Month: January 2011

Review

Today was my son’s “mid year review” — at school.

There is something nerve-wracking about sitting down and hearing someone evaluate your child. You evaluate your child on a regular basis — yes, you do, it may not be on the quality of their schoolwork, but you do — but it’s different when someone else does it. It’s different when you are evaluated by someone who hasn’t known you your whole life and only in a certain silo of qualities and accomplishments.

Let the record state: I think my son’s teacher is awesome. I think she does a great job. I think she has her hands full with her class load, and I think that if you are reading this and you’re in the Lake Washington School District you should totally vote YES on the levy measure on the February 8th ballot.

As we went through the report card and talked about challenges and how we’d address them, it occurs to me that my annual review is coming up, too. Next Tuesday I will be evaluated by someone who hasn’t known me my whole life on a certain silo of my qualities and accomplishments.

I’m going to have that nightmare about being at school without having studied again, right?

Fighting for Air

Nope, this won’t be a dramatic post about the stress of my life or some sort of me vs. the world thing. (No drama…. no no no no drama).

I’m running (walking, limping) in the American Lung Association’s 5k run/walk in Magnuson Park, Seattle on May first. I have a team and everything.

I haven’t run in 1 year, 2 months, and 2 days.

I have 3 months in which to go from zero (with a messed up knee) to 3.1, and I think I can do it.

But you know what that means, right? TRAINING! And… training posts. Lots of posts about people at the gym, and running during lunch breaks, and the benefits of various flavored Gu. Oh, and there will be clothing and shoe reviews, too, as I gear up.

Fighting for air, indeed 😀

Plus One To Self Worth

In Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I used to play D&D, get over it) the very first thing you do, once your DM has declared the arena in which you are playing (or RIFTS — we did that too), is you wrote up your Character Sheet. Inevitably a piece of Xeroxed paper, it had check boxes and blank spaces for you to detail your character’s physical appearance, social abilities, physical, mental, and emotional abilities/proclivities, as well as a back story. It was not uncommon for everyone’s character to be a fantastically good-looking crack-shot nuclear physicist and ace-pro lover, ala Buckaroo Banzai, but there would be the “fatal flaw” they’d introduce in their character: you know, to remain interesting.

Life doesn’t hand you a character sheet. You are given the looks you inherit genetically, you are alloted the IQ points that amass themselves in your grey matter. Your character, however, is something you can develop and change. (Yes, you can “train your brain”. Yes, you can use surgery to enhance your physical appearance. But really, your character is something both easier and harder to manipulate, and it’s what we’re discussing here, so let’s ignore the caveats and nota benes, shall we?)

One of the best speeches in recent movie history was in The American President, where Michael Douglas’ president makes the statement that a the upcoming presidential race would be *entirely* about character. Any race: presidential, rat, or otherwise, is about character.

I’ve spent some time evaluating the things about myself I don’t like: I send emails too quickly, I take things to heart too easily, I spend too much time worrying about others opinions, I continue to not have the discipline to have the physique I’d like. Some of these are correctable via self-direction, some of these I will have to run into a brick wall or two in order to acquire the necessary mental note. Others seem doomed to compromise: my weight being one of them. 

I’ve known a few people who have taken stock of their life completely, and turned it around in a fashion amazing to those who knew them well and those who knew them casually. One good friend lost nearly a hundred pounds,  got divorced, acquired all sorts of new hobbies (including running, triathlons, and barhopping); another lost a significant amount of weight (she is not telling, nor should she), stayed married, took control over her education and career and is literally living the dream in Hawaii. Some friends have made changes not so sweeping: leaving an unsatisfying job, taking on new hobbies, reinvesting in their health; I think part of the human condition is to self-evaluate and, for some of us, to target improvements.

I have no idea how much of this is driven by the checklist mentality or the presumptive dopamine rush that comes from living this way. I do know that I have a few things I’d like to change, and maybe if I’m open and outward about them, and write them down, and profess them, if not in a character sheet with 8 or 12 friends and a 20-sided dice but in a blog with 8 or 12 readers and a 20-sided life, maybe then, I can upgrade my character.

Event Driven

In keeping with my usual way of doing things (e.g., the dopamine rush that one gets from chocolate, online Scrabble, and checking things off of one’s list) I have signed on for a whole bunch of stuff this year. Some I will discuss, and some I will not. There will likely be an announcement of the Not Currently Discussed Items around June or July. But this isn’t about that. Think of it as one of those teaser trailers before the show.

