After a week of sunshine and blue skies, Houston’s back to cold, dreary, and drippy. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to curl up between my feather comforter and my microplush blanket and read or hibernate. It does not bode well for my resolve to get out and do anything this weekend, be it walking or volunteering, but maybe I’ll finish some of those owl squares and binge watch something on TV, or read a book, or both.
Friday’s a good day to re-cap the week.
Health & Fitness
It has been a good week on the “The Non-Negotiable, 100% Committed, Do or Die Trying Goal for 2015,” though.
It pays to track daily, and to look at it over time. The initial drop of 7 lbs., like the cake, was a lie. It was mostly just holiday bloat – too much salt, too little fiber and water. Left to its own devices, it might’ve stuck around in the form of fat, but you can’t get too caught up on such early success or it’s tempting to get complacent. That upward blip, on 1/8? That was the overindulgence from last Friday. But at least it was a purposeful, and delicious, overindulgence. My husband and I went out to Brick House Tavern, where we split House Baked Soft Pretzels – that queso blanco is amazing! And then I had the Gun Show Burger (substituting more queso blanco for the mayo – yay, good choices!), fries, a Zombie, and a Blue Moon. But, I did follow it up with two three-mile walks on Saturday and Sunday. Non, je ne regrette rien…
Last weekend, I saw parts of my own neighborhood I’d never seen, before. And it struck me how easy it is to forget you have legs, when you live in a place that’s often 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more, and you work behind a desk on a computer all day – then spend your spare time writing, blogging, crocheting… It felt good – and horrible – to rediscover and stretch them. I walked a little funny until yesterday.
I remembered how, as a child, I’d spend all day running around the neighborhood on foot, or on a bike. Utterly unfettered and unselfconscious. I wasn’t particularly active or athletic, then, either – it was simply the means to an end. A way to get out and explore my world, play with friends, change the scenery, and escape boredom. When did the world start to seem like such an unpleasant – if not downright scary – place? Probably about the time I had kids, and realized there were registered sex offenders living within walking distance. But really, the majority of people are basically good.
Walking, instead of driving, I encountered a lot of smiling faces. “Hello.” A nod, here; a wave, there. At first, I felt weird – you see joggers and bikers and people walking dogs, but the solitary walkers are usually salesmen. I felt as though I ought to offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, so as not to look suspect or merely awkward. About a mile in, I no longer gave a thought to what anyone else might think. In fact, I encountered a salesman going door to door, putting fliers on people’s doors advertising a maid service. He was brisk, pleasant, and cheerful. We were going in opposite directions, but met up again on my return. He hadn’t covered quite as much ground as I had!
I decided to turn the next walk into the weekly grocery shopping trip, as well. That meant carrying a bag to carry the reusable bags I’d bought a year or two ago and never used for anything but yarn and books. I figured I’d only be able to manage two totes, anyway. Two bags, fully loaded with a week’s worth of groceries, are surprisingly heavy. And it’s still about .2 miles from there to home. I’m not sure I want to repeat that, but when the weather’s nicer, I may make smaller, more frequent trips.
In working with a friend who is a life coach in training, I think I got to the root of my afternoon snack binging. Without going into detail, it wasn’t self-indulgence and lack of discipline, but quite the opposite. Not that there are a ton of calories in the free office snacks, but it’s unhealthy and leads to other crappy eating habits later. I made a conscious effort to avoid it, this week, and I think it’s been paying off nicely.
Yeah, I am so deprived. Not.
The purple headphones are so I can listen to Spotify on my phone and create my own little personal space bubble in cubeland, when I need to focus. I think I’ve mentioned before how I can hear a gnat buzzing from across the room? The makers of open office plans and cubicles did not account for introverts with rabbit ears.
Wearing the Fitbit – mostly because I know from experience that it helps immensely to track food and exercise daily, and I’m lazy about tracking both – I’ve uncovered a different, unexpected issue I need to work on. Sleep. Oddly, I discovered it after having my son – who thinks he never sleeps – wear it one night to see how accurate his perception was (since I’ve seen him sleeping). It turned out to be fairly accurate – although he sleeps, he’s restless most of the night. His “sleep efficiency” is only about 55%.
Hah, I thought. Mine’s about 100%. I mean, I know that I can fall asleep at will in under 10 minutes. I’ve never suffered from an inability to sleep – but I’ve always struggled with fighting sleep like a toddler. I know that some part of me is afraid I’ll miss something momentous. After all, the world doesn’t just stop turning in the middle of the night, just because most of us on my side of it are out cold. I know – I was recovering from surgery and wide awake when the tsunami hit Japan, and watched it live on the news. But I also know that there’s not a damned thing I could do about it – and there will be replays (ad nauseum) if it’s newsworthy at all.
