Friday, February 25, 2011

March Happiness Project: Emotional Rescue

...has always been my favorite Rolling Stones song. And just like my favorite David Bowie song, Ashes to Ashes, it is never played on the radio. Freaky, haunting - that is exactly why I embrace these songs. How can David Bowie capture the chilling inner creepiness of being high (no that I know so much about this state-of-mind) in a microbeat? He is a muther-effing genius, that's all. This is precisely why if I ever met him I would suck in my breath until I passed out cold. Why, I wonder, is something so artistically raw and so powerful at evoking a naked emotion not given airplay?

Is emotion just too uncomfortable to handle - from ourselves and from others?

My mom was an incredibly emotional person. So much so that in the last few years before her death I started to avoid her - to avoid the conflict that could easily erupt from absolutely nothing. For her, every high was the highest high and every low was devastating. Eager to miscontrue a statement to it's worst possible meaning, she would resond to even the most benign of statements with her defenses up. Tim marvels that I came out of it as even and level as I comparatively am. While I'm over the stage of blaming my parents for all my problems I do wish that she had possessed the tools to teach me how to master my emotions.


See, I have been told on many occasions that I am too emotional, that I wear my heart on my sleeve. There is a lot of truth to it, you know. I am an emotional girl. This can be a good thing. For example, I am able to show great empathy with my clients and often cry with them during a euthanasia or even in conversation about difficult decisions. My daughter gets covered in kisses, smothered in hugs, and hears, "I love you, Heart" hundreds of times a day every day. 


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On the other hand, I am prone to wild extrapolations and over-interpretations. That, I think, is the message under the statement: I am often a victim of my own emotional hijacking. It's a real drag for the people around me. In the spaces between incredible goodness and blessings of my life, this is the area where my mind dwells lately. I know this theme keeps coming up and if you bothered to read and still come back, well bless you. No doubt it was a rough year or so there with a lot to work through and in the time since then the fog is slowly lifting. Events over the past few months have made it clear that some have reached the foot tapping, hip-jutting, watch-pointing phase of support that says, "Get your shit together already."


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Mangroves in Florida. 


As such, my Happiness Project for March will orchestrate my own emotional rescue. With no further adieu:
  1. Seek counseling - Judy suggested this to me for years. Aside from one half-assed attempt about 5 years ago, I have pretty much refused. 
  2. Read The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns - Jena told me long ago that she had read this and worked on it. She is one of the most level and even people I know. I'm sure I can learn from it.
  3. Free-form writing for at least 15 minutes daily - writing has always been the most effective coping tool for me. There is a limit to how much I can dump here. 
  4. Find a way to do some mirroring work especially focusing on fighting fair in intimacy and effective communication in conflict. 
  5. Take a deep breath. Always a good idea to pause before responding. I've never regretted what I didn't say nearly so much as what I did. 


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Ada gets so excited about the bath that she sometimes tries to climb in fully clothed.



I promised too that I would hold myself accountable at the end of the months. How did February go? Well, my checklist got checked off for a total of three days. That part of it was much harder than I thought. Overall, the effect has been more one of awareness than perfection. That's OK too.


  1. Drink 36oz water - yes, I did manage to do this most days
  2. Exercise 4x/week - I was doing a freaking awesome job of this and loving it! Then I busted my ankle and I've been sidelined for the past 2 weeks. Still, I have a running group to go back to so that I won't get mugged in Golden Gate Park at 5:30 in the morning. Or if I do get mugged, someone at least knows to come back to search for my body. I'll get there as my mind is hungrier for this now than it's ever been. 
  3. Get enough sleep. Yeah, did pretty well. The only thing that keeps me from sleeping enough is if Ada has a rough night - there isn't much I can do to control that. 
  4. Food diary. Ummm, I filled out 1.5 days. 
  5. Genereal Health appointment - in fact, I did get this one scheduled. 
  6. Act Happy - I have even gone as far as wearing yellow. When I get frustrated at work I laugh really hard instead of whining. I'm saying "Good Morning" to everyone.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Rain, Hope

The rain came this weekend. Mother nature didn't hold back this time- she let the city shower for a solid three days. We spent a lot of time inside.
Those apples I mentioned? I used two recipes and bastardized them both beyond recognition to make a sweet, cinnamon-y baked apple treat that Ada flatly refused. Half of it is gone now and the other half needs to be thrown out so that I don't single-handedly eat all of it (a stick of butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar....you get the idea).

