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?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's talk time management - the five-minute rule

Yes, my old friend, time management. Where have you been, buddy?

Today I made a concerted effort to create a list and cross things off, like I talked about here.

You know something? Lists work.

What else worked was the five-minute rule.

The five-minute rule is if you need to do something, and it only takes five minutes, DO IT RIGHT NOW. Don't put it off.

I cleared my list in record time today by doing all the five-minute tasks first, then tackling the other stuff.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Confidence booster: keeping track of your successes

Today I was reading Rich Schefren's Strategic Profits blog (I highly recommend it), and came across an excellent article about 3 ways to boost your confidence.  Here's the article.

While I enjoyed all three tips, I particularly liked the first technique, Start a Victory Journal.

At first glance, that doesn't seem like anything new or innovative.  I mean, most of us can pull up a mental list of at least some our top achievements, if given a few minutes (or hours) to think about it.

But when you read Rich's suggestion, you see that he goes deeper than that.

First of all, write it down.  Don't just rely on your memory. We should all be doing this. If you are employed by someone else, it makes performance appraisal time so much easier. And if you work for yourself, well, it's nice to be able to look back at your successes.

Next, what should you write? Here's the fun part! There are three things you should be noting in your journal:

1. Any time you do something particularly well, write it down. Notice I didn't say perfect? Yeah, that's right, time to chuck the perfectionism. Strive for "well done." And if you procrastinate (yeah, this one is aimed at me), then note any progress you're making on anything you've been putting off.  I have a few things I could list here...

2. Any time you do something for the first time, write it down.  Wait, is that a victory?  Yes, it is, and you'll see why in a bit. 

3. Any time you step outside of your comfort zone, write it down. For me, this closely relates back to trying new things. Both of these activities are hard to do, and you deserve to get a mental pat on the back for them.

Okay, now, why are we doing this?  I'm going to quote Rich here, because he said it so well:

"Anytime you do any of these you should record it and congratulate yourself for it in your journal. The longer you do that, the more confidence you will build because you’re constantly reminding yourself that you actually are better than you’re giving yourself credit for."

I love that - reminding yourself that you are better than you're giving yourself credit for. I don't know about you, but I can be very hard on myself. This exercise should help me learn to keep things in perspective. By keeping a Victory Journal, when I'm having a bad day, I can easily remind myself that not only do I not suck, but I'm actually quite good at a lot of things. I'll know because I have it written down.

And the first thing I'm going to write in my Victory Journal is that I stopped procrastinating on my writing and updated my blog.

What will you be writing in your Victory Journal today?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book reports

I'm still way behind in my efforts to read 50 books in 2011, but I have managed to squeeze in a few more.

Star Island, by Carl Hiaason. Another fun romp through the seedy world of southern Florida.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. The only Austen I hadn't read. And I had to. Because. One must read all Austen novels, or one isn't complete. It is a truth universally acknowledged.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen. Okay, I hadn't read this one either, but it's more of a short story than a novel. An entertaining read, by the way.

The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler. Now you know why I was catching up on Austen! I've wanted to read this book ever since I watched the delightful movie based upon it. The book was also delightful.

And that brings me up to a total of 28 for the year, with 22 left to go.  I need to take a week or two and just read...

Monday, September 19, 2011

It doesn't all have to be done today! (Or even tomorrow...)

Last week I was busy. Crazy busy. Nod off in front of the computer at the end of the day busy. And I must say, I got a lot done! But I’m also glad that things have calmed down this week.

Since becoming a freelancer, I’ve noticed something: when I’m super busy, my work takes over my home life. Before, when I went to an office, I had busy days, and even some long days…but when I got home, that was it. Work was done.

Not any more. When you work from home, sometimes there is no “off” switch.

Luckily there are some things that I can let slide when I get extremely busy. And there are a few things I can’t.

Here are four things I can put off when life gets hectic.

-Selected housework. I can’t just drop all housework, because I still have to live and work here. But vacuuming, dusting, and making beds? They can wait.

-Cooking. I love to cook, it’s one of my favorite things in life. But if I’m busy, meal planning, shopping, ingredient prep, and cooking are time-vampires. As long as I have a carton of eggs and a bunch of bananas in the fridge, I’m not going to starve.

-Reading/writing for fun. This one kills me to give up, but these enjoyable pastimes become time-wasters when I’m busy. That means no extra personal blogging, rambling emails to friends, or reading novels or magazines.

-Sleep. Well, I can’t cut sleep out entirely. But if it’s a choice between getting a project done on time or disappointing a client, well, I’ll give up a couple of hours a night. Besides, I work from home - when it slows down again, I can take a nap!

And here are four things I can never let slide. Ever.

-Selected housework. Laundry - gotta have clean clothes. The alternative is just unbearable. And running the dishwasher from time to time, as well as a weekly trip to the grocery store for the basics (like eggs and bananas).

-Email. Like everyone else, I get a ton of email. I found out the hard way that it must be dealt with every day, like clockwork, or my electronic inbox overflows and it becomes too much to handle. I set aside 3 times a day that I tackle new items in my inbox, and it only takes a few minutes each time. The rest of the day I try to ignore it (unless I’m expecting something important).

