i blame this book

edited photo low res

You might know Chris Guillebeau for his extremely popular book, The $100 Startup, but to be honest, I haven’t read that one. I did just finish his book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, and loved it.  Not only does he tell about his own quest to visit every country on the planet (wow!), but he writes about others’ quests that range from a mom in Oklahoma whose quest is to cook a meal for her family from every country on the planet to the woman who set the record for the most bird sightings.  He writes about the challenges, the motivations, and the logistics of the many quests that appear in his book.  I can’t remember what prompted me read this book, because to be honest, I usually steer clear of these kinds of books because they make me so dang jealous.  Truth:  People fulfilling their life dreams, whether it’s travels or service to a cause, can bring on a very depressing feeling of inadequacy.  But something got me interested in this book enough to get over my envy, and I’m so glad.  Chris did a really good job of describing quests that would take years and significant amounts of money but also writing about quests that would not take so many years and gobs of money.  Lots of ideas and directions.  And he offers a lot of useful advice about completing a quest and the importance of documenting the journey.  Good stuff.

So pretty much from the beginning of the book, I was wondering what I could take on as my quest.  As Chris writes, a true quest requires such things as a clear goal, some kind of sacrifice, and the quest needs to be challenging.  (His book contains a complete list of the qualities that make a quest.)  In the past few years I’ve started camping a lot with Rosie.  I guess you could say I’ve found a long lost love in nature.  I honestly don’t know who enjoys the camping and hiking more – me or Rosie.  We have an 9-day camping trip in October that starts here in Texas, winds through Arkansas, and finishes with a couple of nights in Oklahoma.  It will be camping heaven.  As I was reading Chris’ book, I thought the natural thing to do would be to incorporate all the camping and hiking in my quest.  Visiting all the national parks would be pretty tough for me as I do work a very traditional 8-5 job with limited vacation time.  However, visiting all the state parks in my home state, Texas, would be challenging but still very do-able.

So our quest began last weekend when Rosie and I visited Bonham State Park which is conveniently located about an hour and a half away from home.  We took a little road trip and actually got a couple of errands done on the way.  It was a very good day, and we’re off to a good start.  Of course, it’s just my luck to live in Texas, the second largest state next to Alaska (which is mostly inhabitable so I don’t think it should count).  Texas has almost 100 legitimate state parks.  Yikes! . There are a few State Historical Sites and State Natural Areas, and we will definitely make every effort to visit those as we travel along on our quest, but the principal goal will be to visit every Texas State Park.  We will be camping in as many state parks as possible, taking lots of photos along the way, and journaling about our adventures.  I am envisioning a beautiful book full of photos of Rosie and me with all of our state park stories.

Soon I’ll share my spreadsheet where I list all the state parks by location and proximity to home so that I could figure out which state parks would be a day trip, weekend trip, or would require a week-long vacation.  Because I definitely got the planning genes.

If you read Chris’ book and decide to take on your own quest, I’d love to hear about it and cheer you on!



a kinda-sorta minimalist


photo by me

I’m a “kinda sorta” minimalist.  In the past five years, I’ve pared down along the way as I’ve moved from a 3300 square foot house, to a 1400 square foot house and my current 750 square foot apartment.  By the way, let me just say that I love apartment living.  The stresses of repair and maintenance expenses, lawn maintenance, and housecleaning did not work for me.  I enjoyed home ownership for a very short time.

But  I’m ready to take my minimalism groove up a couple of notches.  I’ve started with my closet because this space felt the most cluttered.  It’s not a huge closet; it’s not tiny either.  It could be a perfect sized closet, but there is way too much stuff hiding in there that is totally unnecessary.  I was reading Courtney Carver’s blog about how limiting your wardrobe options reduces stress (taking away the hassle of “what do I wear today”) and saves money.  If I only have five or six outfits for work and I love all of them, then there doesn’t need to be any of that standing around in my closet looking for what goes with what.  I’m not quite ready for that stage of having a very limited number of outfits, but I’m making definite progess towards it.

