Life Lately: Heat Wave

Phoenix weather forecast

June 20-25, 2017

OMG you guys… I went on my adventure to Spain last week with my friend, had a lovely time, then returned to the deepest level of hell. My dad would say that’s being overdramatic, but there was one day where flights were canceled because it was too hot to operate the planes!! Ugh.

Monday morning I walked into the Orange County, CA airport with a sweater on; I walked out of the Phoenix, AZ airport and lost my breath. It was so hot my eyes felt like they were shriveling up in their sockets. Yes, it is a “dry heat” – ta! for the reminder – but let me enlighten you a bit on that “dry heat” – go and turn your oven on to 400 degrees (350 will also work for a 110 example; 400 is needed for the 120 effect). I’ll wait…… When pre-heated, place your face near the door and open it. That woosh that happens when you first open the door, that’s what it felt like walking out of the airport.

And Monday wasn’t even the hottest day this week! Tuesday flights were canceled because it was too hot for the planes to operate (seriously)! By Friday there were pictures all over social media showing various things melting. Luckily, the heat wave is supposed to break tomorrow, but summer is only just getting started…

So, why am I still here? Excellent question. This will be my 9th summer in Phoenix. When I first moved here, I was actually a fan of the heat. It was, after all, a “dry heat,” which at the time was much better than the tropical humidity of Miami, FL. All I really cared about was that it was warm, sunny, and free of major natural disasters. Phoenix is my shining example of that whole “be careful what you wish for” adage. Unfortunately, every year the summers are a little more difficult for me to take. I know what’s coming, but the temperatures never fail to surprise me somehow. I suspect it’s those lovely winters that do such a fabulous job of lulling me into complacency. I have a growing respect for the methods of the snow birds (summer in the north, winter in the south).

I find that the extreme temperatures wreak havoc on my body now days. I suspect the FM is to blame for that, but I’m mostly left counting down the days til there may be a break in the heat and dreaming of winter destinations. My whole outlook on climates has done a total 180 – bring on the snow! Although I’m calling this a lesson learned and heading to more temperate climes. I can always visit colder – or hotter – places, but there’s no need to live in one or the other.

Tossa De Mar, Spain

Along the Spanish coast

Yes, ladies and (perhaps) gentlemen, after almost a decade, I finally have a plan for my future that feels right, even exciting! Tentatively, this plan is to move back home to my dad’s house early next year. In an interesting turn of events, I will be keeping my current job and working remotely. If things work out okay, we may even open an east coast office; we’ll see how that goes. My five year goal is to get myself back in grad school for an MA in English Literature. Law school was my family’s dream for me; my dream was to be an English Professor. I tried their way, now I’m keen to try my own. I also have about a hundred ideas for things to do in the meantime, thinking of which keeps me sane during the long hours of intense sunshine. I have finally landed on a plan that I’m sure about – I haven’t felt this way since college to be honest, and it’s so nice to be excited about the future again!

I think I’ve needed to take a step back to reevaluate for some time now, but I had to wait until I was ready to understand what that meant. This plan allows me to stay in my comfort zone just enough to not be afraid to move forward with it. I’ll be able to help with my grandmother, and I’m hopeful that this will be just enough change to alleviate most of the stress that triggers the FM flares. It won’t be all rainbows and butterflies, I know that. I’ve resisted moving back for 15 years; I’m well aware of what awaits me. But I’m willing to give it a go, to take this step back in order to better see what my next step forward will be. The fact that I’ll have seasons again (even if not quite so pronounced as they might be elsewhere) is just a huge bonus! (smile)

Roadway through the painted desert, Arizona

My first “featured” photo on Instagram! @instagramaz

So life lately has been a combination of naps in cool places (heat fatigue is real), daydreaming about the future, and trying to appreciate every final moment here in the desert. There’s been a fair amount of travel in there as well (smile), but that will die down now until September (yay Alaska!).

