Library of Progress

Time Tracking, Day 1

January 12, 2016
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Here’s what I logged for Monday. This is a fairly typical workday except that David wasn’t home in the evening, so dinner and bedtime routines were shorter than they usually are.

I woke at 6:30 when my phone alarm went off, but lingered in bed checking email and various internet haunts until 7, when I got in the shower. C woke up somewhere in the middle of my getting-ready routine but was unusually content to continue hanging out and playing in her crib for awhile. I did my makeup and hair, got dressed, and packed up our stuff mixed with getting her ready in bits and pieces.

We left the house at 8:15, which involved a spell of warming and scraping the car. I departed C’s daycare by 8:35 and walked into my workplace at 8:45. I’m not tracking the specifics of what I do at my job all day beyond “work”; right now it’s much too fragmented to be able to track easily but I’m still accomplishing everything I need to. If I care about optimizing that process (which I really don’t, at least not right now), that’ll be a project for another week.

David picked C up around 4 on his way home and fixed them each dinner. I left work at 5:10 but didn’t get home until close to 5:45 as it was snowing heavily and traffic was slow moving. I made myself a grilled cheese and hung out with the fam until David left for a meeting around 6:30. Bedtime routine and book time started at 7:30 (much abbreviated since I prefer to be closing her bedroom door at this time) and she was in bed by 7:45.

I spent 30 minutes picking up the house, including cleaning the kitchen and folding a load of laundry, and then it was me time. From 8:30 until 11:30, I spent some time catching up on the first day of the Hibernate course, including the blog and FB community, I put up a blog post of my own, and I did some pleasure reading. In the middle of that, David came home so there were a few 15-minute blocks of helping him bring in groceries and just chatting. I turned out the lights around 11:45 (way too late) and slept badly for a few reasons.

Some observations:

  • I suspect I spend an absolute eternity getting ready in the morning compared to most people. I doubt this will ever change.
  • No exercise. I could have done something at home after baby bedtime but I wouldn’t have. I’ve never figured out an in-home exercise that feels good enough to do regularly (or at all).
  • My optimal lights-out time is probably actually 9:30 – 10 (this is my first “window” during which it’s far easier for me to fall asleep but I often ignore it) but I really wanted to get my personal stuff done last night.
  • Not too much in the way of wasted time! At least not what *I* consider wasted time.



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Resting Weekend

January 11, 2016
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How was your weekend?

Ours was peaceful, quiet, and COLD. Incredibly so. We’ve enjoyed an unusually mild winter so far this year (for which my usual tendencies toward SAD say thank you!). Temperatures started dropping late Friday night into early Saturday morning, and stayed that way. With windchills as low as -25F at times, the question of going out was…out of the question. Save for David making a brief trip to Home Depot, and me walking the trash to the alley, we didn’t leave the house until Monday morning.

So, we just lounged. We all got plenty of sleep. We made French toast one morning, pancakes the next. I read a whole novel, did some writing, made banana bread. David and I both did laundry AND we put it all away, every last stitch. We formulated a plan for tacking the mess that is the basement, possibly as soon as next weekend. C spent the entire weekend in pajamas, cycling from one fleece sleeper to the next as they came out of the dryer. She was very happy.

It all sounds so ordinary and not even worth mentioning, let alone writing about, but truly, this is highly unusual for us. It’s been only recently that staying home all weekend to just hang out and play has turned from stressful and unfulfilling to genuinely relaxing, refreshing, and happy cozy fun times. That probably says as much about me as it does about trying to entertain a toddler indoors during the deep midwinter. So I’m enjoying the opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace the fallow season of the year.

To that end, I’m participating in an online course by beauty that moves called Hibernate. It just started today and runs through the next four weeks. I really like the idea of turning wintertime into a special time of focus on coziness, rejuvenation, pampering, and fulfillment instead of just something to be endured (only ten more weeks til the first day of spring…ahem).

