Gooooooooooaaallll!

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Goals, rather, because I set more than one for myself. All of them are to be completed, or at least attempted to the best of my ability, by my next birthday in October.

  • Run a marathon
  • Join a gym and start a weight training regime
  • Get my body fat percentage below my BMI

Let me talk about these a bit more. Marathons are not always easy to find in a place and time frame that work well. Further complicating matters, I do not know for 100% certain where I will be in October, as I do not yet have my residence permit for the UK in hand. So, wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I will try my best to find a mid- or late-October marathon. If not, I might end up running two half marathons on subsequent weekends, a 30K race plus a 10K training run, or just a personal marathon in the form of a long training session. We shall see.

Likewise, joining a gym cannot happen until I know where I will be for at least 6 months at a stretch. However, if the residence permit goes according to plan and I start the job as expected, then I hope to join the fitness center directly across the road from the office. It is an aquatic center, so I could get back into swimming in a big way (not done that for YEARS!). But I understand that there is also a fitness area with weights as well as the pools, so it should be about ideal.

As for BMI, I have always been pretty low in the scale. Typically 18 or 19 if I remember correctly. When I used calipers back in my 6 pack abs challenge, I found that my body fat percentage was 21… I think. Maybe higher. Either way, body fat was higher than BMI. Women cannot get their body fat percentage as low as men can, at least not in a healthy way, but they can certainly get below 18. At the same time, weight training is likely to raise my BMI slightly by making my body more dense and muscled. Both of these facts mean that I should be able to get the body fact below the BMI while still being healthy and strong. I do not have either a scale or calipers, so I will need to find a way to measure  those at some point if I am to make proper progress on this goal.

Although the first two goals are a bit contingent on what happens in the future, I can start building good habits now. I have decided to put on my sports kit EVERY SINGLE DAY and do at least ten minutes of sport. At this point, that includes gentle yoga and walking along the canal by my house. When the habit is embedded, I plan to step up the intensity but even then there will be rest days that only need a bit of walking or yoga. I have also decided to track everything I eat for the first week of every month. I am using the MyFitnessPal website and app. I fond it a bit cumbersome, but I am not too bothered about being super precise on calories or nutrient content or whatever. I really just want a way to get a better overview of my habits, tastes, and intakes. By comparing the weeks that I track between now and October, I will see how my habits and tastes change. Finally, in the absence of a scale and calipers, I plan to take a photo of my body once a week and take some measurement with a tape measure once a week to get a more objective record of what my body is like. If it all goes well, I may make a video montage.

 

Do not hold your breath on that.

 

 

Things have changed. Mostly, but not entirely, for the better.

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It has been over half a year since I last blogged. I know, I know. You have been on the edge of your seat this whole time.

Quite a lot has happened in that time:

  • I successfully defended my PhD thesis, so I am now Dr. 42KickingHipsters.
  • My crazy family came for a visit to see the defense ceremony and I dealt with that without killing anyone.
  • I ran/jogged/walked a very asthmatic 10K race for my second worst time ever.
  • I created and used a custom 32 page Holiday cookbook for all the Xmas cooking (from brining a turkey to baking several different cakes).
  • After two years of being effectively unemployed, I got a new job at the University of Manchester, which I am scheduled to start in April.
  • I got some paperwork that I had been waiting on for AGES that allowed me to finally apply for a visa to move to the UK. That will be important before I start the new job.

All of that has been stressful. All of that has been full of uncertainty. All of that has been full of obligations, timing, expenses and organization that was beyond my control. And it is not over yet because I still do not have full confirmation that I will get the visa for the UK. More waiting, more uncertainty.

I had to give up my gym membership and do not know when I can get another one. I could not sign up for a marathon or half-marathon (a big motivator for me) and still cannot until I can be sure where I will be in a month or two months or three months time. I had a topsy-turvy schedule that made it really hard to get into a routine or to eat consistently good options. I lost my office at the university after the defense ceremony so I no longer had a reason to go for a 4K round trip walk every day. My days are now full of very little, mostly trying to clean, organize, pack, research stuff at home so my only excuse now for poor exercise and eating is ennui.

