Monthly Archives: January 2015

Blink and You’ll Miss It

One of many views of a mid-winter Chicago sunrise. More examples below. Credit: Christy Prahl.

The crowd-sourcing of sunrises is one of my favorite midwinter* traditions. When the book of face glows with oranges, pinks and purples, we share the relief of the ancients. Once again the days are stretching, and I have the stats of moderns (below) to prove it.

I noticed a hint of brightness yesterday, while huddled with some friends at the playground. Our children were romping in the snow after school. The gray sky was lighter than dark. It was as though a film of gloom had peeled away from the familiar scene.

Yesterday’s after school scene at Goethe’s playground. It was brrrrr, but bright.

It’s still cold, and it will be cold for months to come, with little regard for the growing arc of the sun. That’s the Chicago way. By the time it’s warm enough** to enjoy late sunsets, the days will already be shrinking; the summer solstice marks the slide back to winter.

Our “skyline” view. That’s a streetlight, not the sun.

That’s why I watch the sun now, nose and camera against the windows. Even though I can’t touch it, I can trust it. There will be a chilly day in mid-March when I can count the tips of tulips in the back yard, then sit against the south facing wall to soak up the warmth starting to collect in the yellow bricks.

If you also like to track the daylight, here are some stats and dates to keep your chin (and eyes) up even when the temps remain low.

Note that the meridian today is at high noon. The stats are courtesy of Fun website! My math might need checking.
  • Hours in the shortest day of this winter: 9:07:43
  • Hours today: 9:28:31, which means we have gained about 21 minutes in less than 4 weeks.
  • January 28 is when the sunset will hit 5pm. Hours in day: 9:53, which means about 24 minutes more than today.
  • On February 15, the sun will rise at 6:47am, which is about when Miguel wakes up. Hours in day: 10:36:46.
  • On March 7th, the sun will rise at 6:16, which is when I often meet friends for morning runs. Yay for sunny runs!
  • On March 8th, we will be plunged back into morning darkness. This is my least favorite day of the year. However, the sun will set at “6:49pm” after 11:36:16 hours of daytime.
  • By April 12th, my precious running sunrise will be back. Sunrise: 6:15am. Sunset:7:28pm. Hours in day: 13:12:29
  • June 21st is the longest day, at 15 hours, 13 minutes, and 43 seconds, which is about 6 hours and 5  minutes more than the shortest day. Sunrise: 5:15 Sunset 8:29.
  • It’s all downhill from there!

*Meteorological winter is Nov 1-Feb 28. Of course, I prefer the astronomical (is that the correct way of putting it?) dates, but like the sound of mid-winter

**I’m not warm until it’s 75 degrees. And that’s a stretch.

More of today’s sunrises:

Credit: Gabriela Fitz
Credit: Gabriela Fitz
Credit: Lisa Phillips
Credit: Lisa Phillips

Fit, not Fat: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Minutes

weightgraphic2Last summer, I lost 20 pounds in less than 20 minutes, and have kept it off without changing my diet or exercise habits. Read on to see if my free, easy, transformative system might work for you. Or just click on the flow-chart.
I have disliked my short, sturdy body as long as I can remember. Like so many other people of completely healthy weight, I have wasted more time than I care to admit moping in front of mirrors, sucking in, and berating myself for not fitting into clothes I wore in high school.

When thin, I wanted to be skinny. When trim, I mourned the loss of thin. Now, softer and rounder with middle-ish age, I want to shrink back to trim. I’ve “ballooned” from a size 4 to 8 in twenty years, feeling fat all along. I attribute about 93% of those ridiculous, unfounded feelings to screwed up cultural norms,* and 7% to being 5′ 1″. (Minor fluctuations in weight really do make a difference in how I look and feel, and they affect my athletic endeavors, such as they are.)

When I furtively buy magazines that promise dropping three dress sizes in three weeks, I always start at the back for inspiring stories of weight loss. It’s not so much their strategies that interest me; at the core, most are versions of calories in and out. I don’t need a magazine to tell me to cut down on sweets and ramp up the strength training. What intrigues me is that they often pinpoint a moment—big or small—that sparked a sustained transformation. I saw myself in a friend’s wedding picture. I got out of breath chasing my kids around. My dad died young of a heart attack.

Before the Catalyzing Moment, my first thought about this pic would be “I am so fat!” Now I think: “How cool is it that we can ride 44 miles with our** kids–and they still love us! Look at those smiles. What a great trip.”
Before the Catalyzing Moment, my first thought about this pic would be “I am so fat!” Now I think: “How cool is it that we can ride 44 miles with our** kids–and they still love us! Look at those smiles. What a great trip.”

My Catalyzing Moment happened this August, while on a muggy, 12 mile run with friends, during our annual takeover of Gary, Indiana’s Miller Beach. The overgrown limestone trail, once a railroad, was flanked by wildflowers, scrubby trees, and a slow river clotted with beaver dams. It was a welcome change from Chicago’s hard sidewalks and loud streets, but also a melancholy echo of Gary’s proud industrial past. Our lungs burned and legs churned in sync as we chased the ghosts of the Iron Horses that built both cities. I felt strong, and full of gratitude for the companionship and scenery.

Then, a familiar refrain interrupted. “I am fat, ugly, and a failure.” The words pounded with our footfalls, and I feared the moment would be lost in a squall of negativity. But something amazing happened. Other inner voices pushed back.

One wailed: “Why? Why are you *still* buzzing in my ear???!!!!  Pleeeease leave me alone!”

One cursed with anger: “For fuck’s sake! Right now?! In this beautiful place with these beautiful people??!  Shut up and get out!”

