Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I guess this is about the human condition?

I haven’t done any monthly resolutions for a while now—I guess it started to feel too forced, or too structured, or something.

But yesterday M.H. mentioned that he was thinking of giving up social media during NaNoWriMo, and that sounds like a great idea. He of course will be working extra hard on a novel that month, but I would be doing it (a) to support him, (b) to give myself more productive time in general, and (c) to stop making myself crazy with the news.

Sigh.

About that last one:

I keep struggling with how you’re supposed to function in a world like this. It seems heartless to just go about your business and be happy when (to pick one example) there are people dying of racism in Puerto Rico. On the other hand, everything is pretty great in my house and my life, and it seems pointless to be furious about something that I can have very limited impact on. (I’ll just throw out that we give quite a bit to charity, and I write to lots of politicians and the occasional school principal, so it’s not like this is empty sentiment with an obvious solution.)

The mood of nearly everyone I know swings around two extremes called “guiltily happy” and “helplessly angry”—and it’s not like there’s a magical middle ground somewhere in there where we can find peace in being just the right amount of content-in-our-blessings-yet-concerned-for-our-fellow-humans.

Probably on some basic level we humans are equipped to deal only with our own problems and those we experience with our own senses. But that’s not our world, and everyone is dealing with this in the way they think is best, and doing the right thing seems to involve a lot of mushy gray area and confusion. Regardless, I think it’s OK if I let the impotent fury go on without my contributions for a while.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Might be an early winter

We’re expecting a freeze on Monday and snow on Tuesday—two weeks into fall, and basically it’s already winter. I wouldn’t mind so much except that I will miss my very productive zucchini plant. I have been getting one large, perfect zucchini about every three days for MONTHS now, which is exactly the right amount of zucchini. (The tomatoes are a dud this year, but the zucchini is sufficient unto my needs.)

I did enact a loose morning routine for the fall, basically centered around coffee and yoga. It goes:
  1. Coffee
  2. Yoga
  3. Coffee
I try to take a moment for gratitude/meditation on the yoga mat, as well as to end every practice by “inviting” something into my life. I can’t remember where I heard that idea, but I have invited everything from inner peace to a good idea to help M.H. solve a problem with his book, and a lot of times the thing I mention does seem to show up.

I guess another part of my morning ritual is that my phone stays silent and on the charger and I stay away from social media until after coffee/yoga/coffee, breakfast, showering, and several hours of work. I like to see some sort of news in the morning just so I know if the president has been impeached or dropped dead or anything, but I am training myself to do that on The Washington Post website rather than Twitter.

Looking at Twitter or Facebook too early in the morning tends to ruin my day. Or maybe I should say looking at Twitter or Facebook inevitably ruins my day at any time, so I like to hold off on that until late in the afternoon if possible.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The schedule monster

I’m starting to obsess about what kind of morning routine I want to have for the fall—in fact, at one point I had convinced myself that I need a morning routine, an evening routine, and also some sort of afternoon ritual to break up the day. In all honesty, I’m not yet unconvinced of that. It’s like there’s a Scheduling For The Fall Monster that wakes up inside me every year around this time and roars until it’s presented with a detailed, color-coded, hour-by-hour schedule for each day of the week, down to who takes what vitamins when.

The schedule monster is rather unhappy that this year there will be several days of the week when it will be literally impossible to get the three of us around the table at the same time for dinner. Of course, that makes my obsessive scheduling even more important—if Monday and Friday at 6 are the only times I can gather my family around me, then I really don’t want to have other plans. And that’s also made me realize that I really don’t want to overschedule my morning with a bunch of stuff that takes me away from breakfast, which is the other time we can all be together, if only for 20 minutes.

Still pondering. Rawr.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Resolutions for August 2017

I was not in the mood at all to make August resolutions until I hit on the idea of making them all calmy ones rather than achievy ones:
  • Read the newspaper. I’ve fallen into the terrible habit of getting most of my news from Twitter—or at least I find out about things on Twitter and then sometimes go read about them elsewhere. But since 90 percent of the people I follow are scathingly vicious Trump opponents, I don’t think it’s that healthy for me. (I mean, I curated my feed that way on purpose, but I think I’ll take a short break from the firehose of rage.)
  • Keep up the morning yoga. I’ve written about how much I like doing yoga with no guidance of any kind, and since I started that, I have not once had the faintest desire to ever go back to watching a video or taking a class. I’m telling you, I’ve had some terrific yoga teachers, but this is WAY better. (And this is barely a resolution because I was totally going to do it anyway.)
  • Add in some meditation. I often take a few seconds to focus on my breath at the beginning and end of yoga, but I think I could extend that to a few minutes.
  • Get outside. Just want to make sure I still get outside a few times each day to walk or whatever.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The seasonal morning routine

I’ve been informed that this is Tuesday, which means—holy mackerel—I have only two more days of outdoor swimming left this summer! I have LOVED having this whole adventure every day. It has made the summer really feel like summer, if you know what I mean.

