Monday, January 30, 2012


When I feel my control over life slipping out of my lately with L's sleep shenanigans...I yearn desperately to exert control over the areas in which I can still retain power. The problem is, exhaustion? Not so good for the frontal cortex and higher executive functioning. I make poor choices and then regret them.

Friday evening I went out to celebrate a work-friend's last day. Despite not really feeling up to it, I decided to go, in the name of friendship & connection (themes! I haven't forgotten them!) Well the aforementioned exhaustion, coupled by frustration at the day's events (minor, but irritating, including a pitiful pumping yield), led to my "accidentally" imbibing 2 glasses of wine and a beer in quick succession. That's kind of a lot for me these days. Maybe it was the lack of a solid food base, or dehydration, or the not-sleeping, but I really really felt it. I left  early & headed home; both boys were already in bed (I wasn't totally irresponsible, I had planned for this and left an extra bottle of pumped milk for L tonight). I did my chores---washed bottles, pumped, helped clean up the kitchen, and even hung out with G (instead of heading straight to bed like I wanted to!) all while downing water to clear my head.

The problem? I slept poorly, due not only, but definitely in part to the alcohol, though L slept well. What a waste! When L woke up at 5:30, I realized that I had a very mild hangover and really just wanted to go back to sleep and let G handle him. But G wanted to go running, and I couldn't deny his noble goal, so up I got. I soothed & entertained L and then B, trying and failing to be present & fun for them. All the while I berated myself for the stupid decision to drink that extra drink just because it was put down in front of me.

The outing was fun, there were a lot of jokes & laughs...but not really "connection" of the kind you might get one-on-one with a friend, or even in a small group. It was more of a party atmosphere, where everyone is talking over each other and the conversations get sillier as the evening wears on. I wouldn't have "missed out" on anything leaving a half an hour earlier,  but I was kind of enjoying the freedom of being out, alone, just like all the other single/child-free friends that were there (though I kept compulsively looking at my phone to check the time and to make sure G hadn't called/texted about the boys).

I guess the pain of Saturday morning brought home to me the necessity of making good choices for myself and my family. While I certainly don't begrudge myself a night out or a couple of drinks here and there, I need to remember that I don't have any reserves of time, energy, or patience these days to draw from, and I need to consider the consequences of even seemingly little actions.

The rest of the weekend, when confronted with a choice, I made a deliberate attempt to do the thing that was restorative for myself or my family. Free time Saturday afternoon while boys napped? I immediately took a nap myself instead of surfing the internet. Up early Sunday morning?  Did laundry instead of lying around. Hanging out with L Sunday afternoon? Read him books & sang him songs instead of absentmindedly bouncing him while I played on my phone. Finished my beer Sunday night and considered splitting another with G? Had a glass of water instead.

More restful, productive, and enjoyable...and without the bitter taste of regret.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I've been absent for a while. Completely thrown off my tracks by L's sudden decision 2 weeks ago (at about 3 months of age) that sleep was, like, so 2011. My longest stretch of sleep for the past few nights is 1.5 hours. Interspersed with nursing and than screeching. Rocking/walking/shushing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I just looked over my "Intentions" for the year---hah! Self-improvement is certainly NOT at the top of the hierarchy of needs! Connect with G? How about vicious snapping in the middle of the night because he fell asleep without changing a diaper? Daily exercise? Anything above & beyond the bare minimum at work? Forget it.

I am coining a new term for my attitude: slangry. Like "hangry" but for sleep.

I realize now how important L's dreamily beautiful sleeping patterns were to my feelings towards him. B didn't sleep for the first 6 months of his life. I was exhausted & miserable. I loved him, yes, but often I did not LIKE him. I may sound like a monster, but I'm just not the best parent when I'm severely sleep-deprived. I'm also not the best wife/friend/worker/etc... I hear/read a lot of people who've had even worse sleeping issues (for years, even!) and am amazed at their good attitude despite it all. They  just must be better people than I!

We are trying some things. I'll be back when/if they work.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012: Theme

I've seen these posts all over the internet this month---where writers choose a "word of the year". A mantra, or focus for their energy. Honestly, I thought it was kind of cheesy. But in re-reading all my "Intentions", I have noticed an underlying theme for almost all of them.


Most obviously to my husband, my children, my friends; these relationships I want to strengthen and deepen. But also for my career. Part of branching out into my own independent work--away from my primary mentor for the past 5 years--is forging new collaborations and seeking out new mentorship and guidance. Also the dreaded "networking" and "self-promoting" that is so crucial to academic success. Things that don't come naturally to me and drain my introvert soul. If only I could work in a vacuum. 

