Tag Archives: new years resolutions

Epiphany and 2018 Resolutions

Nope, not “epiphany” but “Epiphany”. So (sadly) I have not had either a major breakthrough nor a dramatic insight. However it *is* the time when we (us Christian-folks) stop celebrating the birth of Jesus and on the date (ahem, cough cough) that the 3 Kings came and acknowledged Baby Jesus in person, we start recognizing Jesus as The Son of God, and so appreciate all His sacrifice for our salvation.

In other words, we stop partying and start praying.

AKA: We gotta take those Christmas decorations down (sob).

emma bridgewater hollywreath christmas star christmas rose

Good bye Christmas Emma Bridgewater….

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Hello everyday Emma!

In fact, US-peeps may not know that for us UK-folks, Epiphany (or 12th night) is often considered the date by which all our Christmas decorations must be down or WE SHALL BE FOREVER CURSED. Or at least, if not exactly forever cursed, we will have bad luck for the year… and weirdly, for a repressed group of folks such as us Brits, we do often adhere to this superstition. Feeling like I have had enough “bad luck” recently (thanks 2017), all my decorations are indeed down now (sob, again), although due to my slight tardiness I decided to adhere to something I read on a pottery board* this week (always a good place to get religious and / or metaphysical advice…) and chose midday on Epiphany as the final cut-point rather than the night before Epiphany. (And should anyone care to know, this involved me running outside in my PJs, glasses, and bedhead into freezing cold Houston at 11.45 am this morning and hastily taking down my outside decorations… nice mental image for you there).

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And a magnificent tree it was… much maligned by our naughty elf indeed

If, like me, you don’t really recognize NYE due to all the post Christmas booze and cheese muddling your brain a healthy recognition that progress should be a constant process free from the constraints of artificial checkpoints, Epiphany is also a time when it is hard to avoid looking back. And let’s face it, 2017 sucked for me. Like, here is a real, actual screenshot of Webster’s Dictionary:

A really, bad, awful year:

noun   a.real.ly.bad.aw.ful.year   /Lekki in 2017/

  1. The year you nearly destroy your hard-won career trying to save your marriage only to find out your husband probably never liked being married to you, lied to you for 3 years about his earnings, stole $4K of tax money from the family, committed identify theft in your name, officially accused you of domestic abuse in a document to court, officially accused you of child abuse in a document to court, lied in court, smuggled drugs into Texas to sell using a credit card in your name, requested the court keep you from seeing your kids at all for two years, requested the court evaluate you for “the mental defect that makes you so abusive” and – possibly worst of all – spent the last 6 months you were together (and trying to save your marriage remember) setting you up and both secretly and not so secretly filming you to document you as violent and abusive so he could ensure when he left you, he got the house, child support and alimony. All while you were still in love with the guy who, OK, was a pot head and lazy, but was funny and laid back and good at things you are not (like building fences) and was, after all, your husband.

And the illustrated version has a picture of my “2017 best 9” from Instagram. Its an awfully specific definition, but I swear it’s there. And, I’m not saying this actually happened to me (denial is more than just a river in Egypt my friends), I am just saying this that would be a really, really bad year. And that I had a really, really bad year.

However, what amazes me is that the kids and I had the most amazingly, perfect advent season! (And I swear this is not the anti depressants talking!). We managed to hone our weekends to be busy, but fun, with lots of kiddo-mummy time, and we managed to check every Christmas box that either I, or they, felt needed to be checked…

And we did have a gloriously perfect, drunken (me), magical (them), spoiled (all of us) batsh*t crazy (also all of us), Christmas Day.

Such that, (and I swear this isn’t the barbital talking) when someone asked me what my 2018 resolutions were, despite thinking super hard, I couldn’t come up with anything I would change (nothing I have the power to reasonably change anyway…). I think I have figured out our finances, I have figured out how have some luxuries on a shoestring and stash a little away, how to have amazing weekends with the kids, how to stay on top of all those life things like car repairs and tax returns and changing air filters and de-fleaing the dogs… the house is kept clean (passably), and I cook a variety of healthy foods most nights (but we also visit Mickey D’s a fair bit because… academia people).

