So, if you’ve read my blog and/or known me for any time at all, you’ve probably noticed that I love changes and adventure. I’m typically not comfortable resting on my laurels. That said, it’s time to announce my next big undertaking: grad school.
I’m in love with learning, and I crave the structure that class can provide, so I’m really looking forward to taking 6 credit hours (3 undergrad, 3 grad) in the upcoming spring semester! Both of my classes are online, which is brand new to me, but I’m up for the challenge, and glad I won’t have to spend lots of time away from my family my first semester back.
Since these are my first few hours of grad school, I didn’t have to have a completed application package to enroll. That means that I’ll also be working this semester on a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and taking the MAT (eep!). So next semester, I’ll be a fully-fledged grad school student.
While I loved undergrad (I have a B.A. in writing and design arts), this degree will be a bit of a new direction for me. I’m really excited about the change but also nervous. Will I like it as much as I think? Will I be good at it? Will I be able to handle the coursework on top of my other priorities?
What about you guys? Have any of you been to grad school? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear your stories as I embark on this adventure!
I know, everybody does it on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs, but I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I have so much to be grateful for, and there is lots of evidence to suggest that gratitude breeds happiness. So, if you haven’t publicly proclaimed what you’re thankful for yet this year, maybe now’s the time to do so.
Without further ado, here’s an incomplete list of the things I’m thankful for:
1. My Community
So, we’ve really focused in this year on putting others before ourselves – and maybe more importantly, putting others before things. As a result, we’ve gotten to know our neighbors, been more involved in our church, and been more connected to the people around us. Even as an introvert, I can tell you that this has been one of the best things we’ve done this year. Since we have a large home now (and not much money to go out), we play host to groups of people a lot. Even when the place is messy and I’m stressed out and tired of cleaning, I still love that our friends know they can come make themselves at home in our home. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
2. My family
Who isn’t thankful for family? As a young mom, though, having my family’s support is even more important than it was earlier in my life. A and I are very, very fortunate that both sets of parents are supportive and incredibly generous. A’s parents watch Baby I four days a week - for free. My mom watches her half of one day and anytime A and I need a date night. It means the world to us to have a family who loves us and loves each other so much.
3. My privilege
Sometimes when I’m complaining about something, I stop and think about what I’m really saying. Usually, it shuts me up, because I am so incredibly blessed with so much – a good job, a nice home, a family, a car, the ability to take care of pets – that complaining about anything is really pretentious. We have several friends who have traveled to Africa – Senegal and Ethiopia – and I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to live there. But honestly, I don’t even need to travel to Africa to see how many advantages I have in life; poverty is abundant in my city. I have had a lot of legs up in life. I was born into a middle class family, grew up in a suburb with decent public schools, got a scholarship to a really good private university, and married a guy who was born into a middle class family. We really don’t know what it is to have nowhere to turn when we’re struggling. More and more, I’m realizing just how good I have it – and how important it is to give back to others.
What about you? What are you thankful for this year?
So, for the past few months (beginning August 1), I’ve been undergoing a radical change in the way I eat, and the way I relate to food. It was something that needed to happen for a very long time.
Let me give a little background first. When I was younger, I kind of just ate whatever I wanted to (like most younger people do). Our family ate ok – meat, veggies and starches usually made up dinner, but I had (had? Ok, have) a raging sweet tooth, so sweets were always around. We also ate like most typical Americans: breakfast cereals, flavored yogurts, packaged snacks and sodas were typical. Maybe we didn’t consider them healthy, exactly, but these things also weren’t off-limits.
As an adult, my metabolism did start to slow down (as most do) and I started to gain weight. I would restrict my sweets, like cookies and brownies, but they had a death grip on me. My cravings would get out of control and I would binge. Nothing outrageous – at my heaviest, I was probably 10 lbs. overweight.
Then, I got pregnant with Baby I. After the horrible, horrible nausea passed, I was excited to be able to eat my “normal” diet again. But that didn’t last the entire pregnancy, because I got diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. I was devastated and scared. The nutritionist at my OB’s office helped design a strict diet I had to follow. GD is a lot like Type 2 diabetes, but the difference is that there really isn’t any time to waste getting your blood sugar under control with GD. The longer your blood sugar is high, the longer it affects the baby you’re carrying, so there’s really no room for cheating on your diet.
So, here I was, 7 months pregnant, faced with a VERY abrupt change in my diet. I did it for my baby’s health, and never had one high reading after I changed the way I ate (whew). But I felt deprived. I hated every minute of it. And when I delivered Baby I and got the GD all-clear, I went back to my old “normal” diet – extra heavy on the sweets. I had just missed them so much!
About a year and a half later, I was heavier than I had ever been (except while pregnant), tired all the time and beginning to feel sick. I knew I had to do something, even though part of me didn’t want to. A friend of mine was reading Practical Paleo and suggested it for me.
I was skeptical; I had heard so much about how the Paleo diet can be not-so-good for you. And I had also tried other diets before with limited success. I thought: even if Paleo works for me, it’ll probably just be a temporary thing and then I’ll gain all the weight back when I revert back to my “normal” diet.
