Stand up and write!

I am now a proud user of something called a CubeCorner 36 which is basically a standing desk.  When I googled it to link for the link, I was brought to a picture of a desk a bit different than the one I have in that it is white and a little wider. I love things that are white because they make me think of clean design and it’s a bit more of a contrast to my black monitors. I’m a bit jealous I didn’t get a white one, but since the office paid, I will not complain.

 

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My desk is like this but black

 

How does the desk work? It goes up and down by holding a couple of handles on either side and then you pull up and forward to go up and push away and down to go down. Going up is pretty easy but putting it back down was a bit of struggle at first. I’m either getting better at it or the joints in the desk are loosening up.

I didn’t know if I should jump right into standing so I did a little reading on the topic before commencing this activity. A few sources recommended starting slow, maybe 20-30 minutes at a time which I’ve been gradually increasing over time and now stand about 2 hours a day in 30-minute increments.  I think the goal is to spend about 3 to 4 hours standing each day which is about half of the workday.

As to some of the logistics, I do like to dress up for work (dresses, heels, etc) so I’ve had to make an adjustment with my foot attire. I still wear the heels but keep a pair of my super comfy flip flops under the desk for the standing part. I use the heels for when I go to meetings, lunch, and the bathroom since flip flops are frowned upon at the office.

A benefit to the standing desk is it allows me time away from my messy desk for a while. I try to keep my actual lower desk area clean and organized but inevitably, by the end of the week, I’ve got stacks of papers I’m working on peppered around the desktop. On the standing desk, I only have my computer screens, keyboard, mouse and cup of tea. The standing desk also allows me to have the photos and inspirational quotes I’ve put on my cubby organizer at eye level which otherwise, I rarely look at.

But, Mary, what are the benefits of actually working while standing up? Glad you asked! I’m finding it very similar to working while sitting down although I’ve read a few articles that indicate sitting down is better for things that need extreme focus or require fine motor skills. I can understand the focus thing because standing up, at least right now in my early weeks of using the desk, is ever present in my conscious mind. It’s not like I’m going to forget I’m on my feet and it can get a little tiring after a while.

I find standing best if I’m actively typing something rather than cruising the internet because I get a little sloppy with my stance when doing the former. When I’m using the keyboard, I’m in full upright position, shoulders back, hands in proper typing stance and I don’t see any lag in my typing speed. Standing has been especially good for my posture and I’ve noticed my core is getting stronger. When I’m not typing, I find myself leaning into the desk, crossing my legs, putting more weight on one foot rather than equal distribution so I need more attention to keep a proper stance.

I also listen to music while I work so at times I’ll find myself boogying or swaying to the beat which probably burns a few more calories and, in addition, makes me look a little silly. This does not deter me because I’m already a bit of an outlier at work and well, we all have our quirks. Moving to the beat does make the day a bit more enjoyable.

So, I give my solid approval to this standing contraption. I may change my mind down the line when I have a bit more experience under my feet (haha). But for now, it’s two thumbs up.

MC

A Boy and His Frog

I’m not one to plan too far ahead. There are always fuzzy plans in the future and then about an hour or two before we’re to set out, I’ll start to consider what the plans entail. This happened Saturday when we had to go to a party hosted by one of the partners at my husband’s firm. The party was to begin at 2:00 so at noon I began sending him a flurry of texts about the afternoon ahead. Do we need to bring anything? How long will we be there? How should I dress? What else do we need? This is where I find out it will be a pool party so I hunt and gather the things Liam will need: swimsuit, towel, flip flops, sunscreen. Flowers for the host. After a time, we’re ready to go.

I forget Liam (a 10-year-old) sometimes has an issue with new situations and I didn’t foresee that this would be one of them. Surely anything that involves a pool is outside the realm of social anxiety. I’m not sure where he gets this. OK, he gets it from me. I was an awkwardly shy kid and still get quiet in new situations or with meeting new people.

For a good hour, I sat with him on a couch away from the other party guests coaching him on strategies on how to enter into the fun going on in the pool. I empathized with him about new situations. I reminded him of other occasions where he overcame his fear in similar circumstances. I reminded him how much he loves to play in a pool. I asked him what was the worst thing that could happen. What was the best?

Finally, I outright bribed him. $2 to jump in the pool. He upped it to $5. I said he needed to do a cannonball and stay in 15 minutes. He suggested he could jump in and get right back out for $10. Nope, $10 was too steep a price for something that should be fun, but if he’d stay in for 30 minutes, I’d consider it. We weren’t getting anywhere so I settled on $10 for him to jump in and get right back out. Negotiations had fallen apart because I was dying for some adult interaction. He agreed but still couldn’t bring himself to do it. Defeated, I buried my face in my hands and then heard a splash. He did it!

