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Food, Panic & Fasting

Confession: I missed two days of doing one pushup last week. Mostly because I just forgot. I have a reminder set now, so I’ll definitely do better this week (did 8 last night)!

I’m actually very motivated to do well with that goal, because I’m finally, after years of being stuck at the same basic weight, losing again. The thing is, I’ve always had good luck with keto-style diets (where your body burns fat instead of sugar/carbs for energy), but it’s not a sustainable diet if, like me, you enjoy a wide variety of foods and food preparation techniques. I’ve never been all that keen on giving up natural sugars like fruit either – there are good nutrients in fruit, and not all carbs are bad, IMO.

There’s a new-ish trend that’s becoming more popular called Intermittent Fasting, and while I’m not normally one to jump on various trendy bandwagons, this one appealed to be mainly because it’s largely how I ate all through high school & college. I was never overweight back then – in fact, I had trouble keeping weight on. But I never ate breakfast, and went from vending machine to taco bell and back while being on my feet for more hours than not during the day.

Also, genetics. When I was young, they were on my side. Now, not so much. *sigh*

Obviously, I didn’t eat all that well back then, but I also didn’t eat all that much, which was the key. And when you love food like I do, and you have enough money to buy food (like I do now), it’s incredibly difficult to just “limit calories” for three meals a day. Also, not much fun.

The thing about intermittent fasting is that if you fast for enough hours in the day, your body will switch to fat burning when it runs out of carb energy. And if you work up to longer fasts, you can ramp up something called “autophagy”, which, from what I read, is when your cells start cleaning themselves up (dismantling the old, dysfunctional or otherwise mutated bits and turning them back into usable “parts”). There are other potential benefits as well, but those are the two I’m most interested in.

So, after a lot of research, the hubby and I decided to try it. He was interested first, so he was already basically following the no-eating from around 7:30pm (when we normally finish dinner) to lunch the next day, though he’d have a light snack late at night, and occasional snacks at work in the morning (so not a true fast). I, on the other hand, was eating round the clock, and I knew it would be more of a mental challenge for me to change than a physical one.

Mostly because, before last week, I panicked if I got hungry. Something about that hunger hormone (gherlin?) hit my brain and told me to eat asap to keep my blood sugar up! Don’t go without! Don’t starve! Very bad things will happen!!

Hormones are drama queens, and can’t be trusted. My brain knows this, but still responded with the appropriate panic to hunger signals. Which was really annoying, once I put it in perspective. My body was controlling me, not the other way around. And that made me want to take control.

Being a control freak isn’t all bad. Sometimes, those powers can be used for good…

To start, I cut out my late-night snack (a half-cup helping of yogurt, granola, hemp & chia seeds, and maple syrup). I have (had) trouble sleeping on an empty stomach, so I was prepared for a struggle, but I managed to make it through to the next morning. Then I started pushing my breakfast back, first by an hour, then another one, and another, and another. The first day was really rough, because that “hunger hormone” kept firing off every time I would normally eat, and the more I didn’t eat, the more insistent it was, so I was hungry pretty much all day – even when I was eating.

The lack of salt in my diet didn’t help – my electrolytes went really low and gave me a whopper of a headache, which wasn’t pleasant. A little sea salt in water did fix that problem, and I’m more attentive to getting a little salt in daily now to combat that (salted peanuts).

In any case, after the first day, things got a lot easier, and now I’m doing 15 hour fasts regularly Mon – Fri, and pushing towards 16 (which is the goal). We don’t fast on the weekends because our schedules are just way too variable, but we still only eat a couple times per day – morning and evening, often skipping lunch.

According to the scale, I’ve lost two pounds in the last week and a half. Which is pretty amazing, all things considered. If I can keep losing a pound a week (or even a pound every other week), that would be incredible. I have a good 15-20lbs to lose, and slow and steady would be perfect (and not leave me with too much loose skin).

I do have to make sure I get enough fiber, which is kind of a challenge with a smaller eating window. But the longer I go without food, the easier it gets, so I’m really not hungry during the fasting window any longer. And I don’t feel the need to eat a lot during my eating window either…so I don’t “binge” to catch up, which is also good. My body is running on less overall, and doing just fine with that, and I don’t have to work at it all that hard, now that I’m through the adjustment period.

I try to stick to a fairly low-carb diet anyways, and I’m still doing that too. But I haven’t been too strict about it lately, and I’m still losing weight, which means in the fasting parts of my day my body is definitely burning fat for fuel. I want to keep that going, and I imagine when that starts to slow down, I’ll be able to go stricter with the low-carb thing and get some extra loss out of it to keep my metabolism revved.

So…a good experiment so far, and one I’ll continue for as long as possible/feasible. One more weapon in the arsenal against the bad genes in my makeup. Here’s hoping it’ll make a long-term difference.


