It’s the beginning of a story

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To tell the truth, every moment is the beginning of an entirely new story, so the title is a bit of a wash. Never mind. Here is what has been happening.

  • I jogged a very slow and wheezy 4K yesterday. It was 1K short of what my training schedule said I should have done, but it was also, miraculously, faster that what the schedule said I should have done. I didn’t use my race watch, so I was kind of winging it. Lesson learnt for next time.
  • I put a load more clothes, shoes and bags in the off-season suitcase. How much? This much.
    IMAG1461
  • I found a few more things to donate to charity, including a vintage white leather jacket that I LOVE but which just doesn’t fit me. C’est la vie.
  • Between the additional off-season clothes and the charity donations, the wardrobe and dresser are now pretty darn empty. In fact, there are probably about 22 items of clothing left, far less than the 33 allowed in the project 333 challenge. I will have a separate post on what those items are later so that you can all be nosy and see what I chose. Unfortunately, those 22 items do not include accessories, shoes, bags, jewelry, gloves, sunglasses, etc. I am having a devil of a time deciding on these, because I just don’t know whether this winter will turn out to be blisteringly cold like the one 2 years ago, or quite mild like last year. I might have to cheat (ish) and swap out some items half way through if the weather takes a turn.
  • I attended the PhD defence ceremony of a colleague this morning, which made me really eager to just get mine done and out of the way. She is going on to be an assistant professor in Beijing! Well done to her. I don’t imagine that I will have such a short route to proffessordom, although maybe I could if I were applying to universities in China. I imagine that their universities are growing along with their economy, unlike all the universities (and economies) in Europe.
  • The double knit scarf is coming along, albeit slowly. I doubt I will finish it before it becomes scarf wearing season. Fortunately, there are other scarves to use in the meantime.

Motivation

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So, my partner and I signed up for a 10K race on October 26th. That is not a whole lot of time to go from where I am now (haven’t run more than 5K in months, haven’t run at all for weeks) to being able to finish a 10K in under an hour without puking (that’s my current definition of a successful 10K).

Standing in my way are:

  • a persistent and occasionally productive cough,
  • exercise induced asthma,
  • a sudden onset of autumnal weather,
  • a serious amount of thesis-related stress and anxiety,
  • and a deep, but hopefully temporary, ambivalence to my own sporting achievements.

Normally, when I get in a fitness funk I find that signing up for a race gives me a bit of motivation. You know, a kick up the backside that sets me in motion. I set up a new training schedule on myasics, which you can check out if you want to see what I think I will need to be doing in order to train. I will also be logging my runs on there so you can check it out to keep me honest, if you feel so inclined.

I set it up for three times a week, but I had a bit of trouble because sometimes websites are too damn clever for their own good. For example, since October 26th is not so far away, it wouldn’t let me select that date as the date for the race. The closest I could get was October 29th. Then, I put in a vague estimation of how fast I think I could reasonably run a 10K right now if I had taken a dose of my asthma inhaler and were being pursued by wolves, as well as how fast I wanted to run a 10K on race day. The website thinks I can’t make that much improvement in the allotted time, so my paces and final estimated finishing time are slower than I would like. Harrumph.

Will this be enough training? Will signing up for this race be enough motivation? Will this training help me clear up the cough, reduce the impact of the asthma, and keep a handle on the stress and anxiety? I will tell you as the race draws nigh.

Flawed but forgiven

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Hello all! I am sure you will be delighted to hear that I have been working on the double knit scarf as shown in the featured image.

I think it is looking pretty good. There are, however, a couple of flaws, including at least one time that I failed to move both yarns forward (or backward) when I switched from a purl to a knit, and at least four stitches where I apparently had a massive brain fart and just broke the pattern. Ah, well.
I have learnt a few useful things. First, bigger needles is easier, possibly because of the fuzziness of these yarns. I started with smaller needles and just had a devil of a time trying to see which stitches were knit and which were purl. Second, it is important to twist the yarns together immediately after the first stitch of each row. This keeps the two sides from separating. It isn’t so important during the rows that start with both colours in quick succession, but it is important for the rows that start with big patches of solid colour. And third, relax. It is hard to maintain an even tension of you are not relaxed. Remember, this is a hobby, so should be fun, not work or anxiety producing.

One the wardrobe challenge front, I have identified at least 3 more items to pass on the the charity shops. I have also identified at least 3 more items that can go into the off season clothing storage to make more space in my limited wardrobe (and also to make the project 333 challenge easier by virtue of not having to look at loads of items that are not in my 33).