I spend a lot of time in my own head with my own thoughts. Ironically, the busier my life is, the more I substitute talking to myself (silently of course) for real conversations with others. And I'm beginning to suspect this isn't helping my anxiety or adding to my happiness. No, not every thought needs to be shared, but keeping them all inside can be toxic. I've found that my worries & fears tend to fade once I've voiced them, like a ghost that disappears once you've looked it in the eye.

I think connection is what life is all about. Laughing, loving, helping, being helped---changing someone's life and having them change yours. Its messy and scary at first, but ultimately much more satisfying than total independence and isolation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Intention: Friendship

"Friends are like...the icing on the cupcake of life, the hot fudge on the sundae, the whipped cream on the hot chocolate!" (me, after one two many glasses of wine circa 2010).

[I was going to incorporate this into my "Self" post, but it seemed a big enough topic to tackle on its own. Thus, you will have to suffer through one more (really, this is the last one!) "Intention".]

When I sit back and survey my life---what I've got, what I'm aiming for, and what is missing---the one area I find sorely lacking is friendship. One of the suckiest things I've noticed about my transition to "adulthood" is the waning presence of friends in my life. I know this is not universal, but it seems fairly common. In many ways, it's my fault entirely. As I added new priorities to my life, something had to give. I just didn't always have the time or energy for long catch-up calls with distant friends, and it was (and IS) hard to orchestrate outings and activities that would help me make or grow closer to local pals. I figured it was an organic part of life, but I didn't realize how much I miss and need the companionship and support of a truly close friend.

Whether its giggling incomprehensibly over an inside joke, or talking--really talking--about the deep & dark, there is nothing as satisfying and comforting as time with a real "kindred spirit". Yes, in many ways G is my best friend. I want to talk to him about things, and I enjoy his company tremendously (duh!). But we have many different interests and truly distinct ways of thinking---there are some things I want to discuss or do that he has absolutely zero interest in (and vice versa). I think it is beneficial--even crucial--to a marriage for both parties to have other people to talk to and hang out with, so that the burden for companionship isn't solely on the spouse. (and someone to turn to when your troubles happen to be ABOUT your spouse!)

There have been many times over the past few years that I've craved an evening of wine & gossip or wished for a shopping companion on a Sunday afternoon. It's not that I have no friends---I have a few really close friends from work (but we don't hang out much on the weekends due to geography and circumstances) and G & I have some couple friends that we occasionally meet for a meal or drinks. But I don't have a best friend, and I could certainly use more friends.

I'm trying to bump up friend time on my priorities list this year. I miss my kids terribly at work, but a night away once every couple of weeks isn't going to scar any of us. I want to try to plan one social outing each weekend, too, whether as a couple, a family, or on my own. I've found this blog so so eye-opening in the exploration of friendship---why its important (with research to back it up!) and how to go about making more friends [I recently got the book, too, and need to read it!] I would like to actively set about on a "friend search", but honestly, not sure that I've got the energy for it now, so I'll focus on growing the relationships I do have, and if new ones happen to come along---I'll definitely take advantage of the opportunity.

Because life can be pretty lonely when you're going through it alone.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Intention: Self

Wow I've really been dragging these out. Just haven't had the time to write, so they've been sitting in my head! Here's the last one of my 2012 Intentions.

This is where I focus on myself. On the activities that nurture my happiness, my interests, and my soul.

I've long lamented my lack of "hobbies". I just don't have any in the conventional sense. I like to cook to feed myself and my family but I'm not a "cook" or a "baker". I (used to) exercise, but I never considered myself an athlete or aficionado of any particular form of activity (except maybe running for a couple of years before my knees made me dial it down). I don't play an instrument or do arts or crafts or photography or...anything. I've tried over the years to "pick up" a hobby, but nothing every stuck.  Most recently I decided to learn to knit. (I must return the book and needles to my friend that tried to teach me...12 months ago!) Then I decided to sew. I bought a sewing machine. My first project is sitting there unfinished, taking over my entire desk. I'm determined to finish, but not really inspired to make anything else.

What DO I like to do? I read. Fiction, non-fiction, serious and chick-lit, magazines and blogs and anything I can get my hands on. I've been known to read the back of the cereal box and shampoo container if nothing else is around. I also write. It's been many many years since I've written anything non-science, but I'm back at

So I will read and write. Whenever I get the chance. I've got a stack of unread books and I'm going to start one tonight (once I start just TRY and get me to stop!). I'll continue to post here as frequently as I want to at any given moment.

