Small Goals for the February Blahs

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-Albert Camus. (Image source)

Happy Groundhog’s Day. Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an early Spring, but all I can think about is that it’s February. Oh February, my nemesis, the shortest month that feels the longest, the month where those winter blues really set in, and the month where I’m sapped of energy and just want to hibernate and marathon watch The X-Files. February is that month where that feeling that winter will never end sets in and the grey skies and slush feel like personal attacks. It’s rough.

Despite the fact that I do truly love winter, I still get those winter blues, and I still have a pretty rough time combatting them, especially in February. To combat the winter blues and the February blahs I’ve been making self-care a priority. I posted before about self care always being important, but I just need it so much more in the winter. Self care has definitely been a priority this winter, I had a lovely self care night with close friends and another friend started a great facebook group for talking about self care with friends. These have been great, but as February approached I thought I needed another kick. So I started thinking I should make a few goals to work on in February. The same day I was contemplating this idea I read Nicole’s post about February Small Goals and got inspired to do the same.

So here are my February Small Goals:

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These are the 5 goals I’m going to focus on in February.

Run, bike, walk. Every day. This one is a big one for me, I usually do at least one of these every day, but when it’s dark, cold, and grey out I often just want to curl up in a ball instead. Pushing myself to do one every day will make me and my dog much happier since being outside and being active are a huge part of my self care.

Write letters/send cards. This is something that I love doing and winter is a great time to do this. I really love sitting down to write to close friends. And it’s a great surprise for whoever gets something fun in the mail! Maybe it’ll help them with their February blahs too.

Art projects. This one can be many things for me since I have many artsy hobbies. I often look forward to winter for the time to stay in and work on art projects, but I sometimes also struggle to find creative energy. I have a few crochet and sewing projects lined up for this one that I’m looking forward to working on.

Cook a new or favorite meal each week. This one is something I’m excited about because I have a habit of making the same things over and over because they are easy or quick. I also often get into cooking ruts where I’m not excited about cooking or eating anything, so I’m hoping to find some new fun recipes to try this month. My bestie got me a new cookbook for my birthday last month so this goal should be fun!

Drink tea at night… instead of alcohol. This one is sort of a reminder to slow down at night, take some time to relax, but also I’m going to drink tea instead of any alcohol at home for the month of February. I love drinking wine, but I find that when I’m already feeling a lack of energy that slowing down more with some wine isn’t always helpful. I also have a problem with staying hydrated and oversleeping, both are not helped by drinking wine at night!

So those are my small goals for February. I thought of more than five, but I don’t want my list to get too long or to have too many things to think about. Although, another thing I’m working on in February is not buying anything. My partner had the idea and I agreed to go along with it for the month. I like this idea because it’s a good chance to explore other ways to find entertainment and combat the February blahs with the things I already have at home. I’m also hoping it will help me focus on some of my home projects I’ve been putting off.

As much as I love curling up in blankets with The X-Files, my puppy, and a glass of wine, I could EASILY do that every single night of February and be content, but tv nights are often drain me of my energy. So here’s to a February that is more energizing and creative than it is gloomy and blah.

Do you have any small goals you’re working on in February?

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Winter Cycling

3 years ago I moved back to Madison, Wisconsin after living in Austin, Texas for 5 years. Among the many changes that happened during that transition was that I started biking regularly once I moved back to Madison. My first winter here I put my bike away once it started snowing. I saw people commuting through the winter, but never really thought I’d join them. I like the snow, but I hate the frigid cold and I also have a very intense fear of falling. But that winter I was able to keep running despite the cold and learned how to navigate ice while running (I don’t even know how I survived growing up here). The following winter I thought it was time to try biking too. My first couple rides were not very successful. My face was freezing, my hands & feet were painfully numb & I found it extremely difficult to navigate my touring bike through the ice and snow & I definitely fell a couple times. But I realized, it wasn’t as terrible & difficult as I thought it would be. I just didn’t really have any of the right gear.

