Mid-Month Check In

One of my top goals for the month was to challenge myself to write something every day. I thought that the challenge would inspire me and actually get my creative juices flowing because I had permission to write before and above all else every single day this month. Usually, writing is pushed aside, even though it’s the thing I want to do the most. But when I’ve been giving myself the chance to make it a top priority? I suddenly have nothing to say.

The biggest struggle has been actually putting it first. I keep assuming that if I wait until evening I will have thought of something amazing to talk about by then. Instead I’m exhausted, my brain hurts, and writing is really the last thing in the world I feel like doing. I’m also highly distracted by the fifty other things I hadn’t gotten to yet that day and hope to squeeze in before bedtime. Writing under those circumstances is not enjoyable or affirming. It’s just another task on my to do list.

Overall, I’ve found myself just about as dissatisfied with life as I was in October, when I basically took most of the month off from work, thinking that was the source of my anxiety. And it really is still a pretty large contributing factor. I just do not feel like I’m producing enough and I can’t understand why. I guess if pressed for a solid reason, the answer is probably that I used to spend every waking minute sewing. I’d easily sew 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. Aiming for more balance in my life, now I’m lucky to get in 5 hours a day and I try pretty hard not to work much on weekends. I think it’s better to live this way, but it doesn’t change the fact that I used to make maybe 20 or more dolls a week and right now I’m struggling to even get a handful done. Last week I made six. This week it appears I’m making four. And most of those ten were custom orders – which is obviously still money in my pocket, but it leaves a huge amount of customers anxious and waiting for Christmas dolls that should have arrived in the shop by now and haven’t. It makes me wish I hadn’t worked so hard all those years (when it didn’t feel like work because I genuinely loved giving all of my time to it) because I set myself up with unrealistic expectations for how much I can produce in a week, now that I’m trying to find more balance in my life with everything else going on.

Another source of frustration is my lack of making self care a priority. I wrote about this last week, but I’m doing a pretty poor job of living that way myself. At night when I fill in all the tracking boxes in my bullet journal, I have a box for self care. I sit there for a minute and think back on my day and try to decide if at any point during it I put some area of my health or happiness before a mundane task or chore and the answer is almost always no. I have not been prioritizing myself and my enthusiasm for life has clearly been lacking. This isn’t the kind of life I want to live, but again and again and again it just keeps coming back to my stupid to do list and everything I SHOULD be getting done, yet no matter how hard I try I never feel like I’m doing enough. And how do you fit in a break for self care when there are six loads of laundry waiting to be folded, a pile of dishes at the counter, and you know you haven’t had a solid conversation with your husband in a week? I KNOW everything would feel better if I took the necessary time to feed my own soul first, but in practice it is so incredibly hard to do.

This whole weight loss ordeal has also been getting me down. I was using the Lose It app for a couple of days after I cancelled Noom. And I did really like it. It made calorie counting more fun because it attached little images to everything you ate during the day, and it gave me a more manageable amount of calories to strive for while still telling me I’d lose weight. But the actual act of counting – and more importantly, just needing to THINK about counting every minute of every day was making me so distressed and angry. This is why I hate actively trying to lose weight. It takes over your entire life and whether you want to or not, you’re forced to think about it with every decision you make during the day. Or it’s at least that way for people like me who work at home and have constant access to food and no one to witness me eating day in and day out. The stress of counting everything and feeling like I had to starve myself in the morning when I’m most hungry to try and save calories for dinner when I clearly would still want to eat the dinner I was making for my family was making me absolutely miserable. So…I stopped. It might be temporary, depending on how this week shapes up. Maybe I need that accountability even if it feels like it’s ruining my life. But I’d like to think that I’ve been learning enough after a few weeks of tracking, and because this is the first time I’ve genuinely wanted to live a healthier life, that I’ll continue to make better choices. And even if the weight doesn’t drip off, I’ll at least FEEL better. And while I don’t want to be defined by the number on the scale (more than a number!), I am continuing to weigh in every morning so I can keep myself in check and evaluate what I did right or wrong the day before and continue to improve how I take care of myself physically.

There are a number of other factors that have been contributing to my general malaise this month. I’ve had almost no connecting time with Greg. I think we need a real date, or something, but we’ve just been so busy. We’ve also been dealing with an onslaught of ten year old attitude problems. And “attitude problems” is putting it mildly, believe me. It’s hard to muster up much joy when every single night is hour after hour of battling and everyone just wanting to escape to their own corners of the house to just not have to deal with any of it anymore. Family time is supposed to be those sacred hours when you’re all together and you’re all made better for it. I feel like family time in our house just brings out the worst of us all. And I don’t know how to change that. The truth is that I’m often not even part of it because I’m still dealing with my stupid neverending to do lists every night. I’ve been trying to get the boys to help out more because hey, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if I had help. I don’t want to ask Greg for more help because he already works so hard during the day for us and then he spends every possible minute trying to keep the boys happy at night, at the sacrifice of never, ever having a minute to himself. But it makes sense that at ages 10 and 7, our children should seriously be held more accountable to help out around the house. They’re part of the family too. But at the mere mention of doing something unpleasant they retaliate in extreme anger and I usually just give up. Which leaves them resentful of me for even asking, me resentful of them for never helping out and putting everything on me even though I’m at least supposed to be working ON WORK all day too. And then it comes back to me being exhausted from to do list items and having nothing left to give Greg and him being exhausted from sassy and angry children to have anything left for me.

Anyway! I didn’t mean to ramble on quite so much and sound quite so depressing! To be honest, last week was just pretty sad because of those two trips I thought I was going to get to take next year and now neither of them are happening. I was also taking this all natural mood enhancing vitamin thing that I found at Costco, figuring it couldn’t hurt, right? Well, I think it did. I stopped taking it this week and I feel so much better about everything. I’m also going to release myself from my writing daily challenge and just write when the mood strikes. If I have something to say then I still have full permission to make it my highest priority of the day. But it’s no longer a requirement. What should be a requirement, though – SELF CARE. I think I should require myself to do something joyful and lifegiving every single day, no matter what. Ideally that will happen in the evenings when still working on household chores starts to really grate on me.

As for work, it still needs to happen. I still need to make those dolls. But maybe I need to set better boundaries for myself to help limit my anger over never feeling like I’m producing enough. I usually take it day by day and just work as much as I can in between doing everything else. But maybe I need to get better about setting nonnegotiable hours where I will do or think about nothing else except sewing. I’d probably get more done just by avoiding all the multi-tasking. I’ll have to think on this one.

I’m hoping the second half of the month will be much happier than the first half. It’s exciting that Thanksgiving is already next week with Christmas just around the corner! I’ve been having so much fun working on my holiday shopping and hope to make a pretty great dent in my lists by the end of November. There is a lot to look forward to and I think now that I’m starting to shake that funk I’ve been in for the last few months, I can finally start turning things around.

ONEDAYHH 2018

Yesterday was the second year I participated in Laura Tremaine’s #onedayhh social media challenge. It’s an instagram movement for people all over the world to post random snippets of their day, on the same day of the year. I love this challenge because it’s not about being fancy or trying to glamourize your life. Rather it’s about sharing in the mundane, the boring, the everyday moments that are similar yet unique to us all.

To be honest, my day of sharing this year felt incredibly chaotic. It was definitely a pretty typical day for me, but I also didn’t feel like I had a moment of downtime to go photos of other people using the hashtag, which is kind of the whole point! Then again, that’s pretty telling of my life in general lately. On Laura’s final photo last night she commented on how documenting the day really made it clear how many things she’s trying to juggle at full capacity every single day and not doing the greatest job at it. I definitely feel the same way, but don’t really know what to do about it. It’s so hard trying to do everything. It’s hard working at home and not being constantly distracted by the zillion other things that are always going on and always need to be taken care of too. I can so relate to that neverending struggle.

Anyway, in case you were not following along on my instagram or facebook page yesterday, here was my day!

5:03 am – Daylight savings has really messed me up this week. I am on such a strict internal clock that it’s nearly impossible for me to sleep beyond 5 anyway, and this week it’s been closer to 4 each day. Yesterday it was about 4:45, so I’m getting there!

5:30 am – Showered and ready for my morning quiet time. Jack is always waiting for me. He really wants me to open the french doors so he can run upstairs and wake everyone up. But he settles for meowing at me and trying to sit on my lap or get me to pet him, all while pretending he doesn’t actually want the attention. Anyway, I have a plethora of devotional books I choose from each morning, usually reading from two, and then I finish planning out my day in my bullet journal.