The David Bowie T-shirt once again proudly served the family. I broke out the unopened paints from Christmas and watched as she went to town painting the paper, the floor, the easel, herself, and of course sticking a paint-loaded brush squarely in her mouth. Check out those greenish-black lips! Perhaps there are some goth leanings here? Her mother still wear almost only black. Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, and Bauhaus are still staples in our house so it's hard to imagine how she might escape it.


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A little closely supervised tomfoolery with Tim's lanyard.


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We even killed time playing with hair accessories.


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The postal guy came, bringing with him a present for Judy (squee!!) and a little present for me too. My mantra for the year. I hear the crystal tink against the silver several times an hour and I love the reminder it chimes to me:


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A lovely end to the findings of the morning in the dollar aisle at Target. I know it's all made in China and I don't want to support it but - shoot, I mean look at all this crap for $10!! The best find was the sleeves that contained five little cups of Play-Doh.


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Back in December Judy brought a bunch of tools to use with dough like this so we gathered everything up and had a ball. In fact it was so much fun that the next morning we went back to Target to get more Play-Doh for Ada's friend Sophia. We also got her footed fleece jammies from Carters on clearance for $3.17. When I brought a little bag of dollar aisle goodies over on Sunday I couldn't help myself but tell them all about the damn fine deals I had found!! I know this isn't the way a gift-giver should behave but I couldn't help myself.

Besides, I know the Lucas's appreciate stuff like this and that's only one of the reasons why I like them so much.  I grew up in a very informal environment so while appreciate finery I am much happier when friends serve me on the every day dishes with paper napkins and mismatched silverware. It tells me they trust me enough to let me take part in a more intimate, imperfect part of their lives.


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Ada found a bucket full of stickers.

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Ada and Sophia share an unwavering love for Elmo.

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Stickers. Notice the one on her butt too?

These two little girls ran 30 laps chasing each other, squealing, and giggling. By the time we headed home they were both tired. After 3 days of rain and being inside this was exactly the plan: tired babies, happy parents.


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Now my work week is well underway. While I am obsessively checking my email for word about the opportunity I mentioned earlier I am also very consciously trying to not get too dreamy about it. Living with one hand constantly on the door handle is a rough existence. Still, I recognize the excitement within myself as a glimmer of hope.

Hope is an amazing thing. It takes remarkably little to shake it, dampen it or make us question it but it take a lot to extinguish it entirely. I learned this from all the wonderful ladies I have met through struggling to get pregnant. Each month I am reminded of this with that temerature drop: disappointed, even tearful, but still so full of hope. 

Will opportunities pan out?
Will more babies grace our lives?
Here's to hoping!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Opportunity knocks.

It's raining in torrents outside this morning. San Francisco has been giddy with fabulous weather while the rest of the country was digging out of snow drifts. I can't complain about the rain, the chill, or the gloom. Instead it feels like the recipe for a perfect snuggly indoor day.

Ada woke up tired and whiny. On our way to music class she was nodding off in the car so I turned it around and high-tailed it home to get the girl down for a nap. If I miss the opportunity it won't come again until tomorrow. She was fast asleep before 10:00 am. Maybe when she wakes up we'll fire up the oven to bake something with the surplus of granny smith apples we have going on in the kitchen. It will have cinnamon for sure cause it's just that kind of a day.

While she snoozes, I'm going to light a few candles and sink into my beloved couch with a book, a cup of coffee, and a bag of frozen peas for bum ankle. This quiet time is perfect for the weaving of a dream. As it turns out, opportunity knocked on my door yesterday and I'm now in the process of answering.

Pictures later....

Friday, February 11, 2011

History is waiting to be written



I had a beautiful dream a few nights ago:
amazon.com was selling time in 5, 20, and 60 minute allotments. I loaded up my cart with precious time. My day was longer, I wasn’t rushed and all of my problems were solved. Then I woke up. Sigh...

