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Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Sobering thoughts

11 Jun

100 days ago I started the 7th challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to go alcohol-free for a year.

I had several reasons to add this to my list. The first reason was related to health reasons. I’d happily drink pint after pint without any issue. The problem is not only the affect on your liver and internal organs but also the affect it has on your waistline. Drinks contain more calories than you realise. As I am trying to get fit, it made sense that this had to go.

The second reason was because I realised how many days I have wasted in my life because of alcohol. My hangovers last for about 3 days now depending on how much I’ve had to drink. Weekends have been wasted and plans not followed through because I felt terrible. Avoiding alcohol would mean being more productive, at least in theory.

And, I suppose, the final reason was because I have given up alcohol in the past for about 3 months. I gave up one January because I was running a half marathon in mid-March and managed to smash my PB. I know this wasn’t 100% due to giving up alcohol but it was a postive contribution to it.

So, here I am at just over 100 days into my 365 challenge and, therefore, in unchartered territory. It was always my intention to start the challenge on 1st March 2020. I didn’t realise it would coincide with a global pandemic. I’m not sure if the timing is a blessing or a curse. The temptation of going out to pubs and restaurants has been completely removed but I have a feeling that when the world reopens (whenever that may be) the biggest party known to mankind will happen and I will be sat in the corner nursing a tepid tap-water!

If I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t missed drinking at all. There are so many alcohol-free alternatives on the market these days that I’ve had plenty of options to choose from. Many of them have a similar taste to the *real* stuff so I haven’t been yearning for that unmistakable hit of hops. However, I can’t say I feel super-duper fantastic for my efforts. I’ve not lost any weight and I don’t feel any different to when I started. But I’m happy to blame this on COVID-19.

I have also been surprised at how many of my friends have suggested drinks and brands of non-alocholic drinks to try which has been a big help and a great source of support!

Even though I’m about a third of the way through this challenge, I have a feeling it’s might get tougher as time ticks on. But I’ll let you know my progress along the way.

One of my favourite non-alcoholic beers – so far

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!

Films I’ve watched recently

20 Apr

I watched another bundle of films in my quest to watch the top 250 films on iMDB. Admittedly the majority of these I watched before lockdown. Perhaps you might find a suggestion of something good to watch here. These are the latest ones I’ve seen:

3. The Godfather: Part II

The carried on the story from the first part that I’ve also watched for this challenge. I think one Godfather movie was enough for me. I know people say that this is one of the greatest films of all time but I don’t see the appeal really.

53. Sunset Boulevard

Weird, weird and weird are three words that I would use to describe this film. A struggling writer ends up being kidnapped (sort of) by an aging actress who is desperate to get back into making movies. He sneaks off in the night so that he can work on a script with a woman he has fallen in love with. The actress finds out and is enraged by jealousy. It reminded me of Psycho but with a female lead.

64. Princess Mononoke

This was another Japanese anime film. These films actually remind me of a cartoon I watched as a child – The City of Gold – which is why I think I quite enjoy them. It was typical in the sense it had enchanted forests, a romantic theme and demons. Good film!

67. Witness for the Prosecution

The more I watch black and white movies, the more I wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I loved the character of Sir Winfrid Robarts, the barrister whose health is failing but he still manages to successful defend his client in between sips of brandy and a handful of ills. I didn’t see the twist at the end of the film coming which made it even better.

86. Your Name

Another Japanese anime on the list. I can’t make my mind up if I like these styles of films or not. I don’t love it but I don’t hate it. The story is about a boy and a girl who switch places with each other when they dream. They work out this is happening and leave clues for each other on their smartphones so that they know what the other one has done while they have switched places. There is a twist in the story when the boy finds out that it is impossible that they could have switched places. The ending reminded me a little of the Butterfly Effect.

89. To Kill A Mockingbird

I’ve read the book this film was based on so it wasn’t a surprise what happened. I thought it was well acted and I would happily watch it again.

92. 2001: A Space Odyssey

This was an odd film. Mainly because it was made years and years before 2001 and, having lived through the 2000s, I know that the scientific things in the film are unrealistic. It was a bit like watching one of the old Star Trek movies – dated and a bit corny. 

