Posted in food, mindset, motivation, physical health

Election week: no sweets, no caffeine

I have different relationships with sweets and caffeine.

Caffeine, I don’t drink for wakefulness—I just like tea. When it’s cool or cold out, I like most kinds of hot tea—black, green, white, rooibos, herbal. But when it’s hot out, I like iced tea. Plain old unsweetened black iced tea.

If I drink a cup of iced tea daily (or near-daily) on an empty stomach, after several weeks, I start to get heartburn. At the same time, if I’ve been drinking a cup of anything caffeinated daily for several weeks and miss a day or two, I’ll get a migraine.

In the summer, this is easier because I don’t have a routine. I just loosely keep track of how much tea I’m drinking and I’m good to go.

With school in session in person, I have a routine, and drinking iced tea in the car on the way to work is one of them.

I had already been thinking that I needed to start to wean off the iced tea before the heartburn started again, so I brought less and less tea. At the tail end of last week, the heartburn started and I had lessened my intake enough to avoid a migraine. Good timing.

It’s also gotten cooler, so hot tea is in my travel mug. I’m sure there are non-caffeinated teas that make good iced tea; I just haven’t tried them.

So: it’s my first week in a while without caffeine.

Sweets is a more complicated story.

I have a long history of emotional eating, and that eating is nearly always desserts or simple carbs.

While I’m much less drawn to them than I used to be, if I consume sweets regularly, I want more, and it spirals. Quickly.

Being at home most of the time has been a struggle. I’m finally snacking less. For a while, we were doing dessert more often than usual. “Usual” is once or twice a month. We had something sweet to munch on at least that much each week. Plus I was taking from the candy jar at work. (If I’ve ever taken from the candy jar at work, it definitely wasn’t on multiple consecutive days.)

I decided I needed a hard stop.

In no-sugar 30-day challenges I ran a long time ago, I quit all added sugars in all foods, including dressings, sauces, etc. Not this time. Just sweets. Dessert, candy, things of the sort.

Quitting sugar will yield several positives:

  • I will feel better. Excessive added dietary sugars negatively affect mood.
  • I will stop craving. Then I can use my energy for things other than fighting the urge to eat.
  • I will probably take off a few pounds.
  • Fruit will be “sweet enough” again.
  • My immune system will be stronger. Working in two elementary schools, this is critical right now.

I didn’t intentionally line this up with election week—it just worked out that way.

Many people have told me (over the course of time) that doing something like this at a stressful time is a bad idea. In some ways, they’re right. It’s harder to stick to new things when so much energy is going to the surrounding issues.

But eating ice cream doesn’t really make me feel better (especially because I don’t go slowly and enjoy it) nor does it actually relieve the stress. I can deal with emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to eat them.

Day five. It’s been rough but also so far, so good. I know that in another few days or maybe another week, the cravings will be substantially reduced and it will be easier. Until then, it’s worth it.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, vulnerability

Political ads—a long series of teachable moments

Like everyone (I assume) in the US, we’ve been inundated with political ads.

We don’t watch TV, so that helps. But the volume of postcards has been ridiculous.

In particular, we received a postcard most days for several weeks, telling us the evils of one specific (not presidential) candidate.

If I didn’t know the state-level politics, I wouldn’t even know from all this mail who he was running against.

We pulled another one of these pieces of trash out of our mailbox, and The Kid shared what he’s learned about these ads:

“It’s not good to say all bad things about your opponent. It means you have nothing good to say about yourself.”

Good call, little dude.

We expanded that conversation to include other kids being mean and having nothing good to say about you (or others).

“Because they have nothing good to say about themselves?”

Yep. Which doesn’t mean they have nothing good about them, just they don’t see it in themselves.

You know how sometimes, you feel like everything about you is wrong? Everyone feels like that sometimes. But some kids have parents who don’t tell them that those feelings aren’t true, and they start to believe them more and more. Or some kids have parents who tell them that those things are true, which of course is incorrect, but you can’t expect a little kid to know that, and they grow up to believe there’s nothing good about them.

He understood.

Those kids grow up and become adults who have nothing good to say about themselves and instead rely on saying bad things—true or untrue—about others. We don’t need political attack ads to see this daily. We do need to do two things to remedy it.

