Category: Personal News

2018 Reboot!

Let’s be honest; 2017 sucked. Moving on.

 

2018 is going to involve a return to taking care of myself… physically as well as mentally. I’ve really let that slip and I’m feeling it. Bad.

I recently took time to review what makes me feel good, mentally. One of the biggies is being productive; but not in the way of being-busy but of growing, learning, and creating.

So for 2018 I’ve decided to try to make something every day.

Most days it will be something small; that is OK.

Today I made this blog post.

2016 Theme: Level Up!

Well I feel like I’ve said this before, but last year sucked… here’s to a much better 2016!

I see I haven’t posted since Maddie’s 3-year birthday. Since then…. well, very little has changed. At least in 2014 I got several projects done around the house; 2015 not so much.

I did make some progress on building a home-based business, with Sproutwise Kids — had hoped to be much further along by now but I’m still happy with the foundation we have in place. We achieved profitability (without salaries anyway), and managed to give $591 to charities in the process. Good start!

 

So how about those 2015 goals?

I spent a good bit of time a year ago figuring out where my focus should be, in order to look back at the year with satisfaction. What I didn’t put in here was anything relating to Maddie; that is just the giant boulder in the middle of the room that we have to simply work around as we try to craft a happy life…

Here’s what I came up with:

2015

1. Get SL to $200k in profit.

OK… in retrospect that was overly optimistic (though it’s not impossible to do that, given the right type of business and a bit of luck!)

But having that as a focus did help me drive hard in the right direction on a good many things; and frankly having something to work on building helped keep me sane through the long long long days and nights of tending to Maddie.

In 2016, I actually think we could hit that goal, if we execute well. (btw I keep saying “we” — building this business with my brother-in-law; so $200k profit would be split between us…)

2. Establish a Friend Rhythm

FAIL. But it’s still important to me; so it’s something I will work into my 2016 planning which is in progress.

3. Climb three V8’s

Well, I got one. (Technically a V8- but I’m counting it!) But I don’t feel bad about that at all. It was a fun goal to work towards, and it did have some great side effects — helped me focus a bit more on healthy habits; and got me to the gym a couple of times a week (which again helped my sanity).

4. Outdoors Time

Yes. And it definitely worked. More of that in 2016…

5. Grow relationships with 3 mentors/coaches

Hmm; not really. I ended up subbing this with “find some folks online to follow and learn from”. Not nearly as great as real relationships… it was what I felt I could do in 2015. Still need to think about where to go with this one.

 

level-up2016 — Time to “Level Up”.

Forget about New Years Resolutions… to actually get somewhere you need a system.

In retrospect that’s the biggest problem with my 2015 list above — it’s just a bunch of goals without any real strategies as to how I was going to get there…

To be fair, for each of these, in 2015, I did write up some strategies (separately) and I reviewed every month. Useful, and helpful, but I want to find a more effective way in 2016.

The one good thing about surviving the wasteland of suck that was 2015 is that I feel like I’ve truly regained my footing, and can rebuild a better life from here on out.

Maddie will continue to be a roller-coaster and time-sink… but I can work around it. No point in worrying about stuff outside my control.

So going forward I’m putting into place some systems to help get towards my 2016 goals… My theme for 2016 is “Level Up” — been experimenting with lots of things over the last 2 years or so… time to put the pieces together and effect some major changes in 2016. 1% better. Every. Single. Day.

Maddie is Turning Three

April 2015

April 2015

Maddie will be three years old in a week or so. Wow that’s depressing…

Mainly for my own easy reference, here are all my old blog posts on the topic — wow I was naive two years ago when I said “hopefully this will all be over soon”. Really could not imagine at the time that we would still be in basically the same situation at age 3.

June 2013 — one year into the ordeal:
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-year-maddies-challenges.html

August 2013 — Maddie hits 16 months…
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2013/08/43-years-old.html

September 2013 — We switched to a GJ tube and for a brief while I thought we were getting somewhere:
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2013/09/sept-25-whole-new-chapter-for-madison.html

November 2013 — Can you believe this is all because of stomach gas???
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2013/11/sometimes-little-things-are-huge.html

April 2014 — Checking in at ~2 years old
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2014/04/maddie-status-check.html

June 2014 — 26 months; just had to do a brain dump…
http://screaser.blogspot.com/2014/06/maddie-status-check-265-months.html

Today

So now here we are at age 3. We’re still just trying to get through each day. Still no real progress on any of the major things: can’t talk, can’t eat, can’t stand — hell can’t sit up unassisted.

