Good things

I seem to forget this site exists when things are going well.

Things have been pretty decent recently, at least in terms of my own life. The world is still terrible and horrifying, there’s still a virus raging everywhere and being willfully ignored by both regular people and government people, so many people are dying (and it’s not just the virus; people are killing each other too), it’s looking more and more like the postmaster general will be successful in sabotaging and closing the post office, billionaires are pretending they are cool instead of actually helping people, Biden is not the savior many people thought he was, etc. But at least in my personal life things are okay? haha.

There were a few weeks in there before the Delta variant locked me back down where it seemed like things were almost normal again. Connor stopped by on his way to his internship at the beginning of the summer. I went home to Kentucky and stayed with Mom as soon as everyone in the family was vaccinated. I went out to dinner a couple times. I went to the movies once. I went horseback riding. I started to think I could have people come visit me, and even that I might travel somewhere.

Even though that didn’t last, I think it was a needed break from over a year of staying mostly sequestered. Seeing people I love and doing fun things I enjoy again, even for such a brief time, has kind of tided me over, at least for now.

Being vaccinated has helped me a lot mentally as well. I still mask when I go out, but I don’t feel as afraid. I feel like with the vaccine and the mask, I am pretty safe, and I’m far less likely to pass the virus to anyone else. This is a much better feeling than before.

I’ve had a lot of nice things happen recently as well. I was promoted at work, and the work I’m doing is having a real, positive impact on my coworkers; I got figs from my friend Jessica again; Connor spent the night on his way home from his internship; I baked two types of cookie last week; and after months and months of banging our heads against the proverbial wall of overloaded online shopping carts, Sean and I were finally able to buy a PS5. I’ve only gone on one bike ride since I had the bike tuned up, but in my defense, it has been super hot outside. I’ve started walking on the treadmill here and there to at least get myself moving more, and that has made me feel good too.

So basically, things are pretty decent in my tiny corner of the world, and I figured that instead of continued radio silence I’d actually post about it.

Deep Thoughts

I had one of those moments where it feels like you’ve thought of something really profound, but it’s also something completely obvious. Here is the thing I thought of:

Everything in life is preparing for doing, doing, and cleaning up after doing. Doing is all we do.

This miraculous epiphany came to me as I was tidying up after baking cookies. I’d been thinking about how people spend a lot of time and effort preparing to do things like go kayaking and then doing those things and then putting everything away after, and how I used to spend a lot of time and effort this way for hiking and photography, and how after roughly a year and a half of rarely doing anything outside the home, going to all that effort just to do something outside can seem so pointless. Over the long weekend I put together a TV stand (with a fireplace in it!). I also made blueberry muffins from fresh blueberries I picked at a friend’s house, but I didn’t hear the timer for some reason and they got a little burnt. This is why the next day I made cookies. All of these things involved a lot of preparation, time for the actual doing, and cleanup. And I thought, this is all there is. This is life.

We do some things because we must in order to survive. We do some things to help others. And we do some things, like the kayaking and hiking and photography, because we enjoy them. We expend effort on them because they are worth it to us.

Depression is not wanting to do things because you don’t see the point. Or at least, it is for me. Depression is not finding that enjoyment in anything.

I have paid attention to my depression for long enough that I can tell when I am in danger of slipping into it, and that has been very useful for managing it. My depression is not caused by not doing things, but not doing things can exacerbate it.

Thinking that “all there is to life is doing” felt like a depressive thought yesterday, but pragmatically, it’s just a general description of activity. There are so many variations possible within those loose guardrails.

I had my bike tuned up the other day. It’s a pain in the ass to get it up to street level from our apartment, and it’s a pain to get it out of the apartment complex too—I either have to half-carry it down a cliff, push it up a hill that is a struggle just to walk up, or shove it into the back of my car and take it somewhere else. But cycling is something I used to do all the time, regardless of the effort involved, because I loved it. Hopefully, I can recapture that feeling. Hopefully, I can start wanting to expend effort on doing things outside the home again.

Shelter-in-Place: Day 110

Wow, okay, I haven’t posted in nearly a month, and haven’t done a true shelter-in-place update in longer than that. Way to go.

First I suppose I should say that I got through that depressive period. I had to physically go to my doctor’s office to get my prescription renewed, but he did it, and after readjusting to it I am doing all right.

It’s been so long since I’ve updated that I’m not sure it would be worth it to go through and list the few details I can pull together for each day (what I ate, anything out of the ordinary that happened). I did completely fill out my refrigerator calendar again:

A whiteboard calendar starting May 10 and ending June 20 with entries color-coded for exercise, food, paycheck, and "special".

Not a whole lot of exercise (reddish pink text) went on in May and June, as you can see. My plan had been to try and watch my way through all of Star Wars chronologically while walking on the treadmill in the mornings, but I only made it through TPM, AotC, the first two episodes of Clone Wars, and the first half hour or so of the Clone Wars movie. Maybe I’ll resume…someday. (Honestly, I am just really not interested in the “wars” part of Star Wars.)

Some nice things that happened during this time: I made cookies twice, I had two days off work for my birthday, I had a virtual birthday party with my work team, I had a virtual game night with my work team, I won three awards at work (and Sean and I celebrated with sushi), I went to the park with Heidi (both wearing masks and staying six feet apart), and I got started back with creative writing. For my birthday, Sean made me Gordon Ramsay style scrambled eggs for breakfast, I got Shane’s for lunch, and we had Outback for dinner with Cheesecake Factory for dessert. I had ribs instead of steak for a change of pace. Everything was awesome.

