Sunday, June 27, 2010

Patience. Passion. A plan.

Growing food requires a lot of patience. These raspberries will someday be red and juicy, but for now we need to wait — probably several more weeks — before we can enjoy them.

Once they ripen, we'll need to cover the plants with netting to keep the birds and squirrels from getting to them first. This is a lesson learned from experience, a piece of wisdom that comes from finding that your much-anticipated fruit was stripped away before you even had a chance to taste it.

But after the planting, the watering, the waiting and the netting comes the big payoff: a bounty of fresh raspberries for the rest of the summer. There is a point when it seems like if you pick five on a Tuesday, there will be 10 more on Wednesday. A particularly sunny day causes the plants to explode with berries. It is sweet, and certainly worth the wait.

Patience is only part of the deal. To end up with the fruit, you also need passion and a plan. Your passion for fresh raspberries will see you through the days when it seems like they'll never ripen — it will remind you that everything will be worth it in the end. Your plan will help you outsmart the wily critters that are desperate to get the goods.

Patience. Passion. A plan.

I was thinking about how important it is to have patience when I realized that the other two pieces are just as crucial for achieving any goal.

Take, for example, my goal of becoming debt-free. Before I started my Big Debt Payoff of 2010, I lacked all three of these elements. I was content with living paycheck-to-paycheck, just barely scraping by — I had no passion. My debt seemed insurmountable, like it would take years to pay off — I had no patience. And I was afraid to take a hard look at the numbers, to figure out exactly what I needed to do to free myself — I had no plan.

I'm only now realizing that during these past six months, somewhere along the way, I gained all three.

As many things in life do, it must have begun with passion. I became angry with myself for letting my debt spiral out of control. I recognized that everything could have been different if only I had made the right decisions — if only I had taken the time to consider the consequences.

I was also sick of pretending that everything was OK. I purposefully blinded myself to the truth because I was afraid of what I would see if I opened my eyes. Once I got the courage to open my eyes, I came up with a plan.

Writing everything down was huge. I figured out how much I owed and to whom. I wrote down all of my monthly expenses and came up with how much money I could put toward debt payments each month. I wrote down a schedule of payments and discovered that if I followed the schedule, I would be completely debt-free in July.

Debt-free in July? I was shocked that I could dig myself out of this mess so quickly. Only six months until freedom? Yeah, I have the patience for that.

The schedule — the plan — got me through it. It was a road map to my goal. I had already done the hard work of deciding what to pay and when. Now all I had to do was do it.

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru behind The Total Money Makeover, is big on having written goals. He likes to quote Zig Ziglar, who said, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."

Without my written road map, I would have failed. I know that because I have tried and failed before. I had no goals, I ran out of patience and my passion dwindled. I aimed at nothing, and I hit it.

Passion inspired me to come up with a plan. The plan empowered me to be patient. Everything worked together to help me get to where I am today.

I know this concept is not the end-all, be-all for achieving goals. It is simply what worked for me. Having patience, passion and a plan is not easy. You can try to have all these things and still, sometimes, your humanness will get in the way.

I struggle with being patient every day. I am good at being passionate and setting goals, but patience is not my strong point. It is essential to be patient, though, whether you're stuck in line at the post office or working on a stressful project. I try to remember that there are certain things I have to do, and I can either do them happily, with patience, or unhappily, with rudeness. It's all about making a choice.

I have been patient with my Big Debt Payoff, and I'll see the fruits of that effort in July, when my last debt payment finally shrinks to $0.00. Maybe around that time I'll be able to enjoy some raspberries, too.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Now reading

I rarely leave the library with fewer than six books. I go in for one, I leave with six. I'm the Angelina of library books.

I won't bore you with the details of my bibliophilia. But I picked up some pretty fantastic books the other day, and I'm really excited to read them.

Like, writing-my-budget excited!!

Here they are, with handy links to Amazon and descriptions pulled from the book jackets (therefore, the use of the evil serial comma is not my own). The first three are the ones I'm most looking forward to... and the last three are guilty pleasures. (Don't judge.)

The Butcher and the Vegetarian
Tara Austen Weaver

"Growing up in a vegetarian family, Tara Austen Weaver never thought she'd stray. But as an adult, she found herself in poor health and, after trying cures of every kind, a doctor finally ordered her to eat meat. Warily, she ventured into the butcher shop, and as the man behind the counter wrapped up her first-ever chicken, she found herself intrigued. Eventually, he dared her to cook her way through his meat counter."