So…my latest brilliant idea is to think about some sort of new morning routine to make the fall feel more like the fall (“fall” being defined for this purpose as “when school starts in late August through about the first major snowfall”). The new ritual would definitely involve walking and yoga—and coffee—but I’m not sure what else. I do know it could no longer be a FOUR-HOUR extravaganza, because summer is the only season that really accommodates that kind of awesomeness.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a morning routine, but I was never able to get one to stick before. I think making them seasonal might actually be perfect. After all, your circumstances and moods change A LOT with the seasons, particularly in a place like this with drastic weather. And it’s nice to give each season some sort of limited purpose to remind yourself that this time is not going to last forever—for better or for worse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Fuhrman firehose

One highlight of my summer routine is that it offers a glorious amount of time for listening to podcasts and then reflecting on them. I feel like I come across interesting recommendations and bits of wisdom more quickly than I could ever keep up with. It got to the point where I had to drag the never-before-used Notes app onto my iPhone’s main home screen so that I could jot down book recommendations and random fantastic ideas I hear as I walk home from the pool.

Yesterday, for example, I heard an interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman (link here, but beware some locker room talk*), who I have never taken all that seriously before. I have to say, though, I have a new respect for him, mostly because of his righteously-super-angry attitude toward the American diet, which he calls “suicide by food.” (And he has a book coming out this year called “Fast Food Genocide,” which, YESSSS.) He finds it baffling that people just accept that they could get some horrible disease at any moment—and that they will live the last few decades of their lives in some degree of pain, immobility, and mental decline—even though we’re living in a renaissance of nutrition research, and all those things are pretty much preventable if you are paying any attention at all. And then he comes right out and says that the way most of us eat makes us literally stupider** (and slaves to our addictions) and by this point I am AMENING all over the place.

But then he talks about being a vegan, and I am like, Huh? Do you not see your incisors, Doctor Goofy?

Anyway, I also came across this quote yesterday:
“ ‘Wellness’ is capitalism trying to sell you back the sanity it stole from you.” —Gesshin Greenwood
I have thoughts on that one, too, but for now I’ll just throw it out there for general reflection.

* Nothing as bad as what comes from the mouth of our current president.
** A second allusion to our current president.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Of moose and MacBeth

The plan yesterday was to do a little five-mile hike and then go watch “MacBeth” performed by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks in a small town near the mountains. It turned out to be more of an adventure than anticipated, and here’s a preview:


(Not pictured: Four hikers cowering behind a tree.)

So…we hiked Phantom Creek Trail to Slough Lake, and we hadn’t gone a mile when a storm started rolling in. It rained on us a bit, and there was some thunder, and even some hail—all that said, it never got too bad, and we were only going 2½ miles from civilization, so we hiked on. Slough Lake was lovely, even in the rain:


On the way back we got passed by a pair of young women; they were the only other people on the trail, actually. But not five minutes after they passed us, they came running back shouting about a moose. The four of us found a place to climb up a steep embankment and made “We are here but no threat to you” noises while a bull moose wandered up toward us. He didn’t seem to pay us a lot of attention but eventually wandered off the trail in the other direction.

Now, moose will not eat you, obviously, but they will still try to kill you, and it was a little scary, even with bear spray in hand. But when the moose was well out of sight, M.H. and I decided to go on. We had a play to get to, and there was only one way back to the car! We went another 100 yards down the trail and ran right into a mama moose with a baby—those being the kind that will even more readily kill you, by the way.

We hustled back to the spot where the other hikers were still hiding out. These two moose stayed on the trail and walked right past us as if they owned the place (which they totally did) and were simply taking the most expeditious route to Slough Lake. Long story short, we all survived, “MacBeth” was great (though if it hadn’t been for the moose I would probably be blogging the story of how the sprinklers came on in the park in the middle of the play, soaking us for a third time that day), and we got home so late and exhausted that I had to skip another morning of swimming. Totally worth it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A daily poetry practice

In case you were wondering, it’s July 10 and, yes, I do have ten poems to show for it (per my monthly resolution). None of them is long (they top out at eight lines), not all of them are good (in fact, I’m confident that six of them are terrible), and not all of them rhyme (one is a haiku). But it has been fun, and it’s getting easier to do as the days go on.

They say that when you think about what kind of life you want to have, you should think about what you enjoyed doing when you were 10, and I know for a fact that wrote a TON of poetry between the ages of 8 and 13. I wrote a little in high school as well to fulfill English assignments (sometimes even when the assignment was not poetry). I wish I had continued, but I made that classic mistake of stopping because I was not that good.

Of course the mistake there is twofold: It wrongly assumed I would never get better, and it totally missed the point of making art in the first place.