I don’t put the shows we’re watching on the calendar, but I can report that Sean and I finished watching all of NCIS, which is wild. 17 seasons. After that we went back and finished watching She-Ra, and now we are watching the 90s sitcom Just Shoot Me. We need to get to Picard at some point.

Here’s the calendar as it stands now:

A refrigerator whiteboard calendar starting on June 21 and ending on August 1, with entries color-coded for exercise, food, and paycheck/special

I switched the “special” things from dark purple to green so they would stand out more. One really nice thing that has happened so far is getting a new kitchen faucet. It’s a high-arc pull-down faucet; we had a regular pull-out faucet before. I like how much roomier the sink feels, and the hose is easier to deal with now (it got easily caught on the pipes under the sink before). The faucet got replaced because our old one simply stopped having any water pressure whatsoever, such that it was impossible to even clean the sink out. I thought the repair person would just fix it, but they replaced it instead!

(By the way, when maintenance comes to our apartment, they wear masks and maintain a good distance. It’s not ideal to have someone outside the household come in, but at least they are taking good measures.)

Forgot to write this on the calendar before I took the picture, but I did go on a half-hour walk with members of my work team today, virtually. We did a call-in meeting and walked in our own neighborhoods with our phones. The weather is pretty great today, and it wasn’t too hot yet at 9am, so the walk was lovely.

Another nice thing that happened recently was that on Monday, I decided to fully retract the blinds in the dining room instead of just opening them. It made such a dramatic difference!

A dining room with a table at the center and three tall windows beyond it looking out into a green forest
View of a forest through three tall windows

I’ve been retracting the blinds a lot since then. It’s so refreshing. Last night I had them open at dusk and I saw fireflies!

An unfortunate thing that has happened is that my tendinitis has flared up. It was so bad last week that I had to ask my boss to virtually meet with me so I could dictate an email to her. I’ve been doing my stretching and icing and wearing my braces since then, but it keeps coming and going. I may need to change something else, like how I sit either at my work desk or my personal computer in the living room (or both). Getting an adjustable desk and new chair at work was the main thing that worked the last time this happened…

One last thing before the tendinitis makes it impossible to type: I’ve booked a cabin for a long weekend toward the end of August! I’m hoping this will help refresh me even more…it’s hard to fight feelings of helplessness and pointlessness being trapped at home all the time. Sean and I will go get away from it all and just enjoy being in nature. I plan to try to write, but if my hands/wrists/forearms/elbows are still giving me fits then, I may just force myself not to do anything computer or phone related. I guess we’ll see. Regardless, it will be great to be in a different environment for awhile, and have a break from work!

To make this something close to a proper shelter-in-place update, here’s what’s been going on today:

  • Breakfast: boiled egg, Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries
  • Exercise: 1.12 mile walk from 9 to 9:30
  • Snack: a cup of leftover crab Alfredo
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich with pepper jack cheese, Lay’s chips, and sweet tea

Shelter in Place: Day 44

This is the update for Sunday, April 26, 2020.

When I got up sometime after 8, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. However, yesterday I told myself that I should take a walk today, to try and prevent the depression I’ve been having the past few Sundays on lockdown. So despite my reticence, I got dressed in workout clothes, had a little breakfast, put on my balaclava, and headed out with my camera and a water bottle.

I decided to go to the neighborhood walking path that runs alongside a nearby street, then take it down to a longer trail that I’ve been on before. To the left, it starts running along a creek but then veers off and leads all the way to a park. To the right, it runs along the same creek, but until recently it ended in a construction zone. My new boss also lives in this area and she told me last week that the trail is finished now, so I went to check it out. I was really interested to see where it would come out.

The walk ended up being 4.87 miles. It took me over two hours; I did a lot of stopping for photos. The trail was amazing! It runs along water pretty much the whole time, with lots of rapids. It’s below street level and surrounded by trees, so it doesn’t feel nearly as urban as it is, even when you walk under an overpass and see street art. It’s relatively flat the whole way, and also mostly straight. And the scenery wasn’t just trees and water (although that would have been more than enough for me); there were also flowering trees!

When I got to the place that had been under construction before, I found that there is now a parking lot and rental bicycles, and around the corner from that was a different trail that continued along the creek. At the start it’s a wood bridge with super high walls that I could barely get pictures over, though I could see over and through it. The bridge eventually gives way to regular ground and a lower fence.

After a ton of beautiful rapids views, the creek narrows, and the trail winds through some buildings and comes back up to street level. I was surprised to see where I came out. I would have had no idea all that green space was below the street in that area. This is a big reason I love living in Georgia—it’s just so beautiful, and there’s nature everywhere. All of this was within walking distance of my apartment, and there are even more trails, some I’ve been on and some I haven’t. It’s amazing.

The trail ends when you get to the street. I could have turned around to go back the same way, but it would have been longer than just taking the streets home, so that’s what I did. I got to see lots of beautifully maintained flower beds along the way.

I was able to avoid getting within six feet of the people I saw out, though I’m starting to wonder if anyone in Cobb County has heard of walking single file. Walkers and joggers alike who are traveling abreast give the impression that they can see no possible way to avoid being next to each other. Just…one of you slow down, or speed up, and allow plenty of passing room! It’s not rocket science!

I’m really glad I went for that walk. I got home feeling great, and after showering and sanitizing everything I felt really refreshed.

