Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January resolutions

Happy last day of 2014! Here’s my Official Plan for January:
  • Goal: Finish editing M.H.’s book.
  • Rule: Swim, bike, and run at least once each per week.
  • Errand: Clean out the box of junk that we pulled out of the minivan before selling it.
  • Appreciation: My health.
  • Theme: Work when I need to be working, and rest when I need to be resting.
If it seems weird that I don’t have a diet-related GREAT, it’s because I didn’t think I actually needed any motivation to get back on the Carb Nite wagon. Plus we have not one, not two, but three swim meets in January, and I am learning to be realistic about setting expectations for those weekends.

And if it seems weird that I don’t have a writing-related GREAT, it’s because I’m very very busy and also a BIG CHICKEN.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This GREAT thing

Want to know what my yesterday was like? I ate a bunch of junk food I didn’t need to eat, got real distracted from work, and went to bed way too late because I collapsed on the couch at the end of the day and watched THREE episodes of The Gilmore Girls. I wish I could somehow convince myself that it’s just as exciting to be healthy on December 30 as it is on January 1. Myself and every and just about everyone else in this country. (Now that's a secret that could be the basis for a best-selling self-help book.)

Oh, well. We all know the first day of the year is the magic day when we can change anything we want to change, and now maybe the first day of the month can be that for me, too!

In fact, way too much of my work distraction yesterday was brainstorming different ways to spell GREAT. I quickly figured out two things:
  • If I was adding anything to this plan, it had to be comically easy, or it would never happen.
  • I wanted to be deliberate about what I added, rather than just figuring out the best-sounding combination of buzzwords that spelled something.
So I thought about what would make me look back on January and be happy I had done it. My first thought would be that it would be kind of perfect to find a way to force myself to tackle the dozens of teensy-to-medium chores that have been on my to-do list for a million years. These are things that would take literally just 15 minutes or less, but I still never get around to doing them, and they pile up into one giant heap of annoyances. The obvious words for that are Task or To-Do or Chore, but to make the cutesy acronym work, I’m going with Errand.

The next thing that came to mind was gratitude—somehow taking a moment to be deliberately, pointedly thankful for my life. I’m not sure what form this would take—maybe for me just blogging about it would suffice. So, fine. But I can’t call it Gratitude because G is already taken. And I can’t call it Thankfulness because T is already taken. So A is for…Appreciation!

I think this GREAT thing could work for me, though the awkward acronym somewhat dims the prospects for turning it into a best-selling self-help book.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The best idea ever, which may have also just become a 99-cent ebook

Either I am on my way to getting better or just having one of those “only sickish” days. I felt so good that I went for an easy swim—which immediately made me feel worse, but it’s been so long since I’ve been in the water that I’m sure it would have exhausted me regardless of my health status. Anyway, it’s all part of gearing up for my master plan for January, which I will get to in a minute.

So I was thinking about my theme for 2014, “Use it (or lose it),” and how I did either start using or get rid of a lot of stuff. But I’m just not sure having a theme for the year did me any good after about mid-February, because I don’t feel like it prompted me to do anything I wouldn’t have done anyway. So this year I thought I’d try something different: monthly goals, rules, and themes. That way I can be easy on myself when I need to be, occasionally set challenging goals that are still achievable (since they last only 30 days), and keep up the enthusiasm to do more positive stuff (since I get to start fresh every month). Plus, I’ll get to do a ton of my favorite thing, which is New Life Planning!

So here’s my current plan for January:
  • Goal: Finish editing M.H.’s book (this is the big one, and it’s on top of the other large editorial task I mentioned).
  • Rule: Swim, bike, and run once each per week (no minimum distance).
  • Theme: Work when I need to be working, and rest when I need to be resting.
That last one is kind of hard to explain. But I’m frustrated by my tendency to sit down to work and then have my mind wander to other things. Like (*cough cough*) a blog post I want to write. Or “taking a Facebook break.” But I don’t want to give up blogging and Facebooking, so I just need to put them in their proper places somehow. Or another example is at the end of the day, if I’m too tired to do anything productive, I need to go to bed rather than talk my spouse into watching an episode of The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. But I don’t actually want to give up The Gilmore Girls either, so I just need to be deliberate about it. It’s a bit hard to pin down exactly what needs to change here, which is why it makes for a good “theme” to be aware of, rather than a hard-and-fast rule.

I just realized that I’m only an E and an A away from a cheesy self-help book (Make It a G.R.E.A.T. Year! 5 Steps You Can Take Every Month to Achieve Your Dreams) and the appeal of this whole plan just increased, like, tenfold.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Falling-to-pieces week

I caught a dread disease that’s been taking down my family one by one—it’s insidious because sometimes you just feel really tired rather than sick, sometimes you feel sickish but functional, and then there are moments when you just want to curl up on the couch and die. And you don’t get off the roller coaster for three weeks. (I know this because two of us have already come out alive on the other side.)

Since it’s the holidays, I could have more or less just ridden the whole thing out on the couch, but before I was struck down I took on a large, exciting editorial project and set the deadline for January 5. I love this large, exciting editorial project and want to do a fantastic job, and I set that accursed deadline myself, so I have no choice but to suck it up and get it done. In fact, I am going back to work on it the moment my Tylenol kicks in.

I’m counting on the fact that I’ve at least timed the plague so that I will be healthy again by January 1, because I would love to hit the ground running on about six different New Year’s resolutions. (It’s traditional: The last week of the year I fall off all the wagons—and completely to pieces—while simultaneously making plans for all the new wagons I’m going to climb on. Yay!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It’s that time of the year again

I was whining to M.H. the other day about how I was so jealous I hadn’t come up with certain brilliant ideas because if I had, I could definitely—maybe easily!—have written the best-selling books that resulted from them. My problem, I said, was that I never got any brilliant book ideas.

He reminded me of an idea I told him about months ago and informed me that it was good enough, that I could definitely work with it, that I just needed to put in the effort. Hmm. Maybe so.

So that leaves me face to face with the actual problem: that I am terrified to start a project like this.

I keep thinking of Gretchen Rubin’s advice for tackling a huge thing, which is to set aside 15 minutes—and only 15 minutes—to work on it every day. That idea is really more for projects like “organize 22 years’ worth of photos”—which I also desperately want to do—than for creative endeavors. But I wonder if I could apply the same principle so that I make at least some progress on the book every day, even if it’s minuscule. Something like 200 words? That’s shorter than this blog post.

So I’m thinking New Year’s resolution. If the book turns out to be terrible, I won’t really have lost that much of my time (and income-earning potential) to it. And if I do chicken out, I can always switch to that photo organization thing and still call it a win.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Expert Advice: Writing about doing something awesome

Every now and then I think about the Ironman I did THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO (can you believe it’s been so long??) and I inevitably get sucked back into reading my blog posts from that time. (The entirety of the race month, June 2011, is of course a particular favorite.) I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of reading about it. And I’m still not sure if I was more using writing to keep myself motivated to train or rather just training just so I’d have something cool to write about.

But the two fed into each other so beautifully that it’s put me in the mood to give you some Expert Advice on this one and only thing that I’m an Expert on:

Expert advice for doing something awesome: If you write about what you’re doing with a positive spin—or at least reframe a negative development into a hilarious anecdote or a lesson learned—you can use your writing to shape your reality. I found that the feelings that I wrote for myself became true, even if they sometimes started out a bit, um, loosely based on the truth. Lots of times my training was discouraging or mundane, and I just plain refused to write it up that way because I wanted to challenge myself with my blog, too, and my main goal there was to be entertaining. I learned as I went along that memory can be selective, and the parts you commit to writing are the parts your brain clings to. On top of that, the plans and intentions I wrote for myself also came true, so much so that it was occasionally downright eerie (like in the case of my pre-race “Fantasy Race Report,” which—I just checked—ended up being about 90 percent accurate).

