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  • With Apologies

    With Apologies

    As most of you who follow this blog know, Mikenna was diagnosed with heart failure on Friday. Right now, she's doing really well. The medicines showed pretty good improvement in getting some fluid off of her chest in the first night, so that's good. Once we got the fluid off, we were able to see that her heart isn't -as-bad as initially thought. 

    That said, my baby girl is still dying. We go back to the vet on Friday to see how much a week's worth of medicine has done for her. If it continues to work well for her, we may very well get more good time with her - and right now, we're cautiously opimistic that this is the case. But still, heart failure is heart failure. We could get two years if we're extremely lucky. A year would be phenomenal. Six months is the average, but dogs who respond to ace inhibitors tend to do better. You just don't know.

    So all that to say, I'm not going to worry about blogging this week. I'm going to use the posts I had to buffer my queue a little bit, and let myself work on taking care of myself and my Koo. 

    Regular posts will resume July 6th, barring further complications. :) 

  • The 5am Miracle: Part 1 of 2

    The 5am Miracle: Part 1 of 2

    I read this book called The 5am Miracle, a few months ago. It's based on a podcast by Jeff Sanders that features tips on productivity and living your best life. It's a nice little boost of intelligence and motivation. So, first, I'm going to tell you a little bit about some of what the 5am miracle is about. Then, for the next week, I am going to try and live by the habits I set up based on that book, and tell you about it.

    Caveat: While Sanders strongly recommends getting up at 5am, I understand and honor the fact that I am not a morning person. At all. The only time I get up at those sort of obscene hours and stay up is when we're taking a trip up to Michigan. So I'm going to adapt the 5am miracle into, say, the 8am miracle. Maybe 9am. I'll think about it and get back to you on that.

    ---

    Why get up at 5am? Because 5am is a block of time when life is calm and peaceful. There are few distractions, and you can take time to yourself. 5am is a symbol for taking control - life and time are in your hands. Few people use their minutes wisely, and getting up at 5am can be your most precious asset.

    Sanders, thankfully, states that the goal is to be intentional about your time, not necessarily adhere to 5am literally. PHEW.

    The plan for the 5am miracle is as follows:
    1. Have an intentional and written plan for the day.

    2. Consistently implement healthy habits for optimal energy and enthusiasm.

    3. Have short term objectives that help you achieve goals.

    4. Track your progress, make necessary adjustments, and hold yourself accountable.

    Sanders encourages the use of quarterly goals, in lieu of yearly ones, as it's easier to make adjustments and keep track of things in that shorter amount of time.

    He also talks about anchor habits - well chosen habits that are used as triggers for us to remember other, complementary habits. An example might be:
    Anchor habit: Getting out of bed
    Complementary habit: Making the bed

    Anchor habit: Eat breakfast
    Complementary habit: Have quiet time

    Then, you create your ideal routines - an evening routine and a morning routine, and have some variations; namely, you want a routine for your normal morning, and one for when you're in a rush. Better to plan for those mornings when you're short on time than to be surprised.

    Below are some suggestions for your evening routine:

    - A solid workday boundary
    - Reviewing tasks for the following day
    - Put everything away
    - Set alarms
    - Turn off bright screens one hour (at least!) before bed
    - Reading fiction to allow your brain to transition into a carefree state
    - Making an ideal sleeping environment

    For your morning routine, you simply (ha!) want to prioritize habits that align daily actions to your biggest goals.

    Now, there's a lot more to the 5am miracle, but this is the section I wanted to focus on and report back. If this idea piques your interest though, I would encourage you to check out his book for yourself, as it's really interesting and inspiring.

    Next week, I'll report back on my experiment and tell you about my habits, whether or not they were successful for me, and what I learned from it. Until then, take care.

  • Better Than Before: Setting a good foundation

    Better Than Before: Setting a good foundation

    For the next several weeks, we're going through Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. This phenomenal book on habits is available at your local bookstore or from Amazon. Check it out!

    If you want to take something seriously, the strategy of monitoring is a good place to start. People monitor their weight/food intake, their budget/spending, and if you want a habit to stick, consider monitoring that, because we manage what we monitor. It's easier to know whether something is working or not, and to make adjustments along the way, when we're tracking what's going on. Self measurement brings self awareness, which strengthens self control. Yikes, that's a lot of "selfs" in that sentence.

    To make monitoring work for you, you must identify precisely the action that's being monitored, and don't be vague about it. When we guess, we're often inaccurate. A good example is our tendency to underestimate how many calories we consume, and overestimate how much moving we do. This is why wearable activity trackers can be a good helper, because they can give us a better idea of what we're doing.
    So if you want to track how many hours you're working on a project per week - make sure you take note of when you start and when you stop. Keep a file open on your phone, or a dedicated notebook nearby. Make it easy to monitor, and you'll have data to look at in no time!

