Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I haven't been on a bike in 18 months, but I know I might need to again at some point, since I'm planning to sign up for a sprint triathlon next summer with Mik. And so I guess that's why I was susceptible to being talked into trying a cycling class this morning, even though I could have predicted that I was going to hate it.

Now that it's over, I'm not sure I can adequately express how much I did hate it.

It was too dark and too loud, which I was expecting. The instructor barked at us a lot, which I was expecting. The music was not really to my taste, which I was expecting.

But I was unnerved by the unrelenting "go hard or go home" vibe. Examples:

  • "I want to see sweat pouring down your face right now!"
  • "If you're thinking about anything other than your legs, that's a sign that you need to pick it up and get focused!"

Naturally, I got a bit rebellious. I started turning the resistance down instead of up whenever I felt like it and daydreaming (in direct violation of edict #2) about what I'd like to say to the instructor. About how a sweat-pouring-down-your-face workout might not be appropriate or safe for everyone. About how, actually, studies show that subjecting ourselves to this kind of relentless cardio for an hour straight is counterproductive. But that was before these doozies:

  • "You might not like this kind of workout, but who cares? You're not here to be entertained; you're here to work!"
  • "However hard you're going right now, it's not enough. It's never enough, just like in life.

Okay, first of all, I actually was there to be entertained. (Maybe that's just me.) But…It's never enough, just like in life? We must strive and struggle and suffer in a quest for perfection until the day we die?

Chamber of horrors. Seriously. And yet people must buy into it, because the class was completely full.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Marriage and the art of egg carton management

M.H. and I have been married almost 20 years, and the other day I mentioned one of his little quirks that I had been cheerfully humoring for a long time. It's no big deal. It's just that he likes there to be an even number of eggs left in the egg carton. So, if at all possible, we always try to use them in pairs. And if the number is odd, we might hard-boil five eggs instead of four to restore balance. And just for fun, we make a kind of unspoken game out of always having the eggs arranged in a symmetrical pattern, so if you weren't the last one to use them, you get a little surprise when you open the carton. I know the whole thing is ridiculous, but it's always brought me some small delight to play along with this harmless eccentricity in someone I love.

Except M.H. had no idea what I was talking about. He thought the entire thing had been my neurotic little quirk, and he'd been the one humoring me all these years.

Don't you think it's funny how a marriage itself can develop charming little quirks?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kitchen incompetence

I have the sense of having been in the kitchen all day, and what do I have to show for it?* A huge stack of dishes, a food processor that's been washed eight times but is dirty again, crumbs all over the counters, overflowing trash, a sick feeling from too much sampling, and ONE finished dessert for tomorrow.

(There should have been a second dessert, but I burned it. The edible portions were very tasty, though, so that gives me the heart for a second attempt.)

I feel like I should videotape myself cooking to try to analyze just how I always manage to accomplish so little while feeling so frantic and leaving such a huge disaster. It doesn't help that Paleo cooking is a thousand times more complicated than microwaving cheese onto a tortilla.

* Besides breakfast, lunch, and dinner** for a family of four, which I admit is something.
** Some had dinner; some had had too much burned test cake. The point is, we're full.

Friday, November 16, 2012


My mom always hosts Thanksgiving, so I've never had to deal with turkey guts or gravy lumps or had to try to get 15 things on the table all at once or any of that nonsense. It's great. But I do like to contribute something beyond just stirring whatever she tells me to stir and saying grace. But what could it be this year?

Turkey is out, obviously. Potatoes have to be finished at her house, and she'd have them peeled and ready to go by the time we got there anyway. Rolls are pure evil and I want no part of them. The relish tray is better done by her (trust me) and can also be done in advance. The cranberry sauce is just the canned stuff, because that's what Grandma likes, and it's pointless to have two kinds. I mentioned asparagus, and my dad made his "you disgust me with your continued insistence on healthy eating" face.

Well, I thought, I could bring desserts! I have about a hundred Paleo dessert recipes bookmarked, and I've hardly gotten to try any of them. Less-bad-for-you indulgences! My mind started clicking.

"Now, wait a minute," my dad said suspiciously. "When you say 'dessert'…are you talking about something somebody else might actually want to eat?"

