My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #6

I spent most of this week in a headache fog, obsessing over food and migraine triggers, eventually coming to the conclusion that I might have OCD. (Okay, you can all stop laughing now.) I definitely feel that my headaches have evolved over the years. They are mild yet persistent, and this week I was exhausted, my sinuses hurt, and, as stated above, I felt rather foggy.

Feeling foggy and murky always drives me to frantically flail around in search of solutions. This week, I did what I said I might in the last update. I gave up caffeine. I gave up chocolate. I tried not to eat any of the other foods on the list that are triggers but that I don’t eat that often anyway. (Except onions. Onions is on the list but they are ubiquitous. How do you eat and not consume onions?) I bought caffeine-free coca-cola because even though I gave up Coke for this experiment, I don’t know what to drink when I’m not drinking tea and I want something more than water. I decided this was an extreme circumstance that allowed for deviation in the experiment. However, I’ve been through this charade of giving up caffeine, thus tea, before, and each time I replace regular tea with un-caffeinated sodas. This is when the voices in my head get very loud. The voices in my head think this is a terrible idea, replacing a non-caloric beverages with proven health benefits that’s been around for millennia with a product of the modern, evil food industry. Beyond that, iced tea is a part of my identity now. It took the place that Coca-Cola once inhabited. What the hell am I supposed to do if I’m not drinking tea? Decaf is inferior and I don’t know what the hell herbal tea is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be good? Because it’s not. Herbal tea is to tea what white chocolate is to chocolate. It may have the same name but it’s not the same thing. And even if caffeine is the culprit behind my headaches and I switch to caffeine-free Coke, drinking liquid sucrose is not exactly going to make me feel good, is it?

So what did I do? After a week of not drinking caffeine and still not feeling good, I went to Starbucks and got myself an iced tea. It was a good decision. I didn’t regret it, I didn’t question it. I drank the tea. I felt good. Normally I drink jasmine green tea, which is low in caffeine. Only tea that’s lower than green is white. I drink in the neighborhood of 3 cups a day. I sometimes mix it with oolong tea, in a 3-1 ratio, which raises the caffeine content from mild to moderately mild. I think, as anything food related, the solution is to cut back, not out. I was probably on to something when I laid out my rules to replace one cup of tea with water, so as not to overdo it.

So I’m still reading some headache books and making decisions. I haven’t eaten chocolate yet, and the moratorium was a good one because with all the leftover Halloween candy, I was over consuming. The obsession over my headache ate up most of my brain power for the week, which is why when I started this experiment, I didn’t lay down too many ground rules for food. Thinking about food consumes me in a way that I am not sure is healthy, and it leaves little room for any other thoughts. I really need a better hobby.

Speaking of hobbies, I lost a couple of ideas this week because I didn’t write them down. I was out walking or otherwise occupied and didn’t write them down, thinking they were so good and so powerful that they would be semi-permanent fixtures in my brain. They weren’t. They never are, and I don’t know why in those instances I don’t lean on my phone more. I use it for stupid stuff but taking a note when I don’t have paper would be a good use of that technology, don’t you think? Here’s hoping those thoughts come back to me, and that I’ll have something to say next week that isn’t about headaches.

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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #5

One advantage to paying with a card, in terms of keeping track of spending, is that you can look at your bank statement to see what you spent. I have been running into trouble when paying with cash because I don’t always receive a receipt. Which on the one hand is great – less for me to throw away. But last week I supposedly spent $0 on groceries, which is possible because I had a good size rewards rebate from my credit card, and we ate out for several meals, but still, I can’t help feel like I forgot something.

I went to bed early last night. I had taken a migraine pill two days in a row because the first day it didn’t seem to do anything. The second day it worked and it turned me out like a light. I can’t quite decide if this is cheating or not. I feel like if there is extra sleep needed, getting it at night instead of the morning is the way to go. Since I feel like I’ve made some progress with fatigue during this experiment, the migraine/exhaustion combination has become clearer and more disappointing. It gets me thinking about diet, a subject with which I (and the rest of the culture) am unnaturally obsessed. There are millions of ways to eat for millions of things, including headaches. Eating for headaches isn’t at odds with eating real food, which is what I’ve otherwise been trying to do, but it does limit or eliminate some foods that are otherwise healthy as you try to discover if they are personal migraine triggers. I’ve looked at some triggers like caffeine and msg, but I’ve never tried eliminating them all. I suppose I didn’t think I needed to, and now I do. I want my energy, I want my life. So I’m considering giving it a try. Another experiment, another trial period.

Of course, here’s one thing that has never happened in all of the experimental or elimination diets I have tried over the years. I have never, ever, not once ever, never ever ever, eliminated chocolate (which is very high on the list of migraine triggers.) There is not a candy, pie, cake, turnover or doughnut I want unless it has chocolate in it. I am openly hostile to desserts that are not chocolate. A sugar cookie? Why bother? Vanilla milkshake? Barf. A snickerdoodle? F— that. So…should I decide to tackle this, some serious self-control would be required. If I give it a go, I’ll let you know.

