And I love this moment we’re in

This line from an Avett Brothers song describes nearly perfectly how I’m feeling about our marriage.  Hubs and I recently resolved to work on us, and in spite of still sometimes feeling like I’d like to throw a bag of dog poop at him, this moment is just right.  I came home from a weekend of coaching to a sweet and funny text (“Where you at girl?”) and a CLEAN house.  The floors vacuumed and mopped (pretty sure Hubs has not mopped our floors a single time since we moved into this house two and a half years ago!), cat boxes scooped, kitchen clean (including countertops), and recycling out in the bin where it belongs!

Coming home and seeing that he had listened to what I needed from him and honored me by making our house clean was the best way for this week to start.  I immediately expressed my undying love for both Hubs and the clean house, and we went to bed.  Starting out happy with each other not only because it was nice to be together after I had been away but because he had done this wonderful thing, though, has already made a huge difference in our relationship just in the past couple of days.  We have been laughing every day on our way to work, enjoyed grocery shopping together, and last night we had a real breakthrough.

In making plans with a friend, I offered to cook dinner Saturday night.  I forgot that Hubs is giving a tour to some prospective grad students on Saturday, most likely right up ’til dinner time.  He knows that I sometimes get stressed out with having guests when he’s not around to help me prepare, and as we were going to bed, we started to talk about the time for the tour, which he doesn’t know yet.  I felt myself get frustrated about the lack of information and planning, but instead of turning it into a big deal, I just decided to go to sleep (which is actually pretty uncharacteristic; I’m more of the turning-things-into-a-big-deal type).  This morning, I asked him very calmly whether he thought that we should cancel the plans, but we were able to decide together that it wasn’t necessary to cancel completely, but would probably just be less stressful to go out to eat with our friends instead.

I am proud of us for several reasons: 1. We averted a potential fight.  2.  We did so by calmly talking it out and thinking ahead.  3.  We did all of this while both of us are under the same amount of stress as we always are!  And I am convinced that we were able to accomplish all these wonderful things because of the optimism that we both felt by coming home to each of us being happy on Sunday.  I want to live our marriage like this all the time.  I want to always feel like we’re anticipating potential problems and handling them in a grown-up way.  I want to be able to come home and be joyously happy to see my husband (whether or not he has cleaned the house) because now I know that choosing to feel super-wonderful about us in just one moment makes all the moments that follow amazing, too.

Reactive Dog Victory!

Tonks is a pup who is the sweetest of sweet to us, to guests in our house, to people on the street, to cats, and to kids.  She is a lover and only wants to be petted.  When it comes to other dogs, though, we’ve struggled just about since we’ve gotten her to curb her reactivity to other dogs while on the leash.  The on the leash part is important because she actually does fine with most other dogs in houses (like her BFFAE, Sasha, a great pyr/border collie mix that lives with our neighbors, or her “pup-uncle” of pee rug fame) and goes to a doggie boarding place while we’re gone and hangs out very happily with other dogs there.  On the leash, though, she can be crazy and scary.  She’s so big and has such a big bark that if she has a reaction to another dog, it’s a WAY bigger deal than it would be if the pup-in-law reacted to other dogs, which he does actually.  People give us scared looks or looks like, “Why can’t you control her?  Is she going to chomp my face off?”  She’s also so distinctive looking that now people recognize us in the neighborhood and go the other way.

We have worked REALLY hard since we got her and realized that she has this issue to address it.  We’ve done a private consultation and three dog classes with a really awesome animal behaviorist.  Tonks is now a Canine Good Citizen and soon we’re going to do an evaluation to see if she can become a therapy dog.  She has come a really long way, but it can still be overwhelming and stressful to see another dog and have the possibility that she will have a bad reaction.  How we normally handle these situations is to avoid them at all costs.  Example:  if a dog is coming  straight at us on the sidewalk, we cross the street or u-turn and go the other way.  This plan of action means that Hubs and I are super vigilant on walks in order to not put Tonks in situations that would lead to bad reactions, thereby reinforcing negative behavior. Our trainer taught us that the problem behavior is Tonks’ way of addressing a scary situation:  she sees another dog and the unknown of the other dog’s behavior is overwhelming to her, so she lashes out with movement toward the dog, barking and growling (a.k.a. “fire-fighting”) to show the other dog that if she was even thinking of trying anything, she had better think again because Tonks MEANS BUSINESS.  Often, when we do the u-turn once Tonks has seen the other dog and tell her, “We’re not meeting that dog,” she does just fine, which demonstrates to me that the trainer is right and Tonks is just worried.  By removing her from the situation, we greatly reduce the problem behavior.

