Dealing with derailments

Before I even got over my sinus infection, I started my period. And it’s the period I expected to have after 90-some days. (I appreciated being let off easy last month, but I knew I’d pay the piper eventually.) So September’s kind of a wash. At the start of the month, the house was clean, I was on track with all my goals, and everything was running like clockwork. Now it’s just chaos.

I’m working on learning to better deal with derailments such as this. I read an article on the topic earlier this week, something about things like this being the down side of relying on routines. But because of the aforementioned chaos, I have lost the link and cannot find it back. You’ll just have to take my word for it: Sometimes routines fall apart, and they take the whole house of cards with them.

The first thing I’m working on is forgiving myself for the lost progress. So far I am not kicking myself too much for the blow to my workout plan; the fact that I actively miss working out means I will take it back up again just as soon as I am able. And that’s really what I am aiming for with these challenges — not to do some weird stunt for a month and then quit, but train myself to exercise each day, just as I brush and floss and clean my contacts each day. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.

Speaking of brushing, I bought a Quip toothbrush, and it’s got me brushing twice a day. I have been trying for years to get into a morning brushing habit, and never managed to pull it off. But I enjoy brushing with the Quip so much that once a day just isn’t enough. It’s amazing what a comfortable toothbrush can do. It takes some of the sting out of failing in all these other areas to have taken on a habit I’ve been trying to cultivate for over a decade.

Yesterday really drove home the need to practice regular self-care. I had just nursed Kai to sleep when I felt a sharp pain in my chest that quickly moved to my back and radiated out to my side. I ordinarily brush these things off, but I’m 43 and a former smoker with a heart murmur and a rotten cardiac family history. I felt I should rule out heart attack before I grabbed the heating pad.

I was home alone with a sleeping Kai; Anya was with my parents. I debated my options. Ask my father, who can barely walk due to an ankle injury, to bring Mom’s SpO2 meter to me, or to watch Kai so I could go to his house and use it? Wake Kai and take him over there? I didn’t think I could safely carry him. Finally, the obvious occurred to me, and I asked Mom to send Anya over with it. My levels were, as always, stellar, so I did some stretches and got on with my day.

Later on, it became obvious to me that the pain was due to stresses from my current work setup (tablet at the kitchen table) and from carrying Kai’s ever-increasing weight. Yoga and time will fix it. And if I continue doing the yoga after my back feels better, the pain likely won’t recur. But I have to make the time to do the yoga.

At the beginning of this month, I’d decided to do yoga on the days I can’t jog, but then I came down with this sinus infection. Derailed again. However, the stretches I need to do for my back do not require me to hang upside down; I can do them even with a head full of crap. So step two in my derailment management plan is to modify the plan in the face of speed bumps. No, I can’t run, or do downward dog, or do crunches. But I can, and should, do some cobras and cat/cows and half moons.

Fall is my favorite season, but it’s also the one most likely to disrupt my progress. This fall, I’m going to work on dealing with those setbacks — forgiving myself for not being able to uphold the promises I made to myself, and modifying my goals to accommodate the snags. I may not get where I wanted to go as quickly as I had planned, but so long as I do eventually get there, what does it matter?

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Touching base on my 43 things

I have started my writing course, and it’s more than I had hoped it would be. But that means I’m left with even less time to blog — which is a good thing, even if it means I must drop my blogging schedule from 3 days a week to two. I may vary my Friday posts a bit, if I come up with topics I simply must blog about, but I will try to reserve them for goal summary posts. Today’s meditation session centered around identifying and tracking your goals as a way to meet them; while I am faithfully updating my 43t, I still want to keep this big-picture view open so I don’t start moving pebbles again.

Goals

Challenges
Ab month completed. I had to miss a week due to illness, but I’m still calling it successful. Up this month: September Strong. Anya and I will continue jogging 10 minutes a day, but add hand weights to the mix. And because it has helped my back so much, I will keep up the ab work started in August.

