Aug 31, 2017

Things I Do That Make Me Happy Now, Later, and Never

This post comes to you courtesy of Stephanie's blog post ideas.

Things I Do That Make Me Happy...




1. Mindless Phone Time

Sometimes it's automatic and sometimes I just need a break but there's no point in picking up a book because I'm watching the baby and he'll need something in 5 minutes or so.  Whatever the excuse, I'll somehow spend 30 minutes or more doing absolutely nothing and then I feel like crap because I wasted that time and there's very little worth doing or reading on social media anyway.

2. Lose My Temper

My brain lies to me and says, "Just let go. Snap at Ryan/yell at the dog/bitch about traffic.  It'll feel good."  It doesn't.  Especially in the case of yelling at the dogs, where I feel guilty almost immediately.

3. Go to Excess

Mmmm, that chocolate was so delicious.  I should have a few more handfuls.  Boom!  Now I feel sick.  Wow, caffeine is amazing and I feel so much more awake and productive.  Boom!  Now my hands are shaking and I feel light-headed.  This book is so good, I'll just read another chapter or two.  Boom!  It's 2am and I have to get up in 3 hours.  I don't seem to have any filter that tells me when to stop.  Everything just feels great right up until the moment when it feels horrible.  (Hence me giving up alcohol.)


1. Reading!

Being alone with a snack and my face buried in a fantasy or sci-fi book is my happy place.  I know it's my number one favorite thing because when I hit burnout and can't force myself to do one more damn productive thing, this is always where you'll find me.  It's also the one thing I do somehow find time for even when I'm telling Ryan I can't possibly fit in a tv show or video game time with him.

2. Organizing Shit

It's a weird obsession.  Considering all the other unhealthy things I do to excess, I'm not too worried about this one.  No one ever died from reorganizing their closet too many times!  I do realize that an organizational system only saves you time if you spend more time using it than setting it up (and then replacing it with the next system and the next and the next), but I enjoy it and it's harmless, so I don't care.

3. Self Improvement/Analysis

This is kind of a weird one because the point of it is supposed to be long-term improvements.  But I really like the process of it.  I love analyzing myself (and others) and breaking things down into tiny pieces and seeing how I might arrange them more efficiently.  I also love the insights I get from my self help books, even though (as I confessed to Ryan the other day) I frequently don't put them into practice.  I honestly think this has become something I enjoy planning more than doing, which isn't ideal, but like the organizing, it's not really harmful either.


1. Make Healthy Choices

Bleurghghghg, I don't want to run right now.  But I know I'll feel good about it later and I know that a month or even a week of consistent exercise will have me feeling happier and coping with life better.  Same with sleep and cooking healthy food.

2. Hustle

I'm starting to feel like a broken record with all my "I don't sleep, I don't sleep, I don't sleep" but this is why.  It's not for the day-to-day feel goods.  It's for the long term progress and satisfaction of watching my business grow.

3. Be Social

This is not to say I don't enjoy going to social events.  But I still frequently have to force myself through the "Mlegh, I don't wanna go!"  I always make myself and I usually have fun, and even if I don't, the time spent is an investment into building and sustaining relationships.  I consider this an investment because having a good support network is a big contributor to overall happiness, even if we don't think we need other people.

What about you?  What do you do for instant gratification, for long-term happiness, and despite knowing it makes you unhappy?

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Aug 29, 2017

'Sup? Chatting About Nothing

What's new with you/coffee date/whatever you call it when it's just random stuff about life lately.

Bulletproof Coffee

I actually documented this and I was going to write another blog post about how I did a fad thing, but you know what?  There's only so much you can say about coffee.  Here's the high level summary:

Hot and greasy.

Yep, it was pretty gross.  I think bulletproof coffee is for people who have been on the Keto diet long enough to forget what sugar tastes like.


If you haven't already watched the finale, skip this one.

Omg, it was so amazing and it made me so happy.  Ryan said there was too much "feel goods" in the last episode but I personally think Westeros is a pretty damn bleak world and it was nice to have a few happy moments before everyone perishes fighting the white walkers in the last season.

My favorite parts:
  • Sansa finally wising up.  "I'm a slow learner, but I do learn."  Gurrrrl, me too.  I was all about that spiel and her finally choosing her family and the end of the Arya/Sansa drama.
  • Jon and Danaerys!!!  Never before have I rooted for incest.  George R. R. Martin, you have ruined me.
  • All the interplay between people who haven't seen each other in seasons.  It's such a complicated and fascinating mix of alliances at this point.
  • The ice dragon, because it can't all be sunshine and rainbows.  This is Game of Thrones, after all!

