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7 Things x 2019 • Seven prompts to get you thinking about what you want to achieve in 2019. Enter yours now!  
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Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Buy a house
This month has been a whirlwind. But we did it! In two weeks we will move into our very own home.
It's been a while since I updated.

I went to a nutritionist, and together we (and the lab where she sent my blood for some very expensive tests) have discovered that:

1. I have food sensitivities. Nothing huge, but I'm quite sensitive to stuff I have been consuming several times a day, every day.
2. Despite the crazy diet I've been on since August, I'm not really deficient in anything. I'm still pretty healthy. Go-go-gadget vitamin supplements, I guess.

So now I'm working to calm my immune system by removing everything that's known to set me off and eating only those things known not to set me off. But I still don't really know what sets me off, so it's a process.

I DO know that pizza sets me off. Even gluten-free pizza. So there's that.

I also know (now) that there is no "safe" serving of cake. (It was the boys' birthday weekend, and I knew I was starting this calming diet, so I splashed out a bit. To my deep regret.)

Also my beloved ginger tea is a no-go. I switched to rooibos and my symptoms immediately diminished. I don't like rooibos as much as I like ginger, but I can deal.

My diet is amazingly healthy these days. At the rate I'm going, I should live roughly forever.
Demoting this goal, as it would appear I have diastasis recti and planks make that worse.

Oops.

I'll come back to this when/if physical therapy manages to fix me.
Time to regain lost ground. My focus for this month is simple: Reclaim the good habits I had cultivated before the whole thing went sideways. Each day, no matter how busy, I will:

1. Wash my face, brush my teeth, and put my contacts in.
2. Change out of my pajamas.
3. Move for 20 minutes. Doesn't have to be vigorous; even on my worst pain days, I can stretch *something* for 20 minutes.

All that will take half an hour. I am worth 30 freaking minutes.
A light at the end of the tunnel.

I've been working my keister off these past few months, and managed to save up a considerable amount to pay my taxes, as I wasn't entirely sure how much I would owe. Turns out that I owed several thousand less than I'd anticipated. (I still owed several thousand. Just not *that* many thousands.) Which means I already have half of what I wanted to have saved up for emergencies.

What's more -- if my calculations are right, and we're frugal, I can have the rest of it by June.

Daaaaaaang.

So. Save the money. Then pay down the debt. Then save for the car and the house. That's the plan.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Fill my cup
This goal's staying until it becomes a habit.

I've not been taking very good care of me lately, and it shows. I'm still struggling with the diet; that's not what I mean, though. I'm talking about losing all ground I'd gained. I now spend almost every waking workday minute (and a LOT of weekend minutes) in front of my computer. I get up, make a cup of tea, work 12-18 hours, and go to bed. No lunch/dinner breaks. No exercise breaks. Most of my meals are, in fact, snacks. Hell, most days I don't even change out of my pajamas until I shower, which I don't do until bedtime.

I'm eating like crap. Sleeping like crap. My back is killing me. My hands are killing me. And my legs and ankles are so swollen that I barely fit into clothes. All to multitask my every waking minute away -- which means I'm doing all the things quite badly. So add some impostor syndrome to the mix.

My kids are even wondering why I'm not taking care of myself, and they're babies.

Old habits die hard. You'll understand soon enough.

But no more. I'm writing this down in a public-ish forum so maybe I'll stick to it.

I will move my body. Every day. I will do at a minimum 20 minutes of yoga, with the option for more/more vigorous activity if I'm up to it.

I will eat good food. Every day. I will not allow myself to subsist on things smeared upon rice cakes.

I will wash my face and brush my teeth and put my contacts in. Every day. If I'm up to it, I will also put on clothes and makeup. But I will not make those mandatory right now because putting on clothes when I am this swollen is depressing.

I will take time for me. Not "me time" that's really kid time. Time for the me who was before there were kids.

I will make note whenever someone gives me a compliment. I will take it to heart. I will thank them without apologizing, belittling myself or my accomplishment, or otherwise minimizing the compliment. And then I will write that ish down to review on bad days.

If my cup is empty, how the hell can I fill anyone else's?
Another one: Funfetti cake mix. I didn't notice any effect yesterday or the day before, but today when I had a piece on a mostly empty stomach, I immediately developed stomach cramps. Not sure what the trigger is -- it's a cake mix, so the list of ingredients is quite long -- and I don't think I'm going to let it stop me from having a piece of cake on my birthday, but I don't think I'll be making this regularly.

