Published on June 3, 2014, by

I’m sitting in the Boston airport trying to process all that’s happened in the last 9 weeks.  The bustle of the airport, the smells of the food court, the nauseating pit in my stomach – I just don’t have the mental capacity to tell you what Belfast has meant to me.  I might not have that fully sorted out for a few weeks or even months.  Maybe in a year, I’ll know for sure how the Belfast experience has changed me.  But for now, here’s what I’ve got:

I knew before I left that this would be a significant event in my life, but I could not have predicted how proud I would feel at the end of it.  Do you remember when I said that this was my year to be fearless?  I really took that to heart.  I did things that truly scared me, not the least of which was living in a foreign country for 2 months.

I walked across a high rope bridge in high winds – TWICE.

I sang karaoke in front of a sassy tranny and a room full of strangers.

I paid for things with an American credit card (everyone in the UK hates that, FYI).

I actively volunteered to do things that I was scared of just to challenge myself – and I was fine!  I even had fun!

But there was a sense of fearlessness that was subconscious as well.  I have long considered myself “not good at making friends.”  I’m afraid to approach people and I feel like I’m socially awkward.  I have an imposter complex and I always feel like I’m the odd one out.  So I don’t put myself out there, at least not all the way.  I’m not always authentic is what I’m saying.

But on this trip, I was authentic.  I couldn’t be anything else – we worked long hours and were so stressed, I didn’t have energy to keep my boundaries up.  I was just – me.  Though it may not sound like it, that was fearlessness at work!  And I was fine!

I made friends.  Good friends, people who I can’t wait to see again, who genuinely liked me.  I’m kind of blown away by that.  And I caught up with an old friend at the end of my trip, someone who REALLY knows me and knows all the things I’ve been through.  She knew me when I was the worst version of myself – it doesn’t get much more authentic than that.  And she still likes me anyway.

The most important take away for me from this trip is that I was, ultimately, just fine.  I could leave everyone I know and everything I love with just a backpack and a suitcase and I would be just fine.  I could start a new job in a new place where I don’t know anyone, I could live on my own again, I could start over – and I would be just fine.

That’s an incredibly powerful thing to learn about myself.  Now I just have to remember it.

 
Published on April 27, 2014, by

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Remember how I said I wanted to post every day from Belfast?  Well, I have been – just not on this blog.  I created a microblog that would work with a mobile app so I could create mini entries from my phone.  It’s an excellent app and I like how that blog is shaping up.  The problem is that I haven’t had the time or energy to transfer the stuff from there to here.

So, to find out about the first 3+ weeks of my Belfast adventure, for now you’ll have to visit this link:

https://truestories.bokeh.com

It’s heavily censored and pretty simplistic – it’s made to share with folks from work, so there are a lot of happy, upbeat phrases and exclamation points.  I am happy and excited to be in Belfast!  Look how pretty everything is!!!  Everyone I work with is great!!!!!

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All that stuff is true, of course, but there’s another side to it.  The long work days, the unceasing pressure, the inescapability of work.  It’s seriously work, work, work, all the time.  Even when we’re out exploring… it’s with people from work.  Even when we’re at the pub… people talk about work.  Oh my god, I’m so sick of work.

And I miss my family like crazy!  Being so far away from Tim, Grif, my parents and my friends is really difficult.  At times, it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach because I miss my guys so much.  I love Belfast in a lot of ways, but not even 1% as much as I love my fam.  I am literally counting down the days until I come home.

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Don’t get me wrong – I made the right decision when I volunteered for this position and I don’t regret it for a minute.  Belfast is a great city, filled with lovely people and food so good, I’m gaining weight by the minute.  My apartment is amazing and I get to wake up every day to a stunning view of the river.  I walk everywhere, which is wonderful – I’m kicking ass on my fitbit!  I am really glad I’ve had this opportunity…

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But yeah, I’m already wishing I was at home.  Just 37 days left to go!

