52 Weeks, 52 resolutions in my humble quest to be a better wife, mother, friend, survivor

Sunscreen and other stuff February 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 9:28 pm

The sunscreen week went well.  Actually, I have been wear ing it for almost two weeks now.  I am about a week behind on resolutions and posts so this week I am going to take on two to catch up.  After reviewing my list of resolutions I have decided on practice an act of kindness every day and write every day.  Somehow those two things just seem to go together don’t they?  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going for a long walk with a very good friend.  The only nice thing I can think of that I did yesterday was stop to take a picture for a tourist posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Hardly Mother Theresa but it is a start.  Now that the task is in my consciousness I hope to improve upon it.  I already have an idea for today.  Time to go do it.



This belongs with my Week 4 resolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 9:19 pm

The issue that comes up repeatedly when attempting to declutter  ones belongings is what if I need this one day?  This is the impulse that drives me to have plastic storage bins full of storage bins.  I kid you not, I have storage for my storage.  The drive to save ourselves from the negative consequences of needing something that we previously possessed but no longer possess makes us do some wacky things, like store storage.  I am trying to break out of this cycle by employing some mental tricks and rewards.  The truth is that the amount of extra stuff we hold on to just in case we need it someday comes at a cost.  There is time spent rummaging through items trying to find the thing we need.  Also, searching items out for some people ends up being so burdensome in the end they just buy another of whatever it is they need.  My Daddy is a case study in this phenomenon.  I believe he owned approximately twenty-four hammers when they sold our childhood home.  So there is an argument to be made for simply having less stuff around.

I tell myself that if something costs less than $20 to replace and I haven’t used it over the last year it is probably not worth keeping.   The time and energy wasted in keeping and storing the item is just not worth it.  Over the years, with the addition of children the amount allowable to replace items has grown.  The truth is, I allow the replacement cost to grow because I can count on one hand the number of things I have passed on only to have to repurchase it in some form.  Most of the foreseeable uses for things just don’t materialize and if they do there are other ways to fill the need.  Renting, borrowing from friends, and using another similar item are all ways I have filled the “stuff” gap in the past with pretty good success.

Of course, I am still a belt and suspenders sort of girl so I always keep a backup plan.  In this case it is an account.  Many of you know that I am a big fan of multiple savings accounts.  It helps me compartmentalize life and deal with unique problems such as this one.  Part of the proceeds from selling some of the stuff we no longer need will go into a just in case fund.  If I happen to get rid of something that it turns out we need later I can tap that to pay for it.  It really gives me the freedom to feel like I can err on the side of getting rid of things.

Cleaning out the clutter benefits everyone.  There is less to maintain, fewer choices to make, less to clean, less to break.  With so much less stuff our lives somehow seem fuller.  I guess sometimes less really is more.


Week 5: Wear sunscreen every day February 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:58 am

This is a pretty straightforward resolution this week.  I felt I needed a little breathing room after last week’s marathon decluttering sessions.   Some of my resolutions by their very nature, need to be completed in a week.  Finishing every project before starting another would soon drive everyone in my life including myself batty.  This week’s task falls into the class of resolutions that I call keepers.  That is, I would love to continue to do them beyond my one week frenzy because they are just good ideas.  This joins flossing already in that category.  If I don’t do them every day beyond my week I won’t beat myself up for it but I will make an earnest effort to continue.

Beyond the vanity of aging well,  sunscreen has a life-saving role. My life has been personally touched by skin cancer in the form of my dear friend Darin.  I’ve known Darin and his twin Karin since we were in the 5th grade.  I love them both immensely so when I got a call that Darin had an ugly mole on his stomach that looked like melanoma I thought I was going to choke.  That call came about two months before the one that told me that I too had cancer.  That was a really tough year.  Thankfully, Darin continues to well.  He had a major surgical procedure to remove the cancer and many lymph nodes which took a while to recover from but now he is back to being a husband and father to his two kids 7 and 5.

I hope you all will join me this week in wearing sunscreen and spreading awareness to young people about the dangers of skin cancer.  In honor of Darin, whose birthday is this week, let’s lay it on thick.


