*insert clever title here*

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I promised myself I would write a blog post today so here I am at the kitchen table, lap top open and eagerly waiting, fingers poised to write something great.

And that was 20 minutes ago.

The only thing I’ve accomplished since then was a 15 minute scroll through my twitter feed and another 10 minutes catching up on Instagram with a few extra minutes thrown in for some random web surfing. I do that a lot. I could be productive if it weren’t for the countless distractions of the Internet.

Although truth be told, I’m just plain tired. Too late to bed last night, too early to rise this morning, and a lot of hustle and bustle in-between means my brain feels a bit like mush. But if I don’t blog today I will feel like an epic failure. A worthless bum who will never amount to anything, wracked with guilt (and in my family, we do guilt RIGHT), and on the brink of complete ruin and despair. Thus, here I sit, completing an obligatory blog post and staving off a morsel of guilt for the day.

I had intended to write about this fabulous list of books that apparently everyone should read by 30 (yes, I realize I’ve missed that boat), and even though I’d rather be sleeping, I’m going to take a stab at it.

The entire list can be found here

I’m a fairly voracious reader, typically consuming one book a month, if not two or three, so I was surprised to discover that out of the 30 books, I had only read one – The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway. 

The list includes such classic authors as Virginia Woolf and Tolstoy along with others that aren’t quite so well known.

The first book I tackled was “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers. I picked it up a week ago and finished it in about five days. It was wonderful. Eggers doesn’t dilly dally around setting a scene and primly introducing characters, you’re pulled right into the deep end and promptly taken on a trip around the world. The book follows two friends still reeling in the aftermath of a close friend’s death. Will and Hand decide to go around the world in a week, giving away a sudden windfall of money Will comes into possession of, and detailing their (mis)adventures along the way. Although there is a lot of solemnity in the book, it also had me laughing out loud multiple times. I would highly recommend it and plan to pick up Egger’s other book as well (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius).

I hope every novel on the list is as scintillating but I have my doubts…Next up is a book of short stories by Alice Munro, which should also be pleasant reading. In fact, I may close this laptop and go read it now.

 

 

 

 

The Great Geography Challenge

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It’s funny how when I was a college student, the whole point of my education was to complete the class, get an A, and move on to the next class, one step closer to a bachelor’s degree. I think since graduating, about 90 percent of my education has come from self-initiation. I read books and news articles, look up things that pique my interest, and try retain at least a fraction of it. I love learning but completely forgot that during my college years. And these days, we have such an abundance of information right at our fingertips. Thousands of news stories are accessible on our cell phones. Google searches will bring up any fact you wish to know and if all that fails, there’s still the library with its cornucopia of resources. 

This year, my sister and I set a goal. We want to learn about the world. At one point, I could rattle off every state and its capital. I sure can’t do that anymore. I wouldn’t be able to identify the countries on the African continent or locate Laos on a map. I admit, my knowledge of world geography is shaky. 

So we decided to remedy that. Every week, my sister and I take turns picking either a new country or state to study. With 196 countries in the world, this could take awhile, but it’s been a fascinating process already. 

We’ve gone through Delaware (second smallest state. Capital is Dover) and Somalia on the Horn of Africa, known for its pirates and famines and terrorist groups and are now on Cambodia. 

I think the point of this challenge is to not only improve our geography skills (and pick up some awesome and impressive trivia along the way), but to always be life-long-learners. Education shouldn’t end with a college degree, it should be just beginning. 

I recently read this article on Forbes that has been sticking in my mind. It was about mentally strong people and the things they avoid doing. 

I don’t know anyone who wants to be weak – either physically, mentally or emotionally – yet so often it seems we (me included) insist on repeating patterns that do just that. Make us weak. Keep us mired in self-pity. Stuck in the past. Or so busy judging others we have no time to fix ourselves. I’ve met people who are so focused on what went wrong with their lives they’ll never escape it to go on and do anything better. 

I don’t want that.

I think one of the greatest things a person can do for themselves is to take an honest look at their weaknesses and find ways to grow. 

When I saw this list I saw some things where I did OK, and others where I was failing. I can be afraid to take risks. I tend to dwell on the past too much. I think I try too hard to please others.

On the other hand, I’m not afraid of alone time. Even though I fear change at times, I try not to let it stop me from making changes. I don’t feel the world owes me anything. 

I want this to be a year of growing stronger – in all areas of life.

Here is the link to the article and the list pasted below:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/11/18/mentally-strong-people-the-13-things-they-avoid/

 

1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

 

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

 

Resolutions

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I had resolved not to make resolutions this year. I decided to take these 12 months and just see what came of them, not expecting or

hoping. Just accepting. But somehow, when I woke up this morning, I felt that familiar tug to take this new year – like an expanse of

fresh fallen snow – and see the potential for amazing things. No matter what, no matter how far I fall short or how dismally I miss the

mark, I need to keep striving. To keep working towards bettering myself and maybe this world despite my deep inadequacies.

So after some thought, here is my list for 2014:

1. Be kinder to myself and others. Maybe if we accept our own shortcomings, we’ll be better able to accept others. And god, am I hard

on myself.

2. Make decisions and DON’T LOOK BACK. I tend to overthink a thing to death which either makes me: a. not do it, or b. constantly

wonder if I should have done it. No more of that. What’s done is done.

3. Find full time work. Work that I can stand. A big goal but doable, I think.

4. Write. Always write. In my mind, on paper, on a laptop or cell phone or a napkin. Just do it. Writers aren’t born, they put a lot of

damn work into their craft.

5. See new things, places, people. Notice the every day beauty.

6. Stop complaining. Or at least cut down on it. It’s such an unpleasant thing but so easy to do.

7. Forge stronger relationships with friend and family.

8. Make the very best of every day that I have been given. Overcome the obstacles as best as I can and get back up when I fall.

Basically, survive this life gracefully.

 

Happy 2014 people – May it be kind to you and you to it!

Hello new year

I admit, I’m a little wary of this new year.

I’m facing it with a little more trepidation than in years past and with a reluctance to create my usual resolutions even as I mocked

them. I feel more hesitant to believe it holds good things, though it might just be my weary state of mind in this moment. 

For the most part, 2013 quietly slipped away and 2014 took its place just as shyly, creeping in cautiously and without much fanfare in

my corner of the world. I was nearly surprised when, this morning on the long drive home, the server at Dunkin’ Donuts asked how my

New Year’s Eve had gone. 

“Calm,” was my response, suddenly reminded that this day marked a new year full of unknown potential for joy and tragedy alike.

And so, here I am, ready to climb towards bigger and better things in the 364 days that lie ahead. But I suppose any look forward must 

first begin with a look back. I’m trying to gather up everything that 2013 contained and create some kind of coherent thought out of

the whole. I don’t really know how to adequately describe this past year, a year of great and not so great changes. A year of

happiness and sorrow. The year I gave up a few dreams and settled for something different. A year with a golden summer of bike

riding and writing and playing. I found my beloved dog, Biscuit, at the animal shelter, began teaching, celebrated a birthday milestone

and another year of marriage. I’ve struggled with the uncertainty of the future. Of not knowing what step to take next, what aspirations

to work towards. I feel as if 2013 were the year of walking uphill in the fog. I’m hoping this next year will be the year the fog lifts. 

So, for 2014, my main goal is to simply keep walking. Walking and writing and living as fully as I am able. To keep on trying and

getting up when I fall and figuring out how to live as best as I am able.