As always with anything food related, I reserve the right to change my mind when I get hungry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #4

I had some trouble with exhaustion this week. That’s okay though, because it means I’ve otherwise achieved a recognizable state of non-exhaustion, which is what I was hoping for with this experiment. Previously, I was frequently too tired to move, and I haven’t felt like that much since I standardized my sleep and wake times. Now, instead of just saying, I’m tired, I guess I didn’t sleep enough, I’ll sleep more tonight, and then never feeling like I slept enough, I know something else is going on. This week I’m pretty sure it was the return to standard time. I wouldn’t think that changing the clocks, especially in winter when we get that extra hour, would have such an effect, but man-o-nam did I feel it.

I didn’t meditate this week. I did not prioritize it like I said I would, so naturally I ran into an article that talked about how even if you only do five minutes and you do it badly (check!), it is still good for you. I’m hoping to do better next week.

I’ve bought hardly anything except food. Mostly that’s groceries, but this week was heavy on dining out, maybe because I was tired? I bought some tank tops for Sonja for layering, a gift for a baby shower, and some parchment paper because I don’t know how to live without it. After some fantastic successes with making homemade hand soap, body wash and the like, I’ve decided to give up on toner. I’ve tried several different recipes that all stink to high hell, and I want to cut my losses.

I’m starting to wonder if I should’ve severed ties with social media for this experiment. I put an app on my phone to track my phone’s use, and while I use it less than I thought, it doesn’t tell me what I did that was social media and what I did that was something I haven’t put a limit on, like texting or navigating. It also doesn’t take into account what I do on my computer. I’m reading a book about our addiction to cell phones and while I can see myself in some of it, I certainly don’t fall into the worst offenders category. So once again, maybe there was nothing really wrong? Or maybe it was enough to ask myself to observe the behavior for an extended period of time. We will see how this progresses, but I’m still attempting to back off of social media.

Here are my notes from the week:

Day 22: Feeling particularly wiped out this evening. I don’t know why. Is it just the return to standard time? It seems feelings of jet lag would be more prominent in spring when you lose sleep, but perhaps I had so adjusted to my 11:30-7:00 schedule that this is throwing me off. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night? The dog did go bananas at 5:30 this morning, causing me to have to get up and let her out. Or maybe it was the slam into darkness at 4:30 in the afternoon? I don’t know, but I hope things return to normal so I can consider this part of the plan successful again.

Day 23: What a crazy day. It was Shaun’s birthday. I had to pick up the fundraising cookie dough from the school, and since it was all frozen and I had no space in my freezer, I had to run around trying to deliver it at 3:30 in the afternoon when no one was home. I also had to grade rough drafts for my classes and lesson plan. Things are not going to get better as the week goes on. Yeesh.

Day 27: Feeling tired again. My whole face is tense and I’m grinding my teeth. Are these warning signs of a migraine?

And that was the week that was.


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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #3

I’m not going to lie to you, week 3 has been problematic. I missed a couple of meditation sessions because I left it for the evening and then forgot. My solution for next week is to do those in the morning or afternoon. I ran out of cash and had to pay with my card for something one day. And yesterday, as I was paying with my card for Redbox, which does not accept cash, I realized something. I have not faltered in writing down every dime I spend, and I think the act of writing it down is tantamout to spending cash. Cash may be hard to part with, but knowing I’m going to have to write down that Starbucks tea is enough to get me to think twice about it. I will also say that actually having cash on hand is nice. Paying for things with cash is quick. So while I plan to keep cash on hand, and I plan to keep things off the credit card, I’m hereby eliminating the requirement to pay for everything with cash. I made one other mistake and I don’t even want to admit it. One day, after work, particularly hungry, I went through my favorite little drive-thru hamburger stand (Frugal’s) and, after contemplating the iced tea, which I assumed would come from the fountain and not be fresh brewed, I ordered a coke. No regrets! The entire lunch was delicious. I didn’t take a lot of notes this week, but here’s what I have.

Day 16 – Feeling particularly exhausted today, even though I went to bed a few minutes early last night. It might have something to do with the fact I’ve been subsisting on Halloween candy the past two days. It might also be because I feel a migraine coming on. Teaching a class that starts at 6 and ends after 8 makes it nearly impossible to eat a reasonable dinner at a reasonable time, and I just haven’t found a good alternative. I used to be better at preparing dinner before my class, but since summer, I’ve been working in the mornings too, which doesn’t leave me time at home to prepare anything but lunch and a lesson. All things being equal, it’s a minor inconvenience, but one that’s a little long in the tooth. I’m open to suggestions of what to do here to save my sanity and my stomach. A student suggested protein shakes. This sounds terrible, but I might have to look into it.

Day 21 – Daylight savings. I was wondering how I would handle this with my bedtime. Would I stay up later? Would I take the extra hour of sleep? It turned out differently than I expected. It’s been a slow, sleepy week all around, with everybody I have seen complaining of being tired. It may have something to with the weather. Last Friday, we hit 70 degrees on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and this Friday, it snowed. So it’s no longer, “winter is coming,” but “winter is here.” Thus, last night, I found myself asleep during a viewing of Fantastic Mr. Fox with my daughter, and asleep again later, halfway through my movie, An Inconvenient Sequel. After my husband had said that he might watch it with me just so he could go to sleep, I protested. It’s not boring, it’s terrifying! It is, and the movie was fine, I just think I’d been in front of the big screen too long, and eventually that induces a coma. So I woke up at 11:30 and went to bed, and took the extra hour of sleep, plus whatever extra time I got during the evening. I feel refreshed, but I can’t help but wonder what happened. Did I get overtired? Was it the weather? Was it this lingering cough? Was I just that bored? The world may never know.

