How to Be An Introvert For The Holidays

“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.
Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

– Jane Austen

The first week of November is over.  The clocks have changed and darkness comes earlier now.  It’s that time of year where comfort food, hot lattes, and a crazy schedule consumes  me.  While the world expects me to be more social, really I just want to hibernate. These are the months that I want to curl up near the wood stove and write and read and sip seasonal tea and write and read and… well you get it.

It’s also THE HOLIDAYS — no longer divided by Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now it’s all one.  It’s parties and family and friends and gifts and decorating and eating and preparing and rushing and…and… my anxiety is in overdrive.

Do I host the holiday dinners?  Who do I invite?  How many people can we fit in the house? Do I bake pies or order them?  Make my own turkey or cater?  Why isn’t anybody on time?  The food is ready and n0 one is here! Did we really get into a political debate?  When the hell are these people leaving?  I want to put on my yoga pants grab a bottle of bourbon and hit the bed!

Ahhhh.  The holidays.

This year, I came up with what I hope is the perfect solution*. I’m not hosting ANY of the holiday gatherings.  I’m also not accepting any invites.  This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a casual meal.  Maybe a late lunch and an evening of leftovers and grazing.

*Technically I wanted to rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere and spend a week, but that is logistically harder to do than you’d think, and it stressed me out. A lot.

Christmas Eve has always been a night of tradition in my house.  Growing up, it was either hosted by my parents or their friends.  Lots of people.  Lots of food.  Going home stuffed with food and excited to host/attend the dinner all over again the next day.  As a child, it was truly the most exciting time of year (not to mention people kept giving me stuff!).

As an adult it’s meant a mixture of cooking and catering having family or friends or both.  A week of baking the specialties I wait all year to make like sticky toffee pudding and Irish chocolate fudge cake and 800 dozen cookies. Mostly, it’s me (and my husband) in the kitchen preparing the many courses of our dinner (and cooking too much).  In the past few years, we’ve made it an informal buffet rather than a formal dinner.  But still, I rarely get to sit and enjoy the time with my friends or my family.  And there’s nothing quite so awful as waking up on Christmas morning with a stack of dirty dishes on the counters.

This year — that ain’t gonna happen!  I’m making reservations at an upscale restaurant that I’ve wanted my husband to take me to for years.  My friends have an open invitation to join us.  Memories and craic can still happen. We can still meet up, eat good food and be together.

Afterwards, we’re going home and putting on our matching Christmas pj’s and playing board games around the tree and watching movies. Just the three of us — and Finn (our dog). And we’re going to eat cookies, and cake, and whatever – from the couch or the floor or wherever the hell we end up.

Christmas day, we will open gifts and have a brunch.  Then we will stay in our pajamas all day and eat and play, and nap,and read and snuggle (we are really good snugglers).

It’s not that we don’t love our friends and family, but the three of us (plus Finn) never really get to just stay home and do nothing.  There’s always something — soccer, gymnastics, yardwork, snow to shovel, groceries to buy, cars to service, blah blah blah.  We never get to just be...still. We always say we will do it, but then we get invited and think — ahhhh we should go!  But this year I am consciously going to refuse all invitations. Not because we don’t appreciate it, but because we just need some family time. In our pj’s. While stuffing our faces.

And this year, I am actually really looking forward to the holidays.

Lightning Strikes Twice

Okay… so we left off with my Fitbit in the toilet (and ultimately a landfill).

When one’s Fitbit dislodges off their bra, wiggles through two layers of shirts and lands in the toilet, there’s really only two conclusions to come to; 1) the Universe doesn’t think you need to exercise at all or 2) The Universe is pointing out that you DON’T actually exercise.

Considering that I gained three pounds this weekend through dieting, lets just rule out conclusion #1 and go straight to the Universe reminding me that my Fitbit simply served as a daily reminder that I sit at my desk for 8 1/2 hrs a day, plus the hour-long round-trip commute to my office, plus when I go home and eventually fall on to the couch or my writing chair — well you get the picture…

Losing my device meant I had two options.  I could simply take this as a sign that I really don’t need a device to remind me of how stationary I am, or I could get a new device (cheaper this go around) and get back in the business of exercising more.

