Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Richness of self



I was a Christmas orphan this year.

I'm not going to lie - at first I was pretty bummed about it.  Not that you'd have realised it, seeing me anywhere in public, though.  During my last work shift, on December 23 (Christmas Eve Eve, for those in the know) I was acting as cheerful as you can get without actually glowing. People just kept coming in and everyone could see we'd have to stay later than normal and my buddy Pepe was tired and misanthropic and we all just wanted to go home already.  So in retaliation against the wave of Grinch-like ennui sweeping over us all, I did my best to be as happy as possible - smiling even wider than normal; singing along to the radio; joking and laughing with customers, cooks, runners and all.

And I kept it up even after the place  was closed and empty and the cooks had gone home and it was just the last FOHers cleaning up.  The radio was off, so I started singing all those beautiful ancient Christmas hymns that I still love so much, even though it's been years since I ascribed to the belief.  The sanctity of the music itself, one note after another in precisely the same way it's been done for hundreds of years, is enough for me.  I sang Dominatus Ex Parentis (although I had to switch to English because I don't know the whole thing in Latin), and Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle and the Coventry Carol and Lo, How A Rose.  And some more, but it was the last one that got me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Experimenting with gluten

So I came to the conclusion quite some time ago (nearly two years, I guess), that gluten and I do not agree.  I'd just completed a Whole30* - essentially 30 solid days of eating super clean, paleo-style: no dairy, no grains, no sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods, etc.  And it made me feel super incredible and ready to take on the world and glowing and all that good stuff, which is certainly to be noted, but less interesting to me than my reactions to consuming the disallowed foods after that month was over.

Dairy is iffy.  Conventional, uncultured milk makes me kind of mucus-y (I'm sorry for that image) and my throat and the back of my mouth get itchy little raised bumps.  Organic milk has the same effect, with slightly less severity, although it was just kind of irritating to start with.  Raw milk is even better.  Raw kefir has none of the issues whatsoever and it's a good portion of what I consume these days. Cream seems to have no negative effects (although to be fair I don't take it by the glass as I did milk).  And I can eat cheese until the cows come home (dairy metaphors ftw!).

Alcohol doesn't give me any specific trouble, but I'm now a very cheap date.  Moving on.

Processed foods leave me feeling sick to my stomach pretty instantly, followed by being both weighed down and a little bit jittery.  Still, though, any negative effects are relatively minor and simply annoying, rather that actually disrupting my day.

And now we get to wheat.  It's close to inevitable that I consume some - I'm a baker, for Pete's sake - but I try to really limit it.  On the occasions that I do have something made with flour, I notice the same series of events every time: my stomach poofs up within about 2 minutes of consumption, my mood gets more prone to grumpiness and overemotionality for several hours and my digestion is...altered.  These effects are obviously nowhere near life-threatening, but they're more significant than those experienced from the other "bad" foods and definitely annoying enough for me to avoid wheat on most occasions, unless the item is particularly delicious (PIE) and the surroundings festive and friend-filled enough to assist in warding off the grumpiness.

Well.  The other day I threw an extremely last-minute soup party.  For the uninitiated, a soup party is a party...with soup.  Sour Chicken in a Pot with Cabbage from How To Cook Everything, if you're wondering, which is my standby because it's incrediballs.  And, because it was so last-minute, not a lot of people were able to attend.  It ended up being my parents, Babysis, my dad's guitar and the lovely Julia and this one guy she hangs out with a lot**.  And they brought Things with them, even though they totally did not have to.  And the Things included a loaf of sourdough bread, which I have not had in a Very.  Long.  Time.  But the evening was so full of singing and soup and mochi that Babysis made that I forgot to have any.

So that was two days ago.  Yesterday, I looked at the bread.  And the bread looked back at me.  And in a little bread voice, it said "Nelly, I am totally fermented because that's what sourdough is!  You and I could be so good together!"  And I thought for a second or two, and I said "Ok, bread.  You're on."  And then I realized that my cats were looking at me funny and so I stopped having conversations with my food.

I had three meals yesterday.  Each one was a bowl of leftover soup (no seriously you guys don't understand it's the best soup) and a slice of delicious spongy crusty bubbly sourdough bread, slightly smaller than the size of my hand.  And for dessert after dinner I also had one and a half very small slices of pound cake, also made by Babysis.  Could have thrown things off a little, but seriously they were not very big.  More gluten than I'd had in one day in a long while, but also more sustained consumption, which was what I was really interested in.

The immediate effects showed up, as I'd expected.  Belly poof didn't seem quite as extreme as it can be, but it was still noticeable, at least to me.  And in my Systema class, we had two solid hours of hardcore work with the fake guns - dropping out of the line of fire and simultaneously drawing a bead on the shooter, taking down someone who has a gun when you don't, and the like, which are mentally difficult enough.  But we started with a simple push drill: two people stand fairly close, and one of them has a gun and is pushing the other with the muzzle in various places - stomach, chest, face - and it's the job of the other partner to just move out of the line of fire as efficiently as possible.  And then you go the same drill with the gun-less partner on their knees.  Even with a fake gun, it's enough to shake you deeply, and I wonder if I was a little more affected because of this gluten experiment.  There are other possible reasons, though, about which I'm composing a long and dedicated post.

But yeah.  So far, nothing out of the ordinary.  Ended the day with Tam, the fuzz-butt, curled up in my arms like a warm, purring teddy bear, which is objectively one of the best ways to end any day.  So that was good.

And then I woke up this morning.  About 8-o-clock, not too late or out of the ordinary for a vacation.  And I was SO FREAKING HUNGRY.  It was bizarre.  Normally, when I get hungry, it's just kind of like my stomach saying "hey, I could stand to have a little something but you know don't go out of your way or anything."  But this was different.  It was painful, so strong I confused it with nausea at first.  I was so hungry I was angry - at my stomach for giving me this crazy pain, at the rational part of my brain for suggesting that hey guys this really isn't normal, howzabout we have a cuppa like normal and see how we feel at regular breakfast time? and at the lamp for looking at me the wrong way...etc etc.  It was a little scary.

So yeah.  That was weird.  And it seems to suggest that while intermittent consumption of floury things can be worth it, depending on what they are, any kind of regular intake is super not good for me.  Meh.  I'd like to experiment more with making my own sourdough and soaking the grains and trying different flours, but until I've got the equipment and time to try that, it's probably best to avoid it.

Anyone else have that creepy hangry feeling after eating dirty?

-N

I can't get the Blogger app to work right and my damn laptop power cord just gave up the ghost, so here are the links that are supposed to be included:

* http://whole9life.com/
** http://www.fifth-ape.com/

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Project Fear Less: Sing on the Internet

Hi there, internet.

I missed you too.  Exams and work and stress and drama and gahhhh.  But I'm still alive.  And now I'm back with a vengeance.  Or something like that.

So there are videos of me on the internet.  Finn, if you're reading this, no, not that kind.  For shame, boy.  No...there are just a few, mostly documenting some stuff I did at my old school, like help my buddy Myles out with an ad for his baby, Terrier Productions (yes, I was a blonde once):


...or that one time my friends and I danced in a talent show and did not win but had a ton of fun:


But never, until now (to my knowledge, at least), was there a record of my voice on the internet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Project Fear Less: Eat Something F*cking Crazy #1

I'm no stranger to odd cuisine.  As a matter of fact, I usually tend to seek it out.  Working where I do definitely helps with that - at the restaurant, I've had Rocky Mountain oysters (aka bull testicles), home-cured sausage of various kinds, pork skin (trimmed from a hog carcass and saved to take home, where I rendered the fat off it and then fried up the other bits) and whatever else the chefs want to feed me.  On my own, I've had beef heart, liver (very rare is best) and kidneys, steak tartare, carpaccio and colostrum so much that they no longer seem at all weird to me.  But there are still a LOT of things in this world to eat.  Here's one of them:

BOB would NOT stop saying "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!"
ATTENTION VEGETARIANS AND THE EASILY-NAUSEATED: DO NOT CLICK THROUGH.  I'm not joking.  It gets worse.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Project Fear Less: Be An Art Model

...i.e. "The One Where Nelly Really Strips," as apparently I got some hopes higher than they should have been with this post.  But, DISCLAIMER...there are no pictures here.  The actual artwork is still in the creation process, and I'm not sure if I want everyone who reads this to see me in the altogether.  So posting a picture might turn out to be yet another Scary Thing.  Bit of a cop-out, I know.  Deal with it.  Use your imaginations.