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Resolution Six-Month Checkup

I had to break one of my resolutions for the year (the one easiest to keep at the top of my mind), so I figured this would be a good time for a six-month “checkup” of sorts to see how I’m doing. As a quick reminder, I did make a long list of goals for the year, but only three actual resolutions:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

Needless to say, things aren’t going well. *sigh* Until a last week, I’d been fudging the 6 hours of sleep thing for a few weeks, pushing it later and definitely not getting to bed on time, which makes my mornings suck (not to put too fine a point on it). Granted, some nights this year I just haven’t slept well. That’s partially because we bought a new, much firmer mattress that my husband loves, but it’s taken me a good couple of months to adjust to, and partially because the weather was so weird for awhile, and finding the “sweet spot” for the A/C with all the humidity we’re really not used to was very much a trial and error thing. Another issue was gallbladder discomfort, which I’ll get to in a bit.

But part of it is that I’m just trying to do too much at night, and not getting it done frustrates me, so I stay up later to try to compensate, and then get up tired in the morning which means I’m even more tired/less productive the next night, and it’s a cycle that hurts me more than it helps. I just really need to scale back on the things I want to do and take care of myself by…getting to bed on time. I’ve done that very purposefully the last several nights, and woke up rested, before my alarm, and ready to start the day (except Sat night, but that doesn’t count).

So, I’m relaxing and reorganizing my late night schedule, admitting that I can’t actually do eveything I want to do, and getting to bed on time. Because it’s important.

The Sleep Resolution stands.

I mentioned gallbladder discomfort above…it’s been worse than normal this year, and I couldn’t figure out why after it’s been so calm for several years. I was almost resigned to finally going to the doctor, but still dragging my heels, so to speak.

I decided to try Chanca Piedra again (stonebreaker herb), which worked great last time I had issues. I was also reading up on intermittent fasting for health, and stumbled on a research study that found that eating more than three eggs a week was highly likely (ie, happened in 93% of the test group) to cause gallbladder discomfort.

I’ve been eating 10-13 eggs per week since January, faithfully, per my resolution. And my recent gallbladder issues have been going on pretty much exactly that long. *sigh*

I finished off the eggs I’d already hard-boiled for last week with the help of my husband (egg salad sandwiches are yummy), and cut myself back down to only having eggs occasionally. *One day* after I quit eating eggs daily, my gallbladder inflammation went down and the discomfort all but disappeared. It’s been five days now, and the discomfort is still there (because the eggs probably caused more gallstones to form over the months), but barely noticeable. I think a round of chanca piedra to break up the gallstones will probably get me back to where I need to be in regards to gallbladder health. If it doesn’t, I will go to the doctor, but I’ll definitely try this first, since it worked so well the first time.

So – The Egg Resolution is dead. Turns out the one resolution I was actually keeping was hurting instead of helping. Dang it.

As far as the third resolution goes…well, I think it’s probably obvious that I have *not* been checking in with my goals list once a week, and I’ll be totally honest and tell you that at least several of them have been either ignored or derailed by other things. Which isn’t good. But, I have six more months to work on that, so I’ve set an alarm for myself on Monday nights to do that weekly check-in, and a few other check-ins I need to be more diligent about as well (things like budgeting, meal planning, etc). Right at the first part of the week.

Way back in the “dark ages” before digital assistants were phones, the whole reason I started using one (palm pilot!) was to keep track of my schedule and remind myself to do things. I still do that, but not as much…and it’s a great tool to keep me moving in the right direction. I need to make better use of that particular feature again.

The Goals Check-Up Resolution stands.

I think I need to make one more resolution so I’ll still have three to work on (because every creative person knows that odd numbers are better than even). In that light, I’m adding another health-related resolution:

The Push-Up Resolution is a goal to do a minimum of 1 push-up per day/6 days per week for the rest of the year. Yes, it sounds insignificant, but much like the dead egg resolution, the purpose isn’t just to do one push-up, but rather to do one healthy, resistance training thing per day which most days will end up being 5 push-ups, or 1 push-up plus 10 bicep curls, or 20 push-ups, or 10 push-ups plus 10 squats…

You get the point. Taking the time to do 1 push-up per day will force me to think about working out, and if I have time to do one, I can probably do five or ten, or even twenty, or if I’m downstairs by my weight set I might decide to do a few other exercises just because I’m there. Or, I might be busy or sick or just not feelin’ it, and I’ll just do one push-up to satisfy the resolution and that will be that. It’s still something, and something that will affect positive change in the long run.

That gets us back to three resolutions for the rest of the year.

How are your own resolutions (if you make them) going? What about just basic goals? Have you done your own check-in lately?


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Progress & Health Check

I think I’m probably the worst person in the world at following my own advice, which means I have to “check in” with myself often and sort of wag a finger in the mirror to set myself back on track. One of my biggest problems is being that person who gets so wrapped up in accomplishing a goal or fixing a problem that I let such things consume me, and pretty soon, I’m making excuses as to why I’m not taking care of myself anymore. From simple things like forgetting to brush my teeth, to willfully looking at the clock and thinking I can just work for “ten more minutes” instead of getting ready for bed, I am the ultimate self-saboteur. It’s not a healthy quality.

