AtoZChallenge | V is for Vacation and obsessively planning our Scottish adventure.

When my alarm went off at 4:00 am, I was immediately awake and hit off rather than snooze. An unusual move for me. I grabbed my phone, turning on the flashlight feature so I could see my way downstairs without waking up my sleeping family members. When I reached our home office, I sat in front of our desktop computer hitting the escape key to wake it up. I navigated quickly to the website I needed and got into the virtual queue to buy tickets. Even though I’d logged in within five minutes of tickets going on sale, the covered grandstand was already sold out. I grabbed two for the uncovered section and felt a sense of relief once I finished entering my credit card information through paypal and saw the pop up message that everything had been processed successfully. On a whim, I also emailed them to ask if there was a wait list for the covered section and quickly got a reply that they would put me on it. We had our tickets to the Braemar Gathering for the Highland Games this coming September.

I have spent so much time planning our upcoming trip to Scotland that we will actually spend less time in the country than the time I’ve invested in mapping out our adventures. The Braemar games also weren’t the only time I got up during the night to buy tickets for a planned vacation. I’m sure it won’t be my last.

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#AtoZChallenge | U is for Uncluttering, organizing and moving my To Do List to the cloud.

We have a deep kitchen sink, but as our family eats meals throughout the day, it starts to get piled up with dishes. Once we add a few of our taller Calphalon® pots into the mix it gets too crowded. The endless supply of dirty dishes starts to encroach onto the surrounding counter. The clean side is no different. Our drying rack is no match for the shear volume so we have to lay drying towels along the back of the counter to hold the overflow of clean dishes and the endless supply of empty seltzer cans that my youngest and I produce in a given day. Between the dirty and the clean, this area of the kitchen is often the messiest and most cluttered. I hate it.

I am physically uncomfortable in a cluttered space. I’m happiest when my house is clean. Fortunately, at least when it comes to the kitchen sink, my husband feels the same so we can usually keep ahead of the onslaught.

The same need for uncluttered spaces applies to my to do list. I like a nice, organized list.

If I searched my hard drive right now, I’d probably find old excel files dating back almost twenty years with titles like “house projects”, “gardening plan” and “renovation”. I use to have Doctor Who sticky notes with barely legible instructions scribbled across them hanging from my computer in multiples. My refrigerator mirrored the messiness of the sink with hand written lists and reminders organized on scrap paper and hung by magnetic clips at eye level helping to remind me of what I needed to do that day or that week.

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#AtoZChallenge | T is for Taking Risks and Saying Goodbye to My Comfort Zone.

On my flight back from a recent business trip, I reached Boston and had to change planes for the final leg up to Portland. I hadn’t paid much attention when making my reservations, so was a little surprised when I saw that the plane we’d be taking for the final leg was a small five-seater and that the open cockpit meant we’d be able to watch the pilots in action. I was definitely guaranteed a window seat. The flight was thankfully uneventful, and what struck me most was that I couldn’t have even gotten on the plane ten years ago. I had too much anxiety about flying.

I had anxiety about a lot of things, but in the last ten years I’ve realized that the more I push myself beyond my comfort zone and challenge myself the more my fears ease.

Comfort zones act like our friend, but they’re really not. They’re the frenemy who holds you back. I’m not saying I’ve swung to the other extreme of becoming an adrenaline junkie and only doing things that make me uncomfortable. It’s about finding the balance. I still love hanging in my comfort zone as much as the next person but now I push myself out on occasion and take more risks. I’ve never been happier.

So how to challenge myself this year?

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#AtoZChallenge | S is for State Theatre and other places to enjoy live music in Maine.

Portland is having a moment. Actually, it’s more like a decade. The craft beer scene continues to expand, our food choices are varied and delicious, and music venues are keeping pace as this Rolling Stone article highlights in “Inside Portland, Maine’s Wildly Ambitious Music Scene“.

I have been passionate about Bruce Springsteen’s music since my college days. We got tickets to his Tunnel of Love Tour at the Worcester Centrum. This was back in the day when you had to call for tickets. Redialing again and again until that magic moment when you heard ringing instead of the fast buzz of the busy signal. We got our tickets. They did happen to be in the very last row at the back of the 38,000 seat arena. While Springsteen always puts on a great show, we watched that one on the large video monitors setup throughout the concert space.

I have seldom returned to stadium shows since that one. It’s not an enjoyable musical experience. I prefer a more intimate one. Fortunately, I live in the right state.

Goldilocks would have loved Portland. It’s the perfect size city: not too big, not too small, but just right. It has everything you need, but it’s not so big as to be overwhelming. Our music scene is the same, with intimate venues that allow you be a part of the musical experience instead of an observer.

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#AtoZChallenge | R is for Respectful disagreement and how a podcast gives me hope.

There is a poster that hangs in the attic. Would you date Dax Shepard? Apparently, the answer was a resounding no. I’ve never seen it but Dax has described it and a few guests have commented on it. I can relate. If I’d been polled when he and Kristen first got together. I would have been a no too.

I’ve changed my mind. I now understand his charms. Especially his love of learning new things and ability to engage with people and at times respectfully disagree with them. It’s one of the reasons that I’m a faithful armcherry and never miss an episode of the Armchair Expert podcast.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I love the podcast. What I realized is that it’s the long conversation format that has drawn me into the podcast world.

I’m on social media. I enjoy the adorable pet pictures on Instagram, the witty twitter posts I come across and keeping up with extended family through Facebook. Unfortunately, social media has a downside. I have to slog through a lot of vitriol to find those humorous tweets and I’m exhausted with Facebook “friends” shouting their opinions into the aether and showing little interest in differing viewpoints. So far, Instagram hasn’t disappointed me. It’s the kinder, gentler social media, at least in my experience. But, it will probably disappointment me someday.

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