Saturday, July 13, 2013

Burlap Bust

So I bought some burlap recently to make some sacks for a baby shower. I made one sack then thought, maybe I should wash it. I remembered something from Pinterest about washing and cutting burlap the "right" way, so I went with it. This is what I ended up with:

You're supposed to add some bleach, wash, and then lay it out to dry. Well, I followed the directions and ended up with that mess. I don't know if it's worth saving--what do you guys think? Try to work it out and make something of it (I'm no longer going to use it for the baby shower) or just toss it?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bucket List (in progress)

I was watching Tosh.0 a few minutes ago and they were all riding unicycles. I was all, that's awesome. And it got me thinking about my bucket list. This'll be ongoing.

1. Learn to ride a unicycle successfully
2. Walk on stilts
3. Do the splits all 3 ways

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Everybody but me--but that's okay

At the moment it seems like everybody in the world is:
1. Getting engaged
2. Getting married
3. Getting a job
4. Getting a house
5. Getting pregnant

....except me. Granted, I've already done the engaged and married thing, and I technically have a job (just not the one I have a degree for), I am a LONG way from numbers 4 and 5. At the moment me and Bob are just happy enough to be able to afford all our bills AND student loan payments without being in the red every month.

You might have read those first few sentences and taken it to mean that I'm unhappy, that I feel stagnant, that I want things to move forward, but rest assured--we are very happy without the responsibilities that come with home and child ownership. We don't have to cut the grass. We didn't have to replace the roof three weeks ago. We don't have to pay for daycare or formula or 56 boxes of Easy-Mac a week because the child is like me and won't eat anything else. All we have to worry about right now is ourselves.

And for me that's plenty. Job hunting is stressful, especially when you've been doing it for over three years. It's especially stressful when you have clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and OCD. But guess what? A lot of other people have those things, too, especially here in the blogosphere. THAT'S WHY WE BLOG. We can tell anybody anything we want to while staying at home in our pajamas eating ice cream out of the carton with two-week-old mascara flakes scarring our corneas because we haven't removed our contacts in so long (haha, yeah right, like I wear mascara.)

In reality it's not that bad, at least not since I've started ingesting hideous doses of caffeine in order to stay awake. I feel a lot better--if a little hopped up--when I'm not sleeping 18 hours a day like I was two weeks ago. If I ccan get into the normal human routine of sleeping at night and staying awake during the day, instead of the reverse, I'll be a LOT happier.

But I will still have anxiety and depression and be prone to irrational thoughts. But there is a book I've been using that I love, and it's "The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook." Sixth edition. By several people. It's available here. I've found it to be useful across the spectrum of anxiety disorders, and I've taken the liberty of typing up my own copies of some of their worksheets included in the book. I'll provide an explanation for them as needed. If you'd like a copy of them, I can email you the PDF or Word format. I don't know how to do all that fancy stuff on here yet.

*DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. These forms are not to be used as medical advice. They are reproductions from the book linked above and for private use only.*

This one, the stress-awareness diary, is pretty self-explanatory. You track your day and write down the time of an event, what happened, and the symptoms you experienced that made you view it as stressful (anger/fear, sorry, muscle tension, headache, stomachache, sweating, etc.) I altered it to make it two-a-page and more environmentally-friendly.

Number two is a record of tension. You're supposed to write down how you feel before your relaxation session, and how you feel after it, with your comments. There are a lot of methods to help you relax in the workbook and if this is a problem for you, I urge you to get the book and research the methods. But I included this form and a scale at the bottom for how you're feeling.

Finally, I reproduced the sheet on irrational thoughts. When you're depressed or anxious, it's easy to think that something small (like a broken crayon, missing ingredient in a recipe, or spilled milk) is the end of the world. When you're absolutely convinced something is an indisputable tragedy, use this sheet. It helps me spell out what I think, why I think that, and whether or not it's true (hint: it's not.)

Again, I'm not a doctor. But I do recommend the book. It's an interesting read and if you like making lists and you're introspective and you like learning about yourself, it's a great asset. Check it out of your library if you like. I love it.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Odd number of Tylenol in the jar....

So I have a really bad headache on one side, and I just went to get a couple more acetaminophen and an ibuprofen (that's right, I use the generic drug names because I know way too much about OTC medications and what you can combine and what you can't--if you're not as educated in legal pharmaceuticals as I am, acetaminophen is Tylenol and ibuprofen is Advil/Motrin) and I noticed that THERE ARE ONLY THREE WHITE ONES LEFT IN THE JAR.

