Jul 6, 2020

Well Hello There Stranger...

I thought I might be done with the old blog there for a while. Life ramped up and suddenly there were truly too many things to make time for and, this time anyway, work and running and a few other things won out over blogging. 

I still think I might be done with the old blog, at least mostly. I have zero coherent thoughts at this time, certainly nothing I'm going to try to monetize, and as you'll soon find out I'm unlikely to stick with it for more than a few months at a time. But for now I wonder if it's time to start writing again, at least for a while. I look at the dates of my last posts and it's really only been 2 years, but holy smokes, that feels like several lifetimes ago.

You know what? I don't even want to talk about it. It's just life, man. The everyday changes that add up and pretty soon you're looking back 2 years going "Holy smokes, that feels like several lifetimes ago." 

Here's what I want to say today: I think it's a good idea to wear a mask. I think, at least collectively, we've done a great job of flattening the COVID curve, and we've learned a lot over these several months, and put ourselves in the best position possible to move forward and minimize harm done by COVID as much as possible.

I also think the economy needs to open back up, and I think that people need to carefully consider sticking to the guidelines placed before them. No, you can't make me wear a mask, and I can't make you wear a mask. No, the masks don't completely prevent the virus spread. No, I don't think we can prevent every single death. Yes, I think the virus will have to run its course until we get to herd immunity.


If wearing masks like big goofs, and feeling my clammy breath ON MY FACE every time I'm in a public place, and unceremoniously ripping my mask off as soon as I reach open air keeps the economy open, and oh by the way the hospitals keep enough open beds to treat whoever needs it--I can do that. YES we all look RIDICULOUS. It's so silly I laugh at it every time. But I think I'd rather keep looking ridiculous and keeping a radius if I can also still go out to eat, and visit with my friends, and support local businesses (and yes, send half my pay directly to Amazon; that's how it works now).

Look, I'm almost as defiant as any red-blooded American; I just hide it better cuz I'm a peacemaker. In my case that means I'm really good at seeing all sides, and I think so often a situation boils down to how you frame it.

So I do understand the slippery slope of the government telling anyone what to do. Great, we put mask laws in place now, what else will we decide is necessary? How intrusive can the government get before we look up and go "we've taken every reasonable step; now we need to let nature run its course." 

On the other hand, what if I can take this small step to be a helper? What if I can think just for a moment before I'm about to break one of the "rules"? What if I take into account the time & context, and the audience, and the risk levels and whatnot? What if I don't break thru every rule just for the sake of breaking them...but I take in the info and decide? 

We have a group of friends we don't wear masks around. We decided we've all quarantined as REQUIRED, and are comfortable moving forward in each other's proximity. On the other hand, if I am catching the COVID from all my hobnobbing, then masking up in large groups and in public protects people outside my friend group, because even though I'm confident about them, strangers are understandably less so.

But the protest thing...can we please find a consistent tack? Like, is it groups of 10 or protests of 100? That can't be scientific.

My company has an actual corporate value centered around grace & respect. In this case it means we don't have COVID monitors patrolling the halls (for the few in the office) for those impertinent mask eschewers. We don't tattle on one another and we don't confront over non-mask wearing. We also don't go parading our bare faces around to prove we don't have to follow the rules. We wear a mask, and if we can't wear a mask, we get out of public places as soon as possible. We assume the best about one another and we trust others to do the same. 

I'm not sure it's scalable for the general population...but I think it's a good rule of thumb. 

In conclusion, please wear a mask so all your favorite places can open back up, AND all your favorite hospitals can keep plenty of capacity just in case you need to drop by and stay a while... 

Mar 7, 2018

A Tummy Bug Observed...

There will be times you will watch a tummy bug work its way through your children, and you will keep pounding down your vegetables, washing your hands like gangbusters, and getting a reasonable balance between exercise and rest, and you will think just maybe you have dodged it. And sometimes you will be right.

But other times, throughout the course of the following days you will take notice of certain um, functions, and realize that for all your efforts, the tummy bug has found you. Most likely it was via helping out the youngest with her own um, functions. The important thing here is not to shame yourself. No matter how well you do it, the viruses still get through sometimes. No worries, that's why you have an immune system to kill the bugs, uncomfortable and awkward though the killing may be.

Now, as to practical matters. Opinions vary as to the more favorable of the tummy bugs. Some folks prefer the sitting variety, and others the kneeling and/or bowl-toting types. I'm partial to the sitting styles, because the flow of stuff remains in its traditional direction. Switching directions is unacceptably disruptive to my inner peace in a way that, um, the other way is not.

