Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year's resolutions—oh, why not?

I’m a little bummed that I felt I had to break my own rule today and work on a Saturday. (My reasoning was that it would be far more stressful NOT to get some things done today, because I’m waaaay behind and am having computer problems that are making the situation especially dire.) But I would like to officially set a goal of not making this exception again in 2018. If I can get through January, the rest of the year should be easy.

I sort of thought I had moved beyond making a bunch of resolutions just because a calendar page is turning over, but I seem to have come up with several plans for January despite myself:

  • I want to take a break from self-directed yoga and do this 30-day program. These are always really good, and I feel like it will give me some new ideas and breathe fresh life into my own practice the rest of the year.
  • I really want to try the eating guidance from this book I just read—it’s an even stricter set of food restrictions, basically. But the author makes big claims, and it sounds like it would be interesting to try. (The only problem is that I’m not really prepared, grocery-wise, and the weather tomorrow is supposed to be full-on Arctic wasteland. With wind.)
  • Finally, I think it’s already time for another social media break. Not only for my health and productivity, but also because of all the privacy issues on Facebook and all the Nazi issues on Twitter. I just feel like giving those services less of my brain and content. You may have to just come back here if you want to hear my opinions on things. (Privacy good, Nazis bad!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Status report

Saturdays off update:
Taking one day off a week is marvelous; however, it increases my workload by 14.3% every other day. Hoping that will not be the case after I get through my busiest time of year.

Work update:
Could not be more behind/oppressed/doomed.

Christmas update:
So much done and yet still not “ready”! Insert rant about how the holidays are just a giant to-do list!

Exercise update:
Yoga most days has dwindled to me sitting on the mat and trying to calm down for four seconds. It is neither too cold nor too snowy to walk, but do I walk? (No.)

Diet update:
Going fine, actually. I learned how to make a delicious cream of mushroom soup without cream (it does have lots of butter). I’m also experimenting with different forms of carb cycling, which is my idea of a fun and interesting leisure activity.

Social media update:
I’m a lot closer than I want to be to being right back where I was before I took the month off. I’m back to being online too much (though less) and getting most of my news from Twitter. However, I feel less impotently outraged than before, which is good. Probably when that happens again it will be time to think about another month off.

Trash update:
We don’t even put the garbage can on the curb anymore many times because we produce only about a grocery bag a week of trash. It grosses me out to look around at all our neighbors’ overflowing cans. Remember when I read that book and thought the author was insane? That’s me now. (Trash is on my mind because of a) Christmas wastefulness and b) M.H.’s new manuscript that I’m supposed to be editing, so that’s why you’re getting an update on it.)

(EDIT TO ADD: I’m not implying that M.H.’s new book is trash, but that it’s about trash.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


In case you’re wondering how I handled my dental cleaning quandary, the answer is I really like my hygienist—she 100 percent understands and supports all my other preferences/requests (which I had forgotten also include a modified X-ray schedule)—and so I decided not to burden her with anything more. She didn’t bring up anything too creepily specific about my life anyway.

So I feel like that was the right decision and that I’m calming down a bit. I know I keep alluding to how bad November was for me in terms of stress, but the more I (slowly) return to baseline, the more I realize how bad it was. It’s vital that I start setting better boundaries with clients. I think the key thing is keeping in mind that I’m absolutely willing to be fired by a couple of them if they decide they need someone who’s more “on call.” So I’m going to stick to my guns, ignore any out-of-bounds requests, and physically separate my phone from myself when I don’t really need it.

Sorry in advance if you are trying to reach me, especially on a Saturday.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dental cleaning quandary

The stress of November keeps manifesting in unpleasant ways, and the latest is this:

I have to go to the dentist for a cleaning tomorrow, and I am literally dreading having to make small talk. I hate the fact that they keep notes about what you discussed at your last visit, and I think if the hygienist asks about my “son who swims” or whatever, I may actually snap. Honestly, if we have to make small talk, I would be much happier to repeat all the basics twice a year. I don’t expect them to remember one patient out of hundreds whom they see every six months, and it feels creepy to know that my dentist has an actual dossier on me.