I decided to try to get Shane’s again. The online ordering for pickup was still wonky, so I picked the delivery option, which took me to the service provider’s website: DoorDash. I’d never used it before so I had to set up an account, but it was super easy. It was also fun that I could see where my delivery driver was. I got my barbecue chicken tenders, mac and cheese, potato salad, and gallon of tea, and spent a contented afternoon eating, listening to music, and messing around on Twitter.

That evening I baked another batch of chocolate chip cookies, my third since shelter-in-place started. For dinner we had hot dogs and scalloped potatoes from a box, because I was tired!

What is life

Hey, it’s been awhile!

I’m going to try to reincorporate journaling into my life. I’m hoping that will help me with figuring out what I want and how to get there.

(WordPress has completely changed the layout of the posting screen since I last used it. It looks like there are a ton of exciting new features. I’m trying to focus on that rather than on my initial “Why do things have to change! I’m old! Get off my lawn!” reaction.)

A general life update: I’ve been at the same company for going on seven years, though my position changed from contract copywriter to associate after the first year, and the things I’ve been writing about have changed a lot. It started with a specific product, expanded to a product category, and now comprises several product categories. When I started I was writing for web, and a little over a year ago I shifted to print, and now I’m doing both. It’s just challenging enough to keep me happy without overwhelming me, so I have to say I am happy in the job arena.

As far as hobbies, I’ve been focused on writing. I don’t write anything that is traditionally publishable, but I am able to publish on the web and get feedback, which I enjoy. However, I’ve been kind of rethinking it lately. The community I’m part of moved from Tumblr to Twitter after Tumblr made the ludicrous decision to ban adult content, and I’m finding this new way of communicating to be really hard on my mental health. While I’ve had a Twitter account since 2007, I had never really used it much for fandom stuff until recent years. The functionality is best for quick, punchy ideas. It means there is a lot of negativity (it’s easier to be “clever” by tearing things down), and it also means I feel a lot of pressure to continually produce “content.” It feels as if I will fade into obscurity if I am not constantly posting something new, whether it be a full fic, a chapter, or a tweet thread. Unfortunately this is not how my writing has ever worked; I’m slow and inconsistent, and I have trouble joining in on the “headcanoning” that is popular (where you come up with a ton of personal details about characters based on how you interpret their personalities).

This situation makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, like if I just stopped being a lazy loser I could make regular updates like Real Writers, and until I do that, I’m worthless.

So that’s not great. I’m starting to feel like leaving Twitter is my best option, but there is nowhere else for me to interact with the majority of my fandom friends…so I would essentially be leaving fandom.

I’m still taking tons of photos, so much so that I have run out of hard drive space. I have an enormous backlog of photos to process, going back to 2014. I plan to get a spare hard drive so I have room to breathe, but I really want to come up with a plan to work through all those photos. There are so many steps: the initial pass, during which I delete rejects and rename files to put them in chronological order (since I have photos from two cameras); the edit pass, during which I straighten and adjust colors and whatnot; the actual upload; and captioning/tagging, which can be very time consuming. (It’s even harder when the photos are years old and I have to try to remember the context.)

Hand-in-hand with photography is my hiking hobby. I bought a book called 50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains and I plan to go through it to find new places to go. I’ve been to lots of trails already (need to get those pictures posted…) but this year I’ve mostly gone to Gibbs Gardens, which isn’t really a hike so much as a stroll, though there are some good uphills. In any case, I need to get out to a mountain trail soon.

I also want to get back into shape. Since recovering from Heart Failure Part Deux and going back to work, I’ve slipped back into my old bad habits: eating unhealthy food because it’s faster and spending most of my time sitting around on my computer or phone. I would like to come up with a plan for meals and exercise that would actually be feasible with my schedule, and not so difficult that I would hate doing it. I went on a really nice walk through my neighborhood today, about 3.5 miles, and I think walking should definitely be part of whatever exercise plan I come up with, but I think I need to do weight training of some kind as well, and definitely stretching.

Another goal, getting my spending under control, goes right along with the health goal, since cooking at home would save money as well as be healthy. Right now, a usual weekday starts with me getting a smoothie for $8, and then at work I either buy lunch in the cafeteria (roughly $8) or go out somewhere (roughly $15). I have also been going to a restaurant after work to write every now and then, so that’s another $14 on those days. On other days, Sean and I have worked out a few meals that are easy to make, so we do those…but they are not healthy. They are: crab alfredo, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, turkey sausage and creamy garlic shells, Hungry Man frozen dinners, and Marie Callender’s pot pies. Sometimes I will make chicken curry or cheeseburgers; these are more time consuming so they’re rarer. On weekends, I usually go to the restaurant to write at least one of the days. Breakfast is sometimes an $8 smoothie, sometimes leftovers, sometimes nothing. Dinner is either one of the unhealthy at-home meals or something from a restaurant (could range from cheap fast food to nice sushi).

And finally, my home. I’ve never had a system for doing chores; it’s always just been “when it looks like it needs it.” Laundry is fairly consistently done on the weekends, and Sean handles the dishes every day, but everything else is just random. Dust piles up over everything, and crumbs and dirt get on the floor, and nothing gets dusted or vacuumed until we have guests coming. I don’t have a system to deal with paperwork, so it’s just a big pile that I occasionally go through. And I have a ton of wall art just waiting to be hung up, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I want the apartment to be nice all the time, not just after a last-minute deep cleaning. And I want it to feel comfortable to me instead of like a place where there’s always something that needs to be cleaned or organized. Maybe I could spend more time writing there instead of at a restaurant if I felt relaxed.