I am, thanks to days 16 & 21, now contemplating my diet (again) and my screen time, and also trying to handle some of the stress work has thrown my way. I realize that stress, too, impacted me this week, and that I could see that how I was feeling was more directly related to the stress than I’d been able to pinpoint previously. I don’t know. At least that sounds good. Here’s to more successes in week 4.


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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #2

Week 2 felt very dichotomous. There’s several things on my list that feel like, “this is just what I do now,” and some that remain a struggle. Having a set bedtime frees up a prodigious amount of mental space. Answers to questions like, “should I continue binge-watching this show?” are set in stone, and there’s no more mental math about how many hours of sleep I might possibly get if I stayed up just a little later. The struggle to get out of bed when my alarm goes off is slowly lessening, though again, I don’t know if that’s the result of the routine, or the exercise, or even coincidence. I have no control group! I made a deal with myself as I came down with a cold that I’d keep my bed and wake times, but allow for a nap if I had the time and needed one, since I’ve read lots of research that short naps can be excellent for health. But even being sick, I haven’t felt like I needed one. In general, I still have moments of low energy, especially after returning home from work, but I feel an overall consistency that I didn’t previously. I don’t have those moments when I feel like I can’t even get out of my chair.

Now on to the less successful side of the spectrum. When I paid for gas with my loyalty credit card (the first time I’ve had to buy gas since the project began), I realized that there is not a universe that exists in which I will pay actual cash for gas. I’m not going to walk the three steps into the little room with the Funyuns and tell the guy to put X amount of dollars on pump 9, then either have to walk back to get change or have the tank not completely filled. That feels like something from the stone ages. I’ve decided the best I can do on that front is to use my debit card instead of credit. I’ve decided not to put this one in the fail column, but some other middle column of “ironing out the kinks.” I did have one real fail this week though. Read the notes to see what happened.

Day 8 – Monday: Picking up my daughter from school just because she asked. The school has limited parking so I have to go half-an-hour early just go get in the vicinity of the campus, and I thought several time about how this cuts into my work time. BUT I’ve realized that pitting these two things – work and life –  against each other, making them opposites, is stupid. Not only stupid but antithetical to my very nature. I’ve worked very hard to set up a good life-work balance (because life comes first) in a culture that makes such a thing very difficult. I am still planning on someday executing (organizer) Marie Kondo’s suggestion/requirement to picture the details of the life I want, and when I do, this will be in it. Having time to do this nice thing for my child for no other reason than she asked. I will still get work done. It will somehow be fine.

Another beautiful Monday autumn walk.

Day 10 – Wednesday: I forgot to meditate today, in addition to being 10 minutes late to rise and 10 minutes late to bed because I was working and didn’t notice the time. I suppose 10 minutes is nothing to write home about.

Day 11 – Thursday: I had trouble falling asleep last night. Then I woke up too early this morning. This is the trouble with set bed/wake times, but I can see it as something that’s only a temporary interruption. I heard in my college psych class that one does not need extra sleep, just a normal amount of sleep, to catch up on missed sleep. I don’t think a single soul in that large lecture hall believed that, but let’s hope there’s some truth to it.

Day 12 – Friday: I spent most of the day at doctor’s appointments. The medical profession gets super excited to hear that you’re exercising seven days a week. They were equally excited about walking as a form of exercise. I’ve walked all week thanks to some superb autumn weather and Marc Maron’s podcast.

Throughout the week, though I was not faced with a particularly strong desire to drink a Coke, I did feel a certain amount of jealousy as I heard the click-fizz-whoosh of my husband pouring his Coke Zeros into a glass and slurping away. I took notice of the fact I can barely turn around without running into a coke product, whether it be at work or the grocery store or even the park. It is the definition of ubiquitous and it requires a moment of mindfulness – of reminding myself that feelings of being left out will quickly pass – to retain self-control.

As for the rest of the items list, so far they feel less impactful. I am unsure if this is because I’ve not set up the rules as specifically as I could have, or if the execution leaves something to be desired (probably), or if they will, at the end of the year, end up on the cutting room floor. Rest assured that I’m ruminating, and I’m sparing you the quotidian details for now.

Until we meet again next week.


