Resolutions–January Review

Well, January felt like the longest month of all months ever. How are things going, resolution-wise? Exactly one thing actually crossed off the list. But progress on some others, and absolutely no progress on other others. Not a terrible start to the year!

  1. Drink more water. This lasted about a week. Now I’m back to my usual dehydrating schedule of gallons of daily coffee. More water necessary. I definitely notice that on the days where I don’t drink enough water, getting through the evening commute/dinner hour/bedtime is rough–I get hangry and light-headed. 
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. See below. 
  3. Aim for 7. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! NOPE. Well, I’m alternating. Work has been busy and I’ve been up crazy late, way too often. Plus reading Twitter and fretting about the state of the world. I do this for about a week in a row until I’m completely exhausted and then go to bed freakishly early on alternate weeks. As usual, I’ve got to get back on a more moderate, regular schedule. 
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. See above.
  5. Eat more vegetables. We’re doing it! See below. Still not as many as we should or could be eating, but there has been a real, significant uptick in the volume of fresh vegetables consumed. 
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. I try to observe and appreciate *everything,* not take anything for granted, and verbally thank as much as possible. Whether in general I’m in a more friendly mood overall, not so sure. But I am trying to be proactively more gracious and appreciative. 
  7. Be less rigid. Eh….
  8. Have more fun. Eh….
  9. Roll with the punches. Eh…..
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not. It’s hard to take the long view when the last two weeks has felt like ten years. Will keep trying. 
  11. Take myself as seriously as I expect other people to take me (like, carry business cards and shit). I think I am doing this. I’m assuming, for example, that I’m not dispensable or an accessory at things, and taking my attendance and contributions and leadership appropriately seriously, and I think it’s making a real difference. Bit by bit. So, I will keep it up. 
  12. But also take stuff in general less seriously. Eh….
  13. But also do not become complacent/paralyzed/apathetic re: the world/our nation/social justice. I stalled out after Thanksgiving and it took until the travel ban to really get jump-started again. We marched in our little city on Jan 21 and that was great and important and galvanizing but let’s be honest, it was also largely a feel-good thing (if also a visibility thing). It wasn’t until I woke up last Saturday morning and read all the travel ban stuff that I got back on the phone with my representatives. I also spent about an hour digging about the Department of Homeland Security website until I found an appropriate number to call and complain, and I shared it with a few folks, who shared it with a few groups, and I know word got out to others. I don’t even know if it was the right number, but I did *something*, and the something had ripple effects. After the election, before Thanksgiving, the idea of having only one action a week felt absurd and not enough. And it probably isn’t enough. But now, now that we’re in it, for the long hall, holding myself to one concrete action a week means I’m *taking* one action a week, and it may help stretch out my stamina to stay in this, as long as we need to. So, trying to stay engaged, but also pace myself. 
  14. Just keep grieving. I feel like Trump has pulled me out of my grief slump kinda the same way WWII pulled America out of the Great Depression. Like, suddenly something so much bigger, requiring everyone to rally and work together and combine resources, has come into being, and as Enjolras put it, our littlel lives don’t count at all. But also: In January we had my aunt’s birthday, Liddie’s birthday, my grandma’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday, in that order. He had a huge sweet tooth, and I made a batch of double chocolate cupcakes–the same ones we had for his 60th birthday–to honor the day.
  15. Pull my weight re: nurturing friendships; do my fair share of organizing, hosting, prodding, reaching out, reminding, and lowering the overhead as much as possible for busy people to spend good time together. Yeah! I’ve re-instated a weekly ice skating lunch with a good friend, hosted a book club meeting, and organized a trip to see a play with friends in June. Doin’ it! Will keep it up!
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. Our neighbors are valiantly continuing to host this meal on a weekly basis, and we haven’t gone yet. By Sunday night we’re usually just feeling so tired and anti-social we’re not really up for anything. Will continue to try. 
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. We’re doing it! But, it’s hard to say if it’s worth it. What does “worth it” even mean? These evenings are rough, and cooking with toddlers is rough. I used to think it was just an unfortunate coincidence that everyone I knew who had a bad accident in the kitchen had small children. Ha. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. This WEEK alone, I burned my arm pretty badly and cut my finger. I admit that I *have* really been enjoying eating more actual, whole foods and fresh vegetables. Food tastes better and I appreciate it more. Will try to keep this up However, it turns out to be in conflict with the following: 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. Yeah! Kinda sorta. We’re doing it more than we ever did before, and it’s great! We like it, and Liddie likes it too! She now always tries to get us to sit down with her before she will eat. But cooking *and* eating together is hard. We did it for a week or so and her bedtime kept getting pushed later and later and later. I feel like we need to figure out some kind of balance between nights where she eats with us, but we have a super easy dinner, and nice where we cook something a little more involved and eat after she goes down. But *then* we achieve the goals of cooking more and eating together more, but we don’t have a predictable routine for the girl, and that’s something she likes and needs. *shrug.* So much of working + adulting + parenting = can’t win/do what you need to get by. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. We’re both sick and tired a lot, but we’re doing it! 