If this post isn’t done and schedule by 10 minutes to midnight, I have to wait until tomorrow, no ifs, ands or buts. Because after a good week/week and a half of ignoring my bedtime and other simple self-care to-dos, I need to make that sort of boring, mundane thing a priority again. *sigh*

It’s no fun. It’s annoying. I wish I could just work myself into the ground now, while I’m young-ish, and not have to worry about being cognitively sharp and physically healthy when I’m older, but that’s not who I am, so here we are, caught between a personal goal I want to accomplish, a work problem best worked on while the rest of the world sleeps, and not enough super-human strength to make either a priority for long. Dammit.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a priority of writing 500 words a day, no matter what, and before anything, including sleep. Honest-to-God, you’d think I put that out to the universe as a dare, because if I told you all the things that happened to derail/sabotage that goal (all out of my control), you wouldn’t believe me. It’s insane. But I can’t live like that, with all that angst and frustration over my daily word count that clearly isn’t meant to be. I hate that, because I want, more than anything, to write for an hour a day (even half an hour!). But man, I tell you what. It feels like an impossibility when every writing session feels doomed from the start.

In any case, this week’s priority is healthy habits, and those other two things when I can work them in without jeopardizing the whole healthy thing. I still want to write 500 words per day (1/2 hour), but if I can’t, I can’t. No stress, because stress is unhealthy, and we’re done with that, at least for a few weeks.

We pushed things way too hard this past weekend too, which is part of my weariness tonight (Monday around 11:30pm, for reference). Saturday we did yardwork, put up a new mailbox (which is now the prettiest, coolest on on the block, thankyouverymuch), and then went mattress comparison shopping (which is exactly as tiresome as it sounds, honestly).

Sunday, we got up late, drove out to get the mattress we’d decided on, brought it home, went bed frame shopping (we’ve just had a regular metal frame for eons…it was time for a nice wooden one), brought that home, hauled out the old, put together the new, and collapsed in another fit of weariness.

Monday (a holiday here in the States) I did the bare minimums for weekly housekeeping that I normally do on Sundays, and we had dinner with the BIL for his birthday. By that time, we were so worn out from running all weekend we were not very sociable company, I’m afraid.

We ate out once on Saturday and ordered in, then ate out again on Sunday and ate the leftover Chinese from Saturday, and then Monday ate out for BIL’s dinner. Way, way too much restaurant food, which didn’t help at all, even though it tasted good. My body is more than ready to get back to healthier, home-prepared meals without all that added salt and far lower carb counts.

And all throughout, I was monitoring my work problem, taking notes, finding patterns, making discoveries and trying new things to fix it (none of which worked) all while checking my email at intervals due to someone asking me to be available in case needed (special situation). I’m glad I did all that, because I have a good idea of where the problem is and what to work on next to fix it, but it did take a lot of time and energy that I don’t normally put into work stuff on the weekends.

It was a lot all in one fairly small time frame, and I may take Friday off this week just to sort of relax and recalibrate for a day. We’ll see. That would make an already short week even shorter, which isn’t always a good thing, but it may be exactly what I need to keep the mind and body both healthy. So, I’m keeping it as a possibility.

When was the last time you “checked in” with yourself, as far as health and self-care priorities go? Are you doing okay, or is it time to step back and revisit some of those goals you have/had to be healthier, no matter how small?


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Gettin’ Organized, Stayin’ Healthy, Movin’ Forward

Super-quick recap: Magnesium rocks, hormones suck, and aging is hell on the body. Yes, I know I’m not all that old yet, but man…my metabolism decided to just go on vacation once I hit the late 30’s, and now in my 40’s I’m trying rather desperately to drag it back and get it under control. Annoying, but possible, perhaps. Now that I’ve gotten my supplements in line and my focus & motivation back (thank God), I’m weight lifting again, which feels really good, and hopefully will be the final piece in my “put your metabolism back to work” puzzle. I don’t miss much about my younger years, but a healthy, fast metabolism is definitely one of those things.

In any case, the whole “getting my focus back” thing has made me realize just how nutty my brain actually was for the last few years, and also how much I need to put some new organizing structures in place now that I can actually see the way forward again. Some of that is household related – budgeting, meal planning, restructuring routines, and some of it is side-business related – namely, publishing. I started wondering how I’d kept things going for so long in that ridiculously unmotivated mindset, and then I realized, I really haven’t. Which is probably why I’ve been having trouble keeping track of things with this latest release I’m trying to do. I needed to buy ISBNs, and kept forgetting. Had a huge struggle with cover art for a lot of reasons, but one was not having a clear vision of the series as a whole. And then getting formatting scheduled, leaving myself time for uploading and getting the print copy put together and the print wrap done and writing a blurb, getting a couple new web sites up and running for the new alter-ego….

I was sort of drowning in everything, to be honest. And I knew what I needed was something (paper, digital, whatever!) to help me manage my writing projects. I’ve needed something to help me keep track of characters, profiles and important scenes for a long time, and nothing’s worked long term, but while I was looking for project management software this week (and not really wanting to pay an arm and a leg for it after buying more ISBNs), I actually came up with something I think will work perfectly for me, both for publishing project management and keeping writing projects organized.

