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My life is now

For the first time in my life, I feel old. Now, everyone out there who was born before 1985 is probably shaking their head and alternately cursing me for making them feel old, or wondering at how such a child as myself could possibly be turning her head at the blessings of youth. Whatever the reason, I’ve marked 26 as the turning point in life. Maybe it’s the fact that there is no longer any chance I’ll be mistaken for a traditional college student, or perhaps it’s the fact that my age now rounds up to 30, or maybe it’s simply the confluence of so many stabilizing forces I’ve always seen as rites of adulthood – full-time employment, finished with traditional education (taking a class here and there trying to eke out a master’s is not the same in my book as living on campus and enrolling in 15 credits), married, started a family (two dogs that need as much attention as children), anchored to debt in the form of vehicles, student loans, and a mortgage… Whatever the reason, I feel old. Maybe old just means responsible but I feel a shift toward risk-averse decisions… toward cherishing my time more… realizing how swiftly the minutes fly.

To that end, these are my priorities for the coming year. They are, not surprisingly, very similar to priorities and goals I’ve shared on my blog before. I continue to be concerned by growth and improvement in the same areas:

1.)  Writing

2.)  Personal relationships

3.)  Travel / New Experiences

4.)  Health, Wellness, General Living

Writing is the top pursuit in my personal life. This year my goals are to:

1.)  Finish the plot rewrite of Novel 1

2.)  Edit Novel 1 (style, grammar, etc.) and do prep work for a successful query

3.)  Submit Novel 1 to publishers

  1. Consider backup plans if no one is interested – self-publish?

4.)  Draft Novel 2 in series

5.)  Finish 1st draft of Novel 2, think about what comes next

6.)  Actively pursue other writing – short stories, articles, whatever I can do. I’d like to branch out more into other genres, at least for the artistic exercise even if it’s not a viable route for me.

By the time I’m 27, I want to have at least a handful of short pieces – and one or two long ones, that I feel are “finished” and am proud to share with others. Whether or not someone wants to pay me to do this is not my measure of success, although it remains my long-term goal.

Engaging my mind and continuing to develop by enjoying new experiences remains important to me as I age. I have several prospective trips on the horizon and a few wishful ones, including:

1.)  Florida coast

2.)  Camping (for the first time!)

3.)  Hiking … Colorado? Arkansas?

4.)  Pacific Northwest

5.)  Boston/New England

6.)  An international destination… the Mediterranean? Scandinavia?

I’d also like to do a better job of exploring Kansas. Now, don’t laugh. There’s always something to see, if we just open our eyes. Even in Kansas. My job will require increasing amounts of travel within the state, and I need to leave feeling like these small towns were more than a long drive. I’d like to research places to incorporate into my visits so these turn into travels instead of just a string of meetings.

Slated for fall 2011 is participation in the Midwest Beerfest! Seeking out these kinds of activities to enjoy with Tyler is important. We need to make room in our budget to attend nearby activities when they are available – whether they are beer-centered or not.

Tyler and I have also discussed finding a new hobby to take up together – or at the very least, a class. I’d like to take sailing lessons. He’s interested in gun safety. We’ll see. Perhaps it’s finally the year we’ll take salsa-dancing lessons together.

I’ve also considered “cooking my way” through something or another. I am leaning toward some type of exotic cuisine so I can learn about new spices and techniques, or something historically-based (for the same reason). Whether it’s a new recipe per month or per week, I think it would be a fun guided tour. I’m already a fairly accomplished cook/baker so I’d really like to challenge myself and learn some entirely new techniques and/or ingredients. Any suggestions for a good cookbook to try?

I don’t have a hard and fast list of things to try or new skills to learn, but I’d like to make a commitment to continuing to try new things.

Health, wellness, and life is the best way I can describe what I consider the business of being me, of living inside this collage of skin, bones, muscles, and hair.

1.)  Continue to strive to eat only hormone-free meat, eat fewer processed foods, and really think about what’s going in my body and if it’s rewarding me

2.)  Remain active – exercise in some form, casual or energetic, every day

3.)  Savor my food – be mindful of the pleasure and the nourishment. I want to push hard to break my habit of mindless snacking. I know that doing this will be positive psychologically, and will likely loosen the extra lbs. of fat that stick around so annoyingly.

