Saturday, June 30, 2012

the summer slips by.

I blink and suddenly it's the end of June. Where does the time go?

Last weekend, I spent some time near Tulsa, OK playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.  Our team ended up winning the whole thing, going undefeated all weekend! It was a great learning experience for me and a fun chance to play some frisbee with great women and fabulous athletes.

Unfortunately, the tournament meant utter bodily exhaustion, so I returned to Fayetteville and promptly slept for 12 hours.  It felt awesome, and I realize I need to make getting a full night's sleep a regular priority.  Challenge...accepted!

Last week was my final week of work at the writing center, and it was a busy (but fun!) week.  The summer is super intense, and I found myself with a group of clients that kept returning for me to help, so it was enjoyable to see their progress over a few short weeks as they developed as writers.

Today began early with a 10 mile run with my lady running group (so begins the marathon training!), which was great.  Then, market and the pride parade.  After lunch, I returned home to clean and prepare for our upcoming trip...and fell asleep.  Oops!  After I woke up, I straightened things up a bit, then headed to the pool with A. and swam laps. Because I love swimming laps, and it feels like it helps me work out muscle soreness that running builds up.  My swimming is coming along nicely--I have more stamina, and I'm feeling more comfortable with the freestyle stroke, being able to hold my breath for up to 5 strokes.  Sweet.

Tonight, we shopped for our trip and made pickles.  We made about 8 quarts of these guys: Garlic Dill Pickles from one of my favorite preserving site, Food in Jars.  L had tons of cucumbers from his garden, and we bought about 12 lbs of small pickling cucumbers at market this morning, so we set forth to make sweet gherkins, garlic dills, regular dills, and bread and butter pickles (which have to sit overnight, so we'll be canning them tomorrow).  An impressive array of pickled things to add to our dilly beans that we made a few weeks ago.  NOM.

Also, it turns out that pickle juice is an excellent electrolyte replacement.  After swimming, I was feeling woozy and headachy, which I initially took as the need to eat something.  But then I recalled that I moved a lot today (running, biking, swimming, walking, etc), and it was hot, so I sweated a lot.  I don't generally eat a lot of salt, so I was a bit low on salts, I think.  Once I took a couple of swigs of the pickle juice leftover from last year's batch of dilly beans (which I was craving, weirdly), I felt much better.  It sounds a bit gross; however, I don't generally crave salt, but I occasionally want pickles really badly. So, pickle juice it is!

Tomorrow will be filled with more tasks, but I hope to blog a bit more regularly on our trip. Travel is always fun, and I should have internet access to chronicle this trip.  Off for another summer adventure!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Better Take on 'Left Behind'

When I was in high school, I started reading the Left Behind series.  At some point my freshman year, I realized the books were crap--and much, much later, I found this awesome blog who took it upon himself to painstakingly read and comment on the series as a way of exposing the problems with a particular religious mindset.

Since then, I've encountered other takes on the theme: what would happen if the Rapture were to really happen?  A particularly excellent version was this graphic novel that postulated that if the Rapture happened, it would open to the door to all sorts of supernatural occurrences, such as avenging angels and talking animals.  So when I heard about Tom Perrotta's new novel, The Leftovers, I was intrigued.  Having previously read his excellent The Abstinence Teacher, I added the novel to my to-read list after I received it for Christmas.

Perrotta places what he calls The Sudden Departure in a prologue, and he focuses his novel not on the event itself, but on the repercussions of the random disappearance of millions on a few characters in the small town, Mapleton.  There's the Garvey family, who lost no one in their family, but whose four members react differently to the event, including Laurie (the mother) and Tom (the son), who both turn to fanatical religion as a way to make sense of the post-event world.  There's Nora, who lost her husband and children to the event and who struggles to reconnect with the world of family and relationships.  Because Perrotta writes the disappearances as having no reason, the vanished individuals sharing no common characteristic, the quest to understand why drives the characters to cope in often extreme (or not-so-extreme) ways.

The beauty of the novel is that it doesn't attempt to examine the effects of such an event on some large, global scale.  Instead, Perrotta focuses on the small ripples, the reactions of a few individuals to dig into their psyches.  Characters turn to religion, to other people, to themselves, to drugs in an attempt to comprehend the event, to forget it, or to deal with the gnawing hole in their hearts.  And Perrotta doesn't moralize or attempt to establish universals; he portrays the characters and their relationships to one another, their conversations and their thoughts, to demonstrate the trauma and sense of desperation these characters experience.

