Thursday, December 31, 2015

Also, now I spell it “GRATE”

I just finished my “GREAT resolutions for January” and scheduled it to post at 12:01 tomorrow morning. I changed up the GREAT acronym for 2016. I turned “Theme” into “Task,” which is a much better name than “Errand” for what I’ve been doing, and I turned “Errand” into “Exercise,” since my plans always involve some sort of exercise anyway. “Theme,” one of my original ideas, is being dropped, but “Affirmation” really covers the same type of ground, only better—and besides, I have a theme for the year, so I don’t need a theme for each month.

Are you keeping up with me here? I might be way too excited about this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A New Year’s theme

I’ve thought before about doing the Gretchen Rubin thing and adopting a one-word theme for the year, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually done it. (At least not successfully or memorably.) But I came up with a good one for 2016, and I think I’ll try to incorporate it into each month’s resolutions—ready?


I like this theme because it has multiple meanings I can play with, but the most basic, fundamental, and obvious one is to simply get in more daily walking. Since it’s winter, and Montana, I’ve been “practicing” for a few days to see how horrible it is to go to the gym to walk on the treadmill. It’s a little horrible, actually, but I think I can probably cope until spring, especially since I have so many great podcasts lined up on my phone—namely, all the ones I let pile up while I plowed through 700 episodes of Selected Shorts this month.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Looking back

I decided to look over my GREAT (goal, rule, errand, affirmation, theme) resolutions for 2015 to see how many of them I actually kept and whether I was still keeping any of them by accident. The answer to the first question is “a lot, but not as many as you would hope,” and the answer to the second question is “I WELCOME THE CHANGING OF THE SEASONS.”

Interestingly—since it got thrown into the mix only because I couldn’t think of anything better that started with E—my monthly errands ended up being some of the most satisfying things I did all year. It was good to knock things off the to-do list way in the back of my mind—“I should really get a passport someday,” “I should really take care of that box of junk someday,” “I should really print those pictures someday.”

The obvious but unexpectedly nice thing about an errand is that once it’s done, it stays done—unlike, say, “be able to do 10 push-ups.” I could do 10 push-ups on February 28, but I can’t do any now, so what was the point? (Especially since that goal turned out to be especially bad for my shoulder.) By contrast, I enjoy my purged and organized kitchen on a daily basis.

Just some more food for 2016 thought.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A worksheet for 2016

Here’s my big, sweeping, overarching plan for how to have a healthier, more productive, more joy-filled life in 2016:
  • Stick to a diet that helps me lose fat—for sure going back on AltShift as of Jan. 1
  • Exercise in a way that makes me happy and strong—walking, yoga, lifting weights, shoulder rehab, spend less time sitting, getting outside
  • Minimize digital distractions and maximize human interactions (or actually optimize human interactions, since actually maximizing them would probably make me miserable)
  • Work efficiently and with focus, to preserve my free time
  • Go back to memorizing scripture—maybe try again on the book of John?
  • Keep the house the way I want it—cleaner and cozier, get rid of the rest of the junk, more cooking and family meals
And here’s what I’ve learned about resolutions, at least for myself:
  • They will work for a while, but there’s a huge danger that I’ll get bored with them.
  • If I can do those first two things on the list (diet and exercise), I’ll feel much better and have a much better chance of being able to stick to the rest of my plan.
  • My monthly GREAT resolutions need to tie directly to one of these overarching goals that I really want to do, because my attention span isn’t long enough to stick to something that I only sort of want to do.
  • I need some self-control to get started, but what I really need to keep going is inspiration. So I need to remember to actively seek out inspiration.
I expect that lots of random bold words will help, too. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The proper response to one of my ideas

M.H.’s parents are coming over on Christmas Eve, and I had the bright idea that each member of the family should contribute a dessert—from conception through execution. Here’s how everyone reacted:
  • M.H.: “I don’t even know what a baked Alaska is, but that’s what I’m going to make!”
  • Mik: *Still blinking in disbelief three days later*
  • Dex: *Beginnings of a giant eye roll until…*
  • Dex’s girlfriend: “Oooooh! I’ll help. Okay, Dex, we got this. This is going to be so great! My mom has a million vegan dessert cookbooks! I have a Pinterest account! We are going to knock this out of the park! I know it’s not a contest, but we are going to win!”
It’s really nice, now and then, to have another female person around to back me up, is what I’m saying.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A bit of raving

Just checking in to say that the mid-December…itis has kicked in and all bets are off as far as keeping resolutions or doing things that are healthy. This does not upset me. I am having SO MUCH FUN blowing off work and blowing off the gym and visiting relatives and buying stuff and seeing blockbuster films and eating in restaurants and eating candy and just generally rockin’ around the Christmas tree that I really don’t much care what the consequences are.

The inexplicable flip side is that I am equally excited than January 1 is coming—because for some reason I can’t wait to make ALL THE RESOLUTIONS, and instead of being realistic I’m just letting my imagination run freely because it will be a new year and theoretically anything is possible. NO ONE ACTUALLY KNOWS WHAT KIND OF PERSON I WILL BE IN 2016.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In which I just can’t even with this podcast

I resolved to listen through my backlog of Selected Shorts podcasts this month because I thought it would be good for me to listen to something literary, and perhaps to get in touch with modern short fiction.

But I’ve run into a snag because apparently I can’t stand modern short fiction. The piece I just finished was a horror story where the villain is potatoes. I recently heard one where people can’t find their way home at night and then cease to exist because the moon has disappeared. There was a Jane Austen novel told in tweets. A history of how the United States was turned into an indoor mall by putting a dome over it. A woman who has an extramarital affair with her couch. A speech that’s just a list of funny phrases. A complaint about the packaging on a bag of frozen peas. A complaint about babies who aren’t pulling their weight in the work force. A dinner party where everybody is named Ava, Idi, or Ona.

Am I forgetting some? Yes, I am forgetting some. They are best forgotten.

I mean, I guess another way to clear out my backlog is to unsubscribe and delete, but it’s a shame, because I remember loving Selected Shorts when I was listening to it on my commute in the early 2000s. When did it get so outlandish?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Conversation this morning

M.H.: Look, the sun came up. Shouldn’t you be standing in a sunbeam or something? Isn’t that your New Life Plan?
Me: No, my New Life Plan is to be a ray of sunshine to the people around me.
M.H.: [bursts out laughing] Well, that’s what you’ll tell people on your blog, but I know the truth.
Now, I think my beloved was commenting on my penchant for sunny windows more than my capacity to bring joy to others, so maybe that wasn’t as harsh as it sounds. Still, now I want to get out into the world and prove him wrong.

I think I’m already a pretty nice person, but just for this month I want to try being one of those people whose niceness blows you away just a little bit. And to somehow do that in a way that’s ME and not fake. Pondering…

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading my vegetables

I wanted to explain my strange-sounding goal of listening through my backlog of 22(!) episodes—and the number grows every week—of Selected Shorts podcasts.

I’m hoping this will kill lots of birds with one stone.

First, my phone is getting choked with podcasts I want to hear but have not made time for. So there’s that straightforward bird.

Second, I’ve noticed that when I’m listening to a podcast, I’m usually doing something else productive, like cleaning a bathroom or walking on a treadmill. And I could use a lot more walking and clean bathrooms in my life.

But the final bird is that I’ve been in a terrible reading slump lately. I’ve started several books but can’t seem to find anything I enjoy, and I’ve been so busy that I’m barely making the effort. I think Selected Shorts might be just what I need to jump-start my reading, and it’s always good and enriching—the healthy vegetable of podcasts.

Which probably, come to think of it, is why I have a 22-week backlog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

GREAT resolutions for December

Can I get a WOO-HOO for giant work project number two being done? Or just a WHEW? Wait, I have it:


I’m actually relieved that I saved giant work project number three for December—because, (a), it would have killed me to get it done any sooner and, (b), it gives me something to work on for the next few weeks, which might otherwise be a little quiet. (And we all know what a quiet, uneventful month December can be, the voice in her head sighed in disbelief.)

Anyway, I’m feeling chipper today, but hopefully not so chipper that I’ve set a bunch of unrealistic resolutions for the month. Here they are:
  • Goal: Listen through the backlog of Selected Shorts podcasts on my phone. 
  • Rule: Do something healthy for my shoulder (stretching, strengthening, other rehab?) every day.
  • Errand: Print/frame/deliver all the photos I need to deal with (mostly Dex’s senior pictures).
  • Affirmation: Enjoy the process.
  • Theme: Ray of sunshine!
More about these some other time.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Exercise frustrations

I’m not sure what my December resolutions are going to be, but I do know one thing: They are going to involve getting up from this desk. I feel like a slug—a slug with neck pain and eye strain—but I will be free from this giant, life-consuming project after Monday. And December (which conveniently starts Tuesday) is looking like my most reasonable work month in a long time.

