Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sugar is Evil

This is not the first time I've blogged about the evilness of sugar. Back in October, I wrote a post simply titled Sugar in which I talked about some of the obvious dangers of eating too much sugar and also my resolve to cut the sugar.

I did a really good job of this until my birthday in the middle of January (even through the holidays!). I had dental surgery right before my birthday and was not feeling so hot. Ice cream felt really nice in my sore mouth. It was a special occasion, so not a big deal, right. Well, apparently we've had quite a number of "special occasions" here lately (Yay! Rebecka got an A on her math test, let's go get some frozen custard for dinner...), because my stomach has not been feeling well and my tight jeans are a little too tight.

Time for a reset!

Tomorrow, I'm starting my new 30 Day Habit on The Power of Less Challenge forum and it's going back to the basics. "Cold turkey" on obvious sweets, switching from Bumpers to Cheerios (whaaaah!!!!), replace granola bars with fruit, eat more protein, etc.

I'm really looking forward to feeling fantastic again!

Monday, March 30, 2009

My New Blog and More...

I took a break from my obsessive reading today to get my new blog, Product Management Zen, up and running. This is, after all, one of the reasons I took a four-day weekend (along with the fact that Todd was home for Spring Break, Rebecka had a birthday, and today was a Teacher Work Day). I'm really, super excited about Product Management Zen. My goal with this blog is to encourage product managers around the world and get an outlet for my passion for writing about productivity, cool products, design, etc. I plan to post 2-4 times per week and hope that it will be a huge success!

This afternoon, Rebecka and I went shopping. I was rather surprised when she asked me about it the other day (she likes malls just about as much as I do, which is not so much). However, once we got down to the details, it made more sense. She's plain out of warm-weather clothes. We made it to four stores (and actually bought two pairs of capris and two t-shirts) before she was worn out and wanted to go sit at Barnes & Noble and read. I didn't have any problems with that. I got through a few more chapters of the fourth book in the Twilight Series, "Breaking Dawn."

The book is now sitting right next to my laptop on the kitchen table calling out to me: "Read me, read me, read me!"

I must obey.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Rebecka!

Twilight, the DVD version, came out one week ago. Once the news was out (via an early morning text from an ecstatic new owner of said DVD), our plans of giving it to Rebecka for her birthday were over. We were at Target an hour later to pick up the coveted movie. Of course, we watched it over the weekend and it reminded me that I should really read the next three books.

So, this is where I've been the past week... In the world of vampires and werewolves (and travel and board meetings and birthday cake making). I am now somewhere in the middle of the third book (Eclipse) and it's taking a lot of willpower to pull myself away from it for some much anticipated blogging.

Rebecka is 12 today! We started the celebration activities yesterday with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory followed by cake at home with one of her little friends. We all kind of fell asleep around midnight to "the making of" section of the three-disc Twilight DVD special/deluxe edition.

Today, according to tradition, we woke the birthday girl up in bed with more cake and presents. After workout and chores, I proceeded to cook the requested birthday meal: Swedish meatballs! This is both Todd and Rebecka's favorite. I must say, it's the first time I've been slightly tempted to eat meat since I quit three months ago. However, I abstained. At 3:30 PM, we found ourselves sitting at the movie theater to watch the latest hit, Knowing. Yikes! This was a bit too scary for my taste. My motto, "The World Will Not End," doesn't seem to have the same punch after suffering through that film.

Anyway, we're eating more cake and watching Star Trek tonight to lift our spirits a bit. Captain Kirk & Co are singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" as I write this. Feeling better already...

The weather people are predicting 4-8 inches of snow tonight. Sounds like we'll have a cozy day at home tomorrow to round off the birthday weekend. I'm good with that.

Here's to another beautiful year!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Personal Mantra

I've been reading several books and blogs lately that talk about the benefits of having a personal mantra. This is what wikipedia has to say about mantra:
"A mantra (Devanāgarī मन्त्र) can be defined as a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of creating transformation."
A mantra is useful for having something to focus on when meditating or simply doing deep breathing to help alleviate stress. It is also something you can repeat to yourself throughout the day to help remind you of your goals.

When I selected my mantra, it was based on what personal characteristics I wanted to work on. I sometimes lose my temper and get impatient with people around me. I get self-absorbed and forget to think about other people's needs. On occasion, I snap and don't think about how this might hurt other people (until it's too late).

Based on this, I came up with my mantra:

Love, serve and be kind.

I keep it on my post-it on my desktop, so I can see it every day. I repeat it to myself when I am sitting quietly and breathing to help me relax. I remind myself of it when I pick up Rebecka's boots and put them in the closet for the 256th time. I close my eyes and mumble it under my breath when somebody is driving me crazy and I really don't feel like being kind.

