Catch & Release

According to Bob, it was a big day at fish camp.  A record setting day of not only consistently catching fish but catching fish that become the stuff of legends. 

And it wasn’t just Bob who was catching them.  Brad broke all kinds of records. The whole boat got in on the action with the guide attempting to help three out of six people reel them in at the same time. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was reeling in some of my big projects and breaking them down into baby steps that will hopefully lead to breakthroughs.

I have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time it will take me to do certain things like create a playlist on my iPod or properly hang string lights along my deck or write a letter to United’s frequent flyer program requesting my miles get reinstated without a fee.

While I deem all of these things necessary, I tend to put them off during my regularly scheduled life because they require a certain kind of patience, intelligence, and tact I’m usually out of by the end of the work day.

Unfortunately, putting them off does not take them off my mental checklist.  Oh no.  They hang around the periphery of my awareness and slowly siphon energy off my already compromised reserve so that I’m never quite starting out the day with a full tank.

So this week I’m committed to taking care of the energy leaks and replenishing my supply with flowers, friends, canines, phone calls, and a little retail therapy.  I’m on what I fondly refer to as “turtle time,” although Bob might argue I’m always on turtle time.

This means I’m allowing myself the luxury of space and time to do the things I normally reserve for evenings and weekends without any expectations of how quickly or efficiently I do them.  Ironically, I’m getting a lot done.

The thing about most vacations is we often come back just as stressed as when we leave, or worse yet, sick because any number of new or random things have overloaded our system.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had a lifetime of adventures already and spend so much time at work that makes a week at home so thrilling for me.  Or maybe it’s that my life is so full that the thought of a week of relative peace and quiet is just as comforting as wearing sweatpants to a buffet.

I need time to digest the smorgasbord of delights that a day can hold.  Just because life offers me the all you can experience option, doesn’t mean I need to choose it all at once.  Just because everyone else is hurrying through the main course so they can take dessert with them in a to go bag doesn’t mean I can’t sit still and savor one or two selections. 

Some moments, days, experiences, even relationships are more of the catch and release variety.  By all means, I should go after them with gusto.  I should plan for them, anticipate their arrival, participate whole-heartedly when they do arrive, and celebrate their subtlety as well as their sensationalism.  And I should definitely document them.  (Bob’s photo says it all…. “I caught one this big!“)

I long to linger just long enough.  Kind of like the white tailed deer in my yard today.  She stayed just long enough to determine the deer Bob had placed by another tree was a decoy.  Looking for love in all the wrong places, she was.  Catch and release.  (You’ll have to look closely to see her in this photo.  If only I had taken a different angle you could see her object of affection as well.)

Maybe catch and release will become my motto for the summer.

There will always be bigger fish to fry, other fish in the sea, something fishy, you see (sea) where I’m going with this.  In the end, maybe life is one big lesson in catching and releasing.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I thought this might be the summer I resisted the power of the flower. But if this table is any indication, there is no joining the resistance this year.

The truth is, I love flowers.  I love the colors, the smells, the surprising way I can mix and match them in all kinds of cute and colorful containers.  I love to wake up and see them on my deck all happy and rooting for me to have a good day.  I love to water them and sing to them and call them by name.  Not their official name, mind you, but the names I carefully select for them.

In Move A Little, Lose A Lot , author James Levine suggests acquiring a plant and caring for it as a way to mirror the efforts required to make changes in our health.  Like plants, our goals and intentions need to be nurtured and cared for in order to thrive and grow.  Neglect them and it’s not pretty.

There are many studies that extol the benefits of plants in the workplace and home.  Not only can they help us be more productive but they can also reduce concentrations of toxic gases.  And don’t even get me started on all the possibilities for displaying their particular brand of beauty. 

Today instead of heading north to fishing camp, I stayed home and planted flowers in wheelbarrows, baskets, pots, and planters.  I planted from sunup to sundown stopping only for dog walks, tossing the ball to Jake, sharing my lunch with Abbey, and fielding phone calls from here to Baudette, the Walleye Capital of the World.

Last year I accompanied Bob and Brad to the famous waters in hopes of creating the optimal environment for my writing retreat.  While I managed one blog post from Minnesota, I learned it’s best to write where I know my supplies are.

This is mainly because I am so easily distracted.  Give me a pristine cabin with nothing to do but write and I will find a hardware store, grocery store, and nursery just so I can have the place spruced up, beautified, and smelling good by the time the boys get back at five.  Who has time to write when a minor makeover is clearly mandated?  And who can write without a Himalayan salt lamp or Calla lily nearby?

This year Bob enticed me by choosing a place that had a pool and would take dogs, so I would not be without my canine companion/muse or a way to work out the kinks of my storyline.  Still, knowing myself as I do, I realized I would write more if I opted for a “staycation” versus a vacation.

