90-to-40: Patience is a virtuoso

Day 55: I'm not a very patient person. I want what I want, when I want it. But, don't we all. I'm tired of struggling with it. It doesn't get great results - except to increase my stress levels.

As I get older, I'm learning the skill and art of being patient. It requires effort to change, but I believe I have it in me. I will be a virtuoso and play my patience like a piano, or a harp, or an oboe. Whatever... I will find the music and art of patience within me.

One way I've learned to cope with it is by embracing "anticipation." Really... anticipation is my favorite emotion. Whether I have been waiting at the airport for my partner, or standing on the edge of a platform counting down to zipline in the Smokey Mountains or just waiting in line at a store... it is the last few moments that are the absolute best part.  I guess I'm an adrenalin junkie... but it works for me.

I have also gotten pretty good at occupying my time. Today, I was working on a new walkway for my front porch and it started raining. Ugh... dashed my plans! I got very impatient with the rain... silly huh? I quickly got a grip and I'm using this time to accomplish other things and rest a little. I even sat on the porch and enjoyed the rain for a while. It was nice. So... no harm done. The front walk isn't going anywhere.

Over the past year or so, I have discovered that impatience is a symptom of being a control freak. The more I learn that I cannot control everything, the more I learn the value of allowing things to unfold. When I'm successful doing that, I find it is easier to have patience. Control is an illusion, anyway. Just because things go as planned doesn't mean it was the only option.

As I move forward, I want to continue to master this patience thing. I will continue to make plans, but be resourceful and flexible. I'd rather strive to let go of control than to hold on to an illusion.

Ideally, I'll become the "patience virtuouso." But it doesn't have to happen overnight. .. I can wait.

90-to-40: I'm tired of paying for things I don't use

Day 56: 

I'm going to take a new approach to getting value out of my money and time. I am tired of paying for things I don't use. So, I'm going to start using them. If I've paid for it or earned it, I'm going to use it.

Like you, I spend thousands of dollars each year on taxes in my community. I pay out money for my home, entertainment and things. I have a job and earn great benefits. So here are ways I'm going to get value out of these things to enhance my life and stop spending money I don't need to spend.

  • Sidewalks:  I was driving down the street tonight and noticed a section of sidewalk was being replaced on Main Street. I thought, "It's about time they put my tax dollars to use!" Then... I realized that I don't even use that sidewalk anymore. I used to walk and jog often, but I've stopped. So, I'm going to start using the sidewalks. Same goes for streets and walking trails. I paid for them, so I'm going to use them! 
  • Libraries: I have contributed to a huge stockpile of books at my local library, yet I buy books on Amazon. It doesn't make sense. I will get a library card and make use of the books I've helped to pay for!
  • Schools: I don't even have kids! So, I'm going to start looking for plays, events, or learning programs that are open to the community. Some of those high school plays are pretty good. And maybe I'll take a cheap class on cooking at the local community college.
  • Community offices: I will no longer feel bad for asking for help or questions by my community leaders. I can reach out to city aldermen to request upgrades to my neighborhood infrastructure. I could attend city council meetings and weigh in on how my taxes are spent! I can make sure to vote in all the elections to have a say in the way my money is distributed! When I need recycling services, information or documents, and so on... I will ask. I pay the salaries of these people and I deserve to have access to the information I need, when I need it.
  • Charity: I will donate my old things to charity (and obtain tax receipts to maximize my deductions.) I will investigate community volunteer organizations and events to help my community with my time. Those in need should get the full benefit of what our community offers - and maybe I can help facilitate that.
  • House/Yard: I pay my monthly house payment (and taxes) and I don't use my home to it's fullest potential. I will do my best to make my home comfortable and inviting for others. I will host a barbecue and invite friends and family! I will eliminate dead spaces in my house by clearing out the extra crap I don't need or use. I will put more effort into making my yard into a creative, inviting place where I can enjoy time. Even if it's just visually appealing, I will clean up weeds, landscape, plant flowers and use my time to beautify it.
  • Clothes: I have three different sizes of clothes because I don't consistently exercise. By using those sidewalks and parks, I will work to get back in the clothes I have and like, rather than having to buy new ones. I have invested in these items and I should use them rather than taking the lazy way out and buy new ones. 
  • Furniture: I've bought and paid for furniture that is no longer useful. I will either refinish it and find better uses for them, or give them away (tax deduction, again!). I've got a talent to refinish furniture, so I'd rather recycle that desk than have it take up space that I'm paying for! I'm tired having thing that don't benefit me, cluttering up my life. 
  • Cable: I will start to search the free movies and utilize the DVR that I'm paying for. Recording movies and having movie nights could be done for free (maybe the cost of popcorn). Every movie ends up being free... I don't have to see everything on the day it is released!
  • Health: I'm very fortunate to have excellent benefits with my job. However, I am not sure I use them wisely. I will start using my health benefits effectively by scheduling Doctor and Dentist appointments, reviewing the website to determine what services are offered for free, and so on. I'm sure there are health programs that I could utilize to help me make better choices in my life. This time will be well spent and I'll get the full value from these benefits. 
  • 401K & Financial: I'll maximize my investments and investigate any advice and programs offered to help improve my financial future.
  • Education: I will investigate to see if I'm eligible for additional tuition reimbursement options. I already have a Master's degree, but I may be eligible for additional education benefits that I'm not using. I may as well improve myself in any way. It will benefit me and my employer. 
  • Technology: I work for a terrific company that leads in technology. There are so many aspects of this technology that I don't utilize. I will start to seek out informational and educational opportunities proactively instead of waiting for them to be assigned.
In short, I need to get the most out of what I've earned. I'm bound to find at least one or two bits of value by exploring all of these options. Whether it enhances my health, my finances or just provides an interesting experience, I will get more value for my hard earned dollar.  Plus, I won't be blowing money and wasting time on other stuff JUST to have something to do. It's a win-win!