Week 4: The upside of downsizing January 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:42 pm

Our family has moved many times over the last decade.  Mostly it was for work, sometimes it was for financial benefit, and the last time it was to preserve our sanity. Moving is usually a wonderful opportunity to weed out the unneccessary objects that seem to cling to a growing family like moss.  I love the ritual of cleaning out drawers and closets and shedding the excess.   Over the years we have lived in some widely varying houses.  They have ranged in size from 1100-2900 square feet and have been in vastly different climates.  This somewhat nomadic lifestyle has provided us with lots of opportunities to shed but also lots of reasons to accumulate new things. Now that we have settled in to a more permanent home I am ready to do some serious shedding.

Our new home is considerably smaller than the last two homes and so space is at a premium.  Usually, I would attempt to slim down our belongings prior to moving. This time that was not an option.   We moved on December 26th.  The decision to move was made on December 21st.  There simply wasn’t time.  This brings me to this week’s resolution.  I want to collect and dispose of  the excess.  I am only attempting to get the low-lying fruit this week.  I may not get every drawer or even look at the over stuffed shed out back but I want to get the big items and the easy ones.

My guidelines are simple.  Instead of trying to find things to toss, I will focus on keeping what I love and get rid of what’s left. I find this is the easiest way to decide what to get rid of.  If I look at my sweaters as a whole, I can think of a place to wear all of them, even the ones I don’t love.  This makes me feel guilty or wasteful to consider getting rid of any.  After all, they are all useful in their own way.  Who wants to feel wasteful? If I am being honest with myself however, there are only a handful of sweaters that I love.  The ones I reach for first and make me feel slender and pretty.  Those I keep.  The rest I shed.  The great thing about this approach is that you can apply it to lots of things.  The children and I dumped out all of stuffed animals they have.  The pile was embarrassingly huge.  They like all of them but there are some that are beloved friends and some that are just nice new stuffed animals.  The friends are kept and the others passed.  Now instead of a heaping pile that no one plays with, the beloved ones are rotated out more and enjoyed more.  That is one of the beauties of the system.  Sure you are getting rid of some of your things but everything you love remains.  At the end of the week, the home will hopefully have less stuff and more treasures.  When you weed out the fillers the good stuff is easier to spot.  The same goes for board games and dishes, linens and toiletries.  Sure I could probably use lots of the items in the donate pile but I don’t love any of them. A small thoughtful space full of the things the family loves is what I am seeking this week.


The blessings of a closed mouth January 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 4:41 pm

Well what do you know, I learned something this weekend.  It turns out my husband is a pretty smart guy. I did know that before this past weekend but I was reminded or reawakened to it again.

For those of you who know our family you understand the particular challenges life has presented over the past year.  Our youngest daughter Olivia was diagnosed with a brain cancer at age two this past summer.  Though I feel that we successfully navigated her through the treatment, it definitely left its scars on the family.  We are all best described as fragile.  Sometimes I am surprised by how easily I can be thrown off course by the slightest inconvenience.  This past weekend Rob and I had planned to go away for a couple of nights to recharge and just be with each other.  As the weekend approached it became obvious that work would not allow us to go for two nights so we reconfigured and adapted our plans.  I was still planning on having a great dinner in the city on Friday and leaving early Saturday morning before the kids woke up to avoid having to parent anyone and avoid any potential sabotage.  Friday night was lovely.  We walked into town through the pouring rain and had a soaking wet but lovely Italian meal.  The bonus of walking allowed us to indulge in a great bottle of red and we came home really happy.  The dripping came shortly after my head hit the pillow.  The ceiling in the hall was leaking water in two spots.  Bummer.  The next mornings plans were appropriately delayed to assess and temporize the leaking roof problem.  I did not handle this well at all. At one point I was sobbing in the bathroom and feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t going to get away.  I was shocked at how mentally unprepared I was to do anything but indulge myself this weekend.  The notion of making lunch and dinner for the family instead of eating our way through Point Reyes was simply overwhelming.  Fragile, that is the word.

Rob’s approach was slightly different.  Though he recognized the significance of the leak he could see life beyond it.  He made calls and arrangements while I sobbed in the shower and within a few hours of our original plan we were heading north on highway 1.  Instead of dragging him down into my feeling sorry for myself abyss, I just listened to his plan and followed.  The rest of the weekend went pretty much the same way.  It was wonderful, restful, and useful.

