This is the New Year

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Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

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Home is Where the Cats Are

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Jude in the new house Christmas 2018

Many people get upset and emotional when they move from a place where they lived for a long time. It’s understandable. There was a lot of living done and may memories created when we stay in one place for a long time.

You would think that I would have had an emotional reaction when I moved out of the apartment I had lived in for 14 years. It was the longest I had ever lived in one place and the only place I lived that ever truly felt like home.

The second day I was in the house, I had a single moment of meltdown. I remember sitting on the bed in the new house, tired, dirty, drained, and stressed, crying because I wanted to go home and didn’t know where that was. Ten minutes later the moment passed, and I continued with unpacking boxes and getting settled into the house. That was the only “moment” I’ve had.

When some people move to a new location after living someplace for a long time, they will have a moment of confusion when driving and accidentally drive towards the “old house” before realizing that they have to take a new way home now. I’ve heard of this happening, but have never experienced it myself. From day one of when I moved, it was pretty clear to me where I was supposed to be.

I always return to where ever my cats are. I knew exactly where my cats were, so that’s where I go, no question. Home is where the cats are.

Within two hours of closing on my house, I moved the cats. The cats moved first before anything else.

I know that when moving with pets, this is counter intuitive. You are not supposed to move the pets first. You are supposed to move them last so that they do not get lost. In my case, I had to move them first before I even gave notice to the landlord that I was leaving. I had to be sure that the cats were safe and stably housed, since they were part of the “problem” for a landlord who was going pet-free.

Once the cats were in the house, this is just where I return. Every day. Every time I go out.

I think this is part of why I am NOT emotional over the whole move. Other than my one “moment,” which I think was mostly exhaustion and frustration from the move (who wouldn’t be exhausted and frustrated when moving?), I haven’t had any other break downs over the move.

I moved and did not look back. Yes, the situation was unfortunate. I am mostly mad at the circumstances of the move – that it was a forced move and not something of my own volition. However, the goal in that hellish situation was always to keep my family together. By purchasing a home, I have been able to keep the three of us together. That’s all that really matters.

People ask me if I like the house. I like it well enough. It is taking some time to get used to. It does not feel like “home” yet. That will come in time. I hate the stairs – I never wanted a two story house. I love my kitchen. It’s my favorite kitchen I’ve ever had anyplace I have lived or ever seen anywhere.

What is most important, is that the cats are happy here. They each have their favorite window for optimal bird viewing. I am so happy there are birds here for them to watch, as that was one of their favorite activities in the apartment. They seem to be happy. They both cuddle with me.

Jude has been spending a lot of time rolling around and on his back. He did that a little bit in the apartment, especially when I first adopted him. Jude likes to roll. However, I noticed on Christmas that he was so happy over one of his presents that he laid on his back with all his legs in the air. I’ve seen him do that a few times in the new house. He never did that in the apartment. I’m thinking he must like the new house if he is that comfortable here to expose himself like that.

Over the past 4 months we have been in the house, Jude spends less and less time hiding in the kitchen cupboard. In fact, the only time I see him go in there now is when someone comes to visit. Sometimes, he doesn’t even go in the cupboard, he finds other places to hide. The fact that Jude is so comfortable in the house that he no longer hides in the cupboard on a regular basis speaks volumes.

Simon is happy every place. This is the cat that even purrs at the vet office when getting his rabies vaccine. Nothing seems to phase Simon. Except thunderstorms. We discovered this summer that Simon is terrified of thunderstorms.

We are still getting settled into the house. We are getting into new routines and moving things around. We are all together, and that is what is most important.

I literally could have lived anywhere. Given the situation when the new landlord took over the apartment building last spring, I was fully prepared to be homeless again and was trying to figure out how to live in my car or an RV or someplace with both cats. I’m really glad that it did not come to that, but I was literally prepared to live anywhere with them. We are a family and we have to stay together.

So while it doesn’t really matter where we live as long as we are all together, this house is by far the nicest place we have ever lived. It’s home because this is where my cats are located. I come home to them every night.

As long as Jude and Simon like the house, then I’m happy.

Home is where the cats are.