 
Published on March 22, 2014, by
Yes, I am FINALLY writing about Hawaii.  I have half a dozen draft posts about it but none of them seemed right.  I was trying to divide our trip into sections: the town of Kona (meh), snorkeling (amazing), and food (double meh). Being logical and analytical about each aspect of our stay just didn’t capture the feeling because there was a lot I didn’t like about the Big Island, especially in comparison to Maui, and yet I loved it.  Isn’t that what love is?  Illogical, sometimes crazy, and so adept at making us blind to flaws.  Love doesn’t have to make sense – it’s passionate, exciting, and more than the sum of its parts.
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That’s the Big Island for you!  It has a lot of downsides – the land is rocky and strange, the large towns are dull and cater to boring tourists, everything closes at 9pm, transportation options are almost non-existent, the beaches in town are ugly and dirty, and the food is, for the most part, mediocre and expensive.  But on the positive side, if you have transportation out of the city, the beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and clear, and there are fish and turtles everywhere.  The weather is perfect on the Kona side of the island – sunny in the morning and cloudy with sprinkles in the afternoon, every day like clockwork.  And the people, like all the people we’ve met in Hawaii, are kind and friendly.
Do the few positives outweigh the negatives?  Maybe it’s Hawaiian magic, maybe it’s simply the thrill of the exotic, but yes – absolutely yes.
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Part of the magic is definitely in the water.  We hardly set foot in the ocean for the first 3 days of our trip.  When we finally tried to go snorkeling on the 4th day, we found the beach closed because of a shark sighting.  Major disappointment!  At that point, I was certain that Maui was my favorite island and that the Big Island could never compare.  After all, our hotel in Maui was right on a white sand beach where I could stick my feet in the water whenever I wanted to, while our Big Island place (I can’t call it a hotel because it was more like a condo – more on that later) was a 15 – 20 minute walk away from a really ugly little beach with gray sand and an odd pit in the middle.  The food wasn’t as good, the towns were too spread out, and even the volcano, which was cool to see because it was active, didn’t compare to my beloved Mt Haleakala.
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That thinking changed the day we set visited Kua Bay.  It was a beach I’d chosen to go to based on reviews, and Tim’s family had agreed to go because they’re all incredibly agreeable people.  Initially, I was worried I’d made a mistake.  The drive was long, parking was difficult, and there were more people than I’d hoped.  But the sand was soft and the water was a stunning shade of blue, so I put on my sunscreen and jumped in… to find 3 (!!!) sea turtles hanging out near some rocks, just chilling in the surf.  We snorkeled within inches of those turtles for a few hours, until someone warned us that the police would ticket tourists for being too close.  We explored the rest of the beach, which was home to a few cool fish, then headed back to town for lunch at Kona Brewing Co, one of the few restaurants we really enjoyed.  It was a near perfect day!  Swimming so close to those turtles was magical, like being in a nature film. I thought that was as good as it was going to get.
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But every day after that was better.  After snorkeling in other locations, I discovered that Kua Bay was choppy with lower visibility and fewer fish than other spots around the island.  It was actually a perfect beach to start with because I didn’t know enough to be disappointed!  Every time I got in the water after that, I loved the Big Island more and more.
In the next installment… more turtles!
 
Published on March 4, 2014, by

When I set my intentions for this year, I focused on fearlessness. My fears have routinely kept me from realizing my potential and I’m so over it. This year is my year to finally stand up to them. The lyrics from Airborne Toxic Event’s song “All I Ever Wanted” say it best: “All I can think is it must be some kind of rebellion / to arm your fears like soldiers and slay them.”

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Because this is a year of fear-slaying, I took a chance at work. I don’t usually do that – I try to do my best work without calling attention to myself. It’s generally safer and easier not to stick my neck out. In the early, crazy days of working at a tech start-up, it was a genuinely good strategy and probably a big part of the reason I’m one of the most tenured people in the company, but I’ve kept it up too long. Recently, an opportunity came up to apply for an 8-week project in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working with people from all over the world. I have always wanted to work internationally and it seemed like a dream assignment… but I talked myself out of it. Two people I work with are from the UK, so I’d never get selected, I thought. Even if I did, they’d be mad at me. Anyway, I’m not qualified enough, I don’t have enough experience. It would mess up other opportunities at work. It would be really difficult to leave Tim and my dog, Grif, for 2 months. I needed to focus on my upcoming family trip. I would probably just screw it all up and ruin my relationship in the process.

