2015: Staying true to myself

It’s been a while, WPeeps.  My life has been too busy for me to make time for me, as I’d feared it would become.  As arbitrary as the gateway of New Year’s is, it’s always a good time for reflection.  I want to say so many things about 2014, but I’d really like to talk about what’s ahead in 2015.  So let’s get on with the recap and pre-cap:

Looking back at 2014: How’d I do?

My non-resolutions for 2014.  I didn't include "happy".  Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given.  Hm.

Look at that optimism, 1 year ago!

Here are some of the things that have happened in 2014.

  • I’m back in the classroom, teaching 6th grade math full-time.  I’m using my classroom time to learn more about how students learn, and to get reconnected to schools.  I go to work daily knowing what needs to be achieved in a day, and I try my best to do it.  I’m really enjoying being part of a lovely and supportive staff that treats each other like family — the good and bad of family — and I accept dynamics for what they are.  I work (mostly) efficiently and constantly from about 7am to 6pm, but I try to leave work at work, and spend minimal time outside of work on work things.  CHECK: Professional, stable, sustainable, prosperous, productive, appreciative, confident, educational.  NOT QUITE:  less angry…or clean.
  • I’m going to be part of a founding team at a new high-tech school next year, and serving as the head of instructional technology.  I am excited to flex all my experiences building culture and systems for students and staff, and grow and learn in this new professional opportunity.  CHECK:  Professional, proactive, productive, fearless, confident, and exciting!  NOT QUITE:  fearless.  Not quite fearless.  There is some fear that is not quite latent.  It could be disguised as excitement.  Or gas.
  • I had a huge closet edit in June – my friend Kattie came over and brutally edited out two-thirds of my closet, and made me throw away things that I loved dearly, like a lot of my hand-knits that really didn’t fit well (and were mostly boleros because I got lazy about finishing objects…and decided they were long enough).  In addition to the closet edit, I did a large makeup edit as well and have had more fun learning how to use my makeup and wearing makeup.  There’s more editing to be done, but the purge was a good start.  CHECK:  Fashionable, appreciative, confident, reflective.  NOT QUITE:  Well, fashionable is always a work in progress.  Maybe I should stick to confident.  I feel better about my clothes and makeup.

    So much delicate work.  No, it doesn't fit, and it never did.  Why didn't I just make it longer??

    Yes, I made this.  So much delicate work. No, it doesn’t fit, and it never did. Why didn’t I just make it longer??

  • There’s a baby on the way in 2015.  Any day now in the next 5 weeks of 2015, actually.  This has forced me to manage my diabetes in a rather rapid and drastic fashion.  I now do multiple finger-sticks a day.  I take insulin regularly (at least 4 more needles a day).  I’ve even managed to lower my A1C to a normal level (from a high of 13+ to last recorded 5.4). I’m not even sure what that means for my diabetes post-pregnancy.  One hopes for “cure” or reversal, but I have come to terms with what lifetime management of the disease might look like.  I have managed to only gain about 12 pounds throughout this pregnancy by keeping mildly active (I guess my gym apathy earlier in the spring was due to regular exhaustion) and watching what I eat somewhat carefully.  I use a Fitbit with some regularity to help monitor my insulin needs as well as try to maintain some baseline activity.  CHECK:  healthy, proactive, physically “active”, and definitely (re)productive.  NOT QUITE:  fearless and exciting.  More on that as we move to 2015.
Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

2015:  O. M. G.  What have we done?!

Yeah.  A baby.  I could tell all the stories of what it’s been like so far, but after doing my share of surfing around on the internets, it’s really nothing earth-shattering that’s happened in this duration of gestation.  I’ve been REALLY tired.  I’ve seen MANY doctors.  Everything looks NORMAL.  Worst symptom:  rhinitis and exhaustion.  Best symptom: getting my ass in gear about my diabetes.

So I guess I’ll just tackle the hopes and fears for 2015.

I fear:

  • That I won’t be able to be myself anymore.  All the things that I have just come to terms with about myself over the last (nearly 4) decades — that’s all about to be “something else” that I don’t even know.  I worry that my foodie love life is over.  I worry that I will never travel again.  I worry that my crafting days are over.  I worry that my hard-working days are over, and I’ll have to be more flexible about my “get it done” compulsion.  I haven’t finished a craft since June or so.  I’m missing a 2nd snowboard season in a row.  Life is over as I know it.  Everyone keeps telling me this, and I get it.  I even get the fact that I don’t even “get it” yet.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June - a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa.  The cats want to eat them.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June – a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa. The cats want to eat them.

  • That my house will never be clean again.  That the construction here will never be finished due to time, money, and priorities.  That our “home” is on indefinite hold.  I have a few posts in draft mode brewing about this “lifestyle” that is our home, but I haven’t fleshed them out yet.  In short, we bought a fixer-upper, and we’ve been working on it for upwards of 2 years.  We’re not done.  We’ll never be done.  And now, we’re racing time to get ourselves to a state where we can live here with a baby.  I’m confident we’ll make do if we don’t make it in time, but it’s definitely a fear that weighs on my mind constantly.  We haven’t had many guests over since March because it’s been that much of a disaster.
  • I won’t know how to be a mother.  I’m not excited yet — it’s mostly been panic and fear.  Every melting down child around me that I’ve seen in the past few months paralyzes me with fear.  My kid is going to be that guy in the grocery store melting down because they can’t have something NOW.  My kid is going to be the one that makes themselves so anxious that they force themselves to vomit.  My kid is going to be THAT GUY, whatever that guy is.  So. Afraid.  And I’d like to say that I have high parenting standards, but I know that 1) I have no idea what my standards are at this point, and 2) every single kid is different.  So regardless of genetics or my upbringing, I have NO IDEA.  Terrifying.  And this is not the extent of my fears about my child, but it’s a starting point for me to articulate some of this fear.