-Family time. Again, a few minutes here and there accomplishes a lot. Setting aside the computer for 15 minutes or so does wonders for my husband’s and cats’ moods, and mine, too.

-Exercise. I’m not talking about training for an Olympic event here. But I need a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 days a week of aerobic activity to feel human. It may mean giving up a little sleep, but I’m not giving up my morning run.

What are the things you have to keep up with, even when you’re busy? What can you avoid? Share in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Running is gluten-free

Well, I missed Wednesday's running post and Friday's gluten-free post, so why not combine them for a Sunday post?

The comeback trail from a hamstring injury is slow.  I still have tightness and some residual soreness in my hamstring, but I'm finding that if I just relax and don't push the pace when I run, it doesn't get any worse.  In fact, my hamstring feels better after a run, I guess because the muscle is all warmed up.  That's not the problem. I don't mind going slow, as long as I get to keep running.

The thing that has been bothering me since my injury is that my legs feel like lead on every run.  You may recall that I took a few weeks off and rested.  During that time, I also changed my diet.  I am now grain-free and sugar-free, and with that, my carb intake has naturally gone much lower. I didn't realize how much it would change my energy levels.  I feel great most of the time, but when I exercise, I'm dragging.

In the past I didn't think too much about carb-loading before exercise.  I mean, it just happened naturally.  I was eating grains like rice and corn at every meal and snack.  So I naturally had a lot of easily accessible fuel available for each run.

Fast forward to my new, grain-free existence.  Now I'm fueling my body with protein and fats, and let me tell you, it's hard!  Carbs are easy fuel for the body, but protein and fat take a lot of work to assimilate.  No wonder I'm dragging...

So I tried a little experiment before Saturday's four-mile run.  I ate carbs.  Not a lot, mind you.  But I made the effort to eat something for quick energy, which amounted to a grain-free biscuit with honey.  I know, right?  I went all out!  And here's what happened: I felt good. I had a great run. And I didn't feel like I was running through pudding.  It was, in a word, AWESOME.

Now I get to have some fun experimenting with paleo-friendly carbs before runs.  There are sweet potatoes and raisins in my future.  Maybe even some coconut flour breads. All gluten-free, grain-free, and (mostly) sugar-free. I must say, I'm looking forward to it!  I really didn't like running with lead legs...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why I write

There are three reasons why I write:

1. Because it’s there.

2. Because I can.

3. Because I like to make stuff up.

Many people that know me well are surprised that I love to write. Why is that? Well, I think it’s because I’m not an incessant journalist. I was never the kid scribbling away in a diary, documenting every second of my life. Or writing down hopes and dreams, stories, to-do lists for my adulthood, or anything else that budding writers are supposed to be doing. There is no stack of volumes hidden away that will someday (long after my death) be bound together and sold as a record of my existence.

Nope, not happening. I don’t journal. Never have.

For me, it was letter writing. I wasn’t writing away in a notebook, keeping things hidden from view; I was writing long, thoughtful, news-filled volumes to my family and friends. Four pages of unlined paper in cramped script, both sides filled? No problem. I sent so many long letters that I know exactly how many pages of typing paper (now sold as printer paper, or 20 lb bond) can fit into an envelope and still need only one first class stamp. (5 sheets in a No. 10 business-size envelope, for your information.)

I love writing letters! But those fell by the wayside eventually. My friends and family preferred to talk on the telephone. Cheap long-distance rates put a serious dent in my letter-writing career.

Then came email, which I love, and cell phones, which I hate. Email meant I could still send my long, thoughtful letters with just a single click of a mouse, while cell phones (with unlimited minutes) meant everyone else still wanted to talk on the phone. I eventually gave up on letters altogether.

Fortunately, I discovered blogging, and all my creative energies were transferred online. I also found National Novel Writing Month, and will be writing my third novel this November. These outlets kept my writing habit alive until I finally got my courage up, quit my paid employment, and struck out on my own as a freelance copywriter.

Writing seems to be a dying art form. Most people I know can’t stand to do it…which works out well for me. Because no matter how much people get away from writing, and how much they dislike it, there are always letters, emails, web pages, and various forms of copy waiting to be written. So I am thankful for our digital age, and the decline of the desire to write. I love to write (and I’m pretty good at it), and therefore will always have job security.

But really, mostly, I just like to make things up…

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The half marathon training plan

We are all registered for our half marathon.  The entrance fees have been paid, hotel reservations made, and training has begun.  Three months to go!

I'm a serious Run-Walk-Runner, and we're following Jeff Galloway's Half Marathon training plan.  It's the same one I used last winter for my first half marathon.  I even put it into a Word document, and added a column on the right for the date of my long runs, so I can update it every time I start training for a new race.  Yes, I'm that big of a geek... Anyhow, it's posted on the fridge, so we can tell at a glance what the long run is each weekend.

This Saturday we'll be doing a 6.5 mile run.  We actually did that last weekend, quite by accident.  Long story, but lets just say there was a little misunderstanding as to what I thought the map said, and what it actually said.  Oh well... This Saturday we'll be doing a familiar route, so it should be fine. And the beauty of run-walk-run is if you end up having to go longer than planned, the walk breaks will save you. Literally. 