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. Well we’re only a month in, and I have talked to my grandma on the phone once and Skyped with my aunt with Liddie. So I guess technically I haven’t fallen behind yet, though I don’t feel like I’m doing much to reach out and be supportive. Keep it up, self, and don’t fall behind. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) That’s a big NOPE. I even blocked it from my work computer–and then unblocked it after two days. 
  22. Blog more. Not yet…
  23. Write more letters. Not yet….see below: at some point I’ll unpack my stationery, pens, and address book and then I’ll get on with things. And I just wrote my first postcard of the year! (it’s to a friend, not a political protest) Now to actually mail it….
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen. Yes! It’s happening! It’s booked! First weekend together in like ten years. I can’t wait! I’ll officially cross it off the list after it happens. 
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver Yup!–I’ll tack this on to the front of the weekend with Kelsey and Robyn. But, this is only a half success, I’d say: I’m not bringing Liddie on this trip, which will leave everyone in the family unsatisfied. 
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit. No plans yet. 
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. No plans yet. First concrete step: get Liddie a passport. I’m irrationally paranoid about doing this because I’m somehow afraid that the record of her birth certificate–literally the only evidence that we are family–will somehow disappear in the process, or that something will go terribly wrong. Need to just get on with it, as it will open up our options so much! Also to be prepared in case of emergency bug-out. 
  28. Make our bedroom a nice, warm, comfortable, functional, attractive, calming, intentional place to be, rather than the garbage pile where we hide everything that we don’t want anyone else to see. Paint. Window treatments. Closet. A bed. OK. We have a bed. It’s 90% assembled–the last step is going to be a stupid doozy. And no progress on anything else. 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. No progress. I’m coming around to really liking some parts of our kitchen. Other parts (portable dishwasher that connects to sink, flat white cupboards that show every single stain and grease spot) I am SO done with. I also feel wary, like, we shouldn’t spend so much money with the way the world is right now. I’d rather have savings in the bank and not luxuriate/spoil ourselves when the world is so rough. I don’t know. We’ll see. 
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever. Well, the table is ready, but covered with junk. Oh man, keeping surfaces free of garbage/other people’s mail takes such freaking EFFORT. I have an empty set of plastic drawers set up under the table. Next step: unpack all my desk stuff from the old house. I still have no stationary, pens, stamps, my address book, etc., at hand. 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hours. I think I’m getting better, but how can one know for sure? Just kidding. I know one can know for sure. I think to test myself on this it would be a good idea to put some kind of alert on emails that haven’t been dealt after 48 hours. 
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! One actual task checked off the list!
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. No progress. 
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. No progress. Jeez, the basement is still half full of packed boxes from moving. 
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. No progress. 
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. No progress.
  37. Help my mom move out of our family home. Ease this transition as much as possible with significant practical and emotional support, i.e. a substantial stay with her this spring.  Cry as much as needed. Do not withdraw, do not fail to show up for this. I’ve blocked a week on my calendar in April when I might go, stay, and help, but need to, you know, talk to Mom about this and make sure it works for her schedule. 
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! Mom has booked her trip for the first week of August and invited Sam and me to join. We need to figure out what we’d do with Liddie and if we can manage it in general–but the door is open. 
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Yes! Ongoing! Monthly gifts set up to ACLU (doubled my existing monthly gift after the travel ban) and Planned Parenthood. Annual memberships to the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Art. Instead of signing up for TSA pre-Check as I had planned, I gave the $85 as a one time gift to the International Rescue Committee.  Add to this existing monthly gift to the Uganda Community Project. 
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. Need to get in touch with her. Sent some pictures after Liddie’s birthday, but haven’t tried to set up a meeting yet. 
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. This won’t be til June.
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. See above. 
  43. Go to the beach. Ehhhh, there’s time, there’s time. 
  44. Find a way that also works for spouse to regularly schedule to space and time to myself that does not involve staying up puttering until 1 a.m.: mental health days, Saturday mornings out, whatever. Well, I was sick yesterday and slept literally the entire day. Does that count? Also, Sam took L to the grocery store this afternoon (right now) and I am supposed to be vacuuming (see no. 46)
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. Well, I got in a fight with a customer service rep at AmEx because I couldn’t log into the site on the day my bill was due, and wanted them to waive my late fee, and they did, but then the guy got condescending with me about why it was my fault that I couldn’t log into the site….so, that counts, right? In all seriousness, I am starting to get a fresh handle on our finances in this new house world and that’s a good thing. 
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. I’m hitting maybe 50% of my very minimal house cleaning goals. We are constantly drowning in laundry and dishes, and getting out in front of that often feels impossible and discouraging.
  47. See more movies in the theater. Enough movies that I’m not devastated every time I manage to go and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I love going to the movies. It brings me joy and it is probably the number one thing that I used to do a lot of and now do practically none of. So far zero movies in 2017. 😦 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. Booked! Going to see Fun Home in June when it passes through East Lansing. 
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. A little early to tackle this one. 