I’m also doing Laura Vanderkam’s latest time tracking challenge, also starting today. I didn’t realize the timing of both projects when I signed up, and doing both at once feels like a bit much for me, but at least LV’s is only for one week. I’ve tracked my time before and even color-coded my finished log but never got around to analyzing it too deeply (or at all, really). I do still have the first log, though—AND it was pre-child—so comparing the two might be incredibly interesting. To me.

Have a great week!

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Paring Back Facebook, One Month In

January 9, 2016
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For me, the reasons for paring back were not really the usual suspects. I mean, of course privacy is critically important and the ads really suck, but that’s not what drove me away.

Mostly I was irritated, massively so, every time I opened the site. Less so by the content being posted and shared (with the obvious exception of articles and arguments about politics, of course), but by the loss of control. I was so, so, so sick and tired of seeing “activity” from my friends rather than their actual posts and pictures. Of seeing the pages they’d liked, the polls they’d answered, comments from other people who I didn’t know and was never going to meet that had been left on their stuff. You can tinker around with “show less of” and “never show” and “show first in my feed” and “hide this post” until the cows come home, but the algorithms keep changing and all that time spent trying to tweak my experience was never going to result in a Facebook feed that didn’t piss me off every time.

So when I started thinking about paring back (encouraged by my husband, who had basically abandoned his own account a few months prior), I searched around for articles and blog posts of people who have done the same thing. I didn’t really find any. I mean, I found TONS of posts from people who stepped away fully, who not only deactivated their account but deleted it as well. I didn’t actually want to do either of those things. I didn’t even delete the app off my phone.

Instead I went through my account, over the course of a few days, and I tediously unfollowed everything and everyone. When I log into Facebook now, I see a blank main page (except for the ads, natch) and a blank activity feed. And ohhh, man, it’s great. My brain instantly felt quieter, calmer, less fragmented. Gretchen Rubin once wrote about people who always want to feel full vs. people who always want to feel empty, and I am most definitely in the latter camp. I am not soothed by knowing more, by the accumulation of objects or pieces of information, whether they are analog or digital. I need room, space, buffers, in every area of my life. It feels like my head is once again full of my OWN thoughts and feelings rather than an echo chamber of various levels of acquaintances.

There are a couple people whose pages I check manually once or twice a day, and about once a week I go through my friends list and glance at my top ten or so (the more I do this, the more they move to the top, so that process has streamlined as well). I left notifications turned on for exactly two of the many groups I belong to so I wouldn’t miss any news or events being posted. And…that’s it. I imagine with time the number of pages making the viewing cut will get fewer and fewer. I still post something myself maybe once a week or so, mostly kid pictures, but that is dropping off as well. I considered switching to Instagram, but I probably won’t. I probably read fewer articles now, since Facebook was my primary source of news (sometimes “news”) and information, but that’s not exactly a loss either. If something is truly important for me to know, I believe I will find out about it some other way.

I don’t know if I feel like I’ve gotten loads of time back because I still waste plenty of time surfing the internet in other not particularly productive ways yet, but this feels like a huge first step.

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January 5, 2016
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Some things I’m looking forward to this year. I wouldn’t call these goals, exactly. Intentions?

I desperately want to try paddleboarding. It was on my summer bucket list and I just never got around to it for some reason. This year it is happening!

I’m planning to listen to the Pimsleur Spanish discs. I really need more listening and speaking practice.

I can’t wait to try out the personal shopper service at Arc Value Village.

If we can manage a weekend getaway, I’d like it to be to Chicago. David and I have been talking for years about a trip where we eat at all three of Rick Bayless’s restaurants (he’s a big fan of Rick’s).

I’m supposed to go to London for work in June. If we can line up willing grandparents, I’m hoping David can join me after I’m done working and we can append a few days in Paris or elsewhere.

I’d like to take myself to at least one or more dance performances. I love to watch dance, and we have an amazing center for the performing arts in downtown Minneapolis.

I’ve wanted to try out a float spa ever since I read about it here.

I hope that David and I can find a day to go downhill skiing together. Or, failing that, cross-country skiing. Cheaper and closer to home.

I want to take more pictures of just myself, and of David and me together. Understandably, almost all of our pictures are of C only.

