21 June 2010

Fitness Journey, Day 1

If you’re like me, your New Year’s resolution of getting in better shape was dead before it ever lived.  Motivation is a huge problem with me, and I can justify my laziness by saying, “I’m not in THAT bad of shape.”  But for the first time in my life, I’m a little self conscious of say, being seen in a swimsuit.  I am not overweight, but I have what I like to call a “weight distribution problem.”  My BMI (a bogus measure in my mind) is within normal range, as well as my Body Fat Percentage (a better measure).  But I just don’t feel as in shape as I used to be.

So I’ve decided to try something different with my fitness/diet routine: an accountability program.

Accountability partners are well-established facets of most life improvement programs, from financial planning programs to addiction relief groups.  An accountability partner is someone who is ideally participating in a transformation with you, or has already been there and done that.  They exist to encourage you, challenge you, pray with/for you, etc. 

In my case, my two main goals are to tone my body and stop drinking soft drinks.  So I’m hoping to encourage people to participate in a workout program of their choice, while I do mine, so that we’re all in this together.  Furthermore, now that it’s out in the open, when I’m spotted with even a mild-mannered Pepsi Throwback in my hand, I should be politely admonished.  As part of being accountable for what I’m trying to achieve, I’ve made the possibly ill-advised decision to post “progress” pictures on this blog.  I also hope to start a vlog.  I’ll post pictures every three months until I feel like I’ve reached my goal, and more often as something interesting develops (look ma, biceps!). 

If you are interested in participating, post a link to your blog here, or add me on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/VigilanteSilver) and just commit to posting little notes about your progress.  You don’t have to post photos, but doing so adds another layer of accountability, because humans are obsessed with before/after comparisons.

So without further adieu, the evidence (the leftward tilt of the photos is the result of the computer being on my bed, and not of my posture, as poor as it may be).  My dog, Atka, looks on with vacant boredom.  As you can see, I’ve got no “out of control” features, but I don’t have much muscle tone either.  Besides being good for my self esteem, a more toned body increases your overall well being.  My goals are to tone my arms and legs just a little, and work on defining my abs a lot better.


Front starting photo

rear starting photo

Side starting photo

My friend Greg Mays lost a ton of weight and got healthier just by cutting high fructose corn syrup out of his diet (something I have already done), so eliminating my seemingly final vice, the dreaded soda, seems like a hopeful way getting in better shape.  My husband and I have been on the Mediterranean Diet for a while, but I think I could be careful about what grains I’m eating and how often I’m eating them.

My fitness plan is an amalgam of several different things, mostly focusing on short, intense cardio and toning exercises (uses one’s own body weight as resistance). The latter part of the program has been proven to protect the back, prevent injury, and produce feminine results, which is why I chose it (no need to go from squishy to golem). Right now I have 4 sodas left, and am trying to wait till dinnertime for the next 4 nights to drink them.  So far I can feel my body going into empty sugar withdrawal (which I didn’t think would be bad, since I don’t eat HFCS).  Everything sweet in my kitchen looks irresistible, I’ve got a headache, and my energy is plummeting.  STAY THE COURSE, ASHLEY, STAY THE COURSE!

24 May 2010

LOST Series Finale Report: Redemption

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched LOST yet, or haven’t seen the finale yet, don’t read on!


For viewers of the epic TV drama LOST, the finale on Sunday, May 23 brought mixed feelings.  For folks like me, who enjoy the large themes and the broad story arc, the finale was satisfying and memorable.  But for those Losties who were looking for answers to their most minute questions, there is likely to be some disappointment.

LOST has explored the themes of faith and redemption in great detail, and in no place more obviously in the finale.  It appears that the characters did indeed crash on the Island in the South Pacific; so the island itself is a “real” thing.  But it seems that going there was an act of providence, and it is no coincidence that the people who survived the crash did, and did so together.  The Island became a vehicle for straightening out one’s life, because (as the writers have said before) “LOST” refers to the state of the people, and is not relative to their physical location.

The finale explains everything that’s been going on in the flash-sideways, and we discover that the flash-sideways itself is a sort of "waiting room” for the characters to wait to go to heaven.  I’m not going to call it purgatory because a) I don’t believe in it and b) it seems like a more intermediary spiritual place and not a place of punishment or “proving.”  Once everyone who was on the island dies (either while on the Island: Jack, Hurley, Ben; or off) they go to this waiting place in the flash sideways.  Christian (Jack’s dad) explains that everyone is indeed finally dead, and it’s time to “move on.”  In the end, every character redeemed themselves, either from their actions or crippling character flaws, and learned to forgive and repent.

