#7 – Palm Reading or Tarot Card

“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” – Charles F. Kettering

You may wonder why a quote from a famous engineer and inventor preceeds a post about palm reading and tarot cards. I do too. But having had my palms and tarot cards read in the past, I know an open mind is how you need to approach either of these experiences.

Note that I wrote “open mind”, not “sense of belief”. Unless you are Wican or roaming soul looking for something to believe in, having your palm or cards read can provide you with possibilities – things that you would never expect to happen, different ways to approach problems or see opportunities where they aren’t obvious.

When my husband and I first started dating we went with another couple to have our tarot cards read by a credible reader. She worked in a holistic wellness collaborative owned by a friend’s aunt. The collaborative included massage, yoga, reflexology, and tarot. We did our reading separately. I sat down, and met the reader’s inquiring eyes with as much deadpan as possible. I kept thinking “I’m not going to give her anything!”. As we went for entertainment purposes, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a specific answer to my life’s questions. That made it fun, and not fatalistic. What followed in the reading was a fascinating discussion about her approach to tarot. Our spirit guides can give insight into our lives, or as said by Tarot Pug, “Spirit guides have a purpose to help you stay on track with your soul’s purpose in your current life.” Fascinating, right? This world is hard enough to manage solo, knowing there is a specific spirit guide out there to guide is comforting. At this time in the post I should note that I do not practice any religion formally. Raised agnostic,  I have attended Catholic church services for most of my life for holidays, however was never baptized into any particular religion. Back to my reading. She talked a lot about who my spirit guide was. She was Irish, she lived on the coast of Ireland, and was surrounded by horses.

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That was it. I don’t remember any else specific about the reading, just this insight into my spirit guide. I have traveled to Ireland many times, lived there for a short stint in 2002. It has always felt like home. Always. A strange sense that I was supposed to be there. But I could never reconcile this feeling. I’m 1/8 Irish via my father’s mother, and while I have freckles, I’m not overly Irish looking. And yet I’ve never had that feeling of belonging, of home, anywhere else I’ve traveled.

Point of the story is, that without going through that tarot experience, my sense of belonging would continue to remain untethered. And despite spirit guides and all they represent being ethereal and difficult to wrap your head around, it works for me.

Approaching a milestone birthday is a great excuse to get another dose of interesting perspective. I’ve been hesitant to experience palm/tarot since I had my girls. That the cards would foresee something awful happening. Then I saddled up and said “Stop being so ridiculous! It is all about perspective.”

Given the approach of All Hallows’ Eve (which has roots in Celtic history), I am setting myself a deadline of completing this checklist item by 10/31/17. I think the mystery of the season will add to the experience. To see how it all went down, read this post.

SPIRITUALITY

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#35 – Write letter to nemesis, burn it, move on.

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.” – Eldridge Cleaver

Everyone has a story of someone who has wronged you – intentionally or unintentionally. Or even the person who you feel is out to get you. Or perhaps more in line with the Herman Hesse quote, “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

Yeah. That.

Going into a new, albeit arbitrary, stage of life, I feel no compulsion to carry with me the weights of the last few decades. There is enough hate in this world, and I work so hard to preserve feelings of love, that I need to let go of my ill will for a few select others that most likely don’t know about my feelings (and never will). I do not claim to know these people well enough to know why they behave the way they do. And therefore should not claim to know why they would try to make me feel the way that I do. Perhaps it isn’t them. Its me.

I did hear about this amazing thing called wish paper recently. A light type of paper that you write on, twist together, light and watch it float away – brilliant and so appropriate. For this item on my check list I’ve bought some from Amazon with hearts, the irony. I’ll post photos and a recap after I’ve checked the item off the list.

The upside for all readers is that if you are reading this, you likely won’t have a letter written about you. Here’s to letting things go…

RELEASE

#38 – Kayak (more) (with different people)

“Yeah, down by the river

Down by the banks of the river Charles

(Aw, that’s what’s happenin’ baby)

That’s where you’ll find me

Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves

(Aw, but they’re cool people).” – Dirty Water, The Standells

I was recently at a baby shower. The hosts requested that each guest write down some advice for the new parents. Brilliant idea. Why read 10 different books when you can read 25 practical, “worked for me”, snippets from friends who have your best interest in mind? As our small group debated what would be the best advice, one dad wrote down, “When in doubt, put them in water.” Brilliant again.

