Tuesday, August 31, 2004

What is the joy of movement?

We were made to move. It's important to move.

I sometimes get very grim when I'm working towards a goal -- ok, one step down, 42 to go. I focus on all the undone things. I forget to celebrate what I have done, and to realize that having done it makes me that much happier, that much closer to a dream, or at least, away from some anxiety at having something important undone.

That's what I call the joy of movement. I think we forget about the joy when we focus on the discomfort or pain.

But movement does not equal joy. I'm not happy when I'm moving in circles, spinning my wheels, chasing my own tail. Where's the fun in that?

Maybe it's that we just can't avoid moving while we're alive. At least not for long, if we want to stay alive. So then the choices are: move forward, move backward, or move in circles.

So I choose to move forward as often as possible, only look backward at good memories and to see how far I've come, and move in circles just when I'm dancing.

Living out loud

Last night, I won!

3 years ago, I joined the Eagle Toastmasters club, in Wallingford, CT. My goal then was simply to stop panicking when speaking in public, and to avoid the "deer in the headlights" reaction which would come over me when I looked out at an audience and realized they were looking back.

I've mostly gotten past that. Oh, there's still a little twinge from time to time, but I now realize that there'll always be a twinge, and it isn't fatal. I know that I'll probably always be anxious when trying something new, and the way to alleviate that is to go out and do it anyway

I made a commitment to myself this year to enter the twice-yearly contest that Toastmasters has. I always hated competing as a child, and refused to enter contests of any kind. "I never win, so what's the point?" I used to say.

But, as a Toastmaster, I knew I needed to do it, because it would push me to a new level. I got my CTM², but I knew there was more. And I knew that winning wasn't the only way to get something good out of competing. I've been in a few contests, so I know that's true. Any movement forward is a good thing!

So last night was the club contest: Humor, and an Evaluation contest. For humor, I had to give a 6-7 minute speech, a story, not just a string of one-liners. Mine was called "Don't try this at home," about the perils of Do It Yourself home-fixing up.

The Evaluation contest is a little different. The evaluation, or feedback portion is an important part of the club meeting. That's a 2-3 minute presentation given at the end of the meeting, one for every speech given that night. Evaluators are assigned in advance, so they can work with the speaker to make sure they give useful feedback.

So, Toastmasters made a contest out of it. One volunteer gives a speech. The contestants take notes, and then have 5 minutes after the speech to quickly outline an oral presentation. Then the notes are taken away and all contestants but the first leave the room. Then, one by one, all contestants evaluate the same speech. That way the judges are comparing apples to apples.

Last year I won the evaluation contest.

This year I won both contests!
1 Thanks, Susan Jeffers!
2 Competent Toastmaster (first achievement award in Toastmasters)
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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Valid comparisons

A friend was visiting recently, and scoffed at my choice of breakfast cereal -- Kashi Go Lean Crunch. It has listed 13 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fat per serving.

His choice -- regular Kashi (stats unknown) and All Bran (1 gram fat, 8 grams of sugar) per serving.

I brooded about this for a day or so. I decided to implement one thing he does, which is to measure portions. So I got out the All Bran and looked at the serving size. It's 1/3 of a cup. Go Lean Crunch has a serving size of 1 cup.

So, in a cup by cup comparison, the fat works out to: Kashi=3, All Bran=3. The same.
Sugar: Go Lean Crunch=13 g, All Bran=16. Aha!

Now I'm on a mission to track down the stats for regular Kashi. They may be the best of the 3 brands.

But I don't eat even 1/3 cup All bran, and I only eat 1/2 cup Go Lean Crunch. So I think I'm doing ok on breakfast.

However, All bran does have 13 g fiber per 1/3 cup, or 39 g/cup. That's amazing. If you eat a cup of all bran, you'll have met Dr. Gabe Mirkin's daily requirements for fiber. And Dr. Gabe does say that sugar bound up in fiber is not as bad as plain sugar. So I know All Bran is better in that respect as well.