T is for Toddler

hisforhawkSome of you will know that I have recently been obsessed with and forcing on everyone I know the book  H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald. This is a really unique book. It’s the author’s memoir of the year after her father’s unexpected death. She (an experienced falconer already) buys and trains a young goshawk–a notoriously difficult bird. The book is the story of her grief, of her experience forging a relationship with the bird, a study of another troubled austringer: author T.H. White, and an immersion in anxiety (hers and his) and the primal drive to hide in the wild when civilization seems on the brink of disaster. It’s scholarly, but accessible. Wild, but meticulous. Absolutely undone and stiff upper lip-py. All at once.

Read it read it read it read it read it.

I suppose it’s not for everyone and, indeed, I suspect that most of the folks I’ve pressed it on neither want to read it nor will like it when they do, but it’s been the perfect book for me, at this time. I’ve read it twice in the last six months. Both times, I learned, I wept, I rolled Helen MacDonald’s lovely words around in my mouth, I got lost, I got found, and I felt better as she gave words to things I couldn’t.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: I also, it seems, absorbed child-rearding tips from her efforts to train her goshwak, Mabel.

The Fustible is now just a little over a week shy of two years old. She’s smart and verbal and understands (and can express) quite a bit. She’s also…opinionated…at the best of times and anywhere from exuberantly defiant to bitterly passive aggressive at others (gee, wonder where she learned that….)

I love her confidence, her opinions, her independence, her sense of self, her strong will. She will need them. I don’t want to stomp these things into docility or compliance. But it leaves us in a weird place where at every moment we’re a breath away from an out-of-the blue power struggle.

This week I realized that, inadvertently, I’d been applying a technique that really came from H is for Hawk:

Much is made in the book of the personality of the goshawk, and the need for the bird to be at the perfect “flying weight” before being asked to do anything in particular. Take the bird flying at the wrong weight, and it just doesn’t work. It’s not a question of how smart or well trained the bird is–if it’s not at the right level of energy, focus, interest, and physical engagement/need, they’re not going to respond, and nothing but disaster will ensue. (What this comes down to in reality is much about how much and what the bird has been fed. In the book when Helen has intractable troubles with the bird, it’s invariably because Mabel has eaten too much or too little. But I don’t want to draw that part of the analogy too here, since obviously that’s really not what I’m talking about when I talk about parenting)

What does this mean, then, for me and my two-year-old? It means, I know that my daughter knows intellectually what “Please go find your coat” means, and I know that she knows where the coat is and I know that she is physically able to get it. But depending on the day–how she feels, how tired she is, what kind of a mood she’s in, what we’ve been doing the last 10 minutes, etc.–she’ll either say “OK!” and run off to get her coat or say “NO!” and run to hide behind a chair. This all sounds like pretty typical toddler stuff–nothing too unusual here.

