Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Stretch by Any Other Name

All month long I’ve been focused on stretching.  Yoga mats and exercise balls, Pilates and core muscles.  I’ve been paying attention to my body and how it feels when I’ve stretched, how it feels when I haven’t.  All things considered, I’ve done well with this resolution.  If I were a teacher, I’d give myself a B- for results, and an B+ for effort.  That is, until yesterday.

Yesterday I really stretched.

Yesterday, I e-mailed my ex-husband.

A bit of background for those who don’t know me:  I was married for sixteen years to my best friend.  Well, at least that’s what I thought.  It went bad at the end, there, really bad.  And my heart was broken.  Tragically and irrevocably broken.

That being said, I’ve built a happy, single-girl, life for myself and it’s been a long while since I’ve spent time thinking much about the past.  We never had children, so we’ve had no reason to be in touch.  It’s been four years since we decided to get divorced and from then forward we had only brief exchanges by e-mail about asset transfers and signing documents.  It’s been three years (at least) since we’ve had any contact at all.

Except, we share family.  That’s right – I’m still a part of his family and they are still a part of mine.  My nephews are a delightful and important part of my life.  Their parents are my dear friends.  His mother is dear to my heart.  And it has never felt fair that that my tragedy has become theirs.

So yesterday I reached out to my ex-husband and simply offered peace.  We can be in the same place at the same time, right?  We’re still family, aren’t we?  And your wife, she’s family too, right?  Sure, he said.

We had a pleasant, if rather simple, e-mail exchange and that was it.  It wasn’t great.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t, actually, much of anything.  Except the right thing to do.

Wow, I can touch my toes!

Of course when the time does come for our first encounter, it might be tough – that first time especially.  But of course, that’s nothing that a fabulous dress and party hair can’t handle.

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Filed under Divorce, Family, Stretching

Ok, Let’s Review

I’m nearing the three month mark of my twelve month experiment, one resolution a month.  As the end of March approaches, my mind is already turning towards the selection of a resolution for April.  But before I begin that debate, I thought it was time for a quick review.

If I had to sum up my experiment in two words, they would be FUN and SURPRISING.

Fun – I’ve enjoyed this way more than I imagined I would, even though I had an inkling it would be interesting.

Surprising – I’m thoroughly surprised and delighted that people are reading my blog and really enjoy the comments I get, both online and in conversations with folks.  The extrovert in me who processes by interaction and dialog is very grateful and thoroughly enjoying herself.  THANKS!

Here’s a summary with my best tips from each resolution so far.

January
Five Servings a Day

I had a 100% success rate with eating five servings of fruits/vegetables in January.  I’ve tried to maintain this behavior since then and am having success. The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I now eat more fruits/veggies as snacks – way more.  If I haven’t had my five servings yet, I don’t let myself snack unless it’s a fruit/veggie.  Wow, this cuts down on the potato chips.

Since I’m no longer a Type-A, obsessive “J” (seriously, I’m not)(no really, I’ve changed), I am not tracking my behavior too rigidly now that my official resolution month is over.  That being said, it’s now a habit to count servings every day and I don’t even need a chart on my refrigerator.  I’ve missed two to three days max since January 1, and even on those days I’ve had 3-4 servings.   Not bad veggie girl, not bad.

Buy the fruits and veggies you like.
It seems obvious, but often we try too hard to do all of the right things.  If you only like broccoli and apples, start by just eating five servings of broccoli and apples.  SURE, it’s best to have variety nutritionally, but give yourself a break and start with what you like!

Get the day started right.
It’s a lot easier to achieve this goal if you add fruits and veggies to breakfast and lunch.  Dinner seems much harder to control, especially since someone else might be cooking it.  If you don’t eat at least one serving at each breakfast and lunch, it will be almost impossible to catch up with dinner.

February
Abstinence

This month was all about not drinking for me, though you could really pick anything you wanted to stop for a month, just to see what it’s like.  This resolution was easy for me to keep (another perfect record), but I’ve changed very little of my behavior now that the month is over.  I’d like to consider this more but I can’t seem to spend mental energy on this – perhaps that has something to do with my pending thesis deadline.  Is there a correlation between approaching deadlines and the need for a gin and tonic?  I THINK SO.

