A Good Year

{A note about AWOL comments: I just realized that my spam filter has been a little overactive lately. I’m sorry so many legit comments were going to spam. I will check that folder daily and make sure to publish anything that is being sent there by mistake. I’ll also try to tell my filter not to send certain emails there. I’m not sure why it’s doing that, maybe because the name is sometimes changed? Definitely use the same name every time you comment, just in case that is what’s causing it to go into spam-filter overdrive.}

I was making the obligatory family calendar this year–it’s what I give both sets of grandparents–and I was struck by what a good year 2014 was for our family.

January is all photos from our wedding. I am so thankful to have finally married my best friend and the love of my life, in front of family and a couple of close friends. I cherish my memories of that day, those captured by the camera and those that live in my heart.

May is dozens of photos of my two children together. Every single one is a reminder of the other future I had come to accept, the one where just my daughter’s face graced those photographs. I am so, so thankful to have my son in my life, for them to have each other and for us to be a family.

June is photos of my daughter with characters from Disneyland. That was an amazing trip–stressful and intense to be sure, but also wonderful. I’m so glad we got to go together. I know it meant as much to her as it did to me.

July is pictures of my husband and I with our kids (we both have birthdays in July). Seriously, how did I get so lucky to have this man, and these sweet children, in my life?

October is the twelve monthly shots of my son that I took with the sticker ties saying how old he is. I never did those monthly shots with my daughter, but always wished I had, and they represent the opportunity I have with my son to do things differently, to try things I didn’t know about the first time around. I am intensely grateful for the second chances. I never take them for granted.

December is best-ofs from a photo shoot we did recently with the kids. We have a beautiful family and I love seeing all four of us together. There are too few pictures of all of us together.

I suppose it’s sad that I needed a photo calendar to remind me of all the amazing things that happened this year. I truly am humbled by what I’ve been given. I just hope that in 2015 I’ll honor these gifts in every way I know how.

What will you remember about 2014?

Coping Mechanisms

It seems everyone things I’ve quit all my vices cold turkey and left myself with no coping mechanisms. I can assure you, that is not the case. I have been indulging in plenty of behavior that I don’t really approve of (for myself) in my attempt to manage this feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. I know I can’t make every positive change in my life at once. I know I will doomed to failure if I do. At  this point I am focusing mostly on the compulsive spending, while trying to embrace the minimalism mindset (because I think ultimately it help me stop spending compulsively), but without a lot of pressure to “get it right”.

{The only other thing I’m trying to quit right now is biting my nails (actually I mostly bite the skin around my nails) because it got so bad that I was creating deep fissures that were excruciatingly painful, and also my daughter has started biting her nails (from watching me) so we’re trying to quit together. That actually hasn’t been so hard because I’ve found an alternate habit to insert in place of biting my nails, and I’ve become so mindful of my nail-biting triggers–it happens in specific places (the car, while I’m waiting for something) and for specific reasons (boredom, stress)–that I have been pretty successful at swapping out one habit for another. I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself to stop biting my nails though, mostly I just don’t want to injure myself anymore, because man, the places where I broke the skin were really starting to hurt.}

So what are my current coping mechanisms? There are plenty.

I’m drinking a ton of Diet Coke, like 2-3 cans a day. I’m also indulging in a lot of coffee. I plan to stop drinking Diet Coke completely at some point, but right now I might as well be mainlining the stuff.

I read. A lot. I’m constantly escaping into books, articles and blog posts. I’m on my phone constantly. I’m listening to books on tape constantly. I’m reading all the damn time.

I have taken up TV watching again. I never made a conscious effort to stop watching TV but with only an hour in the evenings to do so, it wasn’t really happening. Lately I’ve been binge watching all sorts of TV. I have crappy shit on in the background while I fold laundry or grade papers and my husband and I have been spending out evenings watching something, anything, that will give us a reason not to talk much to each other. (Things aren’t bad between us, it’s all just A LOT and we appreciate some easy, mindless moments at the end of long days.)

I’m eating a ton of crap food. My diet is a fucking shambles right now (and when I say diet I’m simply referring to what I eat–I’m not on any specific “diet” to lose weight). My sugar consumption, which is usually almost nothing, has skyrocketed, and I’m doing absolutely nothing to curb that.

