Needing to Focus

As I review the first couple weeks of my Level 10 Life, I’m noticing some disturbing trends. It seems that certain habits aren’t getting done at all and others are done every day. Writing this blog is an exercise designed to improve the career segment of life and it has been going well. I’m enjoying the writing process and hopefully you’re enjoying being along on this journey with me. Reading 30 minutes every day is designed to improve my personal development sector and something I generally don’t have a problem accomplishing. But there are other categories, especially 3 of them, where I’ve given myself the simplest habits and still can’t seem to accomplish them.

In the family and friends category, I find myself avoiding my “call or meet a friend once a week” habit despite it’s apparent simplicity. Only, it isn’t simple. You see, as I reflect on why I’m not making those calls, I’m realizing that many of my friends are in very negative places right now and I’m struggling to not feel drained. I am usually the one who reaches out and then I feel emotionally drained after the conversation from being supportive of all the stuff they’re going through and never getting reciprocal support for the things I’m struggling with. While I do want to continue to be there for those friends, I’m considering an amendment to the SMART goal. I’m thinking my goal needs to be to find additional friends who can be mutually supportive to balance out my time with the other friends. On the surface, this feels selfish, but as I look closer, I think it’s probably better for all of us. No one deserves to have a friend who is resentful of the time they give you, and I’ve become that; I’ve become resentful of one-sided relationships that take away all of my energy. In order to be a better friend, I need to stop relying on those relationships for something they aren’t giving and expecting to get something our of them that I’m not. I am not really sire if changing goals is “technically” allowed, but I think this is a good call.

Which brings us to the Health and Fitness category. I’m struggling with 2 of the 3 goals in this category and doing pretty well at the third. The problem is, that this category is one I feel really needs a lot of work right now. I quit smoking 5 years ago, when I started school, and have doubled in size since then. I get out of breath easily, ache all over, and feel like if my body & health don’t get the attention, I might not live long enough to accomplish the things on my bucket list. I’m just now starting to have grandchildren and I want to be around, and actively able, to participate in their lives for quite some time. So for the remainder of this week, I’ll be heavily focused on the 3 SMART goals for that category. I will be getting on the treadmill for at least 10 minutes, 5 days each week. I will be getting to sleep (or at least laying in bed in the quiet dark trying to sleep) by midnight each night. I will continue to restrict my calorie window to no more than 10 hours. The 10-hour calorie window has been going well, but neither of the other 2 have happened a single time in the last 3 weeks and that just cannot go on. For the next couple weeks, these will be my priority and I will “Eat the Frog” by trying to accomplish the treadmill first thing in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.

The third area I’m currently struggling with is the Physical Environment category. This was going quite well initially. You might remember reading about emptying out my storage unit and letting most of it go. The only problem is, I brought home some of the more valuable and unique items with the intention of selling them and they are now cluttering my daily personal space. I need to spend a day photographing and posting these items for sale so they can move on to new homes where they will be useful or bring their new owners joy. Their presence (this overwhelming clutter) has also alerted me to the added items I have laying around the house that are not useful, or beautiful and don’t bring me joy. So after everything is photographed and posted for sale, I need to go through every corner of the house again and purge the clutter. I think once the physical clutter is gone, I will feel much happier in my physical space and hopefully be able to focus better on the other habits I need to work on.

So those are my 3 struggles and how I plan to tackle them in the next few weeks. I hope you will stick around to hold me accountable here and maybe find a couple things you need to work on as well. If you are looking for someone to be accountable to, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll check in periodically to see how you are coming along. I hope we can all help one another get closer to lives we want and deserve!

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2017 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is the big travel day home. We aren’t even stopping much along the way. We’ve decided to take a short detour east so we can go through Indiana and miss most of the horrible traffic that exists between Chicago and Michigan.

We began the day driving through massive downpours almost all the way through Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. We stopped at a Perkins somewhere in Arkansas because I’ve never been in the state and I can’t count it as having been there if we simply drive through and never set feet on the ground.  Now I can say I’ve been there, although we didn’t see much through the rain. We did count our blessings that the rain had held off for all of our earlier adventures though, because we had pretty darn good weather for most of our trip.

We headed north through Missouri then southern Illinois, where we found Casey, Illinois. I have always loved the idea of road trips because of those fun roadside attractions that you can spend 5-10 minutes at. These are often unplanned finds and, for us, Casey was one of those places. Casey is home to some of the World’s Largest Stuff… a lot of it actually. With 8-1/2 hours of driving this day, we didn’t opt to drive around Casey and see them all, but we did see the World’s Largest Wind Chimes, World’s Largest Rocking Chair and World’s Largest Mailbox. There were giant pencils, rulers, and other items scattered around town as well. It was a fun break and something that we had been missing the rest of the road trip.

