The start (and end) of things.
The other night I ventured into my living room (also our library because it houses our four packed bookshelves) in search of a good, comforting, familiar book. Usually when I’m in this mood, I reach for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I read about once a year. I hadn’t read it this year, but that just wasn’t it. I almost pulled Pride and Prejudice; I even touched the spine. Even as I was about to slip it from its nesting place between Persuasion and some other novel I don’t remember, I spied Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and grabbed that instead. I’d read it before a long time ago and I remember enjoying it as I do most any well-written travel book. (Travel books are actually a favorite of mine. I LOVE Under the Tuscan Sun, which is nothing like the movie by the way, and Bella Tuscany. I also love the Year in Provence books!) It was definitely time for a good travel narrative.
I like the way Steinbeck travels and the way he writes about it.
“In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacinlando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico City but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it.”
When I begin something, even if I do have a destination or do care if I get there, inevitably the journey is never as straight and true as I’d expect or even want. What begins as a planned express trip on the freeway, ends up a back road scenic drive through life. The trick is indulging in vacilando and not fretting for the loss of the super-speed, ultra-straight throughway – enjoying the scenery, even stopping occasionally to take in a view, pick up something fresh and juicy from a road-side stand, or wander through a small curio shop. Traveling through life this way, I end up meeting wonderful people – first and foremost, my family – as we take our time and enjoy the road.
The first journey began earlier this month when I sent in my vendor applications to the Renton Piazza Fall Festival and Woodinville Holiday Craft Fair and began creating and crafting items for both. I’ve been asked several times since then why I want to do these fairs, and the simple answer, I suppose, is to see if I can – to see if my cards are things people would want to buy. A perk would be making some kind of profit and booking some future workshops. But really it’s mostly just to do it. Despite not having a very strong purpose or goal, I’m pretty amazed at how diligently I’ve been able to keep a creative pace so far. I have to take breaks, but usually that just means more ideas when I finally go back into my craft cave. Along the way I’ve realized that I have my own style – a “Mama Lorelli’s Memos” look to my cards – that sets them apart from other cards out there. And there are a lot of other paper-crafters out there! This in itself has made the journey worthwhile so far.
My second journey I’m taking with my hubby; at least we’re on the same road together and going in the same direction. About a month ago Anthony, who played sports (basketball, tennis, cross-country running) in junior high and high school, but who is in no way a jock, decided his running/cardio fitness days were over since they hadn’t been very successful for him and no longer brought him joy. Instead he bought some dumbbell weights, acquired a weight lifting bench and a barbell, and started weight lifting. He loves it! It’s hard work, but can be done in the garage every other night; it’s a relatively fast workout and he’s already seeing and feeling the results. Once he determined that he liked it enough to keep going, he bought the book The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler so his routines could be more purposeful and effective. He was intrigued by Schuler’s approach and continuously shared his findings with me until I was intrigued as well. I’d managed to get to the gym pretty steadily last summer, but dropped the ball when homeschool started again – it was just too much at the time. But I’ve been wanting to get back to the gym for a while now, mostly because I feel a lot better when I’m doing some sort of regular exercise.
“He has a book for women too,” Anthony told me one day so I decided to check it out. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift like a man, Look like a Goddess was downloaded onto my Nook and soon I was hooked as well. Schuler’s main point in the book is that women generally choose and are coached to stick with endurance training – aerobic exercise and light weights – rather than power or strength training – anaerobic exercise and heavy weights. The former while good for your heart, teaches your body to be very efficient – it adapts quickly to the exercise. We’d call this “getting in shape,” as in “I’m in better shape now because I can run two miles quite easily.” And in terms of heart and general health that’s great! However, in terms of calorie, particularly fat burning, and strengthening, it’s not the best because as your body becomes more efficient at something, it uses fewer resources to accomplish it. Schuler’s workouts are aimed at keeping your body on its proverbial toes – constantly readjusting and adapting, which takes more resources– and pushing it harder into anaerobic exercise – like cardio intervals and lower-rep, higher weight lifting. He encourages women to leave the “barbie weights” and move into the weight room, assuring us that despite many women’s fear of “bulking up”, it won’t happen for many reasons. Firstly we don’t have testosterone; secondly, it’s really hard to build muscle!
Which brings me to one of the best things about Schuler’s New Rules: With his workouts, as hard as they are and with how much recovery they involve, he wants women to eat more, not less. His program for fat loss involves residual fat burn after workouts and building muscle to increase metabolism not cutting calories. His point is that when you cut calories to lose weight, you’re body loses weight indiscriminately – meaning it loses fat and muscle. Even worse, when your body senses that it has fewer calories coming in than it does going out, it lowers its metabolism to conserve energy and may even begin storing some away as … yep, fat! So yes, I have to be more conscious of what I’m eating – mostly a lot more protein than usual – but in general, it’s just a lot more really good food more often – four to five meals a day.