I’m giving myself a lose leash on the cash spending. That $100 a week does not include groceries (my husband buys those) or gas (I use my debit card) and I’m letting myself get snacks or treats or eat lunch out right now, because those things make my days easier and more fun. I don’t feel like spending money that way is a compulsion for me (like buying stuff is) so I’m letting myself do it, because it would be way too hard to just stop spending money entirely. Eventually I want to live on a much tighter budget that would exclude frivolous food spending of that kind, but right now, as I try to cold-turkey stop shopping, I’m letting myself indulge a little, and refusing to feel guilty about it.

I’m letting the house get messy again. It’s driving me crazy, and I’m constantly picking Cheerios from between my toes, but I just can’t let myself get stressed out about the mess right now. Hopefully, as I continue to get rid of stuff (and recreate the balance that was lost with the influx of stuff at Christmas) it will become easier to keep the house neat again.

Also, I’m not pushing myself to write. Sure there are times when I want to, and feel that I can’t, but I’m not creating an obligation that isn’t there. That is why I go weeks without writing here, or anywhere.

Finally I’m making exercise a priority, even when it creates situations that really piss my husband off. I am not letting exercise get crowded out by being home alone with two kids, one of whom doesn’t nap, most days. I’m making it work, even if that means encouraging my daughter to spend an hour or more on the iPad three times a week.

Those are just some of the ways I’m cutting myself some slack and giving myself coping mechanisms during this difficult time. I will admit I’m trying to reign in the really bad ones (ahem, excessive Diet Coke consumption) because I don’t want to replace one unhealthy addiction with a bunch of other unhealthy addictions that will be hard to give up at some later date. At the same time, I want to give myself leeway right now, so I don’t go crazy while I make these changes.

I have some positive coping mechanisms waiting in the wings as well. I’m participating in a online discussion group that is committing to meditation starting in January. I hope being a part of a community of people that are also trying to meditate will help me hold myself accountable. I really do believe daily meditation could be a HUGELY positive change for me.

I’m also going to start writing in my journal, as per Karen’s suggestion. I think that will be a really positive outlet for me too. Writing about 5 things I did well in a day will give me a reason to pick up a pen, even when it all feels too overwhelming to get down on paper. I hope with the addition of those positive coping mechanisms, I can dial down my dependence on some of the other more mind numbing habits I’ve taken up (*cough* internet, TV).

What are your go-to coping mechanisms? Are there any you want to change?


I’m sorry.

I didn’t mean to disappear again.

I hate that I’m becoming “that blogger,” the one who writes for a week or two and then disappears without any warning or explanation.

I know we don’t owe anyone anything in the Internets, especially not in our own spaces, but I also know that I consider many of you friends and I don’t want to be the kind of friend that just vanishes without a trace for weeks at a time. I don’t like it when my friends do that to me, and I don’t want to do that to my friends either.

So I’m sorry I’ve been away. I’ve tried to write. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. Miserably. This is where most people mention the many unfinished drafts waiting to be published, but I will admit that not a word has been written that you haven’t seen. Not even in my journal. I haven’t been able to write, not anywhere.

I’ve opened up posts. Sometimes I’ve even stared at them for a good couple of minutes, but not once have I written a word. Usually I just shut the computer down and start reading a book.

I just can’t seem to write anything.

I think there are a lot of reasons why, but it’s hard to pin any of them down. Everything is so intertwined right now, it’s hard to tease out one narrative and commit to it from beginning to end without mentioning all the other issues at play. Each strand is so completely, and complexly, a part of all the others, you can’t trace it under your finger without starting down the path of a totally different thread. And the hardest part is, half the time you don’t even realize you’ve gone astray, the colors are so muddled and stained, it’s hard to tell the individual strands apart.

Jesus, even that metaphor is a fucking disaster.

I really, truly don’t know what to say, except that this business of tearing oneself down and then rebuilding from the foundation is devastating, especially when you’ve removed (or are attempting to) all the scaffolding you depended on in the past. Brené Brown talks about abandoning the things we do to numb ourselves and how when she did it she felt like a turtle without its shell… in a briar patch. That is how I feel. It’s excruciating, and I want nothing more than to slip back into the well worn armor I’ve carried around for the entirety of my adult life.

So in the absence of a cohesive narrative, I guess I’ll just start writing and see what happens.

Winter break has been… challenging. 24/7 with both kids, no breaks, my son cutting four molars… It’s not the best environment to be managing all this. But I suppose none is.

Christmas Day was surprisingly nice. Low key. It was what I needed. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up; I’ve spent the last four years learning that what I used to love about holidays with family (actually spending meaningful time with them) is just not possible with young kids. Walking into the day with realistic expectations helped stave off the disappointment, and there were even some nice moments with my overly-stimulated, Christmas-crazed kids. (I realize that risks sounding totally ungrateful–please know I am not ungrateful, and that I appreciate every Christmas I spend with my kids, but–as are many things in parenting–it’s complicated.)