But I also want to keep trying new things; I'm not sure what will strike my fancy this year, but whatever it is, I will give myself permission to explore it. You never know, I might find a new passion somewhere!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Intention: Career

Not as much fun to think about or write as the other ones, but quite likely more important! This year I need to get my head back into the game and my ass into gear. I've been slacking off. I'm barely working 9-5 most days, and aside from a few days before major deadlines, I've been taking weekends and evenings off. You do not become successful in this career keeping bankers' hours. Every successful scientist I know sends emails out in the middle of the night, and can be found in their offices of a Saturday afternoon. Pre-kids I had no problem coming home and "finishing up" after dinner (because are you ever really "finished"?), and most weekends were spent writing, making presentations, or analyzing data. I didn't answer emails at 2 am, but I didn't let a whole weekend go by without checking either (I've done this quite often recently, unthinkable!).

I can't say that motherhood is solely responsible for my diminishing work ethic. Even after B is in bed, I have no desire to open up my laptop. Truthfully, I'm just not fired up about the projects I am working on now, and it's incredibly difficult to achieve any momentum and get in the "flow" state. When I'm working on something I'm passionate about? It's FUN for me. Hours go by, and I long for more time. I haven't felt that in a while.

What I'd really like to do is start my first truly independent project. Something I am really excited about, that will re-energize me and hopefully get me on a roll to complete the blah projects and move on. My goal is to spend (at least) a few hours each week on this: literature reviews, talking to advisors/consultants, acquiring preliminary data, and then writing protocols, IRB submissions, and hopefully getting started by the fall. And I'll have to do most of this outside of work hours, since I still have plenty to keep me busy. So I'll need to make some sort of schedule for working maybe an hour most nights after B is asleep and chores are done.

I'm sitting on a couple of really exciting ideas, and I need to move to the execution phase before someone else does it. Because cool ideas stuck in your head don't get you papers or promotions.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Intention: Marriage

What I want seems simple. I want to strengthen my marriage and feel closer to G. Rachael said it perfectly in her "new year" post: "...we're still relatively strong, but the day to day business of taking care of young kids has made our connection less personal somehow." But how to rekindle the connection? I'm not quite sure.

One of the major sticking points for G & I is bedtime. Not the kids' bedtimes but ours. I like to go to bed early, G likes to stay up late. Thus, for the past few years, I've almost always gone to bed alone. I hate this. With life being so busy and chaotic during the day, their is no time for us to talk or connect. Then I get a quick kiss good night and lather, rinse, repeat. The few times we have gone up to bed together we've always ended up talking about topics light and heavy, laughing together or reassuring each over the events of the day. I just feel more relaxed and open alone in our room (especially when we have guests/family) than elsewhere in the house. And we can be physical (and I'm not even talking about THAT)...foot rubs, back scratches, cuddling to sleep...that's what happens when we go to bed at the same time (and yes, THAT may also happen more often!). I see this is an important opportunity for connection; for making me feel like I'm married and not just living in the house with a coworker in our parenting job.

Yes, we've talked about it, and usually after we have the talk and I cry and express how important this is to me, he'll come up to bed early for a few days and it'll be great. Then he'll start getting antsy again, sighing when I mention going to bed, mentioning that he's not tired, complaining about "never getting any time to myself". And I start to feel like a nag---and I back off and we are back to "good night see you tomorrow".

I wrote all this to convey how much I value and miss daily connection with G. "Date night" a couple times a month, or even a weekend away isn't what I feel our marriage needs. I want to talk to G (again) and really come up with a daily time to talk and be together for even 15-20 minutes. (Maybe he can stay up late a few days a week and come to bed on others? Or he can come upstairs for a few minutes when I go up, to chat?)  And I'm going to try to be more open and honest during those really discuss what's on my mind rather than planning next week's meals or reminding him to call the roofers.

Now I have to find a time for us to talk about finding a time for us to talk!

I know this is a very individual and personal issue, but any advice or tips you have on staying connected with your partner during busy times is quite welcome!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Intention: Motherhood

In creating this intention, I asked myself "What kind of mother do I want to be?" And the answer came quite simply: fun. I want to infuse my home and family with love and laughter. I'm not talking about the over-the-top "Let's go on an adventure, naptime be damned!" kind of fun. It's more about bringing joy and humor to the everyday routine and challenges of life with my itty bitty boys. Singing through the diaper changes and joking through mealtimes. Tickle fights and clean-up races. Turning what could easily be considered drudgery into magic & memories.

I'm setting myself up for success on this one, because I mostly do this already. I have no problem getting silly with my boys, singing, dancing, wearing (clean) diapers on my head. I've made up about a million songs to distract B through pretty much every activity imaginable. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a toothy grin on B's face...or even better, a hearty belly laugh...and I am often angling to acheive this. Also, the one word "fun" encompasses a few other qualities that I aspire towards, like "presence" (nothing snaps me back to the moment like laughter and I can't dance and check email at the same time) and "patience" (losing my cool at a toddler for being a toddler*..not fun).

