Sunday, May 17, 2015

Swim, Bike, ... Gym

So this no-running thing has its advantages. I went from almost solely running to branching out into other activities I previously ignored because (1) they seemed burdensome (equipment, etc.) and (2) I would have to learn how to do them more efficiently. It was easier to stick to my solo sport--until I had to deal with an injury.

After a recent appointment with my favorite orthopedist (only a very injury-prone person gets to claim a "favorite"), Larry Collins, I was convinced I needed to get clip-in pedals and cycling shoes for my bike, and ride "clipless." I don't understand this terminology; it contradicts itself. But whatever. The point is, I need to keep my foot flat, rather than bending it and putting pressure on the ball of my foot, and cycling shoes don't really bend. So despite the expense, I decided it would be a good investment for longterm cross-training. One thing that has always put me off about cycling is the cost of everything--bike aside (which can be exorbitant), there's the padded shorts, which I resisted until I understood the need for them; the gloves; the helmet; the lights; the pocket shirts; the bike computer--odometer or GPS, depending on how fancy (and pricey) you want to get; and now, the shoes, pedals, and cleats. I remember when I used to hesitate over the cost of a pair of running shoes. Such simpler days!

My "shoes of the future," as my sister lovingly commented.

But I'm embracing this new adventure. Yesterday I went for my first clipless ride. And I get it now. Many people told me how much better of a ride I'd have clipped in, and, fear of falling aside, I did feel stronger in my riding. I was able to use more of my legs (and less of my feet). I almost regret selling my road bike for the hybrid. I didn't think I'd be doing all of this; I didn't think my foot issue would return. I still love my new bike, and I can use it for in-town riding more easily than the road bike, but I know I'll never get as much speed or mileage out of it as I would have the road bike. Lesson learned.

Post-ride success--no falling!

Something else I've taken an unexpected liking to is swimming. Actually, I've always loved being in the water, but I never quite learned how to lap-swim, without just flopping my head from side to side on each stroke. So I talked to some triathlete friends and watched a YouTube video to make sure I understood proper technique, and after a couple times in the pool, I felt a lot more comfortable swimming laps. I'm sure there's tons of room for improvement, but at least I'm not swallowing gobs of water on my breath strokes--for the most part. And my endurance has improved a lot after just a few times in the pool. But my main issue the last couple times in the water has been my ears. I have very sensitive ears to begin with--I have some hearing loss, some recent tinnitus, and I get a "clogged" feeling when I do a lot of exercises changing levels (like moving back and forth between standing and floor exercises). Water also bothers my ears. And the earplugs I was using--the waxy, moldable kind--weren't molding very well and so they weren't sealing off my ears, which allowed water to trickle in every time I would turn my head to breathe. Every time. I think it's because I bought them years ago when I thought I was going to get into swimming (I've had a lot of starts and stops), and they lost their malleability. So that's what has kept me from staying in the pool longer. But now I'm armed with new ear plugs and ready to get back in the pool and keep trying to be better, stronger, faster. Or at least last longer than 20 minutes. Baby steps.

And while I'm still not running, I learned from Larry that can use the elliptical at the gym (yay), as long as I keep my feet flat and don't push into the balls of them. It's not running--by far--but it's about the closest thing I can do right now. So on my non-bike, non-swim days, I'll go to the gym, do 20-30 minutes of permissible cardio, and then strength-train for about 30 minutes. I tend to do more body-weight exercises than weighted, though I try to mix it up now and then. I'm trying lots of different exercises that I see online and pin to my Fitness board on Pinterest. And I usually have to write out my workout on a sticky note beforehand and put it in front of my face while I'm working out. But hey, whatever gets it done.

So I'm not running, but in a way I'm doing more than I ever did before, when I was just straight running five days a week. Not to say that I don't miss running terribly, but I feel pretty confident that I'll be able to get back to it in a couple of weeks. And I plan to keep these other activities in my rotation. And who knows? Now that I have the makings of a triathlon under my belt--or at least in progress, I may not have an excuse not to do one in the near future.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Victory and a Challenge

Iron Girl Recap

A few weeks ago, I ran the Iron Girl half marathon in Clearwater. This was the last "big" race I'd planned for the spring, so I wanted to do well, but I also hadn't been training to PR (I guess I never really do). And since my sister had planned to bring her family out to spectate, we decided we'd attempt to have my four-year-old niece, Evie, run across the finish line with me. (We tried this once before, but I was too close to a marathon PR to slow down, so I left her trailing behind me.) Because this was a smaller race and a women's-only race, I wasn't too worried about being a disruption to the race.