Yeah, that was my anxiety talking me out of it. Those were reasons not to apply, but they weren’t good reasons. Some weren’t even REAL reasons – it’s unlikely that it would hurt either my career or my relationships. It was difficult to ignore that negative, anxiety-driven tape playing in my head, but with encouragement from co-workers and my mom (as well as Tim’s blessing), I set my concerns to the side and applied for it.

That, in itself, was a risk. Like most people, I try to avoid rejection and disappointment, so it was hard to put myself out there. And yet, I opened myself up for a NO. The negative voice in my head told me the answer would be NO. I braced myself to hear NO.

And the answer was YES!

I’m going to Belfast for two months, through April and May, and I’ll be working with another trainer who I really like (you may recognize him from my Karaoke birthday thing), and… that’s all I know. Everything else is a big fat question mark. That does freak me out, but it’s not going to scare me away. I’m going to prepare myself to do really good work, I’m going to line up some people to stay with if I happen to have a long weekend while I’m there, and that’s it. Everything else, I’m just going to take as it comes.

I am crazy excited. Yeah, I still have that voice telling me that things could go horribly wrong, but it’s getting easier to quiet down. I’ve learned that amazing things can happen when I take a risk, and having that proof is going to make it easier the next time an opportunity comes up.

This news was relatively sudden and unexpected, so I haven’t quite figured out how it’s going to change the direction of my blog. I want to share Belfast. I know it’s  a beautiful city with a complicated history and the trip has the potential to be life changing. But I’m not sure what kind of time I’ll have – I might be working 10+ hour days and occasionally on weekends – so writing might be out. If so, this may just be a photo blog for a while! I recently found out that TWO people are reading, so I hope that wouldn’t disappoint you both.

I’ll share more details when I get them!

 
Published on February 25, 2014, by
It’s official!  Tim and I both had our time off approved this week, so I can finally say it:
We’re going to Europe!  For three whole weeks!  In September!
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Eiffel Tower by Kimberly Vardeman on Flickr. CC

Can you tell I’m excited?  This is the perfect opportunity for me to start scratching some countries off my list.  We’ll see at least three – Germany, France, and Italy – but we’re considering visiting Switzerland, Brussels, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and maaaaybe scheduling a stopover trip in Iceland.
We’ll be travelling with my mom and my aunt, whose husband is currently stationed in Germany.  Auntie’s done a lot of travelling, so she’ll be acting as our guide most of the time, though Tim and I may set off on our own to explore his family’s ancestral homeland in the Netherlands.  We’ll have fewer logistics to plan as we travel as a group, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to research the hell out of everything.  That’s the fun part!
So I’ll be looking at blogs, reading up on TripAdvisor, and picking the brains of traveler friends like Jill from St. Germainia.  I’m hoping to pick 3 or 4 things in each country that I absolutely have to see/do/experience, then go with the flow on everything else.
But there’s more to prep than research!  I need to get into shape.  Great shape.  Walk-several-miles-every-day kind of shape.  The fact is, I really let things go after we got back from Hawaii.  I’m just not great at staying motivated without a clearly defined goal and end date.  I’ve tried the general goal of ‘building healthy habits’ but it just doesn’t work for me.  I need a timeframe, a task, a finish line, and achievements along the way.
Now I have one!  Introducing my new fitness mini-goal: Operation Eurobody.  I want to slim down, tone up, and build enough endurance that I could reasonably walk with a backpack on every day for three weeks (which is really just a warm up to the Camino, when I will travel with a huge pack and walk for 30+ days).  I’ll have a little more than 6 months to get there, which seems like plenty of time if I stay focused.
I’m going to kick it off with a shopping spree – I need new gym clothes!  All the ones I have are from a time when I was either much, much larger or a size or two smaller.  I feel crappy when I go to the gym in ill-fitting workout gear – it’s just plain uncomfortable.  I rarely buy clothes, so this a real treat for me.  Next, I’m going to start a couch-to-5k program to increase my endurance.  If I can run three miles in one stretch, I can walk at least that far.  If I manage to conquer that goal in 9 weeks (as the C25K promises), then I might push it to the next level and go for a 10k. We’ll see!  I used to really enjoy running, so I’m hoping it comes back naturally.
The third step is the “diet” piece.  This is, by far, the hardest part for me.  I have to balance what I know about nutrition (whole grains, lean meats, lots of veggies and fruits) with what I know about myself (I’m not good at sticking with meals that need a lot of prep, I need dairy to be happy, and veggies/fruits upset my stomach since I had my gallbladder removed).  I think most people are caught in the same trap.  Considering my current schedule, the only thing I can commit to now is bringing lunch instead of eating out and using a calorie counting app to track what I eat.  Later, I’ll try to tackle eating smaller meals more often and making healthier versions of the foods I just can’t bear to give up.  I will not stop eating any category of food – I feel like cutting out dairy or carbs or meat or even sweets is just a recipe for deprivation and eventual failure – but I will try to widen my food ‘comfort zone’ by learning how to cook things like quinoa.
It makes me feel kind of ridiculous setting these kinds of goals just to be healthier, but it does help me in the long run.  I hope that it will one day be my default setting, but for now, I have to be really conscious of it.  My last fitness mini-goal was pretty successful, so I’m looking forward to sharing my strategies and results for this one, as well as all the research/fun stuff I’ll be doing as a lead up to Europe 2014.  To be continued!
 
