Saturday, March 27, 2010

Catching Habits

Why do the bad habits catch on, and not the good ones?

I'm starting to be a slob about laundry in the bedroom, like Keith. Somehow, his clothes never quite seem to make it into the laundry hamper. Many of them clog the narrow pathway to his side of the bed. Others are in the vicinity of the hamper, without actually being in. Clean, folded clothes are piled high on top of his dresser.

I used to be good about keeping my clothes where they belonged. Clean clothes were in the dresser or closet. Dirty clothes in the hamper. Clothes to be worn the next day on the dresser.

Lately, though, we never seem to get around to putting the clean clothes away. The clean laundry stays in the hamper, and we pull out what we need on a daily basis. Since the hamper is full of clean clothes, the dirty clothes pile up where the hamper should be. Clothes that I take off at the end of the day could be on the dresser, on the floor, or wherever.

Like so many things in life, why is it so much easier to do the wrong thing? Even though walking into the bedroom and seeing clothes everywhere, in a complete state of disarray, stresses me out, I know it'll continue. Right now, there's a hamper of clean clothes waiting to be put away. We washed it just this morning, so it hasn't been too long ... yet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning!

No, you're not in the wrong place. I just FINALLY went ahead and changed my blog template to a free one I downloaded from Blogger Templates.

I don't know if I'll keep this one or not. I really do want a custom header, and I'm not sure how good it would look with this layout. There's already a lot going on. But I wanted to at least take the plunge and make a change.

Oh, the scent of change is invigorating!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Friended John Adams

I'm not a big Facebook person. I think I've been on for a year? Maybe more? I thought I would get addicted, but I vastly overestimated how much free time I have to play online. And I also vastly overestimated how much I would be interested in stalking people from my previous lives. Sure I looked up a few high school crushes or long-lost college friends ... but there weren't that many.

So yeah, I'm not on Facebook very much. But this morning I did get a request to friend John Adams, who is looking for "Networking," and whose status since last Tuesday is, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." And I accepted the request.

His employer is United States Congress, and he is a fan of Statler and Waldorf.

It's "inside jokes" like this that make me value social media.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fabulous Footwear

Once again, I'm vowing to myself that I will make myself buy a few "accent" pieces for my wardrobe that are vibrant, attention-grabbing, and say something about my personality.

The other day, I was walking to class and my eye was immediately drawn to the woman in front of me. She was so chic and fashionable, from her short, sleek haircut to her amazing boots: knee-high, shiny boots that were an energizing, flamboyant orange. I wanted her entire outfit.

Okay, not that exact outfit because that orange would just make me look even more pale (if possible). But it did remind me that everything in my closet is a very safe, neutral shade. My pants are all black, gray, and brown. My sweaters are maroon, green, or blue. For some reason, I've bought wayyy too many maroon pieces lately. Like maybe I'm in the store thinking, "What color don't I have? I'll try maroon!" And then I get home and realize that I've done that EVERY TIME I've gone shopping for the past year.

For the most part, I'm good with basic, coordinating pieces. I don't like to spend a lot of money on clothes, so I want interchangeable clothes that will work with many different items and last a long time without going horribly out of style.

But I need to add in a few more vivacious pieces, too. Mixed in with all the gray, brown, black, blah, a scarf here or some boots there that proclaim to the world, "You might think I'm staid and predictable. But you can't be entirely sure ...."

I did go out on a limb a few years ago and buy some hot pink kitten heels when a nearby shoe store was going out of business. I thought they were wild and crazy and I would only wear them once. I only convinced myself to do it because they were 50% off. But I wear them quite a bit (or I will, when I'm finally convinced it's Spring for good), and it's made me buy more pink, rather than maroon, so I have an excuse to wear the shoes.

Next time I go clothes shopping, my goals will be: no maroon, and make people wonder about what I have hidden up my super-fashionable sleeve.

Spring Forward to Darkness

I feel like I'm the only one who isn't happy about the time change this past weekend. Everyone else I've talked to is excited about having more light in the evenings. It's a sign of Spring—longer days filled with sunshine and warmth.

I'm all good with the sunshine and warmth part. But I really liked it better when it got light early, and dark early. Last summer, when Eleanor was a year old, I finally accepted that I would have to work out first thing in the morning if I wanted any kind of guarantee of exercising on a regular basis. I ran a lot in the mornings leading up to my half-marathon on November 1. I completely fell off the exercise wagon through the holidays.

In mid-January, I started exercising again (although not running—it was still much too cold and snowy for that!). I've generally been working out 5 days/week, 4 weekdays and Sunday. Keith leaves for work around 7 o'clock, so I try to get up at 6 and be finished working out by 7. I figure even if Eleanor's awake by then, she can talk to herself for a few minutes while I shower and get dressed.