So my focus during the race was on Evie--and it's a good thing I had a focus other than time, because, as it turned out, my watch wasn't charged, and it wasn't going to last my whole race. But in my experience, this lack of knowing, of constantly monitoring my pace, has served me well during races. (In fact, during last year's Iron Girl, I forgot my watch entirely and still did well.) The watch served me well in the initial miles, kept me from going out too fast, and before it died, I felt I had established a good, level pace, so all I had to do was maintain it for about the second half. Without the burden of having to monitor my pace, I instead focused on just going for it, getting to Evie at the end. I had to get to Evie, I kept thinking. I played out how it would go in my head. It would happen fast; I'd have to be very alert and prepared to slow down--not a natural instinct at the very end of a race.

But it all worked out beautifully. I saw them on the sidelines, my sister lifted Evie over the railing, and I held my hand out to her. She moved her little legs as fast as they would go, and together we crossed the finish line, as the announcer praised "mom" for a good finish. I think Evie was startled by it all; she'd never experience anything quite like this. She's seen me race before, but it's a different experience being thrown into it at the most climactic point, with a bunch of strangers yelling at you, as encouraging as their words may be. I was very proud of her, and this was one of the most special races I've run because she finished it with me.

Look at her determined little face!

My little champ.

Abstract art by Evie and Eleanora.

So, while I was as pleased as I thought I could be with how this race turned out, it turned out that I had actually run a PR! I didn't know my time when I crossed the finish line, because my watch had died and I was so focused on finding Evie. I knew I was close, but I didn't find out my actual score until the next day. I shaved more than a minute off of my previous PR. Perhaps it was the fact that I didn't have my watch; perhaps it was my drive to get to Evie. Probably it was both. This otherwise wasn't an easy race--it contained four bridge runs, big ones. So now I'll have to take Evie with me to all my races and keep her at the end as my secret weapon.

The Aftermath

So, after having struggled with bursitis in my left foot for over a year, and then having a successful fall and winter/spring season, I thought I was in the clear. But about a week after I raced Iron Girl, I was on a regular five-mile run one weeknight and felt the pain again. I took a few days off, ran some easy runs the next week, and realized it was only getting worse. I knew I had to stop running--for how long, I wasn't sure. But I also knew I needed to keep up a good level of fitness; I would need to start marathon training in a couple of months, and I was afraid of losing all the endurance I had built up. Also, I had been going through some ups and downs in my life (perhaps a few more downs), and I knew that regular exercise was essential to my emotional, as well as physical, well-being. So I swallowed my pride and joined a gym--something I was normally opposed to; I preferred utilizing the outdoors for my exercise, both with running and the bootcamp class I attended. But I needed to have ultimate control over my exercise, now that I was limited. A gym offered cardio equipment, a pool, and plenty of space and equipment for strength training, in whatever way I needed to do it.

So I've been challenged to find new ways to maintain my physical fitness. Nothing can really replace running, and I miss it terribly, but I'm proud of myself for pushing to do different things. It's easy to fall into a habit of "mono-exercise," and perhaps this was a wake-up call that I needed more diversity. Maybe my body was sending a message.

