Monday, January 15, 2018

Resolutions - Updated

Originally published on 1/2/18; updated 1/15/2018

I recall a New Year's list I made back in 2003.  I was 16 and had lofty goals. Among the goals I accomplished on that list were: eat more exciting cheeses, learn to drink tea properly, learn my prayers in Latin. A goal I did not master were becoming ambidextrous and getting into a yoga routine, although the attempt at both did set up some good habits overall.

I tend to do well on my resolutions when I mix serious with fun and throw in things I know I need to do anyway. Unless there's an outside deadline, I don't really make deadlines. This is how a Rebel does resolutions.

Here's to 2018:
  • Pass the AICP Exam (Deadline: May)
    • Need to carve out study time. Yes, yes I do. 
  • Switch from browsing Instagram to reading books in the quiet part of the evening when Reed goes to sleep.
  • Rearrange the house to get my office space back + combine sleeping spaces to the big bedroom DONE! 1/8/18
  • Get into my long-sought after Friday Habit Oh my goodness I hate sorting photos.
    • Organize my digital photos, files, and links each Friday
    • Clear off my desk and follow up on any paperwork
    • Then have a screen-less evening
  • Learn 3 new, everyday hairstyles Working on it. 
  • Don't take on new debt So far, so good.
  • Do InCoWriMo in February Signed up
  • 100 Species Project (April - October)
    • This takes care of less specific "get outside"
  • Go mushrooming (May, post AICP)
  • Do an overnight trip by myself
  • Get to Aire Ancient Baths
  • Get to a place where I'm consistently doing 3 cardio workouts per week Doing poorly
  • Get a good morning routine established Getting better, need to work on getting up at a consistent time
    • Goals: make and clean up from breakfast (don't leave dishes for Brian), do a 10-15 minute Pilates or yoga routine 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters

I read a book.

Hey, guess what! The American economy hates kids! Why? Because doing it right* takes away precious time from your employer.

Hell, even The Onion knows.

I didn't need this book to tell me that the society I live in is not truly setup to support families, much less acknowledge that in order to have thriving children, you need to let their parents be the primary people who attend to their needs.  I didn't need the author to point out that it's not against the principles of feminism to want to care for your child at the expense of your career.  The problem is not that mothers don't want to be with their children; the problem is that prioritizing that decision in this society can cost you.

But -- I also didn't need this book to tell me that I should explain to my kid why I won't allow him to do something rather than just telling him no. Or perhaps that I should constantly talk about our feelings, always referring to myself in the third person. (Both of those suggestions sound exhausting.) Or, perhaps, that fathers can be better caregivers if they're given a whiff of an oxytocin-laced nasal spray. (...what?) Let me be clear: no one needs to hear these things because they're opinions. Or are just plain weird.

There are other people who do a better job of explaining where this book falls short. The first year of life is a big deal, but we're not going to make it easier by suggesting that burden of prioritizing your child or your job is an individual choice, which was the feeling I had while reading this book. The system is working against us.

There are a handful of things this book does well:

  • gives support for the conflicted feelings many women have when going back to work
  • ripping apart the notion that "quality time" can make up for actually being there (though I think this gets more important when you have older children)
  • repeating the word "status" when talking about decision-making.  Since the bulk of her readers are going to be middle- to upper middle class families, I think the reminder that doing an action you don't feel right about just because you feel it's expected is bull. (This is my own take on the matter -- I'll spare you my rant about the idiosyncrasies of professional class life in a college town and its surrounding area.) 

I'll give her some credit for raising the discussion, too, because the more people who chime in saying, "The way we're doing this is messed up, and it's terrible for children and parents." the better.

* - No one's doing it right.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Traditional, Christmas Edition

I wrote about how much I liked Halloween this year and how I found myself having Very Strong Opinions about how it ought to be celebrated. I don't care how anyone else does it, but I've got some ideas about what it takes for me to have a good time.

We got to spend Christmas in our own home. I'm 31 years old and I've never done this.

