Stone cold frozen

Today is just one of those days when everything seems too awful to function. I’m supposed to be finishing my part of a year-long project that was due yesterday (in fact, should have been done weeks or months ago….) and I’m sitting at my desk, paralyzed and crying re: the NEH, the families of Manchester, this woman/mother/grandmother/wonderful letter writer, and just feeling everything too much, in that “maybe I should leave work and go pick up my kid right now because I can’t shake this pound of dread in my gut that something awful is going to happen before I can get to her” kind of way.

Is it only Tuesday?

I’ve encountered two things today that are helping me power through, and that also seem in direct tension with one another:

What If We Cultivated Our Ugliness? or: The Monstrous Beauty of Medusa” by Jess Zimmerman–about owning yourself and your power; agency through ugliness–and, well, “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” which is all about fancying up on the outside to force momentum on the inside. Well, and Babs, which may be the real point.

Today my Tuesday clothes are all black head-to-toe with an oversized sage green men’s travel shirt (my dad’s) and a wide black belt.

Photo on 5-23-17 at 4.30 PM

According to a co-worker (who never fails to notice my fashion choices in the worst way possible, like telling me that my yellow wool coat evokes Dick Tracy, rather than Audrey Hepburn in Charade. Problem was, he’s not wrong…), I look like a jaunty swashbuckler.

Unfortunately I was kind of going for, like, Doris Day doing casual yardwork.

So. All this to say, not a lot of buckle swashing going on round these parts, despite all effort to the contrary.

 

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Resolutions — March Check-in

  1. Drink more water. Still no.
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. Still no. The conference I was planning is over, and we’re drawing near to the end of promotion review season, so we’re maybe, kinda, sorta getting there. But also, it’s on *me* to make this happen. There will always be an excuse to stay up and putter, and I’m so very good at puttering. 
  3. Aim for 7. NOPE.
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. Yeah, I’ve almost completely abandoned all hope here. I’m out of ideas about how to even get started again. No interest, no will, no motivation. 
  5. Eat more vegetables. Doing OK. Not killing it as we did in February, but doing ok. Last week there was cauliflower and roasted potatoes and squash. This week has been all about vegetable tortilla stew and baked parmesan zucchini fries, both from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. I guess the last two weeks were April, though, so maybe it doesn’t count. In March I successfully roasted up and ate carrots that were in my fridge from THANKSGIVING! Merit badge? 
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. Always needs work, but we’ve managed to make time for some good, serious conversations lately, and we had a date night out in March, which makes two months in a row. Every time we manage to do this I am 1) Shocked by how much I love my husband’s company 2) Shocked and horrified that I had somehow forgotten this in the daily struggle over dishes and poop and commuting and stupid work.
  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). OK, there was some serious excellence and ass-kicking at the conference I helped to plan. Though I did not give out a single goddamn business card. Now that I have them, no one wants them! And now I’m burned out and back in avoidance and self-sabatoge mode. Gah! Stop! 
  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. I’ve done effectively NOTHING in March. One call to my representative re: ACA. Ongoing monthly donations to ACLU and PP. 
  14. Just keep grieving. I’ve successfully written a lot elsewhere about my dad’s death, which has been helpful in releasing *some* of the stuff. We’re now right in the thick of the one year stuff. In fact, *today* one year ago was (for me) the worst day of the entire time he was hospitalized. 
  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. Going ok–I feel like I’ve backed off a little this month, but have been thankful that others have stepped up to make stuff happen. Thanks, friends!
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. Goal retired.
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. We continue on a sustainable, moderate path. We had friends come last weekend and I really enjoyed preparing a meal (yeah, only one) for them. This weekend we’ll be hosting family for Easter and I’m excited to cook for that, too. 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. Abandon ship. Here’s the thing: even if we can get dinner on the table while the kid’s awake, dinner is a rushed nightmare. I work hard! Then I come home and wrangle a toddler! I’m tired at the the end of the day! I want to enjoy my food, maybe even with an adult beverage a few times a week, not wolf down half of it while the child melts down and eats only yogurt and grapes. It is important that she see us eating nutritious food together and learn to behave at the table. But not at the expense of, like, the one small joy of my day to day harried routine. There will be time for this. Upside/downside? She now consistently asks me to sit with her while she eats. And, cue guilt. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. I think we’re doing it? It feels like we’re *seeing* her pretty frequently, too, which feels more important. 
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. Hmm. Overdue to give them a call. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) NOPE.
  22. Blog more. Meh. I guess monthly re-hashes are better than nothing? 
  23. Write more letters. Not yet. 
  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. It’s booked!
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. It’s booked! Roma, here we come! 
  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. No progress whatsoever. We hung up curtains in our living room and guest room, though! 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. NOPE.
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever YES, DONE, AND IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE! 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hour. LOL 
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! (Now just to fix/clean up the interior wall/ceiling that got all fucked up from the water)
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. NOPE
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. NOPE
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. NOPE
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. NOPE
  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. This is scheduled for later this month.  
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! Booked for Labor Day weekend!
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Ongoing.
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. Have reached out to her twice. Nothing worked out yet, but we’ll see. 
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. Booked! Now, just to get everyone who owes me money to pay me back for the tickets…
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. The pile is in my basement. 
  43. Go to the beach. Looking into some Michigan camping options for the summer….
  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. This has stagnated and it shows…. 
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. This month I paid my credit card bill on time, but due to various issues failed to pay the water bill for the second period in a row and received a shut off notice. All fixed now (including my name and address on the account so maybe next time I will actually receive the bill) .
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. We’re sweeping and vacuuming pretty well. The bathrooms could use more attention and the kitchen floor needs a mopping…
  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. SAW BEAUTY AND THE BEAST AND LOVED IT BEYOND ALL REASON, ABOUT WHICH MORE, LATER. 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. BOOKED!
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

