One Summer, Three Life Changes

austin, blogging, daily life, family, motherhood

I had every intention of consistent blog posting after Henry’s birth and I probably could have managed it. For whatever reason, I have been gifted with the ability of strong habit maintenance whenever life gets stressful. Not that Henry has been too stressful — I have been lucky to have for my first child a chill baby, but you know what I mean. But add on to that a cross-country move and preparing to start a new job, and well — life has been, well, rather full at the moment.

joscoffee

Doing the touristy Jo’s Coffee picture. 

We’ve been in Leander for two and a half weeks. Our mattress is still on the floor. Henry is still sleeping in the pack and play. The bookshelves finally went up this week (priorities!) and about half of our belongings are still in boxes in the garage. We still have not found a CrossFit gym. My runs are still more walks than runs. And mainly I feel like I am starting completely over and things still just do not fit (especially my pants!).

happyhenry

Henry, aggressively happy amidst the detritus of unpacking. 

Still — the kitchen is unpacked. I did my first week of meal prep for dinner and lunch this week, trying to ensure good habits before the school year begins. Henry and I went for our first “run” together yesterday. We managed to make it to mass downtown on Sunday, even if we failed to find parking afterwards to walk the boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake. I am loving the H-E-B’s (not Heb’s!) curbside pick-up for grocery shopping — definitely makes life much easier. I love planning for class. I love not having the pressure to write a dissertation anymore.

I told Bruno I was not sure I wanted to continue with this blog anymore. I was not sure I had the time or will have the time when the school year begins. When it comes to living here, when it comes to life now, I want to start how I plan to continue — whether that is with running, food prep, bedtime routines with Henry. For the past few weeks, I was not sure that blogging had a place in that “continue” part.

Bruno suggested that I try once a week, explaining I did not want to waste all the writing, all the posts I have already put out here on the blog. And so, taking his suggestion, I will try to keep at it, once a week.

I need to remember that I am in a transition period right now. As things start to settle, a routine will develop. Life eventually will develop some normalcy, some rhythm. Living in the Austin-area, full-time teaching, and most importantly, being a mom are still all so new to me. Eventually they will not be so new. Eventually Henry will sleep through the night. Eventually I will be able to run longer than four minutes at a time and will feel confident on my bike again. Eventually this place will be home.

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Saturday

daily life, motherhood, pregnancy

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

I suppose, being 38 weeks pregnant, I do not have many quiet Saturdays left. I have had low-grade impatience for the baby to arrive beginning this month, but this past weekend I had a nice reminder to enjoy this time of waiting.

I think it began with the fact I actually had a good night’s sleep. Thank goodness, for Benadryl. I did not wake up once and woke up at around 6:30ish in the morning — which is late for me. Planning on going to my small group meeting in the morning, I read the Gospel for the week and some Harry Potter (what else, ha!) before eating breakfast, hopping in the shower, and heading to the church for my meeting. After my small group, I sat at the church for Eucharistic adoration for about an hour, reading Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.

I walked to Jilly Beans’ Coffee Shop and bought a coffee and cinnamon roll. I sat by myself and just read for about an hour or so. I’m not the type of person to let little moments pass me by and I’m grateful. While reading, I realized that very soon not every Saturday morning would be able to look as calm or peaceful. Even without a baby, not every Saturday goes according to plan. I think I very easily get sucked down the social media/internet rabbit hole and before you know it, I’ve had three cups of coffee and while I’ve been scrolling like crazy, I feel tired, stressed, and frankly meaningless.

Bruno picked me up and we had a quick lunch at home before going on a two mile walk. I hoped I would go into labor. I did not go into labor. Instead, my feet and what is left of my ankles swelled up like melons. I can barely fit in my shoes. It was hot out, so we joked we were training for living in Texas. The next several hours were spent sitting on our front porch reading. After that — we ate dinner and watched some HBO, before an early bed time of around 9ish.

It really does not seem like much. Dinner was left overs. We watched Chernobyl which was probably not the best choice for right before bed. Most of my reading was for work (though very enjoyable — I highly recommend) — I read Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People. Walking two miles is not an impressive work out and a far cry from my Saturday long runs (how I miss thee!). On the surface, the day does not seem special at all.

But, even though I’m impatient for baby, I’m grateful for these last few quiet Saturdays. I’m grateful for these last few walks with just Bruno and myself. Even as the the weeks until baby’s arrival turn into days, I’m going to take advantage that the quiet time I have: read more, write more, walk more and enjoy the calm, not before the storm, but before the creation of a new normal, with new Saturday routines, and a brand new person in the mix.

