Wednesday, June 30

Shrinking Abs, A** and Appetites

Back in the day, I used to be able to go out and eat a full meal at a diner and clean my plate.  Today, I discovered my days of eating super-sized meals are over and slowly fading in the sunset.  The way I discovered this today was over a basket of fries and pepper-bacon cheeseburger at Burgerville.  Mr. Kawaii and I were out running some errands and decided to stop off and have a late breakfast/early lunch between locations.  Since eating out is now such a rarity, we decided to go big and order a full basket each - no sharing allowed.

I made it through the delicious and juicy burger just fine, but suddenly started petering out mid-way through the fries.  And then, something that hasn't happened at any point in recent memory... I wasn't hungry again until dinner.  It appears that my hunger centers, digestive system and food craving epicenter have all decided that they are suddenly allowed to just shut down when I overeat.  What in the world is going on?!?  It's insanity, I tell you.

On the exercise front, M and I headed out to the track and she laughed at me while we walked along with half the town (Apparently they are coming out in droves to watch the free entertainment).  Imitating the moves of a very fit older gentleman, I shook things up by doing some walking grapevines around a portion of the track on our first lap - VERY tricky with the walking sideways while crossing the legs in front and behind one another.  Amazingly, I didn't fall over although it seemed like everyone on the track was betting on me kissing the pavement as I rounded the bend in the track.

Grapevines completed, I then took to doing walking lunches around the second lap.  Not as much as a balancing act as the previous lap, but after about my 10th lunge I started really "feeling the burn" as they say.  I was determined to keep going though, and spent the rest of the way round pretending I was on a Merry-Go-Round.  I thought M was going to die of embarrassment as I clung to an invisible pole connected to the invisible pony I was riding up and down.

Lap three brought on another move that threw M off every time I did it.  Each time a number, line, arrow or other track marking came into the lane I leaped over it.  The problem for M was that as we walked she got used to me not making crazy or embarrassing movements and then all of a sudden, without warning, I was up in the air and landing with a "thump" beside her.

Finally, the last lap was spent reverse leg kicks.  By now, M was immune to my oddities and chatted with me as if nothing odd was happening, even though the woman jogging with a pink umbrella was staring at me as if I were trying to complete a 3 legged race by myself.  I stared right back at her... I mean, who jogs with an umbrella? On a nice evening?  When there is no rain?  When it's not hot?  When the sun has started descending behind the tree line?  Not I.  I just thrust my legs out behind me without care or worry, surprising and almost injuring anyone who happens to not be paying attention and finds themselves walking behind me.

Still full of energy, I came home and did two different 10 minute ab workouts.  The first one I did was Standing Abs on Fios On Demand.  It was easy, fun, and over before I knew it.  Then I flipped over to 10 Minute Abs with Amy Dixon.  About 6 minutes in, while I was sprawled out on the floor on my belly, arms outstretched and legs kicking behind me in some kind of "I'm pretending to be learning to swim in the kiddie pool but my swim instructor doesn't actually trust me to be in the water" kind of move... my husband walked in.  He looked down at the floor at me, looked up Amy Dixon, looked back down at me and said, "Well, it's not the strangest thing I've ever seen you doing; but it's up there.  Have a nice swim."  And then he left.

Somehow, I managed to keep at the workout for the last 4 minutes without curling up in a laughing ball of hilarity and ended my workout day with two thumbs up and a few calories down.  Mr. Kawaii noted that my waist appears to be disappearing and for some reason the butt of my pants seems to be sagging as my rear end begins to shrink.  It was a great day for fitness, reduction in fast-food cravings and fun in the sun!

 Betty Crocker The 300 Calorie Cookbook: 300 tasty meals for eating healthy every day (Betty Crocker Books)

Tuesday, June 29

Walking Tours Of Hometown, USA

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, M is new to town and is having some difficulty getting her bearings.  Part of this is her poor directional skills, but part of this can also be attributed that I hardly ever take the same route twice in a row because of my need for a change of scenery.

Today to help M see how the neighborhood is pieced together we went on a two hour journey on foot so that she could discover the grocery store, bank, library, church, post office and hair salon within walking distance.  It was a great day for exploration and we had a great time peeking into other people's back-yards and saying hello to strangers.

By the end of the urban hike we had traversed almost three miles and the sun was starting to reach high into the sky.  We got back indoors just as the heat of the day started to accumulate and made some killer grilled cheese sandwiches in celebration of making it back alive (and with some good books from the library!).

Taking a walking tour of our little corner of the world was a great way to see the town at a slower pace.  Driving by on the way to some appointment one doesn't get a chance to meet the neighbors, duck into strange looking shops, enjoy a break on a bench in a city park or pick wildflowers from the side of the road.  We got the opportunity to do all of these things with the added bonuses of getting some exercise and some much needed fresh-air.