I hope:

  • I can still have my own goals for 2015.  I started a list on my Notes of things I wanted to accomplish in 2015.

    2015 so far

    Notice how “baby” is one word of one line in 2015? I’m sure it’s not going to be like that in real life.

  • I can still grow at work now that work-life balance is about to take on an entirely different meaning.  I have so many things that I want out of work for next year, for myself, for my community, and for the students that we are going to serve in the school.  It is exciting, and I hope that I have the capacity to accomplish what I want or accept my limitations and still do my best.
  • I will have time to write and reflect and save memories for the future.  I have taken very few “maternity” pictures or recorded few moments in the latter half or 2014…but I need to work on preserving memories for people beyond myself now.
  • I will learn more about our growing family and what it means to be a family beyond cats (and dogs).

We’ve already had a lot of challenges getting ready, and I KNOW we’ll never be ready, but oh well, time’s up and here we go…I hope we’re prepared for 2015.  Because it’s January 1, and 2015 is here, and it’s time to buckle up for the crazy ride.

Happy New Year, happy 2015 to all!

diabetic privilege: the socio-economic reality

Farmgirl Fare bread recipe, it was nice knowing you while I could. Baked goods, I miss you so much.

Farmgirl Fare bread recipe, it was nice knowing you. Baked goods, I miss you so much.

I’ve been meaning to write more about the diabetes lately, but it’s been so all-consuming.  Since my last post about my diabetes class (which got cancelled after that first session, BTW, what a let-down!) I have actually started insulin treatment.  My irrational fear of needles and blood has morphed into 4+ finger-sticks a day, plus 4 shots of insulin a day.  Under doctor’s orders, I’m still in the “tight control” range, meaning that I need to keep blood glucose (BG) really low, and I have to send a report to the doc every week.  I’ve been using MyNetDiary (Diabetes Edition!) to dutifully record all my BG readings, my insulin administration, and my food/carbohydrate consumption. I’ve been seeing an endocrinologist who reviews my BG logs and makes suggestions.  I’ve been seeing a nutritionist who checks in on my BG logs and my food logs and makes more suggestions.

What was supposed to be “6 weeks off” this summer has turned into a constant battle of “what to eat”, “how much to eat”, and “when to eat”.  At the moment, I’m still in the battle of counting and logging carbs, and it is stunning to see how my years of living to eat has been detrimental to my health.  I’m no crazy glutton (ok, maybe a little), but I was definitely not cautious when it came to looking at the nutritional value of what I needed.  I once read (skimmed, or maybe overheard) something about Clara Davis’ 1939 study where babies left to choose from an array of healthy foods would choose what they nutritionally needed, and somehow justified all my whims using this (unsound) argument.

My carbohydrate goals for the day are 30g for breakfast, 45g for lunch, and 45g for dinner, with 2 or 3 15g snacks between meals or before bed.

What this looks like in reality:  eggs.  Lots of eggs.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

After a few weeks of fastidiously measuring and reading labels and typing things into my phone like a tech-obsessed nerdulon, I’m getting better at figuring out that almost all things are possible, when choices are made.  A few things I’ve learned:

  • Breakfast can be a very pathetic looking 1/4c of granola-based cereal and 1/4c of milk.  Or it can be a blueberry waffle with peanut butter instead of syrup.  Or it can be 9 tater tots, 1 fried egg, and 2 breakfast sausages. There are days when I want one and days when I want the other.
  • 56g of pasta (1 serving) is less sad when it’s bulked up with other friendly ingredients.
  • A McDonald’s burger is not out of the question.  Fries with your burger—now that’s out of the question.
  • When I’m told can’t have carbs, that’s when I’m going to want to start eating all sorts of fruit.  Also, only eating 3-5 cherries for a snack is really sad.
  • There are many things that you can’t adequately account for with an app:  dim sum, non-chain restaurants, soup. Sometimes, you just have to hope that you did OK.  It would be more fun to eat these things without the worry and the guilt.  Perhaps that will dissipate in time.
  • When in doubt, get the hangar steak, and substitute the fries with a vegetable.

It’s this last point that really gets me thinking about diabetes and nutrition education, and the phrase which I’ve adopted: “diabetic privilege”.  The truth of the matter is, I’m able to adapt for my health quickly and (fairly) successfully because I have two very precious resources right now:  time and money.

