Monday, August 31, 2009
Since a tweet changed my outlook last week, should I say I had a good tweek? (a.k.a. Big Darn Week, part two)
My heart wasn't really into any exercise that wasn't two-wheeled, and even that was only because of the escape into audiobooks & podcasts I enjoy on rides. My running continued to stink, as it has since getting back to hot & humid Atlanta from vacation, in June.
I was following my normal early morning routine (lunch packing / breakfast rush, stretching, coffee, blog reading, weather checking), when I thought I don't really want to do any of this stuff today. Then I saw an early morning (for her, since she's in TX) tweet from MizFitOnline. It was something about taking on the day with open arms.
It struck a chord with me. What the heck did I really have to complain about? Nothing on my list of grievances was beyond the level of minor annoyance. So, I scrapped all the plans which weren't possible to work out, opened up, and took on the day.
Strapped leashes to my pups for the morning upper body workout - I mean walk. Laughed my butt off at the ability of my lovable little idiot to tangle everybody up in the leash, and at the look on the face my sweetheart of a Peter T. Dog. I would swear he rolls his eyes at Clifford, and that the head tilt & lolling tongue is his own brand of laughter.
Dropped off the forgotten lunch at the elementary school, and took my lunch down to Riverside Park for a ride. Realized my helmet was hanging from the roadster back at the house, so went to a less heavily traveled road, with bicycle lanes for my ride. 10 miles or so, listening to the Adam Smith episode of The Thomas Jefferson Hour (fantastic episode, btw - almost enough to make me start a 3rd attempt to make it through The Wealth of Nations)
Hopped off the bike, changed shoes, and headed down the trail by the Chattahoochee River. Before I'd lost sight of the parking lot, the heavens opened, and I was completely drenched. Ugh. So much for that.
But, wait. That's the kind of thinking that put me into a funk in the first place. Mopped off my face, and started into the woods. Everything was lush and green, and the rain quickly dropped the temperature and cleared away the general pea soup humidity we'd been having for days.
It was the best time I've had running in months. Jumping over rocks and roots. Ducking under branches. Splashing through the runoff streams the trails had turned into. It. Was. So. Much. FUN!
While leaping over a particularly deep & mucky puddle, I was reminded of MizFit's recent posts about being your own superhero... and I definitely felt like one. Pulled out the iPhone, risking water logging, snapped a few pix and moved Mighty Little Man to the top of the playlist.
I'm not sure what my superpowers are yet, but do know that kid chaos and weather are not going to be my downfall. (The photo is of my super soaked feet, as light blue speed silk singlet & white sports bra are better suited for dry, sunny day superhero activities.)
That one tweet was just the nudge I needed. With the improvement in attitude came a big improvement in my workouts. Running is fun again.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...
Of the three open houses on Sunday - when we saw the peacock - one house had the right number of bedrooms, plus an extra. It has a two car garage, with extra space for the stable of bicycles. It has recently (last 3-5 years) replaced HVAC, water heater, and roof. It's brick. All of the appliances were part of the remodel a few years ago, so stay with the house. It's on an acre (1.05, to be precise), and about a third of of that is fenced with a solid privacy fence.
It had also been on the market for six months or more, with two price drops. The owners moved to their new home a couple months ago, so were carrying two houses. There had been no offers, as any interested parties had existing homes to sell first. We're heading into autumn, and then to the s-l-o-w winter months.
Made an offer. They countered with a slightly lower price. Made a new offer. Same price, but closing by the end of September. They dropped the price to meet halfway between, and a deal was struck. In roughly five weeks - assuming everything goes well with inspection, of course - this will be where I spend my days:
Note that while there is a desk in the kitchen, for my recipe-checking, bill-paying and blogging convenience, there is not a washer or dryer in the kitchen. I have been "okay" with the layout of the 1950s kitchen in our rented house for three years now, but have never quite gotten used to washing socks, underwear and towels in such clothes (ooh! I'm keeping that accidental word choice) quarters to food prep surfaces.
There's a great deal of excitement among the other family members, too, because of a permanent playhouse in the backyard, proximity to school friends and the playroom in the basement where the second TV will be hooked up to the older gaming systems.... but this isn't their slice of the web now, is it?
More about the week later. B1's first cross country event. The scramble to reschedule B2's birthday party.
An absolutely horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad morning which was turned completely around, thanks to a tweet from MizFit, and the realization that I'm now the thing which I never imagined myself becoming. One of those people. You know, the mom of a teen, approaching 40... middle-aged.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Driving to an open house Sunday afternoon, in a very ordinary suburban neighborhood of 1960's brick ranch houses, green lawns, kids and dogs, was one of those times. The kids were shocked out of their general state of back seat lolling and lazy bickering, and readying their rebuke for word choice when they noticed...
