Mar 182011

These days I spent most time with my son nagging him to hurry up already. From the minute I wake him in the morning to the time when I put his lights out in the evening our encounters are a string of, “Faster, you’re late, hurry up already.” This is not pleasant. I have come to resent the way he closes the zipper of his jacket or his shoes. It’s taking so much time.

He really is very slow in dressing and undressing himself, and in getting ready for anything. He – like me – has a problem with transitions. He – like me – also has a problem perceiving time. He doesn’t really feel how much time has passed, or how long things are taking. This is a real problem when he needs to get ready for school in the mornings, when he has to get home after school, and when he has to get ready for all his extra-curricular activities. His teacher even wrote about it on his report card. How much she doesn’t like reminding him every single day to get ready, get dressed and get home. Even the women who volunteer to help the children crossing streets are getting annoyed with him because he’s always the last one, and they stay there waiting and waiting instead of going home.

We have tried a lot of things, counting, setting a timer, not doing anything and sending him to school without breakfast, but what I mostly do is this constant nagging. It’s totally automatic by now, and I guess neither my son nor me listens to it. It’s just an unpleasant background noise. Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it since my son has turned deaf to it anyway but then I found I keep nagging because at least that’s a way to release some of my frustration. So I nag, nag, nag, and then I get angry, and tap my foot.

The other day, when he was telling us that the volunteer women had threatened to report him to the school we thought about how he could become better at this. His problem is that he is easily distracted, and so when he puts on his shoes and clothes after school, and chats with the other children he won’t do both at the same time. He either chats or gets ready.

All of a sudden I realized that he doesn’t have a way to measure how much time has passed. He doesn’t know if he is going fast or slow, he is just doing one thing after the other when it occurs to him. He lives pretty much in his head so the fact that he is still standing there in slippers while most of the other children have already gone home doesn’t register with him. And it doesn’t help that the friend who walks with him is about equally slow.

So we talked it all through and for the first time ever I asked him about the other children. He said there were quite a few who were as slow as him. And we asked, “And do they live as far away as you? And do they have volunteers waiting for them as well?” Turns out that those boys live just across the street from the school. So I asked him about the children that are getting ready much faster than him. And there is one boy, his best friend who gets ready very fast. So I told my son to watch him, and try to match him. And he did, and at least he is only late coming home from school, not extremely late.

The problem is that apart from us and the volunteers waiting for him, and getting worried because there might have happened something to him, he also has two days when he comes home, has 15 minutes to eat lunch, and has to leave for school again. Now, this was his choice. We told him not to sign up for those things but he really wanted to, and so we sit there, wait for him with lunch ready on the spot, and then tell him to hurry up because he’s late.

Evenings have been getting better, and then I remembered that that was when I told him the exact time when he had to be in pajamas, and then when the lights had to be out. Of course he couldn’t know. My husband and I knew that we wanted him to turn out the lights at 8.30 but nobody had bothered to tell him. The minute we told him he could look at the clock and see how many time he had left. Of course it helps that he can read time now. You can’t really do that with most younger children but with a second-grader you can.

So yesterday evening I sat him down and told him that he has to wake up at 6.45, get out of bed at 7.00, be dressed and ready for breakfast at 7.10, brush his teeth and get ready for school at 7.25, and leave a little later than 7.30.

Well, today it worked like a charm. He did struggle a bit, and then I know it’s quite a tight schedule, but he made it. I sat the clock next to him while he was putting on his clothes, and for once he realized that he does not have time to read or play in the morning. He could sit down for breakfast and instead of me telling him, “You’re late, you’re late, you should be brushing your teeth now.” he was the one glancing at the clock saying, “I only have four more minutes before I have to brush my teeth.”

I know that our schedule in the mornings is a bit too tight but I also know that neither my son nor I are ready to get up earlier than we do because that would mean to going to bed earlier as well. And having more time does not always lead to having less stress. I know that when I have the feeling to have plenty of time for something I often end up doing everything so slow that I have to hurry up in the end anyway.

Of course, now that it worked (once) I’m a bit angry at myself for not realizing this earlier. And I’m a bit afraid that this might be one of those things that work once, and then nevermore. But then I know that when I, as a grown woman, finally realized that catching the 7.05 bus meant leaving the house at 6.55, and that meant brushing my teeth and putting on makeup at 6.45, and that meant having breakfast at 6.15, and that meant getting up at 5.45, and that meant setting my alarm for 5.30 – that felt like a revelation to me. “You mean in order to catch the bus at 7.05 I have to set the alarm more than 1 1/2 hours earlier? Oh, that’s why my timing never worked. No wonder I had to rush and scramble every single morning. Duh.”

Duh indeed. I really hope that I will cease to resent the way my son – slowly and diligently – pulls up the zipper of his jacket. Or fastens and unfastens the velcro on his shoes not once, not twice but at least four times each time he puts them on. And I really hope that I can become more than a nagging device for him.

Mar 032011

And it’s already the beginning of March and so I thought I’d give you a little update about my huge goal of the year. Which was to lose at least 10 kilos (that’s 22 lbs) until the end of the year. As to be expected I got a little lax in February. The middle of February is traditionally known as the time when New Years resolutions start to drift away. You still remember them but you’re slowly sliding down into resignation. Into the “this is hard, and now that I’ve been so good for three weeks I’ve surely done enough.”

