When we were looking for a place to live, we spent a lot of time researching a lot of homes. We looked at several agencies, each listing dozens of houses, most of which weren’t at all suitable. We could rule out many of them with information we found online or with phone calls, mostly because no one allows pets. (One landlord ultimately rejected us because he doesn’t allow pets, but he kept stringing us along. Did he think we’d love the house so much we’d get rid of our cats??)
Even after eliminating places without seeing them, we viewed and/or seriously considered so many that it got difficult to keep the details straight.
We moved on Sunday/Monday. I went back to Kirksville on Friday to clean out the house there, and on the way home I ran into a deer. That was the end for our 15 yr old, 222,000 mile car.
I wasn’t wild about doing a lot of research on cars so soon after doing this for a house, plus in the middle of trying to unpack. In fact, researching cars and insurance ate up a tremendous amount of time and was a huge and unwelcome distraction from unpacking.
A friend has bought 3 cars from Mike Hoyt Auto. Mike fixes up salvage cars. I left several messages for him during the day on Monday. He’s only available evenings, I learned when he called me back. We arranged to look at his cars on Tuesday evening. He had 6 in stock. Iain took photos of the VINs. Since he works for Carfax, we can get as many reports as we want. I wasn’t sure we’d learn anything useful–they are all salvage titles. I was surprised at how much more information is in the reports.
Iain liked the Suzuki Forenza, but it didn’t fare well in Edmunds.com, and it wouldn’t be ready for 2 more weeks.
I eliminated the Ford Focus because that’s basically the same as the Escort that we had been driving for 15 years, and while being reminded of its deficiencies made me sad about losing something that had been in our family such a long time, nonetheless I wanted to live without its deficiencies if possible.
The Subaru Legacy was a bit pricey for our budget and all-wheel drive, which we don’t need, and which reduces mileage.
The Nissan Sentra was tempting but it wouldn’t be ready for a week. We were incurring rental car fees every day we were without a car.
I really wanted a Honda or a Toyota because they have such a good reputation. But I eliminated the Toyota Camry because it was as old as our wrecked car had been and I wanted something a little newer than that.
The Honda Accord was a 2005–a little older than I wanted. And it wouldn’t be ready for a few days. We test drove it, and it made a funny noise that Mike explained that’s why it isn’t ready quite yet. (He explained what it was too, but I don’t remember.)
Hyundai has a decent reputation, and the Hyundai Accent was a 2009 that had been a rental vehicle for a few years. I was really on the fence between the Hyundai and the Honda. We decided on the Hyundai and Thursday we went back to test drive it. It seemed ok. We arranged to pick it up Friday afternoon and take it to the mechanic for a look-over.
Driving it on I-70, I noticed it didn’t have cruise control. The steering wheel isn’t adjustable. Those two things concerned me. 15 years ago when we bought the Ford Escort, I made a point of not getting a lot of the options like power locks and power windows, because I figured the more complicated something is the easier it is to go wrong. But even then we got cruise control. We hadn’t adjusted the steering wheel until recently, when I started having an ulnar nerve entrapment issue which is aggravated by holding my left arm slightly up such as when driving. I really need the adjustable steering wheel.
It also doesn’t have power windows or power locks. I hadn’t thought it was even possible these days to get a car that didn’t have those. My attitude 15 years ago has changed just a little bit. In that, I would like to try living with the luxury. Sure, it might break, but things can be repaired, even complicated little fiddly bits with computers and electronics.
The owner mentioned he has a Volkswagon for sale. We test drove the VW while the Hyundai was getting checked out.
The ice-blue Hyundai Accent passed the mechanic’s once-over with flying colors. We drove it back to Mike and asked if the Honda has cruise control? No, it doesn’t. Well, we’d get our paychecks on Monday, so we had all weekend to make a decision.
We ran a Carfax report on the VW. It’s a 2003, and I had rejected the 2005 Honda for being too old. But the VW Jetta had cruise control and adjustable steering wheel. And power locks, power windows, heated seats, adjustable seats (up & down, not just back & forth), and even a sun roof! But it had 140,000 miles. (The Hyundai only 55,000.) The 2003 VW Jetta was a little cheaper, but in 3 years we’d make that back on the better mileage of the Hyundai, and even sooner if we knew how to calculate the differences in repair costs between the two.
Iain asked, “If we took the Hyundai to the mechanic to check out, who do we take the VW to?” Well, the mechanic had mentioned he’d gone over the VW pretty thoroughly recently, when his daughter had bought it. We know the mechanic through our mechanic in Kirksville, whom we had a pretty good relationship with. (The KV mechanic had loaned us his personal vehicle to drive for a week at no cost, while ours was in the shop. That was shortly after we’d moved to KV and he didn’t know us at all. That’s the sort of thing that I miss about that town.) Our mechanic had started out in Kirksville, and in fact had trained our Kirksville mechanic.
We went back and forth. VWs are more expensive to repair, they don’t have the reputation for reliability that Honda or even Hyundai has. They can have electrical problems. (I drove a Suzuki Samurai during college, which had electrical issues.) The asking price is maybe a little high– the mechanic explained that he wants to recover his costs–paying off his daughter’s loan, re-titling it in his name and paying sales tax. He’ll either sell it for that amount or keep it and drive it. (He has 2 cars, and intended to sell one of them and drive the other, and didn’t care which.) The difference wasn’t much. In fact, if Nell ends up buying another car he has for sale, which is a bit underpriced, we’ll more than compensate.
We were finally won over by the superficial bells & whistles: cruise control, power locks and windows, and the sun roof. We’ll pay a little more for it than if we’d gone with the Hyundai, but I think we’ll be happier with the bells & whistles. Maybe in another 2 or 3 years we’ll replace it. Or maybe not.
A long time ago I promised more detail about recent changes in our life. To wit, losing my job, Iain getting a job, and moving to Columbia. For someone who routinely shares TMI on facebook, I was uncharacteristically silent through all of this.
Every time I say “losing my job”, Iain objects.
“Your contract wasn’t renewed,” he corrects me. (In fact, my contract still has a year left on it.) Ok, but I expected my contract to be renewed. Sort of. I mean, I’m not astonished that it wasn’t. Yet I did expect it.
And frankly I think they’re making a mistake NOT renewing my contract. I’m not just saying that because I think I’m awesome. Nor because I want to keep the job. If they want what I think they want– generating evidence so that osteopathic manipulation will be acknowledged as evidence-based medicine– then they gave up on me too soon. The reason given was that I didn’t get a grant and it’s been 3 years. However, during this final 4th year, I expect to have 6 manuscripts published, in press, or submitted. In particular, the data going into 2 of those manuscripts would have made for a very strong grant application. If they’d given me one more year, I’m fairly confident I would have had external funding. In fact, if I had wanted to, I think I could have successfully argued for one more year on those grounds.
Now they have to start all over.
Unless what I think they want is not what they really want. I do have a suspicion that the fact that the failure of the project I worked on during my first year here, which didn’t pan out, was attributed to me, and not to the fact that the model didn’t work. Osteopathic manipulation did NOT improve the rats’ running. Neither did anything else we tried, so it was the model that didn’t work, not necessarily osteopathic manipulation But I suspect that I’m being held accountable for the failure of manual therapy to work. Because some people believe in osteopathic manipulation more than they believe in science.
I might be wrong about that. There could also be numerous political games that I’m completely unaware of. I’m not too concerned. Because for me personally, this change is NOT a mistake.