Books and Prioritizing

I'm reading A Court of Thorns and Roses and I'm pretty into it.  It's nice to have a fantasy series to read purely for enjoyment BUT I'm literally choosing between reading, sleep, and client projects every day.  Right now I'm sleep deprived, a client project is late, and I still haven't gotten to read nearly as much as I want to.  Can I just have a day off from life?

Eclipse Trip

We flew to Wyoming with the baby and watched the solar eclipse!!!  It was awesome and I always love seeing my sisters but omg traveling with a baby is the worst.  I'm already dreading our next trip this winter.  Plus he was sick and I got puked on twice.

This is another one that I thought, "Oh, I should write a satire post with all our amazing how-tos for traveling with a baby" but I'm so freaking tired I just don't even wanna try to be clever.  Suffice it to say Orion was unusually fussy the whole trip but especially so for the plane ride home and we had no idea if it was being sick or teething or ears popping or just being bored.  I tried talking, I bounced him until my arms felt like they were going to fall of, I played the Troll movie, I gave him little bits of airplane snacks.  It was just miserable.

Salty B

Maybe I haven't recovered from our trip yet (I only JUST put my suitcase away and did my laundry) but I feel so tired and cranky and cynical.  It's an effort just to be peppy and anyone asking for a favor, no matter how small, makes my brain feel like it's melting out of my ears.

On the note of the late client project, I have three.  Three that really, really need to get done, both because we're edging over the deadlines and because I need to get paid.  I'm so exhausted and overwhelmed and it's a huge chunk of work to get these done and they've been going on so long that I no longer feel like, "The end is in sight!" because I was wrong the previous times I thought that.  But in all honesty, the end might actually be in sight and I don't have a backlog of work and this might be a problem.

But the idea of actively trying to recruit more projects right now is just no.  I can't do it.  It's the smart thing to do, I'll be stressed when the work ends and I don't have anything new coming in, but I just can't.  A break would probably be nice anyway, and then I can finally update my own website with the bajillion things I've been wanting to do to it for ages.


On a more positive note, baby's first day of daycare was yesterday!  For now, Ryan's doing the dropping off and picking up (we'll see how long that lasts) and I'm going to enjoy every scrap of time I get to myself.  I'm going to run and get shit done and hopefully next week there will even be reading time.  I've lied and told myself this so many times but maybe this really is the last week of all-nighters!!!

That's all I've got.  What's going on with you?

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Aug 24, 2017

I Might Actually Be a Rebel

After comfortably settling into my personality labels a la Gretchen Rubin, I'm revisiting.

At the time I was pretty sure I was as cliché an obliger as I could be.  The habits and goals I consistently meet are people oriented: client deadlines, social events, favors for friends, workout routines that involve another human.

But I also had a few that didn't mesh, which I assumed were "obliger rebellion."  Things like growing resentful of my accountabilibuddies and the need to report in.  The occasional mental middle finger I give to someone before doing the exact opposite of what they suggest is good for me.  The extreme reluctance with which I even consider thinking about advice that's offered without me requesting it.

And I think I might be a self-created obliger.

If you've read the book or my excessive descriptions of them, you'll know rebels reject outer and inner obligations and look for novelty, choice, and freedom.  A lot of the strategies don't work for them, but one of the best is identity.

Once upon a time, I was as hugely flaky as many of my friends are now.  I remember having a big to-do with a friend about it and at some point deciding I didn't want that to be me anymore.  I also got frustrated with how few people show up to Meetup events and again, decided that wasn't going to be me.

I didn't "build" a habit of being reliable.  I just decided that I wasn't a flaky person and I stopped flaking.  Ever.  At our last meeting, my therapist suggested I cancel events when I overschedule myself and my whole being rejected this.  Not because I feel compelled to go or I can't stop myself from going but because I want to be the person who is true to their word more than I want to not be stressed out for a couple days ahead of time.

And I think a lot of the social obligations I feel are similarly self-created.  I decided not to be a flake, I decided to have integrity, I decided I wanted to be a badass business owner.  I will meet those deadlines, not because I'm scared of a client's reaction if I don't but because that's who I am.  Badasses get shit done.

In general, identity and integrity appeal very strongly to me.  I love goals and challenges and trying new things.  Following rules or strict routines?  Eh, not so much.

I'm excited about this discovery because it makes me feel more in control of my own choices.  No, a lot of the habit building strategies aren't going to work for me.  But it's not because I'm a failure or I have weak discipline.  It's because my brain doesn't work that way.

