Tag Archives: Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I admit that I’m a little smug about resolutions now. As I read the Facebook posts and e-mails about 2012 resolutions I catch myself thinking, “Oh yea? How about making 12 resolutions? Then I’ll be impressed.”

It may not surprise you that I have a bunch of possible resolutions in mind for 2012. The conference room of Shelbies in my head has been having a three-day retreat to consider the options and make some final decisions.

Just a few of the early contenders are

  • 10,000 steps a day December
  • Scanning September
  • Organizing October
  • Nothing New November
  • No Meat May
  • Canning August

Some favorites from 2011 will likely be revisited, with some extra twists. I’m currently planning No Alcohol for February again, for example, but this year I will invent new Virgin Cocktails each week.

Who knows what shenanigans are in store? I certainly don’t.

What I do know is that somehow, this process of making resolutions and blogging is helping me to live a more present life, and to have more fun with every day challenges and the small but meaningful goals I have for myself. I find humor in my failures as much as I find delight in my successes. And I also now have great dinner party conversation available to me at any time.

So, now’s your chance. What monthly resolutions do YOU think 2012 should include for me?

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Filed under Alcohol, Organizing, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life

A peace of myself

“An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.” – Stephen Fry

The British Library

I just stood in front of the handwritten draft of Ravel’s Bolero. And Handel’s Messiah. And Mozart’s Horn Concerto in E Flat. I gazed over Virginia Woolf’s manuscript of Mrs. Galloway while I listened to her voice. I heard James Joyce read from Finnegan’s Wake and saw Charlotte Bronte’s manuscript of Jane Eyre. I saw a copy of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. And listened to the Beatle’s recording of A Hard Days Night while I looked at the original draft of the lyrics, written by John Lennon on the back of his son’s first birthday card.

* How on earth did they play that? (Handel’s music writing is almost impossible to decipher. Beethoven’s had big blotches all over it. Is that a note or an ink blot?)

* Virginia Woolf did not sound like what I expected. At all.

* Even listening to Mr. Joyce read his own words, I still didn’t understand them.

* I could hear Bolero as I was looking at it. I could feel the beat of the music and imagine Ravel writing it. Did he know it was a masterpiece when he was putting it on paper?

Oh! I almost forgot. I also saw two of four surviving copies of The Magna Carta (translated, “the great charter”). From, you know, the 1200s. No big deal.

Now I am sitting in the cafe at The British Library, where these and other treasures are stored, and gazing up at the rare book archive, encased in glass and running from the basement to the top floor.

If I got trapped here, I don’t think I’d mind.

My resolution for this month has been a rather personal one, which is why I haven’t written about it. Since I woke up in a funk when the month began, I have been focusing my energy on getting out of that funk. Planning and preparing for this trip was certainly helpful in some ways. It is exciting to read about all of the things to see and do and to prepare for a two week break from my normal routine.

But my pending adventure also brought its own degree of anxiety with it. Apparently, I am still learning to travel by myself. I am still letting go of all the places I haven’t seen yet (and may never) because I spent my 20s and 30s making someone else’s dream my priority. I am still, I find, trying to figure out where I want to be.

The good news is that the funk is fading. I haven’t answered all of the questions in the background, but I feel nourished by the reminder that I am brave enough to navigate a foreign city, curious enough to try new foods and follow my nose in unknown neighborhoods, and young enough that I still have time to have many more of my own adventures.

It’s true that I am a tad jealous (ok, more than a tad) of the young people I meet here, from all around the world, who have come to London to live and explore Europe. But perhaps since I am doing my exploring at a different age, I am finding more here than I would have. Not just parts of the world’s history, but parts of myself as well.

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But What About the Fruits & Vegetables?

Common wisdom says that it takes 30 days to create a new habit.

Self-help books and websites consistently state that this is the time frame humans need for a new behavior to take hold but they never cite a source.  Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find any research to support the 30-day-to-habit hypothesis (ok, I didn’t look too hard, but I did look).