Home for the Holidays

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“We should count all our blessings at Christmas.” – Frank Sinatra

Every year, people around me seem bothered by the fact that I stay home for Christmas. I don’t understand why. I stay home with my family. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about – family?

This year was one of the most challenging years of my life. On top of an ongoing and escalating bullying situation, I had a major threat to the only stable housing I have ever had in my life.

This Christmas, I am thankful that my family is together. If we had not been able to buy this house, we would not have had a place to live. I’m thankful that for the first time in my life and theirs that we truly have permanent housing. Now we just have to keep it (which the bullying situation makes challenging, but I digress).

Recently, someone criticized me that I wouldn’t “let go of” or “move on from” what the new apartment landlord did to me that precipitated the buying of the house. When someone comes in, doubles your rent with 2 weeks notice, threatens to evict you if you don’t give your children up for adoption, calls you every single week for 3 months wanting to know how you’re going to pay rent (and suggesting you ask your boss for a $8,000 raise to cover the rent increase), and tampers with your drinking water, it’s kind of hard to let go of.

I’m sure that eventually I will get to the point of forgiveness over this situation. It was suggested that I over reacted and was “emotional”. Well, I’ve been homeless before, and when you’re housing and family are attacked like that, it’s a little hard to not get upset. I have moved on from from this situation. I have now been thrown into a whole new crisis – that of reluctant homeowner. I never wanted to buy a house, but that was the only solution to keep my family together.

So this Christmas, I am counting my blessings, and this house is the biggest one. Even though I am a reluctant homeowner, this house is what is keeping my family together. I may not like the responsibility, but this is the price I pay so that we can all stay together and not be homeless.

Keeping my family together is priceless and the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.

For the first time ever, I can truly say that we are Home for the Holidays.

In 2019, I will be looking for a way to extradite myself from an ongoing and escalating bullying situation I am experiencing. Hopefully, I will be able to do it in a way that offers me some stability.

One of the scariest parts about being a homeowner, is that now I am stuck here. There is no option to move someplace else for a job or healthcare or some other opportunity. I’m stuck with what is here and dealing with this economically depressed area of Upstate New York.

Being “stuck” is not completely bad. “My house is always parked in the same place.” Each year at Christmas, when I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, most of the movie makes me laugh. There is one part that always makes me cry.

The part where the little girl is saying how happy she is to stay in their home instead of the motorhome because their “house is always parked in the same place” makes me cry. I remember growing up like that. We spent a good three years (including New York winters) living in a motorhome when I was growing up.

When I moved into the house I bought, it was the first time in my life I have ever lived in a house. I’ve always lived in either a motorhome, a car, a trailer, or an apartment. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that your house is always parked in the same place.

So while there may be problems around me, at least I know where home is now. Hanging onto our home is the challenge I face daily. But as long as my family is all together, it is a challenge I can keep facing until we are able to find stability in all aspects of our life. We will face one crisis at a time. At least we are able to face them together.

This house is my biggest blessing this year, and I am very much looking forward to staying home with my family for Christmas this year. We are finally Home for the Holidays.

15 years and 6 hours

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Christmas lights at the library

Even though I try really hard to be a minimalist and only have what I absolutely need, it still took me 6 hours to move into my house. It was overwhelming. Granted, I had lived in the same location for 14 years, so it basically took me one day to move 14 years worth of stuff. I suppose that’s good. It was still overwhelming.

I had the thought that the next time I move, it better not take 6 hours. It better be closer to 2-3 hours. However, I won’t be moving again. I bought a house. I’ll be dying here.

I suppose that is why so many homeowners have so much stuff. It’s that feeling of comfort that this place is your’s, so why not store something? There is no need to get rid of things if you have a place to put it. Then, we wonder why we are surrounded by so much stuff.

The point is, even if you do own your own home, when you die, you can’t take it with you. Some relative is going to be left with the chore of going through all the stuff stored in your house that you didn’t want to deal with when you were alive. Newsflash: your relatives won’t want to deal with it when you’re dead either.

So even in my house, I’m still striving to be a minimalist so that I am not leaving a heap of crap when I die. I also do not want to be wasting my time cleaning or keeping house.

Someone tried to give me a lamp a few months ago. I took one look at it and thought “no way in hell do I want to have to clean that.” My mouth said “no thank you.” In reality, do I need a lamp? Nope. I have enough interior lighting.