That's right. Holy crap, a peacock.
Trying to sneak off for a morning bike ride, before anything can pop up on my [currently] open schedule. Is cool and beautiful in an early Autumn way, so staying inside would be torture. Have my audiobook (The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett) for this week all queued up, along with an episode of The Thomas Jefferson Hour and the latest Liberty Conspiracy - just in case I don't feel like a book - and the iPhone fully charged.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I'm not a coupon shopper anymore, and generally do the shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, with less frequent trips to the big grocers, costco and the farmers market. Doing things this way, you don't exactly have a Sunday sales flyer to use while building your weekly menu and shopping list. It's working better than I'd thought when I started changing the way I shopped.
With the couple of months, I've been able to pull the average weekly spending to under $130/week for our family of five. As the temps cool, and baking all of our bread becomes practical again, it'll keep dropping. In fact, if I can keep my $110 & under weeks going, we should be on track for a below $120/week average by the end of the year. Being below the USDA "frugal" spending levels was - I thought - quite the accomplishment.
Until I read about the Z-day Challenge. W. Hodding Carter, a writer for Gourmet, has spent the summer growing vegetables, stocking the freezer with a quarter-cow, and prepping for a month with Zero Spending.
That's right. ZERO spending.
I realized the moment of truth had arrived. The Z-Day Challenge, our personal anti-stimulus project. For the entire month of September, we’re spending ZERO dollars. We’re ready. Our garden’s ready.Wow.
It’s our civic duty.
As some of you may remember, I’ve theorized (read ranted) that spending our way out of this current mess is wrong. To me, it’s like putting an overweight person on a 1,000 calorie-a-day diet of ice cream. It may work in the short term, but it’s definitely not healthy in the long run. We need to remember—or in most cases, learn—how to save money, pay off our debts, and become one with reality: The party has now been over for quite a while.
So, on August 31, after topping off the cars and stocking up on groceries and a month’s worth of animal feed, we’re migrating to Unamerica—a land where misers are heroes and spendthrifts are scorned. A land of limited horizons and very little opportunity. A land where … well, you get the idea. I know this sounds like a gimmick since we have a fairly full pantry, nearly a quarter of a cow in our freezer, and we will still pay our monthly bills, but answer this: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone while living your normal daily life without buying something? Think about it. Be honest. A month? A week? A day? For me, during this frugal year, I’ve lasted around two to three days. But I want to do better. It’s time to shake off the shackles and see what it’s like without consuming.
At first glance it seems like a big plunge. Heck, it seems like a big plunge at second & third glance, too. But, I've started reading the beginning of the Extreme Frugality series, published back in February.
After mortgage and credit card payments, $550, for a family of six. Again, Wow.
For years, Lisa had been telling me we were living beyond our means. “Please, please, Hodding, don’t buy that hand-carved black walnut countertop!” she’d implore. In fact, once she even kicked me out of the house for nine months in hopes that I’d wake up. But like that alcoholic who downs yet another Two-Buck-Chuck, I wasn’t ready. I knew that my next book was going to be an international bestseller and I felt entitled to live as did my father (although he was 25 years older than I) and all those successful, happy people in ads and on TV. Here I was, though, finally seeing the raw truth. Our average combined income—drum roll, please—for the past decade had been … $41,000. Thanks to those heady days of refinancing, deft shuffling of credit-card debt, deceased grandparents, and a lucrative house sale, however, we had lived, year after year, as if we were making $120,000. Like 70 percent of our fellow Americans, we were living off our VISA cards with no means of paying them off any time soon. As a result, we had $75,000 in credit-card debt and owed $245,000 on a $289,000 house. What had I been thinking?
Never mind. I’ll sort out the “why” on my therapist’s couch. Right now, it’s time to do the unthinkable. It’s time for us to be more like our grandparents and less like our neighbors. (Ninety percent of us buy something we don’t need every month, and Americans in all walks of life—except the very rich—carry $961 billion of credit-card debt at any given moment, paying $1.22 for every $1 they spend.) For the first time ever, my family is going to do the unthinkable. We’re going to live within our means. No matter what we actually make, we’re only going to spend $41,000 for the entire year. In other words, after paying our mortgage, taxes, insurance, and the $500 to service our credit-card debt, our family of six is going to live on $550 a month.
