Long time, no writesy!

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It has been too long, old friend. So here’s the haps.

  1. My half marathon went reasonably well. I finished in 2 hours, 11 minutes and ten seconds. I could have finished faster, but I wanted to really enjoy it more than I wanted a fast time. I did enjoy it too. My music player crapped out right at the start so I spend almost the whole way round doing my running meditation breathing exercise, which felt really good.
    Only irritation was the super loud (wheezy breathing, jangly pockets) guy that seemed determined to get ahead of me and then slow down between 9 and 16 kilometres. I kept passing him (breathing slow, steady) which seemed to work his nerves. Whatever. I didn’t end up running or doing most of my training in my vibrams. I bought cheap-o replacement asics instead. C’est le shoe.
  2. I have continued to make thesis progress. I should be resubmitting it to the committee within a couple of weeks. Hopefully it won’t get knocked back this time. I don’t know what I will do if it does. Cry? Fight someone? Pack a bag and go wander along the camino de santiago for a month? I have already told my supervisors that I will NOT be rewriting it a third time and that if this all goes tits up that will be the end of it for me.
  3. It has been almost two years since I drew a regular wage because of all of the thesis complications and assholery, so I am living pretty much on the poverty line. This brings back very painful memories from my childhood, and is putting me right back in the dark mental places I used to be in. I broke one of my teeth from stress-grinding at night and I have been having nightmares and panic attacks. However, you can better believe that I can make a meal out 4 euros. Last night was `vaguely Mexican’, so I hand made 8 tortillas, a veggie and bean chilli business, and a bunch of brown rice. All very filling, with enough for leftovers and it only needed flour, oil, carrots, half a courgette (zucchini), an onion, brown beans (from dried instead of a tin), brown rice, and tomato paste, plus odds and ends of spices and seasoning. I might cost it all out to see exactly how much money that ends up being per meal… I will probably also be checking out Jack Monroe’s blog because she has a lot of good ideas and is obviously interested in helping people eat as well as they can with limited resources.
  4.  Immigration woes are still hanging over my head. I have until the end of the month to see if I have permission to stay in this country, but then the process to see if I can get permission to move to the UK begins. There is no real reason to believe that I won’t be granted permission to stay here, but the UK is far less certain. Also, I have no idea on how long either will take. Hopefully I will not be an illegal resident (again) and that permission to stay will be granted by the time the thesis business has wrapped up so that I can get a job and start bringing in the cash money.

Most of this sounds quite grim, and it is. I am not doing well. I write this blog to as an outlet. Let’s hope it helps.

The end of this and the beginning of that…

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So, I think I am done with my purging exercise. I don’t know if I did exactly as many as I had planned, but I don’t much care. I have other things to be doing. Here is my final round up.

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A collection of all the crud leftover after I cleaned through my hobby stuff. This went into the (recycling) bin.

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This is one of the hobby items that got cleared out. This was a bag of  beads and beading supplies that I got given as a birthday gift.
Beads are not my bag, baby. It goes to a charity shop.

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This is a selection of random crap that was in my bedside table. Failed projects, IKEA tools, and a weird mint. To the trash with you!

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A smartphone stylus/pen that I got in South Korea. The pen stopped working and I am not that fussed about using a stylus. In the bin.

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More crap! A wad of bubbly wrapping paper stuff and an old calendar book. In the trash/recycling bin.

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And finally, a sheet that had a big tear in it and some bags of sweets. I meant to use the sheet material to make a summer skirt, but my sewing machine is non-functional, my time is short, and the material is quite old anyway so would probably not have stood up to much use. In the bin.
The sweets are not my kind of sweets. I put them out at work with an “Eat Me!” sign.

And on to the new! I signed up for a half marathon in June, which is not far away. There are several consequences of this:

  1. I have a healthy distraction from the trauma of my PhD.
  2. I have a goal to work toward which should help me to improve my life choices/habits/etc.
  3. I will be training for my first race in my vibram 5 finger shoes. This is because my normal shoes are fading and give me an ache along one leg, which is no bueno.
  4. I have a reason to use my old smartphone again! I am rooting it, removing all the bloatware, installing runkeeper and downloading some music to turn it into my new fitness tracker. I have high hopes.

The pace quickens and the volume increases…

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Got rid of shedloads this weekend. Not all of it was photographed and so not all of it will count toward my goals of throwing out 35 things.
NEVERTHELESS!

Here goes.

