Endurance and perspective

August 23, 2010

After working about 55 hours in 3 days, I feel less than human. When I finally got back to the hotel around 10am this morning I had nothing left in me, and fell asleep for a good 5 hours. This weekend felt like a marathon, as a co-worker and I struggled to perform very sensitive work under a lot of pressure. We met with brick walls at every step of the way, but we powered through them and made it out alive. The end result was less than ideal, but when we did reach the end we were high-fiving each other and generally delirious. We were both getting punchy, and all we could do was laugh. I don’t know how we found the energy, but we couldn’t help ourselves.

You may have read my previous post, which was a direct result of the frustration and exhaustion that I have been experiencing. When working against opposition it is important to maintain a certain distance from the pressure, while remaining engaged enough to give the situation the required attention. The distance provides perspective, and the “do or die” feeling is tempered with reality.

When broken down to essentials, the only necessities in life are nutrition, hydration, shelter from the elements, and security. Companionship is arguably part of this short list, but a wise person will find a good companion within his or herself. In the modern world these few requirements are easily met, but trivial things that feel like necessities trick the mind into stressing over unessential items. Keeping in mind how simple life can be makes dealing with seemingly impossible situations more bearable.

I can’t pretend to be clear headed at the moment, so I’m going to satisfy the two most important requirements that I just mentioned… time for food and drink!

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Delirium and Forgetfulness

August 22, 2010

Whenever I remember that forgetting isn’t possible I imagine my entire life spilling out through my eyeballs, bursting forth, but never leaving my head. It is like an ever-increasing stream of reality is flowing into my face, cycling through my body, and then being regurgitated back into the world (but only after I gnash it with my teeth, corrode it with my stomach acids, and taint it with my being).

I filter the world with myself – how does it taste to you? To me? It burns painfully, but is sometimes delicious.

I’m tired; excuse my digestion.

I’ve just accomplished something.

Wasn’t that fun?

No.


Recovering…

August 19, 2010

Posts sort of dwindled down and stopped happening when I went to Denver last week. I’m not terribly upset about it, because I made sure that I still accomplished the things that needed to be done. I’m still working through a steep learning curve at work, so most of my head-space has been occupied with learning the new material. I still have not let myself fall completely off of the map, but I haven’t gone for a run since leaving for Denver. Tomorrow I leave for Dallas, so I have to commit myself to running more often upon my return.

While I am in Dallas I will be working for virtually the entire time, and probably will have very little time to sleep. I can’t expect to get much done outside of work, so staying sane will be my only goal for the upcoming week.

Heather and I recently tried a recipe for Gajar Halwa, or Carrot Halwa. This is a delicious Indian dessert made with carrots, milk, cashews, raisins, and cardamom. I will share the recipe as soon as I get a chance to post it. I was surprised with how authentic it tasted. Tonight we will make a Navratan Korma for the first time. If it turns out to be good, I’ll post that recipe too!

Tonight I will be packing, and doing last minute preparations for travel. No matter how often I travel, I always modify my preparation based on lessons learned. Since I am always changing my methods and worrying if I have forgotten something, I will make a checklist. If this checklist is not complete, I will add to it. The next time I travel I can refer to the checklist and update it to reflect my “lessons learned”. Once I finish my checklist tonight I will post it here, and I welcome any suggestions, criticism, advice, etc. (as always).

Enjoy the day!


Understanding what is good

August 11, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut often credits his uncle Alex with having said, during moments of simple pleasure, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” This is a special sentiment that is important in order that we take note and appreciate the moments that we are not suffering. I had one of these moments tonight, just about two hours ago. My belly was full of a healthful meal, my mind was light, and the dwindling bustle of the city quieted enough to allow the sound of a piano to reach my ears.

Denver began a project in November 2009 where they placed upright pianos along the streets, each one decorated and painted to be its own unique display of art. The project was called “Your Keys to the City”, and passers-by are welcome to sit down and play a tune. There are many of these pianos along the 16th street mall, which is really just a long stretch of road with shops along either side. These pianos give less fortunate people the opportunity to play some music, feed the soul of the city, and make some change while doing so.

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of hearing someone play beautiful music on one of these pianos. He had no sheet music, and I did not recognize any of the songs that he played, but he played slow, jazzy compositions with deep emotions. I sat on the city bench, alone, staring at nothing at all while this man slowly poured his heart into the air. Thanks to Kurt Vonnegut (or perhaps to Alex Vonnegut), I was able to take notice and say to myself, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Tonight I will rest well.