The Events of 2011, at least sporting wise, are:

  • A 5-k run. Yep, I have to get back into running. I’ll be starting a team of at least 10 here at Expedia for the American Lung Association’s annual 5k, and so I shall go forth to the Running Shoe Store where they will provide me with shiny new shoes. Be prepared for posts about sore knees, the amazing physics of excess flab as you run, and whether or not this was really a good idea. Also, I have to raise money.
  • A 2-day double-century bike ride, known as the STP. The Seattle To Portland, more specifically, and training for that has already begun. The fact that as part of training we will be riding 80 miles one day and 80 miles the next which is what I did for The Whole Ride last year is a bit of an eye-catcher.
  • An October stair climb event for the ALA (place to be determined). Again with the raising money.
  • And then, depending on how things went with the 5 k– the Seattle Half Marathon in November. Again.

Folding into this training schedule is that thing I call my job, which I love but which has gone up to 11 as of last November and *stayed there*. When your boss looks at you earnestly and asks you when you’re going to take any time off, and at least three coworkers suggest you need a drink, you may need to take some time off. But when you’re committed to having everything come off PERFECT or at least NOT MESSED UP then you have a hard time putting down the iPhone and the Email. The Job is having me travel a bit this year, including to Geneva (let’s hope my luggage doesn’t get lost) and then there’s personal travel too (hello, Phoenix! Hello, Hawaii!).  Oh, and then there’s boy schedule and its companions of sports and karate and boy scouts and camp and PTSA in there too. Mustn’t forget that.

This year is the first year I’m operating completely without a paper calendar. Usually, I am the recipient of a calendar from a friend who likes dogs, from a family member who defaults to Calendars, and some sort of work gift thing. And this year, I got none of it. My wall at work is empty, my dedicated calendar space at home is devoid of said calendarage. I’m operating completely on my Google and Outlook (syncd!) calendars. It will be an experiment in e-venting, I’m sure.

What I’m discovering thus far is that I need to stick to plans if I’m going to make them. When you put in your calendar that you are going to go to spin class, it’s because you realized two weeks ago when you put that there that you had a 7am call the next day and so you wouldn’t make it to *that* spin class and if you were going to get your required weekly time in the saddle then yes you really did need to do spin class on Thursday. Or when I lay out the menu for the week then I really do need to stick with it because if I wing it and use the potatoes with the pork tenderloin instead of the pasta then that means the chicken has to now go with the rice and you have to put peas with potatoes which takes it away from the cacciatore that was supposed to go with the pasta. Oh, and you end up with really weird menu combinations, which sounds fine for Iron Chef but not for Random Sammamish Hurried Dinner Wednesday.

I have — and love — my iPhone. I may need to expand its applications to help me keep the dopamine rush at a steady state.  Meanwhile, you are to fully expect more e-Venting.

PS — Starbucks is releasing a 31 ounce coffee drink. ‘Nuff said.

Wheels

I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. Yet.

Learning to drive one is/was part of my “quest for awesomeness”, e.g., my ongoing list of things I should do before I become a useless, shriveled old maid. The fact that I hadn’t learned in my younger days — mind you, at sixteen I could change the oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and tires on a 1981 Volvo — is sad and crippling; my instructor (Mr. W, who is an Aussie and happily accepts payment in gastronomie and vin!) is patient and thorough. I have completed lesson two.

Lesson two involved repracticing start/stop, and that sorta-glidey-thingie you do with the clutch in and the brake off and you’re rounding a corner and going into a parking space. Or something. I also learned to shift up and down, which I need to practice.

Two hours later I was on the bike for the first time in five months. We did but 13 miles courtesy of a blown tire (mine) and only one spare (Duncan’s); it felt *good*. And tomorrow? Tomorrow we enroll for the STP, the Seattle To Portland, 200 miles in 2 days, with a stop (thank whatever God(s) you select) at my mother’s house at the halfway point.

And so January turns! (PS — this week? I lost two of those three awful pounds, and went to the gym 5/7 days). Go me!

The Pink Cup

Absolutely accurate and unedited couple of emails I sent on Wednesday. Not all work is work.

First: Titled, “Lost Cup”

Normally I eschew sending out emails that refer to lost articles/items. The ones about money always baffle me. Also, phones left in bathrooms? Not so much. However, this is not normal and neither is the lost article:

On Thursday last (30 December 2010) I left my pink cup and saucer (Starbucks, circa 1997) in the dishwasher here on the 11th floor. I freely admit being too lazy to walk over and retrieve it yesterday or Monday. But today when I looked in the dishwasher, and the cupboards around it, and the mailbox receptacle below the sink that serves as the ersatz lost and found/OMG you washed your personal cup in the Work Dishwasher and so we have relegated it here to punish you, it wasn’t there. 

Nor did it magically appear on my desk, or the 11th floor break room.

 So I ask, if anyone has seen the pink cup, and saucer (for they are a pair and really should be together, wherever they are) to please ask them to little “r” me. I want them to come home. And I promise to never ever wash them in the Work Dishwasher again.

Second: OMG FOUND! Lost Cup…

Special thanks to DG, who found my cup and sent it to the safekeeping of MMW, who appropriately kept it in a place of honor on her desk until I retrieved it, shamefacedly, while she was in a meeting.

