Friday, October 26, 2012

Procrastination, anticipation, stress and guilt

For the past several weeks, I've been good about getting the cardio I need.  This fall, my eldest child is going to school one exit down the freeway from the office.  So, I drop her off at 7:45 or so, and head straight to the gym on our campus.  The motivation to get on the treadmill is generally easy to come by, and I've been doing well.

The excuses still come, however.  This morning, for instance, I knew that I had a workout scheduled with my personal trainer in the afternoon.  So, I figured, I should get to my desk early, get some work done (it's crunch time...more on that in a moment) then get my cardio in after my workout.

Which seemed a decent plan.  Except that it depended on knowing how the afternoon would go.  Too much.  Turns out my workout was very, very intense.  Which is a good thing.  We increased the resistance and/or reps for all of the exercises I've been doing, and added a new one that really cranked up my abs and lower back.  I'm proud of my progress.  I'm getting stronger.

But it really wore me out.  After the workout I tried the reclining bike, but my back started to cramp up.  In fact, it hasn't let up since.  Ibuprofin and some stretching has helped a little, but it's sore.  In the moment, I couldn't sit in the bike, and my muscles all over were too shaky and fatigued to take much time on the treadmill.

So, I stopped.  Had to.  But had I followed through this morning and done my cardio first thing, I'd have been able to do both.

And some mornings, truth be told, I just don't want to.  I give in to laziness or fatigue.  So I shower.  I head to my desk.  And then I regret it.


Eating has been a challenge, since I started getting the cardio in.  I think I've let myself think something like "well, I'm getting all this exercise...a little snack can't hurt too much."  But it has.  One snack has turned in two, and sometimes three.  And not good snacks.

The vending machines at work have been changed lately.  They now have one side full of the usual fatty, sugary treats, and one side filled with "healthy" options, subsidized down to $0.50 each.  Which is a kind of double enticement.  And something of a lie.

Those "healthy" treats are almost all things like baked chips, granola bars, fruit bars, etc.  Yes, they're substantially healthier than the full fat, full sugar treats in the other half of the machine.  But they're not healthy.  Massive carbs.  Sugar.  Even the trail mix, which at least has nuts, is loaded with candies like M&Ms.

They've lied to me.  And I've believed them.  They've tempted me.  And I've given in.  And my weight has climbed, not fallen.


It's a stressful time for me right now.  As I mentioned, we're in crunch mode at work.  My team is responsible for three different products, all of which are shipping right about now.  It's a very annual cycle, and that means these crunch periods are highly predictable.  And that helps enormously.  But it's still stressful.

My kids, whom I love and want the best for, are at ages that demand a lot of energy from me.  They all are growing into responsibility, but right now they need a lot of guidance, every morning and every night, on simple stuff.  Getting their chores done.  Finishing homework.  Getting to the dinner table.  Turning out their lights on time.  Turning off lights at all.  We try hard to eat as a family, but that means everyone is up early, and the timeline in the mornings is tight.  No room for flex or time to relax.  Evenings are go, go, go until I finally sit down at 9:30 or so.

I'm a creative man.  I need time to work on artistic projects, in order to recharge.  I need quiet.  Silence is best.  Which I get very little of in the evenings, after a long day during this crunch time at work.  The only time I have the opportunity to do this kind of thing is from 9:30 until whenever I decide to go to bed.

So, my sleep suffers.  Which feeds my stress.

And actually taking that time to create rarely happens.  By the time 9:30 rolls around I'm exhausted.  It's very difficult to summon the mental focus required to do anything artistic.  I try to edit my photographs.  I try to work on my toy soldiers.  I try to write my own software.  But the focus isn't there.  It's far easier to sit in front of the television for yet another mindless show.

I get something out of that.  Sure.  I like the shows.  And after an hour or two of that I've had enough relative quiet to feel calmer.  But I'm not getting anything done on those creative projects, and I end up feeling like I'm wasting valuable time.  Which, of course, I am.  But I'm so tired.

All of this feeds my snacking habit.  I snack because I need to get out of my chair once in a while at work.  I snack because I want to do something for me.  Which, short term, while I'm eating a cookie or something, feels like what I'm doing.  A little sugar rush.  A little treat.  Just for me.  What's one more?  Nobody's watching.

But long term...and I _know_ this intellectually yet still make these poor food's very, very destructive.  I'm well overweight.  I should be forty pounds lighter.  I have medical issues associated with that weight.  I have a family history of ever worse issues that I need to avoid.

