Priorities

I admire list-makers.

The people who enjoy putting their various to-do’s down on paper, who glean satisfaction from checking items off, and who have the diligence to get things done in such a clean and tidy fashion.

I am not so clean, tidy, or diligent with my life.

I make shopping lists when I go to the grocery store to keep myself from coming home without the goods I actually need versus the two-for-$5 bags of sweet potato chips I love, the tasty sounding lemon olive oil in a pretty bottle, and the crunchy cracker mix I eat while I’m still shopping.

I make lists at work of  the little tasks that would fall between the cracks if I didn’t have them written down.

But lists for things I need to get done in my own life? On a day-to-day basis?

Nope, not so much.

I feel constricted by lists, and I get annoyed when they don’t allow for the whimsy and unplanned fun that I get the most satisfaction from. Lists also make me feel stressed out; seeing task after task needing to get done makes me feel defeated and ready for a nap.

But something came over me on Friday morning, and I was a list-making machine. I wrote down all the things I planned to accomplish on Saturday, and felt my excitement growing as I mentally navigated my way through the day. Maybe this is why people love making lists, I thought. Maybe I can be a list person!

A whole slew of errands would take me into the neighborhood where my parents live, so I thought it would be a nice treat to stop by and see them at lunchtime. We used to have brunch together every Sunday, just the three of us, but that tradition trailed off somewhere over the summer. I brought the last of a homemade pumpkin cake to share, and felt so proud that I could incorporate a visit with them into my uncharacteristically list-oriented day.

We sat down for lunch and caught each other up on the basics of what was new and what was coming up. Then a fresh pot of coffee was brewed, the cake was divided, and the conversation found its way to the more meaty bits.

Life has presented some spirit-challenging events for my family over the past six months, and things finally seem to be reaching a place where my parents can catch their breath. We reflected on a few of the recent struggles, and began to articulate what the fresh beginnings emerging from some of the changes might look like. We talked about their newly rekindled love of playing music together, their thoughts about new things to fold into their newly restructured life, and we talked about the delicate art of letting things go. I recounted some recent memories I had of them from when I was in my teens, memories that sent a shock of gratitude through me as I was able to see their generosity and openness through the lens of an adult.

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What had originally been “on the list” to be lunch and a visit with my parents turned into a three-hour spree of soul nourishing conversation. After hugs and a goodbye in the living room that lasted 15 minutes, I got back into my car and reassessed my list. I knew it all wasn’t going to get done. And it didn’t matter to me at all.

For better or for worse, this is what makes me not a list person. Tasks and to-do’s will always take the backseat to an unexpected invitation, the inclination to bake something from scratch, or the opportunity to savor another cup of coffee at the kitchen table with my parents.

Ultimately, I think letting our collective “to-do’s” fall to the wayside for a few hours to spend the time reconnecting was all we really  needed to get done, anyways.

Perhaps someday my life will require me to be more diligent with getting things done.

But not today. And, blessedly, not on this past Saturday.

Do you get excited to make lists? Do you follow through with them? How do you prioritize what gets done in your life?

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The Beastly Month

Winter comes in gradually where I live. Early autumn brings hazel colored light, long shadows, blazing red and yellow leaves, and a crispness to the air that feels most welcome after a summer of heavy, sticky heat. By Thanksgiving, the ground is (hopefully) frozen and mornings arrive with a soft frost over the grass and bare branches. The sky, when it’s clear, turns a milky blue, and the chill of the wind strengthens it’s bite. By Christmas, we (usually) have snow, and the heaps of white reflect the glow of streetlights and helps to make the deep darkness of the evenings feel a bit more soft and gentle.

January is when the hammer drops. January is a cold, hard, beast of a month.

As a lifetime Minnesota girl, I’ve come to know this cycle well. Yet, only over the past few years have I started to learn how to relish the stillness and peace that come with winter, particularly after the glitter of the holidays has settled.

On the coldest days, when the sun is shining, it’s like you’ve never seen the anything so brilliant. Standing in it, drinking it up, is like pouring water down into the thirstiest part of your soul.

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I got home from work a little early today, just in time to catch the sun as it crept out of the clouds on it’s way to a pink sunset. I live close enough to the Mississippi River to walk to it’s bank, one of my favorite places in the entire city, so I scrambled out the door to get there in time to soak up the last bits of light.

You know what I realized on my way?

The days are getting longer.

I didn’t need to scramble. I didn’t need to rush.

I lingered on the bridge, on the highest point of the arch, where the fierce river wind was whipping but the sunshine was strong. I stood there for awhile, taking turns looking down at the half-frozen water, upstream towards the city skyline, and back to the sun, whole and wide in the January sky.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more satisfying.

Back down by the bank of the river, shielded from the wind, I stood on the frozen spaces between the rocks. The ice creaked and moaned. The city sounds were muffled. The light had faded to a pale grey.

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These moments are the generous, comforting, soft pockets that get me through the raw Minnesota winters.