Thank you all for your support.

The pink cup will remain in my office and is willing to take its picture with you in honor of its newfound celebrity status.

New Beginnings

There are a *lot* of changes I have on the horizon this year, most of which I’m not going to go in to. This is good project management from a “managing up” perspective: if I don’t tell you exactly what I’m planning, you can’t snipe at me that I didn’t quite do what I said I was going to do when I change my way halfway through the year based on the newer data. But trust me, when we get to the end of the year, you’re totally going to be amazed at all of the changes.

Seriously, I don’t do that in my work life. In my work life, I typically have the goal-promising restraint of say, Superman, and the social skills of say, Batman, and the subtlety of say, the Thing. I have no idea if they all belong to DC comics or Marvel or if I’ve mixed superheroes who oughtn’t. That’s your job, I’m just metamorphizing here.

At any rate, many things planned! Many goals to achieve! They are not resolutions, though, because that would be stifling. One of them includes increased fitness and banishment of the three (3) lbs gained over the holidays. Please note I am not blaming my mother. This is not just because she reads my blog; this is because the actual weight gain was realized *after* Christmas and I can only assume we lay the blame squarely at Top Pot’s door. However, please do note that I was attending my gym spin classes 2x-3x per week and Group Cyntergy the other day of the week (so that’s 3-4 times per week, got me, kiddo?) that I was going regularly pre-Christmas.

Oh My Goodness, the Resoluters are in. Spin Class (Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday) and Group Cardio (weightlifting) Monday, and the Pool yesterday? All completely packed. The parking lot? Packed. The gym is full of Resoluters, and the office has a waiting group of people eager to sign over what amounts to four figures per year to attend. I do not blame them, I do the same thing. But I’ve been doing it longer, and somehow that entitles me to all of the self-satisfied snobbery a person can develop. I don’t mind Resoluters, per se. I mind that they all come at ONCE.

If you think about it, New Years Day is an abstract day. There is no logical reason (with exception of the break between December and January as provided by the Romans, who by the way went from 10 months to 12 by shoving in 2 more months (one for Julius and one for Augustus Caesars, guess which months those are?)). Most Asian cultures celebrate a different day for New Year, as did the Mayans and Aztecs. The fact that we choose Jan 1 is completely arbitrary; to my way of thinking we would be better off to choose December 21 or March 21 or June 21 or September 21 (and if you want to know why look up “solstice” and “equinox” — although to my way of thinking Dec 21 makes the most sense). However, I am not yet the Dictator and I do not get to choose, so stuck with January 1 am I.

It would be ever so much nicer, though, if we took the extra — call it 100? 200? — people who come in for the New Year, throughout the year. My spin class would go from say, 10-12 in December to 12-14 in January to 14-16 in February, etc. Not from 10-12 in December to 30-32 in January. That causes consternation, awkward bike positioning, and massive delays while we have the instructor take time to set up all the newbies properly on their bikes. Tuesday’s class started 10 minutes late courtesy of the new folks. Again, wouldn’t mind so much if they came early. Or spaced themselves out. But please, not all at once. I give it four more weeks before the real bleed off happens (I hope).

I am totally caffeinated by the way, and we will blame my new CoHort at work. His floor has no shiny coffee maker and so there is no decaf to be had.

Resolve

I have no resolutions this year.

Available data indicates that I’m not terribly good at keeping them, and that the things that need to get done get done anyway. Ergo, no formal resolutions. There is the list, which is the same list I tackle every year. This year includes finally learning to drive a stick shift (lesson two is next Saturday) and learning to ski; there is also some plan to get my Spanish back in gear. Oh, and there’s the STP and apparently I’m back in a book club (thanks, Carla).

I have no problem with other people’s resolutions… save one. The gym resolution. Now, many folks resolve to get in shape in the new year. Some have attainable goals (I’m going to lose 10 pounds! 20! 30! in 2/4/6 months!). Some have wildly fantastic goals (I’m going to lose 50 pounds by April!). And one and all, they arrive at the gym on 2 January, clogging up my classes. For those of us who were there the day before Thanksgiving and on December 23rd, as well as December 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, the inevitable barrage of well-intentioned people into the gym class means that we have to get to each class extra extra early (example: proper etiquette is to arrive at spin class 5 or even 10 minutes early to get your bike, fill your water, acquire the appropriate towelage, figure out if you really want to be behind *that* person, if you really want to be in front of *that other* person, etc. In the Resoluter Month, you need to arrive 20 minutes early to do all that *and* navigate around the newbies).

I would wager that most of these folks are gone by the end of January — maybe February. So it’s a discomfort of short duration. I think I can get through that. And if that’s the most I have to complain about, well, then, my life’s pretty darned good.