No restaurants for the month of May

At the beginning of every year in January I go through a Facebook detox.  I quit Facebook for a month to recalibrate my system (tolerance for screen time).  It’s great start to the new year and I don’t miss all the cute Christmas pictures.  A month is a short enough period of time so that I don’t feel as if I am depriving myself forever. I often wonder what else in my life can I change for a month for the better. I think of it as a test run for things I might actually adopt.

In the month of May I didn’t go out to eat.  Well that was my plan.  I ended up going out to eat with a friend that I hadn’t seen in months and then I went out with my husband out for a celebration dinner twice (because the first time the food was terrible).  But, that was it.  And now as I type this I’m thinking geez how much was I eating out before?

The verdict: I felt great because I ate well. I did a lot of cooking at home. I thought about meals and prepared food ahead of time. I had to adjust to buying more groceries, a whole bunch more groceries, to get through the week. Even on days when we didn’t know what to eat for dinner it wasn’t that hard to think up a quick and simple meal (for example brats, prepared potato salad, and canned beans) and then to run to the store and purchase it. I did eat more prepared foods but realistically I imagine that at some restaurants you’re getting lots of prepared food anyway so I called it a was.

This leads me to my second realization. Eating out is expensive and you can buy a lot of groceries for the price of a mediocre dinner at a chain restaurant. I’d say at least two meals worth of food for your house.

And finally there are not really any secret recipes anymore. If you like that cherry chicken pasta salad from the deli, then you can probably find the recipe online. If you can’t find that exact one, I guarantee you that you can find one that is close enough.  Everything is online!

In the future I’m going to try to I’m getting better at not eating at restaurants and I feel like my mindset has changed.  Why pay crazy prices for something I can make at home?

 

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A few thoughts about breastfeeding…

 

I knew that I was going to breastfeed my baby.  Check that. I planned on breastfeeding my baby.  Of course, I also planned on an all natural birth without interventions and ended up having a C-section after over a full day of labor.  Plans! Isn’t there a saying about plans?

I had friends that breast fed, but I had no idea what I was starting. In hindsight my best advice was from a friend who said she struggled with breastfeeding for 3 weeks.  She said she was determined not to give up. I still haven’t given up, but I do have some thoughts.

  1. It is unfair that childbirth is so grueling and then is immediately followed by breastfeeding.  If you have the honor of completing either, they are two of the most challenging activities of your entire life. Childbirth is no walk in the park, but it’s relatively short when you consider your breastfeeding journey. I’m 8 months in and I’ve been tracking my stats.  I started out the first month at nearly 90 hours of breastfeeding.  That’s every two hours or so for the last 8 months. Let that sink in. The kiddo won’t wait longer than that unless it’s night time.  The kiddo is also in the 99% percentile for height and weight.  I suspect this has something to do with it. I’ve been in beast mode since August.
  2. Breastfeeding moms don’t care what you think.  This includes, but is not limited to: your opinion on breastfeeding, if you think my kiddo is too big or that I shouldn’t be feeding him in public or whatever, then just keep it to yourself. I do not need your approval and I couldn’t care less if you support me. I’m doing it anyway.
  3. Random nutritional fun facts. I get hungry. I need snacks. I don’t care what time it is or if my snack is cheese slices from the back of the fridge. I have also been known to eat that nasty Betty Crocker frosting in a tub when I want something sweet (just a few spoon fulls). I’m really trying to eat healthy, but I get hungry.  Rumor has it breastfeeding burns roughly 500 calories a day. Did I mention that I run as well? I’m training for a 10k. Some days, when I run, I’m guessing I need to take in an extra 1,000 calories a day.  
  4. Tucking in my shirt. Please!

 

My first big Mom oops

I locked our cat in the cabinet for the afternoon.  I’m not a bad person, but that day I was a busy mom. Scratch that, I’m a busy mom all days, but this day I was extra busy….please let me explain.

My normal M.O. for dealing with any situation is worrying about it a whole bunch ahead of time. Before I was pregnant I worried about getting and being pregnant, when I was pregnant I worried about delivery, and once my kiddo was born I worried about pre-school.  Naturally when he started rolling over I worried about childproofing the entire house even though it would be months before he was regularly and intentionally mobile.  I counted doors and drawers and devised a plan, ordered parts, and then life happened.  Now he’s crawling!

There has been way too much going on to make baby proofing a priority, but the locking mechanisms for the double door cabinets are really quick and easy to use. I threw them on a few cabinets.  The one under the sink really slows me down when I need dish soap or trash bags, but it’s also where the cleaning products are located. I figure it’s worth a bit of inconvenience if it keeps him from chewing on dishwasher tablets.

Last week I was straightening up the house. The aquarium had taken on a neglected look in the past few months so I decided to clean the outside. I got out the glass cleaner that is kept under the sink.  Even though the kiddo was taking a nap I figure it is good practice to shut and lock the cabinet.  There have been so many times in the recent past when I have been pulled away from tasks only to return to them hours later. I cleaned the outside glass and replaced the cleaner under the sink and locked the cabinet.

The rest of the afternoon I heard meowing. I checked all around the house. I did not see the cat. I even checked the porch where I left him last week (it’s a hard life for a cat when a baby comes to town). I assumed he was stuck somewhere in the basement, but because there is no way he could be completely trapped I figured he will find another way out.  We went out to dinner.  When we returned I heard more meowing. Where did he go?  Now that my husband was home and I had another set of reliable ears and eyes we set out to do a more thorough search of the house. We checked closets and cabinets and locate the source of the sound under the sink.  Poor guy was trapped with the cleaning products for the afternoon and evening.

Does this story have a moral? Nope. Is it funny? Not if you’re the cat.  Does this sort of thing happen to everyone? Maybe, maybe not.  Does this sort of thing happen to parents everywhere and they just don’t share it? I’m thinking yes, yes it does.

The Candy Jar

I have a candy jar that was a gift from my grandmother. I use it to hold dog treats. Initially I felt I wasn’t doing the candy jar justice, then I found out that she had used it for the same purpose. When I gently lift the lid and my dog hears the subtle ring and she goes right to her crate.  It’s lovely.  Every time I do this I think of my grandma.

I tell you this because I’d like to encourage you to use special objects in your everyday life. I also have a cookbook from my grandmother. I made chicken salad with chunks of apple in it last week.  It tasted so familiar. I have a painting on my buffet made by another member of my family and a chalk drawing in another room. I have needlepoints and blankets as well.  These objects are in use.  They are special and I use them. Sure, I’ve broken a few colored glass bowls from the set and the table that was a wedding present is now remarkably scratched and dirty, but I use them as they were intended.

It seems like so many times we are waiting for the perfect occasion to use the fancy dishes or to have a spare bed to display the special quilt. We save that dress for a special occasion instead of a Saturday dinner with friends or family when honestly the only person who will truly appreciate it is you.  But I believe that today is an awesome day and that life is short: wear the dress, use the table, hang up the picture.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the first time to teach your child to make brownies you should use the depression era measuring cup in your cabinet, but maybe the second or third time you take it out and tell her a story about it.  And maybe on the twentieth time you use it, it drops and breaks.  You will be sad and you will remember the person who gave it to you while you clean it up and you’ll talk and share stories and you will tuck the pieces safely in the trash.  But you will have new found memories of using that measuring cup to make brownies and she will remember too. Plus, let’s face it, a measuring cup wasn’t made to sit in a cabinet.

Jeans please

I went shopping recently and I’m a woman who does not hate my body.  Sorry world. I know this doesn’t fit with what you expect from me.

I’ve played sports nearly my entire life.  For a majority of that time, this has meant soccer and running.  My thighs are bigger than average. This alone isn’t a problem. The problem is that I enjoy wearing jeans in fact if you’ve seen me in something other than jeans we must have been at the same wedding. That being said jeans never seem to fit me correctly.  I know lots of women say the same thing and that eventually I will find my brand, but until then I’m stuck.

Jeans for me never fit in the thigh area. To combat this I go up a size and then the legs fit and the waist is too big.  To counter that I  get the jeans tailored.  They take in the waist as much as they can and I still need to wear a belt. I hate wearing a belt. My son thinks it’s great though because he can stick his toes into my waistband and stand right up which is neither here nor there, but it is sort of cute.  Regardless, in a few years one day, no matter the jean, I crouch down to pick something up and RIIIIIP there is a hole in the pants right by the upper thigh. It happens every time. Hopefully, I will be at home when this happens because I will require an immediate pants change…or maybe I can rock this new distressed denim?

Which brings me back to my first paragraph. I did a quick online search and I can find all sorts of jeans that claim to hide this or that.  I don’t want to hide! I don’t hate my legs! They help me get work done.  I want jeans that fit! To me that is fundamentally different. I’m not ashamed I just require something a little more GI Joe and a little less like Barbie. And while I’m asking I’d like it for less than $50.  Who’s got $150 for jeans? If I have that much, I’d rather spend it on something else.

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There should be an award for that

We joke that we live at time when everyone gets a participation trophy. There is even a commercial about it

I grew up before this current trend and if I had my say we…wait, that’s not what I wanted to write about. There are two things that we, as adults, don’t get awards for that we should.

First, I would like to institute the “I went to bed early” award. This would go to people who genuinely tried to get at least 8 hours of sleep. They left the gathering early, turned off the game and/or computer, and went to sleep. If you need inspiration to qualify for this award, you can watch this not for kids bedtime story. Sadly, this won’t ever be a real award. If you get a good night of sleep you have a clearer head and it’s a bit easier to deal with stressful situations.  Please, consider going the f*** to sleep.  Luckily, going to sleep early is it’s own reward.

Second, I would like to create an “I left work” award.  This award would be for people who put in their 8 hours of work and then go home. Award winners will probably leave some work on their desks, but hey, there’s always tomorrow. If you are an hourly worker or rely on commission then this award won’t be for you. Grind on. But for those that make a salary remember “the man” only pays you for 40 hours.  Your ridiculously high hourly rate is significantly smaller if you add in all the emails and phone calls you field on evenings or weekends or all those times you need to take a quick peek at a project and then get sucked into an 8 hour work day on your day off…and if you end up pulling an all nighter for work then you’re losing out on the first award as well. If you’re at all like me, you prefer to do the majority of living outside of the workplace.  That’s where my family is and that’s where many of the things I like to do are as well.  Get in, get out safely, and get paid.

What would you like to see awards for?

Resolutions or goals?

We’re just into the new year and I’ve been giving serious thought as to whether or not I should bother writing New Year’s resolutions. Last year I did and I used an online template. The basic format was this: a word or phrase for the year, something I want, something I need, something I will share, and a way I will succeed. I liked it because it wasn’t just a laundry list and it required a great deal of thought. I looked over it just before year end and I was successful. I could check everything off the list. However, I only wrote things on the list that I was sure I would be able to complete because no one wants to look back and feel like a failure, right? So if I’m only going to write an easy list, then why bother? And if I do some serious soul searching and write a more complicated list it may keep me on track, but I might look back at 2017 and be disappointed with the results. You see my conundrum.

I think that I have found a compromise. This year I’ve settled on choosing a word/phrase to motivate me throughout the year. It will guide my thoughts and actions as well as something that I can mutter to myself when I’m feeling a bit down. I even have one in mind, though I won’t share it here. I feel it’s sort of like a birthday wish in that regard.

