Posts Tagged Breathing

Getting into the Groove

A couple of weeks ago, I made a short post about exercise.  It was nothing profound or even interesting – it was one of the few times I’ve posted simply because I just had to get that thought out of my head.  I was tired, worn out, and feeling like the road to better health would be paved with lots of frustration and time spent literally running in circles.

But a delightful thing happened recently. I’ve been able to feel the change in my body, building up a fair amount of stamina from the 40 minute rounds I’ve spent on the recumbent bike (easy on my knee injury) and some of the moderate strength training I’ve been doing (pull-ups and dips, and some squats and leg lifts).  I’m seeing some muscle tone in my arms (who knew?) and when I need to do tasks around the house like vacuuming, I zoom through them.

On top of that, I find myself craving cardio workouts.  My friend, Kathleen, and I have been going to a local park that has an epic set of stairs – over 100 I think although in the trip up I never have the wherewithal to actually count them.  Last time we went, I went up and down three times, totally exhausting myself.  I’ve only been a handful of times but I find myself craving those stairs now, since the stair machines at the gym just aren’t the same.

I’ve never been in particularly “bad” shape – I’ve generally incorporated some kind of workout into my regular routine and have always favored mind body exercise like yoga.  But this is the first time I’ve applied myself to more strenuous workouts, one that leave me sweaty and exhausted and calm.  I sleep better, I crave healthy foods, and I’m drinking lots of water.

I’ve also been keeping track of what I’m eating, knowing that just that simple act makes you eat less.  I’m using an app on my iPod Touch and it’s got a huge database that hasn’t left me hanging yet.

So when my trial, three month membership to the gym expired today, I had that decision to make.  Do I commit to a regular membership?  It’s not an inexpensive proposition and I could very well do the same cardio workouts at the exercise room provided by my complex, so this took some thought.

But I realized one of the things that keeps me going back to the rec center (not a traditional gym since I’ve had too many bad experiences in such places) is the fact that I am surrounded by people in the same mindset as me.   There is a sign on the door as you leave that says, “Smile – You just did something good for your body!” with a cheese eating grin on the face of a very cute guy.

And I smile.  Automatically.

So rather than disrupt my groove, I’m keeping the membership and cutting down on some other expenses (likely my weekly nights out with my girlfriends). We’ll just have to start making cocktails at home instead…. I am pretty sure they’ll be fine with that.


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Updated About Page

Taking some advice from the official WordPress Blog, I have updated my About page to be significantly more detailed.  Check it out here (or click on About on the top banner).

Another suggestion from the same post is to ask my dear readers what they’d like to see me write about…. So, Dear Reader, any topics you’d like me to discuss here?

I am working on some projects today that I will likely reflect on later this week.  Attempting to push myself out of my comfort zone and do some things that scare me a little. I am sure they will ignite a fair amount of reflection.

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For most of my life, the end of any semester has been marked with a cold or a flu, something that forces me to take some time to recover and physically take care of myself.  Sometimes the sickness is dramatic, like the respiratory infection I got the semester I finished my Spanish translation class.  (One of the most stressful semesters of my life, both personally and academically.)  Sometimes it’s just a cold that passes after a few days of extra sleep, juice, and chicken soup.

In the past couple of years this hasn’t been the case.  I have waited after submitting final grades and finishing portfolios or other projects for the exhaustion and sickness to take over.  And I have certainly been tired but I haven’t gotten sick.

So I thought, well hey, I’ve been doing this teaching thing for almost a decade, I’ve removed some major stressors from my life, perhaps I’ve just gotten past taking my stress out physically.

Rarely have I been so wrong.

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because I was experiencing some physical symptoms that scared the crap out of me.  Literally.  Given the “negative history” in my family, she ordered a battery of blood tests, pretty much everything except the fasting cholesterol test I did last year.

I didn’t think much of her warnings about the extent of the tests until I walked into the lab and the attendant gave me about ten test tube labels.  “All these are for me?” I asked.  She nodded and pointed me back to The Chair.