I think I just need to kick my sweets habit. Everything else has been pretty easy to replace, but the sweets get me into trouble every time. But dammit, I don't have any vices left!
We missed January by a hair: 42.25 miles versus a projected 43.33 miles. We've been a lot more active this month, though, so I'm inclined to spot us the missing mile. But we haven't been shopping, so I don't know if there are walking outfits out there that we would want. I have tentative plans for a girls' day with my mom next week, though; if I see outfits I like, I may surprise Anya with them.
I love my family, and I love my far-away friends, but sometimes I need to get out of the house and hang out with someone I'm not related to. Because my parents are old and often ill, and my family and I have a bit toooo much togetherness as of late. Because sometimes I want to have a conversation without shushing a child.

But I kind of need those friends to have kids, so they understand if I have to cancel plans a million times that it's nothing to do with them. So I've been beating the bushes in Peanut, the Tinder-for-mom-friends app, and think I'm actually making some progress. It's been crazy cold lately (several of these connections are with potential walking buddies), and I've been extremely busy with work, but once I see a spark of daylight I am digging my way out of this hole and going to see if I remember how to make friends.
I have not made any progress with any of this. I have done nothing all all, really, but work for the past month. In addition to my two jobs, my freelance work has increased exponentially, with no slowdown in sight. Which is great for our finances, but bad for me. I'm eating erratically. Collapsing into a coma in bed at night. I'm not exercising at all, instead spending my days hunched over the keyboard, and as a result hurt all over my body. I'm beginning to have trouble with doubling vision, breakouts, hair loss.

I spend my days in my pajamas. I don't even put in my contacts most days. I get up, get a cup of tea, and work for 12-18 hours without so much as a meal break (I eat while I work), then shower, go to bed, and sleep until I start it all over again. On weekends, all I want to do is lay in bed and binge-watch shows. (Granted, it's been cold. I'd probably want to do that anyway. Still...that's so not me.)

This is temporary, I know. But even doing this temporarily is no good for me -- physically, mentally, or emotionally.

I have found myself this past week taking FB breaks while I work. Which is also not very me, but I'm starting to crack at the seams.

So scrap the elegant, overarching plan. I need something in place right now to better care for myself, or myself won't be able to take care of anyone else. And then we'll really be screwed. I'll worry about long range once I have a chance to catch a breath.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
PopClogs is going away, and I've decided to just let the content go. I got the entries I wrote about my pregnancy with Kai; that was the most important part to me. The rest I'm going to release, much like I did my stagnant yarn stash and 3-inch heels. I've moved on.

Now a core group of 43ters and PCers are trying to start a semblance of the site on Facebook, and...I'm not there. I won't say that I won't ever want to be a part of a community like that again, but right now I'm happy doing my own thing. I always felt a certain amount of pressure on 43t and PC to keep up with everyone's entries and join every goal that struck my fancy; at one point I had three 43t accounts just to keep up with it all. And at times I'd retreat into one of them for a bit just so the mound of notifications wouldn't overwhelm me.

I came out of 2018 not having accomplished much, for various reasons. This year I want to do better, and that's going to require some (groan) leaning in on my part. I simply don't have room to read and acknowledge everyone's gratitude lists and join in the monthly bootcamps. I wish them luck with all that, but now it's time for me to take my own path for a bit.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
I had no idea how much time I was wasting on email until I unsubbed from a bucketload of lists. If it's trying to sell me something? Gone. Begging for donations? Also gone. Bombarding me with petitions to sign, unless the petitions are ALL issues I believe passionately in, are out as well. A curated newsletter that I don't immediately want to read in its entirety? No thank you. Notifications from social media (except for Messenger, which I rarely use and never check) have been gone for a while. Next up: Notifications from job sites; unless it pays more for fewer hours AND lets me work from my house 100% of the time, it's not going to top what I have now, and I'm really doubtful I'm going to find a job like that on Indeed or Glassdoor.

I'm working up (just in my head right now) a loose daily schedule. Work from this time to this time, exercise from this time to this time, eat at this time, etc. I'm considering inserting social media in the schedule. Because I can't not check it -- it's my only form of contact with some people -- but if I always check it during my down time, it eats away time for reading books, playing with my kids, and creating things.

I also want to add in time to learn. Because there are things I really want to learn. Right now I'm taking a WP course for work, and am just blown away by how much I'm enjoying it. I've been fumbling with the site for years now, trying to figure out how the advanced features work. Once someone gives you a road map, it's so much simpler. And it makes me want to learn more, do more. If I schedule the time to learn, make space in my life for it, it could happen
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
Closets hold lives in them. Worlds. At least mine do. Did. Whatever.

I've been purging and rearranging and tucking away for my dotage the detritus of the past 40-odd years this afternoon. Folding away for storage in a more sturdy container impossibly tiny clothes from the newborn days of the only two babies I'm ever going to have. Unboxing and more securely wrapping the toy cast iron stove I used to play with at my grandmother's, which somehow still smells like her house after all this time. Stumbling across a memory box I forgot I had, with graduation tassels and birthday cards and photos of people that aren't all living now. While listening to Fire and Rain.

