Footloose and Fitness Tracker-Free

In June 2014, I bought a fitness tracker. I got myself a Fitbit One to wear on my hip rather than a wristband tracker because I really liked wearing my watch.

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Snazzy watch, much nicer than any fitness tracker.

I wore the tracker all day and all night, every day and every night. In 2016, hoping to shake things up by increasing the intensity of my exercise (coincidentally, this was also the upshot of Fitbit’s advertising at the time), I added a Charge HR to the mix. I wore the new tracker for daytime activities and the One for sleep tracking and felt confident that positive results would follow.

If you believe the reports, many people only wear their fitness trackers for a few months, but not me. I wore one fitness tracker or the other twenty-four hours every day for three years, even under my dress at my brother’s wedding. Gotta get credit for the Chicken Dance! (N.B., There was no Chicken Dance at my brother’s wedding.)

And then today, I deleted my Fitbit account. Read More

Pushing Appliances to Their Limits

Tonight while we were making dinner, our twenty-six-year-old stove went kaput.

Luckily, just yesterday we got a new toaster since the one we bought in 2003 stopped working the day we got back from vacation.

“What timing!” I thought. Surely we can use the toaster to do some of the tasks we normally delegate to the stove!

Alas! The warnings in the toaster manual make it clear that there’s not much one can do with a toaster besides toasting stuff.

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Looks like we’ll be shopping for a new stove instead of heating pots of soup on top of the toaster, and I guess I’ll dry my nails the old-fashioned way.

But I have no idea how I’m going to heat my curtains.

Nursery Song

Today, my daughter recounted for us a story she’d read about a pregnant woman who put headphones on her belly so her baby could listen to music. When my children stopped laughing, I told them I’d done just that when I was pregnant the first time.

I’d read somewhere that if you play a song for your baby in utero, it will help soothe her after she’s born. Something with a strong beat was recommended so baby could hear it through the white noise of the womb. It seemed pretty low-risk, so every night before bed I would put the headphones on my belly and play this song for my daughter:

 

After she was born, it did work pretty well to calm her when she was crying. So did running the vacuum or the hair dryer, but this way was more pleasant for her dad and me. As a toddler my daughter called it her “crying song,” but the actual title is “Captain Badass” by Songs: Ohia.

Today, my children giggled at the title, of course. When I played the song for them, they weren’t particularly impressed—“Okay. Can we eat lunch now?”—but I loved it as much as I ever had.

“Will you stand up for your one chance? Will you stand up for love?”

Halloween Pie 2016

It’s Halloween once again! This year to celebrate their third reading of The Lord of the Rings (including an audiobook and a read-aloud by each of their parents), my daughter dressed up as Legolas and my son dressed up as Aragorn. I provided transportation to the thrift store and the funds to purchase items, but the design and assembly of the costumes was otherwise all them (thank goodness; I am not a costume person, and this development dramatically reduced my Halloween-related stress).

The costumes might change, but not our tradition of charting their candy haul. Here’s how it all broke down this year:

 

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Keep on Rollin’

I’ve got Black Water by the Doobie Brothers stuck in my head, and I’m glad about it.

For at least the past five years, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am. Consumed by my roles as wife and mother, I can’t seem to recall who I was before, and lately I’ve become more and more anxious because I can’t envision who I am outside of these roles.

Just contemplating doing a “role stripping” exercise in a book I read recently prompted a nightmare in which I was cleaning my empty house. It was a place where I used to live with my spouse and kids and now I was vacuuming white carpet enclosed by white-painted walls and afraid to turn around because I was certain there was a malevolent presence lurking just behind me, laughing at my fear.

I don’t have to pay a therapist to analyze that dream. Read More

How to build a house in an afternoon.

I share genetics with some very crafty people.

When we were kids, my mom would hand-sew our costumes each Halloween, often creating the patterns herself or dramatically modifying existing patterns to bring into reality the costumes of her imagination—a tree (with a nest and birds on top), a rabbit in a hat, a black widow spider, a butterfly with wings so giant I had to fold them and walk sideways through doorways. Now that she’s no longer winning storybook parades vicariously through her children, my mom newly decorates her dining room table each month to match the holiday or season. Read More

To Drink Deeply

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

-from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Over breakfast, the kids and I decided that we’d do our lessons, eat a quick lunch, and then arrive at the wildlife sanctuary early so we could take a hike and enjoy the weirdly warm December weather before our nature class.

We worked well and ate lunch quickly, but by the time we were on the road, we’d somehow lost most of the extra time we’d figured in. We discussed it on the way and decided that if we didn’t mind being a few minutes late for class (which we didn’t), we’d still have time for a quick hike.

We pulled into the parking lot with twenty minutes to spare. Perfect! We jumped out of the car, ran to the office to check in and let them know we might be a smidge late, and then hit the bathroom.

By the time we were at the trailhead, it was five minutes until class.

How the heck had we lost fifteen minutes? Read More

Halloween Pie 2015

Categorizing and graphing my kids’ candy haul has become an annual tradition. And my kids, as nerdy as their parents apparently, cheer more for making pie charts than they do for the candy itself.

Here’s how it all panned out this year:

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As in years past, my more-selective daughter had less variety in her candy bag than her brother did, but for the first time, my son has more total candy than his big sister.

