In just over a week, I need to have all of the stuff on the white board in my office at PHS done. It's a lot of stuff, but I'm feeling much better having gotten it from my brain and onto a board I face whenever I'm sitting in my chair at work. Which reminds me of this book I read a couple of years ago, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. One big takeaway is that we stress out unnecessarily when we keep remembering the stuff we haven't done yet. Our brains just keep coming back to it and churning on it. If we write down the tasks in a place that we are sure to refer to, our brains get freed up and we don't have to worry about forgetting what we need to accomplish. We only need pay attention to any given item again when we are ready to deal with it. I was a bit of a whack job this morning at home worrying about getting things done, and making this list right as I arrived at work helped a ton.
David Allen's suggestions are good as long as you don't make yourself crazy. Take the tips that serve you and dump the rest. Tickler file? Waste of time for me. I did tape "DO DEFER DELEGATE DISCARD" on my computer monitor at work after reading the book to help me get through e-mail more efficiently. With 663 messages in my work e-mail in-box alone, I clearly still have a ways to go on that one.
You may note that I have a whole unfilled column on my list with the title "fun stuff." Gotta work on that. But I find that as I progress through my tasks, some of it can be fun. Like discovering that someone does, in fact, make bifocal reader sunglasses. I think these will be awesome for my driving vacation with the family and in my soon-to-be new role as an auto commuter. It's weird in the car that I can't read the dashboard dials or radio without putting my reading glasses on, so these bifocal reader sunglasses will hopefully solve that. Plus, I'll be able to sit in the sun and read comfortably without squinting. I wish I'd invented them!
I also am replacing my lost Fitbit One charger. I'm sure my old one will turn up as soon as I have the new one out of the package, in which case, I'll keep the duplicate at work. Then I'll be sure to never miss a step. Har har.
Then there's the mindless and time-consuming tasks. I don't really mind mowing the lawn usually. Scanning pics for my niece is fun too. Finding time for both is the part that feels stressful. Maybe I can offer a cash reward to my kids for helping with those projects. Everybody wins!
The rest of the stuff... well, it's just stuff I need to do. It'll probably all get done. Or nearly all. Some of it absolutely HAS to get done. Other stuff... We'll see, anyway. Likely nothing too bad will happen if I miss a thing or two.
If you follow any of my tips for happy on this blog, there might be some reruns here, but repetition is the mother of skill-building, right? Or something like that. The short version is that steps we can take for a pleasant, meaningful and engaged life will help our overall happiness levels. These ideas will probably not make you giddy, but they don't take long and will hopefully take you up a notch. I've also thrown in some don'ts, things I sometimes do which I think seem like a good idea but bring me down in the end.
1. DO Write down some things you appreciate. I differentiate appreciations from gratitudes, with the latter having a more tenuous connotation. I give you full permission to NOT get a special notebook and a special corner or nook in the house to do this in. Scrap paper and a crayon while sitting in the van in the school's car line will be fine. Some people say you should come up with new stuff to be thankful for every day. Noble endeavor, but I'm okay with reruns. Can you really run out of a significant level of appreciation for your health or your loved ones or even a delightful breeze that plays across your face through the car window while you stare at the back of another family's minivan? I've made a deal with a faraway friend -- it's the Appreciation Game. When in the need of a boost, on of us will declare a round of the Appreciation Game and we'll text each other back and forth. This game works the same way as journaling your appreciations -- it helps get your brain in a place to see the good things going on around you. And it's nice to connect with a friend who gets it.
2. DO Listen to the Bangles. Or James Taylor. I use Pandora on my phone and computer. If you don't know about Pandora, it's a free app (or you can pay a couple of bucks a month to listen advertisement-free) and you can create a radio station by putting in the name of just about any artist and Pandora will pick music for you that fits that selection. Hence, Bangles. It's hard to NOT feel happier when you Walk Like an Egyptian. James Taylor is also a good pick but in a more mellow sort of way. I love Pink! and she's in my playlist too, but her radio station tends to be a little angrier, so when I need to find happy I listen to vapid 80's music.
3. DO Go for a walk or dance around to the Bangles on Pandora. I love that my dog encourages me to go outside and get moving several times a day. Even in the midst of the snowiest and coldest winter of my entire life, I still go for a couple of walks a day. The fresh air is awesome. It's also pretty great to NOT put on all of those clothes and instead dance around to the Bangles on Pandora and if you can get away with it, sing along. Walking, dancing and singing serve to put you in the middle of your movie and keep you from being a spectator. If you go for a walk, look for things to take pictures of that make you happy. My phone is full of interesting pics from walks: Birds nests, clouds, sunrises and sunsets, naked Barbie and Ken, footprints in snow, or most rrecently, snow cone heads. Or Sno-cone heads. See below.
