Month in Review: January

Keeping this intro brief because there is a lot to go over in this post, but I decided that my blog goal for the year is to do thorough monthly recaps for every month. I’m not much of a weekend/weekly recap person, but I do really like reading and writing monthly recaps. So, on to my first one of 2017!

Life Rundown

I started off January ready to put 2016 behind me and have a great new year. I was looking forward to the quiet that follows the whirlwind of the holidays as people get back in touch, life goes back to normal and routines can be developed. I set a handful of goals for this year that I can feel good about, and after half a year of listlessness, I was feeling ready to be productive and work toward something again.

Aaaaand then 3 days into the month I got sick. It wasn’t bad enough that I had to miss any work but it threw me out of whack for the rest of the week.

Sick lyfe, yo

The next week it was once again Routine Interrupted, but for a good reason this time: we went to Mexico! We spent a couple days on a luxurious Playa Mujeres all-inclusive resort where our good friends got married on the beach. We partied the night away at the wedding, ate amazing food, played all day at the pool bar, and I sipped strawberry daquiris and mudslides on the beach. It was both fun and very relaxing.

 

After an extra day off for MLK Day, I returned to work as usual, thankful that not too much had piled up while I was gone. That Friday afternoon we had our annual staff celebration party. We went for drinks, Mexican and mini-bowling and ended up spending many hours (and PBRs) together, just talking. This was the day of Trump’s inauguration, and I felt it was very significant that I spent the rest of the day celebrating my coworkers and the important work we do.


That weekend the Packers lost the NFC Championship game in morbid fashion, which should have been my first clue that the January honeymoon days were over. Last week totally sucked. I was stressed at work to the point of crying in the bathroom one day for no real reason. The shitshow of the Trump administration has been more stressful for me personally than I imagined it would be, and I felt like I just couldn’t get away from it for a second – it was on social media, it was on the radio, it was on TV. I was distracted at work and I spent my evenings going down the rabbit hole of comments sections (just reading, don’t worry!) instead of recharging and caring for myself. Instead of using the weekend to regroup, my brain just continued to melt. I was a mess.

So I’ve been spending this week that straddles January and February staying busy – a healthy busy – while also insulating myself a bit so I can focus on self-care. I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account for the week and removed the Instagram app from my phone, and I’ve been trying to avoid news. Kevin and I even went to a real live grocery store on Sunday and I’ve been prepping and making all of my food this week – and it’s all pretty nutritious, too! I’m plugging along at reading again and I’m doing a much better job at sticking to my workout schedule. I’m still a little stressed at work because I’m just slammed with things that need to get done this month, but I think I’m managing that stress a little bit better and I’m definitely being more productive.

Oh, and I made myself a nice minimalist office this month!

And of course, these two hammed it up all month. Must be nice getting cuddle up and sleep and have no responsibilities all day…

 

So, in conclusion – January surprised me. This normally quiet month was busy, loud, and all over the place. There were warm beaches and frigid snow; there was relaxation and celebration and there was bleak stress; there were great weeks and terrible weeks. January was nothing if not full of life. And life, it goes on!

Goals/Resolutions Progress Report

  • Grow in my minimalism practice: I created my minimal office!! Now…to make it last…
  • Read 36 books in 2017: So, this is a tricky one. In order to stay on track for this goal I’m trying to read 3 books per month. I was a reading machine in January, but I actually only read one full book: Ta’Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a poetic and thought-provoking memoir of Coates’ experience growing up black in Baltimore and NYC, told in the form of a letter to his son after the Michael Brown shooting. I spent the first week of the month finishing a book I had started in 2016, Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, historical nonfiction that combines the narratives of Daniel Burnham, architect of the 1893 World’s Fair and sociopathic (and disturbingly prolific) serial killer H.H. Holmes, who was killing dozens of people in his “murder castle” just outside the fairgrounds. Since I didn’t read this whole book in 2017 I can’t really count it toward my 2017 goal. I moved on from that book to Coates and then immediately started Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, historical fiction about the different ways in which two sisters deal with – and resist – Nazi occupation of France during WWII. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it by the end of the month, so I am going into February a little behind but hoping to catch up soon.
  • Cleaning up my diet: Literally no movement on this until the last 2 days of the month, because we are just terrible at food prepping and grocery shopping. That said, I always tried to make good choices and avoid fast food amidst all that eating out! Ha.