I was a little aimless at first when I went to the gym; I was overwhelmed by the machines, intimidated by the weights area, and afraid of the pool. Now I feel fairly comfortable with some machines, but I stick mainly to the "abs" area where people go to do mat exercises, mostly using body weight. I've been brave enough to also bring over some weights from the big-guy area, dipping in and quickly out with my two 10-pound dumbbells. And the stationary bike. I start out on that, trying to stay on for as long as I can, but honestly I do not like it; I just know it's necessary. And twice now I've gone into the pool. The first time I was very unsure of myself, not really knowing how to breathe efficiently, and confirming my doubts as I awkwardly turned my head and took in gobs of water on every third stroke. I got some advice from triathlete friend, watched a YouTube video, and came back a second time for a redo. It was a better experience, for sure. I still can't last very long, about 15 minutes' worth of laps. But it's brand-new to me as a sport, so I have to give myself time to adapt. And this morning I finally got on that new hybrid bike I got after trading in my road bike. It had been sitting in my closet for months. It felt good to ride. I may need to consider some clip-ins in the future, as my feet are just free-flying on the pedals now, but we'll see. It is a better experience for me than the road bike was. I still have speed on this bike, but I feel more secure on it, like I don't have to be so fragile with it.

I have an appointment with an orthopedist next week to hopefully assess my foot condition and figure out what I should be doing--other than not running. I also have an appointment with a podiatrist scheduled a week later, in case the orthopedist can't help. I'm ready to know what the outlook is on this condition, hopeful that it's not completely hopeless. And in the meantime I have some other activities to continue to explore.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Winter Wrap-up: Unexpected PR, Age Group Placement, and Brewery Run

Now that we're well into spring, I may as well post about winter. That is, Florida winter. So here's a three-in-one.

I missed the Gasparilla half marathon--the local race I look forward to all year. And it was for a silly reason. I had trained well and felt good the week prior to the race, but at a bootcamp class the Wednesday before the race, I did an exercise the totally killed my hamstrings, only I didn't know it until the next day. And they weren't just sore; I could hardly straighten my legs to walk, let alone use my hamstrings to propel me on a run. But feeling this kind of extreme soreness is not unusual for me after this particular bootcamp class; it's certainly happened before. So I thought by the time Sunday rolled around, I'd be fine. But then as Friday passed, and soon Saturday, I was far less confident that I'd be healed in time to race Sunday. I did everything I could think of to expedite healing: massages, smelly muscle rubs, foam roller, static stretches--in fact, I probably overdid it, when what I really needed was rest (but what runner ever resorts to that in a panic?).

But when Sunday morning rolled around, and I drove to the race site, I got out of my car to try a warm-up run and knew immediately that it just wasn't going to happen. I could probably have jogged the race, but in the end I would have only hurt myself more, and I would've had a crappy race. So I bailed on it and went home and back to bed. I did, however, decide to sign up for a half-marathon the following weekend, the Best Damn Race in Orlando. I wasn't entirely sure I'd be healed in time for this race, but it was worth the chance; I wanted redemption.

I spent more time resting in the week leading up to the race, which made me a little nervous; I wasn't sure how much training I might have lost with what felt like so much time away from running. But it turns out, it did me good. I went into the race not expecting to PR, but when I realized I was able to hold a good pace for half of the race--about 8:36 min/mile--I decided to try to hold that pace until the end. And despite, or maybe because of, some inclement weather, I didn't have the sun to contend with (just some slippery cobblestone). As I approached the finishing chute, having seen both my parents there to support me, I was ready to make my big push. But it seems my big push prompted another woman's big push, and suddenly we were battling each other to cross the finish line first. She got me by a hair, I admit. But it was a fun push.

Some friendly competition.

Not as bored as I look.

Next was a five-miler, the annual Bolt Run, hosted by the Tampa Bay Lightning (believe it or not, we have hockey in Florida!). I hadn't done this distance race in quite a while, and I wasn't even sure of what my PR was. So I went in with no expectations. I'd been training at decent paces, but nothing like what I was able to pull off at this race: an average 7:55 pace, 39:31 finish time, and--here's the real surprise--second place for my gender/age group (out of 46). 

And, done.

And this was just the start to a long day of running. And some drinking. Later that afternoon, I jumped into the already-in-progress first annual Tampa Brewery Run, which was not anything "official" but something that a group of running friends planned--an approximately 20-mile route around the streets of Tampa, coordinated around nine different local breweries as stops along the route. For the hardcore in the group (not me), the rules for successful completion were to (1) start from the beginning, and (2) drink a pint at each brewery. Since I had no ambition to run 20 more miles that day, and I couldn't drink a single pint of beer let alone nine, I decided to jump in with a couple of girlfriends at what seemed like a more reasonable point, giving us about nine miles total to complete. Here are the breweries (I jumped in at Ulele):
  1. Start: Angry Chair 
  2. Florida Ave
  3. World of Beer
  4. Ulele 
  5. Copper Tail
  6. Tampa Brewing
  7. Cigar City Cider & Mead
  8. Southern Brewing
  9. Finish: MERMAID!

