Thursday, October 20, 2016

Getting Over Myself

I realize that there are certain personality traits that again & again get in my way of success/happiness/etc... I am trying really hard to get over these things because I realize they have been holding me back for years (decades!) Just this week I've had a couple of successes!

#1 Shyness/introversion/imposter syndrome: Overall the feeling that reaching out to anyone for collaboration is annoying & burdensome, that people will not want to work with me because my ideas are lame/I'm not as smart as them/they are too busy or whatever. This has been a major issue for me in my research. I don't reach out, or I wait too long, or I over-analyze a delayed response to my initial contact as a sign that they are uninterested (because my work is lame, I'm not that smart...) when in reality, once I DO make contact, I've only heard positive things "That sounds cool! We'd love to help! Maybe we can write this up!" Etc... I just sent an email to a stranger (who I was recommended to contact by someone I was discussing an upcoming grant with at a networking event) and she immediately wrote back that she would love to be involved. This could open a new (and really cool!) area of study for me.

Lesson learned: networking is important and don't be afraid to reach out for collaboration. Its like dating, it won't happen if you don't put yourself out there.

#2 Time stress/overwhelm/schedule rigidity: This one annoys the hell out of husband, and leads to a lot of unnecessary stress/panic at home. We get behind on chores or weeknight routine, I start fretting about how "there is SO MUCH TO DO!" and get snippy, frustrated, and overall it sucks. This may sound overly philosophical, but my stress about chores really stems from lack of ability to stay in the moment. I am stressed because I want to be DONE and relaxing/sleeping/back to work. If I can just stay in the moment and do the thing in front of me, one at a time, there is no problem. On Tuesday evening it was nearly 7, no one had eaten dinner, the dishwasher needed to be unloaded & reloaded, lunches packed for the next 2 days, kitchen cleaned, kids bathed, stories etc... (and G was not home). I put on some music, fed the three of us, felt much better because I wasn't starving, and then tackled one chore at a time as the kids laughed & played at the table. It all got done, I was in a good mood, and they even went to bed on time.

Lesson learned: take one thing at a time, it'll all get done and be less awful in the doing.Also music helps.

#3 Avoidance of potentially stressful things: I avoid addressing them and then they hang over my head, infiltrating my day, adding this undercurrent of anxiety. I honestly haven't had any wins on this one recently, but I have a couple of things I need to tackle, at home & at work (home: planning holiday travel and buying tickets---stressful because family pressures and $$$; work: scheduling a long overdue meeting with division chief re: lack of grants/papers in past year---stressful because...duh).

Lesson (still not) learned: Eat that frog

What have you learned lately?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I just submitted my grant! Whoo. Now to start thinking about the next one (and then the next one, and so forth). Its been crazy busy but in a productive, challenging way. I love this part of my job. Even if I worked a good chunk of the weekend to get this done.

Everything else has been good. The kids are adorable and fun (most of the time). G and I are fine, though we have had very limited time together in the past few weeks. I'm working out, eating too much, not sleeping enough---all the same.

I got a Darth Vader costume from a neighbor that fits B, so now L wants to be Darth Vader and I ordered him a costume. Same neighbor also had an adult costume (Darth Vader), which looks HUGE so maybe G can wear that? I guess we will have Vader Clones. Not sure what I'm going to be (probably not Darth Vader...) I like dressing up (nothing elaborate, maybe just some accessories) to go with the kids. I don't really go "all in" on the holidays in general, I figure if I'm going to pick one, Halloween is a low-key fun one. We have a pumpkin we will carve this weekend. The boys wanted "decorations" so maybe I'll get some of that webbing and put some creepy crawly toys on it and put that outside.

I know there are 168 hours, etc... but there never seem to be enough hours to get in all the stuff I want to do---at work, at home, with the kids, with friends, with G, for myself. I have backlogs of books and cooking projects and home projects and our "fall fun" list, and work outs...I just keeping finding things to add. I think its a good problem to have.

I completely fell off the YNAB wagon for the past 2 months. I'm not sure how to re-start. Should I zero everything out and start from scratch? Start where we left off? G has been adding stuff, but I haven't so the budget looks bizarre. Anyone do this before? 

