Sunday, October 26, 2014

a road trip.

I've also ventured a little farther than my towering mountains to find respite from my less-than-ideal situation. A few weeks ago a friend and I drove two hours north to Promontory, Utah where we learned about the long ago meeting of the railroad.

In 1869 the nation was recovering from the effects of the Civil War, seeking to find ways to build the economy, bolster patriotism and take advantage of the scientific and mechanical advances being made like never before.  One side effect of all of this was a frenzy of railroad building on both coasts and an effort to literally unite the still-damaged country. The Union Pacific Railroad was coming from the east while the Central Pacific was building from the west.  They'd been getting money based on the amount of track laid and weren't being very judicious about it when President Johnson and others in Washington stepped in and gave them a completion deadline. The agreed upon point was Promontory Summit near the Great Salt Lake and on May 10 engines from both sides met and a symbolic Golden Spike was driven completing the world's first transcontinental railroad.

There's a visitor's center there now (it's a designated National Historic Site) but not much else. However, they bring out full-sized replicas of the trains (the originals were scrapped for parts around WWII) and have knowledgeable staff that share stories about the historic day.  There's also a gift shop, small museum, and several informational movies that run throughout the day. It was a surprisingly delightful place to visit.  Highly recommended, especially for train or history enthusiasts.

yes, my photo is touched up a bit (ala Instagram) but the colors were nearly that vivid in real life-the trains were truly something to see!
And then nearby at the Great Salt Lake is a famous art installation, Spiral Jetty.  Created by Robert Smithson in 1970 it's made out of basalt rocks from the nearby hills and is over 1500 feet long (the pictures don't do it justice.) Depending on the time of year it can be covered by the lake but we've had such low rainfall the past few years that the water was barely visible from the viewpoint/parking lot.  We walked down to the jetty itself and beyond where the salt from the lake had dried in such a way that it seemed as if we were walking on ice or marble (I imagine that it's similar to the famous Salt Flats where they do all the land speed testing, but I've never been there.) We poked around in puddles marveling at the designs and variations of the crystals, the different colors and shapes, the strangeness that makes up this world we call home.

the two dark dots you can almost see just below the mountains, that's about where the water line is-everything else you see in the foreground is all dry/salt

It was definitely worth the drive and the half day or so we spent exploring. Utah, a pretty great state indeed!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

a day among the leaves.

My goodness, where does the time go? You'd think being unemployed I would have all the time in the world to get stuff done, stay on top of things. But I've found that it's quite the opposite. Not having a schedule keeps me flitting from one thing to another, unfocused, often unmotivated and leaving a lot unfinished. Couple that with the fact that I'm still living out of boxes and have no space of my own and I'm going slightly mad.

So, as a remedy I find all sorts of ways to distract myself and run away! Probably not the best coping mechanism but sometimes you've got to work with what you've got.

Regardless, I've spent the last couple of weeks venturing out of the basement and enjoying the fabulous fall weather.

Falls on the east coast were spectacular with all the trees, the variety of colors and the thick carpets and canopies of leaves everywhere. But I always missed the gold shimmer of the aspen trees. Their small, nearly round leaves rattling like coins in the wind.

A few weeks later (this morning, in fact) the colors and leaves are mostly gone, leaving behind a lonesome, ghostly scene appropriate for the spooky celebrations to come. Here we found the remnants of an old abandoned mill standing sentinel beside the cascading water in Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

Who needs a job when there are mountains to be climbed and fall days to enjoy?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

a good book

Daring Greatly
Author: Brene Brown
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2012
Genre: Self-help/psychology
Score: *****
Rating: PG

I’ve done a lot of reading lately and have a slew of book reviews and mentions I’m hoping to post in the next little while but I wanted to start with this one that I read a few months ago as part of an online book club. It literally changed my life. I have been dealing with many other things, as I’ve mentioned, and have not been in a place to let what I read affect my actions yet but I’ve thought about it and re-read it and foisted it on others and am finally getting to the place I need to be to begin to make some changes. 

Brene Brown is a social worker, research professor and more whose recent research has focused on guilt and shame. There’s a lot in here but it basically boils down to the idea that much of our society runs on perpetuating feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, through self-talk, setting unrealistic goals or trying to live up to others’ ideals. Sometimes it comes from outside sources like the media, our families, co-workers, and strangers and can including more obvious situations like bullying and teasing, or simply exasperated exclamations from our parents like “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Anything that plants the seed that tells us that we aren’t enough (old enough, skinny enough, smart enough, rich enough, _____ enough) creates feelings of guilt and/or shame which eat away at our vulnerability.

Brown posits that vulnerability shouldn’t be equated with weakness, as it so often is. Rather it is “the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable.” (33) When our vulnerability is attacked we close ourselves off to opportunities to love and create and feel joy.

She shows us how to recognize our own guilt or shame triggers and learn to combat them, how to allow ourselves to be more vulnerable and as a result, experience what she calls Wholehearted Living. In a previous book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she introduces Wholeheartedness and defines ten guideposts for wholehearted living. (There are brief mentions of them in DG and the concepts overlap but they’re given the spotlight in this first, smaller volume. It’s also a fantastic read.) They cover ideas like letting go of what people think and perfectionism, learning to trust faith and intuition, cultivating gratitude and joy, and learning to make room for laughter, song, and dance. They’re all relatively simple in scope but powerful in application (and therefore a little more difficult than it all seems at first glance.)

I was amazed at how truthful everything she said seemed. Generally when I read a self-help type book there are parts I agree with and parts I don’t, things that are applicable and things that don’t come anywhere near my own experiences. Of course, not every example she used mirrored my own life but the principles all struck me to the core. I especially appreciated the sections where she talked about how we could use the ideas of vulnerability in our roles as co-workers, leaders, teachers, parents, basically in any relationship. It wasn’t just about transforming our own lives (which is the first step) but using the tools and teachings to touch the lives of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes ‘self-help’ seems so self-centered, no matter how true or helpful it may be. For me, it’s nice to have an external excuse for improvement, not just an internal one. The motivation to make the changes and the likelihood that it will stick improves greatly when it’s not just about me.

If you’re looking for a fascinating psychological insight, something to shake up your perceptions a bit, and maybe improve your life in the process, give this book a look. You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, October 3, 2014

having a plan.

I mentioned the diet goal a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been culling and compiling from a million pinterest pins and things I’ve done in the past in an effort to find something workable that will hopefully not just be something to help me lose a bit of weight and get back on track but be sustainable over an extended period of time (life time habits maybe). Here’s what I’ve got as my guidelines:
  • 45 min exercise daily (15 min of strength training and alternating 30 min aerobics one day and 30 min yoga the next, resting on Sunday)
  • 75+ oz water and/or herbal tea daily (a glass on rising, before each meal and as often as I need otherwise to reach the total ounces), no sodas, very limited juices
  • alternate high protein/high carb every other day-I’ve studied various programs that talk about the way our bodies store different kinds of calories and need varied foods for ultimate nutrition. Basically each way of eating has its benefits. This program acknowledges that and shows that varying your diet every other day ideally keeps your glycogen levels in check and results in longer-lasting success. (If your glycogen levels are too full, as in a high-carb diet, your body converts the excess to fat. In a low-carb diet your body resorts to ketosis, fat-burning mode, ideal for short-term but if not re-balanced leads to fatigue and slowed metabolism. Besides the risks that too much protein often means a lack of necessary nutrients and naturally higher caloric intake.)
  • Cut out processed, refined, and convenience foods. ‘High carb’ doesn’t mean I get to eat donuts ;) The goal is for natural, whole foods. My carbs will be whole grains, starchy veggies and beans, sweet fruits (foods with a naturally higher glycemic index.) Low carb days will focus on eggs, lean meats, non-starchy veggies, nuts.
  • And because I’ve done a million cleanses and de-tox diets and allergy elimination diets and know what my will power can and can’t handle (plus, I’m not ready to give up baking now that I have access to a kitchen again, especially with all the great fall options on the way!) I’m allowing myself one splurge meal and one dessert each week. 
Hopefully this gives me enough variety and freedom that I can keep it up long-term and not feel as if I’m being deprived of anything. We’ll see if I need to be stricter in order to lose. I’ve fluctuated 5-10 pounds since high school but never really tried to lose weight before so this is all new territory and I know that age is going to play a part in all of this. My metabolism (among other things) just isn’t what it used to be!

The goal is to be down 20 pounds, lose several inches in various places, sleep better and have a bit more energy.  But honestly the biggest one is to be able to fit back into my pants since I’m too broke to buy new ones! I only have 2 or 3 pairs that I can squeeze into anymore and now that the weather is cooling shorts and yoga pants are out. ;) So, we’ll start with the above and see what happens. I’m planning to do a weekly check in and just tell you vaguely how I’ve done and hopefully how many pounds I’m down. I won’t subject you to my food diaries and all the particulars. But if I don’t make some decent progress I’ll probably solicit advice! Any favorite tricks or programs that have brought you success? I’d love to hear about them!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

learning a new word.

noun. a lover of rain, someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days

We've had more than the usual rain this year  week and I've loved spending afternoons curled up with a cup of hot herbal tea and a good book, evenings falling asleep to the sound of rain pattering on the windows and thunder rolling in the distance, and mornings dodging raindrops and puddles on my walks.  There's something therapeutic about the sounds and the smells and the idea that sometimes the world needs a good shower and a fresh start too.