People, Tylenol is a drug meant to be taken in two's. ALWAYS TWO. Unless, I guess, you're taking it in combination with--never mind, that's too complicated and I don't want to explain it and it undercuts my fundamental belief that THERE SHOULD NOT BE AN ODD NUMBER OF TYLENOL IN THE JAR.

Also, I just realized that when I write "an odd number of Tylenol in the jar" it runs through my head to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain." Let's see, the second verse could go, "Take two Tylenol and some Advil if it's bad," and then the third verse could be like "Don't take Advil and aspirin together, you'll get sick." And then the last verse would be, "If you still feel bad, a prescription's where it's at."

There you have it, that's my OTC pain reliever philosophy summed up in song. Which is so NOT really the original topic of this post but it's MY BLOG and if I want to go off topic I CAN SO BACK OFF.

Anyway, the problem that started me thinking is that there were three white pills left in a jar that should ALWAYS have an even number of pills in it, because you are supposed to take them in two's. A pair. Dos. Deux. And given that the jar started with 500, there is no excuse (except for the one I refuse to acknowledge because it changes my theory) for having an odd number. This is probably going to bother me for awhile, just like it bothers me when Bob takes two Sudafed, and then two more, but instead of taking all 4 out of the same blister pack he takes them all out of the top row, so that now TWO SEPARATE BLISTER PACKS have been compromised.


This is why my anti-anxiety medication comes in a bottle with the instructions to take one a day. That way it doesn't matter how many are in the bottle even if I miss a dose because at one pill at a time, it doesn't matter if there are an even or odd number. There's only a problem if the number is zero. Much like with cookies. Or eyes. Cause unless you are completely blind then even if you only have one eye you can still see, at least a little. If you have two eyes, congratulations, you're normal. If you have more than two eyes, you're not normal but you can probably see better than I can. Most people can see better than I can, though, so that doesn't say much. If you have zero eyes, though, or if all of your eyes are blind, then that's pretty much universally considered a problem. Maybe I should call the manufacturers of acetaminophen (ALL of them) and ask them to change the directions from "Take two" to "Take one, and then take one more." That would solve a lot of MY problems, or at least make them less obvious.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

So, some Tuesday ramblings....

Several interesting things happened today. Not necessarily things that were interesting in themselves, but the context made it so, or the way I thought about it did, or something like that.

1. I was driving home and passed a guy and a girl walking along on the sidewalk. The girl was wearing really short shorts and my first thought was, "She needs more pants." Not longer, more. And the more I thought about it the funnier it got. I'm sorry if it doesn't make you laugh.

2. Later on the drive--I left really late for reasons I'll explain in a minute--I was going through the ghetto and saw at more than one house a group of people gathered on the porch, just hanging out and talking. Old people, little kids, whatever, just hanging out on the steps. I thought it was nice.

3. State testing is going on this week, so the kids are naturally crazy. This afternoon the third grade teachers took their classes outside to the track (we don't have a playground, and "track" is really a loose interpretation) to run around. I had brought two of my kindergarten special ed kids outside with a basketball and a football to play, not knowing the big kids were out there. All the big kids immediately greeted my kids and started playing with them--really playing with them, talking to them, not just taking the ball and running away, no games of keep-away..... Just kids being kids. School doesn't really let them do that anymore.

4. One of our autistic kids has started mocking the other autistic kid. The mocker is a repeater anyway (as in, you tell him, "Say thank you!" and he says, "Say thank you!" in the exact same tone of voice.) The mockee is much more verbal, and most of his talking is questions ("She musty? She got her shoes on? Where the rainbow at?") or demands ("I want choc'it cake!") So now the mocker has taken to repeating his most common phrases, and starts cracking himself up every time he does it. Thing is, we're not sure if he's making fun of the other kid, or if he thinks the kid is being funny on purpose and he's laughing along. So we don't know if we're allowed to think this is funny or not. (But it is.)

5. My poor baby who is sick and in the hospital--has been for almost two months now--and had fingers and toes amputated, plus dialysis and who knows what else, is doing so much better. He will probably be in the hospital awhile longer, but we are no longer worried for his life. His mom has said he is playing video games, even--he was having trouble using the hand that lost all of his fingers (including thumb), so he just up and started using his elbow, just like that. His language isn't very good so he often doesn't understand what you're talking about or what's going on, so I'm sure he doesn't realize that not having those fingers is going to completely change his life, and I'm so thankful for that. He'll figure out how to do what he needs to do and not give it another thought.