Announce your resolution.
It’s helpful to let others in on your goal, especially when our culture has such expectations about indulgence.  Whether it’s not drinking or skipping dessert, I found others much more supportive of my choice when they knew I had made a promise to myself.

Don’t avoid situations just to keep your resolution.
You don’t learn much about yourself if you just avoid the situations where you’d normally engage in the ‘forbidden’ behavior.  And besides, being sober while everyone around you is drinking is kind of entertaining!

March
Stretching

When I realized I could not touch my toes I knew it was time for action.  Stretching action, that is.  I haven’t failed at this resolution – in fact I’ve learned a lot – but I am batting about .600 on this one (too bad it’s not baseball, I’d be a pro!).  This behavior feels the most NEW for me, though, and I’m really enjoying what I’ve learned and how I’ve experimented with building this into my routine.  I think it will take me more than 30 days to do it, but I still hope to create a habit out of this one.

Find your time and space.
No, I don’t mean early 21st century, planet Earth.  I mean you need to find the time of day that works for you as well as the place where you will enjoy this exercise.  I learned that I like morning stretching best, but I also enjoy a post-workout stretch.  I also learned that I need to be in a warm room and that a quiet environment isn’t as important to me as an open space.

Get the gear.
No, you don’t need $100 yoga pants to stretch every day.  But having a good yoga mat and some comfy clothing, plus a DVD or two has been incredibly helpful to me.

Think “Days Off” not “I’ve Failed”
When I skipped a few days in a row, it was important for me to just give myself permission to consider those days ‘off’ instead of thinking that I had completely failed to keep my resolution.  I know, I said earlier I’m not a perfectionist any more (ha!), but even us go-with-the-flow P’s can be hard on ourselves sometimes.  Lighten up and give yourself a break!

What Does April Have in Store?

The word is still out on April’s resolution and I probably won’t decide until the last minute.   I’ve got one more month before I graduate, so I still need a resolution that doesn’t require a ton of time.  I have some ideas (as always, the conference room in my head is debating the merits of a clean house vs. starting a garden as I write), but I’m interested: Any suggestions?


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Filed under Fitness, Resolutions, Thesis, Tips and Resources

Stretching Resources

WOW.  I had no idea that my lack of stretching success could inspire others!

Apparently, Kris has my back – she’s stretching this month too now, so that at last one of us is stretching every day.  Thanks Kris!

I am happy to report that I’ve fully embraced this resolution – finally.  And several of you have asked me for resources, so here is a short list.

If you’re anything like me, you may already have many of these in  your house, long forgotten under a pile of old magazines or a dusty closet.  If you don’t have them already, before you buy any of the books or DVDs listed here, consider checking your local public library to see if they have any of these resources you can borrow for free.  Yup, that’s how libraries roll.

Balance Ball Beginners Workout DVD

I already had the balance ball from a previous attempt to begin an in-home workout routine and lo-and-behold it came with a DVD!  It has a nice 15 minute stretching routine which I am using quite often.  Apparently, I like someone telling me what to do, even though I think I am actually smart enough to come up with 15 minutes of stretching exercises on my own.

AM/PM  Yoga for Beginners DVD

I have used this DVD in the past and was able to find a friend who could loan it to me by posting a request on Facebook.    The workouts are 20 minutes, which is just short enough to fit into even the most busy morning routine.  (Full disclosure: there are some days when I have no “morning routine.”)

Lewisburg Area Rec Association (LARA) Pilates Classes

These classes are fairly inexpensive and have a wonderful instructor.  Although I want to hate her for her ballet dancer’s body and incredibly strong abs; I can’t.  She is super sweet, very patient, knowledgeable, and extremely good at explaining Pilates moves in a way that beginners can understand.  If you’re in the Lewisburg area, I strongly recommend these classes.

The Pilates Body, by Brooke Siler

This book was recommended to me by my Pilates instructor.  It’s hard to understand Pilates exercises from writing and drawings (DVDs or in-class instruction is easier), but this book does the best job of those I considered.  I’m keeping it in my gym locker now so I can tack on an exercise or two at the end of every workout.

