10 Ways to 10,000 Steps

The tricky thing about my 10,000 steps/day effort is the 10,000 steps.  It’s especially hard when I’d rather read a book or catch up on a television show or visit with friends than get more activity.  But physical exercise is important  I’ve come up with a list of things I can do to sneak in extra steps with little effort.

  1. Take the stairs.
  2. Park the car in the most remote section of the parking lot.
  3. Park the car on the street a block or two away from the destination.
  4. Avoid the drive thru teller at the bank. (Avoid drive thru fast food.)
  5. March/jog in place while watching television and take a break at commercials.
  6. Take a walk outside/or around the house when on an extended social phone call.
  7. Encourage friends to join in a brief walk after a dinner out, coffee, or lunch.
  8. Take frequent breaks from sitting to stretch legs and do small housekeeping tasks.
  9. Have an enjoyable and accessible walking route that makes up a large part of daily steps goal for days when extra steps don’t come easily.  (A 50-60 min walk in my rural/country neighborhood is about 6600 steps.)
  10. Multitask with e-reader/tablet while walking on treadmill.
  11. BONUS: Use a standing desk, counter, or other tall furniture for laptop and walk in place while surfing the net.

Introducing #7

In no particular order, I will be introducing and elaborating on each of my 30/30 goals over the next few weeks.  First up, #7.

Walk 3, 650,000 steps (or 10,000/day or 70,000/week)


I’ve never been a particularly active person.  Sports has never been a significant part of my life.  Reading has always been an important part of my academic, professional, and inner life.  I enjoy a  BBC mystery series marathon.  I like food.  I am in introvert happy alone at home for hours.   On top of this, my graduate student lifestyle, especially after finishing my coursework to do my comprehensive exams and dissertation research, has included 8-12 hours+ in front of a computer or with a book. This is, potentially, a deadly combination. (Check this out, and this too.)

This year I decided that on top of any other physical activity I engaged in, I wanted to make the move from sedentary (about  1,000-3,000 steps/day) to consistently active.  For me, walking is the most logical and the easiest way to improve my activity level.  I have always  enjoyed walking and it is more sustainable than running due to my flat footed-ness and, frankly, hatred of running.  There is a lot of information on the benefits of walking for fitness; a quick Google search will lead you to a lot of interesting resources.

To facilitate this goal I’ve recently bought a pedometer.  Pedometers are tricky little things and its important that the one you use is accurate.  So far, mine seems accurate, but after buying it I’ve read some negative (but old) reviews that are not very favorable.  Do you research.

I’m keeping track so you can follow along.  In the right sidebar you will see my progress notes, which I’ll every few days.  I’ve decided to “bank” my extra steps for  days I cannot get 10, 000 steps–a half day in an airplane, a long distance car ride, a day of meetings, etc.  When I come up short, I’ll debit the bank.  When I go over, I’ll deposit.

My goal is increased physical activity–to incentivize walking across the parking lot, taking the stars, or making an extra trip to the car.  Seeing 10,000 blinking on the pedometer screen at the end of the day is exhilarating!

Now get out that chair and take a walk!

30 Before 30 Starts Now

You know its your birthday when your Facebook timeline blows up like the 4th of July.

Today is my 29th birthday and, as planned, the start of my 30 Before 30 project, or 30/30 as I like to think of it.  The morning I was perusing other 30/30 lists and blogs and happened upon this one where I found a TED Talk that spoke to my reasons for doing this list.

I think the specifics of whether I love my career, am ready for children, or have found “the love of my life” matter a lot less than whether I’ve set myself up to have these things if/when it’s time.  I don’t want to miss out on good stuff because I was procrastinating through life.

So here is my list.

