Time to take stock

When I started this project back in June, I imagined that I’d be able to have two challenges on the go at the same time – one would be a small habit change that I would try our for 30 days and the second one would be something more substantial that I would think about over 30 days and see how I could incorporate some new ideas into my life. I imagined that at the end of each challenge I’d launch into the next one the next day.

It’s not working out this way and I’ve been feeling very frustrated about it.

The 30 day habit changes are working well – I was pleased with how the 30 days of no alcohol, the 30 days of facing fear and the 30 days of evening routines panned out. But the less defined challenges have been, well, a challenge. Not a complete failure, but not progressing in the way I thought they might.

I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, I haven’t really been clear on what I want to achieve out of the challenge and what I’m actually going to do and second I haven’t set aside time to do the undefined things I’m going to do, so I’m fumbling round in the dark a bit (a lot) and not making much progress. What I need to be doing is setting myself a SMART goal (we all know about them right? – Specific/Measurable/Actionable/Realistic/Time-bound – or something like that), working out that actions I need to take, and booking time in my schedule to do them, instead of thinking “oh I haven’t worked on the blog for a while, I’d better go and do something” and not knowing what I actually need to be doing, and ending up getting distracted by squirrels and other shiny things.

The second reason isn’t one that I’d thought about much, but a couple of things I read recently reminded me of a key thing I’d left out of my project plan (in so far as there is a plan) – Down time. In short, I was expecting myself to be able to swing from branch to branch to branch, encounter new things and take as much on board as I could without ever stopping to consolidate or to rest. (Thanks Kendra!)

A good analogy I came across recently was that life isn’t a marathon, it’s a series of sprints – more like interval training if you like. Google that and you’ll get many varieties of it (and people who don’t agree), but the idea is that your body and mind need periods of down time after a period of intense activity. This is true on a daily level (you can’t work flat out all day long), a weekly level (why we have weekends) and a yearly level (why we have annual leave). But it’s also true, and this is the bit I was missing, on a project level.

I can remember one particularly intense project at work a few years back that I worked flat out on over several months. I really enjoyed it, I loved the pressure and the intensity of the work and the feeling I was doing something worthwhile. It was one of the high points of my recent career history. But when it was done, I completely crashed. I went back to my normal work, but I wasn’t able to get my focus back and in some ways I wonder if I’ve really recovered from it.

It’s the same for these “undefined” projects. Trying to bounce from one 30-day project to another without stopping is completely unsustainable. What’s happened is because I haven’t factored in any down time or time to process anything for the last two challenges I’ve tried to do, I’ve basically done nothing in those challenges. First because I haven’t panned and secondly because I haven’t really processed, closed off and recovered from the previous challenges.

So I’m doing a total rethink of the project to slow things down and focus on one thing for as long as I need to, and then to take some more time to process it before moving on. I hope that by doing this I’ll achieve something lasting. Some of the things I want to do will take longer than 30 days, and some might take less. (Example: my drawing lessons, which if you go by the title of the book should have taken me 30 days, but I’m still working though it – I’m up to Lesson 28 after almost four months.) And the 30-day theme will continue with ongoing 30-day habit change challenges.

This means I’m not giving up on Challenge 6 (clarity and purpose) after 30 days. I’m going to keep working on this because I think it’s important. I’m making a firmer plan for what I want to do, and I’m trialing the Happiness Planner as a record keeping tool.

20161006-what-make-you-happy

I feel a bit more optimistic now that I’ve figured out what’s going on and have made some more concrete plans. And I’ve decided to reward myself with a new yoga mat if I do 30 days of yoga in a row. 13 days to go! Yay!

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The Incident with the Monkey Kittens, or how I came to be a Ben & Holly addict

This is a guest post I recently wrote for Betty’s blog Watch with Mother.

Watch with Mother is a blog about watching children’s TV. Because we have to, right? We can’t let the little people have all the fun watch TV without competent adult supervision. Who knows what they might see that will damage their growing minds.

Betty’s always looking for guest posts from people who watch children’s TV – so if that sounds like you, go on over to her blog and send in your reviews!

I found Betty’s blog after Googling the term “monkey kittens”. If you’re familiar with Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, you might have heard this term and if so, you’ll know why I was looking for it. If not, then you should try and remember this term, because it’s Very Important.