This also helps me because I think I was subconsciously thinking of myself as lacking discipline.  And the way you define yourself is the mold you end up fitting yourself into.  But if I remind myself that when I really care, I can and have accomplished a lot of things.

I haven't had alcohol in over a year and a half.  Have barely been tempted.  I quit biting my nails.  I haven't called Ryan a single cuss word in any of our arguments or disagreements.  I don't slam doors anymore.

None of these things happened with a period of consistent training.  They all happened because I decided to be a different person and I changed.

So that's my new approach.  I'm going to think hard about who I want to be and what actions are consistent with that person and then start doing them.  Wish me luck!  Or don't - that might make my strategy more effective.

I know I've talked the tendencies to death, but do you know yours?  Has knowing it changed how you approach habits in your daily life?

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Aug 22, 2017

I Did the Blogger-iest Thing!

I made zoodles.  AND I took pictures.  But not of the finished product because I got distracted and ate them.

This post reminds me of the time Alyssa, Dani, Michael and I went pumpkin picking and wine tasting.  Perhaps we were plaid-clad, or maybe just discussed plaid and blanket scarves and all the Fall trends?  I don't recall.  But it is interesting to see the trends that the blogging world picks up and loves to the point of suffocation.

And it's even more fun to try those things myself.

So zoodles!  This was perhaps my most spontaneous culinary experience to date.

Ryan has decided to try Keto.  Don't ask me the details, I'm still not 100% sure I understand the motives or the rules.  I was going to just ignore it and hope I didn't buy too many things that would tempt him away from his diet, but when he showed me some of the recipes they actually looked easy and fun to cook.

So we rushed off the grocery store and bought about a hundred dollars of ingredients and made our first meal that evening: beef "stroganoff" with zoodles.

The stroganoff was basically ground beef with copious amounts of cream and cheese.  Also salt, pepper, and thyme, which was an interesting and tasty flavor.

The zoodles entailed abusing a poor zucchini and scooping out its innards (I did not deseed it, because lazy and isn't that the good stuff?).  Then after it was halved, using a peeler to get the thinnest possible slices.  Again, I cheated because ain't nobody got time for that, and just sliced thinly.

Boiled it for 1 minute because the "cook with acid" thing sounded weird and Ryan's staying away from hot sauce right now, and to my great shock they turned out quite delicious!

I've only learned how to cook zucchini within the last year and I'm learning it's a very easy vegetable to work with.  And it's much tastier than broccoli.

Next up: bulletproof coffee!

What fad things have you tried and liked?  What have you not understood the hype about?  Have you tried bulletproof coffee?

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Aug 17, 2017

What is Love?

Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more.

Now that you're listening to appropriate music for this post... let's begin.  I'm writing this with my 6-month old beside me in his bouncy seat, alternating between intent focus on the spinny wheel and frenzied bouncing with animal sound effects and flashing lights galore!

Normally I write at work or after he's asleep, because who can think with the sounds of nursery rhymes you didn't know you knew blaring in their ear?  But today it seems appropriate since he's the one inspiring this post.

The other day our nanny was telling me that Orion always smiles when I come into the room and he stops crying as soon as Ryan or I pick him up.  I said something like, "That's probably frustrating for you but it's nice to know we're his favorite people!"  She said, "He LOVES you guys!"

And instead of glowing with maternal pride and then returning to life as usual, I thought, "Can babies even love?"

Which is not to say I don't think I'm important to my child.  Obviously he needs me and relies on me and feels safer and more comfortable with me.  His world is very small and I am the largest player in it.

But love?  In trying to pin down why I didn't feel it applied here, I tried to figure out my definition of love.  And I guess I don't know what I think it is.

My family has talked about love being one end on the scale of like to dislike.  After a certain point, we just call it "love."  Other people seem to refer to it like it's a different emotion entirely.

I can't decide if I agree with the sliding scale or a different emotion, but I guess in my mind love requires a certain self awareness.  Like in the book Anthem, when the characters have no concept for "I."  It's a dystopia, and their government seeks to keep them from rebelling by removing all sense of self-identity.

Now a child will grow to have his/her own unique identity but at what point does that develop?  Does a 6-month old understand that he is him and I am me?  Or does he just think of me as an extension of himself?  Can he really understand a concept like "I, myself, feel a certain way about you, a different human"?

