Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Happiness Project

.... by Gretchen Rubin

I'd heard of this book a few times, and eventually I decided I would like to read it. This is a book that chronicles one woman's year long quest to become happier. She admits that her life is pretty good. She lives in a nice apartment in NYC, has a loving husband, two beautiful children, and just felt that she wasn't nearly as happy as she should be given her situation.

She does lots of research on happiness and sets herself monthly resolutions from January to December. Each  month, she works at those particular resolutions. And I do mean that she works... Basically, over the course of the year, she realizes that happiness doesn't just happen. Happiness is a choice, and may take work. Some of us might find it easier than others, and sometimes when you think someone is happy, you may not know the whole story. But, essentially, you are the master of your own happiness.

I prefer reading chick lit, so sometimes I found the material a bit dry for my "before bed" reading.  It's not a reflection on the author, but of my interest. I don't usually care much for self-help or even non-fiction. But, I really liked the idea of it, and stuck with reading it and really enjoyed the thoughts it provoked in me.

Some of the main points that she mentioned that hit home for me were that she should BE Gretchen. In other words, if she was the type to easily get annoyed with things out of place, well that was ok. That's her. She can't control her natural reactions. However, she could control how she reacted and how she framed her response. There was a lot of focus (that I picked up on anyway) on choosing how to deal with things. For instance, there was a part where she told her daughter to brush her hair as it was always messy. Instead of snapping at her to go brush her hair, Gretchen decided to turn that moment into a positive one, and brushed her daughter's hair for her. The hair would still end up messy later, but they had a nice moment together.

One concept really stood out and that spending time with women (for both men and women) leads to less feelings of loneliness. Women like to talk, and by spending time together, it really feeds our need for intimacy and belonging. I thought back to times when I've felt lonely, and realized that this is true. Now, going forward, if I'm feeling lonely, I'll make a point to spend some time with one of my friends. Actually, I'm making more of an effort to do this all the time now. Things tend to get busy, and I put off a walk at lunch or a drink after work in favor of getting in a run, or getting errands done. Now I'll make a conscious effort to see my friends. Maybe I don't "need" that time right then to chat, but they might.

Another simple idea from the book is just the benefit of laughter and of laughing at yourself. It's ok to be silly and not take yourself so seriously, and if you can turn a tense moment into a moment of laughter, you'll be better off. I can think of many times in my past that this was the case. Particularly, I remember my grandmother's wake when I was a teenager. Of course, we were all sad. Then my uncle bent down at her casket, and RRRRRIIIIIPPPPP! The seam split in his pants. He could have been upset, or angry, etc. He laughed, and the rest of us did too. That was one of the best mood altering laughing moments in my life.

Anyway, after reading this book, I am more aware of ways that I can reframe things to bring more happiness into my days. There is already a lot of happiness, but I think everyone can use more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Running...

I've been pretty slack with updating my blog with run details. Mainly, this is because I've been pretty slack about running in the last month. It'll be four weeks this Sunday since I raced at the Cabot Trail Relay. Since then, I took a few days off running, then got a cold and was forced to take a week or so off running. Then I started to enjoy the break.

I've run a grand total of about 30k so far in June. That's kind of hard to admit as I usually aim to have at least 100k a month, and that's pretty low compared to most of my running friends. Part of me really wants to make sure I get to at least 50k this month. The other part of me doesn't really care at all.

My next "A" race is in October. I'll be racing a hilly half, and I want to run it in under 2:05. That will be a tough, but achievable, goal for me. But it's going to take training. And training was supposed to start last week... I'm not feeling motivated. While I love running, I'm tired of training. Or, maybe I'm just plain TIRED.

Since I stopped training, I started getting back into other stuff that I love. I have been walking, a lot. Instead of taking transit to work, I've been walking the 5k each way most days. So far, I'm over 120k of walking this month. I've been hiking - I finally got back to hike Cape Split. I've been playing ultimate frisbee again, and actually having enough left in my legs when the game starts to put in some good effort. And, I'm getting back into strength training and yoga.

While I haven't been running much, I've been having a lot of fun with the other activities. My legs are tired. The walk this morning, following the ultimate game last night, found me with legs that felt leaden. The thought now of running is unfathomable. My legs would have nothing left in them for a run, even an easy run.

