A collection of weird things I accomplished in 2016



Or, what have I done for me lately? A review of my self-improvement projects shows what I accomplished (or almost accomplished) this year.

1. Drinking more water. I finally gave into my doctor’s gentle suggestions to drink more water daily.

She’s been telling me this for years, as have others. I typically drink diet soda throughout the day, and maybe a glass of water (approximately 1.5 cups). Given how strict my diet is, this qualifies as my sole vice.

Still, I wanted to see if I could do it.

My doctor wants me to drink 8 cups a day. Note: The science on this is questionable. I’ll agree that diet soda isn’t healthy for me, but no study has shown that 8 cups (or more) is the right amount for adults. (Additional reading from the Mayo Clinic and the New York Times.)

Swapping some soda for water couldn’t hurt, though. Since late October, I have had 66 days straight of drinking at least 64 ounces of water. I track my intake on my phone’s Health app.

My water bottle holds 2.5 cups, so three full servings plus a half cup covers me.

Bonus: I get a lot more exercise with all my additional trips to the bathroom. Grrr.

Results: SUCCESS

2. Sleep better. We all need more sleep. I don’t have any excuses: I have a nighttime routine. I don’t have kids, two legged or four legged. I don’t mind keeping the same sleep schedule, even on weekends.

And for a while, I was cruising along in a good pattern. But really, I was lying to myself.

My morning routine is intact and followed closely, but I’ve let my bedtime routine fall apart. It’s so simple, yet I can’t follow it: Drink tea, write (or read) poetry, clean up.

The dentist found a cavity earlier this year, so I’ve been brushing at bedtime ever since. And since I’m already at the sink, I wash my face, too. So there’s your damn cleanup. (Really, it’s supposed to be light housekeeping.)

So while I’m able to get myself in bed by 10:30 or 11, I have a very bad habit of scrolling through social media on my phone, and occasionally catching up on light reading. This extends my awake time by up to 2 hours.

I’m able to get up at the same time each morning, but I’ve started sleeping in on Sundays. Another bad habit has resurfaced.

What I should do is hop in bed, put the phone down and let my brain unspool. It’s just so much fun catching up on Facebook and Twitter and dumb articles at the end of the day.

My phone app says I’m averaging 6.5 hours a night, but I want 8 hours. Prior to my regression, I was closer to that target, and being well rested paid dividends throughout the day. I’m more alert, more productive and don’t feel a nagging need for a nap at any point.

(I still slip in naps on weekends. And they’re incredibly relaxing.)

I have two steps to take. First, create a new nighttime routine. Second, install an app to shut my phone off for at least 1 hour. It’s for my own good; I’m open to iOS app suggestions.

Results: MIXED

3. Giving blood. After 90 donations over the last 15 years, I’ve stopped giving to the Red Cross.

That’s 90 pints, or 11.25 gallons. (It’s not a perfect streak: One time, in 2013, I gave one of those pints to LifeSouth.)

I’ll let these letters and emails do the tedious explanations. (Summary: I tried to donate using the new Power Red double pint machine at several weekend drives. It was a mess.)

I’m disappointed that no one at the local level — save for the volunteers and staffers who dealt with a very grumpy me at recent drives — bothered to respond.

I hope you’ll give blood, even if I’ve stopped.

Results: FAILURE

4. Write a winning haiku. I earned an honorable mention in the 2016 ACES National Grammar Day Haiku Contest. The American Copy Editors Society held the competition on Twitter, leading up to the March 4 holiday.

If I love two things, it’s grammar and poetry.

Here’s my entry:

Top 10 placement. Not bad.

And here’s the winner from Tom Freeman, an assistant editor at a London charity:

After 11 years, I still write a daily haiku on Wade on Birmingham. I’d love it if you read a few.

Results: SUCCESS

5. Go skydiving. I’ve wanted to go skydiving for a long time. I had planned to go on Black Friday, then completely forgot.

Fortunately, Skydive Alabama was still running a Black Friday sale online. I bought my pass and reserved a time for the following weekend.

Going in gray December has a big advantage: no lines, no waiting. I drove up to Folsom Field just outside Cullman, watched the training video and demonstration and got into the harness (with the help of the pro).

It was a cold Saturday morning on the ground, and roughly 20 degrees colder 2.5 miles up. I had dressed warmly, so I skipped the jumpsuit. Inside the small plane were two long benches, and we sat facing backwards so the view is mostly watching the ground recede gradually. The two solo jumpers exited, then me strapped snugly to my instructor.

I wasn’t scared at all, save for the first couple of seconds out the door. We must’ve fallen through a light cloud (technically a no-no) as my goggled face was stung all over with tiny ice particles. The pro was in full control as we tumbled and spun. It goes by so quickly.

He tapped me to signal the chute, and suddenly we were lazily drifting down under a bright silk canopy. He did some nice spins and swoops, and we could chat now that the roar of rushing air was done.

I did a practice lift of my legs in preparation for landing. And after about 5 minutes skydiving, we landed without a hitch.

It’s a lot of fun and can be done year round. Try it at least once. I’m glad I finally did.

(And no, I didn’t spring for the video package, so no pics or movies, just a fond memory.)

Results: SUCCESS

6. Updates for ongoing projects:

52 Weeks of Projects, started in 2015: A couple of hours on Saturday are for my long list of projects. Out of a possible 53, I completed 15, up from 13 last year. (I still have this last Saturday if I want to run it up to 16.)

• Health: I revamped my exercise and diet in 2012 to improve overall fitness but specifically body fat percentage. Two weeks ago, my Bod Pod assessment brought me to a new record: 14.3 percent body fat. I’m super excited, and am gradually working in a cheat treat during the week to supplement my Saturday cheat days.

Also, my testosterone level is up 55 percent in the last 2 years (I wish I knew how I did that). Vitamin D level is down significantly from 2014, still in the normal range but below my target.

And a few goals for 2017:

  • Volunteering: I’ve been looking around for a couple of years, though not very diligently this year. I’ll find something, but it must put my skills to work and align with my causes.
  • Blogs: I have a few ideas for new sites for fun, but I need a little time to get them set up.
  • Virtual assistant: I’m ready to find and hire one. I prefer to spend my time on creative tasks and work around the house, so a VA can free me from the drudge work and research.

As for 2016, I ready to take it out back and shoot it in the head. Twice.

Previous years:


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