Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Props to Single Parents

I took this video back in August and it took me until now to get it posted. I will try to be more current than this in the near future. Promise. :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Navigating Pregnancy: Trimester 1

Marathrunner Amber Miller Westchester gave birth daughter June AudrMiller after completing Chicago MarathSunday. | Dan Rozek~Sun-Times Media

So, "we're having a baby." This phrase has always struck me as funny. Because Ben isn't really having a baby. I'm having a baby. But, then, it's not a completely independent process either. So, saying "I'm having a baby" seems to miss that I have a partner who is somehow involved and a part of this picture. I could say, "I'm having Ben's baby." But somehow that phrase sounds like it's nuanced with illegitimacy... who else's baby would I be having? I guess there's no good way to say it.

I knew that I was relinquishing myself to the forces of nature when I got pregnant. There's aspects of pregnancy that obviously cannot be fought, molded or negotiated. And yet, I thought that in some things I would have control.

That was clearly a delusion. I have been nauseous for about a month now. Almost constantly. The me who I thought would be exercising all the time and still jogging 2-5 miles/day can't recall the last time I put on clothes to officially "work out". Running 20 minutes was a struggle by week 10. I have no idea how other women are running marathons when they're full-term.

The most insane part of the pregnancy has been my insatiable appetite. Every magazine/book/website that tells you about pregnancy says you should be taking in 300 extra calories/day while pregnant. And to these guidelines I simply am aghast.

Ben brought up a valid point that I had a tendency, even before I was pregnant, to wake up in the middle of the night because I was hungry, and to have to eat something. But this wasn't a frequent or common occurrence -- just something that would happen maybe a handful of times each year, on the off-chance I had under-eaten that day and needed more calories.

But since about week 8 or 9 of this pregnancy, I wake up every night. At least once, possibly three times. And I have to eat. I have yet to tell this to another woman who's been pregnant and to have them tell me they also experienced this. In truth, I have no idea how many total calories I'm eating because I don't calorie count. But I'm QUITE sure it's more than 300 calories more than what I used to eat. And I have absolutely no clue how to eat less.

Eating all the time has made me quite apathetic about food. Eat more of this, Stop eating. It doesn't matter. I'll be eating again in 2-3 hours anyway. I have to eat so often, I have no opportunity to miss food; no time to build up a desire for it. It's more like air -- something I need, and a lot less like the perk and pleasure it has often been.

The good news about apathy is I am equally as moved about my growing size as I am about food. I honestly thought body image was going to be the most difficult part of this process. So far, however, I am unabashed about my changing body size & shape and relatively unconcerned with whether it looks cute, or with how thin I am.

I imagine at some point I will want to make sure I can still feel pretty. Maybe that desire will kick in when I am less pre-occupied with NOT feeling nauseous. But I'm kind of glad to be relieved of that need or desire for the time being. I want to be upright. I want to feel normal for a whole day, and have a full night's sleep without waking. That all would all be dreamy.

Here's to hoping I don't have to wait 6 months to feel that way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Finding Peace in the midst of ALS

This month, I had the opportunity to visit my brother Jon's family twice. The first visit was at the impetus of my brother, Gerry, who lives in London and wanted to visit. Six of the seven Neu siblings were able to gather at Jon's house, working on home improvement projects, visiting, and eating yummy food. I went up yet again two weekends after to help with more home improvement projects and just try to be of service.

With each passing week and every visit, I think about this diagnosis. I try to understand it. How should I help? How should I feel? How DO I feel? Should I be doing this differently? Should I be understanding this differently?

When Jon was first diagnosed with ALS, it was very difficult to come to terms with. I read books about the disease, and the odds he faces.My family members and I started a frenzy of fasting, praying, pleading for healing, for beating those odds. I grappled with images and stories of others with ALS, like the Team Gleason commercial above, and  the documentary "Indestructible". Putting Jon's face into these stories causes me such anguish, even if the stories are infused with hope.

