Making A Decision

Earlier this year, towards the beginning of the pandemic, I made a decision.

I decided I would write every day. As regular readers know, it started off as a creative writing challenge. I did many, many posts based off of some creative writing prompts I found online.

Lately, it’s evolved from that. It’s just become a habit. Instead of following the creative writing prompts, though, I’ve gotten into a groove of coming up with my own topics and writing (if not daily) pretty regularly.

Another Decision

A couple of months after making my first decision, I made another.

This time, I decided I would exercise. At first I said daily, but knowing myself I knew that wasn’t sustainable. So I set myself a goal of 4 times a week.

Seeing as the first decision I’d made had worked out so well, I was optimistic about this. It helped that Chico got us an exercise bike!

Sticking to It

I’m proud to tell you that (so far) I’m sticking to both these decisions.

Some days are better than others, but on the whole I’ve written and I’ve exercised on average four days a week for a few months now.

Each time I hit “publish” or get off the exercise bike, I feel proud. I feel like I’m doing something positive for myself, and it feels great.

I decided to do both of these activities (writing and exercise) for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Writing challenges my brain, and cycling pushes my body.

And I feel their positive effects daily.

Time to Make a Third Decision?

But now I think it’s time to make another decision.

I’m a bit nervous about writing this here, to be honest. It feels risky. I could be setting myself up to potentially feel very crappy about this if I fail.

And by telling you all about it, you’ll all know if I fail!

Oh well. Here goes…

I’ve decided to change my eating habits.

Breaking it Down

That’s a huge thing. So I’m breaking it down into one key element:

I’ve started (ugh, I shudder to think of it!) to count calories. Specifically, to use a free food tracking app called MyFitnessPal.

If writing is a pleasure, and exercising is a challenge, calorie counting is (let’s face it) a bit of a chore.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that this one act, this practice of tracking what I eat, will significantly contribute to both my mental and physical wellbing.

When I Look In the Mirror

Now, when I look in the mirror, or when I see photos of myself, I shudder. I am heavier than I’ve ever been (aside from the end of my pregnancies, but that doesn’t count).

The image I have in my own mind of myself does not match what I see in the mirror or in photos. And it’s jarring every time I’m faced with the reality of how I actually look.

Also, despite increased exercise, my weight has not budged. That means that the pressure on my back is the same.

While I am stronger and my heart and lungs are definitely healthier, I can still feel the stress that my excess weight puts on my lower back.

Realistic Expectations

I’m not trying to look good in a bikini. I’m not even trying to weigh as little as I did in college. My goal is modest, and is really based on a feeling more than a number.

Writing makes me feel more creative, more observant and sharper. Exercising makes my lungs and heart feel stronger, and I don’t feel winded walking up the stairs, or chasing after my boys.

By counting calories (and watching how I eat), I hope to improve my digestive health, feel even more energetic, and feel good about the way I look.

Now I’ve Told You

So now you know. I’ve made this decision. And by telling you all, I hope to hold myself accountable.

If you want to join in, you can look up thebraininjane on MyFitnessPal. Or you can just get in touch and swap stories, share encouragement, ask questions, whatever!

(Now I know that there are programs like Weight Watchers, Noom, etc., and I’ve previously tried them to various levels of success. Maybe I’ll write an article about why these haven’t worked for me.)

Terrified

65. Telephone: Write about a phone call you recently received.

ThinkWritten.com

Most of the phone calls I get are spam bots. But I have been making a lot of phone calls recently.

Mostly to doctor’s offices. The pediatrician, the GP, the dentist.

The gynecologist.

Yup, that’s right! I’m writing about the gynecologist!

(Don’t worry, there won’t be any gory details.)

Tomorrow, I have my first gynecologist appointment in nearly three years. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have left it that long!

The last time I saw the lady doctor was six months after our Bear was born. When the following year rolled around, life was crazy. We were planning our move from Germany, and I just never got around to it.

And since then? I’ve been putting it off, I’m not going to lie.

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer.

So did my maternal grandmother. Another maternal family member has been diagnosed.

Yeah. I know.

I’m 35. It’s time I at least started getting mammograms. And, as my very best friend (who is a physician) has told me more than once, I should get the genetic test done.

But honestly?

I’m terrified.

I’m terrified that I will learn to feel afraid of my own body.

In moments of extreme worry, I think of Angelina Jolie and wonder if a doctor is going to recommend I do the same.

So, if I’m honest, I don’t think about it.