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My Daughter’s Six-Year Well-Child Check

A Six-Year-Old Well-Child

On a most beautiful autumn afternoon, the kind that make me glad I live in the Northwest, I collected my daughter from school for her six-year well-child check. On the drive to the clinic, my second that day since I’d had my own appointment in the morning, I was thinking about how often we visited that office when she was an infant. Every few weeks at the very beginning, to every couple of months as she got older. It sometimes took every ounce of self-control I had not to go in more often (and sometimes even that failed.) I found great comfort in those checks because our doctor listened to what I had to say and considered carefully his advice. When I would go to my OB visits during pregnancy, the doctor would rattle off the top Google suggestion to whatever complaint I had. I know this because I frequently Google medical advice, and I never learned anything new from her. It felt like a gigantic, disappointing waste of time. (The visits, not the baby.) So I was grateful when I found a doctor who would give me advice I hadn’t already read by hitting the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. After our six-month well-child visit, the nurse asked if she should schedule us for nine-months, and the doctor said no, that one-year would be the next visit. I immediately protested. I didn’t think we could make it that long. He told me that I was doing great. (Note that he told me I was doing great, not the baby. There was clearly a level of understanding there.) The next time we saw him was at the one-year child check.

It’s been a year since our last visit. Sonja remembered her flu shot and was reluctant to go again for that reason. I feel bad that thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, every annual exam will end in a vaccination, and I can’t reassure her that the visit won’t involve pain. So we talked about what questions she could ask the doctor when she went in. She wanted to ask about why her tummy sometimes hurt in the morning. She also wanted to ask about the cough from her cold.

She went to the appointment willingly and excitedly and asked her questions. The doctor and I mostly discussed nutrition and growth. As usual, she is in the bottom 1% for height and weight, but as her growth remains steady, no one cares anymore. (3 feet, 6 inches tall, 32 pounds.) Then it was time for the flu shot. She cried and begged and said, “Mommy, you do it this time and I’ll do it next year.” She kicked screamed at the top of her lungs as I tried to pick her up and set her on the exam table. It reminded me of the fit in front of Disney’s Haunted Mansion but louder. The nurse and I held her down and gave her the shot, and she began to calm down. When she was informed she could pick a toy from the treasure chest, the tears quickly dried. She limped all the way out of the office, as if she had broken her leg, because there lives in her an evil drama queen, and no, I’m not saying where she gets that from.

After the ordeal, she confessed that it didn’t hurt as much to get the shot this year as last year, which did not get my hopes up that we won’t have to go through the same shenanigans next year. As we left, I thought about the questions I didn’t ask. I considered expressing concerns that she was going to get bored in school because she is already reading at a first-grade reading level. I realize that this may be more of a humblebrag than a medical question. I’m quite sure, had I asked, that I would’ve been listened to and offered some sort of warning signs to look for or other comforting advice. But I didn’t ask. As Sonja as so far shown nothing but love for school, any anxiety is my problem, and so the appropriate place to discuss that concern would be at my own appointment. Perhaps I should book another one.

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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #1

This is the first of several Sunday updates to my procrastination and perfectionism project. I’ve been at it for nearly a week, and mostly, I think things are going well. Some notes from the first (almost) week:

Day 1 -Monday: I almost tanked the whole thing when I was thinking about staying up later than my bedtime, since technically I only had to get up at 7 on Monday to start things off right. Then I remembered my bedtime is 11:30, not 11:00. Crisis averted. I woke up with my alarm and sat up but did not dash out of bed. It was a hard night to start the project because Sonja was up around 3 a.m. with a coughing fit. I decided since I didn’t fall back asleep, which is the whole point of avoiding the snooze alarm, that was acceptable.

I went for a walk on the most beautiful, sunny, breezy fall day, wind chimes ringing in my ears.

I went to get a glass of tea mid-afternoon and realized I should drink water instead. Audibly said, ‘boo’ to an empty house.

Felt like a very successful, worry-free day.

Day 2 – Tuesday: Walked outside again. Not as nice as yesterday, weather-wise, but trying to get as much in before the weather really turns sour. Feeling pretty good. The rest of the week will be harder because Sonja has early dismissal.

Day 4 – Thursday: Note to self: It is impossible to meditate with a cat in the room.

Day 5 – Friday: Easiest day yet as far as getting out of bed. I had been drifting in and out of consciousness since Shaun got up at 5:30, so maybe that was part of it. The exercise could also be a contributing factor. This is why I would make a terrible scientist. I suck at running a controlled experiment. A smart person would have done each of these things one-by-one to see what was really helpful.

By not putting more stringent restrictions on food and concentrating on other parts of the challenge, I have less time to obsess over food, and that’s a good thing. Hasn’t even occurred to me to miss drinking a coke, though I bought myself some Izzes in case I had a hankering for bubbles. I made lentil soup for the first time and it was delicious. Total win for the real food column, and something I can freeze for late night dinners when I’m working. Win-Win.

I had to fight the urge to stay up later binge-watching Netflix.

Day 6 – Saturday: It’s a good thing I went for those outdoor walks on Monday and Tuesday because the weather has been complete shit ever since. It was still dark when I got up at 7 today, and I have that annual sinking feeling of being plunged into the daylight darkness. Only a couple of weeks now until daylight “savings” begins, and then only a few more weeks until it’s practically black by 4:30.

After waking up so easily yesterday, it was harder today. Thinking it was 3 a.m. because it was so dark out, I got up to go to the bathroom, and it turned out to be 6:45 a.m. I went back to bed but that in and of itself was kind of like hitting the snooze button. I sat up when my alarm went off but hit the actual snooze button just in case and yes, I may have dozed before that second bell buzzed. But that can be our little secret.