I decided to go without buying a new device (since I am on a budget and most articles I read state that you shouldn’t buy something just cause you want it).  But this is what happened…

When I took the 7 flights of stairs down to stretch my legs a bit, no one knew it but me.  And when I circled the grocery store four times grabbing everything I’d forgotten on the first go around, I couldn’t tell if I’d reached my mid day goal of 5,000 steps or not.  When I took the dog for a walk and we had to cut home midway (because he isn’t use to walking after the winter) I was paralyzed with the fact that I had no idea whether we’d even reached a mile or whether just a block longer would have hit me to my daily goal of 10,000 steps or not.

It bothered me. A lot.

So I did a little research and found a device at 1/3 of the price.  It was water-resistant so with the summer coming, I could even use it swimming.  It was a Misfit Flash.  I found a coupon that would save me money if I ordered two, but I  couldn’t think of a reason for needing two, even when my husband suggested a back-up — so I paid regular price. It came with a clip and a wrist band. It is less fancy than the Fitbit, but it does the simple things I need (sleep tracker, pedometer, calorie counter, water resistant).  It came within 3 days.

When I received my new tracker, I felt committed to getting active again.  I’ve been having discussions with friends about a cycle of going home and feeling so tired that I don’t get to exercise. Exercising gives us more energy, but what precisely can we do when don’t have enough in us to get there? The jury is still out on this.

I motivated myself to go back to yoga (future post coming soon) and work out as more (if only to prove that I do in fact need a gadget to record my productivity).

I wore my Misfit on my wrist for three days.  It was nice to know my precise movements again.

On the fourth day, I decided to use the clip and secure it so that if it were to fall off, it would fall into my pocket. I’d seriously learned my lesson on being careful. I missed it being on my wrist, but it wasn’t  a huge deal.

On that same day, I showed my coworker the new tracker. We discussed how cool it was and then I excused myself to the ladies’ room…

Yes, I said the ladies’ room. See, as a writer, I just foreshadowed something there.  Can you guess what is?

It’s part of my filing system called “Shit You Can’t Make Up.” My life is primarily made up of such events — the stranger than fiction elements that keep things interesting.

Writers know that details are important to stories — even the mundane which marks the familiar for the reader;  such as how I unbuttoned my jeans and the clarity of which I understood the teal flash of a disc in my peripheral was in fact the Misfit dislodging itself in a beautiful flight that was no longer unique to me.  This time, my tracker skipped liked a beautiful glass stone to the bottom of the bowl and when I peered in thinking “This isn’t happening…again” the toilet answered with an automatic flush that violently swooshed my Misfit away.

I was dumbfounded.

This time, I knew that it was the mischief of an angry god who perhaps had once inhabited a volcano and maybe f*cked up, so a higher up god was like “Dude, I’m sorry but we are demoting you to the sewers. Only after you swallow 8 million fitness trackers, will you be restored to your former position.”  And so this vengeful god seeks to claim all fitness trackers within the New York state sewer systems.
So you see — in the end it wasn’t about me at all.

However, we like our happy endings, do we not Dear Reader?  On my coworker’s recommendation, I wrote to the good people at Misfit and briefly explained how the clip should have been able to deter the “Toilet god” (only I didn’t mention my demoted god theory so much as just mentioned that my Flash ended up getting flushed) and that I was disappointed it had not worked and had in fact only remained fastened to my pocket for roughly 2 hours.

To my relief and surprise, they offered me a replacement — which will be here in roughly three days (when all that I do in my life can be quantified once more).

If this happens a third time… well I’m probably just not telling anyone about it.

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.


Home-made Detergent,The Cable Factor & My Fake Housemate

Your first thought is probably, that’s a really long title. Yeah, well remember Fiona Apple’s album (When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right). Right. So my title is still shorter than that.

Your second, is likely — what the heck is she talking about?

First the detergent factor as I have now coined it.  The home-made detergent factor, actually. In the countless article I have read on ways to minimize your expenses, the writer (in almost EVERY case) will tell us (the reader), that we can save tons of money by making our own detergent.  In fact, this is cited so often, that I am led to believe that the only real reason that I am not rich, is that I buy laundry detergent.  This is the main part I have to wrap my head around… how much laundry are these people doing, anyway? 

Brace yourselves — I’m about to do some math.