5:53 am – As a rule, I try not to work this early in the morning. But I had some custom orders I really wanted to finish and knew it was going to be a busy day, so I tried to make a bit of progress. Most mornings I try to focus on doing something positive and lifegiving FOR MYSELF until 6:30 when it’s time to start mommy duties.

6:12 am – I brought up the space heater the other day because I’m freezing all day long. (Greg is NOT happy about this. I don’t know why it’s okay to run ceiling fans and extra fans in every room of the house all summer long, but one space heater in one room during winter is so sternly frowned upon…) The boys like to fight over it. Because they like to fight over everything.

6:36 am – Trying to put together a wooden golden snitch. They received these wooden building kits last Christmas and just rediscovered them in their rooms. They’re definitely pretty tricky for kids to do. Especially kids with zero patience.

6:42 am – Packing lunches, making breakfasts. Two things I despise doing in the morning, but there’s no way around it!

7:24 am – On our way to school after digging through the basement trying to find appropriately sized hats and mittens (Caden is still wearing mine anyway). Most mornings I try to go on an extra walk with Annie after the boys are at their schools, but it was so cold yesterday and I had so much to do, so I headed straight back home.

7:56 am – Finally time for breakfast. I try to hold off on eating until after the boys are at school, so I have time to actually make something, sit down, and enjoy it. If I try to eat earlier I end up scarfing down something I shouldn’t, just for the sake of staving off my hunger. Yesterday’s breakfast was particularly hard because I’m getting really sick of the limited number of things I’ve been allowing myself to choose from each day. The boys have been eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfasts and it is KILLING me not to have one too. Donuts, pastries, muffins, etc – I’m fine without those. But a savory bagel with jalapeno cream cheese?? Oatmeal, even with the toppings, does not compare.

9:16 am – Getting in an hour or two of work on my first Christmas dolls of the season. I had hoped to have a lot done this week, but I made the mistake of opening the shop up to custom orders and ended up with a couple that were all extremely complicated and time consuming to arrange, so it reallllly slowed me down this week.

10:46 am – Swinging by the post office to mail some dolls. It’s been a pretty good week for sales!

11:04am – I stopped in at the Christmas open house of Twisted Sister, one of my favorite shops, even though I rarely find things I want to buy anymore. This trip I found a large vintage plastic deer I plan to put with a big doll and a 1950’s puzzle of the United States that I’m going to take apart to make a huge batch of state themed dolls.

11:45 am – I stopped in at Kohls to return something and ended up standing in the boys section for ages trying to find Caden some new pants and pajamas. They always have such a tiny selection of the things I actually need that I wasn’t very successful.

12:55 pm – After a stop at Aldi, finally got back home and threw together a lunch of leftovers. It was just a rough day food wise. I’ve never wanted to get fast food so badly, but I’m trying so hard to stick to my goal this month of never getting food out and about unless I carefully planned it out. Which I did not. Most days I’m ready to eat lunch at 10, so pushing myself until 1 and being that desperately hungry was just a recipe for not liking whatever I was going to make myself.

1:08 pm – Nap time with Rory. This is when it started to feel like I was losing control of the day because I try to read and nap closer to noon, so I have more time in the afternoon to get more done. I only read for a few minutes and had a fast and restless nap.

2:15 pm – These three love to fight over who gets to sleep by me. Generally Annie rarely comes upstairs, but ever since I got back from DC she’s sticking pretty close to my side. There’s an understanding that nap time is when the CATS get Mommy time, but every once in awhile Annie thinks it’s great fun to jump up on the bed and get everyone riled up. The cats have also been fighting with each other lately because they don’t think there’s enough room for both of them.

2:29 pm – Coffee time. Went with a fancier mocha this time.

3:14 pm – The mail has been coming later in the day making it a lot harder for me to hide my packages before everyone comes! Can you tell I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping this week!? Though to be fair, both of those huge Target boxes only had one thing in them with a ton of plastic bubble fillers.

3:33 pm – Trying to get dinner put together. Should have done it a couple hours earlier to make it actually hot enough to eat by 5! I usually try and do a lot of dinner prep right after school, earning myself a bit more time to do something I want to do in the half hour before it’s time to cook and eat. Somehow that feels much more rewarding and efficient to me.

3:37 pm – Trying to cook more healthified breakfasts and lunches means making a much bigger mess all day long. Also try to get that done before dinnertime when it all gets piled back up again.

3:54 pm – Spending a tiny bit of time with Annie outside watching the boys play kickball. They were getting along really well yesterday!

4:19 pm – See, I had time to fit in something I wanted to do! Took a break to read the last chapter of my 100th book of the year! Probably the most exciting thing to happen yesterday, as I have a 100 book challenge for myself every year. Unfortunately, this is one of my lowest rated books of the year – I did not like it.

5:14 pm – Chicken tortilla soup for dinner. I blew my healthy eating for the day by having way too many fried tortilla strips. They’re just so dang good.

5:48 pm – Literacy Night at school.

6:29 pm – Trying to get these crazy kids to leave. Shepard pouted the whole way home because he was having so much fun and didn’t want to go.

6:47 pm – I didn’t think I’d get even close to my step goal for the day, but then we walked to and from school for Literacy Night and I only had 1400 steps to go, so I grabbed Annie and we hit that 10K.

7:22 pm – About the time I decide I absolutely cannot be productive anymore for the day, so I settled into my chair for twenty minutes of my 101st book. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages. My book club always has so many rave reviews for it.

8:42 pm – Settling in for our nightly tv time. We finished the first episode of that new Sabrina netflix show and were both pretty meh on it. Then we started the other new netflix show, Bodyguard. Possibly better, once we wrap our minds around that thick accent.

9:45 pm – A bit later than usual, calling it a day. I read about ten minutes and went to sleep. Overall – fun to document everything, but also kind of wish this wasn’t such an accurate representation of my life right now. Always running from one thing to the next, never having time to solidly sit down and get anything done. I wish I could say things would slow down soon, but I thought November would be that slow season and every week just brings more and more new things to the calendar. It’s exhausting!

Self Care Practices

I am a big believer in self care. I know that if I don’t do something for myself on a daily basis, everything in my life starts to go downhill fast. When I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or sad, I try to actually stop and think about what I need in that moment to lift me back up. Or if I can’t stop what I’m doing, I plan out something maybe more elaborate or time consuming that I can do for myself as soon as possible.

I define self care as doing anything that brings your soul joy. It doesn’t have to have any purpose other than it makes you happy. I feel like sometimes self care is seen as being overly indulgent or selfish or something that only spoiled people can have. And that’s just not true. Self care is loving yourself so you have love to give to others. Self care is giving yourself treats and pockets of time with no agenda other than to boost you up with joy and happiness. Self care is living your best life so that you have a longer life to live. It is vitally important and worthy of your time. YOU are worth taking care of.

The activities you choose to take care of yourself are different for each person. But I have a list of things that work for me that I thought I’d share today.

READ

Reading is always my go to because it can happen anywhere at any time and is virtually free. It’s the reason I wanted a huge cozy reading chair so badly for most of my adult life. I created a small oasis with the sole purpose of providing me a comfortable spot to relax and read. I also have books in just about every room of my house, started and bookmarked, just waiting for me to pick back up. Reading is an amazing escape and with the right genre at the right time, it can be the best pick me up. YA and romance are my favorites when I need a real mood booster.

WRITE

I know it’s not for everyone, but I can’t go a day without writing. Generally it’s in the form of an email (or two) to my best friend, but I’m trying to start shifting more of that energy into something more creative. When I’m extremely stressed out or irritated, nothing will cool me down faster than to sit down and just brain dump on the page. Writing is incredibly cathartic when I’m down and energizing when I need a lift. If you feel like you have a lot to say and nobody really to say it to – just write it down! It helps, I promise.