90-to-40: Please place the past in the proper trash receptical

Day 57: 

Reader Question #3: How do you put the past behind you? 

The past is already behind us. We just have to decide what deserves a place in our future and discard the rest. I know... I know... you're thinking that it can't be that easy. But, it is.

I won't try to convince you to move beyond the past. If your reading this, you've most likely already decided your ready to change how you are looking at the things that haunt and taunt you in your mind. So, I'll simply tell you the actions I employed. If they work for you, you'll discover your own truth about it.  

What I learned is that letting go of the past and ridding yourself of negative thoughts is a manual process.

I had to manually replace thoughts about the past. Even to this day, I have to intentionally replace these thoughts with something positive. I had to power through the emotions. I learned that they were tied to the past and new, healthier emotions emerged as I retrained my mind. 

I got very serious about it. It was awkward and uncomfortable. There were images and memories imprinted in my mind that had been there all my life. I learned to reprogram the camera in my mind to take different pictures by using basic tactics I used as a kid in school. When bad memories or negative thoughts come up, even now, I consciously shift my thoughts to something constructive. 

I applied basic learning processes. I listened to those who seem to being doing something right. When I don't know the answer, I ask for help or look it up. 

Pick one major recurring thought and decide to replace it. Commit to it, no matter how long it takes. Every time the thought comes up, replace it consciously and intentionally with positive affirmations and thoughts. Keep your inner dialogue kind. 

TRASH the negativity from the past. If you have to, write down what is hounding you and then wad it up and throw it away or burn it. Then live like it's gone - like it's not retrievable. Do it as many times as it takes. Take the actions and let the process speak for itself.

90-to-40: Getting clear on priorities

Day 58:

Reader Topic #2:  Priorities

My brain hurts. I started typing my blog tonight and filled the page with witty, self-righteous crap about how priorities are about choices, and making the right choices will impact your future positively. Likewise, I had examples of how bad choices impact the future in not-so-positive ways.  Blah, Blah, Blah!

The truth is... priorities change over time. And... no one has a right to tell you what your priorities should be. In fact, I'm not even sure we can choose all of our priorities. It's when we place the emphasis on the wrong things that our lives go out of control. And when we come back to "what matters most" the storms calm and we find peace, confidence and joy in our lives.

With all of that said, I've found this topic VERY difficult to write about. So, I'm just going to tell you about one of my life-long priorities - and how my priorities have changed over time - and the impact on my life up to now.

