Kitchen Light Fixture Installation

As I have pointed out in the past, as an amateur DIY’er, even the simplest project has these little unknown difficulties that pop up. Interestingly enough, the more difficult the project, the more rewarding it is when it’s done! So while my latest project of replacing the kitchen light had a lot of little things pop up, I am very pleased with the finished product.

The old light in our kitchen was one of those (in my opinion) hideous fluorescent light fixtures. My wife and I decided that a new set of lighting in the kitchen would help improve the space. Now begins the colorful journey!

The old (and intolerable) fluorescent light set.

So…the easy part first. Taking off the cover and taking out the bulbs was a piece of cake. Took no longer than a couple minutes. Next, I had to unscrew the connections and take down the frame(?). This was a little tougher and I needed some help from my wife. Nonetheless, the light came down easily. But…

…A few unfortunate surprises. The mounting screws left holes on either side of the cord entry, behind the mount was not painted during a remodel, and the cords were pulled through a small whole in the ceiling. 😦

A less than ideal situation for hanging a new light…

So this means that 1) I have to plug the holes in the ceiling 2) Paint the ceiling, and (the BIG ONE) 3) I have to create a bigger hole, and install an “old work” ceiling box.

The surprisingly easily installed old work ceiling box.

Plugging the holes in the ceiling was easy enough. I just got some putty and a little mesh to help hold the putty in place. I let it dry and sanded it down. Installing the box was a little more complicated. First I had to cut a new hole in the ceiling with a hand saw (being careful not to cut into any studs), and then I had to install the box. After that was done, installing the actual light was simple enough. After it was up, because of a busy couple weeks, I didn’t get around to the second round of sanding and painting until later. But better late than never.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the end product! This being one of the more complicated projects I have done, I am happy to have added a few DIY skills in my skill set. Well, that was my latest journey in DIY’ing. Until next time…

My One-Month Experience with Meditation

I have “known about” meditation for a number of years. My introduction probably started with reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh when I was in college 10 years ago. I never had a serious meditation practice though. I would attend a yoga class here or there and try following my breathing here and there, but never consistently. “Consistency is key” really rings true in my experience as within just one month of a 5-20 minute daily meditation practice, I have noticed some real benefits.

I Can Re-Center More Easily

The biggest and most impressive benefit I have noticed is “coming back to myself” quicker when confronted with a difficult situation, thought, or feeling. It is almost as if I can feel myself being pulled out of relative mindfulness, and it is easier to get back into it. I work as a middle school teacher so there are literally hundreds of moments of distraction in any given day. I am noticing that although I may still feel nervous, anxious, angry, etc., it is easier for me to notice and (depending on the weight of the situation) pull myself out of it by using a meditation anchor (breath, quotes/mantras, feeling the inner body).

I Look Forward to My Meditation Practice

This was quite unexpected at first but makes complete sense. I guess on a deeper level I can see the benefits in my life and don’t want to miss an opportunity to deepen my practice. I often find myself getting excited thinking about my 5-20 minutes of meditation like you would get excited about a concert or a nice dinner.

Meditation has Deepened other Areas of my Life

I began to notice rather quickly that I had more energy and willpower in other areas of my life (such as working out consistently and staying on top of my nutrition). Perhaps it is a positive feedback loop, but I began to make beneficial choices with relative ease (of course knowing what changes to make is a key part of that).

How I have been Meditating

My main practice is centered around guided meditations. I find body scans and following breathing to be the most beneficial. I have been using a number of apps this month, but my favorite has become the “Calm” app. Although the meditations often discuss ideas and content at the end, they always begin with some form of centering meditation. As I said earlier, most are 5-20 minutes long and I do them each night before bed (which doubles as a great way to wind down after the day).

Well, that has been my experience thus far with meditating consistently for one month. I look forward to talking more about my experience after 3, 6, and 12 months as well! Until next time…

My Workout Today 4/23/19

I try to change up my workouts intermittently. I have been focusing less on strength and more on my conditioning. This means higher rep circuit-like training. I have seen some pretty good success with it! My resting heart rate has dropped about 8 bpm (and my hrv has improved similarly) since starting this training block about a month ago. I also have been trying to find ways to incorporate a variety of fitness parameters into my workouts.

