Dinner

I went to dinner with a guy last night.

Was it a date?  Was it hanging out?  I don’t have a clue.  I do know that it caused me massive anxiety.

A guy I met through a hiking group invited me to dinner, I’m pretty sure he assumed it was a date.  I was nice, but tried to not be overly nice, tried to avoiding flirting even though I’m not really sure what defines flirting.  I tried to reign in my people pleasing self and not say and act how I thought he wanted me to.  No I don’t want a cold beer on a freezing cold night and yes, I would like to go home now even though it’s 8:30 pm on a Saturday night.

He talked and talked and talked some more.  Some of it was interesting, some was repetitive, some I nodded my head pretending to be interested.  I’m not sure what it is about me, but I somehow seem to release the cap on people and they start talking and can’t seem to stop.

He seems like a nice guy and we do have plenty of common interests, but I know that dating is not something I want right now.  I don’t want to spend my time on someone else.  I know that sentence sounded really selfish, but I’ve spent most of my adult life in longterm relationships.  I’ve invested so much time and energy into these relationships and other people, but in doing so, I’ve put myself on the sidelines for years.  Now I want to focus on me.  I’m sure it was good for me to go out and be sociable, but I was honestly thinking about how I would rather be under a pile of blankets with a book and Domino.

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A Simple Closet Color Scheme

I wouldn’t call myself fashionable.  I still love my nineties era boot cut jeans and can’t comprehend how high-waisted jeans became fashionable. For clothes, I want functional, comfortable and clean is always good.  Last year I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and she suggests starting with clothes for decluttering.  I’ve done a bit of clothes decluttering already, but want to pare it down to really those items I want to wear, fit well and look good.  I’ve read all about capsule wardrobes and they seem lovely in theory.  My biggest dilemma is selecting a color palette to work with because if you have a rainbow of colors, it’s not going to be a small wardrobe because one top might only match one bottom and one pair of shoes.  The other snag was that I didn’t like the idea of switching out my clothes every three months.  I’m too lazy for that and the weather here likes to go from summer to winter over night.

I decided that my version of a simple wardrobe is to have a total of one hundred items, but this includes everything (well, except socks and underwear).  I could easily make a capsule wardrobe of my winter work clothes and give myself a pat on the back, but I’m not sure my closet would get any smaller.  I want to include my gardening and hiking clothes and all seasons in my wardrobe.

My 100 item wardrobe challenge:

What it includes:

  • Work clothes- all seasons
  • Outerwear
  • Casual clothes- hiking outfits, yoga pants, gardening clothes and even that mowing outfit
  • Shoes
  • Accessories: hats, scarves, belts

What it doesn’t include:

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • PJ’s that I wouldn’t wear in public.  I’m looking at you polka-dotted fleece pants that I would be so comfy to wear to the grocery store, but think that might be too weird for even me.

When I’ve tried to eliminate clothes in the past, I would get hung up on the clothes that go with brown shoes versus the ones that match black shoes.  Having both in my closet meant that I had brown flats, brown ankle boots, tall brown boots and then repeat for the black versions.

That’s where my sister stepped in to save the day.  She must have gotten the family’s fashion conscious gene because she’s always been much more into all of this stuff, whereas I could care less what I wore.  Over the holidays we were hanging out and I was looking at her books and there was this one, Color Me Beautiful, that has been in our lives for decades.  Basically it tells you what season you are based on your hair color, skin complexion and eye color and then what colors look best.  I’m sure my sister has told me in the past of my category, but obviously I wasn’t paying attention.  Maybe this time I’ll remember, I’m a summer, specifically a soft summer.  The worst color list convinced me that this was true to my complexion.  I look like a ghost in black and red and when I was in first grade, I had a bright yellow shirt and every time I wore it the teacher asked if I was sick.

I do love all the soft summer colors that I should be wearing, the pale pinks and blues and greys.  This inspired my closet color palette: grey, navy and white as my neutrals and then accent colors of light pink, lavender, light blue and mint.  I like this concept because it means that these are my colors regardless of what’s in fashion at the moment.  It also ends the brown and black shoe conundrum and I can have grey shoes to match everything.  Off to my closet to see what I have in these soft summer colors.

Luckily I seem to like these colors, so after sorting through my clothes, these are the ones that fit into my color scheme:

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And these are the ones that don’t:

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In thinking about capsule wardrobes, I’m going to organize my clothes into four different wardrobes:

  • Cool weather work
  • Cool weather casual
  • Warm weather work
  • Warm weather casual

Now that I’ve sorted out colors, the next step will be to inventory what I have for making outfits in these different categories.