Having less stuff means less to clean when you’re alive and less to get rid of when you die. I like both of those ideas.

Christmas vacation will be coming up, and I will be continuing my decluttering process. Now that I am in permanent housing – my own home – what do I really need? Not to mention that I have more built-in storage space. I can probably get rid of an entire bookcase simply by putting the items into some of the house’s existing space. It’s my space to be used. It’s not like I need the bookcase for some future dwelling when this is the last stop.

One of the positives about being a minimalist is that it is not all about what you are removing from life. It is about removing things from life to focus on other things. In fact, you can even upgrade things.

Here’s an example. About 5 years ago, I bought a set of dishes from the second hand store. I’m pretty sure I paid about $5 for a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. I’m one person. That’s all I need. I love the dishware, but many of the bowls now have chips in them. I can’t really complain about $5 dishware. I’m sure that prior to my use, they probably served someone else quite well for a decade with no chips. But, now my bowls are chipped. I noticed it when I cut a finger on one.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that since I am not up to my eyeballs in debt (I don’t do hardly any shopping), I can spend money on quality dishware. Five years ago I spent $5 on dishware because I only had $5. All my money was going to this credit card bill or that bill or whatever.

Now, I have no debt as a minimalist, so I can go wild and pay $5 a plate if I want. And then some.

I decided to try Fiestaware. I bought one plate and one bowl. If I like them, then I will order more so I have a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. However, Fiesta is expensive, so I am ordering pieces gradually. I view this purchase as an investment in my future. I have permanent housing. I need permanent dishware that’s not cracked and cutting me. I figure I should be able to get a good 15 years at least out of the Fiestaware. I’ve heard some people have pieces from 30-50 years ago.

I never in my life thought I would be paying $15 for a lunch plate. But estimating that it will last me 15 years makes it worth it. The fact that minimalism has realigned my priorities means that when I do have to replace something, I can afford higher quality items that will last longer.

I’m expecting to live in this house until I die. Hopefully the Fiestaware will be the last set of dishes I buy too.

My single Fiesta bowl and single Fiesta plate just arrived today. We will see how I like them before I order more. Of course, if everything works out, I’ll be ordering more bowls before I order more plates since it is my current bowls with chips that are causing troubles.

When deciding on dishware, I decided to avoid the second hand store this time. I love the second hand store, but I do not want to buy another set of dishes that will only last me 5 years. I want dishware that will last me 15 years.

I had narrowed down my choices to either Corelle or Fiestaware. I currently have a few Corelle bowls. In the house, there are water dishes for the cats both upstairs and downstairs. I had to buy more bowls to put water dishes upstairs and it just so happens that they are Corelle. I like Corelle. However, the idea of being able to mix and match colors with Fiestaware was very appealing.

We will see whether I ultimately decide to go with Corelle or Fiesta once I have had the opportunity to use the Fiesta. Corelle is more affordable, but Fiesta feels more substantial and oh, those colors.

Given that I am buying new dishes, you would think I’m not really concerned about the whole having to move in 6 hours thing. This is partially true. I like to think that when I die, whoever goes through my house would be happy with 4 Fiesta bowls and 4 Fiesta plates. Let’s keep it real.

I would like to get rid of things so that it would take less than 6 hours to move, but I still need stuff to use to survive. Plus, I’m not moving again. Hopefully whoever has to clean out my house after I die will be able to do it in less than 6 hours. At least they’ll have some fancy dishware to show for it.

Happy Veterans Day

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Happy Veteran’s Day. This is the phrase I was attempting to say two years ago today. I’m not sure exactly how it came out, but that was the day I landed in the hospital with stroke symptoms. Today is my 2 year anniversary of the day that changed my life. Nothing has been the same since. I’ve had to slow down whether I like it or not. And, I don’t, by the way. I don’t like it – the slowing down or all the changes.

To celebrate the 2 year anniversary of my stroke, I participated in communion at church today for the first time in my life. Today was the first time that communion has ever been accessible for me since the onslaught of the multiple food allergies in my mid-20s. The most difficult allergen to avoid in this situation, is egg. Have you ever tried to find gluten free bread that is also egg free, dairy free and completely nut free? Let me know, because I don’t think it exists on a widespread commercial basis.