Life in Limbo

daily life, pregnancy

One of the frequent questions I keep getting asked now that I’m done is, “How is post-dissertation life?” What is life like now that I no longer have a dissertation hanging over my head? I think it took to April to even get used to the idea that I no longer have a big project to work on. I wish I could say I was working on multiple projects, getting things done, but aside for resubmitting a journal article, my academic self has been taking a much needed break.

But, as I’m sure I have mentioned, I am not good at taking breaks. I like to find projects for myself. I like having long-term, endurance-style things to work on like my dissertation or training for a race — neither of which I can do right now. I am less than six weeks away from the baby’s due date. We’re moving to Texas around six weeks after that. Two weeks after that we start our jobs. Basically, all I really think I am doing is waiting for whatever happens next.

And, as Tom Petty once wisely sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I’m a type-A planner, but how do you plan with the next big thing when you have no idea what the next big thing will actually look like? As much as I can “plan” for the baby and the massive life-changes created by being a parent and a full-time job, I really have no idea what it will be like, so I feel stuck in a kind of limbo.

March was kind of a “lost month,” but here is how I am trying to handle all the unknowns right now.

Administrative projects. So no big academic projects, but I am trying to do a lot of things for “future Ali.” Currently, I have been spending quality time with the scanner. I have around three boxes of class notes to go through. Because they are all in notebook paper, I can’t do it quickly, but have to do one side at a time. It is dull work, but I know that come mid-July I’ll be glad to have three less boxes to pack and having all my notes and papers digitized in my Dropbox and Evernote should surely be the gift that keeps on giving. I’m doing the same with downsizing my kitchen, clothes, and books. What will I be really happy that come July I  don’t have to do?

Taking advantage of not having a real schedule. I have not woke up to an alarm since February. I have been sleeping until 7-7:30am most mornings. For an early riser – sometimes between 4-5:00am – this has been some consistent sleeping in for me. Mornings are incredibly slow as I try to do some reading and actually take the time to clean the kitchen post-breakfast. I have had plenty of mornings recently where I have been in my pj’s sitting on the couch with a book until CrossFit at noon. I feel lazy, but I am trying to enjoy that I can do this while I can.

Move. I don’t mean preparing to move, but I mean not being sedentary. This one is not that hard, because I typically look forward to going to CrossFit. But as I get bigger and grow more uncomfortable, my enthusiasm levels tend to waver. For example — just today I had a very “what’s the point? I don’t have any big goals, so why even bother” moment. These last few weeks are a reminder that showing up is the goal, even if I cannot PR or go fast or feel like a walrus half the time. It may not seem to make a difference now, but after baby, after recovery, I’ll be glad I put in this time. Improvements are being made even if I cannot tell right now.

And that is basically it. Without a big project, I feel kind of aimless, but if I look at this as a time of preparation, it feels much better. It makes the waiting not only bearable, but enjoyable. I keep trying to remind myself that when I’m busy with baby and teaching, I’ll be really glad I was able to enjoy this mental break.

Have you ever had a “limbo” period in life? How did you handle it? Are you someone who prefers to have big projects and busy days?

 

 

 

 

Morbid Conversations

daily life, death, dissertation

Our “office” has been the sunroom in my parents’ home today. I worked on editing an article for a professor and did some reading. We walked up to the local pizza place at noon to meet up with some of my mom’s family who were gathering because a relative’s in-laws from Taiwan were in town. It has not been the most productive day, but I think being away from campus has been good for my anxiety.

Anyway, you know the rules in conversation: avoid politics, money, sex. You know you are close with someone when all those taboo topics are discussed. You know you are really close with someone when you discuss the topic that is not even on that list: death.

You know you are comfortable with someone when, as if discussing the purchasing of curtains you can say, “If it happens sooner, I would want to be buried here, but if later and we have a family, a home, an established foundation somewhere, then I would want to be buried there.” And then, the person, in this case, my husband, responds back that he would like a mausoleum because that way none of our kids have to worry about where they’ll be buried (dream big, honey). Then we went back to our work. I went back to editing. Bruno back to writing his dissertation.

Maybe we are unusual, but brief conversations like this happen. I mean not all the time. I can be macabre (once, for a twelve hour drive to Connecticut we only listened to Lore — did not sleep so well that night!), but Bruno not so much. Yet, I think it is normal and probably one of the more healthier tendencies I have: knowing this can’t go on forever.