I’m wanting to get our basement under better control. You could have eaten off the floor when we first moved in and now…not so much. It’s unfinished, so it’s not a huge deal, but I’d at least like the option for C to be able to practice her balance bike or whatever down there if the mood strikes.

Finally, this is the year we’ll finish paying off debt and reestablish our savings. We took a loss when we sold our old house and between that and some big medical bills, we acquired around ~20K of debt. We’ve been aggressively repaying it, but seeing any real progress has been slow. I’ve never had a debt of this size before, and knowing it wouldn’t be paid off until “next year” depressed me quite a lot. Well, it IS next year now, and within six months it will be all gone! I couldn’t be happier.

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January 4, 2016
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There’s a lot of bemoaning on my social media right now about the return to work, school, regular life, etc. tomorrow following the holidays. I started a new job in August so didn’t have a ton of PTO to spare, thus I was only able to take Christmas Day off during Christmas week, but I did get a nice long weekend over the New Year, so that was my holiday vacation. I am more looking forward to everyone ELSE having to resume their daily routines, as I have been quite lonely in the office (and yes, on the internet, let’s be real) over the last two weeks.

We had a truly lovely weekend. On Thursday, David and I were both off but daycare was OPEN (yay!) so we got to have a date day. We went out to brunch, treated ourselves to a few new things using gift cards, and picked up seafood to make a nice NYE meal at home. Evidently everyone else in Minneapolis had the same idea, as the line at Coastal Seafood was out the door. We hiked with our dog in the nearby golf course alongside a multitude of cross-country skiers. Friday we had a mostly lazy and cozy day at home with our daughter, but each of us managed to get out for another hike, and on Saturday my mom took C for an overnight, so we had ANOTHER date day! We mostly took it easy with more brunch, napping, and reading, but we had an outstanding dinner at a new Italian restaurant a few blocks from our house, and saw the The Martian at a small local theatre. Even in our pre-child days, I don’t think we ever went to such a “late” (9:20) show. Haha. This morning I didn’t have to pick C up from my mom’s until close to one, so I got to spend the morning in my robe reading and drinking coffee completely uninterrupted. Bliss.

Today I spent some time working on my terrible clothing situation. Our bedroom is set up so we have a dresser in the closet, which David was using, and one in the bedroom, which I was using, we we both have stuff hanging in the closet. I think not being able to see all my clothing in the same space was working against me, so we switched. I washed AND folded AND put away (almost) everything, and I’m hoping just the act of taking better care of my clothing will make me feel better about what I own. I also attached a sheet of paper and a pen to the closet wall I can jot down wardrobe gaps and replacements as I realize them each morning. So simplistic, I know, but I do think it will help keep me motivated to continue figuring this out.

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Resolutions, Past and Future

January 2, 2016
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In 2015, I changed up my resolution structure. Rather than making 5-7 rather sweeping ones that covered most areas of my life (and achieving a 30-50% success rate as a result), this time around I kept it short, sweet, and thematic:

1) Read at least 52 books.
2) Make more of them fiction.
3) DON’T PEEK AT THE ENDINGS! (A particular weakness of mine.)

I stumbled twice on number 3, but otherwise enjoyed 100% success.

In 2016, I am resolving to do the following:

1) Significantly pare back my relationship with Facebook. This is already underway and has been very interesting to observe its effects so far. Last night I learned some news about a mutual friend in person rather than via social media. I can hardly remember the last time that happened.
2) Put my feet on the park path most days, only exceptions being for ice, super negative windchill, and torrential rain.
3) Learn to eat to 80% full.

And away we go…

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What Worked in 2015, and What Didn’t

January 2, 2016

‘Tis the season for year-end introspection! Following the lead of several other bloggers whose lists I enjoyed, here’s what worked for me, and what didn’t, throughout 2015.

1. Our new house! We moved near the end of 2015, so we’ve now completed our first full year of living in our new house. Sure, there’s some things we’d like to do and improvements we’d like to make but even without those, our new abode works SO MUCH BETTER for our family in every way. It’s not even that much bigger—only about 250 square feet—but the layout and location is so much more comfortable and fits our lifestyle better in every way.