I had to wait about five minutes before the phlebotomist came to take my blood.  She brought six vials, two that were double sized.  I kept reminding myself to breathe and wished I didn’t have such a curious nature.  I had to look after the fourth vial just because I had never seen so much of my own exposed blood in one place before.

I left the lab woozy and light headed, sitting in my car for about five minutes, drinking water before I drove home.

Then the results started coming in via email.

They were just the lab results, not yet the ones explained by my doctor.

So I tried not to panic when I read “pre-diabetes” on one set of results.

My mind could not make sense of those words.  I am 5’6″, 140lbs, and 36 years old.  I have a BMI of 23.  My diet consists of whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fruits and veggies.

And yet…. pre-diabetes.

My doctor emails me the next morning, telling me to take inventory of my diet and start exercising more to lose some weight and that we’ll re-run the tests again in August to see if this issue has resolved itself.

On top of this, I also have two vitamin deficiencies  – B12 and D.  The D is so severe that she ordered me a prescription dose of 50,000 once a week for eight weeks, and 1500 every day after that.

I spend a day or two freaking out.  A litany of How? What? Why? plays through my head over and over again.  I talk to a friend who had Type 2 and completely overhauled his life with exercise and diet changes after losing an insane amount of weight.  He’s certain that this pre-diabetes has been brought on by a combination of stress and genetics.  I am pretty sure he is correct.

The irony here, the thing that still has me shaking my head, is that I have been so attentive to my diet for so long because of the predisposition to heart disease that runs in my family.  No one in my immediate family has diabetes – I have aunts and uncles battling it but no one in my first line of family.  With that and the fact that I’ve managed to moderate my weight well as an adult, I didn’t think I’d ever battle diabetes.

Through my reflections I’ve come to realize that instead of getting a cold or other sickness over the last very stress filled years, I’ve instead been silently beating the crap out of my body.  I hadn’t even registered that I stopped taking my multi-vitamin…. it just got lost in the stress filled dance I was doing to stay on schedule and finish my dissertation this spring.

A few weeks ago I started to freak out about the fact that I lost half my summer income.  And yes, this is still a problem but I am going to reframe it now.  Instead of flipping out about money, I am going to spend my more open summer schedule eating better and exercising.  I joined our local community center that has a pool, a rock wall, a gym, and other fitness classes before I even got this news, knowing that I needed to get my blood flowing again after an intense period of sitting on my behind writing.  Now I am thankful my teaching load is lighter and I have some time to get some major changes going in my life.

And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to report back in late August that my blood sugar levels and vitamins are all back to normal.

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I can see my future

I know exactly what is going to happen . . . and I can’t stop it from happening.

This morning, I emailed four more people about jobs and started looking up what it’s going to take to apply for unemployment benefits when my teaching assistantship ends in May.  The good news is I am pretty sure I will qualify for benefits, so I should have some kind of financial cushion for at least the summer until some of the fall part time jobs come open.

As I was putting the emails together this morning, I was reflecting on what it was like the last time I was an adjunct.  Feast or famine pretty much sums it up.

During my first teaching job (the one that screwed me over for this summer) I didn’t know how to play the adjunct game.  I only applied to teach at that one school since, you know, it was the only one in the town where I lived.  I didn’t know that what you’re supposed to do as an adjunct is take a map of where you live and draw a circle representing the distance you are willing to drive in order to make enough money to eat.

This is where you apply for jobs – anywhere within that distance you are comfortable with the commute.  (Or significantly uncomfortable with if you were, like I was back in the day, driving a standard transmission car with no air conditioning or power steering through the Sacramento River Valley during summer.)

It took me a year of slinging shots and mopping floors at a major coffee chain before I figured out I was supposed to apply everywhere within that un/reasonable circle.  (In Redding my circle was rather large – one school 90 miles south and one 70 miles north that I often taught at on the same day. You do the math – I teach English for a reason!)

So this time I know, I understand how the game works, and with that knowledge I’ve applied to literally every school that is accepting resumes or applications for their part time teaching pools.

And this is how I’ve seen my future: fall semester is going to come and I am going to be overwhelmed with offers.  Because of the panic I am in right now about not having a job, I have in all likelihood, put myself out there too much.  Because the thing about contract teaching is you can’t say no.

