Thursday, April 13, 2017

PSA about mint

Growing mint certainly keeps you on your toes. It’s an insidious weed that pokes its head up everywhere—but on the other hand it’s pretty, it’s useful, it smells good, and bees seem to love it. Overall I’m a fan. But then this happened:

I had a miserable night of sleep last night. I had to get up twice to go to the bathroom and was horribly thirsty (restlessly dreaming about my mouth being full of sand and stuff like that). Those are actually two problems I have a lot—and have been struggling to figure out for some time. They were so extreme last night that I gave some careful thought to everything I did yesterday that might have caused it.

The only thing I could come up with that was different was that I had drunk some lemon-mint infused water, made with the baby peppermint that’s started to come up (everywhere) in my rock garden. I had never heard of mint being a diuretic but decided to Google it. Guess what! Mint is a strong diuretic. I saw one forum where someone warned, “Whatever you do, don’t drink mint tea before bed!”

What a relief to have this information. I actually drink mint herbal tea at night all the time (because it doesn’t have caffeine), and that could be my whole problem! Sneaky little mint leaves.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring things

Nice day, and I did another run of maybe half a mile—notable, though, because I can now do that much breathing only through my nose. (I didn’t want to get too far from home because I was dealing with a deadline and wasn’t sure how much time I actually had before the client needed me again.) That is fully 1 percent of a respectable ultramarathon, so everything is going exactly according to plan. :)

I feel like even a little bit of running is helpful—especially if I’m going to swim every morning this summer and then walk or bike home. I don’t want to wimp out after two days of that (and my child is for sure going to laugh at how little I’m able to swim), so I had better get in some sort of shape.


I’ve been giving my yard and rock garden attention (per my resolution) and have been delighted and amused by these little purple beauties that were the first to come up. Delighted because they are smell really nice as I am hanging out among them weeding. Amused because back when I was buying plants and bulbs, I tried to color-coordinate, choosing all purples, whites, and blues. That was all well and good, except that it turns out NOTHING blooms at the same time as anything else, so it’s not like this garden was ever in danger of, like, clashing.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Selective rule-breaking

I woke up feeling great and did another 1.1-mile jog.

Yeah, I KNOW that that “.1” is a dead giveaway that I am sorta kinda breaking the rules, but hear me out. I had been finding it annoying to be making a million choices on every single run. Which way am I going to turn? Which way am I going to turn now? How fast should I go? Is it time to stop jogging? Is it time to start jogging again? Should I head home? I much prefer a good rut. And we all know about decision fatigue, right?

So for the past several runs I have walked out the front door and made a series of left turns until I’m back home again. (Of course I have my own permission to change it up in any way I like when I feel like it—maybe one of these days I’ll even do the same loop making all right turns.) But I decided that if I was going to do the same darned run every time, I might as well know how far it is. So I called up my dusty old MapMyRun account and measured it.

I really have no interest in getting obsessed about distance and mileage, but if I’m going to be blogging about my training again, it might be nice to have a little bit of objective information to share.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Barefooting it

Maybe it won’t surprise anyone to learn that I’ve been playing around with the idea of barefoot running again—or will it? Do you people know that I’m a full-on minimalist, naturalist, convention-rejecting, zero-waste, primal, hippie earth mother now? And a yoga fanatic? Also I cut my own hair? No?

Well, anyway, I don’t run with actual bare feet—it’s still pretty cold here, for one thing—but I have two pairs of water shoes that I do use. (One of them is 10 years old, and the other I bought for $1 at a thrift store, because I no longer buy anything new if I can possibly avoid it. See above.) They don’t have any support, but they do have a rubber sole that should protect me from the stray pointy rock or piece of broken glass.

I think yesterday was the third time I’ve run in them since enacting the secret ultramarathoning plan. The first two times I ran about 17 steps and even so my ankles were sore for days afterward. This third time I went a mile or so and feel pretty good the next day. I think that’s a (heh heh) STEP in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A hypothesis about insomnia

I haven’t been able to get the stars to align for another run, mostly because I haven’t been sleeping that well. “Insomnia” is probably too strong a word for what I have, though. Last night, for example, I slept from 10 to 4:30, woke up to go to the bathroom, and then tossed and turned until the alarm went off.