That said, the disadvantages of sitting tummy bugs are as follows: you don't always get the obvious nausea that comes with the kneeling styles, so it can be a bit of a guessing game as to how much time you have to get to the, ah, porcelain throne. Also, you really need to stay on top of your wiping supplies.

In our family this is rarely a problem, as we are stocked with enough bathroom tissue for the apocalypse. Here's the thing though--toilet paper works largely because of friction, and with a tummy bug of robust caliber, that is going to become an issue for your bum-bum rather quickly. Even in this modern age of flushable wipes, one's delicate bum-bum can only take so much handling before the area gets a little tender. 

My advice in these cases is to first and foremost, use the flushable wipes from the start. Make sure your home's plumbing system can handle them, and develop a protocol for wipes-per-flush. This could be controversial in some circles due to the more-than-usual water usage and sometimes-dubious degradation of the wipes, but frankly this is one of those no-win situations, and if you try too hard to save the flushes, you could end up shop-vac-ing a half inch of water off your spare bathroom floor (so I've heard...). All I'm saying is everyone's plumbing system is different, so find your best good-steward balance.

Gentle dabs keep your bum-bum happy
Second, pay attention to the virus's progression. There will come a point where gentle dabs will do the job, as opposed to the more vigorous swipes. If you are proactive and start dabbing sooner rather than later, you can keep your bum-bum feeling a teensy bit nicer while the virus has its way with your lower GI system. 

If you are fortunate, your only symptom will be the endless hours of sitting through um, functions, and you will be in otherwise fine spirits. This is when you can take the opportunity to catch up on all of your social media platforms, internet articles, and online games. You can send cheeky texts to friends, and tell people how grateful you are to have them in your lives, and how grateful they should be that you are keeping your distance at the moment. If they love you they'll agree wholeheartedly.

Sooner or later you will want nothing more than uninterrupted sleep, but your lower GI system will not grant this. It will be a delicate dance, predicting how much bed-time you will have before the next round. If your bathroom allows, I recommend curling up on a nearby rug, regardless of how much you think your family members might laugh at you. The alternative to this is going back & forth between bed and bathroom as needed, and guess what--your family members will still laugh at you, but you also have the added risk of not making it or, at the very least, some very close calls. Only you can decide what to do. 

The key here is to keep perspective about your routine being disrupted. Do NOT try to do more than you are able. Your single most important job is to prevent the spread of disease, and this is best accomplished by making it to the potty in time, and getting well as quickly as you can. If that means sleeping elsewhere for a night, and then taking naps to catch up, so be it.

Along the way you may or may not find yourself feeling hungry. In the early stages, it is completely OK to not try to eat your regular dinner to get the veggies down before the storm hits. The pico de gallo can wait a day or several. Remember the long view: as soon as you get through this, it will be back to your normal, healthy, veggie-rich habits. In the meantime, the name of the game is calming and containment. If you have a favorite tummy-calming comfort food, go for it. Otherwise, the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) is not quite as hip as it once was, but in the absence of any advice other than the vague "some other foods are OK too," it is still a solid option for firming things up and rebuilding system containment. If you are still in good spirits you can make your rice into congee or Norwegian risgrøt with little more effort than it takes to make oatmeal...and it is completely worth that little extra effort. 

Not fancy; still good advice
In the meantime, it really is important to keep hydrating; otherwise you may find yourself a little parched a couple days later and wonder why you look a tad less vibrant and youthful than usual, tummy bugs notwithstanding. Nothing to worry about; just a bit of mild dehydration. Drink your water and tea, and all will be restored. 

The nice thing about tummy bugs is that they are very often short-lived; all you have to do is keep your wits about you and keep an eye on your um, functions, to know when it is safe to venture out again and for how long. Your best bet is to keep your first few trips short, and even then to maintain strategic awareness and proximity of restrooms, just in case you need to duck in during your recovery. And truly, try not to rush things; no one wants your germs anyway. 

In conclusion, as with all things this, too, shall pass. At times like roaring rapids and others like a gentle stream...but it shall pass all the same, and you will soon be inching toward your digestive norm with each new day, grateful for the small things in life. Things like bowel control, and indoor plumbing, and a comfy bum-bum. You have made it to the other side, and none the worse for wear.

Well done, you...