Juniordwarf (age 7) is a huge fan of Ben and Holly. I always thought it was a show designed for younger children, but he’s had a habit of getting into shows when he’s been several years older than the target audience.

Case in point: In the Night Garden.

This show is designed for babies and toddlers. And people on drugs.

He started watching it at about age 5. I entirely blame Slabs for this. It was school holidays. I was at work. Juniordwarf was watching a DVD. Slabs was out of the room.

The DVD ended, Juniordwarf stopped it, and what just happened to be on TV at the time was ITNG. He was instantly transfixed, and from that week on, it was essential Friday viewing. Slabs was horrified at what he’d unleashed by not having been in the room at the critical moment.

Seriously. What are these things? Nonky Nonk. Pinky Ponk (I suspect this is code for Rosé wine – Pinky Plonk). Pontipines. Makka Pakka. Tombliboos. And why the hell isn’t Iggle Piggle in bed?

Fortunately, Juniordwarf didn’t realise that the show was actually on every day at the same time, not just Fridays. We didn’t do anything that would enable him to find this out. It was better that way. (He knows how to find the TV schedule now, so this wouldn’t work any more.)

The ITNG phase lasted several months, during which I inflicted the torture on my Twitter followers while I was watching it (because it was only fair that they had to go through it with me).

ITNG was followed by a Sesame Street obsession – again a show aimed at a slightly younger audience, but I think he actually learned stuff from it, so that was rather cool. And to add to the entertainment, every show he and I would be hanging out to see whether Zoe would make an appearance.

Zoe is one of the newer generation of Muppets on Sesame Street. (By “new” I mean any time after I’d finished watching the show. Zoe first appeared in 1993, which is why I’d never heard of her.)

Juniordwarf has a Zoe teddy. She’s one of his favourite teddies. When he got her, he didn’t watch Sesame Street and he called her Chocolate the Girl (to distinguish her from Chocolate the Boy – who is now called Pete).   But when he realised she was Zoe on Sesame Street, he changed her name. He said she’d always been Zoe and that Chocolate had just been a nickname from the beginning. Yeah right.

Once he’d seen her on TV, he was fascinated, and so Sesame Street became the Next Big Thing.

Fast forward a few more months and he got into his Peppa Pig phase.

The less said about this the better. All I could think of was Pigs = Bacon, and wondered how on earth they could get away with putting characters that look like giant penises on children’s television. (Come on, you think the same thing too don’t you.)

And what’s with the way their eyes swap over to the other side of their face when they turn around? Something is seriously wrong there.

Fortunately, this phase didn’t last too long (or else I’ve blacked out several months of memories from my mind, because I don’t remember it lasting too long) and he moved on.

Juniordwarf had seen ads on TV for Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, but (now says) he didn’t think he’d like it. Then one day, somehow, somewhere, an episode came on while the TV was on (re-reading this, it seems like this happens a lot at our house). He started watching it and, like every other show that “just happened to be on at the time”, it became his favourite.

He also likes to act it out, and he remembers every line. At first this drove me nuts, because I kept hearing the same story over and over again. The line “Cakes! Cakes! The Queen is baking cakes*!” became etched into my mind, and I wanted everyone involved with the show to die a slow lingering death in a vat of Queen Thistle’s sticky fudge cake. When I found out that the people who made this show were also responsible for Peppa Pig, I was even more determined that this should happen.

No wonder some of the voices sounded familiar.

But something changed. I watched the show with Juniordwarf once. And another time, and then another. Then one day I started to empathise with one of the characters. (I’m not going to tell you which one. You can probably guess. It was one of the sensible characters.)

That was it. I was doomed.

Image

Now I believe I might have developed an unhealthy obsession with interest in finding out some of the untold stories behind the show. Stories that are alluded to for a fleeting moment, but never explained.

Things like what exactly is the history between Granny Thistle and the Wise Old Elf? And what was the incident with the monkey kittens?

These are things I need to know.

*Season 2, Episode 37: The Queen Bakes Cakes.

Picture (straight from the TV), Season 2, Episode 20: The Fruit Harvest

missing in action

Yes I’m still here.

