Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Intuition and the unhappy grad student

I've been dutifully completing the exercises for my Mondo Beyondo class, like the good student I am. It's been really fun. Today's "assignment" was to blog about a time where we took action based on our intuition.

Despite being such a logical person, I do trust my intuition. My "gut feel" rarely leads me astray so I try to be quiet enough to hear that little voice. The first time I really noticed was one of the biggest decisions I've ever made.

Flashback to 1998. Summer in Seattle. (Cue horrible late 90s music like "Tumpthumping".) Best time of the year, and a *real* summer unlike the impostor we had this year.

I was a poor grad student in biology, preparing to take my qualifying exam before beginning my PhD research for realz. I worked at the shiny new Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research center for a professor I really liked and respected. I was long-distance dating my college boyfriend, and I lived in a house with 2 of my college friends. Life was good on the surface but I JUST.WASN'T.HAPPY.

I put in the long hours required of me in lab, just like my fellow grad students. I got good grades in my required classes. I liked being a teaching assistant and mentoring a local science teacher for a summer program. I was working on a paper with my research advisor. Sounds great, right? But I couldn't shake the unhappiness. It wasn't a "take to my bed" kind of major depression, but kind of a low-level funk that hovered under the surface, popping up in my quiet moments.

One late night, I meandered through the library at "the Hutch" as it's affectionately known. I happened to notice a section of science-related books that *wasn't* scientific journals, which is a rarity for a science library. I idly chose one from the shelf and opened the page to a quote by Barbara McClintock, who is the only woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

"I couldn’t wait to get into the laboratory in the morning and I just hated sleeping.  I couldn't imagine a better life."

That quote hit me like lightning. I realized I was supposed to be *excited* about my job, and if I didn't like what I was doing, I needed to find something else to do. But I was in the midst of a PhD program, for which I had received a fancy-schmancy training grant from NIH, and furthermore, it was exactly what I had studied for at Caltech and worked for every summer in between. I had NO idea what I would do next.

But I knew I had to take action or else I'd find myself in the same place, a year or two later.  At that point I would feel like I had put too much time into my PhD program, and would be compelled to "stick it out" for the 5+ years it would take to finish. And I knew I'd be miserable every minute.

So I gathered my courage and spoke to my research advisor about it.  Amazingly, he went out of his way to show me the options for alternative careers in science.  I visited a local biotech firm with him and met some scientists in industry.  He introduced me to a colleague of his who was working on her own research to start a company.  He encouraged me to take another computer programming class that quarter as well.  I did not expect that from a "manager", whose "employee" essentially told him she was ready to quit.

At the same time, I signed myself up at the career center at the university *and* prepped for the LSAT, anticipating applying to law school as a backup plan if I was unemployable.  I took advantage of all the resources: company visits, on campus interviews, career fairs, etc.  I landed a couple of job offers, and picked the one from Deloitte Consulting, which lured me in with the shiny travel, paid expenses, and TONS of training in a completely new field.

It was exactly the right choice for me, and turned into a job (and career!) which I loved, and was good at. I no longer had the underlying ick feeling and felt a huge burden lifted the day I defended my proposal research to officially get my "consolation prize" Master's Degree.  The courage to make that HUGE change also catalyzed other big changes for me - I ended that relationship which I knew was really not good for me, and found the motivation to lose 35 pounds.

I still work in the same field, for a great company that lets me balance my work life and my home life.  I don't regret "dropping out" of my PhD program *at all*, not even a teeny wistful pang of "I wish I could be called Dr. HouseofPeanut".  Nothing.  Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. 

That's how I know it was the right decision for me.  And I owe everything to Dr. Barbara McClintock, who was dedicated to science in a way I most certainly was NOT, and the courage to do what my gut was telling me.  Woot!

Barbara McClintock, 1947. (from Wikipedia)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

now, new and improved!

Check out the new look of the blog! The very awesome PaperMama created this banner for me. I wanted something with a family photo, a pennant banner and LOTS of color. She delivered. Hooray.

The photo was taken by Kristi Lloyd Photography during T's 1 year photo shoot last September. She blogged about our 18 month photo shoot here and we just completed T's 2 year shoot last weekend. I can't wait to see the pictures!

