Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Feeling Lighter

Finally, the blues are gone! Was it a weekend away from home? Hormones? The position of the planets in relation to the sun? Who knows and who cares, I'll take it. I'm still sick though, but decongestants and NSAIDs work wonders.

For some reason, I can no longer reply to comments on my own blog. I've tried on 2 different browsers and on my phone and the comments just disappear instead of posting. Anyone else have this issue with Blogger and if so, any solutions?

So I am reading your comments and thinking of replies, and then frustratingly cannot post them.

But to clarify about the whole "feeling your feelings" thing, I obviously cannot do this all day every day because there is *&*( to do. Ideally, I am supposed to carve out a few minutes in the day to "check in" and see how I'm feeling and acknowledge and accept whatever is there. I actually do appreciate taking a moment every morning and evening (as I walk to/from work) to see how I feel, and what I need. Time alone? Sleep? Socializing? It helps me be more intentional with any flexible parts of my day and how I use my energy.

Anyways, I'm growing to really appreciate my therapist, though I was very skeptical of the somewhat woo-woo nature of her approach at first. Like I told her at our first visit, though, nothing else has really stuck so I'm going to be open-minded and see what happens.

I had a regrettable parenting moment last weekend that we talked through today and I ended up seeing an entirely new side to B's behavior, and why he gets under my skin so easily. While its certainly easier said than done, the idea of "coming into the interaction from a place of curiosity" (her words, not mine) does seem like a better approach then trying to endure until I snap and then feel like *&^t later.

How I feel right now? Hungry. What I need. Lunch.






Friday, October 11, 2019

Power Through

Still have the blahs. Maybe its seasonal, as OMDG suggested, though doesn't seem to be easing up yet. But now I'm sick so YAY! I have a long, full day of patients (with a short mid-daybreak, that I am using to eat lunch and type this) and we are heading straight out the minute I get home for a camping trip with friends.

I briefly considering skipping out on the trip, but I already missed the last one, and this is likely our last camping weekend before next spring. And it'll probably be more relaxing than being at home feeling compelled to work and clean and shop and cook. Also the weather will be perfect and our friends are great fun.

When I talked to my therapist this week about my mood, she reiterated that the goal is to acknowledge and accept any negative feelings, instead of trying to push them down, numb, or distract, which are all my go-to methods of dealing with life. It sounds so easy in principle, but in reality...its really hard! I don't WANT to feel bad feelings. And its so easy to distract/numb with my phone, or food, or wine.

The past couple of days I've been meditating, and leaving some time for thinking/reflection as I walk to and from work. I've been writing "3 good things" in journal every day. But then last night I was exhausted, and I reached for a couple glasses of wine to relax and get through the rest of the evening.

Ah well, every day is a new start. I'm a work in progress.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Blue

Maybe its hormonal or maybe 10 mg of Paxil is just not enough but I'm feeling super "down in the dumps" as L says, this week. Just---sad. On the verge of tears. Nothing is wrong, nothing happened, I can't pinpoint ANYTHING to explain it.

I had a fabulous weekend on my own (the play was great and the dinner was awesome). I got work done,  cooked and prepped for the week but also got to go to the play/dinner, ordered take out, slept in, and watched loads of TV.  My parents were here M-W which was nice, and absorbed some of the childcare load.

It sucks because I generally love this time of year. L's birthday is Saturday and we have a great party planned, that I still need to do a LOT to prep for, and I'm just not feeling the mojo. The thought of all that small talk and cheerfulness seems exhausting to me right now, even though I generally love all the parents and was looking forward to seeing everyone together.

Even one of my long-term patients and the MA in our clinic noticed that I seemed tired/not my usual self this week, and L made the "down in the dumps" comment, so I have to try harder to keep a smile plastered on my face I guess. Oh well, off to fake it til I make it some more!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Action v Anxiety

Not sure where I first heard this "the antidote to anxiety is action" but it immediately rung true for me, and yet I continue to forget/ignore the lesson.

I've had a roiling pit of free flowing anxiety and fear over some work-related stuff I need to do for the past couple of weeks. So of course, I did the reasonable thing and completely ignored it, busying myself with all manner of other work to avoid having to deal with it ("work is the most dangerous form of procrastination", which I'm sure I heard from Gretchen Rubin and was skeptical about, because I have LOTS of other procrastination tools). And the pit grew. I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it. Every day it was on my list and every day I decided other things were more pressing.

Yesterday morning I sat down, opened up the files, and just started typing. I worked for hours (even more hours after I wrote yesterday's post). And I FINISHED.

I got comments back today, and did more proofreading and editing, but I feel pretty good about it.

All done, 2 weeks ahead of deadline.  A big HUGE load off.

NOW I'll watch some more TV and read a book.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

On My Own

So I have a weekend to myself! G and the boys went camping, since the kids had Friday and Monday off school and he was able to take time off. My Friday and Monday clinics are packed and I have a lot of work to do (call week followed by a very clinic heavy week!) so I stayed behind. I miss them and the fun they are having, but I was also very much looking forward to a chance to catch up.

So far its been boring and glorious. Yesterday I came home and just...chilled. I ordered Thai food, poured some wine, finally watched the last episode of Handmaid's Tale (OMG! If you are not watching this, you 100% need to be!) and binged a new show, Ramy, on Hulu (very funny/cringy and unique, which is my jam, I wholly recommend). I went to bed at 10 and slept amazingly well for 10 (!!) hours.

I woke up, had coffee, took the dog on a walk, and sat down to work. I haven't budged from this chair in the living room for 5 hours but I completed and sent off several documents well ahead of deadline! Tomorrow I will probably go into my office to do stuff it is easier to do on the intranet and with a large monitor, like an IRB continuing review, updating my CV in the university faculty database, and closing out clinic charts. I can do all this from home but its clunkier on my tiny Mac Book Air and I don't mind the change of location. I'm also going to go to a yoga class tomorrow morning, which I generally avoid because its at a bad time for family stuff. I skipped working out today because I was so very sore from back to back beach body extreme workouts this week and needed a rest day.

It is now only 3 pm. Brain is tired so no more work but I'll do some light housework (laundry and changing sheets) and then watch more TV (I need to finish Season 2 of Fleabag). I am going to watch a play, all by myself, tonight (I have season tickets with friends, but I couldn't go with everyone else so changed my ticket to tonight because why not?) Would it be weird to take myself out to dinner beforehand?

Monday, September 16, 2019

I need a weekend from my weekend...

We've had some extremely fun, but also very full weekends lately. Lots of adventures---we did day trips to the beach the past two Sundays, family bike rides and hikes and picnics, get-togethers with friends, G and I went to a concert Friday night, etc... I purposefully made plans to take advantage of the weather and ample opportunities, but when you are out the whole time certain things fall to the wayside.

The house is a MESS, and I haven't been keeping up with the kids new whiteboard system, laundry is piling up, and the guest room remains a staging area for bags of stuff (well, it WAS in bags until the kids dumped it all out at some point) to donate/recycle/otherwise deal with.

I am a big fan of going out and doing things, especially things that actually bring me joy*. And I know that there is nothing relaxing or refreshing about a weekend doing chores and refereeing siblings squabbles in the house. But I WOULD like to be able to sleep in, and go do a workout at the gym (instead of setting my alarm to a crazy hour to fit in an abbreviated at-home workout), and sit down for an hour or two to deal with all the random minutiae that are falling through the cracks. And plan Halloween costumes, and L's birthday party. And maybe have some energy at the end of the evening to actually watch a show!

We are out again next weekend, so I gotta keep waiting though.

*The best part about older kids is that so much of what we all do together is really and truly fun for me, too. Except for 3-hour long games of Monopoly.  And certain Super-hero movies. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Multitudes

Whenever I tell my therapist I feel something or think something negative about myself or my life, she rephrases it as "a PART of you thinks/feels/believe that". And then points out the various other parts of me that made the choices and decisions for some reason. Even if that reason was "I felt like it at the time". The whole thing she is doing is getting me to see which emotions/impulses bring on which behaviors, so that instead of being triggered and reactive, I can step back and be intentional about my actions, decisions, and coping mechanisms.

For example, last night I was so mentally drained after a painful clinic and frustrating evening with the kids (I rushed home and dragged them to swim lessons only for the instructor to not show due to a miscommunication and they were grumpy and annoying the whole time there/waiting/back). Also my shoulder is hurting again and its a constant, tiring ache. When they finally got to bed at 9 pm I was spent, and probably should've gone to bed, but I had that (rare for me) feeling that I wanted to stay up and take some time for ME, probably because nothing in the entire day brought me joy or even satisfaction (and I didn't have a book to read!). But I was didn't have the motivation to actually DO anything, so I poured a glass of wine and grabbed a snack and set to scrolling and wasting time for a good 30-45 minutes. I may have refilled the wine along the way.

It was later then I wanted to go to bed, I slept poorly because of the wine, and was beating myself up this morning for setting back my health goals. The typical cycle of being depleted, seeking comfort/relief in "easy" ways and then feeling like crap about my choices. Why do I keep doing this?

Apparently I've never learned to "feel my feelings" nor have I learned how to deal with them except by distraction and numbing---scrolling, eating, drinking, shopping (I've gotten WAY better about this, but the urge strikes sometimes)...even some seemingly positive behaviors like reading, exercise, and planning can be used as distractions if I'm trying to avoid unpleasant emotions. (and I definitely admit I've been staving off work stress by planning NEXT SUMMER).

Tonight I'm supposed to take 10 minutes after the kids go to bed to just sit by myself and think or journal about my feelings and what I actually need in the moment. I'm almost 100% sure what I really need would be to go to bed. I'm very tired, every part of me.

Friday, September 6, 2019

In the swing of things...

Kept procrastinating on the camping vacation post and lost the momentum to write it and well, you know how it goes.