Time

I’m currently in a 6-week phase where I don’t have to report to a daily job.  (This ends next week.)  I started on my current insulin-taking, carb-counting regimen in mid-June, after I had stopped working.  This has given me the ability to do several things:

  1. Read all the nutrition labels.  ALL OF THEM.  My first grocery trip probably took me about 2 hours. I had to read the labels to see what I could eat, what I could portion out by serving size, and what had to be avoided right out.
  2. Figure out what I can choose from when we go out for meals, provided that there is a menu online and that there is some basic nutrition information available online.
  3. Try out new recipes of things I had never made before, using all the low-carb substitutions (coconut flour, almond flour, flax seed).  Truthfully, I have not found anything I have loved yet.  Maybe the coconut flour mug cake, with whipped cream on top.
  4. Go to multiple specialty doctors to learn more about getting my diabetes under control.  Read about diabetes online, participate in forums, and generally learn more about the effects that different types of food choices and food timing will affect my BG.  I have been devouring diabetes knowledge like Johnny 5 lately.  (Yes, that does totally date me.)

I could not do any of these things without the luxury of time, and I am fortunate to have a support system that allows me to take this kind of time.  Soon, I will be back to work, without this kind of time, but the knowledge framework is already there, and I know that things will get faster as I get used to them.

Money

Obviously, money makes it a lot easier to do many things, but specific to my diabetic journey, I have been able to:

  1. Buy a lot of different kinds of foods to “experiment” with.  On that first 2 hour grocery trip, I had a hard time distinguishing between things that were necessary now, and things that “I could have”—so I bought a LOT of things.  Some food went bad, some were way too expensive, but the glamour of having things that I could still eat was really difficult to resist.
  2. Not worry about medication “experimentation”, because my insurance is good, and covers a good portion of my insulin and supplies.  In addition to that, if I use more test strips than prescribed, buying strips off-prescription is not prohibitively expensive, so I have not had to curtail my BG testing due to worries about supplies or money.
  3. Just eat a steak when I’m confused.  Yeah, it’s really nice to be able to say, “hey, I don’t know, I’ll just have a steak.”  I mean, we’re not made of money, but an occasional (or more than occasional) steak won’t break the bank for us right now.

What happens to people who don’t have these luxuries?  The fact that I have diabetic privilege does not escape me, and it plagues me to some extent.  No, I’m not going to sacrifice my own care because others do not have the ability to maintain this standard of care, but it really makes me feel for the diabetic parent who doesn’t have time to read the label or spend 2 hours grocery shopping, measuring, and recording in order to stay on track.  Or the many many families who do not have the ability to say “I’ll just have a steak” when they are faced with a number of carb-heavy bad choices that are fast, cheap, and available.

And what happens to these people when they are forced to choose from bad choices?  There is so much judgment in nutrition choices.  You can’t buy the food you need to eat to manage your diabetes?  Well, then you chose this health for yourself and you gave yourself diabetes/obesity.  You just need to choose better.  Or worse yet, you must not be smart enough to make the right choices, here’s someone to tell you what to do.

I get frustrated with memes/comments/things that blame people for their health like it’s always about choices, but there is so much more to it than that.  I’m not obese (well, actually, according to BMI, I AM obese, I guess…I’m just big-boned) and my diabetes is genetic.  Many ethnic groups are pre-disposed to Type II diabetes.

I wouldn’t say I feel lucky that I have diabetes, but I definitely feel lucky that under my circumstances, I’m well-equipped to treat myself properly.  So lucky and so grateful.

 

A math facts pack

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese.  Ching-chong, people.

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese. Ching-chong, people.

When I was teaching, I often found myself struggling with the question of parity for my students.  If I do something for one student, would it only be fair if I did it for all my students?  It left me in the position of providing fewer “extras” and reserving rewards for situations with equal opportunities, because I was often concerned with being fair.

But, some students just need a little extra, and some students will make the most out of these added opportunities.  I can never resist a child who asks for more help in a specific, constructive way.

I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the classroom at the end of this year, working with students with individual needs in math.  One of my students in particular is amazing with visualizing geometry, good at solving procedural problems, and really really really terrible with her basic math facts. So when she looks at me, stops saying “this is hard” and “I’m bad at math” and instead says, “you know, this is the only thing holding me back from doing much better in math class,” I am unable to ignore that plea.

After confirming that she is good with using the resources given to her, and talking with her about using tools to brush up her math facts this summer, she and I picked out the following:

She is self-aware enough to know that regular flash cards have not helped her to learn her times tables, and she doesn’t memorize things visually in that way.  Since she is good at recognizing relationships, we are hoping that the three-corner cards and the math-wheel cards will be different ways to look at the times tables and develop a better sense of numbers that go together.

In addition to the flash cards, I made a book of 150 Mad Minute practice sheets and a tracker for her to track her progress with the times tables.  These will go into the binder she picked out, and she will use the timer to administer her own mad minutes.

Of course, once I get going with these things, I can’t stop myself.  I had to make a cute little backpack to store her math practice toolkit.  It only took about 15 minutes and I had all the materials handy in the house.  (It’s taken me far longer to format this post than to make the backpack.) I also found a few stamps and a few stamp pads that I threw into the pencil case.

The Math Facts Pack goodies - stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

The Math Facts Pack goodies – stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute.  Then again, I'm not a 7th grader, so who knows.

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute. Then again, I’m not a 7th grader, so who knows.

I have high hopes that she becomes a math facts wizard by the end of the summer, and can come back in the fall and be a mentor to 5th graders in the school who may be struggling with their own math facts.