I blogged about my latest crafty project at the papercraft lab notebook. I had some time alone in the house today (so rare!) and finished a quick little project I had been planning for months.  It makes me happy every time I see it.

I've been on a roll getting things done lately.  I ordered some super-cute eyeglass frames to try on at home from Warby Parker, in the hopes of having a better experience ordering glasses online.  I also found a nifty coupon for 39dollarglasses.com to get $15 off a pair of glasses, so I took the chance and ordered a pair online to see if my assumptions about sizing are correct.  The total was less than $30.  (I'll write up a post on that once they come in.)

This weekend I designed (for hours!) and ordered a photobook with the ridiculously awesome photos of Trillian's 2nd birthday, by Phani Kowta.  I leave you with my favorite one:

All in all, a good weekend here at the House of Peanut.

Kids' Artwork Display Banner - Experiment 6

I just completed this project today but I was so excited about it that I had to write it up. 

Long before I had a baby, I remember seeing photos of homes with kids' artwork framed beautifully and hung up. I loved the idea - I'm not a fan of buying artwork that just matches a room, but for hanging up things that really speak to me or tell a story about the people who live here. 

T's daycare regularly does messy art projects with all the kids, even the infants. We do art projects at home, but they're not as organized and cute as the ones they plan at daycare. Every couple of months her teachers send home the last several projects.

I'm not a pack rat (despite my huge collection of shiny new supplies) so I can easily let go of some of the pieces she brings home. We also have two adoring sets of grandparents who appreciate T's art, so I give them some. But I want to keep and display some of them. Until now I hadn't done much except stick a few  up on the magnet boards in my craft room.

A few months ago, while reading a craft book, I saw a photo of a bulletin board with a cute handmade sign to showcase the kids' art projects.  I knew I wanted to make something like that for our house, so I put it on the list of "someday maybe" projects.

Yesterday, I got motivated to FINALLY pick up all the stuff sitting on the floor of the craft room and DO something with it.  I threw away some things, found better storage places for others, and unearthed a bulletin board that was just the perfect size for the hallway outside T's room. 

I put up the board and tacked on three of her recent art projects.  And today, while my fabulous husband was at the football game, and my fabulous daughter went to her fabulous grandparents' place for an afternoon of fun, I got crafty.

I wanted to make a sign that announced Trillian's art. I love making banners.  Since I didn't have much time and really wanted to finish it in one sitting, I decided to use my largest circle punch and glittery letter stickers from my stash. 

Rather than a typical banner where the letters are attached to each other, I used my jewelry making brainspace and decided to "string" the letters onto ribbon, using brightly colored jump rings.  I figured this would give the sign more motion, and I also wanted to see if I could make what I pictured in my head.  Since the "beads" were made of paper, I thought I should reinforce the holes with metal eyelets.

Fiskars Squeeze Punch X-Large, Round 'n Round
BasicGrey patterned cardstock
Pink Paislee glitter chipboard alphabet stickers
Crop-A-Dile Hole Punch and Eyelet Setter
Satin ribbon, 5/8" wide
Large 3/16" silver eyelets
Large anodized aluminum jump rings (1/4")
Packaging tape or nails/tacks for hanging

