Health and fitness

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Swinging into the final third

Published January 21, 2018 by livinggraciously

I went to the cardiologist the other day, and my numbers all look good. LDL cholesterol is still a wee bit high, but trending in the right direction. I’m exercising, eating right, doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

But I had an odd thought. I turn 60 this spring. Ferrett and I have lived in this house for almost 20 years. Going by average lifespans, I can really only bet that I will continue living here going forward for as long as I’ve lived here thus far.

And wow have those years gone fast. I really felt my mortality in that moment; this is all going to be over with in a blink of the eye.

So I’m going to do what it takes to try and extend those 20 years into 30 or 35. But I’m thinking about how best to spend my final stretch. Several things come to mind.

  • I’m done with reading “important” books that just make me depressed. I’ve read some amazing books over the years thanks to lists like The Big Read. But I’ve also slogged through books that I felt I should read. And now I wonder if there is any point other than bragging rights. So when The God of Small Things was just making me sad, I thought, “Nope. ” This may mean I read a lot more fluffy romance, or urban fantasy, or fantasy from the pre-everything-is-gritty era. And the world will not crumble.
  • I have too much sentimental stuff, and my kids shouldn’t have to deal with it. Without a doubt, when they carry me out of here toes-first my girls will have a ton of junk to dispose of. But right now there is a cedar chest in the basement that contains my mother’s wedding dress (unwearably awful 1050s waltz-length dress that she always regretted her mother talking her into), and albums of birthday cards from when she was a child, and all kinds of other stuff that means almost nothing to me and will mean far less to my girls. They are going to have enough to deal with deciding what to keep from the things I cherish (mostly quilts, I suspect); they shouldn’t have to deal with my parent’s and grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s things–at least not the ones to which I’m not terribly attached. Great Grandma’s tea set and music box definitely stay, but I need to make some of the wrenching decisions, instead of leaving them all to the kids.
  • I have too much stuff, and it’s time to get lighten the load. Our stuff really does own us. And I have way too much of it. This is a continual source of tension here–vacant is restful to me and stressful to Ferrett. We both make compromises, and we mostly make it work. But I’m going through my stuff and paring down. I did this a couple years ago, and we are still much better organized. But it’s a constant war against atrophy.
  • I’m allowed to walk away from the news for a while. One of the best ways to get depressed these days is to read the news. Even better? Read the comments sections of articles. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the bile and vitriol is unhealthy, but it’s also a train wreck that’s hard to ignore. I get to turn away. My participation isn’t going to change the dialogue, and my absence for a day or two won’t change the course of history.
  • I have to fight against content isolationism. I love my house. I love my sewing room. I love reading and quilting, and can happily stay in the house for days and days. We used to have people over a lot, and we don’t these days. We used to go visit a lot, and that’s slowed down, too. Any one day is fine, but too many of them and some day I will be lonely and sad. So I must remember to fight inertia and get my butt out the door.
  • I have so much to be grateful for. I love my husband. I love my job. I love my house. My kids are amazing. My extended family is fabulous. My friends are the best. I’m white and financially secure and have a safety net. That’s a lot to be grateful for. It’s easy to become cynical these days, and fearful as well. Everything can look very dark. But there is light, too. And it’s beautiful.
  • I’m going to pay attention. All of us have a limited number of days, evenings, weekends. I’m more aware of that fact now. It’s super easy to lose entire weekends to staring at the TV or a computer monitor. Sometimes that’s fun and intentional–a movie marathon, for example. A lot of times, it’s, once again, inertia. I can choose to watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” and another seven of “Tiny House Nation,” but I want to make it a choice. Would I rather be sewing? Reading? Am I content, or just bored? The dog would appreciate a walk; wouldn’t that be better time spent? I’m going to check in on myself.
  • Ultimately, I don’t matter. And that’s okay. I will leave very little mark on the world–a few people will remember me fondly while they live; someone might stumble across my journal now and again. But I’m going to be one of the masses of anonymous people who lived their lives and left no mark. I’m comfortable with that. It means I get to choose my level of happy, choose my own adventure, if you will. And I like the adventure I’m on.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the final third of my life.



Eating like a Flintstone

Published January 9, 2018 by livinggraciously

We began this year with a new food plan: paleo. ish.

This is precipitated by the discovery that I am either gluten intolerant, allergic to wheat, or both. Said discovery was made when I gave up gluten for a week just to prove to my personal trainer that she was wrong when she said that it was causing my joint pain.

My joints stopped hurting. Then I ate gluten for a few days. My joints started hurting again.


