Deciding What To Do Now

I love self-help and personal development books. My mom always had books by Edgar Cayce and Wayne W. Dyer on the bookshelf, and I was reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” in high school. I probably learned more about being a functional adult from books than from life. I know some books like this make the general population roll their eyes. In all honesty, I love personal development books that a lot of people would consider “woo” or overly gimmicky in their spiritual “you can do it all” and “the only time you have is now” motivational techniques. I don’t love all of them (in fact, I found myself reading one lately and thinking even I couldn’t possibly transcend to the level of one-with-the-universe that this book required), but I do consider myself pretty open minded and I believe that we can change our life by changing our thoughts and habits, through the use of meditation, affirmations, and visualization techniques.

Being Zen About It

I often try to “be zen” about things that are stressing me out. It’s hard with anxiety, since my brain has a tendency to zoom headfirst into the worst case scenario and freak out about things that haven’t happened yet and probably won’t come to pass. Despite knowing that thinking positively helps my mental health, I get stuck in loops of extremely negative thoughts that are almost inescapable. I’ve written before about how I have used jewelry to help refocus my anxious thoughts, and that’s one coping mechanism that works for me.

The downside of believing that positive thoughts bring positive effects is that you also have to accept that negative thoughts can bring negative effects. It’s the classic self-sabotage cycle. Maybe you do this with weight loss, thinking “I don’t have the self-control to resist the donuts at work.” Two donuts later, you’re mad at yourself. But what else could you have done when you hold the fundamental belief that you’re no stronger than a donut? It is a task that’s nearly insurmountable at times, but you have to break the beliefs that hold you back.

I don’t go as far as some gurus and motivational writers, who say that everything in your life is your responsibility – including global affairs at large. Joe Vitale’s The Attractor Factor: 5 Easy Steps for Creating Wealth (or Anything Else) is one such book. I’ve listened to the audiobook two or three times and continue to pull amazing inspiration from it, but I have trouble with some of his larger concepts. I can take responsibility to work on my own maladjusted belief systems, but I have a hard time believing I can impact war or the epidemic of drug addiction or the lottery.

I mean, maybe it’s possible. But I am not that zen.

Why Do It?

Why do I make time to practice meditation, affirmations, and visualizations? Honestly, I don’t. Many many days have gone by without meditation, because I believe I’m bad at it and can’t do it right. So I never bother. (Hmm…maybe I should work on this). However, affirmation and visualization have become second nature to me and I perform them without even thinking. I’m also in the habit of a gratitude practice, especially when I find myself getting upset at something outside my control.

For example, I left for work a few minutes later than normal this morning, so traffic was more congested than usual. I saw the backed up rows of cars on the highway when I was turning onto the on-ramp and thought “Ah, crap!” but I followed that up immediately with, “That’s okay, I am grateful for more time in the car to listen to my audiobook.” What choices did I have? I could have left on time, but the time had already passed. At the moment of my decision to be grateful, the only choice I had was how to respond to the traffic jam. Despite heavy traffic, I got to work on time anyway. And I was in a cheerful mood!

To receive a blessing from the universe, you must be attuned to what you desire. It’s like we’re all humming threads on a universal guitar. If we want something, we have to be humming at the same frequency of the thing we desire in order to match and receive it. If we’re humming at a low vibration filled with self-sabotaging thoughts and doubts, we’re not anywhere near the level of vibration we need to match the thing we want. On the other hand, there’s a balancing act between wanting something and being desperate for it. When you’re desperate with a blind need for something to bless your life, you run the risk of over-pitching yourself and missing the vibration you need. (At this point I am going to have to name our firstborn child Zen because of how often I have to remind myself to not be desperate).

Even skeptics have found positive results from meditation, affirmations, and gratitude practices. Many professional development and leadership books tout the benefits of these small habits that can make a big difference in your day to day interactions and overall behavior.

