Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nearly Christmas

The countdown to Christmas is almost done. 5 days to go!

I've not completed my shopping, but it's getting there. And I've decided that gift wrap is over rated. I am possibly the world's worst wrapper.

But, our tree is up and looks great, and the cookies are baked. We still have no idea what we will be doing Christmas Eve, but Christmas day I'll be joining my sister at our parent's place for a nice steak dinner. It's a low key holiday this year, which is funny because Dylan is aware of the whole Santa thing. We're not sure if he gets the idea of presents yet, but every time he sees Santa he exclaim "SANTA!" and then goes back to whatever he was doing. Makes you wonder how much ole Chris Cringle is pushed down our throats if a 1 1/2 year old knows who he is.

But as the holiday approaches, I'm happy to be off from work for 4 1/2 days, and look forward to seeing some friends over the weekend.

So...Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sleep patterns of a new era

Who doesn't love sleep? I really haven't heard anyone say "Man, I never want to sleep again!"

Unless you're in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie of course.

I adore sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream! And a chance for the body to be restored. Hamlet was talking about death when he said that by the way, and the type of sleep he wanted wasn't restorative.

Thinking back to all the sleeping I have done in my life, I particularly zone in on the college days of sleeping. On the weekends there were no alarms, and I recall lying in bed for 15, 18 hours. Just napping and laying about. Jumping forward into my late 20s there was the possibility to do that on the weekends, but a sense of responsibility crept in, making it seem slothful to sleep past noon on a Saturday (unless I had been up until 4 of course).

And then the baby came. And sleep was transformed.

It wasn't that I didn't sleep. While my son did wake up every 2-3 hours at night he wasn't a raging maniac. He ate and then went back to bed. I only had to "walk the halls" once with him. That's not too bad considering the other horror stories I've heard. But I feel like since he's been around I've had a veil of sleep around me at all times. I've always been able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat no matter where I was (like the back of a Dropkick Murphy's concert. zzzzzzzzz. I was tired!), but now it's ridiculous. Sleep is always just seconds away, looming. But it rarely lasts long. And that's what is different about having a young child, you sleep but are constantly woken up.

For me, the effect of that is two fold. First, I cannot do everything I used to do mentally. Well, that's not true. But it's more challenging now. Before Baby (BB) I went to work, got everything done and watched TV all afternoon. Now...I come to work and BAM it's 4 o'clock and I've gotten the bare bones of my job done. I do have to say I am more open to distraction now, but I can feel my brain working harder to do the mundane tasks that are required of me.

Second, (and the first is probably directly related to this) is that I find myself in a haze. I drift off, staring into space, as though my mind is taking mini-naps while my body keeps going. So I'm getting stuff done but it's not the high quality that I previously did.

Over the past month I've been paying attention to the amount of sleep I get. I'm logging about 5-6 hours a night. Almost the recommended amount. Almost. Adults need 7-9 hours per night. So I'm under the recommended, but not by too much.

But you're child will get older, my reader(s) are thinking. And that is true. In fact, he already is. He rarely wakes up in the middle of the night anymore (except all of last week), and he is asleep at 7:43 each night until about 7 the next morning.

"What's the problem?" you're thinking.

Well, in this new era of my life (still unnamed) my main problem with sleep is that it's interfering with my life. I would LOVE to go to bed each night at 8:30, but it's just not feasible. I have too much to do. I work all day, come home and take care of my son until he goes to bed, then eat dinner, exercise or go to a meeting, clean, do laundry, make lunches for the next day, and then when I go to sit down for a second it's 11:45 at night and I need to go to bed because I have to be up in 5 hours to get up and meet my crazy new friends at the track for early morning sprints. Luckily enough, I take the train into work each morning, and that 60 minutes can be harnessed as a nap. So this morning I packed a pillow in my bag and really got comfortable.

But now it's 9:15 AM, and I've been at work for over an hour and have yet to reply to an email. I'm not tired, but my mind is in that haze. And I can't go to bed before midnight until Sunday night due to a work dinner and babysitting this weekend, and the most I'll be able to "sleep in" is probably 8 AM tomorrow. IF my son doesn't come running into the room at 7 AM. He always finds me hiding beneath the covers.

I think the Mayo Clinic has it right:

"Although some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don't perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night. Additionally, studies among adults show that getting much more or less than seven hours of sleep a night is associated with a higher mortality rate. "

My complex mental tasks are coming in low. A higher mortality rate. At this point I guess I'll sleep when I'm dead. Perhaps Hamlet had it right.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Poems and writing

Last night I was struck by a vivid image in my head that I had to write down. It occurred at 12:10 AM just as I was trying to brush my teeth and hit the hay. I had spend the last hour cleaning my kitchen because I wouldn't have time again until Saturday to do it, and my mother is babysitting tomorrow so that just wouldn't do. There was cat food all of the floor, a sink full of dirty dishes, and counters that had dust on them. Dust. So I stayed up and cleaned, finishing with a swiffer of the floor. Perhaps it is the mundane task that spurred on some creativity.