From my early parenting days, this advice would have been welcome during the days full of fussiness, discomfort or boredom. And those are just words to describe me as a parent, not even the wee ones. Babies are created, and subsequently live in a water-like environment for 9+ months. They are used to that feel – the slosh, and splash, the experience and sounds of water. And for those bigger than 6 months, discovering toys and bubbles is a lot of fun and a great distraction.

That single piece of parenting advice inspired “Kayak (more) (with different people)”. Getting out onto (note: onto, not into) a body of water inspires movement, but in a calm and peaceful way. There typically isn’t a race or challenge being accomplished. There is just kayaking. And being in a kayak doesn’t have to be a solo activity like swimming can be. I have found on a few occasions that going out in a tandem kayak with my oldest daughter gets us talking about different things than what we’d discuss at the dinner table or even on a walk. Perhaps because we aren’t face to face, perhaps because we are looking at different things from our everyday, or better yet perhaps because we are looking at things we see every day, but from a different ANGLE.

Being on the same level with the water brings me a lot of peace. There are sounds on a river or lake that are tremendous distractions from nagging thoughts. There are lots of other beings on the water that bring about perspective as to how big the world is – dragonflies, fish, ducks, geese, herons and water spiders. Their world is all around you. Their world does not include the gridlock of 93 South into Boston on a Monday morning. Ah. Peace.

I don’t own a kayak myself. I don’t think I’d benefit from owning one as the first thing I’d see is the hassle of buying a roof rack, paddles, a wet bag, and then finding time to use it enough for a ROI. However, I’m lucky enough to live in New England where there are plenty of great places to kayak, and kayak outfitters who rent by the hour or day, and provide excursions, life vests and instruction. Kayaking is a great group activity, and easy enough to do – no special fitness level or gear – just an interest to get a bit closer to nature.

Kayak Adventure 1: Ipswich River, Foote Brothers Canoe & Kayak Rental / I spent an interesting hour with my oldest daughter on the Ipswich River this summer. Interesting in that it was incredibly peaceful, and that completely freaked her out. We’ve been kayaking before in an open pond, but to her kayaking along a fairly tight portion of the river, and not seeing any other humans for stretches, made it a very lonely experience. She saw a beaver dam, and thought said beaver would tip us over. While this type of kayak environment didn’t work for her, I’d recommend Foote Brothers and an Ipswich River adventure to anyone. It is a beautiful paddle.

Kayak Adventure 2: Charles River, Paddle Boston / As you can see from the list item title “with different people” is critical. Conversations while paddling (you can’t exit the boat, you have a common goal of moving forward, and no easy access to your smart phone for distraction), and hopefully the cold beverage following, is fun with lots of different types of people. I had the pleasure on August 14 to enjoy a post-work paddle with an old colleague. She had been kayaking once before, but spent most of her time running the paths around the Charles River. Paddle Boston’s outpost along Boston’s Soldier Field Roa in Brighton made it easy enough to park and paddle, and not once did I feel like we were floating between busy sections of Boston roadway at rush hour. We paddled up river for about 45 minutes without really noticing the time, only recognizing the distance paddled by the bridges that crisscross the river at increments. The conversation made only sweeter by the refreshing beer at the local afterwards.

Remaining Kayak Adventures: Open Sea Kayak, Kayak Outside of MA, Kayak with Youngest

NATURE

#19 – Escape the Room

“Man is a gaming animal. He must be always trying to get the better in something or other.” – Charles Lamb

For as long as I can remember I have been part of a team. As a Brownie, playing soccer, softball, our neighborhood summer evening “Man Hunt” games, and the never-ending team based projects in college. As an adult we get to be part of teams in the workplace, or perhaps within the volunteer world, but that dig-in, come-together, work-it-out teamwork opportunities aren’t as prevalent (or perhaps not as satisfying). No one really enjoys trust falls, or the team building games that were cutting edge when I started in the workforce, anymore. However, experiences like Escape the Room lend themselves to fun, engagement, activity, learning and did I say fun?

Escape the Room is a concept in which you and a few friends, or strangers, gather in a space, are presented with a challenge a-la-Jason Bourne. You need to work together to solve the problems, that eventually lead to your getting out of the room. I’m certain there may be some savants who could get out of the room as fast as they can solve a Rubik’s Cube…but that isn’t the point. There are the pressures of time – 60 minutes, but luckily the only thing to be shattered if you don’t get out of the room is your pride.

