January 10, 2016

A Return to Writing

Iron Work

I’ve missed writing these past eighteen months. The distractions of social networks, work, and volunteering have filled my time but not fulfilled the need to write in my own voice and in my own time. I’ve dusted off the blog (aka, updated the CMS) and reminded myself where I left off. Here I am beginning again.

As I sit in my living room the sound of electric saws fills the air. SB is upstairs cutting notches in floor joists to run the plumbing for our new bathtub. The great bathroom remodel is well underway. Next to me, Miss Lola, the dog reminds me that dinner time is fast approaching.

Since I last wrote here the great kitchen remodel was completed, Zoe the cat passed away at age 17, and we took an amazing sailing trip in Hawaii for my five year work sabbatical. Maybe I will tell you more about these things in the coming months or maybe I’ll just write about the present and future. That’s the beauty of my very own blog, it is only up to me.

January 8, 2014

A 2013 Review

What happened in 2013? It was a year of doing and going and not so much of reflecting and writing. The momentum of not writing, of not spending time on introspection has been very hard to overcome.

2013 in numbers:
– 1,964 hours worked and 301 hours of paid time off
– 1,111 visitors to this blog. January had the most visitors and Healthy Computing was the most popular post of the year. The most referred search term was “beet loaf”.
– 298 photos uploaded to Flickr
– 217 miles walked at work over seven months
– 164 posts to Path
– 29 books read (4 non-fiction, 20 fiction, 5 professional)
– 14 tweets (7 personal and 7 professional)
– 10 blog entries (4 personal and 6 professional)
– 9 Facebook posts
– 6 cities visited Chicago (x2), Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Portland, New York and San Antonio
– 4 yarn projects completed (1 crochet, 3 knitting)
– 2 books sold on Amazon
– 2 weddings attended and 1 baby shower

My big theme for 2013 was being my own best advocate. I had a rough six months at work, with no end in sight, until I created the change I needed by advocating for my own interests. Over the year I had many conversations about self advocacy, some specifically about women and society. I learned that I’m actually pretty darn good at advocating for myself and not feeling any societal shame about doing so. This self advocacy trait has helped me be successful and is something I’m proud of. It is important to recognize when things are not right and feel empowered to make things better. Part of this empowerment is tied-up in feeling worthy or deserving of a better situation and I think this is the point where many people, men and women, stumble. You need to firmly believe you are worthy of something better in order to advocate for yourself.

Enough of the philosophy, I also bought some cool stuff this year. I finally got my very own dutch bicycle, a Workcycle Omafiet. It was a wonderful summer of bicycle rides, so smooth and comfortable. The upright sitting position means I could really take in all the beautiful Madison scenery. I’m looking forward to jumping back on in the spring.

After ten years of searching, we finally bought a real, custom upholstered, couch. I had started to think there would never be a couch that met our need for a clean modern design with our need for a reasonable price. It even came with fun accent pillows. It may not be the most wonderful couch that has ever existed, but overall we are happy with it and also, the couch problem has been solved. Whew!

Speaking of problems, 2013 was a big year for house projects. We kicked off the year by refinancing our home mortgage at an incredibly low rate, a brag about at parties rate. On the basement front, we completely removed and hauled out the feast master, which turned out to be hiding a hole in our foundation, which explains some mystery basement water. While the basement is far from finished, we know more about what is ahead. On the first floor we installed crown molding and picture rail in the living room and dining room, this has allowed for the hanging of art work. Yay! Our walls are no longer bare. On the second floor we finished painting all three bedrooms. And finally, in the yard, we paid to have a new privacy fence installed in our backyard. The fence truly is a thing of beauty and serenity.

The biggest accomplishment of the year was planning and hosting a family reunion in our yard as part of my sister’s wedding celebrations. We had close to 40 people at our house for dinner. A dinner which we cooked ourselves and served in a tent we assembled on our own. It really was a PORP (project of ridiculous proportions). It was all worth it to celebrate with our family, but I don’t think a catering career is in my future.

My new year’s goal from last year was to achieve more physical fitness. I think I did OK on this goal but not great. Between the treadmill desk and the new bicycle, I spent more time moving around but I was still plagued by inconsistency and inertia.

So what’s the plan for 2014? There are two big items on the annual “agenda” 1) remodel the kitchen and 2) take a kick-ass sabbatical. Most other stuff is continuing to do the best I can, which includes:
– blogging
– physical fitness
– installing crown molding on the 2nd floor
– “finishing” the basement
– listening to and experiencing more music

Those all seem like good goals to me and I’m looking forward to all the adventures that will come in 2014.

(Photo above is Lake Mendota at sunset from this summer.)

March 4, 2013

Healthy Computing

Treadmill Desk

Last week I went to our local running shoe store, just two blocks from my house. When I explained to the super fit, older woman working at the store, that I needed new shoes for my treadmill desk, where I planned to walk for most of every day, she wanted to know what I did for a living. The simplest answer I’ve found is to say that I’m a consultant, who works for a computer company and that I spend all day at home, in front of a computer.