6. I spoke to another teacher today who told me she wished more parents knew that they could choose to OPT OUT OF STATE TESTING. SAY WHAT??? I didn't even know that, and I have never heard it mentioned before. I'm not sure what it takes to opt out or what kind of circumstances it requires or will cause, but look into this. I never had heard this was an option. One of our small-group special ed kids burst into tears today taking his test and he just said, "It's too HARD!" Another one got frustrated and said, "I don't know what it says cause I can't read." I will be the first to tell you that all these kids are wonderful and most of them sweet and they try hard. I don't want to box them in, but for the VAST majority of them, any job they take will not require an ACT or SAT score. It might require a high school diploma, but it might not. These kids are the salt of the earth, the ones who keep the rest of us in line when we get sidetracked by things like whether or not our smartphone has a specific app on it, or that we accidentally locked the keys in the car and have to wait an hour to get back in it. Other things are more important. They know that, so let's let THEM show us how they're going to lead their lives, instead of forcing them into testing that shows nothing they CAN do, and everything they CAN'T do. Cause it's what they CAN, WILL, and WANT TO DO that will help them succeed.

Further on this topic, Bob and I ate at a Cracker Barrel several months ago and the guy who was going to seat us was moving pretty slow, apparently. The girl at the hostess station muttered something about his always being slow, too. When he walked up, I watched him grab the menus carefully, then turn away without meeting our eyes or saying a word. We followed him, and he put our menus and silverware on the table and walked away, still without a word or even looking at us. I kept watching him while we ate, cause I knew that man had to have fetal alcohol syndrome. The facial features, the slow exaggerated movement, the methodical way he cleared tables--it was all there. And it gave me so much hope. Because the baby I see most at school is the one who also has FAS. Let me tell you, that kid can sort stuff. He could sort and roll up silverware, take people to tables, put together menus, bus tables, all that, and he would be good at it. If he can get to that place, he'll be the most successful person I know, not because of the money he makes or the value of the service he performs, but because of all the tiny little successes that will have to fall into place for him to get there.

Okay, that's all. I really had intended this to be funny. Oops. A thirty-minute conversation about amputations, life skills, and kids crying because someone is forcing them to do more than they're able puts one into a thoughtful mood. Maybe the next post will be more light-hearted, but until then, maybe I've helped you see something in a different way, and that is what makes ME successful.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I am not Superwoman....

....but I wish I was. Here's a quick list of the things I see and deal with every day at school, and keep in mind that all of these kids are 11 years old or younger:
-learning disabilites
-developmental delay
-fetal alcohol syndrome, or other prenatal drug exposure
-post-traumatic stress disorder
-unspecified psychological disorders
-DiGeorge Syndrome
-speech/language disorders
-oppositional defiant disorder

Additionally, several of my students have past histories of:
-premature birth
-physical abuse
-emotional abuse
-sexual abuse
-extreme neglect

Many of my kids have or do experience more than one of these, and one in particular, more than half of them. Some have a parent in jail. Some don't know who their daddies are. Some are foster kids. One first grader's mother died a couple of months ago. One has been in the hospital for a month due to complications from heart surgery. One stares blankly into your eyes with no acknowledgement at all that she hears you speaking. Two or three have hallucinations.

Have I mentioned that this is at school, and learning is supposed to happen at some point during the day there? Can you imagine telling a child, "Honey, I'm sorry Satan is following you. Let's go take your spelling test." I've learned a lot about a lot of different kids since August, and it makes me wonder how much has been going on under the radar that I've been missing--especially since many of our kids aren't capable of telling their middle names, let alone explaining their feelings or experiences. Some of them I want to hold and snuggle and listen to all day long, and others I desperately wish had a mute button, and sometimes I feel both at the same time for the same kid. Most of all, though, I wish I could take away all the terrible things that have happened to some of my babies.

Not all of them have such sad stories, and some whose stories start sadly have have bright spots, such as adoption from foster care. But their problems are not over. I love and appreciate all of my students, including or in spite of their quirks; however, it's hard not to wonder what could have been without the head trauma. Without the drug exposure. Without the neglect. Without the things that could have been prevented. I want to take away the hurts, make the flashbacks and nightmares and hallucinations and doubts and fears go away for good. These are my babies, and I want to hold on and never let go. I want to protect them from the world and from themselves.