Expert advice for writing: If you like to write, and you happen to be doing something really cool in your life, that material is G-O-L-D. Do not waste it! Write that puppy up, whether you intend to share it with the world or not. It is such a gift to write something that wants to be written—and I speak as someone who desperately wants to write regularly but has almost nothing of particular interest to write about anymore (which is just about the saddest thing I ever heard; note to self—fix it). As a bonus, afterward you will have the best souvenir ever.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The new normal

5 a.m. swim practice is continuing to turn our lives upside down, but some of it is good. It means I get in two extra yoga classes a week with my favorite teacher, and I’m starting to feel really strong again for the first time since my shoulder injury more than a year ago. It’s still hard to force myself out of bed, though. And, hypocritical as it is, I still can’t repress my instinctual reaction when I walk in the door at that hour and see EVERY treadmill humming, which is, “All you people are nuts.”

Going to bed and getting up early also puts us more in sync with the sunlight. There’s really no getting around it being dark for a bunch of your waking hours this time of year, but the sun has been rising just about the time I’m leaving yoga or am working on breakfast, which is nice.

The major downside, though, is that we are even more out of sync with Dex. I rescheduled our dinner hour so that most of the time we can all be there, and I’m clinging to it hard, even if it’s just once a day—and even if three of us have to go to bed right after the dishes are done.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dirt under my fingernails

Despite the fact that I will be working a little both Saturday and Sunday, this is the closest thing I’ve had to a restful weekend in months. Check it out: I got to sleep in AND I went outside for an hour. I might even go crazy and jump into the bathtub with a book later.

It’s a good thing my schedule allowed me to leave my desk today, because I really needed to plant those bulbs I bought online before our weather takes a very nasty turn next week. I would have done it a long time ago when I was still gung-ho, but the bulb people were adamant that I not plant until the weather was consistently in the 50s or below. That’s so the bulbs won’t rot in the ground, so it seems like good advice, but the word “consistent” doesn’t really apply to Montana. I never saw a weather window that I thought was appropriate, but this weekend was definitely the last chance: Technically it’s still too warm, but starting Monday it’s going to be below way freezing all week and might snow 70 feet.

I’m bummed that winter is about to start, but hey—October was absolutely lovely, so at least we know the snowy season isn’t going to drag on for six months this year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

And now a word from my sleep deprivation

It’s no Ironman or anything, but I would say the exhaustion of being a parent volunteer trapped at a swim meet all weekend ranks right up there with…I dunno. Swimming in a swim meet all weekend, maybe. I had almost no voice afterward—a result of cheering for my kid, being the announcer for three days straight, and (mostly) trying to have shouted conversations with people in the world’s loudest venue. M.H. and I also had a planned but drastic deviation from our diets because we knew there wouldn’t be anything low-carb available there. By Sunday night, we had HAD IT in every possible way (including the “I never want to see Halloween candy again” way).

Then instead of resting and recovering on Monday, we jumped right back into getting up at 4:30 a.m.

I’ve been using those early mornings to go to yoga, sometimes, but mostly to work. It’s ridiculous how I’ve been living lately, actually. The days are short enough now that to say I work from sunup to sundown is an extreme understatement. Every afternoon, the setting sun hits my computer monitor in just the wrong way and causes a glare that makes it hard to work—and that’s how I know another day of my life is shot, because generally I haven’t set foot outside.

I know I need to make some changes, but right now I’m too tired to think of any solutions, other than writing a cathartic blog post and then getting back to taking a shovel to the giant pile of work.

P.S. to people who care about the swim meet: Mik did great! I wasn’t sure how it would go, because I know he’s exhausted, too, but he improved his times in eight out of eleven events and got his first “A” time, which is a big deal. His strokes look strong and much improved from last season.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Early to bed, etc.

Our family has been going through a big adjustment because Mik has started swimming at 5 or 5:30 in the morning four days a week. M.H. gets up to drive him, and I have been trying to get up, either to go to three-hours-before-sunrise yoga or to start work. I’m pretty much a big baby about early mornings, but there’s really no getting around this schedule change, and I think the presence of a great yoga class at 5:15 a.m. a couple of days a week can turn it into somewhat of a bright side.

Plus the early-to-bed-etc. thing is helping me feel virtuous/healthy, which I had been craving after overdoing Carb Nite last week. I don’t know that there was anything wrong with that, per se, since eating junk food is part of the plan, to a point. But it’s nice that feeling gross kicked me into a week of feeling healthy. Since that fateful Friday, here’s what I’ve been doing:
  • Alternating frequently between my standing desk and sitting desk.
  • Getting to more yoga classes.
  • Taking those repulsive frozen raw-liver “pills” I made.
  • Eating resistant starch (in the form of potato starch powder stirred into water—far less repulsive).
  • Taking probiotics.
  • Trying to do 100 squats a day.
  • Sitting down to eat with my family whenever possible, or at least not eating at my desk.
  • Walking outside.
  • Going to bed early.
…along with staying under 30 grams of carbs a day. That feels like plenty, right? I think I am nice and atoned now for my chocolate-covered-macadamia-nut sins.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


So I just had one of the most debauched Carb Nites ever—it makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it, but I’ll tell you that it started with a mall Cinnabon and essentially went downhill from there.

I woke up this morning with a burning desire to spend this next week being extremely healthy and—key word coming up—disciplined. I’m starting with a pre-sunrise walk to yoga class, where I will mentally compile a list of every single thing I’ve come to believe is healthy for me. Later I will put them on a list, and after that I will do them.

And then when Carb Nite comes up again next, I’m thinking rice and potatoes and bananas sound lovely. Of course that’s slightly unrealistic because next Friday is Halloween, but the thought of fun-sized candy makes me want to hurl right now and that’s the truth.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An unusual mood

I’ve been working long days every day of the week just to stay afloat lately, but this afternoon I was feeling restless and in desperate need of a real break, though I couldn’t think of anything that really sounded like a good one. Then I saw the word “run” somewhere on the Internet, and I realized that was EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing.

I haven’t been running in—I don’t know, months? The Tabata sprinting thing was a nice, short workout, but I think they were just so hard that I just couldn’t make myself get out there and do it consistently. I wanted to approach this run in a sort of yoga-ish way, by which I mean push myself slightly, hold it there for a few seconds, and then back off and rest.

That is such a glorious way to do it. You go at the pace you like, let it get a little hard, and then walk until you feel like you’d rather be going fast again. If I would run like this on a regular basis, I’m sure it would eventually make me a better runner, too. But we’ll see how far I get with the “run only when the mood strikes” method.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I put my arm around Mik in church today and was a bit taken aback—the kid feels SOLID, like he’s put on about 10 pounds of muscle. When we got home I had him weigh himself, and sure enough he’s put on 10 pounds of something in the past couple of months. It’s clearly not fat. Might be height. Or it might be him busting out of his shirts like the Hulk, just like I planned.

Hey, it might also be brain! He just got the news that he made the middle school’s Science Bowl team, which is a bigger deal than it sounds like, because this team regularly goes to nationals in Washington, D.C. I gave him so many high-fives as M.H. was reading us the email that my hand hurts.

I’m in a good mood today. On top of all of the above, the weather is nice, one of my bushes is blooming purple flowers, and my pastor just preached a sermon arguing that Genesis 1 is not science—which is at least an adjustment from his previous view, if not a 180. Sincere belief and intellectual honesty: You can’t ask for much more than that in a church.

I mean, now that I think about it for two seconds, yes, you can, but anyway here’s a pretty picture of my landscaping because I totally lied about the last pictures being the last ones:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Part 12: The end

I have not really wanted to sound like a commercial for Carb Nite, but obviously I’m pretty sold on it, and I guess that’s just where “getting you back into my brain” has led me. I would have liked to tell you all about this as it was happening and let it all unfold more organically, but (a) I was more or less forbidden from doing that and (b) it did seem irresponsible to start flooding my blog with info about a magical-sounding diet until I had actually tried it myself and learned as much as I could.

Anyway, it’s been fun having a little story to tell you, and at least now my friends and family will know what I’m talking about—or more than usual.

And, obviously, it would make me pretty happy if anyone else tried this based on my suggestion and had M.H.-like success. (Or even Julie-like success, since I have had a ton of fun and am not actually sneezing at the 11 pounds I’ve lost so far.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it—though much less often—and will for sure let you know if I succeed in getting willowy.

