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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bling My Bag

I recently got a new company-issued laptop.  It's a behemoth, a 17-inch with a battery back that adds another two or three inches behind the hinge to its girth.  This presented a serious problem for me.  It won't fit into my cute laptop roller bag.  In fact, I scrolled through many websites and could not find anything it would fit in for less than $400.  
I ended up with this bag.  It's company-issued, it fits my laptop, and it's . . . well . . . meh.  I feel like I got lost on my way to LAX.  It needs something, that je ne sais pas that magically transforms it.  So that's where you all come in.  Please help me transform this blah bag.

Here are the constraints:

  1. It has to be work-ready.  Nothing that is going to get me stereotyped into the cat lady or the nutty Disneyphile, for example.  It goes without saying that it can't be risque or involve anything NSFW.
  2. The design has to be theoretically removable.  This means that with some work I could take it off if I ever have to give the bag back to the company.  However, the likelihood that they will want it back after I am done with it is in reality pretty small.  Which brings me to the next constraint . . . 
  3. It has to be durable.  The reason I didn't just go with a cute tote is that I am hard on "stuff".  I break things, spill things, swing things around.  And if I don't, DD surely will.  So it has to be built to last.  
  4. I can follow directions fairly well, even semi-complicated ones, but I am no da Vinci.  If you give me a pattern, I might be ok.
That's it.  Design away!  Please give me your ideas; I'll post the finished product as soon as it's done and make sure you receive your due credit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Insomnia: A Tragicomedy

It's been a really, really long time since I could sleep on my own without some kind of chemical help.  Too long.  Along the road, I have blamed my insomnia on all sorts of things.  Maybe writing it out will help me figure out what it really is.  Or maybe it will just be entertaining.

I've always been a light sleeper; maybe it's better described as a dark sleeper.  If there is a smidgeon of light shining through the window, I know it and I'm up.  If there is sound outside my window, I'm up.  I can rarely take naps - only if I'm completely exhausted or in the first trimester of pregnancy, and there's nothing else to worry about.  

However, things got much worse somewhere down the road.  It's easy to blame it on pregnancy (if you slept like a rock through all three trimesters, I bet you have a colostomy bag) or the extreme sleep deprivation of those first few months of my daughter's life.  In fact I think the most ludicrous advice I have heard about child-rearing, at least for me, was to sleep when the baby sleeps.  I have to pause a minute to let out all of the expletives in my mind associated with that phrase . . . ahh now that's better.  Ok.  I couldn't "just sleep" when my daughter slept.  I don't nap, and especially don't nap when I am worried about the baby.  I had post-partum depression and anxiety, and a million things could have gone wrong with said baby if I took a nap!  There were a zillion things I could be doing at naptime!  Like cleaning (which I hate to this day, and would beat myself up about because if I couldn't do such a simple task then I must certainly not be able to take care of a baby), sanitizing pumping equipment, sanitizing bottles, doing laundry, obsessing over whether she slept, et cetera, et cetera.  So I didn't sleep much at all.

Then when she did sleep, we all got sick.  I got sick for a very long time.  That's what happens in daycare, it doesn't stay in daycare.  Oh no.  It comes back to your house and infects your whole family.  I remember our first Thanksgiving party at daycare when all of the parents were there and I had bronchitis and I covered my mouth when I coughed.  And another mom said, "Don't bother; we all have it."  And she was right.  Hubby and I burned through our sick days and then our vacation like it was truly en fuego.  Luckily the happy munchkin would bounce right back; she's had two and a half rounds of antibiotics in her entire 3 years and three months' existence.  In contrast, I had 13 rounds of antibiotics in one year.  On top of the PPD which I still had, I was now either sick or recovering from the side effects of the antibiotics for six straight months.  This combination, I tell you, will truly drive you to the nuthouse.  Things were happening to my body that most people dare not to speak of, and they were chronic.  

Somewhere in the haze of the sickness, somewhere around her year and a half mark, I realized I needed serious help to sleep.  I was no longer sleeping every other night; it was more like two nights no sleep, one night six hours.  Rinse & repeat.  So I went to my GP and got a prescription for Ambien.  Sweet Jesus, rest at last!  I slept GREAT on Ambien.  I would bound out of bed the next morning with a big ol' smile on my face.  This was awesome for about two or three weeks, which is about the time the doctor told me I should wean myself off of Ambien.  Easier said than done.  One of the side effects is that you can't sleep the day after you take it!  Or the day after that.  Or the day after that . . . 

Four months went by, and I decided I needed another GP.  I was snapping at my husband over the tiniest little things and crying every day.  Every day.  It was then that I got a new GP and went through a sleep study (I most definitely do not have sleep apnea and I do have severe chronic insomnia), and we determined that maybe some happy pills were in order, as well as a therapist.