I found out about the grant rejection on July 9. I found out about the effect of the grant on my contract on July 11. It was a blow, but even as I had the inevitable stress reaction I was thinking, “I’m going to feel relieved when this stress thing is over.” And in a couple days I did start feeling relieved.
Iain did some number crunching to reassure me that if we cut all unnecessary expenditures, we could save up enough to cover expenses an additional 5 months after my contract ended. I thought that was a funny first reaction, but I think he did that because I have this crazy irrational fear of being homeless. So much so that I go on long bike trips away from home. Or something. (Seriously, at one point I read a very good blog called the Survival Guide to Homelessness, which was immensely reassuring.) (I think it’s a genetic fear and I inherited it from my grandmother, who was terrified when she was moved into a nursing home because she was convinced she was going to be put out on the street.)
Then we prioritized geography. We can’t stay in Kirksville because there are very few jobs for him here. He’s put in applications for what few there are over the past 3 years, unsuccessfully. Our priorities are:
- Columbia, MO or Lawrence, KS
- Anywhere within 4-5 hour drive of #1 (including Kirksville).
- Anywhere else in the world except Chicago or Afghanistan.
- Chicago or Afghanistan.
After further discussion we created 3a and 3b, and added a few more locations to #4.
After a week or so of reassuring me, Iain started poking around looking for job openings, looking in our #1 places first. Apparently our #1 was actually a 1a and 1b, because we never got beyond Columbia. He’s been interested in Carfax since he graduated in 2010, but he never put in an application because we moved to Kirksville for my job. They just happened to be hiring for several positions! He worked on his resume, on his cover letter, and on his application for two weeks. He is a perfectionist and I was starting to wonder if he was ever going to hit “Submit”… He did submit an application. Then, almost as an afterthought, he applied for a similar position at Shelter Insurance, also in Columbia.
Immediately he had interviews with both. Over 3 weeks he had a total of 6 interviews, 2 with Shelter and 4 with Carfax. Shelter offered him a job and he had to string them along while he waited for Carfax to make an offer. He hated doing that! But then he had the offer from Carfax which he accepted. (Ironically, we’re ending up moving into a house one block away from Shelter.)
I still didn’t announce the big news widely. I’ll get to that in a moment.
So what about me? What are my plans?
I’ve been dissatisfied with my career since my 4th year of grad school. Yet I stuck with it (for various reasons which I might go into later but would make this far too long, as if it isn’t going to be too long already) for another 11 years. When I started bicycling for transportation, that’s when I really wanted to switch careers entirely. I’ve been active in bicycle advocacy so much, that it could be a natural transition. More recently, I’ve gotten interested in traffic engineering and urban planning. Not sure I want to get yet more schooling– education I’d have to pay for myself for the first time in my life, especially at a time when both my husband and my daughter have quite a lot of student loan debt. But there’s a lot of potential.
The question is, should I just resign now and pursue this new career? Iain’s new job can support us mostly; my income will be supplemental (and help pay off those student loan debts). I thought long and hard about when and how I want to leave my current job, and how to make it work with Iain’s job in Columbia.
That was the real reason behind my reluctance to broadcast the news widely. Because I wasn’t quite sure what moving to Columbia meant for my current job.
Because I am such an extrovert, I admit my silence on something so important bordered on painful.
Here’s what I came up with. I don’t want to just quit right now. I’ve put in a lot the past 3 years and I have 6 manuscripts coming to fruition. If I just find another job and resign, 5 of those manuscripts don’t happen at all.
This is a bit childish but honestly, the real motivation: those 6 manuscripts prove what a mistake they made. That’s right. I’m going to keep my job until those 6 manuscripts are done so I can “show them”. (Whoever “they” are.)
I might regret doing something for such a childish reason, but I might not. I enjoy writing (grants or manuscripts) more than any other aspect of research. After spending 3 years doing the research, this year could be the most fun of all.
I made a big push to get the last bit of lab work done, because I can do the writing from home. One of my most important collaborators, the statistician, is at the Arizona campus so I’ve been meeting with her by video conference for a few months now anyway. Except when working with students in the lab, I rarely see anyone in person, and I don’t have lab work anymore and therefore I don’t see even students. (I’m supposed to just write up the data that we do have.) I can easily make a trip to Kirksville now & then. I got my laptop set up so I can access my files.
Now my plan is to get these papers finished up as quick as I can so that I can move on to the next fun part of my life: my new career. Whatever that may be.
I’m cautiously excited about how everything is turning out for us. Of course, I also go through moments of terror & panic at the Great Unknown. After moving every 1-6 years my entire adult life, I hardly dare to hope that this might be our last move. (At least for a decade or two.) (You know, when I was a kid, I wished we’d move. My parents stayed in the same house for 22 years and finally moved when I was 24. As an adult, 22 years doesn’t seem such a terribly long time to stay in one house. Karma’s a bitch.)
Maybe I’ll make a career for myself that I love. Or maybe my personality is just chronically dissatisfied. Either way, I won’t be any worse off than I am now. So: cautiously excited.
Our house hunt wasn’t going well.
We had asked our Century 21 friend, “Do you have a Century 21 buddy in Columbia?” He did and put us in contact with him. We soon had a list of places and scheduled a day to view some.
It’s nearly impossible when you have pets. Most places simply don’t allow pets. We have 1 1/2 cats. (The 1/2 cat is nearly 20 years old and will not be with us much longer. Or else I will be dosing her twice daily for years to come.)
And what happened to trees? These new subdivisions are just a long, long line of identical houses with no trees! With limited time to find a place, I was resigned to probably having to live in one of these cookie-cutter houses on an ugly, barren street.
One place on the list was lovely but No Pets. And, it was already rented.
Another place was ok and it allowed pets. When we viewed it, I got excited. It has a cliff in the backyard! Not the kind where you step out your back door and fall off a cliff. The house was at the bottom of the cliff. In an earthquake the cliff might fall into your house.
But then Iain noticed the details that hadn’t been on the web page: nonrefundable $300 fee PER PET plus $25/mth additional rent.
The agent tried to steer us toward Jenne Hill, a series of condos that his company owned. They allowed pets. Only a single $250, refundable pet deposit. We weren’t excited about the condos, but that seemed to be our only option. We asked to see the lease.
The lease was a nightmare lease. If our car leaked oil, it could be towed. The move-out procedure was 2 pages long and itemized fees, such as $5 for every burned out light bulb not replaced! The property manager got mad at me when I said we weren’t interested because of the lease.
Our agent hastened to reassure us that was the wrong lease. But the damage had been done. We couldn’t be comfortable living in a place like that, with a property manager like that. But he didn’t have anything else to show us.
Worried and desperate, I got on craiglist, Zillow, and Trulia. I worked the friend-network. I spent hours researching. I considered houses as far away as Jeff City.
I spent a day making phone calls. I had a different approach this time. Instead of saying, “Is it available? Do you allow pets?”, I said, “Is it available? Tell me about it.” Then I’d work into the conversation that we aren’t undergrads, we are 40 yr old professionals. I’d mention that Iain is a computer programmer and I’m a research professor. (I thought computer programmer sounded more impressive than professor, but people seemed to be more impressed by professor.) Eventually I’d mention the cats.
Armed with my list, we headed to Columbia today. We only had one appointment, although between leaving home and arriving in Columbia we had 3 appointments.