We also happened upon a middle aged man painting the front door to one of the city's buildings who's pants didn't quite fit him and who also appeared to have left his underwear at home.  He was in pretty good shape, but it looked like this was the first sun his cheeks had seen in a while.  Not bad, and totally worth the walk ;)


Monday, June 28

Hipster Yoga... Not Just For Dallas Any More

In a rare turn of events, this evening I endured what I think is probably the least enjoyable Yoga experience I've had.  Contrary to the positive reviews of their workout DVDs, when I tried the 25 minute DCC Slimdown Yoga routine on Exercise TV (on demand) I was left less than impressed and I am sorry to say that I don't recommend it.

Not that I didn't get my stretch on, that certainly was the end result.  But the exercise instructor (sorry, I didn't catch his name) really rubbed me the wrong way with his rapid-instructions and constant chatter.  Although I get that he was trying to get the point across that Yoga is an experience unique to your body and easily tailored to work at your own pace and fitness level, I was not recharged or encouraged by his rapid-fire affirmations.  Things like, "Hey don't worry if you're doing it wrong.  It's just Yoga." Or, "Now that you've got it, let's get twisted." (WTH... are we making mixed dinks?) I spent too much time trying to figure out if he was a pot-head trying to be on the ball, or if he was a hipster who had one too many espressos before starting the class.

Whichever was the case for Mr. Chatterbox, I think that suffering through the exercise has tainted my glorified lifelong vision of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.  I've always wanted to have a chance to dance around in one of their cute little uniforms but if they have to deal with that guy on the regular as a part of being on the squad, I'll cheer for the Seahawks instead.

On a more positive note, I also spent 30 minutes pulling weeds in the back yard and have discovered that this activity is so much easier when it is a few stubby starts instead of a thicket of completely unruly plant habitat.  I was able to get all the little baby blackberry bushes pulled out of my path (those things are persistent!!) and dug up the few remaining dandelion roots that were stealthily hanging out underground.  The yard is still looking beautiful, and 60% of the plants I started with are still alive.  Doesn't sound like much, but for me that is BIG success!

Sunday, June 27

Tiptoe Through the Tuilps

What a beautiful day for a Farmer's Market!  This afternoon K, M and I all set out to discover the local Sunday Market and spent some time roving in the summer air gawking at strange pets (some kind of rabbit/kangaroo/cat thing on a leash really caught us off guard), beautiful bouquets of flowers and vegetables the size of rabbit/kangaroo/cat things.  Unfortunately, a faulty re-set on the pedometer erased our walking progress, but we still had a great time enjoying being outside on such a lovely summer day.

This evening, once dinner had settled and the heat moved started being pushed out by a nice breeze, we all reconvened at the track for 2.5 miles of (mostly) uninterrupted walking.  This was a nice addition to the leisurely stroll around the Farmers Market, and was an encouraging test of our endurance.  It's nice to be able to move around more than once in a day!

While making it around our 6th, 7th or 8th lap, K and I discussed our weight/size goals and made a pact to have a celebration dinner at the end of summer in honor of meeting them since we are both going to hold one another accountable for continuing our progress on and off the track  I must admit that it is great to have people to plot and scheme against fat with!!  Finding other people who are working towards their own smaller bottoms has been essential for me to sticking with it this time.

I'm halfway through my 5th week of consistent exercise (and probably 2 years into my quest for healthy eating) and am proud to say that this is the longest I've stuck with any workout routine in years.  Today I actually was able to wear an outfit that I took with me on my honeymoon, which hasn't fit since; and although it was still a little tight in places I was able to get it on and off without using any special contortionist moves or magical incantations.  I was even able to wear it to church and not get kicked out for indecency or unladylike exposure, and was comfortable the whole time with no pinching or bunching up of the skirt or top.  Very exciting, I tell you.

And now, the sun is setting on this mostly-perfect day and I am off to crawl into my most comfortable pajamas and eat a low-calorie all fruit Popsicle.  How was your day?


Saturday, June 26

Back In The Saddle(bags) Again

You may have noticed that the blog has lay dormant these past two days, and for that I would like to express my deepest apologies to those of you who call/e-mail/text me wondering where the newest installment is.

Thursday my poor body was weary and sore from exhaustion.  I attribute this to too many days of exercise without a break, and my muscles crying from overwork.  It was a gentle reminder from myself that the body needs time to rest and repair itself once every few days to avoid injury and strain.  It's simply one of those things where it pays to listen to the people who know what they're talking about, and taking your own advice after you dispense it.  I'm not very good at either of those two things, but I'm trying to change.  Well, not really change, but at least make an attempt at opening my ears and closing my mouth just a wee tad more often.

Yesterday was a whole world of other challenges that caused the daylight to run out before there was much chance for physical exercise.  M and I exercised our patience plenty though, spending an eternity at the local Department of Human Services office working out her food support benefit.  I was then... again... disappointed that the person who was "so excited" to take my love-seat home with her and "can't wait to pick it up" rescheduled the time she was going to come get it, rescheduled it again, and then finally didn't take the love-seat home.

I won't rant and spew about the epic fail of this love-seat other than to say that I have never in my entire life have such difficulty getting rid of a perfectly good piece of furniture.