"Oh, I think I'd better at least make a pie," my mom added. (Which actually, when translated, means, "I'd better make three or four kinds of pie.")

Oh, well. What can you do? I'll show up on Thursday with a heart full of gratitude—along with some asparagus and several dubious-looking desserts—and let the chips fall where they may. And I might even have some pie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Honey, I'm home!

I finished Happier at Home, and as predicted it's giving me all sorts of New Life Plan ideas!

(By the way, M.H. is all too aware of this, and he also knows there's a chapter in the book about marriage. So now whenever I do anything nice for him, he asks suspiciously, "Are you Happiness Project-ing me?" Sheesh. I mean, not yet.)

Anyway, I realized that a source of anxiety for me is the fact that my job is almost never "done." (And of course when it is "done," freelancer panic starts to set in.) Instead of having a quitting time where I leave work behind and forget all about it, I bounce back and forth between working and not working all morning and afternoon and then sit at my desk late into the evening until I can't stand it anymore. And although I do take a fair amount of time off, I never feel like it's a good time to do it, because there's always more work waiting. It's as if I live at the office and just duck out occasionally to run personal errands. It know would be smart to set some office hours, but the problem is that my work volume ebbs and flows a lot and has pretty varied deadlines and timing.

But today I realized that while I would probably never be able to set office hours, I could try to keep some "home hours," when, barring a crisis, I am always off duty. I decided that from 2:30 to 4:30 every afternoon, I will be officially Home from Work. Today I used the time to go for a run, take a shower, cook dinner, sing until my kids begged me to stop, eat with the family, and help clean the kitchen. And you know, it's exactly the same kind of stuff I usually do anyway at that time of day, but it was strangely relaxing just to change my mind-set about it.

Okay, last one.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Car trouble

I drove Dex 150 miles to Bozeman on Saturday for a climbing comp, and while I was getting us lunch, I locked myself out of the minivan. It cost me $40 to get back in, but I wasn't really upset about it, because of course there are a lot worse things that can happen when you're traveling.

On Sunday, we took the van 50 miles in the other direction for Day 2 of Mik's swim meet in Hardin. Just as we got back into town it started coughing and stalling and lurching, and now it's at the shop and we're discussing for the upteenth time whether it's worth repairing or if we should just buy a new car.

I know there are still a lot worse things that can happen when you're traveling, but I would really prefer that the downward spiral just stop right there.

Actually, this weekend was terrific otherwise, but I'm too exhausted to write about everything. If you're interested in my children's athletic triumphs, go ahead and give them a call, why don't you?

The young superstars.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Partway-through reviews

I've realized that, for various reasons, I'm now reading seven books at once (plus indexing one for Happy, but that is unpleasant and doesn't count). This is pretty unusual for me, and to be frank, some of them may not ultimately be finished, so it might be an exaggeration to say I'm "reading" them. I just haven't committed to abandoning them yet.

Anyway, here are my partway-through reviews:
  • Music for Torching by A.M. Homes. I'm reading A.M. Homes because yrmama told me to, and I'm reading this Homes because it's the only one our library had available. I'm on page 81, but it's a little weird for my taste. I think I would probably ultimately like it, but it's not my most pressing reading.
  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I don't know what my problem is with this book. This is the second or third time I've tried to read it, and although I find it dreamy, I just can't get through it. The last time I remember picking this up, I was sitting on my front porch in the summer sun.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. I really like Buffy and friends, and I really like Abraham Lincoln, but I still would never have picked this up except that M.H. told me I would love it. I only just like it, and since I'm listening to the audiobook, I don't get to it very often.
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Mik has to read some nonfiction for a book report this month, and this is one I picked up because I remembered really liking it and thought he might, too. He had no interest whatsoever, but I'm about three chapters in already.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I grabbed this with Mik's book report in mind as well, but the more I browsed through it, the more I thought Dex—perhaps the most introverted person in a family of introverts—might really get something out of it. Of course that kind of recommendation has zero cachet with a 14-year-old, so the new plan is to read it and then read the best parts to him, because that's my way.
  • Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. My favorite yoga instructor is always talking to me about books, and she was all excited about this one and offered to let me borrow it. On my own, I would have never made it past the sentence, "And yet, from time to time a gust of uneasiness would blow through the back rooms of my mind, as if a window had been left open there and a storm had come through and my neatly stacked pages of notes on being human had blown off the desk." Now, of course, I will have to finish it in a polite interval and get it back to her.
  • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. This is just not as good as her The Happiness Project, but it's the kind of book I love because it gives me all sorts of ideas for working on my next New Life Plan. I'm tearing through it and have a few resolution ideas already. "Make more time to read," for example.