But what I’ve started doing without realizing it, is observing before I ask her to do something whether she’s at her “flying weight.” I also usually know in advance, I’ve learned, whether she’s going to respond positively to my request, or if it’s just not going to happen. And if it’s not going to happen, I don’t ask her. I don’t embark on the 20-minute battle that ends in tears and screaming and me physically chasing her with a coat. I just get the coat myself and put it on her *before* she gets worked up. Or put away the toys, take her socks off, whatever.

This was counterintuitive to me at first. It feels like a cop out or like giving up–doing something for her that I know her to be capable of doing.

But the point is that she’s not yet 24 months old–in these instances she actually is *not* emotionally/socially capable of doing what has been asked–even if she is capable in the other ways. And if I can tell that ahead of time, and I ask her to do it anyway, that’s on me: I’ve chosen an uphill battle.

helenmabel

Helen MacDonald and Mabel playing with a rolled up tube of paper. Hm, also a game I play with my toddler. (from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18803640-h-is-for-hawk)

The outcome, I hope, will be to reduce a pattern of frustrating power struggles and to to build up a pattern of mostly positive experiences where she starts to see herself as capable, resourceful, independent, and helpful. And fewer drawn out battles, where we starts to see herself as my opposition.

Look, I’m not saying we’ll never have battles over what needs to happen. We will. And I’m not saying that when she’s 10 years old I’ll be bringing her her coat if I think she’s not in the mood to get it herself. But for me, it’s about choosing when and when not to push–trying to keep the long view in mind.

Right now, going to get a coat is  probably the most challenging, complex thing we’re likely to ask of her–so even though she *can* do it, she can do it only when she’s ready to rise to the occasion. It’s her Personal Best. That won’t be the case forever. When she’s 10 it will be, maybe, I don’t know, preparing a simple meal. Or something. Who knows what will be a reasonable reach for the ten-year-old she’ll turn out to be. At ten, I hope I would expect her to get her coat without asking–or to be reasonably irritated with her if she doesn’t–but I would expect to judge carefully before asking her to cook, perhaps assessing whether  she’s ready to pay careful attention, in the mood and capable of using the tools in the right way, and motivated to produce a good outcome. My hope is that each new skill will become gradually learned and assimilated as a neutral-to-positive thing, until it becomes natural. Once it’s natural, it will become reasonable for us to expect her to do it on her own, consistently. But when she’s learning, it’s up to us to ensure that we push her when learning is possible–in other words, not to fly her when she’s not at her flying weight.

I suppose this is nothing new for parents. Guidance for things like potty training–something else we’re exploring right now–are all pretty unanimous in saying, if the child is resistant, STOP!–forcing it will not help anyone, will not help you “win.”

But the image of a human and a hawk–companions, one ostensibly leading and giving the commands, but the other entirely its own self, never subordinate in the way a dog is–and the responsibility of the human to care for and observe and respect the hawk–to take as a given the fact that if you don’t, whatever you want to happen just won’t happen–suddenly made so much sense to me.

And when she is ready? Watch her fly.

Be it so resolved…

Here’s my unedited list of completely manageable and realistic resolutions, goals, to-dos, and aspirations for 2017:

  1. Drink more water.
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night.
  3. Aim for 7.
  4. Exercise 5 days per week.
  5. Eat more vegetables.
  6. Be kinder to my spouse.
  7. Be less rigid.
  8. Have more fun.
  9. Roll with the punches.
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not.
  11. Take myself as seriously as I expect other people to take me (like, carry business cards and shit).
  12. But also take stuff in general less seriously.
  13. But also do not become complacent/paralyzed/apathetic re: the world/our nation/social justice.
  14. Just keep grieving.
  15. Pull my weight re: nurturing friendships; do my fair share of organizing, hosting, prodding, reaching out, reminding, and lowering the overhead as much as possible for busy people to spend good time together.
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly.
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house.
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table.
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible.
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible.
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others)
  22. Blog more.
  23. Write more letters.
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen.
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit.
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation.
  28. Make our bedroom a nice, warm, comfortable, functional, attractive, calming, intentional place to be, rather than the garbage pile where we hide everything that we don’t want anyone else to see. Paint. Window treatments. Closet. A bed.
  29. Renovate our kitchen.
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hour.
  32. Fix our goddamn roof.
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle.
  34. Create playroom space in our basement.
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie.
  36. Take Liddie ice skating.
  37. Help my mom move out of our family home. Ease this transition as much as possible with significant practical and emotional support, i.e. a substantial stay with her this spring.  Cry as much as needed. Do not withdraw, do not fail to show up for this.
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!!
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes.
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times.
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday.
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale.
  43. Go to the beach.
  44. Find a way that also works for spouse to regularly schedule to space and time to myself that does not involve staying up puttering until 1 a.m.: mental health days, Saturday mornings out, whatever.
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time.
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough.
  47. See more movies in the theater. Enough movies that I’m not devastated every time I manage to go and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I love going to the movies. It brings me joy and it is probably the number one thing that I used to do a lot of and now do practically none of.
  48. See at least one live theater performance.
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree.

