Ode to Summer

 I caught a whiff of the sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—an early warning of the end of summer. The dog-days of August are behind us now and by mid-September, the purple flowers will be long-gone.  Another season will end, but the memories will remain–of  beach days down the shore spent playing in the surf  and building sand castles with my daughter; of a family road trip we took to Baltimore and Washington DC when Megan sang songs from the Lion King  in the backseat and pointed out clouds that looked like cotton candy.

There were other wonderful moments too–hiking with my sister at Bear Mountain and exploring Bushkill Falls with my husband. Discovering a “secret garden” nearby with a dear friend. I will also cherish memories of impromptu summer picnics with my daughter and my family.

Over the summer months hung an aura of urgency. I wanted to squeeze and savor everything to the last drop. I hold on to these memories because I know they will sustain me during the cold months. When I used to live in the tropics, I did not feel this sense of urgency. But now, I always feel sad when August ends. I think Megan feels it too, she keeps saying she doesn’t want to go back to school just yet.

There’s something about summer that makes me feel like a kid again. The days seem ripe with possibilities. It’s going back to a slower pace, just like those long summer vacations when I was a child. We sit on the porch, shooting the breeze and watch the leaves dancing in the dappled sunlight. The wind carries the sound of trees sighing in deep satisfaction. Whenever I hear this sound, I breathe a sigh of relief too. And I utter a silent thank you for the quiet beauty of nature that sustains me.

Time flies so fast, I can’t keep up. I can’t believe that in just a few weeks, the temperature will drop and the leaves will start falling. In a few days, my daughter will be in full day Kindergarten. Her baby days are long gone now and I marvel at this long-limbed child in front of me. Where did she come from? How did she grow up so fast? Maybe this is what makes the summer ending all the more poignant.

As she lay on the green grass,

eyelids heavy with daydreams,

dappled sunlight played on her  caramel skin,

browned by summer days spent playing,

carefree as the wind.

Oh, If I could keep you here forever,

right here beside me

on this summer day.

We spent a lot of time outdoors this summer. Nature still informs our years–lifts us, carries us says Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. For me, nature comes in many forms–a worn path through the woods, a damp, mysterious end of a vacant lot, a hilly top at a vast park, cool mountain streams to wet your feet in. Whatever shape it takes, we could all benefit from more of it.


Some of my favorite moments:

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Witnessed a sunset. Van vleck garden at dusk

Witnessed a sunset. Van vleck garden at dusk


Discovered a "dinosaur footprint

Discovered a “dinosaur footprint

mountain

Mountain ferns on a hike

Blue summer skies on a picnic day

Blue summer skies on a picnic day

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A beach day is  always a good day.

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A New Look

   I can’t wait to share with you all  the new, streamlined and minimalist “On Borrowed Time”. I want you to have a better reading experience and make your visit here worthwile.

   I think you’ll like the new look. I really think it reflects my approach to life and content, and will offer you dear readers, a light and uncluttered online experience. It’s a minimalist look which
I hope you will love as much as I do. Stay tuned!
😊

Boost Your Happiness with a Microadventure

 

“Hey, what’s new?”

I cringe whenever I hear this polite attempt at small talk.  I know it’s benign and friendly, but to me it always sounds like a challenge, as in:“Is your life interesting or not?” I’m not always sure how to answer this loaded question, but always comes up with the dreaded “Not much. Same old–you?”

Because that’s the truth isn’t it? I’ll mentally scroll through the past few days, days that blur into each other—wake up, go to work, pick up my daughter from school, maybe go to the same park for a walk, drive home, have dinner with the family, bedtime stories, tooth brushing, lights out. Rinse, lather, repeat. Weekends, which are supposed to be fun and different from the routine almost always are the same and if I’m not mindful will be wasted away doing the usual house chores and yard work. You get the picture.

It’s no wonder that the lack of any interesting response to that perfectly benign question always sends me into a tailspin of brief existential  crisis. Isn’t there anything interesting in my life, anymore? Am I a soulless machine?

Then I discovered Alastair Humphrey’s website, and it challenged my “can’t do” attitude. He is an adventurer, author and motivational speaker who writes about the importance of microadventures- mini adventures that offer “something different, something exciting-but cheap, simple, short and on your doorstep.

