The aviary, anxiety, and getting on with it

Mish-mash catch-all post with updates on various happenings in my life. Busy days this shortened work week, but before I get too engulfed by various things I wanted to provide a quick update on current events.


I wish I’d thought to take a more recent photo, but Cheepers is still with us and appears to be thriving. That said, I have concerns about his longevity, visions of setting him free in the wild only to be snatched on his first freedom flight by the hawk, the big bad boogey bird of the greenbelt behind our home. Or worse, crashing down and within reach of our cats, who then dash off to consume him in private and well out of reach of M’s wrath.

He eats pretty well when M feeds him, drinks water pretty well from an eye dropper that M puts in his beak, and can fly a bit when M launches him from the floor a couple of feet off the ground. Other than that, Cheepers is pretty much completely dependent. He’s not a terrible housemate – he either stays in his box (in the air conditioned comfort of the house) or on his paper plate (when we are at home to ensure he doesn’t fall off whatever surface his plate is resting upon). He goes outside in the cage for a few hours each day in the nice temperatures of the mornings and evenings. Overnight, he sleeps uncaged on his paper plate on M’s nightstand. He starts cheeping for breakfast when the sun comes through the windows, but even with me rustling around getting ready to leave for the gym at 4 in the morning that bird stays with beak tucked into his wing and happily sleeping.

I’m not sure what will happen to him, frankly, but I can envision a future with us having a bird pet for however long he lives. It’s now been 2 weeks, and while other birds of his species – that may or may not be the parent birds – are out in the yard, they seem pretty indifferent to him and he to them. Birdy-Bird, his predecessor that also fell out of the nest and ultimately died in our care, was older when M found him and would interact routinely with his parents while ensconced in the yard in his cage. Cheepers was younger and likely abandoned, so essentially M is his parent and family. Unfortunately M cannot teach him how to hunt and feed himself. M cannot get Cheepers to eat food or drink water he places in front of him.

I think M has become, by necessity, a helicopter bird parent. And unfortunately, I see little hope of getting him “launched” successfully and safely.

Yep, M enables him. Cheepers goes off in his cage to jobsites or on runs with M during the day, his worms in their own cooler for snacks and lunch. There are certainly worse fates for the little bird, but he seems far too domesticated and tame now to survive on his own in the wild. Time will tell.

I have always been a dog person if I were to have a pet. Now I have cats outside and a bird in my house. The bird is unlikely to live a long life either way, and the cats were already adults when we met them 6 years ago, so they are settling into the “mature” cat years now. But after this, I want no more pets.


The Big Law Firm (BLF) transition was paperwork-ly completed last Friday. Monday began the first day for remaining staff as new employees with BLF, and of course yesterday was a paid holiday. I had really, Really, REALLY hoped for a soft landing in this change and that despite my personal misgivings and worries about it, that the staff would find the experience positive or mostly positive. I really wanted future communications with them to contain sort of tempered excitement at worst, that they miss working with me but things are so damn great even without me it’s hard to contain their enthusiasm. I also really hoped the first day would be more off-hand and casual as they all adjust to the new normal.

Yeah, Pollyanna still lives here.

Monday was fairly brisk for me setting up my own new normal as far as self-employment continuing and restart with client work and appointments, so it was a rare mid-morning to late afternoon period of not reading texts except those from clients I was meeting or expecting to be hearing from about schedule-related issues.

I had 117 texts from various staff members when I finally sat down to read them. About 30% were of the “so weird without you here” and “we miss you already” and “it’s lunchtime – where are you?” type messages, which made me smile. The rest were descriptive about the changes being implemented from day 1 and how it felt like BLF had executed a military coup and drafted all of them. Or worse. Change is hard.

I wish it were different, but reminded them that change is difficult at first and to give BLF staff a chance. They do operate differently than we did, than I did, and it’s a new era and practically a new job, so be patient and smart about learning the new systems and procedures. Give BLF a chance to not only adapt to a new firm, new cases, new staff, but also a chance to evaluate the office work flow and adapt to and incorporate some of our best practices. While I am realistic about there being no place for me in the new business world order of the firm, I know these are very smart and talented attorneys. They will adapt to the new culture and the culture will adapt to incorporate them as well.

Even the former partners are having to adapt somewhat. In their roles as consultants and advisors they will be in the office periodically for meetings with clients and consulting/transitioning ongoing matters, but they too are having to adapt to not being primary decisionmakers and expected to be somewhere throughout the day. As I will be assisting them with the wind-down of the firm throughout the next 6 months to a year, I will still see and speak to them regularly, although of course it’s not the same as it was. But as I have reminded myself hundreds of times since this all came about, things are constantly in a state of flux and nothing stays the same forever, nor would I desire that.

But I am also facing the reality of my new normal. Monday I was busy with work-related things both planned and unexpected, as is typical for all aspects of life. I have had 3 clients that I had to cut loose back when I accepted full-time employment express happy-happy-joy-joy at the opportunity to return to the fold, and before the calendar even turned I was already engrossed in resolving a bigger problem and found myself with a short-fuse deadline for today that I was only able to get extended to Monday and even then only because the regulator knows me well and is delighted to have me back on the case. While grateful for the reprieve, I’m furious at the person who spent more than a year collecting fees for work she was not actually doing. I am actually so furious about it I am making a list and planning to market directly to her clients, probably all of them.

Because I tend to hate marketing, this is an added layer of stress. Fortunately for me, all my work has come from referrals from people I know or clients I work with or have worked with in the past. I am not very good at talking up my services or expertise; I am pretty black-and-white about what I can or cannot do for someone. Schmoozing is not normal or easy behavior for me, especially in a marketing-type capacity. While I can and do negotiate (I buy all the cars in our family because M hates dealing with salesmen), I dislike the process.

Beyond that, though, I have some concerns about what to do with myself all day. I mean, right now I have plenty on my plate – through the end of July my to-do lists overfloweth. There is just this sense that a “regular” workday and workload will be inadequate to fill up my typical work hours. What do I do then?

In my experience, the anxiety is unfounded. It is the mostly unknown workday right now, and being such a schedule-keeping creature of habit, I dislike that uncertainty. So, I have decided the only course of action is to stay on some semblance of my presently normal schedule. Stick to my regular wake-up and exercise schedule, plan my workday around its normal timeframe. I have more flexibility to actually meet with clients in their offices now, although I imagine my Tuesdays are pretty well set and will continue.

My routine-loving stress puppy will be soothed by sticking to what we know. For at least the month of July, that will be good enough.

Life (and Work) Does Go On

I am cutting myself some slack on my present-level of anxiety over the changes in life and career. While I am not at all worried about finding enough work, being capable enough to do the work, or even juggling and managing my time to ensure stuff gets done, change is hard, even change I have been anticipating. Unfortunately things have been sort of ethereal in nature during that period, and now that July is here and full-time self-employment is again a thing, I have to get busy wrapping my arms around it and sorting it into orderly priorities.

This week I have appointments outside the office with existing, returning, and potential clients. Which means I have to be on best and most dressed-up behavior most of my days – none of my favorite capris and tank tops at my treadmill desk much this week. This is one of the true perks of working from home into the future and I’m impatient to start enjoying it.

From the messages and support from friends and clients alike, I am lucky to have such great influences from those who populate my life. I am not “losing” friends by leaving the firm so much as gaining a different slant on the friendships built there.

Between the negotiated severance package and terms of my separation, money is not even top 5 of concerns I have about this transition. In that, I am extraordinarily fortunate and genuinely grateful. While so far from “frugalista” I should probably consult the dictionary regularly to refresh my memory when my brand of financial restraint seems too confining, ours is a pretty simple life. Biggest splurges are probably training for me and fuel for M’s travel to and fro to run, both of which have a direct benefit on our overall and ongoing health.

That said, I always do have a bare-bones budget in mind, our go-to in the event of financial famine. I update it regularly as our circumstances change, but typically very little changes unless we have acquired new debt (ha ha) or have become gazelle-intense about saving for something or paying off the mortgage.

I am mostly chasing my tail because big changes give me some sense of anxiety. Since this is not a change I wanted but more one I had to implement and accept, it makes adjustment that much more difficult. I am and will continue to adjust to the new normal, and from there I expect less aimless frothing on a spin cycle and more productive use and practical applications of time and energy.