This one has been on my personal bucket list for a long while - years, even.  But it was always kind of nebulous - you know, just something that people say but never actually pursue.  And I have to admit, I barely had to pursue this one.  Fate kind of threw it at me.

I met an artist.  On...a dating site.  (Scary thing just to admit that, bee tee dubs).  When you guys stop laughing, I'll explain that it's also used by many as just a meet-people site.  But yeah.  Crazy good artist (as in went to grad school for it).  He (and his lovely girlfriend.  see?  not just dating) is relatively new to the area and trying to build his portfolio up, but there's sadly a dearth of people willing to do more than just talk about posing.

Honestly didn't even consider the option of not doing this one.  It was just so perfect.

After having to cancel the first scheduled meeting due to having the freaking plague, I met Figure Painter, his girlfriend and his buddy (in from New York, escaping Sandy and the aftermath) at a brewpub in Durham.  We got a few pints and a table and started chatting.  His lady and I hit it off stupendously - she's amazeballs and we're the same age and have had similar experiences.  FP himself is a little quieter, but just as interesting, once he actually starts talking.  The purpose of the evening was basically for me to determine that he wasn't just a sleazebag, which became evident pretty early on.  I love meeting cool people.

But more than just a hang-out sesh, this was supposed to be a little more of a business meeting.  We scheduled a time for me to come to his studio the following Sunday morning, and discussed briefly what I should bring and expect.  Note (especially you, Mama) that I was smart about it, when the day came - I told Babysis the address and that if I didn't check back in within the hour, to call the cops.  And I had my mace.  And my ninja skills.

I found the place and was welcomed in.  More of his artwork was up all around the studio - I'll see if I can't get pictures of it, because it really is very well done.  The studio itself was in one of those little old houses from the 20s that are so prevalent around old Durham, which means that it was the tiniest bit chilly - I just figured it would be more flattering, though, ifyaknowwhatimean.  He showed me around the place and we decided on a decent pose and then just stood there for a couple minutes making awkward small talk (did I mention he was shy?) until I finally piped up.

"Hey, how do you want me...dressed?  Or...not?"

He left it up to me, but I figured it was a hell of a lot scarier this way.  And really, this is the culmination of a goal I've had since before I can remember - to be comfortable and proud in my own skin.  And, as it turned out, nothing else.

So, he sat at his easel and turned away (he is seriously the most polite guy-looking-at-a-naked-girl that I've ever met) and I stopped thinking for a minute and at the end of it my clothes were on the chair and I was naked and striking the pose we'd decided on.  Just like that.  It was still a very surreal experience at this point, almost like a dream where it's totally normal for you to be naked, like why would you be any other way?  And the amazing thing: that mindset didn't go away.  It's still incredible, thinking about my upbringing and ongoing difficult relationship with my body and self-image, how comfortable I got, and how fast I got that way.  It felt like the most natural thing in the world...and, typing, that, I think how silly it is to have to say that explicitly, because of course it IS one of the most natural things in the world, by definition!

We work 10 minutes at a time (it will likely take 12-15 hours to complete this picture, so this is ongoing).  The pose we chose has me curling the toes of one foot under and resting them on the floor, or else I could probably do longer than that.  That's another thing - apparently I'm a natural at this, holding myself well, staying very still and returning to the exact same pose easily.  During the breaks I do a little yoga or just sit while we talk.  At first I'd grab my coat during the breaks, but now I don't bother, unless I'm cold.  It's very strange, when I stop to think about it, but an absolutely lovely feeling - for so long I've had all the hang-ups and neuroses and hateful thoughts directed at my body that are sadly so common to the average American woman.  But when I'm turned into a simple collection of light and shadow, form and negative space...I'm helping to create art, and so I AM art.  It doesn't matter if certain areas are a little more poofy or saggy than I'd like.  Every small area becomes a study in detail, and the whole becomes a masterpiece.

Now, if only I could harness that feeling when I have my clothes on!  Baby steps, baby steps...

-N

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Project Fear Less: Build A Couch

Ah, tri-fold mats.
via
This guy - or at least a creature very closely related to it, as this one looks prettier - was, up until last week, all the couch I had.  And, up until last month, all the bed I had.  Surprisingly comfortable, in fact, and I swear my posture was better.  But I digress.

Normal people don't like to sit on the floor all the time.  And while I was perfectly ok with sprawling around and letting the kittens clamber over me, I realised that if I ever wanted to actually have friends over, I should probably have something a little more conventional, or at least a little more elevated.  Something like...

THIS

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What the HELL, internet.

Incoming search term today:

"grandma 50+ pornopork"

WHAT.

PFL Update and upcoming posts!

I have SO MANY THINGS to write about!  Here's the news, first: there is now a page dedicated to this project!  Click on the tab up at the top entitled "Project Fear Less" to see all the posts made so far, along with summaries of what happened.  This will be updated regularly, as well as helping me keep track of how many I've done so I can plan big ones for the major numbers.

And the upcoming posts:
  1. (Design And) Build A Couch
  2. Throw A Party
  3. Go On A Date (it happened a while ago but I still need to write about it!)
  4. (Keep) Get(ting) Back To People (this one's never really done because then they write back and I have to reply again!  which is not a bad thing!  but it might get removed)
  5. Pose Nude For An Artist
Yep.  You read that last one right.  It was definitely the scariest one on the list.  And...short version: it's awesome.

Comments: give me suggestions for more things to do!

-N

Monday, November 5, 2012

Project Fear Less: Artes Marciales, part 2

Alternate title: "I Was Told There Would Be Shovels"

So as I mentioned in the last post, I found a place that teaches ninjitsu (and also Brazilian jiu-jitsu) and loved it to death.  Oddly enough, I've since found out that this was the same place frequented by Colin's bestie Sean, who inadvertently inspired me to start this whole project way back when and is now gallivanting around Switzerland Europe in its entirety, eating all of its food and jumping on random things.  Small, small world.

But.  This same place is also the home to a group of friendly but insane shaven-headed men in BDUs and boots who are said to wield shovels with utter abandon.  In less cryptic terms, there is a Systema class that meets in the space, and I tried it out.  That's the first official scary thing in this post: Try A New (And Entirely Unfamiliar) Martial Art.


Project Fear Less: Artes Marciales, part 1

When you start coming into work with a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of random bruises, the sweet little Mexican grill cook ladies will worry about you very much, and ask who hurt you so they can hurt them.  And so you will have to find out how to say "martial arts" in Spanish, so they stop worrying, but then they will shake their heads and roll their eyes and cluck at you for being so loca.  Until the butcher makes a stupid joke to his wife and they all shriek and grab you to show them interesting ways to make him apologize.  (Don't worry, various senseis who might be reading this blog...or whatever the correct plural form of "sensei" is.  I didn't show them anything that'll leave lasting damage.  Just some bruises on the sternum at worst).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Project Fear Less: Flirt Back, i.e. The Origami Whale Story

So as you might have noticed if you keep up with this blog, I'm fairly recently single. I'm not about to get into the shitstorm that is discussing exactly why that happened, but it suffices to say for now that I've got a lot of reconfiguration to do in the manner that I interact with people. Specifically, I need to retrain myself to know that it's ok to engage people (especially attractive people) in conversation without a specific work- or school-based reason to do so. And it's ok to smile at people who smile at me, and laugh at their jokes and make jokes of my own. And, basically, it's ok to FLIRT.