That means I will have time to go to the gym and do…something. Lately I’ve been wishing I could swim, but as it’s literally the worst thing I could do for my impinged shoulder, I’ll wait.

I finished the eight weeks of ibuprofen and rest but, disappointingly, my shoulder’s not really that much better than before. I did some fresh Googling and found several rehab exercises to try, so the new plan is to be diligent about those, and to take ibuprofen afterward to keep the inflammation down. But I’m sick of taking eight pills a day, so that’s enough of that. Plus, everyone on earth has told me that I’m risking giving myself an ulcer, and I’d like to stop before they are proved right.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November update

I just now finished one of my major work projects—the most unpleasant one, yay—so I feel like it’s time for a teensy break before I jump back into it. AFTER ALL, IT IS SUNDAY. I have been working seven days a week since the 9th with no end in sight, so my theme of getting my life back together is not actually going as well as I had hoped.

Agreeing to the Unpleasant Project at all might have been an error in judgment—I suspected I wouldn’t enjoy it, and I knew it would be during a busy time. But I was sorta kinda hoping for less unpleasant work in the future from this new client, so maybe it was an okay decision for the long run.

So much for my goal (shot) and theme (shot). I am sticking with my rule of drinking as much water as tea, but nothing major has happened as a result—in other words, I still have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. But I might give this experiment a few more months, because I have a vague sense of being more hydrated on less liquid. I wake up less thirsty, at any rate.

My affirmation (“I welcome the changing of the seasons!”) is a win. We got our first snow here in town—hooray for that not occurring until mid-November, by the way—and I found myself appreciating its beauty rather than just thinking about how I was going to slip and die on the sidewalk. Then when I nearly did slip and die, I was able to say, “I welcome the changing of the seasons!” which at least is funny. At least to me.

Finally, I managed to sell a few more things on the Facebook rummage site, so I’ll call my errand a win, too. It’s always so exciting when people come to your house, carry off your unwanted items, and hand you cash.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Better-late-than-never resolutions for November

I completely failed to set any official GREAT resolutions this month, but I realized that I do have some in the back of my mind that I’ve been operating under, so here they are:
  • Goal: Finish three major work projects
  • Rule: One glass of water for every mug of tea
  • Errand: Sell some more stuff
  • Affirmation: “I welcome the changing of the seasons”
  • Theme: Get my life back together
October’s work project completely disrupted my life, so my theme/goal for November is to get an equivalent amount of work done without falling to pieces. I know it can be done!

The affirmation started as a bit of a joke, but I have been saying it out loud anytime I get hit with a blast of cold air, and it almost, kind of, a little bit, is working. I DO welcome the coming holidays, and as we drove across the state last weekend for a swim meet, I DID welcome the gorgeous, snow-dusted scenery. (And since I am going to have to be inside for most of the month working, I welcome using crappy weather as an excuse.)

As far as drinking more water and less tea, I have been extremely frustrated lately that I have to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night—always once, and sometimes twice. I started Googling to see if there was anything I could do, and I learned that it’s related to a drop in something called “anti-diuretic hormone” as you age. I figured maybe I could help my presumably waning anti-diuretic hormone level by reducing my consumption of diuretics during the day, but I don’t know if it’s really helping so far.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Skipping Halloween

I’m on the cusp of being done with the massive, life-dominating project I’ve been working on for three weeks, and if you can’t believe I didn’t even bother to pop over to the blog to make up some emergency, last-minute monthly GREAT goals—well, I can’t believe it either. But it was bad this time, I’m telling you. It was so bad, in fact, that WE SKIPPED HALLOWEEN.

In general I’m ambivalent about Halloween, but we’ve had some really fun ones. And I do like answering the doorbell and seeing the costumes. And I feel like it’s just part of the social contract: You give out candy because people gave out candy to you when you were 7, and that is THE WAY IT WORKS.

I figured one grumpy year wasn’t the end of the world, though, so we bought no candy and kept the porch light off. But then something awful happened: M.H. came home right around dusk with a TON of groceries and firm plans to cook some of them, which meant being in the kitchen, which meant being visible from the front door. When having the porch light off didn’t keep the kids from ringing our doorbell, I turned off the kitchen lights, closed the blinds, and taped pieces of paper over the small windows by the door. THAT didn’t stop them either. Of course, I had absolutely nothing in the house I could conceivably give a rogue trick-or-treater. So I frantically helped cook vegetables and put away a month’s worth of groceries, plagued by guilt and remorse, in the dark, while occasionally diving behind the kitchen island to hide from sugar-crazed children peeping through the cracks in the papers.

Mental note: A bowl of candy and a sign is the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM REQUIREMENT for Halloween.

On the plus side, having no candy in the house meant it was easy to stick to the AltShift diet, which is a good thing, because I’m very happy with how it’s going. At our last measure, I had lost four inches off my waist, and I’m not really interested in a fun-sized-Snickers-induced reversal of all that progress.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The freaking out before the storm

You know that advice to cook a bunch of meals and freeze them before you have a baby so that later you won’t have to cook so much? That was what I did today, only instead of a bunch of meals I made two casseroles, instead of freezing them I put them in the fridge, and instead of having a baby I’m preparing for a book deadline.

See, Happy is making me a bit frantic because there’s a giant, ominous deadline looming, and instead of sending me book chapters, he’s off frolicking somewhere. As soon as he does resume sending me things to work on, it’s going to be crunch time in a big way.

Now I’m off to think of more things it would be useful to have done before I get perma-chained to my desk…

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Toward a more functional kitchen

The big task of the month was to Kon-Mari the kitchen, which—spoiler alert—was a ton of work.

Step one is to take everything out and put it in a big, ugly pile:

In case you are considering trying this, step one is very important. It’s the step that makes you go, “What was I thinking? What is all this crap? This is insane,” which is exactly the mindset you’re going to need for the labor ahead. Trust me.

The “official” next step is to start touching every object to separate out the things that bring you joy, but since we’re talking about the kitchen, for crying out loud, we did it a bit differently.

Actual step two was to clean all the crumbs from the empty cabinets and drawers. Steps three and four were to put all the super-obvious throwaway/giveaway stuff in their own piles. Step five was piling up things that we do use, but only once or twice a year, like cake pans (which ended up going in that inconvenient cabinet above the fridge).

Then the real work started. We tried to think through how and where we used everything, which systems were already working pretty well, and what needed to be moved to easier-to-access locations. One of my main goals was to not rely too much on stacking things up—I wanted everything to be easy to get out and easy to put away, and not, say, in a teetering pile of mismatched bowls.

We put back all the easiest, most-used things first, of course. After that, everything easy to categorize (the obviously junk and obviously needed) had been dealt with, and it was time to go through the mushy middle, where the decision-making starts to break your brain. In the end, we solved the problem by putting some stuff in a storage box and taking it to the basement—where I’m sure it will sit untouched until we move and then get donated—but at any rate it’s out of the kitchen now, so I’m content.

End result: The kitchen looks exactly the same as it did before, but it’s a lot more fun to open cabinets.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A partial list of life obstacles

I’m trying hard to stick to my shoulder-healing plan—which is simply rest, stretching, and ibuprofin—but it’s so hard for me to remember to take pills four times a day. Even setting an alarm doesn’t always help; I have, a couple of times, heard the alarm, silenced the alarm, gone downstairs in the direction of the pills, and still forgotten to take them. So I got a second bottle of ibuprofin and brought it upstairs, which helps. But of course I still have to remember to set the alarms.

The point is, being unable to remember to take ibuprofin is a real obstacle to my goals, and I realized that, now that I’ve identified it as an obstacle, it’s something I can take steps toward improving. So I decided to figure out some of my other life obstacles for future tackling:
  • A compulsion to check Facebook, Twitter, etc. all the time at my desk
  • An unreasonable aversion to changing into workout clothes—I just want to get dressed once in the morning and be done with it, so I generally either work out at home in my pajamas or not at all
  • A (semi-warranted) feeling of always being “on call” with one of my clients, which ties me to the house
  • An unreasonable aversion to the tiny amount of fussing required to change back and forth between my sitting and standing monitors—I want a magic button that switches which windows are on which monitor instantly
  • A mental block (or something?) keeping me from continuing to try to sell the pile of junk slowly accumulating in the guest room
I’m sure there are more, but that should give me plenty to work with for now.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A low-carb zucchini “recipe” I made up

I decided to go full-on radical health nut and start buying eggs from a local farmer. Or maybe “farmer” is too strong a word. Anyway, she has lots of chickens (which she referred to as her “girls”) and she sold me 36 eggs and the biggest zucchini I have ever seen in my life for $7. Today M.H. and I Alt-Shifted back to low-carb eating, so I decided to make something appropriate from my farm bounty.

