Two Weeks Later

I am now starting my third week of my new “me time” routine. After a lot of thinking I have decided to officially call it “T Time” for writing purposes.

I was actually rather nervous at the start of day one. I had no idea how things were going to work out.  Change is stressful, even good change. I had to talk myself out of waiting another week to start and pep talked myself into forging ahead.

Day one was…amazing! It was so relaxing being able to do things without constantly looking at the clock. I was able to go slow, stop and ponder, enjoy the sunshine. It was incredibly liberating.

Not perfect of course. I did do two loads of laundry. (I hang a lot of things outside so I can’t wait until late afternoon if I am going to take advantage of the Arizona winter sunshine.) At lunch time I had to sternly tell myself that unloading and reloading the dishwasher could wait until 2:00p. And so it waited and the world didn’t end!

And then real life happened and T Time got interrupted by preparations for a camping trip, a puppet show at school etc.  But to my surprise and delight I didn’t let T Time get cancelled altogether.  Postponed, rescheduled and skipped at times, but not gone.

I have learned a lot these last two weeks.  I learned that I really need this time to myself.  I am happier, calmer and less annoyed by small annoyances.  I learned that you can get a lot of housework done in 45 focused minutes.  I learned that it is okay to relax and be flexible and make stuff up as I go.

One day I found myself wondering what the rules for T Time were.  Did there have to be rules?  Maybe a few.  Could I watch television during T Time?  Yes, as long as it was something I really wanted to watch and I wasn’t just killing time flipping through the DVR list.  What about cooking  or baking.  Yes, if it was really something I wanted to do and not just prepping vegetables for dinner that could easily wait until after T Time.  Did I need to have a set routine?  No, but I do find it best to start my day in the office with some quiet time, thoughts about how to use my T Time and planning my to do list.

The best part of T Time?  It has made me a better parent.  I am calm and patient and my son is learning how to help clean up.  We have been working together, nicely.  It is so much better than the frustrated, yelling and still having to do all the cleaning up person I was before.  My son responds so much better to the calm.  And if he chooses not to help I sadly but firmly enforce the consequences.  Turns out he doesn’t mind helping Mom when she is so nice.

I am thrilled to be looking forward to this week filled with T Time, savoring it all the more because I know next week will be another tough week filled with interruptions.  Interruptions that I will be able to handle gracefully because my cup of solitude, peace and reflection will be filled to the brim from this week!

Plan A or Plan B

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A gorgeous day in the desert

 

Plan A: Curl up on the couch under an afghan, drink copious amounts of hot beverages and watch the Weather Channel to show my support of my home state of Maryland.

Plan B: Take advantage of a 75 degree day and going hiking at Sabino Canyon.

I chose to do both!  I started with Plan B and spent the morning meandering around Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The water was really flowing at Sabino Creek.  It hasn’t rained in over  a week so it must be snowmelt from higher up.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sabino Dam

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The water was running pretty fast and deep  over the usual road I take.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My alternate route was set up by some kind soul with stepping stones to keep feeties dry.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The ribs of a saguaro cactus.

When I came home for lunch I watched the weather channel.  I miss having weather, real weather.  The kind you have to prepare for and that forces you to hunker down for a few days.  Oh well, I still have hope for some more rain this winter. Everyone out East please stay safe!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I picked this orange right off my tree for my lunch. Occasionally life in the desert is sweet.

Whole 30 Camping

I wasn’t planning on writing any specific blog posts about the Whole30.  This time of year tons of people are writing about their Whole30 experience.  But over the long MLK weekend while the east coast was bracing for a nor’easter, a hurricane churned away near the Azores, feet of lake effect snow fell and the west coast was pummeled by El Nino rains here in southern Arizona we had decent camping weather (highs in the 60’s, lows in the 30’s).  So we decided to go camping.  While doing the Whole30.  Not impossible, it just takes planning and prep work and a huge fight with yourself about how sitting around a campfire does not require marshmallows, graham crackers or chocolate. Oh my.

I always think of Ma Ingalls when I camp cooking.  I picture myself building a fire to cook over as I light our three burner propane stove.  Ma Ingalls would have loved that stove!

