Yarn . . . From My Stash to Yours

Between my crazy summer and some trips here and there, I've gotten completely off schedule with my stash giveaways.  Oh, well.  Isn't that what summer is all about?  Going with the flow and enjoying a more relaxed pace?

I think so!

Let's celebrate a late summer Friday by giving away some yarn, shall we?

First up . . . 

IMG_5349

This is Bloomfield/Heritage HandPaint from Heritage Spinning and Weaving in the "Up North" color way.  It's a 50/50 Silk/Merino Wool mix; about 650 yards/5 oz; fingering weight.

I remember my daughter picking this skein out back when she was in late high school or early college . . . when she came to the Michigan Fiber Festival with me.  It's lovely yarn - and there are nice memories in the skein.  But.  Her tastes have changed, and this color is . . . well, Not Her Thing anymore.  So it's time for this yarn to make another knitter happy.

IMG_5345

Next up . . . 

IMG_5346

Two little skeins of Hacho by Mirasol Peru.  This Peruvian yarn is 100% merino wool; DK weight; 137 yards/50g per skein; shade #308.  This yarn has been in my stash for a very long time (I know because the label is from a yarn store here in Kalamazoo that went out of business shortly after I moved here . . . 17 years ago!)  I always liked the colors, but just never seemed inspired enough to make something with it.  It's time for this lovely yarn to inspire another knitter.

IMG_5347

If you're interested in either yarn -- or both! --  just leave a comment by Thursday, August 29 at 5pm EST and let me know.  I'll draw names from a hat and notify the winner by email.  (Just FYI . . . the colors in the photographs are very true-to-life.)

==========

Have a great weekend!  Enjoy these last days of August.


So. Why Weight?

Last week, I introduced you to Claudia . . . who made a compelling case for adding weight training to your fitness activities -- and especially as we age.  I thought I'd piggyback on that post today, with a story and some facts about strength training.

IMG_5327

First, a story.

I've been a workout-freak for a very, very long time.  Cardio fitness activities have long been part of my repertoire - jumping, dancing, running, swimming, kicking.  And I did yoga and Pilates to build core strength, flexibility, and balance.  But I was completely uninterested in strength training or lifting weights.  Because . . . boring.  And I didn't want to get "big muscles." And it didn't actually feel like working out to me . . . because you don't really even sweat.  (And I like to sweat when I work out.)

So I ignored the whole strength thing.

And then . . . in December 2011 . . . my mom fell off a counter stool at my house and broke her ankle.  Badly.  She stayed with me at my house for her recovery, and I saw first hand what happens when you age . . . and didn't work on your strength training when you were younger!  My mom had to keep all weight off her injured foot -- which meant using a walker . . . and "hopping."  She couldn't do it!  She didn't have the upper body strength to use the walker to "hop."  (She couldn't hop either, but that's an issue for another day.)

It was a miserable time.  My mom was frustrated and depressed.  Her early physical therapy efforts were completely focused on building her arm muscles so she could use the walker.  It was hard work, and discouraging for her.  Especially because she was in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 70s!  She walked every day and went to the gym regularly, where she swam and took "Zumba Gold" classes.  

She did not, though, do any strength training.

Watching my mom struggle with her lack of strength had me re-assessing my own workout routine.  I decided I needed to work on my strength . . . now . . . before I became that "woman in her late 70s" who was in "pretty good shape."  (And that's when I contacted Claudia.  Because she was the only woman I knew at the time who WAS working on her strength in a serious way.)

Ever since my mom's broken ankle experience, my motivation has been . . . to NOT have that happen to me!

Now, why weight?  (A few facts about muscles and weight training.)