[Also, in the interests of honesty, the kids don’t actually eat those foods, but throw a chicken dinosaur or two in front of them and be quick or you’ll draw back a nub… but hey, I’m eating like a queen… Witness a wee sample of the beautiful meals my children have refused to eat

]

For now, I actually do just want to be able to keep doing what I am doing for a while… and there is nothing I want to improve…

In the end I came up with “seeing a new movie, and trying a new food” each month for my resolutions. Maybe I’ll do that… I don’t care if I don’t, but maybe I will 🙂

Happy 2018.

*Ummm… yes I did just admit to hanging out on pottery boards.

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Planning for 2016

I tend to shy away from making New Years’ Resolutions. I am not sure why. While I love the idea of setting goals so maybe it is the years of my attempts to achieve them not going past 2-3 weeks that have left me jaded. Or, perhaps it is that right now smaller goals (go to the gym, read books, try new recipes, that kind of ilk) are not what I need. I wrote at the end of 2014 that I had not been that happy that year, and was resolved to rectify it in 2015. Sad to say that I didn’t. I mean, I don’t want anyone to think that I was sitting in a pool of misery the whole time, but something big was missing from my life for me to say: yes I am happy with this. Certainly I had a lot to be happy with: a great son, a much wanted second pregnancy (and then a much wanted daughter), a job I love (although I don’t perform at it in a way that makes me happy), and a hobby I love (card making). I also make strides forward in 2015: I developed a bigger friendship group, was the recipient of several grants and a National-level award, including one from NIH and improved our home no end. So, perhaps a lack of contentment is a better word, because overall there were very happy moments. I just wouldn’t say that I was happy.

Can't deny these things make me pretty lucky

Can’t deny these things make me pretty lucky

I did get the gift of 12 weeks maternity leave right at the end of the year. It was a glorious reset. For the first time, I got to sit and do (relatively) nothing. I only went into the office once a week, once Caroline was 3 weeks old (delivering a successful presentation nonetheless!)  and did an hour or so emails a day. The rest of the time was gloriously mine. With no pressures and no demands, it was interesting to see what I did. I made wall displays in our house. I redid the kiddos playroom. I built a china display cabinet and started collecting Emma Bridgewater pottery (thanks to Clio who sent out several pieces while I was pregnant, and much to the dismay of my poor parents who are now being forced to source and purchase pottery and – even worse – get it out to the US!). I kept Sam home way more than I should have from the perspective of ‘giving preschoolers good routines’. I spent hours getting to know Caroline: playing games, holding her, soaking her in. Because I had so much more free time I spent evening time just soaking in Sam too, in all his glorious preschooler-ness. All his quirks, and his loves. I appreciated the joy in being his mum.

Joy

Joy

What didn’t I do? I didn’t write any grants or papers. I honestly thought that I would, but given the choice I chose not to. That is not to say that (1) I don’t enjoy these things (I do), or (2) there is no space for them in my life (there is. There had better be, anyway). But it became clear to me that these were not to be the sole things I focussed on to be happy. Along those lines, it was interesting the work tasks I missed doing (being part of my twin study, discussing and writing up new ideas, getting that first set of exciting [though often wrong] results), and of course, those I didn’t.

I knew that going into 2016 I needed to make a change. It seemed clear that I needed to set some goals and figure out steps to achieve them. So, I started looking into planners. Just a subjective impression, but it seems that planners are a very American thing – big binders full of pintrest ideas, to do lists, trackers and so on. But they appeal to me – I need ways to organize my thoughts and my actions, figure out my goals track if I am achieving them. I use a lot of planner-style apps and of course my blog is a ‘brain dump’ and a planner. Turns out this idea (using a planner), is not so revolutionary after all. There are bloody millions of planners, and even more forums, facebook groups, blogs and even Meet-up groups dedicated to them. Wow. Where to start? I did read some reviews, and had my planner choice whittled down to 4 or 5, but was loathe to drop $40-80 (yes really!) on something I have never used before.