I'm emotionally exhausted now. So the rest of the room will have to wait.

But I also freed myself from some suits (dry clean only) that I'm never going to wear again. Allowed myself to get rid of yarn stashes that smell like cigarette smoke, and some t-shirt yarn that is too hard for me to crochet with. I freed up some storage boxes, so we have a proper Halloween costume box now. And I discovered that I really am not as enormous as I feel; with only a couple of exceptions, all the suits I'd set in storage still fit. If I could just fix these issues with my digestive system, I'd be the exact same size I was when I got pregnant with Anya.

Everything else has changed, of course. So having that one constant sure would be nice.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Refocus
I did an exercise (Find your true North, from drsamantha.com) to identify my true North values. I didn't have the chance to think deeply about this, as my kids are sick but not *too* sick and are thus stir crazy and attention hungry. But here's what I came up with:

Security
Health
Balance
Creativity
Growth
Joy

Because papers tend to get spilled upon/crumpled/scribbled over/thrown away if left unattended, I wanted to jot those down real quick. I'll come back to them later when I have more time and space to think.
I was in the midst of drafting a routine when my husband lost his job. To cover the loss, I went to FT (30 hours/week) with one of my jobs, but didn't ditch the other. Our days thus look a lot different than they did the last time I posted.

Also, I've re-evaluated my current system, and previous systems. And I've had to admit that the daily itemized to-do list does nothing but stress me out. Having to cross things off my list all day, every day. Not achieving everything I intend to do. Hell, just having a mix of dailies, weeklies, need-to-dos, and want-to-dos all dumped in the same pot stresses me out. What I think would work better would be this:

1. List all the things I would like to become routine. Determine how best to ensure they do become routine. (Be that enlisting family members, creating a physical chore chart, setting alarms on my phone, whatev.)
2. Create a list of need-to-dos and a way to make sure they stay on my radar (calendar entries, alarms, to-do list, etc).
3. Create a list of want-to-dos, separate from the need-to-dos and the routine, with its own accountability setup.
4. Most importantly, make sure that the tracking of 1-3 doesn't become a task in itself. I don't have time for that ish.

Habitica is cute, but it's not doing it for me. In the past, I've used Evernote, ToDoist, AnyDo, plus sites like 43t and Popclogs, Excel spreadsheets, even Google Calendar entries and Notepad files. I'm going to do a little research and see if I can find a different app that fits my needs. If not, I'll cobble together my own system. But I think it's important that I feel like the system is a good fit before I spend all that time setting it up.
I have these nutritional drinks that help me keep full in the face of this stupid diet. They taste like all nutritional drinks; very sweet and artificial, with a funky oily aftertaste. I quit drinking stuff like this years ago because they don't taste remotely like any genuine food item. But while I'm on this restricted diet, needs must.

My kids saw the package in the fridge while I was putting groceries away and was thus distracted. They each grabbed a bottle. "I want milk," Anya said. "Kai milk," Kai agreed. It wasn't until I heard them peeling the wrappers off the bottles that I realized they were planning on drinking *my* "milk." I took the bottles back, explained that those drinks were Mommy's (they know that there are some things I eat that are off limits to them because it's all I can have), and got them some chocolate milk.

Which I desperately wish I could have indulged in myself; it tastes way better than this crap. Anyhoo.

My children are irresistibly drawn to novel foods -- but only if they come in little individual packages. I wonder, though, if cooking with them wouldn't spark their interest as well. My daughter got a cookbook for Christmas, and is suddenly interested in food and cooking and eating -- yes, she's eating! My son, while not able to cook independently, is very interested in helping. Maybe if I involve the both of them in meal selection and preparation (less the former at first, lest they eat nothing but cheese sandwiches and pasta), their attraction to novelty will be redirected from neon orange chips to healthy food.

Or not. It's worth a shot, at least.
Santa brought my daughter a craft kit, and she's been bugging me to teach her to sew. Yesterday we went over some basic embroidery stitches, and as usual she froze when she didn't do it perfectly the first time. I told her about cross-stitch, with its comforting grids and patterns, and she wants to try it.

For my part, I was surprised how much I enjoyed embroidering. I may join her in this.
I haven't worked out how we're going to track this yet. She and I went on a couple of walks this past week, but I'm considering last week a run-up to the new year. (Meaning I'll count it in a pinch, but otherwise it was a vacation from resolutions. Ha!)

She doesn't have a Fitbit. So we'll have to run on what mine says. And I realize we won't be able to walk 10 miles every week; some weeks we will walk more and some less. (This will be one of those weeks, with all this rain.) I guess what I'll have to do is track each walk as we take it.

