Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

A Weird New Goal of Zero Bottles in the Shower   Leave a comment

Not very long ago I was looking at my bottles on the shelf in the shower and realized that I don’t actually think I need any of them. For a long time I’ve been on a slow progression of simplifying my personal care routines (not that I was ever the stereotypical 20-bottles in the shower/over an hour to get ready in the morning woman), and it seems like I’ve reached a point where most of the rest of my products just seem pointless.

When I say slow progression, I do mean that. This story starts over a decade and a half ago, when I stopped shampooing my hair every day and switched to every other day. Over the years that became more like a couple times a week, then once a week. Then a few years ago I decided to try going shampoo free, using the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method. I had to switch back to washing my hair every time I showered (which was so hard as I had gotten so lazy about washing my hair!). Then gradually I was able to BS/ACV my hair only a couple times a week, and then weekly, while just rinsing with water in between. I’ve now reached a point where I don’t actually remember when I last used the BS/ACV, so I’m guessing I use it a couple times a year or so. When I last cleaned the shelf in the shower I realized that there’s really no reason for me to be keeping bottles of the baking soda and apple cider vinegar solutions in the shower, as I can easily mix up “single serve” batches when I feel like using them. Plus then I can customize the essential oil blends mixed in if I feel I need anything. I’ve also got a bottle of conditioner from back in my shampooing days, which I only use after getting a hair cut to make it up to my hair and restore a coating on the follicles. It’s going to take me another decade to finish that bottle, but there’s no reason it can’t join the extra bottle of shampoo for guests in the hall bathroom. So hair care: 0 bottles, 1 natural bristle brush.

The next simplification was a couple years ago when Conan was born. In the days/weeks after his birth I could find the time to splash my face with cold water every day, but not to use the cream cleanser that I’ve been using for years. After a while I realized that not using a cleanser and/or warm water on my face was not causing any breakouts. So why keep buying/using a cleanser? Then I started wondering if I really needed a moisturizer, and found that even my dry skin doesn’t generally demand a moisturizer if I’m only rinsing with cold water. At that point I started wondering about using oil, not a commercial moisturizer. Shockingly, when I switched to using grape seed oil on my face after showers (i.e. rinsing my face with warm water), I didn’t start breaking out. So facial care: 1 small jar of grape seed oil (the bottle lives in the kitchen for cooking), 1 facial brush.

The only thing left in the shower is the shave gel. I wax my legs, so it’s just for my underarms. Now I want to find out if we really do need special shave products as opposed to soap to shave. I suspect that it may be true for those who shave daily, and for legs, but for underarms that get shaved 2-3 times a week I suspect soap will be fine long term. If true that would mean shaving: 0 bottles, 1 razor.

Don’t worry, I’m keeping the soap.

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Posted February 21, 2015 by mayakey in frugal living, goals, personal care, simple living, unshopping

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So How Did Pregnancy Prep Stack Up to First Trimester?   Leave a comment

(Side benefit to getting my energy back – I have time to blog again!) For the last few years I’ve been preparing for pregnancy, preparing to be a good host. My goals included diet improvement, strength training, meditation, and posture improvement. Well, now that it has happened, how did I do for the start of the “race”? Better than I think and feel I did, but unfortunately what I think and feel matters regardless of whether it’s true or not. Psychologically I felt lost. Like I was alone in the middle of a lake, just floating in my in my life preserver, to tired to swim or cry or do anything but hope a current pushed me to safety. To be completely honest I’m just incredibly grateful to the universe that my blah never turned into depression, although there were days when I was very afraid. Thankfully pregnancy brings hope and excitement along with blah.

Over the last couple years improving my diet has been a huge focus. My sugar intake was already below the 5 tsp (20 grams) recommended intake, except for special occasions like birthday celebrations. How did I do in my first trimester? Just fine, thank you. I think my sugar craving has actually decreased and my chocolate cravings are fluctuating between non-existing to mild. There were a handful of splurges in the first couple of weeks as I was just desperate to get food in me and stop the hunger and nausea; and I did give in and buy the requisite saltines as emergency gut fill. Another goal was to avoid regular junk food. How’s that going? Completely derailed. Even with a nice sour cherry-pecan trail mix at my desk, a free bag of salty potato chips wins when hungry (even well knowing that the chips won’t make a dent in my stomach). This is totally a willpower check, and I’ve absolutely failed over and over again. As I feel better, though, I’m failing less often/badly.