So yesterday I began Stage 1, Workout A at our YMCA with squats, pushups, seated rows, step-ups, and reverse crunches. I wondered with how much weight I should begin. Schuler’s response to that question (something a lot of people wonder, I guess, since there is a specific section of his book titled “How Much Weight to Use”) is interesting:
“If you were a guy, I’d say this: ‘Pick the weight you think you can use for the number of repetitions the workout requires, and then deduct 25 percent.’ For women, I’m tempted to say the opposite — ‘Whatever you think you can use, the actual amount is probably higher.’”
And you know, he was right! The first set of my workout was squats. I considered grabbing the 15lb. body bar from the rack, but the trainer (who worked with me yesterday as I started my routine) encouraged me to try the Olympic weight barbell – that’s 45lbs. for anyone who doesn’t know, which was me too a week or so ago. And I could do them! Two sets of 15 squats with 45lbs. across my shoulders! And again on another exercise, I found I could lift about 10lbs. more than I thought I could. The only exception being the reverse crunches. The workout actually prescribes something called the “prone jackknife”. It requires that you place your hands on the floor in push-up position and your shins on top of a work-out ball. You then bend your hips and knees to roll the ball forward toward your arms until you are more or less doing a hand-stand with the top of your feet still on the ball, then roll back to the starting position. This proved to be too tricky for me so I stuck with reverse crunches.
Why am I doing this. Again, the simple response is because it makes me feel good. It’s also fun to do something along with Anthony. We don’t work out at the same time or in the same place, but we’re doing roughly the same thing and it’s good to encourage each other as we both travel this road. A possible added bonus? We’re planning on going to Hawaii next summer, and it would be great to be able to look great in a bikini for the trip? Too ambitious? Totally inappropriate for a mother of four? Perhaps, but worth a try.
The third journey actually begins tomorrow. We’re heading back to school – or at least Lizzie and Jacob are. Our homeschooling days are over for now and tomorrow Lizzie will begin 3rd grade with Mr. Mason and Jacob will start 2nd grade with Mrs. Poulin at Robert Frost Elementary. I have mixed feelings about this, but in general am excited about this new beginning. Where will itlead us? Other than to 4th and 3rd grade, I’m not sure. Probably into many interesting challenges; hopefully into greater confidence and knowledge. This beginning also marks the start of a new routine for my little girls and me. It is the first time ever that they will have me all to themselves for half the day. I hope to have many grand adventures with them this year, even it those mostly involve searching out and frequenting some awesome Eastside parks.
The beginning of school also means the end of summer. Today is the last day of summer and we’re having as lazy a day as we can manage with trips to the doctor and Costco and soccer practice. Unfortunately the weather here decided to end summer a day too soon – a good-sized fall storm is rolling through today, bringing plenty of rain and cloudy skies. The holiday weekend promises to be lovely, however, so hopefully we can steal a little bit of summer back then.
Also coming to a close is about six months of home renovation. It hasn’t been constant, but it’s been pretty total. We’ve touched every room in the house in some way, except the upstairs bathrooms. We carpeted and painted upstairs, added a raised garden in the front, erected a play structure in the backyard, and are almost done with repainting the rest of the house. There’s not a speck of yellow visible anywhere (unless you look in the closets downstairs), whereas a few weeks ago it covered 80% of my house. The cranberry kitchen has been replaced by a cool, clean blue green oasis. All that’s left to paint is the downstairs bathroom and some minor touch-up. The house will seem empty and quiet without three guys wandering around every day. But it will be a nice quiet. Until it’s time for the next project …
The start of September also means I’m nearing the end of my 365-Project. I’ve not been as diligent over the last few months about taking a picture everyday as I was at the beginning. In fact, if I want to reach 365 pictures by September 30th, I’ll need 57 more. That’s almost two a day. I think I’ll resolve now to be happy with what I get. It’s been a wonderful project, if a little long. When I look back through the 308 images I’ve captured so far, I’m reminded of how wonderful a journey this last year has been. They are a treasure that I need to make more permanent (than digital files, that is) somehow. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.
For now, I have at least a couple to add (that brings me to 312! Only 53 to go); I’ll leave you with those and a wish that all the journeys you’re beginning, are already on, or are drawing to a close are as worthwhile as their destination.