One of the hardest things to give up after surgery was lifting. And even then I didn’t really give it up. I was back in the gym, struggling under heavy weights, while I was still in a cast. I just couldn’t stay away for that long. Lifting keeps me sane, strong, and happy.
But it wasn’t always this way.
“In college, I avoided the “bro zone” of the gym like it was a frat house after a rager. I was intimidated by the grunting, the weird machines, and the almost entirely male population outside of the cardio section and free weights. I didn’t want anything to do with their protein shakes and bro tanks. Instead, I used the cardio machines and would do the same one or two exercises with 8-pound weights every time I went to the gym.
But I really wanted to lift.
A taste of CrossFit was all it took to get me addicted to lifting heavy. After a couple of months, I was lifting more weight than I thought possible. Five years later, I regularly squat more than I weigh, and 25-pound dumbbells are my go-to. Today, I feel at home under the bar.
While there are great weight loss and calorie-blasting benefits of lifting heavy, it’s not why I do it. Weightlifting makes me care more about the weight on the bar than on my body. I work hard at the gym to push my body and mind. It’s about what my body is capable of, not what it looks like.”
Going zero waste or living a low-waste lifestyle takes time. We are actively working towards reducing our waste, one swap at a time. We’re a long way from being able to fit our yearly trash in a jar, but that really isn’t our goal anyways. Here’s the progress we’ve made since January.
As a vegetarian, I eat a fair bit of beans. We have beans at least twice a week, and all of those cans really started to stack up. I was tired of the cans cluttering our cabinet, counter, and eventually recycling bin. The BPA can lining worried me greatly, and the fact that BPA-free linings may not actually be any safer meant there wasn’t an easy canned choice.
The swap for bulk dried beans meant I no longer had to worry about plastic chemicals leaching into our beans and it eliminated at least 50 percent of our can consumption.
We’ve struggled to find pasta in bulk that both my boyfriend and I can eat. I can’t eat wheat, and he can’t eat quinoa. For some reason the only wheat-free pasta we can find in bulk is made with quinoa.
Instead of freaking out about it or cutting it out entirely (a sin as an Italian), we’ve been buying pasta from a company that uses 100 percent recycled cardboard, non-toxic inks, and compostable cellophane in its packaging. It’s not the perfect solution, especially since the product is imported from Italy, but it’s progress.
As someone who hasn’t eaten lunch meat in more than 10 years, I was surprised by how it easy it is to buy lower-waste options. We bring a reusable container to the grocery store and ask the people at the deli counter to put the lunch meat straight into it. This saves us at least one plastic bag and often a couple of plastic sheets each time we shop. Unfortunately they still use a plastic sheet to catch the slices when they cut it, but hopefully with enough pestering emails and requests they will swap it for something compostable.
Oh man did I get excited when I saw the bulk chocolate selection at Rainbow Grocery. I eat at least a square of chocolate a day, so this discovery made my day. Bulk chocolate cuts out at least two chocolate bar wrappers a week. Hopefully our three jars will last us the month until we go back to Rainbow.
Technically, it’s tamari, but the store sold soy sauce in bulk too. We filled up a jar and then came home and topped off our nearly empty glass container of tamari. I felt like I’d somehow outsmarted all of the companies who make it too easy to make trash.
The lucky among us now eat a freshly-baked whole wheat sandwich bread that comes in a compostable paper bag. In the future he may also pick up bread in one of our reusable bulk bags from the farmer’s market, but most of those are currently pre-bagged as well.
Zero waste swaps: Bathroom
Our bathroom is far from zero waste, but I’m slowly chipping away at it.
As much as I don’t love the handkerchiefs I purchased, I’ve been doing my best to use them instead of tissues. I’m slowly getting used to them – although I do hope to find some made out of thinner material in the future.
This was such an easy swap, it’s silly. I finally turned our trash can into a compost collector and added a small paper ‘trash’ bag for things like floss that we still haven’t swapped out for compostable or zero-waste alternatives. We are lucky enough to have city-wide compost collection, so composting is just as simple as taking out the trash.