This scene in my head was important. It was character driven, and looking into the mirror as I brushed my teeth I saw the scene play out like I was watching a movie. It begged to be recorded. So instead of waiting to the morning to try to recapture (and remember) it all, I turned the computer on and wrote. I also sat on the cat, but that was her fault. She was in my chair.

It has been awhile since I last did that. Sat and wrote fiction. I only knocked out 250 words, but it felt nice. I usually try to remember the scenes the next day and come up with empty generalizations.

Man and woman in hotel room. Woman jumps out window.

I'm pretty sure something is missing there.

I used to write down all my crazy thoughts and have notebooks full of scraggly handwriting from my 20s that could possibly get me committed if someone thought they were journals and not writing exercise books. This morning I read over the only poem I've had published--about 8 years ago--and edited it on my second read through. I could do much better now.

So I'm pretty happy right now that I have 250 words of a scene done, and hope it grows into more. Especially because right now I am writing an article on a stone wall for the paper. Dull as bricks it is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bulk shopping: from fire to friend

A month ago we joined BJs. If you don't know what BJs is, congratulations. You have managed to avoid American big box culture. For all others, I know, it took us a while to get on board.

I don't hate BJs. Let me start with that. (And men, stop giggling.) Costco, BJs, or whatever other feedstore is out there that requires you to buy everything in bulk is more acceptable to me than Walmart. Walmart has stripped the American economy of any individuality and left a wide path of destruction among the American small business [here, here, and here for example]. I try to avoid shopping in Walmart, and have often "stayed in the car" while others in my party have gone in. To be honest, my opinion of Walmart is also affected by my personal experience there in the fall of 1997.

I was with my college roommates on a trip out of our dorm and the car we were in wouldn't start in the parking lot. We thought it had overheated, and listened to music while it cooled off. After a bit, I decided to check under the hood as I was dating a mechanic at the time and had watched him work on cars long enough that I figured I could see if something looked out of place. To be fair, every car I had driven up to that point needed some sort of fiddling to start (open air filter vent, pump gas pedal 5 times, etc). Well, it turned out the car engine was on fire.

Yes, on fire.

I quickly shut the hood and told everyone to get out. Now.

The four of us quickly secured the car and stepped about 10 feet away. Then realizing that wasn't far enough, we ran into Walmart to get help. The friendly, elderly greeter at the door responded to our cries for help by handing us the sales flier, and the "customer service" desk refused to call the fire department because the parking lot was not their jurisdiction.

Plus, it was the 2nd car fire there that week, so they had some concerns about insurance.

Meanwhile, we went back to the car which now had smoke spilling from the front grill...which attracted some attention, but not as much as you would think. However, one person who did come over was a very, very, very tall man from Africa. He said that in his country (I don't know which part of Africa he was from, but realize Africa is not a country) people had to help themselves and not rely on the government. He proceeded to open the hood, which I had not shut all the way, and throw dirt on the fire. Except we were in a landscaped parking lot in Latham, NY and there was no dirt. There were wood chips. So, this man added wood chips to the car fire.

At this point I ran to a pay phone (oh, the era before cell phones!) and shouted at the person using it until they hung up and then I dialed 911--who were not concerned about our situation until I said we attended the local college . They must have thought we were trouble makers as they said someone would be there right away!

And they were. At this point the very, very, very tall African man had disappeared and we were left huddled together watching the fire fighters spray down the engine. Then, they looked inside and began pulling the wood chips out.

"Did you throw WOOD on the fire?" they asked us.

We attempted to explain about the very, very, very tall African man but we sounded a bit loony, and they didn't want to hear it. Instead they started making fun of us.

The car needed a tow and we were out of there. Walmart never was the same for me.

But BJs is different. While the three leading bulk sized stores (that's what I'm calling them, I'm sure there is a proper name) [Sams Club, Costco, and BJs] can be considered an obstacle to the lower economic classes as they have yearly membership fees and sell in bulk so you must pay more for the product up front, we decided that bulk shopping may be for us. So we joined. We are lucky enough to have the money up front to do so, and pay for the membership fee [Disclosure: we are the middle...right in the 50% of that 99%. I don't do math, but I think you get the point.] I had been in a bulk store before as my roommate in college worked at Sams and we used to visit her, and have also worked in the food industry and been sent out to one of them for giant cans of caramel.

My first time there as a member was overwhelming. Did we really need 40 rolls of paper towels at once? How many boxes of cereal equals that large box? Plus, I wasn't sure we were saving money. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same. And I'm not buying meat from BJs. I just have a hard time about that...I'm sure it's fine, but we have access to a farm for beef. But it turned out we do need those paper towels. And my husband is building us storage cabinets. And...we've turned into peanut butter speculators.

My husband heard through some news report that the peanut crop was bad this summer, and decided to stock up on peanut butter. Sure enough, there is now a limit on the number of jars you can buy at BJs and the price has gone up. We're stocked up though.

Know what they also have there? Appliances. Gift baskets. Free samples. Everything. They have everything. It's amazing.

Essentially, we're on board. Bulk shopping, I need you. You make me feel like a hoarder in a good way, and I get surprised when I find I did not run out of that essential pantry item.

Plus, based on my encountered with staff at BJs, I am pretty sure they would call the fire department if there was a car fire in their lot, although they may ask to see your membership card first.