Category Archives: Goals

November Goals Update

It’s not even winter yet, and my family is already going stir crazy. We were all a little under the weather the week of Thanksgiving, except for Andrew, who had a nasty stomach flu and sinus infection. That, it turns out, is a really fun combination!

In the two and a half years since the boys moved in, neither one of them has ever really been sick. Especially given the stress of moving in with a new family, that’s really quite remarkable. We’re lucky that they’re both always so healthy.

This also means, though, that Austin and I are pretty inexperienced when it comes to taking care of a sick child. But throwing up in bed in the middle of the night multiple times over the course of two weeks has given us some excellent training, and Andrew seems to be feeling much better now. (I am fighting the urge to grab a bucket and run every time I hear a cough.)

Onward to my goal progress in November.

Big successes first!

As of this morning, I have officially lost thirty pounds! That’s pretty much my entire goal. I’m really happy with what I’m seeing in the mirror these days. It’s like I’ve turned back the clock ten years, with a couple of notable exceptions …

I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. (That’s not a very high bar!) I’m running for twenty minutes at a time, three times a week. What surprises me the most is how short my recovery time is now. When I started working out, I was exhausted, and the day after my workout always meant aching, tired legs. That’s all gone. I come home from a run, eat breakfast, and by the time I get out of the shower, I’m back to full capacity. (I’m even considering expanding my exercise efforts, which I really didn’t think I would do.)

My skin looks great. I’ve been on medication for acne for two months, and the difference is like night and day. My skin is looking better than it has in more than twenty years. I had totally given up on this.

And I had the barber completely clipper my hair. Two weeks later, I’m still getting used to it, but I think it works. I no longer look like I’m trying to hide the fact I’m going bald.

I’m also feeling pretty good about my writing, though that required a little bit of reevaluation this month.

I wrote 25,000 words in the month of November. That’s pretty good, although it obviously falls short of the 50,000 I was aiming for to meet the National Novel Writing Month goal. But I learned a lot this month, and I think in the long term that’s going to be very helpful.

For the first week of November, I met my daily writing benchmarks every day. That’s no small task, considering that I have two hours between dropping the boys off at school and picking Jordan up at the end of preschool.

What I learned, though, is that raising my sons is currently very much a full time job. And sure, I could add a second job to that by writing two thousand words every day, but it just wouldn’t be sustainable. (Nor would those two thousand words be very good ones.) Instead, I can be happy with slow progress and the knowledge that when my available time increases, I’ll have a pretty good idea what to do with it.

That’s not a change in my goal. I’m still going to write, but I’m going to keep in mind the parameters I have to work within.

October Goals Update

I didn’t forget! I said I’d post another update mid-October, and here it is. (It’s not the last week of October yet, so it’s still totally the middle!) My younger son was home sick from school for three days this week, and it’s amazing how much I depend on those two hours every morning. They go by so fast, but you sure notice when you don’t have them. This month has been a mixed bag in terms of progress:

1. Blogging. I mentioned this on twitter last week, and got some great feedback from some other bloggers that was a huge help, but I hit a huge roadblock in writing about my conversation with a high school bully. I was writing about it every day, hating everything I found to say, and then trashing it and starting over. So I’ve set it aside for a little while, but hopefully will soon figure out a good way to write about it. The conversation was really good, and I feel like I learned a lot.

2. Writing. It’s moving along, if somewhat more slowly than I’d like. I’m going to take a little break from it for the month of November, and will be working on a new project for National Novel Writing Month. It seems like a good time for me to try a challenge in terms of increasing my output and getting myself to a place where I can write something on a plan instead of just when the feeling comes along.

3. Exercise. This has gone very well. I’ve been working on Couch-to-5K for six weeks, and am seeing big gains in terms of my ability to to push myself. This week, I did an 18-minute run that wasn’t broken up with any walking. Looking at my route on Google Maps, it looks like I ran about a mile and a half. I’ve been super fanatic about sticking to my schedule, and have been running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning without exception. If you had asked me six weeks ago if there was any way I’d be able to do the workouts past the first couple of weeks, I’d have told you there was no chance in hell.

4. Weight Loss. This is also going very well. I’m a little more than halfway to my goal! Last weekend, I had to buy new jeans because my old ones were literally falling off. This is going to sound awful, but now if I look in the mirror, I feel like I look like me again. It feels a little shallow to say that, and I’m surprised that I feel that way. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I gained a pound last week, and was furious at myself about it.

5. Skin. About a month ago, I had my first appointment with the new dermatologist. Fingers crossed, but he seems kind of like he might be a normal human in possession of some empathy. I wasn’t sure that was possible! Regardless, one month in, I’m definitely starting to see results. My skin is markedly improved, and that plus the weight loss … just feels pretty great!

