Happy birthday to me again

So last year on my birthday, I said I wanted to lose a pound a week. Didn’t happen. In fact,I’m pretty much at exactly the same weight I was last year at this time. I’m grateful I haven’t gained weight, at least. Guess we’ll have to see what this next year brings.

(Not today, though — my younger brother baked me a birthday cake, and I intend to enjoy it!)

Meanwhile, I’ve had a full year with ups and downs, as most years are. I’m a year older, a year more uncertain of my skills, a year more aware of how much I don’t know and never will. May I have many more such years.

For those keeping track

One month in, I’m down two pounds total. This is less than the pound per week I was aiming at, but given the holiday dessert eating I’ve been doing (more than I should) and the amount of exercise I’ve been getting (much less than I should), its pretty impressive. This next month, I’m going to start fitting in a ten- to fifteen-minute walk after my first hour of writing and before I dive into e-mail and forums and the like. It’s not a big change, but the goal here is consistency, and small steps that add up to big changes over time.

The belated weekend check-in

I just realized I forgot to do my first week check-in on the food and exercise. Boy, this bodes well for the coming year, doesn’t it?

I started out mostly just aiming for the three meals a day, and trying to figure out how much food I needed to eat to not be hungry two hours later but not feel bloated, either. It’s hard when you’re used to grazing.* I did allow myself desserts (leftover birthday cake mostly). I stretched when I thought about it, tried a few yoga positions — and came to the conclusion that I have lost all the core strength I used to have. Not really a surprise, but it gives me somewhere to start.

And the net result of all this effort? Three pounds down. I find it hard to believe such small measures could be so effective, so I’m leaning towards thinking maybe the previous week’s weight was high because of water retention. Either way, though, a positive start.

Of course, I’m thinking of all the holiday baking I’m not doing, too . . .

* The breakfast I’ve found to be most effective so far is 1-1/2 servings of oatmeal, prepared with milk instead of water, with 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter and 2 tablespoons Nutella stirred in after cooking. Egg-and-cheese sandwich on a whole wheat bagel is also good, but leaves me hungry about an hour earlier unless I also have a banana and a yogurt.

For the next year

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It’s my birthday, and purple and blue hair to the contrary, I’m not as young as I used to be. (In fact, when I was young, I probably would never have worn such hair, being too afraid of what other people would think.) As we age, our bodies go through lots of changes — and as exciting as it might be to watch my daughter as she works at climbing higher in a tree because she can reach that next branch, or as worrisome as it can be to try to decide whether my son’s upper lip shows signs of darker hair, changes don’t stop when we become adults. We lose flexibility. Muscle tone becomes harder to retain. Weight becomes harder to lose.

This year, I’m trying to do something about that. Continue reading

Going for a walk

Those who know me know that walking is a biggie. I touch on this on my About Me page. I had a major accident, and as a result, I had to relearn to walk — more than once. Before my accident, I walked everywhere, and afterward, I remember telling my roommate that I resented her put-upon attitude about having to walk four blocks. I was on bed rest at the time and would have given anything to be able to get up and walk.

Now? I don’t walk as much as I used to. Part of that is because, despite the fact that we’re technically within city limits, we might as well be living in the suburbs for how close we are to anything, and there aren’t a lot of sidewalks between here and, for example, the closest supermarket (both Wegmans and Giant are about 2 miles away on busy streets). It’s not like living in Berkeley and popping over to Andronico’s or Berkeley Bowl. I don’t walk because there’s not a lot of places to walk to.

Part of it, though, is habit. Over the years since my accident — especially the years before I got my ankle straightened and fused — I stopped walking. It was painful, it was difficult, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of point. So even though I now can walk, I still haven’t as much as I used to.

Last year, I worked at running again. Even tried to start up again in December, which is a bad time to try to make a new habit with all the calls on my time. I will run again this year — I probably won’t aim for a half marathon, just another 5k in September, most likely, with the goal to finish in less than half and hour this time (cutting my time in half!). On days when I’m not running, though, and to work up to it, I’m going to walk and remember how grateful I am that I can walk, that I still have my own leg, that this is something I enjoy.

I leave you with this video, and the usual question: what are you grateful for this week?

At least you’ve got . . .