By the way, if you are interested in running, but don't think you can, I can heartily recommend checking out Jeff Galloway's website.  The man has coached hundreds of thousands of runners, and I can personally say that I would not be running anything over 3 miles if it weren't for his help.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why marketing is like exercise

Let me just start off saying this: I like marketing.  I find advertising to be pretty cool.  I love watching clever commercials, following long-running ad campaigns (GEICO, anyone?), and analyzing copy in direct mail pieces to see what emotions the writer is trying to trigger.  Fascinating stuff.

Marketing is great.  Self-promotion, however, sucks.

Why is that?  Why is it fun to promote something or someone else, but sheer torture to promote myself?

I think most people were raised to be humble.  I know I was.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, who wants to be around someone who is constantly bragging about their achievements?

But now that I'm a freelance writer, if I want to get paid, I have to tell the world what a wonderful writer I am.  And it's tough.  Because part of me still thinks it's wrong to brag.  Even though I know that self-promotion is vital to my new business, Kismet Copywriting, I still find myself coming up with ways to avoid it.

To be successful, I had to find a way to consistently stick to my marketing schedule, and make sure I got it done every day.  I'm not sure how it happened, but one day it dawned on me: just suck it up and do it!

Okay, the tough love approach isn't for everyone.  But if you have everything in place for your marketing program but are still having some mental resistance, try this:  Think of marketing like exercise. Set aside a regular time, make a list of your tasks, and just do them.  No excuses.

Here's what I do:  Every morning, after my first cup of coffee, I set aside an hour for my marketing activities.  Right now it's a lot of researching companies to contact, finding their contact information, and shooting off personalized emails to them.  An hour gives me enough time to get through my marketing list, put it behind me, and go about the rest of my day. 

Having a set schedule takes the thought process out of the equation.  I just do the tasks I need to and move on with my day.  And if I start procrastinating or thinking I'll just skip a day, I tell myself to suck it up, stop being a weenie, it's only an hour, I gotta do the work if I want the results...basically the same things I say to myself when I'm tempted to skip a workout.

The next time you want to blow off your marketing plan, try approaching it like you would exercise, paying bills, or any other task that you know you have to do but don't necessarily want to.  It just might work.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My gluten-free weekend preview

I'm so excited about food this weekend! 

Okay, I know that's nothing new.  I'm always excited about food.  But this weekend there are a couple of things going on that I'm really looking forward to.

First, let's just say it: coconut flour!  If you've been following along on my other blog, you've already heard about this.  But that doesn't make me any less excited.  I think I'm going to make bread or biscuits.  Something savory.  Not that I don't want cookies...don't be silly.  But lately I've been craving something, well, bready.  I've found a couple of recipes and I'm going to try them out over the weekend.  Watch Li Loves David next week for recipes.

Next, it's a UFC weekend, which means: Duffy's!  Duffy's has a great gluten-free menu, and they even have primal-friendly choices.  I love to cook, but sometimes, it's just nice to let someone else do the dishes, ya know?

Finally, in a word: s'mores!  You heard me, s'mores!  S'mores! S'mores!  Say it with me, S'MORES!!

(No, I'm not very excited this...)

I was offered a free sample of Kinnikinnick's S'moreables, their gluten-free graham style cracker. Now, I don't normally eat things like this anymore, now that I'm following the Paleo Blueprint.  But you know me, self-less to the core.  So I decided to take one for the gluten-free team, and graciously accepted the sample. 

My box arrived this week.  I took one look at the ingredients, and realized that when I eat them, I'm going to be in a world of hurt.  Not only do they contain rice flour and all kinds of sugar, which I now stay away from...they also have pea protein, pea starch, potato starch, pea fiber, tapioca starch, guar gum, and soy lecithin.  Any one of those ingredients would mean a stomach ache.  All of them together?  Well...

But I did promise to try them, and write a review.  Plus, I admit it, I'm curious how they taste.  So I'm still gonna eat them.  And I thought, if they are going to cause a reaction anyway, why not go all in?  Why not make s'mores?  That's right, I said it.  I went there!  Chocolate candy bars (soy lecithin) and marshmallows (too many things to list) cause reactions for me, too.  So I'll just enjoy them all together!  S'mores at my house!

Tune in next week, either here or at Li Loves David, for the outcome.  And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ever so slowly

The half marathon that I'm planning to run in November is raising its price at the end of this month.  If I want to take advantage of the discount, I have to register in the next week.

I think I'm going to do it!

My hamstring is still an issue, but the gentle exercise I've been doing the last week hasn't hurt it.  In fact, I think my hammie has gotten stronger.  And I don't think I'm just imagining it...

I've been really careful not to push too hard, and when I have (like when sprinting across a busy road in between cars), it has reminded me to slow down.  For the most part, I've been really good about listening.  Each time I work out, I feel the tightness in the muscle, and some residual soreness the rest of the day, but the following day it feels stronger.

Maybe it's finally healing?