All of which is hard to accept.  And scary.  And stressful.  Which doesn't help.


I need to change.

I have some tools at my disposal.  Some good books.  A motivating web site (more on that later).  Online tools and apps that could help me track my eating and my exercise.  A personal trainer who really wants me to succeed.  Friends and family who want me to succeed.  Many well wishers.

What I need, is to make my health, and my happiness, a priority.

What I need is to get good and scared.  Which I am.

More, as I work through this.  As I figure out how.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick update

Sea Salt Caramel Truffle ice cream sits there on the counter, awaiting our guests for weekly game night, and I can't have any.

But don't cry for me. I'm overweight, and that needs to change.

I started working with my friend Cynthia, a personal trainer, again this morning. I'm heading into a second round of physical therapy soon, to work on a chronic pain in my lower back and soaz. I'm dedicated to losing this weight, so giving up ice cream is easy. OK, not easy. But possible. Even when it's one of my favorite flavors.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A new chapter

I lead an amazing team. They've been through so much together over the past fourteen months. They've grown as individuals and as a family. They've learned to depend on each other, and to focus their strength to deliver some simply amazing results. I'm deeply humbled by their commitment, deeply proud to lead them, and deeply grateful to call each of them my friend.

I'm a believer in, and advocate for, strengths-based growth. I believe that, if you know your strengths, build them, and find a way to use them in the world, you're on the path to happiness and fulfillment. Building on your strengths will bring much better results than focusing on your weaknesses and trying to be as good as everyone else at everything.

I've used that philosophy to lead my team, and to mentor others. Now, it's time to apply that same approach to my own life.

This past year was challenging, but it gave me a great gift. It made me focus on what, exactly, makes me happy. On the things that bring me energy. On the activities and roles that make me jump out of bed in the morning. Over the past several months I've looked inward, and benefitted greatly from the generous advice and support from my wife, friends and mentors.

Here's what I've learned.

I love creating. All of my hobbies are creative and artistic. I love getting my hands in, to express myself and to solve problems in creative and powerful ways. That's what drew me to computer science, and that's what characterized the jobs in my career that have best strummed my heartstrings.

I love puzzles. Writing software, and especially debugging software, is an exciting and fascinating challenge. I love the moment when, after experimentation and deep thought, insight lights up the solution in my mind.

I love mentoring people. And by that, I don't mean I need someone to say to me "I'd like you to be my mentor." I mean being present with people. Being sincerely interested in their joys, fears, aspirations and trials. Being in an authentic, personal, real relationship with people, and doing my best to empathize with them, to give them advice, and to receive it from them.

So after four years as a manager, I'm going back to my roots. I've gratefully accepted an offer to return to software engineering, and to do that as part of one of the most innovative, creative teams within our innovative, creative business. I'll be writing Mac and iPad software, as part of the TurboTax Mac development team. I'm so very, very excited! I can't wait to get stuck in.

I don't regret my time as a manager at all. I've had the opportunity to lead two amazing teams, and learned a great deal about leading people, and about myself. I've formed strong relationships with all of the people on those teams. I'm looking forward to keeping those friendships healthy, and to growing them even stronger now that the necessary, but very real, distance between manager and employee is gone.

It's time for a new chapter. One I can't wait to start writing. Come on. Let's see what happens.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Time to renew

It's been ages since I posted here. It's been a challenging year for me, about which I'll post more later. My weight and blood pressure are both up, my energy level down. It's time to renew. I started today with a simple breakfast, and a couple of glasses of water, which is a good start.

Cheer me on, folks. I'm going to need your support.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some progress, some problems

I went for a nice long walk this morning, for the first time in ages. I love getting exercise. I wish it were easier, when the stress rises and the pressures increase, to remember that. But this morning was good.

I'm cutting back on caffeine slowly. Soon I'll get off it completely again, but I can't afford the grouchy moods and headaches that come with a cold turkey approach this time around. Too many priorities to manage right now.

And no, I haven't figured out what the guiding priorities of my life all are yet. Working on it. These are the priorities of the moment. Family. Work. Exercise. Sleep. Repeat.

Sleep is the one being squeezed out again. It's 11pm, and I just sent the last work email of the night. Not the last I could have sent, or "should" have sent, but the last I have the energy to send.

So, this isn't nirvana. I'm not a changed man overnight. I didn't plan to be. But I'm making progress, and paying attention, and that's a step.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A weekend of tears, in a good way

I admit it. I'm a fan of America's Got Talent. Yes, the moments of failure make me cringe with empathetic embarrassment, but the moments of brilliant success are inspirational. And when those successes have a touching story behind them...well, that's why I keep coming back.