Actually, that could be fun. We seem to be having heart-to-hearts as we walk. It's a totally different experience than simply walking by myself.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
As if I needed more of a reason to flee PopClogs: I just went over there to empty out a goal and I can't get in to any of my goals. At least I'd already pulled down the posts from when I was pregnant with Kai; everything else on there can burn, pretty much.

From here on out, if something's important enough that I will want to hang on to it in perpetuity, I'm not putting it on a goals site, or a site at all -- it's going in a file somewhere. I may cross post, but I'm keeping my own backups. Site admins move on. Sites go down. I'm not going to go through another 43t.

I quickly scrolled through the posts I could see and realized I've not really missed PC. I miss having a group of people I felt were working on goals with me, yes. I miss having people to bounce ideas off of. But I've moved beyond the minutiae goals. I do still need to work on the gratitude, the to-dos, etc, but doing so publicly (and reading others' lists) does nothing but add to my load. I'm trying to eliminate excess activities -- emails and posts to read and respond to -- and the guilt I always seem to feel when I don't keep up with them. I want to read books and thought-provoking articles, not social media posts and people's to-do lists and clickbait.

In order to make room for the life I want, I have to shed the stuff that's getting in the way.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
Part of this year's overarching plan is to make this house work for us for the long term. That means ruthlessly weeding our possessions, as we really need a bigger house. So, a piece at a time, I've been tackling our storage areas.

1. Clothes I'm not wearing now. These encompass several sub-categories: a) Clothes that are out of season (a very small subset, one which is easily tucked into a spare drawer; b) Business clothes; c) Dressy clothes (dates, weddings and other social events, etc); d) Clothes that are just a little too tight on me right now, kept because I'm steadily dropping pounds; e) Clothes I can't breastfeed in. I pulled out everything I don't love, work clothes that are likely out of style (most are 10+ years old), everything I'd feel weird wearing now (buttcrack-revealing jeans, skater-style mock layered shirts, miniskirts), and everything I'd be uncomfortable wearing (3-inch heels, I loved you, but my bad ankle protests too much).
2. The coat closet and Anya's closet shelf. Out went all too-small clothes, the exercise bike I've never used, all of the old Halloween/Easter baskets, the toys they've outgrown, the crib bumper pads. I've organized what's left, so we can actually get to things when we need them.
3. Under the bed. I still need to straighten up the wrapping paper boxes, as both kids have been in them. (Anya was supposed to be, as she was wrapping her Christmas gifts. Kai wasn't -- yet I found chocolate-covered prunes in one box, and he's the only one who eats them.) I did pull out the baby memento bag, though, and transfer the contents to one of the tubs I emptied up there in step 1. And tossed a 10-year-old body pillow that reeks of dust, because ick.

My ultimate goal with all of this is to have a place for everything and everything in its place. And to have those places roomy and organized so that removing something from its place doesn't cause an avalanche to rain down upon my head. It's a peeve of mine.

Next up: the spice rack. Later, the books.
January-May: 338.95
June: 62.18
July: 74.09
August: 66.57
September: 68.54
October: 63.1
November: 59.65
December (as of this morning): 65.78
798.86

101.14 miles to go.

I do plan on walking later today, but no way will I walk 100 miles. So this goal is a bust.

But I WALKED 800 MILES THIS YEAR. That's nothing to sneeze at.

And this was with illnesses and small children and R working 12-hour days 7 days a week. Just imagine what I can do next year.

So while I did not make my goal, I am not marking it as failed. I came pretty freaking close. And I think I deserve credit for that.
December: All Our Wrong Todays
December is a bust. I'll pick this up in January.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Refocus
Thoughts on my focus for the coming year:

1. I need to get my finances under control. I want the debt to be paid off and stay paid off. That means no eating out. (Not at all a difficult resolution to keep when you can't eat much of anything.) No more shopping as a hobby -- that includes following shopping-related accounts on FB/IG/TW/email. No more buying new if the old can be fixed. That means cutting all unneeded expenses. No trips, at least for the time being. Small celebrations. We don't actually need any more stuff anyway -- since we're not moving any time soon, we need LESS. Which leads me to...
2. We need to get our stuff under control. There is no sense hanging on to a closet full of towels and blankets nobody is using. I'm tired of keeping things in case we might need them someday. Unless I know we need them, out they go. Especially if, like the towels, they've sat unused for the whole 7 years we've lived here. Books nobody's reading, movies nobody's watching, all the clutter can just be gone.
3. I need to exercise. I've recently set some exercise goals with my daughter for the accountability. (BTW, she is totally down with earning new workout gear by meeting those goals. She's already looking at new shoes. Do I have her number or what?)
4. I want to encourage my kids' interests -- and my own. My daughter is deeply interested in art, and science, and nature. My son loves dancing. I love reading, writing, and creating art. In the coming year, I will make space for us to pursue our passions.
5. Likewise, I want to learn with my kids. I've thus far failed to make Duolingo a habit, but what if I played with Anya? I want us to spend time together this year learning.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Delegate
Part of my grump is the fact that I have been doing pretty much all the heavy lifting around the house. I maintain the to-buy lists, decide what's for dinner, ensure the house is cleaned and maintained, arrange for services, pay the bills, yadda yadda yadda. It's the same situation I grew up with. And it made my mom bitter af, too.

