Thursday, August 15, 2013
Let me start by saying that I am writing this blog just to blow off steam, so nobody has to feel the need to read it or respond to it. It is what it is.
It has been a horrible day. My fellow Outlaws know from posts on my thread that I have been having ongoing issues with home repairs and contractors for the past month. The blower on my A/C died a few weeks ago, and after five blistering days, it was finally replaced. That was over $2000 I did not plan to spend this year as I had already contracted someone to replace insulation and do some painting and other handyman chores. The insulation was finished this past Monday, and the painting is set to begin on Saturday morning--quite a bit later than expected, which isn't the best for me as I have only 10 more days until classes begin, and I am nowhere near ready. But I'll live with it.
So what more could go wrong, you ask? Well, it was cool last night, so I turned off the A/C and opened some windows. This afternoon, it wouldn't turn on again. Since they told me the last two times that it was the filter, and the insulation guy told me I should change it in a week after all the fluff settled down, I figured that was it. So I went to Lowe's and got some filters. I have replaced them in my old house, which had a basement furnace; it was no big deal. This house has a heat pump with an air blower in the attic over the garage. I had to climb on a ladder to pull down the ladder to get up there as the rope was too short for me to reach. I managed to climb up but could not get into the attic. I am rather afraid of heights, and while there is some flooring, I would have to make a 90-degree turn off the top of the ladder to get onto it, and if I missed, I would probably go through the ceiling. I have arthritis, in addition to the extra weight I'm carrying around and the fact that I'm getting to be an old fart, so it can be hard for me to maneuver in a tight space like that. I live alone, no family nearby, so there's no one to help me. I refuse to call these A/C guys back--they charged me $69 to replace a filter that I provided! So I'm dealing with the heat and will ask the handyman to do it when he comes on Saturday morning. I am hoping he will agree to come once a month and change it for maybe $10-15. Or I might ask him to put down some more flooring in front of the ladder so I can crawl onto that.
In the meantime, I am supposed to be moving the furniture out of the living room and washing the walls to prep for the painting.
Tomorrow I am also supposed to go to a 5-hour 'retreat' focused on the new exam we are all supposed to give in the freshman writing course. This afternoon I got the documents we are asked to look over in advance. Well, what they are asking will basically force me to change everything about the way I teach my course--a week and a half before classes start. I have worked hard the past few years to come up with things the students enjoy and that take some of the time and grading pressure off me. Now I will be heaped with busy work (blogs, journals, 'reflections,' portfolios, online peer reviews, etc., as well as the usual papers) and other assignments that I find stupid and boring, and we are all being pressured to use a textbook because the writing director likes it, even though our contract guarantees autonomy in the choice of textbooks. (I used it one semester and HATED it--just not my style.) And there is really no way I can just not do these things, because the final exam asks the students to write an essay reflecting on their experience doing them in my class. I can't very well have 42 kids writing that they didn't do any of it.
I told the woman in charge last week that I might not be there because of the work on the house. I sent an email tonight telling her that I'm not coming. And that I'm overwhelmed by what she sent and the expectation of doing all that. All this change is in response to an outside reviewer who decided that the common final we give wasn't good enough. Well, you can bet that this reviewer doesn't teach at a university where she teaches four courses/semester, has three preps, and has 23 students in each freshman writing class.
I am feeling SO overwhelmed, and the semester hasn't even started. Add to that the pre-semester meetings that are starting next week, the hassles with contractors, the huge dent in my savings, and the fact that the only course I love teaching--Shakespeare--will be targeted for elimination from the curriculum at the department retreat in October. And that my only two friends in the department won't be there: one retired, the other is teaching in Taiwan for a year. I really, REALLY want to retire! I had planned on working for two more years, but with all the repairs, it is looking more like it will have to be three. It will feel like thirty.
Better start buying those Powerball tickets again, I guess.
Monday, July 29, 2013
I'm almost afraid to say it--don't want to jinx a good thing--but something has really kicked in for me in the past few weeks. For years I have been 'trying to lose weight,' watching the same three pounds yo-yo up and down for months, then getting frustrated and packing on a few more pounds before starting over, only to watch the same thing happen again. After last Christmas, I was at my heaviest weight ever. I was not only shocked, I was totally disgusted with myself. My doctor was on my case about being pre-diabetic; my oncologist had told me that my obesity had contributed to the uterine cancer that resulted in a hysterectomy in 10/11; and I was suffering from Achilles tendonitis as well as osteoarthritis, both aggravated by my weight. But none of these things really seemed enough to motivate me.
