Thursday, September 29, 2016


Remember how my therapist wanted me to start thinking about where I want to be in 5, 10, 15 years? Well, I am doing a faculty development course this year, and the very first assignment was to write a 15 year life plan! I actually put some thought and time into this, and I found it really helpful to try to visualize where I saw myself under ideal circumstances.

The course utilizes this book, which title non-withstanding, has absolutely nothing to do so far with being a "leader" in the traditional sense (leading a group). Its actually about work/life "integration" (as the author urges us to think about it) and how to take control of your time and energy and create the life you want for yourself. Obviously this concept is something of great interest to me and my readership, so I thought I'd share some insights.

The book proposes a "four way view" of life, which includes work, family, self, and community. At the first meeting we did an exercise in which we had to assign a % of importance to those 4 areas. We then had to assign a % of time currently devoted to those areas. Everyone had the same dilemma---we found all the areas important, but devoted the vast majority of our time to work.

I was obviously not surprised by this.  Actually, I don't know how honest people were even being with the exercise. The cult of busyness, and bragging about how much you work to the exclusion of all else is huge here. I am always hearing disparaging comments like "who has time for THAT?" when discussing reading or other hobbies. Its basically OK to talk about spending time with children and working. Anything else is clearly a waste of time and a signal to all of your lack of dedication.

Someone actually brought this up, by contrasting her experience at another place with what she's noticed here. This led into some really interesting discussions about the culture of our university, and the emphasis on work to the exclusion of other pursuits, and whether there was a way to shift the culture that over time. 

One part of this course involves using peer to peer "coaching teams". I was randomly teamed up with 2 guys, both with vastly different work and non-work commitments from me. We started off talking about our goals and what we saw as obstacles to meeting them. Then we helped each other think through solutions. I offered visionary advice such as "make a list", "sync calendars with your spouse", and "work from home on occasion if people keeping interrupting you in your office". I was given the advice to spend some time on Friday planning out the week ahead---to include work and non-work commitments, and to leave 1-2 days a week free from any meetings.

Cheesy as it seems, the "4 way" thing is actually working for me. Our 15 year plans had to include our visions for all 4 aspects, and I realized that certain things ARE important to me, but woefully neglected. I really value the idea of community. We live and work and play and learn all within a 1.5 mile radius. In fact, we spend 90% of our non-work time within a few blocks of home (this includes the elementary school, which is 1 block away). Being involved in our community in a more meaningful has always been on my "someday" list, but I realized that there are definitely things I can do now. So I said YES when I got the email to help out with a fundraiser 5K for the school (and I'm running in it). I am going to the school PTA meeting next week (its at 5:30 PM, not 10AM!!). I was tired, but I went to the neighborhood book group meeting, and despite the last meeting being awkward (I didn't know anyone, yet they seemed to be friends), things really clicked and I had a great time (even though we were only drinking tea).

I think I'm doing a better job than most in the category of "self". I have pinpointed what I need, and my workouts and sleep and alone time are non-negotiables in my life. My family obviously gets a large amount of time and energy, though maybe 99% of that is my kids, and I need to shift a bit of that to poor neglected G and even to keeping up extended family relationships (so I've been calling my parents & MIL and texting my sister more).

Its such a great coincidence that this course focuses on the exact thing I've been pondering and planning on my own (when I applied for it, it was unclear exactly what it entailed, but it seemed prestigious and a friend/colleague recommended the experience). Astute readers may notice that some of what I wrote here matches up exactly with my previously stated September goals! Reinforcements from all sides definitely make my resolve stronger.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What I didn't Learn by not Tracking My Time

I know how I spend my time---there would be no earth-shattering breakthroughs to come of carefully documenting it. I know when I'm being productive and when I'm being lazy and how much I exercise and how much I sleep and commute and waste on my phone. Its not that I don't know. Its just hard to change your natural inclinations sometimes.

Overall its been a good week on all fronts, except the sleeping (mine). But I'm ready for the weekend. It promises to be a nice and low-key one. We have plans to be outside tomorrow morning, then come home and start to work on the DeathStar pinata for L's birthday. B and I will go grocery shopping because he helped me with the meal plan and wants to participate in the purchasing of food. Maybe he'll help me put our casserole together Sunday? We should probably get L a birthday present. Its cooling down, finally and yet suddenly, so I need to hunt for sweaters and pants.