There's also the question of intelligence and awareness and how much of that is dependent on language.  I had a friend a few years ago who was arguing that you don't need to know math and science to be intelligent.  I was skeptical (and feeling dumb) but she made some interesting points.  She said a chef, or a wine connoiseur, has 10 different words to describe something that I would just call "bitter."

So later, trying to remember that experience or compare it to a similar one, I won't remember the minute differences between those two, because I don't have the vocabulary to classify it and differentiate.

A baby has no language, although I'll concede that he communicates through a bunch of different noises even if he's not expressing very complex concepts.

So how much is his brain capable of understanding and thinking about, without any language to define and categorize those feelings and concepts?

When I first started thinking about this, it seemed obvious to me that a baby wasn't capable of love yet.  So I started trying to find the point at which they could love.  Small children love, after all.

But when you really think about a small child, who is quick to say "I love you" and just as quick to say "I hate you" 5 minutes later because you wouldn't let them eat crayons or cut their own hair, it's hard to say that's equivalent to the true, full, unconditional love that I feel for my child now.

I think a child might love or hate with the full capability of their tiny, little self, but their capacity isn't very large yet.

And I think I myself continue to learn to love in different ways and increase my own capacity.  Each year that Ryan and I stay together, I learn to love him more, in new ways, and sometimes despite other things.  Having a child has taught me another kind of love, a deeper and fiercer, possessive love than what I feel for my husband or sisters.

I think it's possible to have your capacity diminished by bad experience and emotional scars, but for the most part, we're all growing and our ability to love increases and grows over time.

My grandmother made a comment on a post a while back about how she thinks she cries more easily now than she used to because she has more empathy for other people.

And that I think is the key to my personal definition.  Babies are born with just their immediate needs and instincts.  Whether or not they can love, it's not much more than a surface feeling, just like all their other feelings.  Children are still pretty self-centered, but as we age, we do gradually become aware of other people's feelings, and I think that's a necessary component for being able to love.

When you only care about yourself, you don't love other people.  You might love what they do for you or how they make you feel, but the feeling is still about you.  As an adult, I love my mom for her kindness, patience, and unintended wisdom.  I love my sisters for the people they are.  I love my child with a intensity that is probably more biological instinct than anything else, but it's certainly not self-serving since he's not exactly capable of doing me any favors just yet!

I'm sure when I'm older, I'll think my current state is that of a "shallow 30-year-old" and I'll be capable of even more.  Maybe I'll have even figured out forgiveness at that point!

So that's my definition.  What's yours?

Do you think babies can love?  What about the sliding scale vs separate emotion theory?

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Aug 15, 2017

I Vote with My Voice and I Vote Against Hate

It's tempting to let this go, because it feels like there's just one issue after another, and our president does nothing useful, and you all know how I feel anyway.  But I think maybe saying nothing is as bad as not voting.  By not making a statement or a choice or using your voice, you're allowing evil to have its way, letting people think this is the majority, that we're ok with this.

And it's not ok.  We have goddamn Nazis holding protests in our country less than a century after we fought and lost countless lives to stop them.  (The link if you somehow haven't heard about this.)

And I know they have the same freedoms the rest of us do.  The freedom to say whatever they want, the freedom to organize and protest peacefully.  But was it peaceful?  Should a peaceful protest involve torches and rifles?  It definitely doesn't cover the assault and murder of counter protestors by driving a fucking vehicle into the crowd.

I don't really have anything to say that someone else hasn't already said, and said more eloquently.  But I think it's important to keep saying it.

This isn't normal.  This isn't right.  I don't support this.

I still think our biggest danger is not all the scary shit that's happening or our useless president who doesn't openly condemn white supremacists/the alt right/Nazis/whatever you want to call them because he agrees with them.  I think the biggest danger is the complacency and inaction of those who disagree.

And it's easy to get complacent.  I don't want to still be reading this and thinking about this.  But we need to or who knows what all horrible laws and bills and healthcare repeals will happen while we're not looking.

I'm still here.  I still care.  I'm still voicing my opinion.

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Aug 10, 2017

We're Building an Empire

So we got a nanny.  I was seriously contemplating writing a blog post titled, "Ode to Our Nanny" because it, and she, are awesome.

I was seriously not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  It made me feel frustrated, and exhausted, and a little bit trapped.  There were days when I contemplated giving up my business and letting all my clients go, and then I realized it wasn't just the lack of sleep and constant multi-tasking that was getting to me.

It was the sitting with a baby for hours upon hours.  It was babbling and baby talking and not thinking about anything more contemplative than, "Should I put some diaper cream on him?"  I don't usually need other people, but being alone with a baby made me long for adult company.  For someone who would say my name instead of shrieking like a banshee to get my attention.

