Where Logic Meets Love

I Want to Work Hard! ...Please?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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I Want to Work Hard! ...Please? | Faith Permeating Life
So I'm back to square one at work.

You may recall that a few months after I started my job, I had way too much downtime at work. I was so bored that I started doing extra work for the other departments on my floor, which eventually led to my skills being in greater demand and a lot more total work for me, because I was doing 1) my actual job I was hired to do plus 2) a bunch of data analysis and survey design work, which I loved.

I made it clear last spring that I eventually wanted this other work to be my full-time job because, while I enjoyed that all the various projects were keeping me busy, I was still having to drop everything if one of my actual bosses needed me to do some heavy-duty work as part of my actual job. And I was managing our school's entire student course evaluation process while still signing my e-mails "office assistant," which seemed a little silly.

So in October someone else took over my biggest responsibility, managing the VP's calendar. A few other responsibilities, like tracking attendance and processing stipends for our technology workshops, went to another coworker. And then in December I was told that I would be getting a new title and a raise for 2011. All awesome.

What was never clearly worked out was what was going to happen to all of my other responsibilities that I had been doing as part of job #1. Some of them, minor ones, like ordering office supplies, I was happy to give up, while other ones, like helping people register for the technology workshops and answering their questions, I really loved and wanted to keep doing.

So I kept quiet about the whole thing until finally the associate VP cornered me and asked me why I hadn't passed off all my technology workshop responsibilities to my coworker. Other than the fact that I enjoyed it, there were a couple other hesitations I had that I won't go into here, but she told me I needed to give these responsibilities up and train my coworker to take them over. Of course, no one had bothered to tell him this, so suddenly he's being asked to take on a bunch of work he doesn't want, while I'm being forced to give up work I enjoy.

The end result of all this is that now I'm back to not having enough work to keep me busy.

I really don't want to go back to where I was a year and a half ago, asking around the office if anyone needed help. For one thing, I really don't feel like getting stuck with everyone's odds and ends, and for another, it seems kind of ridiculous for them to give me a promotion and then me draw attention to the fact that I'm getting less done than I was before. Not that I'm not fulfilling everything I'm asked to do and more, because I am. But the nature of a 40-hour-a-week office job is that you're expected to fill 40 hours. If the work you're assigned doesn't fill that, then you don't go home, you find a way to fill up the rest yourself. And I am -- I'm taking a programming class, learning Illustrator, and starting an app design class next week. But that still doesn't fill 40 hours.

It's completely possible that this point in the semester is just a bad one, where everyone is so busy they don't have time to think about the long-range assessment projects that I could help them with, and my boss is so busy it takes him forever to give me his portion of the projects he wants me to help with. I'm developing a website for our department, which I'm excited about and which will hopefully bring in more work, but that won't go up until I get the copy my boss wants to write about the areas he's responsible for... and that could be a while.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not ungrateful. I'm thankful that not only do I have a job, it's doing work I enjoy with people who are super-awesome. There are many, many blessings associated with my job. Mainly I'm just scratching my head about how work that I actually liked doing could get taken away from me, leaving me with not enough work to fill my days. That seems silly.

On a good note, it's left me more time to devote to a small, cross-college committee I'm on that I've been very passionate about for the last year. Today I finally succeeded in getting a meeting together with some key people that's likely going to lead to our committee's proposal becoming a full-fledged college-wide campaign kicked off by the president in the fall. That makes me excited because I think if it works, it's going to make a huge difference in how our students feel about the college. It's data-driven and common sense and catchy. I'm excited.

Have you been in this kind of position before? Do you have ideas for how I can fill my time and actually feel productive? Being bored for long stretches of time is honestly exhausting... I need something semi-challenging where I can feel accomplished. Stuff that's good for the school or my department is even better. I'm open to suggestions!

Balancing Companionship and Autonomy (or Why I Don't Tell My Husband How to Do the Dishes)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Balancing Companionship and Autonomy (or Why I Don't Tell My Husband How to Do the Dishes) | Faith Permeating Life
Mike left on Thursday to go out of town for a few days, which always means some changes to my routine. (I am proud to say that, thanks to Mike's lunch map, I managed to pack myself a complete lunch twice this week!) While I was contemplating these slight adjustments to things, I hit upon a simple truth -- not a new truth by any means, something I've heard explained many times before, just not in such a succinct way:

In marriage, you can either have things done for you, or you can have them done your way.

That, right there, is the balance of companionship and autonomy.

For example, Thursday and Friday when I got home from work, I hung up my coat and purses, sorted the mail, then put away the dry dishes and washed out my lunch containers. After eating dinner, I washed my dinner dishes and put them in the drying rack next to my lunch dishes. I loved seeing a clean kitchen counter when I went in there later to refill my water bottle. Mike will usually leave the dishes until after I go to bed, and sometimes until the next morning (which I hate because I like to get my breakfast ready on a clear counter). But as much as part of my brain wanted to say, "See how much better you do things," the other part of my brain was quick to remind me: "You never have to do dishes when Mike is here. At all."

It's probably no coincidence that I was thinking about all of this, as not only did I recently read Spousonomics, I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, in which she ponders (along with many other aspects of marriage) the notion that being married essentially means giving up some of your freedom and autonomy to live with someone who is irreversibly flawed in their own unique way, for the sake of enjoying love and companionship. She talks about how many women will inevitably try (and fail) to control every aspect of their husband's lives, even though it's impossible because there will always be a part of him that is unchangeable and separate from you. One of my favorite lines is her father's thoughts on being married to her controlling mother: "The wonder of it, he mused, is that she's much more upset about the 5 percent of his life that he won't relinquish than he is about the 95 percent that she utterly dominates."