Onward, ever onward. The adventure continues, even with me whimpering and weakly wiggling my feet in protest.


Training #95 – Best day of my life

Thursday morning, training with J. And I confess – I have this doomsday clock countdown going on in my head realizing that his well-deserved holiday break is 2 weeks away and we are down to 4 sessions remaining in 2016. Okay, so maybe doomsday clock is a bit (okay, maybe way over-the-top) melodramatic, but I am cognizant of another year concluding. Thinking about it, there is no sadness, doom, or gloom about it; the calendar is winding down on 2016 and the new year will begin. This is also no hurry-rush-push to end the year and start fresh with a new calendar. If anything, 2016 has been a deeply satisfying year for me; I got a lot of shit done.

But here we are, at training session 95, and honestly, I am amazed that I have stuck with the weekly recaps this whole year. Granted, there are still 4 left to call this year a complete success, but I am engaged and in enough of a well-worn groove to be confident that I will not falter and fall off the recap wagon now.

What We Did

Lower body review day today, and anyone who has read even a couple of these entries knows I love review days. Okay, being fair, I love all training days, but review days do not bore me or feel like anything other than lots of opportunities to ask questions, discuss techniques less traveled, or just learn more about the why of it all. After almost 18 months of training with J, the method behind the master plan is still shrouded in misty cloud. And I’m okay with that. We talk about a lot of stuff, much of it even training and exercise related, and retaining everything is just not happening for me. Hence my love of review day. Here’s our List today, although we skipped the D block due to time constraints:

A1  1-legged Leg Press

B1  1-legged RDL (DB, KB, or Cable)
B2  1-legged Machine Hamstring Curl
B3  Stability Ball Glute Bridge
B4  SB Hamstring Curls

C1  Quad Extensions
C2  DB Power Squats
C3  Bodyweight Bulgarians

D1  Adductor Machine (skipped today)
D2  Abductor Machine (skipped today)

How It Felt

I was mostly engrossed in our conversation and trying hard to stay present with the exercise and hopefully within the ballpark of rep counts and was not paying much attention to the weights used. On top of which, I am learning in my travels to and from the cable machines that they all feel different. Setting one on 30 does not necessarily mean the one around the corner set at 30 is going to feel the same way. Then there the fancy smancy (and much loved) Freemotion machines upstairs – I don’t even know what their weight plates mean. My point here, there is no apples to apples comparison. And in truth, it barely registers to me. As long as I feel in the ballpark of some work in the muscles that should be working I call it good.

The leg press machine, I wonder why I do not do more 1-leg presses. Or even 2-leg presses; that machine quite literally kicks me in the ass, and I still feeling it hours later. On the list, set/rep range is 5 to 10 sets of 10 reps/side, which gets to be a lot. I lost count of sets after about 5 or 6, so I know it was well within the 5 to 10 sets range. And it felt amazing. Which could be indicative of the need to use weightier weights – I typically use 150 lbs., but today started at 130 (set myself so I do remember that one) because I haven’t been on this one in what seems like a very long time. It’s very hypnotic to sit there alternating between watching your foot press the plate and the keeping an eye on the weight stack to ensure it drops not quite to the bottom and complete rest.

Former arch nemesis, 1-legged Romanian deadlift with the cable, is improving. Every time we do these, I learn a little more about the “shape” of the exercise that helps with balance and feeling the muscles work harder and more productively. I know to keep my shoulders and spine straight, but knowing and doing while trying to stay balanced on one leg can be a tall order for me. But we went over it again today, and I must say the new cue about the stationary/grounded foot hip pressing forward while elevating the torso helps. While we have had this cue previously, I always think about the leg descending at that hip pressing forward. Yes, that makes some sense as well, but from a balance/working muscles perspective the new clue cue today focuses me more clearly on my objectives.

While I really like it, the 1-legged machine hamstring curl is hard. It just is not natural for me to try and lift a cable weighed down with 30 lbs. (I think) by bending my knee. Plus, this machine is tricky on the set-up, and when I am on my own, if it takes me 5 (or more) tries to get it right then that’s what it takes. Today was not bad – only had to adjust the kick pad. But I always have to adjust it, then climb in and get situated with the weight before starting. But anyway, it is more complicated to set-up, but once there it goes pretty well. Except it’s not natural behavior and I have to really focus, dig deep to make my rep count. I’m trying very hard not to rest mid-set, but sometimes there is no other way to get it done. I will get over it.

Oh me and the stability ball have this long and checkered history. From my days of referring to it as an “instability” ball to now when we are mostly friends, I still have my reservations about it. Into this comes the stability ball glute bridges, which are not terrible, not horrible, and should not be all that challenging. The glute bridge was on the very first PT Basics A or B Lists this time last year, yet it feels as if I have not made that much progress in a year. Key word here: feels. Truth is I am sure I have, but maybe I just do not like them all that much. I watch J demonstrate and think my hips are not as flexible or elevate that way. With my current obsession with exercise shapes, I understand where this feeling emanates. Still hard to shake, even if I understand its root cause. Only thing I can do is practice them more, do my best when they appear on Lists. I will get better; my shape in this exercise will improve.

Into this mixed feelings about the stability ball in general comes the stability ball hamstring curls, and again, my shapes need some work toward improvement, even if could be primarily in my own head. I do dislike these things – they are a huge challenge – while at the same time they are effective as well. More than anything, I will continue to pursue regular, consistent practice at these to improve my technique. Maybe then they will become less of a genuine pain in my ass. Okay, not really … but I associate them that way because they appear on lower body glute-focused Lists that usually do result in tight and aching sit muscles.

The quad extensions machine is another one of those complicated machines with little adjustments necessary besides just setting the weight. While intellectually I understand what is necessary and should be done, there is something in lizard brain that rebels and freaks out with the idea of it. Still, I will persevere and not let the lizard brain win this round. Once I get past the brain meltdown over the complications of this machine, I go along just fine. It’s not the easiest or most natural feeling exercise, but I know what needs to be done, how it should feel (quads – burn -check). I just have to overcome the initial intimidation and make it work for me.

The dumbbell power squats are a staple. I realized awhile back that I now know a few ways to do squats, but these power squats are still a bit unique with the weightier weights we utilize. Today’s big reminder was not slow-slow-slow on the descent, up like a poptart in the toaster, and keep those shoulders back and the spine tall. Seems so much easier and nicer to roll the shoulders forward. So I mostly got this – slow-Slow-SLOW on the descent, pause 2 seconds, pop up, shoulders back, spine straight. Yep, along with the “butt back” on the slow-Slow-SLOW descent portion, this is pretty much the sound track in my head. Unless my palms and hands get tired of holding 30 lbs. of dumbbell and want to just let them fall, at which time we mind starts projecting “grip tighter, grip tighter” alerts as part of the soundtrack.

Once upon a time, I did the bodyweight Bulgarian split squats daily as part of my warm-up. They they became less of a thing in favor of other warm-up activities. I think it may be time to bring them back a few days per week. Not that I am faltering failing, but just because I feel sort of stiffly awkward with these, especially when using the quad extension machine as the foot elevating holder. I know how these work, how they are supposed to feel, but I felt a little out of practice after months of doing at least 10 to 15 per side just about every day. For the last set J added the offset weight, just an 8 lb. dumbbell, and boy howdy does that make a difference in how much I felt them. All good, but I feel I could do better. I will do better. I did not work so hard on these for so many months to feel as if I have given up some hard-fought ground only to have to learn the balance and how painful these bad boys can be when sitting idle for too long.

Key Takeaways

Occurred to me this morning that review days are not that involved or exciting for J, but not every session can be amazing and exciting glitter-bombs of discovery and new beginnings. Still, it’s so much fun just running along through a List I am familiar with and always coaxing some new kernel of information from it. Whether it’s shoulders behind the ears on the power squats or what the grounded side hip should be doing on the Romanian deadlift, I learn something new or remember something I have somehow forgotten with each and every review day.

I have come a long way since this List first became a thing in October, yet I still feel there is a lot more practice to be done with it, a lot more to learn. Then again, and this has been a gradual process and realization for me, that perfection is an impossible bar that remains comfortably out of reach, just like the average unicorn. But sticking with practice and staying consistent with the gym and the Lists means I stay closer to the good enough standard I have set for myself. And while that may sound sort of pedant and mundane, it is important to me to stay the course with regard to practice.

