Friday, September 30, 2011

One step at a time

In the fall of 2009, my life took a different path. After 5 years with a non-profit that I cared deeply about, I left to work for one of the vendors at their conferences. I still got to work in the same area of ministry, but the work I would be doing was more along the lines of what I wanted to be doing. And I could work from home. I don't think it was even a week before I realized that having an hour lunch break was going to create some bad habits if I didn't put the time to good use. I decided to go for a walk.

This is where I started.
When I started walking, I couldn't make it around the block without being winded. Eventually, as the pounds started to drop and my endurance started to rise, I walked farther and farther. As the following spring turned to summer, my daily walks were pushing the bounds of my lunch time, and the heat of the day was making longer walks impractical. If I wanted to walk farther, I'd need to start earlier. I started getting up earlier just so I could walk. I'd changed my habits one step at a time.

I've gotten a lot of comments from people about my weight loss. Most of it has been very encouraging, but I've discovered something interesting. At some point, a subset of the people who talk to me about my appearance and my walking now feel compelled to explain to me why they can't do what I have done. They can't walk 3 miles a day. They can't afford to eat healthy foods. They don't like low fat foods. What they don't realize is I told myself those same "can'ts" before I took that first step.

Finishing the 1/2 marathon.
I didn't get to this point overnight. It's taken 2 years to get here. In that 2 years I've learned to eat fresh foods when possible. I've learned that I wasted a lot of calories on fat, so I cut the fat where I could so I could still enjoy a piece of meat. I also learned that for me, lettuce is the delivery system for the salad dressing. If it weren't for the dressing, I wouldn't eat lettuce. I took a break from lettuce salads and started experimenting with other vegetables, and even fruit. The point of this, however, is not what I've done or what I eat but the fact that it took me a year to learn a lot of this and another year to get it firmly planted in my subconscious. But it never would have gotten there if I hadn't taken that first step.

Enough with the dishes

Nothing like doing a little Wordle to find out what you're talking about. Thanks to a post by my coworker Alison, over at Mr. Ravioli I decided I had to do one of my own. After all, hers was about cake and yummy. Mine was, well, you'll see...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Death Cab Meets The Doctor

I had a geek moment during my walk this morning. I guess that proves I'm starting to get my head out of training mode and into just letting my mind wander. A song I've heard many times came up on my pod-thingy, but this time my brain heard the latter part of the song in the context of Doctor Who. If I had the inclination, I'd make a fan video.  If you haven't seen the current series, well, as River Song would say, "Spoilers."

Here's what I heard:

"Soul Meets Body"

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me
And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel, feel what its like to be new

Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place
where they’re far more suited than here

And I cannot guess what we'll discover
When we turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels
But I know our filthy hands can wash one another’s
And not one speck will remain

And I do believe it’s true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So brown eyes I hold you near
Cause you’re the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere

Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thinning the Herd

In the past when I've gotten rid of things, for the most part, it was because we had to. There were several years when we had the obligatory garage sale, but other than that, whenever we moved we've dejunked. We downsized when we moved the the house before last because there was no real storage. The amount of stuff we found in the basement as we were moving was shocking. I swore never again. But nearly 12 years in this house, we've got it packed to the rafters. Or at least it feels that way.

Since I'm not in a panic of needing to have it gone by the time the moving truck arrives, I'm giving the process some thought, and I'm employing a couple strategies. The first is to attack an area and just dig in. I did that last week for the sewing cabinet and knitting supplies. The second is just to make a small change and watch it spread. When I decided to take a break from using the dishwasher, when I realized I was hoarding dishes, utensils, storage containers so I could fill a dishwasher and still have tools to use, I discovered just how full my cupboards were. It became easier to thin the herd when I had it all in one place.

One day I took about 15 minutes to go through my storage containers. I kept only the name brand ones that I prefer, and the disposable ones I used to take to work hit the recycling or the box for the cottage. I made sure I only kept the containers with matching lids. The rest are gone, and the cupboard I used to dread is now under control.