Short hiatus

August 10, 2010

So, I took a short hiatus from the blog. As my last non-recipe post described, I was in a nasty funk and was just trying to get by. On Saturday Heather and I took the dogs to the dog beach, and we spent most of the day on the road. The dog beach is a fantastic place because it is like just going to the beach, but there is much more to watch and enjoy. We spent about 2 hours on the beach before heading back home. I was happy that we didn’t stay until the point of discomfort.

When we got home we went out to IndeBlue for the second night in a row. We even surprised our waiter by returning so soon. There are a great many benefits that come along with being a good, friendly patron of your favorite restaurants. Some places will try new dishes by offering them to you free of charge, which can be a great experience.

A guilty pleasure of mine is watching Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA. This is probably the most brutal sport that is televised. MMA is a primal battle between two highly skilled fighters that have been vigorously trained to both attack and defend. In this format, one of the warriors must fall and it usually does not happen easily.

We watched a great set of fights after returning from IndeBlue. The champion that was fighting in the main event was being tested. For almost the entire 5-round fight his opponent had been getting the better of him. With very little time left in the fight the champion saw a tiny window of opportunity and seized upon it. As soon as the challenger had his eyes set on victory it was taken from him, and he was forced to submit to the champion. Letting your guard down for a moment in a sport like this can be a fatal mistake.

The difficulty involved in watching MMA is that events like this are always on very late, and I have a hard time staying awake. I wind up drinking tons of coffee to keep myself from falling asleep, then the fights end and I am stuck with the jitters at 1am. This usually throws my sleep off for a couple of days.

On Sunday I was forced to take a light day and relax. My body was uncomfortable from staying up late, especially since I drank a beer in an attempt to tire myself. I don’t do well with beer, but at heart I know that it is a depressant. With this in mind I will sometimes decide to drink a beer in an attempt to facilitate sleep. No matter how many times I do this, it is always a mistake.

I really do not like beer, or alcohol in general.

The rest of Sunday was almost a complete waste, so I made sure I accomplished something. Since I had to travel to Denver on Monday, I made sure to pack ahead of time, print my boarding pass, and prepare myself for travel. I didn’t accomplish anything great.

On Monday I woke at 4am and started on my way toward Denver. I made it to the airport with only 45 minutes left until the flight was due to leave, and the security line was not short. Thankfully I made it onto the plane with a few moments to spare, and the flight went off without a hitch.

I made it to my hotel, checked in, grabbed coffee, and headed to the office. I ended up staying at the office until around 6pm Denver time. By the time I left I was pretty much exhausted. I went to Watercourse foods, where I typically love everything that I try. This time I made the same error that I did on Saturday night; I drank a beer in an attempt to cancel out all of the coffee I had been drinking. This was a mistake.

I drank a pint of Yeti Imperial Stout, which is about 9.5% alcohol. Since I don’t often drink beer, this hit me so hard that I couldn’t eat my meal. I’m sure it was a combination of exhaustion, an empty stomach, the high elevation of Denver, and the heavy alcoholic content. I was tipsy, so I got my food wrapped up and headed back to the hotel.

Sleep in a hotel is a difficult thing for me. Sleep after drinking beer is also a challenge, so I ended up tossing and turning for a couple of hours. At first I was convinced that I was going to struggle all night. I then realized that if I allowed myself to be convinced of this, I would surely struggle all night. I began to entertain other possibilities, and once I calmed my frustration with not being able to sleep, I slept.

My sleep was not good sleep, but it wasn’t a complete struggle. I didn’t let myself struggle.

All this week I will be in Denver, so there isn’t much outside of work that I will be able to accomplish. Being productive on the road is something that I have to learn, and no better way than to keep updating the blog to hold myself accountable.

I may not get much done today, but I will make it the best day possible. Since there aren’t physical activities that need to be accomplished I will make today’s goal more of an abstract concept. I finished the book that I was reading on the plane, and the final chapter focused on “position” or reputation. The main focus that was trying to be driven home was that mankind would do well to consider external opinions much less than internal opinions. What we think of ourselves affects our happiness far more directly than what others think of us. Today’s actions will be to please my opinion of myself instead of trying to influence the opinions of others.