It was 10:00 when we got to town and our first appointment was at 11. So we started with the 3 places that the manager had said, “Look at them first and if you’re interested, call me and I’ll show you around.”
This is the guy who had said, “$1400 a month or $350 per person,” to which I had replied, alarmed, “Oh, this for students? Sorry, we’re not interested.” He back-pedaled fast and protested, “Families have lived in it too!” and “It’s a mixed neighborhood of families and students.” While that was true, both of the houses in that neighborhood were surrounded by students. They were in terrible condition. They weren’t worth $1400/mth, and we think he is exploiting the students. The 3rd house was in a better neighborhood, and he spoke truly when he said, “You’re paying for location,” because the rent there was $1800/mth and the house wasn’t in any better condition.
We went to our first appointment. The house was a reasonable size, 1300 sq ft. The rent was reasonable, $1100/mth. The neighborhood was better than I expected. It would be very close to Iain’s job. It’s also very close to where we used to live. There were actually a few trees around, and not as small as I thought. But certainly not large. The houses on the street, while not identical, have a sameness to them. The lease seemed normal. (After Jenne Hill, we asked to see the lease when we saw the place, if not before.)
I wasn’t thrilled but it was ok. I felt a little better. At least, less desperate.
I got some food and we went to our 12:00 appointment. We were a few minutes early and we walked up and down the street. I loved the walk. Twin Lakes is just on the other side of the street. I could see its trees. There were enough large trees that we could walk a fair distance in the shade. We chatted briefly with the neighbor over the backyard fence. I loved it. The place was 2100 sq ft and the rent only $1200/mth. What was wrong with it?
Well, we soon learned what was wrong. Inside, it was nice. Except the cabinets weren’t really cleaned out. The owner hadn’t been able to get a copy of the lease. And he didn’t want pets. He was asking for first AND last month’s rent PLUS a deposit equal to one month’s rent. I thought that was exorbitant. Nonetheless, I offered, “We can pay a pet deposit.” He said he would ask his wife.
I was depressed. I had really liked that place.
Our next appointment cheered me up considerably. This was Callahan & Galloway, who had told me, “We charge a single refundable $250 pet deposit, and rent is the same. We don’t think it’s fair to charge a nonrefundable pet fee and raise the rent.” I agreed. We looked at an old house (1930′s?) in an old neighborhood. I love old houses. (Iain doesn’t.) There was a gargoyle next door. It was small, maybe 1100 or 1000 sq ft, but with a basement–although don’t put anything directly on the floor. Joe Callahan had played in that house when he was a kid. He lived in the neighborhood. (It is a good neighborhood–the same one the other manager was charging $1800/mth.) It was reasonable rent, $1100/mth.
He had another property that might suit us too, but it was being painted and not suitable for viewing yet. He suggested we look at it though. It was only $990/mth. “You know that’s the same as $1000/mth,” Iain pointed out. Oh. Yeah. It sure seems like a lot less. We drove out to it. I loved the neighborhood. It’s from the 1960′s. There were big trees. The house looked big. It was pretty far out there, and not a very bikeable area–but I do like challenges, especially biking ones. It would definitely be a challenge.
We were about to leave town when a friend called me back. He recently got married and his wife’s father’s house has been sitting empty. Well, not exactly empty. Empty of people. But not empty of stuff. “We need to clean it out,” he said. “We need someone who needs to live in it so that we’ll be motivated to get it cleaned out.” It’s in a lovely neighborhood, and around 2000 sq ft. I thought there’s no way we could afford it. But they hadn’t thought yet about what they would charge. However, at least we could use it as a sort of hotel if we couldn’t find a place before Iain’s new job started. “You should come see it,” he said. So at the very end of the day we toured it.
It’s in a lovely neighborhood. I glanced out the huge bay window. “Look at the neighbor across the street,” I said. “What realistic, life like deer under the tree.” I watched them for a moment. “They even move their mouths like real deer.” One of them stood up and sauntered off. Iain drooled over the screened in back porch. He’s always wanted a screened in porch. As soon as I saw the blue shag carpet I said “This would be Nell’s bedroom.” She thinks she loves shag carpet.
Given that the basement wouldn’t be available, at least for a while (they have a lot of stuff stored there right now), it seemed a lot more affordable. Within 5 minutes of leaving, Iain and I decided it was our 1st choice.
Iain’s 2nd choice is the one in the neighborhood near where we used to live. My 2nd choice is either the 1930′s place or the one in the far corner of the city. But the exciting part is that we have 4 viable options!
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are either the wave of the future or the devil itself. These are free, online classes than anyone can take and thousands do. Lessons are videos and reading assignments. Students interact with each other primarily but sometimes also the instructor and teaching assistants through forums. Quizzes are multiple choice and machine graded instantly. The final is peer graded. If you complete everything, you get a certificate. Mostly course credit has not been offered, although there is now a paid version that offers some kind of credit.
I’ve enrolled in 6 MOOCs, all of them through Coursera, which is the main MOOC provider at the moment. Coursera is a consortium of around 100 universities and other institutions. The classes I’ve enrolled in are Math Thinking, Know Thyself, Food Sustainability, Networks Illustrated, Exercise Physiology, and A Brief History of Humankind (which hasn’t started yet).
I hear rants all the time against MOOCs. MOOCs are trying to replace colleges, they will ruin education, and they will put professors out of jobs. I don’t know about any of that, but it might be worth sharing my experiences.
My favorite class so far is Food Sustainability. Just like traditional classes, MOOCs can be taught more or less interactively, and Food Sustainability does a wonderful job of being interactive. Each lesson typically includes a reading assignment, a reading quiz, a video of the instructor interviewing an expert in some aspect relevant to the topic, and a forum assignment.
Reading assignments have been a chapter of a textbook, serious journal articles, and articles written for lay people. One wasn’t reading at all, but looking through 25 photos of families from around the world surrounded by a week’s worth of food.
The reading quiz is multiple choice. Once or twice it’s been more of a poll than a quiz, with no wrong answers. For example, after browsing through the 25 photos of families surrounded by a week’s worth of food we answered questions like “Which country’s family had the most sustainable diet? Which one looked most like your diet?”
The videos for this class are done really well. As much as traditional classroom lectures, video lectures can suffer from being terribly one-sided. Power points and virtual markerboards can only help so much. The instructor interviewed experts in fields related to food sustainability, such as agriculture and economy. The interviews sometimes felt a bit lecture like, and sometimes were more interactive discussions between the two. Sometimes the experts had slides for us. One of the most interesting was with a woman who had served on the USDA’s panel which updates dietary recommendations every 5 years. I’d never given any thought to the USDA dietary recommendations before, how they are developed, and what impact they can have. Theoretically you can post questions and comments on the forums and the experts might respond, but as far as I could tell none of them responded. The videos were all kept fairly short, and rarely was there more than an hour’s worth of video to watch in a single week.
The assignments are the best part of the class. They all involve posting something on the forum and reading, up-voting, and/or responding to other students’ posts. The forums, by the way, are very well organized, and for the most part students manage to select the right place to post. That has not been true of all of the Coursera courses. Just like traditional classes, it’s up to the instructor to make the best use of the platform and some do a better job of that than others. Two assignments stood out. One assignments was to take notes as I planned, shopped, prepared, and ate a meal, research the origins of the ingredients I used, and write up the experience. For the part of the assignment about commenting on other students’ posts, we were to try to find people in other countries. That got me looking at posts from people in the US and comparing those to the other countries’.