I am a lightweight, a pansy, in comparison to this family. I intend to keep reading my way through the year, and see which lessons I can carry over into my family's habits. (Not raising chickens for eggs though. Even if there weren't zoning laws about livestock intown, I do not want to clean up a henhouse. Been there, done that, and glad to buy my veggie-fed, no-cage eggs at the store.)
Still, there's probably a lot more I can do, and next month is probably a good time to try it. After all, it was last September that I embarked on trying out a variation of the $100 Grocery Challenge, where I upped the amount to $125, to reflect the five members of my family, rather than the four in the original article. Maybe, if I can spend the next week doing some serious planning and sensible stocking up, I can try a month of Semi-Extreme Frugality. It won't be zero spending, but maybe I can treat it like a limbo... how low can you go?
I love that MizFit keeps coming back around to the topic of self-image. Being your own superhero is a great message for me to repeat to the kids. All three have strengths, and I'd like them to focus on those as they head into the awkward years of middle and high school. I don't want to overdo it, and build a Stuart Smalley self-affirmation into their heads, but I do want them all to think of things in terms of balance, and bringing their best to the effort in whatever they try.
It's not going to be easy. With my daughter, it's an external thing - she's worried about what other girls think about her. From coming home in tears because a friend thought her bookbag was ugly, to being upset that she has a tougher time with multiplication facts than a couple of her other friends... it's a challenge.
In the case of the bookbag, I reminded her that she likes the bag, and picked it because it makes her happy to see the little bird & tree stitched on it. It's okay if somebody else doesn't like it, because it's not theirs. And, when she thought about it, DD admitted she didn't really care for the other girl's backpack, because it wasn't a color she likes as well. It gave me a chance to point out that one of DDs strengths is that she doesn't judge others based on silly things like backpack patterns.
With anything she brings up as a failing, I try not to patronize her by giving her the automatic "you're great" speech. If she's having a tough time with math, or with running, or art class - I remind her that she's great with science and language arts. She may not be able to run longer distances, but she can sprint like crazy, is a strong swimmer, and is a fantastic companion on long(ish) bike rides. With drawing, multiplication tables, and piano it takes practice. She'll keep getting better, or figure out she likes something else better - like photography and flute.
With the boys, it's more of an internal thing. They are their own worst critics. With them, it's a matter of reminding them they need to keep trying at the tough things - in school, sports and in plain old life. One of two things will happen. They'll either improve through practice to kick butt & love what they used to struggle with, OR find some other aspect of it they do love, and kick butt at that, instead.
B2 will beat himself up about anything less than perfect, and can talk himself into giving up before ever trying. He often has to be shoved - I mean gently nudged - into things. I can't count the times I've said "You're right - you might suck at [fill in the blank]. But you might not. You might even really be great at it. If you don't try, you'll never know."
B1 has a healthier attitude, and tends to shrug off his doom-n-gloom after a few minutes, then try - or try again. He's also very encouraging of others, and is always willing to throw in 110% to help out. (I love this about him.)
Oh, dear - I ended up rambling all over the place. What I was trying to get at is that MizFit's superhero approach is perfect for helping the kids shape their outlook on life. It's great for me, too. Just like comic book superheroes, we all have abilities and strengths that make us great at some things. With the areas in which we excel, there's also our fatal flaws and weaknesses. The trick is to focus on the things that make you super, and use those strengths to help you work on the other stuff.
And, if you're completely stuck... that's what a league of Superfriends are for.
Along this theme, MizFit's post reminded me of a song by Steve Burns, Mighty Little Man. It's from his album Songs for Dustmites, and it always makes me smile.
When the kidlets were smaller, there would be a victory run through the house anytime this song popped up in the playlist. Sometimes, the 1st grader (B1) would lead the laps around the house, sometimes not. The toddler B2 would run around, arms over his head, like he was crossing the finish line, singing the chorus at the top of his little voice. The not-yet-walking DD would bounce in her high chair, walker, or spot on the living room floor, waving her arms and "singing" along.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Finally got a chance to sit - if by sit you mean fold laundry, match socks, and do the ironing - and watch the two hour pilot for Defying Gravity.
I think I like it. I'll know for sure after a couple more episodes. Need to learn more about the characters, and see how the journey develops. For right now, I'll just say it looks like one helluva road trip, and is beautiful in HD.
Full episodes are available online. I have the second and third episodes recorded on the DVR, but missed the pilot when it aired. Downloaded the pilot in HD from iTunes (Free!) and hooked it up to the television. (Yea! It worked!) It may be Saturday before I get a chance to catch the episodes saved to the DVR, but I'm looking forward to it.
