Saturday, January 29, 2011

Once a week check in--2011-01-29

So, I've taken a week off from writing.  My only post on my own FB wall during that time was a post telling people where I ate lunch in Philadelphia on Tuesday as a follow-up to a status I posted before my self-imposed decrease in FB use.  Then, this morning a simple check-in at the YMCA.  I also gave a comment here or there on other people's statuses, but I think that I spent less time in a week on FB than I sometimes did in a day.  So, I will work to continue this less active participation but certainly not let it drop to zero.  Sometimes I find out important things on FB--like a friend who dug up some pictures from my wedding!

Also, this week I have had limited opportunity to exercise. Part of that was because of needing to spend time shoveling snow.  Part of that was because of changes in the Y's schedule due to the snow.  Part of it was because for once I focused mostly on work.  I put in a lot of hours this week.

Why so many hours?  Well, one of the reasons I started my self-imposed decrease in FB and blogging was that I fell quite far behind on too many projects at work.  In general, my career has been successful.  At work, it wasn't that I was doing nothing.  It was just that the mix of activities was not right.  In some cases, it was actually the pretty much wrong mix.  There are many issues that faculty face.  Particularly at a university like the one at which I work, sometimes faculty joke that it feels like we are trying to do two or three jobs.  One--research.  Two--teaching.  Three--advising and committee work.  That is a lot to do.  I was not doing the best job I could at balancing those roles.

So, in the past week, I finally have moved a couple things that were on my to do list for much too long off that list.  It is just a start, but this has helped my personal well-being this week.  The satisfaction of getting things done and being able to face colleagues to whom I have owed stuff for so long.

Finally, today I ran my second straight 3 mile run with no pain.  I think I am ready to pick up the speed and distance again.  Yay!

Then, we went to the 4:30 mass at our church.  It was the welcome home mass for the class of confirmation candidates at our church this year.  The priest spoke about the importance of being "poor in spirit" since today's Gospel reading was the Beatitudes.

I have come to realize that being poor in spirit can mean a lot of things.  In particular, it means not being too full of myself and thinking that I am indispensable.  It is a form of arrogance.  I have tried to drop arrogance from my life, but obviously have not been 100% successful.  Today's homily was just a good reminder that I need to remember that no matter how successful I am, when all is said and done there is only so much over which I have control.  I have to remember to turn to others when I need help and to turn to God.  TUrning to God should come first.

Otherwise this week has been just as busy as any other.  Made banana bread twice.  Kids love that.  Had a nice visit with my parents for my six year old's last hockey game.  And had a great dinner tonight of homemade chili served over rice with homemade corn bread.

Never a dull moment.

Till next week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Well-Being and Focus

Sometimes well-being requires balance.  Other times it requires focus.  At the times when it requires focus on one thing, some of the other parts of what I usually think of as being incredibly important to my well-being have to be set aside for a while.  This is one of those times.  While I enjoy writing, the frequency of blog entries will have to decrease for a while during the time that I spend much more focused on work.

I do hope to get back to writing a little each day at some point.  Writing in here is an important part of my day-to-day balance.  it just just not a part of the focus I need at the moment.

A toast to everyone's well-being until I return to writing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quick thought for the day

Sometimes well being is finding the good side of things that don't seem so good.  My son was supposed to be on a "Goodwill" tour today with his boychoir.  That got cancelled, and he was disappointed.  However, as a result, he does go to school (albeit two hours late), and gets to stay to see the after school movie. So, there is a good side.

In this case finding the good side was easy.  Finding the good side is not always easy when times are tough, when things go wrong, or when life just doesn't turn out the way we expect it to.  Yet, if we can find that little thing to make the best of a situation that is less than perfect, we can lift our well-being higher.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Well-Being and a Spiral Staircase

Those who know me really well might think that this is a reference to the 1960's band that sand "I love you more today than yesterday".  While I have the first letter of each of those words engraved inside my wedding ring, I try to live by those words, and living by them can certainly enhance the well-being of my marriage which is such an important part of my life, that is not what I am thinking.

Instead, I think of well-being as a spiral staircase, because I keep coming back to the same issues--cardio exercise, physical exercise, mental health, spiritual well-being, diverse cognitive activities, friends, family, work, and others--and I just try to take the parts of well-being that have to do with each of these higher as I move forward each day.  So, the spiral staircase analogy is a good one--seing the same thing over and over again but rising and seeing it from a different perspective.

