Sunday, April 13, 2014

Race Day!


As regular readers of this blog know, I set some rather large goals for 2014 - "large" in terms of changing some ingrained habits.  I've been checking in here with progress reports every couple of weeks, both as a way to stay accountable, even when I get off track (instead of doing the much easier thing, which is to slink off into the shadows), and also as a way to hopefully encourage other people to take the plunge.  To paraphrase Buffy Summers, the problem with change is that after you do it, everything is changed.  We often don't really want to do that. Change is hard and it can be uncomfortable, so sometimes, even if our habits aren't especially good ones - well, we know what to expect.

One of my goals was to increase my exercise level this year and I knew this was going to be a tough one.  I've long been a walker and a day-hiker, and I've tried my hand at everything from swimming to spinning, but nothing's ever really stuck.  But I have friends who regularly post about their exercise journeys - deadlifting, running, triathlons (!), roller derby - the list goes on and on. Also - let's face it - I'm getting older and it's harder to stay in shape.  At 20, a couple of nights of dancing and I'd drop four pounds.  Now, I have a much more sedentary lifestyle - I love writing and teaching, but you don't exactly burn calories while you do it and pounds are much more stubborn than they were once-upon-a-time.

So back on Christmas Eve, I committed to my goal of "participating in a 5K race."  My rules were simple - I didn't have to actually run the whole thing, but I had to finish and the race had to be held sometime in 2014.  That was it.  I found a "Couch to 5K" app and podcast and began what I called "training" and some would probably call "seriously?" Due to a subglottic stenosis (a fancy way of saying I have scar tissue in my trachea), getting enough wind for a sustained run was (and continues to be) an issue.  And I'm not sure I'd recommend beginning to train in the dead of winter.  But I did it.  Three times a week, I'd bundle up, plug in, and lumber my way through my (extremely hilly) neighborhood or around a track.  Let me be clear - I didn't always like it.  I had days I wanted to skip.  I had nights I was sore and achy.  I was slow.  It took me longer than the 8 weeks laid out in the podcast, as I had weeks I needed to repeat to feel confident that I was ready to move up to the next level. But I kept going.  Even if I grumbled about it, I kept going.  I began packing my running shoes when I was away from home and slowly, I saw improvement.  At the start of January, two minutes of slow jogging was hard; in mid-March, I could do more than 20 at a go and eventually, that was up to a half hour.  (I felt like a rockstar when that happened, by the way.  I also nearly cried, which rockstars probably don't do.  This was a big goal and I think every week I did at least one training session convinced that I couldn't do this.)

When I reached the next-to-last week of the podcast training, I signed up for my first 5K and my friends backed me up ferociously.  I had "atta girls" and signs of support galore.  Friends made me a race t-shirt and helped me knot a tutu.  My beloved husband never said a word that wasn't supportive and encouraging.  The only dissenting voice in this whole thing was - well, it was mine.  Luckily, I had enough support to tell that voice to shut up and take a hike.

For my first (but not my last!) 5K, I picked a "color run," which is an untimed race on a flat course, with "color stations" set up at different points.  As you pass through the color stations, volunteers spray/toss brightly colored cornstarch on you and at the end of the race, there's a dance party in front of the main stage where you fling your own pack of color into the air.  It's messy, silly, and joyously fun.  I saw little girls in pink tutus.  I saw grown women in sequined tutus.  I saw large men in small tutus.  I saw kids being pushed in strollers and one woman in a wheelchair.  I saw runners and walkers and joggers and limpers. And everyone was welcome.  Everyone.  A little kid complimented me on my homemade tutu and an off-duty cop keeping order on the route slapped my hand in respect of me running my first 5K.  I was covered in purple cornstarch - I even had it on my teeth.  And yeah, I had to walk a little of it here and there - but I finished.

Me. I. Finished. A. Five. Kilometer. Race.

