Friday, February 27, 2015

And The Lake Looked Amazing

I had a long run scheduled for today, the first one I'd really consider long, and the first run to work, in what's been at least a couple of months. I had it on my calendar for a couple of weeks and watched the weather closely and everything seemed like a go...

And then three days ago the forecast changed and now today was supposed to be the coldest day of the week, not the warmest. Starting at 5 degrees this a.m. and then warming up to 15, tops. Fahrenheit (for my overseas readers).

Grumble, grumble.

And both boys woke up in the night, one with a bad dream (easily taken care of), the other hysterical the way he wakes up sometimes and it took forever to realize that his mouth was just hurting* and he needed a little medicine and a lot of loving. And then he too went right back to sleep. But it took me quite a while to get back to sleep myself after these.

So the alarm went off way too early this morning.

And I got up, changed my morning plans around a bit to make sure everything I did would support heading out for a long run (ate a good breakfast but earlier than usual, skipped my strength training and boxing, made time to double-check my supplies**), and then once the kids were taken care of and the youngest dropped off at preschool, I headed down to the lakefront for eight beautiful sunny cold miles.

Oh how I've missed these.

Rethinking my racing plans,

*Because, OMG, he totally pulled a "Christmas Story" stunt last night and licked the damn railing on the train platform, as the train we'd been waiting ages for pulled in, and with no way of gently thawing his tongue. So... r-i-i-ip went the skin and then I had a hysterical mouth-welling-up-with-blood child for the ride home. Fun times. (For the record, the bleeding stopped by the time we got in the door and he ate normally at dinner, so I think no lasting damage done.)

**I forgot to bring a coat and outer gear with me ahead of time, so on the way home I'll be wearing the same hoodie and hat/scarf I wore for my run. It won't really be warm enough (and somewhat smelly) but oh well. I knew I would forget something in the preparation for this, it's just been so long.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Home Sweet Home

These are a few of my favorite things (about our new place)...

Coming home at night with Goo and seeing the porch lights on. The Dude and Buddy are home!

Looking out at the sky while I shower.

Our houseplants love our front room, and in the morning when the sun comes through the windows you can see their leaves stretching out, a bright clear green.

The pressed-tin ceiling in the upstairs bathroom.

That we have an attic! It's cold up there (or hot, depending on the season), and dark, but we have our stuff loosely organized up there and someday we'll turn it into additional rooms.

We have a resident opossum. (It's taken me a while to consistently remember how to spell "opossum". One "p", two "s"s.) S/he likes to hang out on our back porch. It is a startling thing to come across her/him but I imagine it is startling for her/him as well. I have no idea how to determine the sex of an opossum and even if I did I don't want to get close enough to find out.

(I don't like that there are three neighborhood cats who also like to hang out on our porches. Ours is not the only house they visit - and poop at. They do have a home of their own but appear to be left outside all the time.)

Our kitchen is a gem and I can stand in the middle of it and reach everything. Very handy when making dinner. (Not so handy when The Dude and I are trying to both make lunch and put groceries away at the same time. But I still love it.)

Our pantry! Admittedly, it's in the basement (the original pantry upstairs was turned into a half-bathroom), but I love having one.

My study. Mine. Did I mention that I have my own study? I share it with guests when they stay the night but when no one is visiting... all mine. And the kids love coming in and hanging out on the futon in there too. It's red. The room, that is. The futon has a green cover and a reddish brown frame.

Someday I'll have a smartphone and can take pictures easily to share with you.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Birthday Challenge 2015

I'll be turning 43 soon, so about a month ago I started thinking about my birthday challenge for the year. Last year's was pretty cool, but I decided I didn't want to take on any physical challenges for myself this year, in keeping with my resolution to spend more time on my other interests. So what to do? Up until last weekend all I knew was that I would take a day off for myself - how was I going to use it?

The answer? A multi-stage challenge:
  • 90 minutes running
  • 90 minutes painting
  • 90 minutes on writing projects
  • 90 minutes on my latest quilt
The running is just because I like to start my days off that way, and that's what I'm up to in terms of distance. The painting is next because it will be the most challenging, as I've written before. I have a couple of specific writing projects that I want to finish, and 90 minutes should allow me to do so (if I get my preparatory work done), and 90 minutes working on a quilt is easy - though again, to make best use of that uninterrupted kid-free time, I have some significant prep work to do first.