The whole notion of "control" and "domination" may sound extreme, but it comes up again and again in the things I read about marriage, particularly in relation to household chores. One spouse -- often the wife -- wants things done a certain way. She laments that she has to do everything herself, but if the husband tries to help, he's chastised for doing it wrong. A particular "Home Improvement" episode comes to mind, in which Jill has to leave Tim in charge of the house and tries to explain her complex color-coded "sponge system" in the kitchen, then gets upset when he doesn't understand. She eventually comes to terms with the fact that as long as things get done, how they get done isn't important.

It's kind of a twist on the saying, "If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself." I would suggest that a more accurate saying would be, "If you want it done your way, you have to do it yourself." If you're going to hand it off to your spouse, then you lose the right to say how it's done. (Within reason, of course. It's still reasonable to expect that things will get done in a way that doesn't endanger anybody's health or safety -- so leaving the dishes until they grow mold is not a viable option.) If you want to enjoy the benefit of having something done for you, freeing up your own time and energy, then you sacrifice the ability to have complete control over how it's done.

I'm applying this specifically to marriage because I don't think it works the same way in other areas. For example, if you hire someone to work for you, you can maintain some control over how that work is done because that's part of the agreement of paying them to do it. But that's because you can fire an employee if they're failing to meet expectations, or re-delegate job responsibilities to another employee. In marriage, it's just the two of you, and you're not (at least I hope not) going to dump your spouse in hopes of finding one who can do the dishes more exactly to your specifications. If you don't want to do it and you want control over how it's done, then hire someone to do it for you. If instead you leave it up to your spouse, then you're getting free labor and clean dishes!

There's one caveat to this hands-off approach, in my opinion, and that's concerning the way things in your home are organized. I think you have to strike a balance between adhering too strictly to a plan for organization ("No, my toothbrush goes exactly 1.5 cm from the edge of the sink!") and actually being able to find things ("Where the heck did you put my socks this time?"). Due to our personal division of labor, Mike usually does the laundry and puts it away, so in order for me to get dressed in the morning I have to maintain some control over how the clothes -- my clothes, at least -- are put away. Mike has been a good sport about learning some things ("These are my work jeans, so they get hung up with the rest of my work pants, not shoved with my weekend jeans"), and he leaves the things for me to put away that he can't get his head around (like the mystery of my underwear drawer).

In general, though, I try to let him clean, cook, and run errands in his own way and on his own schedule, and he leaves me to file, budget, and keep track of those things that actually do have deadlines.

What do you think? How does this work in your household?

10 Reasons My DivaCup Has Made Me Happier

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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How My DivaCup Has Made Me Happier | Faith Permeating Life
I'll warn you upfront: Today's post talks about menstruation. (Ooh! Yuck! Gross!)

I talked a little bit in my sex ed post about my lack of knowledge about menstrual products before I hit puberty, but now that I've been using my DivaCup for a few months, I have to say that, frankly, I'm pissed off that nobody told me about this before.

The other day I remembered with shock and a little embarrassment that just a few years ago I was seriously dreading the thought of ever having a daughter because I would have to someday talk to her about menstruation. This from someone who now has given serious consideration to writing to my old elementary school and asking if I could come in and talk about alternate menstrual products. (I opted not to only because they've already done fifth grade sex ed for the year and it's not guaranteed we'll be in the area this time next year.)

So I'll have to settle for this blog post instead -- for the time being, anyway.

I use a DivaCup, although there are a few other brands. This is the one I'd heard the most about, and from what I can tell it's the least likely to cause an allergic reaction, so I figured that was good. I did an obsessive amount of research before buying it so I could be sure what I was getting myself into.

I'll be honest, though: The primary reason I first looked into menstrual cups was financial. I figured something durable and re-usable was a better option than constantly buying (and running out of) pads, plus it was "greener" than generating lots of trash every month. I had initially wanted to switch to reusable menstrual pads (more about that in a second), but it seemed like they'd be too difficult to manage with being at work all day, and the concept grossed Mike out. So when I heard about using a menstrual cup, I decided to go for it.