Yesterday, though, we were in a situation that normally would be double plus bad.   We had just started our walk on the busy street on which we live, came out of our walled townhouse complex, and turned left to see a neighbor jogging with her dog that Tonks sort of knows but has reacted to in a mixed way in the past.  They were coming straight at us and we were faced with extremely busy road on our right and wall to the complex on our left.   No chance to cross the street or go up into a yard to give the other dog a very wide berth.  In certain cases, Tonks refuses to do a u-turn and put her back to the other dog (too scary?) and this occasion was one of those.  So I basically went for my only option and positioned Tonks and me on the little piece of grass between the road and the sidewalk.  I squatted down beside her and scratched her chest and said in a silly (though not babyish) voice, “We’re not gonna meet that doggy.  No way!”  And she licked her nose and flicked her tongue (two dog calming signals; read about them in this book) and didn’t growl or bark or even go toward the dog.  They passed us in a quick minute and then we kept walking.  Tonks shook it off almost right away (another calming signal!), and I was so proud.

Happy one year and one week Complete Family Day, Tonks!

On Being All Right

In the weeks since the new year, I have been feeling utterly demotivated and exhausted.  I have been fighting against every single thing happening in my life, from science to crafting to love, and it is time-consuming and demoralizing.  I started out the year with bad science news (not actually that unusual, bad science news happens in the lab every day and far more often than good science news; bench science is really hard to get right), which led to me not making myself work in lab, which leads to more non-success.

The thermofax machine, about which I was so excited, arrived and immediately didn’t work as described.  Ebay is really great about buyer protection, and it wasn’t a problem to send it back.  It was a headache and heartache, though, because I had to file a claim, wait for response from the seller, and deal with the disappointment of not getting to use it to create.  Furthermore, today 3M emailed me the manual for the machine I just sent back, and I think that if I had the manual last Friday, I might not have needed to send the machine back.

And the rug, which you heard about yesterday, was just another thing that I was really excited about and then felt disappointed by.  It’s normal in our lives to feel disappointment, but it crosses a line when relatively minor things paralyze us.  I have been in a mode where any tiny thing that goes not as I expect is devastating.  This way to live is neither productive nor realistic.  In reality, many people have way worse things happening to them.  Energetically dedicating so much of myself to feeling disappointed is completely unhelpful.  I have been awfulizing, as my mom would say.  And this post, from my soul sister kittiwake, just really hit me over the head with the problems I’ve been creating for myself.  (What are friends for?)

So today I make a fresh start and stop thinking about things I want to do and actually do them.  The science will work eventually if I work.  The right thermofax machine will come into my life and probably at a time that’s not right after the holidays when we’re feeling more like parting with the money I saved for it.  The rug is a lesson in how much of myself to invest in an uncertain outcome.  As Hubs would say, “You’re all right.”

Creative Mania!

I am currently in an obsessive mode of finding new crafts to do and try.  Some of them have been in the works for a while and some I learned of just today.  It is my hope that in writing this post I can declare my intentions to the universe and in that way get back to actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing in lab (i.e. science) and quit reading craft blogs all day.  I always seem to have trouble getting back into the swing of being in lab after time off and right now I’m scared of the results that I think I’m going to get when I do this next step in my experiment.  So in avoidance mode, I will here detail current and future art type projects that I want to do:

First, and most exciting, I recently (yesterday) purchased a THERMOFAX machine from Ebay!  (Don’t worry; it wasn’t an impulse purchase, I’ve been saving and saving for this).  Thermofax is an old duplicating technology that was used before the copy machines that we’re all familiar with.  Using special film and carbon ink prints or drawings, you create a screen which can then be attached to a frame and used for screen printing.  I am SUPER PSYCHED.  I don’t have the machine yet and it’s sort of hard to know how well it will work since I bought it after only looking at photos, but I think it’s going to be amazing.  I’ve been wanting to start screen printing for a long time, but it turns out that to do traditional screen printing, you really need a utility sink and a way to properly dispose of chemicals.  Plus, exposing screens can be sort of tough.  So now I can print at home really fast.  I am really excited about combining screen printing with the Thermofax and photography.  I want to print cards with Zeda’s face on them, but the possibilities for working with both paper and fabric are really endless.  I owe most (if not all) of the inspiration to start screen printing to my aunt, who is a truly fantastic, innovative fiber artist and blogs at Existential Neighboorhood.