There’s a Canadian front coming in next week, and we are looking at highs of -3 F. I’m praying for some sunshine.2013-01-16_1358376035

Do you live where it’s cold during the winter months? What’s your tonic to the winter winds? 

Creating Space

At a previous job, my boss held weekly team meetings which gave us all a chance to re-cap our workload and update each other on the status of our projects. During particularly stressful stretches (which were more often than not), my colleauge would close her updates endearingly with a sweep of her hand and the brisk statement of, “Well, moving on!”

This statement sums up how life has been feeling for me lately.

My last post was December 20th, and since then Christmas, New Years, and the re-entry to working life have all passed. Life feels like it’s barreling forward, and I’m all but trying to keep up. During this particular time of year, with the richness and indulgence of holiday gatherings followed so closely with the reflection and contemplation of New Year’s; how could a girl not feel a little out of breath?

I intended to write a whole post about Christmas, which included a shift in traditions that left me in tears after brunch on Christmas day. It was the first time I had ever split my Christmas to attend someone else’s family gathering, and I came to realized that from here on out my holiday traditions will be evolving and changing. Sometimes I face changes boldly, and other times they break my heart. Even though I was warmly welcomed joining my partner’s family for their festivities (which included caroling and an improv Christmas play directed by a very special first-grade nephew), I still felt a stab of sadness leaving my own family before the Christmas dinner I grew up with.

Before I could process that whole slew of emotions, it was New Year’s Eve. I spent the day ice skating, wearing clip-on rhinestone earrings, and dancing with my honey in the the living room of new friends.

Now it’s back to work, where we are gearing up for our busy spring season, smoothing out the glitches from a recent technology upgrade, and planning for a huge event in California next month.

And I’ve just been “moving on!” through all of it.

It’s the time of year of resolutions, fresh intentions, and wholehearted attempts at bringing new vigor to our daily lives. I have varied thoughts about New Year’s resolutions, but I usually land on the I-don’t-make-them end of the spectrum. Not necessarily because I don’t believe in them, or am too cynical to think they are useless, but more so because by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I haven’t taken the necessary time to reflect on the past year to know what I would like to do differently.

I have a tendency to be in one place, and wish I were in another. To be eating something, and soon wishing I hadn’t. To plan things, and then wish I had the free time. It’s chronic and quite frankly, it’s irritating. It deters me from enjoying where I am, and it takes me away from being fully present. It also makes it all the more easy for me to just think, “Well, moving on!” without pausing for reflection. I did this with much of the holidays, and they ended up breezing on right past me.

I think it’s time to slow down a little. It’s time to sink in and allow more space for savoring, relishing, enjoying, and reflecting. Enough with the barreling forward, relentlessly onward and upward. We’re all moving that direction, regardless of whether we shove ourselves uphill or take it slow and steady.

I’m 8 days late to the game the time ’round, and I won’t go so far as to say it’s a New Year’s Resolution, but I am setting an intention: to catch myself in those “moving on!” moments and work to create more space for dedication to the present. 2013 is shaping up to be filled to the brim, and I deeply want to embrace it all – but I need to learn to pause every now and again and take stock of where I am today.

It’s a tall order – wish me luck!

I’m curious: Do you have thoughts surrounding New Year’s Resolutions? Did you make any this year? If you have chosen to make 2013 goals/resolutions/intentions, how did you decide on what was most important?

Sweat and Other Forms of Awesomeness

I have a confession to make.

I love group fitness classes.

Over the past several years, I’ve taken everything I can get my hands on: step-aerobics, circuit-training, TRX, Zumba, trapeze, Pilates, Pilates barre, power yoga, deep-water aerobics. I even bought a Groupon for classes at a pole-dancing fitness studio, but I forgot about it until after the pass had expired.

I love exertion, sweat, trembling muscles, and the feeling of being utterly spent.

My newest experiment is Crossfit. Maybe you’ve heard about it? If you do a Google Search, you’ll find videos of unbelievably chiseled men and women lifting weights to motivational narrative and music. Nobody at my Crossfit gym looks like those people, but I suppose it’s great marketing. The classes are filled with barbels, rowing machines, pull-up bars, climbing ropes and scary moves called the “snatch, clean, and jerk.” It’s amazing and terrifying. But mostly terrifying.

After my work-out last night, I had dinner with my friend who knows me so well we may as well be sisters. Barbara saw me rubbing my shoulders as she pulled plates out of the cupboard, and asked if I was feeling sore. I explained my new classes, and told her how excited I was to be using my body in a way that feels so fresh, new, and out of my comfort zone.

We talked about routines and adapting to change, and marveled at how quickly we absorb the new elements we add to our lives. The rapid speed we are able to turn “newness” into “normal” struck me, and got me to thinking about how often I flip into auto-pilot during the day. I was a bit saddened to think that when things don’t feel new, they can sometimes feel like nothing.