I thought the cough that kept Sonja up last weekend was the tail end of her cold, but she continues to get worse. She coughed all day today. It’s probably only a matter of time until I get sick. I already have a tickle in my throat. I’m wondering how that will affect the exercise portion of my plan. I wonder if I should’ve made provisions for such eventualities. I know it’s safe to exercise so long as the cold doesn’t move to your chest, so I will press on if possible.

I’ve spent about an hour on social media, most of it the past two days. I need a better way to track it. I can’t rely on an app because I use my computer as well.

Day 7 – Sunday: Slept a little longer today than I was supposed to. Oh well. I could tell I was grinding my teeth pretty badly last night. Today I had a migraine. I used to think of the migraine causality in that order, but now I’m convinced the teeth grinding gets worse before the migraine. My entire face is tensing up in preparation for what my brain is going to do to me.

I’ve realized that putting my stuff away in a timely manner is not something that was neglected because of lack of motivation. Sure, I’m tired sometimes and throw something where it doesn’t belong. But most often, I’m in the middle of putting stuff away when I have to put out a kid fire, and after I do that I’m either exhausted or have completely forgotten that I was in the middle of doing something. That’s why the messes pile up, and that may not be something I can completely correct at this moment in time. So if I have to live with it, I should learn to live with it.

I paid for groceries with cash today, but it was weird. It felt almost sacrilegious to not use the store credit card.

I don’t know if I’ve ever exercised 7 days in a row before. I’m not doing that much and three of the days my exercise has been walking, but I feel it. And I say bring it.

I’ve not worried as much about planning ahead for work, and concentrated instead on doing my work as it arose. That seemed fine. It should also be known that there is an inordinate amount of time that must be spent by the teachers doing ridiculously poorly designed online “paperwork,” and everyone’s life would be easier if there was a way to streamline that. I shouldn’t say that. There absolutely is always a way to streamline processes. Life would be easier if someone in the right place would put some effort into designing a better system.

So as I head into next week, I have to make greater tracking efforts. I need to track how much tea I’m drinking and how much time I’m spending online. I put a notebook in my purse but didn’t use it, but I can see now how that could be a solution to the tracking problem. I also have to make greater efforts to pay with cash, I feel like that one slipped through the cracks for most of the week. All in all, here’s to a pretty successful first week.

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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem

I have a problem. Several, in fact. Some of these problems fall within the realm of time management, and I knew they would be helped when my child (finally) turned school age. But I also knew that some would continue to plague me. Time management is a nice scapegoat, but these problems are more like 1-part time management, 1-part time perfectionism, and 1-part time procrastination.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I’m a (college) teacher, and I have to lesson plan. It’s part of my job that takes place outside of my teaching hours, and because I don’t have a campus office, and I do have daily responsibilities that require me to be at home, I work from home, mostly at night after my daughter goes to bed. I have extremely grand plans that I can take one weekend, get all my shit together, plan the whole quarter out, and then only have to worry about grading the rest of the quarter. One single, glorious weekend that frees my nights from responsibility and my mind from guilt.

This is a perfectionist fantasy. These run rampant in my brain. From lesson planning to cleaning and organizing, there’s always a grand plan. My brain doesn’t seem to understand the “chip-away-at-it” mentality. It is an all-or-nothing proposition, and it leads to nothing but procrastination. I wait (and wait and wait) for a large enough chunk of time to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, and when it doesn’t materialize, I wind up lesson planning in a frantic midnight haze of self-beratement. (Never mind that there are several reasons why planning that far in advance wouldn’t work, and that the flexibility to adapt to my students is a desirable trait anyway.) And any time I want to do something for fun or for me, like blog, I won’t if my work isn’t done. But then, because I don’t have enough time to do all the work I want to to, or because I don’t want to start something and be interrupted, I wind up wasting time on the internet, doing nothing, waiting for more time.

I’m so tired. This is not a working system, but for the longest time I have been at a loss for how to change it. As a perfectionist, I like to try to figure out am consumed with finding the perfect way to live life. The internet is both an instigator and accessory to this crime. If it weren’t for the internet, I would have no clue about all the things I should be doing, and I wouldn’t care what a loser-chump I am for not doing them. There’s a lot of chatter in my head about giving myself a break because no on can be perfect and it’s not important. But trying to ignore these exhausting arguments in my head that consume large chunks of my brain, as I mentioned, is not working. Maybe it’s time for a different tack. Maybe I should stop making excuses and stop procrastinating in the name of perfection. Maybe I should just DO all of that stuff I’m supposed to be doing, even if I can’t do it perfectly.

It’s a novel idea that I deemed worthy of a trial period. See how it feels to not make excuses. Try to quiet those arguments in my head. First though, I had to decide exactly what arguments I was going to pick a fight with. The internet is large and full of crackpots irrelevant advice, so I had to do some research and cherry pick the life tips and hacks that I thought would make the most impact on my life if I put them into serious practice.