Flirting always used to scare the crap out of me. Before I was in the two serious relationships that took up the past 5-and-a-bit years of my life (whiskey tango foxtrot), I'd always resort to the tomboy-joking-with-the-guys style of flirting. Which is to say, I swaggered and made dirty jokes and displayed my apparently uncommon interest in watching other people play video games (I honestly like it, I swear!) to the max. And also sometimes wore tight shirts. Sorry, Mama. But yeah. I never seemed to get the hang of the giggling and the cuteness and the outright flirtation that other girls had all perfected in high school, when I was busy making A-pluses on everything and running around in the woods lighting fires and not having any friends. But I digress.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Project Fear Less: Talk To My Neighbors

This is kind of a mini-deal (which is part of the reason it's getting put up quickly on a Friday night.  Got something a little more interesting for tomorrow).  I'm not completely terrified of talking to new people as I was in my teen years, but especially when I have to initiate it, the butterflies can come out.  It's really an exercise in how quickly my internal and initial nervousness can catch up with the outward projection of being cheerful and confident.  And the more I practice, the better my reaction time gets.

SIDE NOTE: It's a damn shame that there does not seem to be a single video on Youtube with the clip of "I Whistle A Happy Tune" from the movie of The King And I, because it's totally apt and I was intending to put it here.  Oh, well.  Just imagine it.

But anyways.  So I moved into my new apartment, which (thank god) already had all the utilities running...except for internet.  For a few days, I tried to make it work by solely using my phone for all interwubby stuff, but there's just something about the tackita-tackita of the keyboard when writing anything longer than a few sentences that make all the difference.  That, and the fact that I fail at learning how to successfully use the Blogger app with just my right thumb.

But when I turn on the wireless capability on my laptop, a whole new world appears in the form of a forest of wifis.  There are the normal incomprehensible strings of letters and numbers; some slightly more recognizable names and common words, and then...oh, and then.  "Pretty Fly, For A Wifi" pops out.  And also "Narnia."  And...be still my heart..."GrrArg" (major supremo bonus points of you get that one).  It suffices to say that my neighbors (or at least several of them) seem pretty damn awesome.

So I get back one night.  Everyone seems to be home, including my most immediate neighbor in the complex.  I need to do homework and the coffeeshop around the corner is closing soon.  It's time.

My next door neighbor's name is Brett.  He has an enormous and adorable dog named Indie and likes Ohio sports teams because both of his parents are from there.  He changes his wifi password just to let me use it (sadly, his is not GrrArg).  I don't know if we'll become superbestestfriendsever, but we smile and chat with each other every time we're both outside.  It's not too bad.

Next step: invite my neighbors to the Housewarming And Soup Party I'm holding in a few weeks.  It's going to be just about as epic as soup can be.

-N

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Project Fear Less: Go Dancing Alone

There's a lot going on in my gritty little town.  It's a bit of a shame that I've grown up here, but never really developed a healthy night life, because there are so many interesting events and locales to visit.  Not among the least of these are the amazing hullaballoos organized by the Triangle Swing Dance Society.  Basically, it's literally tons of people of all levels of swing dance ability who congregate to have absolutely ridiculous amounts of fun dancing and learning and meeting people.  Problem is, when it's 6pm on a Saturday night and the dance starts at 7 and you can't really think of anyone to call who would actually come with you...it's a little bit of a stretch to work up the nerves to just freaking go already, and damn the torpedoes.  So...that's what I did.  Minus the torpedoes.


More pics after the jump!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Project Fear Less: To-Do List

So...yeah.  This blogging deal tends to lose preference when placed next to midterms, moving, dealing with bleargh and generally pretty much all other types of taking care of bidness.  So when I disappear from the interwubs for a while, it's probably because I have other life too, and it's getting in the way.  But hhhhhanyways...
via
There have been a lot, and I mean a LOT, of things that have happened to me since I wrote last that definitely fall under the project criteria.  And for some reason I just keep on forgetting to putting off writing about them.  So, without further ado, here's a semi-comprehensive list of all the things in recent memory that I really, really need to glue my ass to the chair and write about in detail, because they are making me more awesome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Project Fear Less: Go short. REALLY short.

This is how it ends:

This isn't the first time I've done this.  In fact, I think it was even shorter last time.  But this is the first time that I bawled like a baby in the hairdresser's chair.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A different yardstick

via
My yardstick is too long.

I know what you're thinking.  "Yardsticks are a yard long, Nelly.  That's why they call them yardsticks."  And it is very true that most of our modern measurement devices are pretty close to the same length, unlike the time when they built that giant Swedish ship and every builder had his own unique ruler and that's part of the reason it sank before it left the harbor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Project Fear Less: A few things

I told my landlord that I'm moving out.  There's a list of reasons:

  • Two car break-ins, with smashed car windows and stuff (GPS and then road emergency kit) stolen in the past three months.
  • Car ransacked and left with the doors open when I left it unlocked so it wouldn't get smashed again.  I should have expected that one but I'm really lucky the battery wasn't drained.
  • Huge pile of branches and brush that the landlords had cut down and piled on my side of the yard, spilling over into the street and my normal parking lot, without letting me know.  And it's been there for a week and a half.
  • Leaky roof, but that's not the problem.  The problem is that when I called them up and told them about it (and how it was leaving puddles near large electrical appliances), they made me feel really guilty for calling, then emailed later and said they'd fixed it...but it's become apparent that it was either a pretty half-assed job or they didn't do anything.
  • Huge house fire (as in flames OVER the trees) about a block from where I live, a few days ago.  This obviously isn't something that the landlords can fix or I could try to plan for, but it feels like the universe is dropping for pretty heavy hints in my lap.
There are also soft spots in the floor and ceiling and hookers right around the corner.  It's not the best place to be, all things considered

But it's still pretty scary to make it real.  I have a deadline to leave (admittedly a generous one), but I need to find a new place and pay for it and pack everything up and transport it over and unpack it again and build a couch because the one I have now came with my current place...actually, that's one of the fun parts.  And also having doors on rooms, that'll be a good part too.  And being able to put up all my pretty artwork as I was hesitant to do before because it might get burgled away from me.  Ok, so this is overall a good thing.  It still got the butterflies going to actually send the email, though

I emailed that one dude who tried to teach me some ape stuff way back when in order to thank him for unknowingly motivating me to do this whole project.  This is scary because I don't normally talk to people who don't talk to me first, even in text on a screen.  I also don't usually tell people when I think they're awesome because I think it'll seem like fawning.  Especially guys, because then I'm afraid it'll seem like flirting.  I'm actually afraid to flirt.  On the one hand, you get rejection, and the other, it actually works, which is even scarier.  Anyways.  Sean, if you're reading this, feel lucky.  The only other person to get a fan letter from me was Sting when I was 14.

I asked Colin to teach me, at some point in the course of my martial arts/self-defense classes with him, some techniques to counter the type of moves that I, as a woman, am more likely to have to deal with - namely, getting grabbed and/or backed up against a wall, to start with.  THIS IS TERRIFYING.  The moves themselves aren't all that different from what we've covered already, but the psychological side of it gets me tense and shaking after literally only a few seconds with my back to the wall.  In opposition to moving around in an open area and sparring, it feels like there is no place to turn.  Colin demonstrated that there are in fact quite a few different places to turn (in particular, towards the wall while you grab their head), and I'm committed to learning these well enough to (gods forbid) actually be able to use them if I ever needed to.  It hits quite a nerve, though.

Also, here is a picture of a box full of kittens:


Goodnight, internets.

-N

Monday, September 17, 2012

Project Fear Less: Finish a project alone

Here's how it started:


An empty space in my brand-new apartment, matched with a significant lack of counters.  The tiny table I brought with me simply because I had very few pieces of real furniture worked to a point, but didn't even begin to fill the space or the need.  And so the dream was born.


In my omnipresent Moleskine sketchbook, I doodled a remade kitchen: one with a pegboard over the stove and a table-and-shelf combination made to fit the space exactly.  I would line the shelves with jars of homemade pickles and cheeses and spread ingredients (mise en place FTW!) and homework out on the generous work surface by turns.  If I ever worked up the courage to invite friends over to my little hovel, we'd sit on simple benches to eat simple food and drink decent wine and someone would probably break out a Sharpie and draw something beautiful on the unfinished wood surface, already stained with beets and cabbage juice and scored with knife marks.