The came the Passion Planner. The passion planner was already in my top 5 because it met all of my requirements: blank ‘brain dump’ spaces, daily time slots broken into smaller sections, prompts for goal setting and reviewing and lots of space for to do lists. Oh, and it was one of the cheapest at $30. What held me back was that it was black and white and that I wasn’t clear if it was actually any better than any of the more expensive, but much prettier ones. What made me pull the trigger? You can get it free. Yes free. All you have to do is share this link on social media (http://www.passionplanner.com/downloads-2/) and you can download the whole planner as a PDF file. No outlay, so Passion Planner it is.

Passion planner does have prompts and charts to help you goal set, but I suspect my issue is more global than that. I want to do things well, and I want to do a lot of things. My goals include: spend quality time with my kids, work at my job hard, run a toddler craft group, run a stampin’ up business, collect Emma Bridgewater pottery, keep a really nice house, write a personal blog, write an academia blog, write a crafting blog,  see my friends, read non fiction books, volunteer, look after my animals more, be more present and more purposeful, eat better, exercise, get Sam a regular out-of-the-house hobby, bake more, cook more, commit to a regularly weekly food shop, stop wasting money, breast feed for another 10 months, stop wasting time so much on the internet and, and, and. Clearly I cannot do all of this – even without a toddler and infant and a deep need for a lot of sleep (I am one of those ‘8 hours a day or else’ people). So what to choose and what to prioritize?

More time with these things please.

More time with these things please.

My friend chic in academia to the rescue… She wrote this lovely post on writing a goal statement. She gives much more guidance in her post, but the idea is think hard about your values, strengths, needs and talents and write an overall statement summing those up. From there you goals should flow. So that is what I am off to do. I am hoping that at the end of this process (mission statement and goal setting) I will have a much clearer path forward; I will know what to say yes and no to, and how to fill my time. I hope it will give me motivation to spend the time I currently spend glazed over on the internet more purposefully and I hope it will also give me the gift of guilt free relaxation. I am looking forward to sharing my process with you.

Edited to add: writing this post has made me reflect on how gloriously lucky I am: I have the kids I wanted, a job I love, enviable health and many, many superficial trappings (‘things’). I am still on a goal setting path though 🙂

Do you set goals? How do you do it? How do you keep track of important things? Does anyone use a planner regularly, and if so, do you have any tips to share with me?

 

 

Things that made me happy in 2014

Looking back, I think that 2014 was one of my toughest years yet. Simply because I was very unhappy for much of it. Which it feels churlish to say, since I landed an awesome job and watched my beautiful infant grow into a loving, happy, toddler from within a my large detached house and throughout all this neither I nor my family suffered from any major illnesses (somewhat of a first…). Clearly my blessings were manifold. Which goes to show you that happiness really cannot be bought, and is more complex to achieve than we think.

How could this little thing not make me happy?

How could this little thing not make me happy?

I hate being unhappy because I hate the person it makes me. I become negative and distant and difficult to be around. I complain. A lot. I am mean about the people I love to the people who love them. I consume the conversation around me with minor worries that can’t be solved. It’s boring. I am not there for my friends when they need me, because I am so consumed with my own problems. I lash out inappropriately and insensitively. I drain those around me.

So, when I got to thinking about 2015 and New Years Resolutions, all I could think was ‘I just want to be happy’. But where to start? Then I read this post by Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point in which she lists the ‘Things [she] did to make [her] life better in 2014′. And that seemed like a  great place to start – if I can list the things that made me happy in 2014, I can strive to do more of them in 2014. So here we go:

Things I did that Made Me Happy In 2014:

1. Got Early NIghts

For some reason I had it in my head that I couldn’t go to bed before 10.30, and generally I would kill time until about 11 pm. Then on Christmas Eve, Wes and I watched Downton Abbey and it finished at 9.30. We couldn’t think of anything else to watch and so Wes said “Shall we just go to bed?”.

“No!” I exclaimed in horror, although I did admit that I was tired, and I proceeded to fail to think of a single thing I did want to do. So grudgingly I went up to bed, and lay down. Within minutes I was asleep, and got possibly the best nights’ sleep I have had in ages. Even better, instead of being roused from the depths of a dreamless sleep by the raw of an angry dwarf, I woke slowly and peacefully and gazed at the window quietly until I came to. When the dwarf did yell, I felt more than happy to go and grab him.

