Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Vacation

I survived! It went OK. There were some dark moments (one of you got a desperate email during one of those moments, sorry and thank you) but overall no major conflicts with MIL and the kids had a nice time watching movies all day every day and getting generally spoiled. G and I took advantage of the childcare and went to the gym 5 times, saw 3 movies (The Martian---amazing, Spectre---blech, and The Force Awakens---also amazing, especially with beer and food) and even stayed one night in a hotel downtown (a nice break). B turned 6 and got presents and cake and pizza. All in all it wasn't terrible, though I was pretty much DONE by day 7 and basically zoned out on my phone for the last two days of the trip. I'm relieved to be back home, though I have a long call weekend beginning tonight that I'm NOT looking forward to. January 4th can't come soon enough.

The kids were disappointed that there was no real "Christmas" celebration, and I admit that I was too. MIL didn't have a tree or any decorations up. She always buys TONS of presents for the kids, so I didn't pack and bring along the few Christmas gifts I'd gotten for the boys (books, mostly) since I figured we'd be overloaded. Well, she DID get a ton of presents for them, wrapped them all up in Christmas wrap...and gave them all to them the first day we arrived. So there was nothing to open on Christmas morning. So we improvised---we had gotten some stuff for B's birthday and we wrapped 1 small toy for each kid and made a cardboard/construction paper 3D tree and put them underneath. I told B Santa brought them, but MIL and G later told him that actually mommy & daddy bought those (they don't do Santa, its really my thing and I never got G fully on board. we discussed it on B's first Christmas, I convinced him to do it, and then he "forgot"). So for the past few days he's been wondering dejectedly why Santa didn't bring him anything, and maybe it was because we didn't have a tree, or because he was "bad". I tried to explain that they had already gotten so much stuff from grandma and had so many toys already and Christmas was not about presents but about family, etc... He did seem to have gotten over it  but when we got home last night, he hunted under the tree, saw nothing and was disappointed all over again. (L is just such a happy-go-lucky kid, he didn't seem phased one way or the other, but B is...intense).

So I woke up early this morning (better late than never!) and put the presents in gift bags under the tree and in their stockings and told him that Santa saved them since we weren't home and brought them last night after we got back. (And I told G to please  just play along). B was SO SO happy. They got 2 sets of books to share (Star Wars and Oliver Jeffers), B got a DVD of Madeline cartoons I bought last Christmas and never gave him, L got a Lego Kit we had gotten for his birthday and held on to because he had already gotten 4 kits, and they both got some activity books, pencils, erasers, cars and puzzles I had stashed away from who-knows-when. I was late to work since L slept until nearly 9 and I wanted to see them open the gifts. They were happily looking at their books when I left this morning.

B's birthday was also a disappointment to him (how do you teach a kid to be happy with what he has instead of disappointed in what he doesn't have? is that teachable?). My MIL believes a proper birthday includes going to the temple (an hour drive away) to get blessings, so she had planned that and we went and got our blessings on. He complained the whole time and acted up terribly. Even MIL who thinks he can do no wrong was annoyed. He did get to watch movies afterwards, and got presents, and some family came over for pizza and cake later. (we made the cake and it was unfortunately not very good. we quickly found a recipe online in the middle of the Christmas-eve rush in the grocery store and, well, Martha Stewart, your "quick and easy" chocolate cake and marshmallow-fluff frosting recipes were both disgusting and full of HUGE errors in ingredients/timing/etc...). The night ended in a MAJOR meltdown because family brought a gift for L that B actually liked better than his gift. Not share why MIL and other relatives insist on getting L presents (MIL even got him a CARD) on B's birthday. I told her not to, since B wasn't given anything on L's birthday 2 months ago, and he's the type to remember!

In any case, we are planning on not doing Christmas or birthday at MIL's house next year. It will be a HUGE conflict. We'll see what actually happens. Because of the expense of the flights we didn't do a birthday party for B this year, either, and he was OK with that when we told him he'd have the family party and the trip, and yes, he could have chocolate cake with white icing and maraschino cherries---6 for him and 4 for L. At least the cherries were tasty, I guess.

I'm  making my way through emails, phone calls, and other administrative crap today (plus commenting on your blogs!). I'll get sign out this afternoon. I have no idea if I'll be rounding for 3 hours or 8 hours the next 3 days. I usually just plan for 8, so I (and my family) can be pleasantly surprised if I make it home earlier. I'll meet the boys at G's office to watch the 6 pm fireworks (we did this last year and the kids loved it) and go to bed as early as possible. Hopefully they will have gotten some food and maybe unpacked a little? though G said he had to do work and was going to have the boys watch movies this afternoon so he could work from home.

Stay tuned for all the year-in-review/new years posts I've been writing in my head for the past 10 days! Like I said, better late than never!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Speaking of happy...

I really have been feeling happy for the past few days. Like an undercurrent of contentment. Its been a while since I had this feeling, so I'm savoring it! Things are really really good with G & me---better than they have been in YEARS. Its like our awful fight and my long email really turned on some switch in his head and he's been doing everything I've been asking him to do for years and he never really did. We've had some very lovely evenings, talking, working together, laughing. Its...nice, and more what I imagined marriage would be like.

The kids have also been great. B hasn't had any major outbursts in a while. He still has moments of being really awful (mean, hitting, yelling, throwing) but they can be attributed to specific outside events (a real disappointment, tired, hungry, sick) vs. ALL THE LIVELONG DAY. This morning I was awestruck at how cute they were, L so excited to wear his "new christmas shirt" (that I got second hand from a neighbor) and sing in his school holiday event (which I had to miss, alas, but G went and took pics & video) nd B so proud of his waist-high lego tower that he made "for you, mommy, because you like blue" and being happy for his brother having a party even though he was not.

I saw my therapist yesterday and had to recap all the events from the past few weeks. Talking through the horrible fight with G and how to prevent a similar incident in the future seemed to have lifted the last weight from my shoulders about this. She also gave some excellent advice about trying to maintain the calm with the kids. Overall, our focus should be on giving him the positive attention he craves, while disciplining the negative stuff swiftly and calmly. Yes, easier said then done, but a much better focus then the "oh my god he's going to be a serial killer, I need to nip this in the bud NOW. discipline! consequences! no tolerance!" that sneaks in sometimes.

We have a 10-day trip to visit MIL coming up. I am not looking forward to it (if you've followed my MIL saga, you know why!) but I'm not actually dreading it. Maybe I am looking forward to some tiny parts of it? (the not working part, the guaranteed warmer weather part, the free babysitting part!). G mentioned maybe getting a night to ourselves either in a hotel in town or a short road trip which I would DEFINITELY looking forward to, but we aren't 100% sure it'll happen (logistics). At the very least we are going to watch some movies. In the theater. The one that has booze and mozzarella sticks (i.e. one of my top ten favorite places in the world). I've got my Kindle loaded with books. We will go to the gym. We want to start watching Breaking Bad. Maybe it won't be 100% terrible.

Then I'm on call NYE through the end of that weekend. I've never actually been on call for NY before (always Christmas. all 4 years of residency and 1st year of fellowship, then several thanksgivings after that). I've heard it can brutal, after the Christmas slow down, but oh well. Its 2 weeks away and I'll take it as it comes (plus G is the one that has to deal primarily with the post-vacation, grandma-spoiled, likely stuck in the cold kids for those 4 days!)

We aren't leaving for our trip until Monday (the whole thing was planned for cheapest flights) so we have a sort of "bonus weekend" where we don't have to do the usual prep-for-the-week chores (but we do have to pack...blah). I'm hoping we can fill it with fun. I'm willing to overspend a tad on take-out and activities to have a truly nice and calm 2 days for the 4 of us before the extended family madness.

Anyways. Yeah. Happy. And wishing happy for all of you, too!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Recent posts (like Noemi's) have led me to ponder the concept of happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Am I actually happy? Is happiness even a worthy goal?

I know what happiness is NOT---its not the inevitable result of achieving your most wanted life goals. It doesn't require that everything  be perfect. Its not even the absence of sadness or negative feelings. I think happiness can co-exist with sadness. It can remain despite things going wrong, even big things. You don't have to have "arrived" before you are happy, it can be part of the journey.

So yes, I am happy. More or less. Most of the time. I feel sad sometimes, angry, lonely, but fundamentally I am grateful for my life and the opportunities I have to be useful and do something meaningful---even if in a very small-scale way. I could be better at appreciating things in the day to day, but I'm optimistic that I can learn that. No, things are far from perfect.  I'm working on making some things better, and accepting other things the way they are and I'm trying to learn which things go in which category.

Focusing too much on happiness can be detrimental. Beating yourself up & feeling guilty for not feeling "happy enough" is...well its ridiculous, and defeating, and sort of the opposite of the point, right? Accepting that positive and negative feelings are a universal and healthy part of the human experience (even if there isn't always a great "reason" for those feelings) takes a lot of pressure off.

Spending energy you barely have and adding more things to your plate because some "expert" claims it'll make you happier could have the exact opposite effect. Sure, meditate/volunteer/do yoga/journal for a week or two to see if it helps you---these things really do work for lots of people. But if carving out the time and energy to do that is stressing you out, because you really are stretched too thin at this season in life---cut yourself some slack and take a nap instead.

On the other hand, doing what you need to do to relieve stress and feel better can have positive outcomes beyond your own mood. You probably will be more focused at work & act nicer to your kids and spouse. Its certainly good for your blood pressure. A happier/calmer attitude can be contagious---as is a stressed out & negative mood. For me the essentials in this category are: sleep, exercise, and time to myself.  Specifically: lots of sleep, a moderate amount of exercise, and (at least) a minimal amount of time to myself every weekend/holiday (i.e. no time in my office at work) day.

How do you define happiness? Are you happy? What do you think about the "happiness" as a life goal?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Road To Here

Instead of writing long-ass replies to your comments on my last post, I decided to devote a whole post to addressing 2 separate lines of thought. Oh, and for an update, I think things are starting to sink in for him---the past few days have shown a real change for the better in our relationship and I am even more hopeful!

First, I'm sure reading these posts, some of you were wondering why the hell I would marry a guy who I couldn't communicate with and didn't seem to respect my needs. I actually asked myself the same question last week, which led to a little trip down memory lane. And thankfully I realized that I didn't just make a desperate decision to avoid being alone for the rest of my life. We actually had a really great relationship! We had tons of fun together, lots of laughing, working together, trying new things. And the one memory that stood out---the time I realized that this was a guy I could imagine being with for the long haul---related to how supportive, sweet, and steady he was when I was having a tough time with something. Instead of getting defensive and angry at me for crying, or trying to "fix" the problem and getting annoyed when I didn't respond to that and me having to ASK HIM to hug me...he gently brushed my tears, hugged me, and was just THERE for a while before reiterating how he knew I'd figure it out because I was awesome (paraphrasing, obviously, but the gist of it) and to let him know if he could help but if not he was here for me.

SO YEAH. Things have changed. As to why, I don't really know, probably a combination of things that he did and I did and that just HAPPENED to us. Its the age old "growing apart" story, the "ugly relationship creep" that sneaks in when you are dealing with growing your career and running a home and creating and nurturing new life all the while dealing with family issues, trying to make and keep friendships, and work on your own mental & physical health.

Scooby-doo had a great comment on my last post: "he actually sounds like he may be going on through whatever I am going through. Basically, what I want from my husband is to not need anything from me right now because I am stretched so thin that I have nothing to give, and any needs he has are really a burden. I know this sounds awful, but essentially all I want to be is left alone. I will do my share of the kid duty and chores, and I sure as hell work a lot, so if he really wanted to know what I needed the answer would be to do me a favor and not ask anything of me right now; I don't want romance, I don't want sex, I don't want to take care of him emotionally, I just want him to leave me alone and not be yet another person who needs stuff from me. The thing is I feel depleted and as if everyone and everything just keep taking things from me, demanding, expecting. Like vampires. I can't communicate any of this explicitly, because it would be hurtful to him, but if I could, this is what I would say that I need from him -- to not be yet another person who needs taking care of."

And YES. I know this feeling. I've HAD this feeling. This was basically the entirety of my pregnancy with L and his newborn period. We had a toddler and I was exhausted and sick during the pregnancy, trying to transition into a faculty position, working on major grants and my masters, and all sorts of shit and then we had a toddler and a newborn and we were really really stretched thin for a long time. Sleep deprivation was a HUGE culprit here---honestly all I wanted was sleep. Anything between me and sleep was a hated burden. I didn't even think about G or his feelings or our relationship other than making sure he were splitting things as equitably as possible (with the caveat that my gestating and feeding a human made up for about 50% of chores and toddler childcare).  The pregnancy/pumping times I really did feel exhausted, and if he had asked for ANYTHING from me, I'm not sure I would've had it to give.

I'm sure he was feeling  this way as well. But things have changed a LOT in the past 2-3 years. The gestating/nursing days are over, as are diapers and night wakings (FINALLY!). Our jobs are full-time but both are flexible, we rarely work more than 40-45 hours a week. He drops off and picks up L from daycare that is 2 blocks from his work. I take B to school and pick him up and walk the dog. If one of us has an evening activity we get a dog walker. We have a house cleaner come every other week. The only kid activity is swimming---both back to back on Saturday morning, 10 minute walk from our house. He doesn't travel for work, I travel 2-3 times, 2 nights max each time. We don't entertain much, or plan elaborate kid parties or holiday traditions. We are home most evenings, eat dinner, take turns either cleaning kitchen or getting kids to bed and by 8:30 we are "free". Most weekends are free-form, too. We don't schedule tons of things, we spend loads of time at the park or playing Legos.

If he still feels "stretched too thin", honestly, its of his own making. He does choose to do things the hard way. He wants to DYI things, initially saying he'd enjoy it, but then complaining because its tiring and he's "working all the time". He makes the kids homemade pancakes every weekend, and home cooked breakfasts for himself and kids even on weekdays (they like their eggs & oatmeal) which involves dishes/mess. I eat cheese sticks and nuts, usually at my desk. He has very high standards for chores---much higher than mine, and things take a LOT longer for him to do.  When I fold the kids' clothes, I turn them right side out and then put them (unfolded) in piles for them to shove into the correct bins. He FOLDS THEM. He is always sweeping up leaves and the backyard and vacuuming dog hair from the rugs---I don't notice those things. He picks up the kids toys at the end of the day---something I realized early on was futile and a terrible use of my energy. I gave him over 3 hours on his own Saturday and he spent it doing chores. 

The other part is attitude. I also had 3 hours on Sunday and spent it doing chores, but I realized that it was my choice to get things done so the rest of the week would be easier (and there would be less for HIM to do in the evening when he'd be tired from a solo adventure with the boys). I couldn't complain that "all I did was work" because I didn't HAVE TO do those things. I try really hard to not get down about chores---to recognize that a lot of "have tos" are actually "choose tos" and we need to own those choices (and also re-examine them from time to time to figure out if we want to change them). We choose to have home cooked food for most meals for health & financial reasons. We chose to have a dog and so we have to walk her and feed her (and keep up with the dog hair). Etc...

Of the two of us, he's also the one more prone to "throwing money at things" to make day to day life easier, and I'm trying to be OK with that. If he needs to get a cab home from work (its a 2 mile walk/bus ride) or get take out from time to time, to keep his sanity, then its worth it to save a little less during this "season" of our lives. 

Also he doesn't get enough sleep---and that is definitely a choice. No one is forcing him to mess around on the internet or watch movies after the kids go to bed. 

Bottom line, I think this is a phase in our lives when things are as easy as they are ever going to be for the forseeable future. Nothing bad is happening (and bad things can and will happen, such is life) nor are there any major upheavals (moves, new jobs, babies, etc...). We have pretty limited obligations and what I consider a relatively simple life. If we are going to have a strong marriage THIS is the time to work on it, because things can change in an instant, which is why I'm bringing this up and pushing for it. I want a strong foundation so that when things do shake up our lives, we are ready for it. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How it went down

I'm sure you guys (all 5 of you) are on tenterhooks waiting for my update on last night's conversation? Right? Right? <crickets>

It was overall a productive conversation. It was not, by any stretch, pleasant or easy or comforting.

Overall he said he was "very surprised" by some of my feelings. He stated he had no idea I felt that way, and that maybe he just wasn't paying attention or maybe taking me for granted. Despite my best attempts to underscore that my comments were about my feelings and not negative comments about him, he called them "criticisms". And he got angry as we talked about it in more detail. His voice raised, pupils dilated, he looked agitated and upset. When I tried to explain that I was not criticizing him, he said that was how he felt, and I was invalidating his feelings, and how is that different from what I was telling him, because he could easily tell me that what I felt wasn't true.

Sigh. I reiterated that I was not invalidating him---I get that it feels like criticism when someone is telling you that you are not making them feel loved--- but I was just trying to reassure him that I didn't think our issues were all his fault or due to personal failings on his part, but more of a mutual problem caused by a failure to communicate our needs to each other.

He said he took the love language quiz, and got similar answers to me (high on physical touch and words of affirmation). We had the usual back and forth about this "but I DO hold your hand, YOU never reciprocate, yes I do, YOU don't ever hug me" and decided we both could do better in this realm. Again he tried to blame everything on "the kids"---no, I'm not buying it. Maybe you are having difficulty handling all the current responsibilities but its not the fault of "the kids", its on you to find coping mechanisms.

He stated that my ability to organize things and stay on schedule was valuable to the household and to him. that was in response to me wanting words of affirmation or acknowledgement about any positive attributes I had. Literally that was all he could think of. And then "but I love and appreciate everything about you".  And then "but how do I know what you're good at or what talents you have?". I don't do you respond to that?

I mentioned setting a time to "check in" every so often so things don't build up again. He said that "check in" reminded him of stupid work lingo and so we never resolved that, but I think I'll put it on my calendar to send him monthly emails about how things are going. I told him to also let me know how he felt things are going, and what was bothering him or what he needed from me, and he said "oh I don't need anything important. and what's bothering me is never important". I tried to explain to him that saying things like that was not a favor to me, and actually 1) made me even more reluctant to share my own needs and 2) deprived me of the satisfaction of making change/doing something that would make him happy. Not sure he got it, but maybe?

We talked about scheduling time to hang out during the week. He said he hated scheduling things, and couldn't we just see how we felt? And I mentioned that, well, we've been doing that for years and what we "feel" is that we need to work or do chores or watch Netflix and go to bed, so if we don't schedule time to talk and connect its not going to happen spontaneously at this stage in life. He reluctantly agreed.

I don't know. i think I accomplished step 1---figuring out the problem and step 2---communicating it to him, but I'm not sure what step 3 and 4 and on actually entail. And I don't know what's going to happen in the future. He definitely seems invested in trying to change things, but am I wrong to be bothered by the fact that he actually thought everything was fine the way it was until I brought it up? Or by the fact that this was actually NOT the first time we've discussed these exact same issues---we have discussed them in various ways at least 4-5 other times over the past 3 years?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Planting a Seed

I am coming out of a very rough few days. Nothing momentous happened, but a culmination of weeks (months? years?) of hurt feelings, unmet expectations, and futile attempts at change came to a head and we had the worst, nastiest, longest fight of our 14 year relationship. There was a period of time I was not sure our marriage would survive. We barely spoke to each other all weekend.  The "4 horsemen of the apocalypse" were all in attendance.

I won't take all the blame---he definitely has his part in this, his angry and out-of-control reaction to my disgruntled attitude was way out of line.  But as always, I know that my lack of communicating my feelings before things built up did set the scene.

I've mentioned before that our marriage suffers from some terrible communication skills on both of our parts. I have a hard time talking about emotional issues directly, I tend to beat around the bush and eventually end up in tears. For his part, he instantly gets defensive when I mention anything that isn't perfect in our relationship and takes it as an attack on him "oh no, what did I do now, sigh I can't win, can I? Its always something" even when I use the "I feel..." language and even preface it with "its not something you did or didn't do, this is just how I feel". I also have a really hard time (its basically impossible) for me to ask for what I need from a relationship. This obviously comes from a fear of rejection---if I ask for a hug, or for "words of affirmation" and he can't do that for me (or more likely, does it grudgingly instead of willingly) what does that mean?

For the past few years, I've definitely felt that something was lacking in our marriage. We have talked about it multiple times, with only the most minor and temporary improvement. I've talked to my therapist, read "marriage blogs" and discussed it multiple times here and got some great advice. But eventually I was starting to feel that things would never change and that perhaps I was expecting too much. Maybe I have absorbed too many Disney-fied versions of romance and love and my expectations to be loved and cherished were completely out of reach in the real world. Maybe all marriages are like this, eventually, and I just need to come to terms with it if I'm going to be happy.

So I worked on that. I worked on myself. I compartmentalized, shut off the lonely side and focused on other things. It works, until it doesn't. And then I had several things recently remind me that 1) things don't seem like they are ever going to change and 2) no, every marriage is NOT like this. Some people have real relationships that are based on more substance than "oh yes, we share chores and household duties very equitably".

 I felt hurt. And hopeless. And that led to anger and the resultant behavior. And then he felt hurt, and confused (because I didn't really tell him what was going on) and then angry and had his own unkind behavior. Which eventually blew up in a spectacular fashion.

I made the first move and apologized and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. And then I did perhaps the smartest thing I have ever done, and wish I'd done it sooner. I wrote him an email.

It took a good chunk of time to write and I edited it about 10 times after. I took out whole sections because it was all too much at once and I wanted to stick to one central theme for this email. I changed words to make it very neutral and focused on myself. I added positive things and then mor positive things. I made it very direct, with no half-truths or vague wording.

And then I sent it to him, told him to read it, think about it and not feel like he has to respond right away.

Its been 2 days and he hasn't responded.  He did address one concrete thing I mentioned in the email---something I'd asked him to do. He is doing it. I'm traveling for work, I'll be home tonight. I think he will want to talk about this, but I'm tempted to ask him if we can continue this over email, because it was so amazing to be able to say what I was feeling without my heart-racing and tears flowing and anxiety choking my words. I'm GOOD at writing and editing and getting my point across! I do it constantly for work, not to mention here (though I don't edit, obviously).

I am feeling hopeful. This may be stupid on my part, and I may be in this same place 6 months from now, but I'll take it for now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Merry and Bright

The holiday season is upon us. I have mixed feelings about the winter holidays. We just haven't gotten into a routine or found any traditions that really stick yet. This is mainly because we've traveled most years to go visit G's mother, and this year will be no exception.

Last year was the only year we stayed home and didn't have any visitors, and I basically threw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what would stick and re-appear in future years. Not a lot did. Despite the kids being at that "magical age", the whole Santa/gifts thing sort of fell flat. Sure they were excited to open presents, but I think it was overwhelming and led to some meltdowns later in the day. The gingerbread house building was a DISASTER. Some of the Christmas specials I remember loving as a child didn't quite hold up to the test of time. My family's traditional Christmas morning breakfast of pop-from-a-tube cinnamon rolls and OJ was disgustingly sweet for most of us.

Really the main thing I loved about the holidays was decorating, and specifically, decorating with lights indoors. Something about the little twinkly lights on a dark gloomy evening just lifts my spirits immediately. So I put up our little tree and strung a garland and lights on our banister, and put out our wreath and some greenery and holly berries for the window boxes.

I also love baking gingerbread cookies. So we'll do that, most likely when we're at MILs. I'll also bake some chocolate chip gingerbread because yum. We stopped our annual bake-for-work marathon when L came around, and I have no desire to go back to that anytime soon, but small batches for the family, where the kids can help and its OK if things look terrible is more fun.

I took the kids to look at a holiday light show in a park, and they were underwhelmed with the show but enjoyed sitting by the fire pits and eating junk food. I'd like to do that again or just go look at the neighborhoods that go all out with the outdoor decorations. We usually hunker down on cold evenings, so deliberately going somewhere and being outside after dark is novel and therefore special to the kids.

I used to LOVE going to fancy work holiday parties and getting to dress up! I know people complain about it, but I love having an opportunity to wear a fancy dress and heels and sparkly stuff once a year! Neither of our jobs has anything like that anymore---G's party is for staff only and is right after work. Ours is actually AT work and is lame. I'm skipping it this year, since my friends from out of town will be here on Friday. I miss that aspect of the holidays, so I did arrange 2 outings, with my book club and with some work friends for drinks next week. Not an occasion to dress up, but at least to get out and celebrate!

Gifts...I'm not sure what I'm going to do. The boys expect something. I really don't think they believe in Santa. But they know Christmas=gifts, so I will get them something and have it under the tree for when we get home from MILs. I like the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" approach, but I may narrow it down even further because they don't need anything, including clothes. So maybe one book & one toy per kid?  I don't want to give them their gifts AT MILs because she will be sure to shower them with a million things we won't even be able to fit in our suitcases, so dragging gifts there and back is just nuts. It'll also brighten the disappointment from having to leave the life of leisure and spoiling at grandma's!

Then we have B's birthday. Again, MIL gifts will suffice until we get home. I want to get him a bike, which will take some research, there's no rush since he won't ride much until spring anyways. As a placeholder I'll get him something small like a Lego kit he was asking about. We aren't doing a friend party this year, since we're spending enough on plane tickets (and by the time I started planning, literally every venue was booked, and I'm NOT doing it at home again!) He'll get a family party with cake & pizza.

I'm on call for New Year's. So no pretending to celebrate or care! Whoo! (Don't get me wrong, after years of being on call for most holidays, I very very very much appreciate only having to do one major holiday after two years. But since I have to do it, I'll look on the bright side of not having to make an effort to stay up until midnight!) 

I know this post sounds rather matter-of-fact, but I actually am looking forward to this season (at least the days pre-MIL visit) this year! I love seeing the lights up everywhere, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg everywhere, trying to think of how to delight and surprise my kids. Its such a nice way to spend these dark days, and I much prefer it to the holiday-less dark frozen stretch of January through March (though I'm trying to think about this, and stay positive!)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Backward and Forward

November, oh November. Started off with great intentions and sort of...devolved. Similar to October. Bad call weeks, challenging kid behavior, sickness, etc... left me in a 2-3 week funk. I didn't write much here because I am trying not to spread or dwell on negativity.

Thanksgiving weekend was a much needed break. We had a pretty nice 4 days, all in all. Thursday the weather was unseasonably warm & sunny. We went to the Thanksgiving parade, which was really fun for the kids and tolerable for us---I'll never complain about being outside in nice weather, and the crowds weren't too bad---enough to get a nice since of community and celebration. B and I made a chocolate mousse pie, and he did a fantastic job following directions and somehow the activity caused him to open up and talk about unrelated topics*. I took the boys to the park while G prepped a chicken** and veggies for roasting. We rounded off the meal with buttermilk biscuits and green beans (and wine for the adults). I took videos of the boys saying what they were thankful for (B: my family, the Thanksgiving feast, and getting good stuff like toys and treats; L: Thanksgiving feast, mommy, daddy, B, Doggie, hugs, kisses, that you turn the lights off when we go to sleep, the animals in my bed, the clock that tells me the time at school, my toys, hugs, kisses, that you read me books). So cute. So so cute.

Friday was another warm & sunny day. Spent hours at the park. Then my sister & family came in the evening---I hadn't told the boys they were coming so they were delightfully surprised to see their cousins. Saturday was grey & a bit drizzly but didn't stop us from spending even more hours at the park. There was some inter-cousin fighting but overall a good day. My sister left Sunday morning after breakfast and it was a cold, rainy, lazy kind of day. We got all our chores done and...that was about it. Relaxing.

I worked out Saturday and Sunday. I am reading a really fascinating book. I resurrected our book club and picked this for our January meeting. I also set up a holiday drinks outing for the book club and some work colleagues. Two of my best friends from chlidhood are coming to visit this weekend. Things to look forward to, and I am feeling much better overall.

One of the goals I had set for myself this fall was to start & stick with mindfulness meditation. I did about a week in October and a week in November, and the November week I really really started to get into it, look forward to it, and enjoy it. But I am having trouble finding a good time to do it.
Mornings do not work. I am just not in the mindset for stillness in the morning. I have so much  energy and I am raring to go. Mornings are better for exercise or even getting through chores. In November I did 10 minutes of meditation right before bed. It was great---I could clear my mind of all the stress of the day and was in a great mental space to relax and sleep. The problem with this is that it involved going up to bed ridiculously early which resulted in no time with my husband for those 10 days. If I stay up to hang out or even to work or do a project, either I'm too tired by the time I get up to bed or he is also coming to bed and I don't have the room to myself. I've tried to sneak in 5-10 minutes during the work day. I certainly take breaks to blog or do other "chores", but I don't feel fully comfortable, even with the door to my office closed. I need to get over that so today I'm going to put in my headphones and do 10 minutes right before I leave to get B.

I might as well set my goals for next month here since who knows when I'll write again!
  • Holiday decorations (my favorite part of the holidays, and so worth the hour it takes to set up our small tree and light up the stairway)
  • Meditation 
  • Stay hydrated (easier to forget in cold months! I've bought decaf chai spice tea to make it pleasant)
  • Aim for 4 days of exercise/week
  • Set up positive reinforcement system for kids' behavior (I've tried several things, advised by the therapist that did NOT work, but I'm not giving up, I have new ideas!)
  • Address a couple of lingering medical things for myself 
It'll be a short month of "real life"---we are traveling for 10 days at the end of the month and then I'm on call for New Years (more on all that later). Let's see how it goes!

*One of the main issues we are having these days is with B and his perpetually sullen, grumpy, whiny, and angry attitude. And his constant distracted behavior. So focused, open and cheerful is a HUGE and welcome change!

**Turkey for just the 4 of us seemed excessive, plus I prefer chicken. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Frivolity

So I was going to do this whole post about my recent shopping haul, with pictures and links. And I realized my pictures looked TERRIBLE and editing them takes time & not everything has easy to find links. anyways, I've lowered my standards considerably: this is what I bought in bullets with links where easily accessible.
  • Express mid-rise dark wash flare jeans  The flare is pretty pronounced, but since I'm hemming 4 inches off the bottom, it'll be a more subtle look for me. These fit perfectly and make my butt look great and my thighs look quite slim. G just keeps saying "so you say they are coming back in style? huh" in a very skeptical way when I ask what he thinks.
  • Express Barely Boot columnist pants in red/black check and dark grey. The grey came in short, so I've worn them a ton already. The checked are being hemmed 3 inches.
  • Express portofino shirts in slim-fit kelly green and original fit in a black/blue/white plaid I don't see online. 
  • Express plaid v-neck blouse
  • Ann Taylor striped shirt with lace shoulder (clearance, bought in store, not available online)
  • Ann Taylor cream (off-white?) lace shirt sort of like this
  • Banana Republic black sheer blouse 
  • Uggs Brooks Tall boots in brown which actually are two-toned black & brown and that almost caused me to return them until I tried them on and had to make myself take them off on a chilly evening at home. So comfy and warm, like wearing your fuzzy slippers! Waiting for a cold day to wear them out.
  • 3 nude bras in proper size (2 Wacoal and 1 Natori) 1 from fancy bra shop that did the fitting and 2 (for less than the price of the one) from Nordstrom Rack.  
  • a graphic tee from mod-cloth (using up store credit I already had), for lounging around. 
I returned/need to return at least twice as much as I kept, including 2 pairs of jeans, 4 shirts, 2 OTHER graphic tees, a midi skirt (with POCKETS!) that I like but not worth the $ and 2 pairs of superga sneaks in different sizes & different shades of light green. The supergas are comfy and I LOVE the look, but decided to go for a more neutral color...and to wait until spring to see if I still want these once boot-weather is over.

I'm actually happy with how I shopped. As usual, I used sales and got 40-50% a lot of items (not the jeans, sadly, they had buy one get one half of but I really don't need two pairs) and I used up a giftcard for BR and store credit at ModCloth. But what was new is that I was RUTHLESS in deciding what to keep and only items that fit perfectly, worked with what I already owned, and filled a real need in my closet were kept. I also have already worn most of these things---a problem I had in the past was "saving" things and ultimately forgetting about them in a box under the bed. Cost per wear is better the more you wear!

Now I'm eyeing these in either the navy corduroy or the black suede (I already have taupe suede booties).

And I still need sports bras.

Happy weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Other Stuff

Another lovely fall weather weekend, and mostly had a good time. I fit in two intense workouts (so so sore today!), we had a date night Saturday night, and I took the kids to the library & park Sunday to give G time to work on the bed project. We also got some lingering tasks off the list, including a many months overdue 3-ginormous-contractor-trashbags haul to Goodwill.

This weekend was a good testament to the fact that paying attention to what I need, and incorporating that into our spare time as much as possible, makes for much better weekends. Examples: 1) the workouts 2) being outside as much as possible: Saturday afternoon, after an incredibly boring birthday party at a bounce place (it was 30 minutes away, so we drove, and G dropped us off and did groceries/errands) where I ate too much pizza/cake at the end, I took G up on the offer for some free time & took the dog on an hour-long walk through the city. Worked off the extra food & felt so good to be out in the fresh air. Sunday, I turned the library trip into outdoor time, too, we skipped the first bus & played at the bus stop for 30 minutes on the way home (open space, with trees/grass/benches) and when the boys insisted on having books read to them, we did it at a park instead of sitting at home and 3) resting & sleeping when needed: We came home early from our dinner date because a) they brought the food out so quick we were done and b) I could barely keep my eyes open after a super active day (and half a bottle of wine). On Sunday, after having the boys solo from noon-6pm I again took G up on his offer to take care of dinner & lunch making (the latter is usually my job) since he had a relaxing time working outside in the backyard all afternoon. I poured myself some wine & just sat in the living room loosely supervising the kids while he worked in the kitchen.

The weekend was far from perfect. Sunday was actually really rough---the kids were both tired (I think they stayed up late with the sitter and woke up early as they ALWAYS do on Sundays---whyyyyyyy!!!! we have to wake them up on weekdays!) and L didn't nap either day this weekend. They were TERRIBLE and so so challenging. I really started off with good intentions. I stayed calm, delivered pre-agreed-upon consequences without getting emotional, I tried distraction and diffusion of the situation, I tried to stay in good spirits and made sure we had food & activity & down time but oh my god they were awful despite all that effort. There were definitely some moments where I lost it and was ashamed of my behavior. Sunday night I just felt really down about it, and ended up doing my "zoning out" routine (drinking wine while watching Gilmore Girls AND playing games on my phone) and stayed up way too late.

Before I had kids, and even when they were really young, I had these ideas of what kind of parent I would be and how we would discipline our kids & teach them right from wrong. I read the books and was so sure I would never resort to: bribery, fear, guilt. That I would never make empty threats and would always pick my battles. That we would 100% be consistent within and between ourselves in our consequences & discipline.

Obviously this is not the reality in our house right now. When unacceptable (and annoying as fuck) behavior is not just happening once in a while but seems to be near constant, it is really really hard to stay calm or to be consistent and rational. I find myself stooping to anything. ANYTHING at all that will make them stop hitting/pushing/saying bad words/spitting on me/whining/stomping/screaming/throwing things/demanding/complaining/etc... By Sunday night I was throwing major guilt trips at B and threatening L with things I was never going to follow through on, just to get them to GO THE F TO SLEEP that they (and we) so desperately needed.

I can't keep beating myself up about it. The only thing to do is start fresh this week. Remind myself that its OK to let some things go. To err on the side of reacting less. To keep trying to see their side, to empathize with their big feelings and their inability to express them in socially acceptable ways. To how everything seems out of their control and subject to our (arguably inexplicable, at least from their view point) whims. To understand that while they are maturing quickly in many ways, their brains may be having some trouble with connecting the emotional and rational sides. And that kindness and gentleness will go a lot further (and at the very least, cause less regret) than fear and threats and roughness.

As I say to my kids: today is done, tomorrow is another one. Lets make it a good one.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Two sides to every story

Wow, you guys, those discussions in the comments of my last post were exactly why I write here. Thanks to everyone who shared their story, advice, and support. I can't even tell you how comforting and eye-opening it was to read through so many "me too" or "this is what worked for us" or even "well, my life is very different" comments.

Of course, the one downside to asking for relationship advice is that you are presenting only part of the story---your part. As much as I try to get inside my husband's head, I don't really know what he's thinking or feeling about various things. And most of us like subconsciously gloss over own faults in any given situation. I bet its sort of primitive protection mechanism, since we don't like feeling guilt or shame or remorse---much easier to see yourself as the wounded innocent party.

There are definitely things I need to work on myself that are negatively affecting our marriage. I am terrible at being direct about what's bothering me or what I need. Even when I try to be direct, its very round-about and unclear. I absolutely hate to rock the boat and have a primal fear of confrontation. I will avoid talking about something tricky for days to weeks because the thought of having a tough conversation makes my heart race and my stomach hurt and my brain just want to RUN AWAY. I know this isn't healthy, but its where I am right now.

I say that he doesn't get it when I ask for something from him, but I'm pretty sure there are some things he's asked for that I never did because...why? I didn't think they were important, seemed silly, so ignored & eventually forgot? Or I tried, once or twice, still didn't get it, and stopped. I still interrupt him when he's telling me a story, or let my thoughts wander when he's explaining something, and every once in a while, I find myself pulling out my phone & checking email at 9:30 pm when we are trying to hang out & chat.

When he gets home in the evening, I mean to give him a hug & kiss but almost always, at that moment, I am at the stove, hands dirty and the kids run in first and want me and the next thing I know its 15 minutes later and we haven't said a word to each other. And he ASKED me to do this. Or he tells me repeatedly that he loves movies and wants to share that with me and can we watch a movie together and I thought "how is watching a movie together really quality time? that's dumb" and went 2 years before finally giving in--and it made him so happy! I still don't get it, but I do it once every few months.

I can be wound up pretty tight. I get fixated on the time and the schedule and what needs to be done, and even though he always does his share of the chores and more, I get annoyed & snippy if he doesn't do them on my time line. I am terribly impatient.  I get snappy when he's taking too long to do something or when I have to explain something again that I've already told him, or when he just isn't catching on as quickly as I'd like.

Sometimes I am so tired that all I do at night is fall asleep after the kids are in bed. I can do that for days/weeks at a time, and we never can hang out together. I don't feel lonely or isolated during those times, because...I'm sleeping. But on days that I have energy to hang out and he wants to do work or goes to bed early, I feel rejected. Sort of hypocritical?

I'm not trying to run myself down or make myself feel guilty, but just to remind myself that while I'm asking him to do more for me, there are plenty of things I can work on myself. Be the change you wish to see and all that. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Foreign Languages

I used to write quite a bit about issues in our marriage. Stepping back from this topic had very much to do with protecting myself from the vulnerability of exposing these deeply held, delicate feelings to the world's entirety of internet-abled humans. It is hard to post a really honest raw post about an issue and get a rude anonymous comment or even a smug non-anonymous comment from someone who just doesn't get it.

But I know a lot of you do get it. And your varied experience and insight is one of the main reasons I'm still here writing, so I'm going to step back out on the ledge. Also, things aren't going so well, and I've been thinking about & researching (but of course! that's what I do!) this topic and need to work out some thoughts.

First of all, its really hard if not impossible to find any kind of marriage-related advice or information without falling immediately into a snake pit of "family values" propaganda, "Jesus is the third person in your marriage" and the answer to your problem is to pray on it and ooh here's an applicable proverb. And that's the best case scenario, where there is no mention of wife serving husband, etc... Its sometimes just too difficult to "read around" the heavy-handed Christian focus to find the actual useful information*.

Thankfully I did find some blogs & websites that were more Christian-lite with a healthy dose of feminism, and in reading about common issues in marriages and tools for working through them, I'm pretty sure I'm getting closer to the root of our problems.

Pretty much anything written recently about marriage can be traced back to the Gottmans---the psychologists who created the concept of "love languages" and tells you that rolling your eyes at your spouse puts you on the fast track to divorce. I've taken the Love Language quiz before, was not surprised at the outcome, and worked on trying to get more of what I thought I needed: Quality Time. We set aside time a couple of nights a week to hang out together, talk, play games, watch a movie or do a puzzle**.

And yet, I still didn't feel like I was getting what I really needed from my marriage. I mean, doing puzzles is fun! But I do puzzles with my 5 year old and its equally fun. I get just as much (if not way more, because I alone chose the content) enjoyment watching TV on my own as I do watching a movie with my husband (I really don't find "watching things" to really be "quality time" anyways, but he is always wanting me to watch movies with him so I have started to say yes more often).

Anyways, we've been fighting about various things, and I took again to the internet and I found a blog written by a married couple with 3 kids and they were major Gottman devotees and dissected all his research throughout their posts. And I read about their love languages and the ways they tried to "speak" each others' preferred language and I went back and took the test and...

I filled it out honestly this time, and I got very different and surprising answers. See, the first time, I was filling it out the way I thought I "should". I thought that what I wanted was more time, so I filled it out to reflect that. I don't really want more TIME. Time is great, but we're sort of short on time in this season of life, and sometimes I'm just tired and I want to get more sleep.

I was not expecting my love languages to actually be: gifts, and words of affirmation (in equal measures), followed closely by physical affection. I suspect I purposefully did NOT pick any of the "gift" answers because it sounds so shallow & materialist. It wasn't until I read that post where the husband talks about hand-written notes his wife left him as "gifts" that it clicked. I'm not a big fan of material gifts but I do like tangible reminders that my husband is thinking of me. I kept for years a post-it G put in my lunchbox just saying "I love you, have a good day" during a rough time at work. I keep forever the cards he was written heartfelt messages in. I also would really love a thoughtful (not generic!) present every once in a while---though I don't want him to feel obligated to buy me anything for a certain occasion, and we do not do birthday/anniversary/holiday gifts as a rule. Gifts can be obligations, but when given freely they can also be looked at & used again & again to re-create that warm, fuzzy, surrounded by love feeling.

Words of affirmation were another one I think I initially avoided because it sounded "cheesy". I definitely do NOT want wrought out declarations of love, nor would I be able to keep a straight face should my husband start spouting love sonnets! But you know what would be nice, particularly as I find myself in a career where I am constantly bombarded by criticisms and self-doubt, kids that never fail to bring up that I'm "mean" or "stinky" or hated, and the daily affront of the mirror showing me that I really don't look anything like I imagine myself in my head anymore? Real genuine compliments & validation that something about me is special, lovable, and worthy. I so do NOT get this. For years we had a lot of fights about G being too critical, and to his credit he has toned that down a LOT. But I can't remember ever hearing a specific compliment about any aspect of my actions, person, or personality other than an occasional "oh you look nice today" or "good job getting all those chores done".

Physical affection, well, what can we say about that. Its hard when two people have vastly different needs in this realm, and its not something you can force.  

So, yay! I know what I need. The hard part is figuring out how to get it. It is pretty easy to ask someone for more time together. How do you, really, without sounding like a demanding needy a&shole, ask for gifts and compliments? And how can I get HIM to take this quiz and answer it honestly (I've tried to bring it up, he just...seems to be ALLERGIC to stuff like this)***.

Oh and just for the record****.

*yes, yes, I know you are perfect and can navigate any relationship naturally and easily and if you need to "research" having a happy marriage clearly there is something wrong with you/your spouse, or, most likely both of you. This post is not for you

**in retrospect, what helped these things happen is a great period of months with easy kid bedtimes, no major work deadlines, and unbroken sleep.

 ***don't say counseling. his allergy to THAT is beyond epi-pen level. (long time readers may remember a disastrous attempt at couples counseling 2-3 years ago). Plus OMG with my own therapy  and B's behavioral therapy I really don't have the bandwidth for that right now!

****No seriously if your marriage is perfect and you can't relate, I'm happy for you & you can go cuddle with your spouse, you don't need to comment to tell me that!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Assorted thoughts

Just finished a rough call weekend. It wasn't just the call that was rough, the kids were rough, I had 2 fights with my husband, L is sick and didn't sleep well, and I'm getting sick AGAIN. Even the most minor setbacks is throwing me off balance right now. I just wrote the strongest worded email I have ever written to someone who has completely failed to do their part in a major project. I have no patience for bullshit right now.  I really need a drink. 6 more hours.

I've been thinking about the balance between acceptance and growth. I continuously challenge myself to be better in many aspects of life---something I  believe is crucial to my happiness, because what is the point if I am not growing and learning? But I am also trying not to beat myself up for not always rising to the challenge. I'm sure there is something in there about the growth mindset and also about buddhism but I'm too tired to look into it right now.

On that note, I started reading "Mindset" last night & so far I am underwhelmed. Maybe because I already know the concept of the mindsets, and maybe because I've only read about about 15% of the book, but her "examples" are SO simplistic. CEO A has a fixed mindset and ran his company into the ground trying to appease Wall Street while CEO B has a growth mindset and said F you to Wall Street and now his company flourishes. Literally, there are at most 2 sentences about each "example"! There was a REALLY interesting paragraph about marriage between people with different Mindsets---I really really wanted to read more because that paragraph sounded really familiar. But that was it. A 4-sentence paragraph. Maybe she will expound on these in later chapters? The writing is also (as she admits!) a bit sloppy with grammar. Sort of like this blog, but I'm not getting paid for this ;)

Similar to the acceptance/growth juxtaposition is the issue of trying to be positive while still acknowledging that life sometimes sucks. Gwinne wrote about it here.  For me, the key is to not lie to myself or whitewash the truth about the hard stuff but also not to let it get me into a spiral of doom "everything is awful, its only getting worse, I can't deal with this, how am I going to deal with this" that ramps up my anxiety and is also pretty miserable. Really making a point of noticing the good things (which I have to do while I'm doing my "3 good things" journal, and sometimes, man I have to dig DEEP to find three things to write!) is helpful in this regard. Once I've managed some perspective, I can actually take a step back, figure out what isn't working, and actually try to implement strategies to make things better.

That leads me to the insight I had this weekend that just like my children (and my husband) I find that when I start to behave badly it just goes downhill and its hard to reset. I do/say something I am not proud of, and now I feel shame, and then I get a negative reaction from someone, and then the shame builds and maybe anger joins in, and the next thing you know I'm lashing out again even though what I really really want to do is act differently and make things better. The absolute best thing is to remove myself from the situation but that isn't always possible. I need to figure out a way to reset my emotional state in these instances so I don't continue to be a terrible wife/mother!

I am taking B to a therapy appointment this evening. G took him last week, it was just background stuff, more him talking to her, no insight or recommendations coming from her. the timing is pretty bad----I don't miss as much work, but we will both be tired & hungry, and its all the way across town from work & home. This is where splurging on uber becomes worth it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea*

I feel a little silly about my Halloween rant last week, it was actually incredibly fun. I still hate most holidays, but I'll admit that Halloween is the least offensive. It helped that it was a lovely day, and we had a great celebration of fall and neighborhood spirit. I actually dressed up for the first time in many many years, and I enjoyed the creative challenge. I realized how much I love the way our 'hood does Halloween, where you don't have to knock on doors, but everyone is camped out on the stoop drinking wine & handing out candy. The kids had so much fun trick or treating and then sitting out on our stoop devouring their stash and handing out ours with glee (B: "I LOVE CANDY. Skittles. Kit Kat. M&Ms. CHOCOLATE. Here, have some candy! YES TAKE IT. TAKE MORE. CANDY!!!!") He got a little high on candy. I had to take him on a run around the neighborhood at 8pm so that we could get him to bed.

Sunday, however, was...what's the word...oh yes. Completely shitty.  I really really tried to have a pleasant day, but, yeah. For reasons outside of my control, it royally sucked. And Saturday morning wasn't that great either. I did NOT run the 5K, though we cheered on our neighbors and B ran the 2 block kids race. I basically started & ended the weekend in tears in the bathroom and I'm not usually a crier.

I was reading SHU's post about her amazing October and my first instinct was to say "Oh, my October sucked." Because parts of it really did. But I'm trying to get away from that habit of painting entire long periods of time with the same ugly brush stroke, obliterating all the lovely little things that I've forgotten or overlooked.  Obviously October had some good moments mixed in with the rough ones. I wrote about two entire weekends that were amazing. Why not focus on those? If I'm going to tell myself a story, why not tell the more positive one?

I used to think that happiness was something you arrived at when everything was finally going right. When you love your job, your marriage rocks, your kids are awesome and healthy and well-behaved, you have this close knit group of friends...THEN you'll be happy! And of course, its easy to feel happy when things line up and life is easy. But that happiness can be fleeting, because nothing stays lined up, and rough patches are part of every life. True happiness arises despite the complications, in the ability to realize that "this too shall pass" and also to notice that even on the blackest days, there are tiny glimmers of beauty and joy, if we only allow ourselves to notice. Those words, that sound so trite, like "resilience" and "presence"...they may be overused but they are true.

I wrote a post about October goals. I'm not even linking it or going back to read it because I know I failed spectacularly. Like I said, it was not an easy month. But I'm picking back up and starting over, today (because yesterday...ugh). So here are my November goals
  • Gratitude journal every night---write 3 good things from every day, especially as relates to interactions with B (this was recommended by my therapist when I mentioned my spiral-of-doom fears about his recent issues)
  • Exercise 4 times/week: T/Th/Sa/Su (not going to happen this week since I'm on call this weekend, but I need to do my Tues/Thurs workouts this week. The past week, I only worked out once which is really unusual for me and may explain some things...)
  • Meditate! 10 minutes/daily 
  • Paper planning for work and home tasks (inspired, again, by Sarah)
  • Get eating back on track (this is vague, but I know it when I see it, and it certainly doesn't involve gorging on cheese at 10pm)
  • On non-workout days, wake up at 6am (this is 30 minutes earlier than previous. I did this today and it helped immensely to be fully ready before kids woke up)
  • Organize/purge/inventory winter wardrobe
Oh man, I want to keep going, but I think it need to keep it short so I have a better chance of success.

Soon (hopefully tomorrow) I'll detail my new clothing purchases and ask for some advice. There may be pictures! Not of me, just the clothes.

*Another Anne quote, regarding November

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Thanks for the comments on my last post, lovely supportive, validating comments! Just what I need right now.

B has been having some...difficulties. It started before KG, so its not related. I actually thought it got better for a while with the excitement of a new school, but now its returned/gotten worse. He still loves school...just maybe school doesn't love him? I'm not going to go into it, but we are seeking outside help.

This is stressing me out and dredging up some of my worst fears as a parent. Lots of spiral-of-doom thinking going on in my head. Not good.

did I mention I hate holidays? I DO. I tried to embrace them last year and it was an epic failure. I much prefer the joys of an ordinary day to all the over-hyped built up and certainly unmet expectations of a holiday. And Halloween on a freaking SATURDAY? So now there is pressure for the WHOLE DAY to be FUN and SPECIAL. B (who forms unrealistic expectations and doesn't handle the unmet ones well at all) is sure to be in rare form.

On top of it all, I'm sick. I was sick last week with what felt like the worst cold ever---colds don't usually knock me out like this. I basically went to work, did the dinner/bed routine, and collapsed for 4 straight days. Then I felt amazing other than some congestion. My energy was back, I had a great weekend, and then I started getting insane sinus headaches, coughs, and that tiiiiirrrreeeed feeling yesterday. Ugh.

I'm supposed to run a 5K Saturday morning. Bleurgh. The plan was to work on speed leading up to the 5K. Ha. I've run maybe twice in the past 2 months? And slowly, at that. I know I can run the distance, I just don't want to embarrass myself with my time.

OK, back to work.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekend and life lessons

Another good weekend! And I never planned a thing going into it. Just happened to have really nice weather & I took advantage to make sure we had plenty of time outdoors both days. I actually had to work Saturday (we have to do Saturday morning clinics a few times a year, seeing new patients myself and also supervising fellows who actually get PAID extra to do this, whereas its part of our routine duties). I left home at 7:30 AM and got back around 1 PM. While I was gone, the boys had swim lessons and then went to the coffee shop and hung out outside. I ate a quick lunch and then we headed to a neighborhood pumpkin-decorating event.

It was one of those small things that I just happened to hear about and forget, until I saw them setting up on my way home from work and realized they were providing the pumpkins, so at the very least, we should go snag free pumpkins! The kids LOVED it. they had glitter paint and markers & all kinds of stickers and creepy things to glue on. They decorated every inch of their pumpkins, and picked out loads of little cheap plastic crap & terrible candy to take home (seriously, no chocolate at all!). The "D'oh!" moment was when I realized we had 2 very large pumpkins wetly covered with glitter glue to get 1/2 a mile home. So I carried one, with my arms stretched out in front of me so I didn't get glitter on my nice jacket (quite a bicep workout!) and returned with the stroller for the other one. Instead of going home we went to the park and stayed for over 2 hours! They climbed (very low) trees, jumped in leaves, played chase with new friends, and generally had an awesome time while I marveled at the warm sunshine and brilliant colored leaves. I had the forethought to order a pizza a little while before we left, so we could pick it up on our way home. Energy out, dinner taken care of, and G had 4+ hours to himself to work on his newest project (L's bed).  Then G headed out to the grocery store, so the kids and I had a music dance party and I got them into bed.

Sunday the kids were obsessed with being "artists" and coloring & painting for hours, so we got the chores done (laundry/food prep). I went to the gym for the 11:30 class, while G packed some sandwiches for a park picnic. I worked out for an hour, ran an errand, ate lunch, took a long shower, and they were still at the park so I joined them. Another amazing day---so warm I was in a T-shirt. I know these days are numbered so we let them stay until L was rubbing his eyes while he ran. G decided he wanted to make rice crispie treats so we got the ingredients on the way home & he made them with the kids. They were REALLY REALLY good. We added large dark chocolate chips and some graham cracker crumbs for "smores-style" treats. G had gotten into his head the idea to watch a non-kid movie with the kids (I warned him against it) so we convinced them to watch Back to the Future. To my utter amazement, they LOVED It and never complained or asked to watch Frozen or Toy Story instead. I watched with them (another surprise, I usually use movie-time to get things done and I'm not a fan of re-watching movies over & over again) and we had a lot of fun!

We all agreed it was an awesome weekend. Yet we didn't really DO anything special. I finally got back on-line Sunday night and realized that everyone else was at the pumpkin patch or the zoo halloween event or some other major activity. And for a split second I felt that FOMO/guilty feeling that we should've done those things too. Comparison really is the thief of joy. If we had a great weekend, and were happy & satisfied, why should I care what others did or feel like we missed out on something? Sure, those things might have been fun, and maybe I can plan better to do them next year, but we ALSO had fun! The whole point of weekends for me is to reconnect with my family, maybe get some time for myself, and prepare for the week....and this weekend accomplished all those things. Our weekend was also simple and (mostly) free, involved lots of unstructured time for the kids and lots of time outdoors---two things that I've realized are essential for all of us.

Not identical, but similar, is the feeling I get when I read too much "life advice". Whether its related to career or exercise or personal finance or time management---there are countless "experts" giving very well-meaning advice usually amounting to "this is what worked for me and you should do it too".  And its easy to feel like a failure when you can't keep up with all the things you are "supposed to" do. I  have to remind myself to take a step back and realize that not all advice I read is applicable to me nor is it possible to follow every piece of advice out there---in face, some advice is so directly conflicting that it is categorically IMpossible to do both! It may be the wrong time in life for me to do those things or I just may not be the right person for it and it will NEVER apply. I'm getting way way better at this with age and resultant wisdom (ha!) but I admit to still falling into the trap when new ideas make their way to me screen (i.e. the money thing, and why I had to step away from any extreme frugality blogs. Not for me, I have no goals that require that level of penny-pinching, yet...I still feel guilty spending $ on frivolities when people making 6 figure incomes are eating breakfasts that cost 10 cents each or wearing 4 sweaters to bed to save on heating).

Lessons learned: be myself, don't compare to others, and filter advice through a very loose sieve and ignore what is not pertinent.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Enablers! All of you!

Wow, that last post got a TON of comments, and some brand new commenters, too! Maybe I should stick to writing about my fashion woes. I'm often surprised by which posts garner lively discussions and which ones seem to fall flat. I guess asking for practical advice on a not-too-loaded issue is a sure bet.

The good/bad news is that I took your advice and started browsing catalogs and style blogs, and the next thing I knew I had loaded up a few online shopping carts and have some flare jeans, superga sneakers, and interesting tops coming my way.

So I guess my shopping ban has ended prematurely. I made it almost 11 months. This time. There will definitely be more shopping bans in my future. I've decided that I'm an abstainer when it comes to regulating shopping. If I'm "allowed" to buy things, I will always find something I want/need (its too easy to shop on-line, I can do it on my phone while I'm waiting for the bus FFS!). When I decided to ban myself from shopping, I helped myself by unsubscribing from all emails and never going to websites or even fashion-related blogs (technically I told myself I wouldn't "go shopping" at stores either, but that opportunity really never presented itself). Any catalog that came into the house went straight into the recycling bin, I didn't even open it. And it was really really easy to stick to the ban. I didn't want anything, I didn't feel deprived---I didn't have to exercise any will power at all, it was great!

So now that I've bought some things & fallen back into browsing on-line, I've decided to give myself a little "shopping window",  make a list of everything I want/need (some things ARE needs, like new bras and sports bras), figure out a reasonable budget for those items, and go for it.

And then start a new shopping ban until next summer. I just don't trust myself to moderate when it comes to this issue.

There are definitely times when making too many rules complicates my life, but there are instances when it simplifies things to an amazing degree. No need to exert self-discipline or to make excuses or bargains when there is a hard & fast "No". Its like eating the same things for lunch every day or having my set gym days. I don't think about whether I'm tired or busy and maybe I'll go tomorrow instead---I know that's not an option so I just..go. There will be no "well, I know I don't NEED another dress, but I'll wear it a lot, and I promise I won't buy anything else this month, but oh, wait, these shoes are really cute and I don't have any that color and...OK here's the deal, I'll get both of those things but then I won't buy ANYTHING ELSE until...etc..."

Now to wait for those packages to arrive. I'm particularly curious about the flares, and if I have any shoes that will work with them.

Do you consider yourself an abstainer? If not, have you ever tried it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Good Weekend Update and a little frivolity

Last weekend was...really good. All the elements came together: work-outs each morning (gym class Saturday, short run in COLD weather Sunday), loads of outdoor time (both afternoons spent 2-3 hours at a park), social time (kids birthday party Saturday evening with parents I like, and play date Sunday afternoon with moms I really like, with kids from B's old pre-K), and got stuff done (bulbs planted, and the usual laundry/food prep). Some of it was out of my control: it just HAPPENED that we had scheduled events both days, the play date was actually rescheduled from 3 weeks prior (it is HARD to get scheduled coordinated, people are so BUSY---we were the only ones that basically said we could meet up any weekend) and the timing of the birthday party (4:30-6:30) happened to work so so great---dinner for me and the boys taken care of, and got home, exhausted, just in time for bedtime routine. Plus, G was on some sort of roll and got ALL the dinner cooking done Sunday morning (he made FOUR curries!) and also the prep for lunches. All I had to do was assemble lunches, which took less than an hour. I also had LOADS of solo kid time. I took them swimming Saturday AM, to the birthday party that evening, to the play date Sunday and some other time on Sunday while G worked on a project.

Because its me, and I like analyzing processes and planning and optimizing, of course, I'm trying to figure out how to recreate such a weekend. Some thoughts: 1) do more solo 2-kid stuff instead of the splitting up thing we tend to do. I don't even mind being the one on kid duty (its building karma for when I want it, I have nothing I really need/want to do on weekends currently); I like doing things as a family, but the kids just are better when its only one of us 2) plan a Saturday evening activity. Its almost luxurious  getting home and not having to worry about dinner or entertainment, and just get them off to bed. too bad most kid-friendly places close around 5, since winter is coming and we can't just hang at the park until bedtime and 3) have G do all the cooking (I kid...sort of...maybe we can alternate doing ALL the cooking every other weekend so one of us gets a total break).

On a completely unrelated topic, I've been feeling incredibly frumpy lately with my weekend attire. I tried to wear something nice on Saturday but...I don't really have anything nice that works for this weather and is weekend-casual. Summer is great, I have a little cohort of sundresses  that I just rotate through and a cute pair of sandals.  Then it gets more complicated. I have to pick tops, bottoms, layers, shoes. I want a go-to weekend uniform but I'm not sure what it should be. I own 2 pairs of jeans & I'm sick of both of them---both very skinny, one a stretchy and SO COMFY jegging style and another stiffer but still with stretch pair. I'm tired of that skinny jean look, but not sure what the new style is. The old bootcut style I wore for 15 years is not it---I saw it on some moms at the park Flares? Higher rise? I want some athletic-casual type shoes, that I can wear with socks. Ballet flats of course don't work for fall (did I mention it was COLD? I felt really sorry for the mom at the play date in ballet flats, but I looked frumptastic in my WORKOUT SNEAKERS and it was either that or socks with old toms...). I just can't get behind the Vans/Chucks...something similar but not quite those.

And what to wear on top that's fun and casual and also flattering (not clingy in the belly but not maternity-like or sack-like)? Not a plain sweater, not a striped long-sleeve shirt (I just got rid of a plethora of striped long sleeved shirts). Maybe I need to (I can't believe these words are being written by me...) GO SHOPPING and see whats out there.

(yes I know I'm on a shopping ban, I'm just...planning. I want to figure out 2-3 things I really want instead of just randomly buying things that "look pretty good" until the next thing comes along that "looks somewhat better" and I have a pile of things that are only ok. And maybe it'll be a 11 month ban. Because its not about punishment, but about mindful and responsible spending).

What do you wear on weekends? Any shopping tips for jeans/weekend casual-wear?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Small things that make me happy

In no particular order
  • Crossing things off to-do list (bonus points if they've been lingering there for a while)
  • Challenging exercise
  • Being outside in nice weather
  • Wine
  • A really really good book, the kind where you sneak in 5-10 minutes of reading whenever you can because you just have to know what happens
  • A good conversation with a friend---in person, on the phone, by email or even a quick text
  • Watching my kids when they are playing nicely
  • Hugs from my kids
  • Fancy cheese
  • Looking at my flowers (I planted seeds in window boxes this spring and they are totally in bloom still---actually doing better than they were in the heat. I can look at them with pride for minutes each day; there is something about seeing things I've planted grow that mesmerizes me, still!)
  • Ignoring the to-do list completely and doing what I feel like doing
I know I've written these lists before, but I need to remind myself routinely that I am charge of my free time.  I'm hoping it will motivate me to make sure I incorporate these things into my weekend, even though inertia may keep me stuck in the house browsing the internet on my phone while the kids bicker around me. I know a weekend day goes better when I exercise, and I had added a Sunday morning workout to capitalize on that, but I haven't done that in several weeks now. I need to add it back, even a quick 2-3 mile run and some push-ups (and planks!) would do it. I know I am happier outside, so I'll just have to force the kids out of the house more--they enjoy it when we go, they just get caught up in playing with their toys and don't want to stop.  I have tulip bulbs that need planting---I was too lazy to do them last weekend, and need to remind myself that it'll feel good NOW to get the task of my list and next spring when I can look at the flowers.  I've got 2 actual physical BOOKS I got from the library that are due back in 6 days. I need to choose one and see if I can finish it this weekend. If I spent all the time I spent on my phone actually reading, it may happen! The wine & cheese are self-explanatory. And sometimes, the stars align and everyone is in a good mood, and you  just want to sit and soak it all in, chores be damned. I need to take those opportunities when I can, instead of slogging on to the next thing. The years are short.

What are your weekend strategies?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Different things

Little things
  • I just submitted a grant. Whoo! I have something on this side of town so I planned to work late, but once I submitted the grant I was DONE and I'm just frittering time away now.
  • I like writing grants but there are really annoying parts, most of which involve administrative stuff and administrative people that are so stressful!
  • I wanted to plan stuff to do this weekend but its already thursday night and I've planned nothing. 
  • Our house is a disaster. I need to organize and purge. We can't FIND things we need and keep stepping on stuff. I hate that. I'm OK with mess until I'm suddenly NOT and it has to GO
Bigger things

Part A: So the reason I set my allowance so low was 1) I am on a year long clothes shopping ban so I didn't budget for clothes/shoes at all and 2) I wanted to feel a bit of scarcity and to have to think and rethink each purchase and maybe even "save up" for it. The point was not to just buy what I wanted because I could "afford it". WORKS. All those things I wrote about wanting? I don't want most of them anymore. The wanting of things often comes from some other want/need in my life, and buying the things does not usually fulfill that need. When I start researching planners, it means I feel overwhelmed and unproductive. Some little part of my brain thinks the answer to that is a new planner. Its not. The answer to that is getting my ass in gear and getting stuff done. Now that I've gotten a ton of stuff done over the past few weeks, I realize I don't NEED a new planner. I can wait and get one later or skip it altogether.

Wanting clothes also comes from some other feeling. Today I felt like going shopping. To celebrate being done. Buying something is an easy way to celebrate. Its not like I can just "go out" with friends, or that the kids are going to necessarily behave and let me have a fun evening. But of course, buying something doesn't REALLY fulfill the urge to do something special. Other reasons for wanting to shop: lack of confidence at work=need professional attire and body image issues. And also just being bored with life. Nothing fun coming up, no vacations or activities or anything planned=buy new clothes for the thrill of fun shiny packages arriving.

This holds true for lots of other areas in life. Where I subconsciously want to buy something to fix some underlying issue. Activities for the kids because I have this picture in my head of warm nurturing times  vs. the chaotic yelling that is going on now. A kitchen tool that'll motivate me to want to cook again. The workout gear or equipment to increase exercise. Etc...

Its totally stupid, but it happens. So having that brake on the spending with the super-low budget makes me stop and think and actually SEE what my brain is doing. And then if I still want it (THOSE BOOTS) I will buy them in January.

Part B: Sarah wrote about how unstructured time isn't always what its cracked up to be. I felt that last weekend, in a big way. As much as my kids are content to stay at home and play legos and puzzles and watch movies. I am NOT. Not when they still actually need me every 5 seconds (and those are the seconds they aren't hitting/fighting/shouting) its not relaxing, nor is it fun. On top of that, it was a weekend where I felt exhausted and unmotivated to actually get stuff done, so I couldn't even use that time in the house to knock off some long overdue tasks. Hence why I wanted to plan more for this weekend. I'm also just hoping that I have more energy (this energy thing is elusive to me. Some days-weeks-months I have plenty and then I crash for weeks at a time, going to bed super early and still able to sleep in, just wanting to SIT instead of my usual on-the-go self).

Friday, October 9, 2015

...A world where there are Octobers

First things first: who can attribute that quote?

It has been a nice month so far. I like that the month is bookended by L's birthday near the beginning and Halloween at the end. And in between we have cool crisp mornings with warmer afternoons, and the last few weeks of daylight at dinner time. L's party was perfect. It was a bunch of kids running around at the park, eating pizza and cupcakes in between. Laid-back and easy. I could do this every year. If only I didn't have a winter birthday child!

Like most things, homework seems to have worked itself out. B is doing it in aftercare, with help from the staff. He's been so overzealous about doing it, though, that he skipped his favorite karate class yesterday evening to get it done. I told him it was OK to leave it for later.  On the one hand, I admire that work ethic, but I also know that he has a tendency to burn out.  I think its better to skip a few days of homework than to do every assignment for 2 months and then decide he "hates homework".

He really LOVES kindergarten and goes on and on about all the things he's learning. And then he has massive regressive meltdowns, like I haven't seen from him in 2 years. Maybe the stress of holding it together from 8:30 to 5ish every day? I couldn't even be angry at him last night, I could tell he just could not get himself together. It was over the silliest thing (chocolate graham cookies) and he was sobbing and kicking things for 20+ minutes. Later he apologized. We need to get him to bed earlier. On Sunday I put him to bed a full hour earlier, without L, and he fell asleep immediately. L, who's had a 2 hour nap, keeps him up at until after 9 with his shenanigans.

B got a haircut! After 15+ months. It had gotten long enough to put in a ponytail. Its "boy" short now. G & I were SO happy when he said he wanted a haircut that we scheduled it ASAP. The first cut, he refused to cut it too short so she left it on the sides and it was poofy and terrible, so we took him back for a touch-up and now he looks like 4 year old B. We were relieved because its easier and neater and you can see his eyes, but I hope he didn't decide to get it cut because other kids were teasing him about looking like a girl (they were, but he told me he didn't care and told the main teasing girl "well YOU look like a boy"; he may need to work on his insult skills).

I got a haircut too! After a full year! It was halfway down my back, the longest I've had it in years. I cut it right to my chin, with some shorter layers. It looks awesome so far, but that's because I haven't washed it, so it still has the original "styling". We'll see how it pans out...I've always found shorter hair harder to manage, you can just throw long hair back into a ponytail and go (which I did, and was getting sick of).

As for my mindfulness in October---I finally started using my meditation app. I am on 2/7 of the introduction to "Calm". My goal is to do this daily for the whole month. Its really hard to not think about things for even 10 minutes! That's the point though, right? If its hard for me, it means I really need to do it. Like planks. I should probably do planks everyday for a month, too. Maybe in November.

After a rocky start last week, I've gotten into a good rhythm with work. SO MANY Pomodoros! I've finally gotten into the "flow" state with this project and its amazing how much better I feel overall when I'm engaged and productive all day. Today is a bit slower, but ITS OK to have a slow day when the other days are good! What else did I say I would do? Oh, keep off my phone in the evenings and weekends. Yeah. Work in progress. I'll try again this weekend, last weekend was terrible. 

I've read a couple of posts recently about this idea, touted in the frugal-living world, that outsourcing can actually take more time than in-sourcing certain things. I call BS. Like haircuts---people claim they cut their own hair because it saves so much time. How often are you cutting your hair? Where are you going for a haircut? I cut my hair 1-2 times a year. I go somewhere in the neighborhood. I chat with the hairdresser. It gets washed, cut, and styled way better than I could ever do at home! Or worse---"it takes longer to get take out then it does to cook". What? Because you just sit around waiting in the 30 minutes before it shows up at your door? If you are not cooking, you can USE THAT TIME. To work, or play with your kids, or exercise, or rest your weary feet after hours standing on them, or take a shower, or....the possibilities are endless! Just say you don't want to spend the money and leave it at that. Stop trying to make it "not just about the money". IT IS JUST ABOUT THE MONEY*. Rant over.

Speaking of money, thanks for your suggestions/comments on the allowance thing. I have more to say about that topic but I'll save it for another day, I better finish up some work!

*another valid reason might be health---you want to eat healthier than most take-out options allow, or you have food allergies or a special diet. That's often my reason for saying no to take out (other than the $), when I feel like having something simple/healthy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Back to school

We are still trying to get used to the new routines around B's kindergarten. Specific challenges: 1) being there on time 2) B needing to be responsible for his food and other stuff (i.e. the teacher won't put his raincoat on him, or dole out his snacks in the proper order that we want them to be in)  3) Our only source of information about school being from B, since we can't just talk to the teacher everyday 4) Homework that has to be done  and 5) random days off.  Like all parents everywhere, we'll figure it out, but its a bit stressful right now. I also have to adjust to a totally different evening routine. Instead of coming home alone, walking the dog, processing mail, and prepping dinner before everyone else got home, now I pick B up from after-care on my way home. We walk the dog together, and then I have to nag him to do his homework & help him with it while I prep dinner (The mail has not been processed in days). I like having time with him one on one, but I do miss alone time to decompress before the evening rush!

Its rainy & cold here. We had to cancel L's outdoor party for tomorrow. Its tentatively scheduled for Sunday. It'll still be cold & windy but hopefully no rain. I really don't want everyone in our house, I have no activities planned (since it was planned to be a park party). Fingers crossed. Its usually so lovely this time of year, but then again, it is hurricane season, so I should've been more prepared!

We have tickets to a concert tonight of all things. A band I don't particularly like but G loves. We went to see them on one of our first dates so when he asked if I wanted to go, I agreed. And it was not on a weeknight, so it seemed OK. Also that was 2 months ago. Everything seems "fun" 2 months prior to actually having to wear pants and go out! But its cold & rainy and the concert starts at 8 but the main act won't be until after 10. Friday nights are for drinking wine and watching TV shows on my laptop, in my PJs.  I really really want to just bring my Kindle and sneak into a corner somewhere until the band comes on, but I assume that's wrong?

As for the October goals, I've already: spent 5 minutes on GOMI, spent 20 minutes looking at graphic Ts, and did not look at the meditation app yesterday. So...not off to a great start, but still motivated!

I really need more "fun money" so I can buy the planner I want. That monthly allowance goes really really fast somehow. I already spent $50 on a knife-skills class I'm taking mid-month and accidentally ordered a book on Amazon 1-click that I can't return for $5. And since we changed the party to Sunday, I had to exchange tickets I had bought for the children's theater on Sunday and this place (as opposed to the place we had a subscription to last year) charges $4/ticket to exchange! so there went $67 and its only the 2nd day of the month! I have a happy hour planned 2 weeks from now, those usually end up being $25. And there will inevitably be 1-2 lunches I need to buy, or occasions where I want to buy the kids a snack or treat. I upped the allowance from $80 in January, to $100 soon after, and more recently (since we're spending way less on groceries) $120. But I never ever have left over. The plan was to save up excess allowance money for clothes, but at this rate, those boots aren't happening, not to mention the bras, jeans, T shirts and slacks I need want. And my umbrella & lunch bag were both recently lost/stolen and need replacing. Urgh.

Alright, break over. Any allowance advice? Concert advice? How do you handle homework with your kids?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scrambled eggs

My brain feels like scrambled eggs these days. I just can't FOCUS. It takes all kinds of tools and tricks to stay on task, even with pretty interesting & important work in front of me. Hell, I haven't even been able to formulate a coherent blog post that isn't a stack of disjointed thoughts. I can read fiction. I just can't read a journal article in its entirety or finish anything in one sitting.

I'm sleeping OK---enough hours, mostly uninterrupted (except when its not). I just had a vacation in which I allowed myself to relax (very little work, slept in, lazed around) though the kids were nuts and it wasn't exactly relaxing most of the time. I've been sticking with my routines for exercise, eating, sleeping, quiet time, etc... that I need to function.

I wonder if its the inevitable effect of spending so much time flitting from click-bait article to facebook post to blog post to another article. This inability to go deep and stay there. I'm sure there is research on this topic. I'm also sure I don't need to spend 45 minutes down that rabbit hole right now!

I've decided to make some goals for the month, inspired by SHU. All these goals are based around the central theme of improving focus.
  • Download mediation app and use daily (any recs for free/low cost apps?)
  • Stay off all internet forums
  • NO online shopping (after 9 months of having no desire to buy new clothes, I suddenly have a growing mental list of things I want, and I'm distracting myself "window shopping" for the future)
  • Read journal articles in paper form, away from computer. 
  • Planning/outlining on paper, in notebook 
  • Phone away after dinner and on weekends
  • Use pomodoro method for work: 25 minutes on-task, 5 minute break X 5 and then a 25 minute break. These breaks will be the only internet time during the workday (though can also be used for other tasks like budgeting or phone calls or to take a quick walk)
  • No internet while eating any meal, even at work (OK to munch fruits/veggies for a snack while working!). I like the idea of eating more mindfully, and using that time as a real mental and physical break. If nothing else my eyes need a rest!
I'm considering whether music might be helpful while I'm writing. I used to actually get a lot done with the low-volume buzz of noises in the lab (though the less-frequent bursts of laughter/squealing drove me nuts). My office is pretty quiet, but I can hear the guy who sits in the middle of our suite making phone calls 3 days a week (its his job, soliciting donations) or people coming in to make copies or faxes. Maybe I'll bring in some headphones tomorrow.

OK, time for 25 minutes of revising aims.