But I do have a goal that I will share. I just got some new running shoes after wearing mine to death during pregnancy and then walking them to death afterward. I feel like I got my money’s worth out of those shoes. Most of my running shoes still look pretty enough for casual wear when I’m through with them. These are headed back to the manufacturer for donation. The woman who sold me my new shoes in a half size larger (thanks kiddo) asked if I had any training goals. I’ve never thought of training goals other than run this race or that race. This year I’m putting thought into training goals. I’ve found three 10k races to run and another 10 mile one. The half marathon (that I’ve run a bunch) takes more time than I’m willing to sacrifice this year and 10k is fast and happy. That is the plan. Hopefully I won’t get to that point in the race where I think “Why am I doing this? I want to go home.” I’m thinking I can do a 10k in an hour….wait that doesn’t sound like a goal. I want to do a 10k in an hour. It seems doable with a bit of work (I may not have mentioned previously, but I’m not all that speedy) just as a goal should be. Bring on the 10k because I’m (__insert motivational phrase here____).

 

A few things I’ve learned as a new parent

I had a son in August and I’ve been home with him every day since then…until today. I have mixed feelings about going back to work and I learned a bunch of things about myself, parenting, and the kiddo while I was at home.  Here’s a glimpse of some of those things.

Netflix/Hulu/On demand programming can be my best friend as well as my worst enemy. Yes, it’s something to do.  I watched the entire seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the oh so terrible Thanksgiving reboot.  I also found that I no longer enjoy the same kinds of programming as I once did. I currently lean toward documentaries and fluff.  I have enjoyed Chill with Bob Ross. I think I need an easel.

The FedEx delivery truck delivers packages early, UPS delivers way late, and because I live so close to the post office I suspect that some rookie is always delivering my mail. My neighbors drink a lot.

I am fast enough to catch baby spit up in the palm of my hand when the other choice is that it lands on my computer keyboard. I will never be able to put that on a resume.

I used to run. Pre-pregnancy I would’ve considered myself a runner.  I ran the first trimester of pregnancy.  After that quit because I spent more time going back and forth to the bathroom than on the track. I’ve been playing soccer and I will run again, but this year I’m not signing up for any half marathons. I don’t want to take that time to run so far when I could be kissing a kiddo. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost myself completely. I’m looking for 10ks in the area.  I will have no excuse not to be fast because I’ll be training with a jogging stroller.

There are “kids” and then there is “your kid.” He may or may not be different than everything I have read in books or online. I don’t freak out (as much) anymore if he eats more times than the average child or if he doesn’t sleep enough one night. I am no longer surprised as he blasts through clothes labeled 9 months even though he’s only 4 months old. I literally saw his toes poking out the feet of his pajamas this week. When people say kids grow up fast, they mean it.

People at the store smile at me more, rather they smile at the kiddo.  He mostly smiles back.  Babies seem to make everyone happy.

Many told me to “get my sleep in” while I was pregnant.  I woke up about 6 times a night to use the bathroom.  Now those same people tell me to “sleep when the baby sleeps” and it’s  such b.s. advice I can’t stand it. Maybe some day when he naps for a few hours at a time I will be able to follow their advice.  Currently it seems that when I lay down to nap he is quiet for about 20 minutes.  That’s not much of a nap.

I know I’ve learned other things and I look forward to continuing to do so.  Cheers and Happy New Year.

Don’t ask me that

I am a bunch of things and I’d like to think that one of those things is honest. In fact, sometimes I exhibit a bit too much candor (if there is such a thing). In other words, don’t ask me a question if you don’t want to know my answer. I always give an out. Do you want my honest opinion? If you say yes, then you should be prepared for the answer.

Recently I was thinking about how you can’t ask more of people than they can handle. For me that means don’t ask me to lie to you. I won’t do it. But in general you should keep individual personality traits in mind when you ask someone for help or their opinion or whatnot.

For example, don’t ask your friend who is always late for every event for a ride to the airport if you want to leave at a specific time and you’re going to be crabby that she’s late. She’s always late. You know this! It’s part of her very nature and you love her anyway.

Further, don’t ask Negative Nancy if you should go on the 10 day meditation retreat. She’ll tell you all the reasons it will be a terrible experience. Ask the friend that is always happy and sunny about everything. She’ll put you on track and she might point out some of the reasons this type of challenging experience would be fun.

Or don’t ask your friend who is obviously juggling family dinner and homework for help with your crisis… right now. She is busy and you won’t have her full attention. It’s totally fair to ask her to call you back when she’s got some free time.

In turn, don’t be that friend that lets someone cry about a serious issue while you’re helping with homework and cutting up onions. That’s not fair. It’s ok not to answer your phone when you don’t have time to talk or to tell someone that you’re in the middle of something and that they should call you back later.

This is a friendly reminder heading into the new year. Only ask people to help with things that they are capable achieving. It makes everyone happier.

Brownie in a mug recipe

I like to eat sweets. I would call them dessert, but that implies that they are consumed after a meal where as I  consume sweets all the time. I know it isn’t good for me. Don’t waste your breath.  When I was a kid my grandfather taught me that it was acceptable to eat an oatmeal raisin cookie soon after breakfast.  I have never looked back.  Frequently I enjoy sweets after a meal.  Not like an apple or an orange, but rather a cookie or something containing chocolate. In a pinch I will eat a handful of chocolate chips from the freezer.    

My good friend introduced me to the concept of a brownie in a mug.  It’s just what it sounds like and if I make only one brownie in a mug there isn’t anything for me to scarf up the next morning after breakfast and that’s a good thing.

She gave me a recipe.  I don’t know where it came from and lately I’ve been modifying the recipe to better suit my tastes (i.e. to maximize chocolate content).  So next time you are craving something sweet go ahead and try this brownie in a mug recipe.

Get a microwave safe mug and add the following:

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

 

⅛ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

Small hand full of chocolate chips (highly technical measurement)

¼ tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons water

Dash of vanilla

Mix it up.  Microwave for 30 seconds or so until the coconut oil has started to melt.  Mix it up again. Then microwave for another minute or so.  brownie-in-a-mug-13If you want to be truly gluttonous I recommend whipped cream for the top.  Enjoy.  

As a side bar: I now realize why people who write cooking blogs always tell a story about each recipe.  There is always a story behind each recipe.  Who knew?

Moms don’t take sick days

You may already know this, but moms don’t take sick days. Growing up I remember my mom taking a sick day once (it may have been more than that but it’s unlikely).  She had a migraine and images-2shut the bedroom door (shut the door!  Whoa.  Serious stuff there). I believe she said something like “Do not open the door unless the house is on fire!” and she also instructed my sister and me to be quiet in such a way that we were silent for the entire day.

 The past extended holiday weekend my family had the flu.  This includes me because I am part of said family. On Friday I felt fine. I went shopping with my mother and sister and I didn’t feel great, but I just chalked it up to a 2,000 calorie lunch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. I even went to the gym and worked out…hard.  On Saturday I went to the gym early and felt worse as the day wore on but not sick. My husband was sick. I quarantined him in the bedroom. Throughout the day I felt progressively less swell and at one point I laid down on the floor with the little one and fell asleep watching The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I was unable to admit I had succumbed. I thought I had simply worked out too hard two days in a row.

By Sunday I was toast. And here are the things that also happened while I was toast: I walked the dog, went to the coffee shop (I hope you didn’t get sick there, if you did sorry. I was in sick denial), the gym, PetCo (they had a sale and I got $20+ back), laundry, set up new aquarium, laundry, walked the dog, laundry, and laundry. The icing on the cake is that during this whole episode I also feed the kiddo every 3 hours or so which meant prying myself out of a warm blanket on the couch (you know so I didn’t get sick from quarantined husband in the bedroom) a few times at night.  This was especially cruel because last week he strung together a couple of 6 hours sleeps in such a fashion that I was sure he was on a roll. He was not. I should’ve never washed those lucky PJs.

I don’t say this to brag. I was honestly in denial and that’s why I think moms never take sick days.  There is always so much to do and if I’m awake every three hours well then I might as well get at it. On the other hand it will all still be there tomorrow!

Post Election Blues

Recently there was a presidential election in the USA. Pre-election I tried to speak up for what I feel is right in person and online. Online is far tougher.  I will continue to do so, but it is difficult because I  believe people type things that they would never say to their so called friends.  I was in a funk, but now I’m back.

I’m less than excited about a Trump presidency for many reasons.  I’m not going to list them here. I’m not asking for opinions today.  To begin to cure my disappointment I have found comfort in friendships and comedy.  For me those two are truly a winning combination. There are so many satirists that have made me chuckle with material that is on point, but my favorite was Dave Chapelle’s opening monolouge   on SNL on November 12.   He outlines some current events in the USA: Mass shootings, Black Lives Matter, and Trump as president.  My friends listen.

I’ve never been big at looking backward. There is so much “should have” that “would have” in these past weeks that I’m about to scream. And while there are lessons to be learned from the past, they do not mean anything unless you apply them to current situations or to the future.  When I was in church one Sunday as a kid, the pastor pointed out that you can’t drive a car looking out the rear view mirror.  He was right.

I was talking with one friend who was feeling particularly discouraged about election results and she asked me how I remain upbeat.  First, I am not always that upbeat. But what keeps me sane is remembering that I have the power to change my world.  For me, I focus on what I can do right now and I get out there and do it. There is garbage on the street, so I pick it up.  Teenagers acting a fool at the gym. I point out that I can hear them and so can many others. In addition, I have also started volunteering with an organization that closely matches my values. On the Saturday after the general election I talked with nearly 500 girls about being a fire captain and answered their questions before they ran their first 5k race ever. Some of them got their hair done at a booth and some of them wore tutus and capes. And some of those girls also tried on my fire coat.  I looked yesterday and my fire coat has a fine coat of glitter on the collar. I don’t think I’m going to wash it off.  

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Partly because it’s election season but mostly because it’s true. I’d advise everyone using the internet to

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Yes, I am aware that wreck is spelled with the letter W, but here I’d like to give credit where credit is due.  The person that brought this phrase into the mainstream did so many years ago and he was right. Ice Cube was right.  

You can find proof for anything on the internet and to top that you can find memes for any “proof” whether or not it is true.  The internet is a wondrous and scary thing. I know this is true because at our house we have been reading parenting information like it’s no one’s business.  One person says that babies should learn the art of self soothing by letting them cry themselves to sleep and another will say that same practice will scar your child  leading to a possible life of crime.  Like in most contentious issues the truth is probably somewhere in between those two answers. In this case, what has helped us is considering the source of the information. Is it a blog written by Sheila? No offense Sheila, you may be a wonderful parent or even call yourself a parenting expert, but you don’t have any credentials (I’m not saying that you need credentials to be correct. Stick with me here).  Was the article posted by an author with credentials selling her self-proclaimed top rated sleep book for only $19.99? Again, I may be skeptical as she is probably just trying to promote her method, her book, and herself.  You go girl, but it still might not be for me! Was the article published by a professor of infant psychology? It may be more reliable unless the study was funded by Pampers and the whole article is about how Pampers help your child sleep the entire night. The point I’m trying to make here is that just because someone states something online doesn’t necessarily make it the truth. Be skeptical and spend some time fact checking.

Let’s take this a bit further, presumably you get to vote shortly and I’ve seen some ridiculous posts online Facebook people. Yes, you are entitled to an opinion, but pretty please “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” If you’re going to post an article, then I think you should do some fact checking rather than posting “Is this true?” and inserting controversial article from questionable source. It saves those people you presumably care about (those that you call friends) from calling you out and it helps you to save face.  Just because Joe Pundit says something does not make it true and just because it was on Fox News doesn’t make it false. You have access to the internet in the palm of your hand or maybe it’s far away like in your purse or pocket.  Use it to inform yourself.  In other words: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

 

Show up

I started working out when I was a kid. I didn’t call it “working out” then and there was no  NFL Play 60 initiative to encourage physical activity for children.  (Side bar: this program seems to be the only thing the NFL “gives back”. How can I start a nonprofit like the NFL?)  There was a presidential fitness challenge in gym glass and I earned a gold star every year. I climbed trees as well as played 500 and flag football at recess. I made up my own adventure races before they were cool.