Would it be weird and upsetting if I asked for my dossier to say, “This patient does not want any personal information recorded (or the plastic pouch of freebies)”? I mean, I have already asked to not be given the single-use plastics AND talked to this dentist about homemade toothpaste, so maybe I should go for broke here. On the other hand, it’s probably a really mean thing to do to the hygienist, who would then feel forced to try to remember me from visit to visit, which is not at all what I want. And I know this probably wouldn’t bother me if I weren’t already falling to pieces through no fault of the dental office…

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Transition Saturday

My first no-work Saturday was sort of a bust, because I ended up getting up at 5 and then spending all day working at a swim meet. THEN I had to go to my desk and do some actual editing work, because before my epiphany I had already told one of my clients that I’d be available tonight. (M.H.: “Oh, did you forget to explain your New Life Plan to them?” YES, dammit.)

But the concept is still sound, and I’ve already sent a schedule to the client for next week that includes the words “Saturday: Not available.” And I had a good 24 hours there with lots of fun and no paid work, so I am transitioning into my day off nicely.

Oh, I suppose it technically is a “New Life Plan,” except that that implies flightiness, and I need and expect this one to stick. It seems like the choice before me is:
  1. Work within your limits
  2. Early grave

Friday, December 1, 2017


It’s December, so I’m all detoxed and no longer have to put a positive spin on everything!

I joke, but actually the social-media-detox/positive-blogging-whatever worked well, so much so that when I went to see what was up with Facebook and Twitter just now, it was like the scales had dropped from my eyes. YUCK. Both sites made me insta-miserable. I couldn’t understand half of what anyone was saying or why they were saying it, and I did not want to find out. I got a literal and not figurative headache.

Unfortunately, both sites have things that I do value, so I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I’m re-addicted and clicking on them compulsively. But I’m sitting here thinking (yet again) of ways I can avoid that.

Look at social media only once a day? Take a day off every week? Take a week off every month?Take a month off every year? All of that combined?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

TheBombDotMom: A day off

Hahahaha. I hear having regular days off is awesome, but I don’t have firsthand knowledge. Today was the worst one I’ve had in a while, with messages coming at me from all sides on different platforms—this project needed in an hour, this one already late, just circling back on this one because you said you were going to do it two hours ago and we haven’t heard from you, and oh, by the way, you should make this project you were previously unaware of your top priority, please! Not to mention the pile of stuff I told people a week ago that I could do today, once Giant Project was done (and before I knew Giant Project would be late).

M.H. just pointed out to me that we worked literally every day in November, with the sole exception that I took Thanksgiving off (we think). That is just so stupid, and I came to the decision today that from now on, I’m taking Saturdays off, whatever the career consequences. If I want to do something during the week, I might take a second day off, too, but I’m always taking Saturdays off.

I know actual freelancers (well, one for sure) who do this, and it seems to work fine. I’ve heard that taking regular time off makes you ultimately more productive, etc., but I don’t even care about that. I just want to not work myself to death.

What will I do on Saturdays? Even cleaning the house or something would be an improvement, but my intent is to rest, read, drink tea, and do anything else I feel like doing. Just thinking about it is lowering my blood pressure, which is saying a thing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Knowledge is power

I have long believed that the human thirst mechanism is there for a reason and that the whole “By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated” thing is probably crap.

I guess that’s just background information so you know where I’m coming from, but I heard something really interesting on a podcast this morning: Too much liquid in conjunction with meals can cause stomach upset, because it dilutes your stomach acid, which then allows food to sit in your stomach and start to ferment rather than being quickly digested. And that might explain why sometimes green tea seems to upset my stomach, which I always thought I must be imagining because it didn’t seem to make any sense.