The other assignment that stood out was to interview two people about what motivates their food choices and what they think motivates other peoples’ food choices. I chose people from different cultures, and another student chose a very old and a very young relative (a great-aunt and a nephew).
There was an assignment that involved doing a bit of math, and one that required searching an online database.
I have taken any number of traditional classes that weren’t as well done as this one. I was engaged, I learned quite a lot about the subject, and everyone around me learned about it too because I talked about it all the time. As a result of this class, I’m eating organic bananas so as not to be a party to the routine poisoning of banana plantation laborers with pesticides.
The first two Coursera classes I took were fun, but not quite as successful. It was my husband’s idea that we sign up for the same class. I wanted to take Know Thyself and he wanted to take Math Thinking. So we took both. Since we’d both had philosophy courses in college and we’d both had extensive math (the target audience was high school transitioning to college math), both courses should not have been challenging, and they weren’t. We ended up dropping both about 2/3 of the way through, partly because we fell behind in watching lectures and doing the homework, but mostly because my husband got frustrated with the student interactions on the forums.
Some classes did better than others on their forums. Part of it is in how well the forums are organized, and part of it is how well they are moderated. Know Thyself and Math Thinking had an army of assistants to help manage the forums. Food Sustainability had excellently organized forums. Hardly anyone ever posted on Networks Illustrated forums, and when I did, I was encouraged to turn my comments into a blog post on their website, which was filled with spam.
The time investment for Know Thyself and Math Thinking together was a little bit too much. They were both a little heavy on the video lectures. Know Thyself had a lot of heavy reading assignments. Math Thinking had a lot of homework. That was just too many hours a week for something that we were basically doing for our own entertainment.
A key component of the classes is that all the required material is freely available. Math Thinking and Networks Illustrated had optional texts that could be purchased. Know Thyself had a lot of material on the course website, with some additional recommended texts that for copyright reasons couldn’t be posted on the website. Networks Illustrated was, in my opinion, particularly dependent on the supposedly “optional” text.
Networks Illustrated was very heavy on the video and light on everything else. I really didn’t like that all the work seemed to be done by a graduate student. It was theoretically taught by a professor but he didn’t do any of the videos, never responded to anything on the forums, and as far as I could tell did nothing at all. The video lectures were interesting, but that’s not my favorite way to learn. Because the only reading was the recommended (but not free) textbook, I had no way of looking back to see how to do this or that calculation other than re-watching the videos–and I barely had time to watch them one time through. This was supposed to be the math-lite version, and it still had quite a lot of math that in my opinion, was unnecessary. I can understand and appreciate how a cell phone and cell tower negotiate power settings based on interference and negative feedback without being able to calculate it. There wasn’t any practice homework, only a few quizzes, and they were all about the math even though it was a math-lite course. So after a couple quizzes I quit doing the homework and just listened to the videos.
Except for Exercise Physiology, the courses required only a basic high school education. Exercise Physiology required a having taken Human Physiology. I had Physiology in college, Endocrinology as a grad student, my PhD was in the field of reproductive physiology, and I TA’d the Animal Physiology laboratory. So I figured my physiology background would be good enough.
It wasn’t. I was completely lost in the first lecture. I un-enrolled. Before I did so, I poked around a bit to see if there was anything else helpful. The lecture had been dry and hard to follow, the reading was a repetition of the lecture, and it looked like a traditional lecture class plunked down into an online setting. I don’t think this would have been much good as a regular class either.
So that’s my experiences so far. Although we didn’t finish Math Thinking and Know Thyself, they were fun and we learned something or reinforced what we already knew. Food Sustainability was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot. While I was disappointed in some aspects of Networks Illustrated, I learned something about the mysteries of cell phones and Netflix recommendations and gained a glimmering idea of how that sort of thing works. Exercise Physiology didn’t work out for me, but if I’d really wanted it, I could have tried harder or taken Coursera’s Human Physiology first.
Are MOOCs going to destroy universities, ruin education, and put professors out of business? I see no reason to think so at this point. The quality of MOOC classes is on par with traditional classes: some are great, some aren’t, and the student who really wants to learn will learn in spite of the quality of the class. MOOCs have the potential to reach a huge audience, an audience who wants to learn but might not have access to universities. While I have taken a lot of university classes and I live in a college town, my access to classes is limited by the cost.
You might think since I’ve dropped out of 2 classes, unenrolled from 1, and quit doing the homework for a 4th that my success rate isn’t great (1 out of 5). While 20,000 or 70,000 students might enroll in a class, perhaps 3000 will watch the first video and maybe 300 will complete the final exam. Those numbers aren’t very inspiring but remember, these are free. There’s no penalty for dropping out or failing. You can freely taste without eating the whole meal. I would count my success rate as 4 out of 5– I got what I wanted out of 4 classes, and decided not to go for the 5th.
I’ve been using Zombies, Run! 2 for a few weeks now. If you’re not familiar with it, you go on missions. You have radio contact with the base, who is tracking your progress and giving you directions and information. Their talking alternates with music taken from your own music collection. It’s like a radio station–only without the commercials. It’s the perfect blend of music and story.
If you finish a mission but you’re not finished with your run, you can either start another mission or let it go into Radio Mode. The DJs are amusing.
I find myself wanting to run so I can listen to another mission. It’s like watching your favorite tv show. A little bit of “what happens next?” and wanting to spend more time with your favorite characters. Missions are episodic, with the occasional 2-parter or a plot arch across multiple missions. So it’s a very effective motivator in that respect.
The music and the talking (mission or radio) is punctuated with chases. A chase starts with a calm warning, “Zombies: 100 meters”, spoken in the same tone as “Collected: a pack of underwear”, so if I’m at all distracted I can easily miss the zombie warning. After 30 seconds (I think) you get an update: “Zombies: 68 meters”. Depending on how fast you run, the zombies have advanced on you. Another 30 seconds (I think) and another update, and then “Zombies evaded” –if you outran them– or “3 items dropped. Zombies distracted — if you didn’t outrun them.
You lose half of what you are carrying if the zombies catch you.
You want to collect those items because you can use them to expand your base and add buildings. I just added a hospital, which is such a large building that I had to expand my base twice before I could add it.
It’s taken me a while to puzzle out just how this works. Do the zombies shamble at a set pace for everyone, and very slow runners will always get caught while very fast runners will never get caught even if they don’t speed up? Based on my experience I don’t think so, I think it is individualized not just for the runner but for the run. I think it assesses your pace and sets the zombie pace off of that. If you don’t speed up you’ll get caught. But if you were walking, and break into a slow jog for the chase, you’ll escape as easily as if you were jogging and broke into a sprint.
What makes me think that is because during the Firecracker 5K, I lost 2 of 3 chases. Despite my intentions, my race pace was faster than my training pace. (I don’t know why that is. I didn’t mean to run any differently.) Instead of running 12:30 min miles, I was running 10:30 min miles. The zombie chase started and I sped up, as usual. Yet in the 1st and 3rd chases, the zombies caught me.
I can think of 2 explanations. One is that my higher base pace exhausted me so that my sprint wasn’t as sprinty as usual. The other is that the higher base pace set the bar higher so that my sprint wasn’t faster enough than my base pace.
I believe the 2nd option is the most likely. Otherwise long legged fast runners would have no challenge and short legged dumpy runners would have no chance. Which makes sense from a realism point of view but isn’t any fun from a game point of view.
