Monthly Archives: September 2014

Making time for something fun

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In the comments section of my last post, B wrote “I love that you incorporate fun stuff into your days despite how busy you are. I think it’s so important…”. It was interesting that was commented on , as it is something I have been very conscious of recently. My ultimate downtime activities are sewing, crafting, blogging and baking, but they have had a tendency to fall by the wayside recently.

We all have barriers to finding time to ourselves, and it’s not so much a matter of whose are bigger, less surmountable, or more noble. Rather it is figuring out what yours are, and whether and how you want to overcome them. In a post that started me thinking about seeking creative time, J wrote about her disability hindered her feeling that she deserved time to be crafty (crafts also being J’s “me time”). Its different for all of us, but guilt and tiredness are my barriers.

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I get relatively little time with my son. If I get home at 6 and we have dinner until 6.30, it is just an hour to his bedtime. I realized that I experienced a certain amount of guilt every time I had non-work time and did not spend it with him. One evening I was sewing something on a deadline and I asked Wes to watch Sam. When I heard them giggling together I immediately felt like I had lost a bonding opportunity with my son and nearly stopped what I was doing. But something – perhaps J’s post – stopped me and I finished my project. My son still loved me, we still got quality time together, and I had done something fun.

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Me asleep at my desk at 11 pm – picture snapped by a bemused husband

Work guilt also holds me back – there is an ever growing to-do list in an ever harder funding climate as I become more and more senior with less and less funding (that’s the short and somewhat dramatic version). That’s not going to change, and I know I have to fight it. But I have learned that there is a limit of what I can give outside of 9-5; 3 evenings a week and one good weekend day stint, and I’m probably spent. Realizing this has helped me enjoy my non work time.

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Major tiredness contributor.

The other thing was tiredness – either physical (from my new fitness regime) or mental (see above picture for my working hours!). I used to think that I was only capable of zoning out into Facebook or TV. I’ve realized that a small craft project is just as relaxing, and that I feel much better afterwards. So, despite my Saturday morning gym routine, all Saturday afternoon and evening at work, and a 3-h drive to a rained out water park on Sunday, I still found time for the following ‘me’ activities this weekend:

Making Halloween packages to be posted to friends in Alabama:

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Making pumpkin spice cupcakes to celebrate my MS student submitting her first (first-author!) paper:

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And making a Thanksgiving onesie for Sam’s friend Hadley:

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Oh, and time for a blog post written in the bath with a glass of wine 😉

How about you? I loved all the feedback on my Facebook break-up and health kick. What are your ‘me time’ activities? Do you find it easy to find time for them? What are your barriers if not? Share your ‘me projects’ with me!

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Purple Purse Campaign

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1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic violence. If this post is a little tl;dr for you, and you want to get straight to the charity part (good on you); please donate to raise awareness and help victims of domestic violence at http://purplepurse.com/celeb-style/.

Thank you

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I so need this weekend. I was sick most of this week, yet have been working 16+ hour days. I am exhausted! I will go to the office tomorrow afternoon, but I have fun planned still for the weekend. Last weekend, despite being ill, I managed to appliqué a Halloween T-shirt for Sam’s birth class buddy:

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And bake a British tea cake classic: Battenburg:

What it tastes like more important than how it looks!

What it tastes like more important than how it looks!

I was fairly pleased with the Battenburg. It was tasty, but a little dry. Next time I will use less batter and so not bake it for so long. I also was annoyed at having to shell out $6 for each packed of marzipan, and so got 1 less than I needed – this was a mistake as the marzipan is really important for holding the whole darn thing together. Still, 5 days later we have very little left, so I can’t complain too much! Here is the recipe I used:

BBC Good Food Battenburg Cake

to which I also added yellow food coloring to the yellow 1/2 of the cake. Remember, be generous with the marzipan!

All this in between feeling so ill my friend Heather had to come and help me on Saturday night while Wes was out camping (in fact, the cake was for her, until I remembered that she can’t eat nuts. #friendfail).

I am hoping this weekend will be equally as productive, I plan to make a Thanksgiving onesie for Sam’s friend Hadley, and bake Oatmeal and cinnamon cupcakes to take into work to celebrate my MS summer student submitting her first paper. Woo-hoo!

So, the weekend has started, I have kicked back with a glass of wine to the strains of Amy Winehouse (I put it on as Sam goes to sleep) and caught up with some blogs I read. My friend B had a post which alerted me to the #purplepurse campaign.

“FACT: domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women in her lifetime. Recognize it, talk about it, stop it. #purplepurse”

 

Purple Purse is a campaign run by All State to raise awareness for, and help victims of, domestic violence. By moving to social media, with the has tag #purplepurse (applied to a picture of you with… wait for it… a purple purse of a purple tassel on your purse) they are hoping to raise even more money and awareness.

