In May, I will form a habit.

I’m not always fantastic at practicing what I teach.

For instance, a number of my classes have to do with modifying your own behavior (time management, giving feedback, verbal communication, how to not be a pain in the ass for everyone who reads your email, et cetera), so when I talk about what needs to change, I also talk about how to change that habit or, more to the point, how to make the change stick.

Failure to form this habit will result in the tape-and-body-hair punishment.
Failure to form this habit will result in the tape-and-body-hair punishment.

Changing a habit is always the hard part, after all, and it’s why people fail at things like ‘keeping the house clean’ or ‘saving money’ or my personal weak spot, ‘maintaining a healthy weight.’

Usually, this failure stems from one simple thing: none of those goals involve changing just one habit; they require changing a lot of habits and frankly people aren’t very good at changing a lot of habits at the same time. In order to make progress, you need to pick one habit out of the whole mess, and focus on that.

There are, in fact, steps.

1. Commitment. Commit yourself to a habit change, big time. Make your commitment as public as possible.
2. Practice. Changing your habits is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice. Commit yourself to a 30-day Challenge and try to do your new habit every single day for 30 days.
3. Tracking. It’s best if you log your progress every day. This will make your habit change much more likely to be successful.
4. Rewards. Reward yourself. Do so often, early on — every day for a week or so, then every three days, then the end of every week, and then at the end.
5. Focus. It’s hard to do more than one or two habits at a time — you can’t maintain focus.

This is basically what I tell people. I even coach them through it.

Sometimes, I make use of this for myself.
— I wanted to find the time to do at least a little creative writing every single day. This led me to the Adrift story, via twitter, which I’ve now written an entry on every day for the last three months. This simple fact makes me goofy-grin happy.
— I went a long while without blogging very regularly, and I wanted to change that, so I told myself I’d try to write a blog entry every single day in April. With the exception of this last Saturday, I succeeded, and I believe I can continue that habit. (I didn’t write every single blog entry for this blog, but I did always write one.)

Sometimes, I don’t do this for myself, when I should.

As I’ve already mentioned, one of my personal goblins is weight gain. I don’t gain weight fast by any means (I kind of wish it did, as the problem tends to creep up on me, unnoticed), but over the course of the last two years I’ve managed to put on roughly 1 pound a month. I’m nowhere NEAR as bad as I have ever been – my Medium shirts and some slacks have just gotten snug, but that’s it – but about two months ago I decided enough was enough.

So… it’s been two months. And I’ve put on two pounds.

*shakes head*

I’m failing at this because I’m trying to re-institute all the habits I had two years ago – tracking my intake and daily exercise and all that – all at once. It goes for a couple days, and then it falls off my radar for a week. Not for lack of trying, but just because there’s too much “Habit” there to handle all at once.

So, here and now, I am getting a Habit going: During the month of May, I’m going to get back to tracking my food intake. As I have said before, paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth is far and away the most important thing you can do for yourself, so I’m starting there.

1. Commitment. Well, this is about as Public as I can make this commitment. You can also expect me to add little addenda to my regular posts, mentioning my point totals for the day. (Or possibly tweets.) I use Weight Watchers (the online service – which I’ve been paying for and not really using for over a year). *shakes head*
2. Practice. As I said, every day in May. For June, I think I’ll … well… let’s keep that for June.
3. Tracking. This shouldn’t be a problem as “tracking myself” is actually the point of the whole project.
4. Rewards. I’m a little hazy on what I’m going to do for this, but I *think* what I am going to say is “no computer or TV after work until you log your points.”
5. Focus. I will worry about getting back to a regular exercise schedule until June, though I have some small hope that the points tracking will also remind me when I need to do a little something extra.

And that’s it. Is this an interesting post for you? I can’t say – in this case, it’s really all about me; taking that first step of commitment and aiming the giant whupping stick of PUBLIC FAILURE at my ass.

If nothing else, watching me slog through this process should carry a faint whiff of schadenfreude. Enjoy!

Old School Dinner Plans: Cast Iron Skillet Magic

skilletSo, a few years ago, a guy I know posted about some pretty wonderful sounding food you could put together in a few minutes with fearless use of a cast-iron skillet. Sounded great, except I didn’t have one.

Then I got one – I think as part of our wedding registry, which it was on because of all that stuff I’d read – and… it sat in a cupboard, because it had a whole series of instructions on how to ‘season the pan’ and how you couldn’t actually wash the thing with soap, and you had to RE-season it after every use and…

Well, it just sounded hard.

Yes, I’m THAT lazy. Turns out that seasoning a cast-iron skillet consists of wiping it down with some vegetable oil and putting it away. Big deal.

Anyway, I decided to cowboy up this weekend and get that skillet going. Here’s what I did.

Continue reading “Old School Dinner Plans: Cast Iron Skillet Magic”

The Un-fun Parts of a Blizzard

Me: You know what sucks? Shoveling snow sucks.

Brain: You know what’s going to suck a lot more than that?

Me: … not really.

Brain: That frozen waterfall on the side of your house.

Me: Wha…

Brain: Or rather, replacing the blown-out brass sprinkler valve that the frozen waterfall originates from.

Me: No, what sucks is you. You suck.

Brain: Me?

Me: Why didn’t you tell me to shut that valve off until almost midnight last night?

Brain: Why didn’t you listen to me two weeks ago, when I told you not to turn it on in the first place, because there’s always a blizzard near the end of March?

Me: … Touche.

Brain: It’s Touché.

Me: Whatever. Why the HELL do they put a valve like that on the outside of the house, anyway? That’s the second time it’s frozen and burst in seven years.

Brain: Because if they put it on the inside, it would flood the house when something like this happened.

