Weathering the Winter

I’m starting out by commenting on the weather. AGAIN.

This winter just seems to drag on, an endless cycle of cold and more cold. It gets to me. I wish it weren’t so, but I seem to be one of the many who are seasonally affected. I made a promise to myself to do everything possible to fight off the doldrums this winter and I’m doing okay with it. I’ve given in to the allure of hibernation a morning or two. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mopey and cranky now and then.  Old habits die hard, but I’m working hard to keep trying to change them.

breakfast cupsHaving a house full of family helps. Last weekend, all of the kids were here and we enjoyed the usual stuff – playing with the dogs, watching movies, eating food that’s so good, even if it wasn’t good for us! I tried out a new breakfast recipe while they were here and it was a hit! Eggs, sausage, cheese and hash browns – all in one. Yum!

Agg2There are lots of other ways to brighten the gray days, for instance, seeing a face I don’t often get to see in person. I had the pleasure of a visit from Agg last week! Agg’s work brings him to my vicinity now and then, so this is actually the second time we got to connect. Mark and I had a nice meal with him at a local place and we got to spend a couple of hours talking about work, football, kids, family, Agg’s travels and the winter Olympics. We had a great time!

And we booked a winter vacation to Florida. Mark and I have never taken a winter vacation in all the years we’ve been married. When the kids were younger, there was just never enough time or money. This year, we finally realized we were in a position to go somewhere warmer than here. Florida, here we come! It sure helps to have a change of temperature and scenery to look forward to.

It’s impossible though, to fill every day with big, exciting events to keep the blues at bay so I’m trying to remember to focus on the  little things that make a difference. Kacey signed us up for a color run in July, so I’ve got motivation to try to resurrect the runner in me, who was never a great runner to begin with. Maybe having a goal like the color run will help me improve.

I’m doing yoga a couple of times a week, as soon as I wake up. It makes both my body and mind feel good.

I have bowling with the girls every week and with other couples every other Saturday – always a fun time, even when my game isn’t up to par.

I’m also trying to remember to just live more. A friend posted an article on Facebook – 22 Habits of Unhappy People. I recognized a few of my own tendencies. One of them is not following through on the things I say I want to do or plan to do (using my camera, volunteering.) Another unhealthy habit was labeled loneliness. I don’t generally tend to feel overwhelmingly lonely, but because of the design of my life and my husband’s job, there are a lot of days, nights and weekends when I’m alone. I often appreciate the time I have to myself. It’s a good time to think, write, read or catch up on chores that need doing. But I also might sit alone in front of the television when I could instead connect with a friend or family member. I tend to find it easier to just stay home in the quiet rather than go to the effort of reaching out to a friend and planning something social. But when I go to the effort, I’m never sorry. I have to remember that interacting with others always lifts my spirits. And that lift seems to stick with me long after we’ve parted ways.

This weekend, I invited friends to come over and play cards after Mark came home from work Saturday evening. It wasn’t a late night, but we all had fun and lots of laughs. I’m cooking with real effort this weekend- an all day beef broth-making, soup-simmering affair. I’m rarely at a loss for words on this blog, but for some reason, tend to hang in the background when it comes to Facebook. I always appreciate those who post Facebook updates that are inspiring, funny or just invite conversation. I stepped outside my box this morning and posted something simple about myself and what I was doing today. I was rewarded with comments and conversation from girlfriends near and far. I need to do that more often! I’m going to go do some things for my parents today, take my dad shopping, and get out of the house for a while, even if it is still cold and more snow is on the way.

The winter days will pass, more quickly than it feels at the moment. Warmer days are coming. Life is good.

Yoga la la la

As the muscle in my lower back slowly continues to heal from the “tweaking” it experienced three weeks ago, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t resume the high intensity workout I’d been doing. It bums me out too. I had surprised myself by keeping up and progressing to a higher level. Unfortunately, it involved too many moves that would only continue to strain the sore muscles in my back and I haven’t been able to pick it up again. And all this comes so soon after I’d been reminded of what a mental and physical boost a good workout gives me. Exercise for me is such a big part of staying happy!

As I was picking up some necessities at Target last night, I wandered over to the exercise aisle to peruse the workout DVDs. Since I had been contemplating yoga, I was happy to see several DVD options. The only yoga I’ve ever attempted was on the Wii Fit, and I can’t say I was either impressed or very successful at it. I’ve got very limited knowledge and experience with yoga, so when I saw a Jillian Michaels yoga DVD, it seemed like the way to go. After all, I had been thoroughly enjoying her Six Week Six Pack workout until the tweaking.

Early, early this morning, I got up and put on some workout clothes. I put my new DVD in the player and rolled out my yoga mat. With the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner of the room, I began to learn what to do. And even though I’m not wise to the ways of yoga, I could tell that this version was a little unconventional. But I liked it! It didn’t produce a hammering heartbeat or profuse sweating like the more intense workout I’d been doing, but it felt good and I was able to do most of the moves. I learned that in yoga, the belief is that there is no such thing as perfection. That’s why they call a yoga workout a “practice.” If you can’t quite achieve a move, you just keep trying time and time again. And the more gentle pace was much easier on my lower back.

yoga-camel-pose-636

Doesn’t look that hard, but I can’t do it. Yet.