What was my time?  Not a clue.  Somewhere between 35 and 50 minutes, I think.  There will be other races where I worry about the time. And yes - I'm going to keep running.  I'd like to improve my time and my form and - oh, everything.  I've found running (jogging, wobbling, whatever) to be very contemplative.  It really is just you, your head, and the road.

Consider giving it a try.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Checking In - March!

Here it is, the end of March, which means I've been working my plan for three months now.  Some things are much closer to being habits now and there's some exciting news to report, along with an update on things that haven't turned out quite the way I envisioned back in late December.

I decided that 2014 was the year to Get Calm and I had to figure out just what that meant, since I was pretty sure that a year-long escape to some tropical isle equipped with a full staff just wasn't happening.  So what could I do to Get Calm and still live in the hectic, messy, glorious, beautiful world I inhabit?  That took some thought (and you can read the reasoning behind it, along with the books and movies on my list, here), but finally, I decided on five long-term goals, which are:
  1. A messy house stresses me out and costs me valuable time as I hunt for whatever-it-is I've misplaced, so I decided to work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping.
  2. Money is a sore point with me, so I decided (with FryDaddy) to keep a stringent budget to lower our household debt.
  3. To strengthen my body, I decided to train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year.
  4. To improve my mind, I decided to read six "good books" that had slipped past me.
  5. Also to improve my mind, I decided to watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me.

Keep in mind that these are MY goals; it was crucial for me to not take on anything that had my happiness hinge on what someone else did.  Therefore, the budget item had to be undertaken very carefully and as a couple.

So - 90 days in, I can report *mostly* success.  Oddly enough, the housekeeping one has probably been the easiest.  I spent huge chunks of time last year de-cluttering the house - drawers, closets, cabinets, etc. and while I still have some to do, even the attic is much better than it was a year ago.  It's true what the organizing folks tell you - you can't organize clutter.  Go through that stuff a little at a time, toss and donate with glee, then take a clear look at what's left.  I spend about 15 minutes a day, five days a week, working on "house stuff" and our home is far tidier and calmer as a result.  For me, it's been all about the FlyLady system, but there are other ways to do things that won't have you weeping in a corner. I've still got my trouble spots and my chores that I dislike, but it surely is nice to come home to clear spaces.

The budget. Wow. We're making progress here - good progress, too, as my non-breakdown over unexpected car repairs this month can attest - but I still stress here. We're paying debt down, but it'd be so much more fun to spend the money on other things! Sigh. Growing up is hard and my inner child is a brat. Still - when you work two years on a book, you sort of want to celebrate that instead of putting the final advance towards student debt, you know?

The 5K training is going great! The eight-week "Couch to 5K" program I used (you can find that here) took me thirteen weeks, but yesterday I completed the final week.  My first 5K is in about two weeks and I've had so many friends offer encouragement and good wishes on this journey! I'm still very slow, but I can "jobble" for a full 30 minutes at a stretch, which was a far-away dream three months ago. And I don't think I'm going to stop after this first race. Seeing myself take strides toward making this goal has given me the *oomph!* I needed to make some other changes as well - first, I cut out sweets until race day. Last week, I added in drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day (I've had a single Diet Coke in two weeks), and I just added in eating two servings of fruit/veg at each meal. In two weeks, I've lost four pounds, which is nice. Run. You can do it and it really does feel GREAT!

Good books - I'm deep into Dumas' The Three Musketeers, which is a hoot and a half! The language is so flowery and over the top that I find myself skimming sometimes (I don't think Dumas would mind), and I've put it down to pick up other things this month.  I'm enjoying it - more so than I did the Forster I read first for this challenge.

