Saturday, February 1, 2014

January Book Review: "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin

For 2014, I decided to set a goal to read one book each month. I enjoy reading books, but I don't often find motivation to read. Mike has been doing some coursework for work, so there's a bit more downtime to myself. Perfect time for reading!

For January, I selected Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home. It's a sequel to The Happiness Project which I read last year. In the first book, Gretchen tackles a different area of her life and sets a few resolutions for that month. In this book, she does the same thing, although each theme is very "home-centric" and instead of a calendar year, she follows the school year: September through May. I'm afraid my terrible memory makes it challenging for me to write a book review that just recaps the book. I'd rather just describe the "feel" of the book and perhaps recount some things that stuck with me.

I follow Gretchen's blog and I admire her tenacity and intellectual approach to happiness. This isn't just another book on how eating healthier/sleeping more/spending time with family/doing more of what you love will make you happier. Some of these ideas are in there, but she takes very specific actions. Usually, I relate very closely to her. Sometimes it's a bit scary as she very honestly owns up to some of the "quirkier" parts of her personality and it's like looking into a mirror. For instance, in her first book, she talks about how she's an "underbuyer" (guilty) so she made it a goal to "spend out," or use up things she may be saving for no particular reason other than she perceives them as something to be saved for a special occasion, like fancy soap or stationary. I find myself saying "spend out" in my head every once in a while.

Something in this book that stuck with me was "entering into the interests of others." By this she means, make an effort to understand something that is interesting to a loved one. (One of her Secrets of Adulthood is "What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa." Mike was talking to me about something a couple weeks ago (could have been record players, P90X, his school work, I don't remember) and I realized I had an opportunity to enter into his interest. I tried hard to listen to what he was saying and understand his thoughts on the subject. It's so easy to put the "uh huhs" and "oh, that sounds neats" in the right place when someone is telling us something we're not interested in, but when you're speaking on something that interests you, isn't it nice to have someone ask thoughtful questions and show a genuine interest?

I don't relate to all of the author's happiness goals. First of all she does not like to drive at all. She lives in New York City, so this makes sense at first, but she's from Kansas City and she doesn't like to drive there either. I love to drive and I'm not really sure I understand her dislike of it. No worries! (See aforementioned Secret of Adulthood!) Also, she gets very excited about a landscape scene she commissions an artist to design for their cupboard. I suppose I see how this is need, but my pragmatic side would be annoyed with the lost real estate for cups and plates.

Overall I would say I enjoyed the first book better, but I really enjoyed revisiting the format and seeing what other creative goals Gretchen sets for herself. I haven't started a happiness project of my own, but reading books like this one keep me inspired to set and work towards different goals for myself. I feel happier when I'm working on achieving something.

Have you read The Happiness Project or Happier at Home? What did you think?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On Doing Nothing...

"You're always so busy!"

"If you keep busy, time will fly by!"

"It's so great that you're able to stay busy while Mike's gone."

Busy, busy, busy. 

My (and others') philosophy for the last three months has been "Keep busy and this will all be over soon." But you know what? Six months is six months. Whether you fill every second with activities or if you sit and stare at the wall each weekend. It's always six months. I'm a scientist. I understand this concept in my head, but my heart tried to believe something else. And in this process, I wore myself out.
  • Starting Crossfit
  • Running a 10K
  • Volunteering for a fashion show, a science festival, a robotics competition
  • Hosting a brunch
  • Hosting a girls' night
  • Planning a girls' weekend
  • Biking 30 miles
  • Biking 50 miles
  • Working a garage sale fundraiser
  • Taking an online class
  • Taking a classroom class
  • Review this
  • Attend that
  • Work on those
It's all been SO fun, but I'm pooped! Over the past week, I've come to the conclusion that I do want to just spend some time by myself working on my stuff. Fun stuff. I was going to try to make fewer commitments so I could focus on myself. (Right after I e-mail Ellie to see if she wants to go to this health festival with me on Sunday....DOH!) 

This morning I volunteered for the Girls Inc. "Girls Rock It into the Future" science festival. After enjoying my free pizza today, I walked to my car and suddenly I was scared. The free time I'd been longing for all week suddenly stared me in the face. My mind raced: "I should go shopping." "No, I need to get things done at home." "No I should relax and watch shows on Netflix." "No, I'll just feel like I'm wasting my time!" Fortunately, I hit the ground running when I got home. Staple the screen on the patio so Pants can go outside? Check. Sweep the patio so it doesn't look like it's been abandoned for a decade? Check. Sweep? Empty the dishwasher? Make a juice? Check. Check. Check! I was feeling pretty good about my afternoon "off!" I'm sure the anxiety that stems from Wichita State playing in the Final Four fueled my cleaning extravaganza, but it's so nice to be able to enjoy a clean home!