Anyway I thought I would share my camping menu in case anyone needed some inspiration. Our meals were pretty simple with as much cooking done at home as possible.  We have a trailer (23′, the perfect size for three people plus a dog!) and we had electrical hook ups so we had use of the microwave which we used to heat up a few things but everything could also easily be cooked or heated on a camp stove. Our camper has a small refrigerator but somehow everything always fits. I think because we don’t have any drinks in it.  For this trip we just drank water and hot tea.

Meal one: (dinner Friday night)  Chicken vegetable soup and a green salad with tuna, pineapple for dessert.   The soup was homemade from a frozen chicken stock with lots of chicken meat and I threw in some frozen veggies and italian seasoning.

Meal two: (breakfast Saturday)  mashed yams and ground sausage (both cooked ahead of time and just reheated)

Meal three: (lunch Saturday) egg salad with romaine leaves, homemade tomato soup, cantaloup and blueberries

Meal four: (dinner Saturday) beef stew (homemade, pulled from the freezer at home)

Meal five: (breakfast Sunday) bacon, scrambled eggs and fried yams.  We {meaning my husband} cooked the bacon outside on the camp stove so we didn’t stink up the trailer.

Meal six: (lunch Sunday)  We roasted (heated)  fully cooked chicken apple sausages over a fire and had homemade coleslaw and veggie chips.  (Yes, the veggie chips are technically compliant and yet frowned upon. So frown away and skip the chips if you wish.)

Meal seven: (dinner Sunday) We grilled burgers, topped them with salsa and avocado, and finished off the salad and coleslaw and had carrots and cucumber slices.

Meal eight:  (breakfast Monday)  More yams (I had precooked three large yams total for the trip) and the last of the sausage and hard boiled eggs.

For snacks throughout the weekend we had bananas with cashew butter, raisins, pecans, carrots, oranges and grapes.

Hopefully this helps anyone uncertain about camping while doing the Whole30.

 

How to Buy a Day Planner

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First, read this from “The New Engagement Book” in “Mrs. Miniver” by Jan Struthers: 

…”It is a thing, she knew, which must never be done in a hurry. An engagement book is the most important of all those small adjuncts to life, that tribe of humble familiars which jog along beside one from year’s end to year’s end, apparently trivial, but momentous by reason of their terrible intimacy.

… Of the week-at-an-opening kind, there were only three left. That was the worst of leaving it so late. One was bound in crimson leatherette, one in brown calf, and one in green lizard-skin. She rejected the leatherette at once. In a spasm of post-Christmas economy, she had once bought a very cheap engagement book, and it had annoyed her for twelve months; everything she put down in it looked squalid. The green lizard on the other hand, was marked seven-and-sixpence, which seemed a fabulous price to pay. She decided on the brown calf, at three-and-nine: a smooth pleasant little volume, an honest and sturdy companion for a year’s march. It would wear well; she could not possibly, she knew, take a dislike to it. She paid, put it in her bag, left the shop and stepped on to a no. 11 bus.

…she walked back to Sloane Square as fast as she could. At this very moment, perhaps, the green lizard-skin diary was being bought by somebody else- some wholly unsuitable person who merely wanted to get one in a hurry; a rich earnest woman who would fill it with committee meetings, or a business man who would not even glance at the binding when he opened it to jot down the words ‘Dine George.’ While she herself, with all her dearest activities soberly confined in brown calf, would be thinking about it in an agony of regret.

But it was still there. She produced another three-and-nine pence and bore it away delighted…”

 

I love this story because it is so true. It always takes me awhile to pick out calendars and day planners because I know I have to live with them for a full year. This year I made the massive mistake of buying my day planner online. I do not know what I was thinking. You have to hold a planner, flip through it, really scrutinize the lay out, see how it feels.

