Finding it within. (Fitness update, of sorts.)

We’ve been here before. You’ve heard this from me before, if you’ve been reading my blog for a little while: I want to get more cardio into my life, on different days than my usual workout days. I would love to work out five days per week rather than the four (sometimes three) that I normally do. It’s funny that for all the thinking I’ve done about this, I still haven’t taken action.

I have “reasons,” of course. Time – there’s always something more urgent to do. Transportation – I usually don’t have the car on my “off” gym days, ruling out cardio at the gym. Medical – I’m supposed to avoid the sun as much as possible because of my new medication, ruling out the outdoors (walking, running, hiking). Heat – there’s no A/C in the garage, ruling out jump-roping at home. Space – we have nowhere to put a treadmill, ruling out steady-state cardio in the house.

Being honest with myself, I know that all of these reasons amount to excuses, because there are

Things I COULD do:

1). “No equipment necessary” cardio workouts here in the house.

All I need to do is bypass the thinking about it part and go straight to the GET IT DONE part (favorite motivational motto; thank you, Funk Roberts). My workout subscription (Les Mills On Demand) offers a plethora of workouts along with Body Combat, my cardio workout of choice.

If I didn’t have that subscription, I could go to YouTube and enter “cardio workout” in the space field. My head would spin looking at the list that pops up and trying to decide which workout to try first. There are limited-space workouts, no-equipment-necessary workouts, beginner workouts, advanced workouts, 15-minute workouts, low-impact, high-impact, HIIT, Abs and core, cardio, strength-training, and you name it – all free on YouTube.

When I think about my reasons for not achieving my fitness goal of adding at least one cardio morning to my weekly schedule, I realize that they really are just excuses. I have the tools I need to get it done: Space in a room. A screen. The internet.

The awesome thing is that there are so many different get it done tools. I have one badass friend who incorporated fitness into his week by getting a bike and making a habit of riding it to work.

Maybe you have fitness goals, too, and you’re not meeting them because, like me, (insert your “reasons” here). Your budget doesn’t allow for the expense of a gym membership, for instance. Your life is a huge time-crunch. You feel unwell a lot of the time (I know it’s hard to get motivated when you’re dealing with chronic illnesses or medications that cause nausea, fatigue, pain). You feel overwhelmed by the idea of starting a fitness routine and “failing.” Sidenote: There’s no failing involved when you start a fitness routine. If you miss a day or a week, if you can only do five minutes at a time, if you can only exercise one part of your body, whatever the case may be, you’re still doing something, and that is never a fail.

There really are work-arounds for most obstacles. It’s my belief that if you allow yourself to fall in love with exercise, you’ll find them.

 

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Geronimo Shovelhands. (Sonoran Desert Tortoise update!)

All has been business as usual around here, and then one day I saw dirt flying out of Geronimo’s burrow. Next thing I knew, Geronimo was gone.

(Spoiler alert: he didn’t stay gone.)

For being such slow creatures, tortoises have a way of making things happen fast. Ours does, at least. I don’t know why this surprises me anymore. I just… when Geronimo started digging out the back corner of his burrow, I didn’t know he was going to dig until he was out of sight! He dug deep enough to get under the cinder block walls, and then he dug straight ahead, still at a diagonal, carving out a tunnel. I suppose that’s the definition of an actual tortoise burrow. Duh.

In my moment of alarm, though, I went to Facebook to freak out, because that’s what Facebook is for. Also, I have tortoise parent friends who would possibly offer comments or insights (and they did – thanks guys)! My freak-out went something like: 1). Where is Geronimo going? How far will he go? Where will he end up? Will we ever see him again? and in the comments and a few DMs: 2). Isn’t it dangerous that he’s dug beneath the cinder block structure of his burrow? Now there’s a mountain of packed dirt on top of cinder blocks supported by nothing! How is this possible? What if the blocks cave in? Will they crush Geronimo? Will they trap and smother him? GAHHHHHHHH

When we built the burrow, we thought that Geronimo would just chill at the back of it, and he did, for a while. When the days started heating up, he built his real burrow. Turns out that all we built was a semi-enclosed porch… which is fine. We’re pleased that Geronimo loves his burrow enough to feel that it’s a good entrance to the lair he’s digging out for himself.