To recap what I did after I strained my hamstring: First, I tried tough love.  Then I babied it.  When neither of those did anything, I resorted to fooling it by walking a lot (which doesn't hurt), and mixing in small amounts of jogging (which does hurt a little).  I guess fooling it did the trick.

Whatever.  I'm just glad to be running again!

Monday, August 22, 2011


It's amazing what you can get done if you have to.

Today I'm battling some sort of bug I picked up over the weekend.  The main symptom is an overwhelming dizziness that makes being vertical rather difficult.  I'm trying to take it easy and drink lots of ginger tea, and trust that it will pass quickly.

But in the meantime, Hurricane Irene has decided she wants to pay a visit to southern Florida in a few days.  Wait...I haven't cleaned yet!

I actually did a bunch of hurricane prep yesterday when the storm first got organized, so I was already ahead of the curve.  Today, I pulled it together with sheer willpower (and ginger tea) and got to the store to pick up the last few essential supplies.  Now I just have to freeze as much ice as possible and twiddle my thumbs until it's time to shutter the windows.  Luckily, hurricanes usually give several days' notice, and if Irene does show up, she won't be here until the end of the week.

And with a little luck, she'll decide to take a cruise out into the middle of the Atlantic before then, and just spin herself out of existence.  I can hope...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The big decision

I thought, I discussed, I agonized, I rationalized, then I came to my senses...

The marathon is off.

But the half marathon is still on!  My spousal unit is going to sign up before the entry fees raise at the end of the month.  I'm going to wait and see how training goes...or should I say, wait and see if I can ever run again?  I may be watching from the sidelines instead of participating.

Either way, race road trip!

I'm sad, but happy at the same time.  What a weird feeling...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Criticism, or 3 ways to deal with trolls

There's no way around it: criticism sucks.  No one likes it, no one wants to hear it, and no matter how great your day is going, one critical comment can ruin it.

It's true.

Criticism is always going to be a part of our lives.  Unless you live under a rock, there is always someone, somewhere, waiting to knock down something you worked so hard on.  It doesn't matter whether it was deserved, constructive, or done just out of spite.  Criticism hurts.

So how do you deal with it?  I have 3 methods that work for me.

1.  Ignore it.  (Okay, I didn't say they were the most emotionally healthy methods...) There are always going to be people out there who will tear you up just to be hurtful.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just ignore the trolls. 

2.  Cry.  No, wait, really.  Someone told you your clever idea was stupid, and it hurt your feelings.  Let it out (in private).  You'll feel better.  And if not, see # 3.

3. Grow from it.  Sometimes the critic says something that we don't want to hear, but we know is true.  This is often the case when I get feedback from others on my writing.  That's right, I actually ask for criticism!  I seek an opinion from a trusted source, and use it as a chance to improve what I'm working on.  But what if they aren't a trusted source, or they don't have anything constructive to say?  See # 1.

Now, I know that there are a bunch of good ideas out there on how to deal with criticism.  If you've got a great coping mechanism to share, please leave a comment below.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Eating gluten-free: more or less expensive?

Does it cost more to eat gluten-free?  That's today's burning question.

And I don't have a definitive answer for you.

Personally, I don't keep track of how much I spend on food.  I spend what I spend to get what I need.  I watch sales closely and stock up when prices drop.  Some things get ordered from Amazon because we use them a lot and it costs less to have them shipped than buy local.  If something is just way too expensive, we either substitute or do without.

But as far as hard numbers, I don't have any.  Sorry...

I can tell you that since going gluten-free, we have almost completely stopped eating out.  The risk is just too great, and frankly, I'm a really good cook and it's rare that a restaurant does a better job than I can.  Not trying to brag here, but just calling it like it is.  So the amount of money we spent on restaurants has gone down significantly.

As far as groceries are concerned, yes, gluten-free food substitutes can be expensive.  Six dollars for a loaf of bread?  Um, no, thank you.  Four dollars for a bag of pasta?  Seriously?

Before going grain free, we baked some bread, but not a lot, because we live in Florida and who wants to heat up the kitchen with the oven during the 9 months of summer?  Occasionally I would pick up a loaf of Udi's or Rudi's bread for my hubby, because he likes it.  But we're talking 3 or 4 times a year, if that.  We found cheaper sources of gluten-free pasta, and got creative with substituting rice.  We found cheap rice flour and I made all of our sweet baked treats.  No way was I paying a small fortune just to eat a gluten-free cookie!

So yes, we had a few indulgences.  And most of those are gone now, too, because we're grain and sugar free.

Another thing that helped our grocery bills was that with all my other food intolerances, I can't eat most junk food.  That means no potato chips, candies, and most processed foods, even if they are gluten-free.  Even with sales and coupons, junk food is still junk, and is simply extra money being spent.

Really, since going gluten-free, the major increase in our food budget has been for higher quality products.  We eat a lot more organic, local, fresh produce and higher quality meats.  That's because we know so much more about food now, we have to invest in healthier options.

Our household has been gluten-free for several years now, so I don't even have the data to compare how much we spent before.  But if I had to guess, I would say that we pay right around the same amount as we used to for food (if you include all those restaurant meals we used to eat).  The difference is we eat so much better now, which is an investment in our health and well-being.  And when I look at our annual blood work results from the last few years, I can tell you that our investment is paying off.