Well. That’s not how one loses weight. At least not me because this is not about losing a pound or two. So let’s see: I started out on January 1st with 89.9 kg, and the 1st of February saw me at 88.6. That looks great, doesn’t it? I should keep that in mind for motivation.

The problem is that then my weight went up again. At the beginning of January it was easier not to drink alcohol because my husband was skipping his usual glass of wine in the evenings as well. But now I keep finding reasons why tonight is a night where I’m entitled to just this one beer. Just this once, today. For almost a month or so. Oops.

Also in favor of pleasure now like donuts, or chocolate I keep forgetting the Goal. I keep forgetting that I was determined, and still am, to get to a weight where my knees don’t hurt, and where leaning down to tie my shoes doesn’t mean I pinch my stomach fat between my ribs and my thighs.

So while I haven’t done really badly so far I have to re-commit to this whole thing. Which I hereby have done.

Oh, and something that almost made me blow the whole thing? In the middle of February I read some sort of headline somewhere (I know, I’m all about diligent documentation) going like this: “I’d rather be skinny than have sex.” Really? Really? Not me. Nope. Definitely not. Of course that’s not a real choice. But if it were down to that I’d rather be fat. Also if I had to deny myself any pleasure at all. There is a reason I keep choosing the comfort of eating and food above being skinny.

So I hit a bump in mid-February and started to feel like it would never happen but – then I lost some more weight. Ha! I’m at 87.6 as of this morning. Which is 2.3 kilos less than on January 1st. And that even though I had half a liter of ice cream on Monday. And donuts today. But I tell you something: I won’t be doing that every day. That was the first ice cream this year so far, and I have vowed to not buy any more until May or so.

In February I thought I’d never lose any more weight and then I just carried on, and now I even look a bit slimmer. Not slim, mind you, but slimmer. One day I might have visible cheekbones again…

What about you? I’ll keep you posted.

Feb 142011

In my quest for self-improvement I have started quite a few journals: morning pages journal, food journal, practice journal, exercise journal, gratitude journal, writing journal, control journal (for housework), tarot journal, weight journal well, I think that’s about it. Oh, and a notebook to capture my project ideas, and then I also have a general notebook, and a knitting notebook, and a small notebook to carry in my purse, and another one next to the computer. And a record of books I buy and read. And a notebook to jot down musical ideas.

I also have to-do-list software. Then I found myself, after running, checking “running” off in three places. And then I thought that my journaling had gone a bit too far.

I started to record all these things in order to measure improvement. I wanted to achieve certain goals and I started of actually measuring whether I achieved them or not. Otherwise one can think that one exercises at least three times a week only to find that, oops, a week has gone by, and then another. That’s all very valid. I also love my morning pages, so I sit down and write them almost daily. And then I don’t for a few days, and then I go back to them. No problem.

I do love putting my exercise time in my calendar, and with the toggle of a button I can see all the days that I exercised in one place, and then I feel all virtuous.

The food journal, that’s another thing. I have started writing down what I eat many times in my life. And I started again on January 1st. At first I was all good, but then I missed a day here and there, then a whole week, and now I find that I’m really not all that interested in keeping a food journal. I don’t count calories or anything. I just write down “1 piece of toast with almond spread, 1 glass of orange juice, 1 cup of black tea with 1 piece of sugar”. Of course food journaling can help when you want to know what’s going on but I don’t need to write down “ate a whole bag of potato chips because I was bored and angry” to see why I have gained weight. There are people who eat better when keeping a food journal, I’m not one of them. I have food journal entries laying around the house from years ago that go, “Was completely pissed and therefore ate a bag of chips, one bag of gummy bears, half a chocolate bar, and two beers. Feel lousy and bloated. Half an hour later: finished the chocolate.” (Just typing this makes me nauseous these days. I think I have come a long way.)

So I try to be good with the food journaling but what’s the point. It helps to show me that the treats I give myself are not exactly treats because they happen just about every day. These days I’m rather good with food, mostly, and so I will skip the food journal.

But you know, every time I write a paragraph here I remember yet another journal of mine, and add it to the first paragraph. It’s clear that the record-keeping has gone out of hand. I’m not quite as insane as that list of journals implies, though, because there are quite a few of these journals that I no longer keep. But right now I’m on the verge of giving up on record-keeping altogether. These journals were meant to be helpful for me, not something to occupy me all the time. I think I might get rid of one or two.

It’s not like I bought about twenty notebooks one day and thought, “From now on I’ll record everything!” I just bought a morning pages book in 1999, well the first of many. And I’ve had general notebooks even longer than that. I remember going into the one big store in the small town where I lived until 1986 to buy a notebook because my life had reached a level of complexity too high for keeping it all in my head. That was about the same time that I started using a calendar as well. Until then there was the family wall calendar for things like doctor’s appointments and that was it.

Let’s see – the morning pages stay because I like them. Having several general notebooks makes it a bit hard to find things later but still I like it. And I have a system. Sort of. So they stay as well. Also the knitting notebook, and the place were I record my reading. I started cataloguing my books when I had bought the same book twice one day. I hadn’t remembered that I already had it. The gratitude journal didn’t really work out for me. When I read back it only made me realize how unhappy I really was. the control journal for housework never really worked either. I do know that I have to clean the house at least once a week. I don’t really need a checklist because a look at the house itself will tell me what to do.