But that doesn’t have to be true!

I decided to make a list of all the new things I’ve done and learned so far this month, and the process helped me remember that there is newness happening nearly every day.

Here’s a little sample:

  • Ran a 5k while wearing a fake moustache
  • Made homemade soup using Sunchokes (WHATchokes? My thoughts exactly.)
  • Learned a new strand of HTML
  • Wrote my first blog post!
  • Won a prize in a raffle drawing (a haircut at a fancy salon!)
  • Applied to be on the board of my local farmer’s market
  • Learned how to properly secure a Christmas tree onto the roof of my car
  • Took my niece to see  her first performance of The Nutcracker
  • Took my Mom to her first ever yoga class
  • Had my picture taken with a real, live reindeer
  • Played in the first snowfall of the season
  • Slipped and fell on the ice for the first time of the season
  • Lived through the most painful massage of my life (A Groupon I should have let expire, and another adventure with Barbara.)
  • Learned all the components of the “snatch, clean, and jerk” weightlifting technique – and I did it a whole bunch times!

So, I try new exercise classes when I feel like my life needs a kick-in-the-pants and it’s simply not practical to quit my job and move across the country. I love a hearty dose of physical challenge when the rest of things are feeling sluggish; it’s my way of channelling the restlessness that sometimes creeps its way in. But now I think I’ll keep this little method of list-making tucked away for future times when I’m feeling a twinge of the auto-pilot-blues and my muscles are just too sore to make it to another work-out class.

Try it and tell me! What are 3-5 new things you’ve done this month? I would LOVE to hear about your excitement!

Birthday Time

Until recently, I was convinced that I was 27 years old. My boyfriend did the math for me during the summer, when I was so stubbornly sure that I could.not.possibly be only 26. Turns out, he was right.

It’s my birthday this week. I will be turning 27. I did that math, and I’m sure it’s true.

This birthday ushers me into the last stretch of my 20’s, which brings a bit of reflection and a tremendous amount of relief. My 20’s have been jam-packed with all manner of awesome and ouch. I’ve created the strongest friendships I’ve ever know, I’ve run marathons, and I’ve taken on and succeeded in roles that I couldn’t have dreamt of for myself 7 years ago. But, I’ve also found myself with more questioning, confusion, and fear than I would care to readily admit.

My 20’s have been a series of land-in-my-lap opportunities, curious observations, painful self-discoveries, and lessons on how to stretch, adapt, and find room for it all to fit. These past seven years have sometimes felt strange and  uncomfortable, an ugly truth which I have fought and ignored with equal measure.

But then I talk to other people, and women in particular. Women whose assertiveness, style, zest, and grace give me something to strive for. These women are generously blessed with more years and experience than I, and they tell me that all of this confusion and discomfort grows more simple the longer you keep at it. They tell me that life doles out situations and challenges that reveal our personal shadows, our resolve, and the strongest versions of ourselves. And really, it’s the strongest version of ourselves that we’re all working to uncover, right?

I’ve noticed, more so within the last two or three years, that each year leaves me with a clearer sense of my particular strengths, a better gauge for what works for my life, and a little less hesitation to re-arrange accordingly. I owe that to my 20’s. To which, I say:

Cheers to 27.

Cheers to the next three years.

Cheers to all that undoubtably lies ahead.

Tell me: If you’re in your 20’s, how are you doing? What have been the challenges and the triumphs? If you’ve already got your 20’s under your belt, what do you remember most about them? What did you learn?

And Now We Begin

Last Christmas, my Mom and Dad presented me with a wonderful new camera. The gift came with encouragement to “start working on that blog of yours!” Here I am at the beginning of the following December, just now making an honest daughter of myself by writing the first post.

The truth is: I’ve been really scared to do this. A messy little mix of intimidation, self-doubt, and procrastination have kept me from being here, sharing what I’ve got with you.

Self-doubt and procrastination. So appealing, right?

I wanted to start this blog because I am attracted to the notion that life is a slow and steady accumulation of the big and small things we do each day. I like to think that life doesn’t necessarily get all of it’s richness from the grand and splashy moments; but rather the softer, quieter, in-between times.

I am also attracted to the generosity of other bloggers who share their ideas, adventures, worries, and triumphs with their readers. The bloggers I love most remind me that it’s cool to love being in the kitchen more than out on the town, that it’s awesome to take Sunday afternoon naps, and they help affirm that going out for run and making a batch of homemade granola equals a knockout day.

I’m still scared, but I’m also ready to join the leagues of  bloggers out there documenting and making sense of their lives one post at a time. Thanks so much for joining me, and I sincerely hope you’ll stick with me as I foray into this new space.

Let me know what you think. Is it silly to be nervous about starting a project like a blog? What do think about life being a collection of daily routines and moments? Leave me a comment below and we’ll chat!

big hug,

Katie

p.s. I’ll start putting that camera to good use soon. One thing at a time. Baby steps.