  • As we age, our muscles begin to melt away.  Muscles begin to deteriorate in our 30s.  When we hit 40, we lose an average of 8% of our muscle mass every decade -- and this continues to accelerate even faster after age 60.  Loss of muscle limits mobility, speeds the onset of some diseases, and is linked to premature death.
  • Loss of muscle also has an impact on your bones.  In fact, the factors that help us maintain muscle are the same factors that keep our bones strong and dense.  As we lose muscle with age, our bones become brittle -- leading to osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, frailty.
  • Most of us just accept that the loss of muscle and bone density just happens as part of aging.  BUT studies show that you can slow and delay these processes by years - even decades - with muscle strengthening programs that work your entire body.  In fact, studies show that adding 2 resistance-training sessions to your workout each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle loss and functional impairment.  (Here's a link to the study if you want to get technical.)

And the benefits?

  • Studies are showing that muscle mass is linked to longevity.  There's something called a "muscle index" (muscle mass divided by height squared), and this muscle index is turning out to be a more important predictor of premature mortality than obesity.
  • Resistance training (strength training) improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your blood flow.
  • Skeletal muscle helps regulate and dispose of blood sugar.
  • Muscle acts like a coat of armor against diabetes.  (Something to do with insulin and absorbing glucose, which is too complicated for me to go into here - because I don't understand it to begin with - but if you're interested, let me know and I can send you a link.)
  • Regular strength training - in combination with cardio exercise and eating a healthy diet - can help burn more fat than just cardio and a healthy diet alone.

So.  Strength training twice a week . . . can help you get stronger, live longer, feel better, and burn more fat.
What are you "weighting" for?

(Seriously.  I want to know.  What are your barriers to strength training?)

 


Monday Means

It's time to . . . 

IMG_5213

On Mondays, I like to share some of the things I've been thinking about over the weekend.

==========

A Quote

"A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the indiviuals and in the way they express their love."
--- Pearl S. Buck

IMG_5297

On Thursday, Tom and I will celebrate our 38th anniversary.  Last week, as we were dealing with a car salesman, the fact of our anniversary this week came up in conversation.  The young salesman asked us for our "secret" to so many years together.  (He recently celebrated his 3rd anniversary.)  Tom answered . . . make each other laugh.  And I think that about sums it up!  

I also think the Pearl S. Buck quote (above) is a good "secret" to a long marriage.

==========

To Read

IMG_4020 2

Last week, the New York Times Magazine devoted their entire issue to the 1619 Project.  This issue - which includes essays, timelines, poetry, and photography - commemorates the 400th anniversary of American slavery, retelling the story of America's origins by "placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center."

I started reading over the weekend, and highly, highly recommend it.  Here's the link.  It is very well-done -- and vital to understanding the role of slavery in America's history.  SO worth reading.  I hope you'll set aside some time this week to check it out.

==========

A Word

In doing some reading about the 1619 Project over the weekend, I came across a sentence that read (something like this; not a direct quote): The bondage of slaves brought to America, their enforced servitude, and their struggle for equality became the leitmotif of our national narrative.

I knew exactly what "leitmotif" meant in the context of the sentence, but hadn't heard/seen the word used since college.  I decided to look it up . . . 

IMG_5312

A perfect word, I'm thinking.

==========

To Cook

IMG_5314

Probably my favorite dinner of all time . . .  is a nice risotto with a basic salad.  But I've never really had success making risotto on my own.  Until last weekend, that is . . . when I made a batch of this most excellent Tomato Risotto from a David Tanis recipe.  So good!  And not a hassle to make at all.  I'm looking forward to playing around with the basic recipe so I can have risotto in my regular dinner rotation from now on!

==========

Oscar Watch

IMG_4930

Tom and I saw another movie on our "Oscar Watch List" over the weekend:  The Farewell.  

 
This is definitely a movie worth seeing.  It's subtle - a slow burn kind of movie.   Well-acted, funny, and very touching; really, it's just a delight.  Highly recommended by both Tom and I.
 
==========

And that's it for this morning.  I hope your Monday is off to a great start!

 


The Thing About Summer

As far as summers go, I've had a Really Great Summer.  Lots of fun.  Plenty of adventure.  Definitely a change from the Ordinary of Life.

IMG_5257

But.  Change is comng.