If you haven’t heard of mind mapping, go check out MindMeister. It’s mind-mapping on steroids, and includes notes, task lists and due dates, and is easily used by collaborators if that’s your thing. And then MeisterTask is a sort of companion program, and you can actually create a mind map, and then export the items into a MeisterTask list in order to have a very convenient and easy to organize “kan ban board” style of task list. And both the mind map and task list have email notifications, so you don’t have to keep checking the list for what’s next if you set deadlines right up front.

Not everyone’s mind works this way, but I tell you what – just using the free versions of those two tools got my latest publishing project organized in about 20 minutes (and that’s just due to the learning curve). I can’t see myself ever needing more than the free version of MeisterTask, and I may eventually pony up for the lowest tier of MindMeister just for the ability to print maps that I make for my series books.

Yes, I get excited about new organizing tools. I love them – always have. I’ve been using “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) for budgeting, which I both hate and love at the same time. I hate budgeting, period – always have. But I need to budget and get some debt paid down and just get control of my spending, so I’m forcing myself. It’s not always easy, and never actually “fun”, but it is working, so I’ll keep doing it. *sigh*

I really need to do the same basic thing with food – “budget”. I’m kind of a food hoarder, so I buy way too much, and then waste way too much. I also spend too much time deciding what to make on any given day for both lunch and dinner (except Mondays, when lunch is always burritos, Thursdays, when dinner is always pizza, and Fridays, when lunch is always…leftover pizza). I need to develop a good solid meal plan and dinner rotation so the decisions are made on the weekends, and I don’t have to think much during the week – just cook.

Note: the calendar software I have already has meal-planning capabilities, so while there are “sexier” programs out there, I’m doing my level best to use what I have. I think I may have the most luck though with a couple of simple menu boards for the kitchen. Sometimes low-tech is still the best way to actually get something done.

In that same vein, I may have just ordered some new cookware for one of my cousin’s online Pampered Chef parties. I have a small kitchen that is overflowing with Pampered Chef (and other stuff), but I managed to convince myself that new bakeware would come in handy.

So. Menu-planning to use food, and now to use/justify new cookware too. Sounds about right. Right?

Where the Body Goes, the Mind Follows

Everyone make it out of this past weekend’s bi-annual time warp okay? I like daylight hours well enough, but nighttime is when I feel most alive, so this is my least-favorite time change. But, I’m managing passably well, I suppose. Only six more months until my inner vampire will be happy again.

A few things about me that might be of interest before we start talking about supplements:
– My body is incredibly sensitive to supplements, vitamins, drugs, etc.
– My personality is such that I pay attention to and notice the *tiniest* changes in my body (yes, it’s annoying – I generally don’t share).
– I’m a control freak, and I studiously avoid anything that fogs my brain or slows my thinking for any length of time. That includes most pain-killers, psychotropic drugs, and large amounts of alcohol. I’ve been tipsy, but only had one hangover, ever, and I’ve never done any kind of street drugs or been “high” aside from the occasional contact high with friends or in concerts. My greatest fear is probably general anesthesia, which I wouldn’t even let a dentist use when he wanted to pull one of my teeth (I’ve had several teeth pulled, fully conscious, thank you very much). Yes, I have a high pain tolerance.

All that said, I am constantly studying herbs, spices, and various vitamins/minerals in order to try to keep my body running as well as it possibly can. And a very interesting (I think it is, anyways) side effect of this is what happens to my brain in the process. Depending on what I happen to be “experimenting” with on any given day/week/month, my thoughts can either be completely chaotic and have the texture of a bouncy ball, or they can be overwhelmed with anxiety in several different forms, or they can be calm, focused and downright serene about life. That calm focus is the goal, of course, but sometimes a new supplement or different percentages of things can screw that up almost instantly.

Toward the beginning of that whole mid-life “thing”, I started taking MSM because I thought it would help with…some aspect of my body (I forget what…it was several years ago, in my defense). I did all my research, and as usual, nothing mentioned anything about mental side effects. Just how great it was for so many things. So, as usual, I tried a quarter of the normal recommended amount first (because…sensitive). The first day, things were okay. The second, things were a bit weird. My body felt fine, but my thoughts were starting to race a bit. Still, I have my off-days like everyone else, so I didn’t think much about it.

Long story short, by the end of two weeks I was an anxiety-ridden mess, misinterpreting people’s actions/words (I’m normally pretty decent at interpreting people), and not interacting well at all due to all the weird and confusing thoughts going through my head. By then it was pretty obvious that it was the MSM giving me some sort of odd mental reaction, so I stopped it, and within a day or so, I was back to “mid-life” normal.

It’s kind of freaky how stuff like that happens. And if you’re not paying attention and keeping track of what’s changed in your life (for me, a new supplement), it’s very easy to miss the cause of such a quick onset side-effect.

In any case, I’ve taken a multi-vitamin for years, and during the mid-life thing I found that fish oil really helped to calm the anxiety in my head. I started taking it to balance out my cholesterol and get more omega 3’s in, and realized not long after that my thoughts were clearer. I stopped it for a few days to test, chaos returned. Started it again, and within a week, I was mentally more stable. I’ve made sure I am *never* out of fish oil since then – it makes that big of a difference for me.