In fact, I'm not really sure exactly what did. But I do know that nothing motivates me like success. I dropped about 8 pounds quickly in January just by eliminating the treats and alcohol I had felt 'entitled' to during the holidays, and I pushed a little harder during BLC21 and lost some additional pounds. I honestly don't remember how many, or what my weight was at the end of the challenge--which probably tells you that I was still being a bit blasť about the whole thing. Some weeks were good weeks, some weren't so good, but at least I did keep losing overall. By the time BLC22 began, I was down 23 pounds from my all-time high January 1 weight.
It has been slow and steady ever since, with only a few minor setbacks early in the challenge. What has changed most has been my own attitude: the acceptance that slow and steady is still an accomplishment, and the belief (at last!) that I really can do this. I can't say that I've lost a huge amount of weight every week, but I can say that I've kept working at it, that I keep working harder every week, and that I've lost 32 pounds in the last seven months. I no longer think that losing weight is a hopeless endeavor because I am too fat, too old, too lazy, too out of shape, too self-indulgent, too whatever. I can do this. I am doing this.
I still don't really like exercising, but I do it. I push myself because I know that when I exercise, I will lose weight faster, I will start to become stronger, I will get rid of some of the stress that I am sure contributes to my weight issues, and I will sleep better. I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that helps me to stick to my healthy eating plan, too.
If you are reading this blog, you're probably saying, "So what's new? This is all common sense, all stuff SP and all the health experts have been telling us for years." You're right. The difference is that I finally feel like the one in control. I finally believe that I AM the one in control. Me. Not the excuses. Not anybody else. Me.
I confess that I've always been a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist--but that, too, becomes an excuse. I used to think, If I can't do something perfectly, I'm a failure, so why try to do it at all? So here comes this challenge. Again. I've faced it so many times before. But this time, I'm in control. I may not be perfect, but I AM succeeding. There's an old saying: Nothing breeds success like success. I'm finding that to be true--the more success I have on this journey, the more I want, and the harder I will work to get it. I'm now at the lowest weight I can remember being in more than 10 years, and I don't intend to stop this fight here. No more wah-wah, poor me; no more 'I'm hopeless.' I may not have control over everything in my life, but this extra weight and what happens to it is mine and mine alone.
Even though I can't put my finger on a specific "A-ha moment," something has definitely kicked in for me, and I like the way it feels. If I have to fight to hang on to it, I will. There's no going back now.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
I've done a pretty good job of meeting my goals for this challenge.
1) Track my food daily.
This is an easy one; I generally do it anyway, although I had slacked off a bit at the start of the challenge. Staying in range hasn't been an issue--in fact, the harder thing has been eating enough food to make it into range on some days.
2) Increase my exercise.
Pretty easy since I was doing so little at the start of the challenge. I've made the greatest strides in the last two weeks, increasing the amount of time on the recumbent bike, getting back to Planet Fitness, and upping the number of reps and sets with dumbbells, as well as adding some additional ST exercises.
3) Do my stretching and core exercises daily.
I could do better on this one, although I have been doing them most days. When I go to PF, I make them part of my cool-down routine, and some of them count for TnT. I will push for every day from now on.
4) Get to bed earlier and get at least 7.5 hours of sleep nightly.
I give myself 50% on this one: yes to the 7.5 hours, no to the earlier bedtime. I still find myself up until 1:00 or later, and I really need to stop this habit, especially before classes start up again late next month. Will work harder on it.
5) Be happy with whatever progress is made.
More on this one below.
So, where am I after six weeks? Well, I like where I am. Something seems to have kicked in for me in the past two weeks. My goal was to lose a pound a week. For the first five, my weight fluctuated a bit, but last week I was down 4.5 pounds, and I have lost 8 pounds so far. That means the total goal of 12 pounds gone is totally achievable in the next six weeks.
As I said, something seems to have kicked in. I'm working out harder. I'm thinking less about food--fewer cravings, paying more attention to what is hunger and what is not, etc. I'm listening to my body better. I'm starting to like how I feel and even how I look. I'm focusing more on the person I am and less on the person I imagine others are seeing. As they say, success breeds success, and seeing these changes--especially, I have to admit, the one on the scale--makes me want to push harder to achieve even more.
My biggest challenge will be keeping up my motivation once the pressures of work kick in when classes resume (on my birthday, dang it!) and more demands are made on my time. I'm trying to come up with ways to cut corners. With retirement hopefully around the corner, I no longer feel the pressure to say "Yes" when I really want to say "No," so that's one burden lifted. I don't want to lose this feeling of being in control, of putting myself and my health first.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I've been working really hard this week, and it paid off. I lost 4.5 pounds! That puts me at 30.5 pounds lost since the first of the year, below another 10-pound marker (-220), and below the lowest weight I can recall being in the last 15 years. All in one week.
One thing this week has shown me is the difference that working out really hard can make. I usually have no trouble eating well and staying within my calorie range, but I confess that I find it hard to push myself to exercise. This week I did--hard--and I've seen the results on the scale, in the way I'm sleeping, in my energy level, and in the way I fell overall.