I started really believing I could do it.  I took measurements and bought some absolutely enormous pieces of plywood (apparently what I thought was plywood was actually particle board!) and drew up pages and pages of increasingly-less-rough schematics, but only the first of which stayed in my notebook:


And then TM, who has all the tools, and I set out to actually make the damn thing.  And it was fucking torture.  We rediscovered all the different reasons we simply can't work together.  For my part, I draw these perfect pictures in my head and then think of them as though they are immovable before we even cut the pieces out.  We had to do some serious remodeling of my designs before even starting the process.  Once we had everything cut, it became apparent that I'd made yet another mistake (what?  have you ever designed a table from scratch and scraps?) and we'd need to backtrack and possibly get new wood.  This got me in a serious funk.  I was angry at him for not pointing out the flaw in my design before we cut the wood, and for not paying attention while he was cutting so the pieces weren't exactly straight, and for a million other things that happened varying fractions of forever ago but still twist in my side whenever I think of them, which are the reasons I broke things off in the first place (sorry, internet, I didn't think it was classy to talk about it then) and even though we try so, so hard to stay friends I can't forget them.  And not a word of it came out - I just withdrew so completely I could barely hear him when he told me he was leaving the tools so I could finish it on my own.

And then I cried.  And the legless tabletop lay on my kitchen floor for several days while I stumbled around trying to get all my shit done.  I got kittens, which helped my blood pressure.  I wrote about my beloved Papageno, both in tidbits on Facebook and some private stuff.  I sang "Stardust" like all the freaking time.  And then I grabbed the handsaw and got to work.

And I finished it all by my damn self.



It's far from perfect.  I still need to sand it down, and I couldn't even get a couple of the screws to sink in all the way.  And I'll probably have to take it apart soon, as my car getting broken into for the second time in a few months has convinced me that I need to make living in a halfway-safe neighborhood a real priority.  But it's solid and it fits the space and it's something that I completed and I can touch it and feel its weight and the texture of the wood beneath my fingertips.  And it's not the last thing I'll make.

Many thanks to Tony for helping so much.

-N

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Project Fear Less: Adopt kittens! Yes, plural!

Meet the babies:

omgkittenz!
I have been telling people (and myself) that I'm totally going to get a cat...as soon as I'm settled into my new place, and as soon as I have a little money saved up, and as soon as I get back from vacation, and on and on.  But no more.  These are my kittens, Pamina on the left up there and Tamino in the foreground (Tam and Mina for short.  Bonus points if you get the reference; if not, scroll down).

Why is this scary?  Well, first of all, because I am now solely responsible for two little furry lives other than my own.  If I try to fill my day with a lot of outside-the-home stuff to do, that means I'm kept busy (and hopefully happy) but they're left alone here.  (I still work 15-hour days on occasion, which is part of the reason I got two.)  I can't just up and travel if I have a weekend free - I need to make sure that they'll have food, water and a clean litter-box.  It's not one of those actions people think of as huge and life-changing, but the truth is that as I intend to keep them, that decision will affect, to some degree, where I live; where, when and for how long I travel; what I do with my spare time; how I decorate my home and a zillion other things I'm sure to find out.

Another reason this took some guts: it cost money.  Not a small amount.  I have a nice chunk saved up from working so much over the summer and I'm not completely strapped right now, although income has lessened considerably for the school year, but I always get really nervous when it comes to spending largish amounts of money, by which I mean anything over about $75 at one time (unless it's on food, because I take what I eat very seriously and I know how to use things to their fullest potential).  So it takes a couple of deep breaths before I can drop cash on things like decent shoes, for example - I flopped and limped around in not one but TWO different pairs (for work and daily wear) of completely worn-out, pieces-falling-off shoes for months before I bit the bullet and bought new ones.  I'm nervous about a lot of money issues when I really don't need to be - I know how to make and follow a budget, I have multiple sources of income and I have enough meat and fat stockpiled right now to not buy any more food for at LEAST a month, probably more.  If I spent $10 on a few heads of cabbage and made sauerkraut, I could even eat meals resembling normal people food.  But I digress.

Basically, I wanted feline company for a long time, and I kept talking myself out of it even though I knew it would make me happy.  There are other things I want too but have been too afraid to reach for. Enough of that.  Less anxiety and more kittens for everyone!  And a parting thought, from the lovely Things We Forget (well worth a look-see if you're bored on the internet):


Also, KITTEN PAWS!


-N

PS: The story behind the kittens' names is this: we called my grandfather "Papageno," after a character from Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute."  Tamino and Pamina are the male and female lead in that opera.  I think he would approve.

Monday, September 10, 2012

PFL: Be upside-down

this isn't me...yet.  via


So I went to CrossFit today.  I'd looked over the WOD beforehand and it seemed doable - some not-too-crazy-heavy deadlifts and cleans and that was pretty much it.  Awesome sauce.  I get there just as the previous group was finishing up their cleans, and I try to make it through the gauntlet of snappy hips and flying barbells to drop my stuff at the cubbies.

Oh hey, who's that?  It's the lovely and talented Dr. Shirey, who promised to spot me on handstands...er, sometime.  Hey...now is sometime.  Um.  Right.

I thought about just smiling and not talking, but that would be totally weak.  As I walk by her, my mouth immediately says "So, handstands?"  Damnit, reactive brain!  You will get me killed.  No going back now.  "Yeah!" she says.  "After the WOD?"  Sure...but now I'm thinking about supporting my entire bodyweight with my arms right after lifting heavy-ish stuff multiple times.  Hm.  Hmmmmm.

The WOD wasn't actually that tough.  I may have unintentionally sandbagged it a little because the day I figured out my current 1RMs was a few months ago now and I'm already considerably stronger.  But my form on the cleans can definitely use some work, so we can just count it as a skill day.  So:


  • 10 sets of 2 reps on the minute of banded deadlifts at 85lbs (sadly yes, that WAS about 60% of my last measured 1RM) getting up as quickly as possible (I slowed it down considerably on the way down instead of just dropping the bar)
  • 12 sets of one full clean and one hang clean (both with a full squat) on the minute at 65lbs.  Decent, but honestly not heavy enough for me to feel like I had to engage my hips all that much. Which is a good thing, especially as the scary elite who watched me totally fail at hang-cleaning 95lbs a few months ago was there.  I didn't fail this time.
And then everyone started doing banded good mornings - step on a band and wrap the other end behind your neck, then bend over and straighten up a bunch of times - which just looks ow and also kind of like Dave just found a sneaky way to get everyone to bow to him.  So obviously handstands are so, so much easier, especially with the ever-fabulous Ms. Scott volunteering to spot me on the other side.  She and Kristen told me they were total Hercu-Lisas and would never let me fall on my head so that I'd have to spend the rest of my days typing out slow but inspiring prose with my eyelids.  In fact, they were going to each grab one of my ankles with their pinky and parade me around the gym.  Why?  Because they're motherfucking bamfs and they CAN, that's why.

Kristen was amazingly helpful and spent a lot of time telling me about how there's an actual physiological reason for why some people start crying uncontrollably when they're put upside-down (yes!  science!), and showed me a couple of ways to start kicking up against the wall and told me the story of when she was learning to do handstands with Dave spotting her, and also demonstrated some absolutely beautiful handstands numerous times and actually was able to look up at my face WHILE she was doing them, which is absolutely inconceivable to me.  And then after enough stalling, it was my turn.


By this time Amy had joined us and I had a fitness goddess on either side of me ready to catch me, so there was really no reason not to.  Except, you know, my BRAIN telling me that the second I kicked up I would fall down/up towards my feet and crash through the roof into the sky and fall into space.  God DAMNIT, brain.  But I knew it was crazytalk and there was only one way to shut it up.

Crouch.

Set up my hands.

Put my feet in position, one behind the other.

Try to stop at least the necessary parts of my body from shaking.

Shut my eyes as tightly as possible.

And...kick.

I probably went about a foot off the ground on the first try, but it felt like a freaking barrel roll.  But I didn't die.  Amy and Kristen were yelling wonderful encouraging things that I cannot for the life of me remember.  And so I did it again.  And again.  Kristen showed me the approximate angle my body was reaching, which was way more than I thought it was...that's good, right?  But honestly it was too terrifying to think about the fact that I was actually doing it, so I just did it again.  And another time.  And then a few more.  And then Team Hercu-Lisa grabbed my ankles and spotted me all the way into a full handstand.