Feb 24, 2018

Springtime, But Not Really, and More Podcasts...

Today (Wednesday) in beautiful Massachusetts we are hitting 74 degrees. Everyone is out in their short pants, enjoying the sunshine and pretending it is actually springtime while we have it, because we are due for 1-3 inches of snow tomorrow.

That is what everyone is talking about here, but I want to tell you about the things I'm digging lately, mostly in the form of podcasts.

Podcasts are some of my favorite things, following closely behind sleeping and eating. I listen to them mostly while I do the more menial meditative chores and when I'm driving, but if there's a lull in the noise around me I am known to pop in my earbuds and continue with my day.

**side rant: did you know that the little white bar thingy on the standard Apple earbud cord, in addition to adjusting volume, can also pause/unpause whatever you're playing? You just give it a little squeeze in the middle. I had no idea before Kendra mentioned it in passing on a Simple Show episode (113--Use Your Earbuds). Achievement: Unlocked. End side rant.**

I posted a while back about my favorite podcasts, when I was first getting into them, but I thought it about time to go back and update you on what has changed and what is the same. I started a comprehensive list, but then I started to go cross-eyed at the commentary (yes, my commentary), and thought maybe a simple list and some brief remarks about our current faves would be better--


--Eleanor Amplified: This one is family friendly and purports to be kid-focused, but boy is it smart and quick in the dialogue. They're two seasons in, and you have a few months to catch up before they launch Season 3.

--SugarCrash Kids: No longer making new episodes that we can tell, but the 3 existing seasons are great for repeat listening.

--Wow In the World: Kid-friendly, heavy on imagination and science.

Grown-Ups Oriented:

--The Lazy Genius Podcast: On making a home and being awesome.

--Launch: This dude wrote a novel and chronicled the process.

--The Next Right Thing: I just started this one. Faith-based, focusing on making space in one's soul. My soul could use a little space right now, so this one's timely.

--NPR Politics Podcast: I know, I know, politics. But I like it, and it makes me a little smarter about the goings-on in DC.

--The Popcast: Dear heavens, every week.

--The Simple Show: Evolving topics over time. I like that.

--Slow Burn: A podcast about Watergate. Really good.

--Storybrand: I have no explanation as to why I listen to an entrepreneurial-focused podcast, but if I ever decide to start a business someday I will be SO prepared to clarify my message.

--Women's Work: A spinoff project from Tsh Oxenreider (The Simple Show), about the good and creative work done by all sorts of women around the world. Pretty cool.

Stuff I'm Waiting For:

Invisibilia: I just got an update that they're launching Season 4. While nothing has yet compared to Season 1, I'm still incredibly happy about that.

Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell and his masterful storytelling. My biggest complaint is the chewing noises in his Blue Apron ads for Season 2. Stop it, Malcolm.

Stuff I Haven't Gotten To Yet (but want to try):

Pantsuit Politics: Two women, a conservative and a liberal.

All that said, this is not all of the 'casts I listen to. There are THOUSANDS of podcasts on any topic you can think of, so if you like learning or just listening, you should go now and find some awesome shows to listen to. And if you have favorites, put them in the comments!

Dec 1, 2017

The Biggest Holiday Surprise...

Well Kids, it's that time again--Season's Greetings.

Today I want to talk about what is probably the biggest surprise realization of my adult life, or at least my parenting one. Providing food, clothes, shelter, and love/belonging, blah blah blah...that stuff is important for sure, but the responsibility for another person's life wasn't as much a shock to my system as this little point:

Being the parent means I am now responsible for providing the Christmas magic. I am the Magic Maker.

It's kind of funny to admit that this is a recent discovery for me. I mean, for almost 20 years now the Cat Daddy and I have been negotiating decorations, trees, the amount and intensity of family gatherings and tree lighting (we agree on white lights, Amen and Amen), and how we "do" the holidays. That part is reasonable. Mostly.

The part I've been wrestling with is that magical feeling I remember as a kid, and how it became very elusive when my own kids came along. I started feeling vaguely blah toward the holidays. The Joyous Season deteriorated into piles of stuff I had to buy and do, and I felt a little bit like Charlie Brown amid the mess of pink Christmas Trees, exhausted and confused by the magic that didn't feel very magical (or meaningful).

After years of stabbing in the dark at various traditions, and way too often hiding in a corner emotionally, waiting for stuff to fall into place, I realized that I wasn't feeling the magic because I wasn't making the magic, and as the Magic Maker that is precisely my holiday privilege and pleasure.

