Private Tutoring *or* I Made Out With a Monk Last Night

22 11 2010

Current Habit: Meditation/Yoga Day 4

Deryn: Well technically, a former monk, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  We have officially started practicing yoga and/or meditating every day. I’ve really enjoyed the reaction my body has to yoga in the past (sleeping well, feeling blood flow throughout my body, the loosening of my muscles) and was looking forward to practicing both yoga and meditation more often. In other news, I have recently started dating someone that I’m actually really excited about.  As Sophie so aptly put it, “Yay! You’re not dead inside!” When Zen* asked what I was up to the first night of this habit, I told him that I was trying to meditate for 30 minutes – the longest amount of time I’ve ever attempted to meditate. He texted back, “Did I tell you I used to be a monk?” My first thought: Oh god. I recommended a monk read The Tao of Pooh! My second thought: Score! Private tutor! We began the first of many conversations about his 3 weeks as a monk (it’s a coming-of-age, cultural thing).

Last night, Zen and I meditated together and the only word to describe it was amazing. I have never experienced calm like I did while following his directions on breathing and releasing my thoughts. Previously, I thought that meditation had come naturally for me. It hasn’t been too much of a struggle to breathe slowly and stop thinking, but now I know that I hadn’t been meditating correctly. I learned last night that meditation isn’t about turning your brain off – it’s allowing your brain the quiet it needs to listen to your body. The way I understand it is that your brain only has so much bandwidth, kind of like an internet connection. When there are so many thoughts and sensations happening at once, your brain doesn’t have the space it needs to focus on what’s happening internally.  As a white girl from Texas, I never would have thought that I’d be spending time on a date meditating with a former monk! 

The combination of learning to meditate while slowly but surely coming alive inside again feels amazing. Today I woke up refreshed after very little sleep, relaxed during a very stressful week, and ready to take on what I know will be a very long day.  I think meditation has been the first habit that feels like the results are almost instant.  I know there is still a lot to learn, but it’s really exciting to be seeing and feeling the results!



*No, his name is not really Zen.

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Groundwork *or* 5 Tips for Making Exercise a Habit

15 11 2010

Current Habit: Meditation/Yoga Day 1

Sophie: Well, we finally finished our three weeks of working out, and we survived!  I can tell a few differences in my body – my abs are tighter, calf muscles are a little more defined, and my endurance has definitely improved.  On the other hand, the fat is all still there.  I know, realistically, that I can’t expect to lose much weight in 3 weeks, I guess I just didn’t realize how much work I had ahead of me.  But that’s ok!  Because I am NOT on a diet, I am making healthy, permanent lifestyle changes (Deryn, this phrase is not to be turned into a new drinking game).

Despite knowing that my the 3 weeks are up, and I don’t HAVE to exercise every day, I still have the desire to do it.  I’ve come up with a few tips for this habit to stick:

1. Figure out the routine that works for you. I’m not going to expect much more than 30 minutes a day out of myself if this is going to be a permanent habit.  Because of this, I want to use those 30 minutes as wisely as possible.  There are a TON of workouts out there: I tried lifting weights and hurt myself (unfortunately in the groin, which made for a mildly entertaining “post-rough-sex”-type walk for a few days)…I don’t want to bulk up, so I decided not to try this again. I experimented with exercise videos from Verizon OnDemand/ExerciseTV – I like these, but my attention span is apparently 10 minutes, and 3 10 minute videos do not a good workout make. I did 20 minutes of various crunches one time, but my abs weren’t at all sore the next day – not effective.  I tried a kickboxing class – very effective, and everyone there was very.very.very friendly…personally, I don’t want to have to pretend to be social when I’m sweating from every pore and just trying not to vomit.  I also attempted to pass off 30 minutes of a ‘brisk walk’ with Rufus as a workout, but I couldn’t fool myself into thinking that was legitimate.  Ultimately, it came down to running.  There’s a TV in front of the treadmill, it works every muscle in my body, and I can easily measure exactly how many calories burned.  Done.