I think about it when I am wasting time (and I mean wasting time, not just relaxing, not doing something productive). Do I really want to be eighty and have devoted most of my life to Mark Zuckerberg-created methods of socialization? Do I really want to talk about that chick I barely know just because of some picture she posted on facebook? Do I really want to waste the last few years of my twenties spending Saturday mornings catching up on sleep (being hungover) or creating something, being someone, giving to someone?

I do not have a memento mori and while I do think the avoidance of death is unhealthy, being fixated on it is equally so. But I think these occasional morbid conversations, if they are even really all that morbid, help me maintain quality in life, even if quantity (in the grand scheme of history) is short.

xo, Ali

 

 

Thoughts on a Hometown

daily life, dissertation, graduate school

We are back in my hometown for the next two weeks. Even though I think I know this area pretty well, things have changed since I left for college back in 2008. Bruno and I decided to do some exploring and ended up at a new (at least new to me) coffee shop that a reviewer claimed had “the best chai tea latte in all of Ohio.” I have not had every chai tea latte in Ohio, but it is the best chai tea latte I’ve had.

I was voted most likely to never come back when I graduated from high school. I don’t have the yearbook for that year — 18 year old Ali was “too cool” for that — but there’s a picture of me in a yearbook rolling a suitcase with my superlative written underneath. I was really proud of that superlative at the time, but in hindsight I suspect it had more to do with my willingness to hate the “provincialism” of the area. I’m not proud of that.

Hometowns are complicated places. Not everyone really has one. I’m talking about the type of place where everyone knows everyone. Your teachers taught not only your siblings, but also your parents, your aunts and uncles, and all your cousins. When you tell someone your last name, they say “you must be this and that” because your last name means something to people. Its the type of place where a stranger says “you look/act so much like your mom/dad” because, yes, they know them. I do not remember my graduating class number, but I do not think it was over seventy. I knew most of them since kindergarten. That can be stifling. It was stifling.

I spent much of my life wanting to escape. And yet, strangely, it is still a place I refer to as “home.” As in, “I’m going home this weekend” or “I’m back home for the next two weeks.” And while I do not want to move back (hard to imagine any political theory jobs popping up around here!) it is no longer a place I want to escape.

Part of it is because I see how much this place made me. I have a college friend that joked about me that you can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl. This is probably true. I cannot imagine knowing how to work hard on my dissertation if I had never worked on a dairy farm. The high school experiences — getting busted by the cops for having a football party when I was a sophomore, regularly skipping class, regularly partying (often in barns and cornfields) in some ways led me to run arms wide open into discipline and routine. But they also made me empathetic when other people mess up. I get it. I was there in high school. Time spent working in the local factory (and my father) gave me a blue collar sense of humor and I know that. For every delicious foodie meal I’ll ever have, I’ll never be too stuck up for the local greasy bar pizza.

When I’m here I feel reconnected with the important things — faith and family. While the anxieties of dissertation writing, planning to teach my very first college class, the really shoddy academic job market never really truly leave, they seem like lesser problems. The important thing is to make sure I spend time with my younger, still in elementary, middle, and junior high school sisters. The important thing is to make sure I stop by and see one of my best friends who just had her fourth baby and let her know she is a total bad ass for becoming a mother again. It is watching my nephews for a week because their babysitter is on vacation. I’m not too busy for loving people when I’m home.

While we were driving to this coffee shop, I told Bruno, “I just feel so relaxed.” We were driving along the country roads listening to the John Denver song of the same name. I’ve been working hard and getting back on a routine. The fourth chapter is swinging along. This was not the relaxed state of doing nothing on a beach. It feels like the relaxation of having your priorities straight. Time spent in a  hometown can do that for you.

xo, Ali

 

What I’m Loving Lately

books, daily life, dissertation, graduate school

I’ve been making some changes lately, swapping coffee for tea (most of the time) and my lunch-time sandwich for a lunch-salad. My work outs are different. I’m only running three times a week, with swimming, biking, and CrossFit thrown in. I quit working at home and now try to make it to the library every single day. I bought a new planner that I’ve loving. I’m trying to be consistent at practicing reading/speaking French again. Life is good.

Here are some things I’m loving right now.

Results tea from Tea Forte. Once upon a time, before I got hooked on coffee I was a real tea junkie. I even had a blog called “SocraTeas” because I was not a coffee person…yet. Then I hit that liquid ambition hard. With my stomach problems, I decided to mostly give it up, even though I still think and will forever think coffee is like a warm hug in a mug. I was drinking some rooibos tea from Kroger’s, and that was ok, but I figured if this was going to stick I would need to bring out the big guns. Results is delicious. I do not miss coffee at all when I drink it. It doesn’t seem to ever get boring (like rooibos) and I think it will be my standard morning drink for awhile.