If you’re worried about the time commitment, incorporating these practices doesn’t have to take up hours of your day. Start with a few minutes per day and work up from there when you feel the positive effects on your life. An excellent guide to get started is Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM). He has since come out with several related titles targeted for specific industries and other areas of life. This book is great for everyone from the skeptic to the believer.

How These Practices Help Your To-Do List

I’ve been swamped with projects and goal setting and to-do lists for the past several months. Currently on my plate are the following:

  • Three book or ebook ideas
  • Consistently publishing blogs on this website
  • Boosting my social media presence for this blog
  • Increasing my freelance writing income
  • Home organization and design projects in essentially every room of my house
  • Planning a vacation
  • Making a financial plan for 2017

What’s keeping me from completing all these tasks? The fact that I’m trying to do a little of everything every day. I should have learned from my Dave Ramsey expertise that the best way to get traction is to take baby steps to make progress. Just like Dave’s advice isn’t to save for emergencies, buy a house, invest for retirement, and pay off debt all at the same time… my plan of action for these projects simply can’t be to chip off a tiny bite of each one at a time. I need to prioritize.

Motivation and priorities have also been an issue at work, where I have a similar spread of high, medium, and low priority projects that all need to be completed. For a while I tried using the urgent/important matrix to determine where to spend most of my time and effort, and then I just made lists of high, medium, and low priority tasks. I made sure to complete the high priority tasks each day but would often lose steam and save the medium and low priorities for the next day. But the next day, there were always new urgent priorities that made it to the high list. Chipping away at things wasn’t helping, once again. So I devised a new way to prioritize my to-do list.

Eat The Frog

When I say new, I mean new for me. This certainly isn’t an original concept. Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time is celebrated for its advice to start your day not with the easiest tasks to build momentum, but with the biggest, hardest, or most agonizing task you have. This is the frog.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” While I don’t think anyone should actually be eating live frogs as part of their to-do list, the advice is sound. Do the thing that sucks.

I now organize my work to-do list with the following four categories:

  1. Frog: This is the thing that I must do before all other things today. Maybe even before I check my email. Certainly before I eat lunch.
  2. Today: These are the high priority tasks that I need to do today, whether they are assigned to me by team members or my own goal list.
  3. This Week: These are important but don’t need handled today. I need to make time during the week to get them completed.
  4. Radar: This is something important coming down the line that is not urgent.

I Don’t Have Time

What if you don’t have time to only do one big thing until it’s done? Spoiler alert: You do. Jen Sincero points out that “not having time” is a lie we tell ourselves in her book You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

I don’t have time to find a real parking spot so I’ll park in this loading zone. Oh, look at that, I just spent three hours I don’t have getting my car out of the tow garage, another two getting lost on the way home, and forty-five minutes complaining about it to my wife…

When we’re forced to do something, suddenly the time is there. Which means it’s there all the time, but we’ve just chosen to limit ourselves by believing that it isn’t.”

I highly recommend Ms. Sincero’s book. I buy a copy of it for somebody roughly 4-5 times a year. Somehow I still haven’t bought myself a hard copy, but if Audible books could have a conversation, my audio copy of Badass would probably ask me why I’m not as zen as I should be after listening to it SO MANY TIMES.

You have 24 hours in a day, and the only time you can actually control is what you are doing RIGHT NOW. Everything before now is gone, and everything after now might change. So RIGHT NOW, do something that is important to your goals.

How to Prioritize

Regarding your time management, it comes down to figuring out your top priorities and then concentrating your efforts on 1-3 main goals, rather than shooting for a whole giant list of goals at a time. I follow Chalene Johnson’s 30 Day Push program, which used to be a video coaching series and now has been upgraded to a comprehensive 30-day journal system that walks you through setting 90-day goals and setting small achievable daily tasks to move yourself forward. Chalene’s program starts by having you rank several aspects of your life including physical health, mental health, relationships, friends and family, career, finances, etc., and then you choose the top three areas you should be prioritizing (these are the areas with the lowest scores, which means they need the most focus).