I don't always live up to my mantra, but I believe it is slowly but surely getting me closer to my goals of becoming a more caring and loving person.

What's your mantra?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Do You Think About When You Run?

I read an interesting article in Runner's World this week. It's called "Train Your Brain: Knowing how you think on the run can improve your workouts - and your mood." It talks about how most people (excluding elite runners who focus on form and breathing) do a lot of varying thinking when on a run. No big news here. It's pretty common knowledge that running is great for thinking and problem solving.

The interesting thing is that they grouped the thoughts into four categories and provided tips for how to avoid negative impacts from your thoughts. Here are the categories and what to watch out for:
  1. Organizing - if you start feeling tense, think about something else.
  2. Problem-solving - no negatives here... My favorite!
  3. Wandering - Don't stay in "la-la land" for the whole run.
  4. Pondering - Don't let anger or anxiety consume you.

My brain activity usually goes something like... "OK. 1 mile warm-up. Hmmm, what's on my todo list today? Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm... Increase speed. I really need to talk to X about Y. Interval time! Woah - that's fast. Wonder if my knee will hold up? Am I running at the optimal stride? Slowing down... Whew - I need some water. Gulp, gulp, gulp. I need to remember to book travel for Z meeting. And get a sitter. (this repeats for the rest of the interval training) Cooldown! Yes. Blog idea, blog idea, blog idea... Decrease speed. That felt good. Time to stretch."

Running is cool.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Donations of the Month: Baylor University and Birmingham-Southern College

As I mentioned in a post earlier this year, I believe giving is a gift and a privilege. This is why I have taken great care this year to make sure that our charitable donations are clearly thought out and well planned. Every month, we have one or more designated recipients of these funds.

This month, the recipients are the two institutions where we received our undergraduate degrees:

Birmingham-Southern College is Todd's alma mater. He enjoyed four years of liberal arts education at this fine institution. The classes are small and the professors really care. This is also where we met and fell in love. For those of you who know us, you won't be surprised that much of the courting took place in the library. We hope that our humble donation will help enable the education of someone who otherwise would not be able to afford this type of school.

Baylor University is my alma mater. I only spent two years here, but they were two of the best years of my life. I loved my computer science professors and how much I learned every single day. I also made friends for life. I was honored to receive a scholarship from the Computer Science Endowed Excellence Fund when I was at Baylor and I am so thrilled to be able to give back.

Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.
- John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring is Here!

I have tulips in the kitchen to prove it...

I know my Wisconsin-born friends and colleagues would tell me that I'm jumping the gun on this announcement. However, I feel that declaring the arrival of spring makes it more real.

This afternoon, Todd, Rebecka, Sophie, and I drove to the park to get some fresh air and soak in the warm sun. Once we arrived, we all set off for a stroll. Rebecka dropped off after about five minutes and went to find a cozy spot to read her book. Todd, Sophie, and I continued. Sophie was very busy. She ran around and sniffed everything in sight. After about 15 minutes, she grew weary. But I wanted to keep going forever! I got the idea to walk home from the park. Todd was kind enough to offer to drive the tired ones home in Elmer (our green Toyota Echo). I walked and walked, took deep breaths and smiled at the world. It was magnificent to be able to take a walk and not be freezing. It made me feel alive and ready to tackle anything! I arrived home refreshed and hungry.

Walking is good for soul and body.

Two More Awesome Themes

Titan (Aaaahhhh...)
Vigilance (Nice!)

How will I ever choose!?!?

Wordpress Themes and Annoying Up-sell Tactics

I spent the entire day yesterday looking for a good Wordpress theme (no joke!). I'm creating a new blog (more on that as the time of launch gets closer) and decided to go with a Wordpress blog hosted by GoDaddy. I've heard a lot of rave about GoDaddy's hosting services and they have good integration with Wordpress (and I know someone who works there). The one thing I didn't like about the whole process was their over-the-top up-sell methodology. It's almost impossible to check out. They bombard you with additional options and it's extremely annoying.

Anyway, back to the WP themes. I am looking for a very simple, clean, well-written, easily customizable, white, stylish theme. When people come to the site, I want them to feel relaxed and have a terrific user experience. The user should be able quickly to find relevant content, easily read desired content, and want to look for more. Here are a few templates I found that I rather like. What do you guys think?

Copyblogger (very common theme, but oh so nice)

Blueprint Theme (simple, with clean lines)

Green Grass (I would get rid of the green grass though...)

Rihanna (aren't those puppies so cute??)