4.)  Get serious about skin care.

5.)  Take the appropriate measures to be happy with how I look – and stay that way. This means mundane things like not letting my eyebrow waxes lapse, spending money on beauty products that I feel help me look my best, vain things like that ; ). But the point is – I am a beautiful woman, and I want to look and feel that way, always.

Joy

1.)  Do a better job of living in the moment, and trying to appreciate what I can in a world that is largely oppressive, frustrating, and depressing.

2.)  Don’t give up on plans to escape from cubicle city.

3.)  Stay connected with things that bring me joy – don’t let excuses and to-do lists get in the way. This shall take the form initially of a monthly “Day of Anne”.

 

What being 26 means to me is that tomorrow is today. While I’ll always be a dreamer, living in a future vision, thinking of strategy and planning the day away, my life is not someday, it is now. I need to work hard, relax even harder, and enjoy the people around me – because there isn’t something more down the road. My life is now.

 

 

 

 

 

Friends

Social media has drawn attention to the circles that exist in our life. Circles of friends, colleagues, acquaintances. By lumping everyone together in a rather ungraceful and largely transparent heap, it has somehow become offensive to be anything other than “a friend”. This is bad for friendship and bad for all the other relationships that exist in life. Displayed below is an overly simple visualization of the circles in my life. Somehow, on facebook, every single member of these groups is awarded the title of friend, despite the fact that only the circles closest to me would receive that designation based upon our mutual relationship. Our lives and human interactions are complicated, and this is by no means a complete view of my network. I’d like to share a few thoughts, though, on what these tiers mean to me.

Me: Well, this one is fairly obvious. Without myself, I don’t do much socializing. BUT – I do have a responsibility to care for myself and I’m driven to achieve various personal goals. I am closely tied to the next two following groups. And honestly, although the diagram does not show this, there is a gap between the top 3 tiers and the next subset. I am highly involved with: Tyler, close friends and family, and our dogs.

Tyler: Obvious as well. I spend most of my human interaction-related energy tending this tier. It’s called marriage, and most people find it to be fairly significant – and mutually beneficial. Congrats Tyler, for making the top of the list.

Family, Friends who are Like Family, and our dogs: This is the group of people whom I would answer a midnight call from, who I would help in an emergency without a second thought, who I feel comfortable being around without makeup or when I’m sick or crabby, who, even if my time is limited, I make it a point to include in my daily/weekly life. These are the people who know the mundane details – from what I ate for breakfast, to how the hostas are doing under the latest grasshopper barrage. When we get together, we spend a lot of time talking about those day-to-day events. They know me. I know them. I consider their well-being a top priority. Our future children will go in this group as well.

Good Friends: Then, there is a bit of a break.The next group is friends, but in a busy world full of work, obligations, etc. they do not repeatedly make my daily “to-do” list. Still, I feel we have a bond and enough in common that we’ve maintained a friendship – usually over many years. There is something fundamental to our relationship that allows it to last. Current friends, with bonds that are not as strong, fall in this group as well. These are people I like to socialize with, although do not always have time to do so. If someone from this group were coming into town, I’d make it  a point to at least try to hang out. If they invited me over, I’d probably come – unless an obligation from a higher circle pulled me away. I think of this group as “fun” – but there is also a sense of obligation and duty here as well, but more in a “in a time of need” way. These are people I like and know pretty darn well.

Friends With Whom I Could Share a Hypothetical Beer: In my mind I refer to this group as “Friendlies”. We are not necessarily “friends”  but we’ve had enough interaction and there is enough in common that I like them, and feel we’d have a good time if we ever did get together and socialize. A variety of reasons could have prevented us from being closer – but we often encounter each other in overlapping social circles and the interactions are pleasant. We may talk online, say hello via facebook, etc. and engage in light social activity. Some people are in this group to stay – perhaps we went to school together and have always been pretty good friends, but now, as adults, there is nothing that’s going to take that relationship to the next level, or, this might be a friend who will become a good friend or a friend who’s like family at some later date.