I’m not really doing this for her appreciation, but it’s so little in the scheme of my day, and can be so big in the scheme of her life.  I couldn’t NOT do this when it asks so little of me.  I know this kind of attention isn’t scalable, but not every student needs this.  Other students will need other things, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer them when the opportunities arise.

Yes I did: 18 hours to a baby shower

Have you heard of the Five Love Languages?  They are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving (Giving) Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  My interpretation of these principles is that you have primary love languages that you “speak” and other love languages that you “hear”, and that they are not necessarily the same.  Christian-roots aside, I believe in the simplicity of this concept—by understanding which languages you and your loved ones speak and hear, you improve communications in your relationships.

For me, I am most comfortable expressing myself with Acts of Service and Giving Gifts 1.  No “diagnostic quiz” taken, just deep introspection over time and many dinner conversations with friends rehashing examples and hypotheticals.

Given those love languages, making handmade gifts is my favorite expression of affection.  It pains me when I don’t have enough of my own time to create personal gifts by hand.

I had grand plans for this weekend’s baby shower – I was going to make a small tag blanket 2, with one knit side and one minky side, and a matching baby hat with ears.  With 18 hours to go (6PM Friday), I was looking at 10 rows of baby hat, AND had just remembered that I volunteered to make a savory finger food.  NOT ENOUGH HOURS LEFT. I resigned myself to purchasing a more substantial gift off the registry, but was going to make a great effort to finish the hat and make some food.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  Finish baby hat & decorate and wrap the present.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

I really wanted to make the Flour Sack hat from Baby Beanies: Happy Hats to Knit for Little Heads by Amanda Keeys, but I don’t want to buy books of patterns anymore, so I decided to wing it with a basic square hat.  (If this pattern were individual PDF on Ravelry for $3, I would have totally bought it because I’m lazy about knitting trial and error.)

My “pattern” is basically a square hat, with the corners tied off for ears.  Same as book?  I wouldn’t know!

Yarn: Berroco Comfort in Boy Blue.  It’s a washable nylon/acrylic blend that is actually pleasant to knit with and I use it on nearly all my items for kiddos these days.

Needles: size 8 40″ circular, using Magic Loop method

  • CO 60 stitches, divide for Magic Loop.
  • K2P2 ribbing for 10 rows for a foldover brim.
  • Knit in the round for 36 rows (or for the height of the hat to fit the entire head, then extra rows for the length of the ears).
  • Turn inside out and use 3-needle bind-off. Weave in all ends.
  • Turn right side out.
  • Thread needle with yarn, and run thread from side “seam” 8 rows down, to top seam” 8 columns over on both sides. Tie in a square knot to form the ears. Leave ends as bows or trim.

I managed to finish all the decorations at 11:30PM.  Bedtime until the AM and then, savory snack-making.

SATURDAY MORNING: Savory Treats before 9:30AM

Of all the days, Ben & I had to go to a bath showroom today to look at and pick out a bathtub for house renovations Round 3 (definitely for a different post).  With the baby shower at noon, and the showroom opening at 10AM, this meant that all baby shower preparations had to be complete by 9:30AM.

Mac & cheese muffins
mac-muffin-prep

You can eat mac & cheese with your hands. Genius!

The momma-to-be does love her mac and cheese, and I really wanted to make these for her shower.  However, I didn’t have cheese in the house, and it was really tempting to shelve this in favor of something where I already had all the ingredients.

I opened my eyes at 7:08AM, still felt like mac & cheese was the right choice, ran to our local grocery and picked up cheese in order to make this happen.  Fork-free mac & cheese, what’s not to love?

I used Food & Wine’s basic technique:  undercooked mac folded into cheese-enhanced white sauce (butter, flour, milk).  I doubled the recipe for 1 pound of pasta and 24 muffins. I substituted 1/2 the amount of mozzarella for the American cheese.  I added seasoned breadcrumbs to the parmigiano reggiano at the base of the “muffins” and also on top of the muffins to make a better crust and to add flecks of green color.  I also baked in the oven at 375-degrees instead of 350 for about 20-25 minutes until the tops were super crispy and the bottoms held together, checking frequently to make sure they didn’t burn (too badly).

I left them out to cool, plated 21 of the 24 muffins, and left 3 to be devoured by Ben at some point during the day.  He claims that they’re even better at room temperature, because of the increased crispiness factor.

Bacon-wrapped apricots
bacon-apricot-prep

Everything is better when wrapped in bacon. Yes, everything.

This was my original plan – bacon-wrapped apricots with sage.  The prime reason was because I had some sage growing like crazy in the herb garden, we have apricots on hand for snacking, and I had a package of bacon in the fridge.  I scrapped this for the mac & cheese muffins because I wasn’t sure about pregnant women and eating bacon.  (Big Data must think that I’m pregnant with all the searches I do for what pregnant friends of mine can and can’t eat…)

While the mac & cheese was in the oven, I found myself a little idle…and craving some bacon.  So the bacon-wrapped apricots were back on the menu.

Things I learned from the recipe:

  • You really only need 1/3 a slice of bacon for each wrap—the flavor balance is perfect.
  • You don’t need a whole sage leaf.  I cut my leaves up, because I had a few GIANT sage leaves on the plant, and I also didn’t want to completely decimate my sage plant so early in the growing season.  It was plenty sage-y and the flavor complemented the bacon so nicely.
  • Seam-side down means you don’t need toothpicks.  I didn’t believe it, but it worked like magic.
  • YASSSSS…brush lightly with maple syrup.  NOM.