Consequently, I am out of shape. I am still wearing all my old clothes (could not afford to buy new ones anyway) but they no longer fit me the way I like them to. I know a lot of people would be quite happy to have my body as it is now, and I am not saying that anyone who looks like me needs to change they way they look. But I do not feel that I look like myself. I am just a bit softer, squishier, less athletic looking than my mental image of myself. I am not happy with the way I look.

I tried to do an online workout video yesterday. I could not finish it. But more than just not finishing it, I felt really inflexible, weak, incapable. Putting in a specific effort made me realize how often recently I have been out of breath, off-balance, and helpless. I am sure a lot of people would be happy to have problems as minor as mine, but this does not match my mental image of myself as an active, confident, energetic person. I am not happy with how I feel.

So, I am starting up a new challenge. I am not going to wait for it to be convenient for me to get healthy. I am not going to put my health and feelings and self-image on hold until the stars align and magically my lifestyle allows me to look and feel the way I used to. True, I cannot yet join a gym and do some proper strength training the way I want. But I will not let that stop me from doing the best I can with what I have.

I will take a suitably nerdy approach so I will be recording and measuring. Get ready for some information overload as I decide what my concrete goals will be, what my target time frames are, what measurements I will track, and how much information i will be sharing.

As always, feel free to tell me what works or does not work for you. You can encourage me, ask me questions, or throw metaphorical eggs at me in an attempt to troll me.

The pace quickens and the volume increases…

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Got rid of shedloads this weekend. Not all of it was photographed and so not all of it will count toward my goals of throwing out 35 things.
NEVERTHELESS!

Here goes.

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First off, my partner and I went through all the junk that had accumulated on our back patio. We threw out bags of gardening waste (does not count toward my 35) and several pots, plant holders and small gardening tools (which do count). We put them out by the bins at the end of the street. They were swiftly snaffled by eager local gardeners… or whatever.

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Second, two old laptop bags. One that I got in 2001 or 2002 and on which about 82% of the zips had busted and the other which got issued to my partner when he got a work laptop but which no longer fits his laptop since it got replaced. Binned.

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A boxful of gardening supplies. Binned.

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All kinds of random crap from the back patio. A BBQ, a Xmas tree, a tarp, etc. We had to call the city waste collection and they will pick it up on Wednesday.

We are also making plans to get rid of some other, bigger ticket items. My bike, for example, needs a bit of work and then will go on the local internet marketplace. Also, our pet bunny. Hopefully we can find her a home where they already have a bunny so she can haver a little friend.

It feels good to clear these things out. certainly I find it visually relaxing not to look at a big pile of junk. mentally, it also feels like we are starting to get somewhere and make some real plans for the future.

On the other hand, I will miss the bunny. Anti-social, furniture destroying, allergy inducing bastard that she is, I will still miss her.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Once again, the time has come to talk of shoes and ships and sealing wax.. Of cabbages and kings… And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

Or, you know. What have I gotten rid of recently?
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First up, a hat/scarf/glove combo that my grandmother sent to my partner for Xmas this year. Lovely sentiment. Not needed. Went to  charity shop.

Along with that went a necklace/earring combo and a bracelet, also from my grandmother, also from Xmas, also went to a charity shop.

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The next couple of gems included a pair of fluffy and sparkly pink socks. These were also Xmas gifts, but this time from my dad. Again, a lovely idea. I do love me some socks. However, I have perfectly serviceable houseshoes so these bad boys went to the charity shop.

Also in the bag with them? A selection of travel books, map books, and pocket dictionaries. I love to travel, but won’t be repeating the trips that I have already taken. Also, these books go out of date pretty quickly so there is no use in holding on to them. Let them find a new home through the wonder of charity shopping.