I’m quite attached to weighing myself daily. I even have an iPod app that gives me progress reports on how I’m doing with weight loss. I think I’ll keep that. Apart from that I think I might take some time off from journals. I have taken a bit of time off from trying to improve myself in all areas at once anyway.

So for now I’ll accept that I’m both journaled out and self-helped out. I take a break. And I won’t create a new task on my electronic to-do-list that’s called: take time off from journaling, repeat daily until further notice. I promise.

Jan 302011

So after trying a multitude of things to change my life and me for the better I’m trying to stick to one goal again. The Goal. I don’t do all that well with goals. While deadlines usually help me a lot (if they aren’t too tight.) In my experience I just state goals, get all enthusiastic about them, and then wander off. At the end of the year I often don’t even remember what I started out to do. Goals like: get to bed on time, lose weight, exercise more, become a tidy person get stated on a daily or weekly basis, and then abandoned.

But this year I thought I’d give it a try again. My one (not only but most important) goal for this year is:

Lose 10 kilos of weight or more.

I know. Pathetic, boring, and unexciting goal.

I thought I’d do it properly this time, think about my goal in advance, make it public, hold myself accountable, and such. Well, I did state it in December, I told my husband that this time I was adamant about losing weight, and that I would start January 1st. And I did. I made a few rules for myself because this time I am actually going on a kind of “diet”, and I did pretty well for about, um, two weeks. I will keep on trying, though, because defeat is not an option.

Now you might think why is my weight such a big deal? Well, for one I am heavier than I have ever been in my life. That would be quite okay if I hadn’t gained weight steadily for the past three years. While I might resign myself to be a somewhat overweight person, I can’t resign myself to be a really fat person in the near future.

I did lose weight between 2005 and 2007. My lowest weight in the past years has been about 70 kilos in the summer of 2007. this year on January first I weighed 89.9 kilos. And there were days when my weight was even higher. I could just see myself go over 100 in a few years. (And just for comparison that means that I went from a BMI of 23.1 to one of 29.7 which is quite overweight.)

Of course I had thought that if I just lived a bit better – getting enough sleep, exercise, and eat real food – that my weight might just drop by itself but it didn’t. Even adding running to the mix didn’t do it.

So after a year where I focused on becoming a happier person, I know want to focus mainly on becoming a slimmer person. My rules are:

  1. No alcohol but on special occasions. (Like my husband’s birthday and such. I found throughout this month that there were quite a few special occasions which meant an average of 1 1/1 beers per week.)
  2. No sweets but an occasional piece of dark chocolate.
  3. No crackers.
  4. No potato chips.
  5. No grazing all afternoon or evening.

At the moment I just don’t buy any foods that I tend to binge on. After almost a month of this I did buy some gummy bears for my son again but I don’t get to eat any of them. I used to store some snack foods in my studio for afternoon snacks but I cleared them all out. Now I have to go to the kitchen, get myself an afternoon snack, and that’s it.

And yes, I feel a bit defeated because I need to do this, and when I succeed I want to do it for yet another year so that in the end I might just feel like myself again. Also I want to be able to wear dresses in the summer without my thighs rubbing against each other, and I want to be able to run without my knees hurting. I’m fine so far but of course all this extra weight strains my joints.

I’ll be using this blog to hold myself accountable but I won’t turn this into a diet blog. Just know that as of today I’m weighing 88.9 kilos, on kilo down. When I started this I had told myself that if I didn’t lose at least a kilo by mid-February I would have to join Weight Watchers.

While I’m happy to have lost any weight at all, I also found myself getting lax with my rules after about three weeks. One reason was that in the beginning my husband also didn’t drink any alcohol. But then he went back to his glass of wine in the evening. One reason is that I am obviously not able to stick to any rules for any amount of time. Well, that means I have to forgive myself and do better today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. For the next few years.

I just have to be all “only today” about it, otherwise I’ll be driving myself crazy.

I still long to be a person who just eats, and that’s it but so far it hasn’t worked.

Sep 042010

Woops. I bet you all thought I had given up on this (if you remember at all). So I set out to make this the year of my very own happiness project. I gave myself a bunch of habits to change and practice in order to become a happier person.

These are the things I have been working on:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.
  7. Wear clothes that make me feel good.

Again, I did some of these things, never all of them, and then there was something else which I’ll tell you about later. First, how did I do these past months?