Despite all the recent storms, the trail wasn’t too muddy. I walked barefoot. I heard the ticks are awful right now so I used plenty of bug spray. Iain let me spray his legs but he picked up a few ticks anyway.
The woods are beautiful right now. Birds chirping, flowers everywhere, green stuff including poison ivy all over.
When we got near the creek we found a section of trail had fallen in. A massive brier prevented us from going around on this side of the creek. I handed my phone to Iain and slid down the bank. My feet touched the mud and continued right on in up to my knees. I pulled one leg and then the other out and waded through the creek. The water was chilly but not uncomfortable. I stepped on pebbles and sand and then sank up to my calf in the sand, leaving me wet up to my thigh! I avoided the sand after that.
I stood on one relatively firm bit and Iain handed me my phone so I could take some pictures of the retaining wall that had given way.
I couldn’t find a way around so I came back up. Despite sinking into the mud and sand, I wasn’t horribly filthy. The creek had washed a lot of it away.
Because I’ve been doing barefoot running & walking, I have a massive collection of blisters on my feet, most of them old. One of the blisters filled with sand during my walk in the creek. I tore the dead skin away to clean the sand out when I got home.
We saw a plant that looked like a rosebush but the flowers looked like strawberry flowers. I know that strawberries are related to roses. It was growing wild all over the place.
After many many attempts to quit sugar, I finally did. I’m on an anti-metric kick right now, which means I don’t know how many days I’ve been sugar free. Theoretically I could figure it out and at least get pretty close, but it doesn’t matter and I’d rather not know.
When I run, I don’t know how long or how far I go. I just go. When I swim I don’t know how many laps or how fast or how long. Eventually I decide to stop.
I hate hate hate counting calories so I’m not. Smaller portions, especially of the carbs. No snacks after supper. It’s all very general and the only reason I know I’ve lost a little weight is because my jeans are more comfortable.
So I don’t know how long I’ve been sugar free. Sometime in March I decided to be 100% sugar free until my 39th birthday (May 28). Well, until that weekend, which is graduation weekend. Mom is going to make Better than Sex Cake for my birthday/ Nell’s graduation.
I already didn’t quite make it 100%. Friday on the way to Kansas I had a milkshake. It was a small shake, and I couldn’t finish the whole thing.
But Monday was a disaster. My allergies were acting up so much that the roof of my mouth itched like crazy. I hate that feeling and a carbonated beverage is just the thing to combat it. I was tired and I forgot all my little tricks for not getting sugar.
- I could have gone to the grocery store and gotten an Izze. (Carbonated, no sugar. High GI but not as high as a coke!)
- I forgot entirely about my bamboo-breath exercise which works by distracting me from thinking about the coke & candy bar.
- I could have gone for a walk. More than once–including this time–I head down the street to the gas station and as soon as I’m walking I don’t want so desperately the thing I’m walking for.
- I could have found someone to talk to. I love talking and that will distract me from anything.
So I ended up walking down the street and getting a coke & candy bar. And I drank the entire coke. It made me a bit light headed. As I walked to the gas station I thought of all those things I could have done instead. Could be doing instead. But once I’ve decided to sin I don’t waver. I persevere in the face of all obstacles.
But I was more prepared the next day. I took my allergy medicine and had the various tricks at the front of my mind. I didn’t need them.
I still have a chance to make it to my 39th birthday 99% sugar free. Which isn’t a metric because it’s a made up number. To get a metric I’d have to know how many days it was when I made the decision to be sugar free and figure out what percent of time (in days? hours?) I was contaminated by sugar.
There were way too many cookies & cakes around for the funeral. That was a little frustrating.
I’ve been reading about the unconscious and how much stronger it is than we realize. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the real reason I had a coke on Monday (and a candy bar) is because I didn’t have carrot cake, chocolate cake, and assorted cookies all weekend.
That carrot cake was really really good. I know because my little cousin Vivian was eating a piece and I got her a 2nd piece that she wasn’t supposed to have (she & I both knew she wasn’t–but she was so cute and liked it so much). A little bit of frosting got on my finger and I licked it off. Oh my gosh was it good.
I gave her a cookie too but her mama saw eventually and took it away. She didn’t know I gave it to her. She thought Vivian had gotten it herself, and she moved the cookies to the back of the table where Vivian couldn’t reach. Vivian didn’t need to reach because there were lots of long arms that could reach for her.
It’s not that I have no shame and that nothing can embarrass me. It’s that I know that there is nothing new under the sun. What I experience, thousands (at least) have experienced before and thousands (at least) to come will experience it. In talking about my experience with leaky running, I hope to bring comfort and perhaps solutions to other people.
It doesn’t make me feel embarrassed at all to announce that I am (sometimes) a leaky runner.
Just google “incontinence and running” and you’ll see what I mean. There’s tons of articles. It makes me sad to think of all the postpartum, slightly (or more) overweight women who don’t run because they are embarrassed.
I had been running for a couple years without any problems. I’ve steadily been gaining weight over the same time (my bike commute is too short and sugar is my nemesis), and I’m about 15 or 20 pounds overweight now. Not a lot, but just enough. With everyone around me worried about 50 or 70 pounds or more, I feel pretty silly to worry about 20 pounds. I have the “heart of an athlete” (a resting heart rate of 54 bpm), I sleep well, I eat lots of fruits & vegetables (and, sad to say, sugar), and the only reason to lose 20 pounds is vanity. Vanity, and so I can bike faster.
Being able to bike faster is a good incentive. But not quite enough. And ultimately, that is just vanity as well. For what do I need to bike fast? Even if I get a little faster than I am now, I’m not going to win any races. If I could win a race, I don’t care to.
Anyway, I had no reason to lose any weight, until I had stopped running for a little while and started back to it and discovered to my horror that I leak when I run.
The only thing that has changed since I had last run a few weeks before is my weight (and of course my age, by a few weeks). Only by a few pounds. I think there is a threshold weight above which I am a leaky runner and below which I am not. Years ago, long before I started biking, I had gained weight and I tried jump roping. With a small child at home it’s hard to go out and be active. Jump roping was something I could do at home. Only it’s awfully bouncy and I was awfully leaky and it didn’t last. I’m nowhere near as heavy now as I was then, plus I have a lot more muscle than I had then, but I guess I’ve crossed that weight threshold.
I made three changes with almost instant success. (It’s been about 3 weeks.)
1) I run slower. The leakiness is worse the bouncier I am. Running slower is less bouncy and less leaky.
2) I had just stopped eating sugar and I went lower carb for a while to lose some of the extra pounds. Of course I’d like to go all the way to “ideal” but the most urgent incentive is to get below the leaky threshold. I’m not really doing metrics but my slacks are fitting better. I think I was barely at the weight threshold and I’ve already gotten myself below it. I’d like to have a wide margin so I’ll stick to the lower carb (and no sugar) for a while longer until my clothes are too big.
3) Kegel exercises. All the time.
I thought about buying adult diapers to run in. I suspect they don’t make them with running in mind. Anyway with those 3 tactics, I have circumvented the need.
That reminds me of a story from grad school. Gather round, kiddos. My adviser had his own Cessna 5-seater airplane with a gold-plated engine. He was in the habit of loading up the entire lab (he always had a small lab) and taking them to conferences. By the time I was a student, he had mostly quit doing that, because he was so busy traveling to Japan and Italy (not in his own little plane of course) for meetings and publicity. We did take a trip in his plane once to visit a collaborator in Pittsburg, PA once. That was fun.