If you could thin the herd somewhere, which herd would it be? Can you focus on one small section, a cupboard, a drawer, a stack of paper for 15 minutes and see where it leads? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Alas, poor rice cooker

Alas, poor rice cooker by sandbar17
Alas, poor rice cooker, a photo by sandbar17 on Flickr.
Of all things to blog about, after 30-plus years I'm getting rid of my rice cooker. Actually, it hasn't been my rice cooker for 30-plus years. It came with the husband. The thing is, I could never cook a decent batch of rice with it. It was either too sticky or wasted half of it on the bottom of the pan, or sometimes it was both.

I now know how to make a decent pan of rice from this recipe. I'll never use a rice cooker again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

File this under "Obvious"

I went into the kitchen this morning to get a bowl of cereal and discovered that the only bowls that were clean were either the baby bear bowls or the the papa bear bowls. The former are little ones that I use mostly for late night snacks. Or I use them for a little fast breaker before a walk then have second breakfast once I'm home and showered. The latter are the ones that came with my dishes: the ones that were the selling point when hubby bought me those dishes for Christmas one year. BIG BOWLS. When it comes to everyday breakfast bowls it seems we both prefer Tupperware cereal bowls. Unfortunately, we only have 3. I'm not sure where the 4th one went. I suspect it melted somewhere along the way. Until recently, we filled the gap with some cheap GFS bowls we'd bought for salsa for our son's Chipotle-catered wedding rehearsal dinner. I tossed the last of those bowls last month.

Here's where the obvious part comes in. I opened the cupboard this morning and the mama-sized bowls are gone. That means that yesterday DH and I each used one. He used one this morning, and now I'm stuck with just using a baby-sized bowl or a papa-sized bowl because the 3 mama-sized bowls are in the dishwasher waiting for a full load to run it. As I stood in front of the cupboard debating on the baby bowl or the papa bowl I realized that I could just hand wash one of the mama-sized bowls.

Now the light comes on. I need extra dishes, glasses, coffee mugs because I don't run the dishwasher every day. Of course we need to have enough dishes for guests if we have more than just the two of us for dinner. But even when the boys where home, we sometimes went 2 days before we ran the dishwasher. The ugly fact is, I'm storing dirty dishes. Not only that, but I'm storing dirty dishes until I have enough to wash them. *blink*

Suddenly using my dishwasher makes absolutely no sense, especially my dishes are coated with white junk since detergent companies removed the phosphates. If I hand wash my dishes, I need fewer dishes altogether because I don't need extras to use while I'm waiting for the dishes to be washed. Now I want to go through my cupboards and see what I have been keeping just so I have enough backup for what I've been storing in the dishwasher.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Finishing up and making room

Last year I swapped my craft room with my office. The former had been one of the boy's bedrooms, well actually each had been in that room at some point. It was bigger, yellow (I like yellow), and cooler in the summer. When I made the switch, I used our youngest son's bedroom as a staging area, and thus it remained until last weekend. We're getting a visit from him next month, so his room moved to the top of the to-do list.

What made working on his room a challenge was mostly what remained was drabble--flotsam and jetsam that really had no home until I created it or donated it.

  • a plastic box of knitting needles and crochet hooks
  • a plastic box of wood roving
  • several photo albums
  • a dismantled computer (pilfered for its hard drive)
  • 2 monitors
  • a computer keyboard with the letters worn off
  • 2 stacks of books
The books are destined for the library book sale. I have another box that I'm going to fill with books that I have read and I've no intention of reading again. The electronics are headed for the local electronics recycler. That's already half the list. The photo albums are part of this winter's massive photo project (more on that later). The rest of the craft supplies are another matter.

Cleaned out and organized knitting supplies.
I have a wonderful antique sewing cabinet that my hubby bought me many moons ago. It's been in my craft room for the last several months. I think it took the trip upstairs over the holidays to make room for the tree, but since I hadn't been making good use of it, I didn't even miss it. This past weekend I cleaned the sewing stuff out and replaced it with the pile of knitting stuff that I had lying on the floor next to the recliner. I also sorted through the plastic bin and only kept the tools I would actually use. Turns out I'm pretty picky about my knitting needles. At this point, my sewing cabinet is now my knitting cabinet, and the only things in it are things I actually use.

