Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

No, this is not to update you on resolutions I made at the beginning of 2008. That would be the normal thing to do. I am actually only putting my resolutions into effect tomorrow. Which is my birthday and is therefore a new year of a different sort. I'll explain: at the beginning of the year, I was agitated. I was very much dreading this year. I was in no mood to make declarations about a "new me." So I decided that I would ease myself into some resolutions and try them out before I turned them into rules--a "practice run"--then use my conveniently timed birthday as my new beginning.

Before I get started on listing my 2008 resolutions, I want to write a little about my resolutions from last year. One of my resolutions last year was very successful. I had resolved to eat more whole grains, and fewer white flour/white rice items. I totally did it! I now understand the difference between whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour (the former is for yeast breads, the latter is for everything else, like cookies, cakes, pie crusts) and use at least 50% whole wheat flour (or pastry flour) in most everything I make. I marginally increased my consumption of brown rice (which I really do prefer to white rice in terms of taste and texture, it's just that it takes so long to cook that keeps me from always eating it) but mostly just decreased my consumption of white rice. I haven't been all that good about eating other whole grains... I did use a bit of bulgar (bulghur?) wheat and barley in my cooking this past year, but I don't remember using the other grains I'd previously tried out (quinoa, kasha) much. [Note to self: I should eat more varied grains.]

Another of my resolutions from last year is an embarrassing one to admit in this public forum, but maybe admitting it will be good for me. I pick at the split ends of my hair. Some of you who hang out with me in person probably already know that. I actually used to do it in full view of my coworkers, because I do it when I am deep in thought... and as a scientist, part of my working day is dedicated to thinking! I found that picking my hair helped me concentrate on thinking, because it was mindless and kept me from other distractions. At the beginning of 2007, I resolved to stop this pointless habit, and for at least the whole of January, I did. I had one little slip up on January 1st or 2nd... I pulled off a split end without even thinking about it, then realized that I was going to need to pay more attention. Anyway, I did start picking at my hair again, but stopped numerous times over the year telling myself, "is this really how you want to spend your time? is this really something you should be doing in public?" etc. By the Christmas break, I had re-resolved to stop and, so far, I've been very good and don't even remember the last time I picked at my hair. I still notice my split ends, but when I'm tempted, I tie my hair back. I hope I continue to not pick!

Last year, I also made the classic resolution of losing weight. I failed miserably. I gained weight. I blame a lot of it on my getting really sick in January and the rest of it on depression. While sick, I COULDN'T exercise for almost a week because my body wouldn't have been able to take it. And that got me out of the habit. To state in plain words what I may have alluded to before: I have (what feels to me as pretty bad) plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and have a mild case of it in my left foot. I have some undefined problems (2, possibly related, but that announce themselves in distinct places) with the left side of my pelvis that can cause me a bit of pain and a lot of discomfort. And my lower back is very sensitive and frequently gets tweaked. Once I got out of the habit of exercising through the pain, I found it mentally very difficult to force myself back into exercise. I decided to take a few months off of regular exercise in the hopes that that would allow my feet to get better (I'd had PF in my right foot for about 7 months at that time, now >1.5 yrs; the pelvic problems I've had for years, so they're chronic, life-long problems in my eyes and, anyway, I took time off of exercise when one of the problems first showed up... after about 6 months, it improved enough that I started exercising again). [I did actually run occasionally January-April, but no more than once a week, and even that I stopped for most of the rest of the year; I picked my upper body toning work back up around the mid year... 3 days a week, very consistently. Yay!] I gained a little bit of weight, but mostly lost muscle, so really I gained more fat than a scale would tell me. And then my ongoing aches and pains and my ongoing lack of a "real job" and poor prospects for one led me to depression. And that led me to increase my dessert consumption and pre-dinner snacking. I gained about 7 pounds over last year. This has made a very big dent into my amazing 15+ pound weight loss in 2004 (my 30th birthday was coming up...), especially when added to the 3-4 pounds I'd put on 2005-2006. And that has led to further depression.

I'm really getting away from my original plans for this post, but I do want to record this here: my logical way of thinking serves me well as a scientist. It also makes for a good voice of reason in my head. However, I spend a lot of time thinking about "how fat I am" (yes, for those who know what I look like, I know I'm not very fat by common standards, just well-padded). I didn't used to... it started in ~2003 or so and now I'm obsessed. The voice of reason says "spending so much time thinking about how fat you are and how much you'd like to look better in pants is foolish. If you are this concerned about your weight, why not just lose weight? You've done it before. You know that all you have to do is take in fewer calories than you expend. You know that reducing portion size is what has worked for you in the past. You don't have to deprive yourself of anything... you just have to eat less of everything." And the voice of reason is right. Yet, I have not been able to get myself back into my 2004 habit of eating less. Sigh.

