What do I enjoy?

Recently, I have found myself wondering what I really enjoy doing.  I have so many expectations for myself, activities I should try, places I should go, foods I should cook with, etc.  And while I do enjoy trying new things and pushing myself outside of my comfort zones, I think it is also important for me to simply enjoy life sometimes, which raises one question.

What do I enjoy?

For a while, I think that I lost sight of the little things in life I do enjoy because I was so focused on trying new things or working or just getting through and surviving.  So I’ve both spent time thinking about what I enjoy and asked a dear friend who has known me for years to remind me what activities bring me delight and joy.  To be honest, once I thought about it, the following list was not surprising since these are activities that I have enjoyed for a good long time.

  1. Exploring and traveling – I genuinely love to wander around and discover new places, which is probably why I love to travel.  I have yet to travel the world, but I hope to one day.
  2. Playing the piano – I began playing the piano when I was six and was even a piano performance major prior to injuring my wrist in college.  Playing the piano is one way that I express myself, a comfort that I can always turn to.
  3. Listening to music – Along with playing music, I love listening to music, analyzing it, or just enjoying the moods it evokes.  I love my tried and true favorite artists, but I also love learning about new artists and expanding my musical horizons.
  4. Writing – Though I am afraid of failing and therefore don’t write or blog as often as I should, I find writing to be very therapeutic and simply delightful.  Once I injured my wrist, I began to use writing as an outlet to express myself and my thoughts, even if it is simply in my journal.
  5. Reading – My punishment as a child used to be that I was forbidden from reading.  From an early age, my mother instilled a love of reading that I still maintain.  I was an English Literature major post wrist injury solely because I love to read.  I now try to read at least one new book a week.
  6. Taking pictures – Though I’m definitely the most amateur photographer ever, I find great delight in taking pictures of random objects in my life.  My most favorite way to take pictures is to just take my camera with me on a walk or exploration and photograph what I find to be interesting.
  7. Planning and organizing – I’m an organizational freak.  Organizing and planning soothes my soul.  When I’m upset, I’ll often organize; my thoughts sort themselves out as I physically sort through and organize whatever happens to be lying around.  The ability to organize and carry out a plan is so refreshing.  I love to plan, even though I know my plans will always change.  At least I figured out the puzzle of the plan and understand its components first.
  8. Cooking – This hobby is more recent than most, but I have really enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes.  I like to play with flavors and think of new recipes, as well as being able to cook a delicious meal when I’m just craving homecooked goodness.
  9. Baking – Though I don’t typically have a major sweet tooth (pregnancy has changed that a little), I enjoy baking.  Being able to create a good scone to go with my morning coffee or pie or cake for a friends’ birthday is just amazing.
  10. Conversing with friends – What can I say?  I love a good conversation with people I love.

While I will definitely continue to push myself to try new things, I think I am going to try to make time to devote to the hobbies and activities I know I love.  So far, I have greatly enjoyed playing music while I’m home cooking or cleaning or reading.  I’ve spent more time in coffee shops talking with friends, reading, and writing.  It’s been good.

What do you enjoy?

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Fitness

I’ve always dreaded physical fitness.  From waking up to my mother jumping up and down to the oldies while doing Aerobics when I was growing up to the exercise regime and (perceived) constant criticism of my how fit I was, I developed a hatred of anything and everything related to exercise and used this hatred of exercise as a form of rebellion throughout my college years.  I know, I should have rebelled using some method that wasn’t also self-destructive, but you live and learn, right?

It wasn’t until I moved home from China with my husband in February and into my friend’s house that I really actually began to get somewhat serious about fitness for several reasons.

  1. I wasn’t as thin as I used to be despite losing weight in China (perhaps my mother’s exercise regime did some good after all?).
  2. I wanted to be attractive, not only to my husband, but also just in general.
  3. I’d known for approximately a year and a half that my cholesterol was dangerously high and had taken small steps to work on it but hadn’t really been that serious about it.  The threat of beginning lifelong medication in my early twenties should have been more motivating…
  4. I wanted to live a simpler, healthier lifestyle and take care of the body I have since it is, after all, the only body I’m ever going to have.

So with my friend’s encouragement and love of fitness, I painstakingly began to actually work out regularly for the first time in years and not just count the walking around whatever town I lived in as daily exercise.  She had a Pilates DVD, so I started off slowly.  Ten minutes a day five days a week at first.  Then twenty minutes a day five days a week.  Finally, thirty minutes a day five days a week and occasionally the entire fifty minute DVD.  Since it was too cold to run or jog outside (oh the joys of living in the Midwest during the winter!), I was limited to Pilates and my bundled-up walks downtown.

I began to see results.  Nothing drastic by any means, but I had slightly tighter abs and more toned arms and legs.  I had more energy.  I could wear skinny jeans for the first time in my life.  My thighs had always been too big, which I attribute to years of ballet and soccer followed by years of weight gain and lack of exercise to tone the muscular tree trunks that I had developed.  I was on a roll, exercising regularly and eating much healthier.  As the weather warmed up, I even began to occasionally run.  I felt great!  I was confident and hopeful that I would continue this healthier lifestyle for a long, long time.