I wasn't sure where to start, so I looked at the Magical families around me. Not necessarily the most cheerful or decorated, or really the most anything. I looked at families where they all seemed to be enjoying each other and having a meaningful time together, and where the mom wasn't over in a corner offering an exhausted, passive-aggressive accompaniment to the occasion (who, me???). My main sources of info were Facebook and past in-person memories, so throw in all the caveats and grains of salt with that, but it was enough to get an overall impression.

The main thing I noticed was that everyone was truly different. Some families held big annual events, and celebrated every special holiday touch, and summoned gentle snow showers on command because they were that Magical. Some families were pretty darn plain on the holiday spectrum, and mostly stayed home and sat around the tree, and were quite content to do so. And then of course most of the families fell somewhere in between. So I thought about what I wanted our Christmases to feel like.

As chief Magic Maker, the first thing I decided was that Grumpy Mom was not very magical, so I took a good, long look at my life. I had tried on enough traditions throughout the years to decide which ones were keepers and which were making me Grumpy. I just had to make note of them; to remind myself.

This was the beginning of my Happy Xmas List.

It's Happy 'Xmas' and not Happy 'Christmas' precisely because it's all about the trappings and prep, and only peripherally about the Baby Jesus (Baby Jesus is another post). A minor point which I'm not sure makes any difference at all, except it's slightly quicker to write, and saving time keeps me from getting Grumpy.

It started as a piece of scrap paper a year or two ago. I wrote down holiday stuff that makes me happy. I wrote and thought, and crossed out and wrote, and thought and wrote a little more, until I was (reasonably) happy with it. I ended up with 3 main items that I then migrated to my Bullet Journal so I no longer had to worry about misplacing my Happy Xmas scrap paper (losing key info makes me Grumpy). It goes as follows:

Item 1: Timeline. Every year around October I know to start thinking about stuff. I've always vaguely known "Oh I should starting thinking about that," but now I've chosen dates that MAKE me think about stuff in a timely fashion. Grumpy Mom thinks it is ridiculous to start planning in early-fall, but Practical Mom knows I will be much less grumpy when I'm not tying up loose ends at the last minute or feeling ashamed for being late with gifts.

I don't actually have to DO anything until after Thanksgiving; just kind of mentally prepare thru November. It gives me a game plan and gets my head in the right place to remember the extra efforts I want to make toward providing the magic, so I don't forget when I'm tired.

Item 2: Table. With 3 columns. First are the Must-Do's: the things that absolutely MUST occur for it to feel like Christmas to me or someone in my family. Then there are the Nice-to-Do's, which are exactly that, but if they don't happen it won't feel like something is missing. And indeed, letting some of those slip off the list leaves behind more mental space for the Must-Do's. I'd rather up the magic quotient on fewer things, because weak-sauce magic makes me Grumpy. And finally, there are the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals--the BHAG's. These are ideas I LOVE, and I want them on my list so I don't forget to do them someday, but for various reasons I don't have the capacity to pull them off YET. Like summoning gentle snow showers on command.

Item 3: Names. Just the family members we give gifts to each year. So we don't forget the major players.

That's it. Just enough structure so I don't feel like I'm awash in tradition, but plenty of room for improvisation and revision.

Last year I focused on sticking only to the list. I still wasn't great about getting all the gifts out on time, but just the same it was a HUGE sanity-saver. Something would pop into my head "You should do this..." and I was all "Nope, don't need it. I'm good with what we have." Or someONE would say "You should do this..." and I would say "I have zero capacity to handle that, but I give you my 100% blessing to make it happen."

This year somehow I have the capacity to think about decorations (Nice-to-Do), and I realized except for some meaningful pieces from family and friends, we just had a hodgepodge of random things accumulated over the years. So I'm donating the stuff no one cares about (sorry random stuff, but it's true), and hopefully it will go to a more appreciative home and get more use. And now we are talking about what we'd like to see around the house to make it feel festive.

And do you know what I'm noticing? It's much more fun for everyone this way. I'm not (as) Grumpy anymore, and my Magic is contagious. Granted, my kids still want every single thing they see on TV and at friends' houses, but what they really get excited about is when Mom & Dad share their excitement. And when I'm focused on doing fewer things well, it leaves space for my own excitement, and also to pick up on subtle cues that are specific to my kids. You guys, this year I bought a Paw Patrol Advent calendar. It is kind of ridiculous, but Paw Patrol is a favorite in our house, and they love that I surprised them with it (suck it, Inner Critic!!).

