Monday, July 24, 2017

It took me 50 years...

On the eve of my fiftieth birthday, I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to stop living life how I perceive I'm supposed to and start living life how I want to.  Having reached middle age - yes, I'd like to live to be one hundred - I appreciate how quickly time goes by and recognize how wasteful I've been with it over the years.

Let me explain...

My mom is a great cook.  During my childhood, family meals were prepared from scratch.  I remember many summers snapping bushels of green beans or shucking ears of corn as Mom whipped up delicious meals; our freezers (yes, plural) and pantry stocked full.  It was a huge treat to eat Kraft mac and cheese, and I used to trade homemade cookies for Oreos at school because that was the only way to get them.  To this day, Mom is happier in the kitchen than anywhere else.

I didn't inherit the cooking gene (although I do love to bake).  It's not that I wasn't taught.  Many a fond memory is of spending time with Mom as she chopped and stirred and baked.  The thing is, I have simple tastes, have since I was a kid, and since becoming a vegetarian they're even simpler.  I can (and have) eaten the same meal prepared over and over for weeks on end.  And my hubs likes different foods than I do, so we rarely end up eating the same thing.

Despite my inadequacy preparing haute cuisine, I've spent decades attempting to follow in my mother's footsteps, stocking my pantry full of ingredients that anyone other than me could whip up into a delicious meal with their eyes closed.  I've wasted countless amounts of money dumping those same ingredients into the garbage years after I bought them, having never touched them from the moment I placed them on the pantry shelf. 

Enter Amy's Kitchen.  Delicious, vegetarian meals straight from my grocer's freezer.  Yup, you read that right - they're frozen.  And they're microwavable. And they're delicious!  Did I mention that already?  Plus, low in fat, sugar, and calories, and high in flavor!!  Best of all, they're convenient!  And I've come to the point in my life where I value convenience over spending time doing something I don't want to do - cooking!

So, mealtime is now Amy's Kitchen time in the Raymond household.  There are tons of varieties to choose from (including vegan and gluten-free) so both the hubs and I are happy.  I haven't tried a single thing yet that I haven't enjoyed.  And not spending hours in the kitchen has freed me up to spend time doing what I do like.  Writing, hanging with the hubs, playing with the fur babies, experimenting with Photoshop. 

Do I feel guilty?  Nope.  Not anymore.  A week ago I would've given you a different answer, but as I turn the page on a new year I'm leaving that particular emotion behind.  Life's too short to waste time and energy trying to be someone I'm not.  And I'm not a cook.  Sorry, Mom.

Wherever you are in your life, be true to yourself.  If I've learned anything in fifty years, it's that.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

When setting goals isn't enough...

One of my favorite books is "Write It Down, Make It Happen" by Henriette Anne Klauser, and a year ago I did just that.  I took colored marker to whiteboard and recorded three (lofty) goals that I wanted to achieve before my next birthday (which is in nine days); all of them, to quote a colleague of mine, 'doable'.

Only I didn't.

I didn't meet a single one of the goals I jotted down; missed them by a mile, in fact.  Make that ten miles, and the reason is quite simple.  While I wrote my aspirations down in intricate detail, I didn't incorporate any strategy to reach them.  Duh!  Just knowing what I want isn't enough; I have to know how to get there.

Let's use this as an example - if I want to be in California, I can't just wish myself there.  I have to map out a course, navigate obstacles, increase or decrease my speed based on external conditions.  It's common sense.  Hell, if I want to go to the grocery store, I have to choose a route and follow it.  I may have several options, but I still need to pick one in order to move forward.  That's the crucial step I forgot when I wrote down my objectives.

So, here I am, a year later, no closer to the goals I set, but at least I realize why I didn't meet them.  Do I view it as a year lost?  Not at all.  For while I didn't hit those particular targets, several others were bulls-eyes.  I completed the Hidden Springs series, something I set out to do three-and-a-half years ago.  I hosted a successful book signing (Pages in the Caves) and am in the midst of planning a second one (Pages in the Caves 2.0).  I made new friends, interacted more with my readers thanks to my new and improved newsletter, wrote a new story for a yet-to-be-disclosed boxed set, and am halfway to completing the second book in the Celebration series.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

What's next, you ask?

Well, the first thing is to make new goals for the next year - or maybe recycle the old ones - and include the steps I need to take to get me there, because without planning, it's all for naught.  Whatever I decide to do, I'll keep moving forward; meeting new challenges, side-stepping obstacles in my path when I can, and plowing through those that block my way. 

One of my favorite quotes is -  

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.   ~ Earl Nightingale 

And it does pass.  Quickly.  Oh, so quickly.  So make a plan, write it down, walk your path no matter how long it takes, because one day you'll look up and find that you've arrived at your destination, and THAT will be a day worth celebrating!

Now, where did I put my dry-erase markers?