June- “Try Something New for 30 Days”

You may have noticed that I am (finally) writing about my June “Try Something New for 30 Days” as August is (sadly) winding down.

When I designated June as my month to try new physical activities, the timing seemed perfect. Summer was emerging and I planned on having lots of time to engage in these exciting activities.  Hannah and I brainstormed an optimistic list of possible experiences from routine running to more adventurous paddle boarding.

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June 1st I was ready!  I found a terrific yoga for runners video on the Runner’s World website and jumped right in. I was surprised that the poses felt relatively easy (i.e. I could do them) and I immediately knew the stretches I got from the session would be incredbly beneficial to my running.

Next day, I did an online Pilates routine.

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Although this really wasn’t new it was different from running. I have been using Pilates for strength training for over a year, particularly during the winter on days when it was difficult to get outside.  I had been amazed with how toned and strong I felt during the time when I was doing Pilates almost daily.  However, recently I had done very little so it felt good to be doing this type of activity again.

I did a little weight work out-literally.

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Then I began to venture into truly new activities. I googled hula hoop videos and gave that a whirl (pun intended).

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Ditto for a barre workout. I loved it!

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Some of the activities I did with others, including basketball,

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darts,

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croquet,

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and mini golf.

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Mike is very serious about his mini golf.

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We even upgraded to real golf-well, the driving range.

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I was happy that some of the tips my dad had given me when I was a teenager had stayed with me and I even hit a few good shots.

As June ended I continued to be hopeful that I would check a few more activities off of my list.  I did get to add boogie boarding when we tried it on our vacation in the Outer Banks.

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However, summer has whizzed by, as it always does and I still have many activities on my list that do not have a check by them.  While I am sad that the summer is evaporating, the list will remain on my fridge and I look forward to continuing to check off more and more new activities as time goes by. And I know that I will also be incorporating a number of the activities I tried in June into more of my everyday life.

May-Try Something New

My “Try Something New for 30 Days” choice for the month of May was not as tasty as January,  as exciting as February, as creative as March, or as emotional as April.  Although this was not my original intent, it ended up being a month of living by catch phrases.

When I began this plan in January I resisted the idea of using this goal for self-improvement (although there were a myriad of very possible options if I had taken that route).  I wanted to expand my horizons, not just fix what was lacking. But by May, my desire to try to “raise the bar” in the way I was living my life became strong enough that it was time to tackle this new challenge.  Initially, I mentally imagined it as a month of being perfect.  Not perfect perfect, but just better.  Here is where the catch phrases entered the picture.

Just do it” became my mantra.  Just pick up the clutter.  Just vacuum the floor.  Just fold the laundry. Just do preparations for tomorrow morning -right now.  I am an experienced procrastinator, so trying this new strategy was a significant change.  And I liked it!

Being There” is one of our favorite Peter Sellers movies.  It is a bit of an obscure movie but we love it. This phrase helped me remain focused in the present.  I tried to “be there” more with less being everywhere.  No more checking my phone as I waited in line.  Eliminate multi-tasking and just be there, experience the moment, observe my surroundings.  It was liberating.

“Let it go also entered my month-long endeavor but not in the way the popular song (sung by every 4 year old girl I know) urges. My version was more like “Don’t let it go”.  Tumbleweeds of St. Bernard fur wafting across the  floor – don’t let it go. A glass on the counter-Don’t let it go. A phone call to return?  A letter to mail? –Don’t let it go.

Someone suggested  this plan sounded exhausting when I mentioned my proposed idea for May. It did take more effort and energy but I truly found that  I liked how it made me feel.  I was more content when I glanced around my surroundings when I didn’t find small points of irritation.  It took more work but the reward was worth it. I’m sure that for many people this idea is not revolutionary because they are already living life in this manner. But for me, expanding my expectations to create a life that felt more organized, less cluttered, and more present felt…perfect.

