My Goals for 2015

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do ‘resolutions’ for the year, I set goals. Resolutions are too restrictive for me. The word ‘resolution’ implies that you are going to do or not do something all the time. Then, when you inevitably stumble trying to keep a resolution, it’s too easy to say ‘I failed to do x’ and go back to your old ways.

Goals, on the other hand, are something you work toward achieving. If you stumble – eat that cheeseburger, forget to post a blog on a particular day – you haven’t broken your goal, you’ve simply taken a slight detour on the way to achieving it.

I spent the first week of this New Year taking a long, hard look at the events of the last year and the lessons I’ve learned from them. They weren’t pretty lessons. My father’s illnesses taught me that I need to pay attention – a lot more attention – to my own health. I found that, in a crisis, you learn more about your family members than you wanted to learn, especially what they really think of you. Stress makes people just blurt out their actual feelings. Add in my work situation, the behavior of some coworkers, and I realized that, now more than ever, I want something else out of life than what I’ve gotten. Actually, I realized that I deserve a lot more out of life than I have right now. And so I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for 2015, listed from least to biggest.

Goal Number 5 — Lose weight and get back in shape.

This goal will, I believe, be the easiest to meet this year. You see, I finally got a physical and discovered why my previous attempts all ended in failure. It wasn’t the food I was eating, or the frequency of exercise I was getting. No, it all came down to a tiny little gland in my throat.

My thyroid isn’t working.

The thyroid, for those who don’t know, is a one inch or so gland in your neck. For such a small thing it’s very important, because it produces the hormones that control your body’s metabolism and the functioning of your heart, digestive system, muscles and, oh yeah, your brain. Thyroid problems can lead to serious health issues or even death. My poor thyroid gland is trying its best, but it’s no longer capable of producing anywhere near enough hormones to keep my body running correctly.

Looking back over the last two years, I had every textbook symptom, from weight gain to exhaustion, brittle nails to mental fogginess. They started slow and sporadic and cascaded into a constant storm. I just never put the pieces together, blaming my weight gain and exhaustion on my massive workload or the stress of my father’s illnesses and the family dramas. Fortunately, this problem is easy to correct – I take an inexpensive hormone-replacement pill each day.

But that also means I no longer have any reason for not meeting this goal. My metabolism is humming along fairly normally, and better yet, Planet Fitness opened up a location five minutes from my house. That’s a measly five minute drive to reach a 24-hour, 365-day gym with all the bicycles, treadmills and weight machines I could want, not to mention a friendly staff to nag me into getting fit.

Oddly enough, I’m happy just thinking about the going to the gym. It’s great to have the energy to work out!

Goal Number 4 — The craft cabinet of doom.

I love to knit, make jewelry, occasionally sew and paint with oils. However, the last few years I’ve had no time in which to indulge myself. That did not stop me from stocking up on supplies, though, and as a result, the poor armoire in which I store those supplies is stuffed to bursting with yarn, fabric, beads and tubes of paint.

So this year, I will finish out those projects. I will knit – lots and lots of sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, there’s a two-page list! I’m also going to bite the bullet and finish knitting a set of Avengers dolls. I’ve found some lovely decorative pillows on Pinterest which I plan to make, and the remaining fabric will go to cover magazine files and storage boxes. I’ve already sketched out several designs for necklaces and bracelets to use up all my stone beads, and then, in the summer, I’ll set up an easel outside and finish those abstract paintings I mapped out three years ago. There’s also some mercury glass I need to wrap up for the next set of winter holidays.

The trick to meeting this goal? Not being distracted by all the pretty, shiny, new ideas I find on Pinterest. Seriously, that site should carry a warning that it’s hazardous to your mental health – and your wallet.

Goal Number 3 — Publish a book.

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (known far and wide as NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) for a number of years. NaNo is the annual November insanity where 150,000 plus people across the world try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It takes discipline, inspiration and no small measure of insanity to want to participate. The goal isn’t to end up with a clean, ready for publication book. It’s to write, consistently, dramatically, creatively, and to learn to trust your muse when you’re lead down a different path than the original intent of your story.

NaNo is not just a pointless exercise; it’s produced a lot of published works, including Water for Elephants and The Night Circus.

I’m not claiming to be in that class of novelist. But, as a result of my diligent participation in this annual exercise in masochism, I have three semi-completed books that hit well over that word count, and another two that hit the 30,000 word mark. Despite some interest, I’ve never actually had the time to follow through on publishing them, which involves a large amount of work to add additional scenes, rewrite the draft, edit the language and finally – gulp! – let the book loose into the world.

This year, I’m going to start in on that – on my own, so I can use the time I have as I find it and not be under deadline pressure from someone outside my life. I’m going to pick just one book, and take a fresh look at it. Do a proper outline, expand the plot I’ve already written, add in more characters where needed and do a better job at scene description. Edit it, spellcheck the heck out of it, give it to someone to read and tear apart, and then make the changes he/she suggests. Rinse, repeat, until I get it where I think it’s ready to be read by real people.