I was re-connecting with a friend earlier this week (both of us had been out of touch all summer) and I explained it this way:  It's like a went into a tunnel marked "Summer Fun" at the end of May . . . and I'm just now seeing the end of that tunnel.  

I let go of a lot of Ordinary Life things this summer.

(A lot.)

And now, with the end of that tunnel in clear view, it's time for me to Deal With That.

IMG_5260

There are some commitments I just sort of . . .  let slide . . . while I was in the tunnel.  And now I'm coaxing those elements back into existence.  And that ain't easy.

There are other things I . . . put aside . . . during the summer.  And I've missed them.  It's time to bring them back into my life.

And then there are the things I . . . let go of.  Temporarily, I thought.  But now that I've been in the tunnel, I don't think I need to pick them up again.

So.
There you have it.

Even though I don't have kids going back to school anymore, or need to get back to a teaching position, or any other seasonal or official "mark" for the end of the summer . . . I'm feeling the pull of Ordinary Life calling me back to routine and commitment and connections.

That's the thing about summer -- and especially a good summer.  It brings perspective.  A pause.  A bit of a re-set.

And I needed that.
(How about you?)


Sweet Days of Summer . . .

Click here for a soundtrack to accompany today's post.

I've always loved this song.  
(And not just because it features prominently in one of my most delicious junior high memories either.)

Summer breeze
Makes me feel fine . . . 

IMG_5141

Blowin' through the jasmine
in my mind . . .

IMG_5140

As you may remember, I started knitting this shawl (which is free, by the way) with Vicki's lovely yarn on my trip to Alaska.  I finished it up shortly after we returned home, but only recently did a "photo shoot" on the back deck of our cabin up north.  

It will always remind me of my vacation and those . . .  
sweet days of summer.

==========

(You can find the details on my Ravelry page.)


A Strong Advocate

Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 
(2) those of us who would like to.

I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  First, I shared my sister Diane’s story– about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Next, I shared Carolyn’s story – about mastering a self-directed fitness/video routine.  Then I shared Patty’s story – about developing a fitness/support community to stay active for the long haul.

Today, I’m happy to bring you another personal fitness story.  This time, I’m going to introduce you to Claudia. . . a true advocate for women’s fitness, and one of my personal fitness role models.  Claudia has been active since meeting her husband – and as you’ll read, has upped her game as she ages.  I used to focus my own workouts entirely on cardio activities – running, swimming, kickboxing, dance, spin classes, etc. – but Claudia helped me realize how important strength training is . . . and challenged me to get stronger!  I’m hoping her story will help you think about your own strength, and inspire you to make fitness a priority in your life.

Claudia at Mt Israel Summit

Claudia, a knitter and former blogger, is 54 years old and married with no kids.  She’s a self-employed lawyer who mostly works out of her home office – which gives her lots of flexibility in her daily schedule as to when she can work and when she can play.  She points out that her life experience probably won’t resonate with busy moms trying to juggle working for a boss and parenting, but she can certainly speak to women at her stage/age and older who objectively can find the time to work on themselves (if they choose to do so).

I asked Claudia why she “bothers” with fitness, and what she gets out of it.  Here’s what she told me:

“Let me start with a story.  I have been actively riding a tandem bicycle with my husband for close to 30 years. So I always thought of myself as 'in shape.'  But when my husband broke his ankle a little over 10 years ago and couldn’t do his usual chore of taking out the garbage, I got quite a shock.  I was too weak to lift up that barrel!  What?!?!  How did this happen?

It turns out, after age 30 people start losing muscle mass at about 3-5% per decade and muscle loss speeds up in your 60’s.  The only way to prevent this situation is strength training.  Bicycling, walking, gardening or doing daily activities that make us feel like we are 'active' won’t cut it.  Without strength training, we are destined to become weak.  That means me, and that means you too.  Unless you do something about it starting now. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience to mine, seeing my elderly mother struggle to use her weak arms to pull herself up in bed.  That is not going to be me if I can help it.