I had seen a lot of posts about how to dress to bike in the winter, but in each of these posts there’s always something where I knew I’d have to find an alternative, usually for two reasons: 1. it’s not vegan and 2. it’s expensive. A lot of recommended winter cycling gear is made of wool &/or a lot of it is super pricey. I wasn’t sure I’d fully commit to commuting by bike in the winter so I didn’t really want to invest a ton of money right away. I did realize I needed a winter bike. 168

I looked around for a cheap mountain bike that would just get me through with some studded tires, but after many discussions about bikes with my partner, he convinced me to go for a new bike, a Surly Karate Monkey. I really love this bike-the fat tires, the single speed, the straight bars, it’s a great winter bike!

My other big problem with winter commuting was my hands, face, and feet were numb from freezing pain. I went through many gloves and mittens, in varying layers and still had freezing fingers. I decided to invest in bar mitts and finally found relief. I can actually now wear pretty thin gloves/mittens and my hands stay warm in the bar mitts, seriously great investment! On some of the warmer winter days (40+ degrees) I won’t even wear gloves under the mitts. Many people have told me that mittens keep your hands warmer, but I much prefer to be able to easily move my fingers around my breaks, especially when inside the bar mitts.

The solution to my freezing face was just to cover it up. Once it’s around freezing temperatures I’ve got my face completely covered, no skin showing, hot.193

I found a pretty cheap pair of ski goggles online and they are now key to my comfort in winter biking, no more freezing tears & blurry vision. I spent a full winter biking with just a cheap fleece hat & fleece cowl around my face until I found a nice face mask on clearance last summer. The face mask has made another big difference, I now don’t have to deal with the wet fleece against my face or my hat shifting and letting cold air get to my ears, way more comfortable & warm!175

I went through a lot of cheap gear and have spent a lot of time waiting for sales and good deals before investing in better gear. I will say that a lot of the gear that is expensive is often worth it, it’s good quality, lasts a long time, & really helps make your commute easier. The hard thing is knowing what is going to work for you. I think commuting by bike in the winter is doable if you can’t buy the best option out there, but I couldn’t throw down all the money to get everything right away. I’ve definitely spent some time slowly finding deals and upgrading to better gear.

The one thing that is often recommended for winter cycling that I avoid is wool gear. The wool industry is terrible and I’m vegan so I’ve been really committed to not wearing it. Here is a link to a brief explanation of why wool is not vegan (there’s only one not very graphic image). I was definitely worried I wouldn’t find anything as warm as wool, but I’ve found there are plenty of good alternatives & they are often cheaper!

So what do I wear to keep warm while winter biking? Here is my go-to outfit.

  1. Fleece lined yoga pants I found at TJMaxx, these are great
  2. Bridgedale socks or other thick sports sock, I’ve got a good collection found in sale bins at sporting goods stores or online (the bridgedale ones I found for 6$ woot!)
  3. Fleece lined sports turtleneck, this link goes to the exact shirt/brand I wear, but I found it at Marshall’s & have seen similar styles there. I like the turtleneck for extra coverage so no cold breeze gets in
  4. Tall winter boots I found these on clearance in the summer 3 years ago (bought before my first winter back in WI, oops they aren’t waterproof, but they work great for biking)
  5. Windproof, waterproof jacket  I found this North Face jacket on clearance at REI for 100$ and hesitated about the price, but I’ve had this for 3 years now & wear it for every outdoor sport I do, I love it so much I’ve written haikus about it

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That is my go-to outfit for most of my winter commutes and it usually gets me to weather in the teens with no trouble. Once the weather dips below zero I add some layers.

I add a fleece lined hoodie under my amazing winter jacket (this hoodie was a birthday gift, but it was from Marshall’s). Last summer when it was about 97 degrees out I found a pair of super warm lobster mitts at an outdoor street sale & could barely bring myself to try them on, but they are so warm so I’m glad I did. My partner gave me a pair of knee warmers that I add under my fleece pants to block the frigid wind. Alternatively, I also have a pair of rain pants that I wear over my fleece pants, but I’ve never really liked them so I’m working on replacing them (slowly upgrading!). For my feet I either add another layer of socks or switch to my regular winter boots (I have a pair of Sorels, that I bought on sale in August 3 years ago & a hand-me-down pair of boots from my mom that are less clunky than the Sorels for biking)