Borrowing a page from my paternal grandparents, I snuck out on Christmas Eve to procure a tree.  My dad and his siblings all have (presumably fond?) memories of waking up Christmas morning to a tree that was not there the night before. It was snowing and there were crowds and I almost scrapped it, but there at the last minute was a tree lot. And lo! Christmas trees are half price on Christmas Eve! What's more -- the tree stand and lights needed at Target were 40% off. My inner skinflint rejoiced.

Tradition #1 and #2: the tree comes home on Christmas Eve. The tree will have previously lived in the ground -- it will not be fake.

We waited until the kid went to bed to decorate it. I hurried to finish Reed's Christmas present. Brian set up the art easel and trampoline, both gifts from his parents that were too large to open when he first got them. The giant penguin they bought him was accompanied by the smaller penguin Brian found for him -- total coincidence, and a happy one at that.  It was a pretty, magical scene. Peak Christmas. We collapsed into bed just short of midnight.

The payoff came in the morning. My sleepy boy toddled out to the lit tree and looked on in wonder, then quickly made use of everything under it.  The trampoline was a godsend, because we've had subzero temperatures all week, and Reed is thrilled to have a place to "Jump! Jump! Jump!" {Side note -- this kid's vocabulary is through the roof these days. Other words exclaimed with enthusiasm: vacuum! ukelele! MOON!}

I had a hunch my homemade gift would be well-received.  Sure enough, after we video chatted with all the family later that day, Reed brought me his house and opened the window to reveal the photo of my dad. "Ganpa!" he exclaimed. Oh, the vindication!

Tradition #3: there will be homemade gifts. Turns out Mama and Daddy are pretty good at making them.

Tradition #4 is that I will order New Year's postcards to be sent sometime within the week before or after Christmas. Postcards because I'm cheap, and a New Year's greeting because I cannot for the life of me manage to get them sent out before Christmas.  I can justify sending a New Year's card well into January. So far my tradition is to order them from Minted, because I am a snob and I like their designs, plus they'll print the address labels on the postcards for me. My procrastination paid off this year, because New Year's cards are 20% off right now.

It was the calmest and happiest Christmas I had in a long time.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Coming to

There may be a page in my journal titled "The Siege". ("Don't call it that," grumbled Brian.) It lists out the impressive amount of things that hit us in November and December -- job woes and loss, car repairs, illnesses. It felt cathartic to make that list, as an acknowledgment that a lot of shit was happening all at once.

Thankfully, life is calming down. Here's what's going well:
  • Overall, our health is good.
    • I figured out that my occasional nasty headaches following car sickness were actually migraines.
    • Why is this under good health? Because now I know what's happening and how they're triggered.
    • God bless Obamacare and CHIP. 
  • While Brian quitting his job was stressful in some ways, it relieved lots of other stresses. 
  • He nailed an interview and was offered a new position at a library.
    • We got together because we kept running into each other that fateful autumn back in 2007. One of those places was a library service we both worked at. So, this seems auspicious.
    • It's only part time, but it's evenings and weekends. 
    • Meaning: we don't have to shell out for childcare.
  • This is the first Christmas I will get to spent at my own home 
    • I owe this to my grandmother, who talked sense into my mother about her holiday expectations. She had previously told me she was "tired of playing second fiddle" and that she expected all of her children to be at her house on Christmas morning.
    • Uh, no. And can we get a GOD BLESS GRANDMA? I am not sure what we'd do with her, which is problematic as she's almost 88. 
    • We're making most of Reed's gifts and we're excited for his reactions.
    • Our gifts to each other are luxury food items that we like but rarely get: truffle salt, lemon curd, lingonberry jam, fancy pants tea from France
In the thick of things, I started getting hard on myself because I decided I wasn't handling this transition well. Why couldn't I just ACCEPT what was happening? Part of my anxiety issues stem from times in my life when trauma occurred and I developed some defense mechanisms to cope with the stress that weren't actually useful. Or is it that my anxiety caused me to develop poor defense mechanisms? Doesn't matter -- what I realized this past month was that when things got tough this time around, I was able to identify what was happening as it happened instead of getting steamrolled and picking up the pieces afterward. I was transitioning just fine. 

