Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Tale of Success and of Not So Much Success

Yesterday, I finished reading the book "Endymion" by Dan Simmons and figured this would be a good time to discuss the progress I've been making on my resolutions.

Obviously, the "read a book a month" is coming along nicely, as I've finished ten days before the end of the month and have already started reading the sequel, "the Rise of Enydmion" by Dan Simmons. It seems likely that, if I continue to put at least a moderate amount of effort into making the time for it, I should be able to read about one and a third to one and a half books a month.

The "do the dishes like someone suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder" is also coming along magnificently well. Without conscious thought, I've expanded the dishes to include making sure that there is always coffee ready or ready to be made. Additionally, though to a lesser extent, I try to keep the counters in the kitchen clean. I think I will have to analyze this further and see if there are other, obvious areas I could expand into.

With regard to the "make a meal per week" goal, I've been doing well enough. The first week I made the vegetarian chili and last week I made taco chicken, both in the slow cooker. This week, we might not have much opportunity to eat much of the food, so I am purposely holding off. I might start trying to plan on immediately freezing some portion of the meal so that during weeks like this, I can still eat a healthier meal.

Something that hasn't been going well at all is the "make the phone calls" resolution. While I have made a number of them, such as to the cable company, there are a good portion of them that I know would be time consuming and finding time during the day is not a non-trivial task. Mostly, I will try to use time during lunch for these calls, since I often go home for lunch and can have all the information I need handy. This doesn't work well for the calls that I know will take too long to do during lunch. I think I need to start planning on making a marginal number of these calls during breaks at work, otherwise I don't see how I will ever make them at all.

"Exercise once a week" is, technically, a success. However, I often so dread expending the effort that the workout is a bare minimum. The problem, again, seems to be with scheduling and when it is being scheduled. Typically, after I put Katy to bed, I'll go into the basement and run on the treadmill for a bit, and / or use the weights. I think that I really just don't like working out that late, but see no hope for correcting it; the concept of getting up early to workout is unfathomable to me. I might just need to try to adjust my motivations.

"Write more" is ho-hum. I am easily writing at a more regular interval than I have if compared to years passed. However, I am also clearly not posting at the goal number of three times per week. This comes down to wanting every post to be of great substance and hesitating if I don't have a truly worthwhile subject. I also pause knowing that it will often take a lot of time to write that meaningful post. I think the easiest solution is to come up with a plan for what type of stuff I will post about at different times during the week.

The "Better Attitude" is a hard one to judge. I have been more open to visiting others and going to parties, but I am not aggressive about pursuing additional opportunities. This resolution might just be a feel-good wish. I either need to more clearly define what I want to accomplish, or abandon the resolution. I'll consider what I really meant this for this resolution and will decide what should be done about it.

Thus, there are several clear winners, some clear losers and a number of in-betweens. Although, the effort of tracking and making strides toward these improvements, especially continually coming back to them and re-evaluating them provides at least some positive effect: persistence.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Motivational Morning

Although I sometimes have a hard time waking up and getting moving, there is a part of the morning that I love. Regardless of how the previous day went, walking from my car to work, with the sun overhead, I get a sense of newness: a sense that anything is possible and that I will accomplish the unaccomplishable this day.

Sure, it doesn't mean anything: I still have crappy days now and then, but it doesn't change the pleasant contentment and optimism for the future that I feel at that moment. And, maybe it does mean something; starting the day with a positive outlook has to affect productivity.

I wonder if I could artificially manufacture the conditions that cause this inspiration. This morning, it was sunny, cloudless (or mostly clear) and very cold, with snow blanketing the ground. I had just dropped my daughter off at her school / daycare and had a pleasant and loving goodbye. But, the feeling really struck me during the short walk from the car to the office. Maybe it is the scenery, which might explain why so many people seem to enjoy the inspirational scenic posters.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Right Stuff

This winter, Kendra, Katy and I will be going on a ski trip to Colorado with Kendra's father and brother and their families. I'll likely have much to chat about regarding that once we return, so I will leave the actual trip for a later post. What I am interested in discussing now is proper equipment.

For most of my life, my attitude with regard to various activities was the "good enough" approach. Meaning, I'd get the bare minimum to participate and would fuddle through the best I could. Somehow, this made me cooler.

Lately, I've come to realize that there might be a reason to invest in the additional equipment. If someone who does something professionally uses some piece of equipment, and I am not as talented as they are, wouldn't it make more sense for me to make sure I am equipped similarly?

For example, for this trip, I am very interested in snowboarding. Though I have never snowboarded before, I am buying a helmet and wrist guards. While there may be some thought that it "isn't cool", I look at the pros and see that they take these precautions, and they likely fall much, much less than I am expecting to. And, really, how cool am I going to look falling down, anyways?

Also, being properly equipped means that I can attempt things that I might normally be timid about. Stuff on the snowboard is one example. Another is when I went rollerblading, I always wore a helmet, wrist guards and knee pads: I also wasn't afraid to try spinning stops and other things that might not be a good idea without the proper gear. When I go mountain biking on trails, my bike has front shocks; when I would go on my old bike, going downhill would be killer, and now it is no big deal, allowing me to go faster and still have more control. To me, then, having the right stuff means being able to participate in the full experience.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Resolution Report

The first week of the new year is now complete and it is time to do a brief evaluation of how the resolutions are going. As long as I keep them in the front of my mind, I think I should be able to keep on course to complete them all successfully. As I suspected, some of these are easier to do than others. And, after only one week, it is hard to tell how well some of the longer termed goals are going.

