help wanted


Whew! I did it! Yeah, it was a week ago, but still. It’s still pretty fresh in my mind.

My official time for the 2013 Charlottesville ten-miler was 1:34:47 — basically right on target with the time I was hoping to get. Whew. The race went really well (even though it rained for the first few miles). Lots of hills and a tough last few miles. I wish I could share my official race photos with you, because they are amazing*, but you have to buy them in order to do so and the pictures are just too awe-inspiring to share publicly.

So now I am done with my race! I had a great experience and will definitely do it again in the future, but for now I guess I feel a little … unmoored. I’m so used to having a concrete goal in mind that it’s a little strange to not have anything on the horizon, running-wise. Actually, it’s not a little strange; it’s really strange. I think I do really well with a goal in mind, so I probably need some objective to work toward just to prevent myself from getting lazy.

My immediate next decision has to do with whether or not to run a half marathon next month. I can do it as long as I keep my mileage up, which shouldn’t be a big problem, BUT I would probably be running it alone and I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle, logistics-wise, if I don’t have anyone to run it with. And along with that, running 20+ miles per week doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to do anything other than run. I’m pretty bound to working out during Will’s naps, so I need to use my time wisely. And while I love running, it’s not the only form of exercise out there. For one thing, I know I desperately need to build some muscle strength, and for another, I miss yoga a lot.

(Speaking of yoga, I went to a class this past Sunday and was the only student! I thought it might be awkward but it was actually a really great experience. Since I was one-on-one with the teacher, I was able to request a more restorative practice, and she was able to give me plenty of guidance without being too in my face. It was really great. I hope to be able to make it to the same class again this week. Will I be the only student again? Stay tuned.)

So if I don’t do the half marathon, I think I will stick with speedwork and shorter runs for a bit and try and lower my 5k time. The only 5k I have ever actually raced was in November and I finished in 25:56 — a great time for me, and one I am sure I can improve.

Anyway. On Wednesday I dusted off my yoga mat and did some push-ups, tricep dips, planks, and ab exercises. I am still sore. Apparently I have my work cut out for me. Now to see if I can turn these ideas into a real goal …

P.S. Steve and my dad installed a new sink over the weekend. We went from this:

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(Look at the faucet. And the hose is on the left hand side because it leaks.)

… to this:

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Aaaahhhh. So beautiful. So much better.

*and by amazing I mean hilarious.

It’s so hot outside right now.

Now, I’m someone who is able to tolerate a fair amount of heat — I don’t mind temperatures up to about 90 degrees, in general, but it’s too hot outside even for me. The last several days have seen temperatures upwards of 100 degrees, making it almost impossible to spend any time outside unless it’s immediately beside the pool.

Thankfully, we have pool access — we took Will there Friday night and he tolerated it pretty well (probably because the water felt more like a bath). Whew! He’ll be ready for the beach in no time.

(Incidentally, does anyone have any advice on taking a baby to the beach? We are planning on getting a little beach tent but aren’t sure how else to make a 3-month-old comfortable and happy out there.)

He looks like such a tough baby here.

In case the heat wasn’t brutal enough on Friday night, we were also struck by that massive storm that came through the east coast. We didn’t get much rain, but there was insane wind and I was pretty anxious until it blew over. We even moved the pack n play away from the window because I was irrationally afraid that the window would blow off the house and take our baby away with it. But as it turns out, I wasn’t that irrational; there was a ton of damage around town and a lot of people were without power or lost trees on their property. And sadly, there were several people in our area who lost their lives in the storm.

So we were incredibly lucky in that there wasn’t any damage. We didn’t even lose power! I was so thankful to wake up Saturday morning with our house all in one piece! We headed out early to run, but it was really more of an obstacle course — I had to climb over fallen trees several times. Steve and Will couldn’t go more than half a mile on the trail before fallen debris blocked their way. Still, the heat and humidity were not too bad and I was glad for the opportunity to get out of the house for a little while. We tried to get coffee afterwards but were thwarted at two coffee shops with long lines — people without power needed their coffee too!

On Saturday afternoon while Will napped and Steve strung a tennis racket, I headed out to the pool with my sister and her family. It doesn’t feel nearly as strange to be apart from Will now as it used to, and I had a lot of fun for about an hour floating around in what felt like bath water. I was amazed to find that he was still sleeping when I got home so I guess Steve and I both got a nice break! I got another one later that evening when I got to do some super-exciting grocery shopping while Steve put Will to bed. It’s amazing how my definition of an awesome Saturday night has changed.