2. Nix the unrealistic expectations – It’s basic math: One pound = 3,500 calories; One pound/week loss = burning 500 calories a day.  This can be done by a combination of cutting calories in and burning calories by exercising.  I only eat between 1,500 – 2,000 calories a day, so the cut isn’t gonna be there unless you take my alcohol away….boo.  As a good rough estimate for myself – according to my treadmill – Every 1 mile I walk/jog = 100 calories, and I can do 2 -2.5 miles in 30 minutes.   So now that we have the math down, it’s ridiculous for me, personally, to think that I could lose any more than a pound a week unless I cut out the wine and run like 10 miles a day, which I will not.  So, if I’m dedicated, I might hit my goal weight in like 4-5 months.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Anyways, there’s no miracle cure.  If you find one, it’s probably just a laxative in disguise (been there, done that; no.thank.you.)  It took years to put the pounds on, it’s going to take time to take them off.

(My first attempt at drawing stick figures)

3.  Prepare answers to your excuses – if you don’t want to go straight to the gym after work because you’re always hungry by 5, then bring an extra snack.  If your feet hurt, get better shoes or inserts.  If you find your workout boring, bring a book.  If you don’t like working out the way you usually do, find another activity.  If you don’t have time, figure out how you can make time.  If you’re tired, realize that you’re gonna be tired whether you workout or not, so get over it.  Don’t let the excuses take over, because all you’re doing is getting in the way of your own wants and needs.

4. Tell people about what you’re doing – Yes, this it’s nuts coming from super-private-Sophie, but if I hadn’t had Deryn and Boyfriend’s support on this, it would have been a lot harder.  Boyfriend has to understand that his demands for my time need to be adjusted.  I may be OK with disappointing myself, but I certainly don’t want to fail when people are watching.  Maybe it’s superficial, but it drives me, so oh well.

5. Figure out your motivation – Mine is two fold, and (again) partly superficial –

A. I’m poor, and I have nothing to wear.  I have a closet full of clothes that don’t fit me anymore because I put on 10 lbs, but I can’t afford to buy any new clothes.  I started thinking about getting a part-time job, and then my logical side kicked in: Seriously?  A part time job is what, like 10 hours a week?  It would take half that amount of time per week to lose the weight necessary to fit into all these badass clothes I have hanging around.  Am I that lazy?  I’d like to think not….plus I’d be cuter. It’s purely logical.

B. My Grandmother and Mother both failed to stay active throughout their lives, and lost their marbles around the age of 60.  Grandma’s completely nuts at 83, but my mother is still a fairly normal woman.  I feel like she can still turn this process around (and has a long list of excuses why she doesn’t) but at 63, she struggles to remember words and finish her sentences in a normal conversation.  I can tell that her mind is going due to lack of upkeep, and I don’t want to end up like that.  I want to be one of those 90 year-olds that can still debate the crap out of you, and exercise is what makes the difference.  (I could go off on another Brain Rules sales pitch here – as the book expands on this subject, but I’ll spare you 🙂 )

One random tip we picked up along the way: people who smell peppermint every two hours eat an average of 2,700 calories less per week.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s worth checking out (since we have already been experimenting with Aromatherapy).  Merry Christmas.

So there you have it, Sophie’s Guide to Starting an Exercise Program.  You’re welcome.  On to meditation…

Readers: What has worked for you that you think could be added to this list?





Revival *or* And for you, Tin Man, a heart!

9 11 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 15

Deryn: This weekend I slept at least 36 hours between Friday night and Monday morning, and I haven’t shown much life in the last week.  Even after a dye job went a bit awry, my reaction was a mere “Eh.  I’ll figure it out later.”  (I did.  I no longer have girl-who-listens-to-too-much-Seattle-rock-in-1994 hair).  To sum it up, I was apathetic.  As has been mentioned before, my tendency is to be dead inside, and that’s something this blog is helping (and hoping) to change.

Tonight, I mentioned to Sophie that I was tired of all the upkeep necessary in life.  I have a job so I have a place to live, I work out because I want to stay alive and healthy, I bathe regularly for basic hygiene and employment purposes.  And don’t even get me started on having to eat and drink water…It’s a vicious cycle.  Sophie being Sophie – always wanting to fix the problems of others if they are dumb enough to whine about them to her – smacked me in the face with a tough question: What do you want out of life?

Think about it for a second in your life.  What do you want out of your life?

No answer came to mind for me.  The only thing I could think of was coming home and watching TV.  Acknowledging that is a pathetic way to live, I started giving it some serious thought.