For the next month, I will be breaking my workouts into a strength component (20 mins), followed by an SARQ component (5-10 min), and then an endurance component (10 min). I’ll break down the specifics of each.

  • The strength component for me can include anything weight-bearing. I will likely keep my reps between 6 and 20 for any exercises I do. Depending on the day and how I am feeling, I might do heavier compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench), or I may do lighter, high-rep isolation work (leg press, leg extensions, lat pulldown, etc.)
  • The SARQ component is a new addition to my training program. I have done SARQ exercise with good results every time I decide to do it, but I have been very inconsistent. SARQ stands for Speed, Agility, Reactivity, and Quickness. For me this looks like agility ladder or cone drills, boxing on a heavy bag, using a reaction ball, or even playing some basketball. These types of movements encourage your body to maintain and build your ability to move multi-laterally quickly. And I think they are the most fun!
  • The endurance component consists of any cardio movement (treadmill, elliptical, etc.) done at my Maffetone (180 – age) HR for at least ten minutes. This type of training will ensure that you keep your endurance up.

So, today I did a workout consisting of these movements. I didn’t aim for any specific reps, just gently challenged myself.

  • Squats. I used 225 lbs and did 6 reps, 5 reps, and then 3 reps. It has been a while since I have squatted so I expected it to be a little more challenging.
  • Bench. I used 185 lbs for a set of 8, and then a pause-rep set of 4.
  • Heavy Bag. Didn’t take any specific measurements, but I would estimate I did about 3 rounds for a total time of around 5 minutes.
  • Incline Walking. After all of that intense work, you can guess that my heart rate was high. So today, walking at a 3.0 incline at a speed of about 2.0-3.0 mph kept me slightly below my target heart rate. I walked for 10 minutes.

Well, that was my workout today. Hopefully you found something interesting that you might be able to use! Until next time…

Quick Project…Floating Shelves!

Our living room is nice, with nice pieces of furniture, but we have a large unoccupied wall space. So my wife and I decided to hang up some floating shelves.

Floating shelf materials. I think the company forgot to ship the set of screws they said came with it, so I used my 3 inch construction screws that I used to put in the pegboard.

The process was fairly simple:

  • Find the wall studs
  • Level the brackets and screw the holders into the studs
  • Slide in the wood slats
  • Voila!
Floating shelves! With some awesome cheap fake plants we got from Target!

I like little projects like this because it is a project that can take 20 minutes to install, but add a lot to the room (kind of like my pegboard project seen below).

One of my first projects…a pegboard on the outside of my kitchen to hold some pots, pans, and utensils that were clogging up the cabinets.

Plus they look great with the new chandelier and some fake plants from Target that we couldn’t resist buying.

Do you have floating shelves in your space? What do you use them for? until next time…

My Workout 3/24/19

Sundays are usually a pretty chill day in my house. Laundry, naps, church, and generally relaxing things. My wife recently joined Orange Theory Fitness so she had a class at 7am. Pretty early for a Sunday 😉

Since she was going to be at the gym I figured I would move my workout (normally to be done on Monday or Tuesday) to today. I actually like exercising earlier in the day because it helps set the tone for making sure my nutrition and other things are on point to support training.

I am in the second week of a high end strength block, but have been missing the increased energy that comes from doing higher rep work, so I decided to do the main heavy lifts followed by some accessory work. My workout consisted of…

  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 140 lbs of Overhead Press. I intended to do a 3×3 this session, but felt my form breaking a little so I backed off.
  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 230 lbs of Barbell Row. I’m trying to keep my row and bench at the same weight. I definitely could have done 3×3, but my bench felt heavy last session so I held back again.
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press. I did 3 sets of 8 reps with 40 lb dumbbells. I could have gone harder, but I knew my main heavy lifts already provided that overloading stimulus so I didn’t want to push any farther.
  • Seated Row. Seated row is one of my favorite exercises and I can really feel it in my lats. 3 sets of 8 with 130 lbs.
  • Converging Shoulder Press with 3 sets of 15 with 60 lbs. This was a “burnout” exercise, and by the last few reps of the last set I felt a nice burn in my traps.
  • Bicep Curls with 3 sets of 15 with 40 lbs. Just like the converging overhead press, I felt a nice burn at the end.