But today the exercise bug returned, and I am happy to admit that I enjoyed it.  M, Pooch and I all headed out to the track for an early morning mile and conversation about life.  M is tackling the ins and outs of a recent diagnosis of diabetes and so we talked a lot about what she's learning about the role of eating healthy foods in proper portions instead of focusing heavily on calorie restriction and carb-freezing diets.  Pooch kept getting distracted by the poodles and chihuahuas scampering around on floss-thin leashes but kept up with us overall.  And I broke a milestone in this fitness adventure.  For the first time in probably 5 years, I jogged a portion of the way around the track.

A funny thing happens when I jog.  In my current state, I have a bit of belly (don't even get me started on how it feels to have people ask you when the baby is due when you aren't pregnant) and it turns out that this belly of mine bounces and jiggles a bit when jogging.  Part way around turn number one I realized that my tummy was pushing my pants lower and lower, and pushing my shirt higher and higher.  I pushed on, through the ridiculous feeling of being slowly stripped of my workout clothes, until I reached the end of the turn where pooch and I turned around and walked back to where M was on the track... pulling my pants up over my hips and my shirt down the whole way back.

Once put back together I noted that the short jog didn't hurt me and that I actually had enjoyed it.  Each time we came around to that particular turn, Pooch and I jogged to the end of it and re-dressed as we walked back to M.  By the 4th time around I started to feel the familiar pain in my shins and strain of my tired calves, but was able to walk both out on the way back to the car.

Although because of my ongoing issues with troubled knees and shins I know I'll never be a marathon runner, I am extremely encouraged that I've reached the other side of the hill when it comes to being able to jog again.  Pooch and I used to jog almost daily when we lived in a far away land, and I could tell that he enjoyed being able to do it again after all these years.  It is great that I have been able to increase my activity and stamina levels not only for myself, but that I can enjoy doing active things with those I love again.  It's the best part of getting off the couch.


Wednesday, June 23

Moses Got A Burning Bush, I Got Burning Thighs

I... Can... Hardly... Move...

This evening we met up with K for our traditional lap-fest, but I wanted to see how quickly we could push through our 2 miles so that I could get back in time to meet a lady who was going to pick up the love-seat we've had for sale (which is still sitting defiantly in my driveway, but that's another blog).

We flew through the first half mile like Olympic athletes.  Able to pace each other without getting out of breath, each step was a challenge but was also amazing.  Children and women adorned our path with flowers.  Men wept at our grace and beauty.  We were champions.

By lap 3, my bottom started to protest the quickened pace and my calves seconded the motion to slow down.  "Just for a moment," K and I said to one another, but we weren't able to regain the greased-lightning pace that we had achieved before.  Still, we weren't lagging.  We kept the average pace we have been walking up to this point, and kept going strong.

... until lap 7.

One of the things we haven't had to battle since we started this track-walking adventure is heat.  The air was still a balmy 83 degrees at 7pm, and by the time we made it to the last half mile of our walk the muggy warm had taken its toll.  I looked longingly at the car where I knew a cold bottle of water awaited me, and K mentioned she was looking forward to ending our evening with some ice cold aquatic beverage.  We trudged on, each step taking infinitely more effort than those that preceded it.  Somehow, through mutual encouragement and complete stubbornness, we made it to the end.

For some reason although I have survived the last couple of weeks (impromptu painting projects included) without many aches and pains, something about walking in the heat today seriously did a number on me.  My back and shoulders were already a tad achy from kneading bread this afternoon but this evening it is my gluteus maximus that is kicking... well... itself.

Looking back on the past week, I've done a lot and I think that I'm long overdue for a day off.  I think tomorrow will be it - giving my buns a chance to rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 22

Trimming and Trouncing

Do you ever feel like you're trapped in an global workout with no emergency exits?  I sure do.

This morning M and I put our gardening gloves back on and headed out to weed and trim the planter beds and bushes that we've been working on the last couple of weeks.  I'm determined to not lose the progress we've made this year the way that I have every year since the dawn of home-ownership.  M took to control of the "Stomp and Kill" weed remover, I wielded "Betty the Bushwhacking Hedge-Trimmer From Hell", and we went all kinds of mafia hit-woman on the rogue dandelions and somehow already creeping up on us blackberry bushes from across the fence.  

The mid-day was spent doing random chores, and then this evening we met up with K for a couple of miles around the track.  K discovered the wonderful trick of using the numbered lanes to keep track of how many tracks we'd walked... start on lane one on your first lap and work to lane eight for the last... BRILLIANT!  If you walk the track and have a hard time keeping score while being lost in conversation or thought I highly recommend using this phenomenal technique before K patents it and starts selling it as a part of her DVD home-workout series.

Now I'm home, thoroughly worked out and looking a little droopy.  It has been a great sweaty day, and I'm looking forward to moving more muscles tomorrow.