107. The Apartment

I loved this film. It was about a man who works at an insurance company and rents out his apartment to his superiors at work so they have somewhere to have affairs. Considering it was filmed in the 1960s, it could easily be remade set in the present day and would be just as relevant now. It was a comedy but also deals with some more serious themes.

117. Some Like It Hot

This is the first film I have ever seen starring Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know how I managed to let that happen. I thought it was very funny and had a Shakespearean quality about it in that the two main characters dress up as women to join a band after witnessing a mafia hit in Chicago. They don’t look like convincing women but obviously no one realises that they are men in drag.

141. Bladerunner

The weird thing about this film is that it is set in the year 2019 (the year I watched it in). Like the 2001: A Space Odyssey there is something very weird about watching a film set in the future when you are living in that future and it is nothing like it was predicted.  Overall it wasn’t really my sort of film to be honest. 

160. The Deer Hunter 

This was such an interesting film but another film about the Vietnam War. Even though the film is 40 plus years old the themes in the film are still very current. I can see why it has received such high praise from critics and fans. 

169. Logan

I haven’t seen all of the X-Men films and I was wondering if it would spoil my enjoyment of this film. Everything is explained so not knowing what has happened in the other films didn’t matter. It was a sad and emotional ending which I wasn’t quite expecting. Having watched it, it hasn’t made me want to rush and see the other films in the series though.

186. Wild Tales

Beautifully bizarre is how I would describe this Argentinian film. It depicts 6 individual stories about people in distress. It was wonderfully macabre and tragic but also funny. I would happily watch this again and again. 

205. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In essence this is Robin Hood set in the Wild West. I normally get confused watching Westerns because I can never work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies. It was fairly obvious in this!

248. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

A very odd film about the relationship of two sisters who found fame on the stage. It starts off innocently enough and then gets weirder and weirder and turns into a Hitchcock-esque type film. Disturbing!

Only 70 more films to go!

Challenge #38 – completed!

13 Apr

Lockdown has gifted me with some time to crack on and try and complete more of my challenges. One of the challenges I never thought I would be able to complete was Challenge #38.

I have never been able to touch my toes. I’ve always used the excuse that my legs must be too long. I had heard that it’s possible for anyone to be able to touch their toes by stretching each day. That was why this challenge was on my list – to see if this theory was true or no just fake news on the internet.

As I have been trying to exercise in some form each day I decided I might as well throw in some stretches and see if I would be able to tick this off the list. I found a 30 day programme of stretches on the internet (working up to 5 minutes of stretching a day) and decided to do this after every run or workout that I’d completed.

Drum roll please…. I did it!

It’s an awful picture but it proves that I did it! I managed to touch my toes after 13 days of doing the stretching programme. I’m still amazed I was able to do it. It seems like it is true that anyone can touch their toes if they stretch every day. In fact, I am sure stretching every day is beneficial even if you don’t want to touch your toes!

I have now completed 19 out of the 40 challenges on my list. Almost half way there!

Challenge 40 – completed

25 Mar

Life under lockdown is tough. I am managing to spend time on trying to complete challenges on my 40 Before 40 List. Of course, travelling is a no-no so I am concentrating on those that I can achieve by being locked in the house.

Last week I completed Challenge 40! The original challenge was to start and maintain my own travel website but I decided to change it to create a piece of art because I’ve done a bit of travel writing and I have to say I prefer travelling to writing about it. I made the change well before the Coronavirus outbreak!

So I made this:

In case you can’t tell, it’s a wolf. Okay, so it isn’t a painting by hand or something that I’ve conceived of myself. But I still think it’s impressive and you can’t say that it’s not art, even though I’m not sure what the exact definition of art is!

All of the materials were included in the pack that I ordered and then it was fairly simple to put together. The picture is made up of tiny squares, each with a symbol on them. You then have to look up on the key what colour needs to be glued into that square.

The squares are really tiny. I’m glad I didn’t order one that was bigger – I would have been doing it forever. This took me about a week to do. I did end up getting slightly addicted to it; just telling myself I will do another 10 minutes and still being hunched over the desk an hour and a half later. During this mad times, it provided a good distraction from everything going on in the world right now.

Incidentally, I have managed to almost destroy my left shoulder from leaning over it. I’ve had heat packs and all sorts on it trying to ease the pain. I have suffered for my art.