2. Date days and monthly overnights. We started getting much more aggressive about scheduling regular date days in April, after going through a bit of a marital rough patch in the first quarter of 2015. It started out as my mom taking C just for a weekend day here and there but gradually morphed into roughly monthly (or as close as we can make it) overnights. Having a full day and night to ourselves on a regular basis has helped so much. We managed one full weekend away this year, but two would be even better in 2016. I also have a number of federal holidays off where daycare is typically open, and we’ve talked about David using his PTO on those days to give us even more alone time together.

3. New daycare. We needed to switch daycares anyway after we moved because her previous center—which we loved and which was very sad to leave—was completely out of our way. We ended up enrolling her in a brand-new Spanish immersion daycare center only about five minutes from our house and which is on the way to both our offices, and she is thriving there.

4. Duolingo. C entering an immersion program prompted me to resurrect my own dusty Spanish. I studied Spanish from junior high until halfway through college and did summer immersion programs in Costa Rica and Spain the years I was 15 and 16, but it had been ages since I’d worked on it with any degree of focus. I’ve been earning at least fifty “points” (and often more) almost every day since August. I still need to do a lot more listening and speaking practice, but it’s been great for refreshing all my verb tenses and learning a ton of new vocabulary, and I’ve really enjoyed making serious progress on my goal toward fluency.

5. Any.DO. I learned about this one from Ashley. It just works for me in a way no other to-do list or app ever has. I love the grid format and the “someday” option in particular. I dump everything in there: shopping lists, meal ideas, work stuff, life goals and dreams, blog ideas, personal to-dos. It does mean I’m constantly whipping out my phone to enter yet another item, but I am extraordinarily more relaxed compared to the alternative, which was trying to keep track of it all in the maelstrom of my brain or various scraps of paper.

6. Grid Diary. This was a late discovery, but it’s the first time I’ve ever journaled successfully for any length of time, despite having felt the pull to do so my entire adult life. The app has you enter the weather and your mood, and then answer a series of questions—either ones the app randomly selects, or you can create your own and save it as a template so you answer the same ones every day. I use it to track my health, what I did each day, if I spent any money, what made me happiest, what I’m grateful for, what progress I made against my goals, and what I can do to make tomorrow great.

7. Seasonal bucket lists. Over the summer, I started keeping a “summer bucket list” in the Notes app on my phone of things for our family to do—places to visit, excursions to go on, experiences we wanted to have—so that we never wasted half of a Saturday morning sitting around trying to figure out what to do. It worked fabulously well and I created similar lists for fall and winter. The summer and fall lists had so many items that we never got to about half of them, so there’s plenty of new stuff to carry over to 2016. Winter in MN being what it is, there are only so many indoor activities to do and they tend to be repeats from year to year, but such is life. That’s why I keep the list, to make sure we never “use up” any winter items in other seasons so they’re at least mildly more interesting when they come around again.

8. Ban on restaurants and takeout. We started this in October as a way to combat an insidious habit of throwing up our hands and ordering takeout at the slightest hint of fatigue or disorganization. It worked. We did loosen the reins ever so slightly in November and December, but it did what it was designed to do. Now we save takeout nights for the rare occasions we truly need it, and restaurant outings are special again.

9. KonMari. Decluttering has always been, ah, a particular pastime of mine, plus we moved in 2014 so we were already pretty well pared down. So we didn’t get the satisfaction nor the major visual impact of purging our house of truckloads of unwanted crap. I was sending probably a bag or two a month to Goodwill pre-KonMari, and that amount didn’t change throughout the process. But I did find that looking at my stuff through the “spark joy?” lens turned out to be an incredibly useful barometer; leaving aside more arbitrary measures like “have I used it in two years” or “do I have room to store it,” I had an immediate and visceral yes or no reaction to almost every item I looked at. It’s definitely not a once-and-done thing; contrary to what the book claims, I am pretty sure that I—and most people—will be doing this for a lifetime, but I do believe that having KonMari-ed your house in full will have a lasting effect in that going forward, fewer possessions will come into your house than might have otherwise, and that you will look at what you own and buy with more scrutiny.