So here's my dilemma. How do I do it all? I'm really enjoying the change in routine and loving all the things I would have to categorize as "cross training" in my running log. But I really want to PB in the 5k, 10k, and half this summer and fall. What can I keep, and what do I get rid of? Maybe I WILL have to switch out some of my walking for running instead. I really do enjoy the walking more than run commuting or transit, though. Maybe instead of trying to add in strength work, I can focus on yoga instead. Yoga will strengthen and stretch. Ultimate is staying because I love it, and it's a good substitute for speed work and sprinting - at least that's what I'll tell myself.

Hopefully I can make it all work this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wave

The wave is an interesting thing. It is one of the first things little kids learn how to do. "Wave bye-bye!" It warms your heart to see a little wave bye-bye to you. Or wave hello to you. Heck, little kids - toddlers - seem to wave to strangers! I love it! It is so cute, and always makes me smile when a little kid waves to me.

When I started running, I felt like a bit of a poser. I didn't wave to other runners. Why would I? I wasn't a real runner! Then, once I started to feel like a real runner (oh, somewhere after my first half marathon), I would feel comfortable enough calling myself a runner and started to wave to other runners. Now, I attempt to make eye contact with every runner I pass. I'd guess that about half of them look back at me. Maybe more often on Sundays. I tend to nod, or say hi, or just wave. It makes me feel like part of a little club of like minded people when another runner acknowledges me and gives me a bit of a wave.

I've been a runner now for about seven years. and I've kind of gotten used to the runner wave. The novelty had worn off. That is, until I bought my Vespa a few weeks ago.

Now, I ride a Vespa. And, technically, a Vespa IS a motorcycle. I don't FEEL like a motorcycle driver, even though I have a motorcycle license, drive a two wheeled vehicle, and wear a helmet and other safety gear. But, most motorcycle drivers - even those that drive those huge beasts of motorcycles - wave to me. To ME! At first, I assumed there was a big bike behind me. But nope, there wasn't. It took me a few weeks to get down how to wave while driving. Tonight, I drove to the mall, and then to the grocery store, and every motorcycle driver I passed waved or nodded to me. I feel so included in this new club! It's great! It's amazing how that little piece of acknowledgement makes a newbie feel included and welcome.

I'd been thinking about this the last few weeks. I've been making more of an effort to pay attention to the other runners I pass. Today, I ran on my lunch break, downtown Halifax. It was a lovely sunny day. There were a few runners out there that I passed. I waved and said hello to every one of them. Only one of them waved back. But, maybe one of the ones who didn't was a new runner, and maybe they felt included in this little group by my wave.

Amazing what one little gesture can do to make someone feel included.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Racing in The Rain

... by Garth Stein.

Do you have a dog? Have you ever wondered what they are thinking about? Well, then this is the book for you. This book is narrated by Enzo, a dog. The first chapter is at the end of Enzo's life, where he's just hoping his owner, Denny, will do the right thing and take him to the vet for the last time.

I think this is the first time I've ever cried in the first chapter of a book. I actually thought about not reading it. It was way too much for me. I switched books to another book for a while, then decided to try another chapter of this one. Thank goodness, it went back to when Enzo was a puppy. That was much better to read, and way more fun!

The book is well written, and at times, I forgot I was reading about a dog. When I think of narration by a dog, I think of the clip on America's Funniest Home Videos where the dog is "pushing a rock, pushing a rock, pushing a rock......" This narration made Enzo a person who was in a dog's body, who couldn't communicate his needs in words because he had a floppy tongue. He couldn't get things ready for himself (i.e. food) because he didn't have thumbs. Other than that, he was intelligent, caring, emotional, and any other characteristic you'd attribute to a human.

The story follows Enzo's life with Denny, a wanna-be race car driver. Denny then meets Eve, and they marry, and then Zoe comes into their lives. The relationship shift between Enzo and Eve was really sweet to read about. Eve starts out as the person who is stealing his master's attention, and he doesn't want to like her. Then he realizes she's important to Denny, and he can whine and sook about it, or make the best of it.