A lot of what goes into a food budget is discretionary spending.  If you find that your gluten-free spending is higher that you'd like, it might be time to examine where the money is actually going, and decide if that's really how you want to spend your hard earned dollars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saw this coming...

On Saturday I went running.  My hamstring was still a little sore off and on, but I tried to do a good job of warming it up and taking it easy.  It really wasn't too bad.

So I ran an extra mile and a half.  And the hammy has been screaming at me ever since.

Can you say, "Stupid?"

Yeah, that's me.

So I've been icing and resting, and it's feeling much better.  As in, no pain today.

Yup, you guessed it.  I'm going to run tomorrow!


No seriously, I'm running tomorrow.  But I'm going to only do a couple of easy miles.  Which will hopefully keep it from flaring up again.

And for those that are keeping track, I'm very close to cancelling the marathon.  I'd still like to do the race, because it looks like a lot of fun.  But I think I'm destined for the half, and not the full.  This year.  The hubby and I need to discuss it, and it also depend on how the next couple of weeks go.  But I'm trying to mentally prepare myself.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Update on my reading list - 2011

It's been a while since I've updated my reading list, and honestly, it's been a while since I've read a book.  Lots of articles and such being read here, but not much reading for fun lately.  I'm going to have to do something about that soon.

If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't)If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't), by Betty White.  What can I say, Betty is a national treasure!  Now I want to go back and read some of her other autobiographies (she has several, evidently).  And I'm on a mission to see every movie she's been in.

Spinning ForwardSpinning Forward, by Terri DuLong.  I picked this one up because it had a main character that knits.  It was a fun, light summer read, perfect for the beach.

Casting AboutCasting About, by Terri DuLong.  The follow up to Spinning Forward.  Not as good as her first book. But there was still knitting, so it was okay.

The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy (Primal Blueprint Series)The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson.  You knew this one had to be coming, right?  If you want to try the Primal lifestyle, this is the book that brings it all together.

That brings me up to 24 for the year.  I'm shooting for at least 50 books read in 2011, so I'm a little behind.  It looks like a trip to the library is in order!

Friday, August 5, 2011

How do you feel about the FDA's proposed gluten-free labeling laws?

The other day the FDA re-opened discussion on their proposed gluten-free labeling laws.  You know, the ones they started drafting in 2007?  Yes, the ones that have been languishing for 4 years.  Those laws.

Here is the FDA press release, containing relevant links, should you want to find out more about it.  No, I haven't read all the details yet.  I've only just glanced at the release.

I did happen to be on Twitter right after the FDA teleconference on Aug. 2 ended.  My computer screen literally exploded with tweets containing #gfFDA.  There were comments about the proposed language of the law, what was included, what was left out, and what did it all mean.  OMFSM!  (Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster, the best expletive I've heard in a long time.)  Seriously, with all the traffic, I really thought something big had happened...

Yes, this is kind of big.  Let's call it "big-ish." I do think it's a big deal that the FDA is finally (in October or so) going to specify what "Gluten-Free" on a label means, and what standards companies have to meet to qualify for such a designation.

The new labels will have a profound effect on the lives of millions of people.


Let me just say something here, something that I suspect is going to make me very unpopular among the mainstream gluten-free population:

The new FDA laws, whatever they may be, will have little (or no) effect on my normal life.


There, I said it.  It's out in the open now.

<but how can this be? gasp!>

Well, the first reason is I have so many food intolerances and restrictions, I have barely eaten anything labeled "gluten free" in the five years I've been gluten free.  I haven't tried the new GF Bisquick (and I'm not going to).  My box of Betty Crocker GF Devil's Food Cake Mix is still sitting unopened in my pantry.  (Thank goodness it was complimentary from the company!)  Nearly everything made and marketed to the gluten-free community contains potato starch, soy, canola oil, or something else that will make me ill.

To top that, the second reason is I recently went grain-free and stopped eating almost all processed foods.  And I feel wonderful, and so does my husband, so this is probably going to continue.  That means I no longer have any use for GF Rice Krispies, Glutino GF Crackers, or Udi's GF bread.  Not that they aren't all wonderful products, but they just aren't on my radar any more.

<so...what about things you CAN eat?>

Um, you mean, like meat?  Eggs? Seafood? Dairy? Fresh vegetables and fruit? Nuts? Well, the last I checked, those things are already gluten free.  Okay, yes, there are a few types of bleu cheeses out there that might contain gluten. So I am looking forward to the new labels for that reason. But for the most part, I only eat whole, natural foods now.  I don't need a label to tell me what's in them; I can already see the contents.

It's amazing how liberating it is to realize that no matter how the FDA writes their final version of the gluten-free labeling law, I am going to be able to eat safely and be healthy.

However, for those of you that do like the convenience of ready made food, don't forget that the FDA is soliciting comments for 60 days from August 3, 2011.  Do be sure to tell them how you feel.  Don't assume that they will just automatically get it right, okay?  It's up to you to take action to protect your own health.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cautiously optimistic

I went running on Sunday.  For the first time in weeks.