The Other Wes Moore
Wes Moore

"Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in the same decaying city within a year of each other. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation."

David Eagleman

"At once funny and unsettling, Sum is a dazzling exploration of unexpected afterlives — each presented as a vignette that offers a stunning lens through which we see ourselves ... With a probing imagination and deep understanding of the human condition, acclaimed neuroscientist David Eagleman offers wonderfully imagined tales that shine a brilliant light on the here and now."

(The best part about this book so far is the review by Stephen Fry: "You will not read a more dazzling book this year than David Eagleman's Sum. If you read it and aren't enchanted I will eat 40 hats.")

Pretty in Plaid
Jen Lancaster

"She was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn't know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this hilarious and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life — and wardrobe — before bitter was the new black, and reveals a young woman not so very different from the rest of us."

My Remarkable Journey (Please click and take in the cover photo. Could it be more creepy?)
Larry King

"Married eight times, Larry didn't actually meet the son who had been named after him until Larry King Jr. was thirty-three years old. He has been fired, incarcerated, struggled with a three-pack-a-day smoking habit, had a heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery, and founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. A father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather, Larry King is a man who can tell some tales. And he does it with humor and candor."

Tori Spelling

"Like most parents, Tori wants her children to have the one thing she didn't have as a kid — a normal family ... When the cameras aren't rolling, Tori's still having awkward run-ins with a former 90210 costar at a laser tag birthday party, scooping rogue poo out of the kiddie pool on a resort vacation, and racing to win back her pre-baby body before the media starts calling her fat. For all her suburban fantasies, Tori Spelling is no June Cleaver."

Even if I glean nothing insightful from Tori Spelling's book, at least I can thank her for adding the phrase "rogue poo" to my bag of tricks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lighter things

Last night I was going to write about patience — how important it is in nearly every aspect of life, and how I'm working on practicing it more often.
But then Losing It With Jillian came on TV. Love that show. Amazing.
Tonight I was going to write about the very, very near end to my Big Debt Payoff of 2010. I owe $685.78 on my student loan, and that's... it. But I feel like the end of that journey deserves a longer, more reflective post, and my mind isn't in that mode right now.
(I just wrote out my budget for July. It was fun. I'm not being sarcastic, either, because I actually love writing my budgets! It's just like how I love writing HTML and solving symbolic logic equations. Blame the OCD.)

Instead, I decided to let my mind take a break from numbers and from the things I want to work on about myself. I'll cover those in excruciating detail in due time.

For now, I'll settle for something that makes me smile every time I look at it, that epitomizes everything I always thought my early twenties would be, and that reminds me to savor the sweet things in life, like a long, laughter-filled evening with a good red and even better friends...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tortuga en el jardín

The happiest little garden turtle you've ever seen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Class of 2010

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Oregon to attend my dad's girlfriend's son's graduation from Linfield College.

(If my dad marries his girlfriend, Pam, this kid will be my stepbrother. It helps to think of it that way.)

I had never visited Linfield before, even though one of my closest friends from high school went there. It's a beautiful, small college in McMinnville, and I couldn't get over how gorgeous the campus was.
I could totally imagine sprawling on the grass under these peaceful trees to study.
Although we had peaceful trees at UW, too, but I never sprawled under them. Or studied.
But that's beside the point.
Pam snuck onto the softball field for a photo op. She found some abandoned gear in the dugout and went to town.
I just worried that we'd get yelled at for this and surreptitiously took photos from the bleachers. I've always been nervous about breaking the rules, even if rules may not even exist about this type of thing.
It's really helped me stay out of trouble. For the most part.
We also happened upon a sculpture and had to have some fun.

Again, attempting to steal sports equipment. I think I was sweating at this point.

There must be others out there like me. I need Goody Two-Shoes Anonymous.

The whole sculpture depicts various students in different stages of education. The students who have just started college look more like lumps, while the student seen walking away is fully formed. "The finish of the figures symbolizes how learning helps refine and complete a student," says the plaque.

I really love plaques. Something about the permanence of them and all the thought and effort behind them makes me misty-eyed.
It was only a year ago that I graduated from college, so it was strange to see someone else graduate knowing that that exciting time in my life had passed and would only get farther and farther away in my memory.
But it was also thrilling to be there to celebrate Kenton's accomplishments with his friends and family, and to watch him prepare to embark on the next leg of this adventure.

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