I don't like being the only one lifting the domestic weight. And I don't like the example it sets for the kids. (I just now, as I was typing all this, sent my daughter to her room in a snit because I told her I'd pay her to pick up her room. I actually said the words "You don't have to pick up your room...if you don't want money, I won't give you any." "Fine! You can give me money!" she shot back. So yeah, I waited too long for this.) I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking men just won't pull their weight. I don't want my son to grow up thinking he doesn't have to. And I want my husband to get over thinking that because things weren't done this way in his childhood home, he doesn't have to turn a tap in this one.

I've downloaded a chore list app that allows my daughter to earn money for doing daily chores. I set up some fairly easy (IF she keeps up with them!) chores, and a price for doing them daily/weekly. The more she helps me out, the more she makes. What I really like about the app is that it automatically divvies the money into spend, share (donate to charity), and save piles. So if this works the way I want it to, she will not only help me keep things cleaned up and earn spending money, but also learn about saving and donating.

Mostly, though, it's the help I'm interested in. I can't keep doing everything myself.

Kai is still young enough that he wants to help. Just for the sake of helping -- he doesn't want, need, or really even understand money. So the next hurdle will be my husband. I'm thinking of taking my chore chart analog -- writing it down on a dry erase board or some such thing until he gets into the groove of things. I've already enlisted him in picking up the groceries, doing the dishes, and putting away the laundry, but my requests to clean the bathroom generally meet with shock ("But I just cleaned them last week!" Yes, and have you pooped since then?)

I will still need to do some things, I know. I don't trust any of them to sort the laundry, for instance. But if they helped me keep the house picked up, I could blitz through with a dust rag and a vacuum cleaner once a week and actually keep this place looking halfway decent. And then we'll all be happier.
Mom bought Anya and I matching walking outfits for Christmas. (Actually, I bought them. Mom was too sick to shop, so she gave me a wad of cash and told me to go to town. So I did.) Anya's at the twinsies age; she wants to dress like me and be like me as often as possible. Getting her to go for a walk with me is as easy as dressing us alike.

We've made a pact for the coming year, to walk as many days as the weather permits. I'm not sure if we will make 520, but it seems like an easy goal: 2 miles per day, 5 days per week. If our finances permit, I'd like to give us incentive: If we make 40 miles a month, I'll buy us new walking outfits. If things really take off, I can add other incentives -- hand weights, new sneakers, stuff like that. Because if we manage to keep this up on the regular, we'll need all of those things.

We've also agreed that, on days we can't walk, we will do some sort of exercise together. This likely won't be as extensive as the walking -- probably just 10-15 minutes of something. But even a little bit will help.
December: The Stone Diaries.
We went to the movies last night, and the kids got popcorn. And it smelled so good. (Also, I'd had something like 900 calories all freaking day and I was starving.) So I did that stupid "How bad can it be?" move and scarfed half a bag.

When I sit down today, my belly rests on my thighs.

"No more popcorn for me," I told R. "Ever. If I so much at look at popcorn, I want you to say DOOOOOOOM! Got it?"

"DOOOOOOOOM!" he said. "Got it."
2:00.

Plus 10 minutes of yoga. I'm in pain, and I'm hoping the yoga will help. So I'm making that my next 30-day challenge. Hopefully both of these will stick if I do them repeatedly...
I have not yet determined which goals will make the cut as I flush/chuck/nuke my way to 2019's list, but this one will definitely be joining me.

While we don't do it every day, Kai and I have been fairly consistent in our 10-minute yoga sessions. So much so that I...er, Santa got both kids their own yoga mats for Christmas. If one of them loses interest in yoga, perhaps the other will practice with me. Having two kids means you have a backup. (And if they both reject me? That's called me time.)

Anya has expressed interest in exercising with me again, so I also picked up matching cold-weather walking clothes for us. These are going under my mom's tree; she's currently on oxygen and homebound, so I've been doing her Christmas shopping for her. So technically I bought my own present. But it's more a present for Anya, as the outfit I chose will appeal more to her than to me. My present in the deal is getting her to go out and walk with me.

I've realized I'm doing this all wrong. I've been trying to figure out how to fit exercise into my schedule. That's never going to work. Instead, I need to set the exercise schedule and see what fits in around that. Because if I don't take care of my body, it's going to fall apart -- and then I won't be able to do much of anything else.
2:00.

