2014 goal check-in: March

Well. March sure had a lot of ups and downs in my world, but I’m in an upswing at the moment, so maybe I should do my goal check-in. (I’ve now added a “Goals” category to make this easier for me to go back and reference.)

  1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon: Won’t happen due to not running.
  2. Set a new personal record in the marathon: Same.
  3. Run sub-1:45 in a half-marathon: Same.
  4. Do a century bike ride: Honestly, this is iffy. I did a 25-mile ride outside and was exhausted — turns out, barely working will take its toll after three months.
  5. Run 1,500 miles: Nope. But here are a couple pictures from a hike.
  6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 162 miles in March, for a total of 504 miles for the year. Yep, I’ll beat that goal (though I had planned on a lot of running when I made these goals).
  7. Does this count as a spin class selfie?

  8. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Hmm. I went 12 times in January, 11 times in February and now only nine times in March. This means I have to go 118 more times in the next nine months, or 13 times per month. I better get my act together. (There were a lot of “downs” relating to going to the gym this month.)
  9. Read at least one book a month: I finished March’s book (“Freckles” by Gene Stratton-Porter, a book I read many years ago and randomly thought of months ago) a few days into April — oops. It should have been a fast read but I read it on my phone via the Kindle app, and that was kind of weird. That was my first e-book, and I wasn’t thrilled with the concept.
  10. Cook dinner more often: Oh hey, maybe I did this a little? Meanwhile, Angela said this about her attempt at doing more cooking at home, and I laughed when I read it because it sums me up: “If I plan one meal per week ahead of time, I put it in the win column, because PROGRESS! Two meals? I am a god damned wizard.” And another reason Angela is a good egg? She included a recipe that called for 4 ounces of white wine, then said: “In case it isn’t obvious, all of this should be paired with the rest of the wine.” Anyway, here are a few pictures of what I cooked this month, though the photos are refusing to share a line.

    Chicken, grains, green beans, wine

    Grilled smoked gouda turkey avocado sourdough

    Cheesy enchilada pasta (looks bad, tastes good)

    Tofu stir-fry (slice tofu thin; marinade it in soy sauce)

  11. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I actually did this about half a dozen times. I don’t have my phone in bed for now (more on this experiment later), so I think that helps.
  12. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: No change.
  13. Blog an average of twice a week: I only blogged twice in March. I wanted to sit down and write something after a terribly sad death, but instead I came home completely drained from the memorial service, somehow picked a stupid fight and then cried so hard that my eyes were a mess the whole next day. (And people wonder why I say that I hate to cry and therefor rarely do so.) And I just had no drive or desire to come up with “Tuesday Time-Waster” posts. It happens, and I’m OK with that.
  14. Find a cheaper place to live: As in January’s update, this month I came across another “Bay Area rent sucks” article, this time about how the “rent shouldn’t be more than one-third of your salary” rule doesn’t generally work here anymore. In my case, it’s true. Painfully true. As in, 41 percent painfully true.

Bonus photo! This is what happens when I text on St. Patrick's Day (while wearing shamrock earrings).

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2014 goal check-in: February

I’m not sure where February went, but it seemed to be a haze of birthday and Valentine’s Day and weekend adventures. Come to think of it, that was a pretty good month. Anyway, here’s another check-in on this year’s goals:

  1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon: Nope. I said in last month’s check-in that I’d taken this goal off the plate because of a cranky IT band. It’s still mad.
  2. Set a new personal record in the marathon: See above.
  3. Run sub-1:45 in a half-marathon: Also see above.
  4. Do a century bike ride: I didn’t ride outside at all in February, but that’s fine. I need to ponder possible summer century bike rides.
  5. Run 1,500 miles: Not happening. I did two run/walk tests in February, which totaled 20 minutes of running, or probably less than 2.5 miles of running.

    No running, but this was a lovely six-mile hike at South Mountain, south of Phoenix.

  6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 141 miles in February (all inside, but that still counts), which put me at 342 for the year. I should have made this goal harder, apparently!

    Does this count for my biking miles? (Answer: nope!)