I don’t typically drink much of anything at meals, but obviously I make exceptions for tea. (I make a lot of exceptions for tea.) But I think, with this new information, I’ll probably avoid all liquids an hour before and after eating and see what happens.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TheBombDotMom: The Christmas tree

Does it seem like…a lot that we have a giant, sparkly Christmas tree in the middle of our living room for a full tenth of the year? (I was going to say “twelfth,” but then I did the math.) It kind of is, but I also kind of love it. It makes the most-coveted reading chair an even more magical place to curl up, and from the perspective of someone walking in the front door, that chair is actually hidden behind the tree. (It is just a bonus that Dex was home from college last weekend and so THE CHILDREN ASSEMBLED THE TREE WITH NO HELP FROM ME. I mean, I think M.H. asked/told them to, but that does not make it any less wonderful.) Someday I’ll be done assembling the rest of the decorations, and then the festivities can begin!

Monday, November 27, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Good health

My Big Book of Cheesy Daily Meditations reminded me this morning how lovely it is to be in decent health—and that it’s truly something to be thankful for every day.

Imagine if last night you went to bed with a raging headache, or the stomach flu, or a throbbing big toe, or brain cancer. And then you woke up this morning without that thing that was making you miserable. Imagine what a flood of joy and relief that would be.

And now consider your current state: headache, flu, ouchie toe, cancer? Probably none of those (or at least not all of them). That can be a source of joy, if we want it to.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Social media freedom

I think this month of “social media detox” has worked its magic, because not only is it not remotely hard to stay away from Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t even know if I want to go back.

That’s probably an exaggeration. I probably will go back, at least to Facebook. I like seeing stuff from my friends and family; it’s not like they write me letters. But I think the very first thing I will do on Facebook Dec. 1 is unfollow anyone whose posts I don’t enjoy seeing for any reason whatsoever, including and especially my local newspaper. (Why allow Facebook to become even slightly aggravating? Who does it benefit? What is the point? And why did I ever Read. The. Comments?)

Twitter is more of a dilemma. I find it supremely amusing and love to post there. But having taken this break, I am starting to comprehend how much it riles me up and stresses me out. I think it might be preferable to be a slightly less amused person who doesn’t walk around constantly feeling like everything is on the brink of disaster.

Whatever I end up doing, hearts and stars to the social media vacation. It should probably be a November tradition.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

TheBombDotMom: The couples playlist

Spotify is #thebomb, as you probably know. M.H. and I realized sometime in the past year or so that we could hook up one of our phones to our stereo system and play our music through the speakers in the kitchen—which is great because we’re in there cooking together constantly. The problem was that we had to listen to either one of his playlists (which include a lot of songs I find annoying), one of my playlists (which include a lot of songs he finds annoying) or some generic Spotify playlist (which includes a lot of songs we both find annoying).

So our musical tastes diverge, for sure, but there is still a huge chunk of overlap in that Venn diagram. So we made a new, joint playlist of just those songs—313 (and counting) singable and/or danceable tracks, perfect for cooking, that we both enjoy. (I also threw some tolerable Eagles and Led Zepplin on there, because it amuses me that our 17-year-old favors “classic rock.”)

Such a small thing, but it turned “slaving over a hot stove” into “karaoke kitchen dance party.”

Friday, November 24, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Money talks

In a world where your actual vote probably counts for very little—and even less if your district is gerrymandered or if your state is a predetermined color—here’s a small but satisfying way to to exercise a bit of power: Vote with your wallet.

We were doing that last month when we forked over many hundreds of dollars to a very nice rancher—whom we have actually met and spoken to, who lives near here, and whose environmental practices we admire and approve of—in exchange for half a grass-fed cow. I did it last week when I forked over many tens of dollars for six pounds of unsweetened chocolate not harvested by slaves (and which is THEBOMBDOTMOM melted into coffee, I have discovered). And I did it again today when I spent zero dollars on the disgusting American spectacle known as Black Friday.

There. No on the industrial meat industry, no on child slavery, no on consumerism. I voted™.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Thank you, Washington Post

Here’s the best thing I’ve read in The Washington Post to date.

Not because I have the slightest inkling that this doofus will prove to himself that the earth is flat—or even accidentally discover that it is not.

It’s because of the casual, unapologetic, unexplained, not-even-winked-at use in the second paragraph of the word “atmosflat.” God bless the free press. And happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Letting it be

I’ve had a dawning realization over the past year or so that may seem kind of stupid—but it’s revolutionary for me, so maybe it will help you, too.