We stopped for dinner in Terre Haute, Indiana. It wasn’t too far past Casey, but we were getting hungry at this point and wanted to see the city. Terre Haute is a nice size city and we found Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant and had very yummy supper.

We still had about 3 hours of driving left and arrived back in Michigan shortly after 10pm… not too shabby for a 600+ mile drive in a single day. Looking back, I think if we were to do it over, I would have stayed in Indianapolis for the night and stopped a few more times along the way. Spending almost the entire day in the car was a bit of a challenge. In the end, we came pretty close to our $1000 budget and Indianapolis would have pushed us too far over, so it was the right choice at the time and we made it just fine.

As I mentioned in Day 1, here are our final Road Trip stats:

  • Elapsed time: 5 days, 4 nights
  • States visited: 7 (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana)
  • Major Cities visited: 2 (St. Louis, Memphis)
  • Miles driven: 1430
  • Steps taken: 34,438 (we did really well the first couple days, then fizzled out)
  • Attractions/Sites visited: over 20
  • Hard Rock Shot Glasses added to collection: 2 (St. Louis & Memphis)

I hope you enjoyed following along, but more importantly; I hope this brief road trip, planned on the fly, has inspired you to get out and start living your bucket list. I’ve added as many links to these 5 blog posts as I could, to give you more information if you want to see any of the places we did, so no more excuses.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to start… somewhere.

 

 

2017 Road Trip – Day 4

Hello Memphis! Well, we actually woke up and had breakfast in Mississippi before heading into Memphis for the day, but it’s a short drive into the city.

We started our day with a visit to the Lorraine Motel, the site where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. They have turned the old motel into an incredibly moving National Civil Rights Museum that takes you through the struggles African Americans have faced throughout the history of the USA, beginning with slavery and continuing beyond the grim day in which the beloved MLK Jr. was taken too soon. The tone of the museum focuses on the civil rights movement and culminates with the viewing of the rooms where MLK Jr. was shot and the spot on the balcony where he was killed.

The other side of the street contains the second half of the museum. Here you can learn about the crime and the events of the day and leading up to it. You can see the location the killer shot from, the weapon used, and view the balcony from the sniper’s location. The whole experience is moving and almost had us in tears quite a few times. This is not a museum you will want to move quickly through, so plan at least half a day and plan to be challenged, disturbed, and at many times disgusted with the lows to which humanity has sunk, not only centuries ago, but within the last 50 years.

The Blues Music Hall of Fame is directly across the street from the museum exit and, although we didn’t go in this time, provided a much needed uplifting of the spirit and reminded us that, although we learned a lot that morning, we were also in Memphis to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

We headed out towards Beale Street to hear some live blues and eat a late lunch. Beale street is a very interesting place with the sounds of all different varieties of music coming from every direction and mixing into a wild, neon-lit cocktail of fun. The photos will never do it justice because it simply something that must be experienced and felt to truly understand it. It feels vibrant, creative and alive here, but also has a slightly sad and unpleasant undertone of dirty exploitation with a hint of alcoholism. We still thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was and planned to go back again after supper to catch the night-life.

My fiancée was thrilled to find another Hard Rock Café located at the head of Beale Street and we stopped in to grab another addition to the shot glass collection before heading over to the Peabody Hotel. If you visit Memphis you must plan to be in the Peabody Hotel either at 11am or at 5pm, and plan to arrive early because their will be crowds. You see, the Peabody Hotel roof is home to a flock of 5 ducks. A duck master leads the ducks down from the roof, by elevator and red carpet, to the hotel lobby fountain, where they happily swim all day until it time to reverse the process and head back to the roof for the night. This is all done with extreme pomp and circumstance and there is even musical accompaniment. The best viewing spot is on the balcony opposite the elevator and slightly to one side, so you can see most of the march. However, children are permitted to sit right up next to the red carpet and pet the ducks as they march past. My fiancée rolled his eyes at me quite a bit for even suggesting this, but was a good sport about it and managed to enjoy himself as well. It was a bit of silliness that helped balance out the seriousness of the morning.

Finally, we drove out to see Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Neither of us are big Elvis fans, so we didn’t want to do the tour, but it was on the way back to the hotel, so we took a few minutes to see what all the hype was about. The wall full of signatures and messages was the most surprising to me… they seemed to go on forever. Of course, we added our names as well and now become part of the history of the place. If you ever visit, bring a Sharpie so you too can join us in this history.

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We arrived back at our hotel planning to nap, and head back to Memphis for supper and more Beale Street fun. Instead, we ended up having a nice prime rib supper at O’Charley’s in the Suburban sprawl near our hotel and getting to bed. Apparently we are getting too old to manage such full days and still have enough energy to enjoy the night-life too.  We had fun there earlier in the day anyway, so we didn’t feel we were missing much.