That was probably the best advice I had gotten to date.  The therapist and I worked on why I thought I was a bad mother, which had a lot to do with that sentence a few paragraphs back that went, "If I can't do x, then how can I possibly expect to do y" and a lactation consultant who might be super-qualified to help you figure out how to latch, but has never had a day of PPD training in her life.  More expletives in the head. . . that's better.  So I started to get better sleep hygiene habits, and started a worry journal.  The worry journal was great after a few weeks, as I could look back at all the stuff I worried about and see that either it worked out fine, or it didn't and I got over it.  So the depression went away.

But not the insomnia.  So I eventually quit the therapist, stayed on the happy pills, and decided a glass or two of wine would knock me out just fine, or some melatonin.  And they did, and that was fine, till I got bored of drinking wine (I know! perish the thought) and read that melatonin was not good if you wanted to get pregnant.  Because we were fine, right?  And we want another baby.  Well my body told me that we were NOT fine, and eventually I went back to the doc and was given an anti-anxiety med.  This one worked GREAT for sleep, it still does.  But it's not one of those things you take when you want to get pregnant.  In fact, it's gone rockstar-bad for some people.  

Finally this spring I decided maybe I needed a psychiatrist.  She switched my happy pills to happier pills and finally the anxiety is going away.  She tells me maybe now is not a good time to get pregnant (and I agree, reluctantly).  Maybe I have to sleep on my own before it's a good time.  Ok.  Then work got REALLY crazy.  I'm doing two fulltime jobs!  I even got Employee of the Month, which is awesome if you're single and have no attachments. Now it's a reminder to me of how much time I had to spend with people at work and not my family, how much I missed out on this summer.  Thank you, I'd gladly pass up that award and the plaque and the nice paperweight in exchange for my overtime back as vacation.  Alas. . . 

We recently went for a trip to see our families.  It was awesome.  I finally stopped obsessing about work and have decided that I'll give them my all for 40 hours a week, but that's it.  That seems to be helping.  But I am scared to ease off that insomnia medication.  Every time I have tried (before family trip), it goes like this.  Ok I'm not taking it tonight!  I'm gonna sleep!  Umm what if I don't?  Oh no it's x am and I'm not asleep!  Oh no! . . . let's think about. . . a song!  (get pumped up on song) Noooo I want to sleep!  Let's think about nothing.  Nothing turns into something . . .  I psych myself out of sleeping.  Hmm.

So I guess I don't really fit any type of description of insomniac anymore.  Kid's too old and I'm too happy with her for it to be PPD.  I've been practically bulletproof from sickness (cross my fingers) for the last year and a half, so it's not that.  Stress at work has eased.  I'm an insomniac for no reason.  Yay me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Going Paleo

By now, I'm calling it official: we're going paleo.  The paleo diet just makes sense for our family.  It started out with Hubby.  During kettlebell class, he became more and more interested in this diet that was supposed to make you stronger and feel better.  That led to research and reading and soon he was on the paleo diet.

I found this to be terribly ironic.  Four years ago, I went in tears to a nutritionist.  I was uncontrollably itchy and had been living this way for over a year.  None of the doctors could find anything wrong.  I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  She looked at my diet and said, "All I see is sugar, sugar, sugar."  She advised me to quit wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and any fruit except Granny Smith apples.  

The results were extraordinary - I quit itching within a day and felt truly better in a week.  I ate this way without fail for about four months, and since I have not returned to eating the same foods.  My Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (which has been traced to insulin resistance) disappeared. Of course, after I raved about it, Hubby forgot about it until he saw it in class.  Husbands!  

At any rate, Hubby went entirely paleo very quickly.  I have been making the conversion gradually.  The household itself, though, had already started making the transition.  Nobody ate the bread and it went moldy.  My daughter, M, is eating cereal only around once a week.  We started having grass-fed beef delivered to our door. We started building a home vegetable garden with blueberries and strawberries as well.  At a festival one weekend, a vendor asked what we would think about having organic fruits and vegetables delivered straight from the farm - I said sign us up!  So now we're taking full advantage of the farmlands north of us and getting it way cheaper than the grocery store, too.  

During this time, Hubby dropped 15 lbs. (and counting) without dieting.  I started to feel better and the junk food and wheat just weren't around.  M still drinks milk of course, and we still have cheese occasionally, but that's about our only cheat (except for my continual love of wine).  Our final decision came when we had to pick what we were doing for her lunch at her new school.  They have what they call "hot lunch" at a rate of $4.50/day (ouch!), consisting of sandwiches and potato chips, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and pizza.  Alternatively you can pack your little munchkin's lunch.  We have been rather spoiled at our current daycare, where an on-site chef is employed full-time.  But now, we decided we couldn't in good conscience or good financial sense go with the hot lunch option.  This actually simplifies things because now we'll be making lunches for three ahead of time instead of one.  