So here, in no particular order, are the reasons I love it (and why it would have saved me so much grief if I'd known about it sooner):
  • Being able to go a long time without emptying it. DivaCup claims that you can use it for 12 hours without emptying it, but I found out quickly that on my heaviest day I have to empty it after 3 or it overflows. But that's just one day out of my period; the rest of the time I can put it in before I leave for work and then not worry about it until I get home. This would have been so nice in high school, when we had really short passing periods and I'd having to stop in the bathroom during practically every one to make sure I didn't need to change my pad. (I am super-paranoid about leaking.) Having to wait for a stall and then try to make it to my next class on time every time was unnecessary anxiety I wish I could have avoided.
  • Not being so wasteful. Because I tend to be really paranoid about leaking, so I tended to use too many pads because I never felt totally safe unless I'd just put a clean one on. (You can see why the financial and ecological benefits are so big for me!) I've still been using a pad on my heaviest day -- for peace of mind more than anything -- but that's only one for my whole period, plus I just ordered some reusable ones from Mother Moon Pads on Macha's recommendation. Because I know they'll just be catching leaks and not taking the brunt of the flow, I don't think Mike will mind them being in the laundry -- it's about the same as what ended up on my underwear before, anyway.
  • Not worrying about leaks. As I said, I've always been paranoid about leaking, because it's such a huge pain in the ass when you get blood on your clothes, your bed, whatever. I have way too many distinct memories of times I bled through my pants or pajamas. One time my senior year of high school I even left school at lunchtime and drove home to change pants. (We had a closed campus, and you know what a compulsive rule-follower I am, so this was a huge stressor for me.) Nighttime is the worst, because you can get the heaviest absorbency pad and still end up rolling over in your sleep and missing it completely. This is the first time in my life I've been able to go to bed while on my period and have zero worry I was going to bleed on the bed.
  • Being able to "check" as often as I want. Despite all the stress I've reduced not worrying about leaks, I still won't ever be able to keep myself from being paranoid. This is a big reason I could never stand using tampons -- because I would have no idea how "full" it was, so I either worried endlessly or would take it out "just in case" and then, well, there's another wasted tampon. If I ever get anxious about my flow, I can take the cup out, dump it, rinse it, and stick it back in again. No harm done. I can also see how full it is (literally -- it's a lot more exact that figuring out how much more a pad can take) so I can monitor my flow. If in 4 hours it's only filled up a tiny bit, I know I'm fine leaving it in for the rest of the day.
  • Avoiding the bloodiness. This is what annoys me about the Wikipedia article on menstrual cups: It seems to paint this picture of menstrual cups as being this difficult, bloody mess of a thing to deal with. You might think that having to stick something inside you would get messy, and certainly everyone pretty much agrees that when you're first learning to use it, it's going to be messy. My heaviest days notwithstanding, I quickly figured out why it wasn't messy -- if it's in properly, the blood is getting caught an inch or two before the opening, so that first inch or two is blood-free and you can adjust things without getting your fingers covered. When I do have to empty it at work, it doesn't gross me out to wipe out with TP the little bit of blood left after dumping it -- but again, that's only if you're in a situation where you have to empty it in a public bathroom, and it ended up not being as big a deal as I anticipated.
  • Avoiding the smell. You might not think about this, but this is one of the benefits I read about before trying it out. What causes menstrual blood to smell is the contact with the air, so keeping it inside avoids that air contact.
  • Not constantly having the "pad feeling." It's hard to believe I used to use pads twice the size of the ones I've been using the past five or ten years, but even the thinner pads feel like, well, pads. (I resist the diaper analogy because I haven't worn a diaper since I was a toddler and I certainly don't remember what it felt like!) Except for my paranoid heaviest days, I don't have to feel the awkward bulkiness and scratchiness of wearing a pad -- and when I switch to a reusable pad for that day, it'll be even better. Being able to do things like exercise without being constantly! aware! of something under me is a nice change.
  • Not feeling like I'm announcing to the world that I'm menstruating. Not having to take my purse into the ladies' room at work is sooooo nice. I always felt awkward, like I was making a big announcement to everyone that "I'm on my period!" And if someone stopped me on the way to the bathroom to chat, it was even more awkward. And in high school it always seemed (to my paranoid brain) like people could see or hear my pad.
  • Not worrying about running out of supplies. Is this not a source of anxiety for anyone who uses disposable menstrual products? Whether it's not having enough on hand at home or trying to shove enough for the day in your purse's "special" pocket, disposable products can only handle so much before they have to be replaced, and once your last one's full, you're out of luck. It doesn't help that my work moved all menstrual products out of the bathroom dispensers to the basement vending machines (seriously??). Even if my flow's heavier than expected and I have to dump it out at work more often, the cup is still good for using over and over again. My only fear now is that I'll accidentally drop it in an auto-flushing toilet! (Because, let's face it, I would still find something to worry about!!)
  • Reducing my health risk. Because I rarely used tampons anyway, I didn't have to worry about TSS, but I know for some people that's an issue, and because menstrual cups collect rather than absorb, there's no TSS risk. For me, the benefit has more to do with all of these things I've heard about the chemicals used in making disposable menstrual pads. Whether or not that's really something to be worried about -- it's not something I do have to worry about anymore. Also, I make sure to clean it regularly with a natural liquid soap. (Another thing annoying about the Wikipedia article: It says there are no known health risks, but cites an article saying that it could "theoretically" cause problems yet the FDA "declined" to remove it from the market, as if the FDA should have.) Women have also reported fewer cramps and shorter periods with natural menstrual products, and while I'm fully aware that could be psychological, I can't think of a time I've had really bad cramps since I started using my cup. I didn't regularly have bad ones before, but it happened occasionally. I've also realized that cramps, for me, are caused by going too long without eating, so that awareness may have something to do with any improvement as well.
I'm sure there are more reasons, but you can get the idea of how using a menstrual cup has had a direct impact on my stress level and, consequently, my happiness.

I use the origami fold (or my best attempt at it, anyway), but everyone has their preferences. Some people suggest putting it in in the shower for the first time, but I could never get that to work. It's just a matter of finding what works best for you.

If you have questions, I am more than happy to answer them! My experience is limited to a few months, but I don't imagine it will change greatly in the years to come, now that I've more or less "mastered" using it.

(By the way, before you ask, yes, I do realize that I can edit Wikipedia articles, but I don't have much experience with that and I know people can get really defensive about things on there, so until I have some great study or something to contribute, I'll just bitch about it. And steal the creative commons picture for my blog.) :)

Update: I discovered that 'Becca at The Earthling's Handbook has a great post about switching over to a menstrual cup from tampons, so check that out as well!

What is "Normal" Grocery Spending?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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What is 'Normal' Grocery Spending? | Faith Permeating Life
So here's something interesting.

