The Task List

So, time for a procrastination update (being public keeps me honest… I think… at least for a little while.)

First of all, I’ve added a new category for things like this–Personal Challenges. I think of my attempts at self-improvement to be kind of like Emily Yoffe’s Human Guinea Pig experiments. Yes, these changes in lifestyle/habit can and do work or no, they don’t and if you’ve like me, you’re doomed. Doomed!

Anyways, to my anti-procrastination list. I will admit that I did some serious backsliding yesterday. Here’s how it went down: I did the easy things first, then I moved on to the long, tedious project that had gotten rolled over from the day before. I completed it. Feeling proud of myself and deserving, I took a break. Then I got sidetracked by something completely irrelevant and the next thing I know, it’s time to leave. So the list was half-blown yesterday.

But today, the list got done. DONE! It was a full day, but I got everything done that I wanted to do. This is the first day the list has been done completely. The in-box pile is steadily dwindling. Tomorrow will be another full day, but Friday is looking good for getting my weekly tasks done.

I have been working on my at-home weekly chore everyday as well: organizing my sewing table. I am a very crafty person, and I like to do a wide-variety of things. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough room in the house to put all of my things, so most of my organization consists of putting things into storage in the barn. But one day I hope to either finish out the upstairs of the barn or get some sort of little storage building which I can convert into my own personal workshop. It will be both where I go to craft and where I go to write (do you know how difficult it is to write a sex scene when your husband is on the other side of the desk playing Battlefield 1942 and constantly shooting Nazis? Not that I have a problem with shooting Nazis, but it is rather loud and distracting.)

Keeping a list of tasks you want to get done on any given day is not only good for procrastinators, but I can see it being beneficial to people who have ADD. Instead of getting distracted by new work that ends up on your desk–so you do a little of everything and all of nothing–the list rules your day. With the exception of emergency work, you do what’s on the list; incoming work gets put on tomorrow’s list. This keeps you focused on one task until completion.

Now, it’s time to stop procrastinating and go to the grocery store for some dinner.

Soleless Update

I haven’t taken up walking around town barefoot, but I have become more aware of my feet. Yesterday I wore a pair of tennis shoes all day. I didn’t walk to work, but I stood all day, as usual. When I got home, I hopped on my Wii Fit (which I am now addicted to) and found I couldn’t play any of the games while wearing my tennis shoes. The day before, my center of balance had been almost perfect in the center of the board. With my tennis shoes on, however, my center of balance was way back on my heels. When I played one game, which requires me to lean forward in order to make my mii move, it was almost impossible to do in my shoes. Like most shoes–especially tennis shoes–my shoes lift up under the toes. This makes leaning forward very difficult.

I took off my shoes and was able to play, but my center of balance was not as good as it had been previously, when I had been spending my days in my flat sandals, and my feet tired much more quickly.

It’s making me rethink wearing tennis shoes. I’m also giving more thought to making a pair of soft leather shoes (think ballet slippers) just to try walking in them and see what happens. If you’ve ever noticed, martial artists don’t wear shoes when they’re practicing or fighting. Can you imagine how much their center of balance would be screwed up if they were wearing tennis shoes like mine? When you are not centered, it’s much easier to knock you down. And what does it do to your knees and back when you are not centered?

Soleless

Someone who read about my standing desk asked if I had heard of the barefoot movement. I have, but I haven’t spent much time looking into it. He gave me a link to a fairly extensive article on walking barefoot… and why we should do it more.

Barefoot is a movement that’s been going around the horse circle for even longer. We had a horse for over two years, and we did not shoe her. In fact, she had never been shod in her life. While horses who are worked heavily do need shoes, as do horses with reoccurring hoof problems, most pleasure horses can go without shoes. We never even trimmed Infanta’s feet; she was outdoors all the time, and she kept her hoofs trimmed naturally. And without shoes, mud and manure didn’t stick to the bottom of her feet, causing problems. We worried about her in the winter, when so much of our yard became muddy from excessive amounts of rain (and she would stand in it; she wouldn’t stand where it was dry), but she never had hoof problems.

It did occur to me that if barefoot for horses is a good thing most of the time, what about people? People aren’t born to wear shoes anymore than horses are.

When I was growing up, I went barefoot when I played outside in the yard every summer. My feet would get so tough that I hardly noticed running over pine cones or gravel. I also became very adept at watching where I was walking and I never stepped on bees after the age of about 11.