Expect to see a November goals update at the very end of November, so I can rate my NaNoWriMo success.

Goals Update, Month 2

Whoa, what’s that up there? Month 2?! Well, I’m just a few days shy of eight weeks of these goal updates. And I’ll be honest, they’re boring me. Probably almost as much as they are boring you.

I think the public chronicle of these big life goals I set up for myself this year is important. Thinking of having to post, “Oops, I did nothing but play Warcraft, eat goldfish crackers, and break up fights between my children this week,” keeps me motivated. But I think that, just for the sake of keeping things interesting, I’m going to drop these posts down to monthly updates.

The Blog: This has been going great. I’ve been keeping up with blogging, and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been posting. Also, my blog traffic keeps increasing, which feels fantastic. It’s nice to feel that there are some folks who are also interested in what I’ve been writing. A huge thanks to folks who have linked to my posts and shared them with people.

My Novel: Progress continues, but it’s definitely slow. You know that Ira Glass quote about the gap between your skill level and your taste level? Definitely feeling that.

Weight Loss: I’ve lost 11 pounds so far, which is just about a third of my goal. I’m at the point now where I can see that there’s been a change, which is very encouraging. (Also, my pants are loose. I forgot a belt one day last week, and nearly flashed everyone in Target. I’m calling that a success.)

Exercise: You didn’t think I’d do it, do it? Well, today I started the second week of Couch to 5K. It’s tiring, and a lot of work, but it’s also still very much within the range of what I’m capable of doing. I was afraid I’d feel silly, but I’ve been doing it before the kids get up in the morning, and the only people I see are a group of high school students waiting for the bus. And I’m happy to report that I really don’t care what they think.

Ok, look for the next goal update in the second half of October! Thanks for all the support. It’s really meant a lot.

Goals Update: Week 6

Mostly on track this week.

1. A couple of shorter blog posts this week. I’m working on a new one, a little more parent-y and a little … less intense than the last few.

2. Better than last week. About 2500 words. I’m making progress, I think, and finding it hard to not get too caught up in organizational, outline-y tasks. Although, via the lovely Stacey Jay (who is preparing to outrun some zombies in some kind of awesome-sounding iron man zombie challenge!), I read an interesting article about increasing output via careful organization. It’s an appealing idea.

3. The diet continues to go pretty well. I’m finding it less challenging than I expected to stick to the plan. As of my official weigh-in this morning, I’ve lost 9.9 lbs. That’s 28% of my goal.

4. Exercise. Hmm. Another week, and this hasn’t magically taken care of itself. All right, time to commit! I’m going to start on Monday, immediately after taking the kids to school. (This is also a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone maneuver, as that has been my traditional time to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and get a bagel sandwich.)

Goals Update: Week 5

A pretty good week, though not for writing!

1. No blog post yet this week, but I’m working on a followup to the one about my fingers and second grade bully. It’s about blame, accountability, and a concerning message that’s in been in some of the feedback I’ve received.

2. Novel progress was very small this week. Blame the launch of Guild Wars 2. I’m not even going to pretend to feel bad, because:

3. The diet is going well. In my first week, I lost five pounds. I’m aware that it’s not representative of what I’ll see going forward (nor would that likely be healthy) but it tells me that I followed the plan properly, did the right stuff, and am totally on track. Also, it’s totally 14% of my goal.

4. Exercise. I’ve been thinking of trying something like the Couch to 5K plan. Has anyone else tried this?

Goals Update: Week 4

A pretty good week:

1. Blogging. A super week. I’m really happy with my post this week, and thrilled with the amazing image I found on Flickr. Also, my piece about my fingers was featured on Huffington Post Gay Voices, which feels awesome.

2. Novel progress. Not bad. Three thousand words this week.

3. Weight Loss. I joined Jenny Craig this week, and am on day five of my first week of their diet. So far, so good. I’ve been really good about sticking to the meal plan, and the food isn’t bad. It’s better than I thought it would be, and although I’m eating a lot less than I’m used to, I’m not particularly hungry. (Hmm, could there be a hidden piece of wisdom there?)

4. Dermatologist. This is still a freebie until the end of September when my first appointment comes up.

5. Hair. Definitely time for a haircut. I still need to figure out a plan for what to do longer term, but I think that’s going to have to wait until after I’m working with the dermatologist. So I’m going to remove this goal from the goal updates for a while, since if it’s boring me, I’m sure it’s boring everyone else, too.