Recent research by folks at the College of London, in fact, found that the average time to for a new behavior to feel automatic was 66 days.  In addition, there was significant variation in how long it took for a habit to take hold, from 18 days up to 254 days.

Before you get any grand ideas, let me make it clear right now that I’m talking about eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day – my January resolution. I have no plans of becoming a teetotaler, I promise.

So how did I do in January? And what side of this curve am I on?

As it turns out, I ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day in January and I did not find it difficult to do.  It was almost as if I turned a switch and it just happened.  Now that it’s February though, am I still doing it?

Mostly, YES.  It’s February 10th and I’ve eaten at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for eight out of nine days. My one day ‘off’ was  yesterday, and I still ate four servings of fruits and vegetables.  (I also had a hot dog and a pretzel at market and some pizza for dinner.  Hey, I’m not perfect!)

I would not say my fruit and veggie behavior is yet automatic.  I’m still relying on some of the tools I implemented in January to make it happen.  If I were to rate how automatic my chosen behavior feels right now on a scale of 1 to ten (where 1 is not at all, and ten is I do it without thinking), I would say I’m at about 6 or 7.  This is definite progress, and I plan to continue this resolution indefinitely – it just doesn’t seem like a behavior worth giving up.

For the curious…

How did I create this new habit?

  • Early in the month I did research into what constitutes a ‘serving’ and identified the fruits and vegetables I was most likely to enjoy at this time of year.  Knowing that a variety of colors is also important, I also identified a few dark greens to add to my otherwise colorful vegetable diet (kale, spinach, and broccoli, in particular).  There are tons of resources on the web about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  In particular, I liked the tools on the Cooking Light site, part of their 12-month Health Habits program.
  • Since I am a recovering J, I couldn’t help myself from using the Cooking Light chart to track my daily fruit and vegetable intake.   The visual reminder on my refrigerator helped me to make good choices every time I made a meal or went for a snack.
  • I told everyone I knew about my goal – especially the people I share meals with on a regular basis.  It wasn’t that I expected them to correct my behavior or scold me for making bad choices.  But the pressure of knowing that I had made my goal public helped me to make better choices when out with friends, my most vulnerable situation when it comes to eating healthy.
  • I did not try to start any other food (or drink) related habits or implement any other restrictions on myself during January.  As it turned out, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables (or more) is eating a lot of food.  I did eat other things, and some of them were colossally unhealthy, but the portions were always very small because I ate the healthy stuff first and I got full.  Who knew?
  • Again, I didn’t try to change too much.  I stuck with fruits and vegetables I like and those that are either (a) in season locally or (b) easy to get in high quality form (i.e. no January tomatoes for me).  I am lucky that I actually LIKE fruits and vegetables.
  • I did not give myself a hard time about buying produce that had been trucked from Florida or California.  While I try VERY HARD to eat locally/regionally, part of my problem was that the fruits and vegetables available in PA are so limited this time of year.  I have no trouble eating five servings in July and August.  I had to allow one part of my conscience (the part that wants me to avoid diabetes and heart disease, etc.) to win the argument with the other part of my conscience (the fossil fuels, Shelby!  the earth is crying Shelby!) or I would be frozen in the grocery store debating with myself every time I tried to by an orange.

 

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Pound for Pound

When I decided to take the month of February off from alcohol, I knew there would be some days or events where I’d miss it more than others.  Super Bowl Sunday.  My favorite local band, Reverend Blue Jeans, playing on a Saturday night.  Seriously.  Football and Beer.  Rock  Music and Beer.  These things were made for each other.

I don’t think I was prepared for how much I might miss a nice glass of wine on a Tuesday night.

It’s true that I enjoy a glass of wine while cooking, or perhaps while I am relaxing after the meal as I linger at the table with a good friend in deep (or not so deep) conversation.  And so it was, two nights ago, I was sitting at the table after a lovely dinner.  I missed my glass of red wine.