So now you’re all caught up. The end!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Part 11: Takeaways

Regardless of whether this diet continues to work for me or not—and given my propensity to jump on new bandwagons embrace new adventures when they come along, my guess is I won’t be doing it forever—I have learned some useful things.

One, which I mentioned earlier, is the thing about our bodies being most efficient at turning carbohydrates into fat in the morning. Another is that the best way to eat those late-in-the day carbohydrates is after a weight-training workout, when all the carbs are going to go directly to rebuilding muscle. I started applying this latter point by heading to the gym and doing all my shoulder physical therapy right before Carb Nite. It immediately started feeling stronger, and I’d say I’m about 95 percent healed.

I keep thinking that if I were to ever do another Ironman—never gonna happen, but if I did—it would be solely to see if I could train successfully while applying all the new diet and exercise principles I’ve been learning.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Part 10: In the groove

Everything I’ve heard about Carb Nite says not to bother too much about the scale, but after a few weeks of M.H. dropping weight and me standing still, I started to worry that he would “catch” me, and that’s just not okay. So it was nice to see my weight start moving again three weeks ago, just ticking down about a pound a week. That I can certainly live with.

Another thing that has encouraged me is joining a Facebook group devoted to discussing Carb Nite. They want you to have read the book in order to participate (which is reasonable), so I don’t contribute an awful lot there, but it’s entertaining. Every week a different person posts about how she’s been doing Carb Nite for three whole weeks and nothing seems to be happening—should she give up??! And then every Friday the page starts blowing up with people posting pictures of the candy and pie and cookies they’re about to eat, so it’s pretty much the goofiest “diet” page ever.

Kiefer’s YouTube channel is more informative but less hilarious, if you’re looking for resources.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Part 9: Oil grey

One little tidbit that I’ve learned from being obsessed with Carb Nite and Carb Backloading is that our bodies are most sensitive to insulin in the morning, which means that that’s when they are much better at turning carbohydrates into fat. So a lot of people who do Carb Nite don’t eat carbs at all in the morning, and we’ve been experimenting with that, too.

The trendy way to do it is to, instead of eating breakfast, have some sort of fat in your morning hot drink. For a lot of people it’s cream or butter in coffee, but we have been having coconut oil in tea. It’s okay. It does keep you from getting hungry, but the taste is kind of meh. Plus it makes all the teacups and tea infusers all oily and disgusting. So the jury is still out.

I still eat three meals—they’re just shifted later in the day, which also makes dinner work well with the kids’ new schedules. Hey, remember how not eating in the evening tended to make me wake up super-peppy the next morning? Well, too bad for me because that’s gone and I have to drag my sorry, exhausted carcass out of bed in the morning now like everyone else. Hrm.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Part 8: Mik

I love including Mik in my dietary experiments because he’s a scientist at heart. He’s only 14, but he has definitely noticed how a different kind of diet has helped him personally. Actually, it’s kind of hard to miss being cured of a stomach ulcer, but I’m also talking about things like how strong he feels while swimming, or how his face will break out after he eats too much sugar.

(True story: He “learned” in health class that diet has absolutely nothing to do with acne. “Um, you know that’s total crap, right?” “Of course!”)

Anyway, Carb Nite is for metabolically damaged people who have fat to lose, so it’s not appropriate for someone as lean as he is. And I am not stupid enough to play with restricting carbs in a teen athlete. However, the Carb Nite guy (who goes by the I’m-such-a-rock-star-I-only-need-one-name name of “Kiefer”) also talks a lot about his muscle-building protocol called Carb Backloading, which basically just means eating fat and protein early in the day and then eating all your carbs at night, after a workout.

So I came up with a new routine for Mik: He eats the kinds of foods that would normally be his dinner—hamburgers (no bun), broccoli, cheese, bacon—for breakfast. He eats the same kind of moderate-carb lunch he was eating before. And then he eats a hashbrown or rice or something with dinner, after swim practice.

I can’t tell yet if it’s doing anything, and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to let me measure his biceps to find out. If he starts busting out of his shirts like the Hulk, I will let you know.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Part 7: Psychology

(This is, like, a series. Start at Part 1.)

I said yesterday that it was worth it to stick with Carb Nite even without much evidence that it was working, and I guess I mean three things by that:
  1. It was clearly working for M.H., so why would I jeopardize his progress by changing anything?
  2. It was clearly working for M.H., so that gave me confidence that it would work for me, too.
  3. Eating this way is the furthest thing in the world from a hardship—it is totally fun.
I didn’t find going ultra low carb difficult at all. (The dragging feeling finally passed after about four weeks, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) What I mean is that I love my breakfast of bacon, sausage, fried eggs, and brussels sprouts topped with butter. I love having steak and caramelized onions for lunch. I love having chili and salad for dinner. I don’t even usually crave carbs, and if I do, I just write down what it is I want and plan to have it on Friday night.

Because, yes, hilariously, you find yourself planning and scheming all week for the wonders that await you on Carb Nite. Everything that was difficult or off limits before is fair game again. Any restaurant in town. Things made of chocolate. Eating at other people’s houses. Pizza. Any amazing recipe you see on the Internet—it’s no longer a matter of whether you can have it or not, only which night of the week you can have it on.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You people are impossible to feed now” since we started eating better. So the absolute best thing about Carb Nite is simply that we can eat the way we want without being a gigantic pain in the neck.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Part 6: Two roads diverge

Here’s the part of my tale where I throw in a shocking twist and do not brag about the amazing weight loss I had in the weeks that followed. In fact, I gained a couple of pounds after every Carb Nite (which is to be expected), lost them again in the week that followed, and then started each Carb Nite weighing exactly what I weighed the week before. And I still felt like I was dragging through my life.

I stayed with it anyway. According to everything I was learning about this diet, it can be slow—and particularly for women, whose bodies are extra-reluctant to give up the energy stored in the muscles and switch to fat burning. I figured if I was actually destroying fat cells rather than just shrinking them—and adding a little muscle in their place—then it was still more than worth it. Of course, I had no real evidence that that was happening, either.

What I did have was M.H., who was feeling fantastic, loving the ultra-low-carb days, loving the Carb Nites, and basically evaporating before my very eyes. He was losing 1 to 3 pounds a week consistently and looking muscular—like some kind of freaky Carb Nite poster boy.

What? No, I wasn’t jealous. I was…inspired. It was especially inspirational how he’d give me advice, like that the reason the diet wasn’t working as well for me was that I’d eaten a single grape earlier that week.

(Get up to speed by starting with Part 1.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Part 5: Orientation

Couple of things about eating less than 30 grams of net carbs a day:
  1. It makes you a believer in all those “Drop a dress size by the weekend!” headlines.
  2. It makes you feel like craaaaap.
I actually wasn’t expecting anything too dramatic to happen, because we already ate sort of low carb. But apparently ultra low carb is a whole different animal. In the initial orientation phase, M.H. and I each lost about 8 pounds. And we didn’t even do the whole 10 days. (We had a barbecue to attend, and the choices were to either have our first Carb Nite a bit early or to stand around empty-handed, having to explain to everyone why we weren’t eating or drinking anything.)

The flip side of all this lovely weight loss was that I was dragging. Muscles are used to burning glucose, and it takes time for them to adjust to burning body fat instead.

Then, after all that…guess how stuffing your face with a bunch of carbs makes you feel? Like a different kind of crap: Light-headed! Thirsty! Like you never want to see another piece of chocolate cake as long as you live! When we got home, I speculated that I’d probably do a lot better on a gluten-free Carb Nite. (Six Carb Nites later, I still don’t know because I haven’t tried it.)

I was slightly concerned about feeling so rotten, but I’d been told it would pass. And, frankly, I was willing to put up with it if I was really going to lose weight so effortlessly.

(No idea what I’m yammering on about? Start at Part 1.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Part 4: The rules

If you need catching up, this particular miniseries starts here.

