resolutions

January 15, 2014

resolutions

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photos:
1) back hallway to the nat sci (natural sciences building) auditorium. i was showing my daughter around campus to her classes and had to take her down this ancient and somewhat creepy hallway, because i love it.
2) one snowy day, cold day my husband made blueberry buckle for the neighbors
3) the wonderful organ and organist at the beautiful and historic michigan theater, my favorite place to see films. art films, no commercials and an amazing pre-film organ concert
4) there was a fire down the street from us on main street, the photo is so ugly but i found the remains of this concrete and cinderblock building shocking. it used to be a pizza place that i disliked, beer coolers were the main feature of the place and it had a very macho vibe to it. i don’t think it did much business
5) my sassy sister (not a great photo of her). she may or may not be making a snarky face about a her mug christmas gift. this is the photo that shows up on my phone when she calls me. makes me laugh every time.
6) my dog on my daughter’s leg (she took the photo!)

It is mid January and I am still thinking about new year’s resolutions…which is about right for me. I have a hard time keeping up.

I have never made new year’s resolutions before, but this year, I wanted to give it a try. I have been looking for a thoughtful, comprehensive way to think about goals for 2014. But as I skim article after article on this topic, maybe thoughtful is not what I want after all.

Some articles on new year’s resolutions include 20 question inventories about the past year: “What surprised me this past year? What disappointed me this past year?” My house was generally a mess, which was disappointing, but no surprise. I don’t have the time, memory or attention span for such an inventory.

Other articles provide lists of possible areas/resolutions to consider when making resolutions. I like the lists in this article on personal goal setting because, in addition to considering the normal fodder for resolutions such as finances and weight loss, it includes areas that to me are equally as important such as artistic, education, and public service. (I found this article about lifetime, LIFETIME!, goal setting to be very intimidating, so I’m just using her list, not her process.)

Going through these list I realize I have many, many things I want to work on this year, including finances, competing in a triathlon, reading more, thinking about a product or products for an etsy shop, learning how to make videos, being a better parent, my professional life and what I should be doing to prepare for a job change, socializing with friends more, helping my mom more, keeping up on my blog and keeping my house cleaner…GAhhhh! This resolution business just sets people up for failure!

So I’m going to follow the advice of Natalie Houston in her article, Pick One Thing (published in the Chronicle for Higher Ed, but really applicable to all.)

Houston keeps it simple: pick one goal, define a small action toward the goal, keep track of your success, get support. For myself, if I make steady progress on that goal, I will start on another goal, but not until progress has been made on the first goal.

My first goal is preparing for an outdoor triathlon. I picked that as my first since I have already started making progress on this. I am saving money for a bike. I am in my second triathlon training class at the Y and am signed up to do the indoor Y-tri in March (15 minutes swim, 15 minutes indoor cycling, 15 minutes on the treadmill). And I’m pretty good about keeping up with my exercise plan. So I think I can add another goal.

My next goal is to work on keeping my house cleaner. I believe that housekeeping is overrated for sure, and our house is never (never, ever) going to be featured on Design*Sponge. We all work too much to make this a big focus of our lives, even our big kids work very hard at their academics and are busy outside of school. But somewhere in the past few, mad, years we have crossed the line from messy to gross. Embarrassingly gross. Something has to be done.

My sister in law recently posted on Facebook this 45-minute daily (DAILY?!) speed housecleaning routine. For my first step toward my goal of having a cleaner house, I thought I would give it a try…with modifications. (Daily…haha.) First modification: I will not be making my own housecleaning cleansers/products.

The author’s ability to do all on her list in the 45 minute time is likely because she has 45 minutes of uninterrupted time in her home, which I never do. Last night I made the mistake of leaving the bathroom door open 4 inches while I brushed my teeth before going to bed. First it was my dog crying outside the door for me. His eyesight is so bad he can’t see that the door was open.

Then it was my son coming to comfort my dog, “Mom, look how cute Finny is! Mom, no LOOK! You have to look! Oh look again! He is resting his chin on my leg. He is so cute. Mom, mom, look, LOOK!”