Let’s just get right out there and say it. I am not at all where I thought I would be 6 months post peroneal tendon surgery. I went into my 6 month post-op appointment yesterday feeling like I was meeting with a professor to check in on a project I hadn’t started.
But I left feeling pretty good about where I’m at.
My calves are finally the same size. (Which means my crops don’t creep up to my knee anymore– hallelujah!) The (albeit exceedingly nice) fellow showed a great deal of enthusiasm for my stellar hopping ability and single leg heel raise strength.
My leg strength had been coming back, which also means nearly all of pants actually fit again instead of hanging off my legs like sacks. Its amazing how looking like what you’re used to makes you feel like yourself again.
I was feeling strong. Ready. I was slowly creeping up in how much weight I could lift, my single-leg squats were rapidly improving, and I was throwing in new things at least once a week. Running felt like it was right around the corner.
And then I woke up 65 years older.
Out of nowhere I woke up early one morning with a completely numb left leg. In my half-asleep state I decided it was asleep and just need a little extra blood flow. The more I tried to get the feeling back, the more I realized something else was clearly wrong. After panicking, ruling out a blood clot, and being wide awake, I realized it was sciatica.
Two weeks later and I’m still fighting with it. I finally have a better sense of what makes it better and what angers it to the point where it sends angry stinging bees all the way down my leg into my foot. Short of anger management for pissed off nerves, I’ve tried just about everything.
After months of progress and feeling like I’m finally coming back into myself and a healed body, the sciatica has been particularly devastating. I can’t lift at all, even benching seems to irritate it. Running on the Alter-G or outside like I dreamed of is out of the question until this is fully resolved. Just staying comfortable and getting my work done day to day has been a huge challenge.
But there is good news.
I can swim. Swimming seems to be the one thing that reliably soothes my sciatica and my mind. My ankle is killing it in the water – I can kick a fair bit and flip turns are no problem. Now if I could just get my skin to stop peeling off like a molting snake from the chlorine…
My February books kept me afloat this month. They gave me a break from my own chaotic, self-doubting mind. The books I read this month were either full of much needed advice and encouragement or they were the perfect escape from my overwhelm.
February was my busiest month ever as a freelancer. I worked more hours than I have at any job in years. I’m not saying this to complain, despite the fact that most of this month was downright miserable, or do a weird ‘I’m so busy’ brag. But rather, I’m trying to explain just how much these books meant to me.
The fact that I read at all this month is something worth celebrating. There were days where my brain had turned to mush and my eyes were deep in the throws of revolt. But without fail I started nearly every morning with at least 15 minutes of reading. Those 15-30 minutes were often the best part of my day.
Despite the tears after going to bed and the ice-cream-after-lunch days and the downright shocking amount of work I powered through, I somehow managed to read five books this month. In doing so I also realized that my dream job might actually be getting paid to read engaging books all day. If you’ve figured out a way to make that a reality, please let me know.
In the meantime, prepare yourself for some long, rambling thoughts on this month’s books.
This fiction was straight nourishment for the heart. I loved the way that 12-year-old Ethan saw the world (both literally and figuratively). The switching perspectives/ narrators kept me hooked and made it even easier to root for them all, even when I felt conflicted about it. Be prepared to have a greater appreciation for physics and a deep desire to watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson after reading this one.
Voices in the Ocean
For as long as I can remember I have always loved to be in and around water. I used to dream about being an oceanographer (didn’t realize it was mostly about staring at maps on computers) or a marine biologist until the realities of the math/chemistry required and the amount of time I would spend living in a lab set in.
This book was for the 10-year-old marine biologist inside of me. Voices dives into the complex world of dolphins and our fascination with them. It both filled me with a sense of appreciation and awe for our oceans and the incredible animals that live in them, and it also made me feel depressed and helpless about the current state of our oceans and the horrific things we do to their inhabitants.
I loved Susan Casey’s The Wave (and have made just about everyone I know read it). This book didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I still enjoyed it. Lovers of The Cove and Blackfish will likely enjoy it.