Meanwhile, Callaghan started the process of securing the burrow’s cinder block walls to its plywood ceiling with construction-grade metal brackets, performing the necessary contortions in defying the laws of spatial limitation. I, myself, can barely fit my upper body into the burrow. Callaghan has to reach in and maneuver a drill in the far-back upper corner!

I don’t know how Callaghan does it, exactly, but he does. I know that his process involves lying on a couple of large tiles. Consequently, each time he finishes fastening a bracket and clears out for the day – only one bracket can be done at a time – Geronimo goes back to his burrow and gets mad because the dirt inside had been flattened out; he has to dig at the burrow floor in order to fluff it up again.

This guy!

 

Geronimo digging. You can just see his little back elephant leg behind the spray of dirt.

 

Long update short: Geronimo spends his nights (and most of his days) deep in his new digs (literally). Also, he’s adorable. Nothing new there!

 

Sweet and refreshing. (Story-time!)

When Callaghan went to the corner drugstore to get my Mother’s Day cards last week, he encountered a thin, middle-aged homeless man sitting out front (homeless people in front of that store being a normal thing) with his three small duffel bags and one large plastic bag.

Callaghan saw that the man had a bottle of water 1/3 full. As it’s our habit to offer water to the homeless (and also food, if we have any to give), Callaghan greeted him and asked him whether he had enough water.

The homeless man politely asked, “Could you please get me an ice cream sandwich?”

It was a warm/hot day. “He was shy, the way he asked me,” Callaghan said when he told me about it. “It was like how a little kid would ask for ice cream… like he was almost afraid to ask.”

He went into the store and picked up a bottle of cold water and two ice cream sandwiches, because the only thing better than an ice cream sandwich is two ice cream sandwiches. At the check-out counter, the cashier asked if he wanted a bag for the water and the ice cream.

Callaghan gestured toward the door. “No, because I’m just going to give them to the guy sitting out there.”

The cashier looked over at the plate-glass window and said, “Okay, cool.” He rang up the purchases and bagged the ice cream sandwiches and the water, anyway. “It’ll be easier for him if it’s all together,” he explained as Callaghan tucked the Mother’s Day cards into his cross-body bag.

When Callaghan went out and gave him the bag, the homeless man opened it, looked inside, and looked back up at Callaghan with “the biggest, happiest smile.” He had tears in his eyes. He shook Callaghan’s hand and said, “God bless.”

When Callaghan got home, he read the receipt and saw that the cashier only charged him for one of the ice cream sandwiches.

The End.

 

Paletas on a warm day

 

There weren’t any ice cream sandwiches at our neighborhood market when I dropped in today to take a pic for this post, but they had paletas, which are also sweet, refreshing treats from the freezer. I did purchase two of them, by the way… I didn’t want to run in, take a picture, and leave! There weren’t any homeless people in front of that store, but Callaghan will eat the paletas.

 

What do you get when you cross a flamingo and a ukulele? My office.

I had a hard mental health day on Friday, and all of the late-afternoon popcorn and Perrier couldn’t fix it. Neither did it help that that was the day I decided to watch Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video. Excellent song and video. Bad timing.

But then things got better, because when I woke up the next day, it was a gym morning and it was Mother’s Day weekend. I got cards from Nenette, Geronimo, and Callaghan, and for my main gift, Callaghan took me to Home Depot and said I could go crazy and choose any plant I wanted, emphasis on “any”! I chose this tall guy and named him “Flamingo”:

 

Flamingo! (He’s a Dracaena ‘Massangeana’)

 

My desk now, as seen from the doorway:

 

Four of my nine office companions, from left: Holder, Flamingo, Icarus, Thoreau

 

At some point, I’ll do an updated office tour and take you around to see all of my companions of the chlorophyllous persuasion. Two of them have joined me since my last such update, and some of the older ones have migrated to different spots.

