Looking for light this side of the equinox: excuses and enneagrams

We’re still seven weeks away from the vernal equinox, when the hours of daylight will equal the hours of darkness, heralding my favorite season of the year. I love the summer, when days are long, and light lasts well into the evening.

Light_Heart_Shaped_Sun

 

SAD: a lack of light

I think I need sunlight now more than ever. Lately, when friends have asked me if I’m still posting to my blog, I realize that my “holiday break” has continued well past New Year’s. My only excuse for my silence has been “the January malaise,” to which one friend replied, “Oh, you must be seasonal.” And I think she’s right. It may not be severe enough to be clinical, but I recognize in myself symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of winter depression that overtakes mainly women due to lack of sunlight.

I have one of those SAD lights, but I don’t sit in front of it regularly, and I don’t start using it early in the fall, before I start feeling bad — so I don’t receive the benefits I’m supposed to get from it. Too bad I’m not like the dogs I saw on the ABC News, whose owners were kind enough to buy them daylight spectrum lights. Those depressed doggies apparently perked up after lying in front of the SAD lightboxes. You can check out the story and video here.

The Enneagram: en-light-ening?

I started to make a list of things I had done during the month of January, during which I did no writing or blogging, but after taking the Enneagram test online, I realized I probably need to fight my compulsion to ennumerate my accomplishments — that I should focus more on “being” and less on “doing.” This is because my top score on the quiz was that of the Enneagram 3, or The Achiever, who has a tendency to tie her sense of self-worth to her accomplishments. My second top score was even less encouraging: it was the 8, or the The Challenger, who is confident and assertive, but also prone to confrontation and intimidation. Not exactly what I needed to pull me out of a slump.

 

Enneagram Symbol

Courtesy of The Ennegram Institute

 

So in the spirit of not evaluating myself by how many checks I’ve put on the to-do list, I won’t go through the “incredible” (not really) things I did during my time away from the blog. I do have some plans coming up that may involve changing or adding to Second Serve, however, and those are exciting. Hopefully, with more sunlight in the days ahead, I’ll be able to get going on them.

Until then, I’ll be the lady searching for sun. But don’t get in my way, as apparently one of my possible Enneagram types won’t hesitate to elbow past you!

 

Image credits: iFreeze, Enneagram Institute

Blogging with the pros

Last week I attended my first blogging convention, BlogHerPRO. It was a mini-convention, lasting only one day — something that made me more willing  to try it. That, and its location in San Francisco enticed me — for a “local” such as myself, it was only an hour away. Although I was intimidated to enter the room, I found the experience invigorating, even transformative. Let me tell you why.

 

Blogging w the pros_SanFrancisco_BlogHerPRO2012

 

Blogging as a hobby

I started my blog in 2010 as a way to practice my writing. Also because I was fascinated by blogging technology and the fact that anyone could become a publisher just by putting stuff out there on the Internet. I figured blogging would be fun. Plus, it would be another outlet for me to “share” my opinions, in addition to offering them alongside grilled chicken at the dinner table.

Now, after two and a half years of blogging, I still tend to consider it one of my hobbies. My self-talk goes: “I’m a mom, an almost-empty-nester, a tennis player, sometimes a writer. Oh, and I have this blog. Check it out, it’s kind of cool.”

 

Enter: BlogHerPRO

But last week, I began to think of myself as a Blogger. The BlogHerPRO speakers included women who’ve built exemplary blogs and offered practical tips from their own experience. I absorbed an information-packed day with presentations by folks like Maria Ross of Red Slice, Catherine McCord of Weelicious, Carly Knobloch of Digitwirl and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.

For me, however, the highest value in attending BlogHerPRO came from conversations with other attendees. Although I felt intimidated going into the day, it was probably the most welcoming large-group event I’ve encountered. I’m bad at estimating crowd sizes, but I would guess over 200 women attended. Two hundred more bloggers, all of them female, than I’d ever seen in one place before.

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Giving, getting, hoping

While Christmas shopping I came across a moisturizer called “hope in a jar.” Packaged in a cute ornament box with a tag, it was ready for giving — presumably to someone in need of hope. The manufacturer, Philosophy, sells other moisturizers with similar tongue-in-cheek names: “full of promise,” “take a deep breath,” and “keep the peace.” Philosophy twists the famous Scripture often read at weddings to state on its package, “Where there is hope there can be faith, and where there is faith miracles can occur.” While some people may take offense at this, or even at the concept that a product designed to smooth the skin is really providing hope, I take it as one company’s attempt to differentiate itself from the crowd.