There were a few moves that were beyond my ability. As I was following along, I was thinking, “Wow. Some parts of my body are so tight! And not in a good way!” Maybe yoga will make me more flexible and with time, there may be fewer instances of my muscles feeling as if they’ve burst into flames while I’m doing something I always do, like bowling!

When it was all done, I was sweating and felt as if I’d accomplished something good. I didn’t quite have that zen feeling you hear so much about with yoga, but I felt ready to take on the day. Maybe that’s because I was exercising in the glow of the Christmas tree with the sight of snow falling gently outside the window. Maybe zen will come with time. Then again, it’s Jillian Michaels. Maybe zen isn’t included in her version of this exercise. That might be okay. I’m just glad to be doing something good for myself and learning something new.

Before going to work, I went to see the chiropractor for the second week in a row. He asked how I was doing and I told him that today was the first day that I didn’t feel any sharp pains in my lower back and hips, just some minor dull pain. I told him that when it first happened, I thought I’d feel better in a couple of days. I’d been stretching diligently every day and hoping the tightness would loosen up quickly. No way did I expect to still be less than a hundred percent three weeks later. I said that I probably needed to accept the fact that I was getting older.

“No,” he said. “Don’t accept it! Fight it!” That cracked me up. Dr. Dave’s humor is an added bonus to his chiropractic care.

He also said that when you tweak a muscle, it’s already over-extended and aggravated, so deep stretches are really not the best thing for it.

“Oh,” I said. “So I guess maybe I’m responsible for prolonging the problem.”

He said that an aggravated muscle needs time to heal. Give it rest and plenty of ice. And only when I’m feeling about 75% better should I think about doing some light stretching. Light. Stretching. Yep. Wish I’d have known that sooner.

Lesson learned. Also, I shouldn’t have waited two weeks, thinking the muscle would relax on its own before finally making time to see Dr. Dave. He’s a good guy. Even gave me his personal cell phone number and said anytime I needed advice but didn’t necessarily want to make an appointment, I could call or text and he will steer me in the right direction. Dr. Dave is so worth the money I spend to see him!

So, yoga it is!

Getting Stronger

Oh how I hate and love this move!

Oh, Jillian Michaels, how I hate and love this move!

I’ve been really diligent about exercise the past two weeks. I had been in such a slump for most of this year that I didn’t really think I could get back on the bandwagon. But the more I work at it, the more motivated I am to keep it up. I’d forgotten how good it feels to push past my limits and earn that sense of accomplishment for the day. I’d forgotten how the aches that tend to follow are a welcome kind of pain because I know they mean I’m getting stronger again. And the best part isn’t even the numbers on the scale or seeing the promise of the shape in my midsection again, (although I am in no way complaining!) The best part is the mental impact. Strength in the body seems to translate to a feeling that I can handle anything. It permeates into every aspect of the day.

Why was it so easy to forget how good this is for me?

All summer long I set my alarm clock to wake me in time to do some physical activity before I had to get ready for work. As the weeks wore on, that alarm would go off and my body would sleepily protest. My eyes didn’t want to open. More often than not, the weariness inside would win and the alarm would get postponed for another hour. Still, I couldn’t ever seem to get caught up on my sleep. I felt mentally and physically drained so much of the time.

My turnaround came slowly. A couple of months ago, I attended a birthday celebration for my former morning gym buddy. Near the end of her pregnancy, her gym visits had dwindled. After her baby boy arrived, there were a few months when escaping the house at 5:00 am just wasn’t possible. The night of the birthday party, she informed me she was back in routine and was hoping I’d start joining her again. Working out with a friend always makes the work feel so much easier! I started getting out of bed with the alarm and going to the gym to meet my friend a couple of times a week.

A few weeks ago when I began to set weekly goals, exercise was a big one. Just having set the goal and telling others about it went a long way in pushing me to follow through. And seeing my parents’ health issues take their toll is a painful reminder that exercise isn’t just a nice thing to do for myself, it’s necessary to keep the effects of aging from coming on too soon. The more I work out, the more I want to work out, the more I want to eat better, the more I believe I can be healthier. I’m climbing out of the slump and it feels so good.

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

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Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!

Smashing into Walls

Lori and I had another racquetball lesson tonight. There was still the occasional episode of cowering in corner in a corner in  fear and one interminable stretch when I kept running and running, trying desperately to get out of the way of another player or racquet. But I dare say we’re getting better! We’re learning to anticipate where to meet the ball and getting a better idea of how to hit the ball to our best advantage.

Bill warned us he was going to hit the ball short tonight. He said he wanted to get us off the back wall and make us learn to chase it to the front of the court. This was a challenge. We laughed a lot and Bill’s patience persisted. I told him that I knew where I was supposed to go, it’s just that the signals from my brain seemed to be traveling too slowly to my feet. Every movement seemed like an afterthought. I wondered if I am just too old to be starting to learn this game now.