I bought the “pocket diary” on-line because it had a lot of inspirational stuff in it, which I like. Each month has a different theme and color with quotes and ideas of things to do. I like that part. But as a day planner it was never going to work. First, it is too small. I thought a smaller size would be good so it would fit better in my purse, but 4” x 6” makes me feel like a giant and there isn’t enough space to write legibly.  Second, no spiral binding so it won’t stay open. Third, the month view page is really tiny (only on half a page of the already small pages) and it comes after the weekly pages. I had no idea I had a preference for the monthly overview being before the weekly pages but apparently I do. And last, the monthly calendars started the week on Monday. What? I just couldn’t wrap my brain around that. I wrote all of our paydays on Saturday instead of Friday before I realized what was going on.  The week starts on Sunday on calendars, period.

I am happy that I admitted to myself that I had made a mistake before torturing myself trying to use the tiny planner. The next time I was on base I looked for a new planner at the BX (base exchange, a department store for the military). Like Mrs. Miniver I had left it too late and there wasn’t much selection left. I immediately spied a single teal blue splash of color. It was spiral, with tabs; monthly pages starting on Sunday and one week at a time spread over two pages. Unlined, with each month a different color and some sort of island picture at the top and a spot for future planning for 2017 (very important near the end of the year). I clutched it to me while dutifully perusing the other planners but of course teal won. Sometimes you just know.

The cover is a bit plain but I can remedy that with a few stickers and some washi tape. I have transferred all my appointments and notes over, shocked at how full the year already is. So now I know how to buy a planner: in person. Some things just can’t be bought online.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Old New Office Space

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ta-da! My office space.

 

You know that feeling you get when something is right, very right? When your head and heart (and sometimes stomach) are in complete agreement? That is my new office space, which is really my former office space but oh so different now. It feels like my office as opposed to some thrown together space.When my husband was helping me move heavy furniture up and down the stairs I had a quiver of doubt: What if I didn’t like the new arrangement?  The bottom shelf pieces were really too heavy for me on stairs but somehow we managed to get everything moved without dropping anything or damaging back muscles. Lift with your legs and wear heavy gloves!

The minute we got the larger pieces in place I knew: this space fit me.

I had played around with the floor plan on paper for a few weeks and couldn’t shake the notion that I wanted my worktable in front of the window. It is bad feng shui to sit with my back to the door but I didn’t seem to care. And then I spied this picture on my white board:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My dream space

I have had this picture for years. I cut it out of Real Simple magazine. I have pined for this space for years.  And now I have it.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The leaf pattern on the sheers substitutes for a tree outside the window. 

 

I am thinking I want to hang a small wind chime by the door, to alert me if someone comes in, but so far the back to the door hasn’t been a problem. I typically use my computer at the computer desk where I sit facing the door. Most of the time when I am at my worktable it is during the day when I am in the house alone. (Not really alone, I have a ferocious guard dog.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
You can just see the doorway on the left

 

The light is wonderful. This time of year I get actual sunlight slanting in the window which is gorgeous through the leaf designed sheers. In the summer the sun will be high enough I won’t get any direct sunlight, which is a good thing too.  It will still be a pleasantly light filled room but not heat up during the day as much.  And the lighting at night is pleasant too. I love the lamp on the worktable and the small lamp on the computer desk is still perfect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My office at night.  I was able to use my rug from Turkey.  It fit the space quite well and I don’t have to look at the cheap, gray wall to wall carpeting.

It is a huge relief that this room has worked out because my days of lugging heavy furniture up and down stairs are over!

Changes (Part III)

IMG_6445

I cannot believe how the snow has lingered on the Catalina Mountains!

In my continuing quest to make 2016 a really good year I decided I need to take better care of myself. I have my list of habits to work on and I am becoming more aware of just how much of an impact my thyroid issue has on my life.  I came up with the crazy idea to set aside more time just for me.  From 8:30a to 2:00p, Tuesday through Friday to be specific.

It seems a huge amount of time, 22 hours to be exact, but as a mom there are no weekends or holidays or even time in the evenings to relax.  I have become crabby and frustrated and bored with life.  I considered going back to work but that is not what I really want to do.  I want to be here for my son after school and on holidays.  I don’t want to even think about trying to juggle three schedules while planning vacations and camping trips.