Simplify in 2019

I adore the feeling of a new year, a fresh start, like crisp, clean and warm sheets straight out of the dryer.  With the divorce now officially behind me, I feel as though I am free.  I get to make decisions without having to consider anyone else; I’m my own autonomous nation.  Perhaps I should run off to Nepal to meditate or learn to cook in Paris, but what I’ve learned on my journey through this happy life is to be authentic to who I am.  Not to who I think I should be, not to who others expect me to be, not to what would make for exciting blog posts, just to who I am without any concern for what others think.

My theme for 2019 may not be adventurous or exciting, but it’s what I crave and that is to simplify my life.  Simplify so that I have time for what really matters to me.  Cleaning a big house and mowing an even bigger lawn are two things I think my life is too short to be doing.  I want to have time to breathe and pursue my passions rather than feeling like I don’t have time because of a never ending list of must-dos.  I want to simplify the stuff in my life, but also my mind and habits and routines.  Here’s my plan for what to simplify in 2019.

2019 Simplify my..
  1. Jan: Clothes
  2. Feb: Food and kitchen
  3. March: Garage
  4. April: Electronics
  5. May: Home
  6. June: Hobbies
  7. July: Travel
  8. Aug: Office
  9. Sept: Technology
  10. Oct: Money
  11. Nov: Mind
  12. Dec: Goals

I plan to keep pursuing happiness habits that I explored last year with daily meditation and journaling along with a weekly gratitude list.  I’m also going to try to do something social weekly because I know I can easily be an introverted homebody.  Even though I sometimes have to drag myself out of the house, spending time with friends does make me happy.  I also want to keep acts of kindness in my life, but weekly was overwhelming, so I’m aiming for doing five acts of kindness once a month.  They definitely make me feel good and have a ripple affect on the people around me.

Guess it’s time for me to go and simplify those clothes in my closet..

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Happiness a Year Later

2018 ends tonight.  This was the year I aimed for happiness.  Looking back, happy isn’t exactly the word I would pick to describe the year my marriage officially ended.  I like data, so I went back to that happiness quiz that I took a year ago.  At the beginning of January 2018, my happiness score was 3.24, which was slightly below average.  I took the quiz again and got 5.21, which is very happy and above average.  The skeptic in me says this must be an anomaly because it’s Christmas vacation and the data lover in me thinks I should take the quiz over several days or weeks to get an average.  But I’ll conclude that my happiness has improved over the past year.

I only made it through nine months of my happy 2018 plan, but I’m happier now than I was a year ago.  I still have moments of sadness and anger.  I’ve learned through my year of pursuing happiness that it isn’t about being in a constant state euphoria.  Negative emotions still exist.  I’ve learned to let myself experience the bad, but not dwell and ruminate on it.  As difficult as going through a divorce was, it taught me that I can do anything and that the only person that controls my happiness is myself.

Scrolling back through 2018, I learned a lot about myself and developed healthy strategies for coping.  When my feelings get the best of me, I now want to meditate, go for a walk, or journal.  Depending on the strength of my emotions, I may do all three.  I’m on 231 consecutive days of meditation although I may have fallen asleep during some of those.  Meditation has become an essential part of my life and out of all the happiness strategies I’ve tried this year, it is the one that’s stuck and is the one that I turn to when life is overwhelming.

The other thing I learned is that pursuing happiness it is a constant journey with no destination.  It’s like exercising, you can’t workout for a year and then stop and stay fit.  So my happiness journey will continue.

Welcome 2019!

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A new year and new paths to explore.

The Big Day

Tomorrow is divorce day, one year and six months after my marriage came to a sudden end.  Blindsided describes it well.

I’ve been so busy the past couple of months that I haven’t had the time to sit and think about this impending day.  I guess it’s good that I haven’t been ruminating over my woes, but sometimes I go in the opposite direction of rumination and to avoidance.  I avoid thinking about something difficult and think that if I ignore it, it’ll go away.  Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way.  The sun rises and sets making the days slip away and the unwelcome day gets closer and closer.

