Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 Goals

One of the units I teach in my freshman seminar is on time management and goal setting.  I sort of feel like a charlatan when I teach this, but I understand that just because I'm not perfect at something doesn't mean I can't talk about it. Anyway, I have them do a weekly log in which they color code their activities (green = class, red = sleep, blue = studying, yellow = exercise, orange = hobbies, etc.) and then we discuss SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) goals. I then have them see if how they spend their time aligns with their goals. 

I had moderate success with my goals in 2016 and in the areas in which I failed, I failed because I just didn't have good measuring sticks. When I was teaching this lesson last October, I realized that I hadn't actually taken "measurable" into account. (Also, you should note that my husband, while supportive of me reaching my goals, thinks SMART goals are ridiculous and he sort of mocks my pseudo-corporate jargon when I start talking about them.)  So. This year I'm going to measure.  The bold words give me a time frame and all of it is going to be tracked on a weekly spreadsheet. 

Area One: Fitness Goals
1) Workout four times a week - This is bumped up from three times a week in 2016. I think I can do it.
2) 11,500 steps a day - This is bumped up from 10,000 steps in 2016. Since my average in 2016 was over 12,000, I know I can do this.
3) Weigh myself weekly - I'm not actively attempting to lose weight, but I also don't want pounds to sneak on.

Area Two: Communication Goals
1) Update my blog twice a week - I didn't quite accomplish this last year, so it's going back on the list.
2) Make contact with four people (MDTT) at least once a week - This contact can come in phone, text, card, or in person, but at least once a week these people will know I'm alive and I will know they're alive.  These people are super important to me and I want them to know that.  I'm actively tracking this during 2017.  I'm hoping that eventually this will just happen and I won't have to track talking to people who I love, but for now it's a measurable goal I apparently need.
3) See my mom four times in the year -  I have a lot of guilt about how unequal the time is with Dr. BB's family as compared to mine. I think seeing my mom once a quarter is a reasonable goal. As a matter of fact, I think (and hope) that this goal will be easily met.
4) Send a letter or postcard to my grandmother and two of my elderly aunts at least once a month - This is super easy for me and something I regularly do, but this year I'm going to track it. 
5) Post a photo to Instagram at least once a day - One of the best people in my life is not on Facebook, but she is on Instagram. I feel like posting a photo once a day will help keep her in on my life.  The only condition I have set for myself is that the photos can't be of identifiable people. I don't have my privacy settings set particularly high, so it's mostly just photos of Zelda and landscapes.
Instagram collage!
Area Three: The Rest of My Life
1) Vacuum twice a week -  Last year I had some vague notion about keeping the house clean for unexpected guests. That was not at all measurable. I considered a cleaning time limit like 30 minutes a week of dedicated cleaning, but when I really thought about it, I realized that what makes our house look dirty is cat hair, so vacuuming on a regular schedule should address this.
2) Brush Zelda's teeth when I feed her at night - I have so much guilt over my cat's dental health. I used to regularly brush her teeth, but she hates it, so I don't push it, but the last time we were at the vet's, the vet made mention of tartar buildup.  Poor kitty.
3) Get my sewing machine out at least once a month - I don't want to even kid myself about finishing a project once a month, but I do eventually want to sew my own clothing and there's no real way to do that except to practice.

I'll let you know how it's going at the end of the first quarter. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Experiment of Dreams by Brandon Zenner

The Experiment of Dreams was free for Amazon Kindle users one day (I feel like this is obvious, but you know that there are sites like BookBub and Reading Deals that will  send you an email with free and cheap book titles every day, right?), so I purchased it. Once I had read all my trashy romance novels, I started reading it before bed. 

There are minor spoilers ahead, so be warned.

 Basically there's a device that can record your dreams and a dude signs up to be the guinea pig for research surrounding it and intrigue and mystery follow.  I just didn't care for it. The writing was clunky, the plot was dulllllllllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and the main character was about as flat and cliche as can be.  I will delete this book from my Kindle and never think of it again.

It looks like the book is now going for $2.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon. Don't do it!!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

 Moonglow by Michael Chabon was our January book club pick. I'm going to give a spoiler right away and say I loved it. It's ostensibly the story of the narrator's grandfather's deathbed reminiscences, but there's so much around it. It travels from the streets of Philadelphia to a prison yard to suburban Florida without so much as missing a beat. There's science, family tragedy and secrets, and hilarious one-liners.  And that's without me even getting to how each sentence is a tiny little masterpiece.

Let's say you had a secret. It's a secret that would absolutely change how those around you, including your family, feel about you and maybe how much they trust you. If you told a doctor this secret and the doctor offered to tell your spouse (or not!),  would you want your spouse to know? If you were the spouse, would you want to know?  I mean, ideally I would just want my spouse to tell me any secrets, but I can see why not everyone would want to just blurt out important things. 