Sometimes listening, really listening, to others helps you to better solve their problems.  Sometimes, it helps you solve your own.



Week 3: Shut your mouth and open your heart January 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 7:40 pm

This week’s resolution is to do less talking and more listening.  I like to listen to people.  I would even venture to say I am a good listener.  Has anyone noticed how I always start these resolutions by complimenting myself on how good I already am?  I guess I am humble like that.  Anyhoo, I do like to listen to people tell me all about their problems.  The problem is that then I like to try to fix them.  I love giving advice.  This could also stem from my over-inflated sense of self.  I think I give great advice and sometimes I even do.  Though sometimes in my rush to offer my fix, I don’t really take the time to listen and acknowledge the issue in the first place.  Classically, this happens with my husband.  I am super and telling him how to fix his problems.  So super that sometimes, he doesn’t even get to finish explaining the problem.  I fix the implied and unspoken problems even.  You can imagine how un-annoying that is!    This week though, I just aim to listen to people and make them feel heard.  No fixes, just open ears is what I offer this week.  I may just even learn something I didn’t already know myself.



Kickin butt and takin names January 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:14 pm

was the title of the draft post I started two days ago.  Of course I didn’t finish it.  Yesterday the post could have been more appropriately titled getting my butt kicked and giving out my name to everybody.  It was tough.

I hit my stride during the week and I felt like I was accomplishing a lot.  I got a medicine cabinet assembled and hung all in one day.  I registered Jack for kindergarten and completed a number of other small but satisfying tasks.  Yesterday, though I hit a wall.  I just couldn’t seem to get anything done and the list of tasks seemed to grow by the minute.

This morning I think I have some insight into why yesterday seemed so hard and why this task in general seemed so difficult.  To say that sometimes I bite off more than I can chew is an understatement.  I am a big fan of overdoing it.  It is generally a good thing.  I constantly challenge myself and often rise to the occasion.  Sometimes though, too much is simply too much.  Did I really have to make the pumpkin bread yesterday morning along with the chili?  When life seemed to be spiraling out of control should I have persisted with all my little goals or should I have jettisoned some of the more useless ones to keep the bigger priorities.  In the end, the one thing I didn’t get to do, a long walk with my friend and training partner is the one I missed the most.  We could have ordered take-out instead of eating the homemade chili.  I could have just made the pumpkin bread today.  One could argue that even the kids would have been better behaved yesterday if I had spent more time with them in the morning and not cooking and rushing around to home improvement stores to get things for the handyman.  Sometimes I don’t finish projects because of things completely within my control.  That I need to work on.  Sometimes I don’t finish things because life is just busy.  That is when I need to stop and reorganize my priorities.

This weeks challenge was good for me.  I didn’t really meet the resolution entirely but I think I gained some insights into my behavior.  Isn’t that the point of this year anyway?  Today I will try to reschedule that walk from yesterday.  I even finished this post.  Score one for Leslie.



The allure and curse of multi-tasking January 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 2:46 pm

My husbands comments on my last post are spot on.  I am a great multi-tasker.  No really.  In my humble opinion, I can multi-task so well that I am listening to my husband write an email, planning supper, and thinking about solving AIDS in Africa right now.  Ok, I’m back.  What did I just write?  See that is the problem.  Multi-tasking is like humor and cell phones while driving.  Everyone thinks they have a great sense of humor and can safely talk and drive but there are lots of unfunny people getting into car accidents every day.

The siren song of multi-tasking is hard to resist.  I can get two tasks done in the same amount of time if I just do them at the same time.  Seems simple enough right.  Most reasoned people understand that it often doesn’t work out that way.  I persistently fall prey to the allure of it.  I actually devoted a week to quitting multi-tasking but honestly didn’t think I could tackle it yet.  I am a slave to multi-tasking so rather than attempt to quit cold turkey I thought a more measured approach would be best.  That is why this week I am just trying to pick one of the multiple tasks that I am working on and finish it every day.  Yesterday, I finished… nothing, now that I think of it.  There was even a little wine left in the bottle at dinner.  Ah well dear reader, today I vow to finish two things.  I think if I get it down on paper in the morning then it will be easier to refocus throughout the day.  Lists! The list is the thing.  So before I go to bed tonight I will gather all the paperwork required to register Jack for kindergarten and finish unpacking the master bedroom.  Admittedly, they are both fairly doable tasks but as the kindly elderly man said on NPR, start small.  Perhaps tonight I will reward myself with the last few drops of the wine.