Okay... I stepped away from the computer for many hours at that point of this ever longer essay and have returned in no mood to ramble (originally, I had planned to opine on the subjects of cellulite and physical aging... aren't you glad I'm going to skip that?). Getting to the point: my resolutions!

- Lose fat. Will do by eating less (have been practicing this for the last week at least) and resuming regular cardio exercise (see next item)
- Do cardio exercise regularly [yes, through the pain] (have been exercising almost daily for the last ~2 weeks; has taken my right foot to new levels of pain; see next item) [Note on other forms of exercise: I love toned arms so much (yes, I suffer from vanity), that I have no problem sticking to my weight-lifting routine for my upper body. And, two physical therapists have now told me, and my experience has convinced me they're right, that I am going to have to do "core" strengthening exercises for the rest of my life, to hold my pelvis together. I have been doing these exercises regularly since I went through another round of physical therapy starting in ~August, and appreciate the resulting reduction in pelvic pain enough to keep up with core exercises. So, no problem there either. It's cardio I need to work on]
- Try harder to improve PF in feet (I've also been through physical therapy sessions for the PF, but stopped doing the stretches I learned from my PT when I decided (after my last session) that they actually made things worse. But, I wasn't exercising then, so maybe the stretches will be more constructive now? It's worth a shot, even if (while I'm stretching my calf muscles) my coworkers make constant jokes about my "holding up the freezer" or "holding up the wall" (I am supposed to stretch every hour and I don't have time to always go find "somewhere private" to stretch and I use solid objects in the lab to push against, hence the comments). I need to start icing my foot again (yes, even though ice feels extra cold in winter!) I also ordered a splint today... it's to keep my foot flexed while I am sleeping). Maybe I'll return to doctor and ask to see a podiatrist, at my dad's suggestion. Want to avoid surgery and cortisone shots like the plague.
- Don't pick at split ends (so far so good)
- Do less random blog trolling (also going well--I signed up for my favorite blogs in Google Reader and so now don't actually go to people's blog pages where I may get derailed by juicy-looking links to their friends' blogs etc.)

...maybe I should have finished this earlier... I can't remember my resolutions any more! I probably had some work/career-related ones in mind, but my brain isn't putting them into coherent thoughts right now. Oh well, since I anyway think I've already bared my soul more than I should have in a public forum, I'll stop here rather than try to make up some more resolutions. Maybe I'll write again if I remember them. Or maybe I'll be too busy trying to keep these. By the way, I do recommend the "practice run" approach--for all you know, I practiced a few more and found them too hard to keep so decided not to mention them :-)

Happy birthday to me, and may my 34th year be filled with kept resolutions!

PS. Just thought of a candidate resolution: be more succinct (and use fewer asides) in blog postings and comments on other people's blogs. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll never be able to stick to that one!

Friday, January 18, 2008

You know you live in southern California when... see blossoms on trees in mid January. With apologies to all my friends in the northern climes who are not enjoying winter right now! [Btw, some Californians say that the high cost of living here is due to the "sunshine tax" we have to pay.]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Update on sewing projects

My sewing energy of late has been going into improving the diaper-and-wipe bags I mentioned in a previous post. Following Kirsty's suggestion, I have added a snap to the straps, to allow them to be looped around something like a stroller handle (I also paid attention to a stroller that someone rolled by me the other day and saw how it didn't have a place that the bag handle could just be draped over... what's with that?). Here's the one end of the strap and the back of the snap (pardon my stray hair).
While picking out the pearlescent snaps at the store, I found some magnetic snaps on clearance ($0.97 for 6 sets!) and thought they'd be a nice alternative to velcro for the flap of the bag. They're a bit tricky to work with, because I have to add several additional layers of fabric to support the snaps (they're somewhat heavy). Here are the magnetic sides of the snaps on the body of the bag. In this photo, you can also see where the handle snaps on (on the right).
And here are my latest two sets of bags... the blue ones have velcro to close the flap, and it was so much easier making these than the kinds with the magnetic snaps! But the snaps do look nice and won't get all fuzzed-up like the velcro. These blue bags have a front pocket, unlike the blue bags I made first (previous sewing post).
And here is the overall view of the red and black bags with magnetic snaps to close the flap.
One of the blue bags and one of the black bags are going to Celia, who is a graduate student who works down the hall from me and is due on January 27 (though earlier would be better in her mind!). I met her when she was about 5 months pregnant and barely showing. She worked at the bench next to me for a few months and it's been fun to watch her belly grow. I bought a pack of baby wipes yesterday to give her with the bags...
Wow, that was an interesting photo! I'm also giving Celia two bibs... one is the bib with iron-on vinyl that I showed in my last sewing post, and this is the other one...
I haven't been working on baby bibs lately but will get back to them now that I am getting a bit bagged out (I have two more that just need the final assembly and several more that I have most of the fabric cut for, so I've really been busy with the bags). I haven't quite figured out how to incorporate Kirsty's suggestion of making them so that moisture doesn't go through, other than using vinyl. I'm going to try the sew-on vinyl next and will keep looking for other waterproof fabrics too.

