Tuesday Time-Waster: What not to say to people battling depression

This doesn’t fit the “time-waster” category, since you never know if it could save someone. Rather, it’s something more than worth a few minutes of your time on a Tuesday morning.

After Robin Williams died, suicide was all the talk on the news and in social media. As always happens, the talk has faded while the fact remains — the depression battle continues for many thousands of people. For those of us fortunate enough to not battle depression, it’s sometimes hard to know what to say or do. How, we ask, can we help if we don’t truly understand what it’s like? We don’t know how to avoid sounding like a hypocrite, so we often just say nothing. But we all know people who battle depression, so we should at least try to help, or let them know that we don’t think any less of them because they have this battle.

With that said, this article was posted by a friend of mine who DOES battle depression. I figured that if she agreed with it, that would be a good place to start. Here’s what you shouldn’t say — and alternatives that will make you understand a bit more. It’s a lot to take in, so I’ve read it a couple times in the past month. I think it’s the least we can do for our friends and loved ones.

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2014 goal check-in: August

It’s September?! How did that happen?? Well, September 1 was 95 degrees, so the summer certainly isn’t gone. Okay, let’s move along to a progress report on the year’s goals.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. Someday, my IT band will behave.

4: Do a century bike ride: I went on some ridiculous rides in August, so this goal might be doable. First there was the 42-miler that had more than 2,500 feet of climbing, much to my surprise — I had NO idea that was going to happen! One week later, I rode 56 miles. And one week after that, I rode 62 miles to meet the 100k milestone — that was a big confidence boost toward the “ride 100 miles” goal. I finished off August with a 57-mile ride that had 3,280 feet of climbing, which is about the same elevation gain as the century ride I’m considering. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.

On the technical side, the opinion of most people is that I should not attempt a century ride on my hybrid bike, though random cyclists actually compliment me on my hill-climbing “on that bike” EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m out riding. (Determination is a funny thing, I guess.) However, there’s the cost factor. I’ve test-ridden some road bikes and determined that, because my current bike is quite good, there is no point in buying anything less than a carbon bike. They’re expensive, and of course my small hands require better/more expensive shifters. (Shimano Tiagras sent me zipping back to the bike store, cutting the test ride short because they actually hurt — of course the more expensive Shimano Ultegras were just fine…) So, I’m kind of inclined to just keep riding my hybrid, though of course now it needs $100 of maintenance within the next month. Sigh.

In addition to griping about the price of bikes, I wear 3-year-old $17 non-cycling sunglasses from Target.

6. Bike at least 700 miles: Last month I met and thus increased this goal to 1,500 miles. I rode 384.05 miles in August, which is definitely a new record for me! That puts me at 1,204.23 miles for the year.

I've been riding these brown, aka "golden," hills of California. (Great riding, actually. Few cars or stoplights.)

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went 15 times in August, which would put me way over my goal if I did that every month. Alas, I did not. I need 79 more gym trips to meet the goal, and that won’t happen, especially with trying to get outside miles on the bike. But at least I’m trending the right direction!

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” which was a fun book with a creative plot. It’s about a guy in San Francisco (which helped me picture the setting) who gets a job at a very strange bookstore, and he sets out to find out why it’s full of strange books that are only borrowed by strange people. Bonus fun thing: The blurb on the inside back jacket says the author “splits his time between San Francisco and the internet.” I would love to describe myself that way on a book jacket!

9. Cook dinner more often: I mostly failed at this one.

Stir-fry with instant quinoa.

But can I show you a couple other food pictures instead? Michaela, Himanshu and I had the full tasting paired with beer meal, and the next day we had original Irish coffees. If you want to find food, Michaela is your girl.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this most nights. I also managed to get to the gym before 5 a.m. sometimes. Note: The weight machine crowds at 5 a.m. are non-existent; the 5 p.m. crowds are definitely alive and well.

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I gained back one of the pounds I lost in July, which really isn’t much at all, percentage-wise. But that took me a pound in the opposite direction of goal weight (she says while eating pretzel M&Ms…)

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope. But I’ve already decided I’m fine with missing this goal.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: No progress at all. I’m still completely lost. Just for oh-so-much-cheer, here’s an August article about the median cost of homes in the Bay Area. I didn’t renew my Pandora subscription, thus saving $36 for the year, so now I hear occasional ads. They recently had one for homes in my area “starting in the low $800′s!” and I just laughed and thought, “If I won’t pay $36 to get rid of ads for a year, what makes you think I have $800,000 for a home?!”

I guess the trick is to just keep looking for the rays of light.

No Instagram filters needed for this sunrise.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Weird state traditions

Did you know that there’s an upside-down White House in Wisconsin?

Or that Iowa has a hobo convention?

And that, somehow, Kentucky has more barrels of bourbon than people?!

