Friday, February 28, 2014

February Goals

On February 28th, every year, I have the exact same thought: "Wow. February is the shortest month, but it seems like the longest month." It's like groundhog day 26 days later.

February is the absolute hardest month in terms of motivation for me. The newness of the January 1st resolutions have worn off, but the summer is too far away to have any real effect. Plus, it's cold. Really really cold. And snowy.

I've shoveled more times this February than I care to count. (and we are supposed to get another foot on Sunday night)  *sigh* That's what February does to me. Even on an Olympic year.

So basically, this is just a very long winded way of saying - My February Goals? are a complete fail.


1) 28 day HIIT  plan plus cardio: Ok, I'm gonna give this half credit. Because guess what? HIIT every day for 28 days is not a good idea. I know this intellectually. But as with all of my ill-founded ideas, it started with my getting all psyched up and not knowing where to draw the line. 28 days of HIIT is over the line. As is replicating a professional free style snowboarder's workout routine (also a HIIT program). The end result? Injury.

The upside? This unfortunate incident put me back in the slow, form-driven weight lifting mindset. I really really like lifting weights when my mind isn't all crowded with tabatta and HIIT and multi-plane functional movement exercises. Sometimes (for instance post injury) you just have to execute a no-nonsense weight program and some sensible cardio to get you past the February hump. And cut yourself some slack for calling an hour of shoveling snow "good enough for today's workout."

2) 1 new recipe per week: Again, half credit. I made two yummy delicious soups I found on Pinterest. Big ol' pot of soup on Sunday, freeze and eat many times over. However, sometimes life throws you a curveball that can upset even something as wholesome as Sunday cooking.

(Ever have a roommate who freaks out if you cook with garlic?) Yeah. Well, luckily my plan is to move soon.

3) Continue Downsizing One Thing per Day: Still doing it, still oddly fun. A few years ago I did this same challenge and posted each day what I got rid of. Really didn't feel motivated to do that this time around. There are a lot of organizational blogs out there that can make the description of cleaning out a sock drawer actually entertaining. I fear that as much as I enjoy clearing out my space, I'm not obsessed enough to make others join in my reindeer games. But I did make a lot of trips to the thrift store.

4) Secure Travel Job for March or April: Licenses? Check. Applications in? Check. Response? blank. I'm still waiting. That's okay. That's what February is for. Waiting.

5) Go skiing 2x this month: Epic fail. Not at all. I did go cross country skiing with my friend and got a taste of not only skiing myself but assisting with cross country sit-skiing. (she has a spinal cord injury) Do I count this as skiing? No. That wasn't my goal. But it was my reality.

6) Get cute Valentine's Day gifts for the nieces and nephews. Check. They really loved the gifts. And I got this out of the deal:

7) Read (and get rid of) 6 Books.  Read 5 1/2 books. Got rid of 5. Not too shabby.

8) Take off some of the weight I put back on: Ok, I was going for 6 pounds, I got rid of 2. But considering that it's February, I'll take it!

9) Post 23 times this month: Um, THAT didn't happen. Can I blame the Olympics?

10) Girl's nite out with J and S: Change that to girl's nite IN, and we'll call it a winner.

And now on to the much more motivating MARCH!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To Russia with Love

The Olympics are officially over and they have left me with an unexpected side effect. (No, not my injury. Or my other injury. Those were pretty much expected.) As the closing ceremonies ended, I realized that much to my surprise, I had fallen in love with Russia.

It hasn't always been like this between me and Russia. Far from it. In my life goal to visit every country on earth, Russia didn't even make it to the top ten. Though that's not Russia's fault. With countries like France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland to contend with, Russia just didn't stand a chance. It was like Jason Brown -- wonderful in his own right, but never seriously in medal contention.

Russia isn't a popular surfing or yoga destination like Costa Rica or Bali. Russia isn't known for its rollicking parties like Brazil. On line travel agencies don't send me emails enticing me to climb Mt. Elbrus. (But oh, Kilimanjaro, someday you will be mine!) And on my one and only trip to a Russian restaurant left me thinking "Clearly the growing season in Russia is very short."

In my formative years, Russia wasn't even Russia. It was the very scary and very dangerous Soviet Union! The Red Empire. The dark side of the force. The cauldron of bubbling scorn that hid behind the iron curtain. Or so I was told by the media and since I hadn't yet been forced to read George Orwell is school, I believed every bit of it. Russia was scary. I wouldn't go there if you forced me.