Anyway, one student who predated me went with him and others to a meeting that was a 5-hour flight. During their stay, she was looking for a drug store. “I’m trying to find some adult diapers,” she said. Like most grad students she was young–too young to need adult diapers–and they were concerned. Was she ill?
“Five hours is too long for all the coffee I drink,” she explained. Rather than forego her coffee, she was going to buy adult diapers–and use them.
“The plane can land,” our adviser told her. “You don’t need to buy adult diapers.”
So she didn’t. And sure enough, a couple hours into the flight, the plane landed so she could use the bathroom.
Most people don’t believe this. I’m certainly not the stereotype. But yes, I was a cheerleader one year. I count it as one of the 3 big mistakes of my life. The other 2 are not applying to more than one med school/ going to grad school as a back up plan for not getting into med school (I know, that’s 2 things, but they go together), and moving to Chicago for a postdoc when Iain didn’t have a job lined up and we couldn’t afford Chicago on my postdoc salary.
These 3 mistakes were made at ages 13, 24, and 29. I’m probably due for another.
That’s not to say I’ve only made 3 mistakes ever. Those are the 3 big ones. Other mistakes are less memorable.
Anyway, back to the cheerleader story. My class had very few girls. Only 3 were popular. There were 4 or 5 of us who weren’t. I’d guess we had about 30 in our class at that time and the rest were boys.
In middle school, 4 8th grade and 2 7th grade cheerleaders were selected every year by vote. Cheerleader tryouts were in front of the whole school, but it was really a popularity contest. Since only 3 girls were popular, we were 1 short for cheerleader when we got to 8th grade.
Two of the popular girls asked my friend Kerry to try out. She was borderline popular-unpopular. She could have been popular if she wanted, I think. She didn’t want to be a cheerleader. So I said, “I’ll try out.”
I’m not really sure why. They hadn’t asked me–they had asked Kerry. They didn’t want me. I did not harbor any delusions that being a cheerleader might make me popular.
I think I was experimenting with different identities. It’s an adolescence thing.
I tried out, the school voted, and because they were instructed to vote for 4 8th graders and 2 7th graders, and there were only 4 8th graders trying out, I made it.
I was unprepared for the scorn & derision of the other students. Not that I wasn’t scorned and derided routinely already, but it increased in the spotlight.
The other cheerleaders, particularly the two who had asked Kerry but NOT me, weren’t at all welcoming. They scheduled the 2-day cheerleader camp during the only time all summer I was gone. (I forget where I was that weekend.) To be fair, I don’t think they did that intentionally, but neither did anyone check with me. I didn’t even know there was a cheerleader camp I was supposed to attend until the week before.
It wasn’t all bad. I liked learning the moves to the fight song. I still remember the fight song. I liked some of the cheers. I liked learning the dance routine that we performed for the school. I liked the costume. I mean the uniform. (I still like costumes. Bike jerseys & bike shorts. Business suits. Etc.)
But in general it was a pretty miserable experience and then one of the other 8th grade cheerleaders, the only nice one, died in a car wreck. I wanted to quit but our “coach” (the person who was nominally our coach though he never had much to do with us) wouldn’t let me. That is, he persuaded me not to quit by dint of shaming and bullying and calling me a quitter. We only had a couple games left anyway.
I might have pictures somewhere to prove it.
I’m going to call it on the Lent project. It was fun at first but it definitely fizzled during the 2nd half.
This week was supposed to be all about me: Think kind & loving thoughts about myself, Accept that everything about me is as it should be, Celebrate everything about me, Give myself something, and Contemplate my relationship with myself.
Only there just doesn’t seem any point to all that because I’m feeling so great. I’ve been 100% sugar free for nearly two weeks. I started Couch to 5K this week and swimming on the alternate days. Work & family are all happy and good right now.
So I just don’t have any motivation to think deep thoughts about myself. There is no challenge at all to accept myself: Today I’m perfect.
I’m not complaining! Just explaining why the project fizzled.
I biked to the city council candidates’ forum tonight. Having interviewed a whole lot of city council candidates recently, not just Kirksville’s but several other communities’, I have a great appreciation for this forum. Other cities could not or would not give me contact information for their candidates. Kirksville willingly and promptly gave me the contact information. I doubt that other communities have a candidates’ forum. I have no idea how people find out about their candidates.
When I was in college, my advisor was on city council. When elections came around, I asked him who he supported. That’s who I voted for. I scheduled a meeting with him after I graduated just so I could ask him who to vote for. I didn’t know how else to get the information.
In retrospect, I could have asked him how to get the information. I wonder why he didn’t direct me to newspaper articles or the city clerk, or tell me about the candidates’ forum (if there was one).
Fast forward a decade and a half, and I know all sorts of things I didn’t know then. But even last year, I didn’t know about the candidates’ forum until after the fact. So this year I was determined to find out about it and get it on my calendar. Which I did.
Of the 5 candidates, 1 didn’t show up. All of the candidates who attended came across as someone who would make a decent city council person.
I should interject here. The #1 qualification for city council is that you’re not corrupt. In the 1990’s Kirksville had a corrupt city council. They sold the city out for personal gain. They even got investigated (although nothing came of that). Intelligence is nice, but not necessary. Not being corrupt is the main thing.
As far as I could tell—and granted, there’s not a lot of information to go on—none of the candidates are corrupt. By that I mainly mean that none of them are in real estate, none of them are developers.
Experience is the 2nd qualification. I would like to have heard one of the candidates say something like “Ever since I decided to run I’ve been attending city council meetings.” Even better one might say “I attended a couple meetings and then decided to run, and I’ve been attending meetings whenever I could ever since.”
But none of them said that and the only one with experience is the incumbent, Mayor Detweiler. Glen Moritz has a brush with experience—two of his uncles served on a commission or two in their day. Which was about 40 or 50 years ago.
I do plan to vote for Mayor Detweiler, mainly on the “not corrupt” (I think) and “experience” points. Other than the ridiculous dog ban, I don’t think he’s done anything else too objectionable, and he’s been favorable about biking & walking.
Glen Moritz is the other candidate who impressed me the most favorably. I’m a little sad about that because I really wanted to vote for someone younger. I hate that city council is inevitably a bunch of old white guys. But Glen really got my vote when he said in his closing statement that he believes in equality and he knows that some people have lost their job in Kirksville because of their sexual orientation and he thinks that is wrong. Even if he’s old, he’s jumped on that bandwagon which shows he’s not that old.
After the panel, I was chatting with Rebecca McClanahan (former state rep) and I was astounded to see that people were waiting to talk to me.
There were people I wanted to talk to as well. I chatted with John Buckwalter (Public Works Director) and Mari Macomber (City Manager) about what it takes to serve on the Airport and Transportation Commission. (The main qualification is to be interested.) I talked to Glen Moritz a little more. I asked Jason Hunsicker, the Daily Express Editor and the forum moderator, who was responsible for the forum. Was it the city?
No—it was the Chamber of Commerce. Well done, Chamber. And well done, Daily Express for providing personnel. In addition to Jason, two other Daily Express editors asked the questions.
Day 31: Mar 19. “Prayer” and “other people/ career”. Think kind & loving thoughts about my career and employer.
Day 32: Mar 20. “Penance” and “other people/ career”. Accept that my career & employer are everything they ought to be.