Sterilizer cabinet houses thread.
The thread that I had in the top drawer of the cabinet has a new home in this antique sterilizer cabinet. I'd rather not think about how anything in this cabinet with its cardboard backing and wood sides could ever be considered sterilized. But I have organized my threads by color family and I can easily see what is there. Unlike the drawer in my sewing cabinet, everything fits.

The other sewing stuff that was in the cabinet found new homes as well. The actual sewing stuff for the most part went into my toolbox that I used to use for costuming shows. Most of my sewing tools were there anyway. This just put it all in one place. Other things, such as uncompleted cross stitch projects, hit the trash. I'm not likely to ever take up cross stitch again, and if I do, I won't want to finish those.

I'll need to spend another hour or so in my son's room corralling the dust bunnies and such, but the dejunking of my stuff in there is complete. Now if I can get him to dejunk his stuff when he's here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Geeking out makes everything better

I was having a bit of a day earlier, but it all got better with a little geeking:

  • Improved upon a bit of JavaScript written by Master Qui-Gon*
  • Answered the question, "TOS, STNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise. Desert Island." My answer was DS9. The answer why deserves its own blog post. Hopefully before the end of the week.
  • Answered a "pop quiz" from a customer who needed a quick answer to an unusual request, a work around of sorts, and made her day.
I have to say that if it weren't Speak Out with your Geek Out, I probably wouldn't have given much thought to how much my day improved just by figuring out that little bit of code. The average person's day is not improved by an if else statement.

*Not long after I started working at this job, I dubbed the coworker training me Master Qui-Gon. i was his padawan. Our CEO and Developer was Master Yoda. We have a couple droids, a Wookie, and the guy I trained went over to the Dark Side. That, of course makes me Obi-Wan.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SpeakOut with your GeekOut

This is SpeakOut with your GeekOut week, the week to let your geek shine. As I've read some of the blogs out there, I know that I'm not as geeky as some. I'm making up for lost time. The thing about my geek is that I refused to let mine come out to play for a long time. I was a closet geek.

I was raised in the 60's on comic books. When I was young, we would go to Lake Erie during the summer, and my brother and I were each allowed to get one comic book at the market on Catawba Peninsula. We read anything from Richie Rich and Little Lotta to Superman and Batman. When I think of the file cabinet filled with comics that disappeared when we moved, a little of me dies inside. I try not to think about it.

In my teen years, I was a Trekker. I owned the novelizations of the episodes. I had lists of the titles and the synopsis (typed, no less). I also was a huge fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These are the things that shaped my perception of the world. These are the things I set aside when I "grew up."

I remember selling my Trek stuff and my LOTR books in a garage sale at our first house--a move I've come to regret. Looking back, it was like selling myself out to who everyone thought I should be. I have photographs of those years where I look every bit as much the insurance salesman's wife that I had become. No matter how much I tried to deny it, however, the geek lurked within.

When STNG appeared on the scene, I dodged it for the first year. We had a couple kids and we weren't big TV watchers beyond kids shows. The second year, though, I started watching with our middle son. We were hooked. His 12th birthday party was scheduled the day the last STNG episode aired and was Trek themed. By then, I didn't mind letting my geek show because my kids were joining me.

At this point in my life, I wear my geek colors proudly. After many years of working with computers in one capacity or another, I have a computer job I love. I telecommute to work daily. My job is to help organizations with their online fundraising using social media and our company's software. It's a perfect fit. When I'm training people on how to use our product, I have been known to have a mini geek out. I love this technology stuff, and I love sharing how to use it. Most of our clients aren't even sure what a browser is, but I admit to having an almost evangelical zeal regarding using computers and social media. It evens out.

I have regrets, though. I regret letting my brother talk me out of studying computers in college. As a young woman in the 70's, it was easy to allow myself to be talked out of a career requiring math and science. I've spent years teaching myself how to use computers out of necessity and interest (which has its benefits), and there were many years the locusts have eaten. I'll always be playing catch up.