TV OR MOVIE AT A SPECIAL TIME

Nothing feels more special and indulgent than going to the movie theater in the middle of the day or sitting down to watch your favorite tv show at a time you wouldn’t normally watch it. I LOVE going to the theater by myself on a random Tuesday morning. It feels like such an escape from reality. Ideally I’d like to work this into my schedule once a month just because it’s such a treat. I also love saving my absolute favorite show (The Resident) to watch while I eat lunch – with NO sewing in front of me. This is pretty rare because it’s soooo hard to justify watching tv without multitasking. But when I do, it feels amazing. I also adore having a special movie night to myself, but Greg is only gone at night like two times a year, so that’s extremely rare for me. But I definitely make it happen on those super rare occasions I have the living room to myself in an evening!

BE CREATIVE

Since my entire life revolves around creative pursuits right now, I don’t turn to this option often. But it’s out there! It’s fun to try a new craft project, start something special for yourself or as a gift, or do a project you’ve been wanting to work on forever and never seem to find the time for. It’s so affirming to make something by hand from start to finish.

GO FOR A WALK

After breaking my ankle and not being able to walk for three months and then having four more really tough walking months, it’s been hard for me to shift my thinking and see this as a way of self care. But I’m really getting there. I’m slightly in panic mode about it because I know once the snow and ice come, there is no way I’m walking outside any more than I absolutely have to – I never, ever want to break a bone again. But at the moment, I’m trying to go on extra walks with Annie in the evenings just because I genuinely want to. It’s a good stress reliever after which is oftentimes a stressful dinner hour with super whiny kids.

GO TO THE DOG PARK

Get the fresh air, without needing to do the exercise (unless you want to) – plus be surrounded by cute dogs! Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get myself over there, but I never regret it. I love seeing Annie’s joy when she has freedom to just run and run. I love when there are other dogs she can play with. And I love when it’s just the two of us and we can soak in the fresh air and silence and beautiful scenery. It never fails to lift me up.

PLAN A SPECIAL SHOPPING TRIP

If you enjoy shopping. ๐Ÿ™‚ I LOVE shopping, too much. I run almost all my errands out of town every week so I can go to more of the places I like with the best prices. Which is fun, but necessary. The real joy comes from planning and going on more niche shopping trips. For me, that’s maybe a few hours at the antique mall looking for new doll supplies. Or checking out the area thrift stores every few months. Or like this week, going to multiple stores that are releasing all of their Christmas inventory. Even if I don’t buy anything, it’s so fun to get out and see something different. Though who are we kidding, I’m usually going to buy something. But that’s how I find the best gifts for people and unique house decorations – something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

GO ON A DATE

I don’t know about other people, but I think it’s incredibly hard to stay connected to Greg when we don’t have any time away from our kids, our house, our neverending list of responsibilities. We’re fortunate enough that we usually have a weekly at home date night when the boys go to Grandma’s house, but I think it’s even more effective when we actually leave the house. I have something to look forward to, I have something to dress up a bit for, I don’t have to do any cooking or cleaning, and it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll feel closer to my husband afterward.

SEE YOUR FRIENDS

Friend time is so important. I always struggle to write about this because I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone that might read this. I wish friend time was a bigger part of my life because it’s almost always life-giving. It’s a chance to connect with someone outside your family, it’s time to vent and get things off your chest, and it’s usually a whole lot of fun!

MAKE A MEAL YOU WANT TO EAT

I’d say about 90% of the time, I want breakfast and dinner to be easy and fast. It’s stressful making food that everybody likes. It’s never fun trying to put together a meal when the whole family is hungry and cranky. But every once in awhile, when I know I might have some extra free time in the afternoon, I like to sit down with a beloved cookbook and pick out a meal that I truly want to eat. If I know the kids won’t eat it, then they can just deal with some chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly. I think it’s totally worth it to give yourself the freedom in the kitchen to actually create a delicious and incredible meal every once in awhile. For me, since I work at home, I’ve been trying to do this more often at lunchtime as well. If I have some amazing chicken tacos prepped and ready for my lunch, I’m a lot less likely to snack on crap all day long.

BAKE SOMETHING

This used to be my ultimate self care. I’ve loved baking my entire life. It’s kind of fallen to the wayside in the last few years because my family has very strong opinions on what they do and don’t like, and most people are watching their weight and just don’t want baked goods as a temptation. Which is kind of a bummer! But if there’s some sort of occasion (or create an occasion!) that might require a fancy dessert, go for it! Or just bake a loaf of bread! The reward of making something so simple can be such a delight.

RESEARCH SOMETHING

For me, it’s new books. I already have more books on my kindle than I’ll probably ever read. Same with books on my shelves. But you better believe that doesn’t stop me from my standing date with my computer every Tuesday to check out the new releases! I’m constantly looking at book blogs, listening to book podcasts, and grabbing book fliers from the library and bookstores about upcoming books. It’s my favorite hobby – besides actually reading. It’s free, it can be done anytime, and it makes me so happy. I also occasionally like to research things like future vacations, presents for people, or clothing I might want.

GO ON A TRIP

I know this isn’t always a feasible option, but if you can make it happen, it is SO WORTH IT. Solo vacations are kind of amazing. Greg always encourages me to go when something pops up (Colleen Hoover’s book signing in MN last August, The Popcast live show in Chicago, my trip to DC, my Book Bonanza trip to Texas next summer). But occasionally I try to get a night or two away with absolutely no agenda, like when I went to Door County last fall. It’s definitely an indulgence to justify a hotel and travel expenses and food just for a vacation by yourself. But it’s so refreshing and amazing, I totally think it’s worth it – at least once a year.

CREATE AMBIANCE

This is another super easy practice that can really give you a personal boost. I love having spaces around the house that are carved out for relaxing. While most of the house is filled with clutter and kid or technology related things, there are a few spots that I try really hard to always keep clutter free and clean. In fall and winter I love having scented candles lit in every room to add a huge cozy element to the house. Recently I added a candle to my desktop which I light every time I’m going to be at my computer for a longer stretch of time. It makes me ridiculously happy. I also like to do things like play soft worship music in the morning when we’re getting ready, use linen sprays on my bed and furniture, buy the softest pajamas I can find, have multiple blankets available on every couch and chair, and spray my favorite perfume on whenever the mood strikes. There are so many tiny little things you can give yourself every day to amplify the joy in your life.

This is far from an exclusive list of self care ideas, but these are my favorites and what work for me. Hopefully the list might prompt you to take charge of your life and start giving you a few options for your own self care plan!

More Than a Number

This is only the second time in my life I have actively been trying to lose weight. I don’t like diets, I hate feeling deprived. I have been of the mindset for the last many, many years that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and that generally includes making and eating delicious food. I want to accept who I am, no matter what I look like on the outside, as long as I’m doing my best to be kind and happy and joyful on the inside. I want to believe that I will be loved by my husband and my kids, whether I’m overweight or not. And if I love me and they love me, then does it really matter?

Well, when it starts to negatively affect your health, then yes, I think it matters. As much as I am loathe to admit it. Getting the high pressure blood medication two months ago was quite a wake up call to me. Having a liver ultrasound that could have potentially given me some very bad news was definitely the jolt that pushed me over the line and made me say that yes, I DO need to lose weight. I need to be healthier. I need to live longer. I need to set a better example to my kids so they can in turn be healthier and live longer and set good examples to their own children.

I have started making some pretty major changes in the last two weeks. I refuse to say that I’m on a diet, because I don’t want this to be a temporary thing. I am working really hard to genuinely change the way I think about food and what I decide to put into my body. I don’t want to live like I am denying myself. Which is definitely how it felt that first week. The second week has been easier. I still catch myself a little bit desperate to sneak into the pantry at the slightest hunger pang. It’s been taking an arsenal of tips and tricks to avoid the things that are bad for me. I’m not entirely confident I can stay on this path for the rest of my life. But I’ve also been seeing so many changes in just two weeks – changes beyond just the number on the scale – that I’m feeling much more confident about this journey than I was even a couple of days ago.

On the Noom program, they require you to weigh yourself every single morning. I believe on Weight Watchers, at least when I did it six years ago, you are supposed to weigh in once a week. I was strongly against doing it every day, until almost every morning when I see the scale drop a little bit more. That’s about the best motivation ever. But I also know there will be days it’ll go back up. Like the other night when I had my late night peanut butter toast and a Kit Kat bar after hating what I made for dinner and feeling extremely hungry. I knew the scale would go back up and it did. But today, even after eating out for lunch yesterday and sitting in a car for almost the entire day, it went back down. I love the encouragement of it going down, but live in terror of it going up. I don’t want to live like this either. I don’t want my entire life to be structured around food and calories and beating myself up over making mistakes or refusing to let myself indulge in special circumstances. I want to be more than that number and it scares me how much that number has affected my thoughts all day long in the last week and a half.

