Difficult to Hear

I was an asshole on social media the other day.

A conversation about buying pants devolved into a discussion about pre- and post-partum pants sizes and culminated with me (for some stupid reason) posting my weight chart that showed that, yes, I lost all but about 4 pounds of the baby weight by two months post-partum (and therefore fit into my pre-preggo pants and didn’t need to buy new ones).

To which my online conversation partner replied that post-partum women REALLY don’t want to hear that I fit into pre-pregnancy clothing at the end of maternity leave. It’s really difficult to hear, she said.

That was when I finally realized that I was being an asshole, and I hadn’t even meant to be.

I apologized to everyone privately and went about my day feeling like an asshole, even though everyone said we were cool.

But then my brain went somewhere else.

How many lifestyle-related things do I read on social media that are “difficult to hear” from my point of view?



In the last week or so, a former teacher of mine lost her father, a college acquaintance lost his wife, and a co-worker lost her brother.

It makes a person think.

I’ve been lucky. I haven’t experienced any real loss in my almost 40 years. I’ve had pets die, of course; and my Granny, my ex-stepdad Tom, my Memaw, my Great-Uncle Charlie, my Uncle Donnie, my step-Gary. Most of those didn’t affect me as profoundly as they could have, for various reasons. I haven’t experienced loss like my husband has; he’s still got his brother, but apart from that, Aaron kind of feels like the last man standing at this point.

I haven’t lost anyone where it hurts. I mean, I miss them all, of course, but I haven’t lost anyone while I was sharing a household with them. The closest thing I can think of — and this may sound weird and possibly insensitive in context — was probably when Tom’s dog, Joey, got hit by a car when I was in Junior High. That gave me weird dreams and double-takes for quite some time.

I was pretty devastated by Tom’s death when I was in college, but I hadn’t seen him in months (which was one reason why I called the night I learned he had died — just to touch base).

Memaw’s actual death didn’t hit me as hard as it could have, because the cancer treatment combined with her age made it seem as if she were already gone — not quite herself, not quite there anymore. I had been missing her for months, especially as I had been planning the wedding I knew she would be unable to attend (she died as we were returning from our honeymoon).

And when my step-Gary died, he and my Mom had been living in Texas for something like 10 years, so it wasn’t something that affected me on a daily basis. Plus, it wasn’t unexpected, as he had been ill for years.

I can’t imagine losing someone whose face you used to see every day. It was strange enough helping Aaron and his brother clean out their Dad’s house, watching them decide which things to keep and which to donate, associating memories with all the bits of accumulated stuff.

If Aaron got blindsided by a semi tomorrow, I’d be lost. Just thinking about never seeing him again… Shit, even just hypothetically, I can’t deal. I think about it, and I just — nope.

On top of losing my best friend, I’d have to figure out how to move on, logistically speaking, as we have little to no local support network of friends and family. Not like some people do. Financially, I’d make it work somehow, considering life insurance and savings and whatnot, but what of the simple day-to-day things, like not having an emergency backup to pick up Connor from preschool if I get stuck in traffic? On top of, you know, grieving.

And what if it were me? Especially after helping with my father-in-law’s estate, I think about silly things like how messy my computer desk at home is, or my closet, and how I don’t want Aaron to have to deal with sorting all that junk into boxes or garbage bags. I think about my passwords, and my blog, and how I haven’t printed and bound my online journals like I keep meaning to, for posterity, to store with my longhand journals. I think about the home videos I haven’t edited together into anything yet, all the snippets of memories stored on my phone or my hard drive.

And I think of Aaron, and wonder how he’d cope with everything without caving in on himself.

My brain just goes a million directions, and simultaneously tries to process and is unable to process all the possibilities. What if it were Connor? What if it were Mom?

I have been so incredibly lucky. But someday, my luck will end, and I’ll have to deal with death close-up.

And it scares me.

The “Go Without” Challenge

My employer has established their own non-profit for the purpose of assisting employees in need. Anyone who works for my company can fill out an application to receive assistance — say, if their home got hit by a natural disaster or fire; or if someone is escaping domestic violence; or if someone in the family fell ill, or needed major surgery, or died unexpectedly. Sometimes life just takes a turn, and people don’t have the resources to cover basic expenses, even if they have insurance. That’s where my company’s non-profit comes into play: helping out with financial hardships outside one’s control.

Every summer, we have a pledge drive, and get the opportunity to make a one-time donation, or to sign up (as I do) for a recurring donation out of our paycheck. The pledge drive lasts two weeks, and always has a theme: being a hero for someone else, or walking in their shoes, or getting yourself in the picture. This year, the theme is The “Go Without” Challenge.