One: teach children that they’re worthy and lovable, even when they make mistakes, even when they make bad choices, even when you’re impatient—because it’s not about you.

Two: help people who haven’t learned that heal. Whether you think they deserve compassion or not (again, not about you). Because we’ll all be better if more people feel whole.

Posted in about me, motivation

Heat, where have you been?

Posts have been sparse here for a while, and I wanted to check in and give an update on what’s going on over here.

In early August, I joined an Akimbo workshop (put on by Seth Godin) called The Creative’s Workshop. I’ve been writing there daily, which I know doesn’t provide you with anything, but what’s coming from it is a book!

Finally, I’m writing the book I’ve talked about writing for a decade.

The community there is so supportive. Lots of vulnerability. Lots of art-in-progress. Not everyone doing art in traditional senses (writing, painting, music)—people revamping their businesses and websites and all sorts of things.

It’s so interesting, in addition to what I’m getting out of it directly for my work.

But time and energy are both finite, and that plus work plus parenting plus the usual stuff has taken the bulk of my time.

Photography has mostly been put on hold, though I do try to get out and shoot something once a week to have photos on Sundays to share. (I decided not to post on weeks when I don’t have photos.) I didn’t get out last week (hence, nothing on Sunday) but did make a little bit of time to watch another tutorial. I’m several months behind now on that course, but it’s self-paced, and I’m good with letting that go to take advantage of this opportunity.

I’m thinking about taking pictures to include in the book, but really, I need to get the thing written before I tangent to some other sparkly idea.

A year ago, I ended a year of blogging daily. In this workshop, I’ve gotten back to writing daily. When the book is written, I plan to get back here and share daily again. It’s a good habit. It’s a difficult habit, but it’s good and I (mostly) enjoy it.

In the mean time, I have 87 single-spaced pages written and notes for many more.

Thanks for hanging around!

And while I don’t get kickbacks (as far as I know—I’ll edit this if info changes when the workshop ends), I definitely recommend catching this workshop the next time it comes around, if you’re looking to put more out into the world.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Depression prepared me for shelter-in-place

First: this is my experience. It might not match yours.

I’ve struggled with depression for about as long as I can remember. In relatively recent years, I’ve learned how to manage it.

Mine seems to be connection-related. When I feel well-connected to important people, my brain chemicals stay happy. When I feel disconnected from people, my brain tries to kill me. Occasionally literally.

There is a limit to how much control I have over being connected to people. Everyone is busy. There is no village. (This is a highly destructive side effect of our “rugged individualism” and so many of us struggle with it.)

What can I do that doesn’t involve other people?

I can run. High-intensity exercise in general is helpful, but running seems to deliver the most immediate and most reliable hit. People in my circle know that if I’m struggling, an entirely appropriate suggestion is to go for a run. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does improve my mood and tidy my mind.

The thing is—I don’t love running. It vacillates between pretty good and tedious, depending on the day. I don’t run long distances. (Two half marathons taught me that 13 miles is too many miles.)

On the other hand, I love how I feel after I’ve run.

Between the couch (or the bed) and the post-run goodness, I have to get changed (ugh), I have to wear socks (ugh), I have to run (ugh), I need to wait until I’ve cooled off before I can shower or change or I will get out of the shower still sweating* (ugh), I need to get dressed again (ugh).

(*In the summer here, it takes at least 20 minutes after coming back in the house to stop sweating, but since we put in a pool, I just jump in after a run and refresh that way and that’s definitely not at all ugh.)

There are a lot of places for this to get derailed.

As a result, I’m quite used to forcing myself to exercise when I don’t really feel like it.

Speaking of “when I don’t really feel like it”…

High-functioning depression requires so much powering through. Getting tasks done when I don’t feel like it is a way of life.

Enter shelter-in-place.

I will not be in a good head space if I stay in my house all day.

I get up and get dressed every week day. This still affords me “lazy Saturdays” if I want them.

The weather was gorgeous when this all broke in March. It was easy to go for an afternoon walk and a run some other time and a bike ride with the family in the evening.

And then it was summer.

Afternoon walks stopped.

I learned to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. And to do something outside in the evening when the sun was low or set. Whether I felt like it or not, because my mental health depends on it.

