Keeping up with the world

I’ve been Facebooking a lot less these days. I know that the plan was for them to show me a lot more posts from my people and fewer things I don’t care about, but I’m not seeing it. Plus I’ve noticed a distinct shift in the types of things I’m seeing: Negative posts from family and friends fill my timeline and horrific, sensationalized stories flood my news feed.

So I’ve stopped checking the news on FB, and only peek in on my timeline once or so each day. I also restrict my Twitter and Instagram checks to one or two per day now. (Not that I post any less. But I’ve always considered my social media posts as a digital form of talking to myself. If I entertain anyone by doing so, that’s a bonus.) However, I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the news in this brave new world, so I have found other ways to keep up. My two favorites are The Skimm and NextDraft — both highly informative and entertaining, and bonus points for managing to avoid bombarding me with political propaganda and stories about dead babies. (In the interest of full disclosure, if ten of you sign up for Skimm using that link, I’ll get a t-shirt or something.) 

Now I just need to sort out my social media. Because I still want to keep up with everyone. But FB is such an annoying harbinger of doom lately, Twitter is a pit of harpies, Insta’s overflowing with ads and “related posts” I don’t care about, and I’m apparently too old to fully grok Snapchat. I really wanted the 43t reboot to be the end-all, be-all, but it’s not taking off.

It’s not that I don’t care how everyone else is doing. I’m just frustrated with my current means of doing so. I used to get emails. Texts. IMs — on AIM, and before that, AOL. (On dial-up.) And way back in the day, people called me on my cordless phone with the telescoping antenna. Or even ::gasp:: stopped by for a visit, or invited me out somewhere. Seems like nobody does stuff like that anymore. If you want to know how someone’s doing, you must follow them on these sites. And the sites are a cesspool of negativity and capitalism, stupid quizzes and clickbait.

So I’ll continue to project my signal into the darkness. And I guess I’ll keep peeking in on everyone from time to time. But it’d be nice to skip the sites and get an email. Or a beverage.

Even I tire of my hermitude from time to time.


Oh Discardia!

For the longest time, I’ve thought of Discardia as a method of simplification. The less stuff I have, the less I have to take care of. I’ve been thinking of possessions in terms of tenants, and determining whether they were good roommates who paid their rent on time and helped with their share of the housework. (All figuratively speaking, of course. I’m not that far gone.)

However, I’m noticing some areas where this mindset fails me, and nowhere is it more evident than my bathroom cabinet. There lies the Gallery of Makeup Missteps. The stuff I bought, tried once, and decided didn’t suit me. The stuff I wore for a while, lost interest in, and tucked away “for later.” The cheap stuff I bought to wear for Halloween. The stuff that makes my eyes burn. I keep it all.

Why? Well, probably because I feel they were frivolous purchases to begin with, and it makes me feel twice as guilty to toss them out barely used.

I tried to get into Sephora; at least I could return that stuff. And I may yet go back to shopping there, when I have more time and money. But I can never carve out enough kidless time to shop there, and don’t know enough about makeup to shop online. Also, the prices intimidate the heck out of me. Big box it is.

I am, at this moment, wearing a gorgeous navy eyeliner that stings my eyes. Last week, I determined that my greige eyeliner does the same. Both are still sitting in my makeup bin, along with half a dozen eye shadows that do nada for me. Earlier this month, I struck a compromise: I gave my daughter a palette of four lovely purple eyeshadows that don’t really work for me. She was overjoyed at the prospect of her very own makeup, and I could rest easy knowing the purchase hadn’t been “wasted.” But I can’t do that with everything. She’d never wear brown eyeshadow, for instance. And we are not entering eyeliner territory just yet. I just need to suck it up and toss that stuff.

Makeup isn’t my only issue. I’m scratching like I’m lice infested after one washing with Neutrogena shampoo. I swore by it in the 90s to degoop my hair, and was thrilled to find a bottle recently. But apparently my skin has decided in the intervening decades that this stuff includes poison ivy as an ingredient. Toss it? I know I will; it’s too harsh for R and the kids, and using it for handwashing (what I usually do with shampoos that don’t work for me) is out given the itch factor. But it galls me to do so.

And don’t even get me started on the nail polish. I could paint a car with that crap.

I don’t mind tossing expired health and beauty products. In fact, my former method of dealing with unsuitable products was to tuck it away in the depths of my bathroom cabinet until they expire, at which point I would happily throw them out. Now I’d like to move that time frame up a bit. Allow myself to make mistakes. Forgive myself when I do. And let go of what doesn’t work for me.