Soaked Potatoes

August 6, 2010

Last night we decided to make another variation of the corn soup recipe, only we used the soup as a sort of gravy. It was interesting, but delicious. Here’s the recipe:

2 Baking potatoes
5 ears of corn
2 stalks of broccoli
1 handful of spinach
6 mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
shredded cheddar cheese to top (optional)
3 T of olive oil
Sea Salt (to preference)

First, take the baked potatoes and rub them a bit with some olive oil, then sprinkle them with salt to your liking. Pierce the potatoes and then toss them on the grill with some tin foil to catch any drips. Leave the potatoes to cook for about an hour and a half. (Note: You could bake your potatoes any way you’d like, but in the summer time I prefer to use the grill. Having an oven on for an hour and a half is not a good idea in the middle of a hot summer)

Chop the spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic, then toss in a pan with a splash of olive oil. Saute on low heat while you remove the kernels from the corn. Juice the corn and discard the pulp. Add the juice to a sauce pan and place on medium heat while stirring constantly. Stir the corn over heat until it thickens. Once the corn has a good consistency, add the vegetables. Take the baked potatoes and slice/mash them up a bit. Pour the corn and veggie mixture over the potatoes, add some shredded cheese to the top (if you’d like) and serve! You may want to add salt/pepper to taste, but I didn’t need it.

(Pictures coming soon)


Funk

August 6, 2010

Today I am in a complete funk. By this I mean that I am in a rotten mood, and I don’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t post an update yesterday, and I’m sure that has something to do with my foul mood. On Wednesday I vowed to sweep the patio and clean the living room. Sweeping the patio was done, for the most part, by Wednesday night. The finishing touches on the patio and the clean-up of the living room had to stretch into Thursday, as the project was more than I could complete on my own in one day.

I made up for the work that I didn’t complete on Wednesday by kicking some serious living room butt. I eliminated a lot of useless clutter, and the whole space looks so much more refreshing and functional. With so much less eye clutter it actually feels easier to breathe. It also helps that much of my efforts worked toward clearing the vents. Previously the two registers in the room were mostly being covered by the couch and an end table. Now both of them flow freely, and I’m sure the AC is working much more efficiently now.

For dinner last night we made another variation of the corn soup. It ended up being pretty starchy, but delicious. Here is the recipe, but basically we tossed a couple of baked potatoes on the grill, then we made some plain corn soup, sauteed some garlic, mushrooms, broccoli, and spinach, and when the potatoes were done I split mine open and poured the soup and vegetables on top. We had some sage flavored cheddar cheese from our trip to Vermont, so we each added a few shreds on top of our meal. This was incredibly good, and I’m happy that I kept leftovers for lunch today.

It is finally Friday, and Heather and I have late night dinner plans with our good friends JD and Brian. We plan to go to Bangkok City for some delicious Thai food. Mmmmmm!

Since the dinner plans aren’t until much later tonight, I should be able to accomplish a few things before we head out. I’ve already taken the dogs hiking at the park today, so they have had plenty of exercise. I’ve been going a little nuts with the exercise, so I’m giving myself a relatively restful day. As I mentioned, I already went for a hike with the dogs, so I’m not being that lazy.

I have 3 stacks of papers from an old job, each about a foot tall. Much of it is documentation and manuals that still apply to my current job. I will separate and organize the relevant material, then recycle the stuff I’ll never use. This will clear my office a bit, and will continue my efforts toward a clutter-free environment.

Accomplishing things and reflecting on that which I’ve already accomplished will help me get out of this funk, I hope.


Pushing through

August 4, 2010

I successfully ate pie and read from my book last night. It was nice to have a night with light obligations, and it was easy to let myself coast since I had such a busy day. I had a great night of sleep last night, and woke up ready to embrace the day.

This morning I took the dogs over to the park to get some exercise. I walked about a mile and they ran about 3 miles. We met some nice people and dogs, and everyone got some good exercise.

After returning from the park I started to wonder if the walk would feel like sufficient exercise for me. I’ve been maintaining my 3 mile run, and it occurred to me that I might still be able to run today. As soon as I considered it I knew I had to commit to it. The dogs were very tired, so I made sure they had some cool water and I headed out for my run.

At the beginning of the run I felt great. The walk was a good warm-up, but it was starting to really warm up temperature-wise. It was only in the low 80s, but the air was thick. I made it about a mile in before I started to feel fatigue, and it hit me hard. Going up hills was painful, and I just wanted to stop and take a breather. I didn’t let myself stop. I pressed further and accepted that if I wanted to increase my endurance I had to push back against fatigue.

Alas, I was able to finish without stopping to walk, and my time wasn’t all that bad either. I was able to finish in about 28 minutes, where my previous 2 runs were closer to 26 minutes. Not nearly as bad as I had imagined as I was slowly dragging myself up the hills. In the heat of the moment it is easy to perceive something as being worse than it actually is. A calm, cool mind is much better at putting things in perspective. Just being conscious of this can make the heat of the moment feel a little cooler.

That reminds me of a concept that I was reading about. Schopenhauer points out that happiness is determined less by the situations that confront mankind than it is by the manner in which he confronts them. All experiences are entirely subjective.