  1. Define my abdominal muscles (also on Graceful Life List)
  2. Be able to do 100 push ups (also on Graceful Life List)
  3. Use my passport to enter another country
  4. Explore an unfamiliar city by myself
  5. Apply to MPH graduate programs
  6. Have a new job or be accepted to a graduate program by August 2014
  7. Walk 3, 650,000 steps (or 10,000/day or 70,000/week)
  8. Go on a date (this would improve my record by 100% considering that in the last decade I have done nothing that would qualify as a proper date)
  9. Refine my wardrobe (this is less about buying clothing and more about paring down and refining what I have, only purchasing what I must to fill in gaps).  Also, make sure everything I have fits, is mended/altered as needed, and flattering.
  10. Develop a long-term financial/investment plan
  11. Organize my print and digital photos and print out and frame important photos (also my diplomas)
  12. Complete a wearable sewing project
  13. Have a conversation in Spanish
  14. Read the Bible in a year
  15. Read one non-required non-fiction book, e.g. travel, history, or science per month (12 books total)
  16. Do a complete cleanse and purge of all of my belongings with stewardship in mind and in the spirit of William Morris—“Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
  17. Weekly observance of a 12-24 hour technological Sabbath, refraining from personal tech devices except when required to complete a necessary task (like making a phone call) that cannot be performed another way.
  18. Complete a 40 day refined sugar fast and then continue to minimize the amount of sugar I consume
  19. Do something spontaneous that might typically scare me, but is exciting, fun, and forces me to loosen up—like sky diving
  20. Decorate my bedroom/personal space (completely and cohesively, not half-assed or altogether dismissive that this is a place to sleep and to sometimes do work) and keep it “casual company clean”
  21. Write and mail a handwritten letter every week.
  22. Submit a manuscript for publication
  23. Eat with intention
  24. Make a list of personal and professional goals for my 30s
  25. Go on a vacation by myself
  26. Commit to a philanthropic cause
  27. Perform 30 random acts of kindness
  28. Find a mentor
  29. Wild card new experience (suggestions?)
  30. Follow through on this list and the 30 Before 30 Project.

You will recognize a couple of items from my Graceful Life List, for there is no time like the present.  You will also see a combination of long and short-term items, habits that will be carried though the year and one-off experiences.  Some things I’ll start right away, others in a few months.  Items vary in focus and seriousness and triviality, but they are all doable.

In time I’ll elaborate on each, but for now I invite you to join me in your version of 30/30–maybe 35 Before 35, 30 in 30 days, or 20 Before 40, or 25 Before 25 to Life.  What do you say?

Anticipating the Future…

I have entered a season of transitions. My doctoral program is finished. My dissertation is submitted, signed, and approved. In a few weeks I will be leaving Iowa City, leaving Iowa, leaving the Midwest. In a month and a half I will be celebrating my 29th birthday and I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.

I am a dreamer by nature. I can play the “what if?” game for hours. What if I had a million dollars? What if I stuck to an exercise plan? What if I hadn’t chickened out? What if I’d said yes? I can work through a dozen sides of an imaginary conversation, walk you through my imaginary dream house, and describe someone I’ve never met. I have bigger dreams about how I want to live the rest of my life and the person I want to be.

It’s hard to hold onto these dreams when the future seems so uncertain. I have a short term plan, but I have no idea what I will be doing or where I will be in 10-12 months. This scares me.

Turning 29 also scares me in a way. I few regrets, but I can feel myself moving into a new phase of life and I am realizing my 20s were nothing like I imagined they would be. I was so naive. First, I thought I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t. Second, I lacked the bravery to ask/take what I wanted. Third, I had unrealistic expectations.

I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I’d be teaching high school English and history. Later, I thought I’d be teaching college. Now that I have the education to teach at the college level, I know that this is not I will be doing in the longterm.

I’ve been scared most of my life. Too scared to speak up when my happiness and well-being really mattered. Too scared to risk rejection. My fears resulted in missed opportunities.

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I thought I’d finish school, find a job, get married, have kids. Knowing my parents were married at 25 & 29 and had their first child at 27 & 31, I really really thought I would do about same. I thought I’d have a big family. Now I realize that I will not have the life I imagined or the life my parents lived and that’s okay.

In this upcoming year before my 30th birthday, I’m going to take sometime to re-prioritize my life and enter into my 30s with grace and aplomb. I cannot force a life plan, but I can be thoughtful, graceful, confident, and open to growth.

You may be familiar with Glamour’s30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She’s 30″ or Caroline Rothstein’s recent spin/rebuttal. Google “30 Before 30” and you’ll find several blogs devoted to quarter-life bucket lists like this one. Neither Glamour nor Rothstein’s list resonate with me. The blogs are are very personalized, but you really get a sense of the bloggers by the goals they make.

I will be starting my own 30 Before 30 project beginning August 2013 to August 2014. It may start on the first or on my birthday—I haven’t decided which. My list will include things that I think I should do take make the most of my 29th year of life, personal development, and possibly some Graceful Life experiences. My overall goal will be to make this transition period productive. I honestly don’t know what the outcome will be—I will probably have many of the same questions I have now about my future. The ultimate test will be completed experiences and personal growth.

Join me in my season of transitions.

A Writer’s March Revisited

In March I embarked on an a month-long writing exercise.