Oh yes, I suppose there’s one other thing I wanted to share today… I’ve created a photography website! I’m not quite sure to what end exactly, but I felt compelled to create a separate space for my photos. It really all started with Instagram (as things do) and snowballed from there! The site doesn’t have much on there yet, but it’s been fun getting everything set up! I’ve got quite a few post ideas for this space, which I’m planning to share now that the travel is done for awhile. Then again, they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I wonder if that’s how I ended up here?! (ha!) Probably best to put those good intentions into play and actually post lest I land myself in another heat wave! 😉

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Anxiety Advice

Recently, I shared my own mental health story with you guys. That was a difficult post to hit publish on, but I’m glad I did. Today I thought I’d share a few of the different methods I personally use to control my anxiety in particular. Most of these have the added benefit of helping with my depression and/or fibromyalgia, which makes them all win/win/win in my book!

yoga mat, Mindfulness in Plain English

1.  Diet & Exercise: Above and beyond anything else, changing my diet has made the biggest difference in the way I feel. I didn’t make any immediate or drastic changes, but rather I started with the small things – for example, I drink one caffeinated drink in the morning before switching to water or herbal tea for the rest of the day. Cutting out the excess caffeine cuts down on the anxiety and drinking more water keeps me better hydrated. Fun side note – I’ve discovered that no matter what’s wrong with me, drinking water helps 99% of the time. Turns out dehydration can cause all sorts  of chaos I’d never known about, but luckily I’ve discovered the secret to “drowning” it out – haha.

Exercise is the next best treatment. Let me be frank here, I hate exercising for a purpose. I don’t enjoy pushing my body to its limits, particularly if it’s just to meet some arbitrary social standard. I can, however, get behind the whole deal if it makes me feel better. So, I walk – a lot. I also start most mornings with 20-30 minutes of yoga. I hike on the weekends whenever possible. All of these gradually keep my body strong but also have the added benefit of soothing me mentally. You have to find those things you enjoy, that make you happier, that aren’t an even bigger challenge to you than the worry you’re trying to combat in the first place! The most important thing is to keep moving.

2. Meditation: Of everything on this list (with the exception of talk therapy), this is the one that’s hardest for me. If you suffer from anxiety/depression/etc., spending “quiet time” in your own mind seems like an oxymoron. There are all sorts of apps out there now that assist with meditation (the free version of Headspace is awesome by the way), but none of those are necessary. Do a bit of background research – there are all sorts of different ways to meditate. You can do the version that follows a voice (aka guided meditation; your breath (aka breathing meditation); a sound (like a gong, mantra, etc.); a candle / light of some sort; or any one of many other versions. You have to find what works for you!

I’m going to share a secret with you today that really helped me. When I first tried meditation, none of these worked for me. I was just too distracted and more often than not, I ended up more frustrated at the end of the 10 minutes than when I started. Then someone told me about an exercise that can help – a warm up if you will to prepare yourself for a more traditional form of meditation.

For 10-15 minutes a day, leave your phone in the other room, turn off the tv and any other electronic distractions, put your book down, find a quiet place free of interaction with any distraction, and just sit with yourself. Let the thoughts come, but don’t argue with them – just notice what they are. There will likely be boredom and a bit of panic, but sit through it.  If you can help it, don’t daydream or allow yourself to focus too long on any one topic – let your mind run the gamut. It’s an incredibly difficult exercise that often doesn’t feel as worthwhile as it is. You see, once you’ve done this often enough, you become familiar with yourself and the thoughts you might typically encounter. So when you venture into a more typical form of meditation, you know what to expect – the thoughts, the feelings, etc. – so there are less surprises. You’re better prepared to view them dispassionately and to just let them pass on a more subconscious level. it takes the pressure off and allows for a more relaxed meditative state. And there’s nothing quite so nice as a 10-minute break from yourself… (smile)

3.  Essential Oils: This one is my favorite. You can use essential oils in a number of ways – aromatically, topically, internally, etc. I will say that they do take a fair amount of research though. First you need to find a reputable place to buy them as they are not all created equal. I can make some recommendations, but the biggest things to look is where the oil comes from (not every plant on this earth should be grown in the U.S.) and it’s Latin name. These two indicators generally give you a good idea of quality. The ranking in the descriptions isn’t regulated, so it’s hard to depend on. And quality becomes a really important factor if you decide to use the oils topically or internally.

Aromatherapy is my personal favorite. I have a couple diffusers set throughout my home. Depending on how I feel, I mix and match the oils to get the effect I want. At first I didn’t believe this would work, but even in my darkest mood, certain smells can make me happy. Some days it even makes me a bit non-plussed at how well this works, but it does work, so I can’t really complain! Find what works for you and go with it – everyone has a different preference.

Topically and internally are a bit trickier for essential oils. It’s almost never a good idea to apply an oil directly to the skin or to put it on your tongue. In both cases the oils should be mixed. For topical application, a carrier oil (coconut, argon, grapeseed, etc.) is used to dilute the essential oil. Likewise for internal use the oil should be mixed with water, juice, etc. In both cases there are some oils that are just no go. For example, wintergreen is one of my favorite smells, but can be quiet poisonous if applied to the skin or taken internally (improperly, which it almost always is outside of candy, etc.). It’s really important to do your research.