Good advice for all areas of my life, but especially for my poor overcrowded cabinet.


Parent notes

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m giving myself permission to cut a few corners. Writing myself a parent note, if you will.

I give myself permission to count V-8 as a vegetable and Larabars as fruit, and to eat ice cream for dinner some days.

I excuse myself from the stuff that’s been in the mending basket for a year or more. If we haven’t needed it in a year, is it worth my time to fix it?

I give myself permission to let the kids be bored sometimes. And to shirk my responsibilities other times and goof off with them.

I excuse myself from feeling guilty for throwing away cardboard instead of recycling it. I am trying to recycle more, but I’d rather throw the boxes away than deal with a to-recycle pile taller than I am.

I give myself permission to put my career on hold to take care of my kids. I’m going to have to work for 30 more years anyway; what’s wrong with putting things into neutral for 10.

I excuse myself from properly cleaning the house all the time. If wiping the bathroom floor in between the bath mats with a disinfecting wipe means the floor gets cleaned this week, that’s good enough.

I give myself permission to ply the children with snacks and drinks and TV on occasion so I can take care of myself.

I excuse myself from worrying about things like bad hair days, leg stubble, stained/wrinkled clothes, and chipped nail polish. The people who would judge me for things like that are people whose opinions I don’t care about anyway.

I give myself permission to fail. And, having failed, I give myself permission to mourn my failure before trying again.

I give myself permission to try again.

I am doing 43 things

Two posts in two days. Imagine that.

Actually, I’m cross-posting this from 43t; I don’t have that much free time today. And I wanted to get this stuff down so I can think about it, and write about it, and hopefully even do it.

As I think I mentioned somewhere, I want to do 43 things in my 43rd year. I’m adding the caveat that they can’t be boring things, like “spring clean my house!” or “purge my closet!” that I’ve done time and again and simply feel like I should do them to be a good person or whatever. These are things I want to do to say I’ve done them (projects), or because doing them will help me progress in other goals (challenges), or because establishing that routine will have a lasting impact on my life (habits), or simply because I want to do something nice for myself once in a while.

Some of these list items require explanation, and I’ll provide that in later posts. Which means I have plenty of fodder to help me achieve #31.

My overall goal with this list is not just to do 43 things for the sake of doing them, but to look back over this year next May and see that I’ve made progress instead of simply keeping the plates spinning. I have no illusions that this is going to be hard; as much as the kids have been sick this past year, at times everything has fallen apart, and I have had zero time and energy left over for extras. But I don’t want to look back on my life and see that I spent my time cleaning and shopping and watching TV. I want to do as much as I can with the time I’ve been given, and nurture the blessings in my life rather than squander them.

In that spirit, here’s my list of 43 things.

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

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

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
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

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)
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

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

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
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
42 Make time for friends
43 Have one do-nothing day per month

The march of progress

Speaking of cleaning out stuff I don’t use…I’m finally getting rid of some of my reference books. I’m hanging on to some of my pattern books for inspiration (well, they survived this last pass, anyway), but the design books are going. If I need graphic design inspiration or tutorials, I go to the internet — not a book. (Besides, the books are so old that the design trends used in them are out of style. It’s a recurring theme around here.) Ditto cookbooks; I never consult them anyway. Why store them?

Which got me to thinking. Much of my stuff is analog. Books, CDs, things like that. But I do almost everything electronically these days. Now, there are books that simply will not leave my possession; they are my talismans, my heirlooms, and you will take them from my cold, dead fingers. But other books are no longer safe. As for new books? I can’t tell you the last time I bought a physical book, but my Kindle library is growing.

The CDs may also be on the endangered list. I don’t even listen to them anymore. I don’t know that I have used the CD player since Kai was born, and I listen to Spotify in the car and in my office. Besides, my entire music collection is from 20 years ago. I don’t mind revisiting the angst from time to time, but I don’t want a steady diet of it.

DVDs do still get played around here, because the internet is not 100% reliable. But I am much more likely to buy new titles on Amazon Instant than pick up a fragile disk that my kids can destroy while I am in the bathroom.

I simply don’t need all of these physical things anymore. They’re part of my old life. They take up space, and collect dust, and just generally get in my way. My life now is pretty much all in my phone. It fits in my pocket.

Which is good, because I need the space I’m freeing up to store all the kids’ crap.