On the other hand, I shudder to think about how much hot garbage I would have produced as a prolific poet between the ages of 13 and 30, so you’re welcome, universe.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Problem solving

I was having a Yahoo Mail issue that required me to clear all my cookies, which of course then led to 50 million other problems, including not being able to sign into a bunch of sites or to comment on my own stupid blog. I lived with the frustration for about two weeks before deciding yesterday that, from now on, every time I encountered a computer problem, I was going to do whatever it took to figure out the solution then and there. It has been stupidly time-consuming—but also liberating, now that I seem to have most everything sorted out.

(I would probably experience the same brand of satisfaction if I were to ever organize my digital photos, but at this point I’m sort of curious if it’s possible to just live out the remainder of my days without photo organization.)

The other big problem in my life is that my right shoulder has been bothering me the past few days. This morning it reached a level that I had to admit was pain, so I cut my swim off at 400 meters and am planning to take a three-day weekend to rest (we were going hiking Monday anyway). I think this is smart, but it probably would have been even smarter to stop swimming as soon as it reached “bothering” level. It’s just hard because I’m enjoying my swimming routine so much. But I may find I also enjoy sleeping in for a few days, who knows?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The greatest summer ever

The weather here has gotten warm, which has been great for early morning outdoor swimming. THIS is what I imagined when I decided I wanted to swim all summer. The alarm is still darn early, but the swimming itself feels better all the time, and it’s really fun for me to get a glimpse (a very unobtrusive glimpse, of course) into Mik’s world.

In fact, my morning routine has gotten so long and wonderful that it is actually starting to interfere with my work. Here’s the rough timeline:
5:05: Wake up
5:33: Arrive at swim practice exactly when coaches do
6: Swim
6:20: Walk home/listen to podcasts
7:25: Yardwork/listen to podcasts
7:40: Coffee 1
7:45: Yoga
8:15: Coffee 2
8:20: Cry about coffee/yoga/coffee being over for the day
8:25: Tea 1
8:30: Breakfast and Facebook Scrabble
9: Brush teeth, brush hair, change clothes
9:05: Maybe, finally, four hours after waking up, sit down at my desk to work
I know from experience that it’s a lot easier to get focus-heavy things done first thing in the morning, but you can see how glorious the summer morning routine is and why I don’t want to change a thing.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

“Gnatz!” is out!

I’m a day late in announcing that the “Gnatz!” ebook is now available! I’m really proud of this one—not only of the work I did on it but also because of the objective fact that my husband is an absolute genius. (And if you do read it and agree, please, please, please tell your friends. It is ridiculously hard for an unknown writer to get known, but I’m encouraged by the fact that the handful of people who review his stuff on Amazon are pretty universally blown away by it.)


And happy Fourth, if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review of “Intuitive Eating”

(Or, actually, a long explanation of why I did not finish reading “Intuitive Eating.”)

Hopefully I will not misrepresent this book (since I read only about a quarter of it), but here’s what I understood to be the basic argument: Diets of all types are bad for you, because any kind of limits or deprivation make you rebel and cause you to binge, eat in secret, and gain fat. Also, starvation or extreme hunger sets off a psychological panic—and an inevitable overeating cycle that can take months or years to normalize. Instead of dieting, you should listen carefully to your hunger cues and eat whatever you want whenever you want to satiety. You should not try to get thinner than your body wants to be naturally, and you should toss your scale. Oh, and carbs are the “gold standard” for energy.

I’m on board with a lot of this. If someone is used to eating every few hours to stay satisfied, I would agree that any kind of deprivation diet could cause a vicious cycle of starving and binge eating, and I think there’s something to the psychological panic argument. (We want food for the same reason we want air, after all.) Our culture of body image and dieting is a mess. And I agree 100 percent that the scale is worse than worthless.

But here’s what I could not get past: Obviously before food was industrialized and there were Twinkies and Cheetos in every supermarket, it would have been a no-brainer to eat whatever you want to satisfy hunger. Foods that were hyperpalatable—in other words, literally designed to make you keep eating them—did not even exist. The only thing available was real food.

But that’s not the reality today. A lot of what you find on supermarket shelves is not food at all. I don’t mean the toilet paper. I mean boxed cake mixes that are just sugar mixed with flour mixed with sprinkles mixed with chemicals. Or sodas that are just sugar (or worse) mixed with carbonated water mixed with chemicals. Engineered food is really seductive, and so is sweetness, and so is convenience. The book talks about junk food as if our intuition can somehow outsmart the food scientists whose exact job it is to trick us into eating more of their crap. And it makes it sound like turning down a chocolate chip cookie that you would rather eat is the ultimate act of deprivation.