I’m not sure how I feel about this day other than this anxiety that makes my gut send out waves of nausea.  Part of me feels relieved that it will be over with, to get on the other side, to have my freedom, to not be attached in any way to this person that I no longer love or even like.  Another part of me feels like a failure and dreads the title of divorcee, the label that says I wasn’t cut out to be a wife.  (Yes, I know this isn’t a rationale thought, but feelings aren’t always the most rationale things.)  Another part of me grieves for the life I planned with this person, a stable life where I could depend on him and know what to expect.  Then there’s the angry part, the rage that builds up that makes me want to scream at the unfairness of it all.

I don’t have a clue which feeling is going to win tomorrow.  My biggest dread is seeing him.  I haven’t seen him in over six months.  I keep telling myself that it won’t be a big deal, I don’t love him anymore.  I don’t even know him anymore.  It’ll be like meeting a stranger and signing some papers.  I’m pretty sure this is more of my denial.  I can’t erase eight years of my life with someone even if he didn’t turn out to be the person I thought he was.

I watched a TED talk about marriages falling apart because of affairs causing people to have PTSD symptoms.  After reading more about it, I could definitely see some of these symptoms in myself.  I’ll be going along with life, everything’s fine, I may feel content and even happy, then there’s a trigger.  Something reminds me of him, or her, or us and I crumble.  My anxiety goes into overdrive, I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight, I feel like I’m drowning.  It’s like I’m reliving the first moment of my world falling apart and all the progress I’ve made vanishes.

He is my landmine and tomorrow I have to look this trigger in the eye and see what the experience brings.

 

 

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My emotions feel like a raging river!

Acts of Kindness

I’m attempting to adjust to my back-to-school schedule and I haven’t been very successful.  Many of my goals and habits I want to work on have fallen to the wayside.  It’s only been two weeks, so I’m hoping I can ease my way back into all the things I want to be doing.

There’s also a nagging in the back of my mind.  It’s been over a month since our one year separation date and nothing.  Every day brings new anxiety of, will today be the day?  It is slowly driving me insane.  I seriously don’t understand why he would drag this out when this is what he wanted.  Of course my brain searches for rationale answers: maybe he forgot or has been too busy (which then leads me down a rabbit hole of how insignificant I was), maybe he’s waiting on purpose to force me to talk to him so he can convince me to be his friend, or maybe he’s hoping I’ll get tired of waiting and will file for divorce so that he can tell himself it’s what I wanted and relieve himself of guilt.

I just want this all to be over and in the past.

Breathe.

Anyway, I think this situation is a clear indication that I need to work on some happiness in my life.  With a new month, I have a new goal, which is practicing random acts of kindness.  My goal is to do three acts of kindness on one day this week and for the rest of September.  Studies have shown that when you perform these acts of kindness you get a happiness boost, plus you can get a bonus boost if you do a variety of acts instead of the same thing.  The acts don’t have to be big or dramatic, the person doesn’t even have to know you did it.  I will write down what I did and how it made me feel to savor the moment.  By performing these random acts I hope to promote kindness that will ripple through my community.

I have one act of kindness planned for tomorrow and that’s to give a coworker some pumpkin snickerdoodles that I baked yesterday.  He has a very long work day tomorrow, so hopefully a little treat will make it more bearable.  Then I’ll be looking out for opportunities to do two other things.

Spreading a little sunshine!

Spreading a little sunshine!

 

Savoring Life’s Joys

This is the eighth month of my happiness journey and even though life has gotten busy, I don’t want to stop my progress.  I’ve learned that happiness takes work and practice, so I want to keep going to see where it takes me.  I have noticed small ways that my mind has shifted after eight months of pursuing happiness.  Of all the techniques I’ve tried, meditation is the one that has stuck.  I find that when I get upset or stressed, I automatically want to meditate, which is a much better strategy than my old ways of ruminating or going down a path of negative self talk.

This month my focus is savoring life’s joys.  We often look towards the big events in life as our source of happiness, but these events don’t happen often.  To sustain happiness we need to look at and appreciate the mundane.  If you can find happiness in the ordinary moments of life then it’s much easier to maintain a positive outlook.

Savoring is about maximizing the positive effect of the good things in life.  We often overlook those little things that bring joy while focusing on the bad things.  Savoring helps us to dwell on the positive.  It’s a way to train our brains to ruminate on the good things, to take a positive or beautiful moment and relish it.  Our malleable brains then start to build connections erring on the positive, replaying the happy moments instead of negative ones.