This neepery is fascinating to those of us trying to move towards a more healthy weight.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The joy of sitting still

What an emotional roller-coaster I've been on in the last hour!

I've gone from self-doubt (will I ever be able to do what I want to be doing?) to depression (expensive bad news from my dentist) to calm, to amusement.

At least I had the wisdom to recognize the downward spiral I was on, and try to stop it. I was already in a mood where I felt frustrated and in doubt about my abilities at work, when the dentist office called. Yikes! I can't afford any more dental work. I was ready to tell them to yank 'em. What's the use? I thought. I spend and spend, but it seems never-ending. All the negative scripts came pouring out, and I accepted them all without question, until I was almost in tears.

I've gone down this road many times before, so this time I decided to try to get off, while I still could. I now know myself enough to know that if I can just distract myself for a little while, I can usually stop the bad scripts from running.

Deep breathing & meditation help, so I went over to Canyon Ranch, which has a free "meditation room" with calm instructors guiding you through (Flash high-bandwidth) deep-breathing exercises. In with the good air, out with the bad!

It worked -- not only did I get calmer, I also started thinking about blogging, instead of the dentist.

And now I'm laughing, because it always amuses & amazes me that I'm so easily distracted from doing bad things. This works for chocolate attacks, too. I've saved at least $10.00 this month that I haven't spent at the snack machine by deciding to wait until later instead of getting candy right when the urge hits. Hmm. Less candy = fewer cavities, therefore less candy = more $ in my pocket and less money spent at the dentist.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Here's an update on one of my activities, mentioned in this post.

I submitted an article via email to a med tech magazine way back in July, and blithely anticipated getting some sort of email shortly, to tell me the article had been received. I didn't hear a thing for what seemed like a very long time. I was planning on sending an email after a month, just to make sure my submission hadn't been mistaken for spam.

Today I got a response that the editor was interested in publishing the article online, rather than in the magazine. They have an online component with web exclusive content.

The editor wants to edit the copy of course, and will send me the rewrite in a few weeks. More waiting. I'm dying to see what he does with my wonderful prose. I hope he doesn't take all the good stuff out. (But it's all good stuff!)

This is still no guarantee that this article will ever see the light of day, or earn me any money. But it's a start.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Move past your mistakes

I can't say it any better than this:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

What that means to me is to learn from a mistake and then move on. There's too many miles to go to keep circling around past errors with regrets, should have's, embarassments; berating myself for not doing it right. It's too late for that.

Sometimes I spend too much time with those type of regrets. It's like I think if I keep making myself feel bad about a mistake it'll prevent me from making that mistake again.

The trick is to recognize the same mistake the next time before it gets made. If I can concentrate on the future, I won't get bogged down in the past.

The next step after that is to then not make that same mistake.

Easier said than done, of course. But I have to think it, understand it, say it to myself, before I can do it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What gets measured gets attention

Last weekend, I had a talk with Mary Ann about staying on track on a diet, and over the long haul. I said that I didn't want to have to keep track of points, or calories, because I would never do that for the rest of my life -- too much work. I'm in favor of the gradual lifestyle changes that cause me to lose weight slowly.

But I've been re-thinking that. One reason is that, as Mary Ann pointed out, after a while, you learn your points, and it's not so hard to keep track. Another is that I'm just not losing weight -- I've lost 11 pounds and I've plateaued out. The third reason is the "performance-shaping" one: what gets measured, gets attention.

Why it's good to have some way of measuring progress:
  1. It holds you accountable. If you say you're going to walk 3 times a week, and you log it, you'll know how often you kept your promise. If you say you're going to stick to your budget and you use budgeting software, you'll know whether you did or not.
  2. It gives you an objective standard. You know what your goal is, and you can measure your progress as you continue towards it.
  3. It keeps you focused on the goal. 22 points is 22 points, not 35!
  4. It motivates. Having the result in black and white gives just a little more incentive towards achieving that goal. If you're doing poorly, you might want to try harder, or try a new tactic. If you're doing well, it's an ego-boost.
  5. It helps prevents denial. You can't say you did something faithfully if you haven't.
This works for any goal -- whether it's time spent writing a blog, or number of resumes sent out, or whatever. The trick is to have a metric that you can use and then use it.