Funny thing about regular practice: I rarely get frustrated with exercise anymore. Being bored, distracted, or tired is common enough and I have developed my own skills in overcoming each. But frustrated rarely happens. I find that my exercise knowledge has expanded and my abilities increased to a point where I am stronger and can substitute if something is just not working on a particular day or List.

Part of the reason I genuinely enjoy review day is that it helps me remember where I have had issues, why I may set aside a List in favor of another that I feel more confident about and competent with. Another part is its an opportunity for me to explore and appreciate my own progress, however great or small. Thing is, I do make progress. I am getting better and stronger, and equally important, I feel so superior than I did even a year ago. Depression? Funks? Reflective states? Of course they still happen. However, the regular exercise and my elevated level of fitness has done so much to improve my overall mental health. Granted I start from a baseline neutral, where I do not suffer from any sort of medical issues that cause depression or anxiety or other mental/emotional health conditions, but being overweight, being insulin-dependent diabetic, the ways that being less fit and healthy drag me to edge of sadness is not to be discounted. I now know enough people who have stepped away from their own emotional ailments by working at improving their overall health through diet and exercise to recognize that it is a real thing.

The holidays are hard for so many folks, and even M and I are not immune. My daughter and son-in-law are on the road for their new home and next chapter in their life clear across the country, and it has it’s own emotional challenges for me even as I am happy for them. Change is not always easy to accept. One of my very dearest friends has struggled with a serious health condition that continues to plague him and concern me, even though I believe he will overcome and be better. Home for Christmas? Maybe not, and it saddens me. However, sacrificing one holiday now for many, many into the future is well worth it. But I’m selfish enough to admit I wish he were for sure able to come home for even a brief visit, if only to reassure myself that he is improving and will soon be completely well again.

But my issues are small ball issues, and I think them through, work them out every morning in practice. Or in the evenings during yoga class. I write my pal a note every day, filled with boring and mundane details of our life. M sends regular texts and missives as well. It makes little sense to anyone else, but for me it’s hugely comforting to write down the minutia and share it. Every Monday, every Thursday I train with J I send a text from my car in the parking lot of the gym, giving a quick and happy response to whatever we happened to do that day. To anyone else it is weird and maybe even a little (or a lot) off-beat, but beside M, he is such a huge cheerleader for my fitness efforts. I like reminding him how much he matters to me and to others, to keep his sometimes flagging spirits from leaning toward permanent deflation.

My point here is – the regular exercise has changed my life in so many big and little ways. I am still not a morning person; if not having to get to the gym at my preferred time I would happily sleep until 7 a.m. every day and even later on weekends. As it was this morning, I felt less perky than usual in our session this morning for lack of my usual caffeine boost. Every morning I drink a protein shake boosted with amino energy powder, which is kind of fancy smancy caffeine infusion, only I allowed myself to run out. The horror! I know, I know – me and my first world problems. Thank goodness for Amazon prime and the very fast shipping.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I love success stories. I love when other tribe and gym members make big or small strides toward goals or just improvements in their technique and exercise mastery. Even on days like today, where I feel kind of tired in the nicest possible way and feel no new wowy-zowy breakthroughs, I am delighted others are doing well.

And in truth, I am equally delighted that I am doing this well as well. Once upon a time, I would be feeling depressed and anxious that I did not have some success to write about. Anymore, I can appreciate the simplicity of having a good week. I am making tiny step progress toward my focused List – of late it has been the dumbbell matrix that is more cardio intensive. Some of the movements seem to require more coordination that my brain can process gracefully, so what does not come naturally must be practiced until it feels like an accurate mimic of gracefulness. And again, every day i get up and get myself into the gym is a good day, one more thing crossed off my to-do.

When J demonstrates or I see others in the club doing exercise I struggle or have struggled with, I no longer wonder what is wrong with me that I struggling. Anymore, my admiration for their efforts has taken over any inward negativity, and I am relieved that I can be a big enough, grown-up enough to accept the different waypoints on individual journeys. My pathway is my own, and its got piles of glitter along the way from prior wins and steps up, steps forward.

More than the little lines and creases I celebrate and ask my husband repeatedly if he notices (he does … at this point how could he not? *laugh*), I genuinely appreciate my mental and emotional gains from the routine. While I think about the long game, what I will be like at 60 or 70, I do not imagine myself sitting around waiting to die. This was not the way I felt 2 years ago before I started, but I was sort of resigned to never being an athletic sort or someone with health-minded hobbies. Now it seems that’s a lot of what I discuss with friends and associates at work, partly because they are all young and active when not strapped in behind their desks, and partly because it is where life and its focus seems to find us right now. The ladies I work with and walk with regularly – we are always discussing the diet trends, the newest books, cookbooks, recipes, eating plans and programs. I learn a lot from them, even if I do not follow the same guidelines or like the same types of food. Same with the fitness reading and listening I do; it expands my horizons.

I am plowing my way through a list of business and marketing-related books clients and peers have or are reading, because it intrigues me on some level. I feel so far behind the times, working with young, hipper, scary smart folks, yet it is good to be excited and invigorated to follow along and see the world from their perspective. I like being able to relate … eventually … with what they are doing, thinking, talking about. I am not their peer nor would I ever want to be again. Just like with my kids, though, I like to have a general grasp on what their interests and things they follow in their own realm.

To have a good attitude – I never truly realized how poor my inward attitude was until it improved. I have all sorts of reasons, all kind of backstory that supports my flawed reasoning and skewed self-image, and healing those breaches will be an ongoing effort that will span my lifetime. Thing is, what I was accepting as adequate and enough was neither. A little (okay – a LOT) of hard work and I could have more, and I do have more. But strangely, the work does not seem so much effort anymore. New stuff, sure – lots of energy expended in the learning, adapting, mastering, perfecting. And then you set that aside for a little while and start a little farther up the learning curve when you return to it. This is where my improving outlook has gotten me – to understanding that the learning curve is not so steep the second, third, or twentieth go-round with something I learned a year ago.

I continue writing my own success story – one line, one paragraph, one post, one chapter at a time. And there will be no epilogue or final credits rolling anytime soon.



Office move this week

After months of planning an entire office move with an office technology upgrade, it’s finally all coming together this week. It has been several boatloads of work to get us to this point, everything from looking at office space, deciding on a place, negotiating lease terms (lawyers – many positives and not so positives on this part), and then all the gazillions of tiny decisions on tenant improvements, supervising the build, many stern conversations about what I wanted/needed and why people are failing to do their job, firing a couple of different contractors and vendors for failure to perform, presentations, endless emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, and more than a few internal foot-stomping meltdowns over stupid shit that should not have happened, it’s finally, FINALLY all coming together.

And while it’s only Tuesday, thus far everything is going very well.

Moving carts and boxes were delivered yesterday as planned and on schedule. Office locations and announcements were revealed prefaced with very specific “I don’t want to hear any whining about where your space.” The few interactions I have had that had even the sparest tinge of whine to the tone were met with a “talk to the hand” gesture and a very curt “I’m not discussing this further” comment from me.

It’s been kind of glorious.

Today I did the final walk-through of the new space with the building inspector, who signed off on the tenant improvements and keys and key codes were released to us. The IT crew showed up at 11 as planned to set up and the new server and network equipment, and even Comcast was on time to set-up our internet connection. All that went without any notable hitches. New furnishings were delivered and set-up. Tomorrow the telephone system will be installed, tested, and cut over in the afternoon.

Tomorrow afternoon/evening the carts will be picked up and delivered to the new space, and Thursday morning we all report to the new offices to unpack and being our work days.

Hopefully it all continues to go well.

For someone who HATES all aspects of moving, I am surprisingly serene about the whole process. I went to yoga tonight to fortify my zen, and came home to read a bunch of email traffic trying to not jinx the smooth process thus far by commenting too positively or happily on the smooth process thus far. It seems my neurosis has either rubbed off on my bosses or they have the same sort of “hope for the best, plan for the worst” type attitudes.

Unfortunately my job with The Move does not immediately end, and I cannot really return to my regular job and responsibilities without all these other niggling details until sometime next week. Thursday while the rest of the office is unpacking their desks and getting settled, I’ll be at the old office organizing pickup of our former office furniture, computer equipment, and phone system. The IT guys will be joining me to ensure hard drives are completely wiped before machines are carted away. A used furniture company is picking up the bulk of our discards, the copy machine company delivering new machine and printers to our new offices and then picking up the older equipment. Shredding service will be doing the same with our shredding vaults.