In the past, if I was having, say, a day where I couldn’t seem to focus on my work, I would beat myself up about it and try really hard to do better. Or if I got on the yoga mat and just wasn’t feeling up to doing much, I would power through anyway to get in a “normal” amount of exercise. Or if I felt like snacking, I would tell myself that was wrong and bad and try to beat my instincts into submission with willpower.

But what I’ve been realizing is that every day is different. Some days it’s really easy to focus and get a ton of work done, some days not. Some days I want to eat a lot, some days I really don’t. Some days I feel strong and flexible and want to do all the yoga tricks—and some days I just want to lie there on my back with my eyes closed and wait for the fireplace fan to come on.

I think it was a form of fear that was making me fight my natural inclinations, a worry that one lazy day would be followed by three more lazy days, and the next thing you know I would be…lazy forever. But lately I have just been accepting each day for what it is, and it’s like some psychological self–trust fall, and truly nothing has dropped to the ground yet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TheBombDotMom: That Ironman race report

The Ironman was the reason I started this whole blog in the first place, and I always said that the race report I wrote about the experience was my favorite souvenir. It's now six years later, and I certainly have not changed my mind. In fact, probably about twice a year, I’ll notice the link sitting on my blog and reread the thing, and not once has it not made me tear up.

(Did I just add a piece of my own writing to my list of things that are totally awesome? Yes, I’m afraid I did. Sorry.)

One interesting thing, though: While everything I wrote about that day was true, it was also selected out of a million other experiences. And you know how I remember the race? Exactly the way I wrote about it, as a story of miracles and triumph. That’s really why I like those words so darn much.

Monday, November 20, 2017

TheBombDotMom: “The Great Gatsby” (2013)

Mik had to read “The Great Gatsby” for English, and M.H. and I were curious/nostalgic enough to read it along with him. That is one super-hard-to-understand book, and it is not actually among my favorite things. But just for fun we sat down together last weekend to watch the Leonardo DiCaprio version of the movie, and I have to say, that movie really is the bomb. It is incredibly true to the book, complete with the weird, ever-present-but-not-overtly-talked-about racism. The rap-infused soundtrack is a stroke of brilliance, the visuals are amazing, I suspect the movie added a layer of meaning that the book does not contain on its own, and I am still thinking about it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

TheBombDotMom: #MeAt14

Now that I’m not visiting Facebook or Twitter, I’m really not keeping up with the news at all, but even the briefest of occasional disgusted glances at the front page of The Washington Post ensure that I have not missed this Roy Moore nonsense. So I was really happy to see a story (almost a week after it was published, but whatever) about women tweeting pictures of their teenage selves to help any would-be defenders understand the grossness of a 32-year-old man hitting on a 14-year-old. Truly a moving and effective way to explain this to the idiots who are inclined to leap to his defense, and I’m glad someone thought of it.

In the story, there’s a tweet from someone named Paula Pell talking about how when she was 14 she had plants in her room that had names. That produced a flood of memories about the named poinsettias I owned at that age, and may I add that it is now 32 years later, and I still feel that the names my 14-year-old self gave those plants are too embarrassing to be repeated on my blog?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

TheBombDotMom: golden pu-ehr, jasmine pu-ehr, genmaicha

I love most green tea, but my tastes have evolved over the years toward higher-quality and more “tealike” tastes over the fruit-flavored dust that comes in bags. And thanks to the tea connoisseurs at the awesome tea shops in Bozeman in Missoula, I recently discovered a next-level tea that I’m going to have to start buying by the truckload: pu-ehr (pronounced “poo-AIR”). In particular, I am obsessed with two varieties called golden pu-ehr and jasmine pu-ehr. (There are darker pu-ehrs as well that are more M.H.’s speed.) If you are a tea drinker who has not tried pu-ehr—and we were for years, so I know they must exist—REMEDY IT.

