Monday, February 25, 2008

Finding Balance- 10 ways I stay sane

I'm really busy these days. Probably no more so than the rest of the world, but because I had the luxury of being a student the majority of my life, five day work weeks, meetings and working weekends, take a lot out of me. The first few months I found myself not returning phone calls, eating out way more than necessary, sleeping way less than practical and so stressed I felt I was running on fuel with a long over due oil change. I remember one particular day which involved 8.5 hours of driving and a very stressful meeting. I went home, crawled into bed and cried my eyes out. How was I going to balance all the things in need of balance? Over time I've managed to regain balance. E-mails are being returned as are phone calls, I'm eating homemade food, and my house no longer looks like a war zone.

I'm sharing the things I did that worked for me and helped me regain the balance between work and life. I hope it can be of some use to someone.

1. Hire cleaning service. Strictly speaking this is good advice though I'm a bit disappointed with those I've hired. Bobbette nearly annihilated my handmade rug, Bobeena quoted a price and then demanded another dropping her sweet demeanor into an evil ogre once I pointed this out. Bumbelina was decent but required me to follow her around and advise constantly. At the end of her job, I felt more exhausted than had I done it myself. But if you can find the right one, its worth the money.

2. In lieu of cleaning service: As I search for the perfect maid, and fill the role myself, I have made a 20 minute cleaning rule. Every work day, I check the clock and clean for 20 minutes. Its mind boggling how much can done with 20 dedicated minutes of cleaning. Today in 20 minutes I: wiped down my master bath counters, cupboards, cleaned all the toilets, hung up the clothes from my laundry and loaded the dishwasher. Doing it consistently, helps the house seem infinitely more manageable.

3. Reply ASAP to emails. I used to say "I'll reply later" and forget immediately though my intentions were sincere. Now I don't wait, I hit reply and answer.

4. Draft the longer emails. The Emails that are longer. DRAFT! I write, click draft. Slowly as I come back to it, it eventually gets written.

5. Work out during your lunch break. I ate out a lot because I wanted a break in my work day. Now I bring in my lunch and work out midday. You need a break to relax, why not maximize and exercise?

6. The moments that are off, take them off. I am still working on this. But how are you ever going to feel refreshed if you check your work email constantly and your voice mail? Its on your mind. It should be seperated from the rest of your life.

7. Call while driving. Get a good cell phone plan and call those you've been meaning to during the gritty rush hour commute. Turn your lemon into lemonade!

8. For your blogs. Getting google reader has helped me keep track of all the blogs I read in one spot and go to the ones updated when they do.

9. Accept that some things won't get done. Don't beat yourself up. Prioritize. Let the bottom few GO

10. Find a way to de-stress. It doesnt matter what it is but you need to make this the top priority. You need something daily that brings you down when you are way to high. For me its exercise at least thirty minutes and on particularly stressful times listen to some Sara McLaughlin. I know some people sit in their office with the lights off for ten minutes and just breathe deeply and let the stillness overtake them.

How do you stay afloat on the surfboard of life?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dangers of Diet Coke

I loved Diet Coke. Days could pass sans a single sip of water but I drank at least 16 oz in diet soda daily. One of my 108 in 2008 was to give up diet coke for 1 week. The prospect scared me. Diet soda was a part of my life. It was my "safe food" yummy with zero calories! Of all my goals this was the one I had the least confidence of completing hence I vowed to be "diet soda free for a week" as opposed to a month like most of my other goals. I didn't think I could do it.

The trigger to kick start the week long diet soda deprivation began when I started hearing about the dangers of aspartame, the artificial sweetener in most of our calorie free drinks. I thought, but the FDA would not approve something bad for me and if it weren't for diet soda I'd never lose weight. But then I began researching and I learned a thing or two such as:
I want to lose a few pounds but the biggest obstacle has always been my sweet tooth. The cravings can be so strong that sometimes I feel that I must simply indulge as though the choice is not mine. I hated the feeling of lacking self control. Ever since I stopped drinking diet soda, my cravings stopped. Its life changing. That doesn't mean I look at a brownie and shriek in disgust, but it does mean I don't feel weak in the knees with a physiological need to indulge my sweet tooth. Sometimes I wonder if its all in my head, that because I think it stops my cravings it has. But I have a hard time believing this since I know how long I've tried to quit, and how difficult its been. For the cravings to have simply poof! evaporated when the only change was the absence of diet coke... I can't help but draw a connection.

The first few days sans fake sugar gave me a slight headache, I had less energy than usual, but its subsided now and I'm 11 days diet soda free with no plans to resume. Some say there's no negative side effects to diet soda, but I'm of the "better safe than sorry" mentality and I've seen the positive effect its had for me, and really, what am I losing out on? A diuretic that gave no nutrition or substance to my body?

If you have seemingly uncontrollable cravings like I did and drink diet soda regularly why not try to go without for a week and see? If the prospect feels frightening perhaps its the best reason of all to quit for good.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The befuddling predicament of meat****

The origins of our meat has always troubled me but I won't lie, sticking my head in the sand has worked fairly well. But how long can I keep my head in the sand? The USDA isssued the largest recall of meat in US history. Though the reason is the safety of the consumption of the meat to humans, the images of the cruelty to the cows as they were forced to stand when they simply could not is stomach turning.