Now its 84 degrees out, and B was feeling sick this morning and probably needs some rest, and G forgot to buy the things I need to make salads for lunch. I am out of here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sunny Days

This past few weeks really flew by! I am up against a deadline, and definitely plan to take a day off at home to myself when my grant is in just to catch up on random stuff (and reading and vegging). I try to do this every 6 months and its the absolute best.

L's birthday week is over. I can't believe my youngest is FIVE. This big-kid world is everything I've dreamed of, though, even though we're not fully two feet in (next year, when he starts KG, and they are both in the same place every day will be so much easier, though the thought of saying goodbye to our daycare makes me cry).

This weekend my sister & family came to visit. The kids had a cousin-y good time, as usual, even though it rained the entire time. Our apple-picking plan got changed to indoor children's museum, to my disappointment. At least the kids still had fun. Of course its sunny all week & rainy all weekend. OF COURSE IT IS.

I woke up in the middle of Friday night with the cold sweats & waves of nausea. It was not a good night. Something I ate at our work meeting I'm thinking, because it finally wore off by Saturday evening and I devoured pizza, wine, and chocolate and felt great. But most of Saturday was a wash. I finally fell back asleep around 6 am and slept til 9. G took one look at me and took the boys to the park for a couple of hours while I sipped water, nibbled crackers, and slumped around.

I'm trying really hard to balance everything so I get stuff done & not get overwhelmed & stressed. I am taking advantage of energy when I have it, to tackle long overdue home-related tasks. Yesterday, I went to bed before 9. Hopefully tonight I can sort through our summer clothes to donate all the unworn ones and put the rest into the off-season bins.

I'm taken by the idea of a fairly minimal wardrobe for myself. All summer, I rotated through 6 shift dresses with pockets, and it was awesome not really having to think about what to wear. Too many options, clothes jammed into closets and drawers, blah. And I'm doing WAY BETTER then ever, and it still seems like too much. I think I may be on a "journey towards minimalism" (ha!)

I'm finding moments of anxiety creeping back up. I never did see my therapist again in September. I just don't have time to take a couple hours off work to do that. I should email the old therapist, who should finally be back from maternity leave, to get on her schedule later this month.

I am still working on my goals from September. "Fall goals" I will call them. I came across a page I wrote in my planner back in March about "life plans" where I outlined what I ideally wanted from each area of life. It was spot-on. I need to think about where I am with those and get back on track with some that've fallen by the wayside.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

And the Dark Side

And here are some updates on the not-so-awesome stuff

  • B is again having trouble paying attention and staying on task at school. I thought maybe it'd be better this year, especially since his behavior is so different at home...but a few minutes with his teacher confirmed otherwise. We are awaiting a phone call from the school psychologist and "service coordinator" to discuss how to best help him. 
  • L is still full of fury and lashing out. Its mostly at me, but sometimes he gets a little too carried with the the "pretend fight play" at school and inadvertently hurts his friends, too. Its a good thing he is tiny and tires easily---it keeps him from exerting too much damage. 
  • I'm still exhausted most of the time. Just utterly devoid of energy, like I'm coming down with something (or pregnant). I just feel like sitting and often can't muster up the energy to do what needs to be done around the house. G has had to fill in quite a bit. When I DO have energy, I run around like crazy, trying to accomplish things which leaves me...tired. I'm pretty sure its the P@xil, I can't pinpoint anything else (yes, I've had my thyroid/iron/etc.. checked)
  • I also have various other random common and not-so-common side effects. UGH. Teeth grinding? Increased sweating? Who knew!?
  • As a result of the exhaustion, everything is unorganized and its starting to wear on me. The boys' floor is covered in pants (many of which don't fit anyone) and sweaters and jackets as we are in-between seasons, and there is no room for shorts AND pants, long sleeve AND short-sleeved tops in their drawers. B is wearing high waters and crop tops. I've got various piles of things to give away all over the house. Our plants all died when it didn't rain for a couple of weeks, and only a few came back to life after the rainy season returned. ETC....without end. I am trying out a "weeknight chore schedule" with one unessential but long overdue 15-20 minute task. Last night was "swap out shorts for pants", and tonight's is "wrap L's presents" nothing onerous. 
  • Speaking of pants, the other side effect---weight gain. My pants do not fit and its annoying. I tried to look up the mechanism for this but it is unknown but suspected to be at least partially due to the decreased energy (leading to decreased movement). I can buy that. I'm also paradoxically more hungry, though. Nothing to do but the old "eat less, move more" routine. Or buy new pants. I haven't chosen. 
  • There is no "magic system" to being motivated and getting s&it done at work. It just either IS or ISN'T. Some days there much. But I can't make it happen. I CAN rely on good ol' self-discipline though, and just march myself through the tasks. That's what planning is for...I don't need it on the good days, but on the off days, having it all laid out makes it easier to take that next step. And some days you just cut your losses. 
  • Today may be one of those days. I had a great morning---made good progress on my "research strategy" and then the headache set in; even lunch, water, and NSAIDs haven't touched it. I think I'll take a real break away from the laptop for a little while to see if that helps. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Light Side of the Force