One thing Steve and I have started to prioritize lately is buying more organic foods. I’ve tried to limit processed foods in my own diet for a long time (though I’m more lax about that than I really should be), but recently the implications of conventionally-grown and processed foods have become a lot more serious to me, and reading In Defense of Food really helped me to understand a lot of things in a concrete way. One part of my happiness project is focused on my health, after all, and in the last year it’s become much more clear to me that we only get one body, and while I know all too well that cancer just doesn’t care who you are when it comes after you, I’d like to minimize my chances of developing any chronic diseases later in life. However, that can get expensive — so after spending a ton of money on groceries this last month, we’re heading into July with the challenge of trying to buy organic whole foods on a budget. Thankfully this has been done, so I have a good place to look for resources and support. Wish us luck!

There is more I want to talk about this week — on yoga, on upcoming anniversaries, on the practice of happiness, and on the fact that 2012 is now half over — but I will leave this here for now. And in the meantime, any advice on a) beach vacation with a baby, and b) grocery shopping on a budget? Budgeting has never been a great skill of mine.

I don’t even know anymore, but regardless, I am determined to make it a good one.

Yes, really. Don’t look so surprised.

So much of my happiness depends upon my attitude. Remember this quote from The Happiness Project?

According to current research, in the determination of a person’s level of happiness, genetics accounts for about 50 percent; life circumstances, such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation, and religious affiliation, account for about 10 to 20 perfect; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.

I’m letting my circumstances dictate my happiness way too much these days — it seems like the smallest thing can send me into a spiral. So what I’m trying to do today is live in the moment and stay positive. Just because Will had a bad night of sleep last night doesn’t mean today is going to be miserable. Just because I’m tired this morning doesn’t mean I need to act on my irritability. Today, I am going to choose to be happy and just go with the flow. (I am not a Type A person, but man, motherhood is testing the limits of my Type B tendencies. Not the effect I was hoping Will would have on me! Maybe I need some more zen habits in my life.)

Further thoughts:

  1. It’s going to be about a hundred degrees out today and tomorrow, meaning I may not get in my scheduled run tomorrow — I might go out at around 7:30 pm and see how it goes. I can’t WAIT to get that treadmill, even if it has to stay in the garage … one other thing I’m working on, though, is being a little more flexible when it comes to getting in my workouts. Missing one run is NOT the end of the world.
  2. I did core yoga yesterday but I’m not that sore today. Is it because it was only a 30 minute flow, or because I didn’t work hard enough? Aaargh. I might do it again today because it was a good challenge!
  3. Today we have Will’s two-month shots. I’m not looking forward to it, especially given Will’s aforementioned bad night of sleep (which, all things considered, was not actually that bad. Choosing to be positive here).

Wish me luck! Off we go.

… because clearly I am an expert at this point! But I thought I’d share my experience thus far, as a naturally introverted person spending most of my days with someone with whom I can’t really interact at this point.

He can’t have a conversation with me, but he can smile at me!

Before having a baby, I used to hear how isolating it can be to stay home with your children. And now that I’m experiencing it myself, I know it can be true. I’ve had many days where the only other adult I talk to is the guy behind the counter at the post office — or even just Steve. And for me personally, that’s fine once in a while. (Probably more often than it should be.) But one thing I don’t want to do now that I’m a stay-at-home mom is find myself at the end of a week in which my sole company has been my son and my husband. It’s really easy to allow that to happen — for one thing, getting out of the house is much more complicated now than it ever has been! — so I want to make sure it doesn’t.

The thing is, though, that takes effort! And for someone who’s naturally reserved and perfectly happy pursuing solitary hobbies, it can feel like a lot of effort. I’m not one for small talk, and a lot of social interaction can leave me feeling drained, something I try to avoid these days.

Will doesn’t, though.

But it is so important to maintain — and even build — my network of friends. So I’m making sure to stay connected to people even when it doesn’t come naturally to me, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.

One way I stay connected with people is through the magic of technology. Thanks to my iPad — which I use to track Will’s eating and sleeping, meaning it follows us around the house all day — I can continue emailing my friends and keeping up with facebook and blogs. While it can’t replace face time with other people, it goes a long way toward helping me feel much less isolated when I know what’s going on in my friends’ lives.

Another thing that I want to do later on is join some regular weekly activities. My church hosts a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings (complete with child care!) that I’m planning on joining this fall, as well as a mommy-and-me music class. (I am really hoping Will inherits the Josephson music gene, so I am getting him started early.) I want as many opportunities as possible to not only get some adult conversation every day, but also to meet other moms and get to know them. Being a mom is tough and the more camaraderie I can find, the better — I don’t know how I would have survived these past eight weeks without the wisdom of my more experienced mom friends.