Tools of Titans
Another massive tome from Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans lays out the best lessons, advice, and habits from the world-renowned guests on The Tim Ferriss Show. I read this one in little chunks throughout the month, and I feel like it’s one that might be worthwhile in going back to. It’s packed with great information (and things that will never apply to my life).
While I recommend picking it up, I will say that if you are a regular listener to the podcast it can feel repetitive (you’ve already heard the interviews, and much of it is direct quotes from guests). It’s also, purposely, all over the place. Advice directly conflicts, people disagree on how to get to the same place, and a lot of it may not be helpful at all.
I think I should also say that I’ve generally been cooling on Ferriss lately. I’m not interested in taking adaptogens or biohacking my body, and he seems to be going further and further into quick fixes and magic pills. A lot of the things that excited him the most in this book just didn’t click with my lifestyle or interests.
A Man Called Ove
Oh man, I loved A Man Called Ove. It caught my eye on the shelf at the library, and despite no time and lots of other books in my arms, I just couldn’t help myself.
I’m so glad I picked it up. This was my favorite book of the year so far.
This grump felt like an alternate-reality version of me. I cracked up constantly, and the dark humor was top-notch for me. The curmudgeon inside of me felt perfectly at home inside the pages. This book was the highlight of the month. It’s obvious why A Man Called Ove a best seller in so many countries.
I have yet to learn that books about writing, especially how to make a living at it, are never uplifting. I have not once finished a book about writing and thought, ‘yes, of course I can do this and it will obviously be easy!’
Scratch was real. Cheryl Strayed exposed the debt that was quickly sinking her and her husband before Wild came out. Sarah Smarsh showed that not being able to afford a haircut means that a best-selling novel is right around the corner (or something not even close to that but that’s the version I need right now). Austin Kleon turned ‘selling out’ on its head and made me regret being terrible at visual arts.
The writers in this book talked straight to the voices in my head that have the same doubts, fears, and ambitions. They constantly made me face the reality of what I’m trying to do (not great timing on that one), and also showed me that they all started here too: broke, tentative, unsure, and desperate for someone, anyone, to help them figure out how to make this work.
While the book is great for anyone who wants to know what their favorite writer’s life is really like and what writing looks like behind the scenes, it’s written for aspiring fiction writers. I still found it helpful for non-fiction, especially the general commiseration about the lack of pay across writing and the terror of setting out on your own.
By Mandy | Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Posted In: Books
Our zero waste pantry staples are the items that we buy unpackaged in bulk and keep on hand at all times. We have about half of a single under-counter cabinet for food storage, so we don’t keep much more than the basics. Our weekly shopping fills in the gaps.
Our Zero Waste Pantry Staples
1. Grains: brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa
2. Oats: thick-rolled and steel-cut
3. Beans: black, garbanzo/chickpeas, kidney
4. Nuts: cashews, almonds, sometimes peanuts (we tend not to store these since I can’t eat any of them. Instead, my boyfriend makes his own trail mix and takes the whole container to work with him.)
5. Flours: oat (easy to make at home as well), brown rice, white rice, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum.
6. Dried fruit: typically cherries
7. Coconut: Unsweetened chips and shredded
8. Chocolate chips
9. Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp
10. Baking: baking soda, sugar, brown sugar
11. Spices: We refill all of our empty spice containers with bulk spices including salt and pepper.
12. Honey: Okay, I haven’t done this yet. But when our current jar runs out we are planning to refill it at the grocery store. It’s also significantly cheeper.
Our meals typically build off of the rice or the beans. We use rice at least 1-2 times a week. A quart jar tends to last us 3-4 weeks depending on how often we eat it. (You can see some of our favorite fall/winter meals here.)
My two best friends recently went to a 45-minute meditation class together. My friend Noe, a mindfulness teacher and neurofeedback technician, loved it. She spent the class relaxed and fully into the experience. My other friend Meagan was a mess. She couldn’t sit still. At one point she got so nauseated she thought she might throw up. Her body freaked out and fought her hard (or something she ate chose the worst time ever to pick its fight, you choose).