Kids are back in school this week. The sitter has been coming and its going quite well, though we're all still getting to know each other. Its been an easy week, no homework or activities yet, so next week will really put things to the test.  Both kids are doing swimming (the same class) once/week. This is the "pre swim team" level to work on breathing and stroke techniques, since they both want to do swim team later in the year (its at the Y and very chill according to a friend whose kids are in it). L is doing soccer at the park nearby (this particular program only goes to age 7, so B can't do it). We are also trying to set up social skills again for B, but so far the only time she offered me was 7:30 PM. Um no. We are trying really really hard to get the boys into their room by 8 and lights off by 8:30.

So after school the past few days they've just been playing tag and riding bikes at the school park for hours on end (as if they hadn't spent the whole day there already, "but mom, we can't ride bikes at school", fair enough).  Its been challenging trying to get dinner done and them into bed on time, but I also know this nice weather and sunlight is fleeting and there will be plenty of evenings at home soon enough. Both kids have been OBSESSED with playing Monopoly lately so I suspect they make be breaking that out right now (its rainy). Better you than me, babysitter...

This has been a light week clinic-wise, yet I didn't make much progress on writing. I'm in a weird headspace related to work and on the brink of some big decisions, so its been hard to work on boring & trivial-seeming shit like incorporating a THIRD (fourth?) round of nitpicky co-author changes into a manuscript we've been sitting on for YEARS...I mean I honestly don't give a fuck care enough at this moment.

I'm very happy its Friday and looks like a lovely weekend ahead. We don't actually have any set plans, but I've got some  ideas of outdoor things we can do (day trip to beach, long family bike ride)...I'll have to chat with G tonight and figure it all out. At the very least we can spend hours and hours at the park and the boys will be happy. And Friday is always pizza & movie night which we all really need. No cooking/cleaning and easy entertainment. We have been doing really well planning and cooking meals the past couple of weeks (maybe I'll start posting a menu?) but its definitely hard work.

Damn I miss the "Ana method" of one big meal for the week, but the truth is that the boys eat enough that we literally can't ever cook enough to last more than 2 dinners without it being ridiculous, and they are also much more willing to try new things these days so we are enjoying more variety.  This week we had: chicken & spinach quesadillas, salmon burgers with arugula salad, hot dogs for kids/leftover salmon burgers for adults (kids choice, first day of school), Indian style roasted chicken thighs with rice and roasted cauliflower, & huevos rancheros with chorizo. We've been going through our meal delivery kit recipes for a couple meals a week and then improvising/or using our own recipes the others.  If they don't like the meal (or, as often happens, are still hungry afterwards) they get: fruit, PB toast or cheerios & milk. If they don't like the veggie (they never do), I always have steamed broccoli or peas for B and raw carrots or cucumber for L.

I already planned for next week (L asked for turkey burgers and both kids begged for Indian chicken)
Saturday--leftovers from the week (we have roast chicken, rice, huevos fixings and will have pizza)
Sunday--Indian chicken curry, Instant-pot daal (I made extra and froze it last time!), and eggplant curry with naan/rice
Monday---pasta with vegan Alfredo sauce and peas (from this month's Real Simple)
Tuesday--(back to school night so needs to be quick) leftover Indian food
Wednesday--Turkey burgers, salad
Thursday--omelets with bacon/veggies & toast

I've also been getting up to do beach body workout most days the past 2 weeks. I alternate amongst the 21 Day Fix and Fix Extreme workouts which gives me about 3 weeks of unique 30 minute combinations so I don't get bored. I'm also trying to get to 1 barre class a week & may try to go to beginner yoga on Sunday. I will say that the BB (especially the extreme, but even the regular if you really use good form and heavy weights) workouts are HARD. I'm sweating like crazy even in our cool basement and sore in new places the next day. I"m so glad I found something I can easily do at home, since a lot of my fave Y and barre classes have been cancelled for various reasons.

Have a great weekend! Back to my boring trivial shit!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Admitting defeat...and smashing the patriarchy?

Doing it all, its tough ya'll. For years we ran ourselves pretty ragged every evening picking up hangry and tired kids and bringing them home from various after care facilities (some better than others) only to get home to a dog needing walking, dinner to be made, and homework to be done (completely forgotten during "homework time" or purposely left for parental help). Every weeknight was a whirlwind and bedtime was getting later and later as we tried to do all of the above plus find some time for connection.

We muddled along like this for a few years until I had an epiphany last spring and tried out having an after school sitter a couple of days a week. You guys...it was a GAME CHANGER. The kids LOVED it. They would come home, have a snack---as much as they wanted until they weren't starving anymore!---get homework done, and then play with the sitter, go to the park, read, whatever. Then I could get home & walk the dog as she was gearing up to leave, and they were happily occupied while we got dinner together.

We had to struggle a bit with the cost difference and the lack of structure (the kids will...do what they want after homework?) and reliability (our aftercare was open for unexpected half days and had camps on random off days) and having someone in my home, but in the end we decided that we would get an after school sitter for this school year. I did not realize how much time & mental energy it would take! I placed an ad, got replies, started writing back and setting up phone calls and asking for references and quickly became frustrated with flakey people who never called back, or applicants that had already taken a job, or only available 1-2 days of the week, were allergic to dogs (it was clearly in my ad that we had a dog!) or lived an hour away in another state and had their own kids, but swore it would be totally fine to drive here and park and never be late.

Finally, I found 2 people who sounded great on the phone, and had references who responded to my queries, called me back, and enthusiastically supported them.

First we met candidate 1: perfectly nice and sweet, loves dogs, had experience as an au pair, spoke fluent Spanish as well as flawless English, charged reasonable rates,  and lived in the city.

And then we met candidate 2:  funny and easy to talk to, loves dogs, had worked as a teacher for years (but became disillusioned with the school system is in transitioning careers) offered to do food prep, teach chess, and teach an instrument if we wanted, had a flexible schedule and could commit to covering half days, lived in the city (and had easy bus access to our house) and charged only slightly more.

While it seems like a no brainer, there was actually a lot of internal discomfort with our decision (mostly on my part) because candidate 2 was male. In the end I got over myself and offered him the job (pending security check) and everyone is very happy and all my mom friends and jealous.

I am honestly disappointed in myself for my knee jerk reaction---I discussed this with a colleague and she realized she had the same bias---"why is a man in his 30s looking for a babysitting job?" that is based on societal expectations and sensationalist news. As a mother trying to raise two boys to be feminists, I have always tried to be cognizant of the fact that feminism involves erasing the (patriarchy-approved!) distinctions of "men's work" and "women's work" and for women to have the freedom to run the world, the men may have to watch the kids. Play to your strengths, whether they are corporate ass-kicking or nurturing young lives!

My kids are actually really excited about having a "boy babysitter" and I'm glad they will get to see more examples of men in different kinds of jobs (obviously G has already instilled into them that dads raise kids, clean the house and cook dinner). And I will hopefully get to come home to a less chaotic evening.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Digital Minimalism, High Quality Leisure, and Real Life

So I just read Cal Newport's latest book, Digital Minimalism. I had recently finished Deep Work and loved it, so I was expecting to enjoy this one as well but I gotta say that while he had some good ideas about the role of social media in modern life, he completely lost me in the second half of the book in which he expounded on what you could (should?) be doing with all the free time you've gained back from not scrolling and posting and what-not, this "high quality leisure" concept.

While he did put one tiny line in their about mothers and kids, it really struck me that his key audience was the young and childless. While I completely agree that life can be better by opting out of the intrusion and competition and mindless time suck of most social media, I am not suddenly going to have hours and hours of free time to need help filling.

He was inspired by frugal living/early retirement bloggers (the most annoying ones, in my book) and urges us to "fix something every week" and waxes poetic about 3 glorious weekend hours spent repairing the bathroom fan. Cal advocates that this was a noble use of his time and we should all do something like this every weekend. Sure, its satisfying to fix something yourself, and to learn some new skills while doing so, but what Cal doesn't clarify is what his wife and 3 children were doing in those 3 hours. Or more importantly, when did SHE get to spend 3 hours fixing something in the house with no kids underfoot? Furthermore, the thought of fixing something as a leisure activity seems a bit masochistic to me. There may be a certain kind of person who enjoys that, but not all of us would. I wish he'd been more broad in his advice---the idea of "learning a skill" or "trying something new" sounds much more appealing to me. This could include a yoga position, a knitting stitch, a recipe, a language, a craft---possibilities are endless and don't need to involve studying YouTube videos of appliance innards.

Other recommendations for filling your time: joining groups (social activity too!), journaling, enjoying "slow media", walking, etc... These are all great! I do most of these things. I also read a lot, do puzzles, exercise, and occasionally enjoy an intentionally selected "high quality" TV show. My free time is full. Should 3 additional hours open up in the middle of a Saturday I will consider finding something to fix but more likely I will take a nap (or play a really long Monopoly game with my children, which is how I spent Sunday afternoon).

I was also turned off by the dismissal of digital communication as a tool to strengthen relationships. The argument (illustrated by the bizarre example of a rock-paper-scissors tournament) is that humans are built to discern social cues conveyed by tone, body language, and other subtle nuances that can only be transmitted in person or, at least partially, on the phone. So texting/emailing is a very weak social connection and may actually hurt your relationships since you can use this to avoid actually picking up the phone and navigating the tone and tenor of a true conversation.

OK, maybe this is true, but for an introvert like me, the thought of actually calling someone to talk after a full day of complex and emotionally charged face to face interaction sounds awful. I would never ever ever do it. I will, and regularly do, have long back and forth texts with my sister about our kids, work, lives, whatever. I've revealed a LOT more in those texts than I ever would in person, and I do think our frequent texting is making us closer. We certainly do try to get together when we can, but those visits are full of logistics, kids, and spouses and one-on-one conversation is sparse.