Stretchware

This is a simple and inexpensive software program that will remind you to stretch while you are sitting at your desk.   You can even download it free for 30 days to try it out without giving anyone your credit card number (amazing!).  If your job involves sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time, this is a great tool to keep you alert and productive as well as, well, stretched.

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Filed under Community, Fitness, Resolutions

Relax Your Tongue

When I was in high school, my mom quit smoking.  Although I have never smoked a cigarette, I have witnessed the quitting process through friends and family many times.  I know that it isn’t easy.

I recall it being particularly tough for my mother, who worked hard to cut down on her own but finally resorted to therapy and hypnosis to quit completely.  This was before nicotine patches, you know.

Apparently, someone along the way gave her a relaxation tape to use every day to counteract the stress of quitting.   She would retire to her bedroom, pop a tape in, and – well – RELAX.

Except often my father and I would hear giggles from the bedroom.  Sometimes giggles turned into outright laughter.  Sometimes, she would emerge from her ‘relaxation’ with tears in her eyes from laughing so hard.

Why?

The soft, harmonious, gentle voice on the tape kept telling her to relax her tongue.

Perhaps it’s not that funny to you, but in my family this phrase is now part of the family history – and can instantly make any one of us smile.

Now its 2011 and I’m trying to relax myself.  I’m not trying to quit smoking, but to improve my flexibility and build strength for backpacking and hiking and, well, middle age.  Because I can’t seem to do this stretching thing on my own, I pop in my yoga DVD and Rondey Yee walks me through a simple 20-minute yoga stretching routine.

“Release from the corners of your eyes,” he says.  “Feel the earth through your toes,” he says. “You feel as calm as a mountain spring,” he says.

Um.   WHAT?

That’s right, my mother’s voice giggles in the back of my mind.

He said “relax your tongue.”

 

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Filed under Fitness

Just Apply Pressure

Apparently there is nothing like admitting failure to my friends and family in a public forum to motivate me!

Here’s my stretching report since my last post:

Friday            15 Minute Stretch Workout

Saturday      15 Minute Stretch Workout

Sunday          1 Hour Pressure Point Massage

Monday       20 minute AM Yoga plus Post-Squash Stretching

Tuesday       20 minute AM Yoga plus 1 Hour Pilates Class

I am now officially five for eight!

And yes, before you give me a hard time, I am counting the massage as a stretching session because believe me, my muscles were stretched.  And prodded.  If you’ve never had a pressure point massage, then you need to understand that this is not entirely a relaxing, pampering experience.  That being said, my shoulders and neck do feel much better, thank you very much.

Still, this resolution continues to evade me – that is I am not enjoying it as much nor am I finding it as easy to implement.  I’ve decided that part of this is because it is going to take a lot longer to feel the benefits.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure 15 minutes a day will be enough to make much of a difference at all.  It’s true that I feel awesome after my one hour Pilates class every Tuesday evening.  But an hour or two later that feeling goes away.  And after five straight days of stretching I do not feel even the tiniest bit more flexible.

In fact, I might be less flexible.

What’s even more annoying is that a friend did the 20 minute AM Yoga workout with me today and, in spite of the fact that he has never done yoga and he does not stretch ever, he is about 1000 times more flexible than me.  And no, he is not an eight year old.

Wah.

I want instant gratification!  Do you hear me body?  I want to feel limber and I want it now!

What?  You say it doesn’t work that way?  Especially now that I’m, um, in my FORTIES?

Well, fuck you.

And your little dog too.

 

 

 

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Filed under Fitness, Resolutions

One for Four? UGH.

It’s March 4th, and so far I’m one for four.  That’s right.   All I’m trying to do is stretch for fifteen minutes a day and I’ve only done it once so far.  This doesn’t bode well.

My default response to this situation is to reflect, study myself and the situation, identify barriers, and either (a) redefine my goal or (b) implement barrier crushing solutions.  That’s OH SO J, though, isn’t it?

Theoretically, I’m trying to give the analyst part of me a break, embrace living in the moment a bit more, and work toward a less controlled life.  How would a P respond to the situation?

Seriously, I don’t know.

My habit of dissecting my own attitudes and behaviors is so ingrained that I’ve already done it (I have conference tables of Shelbies in my head, remember!) without even trying.  It’s all I can do to keep from typing it out right now.   I mean it – I’m experiencing a physical sense of wanting to burst – something inside of me that JUST.  CAN’T.  WAIT TO GET OUT!

