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.


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.