I buy my natural, lavender-scented detergent at a whole-sale club for roughly $14 a container (umm large container 64 oz.) which tends to last 3 months (occasionally it goes on sale for $11).  I run my laundry multiple times – daily.  I have a kid. We have a front loaders so I am sure that helps reduce the amount we use.  But still. $14 x 4= $56 a year on detergent.  Let’s throw an extra in there, just to be safe. $70. A. Year. Hmmmmm.  One site claimed that you could wash 312 loads for $7 (spending $14 a year on detergent)and another claimed that you would be spending only $5 per 32 oz “bottle” (spending about $50 a year if you use the amount I use).  So by using a cheese grater, boiling stuff, using a blender etc… this might save me a whopping $10 a year… (has anyone calculated the time and cost of electricity?!?!).  It seems like  a lot of work for minimal savings.

I’m not criticizing people who make their own detergent — it’s just that I don’t think it realistically solves most money issues — at least in my case — and the frequency in which it is posted on money saving sites is —  baffling. *I note too, that not everyone can afford to belong to a whole-sale club (I got my membership on discount) and not everyone can afford to buy bulk items – although again in the case of my detergent as a bulk item —  it’s cheaper that the non-bulk detergents in grocery stores.

I guess you need to decide what savings are worth the effort.

Which brings me to CABLE. I can tell you my husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this very post which will be delivered to his inbox when I hit “publish.” The way others think buying detergent is throwing away money is how I feel about cable.  Just to clarify — I watch TV.  I was the woman who said her children would NEVER watch TV, and then when my son was old enough to make sense of colors and sight, I bought the entire collection of Baby Einstein DVD’s and stuck him on a blanket nearby so I could pee or wash the dishes or anything that was impossible with a screaming little one.  Mea culpa. In my defense he really loves music now — so maybe that wasn’t so bad?

I have my guilty pleasures and I often DVR then binge-watch with the best of them.  I use cable, okay?  My issue is the cost of cable and internet. At the moment our bill is $199.  It’s pretty basic with the exception of the DVR fees and the special channels (ummmm Game of Thrones). However, on most days, when I finally get to watch TV, nothing is ever on.  500 channels and the only six I watch are void of anything I’m interested in. I mostly end up watching Netflix or Amazon Prime (additional fees – also discounted).  My internet is not great either.  I often get kicked off streaming — and our internet service which is included in that $200 is not a middle of the road selection.

So month after month — when the TV selection sucks, or the internet goes out in the middle of one of my BBC Netflix selections – usually while I am on my treadmill, my husband knows that I am going to raise the question, “Do we really need cable?”

“I like to watch sports,” he’ll say.
Yeah, but can’t you do that on your phone?  You always seem to watch on your phone.

“What about Game of Thrones?” (or if he really wants to hit me where it hurts) “You won’t be able to watch Outlander if we go basic.”
Yeah, but we could switch to satelite.

“Everyone says they suck.  My parent’s never get reception when It’s cloudy.  My buddy had a dish and he couldn’t wait to cancel.  He said they — -sucked.”
BUT $200 a month for cable is $2,400 a year of just throwing money away.

“(silence — then crickets…)”
Okay, you know how my birthday is coming up?  If you really loved me and wanted to get the best gift for me EVER — YOU WOULD CANCEL CABLE…

“(eyes roll)”

This is kind of an exact transcription of our monthly cable arguments.  I have become obsessed with it.  I feel like — well probably how those detergent making people feel about paying to wash clothes — I feel ripped off.

And since I love my husband very much and I don’t want to have the crazy cable arguments anymore, I finally took action.

I called my local cable company (whom by the way I’ve called every three months in an effort to lower my bills over the past 2 years — just like those home-made detergent loving folks suggested and NOT once did they even attempt to offer me a discount), so I called them and created an elaborate story (b/c I am a writer you know) and I told them that my housemate was moving out.  I asked if I could take over the account as  anew customer and they said, “No.”

… BUT what I could do was open  my OWN account and get the new customer bundle rate (phone/internet/cable — with GoT’s) for $149 (including fees) and I could cancel the extra movies channels when not in use  — saving me another $15 a month! I had already used my maiden name as an attempt to clearly convey that my fake housemate and I were not related (but we are b/c he is my husband).

Now, while I am not sure the customer service rep. really cared at all about my story (and just how talented I was to keep up my roommate moving out ruse) I couldn’t help myself.  I explained that “he” had been a crappy roommate anyway and proceeded to ask if I he needed to return the equipment by a certain date.  I’m a fan of character development. The rep. said that wasn’t necessary and the new tech could take it away for us (saving is the trip and hassle of going to the physical store AND guaranteeing that our internet and cable service would not be disrupted). Brilliant.

Nice, right? All this costs me is an extra $60 for the set-up.  In return, I will save $1,200 over two years (and it lowers our yearly rate from $2,400 to $1,800).