You know I enter sweepstakes every day, or try to. (I had a couple months' dry spell and then won a $25 Best Buy gift last week!) There are some that I enter daily, and I use a Google calendar to keep them all organized so I have a list every day of the ones still accepting entries. Anyway, among my daily sweeps, I'm currently entering two different sweepstakes for "groceries," in quotes because you actually win money to buy groceries instead of actual groceries.

One is "win a month's worth of groceries!" It's awarded as a $1,000 check.

One is "win a year's worth of groceries!" It's awarded as a $5,000 check.


Now, you don't have to be a mathematician (or a data analyst) to see the discrepancy here. Obviously, how long $1,000 or $5,000 will last you depends on how much you spend on groceries every month. One organization thinks you probably spend $1,000 a month on groceries, another thinks it's more like $400.

So I wondered: How much do people typically spend? How much do we spend?

According to the government, the average household in 2008 spent $3,744 a year on "food at home," or $312 a month, and an additional $2,698, or $224.83 a month, on "food away from home." That's an average of everyone -- single people, couples, families. Mint.com's data for the Chicago area shows people spending $600 a month on all Food & Dining. The USDA's 2003-2004 report showed spending of $112.25 per person per month on groceries. And their "food plans" say a couple like us, being "thrifty," would spend about $341 a month.

Thanks to Mint.com's handy-dandy trend analyzer (have I mentioned enough how much I love Mint.com?), I figured out that in 2010 we spent an average of $252 a month on groceries. What's interesting, looking at the month-to-month patterns, is that there's a lot of fluctuation. For example, we must have stocked up in April -- $374 -- and then not had to buy much in May -- $109. (I think that's partly because that's when I got sick, so we stocked up on all manner of vitamins and fruits and such, and then I never felt like eating.) Things evened out near the end of the year, probably after Mike got used to doing all the shopping and having a budget for it. We have a monthly budget of $280 for groceries, which has worked out pretty well.

There are a few reasons we're able to keep our grocery costs low, despite the fact that we don't eat out much. (We've got a $50/month budget for eating out, plus $10/month personal allowances, for which most of Mike's goes toward food.) One is that we don't buy paper towels or napkins -- we have cloth ones that work just fine. We also don't buy junk food, soda, or sweets, which is beneficial for both our budget and our health. This article hits on a few other reasons -- we don't buy a ton of processed foods, and Mike is really good about throwing together meals out of whatever's in the pantry. Also, I take the exact same thing for lunch everyday, so the amount of food I eat for lunch doesn't fluctuate. Mike usually takes leftovers for his lunch, or spends the aforementioned personal allowance, or stops by my parents' house and mooches off them if he's working a double shift (in which case he often just has that one mid-afternoon meal in place of lunch and dinner).

I mention this for a couple of reasons. One, the sweepstakes piqued my interest and I thought I'd share my research. Two, it's been a while since I talked about our finances, and I like to share what works for us. Three, this makes me feel a little better as I'm projecting toward (and worrying about) the future when we want to have a big family. I also found that the price per person goes down as your family grows (because you're buying and cooking in bulk). And when we have our own house and some land, Mike wants to have chickens and a vegetable garden, which will help as well.

Finally, if you're not tired of links, this article's comments were fascinating to read because of the vast differences in spending -- everywhere from a family of 5 spending $300 a month to a couple spending $900 a month. Some of the main differences seem to be whether you eat meat (more expensive), try to eat only organic or vegan (more expensive), or are an aggressive couponer/bargain hunter (less expensive). We haven't succeeded in getting really into coupons, mostly because they seem to be more for processed/super-packaged stuff than the generic fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, cheese, etc. that we buy. Does anyone know of a site where you can get e-mail alerts only when there are coupons posted for specific items (like Wheat Thins or tea bags)? I would use that.

If anyone's willing to share their grocery budget, I'd be interested. And if you're not currently tracking your spending, well, get thee to Mint.com -- it's awesome.

Learning When to Shut Up

Sunday, March 20, 2011

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Learning When to Shut Up | Faith Permeating Life
First, an update (and an excuse for not posting on Thursday): I went back to work on Thursday -- thanks to the combined* miracle of Theraflu Nighttime Severe Cold & Cough and Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold (thank you Internet reviews!) -- and came home to an incredibly messy apartment due to my being out of commission for a week. Mike was working a double shift and I knew that if I found the mess overwhelming, there's no way he would work up the motivation to get it all clean before we left for our weekend trip. So in 5-minute increments followed by 20-minute breaks, I went from one end of the apartment to the other and got (almost) everything cleaned and my suitcase packed. And then I went to sleep.

This weekend was a reunion of sorts that Mike organized to get his hometown buddies together for the weekend in the town where two of them now live. Most people were able to make it, and between us, his friends, and their significant others there were 11 of us touring the town and seeing the sights. It was a blast -- his friends are great, and the fact that the guys all turn into immature teenagers around each other is hilarious more than anything.

Mike and I don't spend a ton of time together with friends as we don't have many living close to us -- and usually it's me or him one-on-one with a friend -- so this was my first chance to try to follow my commandment of "Hold your tongue." I'm sure Mike will be able to tell me how well I did on this one!