 

 

Try Something New-April

As soon as I read the first paragraph of the letter, my eyes filled with tears.  Continuing my quest to try something new for 30 days, I had decided to mail out handwritten notes, cards, and letters in April.  My aunt had included the address of a close friend of my parents, whom I had lost touch with over the years, in her Christmas card.  As part of my plan to send out more letters in April, I had written to Sharon.

I filled the letter with updates about our family and my sister and brother’s families. Before long, I was thrilled to find a letter from Sharon in my mailbox.  Having this letter was especially poignant because she and her husband had been great friends of our parents.  My parents passed away within a year of each other more than 20 years ago. As a result, they have not been here to share in many of the events of our lives.

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Momentous occasions such as weddings and graduations, as well as the day to day challenges and joys of our lives have occurred without an opportunity to share these moments with them. Sharon’s statement that “I can’t help but think how proud your Mom and Dad would be of their ‘brood'” sent a pang of longing as well as happiness through me.  Sharon went on to update us on her children whom we had played with as kids, as well as her grand- and great-grandchildren.  The stories she added about the old times with my parents were a welcome glimpse into that part of their lives-a time that we now have few opportunities to hear about.

Perhaps I can’t count sending handwritten notes as something completely newI have been a fan of handwritten notes that are sent through the mail.  A few years ago, after receiving an age-group medal in the mail from the Best Damn Race, I jotted a quick note of gratitude and sent it off.  I was floored to see my note posted on their Face Book page a few days later!

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However, more often than not, I mentally compose a message and perhaps even select a note card…and then neglect to actually write it.  So in April, my goal was to put these notes into the mailbox.

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Some of the notes were just cards.

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Some included photos I had meant to send out for months.

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One note accompanied a package.

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A few were actual birthday cards that I mailed instead of relying on my new easy-way-out-Face-Book post.

I even mailed a card to Mike just before Hannah and I went out of town.  I thought it would be a fun surprise when he picked up the mail.

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This endeavor gave me the opportunity to use some of the quirky note cards I’d collected for some future, nebulous correspondence.

When our bill at The Friendly Toast arrived with a post card, I actually wrote a quick note on it and popped it into the mailbox.

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Since I sent my first letter to Sharon I have received  two additional letters that included a photo and one of my mom’s recipes that, unbeknownst to me, had become a family favorite of theirs. I have also received several written replies to my notes which certainly perked up the contents of my mailbox!

Although  I didn’t put a note in the mail every day in April, I truly made a concerted effort to amp up my written correspondence. I loved it!  As with the other months’ “something new” endeavors, I found that this addition added another dimension to my daily life and it has flowed beyond it’s designated month.

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I won’t be posting a letter everyday but I anticipate that I will happily be raising the flag on my mailbox a bit more often.

 

Try Something New in March -Photography

Continuing with my goal of trying something new for 30 days, I embraced learning more about photography for March. Although I have been taking pictures for years, it has frequently been done with very limited knowledge or technical skill. So I explored more features on my DSLR camera, did some editing, and tried a new app.

These are photos I took on runs. For me, experiencing the sights and sounds I encounter on my runs is equal to the enjoyment of the actual run.

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A slight deviation in my running route allowed for a change from my usual sky and landscape shots.

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This month offered plenty of opportunities to take pictures of ice.

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I thought tagging along with Mike as he cut wood would be a chance to take a different type of photo.

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Isn’t he cute…in a manly, lumberjack sort of way?

My trying a new recipe goal from January carried over to these beignets.

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I convinced Mike to go to Portsmouth with me solely so I could take pictures.

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It was intriguing to take the same photo with different settings.

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I began to feel a tad sketchy as I hung out on the edge of the salt pile waiting to capture this action shot.  But it was fun to be aiming (pun intended) for a different type of composition.

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Our trip ended up with a stop for a drink and appetizers (as I had hoped it would).

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As we left Portsmouth, I was able to capture this parting shot of the landmark steeple.

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A community group that I am involved with has been making pottery bowls for our annual “Empty Bowls” event under the guidance of one of our members who is a talented potter. This was another opportunity to try a different sort of photography.

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I traveled to Vermont to see my amazing niece perform in a circus showcase.