4.  Vitamins / Supplements: Other than diet and exercise, I’ve noticed the most long-lasting and consistently positive results from taking a specialized cocktail of vitamins and supplements. The vitamins involved, the brands, the dosage, all of that has been a series of trial and error, but luckily my doctor was there to help me through it all. If I miss a day of any one of these I don’t immediately notice a difference, but I try not to miss more than one a week. It seems like vitamins and supplements really need to be taken consistently to be most effective. My blend comes from both my doctor’s recommendations and my own independent research. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the holistic journey, it’s how to research. (smile)

I will say that much like essential oils, this can be a tricky treatment option. In the U.S., vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated like prescription drugs. This means that products vary wildly and there are no consistent standards across brands. Furthermore, some vitamins can have negative interactions with prescription drugs. Allergic reactions can also occur. For all of these reasons and so many more, it’s incredibly important to discuss any vitamins or supplements you may consider taking. At the very least you should ensure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of which ones you take regularly so they can warn you of any possible interactions. I’ve found both to also be good sources for finding reliable brands and for figuring out the proper dosage. And that brings up another point – most vitamins and supplements contain way more of an item than you may need. In some cases, taking the recommended dosage from the bottle can even lead to an overdose for your system! Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions of those in the know.

5.  Therapies – Talk & Massage: Of all these options, therapy of any sort is my least favorite. I’m uncomfortable talking about the cause of all these issues, especially in being pressed on ways to change the situation. I also get really tired of hearing the same advice over and over. I’ve studied enough psychology in school to know the basic techniques and frankly not only are the conversations uncomfortable, sometimes they can also be downright boring. It’s like repeating a conversation I’ve already had in my head a thousand times out loud – it can be frustrating. I also have a bad tendency to tell the person what they want to hear in order to avoid deeper conversation. Because of this tendency, this is usually one of my first confessions to the good doctor. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when they then later fail to realize this is what I’m doing. But that’s neither here nor there – the important point is to find someone you like. In order for talk therapy to be useful, you really have to connect with the person you’re talking to. My favorite therapist was someone who would totally call me on my BS – it perturbed me at first, but then I really grew to appreciate her style. Those sessions with her have been the most productive of any of them, and I always feel better after.

Massage therapy may be a bit of a surprise, as most people enjoy massage. I, however, don’t like to be touched – particularly by strangers. The idea of stripping down and having hands all over me does not, therefore, really rock my boat. However, must like the talk therapist, you just have to find someone you connect with. I still get really tense, but I’ve found that focusing the massage only on certain areas really helps relieve and limit the tension. Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about float therapy, where you float in a pod of saline water. I haven’t tried it – yet – but it’s definitely on my radar. I’ll let you know how that goes!
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You’ll notice that these are holistic options – that’s because drug therapy is so unique to each individual. I’m not a doctor and so I have zero basis for recommending any one drug over another. And in all cases, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about any therapy you wish to integrate into your treatment, particularly if it involves a major life change.

Anxiety Advice: A Holistic Approach to Dealing with Anxiety

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Life Lately: It’s Officially Fall!!

fall landscape, Iceland

Before I left for Iceland I remarked to my friend that maybe the weather would actually feel like fall by the time I got back. She had a good laugh and congratulated my wishful thinking. Of course when I returned and the weather had cooled considerably, she conceded and then we started plotting lotto numbers  🙂

I ❤ fall, autumn, harvest, or whatever other name you want to call it. This season speaks to me on every level and I’m never quite so content as I am sitting amongst the colorful foliage. I always thought there were two (dominant) names for fall just because it was the most awesome season (smile), but turns out it seems to be a Brit vs. American thing. (This Slate article does a good job of summarizing.) I tend to use autumn a lot, just because it feels richer on the tongue, but I don’t truly care so long as the air is crisp!

Reykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik city view from Hallgrímskirkja Church

Anyway, if you follow me on Instagram (or read last month’s post), then some of you may have noticed I went to Iceland this month. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super excited about the trip. I was tired and being the designated trip coordinator responsible for two other perfectly capable individuals just didn’t appeal. Even the first couple days didn’t win me over…but then, oh then we left the tourists behind and found the true beauty of the island. By day 4 I was wishing the trip were longer! (smile) Iceland is awesome, majestic, overwhelming, and…friendly. Surprisingly friendly given how rude some tourists can be – I give the locals a nod for putting up with us invaders!

I relied heavily on Instagram for my off-the-beaten-path discoveries for Iceland, which was a different sort of avenue for me. It actually worked out pretty well and I’m definitely excited to share the photos soon!

