Baselines

Well, I keep trying to write a blog post and failing. I guess for the same reason that I keep trying to go take a walk and failing – today, only my arms or the swing will do for the baby. No baby wrap, no stroller, no car seat, no bouncer or bassinet – not without screams, anyway. Some days are easier than others.

But while the swing is still acceptable, let me get this out. Continue reading

Aaaand we’re back.

Six weeks later…

For real, though. Having a baby is no joke, guys. I am now halfway through maternity leave and through the portion I consider “baby boot camp.” This has been the thick of the newborn stage – lots of crying (primarily, but not exclusively, by the baby), hormone swings, breastfeeding pain, two-hour stretches of sleep, and toddler adjustments (whining, sleep regressions, etc). In short, I did not have the wherewithal for writing. I didn’t remember it from last time – hell, I barely remember it this time. The past 6 weeks have been a total blur.

We made it, though, and both of us are healthy, and I’m officially able to exercise. I’m still not sleeping longer than two and a half or three hours at a time, so I will need to keep the exercise moderate until I can either start outsourcing night feedings more consistently or the baby decides to skip one of his wake-ups. Until then, my primary focus is on diet, with a secondary goal of reestablishing a base level of strength and aerobic fitness. No CrossFit style workouts until I’m getting a consistent minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep, in other words.

Will it be next week? Next month? Next winter? It’s an adventure we’re going to take together, people. At least, I’m going to take you with me. While you’re hopefully taking advantage of not having a newborn to interrupt your sleep every couple of hours. Except those of you who also have newborns. I see you, sisters.

Anyway, next post I’ll establish my baseline. I’m not thrilled about the numbers, because they mean I have a minimum of thirty pounds to lose. Ugh. But I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, dammit. Here we go.

Friday Fun

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Brushing up for Tuesday.

“Friday Fun” isn’t a very compelling title for these posts…I’ll have to come up with something better. Unless someone else can, which would be even better…ideas?

Quote of the Week

“It’s a fantastic and terrifying liberation. The reason it is terrifying is because it makes you once and for all responsible to no one but yourself. Not to God the Father, not to Satan, not to anybody. Just you. If you think it’s right, then you’ve got to do it. If you think it’s wrong, then you mustn’t do it.” -James Baldwin

OK, maybe not a “fun” quote, but it’s one that everyone should consider – what it means to trust your own inner moral compass. What if no one is responsible for your decisions but you? No one to blame but yourself? It burns off a lot of the smoke we tend to generate around the decisions we make. I think sometimes we do that to shield ourselves from our own flawed logic. I should rephrase that – I think sometimes that’s why I do it. I don’t take this quote to necessarily only apply to atheists; it really is about taking radical responsibility for one’s own actions.

Fave links from around the interwebs

I hope this piece, entitled Dirtbag Winston Churchill, sucks you into the same Mallory Ortberg comedy vortex I’ve been in for the past two days (she has a book that just came out, Texts from Jane Eyre, which may be why the internet is flooded with Ortberg – and I couldn’t be more pleased, personally). You’ll be the better for it, I say. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started: Two Monks Invent Denominations, Dirtbag Athena, Women Listening to Men in Western Art HistoryThe Toast’s Mallory Ortberg on Death, Faith, and Why It’s So Easy to Make Fun of Christians.

I love her honesty about her doubt/faith and spiritual journey in that last interview and can identify a lot with it – we have weirdly similar backgrounds, actually. I love how she says, “Prayer was not something that made a lot of sense to me. Because it seems really clear to me that outcomes in the world are fairly inconsistent … But [another] sort of prayer is, ‘Given that anything can happen to me, given that life is sometimes cruel and sometimes beautiful and I don’t know what’s coming next, how can I handle what happens next best? How can I ask God to be with me in whatever shit goes down?’ And that is the kind of prayer makes a lot of sense to me.”

I also read this older essay of hers this week. I could have written a lot of that essay myself after college. This is still relevant today for me: “I had a copy of the Old Testament that was illustrated like a graphic novel, and I also had every novel published under the Star Wars Expanded Universe imprint published before the year 2000. I learned that every moment of my life, however trivial it seemed at the time, carried in it a potential charge that could draw me either closer to God or further away. I learned that God loved me, much as Mara Jade came to love Luke Skywalker after she was able to shake off the training she had received from Palpatine during her tenure as the Emperor’s Hand. I had at least three friends at any given time.”