The first way I tried to do this was to avoid making jabs at Mike. I realized that I tend to do this in front of other people both because I'm following cultural models of how women are "supposed" to talk about their husbands, and because I use it as a way to show our closeness -- e.g., you tease people that you have a strong bond with. My goal, in following "There is only love," is not to outrightly criticize Mike when talking to someone else. Sometimes it's hard to find the line between what's criticism and what's just laughing at finding out a similarity with someone else's significant other. For example, sometimes I feel better about things Mike does -- and can laugh about them -- when I find out my best friend's husband does the same things. In this case, when Mike was driving a carful of us, I made a comment to him (as I do when we're alone) to keep his eyes on the road, as he can get really distracted when we're in a new place and there's lots to look at. His friend said that her boyfriend is terrible about always wanting to look around while he's driving, and I said Mike just freaks me out because he tends to look off to the left while he's braking, which I think is the worst possible time to do it. I think I may have made too many comments to him to stop looking around while he was driving, but other than this I think I did better than usual about not constantly teasing him or criticizing him to others. (Again, I'm sure he will tell me otherwise if he disagrees!)

Another way I'm trying to work on holding my tongue is not interrupting too much when Mike is telling a story to someone else. Now, there's a particular Mad About You episode that illustrates how couples tell some stories better together, and I think that's true. I see the day-to-day unfolding of events or get to hear more detailed versions of things that happen to Mike, so sometimes when he's telling an abbreviated version of a story to someone I will realize they're confused because of some detail he left out and will jump in with a quick comment to clear it up. He does the same for me. What I want to avoid doing is trying to wrest control of telling the whole story or interrupt with unnecessarily details. This I probably need more work on.

I realized this weekend that there's another situation where it can be beneficial for me to jump in, but which I probably do too much. This is when Mike and I are talking to one person, there's a pause, and then he starts talking to another person or joins in another group's conversation just as the first person asks him a question like, "Where are you working again?" If I'm sitting right there and Mike has already become engrossed in the other conversation, it can be easier for me to just answer the person's question then for it to go unanswered until such time (if any) that Mike turns his attention back again. About half the time this seems helpful, and the other half of the time Mike immediately turns his attention back and then I'm just talking over him. So I have to figure that one out.

Those are the main areas I've noticed where I need to "hold my tongue" for the benefit of our relationship.

What do you think? Do you do the same things?

*combined not in the sense of taking them together, which would be dangerous, but taking Theraflu Nighttime on Tuesday night, followed by Alka-Seltzer every four hours on Wednesday, then Theraflu again Wednesday night. That did the trick.

10 Reasons Being Sick Sucks (As If You Didn't Already Know)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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10 Reasons Being Sick Sucks (As If You Didn't Already Know) | Faith Permeating Life
I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I've just been sick since Friday.

Usually when I get sick, I stay in bed for a day or two and then I'm all better. This, however, has been one of those nasty shifting sicknesses where one day it's a sore throat, the next day the sore throat is gone but you have no voice and a slight fever, then the fever goes up and suddenly you're so stuffy you can't breathe out your nose. This also means that rather than just warning my bosses and co-workers that I'd be out for most of the week, I keep e-mailing and saying I'll probably be back tomorrow. I finally gave up and decided to work from home tomorrow because the work e-mails piling up are driving me nuts and most of what I have to do can be done remotely anyway. And I can only watch so many TV shows and play so many games of Set on my iPad before I start to lose my mind.

So, for your enjoyment(?), and to exercise my brain power, here are the top 10 things that suck about being sick:

10. Screwing up my sleep cycle
When I wake up and realize I'm not going into work, all I want to do is sleep forever. But eventually, around noon, I move the 20 or so feet from the bed to the recliner in hopes of draining out the crap in my head and so I can see Mike before he leaves for work. (He's been working evening shifts lately.) This means that I can't get myself to bed at a normal time because I've only been up for 9 or 10 hours, and so I end up falling asleep closer to midnight. It's gonna be hell when I actually go back to work and have to get out of bed at 6:30 in the morning.

9. Not eating enough
I rarely feeling like eating when I'm sick. And nothing sounds good unless it's warm and soft or liquid. I didn't take my vitamins for three days and finally made myself take them today. This means that even though I know I need nutrition to get better, I'm providing my body with not much more to work with than a cup of chicken soup and a bowl of mac & cheese.

8. Not knowing when it will end
Nothing I do seems to be helping much. I've had a low-grade fever for a couple days, which I take as a sign my body's working on getting better, but it doesn't seem to be making any large strides towards wellness.

7. Dealing with symptoms that make other symptoms worse
Like coughing fits when you have a sore throat. Drinking tea all day for the sore throat and then for the cold, which makes it hard to cool off from the fever. And of course, blowing your nose until your skin hurts.

6. Actually starting to miss work
It's not that I don't love my job, but no one minds a break from work every once in a while. It can make you feel dispensable after a while, though, knowing that everyone's going on without you. On the other hand, if you start getting e-mails from your boss like, "I tried to fix this survey, and I just made it worse, can you do it?" you can start feeling like things are going to fall apart if you don't get back to work soon.

5. Feeling not bad enough for a doctor, not good enough for anything
As far as I can tell, I just have some version of the garden-variety cold that's going around, and there's nothing particularly concerning that makes me feel the need to go to the doctor. Yet I feel (and look) crappy enough not to go back to the office. So I'm stuck in this limbo where I feel like I'll be lying on my couch drinking water and taking OTC meds forever until my body finally gets its ass in gear and fixes itself. Because of my weird reverse hypochondria, this leads to me feeling guilty about missing work when I haven't seen a doctor.

4. Feeling needy
As I found out when I had mono, Mike and I have different approaches to dealing with sickness. He mostly likes to take some meds and then be left alone to watch TV. I prefer to be actively taken care of, probably because that's how my mom took care of us growing up, constantly thinking of and offering things we might need to be more comfortable. Mike is good about getting things for me if I ask him to, but somewhere between him not offering everything I want and me not wanting to ask for everything, I end up feeling needy and completely incapable of caring for myself. I also get cranky because it will take me 15 minutes after draining my water glass to admit to myself that 1) I'm too tired to get myself more water and 2) I have to ask Mike to get me some more, and so if he takes another 5 minutes to get around to it after I ask him, I end up getting irritated. Which isn't really his fault.