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. 

Resolutions-February Check-in

This list is rapidly splitting into stuff that is really happening and that stuff that is clearly wishful thinking and will never happen! Unfortunately it seems to be the most basic self-care items that land on the “never happening” list. Two months down, where do we stand?

  1. Drink more water. BIG FAT NOPE. 
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. This one is a disaster. For the last month or so I’ve been working 3-4 hours after dinner, 3-4 nights a week. My alarm goes off at 5 a.m.I regularly go to bed anywhere between 12 and 1 a.m. I know I shouldn’t do this, but when I don’t I feel like I just get more and more behind each day. It’s catching up with me–or rather, it has caught up with me–and the ongoing fatigue is spilling over into every part of my life.  There’s too much on my plate right now and I’m not handling it well–i.e., by finding a way to delegate, prioritize, etc. It’s a busy/crazy time for *everyone* in our office, is part of the problem, so it doesn’t feel like there’s any alternative/backup/way out. Some of this stuff is temporary and will pass in the next month or three. Sigh. 
  3. Aim for 7. NOPE.
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. ZERO EXERCISE IS HAPPENING IN THIS HOUSE. 
  5. Eat more vegetables. Guys, right now for breakfast I am eating a pile of potatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes, shallots, and cauliflower, all roasted by me, all leftovers from various meals this week. With a fried egg on top and a drizzle of red pepper sauce, also made by me. I cooked CHARD this month for the first time ever. My vegetable game is still minimal compared to many of my friends, but in terms of growth, it’s about the only area where I feel I’ve made significant improvement. P.S. Roasted red cabbage is delicious
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. We’ve both had the opportunity to be generous to one another this month with colds and sinus infections abounding. Sam’s been down and out for much of this month. With various travel and work obligations we’ve been kind of like ships in the night lately. But we did have a fun Valentine’s Day at the Creature Conservancy. Got to focus on another date night this month. 
  7. Be less rigid. NEVER. YOU BE LESS RIGID.
  8. Have more fun. I feel like I’m doing OK at finding pockets of fun–like book clubs, “lunch dates” with friends, and trips to see my friends. I feel like I’m not doing so well at actually having more fun with life–taking a lighter attitude, being more relaxed in my day-to-day life. Over the last two days I have spent an unreasonable amount of time creating mashups of LaLa Land and the Goofy Movie, which has brought me an extraordinary amount of joy, even though apparently no one else in the universe appreciates this particular cultural juxtaposition.  But doing something completely frivolous, silly, and creative feels really good. Last night when showing Sam one of these videos he said it was the happiest he’d seen me in weeks. That’s probably….not ideal. 
  9. Roll with the punches. All of 6-9 feels difficult/impossible when I’m exhausted and dehydrated and badly nourished and my body is all tightly wound. That’s why I put all that stuff about nutritious food and exercise and water and sleep at the top of the list. Ha. The struggle continues. 
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not. Nothing proves this like potty training! 
  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. I’ve done effectively NOTHING in February. 
  14. Just keep grieving. We’re closing in on one year since my dad got sick and went into the hospital–that happened at the end of March last year. It was another month later that he died. So we’re not quite at the anniversary yet, but stuff is starting to creep up again. For example, my aunt was recently talking about her granddaughter’s upcoming first birthday. I was trying to remember exactly when she was born and it turned out it was like 36 hours before my dad was hospitalized. My mom admitted she had no memory of any of this. I mean, she remembered that the baby was born. But not at all when her birthday was and how that all went down. We all went into a different zone from late March onward, and a lot of stuff that I’ve set aside a bit (I know, right? You wouldn’t think I’d set anything aside, but apparently I did, cause it’s all coming back now) is re-surfacing. 
  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. This one I continue to feel really good about as well. I have catalyzed or facilitated a number of social gatherings and a couple of weeks ago leapt at the spontaneous opportunity to haul the two-year-old across the state for an afternoon to spend time with her gramma, great-aunt, and second cousins, and some of our dearest friends. If this and eating vegetables turn out to be the two areas where I’m successful this year, that would be enough. Feeling bummed this week because two lunches with friends have been cancelled due to illness (theirs). I know I should just be grateful for good health. Per usual. But it’s hard not to feel like everyone is flaking out on me. 
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. At this point I just don’t see this happening and maybe I should just admit it and take the pressure off. Goal retired? 