There are many ways to savor life’s joy, this site lists ten that research has shown to work.  For the coming week I want to focus on the first one listed, which is share good feelings with others.  This ties in with last month’s focus of relationships because sharing positive moments builds connections with others.  My goal for the coming week is to share a good feeling with someone everyday.  Of course this requires the first step of noticing a good feeling, which will take some awareness.  We often gloss over daily joys because they are mundane, but noticing them can improve our happiness and sharing them increases the positive impact.

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Savor life’s joys like a butterfly drinking nectar.

 

 

Hello 40

I met my fourth decade on an unassuming Monday.   I’m not sure how I feel about this encounter.  There were no explosions, the ground didn’t fall out from beneath me, I didn’t transform into a wrinkled prune or suddenly sprout all grey hairs.  The sun rose and set just like any other day and I felt exactly the same as in the prior decade.

Meeting my fortieth year couldn’t be avoided and I should be grateful to have lived for this long, but the passage of time makes me reflect on the past, which is a slippery slope to rumination.  In many ways I feel like a failure at forty, which doesn’t align with my Happy 2018.  There’s so many articles online about the 40 things you should do before you turn 40, which seems to be a stark reminder of the things I haven’t accomplished.  So in an effort to look for the positive, I’ve decided to make my own list of the forty things I’ve done in my first forty years that I’m proud of.

Forty Fabulous Things I Did in My First Forty Years:

  1. Got on a plane by myself in high school and flew across the country to a summer camp where I knew no one.
  2. Went away to college.
  3. I was the first person in my family to get a college degree.
  4. The close friendships I made in college are still friends today.
  5. Spent a summer living in a tent in the Amazon.
  6. Got my Master’s degree.
  7. Joined a book club, read some good books and made some great friends.
  8. Went whitewater rafting.
  9. Got my Master’s research published in an international journal.
  10. Rescued a dog.
  11. Mentored students during their first years in college.
  12. Grew over a 1,000 lbs of vegetables in my garden.
  13. Learned to garden and preserve harvests.
  14. Learned how to bake bread and make yogurt.
  15. Stayed healthy and fit.
  16. Took a road trip.
  17. Went on a solo trip to Scotland.
  18. Spent New Year’s Eve in NYC with friends.
  19. Started saving for retirement early.
  20. Hiked and camped a lot.
  21. Paid off my student loans.
  22. Learned to use a camera in manual mode.
  23. Won a photo contest.
  24. Learned to identify most of the plant species in my region.
  25. Got my PhD.
  26. I don’t have a complete list of every book I’ve ever read, but I feel like I’ve read a lot over the years.
  27. Taught myself to knit.
  28. Overcame my fear of public speaking.
  29. Traveled abroad to three continents and visited 27 states in the US.
  30. Wrote a chapter in a published book.
  31. Got a job I enjoy.
  32. I have been a vegetarian for 25 years!  According to a Vegetarian Calculator, over those 25 years, 5,050 animals were not eaten and 40,225 lbs of CO2 didn’t go into the air and 5,970,175 gallons of water were saved.
  33. Saw a moma sloth and baby in the wild.
  34. Also saw a bear, moose, wolf (really far away), tapir, eagle, several species of monkeys, peccaries and many more species in the wild.
  35. Learned to meditate and do so regularly.
  36. Have friends and family that I can depend on and are there for me.
  37. Learned to drive a car, tractor and zero turn mower.
  38. Took lots of fun classes: woodworking, yoga, meditation, Zumba, kayaking, scuba, photography, writing.
  39. Joined a writers group, a hiking group, and a homesteading group.
  40. Finished the first draft of a novel.

I have to say that making this list made me feel better about my encounter with forty.  Hopefully I still have many more years to come, so here’s my list of things I’d like to do in this coming decade:

  1. Take my mom on an international trip.  I think she would love Ireland.
  2. Figure out how to go from a first draft to a published book.
  3. Be debt free.
  4. Learn permaculture and implement it where I live.
  5. Move to the mountains.
  6. Volunteer regularly.
  7. Start a community garden.
  8. Learn to listen to my intuition.
  9. Go backpacking.
  10. Make new friends and keep in touch with current friends.

Here’s hoping for another forty fabulous years!

