Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Checking In - April!

Back at the start of the year, I decided that 2014 was the Year to Get Calm (not as trendy as the “Year of the Horse,” but what can a girl do?) and, while that was/is a truly worthy goal, I had to figure out just what that meant.  How could I increase calm and joy in my life, which is often a madcap whirl through the backstage of the circus sideshow?  After some heavy pondering, (and you can read the reasoning behind it, along with the books and movies on my list, here), I decided on five long-term goals for the year, which are:
  • Until May, I have a commuter marriage as FryDaddy finishes graduate school.  That means a lot of travelling while teaching college full time, so the house gets short shrift.  I needed to find a happy medium of “clean and tidy” versus “doable,” so I decided to work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping.
  • Money is a sore point with me – don’t get me started on frozen salaries – so I decided (this decision had to be a “we” decision, so FryDaddy is in this one as well) to keep a realistic budget to lower our household debt.
  • To strengthen my body, I decided to train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year.
  • To improve my mind, I decided to read six "good books" that had slipped past me.
  • Also to improve my mind, I decided to watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me.

It’s an interesting report this month. There’s been huge success, but I’m learning that you can’t maintain everything at "Level Ultra" all the time. Here’s the valuable part of that lesson – IT’S OKAY TO SLIP! As the sportscasters say, let’s go to the tape.

The 5K goal has been reached!  (Yay, cheer, crowd goes wild!) About two weeks ago, I “jobbled” my first 5K and had a blast – please read the previous post for details. I plan to keep running, but this was also my first lesson in “Level Ultra.” Truly, there’s only so much time in the day and, while I’m MUCH better about carving out a sliver or two to take better care of myself, some days you just can’t fit in a run. That is especially true as the end of the semester nears. Also, while reaching this goal has given me the kick I needed to make some changes to my diet as well – again, you can’t always live at Level Ultra.  I hate that a number on a scale has so much power over me, so I finally (with FryDaddy’s loving assistance) got up the courage to try saying, “Take a hike!” to the scale. This will probably be an ongoing issue with me, as it feels almost weird to not be freaking out over scales and numbers and lists, but I’m really trying to focus on eating real food, drinking plenty of fresh water, and exercising regularly, while remembering that food is more than mere fuel.
Also a lesson in “Level Ultra” – just after the 5K challenge wrapped up, FryDaddy and I were thrust into book launch madness.  (Oh, you didn’t know we wrote a book?  Allow me to enlighten you – click here, buy the book, then tell all your friends who enjoyed Breaking Bad that they need the book, too!  And tweet about it!  And write a nice review!) Remember, while all of this is going on, we’re both still swamped in our everyday responsibilities.  Yeah, April’s been nutso.  

So with all that going on - how did the housekeeping challenge come out?  Well . . . really good, in a way.  Because I’d been working at this for the better part of a year, routines were (mostly) in place, so when I had days where I had to skip things, the house didn’t fall apart.  Mind you, it needs a solid clean and I’ll do that in my usual FlyLady 15 minutes a day, five days a week, once things calm down next week. No, it’s not perfect, but I’m not flipping out over it, which I view as a triumphant success.

The budget. It’s funny how trudging along can suddenly lead to a “wow” moment.  For me, that came with the windfall of a tax refund. FryDaddy and I waited a few days, then sat down with our debt list and allocated money in several categories. Some bills were comfortably paid and another debt has a big, honking red Sharpie line drawn through it as we eradicated it from our list of burdens.  Wow, indeed! (I still want to be a brat and go dance in the rain with wads of cash, so please – buy a book or three! Available for purchase at Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble and any place quality books are sold!)

Good books – Finally finished Dumas' The Three Musketeers, which was a flowery romp.  His language is so florid and extreme that I skimmed a bit and sometimes had to put it down to pick up something else, but I enjoyed it.  The next book is going to be Thoreau’s Walden and I’ll start that soon.  Again – must get to the end of the semester first.

Good movies – This month I went in some interesting directions.  In addition to movies from my list (the Astaire/Rogers confection Top Hat and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal), I also started going to a local performance space that features classic movies on Thursdays for the princely sum of two dollars.  I took in the original Tarzan and my very first Shirley Temple picture (The Little Princess).  Quite a month for movies!  Let’s see – Tarzan made me cheer for the crocodiles (seriously – that movie’s depiction of non-Europeans is just awful.  I know, I know – the time it was made, yaddayaddayah.  It’s still awful), Little Princess made me appreciate Technicolor, Top Hat has a tissue paper-thin plot, but you forgive that for its sheer loveliness, and Dark Crystal I’m just too old to see for the first time. 

A good month.  Quite possibly made better by having to acknowledge that I can’t live at “Level Ultra” and have all areas of my life run purring-smooth at all times.

On to May!

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.