    Monitoring is beneficial because it helps us determine if a habit is worth the time, money and energy it consumes. Getting up an hour early to work on something, but finding that your output is slower than if you carved out an hour in the evening? Maybe not worth your time.

    Now, another thing I want to talk about is foundational habits. These are habits that are good starting places, because they tend to reinforce each other. Examples of foundation habits are those that help us to sleep better, move more, eat & drink right, and unclutter.

    Fostering good habits takes energy & that energy is in short supply; we're better off exploiting that energy to create the habits that will do the most good.

    That, my friends, is foundation habits in a nutshell. They give you the most bang for your buck, so to speak. These habits help you believe that you can keep an important habit, and help you trust yourself to follow on your own co.mittments. Keeping foundation habits sets you up to keep more complex habits, or habits that don't directly affect these key areas of your life.

    But it's important to take into consideration your values and temperament when making these habits. What works for you may not work for me. While you may decide that you need to straighten out your sleep habits first, I may find it more valuable to unclutter my living space first. Do what is right for you.

  • Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 3

    Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 3

    I call this one the "I'm not sure how this happened".

    One leg off the bed. No blankets. Cat on other leg, happy as can be.

    It's like my body fought some sort of war and forgot to tell me about it.

  • Felicia Day's Memoir

    Felicia Day's Memoir

    I recently got the bug to read more memoirs and biographies. There are a lot of interesting people out there with things to say, and some of them are even still alive! Plus, I figured, I read a lot of almost every other genre - I should be even more well rounded. (Yes, I'm a weird little overachiever.) 

    So, that being said, once I finished #girlboss, I moved onto Felicia Day's memoir. Now, if you don't know who Felicia Day is - she's really big in the geek world. She made her own web series, The Guild, back before that sort of thing was commonplace, and she starred alongside Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris in Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Both of those things are well worth your time, if you want some geek cred and some entertainment. 

    Geez. Now I have a real hankering for Doctor Horrible. I really need to pick that up on dvd. 

    Anyway. I think I typically only blog about books and movies when I really like them anyway, but this book struck some chords with me. It was really nice to read about someone who feels just as neurotic and worried about everything as I am. Plus, it's inspiring to see someone as neurotic as I am still accomplish something. 

    Felicia hasn't just had things handed to her. She's worked hard for years - she's a chronic overachiever, after all - to make the cool things she has, and she's had lots of things not work out for her along the way. 

    It was a really fantastic read. Good pace, and very funny. Felicia Day totally speaks my language. If you're looking for a good memoir, this would be a good one to pick up, especially if you consider yourself geeky. 

  • Better Than Before: The Four Tendencies

    Better Than Before: The Four Tendencies

    For the next several weeks, we're going through Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. This phenomenal book on habits is available at your local bookstore or from Amazon. Check it out!

    Some of us struggle to form habits, others take to them like glue. Some of us can do anything for others but struggle with doing anything for ourselves. Have you ever wondered why, and more importantly, how to work with it to make your habits work? 

    Knowing ourselves better means that we can manage ourselves better, and if we're trying to work with others, understanding them can help us get more things accomplished as well. Enter, the four tendencies.

    So what are these tendencies? 

    First, let's look at upholders.

    An upholder would ask, "What's on the schedule and the to do list for today?"  
    Upholders want to know what's expected of them, and will meet those expectations. Upholders are probably the kids in class who would call the teacher's attention to not having collected the homework yet. 
    But because upholders are self directed, they have little trouble keeping resolutions or meeting deadlines. That means if an upholder's boss wants them to finish a project, they will make this just as much of a priority as heading to gym after work. Upholders take both outer and inner expectations seriously.

    The downside to upholders is that they will struggle in situations where rules aren't clear, and they will feel compelled to meet expectations even if they seem pointless. Upholders feel uneasy when breaking even trivial rules. 

    Upholders are a pretty small category of people, but I am definitely among them.

    Next, there are questioners.

    Questioners, respond to things only if they conclude that it makes sense. They question all expectations. Their motivations are reason, logic and fairness. A questioner would ask, "What needs to get done and why?" They will resist rules for rules sake, and are often willing to do exhaustive research. They are motivated by what they believe are sound reasons (mind you, they might not actually be sound. The questioner just has to believe so!) 

    Some questioners are inclined to uphold, others are inclined to rebel. The key for a questioner is to believe a habit is useful, and then they will stick to it.

