Tuesday, January 31, 2012

As the morning goes...

so goes the rest of my day.

That's not the most brilliant thought or profound insight. But I need to address some problems that I've been having.

I've been setting my alarm for 7 each morning. Years ago, I figured out that 7 was my natural waking time. And 7 should be easy for me; I was getting up between 5:30 and 6 for several months last year when I was driving Jeff to the train station.

Of course, I can get up when I have to. But it's been too easy to hit the snooze alarm or turn off the alarm completely when I know I really don't have to get up.

In addition to getting off to a late start, I have also been guilty of getting off to a slow start. That's been an even bigger problem for me. I love to linger over my coffee as I write in my journal. Some mornings I'll stop and check email or check out the news or weather. It's easy to let the whole morning slip away before I realize what's happened.

I hope that by writing about my morning problems here, I can turn them around. Let's start tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back in the Classroom

I usually tutor rather than teach in a classroom: I'm better in a one-to-one setting, the scheduling is easier and sometimes the pay is better.

Today I subbed for the first class of a course. I had some trouble getting inside the location; I had to try six doors before I found the right one.  The class itself went pretty well though I didn't quite finish all the material.

I enjoyed teaching today--think I'll do some more of it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What I'm Reading: Magazines

About two weeks ago, I headed to Barnes & Noble with a $25 gift card. I picked up ART journaling, Poets &Writers and Consumer Reports ShopSmart.

I picked up ART journaling because I have a vague (i.e. not SMART) goal of doing more creative things. I hoped this would inspire me. I still haven't finished the first art journal I started two years ago and wrote about here http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/01/art-journals.html but I'll do some work/play in it again soon.

I chose Poets & Writers because I wanted a writing magazine and its cover intrigued me with the headline, inspiration. Interesting subheads are: Clearing a Space for Imagination, Revising as as Act of Discovery, Metaphor's Universe of Possibilities, The Art of Writers' Reading Lists.

SmartShop is a kind of Consumer Reports Light. Its headline, Get organized for less caught my eye although I didn't find the article all that helpful. But overall the magazine was a good read.

Since getting these magazines, SmartShop is the only one I've read completely. I realized I had a bunch of other partially-read magazines around so I've gone through them. I finished reading the latest issue of Bitch and a few of Utne Magazine. Those are my the two subscriptions. Jeff's been gifted recently with Time, The Week and Smithsonian. so I've skimmed them also. There is always more to read.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What I'm Reading: Book Edition

Monday night I finished A Clash of Kings, the second volume in A Song of Ice and Fire. Even though I had mixed feelings, I immediately started reading the third volume, A Storm of Swords.

A Clash of Kings is dark. Now, A Game of Thrones is not exactly a feel-good novel, but I guess I knew what to expect from the HBO series. My favorite characters are in danger and there is no end in sight. I'm sick of reading about Tyrion's waddle. There are so many factions and so many characters that I find it difficult to keep everyone straight.

The worst thing is the prevalence of rape. Thankfully, the rapes are not graphic; they are basically mentioned in passing. But that may be what bothers me most. No one even seems bothered by them.

Despite my misgivings, I'm going to keep reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I write in my journal every morning. Julia Cameron's morning pages are my guide http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ though I "cheat" a bit on them. If I don't have a morning appointment, I tend to linger over my journal entry, I may put on the TV, check email, make more coffee.

Today I tried to be more disciplined. I made a cup of coffee, sat down and wrote. My entry today was more serious than most. Instead of listing things I needed to do or things I did yesterday, I wrote about some anger I am feeling.

Writing about my anger did not exorcise the anger, but it was somewhat cathartic. When I walked Spike, I felt lighter. Admittedly, the sun and warmer temperatures helped, but I think my writing this morning was a factor.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year

This is for those people who have already broken or given up on resolutions. You can start over. Today is the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

And if you mess up on resolutions again, don't despair. According to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year, you have more options besides January, ranging from the Babylonian New Year in March to the Samhain (which some celebrate as the New Year) around November 1.

There are no excuses.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dog Park Afternoon

We thought it would be fun to go to Taylor Farm dog park today. Since the temperatures were topping out in the mid-20's, we put Spike's Fido fleece on him. Unfortunately, he hates it as much as he hates getting his teeth brushed or his ears cleaned. Oh well, no one said parenting is easy--even pet parenting.

