Monday, June 25, 2012

Mid-Year Reflection of an Almost Mid-life Crisis

I just read over at Natalie Houston's blog that it is the 26th week of 2012.  The year is officially half over.  Now, Natalie is a personal productivity coach, so her post "Mid-Year Reflection" is designed to get someone thinking and reflecting on how they feel about what they've accomplished during the first half of the year.  There are numerous questions, the answers to some of which may bore readers to tears.  But, I will go ahead and answer and try to be concise.  Hopefully, no one cries...

what are some of the key experiences you’ve had?

Well, I've had a number of medical experiences with my daughter I could have done without, but which have definitely been key experiences.  I've spent more time with my parents than I have in the past and realized the devastation of dementia and the weakening of the mind and body in a parent.  Its been a little disconcerting, well maybe a lot disconcerting.  I've realized, once again, that my job is going to be hard to match in its flexibility, insurance and general supportiveness during times of trouble.  So, despite the fact that we're a bit far away from where we might like to be as far as closeness to family and I am a bit lower in salary than I would like, being here is probably my best possible option.

who are some of the important people?
No one new really.  My sister has once again proven herself as someone who will be there through thick and thin whether it is difficult for her or not.  My parents.  My husband's parents.  My husband.  My daughter.  I also think that I've come to realize that there are people who are more distant in my life, but who would be there for me if I truly needed them and would be happy to step up and do for me what they could.

what have you learned?

Well, as I said above, I've learned that my job is pretty indispensable.  As an example, I just received a claim in the mail for my daughter's SHORTER, five day stay in the hospital in April - $117,000 give or take a few dollars!  This is the first claim letter I've received for any of her hospital stays, so although I had an idea of what the cost would be, seeing this in writing is still a bit of a shock.  I have also learned that I am very bad at all things financial.  I am bad at setting a realistic budget, keeping said budget or reconciling my spending at any point.  I have learned that I absolutely NEED routines in my life.  My life for the first six months of this year has been pretty much constant crisis, mostly because tend to let things go until I can't let them go any longer.  Housework, work work, packing, cooking...all of it.  Although I am bad at keeping routines, I absolutely NEED them or I risk losing my mind and all control!

what is the story of this year for you?

 A hospital drama.  

what have you created?

Answering as a pessimist - a chaotic life of stress.  Answering as an optimist - a life that will be easy to improve upon in the coming months and years.  Other than that, I guess I could answer this blog now!  

what have you shared?

Information on hospitalizations and transplant with other parents online.  Always nice to feel helpful.  I have shared time with students who have told me it has been helpful to them.  Other than that, not a lot.  My stress level and feelings of chaos often keep me from sharing things with others.  :(

where have you spent your time?

Hmmmmm, this is a tough one.  Lots of time on the computer - too much time on the computer. I do realize that.  I have spent considerably more time in the hospital than I would care to.  I have spent quite a bit of time driving as well - to the hospital, to weekend work obligations, to my parents.  Everything is a drive from where I live (other than my work, which is only three miles away), so this is something that is inevitable.  But, I would like to figure out how to be more productive during these hours on the road.

what have you let go of?

I've let go of my direct selling business just recently.  It was never a priority.  I tried to be serious about it for a few months and it still didn't do much, so I've let it go.  It felt good.  There are many other things I need to let go of - actual things.  I have a lot of scrapbooking stuff that I'm never going to get around to using.  It makes me feel guilty and disappointed when I see it.  So, I need to let go of that stuff.  I will try to sell the nicer stuff and will just give away the other stuff.  

what changes have you made?

Not many.  I definitely need to focus on making some more in the second half of the year.  I think that I have felt so insecure and chaotic that change just felt like another jolt to my system.  Even if it was positive change.  So, I avoided it.  But, I am now feeling much more stable and making changes around the house has been good (see my coffee cup and porch change post) and further changes to my teaching and engaging in community here in Chico are going to be further changes I hope.  

who have you been?

