Monthly Archives: March 2022

boiling

In keeping with yesterday’s proto post about steam heat, I’m thinking about the usefulness of water for emotional metaphors (I am not going to get bogged down in fixing that sentence… yes, I know the metaphors are not emotional)

First, H2O is amazing as I have been relearning via my child’s freshman biology class. It’s the only substance that naturally exists as a solid, liquid, and gas. Its solid form is less dense than its liquid, hence ice rising, hence oceans not freezing, hence life on earth. Its liquid form is second only to mercury in surface tension strength. I’m not (yet) certain why that’s important but it’s really cool.

I (kinda) understand the molecular wizardry at play but for now I want to head back to metaphors.

Oops, just hit me that words like icy, simmering, boiling don’t only apply to water. What I am after is change in states. Water is just particularly compelling and common.

Anyhoo. Yeah, it’s good to write because I was at a boiling point earlier. Noodling with words has calmed me down a bit. Still hot but more at a simmer.

OK I need to give myself permission to leave this dangling. Keep it on the stove but turn off the burner.

I also need to be OK with anger and even rage.

Funny how I can’t just sit down and start with a scream. It’s more comfortable to bury the lead. In fairness, my interest in water and chemistry (or is it physics?) is genuine. And I am easily distracted.

Tonight I could feel anger working its way through my body the way steam follows the coils of a radiator. I ducked into my office to keep the heat contained. Didn’t want to scald others. I am actually a little proud of my increasing ability to create space between emotions and reactions.

We are not our emotions. Sounds obvious and/or glib. But it’s one of the big takeaways from last summer’s IOP.

Why do we do the things we do? According to cognitive behavioral theory (CBT) , events lead to thoughts which spark emotions which spur reaction. Something happens, we interpret it, have feelings about that interpretation, and act on those feelings.

CBT urges us to challenge our thoughts. Are we catastrophizing? Seeing things in black and white? Using all or nothing thinking? Reining in thoughts helps regulate emotions which reduces reactivity and makes it easier to make prudent decisions.

However, sometimes we are not making mountains out of molehills. Sometimes we are indeed facing Mordor. Our emotional response may not be excessive. Even then, we can still control our behavior. Emotions, thoughts, past events, future fears don’t have to derail or crash the train. We can pull the emergency break.

OK I’m going to pick this up in my next post instead. Tired. I need to start drafting during the day!

steam heat

Stumped again! Three nights in a row of writing only because I said I would. Which I guess is the whole point.

I’m in? at? my favorite spot: the sunroom radiator. I’ve mentioned it a few times already but since I don’t know what to write about, I will start here.

The system just kicked in. Whispers, gurgles, creaks. Like how I imagine a jalopy starts. In the time it took to settle on the verbs (nouns?) and double check the meaning of jalopy, warmth started crepping up my legs. The coils closest to the intake side (?) heat up first. Now my stomach. By the time my upper body feels the heat, my thighs will be roasting.

Ugh I’m so tired (danger of coziness). I think I’m going to close my eyes for a few…

3/21 edit…this is another topic I want to return to. Jotting down key words so I don’t forget.

  • nostalgia
  • noise
  • grounding
  • history
  • environment
  • warmth
  • symbolism

Free Cell

screen shot of a game leader board, showing number 1

Rough and unfinished but I’m keeping the steak going at least.

I’ve been wanting to write about games. Starting with how I glued myself to the radiator and mastered Free Cell after I quit my job.

Free Cell is similar to Solitaire (which I loved playing as a kid).  I used to play for speed but when my dad told me about aiming for fewest moves and that there’s a leaderboard, I was hooked. When my mom showed how to move multiple cards in one move, I started to consistently  crack the top ten.

I now hit the top score about 20% of the time. I don’t know who or how many people  I am competing against. Maybe just whoever happens to be playing at the moment. But seeing that #1 provides  a little dopamine hit. Not because I care about winning per se but because I want to be good at something. To feel sharp.

Once I start a game, I do not give up. I have endless patience  for resetting the deal  when I am stumped. I remember one game that took a few hours over a couple of days.

I was surprised to learn that some games  cannot be solved. Thankfully I did not stumble on one otherwise I would still be hitting reset, banging my head against the wall. I now only select from the “winning deals” category.

I need to know there’s a solution. Doesn’t matter how long it takes.

closing tabs

Huh. For the first time since I started this project, I am not feeling motivated or inspired to write. Highly irregular.