Me: But something like this wouldn’t HAPPEN if they put it on the inside of the —

Brain: Shh. Don’t speak. You know what happens when you speak.

Me: But —

Brain: Shh. Look, someone updated on Twitter.

Me: Oooh…

White Chili

I had trouble finding the recipe this year so, for the sake of my own ease of reference here’s the white chili recipe I trot out when the weather gets colder.
Or at least when it should get colder.

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1.5 teasp. garlic powder
1 tbs. veg. oil
2 cans (15.5 oz) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
8 oz chopped green chilis
1 t. salt
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilis & seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, add sour cream and whipping cream. Serve immediately to about six or seven people.

Week in Review: The week of Moving (Movies, Running, Biking, Swimming, and… moving stuff.)

Wednesday last week Kate got into town late, due to flight issues, so that meant she and Kaylee and I finally got back to the house around 2 am. Yuck.
Thursday Kate spent some time at the gym and biking around the neighborhood. She was heard to comment: “street names like TimberRIDGE and NorthRIDGE, all located in HIGHLANDS Ranch seem to indicate hilly terrain. Who’da thunk?”
When I got home, we finished up a project Kate had started — cleaning out the hallway hutch to make a space for our wedding china and other pretties. It felt good to get that generally cluttered and poorly used area all straightened up.
We then went to Transformers. This is a great, fun summertime flick. If you saw and enjoyed Die Hard for its summer movie goodness, you will enjoy this movie — that’s my personal belief. Good stuff — lots of funny — we had a great time.
FridayI had work, and Kate went back to the gym and a longer bike ride. This time, she was lulled into a trap by the innocuous sounding “Venneford Ranch” street name, which is actually both steeper and longer than any of the streets with “Ridge” in the name.
That evening, Dave and Margie and Jim and Ginger and Katherine came over. We ate a lot of good food, talked about home improvement stuff, let Kaylee charm us, and then Dave and Margie and Kate and I played Primetime Adventures, and other three headed home.
Saturday, we dropped Kaylee off at Jackie’s and headed to the Aurora Reservoir for check in and orientation for the Triathlon. Met up with Kate’s longtime friend Yi Shun and her husband Jim, who came in from Chicago to do the tri, as well as visit friends and do some work meetings. The orientation, bike drop off, and lunch took up most of the day. We headed home, got some pizza for supper, and watched the fourth Harry Potter movie on DVD.

This was not the movie we watched.
My thoughts on HP #4, from a guy who hasn’t read the book yet:
#4 is not a movie adaptation of a book. It’s a audiovisual summary of the book… and not a great one; about like having a friend a stranger who read the book try to get you caught up before you go see Order of the Phoenix. I was left thinking “if all I had to go on was this movie, I would be wondering what on earth made someone think making a movie from these books was a good idea.” It’s not… BAD — it’s just… uninspired.
Sunday The Triathlon, about which more has been said elsewhere. Check out my Flickr page for more pictures.
I love Flickr, by the way. I’ve upgraded to the Pro Account for the extra functionality, more sets, unlimited uploads, and what amounts to a private domain just for hosting my pictures. The price is reasonable, the service is top-notch, and I can pick up prints from my local Target about an hour after making the order. Plus, it allows picture blogging from the phone, and a host of other goodies. I’m in the process of getting ALL my pictures up there.
In the afternoon, we moved Bert-the-Oven over to Jackie’s, and moved Unnamed Oven back to our place.
Yes, after getting up at five in the morning and doing a Triathlon, Kate then helped me move two ovens across town. She’s like a super hero or something.
That evening, Kate and I went to Harry Potter #5.
My thoughts on HP #5, from a guy who hasn’t read the book yet:
This is a great movie. It’s fun, it’s dark, the translation from book to film is inspired and well-done (notable: this is the only movie that hasn’t been translated to film by the same guy as #1, #2, #3, and #4, and it makes me sad and worried that Mr. 1 though 4 is coming back to translate #6), the acting is superb, the real villain of the piece (played by Imelda Staunton) is easily the most HATEABLE character in the HP stories, and quite possibly in any movie I’ve ever seen. Most villains (and the actors playing them) go for a kind of bad-boy cool — Staunton goes for the most pleasantly loathsome creature I’ve ever …
*shakes head* She steals the movie, then tortures it, while you watch, breathless. She’s THAT good at being THAT evil. GOD I hated her.
Anyway: good movie. Easily my favorite of the HP series to date. (Azkaban was good, but still managed to disappoint me in its delivery in some places. Ever nit I’ve ever picked about the HP series in general is handled with a kind of inspired grace in Order of the Phoenix.
To compare: OotP made me want to read the book because it was a fun movie and I want to reexperience the good stuff from the screen and get all the extra bits that they had to take out. Goblet of Fire made me want to read the book because I figure that the story can’t actually be that bad. (I’m assuming/hoping, there, that #4 isn’t bad for the same reason #2 was: that it was based on a bad story to begin with.)
Monday Countdown, a plugin for your iGoogle page, is very handy. What date could I want to count down to? Hmmm…
Did a bit of errand running in the afternoon, then picked up Kaylee (I have her all this week, due to some work stuff Jackie’s got going on) — we all sat around and watched Titan A.E., which both Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund wrote for — good fun stuff, and Kate hadn’t seen it. After the wee munchkin was off to bed, Kate and I watched Resident Evil, which she also hadn’t seen. Fun Zombie flick. No nearly as scary as the game, but good action movie zombie fun.
Tuesday Kate flew back to New York. Happy Doyce is all out of Happy. :P
That evening, Kaylee and I played and watched a bunch of Avatar, Book 2 episodes. That is one of my favorite animated shows ever, I think. Great stuff.
Wednesday Today! Umm… not much going on. How about you?