Week 2: Finish it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 4:47 am

I am a relatively accomplished individual.  I can drive a car.  I have a degree.  I can even change the flapper on a toilet, a task I just learned last week. Yet, there are many times when I just can’t seem to complete a task.  I’m not talking about big stuff like when I left medicine to get pregnant and raise children.  Residency was the best thing I never finished.  Deep down and on the surface I know that was a great choice for me.  The tasks that I am referring to are much more mundane. Things like folding the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, organizing the bathroom.  Those are the tasks that always seem to be left ninety percent done and ten percent meh.  Driving this morning, I was trying to divine what my next resolution should be when it occurred to me that completing a task all the way would really help my state of mind so shortly after our move.  I find myself gathering projects after projects that aren’t quite finished and I am ready to start checking some things off the list.

This resolution is not even on the list because, truth be told, although I had planned to have all fifty-two resolutions all written out for the choosing, in the end I didn’t get a chance to finish it.  Leaving a few empty slots for things that just come up might be a good choice.  All this introspection is bound to unearth some doozies.

Yesterday, my finish it goal was to finish setting up the kids bathroom.  It’s sounds like a small thing but this room needed a fair bit of work.  The toilet ran, the faucets leaked, and the lights simply didn’t turn on.  I don’t want to make it sound like I did all those handy repairs but when that work was done, it needed to be cleaned out and some hanging hooks and fixtures changed.  Finally, the kids needed some hooks to hang towels and all the finishing cleaning and arranging.  I started the room early in the morning and when I got off track I tried to refocus.  It is so easy when you are moving in to get lost in a sea of clutter.  I unpacked a battery that I know was dead but I can’t throw it away I have to recycle it.  Where is the battery recycling center going to be?  It used to be in that three drawer set that is now in the kids room.  I bet that set would be great to hold legos.  I should go put all the legos in there right now.  You get my point.  I stuck with the bathroom until it was done.  It was wonderful.  I actually started this post yesterday morning and wanted to write it last night.  Alas, it didn’t get finished till today.


Why Floss? January 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:36 pm

I thought I’d give a little more background into my decision to choose flossing to kick off my year of resolutions.  For starters, I was desperate for something to do that first day at the last-minute.  That part is all true.  The decision to stick with something relatively easy and doable as my first task goes back to an interesting story I heard on NPR.  The story was about resolutions and how to make them stick.  The interviewees had written a book detailing the psychology behind making and keeping resolutions.  Lots of what he said made intuitive sense but the part that surprised me concerned will power.  He suggested that his research revealed will power was like a muscle that could become more powerful with use.  Just as you would teach a new exerciser to start with light weights and work up to heavy, he suggested that you start small and build on your early success.  This was appealing to me on many levels.  First, it postponed the really hard attitude and life-changing resolutions till later which made the procrastinator in me giddy with joy.  Second, it meant that as the year went on and each week was completed perhaps the tasks would become easier to manage.  This goes nicely with my goal of becoming a better person over the course of the year.

The flossing in the end was not as easy as you  might imagine.  I hate to whine about floss but there were some unexpected challenges. We moved the day after Christmas.  Yup, we are those people.  Finding the floss, therefore, was not so straightforward a task as one would expect in normal times.  Tuesday night tragedy nearly struck when the floss ran out.  Luckily, I had already flossed and so it was my husband who went to bed with extra food and bacteria in his mouth instead of me.  The next day I forgot to buy more and so we were forced to raid my parents apartment downstairs.  My Dad, an avid flosser himself, is secretly happy that I am paying more attention to my teeth.  He gladly handed over his stash and offered to get us more from Costco.  He really takes floss seriously.  As with everything else in my life I can see already how this project is definitely going to be a family affair.  Let’s hope I don’t drive everyone crazy in the process.


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