Just an update on the awesome stuff.
  • B has been much more balanced and cheerful lately. He is happy and pleasant maybe 2/3-3/4 of the time now, as opposed to the near-constant grumpiness and bad attitude that was his norm. I've spent a lot of one on one time with him and its been so much fun, I actually look forward to it!
  • The kids are playing together so well these days! It may be related to above, since L always adored his older brother but B never deigned to give him much attention before. But it makes our job so much easier! Yes they still fight and bicker, but they also ask each other to play, help each other, and play legos for up to an hour at a time, jabbering away about who knows what the whole time.
  • We had L's birthday party yesterday and it was a resounding success. We made this pinata and I made these cupcakes and they both turned out just like the pictures (and delicious, the cupcakes I mean). We had to move the party from Saturday because it was forecasting rain so I had all day to methodically and obsessively follow the recipe which is really my problem with baking---I am impatient and try to be "efficient" but f it all up. L's best friends all came and they had a blast fighting with the light-up lightsabers we got, and running around the park. Such a low-key and fun party!
  • I took Friday off since B had the day off school. I did spend 5+ hours working (while B built a large lego kit and read books), but took a break to help him empty his entire piggy bank and count up the $9.72 and then walk >1 mile to Target to buy his brother a birthday present. He bought a small lego kit and could NOT WAIT to give it to him, so he got his present Friday night. I think B was way more excited about it then L it was ADORABLE. 
  • I'm working from home tomorrow (B had today/tomorrow off, too...G's at home with both boys today) and I will take a break to bake birthday cookies for L's actual birthday on Wednesday. I will also wrap his presents and I can't wait either and may give them to him early (since I have to leave super early for work and probably won't see him Wednesday morning)
  • We are planning Halloween costumes. I think October may be my favorite parenting month ever, since L is the perfect kid for a theme party and Halloween is just fun. 
  • I'm reading a new book that is entertaining so far.
  • I had a super productive day today.
  • It stopped raining. 
  • We won't see 90 degrees again for at least 9 months. I can wear pants! Boots! Cardigans! Dresses with linings! (sorry SHU, you can rub it in come January)

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Remember how my therapist wanted me to start thinking about where I want to be in 5, 10, 15 years? Well, I am doing a faculty development course this year, and the very first assignment was to write a 15 year life plan! I actually put some thought and time into this, and I found it really helpful to try to visualize where I saw myself under ideal circumstances.

The course utilizes this book, which title non-withstanding, has absolutely nothing to do so far with being a "leader" in the traditional sense (leading a group). Its actually about work/life "integration" (as the author urges us to think about it) and how to take control of your time and energy and create the life you want for yourself. Obviously this concept is something of great interest to me and my readership, so I thought I'd share some insights.

The book proposes a "four way view" of life, which includes work, family, self, and community. At the first meeting we did an exercise in which we had to assign a % of importance to those 4 areas. We then had to assign a % of time currently devoted to those areas. Everyone had the same dilemma---we found all the areas important, but devoted the vast majority of our time to work.

I was obviously not surprised by this.  Actually, I don't know how honest people were even being with the exercise. The cult of busyness, and bragging about how much you work to the exclusion of all else is huge here. I am always hearing disparaging comments like "who has time for THAT?" when discussing reading or other hobbies. Its basically OK to talk about spending time with children and working. Anything else is clearly a waste of time and a signal to all of your lack of dedication.