3. Being lonely
Worse than playing the asking/offering game is when he has to go to work and then I'm all by myself, feeling like crap with no one to talk to. And then I really do have to get things for myself or go without (see #9).

2. Having a foggy head
The one good thing about mono was that the only symptom, for most of the time I had it, was pure exhaustion. Which was pretty terrible in itself, but as least I had my wits about me and so had no problem working from home or holding a normal conversation, except when I was falling asleep. With my head all stuffy, my brain doesn't work properly and I forget what I'm doing or saying. Even writing this post has been a beast, and not just because I have to stop every other sentence to blow my nose. Being physically out of it is one thing, but not having all my mental capacity is really a blow.

1. Generally feeling like crap
Even with all of the above, nothing is as bad as the overall feeling of gross and snot. I really hope I get better soon.

Anyone want to share their top 10 tips for getting better? :)

A Lenten Reminder: It's Time for Trust

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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A Lenten Reminder: It's Time for Trust | Faith Permeating Life
I didn't write on Tuesday because I was still pondering what I was going to do for Lent. I say "do" rather than "give up" because Lent is not necessarily a time where you have to go without something -- it can be a time for adding something, like service, to your life. Our priest at Ash Wednesday service yesterday tied the Gospel reading to Lent very well, I thought, by saying that if you are giving up something a) to impress people with your willpower, b) to complain about how deprived you are, or c) because you want to "improve yourself," well, then, you've received your reward -- admiration, weight loss, whatever. To my understanding, Lent is a time of self-reflection and of listening to God, so God can tell you where you need to step it up in being, as our priest put it, an "ambassador of God."

So, as always, at the last minute (Tuesday night) God gave me my answer.

Let me share a text message exchange from Wednesday that encapsulates it:
Mike: I'm going to give up soda for Lent. So help me with that if you could!
Jessica: I don't know if I can. I'm giving up nagging you for Lent :)
I've mentioned that I recently finished the book Spousonomics. The authors discuss the issue of nagging (or "reminding," as I prefer to think of it) and their solution is simple: trust. I don't have the book with me to quote it exactly, but they say something to the effect of, "We know what you're thinking. Yeah, right. If I trusted my spouse to get things done we'd have a huge pile of dirty laundry and another of dirty dishes, or I'd be doing everything myself." And yet they go on to show just how effective it can be when you first trust your spouse to do something, and then when they don't, trust that they'll realize their mistake and correct it.

For me, this is about more than self-improvement or marital improvement. The reason God put this on my heart, I believe, is because if I can't trust my husband with small things, how can I trust God with the big things, like that we're going to continue to have stable jobs with steady income and be able to provide for our future children? I have a hard time with "Let go and let God." And this is my opportunity to concretely demonstrate and practice my ability to trust.

There are a few more thoughts I want to share about this.

First, reminding and requesting are two different things. I am still allowed to request that Mike do things, I just have to be mindful about how I ask him the first (and, in this case, only) time. So for example, this weekend we meant to get to the bank and never did because my sister ending up sleeping over, and Mike didn't go when he was home on Monday. So on Tuesday before I left for work I very specifically asked if he would please go to the bank that day. I made sure I only requested one thing, and I gave him a specific time by which I'd like it done. What I have a bad habit of doing is simply saying, "Could you please do this?" and then a week later getting annoyed that he hasn't done it yet and reminding him that he promised to do it. The problem is, he still knows it has to get done, he just doesn't have any particular deadline in mind (even if I know, with some things, that after a certain point it will be too late).

So even if it's an arbitrary deadline, when I make the initial request, I need to be very specific about when I'm asking him to do it by. Then he can say yes or no, and if he says yes, then if that deadline passes, and he hasn't done it, he knows he broke his promise. I don't have to say anything.

Secondly, and you may have gathered this from his text message, Mike is, in general, not that great at following through on things. He's aware of this and it frustrates the hell out of him. I've tried to be a helpful partner in holding him accountable for things when he asks me to, but I think it may have reached the point of enabling. He doesn't have to take action as soon as he promises to do something because he knows that he'll keep getting reminded to do it. By telling him I've committed to stop nagging for the next 40 (actually 46) days, I'm putting the responsibility back on him. Once he's agreed to do something, it's all on him to follow through with it.

In the past few months I've gotten better about being hands-off when it's something that affects only or mostly him, and in some cases he's had to deal with the consequences of not getting things done in time. That's OK -- he's an adult. I don't need to save him from every bad consequence.

Finally, with my somewhat Type-A personality, with my to-do lists and schedules, it's a good thing for me to remember that things don't always have to get done in my timeframe. Maybe I would like to have Mike's tips deposited every week so I can keep an accurate monthly budget, but if they don't get deposited for two or three weeks, well, my Mint.com account might be a little screwy but it's not like we lost any money. And we always manage to make do -- or do without -- if we run out of something and don't get to the grocery store until the weekend.

So that's my hope for a Lenten transformation: No more nagging. I welcome you, however, to nag hold me accountable for this and remind me to trust!