New Acquaintances on Friendship Fast Track: Sometimes you meet someone and they just happen to be awesome. You “click”. They are technically a new acquaintance but you have a feeling they won’t be that for long – you’ll hang out soon, and they will move to friend status.

Next, a whole cadre of Acquaintance-level relationships adjoins the friendship circles. These groups include current work colleagues, who are more involved in my life due to that amount of time we spend together, former classmates and colleagues, and people I know from some activity or another. Anyone from this group has the potential to “move up” but currently I feel very little obligation to them and have developed little, if any, trust.

Lumping everyone together into the same group diminishes the importance of friendship and elevates casual relationships. In the end, though, what is important is treating everyone with respect, dignity, and understanding. Oh, and behaving like adults – that would be nice. Because if you are an “acquaintance from a past class” that doesn’t guarantee you an invite to my Friday BBQ like it would if you were my mom. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that I don’t like you, simply that our relationship does not command a higher investment of energy from me at the moment. So in summation – there are many different kinds of relationships in life, so let’s view them with a bit of perspective.

 

 

 

How I Got Here

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how passive decisions (or lack of decisions) can accumulate in weight until they shift the balance of your life. We are infatuated as a society with the idea that big moments shape the path we follow, and to some extent, this is true.

Throughout high school and college, I planned to become a lawyer. At some point in the past, I’d determined that being a lawyer was going to be the most successful application of my aptitudes, would earn me an acceptably high salary, and offer what I deemed perks at the time – things like wearing stylish skirt suits, traveling, and selecting witty friends from a cadre of sharp-tongued attorneys. I’m not sure when I decided this, but through years of tacit endorsements, my path toward lawyer-hood became pretty set. I never really examined this decision, never really thought about who I was, what else was out there. I floated through my undergraduate degree, feeling that the time to shine was law school and that basically I was just waiting around until then. I had no worries – I knew I was well-equipped for the journey. When the time came, I took the LSAT, scored high as expected, procured my letters of recommendation, and applied to twenty-five schools. I received 23 acceptances, 1 rejection (suck on it, Harvard), and 1 wait-list.

After the initial glow of having all of these flattering acceptance letters, scholarship offers, and fellowship invitations (I told you I would have been a good lawyer – I was exactly what they wanted) filling up my mailbox faded, I began to panic. A little at first, and then, a lot. I wondered in an increasingly loud inner monologue, “Do I want to be a lawyer?” 

It took me about a year to answer myself honestly. I worried most about the fact that I would be a good lawyer – and, like many of us, I like being good at things. I worried that I’d spend my days chasing a paycheck, seeing very little other than the inside of some room or another. I realized I wanted more than to spend my life working at a job that I had acquired just because I would be good at it. And spending your life doing something you “kind of” like is not enough if you’re in a position to do something else.

While I recognize that it’s possible I could have found a balance – found a way to be  a lawyer and have a life, or be a lawyer and care about what I did – I also realized that the temptation for me to throw everything into my job was going to be strong. I’m no slacker. And I realized that it was not kind to my past, present, or future selves to “enlist” in an army that was going to be very difficult to leave.

Through a period of soul searching I began to gather answers to the inevitable follow-up question of “What next?” After all, I’d spent nearly ten years now just assuming I’d be a lawyer and doing little to prepare for anything else. I found my answers. That’s not the point of this post.

The point is, now, five years after I took the LSAT and “being a lawyer” started to become real, I am back at the place where I swore I didn’t want to end up. I spend most of my time each week working at a job that, although I like reasonably well, is not what I am “supposed” to be doing. My strongest motivator is the paycheck. Between the commute, the hours on the job, and the many, many hours which I think about, stress over, and try to unwind from this job each and every week – it IS my life.

The irony? The paycheck I traded for is a heck of a lot smaller, my outfits far less cute than what I’d imagined, and I pinch pennies to afford to travel. The indentured servitude I rejected was far more glamorous than the bargain I’ve entered into now.

But, it’s not all bad. Life is a journey, after all, and perhaps this is a route I need to take. There are lessons to learn, people to help. It’s time to stop letting these passive non-decisions pile up, though, because by not making active choices, I have come full-circle after wandering through the woods for four years. It’s hard not to feel like I’m back at the beginning, but I know a lot has changed in the past four years.