Speaking of preparatory work, here's what I need to get done in the next few days:

  1. Inventory all my paints (oil, acrylic, and watercolor) and determine what I'm missing; 
  2. Reorganize my paint bins in the process of doing inventory
  3. Review my basic oil technique book and determine what other supplies I might need
  4. Visit an art supply store for most-needed supplies
  1. Type up the first draft of one essay
  2. Start writing notes for the second
  3. Read a book related to the material for the second essay
  1. Cut squares for the front (nearly done)
  2. Cut squares for the back
  3. Piece strips to make multi-hued squares
Good thing it's a snow day today - I might be able to get some of this work done!

Productively yours,

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art & Fear (& Boxing)

It occurred to me during boxing drills the other day that it is really good practice for painting.

Boxing, like art, demands that I be present, fully engaged in what I am doing.

And I don't always know if I have what I need to do it.

With boxing I know that I don't, and won't for a long time. That's why I stay in my basement and don't seek out matches.

With painting, to a great extent I also know that I don't have what I need. My picking it up and putting it down, over and over again over the years, has left my hand rusty, my technique minimal. That is why I stay in my study, and don't seek out showings.

But with both I can trust that if I stay with it, and keep stretching myself, over time I will know what I'm doing.

That won't take away the fear. I will still have to show up, and be fully present, and ready to expose myself, and willing to take risks. And still struggle with my materials (the paint, my body) and with technique, and still keenly feel the gap between what I have in my head and what I can put forth.

But in practicing both, in honing my hand and becoming familiar with my materials, I will also be practicing standing up with fear. And so I will become familiar with that too, and able to work with it.

Sounds worth it.

Practicing being brave.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January Reading

I've been reading books again. Hallelujah! I don't know what I was doing instead during the fall, but looking back at my book journal, whatever it was, it wasn't reading. At least not books. Magazines, maybe?

Some good books/articles read in January:

Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Find Your Life's Work, by Steven Pressfield.
A super fast read, but one I think I came across at exactly the right time to read it. I was particularly interested in the idea of a "shadow career" - those things we do, even pour a lot of investment and energy into, in order to keep us from really facing the things we want to do with our life.

A blog post by Mat Frazier (of No Meat Athlete, though this was featured in the Huffington Post) on being obsessed about your goals.

A blog post by Seth Godin with some good advice for life (and perhaps especially parenting), including this quote: "A pitfall of throwing tantrums is that sometimes, people throw them back." I think all of my worst tantrums have come as a parent, and I don't like that.

An inspiring post by Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, also about setting goals and making changes, but from a quite different perspective than most such writing. A quote: "Acceptance isn't stagnation - you will change no matter what. You can't avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction."

A disturbing but important article from The New York Times: "U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit", reminding us, yet again, that farm animals are not covered under U.S. animal welfare laws.

And an inspiring one from The Nature Conservancy's blog, Cool Green Science, about a woman who is mapping animal movement pathways in India in preparation for the infrastructure improvements expected to take place there.

And finally, one of the most amazing books I've read, ever. One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina. A memoir of his growing up in Kenya in the 80s and 90s. Fascinating, but also beautifully written and put together. I kept looking for a sentence that I could quote but every time I opened it up, every place I looked, I just started reading again. I was introduced to his writing through his satirical essay for Granta, "How to Write About Africa," but they are very different pieces (though that one is great: pointed, funny, and lyrical, which is why I'm including the link here). I'm hoping that at some point a collection of his short stories and essays will published.

What have you been reading?

With a stack of books at least 10 volumes high,

Friday, January 30, 2015

Things I Love Today


My house. I continue to love my house. I can't tell you how much I love this house.
View from the back - if you were a snake.
Realtors take pictures from funny angles.
That two-flat next door doesn't feel nearly so big.
Even if our resident opossum scared me silly last night.

Eating yummy homemade massaman tofu curry for lunch that a friend gave to me.

For the first time in six weeks, completing what feels like a "normal" training week for me.

Having ideas for paintings... lots of them... more than I can possibly even begin.