Oh and sometimes I add a dinosaur1454725_10103940715511407_7121528337867521684_n

My commute is about 6 miles and I am able to change once I get to work. I really like to get out of all my bike gear and completely change into work clothes. I pack up my change of clothes & lunch in waterproof ortlieb panniers that I got from my mom (I traded her a cheaper pair that didn’t fit on my winter bike). Once I’m at work I hang all my bike gear on a coat rack in my office and change back into it all when I go home. I even put up a hidden clothes line under my desk where I hang my bra, undies, and socks out of view. I’ve been told that’s kinda weird, but whatever. (Ok one time a computer tech dude came in to fix my computer & I had to really fast grab it all from under my desk before he crawled under there, haha).

It may seem like a lot of gear… well, it is a lot of gear! And that’s just another reason I have slowly collected it over a few years. A lot of it I also wear running & other outdoor or everyday activities so it’s definitely worth having. I know some people get by with much less gear or completely different gear, but this is the gear that has worked great for me so I wanted to share. I really never thought I’d be a winter biker, but I really love it… most days 😉

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I also REALLY love this jacket

What’s your favorite winter cycling gear?

Winter Self Care

I love winter. I do. But I also moved out of Wisconsin to get away from cold weather. Winter can be great, there are a lot of wonderful things about winter that I look forward to. I love snow, I love playing outside in the winter, I love getting cozy with a book & my puppy… I sorta just love the hibernation part of winter.

But winter can also be really hard. The winter blues can come on pretty strong and it takes a lot of extra work to feel good sometimes. And winter in Wisconsin can last for a long time- sometimes it snows as early as October and sometimes it snows as late as May, oof. Some people start complaining about the cold and the snow right away and start wishing for it to be May already. I have a hard time with that because despite it being hard, I don’t want to just fast forward through 6 months of my life. And I don’t like associating winter with negativity. I know it can be really hard for people, myself included, but as soon as it starts to get cold I just start to really try and focus on the great things about winter. And also, I try to focus even more on self care.

A friend of mine’s therapist suggested thinking about things that happen throughout winter as lily pads, instead of leaping to the very last one (spring) you look forward to little things throughout. I occasionally host craft and self care nights with friends, so this “lily pad” idea seemed like a great theme for another get together. Self care nights with friends are great, I highly recommend them! We get together and eat a bunch of delicious food, drink wine, and do an art project related to self care. These self care nights usually happen once it starts to get cold, self care is always important to me, but I know I need to spend extra time on self care when the weather gets colder.

For the project part of self care night my idea was to create some sort of visual that would help you look forward to certain things (lily pads) throughout winter. These lily pads could be specific events or dates to look forward to,  activities you enjoy doing in the winter, reminders to do self care (whatever that means for you), or really anything you want to add that might help you through winter. My suggestions for the visual aspect of the project were to make a poster/collage or make a bunting/garland. I try to leave the suggestions open ended so people can make the project their own. I really miss this about teaching art, just seeing the different ways people interpret things and make it their own with art.

image86 of my lovely friends joined me for the self care evening and each one of them interpreted the project in their own way. I really loved everyone’s project so much that I spent more time looking at theirs then working on my own. Also, I babbled and drank a lot of wine. Look at all the amazing projects!

Some people put just activities they enjoy doing during the winter that help with self care. Others chose to do a mix of specific dates to look forward to along with activities they enjoy doing. I also had some inspirational quotes printed out that some people cut out and added to theirs. I can’t even tell you how much I love everyone’s project, they are all so creative, lovely, and a great reflection of everyone’s own creativity & understanding of their own self care. My friends are amazing. I love the way they all turned out and have loved seeing them hung up in my friend’s houses.

Here’s the chain of stars hanging in my friend’s bedroom. She wrote down specific dates, fun activities, self care reminders, and left some blank to add more throughout winter. I love it.

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Here’s another friend’s project hanging in her apartment. Dinosaurs giving her self care reminders, so great & so cute!