I just got too irritated to read on. I don’t want to eat one more mouthful of, or spend one more penny on, food that’s just causing misery and disease.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Resolutions for July 2017

Some summertime resolutions:
  • Hit up the farmer’s market. We almost always go and buy a few things, but this summer I would like to try to do the bulk of our produce (and maybe meat) shopping there. We may have to change up what we eat a bit to make it work…
  • More outdoor yoga. I did yoga on my back patio that one time and it was amazing, but apparently I need to force myself to do it again? Fine. Self, you have to do yoga outdoors a minimum of five times in the month of July. Bonus points if any of those is not on the back patio.
  • Write a poem every day. Obviously it does not have to be long, or good, or rhyme. Also I do not have to show it to anyone.
  • Just keep swimming. Getting up to swim and walk every single morning is pretty hard. If I can keep up with that, I will be happy, so I don’t feel I need a new resolution in the “toughness” category. (Although if I can do a 100 fly by the end of the month, that will certainly also be worth bonus points.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Resolution news

I did well on my June resolutions, other than letting the yoga slip a bit. But I’m back at it now, and it feels so good that I don’t know what on earth I was thinking by skipping it. (But it might have been that swimming was so exhausting at first that I just didn’t have the gumption.)

The other resolutions were related to swimming—which you already know all about—making a set of coasters for Dex, and making it a priority to get M.H.’s new book Gnatz! published. There’s great news on the latter two:
  • The coasters turned out great and fit my aesthetic that home decor should be either practical or amusing (these are both!). I hope my son finds them as funny as I do, but it may be the end of July before we are together again, so I’ll just have to wait and see. 
  • Aaaaaand Gnatz! is all but done and should be out in a matter of days. The holdup right now is the cover design, which is not my job but seems to be taking a very long time.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The yoga miracle

I did more butterfly today, but it is so adorably pathetic now. My 1,200-meter workout contained three 50s of it in total. The first two felt like I was floundering around like a 7-year-old—though now that I think about it that’s an insult to some 7-year-olds I have seen. The third one felt a bit more like the stroke I remember, but after about 25 meters I was not strong enough to keep it up and had to go back to what I will now refer to instead as “noob form.”

So, anyway, competent butterfly is yet to come, but here’s a thought about yoga:

Walking home today, I was so stiff, and I felt twitchy in the neck, back, and hip, as if one or all of those could “go out” at any moment. I realized that I had not been living up to my resolution to at least get on the yoga mat every day, so (after coffee) I went down to the Julie Van Keuren Center for Yoga Excellence and loosened up for about 15 minutes. I didn’t think that would actually work miracles, but it TOTALLY DID. Good reminder to make some time for yoga every day. Besides, I recently saw a picture of my niece doing a no-wall handstand, and now more than ever I want that skill.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Butterfly

I’m all wired this morning because—well, coffee—BUT ALSO I tried again and found that I can now swim butterfly. I imagine that I looked like one of those 7-year-olds who are so adorable as they flounder through their very first races. But the important thing is it did not hurt (except my dignity a little). I would be so psyched if I could do a 400 IM or 200 fly by the end of the summer.

I also had a pleasant but embarrassing conversation with the pool manager who shows up at the same time Mik and I do in the mornings. I did not know anything about her except her first name, but then yesterday Facebook informed me that she is friends with both my sisters. So today I let her know that we had that connection, only to find out that she already knew who I was and that we had had the exact same conversation a couple of years ago when we were both swimming at the gym.

My memory, particularly for faces, is so unbelievably bad. I will never be a social butterfly, but now at least I can swim butterfly.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hikes and swims

Not too much swimming happening this week. We took Monday off to go on a spectacular hike to Elk Lake—

Photographic evidence
—and I’m taking the rest of the week off because we leave tomorrow for an out-of-town swim meet.

There’s been a slight improvement in the 6 a.m. weather and pool temperature, which makes morning swimming a whole new deal. A couple of degrees seems to be the difference between being frozen, stupid, and exhausted when you get out of the water and being refreshed (but still pretty exhausted).

I am getting tougher, though, I can tell. I wonder if all this swimming will prove to be good training for watching a swim meet, which is also exhausting for some reason.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Adjustments

Yesterday’s polar plunge (aka morning swim practice) basically ruined my whole day. For one thing, the cold makes you stupid: I still had not warmed up hours later but it didn’t occur to me to take a hot bath until around 11. And then that swung my body temperature wildly to the other extreme and sapped whatever scrap of remaining energy I had. I didn’t get productive again until about 2 in the afternoon—and by “productive,” I mean working at my desk doing nothing remotely physical.

Today was not quite as cold, but I decided to take a few preventive measures anyway. I still have a two-piece wetsuit from my triathlon days, and I thought I could get by wearing only the top half. That was a lot warmer, but it was pretty annoying to swim in, so I took it off partway through. I did keep on a neoprene cap; I might just keep wearing that for a while, because it helped without getting in the way. And I cut the total workout short—500 meters instead of the intended 1000.

Better something than nothing, I say. I can’t very well be frozen/exhausted every day!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A year of AltShift

I’ve already complained thoroughly on several forums about this morning’s air and pool temperatures—I guess one of the pool’s two heaters is broken?—so I will give it a rest except to say that the best that can be said about swims like these is that Mik and I are definitely bonding over our shared trauma. I got my 900-meter swim and three-mile walk done and my body temperature has finally come back to normal, so it’s all good.