I push it away from me and call it “living in the present.” I’ve even been known to go long months without doing a quick self breast exam.

I know.

It’s probably not something I should be worrying about. But it is something I should be monitoring.

Which I have not done up until now.

I’m pretty good at living in denial. (It ain’t just a river in Egypt!) But continuing to do so would be irresponsible. I have a family. I need to be proactive and take whatever preventative measures the doctor suggests.

But I’m still scared.

And if I’m honest?

I miss my mother most at these times. Though God knows she’d administer the dope slap and tell me to get to the gynecologist.

I can just hear her. “Jane. Get over it. Go to the doctor.”

Okay, Mom, okay. I’m going.

Monday Got Me Like…

64. Sing a New Song: Take a popular song off the radio and rewrite it as a poem in your own words.

ThinkWritten.com

The following has nothing to do with a popular song on the radio. But this is what the prompt made me think of.

The alarm goes off but I hit snooze.
I want to go back to sleep but my bladder’s too full.
Might as well get up.

I stretch out the stiffness, coax my body to life.
I tiptoe to the bathroom–
Trying not to wake the boys.
Please let them sleep a little longer, I think.

After a splash of cold water on the face
Autopilot kicks in.
Monday. Right. Change the sheets.

I strip the bed, change our sheets,
Moving mechanically through the process.
My mind is far away.
Not sure where, really.

Then, I’m staring in bewilderment
At an empty laundry basket.
It was full last night… Where did the…?
Then it dawns on me.

Where is my husband?

He’s usually up before me.
I think back and remember:

After my alarm:
A quick kiss and Buenos días.
Clattering in the kitchen downstairs.
Water filling in the washer.

He comes upstairs.
The fog has finally cleared from my brain.
Hola, he says. I’ve started the chores.
Figured we’d kick-start the day.

Monday.
It can be such a bitch.

But not this Monday.

The Last Straw?

The straw that broke the camel’s back? The weight that tipped the scale?

Could this be it?

Let Me Explain

I wrote a long time ago about how I was losing faith in social media.

A couple of years ago, I took Facebook off my phone altogether, and limited the time I spent on there to when I actually opened my laptop.

Now, as I am writing on a much more regular basis, I am opening my laptop more frequently. And since I post the blog articles I publish to Facebook, I end up on the platform.

In fact, in July I wrote about how being on Facebook more often makes me feel.

Then, Yesterday…

I’ve seen articles over the years that talk about the spread of negative, or just plain wrong information on Facebook.

Yesterday, however, I was listening to On the Media, a long-running media analysis show. The podcast extra featured an interview with Fadi Quran of Avaaz (a non-profit organization that focuses on identifying misinformation in social media).

The host, Bob Garfield, was interviewing Quran about Avaaz’s latest report, entitled “Facebook’s Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health” (link to the full report).

In a nutshell, the report shows that health misinformation spreads like wildfire on Facebook, and the company does very little to stem the tide because doing so would endanger their business model.

Not New Information

This is not new. It is not surprising. But this time, it shocked me.

I don’t know why it hit home so hard this time.

Not after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Cambridge Analytica. Brexit. QAnon. And all the shady shenanigans Facebook has failed to do anything about (or participated in).

And especially considering my own instincts! My own feelings of lethargy, dissatisfaction, and general malaise after spending any amount of time on Facebook (and, increasingly, Instagram).

My better judgment has told me for years that Facebook is not healthy for me.

Why Not Quit?

Honestly?

Because pretty much all the traffic to my blog comes from Facebook. If I were to delete my Facebook account, it would be the death knell for this blog (already on life support).

And because I can see a lot of positive uses for it, too. It’s helped me to connect to people in new places time and again (in Canada, Brasil, Germany, the U.S….)

But how do I get the positives from Facebook while also shielding myself from the insidious nature of the beast?

The feeling of being sucked in, of being trapped into a vicious scrolling cycle. Of being marketed to.

How You Can Help

I’m getting there. I’m about ready to cut the crap and just delete my Facebook account.

But I need your help. If you’re reading this, can you do me a solid?

Can you sign up for email updates from this blog? You’ll get a nice little email whenever a new article is published. It’s super easy.

But who am I kidding? We all know that blogs like mine and small businesses are why Facebook keeps afloat. We can’t survive without it.

*Sigh*

Now I’m kind of depressed about it. Time to pick up my knitting! I’m finishing up the Tempestry project I had set aside a while back. And I also owe you an article about my Weekender sweater.

Stay tuned!

(Sign up for email alerts!)