When you ask me what I'm doing this weekend, don't be surprised to hear me say I'm going to nap. When you ask me what I'm reading in my spare time, don't be surprised to hear me list books on child psychology. Don't be surprised to hear that I don't know how many weeks, days, or hours until school is out--we go one day at a time. Don't be surprised to see a snot stain on my butt. Don't be surprised to hear me go from 0 to Teacher Voice and back before you can bat an eye. And when you ask when I'm going to have kids, don't be surprised to hear me say I already have 23.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jerks are jerks, I guess....

I came across the following photo of a receipt found in a grocery store parking lot recently:

The photo was posted on Facebook and shared by a woman with whom I went to college. I commented (innocently enough, I THOUGHT) that that amount is equivalent to roughly 100 meals' worth of ground beef from Sam's for Bob and me, which is true. A female who I do NOT know seemed to find it horrendous that we were judging the owner of this receipt based on their purchases--after all, it's not OUR food stamp money--and made the following comment, I assume based on mine before: "Are we at the point where we are critizing what people buy with their food stamps? None of my business.but at least their kids aren't starving."

I take issue with this for a couple of reasons. First of all, I can't help but think Mountain Dew, lobster, and porterhouse steak were NOT meant for children. Additionally, there is no evidence at all that a) there are children or b) any possible children are being fed appropriately. This is not WIC, it's food stamps. They are not the same; food stamps allow you to buy whatever crappy, or exorbitantly expensive, food you want to buy, which is a separate issue entirely. I responded to the girl with similar thoughts, and if you're afraid this might be one-sided, first of all it's my blog, and secondly, my exact words were this:
"That stuff doesn't look like it's for kids. Food stamps are supposed to be for people who can't afford to buy basic nutrition, of which lobster, steak, and Mountain Dew are not a part. A modest splurge occasionally is one thing--this is nowhere near modest."

Now if you have a lot of money, or at least enough to keep you off of a welfare program, it is quite your business what you spend it on. You have worked hard and earned that money; you were paid to do a job. You have the right to use YOUR money any way you would like, and if you would rather live on Ramen every other day of your life so that you could have lobster once a week, that's your right. If you receive public assistance, though, it is my opinion that you should use that assistance responsibly. Having said that, it is still your right to take advantage of the money that has been taken from me so that you can buy food that I can't afford on my salary, even though you make less than I do. If I had food stamps and SOMEHOW found I had an excess, I would splurge by buying organic produce, grass-fed beef and free-range eggs (also currently can't afford), but again, that's a choice. This is less about food choices and more about the response I got on Facebook.

Anyway, after my rebuttal to her comment about "critizing," she responded in a clearly sarcastic tone, "Yeah. I'm sure we would have been happy if they bought lunchables and cereal. Ridiculous."

Again, I see NO evidence of children on that receipt. I never mentioned once that I assumed the person was choosing indulgence for him/herself over feeding children. Also, I'd just like to say that Lunchables and breakfast cereal WOULD be, in my OPINION, a more responsible way to spend your food stamps, especially if there were children involved (although there are still healthier choices that could be made.) In fact, I highly doubt the dude who found this receipt would have bothered to take a photo if Frosted Flakes and Lunchables had featured as prominently as lobster.

I'm really angry about this, and I'd love nothing more than to take this chick outside and tell her, calmly and respectfully but quite firmly, my exact views on this topic. However, it has been my experience that arguing with people you don't know rarely works out very well, and I have yet to see anyone concede that perhaps he or she was wrong. So instead of defending myself and my reputation to someone who seems ridiculously intolerant of me to be so tolerant of paying for someone else's porterhouse steak, I figured I'd blog about it and most likely find a more reasonable audience who can have frank and honest, but still respectful, discussions about important and controversial topics.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


So to be perfectly honest, my happiness project isn't going nearly as well as I had hoped, expected, or planned. I had all these ideas, and I started off great, but just like New Year's Resolutions, here is February and I feel like I'm both out of enthusiasm and failing anyway, so why bother? Maybe this isn't the year for this undertaking. I feel like I'm not in the right place in my life for this, perhaps. Like there are too many other things to worry about that when I have free time, instead of working on my happiness stuff, I just want to sleep. And somehow "take more afternoon naps" doesn't seem like a very worthy goal for me, because I probably nap too much already.