These state oddities, and others, are all in this fun article. Happy Tuesday!

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Tuesday Time-Waster: A hermit’s 27-year tale

Today’s “time-waster” will actually take some time if you read the whole article. But it’s a really fascinating account of a man who lived alone in New England woods for 27 years. The “hermit,” spent his time reading, stealing food and propane from homes when the residents were gone and listening to music (he didn’t like Bach, which got him a point in my book because I never liked playing Bach on the piano — too boring for me, or “pristine,” as the hermit said). The story came about because of a writer who decided to contact the man in jail, and did so via handwritten mail; on that level, the story is fascinating from the writer’s view, too.

While the story is intriguing, it’s also sad to know that this man lived from age 20 to age 47 without anybody to care for him or without having anybody to care for. I’ve been realizing lately that most of us are better, kinder, nicer people if we have other people to care for and let other people care for us. Like this hermit, I’ve lost some perspective of the world because I’m so independent and distrusting. It’s definitely something for all of us to think about.

(Hat tip for this article goes to my friend Sam.)

Oh, and a postscript of sorts about the hermit’s punishment for committing more than 1,000 burglaries over the years: The man is out of jail but must check in weekly with a judge.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Messing with Facebook

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that some people appear more frequently in your news feed. You may have also noticed that if you seek out someone you haven’t interacted with in ages and “like” something they posted, they’ll suddenly start appearing in your feed, too. It’s not a coincidence; it’s an algorithm. I wrote about this phenomenon almost two years ago, after I deactivated my Facebook account for a week. That post still gets a lot of hits (most from spammers, I suspect), and I myself sometimes still wonder if I should back off from Facebook.

This post is not about Facebook/online privacy, which is a whole other matter, but about an experiment done by Wired.com writer Mat Honan. It was interesting enough that I thought it would be worth spending a few minutes of your Tuesday morning. Honan spent 48 hours “liking” everything on Facebook, and soon he had lost most of his news feed to brands and links, which buried any updates from friends and family. It’s an interesting experiment, and is the main reason I rarely “like” anything from a company’s Facebook page. As I decided two years ago in my own experiment, my main purpose for using Facebook is to stay in touch with friends and family. Sure, I’ll tolerate and even thoroughly enjoy some business posts and ads, but I still want the “real life” news from people I know.

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2014 goal check-in: July

Well. July, for lack of better words, was terrible. But that’s not the point of this blog post, so let’s move along and see how those goals for the year are going.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. You can’t really meet lofty goals if you’ve spent the year injured.

4: Do a century bike ride: I had figured this goal was also elusive, but biking no longer hurts my leg so this may actually happen. I did my first 50-mile bike ride in July, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. (It probably helps that the plan was 40 miles, so I didn’t have the daunting “new longest distance” thing hanging over my head until I missed a turn and decided to go for it.) I’d like to go road bike shopping, but my hybrid works, so I might just save my pennies for now. Thoughts? Here’s my current bike, which is certainly the best bike I’ve ever had so I don’t really know what I’m missing…

6. Bike at least 700 miles: I met this goal on July 19. Hooray, one goal out of 13! I think, since one of my other goals was to run 1,500 miles this year, I’m going to see if I can get to 1,500 biking miles instead. July’s total cycling mileage was 146, putting me at 820.18 miles for the year.

I took no bicycling photos, but here is one with Michaela who took 43 minutes off her previous best half-Ironman time.

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Um, yeah. I still have 94 gym trips remaining this year to meet that goal, which would mean 19 times per month. It’s a lot nicer outside…

8. Read at least one book a month: I escaped into two books in July. I really enjoyed “A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer, and it was a perfect book I could crawl into and temporarily hide from my unpleasant world. Set in WWII, it’s a fictionalized account of the discovery of penicillin, and it involves some romance, some drama and some history. It’s also a good reminder that we live in times where medicine exists to cure us — less than 100 years ago, that wasn’t the case. I also plowed through a John Grisham book I hadn’t read, “The Litigators.” I always like a good Grisham novel or movie, but this one was just meh. The characters were only so-so, and the plot was the same old “underdog lawyer fights to survive” thing.

9. Cook dinner more often: I didn’t do a lot of cooking in July, partly because I didn’t do a lot of eating in July. But I did attempt to make pizza for the first time. Conclusions: Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough makes a LOT of pizza, and it’s super sticky so maybe I should try rolling it out with oil instead of flour next time, as a Twitter friend suggested. The dough was kind of thick, but recipe was unique: Taco pizza. Nope, you didn’t misread that.

Terrible picture of actually tasty taco pizza. The "sauce" is refried-bean-based.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this at least 25 of the 31 days. I discovered that if you can’t eat, your body hibernates. (It also gets really cold, which saved me some air conditioning costs.)

