Did I mention that we won a painting from the Octopus Initiative this month? The program is awesome. The way it works is you log into their website every month and select which paintings you like. If you win, you get to take the piece home and keep it for up to 10 months.

Today we went to pick it up, and I did my best to enjoy being out of the house. I’ve been spending too many weekends cooped up and though I’d love to go on being cooped up I have a feeling it’s not the healthiest way to spend my winter. The weekends are my best chance to see the sun and remember there is more than work, and sleep, and darkness.

It doesn’t feel very much like a Friday. Getting up was very hard this morning. So hard I almost opted to spend the day in bed. I’ve decided I get one day a month to do nothing when I should be doing something but November’s mental health day has already passed.

So, I went in, and then worked much more than I wanted to. We moved around office furniture and I ate lunch at a desk. At least we ordered out and at least I got to eat with the best coworkers around. And now I’ve been left to work alone. I sound like I hate it but I’m flattered by the opportunity to play boss.

Looking back on the day I’m grateful for a job where I can get up and move, where I get to be with my friends and laugh, where I have a team and where I know I’m wanted and doing well. I don’t think most people have that.

I’m trying.

It has been a good week for reading. I finished Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky on Sunday, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller this morning, started Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and made slow progress through Moral Letters to Lucilius: Volume 1 by Seneca nearly every day.

It feels good to spend so much time with books again, but I’m also disappointed and perplexed in my inability to keep up the habit given how much I enjoy it. Why am I like this? People are weird and I guess I am no exception.

This week is long, they always are after I take a day off. I think there is a lot of anticipation in the week too. It’s the last empty week of the year. After this there will be Thanksgiving, there will be Christmas shopping, there will be Christmas, and then there will be a whole New Year. It’s a week of waiting and waiting makes the time pass slow.

I started a new post for Z+P. I started with a quote and a dim idea and I’m just exploring it. I’m writing to figure out what I think rather than beginning with my point already in mind. I’ll grow this piece one sentence at a time.

It’s raining now, but it’s not the kind of rain I like. It’s the kind of rain that you know will turn to snow any second. It’s cold, dark, and dreary outside. It’s only 5:00 PM, but it feels like 8:00 PM. I hate winter, the time change, the weather, the feeling that there is nothing to do but sleep and work. I hardly see the sun anymore. Tomorrow is forecasted to be even worse. I don’t even want to think about the coming months.

I think this weekend I need to get out of the house. These last few weekends I’ve stayed inside to clean or to try to write but I suddenly feel cooped up. Maybe I’ll start my Christmas shopping early, or pick up the piece of art I won from the Octopus Initiative? I just need to get out.

The worst way to start the workweek is to start it on a Tuesday. Nothing went the way I meant for it to though it didn’t necessarily turn out bad. I’m off my path but I’m still moving and that’s something.

I did have time to catch up on some things here and to get some reading in but not much more. This evening I spent with my wife. Between work, my personal pursuits, and my poor health there has been little left of me for her at the end of the night. I have to be mindful of the time I give to her just as I do the time I claim for myself and I realize that lately I have been coming up short.

The rest of the week looks bleak with lots of work, cold temperatures, and snow. I’m ready for the weekend again already.

I took off from work today to act be an “emotional support sibling” for my youngest sister. I can’t say why (it’s not my story to tell) but I will say that I enjoy the hell out of helping her whenever I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way every (or at least a vast majority) of our acts of kindness come tinged with self-interest. I used to feel bad about it but, hell, if helping someone else makes me feel good too isn’t that just twice the reason why we should be kind? Knowing this, accepting this, has not only made compassion feel even better but has freed me from the pressure to always put myself first.

Helping others is putting myself first.

If We Were Having Coffee // Keeping My Workload Light

Hello and happy Sunday! Thanks for stopping by for a bit of conversation and catching up over a hot cup of coffee.

I didn’t get up as early as I had hoped to this morning, I never do, but I have a lot more energy than I have in the last few days at least and I’m feeling especially motivated and accomplished. I’ve checked off most of my usual Sunday to-do item, and the day is only just half over. At this point I usually end up sitting down, getting distracted, and wasting the rest of the day but this Sunday I’m keeping out of the living room and keeping my task list in front of me. A relaxing Sunday never makes me feel very good, but a productive one is by far the best start to a new work week.

So, please, pull up a chair and grab a cup. The autumn air blowing in through the west windows is a bit crisp, but the sun is warm enough to warrant the open windows. I’ve fallen in love with my French press all over again since I remembered it can be used to make more than cold brew coffee. I’ve got a fresh bag of blond roast and a carton of sweet vanilla almond milk to go with it. Let’s talk about last week!

“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.”

― Edward Abbey

If we were having coffee, I would tell you last week was a pretty good week.

More mornings than not I was able to get up on time, get ready for quickly and smoothly, and make it on time to work. It may not sound like much but working on a school bus means working in an industry that is time focused and unforgiving of tardiness. You would think that in all the years I have been doing this I would have gotten used to the early mornings but I never have no matter what or how hard I try. Hitting at least 3 out of 5 mornings where I am not feeling frustrated, breaking down in tears, rushing around, or running late is a big deal for me.

The new class of employees I had been working was released midweek and are already out working with the kids all on their own so my workload was light. I hear I may have a new class coming in at the start of December, anywhere from 4 to 20 people they say. I’d prefer to keep it under 12. That is where I can do my best work and trust I have both give new people all the tools and time they need to do the job and judge their compatibility with children and with our culture as a district.