I managed to get both these dishes out by 9:35AM and make us a breakfast with the leftover egg whites and some ham from the fridge.  We were out the door by 10AM, and had picked out a tub by 10:50AM.  (I could have mooned over everything at the bath/kitchen/lighting showroom forever.)  Back in the house by 11:15, and off to the baby shower at noon. Productive morning all around.

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage.  Eat all of the things!

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage. Eat all of the things!

Why?

Why did I put myself through all this?  It would probably have been fine to pick up a vegetable platter and some dip and just have the registry gift.  In fact, no one notices at a shower whether you actually brought a gift at all, and a late registry gift to the house would have been totally acceptable.  Well, two reasons:

  1. I have a hard time backing off of my commitments.  Once I say I’m going to do something, like “make a savory finger food”, I will MAKE the food unless it is completely impossible, or else I will feel bad about it.
  2. Handmade with love is my best love language.  If I can give you a gift made with my time, that is the best gift that I can give you, whether the time is spent knitting, cooking, or just decorating the box that the gift will arrive in.  I don’t need my recipients to treasure their gifts forever, just to recognize that I care about them.  (Once a gift is given, it’s yours to do what you want with it, as gifts SHOULD be.)

People often tell me that I should sell the things that I make, but I don’t craft or cook for money, and I don’t think that I can be motivated to make things for people that I don’t love.  Actually, it’s hard for me to get motivated to do anything that I don’t love.  That’s a growth area for me.


  1. The love languages I “hear” are Quality Time and Acts of Service. Gifts are nice, but only if the giver has thought about the gift and has chosen something meaningful, so effectively an act of service. 

  2. Try to avoid buying from the Taggie company.  They are excessively EVIL about protecting their patent, which basically says that any ribbon sewn in a loop between two pieces of cloth is FROWNED UPON in this ESTABLISHMENT.  Google tells me that not only are you not allowed to sell them, but there may be issues if you even MAKE them.  Who knows if that’s truth or just paranoia, why can’t I make what I want if I’m not selling it?  I will thumb my nose at that, here’s a pattern for a great tag toy for babies from Sew Like My Mom, and here’s a picture of one that I made for my nephew:

    I made this ..."soft toy"... any resemblance to other real toys is purely ... coincidental.  Yesss...coincidental.

    I made this …”soft toy”… any resemblance to other real toys is purely … coincidental. Yesss…coincidental.

     

I’m worth it.

Roscoe is a LOT lazy.

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Oh wait. That’s Roscoe. He’s a LOT lazy.

Without WP, (or writing in general), I seem to have lost my ability to think.

Because I need to write stuff out to sort stuff out, you’d think I’d be an ideal candidate for regular blogging.  But in this age of carefully curated online branding, I have been mostly afraid to think “aloud” to this amorphous audience.  I mean, after looking over my LiveJournal existence…it’s probably better that that account is gone.

I enjoy reading people’s blog posts where they discover the minutiae that really shape how they view the world.  I love catching up with The Bloggess, and following her struggles as well as her crazy taxidermy collection.  I feel like I can never miss a single installment of my dear friend, K.C. Wise, as she builds her house, her home, and her foundation in (gasp) the suburbs.  I would love to do the same as either of those bloggers, and have that regular release to organize my thoughts in the clutter of my brain.

But I “never have time”, and it “takes too long to write”, and it “isn’t a big deal”, and “I’ll write when I have something important to say.”

If I can look other people in the eye and tell them that they are important, and their thoughts are important, and I am willing to listen to their thoughts and help them work it out, then why are my own thoughts less important to myself?  Who’s going to listen to me if I’m not going to listen to myself?

Bongo Mots once told me she couldn’t go out to dinner with me because she had to go home and “think” about Jenny Dell (a Red Sox sideline reporter who decided to date a player…publicly), meaning that she could not exorcise her thoughts without having a jam sesh with WordPress.

Priorities.  My biggest weakness is that I prioritize others’ needs and my more immediate (less important) needs over things that are more personally sustaining to me.  I put out fires.  I’m good at putting out fires.  I’m still figuring out how to maintain my own fire at the proper temperature and intensity.  (Man, that is a GREAT answer.  Why can’t I answer this question in interviews?  It’s like not having the perfect comeback for bullies until 10 minutes after they’ve gone.)

It’s not like I live a scripted or curated life.  In real life, I am a rough, not-well-thought-out, burst of brilliance and hot mess.  And sloth.

I guess writing is like exercise.  I know it’s good for me.  I mostly like it, when I’m on the bandwagon.  But when I’ve been lounging on the couch for a while, physically and mentally, it’s really hard to get back to it.  There are a million reasons why I can’t.  There are NO reasons why I can’t.

This isn’t even what I got on here to write about, but this’ll do.  I already feel more sorted out.  Missed ya, WP.

Yes I did: reclaimed bookshelf

During the move to my 11th cubicle in a year at my office space (co-working space growing pains), we ended up with this weird corner space that really really needed a bookshelf to organize our crap.