My goal as I continue on this journey to better health and happiness is to focus on all the changes beyond the number on the scale. I’m quickly realizing there are so many benefits to eating healthier besides my actual weight dropping. I love that to coincide with thinking about this, my Noom article this morning had a huge list of potential changes. I’m going to list a lot of them now (almost word for word from Noom), so I can remember them in the future. These are the things I want to focus on as I pick an orange from the fridge instead of pretzels from the pantry. As I skip that third taco and eat a small salad instead. As I avoid the aisles in the grocery stores that I know hold my biggest temptations. As I go for an evening walk instead of eating a dessert for the fifth night in a row. These are the changes I want to see and celebrate and take with me as solid encouragement that it is worth a little upheaval to be a healthier human being.

Physical Changes

  • Weight loss
  • Inches lost
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clothes fitting better (please, yes!)
  • Working out longer and with more intensity
  • Less aches and pains

Psychological Changes

  • More confidence in my skin
  • Less anxiety in uncomfortable situations
  • Limiting myself to one dessert
  • Conquering a trigger
  • Eating a mindful meal
  • Feeling empowered to make the healthier choice
  • Feeling pretty great about life

Social Changes

  • Being more social
  • Being complimented by others
  • Choosing healthier choices at a restaurant
  • Resisting temptations at the grocery store
  • Turning down treats I don’t actually want
  • Getting my family turned on to healthier food

Other Progress

  • Meal prepping for the week (yes! all three meals!)
  • Cooking new recipes
  • Bringing lunch with me on long errand days
  • Trying new healthy foods
  • Developing a distaste for unhealthy food
  • Cooking at home more often than eating out
  • Taking the stairs or the long route more often
  • Reaching step goals every day

For me, I really just want to feel better. Physically and mentally. I don’t want to feel bloated and slow and heavy anymore. I want to have a lot more energy to just be a better person overall. I’d like to think that despite a few temporary setbacks when knowing something I really want has too many calories, I’ve been happier this last week and a half. My brain has felt so much more clear and focused. I would LOVE to see the scale keep dropping and I’d love for my clothes to fit better and to feel more confident in my skin. But just plain FEELING better has been a pretty great motivator. I hope I can keep it up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thoughts on My First Creative Writing Workshop

Well, I did it! I pushed my anxiety aside and promptly walked myself over to the library annex last night to attend my first creative writing workshop.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected. There were nine people, including the instructor and the library employee that didn’t consider herself a writer, but was sitting in. You didn’t need to be a writer to be there, you just needed to want to write, love to write, appreciate the written word. I think that was the best part – spending two and a half hours in a small circle of like-minded people who enjoy writing as much as me. Sometimes I feel so incredibly isolated in all of my passionate endeavors. I know they obviously must be out there, but it’s pretty rare for me to interact with anyone else in my real outside of the internet life that enjoy writing, reading, sewing. So it felt like quite the treat to meet a group of people that could come together simply for the love of writing.

The author who created the workshop writes YA and middle grade fiction. It was interesting that within the group there were two aspiring novelists, a legacy writer, a children’s book writer, two poets, a man who has never written anything but was curious about it, and me – who specified my writing as “nonfiction.” Which was apparently interpreted as wanting to write how to manuals? When I later clarified I was interested more in the personal essay type style, I received a lot of understanding grunts. I’m not even sure if that’s the correct classification of the type of writing I enjoy doing. All I know is that I don’t write fiction. And I’m not entirely sure I’d ever want to. But in order to stretch my creative writing muscles, perhaps it’s something I will soon try.

Over the course of the evening, we went through a packet of papers that was clearly geared toward writing a fictional novel. It felt incredibly overwhelming to me. Hence my aversion to writing fiction, as much as I LOVE reading it. It was things I heard before in high school and my college English Writing major courses. But it’s not something I’ve given thought to in the last fifteen years. I liked learning more about book structure and themes and dialogue. But it was also making me feel a bit panicked about how hard writing a novel must surely be. I keep hearing the advice that if you want to be a writer, JUST START WRITING. This workshop made me feel like I’d need to do a massive amount of research and planning before I could even sit down at the computer. And the pressure to word everything so perfectly is overwhelming!

We participated in three creative writing exercises while we were there. In the first, we were given a random photograph and were supposed to tell a story about it. This reminded me of an exercise we occasionally did in high school orchestra – the conductor would play a long piece of classical music and we had to write an accompanying story about it as quickly as possible. I LOVED when we did those exercises. This photograph prompt felt more challenging because I’m not used to making up stories on the fly like that. It might be something I’ll try again this month in my daily writing exercises!

The second exercise was to create a unique dialog between two characters from a list of ten starting statements. I chose, “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again!” I chose it because that line is said almost daily in our house when interacting with a very angry child. I didn’t need to make anything up for this one, I just wrote a version of arguments we have with him almost every single night.

The third exercise was supposed to be told through a one of the senses other than sight. I chose to describe a first kiss. Which may or may not have been factual. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the things I was most worried about when going to this class was being forced to share writing when I wasn’t prepared to. Fortunately, we were all given the option to share our responses to these prompts and there was no pressure to share if you were uncomfortable. About half the people shared for each exercise. I did not volunteer. But I was surprised to find that I kind of wanted to. I kept extremely quiet during the entire evening, only spoken when asked a direct question. But part of me really did want to jump into some of the discussion, which I’m taking as a sign that I was meant to be there.

My takeaway from the evening was that writing is awesome and it’s something I want to pursue with greater time and intention than I have in the last few years. I would love to write a book, someday, but also think that maybe it’s not really in the cards for me. I like to write for the sake of writing. I like to talk about my life. I like to set goals and evaluate how well I did on them. I like to journal about every tiny moment of interest that happens to me in a day. But to find a central theme and write an entire book about it still feels way too daunting. I did find out from a few people in the workshop that UW Madison offers a bunch of continuing education writing classes. I just looked up them up and they’re not very expensive, so I think that’s something I might look into in the coming months. Probably not this month – I have enough going on with all this weight loss drama. And next month is busy with Christmas. But maybe in January?!

Overall, it was an inspirational night that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope there will be another one offered soon!

November 2018 Goals

Happy November! I can’t believe with the flip of the calendar we are now a mere THREE WEEKS away from Thanksgiving and then it’s basically Christmas! This month is going to fly by. Typically one of our slowest months of the year (thanks goodness!) I’m looking forward to a hopefully somewhat slower schedule and maybe actually getting some things done this month before the pace picks back up again in December. I’ve landed on five specific goals to try and get me to where I want to be at the end of the month.

1. Write EVERY DAY

I’ve been toying with the idea of joining National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for over a year. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a program where people all over the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. I love how given the short time span it can really drive people to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing – with the support of thousands of others. The problem, for me, is that fiction does not call to me. I feel like I only have words inside of me that are true to ME. Not stories about made up people and plots. So, I’m not going to write a novel this month. But I AM going to write. Every single day. I’m a little bit tempted to still try and hit that word count, but I don’t think I need the additional pressure. My daily writing will instead come in the form of extra blog posts (be prepared for a bit more creativity than just recapping my weeks!), journal entries that I just write for myself, and maybe, possibly, a short story or two. I’m still feeling pretty apprehensive about it, but I’m also going to a creative writing workshop tonight, and that will maybe help boost me along on this journey. I’m very nervous about opening myself up to a group of strangers IN PERSON about what I’m writing, but I keep reminding myself how the creative writing class I took in high school was my all time favorite class of my entire schooling career, so maybe it’s worth going to this single one hour class!

2. Stop eating fast food for the sake of having a fast meal

As I’ve shared in abundance these last few weeks, I am on an official mission to lose some weight to better my health. I next see my doctor at the end of January and I need to prove to her, and myself, that I’m giving my full effort to this weight loss journey. I was toying with a bunch of different goals for this month. Eat a specific number of fruits and vegetables a day. Walk 10,000 steps every single day. Stay within a certain calorie limit every day. Instead, I decided to go with something that I can take full and complete control over and succeed with by the end of the month.