Actually, I came to the the blog today to talk about this:

That’s my AltShift app telling me I’ve now been doing the diet for 365 days. We committed to doing it for a year and have finally made it! I’m tempted to complain that my transformation has not been all that miraculous, but on the other hand I am in better shape than I was when I started, and this program never promised miracles, only steady progress. I think the key thing is that I’ve been off of wheat and sugar for a year now and have no desire to get back on them.

M.H. and I want to keep doing something like AltShift going forward but try to make it work better for us. AltShift is five days of eating low-carb, followed by three days of eating low-fat—but we came up with a seven-day cycle we think will suit us better and be a bit more flexible. (In case you’re curious, my complicated New Life Plan is to eat low-carb Monday through Thursday, mix it up on Friday by having one low-carb meal and then one with both fat and carbs, eat low-fat on Saturday, and play it by ear on Sunday depending on how I feel and what’s going on.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Challenges of morning swim practice, ranked

5. Getting out of bed
4. The swimming itself
3. Getting out of the water
2. Getting in the water
1. Keeping my mouth shut

M.H. (who has more early-morning Mik experience than I do) had recommended that, if I was going to impose myself on our teenager’s life by coming to morning swim practice with him, I should probably try not to be chatty and ideally should not talk to him at all. And of course I had already realized that it would be insensitive of me to insert myself into conversations with his friends or coach AT practice.

I do try. It’s hard. But I guess some of us are just a bit more chipper in the mornings, especially when we’re already skittish about jumping into the icy water and HAVE A HALF-HOUR TO KILL ON DECK.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Summer stuff

I took yesterday off of swimming (and work) so M.H. and I could hike to Sioux Charley Lake instead—it was glorious and here’s proof:


But I was back at it today. If my unspoken motivation for all this swimming is that I want it to make me tougher, then it is doing its job. It rained all night last night, so the pool was colder than usual, and the air temp at 6 a.m. was about 50. I knew when I was uncomfortably cold in a sweatshirt that it was not going to be a fun pool entry.

Anyway, I got my 700 meters in and got out of there. I’m pretty excited about tomorrow being a rest day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mornings with Mik

I couldn’t persuade Mik to set his alarm fifteen minutes later for morning swim practice, but he did reluctantly set it for five minutes later. Then he hurried through breakfast and got us to the pool at the same time anyway. We beat both coaches there and ended up waiting outside a locked gate for five minutes.

I tell these tales on him, by the way, with horror (FOR OBVIOUS REASONS) but with some pride, too. Being a lunatic overachiever has served him pretty well. And, in this case, getting there early is kind of helpful to the coaches because they can get started putting the lane lines in. But it’s like we have an anti-teenager who, instead of rebelling, tries to annoy us by being far more diligent than we are.

Anyway, today I increased my, uh, meterage, I guess, from 500 to 600. The plan is to be as consistent as possible about getting to the pool but to never really push myself as far as the actual workout. I’ll be happy if, by the end of the summer, I’ve more or less re-learned how to swim and gotten a bunch of good walks in.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First day swimming! In, like, years!

The outdoor pool opened today and I learned (or relearned) a few things:
  1. Mik is super diligent in all things and absolutely hates to be late, so much so that we arrived at 5:30 for a 6 a.m. practice. He was the first kid there by about 15 minutes. (I’m going to see if I can temper this annoying responsibility streak and campaign for a 10- to 15-minute-later alarm for future mornings.)
  2. Even though it is still pretty chilly here at 6 a.m., the pool is doable. It’s not heated as much as you would HOPE, but I lived.
  3. There’s a surprisingly large group of masters swimmers—eight or so? I really expected to be there alone or maybe with one or two others.
  4. Swimming, even a tiny bit, is exhausting. I did 500 meters (plus the three-mile walk home) and I’m going to be feeling that all day. (I totally ignored the workout the masters were doing. Maybe later when I’ve built some strength.)
  5. It seems like my shoulders are going to be OK to swim, at least freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke. I felt a twinge of pain when I tried butterfly and did not try again.
Overall I’m delighted that the plan seems like it’s going to work. I feel so lucky to be able to swim there all summer for free and to have built a morning walk into my schedule while the weather is so pleasant.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A little story about my yoga journey

When I first started doing yoga, I loved the new idea that everything the instructor said was meant to be taken as a suggestion—you could do it exactly as demonstrated, you could do an easier version, you could do a harder version, you could do something else entirely, or you could sit down and watch. All of that was fine and even encouraged. At the time I was also attending a couple of other exercise classes, but this concept of doing what was right for your body on that day was not really part of them. I soon got to the point where I hated being told what to do—and, worse, having encouragement shouted at me—so much that I stopped going to any other classes.