Tomorrow we head home…

2017 Road Trip – Day 2

On the second day of our road trip, we woke up in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch. It’s an iconic piece of architecture that defines not only the St. Louis skyline, but also the city itself. References to the Arch can be seen throughout the city and are almost impossible to escape. We saw photos, paintings and graphics of the arch in every nook and cranny of every restaurant, hotel, bathroom, and even in the casino carpet design. It is amazing to see such a seemingly simple piece of architecture being so thoroughly embraced by an entire community as a piece of their cultural identity. Hats off to architect, Eero Saarinen for creating such an iconic structure.

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It was only a 10-minute walk from our hotel to the base of the Arch. We purchased our tram tickets and waited in line to head to the top. Tickets to the top of Arch currently cost $13 per adult and can be purchased ahead of time online. We were doing this road trip on the fly and purchased them onsite. Fortunately it’s not the height of tourist season and it’s during the week, so we were able to get tickets on a tram right away, with no waiting necessary. If you head there on a weekend or in the summer, I’d suggest planning ahead and reserving tickets online. The journey to the top takes 4 minutes. It involves very tight quarters and some stairs, without accessible options… ADA requirements weren’t as strict when it was built in the 1960’s. There are windows at the top on both sides of the Arch, giving you a great view of the city of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and southern Illinois. The whole journey to the top experience takes about 45 minutes, so plan accordingly.

After the Arch, we headed back to the hotel, hopped in the car and headed to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a tour. The basic tour (which we took) is free and includes about 18 ounces of free beer per person (over age 21) during and at the end of the tour.  The factory is amazing and the architecture geek in me was on high alert the whole time. The stables have Tiffany stained glass windows, the brewing rooms look like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate factory and the brickwork on the outside of the buildings is more detailed and beautiful than you would expect to find in a typical factory. The tour itself takes about 45 minutes, and is quite enjoyable even if you aren’t a beer enthusiast, but plan a little extra time to enjoy your free beverage in the Biergarten, where there is often live music to enhance your experience. We happened to conclude our tour in the Beirgarten just before 3pm. Every day at 3pm, they have a Bud Light toast to the beer-masters, so we received an additional free small Bud Light to participate in the toast.

Note: Little people can come with you on the tour, but won’t receive any adult beverages. They do check ID’s carefully, so make sure to bring yours even if you aren’t normally carded.

Our next stop was the Hard Rock Café. My fiancée has a collection of Hard Rock Café shot glasses that needs to be expanded and he doesn’t yet have St. Louis. The Hard Rock Café is located in the back of the old Union Station complex. There is a pond out back full of very entertaining koi fish. For a quarter, you can get a handful of fish food and watch the fish go nuts! We had just started feeing the fish when there was a train whistle over the loud speaker, followed by music and a light-fire-steam show from the fountain elements in the pond. It was quite entertaining and apparently happens every hour. The grand hall in Union Station was closed for renovations, but I imagine when it reopens this will be a key destination for families.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at the outside of the City Museum. This is a crazy place to visit, and one of THE top attractions if you are visiting St. Louis with kids. We could have done the City Museum instead of the Brewery tour, but every time I’ve been in St. Louis before, I’ve either been a kid of been with kids, so I wanted to do something different this trip. I have been before, it was late in the day, and the museum was already closed, so we didn’t go inside, but if you have more time than we did, I highly recommend it.

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After a nap (geez, I’m getting old), we had a late supper at Joey B’s in Laclede’s Landing. Joey B’s has an extensive shot menu (but again, I’m getting old) and surprisingly yummy food. Their kitchen is open late, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a late night meal. We headed back to the hotel under Spiderman’s watchful gaze, on a cloudy full moon night, to rest up for the next leg of our journey.

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Tomorrow we hit the road again… stay tuned…

Learning to Let it All Go.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working this month on emptying a storage unit. This might not seem like a daunting task to those of you have a small unit somewhere, however, mine was the size of a semi-truck trailer and packed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. I’ve had it since we moved here from another state, 7 years ago. There was no room in my then-boyfriend’s house to bring all of the furnishings of another house in. So, the kids and I chose the items that were most important at the time and we boxed up the rest and stuffed it into a giant locker to deal with later.

Now is later and we have had to go through each and every one of those boxes and choose how to deal with all of the furniture, most of which I still don’t want. It’s been quite the process. At least 80% of the unit consisted of items we either threw away, burned, or drove directly to the nearest Goodwill. I have a small pile of several Rubbermaid totes in the corner of the dining room now that contain items I need to get on eBay. The kids have their memory books from elementary school, Irreplaceable photos and other precious mementos. I have my great-grandmother’s cedar-lined chest.

