March 31st 2015

Snuggle Down – The Month of Sleep: March 31st, 2015

And that’s a wrap for Motivation March.  I’m proud of the “resistance training” (a.k.a. dangerous snack avoidance) and I’ve learned from the exercise challenge (not every day).  The final outcome, in my mind, was that I’ve learned I’m actually able to have willpower, if I practice.  Much like most things, building a habit means working hard at first until it becomes second nature.  I’ve “downed” my “addiction” to 5 weaknesses, and now I’ve decided to 5Down one (chips) forever.

There is a certain Judge who likes to remind us that one should never say never or always, so I guess I should say I will refrain from the consumption of chips to the best of my ability with the intention of never eating them again, if possible.

Next on the self-improvement journey, then, is SLEEP.  April will be the month of sleep.

I’ve been poking around the Internet, lately, and I’ve found some great lists for helping with sleep.  This brochure helpfully admonishes insomniacs not to ruminate before (or in) bed.  Thanks.

One thing I think almost everyone agrees on is that most first worlders don’t get enough sleep, nor do we particularly value it.  I loved the Siesta when I was in Uruguay, and it was considered weird to not shut one’s store, home, business, whatever, and take an afternoon snooze.  I cannot imagine this idea ever gaining traction in Canada.

Everyone I know, including me, is always complaining of fatigue.  We work long hours, we’re too busy, and we don’t prioritize sleep.  It would be rather odd to hear someone exclaim “gosh! I’m so well-rested!”

And yet, articles about the value of sleep are everywhere.    Apparently, Ariana Huffington considers it her secret weapon, and has compiled a list of her 16 favourite articles on the benefits of sleep.  Among other things, being well-rested makes you:



more emotionally stable

better at your chosen athletic endeavour

make better choices

Or, to quote TIME magazine:

It’s nature’s panacea, more powerful than any drug in its ability to restore and rejuvenate the human brain and body. Getting the recommended seven to eight hours each night can improve concentration, sharpen planning and memory skills and maintain the fat-burning systems that regulate our weight. If every one of us slept as much as we’re supposed to, we’d all be lighter, less prone to developing Type 2 diabetes and most likely better equipped to battle depression and anxiety. We might even lower our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and cancer.”


So where to start?  Well, I consulted a few articles and checked out what we already do.  I should preface this by saying that Mike could fall asleep on a bed of nails with a drunken frat boys party in the background and Disney-worthy light show dancing on his eyelids.  He’s typically asleep within 2-5 minutes of turning out his light.  Last night, after several hours of skiing, he was out cold in about 30 seconds.

I, on the other hand, need a precise temperature, a totally dark room, a neatly made bed with no wrinkles, a white-noise machine, and I still take upwards of an hour (on good days) to fall asleep.  I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.  Solomon was lucky enough to inherit this gem of a trait from me.  Fun fact: he and Max used to have sleepovers when they were about 2 and 6.  Max = Mike, Solomon = Me. Solomon, being precociously verbal without the sense to match his vocabulary would start wailing about 30 minutes into many of these fun nights because “I’m still talking and Max won’t answer me any more!” Max, clone of Mike, slept through the talking, the howling, and the calming down.  Sometimes he even slept through Solomon clambering over him to come tell us.

I have had the joy of sleep medication to rely on for the past few years (not daily, but total bliss).

So, our list of what we think we should do (and have both agreed to) is as follows:

1. A set lights-out time (10:30 pm) and a set wake-up time (6:30 am is when our alarm goes off).  Every day.  We’ll allow about 30 minutes leeway on occasion.

2. No caffeine after 4:30 pm.

3. No alcohol after 7:30 pm.

4. Bedroom around 15-19 degrees (c).

5. No napping unless it’s brief and finished before 5:00 pm.

6. No heavy snacks in the evening (after 6:00 pm)

7. No exercising after 7:30 pm.

8. –> We have had a difference of opinion on the topic of electronics before bed.  I will be foregoing electronics within 1 hour of sleep (ie: 9:30 pm).  He is going to continue to use this App he swears by – it basically dims your screen and yellows it to promote sleepiness.  I’m okay with this compromise because, well, he’s indulging me in every other regard and he really has no need to.