Fell asleep with the stereo set for 90 minutes of "sleep" - music on NPR. Must have been zonked enough to drop straight into REM sleep, because I vaguely remember dreaming about an all-day bicycle ride with picnic gone awry as I was pulled back to conciousness by the sounds of Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights from Romeo & Juliet.
Thinking back on it this morning, I'm pretty sure my dreamland day trip & picnic were going just fine, and that it was the music which pulled it off course.
I loathe the general premise of Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, and all stories where star-crossed lovers kill themselves in despair. (Tragedies where someone accepts death or torture to save the one(s) they love, those I like.) But, no matter my feelings on the subject matter of the story, I do love this score. It never fails to rev up my brain and push a bit of adrenaline into my system. It's not a great thing for trying to get back to sleep at one o'clock in the morning, but it is perfect to add to my playlist for today's 35-40 mile ride. Will go well with some Shostakovich.
Now that I think about it, I'll toss in Night on Bald Mountain and hope for a rainstorm.
Gotta quit trying to plan long rides in advance. I just get my hopes up, only to be dashed by crazy puppy destructive antics and calls from school. Ended up with less than 90 minutes to ride before school pickup. Was okay, as I got to see the upside of hauling 20+ pounds of groceries around the neighborhood on the city bike. It's easier to maintain a decent 16-18mph on the road bike. (On real streets, not just the PATH.)
Next time, it's time for a stealth workout. No speaking about it beforehand. I'll sneak up to my bike, ninja-style, then head out for as long as the clock allows.
For now, I'm stripping the white cover off my comforter for a soak, since the white & blue sheets are moved to the dryer. Clifford decided to burrow in my bed this morning for his rest after walk and playtime in the wet yard. Little red Georgia clay pawprints everywhere. Sigh. Good thing he's cute, even when he's naughty.
Monday, August 17, 2009
With this morning's stint in the front office at the high school, and children picking their afterschool activities (one per child) for autumn, I'm finally beginning to get things nailed down on the calendar.
Just out of curiousity, what would this image in a note from your child's teachers say to you?
Would it give you the idea that you shouldn't send peanut butter & honey sandwiches, and maybe try out some alternatives, like almond or cashew butter? Because that's what I thought. (I knew soynut butter was out, since it's more closely related to peanuts than the others.) Found an almond butter my picky little DD liked. She proudly packed up a small container with her apples, string cheese, whole grain crackers, dried pineapple and oatmeal cookies today.
Imagine my surprise at her almost tearful report on not eating her almond butter and apples today, along with a stern "NO MORE" from the teachers. It's not peanuts. If the child(ren) in her class is allergic to tree nuts, then the school has sent out the wrong note. And, if it's just because almond butter is a nut butter, and they're being super-cautious, then... well, actually, I understand that, but they still need to send out the correct information about which products are banned.
In the meantime, here's hoping the threat of bologna sandwiches can change my little girls opinion on sunflower seed butter. I refuse to send jelly-only sandwiches, which I understand some parents are doing.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Breakfast, lunch (except for one day of thai curry), and dessert. Heck, I'd be eating the same combo for supper too, if not for the rest of the family.
Then, this morning, I'm feeling a bit out of sorts, so opt for a slow lope with the dogs, instead of a tempo run. When I get back home, pour my coffee and put together my yogurt/granola/dark chocolate combo, I sit down at the computer to this at MizFit:
MIZ. What do you eat when you have your period and crave sweets. Lots of sweets. I cant do treat days through my whole cycle. HELP!
Ahhh, that’s me (and many of us) to the proverbial T.
I used to think it was all in my head but, the older I get, the more I realize it isnt. My body truly craves sugar during that time of the month.
Interesting timing, no?
And then, part two of the post:
Miz, I’ve heard you talk about active rest and I wondered if you could define this for me. As a former overexerciser I tend to use the term active rest to pretend to myself I am taking a day off (doctor’s orders) when I am probably still doing too much. Suggestions appreciated. Thanks!
I loved this email because active rest is a concept which took me a while to wrap my training-brain around as well.
I tend toward the other end of the spectrum from our emailer and, when I was following a set program/training for competition, wanted my days of active rest to be more the latter word than the former.
By definition active rest is when we do lightlight activity (walking, slow swimming etc) in order to spark the RECOVERY process and not in an effort to calorie burn or tax our bodies in any fashion.
What?! How did MizFit and her readers get into my head this morning?