It has been hugely gratifying to have months of work result in vendors doing their jobs and the most inconvenienced staff person thus far only be me. I will be so glad when this week is done.

Office holiday party is Saturday night, so that will be fun as well. I have bonus checks to write … all but mine. Partners want to surprise me, which is their right. I find them generous and am not especially worried about it. But still, surprises do put me on edge.

But I think the biggest shocker for me thus far this week: how truly relaxed and in control of my emotions I feel with all this moving stuff. Yes, my cell phone is blowing up more than usual during business hours; I expected that. I am surprised at how un-obsessed I feel about things. If anything, I spend more time wondering what it was that made my glutes squeak today than whether or not movers and moving-related vendors are going to show up within the allotted window or if things will work as they are supposed to once they are done with them.

It helps that the bosses are pleased about how the move is progressing, how minimally disruptive I have made it with scheduling and organizing the packing of the library and common areas and the organization of the moving carts and assorted hoopla.

My receptionist has been fantastic through this process, and he has stayed late and taken charge of supervising the packing crew for the common areas as well as getting his own work done. The rest of the staff are mostly cheerful and if not always helpful (because of their billable work) they pitch in where they can and are cooperative when I need them to work with me on the million small details.

This is a huge and positive change for me. I am typically a strident overachiever when it comes to obsessing about work, calm on the outside while flying apart at the seams on the inside. That brain has been rehabbed enough to let me sleep deeply and peacefully during a high stress period is so rewarding.

I do give a lot of credit to the daily exercise schedule I have been keeping. Maybe there’s something sly and down-low about those dolphins swimming in my brain. Or as trainer J put it, drugs (even naturally produced ones) affect everyone differently. Perhaps they impact me by leveling me out when I want to completely wig.

All good. And I can live with that.



Training #92 – Dolphin music

Monday morning, training with J. And oh my – it is SO NICE to be back on track to something mostly akin to natural order of my universe. With this being moving week, I am in the office all week, including Tuesday, but from my perspective of alarm going off and getting up and into the gym, it’s the return to normal after the holiday week.

What We Did

Phase One
1.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets, 10/side)
2.  Simultaneous Shoulder Level Dumbbell Punches in Front (3 sets, 10/side)
3.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Cross Punching with Pivot at Shoulder Height (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Two
4.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Bent Alt. Dumbbell Rows (3 sets, 10/side)
5.  Alternating Dumbbell Side Laterals with a Contralateral Front Stride (3 sets, 10/side)
6.  Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises with a Contralateral Side Stride  (3 sets, 10/side)
7. Simultaneous Dumbbell Upright Rows or Bent Over Rear Delt Fly (3 sets, 10/side)
8.  Push Ups off Bench, with the Dumbbells (3 sets, 10 each)

Phase Three
9.   Alternating Front Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
10. Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
11.  Alternate Posterior Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Four
12.  Alternating Front Reaching Lunges with Overhead Press (3 sets, 10/side)
13.  Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges with Push (3 sets, 10/side)
14.  Alternating Posterior Reaching Lunges with Hammer Curls (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Five
15.  Dumbbell Power Squats (3 sets, 10-20)
16. Inchworms (10)

How it Felt

This is an updated, more action-packed and advanced version of a prior List. There were additions and a few small changes that made this a much more intense and challenging series for me.

Today also doubled as a review day for this, because I was so far off the mark on a few of these things that I know it is not something we reviewed after its initial introduction. However, it is also not something I have pursued with any regularity to date. But that may be changing into the future.

We used 5 lb. dumbbells for the entire series. And believe me, 5 lbs. feels more like 25 lbs. as the fatigue starts layering in as we move along.

Phase One is mostly familiar.

  • The simultaneous dumbbell shoulder press is not new and very familiar, and feels really good, smooth, almost easy with the light weights. I like the way the simultaneous comes into play, where one arm moving down is signal for the other arm to start moving up.
  • First of the new exercises, simultaneous shoulder level dumbbell punches in front, is kind of a new movement and feeling in the front shoulder pushing the weight forward and then the contraction when pulling it back. There is a fluidity to this, almost a rhythm that feels good to my shoulders and my arms even as they tire as the sets pass.
  • While the simultaneous dumbbell cross punching with pivot at shoulder height was on the first rendition of this List, this is one of those mind remembered the teaching day instructions incorrectly. Where today J was directing and showing me how to do this more across and arm closer to the body in the cross punching movement, I remembered it as more forward and off to the side in the original rendition. No matter; I did not harm myself or others in prior attempts, and I do like the way this corrected version feels to my arms and shoulders. The pivot part works better as well.

Phase Two has a couple of additional exercises.

  • The simultaneous bent alternating dumbbell rows were on the original edition of this List. Again with the light weights (other Lists this 2-arm row is done with pairs of 25 lb. or 30 lb. dumbbells) and the simultaneous movement (one arm starts moving up while the other arm starts dropping down) it feel very light and rapidly smooth to run through the entire exercise. Despite the lighter weight, I can still feel the muscles in my back contracting and stretching with the weight going up and down.
  • The alternating dumbbell side laterals with a contralateral front stride is a big long name for step forward with left foot while raising the weight laterally with the right arm and vice versa. At first, this is a lot more complicated than it sounds, but brain adjusts and gets into the groove. A couple of things I have learned about these things, always start lifting with right arm and stepping with left foot while muttering “elbow bend, shrug up” under my breath the first couple of times before rep counting takes over. I feel these in my shoulders as I move along.
  • The alternating dumbbell front raises with a contralateral side stride is the fancy long name for stepping sideways with the left for while raising the weight in front with the right arm and vice versa. This and the side laterals are kind of like a dance steps, and since I do not dance unless absolutely unavoidable, it has been a process to retrain my brain. I particularly like this one, partly because of my deep and abiding affection for the 1-arm dumbbell snatch. These are like that without the squat and snatch part. I no longer fear harming myself with these movements and like the difference in feeling in my shoulders.
  • While we did both the simultaneous dumbbell upright rows and the bent over rear delt fly, I have a vast and strong preference for the bent over rear delt fly. Certainly nothing wrong with the upright rows, I do not especially feel them in my shoulders. I would have to ask J about it, but it just seems they do not do much for me with my particular brand of shoulder mobility. The bent over rear delt fly, however, is a whole other ball game. There is challenge in these and getting the angle just right so I feel the movement in the back of the shoulders as appropriate. Some practice needed, but I will get there.
  • I have done my fair share of push ups off bench in the last several months. However, it’s been a month or more between outings and it showed in today’s performance. I still scrunch my shoulders up when they should be down and back, and my push up muscles are not strong or conditioned in this movement. It inspires me to pursue the series of Lists that had push ups of various stripes and planky side kicks and kickbacks off the bench. No matter what, I should do more push ups either on the floor, the bench, or the TRX straps.

Phases Three and Four were on the original List, but there were some changes in phase four.

  • Alternating front reaching lunges with and without the overhead press were on the original List as written. From other Lists I know these are anterior lunges, and I was very far off the reservation on how this is done. Instead of doing anterior reaches when I went through the original edition of this List, I was doing walking lunges without the walking part both phases. Worked out fine, but not the way this List was written or intended.
  • Same thing happened on the alternating lateral reaching lunges both with and without the front press – I was doing a regular lateral lunge and then overhead press (on original List). In the teaching section our day today J demonstrated a more lateral reach without the deeper knee bend and the press forward with the weights in hand rather than the overhead press. Again, the way I performed the exercise yesterday worked out fine, just not the way this List was written or intended.
  • I was completely off the reservation in the alternating posterior reaching lunges with and without hammer curls. This was on the original List with an overhead press, but I had completely forgotten what a posterior reaching lunge actually was. Yesterday I did them as backward reverse lunges, in that I was stepping backward into the lunge rather than stepping forward. Instead, the posterior lunge is step all the way behind with a pivot and then do the bending forward lunge part, then stand upright again and pivot around to the starting position. Still, it was fine, and I do like the way this series is written now that I totally understand how to do it correctly.

Phase Five exercises are both familiar, even if I am out of practice.

