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

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.


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.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Project Fear Less: Adopt kittens! Yes, plural!

Meet the babies:

I have been telling people (and myself) that I'm totally going to get a 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):



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, sometime. 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.


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.


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.


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?


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.