What did I do instead of lingering over that glass of wine?

I made a pound cake.

(Note, the reason that pound cakes are called pound cakes is because the original recipe calls for a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, and a pound of flour.   This is not a low-calorie dessert).

While I didn’t embark on this resolution with losing weight in mind, I admit I have been curious about what the elimination of empty alcohol calories would do to my body.  Would I lose weight?

According to the USDA Calorie Counter, five ounces of red table wine has 125 calories in it and one slice of pound cake has 163 calories.   In the interest of full disclosure I should say that this recipe was from my favorite dessert book: Rosie’s Bakery: All Butter, Fresh Cream, Suger Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book.  One slice of Rosie’s pound cake probably has more calories than your average pound cake recipe.

Even if I assume that the USDA estimation of pound cake calories is correct, I am already better off drinking the wine calorie-wise.  Then we add in the fact that red wine, in moderation, is supposed to be good for my heart while butter and cream cheese (yes, gilding the lily a bit, but hey, I do what Rosie tells me to do) are most certainly not good for my heart.  It’s possible we should also consider the fact that even though I give most servings of my late-night baking treats away after I make them, it is possible I ate pound cake for breakfast the next morning.

So, either I should abandon all thoughts about losing weight during my period of self-inflicted abstinence or I should amend my resolution to no-alcohol and no-late-night-baking.

This is a tough decision.  I think I’ll take some time to ponder this over a cup of tea.

And perhaps a slice of pound cake.

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February is Short for a Reason

A few years ago, I was at my brother’s house for the weekly Sunday Dinner he and his wife share with a group of close friends.  Don’t get confused by the “Sunday” part of this activity – it’s a cocktail party that moves from house to house every week with a full bar and fabulous food (we grew up as Episcopalians, after all).  Anyway, I was talking with one of his friends who wasn’t having a cocktail.  Because that’s unusual among the Sunday Dinner crowd, I asked about it.  And he said, “It’s February.”

He went on to explain that every year he stops drinking for one month, and February is it.

Why February?

“It’s the shortest one.”

Of course.

When pressed for details he explained that the month off was helpful for getting on a healthy track after the indulgent holidays.  Also that he figured if he couldn’t stop drinking for one month a year, he shouldn’t be drinking at all.   Smart idea all around, I thought.  But I’ve never done it.

Why not?

Well, I learned about this in my post-divorce phase of ‘wow, I can have a life and make new friends’ which came after the ‘holy crap I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone or go anywhere’ phase.  I was still nervous about being single for the first time in eighteen years and I wasn’t about to give up my courage-juice.    But it’s been years since my divorce.  I’m happily single, enjoying my life, and feel totally comfortable going out with or without a drink to start my evening.

So there it is.  Welcome to the No-Drink-February!

Those who know I am a Steelers fan may be skeptical about my ability to abstain while watching my favorite team in the SUPER BOWL.  But I’m determined.  Plus, I figure this can’t hurt with the whole ‘finish your thesis’ part of my life right? (that’s for you Joe).

Can I do it?  What do you think?

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Filed under Family, Food, Football, Resolutions

January Wisdom: Fully Embrace the Moment of Transition

Since I’m a recovering J (see about One Month Wisdom for explanation), I am still a bit addicted to resolutions.  I spend the last weekend of each year with a friend, having an in-home spa weekend and pondering my new year’s resolutions.  The website six-word memoirs suggested that people make six-word resolutions for 2011.   Six words?  How on earth could I do that when I had two pages of things I wanted to do in 2011?  I could hardly imagine narrowing it down to 12 items (one for each month, which was my original goal).  But six words?

I reminded myself that this year, if it’s going to be about anything, is going to be about allowing my true nature to overcome years of habit and reinforced J-behavior.  So I gave myself permission to throw out my list for 2011.  Every time I wanted to write a new list, I tried to write six words instead.  Amazingly, it only took me two days to find the perfect six-word resolution for 2011.  It’s amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your instincts.