It’s been three months, and I think it’s safe to say that Paleo has been radically different from anything else I’ve ever done. Dear readers, I don’t want you to think I’m trying to be a Paleo evangelist or asking everyone to eat Paleo. That’s not the case at all. I know it’s not right for everyone, and actually, I don’t even eat strictly Paleo all the time. But I do want to share what I’ve learned while changing my relationship with food over the last three months:
First, protein is king. I don’t think my old diet contained nearly enough protein, and now I make sure I have at least a serving of the cleanest protein I can afford at every meal. This is almost always an animal protein, because I think that makes me feel the best.
Fat is prince. I used to feel like I had to have a LOT of starch to round out a meal. Ever since I started making sure I get enough fat in my meal, my need to eat starch has dropped off considerably. I don’t think I was eating nearly enough fat in my old diet, and my body was screaming for “something more,” which I usually interpreted as sugar or starch. My favorite good fats to include in my meals are butter, avocado, and yummy olive oil.
Eating can sometimes actually make me feel worse. Before I took an honest look at my relationship with food, I often ate when I had a headache, when I had a stomach ache, when I felt tired, etc. But the problem with that was I was actually on a path to feeling sicker, not better. So logic would dictate that, at best, food wasn’t helping with my ailments, and at worst, food could actually be contributing to or causing my ailments.
Insulin is the key. One thing that most Paleo diet experts agree on is that keeping your blood sugar stable is one of the most important things you can do. As a (former, and temporary) diabetic, I knew the dangers of having high blood sugar, and I also knew that the likely cause of my sudden, intense sugar cravings was unstable blood sugar. I also knew that it was imperitave for me to get my blood sugar under control, because women who have had Gestational Diabetes are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes for the rest of their lives. What I learned is that keeping my blood sugar stable would also help my mood, my weight, and even prevent gout attacks.
Most of all, I was finally able to believe that (a.) getting healthy has little to do with weight and the numbers on the scale, and (b.) healing my relationship with food did not have to mean writing down everything I eat, slavishly counting calories and measuring portions, or worrying over labels. In fact, the best way to eat is to eat things that don’t have labels, and to just eat them until I’m full. This way, I’ve found that I actually think about food a whole lot less, and even when I veer off from the strict Paleo diet I started out with, I find that I’m able to maintain my weight without much effort at all.
So that’s what’s been going on in my belly the last few months. Have you heard about/tried the Paleo diet? Have you ever had to change your relationship with your food and/or your scale?
I was thinking about this concept of what I actually spend time on the other day, and my routine in general. I kept a log, and here’s what the average day in the life is like:
6:00am: Wake up! The two little dogs want their breakfast now and Voxie wants to take a walk. They are all usually extremely enthusiastic about mornings, which can help me drag myself out of bed, most days.
6:30am: In from my walk/jog with Voxie. Make breakfast for myself. Drink coffee. Watch 10ish minutes of news.
Note: OK, ok. I haven’t been walking Voxie this past week since it’s turned cold. But it’s COLD! And DARK! I’ve been trying to at least throw her toy a few times so she can get some energy out.
7:00am: Baby I wakes up. Get her dressed. If she’s going to my in-law’s on a particular morning, I just give her milk because she eats breakfast over there. If A is home for the day, we feed her breakfast together. Get myself pulled together for work in between hugs, kisses and cuddles.
7:30am: If I’m riding my bicycle to work, I leave around now. If not, I get about 10 more minutes of Baby I cuddle time in.
8:00am: Arrive at work. Check email. Down to business (most days).
12:00pm: I am very lucky in that my work offers a comprehensive wellness program, so I participate in workout classes a couple of times a week. I try to make classes, because I feel so much better after working out, but also it makes me feel great that I’m taking advantage in this very cool benefit. When I do a class over lunch, I eat at my desk afterward. If I don’t do a class, I might do some reading, creative writing, or walk to the library over lunch. Or I go out to lunch. Sue me.
5:00pm: Get home ASAP for more baby cuddles.
5:30pm: Start dinner. We’re early birds in my family. I usually cook while A plays with Baby I for a bit to distract her, otherwise she’d prefer me to hold her while chopping veggies with an extremely sharp knife. No thanks. While I’m cooking, I also try to get in some quality time with my little dogs. They hang out in the kitchen with me and I sneak them treats (shhh).
6:00pm: Dinner. Baby I is just a few months away from her big 0-2, but I think the Terrible Twos are already setting in. This girl’s favorite thing to do at dinner is pick at her food, then pick up a giant handful, squish it, and let the remains slide to the floor. The carpeted floor. She gets a stern warning the first time or two (depending on how close together the offenses happen), but inevitably smiles at us as she does it again. So she has a time out in the corner. By the way, A has to do all of this, because I am usually turned around in my seat, hiding my uncontrollable laughter. She may be a bad baby, but she is a cute baby.