Excellent but Mostly Nonspecific Recipe:

Half an enormous zucchini, grated, salted, sweated, and drained
Six or seven eggs, some of them adorably tiny
A heaping tablespoon or so of minced garlic
A bunch of shakes of Parmesan cheese
A teaspoon of coconut flour
Several shakes of chives
Salt and pepper

I mixed all of the above in a big bowl, cooked four pieces of bacon in two frying pans, removed the bacon, and then cooked half the egg mixture in each pan of bacon grease. I was kind of expecting something like scrambled eggs, but they turned into the most beautiful, golden, delicious patties.

I ate mine with sour cream and the bacon, and next time I might add salsa and/or scallions. They were really good!

So far I’ve tried three recipe candidates for a new meal to add to our rotation (which is my goal for October). The first two were pretty good, but they seemed like too much work to end up as regulars. This one was pretty easy and I loved it and want to keep it forever.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fixing my other shoulder

I was trying to remember just how it happened that one of my shoulders got completely healed, so I checked my blog archives. Turns out it was the shoulder-healing protocol I put myself on back in May, which I had basically forgotten about.

I am torn, because I just got to the point where I can kind of do yoga again, but I think it might be time to do another eight weeks of total rest and Advil. I am so sick of this shoulder bothering me, and it’s almost worse to have one that works properly because it’s a constant reminder of what shoulders are supposed to do.

It might be disastrous to stop yoga again for eight whole weeks, but I think I am mentally strong enough to go to my favorite classes but modify everything so I don’t lift or put weight on that shoulder at all. I also still have the no-shoulders yoga practice my teacher friend wrote for me…

Thursday, October 1, 2015

GREAT resolutions for October

I had a lot of ambitious ideas for the month of October, but when I stopped to think how busy I’m going to be, I decided not to get too crazy. The only major task on the list is to Kon-Mari the kitchen (actually, it turns out the Internet-approved verb is “to Kondo”), which is probably something that was going to happen anyway.

But here’s the October list:
  • Goal: Find a new recipe to add to our regular rotation
  • Rule: Take a few minutes every morning to plan the day
  • Errand: Kon-Mari the kitchen
  • Affirmation: “Warmth comes from within me”
  • Theme: Coziness
I like how the theme of coziness ties everything together in a little bundle of fall-embracing domestic wonder, but I’m especially excited about the rule I came up with. For a while I’ve been bemoaning the fact that, even though I really thrive when I have some sort of regular routine, my erratic job prevents me from ever keeping to a schedule. So, for example, because I can’t commit to getting to the gym every morning at 8, I almost never go.

What I can do, though, is commit to five minutes a day to figure out what kind of exercise I want to do that day—and how to make it work with everything else I need to do. I guess when you can’t have a schedule, the next best thing is a list?

Plus, what a great way to use this notepad I found while cleaning my office last month!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Walking into winter

I added up all my Map My Run walks and determined that, to meet my goal for September, I need to walk eight more miles between now and tomorrow tonight.

I guess I could do that. But I could also prorate the mileage (after subtracting out the four days I was sick and physically incapable of walking) and announce that I am not only done but did a mile extra! Since work is starting to pile up and I feel like I complied with the spirit of the goal, I am leaning toward option 2. But chances are M.H. will see this and make me death-march the last eight miles with him tonight and tomorrow, so who knows.


Speaking of death-marches, winter is coming up, a season that usually starts halfway through fall and ends halfway through spring. I am traditionally not a fan. I don’t have seasonal affective disorder or anything—I’m just not looking forward to six months of dark and cold. And wind. And snow. And ice. And the barren stillness that settles sullenly over the land. And did I mention never, ever seeing the sun?

BUT ANYWAY, I’ve been trying to think of ways I can use my GREAT resolutions for October to do things to prepare—emotionally or physically. I was thinking, for example, of making my errand something that spruces up the house to make it seem brighter and cozier. And for sure I’ll need an affirmation to help me cope (“I welcome the changing of the stupid seasons!”). Any other ideas? I’d love suggestions for a goal, rule, errand, affirmation, or theme.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Four Dances hike

I’m STILL going to have a heck of a time getting to 75 miles of walking this month, but it’s not for lack of trying. Scenes from Saturday’s lovely hike at the Four Dances Recreation Area right outside town:

I was finding it irritating to keep track of miles, so I downloaded the Map My Run iPhone app. You just start “recording” when you start your walk and it tells you your mileage and pace. Works like a charm (as long as you remember to hit “End Workout” before you get back in the car and drive away).

Just 31 miles to go to reach my goal…

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The road to the trail to Glacier Lake

I woke up this morning feeling like I was suffering from allergies, not a cold, and I realized that my problem for the past week was probably that I was suffering from allergies and a cold. Doesn’t seem quite fair, but ANYWAY…

M.H. and I had so much fun hiking last week that we had been wanting to go again while it’s still warm enough. Since the sniffles were down to a manageable level, I decreed myself Well, and off we went.

Our chosen hike was at the end of an 8-mile unpaved road, but the guidebook failed to mention that you really need a high-clearance vehicle (and not a Honda Accord) to make it all the way to the end. This is about where we gave up:

We were in a gorgeous area, though, so we decided to just hike up the road itself. It was a good decision:

Absolutely stunning, and just imagine what I could have captured if we owned a pickup.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Sickness and “The Unhappy Painter”

I am maybe emerging from this cold a bit; it’s so discouraging to feel absolutely rotten after so many weeks of feeling fantastic. For sure my goal of walking 75 miles this month has taken a hit. I’ll have to be diligent about it once I’m convinced that I can walk without falling down—which isn’t going to be today, I’m thinking, but look how I am chipper enough to blog!

There hasn’t been much I’ve been able to focus on the past few days, but I have been going through Mik’s box of ancient memorabilia bit by bit. My favorite discovery so far is a story called “The Unhappy Painter.” It begins:
There was a painter. He was unhappy. His friends were going to move away. I am going to tell you the story.
It turns out the friends were moving because their mother wanted them to live closer to her. After a few misunderstandings and hard feelings at a “grand carnival” they get to the heart of the problem:
[The unhappy painter] finally told them they did not have to move. They looked surprised. They asked him if that was true. So he had to tell them that they were grown up and they did not have to move. And they lived happily ever after.
The end. Did you catch the moral of the story? Once you’re grown up, you no longer have to listen to your well-meaning but overbearing mother! I am dying. (Three more years, Mik, three more years.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


M.H. and I went hiking yesterday and enjoyed a bunch of the so-pretty-they-almost-look-fake views you see here. I was dragging toward the end, though, and I started developing a throat tickle the minute we were off the trail. I spent most of today nursing a miserable sore throat and staring into space.

Glad we got into the mountains at least once this summer, even if it somehow contributed to the whimper-fest that is now my life.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

KonMari’d a kid

We’ve been rolling through our house like an unstoppable KonMari machine, and the most recent victim beneficiary was Mik’s bedroom. He wouldn’t have called it fun to spend three hours with his parents determining which of his possessions spark joy (answer: basically like four of them), but I know he is glad not to be starting his high-school years with a bedroom full of stuffed animals and crayons and seventy-three different sizes of clothes.

(For the record, joy-sparking possessions include T-shirts related to athletic achievements, a Pinewood Derby car shaped like a rubber chicken, a Portal blanket, and every scrap of paper that has anything to do with Science Bowl. We left him a bit more than that, obviously, but it’s nice to know what the essentials are.)

An unfortunate side effect of cleaning Mik’s room is that he wanted to throw out a big box of old stories and drawings, and I didn’t want him to, so now there’s a bunch of kid memorabilia sitting in a pile in my once-clean office INTERRUPTING THE FLOW OF MY PEACE. (This is what you get for not doing things in the proper order—am I right, people who have read this book??)