I thrive on order. I don’t lose socks to the dryer. I don’t forget where my keys are. I can account for every penny in the bank account. I can’t imagine life without my Franklin Covey planner within my reach at all times. The result is that I have achieved every single thing I have ever set out to do. Every single thing. I have proven to myself over and over and over again that I can do anything I set my mind to. I don't say this to be boastful – I have failed many times. Rather, I mean that tenacity, careful planning, hard work, and single-minded focus has brought me a long way.

The other thing I thrive on is large, expansive chunks of time alone. I need it like I need air to breathe. Being an only child might account for this. I haven’t been alone in a very long time. Frankly, this is harder than I thought it would be. When Ada was a tiny infant and I was on maternity leave I clearly remember thinking, "Oh gosh! This is easy! I can't understand why people complain about not having time for themselves or how you can't find the time to shower." Now that I've been at it for a solid 20 months I'm ashamed of how na├»ve I was: trying to balance a career and a family is the hardest thing I have ever attempted.

Even though I can’t focus single-mindedly on anything lately, I thought I was doing reasonably well. Apparently getting most if not all of it done doesn't count unless you are able to make it appear effortless. The verdict is in, folks: I can't do it all. This truth has cast a vague sense of progressive fragmentation over the past few months. It seems to have been the tight and final swirls of circling the drain!


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I take comfort in one thing: I am not alone. Just a few days ago a girl I know wrote:

"i just feel like such a loser sometimes... there's so much i want to do but seriously just don't know how to do it all. i seriously don't get it. i don't get how some of you guys work, cook dinner, clean house, and take care of a baby. i'm not at all complaining that i'm overwhelmed or cant' handle my life bc i love my life; i simply WANT to be able to do more but just don't know how to make it all work."

There was a swell of support within the community - women agreeing, commiserating, offering suggestions, and denying that any of them have it all figured out whatsoever. The topic comes up again and again in conversations with my friends who have kids. These are smart ladies, motivated, capable, with great achievements under their belts. The common denominator is that we want to do more than we are doing and we want to do all of it better.


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I have more things to be thankful for than I have fingers and toes on which to count them. What’s not to be happy about? There is no crisis. There are no drastic life changes. I'm not waging a personal battle of epic proportions where I actively decide that happy will triumph over sad. Our family isn't facing a towering obstacle. No grand event is forcing a turning point. It’s more like a slow, slogging through the mud of an exhausting circumstance.

It had been suggested to me that I should try a more positive perspective on for size. You know, life is “under construction" or "a work in progress". While I appreciate the sentiment, at its core it seems dismissive. I feel like I’m in a codependent relationship with permissiveness that enables me to avoid dealing with the problem at hand. Since I set the mood, tone, and pace for my family I owe to all of us to get to the heart of the matter and work it out. The bottom line is that I need to find some balance, once and for all.


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Today I was writing something about how Tim and I met. I recounted it like, "we met on this day and married on that one and had Ada and the rest is history waiting to be written."

I re-read what I had just written and it kind of blew my mind. Now, I am the first to recognize that I am not exceptionally insightful or anything. I mean, I'm just a wife and a mom and a vet and a friend and a daughter etc. I started this blog just to write about my experience trying to get pregnant and then my experience of how a woman becomes a mother without totally losing herself. It lets me record my own history in an accountable way and tell people what we're doing in a way that I can't recreate anywhere else.  But then I just spouted this comment out and my thought pattern shifted immediately. This is the cornerstone of the coming year that I've been looking for. This is something to hang on to, to repeat as my mantra when I need to be my own cheerleader. Let's be honest, sometimes there ain't nobody but yourself saying, "you can do this!"


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In this house, there is an expectation that our lifestyle can and will change to something more controlled, something more peaceful when Tim is done with residency and fellowship. It comes up in conversation more often now - we might stay in San FranciscoIf that is true then I can't wait for another 18 months and a job switch for my husband in order to make my life be exactly what I envision it to be. I need to work with the life I have right now. Instead of waiting for my story to get juicy it makes more sense to enjoy the juiciness present right now! It's so simple, but so not the way I've been thinking about it deep down. 