RomWod. You might have noticed this addition to my workouts the last couple of weeks. I want to work on mobility, but sometimes I just need someone to tell me what to do for the day. These videos are usually only 20 minutes (aside for Thursdays) and they are effective. Bruno and I usually do them post-dinner when we are both super sore from our work outs and they usually help get me into the mindset of “ahh, the day is over.”

Working on campus. I am struggling with distraction lately. Being home has made it easier for me to say “ah, well I’ll just take the day off” and then I’ll sit on the couch on read…not Rousseau and not anything to do with an Introduction to the Constitution class. We decided we were going to start going to campus in May and for the most part it has worked out. I’m still struggling with desperately wanting to use the internet (I’ve already broke my goals to avoid social media during the week) and I suspect I still waste a lot of time internet surfing, but I definitely have gotten probably more done in the last two weeks than I normally do. So it is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

Soup for breakfast. So here is something strange. When I was having all my problems back in March and April I was eating a really restrictive diet and a lot of bone broth. I started having soup for breakfast because I could not eat anything else, usually ground beef, bone broth, green beans, and plenty of olive oil. I’m still doing it, although I’ve been adding more veggies and the ground beef is grass fed, local, and (my favorite) raised stress free. This week is it ground beef, bone broth, carrots, turnips, and green beans. Its good and I feel satiated the rest of the morning.

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaWhat I consider a relative miracle, Bruno and I managed to buy around 10 brand new, some hard cover books for less than $100 over the weekend. We bought them at some bargain book place and it was heaven. I was not expecting to find much, but I wanted everything. This book has been on my to-do read list for awhile. I’m not a Twilight person, but I love Dracula and I read Anne Rice in high school, so you could say I like the vampire stories. This book is so beautifully written, that I do not think one would even need to be a fan of horror to love this book. Sidenote: it explains academic life pretty well. There are some great lines about dissertation-writing.

Anything you are loving lately?

xo, Ali

 

The One-Step Over-Sleeping Plan

daily life

The insomnia blues were playing again this week. Late Sunday night, I gave into the Nyquil because I just wanted to sleep. Even though I slept (yay!), I ended up sleeping in late (boo!), and lo! the plan for Monday’s schedule was abandoned.

I suspect I am not the only person who deals with this, whether it is the insomnia or the oversleeping. Normally I am a 4am morning person, so waking up at 8am sets my teeth on edge, heart-racing, and the mind-spiral a-going. Totally rational, right?

This is a do as I say and a not as I do advice for when your sleep does not go as planned. Catastrophe planning at its finest, this plan aims to end your late-waking worries and fears of failure and thoughts of “I’m sure this never happens to ‘insert prominent scholar here’!” Moreover, it only has one step.

Do your normal morning routine. 

Now I admit, I live a pretty flexible life. There is nowhere I technically have to be, nowhere I absolutely have to show up. It is 11:10am as I write this and I am still rocking polka-dot pajama pants and a neon green marathon t-shirt.

But, what I think is especially important is not starting off the morning in that panic-stricken-I-have-so-much-to-do-I-just-lost-four-hours spiral that doing something normal, even if it is shortened, even if the best you can do is just sit with your coffee for ten minutes. Just do it.

Time is a luxury and sitting there, even if for a bit is a reminder that even if the day is starting late, even if it is not going the way you plan, you have it. As Bruno kept telling me, “You still have all the rest of the day.” Or even in the wise words of Alexandra Franzen, “Today is not over yet.”

I always find that if I do a full-dive into the day, without a little quiet time for myself, nothing I do (even if I do manage not to just write the day off) is done with much focus or even, with much enjoyment. The day feels off. The work feels off. Doing the standard morning routine makes things feel much better, or rather, just normal. Sure, less gets done, but at least I can be sure it gets done well.

xo, Ali

 

 

Blitzkrieg (Bop!) Dissertation Catch-Up

daily life, dissertation, graduate school, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I hate feeling behind. We have only two more days until the Ides of March (beware!) and I am already five days behind my writing schedule, not to mention my plans for reading too. I blame last week. But I struggled with keeping up with my schedule in February too and I know I do not expect too much of myself — quality over quantity.

I’m at that point in chapter writing where it isn’t new anymore. And the more time that passes the more anxious I am beginning to feel. I have fifty-four pages of writing, but none of it feels like it coming together. I’m very close to finishing the second draft (assuming the chapter will end up around sixty pages), but I’m afraid I lost the thesis thread. I just want to get it done and turn in it so I can have that day or two of “ah.”