My 6-Word Resolution: Fully Embrace the Moment of Transition

Over lunch with a friend, I was describing the problem I have with transitions.  Not big transitions like changing jobs or moving or getting married, but small – every day – transitions.  Getting up, going to lunch, stopping work to go to the gym.  I even find it hard to transition to activities I’m highly motivated to do – like visit my nieces or go on a hike.  It’s not that I don’t want to go on the hike, it’s that I often don’t want to stop doing what I’m already doing.   I don’t want to transition.

Molly explained to me, simply, that I was a P.  I’m a person who thinks of the world in terms of activities, not in terms of minutes or hours.  I prefer to experience something fully before I move on to the next thing.  Why yes, I’d like to sleep for 12 hours and then go to work.  Why yes, I’d like to stay at work to finish this interesting project.  Why yes, I’d like to stay in the woods for another two days.

Unfortunately, my life is often carved up into short periods of time and rarely do I get to do anything I want to its completion.   I’ve always felt bad about this – that I’m not one of those people who hops out of bed to go to a job I like (I truly do) or that sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I’m unmotivated to visit with a friend I adore.   Could it be that simple?  Could it be that my true nature was just out of sync with our highly organized and scheduled culture?

I decided to give my 6-word resolution a try.

Since I can’t do everything I like, whenever I like, for however long I like, I will at least give myself a chance to embrace that transition.  I will – briefly – ponder what I’ve liked about the activity I’m doing (yum, this bed is nice and warm and I have so enjoyed sleeping in it) and then – fully and completely – embrace the opportunity to transition to the next activity (yes, I’m looking forward to breakfast!).  And you know what? It’s working.

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The January Resolution: Five a Day

It turns out the resolution I was inspired to make this January was to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  I like to think I eat rather well (don’t we all), but in the winter I get bored quickly with squash and parsnips.  Determined to eat as locally as I can, I just haven’t been getting enough of the good stuff in my diet.  So I allowed myself to purchase some imported produce (no, oranges do not grow in Pennsylvania) and made five-a-day my goal.

P.S. Did you know that fruits and vegetables are no longer in the same part of the Food Pyramid?

(Apparently the government has figured out that if you combine them into one category, people might skip the vegetables altogether.  They might convince themselves that a slice of apple pie, a banana muffin, some strawberry yogurt, and a cup of orange juice was all they needed to get their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables. )

The new Food Pyramid says I should eat:

  • 2-4 servings of fruit a day
  • 2-3 servings of vegetables a day

I didn’t want to be lame and go for the minimum servings (four), but I also knew that as a meat eater and a cheese-lover (I cannot overstate that), I would surely not be able to eat the maximum servings (seven) without also eating way too much food.  Since I’ve been averaging a pathetic two servings, I thought five was a nice goal.

 

 

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Rejected Resolutions

In the interest of full-disclosure, I thought I’d share the ridiculous list of resolutions and goals for 2011 that I wrote down before my moment of inspiration – or should I say sanity?

  1. Use up freezer and pantry food.
  2. Have a nothing new month.
  3. Go without alcohol for one month.
  4. Introduce a stretching routine into my exercise schedule.
  5. Do a complete home inventory.
  6. Spend a month fixing all of the little things that are broken in my house.
  7. Schedule a month of canning – expand beyond tomatoes.
  8. Try walking the dog every day for a month, even in the rain.
  9. Save up six months salary.
  10. Finish my thesis and defend before April 29th.
  11. Exercise five days a week.
  12. E-mail my parents every day.
  13. Submit article on thesis for publication.
  14. Plan and implement niece’s 16th birthday trip.
  15. Get to London again.
  16. Give an ark to Heifer International.
  17. Design my Halloween costume sometime before the 30th of October.
  18. Lose 15 30 pounds.

Ok.  I’m exhausted.  And this isn’t even the whole list.

You know the best part, my January resolution – the one I eventually picked – it’s not even on this list.

I’m embracing my inner P!

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