New Things on My List

The real purpose for this blog, though I sometimes stray from it, is to work toward and reflect on completing things from my Life’s List. For the second year in a row, I am trying to cross off 12 things in a year, and I also sometimes add new things to the list.

However, I realize that recently this has been serving more as a running blog than a bucket list blog, and I thought it was time to get back to my roots. Granted, running has quickly become a big part of my list, but it’s certainly not all of it. A lot of things I want to accomplish have to do with travel, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and personal milestones.

So, I thought today I would spend some time talking about the three new things I’ve added to the list – three things that all involve New Zealand!

I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, and after I went to Australia several years ago, it made its way into my top 5 countries I most want to visit (which also includes Greece, Iceland, Switzerland, and Sweden). However, I didn’t have any specific things I wanted to experience in New Zealand until very recently, when my coworker began to plan her honeymoon trip there.

Thanks to her planning and experiences, I now have three new items on my list:

1. Go Zorbing in New Zealand. This is absolutely amazing. Basically you get inside a giant hamster ball and roll down a hill. Need to see for yourself? Check out the video below:

There is now Zorbing throughout the world, but it was created in New Zealand, and so I am determined to try it there. On a side note, it kind of reminds me of another random hamster-ball activity I tried out a few years ago, only it was in a pool rather than down a giant hill.

Me in a hamster ball at a summer street festival in 2010.

2. Go black water rafting at Waitomo. Tubing meets white water rafting meets caving. Need I say more?!

3. See the glowworm caves at Waitomo.  I don’t really know what else to say about this, other than it is probably the closest I’d ever come to living out the following scene from Surf’s Up.

I don’t have any plans (or money) to travel to New Zealand any time soon, but now when I do finally go, I will hopefully be able to cross off three items from my list while I’m there!

February Check-In

Well, I’ve officially stuck with my monthly check-ins for two months in a row. Let’s hope I can keep up the good work.

Overall, February was a month of laziness and lethargy, which is okay with me. I’ve always been the type to be extremely active and social in the summer, and then fall into hibernation mode in the winter. And I actually was busier than usual this year in December and January, so it all finally caught up with me this month.

I didn’t see many friends this month, didn’t have too many adventures, and spent some time nursing my knee and not doing much running (or working out of any kind, unfortunately). But I was able to relax, get settled into my new job, and make some goals for the coming months.

Here’s a quick look at the month.

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: Zero.

Miles Run: 11.7 – not so great.

Races Run: 1 – Warm Your Heart 5K

Races registered for: 3 since my last update. The upcoming race calendar looks like this:

  • 3/18 – Get Lucky 7K
  • 3/25 – Shamrock Shuffle 8K
  • 5/26 – Soldier Field 10 Mile
  • 6/2 – The Color Run
  • 9/2 – Disneyland Half Marathon
I’ve officially prohibited myself from registering for any more until I get my knee checked out and figure out what’s wrong. Although, I really would like to run a race in April to keep up with my one race a month goal.

Books Read: 6

Books in progress: 2

  • Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students by Gregory Michie
  • How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

Accomplishments of February:

  • Getting settled in my job.
  • Being lazy on the couch, getting sucked in to Worst Cooks in America and other Food Network shows.
  • Finishing the first season of Downton Abbey on Netflix
  • Ski trip – in which I had my first wipeout since 1995.
  • Taking a cake decorating class.

Aspirations for March:

  • Seeing Riverdance for the first time ever! (This is on my List, and tickets are already purchased!)
  • Make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day
  • Go to the sports doctor and figure out what’s wrong with my knee
  • Sign up for yoga and/or dance classes at the studio in my office building
  • Work out more, even if I can’t run for a while
  • Take a pasta making class through Dabble
  • Take some great photos of my nephew when he’s in town so I can finally frame some and put them in my office

Monthly Check-In

In the past I have only posted when I have crossed something off my list, or made some really good progress on something.  This year, however, I’d like to start posting a little more regularly. One of the ways I’d like to do this is by having a monthly update, a status report of sorts.

I think this will be a good way to keep myself on task, stay focused on the many projects I have going on at any given time, and let you all know when I’ve been slacking. It’s also fun because I plan on doing it in list form. (Yay, lists!)

So for my first month, here’s a little rundown of what I’ve been up to in January.