Good movies - well, there was bound to be a misfire.  I watched Lucille Ball in Mame recently and it's just bad. I think the show itself is actually pretty strong and fun, but Lucy just didn't have a strong enough voice to carry off the role.  It's not a complete waste - Bea Arthur as Vera Charles is great fun, the costumes are gorgeously over-the-top, and grown-up Patrick is Bruce Davison (he'd grow up to be Sen. Robert Kelly in the X-Men franchise, among many, many other roles). I plan to get the non-musical Auntie Mame soon and watch Rosalind Russell instead. Also, this month, that's the only "list movie" I've seen, although I very well may watch another one tonight, which would still count for March. Then again, maybe not. So much of this whole plan is to get me over my perfectionism. No, my house isn't spotless.  No, my budget isn't zero-balanced. Nope, I'm not really a "runner" just yet. Uh-uh, my "great books" might not be someone else's great books. And my movies certainly aren't. But I'm trying hard to not let my fear of not being perfect keep me from trying.

Onward, Team Sloth!



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why Not Today?

Today's the Ides of March - a day that wasn't so good to Julius Caesar (stabbed 23 times; certainly a fine example of "overkill"), but I'm not a Roman emperor, so I have a different feel for the day.

The last week has pretty much been spring break for me - I say "pretty much" because we had a bizarre schedule this year that had us return to school on Friday. (Surely a sign of the apocalypse.) Bad enough, but due to the snow earlier in the winter, it turned out to be midterm day for my Friday class - maybe I'd better beware the Ides after all! However, for the first time in forever, FryDaddy and I had the same days scheduled for break, so we decided that was a Celestial Sign that ought not to be ignored. Therefore, we both worked hardhardhard to be able to actually take the time off.  See, usually when we're at a conference or on vacation, we're those annoying people (okay, I'm that annoying person) who is always dashing off to read assignments/grade papers/check student messages/et boring cetera. Learning how to unplug is a task and I'm happy to report that we apparently rose to it.

We had squirreled some cashy money away (remember - no credit cards!) and escaped to my parents' cozy, knotty-pine beach place for four days. I curled up with Dumas, FryDaddy tore through fun (i.e. "nonschool") reading of a mostly science fiction variety, I jobbled on the beach and broke up with MyFitnessPal, we hung out on the porch swing and just in general rediscovered being married. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's ridiculously easy to forget just why we work so darned hard and this trip forced us (it's a shame we needed forcing) to remember a few Very Important Things. When we returned, the Pack had missed us quite a lot, so there was much petting and cooing and reminding them just how pretty they all are, then it was a Girls' Day for me and Barefoot. We escaped reality for a day with coffee, pastries, the Rock Barn Spa, and pasta. (Yeah, MyFitnessPal is glaring at me from the corner.) Again, I can't recommend highly enough the rejuvenating power of being coddled for a day. While I had to return to school and responsibilities on Friday, we also had a couple's date to go see a local community theatre production of Godspell Friday night, a show I'd never seen. The show is dated - at one point, I thought to myself, "Holy cow - Clowns for Christ!" but the voices were tremendous and the energy level was infectious.  Our goddaughter also seemed absolutely entranced, which goes firmly in the column of All Good Things.

I tell you all this not to brag - "Look, we led a life of leisure for a week; don't you wish you had, too?" - but to encourage you to take it a little easy on yourself. I've really been working hard at that in the last month. I know, that sounds like a complete oxymoron, but stick with me here.

Since I took up my version of "running" at the end of December, I've been both gratified and disappointed. Disappointed in the tiny things - this is hard and the pounds I was hoping to lose are proving to be quite (ahem) attached to me. Well, so what? Look at the other side of that coin - I'm gratified at the BIG things - I'm developing stamina, I'm exploring the mental side of exercise, I'm finding out that I can stretch what I thought were my limits, and most of all, I'm discovering that there can be great joy in putting effort into something that's both (a) hard and (b) that I'm not very good at. So as I'm sticking with it, I'm getting rewards for myself - my first pair of running shoes, a new itsy iPod Shuffle to replace my dying seven-year-old one, and registering for my first "race," which I plan to complete in a tiara and homemade tutu. I also picked up one of those giant exercise balls to substitute as a work desk chair part of the time. I'm really trying to live by the idea of "how can I make this more fun?" and a huge chunk of that is putting myself on the list of "things to take care of today." It's a process, to be sure. A huge part of the gratification has come from other people as well - folks who have encouraged me, cheered me on, and even started to ask me questions and tell me about their own quests, setbacks and all.