But those don’t start until August — so until then it’s up to me to make sure I get out of the house. Even if our day’s not going well. Even if Will cries. Even if I have spit-up on my shirt.

Do any veteran moms out there (particularly stay-at-home moms) have any advice for me? What helped you to not feel isolated during your baby’s early months?

One thing that I prioritize a lot in my day-to-day life, and which I feel has a big impact on my overall happiness, is eating a healthy diet. Most days for breakfast I have oatmeal or a smoothie, for lunch it’s a big salad topped with veggies and protein, and snacks include fresh fruit, veggies, and cottage cheese. I try to stick with healthy recipes for dinner (even if it’s just scrambled eggs) and while I do eat dessert, I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth.

(In fact, at the baby shower my office threw me this week, we had a “green smoothie” station where I was finally able to prove to my coworkers that you can’t taste the spinach!)

(And they apparently have green smoothie clip art! I love it.)

A big part of my personal happiness project has been to eat really well, and I’ve noticed the big impact it’s had on how I feel every day. And with that has come a better understanding of how I feel when I don’t eat really well. And I have especially noticed that in the last few weeks. I don’t know what is going on but I can’t seem to stay away from candy!

(source)

These are my weakness right now. I can’t stop.

I have discovered on several separate occasions, to my great sadness, that eating a lot of sugar makes me feel pretty terrible. I know, this is not breaking news or anything and it’s not at all shocking. But it is then really frustrating when I find myself eating handful after handful of jelly beans or peanut butter cups — or even just sweet, sugary foods in general. I think that the more sugar I eat, the more I want. It’s not good.

One reason I’m including the way I eat in my happiness project is because, apart from knowing that eating well makes me feel good physically and feeling good physically helps me to feel good emotionally, I see this as part of a larger issue: making good choices that promote my long-term happiness and not just my short-term satisfaction. I’ve seen myself doing a lot of the latter when it comes to what I’m choosing to eat, and I want to move away from that. It’s easy for me to look at the meals I eat and feel good about them while ignoring the fact that for about a week now I’ve been snacking on candy, but eventually it becomes hard to feel good about how I eat when I realize that what I’m eating makes me feel tired, jittery and unsatisfied and just kind of … meh.

My quest to say no to jellybeans made me think of another part of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project — the question of whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer when it comes to giving something up. After reading that it was pretty clear to me that in this sense, I’m an abstainer — it’s way easier for me to not keep Oreos in the house than it is to resist them if I know they’re in my cupboard. The big challenge for me isn’t so much in my kitchen as it is in the grocery store.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I have been down this road before; the spring of my senior year of college comes to mind when I realized just how many Cokes I was drinking each day. (This is made worse by the fact that I don’t really like diet soda. Heh.) I know the hardest part is making the initial change, and that once I’m out of the habit of snacking on jellybeans and peanut butter cups, I won’t feel at all deprived, and — despite how desolate a world without jellybeans looks from within a world full of jellybeans — I will actually feel much better. (I just need to give them up, to start with.)

But my dilemma now is this … I have half a bag of jellybeans in my cupboard. Keep them and eat them until they’re gone, or throw them away? I feel torn …

Last month I wrote about how my “pigeons of discontent”, clutter and procrastination, followed me around pecking at me while I tried to ignore them. I wanted both to devise some strategies for staying on top of clutter, while also developing a little more self-discipline to tackle and organize the existing clutter. Whew. I am not someone who is naturally organized, though a clean and organized space does make me breathe a little easier. I remember every inch of surface of my high school desk (which was not small) being covered in papers, books, CD cases, knick-knacks, and God knows what else — with a small surface in the middle for me to be able to squeeze my history book open. Maybe I would have been a better student in high school if I had been a little more organized …

Maybe not. Man, I loved having maroon hair …

Anyway. I digress. Those days are long behind me and I can only hope to harangue my future children in the same way my mother did me, and hope they will heed my advice.

ANYWAY. Since I wrote that last month, I honestly have made an effort to curtail my cluttery tendencies — and it’s working! Slowly! I have put most of my efforts into the kitchen and have really been focused on making sure the dishes don’t sit clean in the dishwasher too long, and to just do the thing my mom always said to do and just put the dishes in the dishwasher right away OMG it’s not that hard. Already it’s nice to see a neater, more organized kitchen when I stumble downstairs in the morning. Now that our Christmas tree is out of the house and our decorations sadly packed away, I’m going to turn more attention to the living room. I was about to give up my subscription to Real Simple, but I think I really can learn a lot from their many, many, many organizational tips and tricks. I’m also going to take a look at my beloved Martha Stewart Homemaking Handbook to further my education.