I’ve done some other money-saving groundwork as well — which Dear Reader, I will share with you in a future post (I know — you seriously can’t wait — but you’ll have to).

With Pumpkin Spice Lattes Comes New Changes

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  There’s something exhilarating about the trees shedding orange and red leaves — a beautiful and sensual undressing. It’s kind of… sexy.  The air is crisp and holds promises of a new beginning. For me New Year’s might as well start in fall.  I can blame the academic calendar — since childhood the fall meant the end of the summer and the beginning — new clothes, new teachers, the promise of new friends – the possibility of being a new version of me.

As an adult it means I can pull out my jeans and knee high boots, wear sweaters and not have to worry about the humidity messing with my curly hair.  I can eat everything pumpkin until my little heart is full of warmth and I need to unbutton my jeans so I can breath.

It still feels like a new beginning even as an adult– hope for new possibilities.  And it is with that sense of hope that I now find myself restlessly considering some major life decisions.

For starters, I gave up Starbucks.  Like really.  I went from using it as a reward to myself for showing up to work every morning to using it as a “once in a while” treat to myself. Even though it is not officially Pumpkin Spice Latte Season, I have in fact started making my very own Pumpkin Spice lattes to bring to work.  I love it.  I mean who says that I can only have pumpkin deliciousness in the fall?  No really, I’d like to have a word with them.

*I’ll even share my recipe in another blog page as my gift to you. It’ll post this week*

I’m trying (always trying) to eat better and exercise more. It seems I’m on some sort of mid (ish) life crisis — or more like an evaluation where I am determined to make things cou2015-07-04 19.40.04nt.  I’m determined to start hiking with Finn. Finn — by the way is fully grown (hopefully) at over 100 lbs. I bought a hiking pack (which yes, is designed to turn him into a pack mule) because although I have plans to exercise, Finn usually doesn’t make it too far before requiring water. Carrying water for both of us is a bit more than I am designed for — so he can take one for them team and carry our H20.

My husband and I briefly considered training for a tuff mudder type event — until three seconds later when we both realized that it was ten miles (TEN.MILES!) to which we both agreed to push off training.  In truth, I figured if the training got too difficult, I could just get pregnant and legitimatize my excuse to back out.  BUT the idea of training for something does kind of seem like a great motivator. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of rock wall climbing or ropes courses lately — which is super weird because I am NOT a fan of heights.  Then again if you spend as much time shopping at outdoorsy stores (Cabela’s, LL Bean, Columbia) well then you pretty much have to actually consider being — outdoorsy — once in a while (please note that while I say “outdoors” I’d probably prefer an indoor rock wall).

Beyond that, I’m close (SO close) to finishing my novel.  This September marks the two year anniversary of when I began writing it, with nothing more than an image of a young woman breaking up with her boyfriend and a question of what had happened to her that caused her to tell lies.  I was intrigued, so I wrote to find out who she was and what had happened to her and what she was going to do about it.  I threw myself into my MFA program finally understanding that it wasn’t a choice anymore — to write that is — it isn’t a choice at all.  It’s what makes me feel alive.  I’d spent years envying people who said that they loved their jobs because they were doing what they loved. (WAIT…what?  How does one do that?).  It was admitting that for years when I tried to not be a writer (because writing is REALLY hard), that I just had to give myself over to, that the story would persist within me whether I ever wrote or not. It was the acknowledgement that I am an artist (why couldn’t I have chosen something more financially profitable?).  But alas, it’s who I am.

Which leads to change — how do I continue to fund what I am doing?  In the new year, I hope to send a final manuscript to some agents (one who was kind enough to ask me for a finished copy).  Fingers crossed and maybe something will materialize. But i fit doesn’t — well I am pretty eager to start my next novel.  My main character is getting anxious.  She’s getting irritated that I keep telling her to hush.  Her name is Willa.  I don’t know her very well yet, but I can tell you she’s growing impatient.

The point is that, my life  right now is totally awesome on so many levels. On top of this I have a head start on drinking pumpkin lattes AND I feel change coming — but good change (I’ve felt the onset of bad change as well and I can tell you this isn’t it).  I’m excited for the changing leaves because I feel like I am about to embark on something new and for the first time in my life I have no fucking idea what that is — did I ever mention I have mild OCD and I am type “A” and I love to plan — EVERYTHING?  And yet, all I can say is I don’t know anything for certain beyond my plans to keep making art.