Monday, January 19, 2015

New Year, Renewed Focus

I think the end of one year and the beginning of another is always a good time to take stock of how life is going. How are you doing physically, mentally and emotionally? What is the status of your finances? Your job? Did you spend enough time last year doing things you love? Did you set goals and achieve them?
Do you have a bucket list? Whatever you call it, make a list of things you want (or need) to do and make it happen!
As I look back on the last year, there were plenty of ups and downs. I think I did a good job of focusing on the positive more than the negative, although sometimes it definitely wasn't easy.

I rang in 2014 in a lot of pain, a result of the arthroscopic surgery I had on both knees on New Year's Eve. I rehabbed for three months, and while I did regain some strength and mobility, I never got back to the level I was at before the surgery. I also endured another series of Synvisc injections in both knees, as there just isn't enough cartilage left to provide a nice cushion for the joints to glide smoothly.

In the spring, I developed severe and constant pain in my mid/upper spine (T5-6 vertebra) as well as recurring pain in my neck (C4). MRI's showed that I have degenerative disc disease in my neck along with a bulging disc that pushes on my spinal cord. An epidural steroid injection eventually gave me some relief for my neck, but not my back. Months of costly physical therapy offered no improvement either.

Perhaps as I result of these various aches and pains, my right hip flared up again. I had surgery on it in January 2013 and it has done well overall until this past fall. After receiving a steroid injection in mid-December, I have been going to physical therapy specifically for my hip once a week. Structural anomalies prevent me from making quick progress so it will be a long, slow journey to being pain-free.

The good news is that I didn't actually have any surgeries in 2014, although I still managed to max out my out-of-pocket insurance costs for the second time in two years. While I can't seem to escape these ongoing health issues, I am trying new methods of dealing with the pain. I refuse to take medication and instead am seeing a psychologist who specializes in mindfulness and meditation. I haven't yet managed to get full control of my senses, especially as they relate to pain, but find the practice very relaxing and trust that it will help me in the long run.
Making an offering at a ghat in northern India. Being thankful is always a good resolution.
I got to spend some quality time with my family in July. While the trip to Tennessee was last minute, to attend the funeral of my sweet Aunt Jeanna, it also provided the rare opportunity to visit with members of my extended family. I even got to see my "oldest" friend Amy, who currently lives in Germany, as she happened to be home visiting at the same time I was in Nashville.

Greg and I took a wonderful two week vacation to northern England and Scotland in late April/early May. I was able to extend my trip on the front and back ends, and had a fantastic time with Amy and my Dutch family in the Netherlands.

Of course, we also welcomed visitors to Portland throughout the year, including Greg's brother Doug and his girlfriend Alexis, my friend Corey from New York City, Greg's cousin Gayle and her husband Ryan, and Greg's parents. We love to show people around our favorite city, so please contact me if you want to visit!
Live somewhere you love. For us, that is Portland, OR!
Now almost halfway through my second year at Irvington House, things have mellowed out a bit. It was pretty crazy the first year: lots of once-in-a-decade maintenance issues to deal with as well as guests who didn't follow the rules and/or damaged the rental units. I've implemented several practices that have helped manage expectations and provided guests with timely information, which definitely seems to keep the business running more smoothly. I still have to deal with issues like power outages, leaks, and other unexpected occurrences, but I am more prepared now.

I finally managed to find a way to get paid for my writing in 2014. I started working for the Oregon Beer Growler in April and my first story was published in the May issue. I have now written at least 16 articles for the magazine, as well as several briefs, and have attended numerous beer events and met some wonderful people in the local beer community as a result of this work. Look for three new stories, including the cover story (which I pitched), in the February 2015 issue!
I resolve to drink more beer! :)
I again assisted my friend Cindy with the publication of the latest edition of the Portland Happy Hour Guidebook, specifically researching and updating the entire Beervana section. She, along with another local author, formed a writers group at the beginning of last year and invited me to participate. I quickly put my organizing skills to work and am the de facto President, Secretary, etc. I have really enjoyed brainstorming with the other authors and hope that they will inspire me to write my own book in the near future.

Finally, I worked on Season 3 of Grimm early in the year, but chose to limit my availability as the months progressed due to the responsibilities of my other jobs as well as all of the doctor/physical therapy appointments.
Acting is a fun hobby, but a chose not to make it a priority in 2014.
Greg and I continue to be very disciplined with our finances, maxing out the 401k every year, tracking every penny we spend, and generally living very frugally as we grow our savings. We are (and have been) in a position to take time off to travel long-term again, but neither of us are inclined to do so just yet. Portland suits us so well, we are happy to stay here for now.

As I look ahead in 2015, I know the areas that need the most focus in my life are my physical, and consequently, mental well-being; my relationship with Greg; and making a better effort to set some specific goals and work towards them daily. I am looking forward to taking a few more vacations this year and to spending some quality time with family and friends.

It is definitely harder to keep a positive outlook on life when you never feel 100%. But, with very few exceptions, I am still the same hard-working, forward-thinking, grab-life-by-the-horns go-getter that you all have known and loved for years!