Wow!

I started posting all this stuff to keep me accountable, to make it harder for me to slink off and whine, "It's too hard. I don't wanna. I don't have time. I'm too old for this." To discover that other people are saying, "Well, if she can get her act somewhat together, there's nothing keeping me from trying it!" is gratifying to the point of being humbling.

Take a look around. It's a beautiful world, at least part of the time, and hey! no one's trying to stab you 23 times. Take the win. That thing you've been meaning to get around to? You know, that thing - that model airplane kit you've been meaning to dust off and put together, that Indian recipe you've been meaning to try, that Zumba class that looks like fun, but that you're a little afraid to try - go do that. Today make play a priority. And if you see me out jobbling, wave. I'm doing my best, and I know you are, too.




Friday, February 28, 2014

Checking In - February!

My 5K team - the Dancing Sloths!
Another month has gone by, so let's see where I am with my five challenges for 2014.  To recap those challenge:

  1. To give myself some "soul calm," I decided to work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping.  An ordered house is calmer and less "hair on fire!" for me.
  2. To further contribute to some "soul calm," I decided (with FryDaddy) to keep a stringent budget to lower our household debt.
  3. To strengthen my body, I decided to train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year.
  4. To improve my mind, I decided to read six "good books" that had slipped past me.
  5. Also to improve my mind, I decided to watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me.

Zone cleaning, while not quite a natural part of my everyday routine, is showing signs of having staying power.  Every week, a different room is the focus and I have a checklist of things to do to give that room, if not a true "deep clean," at least a mid-range clean.  I don't hit every item on every checklist (my wooden living room floor could really stand a cleaning instead of just a thorough sweeping), but it's better than it was. Further, I spent a chunk of this past month decluttering the attic.  The trick there is (of course) Babysteps.  One box at a time and one 15-minute session at a time.  I laughed and cried and pitched and tossed.  It's not totally done yet, but I have to say, I'm really pleased with how much I did manage to accomplish.  I even got some digital photos organized - another long-term goal.

The budget continues to be a challenge.  We're doing okay in that regard, but need to get serious, especially about eating out.  We do that too frequently and almost always wind up eating food that isn't good for us, because, you know - eating out.  We can do better and we both want to do better, so we WILL do better!  Having car repairs this month didn't help, either - but what can you do?  Neither of us has a car payment to make and with the commuter marriage, travel is a necessity, so repairs just have to be dealt with.

The 5K training - well, here's the fun part for this month!  I've continued to train three times a week and am now up to three 12-minute "jobble" (that's a cross between a jog and a wobble) sessions with very brief walking recovery sessions in between.  In the last week, that's started to add up to 5K territory, so it was time to Pick a Race.  I chose the April 12 Color Vibe and paid my money down, so this is going to happen!  I'm hoping to get drenched in color as I stagger around the course (my team of one is called the "Dancing Sloths," by the way) and I might even make one of those no-sew tutus.  I'm going to look ridiculous anyway, so I figure I may as well embrace it with a tiara and tutu!  Honestly, I've been so gratified by the level of support I've gotten from Facebook friends and real-life neighbors - it's heartwarming and I mean that.  Maybe this old-ish dog has a few tricks left.

The "good book" read - I just started my second "good book" (I read other stuff in between, you see) and selected Dumas' The Three Musketeers for this one.  So far, I'm just loving this!  It's so over the top and the language is so flowery - it's like literary curlicues!  We'll see if it maintains my attention for the next 400+ pages, but so far, so good!