I have been less than dependable, probably to the point of flaky.  That is disappointing to me.  Its not who I want to be for sure.  I guess I've also been Mom...a lot.  Caregiver.  So, with the bad comes some good.

The next step in the blog post is to answer a few questions about the future.  This is important to me at this point as I'm really trying to focus on the present and the future and forgive myself for the past.

what would you like to experience, learn, create, or share?

The biggest thing I would like to experience in the next six months is a feeling of peace and satisfaction.  I feel like its been a long while since I've had those feelings for any prolonged period of time, if at all.  So, that would be great.  I would like to learn to manage my money and time better.  I would like to create a life in which I can function well doing all of the above - feeling peace and satisfaction without spending beyond my means and/or feeling like I am in a state of need.  That's a tough one for me right now.  Finally, I would like to share my life with more people.  I feel like I'm missing a real cohort - at work and in life.  So, I would like to be able to share experiences and life and time with more people on a regular basis.

what would you like to change?

I would like to change my level of integrity and dependability.  I don't want to be flaky.  I don't want to be doing everything at the last minute.  I want to change the feeling of chaos in my life, which will mean changing the way I live my life to start having routines and following them.  I need to change the way I move through life.  I need to stop "letting" life happen TO me and start "making" things happen FOR me.  

who would you like to become?

I would like to be come a happier, more fulfilled person who is surrounded by interesting, supportive and creative people.  I would like to become a dependable friend, employee, spouse and mom who does things with grace and joy rather than with stress and disappointment.  

What about you?  Will you join me in this mid-year reflection?  Provide a link in the comments and I will be sure to visit!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Breakfast Update and Dryer Disappointment

There it new outside breakfast nook!  I took the plunge, cleared off my front porch of all the junky stuff (dog crate, toys, shoes, etc.) and spruced everything up a bit and I have dined out there twice this week for breakfast!  The breakfast has not been the peaceful, alone, read a book kind of breakfast I had envisioned because my 3 year old has been up early all week (sigh).  But, we've both dined al fresco, without electronic distraction and enjoyed it a lot.  She asked to dine outside this morning, but it was a bit windy, so instead she sat at the new-to-me, from Freecycle coffee table I got this week and I sat at the cleaned off (!) dining room table.  Its all very exciting and satisfying!  But, before I get you to envious...the garage and upstairs portion of the house looks like a tsunami of stuff swept through leaving its remnants.  Piles have been shifted from the living room and stairs to the garage without concern for any kind of organizational scheme (like there was one to begin with) and the upstairs has just been neglected for a while.  So, I have my work cut out for me as far as cleaning and organizing goes.  But, I have little spaces of cleanliness and bliss to enjoy as well, which is awesome.

The big downer right now is my dryer quit on me.  We don't really have any extra money to get another dryer until at least the middle of next month (and maybe beyond), so I'm going to have to either hoof it with my piles of laundry to the laundromat (and my 3 year old in tow...ugh) OR pile it all up and take it to a friends house to do (also not appealing - at least at the laundromat it can all be done at once instead of over the course of hours and hours) OR wash it and then figure out a way of hanging it out to dry.  The last thing actually sounds a little appealing to me, but also a little rustic beyond my ability to deal with rustic.  I mean, the weather is perfect for it.  People always rave about how good their laundry smells and feels when they line dry it in the summer sun and breeze.  So...I'm trying to decide.  I may make a run to the dollar store today and see if they have a line and clothes pins and whatever else you need to line dry clothes.  But, I may just pile it up and hoof it to the laundromat.