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And yes, I finally finished my project well after everyone left, too busy chatting and drinking. I started out wanting specific dates to look forward to, I didn’t really like the way it was looking so I switched it up and just chose to include winter activities I like to do and reminders of self care activities. I think this works a lot better for me because I really like having the visual reminder to do self care.

I still kind of want to make another one that has dates on it, to help look forward to those lily pads too, so maybe I will make another one to hang with this one. But for now I love looking at this while I’m in bed.

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Just yesterday I was feeling really down and wanted to do something for self care, I sat and looked at it for a while and then went upstairs to journal for a little bit and then made some cute pillows for my couch that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. And then I cuddled up with those pillows for snuggles & netflix. Self care!

What do you do for self care? What do you enjoy doing in the winter? 🙂

Taking the Lane

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I bike a lot. I also drive, run, and walk my dog a lot so I spend a lot of time on the roads, bike paths, and sidewalks of this city, Madison, WI. This makes me do a lot of thinking about city infrastructure and how it affects one’s safety while doing these activities. I also find that I do a lot of explaining to people why infrastructure has such a huge impact on how we interact with each other while driving, biking, or walking/running. Sadly, I hear a lot of people blaming the victim when there are accidents, especially when a car hits pedestrians or cyclists.

One thing I hear a lot is: “I don’t mind bikes on the roads, but I just hate when they take a full lane!” This is better than people who rant about how they think bikes shouldn’t be allowed on the roads at all, but it still insinuates that bikes are somehow in the way or a nuisance on the roads, that our existence causes problems. As a cyclist, I’m allowed to be on the roads, I much prefer bike paths, but sometimes I have to be on the road. I feel very lucky to have so many bike paths in Madison to keep me off the roads, but even with all of the bike paths bikes still can and need to be on the roads. I’m not trying to be in a cars way when I’m biking on the roads, I’m trying to get from here to there and it would be a lot easier and safer if drivers and city infrastructure supported bikes.

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Here I am with my partner and dog, taking a full lane of traffic for no other reason than to just be in the way.

So I think about this question of why I’m taking a full lane of traffic a lot when I’m biking because I often have to take a full lane. And as a driver I have to safely navigate other cyclists when they take a full lane. So I wrote down all of the reasons I have had to take a lane of traffic while biking. These are all examples that I have actually experienced, but there are so many reasons that I’m sure I didn’t remember all of them and I’m sure people have experienced some that I have not.

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Taking a full lane of traffic when on a bicycle dog is not recommended

Why am I taking the lane?

🚲There are cars parked in the bike lane

🚲There’s a cop car hanging out in the bike lane

🚲There are maintenance or construction workers parked/working in the bike lane

🚲There’s construction on the road ahead so the bike lane has cones and construction signs in it

🚲There’s no construction detour for bikes

🚲Someone is walking in the bike lane

🚲Someone is running in the bike lane (sometimes entire high school cross country teams)

🚲There are huge pot holes in the bike lane

🚲Glass is in the bike lane

🚲Broken pieces of metal are in the bike lane

🚲An entire car tire is in the bike lane

🚲There are live animals hanging out in the bike lane (turkeys/geese/ducks,etc. geese do NOT like sharing the lane)

🚲The bike lane abruptly ends

🚲There is no bike lane or shoulder

🚲The street is a sharrow/bike boulevard

🚲The bike lane has garbage & recycling cans in it

🚲Snow has been plowed/shoveled into the bike lane, blocking it completely

🚲A bus is in the bike lane

🚲I’m trying to pass someone else biking in the bike lane

🚲I’m making a left turn

🚲There are multiple lanes of traffic

🚲A garbage truck is in the bike lane

🚲A car is literally just driving in the bike lane for blocks (whhhhyyyyy, also illegal)

🚲A car keeps swerving into the bike lane randomly

🚲It’s late at night and not a lot of cars are on the road

🚲It’s night and the full traffic lane is better lit

🚲There’s roadkill in the bike lane

🚲Are you sick of reading this list? I know, that’s how often I have to take the lane when I’d rather be biking in a bike lane

🚲A bike path abruptly ended

🚲Trash bags or trash is strewn about the bike lane

🚲Downed trees or branches are in the bike lane

🚲Car parts are in the bike lane

🚲The bike lane concrete is busted and broken making it uneven

🚲It is LEGAL for a bike to take a full lane of traffic when needed in Wisconsin

From the Wisconsin BikeFed website:

Know when to ‘take the lane’

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, you should ‘take the lane’ if you are traveling at or close to the speed of motor vehicle traffic.