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Related to number 10, by mid-July I was back down to my pre-injury weight, and this was proven both by my own “off by several pounds” scale as well as at the doctor’s office last week. Now to keep those pounds off and shed a bit more weight, and I’ll be at “goal race weight” (whenever I can race again).

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Haha, it’s pretty clear that this won’t happen in 2014. I’m okay with that, because I’d rather have a few posts that get a lot of great public and private feedback (like this one from July) than a bunch of “I wrote this to meet a quota” posts.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: I actually thought I had this figured out, but that plan was pulled out from under me. I need a new plan, but in the meantime I’m thinking of canceling my expensive cable and getting a Netflix membership. However, there goes live TV, including sports. Any thoughts on that, as well?

And, since this post is a bit mundane, here’s a lesson from July: No matter what happens, the sun will keep rising and setting.

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How to chase dreams and fight the fear of failure

I’ve been doing a lot — and, boy, do I mean a lot — of self-analysis lately. Who am I, where am I going, where do I want to be going, and why am I not there yet? Additionally, when did I start becoming more cynical, more narrow-minded, and less determined but at the same time more rigid?

I don’t have all the answers yet, but I do know that at least I’m making a little progress by asking them and confronting myself. I also know that it’s been almost four years since I upended my life because I was stuck in a rut that I did not like. I was stuck in an increasingly unhappy job with no opportunities to move up, I was stuck in a relationship that was destroying my self-esteem, and then I suffered a stress fracture that dashed all running dreams for the next several months. So I set out to find myself.

Four years later, I’ve both succeeded and failed. For a while, I was much happier. I traveled more (Alaska, Ireland, Colorado, New York, Chicago, Hawaii). I ran more (an ultra-marathon, faster times). I explored my new town. I began to dream again.

But somewhere along the way, I got lost again. Some of it started last October, when another injury sidelined all of my running goals, which had gotten bigger and bolder (qualify for Boston). Some of it started this year, when I tried to follow another dream and was repeatedly shot down, sending my self-esteem plummeting. However, I suspect most of it is because I have lifelong dreams that have gone unfulfilled. They eat at me until I’m convinced I’m not good enough, and that if I try to reach them, I’ll fail.

Some of those dreams I cannot reach on my own, but some of them are all up to me. So, how do I make myself pursue them? Yesterday evening, instead of googling for inspirational quotes, I turned instead to Facebook and asked: “What mantras, quotes, rules or experiences do you use to try to better yourself and chase away the ‘I’m afraid I’ll fail’ demons?” As an example, I gave this quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to become who you might have been.” I knew that many of my Facebook friends wouldn’t see the post, due to timing and algorithms that limit which posts people see. But in the 10 hours since, I’ve received a number of great quotes.

A good friend texted her response: “Jump and the net will appear.”

Another friend messaged his response, which he’d seen on a poster that same day: “To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month or even one year – but for a lifetime.” The quote was from legendary runner and author Bill Rodgers, and my friend pointed out that it doesn’t just apply to running. This is so true: It’s the big picture of life. If I’ve got these life dreams, each day should prepare me for them, because they won’t suddenly happen immediately.

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the bigger or faster man…but sooner or later, the fellow who wins, is the man who thinks he can.” This was offered by a friend and former colleague, Rick, who is deaf and has faced more than his share of battles. The key there is to think I can do it.

Another former journalist-turned-runner (turned Ironman, which is a whole other level, if you ask me), Theresa, offered this line from a sports journalism professor of hers: “The only way out is through.” Yes, if I want to reach the goals, I have to push through everything standing between me and them.

“I like to tell myself that I’ll definitely fail if I don’t try,” said another writer. I really admire her, because she has worked hard to get to a career she wanted. If she hadn’t tried, she never would have gotten there.

Then there is this Wayne Gretzky quote, offered by an old friend, Dave: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Audrey pointed out that, even if you don’t make that shot, you learn along the way. As another saying goes, practice makes perfect. Similarly, Pam offered this advice: “My dad always has told me that if you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Never give up until you succeed.”

And from another Ironman, Stuart: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” This resonated, because often I ask myself, when trying to make a decision or do something that’s hard, which option I would regret more. Would I regret trying and not making it, or would I regret never trying at all? That answer is obvious.

Similarly, Brandon offered a line from a Shinedown song: “Long live the day that I decided to fly.” It’s a decision, and I have to truly make that decision before I can go anywhere.

My friend Marc turned it around back at me, with the advice I gave him the day before he ran his first marathon: “One that sticks with me is something a really great friend told me on January 11 of this year. She said there will be a point where I will realize “this is the farthest I’ve ever gone.” And that’s true for everything. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” He’s right (which I guess means that I was right). I still remember the point when I passed mile 22 of the Tucscon Marathon in December 2008. There, on an Arizona highway, I realized that was the farthest I had even run — and at the same time I realized I was actually going to run a marathon. I did finish that marathon, and then I kept on going to more goals and milestones. The journey continued, and it was a good journey.