My dad texts us regularly, we have an ongoing family chat (that I have silenced notifications for, so I only look at it at the end of the day usually---I know they will call for emergencies) and we share practical things and random tidbits of our lives. I do call my parents, we talk about once a week, but those phone calls tend to be short and interrupted by my kids.  My mother-in-law doesn't text, she prefers phone calls. You know how often I call her? I can count on one hand. Sure it'd be NICE of I called her more, but...in the absence of me or her having a personality change...at least SOMETHING would be better than NOTHING.

All that said, I did have some useful take aways from the book. I appreciated and agree with his overall argument that the urge to scroll continuously is not due to laziness or personal failing but the purposeful machinations of tech companies to commodify our time and attention by making their product addictive (or "sticky" as they say). And I really liked the re-framing of avoiding any platform as the default (rather than the reality---that everyone is on it and if you're not, you're the odd one) unless you can find a compelling benefit that outweighs any potential cost to your time/productivity/mental health. Since I finished the book, I deleted IG and the news app from my phone and I decided to stop listening to podcasts while I walk so that I can use that time to think and reflect (I'll still listen in the car or while doing chores!) I've already been (mostly) off FB for a while now, I log on now and then to post things or buy nothing or double check event details (because I can't convince my neighborhood/school group/book club, etc... to move off FB). Its only been 2 days, I'll have to report back after a month or so to see if its helped.

Have any of your read Digital Minimalism, and what did you think? Any suggestions for how to stay up to date on the news (I tried and disliked The Skimm and the NPR UpFirst podcast)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

One more month...

Of summer left. We had an extra week or 2 this year and it feels absolutely luxurious!

I leave on Thursday to go pick up the kids, so we are trying to make the most of the kid free time with lots of dinners out and also simple and quiet dinners in. Instead of working out every day I've been sleeping in, which means I have the energy to stay up and hang out with G in the evenings, which is fun. We've played some board games, watched shows, went for walks.

Its really nice to have this time--for us and also for the kids to bond with cousins and grandparents--and we will definitely do it again next summer. I am also thinking that it would be fun to do a staycation week with the kids, so we can explore the summertime city. Its hard to cram everything into the weekend, especially when we have chores and other routines we need to get through.

Here I am, planning out Summer 2020 already! Its much more cheerful than looking at my fall schedule (Call weeks galore!) or figuring out the logistics of how we will handle half days and random no school days now that we are no longer using the always-open aftercare program. And there are the doctor and dental appointments I have to schedule, FUN!

I am excited to see the boys again, and I'm really working on my expectations for the next few weeks so that I can handle the angst that will surely come our way. They are going to a new camp for a couple of weeks and have been complaining before it even began, and they aren't getting picked up until 5:45-6 since they offer aftercare and its near G's work. We are also going back to no screen time on weekdays, "treats" only a couple of times a week, and bedtime at 8:30. I'll give them a while to settle back in before I throw in the new chores (that I have yet to figure out, but they definitely need to do more than they are doing currently, which is: folding and putting away their clothes every weekend, and alternating collecting trash or towels from all 3 bathrooms for trash/laundry day).

We do have a week of vacation left too! Our camping adventure, that I am also trying to temper expectations about, because it could literally rain the entire time. I'll post about it after the fact.

Alright, back to work/organizing calls with potential after school sitters. Its like a part time job managing these logistics!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Catching Up and Looking Ahead

Still here! Just really overstretched the past 6 weeks with travel, summer schedules, and a pretty intense work schedule. I've been trying hard to keep focus on the things that really matter and giving myself slack on everything else.

The kids are away again and I really miss them this go-round. We dropped them off with my parents last week and they are there, with their cousins, being loud and having a blast until later next week when I go pick them up.

I was planning to use this time to work and exercise and cook and clean and organize and overall be ridiculously healthy and productive. This is not happening. Two days in a row I overslept by 2 hours and skipped exercise. I've cleaned nothing. And we ordered pizza last night because I couldn't fathom cooking for the two of us. So yeah...I guess I needed to rest.

We did have some fun in July. We had a really fun camping trip with friends, and brought the dog along. We had friends over for grilled foods & sparklers on the 4th. Many weekend days were spent at the pool, and the kids did a lot of biking despite the heat wave. I was on a roll with BeachBody workouts in the basements, and read a lot of books too!

But I also submitted 3 papers, and have 2 more awaiting some co-author input. I have added several more clinics to my week, including a bi-monthly trek to the 'burbs to staff a satellite. So now I (sometimes) have a driving commute, which does allow for nice podcast/audiobook time but really just sucks. I need to make some major decisions about my career in the next few months, and I've been working through some weird and hard stuff with my therapist. I stopped my birth control pill that I was taking continuously to avoid migraines, just to see if I still need it, and hormones are going wacky. I'm also tapering the P@xil, yet again, but much slower this time, with therapy and other strategies to manage the anxiety. I was starting to feel numb and while its nice to not feel the bad stuff, I was also missing out on the good stuff. Throw in having to see extended family and all the feelings that entails, and its all just...a lot. And I'm physically, emotionally and mentally tired.

Nothing like the clean slate of a new month to energize me, though!

August Goals:

  • Work out at least 4 times/week (BeachBody supplemented with some barre/HIIT at the gym as time/schedules allow)
  • Find after-school sitter and finalize aftercare/sitter schedule
  • Plan a fall/winter girls trip (off season travel to the south is economical and enjoyable!)
  • Organize for and enjoy (hopefully?!) our long family camping adventure
  • "Quiet" time in the morning---no podcasts while walking to work, no social media scrolling (I read "Deep Work" and am starting on "Digital Minimalism" and am experimenting with some of Cal's suggestions to improve mental clarity and focus
  • One on one time with each kid at least once (I can't swing more time off work for a whole "mommy day" but I can do an evening activity/dinner date)
  • Submit the 2 papers that are mostly ready and start on 3rd

Honestly not sure if anyone is still reading, but if so, thanks for sticking around!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lighter

When the kids are away, the mom will...organize and declutter all weekend! I got rid of SO MUCH stuff and now there are clean surfaces, empty spaces, and things grouped together in logical ways. It gives me so much joy to look around our living room alone, not to mention the bathrooms, guest rooms, kids room, and basement that I also tackled.

Of course the boys return in 3 days, and our nightly facetime sessions have revealed that MIL has pulled no punches when it comes to overbuying clothes and toys and books that we will all need a new home.

I gotta say there are mixed emotions about the big return. I miss the kids so much, I want to cuddle with L and have conversations with B, read books and play games and start working through our summer fun list. But...its also really nice to have some SPACE in my life.

It took about a week for it to really sink in---the first week I kept super busy, was out with friends or G most nights, and was frantically getting through my list of long overdue projects at work and at home. And then there was a moment Sunday evening when I realized that...I had done enough. I started working on a puzzle, I took a longer than necessary walk with the dog. I walked to the grocery store to get the ingredients for ONE completely unplanned dinner (I just went there and picked what I felt like preparing and eating THAT DAY). And as I walked, my mind wandered and I actually had a sudden flash of inspiration for a novel that I've spent the next few days writing in my head as I commute and cook. I'm never going to write it, but its been YEARS if not decades that I've had a creative impulse of any kind. It was FUN.

So yeah, I love being with and caring for my kids. They are at an amazing age, and I am thoroughly enjoying seeing who they are becoming. But its also nice to get to know myself again.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Step Ahead

Hello again friends! The last few weeks at work and at home were exceptionally busy so somethings (including writing/reading/commenting on blogs) had to give. Then we all spent some lovely days swimming, biking, eating delicious food, and watching movies in MIL-land.

But now I'm back and it is DAY NUMBER 1 of our first kid-free stint this summer and I have PLANS. The general theme of all my goals is to get ahead and build a cushion for when life...happens again. At work this means longer days and weekend hours to get several lingering papers out. At home, I'm doing a full-scale decluttering and organizing spree, figuring out childcare plans for the fall, and planning travel for the next academic/school year.

I also, of course, want to have some fun, so G and I have planned some dinner dates, friend outings, and a weekend hike. Add on the usual exercise, chores (though these are MUCH diminished by the absence of the kids! so much less to clean and no need to have hunger-avoidance plans for every minute of the day), and my ridiculous large TBR list (why is it either feast or famine for my Overdrive hold?!) and I know these 2 weeks will fly by. Which is good because I do miss my little monsters. I love this age with them, and am already looking forward to our later summer adventures!

More soon! Now back to work.

Friday, May 31, 2019

In the Flow

I've read and thought about the coveted "flow state" as it relates to thought-work, but my sessions with my new therapist have made me realize that its really the ideal for all aspects of life.

I was talking to her about the past weekend, and how it was glorious. Sure, some of it was just regular ol' good planning and the fact that it was my birthday and G unofficially gifted me a chore-free weekend. But I also just felt more present with my kids and fully immersed in the moment. I wasn't thinking about what was ahead or ruminating on what happened before...and it made each moment much more relaxed and refreshing.

I've been noticing this during my clinic sessions as well. Sometimes it just flows well and I feel like I'm giving each patient my full attention and meeting their needs and the day flies by, and sometimes I get hung up and derailed by little annoyances, delays, or a bad interaction and I'm counting down until the end of the day. If I can let it go (easier said then done!), or just table it until I have the bandwidth to think about it more clearly, I can be more effective AND actually enjoy the work.

Even in my morning workout class yesterday, I caught myself thinking about my to-do list and mindlessly doing the exercise and I forced myself to really pay attention and make each rep count.

I get that this is nothing groundbreaking and is just rehashing the trite concepts of "mindfulness" and "being present" that are part of the current zeitgeist, but something did click for me. As I plan my summer goals (today!) I am going to think about how to best incorporate this intention.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Berry Season

As Laura says, "the berry season is short". So you gotta jump in and enjoy it before its gone!