I know a little bit about going without. My family was never well-off while I was growing up, and was usually on some sort of public assistance. We didn’t go without food, or shelter, or anything major like that, but there were times when I was aware of going without certain things.  (more…)

On the Non-Darkness of Winter

burning a candle during a 2013 power outage

Coming up on the shortest day / longest night of the year last month, I happened across an article (which, of course, I failed to bookmark) about how the invention of the incandescent light changed our sleep patterns. It kind of blew my mind that I hadn’t even considered the impact of artificial lighting before. I’d read about how people in “the olden days” often referenced the “first sleep” and the “second sleep,” but I hadn’t thought very hard about what had caused that to change.

Then I thought about the few times we’ve had to deal with electricity being out. One summer evening in particular, I recall that I sat outside and read a book while the power was out. (This was at the old house, before Connor.) The power came back on in time for my bedtime routine, so I didn’t have to brush my teeth by candlelight or anything.

There was another time, a few years and one neighborhood before that, when the power went out one spring evening, forcing many of our neighbors outside for a pick-up game of b-ball while they grilled out for dinner.

Anyway, after remembering what it’s like being with no lights in the evening, my next thought was more of a challenge to myself: would I be able to change my daily routines to favor the rising and setting of the sun? Especially during the winter days, when the sun goes down by 5pm — what if I only had muted lights on after sundown? Or started burning candles again? What if we watched TV in the evenings in the dark, instead of with a lamp on? Would that help both me and Connor wind down for the night?

One family tried the experiment twice: once in June 2009, and again in February 2010.

[T]he June experiment with no artificial light was a huge success. Kia and I immediately started going to bed between 9 and 10 instead of around midnight. We quickly caught up on sleep, sleeping ten or eleven hours a night at first, then normalizing around eight hours. One thing we both noticed was a huge boost in mood — moments of unexplained, unreasonable joy would strike us at random times during the day.

Compared to June, February was a whole different ball game. Some days in June the sky was light until 9:30pm — in February we ended up lighting the candles as early as 5pm. I was concerned about not being able to get any work done, so we set 7:30pm as a cutoff for computers getting turned off.

After the experiment I see artificial light as something like sugar. We’re drawn to it, but too much is bad for us. In fact, it seems to be bad for us in many of the same ways — sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity in the same way excessive sugar intake does.

For me, gone are the nights of having every light in the house blazing. The refrigerator light is back on, the bathroom light goes on when I’m in there, but otherwise it’s candles and maybe a mood light here and there. Even with this limited artificial light, the glow from my laptop is keeping me up later. Last night I slept from 11:45 to 6:15 — not bad but nothing like the solid eight hours I was getting most nights in February (one night I even slept eleven hours — I was tired and there was nothing preventing me from catching up).

Would I even be able to do it? How long until I would snap and just turn on all the lights in the house and say, to hell with this! I live in the future, not in the 1800’s! Or, conversely, how long until sundown would become even more of a sleep trigger for me than it already is? On weekends, my already-narrow window of weekend time with my night-shift husband would shrink to practically zero. I already turn into a pumpkin at 10pm, and am no good for anything by the time we get back from our monthly date night at 10:30pm. If I started winding down any earlier… I don’t know.

Really, it’s just an interesting thought experiment at this point. Living without artificial light is impractical for me and impossible for my husband, and I’m not convinced it’s something I’d want to try even if I didn’t have a preschooler to wrangle in the evenings.

Although perhaps laying off of the screen time right before bed might be a worthwhile start.

Resolutions 2015

Historically, I don’t have a great track record for New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t think anyone does, really, but we keep making them because… well… because it’s expected that we will, I guess. Because we feel weird if we don’t.

I know my husband doesn’t do the resolution thing — if there’s something he wants to accomplish, he doesn’t need to choose some arbitrary day in the future to start it. He just does it when he can, and gets it done, whether it’s weight loss or cataloging his video game collection or reorganizing his (very awesome) geek den.

Me, I grew up watching Dick Clark every New Year, checking all the clocks around the house for accuracy against the countdown clock, and listening to my Mom resolve to lose weight this year. Just like last year, and the year before. And I was a chubby little kid who grew into a chubby teenager, so I did it, too. Rarely were our goals measurable — or, if they were measurable, they weren’t attainable. Hence the same vague goal every year.

Lose weight.
Eat better.
Go for more walks.

Good ideas, but not particularly good goals.

Last year, in lieu of a resolution, I made up a 2014 project plan. I had weekly goals and quarterly goals and they were all measurable and attainable — if I were better at time management with a full time job and a toddler in the house. In the end, I completed none of my quarterly goals, but did manage to keep up with my weekly goals for a good long while before I stopped tracking my progress.