  1. I cut out enough circles from the cardstock with the circle cutter to spell out "trillian's art".  12, to be precise, plus a couple extra for mistakes.
  2. I arranged the cardstock circles with the patterns in the order I wanted them, and then stuck on the letter stickers, which I chose in a color and size so they'd be easy to read from a few feet. 
  3. I marked where I wanted the eyelets with a pencil. 
  4. Using the Crop-A-Dile, I punched 1/8" holes at the top of each letter of her name, and then the top and bottom of the ones spelling 'art' since they'd hang vertically.
  5. Using the wondrous Crop-A-Dile, I put in the eyelets. 
  6. Then, using pliers, I opened the jump rings, slipped them in the eyelets, and then closed them.  For the word 'art' I chained the letters together so they'd hang vertically.
  7. I cut a length of ribbon (about 3 feet) and strung the name letters on them, tying a knot at each end to keep the letters on. 
  8. At the beginning, before the knot, I added the string of letters spelling "art" and then tied another knot to keep that in place.
  9. I used clear packaging tape to secure the ends of the ribbon to the bulletin board.  Since the banner is small and light, this should be enough to hold it in place.
Tips & Tricks
  • Doing projects with repetitive elements goes a lot faster if you do it assembly line style - cut all pieces, then punch holes, then add eyelets, etc.
  • Count on making some mistakes, and make sure you have extra paper, eyelets, and stickers as needed.  Sometimes elements can be salvaged from the mistakes (I'm thrifty like that.)
  • When adding eyelets to punched holes,  make sure you've got enough space from the edge of the paper to the rim of the eyelet.  Also make sure the hole you're punching is big enough for the base of the eyelet - I like them to fit a little snugly, so I was using 1/8" holes for a 3/16" eyelet, but with delicate papers, this won't work well.
  • Don't cut ribbon until you're sure you have enough for your project.  You can always cut something shorter, but it's hard to make it longer. I always have to remind myself of this.
  • Look for materials in other departments of the craft store.  The jump rings I used were in the jewelry-making area. You never know what you might find!  In the same vein, when solving an "engineering" problem of how to attach things, or support things, think outside of your own craft, to another craft, or another application entirely!  I've gotten some interesting ideas from my husband, who is not a crafter, but is very mechanically inclined and handy.
BabyT liked the sign, which is appreciation enough for me. And I can assure you that I'll do everything in my power to keep that adorable jellyfish she made. I envision it hanging on the wall in my nursing home far in the future.  But for now, its rightful home is on her new art board, just outside her room.

What do you do with your kids' art projects?

Monday, September 19, 2011

it's the little souvenirs

Despite my incredulity that I've been a mama for 2 whole years, it really hasn't gone by *that* quickly.  I have made it a point to be immersed and present in T's life so I don't look up later and wonder where it all went.  Mind you, when she's 18, I'll probably think that anyway.

At the end of her first year, when people asked me how it went, I'd tell them that it was both the longest and shortest year of my life.  Short because I couldn't believe I had a year-old baby already.  But also long, long, long because of the broken sleep, figuring out what the crying means, learning how to tell when she was ready for a nap, wondering about when she'd hit her physical milestones, and the seemingly constant bucket of NEED.  The hours of nursing, the painstaking meals I prepared that ended up on the floor (at least Spike ate them), the hot relaxing shower interrupted 3 minutes in by a hungry baby.  All the usual stuff that goes with having a new baby.

BabyT at 0,1,and 2 years old

The fascinating thing is how sharp the transitions are.  One day she's my tiny baby, and the next day her hands seem HUGE.  One day her size 4 shoes are just fine, the next day we can't squeeze her little feet in there.  She went from pudgeball baby to little girl seemingly overnight.

Lately it's in her speech.

Overnight she went from 'wakawa?' to 'What's that?' and 'What's his name?'.  She was using 'wakawa?' for months to get more info about something.  Even my parents started using it with each other when they had questions.  Hehe.

For months she's been calling her self 'Tee-yan'.  Just last week, it turned into 'Twill-yan' and sometimes even 'Trill-yan'.  Sniff.

In the past two weeks I've noticed a huge increase in her use of (correct!) pronouns - him, her, it.  She now uses 'myself' and 'I' correctly about half the time.  Previously it was always 'you', like 'mama hold you' when she wanted us to pick her up. 

She can also follow complex directions, like 'go downstairs and put your hat in the laundry basket'.   (Not to mention that she can actually get around herself now.) THAT is crazy.

I've been keeping a little written journal for a couple of months of one daily "fun fact" or word/phrase that she's using, so that I can keep track.  It's fascinating to go back and read the entries.  Now, if only someone could remind me to take lots of pictures when we do stuff together...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

you live in a zoo

You know when you have a big event in the future, and you spend a lot of time preparing for it?  Then the event comes and goes.  And then you don't know what to do with yourself because you hadn't thought of anything past that event.

I felt that way on a HUGE scale about my wedding.  I'm feeling that way now.  T's 2nd birthday party is over.  We met my parents and our awesome photographer Kristi this morning for family photos.  Both of these were planned several months in advance, so it seems crazy that they're over now!