The first few years of college I didn’t have exercise built into my schedule because for the first time ever I didn’t play an organized sport.  Scratch that, I played rugby, but sometimes we had practice at the bar.  We had lots of songs to learn.  I gained weight and felt sluggish.  I remember the day that I found an item I really wanted at the college bookstore. I think it was a college logo vest (don’t judge it was super cool in the 90s). I made a deal with myself that if I worked out two days a week I could buy it at the end of the semester.  To earn my vest I went rollerblading when it was nice outside.  I played racquetball with a friend (who was also a junior Iowa champion).  I even beat her once. I told everyone who would listen at dinner that evening that I won at racquetball.  I started doing exercises to support my knees so I didn’t have to wear knee braces anymore. I threw away my inhaler because getting refills was complicated without a car in small town USA (probably not the best decision, but it worked for me).

When I graduated from college I was a stronger and more fit adult.  I started working at the local YWCA and I got a serious discount on a membership.  I had no excuses not to work out and no knowledge of working out in a gym setting.  I was afraid to try group classes and mainly used weight machines….but only the ones that looked easy.

I decided to apply to the fire department and I really stepped up my game. I was so skinny and what I thought had been fit previously was not going to get me where I wanted to be. I started taking supplements and lifting weights. I started going to the gym every day and alternating leg and arm days.  On arm days I did all the arm machines and on leg day all the leg machines. Ouch.  (Again don’t follow my lead here). I started going to classes to challenge myself with other people. I started running.  I ran 5 half marathons one summer. Ouch.

I know a bit more about fitness and health now. I find workouts online so I don’t get bored. I go to yoga and spin classes. When I’m busy I do high intensity interval training and I still run (only one half marathon per year).  I try to limit myself to one dessert a day (my sister taught me that one – it’s a challenge for me). Instead of my CD player on a waist belt I rely on my phone (ironically I put it in a waist belt too) to provide motivational music.

After having a baby roughly 2 months ago I’m back in all my regular clothes. I weigh the same as I did before I got pregnant. I don’t say this to brag, but just to put out there that it is possible.  I don’t have any secret. I work hard. I gained over 45 pounds with him, but I did go to the gym about 5 days a week until the very last week I was pregnant.  I walked at least 10,000 steps and did bodyweight squats and lunges. I found pregnancy workouts online.

But still the hardest thing for me to do is show up.  There are days when I don’t get to the gym until 7pm or later.  I make plans to go running and instead it rains.  Yesterday I couldn’t find my phone and therefore music AND forgot my socks. I did my workout anyway.  That’s what it takes.  Just show up and do it!

 

 

Open letter to the kiddo

Dear Kiddo,

Thanks for making the journey to join us here.  I’m sure that you’re exhausted. I know that we are. We’re pretty excited that you’ve FINALLY arrived. Disclaimer here: just because we are excited and we make it sound like we’ve been waiting forever by no means implies that we are ready.  We’ve read books and blog posts, attended meetings and classes, and had endless discussions, but we have no idea what we are in for. I suppose you don’t either.

Let’s try to work together to figure things out.  For instance when you aggressively press my breasts while I’m feeding you, that is not helpful.  Plus you end up getting a face full of milk and that makes you cry.  On second thought that makes me laugh and sometimes I need comic relief in the middle of the night. Go on with your bad self. I bet you’d laugh at the story later after you’re done being mortified.

I keep reminding myself that even though I change your diaper a million times and rock you to sleep only to have your eyes pop right open when I try to lay you down, that this is the easy stuff. In a few years you’ll have homework and after that we may argue about showers (please take one) and girlfriends (or maybe boyfriends) and what you want to do with your life (which is totally your decision, but I’ll have ideas too). I’ll look back to the baby diaper times with nostalgia and wish they were back.

So for now let us enjoy Monday and not rush a thing. Someday I have to go back to work, but today I have time to cuddle without a time limit.

Love,

Mom

I finally get the kid thing

 

I had a son a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve been busier and more tired than I ever thought possible, but right this second he’s sleeping peacefully.  I’ve been cried at, pooped and spit up on and I wouldn’t change a bit of it…not for the world.  There any many things I thought I understood about having and raising a child and there are some things that instantly became clear once he joined the world. Here are a few of them.

If you have a birth plan, burn it or throw it out the window.  Your kiddo has a plan too and it’s unlikely the same plan.  I planned to give birth at a birth center with a midwife and ended up in the hospital with severe preeclampsia.  It happens.  In my opinion, the best thing that you can do is educate yourself about all options available and be flexible.  In fact, I am learning that being flexible is an essential part of this parenting thing.

I know that my son is crying.  I hear him while I’m shopping too.  I don’t want him to cry either, but I’m not going to find a bench to feed him and then resume grocery shopping in a half hour. Someday we may be skilled enough to breastfeed in the Moby wrap.  We’re not there yet. I’m just going to get my hustle on so I can remove myself from the scene. No need to glare at me people. I need milk and tater tots and I’m not leaving without them.  Deal with it!

There are lots of rules/suggestions/guidelines with babies and you have to choose your own path. You should remain yourself only now you have a baby. I thought I read enough books and articles and blog posts, but there is always something to learn and everyone has an opinion. Do you know that some people don’t leave the house with babies?  What?! I’d go bonkers! But that’s me. In the first week with my son I was in a wedding and went to the state fair.  See? I’m still me. I go, go, go.  Granted that was a crazy week and we have settled into a pattern now that doesn’t involve that level of precise timing. I’m most likely not going to wrench him out of bed to run errands (notice I didn’t say never).  My sister told me that while she was home with her baby she only planned on doing two things a day.  Recently I took the kiddo to a union protest and now he’s sleeping in his union red onesie. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything else today. Bottom line: everyone has opinions and you have to learn how to parent in your own style. If it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t really work, does it?

I’m always late or there is the potential to be late for any appointment, meeting, or gathering.  My husband and I joke that we are always one diaper blow out away from being late. It’s true.  You can’t plan that.

I can’t make plans much or rather I don’t make solid plans. My plans are today I will go to the chiropractor.  The office is open for 6 hours today. I’ll make it at some point before or after I walk the dog or I won’t.

While I love my child I also savor the moments that he’s with someone else.  Sometimes it’s fun to be lost in my not so recently left behind adult world where people are loud with laughter (without apology because they are worried they will wake the kidd0) and don’t ask me baby things.

 

Have a discussion on Facebook? No way!

You can’t have an insightful discussion on Facebook. It’s true. It seems possible and may start out well intentioned, but it generally degrades to this sort of thing.

Cage Match Facebook arguments

Once that happens, then it’s sort of like watching a train wreck. You can’t help but just watching the whole thing unfold and if you have popcorn that is always great. Nothing goes better than popcorn and a show.

MJ

However, I’m going to suggest that it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we actually talk (type) with those people we claim as friends? And if we have engaging conversations about pertinent issues? What if we unblock someone from our news feed and challenge them when we don’t agree? Because you’re never going to change anyone’s mind when you’re preaching to the choir. Because we need more dialogue and thought in our political processes today. Because if these people are truly your friends you might have this conversation in real life! And if you’re going to spend all your time buried in your phone you might as well be doing something useful.  I, along with friends, have solved the world’s problems many times over with a drink sitting around the fire late at night. I’m not bragging, but I’m pointing out that you might have things in common with your friends.*
*But pretty please don’t apply this to family and then blame me if it backfires.  Family is an extra special category of friends that you can’t get rid of when they make you angry.  I would say if you don’t agree about something, then you should choose another topic.

30 days without complaining?

 

I was recently listening to a Ted talk about 30 day challenges. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days. The premise is that you can do anything if it’s only for 30 days. I think this might have been the inspiration for me to quit Facebook for 30 days. I don’t remember how I got that idea, but that was a good 30 days. I may have to do it again sometime soon.

I listened to this and I started thinking. What else could I quit for 30 days? At this point in my pregnancy sugar seems out of the question. I know I wrote a post awhile back about quitting sugar, but I never really quit. I have cut back. I am more aware and, frankly, sometimes I just don’t care and I want a cookie.

But I did realize that I do a fair (ok, a ton of) amount of complaining. Some of this is pregnancy related, but lots of it is just me being miserable and no one wants to hear all of that. For clarification, Merriam-Webster defines complaining as to express grief, pain, or discontent <complaining about the weather> and to make a formal accusation or charge. I think I’ll be able to steer clear of the formal charges in August, but expressing unhappiness will be the real challenge. Maybe I can find a way to do that in a positive way? I’m going to have to use my powers of circumlocution!

In August, I’m looking for the silver lining and the positive spin. Look out world!

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Two rules I live by

I am not a rule follower.  Strike that. I don’t put a lot of faith in rules.  No wait, that’s not true either. I believe that “rules are guidelines for people who don’t know better.” That’s rule number one. Rules are great, but if you know what’s going on you can usually safely cut corners and/or modify.  And I’m all about cutting corners.

If you want to have an insightful conversation, ask others what they think about rules.  They can just fill in the blank.  Rules are ____________________________.  It’s sort of fun. My husband’s answer? Rules are meant to be followed.  You might be able to guess where we run into problems.

While we disagree about rules we agree that some rules cannot be bent and I find that lately my guide is answering life’s big questions (a guideline if you will) “Could I live with myself if _______________?” This is the second rule. For example: can I live with myself if I get into an accident while texting and driving? Nope. So I don’t do it. Can I live with myself if I have cheese curds for dinner? You betcha!

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs rules or to spend time thinking about them, but then again if you’re reading this you probably have some time to kill.

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I’m not playing games

 

My husband says that I’ve turned into a teenager again. Now, as officially middle aged, I’m the worst kind of teenager. I have knowledge combined with sass. It appears to be a dangerous combination. I’ve run into some instances lately where I’ve been asked to tone it down (and that’s all I’m going to say about that). No way. I’m not doing it. The name of the game is….well it doesn’t matter what the game is because I’m not playing it.

First, because I’m exhausted. It’s not the sort of exhausted that happens from running a half marathon. I’ve been that sort of exhausted. That’s when you want to sit down in the shower and have someone else wash your hair because the thought of standing to do it is just too much. I’m the sort of exhausted that happens when you wake up 7 times in 7 hours to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I’m exhausted from being in the 8th month of pregnancy. I could sleep at my desk in less than 2 minutes. I’m this exhausted plus some. I’m also exhausted with the constant talk of race relations in our country. It’s important. I just need one of those metal foil fire shelters to hide in every once in awhile so I can take a break. Exhausted.

Second, I don’t care about your feelings. Now I realize that sounds terrible so read on and I’ll explain myself. I have feelings and you have feelings. To me my feelings are more important than yours. Sometimes I can’t take care of you and me at the same time. In those cases, I choose me every time. You might think that makes me selfish. I think it’s what keeps me sane. Your feelings aren’t as important than mine.

Third, I just don’t like games. Honestly, I don’t. Games have too many rules. This isn’t “Survivor”. I’m not going to form an alliance with you so that later I can get a project through. I do good work. I do good work whether you value it or not. Take it or leave it. I’m not playing games and you can’t make me. So there.

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When you wear a uniform

When you wear a uniform you are invisible… as an individual. You would think that the opposite is true; that you are more visible  However, you are no longer an individual because you now represent something bigger than yourself. It can be both good and bad. As a firefighter I’ve experienced both.

I’ve enjoyed free coffee and burritos while out in uniform. This is good.  I always tip the amount I would have spent anyway because I never plan on getting anything for free. I also recognize that  when this happens no one is really thanking me as an individual. They are thanking me as the person I represent while on the job as a firefighter.  Trust me. I go to the same places out of uniform and no one recognizes me. I wouldn’t dare expect a free burrito because that is tacky and burritos are always delicious.