I love my son, and my dog and I am glad that my 16 year old still wants me to look…I’m just saying, I can’t get 5 uninterrupted minutes on my own, not even to brush my teeth. Still, I have to start somewhere…

I WILL be posting on my housekeeping progress. So you have that to look forward to…haha.

Do you have new goals for the new year? Or good ways to approach a new year? I’m listening!

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

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photos:
1) a tray of santa cookies, a tradition in my husband’s family
2) driving by the university of michigan stadium (the big house) on a wet winter night. they were getting it ready for the holiday classic hockey game. 100,000 people came into to town on new year’s day to watch the detroit red wings play the toronto maple leafs.
3) spingerle cookies setting overnight before they are baked, my husband made these and they are my favorite holiday cookie
4) the women’s locker room at the ymca in rochester where my mother lives. i know it is creepy to take a photo in a locker room, but i liked the color and the repetition of the mirrors and i was discreet…which probably makes it creepier
5) downtown ann arbor on new year’s eve, the night before the big hockey game. we walked downtown because we were curious about this pre-hockey game new year’s eve party, and we were up for a nighttime walk. smelled like cigarettes, cigars with a twinge of pot. it was like being in a college bar, but outside, in 16 degree weather (-8 canadian) …and college bars no longer smell like this since smoking is illegal in public places
so many leafs fans!
6) we did enjoy our nerdy new year’s eve of a board game, pandemic, along with chocolate fondu….
7) my daughter, ridiculous new slippers and mindy kaling…a well suited trio. i loved mindy kaling’s book by the way. she is a smart, funny and powerful woman in a field dominated by males. and its a very fast read.
8) shadows from our night time walk on new year’s eve. the white streaks are snow flakes falling in front of my lens.

What breaks my heart about a new year is the very clear demarcation of the passing of a significant amount of time. A whole year. We all have a finite time on this earth: a finite amount of time to learn, to love, to laugh, to become better people, to make the world a better place, to find peace, to show gratitude for all that we have…Did I spend my year wisely?

I don’t want to even think about the time I wasted on Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube and the raunchy entertainment section of Huffington Post.

(Do you see why my daughter often teases me by calling me Debbie Downer, and sings this song from Rachel Dratsh’s Debbie Downer skit from Saturday Night Live? Or she sometimes does the shorthand two-toned, horn sound, BWA bwa, just to let me know I’m being a downer.)

So I’m trying focus on this shiny, new year. A new year provides an opportunity to be reflective, to bring into focus what is really important or what most needs attention in our lives. A new year provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and to tweak our course in life.

I haven’t quite pulled my priorities together for 2014, as I have been too busy panicking about 2013 being over. Forever. Never to return again. (BWA bwa)

I have some ideas; I’d like to participate in a triathalon, and/or a long distance cycling trip. I also want to get on top of our personal finances. My husband has always taken care of this and I’ve had so many other things to do, that that was fine with me. Now that I have a little more time, I’d like to be more on top of things.

Instead of making a list of things that are rattling around in my brain at the moment, I would like to find a more comprehensive way to think about how to plan a year’s goals so that when it ends, I feel satisfied and at peace.

That may require a personality transplant, or me quitting my job, which is to say, it may be impossible. (BWA bwa)

I will let you know if I find a good framework for this planning process—let me know if you find one first.

I wish you a peaceful, satisfying, love-filled, sometimes raucous, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, new year.

greetings from seattle

October 1, 2013

greetings from seattle

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photos:
1) homemade birthday crowns
2) tiny tap and ballet shoes…i love that little tummy
3) my nephew’s room…i miss this
4) nutcase (bike helmet) in the evening sun
5) the pink and purple trappings of a three year old pwincess

Guess what…It’s raining in Seattle.

I’m here visiting my little sister and her family. I adore my 3 year old niece and 5 year old nephew. (I adore my sister too!) They are such amazingly capable little people. I spent some time building with Lego with my nephew, and we looked at all of his pokemon cards—things I used to do for hours and hours when my son was his age.