But you guys, I have NO ENERGY. I don't know if everybody feels like this and I'm just a wimp or something, or if there is really something that I could do to fix this, whether it be diet, medication, whatever. It's so hard to work up the enthusiasm for ANYTHING. Even standing up to take a shower, or walking to the bathroom, or taking the extra 10 steps to check the mail at the bottom of the stairs seems like an enormous effort most days. Just thinking about those things makes me want to lie down and take a nap, but lately I've been sleeping through alarms and phone calls even with the volume maxed out. So now I don't know whether I should nap because I need it, or if I should try to stay awake so I'll sleep better at night. (Even though I've been going to bed early and still oversleeping, despite the naps and obnoxiously loud alarms that I don't hear.)

Anyway, the point of all this is that if you were at all excited about my Happiness Project, like I was at the beginning, well, by now you are probably also disappointed like I am now. You should all realize that I am a planner, and perhaps part of my problem is that I didn't have enough time to plan. And now I'm struggling, and failing, and getting depressed, which I'm pretty sure is the opposite of happiness. And I guess, if I'm not enjoying it, then forcing myself through a project about happiness is kind of counter-productive. I refuse to say that I quit, or give up, but perhaps instead of having a focused year-long project on happiness, I'll keep to making monthly resolutions depending on what I foresee to be my needs that month. I guess this month I'll focus on getting enough sleep?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Umm, about those resolutions....

.....they have not gone as well as I had hoped.

In fact, I haven't even put any checkmarks on my sheet for over a week. HOWEVER, I have a good excuse. (I know, I know, no excuses, whatever.) I've been pouring most of my energy into one specific resolution without realizing it, and that is to keep a health journal. I'm using some online apps that help me track what I eat, how much water I drink, exercise, sleep amount and quality, and my acid reflux symptoms. While it does feel like a major chore to keep up with all of this, it forces me to pay attention to what, and how much, I eat, and when. This has been exceedingly important in figuring out my blood sugar patterns.

Yes, blood sugar. No, I haven't been diagnosed with diabetes, but I have several reasons to believe that over the past year or so my body has become incredibly sensitive to the fluctuations in glucose levels throughout the day. I haven't been to the doctor, I don't test, and I don't have a meter, so I deal with all of this just based on symptoms. I'm hoping that with some research, careful planning, and trial-and-error, I can avoid costly trips to the doctor, lab, and nutritionist.

I've adopted an 1800-calorie meal plan using the exchange system. If you know what that is, good for you. If you don't, I don't understand it well enough to explain it yet, BUT IT HELPS and my diet has improved. I eat more fruit and veggies and less junk. I'm more conscious of my decisions, which in turn helps me understand the symptoms (or absence) later on. For example, a bowl of cereal is about the worst breakfast choice I could make, outside of a piece of chocolate cake, because in under 2 hours my blood sugar will crash and I will be a wreck. I have to have a protein and a complex carb, and I have fruit and milk too because it's what the diet specifies. And that results in more stability until snack time 3 hours later.

Anyway, the point of all this was supposed to be my Happiness Project. You know, the chart, the resolutions, the check marks. But somewhere around mid-month the blood sugar issues took precedence, and I've spent all of my energy and focus on that instead. Which is not a bad thing, really, and perhaps later on I'll dedicate another month to organizing. I did get my desk organized before the dramatic decline, though--look!

From this....

To this!

Next month's focus, for the Month of Love, naturally, is marriage. If Bob reads my blog, he'll know about it, but if he doesn't I guess he'll just get to reap the benefits without any conscious thought about it. Later in the week I'll get to the specifics about resolutions, and hopefully this month I'll make it all the way!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventures in Happiness and Low-Carb Living

Okay. So far there are a lot of checks and a lot of x's on my resolution sheet for January, but I'm trying. I'm actually keeping up with my health journal using a handy dandy...... NOTEBOOK! No, just kidding, really I WAS using a notebook but now I'm using a Chrome app, which led me to a website where I keep track of other stuff. The combination of app and website help me keep track of what I eat each day (including calories, carbs, protein, fat, and individual vitamins and other nutrients), how much water I drink, how much (if) I exercise, how much sleep I'm getting and the quality, and my reflux symptoms. It's work to keep up with it, because if I don't do it daily I'll forget and be all out of whack, at which point (I know myself) I'll just say, "Screw the whole thing, I've ruined it."