The last big diet-related goal was the most important to me, and that was increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables. I really did get into the habit of making sure that I was eating at least one serving with every meal, and even snacks had a component. Unfortunately in my first day of nausea I made the mistake of forcing myself to eat my leftovers for lunch, and was almost unable to think about eating a non-avocado vegetable for a couple weeks. I can honestly say I felt crushed, and found it downright depressing to be consuming almost 100% carbs, fat, and protein. Isn’t that stuff supposed to be comfort food? It just left me feeling more blah then exhaustion already made me feel. It’s been a rough haul, but I’m back to vegetables (although bitter greens may have been an extremely unfortunate casualty of war). I’m not even trying to hit every meal yet, since the number of daily meals has just about doubled, but it feels good. The temporary catastrophic failure of this habit is probably the biggest contributor in my overall psychological struggles.

The attempt at restarting a regular strength training routine had already failed before I got pregnant. So being so tired that I didn’t run or do strength training for a couple months is kinda moot. Except for the fact that I love running, and when feeling blah not being able to run just contributes to more blah.

The next major thing that I did as part of my preparation was to commit to daily meditation. It was awesome, felt great, and may have been one of the best decisions that I ever made in my life. With the exception of one evening per week at my prayer group, I haven’t meditated since April. Blame the exhaustion, every evening I go from up to crash in about 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s at 9, sometimes it’s at 11, but when I start thinking about brushing my teeth and meditating my body decides it’s time to sleep NOW, and not in ten more minutes. For my own psychological state I’d really like to get my act together again. Daily meditation just felt so incredibly awesome! Luckily the calming, centering, and grounding effects have lingered so far.

My efforts at improving posture is one of the current goals, specifically focusing on lower body posture. I can proudly say that I managed to not cross my legs even as my mood dropped. Feels especially good since at my last massage my therapist found that my pelvis is significantly more level than it was a few months ago. This goal is still on track (keeping a better stance – feet shoulder width apart), and growing (keeping my back and neck straight).

Posted June 27, 2012 by mayakey in centering, goals, health, pregnancy, psychology

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Computer Gaming Problem   Leave a comment

One of my goals set back in August was to cut my TV watching down to 2 hours during the week and 2 hours on weekends. That was the explicit goal. The implicit goal was to read more, and get to sleep on time easier. Well, I made the explicit goal easily; but missed the implicit goal by a long shot. How’s that? Well I gave in to a computer game itch. I have a somewhat addictive roleplaying game on my computer that I’ve been playing for the last 10 years. I found version 2 way back when and pretty much spent ALL my free time playing it. At the time I had an absolutely horrible job and was depressed, so the escapism it offered was a relief. Even playing it for hours every day, it still takes several weeks (months?) to finish a game. Version 3 came out and I played that for a while, but then I met Mike and life got busy. Eventually I found out that version 4 had come out, read the description and caved in to get it (these are cheap shareware games). I played it a couple of times and then set up a couple challenging scenarios that out-challenged/bored me so I stopped playing for a while (we also started househunting, which might have factored into the stoppage). The files were all still on my computer, but I was effectively ignoring them. Then this past summer I found out they are now on version 6. The itch started, and eventually I gave in a revisited those two challenging scenarios that I had given up on. One of them turned out to be pretty easy, but still has sucked up all my free time and not-so-free time since October. I only just finished the game.