Vik beach, Iceland

In other news, as I sit here at my desk eating a donut and drinking a beer (lunch of champions people), I’m also researching recipes for October. Sadly not for scrumptious baked goods but rather Whole 30 approved fine dining. Normally I mock people mercilessly for jumping on diet bandwagons, but here I sit, humbled. The program was recommended to me for health reasons and I’m hoping it helps. My diet has been all over the board these last few months and my body really feels it. There were things I missed out on in Iceland because I just didn’t feel up to the adventure. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me, and I am determined it will be the last (or at least a super rare occurrence). Whole 30 is meant to reset your eating habits, which is what I need right now. Here’s hoping the daily yoga practice can offset the grouchiness of a restricted diet! (And yes, I am indulging shamelessly this week #sorrynotsorry)

I did not finish this year’s summer reading challenge, unfortunately, because I got totally sidetracked in reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). I’m a huge fan of the show and with nothing but time before Season 7, and since the show has now surpassed the books, I figured the series was worth a read. This is probably one of the only times I’ve ever said this, but so far I like the show better. (shocked face – I know) I’m not sure if it’s because I was such a fan of the show first or what, but I have almost no complaints about the way the show has condensed the story. Outlander on the other hand…

Hvítserkur, Troll of Iceland

Hvítserkur (aka Troll of West Iceland; aka Drinking Dragon)

Also, WordPress just reminded me that today is my 4-year anniversary. Crazy to think that 4 years ago I signed up for an account and I’m still here! It’s been such an awesome experience and even when I haven’t been as active as I might like, it’s been a huge comfort to know there’s such an awesome community out there. I’ve enjoyed participating in that community so much these last 1,460+ days – thank you all for being awesome!!  😉

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Life Lately: Something To Look Forward To

Well, here we are at the end of the third quarter staring down fall and my favorite 3 months of the year. Part of me is just as amazed as everyone else at how quickly this year has gone by, but mostly I’m just happy I survived another desert summer. For all those summer worshipers who hate me for saying yay to autumn know this – it has taken 7 years of perpetual summer to make me truly appreciate winter. Wherever I go next, there will be more seasonal variation than warm, hot, and head-in-the-oven hot. (smile)

Arizona Butte against cloudy sky

Things have been quiet around here because they haven’t been so quiet “in real life.” Work has hit new lows and the stress new highs. I’ve had to admit some hard truths, but I think the hardest has been that FM fog/fatigue is real. Sometimes that voice in the back of my head accuses me of using it as an excuse, but as this latest round has proven, that’s not the case. Usually I can coax myself out of bed and into the familiar morning routine fairly easily, and once I get moving I’m like the proverbial rolling stone on a smooth-ish hill. (smile) Lately, it’s felt more like pushing myself uphill the whole day, which is exhausting in and of itself.

At work, we’ve had 2 people leave in the last 2 months. If that doesn’t sound like much consider this: we have had an office of 8 people. In the last 5+ years prior to this round of departures, we’ve only had 1 other person leave. The fact that these 2 were our main admin people leaves a huge gap that someone has to fill. Normally these duties would be split between myself and another co-worker, but that co-worker was just diagnosed with and had surgery for breast cancer. With her out, I’m doing my job + the admin jobs + her job. It all equals out to chaos and long hours.

Oh and that co-worker, she just happens to be one of my best friends. She’s also one of the most genuine and positive people I’ve ever met. I know this isn’t a universal truth, but I’ve always wondered why it’s the good ones that seem to suffer the worst. Luckily, after the tumor was removed, we found out that it’s a very rare type of breast cancer that (miracle of miracles) is generally very successfully treatable and with a low recurrence rate. She’ll be in treatment for a while, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Certainly it won’t be as bad as it might’ve been. I’m not sure what the lesson was in this one; but I’ve been trying to be the positive for her that she’s always been for me. Amusingly enough, that takes way more effort than one might think – it’s clearly not my natural inclination. (smile)

Speaking of lessons, I keep having dreams about not having my homework assignments finished. Some people dream of being back in high school naked; I dream of forgetting that English essay that may or may not be due that day. Ha! I can only think this is somehow related to the studying I’ve been doing for my PMP. I’ll definitely be glad when the whole process is finished!

Arizona yellow flowers against butte

But the title of this post is something to look forward to – the future, not the past. The immediate future is one of hope, determination, and travel. The hope and determination are mostly to do with good health and finishing this damn PMP certification.