After realizing that I was way weaker than I thought, I bought a book to learn about weightlifting (it was the New Rules of Weightlifting for Women by Lou Schuler), joined my local Y and briefly got some instruction from a trainer.  I started lifting weights and, with a short break for back surgery and recovery, haven’t stopped for 11 years. 

Fitness, further defined as being strong, is important to me because I don’t want to be 'that old lady' who has to ask a big strong man to put her carry-on in the overhead bin. Besides busting patriarchal expectations that older women are weak (which is fun, I’ll admit) being strong makes my everyday life easier. 

Like many women, I spent much of my twenties and thirties thinking that my goal with fitness was to make myself smaller, so as to fit into cute clothes and meet societal expectations of beauty.  Now in middle age, my goal with fitness is to make myself bigger.  Not in the physical sense necessarily (although there is nothing wrong with females building big muscles) but in the sense of feeling powerful and strong.”

Dips

What does Claudia's workout routine look like?  Claudia goes to the gym twice during an average week.  She does a mixture of bodyweight exercises -- pull-ups, push-ups and the like -- and weight training using dumbbells, barbells, and machines.  In the winter, she goes to a spin class at the gym twice a week, with perhaps a ski or trail run or a hike in addition to that.  When the weather is nice, she rides the tandem bicycle outside on the road or in the woods (Yes!  Claudia says tandem mountain bikes are A Thing!) as many days/evenings as possible, given her and her husband’s work schedules.  This works for Claudia – because it’s a good mix of strength training and cardio/endorphin therapy (which helps her deal with job stress).

When I asked Claudia how she “fits fitness into her life” she gave me the absolute BEST answer . . .

Rather than making my fitness routine fit into my life, I make my life fit into my fitness routine.  Why?  Because I’ve realized that the most important thing to me in my life is waking up every morning and feeling well.  There is nothing, and I really mean nothing, more important to me than my health.  I can’t help my family, my clients or anyone else if I’m feeling unwell.  And there is no 'healthy' without being fit.”

IMG_20150804_103332

(I told you.)
(Advocate.)
(Role model.)

A lot of us struggle with “getting back” to fitness.  I know when I had a too-long bout with tendinitis in my ankle a few years ago I struggled with not being able to work out the way I really wanted to work out.  It was hard for me to even imagine ever feeling like I’d be able to move without pain again.  And I know there are many of you who have been away from fitness for so long that you’re having a hard time getting back to regular exercise.

Well.  Claudia has been there!  A few years ago, she had back surgery and was not able to exercise for about a year. Here’s her story:

“In June 2014 I had back surgery to repair a disc in my back that had gone wonky and resulted in nerve pain down my leg.  I was on the couch, unable to exercise in any way for about a year.  It was during this period of time that I came to understand how important a healthy, fully-functional body really is.   I resolved then that if I was ever so lucky as to be able to return to my fitness activities, that I would be grateful and never take my health for granted.  So far, I’ve kept this promise to myself.

When I recovered from the surgery, I returned to exercise very slowly.  Over time, I walked halfway down my street, then all the way, then around the block.  I tried a tiny bit of weight on one machine, then a tiny bit more, then another machine and every week, bit by bit, worked my way back.  I had setbacks when I over-did, which were mentally tough to handle. There was crying and bitching, but eventually I could manage the strength to dial it back and re-try.

I would say the most helpful thing I did to avoid going down the rabbit-hole of self-pity and the mindset of 'why bother' was to keep a journal.  Being able to see my progress over time, even if it was super slow, helped motivate me to continue.”

IMG_20160115_140558

I asked Claudia if she ever gets bored with her workouts.  Her reply?  “Sure I get bored.  Sure, some nights I’m super tired and don’t want to get off my butt and head to the gym. Or I’d rather spend my time doing something else.” 

So what does she do when she’s feeling . . . unmotivated?