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: 2

Miles Run: 30

Races registered for: 3

  • 2/26 – Warm Your Heart Indoor 5K
  • 3/25 – Shamrock Shuffle 8K
  • 5/26 – Soldier Field 10 Mile

Books Read: 6

Books in progress: 4 (This is going to become an issue. Not a fan of reading multiple books at once!)

  • eBook – The Marriage Plot
  • audio book – American on Purpose
  • print book – The Road to McCarthy
  • YA book of the moment – The Skin I’m In

Big Projects of January:

  • Completing the Disney Marathon
  • Starting a brand-new job
  • Attempting to read more books.
  • Attempting to read more YA books for my new job.

Aspirations for February:

  • Continuing to learn my new job
  • Taking a short break from running
  • Read, read, read
  • Enjoy my annual “hibernation mode” where I don’t want to leave the house at all until spring
  • Trying to leave the house occasionally so as not to get cabin fever, and not completely lose touch with my friends
  • Ski trip
  • Cake decorating class
  • Register for the CARA Six Nights Series
  • Find a new hobby/class/craft to start on in March

Reading Goal #2: Reading the Books I Own

While I absolutely love browsing bookstores, I’ve never been one to buy a ton of books – I love using the library and borrowing books from friends. Also, I very rarely re-read books, so owning them seemed sort of silly. That said, I still love the look of a full bookshelf and think it’s so important to have books in every home. So, now that I have access to lots of books to take home, I see a challenge ahead.

I already have a few books on my shelf that I really do want to read, but for whatever reason just haven’t done it. For example, I desperately want to read all of The Story of the Irish Race by Seamus Macmanus, but at 768 pages of pretty meaty stuff, I have not, for obvious reasons, committed to tackling it yet. And then there are a number of classics I bought when I felt like I should have read them years ago, and then still never read.

And now I am finding myself bringing home even more books like this. For one reason or another I really do want to read these more challenging books, but I  have a hard time making the commitment to start these as opposed to the ones I know I will fly through. I’ve always been of the belief that reading should be enjoyable, rather than a chore, and some of the longer, tougher ones still do feel like a chore.

A few of the newest additions to my collection.

But I would like to set a goal for myself. I want no more than 25% of the books on my shelf to be books I have not  yet read. Right now that number is a little off, since I just donated several books I had already read. But, currently I have 19 unread books that I own, and I’d like to get that number down to at least 15 before I get any new books.

And if this works, eventually I might want to get that goal down to closer to 10% of unread books on my shelf.

Reading Goal #1: Carving Out Time To Read

As I mentioned in my last post, my new job – while completely awesome – means that I will no longer be able to read on my commute. That means I’m going to have to set aside some time to read at home or read in other ways.

Here are some of my ideas:

1. Set aside time in the morning.

My new job starts later than my old one, and it takes less time to get there. The non-morning-person in me would normally take that as a welcome invitation to start sleeping in. However, in an attempt to better myself, I am going to try to continue getting up at the same time I used to.  This will leave me time to either read or work out each morning. Right now it doesn’t matter to me whether I decide to better my body or better my mind, as long as I’m bettering something other than my sleeping hours.

2 . Try to spend less time in front of my computer in the evenings, and more time with a book.

I spend a lot of time doing absolutely nothing online. Facebook, WordPress, and obsessively checking emails even when I know there’s nothing new takes hours of my life away. I’m pretty sure if I put away my computer for just a week, I could accomplish hours of more productive things. Even if I just trade a half an hour a day of computer time for reading time, I think I will notice a huge increase in books read.

3. Set aside some book & coffee time on the weekends. 

I love curling up on the couch with a book on a Saturday morning, or sitting in a coffee shop in Lincoln Square reading on a Sunday afternoon. However, I don’t do this nearly enough, and I want to make it happen more this year.

4. Listen to audio books on my walk to work.

I started testing out audio books during my last few long runs, and it worked out better than expected. I’m still not a huge fan of listening to my books, but if I find some great narrators (preferably as hilarious as Tina Fey, or ones with great accents) I might be able to get into it. I can usually listen to about one chapter a day while commuting, so this could potentially add a book a month, give or take, to my list.