9. Memberships and establishing a weekend routine. We purchased memberships to the zoo, the aquarium, and the children’s museum this year and we more than got our money’s worth. David tends to have a harder time coming up with things to do with C on his own, so these tend to be his go-tos, and they never get old. I think it was Ana who wrote once about how weekends can be tough because even when you have things you want or need to do, the lack of structure compared to weekdays can make it hard to figure out where to start and with what. We adapted this pretty well over the year—almost every weekend morning we make breakfast, go on an outing of some kind to exhaust the kiddo, return home for lunch and naptime, and then veg out/play at home in the late afternoon and evening when she wakes up.

10. This individual smoothie blender. David and I both have our own preferred method of making smoothies, plus not having a giant blender with a bunch of parts to take apart and clean each morning means we are infinitely more likely to actually make and drink them.

11. Reading. I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads since 2008 and have been hovering around the 40-book mark for the last few years. In 2015 I set a goal to read at least 52—so a book a week—and met it easily, plus a few more. Audiobooks, graphic novels, YA, it all counts.

12. Upright chest freezer. Our chest freezer died midway through the year (taking a bunch of frozen meat and fish with it, gross) and we opted to replace it with an upright instead. I absolutely love not bending over at the waist to sift through a black hole of freezer-burned goods—we’re able to freeze all kinds of things that we didn’t have space for before, and it’s saved us tons of money as we’ve shifted away from cooking “fresh” and toward more of a freezer-based methodology (I guess) ever since C was born.

And now for what didn’t work:

1. Exercise. While we took plenty of walks during the warmer months, I still haven’t managed to establish any sort of regular exercise since C was born over two years ago. I miss what Pilates, Zumba, and weight training did for my fitness level, but I just can’t bring myself to care enough to start them up again with any degree of consistency or sustained interest. Long walks aren’t nothing but I always feel like I could be doing so much better, since I used to be reasonably fit. Then again, for me, exercise has always been far more about mental health than weight loss, so the long walks are doing their job in that right. Which brings me to…

2. My clothing situation. I’m currently sitting ~25 pounds above my pre-baby weight, two years postpartum, and I was overweight to begin with. Not a stitch of my former wardrobe fits and I still have not figured out how to dress myself in this new body. I have bought the bare minimum of new clothes since then because a) clothes shopping now sucks even more than it usually does and b) I absolutely do not want to stay this size, yet I’m doing very little to change the situation. I feel frumpy, lumpy, and terrible about my clothing all the time. When I do buy new clothes, they’re almost all black, which is depressing in its own way. Speaking of which…

3. Our laundry situation. The new house has basement laundry instead of main floor, meaning we have to lug our clothes up two flights of stairs to be folded and put away, a major disincentive. I always put the household linens and C’s clothing away, but mine and David’s doesn’t ever get done and more often than not, we end up dressing ourselves out of wrinkled baskets in the dusty basement. That sounds awful and it is. It needs to stop.

4. Going caffeine-free. This was an interesting experiment. I went caffeine-free for the month of September after realizing that the anxiety spikes I’d been feeling throughout much of 2015 might be less related to several major life upheavals, as I’d thought, and more related to a steadily increasing intake of caffeine. I went cold turkey, toughed out the headaches, and emerged on the other side feeling positively AMAZING, more calm and clear-headed than I’d felt in years. Unfortunately, I love coffee and Coke too much for it to stick, and I gradually started “cheating” more and more until I was back up to my previous level. I would have loved for it to become a permanent state, but I know myself and it seems unlikely.

5. Working from home. I worked from home almost exclusively during 2014 because my then-boss lived in another state and my presence required in the office was minimal. I’m now in a new job that also has a large amount of flexibility to work from home, but this position has extremely different responsibilities and it’s just not working as well anymore. The occasional work-at-home day is fine, but a longer stretch like a week or two, forget it. Even if none of my coworkers are in the office, it’s just better if I go in.

So there it is! I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list, as 2015 was a year of tons of changes both large and small, but those are the things that stand out the most.

Here’s to making it work in 2016!

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