So that’s annoying, but it’s not like I’m suffering badly here on 6½ solid hours of sleep. I am wondering, though, why I just can’t get my brain to shut off when I would rather be unconscious. Of course I blame the political “landscape,” Twitter getting me even more riled up about it, and the underlying fear that the world has only about 30 years left even if we don’t blow ourselves up this month. But all that is also peppered with minor concerns about the kids…work…other people’s problems…an annoying thing someone did…an annoying thing someone said…. I hate that stuff like keeps me awake.

It made me think of a podcast I heard recently (“The Importance of Boredom”), which argued that our brains and bodies need downtime to deal with the things that happen to us. It wasn’t talking about sleeping specifically, but about the fact that we fill every spare moment with some sort of entertainment—Facebook, computer games, television, or, in my particular case, podcasts on my phone literally every time I’m doing any kind of housework or yardwork. The point was that all this robs us of the times of boredom/inactivity that we need to process our emotions and tend to our spiritual lives.

If that’s true, then lying in bed might be darn near the only downtime I ever give my brain—and no wonder it starts jumping around to every worry I ever had the minute it stops being occupied. I think I’m going to start being very deliberate for a while about not entertaining myself constantly—and maybe taking more quiet walks without the phone—to see if that helps.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Writing about running, as promised

So here’s where I am with running: Because my rules specify that I can run only when I feel well-rested and enthused about it, I’ve been going out only every three or four days, on average, up to this point. And because my rules also specify that I can breathe only through my nose, my running distances up to now have been measured in steps, not miles. (Except that I’m not actually measuring anything. That is also in the rules.)

But it does seem a little silly to get all dressed up for running and then be back in the house in 5 minutes—not to mention embarrassing if the neighbors are watching, and I’m not sure how I can even make any progress doing that. So today I decided to make it a run/walk and go a little farther—I’m guessing about a mile? I would just jog until it got challenging to breathe through my nose and then walk until I felt like jogging again.

I think a walk/run rhythm of some sort is the way to go, at least until/unless it gets easier to stay breathing through my nose.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Resolutions for April

Some fresh resolutions to celebrate the first full month of spring:
  • Work on finding grant money for a literacy project. Backstory: There’s a teacher in town who uses a very effective program to tutor kids with dyslexia—for free, on her own time. (One of my own kids saw her weekly for almost a year back in grade school.) A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook that this woman had retired from the school district and was now tutoring full time, still for free, and was in need of volunteers. I met with her and determined that it might not be a great fit for me to tutor a kid myself, but we thought it might be a help to her if I were to research and write grants for the project. I’m a bit intimidated because I’ve never done anything like that, but it shouldn’t be so far outside my skill set, really. I have delayed getting started while I finished up other stuff, but the time has now come. (Advice and suggestions welcome.)
  • Write about running. I actually have been enacting my secret ultramarathoning plan—not that I think it will ever actually lead to an ultramarathon; I just like calling it that. I think it will be even more fun if I also write about my running efforts. On the blog, say. :)
  • Knit something—anything! I keep wanting to knit (and I keep buying good yarn when I encounter it at thrift stores and estate sales) but I never seem to make the time.
  • Work on the yard for a minimum of 15 minutes a day. I did this last year and managed to maintain everything, plus keep the weeds under control without chemicals, all summer long. It’s a good way to make sure I at least get outside every day while the sun is shining, too.

Friday, March 31, 2017

What happened to March?

My resolutions got away from me a bit this month—no surprise, really. They weren’t that inspired to begin with, and then life got in the way. We made a big trip to Washington state in the middle of the month to watch Mik swim, and I had a big work project I was finishing before and after that. Also, M.H.’s new book (called “Gnatz!”) is getting close to completion, and I am throwing a lot of time and energy at editing that bad boy.