But eventually, my feet began to catch on. In fact, they got a little over-enthusiastic a time or two. While running to where I expected to meet the ball, I was looking back over my shoulder. I had the ball in sight! I was almost there! I was going to get it! I could see where the ball and my racquet were going to connect! And then…

BOOM!

That wasn’t the sound of my racket hitting the ball. That was the sound of my body hitting the wall. My elbow kind of hurt.

Ouch!

It may not look like much right now, but I’m telling you, there’s going to be a bruise there tomorrow!

Did I mention how after our last lesson, at work the next day, Lori and I were talking at my desk. She was complaining about her fat lip. I was complaining about how the whole side of my body hurt (from my first meeting with the wall!) The woman who sits behind me peeked around the wall of her cubicle and eyed us curiously.

“Did you two get in a fight or something?”

“Nope. We’re just learning to play racquetball,” we told her, laughing.

“Oh, FUN,” she encouraged us! “John and I have racquets we will probably never use again. Let me know if you want me to bring them in for you.”

In spite of the slow feet and smashing into the wall, I think I’m going to take her up on her offer. We are having a lot of fun! And even if Lori and I never get good at this game, we’ll still burn calories chasing that little ball around the court and laughing at ourselves!

Dorks Playing Raquetball

I had my first racquetball lesson tonight. It was good!

My friend, Bill plays racquetball. My friend and coworker, Lori had suggested a while ago that we give the game a try – you know, for a change of pace from the fitness classes and running and stuff. Bill said he would be happy to provide instruction.

Leaving work tonight, I asked Lori, “So what are you going to wear for racquetball tonight?”

“Oh my gosh, I was just going to ask you the same thing,” Lori said.

I don’t know why we were concerned about what to wear. I see guys playing racquetball at the gym. They’re not concerned with their attire. As it turns out, I wore a tank and capris. I should have worn shorts. I sweated more than I thought I would.

First Bill passed out racquets and safety goggles. Then he talked us through the basics, like where to stand when you serve, and when and where to hit the ball. Then we started playing. He showed us how to hit short balls and how to deal with the long ones. During the two hours we played, we started to get the hang of it.

And we also missed a lot of balls! I mean a lot! Lori said she thought there was a hole in her racquet.

When the ball was in the back of the court, we’d be in the front.

When the ball was in the front of the court, we’d be in the back.

Bill remained patient and maintained a sense of humor.

I rolled my ankle and fell flat on the floor. When I opened to my eyes to see if Lori and Bill were laughing hysterically at me, I saw that Lori was on the floor too. I’m not sure how she got there. Bill told me he fell on the floor once or twice before too.

I slammed my body into the side wall. My right shoulder and elbow are going to hurt tomorrow.

And Bill had to keep reminding us that when the ball is coming hard and fast, you’re not supposed to cower in the corner in fear of getting hit. You’re supposed to watch the ball and attack it! He also had to remind us not to be so polite because if we both step back so the other can play, then no one is going to hit the ball.

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But I managed to get the hang of a serve that just rolls back along the side wall where it’s really hard for someone to hit it back. And we hit a lot of balls. And Lori is really good at the back hand. And we laughed our butts off – which felt SO good because it has been a very long, very trying week.

And to anyone outside the court looking in, I’m quite positive we looked like newbie dorks with no clue how to play this game. But Bill is willing to commit to another lesson. And we had fun. So we’re gonna do it again!

Runner

Early morning sky

I’ve always been an early riser. I especially love when I’m awake early enough to see the sky come to life.

Lately I’ve been going outside a few mornings a week to run. I gave up running over a year ago because I just couldn’t figure out what it was that I was supposed to like about it. It certainly wasn’t the lack of stamina or the side aches. And that runner’s high thing? Never felt it. So I quit. Recently I began feeling that I wanted to give running another try, but I didn’t know if I’d be any more successful this time around than the last time I tried to be a runner. It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m doing it. I’ve found a route that I like with an even mix of uphill, downhill and level stretches. I’m not fast and I haven’t conquered great distances, but there is no doubt. I am running!

I checked the pedometer after the last run I did and it said I went three and a half miles. I’m happy with that. I haven’t mentioned the running much to anyone, mostly because I was afraid I would only be reminded again that I just couldn’t do it. But I talk to Joe at work about it. Joe finished the Twin Cities Marathon last year and he inspires me. Joe says he runs simply because he enjoys the physical act of running. I found that intriguing at first, but am starting to get what he means. Joe is very encouraging too. He suggested I read a book he just read and loved, Born to Run. He said it is sure motivate me to run even more. I’m putting it on my to-read list.

Another coworker who is an avid runner overheard Joe and me talking one day. I was telling him that I’d run enough times and with enough success that I thought it justified buying a new pair of shoes.  Our coworker asked what we were talking about. Joe hitched his thumb toward me and with a big smile on his face, simply said to her, “Runner!”

I was sort of surprised and wanted to argue with him, but I realized that if Joe thought I was a runner, maybe it was true.

So I guess I can admit that I’m a runner. And I look forward to going out while it’s still dark outside, with just a hint of dawn on the horizon. And by the time I get back home, I can take a few minutes to sit out on my deck and enjoy the exhilaration of the run I’ve just finished while watching the sky bring on another day.