The Spice of Life

63. Spice: Write about flavors and tastes or a favorite spice of yours.

ThinkWritten.com

Sure, I have a favorite spice. And that spice is

Eyebrows.

Yes. I said eyebrows.

Good eyebrows are what add spice to a person’s face. And right now, big bushy eyebrows are in, for men as well as women!

(Thank goodness! Now these uncontrollable caterpillars on my forehead are actually desirable!)

A Versatile Accessory

Just think what you can do with bold eyebrows! I mean, look at this face:

Everything is right about those eyebrows. Colin Farrell‘s eyebrows suit every occasion.

An Expressive Accessory

Good use of the eyebrows can be devastatingly effective. Just take a look at Jamie Hector here, killing it with his eyebrow game:

And check out Oscar Isaac‘s pathos in this clip:

Would that be possible without those eyebrows?? No. It would not.

A Necessary Accessory

To me, a face without eyebrows is like an under-salted, under-spiced meal. Just… bland.

Now don’t get me wrong: eyebrows can be overdone. I don’t need them dancing all the way over your forehead (cough Jim Carrey I’m looking at you cough).

But big, strong eyebrows can be thoughtful:

Soulful:

They can be alluring:

They can be kinda frightening:

And also… hilarious:

So I’m just going to come out and say it:

I have a thing for eyebrows. Specifically on men.

Eyebrows are the spice of life.

Slip Up

62. Slip Up: Write about making mistakes.

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately.

Mostly they’re from dear friends of mine–fellow mothers–who have questions about how I might handle a certain parenting situation.

While I’m flattered that they turn to me, I also kind of worry about why they feel they can ask me for advice.

But hey! If people think I have my s*** together, then great! I’ll take it.

(I do not really have my s*** together.)

A Recent Query

A friend recently asked me, “Jane, how would you handle it if your partner were putting your oldest kid to bed, but the kid wanted YOU to put her down, and ended up having a complete meltdown and begging for you to come.”

Essentially, the question was: do my partner and I look weak for caving into our daughter’s tantrum over who puts her to bed?

My short answer was: No. You do not look weak.

A Little Background

The back story to this was that there’s a baby sibling involved (jealousy), they are on vacation with family (meaning lots of activity and sleep deprivation), the kid has recently given up her pacifier, she’s dropping her afternoon nap…

In short, as any parent of a 3-year-old reading this can guess, the entire situation is a hot mess.

Such times are not times to dig your feet in and insist that your child do what you say BECAUSE YOU SAID SO.

It sounded to me like that kid needed to get to bed ASAP and the best thing was to get her to bed in the quickest and calmest way possible.

And so in response to my friend’s question, I said:

No. You are not weak or undisciplined for giving into your daughter’s demand for her mother to put her to bed.

It’s Not Admitting Defeat

Raising our kids is not raging war (no matter how much it might feel like it sometimes).

We, as parents, do not always have to win.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to want my kids to snap to order when I say “go” (see my recent article about my overuse of the word No).

But when they don’t, when they fight back, protest, or throw tantrums, it does not mean that we the parents have lost.

In fact, I’ve learned that sometimes my kids throw fits or have meltdowns because I am being either unreasonable or terribly unsympathetic.

Admitting Weakness Gives Strength

One thing I’ve tried to work on, is being able to take a step back in the heat of the moment and look at a situation from my child’s perspective.

When you’re locked in a power struggle, it can be so difficult to get yourself out of that mindset, and to ask yourself, “Why is this happening?”

Another thing I’ve tried to do is to say, “Mama’s got it wrong. I’m sorry. Let’s try again.”

For our older son, it really works with him to get down to his eye level, and say, “We’re having some trouble here. Let’s figure this out together.”

Strange to say it, but he seems reassured when we admit that we’re wrong. It’s like he’s relieved to know that it’s not just he who thinks that a situation is coo-coo bananas.

Slip-Ups Happen

Sometimes the kids are being pig-headed.

Often times, I’m the pig-headed one.

Either way, we all make mistakes. Hopefully, our children will learn from our example that admitting to our mistakes does not make us weak.

Pick Your Battles

And “caving in” (or, as I like to call it, “picking your battles wisely”) does not make you a weak parent.

It makes you a smart parent.

Uninspired

The past few prompts from my creative writing series have been duds.

I’m not feeling inspired at all.

It’s not like each and every one of these posts has been fabulously inspired. But the past couple days, I’ve struggled to even muster up the energy.