But the agony of the Fido fleece was worth it. Spike ran across fields and through the woods, played with other dogs and investigated interesting scents. He even got a few compliments on his fleece.

Here a few quiet moments from this afternoon:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Day

We got about five inches of snow today--the first measurable snow of the year and the season (other than the freak October storm.) It's a welcome change from last year when we had over two feet of snow by this time.

Today's the type of day when I love to cook. But in the past week, I've already made spaghetti sauce, chili, butternut squash-pumpkin-carrot soup and mango-banana bread. I'm running out of room in the refrigerator. I satisfied my cooking urge by making dinner of duck breast with a apricot, cherry and orange sauce, baked sweet potato, and broccoli and carrots.

The highlight of the day was taking Spike out to play. He ran across the field, buried his nose in the snow, snorted and ran back again. Puppy energy is awe-inspiring.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blog Note: Technical Problems

This is a small blog and I rarely get comments. So it's frustrating when I have trouble reading and responding to them. Currently I can only read the comments through  the comments menu.

I've tried to open comments from the public blog page on different days--no luck. Jeff has also tried to to read the comments using two different computers. He can't read them nor can he add the comment to a post that already has a comment.

I've listed this problem on a forum and hope it can easily be resolved. But I must say that another blogger has recommended I migrate to another blogging platform. I'll take that under advisement.

Steve and elle, sorry I haven't been able to thank you for your comments until now.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Guilt Trigger

Jeff and I split the Spike walking duties and I usually take the morning.  Today I got off to a late start and asked Jeff to walk Spike.

And I felt guilty. It's ridiculous. Jeff had more time this morning so Spike wasn't hurt in any way. As a matter of fact, Spike had more fun than he would have had with me because Jeff took him to the dog park.

But it got me thinking--why am I so easily guilted? Guilt doesn't seem to be helping me meet my goals--what's the point?

 No real answers here. But I've at least made some progress. I don't let other people guilt me as much as I used to. Now if I can stop myself from guilting myself, I may get somewhere.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writer's Block

Today over lunch, I was reading a few blogs and ended up at elle, phd. I'm not sure how I first found elle--probably shakesville--elle sometimes contributes there. I enjoy her writing and check out her blog from time-to-time. She hadn't posted anything new the last few times I visited. But today I found several posts for 2012.

I related to this post especially: http://elleabd.blogspot.com/2012/01/is-this-thing-on.html. She is trying to get in the habit of writing something, ANYTHING each day.

I guess this is a case of misery loving company, but if Elle has trouble writing daily, I don't feel as bad about my own struggles.

Thanks for all the 2012 posts Elle.

Day of Frustration and Comeback

You know you're off to a bad start when you decide to title your post, Day of Frustration, before 10 am.

So what happened before 10 am?

I overslept.

I realize it's not that big a deal. But this is the third time in a week when I turned off the radio instead of hitting the snooze alarm.The hour was enough to set me back. I didn't make it to the gym this morning as planned.

Anyway as I was walking Spike this morning, I was thinking about oversleeping, missed goals, unarticulated goals, things I need to do, things I should do, etc. One of my few SMART goals was to go to the gym three times a week. I only made it two times last week and I didn't want to wait another day for my first gym visit this week. Then I remembered advice from the article I linked to last week.

So I re-planned my day. I ended up going to the gym late afternoon instead (after a tutoring session, food shopping trip and and late lunch.) Yes, I lost an hour that I can't regain but I'll just have to work harder and smarter tomorrow.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Renovation Update

Today with the installation of new shades, our renovations are officially done. Whoo hoo!

Unfortunately we still have a lot of work to do: put away several boxes of books, photos and knickknacks, hang pictures and shelves, and do a major cleaning job. Also, we need to buy counter height bar stools, a new bookshelf and under counter lights for the kitchen.

The reason we still have so much to do is twofold. I don't just want to put things back where they were; I only want to keep things we really want or need. I spent time this week trying on clothes that had been in the spare bedroom closet and have bags of clothes for Goodwill or consignment. Our new shredder is getting a workout too.