The kids had the day off Tuesday for primary elections, and I had the forethought to take the day off in advance so we could have some springtime fun. We crossed off "strawberry picking" from our list and are now savoring pounds & pounds of perfectly red, ripe, juicy, & sweet berries. We couldn't have asked for a better day for it either---sunny with a slight chill, and no crowds at all given the random weekday off.

I've been spending as much time as possible outdoors. The friends trip last weekend was even more fun than I'd hoped for---the play was amazing, the weather was suddenly warm and sunny, and we walked miles and miles and miles and ate and drank as much as it was humanly possible to ingest in 2 days.

We've been heading to the park before or after dinner every night, and while its a struggle to get the boys to ever leave, and bedtime has been pushed back more than I'd normally like,  seeing the entire neighborhood gathered together with kids of all ages playing pickup sports and massive games of tag until the sun goes down is so deeply satisfying.

My birthday weekend is coming up, and I've planned a few "anchor events", and also left some time for chilling out that we all seem to need.  We have a date night out, dinner with friends, family brunch, and some non-food-related outings as well! I've got my workouts on the calendar and I've also scheduled a much much needed haircut (its been over 2 years and suddenly looking terrible with split ends, breakage, and frizz). I never remember nor want to spend time and money for "trims", I let it grow and grow and then get it short when I am ready for a radical change. 

I may also need to make some kind of strawberry dessert with the leftovers...any recommendations?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sunnyside

Hooray! A sunny day after several days of rain (and cold! in May! yuck). I also slept pretty well last night (the other nights this week have been terrible) and have been much more productive today.
I'm writing this in an unexpected chunk of time waiting for a patient I fit in on my non-clinic day as a favor.

Anyways. The weekend was fine. Saturday was busy out of the house,  doing kid activities and Sunday was dreary and spent almost entirely at home. The boys had their last race of the 5-week running series which was actually fun, since we have a bunch of friends there, and G ran the parent mile (as did B, after already doing his 1/2 mile race, and he kept up too!) The did the awards and both boys placed! L was first place in his 1/4 mile and B was 3rd in the 1/2 mile. I love the running series so much.

I had some one-on-one time with B which I haven't had in a long long time and we both enjoyed going to lunch and the library before his eye appointment. On Sunday G cooked us a brunch which was yummy, and I had the forethought to book a sitter for Sunday night so we could go out for a fairly quick but nice dinner. We made it home just in time for GoT which...ugh. Lets just leave that for now.

VERY excited about this weekend. Actually taking Friday off and taking the train to bigcity to watch a show with friends. We are staying the night and will brunch and hang out Saturday and get home late enough that most people's kids will be asleep (not mine). And then another 3 day weekend next week which includes my birthday! Not sure how we will spend those 3 days, but I did book a sitter & make a reservation at a place we've been wanting to try for a while.

The other VERY exciting thing about this weekend is that it looks like its not going to rain. So we can go to the park, or just hang out in the backyard, and even doing errands is WAY BETTER without  rain boots & umbrellas. The kids have off next Tuesday as well for primary elections, and I took that day off and if the weather still looks OK we will plan an outdoor adventure to either the zoo or a farm (I don't quite think its berry season yet?)

I am also hoping to get a "me day" or at least half day sometime this month to get a pedicure, haircut (been 2 years, and though I like the long length, I've been noticing split ends), and do a little shopping. I try to do this every year around/on my birthday.

Alright! Patient here, more later!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday Faves

Continuing on the positivity theme...some things I'm loving lately.

Two books I've read recently: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and Evicted by Matthew Desmond. The first is fiction and the concept just blew my mind, though the first story was a little raw and tough to get through. The second is non-fiction and really opened my eyes to the systemic injustice of housing inequality. It was depressing and infuriating how the system is set up to keep people from rising themselves up, by continuing to kick them lower down the ladder.

Game of Thrones Season 8. Yes, I'm basic. I'm continuing to revel in unabashed fandom, and for once being part of the cultural conversation. While I vehemently disagree with some of the story/character decisions for this season, I can still enjoy the hell out of watching & critiquing the episodes! We rewatched select episodes, and I listened to all the Binge Mode podcast to prepare, which makes it extra fun.

Madewell. I seriously want almost EVERYTHING on their website. I am loving my new super-high-rise button front jeans, and change into my cropped flare relaxed fit jeans (I sized up so they are SOOO comfy) practically every evening after work.  I got a birthday $20 off birthday coupon and want to go to the actual store to get a cute top.

Over-the-ear bluetooth headphones. My ear canals are weird, I can't wear regular earbuds because they hurt & fall out, so I've had cheap-o ones I plug in (and that fall apart every few months so that over the course of several years I've probably spent way too much on them....) so G finally convinced me to spring for these Jabra move ones. the sound is amazing, I love that I can put my phone down somewhere when I'm doing housework, and I suspect they will last much longer than the cheapies. Perfect for podcast listening!

Our new family iMac. With nice largish screen so working from home is not so tough on my eyes (the tiny MacBook Air had me constantly squinting and zooming in to see things!) The cordless keyboard and mouse have a charger, which I don't have in my office, so I need to make sure I always have a stash of AAA batteries.

Happy weekend (and Happy Mother's Day to those who celebrate*).

*I kinda hate those obligation-ridden holidays (getting stuff for my mom and MIL and then listening to MIL sigh and complain that we aren't there with her...) so...meh. I booked a sitter Sunday night for a date night and asked G to get a bottle of prosecco we can have with lunch. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Planning ahead

In addition to the fun stuff I'm trying to sprinkle onto our calendar, I also have to do a major revamp of my work schedule. I suspect the following will be interesting to no one but myself but its helping me think this through---and if you have any tips/hacks or opinions on the matter I'm happy to have them before I set anything in stone.

The "stressful thing" I was vague-blogging about is basically more clinical time due to lack of funding, including 2 days/month in a suburban clinic about an hour drive away.

I found out about this last week, and initially freaked out, but some time/distance helped with perspective as usual, and I'm actually using the opportunity to rethink and make changes to the rest of my schedule as well.

Currently I'm at about 50% clinic and I'm going up to 70%, which means 6 more 1/2 days per month and 2 additional weeks of consults/call (I was at 4, going to 6). The other 30% is internal grant funded research time that is only guaranteed for the upcoming academic year. I need to spend that 30% of my time writing grants & papers, meeting with collaborators, and inputing/analyzing data from ongoing projects.

I've realized over the past couple of months that I am happier/less stressed when I can leave from work before 5 pm most days---it feels like I HAVE an evening, rather than jumping directly into dinner/bedtime routine.  I do not mind scheduled evening hours on occasion, when I can plan for them. I don't mind coming in early; on the days I come in at 9 after dropping my kids off to school at 8:30 it feels much more rushed and like I'm already behind.

I am considering leaving 100% the AM to G and starting at/before 8 AM all days. This will mean I don't get to see my kids at all in the morning. It also means I don't have to deal with their shenanigans   and just having myself to handle first thing, which...sounds kinda great. I am just more focused and productive in the morning which means its easier for me to get work done but I also have less patience for the boys' messing around since I'm ready to get going and get.s&%t.done.

For the satellite clinic, starting early/ending early will also help with traffic/parking so is 100% necessary. For the local days, it still feels good to be done and have a buffer at the end of the day. 7:30/8 to 4/4:30 would be ideal for me, in terms of actually having to be IN the clinic, with the caveat that I'll likely have to do catch up on notes at the end of the day or in the evenings. To accommodate patients who need later visits, I was planning to add on 2 days/month where I stay late (until 6:30-7).

I'm also trying to have my days be either/or clinic or research rather than split in half. I'm just MUCH less productive on those days, maybe because I feel like I've already done/will do the clinical work so I can slack a bit? I know these are just my own weird issues, but I have to work with what I've got.

I printed out a month calendar and grabbed a pencil and have been experimenting with different options and think I've found something that may work!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Shaking off the Blahs

After months of being stress and exhausted, and just dealing with one (minor) crisis after another, I am so ready to just...have a little fun? 

Trying to plan more outings on the weekends and weekend evenings because I'm tired of being in the house. Trying to say yes more often than no, and let things slide with the kids. Also just trying to push the easy button on stuff (which often does mean exchanging $ for time/energy). 

We tried out the after school babysitter and its frankly amazing and seems well worth the $$$. The day she came last week she took the kids to the park after snack and homework and I met them there and we stayed for a couple more hours, enjoying the rare sunny warm day. I am definitely going to arrange this set-up for next year and I've already booked an after-camp sitter for the summer so we aren't all trudging home hot and hangry at 5pm. I can come home at 5:30-6 as usual and the kids will be relaxed and fed. 

If we do this method, we will have to hold off on hiring a new cleaning person, but seriously, the house cleaning has NOT been bad at all. I can put on my headphones and listen to a podcast and clean all the bathrooms in 45 minutes or so, which we do every other week, and we dust/vacuum whenever we feel like it (i.e. someone is coming over, or there are literal dog hair tumbleweeds blowing around). We are teaching the kids how to take over some of this stuff too...they should be able to run a brush around the toilet or sponge down a sink...its a work in progress but its a long game that will hopefully pay off down the road! 

I'm also experimenting with a "no food rules"/intuitive eating mindset. Because the rules were just making me rebel against them. Even if it doesn't work to keep my weight stable longterm, it will at least be fun? Yesterday I felt like having some wine while I cooked dinner. Usually I don't drink on weekdays, except when I do and end up having 2-3 (generous) glasses. I poured myself about 2 oz and then a refill and then was done and switched to water with dinner and felt totally satisfied. Plus, if I didn't have the wine, I would've snacked all through the process but this time I didn't even think about eating until we all sat down for dinner.