The reason I put this type of activity on my list to complete this year is because like some other great ideas for team building (Drink & Hunt coming to mind – pub crawl, team trivia and scavenger hunt combined!), they may be considered “fad” and not be around in perpetuity. I want to ensure I experience it.

The beautiful thing about #19, is my husband has already paved part of the way to experiencing this. A gift certificate for 4 people to Escape the Room. I can’t wait. More to come following the inevitable escape of the room.

TEAMWORK

#3 – Clean Up 401k

“I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway, And more, much more than this, I did it my way…” Frank Sinatra, My Way

Administration of life is (sometimes) as important as living the life itself. The reason being is that when you are actually done living, it shouldn’t be someone else’s responsibility to clean up your stuff. I’m a firm believer in this given how much I dislike people talking about me (praising me is 1000% ok), or hearing disparaging remarks about someone else when I know that they could have prevented. I can picture it – after the grief that is – “Why the hell didn’t Ashley just close that 20 year old Hotmail account?” or “I thought she updated her Spotify account not to auto-renew?” or “I need her password, what was her favorite kind of dog?”.

When I prepared this list, I thought about the ways I could make things easier, and clean-up activities that I should have been doing throughout my life. The irony of “Clean up 401k” is that I was in fact just moving money from a 401k of the mutual fund firm where I worked for a few years. I worked there…a mutual fund company!…and it took 11 years at a new company and this list to finally close that account and roll the investments into my current 401k. I won’t discuss the benefits of a 401k here, there are many, and they aren’t relevant to this post, but I will write that while I thought “rolling over” a 401k was arduous and required lots of paperwork, I was surprised at how easy it was to move the investment value from one holding company to another. I didn’t get fancy with a Roth or other tax-deferred investment option, I simply moved the money management from my old employee plan, to my current. The value of this is two-fold. 1, any investment decision I make is applied to all my investments – go big on Growth, or invest more conservatively with a Fixed Income fund; money in one place means one decision, one update and done. 2, I only have to remember to update beneficiary information in one place, and leave information for my family about one investment portfolio. This leaves it nice and clean.

Let’s break down what I did.

Step 1:  Have at hand your old and current investment information – 401k provider and their customer service #s. I was asked what my current balance was on my old account to qualify it was in fact me calling.

Step 2: Call current plan provider. Explain you want to roll money into the account. (They subsequently called the transfer hotline at my old provider and managed all details on the phone, with me validating my wishes, in about 10 minutes.)

Step 3*: Not always needed, but my old account was in my maiden name. I had to provide to my current plan a copy of my marriage certificate so that they could put on file and accept the funds. Note: If you are married and have changed your name, having this document in an easy to find place is a good thing. My Marriott Rewards is also in my maiden name, and I can’t change without this certificate.

VOILA! About 7 days after the phone call, I received email confirmation that the funds were transferred. BONUS: upon logging in to my current plan provider to confirm the funds had moved, I discovered my beneficiary information was not entered. Filled that out, and now the original intent of this item on my list is 100% complete.

While writing this blog post, I had to pause and attend a funeral. It was for a dear friend’s grandmother, affectionately nicknamed “Wing Ding”. She was 92. Well loved, and surrounded by family, friends and fans alike, she will be buried in her favorite outfit, a New York Yankees sweatshirt (a die-hard New York Yankees fan – hard to come by, and hardly tolerated in Massachusetts). Her service was formally informal. Hosted in the funeral home, those who gathered for the wake were able to stay and attend the short service. It wasn’t the simplicity of the service, the beautiful eulogy from one of her fans, but rather the musical tribute to the New York fan at the end that struck me as just plain awesome. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, a frequent hit on the juke box in the bar she tended. Sitting in the back of the room with a bird’s eye view, I could see everyone taking the song, and Wing Ding, in. There were tears, but an overwhelming amount of smiles, and those half-smiles where you are remembering something funny, but know it’s inappropriate to laugh. A few hums here, a few words there, and the back part of the room was officially singing. Frank Sinatra. At a funeral. It was awesome. She was awesome. The words of the song are awesome. Life your life your way (and clean up your 401k). Rest in peace, Wing Ding. 

Check

#33 – Buy Swim Goggles

“Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.” – Roger Staubach

Seems simple enough. Why even make a list with the item “buy swim goggles” on it?