Someone at church went out of their way to find a local bakery in town who was willing to take on, tackle and accommodate all 5 of my food allergies. It was achieved successfully. I can’t tell you what it meant to be able to participate in communion with everyone else today and not be left out. It’s one of the few times when I have actually felt like God loves me. Someone actually baked something that didn’t kill me. There’s a first time for everything.

This is significant because I’ve been struggling lately. Ever since I bought my house, I’ve been experiencing negativity from the community. Pretty much, I’m being kicked while I’m down. I’m still down, by the way. But at least I’m not being kicked any more.

There are some people in this community who are not pleasant to me due to one of my “identities.” It happened again today. I try to blow it off and balance it with all of the people who are going out of their way to make me feel welcome. I figure there is no point in trying to make anyone else happy. I’m just going to be myself and people can either take it or leave it. I think that’s a pretty good attitude even if it doesn’t make the hurt any less.

Even though my life feels like a free floating shit show with no anchor right now, I am thankful and grateful for so many things. I just need some time to get my feet back under me.

I still have challenges post-stroke, but am considered “fully functional.” I am thankful that I am healthy, working, providing, and running. Running is definitely the greatest gift I have ever received in life. My goal for 2018 this year is to exceed the number of miles I ran in 2017. That would be an improvement.

I’m happy that two years after 11/11/16, I can say “Happy Veterans Day,” and it actually comes out sounding like “Happy Veterans Day.” I’m not in the hospital connected to tubes and machines being rushed into a machine that takes photos of my brain.

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service that allows us to be free.

 

 

Redefining Freedom

My family – Jude, age 6 (right), Simon, age 2 (left)

Freedom means different things to different people depending on circumstances. For many, travel means freedom. It is even popularized in a commercial as being “free to roam the country.” I had this grand Freedom at Forty plan that I would finally be able to go someplace to have a stamp in my passport.

While I would love to travel, I have had some life circumstances lately that are not only making travel impossible, but literally threatening my day-to-day existence. When faced with a life-changing crisis, we quickly realize where our priorities are and fight to make sure they are met. For me, that means that this year I am redefining freedom.

Freedom now means the ability to live with my family someplace safe and in peace. As long as the three of us get to stay together, nothing else matters. This has always been my first priority, but it tends to become more pronounced when your family unit is threatened with ultimatums such as “separate or get out,” or “choose between your children because you have too many.” Sometimes even just keeping a family together feels like a losing battle.

That losing battle straddles a fine line between freedom and survival. There are ways to keep families together and survive. It could be living in a car, a RV, or migrating somewhere new where you will hopefully be able to stay together safely. Freedom is more than survival. Freedom is being able to keep your family together in a way that enables you all to be comfortable, safe and to build a life where you can transcend survival and be able to thrive.

Right now, I am in survival mode trying to keep my family together and find safe, affordable housing that will accept us as a family unit. I’m hoping that the Fourth of July will be some sort of good luck charm to finding freedom to live with my family intact.

It’s pretty sad in this land of alleged plenty that keeping a family together is seen as a privilege and not a right. If keeping a family together is a privilege, then we truly are not free at all. Everything can be taken from you with only a moment’s notice – including those you hold dear. The whole point of minimalism is not to have nothing. The point of minimalism is to have just what you need so you can focus on what’s important. Being able to be a minimalist is also a sense of privilege in a country where some people are struggling to obtain even just what they need and to hold onto what’s important.

Freedom should include the right to keep a family together. As people spend the Fourth of July having barbeques and watching fireworks with their family, they should think about whether that family is a right or a privilege. Currently, in this country and as I am seeing in my own life right now, family is a privilege. True freedom would include the right to keep a family together in a safe environment.

The Fourth of July is also an anniversary. It was Fourth of July weekend back in the late 90s that I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I have gone back and forth over the years whether or not that movement was something I regret.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not regret leaving Massachusetts because of the positive things that have happened since I arrived in New York. I was finally able to achieve my degrees and I would not trade a single minute with my family to go back and do it over differently. However, the moving that I did that long ago Fourth of July weekend has had significant impact on the course of my life over the past 20 years.