I made a goal:

Starting March 1, I commit to writing 15 minutes a day. At the end of the month I plan to have a draft of an essay about the ten months I spent in Majuro, Marshall Islands, when I was twenty years old (another story for another time). I will make the blog my writing companion and check in daily for encouragement.

I also checked in with a writer friend and read daily posts at A Writer’s March.

Unfortunately, by early April, it was clear that any substantive reflection on the exercise would have to take a backseat to some pressing dissertation related deadlines. It’s been a few months but I’d like to share a little bit about my experience.

Writing is an exercise in memory. My honors college writing professor once gave us a writing exercise that required looking back at an early memory. The process of trying to recall and then write about my early childhood helped me recover facts and events that I had not revisited since about the time of those events. Nothing surprising was uncovered, yet I came to realize how tenuous the threads of memory can be. I benefit from having a sister 17 months younger than me—close enough in age that most of our early life experiences are shared and similarly remembered—and that helps.

Writing about Majuro was different from recalling my childhood. I was there working as a 4th grade teacher with an entire school faculty, administration, and staff, and hundreds of students, not to mention all the locals I encountered on the island. Yet, my experience hinged not only on the goings-on at school and on the island but also my own inner life—my thoughts, my needs, and my responses to the environment. I did keep a journal of my time there. I actually filled over four journals that year, which would be indicative of my state of mind and detailed with the everyday. However, I chose not to return to them for assistance. I wanted to reflect on the Majuro of my memory and my understanding of events from where I now stand—with hindsight, perspective, and maturity.

Not all those who wander are lost. Recalling my memories from my year in Majuro was not quite a Tolkienian journey, but I found that my stories often ended with unexpected conclusions. I gave in to my stories, let them pour out until completely drained. I found that once I started writing, more and more kept coming. Even though I was writing about my lived life I realized I did not always know where the stories were taking me or how once story or anecdote might lead me to another. My only agenda was to write about Majuro, but I found that I really I wrote about a lot more.

Write now. Edit later. It’s very hard for me not to edit while I write. Even worse, I find it hard not to censor myself. What I wrote is a drafty first draft and that’s okay. Some of it may never be seen other eyes. It’s more important that I just write instead of considering the placement of a comma or the ramifications of my words. That’s what second (and third and fourth) drafts are for.

By the end of the month I produced 23 1/3 pages, doubled spaced, 1.25 margins, in Times New Roman. I fulfilled my goal of writing for 15 minutes a day. In the first half of the month I often found myself writing for as much as an hour at a time. Later on, I found that I was getting close to saying everything that I needed to say and I stuck closely to the 15 minute mark. The text could be best described as a personal essay. I have no immediate plans for it. I have a couple friends who are familiar with that period of my life who’ve expressed interest in reading it and I intend to share with them and solicit their critiques in the future.

A Writer’s March was a useful and important writing exercise. I would encourage you to do the same. If you don’t want to wait until next March, get a friend or two to hold you accountable and commit to writing for a 30 day period.

To get you started here is my writing prompt for you: Describe a single year of your life with as much detail as possible and explain what made that particular year the most important, exemplary, or formative.

Goal #30 Complete My PhD

Last week Wednesday, May 8, I completed a goal I’ve been working towards for the past five years.

I successfully defended my dissertation.

In the last five years I’ve struggled with a lot of self doubt. Am I a good writer? Am I smart enough? Is this a good project? Do I really want to do this?

I wish I could say I’ve fully overcome all of this and that my PhD represents my triumph. I think that would be an overstatement. Don’t get me wrong. This is a big accomplishment and I am proud of myself. But more clearly, this process over the last five years has helped me answer the questions that have fueled my doubt and directed me in defining a future post-PhD.

What have I learned? I am a good writer, but I would prefer to develop my skills outside of academic writing. I am smart enough. Full-stop. My dissertation is a relevant and important project. And finally, I entered college with a understanding of what my education could provide me and what I could do with what I learned. In retrospect I am realizing all sorts of things I would have explored had I known they existed. Ironically, had I not taken this path it’s likely I would still be in the dark about all the things I could be, and maybe should be, exploring.

My reasoning for getting a PhD has changed over time. I began the degree program thinking about a single career goal. Now I see the world opened before me and I know that what I want from life—personally and professionally—cannot be reduced to a single academic achievement, job prospect, or skill-set. This has been a very personal journey and I feel I’ve come into my own as an adult. I can now say I know want I want. I believe the past five years have set the tone for the next five and the years to come after.

For any goal or task before you, my advice is this: Don’t let self doubt be what stops you from trying.