And then I’ll self-publish it. Amazon has a lot of self-published authors. I’ve bought some of their books and enjoyed most of them. So why not add one of mine into the mix and see how people like it? If they don’t? Well, I’ll still be able to add ‘published author’ to my list of accomplishments! And if they do like it, then I’ll consider the same treatment for some of the other things I’ve written, or the 19 ideas for books I’ve tucked into my projects list.

Goal Number 4 – A Job, A Career.

Okay. Deep breath here. For the first time, I’m going to honestly state what I want to do with my career.

And that is to look for something new in a job and . . .

Hopefully move to and work in – London.

That’s London, England, not London, Texas or any other state in the Union.

I think I’ve always been in love with Britain. My mom started me off by reading bedtime stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood. To this day, I devour every new book about them, as well as the wonderfully-convoluted Plantagenet family. My personal favorites are Eleanor of Aquitaine – that woman never let anything stop her for long! – and Richard II, who started well and ended so sadly. I’ve practically memorized Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, and the adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. My library makes sure I read all the latest British mysteries and novels.

My mother also bequeathed to me her love of movies, which only encouraged my addiction. I grew up watching British World War II dramas, Sherlock Holmes mysteries and every movie made from the great classics. If there’s a movie from the 1930’s to the present about England, Scotland, et al, odds are pretty good I’ve either seen it, have it queued up on online or am hunting for an old VHS tape of it.

My earliest memories of television are the same. They revolve around the classic Doctor Who and Masterpiece Theater, All Creatures Great and Small and period costume dramas. I’m pretty sure I was the only girl in my school who planned her schoolwork around Upstairs Downstairs. The only reason I still have cable? BBC America and PBS. Doctor Who, Law and Order UK, Downton Abbey (although I might prefer Upstairs out of nostalgia), so many other wonderful programs as well as my morning fix of BBC News.

For the longest time, I’ve dreamt of, toyed with, talked about the idea of moving to Britain and working there. But I never did anything seriously about it.

Why?

Well, for the sake of honesty, let me just point out that I have no actual long term personal or professional connections to London or to Britain. I was not born in Britain – although I do have a grandmother born in an EU country. I’m an American-trained, American-licensed in-house lawyer with a specialty in corporate operations, taxes, compliance and the internet, as well as a background as a business and HR manager. I have never worked in Britain – although I have some familiarity with its governance, legal and employment systems due to my employers having subsidiaries there.

Nevertheless, I want this. Life is too short to spend it pining for something and then regretting not doing it on your deathbed. I no longer have any ties to staying in the US, and I want to fulfill my dream of working in London. I want the joy of finally living in Britain, exploring all the places I read about and saw on television. I have a list, people, a list from high school, of places connected with the Plantagenet dynasty that I will need a solid year of weekends to see.

And if I don’t like it? Well, I could always come back to the States. But I think, given my adaptability and love of adventures, that I’d do just fine over there.

Now I just have to figure out how to get there. I’m a realist. I may not get a job there right away; maybe I’ll get a job that allows me to travel there frequently. After all, there are immigration laws and licensing laws and financial barriers in the way. The IRS penalizes US citizens who work abroad. But I can still start networking and examining how I can leverage my talents towards my goal, right? And even if I don’t get to London, right off, that process will be good professionally for me.

And that leads to the big goal.

Goal Number 1 – I Come First.

This goal is the most important. It’s me retraining my brain to accept that I should come first.

I was raised in a conservative family, and taught that as a girl I should always put other people and their problems ahead of my concerns. My mom gave up things regularly. My grandmothers did the same. And true to my training, I will cancel personal appointments so I can take on a new project at work or help a friend with a problem.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if, that is, I was just changing my haircut or manicure appointment or going to see a movie on another day.

But my ‘year in review’ showed me I don’t just put off little things. I cancel appointments at the garage for car maintenance and repairs. Vacations for which I’ve made reservations and waited all year. Financial things like balancing my checkbook. Even doctors’ appointments to deal with what turned out to be a serious health problem.

And that’s not good. At least, that’s not good for me. For the coworker with the last minute project, or the relative with a personal problem, it’s all good, because their work and worries get solved. Then I’ll scramble to take care of my own problems. Reality check: a lot of times my own problems don’t get handled, or at least, don’t get handled in a timely manner. It’s hard to squeeze more than 110 waking hours into one week.

And perhaps I wouldn’t have even considered changing things, until my father’s illness. When I learned just what certain members my family think of me, my life, and the things in which I am interested. I can sum it up easily enough – ‘what you want to do/currently do is stupid and unimportant, and no one works those kinds of hours so you’re just lying.’