And lastly, the "good movie" challenge - this month was Rent and Bad Day at Black Rock. (Not a double feature, by the way!)  I wrote about Black Rock on another blog earlier, so I won't say anything here.  I watched Rent during the mid-month snowstorm.  I'd had it on my shelf for quite a while (probably picked it up when the local Blockbuster closed) and I knew it vaguely follows the outline of Puccini's La Boheme, but that was about it.  I liked it and I'm sure that if I'd seen it in my early 20s, when I was living my version of the Bohemian life, I'd have swooned over it.  Now, I'm a bit more cynical and world-weary.  Still, it's hard not to be moved at "Seasons of Love" and I've been fortunate to have known an Angel-like character and I wept that he no longer walks this earth, for the planet was a better place with him on it.

So overall - not a bad month.  Work still remains to be done and there's plenty of room for improvement, but I'm liking how things are shaping up in 2014 so far!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Quiet Times

Winter Storm Pax came a-roarin' into town earlier this week.  All the usual jokes and ribbing about Southerners being genetically incapable of driving in the snow were made, along with our own self-deprecating remarks about the sudden run on grocery store supplies of bread and milk.  Let me just say this - it's true.  Maybe once a decade do we get that much of the wintry stuff - I took two measurements in my front yard and I had somewhere between 7 and 9 inches of snow/sleet - so no, we don't prepare the way others might.  We don't have much in the way of snowplows, road salt, or brine (isn't that used to prepare Thanksgiving poultry?).  And snow tires? Don't make me laugh - I'll probably slip on my ice-covered steps.

But you know what?  We probably enjoy it more than folks who are inundated with the white stuff.

For me, it was all about attitude.  Pax screwed up my plans - since FryDaddy is enrolled in grad school up and over the mountain, he took off from home a day early to beat the storm.  He wound up getting snowed in up in TN, with everything he went up there to do being canceled, so he could've stayed here and we could've been snowed in together, complete with that sinfully-rich hot chocolate from The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville.  Then he was scheduled to get more icy mix this weekend and our Valentine's plans crashed (not that big a deal actually, as we both think V-Day is a bit of a over-commercialized rip-off.  Still).

So there I was, safe at home with the snow starting to drift down with the promise of a snowfall the likes of which we haven't seen in a decade here in North Cackalacky.  I had food, water, the Furs for company, candles in case the snow turned to ice (it usually does here and that spells "disaster" for power lines), and movies in case it didn't.  (Not everyone was so lucky.) What to do, what to do.

Here's the beauty, so stick with me.

It snowed.  And snowed.  And just when I thought they had overestimated their forecast, it SNOWED!  The road I live on is a gentle, yet continual, slope, so driving up that was simply not happening - not in my little sedan that clutches its automotive pearls at the sight of snow.  So I eventually put on layers upon layers of clothing (thanks for teaching me about that early on, Mom!) and took the Spooky-dog out to 'splore this winter wonderland.

And everything was perfect.

Perfect.

It was quiet.  No traffic.  No fuss.  Just - snow.  I hiked up to the secondary road (which was completely covered at the time) and down to the main road (which had been scraped, but was impassable with new snowfall by then) to "tsk, tsk."  The owners of the local Mexican restaurant were busy building five-foot tall snowmen by the road and draping them in serapes.  I'll probably never see that again.  When I got back to my street, my neighbors were experimenting with the best way to create the perfect sledding hill out of our slope.  We all took our dogs off-leash and laughed at their doggy enthusiasm.  We watched the kids play and remembered how to play ourselves.  We built snowmen (okay, just the base for a giant one), and decided to join forces for a four-house potluck that night, which involved homemade soups, Russian tea, and four kinds of desserts (we like to bake when it gets cold, it seems).
Am I behind on grown-up work?  Yep.  And I wouldn't trade any of those two-and-a-half-days my car was parked for a gold monkey.

You want to know the people around you?  Let it snow, baby.  Let it snow.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Checking In - January!