However, every once in a while it is also nice to get off the staircase.  In that case, I imagine my well-being as a spiral staircase in a round tower.  When I get off, I take in the same things, but I stop a while at a given level.  I explore things at that level before moving higher again.  I master things at that level and then I move on.

I find my friend's recent passing a signal to stop and just enjoy being where I am for a while rather than always trying to push higher.  As long as I am here on earth there will always be time to push higher, to go farther, and to go faster.  Sometimes it is nice just to take a breath, take it all in, and enjoy what I have.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cherishing Well-Being

Yesterday, I was abruptly reminded about why I should cherish well-being and try to maintain as positive an outlook on life as I possibly can as much of the time as I possibly can.  Yesterday, I received word that a colleague had collapsed and died suddenly and unexpectedly.  This is a colleague I had known for nearly 15 years.  I first met her when I interviewed for the job at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  She made a convincing case for why to be there.  That is interesting, because she spent years apologizing for convincing me to take the job, as I struggled to find just the right fit in my early career.  The thing is, that happens to a lot of faculty, and I never held it against her.  She cheered me on as I rose to full professor and finally understood that there never had been a  need to apologize.

She seemed at least somewhat happy at Johns Hopkins but eventually moved to Wake Forest where she seemed to have a slightly better fit but always looked for a little different setup than she had, and then went to Drexel.  At Drexel she flourished.  I emailed her.  I wrote editorials with her.  I discussed teaching with her.  We became friends outside the professional world as well.  I enjoyed hearing how her life was going and she read the blog I wrote last year saying that my life was a prayer and comparing me with Eric Liddell--a comparison I never thought I deserved.  Since moving to Philadelphia and joining the faculty at Drexel and blogging and struggling with the intellectual underpinnings of the field of economics, she seemed happy.

Nearly everyone who has commented on her passing on Facebook commented on how she was at the top of her game.  I could not agree more.  And that was in life in general as well as in her professional life.  I believe she cherished what she had dearly.  She had no way of knowing when she would pass.  This is an excellent reminder to me that when things are imperfect, I should focus on what I do have that contributes to my well-being rather than focusing on what I don't have.  That is, of course, easy to say when things are going well.  The test of character and the greater contribution to well-being comes when I am put to the test of cherishing well-being when things are not going so well.  I am sure such a day will come.  We will see how I do at that time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back to physical well-being

This morning I was able to do yoga including poses that require having my head down (it was not filling with mucous) and I was able to do my second day in a row of cardio workouts.  Things are looking up.

Now, I just have to remember to keep the physical well-being linked to the spiritual well-being and give thanks and praise to God for helping me to get healthy, for keeping my spirits up while I was not feeling so well, and for giving me the gift of getting right back to the same intensity.

Physical and spiritual well-being go together in my life.  It is not a matter of having one while sacrificing the other or focusing on the other.  It is all a matter of balance and harmony.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Short Road to Well-Being

Since writing about mapping versus wandering yesterday, I've had a pretty good day.  I'll make this a very short entry just summarizing what I've been up to and how each contributed to well-being:

Grocery shopping with my six year old: Good food and a good time with the child who was cooperative.

An hour or so of basketball with my 11 year old: This was great activity exercising with my child rather than just at the same time as my child.  Also, I breathed freely the whole hour and felt only the slightest tightness in my knee/hamstring as I ran up and down the court several times for layups.

Teaching kindergarteners (six boys and two girls)  in religious education: Great for renewing my own faith and great seeing the kids' eyes light up in discussion.

Taking my 6 year old to a birthday party: This was more good time with my son and it was interesting for him that not everyone lives in the same types of neighborhoods.

Mass: I could sing full volume in my normal range.  What a blessing.

Dinner making with two helpful children: just wonderful in general.

Early bed one more time: I think I finally have the cold beat.

Now for a busy week.  Hope everyone else's Sunday was as useful as mine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wandering or Mapping My Way to Wellness

Many times in life, if I start on a path and simply trust that I will eventually arrive somewhere, I will get there.  The path may be much longer than necessary and I may see some rather interesting things along the way.  That is one way of ending up someplace.

The other is to get a map.  Plot out a course.  Map every turn and follow the path exactly.  I'll get there.  I'll get there efficiently.  I may miss the opportunity to see some interesting things along the way.