I have had 9.30 bedtimes twice since. It has been glorious. I may have discovered it late in the year, but so far just going to bed super early has been one of the things that has made me feel the best.

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Early snuggles

 

2. Cleaned up my Facebook feed

I am a feminist (so are you too, probably, you just might not know it), and I am politically liberal, and these stances mean a lot to me. I want to fight for gender equality and gender acceptance and women’s rights and universal healthcare. But Facebook is probably not the place for me to do that (too much). While those issues are very dear to my heart and I have no intention on being silent about them, getting into Facebook scraps and reading what the latest idiot teabagger was doing actually brought me a lot of stress. Much as I enjoyed Slate and some other online magazines, NOT reading about why I should be angry made me… well… a lot less angry.

I also ‘unfollowed’ some friends who frequently speak about being anti marriage-equality, or write things I feel are racist, the vocal anti-vaxxers, and some “friends” whose news feed I was checking only to have mean thoughts about them (come on, I was not the only one who did this, right?). I still follow people who challenge my views, but not those who anger them.

3. Sorted out my skin care

Ahh…. I discovered Kiehls. This is the first brand to moisturize my very dry skin, without making it dull or breakout, and the first brand to make a noticeable difference to my wrinkles. It’s an indulgence, but it is not crazy expensive.

4. Drank more water

I was plagued with headaches and migraines for months, and in the middle of a bunch of investigations, 2 doctors said to me “You might have diabetes insipidus – you should see an endocrinologist”. Diabetes Insipidus (DI) is basically a condition were you pee too much / don’t absorb enough water and when I looked up DI treatment for milk cases it was basically ‘drink a lot of water’. So… I have started doing that. Like 120 fl oz / day on top of my daily decaf coffees and other fluids. Boom – headaches gone and for the first time in my life EVER I have nice nails (oh wait, second time, the first time was pregnancy). Gone are the dry, brittle, flaky things I had and in their places are quite reasonable talons!

Water it is…

5. Ate Salads

I always feel good after eating a salad. I never wish I had chosen something else. Enough said.

6. Played hooky

A great day to sneak off work

A great day to sneak off work

Just occasionally 🙂

7. Cleaned

I hate to admit it, but I never regret getting down and really cleaning out a section of the house, and I ALWAYS feel great afterwards. I just have to bite the bullet and do it. I must be getting old….

8. Spent time intentionally

This would make anyone happy

This would make anyone happy

This was one of the things that made me most happy, but one of the hardest to do. When I had free time, it would often be in snatches and I found it hard to sit down and focus in on anything, so I spent a lot of time just reading Facebook and surfing the internet. That definitely did not make me happy. At all. But every time I sat down and did a project, no matter how big or small, I felt so much better after.

I was so delighted when I did a ‘craft swap’ with my friend Mandy at the end of the year – I was challenged to make a batch of Christmas cards for her, and so I was ‘forced’ to sit and create. Often sitting down was the hardest part, but once I started the time flew and I felt great afterwards (somewhat like going to the gym… but that is another story).

Loved making all these

Loved making all these cards

9. Spent time with my boy

It sounds obvious, right? You have a kid, you want to spend time with him. However, funnily enough, people often suggest the opposite. But when I was unhappy, or tired, or stressed, people usually said “Take some time for yourself! Get a manicure! Go shopping! Get your hair done!”. I can see that for many that is great advice, but for me: Sam is my happiness. Sam is my fun, he is my comfort, he is my worry and my bliss and wild side and my rest. I am never as happy as when he and I have done an activity together that we have both engaged in – I love to read books with him, bake with him, romp in the park with him.

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This. This is what makes me happy.

I hope that being conscious of these things will being them more fully into my life. I am aware of all the friends who have stuck by me when I have done almost nothing but moan this year – I am truly blessed to know you and you will always have my heartfelt gratitude.

Here is to changing in 2015 and being ‘me’ again.

Obligatory New Year’s Eve Resolutions Post

…. In which I don’t make any resolutions. Well I sort of do… hear me out.