And how crazy that I am the mother of a TWO year old?  I can't believe that.  These past two years have been nothing short of transformative.  I never imagined I would love being a mama so much.  She makes me a better person every day.

trillian on slide

Happy 2nd birthday to my sweet baby girl.  I look forward to our new adventures!

Friday, September 16, 2011

handcrafted life plan part 5 - i've got dreams to remember

So this has been Week Zero of the Mondo Beyondo class I'm taking, and I LOVE it so far.  The geeky me also loves that they are using a zero-based index.  I was skeptical that the exercises would be too fluffy, airy-fairy, filled with things like "open your third eye" or chakras or other new-Agey type concepts that I'm just not into.

But it's not.  It's surprisingly down to earth for being a class about dreaming.  Which is just what I need to ease into it.  I'm looking forward to the emails that arrive each day to see what new activity they'll bring.  It's a little slice of quiet contemplation in the middle of my busy days.

One exercise this week had us identify our core values.  Here are mine:
  • AMAZING WIFE & MAMA – guide my daughter and partner with my husband by being patient, kind, gentle and loving
  • KICKASS WOMAN – be me, be joyful, experience life, have fun, be crafty, redevelop close friendships
  • CONTENT & CALM – have time for quiet moments, mellow days, no envy or major unmet wants, low stress, happy and present
  • HOME BASE – make our home organized, functional, warm, comfortable, imprinted with “us”
  • LOOKIN’ GOOD – get to a healthy weight, exercise and challenge my body, dress well in clothes that make me happy
I know, nothing earth shattering here.  But it was good to go through the process, and the way they framed the exercise was cool.

Another activity was to print a bunch of positive phrases and put them somewhere we'd read them regularly.  It wasn't enough for me to just print them on plain white paper - I needed some color.  So I got crafty, and made pretty circles out of them.

Mondo Beyondo class activity

I put them in a ceramic bowl made by my friend June our senior year of college.  She didn't like it, but I thought it was cool that she made it herself (this was long before I became crafty). 

We're not in touch, really, but I like to keep it around. She is someone who follows her big dreams - seriously pursued an acting career, quit her job to travel the world, went to business school after working as a scientist, just to name a few.  So I thought her bowl was a fitting place for these statements about dreaming big.

There are still a few spots left in the class and it's not too late to catch up.  If you want to sign up, use the link here or in my sidebar and I'll split the referral bonus with you so you'll get a little discount.

Mondo Beyondo Dream Big

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

so you can take that cookie

I've been trying to find a good dairy-free sugar cookie recipe so that T's birthday party guests can decorate them.  Because what's better than a bunch of 2 year olds with access to icing and sprinkles?

T's first masterpiece
I was pretty stoked to find a recipe that wasn't vegan as T isn't allergic to eggs, and I figured that would be closer to the real thing.  Unfortunately, those cookies, while pretty, were dry, not very sweet, and doughy in an unpleasant way.  Not that it stopped us from eating all of them.  Sigh.  On the bright side, this was T's first baking experience, and she loved it.

So I needed to try another alternative.  I found several recipes online for vegan sugar cookies.  I know, that just sounds awful, doesn't it?  But this one seemed like it stood a fighting chance because it uses Earth Balance spread in place of butter.  Earth Balance actually tastes a lot like butter to me, and more importantly, has the *texture* of butter.  I needed to bake a test run to make sure they'd work for the party.  (Ah, the sacrifices we make for our kids!)

Unfortunately, this recipe wasn't perfect either.  The dough was way too fragile - it was fluffy and hard to work with because it didn't hold its shape very well.  I think that might have been because it needed a bit more flour, so next time I'll increase it by 1/2c or so and see if that fixes it.  I did notice that leaving the dough out at room temperature for a longer time made it slightly easier to work with, as did re-rerolling the scraps.  I'm guessing that's because I use a lot of flour while rolling and cutting our the shapes.

After baking these, the cookies were pretty good - maybe a touch too sweet for my liking but much better than the first batch.  TJ thought they were too lemony so I'll cut down on the extract next time.   Since the dough was so soft and pliable, the cookies oozed a little more than I was happy with.  I like sugar cookies to have nice sharp well-defined edges.