Years later, when I started doing yoga at home, rather than at the gym, it was mostly to save money. I figured I would miss my beloved instructor enough to pay to attend class occasionally, though, and handing over $10 to get into the gym two or three times a month was still cheaper than a membership. What happened instead is that I never set foot in the gym again. I became instantly enamored of the fact that, in addition to its many other advantages, my home practice had absolutely no peer pressure involved—no temptation at all to do something to impress others or to keep up with the class. (You’d like to think that a woman in her 40s would be over the whole peer pressure dynamic—and I believe I’m actually more resistant to it than most people—but when I took it away, it was unbelievable how much of a factor it had been.)

So now I’m all of two days into my experiment of doing home yoga without the video—in other words, with no one watching me or suggesting anything at all. I thought I might feel a bit confused or rudderless, but instead I feel like I’ve been set free. I don’t know that I’ll never go back to the videos, because I’m sure they still have some things to teach me, but man. Ask your doctor if the minimalistic bliss of doing your own thing is right for you.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Resolutions for June 2017

Some good intentions for next month:
  • Enact the swimming plan! When the outdoor pool opens for the summer, I plan to get up with Mik every morning in time to have him drive me to swim practice at 6 a.m., swim laps for a bit, and then walk or jog home (it’s a bit over three miles). I know any number of things could happen to derail this plan—swimming every day could easily be too much for my shoulder, or my skin—but right now the resolution is to do this six days a week.
  • Change up my yoga. Because I’ll be doing so much walking and swimming, I think I need to cut back on yoga, but I do want to at least get on the mat every day. Instead of turning on a video, though, I’ll just do any movement that I feel is appropriate and maybe meditate for a bit. I consider this a healthy step forward in the process building a home practice.
  • Make a set of coasters. I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, because they were a surprise, but I made a set of coasters for my sister earlier this year as a housewarming gift. (I also did some for us first as a practice run.) Now that I have all the supplies and skills, I want to do the same for Dex, who recently moved into a condo with some fellow students. Still trying to think of a fun idea for them…
  • Prioritize Gnatz! The process of getting M.H.’s latest book out has dragged on for a good while now, and that’s partly due to my own foot-dragging (which is partly due to the fact that the author is an enthusiastic reviser and I am now editing it for the third or fourth time). But at any rate this thing needs to see the light of day, preferably be the end of the month.

Friday, May 26, 2017

New Life Plan alert

I’ve made another change to my eating habits based on information from a couple of podcast* episodes I’ve listened to recently. First, I heard Rhonda Patrick talk about intermittent fasting, and then Art De Vany on why he generally eats only two meals a day. I’m not going to be able to summarize all the science for you here—I feel like it’s not so important for me to personally understand every detail as long as there are other people diligently working on these issues and sharing their knowledge—but the upshot is that both of those habits seem to have profound anti-aging effects. Not to mention fat loss, disease prevention, and a bunch of other good stuff.

So lately I’ve been holding off on breakfast for an extra hour or so, eating until I’m pretty full, and then having nothing but water until another big meal at dinner. It would probably be ideal to have dinner around 4, but it’s important to me to eat with the rest of the family, and that’s usually at 6. It ends up being about a 10-hour daily “feeding window” with a 14-hour fast. I drink coffee and tea, take vitamins, etc., only with the meals. And I also try to get all my “workouts” (yoga, running, walking, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, or whatever) done before breakfast so that I am moving around in a fasted state and then can “rest and digest” (as they say) when I sit down to work for the day.

I’ll let you know if this seems to have any effect on my health, but so far it has not been hard to do. I often will get hungry between breakfast and dinner, but it lasts for only about a half-hour or so. It’s like my body is saying, “Just wanted to let you know you haven’t eaten for a while! No? OK, no problem! Just checking in!”

* Tim Ferriss has a pretty interesting podcast. It’s not my favorite (tie there between the RobCast and The West Wing Weekly), but it certainly yields the most actionable information for a self-experimenter.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Giddy

Warning: I’ve now reached the point in my running training where I’m going to have to actually control myself to keep from waxing rhapsodic after every jog. (But it feels so gooooood!) A big breakthrough came when I realized that, although I should be running at a pace that allows me to breathe through my nose, I don’t have to actually breathe through my nose the entire time, every time. I can just determine what the right pace is and then breathe normally while making sure not to speed up. That makes the same exact run even easier and more enjoyable.

Today I finished my 1.5-mile loop and realized that I could easily go around again if I wanted to, but in the spirit of quitting while I’m ahead, I left it at that. Then I did some easy, stretchy yoga, and the long-lasting bliss of that workout—AND OH BY THE WAY BUTTER COFFEE—has made for a super enjoyable day.

PLUS, I’ve been drawing birds, which is only semi-fun so far, but I did say I wanted to try. I decided that, before I could get onto Twitter each day, I first had to produce one bird drawing, for better or for worse. So far it has been for worse—the pencil I’ve been using doesn’t even have an eraser—but you can see them here if you’re so inclined. (Regarding all the very angry tweets: Sometimes I think it’s weird that I can be doing so well on one level while simultaneously being sick with worry/fury about politics, but I think that might be true for a lot of us these days.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hey, we did an adventure

Sunday was both Mother’s Day and M.H.’s birthday, so we gathered up both kids (meeting Dexter in Bozeman, which is sort of on the way) and took them to Yellowstone Park. M.H. and I have been wanting to take a five-mile round-trip hike to Lone Star Geyser, but when we tried a couple of years ago in the spring we discovered that it was not accessible without snowshoes. We actually own snowshoes that we had never used, so this time we brought them along and made it happen.