Egad.

I recently read about preference cards on the Happiness Project blog.  The idea is to identify the way you prefer things (at work, in your car, etc.) and write them down so that you are more conscious and intentional about setting things up to match your preferences.  At first I thought this was silly until I wrote down some of my preferences for work and realized that I could easily set up my work environment to better suit my preferences, I just hadn’t been conscious enough of those preferences to bother.

For example, some of the work preference I listed include:

* I prefer to start my day with a cup of tea and some quiet time to collect my thoughts and prepare for the day.
* I prefer to listen to music while I work.
* I prefer a clean desk space.
* I prefer a high-speed Internet connection.
* I prefer to type, rather than write.
* I prefer to talk with someone face-to-face, rather than over the phone or over the phone, rather than via e-mail.
* I prefer to have 15 minutes to prepare for a meeting right beforehand, longer if it is a highly charged meeting.
* I prefer to follow-up to a meeting right afterwords, when possible.
* I prefer to walk to meetings, but I need 15 minutes at least to do so without feeling rushed.
Almost all of these are easy to do, and those that aren’t easy are still within my reach most of the time.
So, instead of taking a very J oriented approach (problem-solution), might a “Stretching Preference Card” be a way to approach the situation without completely giving into my habit of over-analysis?  Or would this just be another outfit for the same body?
I’m going to give it a try:
My stretching preferences
* I prefer to have plenty of space to stretch.
* I prefer to stretch in a place where there are no dogs trying to lick my face.
* I prefer to listen to music while stretching, or to use a work-out video or podcast while I stretch.
Hmmmm.
I like this.
First, it’s a more positive than the approach I would have taken.
Better than “I can’t seem to get out of bed earlier to stretch in the morning.” and “I’ve been sick and then catching up at work so I haven’t been to the gym.” Whine Whine Whine Whine Whine. The instant icky feeling I get from thinking about the resolution from that perspective is unpleasant and unlikely to change my behavior.
Second, these preferences – which I wrote down quickly without thinking too hard – are easy to meet with a few small changes.
I can stretch in my guest bedroom, so I can shut the door and avoid the dogs.  This meets preferences one and two.
With the addition of a iPod payer and a DVD player in the right location, I should be able to meet my music/podcast/video needs.   This takes care of preference three.

I feel in my gut that there are some other preferences that, if ignored, will continue to get in my way.  Do I prefer to stretch in the morning or before bed?  NO IDEA.  Do I prefer to stretch at home or at the gym?  NO IDEA.  Perhaps these preferences will reveal themselves as the month continues.  For now, I will try to honor these preferences and see if anything changes.
For some, this will seem like an awful lot of analysis – hardly the ’embrace the P’ lifestyle I’m trying to create.
But this was SO HARD.  My fingers are still trying to get me to type the reasons why I haven’t been —– STOP IT!
What can I say?  I’m stretching myself with this P thing – haha!  get it?  Stretching myself!

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Filed under Fitness, Myers Briggs

If you give a moose a muffin…

One of my all time favorite children’s books is If you Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Numeroff (Author), Felicia Bond (Illustrator).

You see, if you give a moose a muffin, he’ll want some jam to go with it.  And so you’ll bring out some of your mother’s homemade blackberry jam, and then he’ll want another.  And another, and another.  So you’ll have to go to the store to get some muffin mix.  He’ll want to go with you, but it’s cold.  So he’ll need a sweater…and so on.

So here how this book relates to my March resolution – stretching every day for at least 15 minutes.

I want to stretch.  But first I need a yoga mat.

I have one! So far so good!

But I need a nice place to stretch.  Someplace relaxing, inspiring, STRETCH-Like.  I won’t actually do it if I don’t have a nice place to do it.

I have a great view of the river.  But there’s not enough space in my bedroom.  And my living room has the dogs, and other people in it.  I have a great upstairs room that I’ve always imagined as a quiet study.  But I have a roommate, and that room is hers.  So I can’t use that room.

I could get rid of my roommate, but I like her.

I know! I could make the basement room into a yoga room!

But wait, that room is full of books.