Anyway, this book is glorious. I highly recommend it. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

So, a week ago, I wrote the following about The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madnsss at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson:

There was audible gasping at my last book club meeting when I mentioned that I had not read this book. Apparently when you live this close to Chicago, it's required reading. Who knew? I'm on a true crime kick right now anyway, so I think this will fit in nicely with my current pop culture intake.

And today I'm going to tell you that I don't quite understand WHAT this book is or why there were so many gasps. I have some beefs with this book.  There are two main issues I see.

First, WTF genre is this?  Someone in Goodreads called in narrative/creative nonfiction, but isn't nonfiction supposed to be fact-based?  I don't want to get into a debate about what's "truth" and what's "interpretation of truth" here (heaven knows I get a lot of that sitting around the dinner table with my smarter than me husband), but Larson writes a lot of things, with footnotes and a long bibliography, that just can't be proven.  A lot of it is just pure speculation - intelligent speculation with a lot of research to back it up, of course, but I just can't go around believing anything he writes.  So it's like super accurate historical fiction with footnotes?  I dunno. I found the whole thing puzzling from an academic rigor standpoint.

Probably more importantly, this book has a bit of an identity crisis. There are about half a dozen different storylines going on and they don't actually intersect much.  The two main storylines are about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes who used the fair as a way to recruit victims. There are additional plots involving the Chicago mayor and his assassin, but let's pretend those don't exist because Larson really tried to.  Anyway, is this a true crime thriller about a psychopath who preyed on vulnerable women and children or is it a celebration of civic pride and midwestern heartiness that allowed this theretofore elaborate event and construction project to be completed despite many setbacks and hurdles?  As it stands, the book does neither particularly well. I think he should have focused on one or the other, cut that title in half, and really done a deep dive. 

But I did learn a lot, so there's that. Here's a round-up of some of the more intriguing things I learned.

1) Mickey Finn was the manager of the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant in Chicago from 1896 - 1903 and he used "knockout drops" on his customers to incapacitate and rob them.  This is probably the origin of the term "slipping someone a mickey."

2) Diamond Jim Brady was a businessman, financier, and philanthropist who had a longtime relationship with Lillian Russell, an actress and singer known for her beauty and style, as well as her talent. I like this couple because apparently they really bonded over a shared love of food.  I looked up information on lots of Gilded Age figures during this book: George Westinghouse, Ignance Paderewski, Philip Armour, Elias Disney, Henry Watterson, Katherine Clemmons and Chauncey M. Depew to name just a few.

3) The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy who wrote for a magazine called Youth's Companion.  This publication supported what was called the schoolhouse flag movement, at attempt to make sure all schools had Old Glory flying somewhere on site.  He wrote the Pledge for kids to say on the opening day of the World's Fair.  His motives for writing it were ensure that immigrants and not quite patriotic Americans would be inculcated against radicalism and subversion.  Gotta brainwash the young early.

4) Words I had to look up: catalfaque, factotum, slipperlick, janissary, calumny, and writ of replevin. 

Don't ever say I hoard knowledge.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Yearly Goals, Quarter Four

Things definitely went off the rails in the fourth quarter, but I'm going to be honest.  Quarter one here, two here, and three here if you want to see how dire things have gotten over the course of the year.

Area One: Fitness Goals
1) Get 10,000 steps a day on my Fitbit.
In the 92 days of the quarter, I did not meet my goal on ONE day (damn you, October 24). I was feeling quite crummy that day and actually got fewer than 1500 steps, so I'm pretty sure I really just stayed in bed that day.   99% completion rate. I'm quite proud of this.

Over the entire year, I missed 18 days, so it was a 95% completion rate overall for the year. My average was 12,117 steps a day.  I'm going to strive to maintain this in 2017.

2) Work out at least three times a week (90 minutes total).
Week 41: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 42: 3 workouts (weights), although this was only 85 minutes, not 90
Week 43: 3 workouts (weights)
Week 44: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 45: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 46: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 47: 3 workouts (weights)
Week 48: 3 workouts (weights)
Week 49: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 50: 5 workouts (weights)
Week 51: 4 workouts (weights)
Week 52: 3 workouts (weights)
Week 53: 3 workouts (weights)

This is 100%, although I did cheat the time a bit during week 42.   This was an average of 3.6 workouts a week.  Pretty solid.

3) Lift weights at least once a week.
100% again!  I've gotten some feedback that "at least once a week" isn't enough to actually DO anything in terms of gain muscle mass and whatnot, but I say something is better than nothing.

Area Two: Communication Goals
1) Update blog at least twice a week.
October: 11 posts
November: 17 posts
December: 8 posts
This averages to 2.8 posts a week! This is the only quarter I hit this goal, so I'm pleased with the progress. I'm going to strive to maintain this, too.