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There were a number of other performers, as well. Their skill far outperformed my photography ability but it was exciting to try to capture them in the midst of their actions.

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This photo that  intended to capture the rapt attention of these small spectators didn’t quite do so. I obviously need to work on my timing!

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March has been filled with maple sugaring here on our small Maine farm.

I had to wear snow shoes to get through the thigh-high snow to tap these trees in early March.

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Amazingly, there is now bare ground in this spot.

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I was enthralled with attempting to capture the steam rising from the evaporator.  Thank goodness for digital photography which allowed me to take picture after picture without rolls of unsuccessful shots on film.IMG_2648

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After 39 gallons of evaporated sap we are rewarded with a single gallon of maple syrup.

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A new waffle recipe proved to be a delectable way to sample the new syrup.

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Of course, a gallery of my photos would not be complete without a few shots of our furry friends.

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Once again, trying something new for 30 days proved to be exciting and enriching.  I learned some new skills and embraced having this as an activity that I was (happily) committed to engage in for the month.  However, these 30 days only gave me a snapshot of the skills I hope to acquire as I continue in my quest to expand my photography abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February- “Do Something New for 30 Days” Recap

When I chose going someplace new each day as my “try something new for 30 days” plan for February, I assumed it would be a breeze.  We were already planning to travel to Houston for four days to visit family and friends and to run the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon.  Since we had never been to Houston, I figured that would easily take care of four days. I imagined filling the other 24 days of February with visits to new restaurants, shops, museums, and even just detouring from my normal routine to a slightly different path as I traveled along my everyday routes.

February 1st was easy.  Mike and I went to Portsmouth to Runner’s Alley to pick up a few things and stopped at The Fresh Press for hot chocolate and a coffee.

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The atmosphere was neat and it was fun to try a new spot.  So far, so good.  Easy!

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The next day we had another Nor’easter so I barely left the house.  Traveling to the barn to feed the horses seemed like an accomplishment.

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Bentley was the only one who seemed particularly happy with the weather.

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My only travel that day was virtual when we watched the movie, “Chef”.  It was fabulous, by the way.

The next day was a work day and by evening I hadn’t ventured to anywhere new.  No problem!  As I drove to a neighboring town to do an errand, I turned off the road I’ve driven on literally a hundred times onto a side road.  It had just snowed which made this new neighborhood look even more unfamiliar.  I was truly surprised to come across a large, old brick building beside the river that appeared to be some sort of old public water works building.  It was dark, so I wasn’t able to see it completely but I was so intrigued that this significant, interesting building was about a block from my usual path and I had no idea it even existed. I was enjoying this going somewhere new plan.

We had yet more snow that week which left the roads snow covered.  Eager to maintain my “going somewhere new” endeavor, I decided to take a slightly different road home from work.  The roads were still sloppy and I did have a tiny nagging thought that this might not be the best day to venture into uncharted territory, but the road I had chosen was (I thought) well-traveled and I convinced myself that it should be fine.  I had front-wheel drive and snow tires, which seemed sufficient for this plan.  So off I went, turning off the main road onto another road that was notably more snowy than the previous one. Undeterred, I  continued on with my plan.  The next intersection was where I would take a left and head off onto my new path home.  The moment I made the turn I realized how awful this decision was. Looming ahead of me was an immense, snowy hill!  Alas, there was no turning back because if I stopped or tried to turn I would immediately be stuck in the inches of slushy snow that covered the road.  There was nothing to do but floor it up this mountainous hill.

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This photo was obviously taken after the snowy road adventure. It looks completely benign. But it wasn’t!

