My reading for 2013 started off at a great pace:  I had read 28, more than half my goal of 52 (one per week), by the end of March.  That by the beginning of 2014 I had completed only 57 shows how busy the rest of the year was.

Here's the list, sorted alphabetically.  A chronological listing, with rankings, warnings, and review links, is here.  I enjoyed most of the books, and regret none.  Titles in bold are particular favorites.

  1. 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter  
  2. Animorphs #1: The Invasion by K. A. Applegate
  3. Animorphs #2: The Visitor by K. A. Applegate
  4. Animorphs #3: The Encounter by K. A. Applegate
  5. Animorphs #4: The Message by K. A. Applegate
  6. Animorphs #6: The Capture by K. A. Applegate
  7. Animorphs #7: The Stranger by K. A. Applegate
  8. Animorphs #8: The Alien by K. A. Applegate
  9. Better than School by Nancy Wallace  
  10. Child's Work by Nancy Wallace  
  11. Cooked by Michael Pollan  
  12. Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant  
  13. Difficult Personalities by Helen McGrath and Hazel Edwards
  14. Getting Organized in the Google Era by James A. Martin
  15. God Is Red by Liao Yiwu
  16. The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James
  17. Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus
  18. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, narrated by Susan Denaker (audio book)
  19. The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer
  20. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  21. The Hork-Bajir Chronicles by K. A. Applegate
  22. How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson  
  23. The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson
  24. Indian Captive by Lois Lenski
  25. The Keys to the Kingdom #1: Mister Monday by Garth Nix
  26. The Keys to the Kingdom #2: Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
  27. The Keys to the Kingdom #3: Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
  28. The Keys to the Kingdom #4: Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
  29. The Keys to the Kingdom #5: Lady Friday by Garth Nix
  30. The Keys to the Kingdom #6: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix
  31. The Keys to the Kingdom #7: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
  32. Kluge by Gary Marcus
  33. Landmark 2: The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
  34. Landmark 9: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad by Adele Nathan
  35. Life of Fred: Apples by Stanley F. Schmidt  (This series is not bolded, because they are math textbooks, but I loved reading them, and they're great math stories.)
  36. Life of Fred: Butterflies by Stanley F. Schmidt
  37. Life of Fred: Kidneys by Stanley F. Schmidt
  38. Life of Fred: Liver by Stanley F. Schmidt
  39. Life of Fred: Mineshaft by Stanley F. Schmidt
  40. Lilith by George MacDonald
  41. Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James
  42. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
  43. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
  44. Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. de Kay
  45. The Myth of the Garage by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  46. The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
  47. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
  48. Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert
  49. The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling  
  50. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
  51. The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
  52. The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead
  53. The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
  54. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  55. What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton
  56. When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
  57. A Year with G. K. Chesterton edited by Kevin Belmonte
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 24, 2014 at 6:10 am | Edit
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All my e-mails are sorted and ordered and I know what needs to be done in a timely manner and what can wait.  The former have been sorted into "Action" folders, and I know to give them top priority.  But all the e-mails that now reside in various Project and Someday folders no longer trouble me, as I know there is no hurry, and I can get to them whenever I feel I have the time and energy to tackle them.  What's more, they are organized, so that if I decide to work on accumulated reading, or educational materials, or computer enhancements, I can navigate immediately to the relevant material.

I wrote that a week ago.  It's still true.  (It's still amazing.)  What's more, I have reduced an e-mail backlog of more than 600 to 64, and not by declaring e-mail bankruptcy, but by dealing with each one.  I don't expect the number to get much lower:  the point of e-mail is to use it, after all.  But what remains is in useable form, filed and easy to access.  If I keep it under 100, I'll be thrilled.