    Obligers, however, are motivated by external accountability. "What must I get done today?" 
    While obligers make terrific colleagues, family, and friends, they find it difficult to stay self-motivated. They depend on external accountability with consequences like deadlines, fees, and fear of letting others down. 
    More than anything, obligers need accountability. They are suseptible to burnout because they have trouble saying no when someone asks. They will find it difficult to form habits, because habits are for our benefit, and obligers do things for others. 

    Lastly, there are rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, and act from a sense of choice. "What do I want to do today?" is a rebel question. They work toward their own goals, in their own way. While they might refuse to do what they're 'supposed' to do, they can accomplish lots own their own terms. 
    Rebels highly value authenticity and self determination. The rebel's best asset is their voice of dissent. A rebel cannot be asked or told to do something - in fact, being told what to do may create the opposite effect. Rebels resist habits, but they can embrace habit-like behaviors by tying actions to choices. As long as they feel it is worthwhile and doesn't tie them down, it will happen.

    Most people are questioners are obligers, by a wide margin. Knowing your tendency can help you fram habits in a compelling way - as you can tell from the information above, we are all motivated differently, and trying to treat a rebel like an obliger would end in habit disaster!

    If you have trouble identifying your tendency, Gretchen Rubin offers a quiz to help you figure it out on her website

    On a personal note, I think that mental illness can muddy the waters a bit as far as tendencies go. I know that when my brain is not well, I behave far more like an obliger than an upholder. (Meaning, I struggle to do anything for myself.) But when I'm doing well, I take myself seriously, which I believe is my natural state. Does that make sense?

    So, now, you hopefully know your tendency. What comes next?

    There are some other questions that you can ask yourself to further understand how forming habits could help you. Don't think too hard about the answers to these, and we'll kind of come back to this information when we're talking about forming habits. 

    Are you a lark or an owl?

    While many of us will, at some point, try to change our habits in this area, research shows that to some extent, our preference is hardwired, though it is also affected by genes and age. Young children and older adults tend to be larks, while teens are owls. 
    Much to the chagrin of owls out there, the world tends to favor larks, which can make it difficult for owls to function at their best. 

    This is something to consider when forming a habit. If you're a lark, don't overload yourself with heavy brain work in the evening. If you're an owl, dragging yourself out of bed early to hit the gym may end up in repeated failure. 

    Do you marathon, sprint, or procrastinate?

    Marathoners tend to work slow and steady on a project. A sprinter works in intense bursts of effort, usually thriving under the pressure of a deadline. Procrastinators look a lot like sprinters, but with one key difference: sprinters choose to work under pressure, a procrastinator can't help it.

    Are you an underbuyer or an overbuyer?

    When you're starting a new project, do you feel the need to buy out the store, or do you insist on cobbling along with what you have, even if it really isn't sufficient?

    An underbuyer needs to remember that spending money to support a good habit is worthwhile. An overbuyer on the other hand, should remember that acquiring stuff isn't enough to establish a habit.

    Do you prefer simplification or abundance?

    Do you thrive best when life, your space, is simple and unnecessary things are eliminated? Or do you work best when you add new things and spice things up with variety?

    Are you a finisher or an opener?

    Finishers are cautious to form new habits, whereas openers can be overly optimistic in their ability to take on new habits. (I am definitely an opener. Once I buy a new box of cereal, the old one is dead to me. It's a problem.)

    Do you work best wtih small steps or big steps?

    Some people prefer to take their habits in modest, manageable steps. A slow accumulation of triumphs can be encouraging, and they can avoid burnout this way. Others prefer to take big leaps, because changing gradually will lead to a loss of interest and the changes will feel too insignificant. 

    Whew! That was a lot of information. Hopefully you have a little better grasp of your tendency and a little better idea of what things might help (or hinder) you when making habits. In next week's post, we'll talk about a couple key strategies in habit formation: Monitoring and foundation habits. 

  • Favorite Songs: Who Knew

    Finally, a song that I can say that I stumbled on all by myself.

    I love a lot of Pink's music, but this one really gets me. The strings in the background towards the end of the song makes the song feel emotionally intense. Everyone has someone - friend, family, girl/boyfriend that we thought would be there forever, and then they weren't.

  • When to make the jump

    I like to think before I leap, especially when it comes to spending money. Is this thing actually going to do what it has promised? Is it going to be worth the cost?

    I'm a little less ridiculous about vetting things when it's something Matt and I will share, but if I'm looking at spending money on myself, oh man, do I have to vet things.