I’m starting to think it really will be possible to finish the whole house within six months, which is awesome considering that the KonMari promise is that once you experience that single moment of whole-house tidiness nirvana, you will never have to do this again.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

All the happy buzzwords

The secret diet I’ve mentioned a few times has officially been released, so I can call it by its real name now: “AltShift” (by Jason Seib). M.H. and I have been following the AltShift rules for about three weeks, and so far I’m impressed—but not surprised because, as I mentioned, I have nothing but trust and respect for the author. (Still, I’m glad I volunteered to edit this for free because, for some reason I don’t quite understand, I would much rather provide $100 or so worth of pro bono editing work than shell out $25 for an ebook.)

Anyway, we’re AltShifting our little hearts out over here, and KonMari-ing them, too. Or at least a version of KonMari. She suggests that after tackling clothes, you next move on to books, but I don’t think M.H. and I are emotionally prepared for that. Instead, we’re getting rid of other stuff as fast as we can, and I just did a ruthless culling of the junk that was in my office and rearranged some furniture.

I guess it says something about the quality of this diet that both M.H. and I are losing inches AND experiencing a shocking degree of motivation for large projects.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The great closet KonMari-ing

It’s been pure bliss to have only a “normal” amount of work, and so, in my state of freedom, I immediately tackled my massive closet-cleaning project. To follow the KonMari method by the book, you’re supposed to take EVERY item in a category and put it in a huge pile somewhere. Ouch.

But the worst part is handling every single item and deciding what goes and what stays. I was fairly ruthless and ended up with five full garbage bags of clothes to donate. Ouch.

But then came the fun part! I gave some careful consideration to how I wanted to organize what was left and put it all back into my closet, making it as pretty as possible.

I transferred all my neatly folded socks and underwear to shoeboxes (shoeboxes being a KonMari-approved storage solution) and was able to leave my dresser completely empty. Here’s the after:

The pictures really don’t do it justice. My closet is an oasis of peace and pure, radiant joy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

GREAT resolutinos for September

I finished my all-consuming work project last night and now face that weird feeling of “what did I do with my life when I wasn’t working all the time?” Fortunately, it’s September 1, so that gives me an extra incentive to think through some ideas.

(I recently ran across the phrase “September is the new January” in terms of resolutions and fresh starts, and I realized that now, for me, every month is the new January!)

New month’s resolutions:
  • Goal: Walk 75 miles. 
  • Rule: Every day I am working, spend some of that time at the standing desk.
  • Errand: KonMari the crap out of my clothes so I can stop being so jealous of M.H.’s closet. (I’ve been using “KonMari” as a verb lately; sorry.) My closet is large, so maybe I will be able to repurpose some or all of my dresser to store linens or something.
  • Affirmation: This month’s affirmation brought to you by Google Image Search. See above.
  • Theme: Thanksgiving! (Never too early.)
I did well on my August resolutions—five big checkmarks there—but of course they were mostly extremely easy things I was going to do anyway. And, by the way, I may just start spelling the word “resolutinos” since I seem incapable of typing it any other way, and “resolutinos” has a nice ring to it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Couldn’t help it

I have been following the secret diet faithfully for eight days and, although I was planning to wait three weeks before doing this again, I wrapped the tape measure around my waist just now. The measurement is down more than 2 inches! Good gravy*!

That’s probably especially dramatic because of the 10 days in Maui that preceded the taking of the first measurement. But still.

* No actual gravy was consumed on the secret diet.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tomato madness

Today’s distraction from the book I’m editing…

Tomatoes! (And blogging about tomatoes!)

When we got home from our trip, my fancy ananas noir was surrounded by weeds and totally falling over—the cage was sideways. There were bunches of green tomatoes, but they were mostly sitting in the dirt. (The whole thing had been knocked over in a windstorm earlier in the summer and, because I never check on it, I didn’t realize the degree to which everything was growing horizontally.)

As I weeded, though, I got a brainstorm:

I could use bungee cords to hold the cage up and provide vine support! It’s goofy, but at least now it looks like we are growing tomatoes intentionally instead of accidentally.

Also, there was one ripe tomato, which I was really excited to try. I set it down in the grass and then, no surprise whatsoever, in my bungee frenzy, stepped on it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tidying madness

I have a whole update on our Maui trip theoretically coming, but at the moment nothing is interesting me as much as…


I had put a library hold on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” as I mentioned, and when we got back from our trip, it was available. I knew, million-page editing job or no million-page editing job, that I was going to be reading it immediately, so I didn’t even try to delude myself and just started taking little book breaks. After a day, I noticed that there was a second bookmark just behind mine, which meant—yay!—M.H. was also on board for tidypalooza.

Anyway, the book was utterly delightful—if you are the type of person to be amused by the writings of woman who has devoted her entire life to a mad obsession with tidying—and I believe what she says because there’s no way anyone else on earth could speak with such authority on the topic. Of course, I don’t really have time to start any major projects, but I couldn’t resist applying her method to my sock drawer.

Happy socks, arranged light to dark, and rolled, NOT BALLED.
I culled my sock inventory by about half, and there was so much extra room in the drawer that I decided to put my slippers in there to keep them company. I cheated, though, because only about six pairs of those socks really meet the “sparks joy” threshold. (They’re socks, after all.) Maybe the joy comes when you haven’t done laundry in a week and still have socks to wear.

M.H., on the other hand, is all in on tidying, and is starting right now. I’m going to be so jealous of his closet in about an hour.

Friday, July 31, 2015

August’s GREAT resolutions: Special edition

I thought seriously about abandoning the whole monthly resolutions concept for August. I let most of July’s plans slide and, for reasons I will explain in a moment, I really don’t see August being any more conducive to pursuing the quest for self-improvement.

But then I remembered that I get to make the resolutions, and I can make them as easy as I want. So:
  • Goal: Get to at least three yoga classes.
  • Rule: After we get back from Maui, follow the new eating plan to the letter.
  • Errand: Take measurements and “before” pictures that are good enough to potentially share. (But later.) 
  • Affirmation: I have time for what’s important.
  • Theme: Sunshine (reprising this one).
Basically I see August being broken into two stages: the Maui stage and the whatever’s-the-opposite-of-Maui stage. Because the moment we get home from our trip, I begin a mad rush to get Happy’s new 1,000-page book edited, laid out, proofed, indexed, and everything elsed. By August 31. Along with who knows what other work will materialize.

In other words, I’ll be chained to my desk but hoping that the combined influence of my goal, affirmation, and theme will be enough to get me out of the house at least a couple of times before the lovely Montana summer goes away.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The spiral of good intentions

So now of course I have this plan to start a new diet as soon as we get back from Hawaii. I’m planning to follow it to the letter, which will be…not difficult, really, but it will require some thinking and planning and cooking and strategic shopping. Well, fine. I can do that.

The problem, though, is my brain gets hold of the New! Life! Plan! and cannot stop. Before I realized what was happening, I had mentally made plans to also:
  • Write out detailed meal plans as soon as we get back.
  • Start getting up at 5 a.m. twice a week to go to yoga.
  • Lift weights three times a week.
  • Walk every day.
  • Go back to taking vitamins regularly.
  • Sell or give away every unwanted item in the garage, guest room, and basement.
  • Move one of my garden mint plants to an indoor pot and replace it with something less aggressive outside.
  • Resume meditating every day.
  • Start going to bed at 9.
  • Keep track of how long I use my standing desk and continually try to increase my time.
  • Interior decorate!
  • Shake things up by doing a different exercise every now and then, like swimming or rowing or running stairs.
  • Maybe start trying that Miracle Morning thing again, now that I’ve learned more about it.
  • Resume having regular family dinners.
  • Never waste time again as long as I live in any fashion.
I only wish I was kidding. I caught myself before any of this got written down or (God forbid) entered into an Excel spreadsheet.

Are other people like this? And are their life ambitions as shallow and stupid as mine?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The New Life Plan before the New Life Plan

I have a New Life Plan, and you are welcome to tell me it’s stupid. It won’t change my mind, because I already know it’s stupid.

Several weeks ago I volunteered to do some free editing for a writer/blogger whose work and ethics I really respect. He has developed a diet regimen that’s getting some amazing results in his experimental group and was writing a short ebook about it. I wanted to be the editor a) because it’s for a good cause, b) because I was going to read it anyway, and c) because I wanted to be the first one to get to hear what the miracle diet was. Oh, also, d) this is someone I’d like to work for in the future (for pay), and I figured one good way to get in the door was to just invite myself and walk right in.

Anyway, I had told M.H. that I was going to do exactly what the book said, no matter what it was, and now that I’ve read it, I intend to do just that. But I don’t want to start until we get back from Maui. In the meantime, I need to get all the Carb Nite junk food out of the house, and I’m doing that by eating it, in the evenings. (At least that much of the Carb Nite ethic has stuck with me—I absolutely refuse to eat carbs before 2 p.m.)

