The Value of Being Neighborly

I’m a day late and a dollar short on this blog. This year, I intended to spend time on the weekends and post each Monday. We’re still in January and I’m already posting a day late. I’m not exactly a dollar short though – I’m actually up a few dollars, unintentionally. Let’s dig in – or rather – out.

We’ve had some snow here in central Ohio. I love the snow. I embrace it and the cold of winter. I could handle longer daylight hours in the winter months, but I’ve largely found that the more I embrace the winter as it comes, the more I get out of it. A few years ago, I noticed my better half was increasing her distaste for winter weather. As such, I started scheduling time for us to go out into the winter weather while appropriately dressed for the conditions. What’s that saying? “There’s no such thing as bad weather, merely bad preparation.” Something like that. I’m happy to report, dear reader, that my diabolical plan worked. I wouldn’t say that my wife Melanie embraces the cold and snow like I do – yet – however, she has found a joy for downhill skiing and figures out how we can make time for it.

Snow and cold don’t work for everyone though. The slippery conditions can be hazardous to the less mobile and arthritic joints don’t love the colder temps. So I recognize that my embrace of winter is not the same for everyone at all stages of life. Last night, I saw a couple of neighbors post on our neighborhood Facebook group that they needed help shoveling their driveways. After I took care of my chores at home, I had time to either write a Monday blog post, or help my neighbors. I chose the latter.

I reached out per the message’s instructions and confirmed that no one else had agreed to help. After all, I don’t want to get in the way of some industrious middle- or high-schooler looking to make some valuable spending money. After confirming that my neighbors did not have any scheduled helpers, I told them I was coming to take care of their driveway. They immediately asked about payment. “No charge,” I simply replied. They politely protested. “I must pay you something.” “It is too late for you, don’t come in the dark.” I smiled and walked down with my snow shovel and quietly got started. I was already dressed in my cold weather gear from walking our dogs, so I was honestly enjoying my time out.

Two-thirds of the way through the job, the garage door opened. A venerable Indian man walked out to greet me with cash in hand. I politely protested, “I just want to be a good neighbor.” “Please,” he replied. “I won’t sleep if you don’t let me pay you for your efforts.” Now that I’m a bit older and marginally wiser, I handled this situation with a touch of poise. Younger Troy would have not taken the money and perhaps said something that took away from the dignity of the situation. Instead, I deferred and took the money. I don’t need the money, nor do I want it. However, not taking it would have made the other person feel indebted or obliged – also not what I wanted. So, I ended up getting my target step count per my fitness tracker, I helped a neighbor in need, I got some joyful time in the snow, and I earned a few unintended bucks. Well worth a late blog post!

Now the question is what to do with the money. I’ve put it in my sock drawer for now and plan to use it as ‘seed money’ to do something else positive for the neighborhood. Maybe if I shovel enough driveways this winter, I can buy some extra flowers for the flower bed at the entrance of our neighborhood in the Spring. It will be a fun, neighborly experiment!

Crossroads: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was just about to close the shudders on this blog and take it all down. WordPress informed me via email that my credit card on file had expired and that I needed to update it in order for my annual subscription to be renewed. I thought, “meh.” I haven’t had the time – or the travels – to write anything new in quite some time. So I simply didn’t act. A couple of months went by with no action from me and then I received the renewal receipt. WordPress figured out how to renew with my card on file. So now I’m thinking, “Let’s get back on the wagon.”

I originally started this blog with the intent to share our travels. For about 7 years, my wife and I were road warriors, constantly taking in new locations across the US and Europe with our eyes on the horizon for new destinations in Latin America, Scandinavia, and potentially Asia. However, a couple of things happened that slowed our roll.

First, my Dad passed away, very early in life by today’s standards. As I let his mortality sink in, writing a travel blog just felt a bit lofty. “It doesn’t really matter,” I thought. “Very few people will read or benefit from my writing.” I ended up writing about a more personal journey rather than staying focused on travel. The title still worked though. Quixote Goes: Boldly going, occasionally delusional. Rather than traipsing around countries where I didn’t speak the native language and relying on the hospitality of strangers, I was still on a journey though life and finding my way through this world.

The next big thing that hit the idea of a travel blog was Covid-19. We all know the deal. Travel was quashed, countries closed their borders, states rated each other on infection rates, political affiliates hurled missiles across the aisle. I think there is pent up demand for travel, but the proverbial Genie has been let out of the bottle. Things won’t be the same for some time.

Alas, I’ve now paid for another year of this blog, so I might as well use it. So here we go. Post one of the new year. This year, I plan to further the journey. I want to continue exploring the idea of life’s journey. Given that my wife and I both hail from Appalachia but have our lives rooted outside the region in a work-life that is notably Northeastern, I think there are tales to be told. Still boldly going, still occasionally delusional.