But the best voice was firm and logical: “I am not fat, I am fit. I am not ugly, I am loved. I am not a failure, I am alive.” Somehow that mantra melted 20 pounds of heavy thoughts by the time we wrapped up the run.

A new take on the before/after weight loss genre. Left: before a summer run, simulating the “I hate my body” feelings of the past. Right: a sweaty hour later, feeling pretty damn good about myself. Fit, not fat.***

I had tried before to stop obsessing about my weight, but ever since that afternoon, that mantra–fit, not fat–has kept the body-hating thoughts at bay. “Oh well, who cares” I declare when catching a reflection of three rolls of belly-smush while leaning over my handlebars. “Not the end of the world” I shrug when a favorite skirt won’t zip. “Behold these curves!” I whistle when donning a body-hugging dress I would never have worn before I started ignoring my “extra” 20 pounds.

Because, should I really call them extra? Does a 42 year old need to weigh the same as she did 20 years ago? Should someone with bi-polar disorder stop taking life-saving medication that contributes a bit to the chub? Should someone concerned about social justice waste time concerned with just looks? I eat well, can run over an hour, and can bicycle all day. I am not overweight, have never been.  I am currently a little pudgier than I would like, but until I am ready to take sustained, healthy action to get leaner and stronger, I refuse to waste time and mind worrying about my m(ass). According to a recent survey, 41 of my friends unanimously agree. ****

weightypollSure, I would like to slim down. It would help running performance, and I am not ready to give up the size 6 jeans that are my favorite, hard to find, shade of brick red. It would also be irresponsible to ignore the tight correlation to date between increasing years and numbers on the scale. Halting, let alone reversing, the trend is only going to get tougher. And  I have a wicked sweet tooth that can attack a pan of brownies in a day–one small “just one more” piece at a time. Regardless of weight, that’s just not healthy. But I am not doing anything about it today. Soon, but not today.

I just checked the mirror. The sweater and other layers make me feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. “At least I am warm!” And my butt looks cute, too. Fit, not fat.

marshmallow-man-ghostbusters-terri-hardin*Borrowing from my friend, Jessica: “Part of the struggle is that we have competing feelings. On the one hand we want to conform to a certain body ideal, so pervasive in media and culture. No matter how media savvy we are, and no matter how much we reject it intellectually, this ideal exerts a powerful influence, right? And on the other hand, we feel that it’s lame and shallow to care about this. We resent caring about it. We *know* that it doesn’t matter, and yet it matters.  That’s some cognitive dissonance.”

**Our is meant here in the collective sense. That’s my friend Scott, not my hubby.  But this gives me a chance to plug his wife’s awesome blog. Clare Fauke is my favorite contemporary blogger.

***I feel weird about all these “look at meeeeee photos.” But since this is a post about body image, I hope folks understand.

****I also asked the even sillier question: Do you think I am fat? I thought 100% would say no, but three stinkers said yes. I stick my tongue out at them and say:

Boone County was an important influence on my childhood years. I think I wrote about it in a college essay. And I still want Milo's hair style.

Good Enough Defeats Perfection

There is much I did not do last year. I did not write a book, lose weight, market my business, do 10 push-ups, grow all my own greens, or fix the intersection of Fullerton and Rockwell.

But I did haphazardly replace a button, send impersonal holiday cards, bring Dunkin Donuts to play group, do 5 push-ups, and grow enough kale to keep me pooping this fall. And I fixed a toilet (unrelated).

Mission accomplished! Over and over, I kept my promise to not let perfect be the enemy of the good. By expecting—and accepting—less, I am getting more done.*

Can you spot at least three egregious mending errors?
Can you spot at least three egregious mending errors? Answer below.
Since I always forget what I plant where, I took pics  of bulb packages as markers. Alas, the 11/10 batch was out of focus. Mini Dutch Irises?

During the last quarter of 2014, I used my affinity for alliteration and aphorisms to test out other tips for managing daily life.

  • Make the Bed Monday.
  • A Place for All Some Things Tuesday.
  • Write it Wednesday.
  • Think Like a Waiter Thursday.
  • Don’t Freak Out Friday.
  • Sow Spring Bulbs before the Soil is Frozen Solid under Snow Saturday (forget what I said Friday!)

Few were particularly original, and many were different ways of saying the same thing. But for some reason they are guiding me past entrenched roadblocks, ranging from managing junk mail to managing myself.

Downstairs sewing kit in old (surprisingly large) glasses case. Second kitchen drawer, across from stove.

Don’t Let Perfect be the Enemy of the Good was the most powerful, which is why I have not redone button number three.** It is out of line, off kilter, and attached with the wrong color thread. Ack! Twitch!  But at least I fixed it right away instead of throwing it into the “to mend” black hole, where the button probably would have gotten lost anyway. (Think it, Do it!) I was able to fix it right away because of the mini sewing kit in our kitchen drawer. (A Place for All Things, and All Things in their Place!) The sewing kit was there because I am keeping tools where I need them, even when that means having multiples spread around the house. (I Don’t Have a Catch Phrase for This!)

Stay tuned for more case studies about which mantras helped the most and/or generated interesting conversations with friends via the book of face.


*Over the years, I have learned I am not a colossal screw up as much as I am a short perfectionist whose crappy executive functioning skills and irrational fears of failure have cultivated counterproductive behaviors such as procrastination, impulsivity, and intellectual paralysis. Bi-polar Disorder is in there somewhere. Chicken/egg—doesn’t matter. I know many others share this profile, which is why I post about this stuff even though the world already has plenty of words about how to get one’s act together.

**In truth, I did not even need to replace the button. It is decorative, on a sleeve. Few would have noticed it missing. Most who did would not have cared. But, I am not ready for that level of “imperfection.” (Should there be a comma between did and would? But and I?)