The good news is that we made it to the geyser right in time to see a minor eruption, and then we hung out for about 25 minutes and also saw a major eruption, which lasted 30 minutes and was loud and impressive. Those eruptions come three to four hours apart, so we were lucky:

This is actually the minor eruption; my phone
died about 10 seconds after taking this.
The bad news is that snowshoeing is more difficult than we had assumed, and five miles was way too long a trek for first-timers. M.H. and Dex both had hip pain; I had knee pain and was so exhausted that I barely survived the trudge back. (Mik, who is used to working out four hours a day and is basically a solid block of muscle, seemed fine. His only concern was that the rest of us—OK, I—was so slow that we weren’t going to make it home early enough for him to get a good night’s sleep before morning swim practice.)

When we got back to the car, it was getting late and we were all some degree of tired, so we didn’t end up doing too much else. But we still managed to see all of the following: bison calves, a wolf, three bighorn sheep, a moose, a trumpeter swan, and a 360-degree rainbow around the sun. We also saw lots of evidence of bears (including giant tracks in the snow) and therefore felt lucky not to have seen one of those.

I was really sore yesterday and when I woke up this morning, but coffee and yoga seem to have fixed me right up. :)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An assortment of happy things

I went for another good run this morning—1.5 miles of almost entirely running as the sun was coming up, and it felt SO GOOD. I probably came home a little bit too happy, because M.H. is still concerned that I’m going to abandon my work and family by getting into ultramarathoning. (Seems I joke about it too much on the blog?) I demonstrated for him the actual pace I am running, which is about 70 percent of the speed of my mother’s brisk walk, but he’s not fully convinced.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of sharing things that are bringing me joy right now (something I would guess we all need more of), I highly recommend:
  • Running real slow. I don’t know why it feels so good. 
  • Two podcasts that I’m particularly obsessed with: the RobCast and The West Wing Weekly (the latter probably only if you’ve watched the show or want to—it’s on Netflix). Both contain humor, wisdom, and coping mechanisms for dealing with the Trump administration.
  • Yoga with Adrienne! She has dozens and dozens of free videos and, while not every one of them is for me personally, most of them are treasures.
  • Getting out to work in the yard every day. I set myself a minimum of 15 minutes, but it usually ends up being more. I always find that there are lots of fun and useful things I can do, and after a while it’s extremely satisfying to be the master of your little domain. (I guess this works only if you have a yard, though maybe you could be master of some indoor domain as well.)
  • COFFEE! I’ve been having a cup of coffee every morning, blending it with butter, Brain Octane oil, and cacao powder. It makes me feel awesome, and over the past week or so I’ve gone from “tolerate the taste” to “love everything about it” and am fast on my way to “evangelist.”
(One of these days I’m probably going to add “sketching birds” to the list, but so far I have nothing to report on that front.)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Squeezing life stuff in around the edges

MAN. The past couple of weeks (or is it just one week that seemed like six?) have been a tornado of work like I haven’t experienced for a while. But I took some time off yesterday to go garden-store shopping with a friend and then got my tiny garden planted. And after three years of pouring food waste into the same two containers, I’ve finally succeeded in making usable compost, so I also added that to the garden and lawn, which was just about as satisfying and folksy as it gets.

By the way, the (super obvious) secret to composting is to not add things that don’t actually compost. In my case it turns out that a bunch of shredded office paper was a big no-no. I also found in the finished compost banana stickers, twigs, avocado pits, eggshells, and (for some reason) coins. Some of those things would compost eventually, but I guess not on the time scale I’m shooting for.

Anyway, I’m glad I resolved to stick to my good habits despite the work natural disaster—it’s helpful that I’ve at least been trying to exercise! I even went for a very satisfying run in which I actually ran most of the 1.1 miles. This may not sound like a particularly exciting breakthrough, but it is. I think I’ll map out a slightly longer route of maybe 1.5 miles and have that be my default run for a while. It was kind of a revelation that I can actually make progress when running once or twice a week at most, but it seems to be working according to plan!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Resolutions for May

I’m looking at the month ahead and thinking it’s going to be a bit challenging, between work and travel and being in the final stages of getting M.H.’s latest book out. Plus I want to get a garden going at some point, and I have an urge/need to do some spring decluttering. So I don’t have a lot of super-ambitious plans for the month, but rather just a bunch of things I really need to do or want to squeeze in around the edges.