Still feeding her through the g-tube 22 hours a day, and dealing with painful tummy gas every 15-30 minutes. Still retching a few times per day.

It’s fucking groundhog day over here.

She doesn’t look like a baby anymore; her face has developed into that of a sweet little toddler. But no toddling… just holding her for hours on end, including lots of thrashing around and crying.

What is Going On???

Something isn’t right here. We still don’t have a diagnosis; but more to the point — nobody else that I’ve ever heard of (we’ve asked doctors) seems to have had this kind of tummy gas problem. In theory we’re supposed to just push in a couple ounces of food every hour or two and unhook the g-tube extension.

If we could do that, we’d be in heaven.

We have her hooked up to an expansion tube literally 23 hours per day. She’s only off for therapies and perhaps a bath. Holding a toddler with an open tube of tummy contents all the time just doesn’t work.

Has anyone else out there experienced this? I would truly love to find out and compare notes.

Nursing Help (through Medicaid) is Saving Us

Thank goodness for our nurse aide; we have help about 24 hours/week now, which is the only way I can get anything done at all. And she’s great… she actually suctions the tube just like we do to relieve Maddie’s stomach bubbles. No way I would ask anyone to do that; as a parent you just do… but Silvia has just adopted whatever she has to do to make Maddie comfortable. Wow.

Her nursing and therapies are being paid for by Medicaid. Fuck anyone that goes around hating on government and wanting to cut everything… real people are helped by these things. Real people are hurt when you cut them.

Last Thoughts…

The thing that’s really bugging me is that Sydney has started shutting Maddie out more and more. Rarely interacts with her, and always resists giving her a goodnight hug and kiss. Resists hard. Very sad to see. We had those two close together (~18 months) on purpose so they’d have each other… but they don’t.

Anyway.

Here we are at 3, and I hope I can write something so much happier at age 4. Until then, we just keep on humming “Carry On” and keep trying our best not to give in to the urge to strangle her.

Her birthday is coming up, so we need to have a little party — for Sydney to feel like things are normal more than anything else.

But to us, each birthday is a bitter reminder of how far we have not come. She still feels stuck in time as an infant, and three years of having an infant crying in your ear starts to get tiresome.

2014 – Year in Pictures

I’ll be honest; toward the end of 2014 I woke up feeling blue. A whole lap around the Sun, and there didn’t seem to be all that much to show for it.

Didn’t get anywhere with work… Maddie is still a 24/7 challenge… my todo list is longer than ever… and I still don’t look like Ryan Gosling — WTF life???

Photo Stream to the rescue.

Aaaahhh… after scrolling through a couple thousand pictures, I see that good things did, in fact, happen this year.

First off, it’s fun to see how much Sydney has grown. She doesn’t look like a toddler anymore:

syd-jan-2014

Jan 2014

 

the-girls

Jan 2015

 

(And that’s not even a great picture of Syd — she looks so much more grown up these days!)

 

 

 

 

So what else? I did manage to sneak in a little trip to Las Vegas in February. Not that Las Vegas, the fun one:

vegas

Canyons around Red Rocks

 

broken-hand

Oops.

Was great to see Mike. Hiking around with the brothers… good times. Despite the cast:

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s see what else…

 

In March I started to get serious about the mud-pit we call a backyard.

Last year I built an epic playset out back… but ran out of momentum before I did anything about cushioning the landing. Well after a few too many times cleaning up muddy tracks, here’s what we managed to do:

Before

Before

After

After

 

(First, though, I had to run extra power out to my workshop — now the lights don’t dim anymore when I turn on my saw!)

(BTW Mucho thanks for your help with that, Nate!)

 

 

The main backyard goal was to build a deck… but to do that I needed a functioning workshop.

Besides the power and massive internal organization, that meant adding on a little lean-to for my dust collector, and expanding the concrete pad out front… so that was my April project.

Getting organized!

Getting organized!

Dust Collector's Home

Dust Collector’s Home

shop-pavers-before

Before pavers…

Indoor-outdoor shop!