So yeah, 6 o'clock. Before time change, I was really enjoying the fact that the sun was coming up with me. I felt so much more cheerful when I would go down into the basement to work out, and come up to be greeted by a bright new day, already in progress.

But now, it's still the middle of the night before, during, and after my morning workout. Surely, that must be the reason why I've been completely unable to drag myself out of bed and missed every workout this week. I had gotten a glimpse of life in the sun, and I miss it.

On the other end of the day, for me, early darkness is better. When it was dark by 7:30, it was perfect for putting Eleanor to bed. I would close her blinds and "blackout" curtains, turn off the lamp, and the room would be perfectly dark. She would settle in against the curve of my shoulder, happy to fall asleep with the knowledge that the excitement of the day was done.

But now, I go through the usual ritual, turn off the lamp ... and her room is still lit by daylight seeping in under the blinds and through the curtains. It keeps her alert, looking around at her books and toys and ready for the playing to continue.

I know that, eventually, the mornings will become light at 6 o'clock. And by that time, it will also be warm enough that I'm excited to get up and out for an early run. But the early evening light isn't going away anytime soon. Maybe I need better blackout curtains .... or I can convince Eleanor to wear those night sleep masks?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

In the past week or so (probably because all of the snow piles have FINALLY melted), I've been noticing that quite a few people still have their outdoor Christmas lights up.

This isn't very unusual. Living in a city where the exterior of the house disappears behind snow from January-March, many people wait until warmer weather to take down their lights.

No, what bothers me is that they're still TURNING THEM ON. It's the middle of March! I can definitely understand waiting until the end of January/early February to take down the Christmas decorations. Winter can be so cold and bleak after the holidays, and I also like to maintain some semblance of holiday cheer for as long as possible.

But it's March. The weather is warming up, early Spring flowers are poking through the ground, buds are on the trees. We don't need holiday cheer anymore! We have Spring.

Stop turning on your holiday snowflake lights or red and green bushes. Even better, go out this weekend (when it's in the balmy 50s) and take them down.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Less Stressful 2nd Semester

Over Spring Break, I've been thinking a lot about how this semester is going. So far, I'm happy with it.

I'm teaching two classes, instead of only one like last semester. They are both new classes for me, so all new textbooks, assignments, tests, and lesson preparation. There's also more than double the grading, because the one class is higher level than I've taught before and the students are required to do a lot more writing.

And yet, I can definitely tell that my stress level is significantly lower than it was last semester. All throughout the Fall, I always felt like I was behind. I never felt ready for class, I was uncertain about all of my decisions, and constantly worried that class would be unhelpful or boring, or both!

It's amazing what a difference it makes to have one semester under my belt. I'm much more willing to go with the flow. I don't feel like I need to have every lesson planned out to the minute, weeks in advance. I have more confidence in my teaching, grading, and general subject knowledge.

Last semester, I really wasn't convinced that I was a Professor. But now, it's starting to grow on me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break!

I've been on Spring Break this week, for the first time in many years. And it's been fantastic!

I actually think I've been busier than I am during a normal work week. On Monday, Eleanor and I went to the zoo with Ashley and her daughter Noe (who turns 1 in April). Eleanor loves them both, and talks about them constantly, so she was very excited. My sister Erin was also headed to the zoo that day with her husband and son, so we hung out for a bit, too. The weather has finally turned (hopefully for good, although I'm sure we still have one big snow left). We had a great time walking around in the warm spring air.

Part of the reason that this week has been so nice is that I still did have a few hours of childcare during the days, so I could get some things done. Tuesday morning Eleanor and I went to the library for story hour and some playtime afterward. That afternoon I went to the coffee shop for a few hours and worked on our federal tax return (exciting!).

Wednesday morning Melissa came again to watch Eleanor and I finished the federal taxes and did a bit of grading. Wednesday afternoon, Keith's mother, Karen, arrived for a mid-week visit since she is on Spring Break from her Kentucky community college job, as well. From Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning, we all went outside to blow bubbles and take walks on many occasions. Karen also gave me some wonderful, leisurely alone time to go shopping,
get a little bit more work done, and read in peace and quiet.

Today, we all ate lunch and then Karen got Eleanor down for her nap while I cleaned up. Then we said our good-byes. So by one o'clock, Eleanor was napping, the house was (relatively) clean, and I got to sit and put my feet up for a bit. Karen and Keith's brother Nick passed each other on the highway during the afternoon, as Nick arrived around 5:30 tonight to spend the weekend. Right now Eleanor is in bed, and Keith and Nick and I are relaxing in the basement. They're watching college basketball, and I'm trying to catch up on a few things that were neglected this week (aka blogging).

