I thought about calling this post “Embracing my Inner Couch Potato,” but then I decided that didn’t work because there was nothing “inner” about the way my rear end inhabited the couch yesterday. I had a vacation week scheduled, with one free day between returning Sunday night from a two-day rowing regatta (in which my mixed quad crew won second place, yay) and setting out on the road again Tuesday. So, having very little energy when I woke up on Monday, I spent much of the day in total veg-out mode.

Photo of vegetables on grocery shelves.

(Photo credit: Pamela V. White)

My glorious day as a veggie queen ended around 5 PM when I begrudgingly pried my butt off the couch cushions and went to do my prescribed rowing machine workout, followed by shower, dinner, and packing clothes for the next trip. But it was wonderful while it lasted.

For much of the year, I’d been feeling overscheduled and run down from so much hurrying to row after work, in combination with some overtime this summer and road trips to regattas. That was far too much, and my body had been screaming at me to slow down and rest. The Monday veg-out day was greatly needed and was taken with intention. Truth be told, I didn’t feel at all guilty about lazing around on the couch while my husband was in the home office all day fixing the latest software blow-up at work.

August 3, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

I’ve had a library book checked out for more than a week—The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work, by Simone Stolzoff. I’m not yet halfway through it but am still on chapter 4, which discusses the blurring of boundaries between work and other areas of life. The book is well written and holds my attention, but I haven’t gotten very far into it because I’ve been doing overtime work. The irony there is obvious enough that it doesn’t need much illustration.

Blurred landscape in rain.

(Photo credit: Tony Webster)

The overtime began recently when a big push for AI development took people away from regular tasks, leaving the backlog to grow. However, I feel that I’ve been struggling with blurred boundaries since the pandemic started. I was already working from home before then, but my days were well structured because my husband worked in an office. Usually, soon after he came home, I would shut down my work computer, and that gave me a clear dividing line between the workday and the rest of the day.

His employer decided to shut down the local office this year for cost savings, with remote work going well. Sharing the home office space is mostly okay; I’ve learned much more about what he does as a software developer, his meetings usually are not too distracting, and it’s nice to have some companionship after years of working alone in the house. I no longer have a clearly defined work schedule, though, and sometimes I feel that I have lost control of my time. Having schedules for daily rowing workouts, although very good for improving fitness, adds to the feeling that there is always too much going on at once.

I’ll get it sorted one of these days. For now, I’m just going to get off the computer and finish reading the book.

June 22, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: , ,

Although the training plan that my husband and I got from our online rowing coach provides for a rest day every Sunday, we haven’t been taking it regularly. Sometimes we practice with our quad mates on Sunday afternoon, and sometimes we go for an easy row when the weather is nice. If we travel to a Saturday regatta towing the boat trailer and get home late, then we have to take the boats back to the boathouse on Sunday, so it’s not the most restful day whether or not we do any rowing.

My husband always has plenty of energy, but it takes me longer to feel fully recovered after a long road trip. To make sure I get enough rest, for both the mind and body, I’ve decided not to do any rowing most Thursdays. That is an easy day on the training plan, in a low heart rate zone, allowing for cross-training if desired. Today I did 20 minutes of yoga and then took a quiet, peaceful walk.

Photo of concrete steps with hostas and other plants on both sides.

(Photo credit: Sergei Gussev)

Although I enjoy rowing, it does get a bit hectic sometimes when I hurry to get my work done so that we have time to go down to the river and finish whatever we have on the training plan before it’s late in the evening. Too many days of that can get overwhelming. Blocking out Thursdays as a day when there’s no rush to do anything should help to give my weekly schedule a more restful flow.

June 1, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

…it doesn’t feel like a to-do.

This random bit of advice bubbled up from my subconscious mind early on Monday morning, after I went to bed feeling that the long weekend was almost over and I hadn’t done much. There wasn’t in fact anything that needed to be done right away, but I hadn’t been able to relax. I had in mind to answer an email, update my resume, and other non-urgent stuff. My blog was starting to feel neglected, too, but I didn’t feel creative enough to write anything. Even choosing an image for my art display seemed harder than usual on Sunday; I finally settled on this photo of the Columbia River Gorge.

Monday went better when I got my breakfast and simply asked myself what didn’t feel like a to-do. I had some thoughts about the email I wanted to write, so I started with that, and after a while the day started to feel more normal. Tuesday went reasonably well too, although I hadn’t quite sorted out what to say for this blog entry. Wednesday was busy, but not overwhelming.

Something felt different on Thursday morning, and then I realized that I’d gotten out of bed feeling much calmer. The big flock of to-dos had found somewhere else to roost. They won’t be missed!

With January’s cold days at an end and thoughts of spring break and beaches in my head, I chose an image for my digital art display of a river flowing into the ocean. Waves swirled around stark rock formations and over golden sands.

Photo of a river meeting the ocean.

The picture wasn’t animated, but as I looked at it, I could easily imagine the ocean shaping the sand into different patterns around the rocks. Each wave traced tiny rivulets along the beach, always changing, impossible to hold constant. Then I began to feel that my future was like the sands of that beach, rearranging itself from one breath to the next.

“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

In an imaginary corner of the picture, my future self Kass was sitting comfortably on a rock, with a folded beach towel for a cushion. She wore pink denim shorts and a tropical-print blouse, and she had taken off her flip-flops to let the waves splash over her feet.

“Just think about how easy that makes changing the future,” Kass elaborated. “And not only the future—with every breath we take, the present moment changes, and even the past looks different. Time’s patterns are always getting rearranged.”