OT: Mara Jade had a very important influence on my life, guys. And most people will never know her, now that the Expanded Universe has been unceremoniously chucked out the window by our dear friends at Disney (more OT: at the link, I disagree with the AV Club mourning the Yuuzhan Vong. I hated them and I never read another EU book after R.A. Salvatore introduced them and had them kill off Chewbacca). Anyway, it’s lovely to see that the Emperor’s Hand will not be forgotten. Let’s take a moment to grieve together.

Moving on.

Biking lanes! Maybe you wish you had them as much as I do. Wired recommends cities take an affordable approach, testing best practices before making more expensive, permanent changes. This could be the best way to get quick traction and momentum behind the idea in most cities, AND it’s been successfully implemented elsewhere! Could be a win-win for most city managers and cyclists.

Warning: if you’ve ever made an effort to support local farms, this article on the deceptive practices of some farm-to-table restaurants may infuriate you.

After last year’s demonstrations and student activism on the subject, my alma mater, Georgetown University, is sorting through the best way to make amends for the sale of 272 slaves in 1838. This could be important precedent among private institutions who owe their existence to the slave trade.

An interesting take on a possible cause that may explain the correlation between well-adjusted kids and regular family dinners.

Listened to this great podcast this week: Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen interview Brené Brown for their Beautiful Writers podcast. There are a ton of gems in this interview! I know a lot of my friends love Brené as much as I do, and you guys will probably enjoy this interview a lot.

Game plan

OK, we’re coming up on the day here very shortly – I’m scheduled for next Tuesday! I think I ought to do a bit of planning. I promise not to throw any Excel documents at you, even if I use them for myself. (Ooooh, I’m going to make so many charts at the end of this! Maybe I’ll even find a way to work a pie chart in there. I love charts and graphs.)

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Image credit: Chris Gladis

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Rituals

I’ve been fascinated for some time with morning rituals – how early do people get up? Do they have kids? What do they do? Do they exercise? It’s really interesting to see the variety (Here are three of my favorite links about this, if you’re interested: here, here, and here). A lot of really productive and creative people get up super early and advise everyone else to do the same, but just as many do not and insist on doing their most creative work in the middle of the night. I am selfishly most interested in parents’ routines, because there are some realities of being a working parent that you just have to take into consideration when you’re choosing a wake up time. You can’t sleep later than your kids, as a rule. And once they’re up, well – let’s just say if you wanted to meditate or hit the gym, you’ve already missed the boat. So if you want to do anything “for yourself” (lol), you’ve got to wake up before them, like Toni Morrison talks about here (tons of good interviews in that archive, too). She is quite inspiring for me, personally, not just because she’s one of the best writers of our day, but because she also started writing when she had small children. It feels quite rare, especially among the accomplished writers you hear about, mostly because most people who put themselves through that may be disturbed. I’m not saying Toni Morrison is disturbed. Little kids really take a lot out of you, is all I’m saying.

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I woke up this one time for sunrise, above, because baby. Ouch. Great #nofilter for Insta, though.

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Know Thyself

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Image credit: Jan Lakota

I wrote a bit on Wednesday about shifting my perspective from employing willpower to setting myself up for success by reducing the number of decisions I have to make substantially. Doing this required a change in thinking – beyond a simple shift, it required a change in how I think about myself. Like many, if not most, people, I like to think of myself as disciplined and in control of my behavior; this whole paradigm sort of changes the script. With this approach, I’m kind of creating fences around my behavior, like I might for a toddler or untrained dog. I’m taking away my own choices. This is not an easy thing for me to accept! It feels a bit undignified.

The key skill that I’m using here is self-monitoring – another executive function, by the way. I’m becoming aware of my own self-talk and the unique type of resistance that my mind puts up against change. Everyone is slightly different in how they resist change, but I do think that the fact that we resist it is universal.

The Strategy of Distinctions

Ultimately, I think that to change a behavior or habit, you have to know yourself. One of my favorite books about habit change is Better Than Beforeby Gretchen Rubin (she also wrote The Happiness Project, which you might be familiar with). In it, she shares 21 strategies for habit change – I highly recommend the book. But the one I’m going to focus on today is one that I know she happens to be writing another book on currently – the strategy of distinctions, and particularly, her “Four Tendencies” framework. She presents a lot of good questions to ask about yourself when trying to figure out the best strategy for changing a habit in the book. Her Four Tendencies framework is the first and perhaps most helpful in understanding our psychology as it relates to habit change: namely, how do you respond to inner and outer expectations? Continue reading