Now I am faced with a dilemma. I cannot let myself get sucked into this game again after we start a family. It is not possible to play for 10 or 15 minutes, I’ve tried many a time, the minimum sitting is more like 30 minutes. And I know myself and my history: I get sucked in and neglect other things in my life. The obvious solution is to delete all the files from my computer, right? But what if I get the itch to play a game like this again? Can I trust myself to be strong enough for a couple decades to not give in? Or would it be better to leave the game on my computer with all my hints, guides, and notes so that I don’t risk starting something new from scratch? I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days and I’m going back and forth. I could honestly use third-party perspective on this.

But while I decide what to do about the time-suck that took my free time after cutting back on TV, I will enjoy playing with my reward for cutting back on TV anyway: a small electric chipper/shredder. After all, I did meet the explicit goal, and implicit goals only count if the explicit goal failed.

Posted January 31, 2012 by mayakey in goals, musings, self-care

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Practicing Meditation vs. The Practice of Meditation   Leave a comment

For the last several months I have been working towards a goal of daily meditation. Even knowing that as my focus moves on to other things this practice will almost certainly slip a bit (especially Fridays and Saturdays), I am proud to be able to say that I meditate every day. Unfortunately, I say that with some sense that I’m not being honest because while I may be practicing meditation I have to confess that I haven’t committed to the practice of meditation.

This is definitely an example of the importance of commitment. For as much as I value meditation for its calming properties for mind, body, and spirit, I’ve never been able to sustain daily meditation long term. I think the biggest problem was that I never truly tried. When I would set myself a goal to meditate, it was “nearly daily” as I assumed that I wouldn’t manage it on Friday and Saturday, that it would feel silly on Sunday after being in Mass for an hour, and that I would have a good “reason” for not meditating occasionally. Doomed to failure with that built-in lack of commitment. And it always failed; I never even made it to the 6 month mark and my goal reward. This time around I made a commitment for every day. Sometimes it’s a timed seated meditation, sometimes a decade or two of the rosary, and sometimes I just lay for a few minutes in the corpse pose or legs-up-the-wall corpse pose and focus on my breathing, but the point is I did it.

Daily meditation feels so good, too! Usually I build my goals as a “two steps forward, one step back” progression, knowing myself well enough to know that once my focus eases even good habits that I enjoy slack off a bit. So I’m aware that I’ll probably start missing days, but in this case I think it’ll be less dramatic than usual because I am really feeling the benefits of this practice and I really want to continue it. I am definitely more calm, have a much much easier time centering during the day, and have improved body awareness.

But for all these benefits, honestly I’m only going through the motions; imagine how awesome it will be if I can get myself to commit to the practice. What I mean by these ticky-tack words is that while I’m sitting quietly, I have been utterly unsuccessful at getting my mind to wander less. There was a time in my life when that was easy, then I became an adult with responsibilities that are always on my mind. Now the timer may be set for 10 minutes, but I’m probably lucky to get 30 seconds of actual inner peace. My commitment was getting me to the game, but it isn’t helping me play. So I think the next commitment needs to be to actually practice daily meditation and not just go through the motions.

Posted August 22, 2011 by mayakey in centering, goals, spiritual practices

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Pre-pregnancy Challenge to Increase Nutrient Density   2 comments

One my current goals is to increase the nutrient density of my diet in anticipation of gaining a parasite (aka getting pregnant), and I’ve been focusing on doing that by increasing my consumption of fruits and vegetables. A while back I switched from crackers for mid-day snacks to fruit and vegetable snacks, but I felt I was ready to take this a step further. So since March I have worked on making sure that I eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack. Well, sometimes it’s just a token with snack, but it’s all relative since a snack can be less than a serving size worth anyway. For this past month I’ve been keeping track of the total number of servings each day and comparing that to the old standard of 5 servings of vegetables, and 3 servings of fruit each day. At first it really depressed me that after all my effort I was barely making it most days, handily passing it some days, and occasionally missing the target. And that’s even if I count french fries and vegetable hot dog toppings as vegetables!