I wish I could remember it better.  I was so focused on locking my shoulders and elbows out and not opening my eyes and trying to ignore the fact that I was honest-to-gods upside-down under at least half my own power for the first time in my LIFE that it was all kind of blurry.  And then I was saying "put me down now down please now yes down" and then I was down and not crying, by some miracle.

I did it.

And then I wrote it on the PR board and totally forgot to take a picture, but next time I promise.  Because there will be a next time.  And my goal for that one is open my damn eyes already and don't forget how gravity works.

Commenters: leave me more ideas of what to do for Project Fear Less.

-N

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Works, meet wrench.

Last Monday, my grandfather passed away.  We'd been halfway expecting it for a while, but it still shook me up a bit - more than I figured it would.  I'm ok, work and school are fine, but I've been more than a little distracted this week.  Still, I made a conscious effort to do scary things (as outlined in my last post), even if I didn't write about them.  Here are a few:

1.  I changed a way-high-up lightbulb at work.  It was in a pendant lamp hanging over a table, so approximately 7-8 feet above the ground.  Recall, if you will, that standing on a chair starts to give me vertigo.  But I hopped on up there like it weren't no thang, and hopefully looked just as nimble getting back down, although it was more of a tactical fall.  But isn't that exactly what parkour is all about?

2.  I cried in public.  Tuesday morning I had work early and was still pretty shaken from the previous night's news.  Now, I don't like ANYONE to see me cry, not even family or close friends.  Why?  Partly vanity.  Red face and eyes, and also the fact that my nose turns unto a faucet when I cry...not very attractive.  I also think it shows weakness, which is the last thing I want to do.  But I went in, even though I probably could have called off.  And I got through my whole shift and did some damn good work, because I'm good at what I do.  And there were more than a few times that I couldn't see what I was doing because of the damn onions people kept cutting* but I kept working, and got a bunch of hugs from my awesome boss and a bunch of kind words from everyone else.  The owner of the restaurant, who was there to unlock the doors when I got there and saw the worst of my crying jag, came back to the kitchen later on and exuberantly asked me to tell him something awesome about my grandfather.  A lot came to mind (Ensign Papageno?  The rajah (and everyone else in the world that he knew)? Quick-As-Scat and Tail-In-Air?), but I told him the reason we called him Papageno, because that is pretty much all due to me :)

*No one was actually cutting onions.

3. I did 100 squats, 100 push-ups, 500m row and 400m run for time last Monday.  I was sore for  literally the entire week, but I didn't sandbag a thing and got some decent times: 2:18 for the squats (second to finish of the women, approximately 3rd or 4th overall), 6:34 for the push-ups (the first 30 real ones and the rest on my knees, not 25/75 as I wrote on the board), 2:05 for the row (I've done better but not too bad) and a slightly depressing 2:48 for the run because my legs were pretty much completely seized up.  Fun fun.  Why was this scary?  Because it was a lot more arm-and-shoulder-type things than I've done in over a year, and I wasn't sure if my shoulders could take it.  But they could.  So there, brain.





4.  I texted that one guy to see if he wanted to hang out and conversate.  He hasn't answered yet.  Meh.  His loss.

That's it for now.  It wasn't every day, but I'm working up to it.

Any suggestions for more things to do?

-N


Monday, September 3, 2012

Running the numbers: Round 4

I wish I wish I wish I had gotten these taken right after I came back from Gahada!  Ah well.  Next vacation, I'm getting my stats right before and right after I go.  And possibly also trying to make my life less hectic and more vacation-y year round, because that would probably make some sense as well.

Numbers!  As before, I'm including the first, second, third and most recent stats.

Weight: 161/155/149/151.  Meh.

BMI: 25.06/24.28/23.34/23.54.  Meh.

Body Fat Percentage: 26.3/24.9/23.3/22.9.  Woo-hoo!  I know it's small, but it counts.  Basically, I didn't gain any fat, just muscle.

Total Body Water: 59.7%/64.0%/68.5%/74.3%.  Bonesetter Stew says this is awesome. Let's go with it.

Basal Metabolic Rate:  1540/1518/1492/1501 kcal.  As to be expected.

Daily Energy Expenditure:  2002/2278/1940/2252 kcal.  And I FINALLY got a decent explanation of what this means.  It's basically a guess, based on the BMR and my activity level.  

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Waist=28 and hip=38 so it's 0.73.  Not bad!  Last time I measured (like two years ago) it was 31/41=0.76.  Still aiming for a perfect 0.70.

I talked to Stew for a while after that about what sort of tweaks I can make to get to my goal (which right now is 21%).  In the most basic terms, either I can lose fat or gain muscle, or (preferably) both.  I'm heading to CFD for some craziness as soon as I publish this, so that plus aping it up is likely going to help a lot with the former method.  As for the latter...I'm trying a couple things.  I've been following a Tim-Ferriss-esque plan of being fairly strict on every day but Sunday, and then spiking calories and carbs in particular, but not going hog-wild.  Stew's advice was to go hog wild.  I'm not sure if this has a physiological reason or just psychologically makes you want to cheat less during the week.  I tried it out yesterday and definitely do not feel like eating anything, let alone the pastries (and ice cream, and beer, and burrito, and duck frites, and sushi) I had yesterday.  So I'm combining crazy cheat day with keto-ish IF for a while and seeing what happens after about 6 weeks.  

In other news, I got my pull-up bar put together!  But now I realise it's too big to go through the door into the room where I want it.  Womp, womp.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Project Fear Less: Post The First

It could will happen.  via
I had been thinking about the topic of my last post for a long time before I wrote it.  The culmination was simply that day when I kept whining about being scared and weak like I had been for freaking ever and suddenly got all meta about it.  But it had been in the back of my mind for some time, and I kept half-thinking that it would be kind of a cool idea to act on that quote from one of my namesakes:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

At first, when the idea emerged, I thought it would be too unrealistic and unsustainable - I'm not scared of THAT many things, right?  Um.  Well.  Upon reflection...yeah.  Below is a partial list of just some of the stuff I can think of right now:

  1. I'm scared of being upside-down - doesn't matter how far I am from the ground.  Even downward dog in yoga makes me nervous.
  2. I'm scared of falling.
  3. I'm scared of speaking up in class.
  4. I'm scared of asking this one person to hang out because he'll misinterpret it as flirting and I honestly just want to have a really good conversation.
  5. I'm scared of being by myself in the woods at night.
  6. I'm scared to ask for a raise even though I'm amazing at my job, am frequently complimented by my bosses and have been there almost a year.
  7. I'm scared to go to new places alone.
  8. I'm scared to walk around my neighborhood (let alone run in my exercise shorts).
  9. I'm scared to get rid of a lot of the knick-knacks and objets d'art I've collected over the years because I feel like they hold my memories better than my brain can.  But now I have boxes full of stuff in a tiny apartment with one 1x3 closet.
  10. I'm scared to practice any of the parkour-y stuff I'm beginning to learn on my breaks at school because PEOPLE WILL SEE ME and presumably...laugh?  Or something.
  11. I'm scared of writing back to my friend because it's been way too long since she's written to me and I'm afraid she hates me now.  So I do what I always do in these situations and stall even more.
  12. I'm scared of hitting "Publish" on this post because it got a lot more personal than I was expecting it to, and the internet can be cruel.
I can give you an embarrassingly large number of other examples...but you get the picture.

So now that I have the fodder, what's the plan?  It's dazzlingly simple: take the words of that other brilliant Eleanor at face value, and do (at least) one thing every day that scares me.  It could be something as small as attempting to walk backwards up the wall into a handstand, which scares the ever-loving piss out of me because my brain suddenly screams "OH MY GOD THERE IS NOTHING BENEATH YOUR FEET YOU ARE GOING TO FALL OFF THE WORLD" and then I fall over.  But hopefully that's not going to happen.  It could be as big as planning a solo overseas trip, which stupidly enough scares me way less than the thought of being inverted.  But at least one thing.  Every day.  Doesn't have to be unique, just has to get the butterflies going.

DAY 1:  Today I hollered at a class of 60+ people to shut up while the professor was talking.  And when I say holler, I mean holler.  I can be loud when I want to be.

DAY 1 BONUS:  Today I stepped between two rocks that were 5ish feet off the ground, jumped between two more rocks that were farther apart than I honestly thought I could make and swung under a rail multiple times without re-tearing my labrum, as my brain assured me would instantly happen.

That's all for now.  Keep me honest, people - bug me if I don't post.  Yes, I mean that seriously.

What scares you?

-N

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fear less

So last Friday, I headed to Chapel Hill to ape it up for a while.  As it turned out, my ape sensei for the day was not the Caveman Ninja, but someone else, equally as cool, but apparently moving to the fricking Swiss Alps, like, yesterday.  And amid all the jumping and rolling and whatnot, I found myself saying, over and over, some version of "I can't do that because I'm too weak and/or scared."  Even though I actually did go through with a lot of the stuff, I feel like I wasted the opportunity to learn as much as I could have because I was too caught up in what I couldn't do (at least, what my head told me I couldn't do).

Then I realised...that's been pretty much the defining factor of the past year (at least) of my life.  Fear.

It's not that I've failed to accomplish anything.  I got back in school, aiming for a dual degree in physics and engineering, and finished the first year with only one B.  I found my own place - a nice little duplex in Durham, less than two miles from both my main workplace and school.  I handled 65-70 hours of work per week over the summer and saved up a small chunk that should come in handy in the future.

But...I also neglected my physical fitness.  A LOT.  I stopped going to PT ostensibly because it was too expensive, but also because it hurt so much, and I was afraid of the pain.  I didn't start back up with training when my body could have handled it, because I was terrified of hurting my shoulder again, and because I was ashamed of being the weakest person there.

That's how it started.  I feel like that physical weakness and fear of pain transferred over into other aspects of my life, and made fear the main motivator.  I studied hard and got good grades because the spectre of failing at school yet again and thereby damning myself to a life in shit jobs constantly hovered over my shoulder.  I blinded myself to the bad and spent all my spare time trying the same bad fixes on relationships that kept not getting fixed because I was terrified of being alone in a big scary world for the rest of my life.  I worked so ridiculously much because I felt absolutely certain that if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to make rent and feed myself and would have to live in my car and probably get hassled by the police or possibly mugged by someone who would creep up and slash my tires at 3am and then just wait, laughing and sitting on my hood while I pissed myself trying to dial 911 but my phone would be dead.  That's how my brain works sometimes.

Some might say that it doesn't matter what your motivation is if you accomplish your goals in the end.  I think that's bullshit.  It's the same kind of effect that a lot of women get from trying the "motivation through shame" sort of transition to a healthier lifestyle: take a picture of yourself in a bikini or underwear and tape it up on the fridge or near your exercise equipment,  using that (presumably disgusting beyond words) image as negative motivation to eat better and exercise more.  The problem with that is the constant, poisonous inner monologue it can create, endlessly repeating how YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH...and you never will be.  You might lose weight and look hot to others, but the voice will remain, and it's a tough sonofabitch to evict once it's in there.  I know this.  There are still times when I have to literally smack myself in the head and say "shut UP!"  Usually this is a silly enough move to help me get over it already, although it might freak onlookers out a bit.

I recently gave some advice to a friend who was considering the shame-picture method.  My alternative was to buy a cute bikini and use that as the motivation.  It's almost the same, but there's one major difference: with the picture, your motivation is something you're running away from.  With the bikini, it's something you're running towards.  And that small shift makes a world of difference.

I don't want to be simply "not living in my car" or "not alone" or "not weak and in pain."  I want to be actively seeking out a life of amazement and adventure - which, I'm now thinking, might actually include living in my car for a while (or at least out of a teardrop trailer...ideas, ideas!).  I want healthy, fulfilling relationships with interesting people...and I also want the security of being able to depend on myself first and foremost.  As for the pain...I can put up with that if it leads to the ability to hold a weight heavier than I am over my head, and vault effortlessly over a wall...and DO A DAMN HANDSTAND ALREADY.

That's right.  There are a lot of scary things in the world, but one thing that I am still absolutely viscerally terrified of is being upside-down.  And that's going to change.  This is going to be the year of fearing less in all areas of my life, and a sudden (literal) 180-degree switch in worldview is only going to aid that process.

Now, who wants to spot me?

-N

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back from Paradise

I will never, ever get tired of that view.  It's always exactly the same, and it's always absolutely perfect.

For the past week-ish, I've been in upstate New York, out of cell phone and GPS range and only around wireless once to send some emails.  So basically lost to the rest of the world, and it was FABULOUS.  Here's a basic day:

7ish: wake up, lie in bed for a while marveling at the fact that I have absolutely nothing that I need to do.  Eventually roll out of bed and don my swimsuit.  Grab a cup of coffee and a towel and walk down the hill to the lake.

8am-dinnertime: swim, lie in the sun and get dry, swim again, walk barefoot through the woods over a century-old carpet of pine needles, go for a quick paddle or row across the lake, head back up to the camp (that's Gahadaese for "house") for some ridiculous dinner made by my wonderful uncle - something like grilled marinated lamb.

9ish-the wee hours: campfire time!  Shooting the breeze, jamming, taking an impromptu trip across the lake at 2am to see what the creepy light that appears there sometimes is (and then turning around before we got there because SOMEONE who happened to be rowing got skeered), roasting marshmallows, midnight swimming...and then finally picking your way back to camp barefoot in the dark to fall asleep and do it all over again tomorrow.

I spent the entire week barefoot, only slipping on my flip-flops a couple times but always kicking them off again before too long.  I sang with some old friends who are now incredibly good at guitar for a talent show (although our jam session earlier was miles better because I'm not used to microphones), danced for several hours straight at a square dance that also included multiple playings of "The Electric Slide" and wished it could have been twice as long.  And every morning I walked down to look over the lake, at that view that's been refreshingly unchanged ever since I first saw it as a baby.  Forget Paris. As long as we have Gahada, I'll be one happy camper.




Friday, July 20, 2012

Hunger. Also, human contact is good for you (whodathunk?)

I'm eating this right. now.  And it is delicious.  Stir-fried chopped squash, chicken hearts and ground beef in a hell of a lot of butter, with a little salt and more than a little coconut sprinkled on top.

Last night I got really hungry.  This isn't a very common occurrence.  It's not that I intentionally try to eat ahead of hunger with lots of small meals - tried it for a long time and it just doesn't work But the stuff I do eat, which is more and more based on medium volumes of meat and veggies, with that order of importance, in a large volume of fat, just keeps me so incredibly satiated that I almost never feel really honest-to-god(s) stomach-grumbling hungry any more.  Yesterday was a fluke because I'd woken up lateish and run to work with no breakfast, then worked through the day on two cups of creamy coffee and one (ONE!) piece of bacon.  And...no hunger until around 6pm.  None.  I also didn't feel totally up to scratch, but I can remember feeling meh before I ate like this, and always being hungry throughout illnesses, even though I always secretly hoped I'd be non-seriously sick for a few weeks and totally lose my appetite so I could finally get rid of my gut.  Nope...never happened.

Right now, though, the obvious extreme efficiency of what I'm eating makes me think about trying intermittent fasting again, reason being that although it's relatively easy to maintain my figure and abilities eating like this, I'd like to start getting noticeably better at badassery again, part of which includes (for me) lowering my body fat just a bit.  My first bout with IF, as I've mentioned before, got me kind of wacko as far as specifically planning what to eat when, and skipping or rescheduling other things so I could eat on time.  Disordered eating is disordered eating, whether it's how much or how you think about it.  But now I think I could be a little more successful at it - I know I can go a very long time without suffering ill effects from not eating, so I can worry a little less about scheduling and just eat more when I have the time.  More on that one later.

