Happy birthday, Mom!

It’s my mom’s birthday today, and sadly, we’re not even in the same city. Back when I posted about my fantasy birthday celebration, my mom said she would go to Yosemite National Park for her fantasy birthday. Wish we were there today!  Here’s a picture of us at Yosemite back in 2009 when we took a quick trip there:

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Happy birthday, Mom! Hope we get a chance to experience all that beauty again sometime soon.

The ultimate beercation

My husband and I just booked a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, where our mutual love of all things beer was born. Can’t wait to return to our roots and drink some Spotted Cow. Planning this trip to got me thinking: where would I go for my ultimate beercation? Going home is always good, and that’s how I feel about Madison. But if I were to take a no limit beercation, I’d go to Belgium. I’m a huge fan of Belgian style beers but have yet to vacation there.

How about you? Where would you go for your ultimate beercation?

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Me at Mickey’s Tavern, our favorite brunch spot in Madison. That’s a Bloody Mary with a beer back. What a way to start a Saturday!

How I’m sticking to my New Year’s resolution

Having been trained in demography, I often come across statistics I don’t believe. For instance, this Vox article states “60% of New Year’s resolutions fail.” Given how difficult it is to change human habits and behaviors, this estimate seems unrealistically low.

According to the article, this number comes from a study that followed individuals over time to see how many of them kept their resolutions. As the author of the Vox article writes, at six months, “only 40 percent of those who had made a New Year’s resolution were still sticking with the goal.” The modifier “only” seems out of place here. If 40% of people managed to make the changes they wanted, that’s huge. Stating a New Year’s resolution seems like a good bet for modifying behavior.

The 40% figure is based in scientific research, but as a researcher involved in the study notes in another article that appears on the Time website, study participants are likely more successful in keeping their resolutions than the general population because they have researchers calling them every couple weeks to check in. These calls remind the people being studied about the goals they set and being asked about their resolutions provides incentive to stick to them.

I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, but I can’t tell you what they were. I write them down in late December and forget about them at some point early in the year.

This year, I’ve got a general goal to be more effective with my time. To accomplish this, I wanted to develop a system that mimics the study. I needed to find a way to remind myself of my goal and create accountability over time. So I’ve designed a survey that I’ll take weekly. The survey asks what I accomplished in the prior week and what I would like to get done in the coming week. I’ll be reminded by email to take the survey.

The Vox article has some good tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions and one of them is to make goals attainable. My only resolution is to take the survey every week. And my hope is that making plans and reflecting on my progress from week to week will help me accomplish the more ambiguous goal of using my time more effectively.

Here’s hoping I stick to it!

Fantasy Friday: holidays without guilt

My husband returned from retrieving the mail and handed me an envelope, clearly a Christmas card.

“Great, another reason to feel guilty,” I said.

He laughed. So did I, even though what I said was true.

Christmas cards make me feel guilty because I don’t send any out.

Christmas gifts make me feel guilty because I struggle to pick them out for my family. And I take this as a sign that I’m not a good daughter/sister/niece because I live so far away.

I don’t think I deserve the Christmas gifts I get. Or the Christmas cards. Because I’m not there for my friends and family in the ways I would like to be.

I feel guilty because I haven’t decorated my house despite having loads of awesome holiday decor sitting in boxes in the closet. I feel guilty because I didn’t take my decorations down until well after New Year’s Day this past year. In a few cases, I just left things up. I had plans to dust some woodwork before I returned my year round decor to the appropriate spots. That never happened.

See how that spiraled out of control? From a kind gesture to self-sabotage in a matter of seconds.

I recognized this as I held the card. The person who sent it was just trying to be nice. And maybe I could appreciate that instead of turning it into an opportunity to be a total jerk to myself.

Because what purpose does feeling guilty serve in this case? None. It doesn’t make me want to send Christmas cards or decorate. It makes me want to withdraw. Ignore the holidays.

And I love the holidays. I’m just trying to figure out how I want to celebrate versus how I think I should celebrate.

At least for this year, this means minimal decor. Luckily, the red string lights are still up in the squirrel alcove. And the holiday cards add a nice festive flair. Thanks to those of you who sent them.

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Fantasy Friday: big houses and normal life

I live in a neighborhood that’s transforming: small houses are being torn down and replaced by bigger ones, second stories are added onto single level homes, and in at least one case, a giant new house was built out from a home reduced to a porch and a front room. Even though these new structures are designed to fit in with the neighborhood, slowly but surely, they’re changing the character of the neighborhood. What’s considered an “average” or “normal” home is now larger and more expensive.

I’ve had an anxious week–one where my fears keep popping to the surface. They debilitate me. I worry I’ll never get anything done because how could I when everything has the potential to go so horribly wrong.

Weeks like this make me wonder if I should do more to try to address my issues. The questions I ask myself are ones I’ve often heard used to gauge mental health: “Is the anxiety disrupting my normal routine? Am I having problems performing normal activities?”