Priority 1: Writing
As a child, I had dreams of being a writer. I was passionate about it - even if I didn't have the language skills to describe it at the time. That passion, and the importance I placed on my dreams, colored every action I took in my life. I recall reading "Little House on the Prairie" as a kid over and over again because I wanted to write like that. I wanted to paint pictures with words. I believed I would someday write a book and I held onto that belief.

When I went to college, I struggled. I struggled BAD. I became frustrated and switched majors several times. All the while, I knew that the work I was doing involved improving my writing skills, language skills, knowledge of the world and how people's minds worked. At various points during my education, I majored everything from Journalism, to Psychology, to Sociology to Management. These topics didn't feed my passion, but I was building the necessary skills and experience. I prayed some day I'd have an opportunity to write.

As an adult, I had to take care of myself and my household. I had responsibilities. These things became my priority, but I never lost the desire to write. I kept writing and sought out opportunities to do creative work. I wrote poetry and practically threw myself under the back tires of people who did - what I deemed to be - awesome things about writing.

I volunteered myself to take part in anything that allowed me to be creative and/or write at my job. Even though my job was NOT literary, I found opportunities. Even when I found myself in very technical, customer facing roles, I kept my focus in the back of my mind. I chose NOT to pursue upper management roles in Customer Service because it didn't feed my passions. But, I always did a good job and gave my all for the job I had committed to.

I continued to do what I loved - creative writing - even when I didn't get paid to do it. I made opportunities to write. When faced with options, I chose the more literary of them. I took poetry classes while studying for a Human Resources degree and created my own blog.

Throughout the years, there were times when my commitments meant completely abandoning my passion of writing to put food on the table. But I went back to it - over and over again.

Now, I am a Copywriter for a major wireless communication company with a focus on social media. I have a REALLY cool blog that I'm working on, and I have a long list of accomplishments for not-so-lucrative, but very meaningful writing projects. I have earned the respect of a few intelligent and successful people, and alienated (or pissed off) a few too. I am the most broadly traveled person in my family, and among some of my friends. And, along the way, I earned three degrees.

What it all means to me
I'm not blowing my own horn. Everything that I've done amazes ME. I'm HUMBLED beyond words by some of the experiences and accomplishments I've had thus far. I'm blown away by the fact that I'm even sitting here today... AND WRITING for a living, as well as for pleasure. It is remarkable!

Why is all of this important?
Because... one of my passions - my desire to write - was a critical priority in my life. Even when other things took my attention away - it was still there under the surface. It survived the currents of life and always returned. It grew stronger and more important every day.

I can't begin to explain what makes a priority important, or promise that priorities always equate to success. But, I can attest to why writing was a priority in MY life. It's because I LOVE it - and always have. I couldn't imagine my life without expressing myself in writing. I am only at peace when I'm writing on a regular basis.

What I believe
I believe that priorities cannot be made, they are a part of who we are. They change as we change - sometimes daily! They ebb and flow like the ocean tides, but they don't go away. Sometimes they overwhelm us, sometimes they lift us up, sometimes they smash us into the rocks. Sometimes, they save our lives. Sometimes, they take our lives. But, the bottom line is that we must always come back to them - it's impossible to ignore them.

On top of all that - the word itself is plural - meaning that we have multiple going on at any given time. It's like having oceans competing against each other for the shore. Maybe the best we can do is to learn to honor them... and then go with the flow.

More to come...


90-to-40: The best advice I didn't take.

Day 59:

Reader Topic #1:  "What is the best advice you ever got that you didn't take?" 

"Bad associations spoil useful habits."
This advice was given by my parents via our church. It is a biblical reference and it was frequently cited when other people fell into "bad associations" and their "useful habits" went by the wayside. I sincerely respect what my parents were trying to do, however it seems like the examples were all about morality. There's so much more to this advice that I didn't understand, and therefore, did not heed.

Did you know that "bad associations" can also mean people who suck the life out of you? Well, I didn't. I learned... but only after being burned - a lot!

90-to-40: What do you want me to write about?

Day 60! 

Today, I am one third of the way through this project. So far, it's been all about me, me, me. That seems pretty comfortable and safe, doesn't it?

I'm a firm believer in changing my perspective and challenging my mind to see the world differently. Like everyone, my mind tends to default to what I know. But if I'm really going to do this thing... I want to DO IT!  So...let's try something new! 

