27 August 2014

Getting back on the productivity track

Like a lot of Americans, I lead a sedentary lifestyle. My job involves sitting in front a computer for eight hours a day, my hobbies are all done sitting done, and I have three teenagers to handle the bulk of the household chores. Because I sit a lot, it doesn't take much for me to feel productive. Today, I marveled at the tasks I completed that barely qualify as work but that made me feel like I had gotten something done:

  • I cleared all the junk off the three counters and the island in my kitchen.
  • I went out and turned my compost heap.
  • I swept my bedroom.
  • I sent a voicemail comment to one of my favorite podcasts.
  • I updated 18 apps on my iPad (that red number is finally gone!).
Even writing this blog post feels productive because I haven't blogged since January. I get such a positive hit from accomplishing little things that I often wonder if it stops me from doing bigger things. 

Getting in shape is a prime example. Last year it took me three months to lose 15 pounds. That is five pounds a month, which sounds healthy, right? Except that I was eating less than 1000 calories, taking diet pills and exercising every day to do it. Also, I saw no improvement in my body shape, my breathing, or my endurance at the end of that three months. I know all you fitness buffs out there are shouting, "You need to keep going!" Intellectually I know that I shouldn't expect instant gratification from the pursuit of better health. That doesn't stop me from feeling that diet and exercise is nothing but deprivation and sweat with no payoff, especially since many of the diets that other people try (low carb, Weight Watchers, etc.) don't budge the numbers on my scale at all.

A few months ago, I said that I was going to be happy with the the little goals I hit and not dwell so much on whatever I didn't do. I lost my way for a while (I got a new job I hate, while my husband lost his), but I realized I can't do anything about those setbacks so I might as well keep moving forward.

02 January 2014

Tweak your history to help you meet your goals

I heard a segment on NPR today about editing your life's stories. It is only eight minutes long so I recommend that you go listen to it when you have time. The gist of the segment is that if you take a life event and write it down with a different twist to it, then it will help you make sense of it. Although the methods is mainly used for troubling events such as being really afraid of something or not having many friends in school, I immediately recognized that this is what I've been doing with some areas of my life and that I could apply it to some of the goals I've set in the past.

With exercise, I used to beat myself up every day that I didn't work out. This may motivate other people to get up and go to the gym, but it only gave me a reason to dislike myself. Now I flip the script and focus on every activity that got me off the sofa, whether it could traditionally be considered exercise or not. Did I do laundry? Great! Did I mop the bathroom floor? Good for me because it really needed to be done. Someone like me can easily spend eight hours at work sitting in front of a computer, come home and zap dinner in the microwave, spend four more hours sitting in front of the computer and television, and then go to bed. Getting up off my butt for anything is an achievement. I still don't exercise regularly, but since I've stopped beating myself up about what I "should" be doing I do move more.

This method of flipping the script is working for me in one area, but until I listened to the NPR story I didn't think of applying it to some of my other goals. You know, the type of resolutions you set at this time of year. One that immediately pops into my head is to read more books. I was the kid who always had her nose in a book, but that stopped when I got married and became a mother. I thought that starting a book blog and joining reading challenges would take me back to those days, but all it did was make me feel guilty about what I wasn't reading. That does not lead me back to the excitement of reading that I experienced in my youth. So instead of berating myself for not meeting my goal of reading 25 books in 2013, I am applauding myself for reading 19 books. That gets me revved up to try to do better this year.

What's the takeaway in all this? Instead of giving up on setting goals because I never reach them, I can aim for a goal and be happy when I make progress.

01 January 2014

My 2014 is hitting the ground running

Even though the twins and I have birthdays in January, this is not usually a hectic month for me. December is when ABM and I stress out over what gifts to buy for Christmas, and we talk through what to do about the January and February birthdays while we are at it. By the time 01 Jan rolls around, our minds are on school starting back. The kids may have things going on at school and ABM may have worries at work, but my personal stress ends 25 Dec and usually doesn't show up again until school lets out in May. For me, this year will be a little different.