And then there was this, from Linda: “Shan’t I be good to thee self, I shan’t be good to another.” She didn’t know it, but that one hit home more than all the rest. I love people, I love helping them and making them happy, and some of my biggest dreams require other people. But I can’t be good for them and help them unless I also do that for myself. That’s actually a realization I reached last week, so Linda’s timing was perfect. I have to be strong enough to stand on my own.

Where does all of this advice go? How do I actually retain it, rather than dumping it all into a blog post and then moving on? Well, one way is through sheer determination, which I’m already working on. I don’t like the way I give up on things I want, just because they’re hard or there are huge obstacles in the way. I fear that I’ll fail, so I stop trying — and that’s no way to live my life.

So I’m going to keep re-reading the quotes offered from friends who have clearly had the strength to keep fighting, and who also took the time to give me some advice. I’m going to try to stand up tall and keep fighting my doubts and insecurity. I’m going to try to be a better, stronger, supportive person to those I care about. And I’m going to tell myself over and over again that I AM good enough to chase my dreams.

After all, as Darleen advised, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” I want more, so I have to do more.

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2014 goal check-in: April, May & June

Okay, goals for the year, as of the end of June. (Yes, I know we are more than halfway through July now.) My first five goals were all running-related, plus a century bike ride. They won’t happen due to injury, so I’m not rehashing them here.

6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 92.53 miles in April, 39.5 miles in May and 38.15 miles in June. That puts me at 674.18 miles for the year. Spoiler alert: As I write this, I have already passed my original goal, so I guess now I’ll just see how far I go over it.

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Well, I still have 107 more trips to the gym to meet that goal, which would mean 18 trips a month through December…

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Broken Harbor” by Tana French in April — I love her deep mystery novels set in Ireland, but though this one did keep me captivated and wanting to know what happened next, it dragged at times and wasn’t as good as her others. In May, I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed — it was fun to read about the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through California, past my hometown, and through Oregon, but for all the rave reviews this book gets, I expected a bit more. And in June I read “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer — it gives an inside view about the horrors foster kids face, and the fact that they are very emotionally damaged but can be saved.

9. Cook dinner more often: This was hit and miss. These bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, cheddar jack cheese, feta cheese and some seasonings were great, but I didn’t like the mushy bell peppers (ate the leftovers without the peppers). I also made my own oven fries and potato soup — yes, I like potatoes.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: This was also hit and miss. I had planned to write a separate post about how I didn’t have my iPhone near my bed for all of Lent, but the short version is that it definitely got me to bed on time.

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: As of the end of June, this had not changed, and had actually gone the wrong direction.

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope, didn’t happen. April had one post, May had none, June had two. I’m not apologizing or beating myself up for it, since I make $0 off this blog.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: Here’s another “Bay Area rents are too high” article, which I never seem to have any trouble finding — actually, I never go looking for them, so I imagine there are dozens more out there.

And here’s another article about a San Francisco home that went on the market for $2 million, got six offers in one week all above asking price, and sold for $3.4 million. Another kicker: In 1994, the house went into foreclosure and sold for $145,000.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Bill Watterson reappeared!

Yes, that headline is true: The Calvin & Hobbes creator resurfaced last month! If you’re a fan (I might possibly own six collections of the comics), you’ll recognize Bill Watterson’s style of drawing immediately:

Watterson is a notorious recluse who avoids publicity, so “Pearls Before Swine” comic creator Stephan Pastis scored quite the coup by not only communicating with Watterson but also getting him to contribute to three comics. However, for me the best part was the backstory leading up to these comics. In this blog post, Pastis tells how he reached out to Watterson, was ignored, and dared to try again. It’s worth reading, even if you aren’t a comic strip reader (I’m generally not) and you don’t know Calvin & Hobbes (which I most certainly DO).

Two notes: Pastis links to the comics, but you might have to keep refreshing before they’ll load. This will improve once everyone on the internet has finished clicking a bunch of times. Do click the links to the comics, though, because it’s classic Watterson — and the comments on the comics are hilarious because readers didn’t know for a few days that they were drawn by Watterson.

(Third note: I just discovered that Pastis lives a little more than an hour away from me, in Santa Rosa, Calif.)

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Boyfriend rules

Listen up, unmarried people: Two little girls compiled this list of mostly sound requirements for boyfriends, so start studying it!

Okay, so a few of them aren’t a priority for me, including “good artist” and “good handwriting,” and I’m not one to talk when it comes to “last name not weird.” But the overall list is pretty sound. I mean, really, nobody wants a boyfriend who’s a tattle tale or who doesn’t make you laugh. The one that really makes me thing these girls, ages 9 and 6, are wise beyond their years is No. 4: “not living with parents.”

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