I'm still congested, but not so much that I couldn't hold out another 30 seconds. It helped that Kai was not in the room...
So I missed a few days. I am no quitter.

1:30.
Nicole Perry Brown
Note added to goal Simplify
This is not a goal -- it's more of a reminder.

I tend to tie myself in knots, trying to do more, be more, learn more. I'm looking at my list this morning and feeling like a failure: I didn't do most of what I set out to do this year. Scratch that -- I hardly did ANYTHING I set out to do this year. Not even the easy stuff.

I look at my 44 goals list and wonder what the hell I was thinking. I would have struggled with that when I was single. As a wife and a mother of two and a business owner? Ha!

We've taken a hit. It's going to take a lot of time and effort on my part to right our boat again. And there's a lot going on along the sidelines that I'm having to deal with -- my health issues and Mom and Dad's health issues and menopause and a whole truckload of feelings I'm having a really hard time processing all by myself. The time for stunt goals has passed.

What really serves me -- right now, where I am? What is really important to me in this stage in my life? Yes, there are many (MANY) things I want to learn and be and do, and there's time for all that. But right now there is not, and I am going to stop beating myself up over that. That's what I'm focusing on right now.

I've started by stripping out a lot of the noise. Follows and emails that serve only to sell me stuff, or make me want to buy stuff, are gone. I pared down my inbox to only those emails I actually need in there, and have become ruthless once more about cleaning it out. WOW, did that streamline my time. No longer do I have a Pavlovian binging distracting me from every bloody moment.

I've asked for help. My daughter and I had a heart-to-heart yesterday, in which I laid everything out for her and admitted where I was struggling. I told her I need a workout buddy and a meditation buddy, because I need those things to keep me centered and without her holding me accountable, it's far too easy to let them fall by the wayside. She's agreed to help me out. (And she will, believe me.) In the coming days, she and I will sit down and figure out a good schedule we both can stick to.

This year we also need to weed down our physical stuff a bit more. We will eventually require storage, so the less stuff we have to put in there, the better off we're going to be. Time to get really ruthless with it. It's hard to overcome my Midwestern upbringing -- so hard to let go of something that is still perfectly useful. But I'm tired of providing room and board to items we do not use.

Time to clean house. On several levels.
School starts and whoosh -- this one goes out the window. I am roughly 2/3 through The Stone Diaries, because it's been a rough weekend and I quit doing everything. Truth be told, I'd have finished it already if I enjoyed it more. But I'm just interested enough to slog through the rest. So now I only need to read three more books by the end of the year.

Which, you know, *could* happen.
Fail fail fail. The perfect storm of family dramas, menopause, and not being able to eat descended upon me, and everyfreakingthing went out the window.
I can deal with planking while sick, but apparently depression is where I draw the line. Missed yesterday. Missing today. I could make up for lost time once I pull out of this, but I am making no promises.
1:30 yesterday, and today's will come later -- probably after R and Kai go get Anya from school, just because it's always easier to plank when Kai is elsewhere.

This has been a very educational exercise, because it's proven to me that I can fit in workouts in short bursts regardless of my circumstances. If I'm busy, I just wait until things slow down. If I am in pain, I hold off until I feel better or until the pain pill kicks in. If I'm sick (and yes, I'm sick), I can still talk myself into a minute and a half.

My unlisted companion goal of doing 10 minutes of yoga each day has met with similar success. I don't have the solid track record with it that I have with this goal, but I have managed to fit it in nearly every day. So I'm thinking the trick to Making Daily Exercise Work for Me is threefold:

1. Keep the duration short
2. Schedule it -- not just the day, but also the time. Set an alarm.
3. Add accountability. This goal helps, but even more effective is involving the kids. If it's something we do together, they won't let me skip a day.
I'm sick. As are R and both kids. My mom is in the hospital. And I'm currently working to transition from FT freelance to half freelance and half employee, with all the paperwork and background checks that entails. (Which, truth be told, wouldn't be so onerous were I not also sick.) Plus, it's Christmas. And I'm still all Moaning Myrtle.

All of which feeds the Justification Fire that led me to eat seven peanut butter cookies for breakfast. In secret, because while I never claimed to be a role model, I do have little people who look up to me and say things like "Well, you ate cookies for breakfast -- why can't we?"

I'm not even sorry. I know I will be, long about 3 a.m. But right now I'm content to be bloated and slightly nauseated. It's been a rough morning, mkay?
One reaction does not a trend make, but IMMEDIATELY upon eating (actually *while* I was eating) sourdough bread topped with nothing but a thin coating of the vegan butter that I've been safely eating for months, I doubled over with the most severe stomach cramps I've had in a while. So...there's that. I think I'll be good for a couple of days, then try again. If it happens again, methinks it's not the fructans.