I finally saw my therapist, and we spent the hour tackling my compulsive spending. It was… unpleasant. She is clearly concerned. As per her suggestion, I came home and handed over all my credit cards to my husband. I am carrying around my debit card to buy gas and for emergencies, but on a weekly basis I’m only using cash. I’m giving myself $100 a week right now, but I’m not allowed to by anything non-essential and I have to write down how every cent is spent. (My therapist suggested $50 a week, and I’m going to work down to that in the next month.) I could tell my husband was freaked out by all of it, and I had to assure him (again, through tears) that I hadn’t told her anything I hadn’t already divulged to him. I think the difference is she knows what follow-up questions to ask, and what my responses to those questions mean. She recognizes when I get defensive or try to justify my actions. She knows me. We’re going to work on it. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to stumble and fall, over and over again, but I’m going to keep getting up and continue stumbling forward.

The next few weeks are a test of sorts, to see what kind of self-control I have. If I can stick to my spending plan it will be one thing, if I can’t, it will be quite another. The pressure is considerable.

I’m hitting the wall on the commitment to minimalism. Turns out I’m not just addicted to accumulating stuff but to the stuff itself. I’m having a harder and harder time letting go. And yet I realize I have to. I understand that the life I lead now, with the stuff I own, it’s untenable. And yet I’m not sure how to change. It’s hard. I don’t know how to do this. But I have to and so I keep at it.

I miss writing. And I don’t. I haven’t tackled it here (or anywhere) yet but the Creative Non-Fiction class had a big impact on me. Someone critiquing my work affected me deeply. And then I quit the magazine and can’t seem to maintain a writing schedule here. I recognize all these steps as a distancing of myself from writing, from my understanding of myself as a writer, but I’m not quite sure why I am taking those steps. I assume the reasons will present themselves, eventually.

In the absence of my usual coping techniques (stuff, shopping, writing, even biting my nails, which I’m trying to quit) I find myself scrambling to fill the space and pass the time. I am loathe to even transfer the laundry without an audiobook playing. At night, before I fall asleep, I’ve resorted to my old habit of telling stories in my head, mostly the tooling and retooling of scenes that I love, keeping my mind occupied so it won’t have to acknowledge whatever is brewing behind the projector screen.

This past weekend my husband and I lost ourselves in Broadchurch, the BBC version. I cried. A lot.

I am trying to be accepting of all this, both how I feel and how I’m coping. Maybe that is why it’s hard to write, because I’m trying so desperately not to judge any of this as good or bad. Or maybe it’s because I know I’m clutching at straws, and if I sit still long enough to get it down I’ll see it all for what it is.

I honestly have no idea. But at least I wrote this. And that’s something.

Update on Down There

I never gave an update on my busted lady business, and I do want to chronicle that journey for anyone else who is dealing with lingering physical issues post pregnancy and/or vaginal delivery.

The reason I haven’t updated is there isn’t much to say. The uro-gynocologist I met with was very nice and did a lot to validate my concerns (which I always appreciate from medical professionals). She did a thorough examination and clearly explained what was going on and what they could do to alleviate my symptoms.

Of course there was a lot of poking and prodding in my lady business, which didn’t surprise me. One procedure I was not expecting, and that was exceedingly weird, was when she inserted a catheter and FILLED MY BLADDER to make sure it could hold the requisite amount. Let me tell you, the sudden onset of a full bladder is a bizarre (and rather painful) sensation, almost as weird as the feeling of peeing cold water. That was seriously the oddest thing I have ever experienced.

Luckily my bladder can still hold plenty of liquid, and I don’t have any continence issues (for this I am supremely grateful), but I do have problems with completely vacating my bladder and even after I peed she was able to  “squeeze” a good 60 mLs out through the catheter. This doesn’t surprise me because it always feels like I need to pee, even when I just went and I still have to stand up to get the last drops out. Evidently even when I do that I’m still not voiding my bladder completely.

The doctor explained that they rate prolapse on a scale of 0-4, 0 being no prolapse and 4 indicating a protrusion of pelvic organs outside of the vagina. I immediately guessed I would was at a 2 and I was right. My issues are not severe, but they are definitely noticeable.

Surgery is an option but my doctor recommended I wait until I was done picking up my child regularly before I get it. That is at least two or three years in the future. She said the surgery has an 80% success rate and then in 20% of cases things eventually go “back the way they were.”