Bonus tea recommendation (I figure I owe you at least three, since I skipped a few days of blogging about awesomeness): genmaicha.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

TheBombDotMom: An obscure iPhone feature

A tidbit from my work life, since I am neck-deep in editing a book on the iPhone: You know how normally, when one of your alarms goes off, it says the word “Alarm” on the screen? You can actually make that say anything you want.

Go to the alarms screen, tap Edit, and then choose one of your alarms. See where it says Label? You can change it to, “Don’t forget to be thankful” or “You’re going to have a fulfilling and amazing day of wonder” or whatever life-affirming mantra you want. (Mine says “Coffee is coming.”)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Morning quiet

I am reading—in one-inspirational-essay-a-day style—this book with one inspirational essay for every day of the year. It’s about faith and simplicity, so that’s cool, and occasionally I really like one of the entries, but mostly it’s just ridiculous. However, it’s also got some sort of quote for every day, and recently I reached this one:
If you have not slept, or if you have slept, or if you have a headache, or sciatica, or leprosy, or thunder-stroke, I beseech you, by all angels, to hold your peace, and not pollute the morning.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
I find that so funny, and it could be the motto for Mik and M.H. I have always been guilty of interrupting their morning silence (and have not even reformed, really), but the quote inspired me to notice and appreciate the little quiet morning moments that do happen. Like after Mik leaves for school and M.H. and I sit down in the living room to read for a few minutes with coffee, or when I abandon my coffee to do some dark and silent yoga. I have done those two things on even the absolute busiest of work days, because there is something to this morning quiet deal, I think.

Monday, November 13, 2017

TheBombDotMom: A bit of comedy

I just came across something that was awesome to fill my quota for the day: this “abridged script” of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” I found it hilarious despite not having seen the movie—and why would anyone see the movie, by the way? I liked the book, but it’s good because of the author’s delightful prose and wonderful insights, not because of her ridiculous adventures or questionable decision-making abilities.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Gainful employment

I’m taking a half a day off today to attend Mik’s swim meet about an hour away, and even that much time away from my desk is causing some guilt, because I’m still pretty far behind where I need to be. (I know that’s ridiculous, because of course I’m allowed to have six waking hours when I’m not at my desk in the course of a week.)

But freelance work is inevitably up and down—and the secret to sanity is remembering the “famine” times during a “feast” like this—and remembering the feasts during the famines, too. The awesome thing—in all sincerity—is that I get to do it at all.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Goodreads!

Speaking of good books, I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me earlier to add Goodreads to this list of things that are TheBombDotMom. It’s a social network of sorts, but interesting and practical, rather than addictive and soul-killing—hence allowed during the month of detox. (Instagram is also allowed, only because I’m not that active on it, I’m not addicted to it, and it helps me keep in touch with family. But I digress.)

Anyway, I find it endlessly interesting (and sometimes hilarious) to see what my friends are reading, and Goodreads is packed with book reviews that help you find great stuff to read, both from friends and strangers. For me, though, the biggest plus is the ability to keep track of what I’ve read and to write a short review it to help me remember what I liked or didn’t like. I only regret that Goodreads has not been around long enough for me to have recorded every book I’ve ever read in my entire life, so if you have a book-loving child, they may someday appreciate you introducing them to this fantastic tool. (Or they may laugh in your face for suggesting that they voluntarily write a bunch of book reviews. YMMV.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

TheBombDotMom: It’s like biting on a pencil to make yourself smile

It’s getting hard for me to keep my head above water, work-wise, so I don’t feel I can spend a lot of time on these little blog posts. But I noticed today that, in my desperation to think of something to write about, I go through my day trying hard to notice things that are awesome, which is kind of…awesome.

Because my work and life have also been frustrating lately, I am also noticing a lot of things that suck, but in the spirit of emotional detox I keep trying to turn my frown upside-down.

It goes:
  • You know, InDesign is pretty functional and I really enjoy using it.
  • Really, I should just be grateful my health is so good.
  • What’s really nice is the weekend, when you have time to catch up on work without as much new stuff coming in.
  • Gee, internet service has been super reliable lately.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Sansevieria

For my birthday a several years ago my family bought me a nifty houseplant called sansevieria—one of its common names is “mother-in-law’s tongue” (because the leaves are sharp, get it?), but adorably Dex has always remembered and referred to it by its proper name, and so I do, too.