Monday, June 21

Track Attack

Tacked onto yesterday's work-out schedule was an additional afternoon of painting primer in a family members' living room.  I give credit to the morning's yoga routine for escaping too many aches, pains or stiffness this morning from the endeavor and aside from a sore shoulder survived the endeavor unscathed.

Although Mondays are typically a day for rest and relaxation, today has been an exceptionally busy day of trying to catch up on all the chores and errands that were neglected over the last three days of Yard Sale and Father's Day celebration.

In the midst of a brief window of time between projects where there was about 90 minutes of unscheduled chaos, M and I headed out to the track and spent an hour walking 2.5 miles in the mid-day mugginess.  The exercise gave us both the afternoon boost we needed, and now that I'm back to the tasks at hand I feel much less groggy and lethargic than I did a couple hours ago.  It's amazing how exercising can make you feel as rested, yet more alert, than an afternoon nap!

In an effort to entertain ourselves as we made yet another left turn, we played around with swinging our arms while we walked.  The wider we swung them the longer our strides got, and by swinging in short several-inch bursts we took many quick little steps.  The result ended up being pretty comical (the track "regulars" kept staring at us in horror as we swung far and wide, almost hitting one another) and made at least a couple of the laps fly by before we knew it.

M has decided that walking the track is her favorite type of exercise, and I will agree I like the opportunity to be outside and moving without having to think about where I'm stepping.  I keep trying to convince her to give Yoga one more try, but she turns up her nose (while doing as little stretching of the neck as possible) at the idea.  We're scheduled to meet K at the track again tomorrow, but maybe later this week I'll be able to convince her to do Sun Salutation with me.

Sunday, June 20

Yoganna Feel Better?

Ah, yesterday came and went in a flurry of yard-sale activities & running the leftovers to GoodWill to see if they have any better luck selling it.  The sale was a decent success and we sold probably 70% of what we started with!  Unfortunately the sale and aftermath took up the entire day and I didn't get a chance to get much exercise in aside from moving boxes and crates of stuff out onto the driveway and then into the back of my SUV.

This morning, I woke up with the need to unwind (and exercise some Blackberry Crisp calories away) and so I tuned into Namaste Yoga on FitTV.  I have discovered when doing exercise along with regular broadcasts that the commercial breaks really take a toll on the exercise.  It's hard to keep your heart-rate moving and your mind focused on working out when theres 5 minutes of "down time" during the breaks!  I filled the commercial breaks with a few yoga poses I remembered enjoying from other yoga workouts so that I could keep moving continuously for the full 30 minutes of the program.  The result is that I was able to feel my muscles warm up, sweat a little and stretch out a LOT.  All the pain and strain from sitting outside and moving furniture on concrete have melted away and I feel ready to face the madness that is Father's Day with my brain and body intact.

I did an impromptu weigh-in this morning (I haven't been weighing myself daily, trying to not be so focused on the numbers) and while I am still maintaining my weight I have noticed that the sleeves of my shirts are all far more roomy, and my pants are starting to get baggy in the seat.  My shoulders, lower abs, calves and back have all started to tone up more and the rolly-polly-fat rolls are all starting to disappear.  It's exciting!

I hope that as summer comes into full swing that you are seeing your own great results from being more active also.  I thank you all for your support this far and look forward to seeing where we all end up!

Friday, June 18

Shop N' Squat

Oh my word, this has been the longest day ever.  M and I hosted a yard sale today and while it was a resounding success (we sold just about half of everything we started with, and have one more sale day to go), it took a lot more work and patience than I had anticipated.  M had her pedometer strapped to her when we went to hang signs, as well as while we unloaded the goodies out onto the driveway for the neighbors to browse, and all the back-and-forth resulted in almost a mile of walking.

The bulk of the day was spent chit-chatting with bargain shoppers, trying to keep M from taking a nap on the couch that was perched at the end of the driveway and trying to remember how to count back change.  By the time the afternoon rolled around and we began wrapping things up for the day I knew that I still had enough time and energy to work out.  And make a Blackberry pie.  As well as a Blackberry Crisp.

The pie and crisp took priority and as soon as we had all of our wares safely stored under a tarp I headed in and started baking.  Unfortunately getting the goodies in the oven didn't take long, and I still had PLENTY of time to work out before it was time to make dinner.

I turned on the boob tube and headed over to Exercise TV on Fios On Demand and jumped along with the 2nd installment of the 21 Day Cardio Workouts.  Just like the first installment, I was amazed at how active the model waif and her trainer were able to stay throughout the workout; but surprisingly I was able to keep up with them and complete the entire workout without stopping... although my calves were killing me by the end. I'm continually surprised by my increased endurance, balance and stability and I can't wait to see what all I will be able to do a few weeks from now.

So now, with lighter hips and a heavier wallet I am going to spend the rest of the night resting up for another day of fast-paced wheeling and dealing over used books and warped Tupperware.... and maybe have just a tiny sliver of blackberry pie.

Thursday, June 17

The Driveway Monsters Have Been Defeated!!

We did it! M and I went back out to the North side of the house this morning and pushed ourselves to finish cutting back the gargantuan bushes, clean up the driveway, mow the front yard and sweep the pavement.  The first thing that we noticed when we went out, looking like members of the Green Thumb mafia with our gardening gloves and tools, was that our neighbor apparently reads this blog.

I haven't said anything to him since the day I went out and pulled several heaps of trash out of the bushes I had been able to cut back, but when we stepped onto the battlefield today we noticed that the back sides of the remaining bushes had all been cleaned out, trash thrown away and overgrown weeds pulled.  So to the neighbor I would like to say: Thank you, and I'm sorry that I have been too anti-social and full of chicken poo to be able to confront you about the mess these last few months.  Your yard looks SO much better and we really appreciate not having to look out on the trash from our dining room.
The second thing that we noticed was that the bushes I hadn't gotten to pruning yet had all had another wild growth spurt and that they had somehow learned to growl like rabid dogs.  We barked back and pounced them with the prowess of botanical ninjas, and two grueling hours later had beat them back into the neat and trimmed little row of plants they were always meant to be.  

M was surprised at how hard the whole endeavor ended up being, especially when she had her own personal battle with a rabid push broom.  In the end we got to take a minute to step back and enjoy the drastic improvement that was made with our efforts, and although it was exhausting the yard is much more enjoyable now than it has been since we purchased the house.  As M said, projects like this are always more enjoyable when you have someone else to do them with.


Wednesday, June 16


The pack is slowly growing as we wander around the track.  Today I met up with M, K and Mr. Kawaii for 45 minutes of circular walking.  Each going at our own pace, and pushing each other to do just a little bit more resulted in 9 laps (2.25 miles) completed!  Mr. Kawaii was in charge of counting the laps (I can't walk and count at the same time... it's a proven fact), and he did an amazing job of tracking our progress.

It's encouraging that the more working out that goes on, the more people are getting involved in getting off the couch.  While in the past I've felt that the battle of weight loss is a frustrating and lonely struggle, this time around I've found that there are people everywhere who are also struggling to lose or maintain their weight.

Keeping a daily blog of my exercising exploits had certainly helped me to keep on track with getting something done every day, and now that I have a little group of exercise friends to work out with I've got the extra bonus of being held accountable for doing as much as I can in the time I have available.

 If you're having troubles with keeping yourself going, seek out a friend to work out with and keep each other accountable.  If you don't have anyone available to work out with, feel free to post your comments below and we can work on this together!

Tuesday, June 15

Bringin' Sexy Back

Ah, back to the exercise routine.  Having a day off is nice, but I've decided that more than one day off will make for a very lazy me!  If it wasn't for M pushing me to walk this morning, I probably would have put the workout stuff off for most of the day and put in a lallygagging effort sometime this afternoon when the sun got hot and the clouds had all gone away.

M is new to the neighborhood so we diverted from the regular course and walked up and down the main streets so that she can start to get her bearings when she decides to walk on her own.  It's funny because although I've lived here for over 3 years now, I've never really paid much attention to the street names or where they intersect other than at a few H.O.A. (Horribly Overbearing-neighbors Association) meetings.

I've always referred to the yellow house at the 4 way stop, the Cemetery to the West and the Eagles' lodge to the East as the main landmarks of the neighborhood when giving directions and anyone who has asked me for street names in the past has been promptly directed to GoogleMaps.  M wasn't satisfied with landmarks and Google as solutions though.  She wanted to know what street each of my landmarks were on, what the cross-streets were and how they were laid out in the neighborhood.  In hindsight I suppose it was as good a mental exercise as it was physically, and really highlighted in my mind how the convenience of technology has encouraged my own laziness and map snobbery.

When we got back from walking a little over 2 miles, we both decided to push on a little further.  I added the first 15 minutes of Kendall Hogan's Slim Down Cardio Burn on Fios OnDemand.  Although the full exercise is over a half hour, by the midway point we were both all worked-out.  It was motivating to know that we've built up the endurance to add another half a workout to the end of our original 45 minute walk, and were able do so without becoming too weak to balance or so exhausted that we hurt ourselves.

It is certainly nice to have the summer weather back, I see a lot of walking in my future!

Sunday, June 13

The Paintball Exercise Routine

Today's physical adventures centered around a day of family paintball down at Warpaint International's outdoor field at Chemawa.  We woke up early and headed out in a caravan of anticipation and excitement to the field in Keizer, Oregon.  After getting everyone signed in, geared up, and going over safety rules, we headed out for over five hours of dodging, ducking, diving, dipping and dodging.  Our group of 12 all got an excellent workout as we hiked from field to field, hid from the zoom of enemy fire and rushed to attack the other team.

Although we took plenty of breaks for hydrating, getting more paint and sharing some of the best bar-b-que of the season (thanks to Papa S for bringing out a grill!) there was plenty of time to work up a sweat and work out muscles that have been dormant since our last paintball adventure in May.

The best part of the day was the opportunity to introduce most of our group to paintball for the first time.  Everyone had fun as they played between bunkers and burnt out vehicles, particularly one sneaky woman member of our party who hid in a dilapidated van and had the opportunity to wipe out many of us.  Whether getting shot out or opting to surrender when surrounded, we all battled it out in good fun and proudly compared bruises at the end of the day where we had become one another's target.

Now that we're back home, showered and napped (I was so tired afterwards!), it's apparent how much of a workout we really got.  I ache in my hips, knees and thighs from all the bending and twisting and I think I am going to take the day a bit easy tomorrow to let things rest and stretch out again.  Paintball is so much fun, and we can't wait to do it again!!

Saturday, June 12

Workin' the South Side

While making progress over the last few weeks in the back-yard and North side-yard of the house (it actually looks like someone lives here who cares what their yard looks like... weird.), I have been obstinately refusing to work on the South side of the house.  Spending as little time on that end of the property as possible has become a relative tradition at our house.  We avert our eyes from the ugly mess of shrubs that overgrew themselves and then died leaving throngs of dead branches to claw at you while you get out of the car.  We've learned the avoidance tactics used by many when they see their Uncle Rico at summertime family reunions, and when forced to be on that end of the house we walk as quickly to the nearest door as humanly possible.

This morning I decided that before the heat of the day hit, I would head out with my clippers and prune (and tear, and saw) the bushes back to the few remaining live branches at their core and clean up all the debris caught in them as possible.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, and in no way did I think that doing a little yard clean up would end up making me so.... mad.

Here's my beef with the scraggly bushes.  Yes, I know that we neglected to cut them back last year and so they look less than pleasant.  Yes, I know that the mass of maple-leaf ground-cover from last fall' adds to the aesthetic of depression that the bushes exude (it's called "decomposition" and "mulch").  And yes, I know that the only thing that we do on the South side of our house is store our garbage / recycle / yard debris can and park our cars.  BUT... why does that give my next door neighbor the right to stuff his garbage in the ugly bushes?  Why?!?!

Now, I'm sure that if I bring up the discarded batteries, soda cans, cookie and candy bar wrappers, garbage bags, broken toys and newspapers that I discovered shoved between the branches on their side of the bushes this morning that they would probably tell me the monster bushes pounced them in the middle of the night while they were putting their garbage nicely in their garbage can, ripping the refuse from their arms, clawing at their faces with the scraggly fingers of prickly branches and devouring their trash piece by piece with the fervor and passion of a Creature From the Black Lagoon.  And if they told me that's what happened, I'd have no choice but to believe them seeings how I have also been attacked by the bushes in the dead of night, losing whole bags of groceries and a small child (someone else's, not mine, so it wasn't that big a deal) to their wicked appetites.  But it seems that if the bushes did attack them in the dead of night that they would have said something.  I know if their bushes ever attacked me I'd hurry over to ask them to put a leash on them or else threaten to call the county Arborist to come and put the bushes down before they hurt anyone else.

All right, enough of that vent.  Back to the exercise portion of this blog (it made me so mad!!).  After a little over an hour with the mutant bushes, I was able to cut down about half of them to reasonable size and pile all the dead branches to be burned later on.  I got some good upper-body workout done with the hand-saw on the thicker branches, and got a fair share of squats in as well with all the scooping up of fallen twigs and garbage.  I was going to continue down the line and finish what remains of the work, but it started to get pretty warm so I decided to save it for another day.  Maybe I'll be able to convince M to help me with them later this week... I'll be sure to warn her of the bushes down and dirty reputation beforehand though.  I'd hate to lose her in the bushy void.

Friday, June 11

Bark and Bite

You may have noticed that I didn't get around to posting on this blog yesterday, and sadly that is due to the fact that I also never really got around to exercising.  The day was dedicated to a variety of errands, and while there was some walking from one office/store to another there was little in the way of sweat or exertion.

I made up for the lapse today though by spreading red-bark by hand around my precious vegetable garden and chasing Pooch and Dummykins from their hiding spots behind the 3" tall Geranium border (neither of them have ever been very good at spatial relations).  I also managed to weed the full length of the flower bed at the front of the house, separate some stubborn clumps of ground cover and spread it out in the yard, and plant three Hastas by the front door to greet people where the big void of dirt used to be.  I even got the chance to lay out a brick walkway connecting the path on our property to the dog kennel, a feat in its own right.

Now that I have been successfully made sore and bruised from shoulders to toes, I feel that I've more than made up for my lack of initiative yesterday.  My calves, thighs and bubble-butt all agree!

Wednesday, June 9

Birds Of A Feather Work Out Together

Exercising with friends sure makes working out a lot more fun!  This evening M and I met up with another friend, K, for a few trips around a local track.  Rather than spending our time focused on how much we'd rather not be working out, which is what I generally think about when I'm working out alone, we caught up on major life events while the time and miles flew by.

The gaps in our conversations were filled by a soccer game going on in the center of the track, and ducking stray soccer balls when someone with a loose foot got a little catty-wonkus with their aim.  The weather held out and light sprinkles started dropping just as we were wrapping up, providing us with a natural cool-down (and helping us all to smell more dainty and less sweaty).

The best part of exercising with friends is the capacity to hold one another accountable for showing up without the overbearing gaze of a personal trainer or the erratic "maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won't" of self-inflicted exercise programs.  If you have the opportunity to work out with one or two friends, I suggest you take it.  You'll all have fun and be glad that you had time to bond, gossip, and burn calories.

Tuesday, June 8

In The Back Yard... Again

I've always dreamed of having a brown pressure-treated fence.  Those white picket things are far too "Stepford" for me.  And now, after nearly 5 hours of toiling away in the back yard, I have one!  Husband built it this morning while I played Tarzan and yanked out the last mass of weeds and M turned soil and planted flowers.  The fence has been a desperate necessity as it is designed for the rabid Honeysuckle bush to hold on to instead of destroying everything else around it.

This Honeysuckle bush is a very "Denise-Friendly" plant.  It thrives in spite of all I do to it; watering incessantly, neglecting it until the yard becomes a barren wasteland, over-fertilizing it, attacking it with hedge trimmers, etc.  Unfortunately, it doesn't just thrive, it goes "mutant plant"every summer and gets into a life-sized game of Risk with the blackberry bushes.  In an attempt to tame the beast, we have built it a series of stands, cages and climbing contraptions for it to adhere to and it has promptly grappled with and then broken all of them.  This year's solution was to build a fence anchored by cement blocks and covered in chicken wire for it to climb up and across in hopes that the structure will distract it from the delicious looking tomato plants being planted within arm's reach.

The fence is beautiful, and I am again in awe of my husband's building prowess.  We've got all the beds cleared and spent some time digging out the arbor that will cover the entryway (it's enchanted) to a yet-to-be-built private patio with a fire pit.  It's all coming together now, and the three of us certainly got our combined workouts done for the day.

Now we're all sweaty, tired and enjoying lemonade.  The perfect end to a perfect morning in the sun.

Monday, June 7

A Quick Break

Although today was my "no workout" day, I got a lot of physical stuff done!  Today ended up being a day of shopping at the conjoined twins of Lowe's and Home Depot, hauling cement bricks from the shelves to the cart and walking from one end of the box-stores to the other in the hunt for various home-project necessities.

Prior to working out on the regular, a day of shopping would have worn me out and made my body ache. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to pick up heavy objects and load them on the cart myself without having to ask for help. I also didn't have to take breaks to rest my achy feet/back/knees at all, and at the end of the adventure still had energy to spare.

I've also noticed that my clothes are starting to fit much better than they did when this blog began, and that is more encouraging than anything else!  I'm beginning to enjoy being "me" again, and reconnecting with the comfort my wardrobe once offered.  God bless the exercisers, for they shall inherit new pants!

Sunday, June 6

Clean Till You Scream!

I'm not sure how it got so late, but at 11pm I finally had time to sit down and blog about my day of housecleaning and exercise.  I spent the bulk of my day carrying boxes up and down a couple flight of stairs while prepping a family member's house for renovation.  I discovered that stair climbing is an exercise that I certainly should have in my ongoing workout schedule because by the end of the day I was sweaty, sore, and my butt-cheeks felt like spheres of molten muscle.

Thankfully, at the days end we sat down for a (mostly) healthy bar-b-que to celebrate family and the progress made emptying rooms and starting on home repairs.  It was a ton of fun to see all the family and spend the day working and joking together.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again next weekend for a day of paintball. That will be just as much workout, but even more fun!

And now that the night has become quiet and the rest of the house is asleep, I am going to turn in for the night.  Until tomorrow!!

Saturday, June 5

Sunny Saturday!

I'm beginning to think that Mother Nature is a bit bi-polar.  She doesn't seem to be able to make up her mind as to weather she's friends with Mr. Sun or not.  I'm glad that today they're at least on good terms because the weather is perfect for being outside in nature.

My new workout companion, we'll call her M, and I decided to head out and tackle some more of the Amazon-esque jungle growing out of the muck in my back yard.  As we hacked through bushes and brush we discovered that my yard has apparently become home to a multi-level city of Pill-Bugs (or Rolley-Polley's as we used to call them when we were kids) including a Slug-based transportation system and Dung-Beetle sewer lines.

After an hour of digging and grasping at overgrown weeds we found what little is left of a clematis plant and transported it to a clear and less dog-dug location where hopefully it will regain life and climb the blank fence behind it.  We also cleared two more beds, one in which we are going to displace the Pill-Bugs in a round of mass destruction and replace with a variety of vegetable plants.  I think I may plant a miniature lawn in the other bed; something to squish my toes into when I'm feeling sprightly.  On second thought, I'm sure Pooch will just see it as a nicer toilet and bare feet will not be happy there.