So this morning I finally got to hang out with my lovely friend Amy, for whom I was a mother's helper last year, and her adorable little monster Jojo, who is now literally twice the size he was when I first met him at 3 months.  It's cray, as the kids are wont to say these days.  We had a great time just sitting at the table over coffee and alternately talking about our lives and cooing at Jojo trying to ride his horse on wheels (which is a CAR, as anything with wheels is a CAR, even those rolly desk chairs) but not realizing that he can scoot it with his feet, so he just straddles it and then stands up and walks around with it.  Her neighbor stopped by too, unfortunately because she had locked herself out of her house, but it still turned into a fun girl-talk-and-coffee time.  I have missed that SO much.  There's a big disconnect in American society - people live so close together, but just stopping by to chat and have a cuppa is absolutely unheard of.  In my own life, I make myself so busy with work and school and Man that I feel like I've run out of room for more human connections once I actually get some time to myself, so I generally spend it running around in the woods, alone.  And that can be a wonderful thing, but I've starved myself of the other kind of connection to nature - plants are all well and great, but when it comes down to it, humans need other humans.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

16Jul, 17Jul and 18Jul, plus oh yay it's RHABDO.

Monday's breakfast:

Kefir with egg yolks, coffee with milk, the whites of the eggs cooked in butter and lard, a handful of sauerkraut frizzled up (mostly to soak up the fat in the pan).

It was a fairly restful day - I had a lot of stuff to take care of, so I took the day off from the lab and got nearly everything done.  In the evening after he got off work, The Man and I took a trip down to the Eno and strolled around in the woods for a good long while.  Any Durhamites who haven't been there yet...really?  Just go already.

Yesterday's breakfast:

Kefir (this is actually made partly with colostrum, or "first milk."  It's what comes out when the cow's milked for a few days following the calf's birth, and it's super high in protein and fat and all kinds of immunoboosters.  People worried about the calf: there is a LOT.  this cow is used to getting milked, so if she didn't, her udder would be like a fricking balloon, she'd probably get mastitis and it would likely be too painful for her to feed her own baby), coffee with milk, ground beef and sauerkraut (the beef is under the sauerkraut so it can soak up all the delicious juices, and also because it's raw (yes really) and I figured people would be grossed out) with brown butter poured over.

Today's breakfast:

Kefir is still fermenting!  I guess this is a good thing because it means my apartment isn't at a steady 80 degrees anymore.  I love that stuff so freaking much, though!  Probably should start making a couple batches at a time.  But anyways, without the kefir, this looks pretty much like the average breakfast, right?  Coffee and a bowl full of something that looks kind of mealy.  Except in my case there's not so much cereal with fruit and a little more diced squash and chicken hearts sauteed in butter and lard, with dried coconut sprinkled on top.

...I'm beginning to think I'm weird.  It's ok, though.  It's the good kind.  (and the coconut?  made. the. meal.  wow)

So yeah, rhabdo.  Last time I was at CFD, we did this thing involving power cleans (65# for me) and pull-ups (ring rows for me) - 10 of each, then 9 of each, then 8, etc etc.  It was awesome.  I liked the setup a lot - it's 55 reps of each move total, but the way it's split up makes it seem like it's going by much faster.  I tried to strike a balance between going heavy-ish and actually completing the whole thing.  I could have done band pull-ups, but it seems like my shoulder is stronger than it is stable, for some positions - there's more of a danger of hurting it if I go faster.  Obvs.  Anyways, I need my damn pull-up bar!  But moving on...

I did the whole thing.  Took me 15:04, and I was the slowest by about 10 seconds behind the second-slowest.  It wasn't terrible, but I figured my arms would be pretty smoked the next day.  That night, I took an ice bath - my normal regime is 10 minutes up to my waist, 5 minutes up to my neck with arms out and 5 minutes with arms in.  This time the cold tap water was warm enough so I didn't get numbed like I usually do (damn you, record-breaking North Carolina summer!), so it was considerably more of a hassle to stay in.  So I kind of skipped the part where I put my arms in.

And maybe I also didn't drink enough water.  Like, say, any.

And then suddenly on Friday afternoon, my arms were so swollen that my elbows were completely obscured and I couldn't straighten them past a 90-degree angle.  I was also nauseous and totally brain-fogged, and absolutely convinced that it was some kind of crazy allergic reaction to the scone and cream puff from Guglhupf I'd had that morning as a treat, after eating pretty damn clean for the past two months.  Except for the Walker shortbread cookies.

I didn't think it's was anything super serious or that wouldn't go away relatively soon, so I just muscled through it (er, so to speak), trying to eat very clean but still not figuring out the part where I SHOULD DRINK SOME FREAKING WATER.  This continued all through the loooong work weekend.

So then Monday I messaged Dave that I'd be by CFD probably the next day, since I had this omg crazy arm thing going on!  but I'm icing it like a mofo and I'm sure it'll be totes fine by tomorrow!  k cya!  And then he wrote back "ummm, Nelly...that sounds a lot like rhabdo."  And I was like WHAT.

So we talked about pee for a while and I looked up some other symptoms of rhabdo, and yeah...probably got it.  Here are all the symptoms I had, plus the ones I'd been told to look out for but didn't see:

  • Your pee looks like Coke.  I didn't have this one, and it was still pretty bad.  This is NOT the only indicator.
  • You have crazy soreness and cramping.  Like, way way more than normal.  Not just in the stomach, either, which is what I'd been told.  My arm muscles literally felt like they were about to rip when I tried to straighten my arms.  And I come from a long line of English majors, so I know what "literally" means!
  • You are swollen up like a balloon.  When I say I couldn't see my elbows, I mean they were totally obscured by the swelling - I couldn't even feel my elbow bone.  Even now, the better part of a week later, they're significantly larger than normal.  Also, my muscles felt like they wouldn't stop flexing - they were rock-hard all the time, which for other things can occasionally be a good thing, but here was not so enjoyable.
  • "Brain fog," i.e. UTTER CONFUSION.  I knew I was out of it when one of the cooks said something to me about pretzels, and after I actually understood her words the third time she said them (not a normal event), I was like "oh no, John's making the pretzels today."  And then she looked at me weird and said "no, I mean give me one."  And we laughed merrily together, but inside I was like "wtf??  damn gluten..."  Seriously, though, I was in a total haze and honestly probably shouldn't even have driven the mile and a half back to my house.
  • Nausea and general feeling shitty.  BLARG.  It's never, EVER been so easy for me to turn down all the delicious Mexican food the cooks make for each other.  I entertained the thought for a second, but my stomach started gurgling even at that.
That's everything I noticed.  Don't be stupid like me, kids.  Drink your damn water.  I'd fallen out of the habit when I stopped going to CFD* on a regular basis, but now I've got my liter bottle in my hand and I'm chugging like a sixth-year senior frat boy trying to fill the emptiness inside.

-Nelly

*I will probably be there at 6 or 7 tonight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10Jul12 plus first (real) day back at CFD!

BREAKFAST
Coffee with milk.  Kefir with two raw eggs whisked in,  Sauerkraut.

So yesterday was my first day back at CFD.  It's changed a lot since the last time I was regularly there, as have I.  I saw a lot of new faces mixed in with the old ones, nearly all of whom (minus one scary elite) were smiling at me...so that was good.  I'm prepping to do a Wendler program, so yesterday was figuring out my 1-rep maxes on the lifts used in the program - press, back squat and deadlift.  The final one used is bench press, but it took me close to an hour to get the first three, and I'm a little nervous about trying for the heaviest I can go without a spotter.  Below are my new numbers.

PRESS - 55
I don't remember what I was doing for press last year, but I know my clean and jerk was somewhere around 120-130, so I think it's safe to assume press was probably a little under a hundred.  This is the one I was most worried about, as even a year afterward, my right shoulder is still not where it used to be as far as mobility and strength go, and the press is the lift where your arms and shoulders get the least help from the rest of your body.  If I weren't so overly worried about re-injuring myself, I could probably have gone higher, but I'll stick with this for now.