Hope-in-a-Jar-ornamentGiving hope

Hope in a jar” inhabits the same category of marketing language as “Hope Peace Jewelry,” a saying I saw in a store window, or “Inner Peas,” the name of a dried peas and sea salt snack at Trader Joe’s. It continues a long tradition of optimistic product names, such as “Miracle-Gro” plant food, “Joy” dishwashing liquid, and “CoverGirl” makeup. While we take many of these items’ names for granted, examples of hope-inspiring product names abound. What about “S.O.S” steel wool pads? Steel wool addresses a need, but is a dirty pan really cause to send up an S.O.S.? (The Clorox company notes that the official product name drops the final period and actually means Save Our Saucepans . . .) And, when all is said and done, how do you “bust dust?” The one that makes me wonder, however, is “Twenty Mule Team Borax Detergent Booster and Multi-purpose Household Cleaner.” I know our clothes get dirty, but twenty mules are more than we need, and they are definitely not going to fit in my laundry room!

 Giving_Inner Peas

 

Product names like these give hints at the item’s benefits, sometimes even offer their target consumers an inside joke. With a wink and a nod, they acknowledge that, while everyone knows you can’t package “hope” or “joyful dish washing,” isn’t it witty to say that we did?

Giving benefits the giver

Yet at the same time, products called things like “hope in a jar” subtly play into desires that surface, especially around the holidays, for things to be better — for our loved ones, ourselves, the world around us. Marketers know we have such goals in mind when choosing gifts for others, even if we don’t know it ourselves. For example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal identified, among other things, that giving another person a gift requiring great thought on your part accrues a benefit mainly to yourself as the giver, but not to the receiver. To benefit the one who’s getting the gift, it’s recommended to “give them what they want.”

 

Science_behind_Gifting_WSJ


WSJ “The Science Behind Gifting” Dec 3, 2012

 

A lot more psychology, including giving expectations and “re-gifting” norms, goes into why people give the gifts we do. (As an aside, when did “gifting” become a real word? Does every noun in American English have to become a verb? What’s wrong with “giving?”) The fact remains, however, that a lot of cash and money on credit cards flows through the economy at this time of year.

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A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 2

In my last post, I went over some spinning terminology and outlined a few of the reasons I keep going back to spin class, even though the workout is punishing and leaves me with tighter hamstrings than a three-set tennis match.

Today’s spinning “benefits” might be thought of as negatives, depending on your point of view. Going over them can help you decide whether spinning’s really for you.

Spinning fashion is boring

Compared to tennis fashion, most sports lag in terms of fashion interest, and spinning is no different. One test of fashion-worthiness: you wouldn’t want to run errands after class in your spin clothes, even if you didn’t get all sweaty — no one’s derrière looks good in those padded shorts. A cute tennis skirt with matching top and jacket, however? I’ve actually been asked if I got dressed in tennis clothes just to shop at the fancy grocery store in town (the answer was “no,” by the way — although I do like tennis outfits better than some of my other clothes).

SpinningGuidePt2-Bike-Shorts

 

Plus, who wants to own more than a couple of pairs of those bike shorts anyway? It’s no wonder they come mostly in black, leaving possibilities for interesting color combinations limited. The best we can do is to wear a good top and maybe some lively socks. But it’s all going to get soaked in sweat, so what’s the point? Maybe spinning’s non-emphasis on fashion is actually a benefit, after all.

Spinning is social. Well, sort of.

There’s a regular crowd that attends our Tuesday/Thursday class. People have their usual bikes, even. The same gals are always in front of me — they never miss a day. One of our class member’s friends saves her a bike so she can arrive late. Another one sings to the music — and she has a good voice. People visit a bit as they’re changing their shoes and setting up their bikes. But once the lights go down and the music goes up, no talking is allowed. If you’re talking, you’re considered to be slacking off. Which leads me to my next point.

 

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A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 1

In a previous post, I talked about going to spin class after trying (and failing) to find easier ways to stay in shape while tennis elbow prevents me from playing my favorite sport. It’s true, spinning produces endorphins, those amazing neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that decrease sensations of pain and increase feelings of well-being, often referred to as the “runner’s high.”

But it’s not just the endorphins that keep me coming back to spin class. There are a number of other reasons spinning works for me.

Spinning burns serious amounts of calories

Since I don’t run  (bad knees), there’s no other exercise I do that provides me a comparable workout. I love the fact that, on days when I go to spin class, I don’t worry about having dessert or an extra glass of wine — I earned it!

SpinningGuidePt1.4_PhotoCreditSciAmerican

 

Spinning doesn’t require a ton of physical coordination

Yes, there are fine points of weight distribution and balance, but face it: you’re pedaling a stationary bike. You can’t fall over, can’t run into a tree or a ditch. You fix your feet to the pedals with clips on your bike shoes, or by putting your toes into cages that hold them in place — you’re not going anywhere. So much less embarrassing than having to lunge and kick and spin, all on the count of four that repeats before you figure out how to do it properly.

There’s a spin class at Uforia in Palo Alto called Revolutions that incorporates dance moves to give a full-body workout while riding the bike. You lift some weights and do pushups on the handlebars. Some people prefer it or find it more efficient and/or fun, I suppose. For me, however, dancing on a stationery bike is not spinning.

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