The other reason? Good old procrastination--I'm a master at that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I'm Watching

Face Off, a reality competition series about special effects make-up, started its second season last night. I'm psyched. Most episodes have two challenges. In the Foundation Challenge; the winner gets some type of advantage for the Spotlight Challenge in which someone will be eliminated.

Last night as soon as all the contestants arrived, they were tasked to create a new character using resources from Universal Studios. The winner got immunity from elimination. In the Spotlight Challenge, the men competed against the women to redesign the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Witch from the Wizard of Oz.

It's fun to see how the contestants come up with their approaches to the challenges and how they pull them off (or not.) While there are personality conflicts and arguments, there's less bullshit than that of many other reality shows (Jersey Shore and Housewives--I'm looking at you.)

I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I'm Reading

I'm reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, the second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire (it's hard for me not to write fire and ice instead.)

I've never heard of the series or of Martin until I saw the HBO series, Game of Thrones (the title is from the first volume.) I love the series; you can almost say I'm obsessed with it. I'm on the third round of watching the complete series (the last two episodes are left.) I've also caught parts of episodes by chance.

I finished the book, A Game of Thrones last week. I see the characters as the actors who portray them. For the most part, the casting is dead on. I'm intrigued by the differences between the novel and series. Most of the changes I've noticed condense or consolidate scenes and actions or reflect differences in exposition between the written and visual arts.

I read somewhere that Martin was inspired by Britain's War of the Roses. The Starks represent the House of York and the Lannisters the Lancasters. I wouldn't see that if I hadn't read it; in fact, I'm not sure I see it now. Martin's world, regardless of similarities to ours, is his own.

I remember my own ambitious plans for science fiction novels set in new worlds of my imagination. I submitted a few chapters to a writing teacher and anxiously awaited her one-on-one critique. I worried she would say something like--writing just isn't for you, why don't you try something else.

Her criticism was milder. She thought I was too distant from my science fiction writing compared to my other, more personal work. She also discouraged my multiple point of view approach; she thought it was too confusing. But for an wide-ranging story in a new world, I think a multiple point of view is preferable, if not required (i.e. A Song of Ice and Fire and Dune.) Martin titles each chapter with the point of view character
so there's no confusion there.

I still keep my science fiction worlds in the back of my mind. I've saved those first chapters of my novels, notes and images that I pulled to inspire me. Someday, I'll return to them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Power of the Written Goal

I realize that my recent posts about goals are less than scintillating to my five or six readers.

But as I reviewed my lack of accomplishments for 2011, I realized that I can't make many improvements in my life if I don't have any goals (other than the vague "work out more" or "write more.") Writing goals down makes them concrete.

Today I read an article from Sunday's New York Times, "Be It Resolved" http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/sunday-review/new-years-resolutions-stick-when-willpower-is-reinforced.html?pagewanted=all. It reinforced what I was thinking. Whatever you hope for--you're more likely to make improvements if you have a formal resolution (or goal as I prefer.) Ten times more likely according to one study.

The article referenced a website to help set and achieve goals, http://www.stickk.com/. First, you select your goal. Then you have the option to set stakes--such as money that you can send to a friend, a charity or an anti-charity if you fail. You can choose a referee to monitor your efforts and confirm your progress reports. You can also invite your friends to support you.

It's an intriguing idea though I'm not ready for that kind of commitment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to the Gym

After more than four-and-a-half months, I made it to the gym today. I don't have a good reason for not going to the gym for so long--I won't make any excuses--it's all behind me now.

I didn't try to make up for that lost time. I did three sets of leg press, dual axis chest press, lat pull downs and sit ups on the Abench. I followed that with a half hour on the cross trainer (plus warm-up and cool-down.)

I actually felt taller afterwards (and just a little virtuous.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1 Down, 51 to Go

I was watching CNN this morning and the anchor made some comment about giving up on New Year's resolutions.

That kind of attitude bugs me. For one thing, it's only January 8th. The idea to to have New Year's resolutions--not new week's or new month's. Resolutions have come to connote failure--the unrealistic, unattainable dreams. That's one reason I don't use the term resolution. Goals even sound more realistic.