And of course, there are paths in between.  I can map everything out but occasionally stop along the way or take a slight detour.

To achieve well being, just wandering may work.  It certainly feels like that is the course I have chosen in some cases.  However, I can speak from the experience I had last year in training for the marathon when I say that having at least a somewhat detailed map really helps.  It gives me a path to follow.  It gives me an idea of what I need to do and when I need to do it.  And then, if I choose not to follow that path, it is just that--a choice.  It seems better to have a plan and then have the freedom to choose not to follow it (and later to figure out how to get back on it) rather than to just wander.

As I am finally over the cold I have been dealing with and thinking about how to balance everything out for the remainder of 2011, I have a real sense of needing to put down on paper not just my 10 resolutions that I wrote January 1 and not just some daily thoughts in this blog, but a real plan of exercise, yoga, self-maintenance activities, and other activities that have to be fit in somewhere (even if just for short times) to maximize my well-being.  I may not follow the map 100%, but it is likely to help me get to where i want to more more efficiently than I'd manage otherwise.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Charity and Well-Being

Charity is an excellent way to improve everyone's well-being.

I talk often about my own fundraising for cancer as part of what I want to do.  It's part of what I feel compelled to do.  And since it goes along with my running, it is even part of what helps my own well-being in a very direct way.  Even my writing of The Radical Transformation of Runner 1313 involves fundraising--it is both part of the purpose of the writing and part of the story.

What is interesting is to see just how many opportunities there are to raise money for others well being through endurance events (or other physical stresses) these days.  There is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training.  This is the season of Polar Plunges (at least least in the mid-Atlantic) that tend to raise funds for Special Olympics.  I even heard a local public radio talk show host last night (Justin Jones Fosu on Listen Up! on WEAA) who is running the same races I am running and who is raising money for clean water in Africa.  Even saw something the other day about raising money related to  Crohn's.  

It is wonderful that so many people are raising so much money for so many things.  I hope both to raise a lot and to have some money to contribute at least a little to many other causes.  I hope that any who are not involved in this type of fundraising at present have the opportunity to participate in a group (endurance event or otherwise) to raise funds for the well-being of others or have the opportunity to donate to help those who are raising money.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking Time for Well-Being

Everything in life takes time--including well-being.  I find that I have to make a decision to invest in well-being if I want to be well.  This week has been a good example of that--for example, getting lots of extra sleep.  It has also been an example of choosing how to invest my time--to exercise or bake or catch up on household tasks?  To do yoga or not?  Which parts of yoga to do when my sinuses are full and any attempt to put my head upside down is somewhat painful.  How much time to spend working on The Radical Transformation of Runner 1313 (the book that will be published in February to raise money for cancer-related charities)?  How much time to spend on each project at work?  How much time to spend on teaching?  How much time to spend on the really big presentation I am giving on December 2?  All of these are part of the choices I make.  Whether to invest time?  How to invest time?  How does investing time in each affect my well-being?

These are the questions I ask myself each day as I decide how to use my time to enhance my well-being.  Sometimes I struggle with the answers.  Some days I feel like I know exactly the right answer all the time.  Usually I'm somewhere in between.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Well-Being and Tastykake

I was invited by a friend on Facebook to join a cause to Save Tastykake so that it does not go under.  As a kid, I totally loved Tastykake snacks.  Their Butterscotch Krimpets were wonderful.  Their cupcakes were also some of the best.   They made Kandy Kakes.  They were a fun snack.  They were local to where I grew up.  They were advertised on the baseball game programming that I watched and listened to as a kid.

But now, I am on the faculty at a school of public health.  I have done research on some of the negative effects of obesity.  I am a father who buys organic toaster treats (i.e., things like Pop-Tarts).  I am someone who bakes the majority of bread my family eats from scratch--often using organic ingredients.  I care intensely about nutrition and health and how it relates to what I and my family members eat.

Could I support a cause to Save Tastykake?

There are, as with most things in life, tradeoffs and they focus on different aspects of well-being.  I am generally for local businesses.  There are many people employed by Tastykake.  If a person has just one every once in a while, a person will not end up obese because of Tastykakes.  But, there is honestly little nutritional value.  Should the last fact matter if a person keeps them to a minimal fraction of total caloric intake?  As an economist, I also teach how people can make their own choices about things that affect their nutrition, their weight, their health, and their well-being.  What happens to the fun of eating and the fun of life in general?