I know it makes no sense at all to start a diet by sabotaging my diet, but here are the advantages: a) the junk food will be gone, b) the before and after pictures will show a more impressive difference, and c) I won’t be working against my all-or-nothing personality by starting a new thing and then having to decide whether to continue it while on vacation or cheat on it immediately. Oh, also, d) I want to.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Triathlon blog: The next generation

Time for Mik’s annual triathlon race report, the one time a year this blog returns to its origins, if only in the most tangential way imaginable!

Actually, after you hear the tale, you may be inclined to be disappointed in me for falling down on my job as a supposedly experienced triathlon mentor, but please remember that I was never much of a bike person. (Foreshadowing!)

Anyway. Mik was in great shape for this race, despite the fact that he never trained for it, at least specifically. No biking, no running, no open water swimming—but he was swimming in a pool an average of three or four hours a day and doing three hours a week of dryland training. I figured that was plenty, especially since he had finished last year’s race without any tri-specific training.

The swim went really well, obviously. He was one of the first out of the water, had a good transition, and took off on his bike. But when he was about 10 feet out of the transition area, he tried to shift gears and the chain fell off. M.H. went running over and got it fixed for him, and we were all cursing his terrible luck to lose all those precious seconds.

Then he rode out of sight, and we waited, and waited, and waited. I was expecting his bike leg to be faster than last year’s, so I started worrying pretty early on and continued worrying for about half an hour. Had he crashed? Was he lost? Was he walking his bike up the hill?

It turns out that the chain had fallen off again almost immediately, and although he was able to get it back on himself, he was afraid to change gears again after that. So not only was he riding on a mountain bike rather than a racing bike, but it was a FIXED-GEAR mountain bike. He made it through the race in a middle gear, but I’m sure getting up the gigantic hill on the course was a total nightmare.

Finally he arrived in T2, and 29 minutes later, he was done. See?

His time was actually a few seconds faster than the previous year, and he won his age group of one, but his legs were shaking like crazy. I felt bad—not because I could have done anything at all with the bike personally, but just because it would have been smart to have him ride it long enough to discover any mechanical issues beforehand.

A lesson for next year, I guess.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mint mint mint mint mint

Did I say mint was hardy? I’ve since learned that a more accurate term would be “invasive.” I’m devoting an absurd amount of free time this summer to yanking out mint, plucking off the leaves, drying the leaves, putting the leaves in mason jars, and turning the leaves into tea.

The rate of incoming tea is about a thousand times greater than the rate of outgoing tea, but we do have a short growing season. So if I drink nothing but mint tea for the rest of my life, and convince all my friends and family to do the same, I should be good.

Here’s a measure of my mint-related desperation: I needed some insect repellent for an outdoor event, so I used Google to find out whether mint repels insects. Turns out that it does, but I was leaving in 20 minutes. So I microwaved a whole stalk of mint in some water until it boiled, let it cool, and then basically took a sponge bath in it. (There’s a real recipe for mint-based insect repellent here.)

I don’t know if it really worked, but it didn’t not work. I saw mosquitoes but got no bites!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Meditation, part one

So…here are the rules I’m following for meditation—one of my July resolutions:

  1. Set a timer to go off in five minutes.
  2. Sit in a chair with my back straight and my hands in my lap.
  3. Close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
  4. When my mind wanders, don’t worry about it, but gently return my focus to my breathing.

Step 4 is the important one: They say each time you bring your focus back to your breath, that’s like “a biceps curl for your brain.”

A nice image, but what my brain was getting the first week was more like Zumba. I couldn’t go five seconds focusing on my breath. (I knew that I spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, but I hadn’t realized there was a fireworks show going on in there.) And then add to that the struggle over what counts as a “thought.” Obviously I’m allowed to hear a lawnmower in the distance, but if I attach the word “lawnmower” to it in my mind, is that a thought? How about feeling an emotion—say, triumph at focusing on my breathing for two whole breaths—is that a thought? How about thinking about whether the thought I just had counts as a thought? How about mentally blogging the experience while I’m having it? If we had another dog, what would we name it?

Another issue for me is that focusing on my breath makes it difficult to breathe—I can’t figure out what my normal rhythm is supposed to be and end up taking these unnatural, stuttering breaths. They say that’s normal and fine, that it’s a mind exercise, not a breathing exercise. But it’s tempting to stray away from the boring focus on breathing that makes me physically uncomfortable and just enjoy the fireworks.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tidy but pantsless?

I had already thought long and hard about my “Think like a homemaker” theme for July when I started coming across lots of references to this book about “tidying up”. There was this post, for example, and this one. The “tidying up” concept obviously has some appeal to me, and I put a hold on the book at my library. But I’m not sure I’m ready to go all in with this particular method.

Apparently, the process is to look at all your possessions in turn and then keep only the ones that “spark joy.” Here’s the result the guy from the second post had:
The moment I finished my tidying extravaganza, my room looked amazing. A couple friends had also read the book, and we proudly swapped photos of our immaculate closets. The only inconvenience: I no longer owned pants, and that made for an interesting week.
I guess I see the appeal of owning only joy-sparking clothing, but what a huge, stupid waste to get rid of all your functional pants. Listen, buddy, your closet may be pretty, but your fellow planet-dwellers are not exactly lining up to admire it.

Or maybe I’m being too judgmental. After all, this is about what sparks joy for each individual, personally. Maybe I am just unusually enthusiastic about my earth-friendly, pants-owning ways.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

GREAT resolutions for July

Just literally turned the page on a new month, and you know what that means! Time to stop feeling guilty about not writing down 10 ideas every day announce my new month’s resolutions!

Yeah, June’s rule fizzled out badly—I guess in my heart I do not prioritize being “an ideas machine.” But the couple of ideas I did get out of it made me happy, so that’s something. I had also set a goal of selling $100 worth of stuff, but I sold only $70 worth. (That’s partly due to laziness and partly due to no one wanting to buy my stuff.)

It is a little sad when you—when I—when one can’t keep a resolution going for four measly weeks. Frankly, I think five separate things a month is turning out to be a lot to care about all at once, plus I’m juggling all the bonus rules I made myself regarding my shoulder. Maybe this will get easier with practice. Maybe it will get harder with apathy. Who knows!

July’s GREAT resolutions:

  • Goal: Get rid of 100+ pieces of paper from my filing cabinet (or I guess anywhere).
  • Rule: Meditate for five minutes every day.
  • Errand: Just finish up my shoulder rehabilitation program.
  • Affirmation: I am making progress in all areas of my life.
  • Theme: Think like a homemaker.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grumpy shoulder

I’ve just finished week six of the eight-week happy-shoulders protocol, and I am not as happy as I would like to be. I’ve been resting my arms and taking six to eight Advil a day—which I hate doing. But THE INTERNET TOLD ME this is what I needed to do, so I am trying it.

The Internet also said that my shoulders would start feeling better almost right away but not to fall for it: I have to continue the anti-inflammatories for the full eight weeks if I want to actually heal.

Things have gone according to plan with my right shoulder, but my left shoulder—not even the one I originally injured, by the way—hasn’t even reached the “feeling better but don’t be fooled” stage. So I don’t know what to do about that. I’m willing to continue to rest it as long as it takes, but being on Advil for more than two months? Ugh, no.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thinking like a homemaker

I came across an interesting blog post about the term “homemaker,” and I have to say, I like the idea of being a better one. Really M.H. is our home manager, since he’s in charge of the schedule and the shopping and the budget and the laundry and the driving and our overall care and feeding. But his plate is full with all of that (plus writing books), and he doesn’t focus much on making things more homey.

I think that’s where I’m supposed to come in.

The problem is a little bit that I’m already busy, but mostly that I don’t feel like I have much of a knack for homemaking, and I’m really not willing to spend a lot of money on things that might make our home more inviting. For example, you would be hard-pressed to find decorative items around here that aren’t homemade, hand-me-downs, gifts, or straight from a garage sale. (And the ones I did pay real money for mostly fill me with regret.)

But I’m thinking the heart of the issue is more than decorating anyway—I just have to be thoughtful enough to figure out what my kind of homemaking looks like. This would make a good theme for July!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Adventures under the bathroom sink

My errand for the month of June was to clean under the three bathroom sinks and make sure each bathroom was stocked with the appropriate cleaning supplies. The first two were easy, and I took care of them right away. I knew the last one was going to be worse—filled with little bottles of unused products and supplies and science experiments and junk. But I did it! I feel much better about my life, and it really does make it a lot easier to clean bathrooms when you don’t have to hunt all over for the stuff you need.