Though I was interested in Carb Nite, I didn’t really feel like buying the book—at this stage of my life, I am strongly in favor of fewer possessions and more money, not the other way around. But that’s fine, because the Internet exists, and it was easy to cobble together the outlines of the system, which is pretty simple:
  1. Start with a 10-day “orientation” where you eat fewer than 30 net grams of carbohydrates—that’s carbs minus fiber—every day. (You restrict net carbs but not calories.)
  2. Then you have Carb Nite, which means that starting about six to eight hours before you go to bed, you have basically all the carbs you want, preferably in the form of glucose. The goal is to get two or three strong insulin spikes.
  3. The next day you go back to ultra-low carb (no more than 30 grams) and continue having Carb Nite once a week. You can adjust the timing however you’d like as long as you go at least five days between Carb Nites.
  4. You can do this for as long as six months, take a month or so off, and then do it again if you want.
Having ditched most grains from our diets long ago, we didn’t find it challenging to stay under 30 grams of carbs, but we did have to make a few tweaks. Rice was out. Potatoes were out. Fruit was pretty much out. Honey- or date-sweetened anything was out. Cheese, though, was back in, along with sour cream. On low-carb days, we eat meat, eggs, and vegetables, all drenched in various kinds of fat. And we don’t bother actually counting net carbs, because a gram or three here and there from vegetables is never going to add up to 30.

Now I’m starting to wonder if 12 parts is going to be enough for this saga.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Part 3: Conditional buy-in

Continuing my story

Of course I did a bit more research into Carb Nite and this guy John Kiefer right off the bat. Carb Nite still sounded nutty to me, but Kiefer himself seemed to be a serious and legitimate expert on nutrition and physiology. I learned that he had refined his thinking somewhat since writing the original Carb Nite book, and that he has a treasure trove of podcasts and videos dissecting all the latest research and explaining things (mostly in terms that are way over my head).

So I did do a little homework, at least enough to convince myself that the idea was worth a try. But, really, at that point, how was I not going to try it? It held the promise of three things I truly love: self-experimentation, losing weight, and eating chocolate-covered macadamia nuts once a week.

So I told M.H. I was going to experiment with this new thing and that he could join me if he wanted. Of course right away he found this ridiculous link. He insisted that I not tell anyone I was doing this because it would undermine everything I’ve ever said about nutrition and that people would definitely think I was a gullible lunatic who must be stopped. And then he agreed to do it with me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Part 2: The backstory

So I’ve been eating various degrees of a Paleo diet for at least two years now, and it’s been pretty good to me. I felt more energetic, I had more enthusiasm for things, I slept better, lots of other random good things happened, and I lost weight. I also stopped beating my body down with “cardio” training, which was supposed to produce all those pleasant effects but never really did.

I was satisfied with all this for a while, but lately I’ve started to get frustrated. While my weight tiptoed into the “normal” BMI range, it then got stuck around there. And I noticed that there are a lot of other women who eat Paleo — Paleo role models, even — in the same boat. They always preach that the important thing is health, but with all the effort I was putting into eating well, I really felt that the result should be physical awesomeness as well. Why couldn’t I be healthy and willowy?

So then one day I read on a blog that some people were having a lot of weight-loss success combining Paleo principles with something called the Carb Nite Solution, and my ears perked up. Hmmm, I thought. That cheesy-sounding name and the misspelling of “Night” should make me immediately skeptical, but I am primed to grasp at any shred of hope for losing a few more pounds!

Stay tuned for parts 3 through 12.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A 12-step program to get you back into my brain

Oh, hi. So remember how I couldn’t really blog much because I was all obsessed with a New Thing that I wasn’t ready to tell you about? I think I’m ready to tell you about it now, but I’ve got about two months of catch-up to do, so I’m going to take this in pieces. It’s a process. Ready for the first stage?

I hope you’re sitting down, because you will be shocked (SHOCKED!) to hear that my New Thing was a dietary experiment. Knock you all over with a feather!

Specifically, it’s this diet. So go right ahead and click that link.

Now just react however you want. It’s okay. Thinking I’m a gullible lunatic who must be stopped is part of the process.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Last picture until spring

OK, I’ve spent nearly all day working on, buying stuff for, and thinking about my landscaping project, so I want to hear the oohs and ahhs:

Just kidding. I won’t force you to be amazed at its beauty until about the summer of 2018, when everything is a reasonable size and there are blue, purple, and white flowers all over it. I did get a lot of compliments on it today, though, as people were walking by to check out our next-door neighbor’s garage sale, but mostly because that gnarly stump (which ironically is hiding two boring stumps) is so darn cool.

So in case you weren’t paying close attention, there’s a new mint plant, which I tore into three pieces and planted in three spots, and three new groundcovery things. I also ordered a bunch of bulbs online and dragged Mik out to help me get more rocks.

I’m getting a lot of pushback from the kids on my new obsession with making them haul heavy rocks around, but I don’t care because I’ve come to realize that what I’m actually making here is a rock garden, and the more rocks I put in it, the more I like it.

Which is good, because it’s now cost me $51, several afternoons, some skin off my hands, and just a touch of offspring goodwill.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tiny trees and baby steps

I’ve made a bit of progress on my landscaping activity.

First I dragged Mik out to the river to collect a few canvas bags full of medium-sized rocks. I like them so much and had so much fun getting them that I think I’ll plan another medium-sized-rock quest this week. It’s a lot easier to do with a helper, and since hauling rocks FOR YOUR MOTHER IN THE FRESH AIR FAR FROM PC GAMING IN THE DARK BASEMENT is surely the epitome of a character-building activity, I’ll probably bring a kid with me again if I can.

Then I went to a home improvement store and picked out another medium-sized bush and a dwarf tree to add to the back side of my “feature.” They turned out to be on clearance (hope it’s not because they have zero chance of surviving the winter at this point), so I got them both for $4. Then I visited a nursery and saw a ton of plants I would like to have for like $17 a pot but held off for now to shop around.

Here’s where I am:

That is one TEENSY little Christmas tree back there, so it may be a few years before I achieve the desired effect. Oh, well. Total cost so far: $9.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My project

M.H. and the boys removed the dead and dying aspen trees in our front yard a few weeks ago, leaving us with a triangular patch of river rock. In 43 years of life I’ve never attempted anything close to landscaping, but something had to be done with that spot, and anyway it was screaming “blank canvas” to me, so I decided that fixing it up could be my little project.

My dad has done landscaping on a massive scale, so my first step was to ask him to take me rock shopping. (I dragged Dex along, too, for muscle. Smart move.) The goal was to get something large and tall to put plants around. Unfortunately, it turns out I don’t have the equipment or the budget to get a really large, cool boulder, but we did end up picking up a bunch of rocks that were about the limit of what we and the car could handle, weight-wise. The quarry didn’t think it was enough to bother charging us for, so total cost so far: free!

My next thought was that if I couldn’t get a big rock, maybe I could get a big log. My dad went with me again—this time to the Yellowstone River—and I described to him my ideal find: a huge, gnarly, driftwood stump with a ton of character.


I also picked up a cute little bush for $5 from the farmer’s market. It’s supposed to bloom into blue flowers and grow to about two to three feet high and two to three feet in diameter, so it should someday just fill that space between the log and the fence.

I obviously need a bunch more plants, and my dad tells me I need some medium-sized rocks, too, so a few more shopping and rock-hounding expeditions are needed between now and when the weather turns ugly, which could be in about 39 seconds. But this is fun! I can see myself actually walking outside in future summers with pruning shears and maintaining this thing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer’s end

School starts tomorrow for Mik tomorrow and on Thursday for Dex, although—get ready to spit out your beverage—Dex has been attending class at the local college all week for his computer programming class. He gets credit and had to buy a $120 textbook and everything. When he headed out the door to Go To College on Monday, it felt so momentous that we all came out to see him off; Mik ran at him like he was thinking about giving him a hug or shaking his hand or something. I guess I’m not the only one acutely aware that we have only two more years before he goes away for real.