One of the easier resolutions to evaluate is the first one, Procrastinate less: Do the dishes promptly. This one is actually one that I started doing as soon as I thought of it near the beginning of December. Surprisingly, this one has turned out to be fairly easy and more rewarding than I would think it would be. I clean my dishes as soon as I finish with them and I find myself aggressively monitoring the sink for the dishes of others.

An interesting side effect is that I seem to pay more attention to other things that I notice need to be done on a regular basis. For instance, when I see a basket full of laundry (that Kendra was kind enough to do for me) I would previously leave it endlessly, to the point where I would dig around in the several baskets that would collect when I would need clean clothes. Now, it is easier to notice that there are clean clothes to be put away, and I will do it right then instead of waiting till later.

Some things, however, are still purposefully left until later. They tend to be the things that I really, for whatever reason, just don't want to do, now or ever. At the time I am delaying, it isn't as obvious as when there are dishes to be done, but I am starting to notice more. Avoiding things I don't want to do leads into the next topic nicely.

Take responsibility for my life: make any and all phone calls is something that is hard to judge so early in the year. Only recently, near the end of this last week, did it become something for which I actually have a task. Making the phone calls, specifically in a short time frame, is something that will also help develop my anti-procrastinating skills, as well as helping with discipline: specifically, dealing with the phone calls that I really don't want to have to make will help with the discipline to do things anyway, without regard for my personal desires. I have two phone calls that I need to make right now, but it really isn't viable to do during the weekend, so it will have to be done either today or Tuesday and I'll be able to more accurately judge after that. Although, I did take care of a letter that needed to be written; while this isn't technically a phone call, I did take the initiative to write it because of this resolution.

Reading more is pretty easy: I've been trying to make time after I get into bed to read for about an hour before going to sleep. Although, it has required a change, in that I now have to go to bed earlier than I would like. Another easier one is the working out once a week: I really didn't want to do it, but I was able to make myself run on the treadmill once last week. Both of these also help with discipline.

A slightly harder one is Eat Better: making a healthy meal once per week. I really don't have many ingredients, or know many recipes. However, Sunday I helped make some vegetarian chili with Kendra and I am going to count that. My short term plan is to make it weekly myself until I determine other recipes we can make. There is a taco chicken recipe that we also like that I will probably throw in there as well. The ideal would be to introduce some of the elements in the chili to Katy separately to determine if there are any allergies that we don't know about.

Write More: post thrice weekly is also a more complicated process, since it is easy to run out of topics and there is always the temptation to put it off until later. Something that helps is to start the topics as soon as I think of them and just save whatever I have until when I was planning on posting. Also, saving lists of things that I'd like to post about helps me remember for later. I only got the two posts in last week, but think I'll be more successful this one.

Better Attitude: Seeking out activities is a tricky one to judge. I've been agreeable to going to parties and outings with whomever and cheerily greeted and looked forward to having Kendra's mom visit for Christmas. I think I am doing OK, but will need to put effort into planning some of these outings/visits. Maybe I will see about setting up a visit to Mike's as he suggested in the comments.

To summarize, after the first week, I think I am still on track with all of my resolutions and hopefully will be able to expand them as I planned.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Katy's First Movie

Monday, the last day of 2007, I convinced my daughter that it would be OK for her to continue her vacation and hang out with me instead of going back to school for a day. Mom had some things to attend to, so I suggested to Katy that we go see a movie. She thought that sounded like a good idea so we went to the 12:00pm showing of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

This was a big deal because Katy had never been to the movies before. She has watched her TV shows and movies on DVD at home, but we didn't think she'd be able to sit still long enough to watch a whole movie. She surprised me.

When we arrived, the previews had already started, so I carried her to a good spot and helped her with her coat. Then, I let her sit in my lap. She was enthralled by even the previews, so I suspected that this was going to be a fun experience.

She wanted to sit on her own chair for awhile and was very cute in the over-sized chair. She sat there and snacked on her Froot Loops and Christmas sugar cookie and enjoyed being able to put her juice in a cup holder. When she was done eating, she wanted to sit on my lap again.

The movie was OK, but it was a great experience because of Katy. She was clearly so happy to be there; at several points I could tell she was happier beyond words because she would suddenly turn to me and give me a big hug and a kiss without saying anything.

Something funny was that she had made a picture before we went to the movies, folded it and asked me to put it in my pocket. When the movie was done, she asked for the picture and just wanted to hold it in the theater.

I carried her to the car and was asking her if she liked it. She didn't want to leave and wanted to go again. In the car while we were leaving, I asked her what her favorite part of the movie was, and she said that it was going to the movies with Daddy. I had first mentioned that my favorite part was going to the movies with Katy, but it still is a very sweet thing for her to say, and she did seem truly sincere.

We wanted to go see Enchanted the next day on the first of the year, but the timing didn't work out, so we waited until the weekend. We went to the one and only showing of "Enchanted" at11:10am on Saturday. Although Katy disagrees, I think it was a better movie than the Chipmunks, and it was fun to have Kendra get to see how excited and happy Katy was about seeing a movie. We popped some popcorn for Katy (since her allergies wouldn't allow for us to purchase any for her) and brought some more Froot Loops and juice. I brought coffee for me.

I think I am ready to make going to the movies a weekly occurrence. Kalamazoo 10 only charges $4 per ticket for a matinée or $6.50 per adult for a night showing, so it is cheap compared to other places.