Cops wave at firefighters and we wave back.  This is good. Cops and firefighters are tight for good reason. You never know when you’ll need a police officer to save your ass. I know only a handful of officers by name, but many more so by sight. Sometimes I’m walking my dog in the morning and I forget that I’m not  in uniform. Then I am that goofy gal just waving at cops.  What a loser.

You are also part of a team while wearing the uniform.  This is good and bad.  You are somehow responsible for everyone you are with or everyone who has ever been a part of your department since forever.  That one guy who wronged someone else? You’ll hear about it and there is hardly ever a polite way to bow out of conversation.  The time someone was cut off by a fire truck…? you’ll hear about that too. But you also hear about Mrs. Johnson’s neighbor who helped her clean out the gutters every spring and fall too.  She asks “Do you know him?” Probably not as that was a different city or town, but again there is no way to disengage.

All in all I am happy to wear a uniform to work. Most times I feel proud of the organization I represent. It also makes dressing for work easy and thoughtless. But I never forget the heavy responsibility that comes with the uniform when I leave the house and I know that I am never invisible.

 

What people really don’t tell you

There are plenty of blog posts about things people don’t/won’t tell you about this or that related to pregnancy or childbirth. I read every one in the hopes of learning something new. In fact, I’ve read so many that I fail to be grossed out at the finer details. But that is neither here nor there. Honestly there are some really funny and ridiculous things that no one ever shares about being pregnant and here they are. You’re welcome.

  1. Whatever your body does is going to be considered normal. Your hair doesn’t fall out or it does. Your legs swell or they don’t. I’d say about 99% of the time I ask about something strange the midwife or LPN just shrugs and says something like “Hmmm…I’ve never seen that before. It must just be your body’s way of dealing with the pregnancy.” In this way, and in this way only, midwifery is like modern doctoring.
  2. Maternity clothes are dumb. You will need them, but in the beginning they flow around you like a bed sheet and toward the end they will be too short and/or tight. I have one shirt that’s so long I’ve to hold both the front and back up while I use the toilet so they don’t touch the seat. Now I find that my stomach is exposed unless I wear a camisole underneath the same shirt. See what I mean? Dumb. Also, to go with these shenanigans, some maternity clothes require copious arrangement. This is extra dumb because I make frequent pit stops. I have spent more time fixing my clothes in the mirror in the last few months than in my entire lifetime previously. I’m sure of it.
  3. Women want to tell you horrifying birth stories. Why? Apparently these people need therapy and sadly they think you are their therapist! You can tell them to shut their pie hole. But they probably won’t listen. In this case it’s ok to walk away or stare at them blankly saying “Uh huh, ooo, how interesting.” It doesn’t matter because they don’t need your response. They just need to talk..and talk…and talk.
  4. People will ask loaded questions. Are you planning on using cloth diapers? It seems like an innocent question, but think carefully before you answer. No matter how you answer this question you could be wrong. If you answer yes, their response will be to tell you about the medical grade diaper rash their baby had from urine soaked cloth diapers. If you say no, you will quickly learn how many disposable diapers you’ll singlehandedly put in a landfill by the time your child is toilet trained (roughly 8,000). Bottom line is whatever you answer will probably be wrong in a number of ways.
  5. Not everyone will want to touch your belly. You’ve got to channel your most bad ass self for this to be possible (which creates an aura of “stay away”) which is totally cool because you need to be bad ass to get this kid out of you. You can deter this unwanted touching by simply shooting lasers out of your eyes. I thought everyone would want to touch me, but really no one does. That’s totally cool with me. The baby only moves when he wants to so you’re not missing much.
  6. People point out how long you’ll be pregnant. OMG you’re not due until September? You’ll be pregnant all summer and it’s going to be hot! Thanks. I know.
  7. People talk about your body right to your face! They never did that before because that would be completely unacceptable, but somehow when you’re pregnant all bets are off. “Look at your belly!” I know, I too, see it growing every day. Would you say that to a fat person?
  8. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees will become comfortable. But then at 4am after getting up 55 times to use the toilet you will rocket that pillow far far away. I say far away because you will have learned by now that pillows can be slippery and dangerous close to the bed. I did a slow motion pillow slide last week on the hardwood floor. It would have been funny if I was awake. Then again, if I was awake I wouldn’t have been straddling pillow and carpet wondering why one leg was sliding away from the other.
  9. Most importantly while each day may seem to take a long time, the total time flies! It really does. One minute you are announcing your pregnancy and the next you shopping for diapers. It seriously happens that fast. Enjoy it.
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Yes, I’m judging you

I am judging you right now. I’m being honest. Shouldn’t you be working? Those people who say they aren’t judging you? They are judging you and they are liars too and I prefer to tell the truth.

Seriously I have to judge. First, it’s so easy and second, it’s what keeps me out of harm’s way in both professional and personal life. And, it doesn’t switch off too quickly when I leave work. I take in information and make quick decisions. Part of it is my job training and the other part is for my sanity. I judge emergency scenes to see if I should call the police. I judge your website to see if I want to hire your company. I judge your actions to see if we should continue the conversation or if I am talking to a wall. I judge your behavior to determine if I should cross the street or keep walking in your direction. These judgements happen quickly because I’ve had lots of practice. In fact, I’ve had so much practice that even watching a video of an emergency scene I will see different things than someone without my training and experience. I will elect to call the police and you may not know what I’m talking about….until it’s too late.

On the flip side, In my personal life I noticed that as I get older I’m judging you less… out loud. If I think your outfit looks stupid, then that’s your business and you won’t hear it from me unless you ask. I realize that I probably think it’s stupid because I most likely wore/owned the very same thing in the early 90s. What’s it to me if I think you look stupid? Nothing. Also I don’t know your story. I may think you’re making a pathetic attempt at something when really you’re giving it the best that you’ve got. Again, I wouldn’t say these things unless asked. If you ask me, then I’m going to give you my opinion.

I’ve also begun to realize that, honestly, life is short. Why worry about you? I’ve already got lots on my plate. Besides, very shortly you will be judging me walking through Target like a zombie with a screaming infant. I wonder what you’ll be thinking? Nah, won’t really care.

I am a hippie

I’m not sure when I became a hippie. It must have been a slow evolution.

Apparently as a toddler, I returned home from my neighbor’s singing Vietnam protest music. I don’t remember this event. I’m sure it was a catchy tune. I still like catchy tunes.

I took a break from being a hippie until I went to college at Grinnell . I did choose the place after all. It was far enough away from home for me  to feel independent and close enough to family for support if I needed it. Turns out Grinnell has a stellar reputation and turns out academics and bleeding heart liberals like no one else. I remember liking the feel of the campus and the support system in place.  You know? All those things that you can’t type up in a book.  Yes, there were admissions books and flyers in those days. I saved one as a keepsake.

As I progressed through my time at Grinnell I learned all about the life sciences and so much about people and relationships. I learned about the injustices of commercial farming as well as the injustices of shaving and deodorant. I also learned about free beer and house parties and vegans and freegans (even though that’s not what they were called then).  I dutifully went to Disco in costume every year and didn’t shave my legs for an entire semester.  My legs looked like man legs and I didn’t care. I wore the same red flannel sweatshirt on most days and the same pair of pants for so long that they probably could have stood on their own.  I wasn’t indoctrinated at any one event, but over 4 years the spirit of the modern hippie must have just seeped inside. I went to lectures and talks of people who were passionate about their studies, goals, and lives.  I had turned into a hippie and didn’t even know it!

Immediately upon graduation I found myself working in what some might consider a less desirable area of my city.  I worked at a school in an area with high crime coupled with drug use and gang violence, all while at the time boasting the largest percentage of pregnant teens in the US so much so that my school had a program for pregnant and parenting middle schoolers.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s where I worked. I’m an optimist and the kids were enthusiastic about learning.  They took in every program we offered. I loved the work, but the pay was stereotypically low. This is total hippie stuff.  Think AmeriCorp/ Peace Corp .  Many of my coworkers worked for them. At the same time I moved into a home in similar neighborhood on the opposite side of town.  My garage was tagged with graffiti on such a regular basis that I purchased spray paint several cans at a time. The neighborhood was lively to say the least. I loved it. Again more hippie stuff.

I moved 11 years ago. I now live 4 blocks away from that location. The neighborhood is still lively and it can’t shake me.  I routinely find things that I don’t want to pick up with the trash grabbers I purchased for weekend clean up walks. See I go on weekend trash pick up walks. When did that happen? And not just for Earth Day! I go every week in nice weather. In cold weather I just mumble through my scarf.

I cook lots of my own food like a hippie. I’ve experimented with low-glycemic index diets, low FODMAP diets, Paleo diets, even removing sugar from my diet (which is complete crap and I have to keep restarting because I have no willpower). I don’t drink out of plastic and don’t own plastic glasses (this isn’t entirely true because I got one for the bathroom after I broke a pint glass one night and had to clean it up in my jammies) or plates; even those that claim they are BPA free because I don’t trust plastic. See what I mean? I transport my food in glass containers. I don’t own plastic wrap. I don’t use pans coated in Teflon and I don’t cook in aluminium. It causes cancer/alzheimer’s. I don’t wear antiperspirant.  Cancer again. Don’t stand next to me on a hot day. I’m a hippie. I grow organic heirloom vegetables and pick up my CSA box on time every week

But now that I’m pregnant it’s official. I’m a hippie and I don’t care. I want the world to be a great place for my son and I’d like to live long enough to see him be a quirky and strange adult. I dig bottles out of the trash and put them in their neighboring recycling. It’s cool.  I’ve got lots of good company.

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It’s your technology, own it.

 

Our current technology allows us to do so much. You can text with friends a world away or view those cute kids in Seattle that you may never see in person. You can keep up with your cousins (sort of) and you think  “I should email them” every time you see and read informative articles they post. More importantly, you can also solve petty arguments over drinks with friends (FYI no one likes the smug person who looks up the answer to the question that was more fun to debate than to know the answer to. I know because I am sometimes that person.) Or you can just show your partner the shelves you want for the basement rather than trying to draw them on a post it note. You get the idea. That’s a lot of information at the touch of your fingertips, in your pocket, or in your purse.  But for cripes sake, it’s your technology. OWN IT.

Here’s what I mean by own it. Just because someone calls or texts don’t feel that you have to answer immediately. Your phone should be for your convenience. For example, don’t answer your phone at the gym.  You went there to work out, not chat about what you’re wearing to dinner tomorrow. I answered my phone at the gym last week. The call would have easily waited until I was finished.

Here are some other rules to help you own your technology:

  • Don’t bring your phone out during meetings. You can’t be concentrating on the conversation (maybe you weren’t anyway, but now everyone will know you don’t care and aren’t listening).
  • Put your phone on do not disturb when you go to bed or when you don’t want to be disturbed.  I’ve got my do not disturb set automatically from 10pm to 6am to help me get a good night’s sleep.  
  • Don’t answer your phone when you don’t want to or don’t have time to talk. They can leave a voicemail.
  • Don’t text at the table or when you’re supposed to be enjoying the company of friends and family who are right in front of you. Similarly please don’t leave your phone out on the table at dinner.  It’s too tempting, you aren’t that strong.
  • Don’t text and drive.
  • Similarly, enter the directions of the place you want to go before you’re driving down the road. The same goes for music or podcasts.  Que it up ahead of time. Find them first, then drive. It’s safer for everyone.

How to do you control technology so it doesn’t own your life?

Can you have it all?

 

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Super short executive summary:

No.  You cannot.  Deal with it.

For the rest of us:

If you who need the definition clearly spelled out a la Bill Clinton in the hot seat Merriam-Webster defines “all” as “the whole, entire, total amount, quantity, or extent of.”  I was listening to a podcast the other day about the myth of having it all.  It seems that many of my sisters are thinking that having it all is actually possible.  And while I feel there is nothing wrong with bashing glass ceilings and taking on (over) the world, there is a an element of realism that desperately needs to be injected into this equation before women spin themselves, well, to death.