I was struggling to write this post, or make any resolutions, but could not fathom why. Then I read this post over at Healthy Tipping Point and it helped me understand my feelings so much.

I look back at 2012 and think… Hmmmm… how did this go?

Ringing in 2012!

Ringing in 2012!

In January I started seriously job hunting, which entailed many long trips.

Job hunting trip to Houston

Job hunting trip in Houston

In February I fell pregnant.

Big Fat Positive

In March I presented to the American Heart Association, and had my last vacation in a while: a wonderful hiking trip through Utah and Arizona.

Canyonlands hiking

Canyonlands hiking

In April I went house hunting, and in May I bought a house.

Us and our new home

In June I traveled to San Francisco to speak for NIH, said goodbye to many wonderful friends in Alabama, moved State to Texas and immediately started my new job. (I also celebrated my first wedding anniversary).

I worked very hard June-November, submitting 3 grants in 3 months.

In July I traveled to New York, and in September, 8 months pregnant, I traveled to San Antonio to present at a conference.

Central Park

Central Park

In November I had my son, suffered severe complications, and very quickly..

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in December I went back to the office.

So, 2012 involved (among other things): finding a job, buying a house, moving State, starting a new job and having a baby.

I. Am. Exhausted.

Happy, but exhausted.

Post race... happy, but exhausted :)

Post race… happy, but exhausted 🙂

Looking back at 2011… it wasn’t exactly quiet. I got a grip on my postdoc academic career, submitting a grant which was funded, and submitting about 10 papers, which were eventually published. I whittled my body into shape, achieving ‘visible’ abs for the first time in my life, and got serious about fitness, culminating in a Tough Mudder 1/2 marathon.  This was also the year Wes proposed, and I got married (twice) – not so much personal goals, but time and energy consuming happy occasions.

I was pretty tired by the end of that 😉

So, what now? I am looking for a change of tact. I am now looking to seek contentment over happiness (or perhaps as well as). Let me explain… I am a very happy person. I think anyone who knows me (even people who have only known me a short while) would describe me as extremely happy.Everything above made me very, very happy. However, perhaps it is a Type A personality trait: I am rarely ‘content’.

A good example of this is: Getting fit enough (actually getting fit at all!) to run a 5K easily made me happy… but then I had to run a 10K, which also made me happy… but it became a 15K and a 1/2 marathon.  Having a great boyfriend made me very happy… but I wanted to marry him… and have a baby… Doing well in my postdoc was wonderful, but I had to publish more… have more students… submit more grants than any other postdoc at UAB… get a good faculty position…

And so it goes. Always very happy, never very content. This has a darker side, because I am never content with anything much, and while that be OK for running PRs, and Science publications it is not so great when you start to want to improve your husband, and your house, and when you look around and don’t like where you live because you could live somewhere with better walking… and better shops… and less guns… and so on. Things you don’t have the power to improve can quickly make you unhappy when you are always striving for everything to be better.

Cliched now, but true for me.

Cliched now, but true for me at the moment.

So, for just a while, it is time to stop. My resolution is to seek the kind of contentment which will allow me to look back at the end of 2013 and say ‘I am happy, and I am content’. I want to be content with my house, and content with my beautiful son (who I love so much I want to cry when I say that), and content with my amazing husband (who yes, can be cranky and difficult, but is also hilariously funny, beautifully sweet and who puts me & Sam first like no one else ever could).

This doesn’t mean that I am going to lie about eating cake on the sofa and not trying at anything (although that doesn’t sound like a bad plan 🙂 ). It means I am going to work on the things I have, without always having to be ‘bigger, better, best’. I can work on small steps which will allow me to be content with what I have. So, I don’t really have resolutions, more ‘vague things’ I would like to do in 2013:

I would like to be content with my house, so I hope to work in decorating and refurbishing it, and make it make it a lovely, welcoming place to be, and reflection of mine and Wes’ tastes and personalities.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

I would like to be content with my career, so I hope to build a research program which is defined not by papers and grants (although they must surely come!) but by the exploration of novel ideas, and the possibility of generating results that could truly improve human health.