I usually don’t do quite this much volume when I am in a strength block, but I missed the volume so I just went for it. I guess my next workout will show if that will hinder my progress.

Well, that was my workout today! Until next time…

New Chandelier (and why I do little projects like this)

As I learn more and more about money, one of the essentials always comes back to the forefront. The idea of an asset as opposed to a liability. I just put up a new chandelier in my living room. Projects like these are always a mixture of excitement, disappointment, and eventually great satisfaction. As with any new project, the first time is hard. But not in an oppressive way, just in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Something you learn to absorb as part of the process.

My old chandelier (which I truly hated)…
The new chandelier…which I love!

As with most projects, this seemingly simple task had a lot of little frustrations built in. Nothing major though. And now, next time I want to change a chandelier, I will know exactly what to do and what not to do.

Whenever I spend money I ask myself if the purchase is going to provide any returns or if it will end up taking money from me in the long run. Something like putting up a new chandelier can be a little change that could increase the resale value of my home. So I go for it!

I look forward to doing a lot more little projects like this because, as I said before, the process is very satisfying.

The next time you make a purchase, ask yourself, “is this a liability or an asset?”, and in no time making intelligent purchases will come as second nature. Until next time…

Three Reasons Fitness is Sometimes Boring (and why it should be that way)

I think the younger we are, the more we are in search of the novel and the interesting. It is almost as if time teaches us that most of the best things in life are not-at-all extraordinary. A quote by Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind, “There is no enlightenment outside of daily life”. It seems like we all begin our fitness journey looking for the instagrammable montage of PR after PR, cool looking fitness clothes, and in search of the elusive beach body. All of those things are awesome to be sure, but as we mature in our fitness, we begin to realize that fitness is kind of boring. Most of our work does not bear immediate results, and in many cases we may need to wait weeks and months to see results.

1) Fitness Takes Time

I have been working out for the better part of six years. I always find strength training to be fun and challenging, but not so much cardio. Now that I am older, I realize why my personal training certification course material saw cardio fitness as foundational. Having a high aerobic capacity increases our quality of living significantly.

Having to humbly approach a new discipline reminds me that fitness takes time. No matter where you are starting, progress is usually slow. But after training in this way for a few weeks, and seeing improvement, it gets easier to settle into the patience needed to see results.

Things that take time are not exciting. They can be rewarding, pay off hugely, and also be enjoyable…but not necessarily exciting. Once we understand this, we can appreciate the journey as opposed to the climax.

2) Fitness Requires Planning

Planning is not sexy. We all want to believe that if we just “go by feel” we can get results. While this is sometimes true, more often than not, it is a deeply flawed idea. In order to become fitter, we must organize our daily lives so that we have the time and energy to devote to it. Many of our beloved fitness gurus don’t have full time jobs. And if they do, fitness is their full time job. For the rest of us, we have to find ways to make fitness “fit” (hehe) into our schedules.

Let’s face it…planning (at first) is also boring. Once we bite the bullet and make planning a habit, we can then begin to enjoy the process. When I first started planning my meals and my workouts meticulously and how and when I would go to the gym (often early in the morning before work), it seemed like a bit of a chore. But once I saw that planning made my daily choices so much easier, I began to love it!

3) Fitness Demands that you Submit

In one of my favorite books, “Mastery” by George Leonard, he talks about the idea of “surrendering to the demands of your discipline”. This means that whatever we do (in this case fitness) requires that we follow the rules that lead to desired results (mastery). Broadly speaking, for fitness this means intelligent, evidence-based, carefully planned, and consistent action over an extended period of time.

We all have a tendency (probably some more than others as my wife routinely reminds me) to want to break the rules. We may think doing sprints every day will make us super fast, or going to failure every workout will give us superior gains, but the evidence does not point to that. We have to put aside our ego and submit to the time-tested methods of achieving our fitness goals.

So there are a few ways that fitness may be boring, but in a good way. Hopefully you found an idea that will help you in reaching your goals! Until next time…