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To wrap things up, I have a bunch of stationary supplies. I had several sheets of stickers and a pack of card plus envelopes that I would never get around to using. So I stuck a sticker to each card, put into an envelope, and left them in the carry baskets of all the bikes that I passed on the way home yesterday. I hope the confusion makes at least one person smile. This might be my favourite disposal technique so far.

Finally, I went through the medicine drawer in my bathroom and chucked out everything that had expired, that I hadn’t used in ages, or that I had any doubts over. These just went in the bin cause I wasn’t in a mood to empty them out and recycle the packages.

Gone daddy gone!

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Anyone else love the Violent Femmes? I so need to learn to play some of their songs on the ukulele like these two. 

But now is time for the ejection of more stuff from my life! First off, three different sets of books.
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When I first got to the Netherlands, I was keen to learn me some Dutch. My university offered some courses, so I signed up, bought the books, and started the learning engines. What a waste of time. The classes were structured in a really stupid way and nobody gives half a shit about my efforts to learn Dutch anyway. They just speak to me in English as soon as I open my mouth. I gave the book and associated CDs to someone else in my research group who has yet to become jaded about the whole experience.

Then, a big stack of books on my research topic. I never read them anyway and I kind of want to move into a new topic anyway, so… Bub-bye. I left these in the leave-one-take-one book exchange spot for my research group.

And last, two books that I had borrowed from colleagues. I love both of these books and kind of wanted to keep them, but I hate it when someone doesn’t return the books that I loan out. Morals and all. They went back to their owners.

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Then, quite a lot of cleaning out and decluttering. Here we see the massive stack of paperwork that I had been holding onto `just in case’ knowing full well that that case will never happen. Most of this went into the recycling bin, some into the shredder.
Next, some old and expired gym cards, a health card and a credit card (not shown). They got cut up and distributed across several bins in the building.
After that, a pair of sunglasses that has broken in several different ways. I loved those sunglasses, but I chucked them in the bin.
Following that, a pile of electronics that had stopped working altogether. I get through a pair of headphones most years, but somehow had not managed to actually throw out the old ones when I bought a new set. They went into the electronics recycling bin at the supermarket.
And finally, some batteries. Obviously, these can’t just go into the normal trash so they tend to accumulate, confusing people about whether they are dead or not and waiting for the time that I can be bothered bringing them into the office to be thrown into the battery collection point. That time was earlier this week.

This exercise is starting to feel very liberating. I have several more things in mind and I am looking forward to using this weekend to really dive into some trouble areas. I shall keep you posted.

Things have been a bit horrible.

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I know I haven’t written a blog post in ages, which is a shame because I am a damn good writer and blogging actually helps me sort out the static in my head. But recently life has been giving me nothing but lemons.

Not just giving me lemons either. Hurling them at me at high speed from a moving vehicle whilst insulting me. But as my cousin once told me, “When life gives you lemons, squeeze lemon juice in some bastard’s eye.”

So that is just what I am gonna do. Metaphorically, of course.

I don’t want to go into the details of what is going so horribly wrong, but it is mostly related to my thesis, my job search, my housing situation, the legality of being in the country, and feeling coerced into making big legal decisions by ideologues. To cut a long story short, I will probably be moving to a new country soon, starting a new job of some kind, continuing work on my thesis from afar, and entering a new legal contract that I never thought I would enter.

In preparation, I will be getting rid of one thing per day for the next… oh, let’s say… 35 days. And I am not talking about taking out the trash either. I am talking about clearing out paperwork that I had been avoiding, taking things to the charity shop, throwing out things that I meant to use or do something with but have never got around to. Things that I have some kind of unhealthy emotional attachment to or some kind of psychological aversion to dealing with. Hopefully this will not only reduce the amount of stuff that I have to box up and ship but will also lift a burden off my mind.