Now, the producers and writers have made a big deal out of making everything sort of “non-denominational” religiously (by creating a mythological religious structure based on every major religion) but the obvious Christian parallels are hard to miss.  The final scene happens in a church, after all.  I won’t critique whatever religious issues I may take with the show, because it’s a TV show (duh), but it was good to see the concepts of repentance and redemption flayed out before American audiences, who need to see it the most.

19 May 2010

Confessions of a New-Old Age Housewife: Bread

Bread is easily the most common staple amongst European-descended people.  It’s an important part of our daily diet, and if made properly, it’s actually quite healthy.

But one thing I’ve noticed shopping for bread recently is that it’s hard to find bread that’s well made.  It either has a bunch of preservatives or artificial sugars (high fructose corn syrup).  It is also commonly made from cheap, enriched grains that aren’t good for you and can contribute to weight gain and diabetes.  I’ve been shopping at a “health food” store lately, and was beginning to feel better about buying “better” bread, but it’s awfully expensive.  So, I’ve decided to make my own.

I went to the regular ol’ proletariat grocery store and got the basic ingredients to make almost any bread; flour and yeast.  I already had at home some whole wheat flour, so I just picked up a little bread flour and some all-purpose flour for when I feel like making terrible-for-you white bread.  Even if I had to buy absolutely everything from scratch, it would never cost me over $10.  Even for recipes that use eggs, those are relatively cheap.

A lot of people say they don’t have time to make their own bread, which I may also say once I have kids.  But for now, with all this unemployed time, I think I can manage it, and I hope my bread is better tasting and better for you than the stuff you buy in the store.  Right now I’m typing this while waiting for a loaf of French bread to rise, so I could see how this could become a weekend ritual.  It smells wonderful in here, and I haven’t even baked the bread yet.

I think it’s important for women to try and return to the roots of their roles as much as they can in these modern times.  I’m not saying I support the barefoot and pregnant with a small army of dirty children and cooking and cleaning all day sort of gender role, but I think that the modern woman has forgotten the time honored traditions that made her the strong person she is today.  Homemade bread, home-cooked meals, cheerful entertaining, and loving household leadership are just a few ways we can pay homage to the hard-working women we’re descended from.  We can do all this without sacrificing what the feminist movement would call our “independence;” I’m about to play a video game, after applying for a couple more jobs and enjoying a beer.

Wish me luck, and I encourage you to try and do the same. There’s not a great deal more rewarding than enjoying a meal you’ve made yourself.

11 May 2010

Home Wiring Saga (or the Undiscovered Country)

Today I made the decision to finally install a digital thermostat for my home cooler.  Prior to its installation, the former method had been a rather rudimentary five-way switch, no adaptive temperature control, a number of prayers, and an astronomical electric bill. 
Being a responsible homeowner and an advocate for safety when recklessness wouldn’t be any fun, I sought to turn off the power to the hallway I was working in.  So I turned the hall light on, retreated to the circuit box, and began flipping switches.  Some things I noticed:

  1. No switch appears to turn off the lights in the Spare Oom.  The source of this room’s magical energy still eludes me.
  2. Even after getting the hall light to turn off, the selfsame switch did NOT turn the AC off, even though the two units are not even one square meter apart.
  3. Turns out, the AC is wired to the same breaker as the office, which are separated from each other by a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room.
Being the steward of self discovery that I am, however, I subsequently dismantled the AC control unit (after solving the power access mystery).  At first, everything was self explanatory.  The new thermostat unit came with detailed instructions.  But then came the matter of “the ground.”
For the uninitiated, in the world of household voltage, “the ground” basically diverts an electrical short to the conduit box and through the house, as opposed to say, through your hand (read: useful).  Many houses as old as mine have no ground wire running directly from the AC unit on the roof (which is now the standard).  No big deal.  HOWEVER, upon inspection of the previously-mentioned rudimentary switch, I discovered that the former installer had simply clipped the errant ground wire for the control unit, LEFT IT BARE, and then closed it all up soundly within my plaster walls.
So, in a way, I’m a hero.