4. DON'T Start playing Dots (or Candy Crush or any other incredibly addictive game) on your portable electronic device. Nobody feels happier or more settled after an hour of that. Really. Put it down and put on the Bangles and dance around. Or read a book or magazine. Generate some new ideas or just do something that's a little more fun and engages your brain a bit.
5. DO Make soup or some crockpot thing. It's pretty fast to put together a good soup or stew NOW (easy gluten-free!) when you are motivated in order to eat it LATER when you might not be. Comfort food, good health benefits. Check out some of my soups and stews for ideas. There are a jillion ideas on line, or better yet, ask your Facebook friends for their favorites. You'll get a slew of responses and you'll connect with people.
6. DON'T Spend hours on Facebook though. Or other social media. Or email. After a quick check to see what people are up to and to offer your own observations, sign off for awhile so that people will actually have a chance to post some new stuff for you to look at.
7. DO Schedule a quick (or not so quick) chat with your favorite upbeat friend or relative. I have to admit I feel incredibly awkward on the phone and this is one that I don't go often enough. Instead of calling someone out of the blue, which often as not ends up in leaving a message, I have the most success when a faraway friend and I schedule a phone call. Then I don't have to feel like I'm interrupting anything. I've also had a really good time scheduling a Skype call when my friend and I were both in the kitchen baking. Then we mailed each other some of the baked goods.
8. DON'T Start trolling the interwebs for cute cat videos (unless you are using it as an enticement for your kids to spend time with you, which I've been known to do.) Like playing never-ending games on your phone, time gets away from you and you feel a little less happy in the end.
9. DO Be the hero. Let the harried person in the grocery line go before you. Help the shorter person reach the thing on the top shelf. Shovel your neighbor's snow-covered walk. Look for little ways to help others and have no expectations about how they will behave in return. Chances are they'll feel good. Guaranteed you'll feel good.
10. DO Clean or straighten up a thing or place. Put 5 minutes into organizing something that's been bugging you but that you haven't gotten around to doing. For me, it's putting clothes away. I stack stuff on my dresser and vanity and don't get around to putting it away. It weighs me down. It doesn't take too long to make a dent in the stacks, but I really have to make myself do it. I always feel better after I do. Cleaning out the car is the same way. For more depth on decluttering and restoring order in your home, checkout the FlyLady website.
There you have it. You can do all of this stuff. You'll feel better. Try it.
I recently advised a friend to buy ice cube trays for a pittance rather than $600 to fix her refrigerator because the ice maker was broken. People say I have a gift for problem-solving. Today, I bring you the gift of the technological recipe capturing device, your smart phone.
If your kitchen is like mine, you have one or more recipe boxes full of recipe cards, newspaper clippings, and pages torn from magazines. Our recipe boxes contain both recipes that either we use all the time, or those which looked interesting when we first saw them but have never gotten around to making. Today I was browsing the latest (free) issue of Better Nutrition magazine and an interesting recipe for Savory Sweet Potato Balls jumped out at me. My first inclination was to tear it out of the magazine and add it to the others in the box, maybe to try sometime, maybe to forget about.
But just a scant hour before this, I was working on reducing the clutter that I have allowed to accumulate on my quadrant of the dining room table. I have a number of projects in the works and this space is my staging area while things are in process. I had allowed too many bits of paper and partially completed projects to accumulate and was pleased that I had made a pretty good dent in reclaiming my zone. I couldn't bring myself to add to general household clutter with another scrap of paper, even one with a pretty delicious-sounding recipe, which might just go into the card box to languish and take up space.
Yay for technology! I took a picture of the recipe with my smart phone. I can sort and file it and back it up to the recipe file on my computer. If it turns out to be a keeper, I can decide later to commit it to the recipe box if I want. If it turns out to be a languisher, then at least I haven't added any clutter to my life.
Feel free to take this idea and make it your own. Better living through technology.
My LAVH surgery (hysterectomy) last week was by all appearances a success: My uterus and cervix are no longer with me, but my ovaries are, which means that menopause will come at its own sweet pace. I'm not in a rush for that!
I learned that morphine gives me a wanging headache and nausea. I have learned that I am not alone with these side effects. Why, oh why haven't they come up with some different pain med to start with?
I also learned that distraction, meditation and sleep are darned effective pain management techniques themselves. Whew!