I laughed and teased Meagan when Noe told me. I thought it was hilarious, and typical energetic Meagan, to fail at even sitting still.
It’s a whole lot less funny now.
Pretty Sure Meditation Shouldn’t Feel Like This
My first meditation this month ended as about 50 percent of my previous attempts did, in the overwhelming need to STOP.
As soon as the person leading the meditation practice says to pay attention to your breathing, my heart rate picks up. I immediately take control of my breathing, and then try to slow it down and calm my body while my heart slams against my rib cage. The teacher says to let go and let your breath flow without your influence, but I don’t know how you can notice your breathing without controlling it. Fighting it.
Now I’m supposed to be noticing my thoughts and letting them pass by, but all I can think about is how uncomfortable this chair is and how badly the tag at the back of my shirt itches. My arms start to ache, and I want nothing more than to readjust the way I’m sitting.
But I fight it. I try to just count my breaths and not lengthen them. I try to pay attention to how my body feels without giving into the scratching and fidgeting.
And then it gets worse.
Out of nowhere this intense tightness and overwhelming feeling wash over me. I feel like my nerves are on fire and the only way to put it out is to move. It spreads across my chest into my shoulders and my arms. I try to breathe into it, to relax, to fight the absolutely all-consuming urge to move.
It’s the opposite of sleep paralysis, trying to stay still instead of fighting the chemicals in your mind to let you move, but the panic and the oppressive feeling is the same. In both cases it’s as if your body is suddenly encased in concrete and it’s slowly crushing you alive.
Ah, meditation. So peaceful.
Daily Meditation Progress
To be fair, it has been getting better. On Wednesday Headspace paused without me realizing it and I accidentally sat on the brink of sleep and meditation for 15 minutes. Out of the past eight days, I’ve only had the searing need to move RIGHT NOW twice. That’s not terrible I guess.
I have always been particular when it comes to laundry. I carefully wash my clothes to ensure that they last as long as possible and have the smallest environmental impact too. I refuse to dry clean anything and instead either don’t buy things that can’t be washed at home or wash ‘dry clean only’ pieces anyways (I’ve never had a problem). My laundry soap is gentle on my clothes. I carefully separate regular loads from more delicate pieces and wash them separately. I’m the queen of stain hunting, a practice my boyfriend takes great care to keep me on my toes.
All of this is to say, I take laundry seriously, and not being able to air dry laundry is a deal breaker.
Our apartment is rather small, and we fit a lot in our downstairs area. The roughly 10 by 12 foot room is home to our office, living room, yoga/foam rolling space, entryway and kitchen. It’s a hardworking space that can quickly feel cluttered or claustrophobic, especially with two of us trying to get something done in the kitchen together.
I don’t say this to complain, we really love our tiny house, but rather to point out that even in our already filled space, we intentionally make room to air dry our clothes. The clothes drying rack takes up an enormous percentage of the space when it’s up. I feel like I am constantly adjusting it or dragging it around to try to get a little bit more space, but being able to gently dry our clothes no matter the weather is so worth it.
Why You Should Air Dry Your Laundry
1. Your clothes last longer.
Way longer. The dryer not only stresses the fibers with heat, but it also breaks them down with friction and stretching tumbling with the other clothes.
2. Clothes look better.
Air drying can help preserve color, prevent pills, and protect a piece’s shape.
3. Smaller footprint.
Despite intense farming practices, synthetic material production, and the thousands of gallons of water used to create your clothes, the majority of their impact comes from you washing and drying them over their lifetime.
Running a dryer can cost you up to $0.70 a load. That’s not a ton of money, but it adds up. And if you use a laundromat, skipping the dryer can save you $1-3 a load (at least in our neighborhood).
How to Air Dry Laundry in a Small Space
It is fairly easy to air dry clothes with very little space. A little creativity goes a long way.
1. Rack it up.
Clothes racks come in all shapes and sizes that will fit into even the smallest corners. My rack takes up quite a bit of space, but it also uses both its horizontal and vertical space well, so it’s worth it.