I've been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma recently, a book about where our food comes from. Pollan discusses how most of the animals we eat endure cruelty and are fed things they were never meant to eat. You might say "I eat only free range and organic so I'm OK" According to Pollan, those words mean little. His research uncovers that to get certified as organic/free range doesn't equal frolicking baby chicks in fresh green meadows. The meat we eat, no matter how you slice it[["free range" or otherwise] comes from animals that lived lives of intolerable cruelty. But beyond the "tree hugger" perspective, if the animal is not being fed right we aren't being fed right. The food chain implies that the food ate by the food we eat trickles to us too.

And if you eat zabiha , the ill effects of the food [i.e. treatment and what they are fed for the most part] is the same. The difference is in how they are slaughtered but doesn't change the basic dilemma.

I'm faced with an unpleasant fact: I love steaks, kebobs, burgers, haleem but if I eat it I'm responsible. I don't think its wrong to eat meat, even beef, if treated humanely and fed appropriately but its not happening. I must look at the facts, and face them.

My conclusion? I can't give up meat entirely but some changes must be made. I plan to give up beef until I can figure out if where I can get beef that is from well treated cows fed appropriately. I also plan to reduce the amount of meat I eat generally and try to learn to cook other foods such as lentil based dishes. I'mnot officially giving anything but I don't know how to convince myself to consume what I know is not only an animal which led a sad existence but will also affect my health.

***Update: I found this really great website which has links to local farms that sell animals that were raised humanely, fed appropriately, anti-biotic free, and raised in ways that don't impact the environment as badly as industrial factory farming does. The caveat is at least for my state, most of these places are over 50 miles away. Most are over 100 miles away. But if you live close enough, or can find a group of people to go in it with you and take turns doing the drive perhaps once a month or so then this is a great way to get your meat.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Three Beautiful Things Thursday

Clementines. If offered permanent employment with dental to sit in a field and peel Clementines I just might don some overalls and frolic to a Clementine field with W-2's in hand. I heart Clementines. [photo source here]

Shawls. All shapes colors and sizes. My mom brought me a ton from Pakistan and I wear them every day. Its kind of a fashion statement because they're so pretty, but more importantly they're warm and cozy like a big hug in the middle of the day, or a security blanket for one fully grown. [photo source here]

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries. They satisfy your sweet tooth, are good for you, and won't kill your diet (in moderation) Its positively perfect. [photo source here]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chicken Soup, hold the whine please

*Climbing out from under rock* Hullo there! Long time no see, how's the wife? The kids? I really feel like I've just emerged from under a rock. The cause? Stress, oozing goobity gobs of stress that makes your pulse go up, your head hurt, and your brain to urge you in the most soothing manipulative tone it can muster Sleep! Except that, I can't sleep because I have stuff to do. [Infact in the writing of this post I have been detracted approximately six times for "urgent" matters needing my "immediate" attention] But- this isn't going to be a whine post. This is a chicken soup post. A post to catch up on the good stuff since last we spoke, the goobity gob will be there whether I talk about it or not, so here goes..

1. Wax paper is brilliant! I can't believe I only just discovered it. Kebobs, Choco covered strawberries? Nothing sticks to it. I'm officially in love.
2. Bacon Chocolate. Eyeing a large opened chocolate bar sitting on my boss' desk I ask "chocolate eh?" to which she replied "yes, would you like some? I must warn you its got bacon" I laughed, "ha, funny! thats a good way to keep me on my diet" to which she said "no really, its got bacon" Yep, chocolate with bacon bits. Oh well. I didn't want it anyway!
3. Lost rocks! It's my escape when I need to unwind. I love the characters, the plot, the back stories. I'm not fully done with season 3 yet but I almost don't want to catch up because then I won't be able to just click "next" and avoid week long or month long cliff hangers if I'm up to date and watching like everyone else. So far Season 3 is a bit.. much, though.
4. I'm done with Diet Coke, or any other drinks with artificial sweeteners. Its a long story why, [for a later post] but I'm now three days "fake sugar" free! I am definitely more tired, I can feel my body wanting it... but if you see me with a diet coke, you have my full permission to snatch it from me and publicly berate me.
5. I've made progress in my 108 in 2008 goals and I'm particularly proud that...
6. ...I've read 14 books so far towards my 50 book goal! All hail Books on CD!
7. The elections feel more electrifying and dramatic than I ever have remembered them to be. I am a Barack supporter and I'm glad he's doing well. Time will tell what the results will be, but the fact that he's being taken seriously by so many is very inspiring in and of itself.
8. Tuna and Crab Sushi if made right is one the coolest foods ever. If you live in my neck of the woods, I'll share where I go, its fantab and on Fridays a random Chinese dude will sing "Unchained Melody" with his guitar. Its a great place to escape.
9. I got a pedometer and am doing 10,000 steps a day. I thought it would be easy to reach but am shocked to see how little I normally walk! So far I hit up to 9,000 and a few days 10,000 but its a great motivator to exercise and park the car a little further from the store.
10. I still feel stressed. But at least I didn't whine like I wanted to. That's at least not bad, right