Just getting started! Yes, the river is green behind us.

This was mid-March, which means pretty warm in Tampa. And we were running in the middle of the day. And drinking. It seems like a really bad idea, and I don't deny that it was. But it was also a ton of fun. Once we got past the first five-mile leg from one brewery to the next, things got a little bit easier. But I wasn't really drinking, save for the cocktail I split at the first location and sample I had at the second, so I can't speak for others. One place I did indulge more at was Cigar City Cider and Mead. I probably had half a glass of cider, which was pretty tasty--better to my palate than a traditional beer.

The cider place. Everyone looks quite happy!

By the time we hit the second-to-last brewery, it was getting dark out, and some folks who'd been along for the whole ride--including the Bolt Run that morning--were clearly worn out, and just about everyone was a little woozy, but not terribly drunk. So the final push to the finishing point required a lot of effort (but since I'd cheated and abstained from drinking very much, I felt pretty strong). The experience overall was a fun time for bonding, urban running, and sampling some local Tampa flavor. In the end, I think maybe five people finished the course properly--and I give props to them. I would definitely do it again, maybe even with more mileage, but still without much drinking.

Speaking of running and drinking, in a few weeks some of these same friends are hosting a Margarita Mile. The rules involve drinking a margarita, running a quarter mile, and repeating three more times, all for time. I signed up to do it, so if I actually go through with it, I'll be sure to report on it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Ulele Feast with the Tampa Bay Bloggers; Or, That Time I Ate Alligator

Monday night, I had the delightful opportunity to be among the Tampa Bay Bloggers on a tasting event* at Ulele (pronounced yoo-LAY-lee), a newish restaurant along Tampa's River Walk, which is in a revitalization phase.

The restaurant, which opened this past fall, has already received several significant commendations: One of the Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S. (by Open Table),  One of the Best New Restaurants in Florida (by Florida Trend); Best Overall Restaurant (by Yelp Tampa Bay); and, its most recent achievement, the #7 spot for Top 50 Restaurants in Tampa Bay, as scored by Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay TimesSo I felt honored to eat there, and I'd been wanting to go since it opened, but reservations were always difficult to get. When I saw the call for bloggers to attend this event, I jumped at the opportunity! Fortunately, I was chosen--among may others:

That's a lot of hungry bloggers!

At least 20 of us were treated to our own space upstairs, overlooking the outdoor patio and river on one side and the lower portion of the restaurant on the other. The restaurant space is wide open with woodwork throughout--beams across the ceiling, door and window frames, tables and chairs. The exterior walls, however, are made from charming and beautifully laid brick. 

Our wonderful and knowledgeable host, Michael Kilgore (Chief Marketing Officer), told us everything about the restaurant--from the bidding for it by Richard Gonzmart to the soon-to-be-erected statue of Princess Ulele, for whom the restaurant was named.

Princess Ulele (see p. 2 of dinner menu)

Speaking of the origins of the restaurant, the inspiration for the place, the space, and the food was all local and native Florida. Almost all of the building materials were sources from local places. The tables are made from a 100-year-old barn in North Florida, and the benches on the first floor are from Tampa's old federal courthouse. Eight billion dollars went into the effort to revitalize the Tampa Heights neighborhood and the River Walk, much of which went into the restaurant.

Before I can talk about the food, I should mention that Ulele has its own brewery. We were all offered samples of two different kinds of beer--a light and a dark--but as I am not a beer drinker (in case you couldn't tell from that description), I went straight to the wine menu. My server helped me pick out a red wine based on what I told him my tastes were. He suggested a red blend from Blue Rock Vineyard--their proprietary blend named "Baby Blue," which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, and Malbec. His recommendation was on-point. It was delicious.

Not part of our deal, but I had to imbibe.