This morning I drove my niece to pre-school and felt so privileged to be doing so. In the car my niece gave me the run down of the instructions of tasks to complete upon arrival: coat and backpack in her cubby, then I sign her in, then she washes her hands and uses the potty, then she gets her name card and puts it on Ms. Judith’s chair, then I read the board to her, then she follows the instructions on the board.

So much to remember! But she helped me through it all. Did I mention she is three?!

My sister told me one day my neice came home and said, “MOM! Do you know we have taste bugs in our mouths?!” My sister asked, “Taste bugs, or taste BUDS?” My niece replied, “Taste BUGS!”

There is so much I miss about my kids being little, the funny stories, the Lego building, reading to my kids at bedtime, problems that can be fixed with a band-aid or hug or book.

But there is a lot I forgot about that I don’t miss…the lack of sleep, (I heard my sister up at 2am this morning, and then again at 6am when she got up for the day), the relentless Saturday schedule of extracurricular activities (though in truth I love going to my niece and nephew’s activities, but I did skip the soccer games in the pouring rain).

I don’t miss the whole process of packing lunches, getting backpacks ready, making sure kids have used the bathroom, have their gym shoes packed, are buckled into their car seats. I don’t miss the evening schedule of making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting the kids bathed, in their pajamas, read to, in bed on time, doing the laundry, feeling badly that I didn’t have enough one on one time with each kid and then starting it all over the next day. I forgot how hard and exhausting it all was.

The great thing about being an aunt, is that you get the good parts, without the exhausting parts! I will so miss my sister, and these two little people when I leave. I still have a hard time thinking that it will always be this way…only seeing them once or twice a year. Likely not seeing them again until summer, or maybe next year. The thought of it pulls on my heart strings.

Also pulling on my heart strings… I miss my own big kids! My son just got his license before I left and my daughter was just finishing her transfer application to the University of Michigan. I miss their faces and their own funny stories from the day, though my daughter is still making me laugh every day through texts and emails.

interviewing anxiety

September 21, 2013

interviewing anxiety

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photos:
1) first fall leaves
2) low morning sun = long shadows
3) sun bathing student in front of angell hall
4) stunt planes above our house, prior to um vs. notre dame night game
5) no parking signs and construction on madison and fifth, so tired of this endless street project, also for those of you who live near the stadium and want to reserve a place on the street on game days…free no parking signs…madison and fifth people…

the only thing that the photos above have in common with this post, is that both are a glimpse into my life…

I sometimes see certain people in my family avoiding opportunities for fear of failure, or judgment. Oh how well I know that behavior…because, sadly, even at my age, it is often my own behavior. My recent words of support to these certain people include, “What have you got to lose? Worst case you get interview experience. If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.”

Of course those words came back to haunt me, as words of wisdom will do.

I have written before about feeling antsy about life and my current job. It is a job many would be grateful for—almost complete autonomy, ridiculous flexibility, lots to do and lots of variety, and feeling like I’m making a difference…. But I’ve been doing it for nine years and sometimes, autonomy can be lonely and the work never finished. Sometimes I want to be part of a thoughtful team of people. I have also been concerned about my program losing funding…there has been a lot of change around these parts.

So I applied for two jobs and got called to interview for both.

This initially made me feel great, until I learned the first interview was going to be 7 vs. 1 for an hour, followed by a 1 vs. 1 with the program director for the next hour. I started to get really nervous. Even more nerve wracking, I found out that 3 of the 7 were people I know professionally, but marginally.

I am not a great interviewer, or at least not a confident interviewer. I have had 4 interviews in the past 15 years and I have been offered every one of the jobs, so I can’t be completely terrible. But I do think my experience and references weighed heavily in all of those cases.

So many negative thoughts went through my head: What if I screwed up? What if I embarrassed myself? They would all know I’m lame.

In the meantime, I was assured that the funding for my program of employment was secure, so I conveniently decided that I really didn’t want a new job. My current job was PERFECT. I would withdraw my application.