After searching on IKEA and Target and all the usual suspects, I remembered that I had a house that we were busy demolishing and a fairly huge stack of “reclaimed wood,” a.k.a. things in the demolition pile, and a basement workshop full of awesome tools to play with.  Obviously, it would be easier to just build a bookshelf that fits in the space and meets our needs, right?

I mean, this is our basement workshop:

Doesn't this look like a creepy murder room?  Oh wait, it probably was one.

Don’t all the corrugated tin walls look like a creepy murder room?
Oh wait, it probably was one.

Just kidding, that picture was from when we first moved into the house, just after we removed the shower curtain/vapor barrier that was covered with wet moldy carpet remnants and discovered the newts living under them.

THIS is our basement workshop:

vault basement

This workshop is pretty sexy, no?
The main workbench is an antique surgical table bought off of Craigslist. Totally preserves that “creepy” feeling.

Anyways, I pulled shelves out of our demolition pile in our garage, ones that I had already labeled “not worth saving” and set to work putting together this office bookshelf, armed with a general idea, some measurements from the office, a rough sketch, and an extra set of man hands.

This pile of yucky wood boards from the walls of the attic:

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered, fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered,
fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Took about 5 hours, some elbow grease, a hand sander, and lots of force (some of the 2x3s were warped) to become this:

She is a thing of beauty.  (The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

She is a thing of beauty.
(The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

Not all the wood was super-old; we did find this awesome note on one of the 2x3s:

Adam Dyott, 3/1/88, THE BEST CARPTER IN THE WORLD.

ADAM DYOTT, 3/4/88, THE BEST CARPTER IN THE WORLD.  
What is a carpter?!

And here is the bookshelf in its rightful space, in action:

Now to actually organize the things in the bookshelf...

Now to actually organize the bookshelf…

What was trash is now treasure again! Here’s to hoping that there are many more reclaimed wood projects in the works.  Maybe I can make the radiator covers in the house out of reclaimed wood this summer.  So ambitious, so many projects, not enough time!

A better version of “myself”

It’s been a while since I’ve gathered my thoughts in blog form, basically because life got busy.  However, all this thought-buildup is spilling over into my work and daily life, so it’s time to pick up the “pen” again and clear my head.

I have been wanting to be a better version of myself, because that is the cliché that all of us who are “leaning in” are looking to do, every day, all the time.  I have been working to be this better version, rededicating myself every once in a while: in the morning when I get up…during the day when I get a spritz of motivation…in the evening, when I look in the mirror and say, tomorrow starts a new life, Rabbit.

Tomorrow Rabbit

From one of my favorite threads on Reddit.

With the difficulty of all this self-improvement work, I’ve arrived at a big question:

Why do I have to change absolutely everything about me in order to be myself?

1. I need to change my diet.

I’m on the same diet roller coaster that many people are on, my struggle is not new, nor is it unique.  I worry about what I eat for a day.  Or more like a minute.  (Usually a minute where I’m not eating anything at the time.)  I go to bed thinking, tomorrow I’ll eat healthier.  I have a fried egg and toast for breakfast.  I curse the egg and toast at the gym, and vow to get a salad for lunch.  I eat office candy to tide me over at 11am.  (I eat office candy because it’s there.)  Lunchtime rolls around, and I inevitably choose the Italian hot-pressed panini over the turkey sandwich with lots of vegetables, forgetting completely about that salad that I had promised myself.  Post-sandwich coma at 2PM, and I need a soda to wake me up.  Or a coffee.  Or a walk for a cupcake.  If I eat the cupcake, it’s definitely important to have a healthy dinner.  Of course, I should have a slice of 6PM pizza that is left over from the office event.  Two slices, the first one was really small.  Well, now I don’t need dinner at all, do I.

So, I started insulin this week.  Now that my cells are better able to process glucose, more of what I eat will get used by my cells, either as energy or stored into fat.  Guess which route is more likely?

2.  I need to change my exercise habits.

I have battled serious gym/exercise phobia ever since Coach Fiset pulled me out of running the Glenbrook Mile in 5th grade because I was way too slow to complete it and no one wanted to wait for me.  I was a varsity athlete in college who basically functioned as marginally agile ballast when no one else would join the team and show up every day.  The accountability factor is truly the biggest motivator that has keeps me moving, and nothing else has ever continuously worked in terms of motivation. (The fact that I have financial help in order to have a trainer and go to Equinox really doesn’t hurt either.)

When I started at Equinox, I was pretty dedicated, and I could get myself to the gym a few extra times a week for spin class, circuit training, and even yoga.  I’ve “run” a half-marathon and I’ve managed to get my 5-mile road race pace from 13:46/mile to 11:12/mile. (Not pretty, but I’ll take the improvement.) However, I’m terrible about tolerating physical exertion—I feel it sapping at my self-worth as I fail at running faster or working harder, especially in group fitness where everyone can see me. I ask myself, if I’m not really a runner (and those times really say “not a runner”), why am I running at all?

These days, if I’m not meeting my trainer, Lauren, I can barely get myself out of bed.  I have been seeing Lauren for over 2 years, and I really hate letting her down. It’s not like I’m hurting her feelings, but hey, I’ve been a teacher, I hate when my students stop trying.  I really haven’t made any weight loss progress in about a year, and I often have trouble even getting out of the house on time to meet her.  Accountability guilt really sucks.  I wasn’t always like this.