I got bleach on my most favorite dress this afternoon, working in the lab. I even wore a lab coat, but it didn't cover the bottom of my dress. They do not sell this dress anymore, even though I just bought it in May (and I probably wore it 20 times since then...its really truly my fave). I spent more time than I should have researching how to fix it and ended up buying a fabric marker on Amazon.

I am definitely in a better place than I was a few months ago, and I'm grateful for that. But I'm also ready to be done with the medication (and the side effects). 6 months? 12 months? I don't want to rock the boat, but I can't not sleep (and other annoying stuff) forever.  I think the key will be to fully develop my OTHER coping mechanisms over the next few months. I'm on an eleven day streak of meditating! Only 5-10 minutes/day, and not every day does it really even seem to "work" (i.e. I am able to stop thinking and really focus on my breathing for a few minutes at a time). I tell myself its a "practice" so I need to practice. And one day it'll click.

I'm telling myself the same thing about work. Some days are awesome and I'm able to dive in and get excited and write and think and plan and execute. And others...meh. But I make myself keep trying, because the good days do seem to more frequent than the not-so-good, and the start-up energy required may be slightly decreasing...maybe.

I have a plan next week for more writing here, and hopefully it will happen. Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Two Front Teeth

B lost the second of his two top front teeth yesterday. Its weird, but I find the tooth-losing to be quite an exciting milestone...maybe because there aren't so many at this age? His gap-tooth grin is adorable, and particularly poignant because of its fleeting nature. And, if may so myself, my Tooth Fairy game is STRONG. I may fail at every other holiday/special time but this I've got down. B was super super excited about his $2 and the card he got this morning. (He got $2 for the very first tooth, then $1 for the second 2, and I gave him $2 this time because he won't lose any more teeth for about a year...I checked according to the charts).

Of his own accord, L decided to wear a pull-up last night. He admitted he's not ready, because he had no idea he needed to go. He is pretty fastidious these days, and "I don't WANT to have pee in my pants"...its been at least a year, if not two, since he's had a daytime accident. I don't believe in the concept of "night training" because its not a behavior issues...its mostly physiologic. L is almost 5 but he's small, and I bet his bladder is, too. And he has high sleep needs and is dropping his nap. He's out like a rock for 11+ hours most nights. We had a similar experience with B...he wanted to try at 4.5; he wasn't ready and he was exhausted from waking up wet. Went back to pull-ups for a month or two until he wanted to try again---NOT ONE single accident in the past 2 years.

I slept much better last night, and I feel great today. It hasn't been a "deep work" kind of day because I had other random clinical/administrative/service things to do, but its been a good mix of stuff and I am about to do a detailed plan for next week so I can dive right in Monday morning. 

Its a beautiful day. I want to leave slightly early and take B and the dog to the park. We have weekend plans of running and park and bagels and reading and board games and movies and library trips. Its the first full five day week we've had in over a month and the time apart did its trick. I'm so ready to spend time with the boys again, and they are ready for some down time & unstructured fun.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

You win some...

After having THREE amazingly productive and focused days in a row, and some really good work time last night, today has been...meh. I'm tired. I'm still waking up a lot at night, and it takes a while to fall asleep, so I'm not getting enough sleep on the weekdays (I've been sleeping later on weekends, like 7:30). On top of that, L decided he wanted to wear underwear at night, and while I tried to dissuade him, G (rightly) reminded me that we need to encourage this step. So there have been a lot of night wake-ups and bed changes and laundry.

After getting up at 4:45 with L, I couldn't get back to sleep, and then my alarm went off at 5:30. I got up, got ready, went to the gym, walked the dog, showered and got ready, made myself breakfast, cleaned up kids' breakfast, took B to school, started soiled sheets laundry, did one round of work on my grant, did a phone conference, and then...petered out around 10 AM. (I'm working from home because I'm picking B up at 3 to go to his social skills group...I've planned this short day into my week for this fall). I've been skipping around between this and that non-urgent task and email and I just decided to sit down and blog. I did get a few necessary things done, so it wasn't a total loss, but I didn't make significant headway on my 3 major projects (which is my goal for each day this week) so I feel disappointed.

I'm trying to remind myself that my worst day this week (because I'm optimistic that today will be better) is not much worse than my BEST days in the past several months. That not every day can be 100% and the 120% I got done the best 3 days buys me some leeway. But...still...meh.

I have 15 minutes before picking B up so I'm going to do my 10 minute meditation now. At least I can cross THAT off my list! Don't want to break that chain.

Monday, September 12, 2016

So far, so great!

