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…