I get it – you’re thinking “Another social media campaign? How many will there be?” Well… as many as there need to be to help those in need I guess. I know there are a lot of things people are raising awareness for: cancer, ALS, domestic violence, child abuse. But, isn’t it better that we are aware of people’s suffering, and what is going on in the world around us? I have heard people say “I am sick of this, soon there will be a campaign for me too!”. I find that view offensive; to not look around and realize how many cannot claim to be a healthy, employed, safe parent, with a support network that spans 3 continents would be a tragic dismissal of just how lucky I am. We all draw straws in life: sometime we can rig the pot, sometimes we get what is doled out to us. I always welcome reminders that many people don’t have it as blessed as I do.

And I understand that everyone is asking for money. (Of course, just raising awareness and visiting the website is a big help, and its free!). And I do get the frustration: I have stopped attending our church because so many sermons were a charity drive and I just found it hard to motivate myself to get up for it! I think I get asked to donate to charity 2-3 times a month or so. So as long as I agree with the cause, I give $10. It’s not a lot, but I think about: what if everyone gave $10 when they read about a campaign? How much help could we do? I usually take the money out of our alcohol and Starbucks budget, and I am quite happy to. $20-30 / month is manageable for me, and for that I also very grateful.

B wrote much more passionately about the campaign. I am just helping spread the word. Read B’s post here:

http://chicinacademia.com/2014/09/25/thrifty-thursdays-purple-purse-2014-and-the-celine-luggage-inspired-tote/

And visit the campaign website here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/PurplePurse-FVPS/fundraiser/familyviolencepreven2/1/return/success/success

Or, take a picture of yourself with a purple purse and post it on Facebook / instagram with the hashtag #purplepurse

 

Too awesome for Instagram

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Thanks to my very generous friend Kate (with help from Tony), my female Scientist Legos have arrived!

A chemist:

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An astronomer:

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And a paleontologist complete with (my favorite part of all), a dinosaur skeleton:

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I feel like I should add some insightful comment on gender roles and society, but frankly, I think these speak for themselves. Enough to say that it took me a surprisingly fun 30 minutes to build, and now I definitely want more Legos… I’m not sure I want to wait until Sam is old enough to play more…

Health kick update

I am pleased to report that my health kick is going well!! To recap, I had quite fuzzy goals. Nothing specific like a dress size, or a race to enter. I just basically wanted to move more, eat more veg, and feel a bit better.

I run in 90-100+ degrees currently - now THAT is dedication.

I run in 90-100+ degrees currently – now THAT is dedication.

Well, so far, I have succeeded! I have run twice a week since that goal. I am pleased that even running this small amount has allowed me to improve – I was worried twice a week might not be regular enough to see improvements in my pace and distance but I have gone from walking 1/2 of my paltry [<— must not be negative! Must be positive about my achievements!] 2.3 miles to jogging the whole way, and from struggling to get a 10.5/min mile, to averaging 9.5/min mile, with a PB of 9.23/mins. NOT BAD. Most importantly twice a week was just enough to get running vaguely pleasant – the first 6 or so runs I HATED almost every minute of – my body ached, my lungs burned and I felt like it was an uphill struggle. Now, while I wouldn’t put running on a par with eating chips on the sofa, it is now enjoyable in its own way. I am about ready to start turning one of my runs into a longer run – I’d like to build up to 10K over the next 6 months or so.

But my Houston Bayou run is pretty beautiful

But my Houston Bayou run is pretty beautiful

I am also zumba-ing once a week, and lifting weights twice a week. I am not sure if twice a week weight lifting will make much difference, but it is good to feel strong and do something a little different to cardio.

Most boring food picture int he world?!?

Most boring food picture in the world?!?

My diet *is* better. It’s not amazing, but it is better. At least 1/2 of the week I am not having a McDonalds for breakfast. The green smoothies started to make me really queasy (my body really revolts against green things), but I have managed to have a banana and greek yogurt, or oatmeal with pumpkin some of the time – that’s a step up. I have a healthy BMI, so I wasn’t looking to particularly cut things from my diet (hello vanilla goldfish), but I was looking to get healthy things in – I am having more salads, and each day I have 1 serving of carrots and 1 of cherry tomatoes as snacks. I am almost at my 5 a day!! It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are allergic to almost all fruit (except the occasional banana) and most vegetables make you hurl (see the green smoothie issue) it’s an achievement.

