Show Yourself Some Love

Today was the first day of the fall semester, and while I did not have class today, I did go into the office to organize and prepare for the two classes that I have tomorrow and Thursday. It was a busy day on campus and over the course of the week there will all sorts of emotions circulating through the halls. There are many tasks I want to accomplish this semester, but I found myself re-committing to a promise that I made to myself about four years ago (around the time I was hired on full time at my community college). The promise was to take better care of myself during the semester and it is something I actively think about every term.

This vow to care for myself came from years of being a graduate student/teaching fellow and then an adjunct instructor. I wasn’t kind to myself in those years. I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t exercise regularly, I didn’t take quiet time for myself and I didn’t say “no” very often. In fact, when it came to my time as an adjunct, I never said no. This was an active strategy on my part. I wanted to be seen as a team player and dependable and flexible. I felt all of these things would serve me well if I were ever in the position to apply for a full time position. As it turned out, that full time position popped up after I had been at my community college for about a year and a half. I applied. I was offered the job. I accepted.

At the lovely IMA.

The first year I was full time, I fell back into my old habits. The spring semester I took on seven, yes, seven, classes (don’t ask) and I suffered for it. I was cranky. I was tired. I felt gross physically and sluggish mentally. I ate poorly and exercise? Forget it. I decided that I needed to reevaluate how I was living my life because what I was doing wasn’t working.

The first thing I started to do was say “no.” Admittedly, this was easier given my past behaviors. I wasn’t criticized for cutting back, in fact, I was encouraged to, so I did. I focused only on my courses and the student creative writing group I advised for.  I also started getting back to exercise and eating better. I started cooking more and discovered I really enjoyed it. In fact, doing things I enjoyed made me happy, so I added to the list. I went on walks, read books I wanted to read during the semester, watched movies, got manicures, and went hiking in the woods. I was happier and more balanced. This taking care of myself was working.

I found myself in a familiar position this time last year, when I realized that once again, I was over committed to things I wasn’t necessarily that invested in, so I cut back. eliminated some stresses at work and re-committed to self care. I started going to yoga and discovered Zumba and turbo kick. I read more books, took time to go to the pool in the summer and spent some weekends away with my husband.

I need balance. I am much happier if I have balance and I’m fiercely protective of my own time because it is mine. It makes me sound self centered, but I don’t necessarily have to be alone to enjoy “me time.” However, I do need to give myself breaks and special treatment every now and then. This isn’t being selfish. It is being a human being. Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.

How I Discovered I Like 5k’s…

I’ve never been a runner. When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, my dad decided to enter in an all comers meet that the track team hosted for community athletes. My father has always been an athlete. He’s done marathons, bike rices, canoeing, cross country skiing and some combinations of those activities. When he decided to enter the local all comers meet, I went along with him to watch and see just how badly he was going to kick everyone else’s ass. The day of the meet was miserable. It was rainy and cold and I spent most of my time running between the timing tent and the concession stand where they were selling hot chocolate. My dad eventually ran his race. I don’t remember what race it was but I do remember that he beat the high school track star who was none to happy to be shown up by a 40 some year old dude. It was awesome. What was not so awesome was as a result of my father’s kick ass run, the track coach, Dennis, decided that it was his duty to stalk me for my entire high school career. He figured that since my father was a runner, I must be a runner. He finally gave up when I joined the swim team but I could tell he was disappointed.

Flash forward fifteen plus years and I’m deciding that I need to get into better shape. I’ve heard about this program called “Couch to 5k” and while I have no desire to run a marathon, I think that as a fairly healthy 30 year old, I should be able to run 3 miles. I didn’t care about my form or how fast I was. I just wanted to run a 5k and see how it went. I spent the entire summer working through the Couch to 5k program and eventually I made it to the run for 30 mins mark. I was slow, but I didn’t care. I entered my first 5k on Halloween 2011 and I ran the entire race. Since then I have run four 5k’s:

Legacy 5k, Run Like  Hell, Drumstick Dash & The Jingle Bell Run.