Tell me what YOU want me to write about.


90-to-40: No wonder I hate math

Day 61:
Time + Distance = Speed?
Distance ÷ Time = Rate???
Rate x Distance = Gas Mileage?? Dog Years???
Ugh... I don't know... I'm not good at math. What I do know...


90-to-40: Fly to Hawaii

Day 62:

In 57 days, I will fly to Hawaii. Oahu, to be exact. I will step off the plane. A lei of flowers will be placed around my neck. With my partner by my side and the air full of the scent of plumeria and hibiscus blooms, he and I will make our way to our seaside villa. We will relax and eat fresh pineapple and walk on the beach. 

******Record Scratch******


90-to-40: A simple conclusion

Day 63:

There are so many conflicting attitudes about how we should to look at the past, present and/or future of our lives. There are complete disciplines dedicated to this holy trinity of time and space, and we are inundated by quotes and philosophies.

Over our lives, we discover this by seeing how others live their lives, reading books and quotes, and so on. can be confusing because of our personal belief systems.


90-to-40: Spit out

Day 64:
My hometown was as "Midwestern" as it gets. Having 7000 residents meant that we qualified to have a Wal-Mart, it was the county seat, had a quaint main street and postcard quality courthouse. It was darn close to Mayberry. 

It was the epitome of a stereotypical small town. Everyone was very normal and fit into their neat little niches. It was a mostly a white, working-class community where all the branches of Christian faiths were represented and respected.



90-to-40: Unnecessary freak out guy

Day 65
These days, there are so few things that I deem to be inconvenient in my life. How can that be possible when I have a lions share of challenging situations? 

Lets take inventory... the first six months of this year, I travelled for my job. The remodel on my house is only about half done. I am in debt. I have to travel 600 miles just to see my partner (or vise versa) for another year. And there's plenty more...


90-to-40: Stop blaming kids for a world we created

Day 66:
People say kids are the worst at being mean to one another. And... kids are the focus of anti-bullying propaganda, blamed for suicides, and assured by the older generations how they dont measure up to the ideal.

But... I knew the older generation when THEY were kids... some of them, mean kids. And some of them... are still mean adults.

One of the beautiful things about getting older is that we develop a crystal clear rear view mirror. I can look back at the kids who bullied or made fun of me and see them with great insight. Yes...I was bullied. And it made a massive impact on my life. But I grew up... and so did they.


90-to-40: Works of art

Day 67:
Have you ever had one of those days with a recurring theme? Today was one of those days for me and it brought me example after example of how humans can take something that seems bad, and transform it into something good.
In my opinion, it is the truest art form. It requires vision. It requires an extraordinary level of optimism. And.. it requires - and builds - character. Doing it over and over again may damn well be divine inspiration.


90-to-40: "A New Sun" - a lyric

Day 68:
A poem inspired by a few recent conversations with others. It is an homage to those who pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start over. In my head, it is a song.  


90-to-40: Sewing up my financial wounds

Day 69:
Okay... it is time to get uber-serious about money. The past few years have been a financial roller coaster. I have a great job that I love. All the hemorrhaging has stopped from not-so-sexy house repairs. I am able to breathe. Now is the time!


90-to-40: Action is a choice

Day 71:

So far, I've cleared up where i stand on a few of my priorities, made peace with my weaknesses, and gotten a few things off my chest.

Nice diversions from turning 40, don't you think?

I'm good at diversions when it comes to placing focus on myself. Taking action is a completely different ballgame.

First... there is the whole matter of my fitness goals. I'm really not quite sure why I'm so adverse to doing a little exercise. Just a few years ago, I got into running and loved it.

At this moment, I am sitting in a recliner with two sleeping dogs on my lap, rain falling outside, and i have a belly full of turkey burgers. I can think of at least that many reasons not to move.

I'm normally pretty active... right? I do yard work and never moan at taking the stairs.

That doesn't count, does it?

Time to make some choices. I think tomorrow morning might call for a walk before work. Or, maybe I can lift a few weights or a swim after work? Or maybe I could do something right now. The choices are endless. 

But one of my choices has to be to DO IT!