The travel, however, is pure fun. (smile) Next weekend I’m headed to California for my niece’s first birthday (!!!). Next month I’m headed to Morocco for a week-long photography tour (yep, it’s plane-tickets-booked official!). November will see my 83 year old grandmother flying to Phoenix so we can finally check the Grand Canyon off her bucket list (oh and my birthday!). Then it’s December; a time for family and gearing up to start a new year.

In between all those big occasions are the small moments that make up life. Outdoor happy hours and brunch dates with friends; turning the a/c off and opening the windows; hunting for fall foliage (it does exist here in AZ, you just have to find it); weekend hikes (now that I’m finally cleared to go again); and pumpkin-flavored baking. It will be a good fourth quarter indeed. (smile)

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Life Lately | 1st Quarter 2015 Edition

Normally when I post things to this blog I’m as guilty as the majority about trying to keep it upbeat. I put a positive spin on things because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? But being a pessimist by nature and a realist on my best days, it’s difficult to post anything in the more lifestyle/personal category during the bad periods. So I’ve been focusing more on sharing photos and travel tips, which has given me time to pull together my thoughts and my courage to be real.

Life lately has not been great. In fact, it’s been less than good even. The first quarter of 2015 saw the passing of my favorite grandfather, health struggles, major work drama, and (perhaps most devastatingly) some bad news for the true love of my life – Oxford. Laugh, roll your eyes, call me a cat lady, whatever. But that cat has become such an integral part of me that it’s inexplicably painful to think of life without him.

Cat, kitties, pets

Oxford

I took Oxford in for his annual dental cleaning on Friday and through some routine blood work it was discovered that he’s in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (some use kidney failure, but I’m still in denial). It’s not uncommon in house cats and he is 10 years old – this month in fact. It can be “controlled” (i.e., slowed down) through diet and meds, but it is irreversible. From what I understand he could live several more years even, but it will progress. At 10 years, I knew he was bound to have some health issues come up; I just didn’t expect this. I’ve been happily living in denial that he would be with me as long as I was around. Reality bites hard when it catches up.

After that news everything else going on seems to pale in comparison, but I know that life has to keep on moving forward. I’ll just ramp up the kitty snuggles and do whatever I can to keep him comfortable and happy. I also have to find a way to remember to do the same for myself.

I’ve mentioned before that I have fibromyalgia. I’ve been working on a post about it, but I’m so incredibly guarded when it comes to any personal issues that it’s been hard to find the right words. One day it will come. Accompanying the FM, I also suffer from bouts of depression and full-time anxiety. Anything stressful magnifies all three of these things into occasionally overwhelming proportions. Most frustratingly, they also hold me frozen in place. I refuse to let any of it stop me from moving forward but I have to acknowledge that they do slow me down – and that beating myself up for that only feeds into the negative cycle. I’ve been reading a lot of inspirational books and watching plenty of TED talks to keep the forward momentum going; but honestly, depending on the day, those too can work in my favor or feed the flames. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for good friends that put up with me for better or for worse!

doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will

#truth

My normal method of dealing with difficult life situations is to internalize, do what I’m told I need to do to keep it all in hand, and fiercely refuse to show any weakness to the world. I am told, however, that my normal method is probably what led to some of these issues in the first place. Figures. So I’m working on finding a different strategy. To date I’ve been shyer than a mouse trying to filch a piece of cheese from under a cat. Tiny mouse steps forward, a mad dash back at the slightest hint of potential danger. What can I say – it’s hard to change 30+ years of habit overnight.

One positive thing that I can throw in here is an observation on just how much blogging has helped. Even when I only post photos, being able to share something so dear to me and receive such positive feedback has been amazing! A huge thanks to everyone who stops by, hits the “like” button, or leaves a comment. It’s all so greatly appreciated. (smile) Even though the internet is possibly the worst place to share personal demons, it can also (paradoxically) feel like the safest at times. If I can hit publish on this post, I’ll count it as a great step forward in sharing with the real life people.

And so this ends on an encouraging thought after all. How about that?? (smile)

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A Letter to January

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

The Snow Man ~ Wallace Stevens

Oh January, what a month you have been! Normally I adore you. I love the post-Christmas hush; the quiet, somewhat dreary days; the bare trees against the blue sky; and the opportunity to just breathe. You are the last great peace before the chaos of spring and the glory of summer. You hold a special place in my heart.

This year, however, you have been difficult to endure. I know it isn’t your fault; how can you help what happens while you turn the days one-by-one in your eternal way? But alas, I fear I look forward to that promise of spring.