The eclectic reader on her photo shoot.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Wow, the barefoot running did a number on my calves. I found myself walking down the stairs sideways this morning to avoid making the delayed-onset muscle soreness…angry, and I realized, "I lived like this for nine months." Calves, hamstrings, quads, feet—something always hurt, and I always had to keep training and creatively navigating the stairs anyway. Because Ironman!

I wonder now if that was even the best way to train, or if it would have been smarter to take more time to let myself heal between workouts. I'm actually not sure, but I do know this: I don't have a single reason in the world now to run again until my calves feel better.

Also this: It's so much more fun to have done an Ironman than to be doing one.

The has-been on her photo shoot.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Aquafoot running

I put on running clothes and stepped out the front door again—have I mentioned how very much that is the hard part?—and had a lovely run. A bit farther than last time. Maybe two miles?

So I've been reading a lot about the benefits of barefoot running but have not actually tried it except on a treadmill for a short time a few times a long time ago. The problem is that spending a bunch of money on fancy "barefoot" shoes has seemed insane, especially when I still own TWO pairs of fancy "running" shoes with less than 50 miles on them. (Running with actually-bare feet also seems insane. And chilly.)

But I remembered reading a suggestion somewhere to just buy aqua shoes, which have tough soles, traction, and full coverage, but no unnecessary support. I already have a pair of those, so I slipped them on and took off. And it was good! Nothing hurt, and my feet felt so wonderfully free and wiggly. I've always loved going barefoot, so barring any pain from this, I'm going to try it for a while.

A little too excited about wiggly toes?

Monday, November 5, 2012

A habit half-kicked

So now that the Halloween candy is…actually, I'm not sure what happened to it. I can only assume M.H. hid it from me and is planning to eat it all himself. I'm the one who started the whole being-sneaky-about-the-candy thing, so I'm not pointing fingers. But the point is, now that the Halloween candy is out of sight, it feels like I do have the sugar issue under control after all. I'm happily eating my asparagus and salads and chili and eggs and avocados and whatnot, and I have no serious desire to hunt down the bag of leftover candy and make it mysteriously disappear.*

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my craving for sugar is no longer physical but psychological. So at least the habit is half-kicked. If people would just keep it away from me, I'd be fine.

You hear that, people? Keep that crap away from me. And don't tell me you're keeping it away from me, just hide it when you see me coming. For real.

* Into my mouth.

The addict on her photo shoot.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Aw, sugar sugar

So for the past several years, I've planned a "sugar fast" between Halloween and Christmas, excluding only birthdays and holidays. I wasn't going to bother this year because I thought I had the whole sugar issue under control, but guess what happened!! We bought a bag of crazy-evil Halloween candy!! On the 29th, it started seductively whispering my name, and I convinced M.H. that we should make a tiny incision in the bag to pull out a couple of fun size candy bars—it was his gallbladder surgery that gave me the idea—and that way the kids wouldn't even realize it had been opened.

Of course "a couple" turned into a couple more, and then a "couple" more the next day, and then a complete avalanche on Halloween itself. (Side note: We also gorged on kale chips, because my sister-in-law and family were in town, and that was what my nephew requested for a treat. They are better than I remember.)

Then I had a sugar-free day; then I went to my dad's birthday party yesterday and had ice cream plus a million more fun-sized death sticks at their house (apparently acceptable under the birthday exception clause).

So I kind of think a strict sugar ban is in order after all, even though I wish I were mature enough to just eat responsibly without a stinking rule. Actually, what I wish is that our culture wasn't so saturated with sugar, because think how easy this all would be if the law didn't require cake and ice cream on every birthday and a giant bag of candy on every Halloween.

The co-conspirator,
and Mik at his most photogenic,
on the photo shoot.