Random Thoughts: The Meditation on Meditation Edition

(First order of business: My good friend @mattieflap came over to take some pictures I could use for my headshot for Listen To Your Mother. She also caught the moment above, and it’s too adorable not to use.)

My new habit/Lenten commitment has been going mostly well. Once I made the time, about 10 minutes a day, and found some good resources, I was rolling with it.

YouTube, of course, has proved invaluable. It took a couple of tries to find two or three guided meditations that didn’t irritate the shit out of me, but I did it.

I also used the free trial of the headspace app, which definitely helped me find a good grounding. While I would love to sign up for the year, I don’t have $80-$120 to spend on it at this time. The 10-day trial, though, was helpful for a beginner such as myself. It helps set up goals and reasonable expectations, and gives one permission to let one’s mind wander. It’s very calming and low-pressure.

That said, my practice has not been perfect.

My head feels really heavy when I meditate. So I try to sit comfortably someplace I can rest my head — the glider in Michael’s room, the couch with pillows behind my head. If I don’t support my head, I notice my neck and shoulders getting tenser and tenser instead of being able to relax.

I have fallen asleep a couple of times. I’m doing this meditation at 9:30-10 o’clock at night, after the children are in bed. Most of the guidelines I have read say to get up and meditate in the morning, but I’m already getting up early almost daily to either clean or exercise.

Plus, meditation works better for me in the evening because I can really let go of the stress of the day. The first 10-14 days I was doing daily meditation, I was sleeping great!

And at some point last week, sleep got derailed again.

Starting last Thursday, I haven’t been sleeping well at all. Waking up two, three times a night. Sometimes staying awake, sometimes falling back to sleep only to wake up again an hour or so later. And it’s not fair. The children aren’t waking me up. Dan is no longer snoring the way he used to (having lost nearly 40 pounds in the past two years — go, Dan!).

I can’t figure it out. Am I too hot or too cold? Am I stressed (ha! trick question, of course I’m stressed)? Should I meditate immediately before bed instead of reading a book or watching Sons of Anarchy? This just sounds like a way to guarantee that I’ll fall asleep before finishing a meditation.

Anyway: Meditation gets a big thumbs up in general, but I need to get back to sleeping through the night. Yet again.

This is one of the meditations I’ve been using. It’s on YouTube.

How do you successfully de-stress and sleep through the night?

Random Thoughts: The Week Without Cigarettes Edition

I have to say, it’s going pretty well.

As far as the cravings, they are not bad at all. I didn’t expect they would be. There have been one or two days this week I’ve thought, “This is the kind of day I would really be looking forward to smoking that cigarette tonight.” But then I know I’m not going to have it, and it doesn’t bother me that much.

I’m not surprised that I don’t miss it more. The last month, I’ve been pretty ambivalent about smoking. Instead of seeing it as something I do for me — which, could it be the stupidest thing I could’ve done for me? — I’ve realized that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was tired of building it into my evening. Beside which, it’s not a very smart habit. I think I mentioned that.

I will say I am having some trouble calling it a night without my nightly habit. I’ve been getting to bed at 11 p.m. or after for a week — not counting my crazy weekend — and that doesn’t bode well for my mornings. And I need my mornings, primarily because I need my morning workouts.

The biggest plus is that I get to hang out with Dan when he gets home. I’m not focused on finishing up my chores so I can go outside for a cigarette. Of course, that may be part of the problem. Instead of finishing up my chores, I hang out with him with he comes home, make sure he has something decent to eat, chat about our days. And *then* clean the kitchen.

My children’s bedtimes have become a problem again, too. I spend an hour — an hour! — getting my children to bed. And that’s after the whole bath/book/lullaby/bed routine. M regularly gets out of bed while I’m trying to read to the girls (we’re working on The Magician’s Nephew, Book 1 in the Chronicles of Narnia). He asks for water, he asks for medicine (for his ears), he asks for cars. It’s ridiculous. I have a 3-year-old with bags under his eyes because he’s not falling asleep until 9:30 p.m. Flora, of course, insists on reading herself to sleep. Kate’s the only one who regularly passes out, and I’m pretty sure that’s just because she’s spent the evening Expending! All! Her! Energy!

Anyhoo, there are a couple of things I am trying to create that nightly nightcap. One is a cocktail, something fun and different, something to try with my husband. I bought him a bottle of green chartreuse for his birthday (yesterday), and I need a couple other little things so I can fool around with mixed drinks a little. (Mom, don’t worry, I’m talking about one cocktail after the children are in bed.) I’ve been directed to a great website (h/t @thejqs) and a book that I am going to put on my Kindle (h/t @unclecrappy and @thejqs).