Look! I’m working very hard:

I have a couple of posts in my mind. They just have to be translated into something that vaguely makes sense. I’m rethinking what I want the blog to be about. I hope I get my thoughts in order soon so I can start posting more regularly.

february catch up

Item number 19 on my 100 things to do in 2013: Blog at least three times a week.
Number of posts in February: five.
That doesn’t quite add up, does it?
I’ve started writing several posts and either never finished them, or decided I didn’t want to publish them after all. Or I’ve thought, why would anyone want to read that, and given up.
Not really what I had in mind when I wrote the list and decided I wanted to blog more often.
Now it’s the start of a new month.  It’s time to review the past month and (possibly) get inspired to blog again.
So what’s happened?
Project Life
I’m pretty much up to date with this and just have a few more photos to print for February, and then I should have a few layouts to share. I also managed to finish not one, but two layouts in the “in progress” album. Progress indeed.
Food
These are the posts I’ve been struggling with. I really don’t know what to write without looking like I’m trying to justify myself or defend what I’m doing. 
That looks so stupid now that I’ve written it down. I don’t have to justify making healthy changes to my life. Quitting sugar is the way I decided to start. There are a lot of opinions about whether sugar is really so bad. I don’t know the answer to this one. 
Anyway, the quit sugar thing has really turned into quitting a lot of the processed food with added sugar, which is what I’ve been trying to do (see Item 1 on the list). So I haven’t followed the Quit Sugar program completely. I’m still eating small amounts of fruit (which the program says to cut out, and reintroduce later on when you’ve broken the sugar addiction if you want to).
Apart from that I’ve been sugar-free, other than a couple of meals that other people have cooked that have had an ingredient that contains sugar, for six weeks now. I’ve politely refused desserts, have been into coffee shops and ignored the cakes and haven’t so much as even looked at the 85% chocolate in my fridge. (It’s there for me to test whether having not eaten sugar for an extended time changes the taste of that type of chocolate – whether it actually will taste sweet to me.) And I haven’t really felt like I’m missing out or depriving myself.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my coffee has started to taste quite sweet now from the lactose in the milk. I’ve never had sugar in coffee, so this is quite a strange sensation. 
I’m happy with how things are going at the moment, and I’m continuing to read about food and trying (most of the time) to make the best choices for me. 
Exercise
As soon as I read that exercise can make you fat I gave up exercise.
Well not really, since to give up something, you actually have to be doing it first.
Ha.
But seriously, I have been doing some form of exercise most days, even if it’s just walking to work. At the start of the year my goal was to be walking 15,000 steps a day and to get back into yoga. It’s still my intention to do both of those things.
I bought a yoga DVD a couple of weeks ago and have been getting up earlier most mornings to do one of the routines. Juniordwarf has been joining me, which is fun. 
Next Month
I do want to blog more often. At least, more than five times in the month.
Related: does anyone have any regular link-ups that they participate in that are fun? I did Wordless Wednesday once and then promptly forgot about it . . . 

it’s been a busy year

Regular readers of this blog (if I still have any left) will notice that this is my first post in over three months.

I’m not really sure where to take this blog now. In 2011 I achieved my goal of blogging my 365 Project every day, and earlier this year I managed to post semi-regularly, which dropped down to almost never.

As the year went on I felt like I didn’t need to blog like I did last year. It wasn’t as important, and there was no real incentive to do it. So I didn’t.

Part of me says maybe it’s time to get rid of it. I don’t really see myself as a “blogger”,  I don’t interact with a lot of people’s blogs (and those that I do are mostly people I know personally), and I’m not really into the blogging “scene”.

On the other hand, I like having this space. I can post things when I want to get something out there, or share stuff with my family, friends and readers (and any random strangers who happen to pass by . . .)

The upshot is I’m not sure. If I do keep it, I want to try and post more regularly than I have this year.

So while I’m thinking about it, here are some of the things I might have posted about this year if I’d been blogging more often.

First up, we moved house in October, so from the time we made the offer on the new house in July to now, when things are almost as we need them to be in the new house, my life has been mostly packing, decluttering, getting a house ready to sell, more packing, moving, unpacking, moving stuff around, more unpacking, more decluttering. And that has resulted in me being six months behind in my Project Life album for 2012, among other things.

Just some of the packing that had to take place

 Following in Slabs’ footsteps, both Juniordwarf and I started our own radio shows on the local community radio station.