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First off, my partner and I went through all the junk that had accumulated on our back patio. We threw out bags of gardening waste (does not count toward my 35) and several pots, plant holders and small gardening tools (which do count). We put them out by the bins at the end of the street. They were swiftly snaffled by eager local gardeners… or whatever.

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Second, two old laptop bags. One that I got in 2001 or 2002 and on which about 82% of the zips had busted and the other which got issued to my partner when he got a work laptop but which no longer fits his laptop since it got replaced. Binned.

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A boxful of gardening supplies. Binned.

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All kinds of random crap from the back patio. A BBQ, a Xmas tree, a tarp, etc. We had to call the city waste collection and they will pick it up on Wednesday.

We are also making plans to get rid of some other, bigger ticket items. My bike, for example, needs a bit of work and then will go on the local internet marketplace. Also, our pet bunny. Hopefully we can find her a home where they already have a bunny so she can haver a little friend.

It feels good to clear these things out. certainly I find it visually relaxing not to look at a big pile of junk. mentally, it also feels like we are starting to get somewhere and make some real plans for the future.

On the other hand, I will miss the bunny. Anti-social, furniture destroying, allergy inducing bastard that she is, I will still miss her.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Once again, the time has come to talk of shoes and ships and sealing wax.. Of cabbages and kings… And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

Or, you know. What have I gotten rid of recently?
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First up, a hat/scarf/glove combo that my grandmother sent to my partner for Xmas this year. Lovely sentiment. Not needed. Went to  charity shop.

Along with that went a necklace/earring combo and a bracelet, also from my grandmother, also from Xmas, also went to a charity shop.

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The next couple of gems included a pair of fluffy and sparkly pink socks. These were also Xmas gifts, but this time from my dad. Again, a lovely idea. I do love me some socks. However, I have perfectly serviceable houseshoes so these bad boys went to the charity shop.

Also in the bag with them? A selection of travel books, map books, and pocket dictionaries. I love to travel, but won’t be repeating the trips that I have already taken. Also, these books go out of date pretty quickly so there is no use in holding on to them. Let them find a new home through the wonder of charity shopping.

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To wrap things up, I have a bunch of stationary supplies. I had several sheets of stickers and a pack of card plus envelopes that I would never get around to using. So I stuck a sticker to each card, put into an envelope, and left them in the carry baskets of all the bikes that I passed on the way home yesterday. I hope the confusion makes at least one person smile. This might be my favourite disposal technique so far.

Finally, I went through the medicine drawer in my bathroom and chucked out everything that had expired, that I hadn’t used in ages, or that I had any doubts over. These just went in the bin cause I wasn’t in a mood to empty them out and recycle the packages.

Gone daddy gone!

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Anyone else love the Violent Femmes? I so need to learn to play some of their songs on the ukulele like these two. 

But now is time for the ejection of more stuff from my life! First off, three different sets of books.
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When I first got to the Netherlands, I was keen to learn me some Dutch. My university offered some courses, so I signed up, bought the books, and started the learning engines. What a waste of time. The classes were structured in a really stupid way and nobody gives half a shit about my efforts to learn Dutch anyway. They just speak to me in English as soon as I open my mouth. I gave the book and associated CDs to someone else in my research group who has yet to become jaded about the whole experience.

Then, a big stack of books on my research topic. I never read them anyway and I kind of want to move into a new topic anyway, so… Bub-bye. I left these in the leave-one-take-one book exchange spot for my research group.

And last, two books that I had borrowed from colleagues. I love both of these books and kind of wanted to keep them, but I hate it when someone doesn’t return the books that I loan out. Morals and all. They went back to their owners.

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Then, quite a lot of cleaning out and decluttering. Here we see the massive stack of paperwork that I had been holding onto `just in case’ knowing full well that that case will never happen. Most of this went into the recycling bin, some into the shredder.
Next, some old and expired gym cards, a health card and a credit card (not shown). They got cut up and distributed across several bins in the building.
After that, a pair of sunglasses that has broken in several different ways. I loved those sunglasses, but I chucked them in the bin.
Following that, a pile of electronics that had stopped working altogether. I get through a pair of headphones most years, but somehow had not managed to actually throw out the old ones when I bought a new set. They went into the electronics recycling bin at the supermarket.
And finally, some batteries. Obviously, these can’t just go into the normal trash so they tend to accumulate, confusing people about whether they are dead or not and waiting for the time that I can be bothered bringing them into the office to be thrown into the battery collection point. That time was earlier this week.

This exercise is starting to feel very liberating. I have several more things in mind and I am looking forward to using this weekend to really dive into some trouble areas. I shall keep you posted.