Whoo hoo, I am so proud of myself today. I tried a new method to motivate myself and plan my day and it worked...but I won't share it yet because I need to give it more than one day before I get too evangelical. Also its convoluted and sort of backwards and may only work for me, so there's also that.

I just finished everything I planned to get done and then some, and its not even 4 pm. I figured there should be SOME incentive to being focused and efficient, so I'm knocking off a bit early. I'll write a little here and then empty the dishwasher (I'm working from HOME), walk the dog, and go get B a little early and take him for a "first day of aftercare" treat.

Oh boy were there TEARS this morning. He must have really been nervous about aftercare, because the kid was really not doing well. It took a lot of concerted effort and time from both G and myself to get him to eat breakfast and get ready.

Good news: B is not sick anymore. Bad news: as the sickness wore off, the sweet & needy was replaced by surliness. It was not my favorite weekend. Too sick to really go anywhere, but not sick enough to sleep and not fight with his brother. Lots of indoor time, "I'm bored", play with me, I want to eat but I don't know what and every single thing you name is NO, and finally something sounds good but then I will refuse to eat it after you give it to me and I touch my sick germy hands all over it.

If you happened to walk by Sunday evening, you may have heard me shouting such things as: "No YOU'RE mean and stinky and I don't want to play with you EITHER" (this to L) or "THANK THE WORLD tomorrow is Monday and you guys go to school for FIVE WHOLE DAYS"(this to B).
Not my finest moment, but...its been a rough several days.

I'm hoping to continue on my productivity streak the rest of the week so you may hear from me again!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Deep Breath

Well, my optimism and our lovely Labor Day weekend crashed right into a clusterf&ck of a week. B has had a fever on and off since Monday and now has a deep, productive, terrible cough that I'm worried might be bronchitis or pneumonia. G took the day off and he's at the pediatrician with him right now. There was only a half day of school today anyways because its TOO HOT*.

We have been taking turns staying home with one or the other kid (or in G's case, for himself, because he got pretty sick, too). Since last Friday, we've both been at home 2.5 work days. We're working from home, but no one is pretending that productivity is excellent when you're dealing with a sick but still restless and bored kid.

I'm not SICK sick, but I've been exhausted (likely medication-related) and headache-y (sleep-related?) and having trouble breathing (allergies/virus + asthma related). I love my kids and loved spending time with them last weekend. But we have had WAY too much togetherness this week and now its the weekend again. I am feeling quite done. Also, the gym is closed and there are no classes until Monday. I've been trying to run, but HEAT and the breathing thing are limiting.

On the first day of school, B actually woke up with no fever and the cough hadn't started yet, so he made it to school and had a good day, so that was a plus.

Here's hoping that Monday morning finds us all where we are supposed to be, in 4 separate places, happy & healthy and ready to see each other again in the evening.

*climate change wtf

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September GOALS

Yay! I'm writing about goals again! I'm going to divide them up by category:

  • Revise patient education templates for common conditions to include up-to-date information
  • Finish THAT paper (the one I've been trying to write for months) and submit to medium-tier journal. Its half written, but according to the computer, the last time I opened it was in June. 
  • Work towards mid-October grant submission. Start by making DETAILED checklist of each next step, no matter how trivial. 
  • Detailed weekly and daily plans; build in time for planning on Friday PM
  • Stay up later at least 3 nights/week to hang out with G. I've been going to bed SO EARLY, like literally the minute the kids are in bed, because I've been so tired and just DONE at the end of the day, but its not a good long term plan. 
  • Call my parents weekly and MIL at least 2X this month.
  • Meet with B's new teacher to go over his issues & make sure school psychologist still has him on the list to do his evaluation for an IEP
  • Pick B up from school once/week and do homework with him to stay tuned in to what he's doing and how he's struggling
  • Run at least once a week---work on speed. I signed up for a 5K this fall and want to have a decent time. 
  • Meditate 4X week (M/W/F and one weekend day)
  • Therapy at least 2X this month (I keep canceling because I don't feel like going--I'm not sure what to talk about...this is a good sign I think, but I know I should keep going. I will text her today to re-schedule for next week)
  • Post decluttered items to buynothing group (they are sitting in a pile in the guestroom)
  • Plan L's birthday party & buy items by the 10th (G made & gave out invites today)
  • Sign kids up for soccer and swimming 

It looks like a lot all listed out like that, but it feels doable. Is it just me who keeps thinking today is Friday? Maybe because the rest of my family has tomorrow off. Oh well, back to work, these goals are not going to complete themselves after all!