6. Exercise. Hmm … does shampooing the carpet count? Because I had to do that three times this week! Jordan, who hasn’t had a bathroom accident since May, has peed on the carpet three times, and twice he tried to hide it.

Goals Update: Week 3

This week’s post needed an extra day! Explanation below:

1. Blogging. A solid post this week, and I’m very happy with it. Additionally, I have something neat to talk about regarding my blog, but I’m going to hold off for a few days. I don’t want to jinx it.

2. Novel progress. Uh oh. This was not a good writing week. One thousand words. No excuses, I need to do better next week.

3. Weight Loss. Progress! This is the reason I didn’t post this yesterday. I chickened out on making an appointment, but this morning I called Jenny Craig and made an appointment to go in to a center on Monday.

4. Dermatologist. This is still a freebie until the end of September when my first appointment comes up.

5. Hair. Getting a little unruly again, but still ok.

6. Exercise. Nope. Didn’t happen. Well, does going to the YMCA for my son’s swimming lesson count? It’s hot enough sitting in that pool room that I might sweat off some pounds!

Week 2: Goals Update

Here’s this week’s scorecard for the goals:

1. Blogging. Two posts this week, so I get full credit here.

2. Novel progress. 4000 words. Not as awesome as last week, but definitely progress.

3. Weight Loss. Oh, is this goal still here? Punt!

4. Dermatologist. Do I get points for writing that whole post about it? No? Well, that’s ok, because I totally called and made an appointment. So there! End of September, if you’re keeping score at home.

5. Hair. I did go get a haircut this week. No real progress on looking like a super fun cool guy, but at least I don’t look like Doc Brown. (For a couple of weeks.)

6. Exercise. Nope. Didn’t happen.

That looks like 4/6 to me.

Only Skin Deep

Franck Juchaux, BIOalternatives, France
I’ve mentioned a few times that I dread the dermatologist, and that I think my negative attitude toward the profession deserves a blog post of its own. Don’t worry, there will be no dermatological horror pictures in this post. That photo up above is skin cells, and it’s as close as we’re getting.

First, you need to understand that I am descended from two families with bad skin. My mother had really problematic acne when she was young, and my dad’s family is full of recurring rashes and psoriasis and allergic reactions. So no one should have expected that they might get together and have children with beautiful skin. It just wasn’t in the cards.

When Austin and I were first talking about adoption, we both joked (is it still a joke if you’re actually completely serious?) that since we wouldn’t be genetically related to our children, there was actually a chance we could end up with some good-looking kids who would grow up to be traditionally attractive adults! And it does seem to have worked out that way. Our kids are pretty good-looking, and they might end up with that social advantage.

My first experience with bad skin came in the sixth grade. Every couple of weeks, our class would receive a visit from a science enrichment teacher. She’d go around the elementary schools in the district doing little extra science projects with classes. And one week, we made molds of our teeth. But instead of using whatever it is that dentists use to take impressions, we used Play-Doh. Actually, it wasn’t even Play-Doh, it was a generic version. So we had these little plastic trays, and we put Play-Doh in them, and then bit down on the Play-Doh.

It turns out that I am allergic to whatever red dye is used in generic Play-Doh. So once the molds were on the shelf to dry, and we’d moved on to math, I started to itch. A lot. And pretty soon I was in the nurse’s office, covered in hives. Sixth graders, I would like to take this opportunity to point out, are really sympathetic when that effeminate boy with no friends is covered head to toe in a rash.

Recurrences of hives were pretty rare, since 12-year-olds don’t spend a lot of time with red Play-Doh in their mouths. But it wouldn’t be long before my skin would find new ways to torture me.

In junior high, I started to get acne, just like everyone else. Mine was maybe a little worse, but we were all teenagers and we all had acne. What we didn’t all have was the weird thing that started happening with my hands.

In the late fall of seventh grade, one day my hands started to itch. For a couple of days, they were just itchy. Then, the itch turned into a rash. The rash turned … pretty gross, and pretty soon my hands were covered in a rash of little fluid-filled bumps. They itched, and they hurt. Holding a pen or turning the pages of a book was really uncomfortable.

Of course, my parents brought me to the doctor. They prescribed creams, and put me on steroids. My parents wanted to know what was making my hands do this. Was I allergic to something? The answer from my pediatrician and the dermatologist was clear — this was caused by stress and anxiety.

I believed the doctors. And I believed that it was, then, entirely my own fault. My parents wanted to know what, at thirteen, could be causing me stress or anxiety. Here I was, a kid who didn’t have any friends at school, who was tormented on the school, who was getting spit on during the bus ride home, and who often arrived home from school only to burst into the tears I had been holding back so my peers wouldn’t see me cry. I couldn’t tell my mom, “Well, everyone hates me because I’m gay,” so I didn’t say anything. I knew that I was alone in this.