I am also thinking about trying to keep my nails polished. I polished them over the weekend — because wedding reception! — and I liked the way they looked. M, on the other hand, disliked it immensely that my nails were a deep sparkly red. He declared them icky. Although he did ask later if I could make my nails blue. I told him I could. His response, “Let’s do that, then.”

Finally, I may just try to dig my knitting stuff out of M’s closet, and relearn that. I bet I could knit a pair of socks in an evening! (h/t @katrinaravioli)

What do you do to keep your hands from being idle?

Forty Days and Forever

It’s finally time for me to quit smoking. I’m using Lent as the stopping point. It feels natural to me. I have to give up something for Lent, and I have to quit my one-cigarette a day habit.

So. Here goes.

I know I can quit. It’s just a matter of getting through the physical addition. Mentally, I’m finally ready to stop making excuses (“It’s just one cigarette!” “I don’t smoke every night!” “I need something to help me relax!”)

I am a relatively intelligent person. Smoking cigarettes is not an intelligent thing to do.

With the extremely cold weather, I had already kicked the “end of every day” habit. I didn’t want to go outside in negative wind chills — or even temperatures under 30 degrees — to smoke. So I have been skipping one, two, three days. But then I would find myself looking ahead at the temperatures to see if it would be warm enough for me to smoke.

That was a big red flag. Like, I was planning it. “I can smoke again on Thursday because it’s going to be 25 degrees. That’s warm enough!”

Yeah. Problematic.

I also have to admit: Smoking doesn’t make my stress go away. The stress is there all the time. Smoking was a way to avoid it, say, “I’m not going to deal with today any more.” I can find something else to transition into the end of day, to bed. I don’t need a cigarette to read a book.

Speaking of reading, I am also going to try to read a little bit of the Bible each night. I think I’m going to start with the letters of John.

Are you doing anything for Lent? What’s your favorite fish fry?


I kind of wimped out this Lent, and decided that I would give up chocolate.

Or, at least, I thought I was wimping out.

As is well-known, last year, I gave up Twitter. It was the hardest Lenten sacrifice I have ever committed to (and achieved). The second hardest sacrifice I ever made (and achieved) was the Lent I gave up coffee/caffeine — this was years ago. I had a headache for a week, but, ultimately, I cut way back on my coffee/caffeine intake.

So, this year, chocolate.

I didn’t think it would be so difficult. What that has taught me is that I take chocolate for granted.

I didn’t think about my chocolate intake. If I wanted chocolate, I had chocolate. Even if I didn’t have to have chocolate, if chocolate was there, I had chocolate.

I am suddenly confronting the fact that chocolate plays a bigger role in my life than I suspected.

Unfortunately, at my nephews’ birthday party on Saturday, I was confronted, almost exclusively, by chocolate. Brownies, cookies with M&Ms, chocolate cake, cookies & cream ice cream (homemade! with Oreos!).

I failed. I couldn’t deny myself chocolate. I had a brownie (which was delicious) with cookies & cream ice cream (again: homemade! with Oreos!). It was heavenly.

My father listened to me lament my failings regarding chocolate with some amusement.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he asked.

“What?” I said.

“Chocolate is greater than Twitter,” he concluded.

Amen, Dad. Amen.

Twitter: The Lecture*

* To clarify, not from me to you. From my dad to me. To clarify further, the title is a bit of an inside joke, which I will explain in a different post.

My father tried to leave a comment on my blog regarding my Lenten Twitter fast. And my blog ate his comment. (Good blog.) (Just kidding, dad!)

As I got to drive him to the airport the other day, though, he was able to deliver his comment in person.

To paraphrase:

One of the reasons we Catholics give up something for Lent is so that we can shift our resources to a more worthy area. For example, if one gives up chocolate or the daily Starbucks concoction, one takes the money one used to spend on it, and gives it to charity.

In terms of giving up Twitter, what I am gaining (aside from perspective) is TIME.

My dad shared his ideas with me as far as what I could do with the time I have not being on Twitter.

1. Spending extra time in prayer. I wish I could say that of course of I am doing this. But instead of attending Mass more often or even reading my Bible, I’m probably dedicating more effort into getting and keeping my house clean. What’s that old cliche? “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”? So, uh, I’m in the ballpark.