Inspired by Alastair’s blog, I finally went hiking. So far this month, I have gone hiking twice– once at Ramapo State Park and more recently at Bear Mountain in NY. Both are within a 40 to 60 minute car ride from where I live. This time, I resisted the urge to over- plan. I googled, “hiking trails in New Jersey”, chose what looked like a beginner’s trail and convinced my sister that we should go.

I am a planner by nature. I love making lists. I am that person who buys guidebooks, a month or so prior to a trip and actually read and bookmark said guidebook. I actually follow the guidebook too. Yeah– I’m not much for spontaneity. The thing about planning is you could overdo it. For instance, you do copious amounts of research about the place you’re going, then worry about what equipment or clothing you should bring, then you get caught up in details like: which hiking trail is the best or what is the best hiking shoe I need to buy before going on this hike? You get bombarded by the myriad of options and you inevitably become frozen by indecision.

Just Go

But that day, we just went.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and there was no time to waste. And you know what? It went fine. When you plan too much, you don’t leave much room for surprises. Apart from knowing the name of the place plus a few facts –easy, beginner’s trail, free parking; I did not know what to expect. And that’s the whole point of a microadventure isn’t it? To leave room for surprise and a bit of adventure in our lives.

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MacEvoy Trail at Ramapo Reservation. My sister leading the blue blazes trail up to Van Slyke Mansion Ruins

 

I’ve always enjoyed mountains and hiking. But besides a sole hiking trip in Senoloan Falls when I was in college, I barely even went. One of the items on my bucket list is to go hiking in the Grand Canyon. Out of reach though that dream may be for now; it doesn’t mean I can’t go hiking anywhere else. The trick is to get started. Before I began my passion project—which is to go on a microadventure once a month; I had always thought—someday I’ll go hiking again. The problem with waiting is, you put your life on hold until you reach that perfect moment. You tell yourself: someday I’ll go on a hike when the kids are grown, when I’m fit enough or when I have the perfect hiking equipment or after I buy those necessary hiking boots. Surely I can’t go on hike if I’m out of shape or if I’m not properly attired. But then, I realized, I’ve been making excuses for myself all these years of waiting. It never occurred to me that I could just– Begin.

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Mid-hike break. taking in the serene Ramapo Lake

 

Begin where you are now.

Because waiting is not an option. Enough dreaming/planning, more doing. Lately, I feel this deep urge to start living my life to the fullest. I am in my mid-30s and who knows if I’ll ever be as strong as I am now. I wasted a lot of years in my 20s waiting: waiting to be in perfect shape to do things I’ve always wanted to do—as if all the fun, adventurous things in life are only reserved for those with perfectly-fit bodies. No, I’m done with waiting. I will begin and just do what I can.20160423_112357.jpg

A few years back, on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, my husband and I went on this outdoor zip line adventure. It was touted to be Mexico’s highest and fastest zip line with speeds of up to 100 mph and a length of over 1,200 meters (nearly 4,000 feet). I don’t know what convinced us to go; I was nowhere fit and he has a fear of heights. But we went and I’m glad we did.  To this day, it still ranks as one of the most adventurous things I’ve ever done. I remember flying across the dessert canyons of Los Cabos, the wind lashing against my skin, my mouth dry with adrenaline and arms sore from hanging on to the zip line. I remember the thrill, the feeling of being fully alive in that moment.  I thought it was just supposed to be zip lines but I got pushed to climb a natural rock- climbing wall, suspended bridges, cliff-side rappelling, crazy ladders besides doing those zip lines of various heights and lengths. I remember, at one point, they asked us to swing on this “Tarzan Swing” and I didn’t want to do it. A gentle voice behind me said: “Just do it. You may never get this chance again.” It was this frail-looking lady, probably in her  50s and she looked as scared as I was. She said she just had a knee replacement and if she could do it, there’s no reason I couldn’t.  Afterwards, she said something I’ll never forget.  She said: “Life is short. I’m already in my mid 50s and who knows if I’ll ever get another chance to do this.”

It dawned on me how  much time we waste aspiring to do many things in this life. We aspire all over the place. But aspiring doesn’t equal doing.