This may seem overly dramatic. After all, I have a job. I am able to afford to pay my bills and even have a bit of fun now and then. My work is somewhat suited to my abilities and there are aspects of my job that are pleasing. I am grateful for what I have. I know many people cannot say the same. But, I also know that I have the ability to improve my situation – to live a better life. It will take conscious struggle to throw off these shackles.

 

 

Max

After watching our dog, Rory, spend a fun weekend carousing with two puppy friends, we could deny no longer that she needed a friend. We flew through the deliberative process and, against my better judgement, we followed our hearts and adopted an adorable young puppy. Just like Rory, Max (short for Maximus) comes from the Kansas Humane Society, where he had been given up for adoption at a tender, young age. Considering he is currently only 2 months old, that age was tender indeed. A Brittany spaniel / Labrador mix with enormous floppy ears, silky soft chocolate waves, and eyes the color of the ocean, Max is most definitely a heart-breaker. He is confident, outgoing, and enormously playful – to Rory’s mixed delight and chagrin. Already weighing in at 12 lbs, he appears to be well on his way to matching Rory’s size – or at least coming close. His back legs seem too tall for his front, and he lopes out to frisk among the fronds of grass with an endearing, sideways canter. Our first night together showed that for all his bravado and spirit, Max is indeed still a young puppy. He cried for hours before we broke down and allowed him a spot to curl up next to my chest in bed. Our sleep was fitful, but this morning I could already see progress as he learns the ways of our household. His wide eyes soak up everything we do – and especially everything Rory does, so already we are working to demonstrate commands and reward Rory generously for performing well – and show him how to sit. We’re worried, of course, about guiding him well through this developmental stage into a dog we’ll be happy to have as part of our family for many years to come. We’re stressed – it takes so much energy to watch EVERYTHING he does all the time! And of course, we’re tired. But when he nuzzles me and looks up with those big blue eyes, yearning for approval, I can’t help but think that there will be a happy ending to this story.

He moves quickly – so good photos are difficult to snap, but this gives you some idea of what our bundle of joy looks like.

 

From Fiasco to Fabulous: A Tale of Flooring Triumph

One of the few things that was wrong with our house at the time of purchase was severely damaged laminate flooring in the kitchen. Water had caused the laminate to peel and buckle and a large swath of floor was unusable. This was, of course, inconvenient, as it was in the middle of the kitchen. Someday, we’d like to replace all the flooring upstairs. Right now, we’re leaning toward a dark, hard floor like bamboo, but as we watch Rory slipping and sliding across the dining room, that dream may have to die. Regardless of what we choose, new flooring is not in the budget right now but the kitchen was treacherous, not to mention dangerous. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the edges of many of the buckled pieces curved upward significantly and we found ourselves tripping constantly and crunching over the papery, bent boards. Luckily, we found a few extra pieces of flooring in the basement and Tyler decided to attempt to fix the affected area. He’d never attempted a project like this, but with a few tools and a weekend, he forged ahead.

Kitchen Floor Before (under the refrigerator)

Dirty and damaged.

It would be challenging, largely because our supply of materials were limited, but also because he’d have to reach the middle of the floor where the damage was. After moving the refrigerator out of the kitchen and loosening a few baseboards, Tyler got to work. He encountered constant challenges, ranging from a generous application of glue, to having to hone pieces of wood down to fit into tight areas to finally running out of new materials and having to cobble together un-warped bits from the removed boards to fill in spaces under the refrigerator.

In progress. Note the discoloration on the surface - that's mold from the water damage.

Two long, curse-filled days later, he had done it. It’s not perfect, but it is more than good enough and more than worth the agony of trying to fall asleep for my early day at work while he banged and clanged and despaired outside the bedroom door. I think it looks great! Especially considering our Plan B was “throw a rug over it”. I’m thrilled that I have such a handy husband – and one who is willing to work so hard to improve our home.

The damage extended into the hallway nook as well. Here you can see the finished, fixed, level floor. Hooray!