Your health? Definitely something to be grateful for, and something that only comes up when we’ve been missing it. I’ve been sick with whatever the latest crud is that’s making the rounds: freezing, achey, swollen neck, pressure on the ears, headache, fatigue — general yuck. Which is why I didn’t post yesterday. I was too tired.

Today, though, I can be grateful for the increase in energy and focus, even though I’m not at 100% yet. I’m also grateful that, unlike my daughter, I didn’t wind up vomiting while sick. And I can be grateful that this too will pass, and I will have my health again.

(Now the next question: will I pick up some new form of crud next week at Boskone?)

What are you grateful for this week?

It takes time

Just thought I’d drop a note in to say I’m doing better this week. Taking most of last week to recover really was a good move. I’ve been running several times, and I’m up to being able to run 30 minutes (not necessarily fast, but that’s okay) at a time. Proofreading has been my focus this week, with some progress made on the book for Moongypsy. I could tell my burnout was fading when I started getting ideas for new stories, and I have one idea for a short story that I’ll probably get written next week.

My big revelation this week has been that everything takes time. It’s something I know and am okay with when gardening — I planted a rhododendron six years ago that finally bloomed this year, and of my two clematis, this is the first year the maroon one has bloomed. (The purple one has been blooming for three years now.) Peonies also take a few years between first planting and blooming, but then they produce profusely every year.

Yet, even though I know I’m getting into better shape, sometimes I get depressed when I look in the mirror and see how far I still have to go. Then there’s writing — from idea to completed project can take seemingly forever.

So it’s good that I can look out at my garden and see that even things that take years to yield results are worth it.

maroon clematis

First bloom, after five years.

Clematis flower, partially opened

A regular showpiece in the garden.

white rhododendron blossoms

Six years' wait

Pale pink peony

Steady performer, every year.

Take 5 minutes

. . . and make someone’s day.

It can be really easy. Send an e-mail to a friend telling them how much something they said recently resonated with you. Buy a treat for your kids. (I stopped at the corner store and got blueberries and black grapes for mine — and the boy just got home and gave me an enormous hug when he saw them.) If you see something that needs doing — do it. Wave to your neighbors. Little things matter.

We all love it when others think of us. I can’t begin to tell you all how much your encouragement earlier this week has meant to me. (I’m still not up to writing, but I’m getting there.) Thank you.

Burning up the candle

I’ve been really tired of late. Some of it’s good — I’ve had a lot of freelance work on my plate, which keeps me busy. Unfortunately, then I have less time and energy to do my writing, and when I start figuring the time for other things — exercise, family time, cooking, life — well, there’s even less time and energy. So I cut corners. Skipped the exercise because heading out for over half an hour to run, then coming back and stretching out, showering, cooling down, well, all that takes time. Chunks of it.

Today, I read a post Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote back in 2009 as part of her Freelancer’s Survival Guide, Burnout. In it, she lists several symptoms of burnout — exhaustion, irritability, inefficiency, and more. Hmm. Yes, that’s ringing bells.

Okay, to be fair, I figured I was on the edge of burnout. That’s why I took the weekend essentially off, just doing things I enjoy and don’t stress over (mostly — getting kids to bed has to get done, and there often seems to be stress involved). It’s also why I read her post today; I hoped she had some good advice.

Her advice? Sleep, eat right, exercise. And then worry about whether you’re taking on too much. I’m trying to get more sleep; it’s not always easy with a family, but I’m trying. I do need to get back to the exercise that I’ve been slacking on, though. I mostly eat right — except for the chocolate chip cookies I baked this weekend and ate copious amounts of.

One of the stressors I’ve had is feeling like I have to live up to others’ expectations for my writing career. Whether it’s things I disagree with (like writing taking precedence over everything else in my life, including attending my son’s first band concert) or more insidious things like being a writer meaning I should be writing every day, for more hours than I put in, so I get things done faster. And even if I do want to get things done (and some I need to get done, like the book I’m writing for Moongypsy Press), adding that expectation on top of everything else has made it worse.

I’m still trying to write, but I’m trying to not be down on myself about expectations. I want to write because I want to write, because I have these characters in my head whose stories I want to tell, not because it’s one more thing on my to-do list.

I’ll probably be much more upbeat after even a week of better sleep and a couple times of exercise, but this is a good wake-up call that I need to take care of myself, and that includes managing my expectations.

What about you? Have you been pushing yourself too much recently? Or some time in the past? What helps you get back on track?