I am actually also quite proud that I have managed to keep things sane as well. I have never entered any kind of lifestyle change without setting crazy intense goals for myself. Last time I tried sport, I was running a Tough Mudder (all of it! No skipping obstacles!) within 8 months. When I tried a healthy eating plan, I got myself visible abs in 12 weeks (which as I started at the same weight as when I was 24 weeks pregnant with Sam was quite a hard won achievement). It’s very weird for me just to do ‘healthy behaviors’ for the sake of doing healthy behaviors, and to press ahead of them without hope of some clear short term reward. It makes it easy to think ‘oh, I won’t bother with a run today, I’ll do it another time’, but I have soldiered on so far. I keep telling myself that having things in moderation IS a healthy behavior, and I think of all these cheesy motivational quotes like:

“You can choose to make just today [or this meal] healthier”. Or “You are still lapping everyone on the couch”.

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Kinda hokey, I know. But hey, whatever works, right?

 

Image credit

http://vi.sualize.us/pos_of_motivation_quotes_videos_tips_gym8_picture_twsM.html

Thinking about a social media break

I am a big fan of Facebook. Recently I was challenged to write 3 things I was grateful for, for 7 days. On day 4 I wrote that I was grateful for Facebook as it helped me keep in touch with so many friends near and far. It helps distant family feel close to Sam, and it helps me reconnect with friends when I see them as if we had never been apart. I am not ignorant to the fact that several amazing presents have come my way on the back of Facebook comments.

So, while I do miss actual snail mail, with the tendency to include photos and cool things (and I love my friend Frances’ idea to reinstate the writing of actual proper letter, [and she even goes so far as to get them in the mail]) I am aware of all the benefits of social media. That being said, I am also aware of a growing downside to social media for me. It’s not the classic ‘comparing my outtakes to every else’s highlights real’ (which I managed to work through and overcome that a while ago) but more, the time sink. I have realized that given 20 or so minutes to myself  (which actually is all I seem to find to myself of late) I will choose to zone out in Facebook, even if it several times a day. I wonder if I could be doing something more productive during that time – relaxing, and a hobby, but more productive? Sewing, blogging, baking, walking all jump to mind. Anything other than scrolling through my newsfeed. I have lamented the neglected state of this blog and have missed writing it, but wondered when I would find the time – then I realized all together I probably spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, or facebook-originated click bait.

When I started to think about taking a break, I realized a second down side of social media to me – it’s kind of an information overload for me. I am a member of enough groups and media websites and that I get offered about 200 articles a day on Science, parenting, politics etc; but the thing is: most of them are terribly written. Even ifl Science has been winding me up with the inability to write accurately about a very simple Scientific concept: heritability. If ifl Science describes an 80% heritability as “80% of cases are due to genes” when actually it means that 80% of the population under study’s liability is due to genes, and thus potentially no single case could entirely due to genes, let alone 80% of cases…. I digress, if I can stop smile errors in areas of Science I know, what else is it describing inaccurately to me? Would I not be better off reading articles on PubMed? Along the same lines, do I need to read endless anti-vax articles which make me depressed or enraged depending on the time of day and amount of coffee I have had? Or more stupid, uniformed and inaccurate  comments from The Food Babe? Even more damaging for me: do I need to read parenting articles from pseudo scientists that make me defensive and insecure about a process I am actually entirely comfortable and and at ease with?

When I had a friend who left Facebook because she got depressed about other people’s lives looking so much ‘better’ than hers, I understood, but took the view that I don’t use social media in that way. I don’t use it to compare my life. I used it sensibly. But now, 2 hours + day of mindless scrolling later I wonder if I actually do? It is a great way to stay in touch with people, but perhaps I should confine it to that?

I have two stores that stick in my mind… One is of a friend who describes her birth as “my water broke at night… I went into hospital… after a couple of hours I found I didn’t have to wait for an epidural! I got mine immediately… slept through the night… woke up… waited for my OB and had a baby”. The other is of a friend who casually mentioned she was grateful for doing sleep training with their 8 week old. These stories interested me because both of these decisions: epidural and sleep training I arrived at after WEEKS of agonizing and hundreds of internet articles telling me that both would ruin my child and indicated that I was somehow less of a devoted parent. My two friends had reached these two decisions easily, and seemed oblivious to “the great debates” surrounding them. Ultimately they made the same decisions as me, but without the heartache. And ultimately, if they had made those decisions or the opposite, I am pretty sure they, their children and their families would have been just grand. It occurred to me that both these friends barely use facebook. They post the odd update, stay in touch… but are not the (dare I say) addict I am.

It really got me thinking that perhaps I needed to step away not just from the information overload, but from the uniformed information overload.

I am resolved not to break from Facebook, but to limit my time with it. Maybe a morning scroll in bed, a quick look in my lunch break. Maybe I don’t even need to be on every day?  I have toyed with taking a clean break for a while, but I would feel bad that my family would not see so many of Sam’s pictures. I am hoping that a break will still help stop me sharing everything via Facebook and gets me back to writing a few more blog posts . I am also hoping my stress from silly click bait is reduced.

What about you? Do you find social media positive or negative? Do you think it hold you back and uses up too much of your time, or have you got it where you like it?