beka stays committed : to controlling the (blog) mayhem

I did something beneficial for my mental health yesterday.

(Some of you are probably thinking it has to be something born out of this post, but it actually isn’t. Although tonight I’m still wearing my pants, so we’re clearly making progress.)

My love for blogs – both writing and reading them – is well-documented. As is my devotion to Google Reader. But recently things have gotten out of hand. I was, perhaps, too devoted considering the amount of time I had available to devote. I was subscribed to about 120 blogs. My consequent daily reading list was usually over 100 items long. Which meant that whenever I didn’t have hours of free time to click through pages upon pages of blogs (which, let’s face it, is always) they snowballed into an overwhelming heap of reading material. And with each passing day the snowball grew larger and larger until I felt like it was going to roll out of my computer, into my living room, and squash me whole.

Now, I love blogs. I love keeping up with them through Google Reader. But I don’t love getting stressed out by something I love. That’s just a killjoy.

So I did something about it! First things first: I whittled the subscription list down to less than 100 blogs. (And yes, that means 99.) Then, I organized my main list into folders so I can quickly browse through whichever topic is important on a given day – food, photography, motivational, etc. But the best thing I did, the thing that will dramatically change my angst over hundreds of unread items, was make a Top 25 folder.

The Top 25 folder holds the 25 blogs I routinely check first anyway. Now they’re already grouped together. This means that instead of feeling like I’ll never get to the bottom of the pile when I open Google Reader at the end of a long day and see 347 unread items I can just go to my Top 25 folder and read through the  20-30 posts there before calling it a day. The other posts are still important to me, but they can wait until later.

Want to see the list? I’m sure that it will change over time, but here’s the December 2011 edition of the Top 25:

a cozy kitchen

big mama

bower power

can you stay for dinner?

carpool queen

composing nows

cookies and cups

eat live run

how sweet it is

jasmine star

jon acuff

joy the baker

making things happen

nancy ray photography

nat the fat rat

packers

peter king

the pioneer woman

quiet life

seth godin

shannon nicole smith photography

snoodlings

southern weddings

tim teblog

young house love

It’s a good mix, I think. There are plenty of food blogs, a few sports blogs, some about health and fitness, a bunch of fun ones, a handful of photography blogs, and a couple of pretty ones thrown in for good measure. It’s basically all of my favorite things in one tiny folder. My little blog-lovin’ heart couldn’t be happier.

People, I’m SO pumped about this development! Give it a whirl over the holidays. Your unread items mountain will thank you for it!

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beka stays committed : to finding out what else is possible

When I was going into 9th grade I transitioned from homeschooling to public school. My parents thought it would be a good idea if I joined a team sport to make friends. In theory, this was a great idea. Sports build confidence…or so I’m told. If you’ve ever met me you know that I should be kept as far away from athletic endeavors as humanly possible. I rarely walk two feet without tripping over my own two feet. My hand eye coordination is less than non-existent. I am a lethal combination of uncoordination and chronic self-doubt. So putting me on a field or court of any kind is a fairly ill-advised endeavor from the get-go.

But my parents encouraged me to join a team anyways. And since you basically have to come out of the womb playing soccer and running with sticks clearly eliminated field hockey and lacrosse my fall sport of choice was volleyball. Now, you’d think that the most intimidating part of this ordeal would be the whole connecting-arm-movement-with-ball thing, or perhaps the fact that I would be meeting my new group of peers while flailing my limbs aimlessly in the middle of a gymnasium. But the part that freaked me out the most was the dreaded timed mile. I had never run a mile in my life. Ever. So the prospect of running ONE WHOLE MILE in ten minutes or less was far more troublesome to me than the inevitable lack of grace that would accompany my actually playing volleyball. My dad and I drove around our neighborhood measuring a mile loop by speedometer. I winced just thinking about covering the same distance on foot. But after a few weeks of practice I was able to run the whole way, coming in just around the 10 minute mark. I even beat some people when it came time to run it for tryouts!

My volleyball career was extremely short-lived (a gift I’m sure the coaches are still grateful for). I figured that my running career was also over…until I found out that in public school, students are required to run “the mile” twice per year in gym class as part of physical fitness testing. And oh, were those four laps on the outdoor track ever torture or WHAT. I remember during my senior year in high school vowing to never run another mile in my life after completing the 8th and final miracle mile.

Then I graduated from college and ran a half-marathon.

Oh, life. You’re so funny.

But the really funny thing is that I’ve held onto that 10 minute mile identity ever since the first mile around my neighborhood during the summer before 9th grade. I learned to associate one mile with 10 minutes. It became so engrained that I never thought to push past the 10 minute mark. All through high school my mile time hovered a few seconds above or below 10 minutes because that was my benchmark. As long as I reached it I was happy with the result. My half marathon time was set to a 10 minute mile pace and I crossed the finish line just prior to clocking exactly 130 minutes of pavement pounding – or approximately 10 minute miles the whole way.

