Sleeping on the Job

If you’re like me, you’ve heard urban legends about the transformative power of power naps. The anecdotes I always heard involved some high-powered, on-the-go person who carved out just a few minutes a day to rest at work and voila! Life miraculously makes sense again. More energy throughout the rest of the day, more effective at work, etc., etc.

Sure, sure. Whatever you say.

A few months ago, I was extra-exhausted at work. I forget why, but the afternoon doldrums hit particularly hard, and I could barely keep my eyes open. It felt like given even the tiniest opportunity, I’d fall asleep right at my desk.

I figured, okay, I’m not getting anything done anyway. I’ll go just sit in one of the phone booths with the light off and rest for 15 minutes. To be safe, I set an alarm on my phone.

Needless to say, the second I got relatively comfortable in that dark little room, with the whoosh of the elevators and the murmur of devs talking about things I don’t understand… I feel asleep.

About 10 minutes later I woke up, disabled unneeded the alarm, and went back to work. At first I felt a little groggy, but within a few minutes I actually did feel better. The entire rest of the day, in fact, I felt more alert and engaged. So much better than I’d felt only a few minutes before.

Since then, when I’m overwhelmingly exhausted and ready to drop off at my desk, I’ve napped at work. Every time I fall asleep, and every time I feel 1000% better afterwards. I have been astonished at the difference such a short rest makes in the remainder of my day.

I guess I’ll join the ranks of the power nap evangelists, because I’m a total convert.

Oh, That’s Saturday

Thanks to Ian, I get to spend most of every Saturday biking. It’s the part of the week I finally don’t worry about anything harder than not getting dropped. It helps keep me sane. I ride on Saturdays rain or shine, heat or cold; the only exception is extreme wind or ice.

The other exception is when I’m sick. This week wasn’t my best for health: On Tuesday I got a cold from Benji. But I spent all of Wednesday, the Fourth, lounging in bed watching Netflix (thanks, Ian!), and by Thursday I felt much better. Friday I planned to do the usual Saturday ride, maybe albeit a little slower than usual.

Then, on Friday night, I got some kind of what I suspect to be food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty for about four hours there, is all I’m going to say about that. After which I went to sleep (it was the middle of the night, naturally) and woke up feeling normal. Definitely some kind of food poisoning, but to be on the cautious side, I decided to move my ride from Saturday to Sunday.

It was then decided (to use passive voice for its intended purpose, which is obscuring how/and who) that Ian would get a little mini-vacation day, while I took Benji. Thus it was that I got to see what normal people might do with a Saturday, given the whole day in which to achieve…uh…achievements.

Okay, let’s not get hung up on the use of “normal”; moving along, let’s instead get to the point of the post, which is this list of things I got done on Saturday:

  • Sort through a bunch of old clothes and bag a bunch up for Goodwill.
  • Wash a ton of dishes left from Friday night. It was a lot.
  • Drop Ian off at the place where he was going to hang out and do some stuff by himself.
  • Take Benji to Hillcrest Bakery for a little treat (where he ate the entirety of an enormous chocolate croissant, but only after agonizing between that and an apple fritter the size of his head).
  • Go grocery shopping with Benji. He stuck with me most of the time, but we went by the kids’ room where there’s a super nice attendant who will watch your kids while you shop, and he wanted to go in to play. So I finished up without him. When I came back to pick him up, he said, “Oh no, it’s time to go already?!” Then he started negotiating about when he’d get to come back.
  • Pick up CSA veggies and do the CSA kids’ garden. Benji also found a rainbow array of glass chips in the parking lot of the CSA parking lot, which is graveled with a ton of glass chips. I don’t know where they get them, but they aren’t sharp anymore. He did that, and then he picked some carrots and beets and a zucchini in the kids’ garden. Learning moments: Those squash plants are prickly! Also, to pull veggies, you need to grip at the base of the stem, near the dirt, rather than at the top of the leaves.
  • Put away all the food and wash a bunch of the veggies (although I did save the lettuce for Ian).
  • While also getting Benji some lunch, make two loaves of zucchini bread to use up the zucchini ASAP. To use up everything we got, I put in twice the amount of shredded zucchini, and the recipe turned out just fine–if anything, moister and more tasty than usual.
  • Make teriyaki sauce for the first time (easy) and start marinating some meat for today’s dinner. Hope that turns out okay!
  • During quiet time, wash dishes from the zucchini bread and eat lunch.
  • Mow front yard… it’s really mow the weeds, as the grass has stopped growing for the summer. We don’t water and I always look forward to the grass dying so we don’t have to mow any more. I’m sure our neighbors love this strategy.
  • Start weeding front yard. It may be dry, but that doesn’t stop the weeds from growing… and boy howdy, do they grow. There’s still a lot to do. While I was finishing that up, Ian got home from his adventures.
  • Take Benji to Bridle Trails for a 3-mile, zucchini bread-powered hike with Grammy and Papa Gary. As a bonus, we found ripe salmonberries, huckleberries, and some tiny native blackberries. Yummy!
  • Get leftovers together for dinner, probably the easiest part of the day. After that, Ian took Benji for a bubble bath and bedtime, and I collapsed on the couch for a couple episodes of Queer Eye (more on that another time).