So yeah, this is all a mess, and I would like to get it under control.

I realize this blog is basically a record of me coming to the conclusion that I need to organize my life and then never actually doing anything, so I want to approach it differently this time. I think what shoots me in the foot is thinking I have to figure it all out at once. So what I will try to do is come up with a plan for making changes over time—an adaptable plan that can grow as I move forward. What can I do here and there during a week to start?

This plan also has to take my ups and downs into account. There are times (like today) when I’m feeling very motivated and energetic, and then there are times when it’s a victory just to get through the bare minimum. The plan has to allow me to have down days instead of expecting me to be on all the time.

And finally, the plan has to be flexible enough that I won’t feel smothered by it. I tend to not do well with rigidity; I get bored and recalcitrant. So I need something that gets things done regularly but doesn’t feel too regular. Heh.

So anyway, this has been kind of a catch-up-and-see-where-I-am post. Now that I’ve gotten all those thoughts out of my head, I can start trying to actually work on the problems. Here we go…

Status update

I feel like this blog, among other things, is just a huge record of me trying to do things and failing, but here I go again.

This past week I have tracked what I ate every weekday using MyFitnessPal. I also packed food for breakfast and lunch every day except Friday, on which day I only packed breakfast because we went out for lunch to celebrate Tobi’s birthday. Dinners were all cooked at home.

The primary goal was to not eat out as much as possible to save money, since the account was low and I didn’t get paid until Friday, but I also decided to try to eat more healthily at the same time. So as I mentioned before, I paid attention to various nutrients while I was tracking.

Despite saying I wouldn’t start exercising until after my vacation at the end of the month, I have been trying to do some walking. Partly this is because since going to Tallulah Gorge on April 29, my left knee has been in near-constant pain. I am trying to rebuild muscle strength there so something like that doesn’t happen again. (A friend said I should see a physiotherapist. My boss says it is probably arthritis. I don’t know. I just want to be able to hike…) On one of my walks my right knee started having shooting pain, and now both of them are sore, but I feel better after today’s walk, so hopefully I am not just destroying them.

I was hoping this week would result in some weight loss, but it did not. I didn’t take my weight till Wednesday, at which point I weighed 159.8. Today I weigh 159.7. This is not significant, lol. However, I need to let more time pass before I can really know if my food changes are helping or not. (Also, I ate an ice cream cone and four Oreo cookies yesterday, which is not exactly nutritional.)

The main goal, of course, was to save money. According to Mint we spent $189 this week on food vs. $263 last week. That’s pretty good, especially considering I spent $40 at the lunch place I went to yesterday. (I’m gonna mess it up by going out to breakfast today, but eh.)

So I’m cautiously hopeful.

Ta-das for today:

  • Went for a 30-minute walk as soon as I got up. I did three brief jogging intervals and briskly walked the rest. My knees feel sore but good.
  • Took a shower.
  • Cleaned my toilet.

Remember when I used to blog?

Life has been…different, lately. And very busy. I don’t know that I’m actually doing a whole lot, but it sure feels like I’m spending every moment on something. It occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I actually blogged, so I thought I’d put down some sort of update.

There are several new people in my life, friends I’ve made through the Welcome to Night Vale fandom and through Sean. It has been so wonderful getting to know them and sharing things with them. I’ve been doing a lot more chatting recently than I had for years. I’d really missed it. So many of my new friends are artists or writers, so we’ve been inspiring each other to create fanworks, and it’s been so much fun.

My online life has sort of shifted; I used to spend a lot of time on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, but now I hardly ever look at those two sites. I’m enjoying the chatting a lot more—it’s more personal, and it’s with people I care a lot about. (Sometimes on social media I get a bunch of updates from acquaintances and barely anything from my closest friends.)

I have a trip coming up soon; I’m going to New York City! I’ve only been once before, during Sean and my visit to New York state in 2011 (which I never finished writing up, alas). I’m really excited to see the city properly. I’m going to a Broadway musical, even! But the best part is that I’m going to meet someone very special in person for the first time. :)

I went home to visit my family over Labor Day weekend. It was nice. I didn’t feel like doing much, so I hung out in the office with Mom most of the time. On Sunday, the day before I left, we had a cookout, and AJ let Connor and Logan invite a bunch of their friends. Mom and Dad’s yard was filled with teen and pre-teen boys, swimming, playing horseshoes, tossing beanbags, and helping with the grill. It was amazing. Eventually we all sat down to eat wherever we could find a spot and one of Logan’s friends, Cade, entertained us with jokes. Then he and Logan challenged each other to eat various food items with lemon juice squirted all over them. It was funny.

Ben had no idea I was visiting, so I didn’t see him at all. Gah. Next time I will be sure to tell him myself that I am coming!

My daily writing challenge has kind of faltered. Some days I have been too mentally exhausted to write. Some days I just haven’t been in the right headspace. I’m still trying to write regularly, but it seems like every day isn’t sustainable. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, and instead to enjoy the writing I’m doing.

So far the vast majority of my writing has been fanworks. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, either. For some reason I feel like I should be writing original stuff, like the work I’ve done isn’t “real.” But people have enjoyed what I’ve written, and I’ve enjoyed writing it. There’s value to it. I’m trying to break out of the “if it can’t make money, it’s worthless” mentality.