However, most of the items we thought we “needed” 7 years ago, were completely outdated to fit into our current life. One of my daughters was still a student when we moved and is now married and a mother of two adorable boys. Her needs and even wants are drastically different than they were before. The same was true for all of us. At the time of the move, I was a size 10. Now, after quitting smoking and sitting an architecture drafting desk 12-15 hours a day for 5 years, I am somewhere around a size 20. It’s definitely going to be a while before I’m back in that size 10 and the clothes are out of style and/or not appropriate professional attire anyway. There were at least 15 boxes of stuffed animals. When we moved, my kids were… well, still kids; now they’re all young adults and have moved beyond their old toys. There just wasn’t much left for us in the unit.

It was an important lesson for me. By locking the things of our life (things we thought were meaningful enough to carefully box up then pay someone to move and store) up for 7 years, most of them weren’t important of even useful anymore. We develop such an attachment to things in our life. We worry about them, dust them, display them, move them around, insure them, and then constantly worry about them. Once they’re tucked into the drawers and corners of our life, we stop noticing the drain that caring for them has on our life. It’s easy to forget that there’s a drawer somewhere full of things you haven’t used in years, but might need someday. These things seem harmless, out of sight and out of mind, but they weigh us down, much the same way as my storage unit was weighing me down. when I saw it finally empty, I didn’t feel sad, I felt relieved that it was finally done. But I’m not stopping there. I’m starting the process of doing the same thing to every drawer and corner of the house. I’ve gotten through a few already.

I’ve set a goal in my Level 10 life plan (Physical Environment sector) to go through 5 drawer or cabinets a week and eliminate everything that isn’t useful, or beautiful or doesn’t bring me joy. I may end up getting rid of 80% of my clothes during this process, because many things I once loved don’t fit right now or don’t make me feel beautiful. I once had the mentality that if I loved it once, I would love it again someday. This process I went through today clearly illustrated that that is not likely to be the case and now I feel better about letting it all go to make room for the things that are meant to be in my life now. I’m not suggesting the mementos need to go, I’m definitely keeping my great-grandma’s chest; but I’m feeling better about letting go of what is no longer meant for me.

I will now have room, and a little extra cash, (that storage unit was expensive every month)in my life for all the things I intend to bring into it. I will no longer hold onto the things that have come to me by default, simply because they were helpful or useful at the time I acquired them. Freeing myself up for the future I’m designing feels amazing and I hope some of you will join me in finally getting rid of all the excess draining your life’s energy.

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Getting it Done

Today I’m looking at my Level 10 goals new habit list and I’m finding myself completely unmotivated to do any of them. It just seems to be one of those days. I really didn’t even feel like getting out from under the covers this morning. This happens once in a while, but usually only when it’s cold outside. Right now it’s over 80 and sunny here in SW Michigan and I’m a little confused about why I’m not in the mood to do anything. Now some of you can maybe relate… maybe you don’t like working out, or cleaning the house, or studying for monstrous tests, or eating healthy? The problem is, that I also have things on my list like… call and talk to a friend, sketch, walk in nature, read for 30 minutes, and write for 15 minutes… and I don’t even want to do any of those today. So what am I going to do?

Well, I may have procrastinated a little bit, but I’m forcing myself to pick 3 items off the list and do them anyway. The first of these was to call a friend (Friends & Family goal)… Done. It wasn’t hard, it didn’t hurt, and despite the fact that I didn’t want to do it, I felt a little better after it was done. The next one I’m tackling is right now… write for 15 minutes (Career goal). Writing about the fact that I am not in the mood to write seems a little awkward, but I’m getting it done, and maybe working through this mental block at the same time. The third task I’ll tackle today is to go walk in nature (Personal Development goal). There’s a beach down the road and only a few more pleasant days to walk on it this year… plus the vitamin D may help with this funk I seem to find myself in today.

So what’s the lesson in all of this? Progress in life usually isn’t made in big changes; it’s in small daily habits that we barely notice. Today I may not have wanted to participate in my new, better daily habits, but I know they are for my own benefit, so I did them anyway. I also may not feel very good about having gotten them done, or the way I got them done, but that’s ok. Some days are always going to be better than others, but when I look back on my habit tracker in 6 months, I’m not going to see any of that. In 6 months, I’m just going to see that check mark in the box that says, “I did it!” and because of that I will become the person I’ve intentionally decided to become instead of just the person who takes what life throws at them. Because of these 3 check marks today, I may eventually move closer to level 10 in 3 different areas of life. Because I chose to something, anything, instead of nothing, I have accomplished something I set out to do and can feel successful.

The lesson I’m taking away is that life, and achieving your dreams, is not always going to be easy. Sometimes life is hard, sometimes just showing up is enough, and sometimes showing up is the hardest part of all. Today I showed up, even though it was hard, and I am a better person for it.

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