Sansevieria is the bomb because it’s a particularly good indoor air purifier—but almost just as importantly, it loves neglect. It thrives on neglect. It’s like raising Mik but with even less worry and effort.

If, for example, you were having a month when you were working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and still falling behind, it would be just the kind of plant you would enjoy having around.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TheBombDotMom: “The Hacking of the American Mind”

I’ve read a lot of good books lately, but there’s one that’s been particularly paradigm-shifting, called The Hacking of the American Mind. The book explores, among other things, the meaning of pleasure and happiness, which are different on a brain chemistry level, because happiness is related to serotonin, and pleasure is related to dopamine.

I’m going to start oversimplifying like crazy right now, but basically anything you enjoy but that you could get addicted to (Twitter, sugar, video games) is producing dopamine. Anything you enjoy but cannot reasonably get addicted to (friendship, love, creative fulfillment) is producing serotonin. You need both, but in general we are a world of dopamine junkies, and many companies make it worse by exploiting the crap out of our weakness for it.

You know how in grade school they explained to you that when you do drugs, it damages your brain so that the next time you need even more of a “hit” to get high and eventually have to take the drug just to feel normal? Well, apparently it works the same way for all kinds of dopamine hits, and once the dopamine receptors in your brain are blown out by overuse, they don’t ever come back. That means most of us—me included, I’m sure—have permanently limited our very ability to feel pleasure.

That factoid is not TheBomb®, but the book is, because it provides a really strong motivation to do better—and a really interesting lens through which to view the screwed-up world.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Homemade toothpaste

I still really like the natural toothpaste I started buying ages ago, but the problem for me now as I descend further and further into hippiedom is that it has a ton of packaging and has to be shipped across the country. So I’ve learned how to make my own natural toothpaste (similar to this one), which I mix in a small jar.

If you read that first link above, you know that I was nervous about switching to nontraditional toothpaste at first, so much so that I had stress fantasies about what I would say if my dentist or hygienist had asked any questions. But I’ve come a long way, baby. At my last appointment, I told my actual, non-imaginary dental hygienist that I used both a natural toothpaste and a homemade toothpaste, and asked her opinion of them. She said she didn’t have any problem with either, except that sometimes baking soda is too abrasive an ingredient to use every day. But she didn’t see any sign of abrasion in my mouth, so I’m good to go.

The coconut oil toothpaste has to be spit into a trash can unless you want clogged drains, but it’s worth it to me. In addition to all the benefits of not putting nasty chemicals in my mouth, I enjoy the taste and feel of this toothpaste, AND the fact that it’s basically free, AND the fact that it does not contribute as much to the landfill, AND the fact that I still get warm compliments from dental professionals every six months. TheBomb. Dot. Mom.

Monday, November 6, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Mandatory Family Game Night

Between M.H.’s job, my job, and Mik’s training schedule/social life, there’s really only one night a week we can have a family dinner, and that’s Mondays. But it seemed awkward to set the table and light a candle and all the stuff we used to do back in simpler days, and it’s hard enough to connect with our extraordinarily reserved 17-year-old. So I came up with a better idea: Family Game Night. Actually Mandatory Family Game Night.

The “mandatory” part is key. Besides appealing to my sense of humor, it signals to Mik that it’s really important to us to stay connected—and that there’s no weaseling out of it. In practice, this is just a quick game of Settlers of Catan played while we eat, but it works because Mik loves games—he comes alive in any competitive situation, and it’s the easiest way to get him talking.

And it is really important to us to stay connected. We’ll have him under our roof for less than two more years, and I intend to squeeze as much awesomeness out of that as I can.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Learning tai chi

I held back on writing about the OTHER amazing gift of the nonfiction DVD section in the library: a treasure trove of guided workouts. I have been toying with the idea of learning tai chi but don’t feel quite so strongly about it that I am ready to sign up for a real-life, in-person, other-humans class. But a video demonstration seemed perfect for my needs—which are to just have some more interesting things to integrate into my do-what-I-feel-like morning yoga time. (Which is probably a subject for another #awesomethings post, but I digress.)

