Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A little perspective, courtesy of my television provider

A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. ~Dutch Proverb
This morning I found myself having to put effort into exercising patience. You see, I have a technician in my house right now, hooking up a new DVR receiver for my satellite. Then he has to go outside and upgrade the dish itself.
Not only do I have to delay my morning run, but I just found out that the 40 hours of old TV shows that I have saved on my old DVR can’t be downloaded off of it, onto the new one. (That’s one of the reasons we’re upgrading.)
Anyhow, anyone would be frustrated. Right?
Yeah, well, honestly, I’m ashamed of myself that I’m feeling anything other than elation that this whole thing is happening.
How did I get to the point that I’m feeling upset that my satellite company is giving me a new receiver for free (and installing it for free, also)?
Why am I not thrilled about this?
It’s such a First World problem. I have a roof over my head, safe drinking water that comes out of the tap, hot or cold, on demand. My electricity works 100% of the time and is affordable. My air conditioner runs cold air at my every whim. I can watch way too many TV channels any hour of the day or night, or watch nearly anything I want on the internet, which I can access from any spot in my house. My refrigerator is filled to capacity with food, as is my pantry. My bank account gets steady infusions of cash, enough to cover the mortgage and utilities and basics of life, and still have some left over. 
Seriously. What the hell do I ever have to complain about?
All that we behold is full of blessings.  ~William Wordsworth
The rest of the day, I’m going to be grateful for all that I have. Then I’m going to be grateful again tomorrow. And the next day.
And I’m going to start right now, by being grateful for the shiny new satellite receiver that’s being installed in my home. Something that I don’t need at all, but will get hours of enjoyment from. And the next time I realize I'm not appreciating the many blessings I have in my life, I'm going to mentally smack myself upside my head.
Thank you, Mr. Satellite Technician, for teaching me a lesson in humility today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zen and the Art of Running

Since I began running, I’ve learned a lot…about patience.

(But isn’t the point of running to get someplace fast?)

I’m not a natural athlete, and hadn’t run more than a few steps at a time since college. So when I took it up again two decades later, I tried to jump right in and be strong and fast, immediately.

That didn’t work out so well.

After a couple of mildly strained knees, I learned my lesson, or so I thought. And I slowly began to build up distance, and to a lesser amount, speed. And when I got to a certain point in my fitness, I tried to push it again. After all, I was over the beginner’s hump and was strong enough to handle it now, right?

Um, no.

My strained hip told me to back off again. At this point, I was a year into my running, and had to go back almost to where I started.

How humiliating.

But I did it, let myself heal up, and got to where I could train again. And I slowly eased into distance and speed again. Which was great, until my body started to respond to the training. Which meant I could do more…

…and injured my hamstring.

You seeing a pattern here? Good. Sad to say, it took me a year and a half to identify it.

Now, I think I have it. My hamstring has healed. I successfully (and slowly) ran a half marathon last month and felt great. I have two more races scheduled in the next three months. Life is good.

This time around, I’m keeping the speed work in check. It’s still difficult. I feel good and I’m ready to let loose. But I made it this far without hurting myself again, so I must be doing something right. I want to get faster, and want to someday finish a race mid-pack instead of in the back. And it will happen, someday. But for now, finishing injury free is enough.

I never thought it would take this long, but my journey from zero to marathon is going to take at least three years. If I had known that when I started running, I might not have kept going. But I’m glad I did. It was totally worth it.

What I’ve learned about patience from running has spilled over into other areas of my life. Everything… every task… every undertaking has its own pace. You have to respect that pace. It will happen in good time. In the meantime, enjoy the ride!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Warm up your writing

How is writing like playing sports?

Your performance will be better if you take the time to warm up.

Ever have a tough time starting a writing project? You stare at the blank page, have a few false starts, and finally set it aside in frustration, only to come back a short time later and have the words just flow?

You just experienced the effect of a writing warm up.

I read about this recently, how warming up before writing helps the process of writing immensely. And I’m not talking about swinging your arms around or jogging in place (though that won’t hurt). I’m referring to doing some warm up writing.

You can warm up quickly and easily by simply sitting down and writing a journal entry first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be pretty or grammatically correct, and you never have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. It only has to take a few minutes. But just the act of writing, a free-form mind-dump onto a page, will prime you for whatever you will be writing next.

Give it a try. You may be surprised with the results.

Happy writing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A (half) Marathon Undertaking

“Time to go for a run.”

Those are quite possibly my favorite words in the world.

The Spousal Unit and I had a great time at our half marathon two weeks ago. We picked the Space Coast Half Marathon for SU’s debut, and it was a wonderful race.

There’s a lot to do in Cocoa, FL. We took a couple of days and explored the area, including Kennedy Space Center (you get a discount coupon in your race packet, so there’s another bonus for signing up for that particular race).

The race itself was perfect: overcast, a bit breezy, and 68 degrees. I know, that’s a little warm for some (most?) runners. But for us weenies that don’t deal well with cold, it was exactly what we wanted.

The start of the race was a little rocky. But then, aren’t they all? Well, again, maybe that’s just me. The SU and I don’t do mornings that well, especially not early mornings, and the race had a 6:15 am start. That means up at 4:00 am, to make sure we were properly fed and caffeinated prior to running. Plus finding parking, which turned out to not be a huge deal. (Yet another bonus of the Space Coast Half Marathon.)

In addition to the early hour, my SU had given me a Garmin Forerunner 405 prior to the race. That’s a runner’s toy that I had been eyeing for nearly two years, and was very excited to have. Unfortunately, it is a very complex toy, and I didn’t have any clue how to use it, so it caused a bit of frustration the first mile. Okay, a lot of frustration. But once I got it working, things settled down.

Since this was the SU’s first race, and I wanted it to be a good experience, I hung back and let him set the pace. We did a nice, sloooow jog for the first four miles. Then, suddenly, magically, my SU discovered his inner competitive streak. “I’m tired of all these people passing us – let’s go!” You got it, baby.

halfway there
The rest of the race was a series of negative splits, meaning we ran nearly every mile faster than the previous one. Near the end, we had enough energy to flat out sprint. Not bad for a 13.1 mile run!

We crossed the finish line hand in hand, with a respectable time, and realized we still had energy to spare. And, most importantly, we had fun, and the SU is looking forward to running more races.

Mission accomplished!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to create another day each week without even trying

Last night on ProBlogger I read an excellent article on how to create another day per week for blogging.

An extra day per week – something we all could use, right?

Unfortunately, at this very moment, the ProBlogger site is down. But here’s what I remember: Basically if you set aside an hour of time each day for productive writing, you’ll gain seven hours a week. (Read the article here when the site comes back up.) A simple, yet extremely effective time management trick.

I’ve decided to apply it to help me keep up with my two blogs. First, I try to come up with ideas early in the morning, while I’m sipping that first cup of coffee. Then I write down a few notes and let them germinate a bit while I do my morning workout.

When I’m done with my workout, I sit down and flesh out my notes. Voila! I have a blog post.

Another great time for me to squeeze in work is late afternoon. That’s a time of day when I don’t normally want to start a big project, but I usually have an hour or so to kill before I think about dinner. That’s a prime time to outline any articles I’m thinking about writing in the next few days.

What’s your favorite time to squeeze in an extra hour of productivity? Do you have any other time management tricks to find “extra” time each day?