Since I'm naturally drawn to new experiences, it's going to take practice not signing up for every event, class and opportunity that crosses my path. I do have some fun things planned over the coming months,  and I know more fun things will pop up, but hopefully I can save some time for I can just "do nothing." :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hello, 2013! (Part II)

Check out Hello, 2013 (Part I) here.

In early February, my friend Sarah came to visit Ellie and I! Sarah lives in Alexandria, VA. We had a really great time enjoying margaritas...

 and painting pretty pictures of the Alamo!

The next weekend, I was able to go out to Washington, DC and see Mike for a few days before he left for Afghanistan. We stayed in Old Town Alexandria and spent time with each other and with friends. We managed to see Sarah (again!) before she left for a work trip overseas. I got to meet Mike's friend Patrick, whom I've heard so much about since I met Mike. Patrick was originally slated to be one of our groomsmen, but ended up being deployed at the time of the wedding. We also spent a whole day relaxing with my mom at her house. It was a very relaxing (and cold!) three days, but I enjoyed the extra time with him before he left.
The last photo of us together until August!
On the way home I learned the beauty of the USO at the airport. Free ice cream, food, and wifi as well as comfy theater seating in front of a big screen.

At the end of the month, our friend Onae, who moved to Kentucky last May, came to visit us in San Antonio. We all got together at Clarissa's one night and hilarity ensued:

Talk about coming in like a lion... On the first day of March, my work team went on an outing (most teams do these quarterly). This time we went skeet shooting. That's right. I learned how to shoot a shotgun! I was a bit nervous leading up to it, but in the end it was pretty fun! We had an instructor, too, so he made sure that each of us shot at least a few targets.

That weekend, I volunteered for my favorite Spina Bifida Texas event, FashionAble! This program pairs local high school fashion design students with disabled children. The design students design and make an item of clothing for the child and then they both show the piece off at a fashion show at Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park for people with disabilities. It is always such an inspirational event to see the high school students bonding with their models and then seeing the audience react when the children walk out on the catwalk. There probably aren't many bright days for these children, and seeing them soak up their time in the spotlight is so uplifting!

That weekend I also ran in the Alamo City Run Fest 10K! It was the first year for this event and I ran with Team Rackspace. My goal was to run the 6.2 mile race in less than an hour. It was a lofty goal as I'd have to maintain less than a 10 min/mile pace and I hadn't gotten much training in. I managed to scoot across the finish line at 58:35 and ended up 16th in my age group! Not bad! It left me wondering what would have happened if I'd really dedicated myself to training!

Alright I think we're all caught up for now! :) I'll be sure to post more regularly in the future! With Mike being gone it seems like I shouldn't have much of an excuse not to write, but I'm so fortunate to have such and amazing group of friends here and they're keeping me extra busy!

Hello, 2013! (Part I)

[Insert joke about how long it's been since I've posted.]

[Insert sincere apology for my absence and heartfelt promise to write more.]

It's 2013! Time for a fresh start! It's certainly a time for big changes here at the Holtz household! Here's a run down of the last 3 months (over this two part series). Hang on to your hat, it's been a wild ride!

I told you I traded in the Runner, but we also traded in Mike's truck for a 2013 Prius 4, straight off the boat from Japan!
The Prius!!
It sort of looks like a spaceship inside and I think it can fly, I just haven't found the button yet....
It's been a really great car and it's already very clear we're saving a lot on gas! It's our only car, but there were only a couple weeks where we had to share it before Mike left for training in New Jersey, but we'll get to that later...

So our first road trip with the Prius was to Louisiana for Christmas! It did really well and we enjoyed having Sirius radio and Pandora on the way! In Louisiana, we got to spend time with Mike's mom and sister as well as our nephew and niece, Landyn and CJ.
Now kids, Uncle Mike is not a jungle gym!
While we were there, a line of storms rolled through Christmas day. To be safe, we brought Mike's mom to our hotel room where we all hung out, took naps and watched TV. When the storms got there, we went outside to watch (of course). Nothing terrible where we were, but I do believe there were some tornadoes further east that day.
Took a picture of this classic SLC (scary-looking cloud) from our hotel parking lot.
After a few days in Louisiana, we drove back home, did some laundry, pet the cat and then boarded a plane to Wichita early the next morning. While in Wichita, we caught up with friends and relatives and in between socializing, we worked on a puzzle that Mike and I got my dad for Christmas.
I think these two were more in to the puzzle than I was, but we all worked on it!
For New Year's Eve, we had some friends over. Sadly, due to widespread illness, our party was a bit smaller than we'd planned for, but it was still and enjoyable evening with Ryan Seacrest, Apples to Apples and some bubbly!

Steve shows off his winnings from Apples to Apples. 
On Saturday, January 5th, Mike left for Fort Dix in New Jersey where he would attend a month-long Army training course before his deployment to Afghanistan. I dropped him off at the airport with a tearful goodbye and hopes that it would work out for me to go visit him on the East Coast before he left.