I’m in love with the idea of having only the things I truly LOVE in my life which, to me, is a major tenet of  minimalism.  Why do I keep a dress I’m only “eh” about.  As long as “the thing” that I’m ambivalent about is hanging out in my living space, I will feel the pressure of using/wearing it more often.  Ahem … sewing machine.

My goal is to have my closet cleaned out by the end of this month.  Thunderstorms rolled in last night and are expected all weekend long, so it seems I have no excuse not to do at least a little this weekend.  I actually got a really good start a couple of weeks ago; here’s a list of what I purged and donated to Operation Kindness:

2 pairs of sneakers
3 pairs of black dress slacks
1 pair of jeans
3 pairs of black boots
1 pair of brown boots
4 towels
11 t-shirts
12 blouses
9 bras
2 cardigans
2 skirts
1 nightgown
2 dresses

Not closet-related but got scooped up in the frenzy:
Microwave rice cooker
Set of journaling cards
2 Water bottles
Small organizing bin
Handheld GPS
Digital voice recorder*
2 calculators*
GPS for car
MP3 player
3 blankets
1 yoga bag

*School supplies that I no longer need because I graduated!

As I’m boxing and bagging all these items up, the one thing that keeps running through my head is:  Look at all this STUFF I buy and spend money on, and look where it all ends – in the back of the closet never to be seen or used again. I really need to be more aware of impulsive spending.  I don’t need any more electronic gadgets.  I don’t need any more clothes.  What I need is more space.  What I want is to help more – children in Syria, homeless dogs, military veterans … This is where it starts.

little surprises

Almost every single day I am blessed by a minute or two of simple joy, a quick couple of minutes of a gorgeous sunset, or a strikingly beautiful flower blooming along a walk, or some other moment outside the realm of the “ordinary day.”  Those times come along totally unexpected which make them even more special.  Yeserday while walking in the park I saw a squirrel drinking from and playing in a shallow puddle of water.  I could tell he was really enjoying himself because he waited until I was right up beside him before he scrambled off.  Today, I decided to take a very short walk for some fresh air during my lunch break.  It’s pretty unusual for me to do so this time of year because it’s 100+ degrees right now with a heat advisory in effect.  God bless Texas.  But I was so glad I thought of the little walk outside because there was a big, furry dog playing outside and I got to get in some doggie lovin’.  Totally made my day … but don’t tell Rosie.

doing some good

Last night I donated blood.  In the past few weeks, I have been struggling to make some kind of sense of all the violence that has occurred the past few weeks in Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana and my home, Dallas, Texas.  What kind of world was I living in?  Was there a way for me to help stop the violence, racism and hate?  How could I make any difference at all?  I read a few articles that discussed the different ways one can make a difference when everything can seem so hopeless.  Donating blood was mentioned at least a couple of times, and the suggestion really stuck out for me.  I just happened to have noticed a week earlier that a Carter BloodCare donation site was right around the corner from where I live.  I got online to the Carter BloodCare website, and within five minutes I had a very convenient appointment to donate blood.  Up until the time of my appointment, I kept thinking that there would be something to prevent me from donating – prescriptions, travel history, I eat with my fingers.  Seriously, my mind was conjuring up all kinds of random, nonsensical reasons I would be denied.  But I arrived for my appointment and about 40 minutes later, I left with one pint less.  (I’m guessing.  I really don’t know how much they took.  I don’t look at the needle, and I certainly don’t look at the bag of blood.  Ewww.)  The staff at Carter BloodCare was really nice and my being comfortable and safe was obviously their first concern.  It took an hour out of my day, but I finally felt that I had done something – even though it was teeny tiny – to negate all the violence and hate out there.  If nothing else, I put a little love, a little light, out into this crazy world of mine.  And maybe if I can figure out small ways to keep putting that love and light out there … maybe in some way it will make a difference.

Here’s a really good article about why regular blood donors are important.  CarterBloodCare operates in Texas, but I’m sure it’s not too hard to find a donation site in your area.  The American Red Cross is also a good source.