I love my child, and I love spending time with him and babbling, and blowing raspberries, and everything else that comes with the territory.  But I don't love doing it 24/7 without any breaks.

I used to think I wouldn't want to be a housewife because I'd be bored.  I now know I don't want to be a housewife because it is draining.  Is it absolutely exhausting and I apologize to any and all stay-at-home parents.  I totally underestimated you.

So we got a nanny.  (This is an intentional repeat.  It's like, artsy, or something.)  And my sisters said something about how Ryan and I are upper middle class now because we have a nanny AND a house cleaner.

That surprised me.  Are we fancy, rich people now?  Socioeconomics aside, I do think this marks a pivotal change in our lives.

We're not single adults free of responsibilities now.  We're not running around with our solo lives devoid of any need for other humans.  Ryan's pretty deeply enmeshed in the success of his company, with goals and ambitions and dreams for himself within their structure.  I'm running a business that, despite some of my poor choices, seems to be picking up steam.

We do have a nanny.  And a house cleaner (technically Ryan has a house cleaner since I would probably let the house get really dirty rather than pay someone to clean it).  I have a VA.  And a graphic designer who works under me one day a week.

I think I finally understand what they mean when they say it takes a village to raise a child.  I couldn't do it alone.  Even with all of Ryan and my mom's support, I couldn't balance myself and my business and my child.  So I began delegating, until I felt like I could breathe again.

And now I'm breathing and looking around and I'm ready to keep going.  I want to not only make enough money to pay all these people, I want to profit.  I want to give them more hours.  I want to hire more people and build this freelance gig into a real company.

I want to look around and say, "This is my village.  This is my empire."

Do you have an empire or a village or are you handling things on your own?  What directions has your life taken that you hadn't anticipated?

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Aug 8, 2017

That Time I Broke Up with a Guy Over a Poptart

Once upon a time, I dated a guy whose name started with "T" and who was way too hot for me.  T had been a wrestler in high school and had the muscles to prove it.  T was also not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and we were not at all well suited to each other, but that's not the reason I broke up with him.

No, no, it had nothing to do with things like "We're a total mismatch" or "Good conversation is important to me."  It was a pop-tart that struck the death blow.

That fateful day began like any other.  T and I had been dating for a couple of months.  We were pretty casual about our relationship and I probably felt more excitement that "a boy likes me!" than specific warm-and-fuzzies for him in particular.

We caught the bus together on our way to the college campus (DART bus ftw!), and while we chatted I pulled out my breakfast.  It was somewhat more exciting than the usual grab-from-the-pantry meal because my mom had purchased s'mores pop-tarts, which everyone knows is the best flavor!

T asked what I was eating and then said, "Oh, I've never tried that before."

Whaaaat?  Thinking I was about to save him from a life impoverished by the lack of s'mores pop-tarts, I handed one of my two-pack to him.

"This is gross."

My mouth hung open with shock and dismay.  Gross?  The most delicious boxed food known to man???  Well, at least T was still beautiful.

Then he took another bite.  Instant rage.

"What are you doing?!"

"What do you mean?"

"That's my breakfast!  If you don't like it, don't keep eating it!!  It's completely wasted on you and then I WON'T GET TO EAT IT!!!"

"Ok, sheesh."

He surrendered the pop-tart, seeming mildly put off by my outburst and not at all contrite, and that's when I knew.  It was over.

In my head at the time, this made sense because if it was the "right" relationship, we would never have gotten irritated with each other over something so minor as a pop-tart.

Now that I'm married, I know better.  A long-term relationship is basically agreeing to continue arguing over pop-tarts indefinitely.  And other things equally as frivolous and meaningless.

"Ryan P. Different-last-name-than-me, I take thee in man colds and in overzealous bursts of exercise, for the purchases of excessively expensive gaming consoles only to be used for a week or two and for the insistence that pizza delivery isn't worth the additional cost over frozen store-bought, to nag and to bicker with, until we decide we can't hack it anymore.  This is my solemn vow."

What's the most ridiculous reason you ever broke up with someone?  If you're in a longterm relationship, what are the most ridiculous things you argue over now?

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Aug 3, 2017

A Love Language Themed Gift Guide

I told Stephanie that I've recently been taking notes on my friends and family members' love languages so I can do a better job of gifting people things they'll really appreciate.  She suggested this post idea and lightbulbs started flickering in my brain like a strand of Christmas lights when you have to troubleshoot which bulb is the broken one.