Now on to the food! We began with starters--the Ulele salad, mac 'n' cheese (award-winning), and chili. Because of my dietary restrictions, I just loaded up on the salad, which was delightful. It featured cranberry beans, which I'd never before heard of, and I'm a bean lover. It's sort of a cross between a pinto been and a red kidney bean.

Simple but delicious.

Next, we were served raw oysters. I've tried these once in my life, in New Orleans, and I layered the oyster with so many crackers that I could hardly taste the oyster (which was the point). I thought I'd give it another go and try them the intended way, but here it was with a toasted pita point, cocktail sauce, and shredded horseradish. Turns out I still have an aversion to the texture of the raw oyster. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't interested in going back for more.

I used a lot of garnish...

Fortunately, our next offering was charbroiled oysters. These were phenomenal, and I definitely helped clean the plate.

Now these were delicious!

So, here's where I should've read the menu but didn't. I knew we were being served alligator hushpuppies, and as a vegetarian who eats fish (what some might call a "pescetarian"), I felt conflicted over whether I should eat alligator. I never had before, but it seemed far enough removed from land animals that I should give it a try. So I did. And I have to admit I enjoyed it very much (it did not taste like chicken, btw). But later I learned that the hushpuppies had bits of duck bacon in them--something I didn't notice as I was eating mine, and I know for sure I don't (usually) eat duck. But oh, well. It was all in the spirit of adventure. 

My delicious shame.

Next up was Squash Gratin, which also included zucchini, red onion, and tomato. Even though I tend to stay away from dairy, this dish was much more up my alley! Unsure of how much more food was coming, or how much would consist of fish or veggies, I consumed a pretty healthy serving of this one.

Just one more...

To my delight, the next dish was the featured vegetarian dish of the night. You'll notice on the menu that there aren't many purely vegetarian offerings, and even the one dish specifically called vegetarian is unknown until you ask. This one was called Native Saute, and as you can see it's loaded with veggies on a pile of wild rice, and it featured a light, slightly sweet, sesame-flavored sauce. My hope is that they will eventually take some of their most popular vegetarian items and make them regular menu items, to make the restaurant a bit more vegetarian-friendly (especially for people who are a lot more strict than I apparently am!).

A winning dish in my book!

I could have stopped there. I was truly stuffed. But then they brought out the fish dish--Florida Pompano. Suddenly there was a tie for favorite dish between the saute and the fish. This white fish was pan-seared and topped with lightly battered and fried carrot shavings, along with a tomato shallot cream sauce. It was amazing. I dug in, despite the fullness of my stomach.

This one gets my highest recommendation!

Fortunately for me, because I was so full, the next THREE dishes (would it ever stop?) were all meat, so I didn't partake; although, I did have a taste of the popcorn mashed potatoes that accompanied the filet, and they were outstanding and unique.

And as if that weren't enough, we were then treated to multiple rounds of desserts. Ice cream, namely. Lots of ice cream. But it was impossible for me to have another bite without hurting myself, so I just watched as others dug their spoons into the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream, and then into about five more flavors of ice cream that were presented in coconut half-shells.

After a long evening of sitting and eating and meeting new blogger friends, I decided to skip the brewery tour that was on the agenda next. I could barely roll myself out of the place as it was. But if you're interested in others' takes on the brewery, you can soon find all of our posts on the Tampa Bay Bloggers site at, under Recent Posts, or follow the group on Facebook!

*For full disclosure purposes, our food was comped in exchange for our reviews and live social media buzz.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tonsillectomy, Soft Foods, and Getting Back into It

The past two weeks have been challenging for me. Two Fridays ago I had a tonsillectomy, which I did because I started developing tonsil stones over the past year or so, which coincided with this mysterious pain I'd been having. I got a couple of opinions from recommended ENTs, and they both said a tonsillectomy was the next logical step. While I wasn't eager to undergo a significant surgery--one that is particularly difficult on an adult--I needed to find the cause behind my pain so I could refocus on my life without being constantly sidetracked by the pain.