I picked up as much speed as I could/dared and gripped the steering wheel as I climbed the hill.  Things started off fine but I quickly began to lose speed.  My wheels were slipping and the car was going slower and slower.  My heart was pounding and my palms were sweating as I silently prayed (literally) that I would make it up the hill.  As my forward motion steadily decreased, I began to downshift my automatic transmission, hoping that would give me a little more umph.  My mind was reeling with questions about what I would do if I couldn’t make it.  Who do you call?  “Hello, AAA?  I’m stuck half way up a hill in the middle of the road and I can’t get up.”  My car slipped more and more as I inched up the hill.  The accelerator was pressed to the floor as I willed the car to keep creeping forward. Miraculously, I crested the top of the hill going about 20 mph.  I was shaking and my heart was thumping when I turned the corner onto a relatively flat road and headed for home.  Well, that was exciting!

Not every foray into a new place was quite so dramatic.  We tried some new restaurants including 7th Settlement , a fantastic brew pub in Dover, NH that brews their own beers on the premises and serves locally sourced food.  We loved the lively, welcoming atmosphere. Our service was stellar and the food was exceptional.

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I couldn’t stop exclaiming over the Harvest Salad of baby kale, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese, and dried cranberries.

A couple of days my new place was simply a different trail in our woods.  When the temperatures finally edged above the teens, Hannah and I ventured out on snowshoes.  The snow was so deep that the fencing around the pasture was literally ankle high as we walked by on top of the packed snow.  As the horses watched us travel beside their pasture we commented on how lucky we were that they didn’t want to venture anywhere beyond their mere suggestion of a fence.

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My snow shoes are ancient but excellent for forging a good trail.

 

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Hannah shot this photo.

We loved being outside and trekking through a new portion of the woods. Our trip was relatively short because it was almost dusk. As we returned to the house we commented on the unusual, wide tracks that we hadn’t noticed on our way out.  We have had a porcupine living under the barn that makes a similar track.  But somehow it seemed different. Then we noticed that it seemed to originate in the field where the horses were….but were no longer! Realizing that we had inadvertently inspired them to try going somewhere new also, I tried to rush back to the barn to see if they were there.  Hannah retraced our path back into the woods. It’s hard to convey the feeling of desperation that wafts over me when I realize the horses have disappeared.

The snowshoes that minutes ago had handily tromped out a broad trail were now unwieldy as I tried to run (not possible) along a narrower, bumpy path.  I eventually pulled them off and made my way back to the barn.  Relief washed over me as I saw Molly standing at the barn door. However, that was fleeting because she darted down the driveway and Chelsea was no where to be seen.  I dashed into the barn to nab a scoop of grain- my only hope to lure them back to the barn.  Thankfully, our ponies are huge fans of grain.  A few shakes of the grain scoop and they trotting into the barn and all of our adventures had a happy ending.

Another late afternoon I set out into the woods on snowshoes on my own.  It was just beginning to snow (again) and the woods seemed especially inviting.  The snow was crisscrossed with a myriad of tracks, making me wish I could have seen the creatures that had been traveling throughout the woods.

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The snow made interesting formations on the fallen trees and beside the streams.

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Another day, I traveled to Portland with Hannah and enjoyed an hour of doing work in a new coffee shop while she was at a meeting.

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On the last day of February, Mike and I spent some time in the Old Port section of Portland.  We braved the still shocking cold and walked to the ferry terminal where we wistfully imagined a summer trip to the surrounding islands.  We contentedly immersed ourselves in a bookstore and then met Hannah for lunch. She suggested going to Duckfat which turned out to be a marvelous little restaurant that served scrumptious, unique food in a spiffy setting. It was a perfect way to end my month of going somewhere new.

I  loved consciously thinking about going somewhere new all month.  Whether it was traveling across the country to Texas where everything was new, driving down a different road, or just literally, taking the path less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost) this venture has provided some unexpected adventures as well as lovely moments of change, beauty, and enjoyment.

My plan for March is to experiment with photography by using different settings, filters, and apps for both my iPhone and my digital SLR camera.  I’m looking forward to honing my skills and learning new techniques.

Although I have only completed two months of doing something new, I find that I am carrying over the activity from the previous month into my actions and thoughts as I move into the next month.  It seems that it really is true that doing something new for 30 days can make a change in your life. Making a deviation from my normal routine has added a welcome spark (and sometimes even a jolt) to my life.