Published on January 27, 2014, by

So far, 31 has been amazing!  I took two weekends to celebrate and did a ton of fun stuff, including… (drumroll please)… CROSSING A THING OFF MY LIST!

Say goodbye to 10. Sing a Song at Karaoke.

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How was it?  Amazing.  Awesome.  Addictive?  Yeah, I loved it.  I thought that it would be a little fun and a little awkward, but it turned out to be ridiculously fun and not-at-all awkward.

Karaoke Friends Karaoke at August Karaoke Box

Some of the credit goes to the lovely people who sang with me – they really got into it.  By the time we left, my face actually hurt from all the laughing and smiling.  Though I was very nervous right before it began, it didn’t end up being embarrassing or scary at all.  In fact, I’d love to do it again!

Singing at August Karaoke Box

(Mini review:  We went to August Karaoke Box in Tempe and it was a mixed experience.  I made the reservation 3 weeks in advance but they didn’t have it on file when we got there.  We still got a room because it wasn’t busy – it was a 12 person room, and though there were only 10 of us, it felt really cramped and got crazy hot.  However, the touch screen system was neat, the sound system was good, and the videos were hilarious because they were total nonsense.  Overall, the staff was friendly and helpful, but they forgot to give me my ID back at the end of the night, which caused a big issue the next day.  It wasn’t perfect, but I’d probably still go back.)

We did a bunch of other fun stuff too!

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Tried float spa meditation for the first time at True Rest Float Spa.  I really enjoyed it!  It felt like I’d gotten a massage after.

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Had Tim’s family over for ice cream cake – which is his excellent family tradition.  He has enough siblings that I get DQ cake almost half the months out of the year.

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Went out for sushi at Shimogamo.  It was simple but delicious.

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Went to the Chihuly in the Garden exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens with Tim and my mom.  Chihuly is one of my favorite artists and his 2008 show at DBG was inspirational.  I didn’t think this one was quite as good, but it was still wonderful.  AND we accidentally showed up on their Dog Day so the whole place was filled with pups!  That was a happy surprise.

We wandered around the exhibit, ate a seriously tasty lunch at Gertrude’s, and wandered around some more.  It was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.  It also got me really excited about learning to blow glass!

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The birthdaypalooza ended with a wonderful brunch.  I like to multi-task our events and since our house has really come together, this was the perfect time to have a housewarming.  I got some bagels, baked a couple of breakfast casseroles, and put together a mimosa bar – bam, party!  It was great to celebrate with friends and family and I love showing off our house!