2. Spending quality time with Dan. This is an effort that is being made both ways. Dan and I picked up the book Love Dare. And we are working our way through it over Lent.

I always thought Dan and I had a pretty good marriage — I still think that. But just because it’s “pretty good” doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. We both have areas in which we need to improve. Giving up Twitter has certainly given me the time to reconnect with Dan, and the Love Dare has given us both a vehicle to use for that reconnection. We don’t spend every night having deep conversations or anything like that, but we are working together more, and talking more, and just spending more time together. It’s really nice.

3. Spending more time with my children — interactive time, not just sitting in the same room with them. This is a weakness of mine in general, I admit. The computer and Twitter have less to do with it than my own personality. It’s an area in which I needed to improve in any case, and since I’ve got all this time on my hands, I figure no time like the present.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a good mom. I love my girls to pieces. But I have to give them more of myself instead of just caring for them — the bathing, the feeding, the clothing. I have to talk to them and listen to them and play with them more. I have to laugh with them more. They are growing up fast. Granted, it’s difficult (especially that laughing part) when I’m dealing with a controlling 3-year-old who doesn’t want to poop on the potty.

But that’s just the thing: Kate needs me so hard right now. I don’t know how else to put it. She creeps into our bed at 5 a.m. not because of ear aches or nightmares, but because that’s where I am. She fights us for control of everything not because she actually wants it, but because she needs to push to her boundaries to see where we push back. When I read this post over at Mom 101 recently, it made me think of Kate. Not because she’s so much like Sage (although I do see similarities) but because of the contrast of my two girls — yet another post for another day.

For now, I have to be available to respond to Kate’s needs (and Flora’s, too, of course, although at 5, she is quietly independent and more willing to explore her own space). Her need for control, her need for cuddles, her need for me. It’s hard to be available when I’m tweeting. I have to fight that urge to run to the computer and tell about the latest cute thing (or crazy-making thing) that my girls have done. I have to save it up for a blog post; I have to Twitter in the spaces between my girls’ time — after they go to bed, for example, or during “quiet time”.

And even then, I’ll have to limit Twitter. It’s easy for me to spend an hour on there and not get the laundry folded.

My dad had a fourth suggestion for this Twitter-free time, but it’s completely escaped me. Maybe he’ll try to leave it in the comments again.

What Twitter is Good For II

Can someone let @pghrugbyangel I need to talk to her? KTHXBAI.

Seriously, I use the DM feature of Twitter quite a bit. I DM’ed the above tweep to see if she can babysit for me next Friday. And then I quit Twitter, and I haven’t emailed her yet. Ooops.

Oh, DM = Direct Message. It’s kind of Twitter’s IM feature. (Again, for my dad: IM = instant messaging, akin to chat. It’s like instant e-mails, back and forth. Oh, never mind.)

So every now and again, I DM someone. Do they want some gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough (part of my daughters’ daycare fundraiser)? What time were we going to meet? Can you babysit for me on Friday, at 6 p.m.?

I don’t have to remember e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers. (How lazy is THAT?) I don’t have to know their last name, even! (Insert your own inappropriate joke here.)

But now I have to go all the way into my e-mail, find an address, put a subject line in, type a message, and send it. Instead of the two-step method that is Twitter.

So, not only has my attention span been shortened, but I can’t even be bothered to e-mail (or, even more medieval, call) someone.

How pathetic is that?

Plus there’s the whole waiting for them to e-mail or call back thing. Twitter: another sign of the culture of immediate gratification.

What Twitter is Good For I

I had a question regarding punctuation, and, because I follow a lot of writers (as well as punctuation/grammar geeks) on Twitter (and some of them follow me back), I thought I would post it there.

Nothing doing.

So I emailed a couple of people and looked around online. I sent a query to the Chicago Manual of Style Online. (They were against what the publisher wanted to do, but acknowledged that it is common.) (Aprostrophes in years, if you want to know: 1950’s, 1800’s — not possessive, plural. CMoS says 1950s, 1880s. I concur.)

This is one of the ways I use Twitter, though. Informal polling (where should I eat downtown?), grammar/usage questions, even attempting to get some empathy/sympathy (regarding anything: my husband hogging the remote, potty training issues with my 3yo, snOMG). And it works for me that way, too.

Waiting for feedback from my blog or emails takes so long! /whine

Again, I am sensing a problem.

I’m only two days into this. I have a lot to think (and write) about.