Before I get to them, I realize that this will require advance planning, so that’s the first life hack that I must commit to. Then, this has to be a trial. There has to be a set time to do the things, even if I’m not liking them, to see if they really work. But there has to come a time to re-evaluate and ditch the ones that aren’t worthy, thereby saying sayonara not only to the habit but to that particular argument in my head. So it’s late in the year and making promises about new routines is a perfect thing for New Year’s, so I’m going to go from tomorrow – October 16th – to December 31st. That’s 76 days. If it takes 21 days to form a habit, I should be pretty set in the new ways and have enough information to evaluate their efficacy.

I’ve got quite a few changes lined up. Though they are ones I feel I can be successful at, I need some sort of accountability. So I’ll check back here each week, on Sunday, with details. If you’re like me and scour the internet for first hand accounts of what something is like before you try it (sometimes, for me, even food, which is as utterly preposterous as it sounds), perhaps this will give you the information you need to decide to make that leap.

I also realize that this adds to my schedule without explicitly scheduling time for work, which is what I am most concerned about. However, I’m going to take it as a leap of faith that one good habit will lead to others. I’m not getting work done by thinking about it or worrying about it, though work is my excuse for not doing some of these other things. So really, there is no excuse. I’m going to prioritize these other things and trust that in so doing, the rest of life will fall into place. If it doesn’t, eh, back to the drawing board.

So without further ado, here are the new habits…

Daily Life

Set Up and Stick To a Routine
That’s the whole point of the list that follows.

Go to Bed and Get Up at the Same Time Everyday
I’ve never thought this was terribly…what’s the word?…reasonable. And since, for the past six years, I’ve been trying to get sleep wherever and whenever I can, I’ve not attempted it. Now that the kid is in kindergarten, that standardizes my wake-up call. I’ll have to resolve not to sleep in on Mondays, which are her late start days, and the weekend. Having read that the ideal amount of sleep is actually on the lower end of the recommended 7-9 hours, I’m going to set my bedtime at 11:30 and my wake-up at 7:00. That gives me just enough time to get myself ready for work and spend some time with her in the morning.

Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
The first time I read this tip was out of some glossy, teeny-bopper magainze when I was in middle school. Middle school! That was – you know what, never mind how long ago that was. I remember trying it once. Suffice it to say, this is going to be the most difficult one on this list.

Exercise Every Day
This is so vitally important to prioritize and I don’t. I’m choosing a minimum of 20 minutes per day, more allowed. The perfectionist in me always wants to exercise a properly lengthy amount of time, with a trainer-approved routine, mixing strength and cardio in just the right ratios. It tanks the mindset. No more. Even if it’s just a walk, it counts.

Meditate Every Day
I’ve been interested in this since I read Dan Harris’ 10% Happier. The more I read about it, the more interested I become. 5 minutes minimum per day. More allowed.

Put Stuff Back in its Place Immediately
This house becomes chaotic fast. There’s always going to be toys laying around, but I don’t need to add to that. Coats and shoes put away, not left in the entryway and on the railing. Clothes folded in the closet, not laying on the bench. La di da.



Don’t Buy Stuff You Don’t Need
Well duh. My focus lately is thinking more critically about what I really need, so that I can save for the things I truly want.

Write Down Daily Expenditures
I’ve actually been doing this for about three weeks now, and it’s helpful. Unfortunately it’s only the things I buy, and I can’t convince my husband to do the same. At least, since I do most of the grocery shopping, it’s useful for me.

Pay with Cash
It’s harder to part with, so the experts say. Now that I have an idea of what we spend on groceries, which is less than I thought and seems totally reasonable, this will be easier to do. I’ve resisted before, because you know, reward points! But really, the idea is to save, not spend, and rewards that promise savings are really just invitations to spend.



Limit or Eliminate Social Media
Ugh. I’ve been through many social media cleanses when I feel it’s overtaking my life, but then I get right back on that horse. I know it wouldn’t be that difficult for me to swear off it for the next couple of months, but then I’d probably binge on it later. So I’m taking arguably the harder road, which is limiting. One hour a week for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. This includes computer and phone. (I don’t know how social pinterest is, but it’s addicting.) I’m not limiting my time on Goodreads or the number of times I check the library’s website to see if my latest hold is in yet. I think the weekly limit will work better than a daily limit for me, so that I’m not wasting 20 minutes on a day I don’t have it, and scrolling aimlessly out of obligation on a day when I have more time.

Read More
I’ve made reading more and more of a priority over the last two years and haven’t regretted it. I’m sure I’m going to fill some of that social media time with my nose in a book, and hallelujah. Love the example this sets for my little reader, too.


From Pinterest: Problems of a Book Nerd

Concentrate on a Hobby
This one was meant as a way to get you to focus. Put your efforts into one thing, not 10. I don’t think I’ve been concentrating on any hobby, but my eggs are going in the writing basket. I’ll update this blog weekly to let you know how this challenge is going, and hopefully get in extra, non-project-related blogs as well. As always, someday maybe I’ll actually write other stuff too.

Keep a Notebook with you Always
Mitch Hedberg has this joke: “I sit at my hotel at night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.”