Ummmm yeah. Totally do-able, right? Just, you know, be a different person with a different life.

Welp. At least I got the stuff down in words. It strikes me how much of this actually *is* totally do-able if we get a family calendar for the year and start filling it in right now. We can mark date nights, long weekends, mental health days, and vacation NOW and hold the time so the year doesn’t get away from us. I can mark quarterly and weekly reminders, and perhaps even block off time for food planning, shopping, and prep.

It strikes me also that many of these things feed into each other–namely, the main self-care things. If I eat better, sleep better, exercise, hydrate, I *will* be kinder, more patient, more clear-headed.

At Clog Last…

Photo on 5-26-16 at 10.50 PM #3Great news! I finally got some clunky, Danish-style clogs. So I guess I can (finally!) be a real librarian now.

What I’m wearing:

  • J.Jill taupe jersey blazer thing, gift from MIL ca. 2012
  • Burgundy swingy tank top thing, Target, 2006 (oh God this tank top is 10 years old probably not OK to wear to work…)
  • Black linen cropped pants, Old Navy, 2016
  • Sanita “Professional Dream Work” (a-what now?) clog in in red

These shoes come in European sizes and I am almost certain I should have sized up. I normally wear 8 1/2. Tried a “40,” which seemed like the right conversion, but it felt like a boat on my foot, so went 39, which at least stayed on. But now after a day of wear, they seem pretty snug. Oh well: we’ll let ’em break in, stretch, etc.

Last night at DSW I was supposed to be getting new gym shoes, but I put them back in order to justify purchasing these.

I felt remarkably steady on my feet this morning as I crashed down the steps with three bags and a toddler on my hip, but then, wouldn’t you know it, later in the day I completely tripped and rolled my ankle while carrying nothing at all. So, you know. Walking: still dangerous.

That would be enough?

More swirling thoughts on Hamilton from the recesses of my brain, this time coming to you from my dad’s hospital room, where we are waiting out serious lung complications after what should have been a pretty routine surgery. Typing with latex gloves on, so forgive the blunders and thanks for the distraction!

Much has been made of the character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, portrayed on stage by the almost ridiculously lovely Phillipa Soo. Some even suggest that–especially given that she closes out the whole damn show with a list that’s three miles long (no doubt) of all the crap she did after everyone else died–that the arguably ambiguous title Hamilton is supposed to signal she is the hero of the story as much as Alexander is. For reasons rambled on upon at great length elsewhere, I think it’s clear almost by definition that Alexander is our hero. But regardless of how, precisely, you categorize her role, there’s no denying that Eliza’s an incredibly important character, and the one whose development is, perhaps, more quietly interesting than anyone else’s.

I hadn’t thought much about this on my first 10,000 listens to the album–I took her for granted as the virtuous foil to A. Ham as well as Angelica (if Angelica is dazzling the room, Eliza must, by contrast, be full of boring if lovely domestic virtue/nagging, yes?)–until I listened to the excellent Theater People podcast interview with Soo. When asked about the song “Burn,” which seriously still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, Soo talks about the trajectory of Eliza as a character, saying that she’d had a “slow burn” going over the course of the whole show.

I mean, of course I’d noticed Eliza’s increasing frustration with Alexander (that desperate bum, bum, bum…Alexander… Bum, bum, bum…Alexander! In Non-Stop), which peaks with “Burn,” apparently simmers down into forgiveness in “Quiet Uptown” (though in fact she doesn’t speak in that song at all), and ultimately glows into romanticized adoration in the finale.

But what I had not noticed until I started listening just for her was the subtle tension between how we assume she is, how the people surrounding her tell us she is, maybe even how she thinks she is…and what her words tell us about her. Continue reading