Anyway, this is a lovely segue into the fact that I'm embarking upon a low-carb diet plan. No, I don't particularly want to. I am not excited about counting carbs and eliminating white bread, normal pasta, white rice, and excess sugar from my diet which previously consisted of probably 75% or more carbs. Well, I have been having a crap-ton of trouble maintaining stable blood sugar lately, evidenced by the shaking and sleepiness and hot flashes I've had daily over the past year. So I'm trying this diet plan to see if it helps keep me on a more even keel. Yesterday was great. Today was not AS successful, but I didn't have any dramatic drops like I have been, so it is still an improvement.

I have discovered that SweetLeaf (a stevia-based sweetener) still has an aftertaste when I use it in coffee. I baked a hot fudge cake tonight, using the same powder in the batter but not the topping, and it was ALMOST not noticeable. I don't think it will bother Bob, for instance, but I can pick up the subtle difference because I know what to look for. Still, it's a step in the right direction for someone whose livelihood depends so heavily on chocolate.

Anyway, on to my Happiness Project: As far as the organizing is going, well, I'm trying. More so than daily organizing tasks, though, I'm better about just actually doing the chores that need doing--cleaning the cat box, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and (now that I've done the total organizing overhaul of this one thing) keeping my desk neat and usable. I would LIKE to get the kitchen (pantry and fridge), bookshelf in the living room, and my bedroom closet in order before the month is out, but my diet insufficiencies have left me without the necessary energy so far. We shall see.

I'm trying on the sleep, and the evening tidy-up. I've already discussed the health journal. As far as the one-minute rule, that's the one I'm actually most lax about because I don't think so much that way. Another principle I got from Gretchen Rubin's book (she may have gotten it from somewhere else, I don't remember) is this: Do it now. That helps me more than the one-minute rule. Instead of thinking, "Can I do this in one minute or less?" I just think, "I should just do it now." This is especially helpful when it comes to throwing away junk mail, paying bills, and washing the dishes (or at least loading/unloading the dishwasher.) I've also gotten better about cooking at home rather than rely on frozen pizzas and pasta, but part of that is the carb thing.

Okay, though. I kind of had a breakthrough yesterday. It was earlyish in the school day, about 9:30, and just about everybody was in a crabby mood, me included. No patience with each other, with the kids, or with ourselves. So I wondered how I could go about changing that, at least for me. I ended up asking myself four questions:
1. How am I feeling?
2. What is making me feel that way?
3. What positive things can I be happy about today?
4. What things can I do NOW or SOON (within 20 minutes) to change my feelings?

1. It turned out to be harder to describe my feelings in words, so I used a color instead: gray.
2. I figured that a combination of the cold, wet weather, the rough commute that morning, and a feeling of stagnation at work and at home was contributing to my "gray" feeling.
3. I was able to quickly find some positive things to focus on, two of which were directly related to specific children I work with--one had a vast improvement with the addition of medication, and another is always so happy to see me, and so enthusiastic to learn. He makes me feel good, even though he wears me out! Finally, I was feeling good about my workable (if difficult) eating plan.
4. Because I was still in class with kids, my happiness-boosting strategies were fairly limited. But I came up with two things I could do to help myself reframe: deep breathing, and a little stretching. Turns out breathing doesn't work for me when I'm angry, but when I'm just feeling a little edgy or grumpy, counting 10 deep breaths and simply stretching my arms and legs a bit helps me to refocus and "try again."

That's all for my update for now, since this post is already pretty long. I will add this, though: If you are a fan of, then you should totally read her book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I got it for Christmas. I've read it twice and am rereading my favorite parts for the third, fourth, or fifth time by now. It is hilarious and it will make you happy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Quick January Progress Update!

Hello friends, I just want to update you on the progress of my Happiness Project during its first week.

You may recall that my resolutions all revolved around organizing my life and keeping track of things. Well, so far I've done okay: 15/20 possible check marks. Going to bed on time and my evening tidy-up have been the two that have tripped me up the most. I'm thinking I may need a more specific resolution than my first one, "streamline and organize." It's too vague, and I need to make it more specific. Not sure why I didn't do that in the first place, but oh well.

I have several focus areas for my streamlining and organizing now, though, and I just finished taking my "before" pictures. I have pics of my desk, our bookcase area (because it overflows), our buffet/counter in the kitchen, the pantry, and the fridge. I was initially going to do the bookcase today, following Gretchen Rubin's rule to "go shelf by shelf," but I'm going to have to switch to the desk first because there is something important that I need to find.