Health
In addition to the exercise goals, I have been refining my eating habits. I now start 4+ days per week with a smoothie, so I am finally meeting my fruit consumption targets without drinking a ton of juice. Next up: Meeting the veggie targets. Which leads to another goal: Identifying 10 healthy meal recipes the kids will eat. (Unspoken: These recipes are fast and easy enough to be prepared on a busy weeknight. No small order, this. But it’s fall, and I love to cook in the fall. Bring it.)

Family
We took a little break from reading to watch Harry Potter movies. But that’s fine, because now Anya wants me to read her the Harry Potter books. It all serves the Beam. I’m also working on scheduling regular family together time. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive — the regularity is my goal.

Projects
The exterior of the house is nearly where I want it to be. I need to clean up the deck and transplant my iris, and all should be well. I also want to get the bird feeders back out there, with the understanding that I will probably need to bring them inside at night. I just need to make sure I have a place to put them inside. (Which leads to another goal — to get the garage cleaned out and organized.)

I’m also considering planting those morning glories out by the mailbox, even though they will probably die and need to be replaced next spring. Alternatively, I might put them out by the trees, so they can start climbing out there; I don’t care where they grow, so long as I get to look at pretty flowers.

Once the weather starts to cool down, I will start work on the inside projects. While it’s nice, though, I might as well do all the outside stuff.

New Habits
I’ve got our mornings and evenings going pretty well, so now I will turn my attention to the recycling. I was making progress, but now I am suddenly drowning in cardboard boxes and plastic bags. So obviously some extra effort is required.

Create
I am dreaming about my book, so that’s a great sign.

Career/Money
I’ve spent a ton of money recently, preparing for the wedding. So now I need to focus on bringing in a ton of money. Or more money. Or just, you know, some money. And then I need to pay bills. A lot.

Foster Joy
I am focusing on joy and beauty more lately. Worrying less about what practical purpose something serves, and allowing myself the occasional treat, the weekend lie-in, the extra squunches with my kids. Because life is not about logic and reason, and to focus on those things to the exclusion of all else is to strip life of its meaning. Ask me how I know.

Will you love me moving?

This quote, from Gretchen Rubin’s happiness quote of the day, made me smile:

“For me, the challenge of middle age was not to stand still.”

— Jon Katz, A Dog Year

More so than any age I’ve been thus far, middle age has been busy for me. I have so much I want to do and see and try and be. Just yesterday, in fact, I added two mini-goals: to find some smoothie recipes I like (thus streamlining my mornings and increasing my fruit consumption) and to wake Anya each weekday with a smile. I’m also planning to redecorate Anya’s room, putting together a wedding, plotting craft projects for the future (near and far), and stepping up my exercise routine.

Speaking of which, September’s theme is September Strong. Because we’re adding weights to our jog. I also thought that I’d lengthen the jog time, but our allergies are flaring pretty bad right now; we (okay, I; she doesn’t wheeze like I do) might have to hold at 10 minutes, especially with the addition of the hand weights.

I’m about to start a writing course on Coursera. And contemplating picking up some journalism classes. I’m learning to garden, and cook – both ongoing projects. All while staying on top of the laundry, the house, the bills.

Some days, the only time I sit down is when I am working. Some days, I don’t even get to sit while I nurse Kai. I used to sit for nearly all of my waking hours. Now I jog, and weed, and dance, and explore.

Wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been still far too long.

Monthly goals check-in: July

June is gone, and good riddance.

Actually, some good did come out of June. Not the least of which is that I met several of my 43 goals. Here’s where the list stands now:

Goals for My 43rd Year

Challenges
1 Complete an ab month
2 Complete a meditation month
3 Complete 43 things in my 43rd year

Health
4 Be able to run a mile
5 Meditate every day
6 Exercise 30 minutes per day
7 Cook a meal using ingredients I grew myself
8 Have family dinners 4+ nights a week
9 Discover 10 healthy meal recipes the kids will eat