In the meantime I was fitted for a pessary, which is a thick ring that folds in half and is inserted into the vagina. The pessary acts like a trampoline, holding up the prolapsed pelvic organs and keeping them from the opening of the vagina. This isn’t super helpful for me, as my symptoms are worse in situations where I can’t wear the pessary, like during my period (I want to be able to wear a menstrual cup or a tampon) and sex. It does help relieve the feeling of pressure I have when I work out, but I don’t feel much of a difference otherwise (which mostly means I don’t notice my prolapse otherwise, which is a good thing).

I have to admit, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel leaving the doctor’s office. On the one hand I am very grateful that I’m not dealing with more severe issues and that waiting a couple of years for surgery is mostly just an inconvenience. On the other hand, I’m having my period one out of every three weeks (I still have my short 20-21 day cycles–thanks DOR!–but my copper IUD makes my periods longer, if not necessarily heavier) and it sucks to wear re-useable bamboo pads (so as not to irritate my fissure). Also, I’d love for sex not to be uncomfortable, but I’m feeling more and more resigned to that being an issue for the foreseeable future.

I think mostly the appointment was just a wake-up call that these issues are never going away, at least not completely. This is my life now and I need to figure out how to make it work without getting too down about it. It could be so much worse and I’m thankful that it’s manageable, but I miss my unscathed lady business and I long for sex to be purely pleasurable once again.

Man, those were the days.

Friendship Inventory

Last week I started reading Friendships Don’t Just Happen: A Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends by Shasta Nelson. I don’t think I need to explain why.

I’ve only just started the book. This weekend I finished reading about Nelson’s Circles of Connectedness, where she identifies five different kind of friendships and explains what each one entails. She diagrams her Circles of Connectedness on a continuum of closeness that increases from left to right, while explaining how and why each kind of friend is important and what roles they play in our lives.

Nelson introduces the “Left-Side Friends” first. Farthest to the left are “Contact Friends” which Nelson describes as women “we are friendly [with] when we see them in our shared context, but we have limited consistency and limited intimacy.” These are the kinds of friends we gravitate to at yoga class or maybe during our lunch break at work. They give us a “sense of belonging” in our shared context but there isn’t any expectation that we will remember details about their life outside of the context in which we know them.

Next are “Common Friends,” which are described in relation to Contact Friends as “increasing either in consistency or intimacy… getting to know them better largely in the area we have in common.” Contract Friends are like Common Friends except that “we spend time with these women in more intentional and personal ways, developing friendships that feel more substantial.” We probably see these women more frequently than we’d see Common Friends and talk about things that are more important to us. For the woman I sit with at lunch to move from the Contact to Common Friends category, I’d have to start spending some time with her after school–maybe getting a coffee before heading home some days–even if we still talked primarily about work.

Next Nelson jumps to the two farthest right circles: “Community” and “Committed Friends.” Community Friends are women with whom “we spend consistent time together growing the intimacy or our relationship” while Committed Friends are women we “intimately and consistently share our lives with.” Community friends are generally referred to as “good friends” and Committed Friends are the heralded BFFs.

The middle circle, or fulcrum as Nelson refers to it, is reserved for “Confirmed Friends.” They are the women with whom we have a shared past, but that we no longer see consistently, usually because one or both of us has moved (but maybe because of a large transition in one woman’s life).

The few negative reviews of the book (on Am.azon) disparaged the categorizing and inventorying of friendship, but I have found it very useful. I always knew I had different kinds of friends, but I appreciate someone clearly defining the different types of friendships. I find it helps me to understand what I can expect from people, and more importantly it helps me articulate why I can have so many friends and still feel like important friendships are missing.

At the end of the discussion on the different Circles of Connectedness, Nelson urges the reader to do a kind of friendship inventory, to see which circles are impacted and which could use a boost. She extolls the reader to be honest in her assessment, to categorize friendships based on the true conditions of the present, not nostalgic reminiscences of the past or hopeful projections into the future.

I took my own inventory and while I wasn’t shocked, I was still saddened, by the results. The majority of my friends fell in the two left-hand circles; most of the women I am close to are Contact Friends and a few can be considered Common Friends because we get together every once in a while outside of our shared context (work or play dates with our kids) or exchange emails or FB messages outside of our shared online context (blog comment sections). I also have a few friends in the Confirmed circle, all women I lived with during college or know from high school. I am still close with these women but I only see them once every year or two and we don’t connect regularly via phone, email or other social media.