How do you think achieving a specific goal has changed your life?

No More Fear

You may have noticed I removed my Fearless Life List. My reasoning is simple.

I never want my fears to overpower my goals.

It’s fitting to name the things that you fear, to speak the name out loud and allow the fear to take shape before you so that when you slay it, you look it straight in the eye as it dies.

But I’ve realized I don’t want to afford my fears their own list. Instead, I choose to frame all my goals as positives that include encountering the things that frighten me. With this in mind I’ve slightly revised my Graceful Life list. I’ve also added a few more goals. Go ahead and peruse. I hope a few of my goals catch your eye and inspire you to come up with some new ones of your own.

What’s on your Graceful Life List?

Dispatches from Dissertation Purgatory

It has been weeks since I’ve last written and not from a lack of desire.

You see, I have been working intensely on Graceful Life List#28 and I am so close to being able to cross it off. I have been buried in dissertation chapter revisions and tonight I so excited to have gotten a very positive email from my committee chair in response to a recent draft. I had to tell someone so I called my mom and she celebrated with me on the phone. (She’s my best cheerleader.)

I have just over a week to finish up three more chapters, plus intro and conclusion, PLUS the Graduate College has very specific instructions on document format, etc. etc. It’s been crazy, but I feel so immensely blessed.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that I’m actually realizing a major, MAJOR life goal. A month from now I will have defended and will be looking forward to participating in the hooding and commencement ceremony. There are some i’s to dot, and t’s to cross but I can say with confidence that I’m turning a new page and starting a new life chapter this summer.

But first, I have to finish those revisions.

I plan to write more in the coming weeks but until then check out my newest book review at GoodReads.

These days

It all starts with how you think.

I’m never sure what to say when someone asks how things are going. I’ve had trouble figuring out what people want to hear. Do they want to know about my frustrations in my research and writing? Do they want to hear how I slept through the entire weekend? Or that the highlight of my day was froyo? This does not make good conversation. Part of this might be a symptom of conversational deficiencies on either side or the social pressure to wow each other with cosmopolitan adventures. Nevertheless, I’ve been busy despite my fervent belief in this:

Oh well, here’s what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks:

1. I’m still obsessed with the idea of travel or living abroad. I’m slowly making my way through The Best American Travel Writing 2011, edited by Sloane Crosely. I plan on writing a review on Goodreads when I’m finished.

2. I’ve kept up with The Indie Travel Podcast too. I enjoy Craig and Linda Martin’s practical advice, interviews, reviews, and travel stories. I keep adding countries to my “must visit” list because of them.

3. I’m now about 1/3 of the way through A Writer’s March. I’ve written about 15 minutes (sometimes more) each day. So far I have 8 pages single spaced (including A LOT of dense footnotes). I’ve found that once you start working through memory and considering detail, inspiration starts to follow. I find that just sitting down is half the work. Inspiration only comes if you do the work. The more work, the more inspiration. I started out with an idea of what I was writing about, but everyday I’m given a bit of a surprise.

4. And I’m making steady dissertation progress. The inspiration rule applies with this too. I’ve got just over a month to finish up, get everything formatted according to the grad college specifications, and have the final product delivered to my committee. Besides having a defense date, I’ve also decided to march in the May commencement ceremony (though technically I don’t graduate until August). It’s all coming together very quickly and if I don’t think about it too much, then I don’t get overwhelmed by anxiety.

A lot going on. I may be a little crazy, but crazy hasn’t failed me yet.

Writing March

Last week I shared my earnest desire to be a “good” writer.

There is saying and there is doing.

Thanks to a gifted writer and dear friend, I will be participating in the Writer’s March, a month-long writing event hosted by A Writer’s March blog. Said friend gave a public shout-out and invite on Facebook, so how can I refuse?

Of course I still have that pesky dissertation to write. I cannot give that up for a month (well, I could, but then I wouldn’t be defending this spring) and I really don’t think academic writing counts. Apart from this blog and my daily journals, I really don’t do much non-academic writing. Participating in A Writer’s March allows me to make a reasonable goal that gets me writing without neglecting my other responsibilities.

My goal:
Starting March 1, I commit to writing 15 minutes a day. At the end of the month I plan to have a draft of an essay about the ten months I spent in Majuro, Marshall Islands, when I was twenty years old (another story for another time). I will make the blog my writing companion and check in daily for encouragement.

Care to join me? I’ll let you know how my writing comes along.

Thank you to A Writer’s March and my dear friend. Are you interested in writing more? Are you inspired? Do you have an unfinished project? Join the March!