I like running races with themes and I have discovered that I like running with groups of people. It’s fun and motivating. I also love it when people dress up and have fun while exercising. I mean what’s cooler than running a race beside a zombie? Or a guy dressed up like  giant Christmas present? Or a bunch of teenagers dressed as turkeys? I still don’t really have a desire to run a long race but I’ve signed up for my 5th 5k on Feb. 25 🙂

Observations from the Gym

As part of my goals for 2012, I’ve been hitting the gym five days a week. It has taken some effort but I am feeling better and it’s gotten me to be more creative with my workouts, which is always a good thing. Working out more means that I’ve started to pay more attention to the general “goings on” around the gym. It may also be important to note, that when I say gym, I’m talking about the Y. Here are some observations in no particular order:

1. People should not stare at other people while they are working out. Personally, I’m not very self conscious at the gym. This doesn’t have anything to do with my physical condition. I just don’t really care. We are all sweaty and red faced and if you’re not, well that’s cool but you’re probably not there to work out anyway, so whatever. However, you should not stare at people who are busting their butts on the treadmill. It’s rude.

2. If you are a dude, you should not creep around the glass door to the aerobics room during the women’s step class. Seriously? I mean there are a few guys who glance through the door on their way to the weight room, but today while I was getting ready to run I observed three grown man gawking at the women’s cardio blast class through the glass door. Creepers, go work out.

3. There is no need to throw the free weights. Some people may think I’m picking on the dudes, but I’m not. Women do this too. The long and short of it is, you don’t need to throw your weights down so hard that the floor shakes. You’re strong. We get it.

4. I don’t get the concept of “reading and highlighting a textbook” while on the treadmill or elliptical machine. If you are one of these people, I mean no disrespect but I honestly don’t get it. I mean, when I’m on either of these machines I’m sweating like there is no tomorrow. I am certainly in no fit condition to read anything, let alone highlight something.

5. If you can talk on your cell phone while doing cardio, you’re not going fast enough. I don’t mind people taking a quick call, but if I can hear you telling your best friend about the guy that you hooked up with and how you are pissed he didn’t call you back through Nikki Minaj, well, there’s a problem.

6. Proper workout attire is important. Enough said.

A List Of Reasons Why You Should Take Walks Outdoors

If you read my earlier post about my curiosity jar, then you know I like to take walks outdoors. As the weather begins to turn, I have to remind myself why it’s good to get out of the house, even if it’s cold and snowy.  Below are the reasons I like to walk outside no matter the season.

1. Fresh air. Winter brings the return of closed windows and the furnace. This is all well and good, as I like a toasty home as much as the next person. However, it also brings stale air and dust.

2. Exercise. I, like most red blooded Americans, have a hard time resisting the urge to take up residence on my couch, under a fleece blanket with a box of cookies and call it good until April. The hibernation instinct is strong when it gets dark at 5 PM.

3. Good conversation. I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life while walking.

4. Inspiration. For better or worse, I’m a writer. I like to write about the outdoors but not exclusively. I get ideas while walking (I had one today). It’s good for my brain.

5. Treasures. See the curiosity jar post.

6. Stay up with the neighborhood. You get to see whose raked their yard, who put up their Christmas lights way too early and just who the hell decided that “electric blue” was a good color to paint their house.

7. It’s quiet. This may seem odd to some people who know that I live in an urban environment. However, especially in the winter months, snow acts as a good muffler and I’m always struck by how quiet it is after a significant snowfall.

8. It’s scenic.

9. You meet your neighbors. They know you’re out and about. You chat about your gutters or pesky squirrels. It’s social, people.

10. It keeps you in the moment. If walking does anything for me, it’s that it gives me an opportunity to stop and just take in my surroundings for a half hour. Again, good for the brain.

Gobble, gobble, gobble…

This is the second Thanksgiving that RJ and I are spending together but not with our respective families. The first took place in Texas in November 2003. I was attending grad school and RJ was driving all over hell for his consulting job. We sat in my little studio apartment eating steak and drinking beer. Eight years later we will be spending Thanksgiving with other friends in Indy who have families in distant states like New York, Pennsylvania and yes, Texas.

This morning I will be participating int this event:

I feel a 2.5 mile run justifies the food I will consume later on.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
~John Keats 

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to officially say goodbye to autumn. I always feel that after Thanksgiving winter is whistling in the eaves and I can already feel the temperature dropping. Fall is my favorite season and this fall was especially lovely, so a few images to send fall out on a good note. See you in 2012.

Squash blossoms.

Pumpkins at the orchard.

Goldenrod on a walk in our neighborhood.

Ashley likes cider. Also, you should read her blog.