And thinking about these questions makes me even more upset. Because, yes, this week the fears have disrupted my normal activities, but what I consider normal has been shaped by years of anxiety.

Normal for me is carrying hand sanitizer everywhere I go. Normal for me is being afraid to put myself out there for fear of rejection. Normal for me is wanting so much to be safe that the possibility of risk distresses me.

Transformation happens slowly. One giant house at a time. One new fear that burrows into my brain and promises to terrorize me at inconvenient moments.

Normal is a moving target. And sometimes I wish I could get back to a better normal, but I’m not sure how far back I would have to go. So maybe it’s better think of rebuilding. Gentrifying my mind. Because even though it has its problems, its quirky character holds promise.

Fantasy Friday: being thankful for what I have

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m forgoing the usual premise of Fantasy Friday, writing about what I want, and instead, offering gratitude for what I have. I gave a lot of thought to this during the holiday yesterday, and one of the things I’m most grateful for is how many wonderful communities I’ve gotten to be a part of over the course of my life. Presently, this includes the writing, storytelling, and improv communities I’m part of in Atlanta as well as the math community that I’m lucky enough to have entry to via David. From an early age (I’m looking at you, Brunette Sisters), during my time in academia, and up to the present, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by passionate and talented people who continue to inspire me.

And, of course, there’s my family. Yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner, we played bingo, a new holiday tradition for us, but one which my sister was well suited to lead. She’s been calling bingo for around a decade.

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There was a lot of booing, cheering, and well-intentioned jabs at other players. A lot of fun had by all that made me simultaneously sad I live far away from my family and thankful I’m part of this particular family unit.

There are a lot of people to love in this world, and I’m grateful to have met so many individuals I care about. My only wish (okay, here’s the fantasy) is that I had more time to spend with each and every one of them.

Fantasy Friday: inhabiting Stars Hollow

This week’s Fantasy Friday post was inspired by the following question:

If you could live life in the world of a television show, which show would you choose? 

My mind first went to options where I’d get to be someone with a lot of money, like Gossip Girl or Mad Men. However, people on those shows tend to have high stakes problems, which makes for compelling television, but would be stressful to actually live through.

I also considered New Girl because I love the humor of that show and can relate to the late 20s/early 30s feelings of arrested development. Plus, I want to play the drinking game True American.

Ultimately, though, I have to go with the Gilmore Girls. I’ve been rewatching the series recently and reconnecting with the craziness that is life in Stars Hollow. It seems like a place where you can be as weird and quirky as you want to be, and for someone like me, that’s reassuring.

Fantasy Friday: a new home for Dad’s Garage

Since I launched Fantasy Friday, I’ve talked a lot about my own fantasies. This Friday, I want to do something different and draw attention to Dad’s Garage, a theatre company currently running a Kickstarter campaign to buy their dream home, a church in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. While they’ve already met their initial goal of $116,000, they’re now aiming to raise $150,000 (donations up to this amount will be matched by an anonymous donor).

On their Kickstarter page, you’ll find video testimonials from a lot of really cool people in support of their campaign. I thought I would go ahead and share my testimonial here.

I started taking improv classes at Dad’s Garage in January 2013. At the time, I hated getting out of bed in the morning and cried every day about how much I disliked my job. I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future. I enrolled in classes at Dad’s because I’d enjoyed doing improv when I was younger and thought I might be able to reconnect with something that brought me joy.

It worked! Better than expected actually. Dad’s classes not only fulfilled me creatively and connected me with a group of people struggling with the same sort of existential issues I was facing, they also empowered me to take greater control over my life.

See, improv offers the opportunity to role play, to experiment with being different characters and to experience emotions and situations one wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with in “real” life. In playing different people and allowing myself to feel things that scared me, I began to see that I wasn’t defined by the image I’d created for myself–a nerdy, prudish academic. I got more comfortable with the possibility of taking risks and being able to recover if I failed. I got the courage to change my life, pursue happiness, and write math romance novels. And for that, I’ll be forever indebted to Dad’s Garage.

I’m headed over to their Kickstarter page now to pay back some of that debt 🙂

Fantasy Friday: dream Halloweeen

Today’s Fantasy Friday is going to be brief because I’m currently a bit out of my head with illness and stuck at home when I should be headed to Gatlinburg to spend Halloween weekend with my family. I’m super bummed about not being able to take this trip 😦

But today’s holiday lends itself to an easy Fantasy Friday question:

What’s your dream Halloween costume? The one you would wear if money and time were no object.

I think I’m going to go traditional and say Cinderella. I’d love to experience what it’s like to wear a real ball gown, and I’ve always been curious about what exactly it would be like to walk around in glass slippers. (I’d bring a backup pair of shoes just in case.)

Who or what would you be in your Halloween fantasy?