Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quiet Around Here

With the kids away for the week, the house is very quiet. And very clean. Along with the quiet and clean, my husband and I marvel at how little food we actually go through when the three are away. It's weird, a bit of a glimpse at what it'll be like when they are grown and out on their own for real. I'm missing them terribly, so I have a hunch I'm going to go through some rough times when the time for them to make their own way comes. Thank goodness I have a few years yet before this happens. I can take these years to prepare myself.

A good workout day today. We bought a contraption that turns a regular bike into a stationary bike, so rather than sink several hundred dollars into an exercise bike, we turned my husband's ten-speed into a stationary bike for under a hundred bucks. Now we have a treadmill and the bike to workout on. In addition to these, we have the thing-a-ma-jig that we can do pull-ups on, leg lifts on, dips, and an assorted other exercises on. We have our own little gym set up in the garage. It rarely gets below thirty inside, so as long as we are layered, we stay fairly warm. I ran three miles and biked for 15 minutes at a pretty good speed. I'd like to get a mileage readout for the bike to keep track of how far I'm going each time since I need to be able to bike 13.6 miles for the mini-tri. I did a little over six miles yesterday in 20 minutes, so I'm setting a goal of doing the bike portion of the race under 38 minutes. I really don't know if this is trying for too much, but I figure if I can do six miles in 20 minutes now, I should be able to do 13.6 under 40 minutes by the time April rolls around.

These goals will really be tested starting next week when I have to return to work. With work, the kids home, the kids going back to school and their school activities, and everything else going on, I might find I'll have to readjust what I hope to accomplish. My mini-tri buddy set a goal of finishing the event in less than 2 hours; maybe I should shoot for the same myself. That darn competitive side of me keeps rearing its ugly head, though. There's something about being mid-40's and feeling the need to prove things to myself. I need to prove to myself that I can swim the 400 in less than 11 minutes. I need to prove to myself I can bike 13.6 miles in less than 38 minutes. I need to prove to myself that I can run 3.1 miles under 30 minutes. That gives me a total of one hour 19 minutes for the event. I know I can do this.

But when the quiet is gone come Saturday, how will this affect my workout schedule? Maybe I should take the pressure off myself and just stay with finishing under 2 hours.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year Ending, Year Beginning

Another year is almost over, and for the most part, 2009 has been a good year. I really have no complaints. Even my husband being laid off effective January 1, 2010 cannot put a damper on my memories from the past year. If anything, he being laid off has been the incentive I've been needing to get a start on some projects I've been thinking about doing but haven't taken the time to put into action. It's kind of strange--he's losing his job and the quite nice salary that went along with it, and I'm the one who feels like I need to find a way to replace his salary. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but part of me feels like this is the chance for me to write my book, the chance for me to prove to myself that I can write and can make money doing it. I still have to go to my day job, I still have three kids to take care of, and I still have a mini-tri training schedule I've committed to. Can I really take on writing a book (actually I'm working on two books at present) while managing these other parts of my life? This is the big question for 2010. My goal is to revisit this question in a year and assess the outcome.

I do find it interesting that the more I take on the more I tend to get finished. I'm not quite sure how this happens. It actually seems counterintuitive, but something I do when committing to a project is I stop watching TV. The time freed up from doing this one thing is amazing. The first week or so I complain, moan and groan, and generally cry over having to give up something so enjoyable, but after week two, I realize I'm not all that sad any longer and I don't miss my favorite shows all that much.

One of the projects in the works, the excitement I'm getting from thinking about it, from working on it just a tiny bit each day, has been like a jolt of electricity to my whole being. I tried starting this project a couple of years ago, but it went nowhere very quickly. I abandoned it physically but not mentally, hoping inspiration would find me and whisper into my ear, helping me figure out how to proceed. Inspiration found me two days before Christmas, showing me the answer had been right in front of me all this time. I started writing the day after Christmas.

So it is with much excitement that 2009 ends and 2010 begins. I truly hope this same excitement is still with me in a year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

The festivities are now over, and the itch to take down the tree, the decorations, the lights adorning the porch has struck. I'm determined to get through one more day of leaving everything alone, though, and have decided to do the tedious task tomorrow. In the process, the whole house will get a good cleaning, a winter cleaning, and maybe stay pristeen for a day, perhaps two, like the several inches of snow that has fallen since yesterday. We really did get a white Christmas. A beautiful white Christmas.