Day 33: Mar 21. “Repentance” and “other people/ career”. Celebrate that everything about my career & employer is as it ought to be.
Day 34: Mar 22. “Alms giving” and “other people/ career”. ??
Day 35: Mar 23. “Self denial” and “other people/ career”. Forego evening computer time and contemplate my career & employer.
Sunday: Mar 24
Day 36: Mar 25. “Prayer” and “myself”. Kind & loving thoughts about myself.
As you can no doubt tell from the lack of posting, I have lost enthusiasm for this project. While I gave some thought to it on each of these days, I lost track of where I was. Also I’m somehow a day off and will finish on Friday instead of Saturday.
So in one sense this is a failure but in another sense it is still being useful. I have a more positive attitude about my job. It doesn’t seem so far fetched as it did last time I was in this cycle of the Lent project to accept and even celebrate my career and the path I took to get here.
The day I was supposed to give something to my employer/ career, I was in Bethesda at an NIH study section. So unintentionally I was doing something good for both of those. I’m feeling pretty good about the prospect of applying for a grant in October, which is good for my career and my employer.
Today I gave myself permission to be a joyless & negative person. I didn’t even know what day it was in the Lent cycle, I just remember being on my bike this morning thinking “It’s ok to be joyless and negative. I’m not a naturally happy person and I don’t have to be. It’s ok that my natural state is to worry about the uncertain future.” (That was this morning. Tonight I’m wondering, is anyone “naturally” happy? Possibly. But it doesn’t matter. I am who I am and that is all that matters.)
I have heard several people say that their 40′s & 50′s were the best years. I haven’t been too impressed with any decade of my life so far so I am really looking forward to that. As I approach the last year of my 30′s, I want to do everything I can to set myself up to be in a position to take full advantage of the “best years”.
Lent would have been a logical time to give up sugar. Luckily I’m rarely accused of being logical.
The best benefit I get from giving up sugar is mood swings. There will be a couple really awful days each month when I get terribly scared. I hate that feeling. I keep trying to not have sugar and I do sort of ok and then not really that great, and after several months of this half-way giving up sugar those mood swings are starting to get really bad again.
I want to be 100% sugar free from today until my 39th birthday. (About 2 months and 1 week.) After that, maybe not 100%, but with all the training and healthy eating I think I can be mostly sugar free. I’ll reconfigure the rules when/if I get there.
Injury Free Ambitious Me
I’m gearing up to run a race a month for the next year (or a timed 5K+ on my own if I can’t find a race that works for my schedule), including attempting the swim portion of the NEMO Triathlon. I am a very, very, very slow swimmer and I honestly don’t know if a) I can swim 3/4 mile or b) if I can swim 3/4 mile in 45 minutes, but I am going to try. I am going to bike to all 40 Missouri State Parks that have campgrounds in the summer of 2014, so this summer (2013) would be a great time to get some miles in and get in fabulous shape for that. Swimming, running, biking– that’s a lot of training. That will go hand in hand with healthy eating. It’ll actually help me eat healthier because it gives me something to think about.
So much for my earlier goal of “This year I want to not injure myself”. At least I’m starting it with a nice and easy Couch to 5K program (and then running a 10K before I even finish the Couch to 5K program).
Part 3: Happier Me
It’s easy to focus on the physical part of it. Losing weight, eating right, exercising. Those are the keys to living a good life, right? Well. They are important. (Sleep is actually far more important than any of those, but I was blessed with a superpower: when it’s bedtime, I fall asleep. In fact, I can’t stay awake to save my life. Good thing I’m not an
astrologist astronomist astronomer.) But the social aspect of life is probably a little more important than all the rest. I’m really into a type of book right now, not quite sure what to call this genre, “self help” really does not hit the mark at all, but it includes “The Happiness Project” and “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” and something that’s not a book at all, “The Quantified Self”, things like that. It encompasses my latest Lent project and taking 2 Coursera classes with my husband and letting my daughter be the adult she is. It includes some deep thinking about my career and questioning all the negativity I’ve built up around that. (Wouldn’t it just be easier to start a new career? Come on.) Trying to find new ways of thinking about things that let me be happier with the world as it is–happier with myself as I am.
The Coursera classes are an absolute blast. One is “Math Thinking” and the other is “Know Thyself”. We’ve both had lots of math and we’ve both had philosophy but we are working hard to keep up and we’re having a great time. We have long conversations about logic & implications over dinner, washing dishes, taking a walk, even in bed. (“Bidirectional implications in bed” sounds a lot sexier than it is. Trust me.) These courses have turned out to be an amazingly fun (and free) couples’ activity!
I don’t have a nice neat little plan for this part of it. It’s really a lot of self awareness and asking “Why am I doing this right now?” and taking time to think about it. “Why am I snarling at my husband?” or “Why am I feeling irritated at ____?” “I’m craving sugar. Is there anything else I can do, like take the time to eat a messy orange & clean up instead of a less messy coke?” Ironically, I spend more time doing nothing (deep breaths, or close my eyes, or lay down) yet I’m more productive. (Probably because it cuts down on my habitual facebooking. Facebooking is the new comfort food.)
And if this year turns out to be amazingly fun, I’m just getting a head start on my 40′s.
Day 27: “Penance” and “my daughter”
Day 28: “Repentance” and “my daughter”
Day 29: “Alms giving” and “my daughter”
Day 30: “Self denial” and “my daughter”
I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the 2nd run through these. The first run it was nice to know I’d have a second chance at it, but it’s turning out the second chance just isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention.
However I have at least sort of mentally kept track of where I’m at. I came up with a good idea for a gift yesterday (Day 29) but I don’t remember what it was, or if I did it. At least I did a good job of keeping my mouth shut and didn’t remind her of anything she didn’t want reminded of. I don’t know that I did much reflecting today (Day 30) on my relationship with her, and I didn’t do any self-denial to make extra time for that (I was actually catching up on the Team Estrogen forums earlier tonight, which I’d gotten way behind on). On the other hand I’m aware each day of what I’m supposed to be doing so I’m not falling into habits like worrying about her homework or her college choices.
Tomorrow starts a new cycle, “Prayer” and “Other people”.
Day 24: “Alms-giving” and “my husband”. The gift I came up with was to play a computer game with him! It didn’t work out quite as well as I intended, because we ended up cutting our playing short because something else needed done. But it was a nice thought and I can (and will) do it again…probably when it gets cold again this weekend & I don’t want to be outside!
Day 25: “Self denial” and “my husband”. In theory I was to forego crazyguyonabike journals (which I haven’t been reading in a while) or at least evening computer time and spend time thinking about my relationship with him. In reality I was teaching the bike class all evening and not thinking about him at all.
Day 26: Start of a new cycle! “Prayer” and “my daughter”. No challenge at all to wish for good things for my daughter. This is her spring break but we haven’t seen her too much–between my activities, and she’s put in a lot of hours at work and a lot more hours with her young man. But today the young man came to our house so we got to see them both.
Tomorrow is “penance” and “my daughter” so the task is to accept that everything about her–such as her lack of progress on her online class that she had intended to finish this week, or her insistence on the most expensive college when there is one option that is almost free and a couple options that are substantially cheaper. I will focus on letting her make her own decisions, which might be mistakes or they might not be, maybe I’m the one whose judgment is in error. I surely made my share of mistakes when I was her age and my judgment today is not infallible by any means (or even better than it was then).