I can’t believe how little “summer fun” I managed this year. I’m going to be kicking myself when it’s 10 degrees and snowing, in about two weeks.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itchy scissor fingers, the inevitable sequel

I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to leave well enough alone where my hair was concerned, and sure enough, I cut it one more time last week. Everything is fine, but if you ever decide to try this, heed my cautionary tale…

So I was happy with the cut in general, but I wanted to take some of the overall length off. That’s a bit harder to do yourself than layers, so I studied up as much as I could (this was the most helpful tutorial) and decided I would start with a tiny bit and, if all went well, gradually cut it to chin length.

The scary part—the part to heed, so to speak—was that I ended up cutting it chin length on the first attempt without even remotely meaning to. Fortunately, everything looks even, so I didn’t have to take off more length to straighten it out. Thank goodness I was at least trying to start small.

I guess I’ve got to show you the evidence now, so here it is, with the disclaimer that it air-dried this way and I didn’t even get up from my chair to brush it first:

Lessons learned:
  1. If your hair is on the long side, and/or curly and therefore forgiving of imprecision, this is not that hard or that big of a deal at all.
  2. Cutting your own hair is way more fun than going to a hairdresser, even though I really like my (former) hairdresser.
  3. The Internet can teach you how to do pretty much anything. This is like the ninetieth amazing, life-improving thing it has taught me.
  4. JUST BE CAREFUL HOW MUCH YOU CUT. Even after hearing this advice repeatedly and trying to be super-careful, I still took off more length than I was intending to, twice.
The end.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An update for the sake of an update

I think I’m seeing some work light at the end of the work tunnel, but even so it’s still been really challenging for me to blog lately because most of my waking thoughts are consumed with an experiment I’m not ready to tell you about. Sorry to be so mysterious, but it’s the truth.

(Now I’m wondering if my sleeping thoughts are consumed with The Mystery Topic as well, but actually the last dream I remember having was some sort of play that was being narrated by the robotic voice of the text-reading program that I’ve been using to help me copy edit for up to 14 hours a day. I don’t need that one analyzed; clearly I’ve been working too hard.)

Hmm, what else? I’ve been running pretty frequently, but only for very short distances and only (after warming up) very fast. In fact, I’ve been trying Tabata-style intervals of 20 seconds all out and 10 seconds rest, repeated eight times. That’s four minutes of hell, in case you’ve never tried it, and I’m still working up to eight whole intervals for 20 whole seconds with that little rest. But it’s a quick workout and supposed to be very effective, even if it does attract some strange looks and funny comments on the bike trail. (Yesterday, an elderly man said, “Well, look at you go!” as I pounded by.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

A most excellent break

This long blog silence has been brought to you by Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, and Bashful. I don’t know if I need to translate that sentence, but in case you didn’t know, it’s my special code for A WHOLE LOT OF WORK.

In the middle of all that work, though, my sister invited Mik and me (Dex had to work and M.H. doesn’t do boats) to go boating with with them at Yellowtail Reservoir. I should have said no and read 150 pages of Dopey’s new book, which I am desperately behind on, but instead I said yes and it was exactly what my life needed.

The best part was that while we were hanging out swimming in this little cove, a young bear wandered down the canyon. I slipped into the water to swim over for a closer look, and then the bear jumped into the water and started swimming, too! I stayed well away—although even with a semi-bum shoulder I think I could have outswum its little bear-paddling self pretty easily—but got to watch it swim and wander around for quite a while at fairly close range.

Speaking of swimming and bum shoulders, I had not been in the water for many weeks, but I found that I can now do freestyle and breaststroke without pain, which is a big improvement. (Backstroke still hurts a little, and butterfly hurts a lot.) But mostly it was just glorious to be swimming around in a lake for fun rather than being slowly poisoned by pool chemicals and the drudgery of “laps.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The gluten fog, and getting back to work

One consequence of the busy swim meet/triathlon weekend is that I totally fell off the Whole30 wagon (M.H. says, “Just call it a Whole20”). The first of my rules started falling by the wayside on Friday, and by Sunday night I had agreed to go out for pizza and ice cream—immediately before falling sound asleep on the couch, which I already told you about.

I hadn’t had gluten in MONTHS, and I could tell it was messing with my brain. I felt like I was in a fog for a day and a half, almost like I was feverish but without the fever. So I’m cleaning up my diet again and trying to get back to all my excellent little rules. I’m already feeling more like myself again, and this morning I cleaned a window well, so PROOF.

I was pretty excited to start getting some work this week from sources other than Sneezy—so long to the midsummer doldrums! Then I got more work and more work and more work, and what can I say? I so long for the midsummer doldrums.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Triathlon day

Here’s a race report for my amazing triathlete wonder-child, but from my perspective:

The alarm went off at 4:50 a.m., which is just a few minutes before the stupid birds start in with their squawking, so I’m kind of used to being awake at that time. By which I mean I was feeling pretty alert and excited to see Mik race. I was also nervous. I had driven the bike course with him on Saturday and had been shocked at the difficulty of it. I tried to stay positive in front of him, but there’s a not-kidding-around four-mile-long hill in there, and he’s just an inexperienced, overconfident kid riding a 30-pound mountain bike that he likes to keep in the same gear all the time.

Mik was nervous, too, but he had several friends there who were swimming on relay teams, so at least there were distractions.

He and the swim team kids put themselves at the front of the pack in the primo position, and I was glad that no one seemed to object. As it turned out, three of them were among the first four out of the water. Mik was fourth so I stopped watching the swim after that:

The first transition went well, but after that it was worry time for me.

But the worry wasn’t too severe, because he was back from the 16-mile ride in about an hour and 10 minutes. WHEW. I was not concerned at all about the run, because I knew he wouldn’t crash or get hit by a car, and he could walk as much as he needed to. But he must not have walked much, because I was surprised at how quickly we saw him again:

Bam! It turned out he was the only one in his 13-14 age group, but he was still delighted with his gold medal, and they announced that he was the youngest person to complete the full race.

He had about five minutes to savor his triumph and talk to his fans and then we drove him to the pool just in time for his first swim meet event of the day. He jumped into the pool and got a best time in the 100 breast, even though he was still wearing his tri shorts. He also had two more pretty decent events, and then he got to go home and play games on the computer.

M.H. and I still had several hours of swim meet volunteering ahead of us. It was brutal.

We got home around 6 and put on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I blinked and it was already up to the troll part. I blinked again and Galadriel was on the screen. I blinked again and Dex was home from his climbing weekend in the mountains to find his entire family sound asleep on two couches. I don’t know what happened after that because I put myself to bed. The end!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Itchy scissor fingers

Cutting my own hair turned out to be a really positive experience. I mean, it was fun, it was empowering, I saved money, and I liked the way it turned out. But even though everything was fine, I wasn’t quite satisfied with looking more or less the same as before. I had watched 4,000 YouTube videos on the subject and become convinced that what I really wanted was more layers around my face and a cute little side bang. 

So I ponytailed it up and cut it again, and this time you can really see the difference:

June 21 (haircut needed)

July 4 (DIY cut #1)
Just now (DIY cut #2)

Surprise! It also turned out fine. So I’m still pretty happy. But also a little concerned. 

Number one, there are, like, a million selfies on my phone now, which is bad enough in itself, but I think I accidentally just uploaded one of them to a photo stream created by swim team parents to share pictures of the kids. The kids swimming. I haven’t figured out how to verify that I did this or to delete it, but I’m afraid the stream is now 1,200 photos of blue pool water with tiny, unidentifiable arms and heads coming out of it…and one of my giant smiling face. 

(If any of those other parents are reading this right now, I would like them to know that I’m not really the self-absorbed selfie-taking type. Which I realize would sound a lot more convincing if I hadn’t just told you about the state of my phone right now and if I weren’t saying it on a blog where I’ve been chronicling hair developments on and off for about nine months.)

Number two, see those cute side bangs? They are borderline—not quite, mind you, but borderline—too short, which means I came perilously close to overdoing it. So while that was super fun and rewarding, I can not do it again for a while. Someone hide the hair scissors. (Note to M.H.: Don’t really. I might need them.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Some of my gear is getting a new home

I have been having fun outfitting Mik for the triathlon. He needs better running shoes? Well, his feet right now are clones of mine, and I have three pairs in my closet, one virtually new. Tri shorts? Here are three styles to choose from! Race belt? Sure! Water bottle cage? Coming right up!