First off, there is a chance that I may have found a job. Actually it is more than a slim chance (like 95% of a chance), but I don't want to post much more about it now. I'm being superstitious and not wanting to jinx it before the paperwork is finished. However, I know that if everything goes as planned I will start working in two weeks. This job is totally different from my past jobs so I am understandably nervous about it.

Second, my spring college semester starts on 08 Jan. I only got into three of the four classes that I wanted, but as it turns out that may work out to my advantage. I carried a full course load during the fall semester and it felt like like a full-time job. Plenty of people work and go to school full time, but I'm not sure if I can. I'm glad now that I've given myself some breathing room with one less class, especially since one of my classes is precalculus.

Third, ABM and I are taking a little getaway next week. It may sound like an odd time for a trip, but with the new job I won't be able to go on the family vacation in September. Plus, it is my birthday next week, so when ABM suggested a getaway I didn't complain!

To other people, this may sound like a regular month. For a house frau like me, it is a busy schedule. Everything is good, but it is all new and I get a bit anxious when there are changes to my routine.  The good thing about being almost 47 is I've learned that a little anxiety is healthy; it keeps me on my toes. I've been through enough new experiences now to know that I will  be fine when I come out on the other side of this.

23 December 2013

I don't need a little Christmas, but maybe they do

I was talking to ABM last week about my worries concerning our kids and the holidays. Each year the holiday season has become less and less festive in our house, partly because ABM and I don't really want to be bothered with all the trappings. I mean, he would be happy to have the house decorated as long as he doesn't have to put the decorations up or take them down :-p. I don't like the whole sense of obligation that goes with Christmas, such as rushing around to this program and that party. Anyway, I've been wondering lately if our kids will grow to resent the fact that I never play Christmas music or bake cookies or whatever. I can just see them in their 30s lamenting to their spouses that their parents never gave them a "real" Christmas.

This musing of mine prompted ABM to try to inject some spirit into our family, three days before Christmas. Yesterday he announced that we were all drawing names for a Secret Santa exchange within our own house. Today he gave the kids $10 each and let them loose in Walmart. After that he gave them $5 each to buy a $1 gift for each of the other family members at the dollar store. This isn't a revolutionary idea (I'm sure there are plenty of other families that do something similar), but it was the first time we had ever done it and it had the kids all abuzz. They seemed to have great fun making suggestion lists, putting them on the fridge, and then trying to catch someone taking a list off of the fridge so they could find out who was whose Secret Santa.

We still haven't put up any decorations, but I don't think we need to. This activity brought some excitement into the holiday for the kids and helped all of us learn a little more about each other's likes and dislikes. Now I just need some eggnog to make it a real Christmas.

09 October 2013

Am I getting in tune with the seasons?

This week I have been craving fruits and veggies like apples, cabbage, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. I've been looking for recipes that feature them and telling myself that I can't wait until fall comes so these items will be in season. Although I'm still not great at it, I've been steering ABM toward buying seasonal produce so that we can save money on getting it fresh rather than having to buy frozen veggies all the time.

I can hear some of you shouting, "Fall is already here! It is October!" Yes, I know what month it is, but cut me some slack for not being in fall mode. Just three days ago it was 80 degrees outside. I didn't start feeling a snap in the air until yesterday. It has taken 30 years for me to stop associating the first week of September with corduroy skirts and sweaters, which is what I wore to grammar school as a child in New York.

Anyway, the craving for cabbage and such got so strong that I consulted the app that I bought for my iPhone ages ago, called What's Fresh. I rarely buy apps but this one is worth the $2.99 that I paid because it tells me at a glance what fruits and vegetables are in season in my area. (This is not a sponsored review; I just like the app.) Lo and behold, it turns out that all the produce I was craving is in season right now! I've heard the theory that your body craves certain foods because it is missing certain nutrients. Could I have been craving cabbage because my body knew it was cabbage season?