(Creature of habit: Party of one.)

After the half marathon I was bored with running long distances so I started to do some interval training to spice things up. And even though I’d run the sprint sections at an 8 or 9 minute mile pace I’d never do more than a quarter mile at a time. Because in my mind, I run 10 minute miles. That’s my mile time.

Last Wednesday at the gym I walked into the cardio room to find that all of Rochester had come to work out as well. I had my hopes set on the Arc Trainer but found only one lonely treadmill available for use. I was suddenly very annoyed. I reluctantly started running quarter mile intervals. After getting a grip I ran the first mile, came up with a plan for two more miles, and ended up running three strong miles of intervals, several at an 8 minute pace. I was content with my workout. I was watching Paula Deen make Coffee Chocolate Cherry Sundaes as I walked to cool down. I was anticipating the pork tenderloin with cranberry sauce just waiting for me to come join it for dinner. And then I thought a thought that couldn’t be unthought.

“I wonder if I could run an 8 minute mile?”

And then I thought, “CRAP.” Because I knew as soon as I thought it, there would be no going back. It would feel like failure and I’m crazy like that. So once I caught back up to an even number on the mileage counter I started off…and immediately started second guessing what a great idea this was. Literally, my head was filled to the brim with internal reprimands. “Seriously…this is stupid. You are never going to make it for a full mile at this pace. You should probably stop now before you throw up on that guy next to you.”

I was on the fence until I hit the half mile mark, and then I was all in. (Which, unfortunately, speaks to the heart of the way I usually commit: I wait until I can see success to really dive in. One of the many reasons why I started this blog was to combat that regrettable characteristic.) I focused on Sports Center. I saw a Packers story coming up in the timeline and honed in on that. I watched it drop closer and closer…but before it aired I was done.

I ran an 8 minute mile.

And I didn’t even toss my cookies on the guy next to me!

The great part: I won a victory 10 years in the making. The sad part: I SO could have won the same victory 10 years ago…because it wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be. The hardest part was getting over my self-imposed limitations. The actual running wasn’t bad at all, it was getting past that first half and all of the doubts I held onto so tightly that was the majority of the battle. It was all in my head. Which begs the question: what else do I just think I can’t do? What else am I preventing from happening solely because I don’t believe it can happen?

Now I’m sure all of you athletic people can probably run 8 minute miles in your sleep. (You can probably connect your forearms with an oncoming object without breaking into hives, too. I wish I had your genes.) I realize that my one little mile is not going to make the front page news anytime soon, but it’s an accomplishment that I’ll keep in the forefront of my thoughts for awhile. Because I may be a hott mess when it comes to all things coordinated, I may fall on my face repeatedly for no apparent reason, I might run 10 minute miles for 10 years just because I have preconceived notions about what I can and cannot do. But on Wednesday I learned that in spite of all of those things, when I commit, when I actually believe that something more is possible, it turns out it is.

Who knew?

Here’s to finding out what else is possible.

beka stays committed : for 21 days

Now that it’s officially November 1st I have several things on my mind. First is probably this:

followed VERY closely by this:

followed with reluctant thoughts about this:

(How is 2011 almost over already?!)

I realize that I’m not in the minority here, but I absolutely LOVE this time of year. It makes me more excited than I can say. And along with all of the goodness comes lots of food, extra things to do and places to go and people to see, and some reevaluating/goal making for the year to come. Since I’m nothing if not a professional eater/doer, goer, seeer/goal maker, all of those things make for a pleasantly replete two months up ahead.

However, let’s rewind two months. Or six.

Since May, my life has already been pleasantly replete. At times, unpleasantly replete. I think there’s a chance you may have gotten that vibe since I’ve been verbally waving the white flag for some time now, so we won’t rehash the particulars of the repleteness. Suffice it to say that any semblance of normalcy flew out of door when summer came to call.

Along with occupational normalcy went most of the normalcy attached to well-being: sleeping, eating, and exercising. You know things are bad when you’ve gone from running a half marathon to calling a 10 minute run around the block a workout. And when you have pie for lunch and ice cream for dinner. And when you set your alarm and it shows you how many hours of sleep you’ll get and you rush to jump in bed so the number is greater than five.

Even though I’ve been able to keep a more sane schedule lately and have posted daily updates on staying committed to wellness like it’s my job, I could still use some buckling down. And now, pre-holidays, before another round of less time/more stuffing comes around, seems like a great time to do it.

What is “it?”

Well, I have goals. They’re threefold. (Friends fans – that’s for you!)

1 – Sleep. Between 6-8 hours a night.

2 – Eat. Not comfort food. Not snacks. Healthy, substantial meals.