Yet even if I didn't go there, I still wasn't safe. Russians were always pretty good at Biathlon. So all they had to do was strap on some skis and a backpack full of weapons. Then it would just be a short jaunt from Siberia across the frozen Bering Straight, past Sarah Palin's house, and south through British Columbia. Those evil Ruskies could invade at any time!

Fortunately, it would only take a high school football team lead by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen to defeat a legion of Russian spies, but still! That's scary stuff. (Plus, Boris and Natasha were virtually uncatchable)  Even by a championship team like the Wolverines!

Of course, since the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, "the crazies who hate us because of our freedom" sort of leapfrogged for a while….Japan, China, France, India….before settling down on the Arabs. Or the Muslims. Or Arabs who are Muslim. And also people who are neither Arab nor Muslim, but live in countries that end in -istan.

Whatever. The point is, Russia was pretty much forgotten.

And then came Sochi. And suddenly, thanks to an exquisite opening ceremony and a moving closing ceremony, I no longer think "Russia: cold, gray, drab." I think "Russia: ballet, literature, art. Tolstoy, Chekov, Tchaikovsky, Chagall. Classic, beautiful, graceful, understated." 

Russia now has me feeling those romantic stirrings in my heart  feet. I have that familiar desire to walk along foreign streets, amongst the achingly beautiful architecture: St. Isaac's Cathedral, the State Historical Museum, Kremlin Palace, Smolny Convent. I want to experience the wonderful art and and culture that was hidden for so long behind a veil of sameness. I want to know the history of this country and these people once so grand, and then subdued, and once again -- with such great potential. And such pride. I now think "Russian: such a proud country." 

So congratulations Russia! You hosted a successful Olympics. You topped the medal count. And you made my list. I look forward to knowing you more.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Olympic Injuries

The Olympics are currently in full swing, which in my world means one thing for sure: I am injured. Whenever the Olympics are on, I hurt myself.

It's not my fault! Ok, it is my fault. I have been trying for years to figure out how to blame the athletes, the announcers, the network, and the commercials. But the truth is, I have nobody to blame but myself.

It's always been this way for me. From the time I was just a little Jeepgirl, riding down the basement stairs in a plastic sled with my brothers until just last week when I tried to duplicate a training plan outlined in alluring videoclips on a commercial for an official-Olympic-sponsor, I watch the medals ceremonies with a package of frozen peas on some body part.

It always starts with the same sentence: "Hey! I bet I could do that!" The reality is quite different. I cannot do that.

Those darn Olympians, they make it look so easy! All those world class athletes who train for 6 to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, for years on end are very well conditioned. Not only can they perform super-human feats, but they can do so smoothly and in control. Even the wipe-outs look choreographed and well orchestrated. I can't help but stare at the TV screen as the replay is superimposed over the live image of a medic sledding some Norwegian down the mountain and say "I could do that! I know I could!"

If the action in question was writhing in pain while being carted to the medical tent, I'd be right. Otherwise, not so much.

One year, after watching Evgeni Plushenko doing a warm up, I practically tore my rectus abdonimus right out of my body! I spent the next 5 days walking around like Quasimoto. (and that was just his warm up!) Another year, after seeing a training video of Apolo Ohno, I strained my medial collateral ligament and my knee swelled up like a softball. This year, it was Jamie Anderson and my rotator cuff tendon. I should know better by now! Yet somehow,  I don't.

OH! Then there's the summer Olympics. Don't even get me started on the training techniques of Bella Karolyi and their effects on my body throughout the years!

Every once in a while, though; every one in a  GREAT while….I pull something off. That's what keeps me trying. I'm looking for that elusive athletic feat, accomplishment, trick that  is-- in fact -- just a trick. Sometimes something that looks spectacular  is in reality not all that spectacular.

The summer I was 12, my best friend and I spent countless hours standing on the top rail of the swing set and executing the Olga Korbut flip. Successfully. It was actually way easier than it looked! (Way less dangerous than indoor bobsledding.)

Of course, that was when I was 12. Today, as I sit watching snowboard cross with frozen vegetables on my shoulder, I am making a vow NOT to climb the nearest swing set in 2016.  It may not be that easy now. And I'm sure Olga Korbut has been blamed for enough concussions already.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oh, Sundays...

Sundays have become one of my favorite, if not my favorite day of the week.

Over the past few weeks, I have fallen into a regular Sunday routine. It started a couple months ago, when I went to the gym. I overheard another gym-goer as she came out of the group exercise room. "That's how I get my prayer in on Sunday. First I dance to celebrate life in Zumba, then I reflect, stretch myself, and become quiet for a while in yoga." I was immediately sold.