I'm sure your heart is racing after reading such an exciting post :-) But I wanted to document my sewing successes before I give them away.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Last portraits of things once loved, and a first portrait of a new thing already loved

I took down our Christmas decorations today. The living room looks a little bare now! I took a photo of the tree (a ~2 foot high artificial tree) during its last minutes...

The small gourd decoration with the Santa face on it came from a couple in Washington state who sell homemade stuff... I had bought kitchen towels from them and they threw in the painted gourd as a thank you. The other gourd-like decorations are plastic Halloween ornaments I bought at an after-Halloween sale and made into hanging decorations for my tree.

Because my parents drove down to San Diego to see me for Christmas, they could bring more stuff with them than my mom usually can on the plane (this was the first time my dad visited me in San Diego). They took this opportunity to bring me a table! It's a dining table that has two leaves that fold down, making the table quite compact. Jesse and I love having a table (when we've had guests over for dinner before, we've had to sit around our coffee table. We once had a 8.75-month pregnant woman over and I felt quite bad for her--she ended up sitting on the floor). It fits perfectly around the corner from our kitchen. Here it is with one leaf up...

The downside to the table is that sitting on a wooden chair reactivated the "acute" type of pelvic pain I have (a pain in my butt, to own the truth). I must be too used to cushy couches/chairs. So, that's why the pillow is on the one chair now. (The photographed chairs are ones I already had, I just didn't sit on them until now... previously, Jesse had used one as a sitting place when he puts his shoes on, and the cats had used the other one as a perch)

Jesse is allergic to many things, including flowers. But, I like flowers. So, soon after he left San Diego to go visit his mom for the holidays, I went and bought myself a bunch of white carnations. Well, I didn't think they'd last longer than the two weeks Jesse was to be gone, but they have. Jesse has been sneezing like mad the last day, so I may throw them out later today (Jesse says I don't have to, but his sneezing tells me otherwise). Here's their last portrait...

In putting away my Christmas decorations, I was re-acquainted with a set of potholders I'd recently put away in my linen closet. These potholders saw me through graduate school and now three years beyond. They're almost old friends. I'd put them in my linen closet when I made myself some new potholders and was a little nervous about whether or not they'd actually protect my hands from heat (I did not make the old set)! So, I held onto the old ones until I could figure out if the new ones work. They do, so I decided I had to get rid of my old ones. As you can see, they were well used...

And that's it for today. 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The cats and their ribbon

A piece of ribbon found its way out into my living room sometime around Christmas. Alice, one of my cats, has spent many hours sitting next to it since. On rare occasions, she plays with it. [She has this thing with "her" toys... she sits next to them and we can't really get her to budge, even if she is somewhere where she could get underfoot (normally she is pretty good about staying and getting out of the way). We think maybe she's indicating to us that we should help her play with the toy, but we're not sure.] She has, in fact, spent so much time sitting next to this ribbon that I have been worrying about her getting too obsessed. So, I have been hiding it most of the time and only bring it out to play with occasionally. Last night, both cats were sitting on my lap and Jesse brought out the ribbon. Their eyes sure lit up (Clara likes it too, she's just not obsessed with it like Alice is). Jesse thought they were looking so cute that he went and got my camera and took these photos.

 The cats have just spied the ribbon.

Clara makes a valiant effort to get it. To get it good. Alice is ready to back her up.

"Oh no!," say the cats. "We dropped the ribbon! Whatever shall we do?"

The end.