Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Need something different for fitness!

This past Monday (Labor Day), I ran my first 10K Race.  It was the Labor Day Marathon and it was very laid back.  The trail was in Van Cortlandt park and was very challenging in some places.  There were a good number of hills and some gnarly areas where you literally had to walk very slowly or risk serious injury.  I had a good time.  I'd even say it was fun.  And opportunities to do fun stuff lately has been few so it was really good for my morale.  The 10K really drove home the point that I do not like to run for long distances:  the 6+ miles was perfect and the race came to an end just when I thought it should.  So now I'm really not feeling any more excited about the upcoming 1/2 marathon.  I'm totally undecided about whether I'm actually going to run it or not.  I guess I'll know closer to the day.  Right now, though, I'm pretty sure that if I do run it, I will probably run 10 miles of the race and maybe walk the rest.  I am definitely, definitely not a long-distance runner.   

And the more I think about it, the less excited I am about any form of exercise, including lifting, despite having a ton of options for my next lifting program from which to choose.  I may be suffering from burnout.  Over these last few weeks, I've been following my 1/2 training program to a tee.  Cross-training on non-running days (doing intervals on the exercise bike or floor aerobics in addition to strength-training) which means that I really haven't had any real time to recuperate.  And if my left eye, which has been twitching for the last few weeks, and this suspicious pain in my left shoulder, is any indication, I need some serious down time. 

According to my training plan, I was supposed to do a 45-minute easy run today.  But I was up late last night and it's cold and damp outside.  These are usually not good enough excuses to not push myself but I'm giving myself an out.  I'm just not in the mood and I want to get excited about fitness again . . . I want it to be fun again.  Not drudgery.  

I've pretty much decided to give CrossFit a try--I need something different.  There are three CrossFit gyms within 30 minutes of me.  One of them doesn't have any 6:00 AM classes. One has a CrossFit Elements class, basically an intro to CrossFit: 4 private sessions for $160. And then this one, which has reasonable prices, early class times and got some good review on Google.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Baby Days are Over

Z2 weighed 38 lbs. last time I weighed him.  Only 2 more pounds, and he would be at the upper height limit for his car seats.  I had always thought that when the time came and I needed to replace his car seats, I'd go with the Sunshine Kids Radian 65 seat.  It's a super narrow seat and is the one Z1 has.  The idea was that with two of the super slim seats, I could fit a third seat (specifically a Graco SnugRide) in the back seat of my '05 Subaru Outback.  I actually researched it because I had read that many folks had difficulty getting three seats in the back of my particular car.  This configuration of the two Radian 65s on the outboards seats and the Graco SnugRide in the center was supposed to work, i.e. you could get a tight fit for all three car seats.  

Then on Thursday of last week, I received a flyer from Toys R Us.  In it, the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car seat was on sale for $129.99.  On top of that, they were having a trade in event where you could get 25% off another item for each item you bring in.  I already have a Nautilus for Z1 which is in his dad's car.  It's an awesome seat because it's 3-in-1: harnesses up to 65 lbs., belt positioning high back booster up 100, and then a backless booster.  Theoretically, it's the last car seat you'd ever have to buy which is great and with the coupon I'd get for trading in both of Z2's car seats, they would cost me about $105 each.  Sweet deal.  But it's a pretty wide seat--nowhere near as narrow as the Radian 65.  Now way at all to fit a third seat in the middle.  

And that's when I started to feel really, really sad.  And like I had to make a decision quickly.  The sale would not last forever and the question that I've been grappling with for months needed to be answered now.  