Hubby has been really creative with our diet.  Instead of having chili, we'll sub the beans out for broccoli slaw.  We eat all kinds of fruit and vegetable varieties, as you never know what's ready for picking from the farm and will show up at the door.  We eat sweet potato fries occasionally.  We make breakfast for M instead of throwing cereal at her in a cup on the way to school. And the infrared grill which makes all food rock is getting a true workout.  And we actually eat leftovers before they go bad! Imagine that!

Since we made the switch, we're finding out some of our friends have been doing this for a long time, some of them for various health reasons.  We're not alone.

One more reason I <3 steak!

Monday, June 6, 2011


Wow has it really been that long since I've posted?  I guess it has.  I've been pretty busy - I am in the middle of a work project that's about to hit the ground and I also took over for someone in my department who is now on maternity leave, a month and a half earlier than expected.  Between that and my ever-present insomnia, DH and I decided that I should take the summer off from school.  So I have some more time to work and hopefully someday I'll have a little time to relax!

In all this craziness, I have found that sometimes it is actually better to work a little at night and on the weekends so that I can get ahead of my overloaded to-do list.  This is contrary to what I usually have experienced in the past; normally this just makes me crazy.  But since the work itself isn't all that bad, just the amount of it, things seem to go better when I put in an extra hour on the laptop here and there with no distractions.

The other thing I discovered is how much a workout can take a load of stress off of you and just burn it off.  Last week I felt simply panicked at how much was on my plate, and burned rubber to get to Zumba in time to screech into a parking spot and run in.  Soon I was working so physically hard that I forgot all about my other stuff.  Much to my family's delight, I was a much more calm and pleasant person.  The key is to find something that you love to do to expend all that energy, not just slaving away on the treadmill (unless you're into that sort of thing).  So don't lose yourself so much in taking care of other people or working that you forget to let yourself take care of yourself once in awhile. You might even do it all better as a result.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Juggling Act

  Yesterday morning, I was feeling pretty together.  I even got a compliment from my daughter's daycare teacher on our little nametag clothing stickers and wrote down the url for the site where we get them.  I drove to work with a song in my heart, parked the car, popped the trunk and realized: I left the laptop at home.

Yes it happens to the best of us and I am, admittedly, not the best planner and organizer.  However I do manage to hold my own - most of the time.  I've come a long way from the disheveled mess I was two years ago.  I have taken some well-published advice and made up a few tricks along the way, adding in a dash of Lean and Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM).  Here's my crazy method that usually works well:

Rule #1.  Do little tasks when you remember them, not when it is convenient.  If I would have put my laptop into my trunk the minute I finished with it, like I usually do, I would have never had that 'doh! moment the other day.  Or when I saw it in the hallway at 10pm the night before.  Or at 7am in my pj's.  This goes for taking out the trash, taking the laundry downstairs, and pretty much everything else that is easy to forget repeatedly.  If you are a parent, you are constantly distracted and the chance of derailment by munchkin or anything else is very high.

Rule #2.  Sync calendars with your partner.  This way, you don't get sidelined by a surprise activity, whether that is a commitment that one of you made that the other might have forgotten, or something else that one of you plans to do but forgot to tell the other one.  The added benefit is if one of you forgets to look, the other one picks up on the activity in their calendar.  In business we call this having a project plan.  Here, your family is the overall project.  As in business, don't put every little task or reminder in here or it gets cluttered up and ignored, and you have no concept of what the big stuff is anymore.

Rule #3.  Try, try, try to put your stuff in the same place.  Everyone knows this and we're all guilty of breaking this rule at one time or another.  Sooner or later it catches up with ya.

Rule #4.  Get your kid to help you.  I was shocked to find out how helpful a two-year-old could be.  If they have enough motivation they can accomplish quite a bit, like finding lost keys, cleaning up, etc. and may well find the task more enjoyable than you ever would.

Rule #5.  Stick to structured routines during the week and leave the spontaneous things for the weekend.  If you always do the same routine, chances are it takes a lot less effort to remember.  For my morning, it's get dressed, check on the munchkin, feed the fish, feed the cats, start the coffee, make breakfast.  Like clockwork.  Little kids crave routine - can you really blame them?

Rule #6.  When it all comes crashing down, laugh, brush yourself off, and forgive yourself.  None of us are perfect and things go wrong all the time.  There is nothing to be gained from dwelling on it.  As I learned in a well-known weight loss program, One day at a time, no guilt, and move on!

Two years ago in the middle of PPD, I would let something as small as forgetting a bib to completely ruin my self-image as a mother.  Today, I remind myself that forgetting a bib is nothing more than that, forgetting a bib.  If everyone's still alive and in one piece, you will recover and that's all that matters.