As for running and building my mileage base, results are mixed. All of my runs are going well and feeling good. However, there were many missed (and outright skipped) runs, including a long run, and I feel like I got absolutely nowhere in establishing a routine. Maybe this is premature since I still have 5 weeks to get mileage in, but I’m getting worried that I’m going to be very undertrained for the Canyonlands Half in mid-March. It’s easy to dwell on the negatives (the holiday pounds I put on are still stubbornly clinging to my core, my paces aren’t changing much), but I’m really trying to focus on the positives (the fact that running feels good and easy and I’ve been able to add on mileage with no issue). Almost every day I have to remind myself that slow and steady wins the race: this is a six month process – and I am only in month 2. I have plenty of time to build up my mileage and get my speed back.

Improvements for February

Summarizing this month has given me some ideas for how I can improve next month. First and foremost, I need to take advantage of my wide-open schedule and work hard to get myself into a routine. I need to be better at resisting my laziness and being a little more productive. I loathe the busy work of grocery shopping and meal prepping, but it feels so good to eat nutritious homemade meals every day. It’s so hard to get motivated to work out on these cold dark winter evenings, but I feel so great when I get a run in and I need to do the work now to build a foundation for later. Laura wrote a great post the other day about inertia, how doing the hard work of building momentum now will make it easier to keep going later. I’m going to try harder this month at fighting the winter doldrums and taking care of my body. The work won’t do itself.

On a lighter note, we renewed our YMCA membership, and I want to start going to the gym in February so I can cross-train more. I think it will help alleviate my occasional boredom with running and give me a preliminary idea of how well I do on a training regimen that includes a lot of cross-training.

As for the rest of my goals, the only thing I can really prescribe is to keep up the good work!

How was your month?

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11 thoughts on “Month in Review: January

  1. How do you like the book, the Nightingale? BTW, I would count the book you finished in January, because you didn’t get to count it in December either! (I know, you weren’t counting then, but still!).
    The national news is quite stressful. I have been struggling with the need to disconnect, but stay informed. Like you, I think cutting out the social media platform is a good way to regulate some of the excess noise, and then I try and read up to stay informed via news sources.
    I am terrible at grocery shopping/ meal planning. (Now picture that struggle with a family of 6-my mom now lives with us). Maybe February is a good time to once again, reset the meal planning goal for me!!!
    I think we all need to give ourselves grace about winter training–it is such a challenge! Happy base building!

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    1. I agree about the conflicting needs to disconnect and stay active/informed. I feel guilty about tuning out, but I also know that I’m of no use to anyone if I’m a total angry stress case all the time. I’m hoping that my self-care week will help me figure out how I can manage everything more productively. But I think I am onto something with the social media blackout. Like you said, it eliminates the noise. I’m enjoying my Facebook hiatus so much I’m thinking of making it permanent!

      The Nightingale is really good. It reminds me a lot of All the Light We Cannot See – another book I know you enjoyed. It’s a fast read and if you liked All the Light, I would definitely suggest Nightingale!

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  2. I’ve been running down my guest visits on my sister’s Y membership to go to Boot Camp with her. It’s a great cross training option – strength and cardio. I know from my trusty heart rate monitor that my HR is getting and staying high enough to be a good replacement for a run that day.

    We are actually really good about grocery shopping, but I wouldn’t say we meal prep. We’ve always been pretty good about cooking on the fly (my husband is super good at it) so we just keep our fridge stocked up with fresh veggies and always have some whole grain rice around. We do talk through what we’re going to eat for the week ahead of time. We both love to cook and I think that overall just makes it way easier.

    I’m ready to get out of the winter rut already.

    Also, I’m stealing your idea for a January recap, mmmmkay? 🙂

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    1. Hahaha, be my guest!

      I’m actually doing a bootcamp style class through the local rec department now. It’s a good workout and a nice break from running, and holy cow the toning we do – I thought I was decently strong, and I can barely get through the ab work!