  1. I tell you, “go to bed in time” is still not really happening. I did worse, and then better, and then much worse, and now better again, but frankly, if I can’t get enough sleep during summer break it will get even harder once school starts again. This said, the link between getting enough sleep and being a happier person is totally clear to me. Even if I enjoyed myself staying up late and thought it would be totally worth it I’m still grumpier and without much energy the day after. If I manage to sleep nine hours I’m feeling like myself again. So this is still top of my list.
  2. I’ve been doing a bit better with picking up and housework. My husband said he had the feeling that “sit” was my default setting, and he is right. By the time I get up from breakfast he has been down to the basement and over to the annex ten times already. So I continue pushing myself towards being a tidy person. I feel much better when my surroundings are pleasant and tidy so I will have to continue working on this.
  3. I did really, really well with the fiction writing until mid-July. Then the madness of the two weeks before summer break hit, and I was stuck on my current story, and with one thing or another I haven’t been writing at all since then. I definitely need to get back into that habit, though, when I do it I feel much, much better. What I did do was start writing morning pages in earnest again, and that helps a bit. Still, fiction writing is fiction writing, and I quite like the story I’m working on so I will have to find a way to ease back into it.
  4. Thinking about things I love about my family, students, and friends, well, it went very well with my family. As always I enjoy spending time with my son and husband, we really enjoy our time off from school. Having a little break from students is also quite nice for a change.
  5. With the exercise I didn’t do as much as I wanted but even during the time when I thought I wasn’t exercising at all I managed to do something once or twice a week. Since the middle of August I have been walking and running at least three times a week. While I had managed to get my fitness up to the point where I could run for half an hour some time in spring I had to start all over again. Which I did about three weeks ago. So far I’m still in the “run for two minutes, then walk for three” – stage, and only barely make it through my one hour of work-out but over all it makes me feel much, much better. Being on the verge of becoming a runner makes me feel much more confident, and I love my body better. It might be overweight, pale, have chubby knees and varicose veins but it’s tough enough to run. Not for that long but if I keep up I will be able to run about 10k at some point. Me. I would have thought I could never do that. I’m just not built for running. Ha! Definite happiness boost there.
  6. Play the piano every day? Who? Me? Somehow this gets pushed back constantly. One thing is that my piano is horribly de-tuned again, and I’m secretly waiting for heating season again when it will magically pop back in tune. I hope. If it doesn’t I will have to get the piano-tuner to come over again.
  7. The clothes part. That one was weighing heavier on me than I realized. I managed to pack away all the clothes that don’t fit me anymore at some point but then I was left with a closet that was quite empty. I don’t have a pair of shorts, I only have one pair of jeans (that is sporting a hole), I only have one faded hoodie cardigan, and about five tees, most of those black with funny phrases on them. An outing with my husband in May to buy a suit for him resulted in me getting a pair of linen pants that don’t fit very well, and a coat that I really like. (We also got a suit for my husband. He is really easy to buy clothes for. Just today we went into a store and an hour later emerged with a winter coat, pants, two shirts and two t-shirts. The only things he tried on were the coat and the pants, and they just fit as well. I wish it were as easy for me.) But things are looking up, I went clothes shopping yesterday after not wanting to spend any money for months, and I got two pairs of pants, a new winter coat (I still had one that worked perfectly fine so I didn’t want to spend money on one, ahem. That one is seven years old…), a pair of yoga pants, everyday sneakers, and next week I’ll go to another store and get myself a couple of new t-shirts as well. I will continue to work on this because it really makes a difference. Clothes that fit do lift my mood tremendously. Also at some point I will have to learn that buying new shoes and coats every five years is not over-indulgence.

Well, it’s better to try and fail than not to have tried, isn’t it?

One thing that I realized through this project was that while all of these habits help making me happier they still didn’t help enough. Most days I was just sitting there depressed without energy. So I did some serious thinking and found that mostly the problem was my mood swinging back and forth almost daily because of hormonal shifts. And while things like getting enough sleep and exercise do help with that as well it’s still not enough. So I decided to go back on hormonal birth control for a short time. Just to make sure that it really was hormones. And, lo and behold, my mood and my energy levels have been much more constant for the weeks since I started that again. Now, I don’t really like the way I feel, it’s like a low-level meh-feeling. Not bad but not good either. I can’t take the pill for a longer time because I’m too over-weight and old for that. But for me this is proof that there is really something wrong with my hormonal system (and I know that thing is called peri-menopause), and I will make an appointment with somebody specializing in this kind of thing soon.

If I had to name the single most important thing on the list, though, it would be the exercise.

May 122010

As I said in my last “year of happiness”-update I’m planning to look through my clothes, see what still fits me, and then eventually buy new ones. Well, for several weeks in a row now, I haven’t been able to find the space and time to pull all my clothes out.

Today I went and bought myself some new shoes, and when I came back with not only one pair but two I suddenly realized that I have done the thing most women do when they have gained weight, and are unhappy with their clothes. They buy shoes because their feet haven’t gotten bigger, and so it’s easier to find something that fits and looks nice.

Only I have been buying a pair of running shoes, and a pair for hiking. After almost three months of running at least once a week, and after my knees started hurting because I’m running in an old pair of sneakers meant to be used for step aerobics I thought it was finally time to commit to real running shoes. (What do you mean you don’t own step aerobic shoes? Really?) The new shoes aren’t really pretty but very functional. And the hiking boots were on sale, and for years now I have wanted new ones. You know how it goes, you get pregnant and your feet grow bigger, and then every time you go to the Alps to hike you put on your boots, and you find that your toes hurt, and when you come back in the evening they feel like someone has repeatedly hit them with a hammer, and then you think that you really would like to have new boots, but then you think about the fact that you need three other pairs of shoes first (walking shoes, black Mary Janes, and sneakers for indoors), and that you only go hiking once or twice a year, and you don’t buy any, and this goes on for years and years.

And then you see hiking boots on sale just when you received the money from teaching one of your knitting classes. And somehow it feels very good to take the money from the knitting class and put it into athletic shoes. Those boots aren’t pretty either, so no pictures today. But I can’t wait to try them out. And I’ll go for a run outside tomorrow. Even if it’s raining.

On another note, I have been knitting things like crazy, and am still waiting for the sun to make a re-appearance to take pictures of those things. Right now it’s either light or I have time, never both.