The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Those microadventures were a success because I managed to push through on my plan. It took me a while, but eventually I reached the end of those trails. My legs burned and felt like jelly from exertion but I’ve never felt so alive and happy. I pushed myself hard going on those hikes. I have not pushed myself hard in a very long time. It’s a very good feeling to feel capable, to be able to trust my body again. From where I stood on those summits, I could make out the silhouette of cities and mountains in the distance.Up there, the air was crisp and cool. I sat down on one of the boulders and took a nice, long, deep breath. The view was spectacular– because I earned it.

 

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Savoring the crisp mountain air and the view. photo credit: author’s own. bear mountain

 

 

A Midweek Microadventure

   Today I went on a hike at a nearby trail and was rewarded with this view. I realized there are lots of beautiful local trails that I have yet to discover. The best part is it did not cost a thing. Total time spent: 3.5 hours! Just proves you don’t need to go far or spend a lot of money to go on an adventure and have fun. Got back just in time to pick up my daughter after school too.😊

SLOW down. Enjoy the simple things. Savor Life. Blogging about my midweek microadventure next. Stay tuned!

~katrina~

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On Slow Living: The Antidote to Busyness

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Savor Life. photo credit: author’s own. Little Girl by the surf, Sunset Beach, Cape May

 

 

 

 

How do you define success? Is it having the latest top-of-the line gadgets? A shiny new sports car? Expensive designer clothing? Exotic vacations and expensive meals? A huge house with a deep backyard? Perhaps a six-figure salary to match our expensive lifestyle?

In our culture, that is definitely how a lot of people define success. We encourage it, even take pride in it. In America, success equals busyness. And if we are not constantly busy working to earn money or filling our time doing something seemingly important, then we must be failing at this game called Life. Do we even stop and think if this is true? Are we happy living our lives in this constant frenetic pace? After all, they don’t call it a rat race for nothing.

There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.

~Christopher Morley~

We pretend we’re going to live forever. At least that’s what it seems like to me when I look at the pace people are going. Everybody is always so busy, going about their lives like some manic windup toy. We run ourselves ragged chasing after the almighty dollar and that elusive thing called success. We work and work and then spend our hard-earned money like water. STOP. What are we really trading our finite life energy for?

 

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

-Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover

We spend long hours at the office or at jobs we barely even like, working overtime chasing after this elusive magic number in our paychecks and bank accounts. We spend every weekend doing side hustles that don’t bring us joy. We let our jobs and career define us. We live an imbalanced life where work and making money takes precedence over quality time with loved ones or the pursuit of things we enjoy or are passionate about.

Look, I get it. We all have responsibilities. We all must work to provide for our families. Yet I ask myself, beyond meeting Life’s basic physiological needs: food on the table, basic utilities, shelter, good health, some emergency fund for rainy days; what will it take to make us truly happy and content? When we have all we need plus the loving relationships in our lives, what else could we ever want for? What does the relentless pursuit of material things really costing us?

When was the last time you took the time to savor something? When was the last time you laughed out loud with your spouse, held hands with your child, made yourself and your family a great meal?

Your life is meant to be savored and experienced to the fullest. When we create space in our lives to slow down and enjoy the little things, we treat ourselves with respect and gentleness. Because you are worth it. It is not selfish to want to have time for yourself. In fact, I would argue that our partners and children need to see us taking care of ourselves too. In being an example of Slow Living, we are giving them permission to take time for themselves too.

Here are the things I have found helpful in reclaiming time and space for the things that truly matter:

  1. SIMPLIFY

When I decided to become a minimalist, and got rid of the clutter, I began to make room for the things that truly matter. I freed up time I would have spent in the upkeep of those material possessions and began to spend that precious free time in the pursuit of things I am passionate about. Clutter=busyness. Simplify your life. Keep only the things that are necessary and what makes you joyful. The rest are just clutter and noise.

  1. SLOW DOWN

Slow living is the antidote to all this madness. It is the antithesis of busyness. Slow living is taking the time to savor the little things in life that bring us joy and pleasure. It is putting ourselves in the way of beauty and things which bring us pleasure and happiness: like taking a walk in nature or reading a book for the sheer pleasure of it or even something as simple as a taking your time to enjoy a meal with your family.