I know myself. Over the years I have realized that in order to achieve a goal, I also need to detail out and execute the steps in required to perform. I can intentionally sabotage myself by ensuring that I cannot perform the goal – making the goal another thing that just takes up space in my thoughts, gets me frustrated and making me beat up myself about it. No one needs that!

OR, just the opposite. I’ll set my mind to doing something and will rush out to buy all the gear I need to do it. Then never do it. This example is actually most likely, and relevant to a lot of items on this list (see #17).

Over the past winter, I watched my girls diligently suit up (pun intended) for swim lessons. Suit, swim cap and goggles. They entered the pool deck just as the adults were instructed to clear the lap lanes. The adults spanned ages – but two things were certain. They were all fit and they all had goggles. If I wanted to achieve #32 – “Swim Laps (?) at Y – pretend you are a real swimmer.”, I’d have to get some goggles.

I happened to be running errands with my girls the first weekend following my 39th birthday. Outfitting them as my coaches – whistle for my run coach, #SuperE, and stopwatch for my squat coach, #SuperL – and I let them select my new wet-specs. Modell’s was great – I’ve never been in this particular store before. It was clean, easy to find items, and had friendly staff. Now I have no excuses not to begin to work on #32 (with the bonus of becoming a member of Modell’s loyalty program too).

Watch out Michael Phelps.

Swim memes are hilarious – who knew? My favorite when searching for “goggles” in Google images.

Image result for swim goggle funny photo

CHECK!

 

Getting Things Started

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Seneca

I am not a writer of lists. Scratch that. I write lists. I am not a FOLLOWER of lists. I write them, but rarely reference them, or retain them. Once I write an item down I remember it, mostly. Stuck in my head, and in all best efforts sometimes to get rid of the things I’m supposed to do, or forgot to buy at the supermarket, I can’t.

With this in mind, and after spending a lot of time on my daily commute listening to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier”, I got to thinking about how I manage my obligations to myself and others, and how I might want to change that going into my fourth decade next year. The large and powerful “40” over on the horizon, coming towards me ever quicker, has made me panic. No idea why. I’m not afraid of 40 or what it represents (OR AM I?!?), but I have not slept well, questioned all long-held beliefs at some point, caught myself daydreaming and wistfully sharing lifelong dreams with strangers (or really patient coworkers).

Rather than stew for another year. Rather than go into my fourth decade with the same old nagging thoughts/wishes/hopes/dreams/”can I?”s, I excitedly made a list. I’ve seen others write their lists, and end up on the other side of 40 full of stories, incredible memories, and an overall sense of “take-that-40” when the birthday actually hits. I WANT THAT. The list is composed of 40 things I need to accomplish before turning 40 (summer 2018).

What THIS is, is a journal of said list – going through each item, and discovering the journey between. Journaling is one of my “things”. Having a lot of solo time growing up, I mused and mused in a handful of journals. I was such a good listener to my own thoughts. Without that outlet over the years I have continued to be a good listener, but not a good actioner. Hopefully this exercise becomes a blend of both. I also hope to have my brother join in on the fun. I’ve asked him – rather told him – that we were going to do this blog thing together. He’s busy, has a family and career of his own, but as a means of staying closer and communicating on a regular basis I thought it would be fun. For the most part we get along, and for the most part we challenge each other’s opinions.

I plan to journal about each item – its genesis, what will be difficult and what will be easy about taking it on, and as some items are going to take longer to check off the old list, I’ll journal about the journey. I’ll include photos, quotes, feedback from friends and those who have offered to help me achieve my goals. And above all else, I really want to capture what checking items off an actual list feels like. Doing what I say I’m going to do – FOR MYSELF. These items aren’t for my husband, my kids, my family or friends, or my work – although I do hope that this process will help me improve my relationship with all of them.

Beginning: Like journaling in high school, I loved quotes. I have a well-worn old paperback quote book that I referenced in the age before the internet. It was a companion in writing English papers (what good English paper doesn’t start off with a proper quote?), a love letter ghost-writer, and a muse. I’ll dust this off to channel my inner teen as well.

Quoote Book
Quote book I used growing up – a snapshot in time of the “revolutionary new format…”.

Ending: As important as beginning, each post will end with a word that captures the essence of the post, or a reference resource that I’d recommend on the topic.

Fresh Start