Good choice for an errand. Five stars. Highly recommend.

My main problem with keeping the amount of “stuff” down in the bathrooms is that we have stopped using a lot of the products that we used to. For example, we’ve swapped out toxic cleaning supplies for homemade or greener ones, but the old ones are still lying around everywhere. I’ve decided to just use them up and be rid of them. As another example (and as I’ve mentioned several dozen times), I have my hair care simplified to the point where I wash it once every week or two with a shampoo bar. I can pawn off my old shampoos on the menfolk, but menfolk don’t use conditioner, apparently. Or facial wash. Or “Oil of Olay.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mint tea from my garden

I was aware that mint is so hardy that it’s basically a weed, but I like the look of it, and the smell, so I planted some in my landscaping anyway. (Also, I think the weed mat under the rocks should constrain it, and I wanted at least one type of plant that I knew I would not kill.)

Anyway, it’s doing really well—the two clumps in the picture aren’t even the half of it—and I decided I’d better find a culinary use for mint ASAP. So yesterday I snipped off several stems, removed the leaves, rinsed them, and dried them in the sun for a few hours. They got nice and crispy, and I brought them inside and ran them through my food processor for a couple of pulses. Mint tea like magic!

The summer mornings are delightfully cool here in Montana, and I am currently enjoying a nice hot cup of my dominion over nature.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A handful of decent ideas

I know I never blog anymore except to give updates on the status of my monthly resolutions, but at least that gives me something to talk about besides hilarious work-related stories that would just get me in trouble. (Bashful and Sneezy have dropped off my roster, but I don’t believe I’ve introduced my two new clients, Loopy and Frantic!)

There, see? I tried to be entertaining for three seconds and already got myself in trouble. Because Loopy and Frantic KNOW WHO THEY ARE.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about this rule of writing down 10 ideas every day. The stated goal of the exercise is to work on your creativity muscle (aka “turn you into an ideas machine”), which would be nice, but there’s another little benefit, too: the ideas themselves. I mean, I don’t know if I’ve had any groundbreaking ones, but there are a few I really like:

  • Ideas for things to knit (6/3): Pillow covers. (Hey, yes! I have so much yarn, and all our throw pillows match a couch we no longer have.)
  • Ideas for new rules (6/5): Clean out my inbox at the end of every day. (I started doing this as soon as I thought of it, and it has changed my life.)
  • Ideas for new rules (6/5): Recycle five pieces of paper from my filing cabinet every day. (This would be ridiculously easy, and it would result in 150 fewer pieces of useless paper by the end of the month.)
  • Ideas for getting rid of old toys (6/6): Make the kids do it. (It’s so obvious now.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

That's better

Just came out of one of those extra-special freelancing periods where you start answering emails in bed, crawl out of bed to your desk, and then don’t leave it until it’s time to crawl back to bed. Except then your phone dings and there you are answering emails in bed again.

I woke up this morning, though, having achieved all my badly timed deadlines, with nothing new on the agenda. This transition from all the work to no work always throws me off. I spent about an hour wandering around my house confused and lost. Then I reminded myself that this always happens, and somehow snapped out of it.

So I set about making up for three days’ worth of  workouts, three days’ worth of bathroom cleaning, three days’ worth of idea-writing, three days’ worth of errand doing, three days’ worth of junk selling…

Also, I went for a walk with M.H., and we literally stopped to smell some roses.

Monday, June 1, 2015

GREAT resolutions for June

Here are my June resolutions:
  • Goal: Sell $100 worth of items online.
  • Rule: Write down 10 ideas (any kind) every day.
  • Errand: Clean out under the bathroom sinks and restock with appropriate supplies.
  • Affirmation: “I start my day with gratitude and end it with contentment.”
  • Theme: Happy shoulders
I think these are all self-explanatory…but how did you like that super-fancy affirmation? I made it up just now, but you have my permission to put it on an inspirational poster if you want.

Actually, that sounds fun. I want to do that, too.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Habits to keep on with

May’s resolutions were a particularly good bunch—seriously, you should try the arm-hang thing and see how long you can do it. I did not meet my goal of 60 seconds, but was able to vastly improve my time to *cough, cough* 17 seconds. That’s still sad, I know. But it’s something I think I’ll keep working on, since I have the pull-up bar right there within view of my desk all day long.

The errands this month were really satisfying to do, and I liked the affirmation a lot. My rule was that I was going to lift weights three days a week, but I actually ended up lifting weights every day as part of my little morning routine. I took a training program that had two long workouts and broke each one up into three parts. Then I cycled through doing those smaller parts. I found that it’s so much easier for me to carve out 10 or 20 minutes every day than to face a 30- to 40-minute workout three times a week.

That’s another habit I’m going to stick with, at least until I get my shoulders healed and go back to using my gym membership again.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

An idea about ideas

I don’t know who this guy is or how I even found this post today, but it gave me a terrific idea for next month’s rule. For 10 seconds I congratulated myself on being sooo proactive, but then I realized that May is basically over (ALREADY?) and it’s probably past time to give some thought to next month’s resolutions.

I already have the Eight-Week Shoulder Healing Extravaganza going on, but even though that involves a lot of rules, they’re not official rules (for GREAT purposes) in my mind. Maybe so I don’t try to take on too much new stuff in June, though, I’ll lump that whole thing under the category of “Happy shoulders” and call it my theme. I don’t know if my shoulders feel happy yet. (They have been doing a lot of new popping and crackling lately, but since I have no idea what that signifies, I’m choosing to believe it’s the sound of progress.)

Speaking of themes, my “Miracle Mornings” in May kind of sucked. The morning routine I seem to have settled on is checking Facebook and Twitter on my phone before getting out of bed, emptying the dishwasher, making some tea, doing a super-short strength workout, and then getting showered and dressed and sitting down to work. I thought the phone thing might at least stop me from immediately checking Facebook and Twitter again on my computer, but not usually.

I did look a little deeper into the official “Miracle Morning” guy and found out that he is very big on affirmations. He likes the format “I am committed to ____ so that I can ____ by ____” (e.g., I am committed to writing 500 words every day so that I can write my first book at some point before I die”). LOL

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Doing something right

We made it through the first 10 days of eating ultra-low carb, and now it’s Carb Nite™! I must be doing something right this time, because I’m actually less excited about eating carbs than I am about the fact that I feel so much better now than when I started this.

(It helps that doughnuts, brownies, and ice cream are not on the menu tonight. Strawberries, though.)

I keep learning this same lesson over and over, but when I consistently do a few simple things to take care of myself—eat better, take vitamins, go for walks—it makes everything so much easier. In the course of a week, I go from pushing-Play-on-another-episode-of-Daredevil-because-getting-off-the-couch-is-frankly-too-exhausting person to strolling-around-downtown-visiting-the-library-and-the-organic-food-store-and-then-coming-home-and-planting-heirloom-tomatoes person.

It makes me want to keep going to see if there’s a saving-the-planet-while-designing-a-website-and-writing-the-great-American-novel person in there somewhere.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Running errands

I said out loud to myself yesterday, “I am never going to actually get my bike out and ride it, am I?” And Mik overheard me and said, “But I want to go for a bike ride with you tonight.”

So obviously I got my bike out, dusted it off, inflated the tires, had my “mechanic” put the chain on for me, and went for an actual stinking bike ride. We did not go far, but it was fun, and we spent the whole time talking about how we would conquer the Molt hill this summer so Mik could train for his triathlon. (I’ve mostly given up on the idea of doing the race myself, but we’ll see.)

Then today I was so inspired by my excellent progress that I got up and did February’s errand, too, which was applying for a passport. Easy peasy. Road trip to Canada in four to eight weeks!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day Six

I’m nearly a week into what I call in my head the “Eight-Week Shoulder Healing Extravaganza,” and it’s off to a good start. My shoulders feel great, for one thing—but I was warned that that is not a reason to stop taking tons of Advil. Apparently it has to be a minimum of EIGHT WEEKS of rest and anti-inflammatories unless I want this to come back.

I emailed my yoga teacher to let her know I was taking eight weeks off, because I’m a regular and I didn’t want her to worry that I had died. She responded with an offer to create and demonstrate a “no-shoulders” yoga practice I could do at home. Isn’t that the nicest thing ever? I wasn’t sure how to respond at first, but now I’m thinking I’ll probably a) take her up on it, b) take her out for tea afterward, and c) write a note to the gym managers telling them what a treasure they have and that she deserves a huge raise.