While I didn't take a picture of the inside of the mincemeat pie, the filling turned out very tasty. My dad loved it. I could tell by the closing of his eyes as he took his first bite, by the way his face took on a look of pure pleasure as he savored the flavors. He then gave a bite to my brother-in-law who doesn't like mincemeat pie at all, but after one bite of mine, my brother-in-law turned to me and said, "That's not mincemeat." The doctoring of the filling made even a die-hard naysayer come around and admit to liking my very first mincemeat pie.

Our Christmas was very simple this year. The kids each received the one item they really, really, really wanted. And that was about it. Instead of putting a lot of money into things, we scaled back and have been spending more time with each other, more time baking goodies, and more time cooking meals, sitting around our dining room table, and eating the meals. This past week has been one of the most enjoyable we've had in some time, simply because we decided to be with one another.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Toasty Warm House

I baked my very first mincemeat pie. Though I didn't actually do the whole thing from scratch, I did add in some special ingredients to enhance the flavor. I wish I could cut it to get a picture of the inside, but I can't as it is supposed to make its way over to my parents' home for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow. Mincemeat is one of my dad's favorite pies, and since he's always saying he doesn't want anything for Christmas unless he can eat it or drink it, this is his gift from me. Along with what I hope turns out to be a good bottle of wine.

Because of the baking, the house is nice and warm today. Outside the weather is miserable: rain, rain, and more rain. All of the snow is gone after turning to mushy slush then dissolving altogether. Tomorrow more rain is to fall, and on Christmas more rain is to fall. I'm good with staying in, lounging in my pj's all day, reading, eating, and just relaxing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sore Bum

The bike was brutal today. I had been using the recumbant bike until today. The seat on each, to say the least, is as different as sandpaper and cotton. My bum has been speaking to me ever since, and what it's been saying isn't fit for my mother to hear. How do cyclists do it? Do they wear padded shorts? I'm going to have to figure something out in order to get through the bike training.

The swim yesterday went well. I did the 400 meters like I would for the mini-tri, only taking very short breaks at the end of each lap. I was able to finish the 400 in fifteen minutes. I'd say that's not too shabby. My goal is to get down to ten minutes. That might be a bit lofty, and I'll settle for twelve or thirteen minutes, but I do think I can shave off quite a bit of time by not stopping at the end of each lap. After doing the initial 400 meters, I used a paddle board and did another 400 meters. At about the 300 meters mark, fatigue set in on my left side, making me vere to the left since the right side was doing all the work. This morning both sides from armpit to hip were sore. I found out I need to do some core work.

This whole training thing has been really good for me. The whole self-confidence thing is something I've always had a problem with. I've never felt comfortable walking into a gym or a pool and working out. I've always felt like others will look at me and wonder why the heck I'm even there. I've had somewhat of a breakthrough on this--no one is watching me. No one cares. They all are focused on themselves. I was the only one who cared. Now I'm focusing on myself and what I want to finish. So far, I've been able to finish each goal I've set for my workouts.

Tomorrow is running. My goal: finish under 35 minutes. Maybe the running will work out the soreness in the bum.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Year of Eating Healthfully

I've always had a hate relationship with the scale. Ever since sixth grade, when we had to be weighed in front of everyone, and I weighed in at a beefy 106 pounds, I've avoided scales and weighing myself. I didn't know it then, but I was five feet tall as a sixth grader, and according to the charts, I was only six pounds heavier than the chart said was normal. But even the chart didn't take into account the type of body one might have. Over the years, I've learned a lot about body types and how a person's body type affects what that person will weigh. Also, each individual has a weight that his/her body is most comfortable at, making it difficult for that person to get to a lower weight. All through high school, from freshman year through my senior year, I couldn't get under 150 pounds. I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track, but I could not budge the scale to 149 or less. Today, almost thirty years beyond high school, my weight still likes to edge up towards 150, but with a lot of diligence and cardio workouts, I'm maintaining in the lower 140's.