In the end, I don't think that I can support a cause to save a company that produces something that I would not likely allow my own kids to eat.  I do hope, however, that a company that employs a large number of individuas and provides a snack that helps to make life fun--as long as it is used in moderation--is able to continue in operation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seeing "Hood to Coast"

Last night Sherry and I risked our well being (only a little as there really wasn't that much snow and Volvos are made for snowy driving) to go see the premiere of a documentary called "Hood to Coast" about an annual relay race in Oregon that involves 1000 teams and 12000 runners going 197 miles from 6000 ft up Mount Hood to the beach at the Pacific Ocean.  It is similar to the many Ragnar relays that now exist around the country.

The movie was an awesome display of human spirit and the wonderful camaraderie and unique calling of long distance running.  The unique calling was reflected in the story of R Bowe who died of a heart attack at age 30 and his family and running mates from Washington and Lee College's cross country team.  Every one of them had a reason to run.  Some more than others--but every one felt called.

it was similar for the group Heart N Sole.  This was a group of older women--including one who had had a heart attack on the Hood to Coast course the year before the movie was filmed!  Yet, she felt continued to be called to run and was running the relay again.  She has since run a full marathon again.

The move also showed the camaraderie.  Of course, even in a general 5K to marathon distance there is camaraderie, but it it understandably different when you spend the better part of two days running 197 miles with a group of 12--particularly the five who are in the same van the whole time.

While I would not refer to the other two teams stories' as so inspiring, the team that made it despite very little formal training was interesting, and the Dead Jocks in a Box was an interesting group showing how athletes age (or do not age so) well.

The movie "event" included interviews afterwards with some people from the movie, some who were involved with producing the movie, and some running greats from the past who had taken part in the race at some point.  Alberto Salazar--part of the team that still holds the record for the course with an average pace of under 5 minutes per mile.  While my wife thinks all runners who would run the race are nuts, I find the pace that Salazar's team kept to be impressive but insane.  Mary Decker Slaney--who I mainly remember for the incident with Zola Budd in 1984 was also interviewed.  Bart Yasso was also there.

A very inspiring film.  Enough to make me want to keep running even more than I already did as part of my long-term well-being plan.

And the race is also a huge fundraiser for the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation program.  Please consider donating to that later in the year when I am raising funds leading up to the Baltimore Marathon again or to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center for which I am raising money from now until the Maryland Half Marathon in mid-May.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How Not Well Was I Yesterday

I wrote yesterday's blog entry before realizing just how not well I was.  As I sat and wrote it staying upright was making me feel more and more nauseous.  I don't get migraines often, but yesterday what I had either was one or was at least very close to one.  I ended up sleeping through from 5 AM almost until 11 AM with just enough time to get up and take some medication.  I was feeling better when I finally woke up after 11 AM.  And while I was functional last night, I was in bed before 9:30 PM.  Not the most productive day for the part of my well-being that worries about getting things done.  However, it was a nice day for letting my body recuperate from whatever has been plaguing it.  This morning, I'm still not 100% over the cold I've had, but I am feeling better.

I am also thinking about others' well being more and more.  This year, as I mentioned on Facebook this morning, one wish I have is to make a bigger difference in the lives of more people this year than I did last year.  This is not a wish just to draw attention to myself.  Rather it is a wish to improve the lives of others.  One of the new things I am doing this year is running the Maryland Half Marathon.  It benefits the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland.  People who would like to help me to make a bigger difference in the lives of others can help in two ways.  First, you could make a direct donation by going to  Also, I am self-publishing a book about a first time marathon runner.    The book will be available in early February.  Will it be a best-seller?  Hardly.  It is a nice opportunity for me to tell a story that I think others will find interesting and from which all royalties this year will go to charity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Well-Being When Not Feeling So Well

What should I say about well-being on a day when I'm going to skip the gym and maybe stay home from work because I feel so run-down?  It's a good day to switch to spiritual well-being.

For this academic year, I have been a regular helped in the religious education program at my church rather than being a teacher assigned to an any one grade.  Yesterday was the first time that I was actually called on to take on a class.  I had expected to help the program director stuff envelopes for the family life unit.  Instead, as I arrived to deliver my own kids just at the start of class time, I was asked, "Do you want to teach second grade today?"  After a quick "Sure!" the class began.

