Sunshine on a Snowy Day

Quote

Sunflower by metin.gul

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

Photo credit: metin.gul

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Unexpected Treasures

Do you know what this is?

It could be heaven.

It could be heaven.

It is a train full of books.

That’s right… it is a Train Full Of Books!

Now, there are many things I love, and two them are trains and books. A train full of books? Blows my mind.

And it is right here, in my city (Okay, in a neighboring small town suburb of my city, but still… in my city.) and I didn’t know about it. It’s been there for years! This train is attached to a tiny building that seems to defy the laws of space and time and is far larger inside than it appears, and is also full of books.  …and a couple of cats. (Named Zelda and Dickens.) It’s kind of a magical place.

Here’s the point – I keep thinking about traveling. I’m coming up on 40, and while the number doesn’t scare me, it does make me think about all things I have always wanted to do. One of those is travel. I keep finding myself dreaming about traveling to Norway or flying to Alaska, sitting by mountain lakes and exploring foreign cities. I want to go places, see things, have adventures!

Then I look at this photo and think – there is a whole lot, right here in my hometown, to experience yet. I drive by weird, funky restaurants I want to try all the time. We have scores of our own odd shops and interesting and beautiful places. My city is full of galleries, museums, and parks. And when I run out of exploring those – there are all sorts of quirky and fun towns all around me in easy driving distance.

It isn’t that I don’t think I am ever going to travel – I will. Presently, however, I have a limited budget and pretty intense schedule. So, the big trips will come, but until then I am going to try to find adventures right here in my own backyard.

 

 

Art That Makes Me Smile

I saw this article on a friends’ Facebook page today: The Story Behind Banksy. Banksy is an interesting artist and I like the way his mind works. But, I have had a couple of stressful days, so though I appreciate his political works, the ones that really hit me today were the ones that made me smile. These made me happy:

Artwork by Banksy

Artwork by Banksy (Photo credit: Matt Keeble / Alamy )

Artwork by Banksy

Artwork by Banksy (Photo credit: AP Images )

Head on over to Smithsonian Magazine to check out the article and see the other photos of his work in the gallery.

The App Review

Footprints by pupismynameAn update on weight loss:

So, I mentioned that I’ve started using the My Fitness Pal app to track calories. Holy smokes – I love it! I’ve been thinking a lot about why it seems to be working so well for me, and I have come to a couple of conclusions:

1) I am not a numbers person. I like concepts. I like ideas. But when it comes to the fine tune number crunching – I get bored. I tend to estimate, and I think when it comes to calories, I estimate badly. I have a coworker in the accounting department who does essentially the same thing as the app with a notebook and a spreadsheet. She loves the minutia of adding up all the numbers and keeping totals – which would drive me crazy. Fortunately, the app does all that for me. I just type in a food and it does all the math.

2) Apps are like video games. I enjoy silly computer games. I also like challenging myself so, this is kind of perfect. The app tracks the calories for each meal, plus how many I have burned working out, and then gives me totals. I like coming in under my allotted calories (not so much that the app yells at me, like it did the other day when I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t eating much,) but enough that I feel like I scored some “bonus points.” The last few nights when I hit the “Done Recording for the Day” button and I saw I came in under my goal, I felt like I just won a round in a game.

3) While I am not a numbers person, I do like tracking. This is awesome at tracking food, water and exercise. I feel like I have a much better understanding of how much exercise I am getting each day – and how much food I am taking in.

4) It provides freedom. My accounting coworker said that the #1 reason that diets fail is because we try too hard – push ourselves to do too much. Then we become frustrated, angry, rebellious… hungry, and then we quit. I absolutely believe that has been my problem in the past. With the app I can see exactly how much room I have. There have been a couple of nights where I wanted a glass of wine or a little sweet – I glanced at the app, made sure I had room, and there you go.

I actually heard something about that on a NPR “Talk of the Nation” show about Self Tracking. They had a caller who was a trainer and she said the same thing about her athletes – that too often athletes would push themselves to injury. Self tracking allows them to back off – it does the same thing for me.

5) It is getting me to exercise… even when I don’t have to. This weekend I took several extra walks, and made some walks a little longer, just so I could add them in. Considering it is running around 14 degrees here (and much colder with windchill) that is some motivation!

