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Posted on Dec 27, 2013 in My Journey

Tropical Christmas Gift

After dinner beach visit

After dinner beach visit

This year, instead of giving gifts, I gave a trip to Key West.  And I went with it, too.

Aside from some travel delays, a cold and case of the flu, things went pretty smoothly.

It was a little strange to set aside all of the family traditions and spend Christmas Day at the beach, or have Christmas dinner in a tiki hut.  There were plenty of people with us in both places!

The hardest part?  Deciding on what to do each day.  The best part?  When the firemen decorated their trucks and drove around out small island serenading us with Holiday music.

And, when I got home today, I did not have a suitcase of things to find a place to store.

Quite a bit of sand in there, though.

Christmas tree in a tiki hut

Christmas tree in a tiki hut

Key West holiday decor
Key West holiday decor


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Posted on Dec 18, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

You Can’t Lose


Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

In December, we start to think about the past year, and what we have accomplished.  Rather than think about what I have not achieved this year and line up the resolutions for the New Year, I thought I would think about what I am grateful for.  I am posting some thoughts about what has worked this year, and the positive changes that resulted.

Good news: You can’t lose.

1. You can’t lose unless you give up.

One of the biggest changes I made this past year, was a simple one: just a small change in perspective.  Maybe it’s getting older that did this, but I realized that as long as you are moving toward a goal, you can’t really fail.  If you are not happy with the situation, you can make a change. As long as you don’t give up, you can keep working toward your goal.

2. You can change your goals.

Of course you can.  Who’s going to stop you?  The goal police?  Go ahead, change your mind.

3. You can have many goals.

One way to be sure to see progress in your life is to have goals in different areas at the same time.  If you are working towards health, work, creative and financial goals, you will have less chance of having everything looking bleak.  For some, you will be just starting out, and for others, you will have made measurable progress. Make sure to focus on the progress at least as much as how much you have left to do!

4. You can have too many goals.

Too many things going at once can make life seem like a lot of work, and is a sure route to frustration and overwhelm.  Stick with your most important values, and you will know when things are in balance.  I have modeled my dog’s plan to focus on squeaky toys (fun), rest, socializing (his involves more sniffing), food, exercise and work (he’s retired, but still volunteers).  This is working pretty well.

5. The end is the same for all of us, so enjoy the ride.

If you make sure you have some fun along the way, nothing is completely bad.  I learned this the hard way.  If you work all the time and expect happiness to flow from your job, you are at risk for some big ups and downs.

What did this perspective replace?

It’s hard to understand from where I stand today, but I once thought that if I worked hard, I would reach a state of success and happiness, and that I would then relax and coast through in this happy state for the rest of my life.  It would be beautiful, like a graduation day or an award for hard work.  I’m pretty sure this is what I was taught as a child.  It was a direct path to stress and disappointment.

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Posted on Dec 16, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Trying on Success

Photo credit: The Farber Center

Photo credit: The Farber Center

In December, we start to think about the past year, and what we have accomplished.  Rather than think about what I have not achieved this year and line up the resolutions for the New Year, I thought I would think about what I am grateful for.  I am posting some thoughts about what has worked this year, and the positive changes that resulted.

Trying things on for size

This one I have used before.  A very smart uncle of mine gave me this advice a few years ago when I was thinking about buying a house, and was worried about the financial burden of committing to a mortgage payment.  He suggested that I decide on what I thought I could afford for a mortgage payment, and save that amount every month.  This way, I could spend some time living with the commitment without risking my financial future.  I did this for almost two years to see what this would be like, even with unexpected expenses.

What happened was like magic.  I managed to save that money, and ended up with a pretty big part of a down payment.  My uncle just smiled when I told him, but this was a huge lesson for me. I could live the way I dreamed.  The fact that I was just trying it on made the switch easier to make, but the outcome was the same.

Last year after the holidays, I decided to try on a simpler life, and writing about my experiences in a blog.  I bought three large storage bins (they are really inexpensive in January) and filled them with items from my house.  I decided to keep them full for 6 months in the garage before I donated them.  Putting some items in those bins was painful, but I knew I could take them out, so in they went.  A funny thing happened.  Not only did I not miss any of the items, it only took a few weeks before I could not even remember what was in the bins.  At the end of summer, I did a huge de-cluttering project that had the same result.

I started writing in January as well.  I took a small notebook that was in a swag bag from a scientific symposium (yes!  we get pens, notebooks and USB drives in our bags) and started writing my thoughts, simplifying experiments and strategies.  It took several months to take the next step, but in May, I started this blog.  Now, I have over 120 posts, and have had a wonderful time connecting with people through a new community.  Some posts were read by only a few friends, and some by many people.  This has been one of the best “try it on” experiences of my life.