2. Make space.
Hanging clothes on hangers in doorways or off any other surface is another way to increase the amount of clothes you can dry at once. If you have a sturdy shower curtain rod and you won’t be using it in the next day or so, you can also expand onto that.
3. Spread out.
Clothes that are too tightly packed won’t dry effectively. Be sure that each piece can breathe. I generally try to make sure I can see between each hanging item. For smaller things like socks and undies, I don’t worry as much about them touching as long as they aren’t overlapping.
4. Stagger loads.
I can fit a full week’s worth of laundry on my drying rack. It easily fits everything (minus bed sheets) for one person, and about half of our total laundry for two people. 95 percent of my clothes air dry, while only 20 percent of my boyfriend’s do. We could easily air dry all of our clothes by spreading our two loads out over the week and drying them one at a time.
5. Take advantage of your space.
During the winter the heater in our apartment blows directly on our clothes. Not only do they dry faster, but the damp clothes also help add some much needed moisture back into the air. In the summer I open the windows, and on really hot days the ceiling fan makes quick work of drying.
6. Fold it up.
This guideline is twofold (see what I did there?). As soon as your clothes are dry, put them away! The faster you can get them out of your small space the better. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and cluttered. I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief every time I put all of our clothes away. Our space feels huge afterwards.
Once you’ve put away your clothes, hide the rack away. I keep ours under the couch in the living room. It’s completely out of sight that way, and it’s quick to set up when I’m ready again.
Quick Tips: What Should Air Dry
My rule of thumb: Towels and sheets go in the dryer, everything else hangs up. I’m slowly transitioning my boyfriend to hanging up more of his clothes, but he generally prefers his shirts, socks, and underwear to go through the dryer. We hang up all of his technical-fabric workout clothes and his jeans/shorts.
Daily meditation is one of those things that I’ve always known I should be doing, but never actually put in the effort to make it happen. Back when I was frequently running, I considered that a substitute and let myself off the hook. We meditate at the end of the yoga class I go to once a week. That counts! I’m done.
But January was a rough month for me (and most Americans). The political upheaval was constantly swirling in my mind. Headlines and New York Times notifications would keep me up at night.
My mind has been full – overwhelmingly stuffed with so many ideas and way too many worries. I can’t seem to get a grip or slow them all down. I’m standing in the middle of a Formula One raceway trying to slow my thoughts down without being run over or blown off the track.
I’m taking on meditation this month to try to get some peace and quiet in my own mind. I need to slow my roll and get back in control.
February Goal: Daily Meditation
Daily meditation has been on my list since for months, but I somehow, conveniently, never get to it.
Once I committed to doing a new goal every month this year in the hope of creating a few new habits that improve my daily life, I knew meditation would be one of the first I would try out.
For now, I will meditate every day after lunch before picking up work again. I spend the morning fully focused and allow myself to indulge in some internet reading while I take my lunch break. More often than not this leaves me feeling scattered and I have trouble coming back to my work day afterwards.
I can’t completely shut out the world for my entire work day – I have to stay up-to-date on the latest news and delve into the internet for my own writing. But that doesn’t mean that I have to spend more than half the day feeling overwhelmed and like my mind is just dragging me along for the ride.
The final push (or guilt trip) came from Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans. I picked up the book late last week, and I have been spending my morning reading time curled up with it. Just about every person highlighted in the book recommends meditation of some kind.
Daily Meditation “Rules”
I have to spend at least 5 interrupted minutes on intentional meditation.
Moving meditation counts, but I have to do it intentionally. I can’t just come home from a workout where I blasted music and sung along (in my head) or constantly repeated my to-do list like a mantra and check off my meditation practice for the day.
For the most part my daily meditation practice will consist of me sitting in a chair for 5-10 minutes. I plan on following guided meditations, especially for the first half of the month while I’m getting into the swing of things.
I believe in treading lightly on the Earth and my feet. I hope to inspire and support you on your journey to live a natural, sustainable life.
All images and copy are original to Treading Lightly unless otherwise credited. Please be respectful when using material from this site and link back. I am not a doctor or a trainer – all of the content on Treading Lightly is my opinion and experience.