By the end of the story, we all know what is coming. It doesn't make it any less sad to read. I cried many times throughout this book, but I laughed and smiled just as many.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Break from my Resoltion

I'm taking a break from my wine resolution right now. Partially because I didn't know which country to pick this month, and partially because I'm trying to not spend money on frivolous things for a while. (See, I just bought a Vespa and would really like to get my debt paid off ASAP...)

So, that means, for the month of June, I can buy whatever wine I want.

I was at a race last month, and asked someone on my team to just pick me up a bottle of red, whatever she felt like. I gave her $20. She got me a bottle of Wolfblass something or other. It was a cab sauv blend, and it was GOOD. It was something I wouldn't have normally picked up with my resolution since I was trying to try NEW brands. Well, new to me. But it was good. Have I mentioned that it was good?

After that, I picked up a bottle - a cab sauv - from South Africa. I thought maybe South Africa would be my country for June. It wasn't good. So, I decided I was going to just buy whatever bottle I want, when I want it, in June. See, the sun is out (sometimes) and I don't always feel like wine. Sometimes in June, I just want a beer after work. And picking wines for my resolution was starting to feel like work. Whenever wine feels like work, that's just wrong...

On Friday, I decided I wanted to get a nice bottle of wine for the weekend. I stopped at the little NSLC at the ferry, and wanted to get a bottle of that Chilean Trio that I'd had in the winter. I'd loved it so much. So, I picked up a bottle and opened it Friday night. On the first sip, I thought "huh, this isn't nearly as good as I remember." I had another glass last night, two, actually, and enjoyed it a bit more, but wondered if I actually got the wrong bottle.

So, in my post from February, I wrote about the Concha Y Toro Trio Reserva Cab Sauv, Shiraz, Cab Franc, 2008. And, looking at the (empty) bottle on my table, I have the Concha Y Toro Trio Reserva MERLOT, Carmenere, Cab Sauv. Ding ding ding!!! That's why it isn't as good as I remembered! It's not the same wine! Yep, sticking with my opinion of merlots... Not my fave. Though this wine is not bad. Just not as fruity as I like. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

29 Gifts & The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Two more books read.

I finished listening to 29 Gifts by Cami Walker a few weeks ago now, it seems like. It was an interesting listen. It is written by a woman who was depressed, and inspired to start giving daily gifts for, you guessed it, 29 days. Her gifts could be as small as a compliment to a stranger, or as large as she wanted them to be. If she missed a day of giving, she'd have to go back to start at day one again.

When she started this "adventure", she was noticing how much her body was failing her due to the onset of MS. She could only work for a few hours a day, and a walk to the neighbourhood store was a big struggle. Through the twenty-nine days, I got to observe her becoming a stronger, happier person - in part because of the gifts she was giving.

I found this book interesting as I'd already heard of the concept, but hadn't realized it. When I read The Brightest Star in the Sky back in February, one of the characters (and his girlfriend) were participating in the gift challenge. There is a web site devoted to this concept in which people sign up and write about their gifting. It's quite interesting. It has made me think about it, just to get more involved with people on a day to day basis. I find I'm quite wrapped up in my own world a lot of the time and maybe this would be a way to get outside of it a bit. We'll see.

The second book I finished was The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giardano. As I just googled this to find out the author's name, I discovered that this was made into a movie in 2010 with Isabella Rosalini. Interesting. I won't be watching it as it is Italian. But back to the book...

The story follows two main characters - Alice and Mattia. Alice is an only child who is pushed into skiing by her father. She doesn't like skiing, and doesn't seem to fit in with the kids right from the start. She ends up in a bad accident that leaves her with scars and a permanent limp, all this before she even hit puberty. Mattia is a twin, and his sister is challenged. Because of her, he is not really included by the kids at school. One day, someone invites him and his sister to a party. He convinces her to wait on a bench for him while he goes to the party, and she is never seen again. Needless to say, this childhood event scars Mattia.

As teenagers, Alice and Mattia meet, and become, well, almost close friends. Neither is really at the point where they can be "friends" and trust each other, but they become a large part of each others' lives. The story continues on as they grow up and grow apart.

I really enjoyed the first chapters of this book, but as it went on, I didn't like it as much. I think it reminded me too much of how mean teens can be. It was a bit tough to read about it, especially since I have teenage nieces who have had struggles with the girls at school. All in all, it was an enjoyable read, even if it did bring up all those insecurities of high school again.