In conclusion, I tend to be a late-bloomer so I wouldn't be surprised if you have worked out many of these details for yourself already. I'm happy to join your ranks, and I wish you a great time this month, being the Magic Maker for those you love. Go make your own Magic.

PS--you may notice I didn't go too much into specifics. That was on purpose, because specifics are so...specific. If you'd like some ideas, Tsh over at the Art of Simple did a helpful podcast on the topic of holiday prep. I listened AFTER I wrote my list, and it was reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed by ALL the choices.

Nov 13, 2017

One Cup Sugar and One Cup Ambivalence...

You guys.  We have to have a talk. A quick one, because kids and school and all that other stuff, but I need to put something out there. Sugar.

Sugar is what I have to put out there. I've mentioned in a couple of posts about my ongoing nutritional odyssey, and how I've realized that sugar does not have my best interests at heart, and all that. Well, I've been sort of motoring along until the last couple weeks, when I started a short-term regimen that, among other things, includes zero sugar. None.

I started it the day after Halloween, which was painful but I think it was the best I could do given the time of year. I didn't want to start it before Halloween because I was uncertain of my ability to stay away from any candy completely. I think that part was a smart move. I spent the evening eating ALL the candy, and savoring all the tastes, and observing that American candy really isn't that good, but those shiny wrappers and the combined smells really do a number on my brain, convincing me that I must. eat. it. ALL.

The rest of the week was rough with a capital R. I mean, changing habits is hard to begin with, but changing habits with a sugar hangover is double-tough. Triple tough when you are the only one in your family changing habits, and there are still two bowls of devil-sugar taunting you because your children took their pillowcases out for trick-or-treating, and you get zero sugar.

As the week went on though, I felt my brain clearing. I mean, still full of the myriad thoughts I have dancing around up there, but somehow a little more orderly and less shouty and depressive. And I thought "well, crud," because this means that while feeling better is great, it is yet another data point in a pattern showing me that I really, REALLY need to consider sugar's role in my life, and that likely means drawing some sharp lines about where it is and is not allowed.

I'm telling you all of this because I think maybe this is close to the epitome of ambivalence. It is a great and tragic irony that something so sweet and pleasant as sugar should cause so much trouble for many of us. I've always prided myself on not having addiction issues, but really the truth is that my addiction issues are socially acceptable, and even encouraged, but still very, very present.

Maybe it's not sugar for you, but maybe I'm not alone in this. I wonder if we all have something in our lives that isn't bad, per se, but is causing us more trouble and grief than we realize. And I know that last sentence sounds kind of heavy for such a light topic as delightfully sweet confections, but that's kind of how I feel about the whole thing. It's kind of hilarious, and also bigger than that.

These are the things I'm thinking about lately. And so I bid you a wonderful oncoming week, and a happy and good day.


Oct 11, 2017

Why I Wore Jeans to Work Today...

Parents in the civilized world are familiar with the sort of day I’m having today. It’s not a bad or good day (yet). It’s not even a particularly frenetic day. But it is a FULL day.

Wednesdays are great because they are my short day at work. For some reason, I tend to have a lot of meetings on Wednesdays, but that works alright because I can have meetings all morning and then cut and run for school dismissal, because our district has half days every Wednesday. So Wednesdays are the day I allow for things to get started and talked about, but not necessarily done, at least at work.

Home is a different story though. Since we are off early, Wednesdays are when we DO stuff. Wednesdays are for the library, talking about and tackling interesting projects at home, and other things that the regular school day doesn’t usually allow for. We have a lot of appointments on Wednesdays.

Today we will go straight from school to a follow up with the pediatric GI specialist, who is helping some of us make great strides with feeling well and all systems functioning, and being glad to start the day, or at least not hating it so much. Since it’ll be a quick turn, and since half-day Wednesday also means no lunch at school, we will eat apple slices and leftover pizza on the way to the pediatric GI specialist, where we will also meet with a nutritionist, who will hopefully convince some of us that more fruits and vegetables are a GREAT idea for feeling well and helping all systems function, because WE DON’T BELIEVE OUR MOTHER.

After that we will have a little time at home to gather karate uniforms and get our heads on straight. I MAY have time for my daily collagen mug cake treat (please, dear Lord, amen), and the boys will do their dog-walking gig, and then most of us will head off to karate, except His Highness, who will stay behind because he has a scout meeting.