5. Try harder to read some of the eBooks I have on my phone.

I don’t have an eReader, but I do have several books saved on my iPhone. Although my own personal jury is still out about eBooks, I think there are some times when it’s worth pulling out my phone and reading a few pages here and there, rather lugging out a whole book to read a few pages. This isn’t something I’m hugely committed to, but I’m going to try to open iBooks instead of Facebook whenever I have a few minutes to kill in a waiting room or lobby.

So, I hope with these few ideas, I will be able to continue to fit reading time into my life, even though I won’t be reading on trains anymore.

So Many Books, So Little Time

Last year, after reaching my goal of reading 50 books in a year, I decided this year I would go for quality over quantity in my reading selections.

I didn’t think much about what this meant, or what my criteria would be for selecting good books. It just meant I would stop “cheating” by picking short books and easy reads, and stop being deterred from the gigantic books that would take valuable time away from working toward meeting my numbers.

However, now that 2012 has begun, I’ve found my reading situation even more challenging. Here’s why.

This month I started an amazing new job where I have pretty much unlimited access to all the books I could ever want. In fact, just this week, three new books have been added to my collection, and that’s not including the ones I am only borrowing. On top of that, I tend to be more of a commuter-reader, rather than a bedtime reader, but my new job is walking distance from where I live.

With this new concept of my bookshelf growing significantly faster than I can tear through it, I realized I have a few things I need to work toward.

  1. Carving out a new time to read all these books.
  2. Making sure I read the majority of books I own.
  3. Finding a way to avoid the pressure of reading more books, and focusing on reading those books I’ve been putting off.
I am attempting to work on each of these goals, and over the next three days I will share with you my plans to help accomplish each.
Stay tuned!

Mickey and Marathons; Harry and Hogwarts

The day after I completed the Disney World Marathon, I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Writing about it now seems kind of silly to me. Not silly that I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or that I went the day after running 26.2 miles (although, I don’t recommend walking around a theme park as a marathon recovery plan). No, what seems silly is that while both the marathon and Harry Potter were things on my Life’s List, they feel so very different crossing them off.

With the marathon, I trained hard all year. I struggled, and I overcame. I was moved to tears as the gospel choir sung “Hallelujah” in the final mile, and crossing the finish line was one of my proudest moments.

Compared to that, I almost feel guilty crossing off “Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” from my list.

It’s funny how some goals and aspirations in life take so much preparation, while others just take a certain amount of money for an admission ticket and some transportation.

But regardless, drinking a butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was something I knew I wanted to do. (Which reminds me, I need to be more specific in the wording some of the items on my list. The butterbeer was a definite part of the goal, so “visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” wasn’t quite specific enough.)

It may not have been a proud moment, a milestone event, or a personal challenge like the marathon, but it certainly was a fun experience and left me with some great memories with my family.

Here are a few photos from the day.

Hogwarts ahead

Hogwarts Castle

Ready to Drink my Butterbeer

Focus on the Now, Say Yes, and Do 12 Things in 2012

Last year I decided to attempt cross off 12 things from my list in 2011. When I came up with this idea, it was simply to hold myself more accountable for actively seeking out new opportunities and putting forth an effort to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.

I’m a strong believer in making things happen for yourself. I’ve learned that sometimes simply stating your desire to do something sends you closer to accomplishing it than you would imagine. That’s not to say that luck, good fortune, and the help of others are also often necessary. But sitting around and waiting for opportunities to make their way to you is, in my opinion, not going to get you very far.

So last year when I decided to try to cross off 12 things from my list, it instantly changed my mindset for the year. Any time a potential opportunity arose for something on my list, instead of thinking to myself, “I wanna try that some day” I found myself thinking, “Yes! That is something I want to do this year. Sign me up.”

The shift from “someday” to “this year” was huge for me. I realized that we so often rely on the “someday” mentality, that we tend to forget the right now of our lives. Sure, there are always distractions, financial issues, and other life events that get in the way. And sometimes there’s no way around them. (There were several things I could have done this year, but had to decline due to time or money restraints.) But it’s important to remember that life will always be in the way, and not to rely on those as excuses to not do the things you really want to do.

So, I entered into 2011 with a new outlook on life. I had a “just say yes” mentality*, and then figured the rest out later.  For example, I registered for my first half marathon. It was something I had always wanted to try, but felt in no way ready for. I had never run more than 5 or 6 miles at one time, and even that only happened once, many  years ago. But by just saying yes, signing up, and figuring it out later, I had no choice but to train and get ready to run my first 13.1.