9. I’m going to listen to some new-agey wacky meditation-type stuff.  I will give you a link when I have one…this whole concept is giving me the hee-bee gee-bees, but it supposedly works, so I’m going to give this the old college try.

I will let you know how it goes.

Day 151 scorecard: 755 down, 1070 to go



March 30, 2015

Everyone, Everywhere: March 30th, 2015

This is a late-night post (well, past 11:00 o’clock) but I have an excuse.  I hosted book club tonight and I also hosted the writer.*  It was a fantastic experience and I really must recommend the book: Someone Somewhere, by Dana Mills.  It is a deliciously visual book, loaded with allusions if you’re from here (Nova Scotia) but totally moveable if you’re from any small town…or anywhere else, really. Everyone, everywhere! Just read it, already.

And it is never going to make a 5Down list, unless I start counting things I loan to people.

Day 151 scorecard: 755 down, 1070 to go

–> Book Club snacks satisfied all my snacking desires and then some (if I do say so myself)

1. Chips

2. Sugary Latte Drinks

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy

Exercise: Christina’s butt-kicking Yoga class!  My quads are aching.

* he grew up near me, our parents were buds, and we’ve had (somewhat) intersecting lives.  FYI – this makes me more likely to be critical (not wanting to be vicariously embarrassed for such a great guy) and I can be very critical of books.  I loved it. Pure and simple.


March 29th, 2015

I Was Wrong: March 29th ,2015

As we close in on the end of the month, I have to admit that I am really pleased with the month of “deprivation” in terms of my dangerous snack foods.  It’s been a revelation in terms of feeling better, in general, and losing a couple of pounds, too.  Also, as I wrote a few days ago, it led me to understand that I was embroiled in an unhealthy relationship with potato chips.  I’ve taken a “never again” stance with chips, and I don’t plan to slide back into the Mini Wheats trap, but I’m really not one to deprive myself (a nice way of say I have little to no willpower) so I can’t say I’ll avoid the rest forever.  Overall, it has been an interesting and not-as-hard-as-it-first-seemed proposition.

The secondary aspect of Motivation March was an entirely different story.  I started the month determined to exercise every day.  I have learned that it is easier to avoid something every day than it is to DO something every day.  Particularly when you have a busy life.  This led to some guilty feelings which ended up kind of snowballing on me in exactly the way I wish they hadn’t.  At some point in the month I exhausted myself and my running has suffered.  It’s hard not to feel incredibly discouraged with not only not gaining ground in my favourite form of exercise, but actually losing ground.  Eventually, though, I’m told the snow will actually vanish and I will be able to run outside (I ran outside today but it was challenging).  I’ll build myself back up, but over-exercising was just not a good decision.  My thinking is that going hardcore on things should be directly related to whether said “thing” is amenable to doing it (or not) without a break.

Going without food that is bad for me led to a large net benefit and it was encouraging to feel better everyday.  Exercise is fantastic, but no one can go every single day without hitting some kind of wall.  This was just not a good idea.

Ultimately, I don’t feel terrible about not achieving the exercise goal, I feel a little ridiculous for trying too hard for something I knew would likely not end up with a net benefit.  Lesson learned.

So next month I think we’re going to call The Month of Sleep.  Everything I encounter about making one’s life better includes the admonition “sleep more.”  Almost no one I know (except Helen and Mia) follow this to any realistic degree.  It’s hardly shocking they’re also two of the fittest people I know (also incredibly cool, gorgeous and motivated women).  I’ve always had terrible problems with sleeping, so I’m hoping Mike will agree to try to actually get our 8 hours, every night, on a totally regular basis.  No night-owling, no sleeping in on weekends.  No caffeine after 4pm, no exercise within 3 hours of bed time, no reading on and on because I just can’t put that book down. You have to admit this guy looks extremely well-rested.

I hope this brings a net benefit, and I am suspicious that it likely will.  Maybe it seems overly existential to say this, but having a strictly regular sleep routine feels like it might eliminate some of the “clutter” in my day/life/head.