We opened the bottle of Millennium Ale that we’d had sitting around since, well 1999.

I had a hair cut after about nine months of not being bothered to pick up the phone and make a hair appointment. Goodbye long hair (again).

 We chased a rainbow up the river.

 Juniordwarf turned six.

 We made the occasional visit to the Two Metre Tall Farm Bar, and Juniordwarf enjoyed the puddles.

I participated in the Walk To Work Day photo competition and my photo collage made the Top 20. I also participated in a 10,000 Steps pedometer challenge and (just) met my goal of 1 million steps in ten weeks.

My boy picked me some flowers

Juniordwarf continue to improve his swimming.

We had a weekend in Launceston to celebrate our wedding anniversary

Re-enacting our wedding. What?

Family snapshot

We saw a baby monkey at City Park

The Chairlift at Cataract Gorge

Stopover at Holm Oak Wines . . .

. . . and Moores Hill

Willow Court Open Day. This is the Barracks.

I got to know Mrs Spider (with seven legs), who resided on my kitchen window, until I had to move her so that we could fit the window screens, and sadly she never came back.

We got some chickens. Say goodbye to the vege garden.

A new local market was set up in December and I was the lucky winner of their first email prize. It’s a great idea and I’m looking forward to seeing the market grow in the new year.

Merry Xmas from Juniordwarf!

Yes, it really is Xmas.

And that’s the past six months in a nutshell.  As to where I go from here, well I’m still thinking.

Happy New Year everyone 🙂

P365 – Day 315 – eleven

Yeah I know, time is a human construct, and it isn’t really 2011 anyway because a few years got skipped over a few centuries ago, and it’s just a normal day and a normal minute, and who really cares because the same time will happen in 24 different time zones of the course of the day, twice if you don’t use 24 hour time.
But even so, I think 11.11 on 11.11.11 is kind of cool.
I heard about the 11eleven project from Lil Sis.
 Its aim is to get everyone recording, tweeting, blogging, telling stories, making movies, taking photos . . . all on the same day. From everyone’s contributions, the organisers are going to create a photo book, a documentary and a music collection. There were 11 suggested themes to get you started, but really they said to record

anything that gives us an insight into your world and your perspective…..what do you want us to know about your life on planet earth?


In one sense, I guess it really doesn’t matter which day it is – the point is that everyone’s doing it at the same time. But 11.11.11 is as good a day as any, right?
My plan was to do something I’d wanted to do for a while – that is to take a photo on the hour every hour for the whole day. No matter what I was doing, I’d have to stop for a couple of seconds and take a picture (there might have been a couple of activities I’d possibly have excluded from that).
Since 11.11 is a Friday, I thought it would be a really good day for this project, since there’d be school dropoffs, work, a possible walk in the park, school pickups, scrapbooking night, a couple of beers when I got home . . . a pretty varied day.
But no, I had to get sick didn’t I? So I was at home all day thinking how incredibly boring my ‘day in the life of’ project was going to be.
I didn’t much feel like being creative either, so I decided that, in the spirit of my iPhone Project 365, I’d do the whole day’s photos on my phone.
So, while it’s not really what I wanted to do, here is 11.11.11 (#11ElevenLive) through my eyes. (I used Instagram for all photos except the 11:11 photo and the same filter – Earlybird – on each photo. I’m not sure why. Consistency seemed like a good idea at the time, but I don’t know if it really works for all of the photos.)
0600 – the first thing I saw when I woke up

0700 – loungeroom mess and ABC News 24

0800  – coffee

0900 – my day as seen through my phone

1000 – cold & flu herbal tea

1100 – Lest We Forget. A minute’s silence

11:11 on 11.11.11

12:00 – playing around with our holiday photos

1300 – dragging myself out to get supplies

1400 – a movie I haven’t seen for years

1500 – still watching the movie

1600 – the family arrives home with the mail and my
scrapbooking/journal goodies have arrived

1700 – bringing the washing in that’s been out since Tuesday

1800 – flicking through the yoga magazine I bought
while I was out. I really want to do this.