Then I moved to Portland.  With no access to the Pilates DVD since I was too broke to afford one, I stopped exercising.  I didn’t even run since I was living with a friend and had to abide by her schedule while looking for an apartment, a schedule that meant only being home to sleep.  While I didn’t gain any weight, I lost the muscle tone I had been developing.  I was walking around more than ever, but that was it in terms of exercise.  I was discouraged.

Once my husband John and I moved into our own apartment, I thought about exercising.  I wanted to exercise and regain the muscle tone I had lost.  I wanted to continue to be fit and healthy.  I was walking even more than before due to a lack of car, a lack of bicycle, and a lack of money to buy a transit pass.  In fact, I walked just over a mile to and then from work five days a week.  But even in combination with trying to eat healthier, I wasn’t seeing real results.  I lost some weight, but wasn’t getting toned.  I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my appearance, especially since any weight I had lost only accentuated the weight I hadn’t lost in my stomach and thighs.

Finally, after several months of hating my appearance, I checked out the Pilates DVD I had used in Ohio from the local library.  But I lacked the motivation to begin again.  Beginning is always the hardest part.  It took feeling like I looked pregnant, being upset that my jeans were wearing out after seven months before they were falling off, the prospect of seeing friends from Ohio and wanting to be thinner, the prospect of going to the doctor to be weighed, continued discussions (and consequent guilt) about healthy living (aka eating and exercising) with John, and getting a bike only to realize that I wasn’t in the same shape I had been the last time I had owned a bike to actually motivate me to start exercising again.  Wow, am I stubborn!

Daunted, I didn’t do so well the first two weeks.  I had set unreasonable goals and got stuck in failure.  However, since I really dislike my stomach and thighs, I reevaluated my goals this week and set smaller, achievable goals.  I can always go above and beyond these goals if I really want to (now that would be quite the accomplishment!).  So far, I’ve stuck with them, and exercising is getting easier and more enjoyable.  In addition to riding my bike to work (hooray for a shorter commute!), I decided to do twenty minutes of Pilates at least four times a week.  Also, I am going to go on two or three bike rides this week – the first of which will be tonight once it is not blistering hot outside.

I’ve already done Pilates twice this week, and since I don’t work mornings for the next three days, I plan to do Pilates all three of those days.  I may need to plan time for an extra long bike ride to prepare for the 7-miles-one-way jaunt that I planned for Monday.  Oops.  It’s a start.  And while I’m sure my weight won’t be what I want it to be at my doctor’s appointment next Wednesday, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as it once was either (a number so high it is unpublishable).  I am starting to be toned again (perhaps I can buy a size smaller in my jeans?).  Most importantly, I have more energy and feel healthier, a definite step on my way to being confident with my body again.

I’ll keep you all updated on my fitness progress…. perhaps I’ll even investigate a widget or chart or something to track what I’ve done.

What is your favorite workout routine?

On fly bites, instant coffee, and great blogs

Today is a Saturday in Yueyang, Hunan, China.  However, I am sitting at a table in the gymnasium at work greeting the freshmen as they arrive.  Correction – the freshmen are staring at me because I am a foreigner, but most are too afraid to come talk to me.  So I am blogging and rereading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson once again.

Instant coffee Chinese styleEven though dragging myself to work and sitting here for 10 hours today makes for a 73 hour work week this week, it’s not too bad.  The English teacher who is the primary translator was gracious and helpful enough to bring instant coffee for me (just so you know, coffee is practically unheard of in China – a sad, sad thought for caffeine-addicted Americans like me).  When I was first introduced to instant coffee in China upon my very jet-lagged request for coffee, I scoffed at the thought.  I drink black coffee (real black coffee – no cream, no sugar) in the US.  I admit that I used to frequent the likes of Starbucks, Panera, and Grounds for Thought, along with the occasional trip to Caribou Coffee when I was around one.  My favorite breakfast is actually a double tall non-fat latte with a cranberry orange scone.  Or perhaps some raspberry swirl loaf if I am feeling adventurous.  Anyway, all this to say that I enjoy a good cup of coffee.  But after two weeks with no caffeine, instant coffee suddenly possesses a deliciousness that it previously lacked.  Never fear my friends – upon my return to any country with coffee shops, I will drink great coffee once more!  But for now, instant coffee makes life here bearable.

What isn’t so bearable are the flies.  While they are normally not a problem, quite possibly because my apartment is on the 6th floor of my building, they are certainly a nuisance today.  I have one fly bite on my neck and at least three on my arms.  I am constantly swatting them away.  Ugh.  Who knew that flies really bite anyway?

As for my blogging… well while I dream of being a professional writer, I know that my writing can be improved.  And what better way to improve blogging than to read other fantastic blogs?  In my quest to find said blogs, I have been checking out WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.  To my great delight, I found a blog that I quite enjoy the other day!  It is www.katrichterwrites.wordpress.com.  The author is funny, insightful, and clever.  I hope to someday write as well as she does and captivate my audience.