The actual surgery went every well, and even my healing process was as good as it could have been. But it was a true two weeks before I felt close to normal again, and during the first week in particular, The first two days were actually easier than the rest of the first week; I had my mom with me, and other family came to visit the day after, and we even went out to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant, which serves (delicious) soft foods. But after everyone left, I had a hard time sitting around home by myself in pain, fully reliant on the narcotics prescribed for my pain. Plus, I was determined to work. I'm still new at my job, and I was lucky enough to get this time off for surgery; I wanted to prove that I was dedicated to doing my job if I could at all. So I worked a few partial days from home, which I needed to feel a sense of purpose while I was just lying around the house rest of the time.

During this time, eating was a challenge. I was prescribed to eat only soft foods for two weeks, and even that seemed unmanageable. Simply drinking water hurt. Actually, just swallowing was the most painful part of recovery. But I did make a couple of new foods to try to entice myself to eat. One was mashed cauliflower:

I'm crazy about this dish now and will likely make a lot in the future.

Another was carrot ginger soup:

Not as good as my mom's, but still delicious--and with healing ginger!

And then for something soothing and healing to drink, I made a warm rice milk with honey, cinnamon, and turmeric:

The honey, cinnamon, and turmeric all have healing properties.

They all turned out delicious and added a bit of joy to my recovery days.

The other annoying thing I had to deal with during my recovery was a prescribed two-week hiatus from running or other vigorous activity. I expected one week, but not two. So my whole regular routine--something that keeps me feeling sane--was off for two weeks, and now that I am cleared to run again, I haven't done it yet. I intended to wake up early this morning, or even late, and run, but it didn't happen. I may yet get a run in later this afternoon. We'll see. I'll have to really dedicate myself to getting back into a training regimen. And I have the Gasparilla half marathon coming up, so hopefully that will be my main motivator!

This is actually a deferment from last year, but still, I'm registered!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Homemade Almond Milk

I've been wanting to make almond milk from scratch for some time, but it always seemed like too much work. But when I came across this recipe on Oh She Glows, I thought, this is doable. As always, I made a couple of exceptions: I didn't have a nut-milk bag, and I didn't use vanilla, because buying dried vanilla beans is expensive! I thought the flavors from the dates and cinnamon would be plenty.

I soaked my raw almonds--and dates, which is suggested if they are not very soft to start with--for about five hours. The recipe doesn't say how much water to soak them in, but I just made sure they were well covered with water. (You can also soak them over night.)

Then I drained and rinsed the soaked almonds and dates.

I then blended the almonds and dates with 3.5 cups of water on high for about a minute. 

Next, I thought I would use my fine-mesh strainer plus a cheesecloth to strain the liquid from the pulp, but the cheesecloth turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, and the fine-mesh strainer was plenty fine on its own to keep the pulp out. I poured the blender contents into the strainer, removing pulp as it filled up and got clogged, to make room for more blender contents.

Eventually I got all my liquid through with a significant amount of pulp leftover on the side (I thought I might do something creative with this, but it just ended up in the trash).

I have to say, this is the best almond milk I've tasted. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that it's sweetened with dates and cinnamon, but it also just tastes so fresh--because it is! The recipe says it only keeps 3-5 days, so this isn't the most practical recipe for one person, unless that one person consumes a whole lot of almond milk. I still have some left seven days later, and while it doesn't taste or smell bad, I'm still a little reluctant to use it (but that hasn't stopped me).

So this probably won't be a regular thing, but if I ever needed to use a lot of almond milk for a recipe, I might go through the trouble to do it again. It was so delicious!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Goals

I promised a post on 2015 goals. Before I do that, I want to look back on 2014's list of goals to see how they panned out (I'm scared!):