  1. I work out with my husband. If I’m unmotivated, likely he isn’t having that problem and peer pressure pushes me out the door.  Vice versa, of course.  If you can recruit your partner or a friend to be a workout buddy, fitness gets a lot easier.
  2. I keep records of my strength workouts. I used to actually write down the exercises I did, the weight and the repetitions in a paper notebook.  Now I use the free app Fitnotes (for Android and Apple).  These records keep me accountable to myself for how often I show up at the gym.

Claudia also points out that “once you have gained some strength you don’t want to lose it.  Were I to stop going to the gym, I’d lose the ability to do the number of pullups and pushups that I’m proud to be able to do. So even if on a particular day I’m not feeling it, the knowledge that regaining strength is harder than keeping it up in the first instance, motivates me.”

I asked Claudia what advice she has for others who are trying to add more fitness to their lives.  I’m hoping her reply will help motivate you to take a hard look at what changes you can make in your own lives.

“Before the 'how' of specific exercises or strategies, comes the 'why' -- the will to do it. Let me try to speak to that.

Listen to your self-talk. 'Oh I would never have the patience for that.' 'I have to try that....one day.' 'I don’t have the time/money/energy.'  'God I hate exercise!!'  All these words really mean the same thing: you aren’t willing to prioritize your health.

Next, you might consider asking yourself why this is true.  Deep down, do you think that the consequences of not being fit will never actually come back to bite you?  Do you have so much to worry about today, that you can’t worry about what happens tomorrow?  Do you feel guilty about spending time on yourself?  Unpacking and dealing with the 'why' of not prioritizing health might be the most important step to make fitness a real and lasting part of your life.

The likely reality is that you find the time/energy/money to do lots of things that aren’t work or feeding yourself and your family or sleeping.  Consider taking some of that time you might spend knitting (!), watching your favorite TV show or a movie or reading a book, and use it to improve your health.”

==========

I hope that Claudia’s words will challenge you to think about your own fitness habits – whether you already work out regularly or not. 

Several years ago, when I started talking to Claudia about strength training, I had never really considered adding weight training to my regular workout routine.  I can tell you now . . . it has been an absolute game-changer for me!  I’m stronger now -- maybe stronger than I've ever been in my life.  And that feels really good.  After all, that’s my goal – to be strong all the way to the end of my life.

How about you?  Are you ready to make fitness a priority in your life?  Are you ready to be a “strong old lady” with Claudia (and me)?

==========

PS – I asked Claudia if she’d ever taken Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz, and how she falls on that “spectrum.”  So . . . she took the quiz, and ended up scoring as an Upholder.   Claudia went on to say, though, that she thought it was a “pretty superficial assessment tool,” commenting that although she’s very diligent about keeping her commitments, she’s “extremely stingy” about making them in the first place.  Claudia says she “cares about few things” but that she “cares deeply about that small number” – and that she isn’t sure that sort of behavior was accounted for in the quiz.  Based on that . . . I’m going to guess that Claudia is really a Questioner!  ;-)

 


Start Your Engines

I'm up north . . . where "starting my engine" still happens.  Just at a more relaxed pace!

IMG_5213

==========

A Quote

“I thought of myself as like the jazz musician — someone who practices and practices and practices in order to be able to invent and to make his art look effortless and graceful. I was always conscious of the constructed aspect of the writing process, and that art appears natural and elegant only as a result of constant practice and awareness of its formal structures. You must practice thrift in order to achieve that luxurious quality of wastefulness — that sense that you have enough to waste, that you are holding back — without actually wasting anything.”
--- Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction, in The Paris Review, 1993

==========

A Word (or two)

I heard both of these words in the news this week.  I think it's important that we understand the distinction.

IMG_5215

Vs.

IMG_5214

What do you think?  
Does an angry rant qualify as a manifesto?