On Adoption and Selfishness

Sunday, March 6, 2011

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On Adoption and Selfishness | Faith Permeating Life
When Mike and I first started talking about having kids (we talked about practically everything before we got engaged), adoption was already part of the conversation. As I've said before, it feels wrong to me, when there are children without parents, to be a parent without a child and think the solution is to create another child. I'm not judging anyone else here -- this is just what I feel in my own heart is right for me. But Mike, like a lot of guys, was adamant about wanting to pass on his genes, and so the initial plan was something along the lines of: have a few kids, then adopt as many more kids as we felt called to have. I talked about adopting older children, but Mike seemed concerned about adopting any child older than a toddler, so that's where we left it.

I started to really worry about having a family that was a mix of "natural" and adopted children. Would I mentally separate them, group them? Mike and I discussed this and decided that we didn't want adoption to seem like an afterthought in building our family. We wanted adoption to play a key role in growing our family from the beginning. So the plan became: adopt one, have one, and go from there. Plus we both felt strongly about wanting our oldest to be a boy and, controversy on that point aside, we could have more control over that by adopting. We planned to adopt our first as an infant -- I think it's easier to adjust to being parents when you start out with a child that has a limited range of needs and then define more structure as they develop more wants and interests. We would be open to adopting older children later on, once we'd developed our house rules and schedules and would be able to welcome them into a structured environment (oft-repeated advice for adopting older kids -- lots of love, and lots of structure). And Mike apparently has no memory of saying he didn't want to adopt anyone older than a toddler, and in fact is very excited, in his social-worker way, about providing a permanent home for older children who need one.

The first question I always get when talking about adopting is whether we'd adopt a child of another race or ethnicity (domestically or internationally). Going along with the above point, I've always replied that I didn't want people to easily draw divisions between my children and say, "I know who your 'real' children are." There are other reasons as well -- I read "The Book of Sarahs," a memoir of a transracial adoptee who went through a lot of pain and anger at being so physically out of place in her family (she was black and her adopted brother was white, like her adoptive parents). There is also documented discrimination in the U.S. around how adoption agencies place kids of color, often preferring to place them with a white family than one of their own race. I don't want to have any part of that. And there are a lot of strides being made in other countries to find kids adoptive families within their own country. I may be a little oversensitive, but I hate the thought of exercising any kind of white privilege or "American superiority" in thinking I should be adopting "helpless" children from other countries. Again, this is just me -- I have no problem with those who feel differently.

More recently, Mike and I threw around the idea of maybe adopting all of our children.

There are a few reasons. One is with the before-mentioned drawing of divisions -- as much as Mike thinks it would be cool to pass on his genes and create a child with crazy hair (we both have thick, bushy hair), he doesn't want that desire to mean he'd show preference to his "genetic" child.

Another big one, which I finally voiced to him, is that I really, really hate the idea of being pregnant. Besides reading far too many horror stories of pregnancy and delivery, I also just normally tend to get sick a lot -- I'm sensitive to everything -- and so I feel it's almost guaranteed that I would have some sort of major problem while pregnant. And as I'm the primary breadwinner, it would be a huge upheaval to our family if I ended up on long-term bed rest or something like that.

This makes me feel totally selfish, that I want to have children and have a big family without having to sacrifice my body to do it. But I'm making myself think through this rationally. Let me put it this way: When I was younger, I used to believe that everyone felt positively and negatively about the same things I did, and that, for example, I should let other people play with my favorite toy because it was obviously everyone's favorite toy and it would be selfish of me to play with it. It took me a long time to realize that my preferences weren't necessarily the same as everyone's. Even with the work I'm doing now, I had to recognize and overcome this mental block that was telling me, oh, it must be really difficult to get this kind of job or everyone would be doing it. Well, no, duh, they wouldn't -- I just happen to be a pretty rare person to love analyzing datasets all day long.

So when I recognized this aversion I had to pregnancy, my brain naturally told me that every woman felt that way and that I was just trying to shirk my duty. When Mike told me it was important to him to pass on his genes, then I just figured I'd have to suck it up and deal. But as I'm reading more in both the adoption community and the NFP community online, I've had to acknowledge that there are many, many women who desperately want to be pregnant. They'll spend lots and lots of money on infertility treatments and view adoption as a last resort. And many of the women practicing NFP feel constantly "called" to have more children and sometimes, it seems, don't even feel right if they're not pregnant or trying to get pregnant. And so I think, well, maybe God has put this aversion on my heart because it's my calling to be an adoptive mother to children who need a mother.

The fact that I feel selfish about wanting to adopt in the first place means that I feel selfish about putting any limitations on which children I will adopt. Maybe God is truly calling me not to be pregnant and to adopt five (or however many) children, but can I really say that He's also calling me to adopt a white male infant from the U.S. who has no special needs? Now that sounds selfish. And what about all those couples who can't have children themselves? Aren't we selfish to adopt a child ahead of them? I hate this kind of thinking because you start inadvertently ranking children: "Well, the infertile couples should really get the healthy infants, and you should have to adopt older children with special needs." And that's just wrong.

Sometimes I think crazy big things, like we should both learn sign language and adopt all deaf children and then when we build our own house (which we want to do), we can have it specially designed for deaf children. But I know that I would never get Mike to actually go through with something like that.

Many older children have special needs (that's why they haven't been adopted yet), though not all do, but there's a pretty good chance that we'll end up with children with some kind of special needs. There's a whole range of what those can be, and you can specify your preferences. The "best" kind of special needs, from what I can tell, are those that can be fixed with surgery and aren't lifelong problems. This means, of course, more money to be saved up (although if the health care reform isn't repealed, we could at least get some insurance coverage). More reason to wait on adopting an older kid, right?

I have no idea what's going to happen. I can only trust that God knows who our future children will be, and that they'll be just right for us. Just like He made us just right for each other.