I’ve fallen into the really bad habit of going through drive thrus basically any day that I’m out running errands, which can be 2-3 times a week. I’m always starving and know I’m going to be way too tired to make myself a meal by the time I get back home and unload all my groceries. Grabbing a chicken sandwich at Wendy’s to eat on my drive back home feels harmless. And I think it is – in extreme moderation. It really adds up and contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle when it’s happening multiple times a week. Anyway, I am committing to planning out my errand days to avoid this desperate need to get a fast lunch. I’ll eat a better breakfast. I’ll have a quick lunch already half made for me in the fridge. I’ll bring along a water bottle and a healthy snack to tide me over. And if I know it’s going to be a really long day of errands? Eating out is okay. If that was my choice all along and I picked a place that I will go inside and sit down and make it worth my time and calories because I planned it into my day that way. I’m also not saying NO fast food, because I know there will be a few instances this month where I might be out with the boys and it’s a big treat for them to go out, so it might happen. But I’m going to really, really limit it and stop eating it just for convenience sake.

3. Finish 75% of my Christmas shopping

This might be a hard one to calculate, but I’m going to do my best! This year we’re planning to have a leaner Christmas and I’m hoping gift buying will be a bit more manageable and affordable than it’s been in the past. It’s been a very expensive year with all my medical bills and hopefully everyone understands our need to start being more frugal. Which is really hard for this woman whose primary love language is gift giving! But I’m hoping to really double down this month to research out the perfect gifts for everyone and get most of our shopping done. I think the hardest to buy for will be the boys! They don’t play with toys anymore, they don’t play with legos anymore, they already own every outdoor sporty play equipment imaginable, they have more video games than they’re ever allowed to play, and Caden still has a massive pile of books he got last Christmas and refuses to read because he prefers to keep rereading all of his favorites. What does that leave!? Plus needing gifts for St. Nick’s, from us, and from Santa. I’m CLUELESS this year. I need to get that creative brain working and come up with some solid ideas!

4. Writing a Book Bonanza reading list

As you can see, I was trying to write really tangible goals this month that are measurable and obtainable! This will be a fun one! But it’s also been something I’ve had on my to do list every day for the last month and still haven’t set aside time to work on. I’m going to Book Bonanza next August and it’s filled with tons of authors – most of which I’ve never even heard of. So I want to go through the list and then research all of their books, and choose one from each author to try and read by then. I know Book Bonanza will be a much more enriching experience if I at least have some knowledge of as many authors as possible.

5. Have a meaningful date with Caden

I mentioned in my October recap how I continue to leave the least amount of quality time with Caden. He is 100% a daddy’s boy and really has zero interest in ever doing anything with me. Usually I just tell myself that if he doesn’t want to do anything, I’m definitely not going to force him. But this weekend I’m going to make him sit down with me for two minutes to figure out something we can do together in the coming weeks that we would both enjoy. I know it’ll still be ridiculously hard to get him to actually GO on that date with me when it means knowing Shepard is at home getting all the Daddy attention. But we are going to do it!

And that’s it! Have a great November!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 10.28.2018

My final update for the day! I don’t have a whole lot to say since I just recapped my DC trip and all of our Halloween festivities. But in between all the fun of the last few weeks, there’s also been a lot of sadness and worry and stress. All in all, I’m having a pretty rough October.

On the day before my DC trip, I had my first follow up with my new internal doctor to discuss how things are going after a month on the new blood pressure medication. We discussed all the original tests and bloodwork she had done in September and all the possible things that could be wrong with me and why, and honestly, I just left the office feeling very fat shamed. I realize I am very overweight. But I also try to just love myself as I am and be okay with it. I don’t WANT to be unhealthy, but I also don’t want to focus my entire life around it. At my first appointment this doctor let me feel like I was okay if I felt okay with myself. This time she wasn’t exactly mean or demeaning, but I still left feeling terrible about myself AND scared about my internal health. I had more blood tests to see if anything had changed in that month.

Later in the day I got my results back that a few of the wacky numbers had righted themself – like my thyroid potential issues were suddenly a lot better, which seemed like an odd one. But the scary thing is that my liver panels were not looking good and I’d need to have an ultrasound done to see what’s going on. She sent the actual lab work, which of course I started googling and all the potential problems – cirrhosis, hepatitis, CANCER – were pretty terrifying. I spent that Wednesday night and Thursday night in DC awake more often than sleeping just worrying nonstop about what could be wrong with me.

On top of all that – I just felt very alone in it because Greg was highly distracted by the fact that he thought he found a bedbug on Caden’s ceiling. So he was tearing the entire house apart and freaking out about that, while I was silently freaking out that I might find out in a week that I’m dying. It was a bad few days. Long, long story short on the bedbug stuff – it was actually a soft tick that had come down from the attic, somehow. No bedbug. No bedbugs at our house in August after that hotel fiasco. No bedbugs at our house after the boys’ Kalahari fiasco a few weeks ago. We even had an exterminator search the entire house a few days ago and not a single bug to be found. We ARE bedbug free and always have been, and I just never, ever want to think about or talk about bedbugs again.

Anyway, my vacation proved to be a worthy distraction from the health stuff for a couple of days while I enjoyed friend time, delicious yet not overly fattening food, and got a ton of exercise. But by the time I got on that flight back home Monday morning it all came crashing back to me. I had to get through a very stressful, sad for reasons I’m not going to get into, and really rough few days with Caden before I had my ultrasound on Friday morning. I was almost in full blown panic attack mode by the time Friday rolled around, worrying about what the results were going to be.

The ultrasound was relatively painless. It was just stressful because I had to keep holding my breath for long periods of time and after awhile I started getting pretty panicky about it. I left the office with the tech telling me the doctor would get back to me within a week. I was determined to push it from my mind and have fun over the weekend, assuming it would be at the earliest Monday before I heard anything. But then, less than an hour later, the doctor messaged me that my result was mild fatty liver. Which of course isn’t great news, but it’s probably the least threatening news I could have gotten. I don’t think there’s a way to completely reverse having a fatty liver, but with some diet changes and weight loss, it should get better. She left me with the advice to lose weight and get checked again in three months.

So. It was a relief. And it was also a solid hit to the head that I NEED to make a huge part of my life about losing weight, whether I want to or not. And that scares me to death. A couple of years back I did a three month trial of Weight Watchers. I did lose 18 lbs in those three months. And I HATED every minute of it. I constantly felt deprived and hungry and seriously angry at how much time I was forced to think about what I was eating. Despite how much weight I gained in the last few years after going off birth control pills (post vasectomy), I’ve never wanted to do a weight loss program again. But now, I think I have to. And I just don’t feel strong enough to do it. I’ve had enough crazy life changing thoughts in the last few months already between work stuff and family stuff and friend stuff – how can I handle changing the entire way I eat on top of it all?! Especially when how I eat also affects how the rest of my family eats and they all have their own thoughts and opinions that they are none too happy to complain to me about. It’s so much pressure to change such a massive chunk of my life and I don’t feel like I can handle it.

In an attempt to take a step in the right direction, I signed up for a two week trial with the weight loss program Noom. I think I originally heard about it through a facebook ad and I’ve been mulling the option around for a couple of months now. After some encouragement from my friend Laura at a dinner the other night, I decided to follow through and sign up. So, it’s only my fourth day. And I’m not really sure it’s for me. Part of it is just the stress of suddenly being accountable to a program, especially in the midst of like a Halloween party filled with amazing food and today with all those leftovers sitting around. But part of it just really doesn’t seem doable. I have to track all of my food and stay in an extremely limited calorie amount. Foods are divided into three categories – green, yellow, and red. You’re supposed to eat 30% green (fresh produce and whole grains), 45% yellow (lean meats and non-fat dairy are the only examples I got), and 25% red (sugars, carbs, fats, etc.). In four days, NOTHING I have eaten has fallen into the yellow category. 90% of it is red. I mean, I do generally only eat chicken as a protein, but we also had pizza at Spookfest, pizza on Friday, cheese based food at the party, and cheese food leftovers today. My healthy cereal I’ve been eating every day for breakfast is also a red food. And I only get 300 calories of red a day. Anyway, all that to say, it’s hard. And their food database is very limited. You can’t scan in food labels, import recipes, or build recipes. You have to input each ingredient and assign full nutritional facts to everything that’s not already in their system – which is a lot of things based on my 3.5 days of using it. Trying to keep up with this feels obnoxiously annoying. I would much rather just log my eating and limit my calorie intake using a free app like myfitnesstracker. I’d almost rather do Weight Watchers again when food has a point system instead and fruits and vegetables are almost all 0 points.