What did I have to work with?  The kids' text book.  Some fairly well behaved kids.  And some paper and crayons.   Did I manage to pull it off?  Yes.  It was a class about making choices, how our conscience and the Holy Spirit can guide us in our choices, and the difference between a sin and a mistake or accident.  Having taught the fourth grade class using the same text book series for about seven years, I had taught similar lessons before.  The kids were willing to share and we talked about everything from how they get in trouble on the playground, to whether they would forgive a friend who got them in trouble, to how many commandments there were.  I even joked with one child who told me that he had a book on the Ten Commandments when I asked if all ten were included in the book.  And, we used the crayons and paper to make a card or picture about something for which we were sorry.  We had everything from sibling squabbles to spilling soda someplace a kid wasn't supposed to have soda at all.  While I think that one reason I feel worse today than yesterday rather than better was the effort it took me to go with this class for 1 hour and 15 minutes, I felt spiritually charged about sharing my faith with these kids at the end of class yesterday.

So, while I continue to drag with a cold, I am satisfied with other parts of my well-being.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Well-Being Wrap Up

It is before five in the morning on a Sunday and I am referring to this as a weekend wrap-up.  There is a reason for this.  With some extra sleep both Friday and Saturday night (generally achieved by going to bed early rather than waking up late), I have to catch up on a good bit today, so I don't see Sunday as much of a break.  Maybe it won't be work for my job at JHU for 100% of the day, but it is not a break.

Yesterday, I had a good, although brief, workout at the Y with my 11 year old.  He likes to do his weight training workouts when one particular person is in the weight/equipment room.  I wasn't planning for a weight workout yesterday, so I did a quick speed workout on the treadmill.  Better two mile pace than before the 2010 Baltimore Marathon by 25 seconds.  Things are going well there.

On the family/social side of well-being, I spent a lot of time with my 6 year old yesterday.  I took him to his hockey game and his 11 year old brother was nice enough to come and watch.  I spoke with a fellow marathon/half-marathon runner while at the hockey game (his son also plays).  We spoke with one of my son's teammates who had been inappropriately checked during the game yesterday and was offering my son advice on where to skate near the puck.  That was all good.  Then, I took him to the library with my 14 year old son and we checked out a couple of children's books--as well as a couple of yoga books.  Finally, his birthday party.  It was a party at a duckpin bowling alley.  Most of his classmates and one friend from across the street were very well behaved.  I spent a lot of time refereeing whose turn it was in one of the lanes.  I have to thank other parents who stayed and helped to manage the kids.  I don't think that Sherry and I could have pulled this one off all by ourselves with so many kids in such an open space and with four lanes to manage on whose turn it was.  I found the need to repeatedly referee on whose turn it was somewhat challenging.  However, I have to say that the child I had to remind most often was actually a very polite child as he asked to be excused from the table at which everyone ate pizza and the birthday cupcakes.  So, the refereeing is all just part of a party with kids that age and overall it was a great party.  It was a wonderful family day.

I did eat too much for dinner last night.  At least some of that I hope to take care of with a combined weight and 30 minute cardio workout this morning.  Then, it will be on to volunteering for the religious education program, grocery shopping, making dinner, attending the evening mass, folding laundry, and somewhere in there getting some "work" done.

While my personal well-being is pretty good, I have more reasons than in a while for concern about the greater well-being with the amount of violence in the news this weekend.  With all the family activity yesterday, I didn't hear much news.  I logged on to a local TV station's website this morning, and in addition to the shooting of the Congresswoman in Arizona, here were the top headlines: "Troopers shoot sword-wielding man//Calf. woman arrested for Md. boys' rape//Boyfriend booked in missing dancer case//Suspect rams police car, officer shoots".  Not exactly a happy news day and a lot of news that challenges the well-being of my city, my state, and my country.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Well-Being Rather than Health

Some might wonder why I am emphasizing well-being rather than health in both the name of the blog and in my approach to my entries each day.  To answer that question, I think it first helps to remember what my educational training was in--health economics.  Health is a concept with more than one dimension--we can talk about physical and mental health.  Within physical health, we can talk about different organ systems.  Health is also a very linear concept--you always aim for greater health.

For well-being, of course, we would all prefer more well-being.  But there are some people who would objective have low health on some dimension,  but who seem to lead rather fulfilling lives and whose overall well-being, at least as manifested in the way they live their lives, does not seem terribly compromises.