Overall, I thought the book was well conceived and well written.  It takes what used to be an eye-roll inducing theme and turns it into something intriguing.  While some characters are not as well developed as others, and some story lines are dropped or never reach a close, the novel is executed well.  It was one of those books that I find myself thinking about long after I read the final words and shut the cover.  If you're as intrigued as I am with authors who use small snapshots of everyday life to explore the depth of human emotions and motivations, you'll enjoy this book.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Experiencing Hunger

The hunger-satiating salad
It was long past my lunchtime, but a full docket at the writing center left no time to consume my lunch. I left work a little after 1pm, heading home to eat lunch there.  When I arrived, I was so hungry that I was verging on dizziness as I prepared my meal; however, my salad never tasted so good, the flavors strong and satisfying.

Why did I wait so long to eat? I am trying to listen to my hunger signals a little better, to pay attention to when I need to eat, and when I'm just eating because it's time to eat.  So I could have eaten early to avoid getting hungry, but I refused to.  I don't obviously advocate not eating until one is to the point of dizziness or passing out, but I'm learning to experience hunger.

Okay, I know that seems weird (and possibly disordered), so I'll explain: because I sometimes have issues with my blood sugar dipping (though not eating sugar/refined grains reduces it drastically), I have an aversion to being hungry for longer than a few minutes.  When I start to feel a few pangs, I usually eat something, which frequently leads me to eat when I'm probably not actually  hungry.  I eat from boredom and habit rather than because I need sustenance.

L's brother once said something offhandedly that has stuck with me: in response to a question about if he needed food before the next meal, he commented, "It's not bad to feel hungry."  (or something like that).  It has stuck with me because I always felt like it was a state to be constantly avoided.  But what if hunger isn't as bad as I feared?

I had a cat who didn't have constant access to food when she was a kitten. As a result, she was always concerned about the state of her food bowl: she would constantly come into the house simply to check to make sure her food was still there.  As someone who is lucky enough to always have access to food, I nevertheless picked up a strong fear of not having enough to eat.  Maybe it's from growing up in a big family (with hungry, growing boys) where if you didn't jump in, you might miss out on getting something.  It's also related to the bad experiences of being lightheaded from hunger before lunch in school or moments of hangry that wash over me if I don't eat.

These fears and the distrust of my own body are something I'm coming to terms with.  Hence, waiting to eat until I really am hungry, even if I accidentally push myself into a red line.  I'm learning to trust my body, that if I treat myself right, my body will tell me what it needs if I'm willing to pay attention to its physical signals.  It isn't bad to feel hungry, especially if it means waiting a little while to eat something delicious.

Last night after dinner, I wanted a little dessert.  L's mom is staying with us for a few days, and she brought cake for us to enjoy.  I decided that I'd have a bite of cake with some fruit.  As I was eating my cake, I realized that I didn't really want it after all.  The first few bites were okay, but I really just wanted fruit and yogurt. So I stopped eating it and gave the rest to L.  Not only did I get a tiny portion to start with, but I recognized when my body had enough and I stopped.

I'm not certain how to convey how big this is for me, but believe me: it's big. Almost unheard of, in fact. I'm actually still a little shocked that I managed to do it.  I usually blow by those signals and keep on eating to the point of misery, so I'm starting to understand how trusting and listening to those physical signals can help me to eat in a way that is balanced and healthy.  And I have to say, I like it a lot.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Week's Thoughts

(Every time I'd think of something to write, I'd forget to come over here and type it up. So instead of trying to string some of these thoughts over a couple of separate posts, I thought I'd just dump them all into one.)

1. Running
As I was driving away to run some errand, I noticed the little old man shuffle by me.  He wore running shorts, white tube socks that hit midway up his calf, and well-worn running sneakers.  It wasn't the first time that I'd noticed him, with his slow shuffle-jog.  He runs by my house frequently.  I don't know if he runs every day, but he seems pretty committed to running, even though he's not very fast and his limbs are a little too old to move with strength and agility.

As I watched him, I thought to myself: being a runner isn't about speed.  It isn't about ability, even.  To be a "real runner," requires a certain mindset.  The little old man was a runner, through and through.  This is why I encourage newer runners (or slower runners, even) to not compare themselves to anyone.  Run for the joy of running, for how it feels, for the strength and peace it brings.  If you do that, you're a real runner.

And I only hope that when I'm 90 years old, I'm still out running, even if it's barely faster than walking.

2. Eats
My meals these days have been (mostly) sugar-free and full of veggies.  And lovely to behold and to eat.
Sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts and carrot
 with tofu meatballs and beets
Shredded Brussels sprouts and carrots,
topped with scrambled egg, salsa, and avocado
Mixing bowl salad: beans, sweet potato,
avocado, salsa, cucumber
Caprese with freshly-picked basil/tomato
topped with homemade ricotta

 3. Sugar-Free
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't been on 100%...but I've come to realize that it's okay.  The little diversions and "cheats" have helped me keep on track about 80-90% of the time.  And I've been very selective with how I cheat, turning down cake that wasn't homemade or distinctive but drinking a (single) beer with friends out.  And so on.  It's helped me not feel anxious for how I'm going to eat after the 21st day--because I've already figured out a way to balance it, though it's sure to still be an ongoing challenge.  Plus, I felt a bit more motivated after eating a bit of excluded foods, which made my stomach hurt and drained my energy.

