The Bucket List Job

It’s been a few days since I’ve written here. It’s not that I’m not sticking to my writing goals… I’m actually exceeding them. I’ve been hard at work 6+ hours per day writing complete project descriptions for all the items in my architecture portfolio. Unfortunately, I did not get in the habit of doing this as I worked on and completed projects; so I have to go back and write them now. It’s not as easy of a task when some of the projects happened five years ago.

One of my bucket list items involves working for the top architecture company in the world. That doesn’t happen easily. I need a tightly wrapped up and polished portfolio and a killer resume. I’m working on ensuring I have that right now. Instead of going to work, I go to “work” on my job credentials. I try to spend at least 6 hours a day on this process, as well as increasing my knowledge base by learning a new skill. I am hoping all of this extra work will help me get in the door and get that coveted interview. I usually do well once I hit the interview stage, and have never not been offered a job after an interview (knock on wood).

I don’t write this to brag. I write it because many people have a specific job or employer in their bucket list and that doesn’t happen by just sitting around and waiting for it. If you want that job, you need to prepare for it and be the absolute best candidate for it. Depending on the job, that could take days, weeks, or months. In my case it is taking quite a bit of writing and editing. I am finding myself often stretched to my mental limit by the end of the day and just unable to write another sentence. Today I took it a bit easier and went for a nature walk in the afternoon to refresh my mind and found that helped me be able to write more here. I’ll try to keep up that process so we can stay in touch, but please be patient with me if I miss a few days during the writing period.

The architecture portfolio is a unique process. Once the project descriptions are complete and edited to perfection (or as close as I can get), I will begin working on the creative layout for the portfolio and collecting all the necessary pictures and scans. Things get moved around and blended with the project descriptions until it all looks like a slick magazine that someone would actually be interested in reading. A lot of architecture students just create boards of each project, but a compelling narrative enhances the overall appeal of the portfolio and encourages people to take more than just a cursory glance… hopefully.

Living the bucket list isn’t just about buying things and experiences, because some of those experiences can’t be bought. Sometimes you have to put your nose to the grind and do the work required to reach the goal. I’m hoping all my work will pay off and I can soon check this item off the list as accomplished.

I Ate the Frog!

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” or alternately, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This is a quote popularized in the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, which provides multiple strategies for procrastinators to get over their procrastination and get things done. I am a procrastinator and this morning I ate the frog… in fact, I ate two of them.

Yesterday I talked about how I was neglecting my SMART Goals in certain areas of my Level 10 Life, including the Health & Fitness and Physical Environment categories, and needing to focus more on those areas. I was specifically struggling with a seemingly simple goal of getting on the treadmill for 10 minutes each day and getting through the additional accumulated clutter in my home due to emptying my storage unit.

This morning I got on the treadmill and walked for 10 minutes before I even allowed myself to have my daily cup of coffee. It felt good to get it done and I checked it off as complete with a little more flourish than normal. It made me happy to see this accomplished. Many of you may be thinking,, “Only 10 minutes walking on a treadmill? That’s nothing. Why don’t you try for more?” Well, I have tried for more…. and failed. I’ve had a gym membership for 5 years, but almost never go. I used the excuse that it took too long to drive to the gym, work out, shower and drive home. It was an easy excuse because my lifestyle at the time didn’t allow for that amount of time to devote to anything for myself, including for my health. So, last fall I bought a treadmill. It was expensive, but I figured after spending that much money on equipment and having it conveniently located in the living room of my home, I would have no more excuses. Yet, I seemed to find them in spades. I didn’t have time at the end of the day; I had to get up too early to drive an hour to school every day; and I didn’t want to walk for an hour every day. Remember, I’ve allowed myself to get used to a very studious, sedentary lifestyle. This is why my writing and reading goals are so much easier to accomplish. So when I devised my fitness goal, I wanted to make sure it was something that would create a habit. It’s not going to make me lose 50 pounds by January, but it will develop the habit of getting on the treadmill every day and walking. The only problem was, even that was challenging me, until I made it a frog that needed eating. Yep, walking for 10 measly minutes on my treadmill is currently one of my frogs. But today, I did it. I felt a lot better about myself than I have in weeks just by eating that darn frog. Tomorrow, I will get up and eat it again… before my coffee. The next, and the next day, and for many days after that, I will get up and eat that 10-minute frog until it doesn’t feel like a frog anymore, but more like a lifestyle. When that happens, I’ll gradually increase my time. For now, getting on it and walking for those 10-minutes is enough.