I still don't get on the scale very often. I definitely still have issues with the numbers, so I try to go by how my clothes are fitting. A year ago, my clothes were tight. I refused to buy new sizes as I knew I needed to do something to get the weight under control. When a person lives with someone who totally doesn't care about what goes into his/her mouth, that person starts adopting those same bad habits. It's just easier. And all that greasy food, that sweet food, that fast food starts showing up around the waist, on the hips, and all over the backside. My clothes were beginning to protest, and I'd know this for awhile though I just kept telling myself I was imagining it. Then I saw a picture of myself from Christmas at the in-laws. E-gad. That was enough for me to say enough.

The next day, I ordered P90X and began the ninety days of getting back into shape. I also bought a juicer to begin a juice cleanse. In the first ninety days, I lost twelve pounds. Not a huge amount of weight, but it was half of the total I wanted to lose. I knew it was going to take time. The pounds didn't pile up overnight, so they weren't going to come off overnight either. I also knew I needed to make a commitment to eating healthfully each and every day in order to avoid having to go through this again. When the ninety days ended, I switched to running on the treadmill and have been running ever since. I know I've lost a few more pounds, but I can't bring myself to get on the scale. I look at it everyday, but this awful feeling creeps through my limbs, spreads through my torso, and only when I walk away does the awful feeling abate. So I continue to go by what my clothes are telling me. They're all saying thank you now. All are much looser on me, and I bought a pair of size six slacks the other day. I have not been a size six ever. I was stunned. Profoundly happy, but stunned.

With nearly a year of self-improvement over, I'm looking forward to the another year of continued improvement. Now, the focus is less on losing the weight and more on increasing my endurance, less on the scale and the numbers that will stare back at me, and more on chosing healthy foods. I love shopping for healthy foods, trying all the different combinations of veggies that can go through the juicer, and being strong enough to say no to a cheeseburger and fries. This year has been a good year, and I'm confident the Christmas pictures will show this to be true.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

With my husband's impending layoff just around the corner, actually what we will wake up to on New Year's day, I've been feeling less than filled with holiday spirit. In fact, I've been on the edge of anger for a couple of weeks now. I know the layoff isn't because of anything he did/did not do while he was working this contract. In fact, we've known all along the contract would only last five years, and those five years have come and gone. The anger comes from my urging my husband to save as much as possible during the five years only to have him tell me saving isn't important. Now. . .now he's fretting about money. A lot of good the fretting will do at this point. On top of his refusal to save, he went out and bought a new truck last year. A brand new truck. Not a used one like I encouraged him to buy. A big, spankin' new truck. His reasoning? Because he wanted a new truck.

So now I have to take an overload at work to earn a little more money each month. Now I have to take out family insurance coverage that will take up most of the overload money. Now I have to work through the summer months to be sure we stay afloat. These things make me angry--mostly at myself. I left a marriage ten years ago because my ex didn't like to work. The kids and I were constantly scrounging through coat pockets and anywhere else we could think of to find enough change to buy a half gallon of milk. I finally said enough, I'm not going to live like this simply because the other adult in the household doesn't feel inclined to work. While I realize my husband has been working and is being laid off for reasons beyond his control, I still feel he's to blame for not having that extra money he was making in the bank. He made a lot of money over the last five years, and he insisted on spending it. No matter what I said, he did what he wanted to do. I feel like I've let myself fall into the same old routine of allowing the other adult in the household to behave badly. The one time I did put my foot down about a money issue, my husband was stunned. One time. One stinkin' time.

I've told my husband that come January, if he hasn't landed another position, I will take control of the money. He thinks I'm kidding when I say the first thing to go will be that truck. The second thing to go will be the huge cable package he insists we have to have. Just yesterday, he mentioned going out and buying a used car. Is he insane?

To help with the anger, I've been concentrating on the triathlon training. Things are going well. Now I'm going to do some cookie baking, and eating I'm sure, both of which help ease the anger. One other method I use to ease the anger is to look back over my Grand Canyon pictures. Seeing these put me back there, helping me remember the peacefulness the canyon exudes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Training Day 2

No swim yesterday. My training partner had some dental work done and wasn't feeling up to swimming, so we did some bike time instead. I went 13.6 miles in just under 50 minutes. I don't know if this is good or bad, but I'm going to try to do the 13.6 miles several times a week, working to bring the time down. I kind of surprised myself yesterday in completing the mileage without stopping or slowing down. I maintained a 16-18 mph speed the entire time. Another surprise is I'm not sore today. I guess all the running I've been doing is paying off. Who knew?