4. Shopping
When you're on a limited budget, shopping is not something I can do at this point. This weekend, I dropped by a friend's yardsale and scored some great shoes and a few accessories for not much money, including a pair of red flats that I love, love, love.  On Tuesday, I headed to my favorite thrift store to look for some shorts (a post for another day).  Among other things, I found these little lovelies:

For a few bucks, I became the proud owner of (yet) another pair of flats--these were Nine West and in almost perfect shape.  I've noticed that I'm slowly acquiring more and more flats and getting rid of heels that are uncomfortable or not a good fit. Flats are nice because I can walk on campus with them, but they can still look dressy for teaching.  And I can wear them with jeans or skirts.  (I also got a great pair of Kenneth Cole Reaction heels--so I'm not entirely giving up heels).  After returning home, I cleared out several pairs of shoes that needed to go, more than balancing out the new acquisitions.

I try to keep my closet pruned, and I'm learning to not even purchase clothes or shoes used that are not quality brands--I'm constantly finding Forever21 stuff that is cute but is sure to fall apart after a few wears.  Not worth my time or effort, even if it is purchased used.

5. Handmade
When I saw the new Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders book, I knew I had to get it because of the bike pannier pattern.  Panniers would be the perfect answer for how to transport myself and my load of stuff to campus, enabling me to bike more regularly and consistently.  So, finally, I made them on Sunday, staying up until 2am because I got fixated on getting them finished:

They turned out perfectly.  The bags are a good size to hold my stuff, and while I'm working on campus this summer, I don't have to bother with a backpack, saving my back from sweating disgustingly as I commute back and forth.  And I can detach and carry them easily into the building with little fuss.

I made it from a yard of oil cloth and some small supplies, so they were cheaper than buying my own--and I got to use this awesome vintage-patterned oil cloth.  I might even make a few more (with some adjustments to the design) for my friends who are interested in one. All-in-all, a good DIY experience.

And that's it...for now. :)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Swimming! (And Other Things)

The pool opened up last Friday, and (true to my word), I decided to pay for a summer pass so I can go to the pool ALL THE TIMES.  Thus far, I have been two for two--we went yesterday, and I went today.

I love the water, but it also freaks me out a little to be in the deep end (sometimes).  Today, though, I felt fine in the deep end, so maybe I just have to get used to it.

I tend to swim laps, even though they're hard, and I get really tired.  It's strange that I can run for hours and hours really fast (see 1:52 half marathon last weekend!), but I can only swim half a lap in the pool before I have to stop to breathe a bit.  I suspect part of it is not knowing how to breathe well; when you run, you can breathe all you want, but when you swim, you have to be okay with not breathing all the time.

I think by the end of the summer, I want to get up to swimming a full mile without stopping (with a 0-1650 yard plan!).  So this week's goal is to get to a full lap. I think I can do it now, I just need to not get freaked out by my inability to breath every stroke.

I also need to figure out strategies to keep my hair from drying out from the constant chlorine.

Maybe my next task will be to jump off the diving board...

I've begun gathering my books for comps, which is both exhilarating and a little scary. Now I need to read and keep searching for things.  I'm supposed to have the list together soon, so that's what I'll be working on.

The sugar detox has been going reasonably well.  I feel better than I have in a while, I don't really worry tons about food, and I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, which is exactly what I want to be like.  My fellow sugar detoxer talked me into not completely starting over.  I have decided that while I'm not going to be 100% off sugar, it's going to be a rare occurrence (along with refined grains and other processed things). In other words, I'm going to be eating a bit differently from here on out.

As LS and I keep saying to each other sugar=devil. Also, the diabetes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Athlete--That's Me?

I think I can officially add a new title to my list of descriptors: athlete.  I've probably already thought of it before, generally.  I mean, I did finish a marathon and all.  But after this weekend's big PR in the half marathon (by over 6 minutes!), I am feeling that athlete is an appropriate label to claim for myself.

Yesterday, I went out and played Ultimate Frisbee for the first time in two years, and I was amazed at how comfortable I felt.  I feel more capable in my running, I was quick and able to stay with my person (even with recovering legs), and I was able to throw and catch decently.  I also feel like I'm better understanding the logic of the game, of how to run and where to be, the strategies and the requirements to play well.  I'm by no means the weakest person on my team, and that made me feel good.