So, I think of well-being as being even more multi-dimensional than health and (picking up on the second part of my training--the economics) that it can involve tradeoffs.  Should I sleep more and get less done, but fel more physically healthy in the morning?  Usually, if I have to ask myself that question the answer is yes.  Does it mean that some aspect of my family health may suffer on the evening I go to bed early?  Sure.  Does it mean that some aspect of my career health my suffer?  Possibly something won't get done.  But when all is said and done, on the next day, I'll be able to take on more and rebalance myself.

Yesterday was a great example of tradeoffs even within physical health.  I did a lower intensity workout than usual because I did not have the energy for a full intensity workout at 5:30 AM, but at least I did some sort of workout.  And it helped me to feel better for the rest of the day.  Many times, I will do something that benefits one aspect of my well-being while others are put on hold.  This sense of making tradeoffs (which economists spend their careers studying) is part of what the discussion about the right pace focuses on and part of what makes focusing on well-being so interesting--it is a balancing act that involves recalibration on an almost daily basis for me.  Others, who may be more single minded about what enhances their well-being, may find that focusing on one thing all the time maximizes their well-being.  But my story of well-being involves many tradeoffs.

By the way, anyone who reads this regularly should feel free to "follow" my blog through the website or make comments.  I'm sure that we could have a very interesting discussion about different visions of well-being and how he choices I make about how to live my life and what to write about are or are not relevant to others.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Right Pace

Several people have commented on my postings on FB that they are amazed by all that I get done.  What they don't necessarily realize is that I am amazed by all that I do not get done.  Yes, I do a lot, but there is always more and a lot is often undone.  For example, last night I ran into a fellow faculty member from the same school of public health at the music shop where my oldest takes piano lessons, and we were discussing how becoming more senior at our university usually just leads to being busy and not to having more control over one's schedule and expectations.  The other faculty member commented on feeling more and more behind.

So, all the things I've written about since January 1 can help me to feel a better sense of overall well-being, but have not necessarily fixed any of the things on which I am behind.

In the meantime, I've started making more circumspect comments on people's responses to my posts or on people's own posts about how we all have to take things at our own pace.

Right now, my pace is pretty high.  I sometimes wish I could slow down and just sit and watch TV for an entire afternoon or do nothing for a while.  When all is said and done, I am never sure that I'd feel any better if I did nothing.  I'd probably feel an emptiness in that case.

Perhaps there is something in between that is the right pace and the right amount of stuff to do.  I hope to find for myself something that feels closer to the right pace and a pace that maximizes my long-term well-being rather than just a pace that I accept and that helps to keep me away from a minimum long-term well-being.  Just avoiding the worst does not mean that I have the best--or even close to it.  Perhaps looking for control over my own pace in the current world and with current obligations that I cannot just undo is not something that realistically will ever happen.  However, part of any plan for long-term well-being should include a focus on finding the right pace.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Plan for Well-Being

I made a list of my top 10 resolutions for this year on January 1.  The number 10 resolution was:

Have a plan for well-being rather than just a plan for career success and a plan for running in the future.  This will include yoga, sleep, my spiritual self, and other aspects of self-maintenance.

I have already been working hard on realizing a plan even if I do not have a plan written out.  One part of that plan has been starting each day with some yoga--based on what I learned while on vacation and with an eye toward expanding as I move ahead throughout the year.

A second part has been to pay attention to my quantity of sleep--so far too little, but at least I am paying attention and working to figure out how to make the quantity of sleep larger again.

The spiritual comes in part from doing yoga.  While yoga may not be associated with Christian prayer, one result of having quiet, focused time is that it gives me time to concentrate on my relationship with God.

A fourth part has been getting back to baking.  Last night, for the first time, I made pebble topped oatmeal bread.  It was the first time I have made this recipe and it was wonderful.

A fifth part is career--still too long of a to do list for work, but focusing on getting things done.

For other self-maintenance, one example is the decision to use a neti-pot.  This is a device that helps to clean the sinuses.  My wife has used one (and tried to convince me to use one) for years.  Other friends last year tried to convince me to use one.  I am finally making this a part of my ongoing self-maintenance and approach to overall wellness.

All aspects of wellness working together leads to great contentment.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yeast and Yoga

As part of this morning's well being, I am making what I believe is my first loaf of yeast bread for the year, although I had used yeast in the pizza dough yesterday.  This morning, I got the bread started before doing yoga, so yoga was the second thing rather than the first.