Until they start I plan to go on keeping my workload light too. I know now that for the two weeks or more I will be with them I won’t have time or energy left over for any of my personal passions and pursuits. I know now that the balance I need in my life can’t be found in the chopping up each day into parts for me and parts for others but in chopping up whole months. I know now I need to look at life on a larger time scale.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I did get a lot of reading done this week though I still haven’t been able to finish Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky. If I can get my Sunday chores done in time I may try to make it through the last 50 pages or so. I’d really rather not take it to work with me one more day.

I spent most of my free time working on little blog things. Zen and Pi has a new introductory post up. I don’t think it is my best work, but it’s a start and it did feel really good to finally write, finish, and hit publish on something over there. Now that it’s both been purged of the old posts, and marred by a new post, I feel much more excited about writing more in-depth and challenging pieces over there. I’m ready to start doing something that feels more like real writing again.

This week I want to get another post up but I haven’t settled on a topic yet. That’s okay though, the editorial schedule is pretty loose for now with once a month being the bare minimum and once a week being the most I can hope for. My goals are the opposite of this place, 10% quantity and 90% quality.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend was good but not in the way I had planned or hoped for it to be.

Friday night we went out for a much-needed evening of dinner and drinks with our “couples group”—our core group of 8 friends in which every member happens to be married to another member. I cannot express the importance of long-term couples having friends who are also in long-term (and healthy) relationships. It’s such a wonderful thing to be around people who are not just like you as an individual but like you in their choice to live their entire lives with another person as well.

Yesterday I meant to spend the day writing and working on my resume but I woke up feeling groggy from the night before. I struggled to stay focused or productive and by midday; I opted for a short nap thinking that when I woke up again I could start the day anew. Instead, I woke to a phone call from my brother asking if I would please step in to watch my niece and nephew because their scheduled babysitter needed to back out suddenly.

I love my niece and nephew and always enjoy visiting with them, but I do best with supervised visits since I’m not great with kids for long periods of time. I’m not good at being silly or seeing the world through a toddler’s eyes to know what they want. This is the main reason I choose to work with high schoolers at my day job. We had fun though, and I feel more confident that I can help my brother out when he needs me.

The kids only wore me out further though and even after they left I couldn’t muster the motivation to do anything but eat and watch some old favorites on Disney+.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this coming week should be just as relaxed as the last. I took Monday off to help a family member and I pushed the bulk of my tasks off until after midweek. I want to take advantage of the opportunity for free time right away, and to give myself a chance to take it easy for a few days. I’m still feeling the effects of work stress that has already passed.

Sadly, I believe that my ulcerative colitis is beginning to flare again. I have already filed to required paperwork in case I need to take leave from work and tomorrow I’ll shoot an email to my doctor and emotionally prepare myself for the appointments and tests she will probably require. I’m trying not to stress before I know what is going on, but it’s hard when I can still remember so clearly the pain and the misery I went through during my last flare.

The worst part is, I blame myself. I didn’t take care of myself when I should have the most. I didn’t eat right, rest well, or take my medications on time. I forget that I can’t be like other people and that I can’t worry about what other people think. I have to put myself first and ask for help, for more time, and for a break when I need it whether other people do or not.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the air is going colder now. I’ve got to stop drinking coffee if I want to have any chance of sleeping well tonight and I’ve got to finish getting my house in order if I want any hope of another one of those smooth mornings tomorrow.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you are feeling well and that wherever you are you are staying warm and I hope whatever stress you are feeling is the good kind and that whatever obstacles you face only encourage rather than deter you.

Until next time.

lofi hip hop radio // Chillhop Music

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Last night we went out for dinner and drinks with our “couples group”. I had a great time while we were out but all last night I laid wide awake in the dark replaying every interaction and word I said. I analyzed every response and tried to decipher tones and facial expressions looking for reasons to be embarrassed. I didn’t want to do this but my mind wouldn’t stop. The night was like a song stuck in my head. There was nothing I could do but wait it out.

I hate that I am like this.

My brother just called, waking me from a short nap I needed after my late night of self depreciation. He needs someone to watch the kids, and I am his last resort and hope. I agreed, reluctantly. I love my niece and nephew so much, but I am not good with kids. I prefer supervised visitations where I am not the sole responsible adult. I agreed though, it’s only for a few hours. My wife is on her way to buy snacks and we have Disney+ already up and ready.

Update: The kids were fine. We watched Frozen and Wreck It Ralph. We ate snacks. They broke a few things but nothing important. I feel much more confident and would agree to watch them again, but just as reluctantly as I did this time.

Yesterday we were near 70 degrees, today we never got above freezing. I woke up to falling snow and spent the morning bracing myself through icy road conditions and bad traffic. Working on a school bus I never thought being on a delayed schedule did any good until today when I saw what happens when we should and don’t.

Despite the miserable weather, and my body feeling miserable too, I was able to knock a few to-do items off of my list. Merging my separate lists together and keeping the items simple is already proving to be a big help. I like being able to see at a glance exactly what I need to get done and working through each item one-by-one until they are all done. It feels good.

It was my night to cook which means not only is my mood shot (I hate cooking but my wife and I switch off so that no one has to be miserable every night) but I have a lot less time for the things I’d hoped to accomplish. That’s ok though, today was a good effort and what could get done can easily roll over into Tuesday. I’ll have less time during the day but more time at night, and Wednesday will be less time during either and Thursday I scheduled more time during both.

I’m trying to find the balance.

Productive Sundays are the best kind of Sundays but all of my Sundays would be even more productive if I made my Saturdays more productive too.

In addition to everything I got done today I revived and merged all my to-do lists into one big list. I have one or two things to do (outside of work) per day, that’s all, and if I can get them done, by this time next week, I’ll have freed up enough time to tackle some real projects rather than having to spend all day on a hundred little chores.

Of course, the hardest part is never anything that’s actually on the list but rather keeping the list in focus in the first place. Wish me luck!