(Of course, I’m also nervous that I’m just scared to try to write something original, because I don’t feel like I can do it and I don’t want to fail…)

Sean and I eat out a lot these days. Neither of us is a big fan of cooking. For Sean, it’s mostly that it takes so much time. For me, there’s the added issue that Sean is fairly picky, so there’s the danger that I’ll spend forever making something and then he won’t like it. So we tend to get takeout or fast food, or just go to a restaurant.

We have been trying to make healthier choices, at least. I’ve been getting Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box for breakfast pretty regularly. It comes with a hard-boiled egg, two slices of white cheddar cheese, a small multi-grain pita with honey-peanut butter spread, apple slices, and grapes. It is so yummy! Much nicer than a sausage or bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and healthier too. It’s a struggle not to just eat one every day. (I’ve been thinking that I could probably create my own version at home that would cost less. Maybe I’ll do that.)

Exercise-wise, neither of us is doing much of anything. We have to go up a flight of stairs to leave our apartment, and I take the stairs in the parking garage at work, but that’s about it. I’ve been thinking about getting back into walking or running in the mornings now that the weather is cooling off again, but I’m not sure I want to get up any earlier than I already do. My evenings feel pretty short already, especially since most of my friends stay up late.

Yesterday one of my friends linked me to a couple of videos: the pilot short and the first episode of the miniseries Over the Garden Wall. I had never seen it before, though I knew a lot of people were fans. It was absolutely incredible. So unique and charming. Creepy and cute all at once. The music is spectacular. At some point I need to sit down and watch the whole thing. (I was disappointed that both of the two main characters are boys, but my friend says there are important girl characters in the show, so I will hold out hope.)

Otherwise, I haven’t been watching or listening to much of anything lately beyond Welcome to Night Vale. I’ve heard of a couple of podcasts that sound great, but it’s hard for me to find time to listen to podcasts. I need to be doing something with my hands, but it can’t be something that takes too much mental energy, because I’ll get distracted from the show. Maybe if I start walking again, I could listen then. I’ve also been thinking about learning embroidery, or at least cross-stitch. I could listen to podcasts while doing that, maybe.

Well, that’s basically what’s going on in my life right now! On the whole, things are really good. Love, family, friends, hobbies, adventures, happiness. :)

More and more

To start my new tradition of working out when I get up, I just did the TurboJam 20-Minute Workout. I chose that video because I wasn’t sure I could make it all the way through Cardio Party, which is about twice as long. But I found myself doing the entire video “high impact”, jumping around, punching and kicking full force, positively overflowing with energy. I sweated and got a little out of breath, but I never felt like it was too difficult or that I couldn’t finish. If anything, I felt like I could do more.

This stands in stark contrast to my previous experiences starting up this video series. I always found it challenging and had to build up to where I could finish a workout at low impact. I never did an entire video high impact, not even the 20-Minute Workout.

My weight loss surgery has given me an amazing gift. Losing those 120 pounds has made me able to accomplish things I never could before. It’s given me a huge leg up in physical fitness. I feel like I can do anything now!

Not everything is going to come this easily, and I will have to keep planning and working toward my goals step by step. But today’s workout showed me just how far I’ve come, and how much I have to be thankful for.

Traditions and willpower

In the course of rearranging and organizing everything in my life, I’ve dusted off some goals and study materials that have been foundering or never even used and started making clear plan lists for using them. My Japanese language plan is the most robust so far; it includes steps for my WaniKani reviews, TextFugu, the collection of study materials I purchased from TheJapanShop, and reading and translating various Japanese-language manga and short stories I own. When I logged back into TextFugu for the first time in months, it reminded me that I had purchased the 30 Day ebook, a system for making oneself a better Japanese learner. So I added that to the list too and read Day 1.

The first day’s assignment is to make a task I dislike into a tradition rather than a chore. The idea is that if you have to force yourself to do something, you’re using mental energy that could be used elsewhere, and the more you can turn tasks into traditions, the more you’ll be able to achieve. I find this extremely interesting.

Since willpower is a finite resource (meaning the batteries only have so much juice before needing a recharge), being able to not use willpower becomes very important especially over time. If there’s a task you do every day with your Japanese, creating a tradition for it will essentially allow you to use your finite willpower to do something else, increasing the amount you can do and get done. Over time this adds up, so there’s no better time to start than now.

The mission is to pick any distasteful task, Japanese-related or not, set a time for it, and make it happen. I’ll probably go with “When I get up, I work out.” I don’t have a problem with doing laundry or the dishes these days…I just sort of do those things. (They’re already traditions!) But working out has always been a struggle. If I can turn that into something I just do, I bet I’ll feel a lot better about doing it, and I’ll have mental energy left over for other tasks.

I hope I haven’t chosen too difficult a task to turn into a tradition.

One-month personal training fitness evaluation

As I mentioned previously, my weight loss post-surgery has decelerated. This is to be expected. As planned, I looked into gyms and picked one and started working with a trainer. I see him once a week and supplement that activity with other workouts the rest of the week (though I need to be better about that). One nice thing about the gym is that it has a three-lane indoor pool. Another nice thing is that the gym is not prohibitively expensive, like the “athletic clubs” in this area.

On July 5, I weighed in at home at 140.2, a weight that put me in the “normal” BMI range for my height. At that point my total weight loss since surgery was 116.8 pounds.