To aid the process, I will post pictures, explain what the thing is, why it was hard to get rid of, and what I did with it.

Today, I present you with this fairly ugly and certainly old holiday decoration.
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This was a kind of candle-holder/centrepiece/monstrosity. I found it hard to get rid of because my partner is super keen on Xmas, while I am not. We have been building a holiday collection for several years now, some of which was purchased when we were really skint. This was one of those cheap things that we bought ages ago, but I never felt that I could suggest chucking it because I don’t have a good sense of what parts of our collection are really that important to my partner. Honestly, if it were up to me almost all of it would go.

However, the impending move motivated a discussion and this piece got the boot. I put it out by the garbage collection point in the morning and it was gone when I got back. I hope it brightens someone else’s holiday or at least provides some sort of ironic amusement for them.

New year, old me

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I like New Year’s Resolutions, but I have no illusions about becoming a new person or changing my life in grand and meaningful ways. Instead, I live New Year’s Resolutions because they give me a chance to reset some of my goals, evaluate how I am doing, and take a new look at things that have become so familiar that I don’t even see them anymore.

But let’s back up. I will let you know how the rest of 2014 went before I start on 2015.

  • The Project 333 challenge was generally a success, even if I sort of stopped dealing with it for most of December. The thing is, there are just too many things about myself that I am unwilling to compromise on. For example, I know that I hate being cold and that if I don’t wrap up warmly I end up with all kinds of health problems from eczema to arthritic fingers to sinus infections. So I am just not willing to put limits on my scarves, hats, gloves, etc. Neither am I going to be the kind of person who doesn’t put on the bracelet that I received as a birthday gift from my grandmother when I only get to see her once every few years. All told, the Project 333 challenge was not a really good challenge for me because it limits jewelry and accessories which is not how I roll.
  • My fitness has gone pretty well. At least as well as could be expected. I ran a 10K in October and another in December, both at a reasonable pace and both in a way that felt good. Comfortable, life-affirming, positive, all that jazz. I also had a follow up test with my health coach and all kinds of health indicators (cholesterol level, blood pressure, etc.) are doing excellent. Yes, I am still struggling with a few extra pounds, or perhaps more accurately, a few extra inches of squidey-ness around my midsection and yes the asthma is still a challenge. But overall, I think I am in good shape and I feel pretty happy with myself.
  • I finished the rewrite on my thesis and sent it out to the committee. One committee member dropped out at the last minute and another seems to have some negative feedback, so the defence ceremony may get pushed back by a month or two, but things are still progressing.
  • I didn’t get either of the jobs with Oxford that I had interviewed for, but there are still a few other interesting vacancies on the horizon and I am trying to stay positive. My partner and I have also found an alternative route to getting residency and permission to work in the UK, which might make the job hunt a little easier. We’ll see.
  • Xmas went great! We cooked for about 3 days solid (using a colour coded schedule for the big day) and everyone made suitably happy noises.

    So what about 2015? Well, rather than one big resolution for the whole year, I prefer to do one or more month long resolutions at a time. So far for January, I resolved to do some stretching exercises every day (I tend to do them while brushing my teeth because my power toothbrush gives me clear 30 second time intervals) and to floss every day. So far so good.

    I am considering another one for February in which I get rid of (trash, recycle, donate, sell, etc.) one thing every day. I have a few things in mind already. I will probably also combine this with a photography challenge so that I have to practice some still life photography skills and so that I have a record of my de-cluttering. Other possible resolution/challenges might be: eat 7 portions of fruit/veg per day, wear a different pair of earrings every day for a month (repeating pairs after they have all been worn), cook a new recipe or learn a new kitchen skill 4 days out of every week for a month, send at least one postcard or letter per week until I get through my stationary stash, do 10 minutes of yoga or other posture improving exercises per day for 30 days.

    Please feel free to suggest additional resolution/challenges in the comments below!

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.
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  • 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.

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.

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!