There’s no lack of possible subjects and angles. Maybe the topics I can’t write about are holding up traffic. If I can’t let their cars through, they don’t want others to proceed.

Reminds me why we encourage students to reserve the first few pages of notebooks for seeds–ideas they might want to write about in the future. Been meaning to do that so I’d be prepared for a rainy? fallow? day like today. Oops.

I tend to have too many seeds anyway, scattered around in suboptimal growing conditions. For some reason my brain is kinda quiet tonight and maybe it’s best not to dig in the soil. Fitting, seeing as it’s been a cold, wet day and we’re not supposed to mess around with waterlogged soil. Compacts it. Suffocates the roots right as they are gearing up for action. Or something like that.

I even closed all the tabs on the three different chrome profiles that were layered across two monitors and shut down the computer. Time to call this week over.

For Allyn

close up of a yellow crocus

Spied a bit of cheer in a sunny corner of the yard. A yellow crocus. A little pot of gold for St. Patrick’s Day.

Yellow used to be my least favorite color. But last fall I went on a spree, grabbing early bloomers promising hues of butter, lemon, amber, and gold.

Yellow is for Allyn Teti, an extraordinary 4th grade teacher and dear friend. Her sudden death left us reeling but her example serves as a North star.

I keep typing and deleting trying to describe her and her impact. She was one of a few teachers who deeply understood and connected with our child. She *saw* kids. She gave oxygen to their sparks, celebrated their quirks, showed interests in their interests. She was patient but no pushover. She had a dry wit and a megawatt smile. She worked tirelessly for her students and the school but also had grand adventures.

And she was a proud Hufflepuff who loved owls.

I knew Ms. Teti before she was my child’s teacher because we served on the Local School Council together. I would have known her anyway because she was a legend. We remained close after my child moved to the next grade, but it took awhile for me to use her first name. She finally insisted. I don’t think it was just about dispensing with formality. It was a way to honor her rich life beyond the classroom.

The day after we learned she died, I knelt in our yard, pulling up grass to make a spring flower bed in her honor. I drew an outline of an owl and filled it in with pea gravel to keep the cats away. And I ordered an ambitious amount of yellow crocuses and daffodils.

Today I did not run outside, in the morning, as I vowed to do yesterday. But this evening I did force myself to hit the treadmill. At the mile 1.2 mark, I thought of the crocus and Allyn and the display started getting blurry.

I miss her so much. I kept running, thinking about how hard she worked, how much she gave. If she was still with us, I know we would be cheering each other on.

Here’s her about me teacher page. https://www.goetheschool.org/m/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=919326&type=u

photo of a smiling woman light complexion with short mostky gray hair in front of a cave (?) topped with trees
From her About Me teacher page.

greening

photo of ground covered with dead leaves, some green shoots coming up

Grateful for a not cold day. Was even warm in some spots. Biked to an appt without a coat.

I know we are not supposed to bother the garden until after the overwintering critters have hatched, but I can’t resist pulling back some corners of the blanket to peek at the early bloomers and help them green up.

same as above, but green shoots more obvious

I keep not running. Maybe this should have been 100 days of 10000 step days or some other fitness goal but I knew I wouldn’t stick to it. Keep hitching my intentions to a symbolic day. March 1? Start of 100 day countdown? Beginning of DST? Pulaski Day? Ides? But they pass on by. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s day… call it my start to chasing the rainbow and a pot of gold?

Maybe I need to think like these bulbs. Throw off the blanket, lift up my knees, and face the sun. And I better do it tomorrow before we get mired back into rainy 40s.

screen shot of a weather forecast

unpacking

4pm. Been a heavy day. Trying to hold on to the Serenity Prayer. I am going to allow myself to sit in sadness and frustration by the radiator, in the sun, for a bit. Then I have do something, no matter how small,  that feels like moving forward.

an office with a pile of papers and bags on the floor near a desk

9pm update. As my space goes, so do I. After completing a crossword, I heaved myself up to finish unpacking from the overnight trip to the Dunes two weekends ago.

I enjoy traveling, but hate the transitions.  I overpack because I wait  until the last minute. I don’t fully  unpack because, well… all the familiar reasons.