Family
10 Read to the kids for 20 minutes each day
11 Help Anya with her speech 5 minutes each day
12 Work with Kai on letters, numbers, and word sounds 5 minutes a day
13 Have art time with the kids once a week
14 Introduce my kids to the library
15 Start a family heirloom collection
16 Have a weekly family game night – We are not up to weekly, but Anya’s trying. Which means it will happen eventually.
17 Make time for R (a monthly date night would be ideal)
18 Resume monthly family outings
19 Get married
20 Have an awesome familymoon

Projects
21 Improve my home’s curb appeal
22 Clean out the garage
23 Tidy up the deck (and nag the landlord about getting it replaced) – I’ve extended this, to prettying up the entire back yard. More on that later.
24 Complete my 2017 scrapbook
25 Rip my CD collection and reclaim that shelf
26 Finish Anya’s blanket
27 Complete a Duolingo course
28 Put together photos for photo books

New Habits
29 Fine-tune our morning and bedtime routines
30 Refine and expand our recycling routine

Create
31 Blog regularly
32 Finish my NaNoWriMo book
33 Create 10 drawings I’m proud of

Career/Money
34 Brush up on my ID/PS/IL skills
35 Identify and take classes that will help with my career
36 Piece together sufficient freelance work/obtain full-time employment
37 Stabilize my finances – Thanks to some parental help, progress has been made here, as well.
38 Put the same name on all of my credit cards
39 Put together a portfolio website

Foster Joy
40 Read one book a month
41 Grow flowers – They’re not blooming yet, but flowers are in the works.
42 Make time for friends
43 Have one do-nothing day per month

The Calm of June

It has not been a full 30 days (I’m writing this on Friday), but the habit of meditation has become so ingrained that Anya reminds me on nights when she thinks I’ve forgotten. So it’s a pretty safe bet we’re going to meditate tonight, too.

We all go to sleep much faster and easier for this practice. We do not always follow a strict meditation prompt; sometimes we merely listen to a meditative bedtime story. But even those guide the listener gently into meditation. And then into sleep, which we all so desperately need.

Ideally, I would like to work in a morning meditation session, just for myself. But some days my schedule does not allow for that — or so I tell myself. Consider that a project for another month.

Next up:

Jogging in July

No, not outside, silly. Well, maybe some days.

I’ve been working a lot of hours. When I say a lot, I mean I’ve been pulling 12- to 18-hour days more often than not. At my kitchen table, which is just terrible for…all of me. I’m eating like crap, I hurt all the time, and my outlook went straight down the crapper.

I need to move. But I don’t have time for 45 minutes of Pilates a day, you know? So I’m going to start small: 10 minutes a day of jogging, jumping rope, jumping jacks, playing frisbee, kicking the ball back and forth with my kid — something to get my heart pumping. Outside if the weather is agreeable; inside when it isn’t. (Which is pretty much always around here.) If it triggers my health tracker to track my activity as Sport, it counts, in or out.

I know this monthly challenge isn’t in my goal list. But Exercise Every Day is — and I like the way Jogging in July sounds better than The Abs of July. (I’m saving the abs for August, because alliteration is always awesome.)

Friday funday, hopefully

I think I’m going to have to knock the blogging back to three times a week. Not because I don’t have enough to say — I have more to say than you ever see. No, it’s because I can’t seem to find the time to do the posts justice. And I’m getting a little tired of the list updates. I’d rather write a bit more of substance, even if that means I write less often.

I’ll have all kinds of time to write when the kids are older. But right now, I barely have time to do this list. So starting next week, I think I’m going to scale back to twice-weekly updates. If I find more time to write, well, there will just be bonus posts.

Goals

Daily meditation. I talked to Anya last night, and she’s agreed to meditate with me every day for the month of June. I’m hoping that once we’re done, she’ll be hooked on the practice and I won’t have to beg her to join me. She seemed genuinely peaceful after last night’s session — and after the day we had (more on that later), that’s a minor miracle.

Read all the things. I meant to get us library cards yesterday, but we were derailed. It’s on the list for next week.

Family fun. We had a great dinner out after our traumatic day, and went to the park afterwards. Anya then wanted to go for a walk. Good, cheap, (mostly) healthy fun. Fun does not have to cost $100. Fun does not have to be flashy. Even if I can’t work them in on a regularly scheduled basis, I’d like us to have more evenings like that.

