Friday, March 25, 2011

Sometimes, it IS all about the bike (sorry Lance)

Quote du jour: The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.
- Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895

I love my road bike. We're getting married next week.

Okay. That might be a slight exaggeration. We're just good friends.

I went for a bike ride, and it was great. In fact, it was a marvelous, quick, fun, kick ass bike ride. Without even thinking about it, I found myself actually zipping along at a decent rate of speed, and it felt good.

I'd had the idea in the back of my mind -- that dark and dusky area where the lazy, unexamined ideas hang out -- that my ponderous, plodding pace on the other bike was due to my body being so out of shape. Now, I'm rethinking that notion. This bike ride was fun again, like it used to be. I feel reborn, or at least a lot younger.

One reason I fell in love with cycling was how much faster I became. I've never been a swift runner. Hell, I even walk slow. But put me on a bicycle and I can pass the fastest runner. (Um... unless there's a steep uphill involved. Let's overlook little technical details like that.)

The next step is to take my heavy duty commute bike in to my local LBS and let them see if they can figure out the problem. I've been riding that bike for almost 10 years now. Maybe something is wrong with its innards. It hasn't had a tune up in a couple years. Probably something is screwed up.

See how thick those tires are? I have never gotten a flat tire riding this bike. (Flat knees, yes, but those tires are tough.)

Much as I love my road bike, it's one drawback is the dainty little Italian tires. Reminds me of the story about the Princess and the Pea: these tires are so sensitive that I feel every bump. I don't like exposing these thin tires to all the glass, gravel, and general detritus on the commute route. Binchy is better suited to a long ride out in the country... once summer comes again...

No, that's not me. But that's what I think riding should be like. Photo courtesy of JuanLuisFlicker.

Site du jour: Fat Cyclist has thoughtfully provided a guide to help the cyclist understand motorists' signals and hand gestures.

Exercise du jour: Cycle 10 miles.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life's a bitch, but motivation is a bastard

Quote du jour: People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That's why we recommend it daily. -- Zig Ziglar

Can't I just lay me down to sleep and stop with the exercising already?

Okay, I'll confess. I did it! I murdered Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the wrench! Motivation has been rather thin around Chez Merry of late. It's about the only thing that could be described as thin.
But why bother trying?
What's the point?
What do you mean, 'depressed'?

Since I moved up to the frozen wilds of Oregon, I can generally count on February being pretty damn depressing, as months go. Now that March has started to Ide its way onto the stage, I'm beginning to think that maybe... just maybe... that "spring" thing they keep talking about might be willing to consider making an appearance. And in spring a young at heart, though not so much in the knees woman's thoughts turn toward exercise.

Any day now, I'm going to get my motivation back.

Last time I checked, it was standing by the side of the freeway, holding a sign that read "Maui or Wherever." (My motivation isn't proud. It just wants out of here. Did it think to invite me along? Of course not. Selfish, that's the only way to describe this sort of behavior.)

Still, when spring rolls around... my motivation is apt to slink in the back door, avoiding my eye and making small talk about how bad the roads have been and how hitching a lift isn't as easy as it used to be in the old days.

It's inevitable. Soon as the daffodils start blooming and the allergies start sneezing, Mr. Motivation shows up expecting me to take up the pursuit of exercise with him as if nothing had ever happened. The bastard. One of these days, I'm just going to change the locks.

Site du jour: "Italian Catholics Picket Parade, Jealous of Irish Catholic History of Oppression"

Exercise du jour: Look, don't expect great things. Me and Mr. M. are barely on speaking terms. Expect 20 minutes on the Elliptical. Maybe a couple miles walking. That's about it.

Done! Hey, some days (like this one), 20 minutes exercise is a friggin' miracle. I seem to recall reading that the ancients considered March to be the beginning of the new year. Maybe my body is simply responding to the rhythms of my Celtic ancestors. Hell, it's as good an excuse as any. For today, this was a victory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chocolate & Vicodin: da winner!


I would've sworn that Mr. Random Generator always picked somebody in the middle. This time, just to prove me wrong, he went for someone on the outer edges of the curve.

Yes, One Crazy Penguin has won a free copy of Chocolate & Vicodin to take home and peruse!

I wish I could've given a copy to everyone. It really is the sort of book you don't encounter every day.

Lent, Chocolate & Vicodin

, demotivational posters
see more Very Demotivational

Nag du jour: Last chance to enter the giveaway for Jennette Fulda's memoir: Chocolate & Vicodin.

Exercise du jour: Since I'm now (hopefully) past the worst of the work-pressure, at least for the next week or two, it's back to finding some form of exercise. Today, I'm going to take it easy and aim for walking. Surely, anyone can do that. Probably.
Done! Well, a coupla miles. In my current depressed decrepit condition, that's something.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Chocolate & Vicodin: review & giveaway!

From the perspective of a weight loss blogger...

Jennette Fulda had it all. She lost over half her body weight (186 damn pounds), wrote a terrific memoir about the experience (Half-Assed), quit her frustrating office job and started her own successful web-design business (Make My Blog Pretty). If she weren’t such a nice person, it would be really easy to think petty, jealous, resentful thoughts hate her guts. Sounds like a great life.