The day after surgery, I felt pretty lousy. Abdominal pain, headache, nausea. I knew I'd feel better at home. The requirements for getting released? 1) Walk; 2) Pee; 3) Eat solid food and keep it down. I figured I could handle #1 and #2, but #3 was going to be a challenge, both from a physical point of view and a logistics point of view. From my pre-hospitalization research, I knew that most of my friends and acquaintances with celiac advised that I not trust the hospital food service to not cross contaminate. I learned from the dietitian at the hospital that they (think they) have pre-packaged gluten-free breads, chips, and cookies, plus they could steam vegetables, etc, and that they would be willing to go to great lengths to bring me whatever would be suitable. That sounded promising, but I decided to not trust them anyway, and I brought a pureed pumpkin soup and a pureed squash soup from Trader Joe's and a microwave-safe bowl so that if I wanted it, my partner Jenn or a nurse or aide on the floor could nuke it for me. I still felt pretty queasy, but I thought I could manage the soup long enough to get out of the hospital. By this time I had been off the morphine for about 12 hours, and I was loaded with anti-nausea medication, so I figured I had a 50-50 shot at success. Unfortunately the nurse ruled that pureed soup didn't count as solid food and that I'd need something more.
Argh! Should have brought some gluten-free crackers! The hospital's food service machine was invoked to see what might be on hand. I was actually quite surprised that in less than half an hour a gluten-free vegetarian tray of solid food appeared. The broccoli and green beans were WAY overcooked, so I'm guessing that they didn't boil 'em up special for me, increasing the possibility of cross-contamination. They did bring packaged and clearly marked potato chips and cookies, which turned out to be my ticket home.
So, my advice to you for your next hospitalization: Like me, you may not be interested in food at all, but take something just in case. I had a gf clear broth that Jenn brought for my liquid diet day, and comforting sounding soups for my solid food day. I wish I had packed some mild gf crackers, since hospitals and nurses seem to understand that crackers = solid food. I think that hospital food service will get more responsive over time, but the distance between the room and the kitchen is a very wide gulf and there is no real way to reassure a gluten-intolerant patient that food handling procedures are safe. I'd actually suggest to any hospital listening that they do like the airlines and get hermetically sealed microwavable gluten-free meals to increase the consumer's confidence in the product.
My surgery +5 day postscript is that I am amazingly uninterested in food. I'm not hungry and nothing sounds good. Coffee is gross. Sleep, meditation, distraction and pain meds are very popular with me right now. I know this is temporary, so I'm trying to appreciate the gift of enforced rest and all of the warm wishes from family and friends.
I have been feeling very out of whack since I learned of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I have two sons, ages 9 and 11, and I can barely bring myself to think about those kids, the teachers and staff, the parents and the community. There isn't really a way for me to directly offer support, solace or comfort, which makes me feel helpless. Over the last couple of days, I have had some learnings about what to do and not to do to help myself and my family cope.
1. It's okay to not feel bad every minute. I'm glad the boys and I went to the gluten-free meetup and cookie swap on Saturday. The baking beforehand was enjoyable and productive and I got to spend some time with my 9-year-old making chocolate peppermint cookies. The party itself was very fun.
2. No matter how good all the gluten-free cookies left over from the party are, too much sugar sends me to a rather bleak place. I need to remember that sometimes its easier to eat none than think I can just eat one, which I usually can't.
3. Say yes to interaction and people. Too much screen time or alone time makes it harder for me to pull out of a tailspin. I really wish I had said yes to a game of Apples to Apples with my kids yesterday.
4. Make healthy comfort food. I made my mom's pea soup for dinner. Sometimes you just need your mom.
5. Remember what it's like to be a kid. My boys are troubled by what happened too, but they don't really have the verbal or emotional vocabulary to express it. For the first time in a long time, we all piled in bed together last night. I think it helped all of us.
6. Get some exercise. Even though it's cold and rainy/foggy this morning, my half hour run was a sanity-saver, a moving meditation, that helped me find my emotional bearings.
7. Write. Being able to put your thoughts down on paper is like sharing a burden so that you don't have to carry a heavy load around with you all the time.
8. Listen to music. I've been alternating Charlotte Church and Julia Fordham and October Project on Pandora. It helps.
9. Appreciate EVERYTHING. Tell your family you love them. Watch the sunrise. Look at pictures of happy times. Savor your morning coffee.
10. Convey gratitude. Thank those people who have loved and supported you and kept you safe. Write them a letter. Tell them. Even if they are no longer with us, trust that the effort you put into thanking them will boost the positive energetic vibration that we all occupy.
Peace be with you, today and always.