what’s saving my life right now

A couple of the blogs I read (Modern Mrs. Darcy and Carrie Willard) do the “what’s saving my life right now” post right around this time of year – earlier this week we celebrated Imbolc for the pagans, St. Brigid’s day, Candlemas, and for the rest of us, the halfway point from the winter solstice to the Equinox. The darkness hasn’t bothered me so much this year, but it’s undeniably nice to know that every day we are turning back to the light, and on days like yesterday, when the sun is out and bright, I just want to sit in a sunbeam and soak up some vitamin D.

So what’s saving MY life right now?

  • Reading – I am bouncing back and forth between an “airport novel” – which is what I call the bestsellers that always seem to be on the racks at airport bookstores – fast paced, adventurous, usually with a spy or a team or agents of some kind. They’re an indulgence – this one is a James Rollins “Sigma Force” book called “The Seventh Plague” and somehow I am already halfway though it. Anyway, I’m bouncing between that and “The Happiness Equation” because one of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction and although self-help isn’t really what I had in mind, absorbing more suggestions on how to be even 5 or 10% happier is just fine.
  • Being off Facebook right now. Yup. I took my own advice and took a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter – I stayed on Instagram because it is a much more beautiful and soothing brand of social media for me. My feed is full of beautiful pictures of Norway, of Japan, Europe, cats and birds, my alma mater, handmade things and my happy places and beautiful rooms. I need these things to stay alive and right now I don’t need to steep myself in the live feed of the unrelenting negativity of Donald Trump’s administration and the divisiveness that is causing in our country.
  • Podcasts. In particular I just love My Favorite Murder (stay sexy, don’t get murdered) and Thinking Sideways. I’m also immersed in the archives of You Must Remember This and just worked my way through her series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood.
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“My Favorite Murder” has some pretty funny merch, too – I think I need one of these mugs for our staff meetings.

 

  • Finding a brief moment of hilarity at work. One of our coworkers recently returned from a long illness and he was greeted by this actually very creepy Elmo balloon, which has arms and legs and is probably four feet tall. (Why do people buy Mylar balloons still? This balloon will be clogging up some whale’s intestines long after I am ashes and dust. This stuff doesn’t biodegrade.) Over the course of a few days, Elmo began to drift aimlessly down the aisles, bouyed by rogue air currents, and I would frequently turn around to find it staring in my office window. When the GC was out one day, we decided he could be her temporary replacement.

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  • The snug life with this little guy – with a hot water bottle under the blanket and a movie from the Lucky Day section of the library on TV – and below that, a throwback to my favorite little human’s early years, provided at random one day by my brother, who found this snap on his phone and shared it with me. ❤

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  • A gift that I gave myself, for my evening tea, a reminder of a childhood best friend.

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  • And lastly – the bonds of trust, respect, and affection that I share with other people in my community. This was demonstrated eloquently during the Multicultural Night that was hosted by Miss L’s elementary school. On a purely voluntary basis, families and organizations came together for a night to celebrate the beautiful diversity in our community. Children from all grades (including Miss L and several of her besties) volunteered to perform, to sing songs and show what they’ve learned on different musical instruments – maracas and recorders and Indian and African drums. Some children dressed in costumes representing their ethnic backgrounds and families brought all sorts of food to share. The halls, gym, library, cafeteria, and art room were packed – the turnout was amazing. Miss L and her friends ran all over the school making memories together, doing crafts like Chinese lanterns and Roman mosaics, having their wrists henna painted by the mothers and grandmothers of some of our Indian students, and watching Irish dancing from a local dance school. There wasn’t a single political comment made, but the entire evening, which is an annual tradition at the school, spoke volumes and made me so incredibly proud of our community and our public school. We are truly blessed.

Happy weekend, all. xoxo

dieting.

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lunchtime run + meditation time at the botanical gardens; treasure the weather while it lasts.