Instead of weekday lunches being salad & raw veggies every.single.day. until I start craving (and indulge in) a large burrito from the cafeteria or some ridiculous food cart meal, I am switching it up with...whatever we have or can easily get that appeals to me. I have a Middle Eastern style bowl today with TJ's falafel, cauliflower tahini, hummus, feta, harissa and a pita bread that I'm SO excited about---all with leftovers in our fridge. I've been eating when I'm hungry, which is pretty much never in the morning, and then somewhere between 11-1 for lunch and right after work for dinner. If I happen to be hungry, though, I'll eat breakfast. No deprivation and no going hungry just for kicks. 

Minor thing, but I also deleted all the educational-type podcasts (Planet Money, Hidden Brain) and the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians (which was starting to annoy me) and I'm just indulging in ear candy (BingeMode, PopCast, Happier, By the Book... and BoBW of course). 

I've scheduled some date nights and friend nights later this month to have things to look forward to, and I'm also adding some fun to our summer kid-free calendar.  And we have Mother's Day and my birthday this month which I still need to plan (because if I don't, no one will!)

Basically I feel like a need a vacation and since I can't take a real one, I'm trying to bring some vacation vibes into our life. Just writing this made me happy by the way! 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Finally

OMG, what a month. We had MIL here for 3 weeks, followed immediately by my family, and then work travel for me. AND just when we thought it was all over and we could relax, I got the flu. I actually traveled and gave a talk while I had the flu. It sucked. And while I was gone, G got the flu too. And developed pneumonia on top of it. He's on his 2nd round of antibiotics and finally afebrile and went to work today for the first time in 2 weeks.

I basically had to scale back to only doing what was 100% absolutely necessary for survival/keeping my job. Which...turns out to still be exhausting when you are horribly sick. I'm finally feeling better (but still pretty wiped out). I went to a barre class today and it was...tough...but doable. I'm easing back into exercise and other claims on my energy.

I am really really looking forward to a weekend with no one sick and no extra family in our house. It was MID-MARCH when we last had that.

I found out (today) that my schedule is changing substantially for the next year (beginning in July) and I'm trying really hard not to spiral into despair. Meticulous planning & time management will be needed, thankfully I'm pretty good at those things, but still. I feel tired just thinking about it.

Lots of posts about weight/body image/food/etc... in my feeds lately. I actually enjoyed NOT WORRYING ABOUT IT when I was sick, which is pretty sad if you think about it.

I've gone back to my new therapist 2 more times and its been...somewhat eye-opening. I vacillate between feeling like the therapy will help me uncover and work through some deep-seated issues to being embarrassed that I expend all this time/energy on my privileged-middle-age-mommy first-world-problems. I'm sure it will surprise exactly no one that it turns out I have wide streaks of perfectionism and people-pleasing that may be getting in my own way. All the list-making and habit-tracking and self-improving may actually stem from a lifelong feeling of not being good enough/nice enough/thin enough/smart enough...just not being ENOUGH.

So we are working on acceptance. And "self-love". And as much as it makes me cringe...HARD...it may be the right way to go because it sure feels better than listening to the critical bitch that lives in my head.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Ebbs and Flows

No real reason for not writing lately, and no reason I came back today. Lots on my mind/my heart/my plate. I started seeing a new therapist; the first session this week was...interesting. Will report more as it goes along but I'm giving it an open mind.

I've had some realizations about our schedule that will hopefully lead to some change.

  • On the kid-front, as awful as she is overall, its been SO NICE having MIL here to pick them up from school and bring them home. By the time we are home, their homework is done and they are playing and relaxed. They are not starving/exhausted/overwhelmed and its made the evenings 100% better. I am NOT EXHAUSTED when they go to bed. There is no much less yelling. I am searching for an after school sitter because I do NOT want to go back to the way it used to be. May not work out for this school year since there is only a month or so left, but next year.
  • I did a trial clinic in the early evening and it was actually very smooth. I was the only provider there, so the patients were checked in & roomed quickly and I made it home for a slightly late dinner. We are piloting this in our clinic & I enthusiastically approve and would do it regularly in exchange for a more relaxed morning.  I really love the idea of having more control over my schedule and setting up variable "blocks" so that I can maximize all the other stuff I want to do instead of being beholden to a set template. 
Other updates: 
  • B's teachers said the medication was like "night and day" for him so its an unequivocal success! It does seem to wear off around 4 pm, which is another reason getting him home & HW done early makes sense
  • We planned and booked our summer travel. One trip to MIL, trip to my family, and family camping trip. I am excited about summer and have to keep reminding myself that I have a LOT more to do before any of the fun begins.
  • I am challenging myself to exercise daily while MIL is here.  I completed day 10/19! Maybe I can keep it up and have some kind of streak! (but likely not)
  • Have NOT been reading as much as usual---since G & I are staying up late rewatching select episodes of GoT to get ready for the new season. Its been really fun but we had to take a break because ZZZzzzzz
Happy April all. 


Friday, March 15, 2019

Spring sprung?

Yesterday was amazing! And today has been pretty good, too, despite having crappy sleep last night.

Good things:

  • I was super productive and really knocked out a lot of things looming over my head and made good inroads into long term projects too. 
  • I got my shiny new work-issued iPhone, one that doesn't have a cracked screen, a speaker that does not work (so I literally could not talk on it, no one could hear me!), and a battery lasting >2 hours. 
  • It was sunny and nearly 70 degrees! 
  • I had dinner and saw a show with friends last night and both were great! Sushi, white wine, and "The Curious Incidence of the Dog in the Nighttime"


Of course I got home late, and struggled to sleep between snoring B and snoring pup on either side of me...so this morning was a little tough.

But! I saw my patients quickly this morning, walked home and changed (its warm and sunny again and the tights and boots were a bit much). And got B to take him to his appointment. Where I talked to the Dr. about options and got a prescription for adder@ll sprinkles that we have to try to give him in pudding every morning. We left, got a snack, and I got him back to school within an hour of picking him up and we had a very pleasant time. I'm at home working now (clinic notes and working on review article that I've put off for...so long I'm embarrassed to say) and trying to muster up some energy for tonight.

Weekend plans:
Friday: Basketball game! my first time, the boys' second. I was way more excited before I realized how tired I am and what a late night it'll be, but I'm sure it'll be action packed enough to keep me going. Early pizza dinner before we head out.
Saturday: work out in AM (maybe run? or bodypump at gym if I get up on time) park/outdoor play, chores (get clutter out of guest room for impending MIL visit, laundry, meal planning & shopping) and evening babysitter for school fundraiser party; hot dogs for kids to eat.
Sunday: work out in AM (run or go to late morning barre class since I'll want to sleep in), park, fun solo errands (like take in old jeans to get a discount on new jeans at Madewell, maybe get toenails done) L has a birthday party that G will take him to, so B and I will hang out, make a fun dinner and prep for week.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mid March

I can't believe its been two weeks! I feel like last week was a complete loss. There has been so much going on at work and home and my head is all over the place. I finally took a moment this morning for some short/mid/long term planning and I feel a lot more in control of things. 

One major happening: our beloved 13-year-old pup had major surgery last week to remove an aggressive tumor from her front leg. It was rough for a couple days while she recovered (she was moaning constantly, needed to be carried, and needed frequent meds) and she is still hobbling along on 3 feet (the leg is bandaged to her torso so she won't put pressure on it or bend it and the joint can heal) but is in good spirits and able to get up and down the stairs herself to go out. G worked from home most of last week and even this week she had 2 vet appointments. 

The bad news is that they didn't get clean margins, and we need to decide if we want to to radiation therapy---which is about an hour away (the equipment at the MAJOR vet hospital near my work is out of commission for who knows how long and the only other one in the region is not close to the city) and which she would need daily for about 4 weeks. The other option is amputation (!). Or comfort care since the chances of recurrence at one year are pretty high. Its a tough decision, and I've been reading up on veterinary oncology literature about survival rates and side effects... We are trying to get a consultation with an oncologist for more data and guidance, but apparently we need to start radiation within weeks and there are no appointments to see the doctor for MONTHS. 

Honestly we are ready to spend whatever time and money if it would help her without causing excessive pain or discomfort because besides this (which actually was causing no symptoms yet, but was rapidly growing), she is really healthy and happy and loving her life of sofa sleeping and following us around for belly rubs and treats. We are already trying to work out how we could logistically do it. Oh its a tough decision and taking up a lot of my brain space and also making me sad. 

I was also struggling with figuring out how to get B on medications after our pediatrician surprisingly told me that he doesn't prescribe ADHD meds and that I'd have to see another doctor in the practice who does all the ADHD evals and treatments. He is developmental peds trained and they just set up their practice so that he has a certain clinic a couple of times a month focused specifically on ADHD. Unfortunately his 1st available was after the school year ended and I was not OK with that, I really wanted to go through the trial/error period and find something that works during this school year, with teachers that know him and can help us figure out if its making a difference. We would take the summer off from meds anyways, so it makes no sense to go in June. 

Guys, I did something I've never done before and raised a bit of a fuss (politely but directly told them I was very disappointed, most general pediatricians do prescribe meds and that was what I was expecting, and this seems unacceptable to me and is making me consider switching practices after almost 10 years of working with them) and he added us on this Friday. I had to move patients around (and apparently they were pissed, even though I'm seeing them the same day, just earlier!) but I'm going to take him because G never knows how to ask the right questions and be assertive and gets flustered, which is understandable. Again, taking up brain space and emotionally draining.

Besides all that and more on the home front (finalizing summer plans and still working on booking travel/flights) work has been ridiculously busy with more clinical time than usual PLUS several paper revisions/edits coming in and gearing up for June grant submission while still trying to juggle all the other little things that keep piling up. I am going to take SHU's concept of "admin time" and just ignore the little things until a specific block of time next week where I will work my way through them.

And lets not forget about the news, and my growing disillusionment that we will choose a winning candidate and uselessly trying to predict the future, which is taking up the last bit of brain space I had left and then some. 