Skimmed Milk (I love the simplicity of this)

Elements of SEO (SEO is good)

Plainscape (organized, airy, clean)

Love The Orange (not sure if I love the orange, but that's easily changed)

As an extra bonus, I'll also share a couple of neat sites I ran accross that would be a good asset for any blogger:

Free Webpage Headers (lots of headers in multiple categories)

stock.xchng (tons of free pix)

Color Hunter (upload a photo and it gives you the matching color palette!)

Blogging is fun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Defying Winter

Last night, I decided to take Sophie the Bichon for a walk around the block. It takes about 25 minutes (it's a large block). Ten minutes into it, I realized just how freezing cold it was (around 10 degrees with an ungodly windchill). It would have been OK if I'd been wearing my long johns, but I got out of the habit of wearing them a couple of weeks ago when it was 60 degrees outside. Fifteen minutes into the walk, I could no longer feel the tip of one of my fingers. Sophie was dragging, so I picked her up so as to expedite the return home to the warmth of our apartment.

We finally arrived at home with all fingers intact and very chilled legs. I slipped into my fleece PJs and drank some hot milk to warm up. All in all, it was I very refreshing walk and I was pleased to have defied winter. I won't let freezing winds keep me from taking "lovely" neighborhood walks when it is supposed to be spring.

Today, I'm wearing a pair of pink long johns...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winter vs. Spring

March in Wisconsin is a very curious experience. One day it's 60 degrees and sunny and wonderful. The next day it's 18 degrees and cloudy and miserable. One day it's raining, the next morning there is a white sheet of snow covering the limp grass, which longs for sun and rain to help it become radiantly green again.

It's like Winter and Spring are in a very even arm-wrestling match. One day Winter is stronger and pushing Spring down, saying "Wait, wait! I'm not done freezing the world yet." Another day Spring is pushing back, saying "But everybody is waiting for me! Let me return with my sun and rain and flowers and birds."

Today, winter is stronger. Cold, howling winds rattled my window all night making it fairly impossible to sleep. It's 18 degrees outside.

Come on Spring, you can do it!
You can beat that Winter.

Welcome Adam!

My cousin Rebecka and her husband Anders recently welcomed a little Adam into the world. Congratulations! Your lives will never be the same...

In a good way.

More on Notes

My cool and sweet friend Katie passed this link along from Dooce:


I love notebooks. :)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Cousin Visit

My cousin Daniel is coming to visit today. I'm excited! It's not often a cousin comes to visit. This is not because my cousins hate me, but rather because I only have two cousins in the US. And when Daniel moves to Bangladesh here soon, I'll just have one left.

Cousins are cool.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

When I arrived at the Hertz pick-up location at the Nashville airport earlier this week, I quickly glanced at the board, found my stall number, and started walking to my car. It was a silver Chevy HHR. I opened the back door to throw my sizeable suitcase in there and found an interesting double decker space for luggage. As I was trying to figure out whether to put it on the top or the bottom rack, a friendly Hertz employee walked up and offered to put my bags in the car for me. I graciously accepted. He then proceeded to explain how to exit the parking garage. Very helpful for directionally challenged people like myself. Finally, he bid me good day and walked off.

He didn't have to do that. It's not part of his job description. But he did it anyway. He executed a random act of kindness. The coolest part about random acts of kindness is that they keep giving. When I am the recipient, I am encouraged to be the provider the next time around.

What random acts of kindness have you received or provided recently?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Checking Things Off the Someday/Maybe List

If you're one of those people who have embraced the GTD methodology for freeing up your time and your brain, you may have a Someday/Maybe list. This is the list of stuff you would like to do some day, when you get around to it.

For years, I've had the following things on my Someday/Maybe list: Record a Swedish album, learn to play the guitar (beyond D, G, and Am), and get an EMBA. And for years, I've done very little about it aside from gaze longingly at my list and turn to the "must happen now" list with a sigh.

During my last vacation, I decided that I was done sighing and ready to do something about this list. I got in touch with my dear friend Melissa in Nashville and told her I was coming down for some recording fun. One month and two sessions later, we have the guitar and vocal tracks for seven Swedish folk songs recorded and ready. Some instrumental tracks and mixing remain, but it feels like we're 80% there. Melissa, you rock!

Todd knows about my Someday/Maybe list, so he got me a Fender for my birthday. It is beautiful. I am paying for Rebecka to take lessons and then the plan is that she is going to teach me. I'm giving her piano lessons in return. I like the concept of trading services. :)

Once I can effortlessly play any number of songs on the guitar, I'll start worrying about the EMBA.

One thing at a time.