So with all that going on, I went to noon mass and adoration today. And while I entered with a lot of dissertation anxiety, I left with a plan. One might call it divine inspiration.

I have am declaring all-out war on the third chapter. This is a blitzkrieg. Like my “let’s just do this” weekend miles, so I could get my tenth week of consistent running in, I’m writing until I’m caught up. That is, by March 15, I not only want that second draft done, but I went to be onto the third.

This chapter will be turned in by the end of the month. And hopefully it will be even decent too.

Now take it, Dee Dee! Hey ho, let’s go!

xo, Ali

 

Lenten Ulterior Motives

daily life

“And after all, there is not a young girl who, to have a more slender figure or to save what is needed to buy fine clothes, would not renounce pleasure more gaily than the rest do to observe the precepts of the church.” — Pierre Bayle on Lenten fasting, Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet

I sent this quote to Bruno today with “#savage.” Yes, I’m basically still a teenage girl.

The more things stay the same, the more things stay the same. I am totally guilty of giving up desserts and sugar to lose a few extra pounds — the extra pounds stayed — I’ve never been good at Lenten fasts. For one, I love fish, seafood, vegetarian dishes. I used to get excited around Lenten season every year because of the delicious seafood dishes my mom would make on Fridays. I think I got the opposite impression of Lent as a time of good eating, not necessarily fasting.

Now I usually give up Facebook and Instagram. My social media addiction by spring is rampant, but of course, even this other ends. I mean, it is good for productivity, am I right? And also — general, over-all happiness. But because I think I’ll eventually give up facebook and Instagram, for good, for good someday, I opted this year for something else.

This year I’m giving up alcohol. Strangely enough, this one ended up being in fashion among my fellow Catholic grad students. That Thursday, I went to a friend’s and all of us girls had given up alcohol. But funny enough, as Bayle claimed, we still had different reasons for doing so, mostly having to do with health.

I’m no different. With my struggles with insomnia and anxiety, I have been trying really hard to figure out what can make it better. These 40 days are not just a Lenten fast, but an experiment to see if the anxiety improves sans-booze. It also gives me a built-in excuse to explain why I’m not drinking that doesn’t make me feel like a buzz-kill (“So you see I have intense anxiety and sometimes I can’t sleep at night…”).

Last night was one week. I still feel anxious, but have yet to have a full-fledged panic attack. And I still have had some sleep struggles, but I am hoping these struggles will simmer down as time goes by. So yes, as Bayle says, I’m observing the precepts of the church, but I still have my Lenten ulterior motives.

I’ll cheers my La Croix to that!

xo, Ali

 

Insomnia Blues

daily life

I usually keep the hours of 9 – 4, that is, sleeping hours. I like going to bed early so I can wake early. But over the past few months my insomnia has increased. I know when I am going to have a hard time sleeping the moment I lie down in bed. I will be tired, ready to sleep, and relieved when the lights go off. And then? Thump, thump, thump. My heart starts racing.

I might start to fall asleep and then, once again thump, thump, THUMP! I am guilty of, at this moment, turning to Nyquil. But even this has proven to be, in the long-term, an ineffective aid. I took a double dose of Nyquil (don’t try this at home kids!) Sunday night and was still up until about one, heart racing. Then, to top it off, I typically have a Nyquil hangover the next day, brain fog, heaviness, a sort of dull lethargy.

The frustrating part of all this is that it is throwing off my consistency. Sunday night I made a schedule for every day this week because I was feeling behind. I wanted to feel in control. I wanted to have a plan. And of course, life laughs right back at me, because instead of waking up at 4, I woke up 4 hours later with a Nyquil-induced brain fog. And sure, I was able to get most things done. I even made a lemon drizzle cake. BUT, I hate that feeling of not being at 100 percent.

Last night I fell asleep fine and then hello 2 a.m.! I laid in bed for an hour and then just gave up, made myself some coffee, and plopped myself on the couch for the morning routine. I will be exhausted later. And then will repeat the cycle probably again tonight.

I also try to do the things. I do not drink coffee after lunch. I take magnesium before bed. For Lent, I have given up alcohol, as penance, but also to see if it helps my sleep and anxiety. But then again, I am also guilty of doing all the wrong things too, mainly in that I love my screen time. The television is in the bedroom. I check my phone (Instagram!) frequently before bed. I am not doing all I could.

Tonight I am going to try to quit looking at my phone after seven. I will try not to fall into the routine of Hulu-n-chill (Happy Endings!) before bed. And hopefully, tonight, I will sleep, because I do not think I can stand another day of this.

xo, Ali