And who knows, maybe I’ll tackle my closet this weekend. Stay tuned.

May 042010

It feels like the year has been going on forever, doesn’t it (and I know it’s already May, sorry)? And now we enter that phase where resolutions start to fade, and everything goes back to normal. So to counter this I renewed my commitment to become happy, and started over. So here are the things I have been doing to become happy:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.

Well, I had, let’s say, mixed results. Still, even trying has made me a bit happier. It’s not about succeeding all the time, it is about inching my way towards a happier me. So let’s see how I did:

  1. I didn’t do well with the “going to bed on time” again. You could say I should just give up on this resolution but still I know that this is key to feeling better. When I manage to get eight hours of sleep or more I feel so much better. Of course, today I’m feeling smug because I managed to get enough for two nights in a row. I really hope I can continue this streak. I’m planning to give myself stickers again for every day that I manage to turn the lights out before 10.30. Wish me luck.
  2. The picking up after myself goes really well. I even do the kitchen, and have managed to tame the laundry monster. I give myself a pat on the shoulder for that. Now I’d like to add some cleaning into the mix. That would be fantastic. I only don’t quite know when to do it but I fear this has to come out of my computer time.
  3. I’ve been writing constantly, and I’m really happy about that. There was a point where I was totally unhappy with my story, and didn’t write because it felt all so arbitrary, and made up. And then I found that what was really bothering me was that I had all these characters at the beginning of the story that got abandoned, and then it all went somewhere else. So I decided to bring them back in, and now the writing is flying. So far I have written about 45,000 words on this. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? And all I do is spend about twenty to thirty minutes a day on this. The thing that I’d really like to do on top of this is edit another story of mine. I can’t seem to find the time to do that as well. May I’ll take that one along when we travel at the beginning of June. We’ll see. For now, while I’m mostly writing “only” five days a week I’m really happy with that.
  4. Think about the things I love about the people around me. That’s quite hard to do for me. But I’m slowly getting there. Every time I feel myself dreading to teach I remind myself of what delightful people my students are, and then my work seems less of a drudgery and more enjoyable. Every time I think, “Oh, and now I have to get my son to bed, I’d rather watch TV.” I remind myself how much I love reading to him in the evening. Every time my husband goes on my nerves I reming myself of the things I love about him, and how much he does for me, and this family. And that makes me happier.
  5. The exercising. Well, the good thing is that I am exercising. I exercised ten times in the month of April. Not quite the “three times a week or more” quota but still way more than last year. Again, I don’t quite know where to fit the exercise into my day. I usually have a bit of time after lunch but really, I don’t see myself going for a run on a full stomach. Still, I’ll be getting there.
  6. The piano, well, failure. I blame others, of course. You see, there it is, my shiny new piano that I love. A few weeks after getting it I decided to have it tuned. I got a complementary tuning with the purchase. You’re supposed to let the piano sit for about three weeks before having it tuned, so I did. It was mostly okay, only a few notes out of tune here and there but there was a slight problem with one of the keys, and so I asked them to send a piano tuner over. The tuner came, he asked me how I wanted it tuned, I said, “Please, tune it to 440 Hz.” He said he probably couldn’t do that because it was a new piano, and a little “high-strung”. (One of these days I’ll get my piano tuned to 440 Hz. One day. One day when I switch from guitar to piano I won’t have the feeling that everything sounds shrill and out of tune.) So, this nice little man tuned the piano. He spent more than an hour on a piano that was almost in tune. Then he played a few chords for me, and left, and I felt all happy that my piano was finally in tune, and ready for my husband to record something with it. Until my husband stopped me that evening and said, “You know that your piano is completely out of tune, don’t you?” Well, I didn’t, and he was right. The piano sounds much worse than it did before the tuning. There are keys that play two different tones simultaneously, and obviously that tuner must have had a very bad day, and a problem with very high and very low notes because those sound horrible. This has somehow taken the joy out of my piano playing. I toyed with the idea of having him come back and tune it again but then I just decided to have my regular piano tuner come in, never mind the 100€ that will cost me, at least the piano will be in order afterwards. So I’m looking forward to this Thursday very much when he will come in, and care for my poor piano. While I didn’t play the piano that often I did start to practice guitar again, so things are looking up.

The thing foremost in my mind this month, though, was how much weight I have gained. I’m feeling quite unhappy about that. When thinking what part of it made me unhappy the most it is not how I look, or feel, it’s how my clothes fit. And the fact that I’m taking up more space than I think I do, I’m constantly bumping into furniture, and if I am in a tight space, and somebody wants to get past me I have to flatten myself against the wall. Also I’d like to become a bit fitter; but mostly it’s my clothes.

Last year I thought I’d be back to a normal shape in no time, and I wasn’t going to buy a whole new wardrobe but by now it’s about 20 kilos I want to get rid of, and if I manage to get in weight-loss mode again, and lose weight at my usual pace of about 300 to 400 grams a month, then – well, let’s just say, I definitely need a few bigger t-shirts until I’m back in shape. So that’s the thing I’ll concentrate on in May. So far I have been trying to sort my clothes into what fits and what doesn’t, and I haven’t quite been able to make time for that. Not even on the two ‘free’ weekends I had. Of course everything will be getting even busier as usual in the next two weeks so we’ll see how that works out. At least I went out shopping with my husband who needed a whole new wardrobe too (because everybody needs new clothes every three or four years, not because he ‘outgrew’ any of them), and now at least I am the proud owner of a second pair of pants that almost fits, a really great new jacket, and a blouse. Onwards and upwards, then.