And just a note about one particular 5 Down item from today, volunteered by my children.  Much like my mother did, we had a “no gun” policy in this house.  Of course, the rule got bent a little with things like Bionicles (who come with guns, usually) but we never had toy guns.  So, just like that kid who ate his Poptart into a gun, my sons (Max, I think) found this use for PVC pipe:

Don't worry, I did not snatch this out of his hands and expel him. It's been kicking around the house for years. If he wanted a gun badly enough to be creative about bet it.

Don’t worry, I did not snatch this out of his hands and expel him. It’s been kicking around the house for years. If he wanted a gun badly enough to be creative about it…so bet it.  Plus, duct tape makes everything awesome.

Day 150 scorecard: 750 down, 1075 to go

1. Chips

2. Sugary Latte Drinks

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy: I went to Bulk Barn today.  That place kills me.  But I am stronger than it.

Exercise: 6k struggle outside.

March 28th, 2015

Enough?: March 28th, 2015

I feel as though I’m on the cusp of a new stage in de-cluttering.  The way I see it is this: if I told you to RIGHT NOW to choose 5 things from the room you’re sitting in and throw them out, it would not be that difficult (provided you are a regular 1st world consumer person).  If I told you to find 50 things, you would have a much harder time.  If I told you to find 500 things, you’d likely fail.  Somewhere between the 50 and 500 things is probably the perfect balance between and having too much or too little.  It’s called enough.

Too little is when you need to buy something every time you want to embark on a project.  Too little is not keeping scraps when you sew, not getting lots of toilet paper when it’s on super sale, not buying that one-of-a-kind item as a gift for someone when s/he inevitably marries that person even if you don’t know when just yet.

Too much is tripping over crap, hoarding stuff, having duplicates of everything you own because you can’t find the one you know you bought last year and it would take longer to find that than it would to just go buy another one.

Too much is easy to pare down, but knowing when you’re exactly at “enough” is hard.

So the new stage, in the majority of the rooms in our house, will be not getting rid of the excess, but getting rid of the not-really-necessary.  It’s an entirely different concept.

Fortunately, this only really applies to our bedroom, living room, possibly office, and mostly kitchen.  We have 3 children and a storage room.  We’re good to go for a while yet!

Day 149 Scorecard: 745 down, 1080 to go

1. Chips

2. Sugary Latte Drinks: man. I sure wanted a tea latte this morning.  Le sigh.

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy:

Exercise: oh, come ON.  I was at a conference all day.  I’m pooped.

Useful Art Objects: March 27th, 2015

Today I’m so exhausted I can hardly form a sentence, so instead I will mostly let the pictures do the talking.

The first item is made of various of our boys’ origami adventures, put together with the help of their Bubby.

…I’ve been corrected, apparently it was just Solomon and Bubby.  All this time I’d thought it was both boys…

Before, with the wooden "vase."

Before, with the wooden “vase.”

Relax Bubby (and Grandma) I did not get rid the creations, I got rid of the wooden vase.  And I finally found a most excellent use for the sculpture a long lost friend made in art school.

Its like she knew I would have origami-loving kids one day, far in the future.

It’s like she knew I would have origami-loving kids one day, far in the future.  Also: I don’t know why there appears to be tape up there…

The next item is something I bought several years ago.  I almost immediately didn’t like it much, but it had our NAMES on it, so what can you do?

Well, it’s wood…and it’s too late now if you want to protest:

Besides, I go by Killam almost exclusively these days.

Besides, I go by Killam almost exclusively these days.

And then there was the lovingly hand-crafted dragon costume.  I remember stuffing that dang tail.  It was a lot of work…but I loved how it turned out.

For some reason, I always first say "dinosaur".  It is is clearly a dragon.

For some reason, I always first say “dinosaur”. It is is clearly a dragon.

And then the Ninja costumes.  I’d made badges for each of us (Cheri, Cheri, and Mindy) and I’ve gotten rid of the Cs…today, M went:

Mindy, or MIGHTY?

Mindy, or MIGHTY?

And then this guy.  Max makes really awesome tiny people using things.  This guy unravelled a bit and was starting to crack and discolour.  For Christmas this year, he made me a guy out of yarn who will last a lot longer.  Farewell, broken tiny man.