I’ve tried a lot of things, with varying results, and I could share them, but the thing is, everyone’s body and chemistry is different, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Right now, I’m experimenting with new supplements that are made in Seattle to replace the basic Costco variety we normally buy. The difference is night and day. We have a calcium supplement, whole food vitamins for women/men (same basic mix on the label, just proportioned a bit differently), and new fish-oil tablets that are stronger than our usual.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s not all roses right now. There’s a fair amount of vitamin D in both the calcium supplement and the vitamin, and that tends to wreak havoc on my system (physically). There are a lot of other vitamins/herbs that have been blended together, and according to the company, they’re put together in specific amounts that should make all of the elements more bioavailable. Which for me, is basically code for, “These things are strong – start slow and pay attention.”

Of course I didn’t, because I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything out there that will help talk my body into letting go of extra weight (unsuccessfully). I just went ahead and started with half a dose of calcium, and a full vitamin dose. Which, predictably, made me physically miserable for a solid week until I backed off on the vitamins (cut to half-dose).

But, while my body was rebelling, my mind was doing something very interesting…like…nothing. My anxiety shut down, my thoughts calmed, I could focus without even really trying, and I wasn’t worried about much of anything – just like when I was younger. It was glorious!

When I cut back on the vitamins, the mental effect was still there, just not as strong. Which was disappointing. So now I’m kind of playing with the amounts of the calcium/vitamin supplements to balance out for my physical comfort, and hopefully once I get that figured out, the mental benefits will stick around as well. If they don’t, you can bet I’ll be breaking down those vitamins and figuring out what gave me that shining “moment” of serene relaxation again. Because that is the person I want to be.

All this to say…what we put in our bodies has such a huge impact not just on how our bodies work, but how our minds work as well. I’ve done so much as far as cleaning up my diet, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s pretty decent, overall. And I know I still don’t get the vitamin/mineral balance I need just from diet alone, so supplementation is an important part of my life. Naturally, as our bodies age, the things we need change, so it’s not really a “set it and forget it” type of thing – it’s something I pay attention to and tweak often, because what helps one day or week may not the next, depending on what’s going on.

Now, to sleep. I haven’t been getting all I need of that lately either, so I’m making a better effort. Except for tonight (Mon/Tues), so I can get this post out (since I have to be up early anyways). But the rest of the week, you can bet I’ll be getting my 6 hours in.

I wonder if those years of sleeping 4.5 hours a night contributed to my mental issues…could I have saved myself a lot of angst just by sleeping more? Something to ponder further, perhaps. After I get some sleep.

Resolutions 2018: What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be?

This year, it’s not about what I do, but who I am. Am I the kind of person who puts things off and lets them go just because the time isn’t optimal, or due to rigid social/societal structures? Or am I the kind of person who treats life and time as fluid and finds creative solutions in order to meet her goals and stay mentally balanced and healthy? I’m sure you can guess which kind of person I’d rather be…but I’ve been slipping on that a bit lately. Or a lot. I’ve let a lot of good habits go by the wayside just because I can’t do them on the schedule I want to or because I’m tired and not making good use of my alone-time to recharge, and I’ve let some stumbling blocks in my daily life completely derail me from things I really want to do.

I’m a creative thinker. The things that have been derailing me just…shouldn’t, because I’m perfectly capable of figuring out different ways of getting things done. I’m also perfectly capable of finding a compromise point when necessary, and that’s where the flexibility comes in. Often to get things done or change a schedule, the only person I need to compromise with is myself and my own rigid thoughts and routines.

When it comes to resolutions, I’m changing my thought patterns a little this year. I normally have a fairly long list, with several resolutions and then a detailed plan for how I’ll accomplish each one. A “resolution” for me is just a very strong goal…something that I really want to focus on and work at making happen. The thing is, I don’t remember those long lists, so I end up only accomplishing one or two things instead of a good chunk of the list. And I’m not good at remembering to check the lists every so often and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing, which is something I need to work on.

So, this year I’m doing something different. I still have my longer list with the detailed plans, and I’m going to put monthly reminders on my calendar to look back, take stock and see what kind of progress I can make on that list. That’s the yearly “Goal List”, and those items are important, but they take a back seat to the “Resolutions List”.

The Resolution list is the highest priority, has three items on it, and only a few ideas on how I could possibly implement these “major goals”, rather than a detailed plan that may or may not work. This is to leave my mind room to work on creative solutions so I can find the one that will work best with what I’m trying to do through trial and error, rather than locking myself into something that may prove untenable in the long run.

The resolutions are deceptively simple, but will require a ripple of changes to multiple routines, schedules and mindsets to meet them on a regular, daily basis. They’re seemingly small things that will have profound impacts on my life…hopefully for the better.

So, my resolutions for this year are:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

And that’s it. Those are my three hard and fast priorities for the year – the things I want to do no matter what else happens. Why these three in particular?

