I get out to Massachusetts to use it, but definitely not as often as I like. I am currently landlocked in Central New York, so it is at least a good 6-7 hour drive to any oceanfront.

Then recently, in the course of using my park pass, I got this bright idea to surf the Great Lakes (okay, so there may have been some wine involved, but it was still a great idea). After doing some research, I have learned that surfing the Great Lakes is possible. Definitely on a completely different level than ocean surfing, the Great Lakes tend to have good wake in the early spring and late fall. Great Lakes surfing is generally not as challenging as ocean surfing, as the waves often lack the power. However, given that many ocean beaches recently had shark week, I’ll take the Great Lakes for now, thanks.

So I bought a short board. Part of the reason why my ocean surfboard has resided in Massachusetts for so long, in addition to ocean proximity, is that I have no way to transport my board back and forth due to length. Long surfboards are good not only for ocean waves, but also for beginners just starting out. Short boards are more challenging to handle, but I figure better for Great Lakes surfing given the smaller waves. I’ve been surfing long enough that I’m up for the challenge of handling a shorter board.

After a three-week wait for my short board from California, it finally arrived. Half the size of my ocean surfboard, I can fit the short board comfortably in my car. I used it for the first time on Great Lake Ontario two weeks ago. The waves on the Great Lakes are getting ready to die down for the summer, but I still had a great time. There is definitely a lot more paddling and floating involved in Great Lakes surfing than there is on the ocean, but the feeling of being on the water is the same, and as equally amazing.

My purpose in this Great Lakes adventure was to create a life in which I did not need to escape. If I can access a Great Lake in 2-3 hours, then I can surf and enjoy the things I love without needing to take a significant amount of time and money to take off someplace else and leave the life I have where I am. In my quest to slow down, I am looking to enjoy where I am and live in the present moment. Why wait for the next big thing when you have something pretty amazing in your own backyard?

For the record, my first time out on Lake Ontario with the short board was not perfect. I forgot to attach my armband, the board got away from me, and then my swimming skills were really put to the test trying to chase it down. The waves may not have been as big, and the board was new. As many times as I have caught a wave on the ocean, surfing the Great Lakes really did make it feel like the first time. It was awesome.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Have you completely given up something you loved to do because life/work/school got in the way? What is preventing you from starting again?

I am so fortunate and blessed to be at a point in my life where I have the luxury and the privilege to not only reclaim things I love but to discover new things as well. What would you do if you could do anything? I don’t know about you, but I have some more waves to ride pretty soon here.

Triumvirate

IMG_1268

The rule of three. Bad luck comes in threes. Many religions believe in some divinity form of the number three. Two is company; three is a crowd. A hat trick in hockey is three goals by the same player in one game. Stories are told in terms of three: a beginning, middle, and an end. Races are run in thirds: with your body, your mind, and your heart. A triangle has three sides; a pyramid is one of the more stable structures. In baseball, three strikes and you are out. Three is an arbitrary number, really. I don’t even particularly care for the number three. It is not my favorite number. It is, however, quite significant for a number of reasons.

Since I have begun my slowdown, I have started living my life by the rule of three. It is going pretty well so far. My house is less cluttered, my anxiety levels have decreased, and I am able to accomplish more in a day. This is how the rule of three has affected my life:

  • Less clutter. It is really overwhelming to come home after a long day at work, and to see surfaces covered. Maybe it’s the stand when you first walk in the door that is covered with keys, coins, and umbrellas. Maybe it is your kitchen table full of the kid’s homework, leftover dinner dishes, the day’s mail. I have gradually gone through my house and cleaned off every surface. COMPLETELY. So it is empty. Then, I find the three things I love the most in the pile in front of me and put those three things on the table/shelf whatever. Not only does this make it easier to clean, but also I feel more relaxed now that my surfaces and shelves are less cluttered. What to do with the stuff you have removed? If you don’t love it enough to look at it everyday or to clean it or clean around it, it leaves. Yes, this is hard. Put it in a donation box for a month. If you forget about it in that month, it wasn’t that important, was it?
  • Shorter to-do list. I have a honey-do list. Everyone does. Unfortunately, I have no honey, and I have a lot of do. When I was working 60+ hours a week, I was always running around trying to do something. Even though I love Wonder Woman, and sometimes wear the t-shirt with the big bright W on my chest, I finally realized I can’t do it all. Nor should you. Unless you are going to be naked for the day, sometimes laundry can wait. I have cut down my to-do list from 15-17 things per day to 3 things per day. I now have time for the important things, like my family, and am less stressed when I do spend time with them. Sure, it may have been three days since I’ve mopped, but you need to create those memories with your family that give you a reason to mop.
  • Three weeks, or 21 days, is how long it takes to make a lasting change in your life that is going to stick. You hear three weeks about anything from starting a new exercise routine to a new sleep schedule, or basically anything you want to become a habitual form of your behavior. All change is hard, but if it sticks for three weeks, it is probably permanent. I have used this to accomplish goals, such as spending more time at the parks and beaches relaxing. Chose your goal, write it down, and circle a date on the calendar 3 weeks from now. If you do not meet your goal, that does not mean that you failed. Look for progress. My goal for these three weeks was to go to a different beach each week. Did I make it to three beaches? No, I only made it to two. While I may not have met my goal of three, the fact that I made it to two is progress towards my goal of spending more time outside. I am changing my behavior gradually and marking progress.