The one thing I did do fully was stop arguing with people on social media. That was a really good idea. The key, I think, is to mute/hide a post as soon as you realize it is annoying you. Otherwise Facebook will show it to you ten thousand times and your determination will crumble. There was one local issue (bike passing restrictions) where I truly thought commenters could learn from a different point of view, so I interacted with people who disagreed with me but was extremely careful not to be argumentative. I wrote a passionate email to a state senator on the same topic, so I guess that sort of half-fulfills one of my other resolutions, which was choosing one issue to direct my activism to.

It certainly wasn’t the issue I was expecting to end up with. Seriously, there are so many things going on right now that could benefit from activism that it could drive a person insane.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Starting from zero

I went out for one short run under my new secret ultramarathon training plan, but then it promptly snowed six wet inches, and that was the end of that. Based on the one run, I think it’s going to be a while before I can jog for even, say, a mile while breathing only through my nose. Apparently “strictly aerobic” for me right now is basically a brisk(ish) walk.

I’m kind of excited about getting back into running, though. At several points in my life I have grown to love it—and if the plan is to go super easy and without an agenda, then I don’t see why I can’t love it right from the start this time around.

I have another secret plan that I’ve been thinking about enacting for the summer. When the weather warms up (it could happen), the swim team kids start practicing in a 50-meter outdoor pool every morning. I could ride to the pool with Mik, swim for a while in the lane allotted for lap swimmers, and then walk/jog the three or so miles home. It just seems like a worthy way to start my summer days, since my shoulder is healed and I have nowhere else to swim. And if the jogging doesn’t work out, I seem to recall that I also have a bicycle.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Secret ultramarathoning plan

I found a copy of “Primal Endurance” at the library and snatched that baby up immediately. I told M.H. it’s probably the most dangerous book I’ll read all year, and he agrees. In fact, he’s extremely concerned that I’m going to catch the ultramarathoning bug like some sort of dread disease, but I assured him that wasn’t the case.
Me: I promise you, I have no current plans to take up ultramarathoning.
Him: Weasel words! Weasel words!
I mean, who knows what I will decide to do in the future? What if the book’s magic training formula makes me discover that it’s fun, easy, healthy, and convenient to train for a 50-mile race?

Anyway, I’m thinking this is a book that is best owned and studied if one were really serious about using it to train for an endurance sport, but the takeaways I’ve gotten so far are interesting. It makes a very strong case for ample rest and a long aerobic base training period in which you never exceed your 180-minus-age heart rate. I really want to see what happens when I run with those guidelines in mind, so here are my rules:
  • I can run only when I feel rested and enthused about it.
  • I can run only as long as I can still breathe through my nose (I don’t have a heart-rate monitor anymore, and that’s a decent way to make sure I’m staying fully aerobic).
  • I have to stop the minute I feel any hint of tightness or injury.
  • I don’t set a time or mileage goal before setting out, but train entirely based on feel and go where the wind blows me.
If that gets me into amazing running shape, well, I can’t be held accountable for what might happen next.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Resolutions for March 2017

I find it kind of sad that I had basically nothing to say here in February at all, but I spent almost the whole month working and being angry about politics, and I don’t really want to use this forum just to vent about that nonsense. This blog is supposed to be about things that are awesome, not things that turn you into a curmudgeon before your time. (And, speaking of awesome, I spent the last few days of the month thinking mostly about swimming, since Mik was competing at the state meet. That turned out to be a good mental vacation, and I feel much better now.)

Anyway, I kept to all my February resolutions, they were terrific, and here’s what I’ve come up with for March:
  • Pick one national issue that concerns me and then do all of the following to fight for it: educate myself, make a donation, write a letter, make a phone call, design a T-shirt, and post on social media. I don’t actually have an issue in mind yet; there are so many upsetting things going on that it might be hard to pick.
  • Stop arguing with people on social media and—as happens much more often—stop thinking about arguing with them. As soon as I see something that I disagree with or that annoys me, I’m going to immediately hide the post so I never have to think about it again.
  • Explore the public-domain art now available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website and make something cool with something I find there.
  • Shoot for an hour of standing at my standing desk for every hour I spend sitting at my sitting desk. I bought a fancy new mat designed to reduce fatigue and encourage fidgeting, so I want to continue building up my standing endurance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resolutions for February 2017