While I do miss Massachusetts and wish I could afford to move back, I realize that in New York, I achieved a level of freedom that I would not trade. I now have education to bring in income that buys freedom (unless you are looking for affordable housing). I have the freedom of being with my family and that is the greatest gift I have ever received.

This Fourth of July, I am redefining freedom. My Freedom at Forty plan no longer includes international travel. Given my current circumstances, that is not a realistic goal. This year, I am redefining freedom as the ability to keep my family together. If I can keep us together in safe, affordable, stable housing that will be even better. The outcome is yet to be seen.

How are you redefining freedom this Fourth of July? What does freedom mean to you?  

 

Peace, Love & 2018

Peace

Sometimes you need a change of scenery. Sometimes you just need to change your point of view. I recently changed clubs for my gym membership. It was a great choice. In this instance, I definitely needed a change of scenery.

Mostly, the new club is easier to drive to, has more parking available, and better hours to accommodate my bizarre schedule. I typically rename the treadmill “the freak mill” because I hate being on it and the people at the gym are a little crazy. However, this year, I am just happy to be running. I’ve also changed my point of view. I am so thankful to be running again after my lost season due to stroke.

My 2018 running season is planned. I start training for my marathon the first week of June. That means that the first six months of 2018 are all about building base and preparing to implement my new training program. Running brings a lot of peace to my life, and I am definitely in a good place right now with my running schedule.

Love

Introducing … Simon.  (Photo above.) Simon has been apart of our lives for about two months now. I know I said I would not adopt again and that Jude was going to be an only child. Except Jude was quite vocal about being alone (and he is typically the shyest cat EVER). I was apprehensive about adopting again. I was not sure if I was ready. I actually visited and played with Simon for about three weeks in the shelter before adopting him.

I’m glad we did. Simon is 1 ½ and has a lot of energy. He is bringing Jude out of his shell and keeping me on my toes. He behaves like a little demon, but he is so darn cute that it’s hard to be mad when he’s acting his age.

Simon has brought the love and a sense of normalcy back to our household. Looking back, I can see that not only was I super depressed (and still sad) about Kitty dying, but I was depressed before Kitty died. I took care of him and did his cancer medication for over a year. Our entire household felt like death for about a year and a half.

Simon has brought the love and sun back for Jude and me.

2018

While minimizing my life and living simply is an ongoing journey, my major goal for 2018 is my kitchen. With kitchen changes, come food and nutrition changes, so this will hopefully be a positive for both my running and management of my food allergies.

I now have five glass Pyrex bowls for work lunches. My goal is to get rid of all the plastic in the kitchen and use glass only.

All the plastic is going into a box for a year. Typically, I put donation items in a box and get rid of the box as soon as it’s full. Most people will suggest putting things in a box and saving the box for three months. If after three months you have not opened the box and don’t need anything in it, then get rid of the stuff. With the plastic items, I am boxing them for a year.

The reason why I am boxing kitchen plastic for a year is that even though I am confident that I can go glass only in the kitchen, plastic is useful when I am traveling. It is lighter weight and won’t break. So I am boxing the plastic for a year and only taking out what I absolutely need for travel this year, which will include my usual camping trip and marathon trip. This way, when I completely get rid of kitchen plastic next year, I will only keep enough plastic pieces absolutely necessary for travel. I figure this is better than trying to guess or choosing an arbitrary number, like keep 5 plastic containers.

I am also going to be menu planning this year to be sure that I am managing my food allergies well, getting all my nutrients, and using up food. I have a lot of food in my house. Part of it is the multiple food allergies – I stockpile because it is challenging to find things I can eat.

This year, I have made a 5-day emergency food kit. The recommendation is 3 days, but I am going for a 5-day due to the food allergies and the fact that during the blizzard of 2017, I was literally snowed in my house for four days. The snowplow was stuck at the end of my road, so we could not go anywhere if we wanted.  This way, even if I eat all the food in the house (unlikely), I have a 5-day supply emergency supply.