He realized it wasn’t going to kill him so he got out and jumped in again. And again. And again. I told the host he was going to have trouble getting rid of us at the end of the night and I wasn’t wrong. Before I knew it, Liam was leading the younger kids on an excursion into the woods where they discovered a giant family of frogs. Many, many frogs. Apparently, we have a shortage of frogs around our house and he begged to take one or two home.

I know there are people who are great with stories and explanations about why their kid can’t or shouldn’t do something. I tried to channel this skill. The frog could die if we take him out of his habitat! He could get lost in the car and die there! The frog might not find any friends in his new home and die of loneliness! All roads led to death for the frog so apparently, I wasn’t very good at this. Eventually, I gave up and said if he dropped the $10 surcharge for jumping in the pool and having fun, I would allow the frog to be transported home.

This may have turned out to be the wrong choice, however. When we returned home, I won the battle of leaving the frog outside on Saturday night. Liam gave him intermittent attention throughout the day Sunday but at one point I went to get something from the bedroom and was stopped short by the sight of the frog languishing on my new throw pillow (cue the prickle) while my son looked on as though he couldn’t believe his luck to have found such a good friend. I was left wondering if the frog would suddenly transform into a person right there on my beautifully crocheted and tasseled pillow. Of course, I screamed. The frog, now known as Tony, has been returned to the pond in our garden so he doesn’t die.

Writing and Domestic Life

It has been my goal for a very long time to write a book. I let the idea go for many years but over the last several months, with mid-life firmly fading in the rearview mirror, I can no longer hold off the voice in the back of my mind: write, Mary, write (channeling Forrest Gump here). I am trying to squeeze in the time to write and so I’ve signed up for an online writing course to hold me accountable and to get help in starting the process.

Today I am working on week 2 of the class where we write the first chapter (or any chapter or scene). Week 1 we completed a story summary which had sort of come to me a couple of months ago and I’ve been trying to suss out the characters over the past few weeks which helped me dive into this week’s assignment. Who they are. Where they’ve been. Where they’re going.  It’s been an interesting process!

I submitted a couple of scenes earlier in the week and now I’m looking at the feedback and all the holes I need to fill, the main character’s qualities and motivations I need to shore up. I’m questioning if writing is a sane and feasible goal when being a reader suits me so well.  I am finding just about anything else to do instead.

The dishwasher needs emptying. Dirty clothes are strewn in piles around my bedroom floor (three rooms away from where I’m working). The kitchen floor, which is in my sightline, is shouting to be steam cleaned and the bathrooms, well let’s not get started there. The counters are begging me to remove all objects to clean and dust. I think you get the picture. Believe me, these things go unnoticed and unchecked Monday through Friday because we’re barely home or I’m sitting outside reading until it’s almost time for bed.

So now I have an empty house (key element) and I’m fighting to keep my butt in this chair. I need to empty my brain of all the ridiculous clutter that is spinning around and get back to work. So here I am emptying it. And my dishwasher is unloaded and a load of laundry is spinning in the background. Sometimes you need to give in to your inner voice to go forward.

Thanks for listening.

MC

Offline living

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Oh my, it’s been ages! We are officially at summer’s halfway point (at least in my mind) and I should update you on what’s going on here. I don’t know if you remember, but back in May, I decided the family needed a technology break (including me).  I have posted just a handful of blogs since that time because you know, I’m on a break which means everything is happening offline, including writing.

The break from technology has been, overall, a mostly fabulous experience. You know how sometimes you don’t know how stressed out you are until you are sitting on a beach with sand filtering through your toes and then you dig in a little deeper to get to the cool, wet sand and you let out a huge sigh? That’s kind of what it’s been like. To know that you are not going to be fighting with your kid about when to turn off their iPad and go do something outside like you did when you were a kid is just, well, pretty amazing.

I won’t lie. It hasn’t magically been all love and sunshine in our house since we made the decision to go tech free. Sure, there are times I’ve wanted to run away but I think that’s pretty normal in parenting. No one wants to give up on the fantasy of having a child comply immediately with every request to use a toothbrush, clean their room and be presentable (clean) every day, but face it, it’s not very realistic. It’s all about the process of learning to be a human who lives in a world with other humans.

I do feel a bit adrift because while I’m living offline, I haven’t kept in touch with people like the way you feel you do on Facebook. I haven’t posted any pictures to show I’m having a great summer and I haven’t been scrolling through and hitting like on any of my friend’s posts. I’m probably missing out on births and deaths and general milestones in everyone’s lives but on the other hand, I have lots and lots of time to do things I want and choose to do. If it’s important I’ll hear about it.