There are a lot of other challenges I can work on while I am house-bound. I am hoping to be able to tick off some more over the coming weeks. So stay tuned!

Challenge #16 – completed

9 Feb

I’ve completed another challenge!

Challenge number 16 on my list was to save money for a rainy day. I’ve always been good-ish with money but I’ve never really had a good amount of savings to draw on in case of an emergency.

I’ve read several sources that say it’s a good idea to have at least three months’ salary saved up. I have no idea why it’s 3 months rather than two and a half or even 5. It seems like an arbitrary amount without a lot of reasoning for it – a bit like the recommended 10’000 steps a day that are supposed to keep you fit!

As that’s what’s recommended that’s what I’ve done. I started saving last year after I started a new job and put away a little bit each month. If I’d been frugal during the month then I could save a bit more. It’s surprising how quickly an amount each month manages to grow into 3 months’ salary. Luckily I didn’t need to dip into these funds during the past year so it was just a case of save, save, save.

I’m hoping not to be forced into using these savings in the near future but we are in the middle of a restructuring process at work so I can’t honestly say for sure that this is what will happen. Perhaps I find myself out of work again, perhaps everything is business as usual. It’s hard to know or guess what the future will hold in the next few months but I do feel slightly better knowing I have something in reserve for a case like this.

If you don’t have money squirrelled away for the future, I would recommend doing it. Saving a little and often makes the whole process virtually pain free!

Update – Challenge #35

6 Feb

This is an update about the 40 non-fiction books that I am attempting read for my 40 Before 40 challenge. I have recently read 10 more which means I only have 10 more books to read before I finish the challenge.

Here are the books I recently read:

The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

This was only a short book but a fascinating read. The authors present fifty different models with illustrations. Some of the models I was familiar with from the economics that I studied for my accounting qualification but the majority of them were new. My favourite in the whole book was The Esquire Gift Model, which was explains how much you should spend on a gift for someone based on the number of years you have known the recipient combine with what type of occasion it is (engagement, anniversary etc). It is so simply explained and is something that people, myself included, agonised over.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

This is the second book on relationships by John Gray that I’ve read. Some parts of it are a bit outdated (it was written in the 90s) but a lot of the information and observations that he makes are valid and made sense to me. The problem with these books is that there is almost too much information to process. I think it is best to take a handful of advice and focus on these rather than trying to remember every single detail.

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

I was excited to read this book because I had heard a lot of good things about the first book by this author, which admittedly I haven’t read. It’s fairly obvious from the title that it is the diary of a bookseller. I was slightly disappointed. It wasn’t as funny as I was expecting – the recommendations on the cover made it sound like it was one of the funniest books ever written. But it gave a very interesting insight to the problems facing second-hand booksellers (Amazon, Kindles, unreasonable customers asking for discounts) and some of the methods that they need to employ to survive.

The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman

Apart from banks in America failing and house prices going down, I didn’t know very much about the Crisis of 2008. Krugman is a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and manages to explain complex economic theories succinctly. He explains that the Crisis could have been predicted by inflation and currency valuation problems that happened prior to the crisis in South America and Asia. It was an interesting read, especially as many of the warning factors that he mentions are evident around the world today which may mean another depression is on its way.

Change Book: Fifty Models to Explain How Things Happen by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Decision Book (see above). The subject matter was a bit dry and the model were less applicable to daily life. It also covered a huge range of topics like explaining the world to aliens, why some people are unfaithful and climate change. One of the most interesting models was When Something Starts to be Uncool. It plots mainstream against the avant-garde to show how somethings remain cool but other things quickly become unpopular in modern society.

Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland

I went to Zimbabwe went Robert Mugabe was president and this was a fascinating read. I had no idea that he was very intelligent (he had 7 degrees) and he was a very religious man. The account in this book paints a different picture to what I imagined the man to be like. It presented a balanced view of him by looking at historical events and talking to people who knew him the best, while trying to pinpoint the reasons why such a shy and thoughtful man ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous dictators.