You see, I saw your first moments from an exhausted state of mind, fresh off a plane and heartsick over family discontent. One short week later, before I could find my footing in this new year, my grandfather left us for the next great adventure, one where we could not follow. I’ve accepted this fact and have found, on a deeper level, contentment with the situation. But grief is a strange thing and, as I have found, can wreak havoc on emotional energy. Even now I feel as though I walk in that state of being when awoken from a lucid dreaming. I struggle to make sense of the mundane tasks we’ve deemed necessary for societal survival.

Beyond this grief for my grandfather, there is a reckoning I must confront – with myself. I seek solitude and peace, two of your most lovely characteristics, January. Yet I find that I cannot accomplish my dreams without help; so I must find a way to open for others. I must somehow acknowledge those things I prefer hidden, face the fallout of trust, and retain hope that I will survive it all intact. Life distilled is simple, but oh what a complicated simple that is.

I still have a few days to bask in your winter sunlight, and I intend to do just that. I won’t hold these feelings against you; to do so would be most unfair. But I’m afraid that you will carry a few scars for me going forward. I’ll try to remember that scars are a thing of beauty, a symbol of strength and accomplishment. And I ask you to forgive me for not paying proper homage this time around. I know so few people understand or appreciate your gifts. We are all so very different along with our definitions of beauty. Next time we meet, we shall celebrate. Properly. (smile)

Pondering Fall [October Goal Check-In]

You guys! It is finally fall, autumn, the happiest time of the year!! It even feels a bit like fall here in the desert!!! Yes, that is a lot of exclamation points, but it’s hard to find the right words to express just how happy this change of seasons makes me (smile). October through January are my favorite months of the year – each for different reasons. September started out great with the arrival of my niece, but it steadily declined from there unfortunately. It’s always been a difficult month for me and I can’t say I’m the least bit sad to see it go. Now we can officially move into happier weather and happier times (big smile)!

September Recap

1. Categorize/tag photos. This one could be qualified as a minor fail. I did start on this task, but then…life.

2. Study, study, study. I count this one as a win (yay!). I completed a few of the chapters of the PMP study guide already and I’m making vocabulary flashcards. I was so relieved to find that I am familiar with most of the concepts (at least so far) – I just need to learn the proper vocabulary. I shouldn’t be quite so surprised considering Project Management is what I do, but it is a relief to know I’ve been doing it right (-ish)!

3. Budget better. I did okay with this one. Between an impromptu trip to California to meet my niece and the wedding adventure in Mexico, it was a little difficult to stick with the new budget, but I did better than I expected. I call that a win (smile)! I definitely intend to keep this one going and really focus on the savings account as much as possible. It could use the TLC!

4. Meet my niece! OMG this was not only a huge success but also my favorite goal this year!! I’m so grateful that my job allows me the flexibility to randomly take off for another state for a week or so. They were so understanding and it felt great to be able to help my friends – and snuggle with baby (smile). I’m already plotting my next trip over for even more snuggles!

trees

Looking for more of these photos!

October Goals

1. Continue photo organization. I really need to try to make as much progress on this goal as possible because with the change in weather it’s going to be difficult to convince myself to stay inside! I want to at least make some headway because I know that otherwise nothing will be done until I’m stuck inside next summer. In a similar vein, I also hope to sort through some printed photos while I’m at my dad’s house this month. I have my fingers crossed that some of the photos I’m missing (according to my mental inventory) are in those!

2. PMP prep. In addition to my continued studying, I need to start gathering all of the necessary documentation for the actual application. There’s also a classroom component that I need to figure out (as in online or in person). Now that I’m feeling more confident with the exam portion, it is time to get this ball rolling! I’m also planning to blog all about it once things really get moving (smile).

3. Clean out the electronics. I still have every laptop and computer that I have ever personally owned. I also lived with an IT guy for a few years. The conclusion from those two facts is that I have an obscene amount of electronics that either no longer work or are no longer needed. They’ve all been wiped clean (finally), now I just need to research the best method of disposal. I think there’s an electronics “graveyard” shop somewhere in the valley – it’s time to stop procrastinating this one and get it gone!

4. Relax/Go on a fall adventure. September was a heavy month in terms of health revelations. I’m still trying to process everything and I hope that one day I’ll be able to share a bit about it with all of you. In the meantime, suffice it to say that stress has gone from a constant frienemy to enemy #1 for this girl. It’s mandatory (yes, doctor’s orders mandatory) that I find some way to relax. I’ve been trying to accomplish this goal for months actually and have yet to find a method that really works for me. My cynicism gets in my own way. Nonetheless, I’m never quite so happy as I am 1) on an adventure, 2) with a camera in my hand, and/or 3) in the fall. This month I want to find an activity that combines all of the above – believe it or not, Arizona actually has some gorgeous foliage and I fully intend to take advantage of it this month!