Soon, the gross rash would start to go away. The little fluid lumps dried out and popped, and then all of the skin on my hands would dry up, get hard, and fall off. My hands were cracked and bleeding, the skin was tender and raw. I had thought that the rash was bad, but the rash going away was even worse. And I was pretty convinced it was all because I was gay. If I could just stop being gay, people would like me, and I wouldn’t be stressed, and this wouldn’t have happened.

It took about a month, and then my hands were fine again. The skin was maybe a little bit delicate, but I was kind of a delicate kid. It didn’t hurt anymore, at least.

Until the spring, when it happened again. Exactly as before. First a rash, then the bubbles, then the cracked and bleeding hands. About a month, and then it was like it had never happened.

It began to repeat like clockwork. Once in the fall, once in the spring. Every year. I called it “my hand thing,” because none of the dermatologists I saw seemed to have any name for what was happening to my hands. But over the course of the next few years, and a few different dermatologists, the answer was always the same. Whatever was wrong with my hands, it was caused by stress and anxiety.

And how could I say that they were wrong? I was literally a puddle of stress and anxiety. I did begin saying to dermatologists that it seemed strange to me that I was stressed and anxious all the time, but my hands only reacted to stress and anxiety at the end of fall and the beginning of spring. More than one dermatologist basically told me I was imagining a connection between the seasons changing and my hands exploding. The only connection, they assured me, was stress and anxiety.

In some ways, it was reassuring, because as I went through high school, things started to get a little bit better. I started to have a small circle of friends. I came out of the closet, and my deep secret shame didn’t feel as secret or shameful anymore. But my hands were the same.

So for twenty years I put up with this awful hand thing. Every fall. Every spring. I could pinpoint exactly when it was going to happen. The first really cold week in the fall. Bam. The first unseasonably warm week in the spring. Bam. I stopped bothering with dermatologists, because the steroids and the creams didn’t seem to do anything.

Then I happened to have my annual physical, at the age of 33, at the same time as my hands were doing their thing. My physician asked about it, and I told him the basic outline, like I’ve told countless dermatologists and physicians over the years.

“Well that’s ridiculous,” he said. “These fluid-filled bubbles on your hands are a histamine reaction. Do me a favor. In the fall, when it usually happens, try taking claritin for a few weeks. See if that has any impact.”

And it turns out that if I take a claritin every morning when it first gets cold in the fall, my hands are fine. Twenty years. Twice a year, every year. Painful, bleeding hands for a month. Fixed by a claritin.

So you’ll forgive me if I’m a little distrustful of dermatologists. But I did call this morning and make an appointment with one. Hopefully they’re better at treating acne in 34-year-olds than they are at treating acne and painful skin conditions in teenagers.

Week 1: Goals Update

It’s been one week since I wrote that post about setting goals for myself, so I thought it might be fun (and keep me honest!) if I posted an update on my goals. Here goes:

First, updating the blog regularly. I will call that one a success. A couple of days after my post about setting goals, I wrote a piece about why I have no first amendment concerns with Boston’s mayor saying Chick-Fil-A isn’t welcome. I think a blog post a week is a pretty good goal. (And let’s be honest, much more than that, and I would very quickly run out of things to say.)

Second, progress on my novel. Huge success! I wrote 8500 words this week. That’s definite, unqualified progress.

Third, losing weight. Not so good. Looked up information about Jenny Craig, since Consumer Reports rated them highly. Thought about calling, but totally chickened out. Instead, took the kids to Burger King to celebrate Chick-Fil-A appreciation day.

Fourth, the dermatologist. I thought about why I hate dermatologists so much, which still probably deserves its own blog post. But no actual progress on that one. (And that’s a shame, because this goal is really a freebie. If I call to make an appointment, I will probably have a three-month wait, during which time I still totally get credit on this goal.) But no credit until I actually make an appointment.

Fifth, my hair. Totally avoided getting a desperately needed haircut, and I look like a mad professor. But I will totally be forced to go get a cut tomorrow, since we are going to a cookout and I would be too embarrassed to go looking like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. (Could I call it cosplay?)

Sixth, exercise. I checked in at the YMCA twice on Foursquare, which sounds great. But I was totally there to bring my four-year-old to swimming lessons. Maybe I got some exercise-y vibes, though.

So the tally is 2 yays and 4 nays, but I’m actually feeling pretty good about it. Writing 8500 words was huge, and more important to me than most of the rest.

Let’s see how these goals are shaping up next week.