I recently realized how out of touch I am with the comic book world as well. A friend of mine makes sure I see most of the comic book movies that come out and patiently fills in the gaps for me, but I recently had a TV writer reply to my tweet about a comic that appeared in a episode of NCIS last season. When I asked the significance of the issue, he replied, "You'd know if you'd read it." Ouch! He was kind enough to hint at the significance. I went to Ebay and bought a copy.

The point being, love your geek. Feed it. Care for it. This is who you are. Don't discover in the back half of your life that you've denied who you are because it was expected of you to conform.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Simplify September: Week 1

Depending on your point of view, I'm either early or late for this post. I'd been planning to do Minimizing Mondays, recording my attempts at scaling down my stuff and simplifying my life. However, this Monday I had to share my marathon story, and it's a pretty long post, so I'm moving this to Tuesday, kinda of.

In its own way finishing the 1/2 was one way I've simplified my life. I finally can get back to walking and be done with training. My walks can be more about clearing my head and staying healthy and less about distance and pace. I enjoyed my walk less when it was focused on results. I'm looking forward to not setting the timer on my phone and just walking.

When it comes to practical, physical scaling down, last week we got rid of an old freezer that we've been keeping plugged in even though it was usually empty. We'll be getting $50 back from AEP's appliance recycling program. They are only paying $35 right now; we got in on a special offer. But unplugging the freezer plus a $50 check is a pretty good start for the month.

Bucket List -- Walk a 1/2 marathon. Check.

I finished my walk.  Another item checked off my bucket list. This was less fun than the last item (last fall's tour of Paramount Studios). Unlike the tour, this is something I doubt that I'll want to repeat.

The day started cloudy and cool. Raindrops sprinkled the windshield as we neared New Albany. Those scattered showers called appeared to be scattering in our direction, but they never appeared. While we waited for the walk to start we talked about the weather, our training times, the fact that this year's race did not have the pack broken up by those times. I chatted with the woman with the 18 minute mile sign. To finish the half marathon you had to stay in front of that woman. I had told her that my nightmare was to have her on my heels or to step out of the latrine and have her pass me by. But, I'd walked 11 miles at 16:11. I wasn't too concerned about that really happening.

We stepped off and, with the crowd not separated by pace, it was almost 2 miles before things sorted out comfortably. Most people were walking the 10K, so they were talking as they walked. The thought ran through my head as I tried to push my iPod past the highest volume level that if you can comfortably talk without sounding winded, you're not getting a good workout. I knew I wasn't walking a 16 minute pace, but the crowd was too large. I'd have to make up some time if I wanted to catch a potty stop in the half. I knew that the latrines would be too crowded on the 10K route, and they were. I'd just wait for the "back nine".

About a mile out from the end of the 10K, we were passed by 2 of the half marathoners. I'd been looking for them. Seeing them this late in the race was encouraging. Only 2 had lapped me. I had hope that I wouldn't even see the 18 minute mile lady.

Near the finish line for the 10K, the half marathoners are waved off to the right. I made the turn, my husband and my brother-in-law were there to cheer me on. I thought, now were's the latrine? I made a couple turns onto not-closed roads, grabbed a new water bottle, and settled into my stride. It was quiet now. The cackling crowds were gone. I was alone. Two women passed me. I thought about trying to keep up with them, but I knew they were walking too fast a pace. I reached into my fanny pack and pulled out the bag of almonds and dried cherries for a quick pick-me-up. After the noise of the 10K, this was nice.

Then I heard a couple of voices behind me. I turned to look and there was the 18 minute mile lady and her walking companion. I have no idea where she came from or how they how got there. My nightmare had come true. I'm on the back nine and the 18 minute mile lady is nipping at my heels. I put my snack away and kicked up my pace. Nearly a mile later, a couple of medics on bikes passed me, talked to my nemesis at the rear, then passed the other way. I asked one of them how far behind me she was. He told me about 200 feet.  At least she wasn't gaining on me.

I focused on the next walker less than a mile ahead. I recognized him as someone I'd spoken to in the queue for the latrines before the race. We'd both walked 11 miles the weekend before and were just interested in finishing. I set my sights on catching him. As I neared the corner, I saw latrines ahead and considered stopping, but when I rounded the corner, I decided that the 18 minute mile lady was still too close to stop. My nightmare would be complete; she would pass me while I was preoccupied. I kept walking.