However, there's a downside.  Frankly, taking care of e-mail has become an obsession.  I can't stand to have anything in my inbox, which is a good thing because if I can deal with it quickly I do, and if I can't, I file it appropriately.  In addition, I've obviously spent a lot of time slashing my backlog by 90%.  That, too, was a very good thing.  But as I said, I'm obsessing.  I'm spending too much time checking e-mail, just so I can deal with it.  If I'm working on something else and notice that mail has arrived, I immediately drop what I'm doing to take care of it.

That was okay for the first week, but it's time to move on.

The point of e-mail control is not to get rid of all e-mails as soon as they come in; it's to deal with them effectively and efficiently, in a timely manner, and not allowing the important to get lost because of a poor signal-to-noise ratio.  What I need now is to let go my Death Grip of Control a little.  To acknowledge that

  • the last 10% of my e-mails will take a lot longer to dismiss than the first 90%
  • their numbers will continue to ebb and flow somewhat

And that's fine, because as long as

  • I review them regularly so that I know I'm not neglecting something that can't wait
  • I keep on top of them so that the flow doesn't overwhelm the ebb

all will be well.

My e-mail system, after all, is much like a Tickler File/Next Action Lists/Project Folder GTD system.  There's no point in an empty Tickler, and no need to check it obsessively.  Each day you check it once, deal with what you find, and then forget about it until the next.

My plan it to try to force myself to "check my E-mail Tickler" once each day, and do what needs to be done.  That doesn't mean I'll only read e-mail once a day.  I'll never be a Tim Ferriss and check e-mail once a week or less, because I've chosen e-mail as my primary form of communication.  I might be able to manage his recommendation to check e-mail only twice a day, but I don't think so:  I wouldn't want to miss the e-mail that says our grandchildren are asking to Skype!  (Though of course that will happen anyway, unless I get a phone smart enough to nudge me when an e-mail arrives, and I'm in no hurry for that.)

What it does mean is that while I may clear my Inbox more frequently, unless the e-mail is  one that (1) I can take care of in less than two minutes, (2) I would particularly enjoy answering right away, or (3) urgent, I will file it in the appropriate folder and forget about it until "Check E-mail Tickler" comes up again the following day.  (Actually, I may not forget about it completely, because several of my e-mails are parts of ongoing discussions, or for other reasons will provoke long, thoughtful responses.  In such cases, Li'l Writer Guy will always be busy in the background.  But that's pleasure, not guilt.)

And in case you're wondering why I haven't answered the e-mail you sent, checking my e-mail tickler means making sure I know what can wait and what can't, and dealing with the latter.  And then, if I have time, some of the former.  If you think I've misclassified your e-mail, feel free to nudge me with another.

This is not going to be easy.  There's always the fear that—as has happened with so many other of my efforts—letting go of iron-fisted control will cause the system to implode.  But a system that requires so much maintenance is of no use at all.  So it's time to take a risk, pry my clenched fingers off the reins, and let the system do what it's designed for.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 9:11 am | Edit
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Upfront admission:  This is a First World problem, and I know there are millions in the Third World who would love to have it.  But we are First World people, and it is a problem.

Janet, our (almost) Swiss daughter, has a refrigerator about half the size of the one I had in my college dorm.  It is, understandably, uncomfortably full.  Heather, our New Hampshire daughter, and I each have what I'd call a normal-sized refrigerator.  Each is uncomfortably full.  My sister has a large refrigerator.  You guessed it:  her refrigerator is also uncomfortably full.  (Maybe that's only because I usually see it at Thanksgiving.  But I doubt it.)

Janet has a small cubicle in their apartment basement for storage, stuffed full.  Heather has a good-sized basement, and the only reason it's not yet stuffed full is that they just removed the large furnace and chimney that were taking up a good deal of the space.  My sister's basement is wonderfully large, but it has the same problem.  We don't have a basement, but I know what it would be like if we did.

Janet doesn't have a garage.  Heather has a one-car garage that is crammed with stuff.  We have a two-car garage, ditto.  My sister's three-car garage is in similar shape.