Sleep is something I hate wasting time on, but it’s incredibly important for a lot of things, not the least of which is overall long-term brain health. I read a study last fall (and mentioned it here, so apologies for the repeat) on how if you get less than 6 continuous hours of sleep per night, your brain can’t properly perform basic “cleaning functions” it needs to keep the pathways clear of amyloid deposits (among other things). These deposits have been linked to causing dementia and Alzheimer, and the more often you go without that minimum amount of sleep, the more your brain actually loses the ability to perform those important “scrubbing” tasks no matter how much sleep you get.

So why make it a resolution? Because for me, sleeping for 6 continuous hours means completely redoing both my night and morning routines, and becoming more efficient at what I need to get done before and after work just so I can have 6 hours free to do…brain maintenance. This resolution affects a very large swath of my life, and while I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, I tend to “fudge” the schedule here and there, and I’m still working to find a good way to handle my manicure nights on Saturdays (when I’m often up until 4-5am doing my nails).

Focusing on getting 6 hours of sleep will force me to adjust and change (improve?) a plethora of other things in my life, which makes it a good resolution, methinks.

As for the eggs – I’m working on getting healthier (a constant thing). Losing weight, getting strong, eating healthy. Lots of recent studies have de-villified the egg as a cholesterol issue, and they contain a lot of really great vitamins and minerals that support healthy thyroid and metabolic function. Plus, good protein! And very versatile/easy to incorporate into daily meals.

Focusing on eating one specific food every day will force me to think about my meals in advance, and also keep me in the mindset of eating foods that support my overall goals of getting healthier and getting back to a healthier weight.

Lastly, the checking in on my major goal list once a week will help keep those fresh in my mind, and give me a weekly opportunity to think about what I could do to make progress on them, or go over what isn’t working and adjust the goal accordingly. This also will require that I adjust my weekend routines to make time for this weekly check-in. I’ll probably need an hour, at least.

So, that’s the resolution list and plan for this year. I’ve already started moving things around in my routines to get to bed on time, and planning out how to fit a daily egg into my diet (this week, cupcake-sized egg muffins for breakfast…made this morning and cooling for the freezer). Just need to figure out when I’ll do my first goals check-in next weekend, and I’ll be off to a good start.

Here’s to a year of focus, flexibility and forward progress!

NaNo Update, Slippers, Weight & Nail Grinding

You may have already guessed, but last week was not the week I got everything together and caught up on NaNo. I did write nearly 5000 words on Friday when I was off, but that was about it, other than the odd hundred words or so during the week. I’m honestly pretty sure I’m not going to make the 50k by Nov. 30th, but that’s okay. I’ve been wanting to write this particular story for ages, so whatever word count I get done on it is good progress.

One of the other things I’ve been working on is a pair of slippers. I thought I’d make my husband a pair first, and then if they went well, I’d make a couple pairs for gifts. The first slipper I made exactly to the pattern, but it’s really not…tall/wide enough for his foot. So I need to tweak the pattern a bit, and use the same length, but the width for the next size up, and see if that makes them a bit more cozy. It’s a fun stitch (Tunisian Knit Stitch), and works up quickly, so I’ll start the new one tonight.

I’ve been working on them in the evenings while we’re watching TV, which is generally better than staring at the computer screen all night. Better for my hands/wrists/fingers too. they’ve been getting kind of wimpy lately, and I need to build those muscles back up. Strong hands/wrists are really handy!

I’ve also been trying desperately to figure out when I might be able to hop on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and still can’t seem to find the time. It’s frustrating, but my weight is creeping up again (badly), and I really need to get a handle on it. Like…yesterday. So that’s a major goal for this week.

And, I really should find some time to fix my nails before the week gets too far. I was late getting started with my manicure Saturday night (due to dying my hair, of course), and by the time I had them cleaned, filed, buffed and ready to paint, I was *so tired* I couldn’t even really pay attention and did a pretty bad polish job. But the worst of it is, I went to bed too quickly, and smudged several fingers, and then when I was grinding down the dogs’ nails, I managed to grind holes in two of the poorly done, smudged polish on my own. *sigh*

Talented, I am. But the dogs’ nails are in much better shape. So there’s that.

This week is a normal, mundane 5-day work week. Let’s hope that means I can get my writing schedule back on track, if nothing else…and maybe a treadmill schedule as well?

Housework, NaNo Update & Other Stuff

*yawn*

It’s Sunday night as I write this, and I am *tired*. I planned to put away Halloween yesterday, and just…didn’t. I mostly sat around and thought about doing stuff, with the exception of going grocery shopping and then out to dinner and a movie with my husband (Thor: Ragnorok – very fun, can’t wait for the next one!).

In any case, that meant today was the day to do “all the things”, including all my housework (which I was already behind on from last weekend) and putting as much Halloween away as I could, given the snow outside. But with the extra hour (I do love fall-back-to-standard-time), I got up earlier and subsequently finished earlier, which is nice because I’ll be able to get to bed on time (which almost never happens on Sunday nights).

Yes, I should have been writing. All weekend. My NaNo word count so far is a measly 1700 words…which is about what I should have for one entire day. But my house was a wreck from all the festivities last week, and there was no way I could focus without doing something about that.