==========

IMG_4020 2

It seems that there is such a push "out there" (in the world) to Read More and Read Faster.  As if . . . any of us could ever read ALL the books we want to read.  As if . . . reading more books would make us "happier" (yeah, I'm looking at you, Gretchen Rubin).  Last year, I made a decision to slow down my reading pace -- and to read more deeply and more thoughtfully.  For me, it's been all about the books themselves, not how many of them I can get through.  And that has made such a wonderful difference in my reading experience!  I'm enjoying reading at a more leisurely pace, I'm taking notes and saving quotes and favorite passages, I'm writing brief reviews, I'm thinking more critically about why I like certain books -- and why I don't.  

Anyway, if you're interested in reading more deeply, here are a few suggestions from David Mikics (who wrote the book on "slow reading"):

  1. Notice when you start to skip or skim sections.  Go back and try to read them again.
  2. Keep a dictionary nearby so you can look up unfamiliar words as you encounter them.
  3. Actively re-read passages that seem confusing.
  4. Use a highlighter or sticky-notes to mark passages that intrigue you, or when you are particularly taken with the author's language or turns of phrase.  Go back and review the passages after you've finished reading; maybe even "collect" them in your notes.
  5. Summarize or write a review when you're finished with your reading.

==========

A Challenge

IMG_5210

Summer is winding down.  
Get out there!  
Bask in it!

==========

Here's to a good week ahead for all of us!


Because Why Not?

We've been up north all week . . . 

IMG_5183

where I start every morning pretty much just like this.

I think we'll stay for ANOTHER week.
Because . . . why not?

(Summer will be gone before long, and I want to soak in every moment while it lasts.)

Happy weekend, everyone!

 


Three More Of Our Adventures in Alaska

We had so many great adventures in Alaska!  
Here are three more . . . 

IMG_4401

1 - We went kayaking!

Ketchikan was our first Alaskan port, and after spending the morning exploring Ketchikan (and eating the first of many fish-and-chips-for-lunch meals) (because fish-and-chips in Alaska is amazing), Tom and I spent the afternoon on a guided kayaking expedition around the Tatoosh Islands (just north of Ketchikan).

IMG_3997

The setting was absolutely lovely.  I wish I could share more photos of this most beautiful place and our adventure with you, but . . . I was busy paddling.

IMG_4379

Although the water looks pretty calm, it was . . . the sea.  There were waves (which did freak me out a bit) (because although I do a lot of kayaking on our lake, there are never any waves).  And it was a windy day.  So every now and then, we would come around an island and . . . whoa!  Waves!  But for the most part, it was pretty easy paddling.  We saw deer and lots of eagles on our paddle -- including one that landed on a tree very close to us.  

It was exhilarating to be out in the kayaks.  I'm so glad we spent our afternoon on the water.

2 - We saw bears!

Although we kept our eyes open for bear sightings throughout our trip, while we were in Sitka we visited Fortress of the Bear, a sanctuary for orphaned bears in Alaska.  And there?  We saw bears!

IMG_3186

This is just an awesome bear sanctuary.  Very well done and well maintained -- run by animal behaviorists who are passionate about their work.  It is just a beautiful spot for these bears - who would otherwise have been euthanized.

We watched 3 black bears . . . 

IMG_0946

(I know . . . there are only 2 in my photo.  But there were 3.)

And several groups of brown bears.

IMG_0343

It was such a treat to see the bears doing their regular bear activities:  foraging for food, climbing trees, frolicking, swimming.  We really enjoyed our time at this beautiful sanctuary.  (We never did see any bears in the wild during our trip.)

3 - We took a walk through the rainforest!

Before our trip, I didn't fully realize that we'd be in a rainforest the whole time.  I thought about mountains and glaciers and water . . . but I just didn't get the rainforest part.  In fact, for our entire trip, we were in the Tongass National Forest - part of the Pacific temperate rainforest ecoregion.

IMG_4508 3

The contrast between the forest and the water and the mountains is just stunning.  And I especially loved all the foliage and trees.

IMG_4713

I wish my computer had a scratch-and-sniff feature for you.  Since it doesn't, you'll just have to imagine the fresh, earthy smell of the forest for yourself.

IMG_5259

Alaska is just an amazing place -- and I'm so glad we went on this most excellent adventure!