I keep telling myself that I might not get it all done today (the desk--I know I won't get the whole apartment finished) but my goals are to find that important thing, make sure all our bills are currently paid up, and purge extraneous paper. Wish me luck, friends, and I'll leave you with this quote for inspiration; it's something I should probably have blown up and made into a poster to hang above my desk: "Organize, don't agonize." --Nancy Pelosi

P.S. As I get finished with an area, I'll post about it, including the "before" and "after" pictures.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happiness Project: January

Well, friends, I may have mentioned in a previous post that I am embarking upon my own Happiness Project this year after reading The Happiness Project and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. Today is Day 1!

Since this is the first month, some things may change, like the format that I use to keep track of stuff, or even a resolution. I'll try my best to keep all of my resolutions, but if I realize quickly that one of them is NOT contributing to my happiness--if it makes my life more difficult, or makes someone ELSE'S life more difficult, if it feels so unnatural that I just can't keep doing it--then I'm going to take it off my list.

That said, here are my resolutions for January; there are five of them.
1. Streamline and organize
2. Go to bed on time
3. Keep a health journal
4. Follow the one-minute rule*
5. 10-minute tidy every evening

First of all, I'll say that I'm obviously modeling my own happiness project after the book, which is one reason why my focus for January is the same as hers. The second reason is that it just makes sense. Before I start trying to get craftier, or bake more, or spend more active time with Bob, it seems reasonable to think that the best way to start is to get my life (and apartment) better organized, and eliminate the junk that is in the way.

"Sure, okay, but why do you need a WHOLE MONTH? How much junk do you HAVE?" some of you may be screaming at me in your heads. Hush, now, I'm coming to that.

I'm taking the entire month of January because a) organization is important, b) I want to do it right, and c) you have to do things every day for it to become a habit. And I want to make organization a habit, not just a two- or three-times-a-year thing. So I have a month to practice before adding more.

Now, to each resolution individually: The first three, I think, are self-explanatory. I want to get rid of unnecessary items that clutter my life, and get the things that are important organized in such a way that I can find them and fully utilize them. Going to bed on time will mean I get enough sleep, which will hopefully lead to fewer naps in the afternoon. (You'll notice I didn't make "Not napping" a resolution. We all have our standards.) Having enough sleep is VERY important to me! And keeping a health journal will help me better understand my own patterns of eating, sleeping, and exercising, and also the role that different foods, weather, and activities may have on how I feel, both physically and emotionally. (I have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, frequent headaches and sinus pain, and earaches, in addition to to generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and some tendencies toward OCD.) As an adult I have come to accept that a pill won't cure everything and sometimes you have to suck it up and stop eating Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets unless you WANT to be miserable for the next 4 hours.

*As to my fourth resolution, "follow the one-minute rule," I took it directly from The Happiness Project. The one-minute rule means that if there's a chore or task that needs to be done and will take less than one minute, DO IT NOW. Let's say you just used the last of the milk. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don't just leave the empty jug on the counter! It will take just a few seconds to put the jug in your recycling bucket or garbage can. So go do it. Then it won't still be there staring at you next time you go in the kitchen. Because if you put it off once, it's so much easier to put it off again. DON'T. Same thing with putting your dirty clothes in the hamper, starting the dishwasher, putting your shoes in their place instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor. These tiny, seconds-long actions help tremendously in my feeling of cleanliness and organization.

The last resolution is similar--10-minute evening tidy-up. If I take just 10 minutes before I get ready for bed each night to pick up stray trash, hang up jackets, stack books, and scrub out that pan, the house will look so much nicer in the morning, and next time I do a deep-clean I won't have to start with those little nagging chores.

I'm almost done, I promise.

The thing I love best about this project is that there's a super-easy way to keep up with whether or not I'm following my own rules: A CHECKLIST. Every month will have the resolutions at the top, and each day I'll get a check for each resolution I kept that day. It enables me to chart my own progress and reflect on what I have and haven't been doing, and I can see more concretely what is or is not making my life more enjoyable. Here's the checklist I'm using (it's just a snip because I can upload images, apparently, but not documents and this is the only way I could figure it out):

And of course it's a full page, with numbers down to 31.

That's enough for now. I bought noodles in a new shape at Walmart today and I'm excited for dinner! YAY FOOD TIME! Look for more January updates soon!