Today I used the glacial movement principal to tackle the pile. Just slowly, methodically inch  stuff along.

step one. Shake my head and roll eyes at the trip detritus. Why did I grab the Dunes newspaper from the visitor center? The info is online. How much effort would it have taken to empty out the tea mug? At least it wasn’t a coffee and cream situation.

step two. consolidate. Convert one travel bag to laundry (yeah most of the clothes are still clean but at this point I don’t know which and it’s risky to introduce another decision point). Use the other bag for items that live in rooms at the other end of the hallway.

step three. move bags to hallway. feel small sense of accomplishment.

step four. stare at stuff that doesn’t belong in the bags because they live within a few feet. Groan and put them away. Wonder why the simplest things can be a heavy lift.

same photo as above but the floor is clear

step 5. Hooray for a clear space! Notice anxiety levels dropping. Onto to the hallway. On many days, I’d just walk by the office overflow bags, content enough with the small progress. But the bench was already full.

hallway with a bunch of bags piled on and near a bench

The added pressure from the new bags released (created?) enough energy to push everything along.

And so on. Took less than 20 minutes to reclaim my office and the hallway. I considered leaving the bag of laundry but used the habit stacking trick and brought it to the basement when it was cat feeding time. Granted, a few items landed on the overflow counter by the kitchen window. The ice age didn’t end in a day.

same bench as above, cleared off

3/14

a circle with lines representing some kind of math in don't fully understand
Putting this in my in my head scratching reading queue galileoandeinstein.phys.virginia.edu/lectures/greek_math.htm

Edited 3/15. Time, or maybe it’s more accurate to say headspace, was limited yesterday due to unforeseen circumstances. So I noodled about my favorite math topic. Not finished but I didn’t want to break my streak.

fractions

tools for precision and parity
baking soda should not be left to the whims of dashes and pinches.
can’t take a bigger half of the cookie

but also precarious
high wire balancing act
with clown cars.

gossips
exposing relationships

decimals
force the arguments to play out

thinking about pi
tidy and infinite
constrained and expansive
regal ratio, dramatic decimal

spring forward

sunrise behind Chicago's skyline, from a distance
Before the houses next door were built, we could watch the sun rise from the kitchen.

Least two favorite days of the year: summer solstice and the beginning of daylight saving time.

The solstice is simply bittersweet. Days start shrinking just as it’s finally safe to push the  sweaters to the back of the closet.

Being yanked back to dark mornings is a proper bummer. I’d much rather have sunlight before breakfast than after dinner. 

I had big plans to fill in every slot on my habit tracker today but meh. I will blame “losing” an hour. There’s always tomorrow. I did at least get out on a walk with a friend. Saw snowdrops and branches with  fuzzy green nubbins  on the Bloomingdale Trail. We are moving in the right direction.

March 13 also marks 4 years since I walked away from room 305. Been poking through the memories, updating the inner narrative. Did some writing that I’m going to sit on it for awhile.

However, I am honoring that day by drawing a line in the sand related to a current situation. Setting boundaries to reduce the impact on my well being. Releasing myself from unrealistic expectations and accepting limits to what I can control.

Sounds like Life 101 level work, but it’s an entrenched mindset shift that will require diligence and more work than marathon training. Hmm, I need to get on that…

picture of pick flowers with the words
give me the serenity to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change what I can
and the wisdom to know the difference
Maybe I should recite this every morning. And night.

low key accountability

close up of a circular habit tracker with filled in with multiple colors

I’m in a lot of ADHD groups and ooh boy do I feel seen. Special shout out to the “high potential” women diagnosed midlife who are wrangling with histories of real and perceived underperformance.

They also provide a steady stream of tips, tricks, and tools for self management and self compassion. Bedroom so cluttered that you sleep on the couch? No judgment. Just commiseration and links to open storage laundry systems.

Time management and task completion are big topics. Many tales of abandoned planners,  barely started bullet journals, ignored apps, and lists with few items checked off. I know these challenges are not unique to folks with ADHD.

Last month I started experimenting with a monthly habit tracking tool someone shared. It’s a circle divided into 31 slices (days) and seven rings (goals). Each day you fill in the spots for goals met. For example, one of my goals is to get more sleep. I’m using color coding, allowing for partial credit, and not berating myself for falling short.

Circle habit trackers are easy to find online. This is from http://www.sheenaofthejournal.com

It’s surprisingly satisfying to fill out! Everyone’s brains work differently, ADHD or not. This tool works for me because it’s hard to miss (lives in the kitchen), easy to use, and cheerful. It scratches my itch to visualize trends (mmmm, data). Even if it ends up in the couldn’t stick with it pile, it’s providing a needed motivational boost for now.