Another selection of former stuff.

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This time, I chucked out the glass cup that came with my electric toothbrush because it had broken. It fits perfectly over the charger so that when the toothbrush needs charging I can just pop it into the glass, all vintagey and house-proudish. It broke ages ago and I held onto it thinking I could use it to create a new cup of some kind to go over the charger. I never got around to it and it had to go.

A handful of manicure and pedicure accessories. I give myself a lot of manis and pedis, but because I am a cheap bastard I hold onto things well past their best-by-date. The clock had struck for these, and out they went.

A `lucky bamboo’ plant that my partner and I got when we first moved into our current place. It died, which is sad but is not a reflection on our relationship. Good bye.

Crappendectomy

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Four more items surgically removed from my life.

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Two pairs of old running shoes were donated at a used clothing and shoes collection point. I had these sitting in my office for ages so that I could go for a run at lunchtimes, but it never really panned out. I think I kept them to avoid admitting that I was not living up to my idealized running lifestyle.

A lip balm that I used until the absolute last moment of usefulness was chucked in a bin. I wanted to get my money’s worth out of it, which is a constant source of regret and niggling disappointment in relation to owning and keeping stuff.

Some national geographic magazines were supposed to be recycled but ended up being chucked in with the regular trash (the paper recycling was full and a bossy neighbour was hassling me about leaving them in a box next to the paper recycling). I resisted throwing these out for ages because National Geographics seem to be symbols of the way that I think of myself: interesting, photographic, scientific, clever, sensitive to world issues, etc. Holding onto them was an arrogance, as if I could be all those things by keeping some magazines instead of just being the things that I wanted to be.

A bong went in the glass recycling bin. Some friends gave it to me but I never used it. I thought it might be funny to turn it into something else, but I never got around to doing any thing with it. Holding onto it was a way of trying to be mysterious, or cool, or dangerous, or creative, or whatever. I chucked it out and feel better for it.

Things have been a bit horrible.

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I know I haven’t written a blog post in ages, which is a shame because I am a damn good writer and blogging actually helps me sort out the static in my head. But recently life has been giving me nothing but lemons.

Not just giving me lemons either. Hurling them at me at high speed from a moving vehicle whilst insulting me. But as my cousin once told me, “When life gives you lemons, squeeze lemon juice in some bastard’s eye.”

So that is just what I am gonna do. Metaphorically, of course.

I don’t want to go into the details of what is going so horribly wrong, but it is mostly related to my thesis, my job search, my housing situation, the legality of being in the country, and feeling coerced into making big legal decisions by ideologues. To cut a long story short, I will probably be moving to a new country soon, starting a new job of some kind, continuing work on my thesis from afar, and entering a new legal contract that I never thought I would enter.

In preparation, I will be getting rid of one thing per day for the next… oh, let’s say… 35 days. And I am not talking about taking out the trash either. I am talking about clearing out paperwork that I had been avoiding, taking things to the charity shop, throwing out things that I meant to use or do something with but have never got around to. Things that I have some kind of unhealthy emotional attachment to or some kind of psychological aversion to dealing with. Hopefully this will not only reduce the amount of stuff that I have to box up and ship but will also lift a burden off my mind.

To aid the process, I will post pictures, explain what the thing is, why it was hard to get rid of, and what I did with it.

Today, I present you with this fairly ugly and certainly old holiday decoration.
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This was a kind of candle-holder/centrepiece/monstrosity. I found it hard to get rid of because my partner is super keen on Xmas, while I am not. We have been building a holiday collection for several years now, some of which was purchased when we were really skint. This was one of those cheap things that we bought ages ago, but I never felt that I could suggest chucking it because I don’t have a good sense of what parts of our collection are really that important to my partner. Honestly, if it were up to me almost all of it would go.

However, the impending move motivated a discussion and this piece got the boot. I put it out by the garbage collection point in the morning and it was gone when I got back. I hope it brightens someone else’s holiday or at least provides some sort of ironic amusement for them.

Building up steam

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So, my mini-resolutions for January are going well. I have been stretching every day and I have been flossing most days. Not every single day, partly because the weekends throw my whole routine out of whack and partly because I ran out of floss. I have now purchased more floss.

Outside of my resolutions, things are going well-ish. I finished a square in a geeky knit-along project that I started. I wanted to use up all my random leftovers and never-started-project-stash, so I figured I may as well work in my double knit skills and get a nerd-tastic blanket (or wall hanging) out of it. I have also taught myself how to Russian join yarns, so you know… Boo. Yah.