BUT--Iím trying not to think about the end of summer and what returning to work usually does to my progress and good habits (sigh). Itís a bummer that the first day of classes is also my birthday. I do think that Iíve gotten into somewhat of a better mind frame in the last year, and that getting ready for retirement has had a lot to do with it. I passed what I figure will be my last five-year review, I've given up on getting promoted to full professor (which means less pressure to publish, please students in order to get good evaluations, take on more service, attend campus events, etc.), and I've stopped caring much about the politics and personalities in the department and the university. Still, there are always a LOT of demands, and there are only so many hours in the day.
A lot of people don't understand that while university professors may only teach 15 hours/week (and less at some institutions), they are also required to hold office hours and attend meetings. I'm on campus an average of six hours/day, longer when there are meetings called in the late afternoon, and once I get home, there are classes to prep for and student work to grade. In my four classes last semester, I had a total of 156 students. It's difficult to estimate how long it takes to grade their work, since the type and length varies. Thirty 8-10 page Shakespeare papers at about 30 minutes each? (Remember, they aren't just being read, they are being evaluated and commented on.) That's 900 minutes, or 15 hours. Forty-five short freshman essays at 20 minutes each? That's another 15 hours--and they write four of them, the last one being twice as long (a research paper) and taking longer to grade. Plus quizzes, exams, exercises, presentations, etc. I've tried using rubrics (charts where you just check off points and assign a score), but I've found it doesn't save much time, and the students don't feel they are getting much useful feedback.
So I'm constantly trying to find ways to cut corners without compromising my personal work ethics. What ends up happening is that instead of working out, I go home to work on those papers that the students have been asking about for the last week, or to plan an activity to put a spark in those bored faces tomorrow. Or I'm absolutely exhausted after a meeting than ran until 5:30 dominated by two colleagues hashing out something I really don't care about--or, worse, something I DO care about but have no control over (like the anticipated removal of my favorite course, Shakespeare, as a requirement for English majors, which will be on the top of the agenda at the Fall Retreat).
--OK, I need to stop, I'm getting stressed out just thinking about it!
One thing I've discovered is that I like working out in the evening. I'd like to be able to stay in the office and get a good chunk of work done before coming home, but there are too many interruptions. Last year I got in the habit of spending as little time on campus as possible, and I think it was a good move for my mental health. However, by the time I came home, relaxed a bit, did some work, and had dinner, I was too tired to work out. I need to figure out how to change that. Working out right after work sounds like a possibility, but it is always SO crowded between 3:30 and 4:30 that it takes twice as long to get through a workout. Maybe I just need to force myself to go at 7:30, tired or not. Or maybe I can try to adjust my office hours so that I can leave earlier on at least three days in the week, barring meetings. I have to figure out something.
I do NOT want to lose my momentum and see the progress I've made so far going down the drain. I want to keep improving my health: my mobility, my cholesterol level, my blood pressure, my sleep quality. I want to keep improving my appearance and the confidence that goes along with that. I want to be the person that I know I can be--that I know I am.
Monday, June 10, 2013
1) Track my food intake daily--the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've been doing pretty well, so there isn't any one thing in the food area that l feel needs more work. But I have been slacking off a bit on tracking, and I know that it is vital to success.
2) Gradually increase my exercise. I have to be careful not to overdo it and reinjure my Achilles tendon, but I need to get moving more. I will start with strength training four times/week for 15 minutes and cardio 5 times/week for 20 minutes, but will work in exercise minutes during the day as well. By the end of the 12 weeks, I plan to be back to Planet Fitness a minimum of 5 days/week for a combined cardio and ST workout of 50-60 minutes.
3) Get back into the routine of doing my daily stretching and core exercises. I have been slacking off lately, and I need to do these to keep the Achilles tendonitis and arthritis at bay. I can start doing this NOW, and I want it to be a twice daily habit by the end of BLC22.
4) Get to bed earlier, get at least 7.5 hours of sleep/night, and get up earlier. When I don't get enough sleep, I don't make good decisions. When I don't get enough sleep, I overeat. When I don't get enough sleep, it takes me forever to get going. When I don't get up until 9:30 or later, half the day is gone before I finally start to tackle a task. It may seem like sleeping is a waste of time, but I know that I waste more time when I don't have enough sleep.
5) Be happy with progress in the many forms it comes in--not just the number on the scale, but feeling healthier, stronger, and more balanced; knowing that I am taking care of myself; acknowledging NSVs. I think it would be a good thing to post in my journal or on my personal page one note of positive progress every day, just to remind myself of how well I am doing on those days when it might be easy to think otherwise. I'll give it a go and see if it makes a difference.
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