Had I waited until I knew I could run that distance before signing up, I never would have gotten there. Just by saying I’d do it, I found a way to make it happen.

Between focusing on 2011 instead of “someday”, and by just saying yes, last year was one of the most fulfilling years I can remember. I danced on stage; I traveled around Ireland; I sang karaoke alone; I ran not one but two half marathons – and signed up for a full marathon. But it’s not only the cool stuff I was able to do that made the year memorable. It’s the new  embrace-life mentality that came from it that really resonated with me.

So, for 2012, I have decided to continue the trend and set out to accomplish 12 more things this year. Be sure to check my 12 Things in 2012 page to see my progress.

*Disclaimer: I’m not talking about saying yes to completely irresponsible things. If I were thinking about quitting my job, buying a Porsche boxter, and driving across the country on no income, for example, I wouldn’t “just say yes” because it sounds like something I’d want to do. You need to be realistic here, too. 

The Year In Review

I know I’ve been MIA for a while, but I’ve had quite a lot going on in my life. Since my last post, I ran a half marathon in Las Vegas, lost my job, got a new job, partook in at least 4 different holiday celebrations, and managed to keep working on things from my list.

Since New Year’s Eve is a good time for reflecting on the year, I thought I’d do a little recap of the year’s highlights.

  • Dance Experiment – DE was definitely one of the highlights of my year. I met 21 amazing new people, performed on stage at the Park West, and unbeknownst to me until several months after the fact, also accomplished something else from my list that night – receiving a standing ovation! (Check out the edited photo and original by Rich Chapman, which helped me realize this accomplishment!)

  • Running It’s no secret that running played a big part in my life this year. At the start of the year I had never run farther than 6 miles, and by year’s end I have 2 half marathons under my belt, I’ve almost reached my goal of a sub-30 5K, and I completed a 20-mile training run, in the snow! While I’m still slow, and I still can’t say I love running, I will always attribute 2011 to the year I first could call myself “a runner.”
  • 12 Things in 2011 – My biggest project of the year was to cross off 12 things from my List this year. Not only did I surpass that goal, but I also am well on my way of crossing off two more in the first half of January. (Run the Disney Marathon and go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.) This year had quite a few ups and downs, but the focus I was able to place on accomplishing these things really helped me stay positive through the rougher times and left me with the feeling that the year was a success.

That said, successes are not always possible without some failures as well. Here are a few of the things I attempted but did not accomplish:

  • My knitting project  – It’s over a year later, and my scarf is still incomplete. 
  • Running a 5K in under 30 minutes This one is not for lack of trying. I ran as fast as my little lungs would take me, and I missed my goal by 7 seconds. But, I think I’m okay with this particular failure because my focus this year was on distance, not speedwork. I think if I could get this close without speed training, it’s definitely attainable in the near future.
  • Learning to write with my left hand – another story of another abandoned project. Not something detrimental, and I can always pick it up again later. It’s just more proof that I don’t always accomplish everything I set out to do.
  • Become a godmother – Clearly this is one outside of my control. But in a year where at least 5 of my closest friends and my sister had babies, this was not the year of the Godmother for me. Maybe this is something that will never happen for me, but it’s not something I’ll take off the list because you never know if/when it might happen.
  • Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy – I’ve tried. I keep trying. I just can’t make it through the first movie without falling asleep or getting bored and distracted. This might be one of those items where eventually I realize it’s just not worth it, and take it off my list completely. But for now, I might give it one more shot.

Overall, I think the year was a success, and I plan on doing 12 Things in 2012, too, so be sure to stay tuned.

Happy New Year!

Just in the Nick of Time

Though there were many bumps along the road, and with a few shortcuts by reading more YA than usual this year, as of noon on New Year’s Eve, I managed to complete my GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge.

I was worried for a while, but thanks to the Chicago Public Library; my favorite used bookstore  — Open Books; and reading free books on my iPhone, I was able to read 50 books this year and reach my goal!

As for next year, I’d like to focus more on quality over quantity. I hope to read more of those books I “should” have read years ago, books that I’ve been putting off reading because they’re so long or meaty, and books that will challenge me more.

But as for today, I’m off to celebrate a year full of accomplishments.

I did it!