Thoughts, reactions, criticisms, stories welcome.

Update: A year later, I reflected on conversations I've had with other women about pregnancy and parenthood in Everyone Feels Selfish: Judgment in Parenthood.

A Guide to My Lunch (and a Work Update)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

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I have the best husband ever.

Tuesday night he got home from working a double shift, read my blog post, and proceeded to stay up and make me a detailed plan for how to pack my lunch.

Check it out:

A Guide to My Lunch (and a Work Update) | Faith Permeating Life

And now you know what I eat for lunch every day. And that my husband is amazing.

That's all for tonight -- I need to get some sleep. One quick update about work, though: My "pseudo-boss" is finally going to be my actual, official, direct supervisor, which is kind of funny because I've been informally reporting to him for over a year now, but it's nice to have the last piece in place now (i.e., my title, salary, and boss all match what I've been doing for the past year anyway). Also, some of my miscellaneous responsibilities (like ordering coffee and office supplies) are going to be transferred to someone new when we hire him/her, which is awesome.

Good night!

The Happiness Project: March is Preparedness Month

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

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The Happiness Project: March Is Preparedness Month | Faith Permeating Life

It's March 1st, and you know what that means: Happiness Project check-in time!

First, a look back at January: I'm still taking my vitamins and flossing every day. Mike bought Wii Fit Plus, which has saved me time on my workouts because I can set up a half-hour routine and not have to waste time picking each activity and having it re-calibrate each time. On the other hand, I've roped him into doing it with me, so it still takes a decent chunk of time between the two of us. Worth it, though -- today I was standing at a weird angle with my leg tensed and bent down to scratch it, then went, "Holy crap, is that my leg muscle?" It's rock hard!

February was for creating a mental framework about where I am in my life. And yes, OK, I had heard Scott Smith say it hundreds of times, but as soon as I started "doing my homework" things started to change rapidly. I can't even share everything because some things aren't for sure yet, but quitting my editing program was one result of re-evaluating my goals and how my life aligned with them. Also, writing down things I was looking forward to made it clear very quickly that 1) I wasn't looking forward to enough things and 2) most of what I was looking forward to involved things being over. Like, "In the next week, I'm looking forward to this commitment at work being done." So I'm working to change that.

Also, Carla made a good point on my February post of being mindful of how time is spent online. I now ask myself a very simple question: "Are you checking or doing?" If I'm actively doing something, fine. If I'm just checking my e-mail, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc., it's time to find something else to do.

There is one thing that has made the biggest difference in my day-to-day happiness, and that's a direct result of my realization of why I'm stressed at work: a heated throw that I wear over my lap and legs. For the first time in way too long, I am no longer freezing all day long at work. Some of my coworkers teased a bit, but they quickly became jealous while walking around with their coats on, warming their hands on the floor's heaters (during the rare moments they're actually on). And it has significantly increased how much I look forward to going to work every day. I didn't realize how much I dreaded going to work and freezing all day until I got the electric blanket. Now I look forward to spending my day analyzing data accompanied by my blanket and a cup of tea.

So now it's March. March 9 begins the season of Lent for many people (myself included), and so it seemed appropriate to devote this month to Preparedness. This ties most strongly into the commandments "Do it before it's too late," "Assume mistakes," and "Prioritize right." I have three daily tasks:
  • Make sure I have everything before leaving home. Mike usually makes my lunch (he is gung-ho about being domestic, and I'm not one to complain), but on the days I have to make it, I always forget something. Usually either a fork for my salad or a napkin, but the last time I remembered both of those and forgot my fiber bar. I eat the same thing for lunch every day, so it wouldn't be that difficult to make myself a list of everything that goes in my lunch. I also need to force myself to write reminders or schedule text messages or whatever I need to do on days that I need to bring something special with me. Things go out of my mind if they're not written down.

  • Repair things immediately. Before I even wrote this post I forced myself to sew up a pair of my tights that got a hole in them. I'm terrible about procrastinating when something needs to be fixed (especially if fixing it requires buying something), but it's important. Mike prodded me into buying a replacement battery for my pedometer, which has been dead for over a year, and now I'm wearing it again and being more conscious of walking enough each day.

  • Save my work even if I don't think I need to. This is another weak area for me. I hate clutter, even electronic clutter, so if I can convince myself I'm just typing something up temporarily (to paste into an e-mail or to reformat something to print out and take to a meeting), I don't always save it. Then inevitably either the program will crash before I'm done, or someone will ask for an electronic copy. So my goal is to save every new document before I add a single word to it.

I also have two one-time goals for this month, and I was happy to discover I'd already completed one of them, which was doing my taxes. My dad has TurboTax and did our federal taxes, so I can't claim any credit for that one (except for getting all the files together for him ahead of time), but we had to do our state taxes ourselves and I made myself just sit down and file them on Sunday. So that's all taken care of.

The second goal is to create an emergency plan. Ironically (or maybe not), I have more plans in place to protect our stuff than to protect us. I have a fireproof lockbox that has our vital documents in it, and my computer files get backed up automatically to Mike's computer. I have all of our media catalogued on Delicious Library in case we ever have a fire/flood/theft and need to prove what we owned. But we don't have some basic stuff we should have, like a roll-up ladder for our bedroom. And while our apartment condition form when we moved in had a fire extinguisher listed as something we should have, when I asked about it they said they only have to have one in each building (what?). And I don't even know where that is. So we probably ought to have one of those as well.

So those are my plans to make myself more prepared.

What have I missed? In what areas of your life have you found yourself unprepared?
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