But my own words of encouragement started sparring with the negative thoughts, “What have you got to lose?” (my dignity) “Worst case you get interview experience.” (and lose my dignity) If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.” (I already know I don’t want it so why lose my dignity?!)

I was very nervous on my walk across campus to my interview, still wondering the whole way, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” And there I was in at the end of a long table packed with people who took turns asking me questions. “What are some examples of reports you’ve written or presentation you’ve given?” “Why do you want this job.” “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” “How do you currently measure success in your programs?” and so on.

I felt pretty good when that interview finished and so the one-on-one interview with the director felt much more relaxed. When that was over I was walking on air back to my office. I felt elated to have it behind me and to have done so well.

Hours later, and then periodically throughout the week, while in my office, or driving, or making dinner, I would suddenly remember one of my interview answers and cringe. Really? I couldn’t remember one report I’d written? I write many every year.

I answered many questions pretty well, but others…Ah well, I am who I am. Imperfect. Best they know that before they hire me.

I had lunch with my mentor the next day and told him that I didn’t think I wanted the job. But now my reasons were founded. The interview raised some concerns for me, including a concern about too many chiefs and about management styles. I tried to come up with a salary figure that would tempt me to take the job, but I couldn’t. He told me that I’m spoiled, and also that it’s good to be in a position where I can be choosy. I agreed with both statements.

I had a phone interview for the second job the next day and it was incredibly easy in comparison. I was very confident. The job seemed great, one I would have loved, but the salary turned out to be very low; too low for me to take. I had to withdraw from the interview process.

At the end of the week I had a call from the first job, and I was feeling guilty about having to turn them down. I had sent a follow up interview email, as one does, further explaining my excitement for the position, when in reality I had little excitement, and now I was going to have to turn them down.

It turns out I didn’t have to turn them down, because they didn’t offer the job to me! At first I felt relieved, and then…slightly miffed. Haha. Spoiled indeed.

In short long, I feel great that I interviewed, and in particular for a job I didn’t want in the end. Practice is the only way I will get better. I have renewed love for my current job. Also, when I get antsy again (next month?), my resume is updated, my references are primed and I will definitely be more confident for the next interview.

In the past, external job offers have resulted in counter offers and raises for me. But for this position, I wasn’t ready to leave and let my boss know it. I think you can only use external offers as leverage for a raise, when you are really ready to take the outside offer.

It’s a mute point anyway, as I didn’t get the job offer. I know my boss wants me to stay, so maybe I can negotiate something else…classes? meetings with others in the country who are doing similar work as me…maybe I’ll work on this when I return from my week-long visit to my sister in Seattle….ah flexibility.

Another great outcome from this adventure is that I have more credibility with my loved ones when I tell them they have nothing to lose by interviewing, and I have much more compassion for the anxiety and self-doubt they experience as they approach seemingly scary opportunities.

a look back at spring

September 16, 2013

a look back at spring

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photos:
1) hand shadow holding a petal in michigan league courtyard
2) table shadow in michigan league courtyard
3) looking out through the courtyard wall
4) one of my favorite doorways on campus, at the dental school, i should photograph it at night
5) stenciled near the power center (i googled the date and I think this must refer to the uc davis police pepper spray attack on occupy wallstreet protesters)

Searching for something to post about, I came across these photos I took on campus in May? April?

I remember that day.

I met my daughter in the Michigan League courtyard. She had just recently returned home from her first year of college. The whole summer was before us. The students had just left town for the summer. There were parking spaces to be had. The trees were in excessive bloom. It was a day to pause for a moment on the sidewalk under a petal-raining tree and to breathe and be grateful. I did and I was.

Then we fast forwarded to here and to now.

Do I sound nostalgic? I am a little, but happy for fall. The students are back, with their energy and brilliance and shiny, shiny selves. (Were we ever so shiny? Ah yes, before we had kids…or maybe before we had mortgages. Responsibility is dulling.)