Anyway, I've written about the 5 Love Languages a few times and I think they're important for 2 reasons: 1) Your effort to show someone you care will be much more impactful and meaningful if you do it in their language instead of yours and 2) It's a good reminder that other people don't think about things the same way that you do.

I'm going to give you brief summaries of each language and then some suggestions for "gifts" for each one since only 1 of those languages is traditional gifts, which can be challenging come holiday time.  Note: some of these really only work well for partners and some are more widely applicable.  Gifts that can't be wrapped can be given as "coupons."

1. Acts of Service (Do Something for Me)

Of course I'm starting with this one!  This is the easiest for me because it's my primary love language.  Acts of service can be anything from doing the dishes to fixing someone's car.  For us acts of service people, taking care of us is the ultimate expression of love.  It's also a challenge to come up with gift ideas because my sisters across the country can't just come over and help me with errands or chores.  So here's a few ideas:
  • Gift Cards - Think cleaning services, car detailing, grocery delivery, food prep (Blue Apron), etc.  Any errand or chore that someone else could do instead.  Better yet...
  • Run the Errand - Sneak out and get their car detailed, organize the garage, tackle that once-a-year cleaning project.  We once did this for my mom: organizing the huge pile of stuff in the basement into appropriate storage containers and cleaning off the mouse crud after the previous system had been compromised.
  • Cook - Breakfast in bed, big fancy date-night dinner, etc.  Go all out and don't ask the recipient to raise a finger.
  • Plan a Surprise - Surprises are fun, but for me it's more about the fact that someone spent the time planning an event and I didn't have to work out draining logistics.
  • Make Life Easier - What's something your recipient hates to do or has to do all the time?  Is there a way you can do it for them, outsource it, or somehow make it easier for them?  You could babysit for a day, give them a gift card for H&R block, or research solutions for any number of problems.

2. Quality Time (Spend Time with Me)

This is what it sounds like - time spent together actually being together.  Not coexisting in the same room, but actively enjoying each other's company.  Ideas:
  • Trips Together - Anything from a local B&B to international travel.  You know your love one's preferences (and your own budget) better than I do.  Alternately...
  • A Night In - If life is crazy and hectic and you know your partner (let's be real, this would be weird for someone else) is stressed out, clear the calendar and schedule a big time chunk of doing only what you want to be doing.  Have someone watch the kids/pets/roommate and play video games, or watch TV, or just talk.  Whatever it is that the two of you like to do.
  • Try Something New - Is there anything you know your gift recipient would like to try?  A new restaurant, paint night, zip lining, whatever floats their boat.
  • Learn Together - Take a class that aligns with a shared interest.  Cooking, pottery, boating, improve, archery.
  • Go Exploring - If you don't have the budget for a trip, but like the adventure aspect, try exploring closer to home.  Are there trails you haven't walked, museums, restaurants, parks, or roads you haven't seen?  This is a good time for spontaneity, if that's your thing.

3. Words of Affirmation (Tell Me How You Feel)

Our culture is kind of backwards when it comes to talking about our feelings, so this can be a challenge - it certainly was for me.  Words of affirmation is literally telling people how you feel.  "I like you", "You're such a warm, loving person", "You make my life better in by ___."  Ideas:
  • Scrapbook/Compliment Book - I didn't really know what to call this, but putting together words, images, and memories into one convenient package is a fun one.  For each of our 21st birthdays, my mom gave me and my sisters little notebooks with "21 Things I Like About You."  Even as a not words person, it was very meaningful and special to me.
  • Other Artistic Expressions of Love - It doesn't have to be a physical book.  You could write a song or a poem, make a video.  If you're not artsy, you could make a mix CD (those aren't dead yet, are they?) or if you're more Microsoft Office-minded, a slideshow!  Just make sure your feelings are specifically written out or said, instead of making it about the images.
  • Card - I think a card could work here BUT it's better if it's homemade or if it's purchased you need to write a few extra sentences explaining why that person is important to you.
  • Home Décor - Poster, wall art, etc. that relates to how you feel about your recipient.  If it's a photo of the two of you, include a caption about why it's memorable, or even just a header over/above the image that sums it up, "Friends", "My Everything", "Fierce."  Whatever!  It doesn't necessarily have to be the message "I like you."  Last year I bought Ryan a poster with the Chinese symbol for "conflict" because it talked about growing stronger and coming out better and that was pretty appropriate for our relationship at the time.
  • A Date Night that Incorporates Word Games - My family has a board game called "The Ungame" which is all about feelings.  It'll have prompts like "Tell about a time when you felt happy/angry/sad" and it's a weirdly serious game.  Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we feel sad, or uncomfortable, or irritated.  But it always elicits emotional responses and it's good practice at talking about feelings.  You could also play The Newlywed Game if you want something funnier, or try the list of questions that are scientifically supposed to help you fall in love, for something more romantic.