It went okay.

It was humid and about 150 degrees out.  (Well, maybe not quite that hot.  But above a certain point, does it matter?) Hubby and I went to a nearby park that has a one-mile paved loop, and ran laps.  The heat was brutal, and I was dead tired after just three miles.

And the hamstring?  Well, it's a little shaky, but it seemed to hold up. 

It's not 100% yet.  I've spent a lot of time icing it, and resting it again.  Another run this morning, and more ice today.  Did you know that a blue ice pack, the kind you use in coolers, works really well on a sore hamstring?  It's true...it's flat and easy to sit on.  Don't laugh, it's the easiest way to ice the back of your thigh and still get some work done!

So yes, it's still a bit sore.  I'm going to give it a few more days, then try it all again.  And again.  And again...

This morning, while I was slogging along in the early morning heat, trying to step gently and not jar my hips too much, I was thinking about my future.  Or at least, my future as a runner.  I was thinking about the marathon I have planned at the end of November, and what my chances are of being able to make it through the training, and the race itself.  I was wondering if I should just give up on the idea of a marathon this year, or even next year.  Maybe the distance is just too much. 

Then I thought, who cares?  I want to do the marathon.  So I'm going to continue to try and heal up, and keep training.  And I'll run the marathon.  That will be great.  Unless I can't do it; then I'll do the half marathon.  That would be okay, too. 

And if I can't do either in November, I'll still live. Because someday my hamstring will be okay.  And there are always more marathons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Three Tips for Time Management

Today's topic is time management, which is kind of funny if you realize that I was actually going to post about this yesterday, but didn't manage my time well enough to actually get it done!

Okay, well, I guess it's just funny to me...

Anyhow, work (and life in general) is getting a lot busier, so suddenly, time management matters to me.  A lot.

Here are three things that are helping me get a handle on my time.  Admittedly, I don't have my system refined down to a science yet (see my little snafu above).  But after the nice long break I had for the first few months of the year, these tips are really helping me get back on track.

1. Write my to-do list on a post-it.  I read this in an article from AWAI.  Basically, if it doesn't fit on a post-it, I have too much to get done in a day and I need to re-prioritize.

2. Write early.  Dang it, I didn't want this one to be true.  I wanted to wake up when the sun woke me, have some coffee, relax, plan my day, maybe do an errand or a chore around the house, then get going creatively.  But if I don't start working early in the morning, I don't get any real work done all day.  So now I roll out of bed, get my cup of coffee, and start writing.  Even if I move on to something else, I come back to the writing and my creativity flows all day.  (Dang it.)

3. Listen to music.  This one has helped a lot.  I love music, but I also love quiet.  One of the things that I relish about working from home is not having to listen to other people's phones, conversations, footsteps, and noise in general.  But I recently heard a recommendation to listen to baroque music while working.  Slow baroque music is supposed to have a positive effect on your brain waves.  I personally find it does have a positive effect on my concentration.  And I love baroque!  If I get tired of my Bach and Vivaldi CDs, I switch on a classical music station, and it has a similar response.  Although, anything that I can't sing along to works, too.  If you are new to baroque music, go to Sunday Baroque for a great playlist.

What are your favorite time management techniques?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Not what I was expecting, but I'll take it

I went gluten free five years ago.  Up to that point I had been sick for many years, and bounced from doctor to doctor, all of whom tried to throw different drugs at me to minimize my symptoms, without finding an underlying cause.  When I finally realized my problem was gluten, I gave it up cold turkey and never looked back. 

The change in my life was instantaneous!  I felt better immediately, and within 72 hours, I honestly was a new person.  Hallelujah!  Now we can go on with life, right?

Well, um, not quite.  After a couple of months, some of my symptoms returned.  I examined my diet, and knew I wasn't eating any gluten, so I went looking for other things.  Soon I had it - soy was the culprit.  Whew.  Not quite the amazing transformation, but definite improvement in my overall well-being.  Okay, soy is out.  Now, back to this life thing...

Ah, wait a minute...I sense a pattern developing here.  To give you the condensed version, I ended up cutting out gluten, soy, all legumes, poultry, nightshades, most fruits, and many vegetables.  I also have a reaction if I eat any food that lists "artificial flavorings" or "natural flavorings" on the label, which means almost no processed foods. 

In the last year, a few of these intolerances have lessened in severity.  For instance, I can now eat small quantities of poultry, and some nightshades are okay in small doses.  But for the most part, I'm still pretty restricted on what I can eat.

And that's okay.  I really didn't mind a lot...well, sometimes I did, but I usually got over it...until I started having issues again earlier this year.  I put on an alarming amount of weight in a short time, I had digestive issues, skin problems, and all the old symptoms.  I just couldn't figure out what was going on.

Basically I had gotten to the point (again!) where I needed to do something drastic.  I even tried another elimination diet a few months ago, with no success.  I seemed to be reacting to everything.