Mar 302010

Of course I had wanted to write these update posts at the beginning of the month, not at the end but since it’s still March if just barely – and anyway I can’t help it. I didn’t get to write this earlier so it’s late.

The third month after a new year’s resolution is always a bit slow. Most years this would be the point where I gave up. Like most people I start with a lot of enthusiasm in January, fall of the wagon in February, and in March I’d be giving up. But not this year. As I told you before I’m making these resolutions to become happy. So far they are:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.

And I can tell you that I feel like I’m playing this party game (it’s German) where somebody starts by saying, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat.” And then the next person says, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat and an umbrella.” and the next, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat, an umbrella, and an elephant.” and so on. Good thing the year only has twelve months, don’t you think? So here’s this month’s report:

  1. I’m still not going to bed on time! I can report, though, that sleep is directly related to happiness. It’s very easy: if I sleep enough I’m easy-going, nice, patient, and happy; when I don’t sleep enough I’m cranky, irritable, forgetful, prone to mistakes, and don’t get anything done.
    Still, every single day at 9.30 I think, “Oh, it’s not that late, I can still watch something on TV, read, write, knit, whatever.” at 10.15 I think, “Well, I should be in bed by now but if I hurry it’s not that bad.” and then I just sit a little longer only to go to bed at 11.30.
    I’ve watched myself, I do this every single night. Any every night I think that something else is at fault. It’s my husband who wanted to watch an episode of DS9 with me, it’s my son who went to bed too late so that my evening routine got screwed, it’s the knitting project where I just want to knit one more row, it’s the fight I had that made me unable to calm down, it’s the book that was so gripping, it’s the e-mail that came in (and why I’m checking e-mail at that hour is fodder for yet another post), well, you get the drift.
  2. I’m better at picking up after myself. As always when I become aware of it, the minute I do it I feel better. This doesn’t mean that the house is all tidy or clean but there are less small messes lying around, and that’s a very good thing. I have to keep working on it, though, already there’s a stray ball of yarn on the dresser, a half-empty water glass on the desk, and assorted papers all over the house. I also would like to find a solution for the stuff I’m currently keeping on top of the fridge, like my PDA, and it’s keyboard, pens, cables and such. the kitchen has become my second office/studio since I still have to spend my evenings there. My son is sleeping in his bed all right, but he still wants one of us nearby all the time. I don’t really mind spending my evenings there but I do mind the stuff I put there.
  3. I will have to change that resolution to “write at least 500 words five times a week” because that’s the most I can get to. I’m still stuck with my story, and therefore I haven’t been as enthusiastic with my writing as I had wished for but I did write. Most weeks I wrote about 2,500 words, and today when I printed my story out in full I ended up with an impressive stack of paper. I think my problem with being stuck results from the fact that I only ever have written very small increments of this story, I don’t have chapters or scenes or even lists of characters. And because I’m acting under time constraints every single day I never find the time to look up the name of that tall blonde woman that keeps reappearing. And that’s just stupid. I downloaded a writing software and will use Easter break to go through what I have.
    I’m happy to report that writing those measly 500 words makes me happy every single time I do it. And it doesn’t matter if the writing is good or bad, or I’m feeling stuck or not, it never fails.
    Also, I remember when writing the one NaNoWriMo first draft that I still like I had the same feeling of being stuck and boring through most of it. And when I read it I couldn’t tell.
  4. I’m struggling with the ‘”think about the things I love about the people around me”-resolution in a massive way. But every time I remember and try it it makes me happy. Instead of thinking about the fact that I have to work now, and sit there listening to the same pieces played badly over and over again I think about what I like about that student, and how he or she has come a long way. And by this little trick of the mind I find myself anticipating the students instead of dreading the work. This tool also makes me realize how much I still love my husband after all these years. We both work on being nice and polite towards each other, and of giving each other and our son frequent hugs. Definitely a win-win.
  5. I’m especially proud to report that I am actually exercising three times a week or more. I have been doing my running and walking thing for six weeks now, and I’m actually able to run for twenty minutes straight (well, very slowly) without keeling over. I’m still doing this in the safety and comfort of my own room which is a bit silly, but when I ventured outside into the garden last week I found that, yes, running in the grass is very different of running very small laps inside, and that it’s hayfever season. So for now I’m staying indoors. After finishing my nine weeks of training I will go outside, and hopefully even run with my husband. He is very patient with the unfit.
    In related news I did lose about a pound of weight, not that much but still a very exciting new trend. And if I ever manage to get enough sleep I hope to maybe lose another pound in the near future.

I also went to a really nice tap dancing workshop one day, and did some yoga on two days. Seems I’m moving again, which makes me very happy, indeed.

My new resolution for this month is to play the piano every day. So far I’ve been playing and not playing on and off but I’m making a bit more time for it, and that’s a very good thing.

The other things that made me happy were that I bought two new spindles, and my new project of spinning and knitting a cardigan. I had been all sensible and told myself not to buy any new spinning fiber before I had spun up all that I had, and then I sat there spinning the same oatmeal colored roving day in and day out. This has been an ongoing project for years now, and while I will finish spinning that eventually I started to feel a bit down looking at that oatmeal brown especially when the weather was not at all spring-like. I went wild, ordered some new roving, and now I’m busy spinning bright orange silk and merino and I love it.