Can you do it? Can you shorten your to-do list to three things per day? What will really be missed if you do? Focus on the important things and not the minutia so that you can enjoy the moments of your life.

Can you downsize your surfaces so that they only contain three items? Start with one area – one shelf or table. Can you keep that one shelf from becoming cluttered with more than three things on it for three weeks? If so, that’s progress. Choose another surface and do it again.

Three is not my favorite number. Eight is actually my favorite number. It’s all part of slowing down. I’m going from eight to three and freeing myself for what is important in life – family, friends, and experiences.

From the back of a jacked up tailgate

IMG_9100

On this 4th of July holiday, I think we all take the time and opportunity to appreciate the good things in life – family, friends, and leisure time. Weekends like this make me wish every day was Independence Day. Oh wait, it is. You are in control of your own life. The choices you make decide what you do today, and what you do tomorrow. Granted, some of those choices are constrained by societal constructs and standards, but for the most part, we have a lot of freedom to decide the intricacies of our days.

Some of my favorite moments have occurred during 4th of July festivities, and I look forward to creating many more memories not only on 4th of July, but every day, as I orchestrate my life. Some of my favorite memories include:

  • Sleeping in the back of the pickup truck on the beach of the Pacific Ocean looking up at the stars after a long day of surfing, and an evening of bonfires, singing, and spending time with good friends both new and old.
  • Going to the drive-in to watch the latest movies with the one with whom you really want to spend your time.
  • Hiking the state parks and being able to see waterfalls along the way. For some truly spectacular views, check out Watkins Glen State Park in New York, which boasts over 100 waterfalls along their trails, the most of any park in the state.
  • Barbequing with friends after a game of ultimate Frisbee on the lake and spending time talking well into the night.
  • Fishing on the waterways, enjoying the quiet of nature, and the peace of the waves.
  • Tailgating prior to the DMB concert at VA Tech in the 1990s.

By far, one of my favorite views of the world has been from the back of a pickup truck. Whether transporting surfboards, hanging out with the dog, or sleeping under the stars, there is just something about feeling the calm and enjoying the scenery and the ones you are with.

What are your favorite ways to spend the holiday? While holiday weekends allow us a break from our normal lives, we don’t necessarily need a holiday to take that break. Yes, we all need to work to make money and live, but do not allow your occupation to define your life. You are not your job. How you spend your time when you are not at work is entirely your choice. Many of life’s greatest moments are experiences that do not require money, only time.

Happy Birthday, America.

Remember the freedom for which we have fought and obtained.

Embrace it. Fully. Rewind real slow.

Cut the Cord

Technology can help or hinder you. Instead of allowing it to consume us, the use of technology with intention is a tool that can enhance your life. I love being able to go online and find instant answers to my questions. I have a smart phone, and sometimes I think it has replaced my brain. They did not name it a smart phone for nothing.

I am constantly connected. My excuse has always been that I have been so busy working multiple jobs and being a full time grad student while managing a household means that I need technology in order to have human interaction. However, the smart phone has replaced my human interaction when I find myself playing with the phone at times when there is a real, live person in front of me with whom I can have a conversation. As everyone stands around looking at their phones, the zombie apocalypse is now.

I have seen this social experiment circulating the Internet where a group of friends go out to dinner, pile their phones face down in the middle of the table, & the first person that picks up their phone in disruption of the human interaction, foots the bill for the cost of the meal. This is a brilliant idea. Too bad in this day & age, we have to force ourselves to do those type of things in order to unplug from the smart phone.

In my efforts to rewind real slow, I have decided to unplug. Cutting the cord allows me to focus fully on the people in front of me and to live and enjoy the moment I am experiencing. Are you really having fun or just doing it for the face book post, tag or photo? Cutting the cord and unplugging is not only scary for some, but also difficult. In today’s 24/7 world, the smart phone is constantly dinging with some notification of this or that. It is the modern day method of keeping up with the Jones’.

Here are some strategies in which I am going to try to cut the cord:

  • Turn off notifications. Do you look at your phone every time it makes a noise? Is this taking away from having lunch with your grandmother, or appreciating that sunset? Turn off the notifications. It can wait.
  • Set a timer. The internet will not explode if you stop checking it 20 times per day. 20 minutes twice a day should be enough. Once in the morning, and once in the evening to be able to check and respond to any important emails or get caught up on all the latest face book gossip. Do you really need to know what your 400 friends had for lunch today? This is adulthood, not a middle school cafeteria.
  • Make plans to see people in person. In realizing that I have allowed digital communication to take over my life, I have noticed that it has replaced my human interactions. The human part of my interactions is missing, that is. I would rather spend one hour of quality time having dinner with a friend hearing about their latest trip or the cool thing their kid did than spend 5 minutes commenting on someone’s post.

I’m looking for a life full of meaning. Quality over quantity. For me starting a blog is about more quality interactions on the internet than I currently have in 140 characters on social media. While I am looking to cut the cord in favor of in person interaction, I also want to improve the quality of my online interaction as well.

What do you think? Do you have an obsession with technology? How do you set boundaries around your media use and make time for what matters most – the people in your life and the experiences you have with them?