I live under this constant fantasy that if I just had more time to write, exercise, plant flowers, revamp my website, reconcile my financial statements, etc, I would.  The reality is I have as much time as everyone has.  How I choose to focus my energy determines if any of the above happens.

So this week I am staying put and staying focused.  In order to bloom where I am planted, I needed to consult a master gardener or two.  Prior to this week, I set up appointments with a doctor who practices functional medicine and booked a bamboo massage with the incredible Teisha.  I also downloaded and organized all my B-school material so I can start to envision my business and revamp my website so I’ll feel good and know what I’m doing by the time I head to my first Blogher conference next month.

As it turns out, staying home and staying on task requires as much strategic planning as a fishing trip.  Although my men will no doubt return with fish tales of the big ones that got away, I plan to be blogging about the little stories I’m reeling in along the way.

What’s on your summer schedule?  What strategic plans are in the works for you?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

All the World’s a Stage

Some days require a little more reflection than others.

Birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, new years, and holidays distinguish themselves from ordinary days not just by the rituals we perform around them but by the awareness and consciousness we bring to them.

Today is one of those days for me.  As I sit here in my birthday shoes (yes, Bob knows a pair of leopard print Danskos is the perfect gift) reflecting upon my life so far, I am overwhelmed with gratitude not just for all the good that has come my way, but for the grace that got me through the not so good.

Let’s face it, no story worth telling is without a puzzling plot, an intriguing setting, numerous conflicts, engaging characters, a nasty nemesis, and an unlikely hero. 

If Shakespeare is correct and all the world’s a stage  and men and women are merely players with their own exits and entrances and many parts, then I for one, would like to play my parts with gusto. Whether this day calls for a leading or supporting role in a comedy, tragedy, drama, or romance, I want to research my role with sheer abandon. 

A couple of years ago I met this gorgeous Scotsman on an Alaskan cruise.  He happened to be part of the talent team so I was one of many who fell instantly in love/lust with the guitar man.  Night after night I’d trot myself up to the lounge to listen to this guy sing to me (and admittedly a few others).

The night my niece and nephew went with me to whale watch as we listened, they pointed out that the Great Scot was looking at me as much as I was looking at him.  I passed this off as merely being the only one on deck who was in his age range and not using a walker.

On the final night with nothing to lose, I approached him under the guise of needing some insider information on the entertainment business for my blog.  It was one of those inevitable yet equally impossible encounters.  I’d waited a lifetime to meet someone I’d only get to know for a few hours.  I  could now draw upon this experience to play the part of Rose in the Titanic.

We talked about the creative life, the plight of the artist, being on the road, turning fifty, and at last, our mutual admiration.  Then the clock struck three and since the ship would set sail at six without me, this fairy tale ended as abruptly as it began. 

I think part of what happens when we fall for someone else is we actually fall in love with ourselves again.  In presenting all that is stunning and entrancing about our character it is alarming how charming we begin to feel.  No wonder we hardly can believe we’re real. For a brief interlude we lose track of the daily litany of our self-improvement causes and just love and let ourselves be loved in return.

When I returned to reality, grateful that my ship had not sunk or otherwise been detained in the middle of the ocean without food, drink, or bathroom facilities, I realized I had been looking for love in all the wrong places.

A real love story would require a person be present to win.  As unlikely as that seemed given my age, location, job, general aversion to being social or using a dating website, I got lucky. 

Enter Bob, stage left.  A new role begins.

Because I am living proof that love can happen at midlife, I’m tossing around the idea of adding another aspect to Midlife MacGyver for all my friends who are suddenly single at midlife by choice or by circumstance.  

Midlife Ms. Match might be the new addition.  Interested?  If so, let me know.  We’ll swap stories and and see what kind of community we can create.

Move A Little, Lose A Lot

I’m reading a book by James Levine, MD, PhD and Selene Yeager called Move A Little, Lose A Lot.   I originally heard about it at a session called Stand Up for Your Health at the Beyond Rubies conference I attended a few months ago. 

My career as a college administrator often involves a lot of sitting.  This is very different from my previous career as a fitness professional.  That job involved a lot of jumping, squatting, stretching,  sweating, and occasional swearing mixed in with woo-hooing.  It also demanded a very different wardrobe.  With the exception of superheroes, no one wears leotards and tights to work these days.

While I worked hard for the money  and earned my aching calves, the exhaustion I feel after a day of sitting is actually more incapacitating. Any mental toughness I can muster cannot compete with the couch.