My three key areas for the first 90 days of 2017 are physical health, mental health, and my environment (aka my cluttered house that is driving me up a wall). I have 10 goals for this first quarter of the year, but my top three priorities focus on health and home. My “push goal,” or the goal that acts like a domino and helps you achieve more of your goals, is to create a daily to-do list with non-negotiable self-care items. This includes exercise, a bath, and a 9:30pm bedtime. Do I achieve these every day? No. But I am doing them a lot more consistently than before, and that has already made a huge difference in my daily life.

I didn’t even make my first quarter goals until the beginning of February, but making a small daily to-do list has helped me (in the last two weeks):

  • Lose four pounds
  • Maintain a consistent exercise routine
  • Re-establish care with my therapist
  • Make a doctor’s appointment to discuss anxiety medication (something I have procrastinated for years)
  • Put considerable work into a book proposal (which I’ve been scared to write for months)
  • Clean out and organize my closet
  • Listen to a self-development book
  • Pay off a credit card

I know some of those things don’t seem very monumental for most people. But for me, this is great progress. All things going well, you’ll be seeing a lot more content from me this year.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for this post, thank you for your readership, and thank you for all the positivity you put into the world. I am grateful for you.

The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

I was in graduate school when I first heard the term “millennial.” It was at a conference. The session was about how to serve millennial students, because they have different characteristics than the Generation X students that went before them. It was here that I first started hearing things like “millennials need to be recognized for participation,” “millennials feel they are special,” “millennials are sheltered,” “millennials are likely to have helicopter parents,” and more. Society as a whole loves to hate on the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1999), calling us “special snowflakes” and sarcastically referring to us as “social justice warriors,” calling us out for “being offended by everything” and, everybody’s favorite, pointing out how very entitled we are.

Here’s the secret: We’re not.

millennial late for work.jpg

The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.

What’s Gaslighting?

Glad you asked. I learned about gaslighting within the last couple years as I explored topics surrounding emotional abuse and narcissism. Gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of making someone question their own sanity. It’s an emotional abuse tactic. It can also be described as “the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality” (as defined in this article from Everyday Feminism).

Have you ever gotten into an argument with a parent, boss, or romantic partner about something they’ve done that upset you, but by the end of the argument, YOU’RE the one apologizing for hurting their feelings? This is often a result of gaslighting. They flip it around and become the victim, and your original feelings never get resolved because the conversation always descends into the other person’s victimization.

As one example from my life, when I first faced up to the fact that my first marriage was in real trouble and I was considering divorce, I (very calmly) asked my ex-husband if he’d consider marriage counseling. His response? “I cannot believe you can even ask that of me.” He was so offended by the suggestion that something was wrong that I questioned the validity of my feelings. “Oh my god,” I thought, “I must be terrible. Is anything even wrong or are my expectations just crazy?” This is an example of gaslighting.

Now imagine a similar scenario where you are applying for a job, but the job requires a college degree, but you can’t pay for a college degree without a job so you end up taking out massive loans. Then when you graduate, you still can’t get a job without experience. So you end up in a minimum wage job (or three), making ends meet and barely making your loan payments. You say something like, “the minimum wage needs to be raised, people can’t live like this,” only to receive a barrage of old, crotchety white people yelling at you about how gosh-darn ENTITLED you are, and how THEY got a college education working part time and how it’s your fault for taking out the loans in the first place.

This is what I’m talking about. Generations before us completely drove the bus into a lake and it’s somehow our fault everybody’s drowning.

working-on-laptop

What are Millennials really like?

So if millennials aren’t a bunch of spoiled brats with an entitlement mentality who need a trophy just for putting on pants in the morning, what are they?

I am in a Facebook group of geeky women (mostly moms) from around the world, and our group is capped at 500 members. When it was discovered that two of our members were actively fighting to get out of physically and emotionally abusive marriages and needed money for legal help and deposits for moving, the group arranged a massive auction and hundreds of members donated their belongings and purchased in the auction to raise thousands of dollars.

When another member of that same group was faced with an unimaginable loss and an enormous bill, we had more auctions and helped her get through the worst moment of her life as best we could.