I confess to being a bit schizophrenic when I describe my diet. I don’t really consider my diet to be very healthy, but at the same time I recognize that by most standards it’s pretty good (decent amount of fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and whole grain products, frequent legumes, light on meat and dairy, well under 5 tsp/day of sugar). When I realized that even with the attention that I’ve been paying to increasing my fruit and vegetable consumption I’m still barely meeting the recommended target, I started looking at other categories, namely grains. If I remember the old pyramid correctly the recommendation was something like 9 to 11 servings of grains per day. By my accounting, on the days that I missed the fruit/vegetable targets I was also not eating that many grain products. At that point I figured that I need to start looking at this as more of a percentage/proportion thing, instead of a target number of servings. That lead me to the USDA website to check out the new “My Plate” thingy that’s replacing the complicated “My Pyramid” thingy that replaced the simple and clear food pyramid of yore (which replaced the really outdated quartered circle). I’m not impressed. For one thing, I suspect that there’s some politics being played. The personalized recommendation that I received included 3 cups (!) of dairy per day to maintain my weight, and 2.5 cups per day to lose weight. There’s no way I could possibly consume that much dairy in one day. The website recommends 3 cups/day of vegetables and 2 cups/day of fruit for me. Note that it takes two cups of lettuce to make one cup of vegetables, and a half a cup of cheese to make 1 cup of dairy. I’m not sure that “cup” defined in such a complicated way that it requires a chart is more helpful than “serving”. As far as using the plate graphic for reference goes, half of the diet is fruit/vegetable. I suppose on average over a week that’s almost true since some days are well over 75% and others more like 33%.

Oh, I should mention that the direct and labor-intensive method of actually keeping track of some key nutrients is not really an option. It’s labor intensive, ripe for frustration trying to analyze within the seasonal variations (since we get all of our produce from the farmer’s market we eat a seasonal diet: no tomatoes in winter, no asparagus in summer, etc.), and misses the point of whole foods that contain more than just the basic vitamins but also contain other phytonutrients.

What was my conclusion after all this? I’m figuratively throwing my hands in the air and declaring that it is not worthwhile to try use any metric to judge whether I’ve improved the nutrient density of my diet. Instead I’m relying on the more subjective (and unfortunately also subject to denial) sense that I have done so. And that sense that I don’t know how I could possibly increase the nutrient density of my regular diet anyway, except to never eat cereal for breakfast and bake bread weekly so that I don’t ever snack on the delicious white flour Pugliese bread that we get from Raleys.

Posted June 22, 2011 by mayakey in food, goals, health, pre-pregnancy

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Sleep Takes Precendence   1 comment

Do you have a bad habit that is persistent despite repeated attempts to change? Mine is getting to bed late. For pretty much two decades now I have not been able to go to bed before midnight, no matter how tired I am. I’ve tried several times to do something as simple as go to bed when I become tired, and I always fall back into resisting going to bed. The extra baffling thing is that I love lounging in bed, so why I can’t make myself do something that my body and mind both enjoy is a mystery. When trying to live a conscious life, aware of the self and its needs, not being able to follow up on such a fundamental need and desire is a big failing. And in anticipation of being pregnant, when I will NEED more sleep, and being a parent, when I will have even more to do, I think I’ve reached my breaking point.

For the last month I have set a strict bedtime of 11pm, with a punitive punishment that I don’t get to do the puzzles in the paper the next day if I don’t make bedtime. So far it is working, probably helped by the fact that I am afraid of what will happen if I don’t get over this failing. I do not want to fall into the trap of trying to be superwoman; and staying up late to “get things done” is one big step on that road. The crazy thing is that I’m actually more stressed now that I’m getting to bed earlier because all of a sudden my evening got an hour shorter. This blog suffers the most because it is at the bottom of the priority list.

Where else to trim so that evenings/nights are both not stressful and providing sufficient sleep? That’s the next hurdle to figure out to make this a long term change. And I’m stumped. I have a 10-item weekday to do list that is a good reminder that there’s no room for anything else on my plate during the week:

  1. Work
  2. Zero-sum (basically: pick up after myself)
  3. Downtime (cuddling with my husband, mostly)
  4. Dinner (cooking, which is split with my husband, and eating)
  5. Exercise
  6. Shower
  7. Meditation
  8. Fun (newspaper, comics, TV, puzzles)
  9. Bills etc.
  10. Prayer group/choir practice/blogging (depending on the night)

I’m not willing to stop exercising, I don’t think skipping dinner would be healthy, my husband and co-workers might not appreciate me not showering, bills aren’t optional, and neither is a little me- and fun-time. The prayer group and choir are both things that I really longed for before they were an option, and I really enjoy them now. I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone else in the world gets all this stuff done.