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All our hard work and $$$ have really paid off.  I’ve gotta post some before and after pics soon.

If the rest of the year is even half as good as the last two weeks, I’m going to be in good shape.  And I think it will be – I’ve got some big travel plans and goals to help me feel/live better.  Hopefully I can be a much better blogger this year, too!

 
Published on January 16, 2014, by

It’s my birthday! And you know what? I am happy about it.

People at my office thought it was weird that I was excited to celebrate the passing of another year. They said they never take their birthday’s off, they don’t make a big deal of it, etc. But, honestly, they all sounded kind of sad about it.

If you don’t celebrate for yourself, who will? To me, it’s about taking the time to say, “I’m worthy.” Worthy of celebrating, worthy of treats, worthy of fun, worthy (in spite) of aging, worthy of another year. Birthdays shouldn’t be sad – they should be an affirmation that your life is valuable.

So I’m doing nice things for myself today! I’ve got a session at a meditation float spa in the afternoon, then lunch with friends, and then – EEEEK – karaoke! I rented a private room and invited my boldest friends – we’re going to sing the night away. Also I think there will be cake.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what songs I want to sing. There’s one that I’m really hoping they have – it’s out of my range, but it’s my favorite song at the moment.

In fact, I want it to be this year’s theme song. I want to play it every time I feel sad or defeated or stressed. I want to sing it and feel it and carry it with me for the whole year.

This is going to be a year of fearlessness. Of wonder. Of growth. Of love. Of gratitude. Of singing and dancing and travel and laughter.

This is a year of Happy:

 
Published on January 14, 2014, by

A year ago, I created a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish.  Or rather, 30-year-old-KT created that list.  I’ve changed in a year (and I bet you have, too) so now the question becomes… can the list change?

I think it can.  And I make the rules around here, so there you have it.  Every year, I’m going to re-evaluate the list and swap out goals if I feel it’s appropriate.  I won’t add something just because I know I’ve got an opportunity coming up and I won’t remove anything just because it doesn’t seem achievable.  The criteria for the swap is one Thing sounding better than another Thing, that’s it.

Thing #22: Drive the PCH -> See Every Hawaiian Island

Before this year, I’d been to Maui twice.  I kind of figured that all the islands were pretty much like Maui the same way that all of Kansas looks like the rest of Kansas.  This year I went to the big island of Hawaii and was proven totally, utterly wrong.  Hawaii was so beautiful and fascinating in its own unique way – it made me want to see ALL of the Hawaiian islands.  It’ll take longer, admittedly, but I feel more passionate about it than I do about seeing the West Coast via car.  I think I’d rather see it by bike, so maybe it’ll turn into #4.

Thing #23: Meet Someone I Admire -> Get My Degree

Earlier this year, I was really stressing about looking for a job without a completed college degree.  Even if I just get my Associates, it’ll make me feel so much more confident and secure.  Besides, why meet someone I admire when what I really want to do is become someone I admire?

I think those are the only changes I want to make this year.  They’ve both been floating around in my brain for the last couple months.  Am I just making this harder on myself?  Maybe.  I’m cool with that.

In other news, my birthday is just a few days away!  I’m genuinely excited to turn 31.  I hope I still feel that way when the number rolls up to 39, haha.  But right now, the world seem so full of opportunity and possibility.  I’m really excited to see where 31 takes me!

 
Published on December 29, 2013, by

First of all: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Clockwise from left: Christmas eve at my parent’s house, Christmas day with Tim’s family, in front of the tree at our house, and our post-Christmas lobster!

I hope all my reader (singular, hahaha) had a great holiday.  Mine was wonderful, though it felt really short.  The older I get, the more it seems like December is over in just a few days.  This time it was exacerbated by circumstances at work – I started yet ANOTHER new job!  Yep, if you’re counting, that makes four this year.

It also makes the very first item on the list to get crossed off!