  • The dumbbell power squats with 5 lb. dumbbells are interesting without the heavier weights. I definitely need to be pursuing the higher rep range on these and focus hard on form.
  • The inchworms are my burpee substitute, because I don’t do burpees. These are primarily for my pilates classes, but since I have not been there in a few weeks, I am ridiculously out of practice with these. Working up to 10 in a set seems impossible, but once upon a time so was everything else on this List.

Key Takeaways

To be perfectly candid, I am crazy in love with this List. There is enough success to balance and overcome the challenges I am still facing with the new additions and adjustments to this List.

Plus I am feeling pretty pleased with my attitude toward it. There is part of me wants to feel discouraged about the push up and inchworm lack of progress or even regression on these. But that part of me is negative girl territory and she’s been tied up, gagged for the holidays, and locked in her box. So no, I don’t feel especially discouraged or even unhappy about the push ups and the inchworms. When I pursue this List next (probably tomorrow, if body is agreeable), I will do push ups in sets of 3, 4, 5, whatever it takes to get me to the 10 per set. Same with the inchworms. The worst that happens? It takes me longer than I anticipate or expect to finish my allotted sets. Not the end of the world as I know it.

I’m going to have to work at the pivots and focus to maintain my balance. But I feel particularly good about my Phase One block and most of the Phase Two block. With some practice, I will improve. And since I am sketching out plans to ensure this List is in the rotation at least twice per week for a couple of sets, the struggles will be front and center and being worked at consistently.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

When she was 8 or 9, my oldest heard M and I talking about endorphins. M was describing running to me, trying to explain and inspire and infuse me with some enthusiasm of the sport and activity and essentially encourage me to get off my ass and fall in love with the outdoors and  walking and hiking. Yeah, right. Those were years we had young children underfoot, full-time jobs where he was working a night/day shift and I was working days. There was hardly any time to get outside for anything other than soccer games and softball games and little money to drive to the places where he wanted to enjoy hiking. On top of which – completely not my thing. But I have to give him credit for trying. Having never experienced the endorphin rush, he was describing the flood of them into the brain and trying to make it sound as if this was something I too could and would achieve. B, overhearing this, asked what it was like when “dolphins are swimming in your brain” – her interpretation of his description and big words. From the mouths of babes, I have never again heard the word endorphin without having visions of dolphins swimming in my head.

That said, I honestly cannot say that I have ever experienced the “high” so many people discuss. I feel good after practice, after training with J. And just lately here, I notice that body starts to miss certain exercises after awhile, and it’s a strange and mysterious experience for me now. As an example – yesterday I did a version of today’s List, in part because I was almost craving walking lunges. Now, understand that walking lunges are not on the favorites List; there is unlikely to be a day where I’m ridiculously excited about having to do walking lunges. But in the Saturday night debate about gym or pilates with an instructor that leaves me cold, the gym and walking lunges immediately came to mind and stuck in my head.

While I thought it would be the Abel 30s (leg press, walking lunges, sumo squats, stability ball hamstring curls – 30 reps each), the leg press was busy and I chose this workout instead. As noted above, I learned today there are not actually any regular lunges on the List, but oh well; substitution worked fine.

My point here is that I continually surprise myself anymore that body seems to crave certain things (other that chocolate, fat, sugar). Once I get it into my head and pursue certain Lists or series of Lists, it is like a brand new and yet very familiar feeling. I know some things may get neglected or pushed to the back of my mind after a few weeks. When I pick up and pursue those Lists and series of exercises again, I typically feel really, really good and uber gratified and satisfied by the experience. Is that an endorphin rush? No idea. But when I walk out of the gym feeling good about my List and the work done, I always imagine some school of dolphins swimming inside my head. And it makes me happy. Not slacking. Not negative. Not a poser. I have become gym people.

I am a creature of habit. I like structure. A big part of why things work so well with trainer J is because there are Lists, there are whole libraries of Lists. Some I set aside for weeks or months, then pick up on a whim and return to because it sounds like a good idea at the time. Anymore, my only caveats are that I do lower body/legs one day and swap it out with upper body the next. Days like today, when the List involves the whole body, I feel fine about doing it for a set or two every single day, maybe as an interim warmup before moving on to a longer or shorter List with heavier weights. Maybe this works for the long- or short-term, or maybe it does not work at all. My willingness to be flexible and experiment is a Very Good Thing, I think.

Thinking back to this time last year, I have come a long way. I am more capable and more confident. My own skin feels comfortable and comforting to me. It is a happy thing to know that I have stuck with training this long and there is no foreseeable end in sight for me right now.

Cleaning out my gym bag last night, I was struck by the assortment of Lists I was still carrying around. Just in case? I’m not sure. Mostly nostalgia, reminders of where I was this time last year and how far I have come. The original dumbbell routine J and I began working on in January is now something I would pursue with heavier weights, higher reps, more sets to fill the time, and that would still be kind of an easier, lighter day. I still feel it is a good solid workout, but I have others that are more challenging and suitable for my forward progression. Feeling as if I have outgrown something is nothing to be regretful about.

While writing this, I am was listening to episode 9 of “The Smarter Sculpted Physique Podcast,” wherein the coaches are talking about the bench press. But at the end of it, there were quick comments about the consumer bias in the gym for women, wherein they do cardio first with a little bit of weight training in pursuit of a cosmetically pleasing female physique where it should be the opposite.

Which made me smile, because just this morning I was wearing a tank top and crowing to J about new little creases in my front shoulders. I am apparently developing a shoulder cap; good to know it has a name.

But other than my recent foray into a cardio challenge, I don’t do any dedicated cardio. I strive for a yoga class a couple times each week, pilates on Sundays when it makes sense to me. Had I had my fancy smancy fitbit watch on today I could tell whether this hit harder in a cardio sense than usual. It was abandoned on the charger in my haste to get out the door on time this morning. Oh well.

My fitness focus is unique to me, and my way is the right way for me. Or I would not still be working with trainer J or pursuing my exercise with such dogged consistency. The anxiety that was once so focused on the gym itself is now based on the idea of skipping practices or missing training sessions. I know how easy it would be for me to loosen the reins and lighten up, skip a day here and there, reschedule a session just because I “deserve” to sleep later some Monday or Thursday.

If I do not indulge myself in such pointless imaginings it is unlikely to happen to me. My training, my practice will continue to be part of my everyday, every week satisfaction with life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. And good health. This week I have a lot going on at work, yet I have my week structured so I get my practices and training completed as usual, scheduled myself for the usual yoga classes in the evenings.

Prioritizing my better health quest revolved around protecting my exercise time blocks and putting forth an honest effort at healthier eating. Part of me feels very blessed and lucky to be having this much success. But the more honest view – I have worked damn hard for it and have earned my improvements and success.

On this excellent day with a pretty stellar training session and time spent listening to experts discuss various aspects of coaching and fitness, I deserve to feel this good about my efforts.





Training #63 – Oh happy day

Monday morning, training with J. I am back to first appointment of the week, as my earlier morning sister in the tribe is struggling. Hopefully she is able to return to a regular schedule soon.

For today, for now, we got started and had a fun, happy, sweat-dripping day. It was glorious.

A1. DB Power Squats (4 sets, 8-10 reps, 30 lb. DB x2)
B1. DB RDLs (4 sets, 6-10 reps, 35 lb. DB x2) 
C1. DB Walking Lunges (3 sets, 8-12/side, 20 lb. DB x2)
C2. Goblet Lateral Lunges w/Pulse (non-alternating) (3 sets, 6-8/side, 15 lb. KB)
D1. Mini-band Glute Bridge (3 sets, MAX, X-heavy/heavy bands doubled) 
D2. Pushup Position Plank (DBs for handles ok) (3 sets, 20+ seconds each)
E1. Mini-band Clamshells (3 sets, 15-30/side, X-heavy or heavy band)
E2. Band Resist Rotation Press (no rotational ab workout)  (3 sets, 15-30 seconds/side)

It was an exciting day of first for me. And silly, silly me, I have found myself getting emotional and eyes filling just thinking about this and how far I have come in the last year. We did stuff I know, with new weights, and revisited older exercises I had not realized until today that I had actually missed. We also did these in the spirit of Dr. Spencer’s original routine, with no filler exercises in between.