Photos from the Dog Park

The bizarre weather patterns continue in southwest Connecticut. Friday and Saturday were wonderfully warm--it even reached 60 degrees Saturday afternoon. We spent about an hour each day at the dog park.

I thought the evening sky was so beautiful on Friday, I snapped the two photographs below.

Later I wrote this:

warm temperatures belie the season

but the sky knows.

we make another loop around the park

as the sun clings to the horizon

eking out a few more minutes of daylight

the full moon rising in a cloudless sky will give us more

mere moments, only.

there is no reprieve.

time and the night wait for no one.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

11 in 11: Envy and Emulation

Last night I received a "Happy New Year" email from my friend Karen. Basically she had always wanted to do a clever holiday letter listing accomplishments and adventures. Although she didn't accomplish all her goals, she listed 11 things she did in 2011 that she hadn't done before.

As I read the list, I had mixed feelings. Karen listed three things that I wish I could put on my own 11 in 11 list. I'm happy for her and proud of her for these accomplishments but it reminded me that I did not have a successful 2011.

It also reminded me a little bit of when I read about someone from my class in law school: he was married to a famous, rich woman, had multiple degrees and was an expert in his field. Or when I ran into another classmate--seemingly wealthy and accomplished. It's not that I necessarily want the things that they have--it's more of a feeling that I should have/could have accomplished more. For example, if I had a novel of mine published--maybe I would be proud enough that I wouldn't care if I weren't rich, an expert in my field, etc.

I usually consider envy and jealousy a bad thing. Being jealous of my old classmates when I don't even know if they're happy is a bad envy.

But I read somewhere that envy can be good if you use it as motivation.

Which brings me back to Karen.

Maybe she didn't realize all her goals, but she took steps towards them and can legitimately celebrate those steps. That's where I failed. My year wasn't a complete loss but I couldn't come up with 11 in 11 (I only got to eight by stretching--my real total is five in 11.)

I have an idea of what I have to do--three of my last four posts have been about goals. I have to make goals and then make some sort of plan or map to get me on the right road.

Thanks Karen for your inspiring example.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's for Dinner?

Jeff got an email telling him that it's National Spaghetti Day. We had a half a box in our cabinet so that's what we had for dinner.

As the water heated, I sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil with a touch of sherry. I added red pepper, fresh tomato, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, herbs and pesto. I also grated Parmesan cheese and made a romaine salad.

The sauce was pretty good, it was easy to make and it was vegetarian (eating more vegetarian meals is one of my goals.)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some SMART Goals

For at least the past ten years, Jeff and I have given up drinking at the beginning of the year. We start the Monday after New Year's Day and don't drink again until Valentine's Day (although Jeff does have a beer on Superbowl Sunday.) I only remember one year where I failed at this goal--I had a glass or two of wine at a business dinner.

This is a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). I think the time limitation is what makes it doable for us. We can look forward to a nice Valentine's dinner with wine.

Another of my goals is to exercise every day for at least a half hour. (This doesn't include walks with Spike or dog park visits.) Now I don't expect to meet this goal, but any progress on it will be good for me. Next week I go back to the gym--at first three times a week, later four or five times a week.

My other goals are works in progress. I want to eat better--so far I've got one day eating vegetarian. I want to write more. Not sure if I should go for a time  or a word count goal. Other goal areas are reading more, watching less TV, getting more sleep, doing creative things (now that's really vague.) Have to think more about how to make these meaningful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

As I was walking Spike this morning, I started thinking about the quotation in the title of this post. I remember seeing this on a poster in the sixties or seventies. The Philadelphia radio station WIBG used it in a jingle around that time. WIBG or Wibbage was my favorite station when I was in high school. I remember hanging out in my attic bedroom weeknights listening to deejays, Joey Reynolds and John Records Landecker, talking on the phone with my friends.

I made this detour down memory lane as I pondered resolutions and goals. I got off to a slow start and today slipped away from me. I did some minor chores but haven't made any progress on anything important.

That is the trap. It's not a matter of willfully ignoring important goals or dreams but getting caught up in the day-to-day necessities--the routines of our daily lives.

John Lennon once said that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. But we can make plans to help shape our lives. We can ride the waves instead of letting them break over us and sweep us away.

Make plans, set goals, realize dreams.

I just have to start.