Near the end of December, I set five goals for 2014 (they're all laid out in this post) that are all designed to create some lasting changes in how I approach things. None of these are quick changes - I've tried those and I've never had much luck with them. I had to get very specific about what I was hoping to accomplish, so I looked at three areas that needed work (body, mind, soul) to develop my goals:

1. A cluttered house is easy to lose things in and that causes me to run late and stress out. So to give myself some "soul calm", I decided to work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping.
2. Stressing over money causes me to fret, worry, and fail to live in the present. So to contribute to some "soul calm," I decided (with FryDaddy) to keep a stringent budget to lower our household debt.
3. Although it's inevitable, I lament the fact that I'm getting older and particularly that I don't feel strong. So to strengthen my body, I decided to train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year.
4. I have always loved to read, but (like all readers) I know I've missed many, many good books, so to improve my mind, I decided to read six "good books" that had slipped past me.
5. I love movies - I even co-host a movie show with FryDaddy on the local community college TV station - but an astonishing number of good movies had slipped by me. So to improve my mind, I decided to watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me.

Now that I've got a month under my belt with these resolutions, let's recap and see where things are headed.

Zone cleaning hasn't been too bad at all - regular readers here know that I discovered FlyLady last spring and I have to say that it's really turned around my concept of caring for my home. Now that the house is decluttered, it was time to add in the zones. With the zones, you concentrate on one room a week (usually - sometimes it's more, like the home office and the bathrooms) and there's even a checklist to get you started. You don't worry about doing everything at once and I haven't done all the rooms "perfectly" - there was no way I was washing windows when the wind chill was a non-balmy 8 degrees Fahrenheit! - but anything is better than the nothing I had been doing. It's off to a good start and I'm calling it a win.

Budgeting - woo, boy. January is a tough one. We muddled through and we're on track to go forward into February. On the plus side, I sat down yesterday and roughed out the bills, and we're caught up and even paid off a credit card we'd been working on! So I'm calling that a win.

The 5K training - wow. This has been hard. I wobble-jog (jobble?) during the "run" intervals. I'm using a "Couch to 5K" podcast called 5K101 that talks me through each session. I repeated Week 3 and I'm in Week 4.5 now, since I didn't feel quite ready to jump up to 8-minute intervals, so I'm using the supplement which calls for 6-minute ones instead. It's hard, but I really feel a sense of accomplishment with it and my friends have been fantastic about supporting me during this challenge. I'm slow and a little clumsy, but I'm lapping the me who was on the couch, so again - this is a win!

The book challenge - I started with E. M. Forster's A Passage to India because I've read and thoroughly enjoyed other works of his. Alas, Passage didn't work quite as well for me. Others, I'm sure, have read it and loved it beyond the telling. I found it a bit of a slog - competing narrators and nary a likable character in sight. Well, I read it, so that's a win.

The movie challenge - this month I saw both Touch of Evil and Moneyball. (I know, two very different movies - whatever; it's my list). Touch of Evil was stylistically gorgeous, but deeply flawed from a narrative standpoint. To be honest, the plot is pretty much a hot mess, and I saw the restored, this-is-what-Orson-Welles-wanted version. Well worth seeing, but I so prefer The Third Man. Now, Moneyball was a different story. Aesthetically, it can't hold a candle to Welles' work, but it's a fun, feel-good underdog story about that most American of sports - baseball. I see why Jonah Hill earned an Oscar nomination and I'd recommend it be included on any list of sports movies. A win.

And let's keep in mind that I'm also back in the full swing of the spring semester. Far from making me Wonder Woman, effortlessly juggling all these competing goals, obligations, and responsibilities, I spent a chunk of this past week just grumbly, out of sorts, and generally snappish. So - not a win there. Progress is being made, but it's in steps, not leaps.

But I can see the path.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Halfway - January!

Last year, I had a lot of success with posting "halfway through the month" check-ins to keep me accountable for my progress and my "course corrections," so I'm going to continue that - don't mess with what works, I say!  (And no, we haven't gotten that sort of ice you see in the picture; but it's been COLD!!)