I made Hogwarts Robes for our (9 y.o.) cousin for Christmas.  It was amazing having them to give to her because I knew how much she would love them, but my sewing skills are still growing, and I really started that project pretty late (i.e. two days before I wanted to give them to her), so it ended up being a very stressful situation for both Hubs and for me (but I think actually worse for him).  If I sewed robes again, I think it would probably have to be a gift for someone as awesome as our cousin or I would have to charge in the hundreds of dollars.  I’m just too slow at sewing, plus I’m not sure if I feel good enough about the finished product to sell it.

I’ve made Waldorf-inspired dolls for two of my new baby cousins and the niece and nephew of a dear friend, but this is another one where I’m not sure that they’re professional enough to sell and they’re fairly time-consuming to make.  I have a sweet high school friend who is having a baby soon and I think I will make one for her this weekend, but this project doesn’t feel as exciting and inspiring to me as other things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

One thing that feels almost as exciting to me as screen printing with my on the way thermofax is using a scroll saw that I inherited from my grandfather to make toys (like this-check out the link for amazing and inspiring toys made by a friend’s sister-in-law) and bowls.  The saw is a cast iron one that needs a new blade and probably to be rewired to be electrically safe, so these projects are a little bit further off in the future.  I just need to do more research on how to rewire the saw myself or find someone here to do it for me.

Finally, felting has really caught my eye.  This project is one that I’ve never tried but it looks really fun and like you get good results relatively quickly.  You can either do felting of something knitted (if you’re into knitting or you can use upcycled wool clothes) in hot soapy water, as for these baby teethers or you can do needle felting.  As for needle felting, I saw several things that I love on Etsy that were really inspiring, and then it turns out that there are tons of books and online resources available that teach you exactly how to do it, what tools you need, and provide tons of inspiration.  For example, in this very helpful tutorial, I was inspired to make a turd.  The video really is helpful though.

I actually do feel pretty good putting all those plans out there.  I’ve said this before, but I think that when we feel a strong pull to do something creative, we should honor it.

Goals for the New Year, divided by category

How cliché am I?

Science:  Get enough done on my main eye development story that I can [at least] start writing the paper.  I know how science works, so I’m not kidding myself, but it would be amazing to FINISH and SUBMIT the paper this year.

Teaching:  Mentor my students better; help them see the big picture.  Begin the Future Faculty program this fall.

Fitness:  Add the Monday evening yoga class to my schedule.  This is a toughie because it requires that I take the bus there and back.  I am kind of scared of the bus, but I think it’s good for me.*  Lead team runs twice a week (Wednesday and Friday mornings).

Money:  Do better on our cash budget.  We started a cash only budget in November or thereabouts and I still like the instant gratification of putting things on the credit card (whose number I have memorized, so sometimes it’s hard not to buy things that I want RIGHT NOW).  And by sometimes I mean that I REALLY struggle with this.  I think that the cash only budget has really helped us identify and curb our spending in terms of going out to eat and entertainment type events; however, I still click the amazon buy button a little bit too much.  Plus, I am so totally tempted by Groupons all the time.  Today it was an ice cream Groupon and I convinced myself that I shouldn’t buy it because there are things that I want more, like an awesome cat water fountain because the plastic one we have grows things so that I have to clean it A LOT.  Plus, the cord broke off the pump for it before Hubs and I left for holiday travels, and Zeda doesn’t really like to drink water unless it’s moving.  The point is that in spite of my fit of Groupon abstinence this morning, with my proclivity for impulse spending and the holidays, the cash only budget is in relative shambles.  I realized today that if I want to achieve my creativity goals for this year, I am going to have to build a bit of extra crafting money and saving for crafting tools money into the budget, which means that extras like another set of earbuds so that I have a pair that matches my new tiny Christmas iPod isn’t really a good use of funds.

Creativity:  As for blogging, I’m on the one a week track right now.  Other artistic and craft projects I want to cover in a whole ‘nother post because I have a lot of things that I want to get out there in terms of my plans and dreams, but I want to be giving homemade gifts for friends’ birthdays and babies and other occasions by the end of the year.  Today, I was reminded of another creative opportunity by a sweet friend and I think that I’d like to get the ball rolling on that, too.  It’s a creative way of connecting with other women so that we can all inspire each other to be our best selves.

Love:  Hubs and I have things to work on about which I’m not going to go into detail here.  Marriage is work and loving, fun, passionate marriage is HARD work.  Love my pets better by playing with the kitties more, walking the dog more, and generally striving for honoring them as wonderful light beings in my life.  Love my friends and family and general people in my life better by taking care of myself and continuing to see my counselor to work on things within myself so that I can be more patient and more loving to everyone.

Seems like it could be a big year.

*I just clicked the Google map link on the Google calendar that is now integrated into the Y’s website and it took me to a pizza place.  This could be a good sign.  Instead of going to yoga, I am going to eat pizza!