Pride carries me forward with this project, and I’m grateful for the support that my friends and family have shown. Yesterday I didn’t commit to much, but tonight I plan to sweep the patio and clean the living room. A minimalist mind does not appreciate clutter, so I am going to purge some unnecessary items from my view.

Make it a good day!


Starting the day

August 3, 2010

The morning is an important part of the day. The day’s outcome depends ultimately on how the morning is structured. Since chaotic mornings often lead to chaotic days, being mindful of morning activities is a wise way to ensure that the day is headed in the right direction.

I continued my new habit of exercising in the morning today by running 3 miles. My feet are starting to get used to running again, and this is the first time that I’ve run consistently since I started wearing the Vibram FiveFingers. If you can’t run barefoot, there is nothing better on the market.

Today was a busy day. Here I am at 8 pm and I’ve just finished my dinner, and have not even written a post to make a goal for the day. I was able to run, but only because I got up early and hit the road before the work day began. When committed to 8 or more hours in a chair, it is important to make time to be active. I like getting the run in early because I know that no matter what happens in the day, at least I’ve already gone for a run.

To allow myself to relax and digest, I will read my book for a bit, I will spend some time with my wife and the dogs, and I will eat a slice of pie. Heather picked up a peach-blueberry pie from Springdale Farms, and it is fantastic. This is what I hope to accomplish this evening, and I don’t feel the slightest bit of shame.


Making progress!

August 2, 2010

Early this morning I went for a run, and it felt fantastic. Today was my third day of running since I started last Tuesday. 3 runs in my first week is not bad, and I’m hoping to get on the road again tomorrow. It would be great if I could run every day, but it would be more practical for me to plan for about 3 – 4 runs per week. Once my endurance increases, I should be able to step up the mileage. For now, 3 miles is a good start if I want to set myself up for success.

Setting short term goals that can be attained is a skill that I had to acquire. I’ve always felt that goals should be big, and difficult to attain. A life of this has brought me a great many failures, as I tend to set the bar higher than I can reach. Continued attempts that are met with failure can make a person stop trying. Striving for greatness is important, but understanding the many rungs that must be climbed on the way to greatness is crucial. Each rung is important, celebrate and appreciate each step toward success.

Setting short, attainable goals sets the mind up for success. The more goals you achieve, the more likely you are to follow through on future goals.

Speaking of goals, yesterday I was *mostly* successful. I had mentioned that I would make bread and soup, then deal with the waste from the bird feeders. We decided not to make bread, as we didn’t need it for lunch and we already had plans to go out for dinner. Baking fresh bread that will not be eaten fresh is pointless, especially on a hot afternoon.

We made the soup, which came out great. I posted the recipe here, as I will continue to do whenever I decide to improvise a recipe. I love the corn soup as a base, so I’ll probably be making a bunch of corn soups through the summer time. If I’m smart, I’ll freeze some Jersey corn so that the season will last a bit longer.

I also cleaned the mess from the bird seed. I raked and swept as much of the debris as I could pick up, then dumped it all into the compost tumbler. We dump a lot of “green” material in the composter, so it is good to have some “brown” material to add. We also made the switch from bird seed with the shells to pre-shelled sunflower meats. This is a bit more expensive, but I think it is worth the extra money. We plan on mixing up some hot pepper oil to mix in with the seeds. The birds aren’t bothered by the spiciness, but mammals (squirrels, mice, DOGS, etc) do not enjoy the added spice. Keeping the non-birds away will help to make the seed last longer.

We also decided against adding fencing to the garden. The fence would be an additional cost that is not fully warranted. At this point we cannot spend money haphazardly. We could *use* the fence, but we don’t *need* the fence.

Once we cleaned up the garden and then ourselves, we rushed over to IndeBlue Restaurant to meet with Kat and Lee. As I mentioned previously, they were still offering the Farm Fresh menu. The menu allows you to choose 4 courses of food that is prepared with locally grown produce. Mine and Heather’s meal consisted of: Coconut Carrot Mango soup (served chilled), spiced potato and corn kernel patties with apple chutney, Bombay “burgers” with crunchy potatoes, and a dessert of peach ice-cream with melba sauce. It tasted even *better* than it sounds.

We still may make the bread this evening, but I’m not going to commit to it. If we don’t make the bread, nothing suffers. We do need to refill the propane tank. Most of the summer we have had an empty propane tank, and so we haven’t used the grill as often as we should. Tonight I finally pull the thorn out of my side by refilling the tank.

Yeah, I made the day easy on myself, but it is Monday. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to set attainable goals.