Fickle Inspiration

Inspiration doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere.

Sometimes, something lights a spark. Often, throughout this process of writing (almost) daily, I’ve felt true inspiration.

Other times, I feel like it’s a struggle to hammer something out.

The past couple of days I’ve felt uninspired, and I’ve been tempted to not write. To wait until the spark comes again.

The Trouble Is…

If I stop doing the work and just wait to feel inspired, it might never happen.

Yeah, it’s true, sometimes I feel like what I’m writing here is crap.

(A lot of times, actually.)

But at least I’m writing. Quantity, not quality, right?

While I Wait

Any readers I still have may just have to suffer a bit! Huzzah! I hope you’re up for it!

I’ve got a sweater that came off the needles. Maybe tomorrow I can get some photos of it and write something up.

Hopefully I’ll feel inspired.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying this podcast.

And this book.

Is It Okay to Feel Like Crap?

We all have those days, right?

It might be an isolated day, or it might be a couple of them back-to-back.

Where you just feel crappy.

Sometimes you feel physically crappy, like when you’re sick or injured. Sometimes you’re just mentally pooped: tired of everything.

And let’s not even talk about how emotionally drained we all feel with this pandemic.

Unproductive Thoughts

When I have days like this, I often feel like I should “snap out of it.” Like my failure to make myself feel better is somehow a personal failing.

I also start to make a mountain out of a molehill. If I feel this bad more than one day, what does this mean? Am I always going to feel this way? Will I ever feel better?

These thoughts, as you can imagine, do not help.

So… What to do?

Why do I have to do anything?

Why do I need to change the fact that I feel like crap?

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just let yourself feel crappy for a day or two. Usually, for me, it passes soon enough. (If it doesn’t pass, that’s another kettle of fish.)

After a couple of days, I’ll wake up and feel like getting out of bed. Maybe I’ll even feel motivated to do something I know will help me feel better.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember in the fog of a bad day, but when the fog starts to clear, I try to remind myself:

This too shall pass.

Handle with Care

60. Handle With Care: Write about a very fragile or delicate object.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

OUCH!

Having children under the age of five can be exhausting.

Our three-year-old is especially… Physical.

We’re pretty sure he’s at least bruised (if not broken) Chico’s ribs. The other day, after spending an afternoon in the play room with him, I felt like I’d been in a full-out brawl.

He doesn’t stop jumping on me, climbing on me, and otherwise being ALL-OUT ON ME.

The Kato to my Inspector Clouseau

The other day, when describing this state of affairs to my friends, one of them said,

“So, he’s the Kato to your Inspector Clouseau?”

It took me a second, because it’s been years and years since I’ve seen any of the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies. Then I started laughing until I had tears in my eyes.

Yes! That is EXACTLY IT!

Yup. This is pretty much how it goes in our house.

Mama is Fragile!

I feel this is very true today.

I had a dermatologist appointment, and different parts of me were frozen, sliced, prodded, pressed, scraped, squeezed and sewn up.

The last time I had any kind of anesthetic was in childbirth three years ago, and everyone feels pretty drained after giving birth.

When the dermatologist told me this morning that I might feel tired and woozy after having a local anesthetic, I mentally brushed her off.

By noon, however, I had realized what she meant.

It’s probably age catching up with me (like it’s been doing for a while, now), but man! I feel completely drained.

Handle With Care

I’m lucky to have natural strength. I’m no delicate flower. But I’ve been particularly struck in the last few weeks at how my body, while still incredibly strong, experiences stresses differently.

Whether it’s the stress of lack of sleep, an attack-child, or a local anesthetic. My body feels these more acutely, and seems more sensitive than in former years.

This is why I am that much more grateful that I have taken the step of adding exercise to my routine.

With this small change of 30 minutes every couple of days, I feel more equal to the physical demands of parenthood, and of life in general.

My body is naturally powerful. Now, it feels like that power can be sustained. And it feels amazing.

Refreshed

59. Refreshed: Write a poem about a time you really felt refreshed and renewed. Maybe it was a dip into a pool on a hot summer day, a drink of lemonade, or other situation that helped you relax and start again.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

A cool drink of water;
A hot cup of tea.

A long night’s sleep;
A short power nap.

A long-distance phone call;
A cosy tête-à-tête.

An intense workout;
A lazy afternoon on the couch.

A noisy family gathering;
Silent companionship.

Engaging in creativity;
Completing mindless busywork.

However it comes,
Enjoying the delicious feeling of being
Refreshed.