90-to-40: Profundity Lost

Day 73
Today, I woke up...
I made some phone calls, some decisions and some lunch.
Later, I sent some pictures to Walgreens, went to pick them up, and then had spaghetti for dinner.
I just finished putting a bedframe together.
Was there some grand discovery that has eluded me? Or was the whole of my day - the routine and such - the equivalent of going "up to the mountaintop?"


90-to-40: From Like to Love

Day 74:
It is time to get serious about the difference between "love" and "like."  I must keep the "loves" as priority number one in order to reap the benefits and to "live my best life" (sorry to quote Oprah so early in the day).
People, things, and behaviors I love deserve more emphasis in my life. The problem is, sometimes the "likes" are easier and require less effort. Sometimes I lean towards the "likes" - even when I don't like it that much - just because it is easy. 


90-to-40: Balancing my balance

Day 75:
"I just want a little bit of everything." (Keith Urban)
This line from a song made me think about my priorities. I'm tempted to say that I strive for balance in everything I do. But I don't think that's true.


90-to-40: Oh.. wait. I get it.

Day 76:
I started this "90-to-40" project to take you along with me as I turn 40. Should be kind of interesting, right?
However, I feel like it's morphing into some sort of manic, roller coaster that is happily cruising down a side street. But... I have written my truth, thus far. So... I am okay with that...
WAIT... No! No... I am not okay with that.


90-to-40: It’s all over but the (down)spouting!

Day 77

After years of upheaval, months of transition and three weeks of daylight-through-the-walls, rain-delays, and hearing “bang-thump-bang-thump” all around me, my house FINALLY feels like a home! The only thing left to be installed are the guttering and downspouts.


90-to-40: The "Gordon Ramsay Effect," Damn it!

Day 78:
I strive to be kind. I don't always succeed, but I do my best. I'm a firm believer that we MUST constantly be aware of the golden rule.
I also understand that assertive or direct communication is not necessarily unkind. Choice of words and tone are important. But, there is a difference between being unkind and being direct.  


90-to-40: Surprise Traditions

Day 79
I got two free baseball tickets for setting up a new checking accout a couple weeks ago. My partner is from Texas so he has never experienced the red and white sea of Cardinal fans... the near-capacity weekday crowds... the never-ending "waves" that circulate around the new, but retro Busch Stadium.


90-to-40: Forgiving My Fifth Grade Teacher

Day 80
My Fifth grade teacher was insane. I mean full-on, clinical insanity. Certifiable. Nuts.
For my catharsis - I will call her Mrs. CrayCray.

This unbalanced woman affected my life for many years after her reign of terror which left me with a new understanding of how adults are not always right - and interestingly enough, taught me how to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself. She is dead now - and, no I didn't kill her - but even the mention of her name makes me feel ill.

It was the second day of school and I came down with the flu. I was sick in bed for two or three days with a fever, chills, and all the other fun stuff that goes along with it. When I returned to school...


90-to-40: The "Did List"

Day 81:
Rest assured, I am completely aware of my humanity. Yet I am reminded daily by personal battles with myself.
I didn't get enough accomplished...
I should have replied faster to that email...
I need to go to bed earlier...
I didn't get to the gym again...
That conversation made me feel yucky...
Whatever it is that DIDN'T get done, didn't handle correctly, or didn't say... reminds me I am human. And I think, "I'm almost 40. I should be better at life by now."


90-to-40: Imperfect Me

Day 82
I started today by jumping out of bed and eagerly getting showered and dressed to go pick up K.J. from the airport. I was ready to go an hour early. I couldnt wait to see him.
Then, I fell asleep watching TV. His text to let me know the plane had landed in St. Louis woke me. 

Dang it! The first thought in my mind was, "I'm never going to live this down." 


90-to-40: How I got mixed up with a Texan

Day 83

My partner (aka:fiance and soul mate) will be here tomorrow from Texas! How did I get mixed up with a Texan? Well, it was easy. I just went to a funeral... isn't that how everyone meets the love of their lives?


90-to-40: Will you love me, even with my dark side?

Day 84

I didn't know it would be so hard to open up. The goal of sharing my thoughts about the 90 days before I turn 40 is to publicly document the process and share the experience. Not only the process of writing, but the process of growing and changing. And, I'll tell ya... it's not easy.