2014's Goals in Review
  1. Work on relieving anxiety.
  2. This one gets a "halfway met," because while I feel I tried to work on it, I didn't get very far and still was overcome with crippling anxiety at times. By the very end of the year, though, I felt my best.
  3. Do speed work.
  4. Not met. Not close.
  5. Visit a new place.
  6. Sadly, no. I traveled, but to the same places I've been.
  7. Do more yoga.
  8. Nope. I did do some, but I had a really hard time finding a studio that felt like my yoga home. The only place I really looked forward to was Curtis Hixon Park, which has yoga in the park each Sunday. There's just something more freeing being outside, in a an unconfined area. Perhaps I'm just lacking discipline.
  9. Eat less sugar.
  10. Met! I had very few cupcakes this year. And I didn't replace them with anything else. One way I kicked my cupcake obsession was to "unlike" my local Gigi's store page on Facebook (visit site with caution).
  11. Send more cards.
  12. Yep. I had more occasions to send cards--about dozen interviews for one job, for example--but it all counts. And I still haven't touched my Ray Charles stamps--I think I'm going to hold onto them.
  13. Maintain better email habits.
  14. Overall, yes. I still have an immediate reaction upon opening some emails to close them and mark as unread, because I don't want to deal with them, but I am dealing with them better and sooner, because I know it keeps me from getting stressed.
  15. Spend less time viewing social media.
  16. This gets another halfway. I was more conscious of my goal earlier in the year, which helped me avoid social media sometimes, and then when I started my new job I avoided it altogether (which I did not do at my former job). But I slipped toward the end of the year, when I had trouble sleeping, and when I decided I could just check social media on my phone at work. Still need to do some work on this.
  17. Read more books.
  18. I finished one whole book for pleasure and started two others. This is better than the previous year, I think--but still pitiful given the time in a year. I did make strides in freeing up my weekend and evening time by dropping freelance projects, and, going forward, I plan to use some of this free time reading more. 
  19. Judge less.
  20. It's a constant effort and constantly on my mind, so I think as long as I'm always making that effort, I'm accomplishing my goal.

2015 Goals
  1. Get back into top running shape.
    It's time for some PRs. This means I might just need to do that dreaded speed work.
  2. Ride my new bike.
    I don't have it quite yet, but when I get it, I want to use it for both in-town riding and exercise. That was the point of trading in my cruiser and road bike for a hybrid.
  3. Visit a new place.
    Since I failed at this last year, it automatically gets put back on the list. And I already have plans to do that--Pittsburgh, for a professional conference; and hopefully Outer Banks, NC, for a fall marathon!
  4. Spend more time with girlfriends.
    I always love this time and find it so fulfilling--not to discriminate, but it's irreplaceable (sorry, guys).
  5. Do what scares me.
    Sometimes these are little things, like running a new route, or committing to social events. Sometimes they're bigger, like putting myself out there at work through writing, or basically doing anything new and unfamiliar. But I've found the only way to overcome the fear is to do the thing.
  6. Read more books.
    I think this is always on my list. I joke to myself that I'm a terrible English major, because I have no idea what's going on in the world of literature at most times. And I love books, but I have a hard time focusing. But, as with number 5 above, the only way to get better at reading--and subsequently writing--is to do more of it. Book club, anyone??
  7. Give myself more credit.
    Like most people I know, I am my own worst critic. I can be terribly hard on myself for mistakes and blame myself for things out of my control. But I often fail to appreciate all the ways that I take care of myself--physically, emotionally, professionally, etc. Sometimes when I accomplish something lately I'll even pat myself on the back (not usually in public). It's a nice feeling.
  8. Budget better.
    I can be kind of an impulse buyer. If a so-so item is deeply discounted, sometimes I'll buy it because the sale is so good. But I still end up with an item I didn't really want or need. And that I didn't budget for. I've actually made a realistic budget for myself, with the purpose of saving, so now I just need to stick to it. Heh.
  9. Be successful at work.
    Hopefully this will be easy to measure in a year, as I'm still a new employee. But I really want to do well at my job--(1) because I left a place I was very fond of for it, and (2) because I care about making a valuable contribution to an organization. 
  10. Listen to more music.
    I love music. And I have a lot of music that I love. But I rarely listen to it. When I first moved into my new place, I had no Internet on the first couple of days, and I had placed my turntable and records in the living room so they were more accessible. While I set up my condo, I played my favorite records--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith--and loved it so much. I just need to remember to take time to do it. It transforms me.
These are all kind of random goals, but they're the things on my mind now. I'm sure I'll succeed at other things not on the list and not meet my own expectations in ways also not listed. But at least I'll be able to look back and see what it is I wanted out of myself and life at the beginning of 2015 and evaluate my progress.

Here's hoping you all meet your written or unwritten goals for the new year!