    Recently, I had been looking at this blogging course that looked amazing. Well thought-out, looked like an absolute dream to someone who wants to put out quality content. And the price was decent too, but just a little out of my "buy immediately" range when at the end of the month.

    So I figured I'd wait.

    Payday came, and life was just a little too busy for me to sit down at the computer and make the purchase.

    Two days after payday, I sat down, wallet in hand, and the course was gone.

    Now, it'll be back, eventually, but at a higher (and yet unknown) price. Not that it's not worth that whatever-it-ends-up-being higher price, but who knows if I'll be able to pay that higher price, and dog gone it, I was ready for this course now.

    So clearly, what I'm saying is, this waiting thing really bit me in the butt.

    You could say, well, it's just a sign then that you didn't need it. Maaaybe that's true? But for me, I thinkt the lesson is more in that waiting doesn't always work out.

    Because come on, sometimes we sit around and we wait for a sign or an event that will never happen. We think we'll make the big move "when the time is right", but let's be honest - is the time ever really right?

    There's always a reason not to buy the thing, or not to try the thing, not to take the chance, not to move, not to talk to someone, not to, not to, not to.

    But I like to think that I'd rather take the chance than to sit on the sidelines and wonder what would have happened if I'd only tried.

    So I'm really annoyed at myself. It's about more than just a blogging course. Don't waste the time or the resources or the chances given to you, because you just don't know when there might be another one.

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  • No Sweat: What sustains us, we sustain

    No Sweat: What sustains us, we sustain

    Today is the last post in my series on the book No Sweat by Michelle Segar. If you've enjoyed the series, please consider picking up the book for yourself!

    Do you always put taking care of business (whatever that is - work, school, spouse, kids, household work) ahead of self care? 

    If so, you may have a problem, and you are definitely not alone. 

    I know, fulfilling responsibilities seems like it has nothing to do with exercise, right? But here's the thing - we're brought up being praised for taking care of others, getting schoolwork done, completing tasks, but not so much for taking care of ourselves. I mean, how often do we speak highly of our kids for staying up late to finish up a project, but not for knowing their limits and going to bed early? Culturally, we're told to get things done. We're encouraged more to be martyrs under the title of "good wife/mother" and sometimes looked down on for "taking time for ourselves". 

    It has to stop, because we're burning ourselves out, and the results are all over our bodies. When we tune out anxiety, exhaustion, pain, depression - often red flags that something isn't right - our bodies will turn up the volume and give you even more serious aches and pain. 
    When we are socialized not to take care of ourselves and to focus on numbers (the scale, measurements), we don't take into account how our bodies feel. 

    Positive emotions make us feel more expansive and creative, but negative emotions, like stress, reduce our abilities to see opportunities and to make good decisions. So it's a spiral. Don't take care of yourself - your body stresses out - and then you can't see the opportunities in front of you to take care of yourself. It's a pattern that can be broken, as long as we recognize it and pay attention to our bodies and our need for self care.

    Think of self care like a pyramid. No Sweat calls it a self care heirarchy. Put the non-negotiable thing, the thing that you cannot function without, on the bottom. Work your way up from there. The thing on top is the thing that is nice to have. My self care heirachy would probably look something like this:

    Caring for ourselves replenishes our energy and supports our well being. Give yourself permission to stop following all the shoulds. Yes, you should vaccuum and get the dishes done and do a little extra work tonight. But what are all these shoulds costing you? Give yourself permission and unlock self care.

    If you don't mindfully give yourself permission to prioritize time for your own self-care, no one else will.

    If you don't have a pattern of self care already, it may sound counter-intuitive, but giving to yourself means that you can give more to others. Self care, and exercise, is fuel. 

    What sustains us, we sustain.

    Self care fuels us, our mood, our energy, and allows us to be and yield what matters most to us - a patient parent, a loving spouse, a creative worker.

    I hope this little guide through No Sweat has taught you some things about not only the importance of physical movement, but in having a good relationship with it. The book is an absolutely amazing, encouraging read, and Michelle Segar puts things so much better than I did. So if this is a topic that resonates with you, I highly encourage you to go ahead and pick up the book for yourself

    Thanks for reading!

  • Favorite Songs: Hysteria

    Matt was the one who introduced me to Muse. As to why I actually started to like them? I don't know. There's lots of things (like Coheed and Cambria) that he's played for me that I really, really, don't like.

    (For the record, I can't stand the lead singer of C&C's voice.)

    There's so many Muse songs I love - Starlight, Uprising, and Time is Running Out, to name a few. But Hysteria is my favorite.

    I had the privilege of seeing Muse live back in 2010. They put on a phenomenal live show. If you ever have the chance - do it.