Friday, May 19, 2017

School's Out

Today's the last day of school, and I couldn't be happier. Not that I don't love my job--I definitely do--but part of the reason I love it so much is that the schedule allows me to have a break before I hit burnout, and I've been so close to burnout the past few weeks. I do have an extended contract and I'm working summer school, but it feels good to have the year wrapped up and to move on to the next challenge. Summer school is also only half days, so I'll have lots of time to work on non-work related things in the afternoons--which is good, because my to-do list keeps growing: finalizing and booking my trip to England for next summer (I've already started on this one!), reorganizing my library of books, cataloging my records, scanning and organizing old family photos, sorting through my closet and taking donations to Goodwill are all toward the top, not to mention reading the pile of books that I checked out from the library this week.  Throw in a trip to the PNW, Alaska, and British Columbia, and I think my summer is pretty well packed. You know I'll find some time to wander our local art museums and camp out at some coffee shops, too, though.  What about you--any fun things planned for summer? You might have an idea that I need to add to my list. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning To Grieve Again

She died a month ago today. It seems like an eternity, but it's only been 30 days. I didn't know if I'd ever be ready to write about it, but here I am.

By "she, " I mean our cat, Eleanor. I guess I should count myself lucky that this is the first time I've had to experience the death of a pet as an adult, but it has been weirdly harder than I ever thought. I didn't expect it to be easy, obviously, but it seems much more difficult this time than I remember it being as a child. In some ways, it's been harder than the deaths of friends and family members, and I think for the same reason: I was responsible for her. She was mine. I was supposed to keep her healthy, keep her safe, keep her alive...but I couldn't. 

I second-guess every decision we made in the weeks leading up to her death. She had always been more reclusive than her brothers, so I wonder if it took us longer than it should have to realize she was sick and take her to the vet; it seemed to happen so fast, but how does a cat lose three pounds so quickly?  I wonder if we should have taken her for a second opinion when our vet didn't seem certain of what was causing her illness, or even after she did--pancreatitis-- but the steroids and antibiotics didn't seem to make her well. I wonder if we had done exploratory surgery if she would still be alive. I wonder if my seeing her getting "better" at times was more hope and blind optimism than reality.  I wonder if my force-feeding her every few hours to help her gain weight caused her pain. I wonder if she was happy with us and if she felt loved. 

I really didn't think she was going to die. 

The vet didn't either. We had taken her back for a check-up (one in a series of many) on a Tuesday, and she had gained more weight back--likely due mostly to the frequent force-feedings. The vet told us she was headed in the right direction and that we should wait to decide on exploratory surgery. I asked if waiting would be putting her in danger; I didn't want to put her through unnecessary pain, but if waiting was doing further damage to her body, I didn't want that either. I didn't want to risk her life, and I asked if I was. The vet said no. 

Five days later, on Easter Sunday, we woke up to find her laying under the kitchen table, and when I reached down to pet her, she was cold and stiff. That moment is burned into my brain. It has replayed over and over the past 30 days, forward and backward, in slow motion. 

I'm not good at grieving. I know what I should do, but in the moment, going through it myself, all of that seems to go out the window. I'm really good at compartmentalizing during the crisis phase, but when I try to process it afterward, I get easily overwhelmed by emotions. For me, grieving is a slow process, and one that I have to re-learn each time--and this is part of that. It won't do to stuff everything down and pretend I'm not hurt, or try not to think about her. She deserves better than that; she deserves to be remembered as much in death as she was loved in life. Even though I'm sitting here finishing this post with tears running down my face, I know it's necessary, and healthy, and a good start to learning to grieve again.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

7 Tips for Keeping it Together When Life is Hectic (+ a Giveaway with JORD Watches!)

The following post is sponsored by JORD Watches. All opinions, tips, and thoughts are my own. 

Doesn't it seem like, just when you think life is about to slow down a bit, it always gets busier? Typically the last few weeks before summer vacation is when things slow down a lot for me at work, but that hasn't really been the case this year; if anything, I've been feeling more and more overwhelmed. Thankfully, I have a few tried and true tricks to keep myself on track and sane--and you too, if you're in the same boat.

1.Write it all down. I am a big believer in the to-do list. If it's not on paper (or at least in my phone), it won't get done. I tend to get tunnel vision when I'm working on a project, so seeing everything that I need to accomplish really helps me allocate my time and energy appropriately. Bonus points if you write down "due dates" next to your projects.

2. Prioritize. I like to break my to-do list into three categories: must-dos, should-dos, and could-dos. Must-dos are pretty self-explanatory--your life is going to be pretty rough if you don't get these done. That thing that your boss will fire you if you don't get it done? Must do. Getting groceries? Must do--starving yourself isn't an option. Should-dos are those things that aren't going away any time soon, but they aren't vital to your immediate functioning; things like laundry, cleaning your kitchen, or getting your oil changed might fall into this category (unless you've put them off and you're down to your last pair of clean underwear). Could-dos are those projects that you'd like to get around to, like alphabetizing your books, cataloging your vinyl, or scanning boxes of family photos. You "could do" them if you had extra time, but they're okay on the back burner for now. Once you have everything divided into these categories, it makes it a lot easier to figure out what to tackle first (especially if you included those due dates I mentioned in #1).

3. Say no. I'm a people pleaser, so I find it hard to say no sometimes. During really busy periods, though, it becomes a necessity. If someone is trying to add something else to your plate, it's okay to say "I really can't" or "not right now." Having boundaries is healthy! Saying no goes for yourself, too--it's easy to get overwhelmed and decide to just watch TV instead, or go out for a coffee break, but you'll end up even more behind and overwhelmed in the end. But that said, you also need to......