But I need a change.  I am tired of cleaning up after my husband and son who are both slobs. I don’t mind the dusting and vacuuming but the unending piles of stuff left everywhere should not be just my problem.   I am also doing all the cooking and laundry and after meal clean up. I have felt like because I am home all day I have to do all the household stuff.  Enough is enough though.  So I am going to try something different.  I will still cook and clean and pay the bills, but I won’t be doing everything alone. I suspect it will take a fair amount of time to make running this home more of a family event,  but having them see all that I do will be a good start.  The idea is that I will feel happier having taken care of myself and I will be able to gently and nicely ask for help with small tasks.

This is another reason I wanted to move my office back upstairs into a room with a door.  I can retreat into my cocoon and work on projects, meditate, read and write.  I will have time to exercise or go for longer walks. I will need to learn to ignore all the things that need to be done around the house, at least for a few hours.

Honestly, I have no idea how this is going to work.   I have to admit I am  excited about the idea though.  I keep thinking of new projects I want to do. Will I be able to place my needs ahead of the household for a that many hours a week?  All I can do is try and see what happens. I might need you to send me a bit courage and perseverance for this one!

Changes (Part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A rare to the north over the Catalina Mountains rainbow

Here is part two of how my 2016 is going to look.  Part one announced no changes to the blog.  I guess it was a little odd to announce nothing but there you have it.  On to part two!

Last summer I swapped my office and my son’s play area.  It seemed a good idea, no pile of toys right inside the front door and more use of the dining room space.  There is only one problem.  I hate it.  Here, let me count the ways:

  1. I am a private person and having my office on display as you walk right in the front door has not been conducive to my productivity.  The large space made it hard to concentrate and there are a lot of distractions downstairs.
  2. Turns out I am not a fan of dual purpose rooms.  While it seemed eminently practical to have my daily use office and once or twice a year dining room share space I hate feeling like I am working in the dining room.  I also didn’t enjoy eating Christmas dinner in my office.
  3. The current set up has my back to the front door unless I take my laptop out of the desk and put it on the dining room table, which is what I usually end up doing (like right now).
  4. I have been reluctant to do any sort of project that requires I leave it spread out on the dining room table.  Partly I don’t like looking at a mess and mostly because small child would certainly feel compelled to touch, rearrange, want to participate or provide some sort of input which undoubtedly would annoy me.
  5. The living/dining room faces north and west which equals rather dark and chilly this time of year.  My old office was at the back of the house and faces south.  These past two weeks I have found myself migrating to the futon in my old office to sit and think, in the warm sunshine.
  6. My son never plays in the new playroom.  I think it is because it is upstairs and he seldom wants to be up there alone.  In fact it has just become a dumping ground for toys and most times I can barely get in there to reach my craft supplies in the closet or the filing cabinet to put away bills.

 

I did a lot of thinking about solutions to include moving to a house with a fifth bedroom or office space.  That seemed a bit extreme though.  I had no perfect idea and finally asked myself, “what would make me the most happy and what would make me the least unhappy?”  Moving my office back upstairs won most happy hands down.  Least unhappy would be losing the formal living room.  So I have a plan.  The end of the week and over the weekend we will once again be toting items up and down the stairs, moving furniture and going through chaos in an attempt to find harmony in this house.  Stay tuned.

Changes (Part I)

I have been doing a lot of contemplating about my life of late. Who I am, who I want to be, how I want to spend my time etc.  Specifically I have been thinking about how I want my days to look in 2016 and how I want to feel at the end of each day. There is much going on in my head and I am not sure how much I am going to share here, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

I think Changes will be a three part blog post, but as the author I reserve the right to change my mind at any given point in time. But here is Part I: This Blog.

Mid-January I will have completed a full year of writing this blog. I have written on a fairly regular basis. Mission accomplished! I know to be a “successful” blogger I need to narrow my focus and work on increasing readers, blah, blah blah. But my definition of success is writing on a regular basis.  I am doing that so I won’t be making any changes. Maybe later this year I will change the background or the format a bit. Maybe I will find my blog does naturally narrow down in scope. Or maybe not. Maybe ‘monkey mind’ will continue to rule. Time will tell. The bottom line is, no changes to this blog for now.