My leg!!!

My leg!!!

Day 148 Scorecard: 740 down, 1085 to go

1. Chips

2. Sugary Latte Drinks

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy: two chocolates.  I’m passing them out as fast as I can, trying to get rid of them.  Argh.

Exercise: an entire day of house cleaning, followed by running at the arena.

March 26, 2015

The Arts Can be a Real Jerk: March 26th, 2015

I just had the most brilliant idea.  Since everyone (except for me and other dinosaurs) carries around “smart” phones, I think art galleries, school plays, auctions, and any other event that passes out paper programs should start blasting out virtual programs instead.  Isn’t that what QR codes were supposed to be for? (no, says Wikipedia, but Wikipedia does grudgingly admit that they could be used this way…)

Luddites like me can pay a bit extra for a paper version.

No, it’s not because I worry about the cost of printing, or the environmental impact of using paper, or even the physical toll lugging stacks of paper around can take on a poor run-ragged stage-hand.  I am worried about the accumulation. I am trying to find a way to avoid the inevitable saving that comes with printed programs.

I kept two art gallery programs from 1996 because I had a painting in a show.  Yes, 4 lines of type (about a 2″ square in total) were devoted to moi.  There were about 60 other pieces in the show.  Frankly, I don’t even remember having a painting in the show, so the program is more of an odd artifact than a memento.

(I do remember having my own solo show in a coffee house that subsequently burned down, but that’s a story for another day and I printed up exactly zero programs for said event.)

Thanks for contributing to my clutter, Arts.  Jerks.

Day 147 Scorecard: 735 down, 1090 to go

1. Chips

2. Sugary Latte Drinks

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy – I had one chocolate today.  In my defence my client/old friend brought me about 15lbs of chocolates which I have been sharing with all and sundry.  ONE, I had, one. Today.  I also had one yesterday at Solomon’s insistence.  Eep.

Exercise: none today.  I plan to write about this goal…

March 25, 2015

Down with Guilt: March 25th, 2015

I have to tell you, it is still weird here without the fish.  I get flashes of guilt and then I think, “oh, right, someone who loves them has them now” and then I feel slightly less guilty.  It’s a process.

Speaking of guilt.  I ran into my cousin tonight, just as Mike and I were slinking into the arena to go for a run.  Cousin John was curious about why I’ve been so mum on the whole running thing and also why we were less than forthright about running tonight.  I said “well, I haven’t been running that much,” and Mike offered “she’s fallen off the wagon,” and John nailed it: “ah, it’s guilt!”

Yes, it is guilt.  What a weird thing.  I’m not even sure who I am letting down, other than myself.  And if you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably not aware that we’ve had record amounts of snow here and therefore no one on earth was expecting me to be able to continue to run outside all winter. Nonetheless, if there is anyone I hate letting down more than myself, I’m not sure who it would be.  Well, probably my kids, but they tend to be more forgiving of me than I am of myself.

Spring is rolling around, the snow is shrinking (and, apparently, replenishing itself somewhat this coming Saturday) and I’ll be able to get back to building up my stamina again.  For now, though, it’s little bits here and there…and registration for upcoming events to motivate myself.

…and with events come t-shirts and other memorabilia.  I’m still undecided about the eventual use to which I plan to put my medals, but tonight I decided to go for broke and pare down my running duds to the things I actually will wear.  I probably could have thrown out more, but it’s really hard to part with such hard-earned gear!

Tonight, though, as I circled the hockey players, I felt like a complete poser to be wearing my Lucky 7 Relay shirt.  I might have done that 7k with ease back in November, but I’d be in a sorry state if I had to run it today.  Maybe I should throw out all my “event” shirts and 5 down the guilt, too!

Day 146 Scorecard: 730 down, 1095 to go

1. Chips – I felt a pang as I walked down the chip aisle, whilst searching for my favourite gum.  I was able to successfully squelch it, however.

2. Sugary Latte Drinks

3. Mini Wheats

4. Popsicles/Fudgesicles

5. Candy

Exercise: Full disclosure: Mike and I did NOT run last night, we were both too tired.  So we ran tonight instead.