Indoor-outdoor shop!

 

The extra space out front lets me swing my miter saw out and use it, along with a few other major tools, outside — more sun, less dust.

It… is… sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come May 2014, I ran out of things I just had to do before work could start on the deck. For some reason sitting on these back brick steps isn’t good enough??? 😉

Redneck much?

Redneck much?

deck-sunny

(No, the house isn’t on fire.)

 

 

This took some serious doing, and wrecked my elbows for months…

Totally worth it.

 

 

Even Sydney helped:

Yay holes!

Yay holes!

Friends!

Yay friends!

 

During the deck project we also had a way-too-brief visit from our London friends.

Hope we weren’t terrible hosts! Next year we’ll get ourselves above water.

 

 

 

Finished the deck in June. In July we snuck in Sydney’s first State Fair experience… and I finally managed to get to Inbox Zero. (Hey, small personal victories count!)

No Fear

No Fear

Feels as good as you'd think!

Feels as good as you’d think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the end of August we hit bottom. Maddie had a tiny little minor near-death experience, and we ended up in the hospital for a week or so.

Electrolyte crash

Electrolyte crash

What a trooper!

What a trooper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we’re there, in a desperate bid to stay sane, we switched the girls’ rooms and painted them both.

Space for us to sleep next to her...

Space for us to sleep next to her…

Just got home! Whew!

Just got home! Whew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in Sydney’s new room, of course we had to build an Epic Bunk Bed. Done.

Yup, room for 3-4 cousins.

Yup, room for 3-4 cousins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To wrap up the year, we have achieved a new level of sustainability with Maddie, thanks to the pediatric wheelchair and an in-home nurse aide.

Sydney named it Sugar Plum

Sydney named it Sugar Plum

Now *that's* a look...

Now *that’s* a look…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maddie loves Shaquan!

Maddie loves Shaquan!

You can bust some sweet tricks off this ramp.

You can bust some sweet tricks off this ramp!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s pretty much a wrap for 2014. We all survived, the homestead continues to get better and better, and we even managed to squeeze in some fun.

Onward and most definitely upward!

syd-dec-2014

beachcornhole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If you enjoyed this in any way I’d love it if you’d say hi!)

Direction Matters more to Happiness than Position (Maddie’s Progress)

They say that lottery winners, on average, don’t end up any happier a couple of years after their big win. On the other hand, folks that have lost a limb in an accident often report being happier — again, on average — a couple of years down the road.

Seriously; folks that have lost a leg are often happier than lotto winners. Why?

It all comes down to a truth that I’ve been reminded of recently: the trials of everyday life don’t have nearly as big an effect on your happiness as whether you believe that things are getting better. The direction of life change is more important than where you are right now… or to put it another way, it makes all the difference in the world whether you think your life will get better and better in the future.

Here are two examples I’ve lived lately.

purple-cast

1. The Purple Hand

At the end of January I broke my hand. The cast they put on it had a fiberglass “web” running over the soft fleshy part between my thumb and index finger, as they usually do. After a couple of days, that started cutting into my thumb pretty good… but for lack of options I did my best to ignore it.

Three weeks into six-weeks of healing, I took a serrated kitchen knife to the webbing.

Aaaaaaaaah!  Now that’s relief…

For the next week I was barely bothered by the rest of the cast, even though it was still rubbing my index finger fairly badly (hence the tape in the picture) — I just kept remembering how much better it was to have that webbing gone. (And I knew the cast would be gone soon.)

When the cast did come off, my world experienced a similar lift. Sure, the hand hurt… and I still couldn’t climb… but my new wrist freedom was such a huge step in the positive direction that it lifted me for weeks. And since I could feel things healing up, I continue to be reminded that things are getting better and better…

2. Maddie’s Growth Chart

For the past 22 months we’ve been fighting to get Maddie to gain weight. Long story. This chart says a lot:

chart

She’s been under the 1% of weight for just about all of her life. It’s hard to eat when your GI system is under-developed, and it’s hard to develop your GI system when you can’t eat…

From month 12 through months 23 she gained approximately nothing… just slowly slipped off the bottom of the growth chart.

Those were 11 very difficult months.