Walking my dog this morning I was excited to see burning orange leaves on mostly green trees. Maybe tomorrow I will remember to bring my camera. Soon I will be pausing to breathe and to be grateful, under a tree raining copper leaves.

I hope you will be too.

settling into fall…

September 15, 2013

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photos:
1) while I was “watching” a movie with my kids, my son was using my ipad to take photos of our puppy resting his chin on my son’s shoulder…I laughed when I saw this one…at least my mouth wasn’t open…
2) my mother’s kitchen floor…my sister and I call her house “the sanctuary”…I feel taken care of there and her floors are always clean.
3) a praying mantis on a window down the hall from my office

A few random photos from the past month. Most of my photos are on my DSL camera, which is not with me today. But since I wanted to get back into posting, here are some random ones that I have with me.

Life has been intense, as life will be this time of year.

I squeezed much into that last week of summer: had a visit from my dear friend Cath, then a spontaneous trip up north with her and my daughter, applied for two jobs and had calls to interview for both, worked to get ready for a new semester at work, engaged in negotiations to get my son’s crazy high school schedule set (he’s taking classes at 3 schools again, including our local community college), and sadly attended a funeral for my dear neighbor’s mom.

And here we are. My kids are back to school, work has picked up and become more intense, the weather had changed to fall, the football season is in full swing in this college town, we celebrated my mother’s birthday last weekend and will celebrate my husband’s tomorrow and I had my two job interviews with the end result that I’m staying put at my current job and am even more grateful for it! More on all of that another time.

As I settle back into this more rigorous, but predictable schedule, I hope to be back to blogging more regularly! xox

what's making me happy 08.23.13: hair, nature, toast and shinola journals

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photos:
1) my daughter’s hair
2) black swallowtail caterpillars on my mother’s parsley
3) a weed going to seed, at gallup park
4) my mother’s honeysuckle
5) zingerman’s pecan raisin bread

The shadows are getting longer in the evenings. The tree frogs and crickets are singing with an almost deafening urgency at night. We are all feeling a little antsy here about the upcoming transition to our fall, and more intense, schedules.

I am feeling wistful about another summer gone; time going faster than ever.

And still, many things are making me happy this week.

Big thing: my little nephew, who has SMA, has been in the hospital with a respiratory infection, but he’s on the mend and is now bossing “his staff” around (the doctors and nurses).

Little things:

1) My daughter’s hair. Actually, that’s a lie. It doesn’t make me happy. It fills me with hair envy.

2) Nature. Caterpillars, flowers, trees, green, fresh air…Happy.

3) Zingerman’s pecan raisin bread. For those who don’t know,
Zingerman’s is an Ann Arbor based deli that has been featured in every food magazine/show in the US, maybe abroad. The owners made a conscious decision not to franchise and to stay local, but they do mail order and deliver bakeries and markets as far away as Chicago. Sorry San Fran, but you have not tasted sourdough until you’ve tasted Zingerman’s sourdough. No lie. I could write a whole post about Zingerman’s bread, but it’s making me too hungry to think about right now.

4) HAIM. I don’t know if it’s the music that makes me happy or the beauty and youth of these sisters…does in matter?

5) Shinola journals.
(they also make lovely bikes and are starting to make watches as well)

6)NYC old photo archives are fascinating…but a time waster (thanks Cath!).
article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134408/Never-seen-photos-100-years-ago-tell-vivid-story-gritty-New-York-City.html
archive: http://nycma.lunaimaging.com

7) This old Kristen Wiig Confessions of a Tooth Fairy skit was posted on buzzfeed this week– which made me happy because it reminded me of when daughter and her friend did this for a variety show at school. It was a big hit.

8) Saw Woody Allen’s new movie, Blue Jasmine, last night…I feel like I saw it about 20 years ago but it was called A Streetcar Named Desire and it starred Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois instead of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. I did enjoy it. Cate Blanchette and, my favorite, Bobby Cannavale, were wonderful. If you have not seen Bobby Cannavale in the Station Agent (with Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson), or Win Win (with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan)…you should.

Here’s wishing you happiness and steadiness, as we transition from summer to fall!