Friday evening resolution

Shabbat Shalom!  Hey!50% too clever, I know. But worth mentioning all the same. That’s what you get when you force your work ethic upon me, Seinfeld, even if only memetically.

Damn you, Jerry, and damn your stupid chain. But here I am, punning the blog’s name.

So around the same time I stumbled on the name “Monday Morning Revolution” (and was shocked by the revelation it was not already a registered domain), I decided that I should host people for Shabbat dinner every Friday that I was free to do so. I decided I’d wait until after my wedding in August (an impending wedding is a useful excuse to get out of just about anything) and then make it a full-blown resolution.

We were wed August 12th. Our first Shabbat dinner guests as a married couple came on August 31. The following Friday was someone’s birthday, so we bagged the big family dinner and went out. Then this week (tonight actually – yes, I blog on Shabbos. But I don’t roll.) we had some more people over: one gal from our Intro to Judaism class and a couple we met in our premarital workshop (a.k.a. group therapy for the betrothed).

We’re 2 for 2. Maybe I should knock on some wood here, but I’ve yet to be disappointed by the experience of having people over for Shabbat dinner. Jews, non-Jews, old friends, new friends, it always works out awesome. Of course, getting all those swell dishes for wedding presents helps, as does the fact that I love to cook in large quantities, but that’s beside the point.

The point is the emulation of my own personal Biblical hero, Abraham. I won’t go into too much detail here, but in the book of Genesis, Abraham is clearly the hostest with the mostest, and his hospitality is rewarded by thousands of years of spiritual progeny in three major world religions marking him as their single common patriarch.

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit uppity, and I really should be in bed right now (damn you, Seinfeld) but I just read a mention in someone else’s awesome blog about one of my favorite books, Never Eat Alone, and that, plus a belly full of kugel and meatballs and a heart full of friendship have inspired the following call to action:

Read Genesis, especially about the life of Abraham, then read Keith Ferazzi’s Never Eat Alone, then go back and re-read Genesis. You should be able to knock all that out in a weekend. Don’t ask me why – both books have been extensively reviewed elsewhere – just trust me on this one. Then ask a few friends over for dinner the following Friday night. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about your life.

Stay tuned for more Shabbat dinner-based messages; this may be my most inspired and fruitful resolution since “Regular Bathing”.

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The opposite of speedwork

chillax!

My greatest lesson in relaxation began as I engaged in the exact opposite of relaxation.

A few weeks ago I was at a running clinic practice where we were doing speedwork. Speedwork is one of those things you really, really hate while you’re doing it, but you’re glad about it after. Like employment. And like most jobs I’ve had, it consists of brief intervals of furious, boundry-mocking, vomit-inducing labor interspersed with long stretches of jogging-through-the-motions indolence. To extend the metaphor further, it’s rarely the jogging part that brings out the complainers.

“Robin (huff puff),” I gasped to the running coach, “why are we (dry heave) doing this?”

“Because your body learns to go faster (perfectly even breath) by…um…going faster (negligible perspiration).”

Which only made more than tautological sense when, a short while later, my running clinic ran a 10k race. Most of our practice sessions were long slow jogs, relative to the wind-sprints of speedwork night. I felt much more confident to kick the pace up above my usual jog, knowing – from experience – that my body was capable of withstanding and executing the harder work for a finite period of time. I finished the 10k in just under an hour, with an average pace of 9:36 per mile, versus my usual workout pace of around 10:30-11:30 per mile.

Yeah, John. Good story. Really relaxing.

I’m getting to that. A short while later, I was on my honeymoon in Colorado. (You think I run for my health? I did it to get into a tux.) A whole week of zero office work and no access to e-mail or the internet. I can say with certainty that this was my longest period of sustained care-free relaxation in more than fifteen years…since those lazy, aimless summer vacations of my grade-school days. Somewhere between simmering in a hot spring and savoring a seven-course dinner at a five-star restaurant, it occured to me that this was also like speedwork, only, you know, slow.

Periods of intensive relaxation teach your body and mind how to relax. Whether you meditate daily, chill out at church once a week, or take a vacation (a real, crackberry-free vacation) once every ten years, it is these intervals of peace that teach you to be calm when you feel like stressing out, just as speedwork teaches you it’s okay to go fast when you feel like going slow. You can handle it.

Following this epiphany I resolved to remember that feeling of totaly relaxation so that I can tap into it when I’m in a stressful work or family situation and remember that it’s okay to be calm, that I’m capable of it, and that I might perform better if I incorporated the calm into the situation, rather than trying to win with a stress feedback loop. So far it’s working beautifully.

Call to (in)action: next time you’re in a stressful situation, take just a moment to remember the last time you were totally calm, totally relaxed. Think about it for a few minutes, and take that feeling back into the stressful situation and resolve it.

If you can’t remember such a time, then for heaven’s sake, take a vacation. You owe it to yourself and to everyone who has to put up with stress junkies like you.

Wine with dinner: a touch of class for 75 cents a day

Wine with Dinner

What’s the cheapest way to feel like a million bucks at the end of a long day?

Wine with dinner. You know, like a grown-up.

While I have recently resolved to be more frugal with my resources so that I can enjoy more time with my family and with my chosen goof-off pursuits in the future, I have also resolved to make a major change in my dining habits: have at least 1 glass of wine (but not more than 2) almost every night with dinner. For my money there is no better way to end a long day in the drudge, brighten an otherwise humble meal, or make me feel like an unqualified success than having a glass of wine with dinner.

You scoff: yes, John, for YOUR money, but that’s too rich for my blood. P’shaw, I retort.

Trader Joe’s near my neighborhood sells this wonderful stuff from the Charles Shaw vineyard, affectionately named “Three-Buck Chuck”. It comes in several red and white varietals, and it’s delicious table wine.

(In California it’s called Two-Buck Chuck, but I reckon gas prices and shipping to Minnesota account for the extra Buck, Chuck.)

And if you get bored with that, or simply want to show off, there are plenty of other great wines there for $4 and up. One of my personal faves is the J.W. Morris Gewurztraminer, $3.99.

A typical bottle of wine pours 4 glasses, so at 75 cents a glass, you can significantly and affordably improve the quality of your life by having a glass of wine with dinner every night.

Call to action: find the nearest Trader Joe’s or other purveyor of discount table wine, bring home a bottle for dinner, and see if I’m wrong.

Trust me, store brand mac & cheese never tasted more sophisticated. Bon appetit!

New blog (n00b-10g?)

Adding another blog to the universe, I might ask myself the same question people ask themselves when contemplating children:

There are already so many in the world that no one cares about, why should I create more?

( I should say here that the parallel ends in consideration of the several blogs that I’ve had die from lack of attention. That’s between me and social services, and is none of your business.)

My answer to the blogging question is the same as my answer to the breeding question:

Because I got good material. Hey-o! Up top!

Seriously, there ARE a lot of blogs out there. Some are so awesome that you look at your own blog and apologize for not being a better parent. Some blogs are merely annoying and easily ignored. Some are so heartbreakingly deformed that you don’t know whether to cradle them in your arms, weeping, or call animal control. I decided to start this blog because I read a lot of blogs and I think I have something to add to the conversation. If some of my ideas help a few people, then the endeavor will have been worth it.

I will be writing about things that are important to me: running & fitness, cooking & nutrition, family & parenting, work & personal finance, and the culture of information. Add me to your RSS reader, comment early and often, and most of all enjoy…just don’t try to get my blog into your van with promises of candy.