I did some running last week too. 4K on Thursday and 5K on Sunday. I discussed with my partner and we are both up for signing up for a couple of 10K races this spring, so that should keep us motivated. We are also looking into obstacle course races, but we need a bit more all round fitness for that. I guess we can find some hills or steps to run up, and can do some burpees, push ups, sit ups, etc. We no longer have gym memberships, so the weight lifting that I would like to do is not really an option. Hmmm. Maybe this is not the time to take on a new kind of challenge… or is it?

I have received comments back from 2 of my thesis committee members. They are generally positive but both seem to want some rewrites that might be time-consuming and a bit discouraging to do. Le sigh.

My partner and I set a date and filled out all the paperwork to get a civil partnership. We never thought we would bother with this sort of thing, not being believers in the need for the government to recognise our relationship and all. But the immigration route requires that it all be official… Fortunately, there is an option to get it done in about 5 minutes at the city hall building for free on a Monday. Sounds about right. I may wear jeans to the ceremony. Not sure yet.

And I cracked a tooth. After repairing it, my dentist said I must be grinding my teeth at night during this stressful period. Well, yes. I do feel stressed. Not sure how best to deal with this at the moment. I guess the running will help, so that is another reason to get out and exercise at least 3 times a week. I should also look into some meditation practice, I suppose. Maybe a mini-resolution for February?

New year, old me

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I like New Year’s Resolutions, but I have no illusions about becoming a new person or changing my life in grand and meaningful ways. Instead, I live New Year’s Resolutions because they give me a chance to reset some of my goals, evaluate how I am doing, and take a new look at things that have become so familiar that I don’t even see them anymore.

But let’s back up. I will let you know how the rest of 2014 went before I start on 2015.

  • The Project 333 challenge was generally a success, even if I sort of stopped dealing with it for most of December. The thing is, there are just too many things about myself that I am unwilling to compromise on. For example, I know that I hate being cold and that if I don’t wrap up warmly I end up with all kinds of health problems from eczema to arthritic fingers to sinus infections. So I am just not willing to put limits on my scarves, hats, gloves, etc. Neither am I going to be the kind of person who doesn’t put on the bracelet that I received as a birthday gift from my grandmother when I only get to see her once every few years. All told, the Project 333 challenge was not a really good challenge for me because it limits jewelry and accessories which is not how I roll.
  • My fitness has gone pretty well. At least as well as could be expected. I ran a 10K in October and another in December, both at a reasonable pace and both in a way that felt good. Comfortable, life-affirming, positive, all that jazz. I also had a follow up test with my health coach and all kinds of health indicators (cholesterol level, blood pressure, etc.) are doing excellent. Yes, I am still struggling with a few extra pounds, or perhaps more accurately, a few extra inches of squidey-ness around my midsection and yes the asthma is still a challenge. But overall, I think I am in good shape and I feel pretty happy with myself.
  • I finished the rewrite on my thesis and sent it out to the committee. One committee member dropped out at the last minute and another seems to have some negative feedback, so the defence ceremony may get pushed back by a month or two, but things are still progressing.
  • I didn’t get either of the jobs with Oxford that I had interviewed for, but there are still a few other interesting vacancies on the horizon and I am trying to stay positive. My partner and I have also found an alternative route to getting residency and permission to work in the UK, which might make the job hunt a little easier. We’ll see.
  • Xmas went great! We cooked for about 3 days solid (using a colour coded schedule for the big day) and everyone made suitably happy noises.

    So what about 2015? Well, rather than one big resolution for the whole year, I prefer to do one or more month long resolutions at a time. So far for January, I resolved to do some stretching exercises every day (I tend to do them while brushing my teeth because my power toothbrush gives me clear 30 second time intervals) and to floss every day. So far so good.

    I am considering another one for February in which I get rid of (trash, recycle, donate, sell, etc.) one thing every day. I have a few things in mind already. I will probably also combine this with a photography challenge so that I have to practice some still life photography skills and so that I have a record of my de-cluttering. Other possible resolution/challenges might be: eat 7 portions of fruit/veg per day, wear a different pair of earrings every day for a month (repeating pairs after they have all been worn), cook a new recipe or learn a new kitchen skill 4 days out of every week for a month, send at least one postcard or letter per week until I get through my stationary stash, do 10 minutes of yoga or other posture improving exercises per day for 30 days.

    Please feel free to suggest additional resolution/challenges in the comments below!