2) Talk to important people (mom, sister, two best friends) at least once every two weeks.
This just didn't happen. I'm going to have a better system in 2017, though.  I promise.

3) Keep track of sent snail mail.
Ha ha ha. This was a foolish goal.  Never happened.

Area Three: Being a Grown-Up
1) Put away $X a month into savings account each month.
I, um, did not do this.  I  put just over 25% of my goal into our savings account. We have enough now in our savings account that we're seriously looking at buying a house in the next six months, so I feel kind of crappy about the last three months, but incredibly proud of the state of our savings account. In another six months I probably won't be able to say that, but we shall see how it all shakes out.

2) Keep the house clean so that you wouldn't be embarrassed if someone stopped by unexpectedly.
Yeah, yeah, our house is fine. There was a week when the number of cardboard boxes in our office was greater than the number of cat toys under the fridge, but it's been cleared up now that the holidays are almost over.

Now I just need to think carefully about my goals for 2017.  I need to keep them realistic and feasible, especially in light of a potential house move, but still something I need to strive for. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

To Athlete or Not

"But when someone is an athlete, like you..." he started his sentence.
"I'm not an athlete." I interrupt because THIS IS AN IMPORTANT POINT.
"You exercise regularly and correct my form whenever we lift together. You are athletic."
"No. I'm just the kind of person who works out."
I'm clumsy, I don't do sports, and the idea of competing in an athletic endeavor makes me vaguely sick to my stomach. I'm not gifted in any of the various physical endeavors in which I participated. I frequently fall over in my  yoga poses, I find myself exhausted after 60 seconds of jumping jacks, and damned if I can figure out how to get proper form on deadlifts. I'm not an ATHLETE, although I do frequently do squats and burpees, much to my unhappiness.

There's sort of a knee-jerk reaction I have to the term athlete, loaded as it is from years of watching high school athletic events, professional basketball and football on television, and Olympic feats that are mind blowing.  But it's also something that I think should only be granted to people for whom the identity is an imperative part of them.
It's the same way I decline accepting writer as a term for myself, despite the fact that I actually probably write more on a daily basis at my job and on this platform than many people I know who do call themselves writers write. I'm nothing more than competent at it as a skill and it's not actually crucial to me as a part of my identity. It's just not who I am.

Educator. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Friend. Cat companion.  Reader (Betty Smith/JK Rowling enthusiast wrapped up in this, of course). Seamstress.  TCHS/BGSU/UMN alumna. Podcast addict. Family photographer.  These are things that are important pieces of my identity. 

 But if you want to call me a writer or an athlete, I guess that's fine, too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Things For Break

It's kind of bragging on my part, but we are officially on winter break right now. That means my husband has a cold, complaints about grades are filling up my inbox, and I have a stack of library books on the counter that I'm going to read while bundled up under the blanket on the loveseat, preferably with a cat on my lap. 

So here's my list of things I desperately want to get done during break.

1) A handful of work items, including prepping a new manual and writing syllabi for next semester.

2) Call the car window guy about a crack we've already had repaired that is newly spiderwebbing on our windshield. There's also a new chip on the windshield. I have to decided if a six-year-old car with 162,000 miles is worth a new windshield.

3) Make a baby blanket for a new baby in the family (my husband's cousin's wife had a baby girl). 

4) Read a bunch of books. Do you know want to know what books I have from the library right now?  Let me tell you.
Moonglow by Michael Chabon - This is a book club book and I'm about two-thirds of the way through it at this point and I love it so far.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink - Bestest Friend recently had a Facebook post asking for non-fiction book recommendations and I was a bit shocked at how few I could come up with that weren't work-related for me. I am going to make it a goal to read more non-fiction in the next year and this is a book I've been meaning to get to for quite some time now.

The Waste Lands (Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King - I'm reading this series because The Angry Taoist has been talking to me about it for over a decade at this point. I found the first book a bit tedious, but truly enjoyed the second book (it was quite a page turner!), so we'll see how the third one treats me.

 Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali - When my husband saw this on the counter, he just said, "she's a giant bigot" and left it at that. The blurb on the front cover says "loved by conservatives and leftists alike," but something tells me that this one is going to be thought-provoking if nothing else.

In the Woods by Tana French - I've actually borrowed this one from the library before and never got past the first chapter, but I was newly re-energized to read it after listening to an episode of Overdue about it. Craig was enthusiastic about it, so I'm going to give it another go.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson - There was audible gasping at my last book club meeting when I mentioned that I had not read this book. Apparently when you live this close to Chicago, it's required reading. Who knew? I'm on a true crime kick right now anyway, so I think this will fit in nicely with my current pop culture intake.

And those are seriously my only goals. I think I can do this, kids!
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