As you may or may not know, the hubby definitely does not want any more children.  I, on the other hand, do (or did).  I'd always envisioned myself with a big family of four kids.  I thought I'd drive a mini-van and even knew the one I wanted (the Nissan Quest).  But the reality of it was that I was alone in this desire.  I know now that this is a serious issue that we should probably have talked more about (even though things and people do change so there's no guarantees we would have been able to avoid this issue).  I was under the impression that the hubby would be okay with 3 kids.  He wanted 2.  I wanted 4.  3 was a good compromise.  But is there such a thing as compromise when it comes to another living being?  Well, we had many long discussions.  There were tears and anger and frustration.  Eventually, the hubby relented and we started to try for a third.  But by the time this happened, I was super ambivalent about it.  I felt like I had forced the hubby's hand, yes, but more than that, I realized a few important things.  Firstly, from a financial standpoint, we are not totally in the  position to have another child.  Sure, we could make it work but in all honesty, our small apartment and cars accommodate 2 children perfectly.  With careful planning and budgeting, we are living comfortably, can give our kids things like swim and piano lessons, can go on modest vacations and even put some money aside..  Yes, we would adjust to a third child and it would be joyful and awesome to meet another one of our creations but it would stress us.  It would stress the hubby because he would feel like he'd have to work and it would stress me because when he's out of the house working, I'm at home working.  And the kind of mothering I want to do is super intense--co-sleeping, exclusively nursing, baby-wearing, cloth diapering--it takes energy.   Which brings me to the next point, from a resource standpoint, I am still struggling.  The children are either under my care or the hubby's care 99% of the time.  We cannot afford a nanny or consistent babysitters.  And I'm struggling to find a homeschool community for support.  We simple don't have the social resources/capital to have another child at this time.  But every day that passes, as my kids age, I gain a little freedom to do those things that I've been putting on the back burner.  I can focus on my fitness which I really enjoy.  I get longer clips of time to write.   It always boils down to time (just wait and the kids will grow and you can do more things) or money (make more so you can do more things).  Time, I hope, I have.  Money, not so much.  Yet despite all this, if the hubby showed some enthusiasm about having another, I could comfortably put all these concerns aside and keep trying.  Without his unyielding support, though, it feels selfish and stupid and the doubts are loud enough for me to say, no, I shouldn't keep pushing.  

So I've been pretty broke up these past couple of days accepting that Z2 is my last baby.  I feel pangs of jealousy and sadness when I see moms with their three or four children.  It feels like yet another dream that I just have to let go.  But I am and you know what?  It's helping me appreciate what I already have.  At least, I no longer drive around with mini-van envy.  

I pulled the trigger and went on ahead and bought the two Nautilus car seats.  The purchase of these two seats feels like the closing of a wonderful chapter in my life.  For now and perhaps forever, my baby days are over.  

Content to Make Do

In choosing motherhood, or rather, in choosing to be a mother the way I am (full-time, stay-at-home, homemaking  mom), I feel like often I have to put things that I want to do on the back-burner.  There's my writing, my career, traveling, and oddly enough, spiritual pursuits and endeavors.  Typically, I'm fine with that especially since by the time my youngest is old enough to pretty much take care of himself, I will not even be 40 years old.  I think and hope I'll have plenty of time to accomplish all those things that I can't really focus on now. 

I mean, it's just the nature of the game.  If I want to exercise in the morning and do anything spiritually focused, I have to get up early--like around 5.  If I am too tired to manage getting up that early, I have to skip something and lately it's been the spiritual stuff.

I've been practicing Nichiren's Buddhism as taught by SGI for the last 3 years.  When I first started practicing, I was very enthusiastic.  It seemed like something I could stick to and the teachings really resonated with me.  Basically, it said that I could be happy and I could determine how I want my life to be just by chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  I believed it and I did manifest some wonderful things in my life such as my Saturday job, the income from which has enabled me to do a lot of things I probably would not have been able to do.  (Ironically, most of those things involve the very thing that vies most tenaciously for my time: fitness, i.e., running shoes, weights, gym membership, DVDs.)  Anyway, as time has gone on, my practice has fallen to the wayside.  There are the time constraints:  sometimes I just don't wake up early enough to practice and the evenings get so hectic that it seems impossible.  I had been putting serious pressure on myself to chant morning and evening and it just started to feel like a chore so I pulled back and then my practice just seemed to disappear.  I couldn't find the balance between effort and ease in the practice.  And then I started to question some of the teachings.  I already had issues with how the SGI organization treats its leader President Ikeda.  I have little tolerance for people worship (blame it on the fact that I'm a pastor's kid) and I just didn't find much of what he had to say all that inspiring--not enough to revere him as my "sensei".   I also started to become uneasy with certain things like the whole "priesthood issue" (a complex and heated breaking away from the original Nichiren Shoshu school) and the sayings of Nichiren himself which seem to knock other schools of Buddhism and honestly, tend not to make that much sense to me.  But beyond that, I started to feel like this form of Buddhism--or at least how it's espoused by SGI--was not in line with what the Buddha actually taught.  Here I am, energetically chanting for the things I want to get and facing serious disappointment about not being able to get them and then being told that I just needed to chant more.  But I had learned and experienced that once you get what you think you want, there's always something else to get.  And the Buddha teaches about getting rid of attachments.  He taught that desire is the root of all suffering.  I just couldn't reconcile the two.  I mean, I guess I believe in the idea of calling things into one's life and at the basic level, that's all chanting is but I started to feel that I needed something more.  And then  to add complexity to the whole thing, I started feeling like I needed a quiet, more contemplative practice.  Something reflective.  I had started to feel that maybe one day I would like to lead a monastic life--maybe not forever but for some time.  I needed to get to know my mind and learn how to deal with my thoughts and emotions in an effective way--something I didn't seem able to achieve practicing Nichiren's Buddhism. I then read this interview with bell hooks and right in the opening lines, she says what I had been starting to feel:

Tricycle: What was your first exposure to Buddhism?
bell hooks: When I was eighteen I was an undergraduate at Stanford and a poet and I met Gary Snyder. I already knew that he was involved with Zen from his work, and he invited me to the Ring of Bones Zendo for a May Day celebration. There were two or three American Buddhist nuns there and they made a tremendous impression. Since that time I've been engaged in the contemplative traditions of Buddhism in one way or another.
Tricycle: And that excludes Nichiren Shoshu? Which is the only Buddhist organization in America with a substantial black membership?
bell hooks: Yes, Tina Turner Buddhism. Get-what-you-want Buddhism—that is the image of Buddhism most familiar to masses of black people. The kind of Buddhism that engages me most is about how you're going to live simply, not about how you're going to get all sorts of things.
Tricycle: How do you understand the absence of black membership in contemplative Buddhist traditions?
bell hooks: Many teachers speak of needing to have something in the first place before you can give it up. This has communicated that the teachings were for the materially privileged and those preoccupied with their own comforts. When other black people come to my house they say, "Giving up what comforts?" For black people, the literature of Buddhism has been exclusive. It allowed a lot of people to say, "That has nothing to do with me." Many people see the contemplative traditions—specifically those from Asia—as being for privileged white people.

She said it right there:  I wanted a form of Buddhism that teaches me simple living not "gimme" living.  I started to feel that this is the reason why Nichiren's Buddhism became popular in the first place: give people what they want.  It's just not what I needed.

So I started to look for other schools of Buddhism or meditation nearby so I could go and learn and see if there is perhaps a better fit for me.  And this is when I started to get seriously frustrated.  Most meetings are on days when I can't make it because I've got my kids and the hubby is not off.  They are usually at 7:30 or 8:00 which would be great if I had a 9-5 job and no other responsibility but these times are horrible for me because that's when I need to start putting my kids to bed.  If it wasn't the time issue, it was the fact that these meeting places were so far away--with 20 minutes driving being the closest and almost an hour being the farthest.  The last straw was when I started to look into Transcendental Meditation, a form of meditation my good friend started some time back that helped her overcome depression and get motivated.  I mean, her transformation was miraculous.  It cost quite a bit of money to learn the method but I was willing to try to work out a payment plan.  I go to find a local teacher and the closest one is 40 minutes away.  Great.  Well, I could get around time and distance by hiring a babysitter but seriously?  We haven't even worked a babysitter into the budget yet for our so-called monthly date night . . . I have to be honest, it feels a bit selfish to hire a babysitter to work on spiritual stuff that may or may not be beneficial to me.  

So, like so many other things in my life right now, I'm putting this spiritual quest on the back burner.  I can't deal with the frustration right now . . . it kind of sends me to a dark place and how crazy is it that in trying to find spiritual enlightenment, one ends up there?  I've recommitted to chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and night but not for anything tangible.  I am just using it as a meditation--trying to stay focused on it totally while I'm doing it instead of letting my mind wander all over the place.  I also do a little bit of breath-watching meditation after I chant which gives me the piece of quiet meditation I need.  I'm reading books by Thich Naht Hanh and Pema Chodron and listening to insight meditation podcasts on Itunes.  When the time is right, I believe, I will be introduced to something that will fulfill my need totally.  Right now, I'm just going to work on being content to make do.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

There is a lot going on in the kitchen on Sunday mornings!

I spend quite a bit of my time (and money) on food.  The hubby is vegan and the kids and I are making the transition to a low-grain/paleo diet so I am often in the kitchen cooking especially since 99% of all our meals, I make.  Anyway, I've been cooking lots of different things from Everyday Paleo and so far, I'm very pleased with everything I've tried! Yesterday was my first attempt at paleo-style cookies.  I made Nutty Cookies.  The only substitution I made was a cup of applesauce for one banana.  I also added a couple of chocolate chips (seriously, like 2 tablespoons because that's all we had left).  