Of course, as usual during stressful/anxious times I've been checking out way too much on the phone (social media/games/news) and also distracting myself with the easy dopamine fixes of food, alcohol, and online shopping (I needed a spring coat! and a swimsuit! and new jeans since my Roadtrippers are literally wearing out from near-daily wear). I woke up today vowing to use better coping mechanisms so this morning I did a BeachBody workout, meditated, downloaded a fluffy book on my phone to read tonight instead of scrolling until I fall asleep, and wrote this post.

I go away for 2 weeks and come back with a novella. Ha. Back soon (-er or later). 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hair today...

Sorry for the groan-inducing pun but I couldn't resist!

I had a laser appointment yesterday which reminded me that I was going to write an update on the process. Verdict: LOVE IT. Wish I'd done it sooner! As someone who has dark course hair that I needed to shave daily, its seriously life-changing.

I started this summer with my underarms. You can't have it done on sun-exposed/tanned skin, so that was the only area I could do, plus it was the most urgent since I wear tanks to work out in year-round and even shaving daily was barely enough, since I'd get regrowth by the end of the day that was visible.

It hurts a little during the treatment, but way less than threading my eyebrows, as a comparison. The whole thing took <10 minutes. I felt completely 100% normal immediately afterwards (I've heard some people have residual stinging/pain). And after just ONE treatment, I went from shaving daily, to being able to go 1-2 weeks. I went back for the second treatment 6 weeks later and maybe shaved once before my next treatment, and never again after the 3rd, which was in October.

Once my tan faded, I've done my bikini line (2 treatments so far, and probably do need a couple more, I still see stubble and growth) and my legs (one treatment only and may not do another for a while because it was $$$). The bikini was similar to underarms in terms of pain and the legs were NBD which is good because that took more like 20-25 minutes.  Its hard to say exactly how well the legs worked, because I wouldn't be shaving them much anyways in the winter, and I did the upper and lower legs at different sessions.

Overall I estimate that I've paid about $600 (6 session packages for underarms and bikini and single treatments for upper and lower legs; I used a group-on for the initial treatment and waited for sales that they have every so often for the others). I'm refraining from any clothes shopping for a while to offset the cost, and its definitely way WAY more than worth it in my book. I've heard that after a few years you may need to touch up, so its more "semi-permanent".

I'm so excited about summer beach and pool outings, not to mention sleeveless dresses, without having to give it a thought!

And...on a completely different hair-related note, while I try to reduce my body hair, I am also taking efforts to thicken my scalp hair. After many years of ridiculously thick (to the point of not being able to use regular clips and stretching out rubber-bands), I've been slowly thinning overall. Its actually been much easier to control and style and I haven't cared much until the past couple of years when I noticed a much more sudden and visibly noticeable thinning in the front of my scalp.

Since my mother is practically bald in that area, I was almost sure it was age/genetics, but since hers didn't happen until her 60s, I did see a dermatologist who confirmed androgenic alopecia and prescribed an oral anti-androgen (spironolactone) and 5% minoxidil which I've been faithfully using for a month. Apparently you need to give it a few months to see a difference, and if nothing changes for 6 months, you can stop and just...deal with it. So its too soon to say, but I am hopeful, since it does work for most people. The up/down side to the med is that its a weak diuretic so I've been SUPER thirsty and drinking much more water.

Feel free to ask me any questions about either!




Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Monkey Brain

Thanks for your comment on the last post. The bribing is going...OK.  I only take them to school 2-3 times a week, and apparently they are better for G, so the consistency is hard to maintain. Morning are still stressful and awful, but at least I am yelling less since I just take away their "check" which they can then cash in for...something as yet undetermined after they earn 5 (for getting ready when asked, and not hitting each other while they do it).

We are strongly (almost 100%) going to try B on a stimulant for ADHD. Its become VERY obvious that it is affecting his performance at school and leading to lots of stress and anger and even some self-esteem issues for him. Both teachers have brought up his lack of focus, need for additional time for assignments, and utter disorganization many times. We have adapted his IEP for accommodations (reminders, extra time, seating away from distractions) which haven't seemed to make much difference. He often forgets to bring things home or turn them in, loses things a LOT (his violin!), and makes careless mistakes. He can't really concentrate at karate or basketball either---and he likes both of those! He is a bright kid and we want to give him every chance to succeed. He has his annual appointment at the pediatrician next week and I'm going to bring it up. I've heard so many positive stories from parents, and though there are certainly negative experiences, the general consensus is that it helps many kids. We are also looking into therapy for coping mechanisms for him, but I'm afraid that with the weekly social skills group it'll be too much. He has hated any one-on-one therapy we've ever done and he's only gotten more stubborn and ornery with time. Any advice is certainly welcome!

Speaking of brains needing help, I'm still trying to find a therapist accepting new patients and conveniently located! I called a whole list of places my gyn gave me and they all said to call back (next week, next month, next season). The need is so great, I guess. I'm hoping to get into someone before the next major stressful event (a 3 week MIL visit) in later March, so I can work on coping mechanisms besides escaping into social media and...wine.

I've been having to back off on one my favorite stress-relievers, intense exercise, because something is wrong with my right shoulder and many things irritate it, especially push ups and side planks, which seem to be involved in every class I enjoy (HIIT, body pump, barre). Given that long runs and spinning bother my lower back (it doesn't hurt unless I do certain things, so I just...don't do those things anymore), I am having trouble finding good options. I've been doing Beach Body 21 day fix workouts at home and just skipping/modifying things, which I find easier to do when I'm at home myself than in a class (I have this weird desire to "do well" and not look like I'm slacking).

I was on a GREAT run of reading fantastic books for a while---I read 6 fairly long novels in February when everything seemed to become available at once from the library. And then...it ended, and I haven't read anything for over a week, because the only book I have is just not captivating. Its 100% true, if you have a good book, you will find and even MAKE time to read! I think I need to give up on the one I'm reading but it feels so wrong (because its Obama's Dreams From My Father! I should be loving it! I just...am not). Our library doesn't have the audio version which I know I'd enjoy much more unfortunately.  I think I'll have to decide its just not the time for that book for me right now and move on.

 I'm very very late in the line for Nine Perfect Strangers, The Great Alone,  Evicted, and several others. Any more book recs for me?




Thursday, February 14, 2019

Serenity Now

Happy Valentines Day! Life is chugging along with its ups and downs. I am doing really well in some realms and falling behind in others, as per usual. We don't have any couple or family V-day traditions really. L took cheap drugstore Valentines in for his class, B didn't want to this year which was more than OK by me. The boys did pick up some flowers for me on the way home yesterday. I think I'm allergic to them, my throat & eyes got itchy. We will have dessert after dinner and maybe some wine for G and I after the kids go to bed.

I've been yelling a LOT at the kids lately and I'm trying to be less reactive. Its so much easier said than done. The mornings are the worst. We get them up early enough to have plenty of time for breakfast and getting ready, but then they have 2-3 minutes to spare, start playing, and end up late leaving the house. When I call them down to get going (we set an alarm that goes off, but they ignore it), they inevitably fight with each other, dawdle and get distracted (i.e. put one shoe on, then start walking over to the kitchen again), and generally need LOTS of prompting to put on shoes and coats and grab their bags. Many MANY mornings our short walk to school involves crying/grumpiness. Not an ideal start to the day and it doesn't feel good to send them out into the world feeling bad. 

I actually had a talk with them and we figured out a system of good behavior for X days will equal a treat/prize. I know I know, I always resort to the bribery. Today was Day 1 and it did go better. I'd be happy to take suggestions. 

Starting tomorrow I begin a stretch of call. Again, trying for a good attitude about this. I am definitely hoping to stay at work and catch up on some things that are urgent but not important so I can get them off my plate and focus on paper writing during the week. I'm also hoping to somehow get in workouts and all the other weekend stuff. I am dumping meal planning and prep on G (usually my job). We also need to finalize some of our summer plans & start looking at flights. 

Honestly I have no love for February and this month has been no exception. The weather is gross, there are no holidays (for me, the kids & G have president's day), the energy of the New Year is fading, and I'm just really ready for spring. At least the days are getting longer?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Purpose of Guilt

I've had a few different instances of feeling guilty lately---both at work and at home. I know the societal narrative these days is that guilt is useless and we should "banish guilt" and certainly my instinct is to push down and ignore any unpleasant emotions.  But I do believe that guilt serves an important purpose in guiding us to act in tune with our moral compass. So I decided to investigate what it was about the specific situations that made me feel guilty, and how I could act differently in the future to prevent that outcome.

At work there were 2 end-of-day routine follow up patients that showed up late and I had to refuse to see them because I was already leaving/left for the next thing on my agenda (an important 5 pm meeting once, picking up kids and walking dog the other time). I felt terrible because they traveled quite a ways, and I understand that our patients have many circumstances making it difficult for them to get here on time. On the other hand, I carefully create my clinic schedule so that (barring emergencies) I can deal with my other responsibilities.

Then there is the review article I said I would write and submit LAST FALL. That I haven't started. I did ask for an extension, and they are awaiting other submissions but we are a whole season away now and its getting ridiculous. I have been been ignoring the follow up emails politely enquiring as to when I would be able to submit the review.

On the home front, G's been a little overwhelmed with a few weeks of back to back outings I've had (on the calendar, discussed beforehand). He just forgets and when I remind him the day of, he has this dejected look on his face. My kids also keep asking why I'm "always going out" and when will I take them with me, and etc.... And I seriously NEVER feel bad about fulfilling my need to socialize and live my life but this time, it just got to me.