This was only my second, maybe third experience with the power squats, and J went right for the bigger boy dumbbells. Last I recall doing these, we were using 15s. This time, we warmed up with 15s, went directly to 30s. So exciting. And while manageable, I was not prepared for how weak my hands felt afterwards. The grip is going to take some additional work and attention. J assures me my hands and my grip will improve in time. But we all not patience is not one of my virtues. Perhaps my calluses will be more as well. I am so not a girly girl; I am uber proud of the calluses on my palms and fingers.

On the Romanian deadlifts, the bigger, heavier dumbbells were a lot of work. The grip strength was another factor as well. This was my first time with 35 lb. DBs in each hand ever. And it worked out pretty well. Sometimes I hear echos of negative girl in the recesses of my brain when we start new things and I feel especially imperfect at new stuff. This time is was the grip thing and the minimum rep sets. But have I mentioned that I have the uber fabulous trainer? J remarked on my earliest days and how perplexing I found this movement. I would stand there trying to learn how to hinge and keep my shoulders and upper body rigid with this little tiny baby bell. It makes me laugh thinking about it now, but I remember thinking so hard, trying so hard. And still not getting it. Took weeks and weeks and I still wasn’t sure until I stopped obsessing so much and just did it. And now I’m up to 35 lbs. Sometimes it feels like I will be 5 years down the road and lifting different weights and still marveling at how far I have come since those very first days.

The walking lunges, my great nemesis, we bumped up to a pair of 20 lb. DBs. I freaking hate these things, but even I cannot deny they are extremely effective at elevating the heart rate … assuming I had been wearing my heart rate strap and monitor. Dead on arrival this morning, left at home plugged in to charge. The lunges, however, were not terrible or horrible, merely … nemesis. But I have made progress on these. Mostly I don’t weeble wobble, and most of the time I can make my way across the room in good form. Today was not quite as fantastic as I might have liked, and I seriously doubt they were pretty to watch. There was no corrections coming out of J’s mouth, so I must have not looking so gawd awfully bad. These have been such an ongoing struggle for me, every List of the day I make it across the room and back is an excellent day. Now I’m up to the 20 lb. units. Hard to imagine making it this far.

Goblet lateral lunge with pulse … interesting and kind of new. We have done lateral lunges of various stripes with and without weights. This was the first with the purple kettlebell held in goblet position and then once in the lunge position, press the kettlebell straight out (I suppose that’s the pulse of this). Something about me and lunges, they do not come naturally. Forward, backward, sideways – lunge anxiety never seems to end. This too shall pass, eventually. I made it through the walking section after all. J tells me the pulse part is for the abs, and yeah, I feel that. But mostly I am trying to figure out how to make lateral lunges work out better for me.

Late last year, when I was doing basics A and B, glute bridges (with and without mini bands) were a staple. I mean, I did them just about every single day, either in warm-up or as part of my List of the day. It has been a few months since these appeared on a List and while we go through these in pilates, I have to work harder at the pelvic tilt to engage the abs on the lift. With the double bands it is really challenging to press against the bands, tighten the abs, elevate the hips. These and everything plank have me thinking thinking about what my hips could be doing. But doing them again in the gym is different than pilates. Because in the gym the temp is not 105 degrees.

I may be showing improvement in the pushup position planks. I forgot to count today – I’m pretty dependent upon my phone timer – but they felt better. The dumbbells also make it less icky on my wrists. Now I just need to set my timer and get through my 20+ seconds of planking.

Mini-band clamshells will be my new go-to instead of side planks in pilates, only without the mini-band. After yesterday’s disaster with my classmate doing burpees I am realizing that I could do these while everyone else is on their sides side planking. The side planks have been aggravating my shoulder, and I have been doing regular planks

We did not do the band resist rotation press this morning, but J had told me he might revise it and/or move things around. Sometimes he adds things, subtracts things, changes thing. I am familiar with this one and will be able to do it.

So this was the latest and greatest (so far) legs List. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. But I say that every week.

Working steadily at my 30 day cardio challenge, primarily from lunch walks. I’m keeping up and on track. I kind of wish the same was true of my eating plan. It was a terrible weekend for eating. Anymore I do not eat a lot of high carb meals, yet I did so both days of this weekend and felt kind of shitty from it. But if that’s the worst thing I do anymore, it’s not that bad.

I’m making steady progress and so ridiculously excited about it. It truly is the little things in life and in the gym that make me happy. Right my workload is peaking and consuming most of my time, but it should settle down after tomorrow.

But I’ll still be in the gym tomorrow morning doing my List of the day. It’s the best start to my days.

Friday junk drawer post

It has been quite a busy, hectic, crazy week at work. And at home if I stop long enough to contemplate my whole days and whole life. All good things, just all good things happening at once this week.

Workload at my office job. Things are particularly busy right now with new clients and incoming work and other cases suddenly heating up and consuming a lot of time and attention. We have new staff that have had to hit the ground running from day 1, and I think everyone is happy to be immediately billable, even if they did not quite know how to report their time in and expenses in the billing system (that’s today’s training from me). For the most part it’s been working out pretty well – they are green enough to be happy to do the tedious reading and compiling of information and yet experienced enough to be mostly trusted under supervision. They also have bazillions of questions when I’m juggling a lot of tasks myself, and I finally just all the new hires for a how-to-succeed-administratively training course this morning. It actually went pretty well. I went over everything from how to input their time, guidelines for request time off, what to do when they are sick (stay home, call in ASAP to get coverage for anything needing immediate attention, and we will try hard not to bother you with phone calls and texts), payroll and payroll issues, expense reimbursements, when they can expect formal reviews, who to talk to about office supplies, the upcoming move, formal and informal chain of command, and how cubicles and office spaces are assigned. For the most part, it went very well, all their questions were answered, although there is always someone who is dissatisfied with the responses I provided and wanted to either discuss it in more detail, as if it were negotiable. She does have quite a lot to learn.

Office relocation for my office job. Our firm is moving to a larger office space in December. The actual build is starting in 2 weeks, but before that happens there have been reviews, changes, and approvals of plans, etc. I hate moving. I really hate moving in the office sense. While our new space will be a welcome relief of the cramped space we are presently utilizing, the logistics of finding, securing, and now building a new space are endless. Now that the majority of the actual physical space decisions have been made, the logistics of selecting a replacement/updated phone system, office equipment, office furnishings, updating stationery and updating our address in literally hundreds of places. It just seems like a lot of information and requests for quotes all arriving in my physical or email inboxes all at once, following by the phone calls and follow-up emails to ensure I received the information and have any questions.

My own small business – I feel like a rainmaker! Zero complaints about this, but I feel overwhelmed and over my capacity for work on my own little business right now. It is truly a temporary, transitory thing, with a couple of client referrals bringing in very specific and very time-consuming projects. I am adamant about never becoming so … ugly … as to have resentment toward clients for referring friends and business associates. That said, I am one person; I am my whole little firm. And for the most part I like it that way. I am already utilizing subcontractors I trust for a couple of larger jobs that really only require my review of final deliverables. My 2 most recent clients had interesting projects and for the first half of the month until they are wrapped up I have a lot of material to review and reports to prepare. But it’s okay; the projects are likely one and done situations and the follow-on maintenance work is just a few hours per month. I can grin and bear it and be grateful for the work.

New-to-us car for M. It has been a couple of months but M and I have been seeking a new-to-us 4WD/AWD SUV for him. He already drives a Honda CRV, which has proved to be a bit too small and light for where he likes to go, the running and camping type hobbies he likes to pursue. Last weekend we went to look at a 2008 Toyota Highlander, which was probably the most perfect vehicle of all our previous viewings. It was a private party sale, which tends to be complicated. Anyway, we looked it over, ran the VIN through Carfax, looked through his maintenance records … and walked away without committing. Since I buy all the cars in our household (I tend to be calm and reasonable during negotiations), this is our strategy. We knew we wanted this particular vehicle – it was well maintained, in good shape without being so perfect M would be reluctant to take it out for fear of scratching the paint. But it was FILTHY inside and out, and I felt it was overpriced. However, it had been listed for a few weeks and the people were moving soon, and I wanted to do some additional research and test my theory that they would call me back before I had a chance to contact them about it. Took a couple of days and some back-and-forth, but we finally came to terms on a price and picked it up yesterday. It’s still filthy dirty inside, but nothing that some soap, water, and elbow grease will not cure. The negotiating, the discussions with M, the picking it up and now doing the paperwork to get the title changed also gobbled up more of my time than I anticipated this week. And again, no complaints; M got a vehicle he really, really wanted at a price we are both happy about. And M will be the one with the bucket of soapy water supplying all the elbow grease to clean up that bad boy. I would be fine taking it somewhere and having it professionally detailed, but M’s perfectionism would surge forth and he would be nitpicking the results. Better he just do it himself and then tell me about all the work required to get it cleaned up to his satisfaction. Hearing about his cleaning efforts is far preferably to his complaints about a detailer we have hired.