Speaking of milestones, I managed to hit one myself this summer – I turned 50 last week! I know, I can’t believe it either! It was a beautiful day and I took myself to Edith Wharton’s country home in Lenox, MA to celebrate and it was lovely. My husband treated me to a fantastic dinner when I got home and then I went to bed with a really good book. I don’t imagine I thought that’s what I’d be doing at 50 when I was 25 but it works and life is good.

I’ve had so much more time to read since I checked out of social media (and candy crush). I have breezed through about ten really good books in July alone which is a pretty big deal since I work and parent and all that other stuff that gets in the way of reading really good books. Here’s some of what I read:

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (loved this quirky title character)
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (immigration, class, race, American dreamers, flawed and well-drawn characters)
  • The Sunshine Sister’s by Jane Green (not my favorite of her books but entertaining and I can relate to the unshakeable bond of sisters even if you don’t always see each other)
  • Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale (I’ve been anxiously waiting to find out what happened to these characters from Everything We Keep which was a book I stayed up all night reading this past spring)
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. (I found out she wrote her first book at 50 and there you go!)
  • Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser (I had to know why a father disappeared with his small son a few days into their family vacation. It was emotional.)
  • Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (great characters, an interesting plot and a lot of family dysfunction)
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (a humorous, modern telling of Pride and Prejudice)
  • Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (a parent’s nightmare of losing your kids while vacationing in a foreign country)
  • I Found You and The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell (I read her books years ago so now catching up with her current offerings which I enjoyed very much)

As we roll through August I plan to keep on reading and writing offline but at some point, I realize I need to consider a re-entry strategy to the digital world for both my son and myself. If you know of a good book about such a topic, let me know!

Hope you are enjoying the summer wherever you may be.

MC

 

 

 

 

Living the Dash

Several months ago, our nephew lost a long battle with depression and addiction at the young age of 32. It is not something I could imagine being able to survive, but my sister-in-law bravely took to the podium to talk about his life and referred to this piece by Linda Ellis. She spoke of the dash between his dates of birth and death and told us the story of his life in a moving and beautiful way. He was not to be remembered by how he died but the dash he lived between the two dates.

The death of a loved one is always a shock to our system regardless of whether it is expected or not, whether they are young or old. Whether the person lived a full and happy life or it was cut too short, we are sad. And it lingers. But it also can serve as a wake-up to those left behind and this is a good thing.  We are human. We are going to die someday and we don’t know when that time will come. We must make the most of our dash.

My dash has been relatively eventful as is with most. From birth to now I have loved and lost (pets, people, things, and beliefs), experienced poor health as well as good, been financially unstable as well as solvent. I’ve felt very low personal emotions such as shame, anger, hurt, and resentment but also joy, excitement, hopefulness, and pure love. I am a wife, a parent, a daughter, sister and friend. I have faced addiction and sobriety. I have been both greedy and generous. I have traveled near and far and tasted countless beautiful meals. Many of my bucket list items have been attained and I’m working fervently on one of the longest, most sought after items.

I am in my dash and don’t know when it will stop so I must keep moving. God is in the dash of everything I do. Sometimes I forget He is there but then I’m reminded by a beautiful song in church, the perfection of a day, the peace in my heart. I would not be able to live out my dash without Him.

What will you do with your dash? I wish you a long and beautiful one.

MC

 

 

Status update

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A few years ago I ran into an acquaintance at an event. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years but we carried on a conversation as though we’d talked just last week. It went something like this. How was your vacation? The pictures looked fabulous! You kids are getting so big. Congratulations on your new job!

As we walked away my husband remarked that he didn’t know we’d kept in touch. Facebook, I explained. The highlight reel of our lives. Carefully curated for the highest yield of likes. I had to admit, it was weird, the exchange this woman and I had. How did life get to the point that I was hyper aware of what near-stranger/acquaintances were up to? How much unnecessary information was taking up valuable real estate in my brain?

On another occasion I sat around with a group of friends. A similar conversation took place as we asked about various updates we had all posted. We seemed to already know what each other had been up to since we last got together, or at least what we wanted our vast network of “friends” to know. It didn’t feel authentic or spontaneous or real. But as with good friendships, we soon found our way to the real heart of the matter and shared about our aging parents, our issues with getting our kids to do homework, our hard truths.