I could be angry with them, or I could realize that they’re not going to change, there’s no use arguing with them, just release them and go on with my life.

I have to take care of myself – no one else is lining up for the task. And that means that I have to make sure my interests and concerns are handled by me in a timely manner. I have a right, just like everyone else, to keep my personal appointments. If people can leave in the middle of a project meeting for their dentist or their child’s school play, well then I can leave for a doctor’s appointment or to get my car repaired.

I’m not saying that I won’t continue giving my usual 100%+ at work. I wouldn’t know how to work any other way.

But it does mean that I’m going to make sure that if I have an appointment, I keep it absent a world-ending problem. And that I pay more attention to my own personal situations.

It’s only fair. To me.

Wow. I think I need to sit down now. That last one – that’s a big one.

Those five goals will consume this year.

Having said all that, we will resume regular postings now about Star Wars and books and things that need digitizing. Enjoy and Happy New Year to All!

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2014 — A horrible success

Although 2014 was a horrible year for my family, especially my father, I am still grateful for the year. Because at the end, my Dad is still alive and with me.

I started off 2014 with a lot of hopes and dreams in my brain. I planned to work on advancing my career, getting myself back in shape, finally finishing and publishing the book I’d been writing for two years. I mapped out my goals, set out basic plans, joined a gym.

Then in February, my Dad had a heart attack. Although it turned out to be a minor one, it still was a heart attack in an older man with congenital heart problems.

Over the next month, Dad went through a variety of tests to find the reason for the attack. He then had to undergo not one, but two, heart procedures to correct this new problem. It was a physical strain on a man who prides himself on being strong and doing everything for himself. But he worked hard at recuperating, and by mid-year, he was almost back to where he was before the ‘incident.’

He even came to stay with me over the July 4th weekend. July 4th in Philadelphia is a lot of fun. There are parades everywhere – from the major ones in Center City to our township parade with fire engines and antique cars and marching bands from local schools. We ate ice cream under the stars, watched fireworks from my balcony, and did the usual tour of all the golf shops in three counties. The following weekend, I went home and spent more time with him. I am so glad I did.

Because the next weekend, in late July, he had a stroke. A massive, bilateral stroke that left him comatose. He was transferred to a critical care unit at a major hospital, where we learned the type of stroke he’d suffered was rare, and that the prognosis – was not good. Essentially, we were told he probably would never wake up, would not make it out of the hospital alive.

They had obviously never met my Dad. He surprised everyone by waking up from the coma after a few days, and again began the long, difficult road to recovery. He learned how to breathe without a ventilator, and like an infant, started figuring out how to move his arms and hands and legs. The hardest part was relearning how to speak – the stroke left his larynx paralyzed, and you could see the frustration in his eyes when he tried to answer simple questions. But after two months, he had made enough progress to be transferred to a rehabilitation unit.

And ran into another problem, his third of the year – the nurses discovered a pre-cancerous condition. Back to the hospital he went for another round of surgery, and a reset of his recovery from the stroke.

But regardless of all these illnesses, my Dad is still here, still fighting, still determined to recover. Although he requires care and is in a nursing home, in just the three months from the last round of surgery, he’s now able to feed himself, stand and walk a bit, talk to everyone about everything and is incredibly happy Notre Dame won its bowl game.

He’s even able to come home for short periods of time – he spent part of Christmas with us, as well as the bowl game and New Year’s Eve.

Knowing my Dad, he’s probably planning on being discharged and back to normal by next Christmas. But I don’t care if he doesn’t make that goal, because my Dad is still here, and more importantly, still my Dad The happiest day of 2014 for me was about three weeks after he woke up from the coma – when I walked into the room, said “Hi Dad” and heard him say “Hi Shel” back to me. He appears to have had suffered little to no mental impairment as a result of the stroke, for which we are all so grateful.

So, despite achieving none of my stated goals for 2014, I count this year as a success. Because we pulled together as a family, and because Dad showed us once again how to be strong and successful and how to never give up.

I just hope 2015 is a quieter, safer year for him.

Spring is New Year’s, Take Two

Leave the first quarter behind. Implement your New Year’s plans now, in this second quarter.

Words of wisdom from a radio broadcast. The commentator was talking about businesses, who have, on paper, lost so much time in this new year thanks to our horrendous winter. Her advice was not to dwell on the lost opportunities of the first few months of the year, but rather to take your plans and start afresh, today, April 1st.

That’s good advice for everyone, including those individuals (like me) who have not had much of an opportunity to translate plans from paper to reality.