We don't know what the future holds.  But we must acknowledge our reality, including the fact the disease is progressing. While coming to terms with this reality is still difficult, I find peace in these thoughts:

We all still have a lot of hope for that better future. Miracles and cures are always possible.

I repeatedly remind myself that I have not actually lost my brother. In fact, I'm lucky he's still here. Some people lose their loved ones in an instant -- wonderful people who are treasured, just as much as my brother.

Despite my good fortune, I repeatedly experience feelings of devastation and loss. This will likely not stop. And it's OK. Obviously Jon is not gone, but the invincible Jon, and my expectations of a future invincible Jon -- they have been diminished. That is something to grieve.

As much as I feel overwhelmed to process this, I struggle even more to imagine how it would feel to be Jon in this situation. As I consider how to manage emotions in this uncertainty, I try to remember to be most mindful of his.

We, his extended family, fumble with how to anticipate and accommodate Jon's family's needs. But it's a kind, loving thing to fumble with.

My sister is picking up her whole family and moving to Minnesota, just to be there in case that would be helpful. She's awesome. My whole family is awesome.

It doesn't matter to me whether they "really need something" or if something could be put off till later. If there is something to do and I'm able,  I will seize the opportunity. We may not be able to move heaven and earth, or cure my brother, but we can do everything within our capacity to help-- if for no other purpose, just to prove that if we could, we would. And we do.

I am unwilling, despite my good fortune that his disease is not taking him from us more quickly, to give Jon up to ALS. Even if losing Jon to ALS was inevitable (which it's not). I won't give him up till I have to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First Failure: March

I already missed my goal for the month. I did not blog last week. I will endeavor to do better, but I'm not that sad about this. It's not that consequential of a goal for me -- and perhaps that is why I failed at it in the first place.

While I try to do better, I will also make a point to spend time and develop a more rewarding goal for April. It's not necessarily better to set a goal just for the purpose of setting a goal. So, I'll make sure my next goal is something I'm more motivated to get behind.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New Month Resolutions: February Recap

Last month, it was my goal to be more productive at work. How did I define success? I gave myself a number/grade, on a scale of 1-5 every day, based on how productive I felt I was. I hoped to reach a minimum average  number for the month.

Along with my basic goal of a number, I gave myself strategies to help me focus every day. Those tips included:

1) Praying. I prayed every morning at work to help me with my goal. I found this helpful because when I pray for something, I know it's something that I really want. And to remember that I really want it helped me to work hard at that.

2) I used a spreadsheet and tracked my time usage at work, every day. This was also good motivation, as I didn't like reporting ill-spent time.

3) I had a goal for minimum time spent on productive tasks. This helped me not to go on over-drive and burn myself out. Once I reached my minimum, I could relax a little and feel accomplished, rather than over-stressing every minute of every day, and breaking under the pressure of having to be perfect.

4) I tried to use the 10 minute rule. If I ran into a task I didn't like and would normally procrastinate, I would try to do it for just 10 minutes.

5) I would also employ the like+don't like strategy. For example, if I have to be doing something mind-numbing and not so fun, I would let myself stream something while I worked, to make it kind of entertaining.

6) I tried to keep & update task lists, so I could easily refer back to the lists to find out what I should do next, after I finished something.

7) Stepping outside. A lot of my tasks at work seem ambiguous and it's hard to determine "next steps". To help me tackle them, I find it helps to imagine I am advising someone else about what THEY should do. Silly, and yet remarkably effective.

8) Breaking it down. Writing a publication is a big, generic task. When working on things like that and not knowing where to start or what the next steps are, I just try to think of one small action to do -- something that is "road-ready", like "skim reference articles and gather quotes", or "draft outline", etc. It's obvious, but not making a concerted effort to identify those specific things has really stalled me on projects in the past.

Of course, these tips and tricks only help me in as much as I remember to employ them. Some I remembered to do better than others.