Posted April 5, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, goals, self-care

What Exactly Is Junk Food?   4 comments

While developing goals for the next six months in the shadow of my junk food weekend, I contemplated making one of the goals to completely eliminate junk food from my regular life. That made me wonder, though, “what is junk food, specifically?”

The dictionary defines “junk food” as food that is high in calories and low in nutritional value, which is a really vague definition. Wikipedia and a variety of blogs define junk food as chips, candy, gum, “most sweet desserts”, fried fast food, and sodas. But it seems to me that there is some gray in even the more specific description. So at what point does something qualify as “junk food?” Please add your two cents in the comments. I’m guessing the definition is slightly different person-to-person.

The first things that come to my mind when I think “junk food” are chips and candy. Undoubtably all chips are junk, even the ones made from bananas, apples, or beets, because they are slivered, fried, and salted. The salt and oil content outweighs any nutritional value inherent in the chip-ed vegetable/fruit. Things get a little more fuzzy to me with candy. Most broadly marketed candy is pretty much flavored sugar, and would indisputably be considered junk. But I always here people lament that they can’t give up their chocolate, and I’m not sure where that really falls. In my opinion Hersey’s is junk, but what about a small square of a 70% or 82% cocoa fair trade chocolate bar that contains approximately one teaspoon of sugar in the entire bar? To me the square isn’t junk because it is low in sugar and not high fat, but am I justifying a quasi-daily chocolate habit? If one square is ok, is half a bar ok or does that cross the line? And then there’s the issue of substitute candy: dried fruit. Hand me a bag of dried tart cherries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries, and I’m as happy as any kid in a candy shop. But those dried fruits are LOADED with sugar, and should probably be categorized as junk food when eaten alone, despite the fact that they are fruit and therefor contain at least some nutrients. I did buy dried tart cherries for my junk food weekend because they ARE my candy. Where does ice cream fit in, too? It is after all frozen sugared fat. Even sorbet and sherbet, marketed as healthy because they are low fat, contain lots of sugar.

The next thing that comes to my mind are cookies. And again I may be making excuses for myself. Oreos: junk, circus animals: junk, Fig Newtons: ?, graham crackers: ok?, home-baked Toll House cookies: junk? home-baked oatmeal cookies loaded with nuts and dried fruit: ok? Every Christmas when my mom makes that last item in the list, the cookie recipe she tweeked for me when I was in college, I refer to them as “breakfast cookies” and feel absolutely no guilt eating them any time of day. I gave them an extra boost when I made them this year with 100% whole wheat flour instead of white flour. But while those cookies are relatively low in sugar and relatively high in health ingredients, they are still based on wheat flour. White wheat flour might as well be considered sugar since it converts to sugar really quickly during digestion. So if cookies that are high in sugar and white flour are junk, what about scones and cakes, or crackers that are high in salt and white flour? I would say so, especially after the experience of overcoming my personal cracker addiction and switching to vegetable snacks a couple of years ago. Crackers just have no real nutritional value by themselves (other than the fortified flour). But what about bread? Is there a difference between crackers and bread? While I would consider Wonder Bread to be junk, a good loaf of pugliese is one of my weaknesses, and I’m loathe to call it junk.

So my personal summary list of junk food is chips and other fried snack foods, candy (except for low-sweetening dark chocolate), cookies (with a few exceptions), store-bought white flour scones, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit that has added sugar (so excludes raisins, apricots, and peaches), sodas, french fries not part of a meal, ice cream beyond one small scoop, and any other packaged food that contains ingredients that I can’t picture in my mind. That’s a challenge.

Posted February 24, 2011 by mayakey in food, goals

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