I haven't iced cookies in my adult life, since I'm not a fan of frosting.  But you can't do cookie decorating without a nice royal icing to go with it.  Since raw egg whites make me a little nervous, I used the vegan recipe on Chez Bettay's site.  It was super-easy to make, and I even divided it up to make different colors.  I let T choose two colors.  She chose pink and blue.

This was my first time working with gel food coloring, and holy poo, am I impressed!  I bought these so I
could tint cupcake frosting, plus those little tiny pointy egg-shaped liquid bottles at the grocery always annoy me because they're so freakin' messy. 

First, be it known that A LITTLE goes a LONG, LONG, way.  I squeezed in a tiny bit of blue, decided it could use a little more, and ended up with a really deep shade, nearly BMW M3 blue (my favorite color ever!).  It's not at all subtle and I'm sure many grownups wouldn't be willing to eat a cookie that blue.  We'll find out tomorrow at work, I guess!

serious baby face
Then I let T loose (well, sort of).  She chose the shape of the cookie she wanted to decorate, an icing color, and squeezed it out herself from the really awesome Kuhn Rikon bottles I ordered a few weeks ago for the aforementioned cupcake baking.  I helped her with the sprinkles on a tiny spoon, as the sort-of-natural, locally made India Tree brand doesn't come with shakers in the lid. 

She managed to dump out about half an ounce of pink sprinkles all over her FunPod tower and our kitchen floor when my back was turned for a second.  I hope the dye is ok for dogs because Spike has eaten what I couldn't effectively pick up with a paper towel.  Sigh.

But it was a lot less messy than I expected, and she had a GREAT time.  My mom and I did a lot of baking together when I was a kid, and I was really excited to be able to finally share it with T.  We'll definitely do more.

The third round of baking will happen on Saturday when I make the birthday cupcakes and the last batch of cookies and icing for decorating.   Our oven and my KitchenAid stand mixer will be busy, busy, busy.

This post was brought to you by a crapload of things I bought on Amazon.com, and highly recommend if you're baking with your toddler.  Or by yourself, but you can probably reach the counter without the FunPod.

Monday, September 12, 2011

handcrafted life plan, installment 4

My online dreaming class starts today.  Yippee!

I've been taking a ton of training at work lately, because I needed to renew my Project Management certification this year, and it requires about 45 hours of continuing education every 3 years.  But all of those courses were practical and of course, work-related.

This one is just for me. And like most classes I've been to, they ask why you're there. Except here it's more deliberate - not just idle curiosity, but to consciously articulate what we expect out of the class.

Mondo Beyondo Dream Big

So here's why I'm taking it:

I want to figure out what my dreams are and how to create a life of joy for myself. I’m practical, analytical, and skeptical so it’s really hard for me to allow myself to dream big dreams. I want to set a great example for my daughter on how to create the life you want, not one filled with “should” and “supposed to”.

I'm really excited about the next 5 weeks.  Laura told me it was nice to have something little to do for herself every day.  I also love that it's not required for me to be social or "share" with the rest of the class - I can do all the exercises myself, and keep it to myself.  Or share when I feel like it.

Also, it's been a week since I started my health goal.  How did I do?  Well, my weight is at its lowest since mid-2009, so yay for that.  I was 7 for 7 on tracking my weight daily, but only 4 for 7 on tracking my food.  Did I mention that I hate tracking food?  Sigh.  But I can only improve on that front, so here's to another week.

But the simple act of writing out my goals has helped me be a LOT more focused on it than I used to be.  I even wrote it up on the whiteboard we have in our kitchen.  (Yes, after Caltech, I can't live without a whiteboard in my home. Or several.)

Well, enough navel-gazing for today.  T and I have a busy day, with a trip to the library, Trader Joe's and the park.  *That's* the life I want.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

i am not an angry girl

I'm currently trying to resolve an issue at work that requires me to advocate for myself.  Since it's not sorted out yet, I won't post details, but it's making me think about that uneasy, uncomfortable feeling I get when I don't do what's expected of me.

I've always been a rule follower.  I don't know if that comes from my personality of not being much of a risk taker, or the fact that I'm Asian American and was raised to respect authoritay.  Maybe it's a combination of both, plus the need to please and to be good that I think girls and women are pressured into.  For whatever reason, deep down in my psyche, it makes me REALLY uncomfortable to rock the boat.