Even though it's been busy, it still feels like a break because everything I did was what I chose, and pretty much on my schedule. I feel re-energized and ready for the rest of the semester. I don't actually have any lesson plans for this coming week ready, but there's time for that on Sunday evening.

I'm ready for summer vacation!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Benefits of a Family Photographer

As I mentioned yesterday, we went to the Newport Aquarium with Eleanor a few weeks ago. But it wasn't just the three of us; Keith's parents, and his sister Jessi and brother-in-law Jeremy (aka "Uncle Hot") came, too.

Other than just her being a generally nice, funny person, there's one big advantage to hanging out with Jessi: she likes to take pictures, and lots of them. She has the same camera that we do, but has multiple lenses to get the perfect shot. At first, Keith was also taking pictures. But I think he only took less than 10. Jessi was snapping away, here there and everywhere, and it was easy to put the camera away and relax.

We knew that there would be plenty of beautiful pictures of the trip, so we didn't have to worry about it. We just did our best to keep Eleanor happy and enjoy the moment with her. She flitted from one adult to the other, soaking in all the attention and the fact that there was always a fresh pair of arms, ready to hold her. If anyone got too far away (particularly Jessi), Eleanor would call out for him or her, "Jessi? Are you?" until the wayward relative was located.

Here is just one of the many great shots that Jessi got that day. A talented photographer for a sister-in-law is a wonderful thing! Thanks, Jessi.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Visit to the Aquarium

A few weeks ago, we went to the Newport Aquarium when we were visiting Keith's family in Northern Kentucky. I'm always torn about when to do certain activities with Eleanor. On the one hand, I want her to experience as many things as possible right now. On the other hand, I know the longer we wait, the more she will understand and enjoy it.

I think going to the aquarium at a year and a half was a good midway point. She was old enough to see the fish, turtles, sharks, penguins, etc. and follow them through the water. She wasn't old enough to care about stopping and reading any extraneous material.

Throughout the trip, we got many excited "ooh!"s out of Eleanor. What I really need to do is to get it on video, so you can truly understand just how excited Eleanor gets about, well, everything. Her mouth becomes a big "O," and when she says "oooh," she does it with her entire body. She forces the air out through sheer force of wonderment. You just have to smile.

We had talked about going to the aquarium when it first opened over 10 years ago. But it was rather pricey, and it never seemed worth it when we were just as happy with less expensive activities. Now I'm glad that we waited, and I got to see it for the first time with Eleanor.

Possibly for the last time, as well; as I mentioned, it's overpriced. And there were So. Many. People. It was so crowded and difficult to maneuver through the pathways. Oh, and everything was a pathway. There were very few large open areas where one could just back away from the flow of visitors and just take a breather. No matter where I was, I was always in someone else's way.

Where was I? Oh yes. Eleanor loved it, and it was all worth it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Primetime Meta-critical

I recently watched an old episode of "Bones" where the lead character makes no secret of the fact that she despises TV. She makes a comment about how she has time for many other activities (including deep sea diving) because she doesn't waste time on watching TV. She doesn't have a TV in her house and is happy not knowing anything about popular TV shows, or about pop culture in general.

My first response, as usual, was to feel guilty. Why do I watch TV?!? My life would be so much more exciting if I didn't! But once I thought it through, I decided that—in most cases—it's not a fair comparison. If I didn't watch an episode of "Bones" every now and again or laugh with Keith through "Modern Family" or "The Office," would I be out deep sea diving or traveling the world?

No. TV doesn't prevent me from taking up fabulous, exciting hobbies. General lack of time and disposable income are the culprits there. Most of our time is spent around the house, unless we take advantage of the kindness of family or pay handsomely for a babysitter. Not to mention, I like spending time with Eleanor when she's awake, and she's not allowed to watch TV.

The part that does concern me a bit, though, is what could be accomplished at home in the 30 minutes to 1 hour of watching TV here and there. Could I be writing the next bestselling romantic comedy? Finishing a baby blanket for a friend, or getting to those dusty scrapbooks that haven't been touched for 2 years or more—unfinished scrapbooks of events that took place more than 5 years ago?

I'm still not convinced, though. When I want to watch TV, it's because I don't want to think or do. I just want to be still for a bit. As much as I might complain about the undue influence of TV, I will agree that there's a time and place for it.

I'm not really going to worry until I turn down a chance for a fabulous weekend ski trip or visit to Paris because a "House" marathon is on that weekend.