August cardio challenge. I knew this would be a challenge for me and for others, because finding an extra 30 minutes per day is not super easy when in the midst of a very busy month. But I am managing, between lunch hours and ability to expand my time in the gym on Saturday and get a walk in after pilates on Sunday. While not so much for me personally, I am super excited about this for the level of participation and conversation going on in my realm right now. It’s nice to see those who exercise regularly trying to fit more into their schedules and encourage others who are trying or just getting started to get off the couch.

Better health quest and tests, test results. This week was great to be done with breast cancer screenings and investigation for at least another year. The doctors appointments, the conversations, the reassurances that all is will no matter what – it is just another line item on my to-do list. I am extraordinarily grateful that people care and the ways they express it, and why it surprises remains one of life’s enduring mysteries. But it does. I feel very fortunate that it was not cancer or anything worrisome. Hopefully the trend continues forever.

Better health quest in general. Making a note to myself to not do shoulders/abs and chest/triceps Lists back-to-back on consecutive days. Perhaps it means something that upper body felt sort of weak this morning after yesterday’s shoulders and abs go-round? Nothing terrible happened, just felt different and probably should have flip-flopped tomorrow’s legs List with today’s chest and triceps. Living and learning, I suppose. And the mysteries of weight loss continue to perplex me. I eat pretty much the same stuff, day after day after day, and suddenly the scale is on some sort of determined march downward. Possibly, probably it is the additional activity, with the walking with my associates, or maybe it’s just time for body to release a few extra ounces each day.

Balancing their crazy with my desire for mainstream normal in a public space. The nutty guy who has been coming into the gym and the room where I typically work was back again this morning. Anymore he tends to leave me alone, other than a random greeting, but he runs around the room, climbs all over the TRX frame, shadowboxes, and talks loudly to invisible friends. His workouts are distracting and disruptive to my practice, a problem I accept is likely more my issue than his, because the second I notice his presence I lose my focus and not in good ways. However, I do not want it to escalate, because what can really be done? I do not foresee management having a conversation with this guy, because in truth he is not doing anything wrong enough to warrant that type of intervention. J is aware of him, and how much he tends to bother me (because in truth this kind of crazy seems to bother J as well), but again, the guy may be crazy but is seemingly harmless otherwise. I have found myself with a plan B for dealing with him to get my stuff done … and kind of resenting having to have a plan B in the first place. This morning I was early enough to be finishing up my List of the day when he appeared, so I was already fast-tracking to somewhere else in the gym to work at a couple of nemesis stable exercises. Maybe he is on a 2-week trial and will decide against signing up as a paying member. I can hope, anyway.

Being a sounding board for family members and friends. K had a difficult meeting with the aunt who took her in and raised her when her biological parents were incapacitated with drugs and alcohol. She arranged it with her therapist, because K felt meeting privately with her aunt was unhealthy. My admiration for my future daughter-in-law grows as the days pass, as her self-awareness is maturing and she is working on building up and strengthening inherent weaknesses from her childhood and family of origin. Unfortunately the meeting did not go as well as she had hoped, and she was left with the realization that she truly dislikes her aunt as a person, that the negative toxicity is not something she wants to be around, particularly when the aunt seems to have no interest or desire to alter her behaviors. Listening to her, talking about about this situation with her through the last year, I have come to realize that while we are family now, the trust she extends toward me is genuine and personal, not merely a token of respect for my place as G’s mom, that she values my input and thoughts. It’s humbling. I have rarely thought much good would ever come from my own childhood of Very Bad Things. From there we cross over to friend J, who called me about something else and me, horrible friend, ended up laughing out loud at some of his descriptions of the situations and emotions he is working through and coping with right now. Repeating it to M and I was laughing just trying to spit the words out, all the while feeling kind of terrible and horrified with myself for seeming so unsympathetic. But I am sympathetic and did talk him through the range of stuff he wanted to discuss; I just wish he had used more serious-sounding terms to describe the issue. But he still loves me, still trusts my judgment (mostly), and will never let me forget laughing when trying to discuss this existential crisis. (And yes, I am laughing now just thinking about it; not the actual crisis so much as the terms he deliberately chose to frame and describe it.)

I often joke about me and my first world problems. Because I really do not have problems right now; the issues in my life are temporary situations that will resolve themselves in short order and are very small cakes in the big picture. There is always going to be something worth worrying about or obsessing over if I allow it, and suddenly my very small cakes issues are elevated to Very Big Deal problems inside my head. I remember times when it was hard to get out of the tarpits of worrying about financial or relationship or parenting problems facing, trying desperately to find solutions when only time, patience, some level of sacrifice, or simply accepting the problem was not mine to solve was the only long-term cure.

Occasionally it’s good to recognize, and appreciate, being me.

Glitter bombing (in the nicest possible manner)

When I began this post before work this morning, I had some specific things I wanted to talk about. Then I got to the office (a rare Tuesday appearance) and found even more to talk about. How to choose, how to choose. But it’s me. I routinely write long posts and include everything spinning around inside my head. Why stop now? Away we go!

Unicorns and rainbows are the lexicon for the good stuff in life. Maybe nothing mainstream, or even high priority, breaking news. Simple things that are deeply meaningful to me that have happened to or for me or someone close to me. As I remarked to trainer J after yesterday’s recap, open a vein and glitter falls out. It this context, glitter bombing is good, because it is a wonderful thing to feel happy and content.

One of my besties had an awful, unfortunate experience yesterday, and this after a truly horrific entire month of May. Where I have had to live with negative girl, she has anxiety girl. When this unexpected and uncomfortable interaction occurred yesterday, not that long ago it would have resulted in a panic attack. Not really her fault; triggers and behavior patterns are part of each of our lives, some far less desirable than others. However, she’s been doing the hard work to overcome and break this particular pattern, and yesterday, she had her first genuine triumph. Rather than get upset and panic, she stayed calm, recognized the wrongness of the situation, and got justifiably angry instead. Still calm, she handled it firmly and professionally, and then took the necessary steps to file a formal complaint to ensure it does not happen again to someone else. The situation has been resolved to her satisfaction.

I am not sure my vocabulary is expansive enough to express how proud I am of her for handling this without meltdown or guilt after the fact. My hope is this success bolsters her confidence and self-esteem and the feeling of this success stays with her into the future. She reacted appropriately and kicked ass. So very pleased for and proud of her.

The law firm’s fiscal year ends June 30, so it is a busy time for me closing the books and getting stuff ready for the tax accountant, etc. July is also when year-end reviews are conducted, promotions and salary adjustments announced. This also makes it a busy time for me. This firm utilizes a performance review process I personally and particularly hate – the self evaluation. Those were due on July 7, and I procrastinated, wrote, edited, rewrote mine, and finally emailed it in at 5 p.m. the day it was due. I am typically not like this. Typically I am get it done, get it turned in, cross it off my to-do list person. But self-evaluations … ugh. I hate them.

However, knowing this is what they do, I have kept track of good things I have done or accomplished since joining the firm. The list seems modest to me, but singing my own praises is extraordinarily unnatural and foreign for me. I had to keep it objective and not fall all over myself apologizing for pointing out what an amazing addition and how smart they were to snap me up. *shudder*

I had no direct reports this year, having fired my former receptionist recently and just hired another. I did, however, have to provide input on the legal assistant’s reviews as well as write evaluations of my bosses as bosses. Surprisingly not at all awkward for me, because anything I would say in an evaluation I have said to their faces in meetings or put in writing through the months. But the senior associates and I share responsibility of compiling the evaluations for the partners and just present it to them as a package. Needless to say, this whole process consumes a fair amount of time. It all has to be done by the end of the month in order for bonuses earned to be paid and salary adjustments to be updated in the payroll system in August.