I've run into this feeling a lot in my life, because sometimes my need to do things differently outweighs my discomfort from rocking the boat.  And I can't recall a time where I regretted taking action - in fact, doing so often resulted in a great outcome. 

Like negotiating with my company when I got my offer from them back in 2002.  The offer was great:  no travel, a sizable pay raise, better benefits, relocation.  So I figured I should just be happy with what I got, right?  Add to this the fact that at my previous company, I just took the offer they gave me.  It didn't even occur to me to ask for more, since they were going to pay me *much* more than I was making as a lowly grad student.  Sigh.

Wouldn't I seem "greedy" and "ungrateful" asking for more?  A friend of mine pointed out that all future raises and bonuses would be based on my salary, and thus it would be advantageous to start as high as I could.  So I put on my big girl pants, wrote out what I wanted, practiced it a million times, held my breath and called my recruiter.

And from that short conversation, I got: an additional cash allowance for moving Peanut up to Seattle, some more stock options (ah, those were the days!), an increase to my signing bonus, and a little more salary.  The discomfort?  Totally worth it and my career has reaped the benefits.

So the next few times I had to do this, it got easier.  Now I wouldn't even think of taking a new offer without negotiating for a little more.  Why waste all that good leverage? ;)

But, that confidence still doesn't translate into other situations where I need to advocate for myself.  I think old habits die hard.  So last week when I had to approach my bosses about reducing my work schedule because I was at a breaking point, I fretted about it.  Would they think I was a flake?  Not worth the hassle?  A waste of a team member?  It would appear not, since they granted my request immediately.  Like, 5 minutes after I started talking.  We didn't even get around to reviewing the fancy written proposal I put together.

I think this is something that takes practice.  In the same bucket is learning to say 'No' to things that aren't important and relevant to my goals and priorities.  A couple of times folks at work wanted to set up time with me to chat about something I had posted on a social mailing list.  Sometimes I'm ok with this, when my schedule is more free, or on a day when I'm home and can bring BabyT along.  But a lot of times, I've just had to decline and tell them I'll answer specific questions via email.

And once, a coworker who I respect highly asked me to consider a volunteer opportunity outside of work for a very worthy cause.  It sounded great, but just the idea of adding another thing to my packed schedule made my heart race.  I was able to decline, hopefully gracefully.  She still speaks to me, so I assume it was cool :).

Back to the pending work issue.  This issue means I'll miss a deadline.  And that in itself bugs me.  It bugged me all night last night when I was trying to figure out how to move forward.  But on my commute into work (all 15 minutes that included stops at Starbucks and the post office), I formulated a plan:  check w/ my manager on my course of action, set up a necessary meeting, and then let the people who manage the deadline know that I wasn't going to make it.  I sorted all those things out, and felt... peace.  My situation isn't resolved, but now it's out of my hands.  The right "next action" meeting is set up, I got no response about missing the deadline (in this case I'm going to assume no news = ok news) and my manager's got my back.

What I hope to teach my daughter is that she isn't expected to please everyone else.  I want her to have the confidence to do what SHE wants in life, not what people expect her to do.  And man is that hard, already, and she's not even 2.

We start with the small things now - if she doesn't want to go to someone, she doesn't have to.  If she doesn't answer questions other people ask her, that's cool.  One of the most interesting and influential parenting books I've read is Naomi Aldort's "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves".  Yes, it's as hippie as it sounds but really brilliant in making me think differently.

In this book, she addresses those exact things.  And in fact, she believes even older children shouldn't have to answer intrusive adult questions if they don't want to talk.  That surprised me a little, given how important it was when I was a kid, to be polite and respectful to adults and answer the litany of questions that were inevitable, though tiresome.  (How old are you? What grade are you in? What's your favorite subject? blah blah blah.)

So it really makes me think about what it means to be "polite" and where I want those boundaries to be when I'm raising T.  I definitely don't want her to be deliberately hurtful to people, but I don't want her to feel *responsible* for other peoples' feelings either.   I want her to be comfortable with who she is and chase her dreams and stand up for herself and minimize worrying about what other people think or gasp! what's "acceptable" or "expected" in our culture.  I'm not sure how to get there, but we'll start with the small stuff.