7:00pm: Baby I’s bath/toothbrushing/story/bedtime. This usually gets jammed all in together, and it’s my territory, because as you may have noticed, I don’t get a whole lot of time with Baby I on a typical work day. This is the tough reality of being a working mom that I struggled to come to terms with for a long time. But something I realized is that the precious minutes I get with Baby I on weekdays are just as meaningful to us both as an entire day – as long as that time is quality. I’m working on it. Some days are tough – I have trouble turning work hecticness off, I’m tired, or burned out on the daily routine – in those times, I admit, Facebook is sometimes too tempting because it’s soothing and Baby I can be difficult. Again, I’m working on it.
7:30 – 8:00pm: Baby I is down for the night, and there’s a 50/50 chance I’m doing dishes or cleaning. If I’m not doing that, I’m sprawled out on the couch until bedtime. I mean, just look at my day. It’s nuts. I get tired. The upside of sprawling is that I get some quality cuddle time with A and my dogs.
I have to admit, my lifestyle can be a little rough. Lately, I’ve been feeling really burned out, and I’m running out of solutions for this feeling. What do you do when life starts to overwhelm you?
Dear readers, I apologize for my long absence. I’ve been running on empty lately, but I’ll try not to neglect the blog for so long again.
So, at the beginning of the summer, we adopted our third dog, Voxie.
She’s a boxer, about a year and a half, and was found in a parking lot. The shelter tried for weeks to find her home, but with no luck. She had no microchip, hadn’t been spayed, and was far too skinny. She was a stray.
I am a bleeding heart when it comes to animals. So is A. So it’s not really a good idea for us to go into shelters or pet stores, read classified ads, etc. But sometimes we do. And when we do, we end up with animals. In this case, a 50-lb. boxer.
Those first couple of weeks with Voxie were pretty hard. Adopting a dog is a wonderful thing but the adjustment is so much different than when you’re getting a puppy. Voxie had a lot of pent-up energy as a result of living in a kennel for a few months. The first few days, she was insane. I didn’t know if she would ever settle down, and what we would do if she didn’t. She mouthed our hands constantly. She had accidents in the house. I cried daily because I kept thinking I had made the wrong decision.
But you know what? Every day got a little bit better. And one day, the entire daily routine was extremely pleasant, and I realized that Voxie had been a completely normal dog that day. That her enthusiastic personality was fun, and that lately, she had been sufficiently high-energy without crossing the line into “hyper” or “crazy.” That when she put her head in my lap at the end of the day, I could no longer imagine my life without her.
Our little dogs were good with the transition, considering their age and Voxie’s size and energy level, but adjusting to giving love to three dogs and a toddler isn’t a walk in the park. You can’t always find a way to carve out time for everyone. I’m doing a bit better, and ultimately my goal is to cut out the time-sucks from my life so that I can spend the best quality time with my entire family (but don’t worry, dear readers! I don’t classify blogging as a time-suck).
Have you ever adopted a new pet? Was there a long adjustment period? Would you adopt again?
This past Friday was the day that the new students at the university where I work moved into their dorms. I never lived on campus, so I guess I didn’t have the classic college experience of leaving my parents to move in with a billion other people in a tiny room, but the mixture of excitement and trepidation on their faces resonated with me all the same. I remember being an incoming first-year college student, wondering whether my classes would be too hard, the professors too academic or lofty, and the people much too smart for me (none of these things were the case).
I was walking back up the main street on campus, headed to my office after lunch when I was snapped out of reminiscing by a lost(ish) looking person. I asked if he needed some help, and he did need me to point out a building, which I gladly did for him. And then he said, “thanks ma’am.”
And there it was: confirmation that even though my college years feel as if they were yesterday, they were, in fact, not yesterday. But I’m not, like, a real adult, either, right?
Well, kind of.
So that got me thinking: I have actually entered yet another awkward “in-between” phase of my life. The mid-20s are supremely confusing.
I don’t feel grown up yet (not even a little). And the thing is, I have no idea what it would take for me to feel that way. I mean, I’m married, I have a child, a career, and I bought a house recently. I am, by definition, an adult. But I still feel like I stumble through life and make a lot of mistakes. When I’m doing things like mothering or writing for a living or teaching Sunday school or separating laundry, I just wait for the People In Charge to tap me on the shoulder and say something like, “We know all about how you’re not actually prepared for any of this. Time for you to leave.” But it hasn’t happened yet.
But then I have friends (who are my age) who are still in school, and some are just branching out on their own. Some have careers that they love and some are waiting tables (and doing something insanely cool on the side, because all of my friends are interesting and creative and generally awesome. I’m very lucky that way). They post Facebook statuses like, “If one more person gets engaged/gets married/has a baby, I’m gunna puke,” and I always feel a little embarrassed. But even though our situations and life experiences are vastly different, I feel like the majority of us share this weird I’m-no-longer-an-adolescent-but-I’m-definitely-not-a-grownup complex.
I guess what I’m saying is: if there are any 15-year-olds out there reading my blog, it gets better. But then kinda weird again.
What about you? Are you a 20-something feeling stuck in an awkward phase? Show some solidarity!