Having homemade pizza dough waiting for me at home so we can all have pizza made to order tonight. Buddy likes mushrooms, olives, and pineapple on his, The Dude the same. I like mine without cheese... Goo only wants cheese on his. Any other requests? No problem!

I've been reading books again. That just makes me happy. I have two good ones in my bag - one for the way to work, one for the way home. (Plus a couple of magazines if it's too crowded on the train to hold a book.) Then another by my bedside... mmmmm.

Good work, good food, good company. My children have been healthy, fun to be with, and reasonably well behaved. It's been a good week.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If You Do One Thing You Can't Do Another

This post is inspired by Pumpkinmommy's comments on my last one. She asked Why Boxing? and also noted that I wrote about cutting back on running. I started thinking about both so much I decided I should just go ahead and write it all down.

Which I did. On paper. And then it sat in my writing folder. A week later I'm finally getting it on the screen.

I'm still figuring out my morning routine - what I want to get done and when I want to get up - vs. what I can get done and when I can consistently get up. Everything takes longer than I expect... and now we have added commute time (mostly from having the kids in two different places) so less time to do things at home, personal- or household-related.

My long-term athletic vision has changed over the last months and so I have been reorienting my exercise towards that. It's in part driven by my new-found love of boxing (which has re-awakened my long-time interest in martial arts), and in part driven by wanting to find a more sustainable running practice and goals. Basically, I want to get more out of the time that I do have for training, and I want to make sure that my body can handle it as well. I love the long distances... but I just don't have time for them in my week, every week... and especially not the recovery time I would need for them (and that time increases as I get older).

So I've changed up my strength training to include more weights and explosive work, and changed the focus of my runs to include more short runs at higher intensity.

I can't entirely give up some long runs, but I don't plan to do as many or as long as I used to. I do want to be able to be able to pick up and train for a half marathon or ten-mile race when I want to... but probably not more than once a year.

This change in focus has been making me faster, that's for sure (even with the long break over the holidays). The pace on my mid-distance cruising runs has dropped significantly, and my short runs are coming in consistently below 10-minute-mile pace. It will be fun to try some shorter races this spring.

But why boxing? I've been asking myself this since I started last May. I like the mix of strength, speed, endurance, technique, and eventually, strategy. Physically, last fall I felt in the best shape of my life. I like feeling well-rounded and with boxing (vs. swimming or rowing) I feel like my workouts have practical purpose. I don't mean that I expect or want to get into a fight anytime, but the movements are applicable in a variety of situations, rather than just being repetitive. I think that's also why I like trail running and hills, rather than just running on a treadmill or track.

Mentally, I like the challenge. Boxing scares me  - even just heading down to my basement - can I do this? Can I endure? Can I stay focused? Can I stay strong, and not just go through the motions? Add in working with a trainer - having someone pay such close attention to and evaluate me - and that's a whole other set of emotional challenges. Never mind hopefully someday sparring.

(A note to that: my current goal is to remain in basic good shape and eventually be able to train in a boxing-focused gym. No expectation of competing, but I would like to spar. I used to when I studied Indonesian kung fu and while it terrified me I also loved it.)

I also like being able to learn the history of boxing, and to follow the sport. I saw my first bout on TV recently (professional but not the ridiculous pay-per-view extravaganza) and have hopes to go see it live later this year (the Chicago Golden Gloves, which is amateur boxing). I didn't know how I would react to seeing it live and not just as part of a movie or historical footage, but I was fascinated and had learned just enough already to have half an idea of what was going on. I wanted to see it better! So boxing engages me physically and mentally, as a participant and as a spectator (over the years there has also been some really good writing about boxing), in a way that running doesn't always do. (I cannot get into reading about running technique or watch it for long, as much as I love doing it.)

I've been working with a couple of books by Mark Hatmaker in lieu of having a trainer (thanks for the recommendation, Hillari!). One is for conditioning and strength training and the other is of standard boxing technique. I made little tweaks to my form and was quickly able to feel a difference in my power. My challenge continues to be getting myself started in the morning - not up, I can get up - but started, and on boxing rather than any of the other things that also call for my attention.

And then there's that whole notion of cutting back on running... not so much the miles, but the number of days a week that I run. I miss running four times a week. So I may have to keep tinkering with my schedule.

Longing for just another hour in the day,