Thank you to all of you who are reading, and thank you for all your support, comments and advice.

One last thing:  If you want to try de-cluttering on for size, check out this post and this one.  And let me know how it works out!

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Posted on Dec 9, 2013 in My Journey

Having It Both Ways

Photo credit: A. Lillie

Photo credit: A. Lillie

My dog has taught me many valuable lessons.  This week, we had a new one.

We are struggling with each other over boots.

The record low temperatures have me putting his boots on every time we go out for a walk. He hates them.  I can understand this, since he uses his feet to feel the ground as he walks.  It looks pretty funny to watch him trying to shake them off each foot every step he takes.  It’s not funny how frustrated he gets with these boots, and they prevent him from doing those outdoor tasks he needs to perform.  Without the boots, he is in real pain and at risk for frostbite.  When he goes out bootless, he tries to walk with as few feet touching the ground as possible. This would be funny if it didn’t worry me so much.

Short of learning to fly, he has two choices, boots or no boots.  He can’t have it both ways.

This has me thinking about my own choices.

  • I would like to be more fit, but don’t want to do the work to increase my activity many days.
  • I would like to have more time to relax, but don’t like to say no to people.
  • I want to save money, but also love to travel.

I have been able to get around some of these limitations by increasing activity for everyday tasks, limiting the evenings I go out to help prioritize what activities to say yes to, looking for bargains.

But sometimes it boils down to boots or no boots.

How do you handle these choices in your life?

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Posted on Dec 6, 2013 in My Journey

Advertisements Just For Me


This month, my email inbox is full of messages just for me. So many stores and websites are sending me special notifications of special deals that they thought I would like.  It’s like they know me. Each one refers to items that I have researched or purchased in the past several weeks. Depending on the day or the ad, this can be funny, or pretty creepy.  I have a habit of looking up things online as I am watching a movie or reading a book.  Usually, I’m just curious what something is used for, or where a city is located that is mentioned in the news.  Since I allow cookies to be placed on my computer by websites I visit (and it is difficult to do many things online without this feature enabled), many companies are collecting information about me.

Just in case any actual people are looking at this information, I’d like to explain a few things.

1. I read an article about truckers who sleep in Walmart parking lots, then checked the website to see what the store policy is.  This does not mean I am homeless.

2. I watched a movie about a woman who was on the run from her abusive husband and wondered if it was based on a true story.  I am not a fugitive from the law, or looking to hide any mugshots.

3. I bought copies of Goodnight Moon and Stellaluna as gifts.  I am not in need of pregnancy services.

4. I was reading the funny reviews of How to Avoid Huge Ships and sugar-free gummy bears with a friend.  I am not currently having a tummy ache on a cruise.

Just as an experiment (I do this for fun AND at work!), I did a comparison of two queries on Google and (a search engine that does not do targeted advertising).  Here were the queries:

  • Does Wikipedia collect information about me (I often throw questions about life out to the universe), and
  • Wikipedia privacy policy

Ironically, the top response on the first Google search (after the targeted ads) was a Wikipedia article about privacy rights and how to protect personal information online.  The Duckduckgo top return was another Wikipedia article on how the website works.

For the second search, both Duckduckgo and Google sent me right two Wikepedia pages, one on what a privacy policy is, and one on their own policies and practices, what data they collect, and what they will and will not do with it.  On the Wikipedia policy page, there was also a section on how other sites should use this clear, understandable language.

Two surprises: Duckduckgo looked strange to me without the ads ubiquitous on other search engines.  A simpler page, and nice look, if you ask me.

Wikipedia has a request for donations to support their site this time of year.  That is an ad I am happy to respond to.


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Posted on Nov 21, 2013 in My Journey

An Even Simpler Life

I have not posted for a while because I have a new hobby that has taken hold of my life.  Well, not a hobby exactly, but an re-activation of an old injury that needs my attention.  I have begun physical therapy, and I hope that this will eventually make me stronger and healed for good. But, the therapy takes a lot of time and makes everything hurt more  (The PT thinks this is logical: more pain= healing.  I didn’t notice it at first, but she is starting to resemble this guy:

05_Flatbed_2 - AUGUST

Like the physical possessions that inhabit our lives, our activities inhabit our days.  I can do almost anything I need to do, but some things take longer, have to be put off until later, or just cancelled. It’s amazing how a change like a health issue or other disaster can change your whole perspective on what is important and what is expendable.

Seriously. I am back up and running, and mostly not dead.

Sorry for all the Princess Bride references.

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