I also continued the tradition of creating a mantra for myself for the year.

That actually worked out well, as I ended up tracking what made me happy and consciously focusing on the things that made me happy, once I knew what those things were.

What about 2015?

This year, I think a few resolutions are in order — but not the same old tired ones, and not too many. No crazy “project plan” this year.

  1. Scan and photograph my son’s artwork from daycare. It’s taking up a lot of space, and I want to put it into an art book eventually. This year is the year I get all this stuff scanned and photographed and catalogued and out of the house — all except a few special pieces.
  2. Write at least 1000 words in my blog every week (not including Twitter). This isn’t an unreasonably lofty goal, and it dovetails with my priority of recording my memories of family and Connor and life in general.
  3. Reach my goal weight of 160 before Thanksgiving 2015. That averages out to a loss of less than a pound and a half per month. Again, not unreasonable if I apply myself.

There are plenty of other things I’d love to get done this year, but none of them need to be resolutions, per se. I can keep them in my head and in my queue, and that’s just fine.

This year’s mantra:

Multitasking is overrated. I feel like I get less done when I’m not present in the task at hand. So, if I’m playing with my son, I’m playing with him and not checking my phone. If I’m at work, I’m working and not checking my personal email. If I’m writing, I’m writing and not looking at Twitter.

I don’t honestly have any grand plans for 2015. I’m going to continue to roll with the punches and do what needs to be done and put a good face on it. Try to be upbeat in the midst of toddler tantrums and awkward schedules and running late and what have you. Focus on how I can make everyone’s life a little better (including my own).

Happy 2015, everybody.

It’s Hard to be Thankful Sometimes

My average weekday: Snooze my alarm two or three times. Wake up late. Get ready for work. Get Connor ready for daycare. Gather our stuff. Drive Connor to daycare and drop him off. Drive myself to work and get caught in traffic. Show up embarrassingly late. Work — mostly alone in my cube. Work out. Eat lunch. Work some more. Drive to daycare to pick up Connor. Drive home. See Aaron for five minutes before he leaves for work.* Make dinner while Connor plays on my iPhone. Eat dinner. Watch TV with Connor for 45 minutes. Bathe Connor and get him to bed (usually with much resistance and stalling on his part). Load/unload dishwasher and try to be otherwise productive before my brain shuts down. Go upstairs, get ready for bed, lay out clothes for the next day, read in bed. Lights out later than intended.

Rinse and repeat.

According to my Reporter App, I spend most of my time (when I’m not alone) with my three-year-old. I spend half that much time with my husband, and half again with my work friend, Nicole. I spend more time with my cat than I do with any non-work friends.

Before bed every night, I record one thing that made me happy that day. Of the different things I have listed, 28% involve my interactions with Connor, 17% involve my interactions with friends and co-workers, 13% involve my interactions with my husband, 11% involve me having alone time, and another 11% involve food (either making it or eating it). (Other scattered things comprise the remaining 33%, like weight loss/fitness and work-related atta-girls.)

Many of the things that make me happiest seem to be the most elusive — and the most simple. Getting things accomplished. Having some quality time with family and friends. Being social.

I had to call a temporary boycott on social media this past week because I saw so many other people getting to enjoy the things I like — and instead of being happy for them, I got enragedly jealous. How dare you have someone to watch your child while you go to a work holiday party? How dare you have friends over to your house? How dare you do the things I wish I could do?

‘Tis the season to force oneself to take a step back and recognize all the good things in one’s life, though, instead of focusing on all the things that are missing.

Some of the simpler and more common things that have made me happy (i.e. for which I am thankful):

  • Hugs
  • Date night
  • Making dinner
  • Yoga class

My mantra for this year was Engender Happiness in Yourself and Others.

Instagram Photo

I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, but I can’t say I haven’t tried. I’ve become more aware of my happiness level, what helps me to be happy, and what prevents me from being happy. Now the final step is to consciously choose to be happy instead of being a miserable fuck.


*See Aaron for five minutes before he goes to work. Unless he has to go to work early, like he does during the Christmas season, in which case I don’t get to see him at all most days.

Twitter Avoidance

I hadn’t realized what a habit it’s become to just pick up my phone and launch up Echofon. I justify it by saying that Twitter is where I get my news. Plus, no one has a personal blog anymore, so Twitter is where I go to find out what people are doing (instead of Facebook).

Truth is, it’s just a habit. A ritual. And like all habits and rituals, it merits some reconsideration sometimes. Why am I really doing this? Should I do it differently, or not at all?  (more…)

The Perils of a Personal Blog

I’ve been abstaining from Twitter this week and documenting my reactions to not having an instantaneous outlet. Long story short, I’ve realized how passive-aggressive or narcissistic I must seem with nearly every post. Jerkwad on the highway honked at me; got stood up for lunch; gained 0.4 pounds this week.