And this weekend, G managed to clean all 3 bathrooms and vacuum, and change the sheets (basically everything the house cleaners used to do), plus get groceries from 3 different stores...while he was sick (he did these things while I took L to soccer, and supervised a play date, made kids lunches, meal planned...I wasn't sitting around eating bon bons, but he definitely drew the short straw). He was so tired and I had promised to take over clean up Sunday night. But...we had our neighbors over to watch the first half of the Super Bowl. And I had a beer (or two) too many and just fell asleep leaving him to get the kids to bed & take out the trash and clean up the kitchen. Oh man, I felt like &h^t.

So, back to the whole "purpose" part. Here's what I figured out.

For the late patients: I am working with the clinic to clarify our late policies, making sure the front desk staff is aware to ASK providers before rooming a late patient, and also remembering to let the staff know that I am leaving for the day and won't be able to see anyone else. If all that is done, I should have no guilt. Hey, I accidentally had the time wrong and showed up 20 minutes late for an appt and had to reschedule. It sucks but its life.

I went back and forth about the review, but basically decided I had to write it asap or let them know I'd backed out. I gave it some thought, discussed with colleagues, and decided it was worth my time to get my name on a review on a topic I'm trying to position myself as an expert on, so I made a writing schedule and I'm working on it. When it was just another task to be done I had no motivation to do it, but now that I actually see the career advantage, I'm actually excited to make it good.

As much as I wish he would, G just doesn't constantly review the calendar(s) the way I do, and if I want to spare him the surprise, we need to sit down and go over the week together. We did it this weekend (I have nothing going on any evening, so it was quick!) and hope to make it a habit. The kids can suck it with their whining, I am home 90% of evenings.

I promised to clean the bathrooms next time, and we are making a chore chart for the house cleaning. I need to make G promise NOT to do my chores on the chart even though he thinks he will do them better. Also no more beers for me for a good long time (I felt ugh the next morning, I cannot indulge like that anymore!).


Friday, February 1, 2019

January wrap-up and books

Turns out G isn't feeling well (just a run of the mill winter respiratory thing), so we nixed any entertaining plans for the weekend which gives me more time to plan something for NEXT weekend.

Since I made all those goals this month, I wanted to step back and see how its going so far.

I did NOT make it through Dry January and don't really feel bad about that. I am back into the gym habit more or less. Meditation is 50/50. I have lost zero pounds on average (down 2, up 2, etc...).

On my 19 for 2019 list I've done 4 things. I knocked off the low-hanging fruit by signing up for the compost service, getting my glasses, going for a laser appointment, and using the Instant Pot (just this week, I made this with coconut milk instead of heavy cream and it was yummy).

On the work front, I've gotten 2 papers off to the next stage: one submitted, one to co-authors yesterday and did the outline and delving into lit review for #3, with plans to finish the outline for #4 next week. After that: grants. I also cleaned out my patient in box last week and kept it up!

G and I did 2 date nights this month, one out and one at home. We also had a sitter come last weekend to go to a party, but that was more social than "couple" time. We have planned a day date and an evening outing (I got the sitter & made reservations) for February.

Books I've read this month:

1) I am the Messenger by Markus Zuzac (author of The Book Thief). This was an interesting concept, but could've been done better. It got trite toward the end.
2) and 3) Year of the Flood and MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.  These are the sequels to Oryx and Crake. The 2nd book was great, but while I enjoyed that the 3rd book filled in the holes in the story, the romance was a bit OTT and hard to believe.
4) The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jennifer Lewis. I had no idea who she was, this was a book club pick. I almost gave up until I got past the 50% mark when it all fell into place. I mentioned that I really don't like celebrity memoirs but this was one of the better ones:  raw and honest, very self-aware, you could see her personal growth.
5) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I listened to this, which may have colored my perception---I was in the minority in my book club for not loving it, in fact, I REALLY disliked it. Confusing, yet depressing, and the magical realism wasn't doing it for me here. I may have preferred reading it.
6) The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Sean Greer. I LOVED this and tore through it. Fun and thought-provoking.
7) Alias Grace I'm on an Atwood kick! Kept my interest, though it is very VERY slow moving.








Thursday, January 31, 2019

Family Friends

In planning the upcoming weekend, I realized we had Saturday evening completely open, and thought it'd be fun to have someone over, but couldn't think of who to ask that would be a good fit for all us. Kids similar ages and personalities, parents we both like, and likely to be free at the last minute on a weekend?

Finally, after years of feeling lonely and trying to put myself out there, I feel like I have a decent tribe of my own local friends that are up to hang out and fill my need for social interaction. But I can't always be dashing off to do something on  my own, leaving G and the boys in the lurch...it'd be much better if we could all socialize together.  Its the ideal situation when kids play on their own and the grown-ups get a chance to chat. Order in or make something simple, casual and frugal. This was literally every weekend for my parents growing up...not sure why its alluding us.

My initial reaction is to be discouraged, and assume that everyone has already figured this out, and we somehow got left out of the mix---we weren't invited to ANY Super Bowl parties! But, as I've learned over the years, you have to be a friend to make a friend, so we have to take the plunge, overcome the fear of rejection (why does this never go away?) and invite people over if we want to build our circle.

So I guess I gotta keep putting myself out there, because as much as G would like to have more of a family social life, he sure as heck isn't going to plan anything.

How have you made family friends, and are you going to any Super Bowl parties? 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Stuff of Life

I was intrigued by Laura's post about "millennial burnout" and "errand paralysis", particularly the different viewpoints in the comments. I did roll my eyes a bit reading the actual article, and may have uttered "Oh COME ON!" more than once. But, the fact that I'm still thinking about a week later does argue that the topic is important and almost universally relatable.

Of course doing errands is annoying and easy to put off, sometimes for long enough that you actually have to pay some consequences. But I don't think its related to "burnout" nor is it completely generational. I'm not a millennial, and I've certainly ignored returning something for too long, and I once threw out a pair of shoes because taking them to get the heel fixed was beyond my abilities at the time.

I have definitely dropped the ball on errands when my energy is majorly focused on something else....either external (a work deadline or family health issue), or internal (anxiety/depression). I suspect this is what the original article was referring to---just not having the bandwidth for ONE MORE THING no matter how trivial it seems.

But there may be more to it, in that people sometimes act like they just shouldn't have to do these trivial things. Is it the privilege/entitlement that waiting in the line at the post office is beneath their station and pay grade? Or some societal mindset shift that's come from years of reading advice about how to pick your priorities! own your time! craft your best life! No one would imagine a perfectly crafted life with every chunk of time devoted to your life's priorities would involve returning an ill-fitting shirt to the Gap or going in person to pick up a guest parking tag.

And then there is the fact that when many tasks can be easily checked off by a few clicks on your phone in the comfort of your living room anytime of day or night, having to actually GO SOMEWHERE at a CERTAIN TIME to do things seems antiquated and frustrating. I definitely feel it, and I remember the days of calling the airline to book a plane ticket and then having to bring the actual thing with you to the airport. I imagine younger generations feel it even more acutely---in this day and age, the idea of having to arrange your day around a mindless necessity can make you annoyed enough to completely refuse, if you let it.

Yet, somehow, I have almost always managed to get my sh&t done over these years. I have a few different approaches:

-Outsource. I know you can probably hire a personal assistant (long term or even as a one-off to take care of those nagging tasks), but I haven't needed to this. I choose home delivery when I can (even our pharmacy offers it now, for a small fee!) or swap favors with friends (I'm bringing a bunch of weird recycling stuff to a friend tonight who is going to the one health food store in town that takes them).
-Avoid it. If you really don't want to do it, you could probably avoid it. I HATED taking stuff to dry clean so I rarely buy dry clean only clothing. I also try to buy clothes from stores that have a local brick-and-morter so I don't have to mail the returns back because the post office/UPS/FedEx are all kind of far away.  I know people who don't shop online at all because they don't want to deal with the returns.
-Batch it. I tend to online shop at several stores at once, so I can do all needed returns together, for example. Twice a month I take B to social skills therapy right in the middle of the city and I pack up any returns, library books, etc... to deal with while he's in the group and its amazing how much I can cross off the list in 45 minutes when I'm already in the area.
-Spread it out. Or the opposite, I just pick one thing to do every week so I'm not overwhelmed, and put it in my planner on a less-busy day and just...do it.
-Find a friend. Its always more fun and less painful to have a companion during these boring stints. I used to do this in med school, after our block exams were done, 2-3 of us would just go with each other to get our stuff done and have lunch. I remember more recently going to the DMV with a friend, and G and I went together once and got breakfast after. Now that my kids are older, I may even drag one along (with the promise of a treat afterwards) to morph the "boring errand" into "family time" (though often I prefer the "me time"
-Remember its a choice. The errands are usually brought about by something you decided and wanted to do or something you value. If you are going to the post office, you are likely sending something to someone, maybe a nice gift that'll make them happy? I don't want to spend $ and closet space on clothes that don't fit, so I return the rejects.  Pant hems dragging on the ground are gross and possibly unsafe. I need a valid license and ID to fly and drive and buy booze...etc...




Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Nope 30

I did put a weight loss goal into my 19 for 2019 list, and I did think a bit about how to achieve this. Many start the new year with some kind of detox/reset diet, and I've seen lots doing the Whole 30. I looked into it briefly and considered it...for a few minutes. I also considered another low-carb month like I did a few years ago, or the keto diet that is working wonders for some friends, or "doing my macros" like my sister.

I know committing to a diet and sticking with it for a month or two would quickly get those pounds off and get me pretty close to the weight at which I feel most comfortable (my clothes fit well, I am less self-conscious in a swimsuit, I don't feel jiggly when I run). I mean, its worked for me before. But yet, here I am again.

Because none of that was sustainable for me, and I need something I can do FOREVER.  I am DONE with losing and regaining and losing and rinse and repeat. I can't eat low-carb forever, I love pizza and French fries too much. Counting every calorie I put into my mouth made me crazy. I'm not sure we understand the long term health effects of ketogenesis. My family is finally at a place where we can all eat mostly the same things together for dinner, and its nice to share that with them. Its hard enough meal planning for one dinner a day, I just can't take the mental load of planning something different for myself. I'm definitely a moderator, not an abstainer. I don't WANT to be "free of French fries" and the thought of never having them again makes me want to run to the nearest pub and order 3 servings.