We got the bikes out last night, and I was a little disappointed at first that Mik didn’t want to use my bike for the race (I was in “Use it or lose it” heaven by this point). But I agree that there’s too much weird, new stuff on mine—like the aerobars and the clip-in shoes—and it’s better that he ride safely on his own mountain bike.

But all this got me to thinking about how sad it is that I have all this nice gear lying around gathering dust (or rust). Surely I am not so permanently traumatized by the Ironman bike leg that I will never get on the thing again? So I took off the three-year-old race stickers and inflated the tires. I think I should also swap out the pedals for a regular pair that don’t require the extra step of putting on funny shoes. After that, one never knows what one will do (sometimes even oneself).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 10: In the groove

I’ve been eating and living about as well as I know how for 10 days now, and it’s getting much easier. Some of my rules are feeling automatic, and most of the rest don’t seem overly burdensome.

The big exception is that most days I have to force myself to “clean something” (meaning above and beyond the usual; I’m not living in a barn here). Oh, and I haven’t really been able to make myself to do any meal planning at all. Unless you count “making sure we always have some kind of meat thawed” as meal planning, but that’s not exactly what I had in mind when I made the list. Oh, well.

July was a great time to start all this, because I’m in the midsummer doldrums as far as work goes. In fact, if it weren’t for my new job with Sneezy, I wouldn’t have any work right now. That’s a bit scary, but because of that built-in 16 to 20 hours a week, it’s not nearly as bad as the usual midsummer doldrums panic. And, anyway, Dex is working now, so if we get desperate, we can always fall back on the hilariously tall stack of soggy $1 bills he has accumulated from the car wash in the form of tips.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Got that triathlon problem worked out

Given the state of my running ability, I decided to float the idea of NOT doing the triathlon relay to the kids, to see if they’d be disappointed. Dex looked at me like I was insane and said, “I was only going along with it because everybody else wanted to.” So no real surprise there. I was much more worried about what Mik would say, but he took one beat to consider and then said, “Well, then, I guess I’ll just do the triathlon solo.”

Well, okay! I was a little surprised he wanted to take on the whole thing without much time to prepare, but then I realized that he’s been not only swimming a ton this summer but also doing dry-land training and a fair bit of running. (That plus he’s a healthy 13-year-old boy and can do things adults like me can only dream of.)

Want to know a secret, though? From the way he’s been talking about the race, I’m pretty sure his main motivation is the fact that he told the local TV station last year that he was planning on competing, and he didn’t want to let down all the fans he supposes are planning to hold him to it. When you’re the sweetest thing ever, you DO have lots of fans.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The running news is not so good

So, this “Get serious about running” thing:

I’ve been outside for a short run every other day since June 30. Usually, I run until it feels like my calf can’t really take much more, and then I walk back home. I’ve been gradually increasing my distance, which is good, but I still can’t quite run a full mile before feeling like I’m on the verge of reinjuring myself (I just mapped today’s run, and it was 0.87 miles). Which is not good.

Every time in my life I’ve been in a running mode, I re-realize that it actually feels good and is kind of fun, but right now I’m also frustrated. Every part of me other than my left calf feels capable of doing much more. And now I think the smart thing to do—the “Get serious” thing—would be to scale back again to walking on the treadmill at an incline, at least some of the time, because that weak link is the thing I’ve most urgently got to fix if I have any prayer of doing a race at any speed in just over two weeks.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I cut my own hair

For a few months now I have had the idea that I should just keep my hair fairly long and simple and then learn to cut it myself. (I have a related idea where I get really good at this and, empowered by full control over the length of each and every strand, my hair looks the best it ever has and everyone starts asking me all the time where I get it “done.” So the usual trajectory for the ideas I get.)

Anyway, yesterday, I decided it had reached the point where it needed to be cut and spent half the day Googling “How to cut your own hair.” And then today, after showering, I pulled out the scissors, combed it into a ponytail sticking straight up, and whacked a bunch off in one snip. I think it looks basically the same, but it feels a lot better and the ends aren’t so scraggly:

I know I could do better, photo-wise, but I don’t really feel like getting up and brushing my hair and then finding an attractive background and a better angle and a way to show you the back. You’ll just have to trust me that it turned out fine and was really not that scary.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Guessing game

Of all the rules I made for myself, which one do you think has been the most rewarding so far? You’ll never guess!

There are some that are helpful in the sense that I probably wouldn’t do them at all if I hadn’t made myself a rule: “Stop playing electronic games” and “Take walks,” for example. There are some that are satisfying because they are just so easily checked off the list, like “Make the bed” and “Take a liver pill.” And there are some that are great because they help me feel much better physically, like “Go to bed on time,” “Go to yoga,” and following the Whole30.

But my favorite one is “Eat only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.” (I quickly found that 9 to 5 is a better “eating window” for my schedule; same difference.) This works like some kind of magic. After a slight adjustment period, I don’t get hungry, I feel more energetic in the mornings, and it drastically reduces the amount of food I eat (and therefore have to cook). Plus, as to-dos go, it couldn’t be easier, since I don’t have to actually do anything.

I feel like I’ve raved these same raves before—so maybe it wasn’t so hard to guess my favorite rule, if your memory is better than mine.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day Two: Over the hump for now

Yesterday was Day One of the Whole30-plus-massive-to-do-list plan, and man. That was exhausting. I got through the whole list, but I was starving all morning while I waited for my “eating window” to open, I had to force myself to stand up while working, I made healthy snacks against my will, I had to draaaag myself to yoga, and all the while I was miserable because I couldn’t play 2048 (which just goes to show you: EVIL).

And then at the end of the day, M.H. and I looked at each other and we were like, Are we skinny again yet? Because that was ridiculous.

Today, though, I woke up feeling pretty perky (and not hungry), knocked off 75% of my list before breakfast—including a fairly decent run—and thought of six more daily to-dos I could be doing. They’re not going on the official list, though. I’m not stupid enough to make the mountain higher just because I’m having a good day climbing it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This is definitely going to work

OK, I’m definitely doing that Whole30 with M.H. starting tomorrow. I knew I was all in when I found myself jotting down this list this morning:

Stop playing electronic games (meaning the brain-rotting 2048)
Clean something (meaning stop letting the bathrooms get gross)
Cook something (meaning vegetables and sausage for quick breakfasts, also broth)
Go to bed on time
Eat only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Use standing desk half the day
Plan meals in advance
Read for pleasure/work on M.H.’s book (he’s got a big chunk ready for editing)
Take a liver pill (they are gross and I gave up, but it's time to get rid of them)
Get serious about running
Go to yoga (whenever there’s a suitable class on the schedule)
Take walks
Make the bed
Work on memorizing John (which is my next big scripture goal)

Those, of course, are all the things I would like to start doing every day in ADDITION to eating strictly Paleo for 30 days. Yes, it’s a New Life Plan! My hope is that I can do all this for 30 days, and then some of the good habits will just…stick around for a while.

In the meantime, I’m suddenly overcome with the desire to play one last game of 2048.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I scream, you scream

We ended up with more ice cream in the house last week because—guess what!—my sister-in-law and family made a short trip up here and of course we had to have some on hand to sustain their lives (yes, I’m blaming them again). As of today, the last of it is finished, and I am so sick of being addicted to eating junk again that I’m thinking of joining M.H. for another Whole30 he’s planning to start Monday. A bunch of random, self-imposed discipline sounds like just the thing to get our summer back on the rails.

“Off the rails” sounds so overly dramatic, but I’ve noticed that when I can’t get control of what I eat, I don’t seem to have any control of anything else, either. And I would like to support my spouse, who I have noticed is much happier and pleasanter when he’s not eating grains and stuff.

I went for a short run on Thursday but stopped as soon as I started to feel my calf muscle starting to twinge again. Then it kind of hurt most of the day Friday but feels fine again today, so I guess that was a success of sorts and I should try it again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

OK, last vacation post

Below are the last few pictures I want to share from the Utah portion of our vacation. I should not neglect to mention that the REAL purpose of our trip was to first spend a few days visiting M.H.’s sister and her family in Denver, which was also really fun. I came away with lots of great memories, the rules for a fantastic running-around game you can play on a pool table, and a renewed addiction to ice cream. A bad one.