At any rate, we spent over an hour out there and the sun helped to warm up our muscles and keep us moving.  By the time we finished we were both tired and our muscles burned, but we felt accomplished and have plans for tackling the last 10 feet of yard.  M is going to help me find some plants that are less easy to kill than what I've had in the past (I'm more widely known for my plant-graveyard than my garden), and even help me maintain them through the summer while I figure out how to cultivate a green thumb.  Maybe we'll end up with yummy veggies to eat and share with family, and a giant pumpkin to enter into the grow contest at the county fair.  Who knows, stranger things have happened.

Friday, June 4

... And We're Walking!

I got's me a workout buddy this week, and this morning we decided that in a break in the rain that we'd go for a walk.  Now, I'm not one to pick a fight with mother nature, but this rain thing is getting ridiculous. It's June for rice sake!  It's been raining since April, and I've had about enough of it especially since it continues to cut into the time I have available to be outdoors fighting slugs and spiders.

But I digress.

This morning we walked for over an hour, pushing one another to do quick bursts of speed at different points on the walk.  This is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn extra calories while improving your endurance!  Just good business all the way around.  After walking comfortably for a few blocks, we'd select one block to walk as fast as we can while swinging our arms as high and wide as possible to get our upper bodies involved.  The results are comical (I've always thought power walkers looked hilarious and it turns out they feel hilarious too!) and energy-charged.  Pooch got a good laugh at our expense and we all worked out those abdominals with a few reps of chuckle-giggle-smirk.

We were fortunate that the rain held off for the hour that we were outdoors, and it looks like maybe if we're lucky the clouds are lifting.  Although I'm sure they'll hang around for a while, I'm hopeful that the rest of the day is dry so we can get some more time outside and enjoy the flowers.

Thursday, June 3

In With The Peace, Out With The Rest Of It.

Breathe in... breathe out... that was the advice given to me this morning by the televised yoga instructor.  I decided to listen (seeings how breath is one of those few things essential to human survival) and I'm glad I did!

I woke up stiff as a board from yesterday's hopping adventure and had to find a way to loosen the painful tightness in my legs and shoulders.  I found a great 20 minute yoga workout called Beginner Yoga that took me through an even-paced reintroduction to the basic yoga poses.  As the exercise stretched on, I was glad that I had opted to do a beginner series today because my muscles were so sore that in the beginning even the simple poses were difficult for me to complete.

The beautiful thing about yoga though is that as you move through the poses your body becomes more and more loose while your mind calms.  We've had a rough few days with some family emergencies, and so the added calming effect of the workout was much appreciated as the tension in my body and the pounding of my stress-headache faded.  It is amazing how stretching out like a dog just getting out of bed helps your body to align and makes your body wake up.

Now that all my hinges are oiled and my mind is at rest I feel like I'm ready to tackle today's challenges.  I'm sure that the bank tellers and post office workers I encounter will appreciate not being strangled to death by my squirrely wraith.

Wednesday, June 2

Skipping Rope

If I had known 20 years ago that the jumping-rope I loved to hop over on the sidewalk after lunch could keep my body in tip-top physical shape, maybe I would have given it more respect.  Perhaps it would have found it's way into my lifelong daily routine instead of being tossed into a bin unceremoniously marked "GoodWill".  It may also have made the 20 minute workout I endured today less... unruly.

Flipping through available workouts, I settled on 21 Day Cardio 1, with trainer Jade Alexis.  Done as a part of Elle's 21 Days To A Better You spread,  this workout video is the first in a series of exercises to help get your body lean and ready for bikini weather.  It also involves a lot of skipping an imaginary rope, something I haven't even thought about doing since my last jump-rope dissolved into the void of lost toys.

While I can appreciate the upbeat nature of Jade and whatever supermodel was working out with her, as well as their ability to jump around for 20 minutes without blacking out from hunger pangs, I wasn't prepared for the amount of jumping (in place, side to side, front to back, in the shape of a square, up high, down low, and so on and so forth) that took place.

If you give this workout a try, I have two tidbits of advice that you should adhere to.  The first is that this 20 minute workout doesn't include any stretching before or after, so be sure to stretch out those legs before you start lest you end up like me with calves that explode like roman candles stuck in a jar of peanut butter.

The second is a little graphic so cover your ears if you're timid: you should try to tinkle and make a poop before you make your attempt at 20 minutes of uninterrupted bouncing.  I definitely think this second suggestion is something that they should have displayed along with the "consult your doctor before starting this or any other exercise routine" warning in the opening credits as I discovered this is sage advice for people such as myself who ate lunch an hour before.

Now that I've survived the Cardio and showered off the resulting sweat pools, it occurs to me that all of this exercise business would be a lot easier if we had all just continued skipping rope and hula-hooping the way we did as kids.  Although we didn't know it when we were playing hop-scotch on the neighbor's inclined driveway, we were exercising as well as having a lot of fun.  I hope that as my energy levels increase I'll continue to go back to the outdoor games I used to play instead of boring myself with endless crunches and push-ups.  It seems like a lot more fun that way.