Also, you may be noticing that there’s a ukulele sitting next to my desk. Yes, I’ve brought the ukulele back into the light! I haven’t dusted it off yet, but it’s out. That white binder on the shelf above it is a lesson book. Mom gave these to me, as some of you may recall, and I proceeded to capitalize on the opportunity to share some of my favorite ukulele jokes.

i.e. (from my previous blog post about the ukulele):

What’s the difference between a ukulele and a trampoline? You take off your shoes to jump up and down on a trampoline.

What’s “perfect pitch”? When you throw the ukulele into the garbage can without hitting the rim.

What do you call a beautiful woman on a ukulele player’s arm? A tattoo.

And my personal favorite:

A ukulele player suddenly realizes he left his vintage ukulele out in his car overnight. He rushes outside and his heart drops when he sees that his car window is broken. Fearing the worst, he peeks through the window and finds that there are now five ukuleles in his car.

I still love to laugh at the ukulele, but I do respect it, and I’ve decided to learn to play it. Going through my old rhythm and timing workbooks, composer collections, and sheet music made me realize how much I miss doing music. Self, I said one day recently – yesterday, in fact – why don’t you learn to play that beautiful, new ukulele Mom gave you? Why not.

I’m sure I’ll be back with ukulele-learning updates for any of you who may be interested; I can’t wait to laugh at myself as much as I laugh at the ukulele.

Oh, and my second Mother’s Day gift was a new tool box! Callaghan knew that I wasn’t thrilled with the one I’d been using. My new one (which I chose) is shiny and black and spacious and lovely. I should’ve taken a pic of it, too.

I hope you’re all having a great start to your week!

On minimizing “decision-fatigue.” (Mental wellness post!)

One day, in the third week of April 2017, I figured out what I’d wear to the gym each workout day of the following week. I wrote it all down. It was life-changing. I’ve since kept up the practice: once a week, I plan and list my gym outfits in a notebook (to keep track), gather the clothing, put them together in neat little bundles, and place them in the drawer in the order of the workouts. This completely eliminates having to think about what to wear to the gym as I’m getting ready to go.

This might make it sound like I have gym-clothing fashion concerns, but I do not. What I have is limited time and a limited mental/creative energy capacity each day.

No matter how little I care about my gym attire, I still have to decide what to put on. It’s a small, inconsequential decision, but it’s still a decision. Toward the end of the day, small and inconsequential decisions have added up, and then I start to make poor decisions, or I struggle to make decisions at all anymore. It could be that when it’s late-afternoon and I find myself stressed and unable to pinpoint a cause, I’m actually looking at decision-fatigue.

Why do couples sometimes bicker (stereotypically) over what to have for dinner? Maybe because they’re both at the end of a long day of making hundreds of little decisions, and they’re decision-exhausted and hangry. Decision-fatigue is a documented phenomenon; I’ve found web pages devoted to it.

As I said, my habit of putting gym clothes together a week in advance has been life-changing. It helps immensely that getting dressed for the gym involves only opening a drawer and pulling out the bundle on top. Zero decisions, minimal time. Even if I know what I’m going to wear, I’d still have to search for the pieces (t-shirts and pants – told you I didn’t care about gym fashion!) if they weren’t already bundled together.

 

Minimizing decision-fatigue: gym outfit prep, week-in-advance

 

This week-in-advance planning and prep – as opposed to multiple night-befores – allows me to devote my mental/creative energy and time to writing. Early mornings are especially precious to me; my primary focus each day starts with my “morning pages,” which consist of whatever part of my project I have in front of me. (Usually, it’s a single chapter.)