My sister-in-law is famous for the massive amount of ice cream she keeps in her (normal-sized) freezer. I didn’t count the cartons while I was at their house, so I was hesitant to try to make any estimates here, because, surely, if I said there were about 20, I’d be exaggerating and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. Then my brother-in-law tweeted a picture of all their current ice cream. You can just count them yourself.

After leaving Denver, I think we had ice cream just about every day we were in Utah, and I choose to blame the in-laws.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Equal time for the boy who loves water

I was a little worried about how our trip to Utah’s national parks would be for Mik—at 13, he’s not a fan of “scenery” for its own sake, particularly if a hike is required to get to the scenery.

But, you know, I think he actually enjoyed himself! The landscape is so radically different in the Utah desert from what you see in Montana that it looked alien at times. And we stuck to short and/or impressive hikes (and tried to avoid the extreme heat in the middle of the day). For example, this view required a bit longer walk—and the braving of a thunderstorm on the way out, which was not a thrill for him—but c’mon:

The icing on the cake was the last day and our hike of The Narrows in Zion National Park. It’s through a deep, narrow (spectacular) canyon cut by a small river, and the canyon is SO narrow that probably about half the time you’re hiking in the river itself. I don’t have any pictures of this one, because I was not about to sacrifice my phone or camera to the river—which was a good call, actually, because before it was all over I fell in twice and got wet up to my shoulders.

We hiked about five miles total, but it took half the day because of the difficulty of wading. But wow. We all LOVED it. Unanimously our favorite hike ever, and I think Mik had more fun than anyone. You should have seen him prance up the river…come up laughing when he got dunked…POINT OUT the views to us. Someday (someday soon before I get old) I would really like to hike the full canyon, which is 16 miles top to bottom—maybe with an inner tube so I could just coast over the parts that gave me the most trouble.

Anyway, here’s Mik on our trip, with all the evidence you need that fun was had:

Friday, June 20, 2014

The boy who loves rocks

I was fine (even happy) with the “Dex has a job” concept, but for some reason I’m struggling today with “Dex is at work.” Dex…is at work? DEX is at work. DEX is AT WORK. Huh.

Maybe it’s just because neither M.H. or I have outside workplaces anymore, and so it’s been eight years since anyone in this family has “gone to work”—or maybe it’s because in some part of my head he’s about 6.

Either way, let’s commemorate the occasion with some pictures of him from our trip:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The rush to recreate

I think this is like the third or fourth year in a row that we started our summer traveling at the very moment the boys were released from school. I don’t know if we’re just overenthusiastic or what, but I keep forgetting that that’s not really a good idea. Kids tend to want to have parties and things to celebrate—and ours have missed a ton of those because we’re always too busy shoving them and all their belongings in the car 15 seconds after the last bell rings.

I remember one year we got out the backpacks to get ready for the first day of school, and they were still full of crap from the previous June — including A LUNCH — because we’d just thrown them in the house and forgotten about them.

Oh, well. I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t make plans, the summer will completely slip away from you before you get the chance to do anything. And now Dex has a JOB (yes, you heard that right, relatives; it’s at a car wash), which might really start throwing a wrench into my yay-let’s-go-hiking plans if I’m not proactive.

So we GOT PROACTIVE and WENT HIKING, darn it. It was awesome:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back from vacation

I’m always a little paranoid about announcing online that I’m going on vacation—you never know if one of your 25 followers is also a burglar who lives near the Billings area and covets your crappy secondhand furniture—but anyway, I’m back! Can’t talk now, Dopey crisis, but there are a whole bunch of anecdotes and photos from the national parks of southern Utah forthcoming.

And, hey, it feels like my calf is really healed this time, so I’m going to try running again after the work disaster subsides.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In pursuit of a non-humiliating run

Urgh. I guess if I’m claiming to be training for a race then I should actually tell you how it’s going.

So I put a run on the schedule yesterday. The plan was to walk five minutes/jog five minutes as a warm-up, then run at a steady, easy pace for 10 minutes. I walked my five minutes and then jogged exactly three steps before realizing that my left calf was having none of it. I didn't reinjure it or anything; it’s just not healed yet. And it also hates me.

But it still doesn't hurt to walk at an incline, so that’s what I’ve been continuing to do. So boring. So sweaty. So—and just prepare yourself right now for the very definition of First World whining—painful because there is a blister on my pinky toe. I keep reminding myself that I’m doing this so I don’t let my awesome teammates down. (Think of the children!) It would also be nice to have a non-humiliating run for my own sake, though. But because of all my injuries and lack of commitment to a good diet—I think I’ll leave the details to your imagination—this race is coinciding with a huge trough of out-of-shapeness. Even when I was 40 pounds heavier, at least I could run for 30 minutes straight.

I’m going to assume this is the low point of my eight-week training adventure and buck up now.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Injury report

I completed my first week of training for my 5K—three total workouts of walking steeply uphill for 20 minutes. My calf and hip feel fine again. I think I’ll do one more walking-only workout tomorrow just to be extra cautious, and then I’ll try to run some. AFTER warming up really well. The walking sounds kind of lame, but it really is hard enough to count as real training, based on my heart rate and perceived exertion.

See me throwing the fancy training terms about!

I am also very happy that my shoulder is significantly better. I can stretch my arm overhead now in ways that were causing me huge pain a month ago, but I occasionally still find arm positions (usually in yoga, or while trying to sleep) that hurt. It also snaps and crackles in all sorts of exciting new ways. And it is so weak. It wasn’t that long ago I could do between 10 and 20 (I forget) push-ups with my feet elevated on a stair. Now I can’t do a single regular push-up, and it’s darned hard to even do one from my knees. But I don’t think I’m going to put too much effort into that until I’m fully healed.

I guess I’m glad I’ve already been to physical therapy for all these injuries at one time or another—I actually know what to do to fix them on my own. Can’t really say whether vitamin D is also helping, but it’s nice to have an excuse to get outside and just bask in it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Officially in training

OK, I looked at a calendar, and I have exactly 7½ weeks until the triathlon. On the upside, that should be enough time to train myself into respectable shape for it. On the downside, it means nothing else can go wrong, because there’s not a lot of cushion in that time frame.

I realized that what I need to be doing while my calf is still a bit twitchy (it’s healing, though) is to train on a treadmill, walking only, but at a huge incline so that I can get my heart rate up. I did that for 20 minutes last night after yoga. It was hard, my heart rate went way up, and I got all sweaty! And I thought, wait, getting all sweaty is a notable event now? How long has it been since I actually worked out hard?  Huh.

The next seven weeks could be interesting.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Something to try

I just Googled “easily injured muscles vitamin deficiency”—and by the way, I can hear my kids saying “Oh, Mom, that’s your answer to everything now, isn’t it?” And the answer is yes. Sue me.

But the first thing that popped up is a study correlating muscle injuries with vitamin D deficiency. And it has been a LONG dark winter, and I haven’t been that great lately about taking (or passing out like they are candy) vitamin D pills. So I’m hoping that explains why my calf would pop after less than half a mile of easy running—and now I hear my husband and parents saying, “Or it could just be that you’re OLD.” Yes, I am also old. But I would like to be a healthy old person who can run around doing what she wants without fear of crippling injury.

And I would also like to be able to run this triathlon relay 5K (a) at all, and (b) fast enough that I don’t let my kids down. Because I have a feeling their legs of the race are going to be fast. Like, we’re going to be in the top 10 percent of the field when the baton gets passed to me, and it would be nice if I didn’t get passed by 300 people on my way to the finish line.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Doing the wrong right thing

It has been a while since I have blogged, but I had a very good reason: I have a New Life Plan wherein I always do the things I know I should be doing (instead of the fun, easy, lazy things that keep me from achieving my full potential), and I’ve been so swamped with work that meeting my deadlines, going to yoga once in a while, and paying attention to my loved ones were the only things I have had any business doing.