Walking barefoot on a semi-manicured lawn is one thing, but on concrete or asphalt? Do you know how hot that gets in the summer in Tennessee? That’s not even counting the fact that most people wouldn’t want to walk barefoot in the city because you’re too likely to step on something nasty, like glass.

There are several lines of shoes, however, which have only a very thin sole and no padding; they allow you to walk naturally. I checked them out.

vibram1 Running With Vibrams 5 Fingers Barefoot ShoesThis is the Vibram shoe. It’s supposed to be as close as you can get to walking barefoot without having to suffer cuts or nasty floors.

These don’t work for me because I have twin toes, like these:

(Those are not my actual feet; I don’t have cute shoes like that and I never paint my toenails.)

Without full separation between my second and third toe, I can’t wear toe socks or these shoes.

 Vivo makes a barely-there shoe which only has a sole a few milimeters thick. There are a couple of other companies which also seem to have similar lines of shoes. The problem? $120 for most styles. Sorry, but my absolute limit for a pair of shoes is $40, and that takes some extreme teeth pulling to get that out of me. I typically aim for $25 or less.

Not only that, but no one sells these around me, and I absolutely can’t order shoes online. My foot is exactly 9.5 inches long, but depending on the brand, I may need a 9, 9 1/2, or a 10, depending on if the manufacturer is sloppy with their measurements or not. And I have a narrow heel, which makes some shoes–especially tennis shoes and boots–hard to bit.

Add to that the fact that all of the shoes I have seen so far are very casual or athletic; nothing I can wear to work in my law office with my business casual attire.

And who wants to pay $120 for a shoe that’s barely a shoe?

One article I read (and it may have been the one above) mentioned that traditional moccasins are the right kind of shoe (if you must wear a shoe). I have a pair of traditional, center-seam moccasins that my husband made me for 18th century reenacting. They look like shapeless bags of leather tied on my foot, so I can’t personally advocate a traditional moccasin (no doubt the author meant a modern-syle moccasin–such as come in kits from places like Tandy Leather–but with a leather, not rubber, sole).

Picture of Bohemond's 14th Century turn shoeBut I learned how to make a basic medieval turn-shoe pattern (like this one–which is handmade and only $75) last year, plus I have a shoe pattern from Butterick which gives me some other options. (No worries; I can adjust these patterns to be less pointy in the toes and more modern-looking.) Revuclaint.jpgI can make these look more like a leather Mary Jane, which is more appropriate to wear at work.

I also have the theory that I can make the uppers out of whatever cloth I want, provided it’s backed with something heavy, like canvas. For my medieval shoes, which I won’t wear out very fast, I would eventually like to do embroidery and/or beads on my shoes, but for everyday shoes, which will need to be replaced pretty frequently (medieval shoes are estimated to have lasted 3-4 months with daily use; on concrete they will probably not make it that long).

The thing about going barefoot or barely-shod is that it takes time to get used to it–just like it takes time to get used to standing. I had sandals on yesterday, so I kicked them off while I was standing at my desk, and, surprisingly, it wasn’t any worse than standing in my shoes (and I have pretty cushy sandals). This morning my feet and ankles were tired (although that was probably caused by my extra walking yesterday) and I noticed a slight ache in my knees this morning. I took off my shoes, though, and the ache pretty much went away.

Why? My feet (and maybe everyone’s) slope to the back. I feel that the ball of my foot raises the front of my foot up a little higher than my heel. The ball of my foot has more padding under it than my heel does (probably a good indication that we need to be walking more to the balls of our feet and not so much on our heels). But this is the opposite of shoes, which almost always elevate the heel (even “flats,” like my sandals, are higher in the heel than the ball). Changing the elevation of the heel can make a difference to your feet, ankles, knees and lower back–just ask any woman that’s been walking in high heels for a couple of hours.

Join the Standing Desk Revolution!

I rearranged my office at work Friday and rebuilt my standing desk in the process. I decided it might be time to post another update, as it’s been almost three-and-a-half months since I started spending most of my work time on my feet.

