Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Archive for April, 2012

Cooking Up Something Good

Tasty victuals and critical productivity tools...

Today was the first day in weeks I’ve been able to take a deep breath and fully exhale. We had no plans except those of our own choosing, and no schedule to keep except to get a run in before dark. We slept a little later than usual, huddled under the covers in the guest room. (In a story too long and boring to tell here, we sold the bed we’ve been sleeping in at the yard sale last weekend, and we’re keeping the heat off so we don’t have to pay for another oil delivery before we sell the house next week. It’s really a circus of the absurd around here.) Once we finally rallied downstairs, we cooked up a delicious breakfast of lentil hash and eggs scrambled with sweet onions and cheese. We sipped cups of coffee and read the news and paid bills. We relished the return to quiet normalcy, to a day when we did not have strangers or appraisers or buyers pushing their agendas on us. We drove to Portsmouth to procure boxes and tape for packing, grab a few fresh veggies at the grocery store, and pick up a replacement screen canopy for our upcoming camping trip to Acadia National Park. We were back by early afternoon and each headed out for a run. Distance didn’t matter today; just getting out there mattered. Our next race is in Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, so we have plenty of time to train. What we needed today were fresh air and clear minds, and we found both. We capped the day with a delicious dinner collaboration, one so tasty that it will probably make its detailed way to my food and fitness blog soon. The short version: spicy apple tofu roasted over fresh asparagus and paired with sweet potato fries and a chipotle-lime aoili. Pick a word: delicious, fantastic, balanced, amazing. They all apply to dinner, and they apply to the rest of the day as well. I hope your Monday was as balanced as ours, but if not, there’s always hope for tomorrow. -J


The Art of Losing

Before and after the garage sale...

We’ve been losing a lot of things lately: weight, earrings, and the lottery, among others.  We’ve even been losing track of time, spending hours in a dusty basement sorting through boxes of stuff we’ve been lugging around for years.  Last weekend, we took a break from purging to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem.  This weekend, we held our first (and only!) yard sale to rid ourselves of extraneous possessions.  How are all of these events related?

One of the sessions at the festival featured a reading of a favorite poem we hadn’t heard or read in a while.  The poem is “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the opening stanza goes like this:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Bishop goes on to suggest that we should all “practice losing farther, losing faster”…and that seems to be the theme of our April this year.  We started the month staring down a houseful of stuff, wondering how we would decide what to keep when we moved into our next  place…a much smaller, cooler, easier to handle space, by design.  Sometimes those keep-or-ditch decisions were easy, but often they were difficult, getting caught up in memories and emotions and absurd hangups on financial value or sunk costs.

But as the month progressed, we seemed to get better at losing.  Every box we touched became easier to go through, every letter we read became easier to recycle, and every possession we evaluated became easier to part with.  We sent hundreds of items home with new owners yesterday, with the intent that their useful lives be extended in someone else’s  care.  We then took most of the remaining items to a local non-profit with the same outcome in mind.  A handful of leftovers wait patiently in our garage to meet their fate at our town’s recycling center.

It turns out that the art of losing is difficult to begin, but with a little practice (Write it!) it isn’t hard to master. –J&M

In honor of the festival and national poetry month, we suggest you check out Bishop’s entire poem, available on the Poetry Foundation’s website here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176996