Janet's apartment is very small, with no closets and little cupboard space:  it's overcrowded.  Our four-bedroom house has decent cupboard and closet space:  it's overcrowded.  Heather just moved into a large Victorian monstrosity of a house, and their newly-renovated kitchen alone has awesome cupboard space.  But even after making allowances for temporary construction equipment and materials, it's clear that the house is well on its way to filling up.  Thanks to a taste for clean lines and an eye for beauty, my sister's very large house doesn't feel crowded (except at Thanksgiving), but her closets and cupboards are as full as the rest of ours.

I could go on:  Attics.  Bookcases.  Drawers.  Filing cabinets.  Even boxes.  I'm seeing a pattern here, and it's not good.

No matter how much or how little space we have, our possessions expand to fill it to the point of discomfort.  I wouldn't want to limit the food I have in our refrigerator to what would fit in Janet's.  But if she can manage, why can't I keep ours at the point where there's still wiggle room?  Why do our bookshelves hold books behind books, and books on top of books?  If we had fewer bookshelves we would have the same problem—but with a quantity of books that would fit comfortably on the shelves we do have.

I've come to believe that the problem is actually a mental miscalculation, similar to the one that results in my having almost-but-not-quite enough time to meet any deadline.  If I could have 30 more minutes before guests come for dinner, I would be relaxed and well-prepared.  If I could have one more day to prepare for our vacation, I would step onto the plane well-rested and confident.  If I had left home ten minutes earlier, I wouldn't be fretting about traffic and red lights.  What I want to do always fills up the time available—plus a little bit more.  Likewise, what I want to store always fills up the space available, plus a little bit more.

Solving this problem has become one of my Foundations 2013 goals.  Inspired by Janet's organizational and deluttering efforts, encouraged by some modest successes of my own, and cheered on by friends and family who are tackling similar projects, I hope to recalibrate my mental vision, or at least figure out how to compensate for its known errors.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 25, 2013 at 6:45 am | Edit
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When I first learned that Google Reader was going away, I was even more upset than when the demise of iGoogle was announced.  After a brief tantrum, I decided it was a good lesson in the importance of not becoming dependent on things over which I have no control.  I know:  We depend on city water, we're tied to the grid for power, and losing the Internet would be almost as crippling as losing the first two.  But a little independence is better than none.

Today I realized that I'm actually grateful for Google's nefarious actions.  Not to justify Google's leading people into addiction then cutting them off cold turkey, but what they did offered me the perfect opportunity to declutter my blog world.  And what a victory that was.

I began by looking at various Reader alternatives.  Because nothing jumped out at me as the obvious course, I decided to see if I could do without any feedreader at all.  The first step was to cull the many feeds that were outdated (some of them with no posts since 2009!), or in which I'd lost interest, or which I find too interesting (i.e. take up too much time, such as the Front Porch Republic, which is filled with frequent, thoughtful, interesting posts that take a long time to read and even longer to respond to).  It took much of the day to do it, but it made me so happy!

Thus I managed to whittle over 100 feeds down to a couple of dozen.  This is how I am dealing with those that remain:

  1. For many I was able to activate an e-mail subscription.  Now that I have my e-mail under control (what a thrill to be able to say that!) I'm not afraid to add this, and I have a filter that files my blog subscription e-mails directly into my "Read" Action folder.
  2. For some I determined that I was receiving the same information, or at least a link to the blog, from Facebook, so as long as I keep up with Facebook, I'll get the important news.  If I want I can even have Facebook e-mail me the posts.
  3. Some are updated at a rate that makes checking them weekly a viable option.  These I have aggregated into a folder on my Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar called "Blogs Weekly."  Once a week I can click on the folder, choose "open all in tabs," and rapidly flip through them to check for new posts.
  4. Others (mostly family blogs) I want to check daily, so I have a similar folder labelled "Blogs Daily."  Each of the Weekly and Daily folders contains less than a dozen tabs, and I plan to keep it that way.
  5. There are only two blogs I can't handle with any of the above methods:  Lime Daley, and Daley Pictures.  These are updated infrequently enough I don't want to check them unless there's news, but when there is news, I want to know quickly.  Fortunately, for both of them I'm likely to hear directly from the people involved if there's something I should know.