4. Schedule time for self-care.  Yep, I went there. I know when you're feeling overwhelmed, the last thing on your mind is making time for baths, or reading a new novel, or watching this week's SVU. I get it. This is the hardest thing for me too. When I'm stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go out the window, but it's also when I need it the most. The thing about self-care is that it doesn't have to be huge or time-consuming; it just needs to be effective. During peak busy times, I still allocate 30 minutes before bed to read something non-work-related. The thing is, 30 minutes is not going to make-or-break my to-do list, but it might make-or-break my mental health that day.  

5. Be flexible in how you accomplish tasks.  My grandma used to say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat" and while--as a cat mama--I'm entirely put off by that saying, the sentiment rings true. For some people, this may look like working from home one day so you can do your laundry on your lunch break; for others it may look like delegating (I'm the worst at delegating!), or accepting less-than-perfect in some of your "should-dos"--but do you REALLY need to scrub your baseboards to consider your kitchen clean enough? So be creative--maybe you'll find a great life hack!

6. Keep yourself on schedule. Hourly planners, alarms, and watches are a godsend for me, because it's easy for me to get wrapped up in a project and lose track of time. I put everything (literally) into my paper and phone planner, and select that I want a 15-minute warning. That gives me enough time to get to a good stopping place with a project, and move on to what's next. You'll notice, too, that when I'm busy, I'm almost always wearing a watch (lately a gorgeous wood one from JORD); if I'm working at home, or moving from place to place in a single building, I have a tendency to set my phone down and forget where I put it, leave it at my desk, or plug it in to charge, so having a watch is a necessary backup for me. When time's up, it's up, and I move on to the next thing in my planner; if I need to re-evaluate based on how much progress I've made with a project, I can do that, but I have to reference my prioritized to-do list and determined where I can make adjustments (and not, ahem, from the self-care section).

7. Reward yourself.  Tackled your to-do list? TREAT YO SELF. Listen, I'm a behavior analyst by trade, so if there's one thing I know, it's the power of reinforcement. If your to-do list is super long (or if you keep adding to it like I do), maybe that reward comes mid-way, or after three projects......or hell, after one, if it's a doozy. We all need respite and something to encourage us to keep going, and much like self-care, it looks different for everyone. A new book, a massage, a new watch to keep you on schedule? After I survive the summer school madness, I'm planning to pierce my nose like I've wanted to for the past 5+ years. This, like all things, requires a bit of self-control, though--because honestly, I'm a grown-ass adult and I could get my nose pierced this afternoon if I wanted to. So I've been holding out for the end of the year, so that I have a light at the end of this very busy tunnel to work toward. Find your light.

To help you power through your week when life gets busy, I've teamed up with JORD watches to offer these tips and a contest to win $100 toward the watch of your choice--because like I said, you need to reward yourself for your hard work! There's only one grand prize winner, but everyone who enters will receive a code for $25 off once the contest ends, so it's really a win either way!

Monday, May 8, 2017

8 Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

1. Fictions Eau de Parfum. Book-themed perfume? What could be more heavenly? (And yes, my mom has almost as many books as I do!) I might have to pick up two!

2. Sole Society Joliie Travel Tote I think it's a magic mom skill to be able to pack for an entire vacation in just a carry-on, so why not make it a stylish skill too? No more tiny black wheely suitcases.

3. The Women in the Castle My mom is a huge reader, and I've heard great things about this novel--maybe I'm biased, but I think books in general are always a great gift. :)

4. Cedarwood & Lavender Candle I LOVE the candles from Noon--the Christmas one is the best smelling candle I have ever owned. Lavender is really relaxing, though, and doesn't mom deserve a bit of relaxation on Mother's Day? I thought so.

5. Nashelle Initial Necklace I love the simplicity of this necklace. It would also be great for layering, which would be perfect if you have siblings--you could snag one with each of your initials!

6. JORD Frankie Watch I just got a JORD watch last week, and I'm obsessed with it. My mom wears a watch every single day, and who wouldn't love the gorgeous colors on this one?

7. Thou Mayest Equinox Spring Seasonal Coffee If your mom is a coffee drinker, you cannot go wrong with this roast from Thou Mayest. Every single thing I've had from TM has been amazing (it's my favorite coffee shop!), and the packaging is perfect for Mother's Day.

8. French Girl Organics Rose/Verviene Sea Polish I have heard SUCH amazing things about French Girl Organics, and what gal doesn't love a good scrub? I might need to order one for myself too--you know, just to test it first. ;)

This post contains some affiliate links.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

KC Spring

Spring has finally, truly arrived in Kansas City! There's something about spring every year that's just so motivating--except those rainy days when my idea of productivity is reading through a couple novels before dinner time. We've definitely had a few of those days recently, but it's honestly been really nice. This time of year is so crazy hectic at work that being forced to slow down in the evenings and on weekends is a nice balance. And the Libra in me is all about balance, you know. :)

Somewhere in the craziness of the past couple weeks, when the weather was especially gorgeous,  I managed to drag my mister out into the sunshine for some park adventures and a few photos.  I chopped my hair off over spring break, and finally figured out what to do with it, so naturally I had to document the occasion, right? It was a great idea in theory, but didn't exactly account for the crazy wind that day. Hey, that's life, I guess. :) Hopefully there will be many more sunny days in the near future.

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