But for a while I thought that I wasn't good enough. Why wasn't I creating activities for B, like mothers I know in-real-life or through blogs? Where were our fingerpainting afternoons or craft projects? Shouldn't we be doing things on the weekends, besides going to the park? You know, the kinds of things you can take pictures of and put in a scrapbook with cute little titles?

Ugh. The thought of setting up "projects" makes me want to get back into bed.  I'm going to play to my strengths and get over the rest. I LOVE going to the park. And I don't scrapbook (even writing it as a verb makes me cringe).

When I think honestly about what I want for my family this year, craft projects don't really make the list. Lost out to diapers-on-the-head, talk-like-a-robot, and the chickentime song.

*It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyways, discipline and schedules are still extremely important to me. I am well aware that some very essential components of parenting are not "fun" for anyone and I do not intend to gloss over those.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Intention: Health

I used to be an exercise junkie. Starting in college, through med school and residency, with a brief hiatus in fellowship when we moved here and couldn't afford a gym membership and hurt my foot so I couldn't run...I worked out most every day. I ran a marathon in 2000, but messed up my knees a bit and couldn't do those kind of distances anymore, yet I kept running. When time was short, I cut down minutes but added intensity. Treadmill, elliptical, biking, step aerobics, running outside, free weights, machines...pretty much anything but swimming. I loved exercising, it made me feel alive and healthy, and the toned and fit body was a big motivation, too. It was also a really great connection for G & I---we loved going on long runs on weekend mornings, when the rest of the world was sleeping off their hangovers or lounging in front of the TV. 

Boy were we smug about it, too. When people (whether patients, family, or friends) told me they didn't have time to exercise, I internally blew them off. Come on, just get up a little earlier or go on the way home from work. If I can find time to work out during a grueling pre-work-hour-restriction residency, so can you! Smug smug smug. And I had every intention of continuing the pattern to become a smug pregnant women bouncing into the gym until the day I delivered...and then a smug mom, teaching her kids the value of physical activity by my own example.

And then I got pregnant. And the smugness wound up in the toilet around week 5 and I haven't gotten it back. I have not exercised regularly since April of 2009. I won't go into all my excuses for why, I just really really want to change this.

So I'm resetting the same goal I had in 2011---to try for SOME form of exercise most days---NOT including my walking commute. Whether its 30 minutes on the elliptical (we bought this at the end of my 1st pregnancy, thinking we would have a hard time going to the gym but could certainly exercise at home post-baby...HAH!) or 10 minutes of crunches (need to build up my abs after tearing them during this delivery) or even a few minutes of toddler lifting (great for the deltoids!) I just want to get back in the habit of moving and using my body. I decided to try for every day, because I know that if I say "3 days a week"  I will put if off and then something will come up. I purchased a GroupOn for 10 classes at a neighborhood yoga studio and I'm going to my first class (my first class of yoga EVER) tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

I've decided to reassess my goals quarterly, so at the change of each season this year I'll see how I've fared, and readjust if it is a dismal failure.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Priorities and goals

I used to  find the idea of new year's resolutions pretty silly and arbitrary---if you want to make changes in your life, why wait until the new year? Of course, I was young, and didn't think I needed to make any changes.  I've since grown into the idea of periodic reflection and prioritization. And January 1st, with the indulgences of the holidays behind us, and a clean slate before us, does seem like as good a time as any. This time of year has also come to embody change and growth after the upheaval I experienced in my life with the birth of my son 2 years ago.

This time last year I decided that it was time to emerge from the survival mode of B's first year and work on some key areas of my life while we were waiting to conceive baby #2.   If you read my 2011 post, you know that this project ended before it even began (if you didn't read it...I got pregnant in January). So now that L is no longer in the newborn stage and I'm back at work (I've been back for a couple of weeks but because of the holidays it's been....slow) I'm going back to it. I wanted to make positive changes in all the important aspects of life: health, marriage, motherhood, career, and self.  To keep this post from becoming a novel, I'll talk about one each day over the next week. I know these posts are un-original, but I do want to think through these topics and hold myself accountable by declaring my goals to the world (or the tiny tiny corner of the world that contains my blog readers!)

2012...or life lessons where you least expect them

All day yesterday I was composing a post in my head. A typically negative post about how my MIL ruined yet another holiday and how anxious and depressed I was feeling and... Around 5pm I finally got out of the house  to take the dog for a long walk in the weirdly warm and humid evening.  I was having all the usual thoughts and emotions swirling in my head, feeding off each other and becoming heavier and more unbearable. Suddenly I looked up and saw the rolling display on top of one of the city's tall buildings.

"Little things waste a lot of energy"

Yes, it was a PSA from the electric company about unplugging your appliances and flipping off your lights but I'll take it as a sign from the universe, setting me on the right track for the new year.

Happy New Year to all of you! Stay tuned for a series of posts about my resolutions/goals/priorities/intentions or whatever it is you want to call them!