As I wrote on Facebook,

Now my goal is to turn more of my body weight from fat into muscle. I’ll stop worrying about weight and BMI and start looking at body fat index. On June 8 my body fat was measured at 31.8%, and my goal is 17.4%. I started working with a personal trainer on June 19. I’m looking forward to building up more strength and endurance :)

Today I had my one-month fitness evaluation. The baseline was taken June 18; I didn’t start personal training until over a week after I signed up due to a trip out of town. (Not sure why June 18’s body fat percentage is 0.8% less than the percentage taken on June 8.)

1 Month
Body fat % 31.0% 29.9%
Weight 144 144
3 Min Step Test 138bpm 138bpm
Upper Body Strength Test 25 lbs, 15 reps 25 lbs, 26 reps
Lower Body Strength Test 50 lbs, 8 reps 50 lbs, 11 reps
Flexibility 10 in 6 in
Muscular Endurance (Wall Squat) 50 sec 40 sec

I’m very happy with already coming down a whole percentage point on body fat! The weight measurement isn’t accurate, because the first weight was taken at home, in the morning, before I ate anything and without any clothes on, and the second weight was taken at the gym (and was actually 146, but he took two pounds off). I don’t really care about the weight measurement, anyway.

I’m not sure what the 3-minute step test heart rate measurement is supposed to be looking for. It consists of doing the stair climber for three minutes. Today I felt like I was strong throughout, whereas for the baseline I was barely able to finish.

I was unhappy with the lower body strength test, because I had just done ten minutes on the Precor (sort of a cross between an elliptical and a stair climber) and then three minutes on the stair climber, and my legs were tired. We did the lower body test before the upper body test, and I don’t think my legs had enough time to recover. Also, the trainer who does the fitness evaluations has a bad habit of “helping” you lift the weights, and I think he might have been doing that the first time, and not this time.

I’m extremely happy with the upper body strength test. I know my arms are stronger, and they certainly look it. My flexibility seems to have improved as well–for that I just try to touch my toes and the trainer eyeballs how far my fingers are from the floor :>

The wall squat started hurting my knees, and my legs were pretty exhausted. I’m unhappy that my time was lower than it was before, but it is what it is. The gym usually also does a situp test, but since I can’t do ball situps the way they want (I have to support my head or my neck has severe pain), we skip those.

Now for the most interesting data: the measurements! These were, of course, taken before I started all those strength tests above.

1 Month
Neck 13 12.5
Chest 38 37
Shoulders 40 39
Waist 31 31.5
Hips 40 39
Bicep (R) 12 11
Bicep (L) 12 11
Thigh (R) 21 20.5
Thigh (L) 21 20.5
Calf (R) 15 15
Calf (L) 15 15

So, nice losses everywhere except the calves (which is unsurprising) and the waist (what is up with that?). On the whole, I’m pleased, especially with the arms, and I’m looking forward to seeing more improvement.

We finished out the evaluation with cardio. The trainer told me to do the Precor machine for as long as it took to burn 250 calories. When we did this for the baseline, he said 200 to 250 calories. It took me 31 minutes to get to 200 calories and I was bored out of my mind, so I quit there. Today I was still bored, but determined to do better, and so I ramped up the resistance and my speed when I could and just forced myself all the way to 250. And what do you know? I managed it in 29 minutes.

It looks like personal training was the right choice for me. It gives me direction and motivation that I couldn’t provide for myself. I still need to work on getting to the gym more and/or doing other exercise, but even with my uneven workouts outside of training, I’m getting results. That’s really inspiring :)

Weight loss and health update

Today I am three and a half months out from weight loss surgery. This morning I weighed in 67.6 pounds lighter than I did the morning of my surgery. I also passed under the 190 pound mark; almost exactly a month ago, I made it under 200 pounds.

Here’s a graph of my weight loss to date, courtesy of SparkPeople, which I’ve been using to track weight, protein, and exercise:

Weight loss graph 9/26/11 - 01/16/12As you can see, there is a precipitous drop at the beginning, then a steadier decline past that, with some near-plateauing around the holidays.

I obviously haven’t reset my goal line in quite some time, so please ignore it. At this point I think my goal is 140, but I wouldn’t say no to lower. I’m not sure how low a weight I can actually achieve, though; I have a feeling it might be tied to my weight as an adolescent. I was in the 140s in high school, until senior year, when I quit kung fu and ballooned. I’m not sure what my weight was in middle school. When I had cancer, the lowest weight I hit was 145. And I looked good at 145, so I won’t complain if that’s where I end up. I just don’t want to shoot myself in the foot if I can possibly achieve more.

For the first three months, I had to be careful of my stomach and focus on healing. I couldn’t lift heavy objects or even reach over my head much. Exercise was limited to walking. Since my Christmas week appointment with the physician’s assistant at my surgeon’s office, though, I have had the go-ahead to do ab exercises, so long as I stop immediately if there’s any pain. I’ve started out with the Wii Fit and some old workout videos I used to much success back in 2008. (I’d gladly name them, except their distributor is a supporter of SOPA.)

It really surprised me how winded and sore I was after my first 20 minutes of Wii Fit. I commented on Facebook, “You know you’re out of shape when…” But the next day I did a 20-minute workout video, and while it was difficult, I got through to the end. And then the next day, I went back to Wii Fit, and I was already stronger and had more endurance. The truism from my old kung fu class keeps coming back to me: The more you do, the more you are able to do.

I went back and forth between Wii Fit and the 20-minute workout video for a week. The next week, Sean and I went out of town for five days, and I only exercised for three of those: the elliptical one day, then a load of walking on the following two as I explored the historic city of Birmingham, Alabama. (There will be blog posts and pictures from this trip later.) When we got back, I resumed my Wii Fit/video routine immediately without too much trouble.