So far I have worked through two library tai chi videos. Interestingly, they contain two mutually exclusive sets of moves, but, again, that’s fine for my purposes. Tai chi seems more complicated than I imagined, so it may be awhile before I am able to blend any of it in naturally with my yoga practice—but I have the rest of my life and about five more videos to work that out. Awesome.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Charity shops

Two miles from my house there’s an awesome charity store that supports the Montana Rescue Mission, which provides services to the homeless. If you have something like this where you live (and I don’t think Goodwill is one), you should really start donating to it AND shopping there.

There are so many upsides: The profits go to charity instead of sweatshop operators; you’re helping people to recycle their unwanted items, which keeps them out of the trash; there is a huge and ever-changing variety of items, which makes finding something good really fun; and you’re reducing the demand for new items to be manufactured. That means that even if you’re a minimalist, you can feel fairly good about any money you spend and any items you bring home. And if you decide the thing you bought is not right for you after all, you can just donate it back to the very same store you bought it from, and all it costs you is a small donation to charity.

I guess the downside is that you can’t always find something you need right when you need it, but I would consider that less a downside and more a “slight inconvenience of the type most ‘consumers’ should really learn to deal with.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Loving-kindness meditation

I was perhaps the last person on earth to read “Eat, Pray, Love,” but among its MANY virtues it talks about several different kinds of meditation and introduced me to one I had not heard of: loving-kindness meditation. As I understand it—and I may not have it quite right, but that’s fine—you simply sit or lie still, choose a person, and then send warm and loving wishes to that person in your mind.

I usually do mindfulness meditation at some point during my morning yoga, but I have taken to doing loving-kindness meditation while I’m lying in bed at night. It is lovely, and as a bonus it usually puts me to sleep fairly quickly. Does it actually DOOOOO anything for the person you’re meditating about? No idea, but it’s also hard to imagine that the world wouldn’t be a heck of a lot better place if everyone did this.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Nonfiction library DVDs

Today’s awesome thing—because I said so, and because I only recently discovered it—is the nonfiction DVD section of the library. We started checking out DVDs recently because we canceled our Netflix account but did not want to cancel Movie/Laundry Folding Night. The library has more or less everything—of course much later than in the theaters or on the air, but we are patient.

Right away I looked for “Project Runway” (an awesome thing for another post, perhaps), because I discovered the show in approximately its 58th season, and there’s no way to watch old episodes online without (gasp) paying money. I was disappointed that our library didn’t have it but didn’t think much more about it. Weeks later, I accidentally strayed into the nonfiction DVD section and LO AND BEHOLD there are a bunch of new-to-me “Project Runway” seasons.

Not that I will have time this month to watch any of them, but it is really nice knowing they are there.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

TheBombDotMom: Monthly challenges

As I opined about last time, Facebook and Twitter are not good for me. I find them useful for keeping up with people (that’s mostly Facebook) and extremely entertaining (that’s mostly Twitter), but they are also addictive and I think destructive, in the sense that they encourage a lot of impotent outrage. At least in me.

So anyway, it’s November, I am wearing my NaNoWriMo sweatshirt in support of my NaNoWriMoing husband, and the Twitter/Facebook detox has commenced. I also decided that, to enhance the detoxing effects of this month, I would come over here every day to write a tiny something-or-other about “things that are awesome because I said so, that’s why.”

Today’s entry: monthly challenges themselves!

You know how I love a good monthly challenge. A month is just the right amount of time to break you of a habit or kick-start a new one, but it’s not so long that it seems daunting. It’s nice to think about how you can do different things during different seasons of your life, or just celebrate the actual seasons by changing things up a bit. If I had decided on some random Wednesday that I wasn’t going to visit Twitter, it would have been hard and felt like deprivation. But for some reason doing the same thing on Nov. 1, for a November-only challenge, it is fun. At least for me.

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.


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


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


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


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.