Man Alone with Himself by Friedrich Nietzsche 

The last time I read something by Nietzsche was under duress at university. This was a very short book but it had some really interesting idea in it. The first part of the book was a series of aphorisms (tidbits of philosophical insight). My favourite of these was about language: ‘he who speaks a bit of a foreign language has more delight than he who speaks it well; pleasure goes along with superficial knowledge’. After my struggle of learning German, I can say this is very true.

Run Faster: How to be Your Own Best Coach by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

I have had this book gathering dust on my shelf for longer than I care to remember and, as I want to try to improve my running times this year, it’s about time I read it! The book was aimed at runner who are far more advanced and better than I am but I still found a lot of useful tips in the book that I will definitely try to incorporate into my running. I am super keen to beat one of my PBs this year and I hope this book has helped me to work out areas I can improve on to do that.

What to Do When You Become the Boss by Bob Seldon

I bought this book when I got a job as a manager for the first time. It didn’t work out and I left the job but I decided to read it anyway. There were a lot of interesting tips for people who aren’t managers and it gave a different perspective on working in a modern environment.

Some of the tips I don’t agree with, like only checking your email once a day. I guess it depends what your role is but, as my job is operational, it’s just not all that practical to do that. I do see how constant email checking can be addictive and a waste of time though!

The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham

I don’t often read biographies but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. In my ignorance I had no idea about the struggles of Burma gaining independence nor about Aung San Suu Kyi and her and her family’s part in the fight for independence. It’s incredible that the book touches on points of history within my lifetime. It makes me want to read more about Buddhism, non violent struggles and the story of India’s independence which the author compares with Burma’s story throughout the book.

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Fitness Goals in 2020

11 Jan

Still on my 40 Before 40 are two challenges related to fitness and, if I am to have any chance of completing them, I need to get fit in 2020. Over the festive period I managed to put on weight just by looking at food and fester on the coach with a beer for the rest of it. So, I have set myself some fitness goals to change that.

Because of global warming, I have already managed to get outside and do some running this year even with my asthmatic lungs. In January I have ran 18km so far and I feel like I am getting back into a rhythm again. There is still a long way to go.

My main aim this year is to beat a personal best time in a race and to get myself in good shape so I am ready to take part in my first ultra marathon in 2021. I realised quite a few things about myself last year which I took into account when I was making these goals.

  • If I don’t have a clear goal in mind, I find it very hard to keep my fitness. Last year with netball trials and then a 10km to train for in August, I was very focused and found it easy to stick to, knowing I had a big event I needed to be ready for. For January I have promised myself that I will do at least 20 minutes of exercise 15 times during the month. That is basically doing something once every other day. I’m managing to stick to it but it is only the 11th January. I am going to set a small fitness goal each month to keep myself motivated.
  • I got myself into shape last year by doing little bits often. I didn’t do huge long runs or bike rides but a short run during lunch times for a couple of miles. Not completely tiring myself out meant I was motivated keep going the next day. I am convinced that, if I had completed two more longer runs before I did the 10km in Dublin, I would have beaten my personal best time. I was just lacking a bit more distance in my legs to keep me going over the final stages.
  • There is a running track close to where we live and I said before the Dublin 10km that I would go there to work on my speed and some different training. I never made it so this year I’m going to do it. Even if I go once a month that is better than nothing.
  • I have a book about running and how to coach yourself to train better. I dread to think how long I have had it gathering dust on my shelf – I’m going to read it this month to help me train better.
  • The most important thing I learnt came when I started with a colleague from work during lunchtime. When asked if I could join her she said she runs really slow. That wasn’t a problem for me. And the pace was slow, perhaps one and a half minutes per kilometer slower than I normally run but I loved it. I wasn’t covered in sweat, red faced and feeling exhausted by the end of it. It doesn’t matter how fast you run so long as you enjoy it. Now I try not to look at my watch as I’m running to see what pace I’m running. This is a lot easier in the colder months when I am wearing long sleeves; there’s no temptation to look down at my watch every five seconds. Of course, if I am training for a PB, I will need to focus on running quicker but at the moment my focus is on getting out there and losing some weight.

Looking at these goals it looks like a lot but the main thing is to enjoy exercising. I do enjoy running and exercise so it’s strange why I always end up stopping and not doing anything – as soon as I get back into the habit I wonder why I didn’t carry on in the first place.

Do you have any fitness goals for this year?

 

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