Sometimes it’s doing the sensible thing that makes me happy, and sometimes it’s doing the wild thing. As you know, “It’s not easy being green”:

Jan 252010

It’s that time of year again, the time when my son is scared. When the days grow shorter and darker he traditionally develops a fear of – something. One year it was skeletons, one year it was masks, one year it was ghosts, one year it was robbers, this year it’s quite specific, a green skeletal devil with horns.

It all started at the beginning of November (yes, that’s three months ago, almost) when he sat in front of TV to watch something about a zoo. At 5 in the afternoon there was a trailer for a murder mystery. In this trailer there was a tiny blip showing somebody wearing a halloween costume with a green mask and devil’s horns.

The night before was the last night my son has slept in his bed since then. And if that wouldn’t have been unnerving enough he is also afraid of being alone. So when, for example, he is playing in his room, and I’m sitting in the kitchen, and then I want to get something from the basement, and I’d be unwise enough to open the actual door and get down the stairs there would be a wailing child running after me. And when I’d get up again he’d stand there, mad at me and screaming, “How dare you leave me alone? You know I’m scared!” On the other hand he will totally go to the supermarket alone and buy a toy. No problem there. It’s just being alone at the house. Or rather somewhere where he doesn’t see or here another person because we never ever leave him alone at the house.

When he is going to sleep there has to be someone with him in the next room (we have drawn the line at being in the same room) at all times. So I’m no longer allowed to watch DVDs in my very favorite chair in front of our big old TV, no I have to sit on the hard and cold kitchen bench with my laptop who then decides it doesn’t like this particular DVD. After that I go into my bedroom without having talked a word with my husband (who is in the annex, working on his new album) and get to bed, the bed I share with my son. I’m not allowed to turn off the light completely, and I have to push him back to his side of the bed repeatedly and with force because for some strange reason I don’t like to share my pillow. Also, repeatedly through the night there will be a clear, ringing voice calling, “Mama?” in near panic. Which makes me more awake than him and then, just when I have gone to sleep again, he asks again.

My husband and I have been taking turns in “night duty”, and once or twice a week he sleeps at my mother-in-laws place to give us a break. I only really realized how much I feel like being on a leash when yesterday while my son was away with his grandmother I sat in the kitchen knitting, and then wondered what my husband was doing. I sat there for a while and then it hit me: I could just stand up, leave the room and go over into the annex without someone yelling at me! Wow. Sweet freedom.

Now, for those of you not familiar with my son, he is not 18 months old, no, he’s 7 years. He knows perfectly well that he is safe in the house. Ever since he turned three we could leave him playing in one part of the house and go to the annex, at least briefly. He has always been afraid of the dark so he there’s a light in his room, and for quite some time now there had to be someone in the next room when he went to sleep. Once he had fallen asleep whoever was on duty that night could walk out, and then only return when it was time to got to sleep ourselves.

I have a big problem with this. I can’t sleep properly. When I hear anybody scream “Mama?” I have to suppress the urge to slap that child whoever it is. I have told everybody I’ve met for the past three months about this. I’d say I have a problem.

Now, I know that he is really scared. I know that his fear isn’t rational and I remember how it is at that age. That’s why he has a light on while falling asleep, and that’s why there is someone near. But then I also remember that even though I was afraid there were bears in the basement I still went there. Telling myself, “There are no bears in the basement, there are no bears in the basement.” all the time. And you know what? I never saw a single bear there.

My son on the other hand, my son who knows perfectly well that there are no strange devils lurking in the corners of our house, my son ends every talk about how we just please want to sleep again, and how we know that he is scared but that he is perfectly safe with the same sentence: “But I’m scared.” Yeah, we knew that already, thanks.

I bought nice educational books, I elevated his stuffed giraffe to a monster-slaying super-toy (worked for half an hour), bought him a magic slumber mouse (he was set on trying to sleep alone but then he went off to his grandma’s and the next night he was – too scared again).

Everybody we have talked to so far has said the following things:

  • every child is afraid of something
  • there are a lot of children who still sleep in their parents beds
  • this too will pass
  • maybe stickers will help
  • and the final thing, when we kept on saying, “Yeah, we tried that but it didn’t work.” or “Yeah, I knew that already.” then people say, “You have to get help.”

And you know what? They might be right. On the other hand it’s not as if I didn’t know anything about behavior modification or parenting. And our son is really, really stubborn. You know, I’m a pretty stubborn person but that’s nothing compared to him. I talked to a student who happens to have a son the same age as mine about what to do when your son is really rude and threatens to hit you, and he said, “Well, then he has to go to his room until he has calmed down.” And I looked at him, blinking for a couple of seconds with a blank look, and then I said, “And he just goes there?” And he said, “Well, if he doesn’t I make him.” That made me laugh really hard. I can, of course, lift my son up and carry him to his room, and I might even manage to close the door behind him but since we don’t own a key to that door there is nothing to keep him in there. I put him to his room, he comes out again, I put him back, he comes out again, I start screaming, he’s howling, I put him back… One time we spent 90 minutes pulling on opposite side of the door both of us screaming, and then he was only three years old. And when everything fails he just runs off to his grandmother.