So far I am feeling really good about my progress and capabilities. I’ve already lost a little weight and that is certainly reinforcing those feelings. The next week, however, should be very interesting. I am doing some traveling for work, which will mean on-the-go meals and eating options that are a bit out my control. I’ll let you know how it all plays out!

 

Photo credit: pupismyname

A Little of This, A Little of That

Weighing Fish by indi.caI had a doctor appointment the other day. We were chatting a bit and he mentioned that I weigh the same as when I came to see him the first time in 2006. He was thrilled; in his book I am a success story. I went to him back then because of asthma problems, we tried a few different medications, found a combination that worked, and it has been under control since. My needs, my medical health and my weight have all stayed the same for the last 7 years – which is exactly what he is looking for.

I, however, took it a little hard. I’ve been through a lot in the last few years, and I have certainly had my weight swings. I have lost a lot… and apparently gained it all back. I don’t weigh myself with any regularity, but I’ve known approximately what it was. My belt tells me. Still, I hadn’t quite put together that I am the same as I was in 2006 and for some reason, it really hit me.

2012 was My Year of the Makeover. It started with re-finding the perfect hairdresser. I think all of us ladies have one out there, and if we are lucky, we find them – the one true person who understands our hair better than we do ourselves. I found mine when I was just 16. He did my hair into my early twenties, but then we drifted apart. You know how it goes – years go by, he went and traveled around the country in an RV, I found and discarded a series of hairdressers, and then went ahead and married one, then divorced him… you know, the same old story. Last year though, I ran into him again – my true, perfect hairdresser. I promptly got his number and made an appointment. The old magic was still there. I sat in his chair, and because I am basically a moron when it comes to fashion just said something terribly articulate like, “make me pretty… please.” And he did. The man is a genius.

That inspired me to go get new glasses. I haven’t worn glasses in roughly a decade, but there came the day where I couldn’t tell if the mysterious stranger walking towards me was carrying a large shopping bag or walking a big white dog. I knew it was time to get checked out. I asked friends for where to go, and they recommended a small local boutique. I essentially did the same thing – I sat down, looked around at all the frames in confusion and said to the salesman, “Umm… pick out something pretty for me… please.” He did. My glasses are awesome. They cost me a small fortune, but I figure we’re are talking about my face, so I dropped the coin. Plus I figure I can save up for a couple years before I go again!

Then it was time for my sister to help me out. I had this sneaking suspicion that I needed a makeover. She kindly took me by the hand to Sephoria. My tried and true method of just asking salesgirl to make me pretty paid off again. I then bought whatever she suggested. Yeah… um, not cheap, but once again I am found asking a professional for help is amazingly useful. Now, I actually like my make up. I’m not sure how often I would have said that before.

I’ve also been trying to buy clothes that are better suited for me. It’s hard when you have a number of different jobs like I do – and they all require different wardrobes. I’ve tended to go cheap on clothes. Now I am trying to stick to staples and find them at reasonable prices. I’m still a complete idiot when it comes to this kind of stuff, but I am getting better.

I also know that I look a little different than I did even a year ago. Doing as much walking as I do has changed my body shape to some degree. It is subtle, but I can see the difference in my face. I have better definition and I am sure have more muscle mass, but here I am, at the top of 2013 hearing that overall, I weigh the same as 2006.

So, it is time to do something about that. I am not making any New Years Resolutions or taking any drastic steps. Nor am I turning this blog into a fitness blog. I am, however, going to start monitoring my intake a lot closer. (I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app immediately when I got back to the office from my doctor’s appointment. ) I may write about it – musing, thoughts, ideas – the same kind of posts I have been doing. I have this blog as a place to explore and discover who I am, looking better is going to be part of that process.

Photo credit: indi.ca

Musings on Sleep

sleep quote

Sleep.

I need a lot of sleep. Some of my friends and coworkers claim that they can get by on as little as 6 hours of sleep – even less at times.

But, I am not one of those people.

I need at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably a bit more,) if I am to be a happy, sociable, relatively content person. For the good of the people around me, I strive for those precious 8 hours. When I have a busy schedule or a lot of late nights, I wear down fast. My energy level decreases, I get sick easily and I am very, very grumpy.