Now that I have the 5-day emergency kit, my goal is to eat the food in the house so that there is not so much of it and so that I can do a better job of food planning instead of just having a bunch of random things everywhere. For example, in addition to the food cupboard, I also have two storage racks of food. My goal is to just have the food in the cupboard. As long as we are not snowed in, I can get to the store at least once a week, so there is no reason for all this food. Time to focus on nutrition and planning.

Peace, love, and running for 2018. Happy New Year!

 

 

Vacation

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I’ve been working 23 years. For the first time in my work life, I just completed having a week’s paid vacation. I have never before had employment that gave me paid vacation. It was wonderful.

At one moment, I was lamenting that I did not take as many day trips this year as I have in years past. Then I realized that my life has slowed down enough that I no longer have need for the day trip escapism that was so essential to keeping me going when I was working two jobs and going to school full time. Now that my life has slowed down, I actually have a few hours each week in which I can relax without having to leave town and take a day trip. Having an entire week off completely blew my mind.

I was amazed at the fact that even though I had a week’s vacation, what I wanted more than anything was to be home. I do a lot of driving. I drive every single day. I am sick of driving. Especially where I live in the Finger Lakes, the traffic is so bad in the city in which I work that it is worse than Manhattan, Boston, or L.A. I have driven in those three cities, and would rather drive in them than drive through the city in which I work. So one of the nicest parts about being on vacation was that for nine straight days, I did not go anywhere near the city I work in, which is about 10 miles away from my house. It takes me almost an hour to drive those 10 miles one way to work on a daily basis. I did not miss it.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of hiking, a lot of sleeping, and a lot of relaxing on my vacation. I also planned some fun things for the coming fall and winter. Vacation was a great time to stop and assess where I am in life and to be sure that I am on the right track.

I am so relaxed; I don’t have anything to say.

I have heard many arguments for vacations and many for staycations. I would say that my week was a hybrid. I had four “away” days where I went on a trip, and five “home” days. I read that staycations became popular after the recession. Family vacations of the post-war period were typically camping trips that centered on family togetherness. As the extravagance of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s took over, families go to Europe or Disney. Personally, I needed home days before and after my trip just to prepare and decompress. I go from point A to point B every day of my life. The last thing I want to do on “vacation” is the same thing I do in my everyday life except in a different location. That just does not seem like vacation to me.

What fun are you having this summer? Vacation or staycation?

Wide Open

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Above: At the oldest covered bridge in the USA

My first vacation is coming up later this month. This will be the first time in my 23 years of working that I have a week long paid vacation. I have never had a week off from work before, and it has not been paid.

Given that I had to cancel my travel plans to take care of my sick family member, I will actually be having a staycation punctuated by day trips. My schedule is wide open. In fact, the only thing on my calendar for that week is meeting a friend for lunch on one of the days.

In a way, it looks like I completed my objective of slowing my life down. No longer am I running from point A to point B like a crazy person who does not know which end is up. The hard part about having so much free time is that now I feel like I’ve been drifting for the past 9 months. I don’t really have a direction anymore. I almost feel like I am maintaining status quo waiting for my family member to die to try to figure out what is next.

That may sound really mean. I don’t intend it to be. I love this family member very much. It’s just that I need a break, and I won’t be getting the break that I need since I had to cancel my travel plans.

Part of my goal for my staycation is to try to figure out what I like most about my annual ADK camping trip and try to incorporate some of those aspects into my staycation that is upcoming. How can I feel like I’m on vacation even when I am stuck at home?

The biggest part that scares me is that this is the first time in 15 years that I have not been able to take my annual break from reality, and I am apprehensive if I will be able to cope for another year without it.

Mostly, I’m just tired.

I’m preparing to head into the great wide open where I have a completely empty schedule for a week and absolutely nothing to do. It’s a little scary. I have never had this problem before. Welcome to first world problems, I guess.

What would you do with a week long blank calendar? If you were unable to leave your home for more than a day at a time because you had to be at your house at a certain hour every single day, what would you do?

Don’t Mess with People Who Run 26.2 Miles For Fun

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Above: When I earned my BAA medal in 2010. Out of my 14 medals, my BAA means the most to me.

Friday was One Boston Day, the third anniversary of the heartbreaking bombing of OUR marathon by domestic terrorists. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; it is a race that belongs to everyone. Whether you qualify or not, Boston is the race that shows the truth of the human spirit and the unfailing love that is part of the running community.