Spring Cleaning

It’s possible—strike that…it’s a fact—that being home is more frenzied than being on the road.  In the two weeks since we returned from Key West, we’ve had zero plans on exactly one day—and that one day was spent sorting through the contents of our kitchen cabinets.  In that same period of time, we’ve managed to put up just four blog posts.  Not because we haven’t had much to say, but because we’ve been distracted and exhausted.  So what’s been keeping us so busy?  Where to begin?  We’ve gone under agreement to sell our house, celebrated holidays and family birthdays, run a half marathon, babysat for my niece, gone to concerts, hung out with friends from near and far, played charity trivia, and found a new place to live.  The new place won’t be ready until July, so we’ve also been working out arrangements for two months of temporary living…which for us will be a combination of campgrounds, friends’ homes, and an occasional hotel.  Whatever isn’t going in our car for those two months is going in storage, so we’re spending a fair amount of time sorting through things and being tough about what we really need on a daily basis.  And if things don’t make that cut, we’re deciding whether they have a place in our lives at all.  It’s a good exercise to go through, and our test trip a few weeks ago helped clarify our requirements.  This time, we’ll be wandering for six additional weeks, but our gear requirements won’t be much different.  It’s easy to live simply when you’re simply living.  Although the simplification process might seem minimalist, we’re actually taking our own maximalist approach to life these days…in other words, attempting to maximize the utility and value and enjoyment from each object we retain.  That doesn’t always mean the smallest or cheapest items; on the contrary, it often means trading quality for quantity.  It also means being very thoughtful at the point of consumption (i.e., time of purchase) to ensure any new items won’t end up in a donation pile the next time we move.  It’s rather depressing to sort items for a garage sale and realize how many things should have never entered our lives in the first place…how many dishes or vases or electronics or souvenirs should have never been purchased.  And it’s not just the wasted money that’s depressing.  It’s the wasted materials and resources along the way.  No one needs those things, and certainly not that many things.  More often than not, things won’t make you happy.  They’ll suffocate you and depress you and clog your closets and drain your bank accounts.  If you haven’t already done so, stop watching commercials on TV, stop looking through catalogs, and stop buying things you don’t need.  You’ll be happier and better off for it, and you’ll have fewer things to sort through next time you move. -J


Race Recap: 2012 Great Bay Half Marathon

Although the majority of our miles this year will take place via plane, train, or automobile, at least 1,500 of them will take place via sneaker.  M plans to run at least 1,000 miles, and J plans to be right behind him at 600 or so on the year.  We are off to a good start, having logged nearly 300 and 200 miles respectively.  26.2 of those occurred on Saturday, when we both ran the 13.1-mile Great Bay Half Marathon.  Here’s J’s Race Recap: 2012 Great Bay Half Marathon.


Hurry Up and Wait

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

– Thomas Paine

Freedom from a mortgage and a job might not be what Paine had in mind, but the spirit of his statement fits!  First things first, we are sorry for our silence this week.  Who would have thought that being home would be more hectic than being on the road?!  We received an offer on our house the day we returned home from our trip, and we’ve spent the past week setting the wheels in motion to move into a much funkier and more economical river-view apartment that better suits our lifestyle.  So we spent most of our time this week organizing and resolving the things within our control, and now we wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.

Unfortunately, we’re not very good at a waiting, even after a lifetime of practice.  When you’re a kid, it’s waiting for your birthday or waiting for Christmas or waiting for your friend to come over.  Then it’s waiting to get your license, waiting to go to college, waiting to graduate.  Once you start working, it’s waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for the next job or promotion.  Waiting can take over your life.  This realization brings to mind the quote most often attributed to John Lennon (though said by others before him): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

There is some truth in that statement, but is it all just waiting?  What about preparation and effort to ready oneself for what’s next?  Is preparation the same as waiting?  The answer, of course, is no.  Preparation involves taking an active role in the future and showing initiative, while waiting implies a being passive while other things occur around you.  We’ve arrived at this juncture in our lives through preparation.  We’ve done our best—sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding—to control the things we could and to mitigate risk from circumstances outside of our control.

And now, we wait.  Better yet, we wait and we live our lives!  This is a time to be active.  To put worries to the side and run races, write poems, visit friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company (and of course, update our blog!).  And as we wait for items outside of our control to be resolved, we can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared the best we could.

We stumbled across the quote below from a great adventurer and wanted to share it as an encouraging piece of wisdom that sums up the impact of preparation and initiative:

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)