So Sunday mornings find me in the gym, doing Zumba and yoga, followed by a nice walk down by the water. Sundays are also the day I go grocery shopping. My current apartment is only a couple blocks from the grocery store, so I can sneak in a little more walking and outdoor time to and from grocery shopping. I've been spending Sunday afternoons in the kitchen, chopping, boiling, cooking, and assembling the meals for the week. (I tend to be a grab and go kind of girl during the week) It doesn't completely guarantee that I'll stay clear of junk food, but its something!

Once the meals are taken care of, I pull out my day planner and review any uncompleted tasks from last week, finish up what I can, and schedule the week to come. Since I'm working a couple different jobs right now, each week looks different. It's kind of nice. Keeps me on my toes. I really need to keep that day planner up to date!

I've also tried to set aside time each Sunday to get a little reading in. I have been pretty on track with downsizing my giant book collection this year, which means I'm reading quite a bit. It's a little luxury to put aside 30 to 60 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to read.

Sunday late afternoon, early evening are just about the only time when my nieces are consistently home. So I've tried to make a point of going over to see my nieces. My sister in law has recently been trying to treat some health problems in a more natural way, so we have been trying out some new recipes together on Sunday afternoons. This week, it was roasted winter vegetables. Next week we are trying a gluten free pizza crust recipe. (Since transitioning to gluten free, her sinus issues have cleared up significantly) Plus, I am always saddled with the task of proof reading term papers. Its a job I love!!

And then, Sunday night is for plowing throughout the Nextflix queue (or for the next two weeks, watching the Olympics)

Productive and restful all rolled up into one. Sundays are great.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Olympics are Here

Its that time again: once every four years I essentially put my life on hold for two weeks and sit, glued to the TV to watch as much of the Olympics as I possibly can. (Technically, its once every two years -- once for the summer and once for the winter, but you know what I mean)

Is there any sporting even more spectacular than the Olympics? I mean, I like the World Series and the Superbowl, and the World Cup enough. But as exciting as they are to watch, they just don't have the magic that the Olympics do.

Its the whole thing, from the opening ceremonies, the multitude of events, the upsets, the surprises, the triumphs, and right on through to the closing ceremonies. I don't think there is any other sporting event that embodies the spirit of friendly competition as perfectly as the Olympics. Its hard to find any sporting event that isn't completely tainted with commercialism. And while I'm quite aware (and growing tired) of the endless plugs by Coke, McDonalds, Subway, P&G, and others, it doesn't seem to infiltrate the events quite as much. Or the athletes.

It's funny: I remember watching the Olympic when I was young, looking up to the athletes as my idols. They were these amazing god-like creatures whom strived to emulate. Later I loved to just watch them in action. And now find myself thinking "Oh, they are so young!" and "What a good looking kid!" Does that make me old? And is it okay to still be inspired?

In these cold wintery days, when I feel my motivation slipping away when faced with the choice of going out into the cold or staying in where its warm and cozy, there's nothing like a skier bouncing down a mogul field and flying off a jump to convince me that going to the gym is a better choice than a few rounds of pushups at home. Or that a brisk jog around the neighborhood is more REAL than a DVD. (Just as long as it doesn't cut into my prime event watching time)

Yeah, for the next couple weeks, I'm going to be inspired, watching to my heart's content and waiting for those magic Olympic moments. There's nothing better.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Groundhog Day

For the last few days, everyone has been bemoaning the idea that we have 6 more weeks of winter left.
They are talking, of course, about groundhog day.  A day that simultaneously calls up images of an unfortunate rodent harassed by us human folk to pacify our whiny wishes for winter to be over (I live in New England. Six more weeks of winter WOULD be an early spring!) and a movie by Bill Murray.

And today, as I shoveled the driveway AGAIN, I found myself thinking of the movie Groundhog Day. While it certainly is not in the same ballpark as Ghostbusters ("Back off man, I'm a scientist!") it is a rather enjoyable flick; one that I will leave on if I happen to be flipping channels and stumble across it. It tells the story of an egotistical jerk who must must repeat the exact same day (Groundhog Day) over and over again, Sisyphus-style. Not until he makes a change in himself-- dropping both the egotistical and jerky ways -- can he escape groundhog day and move forward in his life.

Ok, I just read that last paragraph and I made Groundhog Day sound like the most depressing movie ever made. It's not. Hello? Bill Murray! It's funny! (But apparently, I'm not.)

Anyway, what I was thinking as I moved back and forth, and back  forth across the driveway, pushing the wet, heavy snow using the shovel like a snowplow, was that we are all living our own personal version of groundhog day. Each and every one of us. And not just when shoveling.