BACK SQUAT - 125? 115?
I had written down 115 but then I realised I didn't add up the plates correctly, but by that time I had moved on and couldn't quite remember how I had it.  I'm most likely going to err on the side of caution here and go with the lower number, as the position for holding the bar is absolute murder on my shoulder.  I can get the high-back position ok fine (thanks to a tip from Bonesetter Stew, who happened to be there), but the low-back - my preferred technique last year, as I found it helped me go heavier and also work more on my legs and less on my neck and shoulders, which I'd rather leave slender-ish - is incredibly painful.  I'm gonna pull the head off the broom and practice with the stick, for starters.  The last numbers I recall for back squat were around 175-185.

DEADLIFT - 175
This was the only lift that I honestly sought out failure on, both because it was the last one I was doing for the day and it doesn't really involve shoulders.  My last number for this was 225, and I was immensely proud of it because I was getting really close to doing 1.5xbodyweight.  This is...significantly less.  More like 1.167xbodyweight.  Not gonna lie, this is the lift I love the best, and it was more than a little disappointing to see how much it's dropped.  Still, it only went down 50 lbs in a year, and since it's generally so heavy and uses the really big muscle groups, there's a chance I could see significant improvement pretty fast.

And then when I was putting stuff away, I tried to hang clean 95 lbs to put it on the rack and failed miserably (the first time.  got it the second) with the scary elite watching.  Felt pretty goddamn stupid.

I really really really need to make this a habit again.  I was whining to JJ (not too shrilly, I hope) about how it didn't feel like I knew the place anymore.  Well, there's only one way to change that, and I need to suck it up and just keep coming back already.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Running the numbers: Round 3

I just got back from having Bonesetter Stew set my bones and take my stats.  Here's the first time I had this done and the second, for interested parties.  Also, if I can find someone tall, dark, handsome and named Tony to hold the camera for me, I'll get more pictures and do a side-by-side comparison with the old ones.  Below, I've listed first/second/latest numbers, in that format.

Weight: 161/155/149.  I'm pretty happy with this, but there are more interesting numbers to focus on...

BMI: 25.06/24.28/23.34.  I know this one is totally inaccurate and you're not supposed to put a lot of stock into it, but this is the first time in recent memory that I've checked it and it was solidly in the "normal" range.  Moving on...

Body Fat Percentage: 26.3/24.9/23.3.  This, along with waist-to-hip ratio (which I'll post as soon as I can dig up a tape measure), are the numbers I'm most interested in.

Total Body Water: 59.7%/64.0%/68.5%.  Stew says around 70% is a good aim, so I'm doing awesomely here.

Basal Metabolic Rate: 1540/1518/1492.  It's dropped as I've lost weight, as is to be expected.  I wish it were a little higher, but that should come with more lean mass.

Daily Energy Expenditure: 2002/2278/1940.  And I still have no clue how to translate this into real-world terms - I mean, I get that it's supposed to be how much you burn in a day, but how the hell is that actually measured in an instant?

As I said before, WTH ratio and pictures are forthcoming.

Now for the coolest part of this: the time span between the first and second stats was a little less than a month when I was doing a strict calorie-restricting diet/cleanse and working out very heavily probably 6 times a week or so, with most of the rest of my life being relatively easy and unstressful.  I saw definite improvements in my numbers, but as I noted in my follow-up post, my overall results weren't totally desirable.  I was cranky and  bloated; my trichotillomania was seriously acting up and I felt extremely constrained and regimented by the specific way I was supposed to eat and train, as well as discouraged by the way my performance in the gym had dropped.  I was moving towards some goals, but at the expense of others.

Now, fast-forward to today.  I haven't done more than an hour or two of formal exercise in a year.  (I'm not counting the forest walk/running I do with my zombie running app, because that's almost entirely walking, I've only done a few episodes and it's also a game.)  I've gone through some incredibly stressful times in the past year and am now working three jobs  for a total of 60-70 hours/week.  When I'm at home, I spend most of my time lying on my bed reading or web-surfing via my phone.  My diet is insanely high in animal fats: schmalz, lard, fatback, butter and heavy cream make up the bulk of my calories, with coconut oil being added soon.  Other than that, I eat raw or rare eggs, beef, offal (liver, heart, etc) and milk (which I drink almost entirely cultured into kefir at this point).  Sometimes I roast a chicken.  The only carbs I normally have come from my homemade lactofermented sauerkraut and the kefir, or other veggies if The Man buys them for me.  He also surprised me with Walker shortbread cookies yesterday, and I gave him a kiss and promptly demolished half the (large) package.  That's another thing: while what's listed above is my default way of eating, I definitely "cheat" more than I think I should.  I also take 20-minute ice baths a couple times a week, a la Tim Ferriss.  And I try not to stay up past 11 most nights.  That's it.

Whatever I'm doing seems to be mostly working.  I'm not entirely happy with everything - I want to regain my flexibility and strength, for starters, and eventually I want to start moving back towards competition-level lifting and parkour, as well as dripping a couple more percentage points of body fat and working on having an ass like whoa.  But as far as I can tell without actually having been to the gym, a surprising amount of my strength is still there - things like air squats and burpees come easily to me, and (most amazingly) I can still do a few unassisted pull-ups in a row (remember, I had shoulder surgery last year). 

I like where I am.  I love where I'm going.  Here's to documenting the whole process.

-n

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

3Jul12 - food and thoughts

BREAKFAST
Two egg whites cooked in butter, with a handful of sauerkraut warmed in the pan (mostly to soak up the rest of the butter.  Two egg yolks floating in kefir.  Two cups of coffee with heavy cream and milk.

THOUGHTS
(in no particular order)

I mostly like my diet right now.  I know I'm not eating a lot of vegetables, and the reason for that is they often take more prep time and attention than the other things I eat.  Kefir: pour milk in jar, add grains, wait.  Meat: heat fat in pan, add meat, wait a couple minutes, eat.  (Or just eat.  Yes, really.  More on that later.)  Eggs: well, half of them is ready to eat already, and I've been known to whisk a whole raw egg or two into my kefir, antinutrients be damned - it's just so easy!  Sauerkraut is awesome because I do about half an hour of prep one night, another 10ish minutes a few days later to pack the fermented product into smaller jars and then I'm set for a week or two.  I probably need to start pickling everything.  Hence the nukadoko...why is it so hard to find rice bran?

The best I ever felt on a "diet" was when I did Whole 30 back at the beginning of last year, and a not-too-modified version of it for a month or two following.  That's also when I was doing very heavy Crossfitting, though - between 4 and 6 times a week, sometimes every day.  These days I'm nervous about committing that much money - time too, but mostly money.  I'm still waiting on my stipend check from May, and have been trying to not spend on anything but essentials until it comes through.  Of course I say that, but then I go out with The Man and end up buying two new dresses I didn't totally need because I like how he looks at me in them, on top of the things I actually needed.  Which would make it completely worth it if I weren't so nervous about money these days.

The best I ever looked on a diet was when I did "Stage One" of this one here.  It's like one-meal intermittent fasting with snacking on fruit and nuts allowed, essentially.  Yes, I know that totally defeats the purpose.  But it helped me drop fat very quickly: I was noticing a significant difference in how my clothes fit after a week, and judging by the fact that there didn't seem to be a change in the way my lifts were increasing, I'm going to assume that lean mass wasn't affected very much.  It also helped me eat with enjoyment and mindfulness, instead of just "because it's dinner time" or out of boredom.  I like getting hungry enough for that to kick in.  When I did "official" IF, by contrast, it just made me really antsy, counting down the minutes until my eating window started in the morning and skipping other things to make sure I got dinner in before it ended at night.  Maybe I'm just justifying the caveman dealio because that's the last time I remember having that small a waist, but if it gives me that goal without getting me further from others, I figure it's not too bad.

There's so much conflicting information on what is the best way to be "fit," which loosely translates as some version of "beautiful and good at moving."  Even in my own varied experiences.  The only thing about the methods I've tried that seems to particularly stick out now is the fact that I'm not moving enough, and I need to do that more.  I can feel a knot tighten in my stomach as I type that - I already work so much, between 60 and 70 hours in any given week, and when I finish, I just don't want to do more than go back home and sip a cold drink while I'm curled on my bed.  But I'm beginning to realize that I need to suck it up and just start moving again.  The healing process after surgery and the period of "nourishing fitness" after this very mentally stressful past year need to start morphing back to a regime that actually, actively builds me back up.