I didn’t have one friend to list in either the Community or Committed Friends circles. The word that kept anyone from inhabiting those circles was “consistency.” There is just no one in my life that I communicate with, let alone see, consistently. That is what I am missing.

Doing this exercise has been incredibly validating. It really helped me to understand exactly what friendships I feel are missing from my life. I always knew that I wanted more, but in the absence of a clear articulation of what exactly it was I wanted more of, I felt I was being selfish and taking the friendships I did have for granted. I knew that something was missing, but I couldn’t easily determine what that thing was and in my clumsy fumbling to express how I was feeling, I disparaged the friendships I did have, the ones I cherish and thoroughly enjoy. Now I better understand how I can have so many wonderful, meaningful friendships with women, both in real life and online, and still ache for something different.

Inventorying my friendships also helped me understand why the loss of my good friend has been so devastating. She was my only “right-hand side” friend and in the aftermath of her abrupt exit from my life I had no other friends I shared with consistently enough to help fill the gaping hole.

Doing this exercise also makes me feel sad. I already knew I wanted more friends, but seeing that I don’t have one person I can say I share with intimately and consistently hurts. I think it would be different if I’d just moved or dealt with some other massive life transition, but I’ve lived in this city (and been at the same job) for a decade, and it’s been almost five years since I became a mother. I feel like I should have at least a few friends on the right-hand side, but in reality I have none.

I’m assuming the rest of the book focuses on how to populate these circles with meaningful friendships and I hope I find some good advice. I’m also moving through (slowly, it’s intense stuff) a workbook on attachment theory so that hopefully I will have healthy expectations of whoever ends up on the right-side of my continuum.

This friendship work is hard, but I think it’s really worth investing the time and energy into making new friends. I’ve read some alarming stuff about how important a strong support network can be to a overall health and vitality; in one study of over 3,000 nurses battling breast cancer, a strong sense of friendship and support resulted in survival rates four times greater than those without strong friendships. Being married made no statistical difference in survival outcomes. Lonely had similarly terrifying statistics about the sobering effects a lack of friendships can have on mortality rates. The last thing I want is to die young because I don’t have something in my life that I always wanted.

What do you think about making a friendship inventory? Can you guess which circles would be more full, and which would be more empty?


My daughter took a test with San Francisco Unified School District this weekend to determine her bilingual status.

She passed!

Those two words don’t do the situation any justice.

My daughter passing that test is a culmination of four years of hard work. I speak Spanish and I tell others I’m fluent when they ask me–I graduated from a Masters program in Spanish Language Education that was taught primarily in Spanish so clearly I do speak Spanish rather well–but I’m still not at the level I personally want to be. I still feel I have to think too hard to formulate some sentences and that my personality gets lost in the translation.

All that to say, speaking Spanish to my daughter for the past four years has not been easy. It has required painstaking effort and a continual commitment (and renewed commitment) on my part. I made sure she was in a Spanish immersion preschool so she’d have exposure to the language all day at school. I didn’t speak Spanish to her as much as I wanted to, and when her verbal skills in English shot up at age 3.5-4 she started fighting me on it, not only refusing to respond in Spanish but demanding I speak in English. But instead of giving up, I buckled down and vowed to speak more in Spanish and to only read to her in Spanish. After a few months she was feeling confident enough in her Spanish skills that she would always at least attempt to respond in Spanish. In the last six months her Spanish language abilities have skyrocketed and I started realizing that she just might pass the bilingual test I had all but given up on.

The bilingual test is important because it give my daughter a MUCH better chance of getting into one of the extremely impacted Spanish Immersion programs in SFUSD. There are nine programs in the district and luckily six of them are located conveniently enough for us to get to them (though we applied to all nine). The school district tries to populate the immersion classrooms with about a third Spanish speaking students, a third bilingual students and a third English speaking students. At the very least they hope to have half to two thirds of the students be proficient Spanish speakers. With so many English speaking families trying to get their kids into immersion programs, the Spanish speaking spots (which bilingual students are eligible for) are SIGNIFICANTLY less impacted. Basically her chances of getting into an immersion program as an English-only student is a complete crap shoot. (We would quite literally be winning the lottery.) Her chances of getting in as a bilingual Spanish speaker are almost guaranteed (of course nothing is guaranteed at SFUSD).