3.  I need to change the way I spend and manage my time.

Not only do I need to get to the gym on time, I need to re-imagine how I manage time in general.  I’m a procrastinator, that part is no secret, but I am also plagued by the typical time management afflictions:  one-more-thing-itis, internet addiction, news FOMO, and overcommitment.  I’m not only late to the gym, when I’m left to my own devices, I’m just a bit late to everything.  More like “kinda-less-than-just-exactly-uncomfortably-on-time,” but late is late.  And there’s always some crazy reason.  Snow traffic.  Overloaded trains.  Walking behind double-wide strollers.  Forgetting my jacket/wallet/T pass/ice skates.

I also can’t focus on a single task at work.  Whenever my workflow stops for some reason, like waiting for something to upload, or stopping to compose a tricky email, I get distracted and feel the need to check “my sites”.  After I return from distraction, it’s like, “wait, where was I?” and it takes a few minutes to get back into the workflow.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve tried laying out my clothes the night before. (What if I feel fatter in the morning?)  I’ve tried packing my bags the night before.  (Inevitably, I forget something this way.  Let’s be honest, I forget something anyways.)  I’ve tried setting clocks forward in my car.  I’ve tried making a schedule.  I’ve tried task lists, both analog and digital.  (There are many apps for that.)

I’ve got all the “adult ADD” symptoms, but I won’t go the Adderall route.  I just don’t want to add another medication to my regimen that might make me fatter, because let’s face it, I need all the help I can get in that department already.

4.  I need to change my work habits.

Besides the work ADD and all that goes with it, I have other “wants” in the improvement department.

I want to speak up more.  I want to say “Sorry” less.  More Sheryl Sandberg.  Less “red-stapler” guy.  (BTW, I’m not 100% bought into “Lean In,” the book.  But like Hansel, it’s just so HOT right now.)

I want to dress like a boss more consistently, and not just have a wardrobe that starts out Sheryl Sandberg on Mondays and ends up Mark Zuckerberg on Fridays.

I want to WANT to embrace difficult tasks, and take lead on challenging projects which take me out of my comfort zone.  I want to be comfortable out of my comfort zone.

***

I get these days (like today) where I feel like it shouldn’t be so much work to “just be myself”.  But hey, I am my traits as much as I am my struggles.  Also—I’m sure that “better me” will have a whole new set of obstacles to face before becoming “better better me.”  After all, what’s living without having something to look forward to or work towards?

Tomorrow starts a new life, Rabbit.  Tomorrow.

Roscoe: a love story for Valentine’s Day

How could you say no to this face?

How could you say no to this sad face?

Roscoe is one of our two Maine Coon shelter mutts.  A big galoot weighing in at about 22 pounds, he is always finding himself in awkward situations, mostly where he thinks that he is a much smaller cat.  He has a little plaintive mew, and he’s not unlike a tiny Mike Tyson (minus the ear-biting).

When we first met ‘Bill’ at the shelter we played with him, but I was unimpressed with his smelly matted yucko fur.  As we were about to put him back in his crate, he decided to go completely limp, and passive-aggressively slide out of Ben’s arms backwards onto the floor.  It was at that moment that a love connection was made, and ‘Roscoe’ was coming home with us.  Because, as the shelter workers said, someone’s got to love the big galoots.

He weighed about 13 pounds when we first got him, and within a few hours, he decided that he loved it here, and made himself quite at home.

Roscoe settles in at home on his first day.

Roscoe settles in at home on his first day.

Over the years, Ben and Roscoe have been quite inseparable.  Roscoe spends many mornings curled up next to Ben in bed.  They constantly hang out on the couch, and if Roscoe wore pants, he would also hang a paw down the front.  They have even shared a Snuggie for two.

Nope, no room for a third in this Snuggie.

Nope, no room for a third in this Snuggie.

But there has been no more definitive proof of Roscoe’s undying love for Ben than last week when Ben went to CA for a conference for an entire week, leaving me to administer the cats’ routine of feedings, insulin shots (for Roscoe), litter boxes, and nightly toothbrushing.

Monday morning, Roscoe didn’t finish his breakfast.  I came home, and by dinner, they hadn’t finished their dinner either.  The rest of the week was fairly similar.  I didn’t know whether to give insulin, or if I was giving insulin incorrectly, or whether I needed to give more insulin. Also, he was pretty much silent all week, which is abnormal given that he’s usually very conversational, especially at mealtime.

In addition to the weird feeding, Roscoe was not in any of his usual haunts—he just stayed most of the week on Ben’s side of the bed.  I’d leave him there in the morning, and find him there in the evening, just huddled in a lump on the bed.

Not only was he being weird, but Riley, our other much more cat-like cat, was basically glued to his side all week.  Most of the time, the two cats pretend to not love each other on a regular basis, with Roscoe spending most of his time bullying Riley.  But they were constantly together like peas and carrots, all week long.  It was so odd that I started to wonder if this was in any way related to the stories of cats that can identify oncoming death.

Monday, sad.  Tuesday, sad.  Thursday, sad.  Friday, still sad.

Monday, sad. Tuesday, sad. Thursday, sad. Friday, still sad.

I started to wonder at what point I might need to take Roscoe to the vet.  I reported all these symptoms to Ben and he seemed unconcerned, so I figured I would take Roscoe to the vet if he was still acting weird at the end of the week.