A couple years ago I gave up social media for six weeks. You know what I found when I returned at the end of my fast? I wasn’t missing out and I wasn’t missed. It was a good experiment because when I did log back on, I wasn’t obsessively checking it throughout the day. It gave me perspective about how much time I was wasting on something that wasn’t really connecting me to people (although it’s suppose to make you feel like you are). I loved getting together with friends and really hearing for the first time, face to face, what they had been up to in the last few weeks.

Since that time, I still struggle with how much social media to use. Sometimes I swear it off altogether and sometimes I can’t wait to post something. There are benefits too because I find out things I wouldn’t otherwise hear about there. I follow a lot of positive thinkers which inspires me. Facebook has become our new community newspaper where we learn about births and deaths and our friends accomplishments.  We can quickly get information out to our entire network or a small group. It has become part of the fabric of life.

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During our technology reset, I’ve stepped away from social media again. I deleted all time-sucking apps from my phone (including games) and I conservatively estimate the time savings to be about an hour and a half a day. It could be more. I’m not going to save the world with the time I’m saving but it’s giving our family the time it needs to re-connect with each other. And I’m finding I really kick butt at Boggle!

We have also been doing a lot of reading on the effects of constantly be connected with technology. It’s pretty scary stuff, how addicting our phones, iPads and laptops are. It has reinforced why this break is necessary and gives us the time to come up with a strategy when we inevitably decide to plug back in.

MC

Some links on our technology reset:

Reset Your Child’s Brain
Glow Kids
Simon Sinek on Millenials and technology (YouTube)

The technology reset continues

“What can I do when we get home?” was the greeting I received when I picked my son up from school yesterday. I gently reminded him we had an appointment with the therapist, followed by an audible groan of displeasure. Why and ugh were uttered and I was right there with him. I didn’t want to go any more than he did. With the rain beating down, I wanted to snuggle on the couch with tea and a book and a movie for him. Not an option.

Since last September we’ve seen R, the therapist, about a half dozen times and the maxresdefaultappointments are usually scheduled on the heels of a major meltdown as this one was. That was about three weeks ago as he experienced a a breakdown over a fidget spinner and a birthday party I didn’t end up letting him attend.  It’s when I finally took his iPad and Roblox away. Roblox could be a post all it’s own and has been a major source of conflict for L with his peers over the past few months. I didn’t totally get what it was when he first started playing but knew there is a social aspect and a multi-player game facet that included things like hide and seek and role playing games which he gravitates toward. I don’t feel it’s a healthy environment for him.

When we arrived at the office, the therapist greeted us and jumped right in to see what’s been going on since the last time we met. I explained about the meltdown, what I was seeing when he was using electronics too much and the steps I had taken to remove electronics for the next several weeks. I’m not sure he thought a total restriction was necessary and doesn’t feel he can learn moderation if he doesn’t have them at all. I was firm on the ban and after explaining it was more a family experiment than anything else, R seemed good with it.

The appointment began with the four of us talking and then L and R spent some time together so L can share anything he’s not comfortable bringing up in front of us (the parents). By the end of the appointment you would think it was L’s idea to go there in the first place. He is always in a much better frame of mind in the end and we all come away with insights and ideas on how to move ahead. It’s an hour well spent for all of us.

Wednesday marked a week since the electronics fast began and I congratulated him on how well he was doing on our way home from school that day. He said it wasn’t so bad because he can still do electronics at school and it turns out nearly every day they use an iPad in science or a computer in technology class. I asked how he feels about when he has to turn off the devices and he said it’s hard but he has to do it. I left it at that and focused on what we could do at home.

We’ve spent a lot more time together as a family this week playing board games, shooting hoops and just plain old talking. No one has their device face down on the table hoping to take a peak when no one else is looking. L can really be a chatterbox and he has two trademark phrases – here’s the deal (as he negotiates something) and I have a question. We’ve been hearing those a lot this week and it’s been nice to hear him more and listen to what’s happening at school.

One of the things he has been trying to negotiate is some TV time and I’m loosening up with the idea of allowing it. In the Reset Your Child’s Brain program, a few hours of TV each week is allowed but I’m going to limit it to a movie here and there because there is a definite begin and end to a movie. When he watches shows on Netflix, there is always the temptation to watch “just one more episode”.  I have the same problem so I can totally understand where he’s coming from.

At the onset of the program, they recommend setting three measurable goals to track during the reset. For us I want to see fewer meltdowns (so far so good), faster compliance with requests like homework, showering and bed time (better) and expanding the choices of how he spends free time (this is going well but requires a lot more from us). It certainly hasn’t been perfect but the improvement in his attitude and behavior has been noticeable. As we head into another full weekend without technology, I’m seeing it as more of a reprieve than a punishment for all of us.  A way of reconnecting to each other and trying new things together.

MC