In all seriousness though, there's great information in the post and comments about the connections between particular cravings and missing essential nutrients they signal, along with discussion of active rest and recovery exercises.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
It's a L-O-N-G light, so he had time to chat about the weather here in the South, and to let me know how heavy traffic is in Sandy Springs, and to ask about how difficult it is to get around with cargo, and what kind of time it takes. I really don't think it occurred to him that I could possibly be a local, since nobody from here is crazy enough to ride a bike in the busy suburbs, unless it's exercise, or because you have to.
I'm taking the original question as a compliment to my cycling chic for the day. Khaki skirt, dark blue babydoll top, silver helmet and...
Still no agreement from kids on a name, but the new bicycle does handle a load of groceries quite nicely. I think I need to add a front basket. Maybe wicker.
I will enjoy my second cup of coffee hot, since I won't be forgetting it at the site(s) of mid morning kid spats which have been so common this summer.
News reading, blogging, weekly meal planning, errand running and even laundry folding will be done with the ability to finish a complete thought.
And, by 2:25 tomorrow afternoon, I will be very happy to start the rounds for picking up my noisy gang. I'm looking forward to hearing about old friends, new teachers and all the excitement of the new school year.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Duchess, my vintage Raleigh 10 speed, was run over by a car.
It was in the carport, at less than 5 mph, and I wasn't on it at the time.
My helpers (note the lowercase h) pulled the bikes out of the truck after Saturday's ride. They failed to lock my bicycle up with the rest of the stable, choosing instead to leave it propped against the side wall of the house. Next day, somebody (who shall remain nameless) was pulling into - or out of, never really got the whole story - the carport on a milkshake run with children, and...
Car snagged front wheel, put a lovely S-curve into the rim. (It's hard to show in a photo, since the fender bent with it partway, leaving it looking less warped than it is.) On a more recent bike... not that big a deal. But, as I've learned since Sunday, rims are no longer made with the same number of spokes, so the LBS will need to build the old sturmey archer hub into a new rim, and replace all the spokes, plus extras for the extra holes. $120-150, which isn't really all that bad. But...
There's the question of what's next. Completely mismatched rims will likely bug me, so I'll have to get the rear wheel rebuilt... but what happens when the ancient rear cogs are added to a new wheel? And, the crank has about a year or two left in it, tops. When the crank goes, that is also likely to mean most everything attached to it will need to be replaced, just so it all works together.
This means Duchess has gone from a useful bike which also happens to be a slow DIY project, into a full-blown PROJECT. I'm still scrubbing off the rust, tinkering with the mechanism in the bell, polishing chrome and conditioning the Brooks saddle, but won't be riding her again for a while.
Seeing as how school starts next week, and my schedule opens back up for 90% of daily commute and errands being done on two wheels, the lack of a city bike is a problem. After some browsing on Craigslist for a suitable replacement, ended up going to REI for a 2008 Raleigh Roadster Step Through. It allows for an upright position, is perfectly suited for riding around my 5 mile radius... in street clothes. I can have a generator hub and light installed when the days are shorter. REI installed the rack for me, so I'll be able to pop on the panniers Monday morning for my bank / library / coffee / grocery trip.
Went for a short inaugural ride Wednesday evening. Gotta say, it was kind of nice, not having to guess where the lever needed to be for a gear shift, or figuring out exactly how much pressure to put on the brakes (varies by humidity level... I swear). This is going to be a fun bike to ride, but I do miss Duchess.
Hopefully, the new bike will gain a personality as I ride more. The kidlets are debating names right now, and once they've settled on something, that'll help. After convincing one child that "Silver Surfer" is not an option, here's the list of finalists:
Annabeth Chase (daughter of Athena in Percy Jackson & The Olympians book series)
On a happier note, the green hybrid (Peppermint Patty) which was my very first bike as a new adult rider is going to a new home. A family friend has need of a starter bike, and I hope mine will do for her what it did for me.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Not to make it sound like a ride from hell, there were many good points. The company was good, and patient with my constant drops. The sun was shining. And, filling the air with the smell reminiscent of pitchers of grape kool-aid and popsicles from childhood...
The kudzu is blooming! Who cares if it's blazing hot and the air is thick with humidity... I love August riding.
Stopped by Tijuana Joe's Cantina on the way home, to satisfy the craving for salty food and icy beverages.
Definitely hit the spot.
After reading Jett's ride report from his Saturday intown ride this morning, I'm going to take a page from his refueling tips. Think next week's post ride meal will be paella. Never really thought about it from a recovery meal standpoint - or as he put it "reloading the sweatguns"