1900 – evening sky

2000 – a quick trip to my little bit of the garden.
I can’t wait until I transform it into my little piece of paradise
2100 – blogging about 11/11/11
I suppose if I had to fit this set of photos into any of the project’s 11 topics (which I don’t think you have to) it would be ‘routine’ – or  the disruption thereof. That’s what happens when you get sick.
There was also the option to blog about “How do I wish the world will be in 100 years”, but being at a low creative ebb, I haven’t given that topic very much thought. It’s an interesting challenge though.
Anyway, potentially I have two more photos to take tonight to round off 11.11.11. If I stay awake long enough, I’ll take them and post them.
If not, goodnight 🙂

Later

Still here …

2200 – I love that he came home from school with a
remembrance poppy today

2300 – a full moon and a very bright star

2311 – the 11:11 screen shot I missed this morning

P365 – Day 300 – the big 300

Another instalment in the occasional series on what pastpresentfuture is all about. You might also like to read Part 1 and Part 2.
This is Day 300 of my Project 365 photo project. 
Does anyone know what/where this is?
That means I have taken at least one photo every day since 1 January and posted it here on my blog. That’s 300 photos – actually more – since a lot of my posts have included multiple photos.
As well as the photo a day concept, I’ve found the blog space a good space to put my thoughts about things I’m working through n my personal life. Most times I can manufacture a photo for the day to fit what I’ve been thinking about. Or I can write a post and wait for the right photo opportunity. Whatever works.
I was discussing how much to share on a blog with a friend a while ago. I was saying that if I was having a really hard time about something and feeling really low, I didn’t really want to put that ‘out there’ in any great detail, because I’m sure no one wants to read about me moping around and moaning about things, which I do a lot*.
On the other hand, exploring some of my personality traits, insecurities or frustrations (which I’ve done several times on here) is something I feel more ok about doing.
When people leave comments on those posts or say something on one of my social networks where I share my blog, I feel reassured that I’m not the only one dealing with those issues. It also helps a lot when people comment from an outside viewpoint, and look at something in a way I wouldn’t have thought to look.
I suppose the main problems for me are firstly figuring out where the line between exploring and moping is, and secondly in deciding how much of that exploration I want to make public. Or, if you like, deciding when it ceases to be an exploration and turns into a counselling session.
I could fill up a post or more every day with subjects as diverse and fascinating as how I’m dealing with being an unhealthy perfectionist (I love that term!), why I’m terrified of talking to people, what I need to do to turn off my ‘inner critic’ and so on. (It’s a very long list, and I already have written on many of the subjects on it in more or less detail.)
In fact, I can see myself dwelling on these issues so much that I’d spend my entire life ‘analysing’ myself and not actually living. In other words, failing to appreciate the difference between thinking I have to wait until I’ve ‘fixed’ everything before I can start to relax and live life, and realising that there will never be a time when everything falls perfectly into place, so I need to get out there and live my life right now.
I know, I’ve said it before (more than once), and it’s a message I really need to get through to myself, so I’ll probably keep on saying it.
Life is now.
But it’s so easy to get caught up on the things that I need to ‘fix’ to create myself a better future and to think that everything will fall into place when that magical time comes, that I forget about the here and now. And that isn’t exactly consistent with the central premise of my blog, which is ‘present’. And I know that the magical time will never come. (Life is now.)
Past – well that’s a whole other post, and there’s some stuff I might want to write about later, or might want to leave well alone.
For now I’ll just say that I feel like I’m making some small but important changes in my life and my way of thinking that are – overall – having positive outcomes in my life. 
Sure, sometimes it’s two steps forward and three steps back, and I have my fair share of days where everything is too much, but there are other days when it’s three steps forward, one step back. But because (cliché alert) life is about the journey not the destination, that’s all perfectly fine. Overall, I feel like things are getting better within myself. (Life is now.)
I’m sure that this is due – at least in some part – to writing this blog, and getting support and encouragement from so many people, even people I don’t personally know, who take the time to leave me a comment or respond on Twitter or Facebook. It means a lot to me that you care and that you’re willing to put yourself out there and tell me that I’m not the only one dealing with this stuff.
Thank you all. 
* No I don’t. I have a tendency to keep the moan-y things inside and dwell on them. Or write them down in unintelligible handwriting. Or get all passive aggressive about them and deny that something’s wrong, even when something clearly is. Or post them in an obscure way.