Here are the resolutions:
  • Wrap things up with the dyslexia lady and make a donation to her worthy cause. Pretty much what I wrote about yesterday.
  • Take at least one little trip that’s not (entirely) swimming-related. We have been wanting to go snowshoeing in Yellowstone Park while there’s still snow there. And/or we could go hiking around Bozeman and visit Dex at his new place (since we have to be there twice in May with Mik anyway).
  • Draw some birds. Thanks to the Dewey Decimal System, the drawing books in the library are right there with the knitting books, and several weeks ago I spontaneously grabbed a book called “The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds”—both because it seemed so delightfully specific and because I really liked the bird drawings in it. THEN we went to Washington and visited a number of amazing museums featuring or containing art, and it made me realize that my true calling in life is to be an artist—specifically one who gets her start drawing birds. I am not expecting them to be good, and I don’t think I’ll be able to draw a bird a day or anything (as the book insists I need to), but call this resolution fulfilled if I post at least three bird drawings to this blog in the month of May.
  • Keep up my habits. I don’t want to let being busy derail all the good habits that keep me healthy and my house and yard put together. So every “normal” day, I want to do yoga, walk, work for 15 minutes in the yard, work for 15 minutes on cleaning the house, spend at least a half-hour reading, and consider whether I am feeling awesome enough for a run.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Facing reality and knitting middles

I had a very nice run this morning on my 1.1-mile loop. It really is enjoyable to run at an easy pace. I mean, it probably looks to the neighbors like I’m standing still, but I’m starting to foresee a time when I will be able to actually go for some kind of respectable distance at some kind of respectable pace, and then it will be really fun.

Since April is nearly over and I’ve officially failed for 30 days to take care of it, it’s time to admit to myself that I am never going to work on this grant proposal thing. I still want to help the dyslexia tutor, but I really don’t feel at all qualified or equipped to do “grant research.” I think I’ll have to a) tell her I just can’t help with that, b) apologize for wasting her time, c) donate some of my own money to her effort, and d) have her hang onto my name in case she ever has a clear-cut writing or editing project I actually could help with.

The rest of my April resolutions went well, and I got my knitting project started just under the wire (i.e., this evening). Now it will be easy to chip away at it for a while. I would probably knit a lot more if I could just hire someone to knit the first inch for me. And take care of all the sewing and binding off at the end. Yes, I would really enjoy knitting a lot more if it were all buying yarn, looking at patterns, and knitting middles of things.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lemon, mint, and coffee

I finally got around to making more infused lemon water—this time without the sneaky, diuretic mint leaves. I drank some with and after dinner, since I am trying not to have tea in the evening. But then I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night and woke up really thirsty. Back to Dr. Google: lemon water diuretic? 

Well, of course it is. And no wonder the evening mint-AND-lemon water nearly killed me. But this is really good to know: The only acceptable drink for the evening is straight water—maybe even with a pinch of salt for a whatever-the-opposite-of-diuretic-is effect. I’m guessing that that will solve my getting-up-in-the-night problem and that I’ll sleep a lot better.

Speaking of mint, here’s a picture of my rock garden in the rain—I wanted to capture it while the tulips were blooming. The creeping green mass above the tulips is all mint, and I’m doing my darndest to keep it contained to where it is. Unfortunately, I’m just throwing it away now. I already have enough dried leaves to last me five years, and I can’t think of anything else to do with the fresh ones.


And speaking of beverages—and tossing in another life update—I’ve been reading about the health benefits of coffee and decided a few weeks ago that I would try to just get used to the taste, which I’ve always despised. I started with like an eighth of a cup (drunk while making a face) and gradually added a bit more each morning. But it really didn’t take that long to get used to, and lately I’ve been drinking a full cup blended with cacao powder, MCT oil, and grass-fed butter. (That’s Bulletproof-style coffee, if you have not heard of it.) I actually look forward to it now—it tastes pretty OK (the chocolate and butter help a lot), but it absolutely does make me feel amazing.

Since I’m always looking for ideas that can help Mik with his swimming, I’ve told him this little story and suggested that he join the coffee achievers, too. He’s not convinced, but geez. I would really like to see a 200 fly powered by this stuff.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Practical running

I have a million updates that I feel like I should blog about, but since I hate writing “updates”—and since one of my April resolutions was to write about running—I’ll give you just the running-related stuff for now.

So: My one and only run since the last post was in the airport on Monday. We went to Washington, D.C., last week to visit my sister and march in the March for Science, and our flight getting out was delayed so long that we very nearly missed our connection. I’d say it was, oh, a third of a mile, but much faster than my usual (I was worrying about getting to the gate, not breathing through my nose). And of course in Washington we also saw a bunch of museums and stuff and did a ton of walking, which was both lovely and all the exercise I really wanted.

If you’re appalled that I’ve let myself get to the point where hustling through the Minneapolis airport counts as not just a run but my hardest run to date—well, too bad. Running is not a priority for me, and I’m not going to be entering a race anytime soon, but stuff like this does show why it’s handy to have at least a little cardio endurance for real-life purposes.

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.