 

  1. JUST SAY NO

I used to be a people pleaser and had trouble saying no. As I grew older and more in tune with myself and what makes me happy, I realized how important this simple word is. I learned to say no to things I know I won’t enjoy doing. I learned to say no to things which are not in line with my goals in life. I learned to say no to people or things I know won’t add value to my life. I realized I don’t have to say YES to every opportunity that comes my way. It never occurred to me that I could say no to people or something that could eat up all my free time. Most of the time, people won’t even mind if you miss that event anyway. They are too busy living their own lives too. Know your priorities.

  1. PROTECT YOUR FREE TIME

Remember that people have their own agenda. We must be our own fiercest advocates. We must protect our free time because no one else will. Your boss won’t. Our partners won’t. Our kids won’t. We must claim it for ourselves and put a stake to it. When I gave myself some room to stretch, I began to fill up that empty space with things I love that brings my heart and soul on fire. Writing. Reading. Listening to music and really experiencing it. Going outdoors, enjoying nature. Spending quality time with my husband. Reading with my daughter at bedtime. And more recently, I started a passion project in which I go on a microadventure once a month. Simple things, but they add up to a much more relaxed, saner version of myself.

Life is a balancing act. Yes, making a Living is important, but having a Life even more is. When one aspect of life takes precedence above others, one will feel off-balance. When we work too hard to the detriment of our bodies and our health, our mind and spirit suffers. The stress of the daily grind finally takes its’ toll on us and we experience burnout.

We tell ourselves there will be time to relax and have fun someday when we get rich or when we retire. Someday, we will have so much money we can finally afford to quit this job we hate. Someday we will travel and see the world. Someday we will have time to read books for fun. Someday we will pursue writing. Someday we will go hiking or white-water rafting (insert your dream adventure here). Someday we will have more fun with our family and loved ones. In short we are not living for today, we are living for someday.

But what if someday never comes? What if one day, you look in the mirror and you don’t even recognize the face staring back at you? What if you find out “someday” your life has passed you by? Begin today. Reclaim some time for yourself. Whatever that looks like for you. Savor your precious life. Because you deserve it. Your happiness and your life depends on it.

 

Enjoy the little things,

~katrina~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Birthday

 

Happy birthday!

This blog, On Borrowed Time just turned one year old! * Confetti* It was one year ago when I first published this post. I started this blog not expecting any readership at all, but  to re-discover writing as a creative outlet. I began this blog for stress-relieving purposes. I wanted a place where I could think and mull over my experiences, good or bad. But most of all, I wanted to document my personal journey towards a happier mindset. Now,  41 posts, 1,592 visitors and 2,804 views later, we are turning one year’s old!

It had been an incredible year. I wrote how motherhood changed me. I discovered and explored how minimalism makes me happy and sane, how writing fuels and renews me, how spending time in the great outdoors heals and soothes me. I connected with a bunch of like-minded bloggers who are on their own incredible journeys.

I shared my work beyond this blog and was fortunate to be featured on The Huffington Post, and Mamalode magazine. This only fueled my passion for writing about topics I’m passionate about: mainly my evolution and growth as a mother; how simplifying my life and embracing minimalism made me happier. I discovered like-minded bloggers like you who are on a similar quest for a meaningful and inspired life.

My goal is to blog more frequently and add more value to your life in my simple way. I will continue to blog about topics I am passionate about—mainly minimalism and living the simple life, Motherhood, and my passion project, “A Year of Microadventures” inspired by Alastair Humphrey’s blog and book.

I want to thank you for reading my blog, liking my Facebook page and for leaving comments that has truly inspired and motivated me. This blog has been my solace for the past year. I am so grateful for you dear reader, whoever you are, wherever you are in the world, you have inspired me.

 

A Year of Microadventures

 

Ever since I could remember, I had always yearned for adventure and travel. I am the type of person who craves novelty—new experiences to jolt me into feeling fully “alive”.  I realized I am my best self when I’m exploring new places and savoring fresh experiences either by myself or with loved ones.

As a young child, I remember having a penchant for adventure. I vividly recall getting on my bike and just pedaling away from my grandparents’ house–pigtails flying in the wind like streamers; past the blur of houses, past the elementary school I attended, past a sea of rice fields until the paved road ended into a dirt road. I was not allowed to go beyond the paved road; but each time, I pushed onwards, riding my bike on that bumpy road until I reached this old bridge where I would look down into the river at the bucolic scene below: women doing their laundry by the river, children playing on the riverbank, swinging from an old tire tied to a tree. To a young girl, that seemingly illicit biking trip felt like a real adventure.