Apparently that’s what I can do with a whole uninterrupted day. I can definitively say that if I wasn’t gone for 4 to 6 hours every Saturday, our house and yard would look much nicer, we’d have a lot more baked goods around, and–most difficult of all–I’d be able to give Ian a better break, plus get more quality time with my child.

Well, as time goes by, we keep finding a new balance for what works for us. I guess the thing about balance is you don’t just get it and you’re done. It’s a process that requires constant work and adjustment. On a bike, if you aren’t constantly making tiny tweaks (and sometimes large swerves, depending!), you’re going to tip over. Maybe that’s also true in life.

Fourth of July: God Bless ‘Murrica

This year I spent Fourth of July in bed watching Queer Eye on Netflix because it was my first, most miserable day of a virus shared (no surprise) by my adorable child. Although I missed Benji’s appearance in the town’s children’s parade, I didn’t miss the opportunity to hear my neighbors setting off fireworks until the small hours of the morning.

Which got me thinking.

Fireworks set off by individuals (as our neighbors did last night until all hours) are truly the perfect American way to celebrate our country. They:

  • Terrify to babies, pets, and veterans, all of which we profess to love, and infuriate our neighbors trying to sleep;
  • Generate literally tons of garbage that someone else (ahem, City of Bothell!) has to clean up;
  • Also generate completely unnecessary air pollution that can’t be cleaned up;
  • Start fires that rage out of control, cost millions to stop, and — bonus! — destroy vast swathes of nature at the same time, all out of carelessness; and
  • Have the potential to cause physical harm to the lighter and viewers.

And yet we persist, because we don’t give a sh*t that what we want harms others.

God Bless Murrica. Amen and good night.

Lesson Learned, Maybe

Last time I had pneumonia, pretty much as soon as I was able to stand up, I started riding hard again. I pushed myself to regain my lost fitness as fast as possible, doing fast, hard rides almost immediately.

I also spent the next four months coughing during and after rides, sometimes so hard and uncontrollably I could barely breathe. It was not fun.

That experience is in the front of my mind as I try to recover effectively this time around. I really want to get back to my former level of fitness, but I don’t think last time was the best approach.

This time I’m trying a different recovery method: slow and steady. I’m riding, but being really strict with myself about not breathing hard. Speed isn’t a factor; my lungs tell me what’s too fast. If I find myself starting to get an elevated heart and breathing rate, I back off, regardless of how fast I’m going.

I’m forcing myself to stick with this plan through the end of May. That gives me most of the month the doctor said I would need to fully recover.

I’m getting better, though: I’ve started wanting to chase some faster guys and push harder on hills. Soon enough.

…I just have to exercise the discipline to stick with this plan when riding with faster guys.

Something to Anticipate

With this round of pneumonia knocking me out of biking for the month, and slowing me down for probably a lot longer than that, I’ve been looking for a good event to get excited about. It has to be pretty far in the future, since I’ll have a lot of fitness to build back up. And around here we’re lucky if the biking season lasts through mid-September.

That’s when a friend mentioned he was doing the Il Regno route on Levi’s Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa in early October. He invited me to join him.

Normally I’d not even consider doing a ride out of state: too much hassle, too expensive.

But this year, I need something to look forward to. Something motivational to get me working hard again (when I’m finally done recovering). After reading about it, I got interested.

It’s supposed to be a really beautiful area to ride. The weather in October should be good. The timing should give me time to train and be prepared. The route would be challenging under any circumstances, and I’d certainly have to work hard from June to October to be ready. But I could probably do it. Plus, I might be able to squeeze in a quick visit with my Uncle Gerard, who lives in nearby San Francisco.

So I signed up.

Now I’m committed, I’m really excited about it — excited and apprehensive. I’m not sure I can build the fitness I need to finish the ride in time; I’ve lost a lot over the last month, and I’m not getting stronger yet, just trying to get healthy. In the past I’ve done lots of hard rides of similar description (100+ miles, 10,000 ft of climbing), but I hear this is exceptionally challenging. That’s part of what makes it an accomplishment: not knowing if I can do it, but working hard and trying for it anyway.

Now I’m just ready to be all better so I can get out there and start riding hard.

Back to Life

I went back to work on Monday with great trepidation: Would I have the energy to do a workday? Could I get back to commuting home by bike afterwards? How would my family handle getting back into the regular routine?

Thankfully, all these concerns proved unfounded. I definitely feel more tired than usual — not sleepy, but tired. Even so, I’ve been able to get through a whole day, including commuting, tolerably well.

Overall I’m breathing pretty well except when I accidentally breathe hard; then it’s still raspy. But that’s about the only symptom left besides the residual tiredness.

I’m trying to exercise discipline when biking to ensure I ride at a pace where I don’t have to breathe hard. This means I’m slow, but thankful to be back riding again. Also, the streak of beautiful weather that persisted during my entire illness has snapped and it’s back to drizzle and clouds. That’s okay, it’s what I’m used to.

It feels good to be getting back to real life.

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About the Author

Katie started blogging before generating content online was cool.

She lives with her amply bearded spouse and uber-precocious offspring (just the one child, for environmental reasons, naturally) in their all-renewable-energy-powered home. In season, they eat beets.