{SFUSD uses a lottery system that is messed up in ways I can’t even articulate. I’m not going to get into it now, but I will say that it’s in the top two reasons most families leave San Francisco before their kids turn five (along with soaring real estate and rent prices). San Francisco has fewer school-aged children (in proportion to population) than any other urban area in the United States and many would argue it’s because of SFUSD’s lottery system.}

I have spent the past four years stressing about my daughter’s Kindergarten placement. While I could bring her down to my district, I really want her to go to school in San Francisco. I live in San Francisco. I want to support San Francisco schools. And I really, really, REALLY want my daughter educated in a Spanish immersion program. Knowing that she has a much better chance of getting in will make the three month wait much more bearable.

And I will admit, I am pretty damn proud that I gave my daughter enough Spanish to pass the test. I know a lot of her passing is about her own gregarious nature and her ability to talk comfortably to strangers, but none of that would have mattered if she didn’t have the language skills she needed to pass. It’s incredibly gratifying to know that my efforts had a quantifiable effect, especially when that effect will help her future prospects at school.

So I’m taking a moment to pat myself on the back. I set out to raise bilingual children (I even gave my children Spanish names!) and so far I am succeeding. And that feels pretty darn great.

Tis’ the season {For Compulsive Spending}

So it turns out that December is a tough month to admit to yourself–and try to change–your compulsive buying habits. There are two reasons for this. Most importantly (and unavoidably), you have to buy things, especially when your family equates love with gift giving and has high expectations for what you’ll leave for them under the tree. Also, if one of your triggers is a good sale, 40%-50% off signs can be siren songs too compelling to ignore.

Obviously, I am a work in progress.

I continue to fall back on holding myself accountable to my husband, who has been so supportive in going over every purchase with me. He always agrees with me to get something, but I have definitely not suggested purchases that I knew were too frivolous or I was simply embarrassed to bring up. When I went on g.ap.com to use my reward cash to get my mom a Christmas present (and some tops for my daughter who somehow doesn’t even fit in 5T clothing anymore, despite being 4.5-years-old) I showed him my shopping cart before I made the purchase (but also before I applied my reward cash which almost gave him a heart attack). There was one shirt in there for me, which I admitted, but he was very nice about it (he will wrap it for me and put it under the tree). I feel awful for putting him in this position, but I know that I need his help holding myself accountable until we combine our finances and he can just see how much money is going out and to where.

I have avoided Tar.get like the plague because I know I make horrible choices there. I’ve even stayed away from Cost.co, even though I’m pretty good at sticking to my list when I’m buying in bulk.

I’m starting to recognize that shopping, more so than actually buying things, filled a real need in me and I’m trying to find other ways to meet that need. Shopping is definitely a way I combat boredom and loneliness–I didn’t realize that being with other people, even if I wasn’t communicating with them, helped stave off loneliness. I’m compiling a list of places I can go and be around other people while not spending money. It’s hard at this time of year when the cold and dark force us inside. So far I only have a library and a cafe on my list (I figure $2 for a hot chocolate is better than $20 for some dumb shit I don’t need). If you have any suggestions, please tell me.

On Friday afternoons my in-laws pick up my daughter for a spend the night (yes, I know how lucky I am) and in the past I’ve used that time to “run errands” with my son. This almost always meant a trip to some store to “get a few things we needed.” Last Friday it was rainy and cold and I was dying to go out, but I knew I couldn’t go shopping. There was a good 30-45 minutes where I was crawling out of my own skin I wanted to go shopping so badly, but I breathed through it. I texted my husband asking for suggestion on where we could go that didn’t involve a cash register and he sensed my panic and called me and talked to me for a while. In the end I just stayed home with my son and sat quietly watching him play. It made me realize that I almost never do that with him because long stretches of time (ahem, two hours) with no plans make me incredibly anxious. After the initial hour of checking my watch with crazy-making frequency I finally settled in and started enjoying it. By the end I felt way more calm than I would at the end of a bout of retail therapy. Learning that lesson was uncomfortable, truly painful at time, but I’m glad I did it and I’m actually looking forward to that unstructured time with him today.

{Though I think I subconsciously chose to write this post today to psyche myself up for this afternoon and remind myself that it was a positive experience in the end. That first hour was brutal and there is a part of me that is anxious to endure it again tonight.}

So that is where I am with the compulsive spending. As someone who can much more easily embrace a cold-turkey no-shopping (or insert other-vice-I’m-set-on-avoiding-here) rule, having to navigate holiday shopping while keeping a handle on my compulsive buying has been really hard. It’s a trial by fire to be sure, but I’m hoping that if I can get through this, the next couple of months will be a lot easier.