First, let me define what I mean by having it all.  To most women, I think having it all means having a successful career and a happy family. On the surface it doesn’t sound too difficult. In fact on the surface, it’s entirely possible to get paid and take care of kids.  But when you break it down life can be infinitely more complicated. For example, I have a job. I’m essentially middle management. In time, it is possible that I will promote.  It might mean going to meetings on my off days and taking on special projects.  Am I willing to do this? In theory, yes. In reality, no. A family? Sure, in fact there is a new member on the way right now. Everyone tells me my life with a child will change, but until he’s here I really have no idea what exactly that means.  (This is not for lack of trying mind you. I’m reading anything I can get my hands on and cornering my family and friends into impromptu interviews.)  I still don’t get it…yet.  For those with higher career ambitions or that own their own businesses your success will look very different from mine. If your family is full of picky eaters that refuse to make dinnertime less of a challenge than intergalactic negotiations your family life could be considerably more complicated. And if your partner isn’t able to or doesn’t want to help, then all bets are off! All is really difficult in these situations.

So why this myth? Women are good.We are. It’s true.  For many years we’ve taken care of it: the child care, the laundry, the cleaning, the dinner (as well as breakfast and packing lunch), the shopping, the list making,and even the delegation of other tasks (thus the honey do list). Now that many women work outside of the home, and do yard work, and the fact that many of us know how to use those pesky power tools and therefore, we add the work that would have normally been added to the dreaded list is also completed in our lack of free time.  

Rest assured I am not keeping score and I’m not finger pointing at my husband.  He does a lot work. I do a lot of work. Most importantly we work well together. And this is how this marriage business is supposed to go. You’re not supposed to do it all.  That’s why you choose a partner and if you don’t have a partner I bet you have a friend or family member who is working hard right by your side to help you get things done.

Hopefully the myth of doing it all will head south the same way our modern myths of multitasking are quickly falling to the wayside. Because really, have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is texting? They are not multitasking. Just like them, you are not doing anyone a favor by doing it all or even trying to do it all.

So here is my current recipe for (not) having it all without killing yourself:

  1. Set reasonable expectations and follow them.
  2. Take turns.
  3. Share responsibility.

 

The Purple One

Prince died last week and I was not all that sad at first. I am aware that this makes me uncool. I don’t figure it matters much how he died, while I know many anxiously await autopsy and toxicology reports, because the effect is the same and he is no longer alive. There will be no more new Prince music and now that I really think about it that does make me sad because it is awesome music.

Don’t get me wrong, I was shocked to hear of his passing because he was young, but I wasn’t in mourning. I didn’t dig out my purple clothes to be in solidarity with others (this may be because I have only one purple shirt and I was coincidentally wearing it on the day he died). I didn’t go stand outside at the dance party or the movie screening or the memorial concerts. I did not buy flowers to set outside any memorial.

I just went about my day and week while enjoying the musical montage we have been showered with on every local radio station. Honestly I feel like the most fitting Prince tribute for me would be to lace up some roller skates and consume several licorice ropes and go crazy. I had about half of one of those licorice ropes not long ago and that’s never happening again. They are disgusting. I haven’t skated since the ’80s so I guess that’s out too.

I do have a point to all of this. First, you say you loved Prince, but when was the last time you bought an actual album or legally downloaded a song? When did you pay that premium for a concert? Or stand outside just to catch a glimpse of him? I never saw him perform live and the last album I bought was in 2004. Needless to say I am not an audiophile. FYI that album was actually a disc that I had in my car the entire summer. Musicology is a great album. Prior to that I’m sure I listened to 1999 a million times – in ‘99.

Second, why are you saving all of your phenomenal tributes, concerts, and videos until now? According to my beliefs he cannot see it now. He does not know how much you cared.

These thoughts lead me to my final point. You support artists by buying their stuff whether that is music or t-shirts or posters. You go to see their performances even if the venue isn’t ideal. You post those video clips when no one but you thinks it’s cool if you are the posting type.

In addition, you support people you love by telling them how awesome they are when they are alive and they can hear you. You dig out old pictures and laugh at them together. You take them to lunch, write them letters, emails, or send texts.  You call them and take them out to lunch or dinner or buy them a drink.

Of course these are my thoughts and who am I to say that your grieving is wrong? And if you want a shirt to commemorate this event check out this MN purple rain t-shirt

The 40 hour work week part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about the horrors of the 40 hour work week in “No Cheers for the 40 Hour Work Week.” This week I realized there are some good things about it or maybe rather that after six plus weeks I am adjusting. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still not my cup of tea and I won’t be clamoring to join this group permanently any time soon.

But hey, it’s regular:  Monday sucks, Tuesday you are finally able to get something done, Wednesday HUMP DAY, Thursday is almost Friday, and Friday hardly needs any introduction.  This means I can plan regular workouts and outings. I can even sign up for classes that I’ve been wanting to take.  I’m free every evening!  Wednesday yoga? Bring it! Happy hour? I’m free.

Office work is hilarious…except when it’s not.  The paper shredder was on full all of an entire day last week. No one emptied it.  I know how to and have even done it on occasion (when I’m the filler upper). The microwave in the kitchen is so disgusting that I’m thinking about cleaning it.  Just thinking about it.  It’s sort of like the planning/preparation phase. I may think about it for several more weeks or I might tackle it tomorrow. I said that I would clean the stinky fridge today and someone beat me to it.

I’ve learned some new skills i.e. how to split up monstrous tasks at home.  Instead of making curtains in one day off I try to finish most of one panel in an evening at home. I was fairly successful this week, except for the night I burned myself. This is why irons and ironing are stupid. Big jobs are too much to accomplish in an evening. I take small bites of the proverbial elephant.

In that vein I have also learned that: working out, cooking dinner, completing a task are too much for one evening. I only cook about twice a week now. The rest of the week the microwave and leftovers are my best friend.

On the other hand…I’ve been crushing my weekends!  Seriously. We’re killing projects at home with two able bodied souls ready to work all day Saturday and Sunday. My previous one day a weekend schedule would allow me to do social activities and projects on only one day.

I have flexibility. Sometimes I can arrange activities like lunch with a friend and not have to find someone to work for me for a few hours.  I can come in a bit early and leave a bit late if need be.

But best of all and most importantly no matter what my schedule – They pay me! And I could lie, but really that’s the main reason that I work.

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What are you detoxing from?

I see all these detox “diets” on Pintrest and I hear about them online. Seriously, what are you detoxing from? When I’m online I see how you can detox your face, and your liver, and your whole entire body. You can do this for days, weeks, or months. I think the term “detox” should be reserved for alcohol and drug detox, not “I ate too many jelly beans.”

First, what are you doing that is so terrible that you need to detox this much? Stop it! Be nice to your body. You only get one. Second, when did we start calling a twice daily face washing routine a detox? It’s just washing your face! Do it or don’t. I’ve tried both and frankly I’ve seen no difference. Third, your body has evolved to fix all sorts of terrible things that you do to it. Your liver’s job is to detox your body. Maybe you can simply detox your liver by being nice to it? Don’t drink those 5 drinks per night. Eat some vegetables, not vegetable chips!
The bottom line? Being healthy is work. It requires a balance of diet and exercise as well as appropriate rest. You are rewarded for this work every time your body gets sick AND gets better or is injured AND then heals itself. Relax. You can do this. If you want to try something super special for a short period of time you can just do it and you don’t need to call it a detox.

 

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After a month with no Facebook

I recently took a break from Facebook…a detox if you will.  It was January after all and that’s what you do in January right? Detox. Move over Whole 30, I quit Facebook for a full month.  In preparation I removed the app from my phone and tablet and erased my browsing history on my computer. If I was going to sign on I was going to have to remember that ridiculous password!

The world did not stop spinning.  I did find myself sitting in front of my computer for no particular reason one day because that was what I used to doing early in the morning, but I figured it out.  Instead I relied on other people to tell me what was going on in Facebook land. You probably don’t know this because you’re not on this month, but… Bottom line I didn’t miss anything.  Or if I did it does not matter because I don’t know that I missed it. The following is hands down the best thing I missed…

This person in a T. Rex suit (or rather didn’t because I’ve watched it at least 10 times since then.

I learned that I can waste time without it!  I watched five seasons of Nurse Jackie on Netflix. I read three books. I knitted an insane amount of washcloths while watching crazy amounts of college basketball. I finished that volunteer application. We started that basement remodel project at home.

When I missed Facebook I filled the space quite nicely with things that were equally meaningful, but usually more so and when I missed random mindless browsing I found Pintrest and I don’t plan on quitting that any time soon.

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No cheers for the 40 hour work week

For the past 15 years I have worked on a fire truck. I worked two twenty four hour shifts every six days. That was roughly 56 hours a week. Before that I worked at a middle school. There I worked roughly 10-7 Monday through Thursday and left by noon on Friday. The point I’m trying to make here is that I have not had a conventional schedule in many years. I am currently working an 8-5 schedule. It sucks.

How do you 9 to 5 people do it? I get up, go to work, come home and all I want to do is sit on the couch for several hours while someone spoon feeds me dinner. Sadly, this hasn’t happened yet. Instead I’ve divided up my monster list of tasks into itty bitty pieces to complete in even smaller amounts of time. Ugh.

Here are my a few of my other complaints about the 40 hour work week:

Is it just me, or do you spend all your good hours at work? I’m crazy awake and alert from about 7am-2pm. Before that I might be sleep walking and after that my brain is mush if you need me to do something other than watch Netflix. I spend all my good productive hours at work. How can I also be productive at home? Stupid.

Businesswoman sleeping on desk in office

When you’re done with work there is still other stuff to do! This is unfair. Once I’ve put in my eight hours my day should be done. And it’s not. I still have to work out, make dinner, run to the grocery store or complete some other mundane task that would be significantly less bad to do during the day when everyone else is working. FYI the grocery store is a totally different experience at 10 am on a Tuesday (i.e. peaceful and serene).

You never have large blocks of time until the weekend! Once the weekend arrives you have to complete all the other tasks you had previously delayed to sit on the couch and eat bon bons. The other problem is that everyone else is also off of work. The stores are crowded and packed and everyone is crabby. And there are 10 more things on your to do list for Saturday morning! Unfortunately, none of those tasks are sleeping in.
I’m telling you all of this for a few reasons. First, I need to vent. Second, if you can negotiate for four 10 hour shifts or something else like it, then do it. Once you take the job it’s too late. Third, realize there are options! When you’re looking for a job or even a career consider those that have a non-traditional schedule. You may have to work on a Sunday, but you can get more done on a Wednesday when you’re kids are in school. It’s a fact.

My first attempt at batch cooking

I made my first attempt at solo batch cooking recently.  In 3 hours I made lasagna, Thai beef, and assembled a BBQ chicken dish in the crock pot. Why do this? Previously I had a job where I worked two to three days a week.  That left me plenty of time to shop and putz around in the kitchen. Now I’ve transitioned to five (FIVE!) days a week. When I get home from work and the gym I don’t feel like cooking anything. With batch cooking when I feel like that I just remember that I only need to do a little bit.  Tonight when I get home I just have to cook some rice and heat up the Thai beef.  Yay!

Previously I’ve done batch cooking with friends. We call the event Megafood.  It deserves a name and a capital letter. We can manage about the same amount of meals in the same amount of time (although I distinctly remember a time when we attempted five recipes), but there is socializing, delegation, and fun at the same time.  Alone it was less than fun but still highly productive. Here are my tips if you if you attempt the endeavor yourself.