The school day routine

Each school night, we follow the same routine:

7:00 Vitamins/medicine for everybody. I start prep work for the next day:

  • Set out clothes for Anya and myself (Kai will wear jammies until after breakfast)
  • Pack Anya’s lunch, setting the refrigerated items in their designated place in the fridge
  • Verify that all homework is done, all forms signed, etc. I almost always take care of this stuff immediately after school, but I feel better if I double-check.

7:30 Tidy up kitchen and prepare for bedtime.

  • Get our bedside water (Anya and Kai) and ginger tea (me) ready
  • Set out jammies, plus a diaper for Kai

8:00 Brush teeth (mine and the kids) and shower. Usually the kids shower with me (which is all sorts of fun when I’m shaving); sometimes R takes one and I take the other, and occasionally they opt to take a bath and I shower all. by. myself. (Which is, at this point, a very strange, slightly lonely feeling.)

  • Jammie up and get into bed
  • Read a story or 5

9:00 Lights out; watch cooking show and nurse Kai until the kids are asleep (which usually takes less than 15 minutes).

  • Catch up on email, social media; maybe play a game
  • Drink a cup or two of tea
  • Listen to my deep sleep meditation

In the mornings, I also have a routine:

6:00 Get up. (Or, as has been the case during our recent spate of late nights, hit snooze until 6:15.)

  • Put in contacts, wash face, fix hair, put on sunscreen if I’m walking/makeup if I’m not walking
  • Get dressed
  • Fix a cup of tea
  • Make Anya’s breakfast

6:30 Wake Anya.

  • While she’s eating, brush her hair
  • Administer our morning medications (allergy medicine, and recently a probiotic for her poor tummy)
  • Finish my tea
  • Help her dress
  • Finish packing her lunch
  • Ensure she has everything she needs for school

7:00 Drop her at school; go for a walk if time/weather allows

A bit rigid for pre-K? Perhaps. But you have to understand what mornings were like when I was a kid. Lots of fussing. There were usually tears. It was a stressful way to start the day.

I like that our mornings are stress-free zones. Yes, she occasionally fights me. She does not want to wake up and go to school; who does? But our mornings are nowhere near as frustrating as mornings were when I was a child.

So I will continue my overscheduling, even if it interferes with spontaneity and weeknight play time. Because all days should start — and end — well.




Our theme for the July PopClogs bootcamp is “Shine Bright Like a Diamond.” So I’m working on sparkling.

Part of my approach to this bout of unemployment is to think of it as an opportunity for a fresh start. I’m thinking big-picture here. What would make me shiny? What, ultimately, do I want?

  • I want to be healthy.
  • I want to be present in the moment, and fully appreciative of the moment.
  • I want to feel more grateful.
  • I want to feel more in control of my day-to-day life.
  • I want to do work that I find interesting, and that pays well enough that we can afford the things we need – and some of the things we want.
  • I want to spend more time with my family.
  • I want to create a support network of friends and colleagues.
  • I want to fill my free time with fun, interesting experiences and activities.
  • I want to continue to improve our financial picture, so that we can afford the big expenses we’ve been saving towards and so that our future is more secure than our past has been.
  • I want to live somewhere that fits us better than our current location does.

So…that’s kind of a tall order. This month, I’m starting small.

Focus on fitness
For so long, my body has been taking a back seat to my bank account. From here on out, fitness is a priority.

Practice mindfulness
I’ve been allowing Anya to beg off of meditation, and getting frustrated with her when she doesn’t participate in the sessions I insist upon. I don’t want meditation to be a chore, nor do I want it to be a point of stress. I want it to be a special time together for us. And I want us to both learn how to better manage our negative feelings and be more in the moment as a result of our practice.

Streamline household systems
Declutter and clean, so that it will be easier to maintain that clean. Automate/schedule routine tasks so that nothing gets overlooked. I’ve already started on this, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Master mealtimes
This is the perfect opportunity to wean us off the boxed crap and start eating better, more healthful food. Menu planning. Strategic shopping. Established meal times and meal routines. These things need to happen.

Continue to pursue balance
It would be easy for me to fill my days with low-paying freelance gigs and ignore my needs and my family’s needs. Instead, I will strive to establish a balance. Work some and play some and exercise some and clean some, learn some and read some and sing some and dance some. Talk, and sit quietly. Spend time with each child and spend time with my partner. And when it’s all done, rest some.

Once I get those things down, I will work on the rest.