Fortunately for me I have canines who need to exercise as much as I do.  They insist we shake our groove thing at least once a day.  But, according to Dr. Levine, once is not nearly enough.  We need to be active all day long.  Sitting is not at all what our bodies are designed to do.

This book is full of ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives that are relatively easy to incorporate.  Little things like standing while talking on the phone or physically performing some of the tasks our labor saving devices are designed to relieve us of can add up to a big difference throughout the course of the day.

These suggestions seem more manageable than carving out a hour or more for a fitness class and then not moving the rest of the day.  Bursts of activity throughout the day can be much more beneficial and keep our minds and bodies functioning at their best.

As much as I’d love to spend my time outside or in a pool or at home moving through my day, most of my work week is spent inside in a building behind a desk.  Saving the world requires a lot of paperwork.  (Capes, leotards, tights, and tiaras are apparently optional as stated earlier.)

This week I decided saving the world should start with saving myself.  So, I started moving stuff around. 

First, I switched out a low table for a high table to create a standing desk in the room next to my office.  Next I brought in a balance ball, a step, and a few weights.  My friend Ann offered to throw in her treadmill.  This way if anyone gets cranky, we put them in treadmill time out.  Instead of sitting in a corner and thinking about their behavior, students and staff will have to work it out by walking it out until they are no longer cranky.

Then we transformed the resource room into a rejuvenation room.  When Bob and I combined our households we had two of everything.  Loveseats and lamps I once loved now live in the Rejuve Room, making this makeover priceless.

Call it spring cleaning or call it whatever you call that thing that happens before a birthday or a big trip that suddenly makes getting your affairs in order and your energy aligned muy importante.  In any case, a little movement was necessary.

One of my favorite mugs is of a woman looking down at the scales with the caption, “This week’s goal:  Lose something other than the keys to the car.”  If all this movement results in losing something other than the keys to the car, I’ll be thrilled. 

But the real goal has already been achieved.  The office feels energized and I love the creativity and collaboration that happen around the standing desk. 

Now I’m off to save the world so I can blog about it!

Losing My Religion

The other night Bob wanted to go see the movie “Heaven Is Real.”  Being the movie buff that I am, I gladly agreed and off to the movies we went.

A movie theater in a town the size of Maquoketa is quite a luxury. Although we usually go to movies on Tuesday night when the movies are matinee priced or Wednesday night when the popcorn is free, we decided to splurge and go on a Friday night.

That was our first mistake.

Because of a limited number of things for people to do in town on date nights, going to the movies is an extremely popular choice.  When I saw the line wind around the corner, I suggested we come back another time. Crowds are not my scene and I thought this movie in particular might be better viewed in a more intimate environment. 

Bob assured me the crowds were for Spiderman 2 and we’d be fine.  Not wanting to be a party pooper, I conceded.

One thing I’ve learned over the years besides “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” is this.  If something makes you crazy and you know it, trust your gut.

As I suspected, there were as many people in our movie as there were in Spiderman 2.  I selected the first available row with two seats together.  Bob shuffled off to get popcorn as I previewed coming attractions.

When people sit in close proximity, you can learn a lot about them very quickly.  Sometimes it’s subtle like their personal hygiene preferences or obvious like their take on parenting or the adverse effects of too many concessions.

During our movie the point of contention was a rogue cell  phone.  Alarmingly the phone in question was suspiciously close to me.  Although I’m not one to get or receive many calls, mainly because I never know the exact location of my phone,  I feared perhaps this was the precise moment had left it on in my purse.

After a moment of panic, I assured myself my phone was on vibrate and later discovered it wasn’t even at the movie with me.  That did not stop the woman in front of me from turning around and glaring at me, clearly assuming this would shame the offending phone into silence.  I had no choice but to confess to the back of her head, “It’s not my phone.”

A few moments later the person behind me got up and left the room to have a conversation with the insistent caller.  She later returned to fill anyone within earshot of the who, what, when, where, why and how of the call.

Despite the uplifting message of the movie, I left in a funk. I’ve come to accept I will be blamed for things I have nothing more to do with than being at the right place at the wrong time.  It’s part of my job as little big cheese. 

But movie theater etiquette or any number of civility or entitlement issues have me perplexed. This is why it’s best for me not to encounter large crowds at the end of a work week.

Forgive them for they know not what they do,” is a really hard sentiment to practice.

This is why losing my religion has more to do with the congregation than the message.  If the point is to love one another, why do we insist on blaming, shaming, judging and disrespecting each other?

I will never lose my sense of wonder and awe for all that is mysterious and divine. My life is nothing if not one continuous quest for truth, beauty, love, and a cute pair of comfortable shoes. 

It’s just walking in someone else’s shoes takes a great deal of compassion, tolerance, and grace.  Fortunately, I have a closet full of practice shoes.