Is anyone else as happy as I am about fall??

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The [Scottish] Independence Decision

In case anyone wants to read another opinion on this topic – especially one from an American with no immediate stake in the outcome – continue on. Otherwise I won’t be the least bit insulted if you click onwards…I know it’s all that’s in the news today (smile).

Scotland Flag Saltire

Off the coast of the Isle of Islay

I am an American by birth and have lived here –with the exception of a few months here or there – on U.S. soil all of my life. Admittedly, the first half of my life was dedicated primarily to the dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower, but soon after checking that box I found my heart to be in the UK. I’d visited London by that point, but I got most of my sensory experiences of this isle from literature. In short, I fell in love via letter before I’d even seen the full package. Romantic, right? Since that time I’ve been to all four countries in the UK and Ireland. I’ve not explored every inch of any of them, but enough to get a feel at least. And in the end, of all my prospective loves, Scotland stole my heart – and has yet to release it.

I’ve discussed my love for the country here and there on this blog, but I generally prefer not to make too big of a deal about it. Suffice it to say I have my reasons for not signing each post with an “I ❤ Scotland banner” (smile). What this means is that although I may not speak or write about it often, I follow the happenings of that country perhaps more so than my own, at least on occasion. So, of course, this historic referendum vote today to decide whether Scotland continues as a part of Great Britain or goes its own way has me in a ball of nerves!

Why do I care? Well, I love the people, the culture, the landscape sure. But Scotland also happens to be the only place I’ve ever been where I feel at home. My goal in this life is to live there at some point. Almost all of the life decisions I make lead back to that goal, and the very big decisions those lucky enough to be born there are making today also affect that goal.

Both the American in me and the inherited Scottish pride fully stand behind the “Yes” vote. I totally get it – in principle. I’m just not so sure that I believe it in practice. I’ve read the arguments from both sides (I won’t get in to the number of pages both sides have cast into this world), and I believe the facts point towards a “No” vote being the more successful outcome for all parties. But like so many of our decisions, humans almost always vote with their feelings, facts be damned.

If I wake up tomorrow morning and Scotland is an independent country, I’ve no doubt that they will succeed. Perhaps not in the short term – I just don’t believe it’s all there yet – but certainly in the long term. Even in the worst case scenario, I can’t fathom that the world as a whole would let an entire country go completely under, although I’m sure some suffering may occur. If the country stays with Britain, there will still be much negotiation to be had and relations will change. I have little doubt of that. Perhaps, if not independence, Scotland will have won, at the least, a great deal more respect as a country.

This vote will change so much for so many – Britain, other areas looking for the same choice, businesses, citizens, expats, etc. etc. And I know it could mean great changes in my own personal trajectory yea or nay, but I’m not sure if it would be for better or worse. Only time will tell, and the time for that first big decision grows increasingly short. I sit with the rest of the world in great anticipation. And a secret relief that it’s not my vote to cast.

Sunset, Scotland, UK

Travel Tuesday: Salton Sea

Happy Tuesday everyone! I’m still recovering from the long weekend, but I just keep reminding myself that it’ll be a short week (smile). This month’s Travel Tuesday prompt is about “unexpected destinations.” I actively seek out the strange and lesser known destinations as often as possible. I’ve found that each of those destinations often come with their own lesson – some historical, others social. As I was driving back from California yesterday, I saw the signs for the Salton Sea and instantly knew that had to be my unexpected destination for today’s post!

The Salton Sea is a salt water “sea” located in southern California near the Coachella Valley. In the early 1900s, the California Development Company created a series of canals in the area in an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming. Due to an engineering error, the water fed to the canals overflowed for a period long enough to create the Salton Sea. With an estimated shoreline of approximately 130 miles, it is the largest lake in California. At 226 feet below sea level, it’s also one of the lowest points.

During the 1950s and ’60s, the Salton Sea was the place to be. Celebrities came to race boats or sun along the shores. Unfortunately, the Salton Sea has no outlet. It depends on rainwater and agricultural runoff for it’s survival, and it’s salinity increases every year. As of now, the salinity of the sea is greater than that of the nearby Pacific Ocean, but less than that of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. This salinity makes the Salton Sea a less than hospitable environment for most fish and a walk along the shore these days involves more fish bones than sand.