August seems like a great time to detox!

Hello! Blogging world.  It’s Troy’s wife, Melanie.  He’s mentioned me in a few blogs and I’ve always PLANNED to join in the fun, but alas never took the time to write down my thoughts.  So here goes, my first blog… please be gentle 🙂

Troy and I just took one of our amazing trips.  This time with the 2 younger boys for their vacation before they go back to school.  Jackson has been playing baseball all summer making it difficult to go on a vacation.  This year, I thought we could just keep it simple and go to Louisville, KY, about 4 hours from our home.  I hope to make time to write a review of Louisville, but this blog is about getting back to a normal / sustainable routine.  When Troy and I travel, we enjoy a little bit extra most places.  We eat desert, have the coffee, try the new item on the menu and all that fun stuff.  We buy the kids ice cream and let them eat fast food more than usual.  And usually, I come home with the attitude that I need to get my life and decision under control.  While it’s fun to relax and enjoy, those unhealthy decisions wake me up in the middle of the night, make me cranky, and sluggish all around.  We try to keep active by hiking, climbing, and running, but I can’t keep up with the extreme schedule in either direction.

Also, I’ve been listening to Cait Flanders book a “A Year of Less” which is my second time listening.  She makes great points and the book reviews what we all know which is if you want to lose weight, eat less, if you want to save money, spend less, and so on.  Cait explains how she personally tackles spending less for a whole year.  She holds herself accountable by writing a blog and sharing with the world her successes and her opportunities to improve.  Ugh, and man do I HATE holding myself accountable publicly or honestly even formally.  I won’t even write it in a journal so there’s always a way to wiggle out of a goal.  With that being said, I reach my goals usually.  Over the past 9 months, I’ve lost 30 pounds.  I’ve started running consistently again planning for a 1/2 marathon in November.  I’ve started consistently climbing (something that was never a goal, but satisfies weight training).  i reach goals for the most part, but I don’t make big vision boards and document the progress.  I guess until now.

I have 10 more pounds I want to lose.  I want to do that while training for a 1/2 marathon and not being so reliant on Optifast to get there.  I want to move into the phase of eating that is my new normal and that I can control myself.  I would also like to reduce my spending.  I previously listened to Cait’s book and really curbed my spending on clothing and small, impulse buys, but when I lost weight, I opened my budget to replace my closet and well, that needs to get back under control.  I haven’t re-filled my closet completely, but I wanted to keep it minimal and it’s kinda not.

So, starting today, I am coming up with my rules of engagement for the rest of 2019 for spending.  I am also coming up with my healthy plan for the month of August to be renewed in September.  I have some travel happening in September that will take some special consideration.

Spending through 12/31/19:

  1. Can buy house hold items that need replaced or are non-existent now
  2. Can buy items to finish decorating the boys rooms
  3. At the beginning of each month, thoughtfully determine the 3 wardrobe items that make the most sense – get rid of what they replace if they replace items
  4. Determine a plan for Christmas
  5. Can buy items for the boys that they need, such as sports gear

Current items I want to buy:

  • Black blazer for work – thinking I will wait for a labor day sale at WHBM
  • Climbing shorts – because the ones I have are too big and I climb ~ 3 times a week
  • Running shorts – because I have 2 pairs now and would like a 3rd for a whole weeks worth of running shorts with pockets
  • A traditional jean skirt – because I think it’s cute

This list can be updated, because I’m sure I did not think about everything…. Also, I want to review my spending history to make sure my gut feeling is right that I’m spending most of my money on clothing.

Weight management for the month of August:
Goal weight = 140, current weight 155 (Louisville weekend was super fun, and wow! I just published my freaking weight, uh, that hurts 😉

  1. Drink alcohol only once a week (usually, Monday night climb and wine)
  2. Go to Conci regularly to check in and progress off the Optifast diet
  3. Plan a meal strategy at the beginning of every week – this week I will be finishing the Fresh ’n Lean meals for lunch and salads for dinner
  4. Track calories using My Fitness Pal
  5. Weigh myself daily
  6. Continue with the Garmin running plan, climbing for fun, and add to the fitness routine Ab workouts

I will check back in next week for an update on my progress.

When Suffering, Smile

So let’s get started with all the appropriate waivers: I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, seek professional medical or psychological help if you’re feeling an emergency situation, 9 out of 10 dentists probably do not recommend this, call your mother, and my dog ate my homework. That being said, the past several days have been rough. I haven’t felt exactly ill, but I certainly have not felt well. Pile on the work, add a dash of extra stuff to do around the house, and there we have it: a sour mental state.