27. Get A Meaningful Job

If you’d asked me what I thought I’d cross off first, I definitely didn’t think it’d be this one.  That’s why it was so far down the list – I was going to give it a few years.  This was an intervention by fate and circumstance.

Yep, I realize it took 11 months to knock out one of my goals.  I’m okay with that.  It was a crazy year and I accomplished a LOT, it just wasn’t all stuff on the list.  I did make some progress on a few more goals:

1. Learn how to blow glass – I researched places around AZ where I could learn to blow glass and even signed up for classes.  I had to cancel when I changed jobs the first time, but at least I know where to go when I’m ready.

13. Fix my credit – I looked at my credit report and opened a credit card this year.  There’s still a lot more I need to research and act on, but it’s slowly going up, which is the right direction.

17. Build or repair something – I helped fix up a whole house!  We painted every room, put floors in ourselves, and we’ll be changing out all the doors soon.  It’s not quite what I had in mind when I thought of the goal, but it’s more than I’d ever done before.

20. Volunteer – I volunteered twice this year, first with a food bank and then with Junior Achievement.  Both experiences were wonderful and I plan to do a few more volunteer events next year.

28. Read 300 books – I read 15 books this year, which is certainly not a personal best.  I still need to review 100 Years of Solitude and Night Circus… maybe I’ll make the reviews shorter as time goes on.

30. Write and work on this blog – Though I wasn’t as prolific or consistent as I wanted to be, I am working on it!

My birthday is a little less than 3 weeks away and I plan to cross one thing off that very night – karaoke!  Who knows what else the new year will hold…

 
Published on November 11, 2013, by

Hawaiian Sunset

Let me tell you about the cycle of craziness that caused the months-long gap between blog posts.

When we got back from Hawaii, I wanted to do a few wrap up posts while things were fresh in my mind, but I couldn’t find the cord to connect my camera to my computer.  No picture, no post.  A few weeks went by and every weekend I said to myself, I should really find that cord.  No luck.  Tried to find a different mini USB cord.  No luck there, either.  When a full month had gone by, my desire to make the post turned into stress – I felt like a failure because I hadn’t written anything in so long.  I focused on those feelings of failure and they began to magnify.  Feeling guilt about my lack of work on the blog turned into feeling regret about everything else.  Then a “friend” had some really not-nice, not encouraging things to say about it (which is why I don’t post or tweet about this project), and that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.

I never did make that post -> No one read the blog anyway -> No one will ever read the blog -> I’m a failure at blogging -> Well, they won’t read it because there’s nothing interesting on it -> I haven’t accomplished any of my goals this year -> I’ll never accomplish any of my goals -> No one believes in me anyway -> I should just quit.

This is has long been my cycle of self-defeat.  I get down on myself and give up.  One negative word from a friend and I doubt everything.  I stress myself into inaction.  I let other people dictate to me.  All the old ‘stories’ about myself take over – not good enough, not worth it, might as well not try.

I’ve lived my life this way for a long time.  It hurts to admit that but it’s true.  I haven’t accomplished much because I don’t try for fear of failing, and failure means that people are right when they say I’m not good enough.  There seem to be a lot of people in my life telling me what I can’t do, now that I think about it.  I’ve internalized that message since I was a child and it’s become a constant voice in the back of my head.  It’s only ever robbed me of my spirit and put a damper on my joy, but I can’t shake it.

“I should just quit,” is where I’ve been at with this for a while.  I haven’t made the time to write because it’s a reminder of everything I haven’t done this year.  I’m even behind on my reading (and because I feel stress to get the reading done, I don’t do it – thanks stupid brain)!  So I want to give up.

But I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to keep plugging away at this project and hope that I come through for myself.  It’s true, I haven’t gotten to cross anything off  yet.  Every time I’ve tried, something has come up.  Changing jobs twice certainly didn’t help.  Buying the house then remodeling it – a work STILL in progress – has taken a lot of time and energy.  I had to use much of my vacation time to finish up work for my other business, and the sadness/anger of that was draining, too.  I’ve hit a lot of speed bumps and road blocks on my journey so far, but I want to keep moving.

This time, I’m going to try not giving up.