  1. Find a friend. Cooking is more fun with a friend. Maybe they aren’t the cooking type at all, but they could still help you get ingredients, package food, and put it away when you’re done.  A little help goes a long way and company is always welcome.
  2. Go grocery shopping a day or two ahead of time.  Shopping and cooking in one day is just too much.  The only reason I’d suggest you do it the day of is if you don’t have enough space to store the food.  In that case it looks like you’re shopping and cooking in the same day.  Once you think you are done shopping please double check the ingredients. It’s better to know if you’re missing something before you get started.
  3. Set aside the correct amount of time.  I’d say plan on at least three hours for three recipes.  Don’t plan on cooking late into the night unless you are a night owl.  If you’re done early you can adjust the time or plan more complicated recipes for next time.  Don’t forget you’ll have quite a mess to clean up as well. You won’t want to leave that for another day.
  4. Make sure you have clean dishes and your space is ready to go.  This may mean running the dishwasher ahead of time or cleaning off the counter tops.  You won’t want to stop to do this half way through the process.
  5. If you have leftover raw ingredients then cut them up and package them. For instance, if you have a few carrots left, rinse, peel, and cut them up for a salad or a snack.  They are much more appealing when you’re hungry if they are ready to go.  Go ahead and cut up that extra half of onion as well.  You might want to throw it in your omelet on Saturday. But if you have to stop to cut it up it may be disregarded and then end up in a fuzzy lump in the fridge.
  6. Go big! If you’ve got the space make two pans of lasagna instead of one.  It only takes a fraction of the time to make another. Freeze one. When you’re busy and can’t think of what to eat you’ll remember you’ve got one in the freezer.

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This old house

I’ve been a homeowner for approximately 17 years and that entire time I’ve lived in old houses.  Now to put that into perspective I do live in the United States so my old home is just over 100 years old.  It isn’t built of stone, but it does seem relatively bulletproof.  

My first old home was a duplex.  I had two floors of old home to figure out. There I learned how to remove carpet and wallpaper and to patch walls. I remember fondly an episode of the show “Friends” where they had a mystery light switch in their apartment.  Throughout the episode they try to figure out what it controls.  Old houses seriously have those switches! In my case I learned that the mystery switch in my kitchen controlled the lights in the basement.  The windows were drafty and they rattled when someone with a loud stereo drove by. I learned how to reglaze windows and then to use plastic on the inside if necessary to stay warm in winter. I also learned that the workers at the local hardware store reglazed windows much quicker and better than I did for a nominal fee.  I also rewired a few outlets that weren’t working with the help of a home improvement BOOK (Remember those? It’s what you used before YouTube). I learned other things too, but mostly I learned to ask questions. Lots of questions. As I became more savvy I learned to ask them ahead of time so people could offer their opinions before I started the work. I have since sold the duplex and I’d like to believe that while it still needed work, that I left it in much better shape that it was when I purchased it.

Let us move on to the current old house.  When I bought it I liked the feel. It had lots of potential.  I know, right? In the time I’ve been there I’ve (with help of course, but because I’m writing this I get to claim the glory): added two decks, a new kitchen, LED light fixtures so bright you could do surgery on our dining room table. I’ve repaired the leaded glass windows and buffet cabinets, my husband made sure that they close correctly, we have added new outdoor lighting, and we now have air conditioning, every room has been painted (several have been painted more than once), we currently working on a basement remodel.  Whew!  

Some of these projects took longer than others.  And here is what I learned from the process…

Fix it right the first time.  It’s an old house.  It was built by craftsmen.  As tempting as it is to do something the fast and easy way, please don’t. I learned this from my husband. He will laugh as he reads this because I always want to do things the fast and easy way.  

You won’t  be able to match anything.  That hand crafted woodwork didn’t come off the shelf from a big box store.  It was designed by one man for your house.  Be good to it. If you remove it, then do so carefully. If you think that you won’t need it, please save it. You can thank me later. The new trim stains will never match exactly either.  In a related note should you ever need to shellac something do so outside.

The doors will not be square.  Nothing will be square.  This will bother you at first, then you learn to live with it, and then you will get around to fixing it (or not).  It’s fixable and time consuming.  When you go to install a new door or window you will notice this as well.  Don’t worry you’ve got wide width trim to cover all your mistakes.

Boilers do provide heat, but they aren’t the same as furnaces.  You can’t step into the house and think “it’s cold” and then bump it up a few degrees.  It will take your house between 2-4 hours to reach the temperature that you set.  If you turn up the heat for your guests your second or third floor bedroom will turn into Florida in summertime.  You have been warned. Also you need to add water and bleed air from the system periodically.  It’s not hard and your reward is you have a toasty place to warm your hat and mittens.

To that end, you probably don’t have insulation.  In a remodel you may find old newspaper in the walls or you may find nothing.  Even if it was blown in years ago it probably has a current value of R nothing.  If you ever open up a wall add some insulation. We have a few inches of spray foam in one of our rooms and it is noticeably warmer than the others.

A note on running electrical: it can be maddening.  It took my husband many hours and several ridiculously long drill bits attached to one another to run cable to his office.  There were offset fire stops in the wall preventing a straight shot and gobs of clunky insulation.

You will probably have plaster walls instead of sheetrock.  Plaster is forgiving to cracks because it was designed to flex and bend and cracks are repairable!  I’ve used both painters caulk (for small cracks) and joint compound (for the big ones) and had luck with each. When you go to hang something in plaster it’s a whole different story.  With drywall you want to hit a stud if you’re hanging something heavy and it’s the same thing for plaster, but with plaster if you’re hanging a picture I’d encourage you to use a drywall screw or something similar rather than a picture nail.  It grabs the plaster better and in my experience the picture nails just fall out (in the middle of the night while you are sleeping and it’s terrifying).

After all this it’s important to point out that all houses need maintenance and have problems, but maybe this will help you know a bit about what you’re getting in to. If you’re starting with this all bets are off!

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Sick day

I did something monumental. Today I am sick. To be clear I have a cold. I did not go to work (which is where I’m pretty sure I caught the stupid thing in the first place). I thought at first that maybe I should go in. I would just need a bag of medication, tissues, and the neti pot. And maybe something for my sore throat. I’m sure my coworkers who love the sound of me gargling with salt water in the common bathroom.  Instead I called in sick because I have that benefit. Today I do not plan on running errands and sharing my sickness with others. I am going to take care of myself by drinking liquids, taking naps, and watching Netflix. Strike that. I may need to run out for chicken noodle soup.

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Often in our busy world we try to do too much.  I’m sick, but I have this meeting…or I’m sick, but then I have a vacation planned and I don’t want my employer to think that I’m just trying to extend my vacation.  Rest assured your employer is probably not thinking about you.  This is why you need to think about you.

If you stay home and rest:

You will get less people sick. The sickness will not spread throughout your workplace. You will not be the dreaded patient zero.

You will feel better faster.  Why be sort of sick for an entire week when you can knock the stuff out?

No one wants to hear you sniffle or see you walking around with that roll of toilet paper leaving piles of soiled tissue behind. You look terrible when your eyes are watery and you can’t stop sneezing.

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Be proud of your accomplishments

 

Seriously, please do.  No one else will do it for you! And if you celebrate your accomplishments it is likely that others will want to join you.

For example, I took a class on www.edx.com. It wasn’t the most difficult task that I have undertaken, but when I finished the class with a passing grade I printed out the certificate and put it on the fridge a la small child.  For the next month or so when people came over they asked me about the class and the certificate and I had an opportunity to show what I had learned and accept their congratulations.  I’d like to think a few or my friends are checking out a free online classes because of me.

Or how about a few weeks ago at soccer? Honestly our team didn’t play all that well, but my husband has been playing for just over a year and he scored his first goal. Yay! His first goal brought the game score to 7-2 which is better than 7-1. He was pretty excited and I ran over to give him a big hug. No we didn’t win, but we celebrated anyway. It was fun. Way to go D!

As an adult, it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments. When you’re a kid there is celebration built into the very system of being a kid. When you’re an adult, you’ll probably get some sort of B.S. review once or maybe twice a year at work.  If you’re lucky, that review will be associated with some sort of tiny incremental pay raise. If you’re unlucky, you’ll just have to sit there and act thoughtful while your boss who had to take time away from her/his job to complete the B.S. paperwork for the B.S. review.  If you’re uberlucky, you’ll have to make up some sort of goals for the next review period. There are no gold stars or certificates.  Life should have more gold stars and certificates.

In short: Life is short.  Have fun.  Be proud of yourself when you do something awesome.
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Some things I understand as an adult

I remember lots about my childhood.  It was pretty awesome. I remember thinking that adults were weird and that they didn’t seem to keep very good track of time. I heard “You’ve gotten so big” from my parent’s friends or “It was just yesterday that you were starting school” when I was thinking “Actually, that was like 3 years ago where have you been?”  Now I understand that to an adult 3 years (or more) is synonymous to just the other day. Here are a few things I have caught myself saying, doing, or noticing in the recent past that remind me that while I was a kid “just the other day” I am now much closer to being one of those adults.

When I say I don’t know what I want for my Birthday, I really don’t.  The things that I “want” as an adult are things like insulation in the attic or someone to sheetrock the basement.  These things are expensive. I wouldn’t ever want anyone to pay for those things for me.  But I do know what I don’t want and that is priceless.

I turn down the music when I’m lost or looking intently at directions.  Granted those directions may be on my phone, but it’s easier to concentrate when I can hear my inner dialogue. I’m not lost. I just need to think.

Sometimes going to The Home Depot is fun but most of the time it’s a bore.  It’s a place to spend an insane amount money in a really short amount of time. I like to avoid those places. And if I may be honest I don’t care what the bathroom sink faucet looks like.  Wait, that one? Really?

Work is not always fun, that’s why they pay me. My mom told me this when I was in high school and I worked at a home day care. It is true. I’ve had jobs and crews of people to work with that were fun, but that’s not always the case.  This is why my employer pays me.  They don’t care if it’s raining while I’m at training or if I had planned on getting in a fantastic workout in or how late I was up the night before.  They pay me to do work.  It’s not always fun.

Entertaining is expensive, going out is expensive, and everything is expensive! Holy Cow when did that happen? I used to entertain myself on $20 a month. Now I can’t even get into a movie with treats for that amount.  When I was younger I swear that things were cheaper, but I also know that I had less money and much lower expectations.  Want to sit at Perkins for 5 hours to have a cinnamon roll and coffee? Me neither.

Quiet time with nothing scheduled is great and reading a good book on a Friday or Saturday night is fun! Yay for books and reading.

Does writing this mean that I’m an adult now?

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My closet is bare

I’ve been going at this minimalist thing for a while. I’m not one to keep clutter around and I’m lucky to have a husband that agrees. We have an empty room in our house that we refuse to fill. That’s pretty hard core, right?

This, combined with the fact that I’ve had a few weeks of crawling the walls at home while away from work (aka vacation), inspired me to do something about my closet. I blame Pintrest for introducing me to the “capsule wardrobe.” This is the idea that you can have about 15 pieces of clothing and make outfits for an entire month (See http://everydaysavvy.com/target-fall-capsule-wardrobe/). After reading this I’m pretty sure it all started with a shirt. It’s a shirt that I like a whole bunch but I never wear it. It’s because I had two places to look for clothes; both a dresser and a closet. If it is possible to have a month of outfits from 15 pieces, then why do I have all this I wondered?

The battle was on… I pulled all my clothes out of the dresser and put them all onto hangers so everything is in one place. As I did this I weeded out the tank tops that are too short or that I never wear. I had an abundance of those. I also set aside the things that don’t match anything else (I saved my pink and Hawaiian print shorts if that tells you a bit about me) or things that needed a home where they would be worn more often; like the Bruce Lee print muscle shirt. That went to a friend who has muscle shirt work day every Thursday. The jeans that are advertised as super low cut also found their way to the “get rid of me pile” and a pair of jeans that must’ve taken one too many rides through the dryer and looked somewhat like crops gone wrong. Now I have 5 pairs of jeans to choose from.  All of them fit and they were the ones that I was wearing anyway. Strangely I found 13 dresses. What?! I kept all of those because you never know, I might have somewhere fancy to go someday.