This was the most difficult category because food is always something I’m thinking about and working on, but I feel like it has the potential to tank the whole project if I get too ambitious. I have a weird schedule three days a week, where I work a split shift teaching four hours in the morning and two at night. It screws with the best of my intentions, and while I’m working on meal planning, it’s not my strong suit. I’ve been focused on whole foods and home cooking the past couple of months and doing pretty good, but I don’t want to hear all that negative chatter in my head for the inevitable mistakes. So I’m keeping this list to small changes that have the best chance of success and long term improvement.

Trying to Meal Plan

Eat Breakfast Every Day
I’m not a big breakfast person but I do try to eat something before I go and teach for four hours straight, purely  for the purposes of not passing out. Mostly, I see the logic behind the breakfast advice and think that it doesn’t apply to me. But we’ll see how it goes, that’s the whole point.

Drink More Water/Limit Caffeine
I don’t drink that much caffeine because I drink (unsweetened, iced) tea. But some days I drink nothing but tea, and perhaps I should add in some water? I don’t know. Tea is made with water. I’m sure of it because I make it myself. My goal here is to replace at least one glass of tea with one glass of water per day.

"When Things Get Your Back Up...Tea Revives You" ~ Empire Tea Bureau, 1940s

I’ve decided to simply continue with the whole foods transition I’ve been making. I’ve made some changes and I will continue to make more changes as I can. I’ll continue to cook more at home, experiment with recipes and eat more fruits and vegetables while eating fewer processed foods and chemicals.

Don’t Eat…
So much sugar. I’m giving up soda for this experiment. I don’t drink that much, and I’ve given up before, but I’ve always gone back. Coca-Cola has their hooks in me and I know it. They know it. Everybody knows it. After reading books on the psychology of eating, I even know how they got their hooks in me, and it irritates me, but it’s too late for me. Save yourselves.


So there you have it. My next 76 days. Yes, I know, those aren’t the only things I could be doing, and if you have a suggestion about something that has made your life that much better, by all means, keep it to yourself. I don’t want anymore brain arguments.

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REPOST – My Dad’s Columbus Day Storm Story

This blog originally appeared on October 14, 2012.

It is a time-honored tradition for parents to bore their kids by telling them the same stories over and over and over again. I am personally looking quite forward to boring my own child with my stories. First I’ll tell them to her, then I’ll make her read this blog. Yes, I’m going to be an overflowing fountain of quotidian repetition.

Perhaps I’m overcompensating a tad, to make up for the fact that when I was a kid I was rarely treated to stories from my parents’ pre-kid life.* The stories I did hear came from my dad, and the one story I heard over and over again, year after year, was the Columbus Day storm story.

I realize I’m a couple of days late posting this story, but not as late as you might think. In America we’ve taken to “celebrating” Columbus Day observed, which is reserved for a Monday so workers can get a three-day weekend. (Except I don’t know anyone who actually gets Columbus Day off save for the postman, and I only know that because I tried to post mail last Monday.) Actual Columbus Day is October the 12th and has been for over 500 years.

In keeping with my blog’s wishy-washy “should I actually post this story” theme, I hesitated to post this famous story because I wasn’t sure there was enough of a story to tell. As best as I can remember it, after hearing it at least 20 times, the story goes like this: My grandparents, my dad and my aunt all moved into their new house on Columbus Day, during a storm, and the electricity was out. That’s it. From beginning to end. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

Upon fact-checking that actual Columbus Day was actually October the 12th, I stumbled upon a crucial part of the story that, for whatever reason, hadn’t previously registered with me. My dad’s family didn’t move into the house during storm, they moved into the house during the storm. The Columbus Day storm of 1962. It’s famous. According to Wikipedia, the storm, “is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century.” And this year, being that it is 2012, was the fiftieth anniversary of that storm.

Officially, or perhaps finally, intrigued, I pressed my dad for more details on the infamous story. He said that the roads were a mess as they drove a van back and forth from Parkland to Puyallup several times, dodging branches and driving circuitous routes to avoid the debris in the road.

So yes, the storm was a big deal and yes, it was an extremely ill-timed moving day, but if you’re wondering why I had to repeatedly hear a story about a house my father moved into fifty years ago, it’s because my dad still lives there. In fact, this home has been occupied exclusively by Scotts. My Grandparents had it built in the ’60s and my parents took it over in the late ’70s. It’s where I grew up. So not only was the twelfth of October 2012 the fiftieth anniversary of the storm, it was also the fiftieth anniversary of the house.

Here’s a picture of the house the day I came home from the hospital.

And here’s a picture I took earlier today.

So happy birthday house! I look forward to many more years hearing the story of your birth on a dark and stormy night in October.


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My Six-Year-Old

When Sonja was about 15 months old, she was playing with some foam letters and numbers in the tub. I wanted to use them to spell out “class of…” and stick it to the wall. I had to do some math in my head first. It would be class of 2029 if I could get her in school early, or class of 2030 if I went strictly by the cutoff date. It seemed inevitable that I would push for class of 2029, if only because I also did the math on how old I would be in 2030. Yeesh. I wrote “Go Huskies” instead. Little did I know her school district was a “strictly by the cutoff date” kind of place. So class of 2030 it is.