They came out fabulously.  Very delicious.  The kids gobbled them up.  I realize these are a great snack since they have no refined sugar in them at all.  And the kids really regarded them as a treat!  

Sunday mornings, I usually do pancakes.  When I realized wheat bothered me (and Z2 is also very sensitive), I started to make oat waffles.  As I transition away from grains, I've been experimenting with more paleo style pancakes.  Last week, I made the ones from Everyday Paleo but the kids didn't like them and they were far too dense for me.  Today, I tried this recipe for paleo-style pancakes and I thought they were awesome.  And hours later, I'm still feeling satiated (not so with eating oat waffles--unless I have two whole ones, I'm sure to be hungry again soon.  So I think these pancakes are the ones I'll stick with even though Z2 didn't like them and ate oat waffles (Z1 at least gave them a shot but he ended up eating regular wheat pancakes).  Anyway, this is what our breakfast spread typically looks like:
Those are the paleo pancakes on the far left.  You can see the oat waffles and to the far right are the wheat pancakes.  

Here are Applegate Farms breakfast sausages (sage flavor) for the kids and I and soy chicken nuggets for the hubby.  I also brewed a pot of Ethiopian coffee for the hubby and I to share.  There is a lot going on in the kitchen on Sunday mornings!

Usually, I do all this cooking after a long run.  Last week, I did 10 miles.  After breakfast, I feel utterly exhausted.  But I'm running a 10K race tomorrow and decided to take it easy today:  I just did an hour of yoga.  I feel really good and not tired at all.  So I'm thinking about changing the day I run to Saturday so I can relax on Sunday.  

Anyway, I thought I'd share with you what our Sunday mornings look like in terms of cooking.  

P.S. Sorry for the poor quality pictures.  Our camera is about to die.  

1/2 Marathon Training

I am entering week 7 of my 1/2 Marathon Training Plan and, let me tell you, I cannot wait for this marathon to come and go.  I have learned a lot training for this thing and I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that I am not a distance runner.  I really don't like how it makes me feel physically.  It makes me . . . tired.  Very, very tired.  Then there is the issue of the knee pain which I resolved by purchasing yet another pair of running shoes.  The new shoes took care of the knee pain, but now I'm contending with ankle pain again. (Ankle pain was the reason why I finally went to a real running store to get fitted for running shoes instead of continuing to buy my running shoes at Costco.)  And it's really tough to train for a 1/2 marathon alone.  Typically, I am very self-motivated but some days, it takes all I have to get out the door.  I just  A partner would definitely help me to look forward to the day's running instead of dreading it.  But as I've said before, it's been next to impossible to find running mates (even having joined for the specific purpose).  So I've been forging bravely ahead solo and sometimes, I just want to turn back and get back into bed.  

But anyway, some things that have helped me to press forward:

  • eating before a run.  Typically, I run first thing in the morning on an empty belly.  That simply does not work if I am planning to run 10+ miles.  I have to remember to drink at least 8 ounces of water and a handful of walnuts with some raisins before I head out the door.  It really makes all the difference between feeling like I will die before I make it home and feeling like I could maybe go another mile.   
  • doing a training race.  Tomorrow, I'm going to be running a local 10K race and I'm actually really looking forward to it.  I know I can comfortably manage 6+ miles and this will give me a chance to test out how to do things for the 1/2 marathon

Still, I'm looking forward to when 10 miles is my weekly mileage again--not a day's mileage. I *much* prefer strength training and other types of cardio exercise.  I am definitely on the bandwagon that says to avoid steady-state cardio and to enjoy doing exercise as would a child--essentially playing.  When I do things like BodyRockTV style exercises, it feels light and playful.  Running like this feels like hard work.  But training for this marathon gave me a chance to switch gears and try something else.  It broke up the monotony although it is now getting monotonous.  In any case, I've got some new strength training books (Men's Health Power Training by Robert dos Remedios, Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey, or New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler) and I've been reading (strongly leaning towards Power Training).  After the marathon, I'll take a week off and decide on what to do next.  I'm actually thinking about doing a few Crossfit sessions although I won't lie and say I'm not intimidated by the whole Crossfit thing.  Still and all, I know a lot of Crossfitters also follow a paleo diet so this might provide a good opportunity to meet like minded people.   
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