On February 17, 2008, Jennette got a headache. She still has it today, over three years later. Three years… 1095 days… 65700 minutes… one headache. Can’t imagine what that would feel like? You're in luck; you don’t have to. She wrote a book, Chocolate & Vicodin, describing with the frustration and triumph that comes with learning to deal with chronic pain.

Play your cards right... and read a little further... you might get a free copy of the book.

I managed to lure Jennette Fulda over to my blog to answer some questions about Chocolate & Vicodin, among other things.

Merry: So tell me, Janet — may I call you Janet? — what could cause someone to have a headache that goes on for years? Are there any ‘usual suspects’ for a problem like that?

Jennette: Well, Marie, the International Headache Society has 14 classifications for headaches. The type of headache I have is usually labeled Chronic Daily Headache or New Persistent Daily Headache. Those headaches are both primary headaches, meaning the headache is the problem itself as opposed to secondary headaches which are a symptom of something else like the flu or neck trauma. They don't really know what causes these types of headaches. Several classes of drugs are used to prevent and/or alleviate the pain, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, beta blockers, triptans and others.

Merry: Jeannie, how did you cope with pain that doesn’t let up? How has it changed you?

Jennette: Good question, Miriam. In the literal sense, chronic pain has changed my brain due to a fancy, scientific term called neuroplasticity. The longer you're in pain, the better your body gets at being in pain. It essentially learns how to be in pain, so it becomes harder to cure. Chronic pain can also make your brain shrink over the course of many years, and it can cause cognitive problems. Other than that, I'm great!

As for coping, distraction is always a good one. Have you ever been driving in a car and suddenly realized you've been listening to a crappy song on the radio for several minutes? You didn't notice because you weren't paying attention. In the same way, I can sometimes distract myself from the pain by doing tasks that require concentration, like writing. I also use ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

Merry: I was wondering, Jan. You have the perfect opportunity to say "not tonight, I have a headache." Instead, you found ways to have a life despite pain. But woman, you've had this headache for years! Why didn't you just give up and say @!#%?

Jennette: Well, May, I did go through a period of depression after the first eight months of the headache. I had to leave work to cry in my car in the parking garage, and I was vaguely considering suicide sometime in the distant future. Thankfully, I got help and I kept going to doctors to try new things. We've been able to bring down my pain so it's tolerable. I still can't do as much as I want to, but I'm doing much better than I was three years ago.

Merry: In Chocolate & Vicodin, I was surprised that so many people had trouble with your name. I mean, Jennette basically consists of four letters. Is it the way you repeat some of the letters that confuses people? Ever thought of cutting a few of those extra letters out?

Jennette: My parents gave all three of their kids names that could be shortened to nicknames. Thomas is Tom, James is Jim, and originally Jennette was Jenny. They changed the traditional spelling from "Jeanette" to "Jennette" so the nickname would make sense. Unfortunately, the most popular girl's name the year I was born was Jennifer. So there was always another Jenny in class, which made me feel less then special. I changed it to Jennette one year when we moved. It used to annoy me that people couldn't spell my name, but now I don't really care if they misspell it unless it's on something important or official, like the cover of my book.

Merry: Jennette, I've been treating the subject lightly, making fun of all the ways people mess up your name, but like a lot of other people out there I don't really know the best way to act with someone who has a chronic illness. I want to show support, but I worry about saying the wrong thing and putting my foot in my mouth. What would you suggest?

Jennette: The biggest mistake people make is that they try to cure me. I don't expect you to fix me. I think people give advice compulsively, even when asked not to, because they hate to see someone suffer. Their advice comes from good intentions, but I'd much rather you empathize with me and validate my feelings than try to cure me. A cure probably won't work, but telling me you admire how I'm handling my illness or asking me if there's anything you can do to help will definitely make me feel batter.

I also don't like it when someone tells me they hope my pain goes away (which I know sounds really, really weird). The sentiment is well-intentioned, but the sad fact is that most chronic pain patients never find a cure. Telling them you hope they’ll be cured is like telling an amputee that you hope their leg grows back. That would be fantastic, but it’s probably not going to happen. Telling me you hope I’m cured only reminds me of the fact that I most likely never will be. Instead, wish me better health in general or tell me you hope I’ll have a low pain day.

Merry: One last question. If a magical wish-granting fairy appeared before you and offered to make your headache disappear forever, but only if you went back to your highest weight, would you take the deal?

Jennette: I really don't know. Let's be glad this fairy doesn't exist and I don't have to make this decision. I feel like I've kind of reached a mid-point between those two options anyway. I've regained about 50 pounds or so, but my headache pain is lower. I don't have the energy to exercise and cook as well as I used to, but it's not so bad that I'm housebound or on my way to other obesity-related illnesses.

I might just take the fairy in a choke hold and demand that she give me both things before I turned her into fairy dust.

Merry: Sounds reasonable; silly offer for a fairy to make, really. Thanks for stopping by!