I am feeling just a bit more in control of things this week, which is great.  But, I am also feeling like the next four or five weeks are going to be completely overwhelming.  I have a little over a week at home, then its back to my mom's to stay for four or five days to help out post-chemo treatment again.  From there, I will be coming home to celebrate the 4th of July with my in-laws and hubby (who is getting a day off on the 4th - the one at home for the seven weeks he is working this summer), then I'm riding back to Central Cal with my in-laws to spend a little bit of time with them this summer (probably 5-6 days), then its back to my parents for an organ donation presentation I'm doing in the Bay Area, then back home to start a two week workshop on Diversity that I was picked for at the University where I teach.  From there, I have not figured things out.  The workshop ends about a week and a half before my hubby is done with his work, so I might go back down to my mom's to help out for a bit or I might just collapse into a blob of worn out.  We shall see.  In August, we want to try to do at least a short vacation of some sort as a family, then we both start working off and on about the middle of the month as we prepare for the Fall semester.  It seems like Summer is already over when I think about it all.  :(

But, I'm sure there will be some fun experiences in there and I'm going to try to plan something nice for the 4th and invite some people over.  I have not hosted an actual "party" in years, so it would be fun to do that, although I don't know if I will be able to pull it together or not.  It may end up being more of a get-together for my in-laws and the two friends we spend a lot of time with in Chico...I guess we'll just have to see.
I'm happy with the breakfast space idea and that I took the initiative and made it happen.  So, I feel like maybe I should push myself a little on this hosting a party for the 4th idea...I'll mull it over and decide by tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inspiration in a Mug?

I have been inspired by New Moon, New Year, New Space — Hannah Marcotti.  Reading this blog post has done a few things for me.  It has reminded me why I spend time and effort digging through all the old blog posts and emails and newsletters that I fell behind reading.  I have been diligently trying to unsubscribe from blogs and newsletters and email lists that are no longer useful or interesting to me, and while I do that, I read the things that interest me.  This was one of those things.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hannah Marcotti, she is the writer behind the scenes at the Mama Space blog.  I find her writing to be stylistically appealing.  I find the things she sets out as goals for her readers to be inspiring and doable, something that is not always true of organizing/self-improvement blogs.  The New Moon, New Year, New Space post really struck a chord with me.

First of all, sitting in stillness is something I rarely, if ever, do.  In all honesty, the thought of it kind of terrifies me. I guess I am afraid of what might come into my mind - what might I have to deal with popping up as far as disappointing things about my life.  I purposely keep reading or watching TV or surfing the internet until I can barely keep my eyes open just so I don't have to deal with laying there thinking about my life.  So, for now, I am passing on the sitting in stillness part of the blog post.  I'm not home right now anyways, so I could not do it in my own space even if I wanted to.  But, even when I get back home, I will have to wait and see about this sitting in stillness.

But, the next part of the post is what really inspired me - morning routines.  I have had a morning routine in the past, but I have always lost doing it in the rush of life.  It is the story of my life and one of the reasons I have found myself in this almost mid-life "crisis" - I can't keep a routine.  My life is the antithesis of a routine.  I don't feel like life just gets in the way - it runs me over.  I am trampled by life.  I am smothered by life.  That is sad.  Really, really sad.  So, let's move on to the more positive, optimistic part of this post!

When I have done morning routines in the past, they have always been a list of to-do's.  Make bed, start laundry, eat breakfast, feed animals, etc., etc.  I have always given up on them because they have become too long and too arduous and life got in the way of accomplishing all that needed to be done.  But, in the post, I get a different idea of a morning routine.  Currently, I've done a pretty good job of keeping my sink clean and empty, so I can at least make a pot of coffee without having to deal with a pile of dirty dishes each morning.  And because I love coffee, I do often enjoy that first cup and savor it.  But, more often than not, the cup sits getting cold as I rush around the house or the internet to "get things done".  I have morning chaos instead of a morning routine.  Sometimes I wake up earlier than everyone else and go downstairs to try to get some things accomplished before the chaos of my day begins.  Sometimes my daughter wakes me up and I immediately have to start fulfilling her needs.  Sometimes my husband takes my daughter downstairs and leaves me to sleep in a bit (notice I do not say he immediately fulfills her needs, because usually he does the bare minimum - but, at least it allows me to sleep).  There is no pattern to the morning other than feeling worn out, always firing up my laptop almost immediately and not feeling in control of things.  But, the one thing each morning usually includes is coffee!  So, the focus of this post was a good place to start for me.