A Minimalist Mini-Transformation


The first few weeks after I embraced minimalism I moved like a wildfire through my house. I tackled the living room and kids room with quick precision and while I know I will continue to minimize what I keep in those in those rooms, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot there. I have not formally “done” my room and I want to say it remains untouched but that isn’t true. It’s way neater than it ever was before, but in comparison to the others spaces in the house, it feels like a disaster are. I look forward to making significant progress there in the near future. The kitchen is going to be harder because I need to work closely with my husband in that space; the kitchen is his domain and the last thing I want to do is get rid of something he deems necessary or important.

I continue to get rids of lots and lots of stuff. I’ve thrown away five big garbage bags, given away four bags of clothes (mine and the kids), gotten rid of three big bags of toys and lots of larger baby items and made two trips to the electronic recycling center. Plus I’ve dropped off four bags worth of books (all mine) at the library. My hall is currently bag-free, though I’ve already started a new clothing donation bag in my room and I really need to make some hard decisions in my daughter’s “library.”.

I also still need to pare down my own wardrobe significantly. That is going to be hard but I’m getting in the right mindset. I’m starting to take note of the pants and shirts I don’t wear much and I’m giving myself ultimatums: if something isn’t worn a lot in the next month or two it won’t make the final cut.

I’ve only been pursuing minimalism for a couple months but already the effects have been significant. My house looks so much better and I feel so much less stress. In the living room, where I spend the majority of my time, the surfaces and the couch are all clear, and every night I clean up the floor and sweep or vacuum it (this is out of necessity–my son’s “cheerios habit” is totally out of control and remnants of it are left EVERYWHERE). The hallway is also totally clean and swept or vacuumed. The bathroom is even in good shape, which is nice because that space is small and becomes unmanageable quickly. My son’s room is always super clean but I struggle more with my daughter’s. I need to create a “pick up your stuff” routine with her every night. We have been thinking about giving her a quarter a day allowance so she can start working towards things she wants after the “you can ask Santa for that” card expires. Obviously these two things will dove tail nicely.

One of the spaces I most appreciate being clean is the entry way. Normally a depository for all our shit as we walk in the door, I’ve been really careful not to let things accumulate there. I’m always taking stuff back up into the house as I make trips to and from the laundry (in the garage). Now, when I get home, I’m greeted by clean floors and even some open space on the shoe rack bench. It’s a really refreshing way to return home and it sets an expectation for what the rest of the house will look like.

There is still a lot of work to do and already stuff is accumulating in some rooms that I spent a lot of time simplifying. But all in all, now that I know where everything goes in each room (and I’ve thrown our or given away the rest) I am able to actually keep the spaces cleaned up. And after only a few weeks of doing so, I find I CRAVE that clean, open space. It seems I’ve already created a habit for myself of picking up as I go along and then doing whatever needs to be done in the last hour of the day to make sure everything is in its right place. It really bothers me now when things are awry, which I think is hilarious because I used to live in such abject chaos.

{More on habits later–I’m reading a fascinating book about them, recommended to me in a comment on a previous post–THANK YOU!.}

So yes, minimalism has already created massive positive changes in my life. I know I still have a LONG way to go and I’m realizing that there is so much more I can get rid of and that even though I have spaces for some things, it doesn’t mean I need to keep there. I believe 2015 will be the year of truly redefining what is important to me and determining what I (and my family) need and that by this time next year my space, and my life, will be transformed.

The $64,000 Question


I haven’t written about it in a while, but I’m still embracing minimalism in my life. As I suspected, it’s becoming about much more than just a culling of my stuff. I want minimalism to seep into the very core of my being.

This is not just about simplifying the stuff that I own. It’s about simplifying my life.

Thanksgiving week was crazy, I had so many things to get done and absolutely no time to do any of them. At the end of the week I felt like I need a few days off just to recuperate. That is not how I want to live my life.

So I’m not going to.

My writing class wrapped up. I definitely won’t be signing up for another class any time soon.

Oh, and I quit the magazine.

I had been thinking about it for a long time. I realized that I didn’t even want to attend the meetings anymore. Everything about that commitment had become a chore. I was doing it just in case. Just in case a great writing assignment came up. Just in case I someday needed editing experience. Just in case a potential BFF were to join the staff. Just in case something happened that would make it worth my while.

But it wasn’t worth it and doing it just in case was about a poverty mentality. Doing something I don’t really want to do because it may be helpful some day is detrimental in the here and now. And who knows, maybe that commitment was keeping me from exploring something truly amazing, something that will bring me joy in the present moment.

