It Is The Journey That Matters

I am currently sitting on a train that is not moving at the moment. We’re waiting for another train to pass by before we head into the next station. I won’t be getting off there though. I have another ten hours to go before my stop and I’m one hour in already. I’ll be on and off of this train, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, several times over the next three weeks as I tour a few places on the West Coast with my good friend.

A few months ago I was telling another friend about our travel plans which included a flight to Los Angeles and then this 11 hour train ride into the San Francisco area and she said, “Wait. Why don’t you just fly right into San Francisco?” “Because we want to take the train,” was my reply. Yes, we actually chose to be on this train for the whole entire first day of our trip. Why? To enjoy the journey. To see the coast, the land, the sights at a slower pace.

When I first thought about this, I thought about train travel as a better way to enjoy my surroundings while getting from one place to another as opposed to traveling by plane. But last night as we flew across the country, I found myself practically glued to the window and thoroughly enjoying my surroundings and the journey through the sky. I had brought a book, (Well, a few books, because that’s what I do) and several other ways to spend my time on the pane, but I couldn’t get through more than a page or two without the sky catching my eye again. I spent almost the entire flight gazing out the window.

To view the world from above is such an amazing thing to contemplate. I thought about being so high above the earth and then to see a river and think about the lowest point under that water. It reminded me of a section in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. In this children’s story by Kate DiCamillo, a china rabbit who believes he is real and loves to look at the stars, gets thrown overboard while traveling on the Queen Mary, and as he lies on the bottom of the sea, he thinks about how he has never been so far away from the stars he loves so much. It also reminded me of this comedy skit by Louis CK. (Watch it!) I wanted to get everyone to put their devices down, wake up, open up the window shades, and look out. It’s amazing out there! The innumerable shades of blue in the sky, the varied types of clouds looking like snowy landscapes, how the rays of the sun as we chased its setting across the country hit the clouds in front of us differently than those behind us, mountains below, and that part of the country where the land seems to be divided into perfect squares. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

I thought it would be fun to bring the blog back once again to record and share my thoughts and our experiences as we journey the coast. But now we have reached the point in today’s journey where we are rolling along the coast so close that if these windows were open, I think we might be able to feel the spray of the ocean. The train is stopping for a “fresh air” break soon so, I’m off to soak up the views and this part of the journey…

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Our first view of the Pacific Ocean from the Coast Starlight

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Spring List

Also Included: A Brief Summary of Some of Gretchen Rubin’s Work

When I first started this blog, it was about making and completing a list of things to do before I turned 35.  I never completed that original list and I’m okay with that, but I do like to make lists and/or set some goals from time to time.  When I brought the blog back last year, I made some seasonal lists which seemed a bit more doable on top of all the things I just normally do, but still kind of fun to create and accomplish.  I thought now that it is officially spring, it might be fun to make of list of things I’d like to do this season.

Before I get to the list though, let’s talk about procrastination.  Do you?  I do. I procrastinate.  I go back and forth between trying to change that about myself and just accepting myself as is.  Gretchen Rubin, an author I really like who studies and writes about habits and happiness calls this a “Happiness Paradox.”  I mean, things that really need to be done, I get done.  But I let some things wait until the deadline is looming near and some things that don’t have a definitive deadline and aren’t majorly inconveniencing me might wait a very long time until I get around to them. Gretchen might suggest I institute a “Power Hour” (NOT like back in the college drinking days!) to accomplish some of those tasks.  Gretchen would also probably suggest that if I really want to change my procrastination  habit, I take her quiz about the four tendencies.* (Can you tell I like Gretchen’s work?) The Four Tendencies Framework is a tool that Gretchen created to describe how we respond to both inner and outer expectations.  I’m not so sure I want to completely change all of my procrastination ways though, because sometimes I have a good reason for putting off a task. For instance,  I’d rather go for a bike ride than paint the kitchen ceiling or I’d rather visit my adorable baby nephew than fix the laundry room door.  I’d rather do the enjoyable living life kinds of things than the chore-y things.  Wouldn’t we all? Probably not.  I know some of you really enjoy the chores and/or just have a different sense of urgency for getting them done.  It takes all kinds. But still,  I firmly believe that  those living life choices are the right ones to make (for me!), they’re the ones I want to fill my days with because I rarely regret a bike ride and I almost always enjoy time spent with my family and friends. Always, always enjoy time with my sweet nephew!  But at some point I just gotta fix that door! Which brings me to item #1 on my spring to do list:

  1. Do the house chores I’ve been putting off
  2. Go for more bike rides
  3. Spring clean my house
  4. Do more yoga
  5. Keep writing
  6. Get outside

I want to make spring a mix of taking care of business and some things I’ve been procrastinating on and slacked off about, and I also want to fill spring with more fun and lightheartedness.  My school year has been kind of stressful and I probably let it get to me more than was good for me.  I’m ready to let the spring air into my house  and heart! Here goes…

*OK – I actually did take the Four Tendencies quiz and it says I’m a questioner.  However, I question whether I also have a tendency to be an obliger. I know I do.  The blog comes in handy sometimes to hold me accountable for my obliger ways.   Care to share your tendency or spring plans?