Still I have decided not to let him oppress me any longer. He wants to wail behind me when I’m leaving the room? So be it. I also told him that he has to sleep in his room again. He’ll get a sticker for every night he spends in his own bed, and after two weeks we’ll go ice skating. Yesterday he actually fell asleep in his own room. My husband was lying next to him, but still. I went to bed at 11. At 11.30 he started calling me. Then he called again. Some time later he started crying. Then he called again. At 1 o’clock in the night I allowed him to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of my room…

Tonight we’re signing a contract, both of us. He will either sleep in his room alone without making a noise or he will go to my bedroom on tiptoes without disturbing me and stay in the sleeping bag. When he stays in his room until 6.45 there will be a sticker. 14 stickers equal a trip to the ice skating rink. There will be no discussions , no wailing, no nothing. I might have to add that we have a “no discussions about things I should do or buy for him after 6 in the evening”-rule. This child will have a debate about whether or not he will eat breakfast, come to the table or dress himself for school. I told him he’s free to not eat and walk to school in his pajamas, whatever he wants. Then he yelled at me for no making him stop reading when it was time to get ready. Very funny.

Wish me luck.

Jun 142009

I had a bit of a weird week last week. We came back from the trip to my parent’s to a week with almost no teaching. I distinctly remember that there was a lot of laundry and grocery shopping at the beginning of the week.

On Wednesday we all went to a fabulous concert, WeBe3 at the Unterfahrt. It was my son’s first time ever attending a jazz concert. We didn’t have a babysitter, and since he didn’t have to go to school this week too we decided it might be fun to have him with us for the first part. He behaved marvelous even thought the concert didn’t start until his usual bedtime. At first he was a bit disappointed because he had expected to go to a big concert like the rock concerts he has seen on TV in big stadiums but we were at a nice little jazz club. He was very interested (and well prepared, we had been listening to WEBe3 CDs all day long. At one point he said, “I wish this were on CD, and I could listen to it in my bed.” but he didn’t fall asleep. In the break my husband took him back home, and I got to stay and see the second set as well.

I always feel a bit strange at these concerts. I have been to many WeBe3 and Rhiannon (who is a member of WeBe3) concerts over the years. Just that day I met someone who told me he had attended one of Rhiannon’s workshops 12 years ago. I remember being at that workshop with him, and I doubt that it was my first with her. So, I know the singers on stage very well, and I know about two thirds of the audience as well, since there are a lot of singers who come back again, and again.

I know those singers, and I like them but we only meet for the workshops and concerts. It’s not like we were a community or friends or anything. So I get to experience a very familiar feeling, being part of something, and being apart at the same time.

Everything was wonderful until after the concert when I decided to say hello to Rhiannon because this year I didn’t attend the workshop. I waited and waited, and then waited some more, and then got to say hello, and then waited some more, and then talked some, and waited, until I had missed my train by four minutes. Blah.

That experience, combined with PMS and heavy sleep deprivation because I had been up until half past three, only to be woken up by my son at 8, sent me back to a feeling of not being an artist, and not being a real musician, and that crappy familiar mindset.

I decided to not take those feelings seriously, to just write my story for my writer’s meeting on the same evening. Of course I could have written that story two months ago, or one month ago but, as usual, I chose to procrastinate about it until the very last minute. I wrote about half of the story with gnashing teeth, then I hit a wall, and then I had to leave in order to get to the meeting.

That was one of the most interesting writer’s group meetings ever because besides me nobody else showed up. You can imagine how I felt at first, sitting in a café at a table on the sidewalk, waiting for one of my fellow writers to show up so that I could discuss my writer’s block, and general lack of creativity with them, and waiting, andcursing myself for being too busy to send out my usual “I’m coming who else will be there”-e-mail.

Fortunately I had taken the book “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron with me. I hadn’t want to at first because it’s heavy and I was already running a bit late. In fact I had left home with my hair still damp and no make-up in order to catch my train. I didn’t quite know why I wanted to lug that heavy book around but then I got to read for an hour, and I found myself just a bit more grounded, and a bit more optimistic, and I made a plan.

I decided that each, and every day I’d play the piano for ten minutes before switching on my computer. And I decided to, somehow, find the time to write three pages of longhand on something fictional.

I’ve done that two times already and I can say that: a) I feel much better, b) if I do that I don’t have time for doing something on the computer before three in the afternoon, this will be interesting when tomorrow my regular teaching starts again, c) the story I started for the meeting, and that I had wanted to be about 1,000 words long, now stands at 1,800 and has barely started, and d) I’m really excited, and am looking forward to even doing housework.

So, now I’m praying for the strength and discipline to continue with that. I also tackled things that have been laying around for ages, I have weaved in the ends of two lace shawls, and two pairs of socks, some of them had been laying around, finished, since the beginning of the year. I also finished a pair of socks, and finished spinning the yarn for a cardigan. I had started spinning that in August or September of last year.

And the most startling thing that I have been doing was that I helped my husband with moving and turning the compost yesterday. We worked in the garden, all three of us together. You probably can’t imagine the novelty of that, the last time I did any yard work (and that was before my son was born, mind you) my husband took a picture as proof.

When I can go on like this I will be able to ease myself into a new routine. A much happier routine. Because when I start my day with morning pages, and a bit of exercise (I’ve been doing morning pages and a bit of T-Tapp in the mornings before even getting out of bed for a couple of weeks now.), I can face the rest of the world, and life, and everything much calmer.