The thesis is making less progress, although there is really nothing I can do about that at the mo’. I have implemented all the feedback and comments that have been given to me and am waiting on the supervisors to make the next move. I do plan on printing out the first two chapters to give to me partner to read. Mostly, I need him to tell me if there are any typos, Americanisms, confusing parts, or illegible graphics. I suspect there will be more than a few. In the meantime, I am searching for and applying to job offers, prepping one chapter from the thesis as a journal article, and continuing to work on the scarf during my RSI breaks.

Onward and upward! Or perhaps, diagonally and widdershins!

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Inspired by comments from a new reader, I have decided to partake in the next Project 333 challenge starting in October. Feel free to join me! I am as nosy as the next person, so I would love to see your photos and hear your experiences.

I expect that this will be challenging in new and different ways than my previous wardrobe challenges, mostly because I had unlimited outerwear and accessories for those. It is also going to be a challenge because it spans 3 months instead of 1, which means that my wardrobe needs to account for the heat and humidity of late summer/early autumn and the biting wind and cold of a north European winter. I also expect to do some fairly unusual things during the next three months, like attend job interviews, defend my thesis, and go for lunch at a three Michelin star restaurant. And finally, this will be a challenge because I don’t really have anywhere to box up and store the clothes that don’t make it into my 33 items. Some can go in the off-season suitcase, but I suppose that more of them will simply get taken to the charity collection box. Which is good, I guess. It will make my next international move easier.

I have some ideas on what will be included so far, but I will be using the rest of September to wear some clothes that I haven’t worn in a while and decide whether they make the cut or not. So far, the signs are not looking good for them.

On an unrelated note, I have applied to some more jobs. Let’s hope I can get an interview out of one of them, because so far the responses have been disappointing, to say the least.

The wheels have been put into motion.

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First off, minutes (and I literally mean minutes) ago, I submitted all the required paperwork to initiate the PhD graduation process. Bam! (Emeril Lagasse style… you’ll just have to imagine that in your head.) There are six parts to this paperwork and I just submitted one and two, which are arguably the easiest ones. Despite being the easiest, they were still a pain in my ass. Honestly, why do they need to see the grades from my masters degree when I also submitted the diploma from my masters degree? Fortunately, it turns out I did have a copy of those grades and didn’t need to contact my old uni to get them.

Next, I have started the double knit scarf (no picture yet because it is only one and a half rows in and doesn’t look like anything) but have learned that fuzzy yarns are not ideal for learning to double knit. They just make it hard to see which loops are knit and which are purl. I originally bought this yarn for a stranded knit-in-the-round hat, which of course only ever has knit stitches so the fuzziness was not an issue. Nevertheless, I shall overcome. Mostly because the fuzzy yarn is what I have to work with but also because I can be very bloody minded when I choose.

Then, I started the wardrobe detox. I took 4 dresses, one skirt, one t-shirt and a pair of trousers to the charity donation box. I feel good, and I vow never to buy cheap crap from H&M again. All but two of the items were H&M and I really should know by now that their stuff doesn’t hang well, doesn’t fit well, doesn’t wash well and doesn’t look good. There is also a pair of sandals that I think might get the boot and some belts and scarves that I haven’t used in a while. I should also go through my jewelry, but that is a little emotionally charged so I am not sure I am ready to do that.

I also swapped out the clearly summer stuff for the clearly winter stuff from the suitcase where I keep my off season clothes. Flip-flops, summer dresses and swimsuits are gone, sweater dresses, sweaters, knit hats and furry coat liners are out. Unfortunately, the winter stuff takes up more space so the drawers are still crammed full, despite the trip to the charity box. Le sigh. I may have to be a bit more ruthless than I originally thought. My partner is out of town this weekend, so I may take the opportunity to lay everything out and have a good look at the big picture without worrying that he will make fun of me for my OCD tendencies.

Two new kick-ass goals.

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So, since I have been struggling with the fitness goals, and because things are so up in the air right now and I don’t feel comfortable signing up for any runs, I am setting those goals aside. This decision took a bit of soul-searching. I have to be ok with not reaching all of my fitness goals, and ok with not working on them right now, without being ok with quitting them altogether. This is just part of a acknowledging that life is fluid and unpredictable and that changing my mind and reorganizing my priorities to deal with life’s vagaries is not a bad thing.