I wonder if that will make it easier for her to negotiate a good starting salary. Heh, I guess I'll find out in 20 years or so...

Monday, September 05, 2011

handcrafted life plan, the 3rd installment

Ahhh, the Las Vegas trip was just what I needed. Sun (ok, maybe too much of that). Adult beverages.  Fancy food and In N Out burger.  Relaxed vacation time with TJ. No worries about scheduling activities before naptime or bedtime. Gambling (yay!). Winning (more yay!).

BabyT had a GREAT time with my parents and remembered we were "on pacation" and seemed to be cool with that. We were really happy and energized to see her after several days.  Win-win.

Goal Setting
Photo by angietorres on Flickr

In my Inbox today was a newsletter from the I Will Teach You to be Rich blog. In my binge consumption of personal productivity blogs, I started reading this one again and subscribed to his newsletter.  It's mostly about personal finance and increasing your wealth but has some good content on the psychology of why it's so hard to "just do it", whatever that right thing is, be it saving money, losing weight, or figuring out how to quit your day job and follow your passion.

Well, today's newsletter was about some short exercises you could do to focus on a goal for the next 12 months.  How freakin' timely! 

I decided to tackle the weight loss thing first because of all the brain space I've been using for it, when I could be using that space and computing power for something much more interesting.

I've already gotten started by following the "new" Atkins eating plan for the past 2 months, drastically reducing my carb intake (with some slip ups, but not nearly as many as I expected).  That's a post topic on its own so I won't go into details now.

The goal setting exercise, originally written by Susan Su, had a series of questions designed to be answered as specifically as possible about the vision you have for your life after achieving your goal.   Of course this visualization technique isn't new, but I liked the short question format, and the fact that the exercise was designed to last about 20 minutes so I couldn't get caught up in writing up the document perfectly or formatting, or stupid stuff like that.  Using those answers, I boiled down my goal into a concise statement that I'm supposed to post in places where I'll see it often.

So here it is.  My goal by Labor Day 2012 is this:
  • Body weight of 128-136 lbs via
  • Atkins/low-carb eating plan and
  • At least 15 min of exercise daily
I realize I could have just stopped with the weight goal, but I've got health concerns that will be alleviated by a low-carb diet long term (huge family history of diabetes, to name one).  And I know that just 15 min of exercise will dramatically improve my energy levels and my mood so I'd like to keep that as well.  Not to mention I fail to see how I could maintain my weight without it. 

If you're interested in setting your own weight loss 12 month goal, here are the questions I used, which I revised from Susan & IWT's financially-worded ones.

In a year:
  • What will I weigh?  (you could also use a different metric here, like BMI or body fat %)
  • What will I look like and what will I wear?  (this is a HUGE motivator for me.  I love clothes.  be specific about sizes, styles, stores, etc.)
  • How much exercise will I be doing?
  • What will I be eating?
  • How will I feel?
  • What will my health be like?  (name specific health measurements or conditions here)
  • What will my family and friends think?
  • What does my Tuesday look like?  (pick a working day for this)
  • What does my Saturday look like?  (pick a weekend/non-working day)
I'd love to hear about the questions that you'd add to this list.  From this exercise, you're supposed to develop a roadmap on how to get to that goal. 

My plan, a la ZenHabits, is to pick one habit to alter each month. I haven't mapped out the 12 months yet, but the first month was an easy choice for me - track my carb intake and weight each day.

I HATE tracking stuff, and this is where I go off the rails, but I've found that when I don't track, I don't pay attention.  Or I guesstimate... poorly.   The online tracker I use is pretty simple and doesn't have that much overhead.  So I've got to figure out how to remember to do this.   If I actually track as per Atkins plan requirements, I can figure out how many carbs I can eat and still lose weight.  And I'm a girl who loves those carbs, so really, it's in my best interest to keep track.

So there it is.  One easy-to-define, but hard-to-execute goal for the next year.  Wish me luck.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Evening plane rises up from the runway

I was really excited about in flight wireless Internet access, but the reality is that it's pretty slow.  Slow is better than nothing, I guess.  I am super excited to be on my way to Las Vegas to meet my fabulous husband for our first trip without Miss Baby.  She is hanging out with my parents this weekend, and pretty much pushed me out the door as soon as they showed up.  So life is good.