You should also take the lane if it is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side (with three feet of clearance), you should ride in the center of the lane. If you are concerned that this will impede motor vehicle traffic, you can pull off the road (if it is safe to do so) to allow motor vehicles to pass, but do not hug the curb. This could tempt motorists to pass without giving you adequate clearance.

In some instances, you may be legally required to pull off the road to allow a motor vehicle to pass, but never when pulling off would be unsafe. For more information, please see Wisconsin statute 346.59, minimum speed regulation.

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Image credit: WI BikeFed

– See more about WI bike laws on Wisconsin BikeFed’s websitehere & here have great info.

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Watch for bikes on the road… and smiling passengers

So as you can see from my list, I’m not trying to be in a cars way when I take a lane and I’m allowed to do so when needed.  I wish that drivers would think about the reasons bikes might be on the roads and I wish people were more patient, accepting, and encouraging. Is slowing down for a bike really the worst part of your day? Judging by some of the interactions I’ve had with drivers, it appears it can be. Is taking extra time and being careful around bikes that difficult or annoying? In many cases that extra time and care saves lives and prevents crashes. I often tell people who drive to “look for the bike, assume the bike is there” when driving. This is how I drive, I check my blind spot, but I also make sure I’m checking for a bike, I am looking for them, assuming they might be there. Drivers being more patient and less annoyed with bikes would be great, but I also wish our cities put more effort into making infrastructure better so that bikes, pedestrians, and motor vehicles could coexist safely.  If the infrastructure isn’t there to support multi use roads, then perfect driving and biking will still not make them safe.

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I’ve heard dinosaurs riding bikes are easier to see, but cars still seemed to be annoyed when they’re on the road

If you’ve had to take the lane while biking for another reason than I listed, what was it?

Crocheting Vulvas

For my 32nd birthday this year (back in January) I decided to crochet myself a new scarf… made out of crocheted vulvas.  I searched around for a pattern and didn’t really see anything that matched what I was envisioning. I decided to try and alter some patterns I saw to fit what I was thinking and then add my own flare from there.

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My first attempt ended up not being flat, the pattern I based it off of was meant to hold chapstick so my improvising only sorta worked

After trying a few patterns out I liked that I was getting different looking vulvas each time. I liked having different looking vulvas, but also experimenting so I kept looking for different patterns with the general shape I was looking for.

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This one ended up being huge and sorta round, I had to sew it together in the center to make it more oval

I bought a bunch of different shades of pink yarn at the store, but ended up only switching among a few colors.  In hindsight, I really should have used the glitter yarn.

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This one ended up being one of my favorites, I like the way the labia turned out

The kept making vulvas until I thought I had a good amount and length for a full scarf. It was really fun experimenting with different crochet techniques to get the results I wanted.

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They come in all shapes and sizes

I sewed all the crocheted vulvas together and in the wee hours of a cold January night was very pleased with the results.

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The scarf was made to be worn at a running club event. We have nicknames in the club and mine references the vagina. My friend, who I threw the party/running event with, has a nickname that references breasts. Once she saw I was making a vulva scarf she found an Etsy shop that made boob scarves and ordered one! The scarf is made of felt and the nipples are crocheted!

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The best way to run in the dead of winter, all dressed up and while drinking

I wore the scarf to my running club from then on, obviously.

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Running in costume, as you do

A number of people told me they wanted me to make them a vulva scarf. I decided it would be more fun to make individual vulva brooches.  Through the making of the vulva scarf I ended up figuring out what I really wanted in a crocheted vulva. I later developed a pattern that could be a little smaller and work as a brooch.

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I’m pretty pleased with the result

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I made a few different options and put them up in my Etsy shop.

So far I have just three styles , but I plan to make more with different colors. I’m thinking about maybe some realistic/skin colors and also some fun alien ones.

Green with purple sparkles?