Sigh.
Nicole Perry Brown As it turns out, the sourdough was not true sourdough. But I think I will wait a while before testing again. That was painful.
3 months ago
I've been depressed. Not like when I was a teen, that deep, months-long black cloud that I struggled under; I find it hard to sustain a funk these days. It would seem that my natural center has shifted from melancholy to content. Still, I am unhappy. I've put a tremendous amount of work into furthering our financial security this year, moving us closer to buying a home, upgrading our family vehicle, and saving for the future. And in one short week, all that was kicked out from under me. I am sad. I am discouraged. I am pissed. And it's pretty well ruined Christmas for me; I was already unhappy about not being able to partake in all the delicious celebratory foods, but now I find myself unable to feel celebratory about anything at all.

I have found coping mechanisms, of course. It's what I do. Work distracts me from my dour mood -- that has the added bonus of bringing in more money, but I can only work myself ragged for so long. I've created a financial plan that will get us back on steady ground, though the next few years look pretty austere. I'm trying to spin things in my mind to find the good side, but so far I am failing to do so. I need to come up with ways to lift my mood in small ways; if I gather enough of them, perhaps I can lessen the overall sting.

The bird feeder makes me inexplicably happy. I never really understood bird feeders. You put out food to feed creatures who are perfectly capable of feeding themselves, feasting upon insects and other crawlies that might otherwise find their way inside my home. Where's the logic in that? But I rather enjoy looking out my window and seeing all the pretty birdies growing fat upon the food I provide. They're entertaining. Educational for the kids. And they poop on my deck far less frequently than I'd anticipated.

Growing plants has turned into a far more challenging hobby than I'd expected. But I do enjoy a challenge. And it's so very satisfying when I keep one alive. My kill rate is still pretty high, but improving.

Self-care has also turned out to be satisfying. Shaving and waxing and exfoliating and moisturizing, taking better care of my teeth and my hair and my health. Putting on makeup and pretty clothes instead of sitting around in my pajamas all day. I'd once considered appearance-related self-care to be a waste of time and money, because I can go weeks without seeing anyone I'm not related to. But the difference in my mood makes every drop of makeup worthwhile.

I'm still not up to the level of exercise I'd like, but I'm incorporating it into every day. Once I get the kids into the habit of daily exercise, whether they join me or not, they will nag...er, remind me to pause and get my sweat on.

When I was in college, I went down the rabbit hole so far that I convinced myself that things like food, sleep, and fun were a huge waste of time. I prided myself in being an efficient learning machine: I lived on peanut butter crackers, coffee, and cigarettes while cranking out straight As. But I emerged from university friendless, jobless, unhealthily thin, and neurotic as hell. It's one of the greater regrets of my life that I didn't do college better, though I understand perfectly well how things turned out that way. I can't let myself go back down that road, though. I need to stop focusing so much on the distance that I lose sight of where I'm at right now, because there's no guarantee I'll ever see the far-off.
1:30 yesterday and today. I really want to ramp up to 2 minutes, but Kai keeps using me as a jungle gym while I'm planking. However, I also feel like I'm coming down with something (not surprising; Anya was sick over the weekend, and Kai and R are snotty), so perhaps this is not the best week to increase.
Fructans.

I've been doing some mad Google searching and suspect that my issue is fructans. Many high-fructan foods are on my no-fly list, and even some safe-in-small-servings foods that have set me off at larger servings (like those peanut butter cookies). So I'm going to do an experiment: I'm going to eat some sourdough toast. Sourdough, made right, eliminates the fructans. If I can eat it and not experience symptoms, then gluten is not my problem. Granted, I'll still have to eat gluten free for the most part, because most gluteny foods are also high in fructans. But I would be able to have, in theory, sourdough toast.

Challenge accepted.
Peanut butter cookies are definitely a trigger. At least in quantities exceeding, say, 2 cookies. But they're so goooood. And I'm sick of all the other foods I can eat. I may need to boycott them until I get myself under control.

Popcorn -- corn at all, really -- is also a trigger. Unfortunately, R has been on a popcorn kick lately. I don't want to discourage it, because compared to their other favorite snacks, popcorn is a health food. But I have to resist, and it is so hard.

Rice Krispie treats, which my son adorably calls Christmas Treats because I put holly candy sprinkles in them, are safe at one small square per day. Again, not having a good time sticking to one small square per day.

I may end up banning sugar just to save myself these binges. I'm definitely an abstainer: It is way easier for me to never have something than to have just a little and stop. I hate the thought of denying myself little treats in this otherwise austere af diet, but it may be necessary until I find something I can binge on.

If, indeed, anything remains that I can binge on. The issue may well be the binging.