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. I would say we properly cooked fewer times in February than we did in January due to illness, travel, eating all of January’s leftovers, and trying to balance evening time challenges. But I still feel good about this one, and I feel like I’m starting to see the cascading benefits of being more in practice with cooking: there are more fresh foods in the fridge on a regular basis, and I am starting to be able to see more and do more successfully with them. Not necessarily anything terribly exciting. But stuff that means it gets eaten, not wasted, and it usually turns out pretty well. This is translating to maybe 2-3 actual cooked from scratch meals per week (plus other, mostly semi-homemade, assembled meals), plus leftovers, plus making interesting breakfasts out of the odds and ends. Again, other people do a lot more than we do, but this represents real progress, a real change in how we engage with food, and we seem to be able to keep it up at this pace, and I am really happy with the direction we’re headed. Dude. We’re *not* eating frozen pizza twice a week. 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. When we can. This also entails being realistic about the toddler’s abilities. She’s a sleeper, thank the Lord, she always has been, but this means if we’re not starting bath/bedtime stuff by about 7, things go downhill rapidly. We walk in the door at 6, so with walking the dog and cooking it is rarely possible to get dinner on the table by, say 6:30. Last night she ate yogurt and grapes while I cut all the vegetables, and then as soon as I got them in the oven she completely melted down and just went straight to bed. We haven’t figured this out. I think it’s one of those things that will just have to come in its own time–but I do like at least being conscious of trying to do it when possible. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. This is going pretty well, though we’ve been off-cycle the last two weeks or so with conflicting schedules. 
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. I think I managed this. Also since I saw them in person I’ll give myself a pass. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) NOPE.
  22. Blog more. Meh. I guess monthly re-hashes are better than nothing? 
  23. Write more letters. Not yet. 
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen. YES, DONE! Woooooo it was the best ever. 
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver YES, DONE! Next step is to try to get aunt and company here for a visit, but we’ll get there when we get there.
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit. Not yet. 
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. Not yet. 
  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. Our bed is still unfinished. I got a “portable” canvas closet, so at least my clothes are in the room now and I can expand my wardrobe beyond the same three turtlenecks. I’m not really sure if this counts as a step toward “finishing” the room, though, as it looks worse. Basically, static. 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. NOPE.
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever This is slooooooowly coming together. I have cleared and claimed a table and started to collect some stuff on it, but there’s a way to go. So far this table has only been used for working until 1 a.m. and not for letter writing and crafts. BOOOOO. 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hour.
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! (Now just to fix/clean up the interior wall/ceiling that got all fucked up from the water)
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. NOPE
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. NOPE
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. NOPE
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. NOPE
  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. Talked to my mom about this last night and we have some dates on the calendar for a longer visit focused on house clean out. I’m not sure anymore whether this will correspond or even be close to when she actually moves, but it’s something anyway. 
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! We’re looking at Labor Day weekend. We might book this as soon as today!
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Ongoing.
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. Have not yet reached out to her to arrange a visit, but I have started talking to Liddie about her more deliberately. Got a photo magnet made of a picture of her and Liddie together from about a year ago, and stuck it up where she can see it and we have looked at it together and talked about it a few times. 
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. Trip to Lansing to see Fun Home with friends is booked!
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. The pile is in my basement. 
  43. Go to the beach. I wish. 
  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. Last weekend I got away for a girls’ weekend, which was awesome, but that’s really a one-time/rare event. The week *before* that, though, I got out for a couple of hours and went shopping. That was glorious. 
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. LOL. Credit card bill late again this month. For the second month in a row. 
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. Pretty sure I haven’t cleaned since the LAST monthly check-in. I asked Sam to scrub the toilets once when I had Liddie out of the house for a whole Sunday. Fair’s fair. 
  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. NOPE. Zero movies. Had plans to go with the girls over the weekend, but we decided instead to have ice cream, makeup shopping, and a nap. I don’t regret the choice. I still want to see Hidden Figures and (since Lala Land destroyed my soul) I now have unreasonably high expectations for Beauty and the Beast. 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. BOOKED!
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

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.