Wrapping up January and Working through February- Goals in Action

As the few of you who read my blog may know, it is mostly for my own benefit. I like to be able to flip back through the pages of my life and blogs are a great way to infuse a little accountability into the goal-setting process. Many of you may have set goals at the beginning of January. Perhaps you’d like to join me and track your progress so far. How are you doing? Are you accomplishing what you wanted to? Are you taking steps to make those goals attainable? Or maybe your goals have shifted, is it time to reevaluate your priorities?

JANUARY

Writing

  • Work on book every day- Started out well, but then we got involved in the house and I skipped several days. Still, made a much more concerted effort to engage regularly with the novel writing process and feel the benefit of focusing – even if for only a few moments a day- on the book.
  • Get halfway done with 3rd rewrite, structural changes- Did not finish, but did complete my outline of the book, fixing all the major plot holes (hopefully), developing characters further, etc. This was a huge task. Got Chapter 1 Re-written.
  • Cut back on blog reading and tv watching- Cut out 2 blogs I used to read daily because I realized they sucked my time and just made me feel badly about myself, through no fault of the writers. The issue is mine and I took steps to rectify it.
  • Create list of short story contests, post in clear view- Done!
  • Jot down creative writing ideas once a week- Only did this once.
  • At least once – go somewhere and people watch and daydream- Done!
  • Share short stories with <name – Done! I am making more of an effort to “put myself out there” and risk the opinions of others.
  • Write an article for the newsletter – I made sure to give myself a writing assignment at work. It’s my favorite thing, so I need to make time for it.
  • Pitch article to a news source – For the first time I pitched an article to a major news/entertainment outlet. I doubt I will hear back from them but I took a first step.

Self

  • Lose 4.5 lbs – Only lost 2. Maybe. My weight was down 2 lbs but mysteriously skyrocketed this week. It’s probably an alien baby.
  • Dessert once per week- Major fail
  • Exercise 5 times per week – interval training at least once, weight training at
  • least once- Done!
  • Get back into skating at least once per week- Done!
  • Misc. personal goals- Could do better next month

Life Mission

  • Write down my life mission and mission for the year, start sharing- Done!
  • Plan portfolio – get mostly done- Umm, I sort of started… This is an important task for me so I must make it a priority.

Explore

  • Eat at 1 new restaurant- TJs Burgers in Wichita
  • Try Yoga- Done!
  • Dance Lessons with Tyler- Pushed off to a less stressful month.
  • Go to a movie- True Grit.

School

  • Submit plan of study, begin spring semester- Decided to take the semester off.
  • Submit paper to conference- Done! And it was accepted! Another first for me.
  • Apply to scholarships– Done!

 

 

FEBRUARY

Top Priorities: Writing, Portfolio, Catching up with/making time for  friends

Writing

  • Work on book every day- So far, so good.
  • Finish 3rd rewrite, structural changes- I’ve posted drafts of chapters 2 and 3 for my readers to review.
  • Seek input of <name>, <name>, and <name>, my book readers and idea assistants ; )
  • Cut back on blog reading and tv watching
  • Write a new short story
  • Submit a short story to a contest
  • Jot down creative writing ideas at least once
  • At least once – go somewhere and people-watch and daydream
  • Write an article for the newsletter
  • Pitch an article to a news source

Self

  • Lose 3 Lbs (Weigh in “officially” on Sat Feb 5)
  • Dessert once per week- So far I am doing excellently : ) Mostly because we don’t have anything delicious to eat and no time to make anything, but a win is a win.
  • Exercise 5 times per week – interval training at least once, weight training at least once- Goin’ well.
  • Skate once per week
  • Eyebrow wax, bang trim
  • Schedule dentist appt, whiten teeth

Life Mission

  • Share life mission on my blog, share blog with Erik and Steve
  • Work on biz ideas
  • Get portfolio online (BY END OF MONTH SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE UP)

Explore

  • Eat at 1 new restaurant
  • Go to a movie (The King’s Speech)
  • Plan trip to Boston

School

  • Get in touch with Dr. X, my erstwhile mentor, about my book

Other

  • Spend time with <Friend A> at least once
  • Spend time with <Friend B> at least once
  • Call <Friend C>
  • Call <Friend D>
  • Call <Friend E>

 

 

What about you?