So I quit the magazine. My writing class is over. 1st trimester grades have been turned in. My house is clean (seriously, it’s amazing, more on this later). In the evenings, I have some time.

And now I have to figure out what to do with it.

It’s not much mind you, just 30 minutes here, maybe 45 minutes there. But it’s my time and I have some say in how I want to spend it. Some nights I’m going to bed earlier. Some nights I’m indulging in some mindless TV. I have fiction books to read, and a couple of non-fiction. I have blogs to comment on.

I have a blog to write.

How do I want to spend my time?

It can be really hard for me to answer that question.

I remember when I was dealing with compulsive overeating and I read a book that changed my life. The main tenant of the book was to eat what you wanted. The central exercise was to determine exactly what it was you wanted to eat, and then to indulge that craving. I remember sitting in my kitchen, paralyzed by the thought that I could eat whatever I wanted, because I couldn’t for the life of my figure out what that might be. It took me months of trial and error to learn to decipher my cravings and determine what I actually wanted to eat.

That exercise set me on the path away from compulsive eating. It was truly life changing.

And now I have the same difficult task ahead. Once I’ve stripped my life of all the static and noise, what will I do in the silence? How do I actually want to spend my few precious moments of quiet time?

The truth is, right now I have no idea. But I’m kind of excited to find out.

I’m also kind of terrified. I recognize that all the stuff I piled into my life, it served one main purpose–to distract me. My whole life, and all the stuff in it, is basically one elaborate distraction. And now that I’m stripping it away, I’m going to have to face what I’ve been distracting myself from. Facing whatever is lurking underneath all the bells and whistles and bright lights is going to take a considerable amount of strength. It’s going to be difficult, but I think I can do it.

Beating compulsive overeating was the hardest thing I ever did. I was held hostage by food for years of my life. There were months when my entire future held only minute after minute–lined up neatly into eternity–of being completely obsessed by what I would eat. Compulsive eating was my whole world, I couldn’t see past it. But I fought my way out of that destructive relationship with food and I’ve managed to avoid it for ten years. If I could do that, I can do this, whatever this ends up being.

Do you struggle with knowing what you really want to do?

Still Grappling with Grief

As always, I’ll start with a thank you for your kind and concerned words. I want to assure everyone that I am currently taking medication, though perhaps I need to look into tweaking the dosage. It is the fifth thing I’ve tried in my life and the only one that has ever done anything positive for me so I don’t think I’ll stop taking it to try something else. It really is the most effective medication for managing my symptoms.

Honestly, the hurt and sadness you are hearing is still rooted in the linger effects of that lost friendship. I imagine a chorus of, Just get over it already!, every time I return to this subject but I don’t think I can accurately relate how devastating the whole thing has been for me. I am still sad. I am still grieving. I’m still cycling through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m still raw and hurting. I’m still wondering why. I’m still unsure how to proceed in the face of so much confusion and uncertainty.

There were a lot of triggers to remind me of this friendship in past month and especially in the past couple of weeks. Each one dredged up more pain and deeper sorrow. I eventually returned to my daily crying jags and the emotional exhaustion they entail. While I was doing better for a while there, the past two weeks have been really difficult.

Then on Friday I faced another friend issue that had me spiraling once again. I really struggle with how to process friendships when someone I love does something I can’t understand, even if I recognize that they have completely different motivations and their actions could mean completely different things than they would if I were to do the same. That is something I definitely need to work on.

In the end it comes down to a loss of faith and trust, in both myself and others. I’m still grappling with how and why my other friendship imploded, and in the aftermath I don’t trust the friendships I still have to withstand any kind of turmoil.

The idea of losing another friendship is simply more than I can bear.

So that is where I am right now and I truly believe grief is sitting at the core of this depressive episode. I am still grieving, even though very few people in my real life acknowledge or validate my loss, even though the expectation is that I dusted myself off and moved on months ago. I am still managing this grief and it’s still really hard.

You’d think that after suffering a miscarriage I’d be pretty good at mourning a loss no one else recognizes, but I’m finding it just as difficult this time around. With my miscarriage I found a community of women who had been through something similar and who knew all the right things to say. I found empathy, understanding and support and it was easy to feel like I belonged. There is no community like that for this kind of loss. There is nowhere to find other women writing about these same feelings. That makes it hard. It also makes me intensely grateful for the support I did eventually receive after my miscarriage, when I finally found the ALI community. I’d hate to think where I’d be if I’d had to walk that lonely, heartbreaking path alone.

I just wish there were a community like that for the path I’m walking now.