It’s not hard to let one particular life rut pull down your whole mental frame. When the present isn’t changing, why would the future be any better (irrational thought this is, it’s not hard to understand). Of course the best way to make sure the future sucks is to stop trying to make it better… but let’s move on.

Finally, over the past 6 weeks or so, things are starting to click. See that uptick I circled in green? That is the single most exciting thing I have ever seen in my life. No exaggeration. All of a sudden the future is looking bright… there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train coming our way.

Once more, even though things are still challenging the direction of change makes it all feel OK.

The Lotto Winner and the Amputees

So what’s the deal with these sad lotto winners and the happy amputees? From what I’ve read, it comes down to much the same thing.

Sure, the lotto winner might still be rich (might not, often enough), but is their life getting better? In fact, they often feel like the best thing to ever happen to them is in the past, and it’s a long slow slide down from here.

Whereas the folks that lost a limb have one of the biggest challenges (mostly) behind them… they’re getting by and hopefully getting better, and they tend to see the future as better still.

The Point

The big takeaway for me is that you can easily use this to hack your whole mood. Rather than complain about the weather, find one thing that is within your control and work on improving it… revel in the glow of this one little area of your life moving on up, and you almost can’t help but see the future as rosier.

Then it gets even better.

When this sense of things getting better in one area spills over into a positive outlook on the future, it gives you more energy and lets you notice and take advantage of other opportunities, which ends up causing things to actually get better and better in other areas.

Thinking really can does affect reality.

Jan ’14 Monthly Experiment Check-in

on-the-wagon

By my math it’s exactly half-way through January — perfect time to check in on this month’s Experiment of writing every day.

Looking back, I’ve written about 10 days out of the 18 that have ticked away. Not great, but since this is a Monthly Experiment and not a “New Year’s Resolution” I don’t see any reason to feel bad. The learning that comes from thoughtful experimentation is as much the point as the experimental habit itself…

So what have I learned so far?

1) Writing is great medicine

I knew this already, actually; but this month has been a great reminder. It’s amazing to me how much difference it makes just to get my thoughts  organized enough to jot down. Publishing them seems to lighten the load somehow, and walk straighter for the rest of the day.

This is the case whether writing about little personal victories or recent personal disasters. Or even just venting about craptastic customer service from a company like LegalZoom.

2) Ideas get log-jammed

Apparently there is a limit to the number of ideas I can keep in my head. (And it’s a frighteningly small number, too). When I started this experiment, I worried a bit about finding enough things to write about… but I find that every time I give an idea life by evicting it from my noodle, new ones pop in.

I’ve had more and better ideas coming to me, now that I’m writing and sharing the old ones. In fact I have a pretty cool concept for a novel now… maybe I’ll take an upcoming month and write up a treatment.

3) “Pay yourself first”

This phrase comes from the world of personal finance; but a similar effect applies here. Life is hectic; and no matter what you do the hours fall away fast. The days where I saved my writing for evening were very hit-or-miss; very often by the time the kids went to bed I was too mentally exhausted to even think about thinking.

By tackling the things that are important to you as early in the day as possible, you’ll set yourself up for greater success. That way, even if the rest of the day goes sideways on you, you’ve already made real progress on something that matters. In my case, I think I need to tweak my morning routine so that by noon I’m already ahead of the game. That’s a challenge given Maddie’s current needs, but it’s the key to getting back on the writing streak I want to create for the rest of the month.

4) Never 2 days off

Sometimes the world does not cooperate, and despite your best efforts a day will go by without being able to tick your Daily Experiment Done box.

It happens.

But I’ve realized that when that does happen, you absolutely positively must tick that box the next day. One day off is a stumble, easily recovered. Two days off is the beginning of anti-new-habit inertia… it gets exponentially harder to stay motivated on day 2, and especially day 3.

So if you miss a day of whatever daily habit you’re trying out, give yourself a bit of slack — but then kick your butt hard to get back on the horse the very next day.

Wrap-up…

It’s been great writing more. To get the most out of this month, I’ll move a couple of things around so I can end with a 10-day winning streak.

After that, I tentatively plan to cut back from daily to 3 blog posts per week — but to make that stick I know I’ll have to commit to a schedule. Not “when the mood strikes”, but specific days of the week that know I will write.