Gym-clothing planning is just an example. I’ve made it a point to try to be aware of other little decisions that feed on my energy levels throughout the day, and to get ahead of these decisions by strategizing accordingly. Because of my new awareness, I’ve returned to the habit of making daily lists of things to do. I might know what I have to do, but having the list in front of me saves me time and mental energy.

This leads me to a tangent: I don’t consider decisions to be distractions. There’s always a time and reason for distractions. Callaghan’s the same way! Perhaps we who work in creative realms need distractions because we’re easily over-saturated with our creations. Distractions carry me into a different head-space… they wipe the slate clean, so to speak. When the text is no longer at the forefront of my mind, I can start the next writing session and see what I couldn’t see before.

With that, I’m going to slam the door shut on this topic, because I can sense other tangents rising up!

Happy Friday Eve, everyone.

I colored my hair yesterday. No big deal. (Read: hahaha.)

I’ve been pretty productive lately, even though I also managed to waste a lot of time yesterday… not due to procrastination, but due to the decision I made to color my hair yesterday morning. It’d been so long since the last time, I did it wrong. The follies I committed in the process dragged the whole operation out beyond the precious time I’d allocated for it.

We’re at the advent of a long stretch of summer; my hair is at its most red by the beginning of October. It gets redder and lighter down toward the ends, which makes it look more fried than usual. I’ll get ahead of it and start this summer with freshly darkened hair, went my thinking. I picked up some “dark brown,” my go-to choice for Mission: Single-shade Hair.

Evidently, I’d forgotten how the process works. I started by putting on an old t-shirt. This would’ve been correct had the t-shirt not been a men’s size XXL with the neckline cut out. Basically, I wore a huge, loose, off-the-shoulder t-shirt dress… for the occasion of coloring my hair… dark brown. (Lest we forget that I’m a brilliant genius.) It wasn’t until after I was finished that I saw the gruesome aftermath on my skin. I’d been so focused on my hair that I failed to notice the color getting everywhere else.

I realized too late that 1). it’s not a good idea to undertake a hair-coloring enterprise when I’d be alone wielding a bottle of hair dye and no clue how to deal with the back of my head, and 2). the answer to the struggle is not to flip my wet, color-saturated hair from one side of my head to the other, or to turn my head around as far as possible so I could pull under-pieces from the back toward the front. If only I could swivel my head around like the girl in “The Exorcist,” I even thought at one point. Someone should start a Rent-A-Demon business.

Since it took so long to finish the color application (45 minutes), the dye on my skin had already dried by the time I noticed it… just when I was feeling proud of myself for getting every single hair. I ended up grabbing at nearby paper towels, leaning over the sink and frantically scrubbing the right side of my face and neck, part of my throat, the back of my neck, and parts of my collarbones, shoulders, and upper chest. And my left wrist, and a few fingers, even though I’d worn the flimsy enormous plastic gloves that came with the dye.

I felt like a murderer in a gas station bathroom. Now I understand why it takes murderers so long to clean up, and why the clean-up scene is usually cut mid-way through and the next thing you see is a pile of bloody paper towels after the successful clean-up job, or the murderer leaving the bathroom all spic and span, or even further, the murderer scrubbing off blood one minute and showing up at someone’s dinner party with a bouquet the next.

Callaghan called me two hours later when I was fresh out of the shower and still faintly splotchy even after all the scrubbing with a Japanese washcloth (rough like a cat’s tongue) my skin could handle. The residual stains on my skin did look like they could be bloodstains.

“I look like I did something heinous,” I told Callaghan when he asked me how my morning was going. “Are you still going to Costco after work? Could you please pick up some nail polish remover?”

“You don’t wear nail polish. What did you do?”

“I colored my hair this morning. And also the side of my face. And parts of my neck and upper chest. Pretty much my entire upper body, plus my left wrist and a few fingers.”

After he stopped laughing, he said, “It will come off eventually. Give it another few showers.”

“But I’m going to the gym tomorrow morning and I don’t want to look like a murderer.”

When he got home, Callaghan said, “I had to go to CVS for this. You know this stuff is mostly acetone, right? There’s nothing in here that’s inoffensive.” (Yes, he said the word “inoffensive.” The man may have a French accent, but he also has an English vocabulary that puts many Americans’ to shame.)

“Did you go to the CVS?” (The CVS where people tend to get shot or otherwise murdered. It’s our friendly neighborhood CVS, aka the murder CVS.)

It took the two of us a good 30 minutes to scrub me down with acetone. We were able to get most of the dye, but not all of it. Altogether, I spent almost three hours of yesterday doing my hair.

A pic of my uniformly dark brown hair, so you know that it happened:

 

(dark brown)

 

By the way, my t-shirt reads “My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined” (Reviewbrah quote.) I didn’t choose the shirt on purpose. It was a coincidence. Also, I’m not actually disappointed. I think my hair turned out pretty well.

Possible mid-life crisis sighting: new glasses?! (+ 1st cardio class on new meds!)

I stepped on my glasses yesterday. They were laying on the ground, on the brick pavement part of our back patio, because I’m a brilliant genius. That’s right. Not just any kind of genius. A brilliant genius. Luckily, I was wearing cloth house slippers. The damage could’ve been worse. My expensive progressive lens sat perfectly unharmed – not even scratched – within frames that were bent like a flimsy wire hanger from the dry cleaner’s.

A few hours later, I headed to my optometrist with hopes that the frames could be fixed. While I was there, I did what people naturally do when they’re in a room surrounded by glasses frames: I checked out the glasses frames.

To my dismay, I found a pair that I really, really liked. The entire room, I lamented to Callaghan, is like the cash register lane where they stock things they know you’ll consider buying just because you’re stuck in line with nothing to do but look at them.

I do not need an additional pair of glasses. I just felt like I needed them. My replacement frames were on order (100% covered by the warranty), and I was still sitting there staring wistfully at the unnecessary glasses frames. Callaghan coaxed me away so we could leave. “Allez, allez! On y va!” He said as he walked away from me, leaving me no choice but to follow him. (Classic French husband move.)

So here’s what I’m thinking: I’ve been waiting for and wondering about and anticipating my well-earned mid-life crisis so much that now, every time I get a wild hair up my ass, I think, could this be it?

Maybe this glasses thing is my mid-life crisis, since it fits the cliché: I have this sudden, strong desire to blow a stupid amount of money on something I don’t need. (“Stupid amount of money on something I don’t need ” converted to U.S. currency = anything more than $25.00, maybe $30.00 if you include shipping and tax.)

If this is it, I’m disappointed. The object of my irrational desire should be something more mid-life-crisis-ish. If this isn’t it, then what will it be, and when? Will I reach the end of my natural lifespan and finally realize that I need a Maybach? I do tend to be a late bloomer.

Totally unrelated because I wanted to post a pic and didn’t know what and I wanted to share this small victory with you, anyway: I have a selfie I took yesterday evening when I came back from Body Combat, significant because it marks the first cardio I’ve done in while.

I mean, okay, it’d only been two weeks since my last Combat class, but it seemed longer. Yesterday was the first time in a long time I could get through class without feeling like it was an exercise in dragging myself through wet cement.

Probably not coincidentally, it was my first cardio workout since starting my new medication. It seems that my new treatment plan is working! Despite side effects, I felt much better in class yesterday, and not just because I held back a little on the hardcore. Before the new medication, each Combat class felt successively more impossible; the last one was a disaster.

 

(02 May 2018 – commemorating my first cardio class since the addition of my new medication! It seems to be working.)

 

This wraps up my eventful day yesterday. Here’s to a year with improved physical condition… and only one pair of glasses.