So I need to build bookshelves in my spare bedroom so I can move the books out of my basement.  I could do that, though, right?

But then the basement room needs a new ceiling.

But I don’t know how to replace a ceiling.  So I need to ask some friends to help.

But my friends are busy, and few of them have dry wall skills.

So I need to save money for the renovation of my basement yoga room (and perhaps the building of my bookshelves, I mean, let’s be honest).

I know!  The basement yoga room could also be a workout room!  With a new treadmill!  and a TV for exercise videos!  Which means I need to save more money!

Which means, perhaps, that I picked the wrong resolution for March.

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Filed under Fitness, Resolutions

Will the real resolution please stand up?

I’ve been having trouble with March.

My approach to this whole ‘one resolution a month’ enterprise has been intentionally casual.  I didn’t want to fence myself in with a pre-planned year.  I wanted to take advantage of my mood, external factors like work and family, and, you know, advice from Charlie Sheen. ‘Cause he seems to really have life in perspective.

Anyway, in my continued efforts to embrace spontaneity and stop over-planning my life, I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t make any resolution decisions until right before each month is about to begin.   Problem is, it’s March 1st, and I still haven’t made a decision.  Unlike January and February, I’ve had no last minute ‘aha!’ moment, no gut feeling, to guide me.

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it.  Believe me, I have.

There is a conference room in my head full of Shelbies, and they have been discussing the March resolution ad nauseum for a few weeks now.

Student Shelby has been lobbying hard for the ‘finish your thesis’ resolution.
It’s true, I’ve given my self an April 1 deadline for submitting my first full draft to my adviser.  This means March should be a month filled with reading and writing about descriptive statistics and correlations.  Why not make that my resolution?

Foodie Shelby has been making a strong case for the ‘eat asparagus every day’ resolution.
Yes, that’s right.  I LOVE asparagus.  And March is asparagus season.   Some would say that I eat asparagus almost every day in March anyway.  I could play with different recipes and ways of cooking asparagus.  Soup, souffle, omelets, pastries, pastas – endless possibilities!  So why not make that my resolution?

Friend Shelby has been feeling quite out of touch with her network (see student Shelby above) so she wants me to write a meaningful e-mail/letter to a new friend every day.    I mean, I’m DYING to get my life back.

Frugal Shelby wants to start a money saving project.

Work Shelby wants to finish her summer conference proposals early.

Hiker Shelby wants to get outside and into the woods.

There are more Shelbies, but I think you get the picture.

One thing that the conference room has agreed on is that the March resolution needs to be easy.   While the committee has rejected making the thesis draft the resolution (just. not. fun. enough.), all agree that the thesis draft WILL happen in March and no new resolution blogging fun can interfere.

Without realizing it, I selected January and February resolutions (5 fruit and vegetable servings a day and no alcohol, respectively) which required no additional time in my schedule.  In fact, some would argue that not drinking actually saved me some time.   I haven’t been able to reproduce that schedule-wise brilliance, however.   Ugh.

I.

Must.

DECIDE!

So here it is:  STRETCHING!

Not part of the conference room discussion until very late in the month, Limber Shelby (she’s in there somewhere) launched an impressive late-February campaign which reached a frenzied pitch about the same time as the Academy Award hosts realized that they were NOT FUNNY.  It’s not terribly exciting, but stretching is good for you.  I’m sure it is.  (It is, isn’t it?).  And right this minute, I’ve decided it fits well with my goals for March and my goals for the year.  Here’s what I hope at least 15 minutes of stretching every day will do:

  • Help me move my body daily which will keep me energized for, that’s right, the thesis.  Coming soon to a theater near you.
  • Improve flexibility in preparation for spring/summer hiking season.  I’m going backpacking as soon as this damn thesis is done, thank you very much.
  • Facilitate the overriding goal of 2011 – fully embrace the moment of transition.   I am still having trouble getting up in the morning.  Embracing that transition is harder than it sounds.  I wonder, could that have anything to do with MY THESIS?

Ok, I think the real reason I need to stretch every day is because I need to give myself 15 minutes, AT THE LEAST, to nurture my body and rest my mind.  I need to tell the conference room to take a break, give it a rest, STFU – so I can recharge and make this one last push.

I can do it!

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Filed under Resolutions, Thesis