Yes, I still have my standing desk, and yes, I use it every day. No, I don’t want to go back to sitting. Here is a run down of the pros and cons:

Cons

  • I work in a law office, and I am the receptionist as well as paralegal, so clients see me standing at my computer. This seems to bewilder a few, and some have joked “Don’t they let you sit down?” I just tell people, “Standing’s better for your health than sitting all day.” Most people then nod at this, realizing it makes sense.
  • I do have some swelling in my ankles that I didn’t used to have. This is cosmetic, however. It’s not like it’s so bad that I can’t get in my shoes or my socks cut off my circulation.
  • Yes, my feet hurt at the end of the day. It’s summer in Tennessee, which means wearing sandals with dresses and skirts. And while I have good, padded Bass sandals, they’re still not made to stand in all day. I am careful to switch up my shoes every day or two between the sandals, tennis shoes, and some low boots with really good soles so I don’t ruin my feet. Even if you have good tennis shoes to wear everyday, I’d still suggest having a different pair to wear and alternate them. Your feet can get repetitive stress syndrome too, and changing your shoes helps keep your feet from being in the exact same position day in and day out.
  • I’m still working on a ghetto desk (although better than what I had before). I haven’t asked for a new one yet (not sure I can get one, since it’s clearly not a necessity).

Pros

  • My lower back pain/tailbone pain that I had four months ago is gone and has been gone. I know this seems counter-intuitive–you’d think I’d have more back pain, not less–but it’s true: sitting was killing my back.
  • I just noticed the other day that I haven’t had nerve pain in my left leg in quite a while. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I got pain in my left leg when I stood any length of time. I sort of felt like I had a catch in my hip socket, and if I could just move it the right way, it’d pop (it never did). This was accompanied by some nerve pain/aches down the front of my thigh, along with some numbness in the skin. I linked this to having taken a bad fall off my horse a few years ago and landing on that hip. When I first started standing at my desk, I just suffered this pain, because I was able to lessen it sometimes by sitting down or walking around more (whereas I couldn’t seem to ease my back pain, short of standing for long periods of time). But, at some point, my hip quit hurting without me noticing. Now I wonder if sitting wasn’t causing some sort of stress point which only manifested when I stood up.

Conclusion

I do not want to give up my standing desk. Mild foot pain and puffy ankles is a small price to pay to eliminate much worse pain in my back and hip. Also, now that I’m on the No S Diet, which just limits sweets, snacks and second helpings, I’m starting to notice some weight loss. I’m angling to be part of that statistic that people who stand all day have, on average, a 1.6″ smaller waist than people who sit all day.

I mentioned above that I rebuilt my ghetto desk when I moved my office around. It used to be a couple of boxes on top of my credenza, which held my keyboard and mouse, and a couple of smaller boxes on top of them for my monitor and a lamp. After 3 months, though, I was starting to get some box buckling and my monitor had a noticeable tilt to the left.

Here’s how it shakes down now: I have a small, half-round table up on paint cans (I told you it was ghetto). On top of this I have two empty storage boxes, which are topped with a scrap piece of drywall. I still have my piece of green velvet covering it like a tablecloth. My desk faces the door, and behind it is my tall filing cabinet–with my monitor and speakers sitting on top of it (it also hides mos. I have a lot more surface area with the piece of dry wall and it is very sturdy. And between it and the filing cabinet, I don’t have to worry about my stuff falling into my boxes. If I had known how fabulous a table top-like surface could be, I would have already scrounged a scrap of wood or something. Of course, my original box desk was just supposed to be temporary while I decided if I liked standing.

Gardening (AKA “Killing Plants”)

What my garden SHOULD look like

When I was a kid, I used to help my grandmother pick vegetables in the garden. And I have always liked picking blackberries (even though I don’t like to eat them). But other than growing some marigolds and forget-me-nots when I was a kid, I have no real plant experience.

But what I do have are some heirloom seeds. And after 2 years of not planting them, I got on it and started my spring seeds early this year, like I’m supposed to. I planted two different kinds of tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, and broccoli and cauliflower indoors in March. Here it is, though, eight weeks later, and the only thing that’s still alive are the pepper plants. Everything came up, then died. I’m not sure why: maybe too little water, too little sunlight, or maybe I left them outside too late one evening (I did try to set them out on warm days to get sun) and they got too cold. My dad informed me that you can’t water a tomato plant too much, so I’m thinking lack of water may have done them in, but I also have my suspicions about lack of sunlight. Unfortunately we don’t have a place to put any plants inside where they can get sun. I might have to give up the idea of spring plants and plant those things in the fall, when I can plant them outside directly.

What my garden ACTUALLY looks like

I have summer vegetables to plant–and now that Easter has passed and we’re out of the danger of frost–I’ll plant outside. We’ll see what happens. Who knew growing vegetables would have such a steep learning curve? Plants and trees grow in our yard all the time, with absolutely no input from us. When we had a horse, she shat out a stalk of corn and several stalks of wheat; you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to grow some onions.