I have shipped pet supplies, groceries, books, clothing, and more to broke friends whose kids and cats were hungry, who have experienced loss and just couldn’t get up to “adult,” and to people who needed to receive a message to pull themselves out of a bad place.

I see us raising money for funeral expenses, medical bills, emergency surgeries for beloved pets, and more. I see us trading services or goods for other services or goods. I see us sending money via PayPal to make somebody’s day a little easier. I see us buying things from work-at-home-moms on Etsy or Facebook rather than support large corporate stores.

Once, I could feel a cold coming on but I was out of grocery budget, and a friend shipped me a box of tea from Amazon. I’ve sent her groceries and pet supplies when her budget was tapped. This is our generation.

We barter and trade, we lift each other up when we need it, and we empower each other. We have each other’s back.

help-each-other

But what are they reeeeally like?

Anecdotal evidence aside, here’s some science.

First of all, it’s important to note that there are some 80 million people in the millennial generation, making us the largest cohort in history. This makes us very fun and easy to study. I pulled some data from a 2012 report from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Millennials are tech-savvy, having been raised in the most technologically advancing decades of recent human history. We are optimistic (41% report satisfaction with the way the country is performing, compared to 26% of people over 30). Please note that this data was from 2012 and if I were a betting woman, I’d bet that fewer millennials are pleased with how the country is doing at this particular moment in time. 2016 has been rough.

“Young people are more tolerant of races and groups than older generations (47% vs. 19%) with 45% agreeing with preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities.” Not only are millennials the largest demographic, we’re also the most diverse. We are 60% non-Hispanic white (compared to 70% for older generations), 19% Hispanic, 14% black, 4% Asian, and 3% mixed race. Eleven percent of us are born to an immigrant parent. So the generation that hears “Why are you kids so offended by everything these days,” is offended because we’re sick and tired of seeing minorities vilified and punished by systemic racism within the system.

Millennials are multi-taskers. Multi-tasking is actually harmful to the brain and leads to a huge decrease in productivity. But, you know, we gotta work all these jobs and get everything done, lest we die penniless in the gutter.

Millennials are engaged and expressive: 75% have a social networking profile, 20% have posted a video of themselves online, 38% have 1-6 tattoos, 23% have non-earlobe piercings. The research indicates a trend toward “self-promoting,” which some skew to mean that millennials are self-confident (OH NO, THE HORROR) and self-absorbed. Others take this data to conclude that millennials are identifying their passions and making their own path instead of following others’ paths for them.

Millennials get their news from TV (65%) and online sources (59%).

Millennials may be the first generation in over 100 years to have a decrease of their average lifespan.

Millennials have a high graduation rate from high school (72% in 2012) and college enrollment rate (68% in 2012). Over half (58%) of millennials that enroll in a four-year college graduate within six years.

Millennials have an average of $25,000 in student loans. There is more student loan debt than credit card debt in the United States. Tuition rates are rising faster than inflation. However, enrollment continues to increase and there is a trend that jobs are paying more for more educated applicants.

On and on and on and on. Read the full report linked above for more statistics and research.

millennial-tattoo

Millennials struggle with mental health

Most millennials I know struggle with mental illness to some degree. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. I wonder how much of that anxiety comes from being told that wanting a living wage, affordable college, or adequate healthcare means that you’re being a spoiled entitled brat. It really doesn’t. The generations before us HAD a living wage, affordable college, and adequate healthcare. But now, inflation has far surpassed the minimum wage, college tuition and loan interest rates are through the proverbial roof, and medical bills are the top cause of bankruptcy in America.

These things were not caused by millennials, but after being raised on a steady diet of “you’re entitled,” we don’t even need to hear it from other people.  We believe it about ourselves. As a society, we now romanticize struggle, busy-ness, and “the hustle.” If you’re not losing sleep and working two or three jobs, you must not want it enough.

What if we’re actually not crazy? What if wanting to work one full-time job and have the ends not only meet but actually overlap a little is NOT an entitled pipe dream?