  7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went to the gym 11 times in February, so I was one or two visits short of what I need to reach that goal. I still have time to get back on track, though.
  8. Read at least one book a month: I finished a book (“The Eight”) on a plane on the very last day of February! I, um, started the book last year, though, so does that count? I’ll count it because it’s 598 pages and wasn’t a fast read due to a complex plot that switched back and forth between the 1700s and 1900s.
  9. Cook dinner more often: I may have usually forgotten about this one?
  10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: Oh dear, another failure. I think I met this goal twice, unless a few nights in Arizona count, because they’re currently an hour ahead of California? (WHY is daylight saving time still a thing? It’s 2014, for crying out loud!) However, I have high hopes that this will improve in March.
  11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I lost the two pounds that I gained in January, so now I’m back to the original goal. No progress toward the bigger picture.
  12. Blog an average of twice a week: I blogged six times. Most were Tuesday Time-Wasters, so that is kind of an oops/fail. But it’s still okay, since it’s my unpaid blog. I liked this post about my hometown best.
  13. Find a cheaper place to live: Ugh. Since February only had 28 days, my per-day rent was even worse than normal.

    Life is good.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: CA road trip stops

I like seeing new places, and what better way than on a road trip? I enjoy road trips (it helps that I’m carsick-free), and imagine my pride when I saw this California road trip list that included my home town.

Yep, that's exactly how Main Street really looks in Weed, CA.

The fun thing about lists is that you can count how many of them you’ve visited. However, I’ve lived in California for more than three decades, and I’ve only seen 13 of the 29 places on that list. I guess I’m a work in progress — but hey, at least I am one state past seeing half of the 50 United States! Small steps.

And, since I’m not always great at posting photos, here’s a picture of me last year at one of these road trip places — the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Me, on a boot.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Lego builder

For those of us who always wanted Legos and remote-controlled cars but instead got dolls for Christmas, it’s never too late to play with Legos at work! Yep, it’s true: Google and Lego teamed up to make Build With Chrome, which resulted in me wasting entirely too much of a recent Saturday morning.

Umm, it's going to take me a while to build a house...

If, like me, you’re having some trouble figuring it out, you can browse a map of the world to find others’ “Build” creations. Take, for instance, this dude in San Jose. Yeah, I think I’ll just go back to my day job now.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Heart rate app

Today’s post is brought to you by a nerd — a nerd who runs. A few years ago I tried running with a heart rate monitor, but it chafed in a place where I already battle chafing. I stuck it out for a while, but then decided I valued my skin more than I wanted to know how fast my heart was beating.

However, it’s now 2014 and of course “there’s an app for that.” And it’s free! This app uses my phone’s camera to “see” my pulse in my finger, which sounds extremely suspicious, right? Well, it seemed correct when I first downloaded and tried it. (I have a low resting heart rate, and it agreed.) I was able to test it when I recently went to the doctor, where they measured my pulse at 62 beats per minute. I then used the app a few minutes later when my appointment was done and the doctor had left the room, and the app said 58. This seems correct, since I was relieved that the appointment was done.

This is normal for me. Endurance athletes have low heart rates.

Anyway, here’s the iTunes link for the app. And here’s the Android link. Download it, place your finger over your camera lens and enjoy the nerdy numbers.

(Hat tip to The Boring Runner, who told me about the app.)
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Hometown pride

More than three years ago, I went on a soul-seeking road trip to Portland and reconnected with an old friend from home, whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years. “I know where we’re going to eat; you’ll see when we get there,” he said. We pulled up to a restaurant called the Black Bear Diner, and I looked at the sign with a combination of confusion and recollection. And that’s when I learned that a little business from back home had become A Big Deal, now with 61 locations in eight states.

The Black Bear Diner opened in 1995 in the northern California town of Mt. Shasta. It was about 25 minutes from my home and was a “luxury” of sorts, so it wasn’t a destination. But it was about 15 minutes from the town where I went to school and youth group, so once in a while a group of us teenagers would load into a few cars and go get dessert at the Black Bear. I moved away two years later, and that was the end of that.

My home county is one of the poorest in the state of California. The timber industry provides some of the income, and it tends to be a “feast or famine” existence. When I see businesses mentioned in my hometown newspaper, I don’t recognize most of them, because they come and go. When something or someone makes it to the big time, it’s a rare thing. (The NFL starter who’s now married to a successful actress? Oh yes, we brag about him!) Well, the Black Bear Diner is a big deal, and according to its Wikipedia page, even got a mention from the New York Times in 2009.

Three years ago, I had a long commute for a few months. It just so happened to coincide with the opening of a Black Bear Diner whose sign could be seen from the freeway I drove. Every day, I had a hint of pleasant nostalgia.

And one day about a year ago, I was on a difficult run when I came across a construction fence with a “Coming Soon: Black Bear Diner” sign inside it. I stopped and took a couple pictures, smiled, then found another gear to keep going the last few miles home.