 

Close or Open the Books, Any Day

Soooo…it’s been 7 months since my last confession. I mean blog post.  Twelve years of Catholic school just makes that confession phrase pop right out.  I wasn’t keeping a tally count of the months of no blogging.  Word Press kindly tells you exactly how long you’ve been slacking when you log back in after a brief hiatus.  Thanks for that, Word Press People.

I wasn’t exactly counting the months of no blogging, but I sure have felt them.  A few of my wonderful friends who so kindly follow my blog and read my writing have asked when I’ll write again.  My writing pal has offered to meet up a bunch of times.  I’ve thought of things I’d like to write about.  But I just haven’t written.  The truth is I’ve kind of been in a bit of a slump for a while with writing. And with a few other things.  And the slump has lasted longer than I’d like to admit, much longer than comfortable. I thought about bringing back my blog lots of times, but I just did not do it. I even taught my first graders how to blog and they do it every week, but still, I did not do it myself.

One time that I thought a lot about getting back to writing was around the new year. (Is March too late for a New Year’s Resolution?) I took a walk back in December, on New Year’s Eve and, looking for a little inspiration with which to start the new year, I listened to an episode of the “Good Life Project” podcast called “Close the Books.”  In that message, Jonathan Fields, the founder of the Good Life Project described a process that business owners would do at the end of each year called “closing the books”. They would note debits and contributions to their financial accounts and try to make sense and balance of their money situation. Where does it make sense to continue spending? What revenue sources filled our accounts? Are we wasting money or resources in any areas? How can we plan to either continue doing what fills the accounts and stop doing what drains the accounts in the year to come? And then, close the old book and open a new one.   Jonathan explained how we might apply the same ideas to our everyday lives – work lives, personal lives, habits, activities, relationships.  He talked of looking back on the year and thinking about things that were deposits in your life. What added to your account, your life?  When I did that, I quickly thought about writing.  When I was writing on a regular basis last year (and the year before that when I first started this blog), I felt this positive addition to my days.  I got a good energy from creating something.  Even if no one else were to ever even read it, I liked the act of creating something.  I also liked how writing changed my outlook on things, my attention to my days.  Because I was looking for something to write about, I often paid attention to what was happening around me in a different way.  If something touched me or was bothering me, I could share it or work it out in my writing.  Sometimes writing helped me find a new perspective on something.  I liked the days when I was writing on a regular basis, so I thought back in December that I would really start writing again.  But I didn’t.

I slumped on through January and February. I mean, who really wants to do anything in January and February?  We’re supposed to be hibernating, right?  Except hibernating and slumping didn’t feel so good for very long and the friends kept asking and I wanted to write and I kept remembering that I told myself I would write again. But I didn’t. And then one day I just said, “Yes.”  I said yes to my writing pal. I said yes, I would do something to try to un-slump myself. I said I would show up and write and so here I am…writing.

I got a new book last week.  I buy a lot of books when I’m in a slump.  Truth be told, I buy a lot of books all the time, but still, this book helped in my un-slumping.  The book is called “The Endless Practice” by Mark Nepo. In the first several pages he tells about how zooplankton make a daily journey from the depths of their water habitat to the surface.  It’s a matter of feeding themselves and protecting themselves, and in the process of this, they also filter the water they inhabit and so contribute to the health of the larger world around them.  Nepo makes the point that in life we humans do something similar as we go back and forth between nourishing ourselves, filling, gaining energy and being drained, or needing to protect ourselves.  It kind of made me feel a little better about drifting away from some things that I know are good for me.  That it’s sort of the natural course of things to go back and forth, to hibernate and then wake up, to be down and then get up. Maybe I could drift and return a bit more frequently, like the zooplankton, but still.

So I might not have made that New Year’s Resolution happen, but any time really can be a time to close or open a new or old book, to swim up to the surface,  I think. My plan is to try to continue to write on a regular basis again, because it’s one of the things that makes me feel good, that fills me up and helps me filter the world.   Here goes again…

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I didn’t make the New Year’s resolution, but I did make it to see the New Year sunrise. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s Report Card Time!

Whew!  This week was full.  I had been hoping to write a post about food for this weekend.  But I’m still working on that one.  I didn’t get around to doing the research that I want to do for it. So I was trying to think of another topic to write about here, but I’ve also been preparing to do a different type of writing this weekend – writing report cards for my little first graders!