“Fine,” I thought. “Just on special occasions,” I thought.

Christmas Eve, I ate a cookie. And broke out into an itchy rash.

Double crap.

Yes, dear reader, scroll back through my entries and feast your eyes upon the many beautiful breads I baked in the past! It was kind of my thing. But I can regear, I suppose, for learning to bake without gluten. It may be a whole new set of adventures.

But not right now. Right now, I’m doing a kind of elimination diet: no dairy, no soy, no grains of any kind. One month of eating like a caveman.

But only if that caveman’s meals are being cooked by Wilma Flintstone. Because no actual cave people had access to a grocery store and the wonders of modern innovation. My meals contain things like tapioca flour, almond flour, arrowroot flour. Coconut milk and almond milk. Chia seeds and cacao nibs. My veggies are shipped from mild climes, so that I can eat green and leafy things in the dead of winter, instead of subsisting on meat and root vegetables alone. I chase no woolie mammoths–heck, at this point, I don’t even have to track down a grocery cart; I fill out an order online and drive up to the supermarket, where cheerful young people load my food into my car for me!

And when I get home? I have clever devices that render zucchinis into a substitute for noodles and cauliflower into a substitute for rice. Machines that take disparate ingredients and render them into smooth sauces. I don’t face day after day of meat and plain veggies; hundreds of clever people have come up with thousands of recipes that tempt my taste buds.

So I find the word, “paleo” more than a little ridiculous. But I’m super grateful that so many have gone before me, making this healthy eating more bearable.

A few small things that I have found:

  • The kitchen appliances that languished on my counters for years are now getting a serious workout. There are days when the food processor and the blender have to be hand washed for use in a second meal.
  • My dishwasher is also getting more of a workout. It used to be that I ran it maybe twice a week. Now it’s pretty much daily.
  • I planned a month of meals and made up the shopping lists at the end of December, and knowing what we’re going to eat every day, plus being able to really shop only once a week, has made life so much easier. I don’t feel like cooking is a chore; it’s an adventure.
  • A number of these recipes have made me nervous, but almost everything has been tasty.
  • On the third and fourth days, I felt like I would kill someone for a glass of milk. That’s diminished considerably. I’m not hungry, but there are occasional cravings.

Ferrett has committed to hanging in there with me. I think we are both feeling better because of this. Now excuse me while I go fix a bronto burger.

“Well, I’m back.”

Published March 14, 2014 by livinggraciously

Today, I walked through the door of the house and said, “Well, I’m back.” The last line of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It made me a little teary. You see, I started on the Walk to Rivendell back at the beginning of 2006, and after 7 years and 2 and a half months, I have completed every step of that journey. I walked the miles with the Fellowship to Rauros, then followed Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom and through their rescue by the eagles. I then “flew back” to Rauros and followed Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas through the final battle. Then once again, flew back and followed Merry and Pippin until they got split after Helm’s Deep, following first Merry and then Pippin. With the Fellowship reunited, I walked and rode the journey back to Hobbiton, and finally the journey to the Gray Havens and back. A total of 8,349 miles.

I’ve kept records throughout all those years. I’ve only counted the miles that were part of exercise, not just walking around for errands or work. The mileage tells the tale of where I’ve been emotionally and physically. In 2006 and 2007, I walked over 1,000 miles. But from 2008-2011 my mileage was minimal–shocking minimal. As little as 282 miles in 2008. Part of that was that in 2007 I was hit by a car on my bike. I wasn’t badly injured, but I lost my nerve for riding. I went from riding over 500 miles to not riding a single mile in 2011.

But at the end of 2011 I took control of my life again. I joined Spark People in September and started working out. In 2012 I completed 2542 miles, and in 2013, 1684. Considering how crisis-filled 2013 was, I am not surprised that my mileage fell off considerably.

And now, I have reached the end of an adventure. The last of the Walk to Rivendell. I’m proud of that accomplishment.

So what’s next? After a short celebration, tomorrow I will head out with Bilbo and the dwarves for the Lonely Mountain. Because there are always adventures to be had in Middle Earth.

Now please excuse me; I have to attend an Unexpected Party at the home of Mr. Bilbo Baggins!

Self-deception for fun and profit

Published March 13, 2014 by livinggraciously

Yesterday’s weather was abysmal. All the schools around us were closed because snow was … not so much falling as being hurled vertically across the landscape like tiny ice bullets. The wind velocity combined with this punishing precipitation inspired me not so much to go to the gym as to climb back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and refuse to come out until April.