Here’s the trend since 2013:

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Perhaps my son’s hands are closer in size to his sister’s this year, or maybe he’s less inhibited about displaying gluttony, or maybe people just like six-year-old sharks more than they do ten-year-old ninjas.

It’s also possible that our daughter’s relatively small haul is a reflection of her waning interest in trick-or-treating. As she said as I was tying the old t-shirt around her mouth and nose as part of her ninja costume, “I’m looking forward to trick-or-treating, but I’m just calm, not excited like I was last year.”

Then she added, once again proving that she’s my daughter: “And that’s good because I feel much better feeling calm than I do feeling excited. Feeling excited kind of makes my tummy hurt.”

Whether you like feeling excited or you prefer to feel calm, I hope your Halloween is as sweet as you’d like it to be!

Ungrateful

My constant companion is anxiety—with just a smidge of depression—that I keep in check (mostly) with diet, mindfulness, journaling, an hour or more of exercise each day, and one massage a month. It works, mostly, to keep the eddy of worry from swirling into panic, but it’s a delicate balance and when my spouse goes out of town and I’m left with all of the responsibilities, my barely-held-in-check anxiety goes into hyper-overdrive.

I’m wound so tight, if you bumped into me, I’d twang like a guitar string. Or I’d deck you, just because I’m in this perpetual fight-or-flight thing that has me screaming at drivers who randomly try to give me the right-of-way even though they have a stinking green light and are going straight and if I turn left in front of them and at that moment someone decides to pass them, I’m in an accident and it’s my fault because I didn’t have the right of way. I don’t care how much you blink your lights and wave your arm, there’s no stinking way I’m turning in front of you because you have a green light! Green means Go, and following that rule is what makes the world work and keeps us from descending into chaos. Chaos!

When I’m not in the car, I indulge in escapism—part of the anxiety package deal—and since I’ve got urchins to care for and I can’t literally escape, I “escape” via the Internet. Doing this, it doesn’t take long before I find the posts about about how wonderful gratitude is. Science has proved that gratitude is the secret to being happy and not-anxious, so if I just give it a try, I’ll be calm and fine, and everyone else will be spared my shitty moods.

But gratitude doesn’t work that way for me.

Whenever my spouse is out of town, I think about my mom and how she had three kids compared to my two and how my dad was on cruise with the Navy for six to ten months every other year rather than a week or so three or four times a year, and you know what? It doesn’t help.

Yes, I am grateful that the guy who scoops the cat litter and brushes the little kid’s teeth before bedtime and does the dishes so I can be alone before 9pm is only gone for a week rather than ten months. I’m grateful that I can leave him a voice mail or send him an e-mail any time I want to, or, if it’s a big emergency, I can call his hotel because I know where he is, unlike my mother who wasn’t allowed to know beyond the most general descriptions where my dad’s aircraft carrier was.

Admittedly, I would feel more grateful if my spouse didn’t tell me about how great it is to sit in his kid-free hotel room drinking beer and watching football, and I’d also be grateful if he didn’t micromanage my handling of Garbage Day remotely, especially not while the kids are fighting with each other in the background and I’m trying to figure out what these maggoty things are all over the basement floor. (Turns out they’re acorn weevil larvae from the acorns we collected week before last. Public service announcement: don’t collect acorns with cracks or holes in them unless you like fat little grubs eating their way through the plastic bags you stored your acorns in.)

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Even feeling grateful that the grubs weren’t something that would infest anything we have in the house because all they care about is acorns doesn’t make me feel better. (Okay, maybe a little better.)

Despite the promises of science, I’m able to feel anxious even while feeling grateful.

What gives? Am I just contrary? Not trying hard enough? A scientific anomaly?

Nope. Digging just a little deeper I found this:

In a study looking at the effects of sleep and gratitude on depression and anxiety in patients with chronic pain, researchers “found that after controlling for the amount of sleep people got, gratitude still had an effect on lower depression scores. This means that regardless of their levels of insomnia, people who showed more gratitude were less depressed. With anxiety they found a different result. After controlling for sleep, gratitude showed no effect on anxiety. So while higher gratitude led to less anxiety originally, this is simply because it helped people sleep better, and sleeping better improved their anxiety.” (emphasis mine)

As it turns out, I’m not a freak of nature; I’m just a victim of the oversimplification of the results of scientific studies. (For those interested, here’s the abstract of what I think is the original article referenced in the link above: “The differential effects of gratitude and sleep on psychological distress in patients with chronic pain,” by Ng et al, published February 2013, in Journal of Health Psychology.)

Tonight after I put the kids to bed maybe I’ll turn off the computer and go to bed myself, feeling grateful that I’m getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Yep, I’m sure it will happen just like that.

To Hell With Date Night

I have a confession:

I hate Date Night.

Seriously. Hate.

I love my spouse, but really, Date Night is just too much pressure, especially because we live in such a lame city with no live music or theater or decent restaurants. No improv or stand-up places. There’s candlepin bowling, but then you have to put up with the other bowlers. And we’ve done that already anyway.

We’ve gone hiking, but we do that with the kids and it’s getting dark so early now, I’m worried we’ll surprise a skunk, which would make for a memorable Date Night, but not a terribly fun one.

Last time we had a Date Night, we went to the lawyer’s office and signed our wills and then went grocery shopping. Read More