For now, I'm keeping my (radically trimmed) Google Reader feeds in parallel with my new system as I try it out.  But I think I'll like it.  It's neat, clean, orderly—and has been reduced to only those feeds that, per FlyLady, are a blessing!

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:02 am | Edit
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It's been a while since I had one of those Happiness Moments.  Certainly with the birth of a new grandchild I've had plenty of times of gratitude and pleasure.  But the effervescent joy that I call a Happiness Moment had eluded me for almost two months.

Until yesterday.

It was a small moment, but oh, so welcome.  Thanks to being away from home (and sick, and exceedingly busy) for a month, plus some disruptions before that, my e-mail had gotten completely out of control.  Since returning, I've been chipping away at it, and doing some reorganization.

Late yesterday afternoon I realized that it is now under control.  Not that I no longer have a mountain of e-mails to deal with.  It's a much smaller mountain, true, but those that could be handled easily are gone, and what remains will command a lot of time.  So what was the cause of the champagne-bubble thrill?

All my e-mails are sorted and ordered and I know what needs to be done in a timely manner and what can wait.  The former have been sorted into "Action" folders, and I know to give them top priority.  But all the e-mails that now reside in various Project and Someday folders no longer trouble me, as I know there is no hurry, and I can get to them whenever I feel I have the time and energy to tackle them.  What's more, they are organized, so that if I decide to work on accumulated reading, or educational materials, or computer enhancements, I can navigate immediately to the relevant material.

When I used to do a lot of mountain climbing, I loved the moment when I doffed my heavy pack and walked free:  I felt lighter than air and every step was dancing.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 5:44 am | Edit
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The second goal I set for this project was not foundational in itself, but a subset of the fundamental goal of purposeful and deliberate reading:  To read through A History of the Medieval World by February 14.  The third was to read through the entire Bible, chronologically, in a year.  Unlike my bedtime goal, and the exercise goal below, both of these are amenable to getting ahead, and to catching up when behind.  The latter worked well when I started the Bible-reading goal a week into the year, but generally I prefer the former.  I try to stay just a little ahead of the “on track to the goal” graph, so that small distractions, such as a busy weekend, don’t put me behind.  On the other hand, I don’t want to get too far ahead, either, because that would indicate that I am probably neglecting other duties.

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As you can see, I’m doing well with both of these goals.

Finally, there’s exercise.  It required a lot of cogitation to create a metric that accomplishes what I want it to, but I finally did, and I’m still very pleased with it.  At my level, the key is simply to get moving, and I’ve done that consistently and well ever since I started keeping account.  I can’t tell you the number of times I got out the door with my sneakers on for the sole reason that I couldn’t face entering a zero in the record.  At some point I added another line to the graph, representing a minimal requirement higher than zero; my intention is to raise it periodically as I get in better shape.

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For a long time all I did was walk, but recently I’ve added activities that tackle core and upper body issues, along with balance and flexibility.  I quickly discovered that my initial “difficulty multiplier” of 10 was too high; 2 seems to be more realistic, though I may feel differently when I get to running, which I don’t expect to manage for quite a while.

This is another winner, and again I thank Porter, and others in my family, for their support.  The art of encouraging without nagging is a tricky one, and you’re doing it well.


So, on the one hand, I’m feeling good about my successes.  On the other hand, it’s discouraging to realize I’m already one month into the year and my “foundation” has only four stones.  And despite the above-mentioned efforts not to let myself get too far ahead in the reading, focusing on these four areas has still led to neglecting important duties.  (Don't ask about my inbox.)  How am I possible going to fit everything in?  How could I have hoped to add more to my schedule when I was already overwhelmed?  My not-very-confident hope is that as the foundations are laid and become part of life, I will become more efficient.