 

Table Rock, South Carolina

My photo of Table Rock that won the South Carolina Wildlife Federation Photography Contest

 

 

Furry Friends

**If you are grossed about by images that include blood and surgery, do not scroll to the pictures at the end of this post!**

I’m supposed to be working on relationships this month and I have tried to communicate more with my family and last weekend I hosted a cookout for a meetup group in an attempt to work on new friendships and this coming weekend two friends are coming to visit.  What I’ve learned so far is that relationships take a lot of time and effort!  I know they are worth it, but I’m not sure how you’re supposed to balance being introverted with relationships.  I guess that’s something I need to work on.

There’s one relationship that has caused me much anxiety, worry and tears during this month.  It’s not that soon to be ex-husband.  Nope, it’s my dog.  I’m not sure if happiness researchers include relationships with pets as important, but having a dog as a companion definitely improves my happiness.  I know that my dog will never betray me and will always be happy to see me.  His loyalty is as strong as his ability to sniff out peanut butter!

As for the anxiety, worry and tears, my dog had surgery last Thursday for a very large fatty tumor in his abdomen.  The vet surgeon didn’t easy my worry because he basically said he wouldn’t know how hard the mass was going to be to remove or if it was even possible to remove until he got in there.  I went to a surgeon because my regular vet said he didn’t feel comfortable doing the surgery because he didn’t want to get in there and find out it was attached to important organs and have a catastrophe.   I know he was trying to be honest, but using the word catastrophe does not help ease anxiety!  I braced for the worst case scenario and shelled out the money for a surgeon.

The day before Domino’s surgery I took him on a doggy adventure, we went for a hike along a river where he did lots of splashing and sniffing and got to play with an old dog pal of his.  Next on the itinerary was a stop at the pet store to pick out some treats and then to the ice cream shop for a puppy sundae.

The next morning we had to get to the vet by 7 am, which wasn’t hard because I barely slept.  Domino slept pressed up tightly next to me, I’m sure he sensed my stress and didn’t know what was wrong.  We get there and I breakdown crying to the vet tech. I manage to leave Domino, make it to my car and sit in the parking lot crying for the next half hour.  I did listen to some meditations, it seems meditation is something that has stuck with me on this so-called journey to happiness.  I finally pulled myself together, but then had to wait for my phone to ring.

The call came less than two and a half hours after I dropped him off, the surgery went well, it was easy to remove and not attached to any organs.  The shocking news was that the fatty tumor weighed 12 lbs!  Domino weighed 52 lbs going into the surgery, so he was lugging around almost 20% of his body weight.

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Domino before with a big belly

After removal of a 12 lb intraabdominal lipoma

Domino after removal of a 12 lb lipoma!

After removal of a 12 lb intra abdominal lipoma

After: He’s so skinny!  I feel like a horrible dog mom for having him on a diet and making him walk around with a 12 lb weight.

If you want to know what a 12 lb lipoma looks like and how they get it out, then scroll to see pictures of the surgery and what they removed.  ****If that makes you squimish, then stop scrolling now!****

 

 

Surgery to remove a 12 lb intra abdominal lipoma

Surgery to remove a 12 lb intra abdominal lipoma

A 12 lb intra abdominal lipoma from a 52 lb black lab

A 12 lb lipoma!! I don’t understand how this fit inside of Domino!

Domino is home now and recovering.  He has a never-ending appetite and is thrilled that his dieting days are over as he gulps down pain pills buried in blobs of peanut butter.  He’s definitely has pain and soreness, the expected recovery time is two weeks.  I’m guessing after he feels better, he’s going to discover how easy it is to walk and run without a giant weight!

Friday Photos

This week marks two months of my daily pictures.  I do like taking photos, although there’s definitely days that I don’t feel like lugging my camera around even though it’s not that big and I feel at a loss for what to take a picture of.  This week was fireworks and frogs and feathers.

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Day 54: Last day of my workshop in NY and we got to go out in the field and play in the river.

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Day 55: Back home to lots of garden harvests

Green tree frog

Day 56: A green tree frog on my front door

Then it was back to the vet for Domino.  This time we had an appointment with a surgeon about his fatty tumor.  The problem is that they can’t tell how attached the tumor is to arteries and organs.  It may not be attached and really easy to remove or it may be so attached that they can’t remove it at all or it could be somewhere in the middle where removing is possible, but riskier.  I’m not a fan of uncertainty, so this has me very stressed and worried and sad.  He’s scheduled for surgery on the 19th and I really hope it’s the easy to remove option.

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Day 57: Domino walk time

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Day 58: Dragon fly

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Day 59: Happy 4th of July

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Day 60: A polka-dotted bird feather (I think it’s from a woodpecker)