Tonight I watched two sisters, a young teen and a twenty-year-old, sing with power and truth. These girls are two of four siblings, all of whom have cystic fibrosis - a disease of the lungs that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe, much less sing. They were told they never would. They sang wonderfully, and their story is beautiful.

They know they don't have long to live. People with cystic fibrosis live into their thirties, most of the time. The older sister has probably already lived half her life. They emphasized living each day for the gift that it is. Their parents stood in the wings and watched their babies soar. I had tears in my eyes listening to them, and have them again writing this now.

This weekend I also saw Toy Story 3. The movie is fantastic. Rollicking laughter, edge-of-my-seat suspense, and yes, more than a few tears. I won't be giving anything away if I tell you that Andy is growing up, and heading off to college. Of course, it got me thinking about how quickly our own three children are growing up. Our littlest, our son, turned five last week. Our eldest daughter turns twelve next week. Time is passing. I don't want to miss one day.

And this week I found out that someone very close to me has a serious new health issue. His newly revived perspective and his re-found passion for spending his time on the things he values most had me in tears once again. It's been an emotional week, and a valuable one for me.

I need to spend some time thinking about my priorities. About how I want to spend my life. Each day of my life.

I know this much. I don't want to spend it in pain. OK, my pain is mild compared to most. Compared to someone with cystic fibrosis, it's nothing at all. I have back aches all the time, and a chronic pain in my side. Both are caused by my body's tendency to carry my extra weight, and there's a lot of it, around my middle.

I'm tired of hurting. I'm tired of bringing this on myself, because I choose to eat when I'm stressed out, or unhappy. I'm tired of being stressed out. I'm tired of choosing to get a little bit more done at work, instead of getting a little bit more exercise.

I'm not making healthy choices. I need to clarify what's REALLY important to me, and start making choices that align with those priorities.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Staycation: Day 3

On Sunday, we met some good friends at a local park near the coast for a little picnic lunch and geocaching. The park is really beautiful. It's full of climbing trees and interesting sculptures. And, today, people. The crowd was unexpected, and made for challenging geocaching, as it's important to keep random people from noticing the caches in case someone decides to make off with it. Really, it's not much of a threat, I think. These caches never have anything of value in them. But some have gone missing, so we play it safe.

Here's another view of the park and the adjacent bay. There's a kite shop nearby, and some real beauties flying in the park.

This was probably my favorite. When it got up in the air, the tail waved slowly and gracefully.

The unexpected crowds were the result of an event taking place in the park: a gathering of local classic Chevy enthusiasts. Many of these cars have been taken from transportation to works of art.

Beautiful, but not enough to keep the attention of the kids for more than a moment. The trees were far more interesting to our little aerialists.

After lunch and little tree climbing, it was time to go hunting for caches. Two were secreted among the rocks along the bay wall. The kids enjoyed climbing around on them, looking in the crevices for the camouflaged tupperware containers that these caches were made from. We found one little one, but the other eluded us, despite some pretty specific clues in the cache's description. Oh's more fun looking than finding, sometimes.

Down closer to the water, the sea wall rocks make a nice home for hundreds of little crabs. I spent a few minutes just watching them scuttle around...and trying to get a decent photograph. Not easy in the strange reflected light, while dodging sea spray.

The other two caches were in the nearby shopping area: our first "urban" caches. Here's the family, pausing for a quick group photo. I need to get a haircut!

Along the seaside promenade, a man had brought out his family of parrots. He was happy to put birds on shoulders for photos. Here's Sarah, with a rather scraggly looking little fellow.

And Isabella, with a much happier looking yellow parrot.

We found this shop in our wanderings. We've got pretty deep Scandinavian roots, including Norwegian and Swedish. Couldn't resist taking this shot!

And buying this shirt...

The geocaching went well in this built-up part of the park. We found one tiny cache, held magnetically under some pipes. The last was very challenging. It was located in an area very near a band stand in the middle of the little shopping village. OK, no problem. Except that a band was playing there. And they were good. And the massive crowds thought so too. We tried once, found lots of people literally sitting/leaning on the area where we thought the cache might be, and gave up. Thankfully, when we came back about a half hour later the band had gone home, and the tourists with them. We found the cache, surreptitiously traded out a few trinkets and signed the log, and got it back in place without tipping the public off.

We had a great day. Food and fun with friends, in one of the most beautiful areas of our home town. Just what a staycation should be.