Better yet, my team is friendly and encouraging.  I didn't feel anxious about messing up, and I asked questions from the better players, and I had a great time.

Running is wonderful, but even in a group, it's a solo sport.  Only you (the runner) can affect what happens on the run.  While running with other people helps pass the time and improve running speed, at the end, you're in your own head and in charge of your body.  You have to run your own race at your own pace.  But even as much as I like the solitary aspect of running, I miss the camaraderie of being a part of a team, of contributing to a larger entity.  I enjoy team sports (especially when I feel like I'm actively contributing), so I'm really glad I got talked into signing up for summer league this year.

The confidence and the comfort I feel in my skin is one of the best results of owning my athleticism.  I'm looking forward to this summer as the time I continue to hone and develop my skills and see what my body is wonderfully and awesomely capable of.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Busy/Full Weekend

It's the end of a long and busy weekend. Fun, productive, but tiring. :)

On Friday morning (early), we got up and I rode to Kansas City with my bro and sister-in-law and their darling child.  (They've been in town most of the week, so I've been spending lots of much-needed time with them!) It was fun because we talked and I played with C and got to know her--she likes me, even though I accidentally bit her finger.  Ooops!

We then headed to pick up our packets for the Hospital Hill half marathon, where my brother, B, found himself a GPS watch, and I found myself a sweet pair of bright orange running shorts.  I blame the lack of food and a bit of encouragement from my sister-in-law, A, for why they overrode my cautious spending.

We then went and picked up cupcake baking supplies.  We were in KC to get set up for C's 1st birthday party, and I offered (very insistently) to bake the cupcakes.  A picked out some recipes, and B begged for German chocolate. We (me and my baking minions) ended up baking red velvet cupcakes, marbled cupcakes, and German chocolate cupcakes, half in ice cream cones, half regular.

The next morning, we got up and headed to KC for the half marathon.  A and her friend were running the 5k, and my brother agreed to run alongside me for the half.  We couldn't have asked for a better day for running in early June: the temperature was 53 degrees when we began the run, and it was sunny and clear and only got into the 60s by the time we finished. Perfect weather to PR--and I did.  While I didn't remember that the run was all that hilly (it feels a lot hillier when you're running 8:30 miles for 13 miles), I felt great for most of it, coming in at 1:52:11.  My brother had to slow down a bit because of an injury, but he came in 2 minutes after me.  It was amazing--I love that every race I do, I learn more about how to run better, faster, and stronger.  I think I see a possible 1:45 in my future.

Running siblings--and my bright orange shorts!
Not only did I PR, but I got to run with my brother, something we enjoy doing together.  It was a great experience for all of us, and I was so happy that I could share running with my family in this way.  I think B and I will have to find other races to run together.

After the run, we headed back to A's parents' house, cleaned up, ate some food, baked a tiny cake for C's birthday, and then headed down to Fayetteville.  They went to an event, and I chilled at home, taking a much needed nap.  I was so tired, I skipped out on going with them to the bar to hang out and went to sleep instead...

Frosting the cupcakes with a minion
Then, at 4:40am, my alarm went off, and I got up and ready to leave by 5:30am to head BACK to KC.  Yep.  We got there around 9:30am this morning, and I got to work making frosting, and everyone else got to work decorating and prepping for the party.  I made coconut pecan frosting for the German chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese frosting for the red velvet, and chocolate and vanilla Swiss buttercream for the marbled cupcakes and C's tiny tiered cake.  My minions (yes, I had baking minions! it was great!) decorated as I stirred and beat and whipped and creamed.  They turned out beautifully--my favorite moment was when one of A's aunts bit into the cupcake, looked up in surprise, and commented, "That tasted a lot better than I thought it would! You can tell they were homemade."  She took another one home with her.

C's little birthday cake, ready to be SMASHED

C's party went off great--there was baby cake smashing and presents, and much fun had by the guests and the parents.  Food was eaten, games were played, and L showed himself to be an adept helper (as usual) as well as volleyball player.  We make a great team. :)

After much birthday partying was had, C took a nap, and we gathered ourselves to leave.  We finally departed around 6, and drove back home.

And here I am. Home. This next week will be filled with running and ultimate frisbee and working on my comps lists (summer break is over!)

[For those wondering how I did surrounded by such delicious cupcakes...well, I managed to stay sugar free for the most part (except for a few things here and there because of the run yesterday and tasting my recipes), but I did eat two cupcakes today.  But I don't feel bad about it because I enjoyed them a lot.  I will be back on the sugar-free wagon, though, and I'm going to begin again at Day 1.]

Anyway, great and busy weekend, but a joy and a delight as well.  I feel like I've packed in as much brother and sister and niece time as I can, and I hope it's a lot sooner when I see them next.