In the meantime, strawberrry/cranberry smoothies are safe. I'm slowly weaning myself off the honey, because I know it can be a trigger. I made a potato soup last night that even Anya wanted seconds of, so I'm making it again tonight. I just saw that baby spinach is supposedly safe, so I will pick some up next time I buy groceries. I'm depressed over all I can't eat, especially this time of year. But at least I'm finding foods *to* eat.

Life, such as it is, goes on.
I forgot yesterday's plank until bedtime. I forgot to document today's until just now. 1:30 each day. Observations:

- Planking when tired is way harder than planking with plenty of energy. Those 90 seconds felt like 9 minutes.
- Planking while nursing a 3-year-old who is clinging to you like a little monkey is damned near impossible, but can be done.
The loan came in, and I have paid off probably around 2/3 of my debt. And I just got my salary offer for the part-time gig -- much more than I was anticipating, plus possibly offering the flexibility to continue with m y morning gig -- so I am breathing easier. But I can't stop here. I need to break the cycle, or in five years I'll be right back in this same mess again.

Here's the plan:
- The debt gets paid off in its entirety. Nothing else gets charged until the debt is paid. Thereafter, if we do have to charge something, the balance gets paid off before anything else.
- I set aside money for Christmas, and spend only that amount.
- The loan will be paid off before we buy a new car.
- Before we buy a house, or even move into a house with higher rent, we will have a minimum of 6 months of living expenses saved up -- ideally 12.
- Until we have that money saved up, we make this house work. If we have to shut down my office and move everything into storage, so be it.

I am done freaking out over money. It ends here.
1:30 while being used as a tunnel for Nearly 4. Not sideways -- crawling in under my belly and out between my elbows. That was fun.
This is crucial.

I've abandoned all else, but this past year has taught me that the bottom can and will be repeatedly kicked out from under me, and only an emergency fund will provide a stopgap for that. So. No more frivolous spending for an entire year (at least). I will buy presents for the children, of course, but other occasions will warrant token gifts or just cards. No luxury buys. No trips. No restaurant food. No outings. And it goes without saying no car or house. (We have a spare car; if R's car dies, he can fix whichever will be cheapest to patch up.) We are on lockdown until our finances are in order and I have a cushion started. I am not f-ing around with this anymore. My initial goal is to have 6 months of expenses saved up. Once I get that together, I may expand it.

Of course, I'm having to start with pocket change, so this is going to be slow going.
I'm conducting an experiment. (Or at least that's how I'm spinning it.) I made a bunch of peanut butter cookies the other day. The fam scarfed down the first batch in under 12 hours, so I doubled the recipe. Only the recipe didn't work well doubled, so nobody's scarfing but me. Not my intention, but hey.

In the scarfage, I've come to find that when I eat a lot of PB, I end up stiff and sore and bloated the next day. Which is where the experiment comes in: For the next day or two (if I can make it that long), I will eat NO peanuts. I'm honestly not sure how long I'm going to make it, because peanuts are one of my only fat sources, and I get crabtastic when I eat too little fat. But I'm tired of hobbling around, so I'm going to give it a try.

I'm also combining this push with a renewed bout of intermittent fasting. The less I eat, the better I feel, and IF helps me eat less. I started today by putting off breakfast til 9 a.m. Breakfast was a strawberry/cranberry smoothie with a dab of honey (I'm slowly adapting to the cranberry juice). Honey is a no-no food, so I'm going to see if it's really off limits or if I can reincorporate it. It really is better in smoothies than crunchy sugar. Anyway, I have tomato soup for lunch (and a salad if I'm starving) and leftovers for dinner -- potatoes and green beans. Nothing that should rock the boat, so long as I stick to the plan.

Here's hoping I can stick to the plan.
1:30. Used a pillow beneath my elbows this time, and it hurt less. My elbows, anyway. My abs hurt more, because the pillow I picked was a bit slippery and made me work harder to keep form.

I'm not really pushing myself on this week's planks. I could do longer. But I figure I'll ramp up to that.
Angst was so much easier when I had vices. I could just drink and chain-smoke my way through unpleasantness. Now I have nothing. Tried to eat my feels last night, and today am in agony for my troubles. Other people just get fat. I find myself envying their ability to eat so much comfort food that they get fat. I just want to binge on shortbread cookies in raggy pajama pants. Is that really too much to ask?

Apparently so.

So I'm throwing myself into exercise. It's freaking hard to pull off atm, because it's December. But I'd be lying if I said the martyrdom aspect of walking in the cold didn't help me sulk more effectively. And just as I used rage cleaning to deal with my wasband's childishness, putting that energy to good use and getting a clean house in the bargain, so now I am using exercise as a tool. I will walk. I will plank. When my back forgives me for yesterday's transgressions, I will pick up some cardio workouts. I will sweat out this angst, and when we come out the other side, perhaps I'll be more fit for my efforts. If I can't have shortbread, I might as well be fit.