Why is my word count so low, you ask? Well, I got a decent start on Wednesday, but not fast enough. Thursday I thought I was doing well, but I ended up starting my writing session late, and I’m just not willing to give up sleep this time around. So I went to bed. And Friday was a horrible Tuesday-clone all the way around, so I honestly just didn’t feel much like writing. Or anything else, for that matter.

I want to write this story…badly. And when I am working on it, it’s flowing really well – better than any other story I’ve written so far. I think it’s due to the fact that I know so much of the backstory. It really makes everything, including the character motivations, more clear in my head. I think this coming week the word count will go better, or I hope it will, anyways.

But this time, I’m not willing to give up sleep, or health, or my normal priorities just to make a specific daily/monthly word count happen. I’ve done it before, and while I could do that again, it’s just not worth it to me. I do have this coming Friday off work though (in observance of Veteran’s Day), which means I’ll be able to work on the story on and off all day (bliss!). And since I got most of the Halloween stuff put away today, I should be able to grab a few longer writing sessions next Saturday and Sunday as well.

So, way too early to give up on NaNo. Plenty of time and opportunities to raise the word count without compromising my health-related priorites.

Of course, there are some other things I’d like to do this month, like cleaning up that old sewing machine and getting it running, and starting some knit and crocheted Christmas gifts. Maybe this week will be the week I get my schedule together and figure out how to work on those at the same time I’m working on the NaNo novel. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

I live in hope.

Now, since I have everything all wrapped up early for once, and I have an hour until bedtime…maybe I can make that word count a little more respectable before I sleep. To everyone else out there “writing the good write”…many words to you!

 

Holidays, Book Inventory, Sleep, & Tattoos

Today is a federal holiday, which means I am not at work. Call it Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day as you like (or Thanksgiving in Canada – Happy Turkey Day, Canadian peeps!) – I’m happy enough to stay home either way.

I have some editing I want to get done…on paper, no less. So that will take up part of the day. I need to catch up on the food prep I didn’t get done this past weekend too. Breakfast burrioes, yogurt & dog treats all need to be made.

I also want to start inventorying the books in my office bookcases. I have three tall bookshelves at the moment, but my husband is building me a really nice wall unit that will have four bookcases on top of four sets of drawers below, and in the middle (two on each side) a charging station/small desk area where the new printer and all chargable devices will sit to juice up.

I’d like to put all of the books into an inventory program I bought for that specific purpose, and moving them to new shelves seems like a good time to reorganize and clean out the copies I don’t want any longer. It’ll take me longer than a day, so might as well get started while I have a little extra time. I need to clean off all the little knick-knacks that accumulate in front of the books too (just me? Really?), and find another place for my porcelain doll collection (currently on top of the old bookshelves). Some of that is on the agenda for today as well. I can’t sit all day, but I can’t be in constant motion, either, so having different tasks will satisfy that need for variety.

On sleeping: as it turns out, getting more sleep does leave me clearer-headed. Unfortunately, it does not make me want to move any faster late at night when I should be extricating myself from the couch/cuddling dogs to get the kitchen cleaned up and get to my office to write.

But, new habits and routines take time, so this week, I’ll just plug along trying to stick to the same routine. Hopefully it’ll click eventually if I just keep going. I did okay getting to sleep on time for the first few days, but by the end of the week, I was reading later and sleeping later and not hitting my targets, or feeling rested. It’s been hard to stay asleep too – I’ve been waking up earlier (at my “old normal” time), and then going back to sleep. Though this morning I woke up closer to the “new normal” time, so…progress?

At least I’m getting more sleep than I was, so hopefully it’ll turn into more deep sleep one of these days.

I did get some new words in on my novel drafts last week, and bought a new printer so I can edit on paper. This week’s writing update is over on the writing blog, if you’re interested in more details on that.

And I stopped at the tattoo shop this past Saturday to show my artist how the smoke-filler in my sleeve turned out, and he wants to add some more (I was hoping he would). So I have an appointment for Thursday at 1pm. Can’t wait to see how it looks after this next session! I think the extra filler will really make it look more “complete”.

After that heals, I’ll get a video/pictures of the whole thing. And then we can discuss the different pieces/parts, and how they ended up plotting the backstory of the novel I’ll be working on starting next month, for those who might be interested.

Now it’s time to make another cup of tea, throw open the blinds, wave my husband off to work and get going on the first editing session for today…

Sleep, Health, & Difficult Choices

Last week I read an article in The Guardian about a neuroscientist and his two decades of studying sleep. The salient points of the article (for me) include a drop of 70% in your cancer-fighting killer cells and a much greater risk of Alzheimer and Dementia for those who consistently get too little sleep. That, and the fact that the less you sleep on a consistent basis, the less capacity your brain has to perform the “scrubbing” operations it needs to in order to keep your brain clear of amyloid deposits. And you can’t ever get that capacity back. It just keeps getting worse.

Will science eventually figure out some way to scrub out those deposits and restore our “brain-cleaning” abilites? Maybe. I dare say that if they do though, it’ll come with trade-offs in the form of side effects that are potentially as harmful, which is how most medicine often ends up working. Thing is, they might not too, or maybe not in time for me personally to benefit from it.