In any case, I need to press on.    Part of the problem is that I want the next goal to be in the area of healthy eating, and it’s too big a topic.  I’m struggling to break it into manageable pieces, and, as I did with exercise, develop a workable metric.  I’m to the point of deciding just to do something, to get started, to put up a sail, so to speak, and worry later about adjusting course.

But that’s another post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 8:22 am | Edit
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I am exceedingly well pleased with the first month of my Foundations 2013 project.

The first foundation stone was a regular, 10 p.m. bedtime, and I’m happy to report success for the first month:  an average of 10 p.m. with a few deviations each way, but not many and only one as much as an hour.

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I’m even happier to report how much better just a month of this practice has made me feel, both physically and mentally.  Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m getting all that much more sleep, as I’ve been waking up earlier, but it’s generally better sleep.  How lovely it is to fall asleep within a few minutes of turning out the light, instead of lying awake with my mind whirling, being unable to avoid the thought that if I can’t sleep, I could at least be up accomplishing something, but staying in bed because I know I’m really tired and need the sleep.

I suspect there are several factors involved here, only one of which is the hour, though I’ve discovered through experience that 10:00 really does work best for me.  Another is the sheer regularity of the time:  as the month progressed, both my body and my mind learned to recognize when bedtime is approaching and begin, unconsciously, to prepare.

Unmeasured and undocumented, but significant, is a deliberate effort to “wind down”—usually reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a course lecture—in the later evening hours.  I found out the hard way that rushing around trying to finish last-minute jobs and beat the 10:00 deadline does not work:  the one time I did that, I was so hyped I lay awake for two hours.

My general practice, though it’s not honored with any rigidity whatsoever, is to have the computer off by 9:00, and I find getting away from the close screen helps a lot.  If I’m watching something, as opposed to reading, I will bend the rule and keep my computer on my lap.  Without it, I will more often than not fall asleep, or get frustrated—I seem to need to do something else when watching television (and I don’t knit). That seems to do less harm—as is true of the movie itself, though it also is "screen time"—than the intensity with which I usually work at the computer, and allows me to do small, tedious, but important jobs that take time but little attention.   (For example, there are tasks that require a few clicks, then a wait, then a few clicks, then a wait—and doing them while distracted by a movie keeps me from being frustrated to tears by the delays.)  It also helps to get ready for bed (both myself and the house) before doing the winding-down activities.

This Foundation Stone is a keeper, and I am so grateful to my husband for supporting it.  When you're married, making a significant change is nearly impossible if your spouse is opposed, and passive resistance or even indifference can quickly derail all but the strongest commitment to a difficult project.  But encouragement is the lubrication that keeps the whole enterprise from seizing up.  Thank you, Porter!


There's a lot more to cover in this first-month review, but I'll take a break before moving on.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:05 am | Edit
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Alasdair Neale guest conductor
Sarah Chang, violin

Gioachino Rossini:  Semiramide:  Overture
Samuel Barber: Concerto for Violin, op. 14
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, op. 64

As much as I like music, it's not often a "happiness moment" coincides with a concert.  (Mostly because the particular kind of happiness I'm documenting is rare.)  But Sunday was a bright exception.  I had been particularly looking forward to the afternoon concert, because we've loved Sarah Chang's violin playing since she was playing on a quarter-sized violin.  But Ms. Chang's lovely performance was not the most memorable event of the concert.

Wow.

How often does the orchestra outshine the soloist?

We love the Barber Violin Concerto and we love Sarah Chang.

But hands down the best of the concert was the Tchaikovsky.  Porter called it, "possibly the best I've ever heard the Orlando Philharmonic play."  I don't care much for the modern habit of giving standing ovations so often that ordinary applause makes musicians think, "What did we do wrong?"  But this one was truly well-deserved.  The music came alive, it was meaningful, it was powerful—and what's more, it looked as if the musicians were enjoying themselves.  This is hardly an obscure piece—and yet I can say that I've never heard a performance of Tchaikovsky 5 that moved me more.