Another part of the plan (there are actually many parts, and a spreadsheet) was to be very strict about getting back on the ultra-low-carb wagon. It is really pretty easy when you don’t have to eat outside the house, and I have lost eight pounds since Monday. That would be almost entirely water weight, of course, and it has happened exactly like this before, but it is still really fun to watch the scale plunge steadily.

I know my New Life Plans have a tendency to fizzle out, but the good thing about this one is that I have to stay the course for eight full weeks or it won’t really do me any good. And I stuck Advil in there amid a bunch of good habits to trick myself into staying with them as well.

P.S. My husband’s book Legitimacy is free on the Kindle for the rest of the day, and if you’re at all inclined to download it, you should! Even free downloads are a huge help to self-published authors, because they can temporarily put the book on Amazon’s top-100 lists, which gets them noticed by millions of people.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

GREAT update and explanations

A few of my May resolutions really needed explanations, so here they are in case anyone is curious (and you might be, because this is turning out to be an excellent batch of resolutions):

Goal: 60-second arm hang. I read somewhere that all the typing and texting we do is killing our collective grip strength, and that hanging from a bar is a great way to get it back. (I can't find the post that originally inspired me, but this one is similar.) Out of curiosity I decided to see how long I could hang from the pull-up bar outside my office…and found to my dismay that I could count the number of seconds on one sad, pathetic, feeble hand. So every time I walk by the bar now, I try to improve. Hanging should also be a good movement to stretch and strengthen my shoulders, but I want to be really careful on that front because of my eight-week shoulder healing extravaganza, so I will be satisfied even if I don't work up to bearing my full weight for 60 seconds.

Affirmation: Everything I do, I do out of love. This one was inspired by this blog post. It seems like such a great way to approach food, and I realized that it would be even more powerful if I applied it to everything. I don't have any particular agenda here or a way to evaluate how I'm "doing." My strategy for affirmations has been just to put them in front of myself every day and see what unfolds.

Theme: Miracle mornings. This one is a little odd, because that phrase comes from a book I have not actually read. But I gather that the idea is to start every day out doing a few things right: maybe some meditation, maybe being thankful, maybe prayer, maybe getting outside or getting some exercise—whatever would get your day off to a great start. Anyway, it sounds brilliant to me, and I'm having fun tweaking my morning routine. As a side note, my original plan was to get up and do this when M.H.'s alarm goes off at 4:30 (he drives Mik to morning swim practice) but let's face it: Getting a couple of extra hours of sleep is the real miracle.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Day One

A post titled "Day One" after a long blogging hiatus can mean only one thing: New Life Plan.

This NLP was brought about by way too many weeks of celebrating and traveling and work and eating junk at the slightest provocation (dating back to Easter, really) and also by some incredibly annoying shoulder and neck pain. Basically I've regained all the weight I had lost recently and have gone back to—well, not square one, but maybe square six, with my shoulders.

I did some reading on shoulder impingement and learned that job one is to get the inflammation down long enough for healing to occur, which requires a minimum of eight weeks on Advil. I also need to stop swimming and doing yoga for those eight weeks. I super-HATE that course of treatment, but I also hate the idea of struggling with this for the rest of my life, so I'm going to give it a try.

As far as diet, I'm going to eat ultra-low carb (under 30 grams) with no dairy and no eggs, and have a very restrained (read: low-doughnut) Carb Nite every 10th day instead of every week. That diet should also be helpfully anti-inflammatory, especially if I load it up with—according to Google—kale, garlic, peppers, onions, and green tea, which I think I can handle. In fact, add some bacon and it sounds like breakfast.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crying over spilled milk

One fun thing we did in D.C. was visit the Hirshhorn Museum, which is filled with interesting and/or hilarious modern art. Here’s a little story about a missed opportunity I experienced there:

The third floor has a totally minimalist vibe, with the exhibits spread way out in very white spaces. I rounded a corner and spied, appropriately, a minimalist sort of guy, all by himself, wearing off-white pants and a white shirt. He had one hand on his chin and was intently studying a painting.

This was the painting.

I should have whipped out my iPhone camera immediately, but in my 1) shock, 2) amusement, 3) desire not to be rude, and 4) incompetence, I hesitated too long, and he moved on.

I have a lame photo of the scene that’s too little, too late, but I think you’re better off just imagining it in your head. It was so wonderful.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Back from the National Science Bowl

We got back this morning from a long weekend in Washington, D.C., watching Mik compete in the National Science Bowl, and I can now say without a hint of bias or exaggeration that my kid is the most wonderful, talented, intelligent, poised, and handsome eighth-grader in the entire country. The quiz-bowl portion was great, and then the team topped it off by—out of nowhere, really—winning first place in the electric car building/racing competition.

Here's a picture from the National Science Bowl’s Flickr stream of Mik celebrating their win. Yes, it was that awesome.

My sister’s family and some old friends live in the area, so tons of other fun was had, mostly involving birthdays and restaurants and eating, so it will be good to get back to eating ultra-low carb for a while. Or, to be more precise, it will be prudent go get back to eating ultra-low carb for a while.

Friday, May 1, 2015

GREAT resolutions for May

Here are my resolutions for May (as usual, most of these require more explanation, which I’ll get around to eventually):
  • Goal: 60-second arm hang.
  • Rule: Lift weights three days a week.
  • Errand: Get my bike in riding condition and ride it, at least once. And then do February’s errand even if it kills me.
  • Affirmation: Everything I do, I do out of love.
  • Theme: Miracle mornings.
I decided that I should try to keep running intervals but that my schedule probably won’t allow me to commit to a certain number of days per week or to a goal. Instead, I’m committing to weight lifting, since, one, I’ve actually already been doing it and, two, I have enough equipment that I shouldn’t ever have to go to the gym. Plus I found a simple plan in a chart format that I can print out and use to record everything. I’ve actually been following the same plan for two and a half weeks, which is kind of amazing.

Seems the magic formula for success is not having to leave the house + piece of paper.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Total success*

I suspected I was going to be swamped with work this month, and that’s what finally happened. I kept thinking, Maybe today is the day I’ll go back to running just to have something to blog about again. But the swamped-being ultimately won out, and the line graph I was making of how long I could run at a nine-minute-mile pace flatlined at around three and a half minutes. So sad for me! I might really need to give myself a do-over.

Since April is just about over and I didn’t want the GREAT resolutions to be a total flop, I did finally call and take care of the health insurance issue that was my errand. It would have been a lot smarter to do it at the beginning of the month, since it yet felt like a giant rock hanging over my head for 29 days and then it took about three minutes to make it go away forever. Live and learn.

So I didn’t achieve my goal, and the sunshine theme was kind of a bust (through no fault of my own), and I never did do the February errand that I keep advancing to each new month. Other than that, total success.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Taking a break

My back still feels kind of off, but swimming last night didn’t hurt it even a little bit, so that was good. And I did butterfly again (YAY), although the slight pain that went with it seems to have migrated back into my right shoulder, which at least is where I would expect it to be. It may not be progress, but it’s novelty.

With any luck I’ll be able to run again tomorrow. I’m afraid that if I don’t get restarted, I can kiss the nine-minute-mile goal goodbye, at least for April. In May, I might need a do-over on both that goal and the whole sunshine theme.

I have been killing myself to finish a rush editing job by tomorrow, and this morning the client emailed to ask if, just maybe, not to rush me, but could she have it today instead? I told her it wasn’t going to happen, but then I killed myself a little harder anyway to see if I could at least get it to her early tomorrow. I edited for 13 hours straight, right up until the point that writing a dullish blog post sounded like a tropical vacation in comparison, so…aloha.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I am trying with this “sunshine” theme, I really am. Yesterday afternoon it was very nearly hot out, so I sat outside in the sun to knit, until it got too windy. It looked like a thunderstorm was blowing in, and I got all excited that it was finally warm enough for that to happen. Then this morning I looked out the window and did a double-take: Turns out it was a snowstorm that was blowing in. Sure, Montana. Whatever you think is best.

I took my two days off from exercise and am much better except that I can still feel that twinge in my back. I’m hesitant to run intervals until it heals up, but I did an easy weight workout, am planning to swim tonight, and will hit the sauna.

I read something recently about sauna use being really good for you (can’t remember why off the top of my head) but I also have a theory that it should help with heat adaptation for the summer—if and when that ever occurs. I guess until these clouds clear off, a very hot room can be my poor substitute for sunshine.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hitting reset

I think it was a mistake to try to get serious about running and weight lifting at the same time…while also continuing to swim, walk, cycle (a little), and do yoga. By some standards it was a really good exercise week last week, but I kind of hit a physical low yesterday, and then just now I kind of twinged my back while reaching into the fridge. It’s possible that my body is gently recommending that I take a day or two off. Which is exactly what I will do.