So I am going with the slow and unsteady approach of just...eating less. I'm writing down what I eat each day, weighing myself most days (works better for me than weekly, I can see the ups and downs and overall trend and not get discouraged), and trying to stick to some general principles (don't eat after dinner, try to push lunch as late as I can, avoid snacking between meals). But sometimes I'm super hungry after dinner or in the afternoon, and...I have a snack. It balances out, since occasionally I'm NOT hungry and I just...don't eat.

I'm working on my mindset around food. I am getting over my fear of being hungry---I will survive! It comes and goes in waves! and my feelings of scarcity---I will eventually have the opportunity to eat this amazing food again, and even if not, over-stuffing myself does not enhance the experience. I'm learning to completely uncouple exercise and food in my head, so I don't feel entitled to overeat on my workout days. Exercise is to make me stronger & faster, keep my heart/muscles/lungs/brain/ bones healthy and for stress relief. But I rarely burn enough calories to merit additional snacks, and I've also noticed that the more I work out, the less I move overall afterwards (this is a known phenomenon that's been studied).

So how's it going? I've gone up and down and as of today have lost a net of zero pounds. But I have only eaten after dinner once this month, I've noted everything I ate in my planner most days, I turned down a 3rd slice of pizza last weekend, and when we last went out to dinner, I left half the French fries on my plate. I'm hoping that I'm changing habits. Its a work in progress. I'll keep you guys updated.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Its the Little Things

I'm sipping tea, piping hot with water from my brand-new electric kettle. Staying hydrated without freezing is always nice, and we don't have a hot water dispenser in this office.

The long weekend was...long. Which is sort of a good thing, there were moments that really felt relaxing. But there was also a lot of whining, yelling, fighting, and maybe too much snacking on my part. We made some great meals (these chicken thighs with this asparagus was my fave), had friends over for brunch (and enjoyed this amazing casserole), watched all 3 of The Mighty Ducks movies (I did miss the first one, since I had to go to work on Friday), and each got in a work out. We also did several loads of laundry, grocery shopping, lunch prepping and a very little cleaning (since we had friends coming over...we did the first floor). There was soccer (L) and basketball (L, B, and G who is assistant coach).

If I had to pick, my favorite time was when both boys went with a friend to the science museum for several hours yesterday. I parked myself in the warmest, sunniest spot in our house (the guest room bed), and did some work and read a book for hours at a time. I totally owe the mom now, but it was well worth it. I finished "The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells" by Andrew Sean Greer and I LOVED it, found it really unique and thought provoking. Earlier in the weekend I also I also finished January & February's book club picks: the audiobook of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (eh) and the e-book of The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis (it was pretty good as far as celebrity memoirs go, but that is my least favorite genre).

Even with some tasks off my list yesterday, I am still way behind where I want to be at work. I set myself a goal to deal with all lingering patient issues by the end of the week so I basically divided my inbox into 4 groups and will tackle one group per day of backlog as well as anything new that comes in that day. I also set three major research-related tasks per day, since 3 seems like a do-able number and if I add EVERYTHING to the list, sometimes NOTHING happens because I get completely overwhelmed and clean my office or start looking up vacation destinations instead.

OK, off to tackle the inbox!





Friday, January 18, 2019

Cold Weather Sanity

As I reminder to myself (and maybe you, too!), as the temps dip into the single digits this weekend--a list of things that keep me happy on the most blustery days:


  • Outdoor gear, appropriate & readily accessible. The boots are by the door, the coat is hung up with the scarf & with hat & gloves in the pockets, and I will unearth my leg warmers, too!
  • Indoor gear. This is one I used to forget about, but man I HATE HATE HATE cold feet, so now I have a pair of sherpa lined socks and/or fuzzy slippers stashed all over the place, and several extra warm, thick hoodies. 
  • Warm drinks. Tea is not delicious but dehydration is worse. 
  • Getting outside, morning AND evening. My brain always tries to trick me into believing I will feel better if I never leave the house...its not true.
  • Plans! Again, some weird part of my brain keeps trying to convince me that we will all enjoy a "laid back" weekend hanging out at home but NO! The kids will be fighting and whining and I'll be losing my mind! 
  • Embracing screen time. For when the plans fall through/run out. In the summer, we live at the park...the winter is for movie night.
  • Lights. We have the fairy lights outside still, and a small LED string on the dining table. Makes me happy on the dark long evening.
  • and last but not least: a good attitude. The cold front isn't here to punish us and grumbling about it just makes everyone more miserable. Gear up and lets do it! 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Best Books of 2018

According to GoodReads (where I log all my books), I read 67 books in 2018, surpassing my goal of 65. I set 70 as my goal for 2019 to give myself a challenge.

Here are my absolute MUST READ favorites from last year (books I happened to read in '18, not necessary published lat year), the ones I can't stop gushing about and recommending to everyone I meet:

1) Beartown and the sequel 2) Us Against Them by Frederik Backman. If I had to pick a favorite author, he would definitely be in the top 3. Both of these books shook me, made me cry and rage and laugh and feel. Backman has such a talent of exposing the raw humanity in everyone, in all its glory and horror.

3) The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. If you haven't read Brian Stevenson's Just Mercy, read that first and then dig into this memoir by one of the unjustly imprisoned death row inmates he helped free. Unbelievably refreshing perspective and a great reminder that its not what happens TO us, but our response to the events in our lives that truly make us who we are.

4) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Oh man, I love this book so much, I'm smiling just thinking about it. Reading it felt like being surrounded by warmth & love & laughter. Like the smell, taste, and feel of goeey fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies.

5) We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a series of essays, most that Coates published in The Atlantic, from each of the Obama years. He speaks to the rise of Trump in a way that seems WAY more believable than the white-washed "Hillbilly Elegy", we just want jobs and upward mobility and love God & family nonsense that was being trotted out after the election. The essay on reparations I would consider a must-read for any American.

Seriously, read ALL these. But if you already have, or you want more, here is a brief and incomplete listing of some other 4/5 star books I read:


  • You Think It, I'll Say It. Curtis Sittenfeld. Collection of short stories, dealing astutely with marriage and middle age
  • Let Me Lie Clare Mackintosh. Creepy thriller, I didn't see the plot twist coming!
  • The Queen of Hearts Kimmery Martin. Not as cheesy as the title & cover would have you think, but definitely with some friend/love drama. She's a MD and writes what she knows, so the medical training part was spot on.
  • The Summer Before the War. Helen Simonson. Cute, heart-warming historical romance. 
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Kelly Barnhill. This surprised me, its a compelling and compact fantasy. 
  • I'll Be Your Blue Sky. Maria de los Santos. She's a cheesy guilty pleasure (Love Walked In is still my fave) and some of our favorite characters (Teo, Claire) from previous books make cameos here.
  • An American Marriage. Tayari Jones. Complicated---would make a great book club pick. The subject is compelling though I didn't really know who to root for, the characters were not likable. 
  • Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Tom Hanks. Yes, that Tom Hanks. Short stories are a nice break from long epic historical dramas, and these had a good mix of entertaining and serious (and it was fun to try and find the typewriter theme in each one).
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman. This almost made my favorites, I won't give away the plot twist, but it is both raw and heartwarming. 
  • Pachinko. Min Jin Lee. Sweeping epic family drama of the type I love. 
  • The Book that Matters Most. Ann Hood. Way more serious (and sad!) than the title and cover led me to expect.
  • Her Fearful Symmetry. Audrey Niffenegger. Weird. Delightfully weird.
  • The Power. Naomi Alderman. Also weird---but in an extremely kill the patriarchy, empowering kind of way!
  • The Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead. I learned a lot, and it was an engaging read. 
  • Behold the Dreamers. Imbolo Mbue. Realistic take on the immigrant experience.
  • I'll Give You the Sun. Jandy Nelson. YA novel that gripped my heart
  • The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. Kate Moore. I can't believe I didn't know about this, its fascinating (and heart-wrenching)
  • Educated. Tara Westover. This memoir made a big splash for a reason---proving that truth can be stranger and fiction, and a reminder that you have NO IDEA how a person got to where they are today---don't make assumptions.
  • The Golem and The Jinni Helene Wecker. Really original, haven't read anything like it. 
  • The Light of the World. Elizabeth Alexander. Touching memoir after her husband's sudden death. 
  • The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison. Oh this was gut-wrenching. I saw the play at our local theater and read the book in preparation for it...really tough subject matters told through the words of a child, which make it so so powerful. 
  • Sourdough. Robin Sloane. Quirky, cute, happy ending.
  • I Let You Go. Claire MacKintosh. Also creepy thriller that I didn't anticipate the plot twist.
  • Buck: A Memoir. MK Asante. Like, "Educated" but in the Philly 'hood.
  • What Is Not Yours is Not Yours. Helen Oyeyemi. I may have been the only one in our book club to enjoy this, it was SO WEIRD, full of magical realism. The language and imagery captivated me.
  • The Sun is Also a Star. Nicola Yoon. YA novel, immigrant experience.
  • Greenglass House Kate Milford. YA or even children's mystery that I will share with my boys.
  • Young Jane Young. Gabrielle Zevin. Empowering story of a woman reinventing herself after a very public set-back.
  • Little Fires Everyone. Celeste Ng. All is not perfect in suburbia, this dramatic tale was a page-turner!
  • Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami. Oh so sad and lovely. 
  • Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Important read and his writing style is beautiful.
Ok, whoa, that took forever. I need to go to monthly or at least seasonal updates because that was rough. I hope at least some of you find something new to try from this list, and if you do, let me know how you liked it!