The sheer stress of existing in today’s world is enough to give anybody an anxiety disorder. Add  the fact that we’re told over and over again how we need to just bootstrap it, because generations before us handled life just fine, and you have a recipe for disaster. The generations before us could afford college tuition on minimum wage and didn’t have bosses who expect us to be tied to our devices at all hours.

I often feel this way about our financial goals. I have a full-time job and bring in extra income from freelance marketing work and resume writing. I make “good money” by most standards. And I catch myself thinking I should be working a part time job in the evenings or on the weekends to make our financial goals happen faster. But at what cost? I know for a fact that my mental health would suffer if I did that. I can’t even imagine the psychological stress of people who have to work multiple jobs just to meet their basic needs. We’ve got people working two or three jobs to feed their families that they barely see. That’s not even getting into the cost of child care.

depression

More reading on millennials and mental health:

Conclusions (for now)

The millennial generation has been tasked with fixing the broken system we inherited and chastised for not doing it right or for daring to suggest improvements.

If you think we’re doing a bad job, ask yourself how it got this way in the first place.

The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

RECIPE: Instant Pot Chickpeas and Dumplings (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Hey guys! I have been getting back in the habit of meal planning and a prep day on the weekends to cut down on our grocery budget, make healthier meals, and pack homemade lunches instead of going out during the week. Also, I recently bought an Instant Pot pressure cooker. It is pretty great.

Since it’s finally fall, I wanted to try my hand at an old favorite in the soup category. I used to LOVE chicken and dumplings, especially dropping the dough into the soup and seeing the miracle of big puffy dumplings after they had steamed in the broth with the lid on. In researching vegan alternatives, I found this (vegetarian) recipe for chickpeas and dumplings from Oh My Veggies, and I modeled this recipe after it with some modifications for my own tastes and to accommodate the instant pot!

This recipe is hearty, filling, and SO warming. It is perfect for a cool fall day and comes together in a flash, with no stirring or babysitting a pot on the stove.

Without further ado, here’s my recipe:

For the soup:
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
4 carrots, chopped
3-4 baby red potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28oz container of veggie broth
1 veggie bouillon cube
2 cans chickpeas
Black pepper, to taste (you shouldn’t need much salt because of the broth and bouillon, but you can add some salt after it’s done if you want a little more)

Depending on how spicy you like it:
Smoked paprika or chipotle seasoning, to taste (I used 3-4 dashes of the spice container)
Cayenne pepper, to taste (I used a couple dashes)

I am notorious at not measuring spices… I should work on that.

Reserve for later:
2 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped

For dumplings:
3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill or Italian seasoning
1/2 cup nondairy milk

In the instant pot, sauté onion and garlic in a bit of broth while you prep the rest of the soup ingredients. Add the chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, spices, and remaining broth and boullion cube.

Cook on the manual setting at high pressure, 7 minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop and set aside celery and green onion.

Make the dumpling batter. Mix dry ingredients and add milk, stirring to combine. It should resemble thick pancake batter. Set aside.

When the timer is done on the soup, quick release the pressure. Open the pot and stir in the celery and green onion (by saving these for later, you keep the celery a little more crunchy instead of super soft and cooked down – if you like it soft, you can include it in the first pressurization!). Drop the dumpling batter by the spoonful into the soup. Spread them out evenly as they will plump as they cook! I made about 7 large dumplings but next time I will try to make 10 smaller ones.

Put the lid on the IP and select the steam setting for 10 minutes.

Quick release when it’s done. Eat!

ip-soup

Stay tuned, because I’m going to try and convert this to a freezer meal setup for a later post!

An Ode to Toddler Grandma Style

Toddler Grandma Style Will Set You Free

There is an amazing viral post going around the internet called ‘Toddler Grandma Style,’ The Fashion Approach That Will Set You Free. And it is amazing. The premise is that you don’t have to “grow out” of the colorful fun prints of the children’s section, nor do you have to wait until you’re “old enough” to not care what anyone thinks of you. Wear whatever you love RIGHT NOW!