Sure, it’s now a chain of restaurants in eight western United States (and hopes to be expanding nationwide soon!), but the Black Bear has history, which was recounted in an article last week in the local newspaper. The diner was started by lifelong Mt. Shasta natives who are still active in the community. They give back, through donations to a number of local groups, as well as giving $750,000 to the Make A Wish foundation over the last five years. And, also according to that article, the owners personally make sure to train people at every new restaurant so they know about Mt. Shasta and the Black Bear’s history.

The next time you see a Black Bear Diner, don’t think it’s just another “evil” chain business. Know that it started out nearly 20 years ago as a humble little diner in a humble little community. Two decades later, that hasn’t changed. And hey, the food is pretty good, the bear theme is fun, and you’ll definitely be full. For that matter, the next time you judge an apparent “chain” business, look into the history first. Maybe it’s doing some good for a little community that didn’t have high-speed Internet until long after most of you.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Valentine doodle

Since Friday is Valentine’s Day, how about a trip into the Google Doodle vault from two years ago? Here’s a cute little tale about a cute little boy trying to woo a cute little girl.

(Side note: Not only is it 11:11 a.m. but today is the 11th day of the month. Yep, I’m still as nerdy as ever.)
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2014 goal check-in: January

Somehow, it’s February 6, already?! Huh. Anyway, without further ado, I decided to document how badly I have failed so far in my 2014 goals.

  1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon: I’m on the injury list with an angry IT band, and a doctor ordered me to rest it. In the midst of my full-blown endorphin withdrawal, I mentally (and on Twitter, so that counts?) removed this goal from my list. That was a relief.
  2. Set a new personal record in the marathon: That wasn’t planned for January anyway, so no further comments.
  3. Run sub-1:45 in a half-marathon: See above.
  4. Do a century bike ride: I had a spectacular failure of a planned outside ride, in which I gave up less than two miles into the ride and poor Kimra had to do the rest of it by herself. I owe her a drink. However, I did do a 22.8-mile ride outside with Kristen and didn’t fall over, so there’s hope for this goal.
  5. Driest California January on record = outside biking.

  6. Run 1,500 miles: Since I ran a whopping 10.5 miles in January (see number 1), I really doubt I’ll reach the goal this year.
  7. Bike at least 700 miles: Finally! A goal in which I am not failing! I biked 201 miles in January! 174 of those were inside, but that’s fair game in my rules.
  8. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went to the gym 12 times in January, so I’m barely on track.
  9. Read at least one book a month: Fail! I used to read a book a week! Argh.
  10. This book, given to me in early February, is an inspiration for many reasons. And it's definitely one of the most thoughtful, appropriate gifts I've ever received.

  11. Cook dinner more often: I still haven’t settled on a way to quantify this one, though some of you had great ideas. I think “cook a full meal once a week” is certainly reasonable, along with “try two new recipes a month.” I also think this was sort of a fail in January.
  12. Wine in the best glass ever, along with stir-fry.

  13. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: Hahaha! The running failures had a valid explanation, but this one has NO EXCUSE. I even moved my phone’s “do not disturb” mode to 9:30 p.m., but I think I went to bed at 10 p.m. once in all of January. Why?!
  14. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Umm, let’s just say that I moved in the opposite direction.
  15. Blog an average of twice a week: I wrote seven blog posts in January. Most were simple Tuesday Time-Waster posts, but hey, it’s my blog so that’s OK. At least my “Finding happiness” blog post was thoughtful and made me actually write something of substance.
  16. Find a cheaper place to live: That didn’t happen, but I didn’t plan on it in January, anyway. I did, however, see this list of the 25 most expensive cities in America and found myself thinking of nearly each one, “Hey, that’s not so bad.” Yeah, this is what happens when I live near the second most expensive city in the U.S.
Posted in Goals, Running, Writing | 3 Comments

Tuesday Time-Waster: Floating duckies

I’m sometimes a little late to the party, and this time I’m only 22 years behind! Back in 1992, some 29,000 bath toys went overboard off a container ship during a storm in the Pacific Ocean. Many of them were yellow rubber duckies, and they began to float around the world. Some of them floated for 15 years (which means I’m only seven years behind, maybe).

Check out this map, courtesy of wikipedia and other Internet sites, of the rubber duckies' voyages.

One particularly nerdy guy (I can call him that, since I’m enthusiastically writing a blog post about washed-up rubber duckies) wrote a whole science-y book about the ducks, and has a website devoted to ocean junk. His photo is on a Wikipedia page about the duckies, thus further proving that he made the big time.

And, for fun, here’s an article about a giant 50-foot-tall rubber duckie.