I have things on my list to accomplish while I gaze proudly upon my little grasshoppers learning their katas and life lessons. The thing I like about karate is that there are only so many things I can do, sitting in the parent area, so karate is also becoming my time to read paper books. I finished Quiet by Susan Cain a couple weeks ago, and I’m still figuring out which one in my pile to start next. Of course, there’s also Secret Society on my phone…

The unfortunate thing about Wednesday karate is that it runs straight over and through my normal dinner cooking time, so tonght we will eat out. I may pick up McD’s on the way home, but I’m still mulling that one over. The Cat Daddy is usually more than willing to cook dinner on karate nights, but the thing about tonight is that I have a district roundtable meeting for scouts, and I don’t want to do dishes. I want to wipe down the counters and organize the kitchen, but that will become extremely more difficult to achieve if I also have dishes to clean. So take-out it is.

After that I will go to said meeting, while the Cat Daddy holds down the fort and wrestles the cherubs into their beds, which in our house is a bigger challenge than I feel it should be. I mean, I LOVE going to bed, but my people don’t share my love of bedtime. Which to me is crazy, because they don’t even have to worry about back exercises and foam rolling and all of that, but all I can say is they don’t comprehend what delights await when they learn to appreciate sleep.

Thinking about all of that this morning, as I looked into my closet and felt the weight of the day. I wanted to look presentable, but given the time constraints I needed something that would last the day, going to all these different things, and sitting in these different spaces, and juggling all these different roles. Business-casual-be-darned, I needed to feel as comfortable and bada$$ in my own skin as possible, standing there doing my power pose.

That is why I wore jeans to work today.

Sep 28, 2017

Things I'm Stoked About...

There are lots of things I'm excited about lately. Some of them will resonate more than others...

--His Highness is running cross country on his middle school team this year. He is having a GREAT start, and he is hitting times at 10.5 years old that I never hit at my fastest in high school. At least part of it is that he is tall for his age and has legs for miles (<-----see what I did there??), and other than that he just really likes to run, and is learning from his coaches how to run stronger and smarter. Boy do I love watching him go...

--Fat tea. Seriously. My go-to treat drink is a Venti Iced White Tea with cream from that one coffee place. No sweetener necessary, as the white tea is milder than regular black tea. When I'm home I do my iced hay-barn tea and add an unsweetened coconut/almond milk blend. It turns out if you give me an icy-cold drink with a dash of some sort of fat and put a straw in it, I'm as happy as I would've been 10 years ago with an icy-cold Mexican Coke in my hand. And don't even get me started on Matcha Frappuccinos...

--Speaking of all this unsweetened nonsense, it seems to be a side-effect of my continuing nutritional odyssey. As I get better at making AWESOME foods, and my body keeps adjusting accordingly (PANTS GOALS), I'm not craving or tolerating sweetness nearly as much as when I started this whole thing. I mean, I like a little sweetness, but a few weeks ago we made these crazy jello-encrusted marshmallow things. We did them in all the colors, and put them on skewers, and called them Unicorn Kabobs, and they looked and smelled AMAZING. But when I took a bite I nearly fell into a coma from the overwhelming shot of sugar. A small part of me is sad, but it's kind of like one door closing and another opening in that I'm finding so many new tastes I didn't know before. It's a little hard to explain, and I feel like it's starting to sound a little ridiculous, so moving on...

--My village of helpers. I turned 40 a week or so ago, although I feel more like a super-wise 28. It turns out when you crack me open, waiting inside is a person who can be quite delightful sometimes, but also can be a lot of work, and needs a lot of help to maximize awesomeness. My continuing back-saga? Extremely boring (in a good way) as of late, as long as I'm regular about my chiro visits and PT maintenance. Running? Always learning and improving, with the help of my coach and online community. Nerd work? Pretty sure I have no idea what I'm doing...just like most everyone...and therefore leaning heavily on stuff like asking questions and doing sanity checks and interacting with co-workers, and just sitting down and working. Avoiding the Pits of Despair? That's what friends are for. And so many other things. At my default I often wish I could be an island, but you guys, I can't even make my hair look good without help from my hairdresser, who taught me how to Respect the Curl. The wisdom of 40 is knowing just how much I need other people...

--Bedtime. I get so excited about it every day. I LOVE sleep; it's my favorite thing. I'm still figuring out if I have a healthy-ish perspective about it or if I maybe love it a little too much, but more help in that area is pending...