Fast forward to present time and I am now an adult with real-life responsibilities. Between my job, my husband, my little girl and a myriad of household chores, I rarely have the time nor the inclination to have “adventures”. Of course I love to travel as much as the next person and dream about big-ticket adventures. But the reality is, I don’t always have the time nor the budget for those grand adventures right now.  Not everyone can hop on a plane at a drop of a hat to explore desserts and glaciers and climb mountains; most of us have to pragmatically juggle the commitments and constraints of our “real lives”.

So what is a closet-adventurer like me to do? Should I resign myself to armchair travel for the rest of my life– reading travel literature or Netflix bingeing on travel shows like Parts Unknown or Departures, living vicariously through others? I think not.

Enter Alastair Humphreys. I discovered his blog by chance. He has made a career out of his adventures and makes a living, writing and speaking about it. In 2012, he was named adventurer of the year by no less than National Geographic. But what made him interesting to me was not the grand adventures he took, but his idea of “microadventures”. Most of us would love to travel and escape from our 9-5 job and when we can’t have that exact thing, we give up entirely on adventure. I know I did. It never occurred to me that somewhere in this world, there’s a person who is living proof that adventure can be had just about anywhere. That I really don’t need to board a plane and fly to the other side of the world to have an adventure never really occurred to me.

So what is a microadventure anyway? Alastair Humphreys, in his book Microadventures defined it as:

“an adventure that is close to home– cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective. It still captures the essence of big adventures, the challenge, the fun, the escapism, the learning experiences and the excitement. All these things remain”.

 

And this:

“a microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits of a big adventure; it’s just all condensed into a weekend away or even a midweek escape from the office (what he dubbed the 5-9 escape)”.

Sounds doable to me.

Feeling inspired by this book and an old classmate’s blog post on her solo travels, I resolved to try this for myself.  For my birthday, I asked my loved ones for non-material gifts and instead asked for a day we can spend together doing something new, exploring a local place we’ve never been.

A few days ago, I did just that with my husband. It may not be the “real deal” to some people but for me it felt like the real deal. We explored Central Park on foot and pretended to be tourists seeing the park for the first time. Because, although we live a mere bus-ride away from the city, we never really took the time to explore what Central Park had to offer. The highlight of that day was when we rented a boat at the Loeb Boathouse and rowed our way to the heart of the Central Park Lake, the second-largest body of water in the park that spans over 22-acres. Although we were in a bustling metropolis, we felt like we were worlds away.  We got a closer view of water fowl that was hard to see from the shore, including some herons and a lone turtle on a rock basking in the sun in one of the coves. In the backdrop, was a view of the Plaza hotel. We rowed beneath the arch of a bridge where some random accordionist serenaded us with French-accordion music. I soaked it all in and marveled at the dappled sunlight shimmering on the lake’s surface. Afterwards, we walked the length of 5th avenue all the way down to Bryant Park where we stopped for some coffee and pastries at Lady M. Pretty tame for a first microadventure but I felt it was a good start.  It was a spur-of-the moment thing and we did something out of our routine  and that’s what made it special.

 

Here are some snippets from our “microadventure”.

bethesda terrace

Bethesda terrace and fountain, photo: author’s own

 

 

 

imagine

imagine mosaic tile, strawberry fields

 

 

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boy and his sailboat, the Pond

 

 

 

detail

beautiful details, Bethesda Terrace steps

 

 

 

mintontiles

exquisite details on Minton tiles at Bethesda Terrace. Photo credit: author’s own

 

 

 

bridge

boating at central park lake photo credit: author’s own

 

plaazahotel

view of the plaza hotel from the lake

 

So, buoyed by the success of that day, I resolve to have more micro adventures this year.  I will give myself the gift of 12 days– 12 days, once a month to do something out of the ordinary. Less dreaming and more doing. Because Life is short. Because we only have about 2000 weekends in our lifetime before we die. Because Life is too precious to be frittered away watching too much television and doing mundane tasks. Because I cannot spend my time waiting for the perfect time to have fun. Because today is all I really have.

Andiamo, let’s go!

~katrina~

Note: Getting there