4. Physical Touch (I Need a Hug Right Now)

The only important thing to note is that, even in a relationship, physical touch is about much more than just sex.  So holding hands, hugs, snuggling.  Even platonic relationships can (and usually do) incorporate some physicality: hugs, a hand on the arm (at appropriate times in conversation! not in a creepy way), fixing someone's hair/tie/shirt tag, etc.  But gifting for this is a little more challenging.  Ideas:
  • Massage - Spa gift card or personal, if you're comfortable with that.
  • Mani/Pedi/Personal Care - Similar note, but a little less intimate.  (This could also overlap with acts of service because you're giving me money to do personal care.)
Confession: I ran out of ideas for this one, even after scouring the Internet.  This article has some suggestions, but I'd have to ask a physical touch person if doing "physical" things like hiking or dancing are a good substitute for physical contact.  If anyone reading is physical touch, let me know!

5. Gifts (Ooh, shiny!)

This one is the hardest for me personally and I'm not going to bother to make a list because everyone know what a gift is.  Some people like stuff, and that's ok BUT the important thing to note here is that it's NOT usually about the price tag.  Gift people care about the thought that went into the gift and will appreciate anything you can buy them that shows how well you know them.  I've asked a few people and I think most gift people also appreciate cards, so a birthday card or a wedding card will mean a lot more to this group than, say, an acts of service person.

Side note: Sister3 is AMAZING at choosing gifts for people.  She does Reddit's secret santa every year and I think her success is in equal parts due to crazy social media "investigation" (cough, stalking) and being a gifts person herself.  My brain doesn't see an object in a store or online and think, "Oh, this would be perfect for so-and-so" but hers does and she takes notes all year to not forget those ideas.

I started my gift doc in the hopes that I could do what she does but I've since realized it's a lost cause.  I can't be that good, but I can get better than I've been in the past and that's what I'm hoping to do with this list.

What about you?  Do you think about love languages when you buy gifts?  Are you good at coming up with gift ideas for people or do you have to struggle like I do?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Aug 1, 2017

Mental Health Check In - August

So... I was all excited about the first appointment and this time I'm feeling more meh.  But I'll report in anyway.

At my end-of-July counseling appointment I was expecting to rehash the changes I made and then listen to suggestions for a couple more.  Instead we talked about none of them and my counselor started voicing concerns about postpartum.

She did give me a couple of actionable items, but I'm not going to follow up this time.  I tried to assess it objectively to see if maybe she had a point that I was missing.  Because I can see how you might suffer from depression or other mental health issues without realizing.  But I really just don't agree.

The counselor's primary concern was a few comments I had made about the days that were incredibly long and I was just counting down until the baby's next nap, or Ryan got home, or I could go to bed.  The weeks that I counted down until the week was finally over.

But here's the thing - while I don't want to live life as a constant countdown, I don't see the countdown as an indicator that I'm depressed or think things are hopeless.  Because a countdown indicates that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm counting down to something.

Waiting for the day to end so I can sleep doesn't mean I'm depressed and don't want to deal with life.  It means I'm severely sleep deprived and I genuinely need this.  Similarly the countdown means we had taken actionable steps to improve the situation (interviewing a nanny, etc), and I was hanging in there until those plans came to fruition.

I also talked to Sister2 about this and, while I can imagine my counselor's eye roll when I say, "My sister said..." it's also true that my sister is actually a doctor and has done rotations in mental health wards, along with experiencing what we call "the great sadness" in her own part.  And Sister2 thinks the doctor's advice - to go get tested for various vitamin deficiencies - is a good way to find things that are "wrong" that aren't actually affecting me.

Everyone has imbalances and, for the most part, those deficiencies, imbalances, nodules, whatever, don't affect us.  When we get sick - sure, then we need to investigate it and treat whatever might be causing it.  But when it's not, then it's just a waste of time, resources, and possibly contrary to the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm."

Sister2 also agreed with me that all of my stressors and sadnesses seemed to have legitimate sources, and that she wouldn't be concerned about them in a patient of hers.