My review was this morning, and it went better than I expected. Of course, I have a lot of trepidation going into these things, even though it has been decades since I received anything close to a detrimental or negative review from any employer or boss. Negative girl still has real estate in some domains, I suppose. Partners had very nice to absolutely glowing things to say, gave me a surprising bonus (because I just got one), and rather than a salary adjustment, agreed to absorb the cost of changing my health insurance plan for M and I. While I am not so altruistic that I work for free, cost of health insurance continues to increase and psychologically I would rather not have to contribute to that premium. So that was wonderful. I do work very hard here, and my employers cannot be faulted for their generosity toward their employees. Unless you are extremely greedy and stupid employee, which I am not. Anymore I never cry at work, but they were so kind in their review I did get emotional and a little teary. Much better than the alternative of not being able to control the waterworks because I am so angry.

In yesterday’s recap I spoke of my allowing external measurements to control my feelings about my better health quest. The scale, the statistics on my judgmental heart rate monitor, the food tracking, even the amount of weight I am moving about to and fro in the gym – all those numbers tend to stack up and become distressing if I allow it. After a couple of weeks of battling the scale and preparing to chuck it into the trash from simple distaste for what it says to me repeatedly, I hopped on this morning with a better frame of mind and it said nice things – down 2 lbs. No idea where they went, those 2 lbs., but okay, looks and sounds wonderful today. And if they mysteriously reappear at some point in the future, I will not die from it or probably even be horrifically disappointed. The equation of food and weight and utilization through exercise and the day-to-day business of living remains this big giant mystery. Far better to take it on faith that I’m doing what I should be doing and release any worry over the final outcomes. And stay off the scale as much as possible.

I have been experimenting with adding vegetables to afternoon protein shakes, only I pulverize them in the Vitamix at home and then put them into a shaker bottle to consume at work later. J had mentioned frozen broccoli, which I tried over the weekend in lieu of spinach, and it was surprisingly okay. No real flavor, the broccoli is just bulkier than the spinach. I also tested frozen green beans, because I do not care for the way they taste when prepared and served per package directions, and again, it was okay. Not an “oh goodie! Raw vegetable-infused protein drink!” type experience, but not terrible either. When you’re mixing with fruit as well the vegetable flavor is neatly hidden beneath the berries.

Not yet ready to follow trainer J down the vegan path, but I am definitely eating more vegetables these days and I suspect that may be part of what is finally nudging the scale along again. I am perfectly fine dropping weight in quarter pound increments as long as I remain healthy, but I really wish body would broadcast its intentions so I learn to manage my expectations. I have done well with no goals, so perhaps it is time to adopt a no expectations mindset to match. From there I can be truly amazed at how much progress I successfully achieve.

Today I ventured forth on my first legs workout for the body part splits. And it went surprisingly well. I am not sure why I say it that way, except this is a new style of training for me and I have been somewhat hesitant about venturing forth and trying it out on my own. Plus those seemingly endless walking lunges – they are exhausting all on their own. But I had been chatting with friend J last night about other matters and it came up, and he strongly encouraged me to give it a try on my own. Per his reasoning, if I got skittish and felt like it was not working, I could easily switch back to familiar territory of another List. After all, it’s been months since I have a genuine, freaked-out meltdown about gym stuff, so maybe I was due. Ha. Ha.

Sorting through my Lists this morning, J skipped over to check in with what I was working on. Tuesday is leg day anymore, and while I felt a little hesitant about this Dr. Spencer version of legs, I really wanted to overcome whatever was wigging me and not be such a baby about it. I have not felt like this in months, and I have no idea where this sudden gym crazy came from all of a sudden.

I figured out that on the squat machine, the number 13 plate is actually 160 lbs. That was a surprise to me, because I did not have any particular problem with that weight. Same with the leg presses at 250 lbs. Neither of these machines will qualify as the easiest things I will do today, but it was not this big giant struggle and wondering if I am crazy to try and repeat this on my own. It went fine. Once I got started, everything was fine. The anterior dives, the 3 point touches, even the bench planks with the glute kickback worked out well, although my legs, hips, and ass muscles are all talking at once right now. The swearing in my head did not start until the walking lunges, and they seemed endless because I was using the short route that requires 4 sets of out and back to make minimum reps.

And I feel ridiculously proud of myself for *mostly* getting through this entire list on my own without varying from weights I had used in training with J. By the time I got to the hamstring curl machines I just could not face figuring out the adjustments for some relatively new machine, so I pulled out the mat and the stability ball and did hamstring curls that way. Since they were not on the List of the day and I was substituting, I did a lot of them, like 30 per set for 3 sets. Between sets I dragged body off the mat, where it wanted to just stay sprawled out and recovering energy, and did crunches on the instability ball. Going rogue, off the List, but oh well. I am such a rebel.

But the very BEST part of the whole day? Working on the nemesis stable and planking on the dumbbells and actually getting each one elevated off the floor for a hot nanosecond.

Let me back up to put this into context. A few weeks ago we were working on the body part splits in the normal fashion, and J showed me how to plank on this pair of 5 lb. dumbbells. Changed my life and the way I look at planks, because suddenly it was not so awful on my hands and wrists. But J wanted me to try lifting said dumbbells off the floor, and it was so not happening. And it IS damn hard, so I was not desperately crushed about my current inability. I am barely strong enough to support myself on a single hand and lower myself down to elbows on the mat from this position, much less lift a 5 lb. dumbbell in any sort of controlled fashion while planking.

But I have been working at it. Mind is ordering body to do this, and body is laughing hysterically in response. So it is as much an exercise in patience as anything else. In prior attempts I have gotten the dumbbell to scooch forward half an inch, but until today that was about as close as I came to actually successfully lifting it. Until today. Today I actually got it up off the ground that half inch (I am guessing; no ruler available in the moment to be sure) before immediately plopping it back down. Both sides. Once. And it was glorious. As I said, not pretty, completely without control, but at least I am making some tiny half-inch progress toward someday.

Hey, it’s the little things that make me ridiculously happy. I thought I was pretty happy about successfully leg pressing 250 lbs. for 12 reps per set for 4 sets, but then that half inch thing happened and the leg press was so 8 hours ago.

Perplexing to me why I was suddenly nervous about doing this List today, but whatever cropped up inside my head, it subsided completely once I got started on the work. It is as if I stepped off the curb and into an alternate reality where I methodically follow my List map through the range of things I do, most of which I know pretty well. I think the way it is written and done, I have some fear of giving up too soon with such a big portion of the same exercise all at once. Until now everything has been broken up into more bite-sized pieces, and suddenly I am doing something really hard, then something that seems not so bad, then back to the challenging part, and back and forth until its all done. Without J standing there to keep me on track, I have the occasional niggling fear that I am about to revert to former patterns and habits of abandoning experiences. But I did not. I am adapting and becoming someone with new persistence and better habits. Progress.

I am truly, madly, deeply in love with that alternate exercise reality. It is a mostly happy place, and I only say “mostly” because even I have my moments where I do not want to work that hard even though I know it is very good for both the body and the soul.

There are things in my life I am enormously proud of – my children, my relationship with M, my ability to earn a living and be the sole financial support for us at this time in our lives, the friendS I have retained through the years, the overall person I am despite the hardships and handicaps I started out with in life. But now I am pleased and not-so-secretly proud of my persistence in this realm where I have never, ever in my life felt successful before – exercise. I am still not graceful, and the buffies in the club have little nothing at all to fear from me, but I am going every day and I am trying working hard at improving. On its own merits that is intensely satisfying in ways previously not imagined. Taken in the context of the myriad of big and small ways its has transformed my whole world, it is truly priceless. M still talks about running this way, and finally, I get it. Certainly better now than never.

Talking to friend J on the phone last night, he was grilling me we were talking about exercise and all the other stuff going on in our lives, and I shared with him trainer J’s comment about the positivity (“This is the longest crescendo of positivity I’ve ever witnessed ….”) in my recent posts. Friend J referred to it (my relentless escalation of positive commentary in recent months) somewhat derisively as “glitter bombing” and now I have delightedly adopted that as my new happy-happy-joy-joy expression. Totally love it. Really, it truly is the little things in my life that make me so ridiculously and relentlessly happy.

And somewhere in upstate New York, friend J is reading this post and face palming for supplying me with yet another phrase he already hates.

Happy Tuesday everyone!