Ben came home on Saturday night, and Roscoe mewed his greeting, and rolled around on the floor to show his belly.  And ate his dinner.  And cuddled in bed that night.  And ate his breakfast normally the next day.  And basically gave me a scare for nothing—apparently he was just in a deep kitty depression for the week.

So happy together.

So happy together.

Incontrovertible proof that Roscoe and Ben were meant to be.  Cat and hooman.   Together furever.  Happy (early) Valentine’s Day.

hello, old friend

Old diaries, why can't I quit you?

Old journals, why can’t I quit you?

I have an odd habit of picking up my old journals and revisiting really painful pieces of my past—painful both as I experienced them and as I relive them in the present.  I actually find my younger self to be mostly hilarious, but since most people encourage me to let go of my past, I’ve been quelling these compulsions by putting my journals into a bin that I promised myself I would shred.

I have a clear memory from my childhood of my mother shredding her own diaries.  She was probably about my age, maybe a little older, when she did this. When I asked her why she would do such a thing, she said, “I don’t want anyone reading them after I die.”  I think she must have watched The Bridges of Madison County that week.

This week, when I pulled out the bin to finally complete said shredding, I found myself unable to get rid of the journals.  I mean, these are my words, as I experienced them, in their rawest form.  Memories that I had deeply buried came back to me, some hilarious, some nonsensical, and it was like reconnecting with an old friend.

It probably doesn’t help that I was also reunited with my former iTunes library (trapped on an old non-updated computer), and my old photo albums (trapped in our attic in a bin waiting to be digitized) sometime last weekend.  It has spun me into a (non-polar) vortex of nostalgia, and truthfully, I’ve been dying to share my memories, and also what I may have “learned” in the luxury of time and maturity.  But as I learned in college from my roommate’s mom, life is living and learning…but mostly living.

My music library is basically a collection of placeholders that transport me to other moments in time.  Here’s a little story that popped into my head with the resurfacing of a song this morning on my train ride:

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…

Spring 2000, Systems Optimization, and my first foray into classes at Sloan. One of my classmates was a really nice guy, friend of friends. One evening, classwork got particularly friendly (hey, it was college), and then not surprisingly, the rest of the semester was a bit awkward.  He sent me an mp3 of him covering a late-90s pop ballad – beautiful, but also awkward.  Whether it was perceived awkwardness, or awkwardness in reality, I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but back then I responded with my typical reaction, which was to run away and hide hide hide.

At some point in the semester, he sent me an email, saying that I should listen to Beautiful by Joydrop, it’s a good song, I’d like it.  I brushed it off, put the mp3 into the iTunes, er, WinAmp library and listened to it eventually, thinking very little of it.  Until one day, a few years later, when I finally “heard” the lyrics.

I feel contrite every time I hear this song in the rotation…because he was probably telling me that I was a total asshole.  Telling me that I thought I was too good to treat people well.  And I missed it, for years.  My journal tells me that at that time I had no pretense about being beautiful, and thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and that I was preoccupied by other things and other people in my life to truly realize anything about anything ever having to do with him.  

Or, maybe this is all overthought, and he just sent me a cool song.  

Funny thing is, when I finally understood these lyrics, I was in the middle of being brushed off by someone else after a few intense dates, and was really tempted to send the song to him in a fit of melodramatic rage—karma is a bitch.

I tried to make amends once, around 2005.  I ended up having to bail on dinner plans, last minute, due to a long-running, over-indulgent post-work outing. Probably confirmed that I am truly an asshole, and I haven’t seen him since.

I keep the song in the library, as well as the mp3 of the cover, to remind me to never have my head that far up my own ass, just in case.

On my sudden “fame”…

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90's.  Photo: IMDB

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90’s. Photo: IMDB

I was totally humbled and honored when my friend and fellow blogger, K.C. Wise, nominated my post on #HowIMetYourRacism for Freshly Pressed…and yesterday it appeared in a jumble of posts and comments and follows that instantly derailed my productivity and introduce me to the larger WordPress community.

Wow.  Thank you.  Thank you!  and you!  and you!

Now, for those who know me personally, I am one who gets star-struck when I see celebrities among us.  Like the time Mark Wahlberg was working out at my gym, and he walked down the stairs, and I thought, “hey, that looks an awful lot like—” and then he said, “Hello”, and all I could say in response was “uh-huh-huh-huh.”  It’s like that.

I realize that being Freshly Pressed does not make me THAT kind of a celebrity, but I am so grateful to have thoughtful comments on my blog, to interact with new people, and to discover and follow more voices in the people who have followed my blog.  Thank you to all who stopped by to read and I hope that you’ll stay to learn more about me or tell me something about yourself.

I hope that my future posts are valuable to discussion as well, but I can’t promise pithy-ness at every turn, since I am fairly entertained by the mundane and shallow that is out there as well.  (There is a Taylor Swift post somewhere in the works, and it’s probably not going to be what you think.)  All this attention on my words makes me think of my favorite movie of all time, Say Anything, starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a GREAT one to Netflix on this snowy day.

I don’t know, I can’t figure it all out tonight sir, I’m going to hang with your daughter. 

Not gonna figure it all out tonight.  Just gonna hang with…you guys.