It was a good week on the knitting front, though. (I know that two months ago there was no “knitting front” to care about, but come on the journey with me.) True to form, I decided that the yoga mat strap I was starting was too wide, too boring, too time consuming of a stitch, and too ugly to really be worth it. So I ripped it all out and started trying to figure out what else I could do with double knitting. After a ton of trial and error, here’s what I came up with:

When I say “came up with,” I mean that, as far as I know, no one has ever done this particular stitch/technique in the history of knitting. And when I say “as far as I know,” I mean that, yeah, okay, someone almost certainly has, but I still hit upon it all by myself, so that’s fun for me.

This pattern suits my little project perfectly: It knits up pretty fast, it’s thick and sturdy, it doesn’t curl, it’s the same on both sides, and I love how it looks when it’s stretched out, as it will be when in use:

M.H. said I should start an Etsy empire of yoga mat straps, which would be a fine idea if I didn’t get bored so easily and liked working for 15 cents an hour.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In the pool, on the needles

I swam last night with the group and was very excited to find that I can again do butterfly without significant pain. The annoying thing is that what pain there is has migrated to my left shoulder—which I never had the slightest problem with until I started doing rehab for my right one.

I figured it was a good idea to do the same exercises on both sides so I wouldn’t end up with any imbalances, but I guess…not? Anyway, the plan remains the same: Stop the rehab, stop focusing on upper-body weight lifting, keep stretching, and see if it will just freaking heal now.

P.S. Here’s what I finally started:

It’s not exciting except that I had to learn a new technique (double knitting) to do it. The plan is to knit a long strap, attach metal rings to both ends, and use it to carry my yoga mats around. I’ve already made myself a yoga mat strap, but this one will be better and prettier and will live on the second set of mats I own. Kind of a boring project but useful, educational, theoretically quick, and making good use of scrap yarn. I talked myself out of doing something wacky for now.

P.P.S. Maybe I should put my abundance of free time to use and clean off my desk, huh?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The joy of creation

They aren’t much, and off the top of my head I can’t even remember what they are called, but LOOK! Some cute little flowers sproinged out of my landscaping project!

Something got me started Googling knitting techniques yesterday, and now my head is buzzing with ideas about what I want to make next. The hard part for me is settling down and actually doing one of them.

Here’s how it usually goes: I come up with a reasonable, easy project that uses yarn I already own (which is quite a bit) and is within my capabilities. So far so good. But immediately after deciding on something, I start thinking of ways I could improve it. The Internet is a gold mine of knitting ideas, so I find something that’s a little bit cooler, and something that’s a little bit cooler than that, and the next thing I know I’m contemplating creating some impossible work of art or magic that is way beyond my knitting skills, requires me to buy even more yarn, and possibly has never been attempted before.

I tell myself that the problem is if I’m going to spend a million hours on a project, I really want to love it for the whole million hours. But my real problem is that deciding what to knit is a lot more fun for me than actually knitting it. Which is how I ended up with so much yarn.

I was the same way (to bring this back around to gardening) with bulb buying last fall. Do you know how many different sizes, shapes, and colors of iris there are? But at least then the changing of the seasons imposed a firm deadline on my shenanigans.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The nine-minute-mile plan

I decided on a really simple strategy for working up to a nine-minute mile. Anytime I’m at the gym, I hop on a treadmill, warm up a bit, set it for 6.7 mph, and then run as long as I can. (When I say “can,” you should actually think something more along the lines of “want to.” Not trying to kill myself over this.) After that, I walk to recover for a while, and then I run a couple of faster, shorter intervals—something like 30 seconds at a seven-minute-mile pace with lots of recovery.

The only part I’m recording is how long I can run at 6.7 mph, but I figure the intervals that follow are the best way to get myself into shape and to make my goal pace feel pretty easy. I think they must be working, because they are a killer, especially when you consider that the whole workout is over in 10 to 15 minutes.

So far I’ve run at that nine-minute-mile pace for 1:30 (April 2), 1:40 (April 3), 2:00 (April 6), and 2:10 (today). And I’m just ridiculously excited about the line graph I’m going to make in Excel when the month is over, so start getting psyched.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Musing about lifting

Mik’s break from swimming is over, which means I’m on my own now if I want to keep weight training. The good news is I do want to keep weight training! The bad news is I need to figure out what my own goals are (now that I no longer have Mik’s goals as my guiding principle) and how to achieve them.

I’m very jealous of an online friend who has been blogging about her powerlifting adventures, so I’m taking that as a sign that I need to a) find some sort of plan I can really get behind, b) follow through, and c) track everything so I can see my own progress. Of course, I already have a gym-related goal for April that I’m tracking, so I need to keep that in mind, too, and not go overboard with an extra new thing.

On the other hand, I’m back in limbo as far as work—it seems that both major projects I was planning on are now up in the air—so I might as well go live at the gym until that all gets sorted out.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Musing about running

I’m trying to develop a simple strategy for being able to run a nine-minute mile by May, and I’m tempted to just go to the gym every day, set a treadmill for 6.7 mph, and try to gradually build up the length of time I can run at that speed. That’s basically the strategy I used to get up to ten push-ups in February. I’m thinking that if I can go from one push-up to ten in four weeks, then I can probably go from one minute of fast running to nine in the same amount of time.

I’m not sure that plan passes the “Is that what a running coach would tell you to do?” test. Probably not. I’m sure a coach would have me doing a mix of endurance runs, hills, intervals, strength training, rest days, and who knows what else.

The plus side of my method, though, is that I would be able to track my progress in a nice straight line, which is appealing—and maybe even keep extending that line for a few more months until I can do a 27-and-a-bit-minute 5K.

The downside is that I couldn’t do it outside, which…hmmmm. I do like the idea of getting some sunshine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

GREAT resolutions for April

I have an eerie sort of feeling that April is going to be a lot busier for me than March.

Actually, let me clarify. I have a couple of huge projects on the calendar for April, so I know it’s going to be busier than March, but I also have an eerie sort of feeling that other stuff is going to start popping up left and right, the way it always does when you’re already too busy.

So my resolutions for April are appropriately gentle—and designed to create time for work, rather than suck it away. Here they are:
  • Goal: Be able to run a nine-minute mile by the end of the month.
  • Rule: No wasting time on stupid Internet stuff. (This is more specific in my head, if you were worried that it’s unenforceable.)
  • Errand: Deal with the health insurance issue that just got dropped on my desk. Plus February’s errand for sure this time.
  • Affirmation: “I am strong, focused, and productive.”
  • Theme: Sunshine!
The only part of this that might suck significant time away from getting work done is the running, but my reasoning is this: I haven’t actually tried to run a mile in quite some time. So theoretically I might be able to do a nine-minute mile already.* If that’s the case, my total commitment will be exactly…nine minutes. And, anyway, training outside = sunshine, which is also on the menu.

* But I doubt it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March wrap-up

Geez, another month is almost over. Must be time to start thinking about how I’ve done on my March resolutions:
  • Goal: Check! The scarf is finished. Useless now that it’s spring, but finished.
  • Rule: Check! Not only was I good about doing my shoulder rehab, but I also did a bunch of other upper-body stuff with Mik. My shoulder is close to cured. Actually, the left one has been bothering me more than the right one that I originally injured. I don’t know if that means that some of my rehab is not really that helpful or what. When Mik goes back to swimming, I’ll switch to only lower body weights and see if totally resting both shoulders for a while gets them back to normal.
  • Errand: Check! I sold my unused skillet almost instantly, and then I went ahead and also sold several other big-ticket items via the magic Facebook group I discovered. (I didn’t take care of February’s errand, but my excellent excuse still applies.)
  • Affirmation: I don’t know if I get a “Check!” because I haven’t really been reminding myself of this daily, as I’d planned. Still, I’ve noticed that recently I’ve been much more likely to just take care of things rather than stare at them for weeks, so maybe I internalized the message (“If something about my life is bothering me, I take care of it right away”) anyway.
  • Theme: Midway through the month I switched from tracking my own stuff to tracking Mik’s weight training. There’s only so much mental energy available, I think, for tracking things. But I’ve been continuing to pay attention to how the things I do make me feel, and I’m mentally developing a plan for how I want to eat once things get back to normal around here.
I have known since January that the theme for April was going to be “Sunshine,” but other than that, as far as what I choose for next month, your guess is as good as mine.