The other major immediate downfall I’m seeing on Noom is that they want to track your steps – but they will only track through your phone. Do you know what percentage of the day my phone is actually on my body?? Maybe 10%? Often less, I’d guess. I carry it from room to room, but I’m rarely even wearing pants that have pockets, so it’s definitely not on my person! Why can it not let me sync my fitbit? Yesterday I had ten times more steps on my fitbit than I did on my phone. It’s kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, the reason I picked Noom in the first place is that they provide one on one and group support through the journey. They focus on the psychological triggers between food and health choices, which felt like it might work well for me. But after a couple of days I’m seriously doubting my ability to follow through with this. It’s supposed to be a 16 week program, but they make you pay for six months after the two week trial and it isn’t cheap. At the moment I’m thinking I’ll give it my best effort for two weeks and then use what I learn to try and launch myself into my own monitoring system. Obviously I’d like to lose a lot of weight in the long run. At least to get back to where I was before I rapidly started gaining post birth control pills. But my initial goal is to lose 10 lbs by my next appointment, three months from now. That feels doable. Then I’d like to work on losing 10%. And go from there. I’m not happy about any of this, but I know it’ll be so much better for my health in the long run. There’s just such a huge psychological component to it that’s really making things hard for me at this exact moment. But hopefully, I will get over it.

I didn’t mean to go so in depth about all that, but well…I like to write and I like to share when I’m in a space where I don’t feel judged because very few people are probably even reading this in the first place! Writing about this more often might make it easier for me to follow through. So expect more on this topic!

SUNDAY INTENTIONS

So! It’s Sunday! It is also my self declared lazy day after two very packed and stressful weeks. All I have done today is alternate between writing blog posts, reading a couple of different books, and taking a nap. I’m still in my pajamas, at 4pm. Caden’s friends have been here all day, but I don’t think they noticed. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m too worn out to care.

I’m hoping that this week life might start going back to normal. October has been such a weird month. So many random errands and appointments and school functions that I’ve just been so busy and all over the place. I’ve been having all these mixed feelings about sewing, which have resulted in me just plain not doing it. There are certainly enough other things to keep me busy, but I think after like three to four weeks off, I’m ready to get back to work. If I want some money rolling back in, I NEED to get back to work. So messed up focus or not, I want to work this week. At least make one batch of dolls. Say, three dolls. I can do that. I WILL do that. Despite having things going on every night this week, my days are open, with the exception of a day to run errands. I can work.

Nighttime, though! That’s busy. We have our usual piano lessons and lego league on Monday, Shepard starts art club on Tuesday, the boys have dentist appointments on Wednesday, I’m considering going to a creative writing workshop that’s starting in town on Thursday (I’ll probably chicken out), and Friday there is an early release and Caden has his well child check up. And one of those nights the boys will be with the grandparents, as usual. Busy busy! I really can’t get over how chaotic our fall has been. I suppose it will only get worse as the boys get older and join more activities. It’s been kind of hard to adjust to, though. I’m hoping our winter will be a lot quieter.

Anyway, that’s about it for updates! I’m all caught up! It’s also the end of the month, so I guess you’ll be hearing from me a lot in the next few days with my tv and book posts. Happy Halloween week!

My DC Vacation and Trying to Catch Up!

Good morning! It’s been awhile! I’m continuing to be in a pretty weird headspace this month and haven’t had a lot of time or drive to write any blog posts. But now I’m starting to feel very behind on what’s been happening and I need to get back to my recaps! I’m going to break these last two weeks up, to make for more manageable reading content. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last Thursday I was finally able to take my trip to DC. I’ve visited my best friend Dianne there multiple times in the last few years, but always in September or October. This year was going to be different and we had an extensive trip planned out for April, centering around seeing the famous cherry blossoms. And then I broke my ankle. Stupidly (seriously), the PA at the doctor’s office told me I’d definitely still be able to take that April trip, I’d just be slower. Well, at the beginning of April I still couldn’t put any weight on my ankle, I could barely move around on my scooter, and there was NO WAY I would have survived solo travel across the country where I’d have to depend on public transportation to get me around for five days. Craziness. Anyway, we rescheduled for October and I think it was the perfect timing for me physically and weather-wise. I’m really glad it all worked out!

I left on Thursday afternoon and stopped at the huge Marshall’s on the way to the airport. (I’m obsessed.) Then I had just enough time to get through security, enjoy a salad at the airport Chili’s, and read a few minutes before boarding. I was nervous about my metal ankle plate setting off the metal detectors, but it either didn’t register, or the security people could see what it was on the x-ray machine thingy. I’ve yet to go through a regular metal detector, so I’m curious to see if I’ll set off alarms on those. Anyway, travel to DC was fast and easy. It’s amazing how far you can travel on just an hour and fifteen minute smooth flight! Dianne met me at the airport and we took the metro back to her apartment. It was getting late by that point so we just went to bed.

I wasn’t feeling the greatest on Friday, mostly from a couple nights of not great sleep and just travel in general. Dianne went to work, so I had the day to take at my own pace. I read for awhile in the morning and then just ventured out to the next metro stop to shop at Marshall’s (ha!) and Target. I wasn’t feeling very adventurous. But then I had lunch at Cava, my all time favorite DC quick food option. I guess it doesn’t look particularly appealing in the photo, but it is sooooo good. The apple cinnamon vanilla iced tea was amazing too. After lunch I went back to the apartment to take a nap and felt a lot better after that.

After my nap I took a little stroll through the neighborhood shops. There was a bookstore and a few little gift places. I had coffee at this tiny little shop, sitting on the porch while I watched a ton of squirrels playing together. Then I took the metro to Chinatown and mostly just wandered around. There is shopping in that area, but I didn’t do any research ahead of time and ended up just wandering down quieter streets and looking for benches to rest for awhile. It was supposed to be my resting day to gear up for more walking over the weekend, but I still ended up with over 15,000 steps all three days.

I met up with Dianne at a place called Dirty Habit for cocktails Friday evening. It was kind of like a hotel’s rooftop/courtyard bar area and also the place where her husband Jack proposed to her. It was a really cool place! We had some sort of orange and champagne cocktails.

Next we went to a couple of shops (I bought a super cute pair of earrings) and then had dinner at a place called Oyamel. We had reservations so we were able to get in right away, but we were seated next to the bar which was SO LOUD. But the food was good! I ordered chicken verde enchiladas and mango agua fresca, which was so tasty. Dianne had tacos, but everything was served small plate style, so we were still hungry and ended up ordering a second round of crispy brussel sprouts and mole french fries, which weren’t as yummy. But it was a cool restaurant!

On the way back we stopped at a cider place near her apartment to get another drink.

I only had the tasting size, but whew! That was enough! We asked the bartender for the sweetest one, but I guess that in turn meant it had the highest alcohol content. I drank it, but don’t think cider is really my drink! We played a few rounds of bananagrams while we were there, which was really fun!

On Saturday morning, Dianne rented a zipcar and we drove to the National Arboretum. I only knew this even existed through a post Anne Bogel wrote earlier this year about her visit there, so I was excited to check it out too! There were a lot of different gardens and walking trails and these columns from the original (I think…) White House. The woodsy trails just looked a lot like Wisconsin woodsy trails, but it was really fun, peaceful, and pretty to walk through everything.

The best part, though, was seeing all the bonsai trees! I took a picture of basically every tree. I don’t think it made this collage, but it was really cool to see the oldest bonsai in the US, which started growing in the 1600’s!! My favorites were the ones that looked like itty bitty forests. I also liked the ones that were more unique plant varieties. It was so awesome just seeing all of them in one area like that.

Next on our agenda was DC’s Union Market, which was a big building filled with unique little restaurant booths. It wasn’t too crowded yet, so we had time to walk through and check everything out. We both decided on Korean chicken tacos from Takorean, a place Dianne has eaten at before and always sounded delicious to me. They were great!

We took a walk around the outside of the building to check out all the instagrammable spots.

And then back inside because I wanted to get one of these amazing looking donuts for dessert. It was so light and fluffy. Really good meal!