When I started this minimalist journey I looked at capsule wardrobes and 33-item clothing challenges and loved them. I thought, “That’s how to do this! I can have everything I need with just a small number of items.” And this is true. But it also wasn’t super fun for me. I would wear out a pair of jeans and replace them with another pair. I’d favor blacks and greys or the occasional brown item and focus on having a small number of neutrals.

I looked very put together and adulty.

And then this internet sensation happened and some friends of mine were talking about this stuff called LuLaRoe, which is clothing made with wildly outlandish patterns (and some with much more subdued patterns, and some in solid colors for those who do not want wildly outlandish patterns). And I tried a couple items, because they were for a charity auction.

What did I buy? A grey dress and black leggings. Still holding strong to my “neutrals are for minimalist winners” line of thinking.

Later I got my first pair of crazy pattern leggings and they were so fun. Then in another charity auction I got a maxi skirt covered in constellations. Then in yet another charity sale I got another maxi and more leggings and a skirt. And on and on and on… and now I have a wardrobe almost exclusively made up of this stuff.

And every single piece of it makes me smile from head to toe when I wear it. It is so much fun. I love color. I love the confidence I feel in these clothes. I am fully embracing the #ToddlerGrandma approach to my fashion and also in other facets of my life.

 

Toddlers and Grandmas Don’t Give any Fs

What else is amazing about toddlers and grandmas? They do what they want. It’s pretty awesome. Toddlers aren’t bogged down with anxiety, depression, and worrying about what other people think of them. Toddlers can run around in a circle or play with a cardboard box and have the time of their life! I strive to be like a toddler in spirit, although I still do grown-up things like going to work and paying the bills. I’m not eschewing my adult responsibilities, but I am totally throwing away the notion that says adults can’t have fun and do things they enjoy, even if those things are considered childish by their peers.

I will play the Pokemon game on my iPhone. I will re-read the Harry Potter books. I will watch the cartoons. I will sometimes even eat sugary cereal for breakfast. The horror!

And when it comes to grandmas, everybody knows there’s a point where people just stop wearing the weight of everyone’s expectations on their shoulders. The old lady who wears the red hat and vibrant purple dress does not care that everyone thinks her style is inappropriate. Nor does she sit back and let you talk down to her or anyone she loves. The devil-may-care old lady tells you how it is and she’s not pulling punches to be delicate or diplomatic.

Women are raised to be delicate, polite flowers. Screw that! We don’t owe the world pretty, polite, or poised when those adjectives have to be written out of our psyche’s checkbook and we are in deep, deep overdraft from making sure everyone else’s expectations and needs are met before we even begin to wonder what we ourselves might need.

Do you.

Be absolutely you. If that means toddler grandma style, embrace it. Wear the crazy colors. Dye your hair. Wear sneakers with your wedding dress. Dismantle the societal expectation that you owe anyone else more than you owe yourself when it comes to your style and your body.

Love yourself without apology.

To Change or Not to Change? (My Name)

Hey readers. I got married! Awesome wedding post is coming up but I had some thoughts today and wanted to write them down for the blog.

This post is about my decision to change my name.

Those of you who knew me when I was married the first time might know that I changed my name at the insistence of my ex despite the fact that he previously was totally on board with me keeping my birth name. I did the dual last name thing and saying my name sounded like reciting a coffee order at Starbucks, always ending with “two last names no hyphen.” So I didn’t want to do a dual name or hyphenated name. It was a hassle the first time and I wasn’t that into it.

The same weekend I got married (the first time), I got my birth name tattooed onto my right ankle. It was my first tattoo. It says “Reed” in a script font. My sister has a matching one. I was a little salty about changing my name and felt like he had forced my hand and essentially thrown a tantrum and manipulated me. What better way to stay attached to my prior life than to tattoo it onto my body for all eternity, right?