What do I want out of my life?  It’s a choice, after all.  For me, the answer is a resounding “Travel!”

Then all the reasons that travel isn’t possible for me came spilling out.  I don’t have the time or the money.  I have a work culture that doesn’t allow for vacation.  It’s probably human nature to talk ourselves out of our dreams.  Shooting an idea down is easier than it is to come up with solutions.  As my dad used to say, “If you come to me with a problem and no solution, then you’re just whining.  I don’t tolerate whining.”

As the conversation continued, Sophie brought up the fact that I really enjoyed making our Halloween costumes (shown in these two pictures).  For the past few weeks I’ve been especially preoccupied with sewing Halloween costumes for Sophie and myself.  She was right.  I love sewing.  It is a positive and productive outlet for my obsessive compulsive personality, plus at the end you get something pretty!  I have a bunch of patterns and material all ready to be sewn in to some adorable outfits just sitting in my closet that I’ve been collecting for the last few years.  Sophie suggested I start sewing again and actually make some of those things.  It was brilliant!  Within about 5 minutes, I went from being apathetic to getting really excited about all the new projects in store!  We went through my sewing drawer and found that I have a skirt, a pair of pants, two shirts and three pillows just waiting to be sewn.  I have all the material, patterns and time, only needing to purchase a few zippers and some thread.  All my excuses have been effectively tossed out the window.  Now I can’t wait to come home tomorrow night and start my new projects.  That’s probably a much better thing to do than hurrying home to get in my pajamas and watch Parenthood.  That’s what a DVR is for!

More than anything, I think I’m learning that it’s going to take more than just creating some new habits to get away from my old apathetic ways.  I can make myself happy and not let the excuses prevail.  Self-reflection is an important part of the journey for me.  To really change who I am is also going to involve regularly taking stock of my emotional state and coming up with new habits so the old ones don’t resurface.  To start with, do I have an emotional state?  Maybe I’m starting from the remedial class on how to feel like other humans feel, but with regular self-reflection I may just graduate and become a full fledged human, heart and all!





Grief *or* Pushing Through When Life Gets Hard

4 11 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 11

Sophie: I have found that there is an excuse for everything.  The most common reason that our good-intentions aren’t enough is that life got in the way somehow.  “I got sick”, “I was really busy at work”, “I’m just too tired” blah blah blah.  I even, for the first time in my life, established a pretty solid workout routine last summer: Do whatever I want to workout, but my minimum was to run/walk 2 miles every other day.  And it worked!  For 6 weeks….except that week my best friend came in town to visit….AND that week I got sick…which ended it altogether, because I didn’t really “get better” for another 2 weeks (you know, the residual sick).

The point is, there is always something, and the excuses are only going to hurt me.  This is what I had to repeat when, on Day 1 of exercising, I found out that Boyfriend’s grandmother was dying (we really only had about one week’s notice that she was even sick – stage 4 breast cancer).  I’ve been with Boyfriend for 4 1/2 years…his family is pretty much my family, and I love his grandmother very much.  It hit me really hard.  On top of that, this meant we would be dropping everything to make the 4 hour drive to her hospice the next day, and spent who-knows-how-many days out of town.  Of course, at this time, I’m overcome with grief.  I’m also jumping into my game plan – “I’ll work out before we leave tomorrow, bring workout clothes and weights with me for Wednesday’s workout, and we’ll probably be back by Thursday.”  Admittedly, if it weren’t for the blog, that thought would have been “So much for working out, I’ll start it next week.”  But that’s the point – making room for it, because life is ALWAYS happening, you just have to plan ahead to enable follow-through with this stuff.

So I worked out Tuesday morning, we drove to the hospice, and we spent Tuesday evening and Wednesday with her.  She passed away at 3:00 Wednesday afternoon.  We drove back to Dallas shortly after.  Correction – I drove.  I held it together through driving 4 hours, dropping Boyfriend off at home, going to my parent’s house to pick up Rufus, driving BACK to Boyfriend’s place, and suffering through a 30 minute workout that seemed like torture, before I finally got to sit down and grieve at 9:30 on Wednesday night.  I haven’t experienced the death of a loved one as an adult, so it was exceptionally hard on me.  It’s been over a week and I’m still depressed…and (of course) now I’m sick too.  I could just make that another excuse, or I can be reminded why we are doing this: To live the best life possible, and be the person I want to be.  Losing a loved one only reinforces that.  At the end of the day, I would rather have a list of accomplishments than one of excuses.  So I’d like to end this post with a toast to Grandma:

To the woman who:

  • Graduated from clown school at age 63
  • Took her grandson to Cancun at 64 (We have a wonderful picture of her at Senor Frogs)
  • Went skydiving at 69
  • Went to the Glenn Beck rally in D.C. at 73, just 2 months before passing away
  • Never cared what anyone else thought about her
  • Went dancing every week until she went into the hospital
  • Was surrounded by a ton of loved ones until the very last day

You lived an inspirational life, and I am lucky to have known you.

Cheers.





Frustration *or* Did My Boss Really Just Yell at Me for Peeing?

26 10 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 1

Deryn: Today is the first day of a brand new habit: Working out for 30 minutes every day.  It could not have come at a better time.

The past few days at work have been particularly frustrating.  So frustrating, in fact, that the 2 days of being away from work still weren’t enough for me to become un-frustrated.  That’s especially amazing considering I can cure just about any bad mood by playing no more than three Bon Jovi songs.  Livin’ on a Prayer, Baby!  Then this afternoon I was reprimanded for going to the restroom.  No, really.  That’s what happened.

One of my responsibilities is to answer the phone.  That, in itself, is frustrating enough, considering I don’t do anything with customers except answer the phone and forward the call to the person they actually need to talk to.  There are only 2 people that anyone ever calls to speak with, and I am not one of them.  Why don’t they answer the phone?  I just don’t know.  So when it was 2:45, I’d already been working for 7 hours,  and I had still not gotten a chance to eat my lunch (which is almost always done at my desk because heaven forbid I take an actual lunch break), I figured it was a prudent time to use the restroom.  I just really had to pee, man!  It’s not that the day was particularly hectic, I was just trying to focus on finishing a project.  When I got back to my desk – literally one minute later – my boss was in a tizzy.  “What if the phone had rung? … Why didn’t you bring the phone with you to the restroom?”  No, my boss apparently could not have answered the phone.  No, we don’t have voice mail.  And no, our customers are apparently too stupid to call back a little later if nobody answers.

After that whole extravaganza had calmed down, it occurred to me that tonight is the first day of a whole new work out routine!  What a great day to get rid of some stress!  Rather than using beer to make me feel better, I’ll take some endogenous opioid peptides, otherwise known as endorphins.

I’m really excited about this one for a few reasons:

1) When I have been in shape in the past, I never really appreciated it.  I was so focused on looking like someone else that I didn’t fully appreciate what it looked like to just be a good-looking version of myself.

2) I’d like to be able to do things when I’m older.  Being out of shape or unhealthy just doesn’t seem like a fun way to go about life.

3) Gotta love the endorphins!

The real test for me is going to be how I feel once I get home.  I’ve never worked out every day for 21 days in a row.  Usually I’ll get on a work out kick and do well for about a week or two, but then the determination fades.  Once my pans are starting to fit a little tightly again, the work out routine comes back in to play.  21 days is a great because it seems possible without being daunting.  Luckily, I’ll probably have the same job for the next three weeks and that’s proven to be a consistent source of stress and anger.  At least I won’t run out of motivation.

How’s that for optimism?





Positive Decisions *or* The Pile of Books I was Destined to Find

3 10 2010

Current Habit: Reading, Day 21/9

Deryn: Thursday after work my mood was, in a word, crabby.   True or not, I felt like the only places I went were home and work.  Leave home, go to work, go home, go back to work, go back home… The routine was getting to me.  When Sophie came home, I suggested maybe going to the bar that is two blocks from home where a beer costs $1.75.  Sophie shut that idea down for its obvious lack of nutrition.  I then suggested we go to Half Price Books, or as some people who live in this apartment call it, Heaven.   I had a list of books that I was excited to read and had conveniently just gotten paid.  Off we went!