I would like to do more, actually, but I have so many things I want to do with my limited free time that I will probably have to strike a balance with writing.

Macbook adapter surgery: success!

cord

A couple of weeks ago I bought a replacement adapter for the household computers. The old one gave up the ghost; internal problem of some sort. So I popped on down to the Apple store.

$79 for a replacement; ouch.

But, I do really like being able to charge the computers while on the couch, and I was already there… so I gritted my teeth and ponied up.

Two days later, the dog decided that new cords are delicious. And just like that, it’s time to say goodbye to the dog. (Well, not really; but the thought did cross my mind.)

So. Given that I already decided that I need an adapter in the family room, what to do?

The default response would be to swear a few times, plunk down another $80, and figure out how to make the dog leave it alone (I’m thinking pepper spray).

But there is a more badass solution. Repair it!

A quick Googling turned up instructions for replacing the cord. 5 minutes on Amazon and we find the exact OEM part, for a whopping total of $7.39 including shipping.

adapter-open

Well dang… for 1/10 the cost, I just couldn’t justify doing it the lazy way… no, to retain the rights to my man-card I had to at least attempt electronic surgery. I buy the cord from Amazon and it’s on.

A few days later, a padded envelope arrives from China. Direct. From Friggin China.

I follow the gist of the instructions I had Googled, and within literally 15 minutes I have the adapter back together with the new cord in place. Plug it in… green LED… Score!

$80? Screw that… $8 and good as new. I guess the dog can stay.

 

Two things:

1) How insanely cool is the world we live in? When you can find a detailed walkthrough on almost any repair or build project in minutes, and when you can order a single, specific, OEM part delivered to your door FROM FRIGGIN CHINA for a whopping $7.39 including shipping. It’s truly an amazing time to be alive.

2) Fixing (or building) things is way more satisfying than buying. It makes the master of your environment, in complete command of the things that might otherwise own you. Once you start, it’s kind of addictive… I’ve got a couple of future projects percolating in the old Thinkolator already.

Got an adapter needing a new cord? Give me a buzz… this was a fun repair. I’d do it again.

2013 Experiment: Primal/Paleo(ish) Eating

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 8.23.19 PM

Quick thought tonight… just wanted to share an example of the kind of monthly experiments I’m talking about.

Last year around July, I felt the need to try a “reboot” of sorts. I buzzed my hair, started running, made some changes to my spending patterns, tried to cut way down on my evening beverages, and started eating more or less “Paleo / Primal”. All at once. Just like that.

What Didn’t Work

Changing lots of things at once… unless you are hitting bottom, this is a recipe for disaster — which, frankly, is why most New Years Resolutions fall apart around January 10th.

The “fresh new start” was invigorating, but when one of my new habits started wobbling, the rest were put in peril as well.

What Did Work

The hair, actually, helped me stick to a couple of my new experimental habits.

Every time I started to feel stressed out and tempted to go back to the cloud I was previously under, I would rub my head, take a deep breath, and look up and smile. Just having that one very real and tactile reminder of my fresh start was enough to lift my mood… and it did indeed help me stay the course on some of these spontaneous initiatives.

There is power in habits and triggers… set yourself up for success with any new challenge by setting up a trigger that reminds you of what you are hoping to achieve with your new direction… or if not that, set up a trigger that reminds you to take a deep breath and smile a few times a day.

You will be amazed at how much of a difference a deep breath can make!

Paleo / Primal

This will become at least post of it’s own, but I want to share just how effective this has been for me. Even though I only stick 75% to the strict letter of these regimens, I’ve dropped significant weight and feel better all over.

If you struggle with weight, energy, or are hungry all of the time — and if you are currently on the “OMG MUST AVOID FAT” train — I beseech you to give it a try. Just take a month and cut as much sugar (including bread) out of your diet as you can, and see how it feels.

Give it a month — you won’t regret it.

Goodbye 2013. Seriously.

8262414788_7599a91fea_cHave been blogging very very sporadically over at screaser.blogspot.com for a while; the plan is to shift that over here, with an invigorated and invigorating focus.

2013, frankly, sucked. 2014 will be awesome, and I’ll be sharing it here as I create it.

 

(Image credit: Bingee – http://www.flickr.com/photos/10292253@N06/8262414788/)