I have a ton of coffee cups, which is silly because my husband does not drink coffee.  So, even if I didn't do dishes for a few days, I would at most only need four or five cups.  None of the cups match.  None of them are particularly attractive.  The only one that gives me any joy at all is the one my Mother In Law got for me from my daughter for Valentine's Day that says "Super Mom".  But, that one is chipped, which is talked about in the post.  These cups are representative of what happens in my life.  Things come in, I don't take control, and they end up hanging around, not giving me any satisfaction but just being there.

So, this post has inspired me to take control of my life in a small way - my morning routine.  In order to make my morning routine what I want here is what I will do:

1) Clear out my coffee mugs.
2) Shop for four or five mugs that I LOVE.  I want them to bring me joy each morning.
3) Make sure I have good, quality flavored coffee in my house at all times.  I am usually pretty good about this, but for the past two weeks I've been drinking a coffee that I got off Amazon - Community brand 5-Star Hotel Blend - that was AWFUL.  The price is very good...the coffee is very bad.  Don't do it!
4) Declutter my front porch area so as to enjoy my coffee and breakfast on my new-to-me patio set that I got for a great price on Craig's List and have really neglected since.  This will be computer-free.  I may read a favorite magazine from my large pile of neglected magazines...or maybe the newspaper sometimes...or, even better, a book I'm reading to keep up with my goal of one book a week for the summer (I am already a book and a half behind).
5) Have a plan for breakfast each morning.  I have wanted to get better about meal planning but am often overwhelmed (starting to sound like a theme in my life, no?).  So, starting with something simple like breakfast should be doable and then I can work on expanding from there.

I look forward to reading more of Hannah Marcotti's posts from way back in January and going forward!  I am hoping that my new morning routine will bring me some relief from the chaos.  Thank you for the inspiration to try and the guidance to think about routines in a different way that makes them something you want to do, not something you HAVE to do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mid-life crisis that makes mine look like a mid-life easy-peasy problem

This article from The Independent talks about a woman who came out as a lesbian after 21 years with her husband.  I know that my mid-life crisis is in no way that dramatic.  But, I do think its interesting that this woman was a psychotherapist and it took her 21 years to figure things out.  But, maybe that's just me.

On a different note, I have figured out that my mid-life crisis needs to produce a few things to make me satisfied with my life.

1.  Some form of adventure that involves Bean (my daughter).  I have decided to try to institute daily, weekly, monthly, and annual adventures for us.  The daily will be small and easily doable: feed the ducks at the park, go downtown and play in the fountain, etc.  The weekly will be a little larger, but still easily doable: go to the museum in town, take a drive to a wildlife preserve in the area and bird watch, etc.  The monthly will be larger, a little more complicated and could require an overnight stay: camping, going to a new city and spending the day site-seeing, etc.  The annual will be quite large.  I'm thinking a multi-destination trip, or a flight somewhere new, etc.  I figure I will keep a list of places that fit into each category and use it to plan.

The impetus behind this plan is that I have noticed that my life is pretty blah most of the time.  I am a creature of habit and although I like adventures - seeing them on TV, reading about them - I rarely take the time and make the effort to have them myself.  But, I want Bean to grow up feeling confident about doing lots of different things.  My family drove on long trips and camped along the way when I was younger.  It forced me to be willing to meet new people, to deal with different terrains and bathroom situations, and to enjoy the possibility of it all.  Every camping trip was a new adventure and the possibilities for people, places and things were endless each time.  That is not true of sitting around your house watching TV or playing on the internet!

2.  A budget.  I know, this sounds anti-adventurous.  But, I've about had it with financial adventure and I'm ready for this part of my life to be totally predictable.  The first step in this process is to figure out what we spend and where.  That is the goal right now - to track spending.  Its a little weird right now with both of us being off for the summer and my hubby working away for seven weeks, so I figure we'll probably have to be in this tracking mode through the end of the summer and then institute a new budget when school starts and see how we do.

3.  A hobby.  I really need to find something I love to do and do it on a regular basis.  I think it will be reading.  That is an easy hobby.  I do love it.  I love all things books.  I want to get back to the time when I would read under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime because I loved it so much!