As I was preparing to report on my students’ growth and learning, a thought occurred to me, “How am I measuring up on these things?” I mean, hopefully it’s clear that I can read and spell.  I’m not so sure that I use punctuation correctly all the time (Too many commas?  Not enough?) and math isn’t my favorite, so I try to keep away from that topic on here.  But there’s this whole other section called “Personal and Social Development”  and it might actually be really helpful for one to reflect upon these types of actions, behaviors and abilities long after one stops receiving report cards from school.  Here are a few items from that area:

  • respecting the rights, property and feelings of others
  • demonstrating self control
  • resolving conflicts appropriately
  • demonstrating self confidence
  • participating willingly
  • seeking help when needed
  • working independently
  • cooperating during group work
  • maintaining attention to lessons
  • producing quality work
  • listening attentively when others are speaking

Of course, these things show up very differently for six-year olds than adults. While my little kiddos need to maintain attention in order to learn how to make change with money, how am I attending to the lessons of change that are showing up in my life? They need to listen as I read stories, but how am I listening to my friends when they tell me about their lives, am I hearing the birds as they sing in the spring mornings? And in all the many times that I’ve completed this report card, I never noticed how “seeking help when needed” and “working independently” are kind of opposites. You can do it by yourself, but we’ll help you if you need it. If only that balance got mastered in first grade, right?!

I’m going to try to find some time this weekend to turn the report card on myself, to reflect on my own growth and development. And as I recommend for the kids, not in judgement, but in a spirit of celebrating success and always aiming to grow. But still, I hope I get an A+!

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600 miles to…

I’m setting out to pedal my bike for about 600 miles.  Yeah, that’s right, I said 600 miles.  Well, give or take a few, depending on schedules, weather, the phase of the moon and how often I feel like washing my hair.  Wanna guess where I’m going?  There are a few places I might like to visit within about a 600 mile radius of my home.

Maybe I’m heading north.  I could put that passport to use and get myself a little further into Canada than that time I visited Frelighsburg, maybe head to Montreal or Quebec City.  Or maybe I’ll go west-ish.  How about Ann Arbor? I’ve always liked the sound of that place.  Then I could get myself one of those “Smitten with the Mitten” Michigan shirts and swing by a great lake.  Nah, though.  Probably extra cold in both those directions.  I should head south.  Maybe hit Myrtle Beach or somewhere on a Carolina coast. It’s a wee bit warmer there than where I am, and then I could gaze at the sunrise without my arctic tundra coat.  Options…

Montreal?  Ann Arbor?  Myrtle Beach?

Montreal? Ann Arbor? Myrtle Beach?

600 miles could take me to a lot of places.  But here’s where I’m going…

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NOWHERE!!!!  Nowhere at all!  Not moving even one inch. Not leaving my house. Just gonna try to pedal in the same exact spot for 600 miles. Ish.

Two summers ago I started doing a long distance charity bike ride with my dad. We ride 65 miles, with lots of other good people, from the middle of a city right out to the beach. Both summers I’ve had to cram in the training once the weather broke and school let out.  I’m a teacher and so summers give me some more free time for riding.  Both times I’ve made it just fine (Thank you, God!) albeit a little sore, but I’ve been wondering how I’d feel if I was in a little better shape for it.  So my plan this year is to keep my legs moving on a bike trainer through the rest of the winter.  And because I like to torture myself set goals as motivation, I’m aiming to ride approximately 600 miles by the first day of spring.  When I did the initial calculations, my plan was to average about 45 miles a week, riding about 3 days per week.  Here’s where we stand now.

That says 39.51 miles.

That says 39.51 miles. Not all in one ride.

I’ll resist the urge to assign you a math problem and just tell you that I’m a tad behind. Don’t stay up all night worrying about it though.  I’m not.   We have time.  If we get a snow day, I’ll just double up.  Quadruple up.  Whatever.

On a slightly separate yet somewhat related note, here’s a little something to ponder if you should find yourself on a bike trainer for a few days.  And you ARE going to need something to ponder, or listen to or watch, because, I don’t like to use the word boring, but it’s kind of boring.  Anyway, my friend and fellow blogger recently wrote about worrying and likened it to a rocking chair, “…it will give you something to do, but won’t get you anywhere.”  I get her point, and totally agree.  Just the same, I gave her a little raz about it.  “If worrying and rocking chairs are pointless because they don’t get you anywhere,” I said, “then what does that mean for my bike trainer?! I could be to Canada for all that pedaling to nowhere!” I was just teasing.  We laughed about it, but you know what, the more I pedal to nowhere, the less worrying I do.  Rocking chairs don’t have the same caloric-emotional-velocity-ratio.  That’s not a thing.  Just go ride a bike!

PS - You do NOT need a helmet inside!  Pedal happy!

You don’t even need a helmet inside! Pedal happy!