Now, I had heard about paleo, the caveman diet, whatever you want to call it, for years now.  And I had considered it, really, I had.  But I just couldn't fathom giving up my rice, corn, and dairy. (And don't even talk to me about sugar!) Not after losing almost every other food out there that I could eat. Then I found out about the Primal Blueprint

Yeah, yeah, you've been hearing me talk about it for a while now, so I won't get all gushy.  You can go to the site or leave a question in the comments if you want to know more.  But what I realized was this - the list of foods that our ancestors ate are eerily similar to the list of foods that don't give me any reactions.  And the minds over at the Primal Blueprint are of the opinion that if you can stomach dairy, it's probably okay to eat it.  Score!  But rice, corn, and sugar are still out.  Awww...

Still, I had to try it.  And when I try something, I go all the way.  So two weeks ago I dove in and gave up all rice, corn, and sugar.  Then an amazing thing happened.

I stopped being hungry all the time.  And when I say all the time, I mean I was hungry All. The. Time.  That went away overnight.  The mystery stomach aches, skin problems, and bloating followed after a few days.  In a week, I dropped 5 lbs of water weight, while stuffing my face constantly with food.  I haven't been hungry, I haven't been bloated, I haven't been cranky, and I haven't been fatigued for days.  I think the last time I felt this way was, oh, about 5 years ago, when I gave up gluten.

Yay, this is great, except...crap!  I really like rice and corn and sugar!  I haven't tested them yet, so I don't know if my body is just happier grain free, or if I have an actual reaction to rice and corn (don't even talk to me about sugar).  That remains to be seen.  But if I don't have overt reactions, all is not lost.

While the primal lifestyle is grain free, it doesn't mean I have to give them up 100%.  One thing I love about primal is that it recognizes that sometimes, things don't go as planned and that's okay.  They actually encourage a 100% attempt at compliance, realizing that if you hit at least 80%, you're doing pretty good.  So if I want to make brownies with rice flour (and sugar!) to take to a pot luck, and I want to eat one, it's going to be okay.  I just can't eat the whole pan anymore.  Which is probably for the better...

Anyhow, my point with this essay here isn't to convert you to the primal lifestyle. (Though it is simply awesome to eat as much butter and bacon as I want, every single day, and not gain an ounce. Stop worrying about my cholesterol, I eat tons of veggies each day, too.)

No, what I'm getting at is that if you continue to have health problems after going gluten free, keep digging.  If you have one food intolerance already, it's not unusual to have others.  Yes, eating things your body doesn't like can cause all sorts of problems with your health and well-being. No, drugs are not always the answer, no matter what your doctor says. If you really examine your diet, you may not like what you find, and you may hate the idea of giving up rice or sugar or apples, or whatever it turns out to be that's causing you problems. But let me tell you, once you feel better, it's all worth it.  Really.

By the way, everyone knows I'm not a doctor right?  And that this is all my personal opinion, based on my personal experiences.  And that I'm not dispensing medical advice here.  I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The worst is over, I think

It's a dreary day today in south Florida, but my dark clouds have a silver lining - my hamstring is definitely on the mend. 

In case you remember last week's post, I was going to try to run last Sunday.  This would have been my first run in two weeks.  I say "would have been" because, you guessed it, it didn't happen. 

I woke up Saturday morning with a definite soreness in my hammy.  It has been coming and going a lot since I finally decided to lay off of it, but that morning it was definitely here.  I made the difficult decision to bag any exercise over the weekend, including a much needed and anticipated walk.  Oh, how I miss walking!  But I didn't do it.

Actually, I fudged there a bit.  I didn't go out for an organized walk.  I did, however, go visit a couple of furniture stores (we need a patio table and chairs).  Okay, I think there were 4 total stops.  There was much sitting going on (gotta test those chairs), as well as wandering around showroom floors, and walking to and from the car to the stores.  Not what you call a great amount of exercise...but it added up. 

By the end of the afternoon my hamstring was burning.  It felt so weird!  It also reminded me that this whole healing thing is a long process.  Since then, I've planted my tushy back down on the couch, and have continued to take it easy.

And it's finally paying off.  Since Saturday, it has gotten progressively better, to the point that I only notice some tightness when lifting heavy things (using my legs as stabilizers) and when twisting. 

So right now, my Saturday run is back on.  Tomorrow I'm planning a gentle outdoor walk, to loosen things up for the first time in three weeks.  No running, just some longer strides and feeling things out.  And if things go well, I'll be doing a gentle 3 mile run on Saturday.

I'm so excited about that I could just about squee...

Monday, July 25, 2011

My best inspiration for writing

The other day I read a blog article about finding inspiration for your writing. Called 3 Techniques to Coming Up With Great Ideas, it is by Jody Calkin, who has a great blog on writing.  Check it out, she has many great tips for writers!

After reading her tips (and trying out the first one) I remembered one of my own great sources of inspiration: Read something.  Read everything.  Read anything.  Just read.

I'm not claiming to have invented this, by the way.  I've seen in mentioned several other places.  But it definitely bears repeating.

When I write, I tend to get caught up in my own little world.  And that world, just like the big one around me, needs outside stimulus.  I find the best way to get that is to read what others have written.