Plus, it really helped that the concert was at 3 p.m.  I'm far from my best and most appreciative when I'm struggling to stay awake.  Not to mention the earlier time is safer for the drive home.  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:18 am | Edit
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It's been two weeks since a posted about a "happiness moment," and I was beginning to wonder.  It's not as if I've been unhappy, but I hadn't had any of those particular moments I'm trying to document.  Then yesterday I had two in close succession.

The first was sitting on the back porch, on my favorite swing.  It was early in the morning, and (at last!) cool enough to enjoy snuggling in my beloved Kevin Blanket (made for me many years ago by a then-young nephew).  There was a very gentle breeze blowing, so soft that I felt it only as a coolness on my face, but occasionally strong enough to move the leaves on the trees.  When I see that, I always think of two things:

John 3:8:

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it,
But you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes;
So it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.

and Christina Rosetti's poem:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

And both make me smile.  Then my mind wandered:  How the Holy Spirit is represented in the Bible by such elemental images:  wind, fire, water.  How Christ, though described with a variety of images, both material and abstract (e.g. light, vine, truth) is most fully represented to us by elements that are distinctly human, living and festive:  bread and wine.  And both of those thoughts made me smile, too.

Later I had the same feeling just walking through the house.  As always happens when we have guests, the approach of our weekend visitors inspired a flurry of activity, of pushing cleaning and organizational project either to completion or at least to a point where the chaos is less noticeable.  With the visitors here, and further work impossible, I could walk into each room and simply enjoy the clean lines and reassuring evidence of work well done.  Such a moment is always worth savoring, and makes me smile even in remembrance.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 6:27 am | Edit
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Focusing on the Foundations
Concentration:  Physical
Category:  Health
Goal:  Consistent exercise

If I put exercise on my resolution list, I end up feeling guilty.  But I feel guilty if it's not on my list, so it might as well stay there.

Last spring my reasonably good exercise habit was sidelined by an injury.  Nothing serious, but it hurt to walk, and since walking was the heart and soul of my exercise, all things ground to a halt for half a year.  Longer than that, actually:  I was feeling better after six months, but by then I was out of the habit and into the holidays.  But in that time I could feel my body deteriorating, much more than ever before, so I know I must make this a priority.  And an important part of the plan must be alternatives so that minor injuries don't devastate the whole enterprise.

One thing I've learned is that for me, at this point in my life, I have to make the plan simple and easy.  Part of the struggle was designing a workable metric.  After all, "consistent exercise" is not a very specific goal.  In the end, I stripped it all down to time.  More than any specific exercise goals, I just need to get moving.  I almost reduced it still further to "exercise events," i.e. one point for every time I got out the door for a walk, or took the time to do some pushups, or whatever.  However, I did want to complicate things enough to include in some way the whole trio of "frequency, intensity, and duration."  And so, voilà! the "exercise-minute."

The exercise-minute takes into account the intensity of an exercise.  For normal walking, biking, and swimming, 1 minute = 1 exercise-minute.  For running, sprint biking or really fast swimming, 1 minute = 10 exercise-minutes.  I just made that ratio up; the point isn't to be specific in terms of health benefits, but to encourage activities that will provide more cardiovascular benefits.  In addition, I want to include other exercises, such as those for flexibility, balance, and strenthening my core and upper body, and I can't do (say) 30 minutes of pushups with the ease I can walk for the same time.  For the moment, I'm using the same 10:1 ratio for these; as I said, I need to keep it simple or I will spend all my time tweaking the metric and not setting foot out of the house.

Here's what the graph looks like so far.  Like the sleep graph (and unlike the reading charts), it's not cumulative; I want to see how I do from day to day.  I began on Monday, and have as yet done nothing but walk.  But a start is a start!