My wife and better half has even lovingly told me over the past few days, “You’re very abrupt.” I think she used the term ‘mic drop’ in there somewhere, but she made the point. When we kicked off the day yesterday (Monday), I would say I had a full case of the blues. I was contemplating not going to work, which for me, is a serious matter. I actually sat down for a little while and did not move. I felt the pull of inertia rooting me to the spot. After several moments of staring at the fan which was blowing air into my face in front of me, a quote popped into my head, “When you’re really suffering, you have to smile.” “What a dumb thing to say,” I mentally responded to the quote.

After a moment’s mental searching, I realized where I had heard it. It was advice given during an interview with an ultrarunner – you know, these crazy people who run 50k, 100k, 100 miles, and even more. I don’t remember the exact ultrarunner, but honestly they all say about the same thing. Their point is that unless you’ve really done some serious injury to your body, you can overcome the general suffering (muscle aches, random internal pains, etc.) of hours and hours of continuous movement. Overcoming the suffering starts with the mind – sort of. There are some great books and studies on the market covering this in much greater detail, but in essence the science behind endurance says that action and thought are very much linked. So, smiling for instance, actually lifts our spirits and enables us to endure more. Score one for the long distance running crazies.

Yesterday morning, I smiled. I also dressed more professionally than usual. I didn’t have any important meetings on the day, but the professionalism of the clothes also helped propel me forward. Silly, I know. Here is the funny thing: I had an extremely productive day. I had a breakthrough on a topic that had been weighing me down. I had some new administrivia come up and instead of kicking the can down the road, I faced it head on and came to a nearly immediate solution. On the whole, I’d say that I won the day.

So here is to ‘smiling when suffering,’ ‘faking it until you make it,’ ‘a body in motion stays in motion,’ and all the other conventional wisdom for overcoming a bit of adversity. Wishing you a smile filled, roll-that-rock-up-the-hill kind of a sunshiny day.

Being a Beginner

Several weeks ago, I posted that I am Learning to Climb. This week, I continued learning my new hobby by watching some instructional videos and continuing to apply the lessons at the climbing gym. I learned about static versus dynamic climbing and a few ways to move the body to reach new holds without relying on shear power. I went to the gym this morning eager to apply the lessons, which after about 60 minutes of bouldering, left my wimpy runner’s forearms and hands absolutely shredded. I took a break and while I did, I watched a couple of young teens easily scale the routes that had left my hands and forearms throbbing and nearly useless. Rather than being daunted, I cracked a smile. Just a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize how much better these teenagers were than me. I didn’t know to follow routes or attempt to climb with any technique. That realization prompted a thought: I love being a beginner.

I didn’t always love being a beginner. In fact, I hated it. In my youth, if I wasn’t naturally pretty good at something from the start, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I see this same tendency in our younger children. It is difficult for them to have the confidence to try something and look silly in the process. I’ve read before that this is one reason adult learners have a harder time picking up addtional languages – they have gotten to a point of mastery in their first language and don’t want to make silly mistakes while starting anew. These days I’m quite happy to put on a dunce hat and try something new. To a point. You’ll still never see me strap on a set of dancing shoes and hit the club – that is simply not my scene. However, in many, many other things I am happy to try and fail and try again. So that realization prompted another thought – especially in light of inspiring our kids to try something new: what changed? 

Best I can trace it, I think it all started when I went back to college as an adult learner to pursue another degree. In this case, I was motivated by the potential for advancement in the workplace, and – let’s be honest – the money that comes along with it. I went into a business program at a local liberal arts college to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Management and Leadership. The experience was life-altering. Up until that point, I had boxed myself into adult life with a wife and kids and kind of thought, “This is it. I’ll go to work, come home, sit on the couch and watch TV, play with the kids and then go to bed.” Rinse and repeat. I assumed development was now in the children’s boat. But my time in college courses exposed me to philosophy and interesting reading; to class room discussions about ethics and professional development. I built confidence through writing papers and giving presentations. I was way better at this stuff than my first go at university. Soon, I was developing in other parts of my life as well. I joined an adult soccer league. I started running to be a better soccer player. I got into much better physical shape, which made me eager to try more new things.

As I consider helping our kids find their passion for becoming beginners, I am a bit flummoxed. My motivation was intrinsic because I wanted to make more money and help the family continue to progress. It was an internal decision that no one asked me to make. The kids don’t have families or anything else depending on them to grow and develop. So I guess that’s the lesson. People develop at their own pace and I don’t know that there is much to do to speed it up. I will just continue to expose the kids to new things and maybe something will click. And… well, maybe it won’t.

What’s your approach to getting out of your comfort zone? Do you have any tips for helping younger learners be confident enough to try new things?