Now that everything is on hangers I can see it. I spent a bit of money buying nice hangers that keep the shirts from falling off or getting pointy shoulders. Did you know such a thing existed? They are spendy so I’m only about ⅓ of the way there, but I’m on my way. Yay!

It’s been almost a month since I started this venture. I enjoy having all my clothes in one place. I enjoy not weeding through the things that I never wear. I had a small moment of panic when I went on a short vacation because I felt like I was bringing a large percentage of my clothes and because I have less this is true, but I also have a washing machine in my basement.

My favorite locker

Does anyone else have a relationship with an inanimate object? Locker 305 at my gym is broken and I am in mourning.  So that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it has been stuck in the closed position for a few months now and I’ve been reluctantly been using it’s neighbor gray locker 307. I don’t like it because it isn’t the same. Actually, it’s exactly the same, but shifted about 15″ to the right and I am a creature of habit.

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I have been going to the same gym for over 10 years my locker use is strategic. I like to get in and then quickly out of the gym.  Sometimes the workout is fun, but honestly I have more exciting and better things going on in my life. I use the first bank of lockers when I walk into the locker room to minimize my walking around many naked women and puddles of water that the swimmers leave indiscriminately and inconsiderately on the floor. I use the top row of lockers because in the winter I don’t want anyone else to use it and have their wet boots or shoes drip onto my stuff through the holes in the bottom.  I avoid the full length lockers toward the middle of the locker room because people who go there like to chat… a whole bunch.  There is nothing wrong with chatting, but I don’t budget the time for a locker room convo with a stranger and I’m often in a hurry.

This rambling lead me to wonder what other habits people are have.  Do you park in the same  parking space every day? Go to the same cashier at the local grocer? Or am I the only one willing to admit it?

Is the goal not to interact?

I went to the State Fair a few weeks ago. If you know anything about our Fair you know that it deserves those capital letters.  I saw a few people there wearing headphones while there and  I was so confused.  One of the best things about the Fair is the people watching.  You can witness all sorts of off the wall fashion and odd behavior, but with headphones on you only get one half the experience because you’ll never hear those conversations. Did I miss something? Is the current goal to completely remove yourself from any given situation and not interact with anyone?

Since then I have noticed people wearing headphones: shopping for groceries, at the bus stop, at the home renovation giants, when walking around in parks with their children (some of those are watching iThings) in strollers and walking their dogs.  I have also seen these same people or their very close friends watching movies on their phones while sitting at some of the prettiest parks and lakes around.

I have some awesome music so I gave plugging in a try on a recently grocery shopping trip.  I felt highly unusual.  Almost like I was in a solitary world, but there were lots of other people who had invaded my solitary world. Everyone seemed like they were in my way.  I think this was because I couldn’t hear the nice and polite “Excuse me” of my fellow shoppers while I was plugged in.  On that trip I didn’t see anyone I know. Usually I see someone to have a quick chat with over the bananas while their child tries to hide in the cart. It wasn’t a good trip, but I did feel like I had successfully dodged the universe.

I also tried the headphone thing while I was walking my dog.  I jumped when I heard someone run past me on the path even though there were people all around because I hadn’t heard him plugged in.  I tugged my dog several times a bit harder than intended when she stopped to stiff or for a potty break.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  She might be right. I didn’t notice that the lake was flat as glass and that it carried a perfect reflection of our downtown area, but I did listen to a podcast about something that I can’t remember now.

The only place that I have been completely comfortable being unaware of other people is the gym.  I always wear headphones at the gym.  They help me to block out the grunting of that guy doing curls with terrible form or that one squeaky machine and the pounding of feet on the treadmill.  And even as I type that, I remember that I forgot my headphones last week and ran for an hour anyway.  It wasn’t that terrible.  I had several short conversations with people I would not have if I had been plugged in and I realized that some people may wear headphones so they don’t have to listen to my loud breathing.

What’s my point? You have a chance to notice lots of things you might not when you unplug and take a break from multi-tasking everything.  You might enjoy it.

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What should we tell our girls?

There are so many messages that we recieve every single day. The online world has become a huge source of these messages. You can read Facebook for hours and get a tweet about anything right freaking now!  These sources are vast including e-zines, websites, and millions of blogs (thanks for reading this one). Some of this world is girl friendly and a lot of it is not. In the midst of all this chatter what would I tell my younger self to help me be successful?

  1.  Life is not fair. My mom told me this regularly.  I didn’t believe her, but she was right.  If you tell a girl that life is fair, then you are setting her up for failure.  No one needs to be set up like that! It’s total B.S. and it’s 100% not true. Equity is different than fairness. That is a lesson worth teaching and learning.
  2. Work hard and be proud of yourself.  Work hard so you can be intrinsically happy and know that you did everything you could in any given situation.  Be proud, because as an adult, no one may cheer for you and/or give you a certificate or ribbon every time you tick off an accomplishment. It is unfortunate, but also true.   You have to learn how to become your own advocate and “toot your own horn.”
  3. As you grow up it’s likely that no one will notice you.  This isn’t because you aren’t special. You are special. It’s just that everyone else is busy noticing themselves.
  4. Celebrate yourself without the context and company of men. Girls turn into women.  They will be your best friends and there are many times in life when you will need them more than a hot date.

I know these things because my mom said so.  She is always right.  Even when that drives me crazy. Thanks Mom.

I do not like to run

I have run a number of races in my lifetime. And by “number” I mean a lot; and yes, that is a technical quantity.  I started watching running when I was a child.  It seemed that I my dad ran some sort of race every weekend and my family had the important job of cheer squad.  As I showed interest I would join him on 1 mile fun runs which, in hindsight, probably weren’t really all that fun for him. Then I took a long break and the only running I did was chasing a soccer ball. I did plenty of that. I don’t recall when I started running races as an adult. It was probably about Y2K and running has been a lovely and stupid endeavor ever since.

I have medals to prove that I have run at least 10 races.  They dangle from a poster in my office with times and dates engraved on their backs.  I’ve run 5ks, 10ks, 10 miles, half marathons, and duathalons (run, bike, run again – yuck).  I have never run a marathon. I’ve raced in frigid February, blistering August, and in a Halloween costume in October. I’ve even run in the rain where I  completed my fastest 10 mile.  I pay for this challenge! In turn they give me a shirt, lots of coupons and samples of things that I most likely will never use and heartache as I compare myself to other runners of my age and gender group. I am fairly slow. It may not come as a surprise to you that I do not like to run.

I’ve never looked at the calendar on a Tuesday or Friday and thought “Yeah! A run day!” but I do it anyway. Here is my ritual: On days when I run I attempt to get some decent sleep the night before. I use my run as an excuse to pull the covers over my head about 9pm. It’s glorious. I get up early the next morning and I make a giant smoothie (because solid food in my stomach is not a good idea). On one of my first dates with my now husband I ate pop tarts before we ran together.  You can ask him how that went.  It’s one of his favorite stories. I pull back as much of my hair as possible and slam on a sun visor. Yes, it’s always sunny. Sunglasses fog up on my face and the visor keeps the sweat from running into my eyes. I tie up my running shoes just right because if they are too loose I get blisters and if they are too tight my toes fall asleep. I frequently wear two watches because while Garmin boasts technology that will allow me to track all the things that I’d like to, but I dislike reading manuals.  Plus, the 80’s are cool again and I vaguely remember multiple watches being cool then. I try to hit the road as early as possible because I am a morning person and recreational paths get clogged with people, strollers, and dogs during the more respectable hours.  I listen to podcasts and laugh. I take frequent walk breaks to stretch out my legs. When I’m done I either feel like I’m king of the world or gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. The feeling isn’t related to how fast I’ve run. I’ve been on slow runs that feel terrible and fast runs that feel amazing.

Why do I even bother?

  1. When I’m done running I can eat just about anything.  Running burns lots of calories and calories are delicious.
  2. Running gives me stamina for things that I enjoy, like playing soccer, and it keeps me fit for fighting fires.
  3. I get outside and see things in a way I might not when I’m not running. I pay attention to every bench and enjoy every single water fountain.

Sadly, I don’t get the runners high.  That’s not ever been me. But I do get a sense of accomplishment putting in miles while you are still in bed.

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Sit down for some (Women’s) Sports!

I spent lots of time this summer watching the Women’s World Cup, or as I referred it, the World Cup.  My thought is that if you’re watching the game you probably recognize who is playing. They are women! This fact does not need to be pointed out at every possible opportunity. I can tell! I can’t help but think that the branders who are pointing out that it’s the “Women’s” World Cup mean that it’s somehow less and that the real World Cup was last year.

This brings me to my point of this post.  Have you watched any women’s sports lately? You should and here’s why.

1.  Professional women are good role models on the field/pitch/court.  Increasingly so it is unfair to say that female athletes are any different than their idiotic male counterparts off the court. They get into drunken brawls and beat on their loved ones just like the men, but their game is superb. The fundamentals are sound. If you take a child to a game you can use it as a coaching tool.  They are that solid.

2. They have true beast mode. Female professional athletes are killing it i.e. Serena Williams.  The ladies that are competing now have had the benefit of Title IX their entire lives.  They lift heavy weights, they train hard and play harder, they travel the world, and some of them don’t even have to have a second job (because their sport pays).  Scratch that, lots of them are mothers too. And seriously what can be more beast mode than being a professional female athlete with kids?

3.  The crowds are fantastic.  You can see girls with glitter face paint and signs to support their team and significantly less obnoxious fans and reduced alcohol make the game that much more enjoyable. The thought that one of these girls with the face paint and the sign could actually be one of the players in a few short years brings tears to my eyes.

4. Tickets are affordable and abundant and the athletes could use your support. A ticket to a semi final Wold Cup game would have set me back a few hundred instead of a few tens of thousand dollars. If only I didn’t have to schedule around that pesky job.

Go watch some women’s sporting event…or sports as I call them.

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Air conditioning has ruined neighborhoods

Air conditioning has ruined neighborhoods. It’s really that simple.

In the ’50s, most homes didn’t have central air conditioning.  People were smarter about temperature control.  In the morning the curtains and windows would open to let in the glorious sunshine.  A fan was used to blow cool air into your home.  Around noon, when the sun reached it’s peak you closed most windows, especially those on the south side, and turned those fans off or used them to blow hot air out of the house.  At this time you would’ve also closed those curtains and your home would remain relatively cool.  Trust me.  This works. I’ve used this technique for the last 17 years.

In the evening you went outside to interact with your neighbors and watch the world go by. You might share a lemonade or a beer, but you would for sure share stories.  When two neighbors are gathered more will join you. It’s a law, just like Murphy’s law, only better because there is the potential for beer.

Now lots of homes have central air conditioning. We also have reliable AC at work and at school and at home and in the car and it’s always running. We keep our houses sealed up and rarely say a peep to our neighbors and that doesn’t do us a bit of good.

As I write this it’s a sunny 82 degrees.  The windows are open and I have a ceiling fan on and I am happy. I hear a lawn mower, barking from my neighbors dog, and lots of quiet.

Summer is a time for fun and fellowship.  It’s for feeling a bit warm.  It’s mother nature’s way of saying sorry it was -20 for a whole week in January.  I get to wear shorts, and tank tops, and maybe even a dresses if I’m feeling super crazy.

I don’t want to wear the hoodie and jeans I was stuck in all winter anywhere…please spare me the AC. Turn it off for a moment and take a bit of time to enjoy the summer. Winter will be back sooner than you think.