On the way back to the apartment we stopped at the farmer’s market right across the street. I didn’t get anything, but it’s always fun to check out the markets in different areas of the country. Back inside I took a little reading break while Dianne went for a run and then we headed back out to do some shopping. I got an amazing iced mocha from Pret and at Loft I picked out a great black and gray polka dot scarf. Then we went to the theater to watchย The Hate U Give. I’ve been anxious to see it after reading the book and it didn’t disappoint! It was heavy, though! As expected.

For dinner we went to a place called Timber. Dianne had given me a gift certificate to go there as a birthday present and I intended to go Friday for lunch, but it wasn’t open – which was fine because I got some awesome Cava instead. Timber was pretty packed, so we ended up getting it to go and eating back at the apartment. Then we settled in for the night with our food and a movie. I was definitely ready to relax by then!

On Sunday morning, Dianne reserved a car to rent so we could drive to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a cute little city she’d been to a couple of times and thought I’d enjoy seeing. We had a few hiccups with our car rental and ended up with a huge van. It was fun driving there because I got to be in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia all in about a three minute span. My first time in WV! We were able to grab the last parking spot in the town’s very limited lot and had a fast breakfast at a little cafe. This blueberry scone was SO good. The plain coffee, not so much. But it was hot and that was all that really mattered. It was SO COLD on Sunday.

Next we walked a bit of the Appalachian Trail! The picture makes it look like it was rainy, but really it was just gloomy and freezing cold and super windy. But the trail and the town itself were beautiful!

We walked up a big hill to see a rock that Jefferson once stood on. The city was built on a hill, so I did a more stair climbing and hill walking than I have in basically forever (31 flights according to my fitbit!). It was rough on my ankle, but I survived!! When the sun came out Harpers Ferry looked so quaint and lovely.

There weren’t a ton of things to see, but we did go into all the little shops. I liked the bookstore and a candy shop that sold “candy” that people would have eaten from biblical times through today. It was really interesting to see the progression. Overall, I loved getting out of DC and seeing something unique and special! It was so awesome how Dianne had the whole trip planned out so well.

Before leaving we got lunch at a small cafe. It was simple, but really hit the spot after all the walking and climbing.

Next on our agenda was a stop in the city of Frederick, Maryland. They have a big downtown filled with unique shops. I bought Greg and the boys some fun candy and I got myself some tea and spices. Then we headed back to the apartment and finished the night at their local taqueria. This might have been the tastiest meal of the trip. If I had a taqueria in my neighborhood with those prices I’d be there every day!! The fried chicken taco with the habanero salsa was so good. I also had some Mexican creamy rice that didn’t make the photo, but was really good. It was a great end the day!

On Monday morning we just got ready and headed out. Everything was timed pretty well so I had plenty of time for every mode of transportation, but was never just sitting around and bored for long stretches. The day still seemed to last forever, but it was good to be home. Vacations are great, but it’s always nice to settle back in at home. But yes – overall, a great little getaway that took my mind off of a lot of stressful things for a few days. I really needed it and had a lot of fun!

Birthday Week Reflections 10.07.2018

Hello! Well, today is my 34th birthday and I’m at the end of celebrating my birthday week. I feel like I’ve kind of been getting some passive aggressive flak for all of my mini celebration pictures I’ve been posting online the last few days. I’m not going to apologize for it, guys. If you want a birthday week, YOU CAN HAVE ONE. The only person stopping you is yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚ I like to think of my birthday as a weeklong celebration because it really takes the pressure off of having one really special and perfect day. Because let’s face it – if you have kids, a job, a life of any sort – it’s pretty hard to pull off a perfect day. So to try and stave off that disappointment, I spread things out so I have something little to look forward to every day. Plus, the only way you can really celebrate with everyone is to have a big party. And maybe it’s just me, but it feels a bit more embarrassing to throw yourself a huge party every year, as an adult. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had a hard enough time just asking a couple of friends to give up a night to come out with me. Anyway, little daily celebrations it is!

So! Monday started off with Caden waking us up super early because he was sick. Already interrupting my plans. But after a lot of extra sleep he was feeling a lot better, so I left him with a package of saltines, video games, and his open chromebook so he could keep in constant messaging contact with me, and ran out to do the errands I desperately needed to do as fast as possible. And then I squeezed in a fast lunch at Qdoba. I was dying to try their Chicken Diablo nachos. They were so tasty, but crazy messy!

The rest of Monday was packed with cleaning out the pantry and fridge, doing a lot of housework and laundry, and making a big batch of chicken noodle soup for dinner. After school Shepard had his first piano lesson. He was SO excited about it!

I was super excited on Monday night because the announcement came through that Book Bonanza 2019 tickets were on sale! They had their first book bonanza this last August, in Denver, at the same time we were in LaCrosse. I found out about it way too late to have gone, but I was so jealous of everyone there! It is organized by Colleen Hoover (my favorite), but features a ton of authors. Rachel Hollis was even one of the keynote speakers at that conference. Anyway, I was anxiously awaiting to hear when and where next year’s bonanza would be and at the beginning of September they announced it would be in Dallas. In August. Blech. It was also more expensive than I was expecting and just kind of wrote it off and not going to happen, even though I was super disappointed. ANYWAY, come Monday, I was telling Greg that tickets finally went on sale and he told me I should buy my ticket! I couldn’t believe he was serious, but that’s the kind of guy he is. ๐Ÿ™‚ So even though it feels like a totally self indulgent and expensive solo vacation, I am going to Book Bonanza next year!!!! 48 hours of author panels and signings and keynote speeches and yummy food all in an amazing looking hotel filled with fellow book lovers just outside of Dallas. I’ve never been to Texas, so that’ll be exciting too, even though I don’t think I’ll see anything besides Grapevine, the city where the hotel is. But still! Even though it’s 10 months away, I am so psyched. I have my room booked too because it’s all at the same place. So I just need to find a flight, sometime.

On Tuesday morning I had to go back to Fitchburg to get some quick lab work done. I had originally planned to stop at World Market afterward and then spend an hour or two at the big Barnes and Noble before getting back home in early afternoon. Instead I overbooked myself, AGAIN, and went to like ten stores. By the time I got to Barnes and Noble I was so exhausted that I left after five minutes. It was still a nice day, but I was kind of mad at myself for not just sticking to the thing I was really looking forward to.

Tuesday after school we lost Shepard again. This time it was a mixup because the boys had a new meetup plan, but Shepard forgot about it during the day and never found Caden. Caden ran to school, talked to all of Shepard’s friends who hadn’t seen him, and ran all the way back home to get me. Once again, it was pretty scary, but only lasted a few minutes before we found him. It made me realize that we just need to be a lot more consistent. It’s unfair to expect a 7 year old to remember all the different plans every single day.

Wednesday was the only day I took Annie on a longer walk and then I had my first Writing Wednesday, writing a few blog posts. Annie had a grooming appointment in the afternoon. While she was gone my birthday present from Steve and Cindy arrived – a new bookcase!!!

The guys spent the night building it for me while I read on the chair.

Annie found the most awkward spot to sleep while it was being built! ๐Ÿ™‚ It took me until Saturday to get my books set up, but I’m not quite happy with my arrangement yet. I’ll get a picture up when I figure out the rest!

On Thursday morning Shepard lost a tooth that’s been barely hanging on for the last six weeks. He HATES losing teeth. But I think he was really relieved that it came out with little fanfare this time around. He just woke up and it fell out of his mouth!

Thursday was mostly a workday, pretty uneventful. Then I went out to one of my favorite restaurants, Monk’s, with two of my friends.

I really appreciate that they made time to come out with me. I was in kind of a depressed mood earlier in the day, thinking about how drastically my friend situation has changed in the last few years. On my 30th birthday I had about 14 awesome friends go out to Chili’s with me and it was amazing. And now every year I have fewer and fewer of those friendships left. Everyone is so busy. It’s just a whole issue I’m having a really hard time reconciling with. But it’s also not really something I can talk openly about without probably hurting or ruining the friendships I have left. At any rate, it was nice to go out. It hasn’t happened in a long time!

On Friday I worked for a couple more hours and then went to seeย A Star is Born by myself. It was so good!! I wasn’t really prepared for the ending which left me in a pretty somber mood, but I thought Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper had amazing chemistry. I really enjoyed it. It’s also been so long since I’ve been to a movie! It’s one of my favorite things, going by myself during the day. I hope I can make it a more regular thing now that better movies are going to start popping up again! After the movie I FINALLY spent some more time at Barnes and Noble. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then for dinner I met Greg and the boys and my in-law’s at Willie Ty’s. I really just wanted to go there for all their flavored aiolis! I wasn’t feeling super hungry, so I just picked a regular grilled cheese and savored my sweet potato fries with habanero aioli.