I’m already starting to get bored, though, which has always been my problem with exercise. If I want to keep up my weight loss without losing muscle tone, I need to work my muscles, so I’m going to have to go ahead and change up my routine some. My goal will be to come up with various routines that don’t burn too many calories (since it’s difficult for me to replenish them) but still give me a good workout and build muscle tone. SparkPeople has some weight routines I can use over at the apartment complex’s fitness center, for example.

One hope of mine has been to build up to the point that I can start Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred once I’m six months out from surgery. I’ve heard amazing things about this video and seen some incredible before and after photos online. I bought it before I even had the surgery, but I haven’t tried it yet.

A friend has also been talking and blogging about the Tracy Anderson Method recently. I’ve been very impressed by her results. I think once I get closer to the end of my weight loss, this might be the way to power through those last pounds, and maybe get my weight down lower than I thought I could get it. Of course, there are two things I have to remember. One is that if I start a difficult workout program to lose weight, I will need to keep doing it to maintain my weight. I can’t just hit my target weight and then go, “Okay, I’m done!” and stop exercising and eating healthily. While the rearrangement of my insides should keep me from easily becoming obese again, it will not keep me from packing on extra weight. So I will have to consider whether I want to add a difficult workout routine to my daily life forever. Perhaps the answer to this question should be yes. I do want to be active for the rest of my life. I love biking and I’d like to try running again. I want to go on long hikes. I want to climb one of those indoor rock climbing walls, though I’m not sure I’d actually try climbing an actual rock face. In any case, I want to be capable of physical feats. If I want those things, it naturally follows that I should incorporate rigorous exercise into my everyday routine.

The second thing I need to remember is that the lowest weight I hit during this “rapid weight loss” period is not the weight at which I will stay. I have been told to expect that I will lose and lose and lose, and then it’ll stop, and then I will gain some back, and that will be my true weight for the rest of my life (assuming I maintain it properly). So even if I do the Tracy Anderson Method there at the end and lose a bunch of weight and get down to the unimaginable weight of 125, I have to realize I won’t stay there. To maintain 125 for the rest of my life, I’d have to go down to 115 or something even more ridiculous, then go back up.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’d look like at 125. I got that number from a couple of online “What should I weigh?” charts that asked for my age, sex, and height. On BMI charts, my own arbitrary goal of 140 is at the upper end–right at the cusp of being overweight (BMI 25-29.9). 125 is pretty much right at the middle of my “healthy” range (BMI 22).

Having been obese (BMI 30+) for most of my adulthood and into class III obesity (BMI 40+) for the last few years (until recently), and having weighed in the 140s as an adolescent, I’m not sure I can reach the “magic number” of 125, or if I even want to, especially given that I would have to lose past 125 to ultimately get to 125. But part of me is still curious.

At this point, I think the best thing to do is to decide what sort of lifestyle I want and not worry too much about numbers. I’ll continue to track my weight and celebrate loss milestones, but I won’t set a “goal”. And I’ll think about the sorts of physical activities I want to do and how to start incorporating them into my life, and what tools would be the most beneficial.

And I’ll remember that this is something I’m doing for me. Not for the people who make BMI charts, not for a cultural conception of beauty. I’m doing this, ultimately, to be healthy and happy and able to continue hearing people’s stories and exploring this beautiful planet.

Before and after weight loss photos

Nurturing old habits

This weekend I’ve been doing a lot of chatting on IRC and AIM, something I haven’t done in years. I pretty much stopped chatting when I started working in TV news. I stopped doing a lot of things when I started working in TV news. But now that situation is over, and I can sort of feel that I’m coming back to myself in various ways. I am also trying to blog more, as you may have noticed.

I’m getting ready to have weight loss surgery, which will change my life. I can’t wait for the results, but I know it’ll be a lot of work. To that end, I’ve been thinking about healthy habits I used to enjoy, and how to re-incorporate them into my life. For a time in the 2008 era, back when I lost the mythical 50 pounds, I used Wii Fit to interject some fun and interest into my workout routine.  Today I decided to revisit it, and it’s been really rather good. The yoga and strength training exercises vary in intensity enough that I can ease in and then get a pretty decent workout–at least right now. Eventually I hope to be in good enough shape that I’ll be beyond the exercises in the game.

When I got to the aerobics section, I was completely shocked to discover that the two running activities, which I had only tried once and never really cared for, are locations seen in Wii Sports Resort! I’ve been playing Resort a lot lately, especially Island Flyover, and I know that fictional island like the back of my hand now. It totally blew my mind to see The Candle and Summerstone Falls in the icons for the running activities in Wii Fit. A quick Wikipedia search informs me that Wii Fit is Wuhu Island’s original appearance. Neat!

In any case, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old chat friends and with myself. I’m really looking forward to what my life is going to be like once I shed this excess weight, and I want to make sure I’m ready!


Last Monday I jogged five kilometers without stopping. It was my first time ever doing that, and I was very pleased. I decided to try to run an actual 5K race that weekend, so I didn’t run again until Thursday. I ran a fair distance, but didn’t push myself; I didn’t want to overdo it before the race on Saturday.

The 5K didn’t go as I’d hoped. Part of the problem was the temperature; it was about 15 degrees warmer than I normally like it to be when I run, with no shade for the first 2/3 of the course and barely even a breeze. The terrain was also different from what I’m used to; I run on pavement in my neighborhood, and the Swamp Stomp course was dirt, grass, and gravel. Another problem, I think, was that I started out running too quickly. Having a huge mass of people pass you like you’re standing still can do that to you.