One idea I had is to take a day in a couple of weeks to do a run-through of a mini tri at the gym. I can do the swim, change and get on a bike, then go to the treadmill for the run. A mock trial would give me an indication of what I'm facing come April 2010. I just might find I'm in no shape at all to do something like this, which would be helpful in establishing a training schedule. I kind of what to test myself, too, just to see what my fitness level really is.

Today we will swim. I need to go 400 meters. I envision swimming one lap around a track, which is a really, really long ways. In a pool, maybe having a wall at each end giving me a little break will make the 400 meters seem more doable.

Doable. I like that word. I've reached a point in my life where I think anything and everything is doable. That's going to be my mantra from now on: anything and everything is doable.

Another ticker, this one for the biking. These are so much fun, and motivating.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Swim Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the beginning of the mini-tri training. Swimming. I've always been a strong swimmer, so I'm hoping this is the area where I can do well since I have a tough time with the running. I've been running three to four miles most days of the week, but I just cannot get myself to increase the pace. Twelve-minute miles seem to suit me just fine. Maybe with the swimming and the biking I'll see a change in the running. Maybe.

I've been training alone for most of the year. My husband started out with me, both of us working out, keeping track of what we ate, weighing in each Friday, and recording everything for the first 90 days of this year. When the 90 days ended, he stopped. He was doing so well, but now it's like he doesn't even care. He eats what seems like is constantly. He hasn't worked out or walked for months. The progress he made those 90 days is gone, and I'm incredibly disappointed that he has allowed himself to totally negate all the positive he accomplished. I just don't understand. Tomorrow I'll have a new training partner, a colleague who seems just as interested in being healthy as I am. This will be good for me. I think having someone there to push me is exactly what I need.

In any case, I'm going to do what I can to train for and complete the mini-tri. I see this as an opportunity to really push myself, see just what I can do. Now that I've been very mindful of what goes into my body for almost a year, I've found I just do not find food to be all that important. I do eat, but nothing tugs at me like it used to when I followed my husband's lead and ate whatever. I no longer eat fast foods. I no longer eat candy. I eat lots of fruits and veggies, sometimes juicing these in different combinations. With the addition of swimming and biking to the running, this combination just might be what I need to tone up even further.

To help motivate me, I've created a ticker to keep track of my swimming workouts. I hope to swim at least 400 meters each workout.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And the Semester is Over

Every semester I always marvel at how quickly it seems the sixteen weeks go by. Sixteen weeks ago I was getting ready to hand out all the required paperwork and go through my usual this-is-how-the-class-will-work spiel. Now I'm returning the portfolios that demonstrate each student's successful or maybe not-so-successful semester. The portfolios mean a lot to me, maybe even more than they mean to the students who write the papers, the journal entries, the reflection essays that make up the final collection of work. As I go through them, I see the improvement made by those who want to do more than just slide by. I remember the days we worked on certain papers, the exercises I had the students do to improve their writing. I always wonder what I could have done differently to help those who are borderline; they completed all the work, but their writing shows they either didn't put in the effort needed or they just don't get the concepts that make up the course. These situations are always tough to call. I end up sitting with each of these students and discussing the options. These conversations help me try to make the right call, but at times, I continue questioning myself far into the next semester.

I'm already thinking of and making changes for next semester. One of my bigger projects is to go as paperless as possible. I purchased a penpad to use to respond to student work that will be sent to me electonically rather than given to me as hard copies. I've tried out the penpad a couple of times this semester with willing students, and the ones who received their papers back with my response given via penpad liked how I was able to write on their papers just as if I had done it on a hard copy. My penmanship leaves a bit to be desired, but I'm going to continue practicing with it over break to try and improve that. It'll be interesting to see if I can pull off using less paper by using the penpad.

I have other ideas for change in the works, and I'm sure I'll write about these. For now, I'm going to set my sights on other projects, projects I have a hard time getting to during the semester due to time constraints. One project is the book I've started. I should be finishing up chapter 3, but I keep going back to flesh out the characters a little more in chapters 1 and 2, so chapter 3 has come to a standstill. I need to take the advice I give to my students: don't go back, go forward. I can go back later, after getting further into the book, but for now it's important to move forward to get a framework into place.

So here goes. I have some time before picking kids up from school. I'm going to use that time to go foward in the book.