She pressed her feet deeper into the sand, letting it cover much of the rose-gold polish on her toenails. Another wave came, splashing over her feet and carrying the sand off.

“Let’s look at it this way: What are you doing right now?”

“In real life I’m indoors because it is still winter,” I said, which was the first thing that came to mind, “and the dry air has been irritating my sinuses.”

“Okay.” Kass drew spirals in the sand with her toes, and the next wave washed them away. “And what are you doing now?”

I took a deep breath of the imaginary ocean air and tried again. “Just now, I was putting together my grocery list and thinking about what snacks to buy for the Superbowl party.”

Kass lifted her feet to let the next wave flow gently underneath them. For the third time, she asked, “What are you doing right now?”

The wave crested and then slowly receded, leaving the rock unchanged.

“I am feeling glad because, right now, I’m in a warm, safe home and have a loving family.”

With a smile, Kass put her flip-flops down on the sand, slipped her feet into them, and stood up. “There, you see how easy that was? You just changed your life in the present by refocusing your thoughts. My past also changed because you’re a past version of me, and, of course, that also means your future is now on a different path.”

Kass faded out of the picture, leaving the next wave to carry away her footprints.

September 22, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The willow cutting that I planted this spring, as previously shown here, is still alive and healthy. The stump from the willow that it replaced, which died last year, already had rotted enough by last weekend to come up easily when I tugged on it. Now I just need to spread more mulch to cover the base of that stump, and the replacement willow should look pretty good next year.

Photo of a willow sapling next to the rotted base of a stump.

There seems to be a lesson in all of this for me. When the willows started dying back because of climate change a few years ago, I felt gloomy about it, like all my efforts to keep them alive were useless and I would be stuck with a backyard full of ugly stumps forever, or I’d have to pay some huge amount to hire a landscaping company to dig them out and totally replant everything.

But of course, that wasn’t true. No matter how bad things may look in the moment—whether in the natural world or in life more generally—there’s often going to be space for improvement after allowing some time for the unwanted stuff to rot away.

June 15, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Although it may seem foolish in today’s overly hot world, I am still stubbornly trying to maintain the row of willows along the back line of my yard. They were lovely 15-foot trees before climate change started getting to them in 2016, and since then I’ve had to cut them back so far that the survivors are not much more than bushes. Most of them are staying alive, though, and I recently planted a cutting next to a dead stump.

Photo of newly planted willow cutting.

It looks healthy, though small, and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet, so there is room for optimism. I’ve been reminding myself, whenever I look at the willows, that almost anything has the potential to change for the better as time passes. Just because they’ve had a few bad years, that doesn’t necessarily prevent them from coming back strong and tall after some good years.

In addition to my regular work, I’ve been putting together a PowerPoint presentation entitled Resilience, Stress Tolerance, and Flexibility as part of a group that presents online sessions for employees about digital transformation and related issues. I haven’t used PowerPoint much before, and it’s interesting to see what can be done with design and images. I like this Lego juggler image to illustrate the flexibility needed in a work environment where the pace of automation keeps increasing.

A Lego person juggling Lego pieces.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Meanwhile, after a short break when the sprint season ended, my husband and I are training for the rowing regattas again. During the fall season the races are 5K, which is about the same length as one lap on our usual course on the river. Usually we row two laps, but we are now rowing three laps most days to build up our endurance. With the shorter days this time of year, we’re in a bit of a hurry to row that much before it gets dark, and sometimes we still have work to do when we get home. We’re also doing some online yoga and mobility exercises in the evenings.

Finding time to write blog posts has seemed like a bit of a challenge, but as I’ve built up more mental and physical flexibility, I’m finding that creative ideas come a bit quicker. The self-improvement advice that I’m putting into the presentation seems to be doing me some good in real life!

October 8, 2020 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

After working yesterday morning, I went to get a flu shot. I took the afternoon off, just because the weather was nice and I have more vacation than the one week I can carry over into January.

I was reminded of a post I wrote three years ago on the topic of taking half-days just to relax. Because I had gotten in the habit of rushing around from one thing to another, taking vacation time for no particular reason felt wasteful. To illustrate being busy with chores, I posted this image of my willow hedge, which needed lots of pruning because it wasn’t tolerating climate change well (this year I’ve cut the willows back to a much smaller and more manageable size, hoping they’ll get healthier after a while).

Willows after pruning in October.

Although I’ve mostly recovered from being a time-hoarder, I still wasn’t feeling entirely relaxed yesterday. Having all that extra vacation got me thinking about road trips not taken and, more generally, what a messed-up year this had been for the world.

Then my husband, who is still working from home, has overtime work at present, and doesn’t have vacation because he changed jobs in December, said (while sitting at his desk) that it must be nice to have all those vacation days. That was a well-taken reminder to be more appreciative!

We’ve had a week or so of sunny and hot summer weather in my area, after an unusually cool and rainy spring. I have been getting outdoors more often with my husband—rowing, biking, and walking. That sometimes leaves me with a passing thought that my blog is being neglected; but even when I am in the house, not much comes to mind to write.

On Tuesday, I sat down at the computer for a while. Instead of composing blog posts, though, I spent some time looking for photos of summer wildflowers and other natural scenes to upload to the online library for my art display. This was the one I chose for yesterday:

Wildflowers on a plateau in summer.

I’ll take that as a message from my subconscious mind—the natural world is full of beautiful places to explore, and it’s okay to get out and enjoy them while the sun is shining. There will always be plenty of time for blogging and other creative pursuits later, without need to cram them into an arbitrary schedule. Modern life has too much time pressure anyway, so there’s no reason to add more.