[Okay, she's gone. Now I'll dish about what I really think about this book.]

Things I liked about Chocolate & Vicodin:
  • The intelligence : Jennette has a way of writing about her struggle that cuts through confusions/confuddlements/tangents and addresses the problem directly. I found that refreshing.
  • The humor: I’ve peeked at other reviews, and that was one thing every single reviewer picked up on. The topic sounds depressing, but Chocolate & Vicodin has a surprising amount of humor.
  • The suspense: I got hooked on trying to find the solution. Throughout the book, people shower deluge drown Jennette with suggestions as she tries a lot of remedies.
Things I didn't like about it:
  • In this book, there is a complete absence of car chases, catchy musical dance interludes, or death-defying duels between highly skilled ninja warriors.
  • Rather than battle dragons, orcs, or very short boy wizards who have a scar on the forehead, Jennette deals with bureaucracy, insurance forms, and doctors. Me, I'd rather battle the dragons.
  • Damn it all, there aren't even any sparkly vampires! (Wait — that was supposed to go in the Things I Liked list.)
  • In other words: it's a memoir, not a novel. No glib, easy answers.
I recommend reading Chocolate & Vicodin. We all have to deal with pain. Everyone develops different strategies to cope. Jennette Fulda came up with some thought-provoking ways to deal with her headache.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this memoir to review.
Datclaimer: You too could be given a copy of this memoir! Read on.

Giveaway Note: Leave a comment, and if Mr. Random Generator picks your comment, Jennette will send a copy of Chocolate & Vicodin to the USian address of your choice. A free book! Just from leaving a comment! Only in America.

Giveaway deadline: Leave a comment by Tuesday, March 15th at 8:37 pm Oregon time.

P.S. If you have questions for Jennette, please include them in your comment as well. Maybe we can lure her back to answer them!

This contest is now closed

Friday, March 04, 2011

I think, therefore I yam?

Quote du jour: Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. - Melody Beattie

Just Do It.

This is a slogan that does not apply when you are faced with a banquet.

Just say No Thank You... I've had enough...

I find that if I don't concentrate on eating right, I gain weight. If I think before I eat, I do much better.

I find that if I concentrate on exercising, I don't exercise. If I don't think before I work out, I do much better.

Does that make any kind of sense to anyone else? I can overthink things, especially exercise. I rarely overthink whether I really need more dinner. If I notice myself indulging in food-in-mouth disorder, it's easy to recognize that I'm just acting out of habit, i.e. without thinking.

In summary: habits are the enemy of thinking. When it comes to exercising, I want to create and encourage the habit. When it comes to overeating, I want to thwart and stomp on the habit.

Hmmn. Not sure if I've got something profound here or if it's just one of those pseudo-insights you get when you're short on sleep.

Exercise du jour: Yes, damn it, I am going to cycle to work. No early meetings, no excuses. It shall be done. I Have Spoken.

p.s. When I write "Yam," I do not mean a vegetable that has been smothered in sugar and marshmallows. I mean something that you slice thin and roast with potatoes and onions and maybe some balsamic vinegar.

Chinese banquet courtesy of Cara Chow.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thoughts on the New Zealand quake

Site du jour: Gotta love the New Zealanders' sense of humor. I present to you a home for sale, with free rocks thrown in landscape rocks for sale in Christchurch. (I loved the comments that went with this listing.)

Yes! This boulder could be yours! Will brighten up any living room!

Plus, courtesy of the awesomely named The Art of Not Working, a Facebook list:

You know you're in Christchurch when:
1.You use the term "liquefaction" and "seismic design" in casual conversation.
2.Digging a hole and pooping in your garden is no longer weird.
3. Your mayor describes the city as munted. If he means FUBARed, you agree
4.Weaving through car size potholes on the street is no longer weird
5.Going to Wellington to escape earthquakes makes sense
6.A shower is heaven
7.You have a preference of which kind of silt you'd rather shovel, dry or wet
8.You see tanks driving around town
9.You are always noting what you are standing under
10.Due to frequent aftershocks during the night, you sleep like a baby--every 10 minutes you wake up and sh*t yourself.

And finally, from The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl, comes word of a Virtual 5k, Run for Christchurch, on the weekend of March 12-13. The idea is not only to send money to the Red Cross to help New Zealand quake victims, but also to show support for the Kiwis.

p.s. Thanks to Mary Anne in Kentucky, I include Rebuilding Christchurch: one sandcastle at a time.

For me, today, the plan is to ride the bike. Now. I'll plan on the 5k next week. Want to join me?

Fail. Wait -- don't give up on me! I'll explain.

Look, I'm still on for the 5k next weekend. In fact, I'm planning to cycle tomorrow. The problem with today was that I'd forgotten there was an early morning meeting that I had to show up for. No, really, I had to. I was all dressed up and ready to cycle when I remembered, and if it hadn't been for that pesky meeting, I would have ridden in. Sigh. It was a beautifully warm day for cycling, too. A day like this almost makes me believe in the possibility of Spring. Watch tomorrow be rotten weather.