Last year, I took a gigantic step to bust out of my own groundhog day. I quit my job, I got rid of a huge amount of possessions, and I pursued a lifelong dream. I came back from the big adventure with some very different views and priorities than when I left. Yet as February crept in this year, it was as if I awoke to the sound of Sonny and Cher coming from the clock radio. Somehow, without even being aware of it, I had fallen back into my old patterns and habits. My "new' priorities had been delegated to the back seat, and my old, unsatisfied persona was at the wheel.

I have been doing some per diem work at my old place of employment, filling in for an injured co-worker. "No problem," I thought. "I'm just filling in for a few weeks. I'm not there permanently. I just do my work and go home." However, in no time at all, I had said yes to doing work on a number of projects I had absolutely no interest in. For the same reason I always overcommitted myself in the past: because nobody else would do it.

Then on Tuesday night, as I came home from work at 9:30 pm, no time to go to the gym, aggravated at myself, my workplace, the world in general, cranky and hungry and tired, it hit me: I'm Bill Murray! (But apparently not funny.) Even after turning my world completely upside-down, I returned to the familiar when I stopped paying attention.

 The good news is, I'm not stuck in groundhog day. Not really. Tomorrow is a brand new day and unlike in the movie, I can choose what happens. Like I can explain that I have overcommitted myself and need to back out of a couple of the projects I have taken on. And acknowledge that saying "nobody else will do it" is sometimes just a way of being egotistical. Or that overworking is a way of being a jerk to myself. (Not until I drop the egotistical and the jerky can I move forward.)

There are so many great things to move forward toward! (spoiler alert) New jobs, another move, future meeting with the-boy-from-the trail, a possible trip to Haiti. To quote a far inferior and less funny movie, "Life is too short to live the same day twice." 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A good day

Today was a good day.

Today, I went with a friend of mine to a cross country ski track a few towns away to try out cross country skiing. I have been country skiing before, but she had not. Well, not the way she was doing it today, anyway. Today she was doing it from a sit ski.

Last year (almost exactly a year ago, actually) she acquired an infection that spread to her spine. On her 27th birthday, she was told that the ridiculously strong antibiotics she had been receiving via IV had been unsuccessful. The damage had gone for too long. The symptoms she had been experiencing, hoping they were temporary, were, in fact, now permanent. On her 27th birthday she received the news that she would be paralyzed from her mid chest down.

Last year she had a very bad year.

This year is different. This year her birthday really meant something. She said she wasn't turning 28, but turning one. She called her birthday party her "I'm still alive party." She said that her life begins now, and that she is going to have fun, damn it! Because in life you are supposed to have fun.

Today was fun.

She was in a sit ski, I was running along behind in Yak Tracks, lending just a tiny bit of help when the fall line of the hills was just too wonky. (I never noticed how crooked and hilly golf courses are. Probably because I don't play golf.) She was mastering the art of reading the terrain, steering with the poles, and figuring out optimal push length for the poles. I was trying to keep up. We were both laughing. A lot. I love laughing.

Today was one of those rare days in February when the temperature hovers near 50 but the ground is still cold enough to hold onto snow, even if it is manmade snow. It was sunny, but not so sunny that you were blinded after so many days of overcast skies. It was the perfect day to be outside, spending time with a good friend, learning a new skill. And laughing.

Today was the kind of day that makes you realize how lucky it is just to be alive.

It was good day.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


February has, in my mind, always had the distinction of being both the shortest month, and the longest SEEMING month. I'm pretty sure everyone I know gets sick of me saying "Thank goodness February is only 28 days… I couldn't take any more!"

On the other hand, February is also known as the month of LOVE. So even though I'm one of those who considers valentine's day to be a really dumb, manufactured holiday, I also can think of nothing better to dedicate a month to than LOVE. 

SO I guess the best thing to do is to combine those two lines of thought and conclude that February is absolutely wonderful, because it's a long seeming month dedicated exclusively to love. What could be better? 


1)  28 day HIIT plan plus cardio. Inside or outside. Whichever.

2) 1 new recipe per week

3) Continue to get rid of one thing per day  (It's weirdly fun!)

4) Secure travel job for March or April

5) Go skiing 2x this month!!

6) Get cute valentines gifts for the nieces and nephews (even though in principle, I oppose the holiday!)

7) Read (and get rid of) 6 books.

8) Take off some of the weight I put back on after the trail! (6# this month)

9) Blog posts 23 times this month

10) Girl's nite with the gals around here!