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.


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.