--Hard work and growth. I've said it several times recently, but it's where I'm at, folks. Every week there are new challenges. About 50% of the time I wonder if they're the wrong kind of challenges because I'm not always having fun like some of those inspirational podcasts promise, but I'm practicing 'leaning in,' (hate that term; using it anyway), doing what I can when I can, and setting boundaries (mostly with myself)...and life seems to be going on. Bedtime comes quickly most days which, given my sentiments above, I'm counting as a WIN...

--Lots of other things. But it is past bedtime now, and my bed is calling sweetly to me, so I'd best be off. I'm sure you understand that this is WINNING...

Sep 21, 2017

Brain Crowding...

Is anyone else's brain full to the point of overflowing? Is it just me?

I don't think it's just me. In fact, I KNOW it's not just me. The bulk of discussions at school last year were about how His Highness clearly has so much going on up in his big, bright brain, and how we all could help him learn to focus a little, and how some of the teachers felt they would be exhausted to be in his head for a day.

I nodded and said, "Well, he comes by it honestly."  So there are at least one or several people who have whatever this is as well. There is just SO MUCH. On good days I marvel at the promise of all there is to think about and do. On bad days, well, the opposite of that happens--I'm certain I will fall over under the weight of it all.

I'd love to tell you the steps I'm taking to stem the tide a little, organize my thoughts and tasks, and whatnot, but I'm not even there yet. Just when I decide on a course of action, some other shiny thing pops up, going "Think about MEEEEEEE! You need to learn more Spanish NOW! You need a side-hustle! You need to cultivate your work wardrobe more! You need to go watch on YouTube about the Spitfire Sisters of the UK!" Not even kidding--that's all within the last hour.

All that said, I'm aware of what is going on, of the crowding of thoughts at the expense of my doing and being, so that is progress.

And it's lunchtime, so that's all I have to say for now...

Aug 16, 2017

Camp Wisdom...

We went to family camp a couple weeks ago. Last year we had such a good time that we re-booked before we even came home, and THIS year we did the same thing. Family camp is becoming our summer thing.

The reason it is so great is that at family camp we can truly relax. Several families from church attend the same week, so there are friends for ALL of us to play with. The kids revert to a semi-feral state, and we say Yes a LOT more than usual. We see them at meals, and when they aren't off gallivanting in nature with friends. We eat in the dining hall so the cooking is done for us. I bring a Scrubba for emergencies (e.g. POO), but otherwise let the laundry pile up in a spectacularly overstuffed laundry bag until we are back home to throw it all into the humongous washer.

There is wifi, but it is spotty enough so as to encourage only sporadic plugging in. And somehow--I don't know if it is the change of scenery, or lack of chores or what--the pull toward my electronic distractions lessens. I care way less what folks are eating for lunch (nothing personal) or even that the kids are all starting school (sorrynotsorry), because I have activities to do.

I go on a giant, inflatable water slide with the kids. I take kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes out on the water with various folks. I drink a bunch of water, and make deliberate junk-food decisions which I know might hurt a little bit, but it is vacation, after all.

I also have friends to catch up with, a lake to look at, a chair that reclines, trees to gaze upon, and white space to be in. It is soul-restoring, sitting in that space.

I also brought along a couple of books. I have tons of books at home, but the difference at family camp is I take the time to sit and read them. I'm in the middle of a fun one called Whose Panties Are These, which I chose on Paperback Swap based almost solely on the title, and am enjoying one short essay at a time.

The other one, the one currently getting inside my brain and making me think all the time, is called The Road Back to You, about the Enneagram. It would take me 3 posts and too many words to describe the Enneagram except to say that it is a sort of ancient personality typing system, it was developed manymanymanymanymany years ago by ancient spiritual fathers, people make entire careers out of studying and teaching it, and it can be hard to pinpoint your own personal Enneagram number (1 thru 9) until you dig in a little bit (i.e. the online quizzes are not always reliable--they weren't in my case).

Long story short, the online quiz told me I was a 6: The Loyalist, but after reading the book I'm about 97% sure I'm a 9: The Peacemaker.

Like I said, people make entire careers out of studying and teaching the Enneagram, so to give even a fairly basic explanation here would make your eyes go crossed, but I can tell you a few things. As a Peacemaker I am really good at relating to lots of different points of view, but I can also have a tendency to numb out to anything that is less-than-nice in life. And the numbing-out thing can manifest itself as a struggle with focus and a tendency toward generalism and breadth, rather than depth and engagement. Get out of my head, Enneagram.