February should be a busy month, but I’m hoping I can work in these resolutions around the edges:
  • Find at least 50 more items to give away. I’ve been through the entire house now on a “first pass” of decluttering, but this resolution is not so much about cleaning house as about giving things to people who need them more than we do (or who could raise money by selling them). I already have a pile of about 10 such things set aside, and I know there are at least 10 more hanging in my closet (and 7,000 on the bookshelves).
  • Give up dairy and eggs. This is a hard one, and those foods definitely aren’t a problem for everyone, but hear me out: When I gave up dairy and eggs a few years ago—along with sugar, grains, legumes, and other stuff that I’m already not eating—I felt fabulous and dropped a size in about three weeks. It’s time to run the experiment again.
  • End the month with at least one new T-shirt design on my little Spreadshirt store. (I would link to my little Spreadshirt store, but it’s pathetic and neglected, and I’m not even really sure how one would get there from the outside.) I’m hoping to come up with lots of ideas, actually, but the resolution is to get one of them actually created and posted.
  • Do one thing that makes me tougher every day. Mostly I’m thinking of cold exposure, but if for some reason I wimp out, then these things will also count as making me tougher: lifting weights, writing a letter to the editor, calling a congressperson.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January in a great big nutshell

It occurred to me that, once I consciously set aside all the doom and gloom I was feeling even as they were happening, January’s good points might be worth writing about.

First on my resolutions:

  • I jumped through all the hoops necessary to volunteer for the day care and have been there three times now. It is fun but also feels like work, which is how I want it to feel. I do wonder whether I’m actually helping anyone. I know I take a bit of the load off the paid teachers, and yesterday I kept a climbing 2-year-old from falling on his head, but obviously the place would still be chugging along just fine without me.
  • Yoga has been amazing—I loved both the series I did and the discipline of doing it. I think daily yoga has graduated to habit-requiring-no-resolution status.
  • I did some tinkering and learning in Illustrator, but the pure drawing stuff doesn’t actually thrill me much. I may need to take the approach of getting excited about an idea first, and then learning about the tools I need for that specific thing.
  • For cold exposure, I did stuff like go out to the mailbox in shirtsleeves when it was -10 degrees, end showers with a bit of cool water, and take walks wearing slightly-less-than-adequate clothing. I’m tougher now and ready for something harder.

Some other stuff:

  • Mik had several swim meets in January, and I’m amazed at the progress he’s been making. It’s such a joy to have a child in a sport I understand so well. Of course, it’s also a joy to watch your child achieve goals in general, and Mik has pretty lofty goals.
  • Dex called to tell us he has a job—and not just a job, but the perfect job for him. I’m not sure I had appreciated until now how much seeing him happily starting off on his own life would absolutely and completely cancel out any regret we might have that he doesn’t live here anymore.
  • I have a new client who is paying me to do interior book design, which (for some reason) is my absolute favorite thing. When this is over, I am going to (professionally) beg her for referrals.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rough month

I’m busy pondering my resolutions for February and also the fact that for my very sanity I really need to drop the rage and despair to the extent possible. January has been great in a lot of ways, but emotionally it SUUUUUCKED. I’m learning that, at the very least, I need to stay the heck away from the news and social media until I’ve accomplished everything I want to accomplish for the day.

On the other hand, in the hooray-for-Facebook column, I got online just now and one of my friends had posted this:
How can you respond to the evil you see around you? It's not so hard.
If you're a writer, write.
If you're a painter, paint.
If you're a dancer, dance.
If you don't know what you can do, pray.
I really think this is the attitude to adopt. And in fact it’s sort of what I’ve been moving toward. (How can editing help the revolution? Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I did tell this very fine organization recently that I would volunteer to edit materials for its very fine cause.)

Even a tiny bit of doing has to be better than 24/7 fretting, right?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rage and despair

You’d think by now I’d be exhausted from all the rage and despair floating around, and I guess I am, but it also makes me feel like I’m part of something. The rage-and-despair people, like the Art Walk people and the farmers’ market people, are my people. My Twitter feed, for example, is curated to the point where I see 20 rage-and-despair tweets for every joke tweet about a garbage disposal or something, and I’ve come to prefer it that way.