Write. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing lately. Mentally writing my novel. Mapping out what I’d like to do with this blog. And I think I’ve hit up on how I want to proceed with both. But now I need to fine-tune my voice. I’m thinking of piecing together some short essays, either on this blog or on a writing-only blog. We’ll see how that pans out.

But for now, I need to get back to work. Because I want to have a little more fun this afternoon. We need some fun, after the week we’ve had.

June’s challenge: Calm

I think I mentioned this in passing, but I have challenged myself to meditate each day for a month. I’ve decided that month should be June. I’ve got a lot going on right now (seriously, just more than I can wrap my mind around, this week alone), and that’s usually a recipe for disaster where I’m concerned.

For instance, I shout a lot when I’m stressed. And now so do the kids. I know this doesn’t make me a bad parent, or even necessarily a unique one, but I can’t help but feel I’m letting them down when they yell like that. I would like to yell less — not at all would be ideal. But first I have to lower my stress levels.

I can’t change my circumstances. No matter how things pan out in the next few weeks, life’s going to be stressful for a while. If I am to attain any chill, I’m going to have to do so despite the events in my life at present. A month of meditation would do me a world of good.

It helps Anya, too. So I’m shooting for bedtime, mother-daughter meditation sessions. A bonding activity, a sleep aid, and a coping mechanism all rolled into one. Yes, please.

Ultimately, I’m hoping to ingrain this behavior into our daily routine, so that we would no more skip meditation than we would teeth brushing. But to create a habit, first you have to start it. Consider today the first step.

Five posts in five days

Yeah, I’m kind of proud of that.

But also busy, and I promised my kids I’d take the afternoon off, so I thought I’d resurrect my Friday goal update post. Except my goals have shifted since I last wrote one of these, and I have a whole bunch of goals at the moment, so I can’t possibly write updates on each. Here’s the highlights.

Goals

Daily meditation. Though I have not started my meditation challenge, I’ve meditated every day this week. It’s helping. It also appears to be helping Anya. Still hoping I can turn this into our thing. 

Family game night. We’ve actually had a few of these. Kai has shown increasing interest in playing games. And then loses interest, because games are long and he is 2. But I am encouraged; perhaps he will be the push we need to game as a family.

Eating. Nobody is into it right now. I’m still in stressy not-eating mode. The rest of my household would rather snack. So I’m just trying to make sure we have healthy snacks for them. Meals will come later…but it may be fall.

Bedtime routine. I’m trying to steer us toward a better bedtime routine: Medicine, teeth, shower, story time, meditation, then TV. Because by the time we get to the meditation part, Anya’s falling asleep. (Kai is still napping erratically; we probably won’t get him into a regular bedtime til we fix that.) It’s a work in progress, but progress is being made.

Exercise 30 minutes per day. Not every day, but more this week than I have been. The weather’s been beautiful, though, so that’s been easy. June-August will likely be another story entirely.

Work with the kids on their letters/numbers/sounds. Anya got a wonderful report card yesterday! She went from only having mastered about half of what she was expected to know to knowing nearly all of it. This after having missed literally half the school year. I’m amazed at her resilience, and how quickly she’s learned.

She’s still struggling with speech, and her IEP report card wasn’t as wonderful as her pre-K one, but she’s doing a great job considering how many speech classes she missed. Practice is really helping. I’m also making sure some of the books we read are short and repetitive, so she becomes familiar with the look of the words, because that helps her figure out what sounds she’s missing.

Kai, too, is picking up what I’m putting down. We practice letters and numbers (which I’ve written on the shower wall in bath crayon, for visual reference), body parts (joints are hard, but he’s got the main pieces down), and I’m starting to throw some colors in there. The trick with both kids is short sessions every day. Neither of them have the patience for long lessons, but five minutes here and there makes a huge difference.

Blog regularly. Five posts in five days is serious improvement over my recent posting (non)schedule.