Plus, it was a swimming day. Which meant getting WET in a non-home location. It just sounded terrible.

So I promised myself that I could just go to the rec center, climb in the hot tub, and marinate for half an hour. After all, I only committed to going TO the gym every day. Not to working out every day.

Of course I was lying to myself. I knew that when I got there, I would at least get into the pool first and paddle a couple leisurely laps.

That was also a lie. I went, and I swam a mile freestyle, then an additional 5 laps of backstroke just to finish out the hour. Then I finally went and sat in the hot tub for a little while.

It’s useful, at times of low motivation, to break things down into baby steps and to tell ourselves that we only have to do the first step. Right now my kitchen is a mess, and I’m telling myself that when I finish this entry I only have to put the dishes in the sink into the dishwasher and start it. Nothing else.

Sometimes we really do just complete that one baby step. There may well be a day when I go to the gym and just get in the hot tub because I really need a day off. But most of the time, it’s just a little lie, coaxing us on to the next part of what feels like an overwhelming task. Just one mile on the bike, just one time around the track, just one load of laundry, just one errand.

And with a little luck, we will finish the day feeling quite smug about all the things we lied ourselves into accomplishing.

100 days of All The Things: 10%

Published March 10, 2014 by livinggraciously

Well, I promised not to talk about this project all the time, but I am planning to report in every 10%.

Gym: So far, I’m 10 for 10 on getting to the gym, which was the one about which I was most concerned. But it was also my highest priority. I am focusing a lot on swimming because it was my weakest leg in last summer’s triathlons. I am still slow, but I’m getting in the water. As we move into outdoor exercise weather and I start biking and running outside, I will still be going to the gym for strength training on those outdoor days.

Cooking: I’ve cooked, but not every day. I was out of town this weekend and missed Friday-Sunday.

Reading: I’ve read every day.

Practicing Italian: About 50% successful in getting this done.

Journaling: I missed Saturday because I was completely away from the computer, and yesterday because I was just plain tired. So I’m writing two entries today to make up for the missed day.

Crafting: Not. One. Darned. Day. There are only so many balls I can keep in the air. This ball has fallen to the ground and rolled under a table.

In all, I’m pretty happy. Not perfect, but I’m getting a lot more done. We’ll see how the next 10 days go!

Hypersensitive, or legitimately irked?

Published March 7, 2014 by livinggraciously

Lifted at the gym yesterday. I’m a little miffed. I was using the cross-cable machine, and had just switched to an exercise that only required one side when one of the personal trainers came in and started using the other side with his client without asking if they were interrupting me. I didn’t say anything, but a little while later he went back to it when a man was using it. He stopped to check in with the man that they weren’t interrupting his routine. Now, it might be that he was just concentrating the first time and realized his gaff afterward, which is why I didn’t make a deal out of it. But if it happens again, you can bet that I will speak up!

The thing is, I know that dismissive treatment happens to women in gyms, particularly around the weight room. It’s not that unusual to see some guy’s eyebrow go up when I skip by the small, pastel-colored dumbbells and reach for the regular weights. And to be honest, not many women are putting in much time in the weight room there. Which is a pity, because lifting is so good for women.

I don’t like feeling paranoid. But if this trainer treats me in the same way again, he and the management are all going to experience a “teachable moment.”

My insanity: let me show you it

Published February 28, 2014 by livinggraciously

I am about to embark on a completely crazy project, and the only way to do it properly is to put it out to the world so that I have nailed my trousers to the mast (“don’t you mean your colors to the mast?” “No, trousers; that way I can’t crawl back down”)*

I am starting a project that I’m calling “100 Days of All The Things.” From March 1 until June 8, I am committing myself to:

  • Go to the gym daily
  • Cook healthy meals (except for days when we are specifically going out or doing something that takes me away from the kitchen, but no, “Eh, don’t wanna cook; let’s get Chinese.”)
  • Read
  • Practice Italian
  • Journal (and not endlessly about this experience; actual, substantive journaling)
  • Do something crafty

I fully expect that by day 2 I will be wondering what the hell I was thinking. But if I can do this, I hope that I will develop some good habits that will stick. I feel like I’m doing too much “drifting” through my days. I want to live more intentionally. I will also continue working, and keeping house, and having time with Ferrett, and walking my dog, throughout this.

And now y’all know. So you can help keep me honest. Wish me luck.

*Extra Brownie Points of Extremely Impressed-ness for anyone who knows the original source of that slightly-rewritten exchange!

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