The second goal was to reduce clutter and I ate that frog after I enjoyed my coffee to wash down the first. I went through 4 drawers of clothes in my bedroom and 2 boxes from the storage unit. I now have a whole garbage bag for Goodwill, a few well organized drawers full of clothes I actually enjoy wearing, and a little more space to get around my dining room. I spent an hour on this project today and didn’t find it to be as difficult as I was imagining in my head. I will put in another hour tomorrow morning and then take a day off. I’ll continue with the 2-days on / 1-day off schedule until I’ve made my way through the whole house. What’s more successful than before? I used to wait until I thought I had time to complete a whole room before I would start and then I would be frustrated by the time I was finished because it always took longer than I anticipated. This time I set a timer instead and focused on smaller areas. I worked on one drawer at a time until the timer went off and then spent a couple minutes over the hour organizing that last drawer. Like with the treadmill, I felt accomplished. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but by focusing on smaller chunks, it no longer seems so overwhelming.

How are you coming along with your goals? Are you feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start on them? If so, maybe you have to find a way to break them down into smaller pieces so they are manageable and start taking small actions in the right direction. If I can do it, I know any of you can.

I leave you with the fortune cookie from my dinner tonight, which I think is actually quite fitting for this point in my life, maybe in yours as well. Feel free to share with me.

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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 1

The road trip was a lot of fun. I feel like we accomplished quite a bit in a very short amount of time. Here are the final 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)

In addition, we stayed pretty close to our $1000 budget for the whole thing.

So you may be wondering what all we did. I’ll touch a little on the first leg, day one, here.

We left Michigan and travelled about 2 hours before getting out to stretch our legs at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. We did a short (about an hour) hike to St. Louis Canyon. It was beautiful, even though they’ve had a bit of a dry spell and the water fountain was actually more of a trickle. Starved Rock is easily a day, weekend or even week-long trip on its own, but we have both been before and the purpose of our stop was just to stretch our legs a bit.

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We continued on for about another 2 hours before stopping for lunch and a quick drive through Springfield, IL. It’s the capital of the state and worth a look if you’re driving nearby. We found the beautiful capital building… architecture geek moment.

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About 45 minutes after leaving Springfield, we arrived at Cahokia Mounds. It’s the site of a native American city that was actually larger than London in the 1200’s. Unfortunately the interpretive center had closed just before we arrived, so we didn’t get to learn as much about it as we’d hoped; but the park was still open and we were able to climb the insane amount of stairs up the top of 10-story tall Monk’s Mound.

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It was from the top of this mound that we got our first glimpse of our destination for the day… St. Louis., Missouri. Even though it was pretty cloudy at this point, the skyline was definitely visible; we knew we were close.

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Before we left the Cahokia Mounds, I hopped online quickly to book us a hotel. We only had about 15 minute left to drive, so the Cahokia site would be easily accessible to anyone on a visit to St. Louis. Our last minute hotel, Hotel Lumiere, turned out to be quite beautiful with a large indoor courtyard and attached to a casino.

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We arrived in the city, checked into our hotel and walked out into the historic Laclede’s Landing neighborhood to find some supper. There aren’t a lot of options there right now (although there is a lot of construction), but Morgan Street Brewery turned out to be a good choice… lucky for us, because not much was open.

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After a nice supper, we tucked in for the night, ready for a full day of sight-seeing in St. Louis the next day. We saw the Arch from a distance this evening, but in the morning we will be going up inside… stay tuned…

Beginning the Bucket

So you may be wondering why I’ve called this blog “Live the Bucket” when all I’ve done so far is talk about lifestyle habits and plans. Well, in order to be able to do all of the things on my bucket list, I need to get my life in order. Some of the bucket list items require lots of money and/or time. While I may have a lot of time right now, the money part is not currently plentiful. Trips to Australia and New Zealand are definitely out of the question, but things like Hamilton tickets on Broadway are also quite challenging. I’m looking at my ever increasing list and wondering just what I can start doing to live my bucket list. I know I need to make small, habitual, lifestyle changes to make those big items possible, but some of the smaller items are attainable now.

Fortunately, my fiancée has a few days off, so we are going to take a road trip. We’re not going far, just a couple Midwestern cities. We’re not going long, not even a week. Yet, we are going. We will see two US cities on our list and some random sites between them and, more importantly, we are beginning the bucket list adventure. Of course, this is spontaneous… he just told me today that we will leave in the morning tomorrow; so a lot of the planning and decisions will be on the fly. We will have a good time, see new things, and check a couple things off that list. We might miss a few things too, but we can always go back again. The point is that we are not waiting for everything to be perfect. If we do this we may not go. Instead, we are taking action, leaving the house, and giving it a shot.

The blog entries will be short for the next few days as I take time to enjoy the trip, but I will share some of the places we stop along the way. I hope you’ll come along with us on this baby-steps journey into living the bucket list life. Now, I’ve got to get some rest, since I’m the driver for this impromptu adventure. Night all.

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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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