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Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 9:16 am | Edit
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I don't plan an update on my Focusing on the Foundations progress every single week, but I will post periodically because knowing that I'll have to admit to failure is a significant incentive to diligence.

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As you can see, by keeping my goals for the first week modest (i.e. just two), I've done all right.  The dotted lines are where I should be to be on track for meeting my goals; the solid lines show my progress.

The 10:00 bedtime definitely required some discipline to meet, but I only slipped twice.  Once (11:00) we had a guest for dinner, and were having such a good time I could hardly say, "Sorry, you must leave now; it's almost my bedtime."  As with many rules, this one will no doubt work best if I allow exceptions—as long as they are truly exceptional.

With the other (10:15, though it was actually 10:09; the chart is denominated in 15-minute increments, with rounding) I learned an important lesson.  There was a kitchen project I wanted to finish before going to bed, and I rushed around like a madwoman to get it done (almost) in time.  But then I was so hyped-up I lay awake for another two hours, totally defeating the purpose of the 10:00 bedtime.

The history reading has been going well, largely because I take the book with me in the car whenever I'm not driving, though I have been able to find some other times as well, which accounts for being slightly ahead of schedule.

Because I only started the chronological Bible reading today, I've left off that graph, figuring there's no point in cluttering up the post with a depressingly empty chart.  I'm only up to January 1.

I'll be adding more projects as time goes on, though not all of them will be as quantifiable as these.  That's a pity, because the charts and graphs really do help!

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Edit
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Focusing on the Foundations
Concentration:  Spiritual
Goal:  Read through the entire Bible in 2013, chronologically

Ever since reading and reviewing The Chronological Guide to the Bible, I've wanted it to re-read it while simultaneously reading the Bible according to its chronology.  Reading through the Bible in a year is not too ambitious a project (our former rector does it every year), but does require discipline, especially when coordinating it with another book.  I'm also starting a week late.  But you can hardly get more foundational, in spiritual matters, than a good knowledge of the Bible, so there it is.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Edit
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Three Happiness Moments marked this Epiphany day, all in the morning, all milder than the events I've mentioned before:  more a smile of pleasure than a "wild stab of joy."

The first is the hardest to explain.  I was coming off a verbal rebuke over something that needed to be done and which had already that morning nagged me painfully without words—as had several other undone projects.  I was feeling overwhelmed; but the joy and peace came in the mere act of unloading the dishwasher.  Was it pleasure in the cleanliness, thankfulness for the new appliance, or relief that a job, however small, was actually being accomplished?  I don't know; that's why I'm chronicling these moments.

The other two occurred in church.  It's not hard to explain the one that came as we began rehearsing our anthem:  gratitude for our new choir.  And I guess there's no no surprise in the last, either, for I was kneeling for the Eucharist; still, that joy isn't consistently predictable.

Then there was Skyping with our Swiss family in the afternoon; that's not the kind of Happiness Moment I'm trying to figure out here, but there's no doubt it contributes to a great deal of pleasure.  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Edit
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This morning's Happiness Moment came in our living room, dark save for the illumination of the Christmas tree, in a time of quiet meditation and prayer.  Gazing at the tree, I recalled my childhood Christmas trees, and favorite ornaments, and all the joys of decorating, and baking, and family times.  I listened to my husband and his father working quietly in the kitchen.  And life was suddenly very good.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 4, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Edit
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In keeping with my efforts at chronicling those indefinable, momentary feelings of happiness that catch me almost by surprise, I'll mention one that occurred last night, fleeting but sweet.  It was inspired, I'm sure, by an admixture of a good friend's visit, a dinner of a particularly good quiche, and good fellowship around dessert with a centerpiece of an amazing Canadian ice wine and an associated lecture from the Great Courses on the subject.  The actual moment, however, came later, while looking into our new shower (pictures to come), which added overtones of beauty, good work done well, and a sense of being clean, warm, and at home.

Perhaps it is the wine course that leads me to try to describe these "happiness moments" as if they were wines.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 4, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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