One of the things people have been asking me a lot lately is So, is your nursery all set up? I sheepishly answer no. Well do you have a crib picked out and everything? Uh, no. [Now in a slightly worried tone] Do you know what … colors you’re going to use? Now that we know! Yes! One of the very, very, very few things Steve and I have done to prepare for our boy’s arrival is pick up paint chips for the nursery. We are planning mint green walls with navy and white accents (including bedding made by Auntie Leah!). We have a dresser we’ll repurpose into a changing table (here it is hiding behind the dining room table, before we put a hutch there):

It was Steve’s dresser when he was a kid!

In addition to a crib, we also want a glider and probably some shelves. But what I need most is some help! Unlike most moms to be, I have resisted even thinking about a nursery up until this point, and now we are down to the wire. I don’t want a particularly overdecorated or “themed” space. So far, I like the nurseries over at Young House Love and Daily Garnish, but I feel totally out of my league and unmoored when it comes to 1. setting up a whole new room from scratch, and 2. setting it up for a baby. Despite having a bunch of nieces and nephews, I know very little about them. I am at a loss when it comes to useful and practical ways to organize a nursery (including all the stuff babies come with) for both efficiency and good looks. Help!!!

So if you have any advice for me (resources, your own insights, where to start, what not to do), I would LOVE to hear it! And I really, really, really, really REALLY hate to say this (because facebook is pretty much enough social media for me), but … should I join Pinterest?

“An ordinary problem that has settled in to roost.” This is what the Happiness Project calls “pigeons of discontent“, and clutter and procrastination are mine. My house is a disorganized mess, we can’t find anything, every available surface is covered in magazines, mail, coasters and God knows what else – but procrastination keeps me from clearing it all away. While I can ignore it for a while, eventually the clutter makes me feel stressed, while procrastination keeps me glued to the couch, and the problem just gets worse and worse until I feel like I am in way over my head, and my house starts to resemble an episode of Hoarders.

In many ways Steve and I balance each other out but this is not one of those areas. Unfortunately we are well matched in our slob-like tendencies. It’s not uncommon (please don’t judge) for our kitchen to look like this:

or our bedroom like this:

and yeah, it’s really pitiful.

I would really like to develop the kind of self-discipline necessary to keep my house looking a bit more like a Country Living spread, but it feels like a constant uphill battle. Right now I’m telling myself it’s because I work full time and am busy gestating, and yeah – it’s a bigger problem now than it’s been in the past, but the reality, if we want to be honest here, is that I would much rather watch TV, read, knit, or sleep the evenings away – basically do what I want to do – rather than invest the time into creating a peaceful environment in my home. And that really needs to change! I do not want to start our lives as a family of three with these bad habits in place. I know that the battle against clutter (and the struggle against procrastination) will be long-term challenges for me, but I want to know how to manage them so they don’t keep settling in to roost. These are deep-seated habits and behavior patterns I am trying to change.

So with the first step (acknowledging the problem) out of the way, how do I move forward?

  • Small goals. I work best this way, focusing on one thing at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of crap I need to sort through and the amount of cleaning I really need to catch up on. So tonight while Steve ran an errand before dinner, I did the dishes in the sink and loaded the dishwasher. Simple, right? And yet my first instinct was to throw myself on the couch for the next hour before he got home. I think setting a nightly timer – even if it’s just 20 minutes – will go a long way toward helping us control the clutter in our lives without making us feel like clutter maintenance is also taking over our lives.
  • Making it a part of daily life. I really do like homemaking, but lately I’ve been seeing anything that’s not a want as something that’s just getting in the way. By realigning the way I think about this, hopefully it’ll be easier to enact some changes. And hopefully it’ll help me to feel less resentful when I’m doing the dishes, too.

Anyway, that’s where I’m going to start. Tomorrow’s Friday so I’ll have the afternoon to myself. I don’t know if I’ll have the energy or drive to tackle the kitchen and the dining room and the living room and the master bedroom and bathroom, but – I’ll get started. Before I start, I’ll identify what my goals for the afternoon are going to be. With any effort luck soon my house will look more like this:

Or at least, it’ll be well on its way.

Are clutter and procrastination anyone else’s pigeons of discontent? If so how do you address the problem?

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