We came back to our house for birthday cupcakes and a couple more gifts. It was a really nice night!

Birthday flowers, from Cindy.

I had a pretty lazy Saturday. I contemplated going to the farmer’s market, but I’ve been running around so much the last few weeks it just wasn’t appealing to me. So I spent a few hours working and a few hours reading and resting. We made a pizza for lunch that turned into a monster.

Mid afternoon we went to my favorite place to get pumpkins in Horicon. Shepard and I had a great time picking out a big variety to decorate the porch with. (Caden was having a fit and Greg was dealing with that.)

Then we went to my parents’ to celebrate with them. They made an amazing meal, like always! As much as I love eating in restaurants, it was great having a more wholesome homemade meal!

We just hung out and laughed at all of Annie and Gracie’s doggy antics. I opened my presents and got this awesome stack of books, among other things. Can’t wait to dig into them! I think I’ll start withย It’s All Under Controlย as one of the nonfiction books I’d like to read this month.

We had chocolate chip cheesecake for dessert. I had a really nice evening!

And that brings me to today, my actual birthday! I didn’t want to commit to any plans specifically until I knew what I felt like doing today. Weekend birthdays aren’t really my favorite because kids are just around and not making life so easy. But they were actually great all day! We had Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants for an easy breakfast and then I spent most of the morning finishing up a good book.

My big reading chair was my main birthday present, but they also gave me a few treats they picked out at Walgreens and some spices I had asked for.

I set up the pumpkins and we got this nice picture!

One of the things I kind of wanted to do today was check out this craft fair in Sun Prairie. I rallied everyone to go and then it started raining. You had to pay to get in and it just didn’t seem worth it. So we continued on to Madison and had lunch at BelAir Cantina. It’s where I really wanted to eat today, but didn’t really want to bring it up because it was such a long drive. I was also worried the boys wouldn’t really like it because SHOCKER, no chicken tenders on the menu! But it actually turned out to be an awesome lunch. The boys kept shouting that it was the best restaurant EVER. They loved all the different salsas. It’s pretty rare that the four of us go out to dinner by ourselves ever, and when it does happen there’s usually a lot of complaining about something or other. But no complaints today! It was really great! And the food was fantastic. I actually ate here last year on my birthday too, with just Greg. The atmosphere is so much nicer on a Sunday at lunch than later on a Saturday night!

I stopped at Starbucks for my free birthday drink on the way home. I just got the Starbucks app a few weeks ago – I’m glad I didn’t miss out on that reward! ๐Ÿ™‚

Back at home I took a long nap with Rory, my favorite nap buddy.

I didn’t really have any dinner plans and wasn’t super hungry, but Greg wanted to figure something out so he took the boys to Subway to pick up something easy.

I decided to make myself a caramel apple pie for my official birthday dessert, but I stupidly decided not to use a recipe. I totally forgot to use some sort of thickening agent and the store bought caramel I added to it must have been more of a dip than an actual caramel because the whole pie was totally liquified! The crust was good! I did use a recipe for that!! At least I got a picture with my boys giving real smiles!

And that was my birthday week! I think 34 will be a good year. The last year before I have to start checking the next age bracket in every survey people put out. ๐Ÿ™‚ I still have a couple more minor celebrations coming up, but I’ll try not to be obnoxious about it. Many thanks to the family and friends that gave me a great week!

Quick September Goals Recap

September is almost over! I realize that nobody else probably cares about all these goals and intentions posts, but it really helps me to organize my thoughts at the beginning and end of every week and month to make the most of my time and live life with as much intention as possible. For awhile I was making goals by season, but every month holds so many different priorities that I’ve switched over to just focusing on each four week block at a time. So here’s a (hopefully) quick recap on how I feel like my September goals played out!

1. Get back to routine:
– Wake up by 5:30 and get ready right away
– Start each day with a quiet time and day organization
– Use any remaining time before 6:30 to do something for myself
– Focus on the boys and school stuff until it’s time to leave
– Walk them to school and walk extra with Annie
– Get to work by 9:00 and stay focused
– Focus on the boys between school pick up and dinner
– End each day with the bullet journal, tracking, and prepping the next day

I think I did a pretty great job with this one! I never have a problem waking up early and most days I was up around 5. I had enough time to shower and get out of the bathroom before Greg woke up. I wasn’t great about it on weekends, but every weekday I’d start with a quiet and devotional time and do a bit of prepping for the day in my bullet journal. And most days I used that remaining me time to read. There were a few days I chose to get a little bit of work done in that time, but I tried to stick with things that were purely for my own enjoyment. Getting back into the school day routine was easier than ever this year. I walked them every day, except the days they rode their bikes, and a few days it was raining. And with the exception of the rain days, I also walked Annie. Not always as long or as far as I would have liked, but more than just coming straight back home. I wasn’t particularly great at getting to work at 9 because there were just so many weird days and random errands I had to run. But I did try to be done with my random internet time by 9 every day so I could focus on actually accomplishing something. I made dinnertime prep a higher priority than I put it during the summer and tried to be more emotionally available to the boys, though most days they were with their friends during that stretch. And I ended almost every day doing a little bit of journaling. Some days time got away from me and I chose to go watch tv with Greg instead of making him wait any longer. But overall, I think the routine stuff was kind of a breeze! I LOVE fall when I can finally get back into the swing of everything. Summer is too chaotic and random.

2. Focus on working

I was not super successful with this. It was a busy month. It’s hard to work at home when there are always eight million other directions my mind and energy should and could be going. Ideally I wanted to average working about 6 hours a day. I did track it and it averaged to about 3.5 hours per weekday, though really it was like three days of no work at all a week and two days of super long full day and night spans. I’d really like to be more consistent, only work during the day, and find a bit more balance between everything. But…it takes time. I didn’t write it in my goals blog post, but I also wanted to create 30 dolls in September. I made 29. I sold 21. Not too bad, but I hope to be better in the future.

3. Take care of my body
–ย Walk Annie at least 30 minutes a day with an extra nighttime walk
– Do the Yoga with Adriene 14 day challenge
– Eat better

I think I did better this month. I’ve been thinking a lot harder about everything I put into my body. I don’t always make the best choices, but I’m much more conscious about what I’m eating. I’m trying to streamline my daytime meals and snacks so I’m not tempted to overindulge. I’m trying to make healthier meals at night so we’re not just throwing junky things together last minute. I have a potential diet plan I MIGHT sign up for, but I wanted to be a little more lenient on myself until after my birthday next week. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to it yet. Anyway, I think I hit my walking goal most days. It’s pretty easy to get 30 minutes in. Those days were rough with the mosquitoes, though! I would have liked to have walked more and longer all of those days, but the bugs were horrific. And I totally failed at the yoga challenge. I did the first four days and then my ankles were so ridiculously sore that I could barely walk. I was also feeling really sick around day five from getting on the new blood pressure medicine and I just had to give it up. I like yoga – on occasion. Every day is too much for me. It’s definitely too much for my ankle still, seven months in.

4. Give Caden a great birthday month

I think I succeeded at this! We kept everything pretty low key this year, which really worked out. Trying to make things extravagant and super exciting never really goes over well with Caden. He likes to be home, he likes to do simple things. We had a nice small family birthday party, a very low energy video game friend birthday party, and a quiet real birthday split between playing games and going to a fall activities place. He seemed very happy with all of it.

5. Have fun!

Sometimes September really stresses me out. Oftentimes, actually. The boys are gone during the day, but they’re in horrific moods every night. I want to have great birthday parties for Caden, but it’s so stressful making sure the house is clean, the food is great, and everyone has a good time. And I’m often frustrated with myself for my inability to ever accomplish as much as I want to. But this time around – I really did have fun! I had my mini Chicago solo vacation with the added bonus of finding a great vintage market on the way, we had very low key birthday celebrations that didn’t really stress me out at all, Greg and I had a really great date night and picked out a reading chair that I’ve been wanting for like 15 years, I had a great time at Cranberry Fest with my weekends, and I kept my workload light enough that I still had lots of fun to just read, relax, and enjoy my life! Overall, it was a pretty great month!