But just for grins, I started tracking my own sleep with the Fitbit. I was shocked; where my son is aware he’s at least partially awake much of the night, I’m not really conscious of it. But I don’t sleep as soundly as I imagine, either. And I’ve gone from a “sleep efficiency” of about 92% down to around 77% to 83% – getting only about 4.5 hours restful sleep a night, on average. That’s not enough for anyone.
Then again, I do have a hypothesis. Since focusing on better nutrition, I’ve also been making an effort to drink more water. And more water, for me, leads to decreased interest in coffee. I know, right? Me, the coffee junkie – no interest in the stuff. Except this morning, because it was there and it was warm and it just felt good. But it’s something I’ve noticed before – I think the only caffeine withdrawal I’ve ever suffered is actually dehydration. If I replace that with plain water, to start with, I don’t even get the caffeine withdrawal headaches. And I just tend to forget that coffee exists, after a couple of days.
You’d think that would lead to a better night’s sleep, wouldn’t you? But I think maybe not. I could always drink a pot of coffee and immediately sleep like a log. What does caffeine really do, after all? It adds nothing – gives you no energy at all. It’s an accelerant. It burns energy faster, like pouring gas on a log fire burns up the wood faster. Without it, I’m wired.
This is why they give stimulants to kids with ADD, isn’t it?
Plus, eating right – cutting back on sugar and other “empty carbs” – my energy levels are steadily increasing, not decreasing. It’s a good thing, but man, it’s not helping me to get a good night’s sleep, at all. I went to bed at 9:30 PM last night and woke up at 6:00 AM – it was the first time in over a week I got more than 6 hours’ sleep. And barely more, at that. But at least it’s progress – in the right direction.
Owls & The Hungry
If the weather doesn’t improve, it’ll give me a chance to catch up on the Owl Blanket. I’d rather not drive 30 miles to the Houston Food Bank – or even sign up and commit to do it – when there’s a chance of freezing rain. Not that the outlook’s likely to get better between now and mid-February; these are the weeks most likely to have it, if any, here in the south. But I have fallen woefully behind on the owls (the eight I do have still need eyes and branches) and alternating squares, and I don’t mind donating food if I’m unable to get there in person.
Magically Raising the Dead
Oh, hell yeah. I am making awesome progress on this one, thanks in part to you, Dear Reader. I’m not sure getting my PR3 back is even doable, at this point – but Alexa’s coming along nicely. When I started, this blog had sunk into the millions. (For those of you who don’t blog or care or even know what Alexa is, the lower the number, the better.) Today’s stats show good progress! (Not as good as that time my team and I took a blog from idea to 15k in 10 weeks, but not bad for the first week of a solo effort!)
W00t! Shout-out to my readers and blogging friends in India – you rock! (Come on, everyone else – are you really going to let India win this one? 🙂 Where the heck is Iceland on this list? Or Brazil? I used to be big in Brazil… O, Canada…)
[Tweet “Onde estão os meus fãs do Brasil? :)”]
[Tweet “Ég elska lesendur frá Íslandi”]
I really do, you know. (Hi, Asdis!)
[Tweet “O, Canada, where art thou? Où êtes-vous?”]
All are welcome, here.
So far, most of my writing has been on this blog. But the daily blogging, coming after a short, December break following NaNoWriMo, has helped to establish a routine of writing – not just for work, and not just after everyone else goes to bed. Writing in the morning, over breakfast or coffee, has become a pleasure. It’s funny how writing, even when you love it, can come to seem like a chore. And ironically, the only cure for that is to do more of it. I am secretly trying to redefine myself as a “morning person.” I do love mornings, now – I just don’t move too quickly when it’s dark, rainy, and cold. I got a laptop, in November, and can now write while sitting in a comfy recliner, or in bed, still wrapped up in my blanket. That helps!
[Tweet “Daily blogging not only provides a #blogboost, it helps establish a creative routine.”]
And just as a reminder to us all – as we’re reading this on PCs, smart phones, and tablets – there is still a place in the world, and in our brains, for real paper and ink books. For one thing, barring a really massive fire, we’ll still be able to read physical books in a thousand years – long after our Kindles and Nooks have disintegrated. But there’s an even more important reason not to convert your entire library to digital – one I’m going to have to throw at my husband, next time he suggests that the dead tree books are a waste of space and resources: “A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback.” See Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books for more fun facts about the benefits of reading – and the benefits of real books.
The World Out There
The world “out there” is not always a nice place, and sometimes we have jarring reminders of it. As a writer, and a human being, I am shocked and saddened by the events in Paris this week. I stand in solidarity with the satirists, artists, and writers who speak truth to power – the ones who criticize, poke fun at, and make us think harder about our human foibles. Violence is never the best response to ideological disagreements, as Lucille Clerc so quietly, eloquently expresses here:
This truth is demonstrated in 23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting and they are still coming.