In any case, I was thinking about the relationship between yeast bread and yoga as I kneaded the dough.  I have always found kneading therapeutic as I get lost in the time that I focus on repeating the same thing over and over again.  And yet, that getting lost was simply from repetition.  That is not why I was thinking of a relationship between yeast and yoga this morning.

The yoga that I was exposed to at the end of last year (thanks to Isabella Jones at was about stretching, breathing, and relaxing in the oneness of mind and body.  My first FB post of the new year was even that I had begun my year with breathing and stretching.

It is the breathing, stretching, oneness, and quiet time that leads me to draw a parallel between yeast bread and yoga. The process of kneading is like breathing and stretching for the dough.  The stretching happens each time the dough is pushed away in the kneading process.  The breathing is when air is incorporated into the dough when the dough is pulled back toward the baker.  The breathing and stretching are not particularly quiet, but there is a quiet time when the breathing and stretching are done.  During that quiet time, the dough rises.  Leaving aside the science of rising yeast, it is like the growth of a spirit in the dough.  The quiet time in yoga is also a time to focus on my spiritual needs and to allow for spiritual growth and a deepening of my faith.

Where does the "oneness" enter the picture.  As the dough goes from being a mixture of separate ingredients into a beautiful whole that moves together and grows together as the dough becomes the bread for the day.

(As a P.S. for anyone who ever wants to know why I make my bread by hand, I just can't imagine getting such insights on life from putting ingredients in a bread machine to be mixed there.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Four Hours and Well-Being

After getting just four hours of sleep last night, I ask myself whether that is consistent with maximizing my well-being.  The simple answer, of course, is no.  Despite being the son of someone who typically falls asleep early and then gets up, works a while, and goes back to sleep, and the grandson of someone who was in a ham radio rooster club, four hours sleep is still not really enough for me.

However, and this is an important however, the lack of sleep was due to things that I love.  I had a chance to read a long story to my six year old son last night to put him to bed.  I did not fall asleep at that time but took a rest before I started working again.  I did some dishes, and then worked for nearly three hours.  Then helped my cat and dog before going to sleep just past midnight.

Up again just after four this morning, after several snoozes--yes, I was trying to get up even earlier.  A little catching up on news, a little yoga, a little prayer, and now I'm blogging.  After this I'll finish dishes, make some pizza dough, and head to the Y for a quick strength workout.  I have every intention of being at work by 8:30 and having a great and productive day.

I'll probably be up late again working and hope to close my day with a little more breathing and stretching and a little more prayer.  Prayer and relaxation before bed are a powerful combination.

Finally, at some point, I hope to begin editing my personal writing that I produced between Christmas and the New Year.

I am enjoying the excitement of just living that I am not convinced that four hours was all that bad for me last night.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year/New Approach to Well-Being

This morning, I baked an Irish soda bread, did a little yoga, did a little work, ran a 3.4 mile workout in a half hour on the treadmill at the local Y, stretched both before and after running, combed my 6 year old's hair after his quick morning shower, delivered my 14 year old to high school, and arrived at the office before 8:30.  Later today, I'll record two start of course lectures for things that I am teaching online from late January to mid-March, sit through two committee meetings that I actually enjoy most months, and meet with two people who might be collaborators in the future.  This evening, I'll finish assigning grades for things I taught last term.

Does this define my well-being?  In many ways the answer to that question is yet.  When all is said and done, all I really need is psychological (from family and career), physical (from exercise), and spiritual (from a variety of things) fitness.  The fact that I can achieve these while doing more or less exactly what I want is a real gift that I know I have been given.

I listened to our priest's homily last night at mass in which he pointed out how excited people get about all sorts of things outside of church and just seem to take church as a necessary chore.  However, there are plenty of reasons for spiritual excitement both inside and outside of the church.  He even noted at the closing that if no priest was found to say next week's mass while he is away, "you know what to do."

A resolution I did not write down but that I have for this year is to find the spiritual excitement to guide me as much as the physical euphoria of a well-done workout. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Physical and Spiritual Well Being

After writing about physical and spiritual running last year, I am going to write about physical and spiritual well-being this year.  This goes along with my news year's resolutions that include not only running but also having a plan for overall well-being including adding yoga to my routine, spiritual well-being, physical well-being, and sleep.  I hope that everyone enjoys 2011 and that we all have a lot to share about not only what we are doing in 2011 but also how we are doing.