In any case, better to prevent as many health problems as possible, rather than count on medical science to “save” us later, methinks.

I’ve been getting 4.5 hours of sleep per night for…well, several years, at least. According to the article, anything less than 7 hours is considered sleep-deprived, and your brain doesn’t even start that deep cleaning until you’re in the last part of the 4th consecutive sleep cycle (so, the end of 6 hours). 7.5 hours would be 5 sleep cycles, which is optimal for brain health, so the article suggests.

How much damage have I already done? Hard to say…but probably a lot. When I read the article, I decided I needed to take action immediately – as in, that very night.

It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out how to rearrange my evening and morning schedules so I could still have some writing time, and yet get 6 hours of sleep. Those of you who already sleep 6 or 8 hours are probably wondering why it’s so difficult, but both my mornings and evenings are on a very tight schedule, and in between is the workday. I only really have an hour every evening of “free time”, which I spend watching TV with my husband. Everything else is scheduled by default, from dinner to dog walking to cleaning the kitchen at night and dog care/getting ready for work in the morning.

We all have priorities, of course, and I’ve chosen to make health a big one of mine. So things like cooking dinner (from scratch) 4-5 nights a week, walking the dogs (which is also one of my workouts) and ten minutes of yoga every morning are important to me, and need to stay priorities. Spending that time with my husband is too. Which means the only negotiable thing left is…writing. And I only had an hour every evening and half an hour in the morning scheduled for that.

One full sleep cycle.

So, I started looking at everything I do and trying to figure out how to make it tighter. More efficient. I managed to consolidate some things into little snippets of quarter hours here and there between other things. I banked on the fact that sleeping more would enable me to get going faster in the mornings so I wouldn’t need the time I normally do just to “wake my brain up” (20 minutes). I banked on the fact that more sleep would equal more motivation, and stacked my schedule tighter. And I figured out how I could get to sleep by 12:30am (to bed earlier…12:30 is the time I have to be asleep by) and get up at 6:30am most days and still have an hour of writing time most nights. Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays are all anomalies…I’ll have to shorten my writing time on Monday night to get up earlier to make the Tues staff meeting (have to be at work an hour earlier than normal). Friday nights are normally my “business hours” for publishing, and now those have to be cut short by a couple of hours due to needing to sleep 6 full hours before I get up to feed the dogs, and I’ll have to figure something out for Saturday nights too, since that’s my manicure night and I’m normally up very late (sometimes 4am).

Making the decision to sleep for 6 hours is hard for me on a lot of levels, but one of those is that late at night, when everyone else is sleeping and the house is quiet is my favorite time of “day”. I’m an introvert, and I need time alone, and that’s really the only time I can be guaranteed that no one will need anything from me for hours at a time. Friday and Saturday nights when I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning, by myself, just getting stuff done or doing things specifically for me…it’s a very relaxing, rejuvenating time. Giving that up is difficult, and stressful. I’ll need to figure out how to get some of that “me time” back when everyone is awake. But if that were easy, I’d have done it quite awhile ago.

And of course I need to figure out how to get the business-y stuff I was doing late Friday nights done at other times, and how to get my manicure done in less time so I can get to bed earlier on Sat nights. Both are still works in progress. I tried finishing up marketing/promo stuff this past Saturday morning after I got up (since I was up earlier due to the new sleep schedule), but just getting up earlier doesn’t make me more able to function in the morning – I’m still a night person, and my brain still doesn’t really “work” before 9 or 10am – no amount of sleep is going to help that. Those are hard-wired parts of my personality, so it’ll take some time to work the weekend schedule around the dogs and husband and everything else so I can still keep up with bookkeeping and marketing and all the other non-writing book-related tasks that need to be done. I failed this Saturday night/Sunday morning, and was up until 4am again. I still got 6 hours of sleep, but it wasn’t consecutive – there was a half-hour “up” time in the middle to feed the dogs and let them out. But now I have a whole week to figure out how to get my Saturday nights more consolidated.

Of course next Saturday night we’re going to a concert. And a couple weeks after that, a masquerade party for Halloween. So Saturdays might be my downfall for awhile. Hopefully getting more sleep every other night of the week will offset those. I’ve read various articles on Alzheimer’s studies that say preliminary findings indicate that coconut oil and curry (turmeric, cumin) can help remove those amyloid blockages as well, and I make turmeric paste for the dogs occasionally (turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper & water), so perhaps I’ll make sure to get some turmeric milk or curry in here and there throughout the week too. I do love curry…

I should mention that this past Weds, Thurs and Friday were some of the most clear-headed days I can remember having in a long time. Good focus both at work and later at home, no brain fog, I didn’t need that extra 20 minutes in the morning just to get my brain to function…it was a definite improvement on all levels. So while I can certainly “function” on 4.5 hours of sleep, I’m operating on a serious mental deficit there that I didn’t even recognize in myself until I made the change and paid attention. Kind of scary, when you think about it.

So, more sleep is the name of the game at the moment. Here’s to getting more zzzz’s in our lives (or mine, at least)…