I would like to be content with my family, so I hope to spend more time with them, just enjoying them, and understanding who they are where thy come from. I hope more time together will help me always remember their good qualities.

Pretty good family to be content with.

Pretty good family to be content with.

I would like to be content with my body (it is funny, the more you workout, the more you lose, the leaner you become… the less content you are. Or so it was for me). To work on nourishing it, keeping it healthy, appreciating its awesome power, and loving it for what it is.

So… no resolutions. No steps. No goals. 23% chance I will go crazy in March and roar ‘I must achieve something’ and make a huge ‘goals’ list and be running a full marathon by June. But for now… No tick boxes for me – I personally have had quite enough of those the past 2 years. I just resolve (I guess there is a resolution there) to stop, enjoy what I have, and seek contentment. I don’t see this as a permanent state of mind, more of putting down some good foundations for the future. Building a safe and happy base, from which I can take on more work responsibilities, or have another child (high on my list of thigns I want to eventually do) – all in a healthy, stable, happy environment.

I hope to be putting down some solid roots, so a strong tree can grow.

Happy New year y’all 🙂 Have a wonderful 2013!! What are you striving for in 2013?

Image credit

http://lifechangequotes.com/the-serenity-prayer-reinhold-niebuhr/

An Early Start on 2013 Resolutions

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I don’t really have any resolutions, but I do have some things I would like to do in 2013 (if you get the distinction). One is to turn our house into a home. The house we live in now is gorgeous structurally: large spacious rooms, wooden floors, sun room, dining room bathed in light. But we have not done much with it, other than move our stuff in, and keep it fairly clean and tidy.

I have not owned, or settled, somewhere for 3 years. I previously owned a flat in London, but I was heinously broke and struggled to deal with how tiny it was – it was a beautiful place, but very cluttered with all my junk (and animals). Then I rented in Birmingham – one nice apartment and one hell hole. Now Wes and I own our own home, and intend to be here a good 3-5 years at the least, I am more motivated to try to do something nice with it – something personal, something Better Homes and Garden-y. It has struck me how nice it is to go into Sam’s room which is properly painted, has a color scheme and decorations and so on. So, with the zest I previously applied to changing my body, I now intend to change the house.

First up: cleaning out my wardrobe, which was an absolute abomination.

This is how it started (and this was a GOOD day):

Messy wardrobe

Messy wardrobe

Yeah… it was bad. So, I put Sam in his jungle gym of entertainment and hilarity:

Fisher Price rainforest jungle gym

So amusing to a 7 week old

And set to it. These were my steps:

1. Take EVERYTHING out. Yes. Everything.

Empty wardrobe

Empty wardrobe

2. Sort it into piles:
‘work trousers’, ‘work skirts’, ‘work tops’, ‘work dresses’
‘weekend trousers’, ‘weekend skirts’, ‘weekend tops’, ‘weekend dresses’
‘sweaters’ ‘evening dresses’ ‘long dresses [not evening’], ‘vest tops’
‘pyjamas’, ‘sports gear’, ‘lounging around the house’

piles of clothes

This is actually organized believe it or not

Note: This is the ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’ stage. Also note: if you have been let off other house chores to get this done, and that person who is slaving away cleaning the kitchen sees this, they may go bananas at this stage. Weather the storm… weather the storm.

3. Go through RUTHLESSLY. Remove everything that doesn’t fit (NO it will NEVER fit), is tattered, is only in the wardrobe for sentimental reasons, is ripped or torn, doesn’t have anything else that goes with it or you always put on and take off again.

4. Then look at each pile and remove even more items if the pile is too big for your lifestyle e.g. I have not worn an evening dress for 3 years (sob)… I don’t need 11, no matter how beautiful they are. I don’t need 24 work dresses (yes really).

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Yeah, the above pic shows how much I got rid of. Ouch.

5. Rehang in the sections from stage 2.

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All told, it took about 7-8 hours (over 3 days) but felt MARVELOUS when done. Future projects will be more crafty (I am making a blind this weekend… bit nervous about that) but this was a great, and needed, start to sorting this place out.

Monkey stayed with me most of the time, but graduated to his tummy time mat 🙂 :

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