Viva Las Vegas!
Photo by digitonin on Flickr

I hate pretty much everything about air travel. It irks me that the airlines don't realize that squishing so many people into such a tiny space is fundamentally opposed to the American culture's concept of personal space.  I hate it when the person sitting next to me is *touching* me, just by sheer virtue of sitting there, unless that person is related to me.  And even then I don't love it, but can deal.  This is one of those times - packed flight, large middle seat person keeps shifting around and reminding me that I have nowhere else to go without her touching me.  Yuck yuck yuck.

But it's nice to be alone with my thoughts (and the blog, of course) and not have that constant stress of trying to keep an almost-2-year old from pitching a fit or kicking the seat in front of her. 
It takes me back to the 3.5 years I spent working for Deloitte Consulting, traveling *every week*.  Most of that time was before 9/11 and all the TSA craziness, and I got out just about when it became unbearable.  I got really good at traveling - packing light, organizing my laptop bag to optimize for the security check, not checking bags, and doing everything online.
Since then, I can probably count on 2 hands the number of plane trips I've taken.  TJ's even less of a fan of air travel than I am, so our vacations are usually road trips.  Both of us are serious homebodies, so we tend to burn vacation just staying home for a day or two throughout the year.  And I'm cool with that.
In preparation for the Mondo Beyondo class I'm taking, I've been reading other people's posted "life dreams" lists online.  Most of them involve extensive traveling adventures.   I'm pretty sure mine won't.  There are only two trips I MUST do sometime - spend at least 2 weeks in Ireland, and go to the Christmas Market in Munich, Germany. 

I'm just not an adventurous soul.  I'm definitely not a "backpack across xxx continent and see 10 countries" kind of girl.  I'm more of a "find the nearest Four Seasons and park there for a week" traveler.  I'm sure readers of the Lonely Planet guides are appalled by this.  It's not that I don't have curiosity about the world around me.  I do, but just not enough to get out of my comfy home to go see it. 

So I mostly end up traveling because an opportunity is presented to me, not because I seek it out.  My parents nearly had to force me to go on a trip to France with my high school French class.   I just wasn't all that excited about leaving my house, and the known quantity of summer vacation.  I'm glad I went, if only because I found out that I might want to go back and see more of the Louvre, and maybe Switzerland some day. 

I did learn that I HATE group tours with a flaming passion.  I don't want someone else to set my itinerary for me, or tell me how long I can spend at a particular place.  I also hate having a packed agenda of sightseeing.  That's not relaxing at all.  I don't want to check off all the boxes to say I saw all the major attractions.  It's not my thing.  I'd rather wander around the city on my own pace, see one or two of the main things, and eat the yummy food.

So this is precisely what I did when I was given the opportunity to go to Munich Germany for work in 2003.  I spent a week there, but only had work events for 3 days.  I spent time napping in my really nice hotel, walked around the small town near the hotel, took the train into the big city a couple of times, did a crapload of shopping at H&M (which wasn't on the West Coast at that time), and ate a LOT of sausages in different shapes and sizes.  I practiced my (crappy) German, and got answered in perfect English by the nice and patient people that I met.  I saw the Olympic park, the BMW museum, a toy museum, and a really old church in the center of the city.  If there were other things I was *supposed* to see, I didn't.  It was relaxed, and I really felt like I got a feel for the place.  I also realized I dig traveling by myself.  Except for when I got on the wrong Express train and just narrowly avoided ending up hundreds of miles from my hotel. (My destination was the last stop before a long ride to some other part of Germany.  Yikes.)
In that same job at Microsoft, I also got to travel to Singapore, which I like to call the Las Vegas version of Asia.  It's clean and sanitized for your protection.  Not being a "get your hands dirty" kind of traveler, I loved it.  I'd totally go back there.

So yeah, I'm no world traveler, and I'm cool with that.  We may expand our horizons a bit more when BabyT is old enough to remember our trips, but I'm guessing we won't be the "pull kid out of school and travel the world for a year" family. 

But right now, I'm ready for Las Vegas, where we'll get to see fake New York, fake Paris, and fake Venice.  Hooray!

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