Movement towards a goal is the right kind of movement. And the joyful part of this is that it's under my control.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Talking out loud

I spent this past Saturday at TLI -- Toastmasters Leadership Institute. That's the annual all-day training for club officers. This year I'm VP of Public Relations for my club, Eagle Toastmasters, #3161.

One of the members of my club, Ute Brinkmann, was conducting a session -- Leading for Success; actually, she had to give it twice that day. She asked me to help her, by being a timer and giving her an introduction at the beginning of the session. She wrote the into, I just had to deliver it.

Ute is a real inspiration. She's always moving towards the next challenge. This session at TLI was a new step for her, too. She did wonderfully!

I didn't have much time to read the intro over, so I did the best I could. I was very nervous the first time -- embarrassing, considering I have my CTM.* I did a bit better on the second try. But still not very polished.

So what? I'm glad I did it. What it shows me is that you can't rest on your past achievements. The theme this year in our Toastmasters District is "But wait, there's more!" There's almost always more. More to get out of Toastmasters. More ways to learn and grow. Every achievement is a stepping stone to the next achievement.

As Susan Jeffers says in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, it's normal to feel some fear every time you try something new. Interestingly, this time, instead of making me not want to repeat the experience (as in all my pre-Toastmasters speaking experiences) I feel inspired. I need more time in front of strangers -- that's the only way to lessen the fear. My Toastmasters goal this year is to compete in all the club contests (humorous, Table Topics, Evaluation, International).

Wow! 5 years ago I'd never have been brave enough to even think about competing. That's a big step for me.

But wait, there's more!

* Competent Toastmaster; an achievement award given after completing the 10 speeches in the Communication & Leadership manual.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Keep moving

This morning I did not want to move.

I overslept, getting up at 5:41. Not enough time to walk, I thought.

I had a throbbing headache over my left eye -- sinuses fogged in due to the rain.

It was raining, for pete's sake. I'd have to wear a poncho and look dorky. And I'd still get wet where the poncho didn't cover.

But I kept moving as I thought. I got dressed, put on my sneakers, found my poncho -- mentally bitching and moaning the whole time.

And I got out and walked a mile.

It wasn't really raining, only drizzling. No one saw me, except one guy going to the gym. I felt smug because I was saving money and getting exercise. My headache went away. I thought deep thoughts as I walked. It only took 28 minutes. I felt refreshed from being outdoors and got rid of the slight stiffness I'd felt when I got out of bed. And I really did one impossible thing before breakfast!

Sometimes I just need some momentum. Maybe that's what habits do, give you the momentum you need to get over the small obstacles. The habit of movement can help keep me on track.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The more you move

This weekend, my friends Mary Ann and Brian took my sister Rosemary and me to Watkins Glen, to hike the Gorge trail. This isn't a steep hike, but does involve 800 steps over about 1.5 miles, each way.

The next day, I wasn't very sore, until after I did the 5.5 hr drive home. Getting out of the car, I felt stiff and sore, especially my calves.

This reminded me of how, in high school gym class, we'd have these incredible bouts of calisthenics, which would leave me sore for days. The teacher always said to stretch and walk to get out the soreness, but I never believed her because it hurt so much to start. So I never did, and sometimes it'd take a week to lose the soreness.

Then as an adult, I started hiking, and I found that if I was sore and stiff, the best cure was more hiking, or at least walking. Not only did the soreness lessen after a few minutes, but I usually was fine the next day, or shortly thereafter.

Keeping still because of the soreness = longer duration of soreness. Hmm.

The more you move, the more you can move.

I'm astounded at how true that is, about any sort of action at all -- from my Toastmasters efforts, to exercise, to creative efforts.