Our weather in the Philadelphia area has been horrendous this year — the second snowiest winter on record, and unlike previous years, we didn’t get a few large storms of 18+ inches, but a steady, near-constant snowfall. Drop in the ice storms (including one that knocked out power for over a week), road closures thanks to potholes masquerading as car-swallowing craters, frigid temperatures that were more appropriate for the Arctic regions, then stir in business/school/activity cancellations even when there wasn’t a storm, and that adds up to a lot of lost time. Instead of networking through LinkedIn, working out, cleaning house, I spent twice, and sometimes more, time just commuting back and forth to work. Getting to the gym? An impossibility when the roads are coated in half an inch of ice every night. And the power played a little game called ‘let’s see how long I stay on today’, making it a risk to keep electronics like a computer and router up and running.

Combine that with my usual project workload, and it meant I had little time to move on those plans of mine. Then my computer agreed to acquire another company, which left me wondering where I will/might fit into the new group. And I remembered — I was going to pay attention to myself, not put my needs behind everyone else’s desires.

Which brings me back to here, to you and to my plans. Before I wrote this, I went to LinkedIn and updated my profile with my latest accomplishments. I did half an hour of yoga. And I cleaned out some bookshelves. In keeping with my project to declutter, I’m listing a large number of Star Wars hardbacks onto Craigslist. I intend to list something on Craigslist at least three times a week, so my no-longer-needed belongings can go off to a good home elsewhere.

Here comes New Year’s — again.

New Year’s Decisions

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I do New Year’s lifestyles.

Resolutions, as all the news feeds tell us, are ‘doomed to failure.’ They imply that you are adding, or deleting, something from your existence. That a state that already is a part of your lifestyle is going to change. And we all know change is hard.

I learned, from many attempts over the years, that if you pretend that the change you want is already a part of your life, you don’t have to think. No “I’m not going to eat that donut” or “I’ll remember not to curse this time.” Just — I don’t eat donuts. If it’s already a part of your life, you don’t have to actually change anything about yourself.

In other words fake it till you make it.

End of the year is always a hectic time in my job. Without exception, for the last ten years there’s been project, or a deal, or a contract, that absolutely, positively, has to be finished by December 31st. That kind of schedule essentially requires me to work 12-hour plus days, leaving little time to plan for the next year. And so, instead of getting to New Year’s Eve and making some on-the-fly announcement about the next year, I decided to take the first month of the year and do a “state of my life” analysis.

Some parts are great, or getting there. I’m getting back in shape. I’m certainly eating much healthier. I’ve been paying more attention to my career. I got some of my outstanding craft and knitting projects completed. And I began making progress in paying off my student loans and the accompanying credit card (grad school is seriously way too expensive!).

Other areas, not so good. I literally haven’t written more than 5,000 words in the last year. My nails are a mess. I still have more clearing to do in my home. And while I paid more attention to my career, I lacked definitive focus when it came to knowing where I want to go next job and career-wise.

And so I came to Chinese New Year. Having looked at things objectively, having tested out some ideas, I have incorporated these things into my life for 2014:

1. I am open to career exploration and change. There’s no reason why I can’t look for a relocation to Los Angeles and employment in a different field, or at Disney, if the right opportunity presents itself.

2. It’s time for me to redecorate. My apartment needs some changes and possibly a new color scheme. I love blue, and this seems to be the year of blue-hued home décor. So I’ve started spring cleaning before spring, and the money I make from selling off the excess will go into some new home décor.

3. I write. Every day. I joined an online group with a pledge to write 250,000 words this year. Considering I have been known in the past to write a 10,000 word fan fiction in just under 24 hours, I see no reason why I can’t rewrite that NaNo novel from two years ago, and self-publish it on Amazon for kindle.

4. I have the time to do little things for myself. Like regular manicures. I have a (now not) secret love for nail polish, and it’s time I started regularly applying it to my nails. So what if they get chipped within two days of the manicure (thanks to the filing cabinets at work). That just means I get to try out a new color on the next manicure!

And on that note, regular posting will now resume. As a teaser? I think I love the Old Republic.

Welcome to 2012!

Welcome to my blog!

I’m Michele — perpetually-curious and interested in everything.  Lately though, I’ve found myself feeling — bored.  Stale.  A tad unhappy. 

The year 2012 has been hyped in the media as a year of tremendous change for humankind.   And so, having decided that I wanted to change things in my life, I’ve restarted this blog to chronicle my 2012 journey.  

Over the next 365 days, I intend to test drive some new interests, visit places I’ve been meaning to see and possibly move to a new job, or city, or even a new country.  I’ll be reviving some old dreams, like publishing a book and making jewellry. 

The only rule for me this year is that I will not, absolutely not, rule out anything.  After all, you can’t know if you’ll like, or can do, something unless you try it.  It was true when my mother coaxed me into eating my vegetables as a child, and it’s still try today.

In this year, Everything Is Possible

Right now, ‘m a business and tax lawyer in the Philadelphia are — but who knows where and what I’ll be tomorrow!