Personally, articles are my favorite.  I love books of all shape, size and genre, but I tend to get caught up in them.  The next thing I know, it's dinner time and I haven't gotten anything done all day.  If I have a deadline, I need to stay away from the library!  But between my email inbox and the blogs I follow, I have an abundant supply of idea generating materials.

Short snippets of information, like articles, blog posts, even Facebook and Twitter, can really get the creative juices going.  Well-written pieces give me inspiration and help increase my own technical ability; pieces that are less well-written make me want to edit them, which is also a useful practice-writing exercise.

It doesn't matter what I read about.  I never know what's going to spark an idea.  For instance, the most interesting thing I've read so far today is Your Grandmother was a Neanderthal.  Now, I don't know if I'll ever use the topic of the article, which is about our DNA and the ancestral link to a now extinct species.  Not exactly what I write about normally...  But you never know when it will spark something. 

In a roundabout way, I suppose you could say that because that article made me think about how I could use it, and made me examine why I wanted to write about it at all, it helped inspire this blog post. 

Seriously, you just never know where those ideas are lurking...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is it really too much to expect?

Today's post is food related, though not specifically related to gluten.  However, transparancy in food labeling can only ultimately benefit us all.

I read an interesting article today on food labeling in the meat industry.  Meat is one of my favorite things these days since going Primal, so I sat up and took notice.

Mystery Meat No More?

The USDA has proposed a requirement that any additives or enhancements added to meat products be CLEARLY stated in the name of the product (emphasis added by me).

Currently, extra ingredients must be listed, but are often in teeny, tiny print.  I have often noticed and complained about this.  As someone who reacts to all sorts of things that are added to foods as "flavor enhancements," nothing, including meat products, goes into my grocery cart unless the label has been triple checked.  I am looking forward to the new labels, because they will make my life a lot easier.

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with salt and water being added to a chicken.  Juicy chicken is a good thing.  I just prefer that everything we eat be additive free.  So the new labeling rules will make it easier for me to ensure that the only thing in my chicken, beef or pork is chicken, beef, or pork.  I do know people that specifically buy injected meats, because they like the flavor and texture.  And that's cool, too.  Now they will have an easier time of picking out the cuts they want.

What I do have a problem with is how companies seem to be trying to hide this information.  By printing their additive lists in microscopic print, it appears they are trying to pull one over on their customers. And that's not cool.

After all, when I find out someone is trying to hide one thing from me, I start wondering what other things they are trying to hide from me.  I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Still waiting to heal...

Still not running.  The sore hamstring is getting better, albeit slowly, and I've been trying very hard not to do anything to aggravate it. 

I'm hoping for a tiny run/walk session on Sunday, but we'll see.  I have to let this heal now, or my November marathon debut will be cancelled.

I can hardly stand the wait!

In the meantime, I'm working on the 100 Pushup Challenge.  Because muscular arms are sexier than flabby ones.  Or so I hear...

"Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must move faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn't matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be moving." - Maurice Greene (attributed to Roger Bannister shortly after running the first sub-4 mile)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two things...

"People often tell me that motivation doesn't last, and I tell them that bathing doesn't either. That's why I recommend it daily." ~ Zig Ziglar

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." ~ Lao-tzu

Motivation and action are required for anything you want to achieve in life. And I know that, but I’ve been ignoring it.

No more inertia. Time to get my butt in gear!

Also - I am slowly (but surely) joining the twenty-first century.  Follow me on Twitter!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Toaster bags, a way to have your toast and eat it, too

I'm so happy that today is Friday, because that means that I get to write about being gluten free.  And today I have something cool to write about...

My toaster bags arrived!

I wrote about these things last week.  Basically, they are these little bags designed to go into a toaster.  Okay, I know, it's not world peace.  But for those of us who are gluten free, it allows us to use a toaster that has been used to toast gluten containing bread.  Which normally, we can't do, because of the cross-contamination risk.

This may not be a big deal for you at home.  It's not for me either; we have a gluten-free household.  But when you travel...

See where I'm going with this? 

We have often stayed in hotels where there was a kitchenette in the the room, or a dining area where communal breakfast was served.  These places often have toasters.  Before toaster bags, those toasters were strictly for the gluten crowd.  But now, hey, we can use them, too!

These will also be great when staying at a friend's or relative's house.  Now I can tote along gluten-free bread and be able to enjoy it.  Before, I would leave the bread at home in the freezer, because, well, you know what gluten-free bread is like when it's not toasted.

So how do they work?  As you can see from the photo, they are little bags that act as a sleeve, protecting whatever is in them from coming into contact with the interior of the toaster.  They are made out of some sort of heat resistant material that looks like a tightly woven mesh.  They are reusable, and can be washed either by hand or in the dishwasher.

And do they toast?  Um, well, I don't know yet.  (They just got here!) 

It looks like I'll be baking bread over the weekend to test them.  I also want to try toasting a few other things with them.  According to the directions, you can cook bacon, burgers, french fries, and other things in them.  Not that I would be doing that in a hotel toaster, but hey...  And I know that as soon as David reads this, he's going to go all Mythbusters on me and want to try baking a pie or something in them. 

So that's the latest on my new toaster bags.  Stay tuned for an update on how well they work, either here or on my other blog, Li loves David.