This is progress. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Know Thyself A Little Too Well

My kindergarten teacher called my parents to a conference.  They did not know what to expect and they were a little surprised -- what sort of trouble could I be making? I was chatty but I had an easy disposition as a child.  Mrs. Compton revealed something amazing: "I think Colette is psychic."  Every day after lunch I would announce what we were doing for the rest of the day. "I don't know how she does it," confessed the veteran teacher.

My mother does not suffer fools.  It is one of her chief qualities and the one I respect her for the most.  When wronged, she is formidable.  When it came to raising her children, she loved us and has proved (and continues to) that she would do anything for us, but she was realistic about our abilities and shortcomings.  When my oldest brother made the honor roll in spite of failing English, she single-handedly got the district to change its policy that only factored GPA when calculating its honor roll.  The principal had never had a parent complain that their child made the honor roll and was curious why she was so pushy about it. "It's not an honor if you don't do your work," she replied.  She won.  Corey was demoted.  He continued to skip his English homework but aced his tests and never made honor roll again.

This instinct of hers clued her in that something else was up.  Later that day she asked me how I knew what was going to happen.

I cheerfully replied that I read the teacher's schedule on her desk.

My mother followed up with the teacher. "You do know Colette can read, right?"

Mrs. Compton did not.  Allegedly, I took cues from the other children and did not disclose that I, in fact, read quite well.  I moved to the first grade at Christmas time. 

Despite this early brush with supernatural abilities, I have always felt a little prescient about events.  Maybe I have good intuition, maybe I'm good at reading people and situations and reading patterns, but when something big happens, I can usually see it coming from a distance.

Our well-laid plans for my husband leaving his job have just shifted.  All I can say about it is that I'm relieved.  2018 is off to a rocky start a month ahead of time, but the whole thing feels right and it's a long overdue change.  Last week I made a list what we needed to do to get things ready and I didn't do any of them.  I had this feeling that I was jumping the gun so I put it off, citing the holiday weekend. 

What to do with such a gift?  I fear becoming a Cassandra, spouting prophecy but never being believed. (A total aside: sexism is ancient.  By spurning the advances of Apollo, Cassandra's own words are forever mistrusted.  I wish I had time to run with that idea right now.)  Likelier I don't often speak up because mistrust my own judgments or get frustrated that I have trouble putting my whys into words.  Intuition is hard to explain but it's usually based in experience.

My intuition tells me that holidays mean sickness and car trouble.  Just when I thought we were in the all clear, and that maybe, just maybe I was wrong, we heard a clanking in the wheel well.  The car was sent to the shop, a Zipcar was ordered, and we waited for the diagnosis.

The good news: it was a walnut!

The bad news: our brake calipers and rotors are shot, along with a host of other things that are rattling on the underbody of our increasingly decrepit car. 

Bah humbug. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Only Open Chiropractor in Quackton

I have mentioned how our holidays usually involve some level of strife.  This Thanksgiving did not disappoint!

It was a beautiful day on Friday and I was antsy.  I had already walked the half mile of my brother's driveway and was feeling restless, useless. "Give me a chore," I asked him. "I guess you could pull my carrots, if they're still any good," he replied. "Great," I said. "I'm going to get a drink of water and then I'll be out."

I took one, two steps up to his house when I felt it pinch.

When your back goes out, instantly you are aware and grateful for the countless years you haven't even thought about how weird it is that your spine and nerves are all wrapped around each other and how extraordinary it is that it doesn't happen more often. That instant quickly passes and is replaced by choice words and hobbling.

I flung myself upon a yoga mat and began to cat/cow.  Cat was okay, cow was torture. I queued up some Pilates and cursed my tight hip flexors and my faulty SI joint.  The last time it went out like this it was 2014.  My scolding at Urgent Care back then was so effective that it caused me to take up Pilates the very next day.  I couldn't believe how good my back felt after that first class.  Later, frustrated with the breathing patterns I couldn't quite get down, I paid for an individual session where I learned what I was supposed to be doing during the Hundred.  I asked why I was getting so light-headed during some of the poses.