So, those are my three mid-life crisis notes for tonight.  We'll see how things pan out...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Optimistic...or Crazy?

Either way, I'm going to change my life.  I will either create change in a beneficial way, or I will convince myself of an alternate reality in which that happened.

I am 43 years old.  I will be 44 in a little over a month.  I am hoping I live until my late 80s, early 90s, so that means I am close to reaching my mid-life point.  Hence the title of this blog...I have a 3 year old.  She needed a heart transplant at 4 months old.  She just had her second open heart surgery two weeks ago to repair a damaged valve.  I want to be healthy enough - financially and physically and mentally - to help her through whatever medical challenges lay in front of her, of which there are sure to be many.  My mom is currently taking chemotherapy for her fourth round of cancer treatments.  I want to be healthy for her as well.  My dad has dementia and struggles to do everyday things.  I want to be healthy for him (and to help my mom take care of him).  My sister is 13 years older than me and has been taking care of my parents largely on her own (she retired early and I live three hours away and work full time other than in the summer).  She is tired and frustrated and I would like to be able to help her.

My life is kind of a mess.  I don't have any routines to speak of.  I don't have financial control or enough knowledge about what we spend on what.  I have large aspirations and low follow through.  I lack a support network in my hometown because I don't have the consistency or make the effort to have a lot of friends.  I do not exercise regularly.  I eat out a lot - and its not all that healthy.  I don't sleep enough most nights - sometimes because of my daughter, but often times because I choose not to.  I am behind in paying bills.  I forget about appointments I've made.  About the only thing I do really consistently and well is give my daughter her medications (she takes five medications every morning, three in the afternoon and another six every night) and make her doctor's appointments.  I guess that little bit proves to me I CAN do it, I just don't choose to in other areas of my life.  And I am now frustrated by all of it.  I feel like I need to be in a different place in my life as I reach mid-life.

So, this blog will be my "diary" of how I get to where I want to be as I reach mid-life.  My life is a total crisis, but its close enough to justify some BIG changes.  I hope to use this to inspire others, develop online support and as the saying goes, "get 'er done"!  So, if you are feeling frustrated with where you are in life - whether you are on the verge of mid-life, just starting out in adult life, or finishing up adult life, let's see if we can make life better.  Let's see if we can just forgo the fence and live life where its greener...

The areas I will focus on in this blog will be fivefold -

(1) Money - the root of all evil...perhaps, but necessary.  This is an area I need to really prioritize as it has been spiraling out of control for a while.  I want to divide this area up in to a few subareas:
     (a) Cutting down on spending (couponing, reusing, etc.)
     (b) Putting away for a rainy day (emergency fund)
     (c) Saving for sunny days (vacation, college, gift, etc. fund)
     (d) Managing money (tracking spending, budgeting, paying bills on time, etc.)

(2) Parenting - this is where I feel like I have some strengths, but I'm still really inconsistent.  I think as of now, its really just establishing routines.  But, that is enough of a challenge for now.

(3)  Work - I have a love/hate relationship with my job.  So, I ponder making a change to a different job...but, often come back to all I love about my current job and the threat of not loving as much about a new job.  So, I guess I have some sub-areas:
     (a) Exploring other opportunities
     (b) Establishing routine at current job
     (c) Delegating more at current job
     (d) Managing responsibilities at current job
     (e) Establishing more and better relationships at current job

(4) Caregiving - This is an area that has become front and center with my daughter's heart problems, my mom's cancer and my dad's dementia.  I need to figure out how to be more helpful to my sister and how to be most beneficial to my parents.
    (a) Time management
    (b) Get a new rental (to allow my parents to come and visit - need a one story)
    (c) Information management

(5) Achieving Dreams - This is something that is way more esoteric, but that I feel is necessary for an almost mid-life crisis.  I would like to at least focus on some fun and adventurous things!  A "bucket list" so-to-speak.
    (a) Figuring out what's on the list of dreams
    (b) Working on achieving dreams one step at a time