Day 22: Saturday was “penance” and “my husband” so I was to accept that everything about my husband is as it should be. Again no particular insights or challenges. I just remembered it from time to time. It’s nice that some of these are coming so easily to me now.
Sunday doesn’t count toward the 40 so I took a break.
Day 23: Today was “repentance” and “my husband” so I was to celebrate that everything about him is as it should be. He had a bad headache, one that threatened to turn into a migraine. It’s daylight savings which means fatigue which for him means headaches and migraines. “I’ll come home early to take care of you,” I told him. He objected but when I came home he appreciated me making him sit down quietly and drink water.
So it was an easy one to celebrate. Of course I don’t want him to have a headache, but I enjoyed taking care of him and I got a huge kick out of being the reason he felt better.
Tomorrow is alms-giving. I wonder what inspiration will come to me for his gift.
Yesterday was “prayer” and “my husband”. Nothing interesting happened, no big (or little) insights. I just periodically remembered through the day and asked myself right now “What can I do that is kind & loving?” and decided I was already doing it.
Unrelated to today’s activity, I had another insight on the sugar thing. I learned that a strong temptation moment is when I run errands before work and my route takes me past a store that sells coke & candy bar (Hyvee, Westlake, gas station). Yesterday I was just a tiny bit hungry when I left the house, but I thought I’d eat my banana when I got to work. I should have eaten it before I left because after my errand, I was a little bit more hungry, craving sugar, and passed a gas station. I think I could still have been ok if I had been prepared for it. Or, I could have taken a different route– but the decision moment was actually before I got to the gas station. So eating myself stuffed all morning plus being prepared for those decision points are 2 important strategies to kick the sugar thing.
Day 20 was “self denial” and I was my focus person.
Having my no sugar plan in place ended up being the main focus of my day. I had an insight, which is that sometimes I’ll get a coke/candy bar when I don’t want one because I have the opportunity. The reward then is that of stocking up or taking care of something. For me, that feeling of being organized and prepared is very calming and powerful.
Today I start over the whole thing: Prayer and my husband. Time to think some good thoughts about the guy!
Today was alms-giving, focus person me. My task was to give myself something. In light of the celebration of my sugar habit/ addiction, it was easy to give myself permission to eat crap this morning, which I did. But that wasn’t what I really wanted to give myself.
It’s funny how the perfect idea occurs to me at some point during the day. Like all the other days, the perfect idea came to me this afternoon. I’ve recently read a book about habits which recommends a habit-breaking approach that is grounded in scientific evidence AND uses quantified-self style experimentation.
I love planning.
I love quantified self experiments.
I love anything grounded in actual, you know, evidence. (As opposed to traditional medicine AND new-age voodoo.)
I really really want to kick the sugar habit/ addiction for good. (According to the book, the difference between habit and addiction is mainly a matter of semantics and pejorative.)
So, my gift to myself was making a plan to kick the sugar habit.
Here’s how it works. Habits have 3 parts: cue, routine, reward. You don’t just end a bad habit. You have to over-write some or all of it with a new habit. You can over-write the routine and/or the reward.
The reward might be the sugar rush. It might be the tingly feeling of fizzy soda on my tongue. Or, in the case of an almond joy candy bar, the crunch of the almond with that unique coconut texture. It might be the distraction of getting up to fetch the junk food, especially as often I will walk down the street to the store. There are other rewards that I’m NOT getting from the coke/ candy bar which might be a stronger reward, such as talking to people.
The way to identify the thing that is rewarding my habit is by replacing the coke/ candy bar with something else, then observing 15 minutes later if I still crave the sugar. (For a while I’d licked it by drinking Izze soda– all juice, no sweeteners added. I felt it was cheating a little.)
I have a feeling it is probably the sugar rush that is the reward. So I will have to replace both the routine & the reward, which is harder than replacing just the routine.
Here are the rewards I’m going to try out: Talking to people, Go for a walk, Jump, Laugh, Look at photos of family/friends, watch a cat video, pet a stuffed animal (I bet a real cat would kick my sugar habit, but I don’t think my cats want to go to work with me), drink V8, eat veggies, eat fruit, eat crackers, close my eyes and listen to a song, dance to music (preferably with my door & window shut), practice juggling, chew something chewy with coconut.
Talking to people has a high chance of being effective but a low chance of being feasible. It’s pretty lonely in my basement office and my options are limited. Sort of. It will work best if I talk to someone I like. There are a lot more options if I don’t have that constraint!
Nell has a little toy bunny rabbit that makes noises and wiggles when you pet it. I’m going to put batteries in it and take it to my office in lieu of the cat.
So that’s how to figure out the reward part. The cue part is easier, I think. Habit cues typically fall into 1 of 5 categories: time of day, location, mood, other people, preceding action. I’m pretty sure it’s time of day for me. The way to find out is to record those 5 things when I have a sugar craving.
Day 17: I had skipped “alms giving” last week so I picked that one back up. I made an effort to learn something nice about someone. It was a little awkward. For the next cycle, I’ll keep an eye out for that “something nice” and an opportunity to work that in to conversation. It may not happen conveniently on the designated day.
Day 18: Returning to our regularly scheduled programming, today is “celebrate that everything about me is as it should be”. I think I was moody the day I was having trouble with accepting that everything about me is as it should be. It doesn’t seem as impossible today. I certainly am enjoying celebrating– and not judging– my sugar habit.
Tomorrow is “alms giving” and the focus person is “me”. I’ll be thinking about what gift to give myself.
Today is Sunday and so, in order for the number of days to come out right, I skip today.
I realized I skipped a step. Day 14 was supposed to be alms-giving, not self denial. I intended to do something nice for the other people, and I forgot. So tomorrow I should come back to that one. Since they aren’t family or even friends, it’s kind of awkward to do something nice for them, but I had an idea that I would try to find out something about them– spirit of curiosity– and, if it’s truly a nice thing to do, I would share that with others.
Day 16 was “penance” and “myself” so my task was to accept that everything about me is as it should be. That really goes against my nature because I like to change things, to make things better, and I can’t change anyone but myself, so I get changed a lot. Or I try to. I’m not 100% convinced that I can change myself. I get to accept all kinds of crazy things, like my tendency to get super bossy and controlling when I’m tired, upset, or awake. Or asleep. I’m reading “The Power of Habit” which has the interesting statistic that perhaps 60% of our actions are dictated by habit. It also highlights how bloody stubborn these habits are and nearly impossible–but not actually impossible–to change. The anatomy of a habit is cue – response – reward. My bossiness is a response habit to tired/ upset/ unhappy and the reward is the feeling of control. But this is not the time to change that, it is the time to accept that this is the way I am. And tomorrow I even go a step further and celebrate my bossiness.
That’s only one of the many things to accept and (tomorrow) celebrate. Because of the book I just read, I’m looking at them all as habits. There’s my sugar habit/ addiction. (I’m acceptingly drinking a 16 oz coke right now with 65 g– nearly a half cup– of sugar.) There’s what I call downright craziness and neurotic tendencies. (I talk about these from time to time but you never get to actually see them, unless you are closely related to me or very unlucky. I keep them pretty well inside my own head where they can do the most harm. I mean least harm. Or something.) And there’s more, which I won’t discuss publicly but I’m certainly thinking about it.
Whereas the days I spent accepting my husband and accepting my daughter were revelatory, the day accepting my career and the day accepting myself are fruitless.