The next day, Sunday, I was the volunteer coordinator for the American Meteorological Society's Weatherfest, associated with their annual meeting in Austin. I was worried that we wouldn't have enough help, but everything went very smoothly and I had a great time. I got to meet several new weather friends as well as meet up with old friends! I also handed off my work computer to a now-former co-worker. My employer had run out of grant money to pay for my position, so they had to let me go. I knew it was time to move on, but I certainly enjoyed my two years working from home. So....

On Monday I started my brand new job with Rackspace, the Open Cloud Company! I've known about Rackspace ever since we found out we were moving to San Antonio. If you Google "Best places to work, San Antonio" Rackspace is one of the first companies you'll see! I was so excited to get hired on as a Content Strategist. Basically, I'm a technical writer as well as an admin for a Knowledge Management System. It seems like a strange jump, but I was doing a lot of technical writing with the National Weather Service, so this is a very natural move for me.

So Rackspace is known for it's company culture, much like Google. There are vendors or food trucks for breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon-Fri. You do have to purchase your own food (we're not that much like Google), but you can choose from things like Freebirds and Rudy's as well as other local restaurants that bring in food! Also, when other Rackers (Rackspace employees) ask where my desk is, I tell them I'm near the slide. Yes, that's right, the slide.

They're also really big on t-shirts. I'm averaging about 1 t-shirt per week!
My first Rackspace t-shirt!
So Rackspace is more than just food trucks, t-shirts and slides. As you can see from their Core Values, they're a great company both for customers and employees. I have a one-on-one meeting with my supervisor every week and I'm on the cycling team and the running team. I'm even looking into joining RaxFit (free CrossFit for Rackers!).

Stay tuned for Part II....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

Today I say goodbye to an old friend. A friend who served me well and got me through good times and bad. She saw so many chapters of my life and helped shape who I am today. Since I was 17, she has given me an invaluable gift: Freedom.

Who is this friend, you may ask? A 2000 Toyota 4Runner SR5 in Stellar Blue Pearl with a gold package, which I lovingly refer to as The Runner. 

Here are a few photos of The Runner over the years....

Oklahoma snow during my Freshman year of College

Hanging out with my cousins, Donovan and Drew, Summer 2002

I did it! I graduated! Now to add an OU Alumni tag holder to The Runner!
The Runner has done a LOT of traveling. She's seen the Las Vegas Strip, the Colorado Rockies, Bourbon Street in New Orleans and everywhere in between. I sometimes wonder if she couldn't navigate I-35 on her own and I could just take a nap in the backseat....
One of many road trips. This pic was taken in Austin after driving down from Norman.

Winter weather: not The Runner's favorite, but she' performs well in it.

My inability to sit upright in my wedding dress meant I got the backseat to myself!
There's been some impostors over the years...

A purple "Surf" in Japan

Spotted in Baton Rouge before an LSU game. A very appropriate vehicle for an LSU fan.
(You know it's not mine because it doesn't have the silver tire flares!)

It's transported us to countless races. This is Sarah, Ellie and I before the Mission 10K, April 2011.

The Runner was broken into back in May of 2011. They stole my GPS and all my CDs. The joke was on them as half the CDs were one's I'd burned (no value) and the other half were from 2003 or earlier. 

In 2012 she sported an OU Texas plate! Oh, the irony!
So today, after over 12 years and 162,000 miles together, she'll be traded in for a new vehicle (more to come on that!). Who knows what will come of her. I do hope that she winds up with another adventurous girl so that The Runner can give her the same gift she gave me.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Color Me Rad 5K

I'm going to go ahead and say we've established a new tradition. I believe the perfect end to any challenging triathlon and marathon season is some sort of unique 5K. Last year it was the Warrior Dash where we hopped over obstacles like beat up cars and 20-foot walls and crawled through mudpools. It was a blast, but not really for which you train (at least we don't).

This years fun 5K presented itself in the form of the latest 5K fad: a color run. The Color Me Bad 5K was held this past Sunday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. In a color run, participants run a normal 5K, but at different points along the route there are teams of people with colored corn starch or sprayers filled with colored liquid and their sole purpose is to make you as colorful as they can!

We started out so clean and fresh:
The benefitting charity was the Ronald McDonald House, so we took our pic with Ronald!
The sunglasses were part of the swag we got with race registration. Although it wasn't sunny that morning, it would soon become clear why they were necessary...

After the race, we met up with Justin and Clarissa at Taco Garage for a post-race lunch. We made sure there was room on the patio since we didn't clean up first!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Giving Thanks 2012

This Thanksgiving, Mike and I decided that it would be best if we stayed in San Antonio. We let our parents know they were invited to join us for the holiday, but that we were unable to travel this year. Mike's mom and my mom RSVP'd for our celebration and we had a wonderful time!