But isn’t that my whole blog, too? Look at me! This is my life! This is my son, my yard, my house, my family. This is what I do, who I am, how I spend my time.

Whenever I sit down to write a blog post lately, my husband asks whether it’s about my braces, my gardens, my weight, or our son. That’s pretty much what I blog about lately, because that’s what I do.

I guess I just need to remember that my blog is for future me. If I stopped blogging altogether, I’d be pissed at myself for losing that searchable record of what happened when. When was Connor potty trained? How long did I fight with these gardens before they became my own? When did I reach my goal weight? If I stop blogging, I lose the answers to these questions.

I don’t know. It still seems petty on some level.

Feeling Meh

In the early days of my blog, I had nothing but time. Ten years ago, I’d sit at my computer and ruminate about my life and my job and whatever I thought was important — or was just at the front of my mind.

Now I’ve discovered that I can crank out a few paragraphs on the laptop while my toddler is watching Dora the Explorer, after dinner and before bathtime. It’s good for documenting stuff like a car accident or a morning of gardening, but not so much for sitting and quietly thinking about things. Then, I have maybe an hour after he goes to bed before my brain decides that it’s done for the night — no more thinking and writing and thinking some more until the wee hours (or even until 10:00).

If I didn’t have a small person depending on me this evening, I might have curled up on the couch for a few hours and just read magazines or played on my phone or the laptop. It’s just one of those days. And it’s funny: the fact that I feel kind of meh makes me feel bad for feeling meh. Even though I was in a car accident, I wasn’t injured badly enough for it to really affect my quality of life. I’m feeling better, although I do wish the insurance side of things was moving along a bit more swiftly.

The accident crash report was posted to the police department’s website this morning. As a result, I got ten unsolicited phone calls (one of which went to voicemail) and two unsolicited texts from chiropractors, physical therapists masquerading as accident victim advocacy firms, and personal injury lawyers. I did not, however, get a call from the other guy’s insurance, although I did finally get the agent’s name and number and the claim number.

I’m feeling better physically, but damned if I’m not all tense now about driving on the highway (or, as everyone around here calls it, the “expressway”). Driving is not the joy it once was, partly due to our second car’s lack of punch, and partly due to my new… “phobias” is too strong of a word, so we’ll call them… stressors. People who hug the line. People who tailgate. People who drive alongside me and put me in their blind spot.

I also feel funny just doing this free-writing in my blog. It’s been so long since I felt the need to just vent on my blog about how I’m feeling — partially due to lack of time; and partially due to the fact that, most times, if I need to vent, it’s about a person or an event that really doesn’t need to be public knowledge. (I didn’t used to have that kind of restraint. It surprises me what I can find in my archives.)

I have shit I still need to do tonight. Clean out my son’s humidifier, pack his lunch, pack my lunch, gather my yoga clothes for tomorrow. Maybe I should stop worrying that I sound all mopey and just hit Publish and go get my shit done and go to bed a little early.

Today’s Yoga Epiphany

In the middle of Pigeon, it hit me. I was overcome with emotion, after being “in the zone” and hitting every pose and having my mind clear of distractions and judgments.

Am I ever going to be “happy” with my body?

My knees kind of bow inward funny. My arms never seem to fully straighten. I never manage to look like my limbs are fully extended. Will that change when I reach my goal weight? Or my goal fitness level, whatever that may be? When can I be content with what I look like and how I feel? When can I stop comparing myself to others?

I almost broke into tears, face-down and pretzel-twisted on the mat.

Not from sadness, but from understanding. In another life, I might have called it a religious experience.

It was a little piece of enlightenment… and yet, not quite. Because I can see it, I can comprehend it, but I’m still not quite there yet.


Later in the day, I logged my workout on DailyMile and gave our yoga instructor mad props for a great class:

In the zone! @dmallette picked up the pace early on, then added side planks and balance work into the mix. It felt strong and meditative to me, which led to one or two random personal epiphanies in the middle of class.


Doug, of course, saw my post:

@dianaschnuth That’s fantastic and made my day! If you care to share, I’d love to hear about your epiphanies!


I thought for a moment, then responded.

@dmallette They were personal and yet not, in a Zen kind of way. During pigeon, I had this big moment of When Will I Be Happy With My Body?

@dmallette I was suddenly critical of how my limbs don’t seem to straighten just so, and I realized that it’s not a fault. It’s how I *am*.

@dmallette It was a surprisingly emotional moment after a full class of being “in the zone” and stoically focusing on form.


Being almost uncomfortably honest with others brings me one step closer to being honest with myself.