The answer was so nonchalant and free of judgment it nearly knocked me over with its truth. "You're anxious.  You're holding your breath along with your back muscles."

Not much has changed since 2014.

It was 4:30pm on Black Friday.  Time was wasting.  Brian furiously called any chiropractor Google could find within a 30 minute drive. None were open. "This place has more chiropractors than restaurants, and no one's working today?"

Finally one answered, replying that although they were open until 7:00pm, they were booked. Could I come back on Monday?

"Booked?  It takes 5 minutes to see the chiropractor.  There is no way they're booked."

"We're going," I grimaced. "I'm going to hobble in there and get my back cracked."

Fifteen minutes later we found the place. The lights were on, there were no other cars in the parking lot.  I limped in. There were no patients, just two people tapping on their computers. I inquired about an adjustment.

"Maybe you could come tomorrow at 9:45?"

Here's something to know about me: I am not a pushy person.  I will go out of my way to avoid conflict.  I am much craftier at finding a loophole than persuading the other party.  But on that rainy Friday evening I was willing to pay triple for someone to twist me up like a pretzel and body slam me. I stood there and blinked at the receptionist.

"No. I need to be seen tonight."

For a moment we all looked at each other and the only sound in the room was their oil diffuser bubbling while it blew vapor into my face.

"...how about you come back in an hour?"

The lack of patients notwithstanding, this was a win and I knew it. I drove back to my brother's, nursed the kid, and went straight back to the clinic, which was now crawling with people. The chiropractor massaged my glutes and seemed genuinely surprised when he exclaimed, "Wow, those are tight. What did you do?"

Three cracks later and I could walk without wincing. I got some potent Icy-Hot type gel.  I was encouraged to come back the next day for another adjustment before I had to endure a two hour car ride. I learned to be thankful for Disney World, as the only reason this business was open until 7 on the Friday after Thanksgiving was because he had just spent the previous week in Florida with his family and needed to make up time.

"How was the only open chiropractor in Quackton?" my husband teased when I got back.

"Lovely," I replied. "But I think we're in the wrong business.  I'm giving that guy $90 for 10 minutes of work."

"Too bad he's so booked."

"I'm starting to think that's a marketing scheme.  At least he was open."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Salty, Sweet

If I had written a hastily-composed post last night, it might have looked like this:

ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH

When you think of difficult times in theory, there are many ways to tell yourself, "I won't act petulant.  I'm going to be an adult about this and do my duty.  There's no reason to throw a fit."

I wouldn't say I threw a fit, but what I'm noticing about myself is that the right kind of bad news can put me straight into a funk.  I am an over-thinker, so my brain shifts into overdrive and immediately wants to parse out every. little. detail.  I made myself a perfectly useful and do-able list on Monday.  What I did not factor in was a Tuesday full of not-great news. (Also not factored: the ability to keep watching season 2 of "The Good Place", a delightful comedy that derailed plans I had for Monday night.)

So: we're not packed to leave for the holiday and we may be losing our health insurance sooner rather than later. Oh, and my graduate school department covered up decades of sexual harassment, blamed the victims, and has, according to an consultant's report ran by a group outside the university, a "legacy of sexism" bolstered by a "good old boys" mentality.  And my house is a mess. A couple of these are my own fault, but they're certainly all related.

Let's list some positives. It doesn't fix the negatives but it sure gives me some perspective. Tomorrow is by far my favorite holiday and I recognize that we have our health, a roof over our heads, a decently strong social support network, plenty of resources at our disposal, and I have never truly known hunger.  Last night I made a fabulous-looking pie, I am looking forward to more cooking tonight, my brother is excited to host us and spoil us silly with food, I have amazing friends, ten years ago over this holiday break I sent an e-mail to this guy I had a giant crush on and he replied within the hour (and four years later, I married him), and Obamacare is still kicking.  My life is rich and full.  Thank you, powers that be.