Once an adjunct passes up an offer, it’s not like you go to the bottom of the list – you fall off it completely and then you’re not considered again.  Or at least, that’s been my experience this far.  I said no once last fall, when I knew if I started a THIRD teaching job on top of my online part time job and my assistantship, I wouldn’t have defended this semester.

Yes, I made the right decision turning down the daily classes they wanted me to teach.

Yes, I successfully defended my dissertation and have my Ph.D.

No, I don’t have a job.  At least, not yet.

What I need to figure out now is when to say yes . . .

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Apparently, I am bad at this

Well, I told myself I would post every day for the rest of April and I didn’t even manage to make it a week keeping up with that idea!  It hasn’t been for lack of desire, maybe a little bit about not having anything I felt compelled enough to say, but last night was because we needed to move furniture.  I moved my desk – the one I almost never use – into Chris’s office so that we can game together and I won’t have to sit on the guest bed with my laptop burning a hole through my thigh.  Fascinating stuff, I know.

So I am going to pull a topic from the The Daily Post blog.   It’s not today’s topic – it’s actually from a couple of days ago:

Topic 95:
What rare talent do you have that most people don’t know?

I have two nicknames these days: Evil Smurf and The Gateway Drug.

Really, they both go together to personify my rare talent.

One of my closest friends keeps a running list of the TV shows, movies, and games I recommend to her and we spend hours talking about them after she watches or plays them.  Another friend just texted me because she can’t stop thinking about a TV show I told her to watch.  The copy editor of my dissertation is now playing an MMORPG . . .

And this is how I am The Gateway Drug.

My rare power: introducing people to things I know they will love.  How do I know they will love them?  Usually because I do but sometimes I just know people’s personalities and the things they might enjoy.

And this is what makes me Evil Smurf.

Maybe “evil” is too strong a word in this context but when I took the “What Smurf are You?” Facebook quiz, that was the answer.  But I do provide plenty of distraction for people, usually in the form of entertainment they enjoy . . . so I can live with that, evil or otherwise.

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Reality Sets In

Looking over the box of library books that I used while writing my dissertation, my eyes fill with tears.  Seems strange that a box of books could make me cry . . .

Are these really worth crying over?

I turn to Chris and he gives me one of those hugs and sob silently for a few moments.  He quietly reminds me that yes, this closes a chapter of my life but that a new one is just beginning.

Of course, that new chapter is filled with such uncertainty I have a difficult time embracing it. Letting go of this box might be just what I need to let go of the expectations I had finishing the Ph.D. – no one is going to swoop down from on high and give me that perfect job and it’s going to be up to me to make that future happen.

Guess it’s time to get to work . . .

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How does it feel?

This is the question of the week: how does it feel?

If you’ve been following my journey at all, you’ll probably guess this question is in response to having finished the dissertation, had all the forms and ballots turned in, and officially completing my Ph.D.

How does it feel?

Completely unreal.

There’s a great amount of relief to being done, to not having my committee tell me to write another chapter or that some part of my dissertation wasn’t good enough.  There’s a lot of fear, still, in wondering what is next and where I will be working, especially in light of having one of my summer sections canceled.  (The first time EVER that I have lost a section of online teaching which is proof that the budget in CA is in serious trouble and that it’s probably time to move on from a part time job I’ve had for almost a decade.)  There’s some sadness, too, in being finished with such a big project that I poured so much of myself into over the last five years.

And lastly, and most importantly, there is joy.  Bright, happy, shiny joy and it sits like a glowing light somewhere in the core of my being.

It’s funny – I’m always at the ready to talk about the difficult things I’m going through in my life but I stumble over myself to talk about the good things.  I don’t know if it’s that self-effacing tendency women have to not take joy in their accomplishments or if on some level that perfectionist in me will always hold on to the “you’re not good enough” vibe but I was struck by this today when one of my former students ran up to me to hug me and say congrats and she asked THE question and I just stared at her.

It’s too much and nothing at all at the same time: relief, fear, sadness, and joy?  What kind of soup does that make?

The completely unreal soup of life.

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