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  3. Meal prep for me is a game of picking my battles. When I was not a student Sunday was always meal prep (breakfast and lunches) and grocery shopping. I still do both those things, but I am taking some short cuts because I don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen. This is what’s working for me: Instead of washing/cutting/portioning fresh fruit and veggies for the week, I’m grabbing the pre-cut apple slices from the store and the easy to portion veggies like baby carrots. A little more expensive, but if I want to eat them I need to make it easy for myself. And still much cheaper than going out for lunch. Breakfasts are a grab and go granola bar (lazy and 100% okay with it!). I still make a big batch of lunch entrees, but I try to keep it as simple as possible: pasta, jar of sauce, veggie protein. cook. portion. done. I usually get my veggies portioned while I wait for the water to boil. I can probably get it all done in about 20 minutes.

    Good luck getting it started. Now that it is a weekly habit, it really doesn’t feel like too much work.

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    1. TOTALLY agree. When we went to the grocery store on Sunday we bought a lot of pre-prepped produce. We’ll sometimes get pre-prepped stir fry veggie packages, and I always get the bagged greens for salads instead of making my own and frozen fruit for smoothies. Yes, I feel a little guilty at the laziness and extra waste that produces, but you’re right, I have to pick my battles: if going the lazy route is the difference between eating healthy and not, isn’t it worth it? At least for now. I tell myself that it’s a temporary solution to get myself used to home food prep, and once it’s a habit I can gradually work away from it.

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  4. That is one busy January. I think routine is the biggest hurdle. It impacts all aspect of our life. Routine for exercise. Routine for work. Routine for meal prep. If we setup a solid routine, everything else falls in place. But way easier said than done lol.

    Just posted about my January. It was pretty solid and I’m excited to work on the take aways for February.

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  5. I’m so torn on what to do social media-wise, and kind of news-wise in general, with all of the politics of late. I want to be informed and know what’s going on, and typically, social media has been my way to find out about current events. But these days, it feels like it’s more stress than its worth. I plan to subscribe to the NYT, WSJ, and Washington Post this weekend, and I’m hoping that having those subscriptions will allow me to stay informed–because I think staying informed is more important now than ever before–without getting caught up in the social media-ness of it all. Every new development coming out of the White House makes my stomach sink even more, but I’m hoping that if I limit myself to reading ACTUAL news articles instead of peoples’ tweetstorms and editorializing, it will 1) force me to form an opinion on my own, not just adopt whichever one was at the top of my Twitter stream and 2) keep me from spiraling into a panic every time I read someone’s hot take. Though I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, I do REALLY miss the days when I could go on there and just waste my time instead of being convinced we’re heading towards a complete national meltdown.

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    1. I hear ya. As I mentioned above, I feel guilt about shutting it out even for a short time, because I know I am so privileged to be able to isolate myself from the unpleasantness of the world. But I also know that if I’m a total angry stress case, I am of no help to anyone. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.

      Social media is difficult, because it is so reactionary. It is designed that way. We have “reaction” buttons that encourage us to respond to things with emotions instead of words. We have memes and easily-sharable content that caricaturize people and events and discourage us from thinking critically about things. And since we curate our own social media spaces, avoiding ideas/people we don’t like and surrounding ourselves with pleasantries, we’re all basically living in our own echo chambers. And yet, social media permeates all aspects of life these days, so it’s just not possible to withdraw and still maintain the same level of community engagement, even positive engagement. It’s a difficult balance, and I’m hoping that these precious few days without the noise will help me come up with some better answers on how to manage it.

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  6. I could not read that book on H.H. Holmes – his story terrifies me. Nightingale sounds very interesting, though – I love a good historical fiction book! Right now I’m reading the Endurance Diet, but next on my list is Silence by Shushako Endo about persecutions in 17th century Japan. I’ve read it before and it’s such a complicated novel, but complicated stories are sooooo good.
    We went out for Mexican food the night of the inauguration as well. It’s been stressful here as well and I struggle to separate my mind from it, even on the weekends. Last Saturday when we found out about the immigration ban, we spent an hour or so signing petitions, sending emails, and trying to get ahold of our representatives – not a relaxing Saturday, although obviously we were still far better off than many people that day. I’ve been tempted to delete my Facebook as well, except I use it for business reasons.

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