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Finding happiness

I’ve recently come face-to-face with a strange conundrum: I, optimistic little happy-go-lucky Layla, am afraid of being truly happy. How can this be possible, when I see the metaphorical glass as half full? When I always want to give someone the benefit of the doubt? When I am thrilled to make someone laugh? I’m generally a happy person who isn’t bothered by a lot, and I can honestly say that I have never once contemplated suicide.

And yet, I am apparently afraid of real happiness. Maybe this is because I believe in the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” I heard that phrase growing up, and I later repeated it to myself many times in my journalism career. If everyone understood that concept, we wouldn’t have fraud victims (“Give you $50,000 against my mortgage and I’ll double my money? OK!”) or embezzlers (“If I write this company check out to my husband’s business, nobody will notice!”) — believe it or not, I covered criminal cases involving those exact scenarios. It extends to property crimes (“Hey, if I steal this car, nobody will ever know!”) and violent crimes (“If I kill my husband and bury his body, nobody will suspect me!”) — yep, those are real-life examples, too.

But when does that concept end and true happiness begin? When does reality trump self-esteem issues? I have this not-so-subconscious belief that people will always let me down, because we’re all humans who make mistakes. However, I’m a human who constantly makes mistakes, yet I genuinely love making people happy and feel terrible when those close to me are unhappy. I guess it’s only fair that I let others make me happy. Sure, they make mistakes but, like me, most of them mean well.

“Happiness is scary because it means that we might fall—and it’s true we might—but if we live life waiting to fall down, we’re always falling.”

That line comes from this site that, while it has too much yogi-type stuff for me, still resonated. Author Jennifer S. White also had this to say:

“Are we afraid of happiness? Why do we think happiness is something fleeting, temporary and delusional? Is it because we don’t want to be happy or because we don’t know what to do once we are?

It seems that much of our life is spent trying to “fix.” We try to fix others; we try to fix ourselves; we try to fix everything and anything in order to feel safe and secure in the real delusion that we can control our situations in ways that are actually very much out of our realm of control.

Does happiness actually bother us because it can’t be controlled?”

I think that’s one key: allowing myself to just BE, rather than trying to control. I really wrestle with the knowledge that I don’t know where my life is going to end up, but you know what? I’ve made it this far. For 30-something years, I’ve managed to do OK. Sure, I have much unfinished business, but it would be weird if I didn’t have far-off dreams and un-met goals. I can’t always control them, just like I can’t always control my own happiness.

So, for those who have realized that we fear happiness, what next? I think recognizing and acknowledging happiness is the first step. The next step is to accept that it’s there, and that you deserve it. That’s been my stumbling block: I’m “Little Miss Tuffy McTufferson” who doesn’t need to rely on anybody — so there! (Yes, you may picture me stamping my foot, wrinkling my forehead and crossing my arms.) And, once you realize you deserve it, the next step is to embrace it.

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” –Aristotle

In researching this post, I typed “happiness” into the search box on my own blog. Three years ago I came across a study in which researchers concluded that when people fake a smile, their mood worsens. I was quite surprised (still am, in fact), and I blogged about how maybe that had been proven in my own life: “I was faking the smiles and thinking everything would be fine. The truth is, I was dying inside.”

Six months ago, I wrote: “If everything around you is chaotic and miserable and out of your control, sometimes all you can do is find a sliver of happiness and hold onto it for as long as you can.” That may initially sound sad or pessimistic — sad, perhaps, but I don’t think it’s pessimistic. If you recognize happiness and realize that you should hang onto it, you’re going in the right direction.

Between the post three years ago, the post six months ago, and today’s post, maybe I’ve actually been making progress all along without realizing it? Four years ago, if someone had given me a dose of seemingly absurd happiness, I know I would have run away from it: I would have said it was too good to be true. At least six months ago, I clearly realized that happiness should be held onto.

And then there’s the fine line between learning from the past so you don’t repeat the same mistakes, and living in the past. This article/post about “10 risks happy people take every day” lists that as the last one: “Don’t waste your time trying to live in another time and place. … You must accept the end of something in order to begin to build something new.”

So, where am I going with all of this rambling? It comes down to this mantra that worked its way into my head nearly five years ago: “Life is short; live it.” I’ve spent the past five years trying to do that, but it’s been slow going. Heck, once I adopted that mantra, it took me months to even realize it, and many more months to act on it. But I DID eventually act, and that’s a good sign. So, here’s to embracing both life and happiness. Here’s to realizing that I should settle for nothing less than happiness. Here’s to accepting that life is too short to not be happy.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; But often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” –Helen Keller

(Found on a blog that linked to this Pinterest.)
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