Results are in: It WORKED! This actually worked. I am so satisfied from this experiment. Of course, every day was not a perfect day of productivity. But I liked the flow of this month's goal, because I was allowed bad days. I was allowed to fail once or twice in meeting my goal, because my achievement this month was not based on being perfect every day, or every week, but based on the average of all those days. And so bad days were just a blip that was cause for concern, rather than total defeat.

As for January's goal -- I was not perfect in keeping up with my January month goal to work out 3x/wk, but I did pretty well with keeping up with my exercise overall. The 2 weeks I didn't reach 3x/wk, I still worked out twice. And I'm back at keeping it up for March. Managing regular workouts is easier after having worked on that habit for a month. This month-long resolution thing is really just amazing.

The other thing I really like about the monthly resolutions is that rather than having a hyper-focus once a year on the fact you'd like to do better at something, you actually are directed to focus on your goals and personal improvement EVERY MONTH. And if you are too busy and miss a month, who cares? You have 11 other months that are still totally do-able.

My goal for March: To blog once a week. I don't know that this goal will be as life-enriching as being more productive and exercising, but I do like to blog. And I HAVE blogs. And I've thought before about having that goal. And if I don't think it adds much to my life -- it's only for a month. LOVE THIS!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bathroom Renovation: Results Are In

You may or may not recall, but I started renovating my bathroom. About a year ago. It took me longer than I expected. Now before you get any big ideas, this was a rather low-budget renovation. I know, I know. You would expect complete demolition for a project that takes a year. What can I say? I have a day job. And staining and varnishing trim takes a long time. Which, BTW was only mildly worth it. While I added new trim to all the doors and windows, and I like the stain I used better than what was there, I ended up picking the same trim profile. I also want to confess that I had to hire help to install the trim, and do many other things. I did some work, but definitely not all of it.

Here's what it used to look like as you walked in, and then what it looks like now:
The bland old view of the vanity area before, and the new vanity area:

My inspiration for all the colors (which will give one more view of the bathroom I didn't bother with before) was the shower curtain. I wanted ruffles. I think "mission accomplished" on that wish:

Some of the other new improvements include:
I covered the light panels with scrapbook paper and Mod Podge

 I picked out some hardware for the vanity drawers 

We put in new baseboards

Crown molding too 

 We replaced both the light fixture over the vanity (already pictured) and the bathroom fan light (above)

Even a new hand towel ring

I also had fun in the closet. I stenciled the side walls (note to self. Never stencil in a place that has so many corners.Also, never EVER stencil on textured walls ever again. It's exasperating). At least it looks kinda cute. Just don't look too close. :) I also added tracking so the shelves can be moved as needed. There are two shelves up right now, and 3 more in storage in case I run out of room in that gargantuan vanity. :) And, of course, I added that mop holder. Utilitarian for sure, but I love it.

This cute little shelf was dark wood and black iron rod when I bought it. I covered it with polka-dot fabric and Mod Podge, and spray painted the iron rod white. Then I printed a poem on some turquoise paper and framed it. I like having good poetry around the house.

Even as the project just finished today, I still see some details I need to take care of. Namely: a window treatment, new doorknob, a tissue paper box cover, and a new waste basket. And I'm not sure if all the pictures on the wall are at the right height. But the big stuff and most of the little stuff is done. And while I'm not totally sure what I think of the results, I know it's a big improvement, and it's mine. And it's done. All of those facts give me great satisfaction. And since I am allowing myself to move on to other house projects now, I figured it was done enough to let you all see. 

I learned something about myself in this project that I had no idea was as deep-rooted as it is -- I hate pre-fabricated sets of anything. I don't even having matching dining room chairs. So, nothing in the bathroom exactly matches anything else. I'm not sure if this quirk of mine is good or bad. But it doesn't apply to everything. Right now the walls on my first floor are not only multi-colored, but also multi-textured. Which leads me to my next project -- painting the entire rest of the 1st floor. :)