Go you Huskies!

Or is it? After kvetching for what feels like years about Sonja not being able to go to Kindergarten last year, I figured that once she finally started school, I would feel better. I was really wrong about that. Like, really wrong. As I also may have mentioned, she can read now, and really, really well. And it’s one thing that she knows how to read, but it’s another that she taught herself, with very little assistance from me. She really needs to be challenged in school, and I’m…concerned. It’s early though, so I’ll watch this show a little longer.


It was a week ago Friday that Sonja started Kindergarten. There was the slightest hint of trepidation as the big day approached, but that all melted away after the first day. She loves school. She has made several new friends. She likes to tell stories of the stories she read, all the good behavior rewards she’s gotten, and what she and her friends did on the playground. There are also stories of a classmate or two she has not taking a liking too, and these are both interesting and heartbreaking. She’s only 6 years old, but already she has to deal with kids who push in line and call her names. I dislike these stories but kind of adore the endings, in which she tells said line-pushers to slow their rolls*, ’cause the line isn’t even moving yet. My kid is NOT taking shit from your kid, and for that I am ever so proud.

Since Sonja’s birthday fell on a Monday this year, I was able to have lunch with her at school. I told the front office that the teacher knew I was coming, but the class had a substitute today. This, after the regular school bus was in the shop, and Sonja nearly refused to board the bus this morning because it wasn’t her bus. No matter, apparently. Once I was buzzed in the main doors, no one seemed to care that I was there. Not that they didn’t care, I realize, just that they were too busy. I digress. I brought Sonja some pizza, leftover from yesterday’s big party, and for her whole class, chocolate chip blondies, still warm and melty from the oven.

(Chocolate Chip Cookie) Cake!

I’ve heard a few words about a boy in her class named Trent, who is not on Sonja’s list of new friends. I can see why she does not like him, and I could see why Lincoln, a boy that sits next to her at her table, is on her list of favorites. I also got a chance to see the carnival food that still passes the nutrition test at your neighborhood public school. I want to say more about this, but for now, I’ll leave it as a segue into talking about the persistent trouble we have with Sonja’s diet.

I’ve looked up my fair share of internet articles about picky eaters, and I’ve clicked away on every single one of them with the thought, “you don’t know picky.” Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the so-called experts and I have a different definition of picky. Most people advocate things like sneaking vegetables where kids don’t expect them, or cutting food into fun shapes to entice one’s “picky eater.” At this point, I facepalm myself since there’s no one else around to slap. I guess if your child were simply picky – as in avoiding eating things because they are unknown or presented as unpalatable – then some of those solutions might work. But you can’t sneak anything into my child’s diet – SHE CAN TELL. Pureeing carrots into the tomato sauce will shut down her eating of the tomato sauce. So it’s a struggle to get her to try new things and even harder to get her to like them. And it’s difficult for her to understand that home cooking comes out a little bit different sometimes because Mom is not a McDonald’s fry cook. I put a lot of the onus on myself to do better and set a better example and try more things more often with her, but after 20 rounds of “no,” and “yuck” and “ick,” I get discouraged. Then I turn to the internet and I get discouraged again, because every site says the same thing, and I want to shout at them, “you don’t understand what I’m dealing with!” Most things with her are so easy but this is so friggin’ difficult. Suffice it to say, we have an uphill battle ahead of us, and one that it seems I’ll be fighting alone. Maybe my claim to blog fame will be putting out information on how to deal with this specific situation when (or if) I figure it out.


And speaking of school lunches, I’m now responsible for packing her lunch, and though I’ve fed her practically every lunch she’s ever eaten, this just feels different. In an effort to up the nutritional quality of her lunches and improve our overall eating habits, I’ve borrowed my parents bread machine and am baking whole wheat bread for sandwiches. I have to add some white flour to get the bread to rise well (I’m on the hunt for vital wheat gluten, to see what that can do for me), but at least there is more nutrition and much better ingredients than in store-bought bread. It’s a baby step, but Sonja says she loves the bread better than any other bread, and this is most certainly the direction we want to go.

Over the summer we took two trips, perhaps to compensate for last year’s lack of trips. We went for a week to Disneyland, and then an overnight to visit our friends in Vancouver. Those two trips bookended a busy summer of teaching for me. I’m currently between quarters, and now that Sonja is at school, it feels as if someone has said, “we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.” To which I say, “Great! What was I watching again?”

King Triton’s Carousel

So it’s an adjustment period for everyone. There are afternoon break downs fueled by exhaustion and hunger, and then there’s Sonja. (Ba-dum-dum *crash*) With the beginning of fall quarter (work) looming over my head, I run around panicked that I might waste the precious few hours of of truly free time I have, thereby wasting the precious few hours of free time I have. (I don’t know what I think I should be doing; all I know is that whatever I’m actually doing must be the wrong thing.) Of course, Sonja’s going to get used to the schedule, and I’m going to have other free time that I’ll put to good use, we just have to figure out how. So here’s to all the changes, and all the learning and all the free time that age 6 will bring.

Looking contemplative at her desk

*Not her actual words. Literary license.

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