So I’m back counting calories and steps with my trusty My Fitness Pal. I launched quite a diet & exercise offensive earlier this summer, in order to be able to wear a bikini on our vacation in North Carolina, but with several weeks of tracking, I really only lost about 3 lbs. I was relieved to give it up after vacation and go back to eating and drinking whatever I damn well felt like. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the 3 lbs coming back on, as well as a little extra.

I’ve always had a good metabolism and weight was never much of a worry for me until about the last year and a half. When I started running a lot in 2010, my body changed, became much leaner. Then, after several years, everything evened out  my body got used to all of that running and exercising, and adjusted accordingly. I’ve gone from, at my lowest, most unhealthy point, about 20 lbs under my ideal weight to about 10 lbs over that ideal weight since I turned 40.

Well, I thought to myself, training for my half ought to help this situation. Turns out it hasn’t.

Portion control, meal preparation and planning, and careful assessment of my nutritional mix plus daily exercise – that’s what works for me. I use Map My Run and My Fitness Pal to track my calories and plan my meals. I like seeing my daily food diary laid out so I can ensure that I am getting what I need – protein, whole grains, fruits & veggies, and enough water. Map My Run syncs with My Fitness Pal so when I log workouts, I see the calories come off my day, and I can make adjustments.

The problem with all of this is that food equals happiness and comfort and satisfaction for me. I don’t eat a lot of junk food. I don’t eat fast food more than once every couple of months, I don’t drink soda, I don’t eat bags of potato chips or cookies. But I do love cheese, and if I want to smash up an avocado and eat it on toast or with crackers, or mixed in pasta with red pepper flakes and pesto and olive oil, I want to be able to do that. I love red wine and pizza and bread, and after I run at lunchtime, I like wandering down to the cafeteria and having the chef whip me up a veggie and cheese quesadilla with a big handful of thick kettle chips. I like ice cream and pie a couple times a week. I feel like my mental issue is that I’m not a terrible eater – by and large I like healthy things, but I like them ALL THE TIME. In order to succeed in losing weight, I have to change my mindset from seeing food as self-love to seeing it as fuel, which is extremely dissatisfying.
But things must be done and so for the foreseeable future I will be packing lunch for myself (I don’t love processed food, but a Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine at lunch helps keep me on track – typically I only choose the vegetarian options, and actually a couple of them – these and these – are pretty good) and planning my meals on my little phone apps and trying to move more and drink more water and not turn into a shrieking harpy because I can’t have my Dove chocolate or large pour of cab sav.

introvert hangover

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emmett’s immediate reaction to seeing a travel bag packed and waiting to go out to Finn the Subaru – passive resistance.

There are only about three weeks left of summer and I’m relieved. I’ve enjoyed it – been places, done things, spent time with nice people – but it’s also been exhausting. I feel like I am always packing a bag or unpacking a bag. Jax tells me “you’re always tired” which annoys me and makes me protest, “that’s not true!” even as I know that it most definitely IS true – I just thought I did a better job hiding it. Getting into fresh cool sheets knowing I can get 9 or 10 hours of sleep is one of my favorite things. But this summer tiredness is different. It feels like I’m struggling just to keep up with myself.
I feel like I’m never home. I know I’ve had plenty of nights in pajamas on my couch with Emmett and Netflix. But they’re difficult to remember, and it also seems like I’ve had a lot of nights in some other place. It seemed to start with Japan, then a beach house bed or a hotel room in Frankenmuth hearing children hopped-up on Bavarian style buttered noodles and live accordion in the halls. Or Jax’s house with Izzy the Dog snoring under the covers at my feet.
The summer road construction has been even more hellish than usual, with major thoroughfares closed down to give construction workers time to do repairs before the Michigan Permafrost sets in again. I’ve spent hours in traffic with books on CD (our paralegal gave me a bag of borrowed audio books; it’s fun to listen to things that aren’t really my normal taste. David Baldacci and Jonathon Kellerman. Now I can be a Washington DC spy and an LA detective during my commutes) and Audible, the flat glare of the sun in my eyes, dreaming of my cool quiet dim house.
My hair hasn’t been properly cut except for a spontaneous trim at Great Clips three months ago and it feels dry and crunchy with sun and the straightener.
Although I’m excited about my promotion, I’m in one of my biorhythmic down cycles at work and struggling to maintain energy and motivation.
I’ve burned my vacation days and my bank account is wheezing from a new car, various trips here and there, and Miss L’s activities and school clothes and birthday (upcoming).
When I wake up in the morning, I can barely be bothered to put my contacts in and try to look decent.

I feel guilty for even SEEMING to complain about having great adventures, and going places, creating memories, spending time with amazing people who treat my daughter and I like longlost family. I honestly do feel so humbled and gratified that I have stumbled across such a number of kindred spirits, and I wish I didn’t feel like a fizzling battery sometimes. I read an article, however, that sort of justified my feelings and made me feel a little consoled about my weirdness – it appears I am suffering from an “Introvert Hangover”.

So go figure!

I am finally home for a bit now and looking forward to self care and closing ranks – getting organized, recharging, and taking care of my neglected home and yard (I have heirloom tomatoes!!) Now I can think about is how lovely it will be to open the windows to birdsong (once SE Michigan’s crippling heat wave dissipates) and then go back to bed for a few hours. I’m not sure why I think that’s going to happen in the fall, but everything good happens in the fall, so I am holding that image in my head, of sweater weather and fall colors and naps and good things to eat and the knowledge that the weather is deepening and darkening and pushing me towards a season of hibernation.Which, apparently, I need!

Be well dear readers and friends. xo

goals

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old shoes / new shoes; changing of the guard.

I keep promising myself that at any moment, I will begin training in earnest for my fourth half-marathon, and yet things keep coming up. I was chagrined to realize that my last one was in 2013! I missed two years in a row due to injuries and scheduling. Faithful readers will remember that my favorite event is the Sleeping Bear Half which takes place in Empire, MI in October. This race is amazing for so many reasons, but my favorite part is how the unpredictability of the weather meshes with the beauty of the course to make it feel like a real ‘up north’ experience. It’s hilly, the weather is a factor, but something wild in you rises to the challenge and it’s such a great setting, with the autumn leaves, the dunes, and the rolling golden fields and forests along M-22. The first year, we ran in sleet and snow, and my jacket and eyelashes were coated with ice when I crossed the finish line. The second year, I PR’d in mild temperatures and a constant warm downpour. What will this year bring? I don’t know but I officially signed up today, giving myself 8 weeks to train.

Things have changed in my life since I trained for my last half. Back then, we were a two-parent family, so my long runs were easy enough to schedule on weekend mornings. Now, my ex & I share custody of our Miss L, and although we work with each other in an amicable and informal sharing arrangement, week by week, I actually don’t always have a weekend morning to run. This cycle, I will have to fit in my long runs even when it’s not ideal, even when I don’t feel like it, even during times of the day that I don’t like to run. I’ve adapted to lunchtime workouts that I can do during my workdays, using the treadmill in Widget Central’s small gym, or running outside around north Ann Arbor. But it will certainly call for early morning runs and evening runs after work – like this week, when I had to do my 6 on a very hot night. Fueling was an issue. I chugged water all day, and had a big lunch, but I’m usually ravenous when I get home from work, no matter what, so I had to content myself with a peanut butter bagel while I waited for the day to wane and the scorching heat to fade a bit. I set out too late, and it was pitch black by the time I finished.

My old Ghost 7’s were pretty much past their prime, so I bought a new pair of Ghost 9’s and will commence to start putting miles on them immediately. I know that October will be here before I know it. I hope that when I’m lined up at the start in the pre-dawn light, waiting anxiously, I will think about all the miles and all the sacrifices I had to make to get there, and feel ready for the challenge!

some things i like

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yes, emmett, i really like you.

Stranger Things – From the opening credits, this show had me hooked with its total throwback Stephen King vibe. Everything about it – the music, the graphics, the font, the styling, the wardrobes – took me back to the 1980’s, to just about the same time in my life that I started devouring Mr King paperbacks from our local small town bookstore. The story was interesting and the acting – even Winona Ryder – was strong. (I haven’t  bothered with Winona Ryder since she and Keanu Reeves massacred Dracula, but in this, I really believed her as a strung-out crazy lady!)

Cold brew tea -I went through a strong Teavana phase a few years ago and have since ditched their perfumey blends in favor of solid, workmanlike Lipton or Luzianne cold brew green & black tea bags. The cold brew green tea is a bit hard to find so I ordered a box on Amazon and I’m loving it with one of my other likeable things:

Honey crystals – purchased on sale at the Ann Arbor Busch’s and perfect for sweetening tea. No mess, not too sweet, all natural honey – yum.

Canned wine spritzers – YES I know how this sounds – like I should be wearing a banana clip and sticky pink lip gloss whilst watching Knots Landing. But I read about them on another blog and picked up a few cans on sale on the grocery store. Turns out they are a perfect summertime drink – inexpensive, cold, fizzy, refreshing, not too strong and the perfect serving size so I don’t have to keep half-opened bottles in my fridge. I guess my tastes are becoming less refined with age.

Coupons – I love that my Kroger store sends me personalized coupons for only things that I like and buy regularly. Whenever I get a new pack of coupons, I buy a few extra things to stock the basement shelves that I recently re-organized. I like having extras of my favorite things and knowing I have a little stockpile and I like feeling as though I am saving money in buying things I would be buying anyway. Win-win.

A Planet Wise wet / dry sack for my gym bag – I’m proud to say that I’ve reached the point in my fitness life in which I work out several times a week and I get pretty gross and my gym bag can become a horrid swamp of fetid gear in the drop of a hat. One side of this bag keeps my running shoes zipped up and separated from the rest of my gear; the other side has a water-resistant liner that keeps my gross sweaty gym clothes from stinking up my bag. When it gets yucky, I can just throw it in the washing machine. Organizational (and hygienic) game changer for $20.

Meditation – Getting back to meditation in the mornings with my coffee – Insight Timer is the app I use and it has a great playlist of all types of guided meditations, and a timer if you want to go DIY. And it tracks my stats, which is motivating for a twenty first century meditator. Since I started meditating in March 2015, I’ve meditated 48% of the days – close to 250 days. My fave is this meditation from Andy Hobson.

My new-to-me Subaru Outback – I’d planned on keeping Toothless, my 2010 Toyota Camry, for another year, since even at 150k miles, he was running strong and I had no intention of changing. Then life happened and an opportunity arose for me to buy this perfect 2014 Outback. I was really only looking for the V6 engine in a used but not-too-old vehicle, but when this one came up on Cars.com during a somewhat idle search, I had to jump. It was already marked down, low miles, it was the color I wanted (metallic grey), and the package happily included a lot of bells and whistles along with the strong engine. I have been a sedan girl for the last 20 or so years so being able to sit up a bit in a bigger crossover has been fun. I also love being able to toss my bike in the back (AND still have room for passengers and luggage). Jax is urging me to consider getting a hitch for future road trips with our kiddos and I’m sure at some point I will go for it. Finn (Miss L did the naming honors) has been a great addition to my daily life.

My job – I suppose I’m feeling a little celebratory and splurgetastic because I recently got a promotion that (I felt) was somewhat overdue. I’ve had a mixed bag of bosses but this one has been in the trenches with us during a long, strange year and she’s done a lot to show her appreciation for her team’s hard work. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I was blessed to find Widget Central at a time in my life where I was essentially rudderless, and when anything could have happened. It’s not a romantic, glamorous job, but it has given me countless opportunities on two continents and I have met some of the finest people there. This was proven to me again when my promotion announcement came out, and I received no fewer than fifty emails from my colleagues congratulating me and wishing me well. One friend sent me an old picture of us together; another bought my lunch in the cafeteria; another left a funny gift at my desk. By the end of the day, I was embarrassed and almost teary-eyed over the reminder that my colleagues are like my second family.

the new normal?

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Spring is an exhausting time. This spring in particular has challenged my ability to stay balanced.

I pride myself on having a good work ethic and being conscientious about staying on top of things at my job. I don’t require myself to be an executive, the most competitive or driven person, I don’t need to have regular promotions or kudos. I am primarily self-propelled and have an internal gauge that tells me that I am being compensated more than fairly and requires me to earn that compensation through diligent accomplishment of tasks and contribution of some value to the organization. There’s no formula to it. It’s just how I feel when I wake up in the morning – knowing that I did a lot of work the prior day, that if there *are* ugly surprises waiting for me when I go into the office that they aren’t the result of my laziness or procrastination or poor performance. If I can feel like that about myself, then whatever happens at work sort of slides off me. People can like me or dislike me, I can get criticism or pressure, and as long as I know I’ve given it my best, I could care less. In general I find that I am harder on myself than Widget Central is, and so this philosophy has served me fairly well.

Since I had Miss L, however, balance in my life is also something that I fiercely protect. I don’t want to be an executive because in my opinion, the math just doesn’t work out. My time with her and for myself is worth far more to me than promotions or more money.

So I try to balance my work, my life with L, and my need for personal alone time. Lately I’ve also had to balance Jax and that’s a good addition, but it’s an addition. It’s a delicate tight rope walk and when work explodes with board meetings, projects, travel, long hours and piling responsibilities, and the yard explodes with new growth and greenery, and Miss L still needs lunches packed and homework signed off and cuddles and love, and Jax is working hard to include me in his life and his family’s, well, it can get pretty busy. The house doesn’t get cleaned as much as it should and I still haven’t done the inaugural lawn mow and I’ve plowed through all of my freezer and pantry stockpiles because my grocery trips are swift drive-bys for milk, meat, bread, avocados and wine (the staples!!)

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Sarge listening to a late-night call with our head office in Japan and feeling as annoyed as I was about the intellectual property provisions being set forth.

Next week I’m off again to our Mexico facilities and I couldn’t be less excited. A week of foreign travel is draining and after this hurdle, I have another trip to Japan in May to dread – right in the middle of flower and planting season. Bleah!!!!

I keep telling myself that things will settle down but I think I’ve now been telling myself that for a year. This might be the new normal.

the challenge.

One of my favorite blogs (Foxs Lane) has blogged every day for the past two Januaries running. This isn’t uncommon; there is actually some sort of organized blog event that goes by a completely obnoxious acronym (NaBlahBloMeh or some such thing) challenging bloggers to post every day. But Foxs Lane is different. Her reasons for doing so are compelling and her blog is really utterly beautiful and it’s made me think, could I write every day for a month?

The answer is of course I can. My content might be sparse and I might not be full of lush photographs or lyrical philosophical insights, but of course I can commit to set down some words every day for a month. And so I shall. I considered this challenge last night as I was driving home from a lovely dinner party in my old hometown. There was wine and cheesecake and Cards Against Humanity and laughing til our faces hurt and this amazing salad that was so fresh and wonderful that I actually dreamed about it last night. (I dreamed about it in a good wholesome way, not in a Cards Against Humanity way, because damn, that game can make anything feel creepy.)

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Whenever I go back to that town, I have an almost visceral, skin-crawling reaction to being in a place where I spent my formative years. Every house is familiar, every street. It’s almost mythic. The atmosphere is charged with memory and importance and I am always conflicted when I cross the boundary and set off home along black highways between desolate cornfields.

Anyway, last night I was driving home, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the World Book Club and I looked at the clock on my dashboard and calculated that there was no way I could make it home in time to post yesterday. I guess that’s when I realized that I was committed to this challenge.

I’ll see you all tomorrow and in the meantime, here is a picture of my friend’s ridiculously handsome dog. He helped me eat some of my ham but I did NOT share the salad.

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