At some point during the doldrums that were that part of the walk, I passed the guy ahead. At some point between miles 9 and 10 I passed two younger women. I considered stopping at the latrines at mile 11, but at that point I was only 2 miles from the end and decided that keeping moving was the important part. The dreaded 18 minute mile lady was nowhere in sight.

I walked most of the last mile with the next woman ahead of me, a woman named Melanie who was walking raising funds for cancer program. As we reached the 13 mile mark, my family was there. My granddaughter, dressed in orange right down to her nail polish, had a shirt that said, "Go, Grammy, Go." She joined me for the walk across the finish line. I let out a whoop, hugged my family. I'd done it.

Then it went pear shaped.

I started wheezing. I've never done that before and I have a whole new appreciation for people with asthma. I went to the curb and sat down and felt much better immediately. I drank water, broke open a Clif bar, ate 1/2 a banana, and felt pretty good again. I watched the two girls I passed cross the finish line. Then a bit later the last walker crossed the finish line walking with the 18 minute mile lady. I got up to go congratulate him. Gave him a hug, then started wheezing again. I thought briefly about heading for the truck, but then started feeling a little lightheaded. I sat down again and this time told my son to find me some oxygen. He returned with the medics.

After taking my BP and pulse and asking a bunch of questions, they decided to take me to the squad for some IV fluids and O2. My BP was a little low, the good looking captain told me. They wanted to run an EKG. I assume that checked out OK, but the big concern was by blood pressure, which at one point was as low as 66/30. They decided to transport me to the hospital.

The ER itself is a whole other story, but suffice it to say the issue was apparently dehydration. A couple of bags of IV fluids and I finally got to get up, without being dizzy, and go to the restroom. I don't have an official time for the race yet, but I know that I walked 13.1 miles in less than 3:55:07. That was the time I crossed the finish line on the race clock. I'll post the official time when I have it. Meanwhile, I'm happy to have finished the race. I'm looking forward to just walking again and not training--but not today. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Redrawing circles

I've been giving some thought to how I use Google Plus and how I see others using it, and I've decided to restructure my circles. It's not what you think. Generally when I see people make that announcement it includes a list of the circles they have and they ask their followers which circles they want to be put into. That is not what I'm talking about. I'm drawing my circles around people I want to read, not what I'm going to say.

The idea of Google Plus for some is to be able to create lists of people by topic and only posting that topic to those lists. I'm starting to see the beauty in using the out of the box circles for communicating to my audience then adding circles for topics I want to read, voices I want to hear. There are a couple reasons for this.

On the left hand side of G+ there is a list of my feeds by circle, Incoming, Notifications, and Sparks. These are the voices in my stream that I can hear and sort. I want to listen to yarnies or Whovians? I can click on that feed and read. Kind of like reading one of my lists on Twitter or by following a hashtag. But unlike Twitter, I can respond to the whole list just by choosing that circle. It's a nice feature that I wish Twitter had, and a feature I like about G+, but one I wouldn't use all the time. I don't only tweet to a hashtag. I interact with my friends.

I'm more than just a yarnie or a Whovian. When I'm tweeting, I'm talking to my community. My NCIS friends know that I knit, write, and read Steampunk. They know that I have a garden, I'm walking a half-marathon this weekend, and I love Shakespeare. I don't focus my topics to narrow audiences in real life or on Twitter. Why should I on G+?

What I do like about the circles is that I can share more personal information with family and friends than I do with acquaintances or strangers. It's not the topic in general that I want to sort but the amount of information that I want to make public. This means I'll only have a few circles I'll post to. Family, friends, and acquaintances--choosing the right audience just got simpler. These are the circles we were given when we signed up and I'm thinking the Googlers were onto something.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

WIP Wednesday--On the needles and off

I'm still working on the shawl for The Ladies of Mischief. I've picked up the pace, but it's taking longer than I imagined it would.

I've also agreed to test knit an adorable owl hat. I'll cast it on tonight, but I have to get a couple rows in on the shawl first. Here's the owl. I have the perfect person in mind for it. :-)