So I'm not going to get tested by my doctor, and I'm not even going to track my moods, even though that might have some benefit.  Instead I'm going to continue my gratitude list, enjoy having a nanny, and get more sleep!

How I Did on My July Health Goals

Since these are physical AND mental health goals I want to talk about not just how I did, but whether taking these actions had any noticeable impact on my life.  After all the ultimate "goal" here is to feel happier and improve life satisfaction, not just cross some goals off a list.

1. Walk Once a Day - Mostly

Every day is hard to do, especially since my life has minimal routine to it (see below) BUT I did get out there more often and I made peace with the stroller.  I tried to walk with just the baby, but I couldn't do it - the guilt at leaving the dogs behind was too strong.  So instead I experimented until I found good combinations of baby equipment.  Example: the stroller is by far the easiest thing for stopping to pick up dog poop BUT if I want to go somewhere that's not stroller friendly, the baby carrier is next best.  The body slings aren't secure enough to be truly hands-free.

Impact Assessment: Walking is always good.  It always accomplishes something, whether that's making me feel good, or letting the dogs get some energy out, or having a good talk with Ryan (our family discussion is always during a walk on Fridays and we've solved many a tough discussion during a long walk).

2. Go to Sleep When the Baby Does and Work in the Morning Before He Wakes Up - Middlin'

I tried this the first week after my therapy appointment and it took 3 full days before I was rested enough to force myself out of bed, even after 9+ hours of sleep.  Guys, it was bad!  Then I managed maybe one day of morning work and went back to my old ways.  Part of the problem is that, while Orion sometimes sleeps through the night, other nights he wakes up 3 times.  So I never know if I'm going to get enough sleep or be exhausted despite spending hours in bed because my sleep was interrupted so much.

The other problem was that there was just too much work to complete and still get 8 hours of sleep.  So rearranging my sleep schedule was more of a patch than a fix.  But that's ok because WE HIRED A NANNY and I can work during the day now!!!  I was so scared to do this but after one of me and Ryan's long talks where we covered all the contingencies (What if my business goes away?  What if I can't pay for my half of childcare?  Etc, etc.) I'm ready to see this for what it is - an investment into my business, and start pouring more energy into continuing to build instead of scrambling to survive.

Anyway, back on topic - with a nanny AND a graphic design freelancer, I think I can keep up without staying up at night, and I've actually been going to bed when Orion does.  Right now I'm feeling healthier and more mentally stable than I have in a while.

Impact Assessment: Maybe I'm not as much of a morning person as I thought I was.  However, getting enough sleep at night makes a huuuuge difference and it enables me to be more productive during naptime instead of napping with the baby or trying to work through my fog of sleep-deprived confusion.

3. Get Into a Routine - Just Starting!

My life has had minimal to no routine in it for as long as I can remember.  Some days I go into an office, some days I work from home, I schedule anywhere from 2-5 social/work/appointment type things a week and those are at various times.  My sleep schedule changes depending on what each day's obligations are.  It's messy, but I also enjoy the variety so I needed to work around that.

I've been experimenting this past month and I think I've found a few things that work well.  Going for a walk to end work for the day and starting the day with some kind of self care.  I'd like to say I'll always go to bed when baby does, but sometimes Ryan and I need some baby-free time with each other, so instead I'll just try for 7 hours of sleep the office job days and 9+ the other days (knowing that some nights will be interrupted by a crying baby).

The office job days I'll get up, do some yoga/stretching, make a smoothie, and go to work.  Then come home, go for a walk, do whatever, and pack lunch for the next day at dinner while food is already out.

The freelance days I'll get up with the baby, make breakfast, pass him off to our awesome nanny, go for a run, and then get to work.  When it's time for her to leave, I'll go for a walk, put him down for a nap (and maybe squeeze out another hour of work), and then spend the evening doing family things.

The one weekday where I have no office job and no nanny I'd like to keep doing mom group/social things.  And the weekends I'd like to spend more time with Ryan, since we've been basically putting our relationship on the backburner while we handle shit.  I told a friend that as couples you need time together to resolve problems AND time together to enjoy being together.  Right now it's a little shaky, so making time for both is a priority.

Impact Assessment: I'd be lying if I said anything other than "I hope it will be good" since I haven't managed to build solid routines yet, but I know the chaos is bothering me and I feel stressed out and/or crazy when I don't make time for my health.

Health Goals for August

  1. Gratitude List
  2. Sleep Goals
  3. Make Time to Relax with Ryan

How do you enforce self care?  Do you do mental health check ins?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually