Friday, January 30, 2015

Is this the hill I want to die on?

It is now Friday evening.

*Deep Breath*

And it has been one of those weeks.

I actually really wanted to post about this yesterday, but I needed time to process. And then things just got worse anyways. Hurrah.

Yesterday and today both turned out to be the type of day that I wanted to shake my fist at angrily and yell, 'You can go to hell in a handbasket!'

You know the ones I'm talking about. Starts out innocent enough, and before you know it you feel like you're sliding down a mountainous slope, ever gaining speed, and you're not exactly sure where your newly fashioned ski slope is going to end, or what will become of you when it does.

And I'm not sure about anyone else, but I feel like, in addition to that out-of-control feeling, there is always some part of whatever's going on that takes me from a good place, high up in the clouds, back down to the rough realities of life. At first it was just at work, but then it got personal as well.

Yesterday and today were both days like that. I feel the past few weeks have been full of days that are either peaks or valleys, and what I'd really like at this point are a few plateaus.

I have coped by listening to a lot of British Dance Band music, and asking myself, for each issue, "Is this the hill I want to die on?"

I think it's an important question because it forces acknowledgement of possible outcomes, and in doing so makes you consider the scenario before you and possible ways to address it depending on the desired outcome.

That said, I still have no idea which hills I'm willing to stake myself on. This has all been good (or terrible) cause for reflection, but it's left me fairly confused regardless.

The happier part of this story is that I stumbled upon some of my dad's old CDs a few weeks ago - right around New Years'. He listened to a lot of big band jazz when he was alive, and I honestly forgot how much I liked the sound of the music. Part of it is incredibly nostalgic for me, and the other part is genuinely falling in love with the genre.

At the beginning of the week I had an inkling that it would be a tough one. I wrote about the planner I bought, and in the "Notes" section on the first page, I wrote the opening lyrics to this song, Looking On the Bright Side of Life. It's sung by Al Bowlly - easily my favorite singer of the era. The lyrics don't start until well over a minute in (definitely a trait of big band music), but it's worth the listen if only for the "bad days pass" outlook, set to a peppy tune.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

Now here's hoping to a better Saturday!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Finally - a 'Knit Thing' post!

Good evening and Happy Thursday, everyone!

I have a long-planned post for today, but I wanted to say that I noticed I got a lot of traffic from Runs For Cookies (and even a few comments!) and I hope a few of you have added me to your RSS or blog reader. I think I added 10 blogs from the list of racers she put up, and was so excited to see my own name on that list!

Also, I mentioned in my last post that I bought a planner and started putting my crafting projects in it - well here's my memo to tell you that just putting it in a planner doesn't make it happen. I have a (simple enough) fleece tie-blanket to make. For myself.

I bought the fabric in December and got sidetracked with everyone elses' gifts, and it never got made. I fully intended to make it last night, but there was a miscommunication between my mom and myself about dinner (each thought the other was making it) and I ended up making dinner. And I may have made some double chocolate chip cookies too. I also went to my grandparents' house for a bit, and had errands to run right after work, and...well you get it.

So the blanket didn't get made last night. I'm hoping for Friday, but I have another something (a gift) to finish for someone before Saturday, as well as cooked thing to take to a party. And I have to do my taxes. And other stuff. It's all written down, and some of it will simply scoot from day to day until it gets done.

Which is okay!

Progress, not perfection, right? After all, we all know setting unrealistic expectations and goals increases the risk of failure. Being able to re-evaluate and adapt should be seen as a strength, rather than looking at a missed goal and seeing it as a failure.

But I digress. Here is a knit thing that I have now made two of! It's a Minecraft Creeper Pillow Case. This particular case is 20x20 inches, but you really just need to make a gauge swatch to change the sizes. The colors are complete random, except for the face pattern.

I did originally buy a pattern for this, but I wish I hadn't. The pattern used intarsia, and even the pattern maker's final product looked too "loose" - almost like there were too many holes caused by the intarsia. So rather than take that route, I knit this strips. Each column is one long strip, and each strip was seamed using mattress stitch.

Step One: Knit each strip. I numbered mine with tags so it'd be easier to sew them together.

Step Two: Start seaming! This part of the process is pretty time consuming, but you'll be glad you did it. It's also pretty cathartic to end up with such a seamless finish.

Line your two pieces up, left yo

Cut a length of yarn at least 2.5-3x the length of your strip.

Joining your yarn to the cast on tail of a strip.

Just separating it out to see how the stitch works.

A close up of the stitching process.

Half way there!

That's it! Knot it off, nothing fancy necessary.

Yay! That one's done! Repeat the process until you're finished :)

This is what the front of the pillow should look like before moving on.

Step Three: Knit the back. You're going to pick up stitches along the bottom and the top - the two will be knit separately, and then seamed along the sides. When picking up, pick up the number of stitches in each square, minus one. So if each column/strip is 10 stitches wide, you only want to pick up 9 stitches. This accounts for the stitches lost to seeming.

Just starting to pick up!

All the picked up stitches!
Knit in stockinette until you near the middle of the pillow, and then knit the ribbed band that the buttons/buttonholes will go on. Just a note: the buttons will be on the piece that you knit from the bottom of the pillow. You will need to add button holes on the ribbing coming from the top of the pillow (there are pictures of the back of the pillow at the end). Don't forget to swtich to smaller needles for the ribbing. This will help keep it tight and really hug the pillow in.

Step Four: When both the bottom and top flaps for the back have been knit, it's time to seam them to the sides. Start with the bottom, as you want it to be the "inside" flap.

I secured my first stitch by looping the working yarn through the slipknot I made.

It's a little difficult to see, but this is the first join stitch. You will mattress stitch exactly as you did for seaming the strips together, but this time your two pieces are already joined at the bottom.
Step Five: When you've finished seaming, it's time to add button holes! Lay the pillow out with the back up, and mark where each button should go. Sew them on, and you're done!

Ta da! The finished product, unstuffed.

I used round black buttons on this, but I think square buttons would look really cool!

With the pillow insert in!

Sorry for the terrible lighting on this...I guess my kitchen table isn't the best place for this :(

So there you have it! The long promised Creeper Pillow. I hope that was mildly informative and interesting for some people. Pattern instruction isn't my strength, but I know sometimes you just want to  know how it's made!

I will say, however, that although I find mattress stitch very fulfilling, I'm not going to be making another one of these pillows again. At least not anytime soon. Two was quite enough for me, thanks!

Do you knit or crochet? Have you ever started a project following the directions and then thrown caution to the wind and done your own thing? I don't know about anyone else, but I think it's a pretty liberating feeling!

If I don't post tomorrow, Happy Friday, and I hope everyone has a great weekend :)


Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I meant to put this post up last night, but I was shattered after Cam and I got back from the gym. I woke up super early yesterday (4:00am) and we didn't finish our workout until after 7:00. His new class/work schedule is brutal for both of us! But we got the workout done, and that's what matters!

So now, let me take a moment to say - Boy, oh boy do I wish it was spring already. I'm day dreaming about after work (outdoor) runs and bike rides. I miss the sun and warm!

Unfortunately, it is cold and slushy in Chicagoland, so there goes that day dream.

But I've got a few spare minutes, and what better way to spend it than talking about the plans I have for those summer months?!

First of all, let's start with the Runs For Cookies Virtual 5k that I participated in on Sunday! I've only ever run one other 5k (this past September), and I think I was more nervous for this one! My only goal when I ran the 5k in September was to not finish last (I didn't!). I was running with a friend and finished in something like 42:17. When I registered for the RfC 5k I put down my time goal as "42:17" because I simply wanted to do better, but as I started training I realized that was way too easy because I'd be running on a treadmill. So I adjusted my goal mentally - I wanted to do better than 39:00 min on the treadmill, and see if I could push it with an incline. I only trained for a few weeks before the race, and was sick for half of it with that lovely cold/upper respiratory infection, so that felt like a fair challenge to myself.

I have to say I was pretty happy with the results. I'd settled on doing a run/walk method of 5:1 (walk 5 minutes, run 1 minute) for the race, with a pace slightly under 11 min/mile. I extended my first run by a minute, and then kept with the 5:1 for the rest. Around 2 miles I could really tell my lungs were working and I was coughing during my walks - an unfortunate side effect of the upper respiratory thing. But I also realized that if I kept pace and pushed a bit at the end, I could wallop that 39:00 min goal. So I pushed. I sprinted the last two-tenths of a mile, and came in with a time of 36:24. Here I am, lovely and sweaty (and proud!) at the end:

So now that this particular 5k is over, I have a myriad of goals I'm going to attempt for 2015.

Ready? Here it is. I would like to run (in order):

  • A(nother) 5k - with my goal being to run the entire thing in under 36 minutes and 24 seconds (bet you didn't see that coming.
  • A 10k
  • A 15k
  • A half marathon
I'll say now that I have no desire to run a full marathon, but a half (that's 13.1 miles) seems like a good "long" distance, and I'd like to get to the point where I can run 8 miles comfortably if I want to. Aside from the 5k, I do not have any time goals for these. My goal is just to try and run and finish each race.

Although, perhaps the bigger goal is to complete the training. I realize that, more than anything, this is a huge time commitment to make. "Just running" is one thing...but I'm looking at a steady running schedule for the next 6-8 months (I'd like to do the half in August or September) and realizing that I need to commit time and consciousness to eating and sleeping well - and to strength training.

I feel like I've had an overhaul in motivation since joining the DietBet this month. It really inspired me because it got me into a steady work-gym-healthy eating schedule and mind set. Working out went from that thing I could do after work, to being a non-negotiable (except when I was sick).

But I'll admit, I need a little help staying organized with all of this, so I went out and bought a planner on Monday!

I feel like I've been over extending myself a bit, and like I need a place I can actually write down the things that fly through my head at times. So I bought a colorful planner and an assortment of pens, and I hope it can at least help me feel a bit more organized. I plan on putting my workout and running schedules into it, as well as notes about the crafting projects I have to finish since I have a few works-in-progress that need to be wrapped up that I keep forgetting about. I'll be honest, it's nice to have the room open in my brain again!

So there it is! Everything from Sunday to today, laid out bare. And those goals. They are finally out of my head for other people to actually see. Until now I'd only told two people, and words that hang in the air are much easier to ignore than ones you can see in front of your face.

Here it is. The time to hit publish. Time to let everyone else see it...

...oh man.

Edit: If you're reading this and you're a runner, do you have any advice?! I plan on using Hal Higdon's novice methods. Any input, advice, or experiences are welcome, just leave a comment!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Long day.

I fully intended to post tonight, but now I'm just not feeling it. It has been a long day, filled with ups and downs, and now it's time for bed. Night!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Happy Saturday, world!

Hello, Blog-World.

I'm off to see Paddington in a bit (yayyyyyyyy childhood memories!) but I really wanted to tell you about the incredibly ironic week I've had.

Go figure that as soon as I resolve to work on the things that annoy me, the Universe and Powers-that-Be seemed to take it as a challenge to cause me as much frustration as possible. I kid you not, Thursday and Friday bordered on unbearable.

Let me back up - I've been sick for over two weeks. On Wednesday, January 7th, as the day progressed, that sickly scratch climbed up my throat, and I found  myself reaching for the cough drops by dinner time. Of course, after dinner was two hours of Battle House laser tag, and there was no way I was going to let some little cold keep me from kicking butt in battle. Thursday, however, was not so great. I didn't feel great in the morning, but a cursory stop at Walgreens to purchase a thermometer told me I didn't have a temperature. I got to work at 6:30, and by 8 I felt downright miserable. I had horrible chills and couldn't focus because I had a headache that was morphing into an earache. At that point, I was half way done with my daily work and asked my manager if I could take a half day. By the time I got home at 11:30, my fever was just over 100. So I took some Tylenol and curled up with my puppies, dozing on and off for a few hours. By 7:00 my fever was 102.8. I took a cool shower, fell asleep on the couch until midnight, and then went to bed, waking at 6:30 to text my manager and let her know I wouldn't be in. I took the day to relax with the dogs, hoping I'd feel better by the end of the weekend.

Well, that weekend was spent house sitting, and by Monday I was feeling okay, with only a residual cough. Can't say the cough sounded great, but I was feeling okay, and got back to working out because of it.

You remember that Virtual 5k I mentioned in the last post? Well I've been training for that. Not super hard, but I have a goal in mind, and I've been doing what I have to to make sure I meet it. I worked out 6 days last week (elliptical 3, running and lifting 3). I followed it up this week with a run and weights on Tuesday, and ellipticalling on Wednesday. But Thursday I woke up and I felt much worse than when I went to bed on Wednesday. My cough was definitely worse, and it felt like my head was underwater. So I called the doctor and scooted off to my appointment with him right after work.

I want to preface his diagnosis by saying I had no reason to think what I had was anything other than viral. Everyone around me for the past 1-2 months has (or had) viruses, and at least two of them (coworkers I interact with every day) had long-lingering coughs - that were viral.

Welp, not me. The verdict? Upper respiratory infection. Awesome.

Armed with prescriptions for steroids (ugh), antibiotics, and a cough suppressant, I headed home.

At this point you're probably wonder just what's so bad about all this, apart from being sick for so long at this point.

The answer...people.

No less than a dozen people commented on my health yesterday. I got everything from "you should have gone to the doctor sooner" to "I can't believe you're putting that poison [antibiotics] in your body." I had plenty of people tell me how bad my cough sounded (really? I had no idea. Not like it's been coming out of my mouth or for the last week or anything...), and an equal amount tell me about the last time they went to the doctor, and what their doctor said about X.

Talking to people about what's wrong was (and is) bordering on exhausting. Call me cruel and disinterested, but I don't care what your doctor said to you two months ago about your illness which was completely different from what I have. Because, no matter what I tell them, whatever they decide to respond with ends up sounding like a critique on my actions (is this adulthood?). "You should have gone to the doctor sooner." "Are you sure it's not pneumonia?" "You sound terrible, maybe you should go home."

I mean...I get that people are concerned, but I have now been to the doctor, can tell you what's going on AND what I'm doing about it, and that no, I'm not going to take two weeks of PTO to get over it - that would be ridiculous and unnecessary.

Yesterday I was thinking, 'It's amazing how you can sit at a desk all day punching in letters and numbers and still feel like you've completely exhausted yourself,' but I'm actually wondering if what was so exhausting about Thursday and Friday wasn't the work, but the interactions I had with people. Afterall...all that talking with my wheezing lungs!

I don't want it to seem like I don't appreciate concern, I just think people could make the effort to be a bit more tactful when voicing it. (That said, part of my annoyance is probably due to the steroids I'm taking. I discovered years ago that I actually get roid-rage from Methylprednisolone, which is what I get to take this time around...sorry people who have to interact with me.)

It's also a bit of a bummer because I'm so far into this DietBet, and after those initial 4 days of not being able to do anything, I now have to take it easy. I was getting so into my workout routine too! I have less than one pound to lose at this point (as of yesterday morning, .9lbs left!), so I'm not worried about meeting my goal. The system I've been using has been working really well, and I think I'll nail it. Though I still plan to participate in the 5k tomorrow (and I'd really like to hit my goal for it too!) I'll lay off after that until my lungs feel more normal. So don't think I'm being stupid, please. I realize  I need a little R&R. Go figure, life getting in the way of goals!

Speaking of, since the 5k is tomorrow I'll probably try to throw a post up about that afterwards. And when I do...perhaps I'll share those 2015 running goals with you! I've now told two people about them, so I feel like it's time to really commit!

Tomorrow will be a busy day for me, but if I have time to sit down after I'll try to post something.

Until then, check out this adorable Baby Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) that I knit for Cam - he didn't know where to put it, but then one day I walked into his room and this is what I saw:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Back! Kind of, I hope...

Well hello there! It has been a while, and I apologize for that. I have no excuse but holiday busy-ness, and January laziness.

In regards to my last post, I have been plugging away at work, and I suppose the most important thing is that I'm getting my work done every day. There are non-work related work stressors in my life (confusing, I know) and I've found that over the last month at work I've been ground down a bit by "the system" at work.

Unfortunately, I also feel ground down by people in my personal life. I find myself getting intensely annoyed with most people, and I'm searching for the source of the annoyance.

Good news is, it's looking up. I've long held the belief that, though we cannot control the actions of those around us, we can certainly control our own reactions to those actions - but I seem to have let that slide to the back of my mind recently. Then the other day as I was sorting through my emotions, I felt like this thought smacked me in the face. I realized that lately, my knee-jerk reaction has been that people are doing things to me, instead of realizing they're just doing things, most probably with no thought to anyone else. After all, that tends to be what most of us do.

So I'm making a conscious effort to re-think how I respond and react to the actions of people around me, even if the reaction is just in my head  - like today when some guy changed lanes in front of me then slowed down...annoying, but there's a 99% chance that wasn't directed at me with the goal of making me arrive later to work.

On top of that, I was convinced to join a Diet Bet. That's right. On January 3rd I pledged $25 to lose 4% of my body weight by January 31st. If I do, I get my $25 back, plus a cut of the pot. I have just under 2 lbs left to lose! Here I thought it would be some easy thing, but it's actually taking conscious thought and effort (hah, what a noob thought on my part). I finally decided I needed to track my calories (thanks, Lose It!) and have been working out more steadily. Cam's gotten me interested in weight lifting, which is proving to be more fun that it was in gym in high school. Dare I say the following? Of course I dare. I think I'm about to change how I've worked out for the last 6 years. Lifting is now a thing for me!

I've also set a few running goals for 2015 (not going to say what they are yet) - but I'm running Runs For Cookies Virtual 5k on Sunday, and maybe I'll share after that ;)

What I really like about all this - the fact that I'm invested in the Diet Bet and this 5k, is that it's forced structure in my life. I have to work out during the week. I have to eat right. It's given me a great excuse to cook more, particularly at Cam's house. I mean, is it just me, or do people watching you make a change need a reason for you to be doing it? I feel like they do - and being able to say "Sorry, I need to make this healthy meal because I have $25 (plus part of the $17,000 pot) riding on it," has really helped. Because apparently "I want to be healthier" isn't always a good reason...

So that's the update. Should probably get back to work... ;)