I am not a morning person, nor am I a night owl. My best working hours for productivity are roughly between 10:00am and 2:00pm. So, if I could write my own schedule, I would go to bed about 11:00pm and get up about 9:00am. Sadly, I don’t have this option. I have a job. I also have a dog.

hermes profile

What I don’t have is a fenced in backyard. This means that every morning I am up at roughly 6:30am to walk this guy around the neighborhood for a half hour. It doesn’t really matter what time I go to bed, and weekends don’t matter much either – Hermes doesn’t understand what a weekend is, he just knows that at 6:30, it is time to patrol.

Which means I try to get to bed around 10:00pm. I’m not always successful, and even when I am, I don’t always fall asleep right away, but that’s the goal. I also look for ways to improve the quality of the sleep I do get. Just recently I read this article on Lifehacker: How to Need Less Sleep by Getting Better Sleep Every Night. I’ve read similar articles, on Lifehacker and other places, and have put a few of their suggestions in place. Last summer I went through my bedroom and taped over almost all of the little electronic blinking lights in my bedroom. I also closed my curtains to try to get a bit more darkness. I have two sets of curtains in there – a light weight set and a heavy brocade set. I had been leaving the brocade ones open, in an effort to wake with natural lighting, but I’ve discovered the darkness is more important.

The one tip I read all the time, and never seem to actually do, is turning off all computer and television screens an hour or two before bedtime. I am not hooked on electronics, but I admit I like to check email and play a few silly computer games before bed. Last week, however, I had some downtime – actual evenings where I didn’t have any plans or meetings. I decided to take full advantage of them and go to bed early. For several nights in a row, I managed to turn off the computer early and get to bed around 8:30. I took a book and read a few chapters until I felt sleepy enough to turn out the light. I was amazed at the difference it made!

I slept hard, really deep, and I had wild vivid dreams – which is my normal. I have always been someone who has long, intense, colorful dreams with complicated plots and multiple characters, but I haven’t been having them lately. I’ve had dreams, so I didn’t really notice that they weren’t like they used to be – until last week. I don’t think I have been sleeping as deeply, so my dreams were shorter and more washed out. Last week, I realized what I was missing.

I also found myself regularly waking up earlier, and when I did, feeling much more awake than I do normally. I felt great during the day too. I could tell that the quality of sleep was much better. I think turning off the screen an hour before bed made a huge difference!

It’s not something I can do every night. I have all sorts of events that happen in the evening, so even getting in bed before 10:00 during the week can be tricky, but if it makes a difference on my overall mood and attitude, I think it is worth striving for.

The Road, Part One

My boyfriend is currently rereading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.  He had a spare copy, so I am rereading it with him. In the first chapter we read that life is difficult and full of problems. Here’s what the Wikipedia article about it had to say:

Peck’s book begins with the profound truth that “Life is difficult” We must attest to the fact that life was never meant to be easy, and that it is nothing but a battlefield of problems. We can either moan about them or solve them.

Lonely Road

I find that very comforting.

…what? You don’t find that comforting? Well, stick with me for a moment, let’s break this down. I am not going to reiterate what the book has to say about it, I’m going to tell you why I personally find that very comforting:

If we just start by accepting the truth that life is difficult, it means it is difficult for everyone; not just me, or you, or that guy down the street. It means it is also difficult for the people we admire, our heroes, even the people who don’t seem to have any problems. Life is difficult for them too – the problems are going to be as varied as we are, but everyone has them.

And if you take that a little further, it means that your life is difficult because everyone’s life is difficult – not because you are cursed, or asked out the wrong girl or said that stupid thing in the third grade that still makes you embarrassed to think about. Beating yourself up is not going to change the fact that life is full of problems.

When I first started musing on all this, my first thought was that if life is full of problems, maybe it doesn’t really matter what choices you make – there are always going to be problems, so why try to fight it? But of course, common sense quickly ruled that out. Not making decisions doesn’t negate having problems! Some problems are easier to accept than others. Not having enough time to do the volunteer work I want to is a problem I can handle – not having a place to live is one I would rather not have.

So the goal then, is to make the best choices we can. We need to tackle the problems: acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and try constantly to get better. The important thing is that you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes – there are always people out there who have been through things similar, and there are people out there right now, fighting similar demons. Life is going to be hard, but there are ways to get through it.

Personally, I find that comforting.

Photo credit: carolinejoan