I first heard of the Salton Sea when Anthony Bourdain made a stop on an episode of No Reservations. Once I saw the show I knew I had to go see this place for myself and I’m glad I did. When you first drive up to the lake, it looks like nothing short of a ghost town on a movie set – the buildings are falling into disrepair and there’s often no one in sight. The water, however, appears almost as a mirage – deep blue with the sun sparkling along the top and giant pelicans floating gently on the surface. It’s one of the eeriest places I’ve ever seen. Walking along the shoreline only confirmed this feeling – there were tiny fish skeletons everywhere! As it was late afternoon, my friend and I didn’t stay too long before heading out. We didn’t see another person during the entirety of the couple of hours we spent cautiously exploring the neighborhood. I think we were just waiting for someone to jump out with a chainsaw and yell “BOO!” (smile)

For all that it is a weird destination, the Salton Sea is also unexpectedly beautiful. It does take some quick mental adjustment to see that beauty once you spot/smell the dead fish, but it is there buried in the desolation. The area has a truly fascinating history and you can’t help but wonder how a place riding so high could fall into disrepute so quickly. There are talks now about how the Salton Sea could play a role in easing the drought plaguing the nearby farmers; perhaps it may yet see another 15 minutes in the limelight.

Personally, I plan on scheduling some time on my next leisurely California trip to stop in again and explore further. The Salton Sea has developed a reputation as the “crown jewel of avian biodiversity,” boasting over 400 species of birds. There’s also a state recreation area that I missed on this first journey. Despite the eeriness, there was also a pervasive peacefulness once you acclimated to the quiet. I also happen to know firsthand that it makes for a gorgeous location to watch a sunset (smile).

Have you ever heard of or been to the Salton Sea??


Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for even more fun!!

Travel Tuesday

 

How Blogging Has Changed My Life

Monday was my one year (official) blogging anniversary! It’s crazy how time works – in some ways it feels like yesterday I started this adventure and in others it feels like I’ve been doing this for years. Looking back at the posts from this last year, I’m overwhelmed at how much can happen and how much can change in a mere 365 days. In truth, it gives me hope for the future (smile). I’ve also realized how much I’ve learned and grown from my blogging experience! I had no idea how multi-faceted this “hobby” can be – I thought it was just a matter of writing words and adding a photo here and there. Little did I know about hosting, coding, social media, emails, and all the other lovely aspects of blogging. It’s a little amazing to look back now and see how many areas of my life this little blogging habit of mine affects on a daily basis.

Cactus, Arizona, Sunset

New Horizons

Social media. Before I started blogging in earnest, I had a Facebook page and an Instagram account I rarely used. Now I have a blog specific Instagram, a Twitter account, and accounts on several other social media sites that I had never even heard of! I thought I hated the idea of social media, but now I’m completely addicted!

Photography. I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only invested the time to truly learn the technical side in the last few years. Reading other blogs and participating in various photo “challenges” has really opened up new levels of creativity for me and my camera. In addition to the technical aspects, I catch myself looking at objects and angles in ways I never would have before. I also find that I’m much more willing to make the extra effort to capture really cool shots to share (smile).

Writing style. I was afraid that law school had condemned me to a lifetime of technical writing. I loved writing fiction and “fluffier” pieces when I was younger, so it’s been really nice to learn to relax a bit and enjoy the process again. Lifestyle blogging has allowed me to combine non-fiction and a more relaxed writing style in a way that I feel comfortable sharing. It’s also allowed me to give myself permission to start writing poetry and fiction in my personal life again, which has been so liberating! Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to share (smile).

Motivation & Awareness. Whether it’s traveling, visiting a local attraction, trying a new recipe, finishing a DIY project, or simply completing my goals, this blog has proved to be a great motivator to get s**t done! There are quite a few days when that editorial calendar gets me off the couch and in motion – and that’s a really good thing! I’ve been able to accomplish so much that it inspires me to keep going. I also find myself on the alert for fun things to share with you guys – on the blog but especially on social media. Now I’m always on the lookout for a fun story or cool snap to share!

Community. I always say that I really started blogging to be part of the community, but I don’t think I had any true idea of what that meant. I’ve met some really amazing people from literally all over the world through blogging and learned so much from those people and their own blogs. I’m a relatively shy blogger person, but I can’t tell you how reassuring it’s been to receive such positive responses when I reach out to others. There’s also a wealth of encouragement and support that I never could’ve expected. Now I know that community doesn’t just mean “people with similar hobbies,” it means friends. Thank you to everyone that’s a part of my community – you guys are all so awesome! (big grin)

Has blogging had any impacts on your life??

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