But I do like to have some goals on the go at all times, and they should always be kick-ass. Naturally, I still have the goal of getting my PhD. That one is highest priority, and definitely a sound, kick-ass goal. There is still a lot of work to do on that, and it does involve some work every day. Nevertheless, that goal is clearly a career thing and I need some non-career goals to occupy my time outside of office hours. I have selected two.

First, I want to teach myself to double knit. I have been crocheting for a decade or so, but only took up knitting in January 2013. I have taught myself a lot, like stranded knitting, knitting in the round, seaming, etc. I have made some items that I am pretty happy with, including a pair of spats that I recently wore to a wedding (they received confused compliments, and some gifts for others (I promise they weren’t horrible). Now is the time to raise the bar again, so I will be making this pattern, in blue and off-white, as a gift for my partner. I made him a hat last year out of the same yarn, so it should be a nice set without being too matchy-matchy. I shall keep you informed.

Second, I want to overhaul my wardrobe. I have been researching capsule wardrobe plans, clothing challenges, etc. I have previously done a few wardrobe challenges, like the six items or less challenge, which was really enlightening and surprisingly easy. I have been wanting to do something like that again. At the same time, absolutely all the clothes that I own have to fit in half of a tiny wardrobe, slightly less than half of three drawers in a dresser, a drawer in a nightstand, a rack of scarves and belts, a rack of jewelry, a shelf for hats and half of one suitcase for out of season clothes. That sounds like a lot of space, and I honestly classify myself as a minimalist, but I am seriously struggling. I haven’t had a clear out recently, I have inherited a fair few new, high-quality and emotionally charged items, and I have purchased a few new things of my own recently anyway. For example, my partner encouraged me to buy a new dress for a recent wedding (the one with the spats) rather than re-wear the dress I had bought for a wedding earlier in the year. I thought the first dress would be fine for all the weddings I would need to attend for the next year or so, but the partner found it distressingly 90’s. I also bought a fedora in what a shop clerk described as `petrol’ coloured, and I picked up a few new things in the sales that perhaps I did not strictly need.

So anyway, I am feeling overwhelmed by the clothing, the lack of space and the emotional baggage. Thus, I will be overhauling the situation and using this blog as an emotional outlet and progress tracker throughout the process. What’s that? You are not interested in knitting or wardrobe organization? Well then, to quote Malcolm Tucker… Fuckety-bye!

Been a while… Again…

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Life has a way of not meeting expectations. For example, right now I am laboriously hunt-and-peck typing because the maddeningly slow process of upgrading my operating system also seems to entail overriding my preferred keyboard layout and returning it to the bastard QWERTY that plagues the world.

Also not going to plan:

  • A massive head cold has descended into the lungs, leaving me with a persistent and disturbing cough.
  • My supervisor wants to wait for a second opinion on my draft thesis before signing off on it and moving it into the setting a date for the defence stage,
  • The university has a mind bogglingly stupid set of requirements for graduating with a PhD, the specifics of which depend on the year study began and none of which areĀ  clearly stated anywhere. How the hell am I going to get a copy of my master’s grades?!? That was almost 8 years ago, and in a different county!
  • I have heard nothing back on any of the job vacancies that I have applied for.
  • Fitness plans have been completely derailed, partly because of the health issues and partly because I have no clear idea of when any important things are going to happen in the next 6 months. Date to graduate? Nope. Dates to travel to another continent to visit the family? Depends on the graduation. Dates for job interviews (that may require international travel)? Not a clue.

All of this is, to some extent, just whining and a bit of a pity party. None of these things are really stopping me from doing some fitness stuff, at least gentle yoga or a brisk walk to the park, although they are certainly stopping me from signing up for an expensive or international race. I find it much easier to train when I have a goal to plan for and a deadline to work towards… but honestly, I could find something else. A local or cheap race perhaps, or some kind of non-race based goal.

Unfortunately, the stress and uncertainty around the thesis and job applications is making that very difficult. Plus, I kind of feel like there are just more important things to deal with right now than fitness. Jobs are really important, right? And writing a whole damn thesis should earn me some time off, right?

While not untrue, I think this is unhelpful. Fitness would help me deal with the stress and uncertainty. Fitness is (ideally) also a joy, so how can I earn a break from something I enjoy? The real problem is that I don’t think I have built fitness into my actual life properly. I have just layered it over the top in such a way that as soon as it gets tough, the fitness is the first thing to peel away. Less than totally ideal. I shall have to work on that. Not sure how, because today I am trying to revise the draft of the thesis.