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So what do you do when the approach that has always worked for you before doesn't fit your evolved life? You evolve your approach. Like I’ve done every year for the past 14 years,I’ve been working on my values, roles, goals and personal mission statement. In earnest I’ve been at it for 2 months now and I haven’t gotten anywhere. So I’m going to try something different: I’m doing my own happiness project. It is based on the personal account of Gretchen Rubin – if you haven’t read her book, The Happiness Project, please consider picking it up. I could relate to her in that I’m pretty happy but I think I could be doing more to appreciate all the treasures of my life and I’m not about to go live in an ashram in India for 4 months to get the job done.

I started in mid-January in semi-secret. I tried to read the whole book when we were in Florida. You’d think that with three other adults to watch the wee beastie that I could have blown through it from start to finish but since I’m my daughter’s favorite person in the whole wide world (Oh, the beautiful burden!) that isn’t how it worked out. Nevertheless, January was all about getting organized.  We’ve done a pretty good job at that. Starting with the kitchen cabinets and ending with a weekly state of the family union meeting between me and Tim. It’s been good and I think we’re all thriving under the new structure.

February has arrived and this month I am going to focus on vitality. I think these are good places to begin as the rest of the months will go more smoothly if I am organized and energized. So for this month I will:

Stay hydrated by drinking at least 36 oz of water daily
Make time to exercise 4 times a week
Get enough sleep
Eat right by keeping a food diary
Make an appointment for an overall physical exam
Act the way I want to feel

I’ll rate myself every day and at the end of the month I’ll make a note here of how well I kept my resolutions. I hope that as the months click by I will feel connected to the journey more so than the destination as we are headed in whatever direction we’re headed.  I'm off to be juicy!




Saturday, February 5, 2011

2011 has only just begun

I am convinced that I have been blessed  - I am lucky enough to have some of the finest women in the world as my close friends. My net  may cast across vast geographic distances to accommodate them all but when we get together? Hold on tight because something magical happens. What I love the best is that these women are an extension of past and present self. My daughter is my very own heart. It only makes sense that we should all mix together seamlessly.

Oh yes. Heather is in town.

I could wax on poetically about this but I am tired after a very full, wonderful weekend. Instead I will say that I love my friend and I am thankful for her.

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Music class Thursday morning. Rather than the careful observation that I am so used to she tore it up from the moment we stepped in the door.

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We went off to the Ferry Building to get Oysters but Hog Island was "closed for maintenance" so plan B led us to pickled carrots and polenta.

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Then came the part where Ada runs around like a lunatic outside the Ferry Building next to the bay. I think that this might be one of my favorite things in the city to do with her. Between the birds, the boats, the puppies, and the linear racetrack she is completely entertained.

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Anthropologie. Scored an amazing dress and a beautiful silk top - I bust my ass for every penny I bring home so the occasional splurge seems apropos.

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So tender to catch these two in the jewelry.

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Sephora.. Much like her mother she is overwhelmed by the bright lights and loud music. It takes my women friends, who are far better at being girls, to get me through those doors.

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Beta - World's Sluttiest Cat, is just thrilled to have one more warm body in the house to snuggle up to.

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Ada decided to toss all of Heathers clothes out of the suitcase so there was enough room for her to go to Kansas City and then Florida (seeing Grandma Judy by chance?)

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It was Groundhog day and Friday took us back to the Ferry Building for a second stab at Hog Island. Swear it - if you like oysters it really, really is worth going back for.

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We met the loveliest 10 month old Golden Retriever puppy named Lucy.

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Poor Alicia arrived to a completely wrecked baby. Her lower canine teeth have finally emerged and she was a complete disaster all day Friday. No better hands to leave her in so I felt fine about heading out to dinner at Betelnut. I like a Mai Tai and highly recommend drinking it out a bowl with your bestie and husband, especially if it comes with little plastic figurine camels, monkeys and burros floating in it.

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The zoo with the Lucas family. Totally on the fly and totally fun.

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Isn't Sophia beautiful?

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Heather goes home tomorrow and we will go back to our normal routine. Until then I have a few hours left of what has been a most amazing weekend. Aside from teething and missed naps that baby had so much love and attention. I feel as if I have gone home again. The days have been breathtakingly stunning. Tonight, mother nature gave us a grand finale.

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