Someone actually brought this up, by contrasting her experience at another place with what she's noticed here. This led into some really interesting discussions about the culture of our university, and the emphasis on work to the exclusion of other pursuits, and whether there was a way to shift the culture that over time. 

One part of this course involves using peer to peer "coaching teams". I was randomly teamed up with 2 guys, both with vastly different work and non-work commitments from me. We started off talking about our goals and what we saw as obstacles to meeting them. Then we helped each other think through solutions. I offered visionary advice such as "make a list", "sync calendars with your spouse", and "work from home on occasion if people keeping interrupting you in your office". I was given the advice to spend some time on Friday planning out the week ahead---to include work and non-work commitments, and to leave 1-2 days a week free from any meetings.

Cheesy as it seems, the "4 way" thing is actually working for me. Our 15 year plans had to include our visions for all 4 aspects, and I realized that certain things ARE important to me, but woefully neglected. I really value the idea of community. We live and work and play and learn all within a 1.5 mile radius. In fact, we spend 90% of our non-work time within a few blocks of home (this includes the elementary school, which is 1 block away). Being involved in our community in a more meaningful has always been on my "someday" list, but I realized that there are definitely things I can do now. So I said YES when I got the email to help out with a fundraiser 5K for the school (and I'm running in it). I am going to the school PTA meeting next week (its at 5:30 PM, not 10AM!!). I was tired, but I went to the neighborhood book group meeting, and despite the last meeting being awkward (I didn't know anyone, yet they seemed to be friends), things really clicked and I had a great time (even though we were only drinking tea).

I think I'm doing a better job than most in the category of "self". I have pinpointed what I need, and my workouts and sleep and alone time are non-negotiables in my life. My family obviously gets a large amount of time and energy, though maybe 99% of that is my kids, and I need to shift a bit of that to poor neglected G and even to keeping up extended family relationships (so I've been calling my parents & MIL and texting my sister more).

Its such a great coincidence that this course focuses on the exact thing I've been pondering and planning on my own (when I applied for it, it was unclear exactly what it entailed, but it seemed prestigious and a friend/colleague recommended the experience). Astute readers may notice that some of what I wrote here matches up exactly with my previously stated September goals! Reinforcements from all sides definitely make my resolve stronger.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What I didn't Learn by not Tracking My Time

I know how I spend my time---there would be no earth-shattering breakthroughs to come of carefully documenting it. I know when I'm being productive and when I'm being lazy and how much I exercise and how much I sleep and commute and waste on my phone. Its not that I don't know. Its just hard to change your natural inclinations sometimes.

Overall its been a good week on all fronts, except the sleeping (mine). But I'm ready for the weekend. It promises to be a nice and low-key one. We have plans to be outside tomorrow morning, then come home and start to work on the DeathStar pinata for L's birthday. B and I will go grocery shopping because he helped me with the meal plan and wants to participate in the purchasing of food. Maybe he'll help me put our casserole together Sunday? We should probably get L a birthday present. Its cooling down, finally and yet suddenly, so I need to hunt for sweaters and pants.

I got bleach on my most favorite dress this afternoon, working in the lab. I even wore a lab coat, but it didn't cover the bottom of my dress. They do not sell this dress anymore, even though I just bought it in May (and I probably wore it 20 times since then...its really truly my fave). I spent more time than I should have researching how to fix it and ended up buying a fabric marker on Amazon.

I am definitely in a better place than I was a few months ago, and I'm grateful for that. But I'm also ready to be done with the medication (and the side effects). 6 months? 12 months? I don't want to rock the boat, but I can't not sleep (and other annoying stuff) forever.  I think the key will be to fully develop my OTHER coping mechanisms over the next few months. I'm on an eleven day streak of meditating! Only 5-10 minutes/day, and not every day does it really even seem to "work" (i.e. I am able to stop thinking and really focus on my breathing for a few minutes at a time). I tell myself its a "practice" so I need to practice. And one day it'll click.

I'm telling myself the same thing about work. Some days are awesome and I'm able to dive in and get excited and write and think and plan and execute. And others...meh. But I make myself keep trying, because the good days do seem to more frequent than the not-so-good, and the start-up energy required may be slightly decreasing...maybe.

I have a plan next week for more writing here, and hopefully it will happen. Have a great weekend!