This correlates nicely with some of the current personal growth trends I've been following, such as living a simpler life, saying no to good things in order to say yes to better things, and taking some cues from introverts. Which is great, because the BIG theme I've been watching in myself is a FULL and wonderful life that, unchecked, will overwhelm and knock me over.

All to say, it fits with my prior claim that I'm in a season of work and growth.

One of the great things about the Enneagram is that once you've identified which box you fit into, you're not forever confined to that particular space. I don't think people change numbers very much, BUT they can definitely grow and mature into the healthy strengths of their number. And by now we know I'm a big fan of becoming healthy and more mature. If I'm going to be in the midst of the hard work, I'm glad I have something fun and new (to me) to learn that might also be helpful in said hard work.

In conclusion, I'm also still working on what that whole tropical, jet-set lifestyle arrangement might look like, but for now some healthy habits--such as the foam roller and early bedtime--will have to suffice...

Jul 15, 2017

Long Run Wisdom...

I tend to think I have about 25% more thoughts than average, floating around in my mind. So I love my long runs, because they give me a lot of time to sift through some of the stuff that gets built up in there.

This week I was thinking about where I am at work, and home, and in life. That is, generally a season of high joy and life, but also a season of work and growth. One of my favorite things right now is listening to a few favorite podcasts about purposeful living, leadership development, and those sorts of things. I listen to people who have a need to be building or creating things. They find inspiration sometimes in the most unusual places, and if they go without a task or project for too long they get all twitchy and have to find some sort of job to do. Their default is 'action.' 

Sometimes this makes me a little nervous because I think my default might be 'iPhone games.' To be clear: not creating games for iPhones, but sitting on any empty surface and playing Secret Society on my phone (it's really fun if you like hidden pictures and puzzles; you should try it).

Playing games doesn't really accomplish much work, but it challenges my brain in a fun way, and gives a bit of very pretty distraction from the things that overwhelm me. I love learning for learning's sake, but when it comes time to implement what I'm learning, it feels a little overwhelming.  Hard work is hard, yo. So I get nervous about finding my own purposeful living and leadership development, and I worry unreasonably about stunting myself with games instead of doing hard work, and learning and growing.

Therefore, while I ran I talked myself down from the ledges of unreason. First off, I thought about how this July has been particularly busy, with shuttling kids to and from camp, and everyday life stuff, and forgetting to carve out a little breathing space. My friend Elizabeth's family always seems to have a crazy May, and I didn't think our July looked particularly packed, except on this end of things it is. And busy-ness, at least for me, tends to skew my perspective.

Second, I remembered this is not a new pattern for me. I have a history of a) loving learning SO MUCH that I just keep letting new information into my brain, and maybe forget to leave a little space for processing info I need to turn into something else, like actions or recommendations, or work, or what have you, and b) getting to a place where I'm just challenged enough that I get a little bit freaked out and want to drop it all and move to some place tropical. Also c) forgetting to carve out a little breathing space.

The thing I love about thinking on my runs is that things become much clearer. Going back, I noticed all the things I mentioned above are not new problems, and they're also not big problems that need sweeping solutions. They're little challenges to be met, a little at a time. 

Here is the wisdom I gleaned from my long run this week:

1) This next week is CHOCK FULL of commitments, and it will be difficult. It will probably hurt a little bit, but it will be done in a week. And it will be worth it, as I told myself when I made said commitments, especially if I really go for it instead of backing away or half-a$$ing it in fear.

2) As a result of ALL the commitments this next week, there will also be pockets of by-myself time that aren't usually there, which I can use to chip away at some of the lingering ticky-tack tasks I want to get out of the way. 

3) I don't have to be the most brilliant or most anything. I just have to show up and do my best with what I've been assigned. 

4) The things I'm doing now are preparing me for what is next. I have no idea which things are preparing me for what, in what ways, or what they will even look like. All I know is that if I can be a good steward of my awesomeness now, it will grow by some measure. And growing in awesomeness is my goal (by God's grace). 

5) I really do need to keep trying to carve out some breathing space, if nothing else to catch up on Doctor Who

When I get stressed and want to move someplace tropical, I start thinking about how I would afford to eat and live. Things I could do on remote or by some jet-set arrangement. I don't know what it would look like, but I do know that it probably won't involve playing phone games. So I'd better get to this other stuff so I can work on that...