Frankly, the people who aren’t outraged or despairing are the ones I can’t cope with right now.

Side note: I am trying hard not to turn into a generally angry person, but yesterday I got riled up over the phrase “cute tops” in an internet ad. (I realize that that requires explanation, so here it is: (a), I reject the sexist and infantilizing idea that women should wear things that are “cute,” (b) I reject that the definition of “cute” changes in order to sell us more crap, (c) I reject the widespread idea that fashionable clothes should be any kind of spending priority when there are literally starving people everywhere, and (d) that’s probably it, but the picture was annoying, too.)

Anyway, my people—and if you’re still with me after the “cute tops” rant, you definitely are— bonding over our shared fears is nice, but I hope a lot of us are also out in the world doing stuff. In my case, inauguration day was the day I chose to go get the immunizations I needed to volunteer at this day care center, which serves teen parents who want to continue their education. It should be satisfying and refreshing to go and rock babies or read to 2-year-olds for a couple of hours every week, but my intent is to do literally anything they tell me would be most helpful to them.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dream journaling

At the library the other day I noticed and grabbed an interesting book on lucid dreaming—and M.H. read it, too. I wasn’t specifically looking to learn about or harness the power of dreaming, but that certainly aligns with my “imagination” goal for the year. Long story short: We have a new obsession.

One of the first suggestions is to start keeping a dream journal, which is a weird and fascinating exercise. One thing it does is help you remember your dreams in the first place—you work at it because you want to have something to write. I’ve found my dreams so far well worth remembering; one of them was so full of knock-you-over-the-head-obvious symbolism* that it made me laugh.

Anyway, I don’t know where this will lead or how long it will last, but I definitely bought into the idea that lucid dreaming can be fun and beneficial. I’ll let you know if I have any mind-blowing epiphanies.

* I was a passenger in a car with the creator of the diet I’ve been doing, and he was driving really well for a while. Then he started veering out of the lane and then off the road, and I had to reach over take the wheel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Introvert logic

I just finished a series of loooong days to finish editing a book, but it’s all turned in now and I met the deadline. I’m feeling pretty good about myself, because I also managed to keep up with morning yoga (which is awesome), sign up for my local library’s 2017 reading challenge, and finish the first of the 52 books (it was OK).

I actually read more than 52 books last year, according to Goodreads, so it’s not so much a challenge to make myself read more as it is a challenge to make myself connect with other people who like to read. I am feeling right now like the world is full of dangerous greed, deliberate misinformation, racism, and Trump voters. So it can only improve my mood to forge some connection with book readers, which to me equates to “thinking people who are far less likely to have been Trump voters.”

I like to hang out at ArtWalk and the farmers’ market for the same reason. I can look around and think, Although I’m probably not going to talk to any of them, these are much more likely to be my people!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Resolutions for January 2017

It’s really nice to be making resolutions for the month and not the year—far more practical and far less overwhelming. Here they are:
  • Make the phone calls I need to make to get the ball rolling to be a volunteer for this local organization, which offers free childcare to teenage parents so that they can finish their education. I think it’s a great cause, and it seems like I’d be well-suited to the work, which as I understand it is basically just helping out with babies and preschoolers for whatever time I can spare. 
  • Enjoy some candlelight yoga first thing every morning through the month of January. I’m confident that this 31-day series launching January 1 will be just the thing.
  • Take a free Adobe Illustrator classhere’s one I found online that should be no problem to finish within a month. I was having fun designing T-shirts a few years ago and would like to revive my Spreadshirt shop, but with skills.
  • Play around with exposing myself to the cold. I’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of cold water, and cold exposure in general. (Here’s a recent thing I saw, or you could Google “Wim Hof” for an idea of what I’m talking about.) This resolution isn’t specific because I want to spend this month literally playing around with the idea and getting used to it, not muscling through some 31-day cold shower challenge.
And, yes, these roughly follow the Service, Heart, Imagination, Toughness framework, because that was actually a really good idea—although maybe I will make it Toughness, Heart, Imagination, Service. We’ll see what happens on the American political landscape.