Only months into my first marriage, my ex “gave me permission” to change my name back legally. This cost over $100 in legal fees plus the cost of new ID, etc. Bummer. Twice the name change means twice the hassle and twice the cost of new ID. So this time around I wanted to make a decision and stick with it. Stephen told me he was 100% okay with whatever I decided and he did not have a preference. (WOW AMAZING YES).

Then there are the feminist concerns. Down with the patriarchy! Women aren’t property! Name changes upon marriage are archaic and horrible! Are they? Is it really antifeminist to change my name to my husband’s name? What about combining names into a cool hybrid (Herreed? Rerron? Reedron? No, those are not great.)? What about picking a totally new name from a favorite show or book to celebrate your love and unity without having to have a winner? I wasn’t super into those ideas either and neither was my husband. The true feminist way to do things is HOWEVER YOU WANT. Feminism is about equality and choice.

What about my own family of origin? My dad had no sons, so if my sister and I don’t “carry on the family name,” then Reed dies a sad, pathetic, flopping death at the roots of our family tree. Only, it really doesn’t. It’s fine. There are more Reeds out there, and seeing my aunt chronicle our genealogy going back centuries has actually really helped with this concern. I’m not any of those names on my family tree through the ages. I was a Reed and that was cool. And now I’m a Herron and that’s cool too. I’m me. I’m Caitlin.

What about what other people would think? Will people think I’m bowing to the patriarchy if I change my name? Will people assume we’re unmarried with kids out of wedlock if I have a different last name than my children? Do people still say “wedlock”? Does any of this matter and does anyone’s opinion affect my life at all? Spoiler alert: No. Only my opinion matters about my name. My husband gets a slight vote. If he had a strong preference I would take it into account but this man is not the type to try and force me into something I don’t want to do (wow, this is quite nice).

I had tied my identity up with being Caitlin Reed for a really long time. Through years of therapy and self-help books, I finally felt like I had healed and blossomed into who I was meant to truly be. Caitlin Reed was a cool chick. However, maybe it’s the fact that I’m older and wiser than I was the first time I got married or maybe it’s just because I got married for reasons other than crippingly low self esteem, but I felt really good about changing my name this time.

I want to be a family. I want to start something new. A new chapter of my life. And I’m starting it as Caitlin Herron.

065 Purple Heron copy

Majestic AF, flying away from the haters.

Photo source: http://www.pers-birding-pages.com/www.pers-birding-pages.com/Purple_Heron.html

Do you want to know the secret reason? The reason that really sealed the deal for this decision? Do you want to know? I will tell you.

It’s the bird puns now available to me.

#NoEgrets
#NotBittern

Last minute lazy minimalist cleaning spree tips

My sister and her friend are coming to town on Thursday evening. My house is a little, shall we say, messy. I’m still working on getting our shared domicile into minimalist shape.
Last night I was out of the house, ordering a new couch (thanks mom and stepdad, for pitching in as a wedding gift!) and going decoration/craft supply shopping for a little bit of wedding flair. So I missed a day of cleaning. To my credit, I did get a lot of laundry done over the weekend!
Here’s what the rest of the week looks like.
 
TUESDAY: THEY WILL BE HERE IN TWO DAYS
Focus: laundry, bathroom, office
  • Change the sheets on our bed
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Wash all towels, sheets, and shower curtain
  • Bonus points: Start washing blankets
  • Get all trash and recyclables out of office
  • Bonus points: Remove rug from office, place in sad rug limbo on front porch where the rugs I keep forgetting to move to the curb live
  • Sweep office
  • Clear office futon of all mess and clutter
  • Clean desk off
  • Scoop basement litter boxes
WEDNESDAY: THEY WILL BE HERE TOMORROW
Focus: living room, Zoe’s room (Zoe is my cat, and she has her own room), laundry
  • Take the “donate pile” in the living room to an actual donation place, for real, or just light it on fire, but stop ignoring it, Caitlin, just stop
  • Sweep the living room (Bonus points: Swiffer or steam mop)
  • Completely dump and scrub Zoe’s litter box and refill with new clean litter
  • Change the blanket on the bed to one that is not covered in Zoe fur
  • Sweep and swiffer/steam mop Zoe’s room
  • Have important talk with Zoe about not getting hair on everything she looks at
  • Brush Zoe
  • Take all living room couch blankets to basement to be washed
  • Wash blankets (after vigorously beating fur off them)
THURSDAY: THE DAY THEY ARRIVE. 
Focus: kitchen and catching up on the things I didn’t do Tuesday or Wednesday
  • Sweep the kitchen
  • Wipe down the stove and counters
  • Pretend like you live this way at all times
  • Say to myself, “You are a domestic goddess” over and over again
  • Evacuate ketchup bottles with 1/4″ of ketchup in them into one consolidation bottle; rinse and recycle empties (Goal: No Ketchup Stonehenge ever again)