Sophie has mentioned previously that she has a book addiction.  She buys 5-10 at a time on most trips to Half Price Books.  I’m more of a 1-2 book at a time kind of gal.  Too many books purchased at the same time means that I have to spend a good 20 minutes making a pro and con list for what order I will be reading each of the new books.  This particular trip didn’t start out well for me.  None of the books on my list were on the shelves and nothing else was really grabbing me.  Sophie, however, had 4 books in her arms within 15 minutes of getting there.  I was bummed.  Happy for her, but bummed for me.  It is rare that I actually have any room in my budget for the luxury of buying myself a book (even at half price).  The idea that I was in the store with money in my account and no books was maddening.  I scoured the shelves and picked up books that I really felt no interest in.  Then I’d  put them back, all the while feeling a little guilty for having lead them on in the first place.  I knew that book and I would never be going home together.  This just made my mood even worse.  I’m not typically a grumpy, negative or angry person, but I was all of those things in that moment.

And then it happened.  Sophie was ready to check out so we had come back to the front of the store.  I had one book.  It looked promising, but I wasn’t super excited about it.  With a sigh, I wandered over to a cart with a few piles of books.  There was a woman already going through them who looked uncannily like my mom.  In the pile closest to me were a few books I recognized: Love in the Time of Cholera (one of my favorites), The Great Gatsby (a favorite of mine), Pride and Prejudice (a book I try to read once a year because I love it so much), A Confederacy of Dunces (yes, another favorite).  If I were a cartoon character, a light bulb would have appeared above my head with a little chiming sound.  I would pick a book from this pile.  I started to pick the books up one by one until my arms were loaded down.  I started to add books to Sophie’s already precarious pile of books.  I could barely contain my excitement.   There were so many books in that pile that I had either heard of and been interested in or had thought about getting before but had forgotten about.  It was all just so thrilling!  We replaced the books to the pile after a very stressed, but polite, employee informed us that he had organized the books in to piles already and was worried about them getting messed up.  I cheerfully replied that we had kept the books true to their piles and gleefully skipped to an empty aisle to make my final decisions.

The moral of the story is that  I could have gone to the bar, drank some beer, ate some fattening food and gone home.  Instead, reading every day meant that I needed some new books, sending me to Half Price Books which then completely turned my mood around for the rest of the night.  Success!

These are the books that I adopted that fateful evening:

There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

Sunday Jews by Hortense Calisher





Book Review: Brain Rules

29 09 2010

Sophie:

So while establishing our first habit (reading every day) it has become very apparent that we’re going to be getting through quite a few books!  We’re both already half-way through our third.  So, as long as we’re reading them, we may as well let you know how they are.

Brain Rules by John Medina.

Brain Rules is an in depth look at the basic rules of optimal brain function.  It was written by a molecular biologist who describes one Brain Rule (what scientists know for sure about how our brains work) per chapter, and then offers ideas as to how we could potentially incorporate these ideas in our lives.

It’s basically my new bible, in a nutshell.  Poor Deryn and Boyfriend can’t get through a conversation without me spouting out “That’s just like this part in Brain Rules….”  But seriously, I love this book.  It’s so useful in every day life; I feel like everyone just NEEDS to know this stuff.  ESPECIALLY parents (even though I’m not one…); it just seems that it would be hard to raise a child without knowing the basic biology behind brain development, learning and wiring.  In fact, I just saw that this author is about to come out with a new book called Brain Rules for Baby in October.  I can honestly say that I have been able to apply every chapter of this book to my life.

I already included a few tidbits of info from Brain Rules in the “Science Behind Habitual Me” page, but there’s one thing in particular that I definitely want to apply to our little “adventure” over the next year – Scent.  Apparently, the more senses you stimulate, the more ‘ingrained’ a memory/experience will be in your wiring, because the information is stored in more areas of your brain.  Smell is the strongest sense to stimulate (other than vision, of course) because it is processed near areas of the brain responsible for creating emotions as well as memories.  That’s why a very specific memory may pop into your head when you are exposed to a certain scent.  So I’m thinking (and have actually already started this) that we need to have certain scents to associate with each habit that we’re doing.  So I took a trip to Wal-Mart to get a little high on essential oils.  After spending about an hour smelling every single scent they had at least 4 times each, I found a cool diffuser for $3 and settled on a citrus smell for waking up early, a rosemary-mint for meditation and yoga, cherry-blossom-something-or-other for reading and a cinnamon-apple just because it smells like Christmas :).  In theory, whipping out a certain scent on days I’m not very motivated may make these habits come a little easier. I’ll let you know how that works out, but in the meantime, you should read this book!








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