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2¢ on Distracted Driving

We, for the most part, get it.  It’s not cool to text and drive and more importantly it’s not cool to be messing with your phone while you’re supposed to be paying attention to the road even if your name is “Distracto”.  However, lately it seems like lots of people are getting all sanctimonious about cell phone use, when in reality there are many many ways to be a distracted driver.

Ever driven with kids? I don’t have any, but when there is a borrowed kid in my car holy cow I am distracted!  Between the seat kicking and truly random question asking and then making sure they get out on the right side of the street and don’t get run over I am distracted. When I look at my GPS, or in eons past that piece of paper with the directions and address (or maybe even a map – gasp!) of the place I’m going, then I am distracted. Note: I turned down the music when I am unsure where I’m going.  It really helps, I think. When I feel like I have a second and I was fumbling for lip balm or trying to get that eyelash out of my eye I am not paying attention to the road. When I want to hear my favorite song again and I am searching for that repeat button on my iThing slides in between the seats I am distracted. Note: this is easier than the endless searching through the A and B sides of tapes. Yay technology! If you need more examples of distracted driving you can check out http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html

A quick honk was all that was necessary to get my on my merry way from that stop that took a second longer than it should have.  But lately I’ve been focusing on driving in the car. Crazy, right? This may be related to my increasing number of bike commuting family and friends or my summer riding scooter adventures. I have noticed that car drivers are crazy. Bottom line is that I’m a city gal and I really don’t drive for long distances at once.  I have learned put my phone on do not disturb or just listen to it ring in my purse wonder who is calling me and if I’ve really got to figure something out, then I PULL OVER.   That way I can also check that thing in my eye and dash off a quick text without any feelings of guilt.

The point is that we all do things in the car that distract us.  Maybe it’s a text, but it could be something else that is equally dangerous.  It’s not just reaching for the phone that can be distracting.  But think of this….how stupid and ashamed would you feel if you got into an accident because you were doing the above activities?

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Exercise can be ugly

There are lots of benefits to exercise. Scientifically, it’s good for your heart and brings you longevity over non-exercisers.  Realistically, exercise helps me kick ass, stay sane, and makes me happy.  But there are some down sides to exercise. It’s not always fun and it doesn’t always feel good while you are doing the workout.

For instance if you’re a runner and shoes don’t fit, or your socks don’t have enough cushion, or if you play soccer and someone steps on your toes, then your toenails could bruise and eventually fall off.  You will live.  It’s happened to me a number of times.  Nail polish was invented for this reason. I’m quite sure of it.

Chafing.  It happens.  Those new shorts that you were excited to wear on a long run might actually be sewn together with fishing line or so it seems after mile 5.  And those squats that give you crazy power may also make you legs rub in way they didn’t last year.  The worst part about chafing is the silent scream you will do in the shower when you’re done with the workout.

It’s possible that at some point you will lift so heavy or run so long or bike so far that it may hurt to walk down stairs or to walk period. While this isn’t a normal thing for me it does happen after my first long run of the season.  Ow, ow, ow, ow.

There is a point in every workout where that smell just follows you and you realize that the smell is actually you!  You will stink if you’re working hard.  Twenty four hour deodorant is a lie (I wrote about this last week https://distractosquirrel.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/lies-we-are-told-part-1/).x354-q80

While bruises, scratches, cuts, scrapes and turf burn are all part of the game, there will be games (of any sort) that may include the following: catty shirt pulling, swearing (infinitely louder in adult sports), and pushing.  Then you’ve got to go tell your stupid stupid opponent what a great job they did in the name of sport when you really wish you had this shirt. —>

So that’s what no one tells you about exercise.  One last thing is that it is all worth it.  The broken nose, the sweat dripping in your eyes (BTW never put sunscreen on your forehead if you are planning to sweat — I learned that the hard way), finishing a half hour behind your friends.  It’s all worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Fire fighters are scared of…

“Your job must be scary. You run into burning buildings.” people say when they hear my job title of firefighter. I try to explain that I drill and work as part of a solid team where everyone has a job to do and that if everyone does their job, my job isn’t all that scary.  Dangerous, maybe, but scary no. But there are things that scare firefighters.

imagesPowerpoint presentations:  I believe that everyone hates these. Right? But firefighters hate them extra bad.  We know that we are about to be bombarded with important information. However, I have never met a firefighter that isn’t a hands on learner. If you want us to remember something let us touch it and do it.  Showing us prepared slideshows isn’t going to cut it.

 

Dogs: Your dog may be a 100% happy angel with you, but we don’t know your dog.  Please lock up “Princess” right after you call 911.  She doesn’t know me and when we walk in with our bulky gear on and start touching her owner she gets concerned. She may show that concern by biting.

Computer work (paperwork): Holy crap man.  I got promoted to Captain and I’ve got tons of paperwork! I write down every call in one book and type up every report in the computer. I also write down and type in my line up every day (and whenever during that day that it changes) as well as our training and activities. I do daily and monthly reports on my probationary firefighter and driver and semi-annual and annual appraisals on my firefighters and drivers. So when the Chief asks me to type up an extra letter about what happened on a certain call I cringe and write it.

Station chores: Waxing the floors, shoveling, and mowing the lawn are the top ones that come to mind.  I’m pretty sure we don’t care for shoveling and mowing the lawn because these are things that we do at home as well.  At least that’s why I hate it. Frequently I shovel to get ready for work and then shovel at work.  And I swear every time it’s our shift’s turn to mow the lawn it is either hotter than the surface of the sun OR raining.  There is no in-between.  Waxing the floor is a day long production no matter how you do it. Honestly, the hardest thing is locating the floor machine and the accessories to accomplish the job.  By the time you actually do the job you have been thinking about it for weeks and just want to cross it off the list.

Cancer: Our job is to keep you safe, but historically this means that we neglect to do the same for ourselves. I have seen a culture shift and we are keeping our air tanks on longer to breathe clean air while working and overhauling.  No one wants cancer and no one wants to think about it much less talk about it.  In Minnesota firefighters are helping to lobby against flame retardants that can cause cancer. You can read more about that here http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-firefighters-seek-action-on-stalled-flame-retardant-bill/302031251/

Back injuries: We want to do our jobs for a long time, but more than that no one wants to be 35 (or any age for that matter) and disabled because they were lifting an extremely heavy person. It’s the reason why I’ve started trying to master the dead lift.

I’m know that I don’t speak for everyone, but those are the top 6 things I’m scared of in-between running into burning buildings.

I hate happy baby

I’ve had a variety of yoga instructors in my years of practice.  I am aware this makes me sound like a grizzled yoga veteran.  I have taken yoga classes in a variety of settings: on video (yes, VHS), online with friends, at the YWCA, and now at a private yoga studio (the best!).  Every instructor claims you should listen to your body and that sadly, that pose you hate is the one that your body needs the most.  What?

In that case I hate happy baby. No, not happy babies. imagesThose are great, but the yoga pose routinely kicks my butt. I feel like my hamstrings are being stretched beyond human limits and my breathing gets erratic because my yoga teacher might come along and want to help me.  She helps me by gently pressing on my screaming hamstrings and tells me to relax. I think she only does this when she hears me rapid breathing and panicking. The worst part is that this pose is suppose to be reenergizing.  It’s generally done as part of the finishing sequence where you should feel great. “Yay. I just did a bunch of yoga and my day is going to be fantastic.”  Instead I feel like “Ow. Ow. Ow.  Please stay away from me. When are we finished?”

What is interesting to me, but probably not all that uncommon, is that I have hated different poses over my yoga career. More recently, before happy baby,  my nemesis was pigeon pose.  imagesI could do it if I didn’t over think it.  But generally I would get all crinkled up and begin breathing rapidly and start sweating and practically hyperventilate.  Slowly and over much time (years not months) I was able to learn to breathe and convince my body that being stretched to the limit is not the same as certain death.  Some days I’m still not so sure.

Before that was shoulder stand.  It looks like the photo if you do it 100% correctly. INTERMEDIATE-Pose-ShoulderstandI doubt that I look anything this, although I feel like I do.  But I know that it’s another pose where it seems that the goal is to restrict your breathing. It’s my friend now.  I enjoy the stretching sensation through the back of my neck and upper shoulders and really I can breathe just fine. My bigger problem is that my shirt can flip over my face.  Plus this pose means that the workout is almost over…except for happy baby coming up next.

I Can’t Wear What?

I read a blog post recently that made my head spin. I’m pretty much over it now, but I thought it deserved a rebuttal.  It’s titled 20 things that women over 30 should not wear.  Apparently it was written several months ago and because I myself am over 30, and don’t spend my entire day at a computer or desk (Thank god.  I would literally die) it has taken until now to show up on buried in my Facebook feed of all places.  Here’s the original post if you’d like to give it a look http://www.rantchic.com/2014/10/24/20-things-women-should-stop-wearing-after-age-30/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RantLifestyleFB

Here’s my response in case anyone cares.

First, let’s tackle the items on her list that I completely disagree with.  Honestly, there is a time and a place for everything.  She states no graphic ts. While graphic t-shirts might not be appropriate corporate office attire they are perfect for happy hour and your personal life. By the time you are in your 30s you should dress appropriately for work. Those sweats with PINK written across the seat aren’t anything I’d wear (EVER), but if you’d like to, I don’t think they are wrong, and certainly age is not a factor in this decision. It’s not like those obnoxious sweats that were soooo cute (do they make such a thing) at 29 are no longer cute at 31.  They are sweatpants! As a rule I don’t wear sweatpants out of the house unless I’m going to workout or headed home from a workout (or yoga pants, you know because I don’t want to tempt some creepy man with sexy thoughts). The same goes for her claims of no leopard print, anything bedazzled, and glitter eye shadow. These items are fun! What’s wrong with adding a bit of fun to your life? Who called the fun police? As for non matching socks. I think it was a thing for cool kids a few years back. I don’t have/know any cool kids for fact checking. I’m sort of confused by the blanket statement of no hoop earrings.  I think that once again it depends on the situation.  Are you trying to rock your J. Lo sized gold hoops into your 9:00am presentation? Bad idea. Or are you wearing them with your favorite graphic t-shirt and leopard print belt for ladies night out? Good idea. As for no short dresses and skirts, If you you do your lunges and squats and/or run and cross fit and your legs look amazing then wear a short dress or a mini-skirt! I don’t care what age you are (but once again not to your client meeting).  Tina Turner’s got legs. By the time you are in/over your 30s you should know your best feature. Maybe legs are it.  But seriously why does she hate on American Eagle jeans? They are made with lycra/spandex stretchy goodness.  They fit.  They come in many sizes, LENGTHS, styles, and washes and they are always on sale. They are my favorites.  I like them better than the $100+ Lucky jeans I’m wearing right now because all my other tween jeans are in the dirty clothes pile. Holy cripes people just buy jeans that fit! I’ve outgrown the name on the pocket.

There are some things on her list that I really don’t care about: blue eye shadow, sparkly pants (although now that the idea has been brought to my attention they sound grand), oversized sunglasses, furry boots, furry anything, tube tops,  overalls, crop tops, booty shorts, old sneakers, cheap bras, platform flip flops, A&F, and scrunchies.  Once again my thought would turn to why? Why wear these things at all? Why? But I must say if you’re going to wear them, then you should definitely wear them all together.  Wouldn’t that be a sight?

Bottom line is that when you’re 20 you think that 30 is the landmark for old, dead, and unbeautiful. Thank goodness you realize, as you age, that number keeps getting pushed up and up and you’ll look at pics of yourself in your 20s and cringe.  You will.  I promise.  Thankfully, as you age, you also realize that every fashion trend isn’t for you, that everyone looks better in clothes that fit, and that labels don’t make the woman.  Besides this looks ridiculous on anyone.

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