3 – Sweat. But only doing 3 things and giving them 100% effort: CrossFit, Long Runs, Yoga.

I’m unbelievably tempted to add onto that list. But for right now, this 21 Day Challenge is only focusing on physical health.

Why 21 days? Those reasons are also threefold.

1 – Research suggests that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I don’t necessarily need to form new habits, I just need to pick the old ones back up again. So hopefully 21 days will be long enough to make that happen.

2 – I have 21 more days left in my CrossFit intro plan.

3 – 21 days from now will be…wait for it…November 21st, leaving a few days of buffer time before November 24th, Thanksgiving. During which time I’ll reevaluate and develop a new holiday-themed plan. You might as well mark your calendars for that post becauase you know I won’t be able to help myself from sharing it with all of you.

So this whole challenge is all well and good, and I’ll be keeping track of my progress in each day’s dailies post, but I don’t want to do it alone!!! What do YOU want to accomplish in the next 21 days? Do you want to be healthy for the holidays too or do you have a different goal in mind? Maybe it’s reading every night in an effort to finish off a few books, maybe it’s connecting with one friend or family member every day, maybe it’s something else all together – but whatever it is, shout it out! Make it happen in the next 21 days!

What is your 21 Day Challenge?

beka stays committed : apologetics

I don’t think I’ve had a single conversation in the past 6 months that didn’t start with “I’m sorry.” Sorry for what? Oh, you name it. I’m sorry I…

didn’t text/call/email/facebook/tweet you back

missed your birthday/anniversary/party/miscellaneous event

haven’t seen you in ages

am still working on your pictures

never blogged about my lunch

never blogged about your engagement

hit your vehicle

parked on the wrong side of the road

went 20 miles over the speed limit

am behind the wheel in general

forgot your name…again

am a mildly lame employee

made a (bunch of) stupid mistakes

didn’t do the reading for book study

missed book study altogether

was mean/rude/indifferent due to sleep deprivation

was mean/rude/indifferent just because

cancelled our plans

never made plans in the first place

look like I haven’t showered in the recent past

haven’t showered in the recent past

am altogether not together

OH…the insanity! While apologizing does come naturally to me and I (too) often do it without just cause, there has been plenty of just cause lately. Like…loads of it. I actually should be apologizing for the things I’m apologizing for. But I don’t know how to make it better. I’m the least amount of busy as possible for this juncture in life.

On Mondays I don’t work until 2pm. I thought that this pre-work time would be one of respite, productivity, gearing up for the week ahead. But it is in fact none of those things. It is in fact an 8 hour panic attack, in which I try to cram as much activity as possible, because I know that as soon as 2pm hits, I’m a goner for the rest of the week. There’s no free time in sight until Sunday. Last Monday I made a to-do list for the morning over breakfast. I felt that 34 items might be a bit overkill, so I stopped at 33.

Seriously.

Clearly, something needs to change.

And some things are. Here are the changes I’ve been putting into action to help me avoid an ulcer:

1 – I’m fully utilizing Google Calendar. By scheduling the regular to-do items that pile up if left unattended (weekly emails that need to be written, blog maintenance, cleaning, bills, workouts, etc) I can get them done throughout the week instead of continuing to list them on every day’s to-do list…and then leaving them at the bottom, undone for another day.

2 – I’m instituting a 5 item MAX daily to-do list. Every day, I’ll have a top five list of items that need to get done and can be reasonably accomplished within the confines of the day. For example, I wouldn’t put “overhaul blog typography” on a day when I’m working at breathe and working a wedding. There is realistically no time for that particular task on a day like that.I’m hoping that focusing on the five most important items to accomplish in a day leads to more productivity and less overwhelming panic at not knowing where to start or how it will all get done. Five is a compromise. I wanted to do a daily top ten, but I realized that realistically, it was still too much. So five it is. Better to get five things done than bits and pieces of ten or twenty things.

3 – I’m literally working seven days a week right now. I work Monday – Saturday at three real jobs, and in any spare time I can muster I’m working on photo editing or the blog. Neither photography nor blogging are “real” jobs yet, but I am hoping to turn them both into side jobs in the future. So any work that I can put into them is good work. And while it’s fun, it’s also work. Some time off is necessary. So I’m making a 1 hour/1 day/per month rule.

1 hour: I need to spend an hour a day doing something that is not work. It would be great if this hour could be spent away from my computer, since we’ve been BFF’s lately. It can be morning devotional time, workouts, flipping through magazines, anything – just an hour away from work.

1 day: I need to spend one day a month entirely NOT working. I haven’t spent much time at all traveling lately, even locally, so I’d really like to get out of my apartment once a month to explore a new place. Or even stay in my apartment and tackle some home improvement projects to make my nest a little nestier. Or, you know, watch an entire movie without doing 8 other things at the same time.