This is what I’ve been doing all along. The what and then when look marginally different. When I go back to working at work, running in the morning will stop, because I have a limit on how early I’m willing to get up. I don’t need to worry about that now, though. All I need to know is that this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run.

 

 

 

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, parenting

Keeping The Kid engaged

I have a trait. (Whether it’s a blessing or a curse is up for grabs.) I’m interested in a lot of things. There are many skills I would like to attempt to acquire.

As a result, there is way more to do than time (or sometimes energy) to do it.

The down side? I often feel time-deprived. And I sometimes (not always) have trouble sticking with a task when it’s at a hard part (learning new skills always has hard parts) because there’s something else I could work on instead.

The up side? I’m never bored.

The Kid has some of this same quality about him. There are things he can talk about longer than you can listen (space and space travel, Minecraft, LEGO) and many many other things that he shows passing interest in.

Because we didn’t go to camps this summer, I decided to try to give him some “slow and steady” perseverance in skill acquisition. The badge system worked well for certain things for a while, but it wasn’t going to work for this.

So I made a chart. We all participated.

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It’s in a frame so we can use dry erase on it. Each day as we do one of the things, we cross it off. Doesn’t have to be a ton of time. A little bit of attention each day.

Each day that the entire list gets marked off, one of the pictures at the bottom gets crossed off. (I had just discovered those pictures when I was making the chart, and that system was born entirely inadvertently as I picked out ones I thought The Kid would love and/or laugh at.)

We did seven days on then a day off (so these were weeks but not Sunday-to-Saturday weeks), and while he needed to be reminded sometimes (often), he did it.

So did I. It was great for giving me a kick in the butt on days when I didn’t feel like doing stuff.

(The Climbing Daddy did it the week he took off and many weekend days, but not on work days, which is to be expected.)

Yesterday was Trophy Day. The Kid was so excited coming up on Trophy Day. (He’s the one who made it more like a holiday and less like that’s just the picture you cross off that day.)

I didn’t know what I was going to do when the board was complete, if anything, so I just took all the symbols and made a certificate. He was thrilled!

In making the certificate, I named the “event” the New Skills Challenge. It hadn’t had a name before. He was extra-excited to complete a “challenge.”

Results?

He did the typing test in his typing “game;” improved accuracy 7% and WPM by 1 since taking the same test near the end of the school year.

He can play a little bit more on his trumpet; mostly, he sounds better on the same songs. (The Climbing Daddy had to start over on a new instrument, as we no longer had a sax to use, so The Kid started over with him.)

He crochets single stitches quickly and feels ready to try a granny square. (He is learning this from a friend and from YouTube—I don’t know how to crochet.) He is excited to have a jellyfish kit waiting for him when he has a bit more skill.

He is learning to write in cursive. Needs to trace words still and is doing much better with forming the letters than when he started. (Kids should learn cursive for a bunch of reasons that I’m not going to tangent into right now. It’s not a useless skill.)

Between typing and cursive, his spacing issues in printing have decreased. (The typing error he made most often was not using the space bar. When I told him that it’s the SPACE bar and it should be his favorite, he rolled his eyes.)

We’re working on Spanish together and he’s picked up a few words, but he’s pretty resistant to it.

He reads often anyway, so that was on the list as an easy win every day.

After receiving his trophy certificate, I told him we have two more weeks until school starts—do you want to do two more weeks?

Yes!

I think we’re going to set some small goals and see if he can work towards them, instead of practicing aimlessly. I don’t know if that will be helpful or initiate a bunch of negative emotions (anxiety, frustration, pressure). We’ll talk about it and see where it goes.

In the mean time, he’s proud of himself for the work he’s put in and the skills he’s started to hone.

And I haven’t heard “I’m bored” yet.

(Me? I’ve been playing piano, trombone, ukulele. You see a bit of my writing. Also writing the book and in a journal. Definitely not all three any day. Spanish through a website and books and talking to The Climbing Daddy. Photography you see the results of here—some days it’s taking pictures and some days it’s just working through my online course. Soon to add editing. Exercise has been running, strength training, sometimes pool-related. This list will be pared down next week when work starts again. How am I going to pare it down? I still want to do it all…)