Regardless of what caused it, I ended up walking after barely completing the first half kilometer, and never got back into a good running pace. Mari was with me; fortunately she didn’t mind all the walking we ended up doing.

I was feeling a little dejected about the 5K when I went running Tuesday morning, and that may be why I felt so crappy. I may also have still been recovering from the 5K. Regardless, I felt like throwing up and my legs were dead weight–very sore dead weight. I barely managed to run at all.

Yesterday’s run was much better. I decided not to worry about distance, but instead focus on speed. It had occurred to me when checking my running times for the last week that sometimes I actually walk faster than I run. If I ever want to finish a 5K in under half an hour, I’m going to have to increase my speed. So I focused on that–not too crazy, just faster than I normally run–and went until I was out of juice. I felt really good afterwards, like I had accomplished something.

That brings us to this morning. I again worked on speed at first. I’ve also been thinking about my form, and trying to avoid landing on my heels. This emphasis on the balls of my feet has been making my calves feel the way they did when I first started running–like blocks of wood. My calves gave out long before my cardiovascular system did, which made me feel a little better about myself. I’d been starting to worry that I’d lost all the progress I’d made on heart health, especially given the way I was gasping for breath on Tuesday.

In any case, I ran until my calves simply could not go on. I wasn’t even winded and really wanted to continue. So I walked a little to give my legs a rest, and then ran again. I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t give up after the first run.

Going forward I’m going to focus once again on eating more properly. I’ve really let my eating habits slide the past several weeks, and the scale shows it. I’m all the way up to 251, meaning I’ve pretty much negated everything I did in 2008. I think rather than obsess about the weight, though, I’m going to focus on heart health. That’s what worked last time. I want my heart to be healthy so I can accomplish physical feats like running a 5K in under 30 minutes, rock climbing, doing pull-ups, etc. Maybe if I keep thinking about those things instead of the vague “lose weight” goal, I’ll have success again.

Since races give me tangible goals, I’m going to concentrate on speed and distance. With that in mind, I’m going to quit logging my warmups and cooldowns in RunKeeper and just record when I actually run. That will make it easier for me to see at a glance what I’m currently capable of.

I’m also going to start keeping track of how I feel after each run, through the Notes area on RunKeeper. Hopefully remembering the good running feelings will help me get through the bad days.

Japanese used in my karate class

A fair amount of Japanese is used in the karate class I recently joined. Here are the terms I’ve heard so far.

End of class

First the teacher says “line up” in English. The students get in line in front of the mirror in order of rank, with white belts to the left and brown belts to the right. Students stand with feet shoulder width apart and hands in fists held out down and to the front. The teachers stand along the left wall.

The teacher says the name of the highest-ranking student, who is of course standing on the opposite side of the room. The highest-ranking student says:

気を付け! 【きをつけ】 (ki wo tsuke) – Attention!

Students slide their feet together and swing their hands to clap the backs of their hips.

礼! 【れい】 (rei) – Bow!

先生に礼! 【せんせいにれい】 (sensei ni rei) – Bow to the teacher(s)!

先輩に礼! 【せんぱいにれい】 (senpai ni rei) – Bow to your senior(s)!

The first bow is to the mirrors. Students turn left to bow to the teachers and spin around to bow to the higher-ranking students.


In karate, forms are called

型 【かた】 (kata)

The one kata I’ve learned so far is called taikyoku 1. I believe the Chinese characters for taikyoku are 太極, but I’m not positive. Here’s some information about the taikyoku kata.

Sensei Beall’s school has a traditional way of opening and closing a form. To begin a form, you stand with your left foot held lightly in front, similar to kung fu’s cat stance. Your hands are held flat in front of you and down, left hand on top of right.

This position has a name. At first I thought the senseis were saying

娘 【むすめ】 (musume)

which means “girl” or “daughter”. However, it’s apparently something like issume. Since I don’t know the exact pronunciation, I haven’t been able to find the actual word or what it means.

After this position you 気を付け (ki wo tsuke) and 礼 (rei) as described above. Then you bring your left hand up about a foot in front of your face, palm facing inward and fingers held at a height just below your eyes, so you can see over them. Simultaneously and silently, your right fist slides up behind your flat left hand, palm facing you. The senseis seem to be calling this position “ready” in English. You then lower your hands, keeping them together so that your left hand rotates on top of your right, until your arms are straight down in front, hands still together. This is also called “ready”.

From there you go right into your form.

Once you’re finished with your form, you go out by stepping your feet together, slapping your fist into your left hand for the first “ready” position (you can make noise with your fist this time because you’ve defeated all your opponents), and shifting into the second “ready”. Then you 気を付け (ki wo tsuke), 礼 (rei), and step into the “line up” stance.


During forms or drills, any time you’ve done a series of the same maneuver, you shout on the last one. The word traditionally said is

気合 【きあい】 (kiai)

which literally means scream or yell, and also means fighting spirit. Sensei Beall says the point is not to say 気合 (kiai) perfectly, but to let out air rapidly so that if you get punched, your opponent can’t knock the wind out of you. The yell should come from your gut, not your throat.

I have to tell you, being in a situation in which Japanese is used regularly makes me want to speak Japanese! I’m afraid one night I’ll slip and say はい (hai) instead of “Yes, sir!” :)