For 2014, I set five goals (they're all laid out in this post) - but in brief, they are all designed to help me be calmer, happier, and healthier.  Tall orders indeed, so I got specific with these five goals:

1.  Work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping
2.  Keep a stringent budget to lower our household debt
3.  Train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year
4.  Read six "good books" that had slipped past me
5.  Watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me

So - two weeks into the New Year, how's it going?

I've been told that success is rarely total in science.  The same can be said for resolutions, but there is progress to report, so yay.

I'm working in the zone cleaning, although it's going to take a while for it to become an automatic "thing."  The FlyLady system gives you a daily task to do Monday through Friday and I'd worked those in (they're easy, quick to do, and yes - you feel like you've accomplished something when you take ten minutes and tear through your overstuffed sock drawer to get rid of the orphan socks!), but I was intimidated by the longer checklists for the "deep cleaning."  Turns out - pshaw! - just keep in mind that anything you do is more than you have been doing and move on.  For instance, last week was the "kitchen week."  I did really well in there - even cleaned the baked-on gunk in the oven - but didn't get everything done.  Well, that's okay; I'll get it next month when I'm back there.  I also didn't insist that I do the whole thing in one day.  By picking a couple of small things off the checklist each day (mornings are best for me), it wasn't so bad.

The budget.  Sigh.  January is a harsh month.  There were a couple of large unplanned for expenses (such as paying my annual fee to access an unlimited amount of legal continuing education seminars - a great deal, but a limited time offer) that have set me back this month.  But there's light at the end of that tunnel.  I've been employed at my state job long enough to qualify (for the first time ever!) for something called "longevity pay."  Essentially, it's a annual bonus given to employees to reward them for not running screaming into the night before certain benchmarks have passed - in my case, ten years.  (Bureaucracy at work - last January marked my ten-year anniversary; you wait another entire year [the anniversary of your anniversary] to be awarded the bonus.)  I had hoped to put the entire thing toward bills, but that's okay.  It'll get us back on track when I receive it at the end of the month.

The 5K training - okay, here's some joy.  I started an app called "Couch to 5K" and have been huffing and puffing around my neighborhood and the college's walking track for three weeks now.  The third week was just about to kill me, so I reluctantly decided to repeat it.  At that point, I also found a similar program in podcast form, which allowed me to put down the iPad and use a much smaller iPod.  (No smartphone for this girl.)  The podcast talks me through things, instead of just serving as a glorified stopwatch and yesterday (Day 2 of the three-day session), I managed to do the entire thing without stopping.  Mind you, there's not much grace or power involved and my speed resembles a three-toed sloth much more than a lean cheetah, but I've been reassured that it'll come, it'll come.  And the support I've received with this goal has been amazing! Thank you all!

On the book side, I've picked my first one - Forster's A Passage to India.  I'm in the middle of finishing The Round House for my book club, then I'll start on Passage.  I'm looking forward to it; I've always enjoyed Forster's work.

On the movie side, I've watched Orson Welles' Touch of Evil and I have Bad Day at Black Rock recorded (thanks, TCM!).  Honestly, Touch of Evil confounded me a bit.  Typical Welles - it's gorgeously shot, with intricate framing and (of course) that incredible opening one-take crane shot.  (We watched the restored version - Welles was famous with fighting with the studios over editing and apparently the studio wanted opening credits to roll over that crane shot - Welles was right to fight over that one.)  I have to say, though, despite the subject matter being interesting - race, corruption, border turf wars - the plot's just a mess.  Charlton Heston said that one of his biggest mistakes as an actor was not using an accent for his character in this movie - his Mexican D.A. sounds all Hollywood Hills, so I have to agree with him there.  All in all, an interesting film that I'm glad I saw, but I'm not entirely sure I'd recommend.

Not bad for two weeks in!