That philosophy served me pretty well last week, since I logged a ton of hours and met two huge deadlines. Then last night I decided that having fun with my family was what I needed to be doing, so I proposed that we go out to a late dinner, a later movie, and then stay up to try to see the meteor shower. Our older teen already had older-teen plans, but we took Mik out for pizza, Godzilla, and kind of a dud of a meteor shower.

(Oh, Godzilla? Soooo awful, but slightly fun, too. And some very drunk guy walked into the nearly-empty theater, chose a seat almost right next to me, and proceeded to make loud comments in my general direction throughout the previews and the first few minutes of the movie, before falling soundly asleep. He was still unconscious when we left.)

This morning I slept in as long as I could, cleaned up the mess that had formed in the wake of my work crisis, and then went out for a short run—since the kids and I have this plan to do a relay triathlon in a matter of weeks (July 20) and I am expected to do the 5K. Except a muscle in my calf went twang while I was running, and the hip pain that had been kind of dormant flared up again. I dutifully iced them both (because that is the right thing to do)—but I have to say that perhaps, in retrospect, running was not the right thing to do after being up until 2 a.m. the night before.

In my head I am a stud distance runner who can handle a 5K on next to no training, but this isn’t going to work if I get injured every time I step out the door.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The only plastics waste home

Last year I read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. It was interesting enough that I blogged about it, but I really didn’t like it a whole lot overall. I gave it three stars on Goodreads and wrote this:
I definitely admire a woman on a mission. And it's always nice to read a missive by someone with even more crazy-out-there ideas than my own. … But I had problems with maybe half of her suggestions. And of the half that didn't frustrate or annoy me in some way, I can see myself actually implementing maybe half of those. …
The things is, my subconscious has been chewing on that darn book for the past seven months. We bought a composter recently — and, yes, I know that buying a big plastic composter as opposed to making one out of twine and discarded planks sort of defeats the purpose, but M.H. refused to have one of those, so stick with me here. With all the organic waste now removed from the trash, and all the recyclables already pulled out as usual, it became really easy to see what our trash problem is. Plastic containers, plastic wrappers, plastic mesh thingies, plastic-coated floss, plastic bags, plastic bags, and more plastic bags — that’s basically all the can has in it right now.

Well, Zero Waste Home had like a million ideas for getting rid of plastics! Most of them involved buying stuff that wasn’t packaged in it (** cough COSTCO **), but it’s nearly farmer’s market season, and I think I’m ready to make more of an effort.

My suggestion is that you read the book, get annoyed for a while, and then see what happens.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Planning ahead

I felt well enough today to go for a short walk and then work outside in the yard for a while. I am hereby vowing right now to get outside more often this summer. This was the one just a handful of few nice days we’ve had all year so far, but there are lots more coming, and I need to remember that they are fleeting. And what I mean by “fleeting” is “it’s really great to live in Montana if you can conveniently forget all about a little thing called NOVEMBER THROUGH MARCH.”

We actually did a good job getting ourselves out of the house last summer. We went to the mountains several times and had many swim meets and climbing trips. Oh, and we went to Hawaii! I made a photo collage of our summer 2013 fun and put it in my office to remind me of what the warm season should be like and that one has to be proactive to make it happen. I have an identical collage frame that I’m hoping to fill with lots of photogenic summer 2014 excitement. I guess after that we’re screwed.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The bright side of being sick

I took “nothing is quite clicking for me lately” to the next level recently by getting really sick. I mean, I’m happy that I can still breathe and eat and all—it’s not one of the more horrible kinds of sickness—but for four days I have been alternating between shivering under layers of clothing with a space heater blowing at my face and waking up in puddles of sweat with a fever of (not actually measured) a million degrees. The pain in my throat suggests that I might have some sort of minor infection there.

Don’t feel too sorry for me (not that anybody WOULD, as often as I have bragged obnoxiously about never getting sick): M.H. was mostly spared from the disease and has been doing most of the hard work of cooking and cleaning and generally taking care of everything. I have been doing most of the easy work of sitting at my desk pushing buttons and then going to lie down for a while and then pushing the buttons some more.

The whole family got this to some degree, but here is that bright side: The disease fostered several we’re-all-in-the-same-boat-and-can-relate-to-one-another-and-work-together-as-a-team-to-get-through-this kind of moments, which was nice. And we learned that we’ve got our cooking routines so ingrained that we can keep ourselves pretty darn well fed, even while operating at about 28 percent of our normal combined stamina. I was kind of fascinated by the realization that we never even considered just ordering something in or going out to eat. When you refuse to eat gluten, your restaurant options become so limited—and everything is so annoying—that you’d rather just make orange chicken at home. For real.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Toothpaste is a lie? Or at least so far, so good?

I’ve been taking a few baby steps toward more natural living, but nothing high stakes—I mean, if your shampoo experimentation goes terribly wrong, what's the worst that can happen? A bad hair day? Hey, if you’re lucky, you won’t even notice because your all-natural cleaning products left the bathroom mirror all streaky. (Just kidding: All-natural cleaning products are AWESOME.)

I have to admit, though: Oral care is scarier territory. It really didn’t seem so when I bought a bunch of natural toothpaste back in December, but when the time for my six-month checkup rolled around, I started getting nervous and imagining worst-case scenarios:


Imaginary hygienist: “The staining on your teeth is much worse than before. Have you been doing anything differently?”
Imaginary me: “I still brush and floss daily, but now I brush with dirt.”
Imaginary hygienist: “What? Why?”
Imaginary me: “Um, foaming agents, fluoride, remineralizing, glycerin, something, something?”


Imaginary dentist: “You have six new cavities and your gum line is receding. Have you been flossing regularly?”
Imaginary me: “Yes, and also brushing my teeth with dirt.”
Imaginary dentist: “What? Why?”
Imaginary me: “I DO know it was something to do with my health.”


To avoid the shame of the above scenarios, I figured I could play dumb and pretend not to know the ingredients of the natural toothpaste (Redmond clay, salt, and essential oils), but could I get away with pretending to not know the name of it (“Earthpaste”)?

I was nervous through the whole visit. Did I detect more scraping than usual? Was the exam taking a little longer? But the stress was for nothing. I had the normal amount of staining from drinking so much tea, my X-rays looked great, my gum line (and I QUOTE) “looks fantastic,” and everything was fine.

Thanks … [looks around, lowers voice] … “Earthpaste.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gray April

I should probably take steps to get rid of the spam comments on my blog, but sometimes I kind of like them. For example:
Thanks designed for sharing such a fastidious opinion
paragraph is pleasant, thats why i have read it fully
Cute, right?

It reminded me that it’s been awhile since I actually wrote a pleasant paragraph—because nothing is quite clicking for me lately. Just to throw out a couple of examples: I’m eating really healthfully and feeling OK but not fantastic (which is frustrating because I’m eating enough vegetables to warrant fantastic); I’m easing back into exercising but just getting sore and injured (my hip hurts like I did when I was training for the Ironman, yet I haven’t even run a mile straight yet); and I’m working like a maniac but am told I haven’t made any more money than I did last year at this time (HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?).

I’m not sure what might be missing from my life, but my prime suspect is sunlight. If it ever becomes available, I will be sure to leave this cave and go get some.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Swearing off the White Death

I have not written about sugar since my last rant, because not being able to “do” moderation is a really aggravating topic for me. But I think I’m ready now, or maybe it’s just that the last of it is out of my system.

So immediately after I posted about swearing off sugar, M.H. walked into my office and asked if he could take any of the Valentine’s Day candy off my hands. (His exact words were, “Have any grenades I could fall on for you?”) Not because he had already read the post, but because he was experiencing a Category IV sugar disaster and didn’t have any candy of his own.

I thrust the heart-shaped box at him and asked him to get it out of my life forever. Then I tried to figure out a very, very, very strict rule that I could still live with but would keep me from ever again getting so far gone. What I came up with was that I can eat small amounts of honey or 100% maple syrup in things I make at home—but no other sugar. That means that if I’m really craving something sweet I can have it, but I have to make it first, which is a pretty big obstacle.

I don’t know if it will work forever, but it’s working so far.