As someone who spends all day in front of a computer, I’ve given a lot of thought to ergonomics. I used to have constant shoulder and neck pain after sitting all day in my expensive, carefully designed and aligned office chair. About two years ago I switched to a standing desk and immediately felt better. At the end of everyday my body felt a little tired, just like my mind, but because I was moving around all day, my shoulder pain disappeared and instead I had mild foot and hip aches.

After the first year, I bought an anti-fatigue mat at a local kitchen supply store. Standing on almost an inch of springy foam all day removed the last of the aches and pains. The standing desk system made me feel good and I noticed that even on weekends, I preferred to stand rather than sit.

Last summer one of my co-workers installed a treadmill desk in his home and had nothing but good things to say about his health and well-being after slowly walking all day. It sounded like a great fit for me. The multi-tasking nature of exercising while at work sounds perfect. I started planning how the treadmill would fit in my office, how I would arrange my workstation and what treadmill to buy.

In the end I bought a new treadmill because I wanted one that was very quiet and wouldn’t be heard when I was talking on the phone. I also wanted one that wasn’t going to break or have problems shortly after buying it. The treadmill arrived last week. It weighs 350 pounds and is enormous! With a bit of struggle we installed it in my office.

SB and I then designed a series of three bracketed shelves, one for my monitors, one for my laptops and a third one for my keyboard. The keyboard shelf is designed to be easily removable, so that SB can also use the treadmill for general exercise.

Today is my first day on the treadmill. I’ve read that I need to take it slow at the start, only walking for a few hours over the course of the day. So far I’ve learned that walking and mousing is a skill to be perfected. I’m very excited about my new desk and believe that it is a great step towards my goal of getting into better shape this year.

The photo above shows the new treadmill desk, and my constant office companion, Zoe, relaxing on her new heated cat pad. The photo below shows my previous standing desk, also featuring Zoe, where she liked to spend her days, in the middle of my desk.

Oh, and my new Mizuno running shoes are working out great so far.

Standing Desk
February 1, 2013

Skating

This winter has turned into a great season for lake skating. I’ve been fortunate to get out on the ice a few times already and hope to go again this weekend. My mom shot this little video out on Lake Mendota.

I just bought the puffy coat I’m wearing and I’m totally in love with its downy warmth. When I have the hood up, I may look like a giant, dog devouring blob, or at least that’s what my dog thinks, but inside the coat I’m nice and cozy. Now if only I could find winter boots that I enjoy as much as this coat.

January 3, 2013

2012 in Review

Zinnia

2012 in numbers:
– 1,965 hours worked and 324 hours of paid time off
– 1,549 visitors to this blog. February had the most visits and The Stuff Beast was the most popular post of the year. The most referred search term was “gorilla bread”.
– 527 photos uploaded to Flickr
– 31 tweets (23 personal and 8 professional)
– 25 blog entries (24 personal and 1 professional)
– 23 books read (5 non-fiction, 16 fiction, 2 professional)
– 10 books sold on Amazon
– 9 cities visited San Francisco (x2), San Jose, Chicago (x2), Orem, Park City, Las Vegas, Boston, Seattle and Victoria BC
– 8 yarn projects completed (1 crochet, 7 knitting, 3 frogged)

My personal goal for 2012 was to bring out my writing voice through blogging and tweeting. I also had sub-goals that included going to concerts, vacation travel and house projects. 2012 was a two part year, defined in the middle by a huge work project that happened in July and August. From January to June I was on track, going to concerts, vacationing in San Francisco and blogging once a week. After June things fell apart. Starting in July, work became an all consuming stress ball. On top of that, July and August were the home insulation months, with contractors coming by and the culmination of all our insulation planning. I took another vacation in the fall to Seattle and Victoria and then slid into the holiday season, never regaining my writing or concert going momentum.

It feels easy to think of 2012 as a bit of a failure. Even though I accomplished a lot, the accomplishments were not the ones I set out to achieve. In addition to all of the above, SB had a very unhappy year at work. With his work situation up-in-the-air, we had a general unsettled and unhappy feeling most of the time. Questions like, “Would we need to move out of Madison?” and “What does it mean to have a career?” were discussed at great length. The uncertainty has been exhausting but I’m happy to report that SB has accepted a new job in town and we are starting off 2013 on much firmer and happier ground. Whew!

My personal goal for 2013 is to achieve more physical fitness. I’ve learned in recent years how satisfying it can be to be more financially disciplined. Now I want to apply that same self-control to my body. I’m thinking about this in terms of life long habits more than what I can accomplish in the next year alone.

Other things I’m looking forward to in 2013:
– Getting back to blogging and tweeting
– Going to concerts, plays and other events
– House projects including finishing the basement, crown molding, a bathroom remodel, a kitchen remodel and a home loan refinance
– Selling, donating and generally getting rid of more stuff
– Travel vacations!

I hope you are also looking forward to an even better 2013. (The photo is from our fabulous zinnia garden this summer. I’m particularly proud of our gardens this past year and am looking forward to even more success in 2013.)

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