While my work schedule is often hectic and beyond my control, I did manage to observe a moment of silence close to the time when the first bomb went off on Friday. I remember that day three years ago, when I felt like someone literally took a sword and pierced my very soul. It was one of the deepest emotional pains I have ever felt in my life. I would have to say that it was one of the three worst moments I have experienced. Even though I was in NYC in 2001, I would have to say that for me, Boston felt more personal.

As horrific as that moment was, every single minute that has come after has shown the strength, resilience, and perseverance of the community of runners. It has been amazing to see how everyone, even people who are not runners, rally around us to help and heal.

The Boston Marathon is OUR marathon. The finish line belongs to everyone. The marathon represents hope to everyone. It represents the challenges and adversity people overcome to be able to toe the start line. It represents sacrifice. Mornings when we got up at 4 am to run when we would much rather push snooze and roll over. Afternoons spent running in the rain just to get the miles in the tank. Most importantly, the Boston Marathon represents LOVE. And it belongs to everyone. You just don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun.

Today is Marathon Monday. Happy Patriot’s Day, Massachusetts! This is the day when the crowds line the streets to cheer the accomplishments of everyone in the race. It is a day to come together and celebrate and be kind to one another. We have overcome the atrocity of 4.15.13 by showing each other tenderness and mercy in a time of need. As my hero Kathrine Switzer has said, “If you ever doubt the strength of the human spirit, watch a marathon.”

Speaking of heroes, today also marks 50 years of women being allowed to run the marathon. I am thankful for the opportunity to run every single day. At one time, women were not allowed to run more than a mile because it was thought that running more than that would make us unable to bear children. Of course, we all know this is a misconception. Many women have both ran marathons and bore children. However, it should be noted that part of the confusion came from the fact that when we run a marathon, it works the muscle groups directly below those used in natural childbirth. So yes, they are equivocally the same. Running a marathon pretty much does the same thing to our bodies as natural childbirth. However, marathoning does nothing to interfere with our ability to bear children. This was a huge hurdle that had to be overcome in order for women to be able to run marathons.

While Kathrine Switzer is well known for running Boston using only her first initial for registration and surviving an attempt by the race director to throw her off the course screaming “Give me those numbers,” we must remember that, in fact, the first woman to run Boston was Bobbi Gibb. Bobbi is one of the pioneers of women’s running that helped pave the way for the rest of us. 50 years ago women were not allowed to run marathons. Today, we make up about half the field in almost every race.

In 1980, American Joannie Samuelson won gold in the inaugural women’s marathon in the Olympics. Just a short 36 years ago, we showed the world that not only can women run marathons, but also that we can do so on a competitive international level. The three women: Bobbi, Kathrine, and Joan are the pioneers of women’s running. Today’s Boston Marathon is a celebration of the barriers we have overcome to be able to run this great race.

I am so proud and so blessed to have the ability to run. It is the greatest gift that I have in life. While considered a solitary sport, it is amazing to see what we can do once you get a group of runners together. We run to raise money for charity. We run to bring awareness to causes. We continue to run even when we are hungry and tired. We run through joy, we run through tears. We just keep going, because to stop would be one of the greatest pains to experience.

There is a meme that has gone around the Internet in running circle with a Matrix-like scenario. If you take the red pill, you can continue running at your current level for the rest of your life. If you take the blue pill, you will see significant improvement in your ability to be competitive, but your super running ability will only last for 5 years and then you will not be able to run anymore. I choose the red pill. Every time. I choose the red pill. I cannot imagine my life without running in it.

I will be doing a trail run today in solidarity with Boston. The day I earned my Boston medal in 2010 was one of the best days of my life. Let us never forget 4.15.13. We must honor those that we lost by continuing to run. We must run for those who cannot because we know they would do the same for us. We must show all terrorists everywhere that even if you bomb our race, it will not stop us from toeing the start line and from crossing finish lines again and again. Each step that we take is a step full of love.

You don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun because we have the ability to be, show, and bring out the best in humanity. Today we celebrate not only women’s running but also the hope and love that the marathon symbolizes. #BostonStrong

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