FRIDAY: THE DAY I CAN MAKE THEM HELP ME
Focus: new couch

  • Remove two couches from living room
  • Hold a summit with the cats to discuss removal of the cat tree that is in literal shreds but they still worship; lose
  • Same, re: two cardboard boxes; lose again
  • Put away 14 cat toys that were under the couches
  • Sweep and swiffer/steam mop couch outlines

Knowing I can DEFINITELY achieve 75% of this list and am SOMEWHAT LIKELY to achieve 100% of this list, I am really excited for my new clean house aesthetic. It’s sure to impress my sister who absolutely knows better.

I used to think being lazy was a character flaw but now I know it’s just a thing. It’s just a way people can be, when they’re not hyper motivated to do things all the time. I get really motivated about some things, and I am lazy about others. And that’s fine. Because when the stuff hits the fan, I can more or less clean my house with three days notice.

Happy cleaning, my sloppy minimalist friends.

How a Bracelet Helped My Anxiety

I am an anxious person. I’ve worked with therapists. I’ve considered medication.

I fixate on negative thoughts that spiral out of control in my head… house fires, car crashes, death of loved ones, infertility…

The anxiety about that last one is what brings me to the blog today, to discuss how a bracelet helped me reprogram my brain to stop thinking negative thoughts and worries about infertility. I’m getting married in less than two months and we are planning to do the whole baby thing at some point in the future. But my brain betrays me, asking, “What if you can’t have kids? What if you have a miscarriage? What if something’s wrong with the baby? What if you never ever have a baby?”

Shut up, brain. You are kind of an asshole.

My solution was to go onto Etsy.com and find a fertility charm. A small token to wear around my neck to remind me every day that I should stay positive. I ended up selecting an amethyst bracelet, which has been a truly genius solution.

Firstly, I seriously hate bracelets. Bracelets, watches, fitness trackers – if it’s on my wrist, it’s driving me batty. This ensures that I notice this bracelet all day long. When it digs into my wrist if I rest my arm on the desktop, I notice it as I readjust it.

Second, I am a person who fidgets with things. I stretch it, remove it, feel the difference between the stone beads, and absentmindedly poke and prod it throughout the day. Each time, I remember to stay positive.

Third, once I get used to wearing a piece of jewelry, I notice it when it’s not on. When I take my engagement ring off to work in the garden or do the dishes, I flip out when I inevitably run my thumb across my ring finger and realize there’s no band there. Same with the bracelet. I now notice it even when it’s not there.

All day long, I’m noticing the bracelet:

  • when i put it on
  • when i see it from the corner of my eye
  • when i touch it
  • when other people comment on it
  • when i fidget with it
  • when i take it off
  • when i forgot to wear it
  • when my brain starts saying those horrible things about how i might not be able to have a baby

And every time I notice the bracelet, I say a small affirmation: “My body knows how to conceive a healthy baby.” The end. I don’t go through every worry or concern, I just say or think “My body knows how to conceive a healthy baby” and move on. Maybe it will happen as soon as we start trying, maybe it will take a few months or longer, maybe we will need to see doctors to help. But my body knows how. It will happen.

And that’s the story of why I wear a bracelet every day, even though I hate bracelets.