4 – PRAY. Oh, Lord, does this child ever need some heavy-hitting power of prayer in her life. I literally can’t do everything that I’d like to do in each day. But I’m trying…and that’s probably why I’m doing little segments of a thousand different things and never actually accomplishing much, except for continually decreasing how much I sleep every night. I also tend to decrease how much time I spend with the Lord when I get busy, which is antithetical to the cause. I know it’s the most important part of the equation (that equation being life) and yet I continually try to short-change my God time in favor of working on a few more to-do items. So I’m going to start praying about these things that make my eyes bulge and stomach churn with questions of how in the world it will ever get done. Specifically, I’m praying these verses from Matthew 6:

   25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The answer is right there, staring at me plain in the face from verse 33: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Seek first, not when there’s leftover time. Seek first, and all of the other things will fall into place.

I honestly believe that all of the things I’m doing right now are just what God would have me do. I believe that he’s put them into my life for a reason. So I really don’t want to throw anything overboard, like I did in August, I just want a better way to manage the inventory.

Will these new guidelines help alleviate some stress in this superbly crazy era of life? Will I be able to catch up so that I can start sentences with something other than an apology? Probably not 100%. But I think it’s better to try and make the craziness more effective and liveable than to just live in it and continue to have a respectable breakdown at the end of every week.

Busy people: help a sister out. I’m clearly not the only busy person on the planet, or even close to the busiest. So how do you do it? Do you have any suggestions or resources or words of wisdom? Please pass them along if so! My sanity would be so grateful.

beka stays committed : mornings

I love mornings. Waking up to a sunrise, deciding what to eat for my favorite meal of the day, spending some time with the Lord, enjoying the quiet calm before the day starts in earnest. Mornings are without a doubt my favorite part of the day.

Coincidentally, my least favorite part of the day also occurs in the morning. It’s when the alarm clock goes off, long and loud, all too early. I love the result of the wake up call – all of the aforementioned goodness – but hate the actual waking up. Especially when the waking up is followed by working out. There’s just something about vigorous physical activity before the sun rises. It disagrees with me.

However, not being able to blog or read or spend time with friends in the evenings because I still haven’t gotten a workout in and have to spend time after work at the gym also disagrees with me. And while in the moment I may not like getting up early in the morning to exercise, I sure like it a whole lot for the rest of the day when I feel healthy and accomplished and free to do whatever I wish with the rest of the day.

So recently I’ve been attempting to rise at the unholy hour of 5:00am to get up and get moving for either a 5:45am class (if you’re wondering, Body Pump and yoga are the only classes crazy enough to be offered pre-sunrise). But the sound of the alarm is often followed by the sound of excuses. This happens basically every single morning, and is basically the only thing that says consistent in my workout schedule. I try to talk myself into thinking that it’s better to sleep in instead, that I can do it at my favorite time of day: later, that no one in their right mind gets up at 5am voluntarily.

Those excuses were shot down this week while I was reading Quitter by Jon Acuff. Here’s what he had to say in a chapter about hustling for your dreams:

“If you wait until night to work on your dream, you will often spend the whole day gathering up material for excuses on why you shouldn’t do what it is you feel called to do…Your day rolls toward night like an excuse snowball barreling down a hill, packing on more excuses with every rotation.

Do you know when you have a lot fewer excuses to claw your way through? In the morning. Nobody wakes up and wants to balance their checkbook. Few can return phone calls at 5am. There’s nothing good on TV, and watching shows you’ve TiVo’d before the crack of dawn feels a little weird. The only excuse you have to deal with is being tired, but that’s one you can work through over time. Or forget working through it over time. Go to bed earlier.”

OH…the truth!

The truth is that right now my dreams consist of doing all of the things that I wasn’t able to do over the summer due to scheduling conflicts. Things like running and blogging and reading and cooking more than once in a blue moon. And the truth is that I despise getting up at 5am; like, I concretely hate it. I audibly groan when I think about it, with increasingly frequency as the time draws closer. But I really love the result when I follow through.

Last Wednesday was the epitome of the reason why waking up early in an effort to live the life I want to live is so worth it. After a great yoga class I headed to the section of canal that’s on the way to work. This is what was waiting for me:

It was literally a perfect morning on the canal – fog hanging over the water, sun streaming through the trees, just a little on the chilly side. The perfect setting for this:

http://bekagphotography.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/2011-09-14_07-30-17_539.jpg

Breakfast on a blanket. Bible and a book. Big ole iced coffee. Love it.

And all because I got up a little earlier than I “wanted” to. But what I really wanted? To do yoga and be outside and eat a good breakfast and have some quiet time before work. That’s what kicked in after just a few disgruntled moments and lasted all day long.

A much better deal.

Hopefully, with this in mind, my commitment to mornings will be an actual commitment and not just a “when I feel like it which is about once a week if I’m lucky” commitment.

I’ll keep you posted!