Trim Healthy Mayhem

So I've decided to start trying Trim Healthy Mama, mostly because there's more of a community for it amongst my friends (read: I don't want to get judged for doing low carb.)

The E meals are the mystery to me. It's like, make something that would be delicious if you were doing a low-carb meal, remove all the fat, and stick a sub-par carb on the side or underneath. Tadah!

For example, I'm making creamy chicken gravy with quinoa today for lunch, a Brianna Thomas recipe. The chicken part is easy: chicken, spices, 0% fat yogurt, almond milk, and some parmesan cheese. (I'm kind of surprised the cheese is kosher, here?)

But quinoa.

Screw quinoa.

"Rinse the quinoa before cooking" advises both the recipe and the quinoa package.

How do you rinse a grain that is, like, sand? You can't put it in a strainer!


Daily chores:

Make dinner
Do dishes (yes all of them)
Practice piano
Clean cat box

Weekly chores:

Do a full load of adult laundry
Do a full load of baby laundry

Special tasks:

Make biscotti for Thursday
Make biscotti for Sunday
Scrub our bathroom
Scrub John's bathroom
Wash John's bathtub
Clean fridge
Clean microwave
Clear out stack of papers
Clear out plastic drawers

I am at this cool balance point where the baby is a little more self-sufficient without being hugely mobile, and my house has never been so clean.

What Terraforming Mars taught me about cleaning my house

One of our new favorite boardgames recently has been Terraforming Mars. Players are competing mega-corporations, buying projects and building assets to raise the temperature of Mars to a livable range, increase the oxygen in its atmosphere, and install oceans on the surface. Each incremental improvement of Mars increases the company's income each turn, as well as their total score for victory at the end.

I read online yesterday that the average American house contains over 300,000 items. (Half of which, I believe, are unmatched socks.) It inspired me to set about decluttering my cluttered spaces. As I began stuffing unwanted items into a trash bag (the cardboard outer wrap of a baby toy, a shirt that would look great on me if the sleeves weren't ripped out, a pair of underwear I hate wearing but I keep around because it gives me one more day before I have to go hunt down laundry,) I realized that I was drawing on some principles I had learned by playing Terraforming Mars. I then realized I could procrastinate on cleaning more if I stopped to type those up!

1. There is value in incremental improvements.

I usually procrastinate cleaning because I have an idea that when I clean, I need to Clean This Room. In order to do this, I would need several hours free of obligation to focus on Cleaning the Room, and no distractions to pop up. This will never happen.

But in Terraforming Mars, you don't usually want to wait to improve temperature until you can do several points at once. (With some exceptions.) If you can Terraform this turn, or do something else this turn and Terraform next turn, you almost always want to Terraform THIS turn, because it increases your opportunities for next turn, as well as the rest of the game!

I shouldn't procrastinate making small improvements in livability. It increases the resources I have available for the rest of my life. So what if I don't have time to do all the dishes, scrub the counters and the floors, and clean out the refrigerator right now? Doing one load of dishes is going to make doing the next load, and cooking dinner, a lot easier.

There are a few exceptions to this rule in both the game and housecleaning: sometimes you delay grabbing a temperature or oxygen bump because the level after that offers a bonus reward. Similarly, sometimes it's better to hold off on cleaning out the fridge until the day before trash day.

As a general rule, though, increase livability NOW, even if it's only a little, because a more livable environment facilitates future improvements.

2. Don't hold on to things for an uncertain future!

Each turn in TM, you get to choose from a set of cards which you want to keep in your hand to play. These cards never leave your hand until you choose to play or sell them. Each card costs 3 credits to keep.

One of the things I tell new players when explaining the game is, "Don't hang on to a card for the late game. You will get new cards that are just as good, and you're wasting money to keep these cards that you could use NOW to improve your income."

Similarly, I shouldn't hang on to items that I have no use for now, for vague future plans. It doesn't cost me money, necessarily, to keep some of the items I'm hanging on to, but it does cost me space, and it does cost me in mental power every time I see that item, and time when I have to move it or find a new home for it. Those half-skeins of yarn for a baby blanket I started crocheting eight years ago, but the blanket bit got stained and so I cut the yarn off to save it for another try? I'm not going to find a use for a half skein of blue yarn. (My sister might!) I should throw it out.

(I have discovered that "I should save this to give to my sister who lives 15 hours away and we see maybe 2-3 times a year" is the same as "I will keep this and never do anything with it." Also, she probably has as little use for a collectible Mario toy and old crochet hooks as I do.)

Sometimes resources seem too good to let go of. A really good Asteroid card in Terraforming Mars might take an entire turn's resources to play, so you pay for it and hang on for that perfect turn to arrive. When I do that, I often find that by the time I'm in a good situation to play it, the board state has changed such that it isn't the great move I thought it would be!

Similarly, I bought a case of assorted Great Illustrated Classics books for the baby a few weeks ago. Brian and I both remember reading a bunch of GIC books, which, when we were pretty small, gave us a good working knowledge of a lot of classic literature. But now I have 15 assorted GIC books (bought at a steal from ebay!)... sitting in my living room... taking up space. We have no spare bookshelves right now. The baby is getting no joy from them. I am getting negative joy. I bet if I had waited eight years, I could have still gotten a lot of GIC books off the internet for a similar price. And now, what if in eight or ten years, the baby doesn't want to read these books? Or we have to move, and now I have an extra box of books to cart around that nobody really is currently attached to?

So Terraforming Mars taught me to not expend energy, money, time, etc., on items that are not worth something to me now. Fortunately, in TM, you can pitch cards bought by mistake and get some of your credits back. In real life, you can donate or trash things and get some of your space back.

3. A little organizational containment saves a lot of time

Like most modern board games, TM has a lot of pieces. It has a massive deck of several hundred cards, it has map tiles of four different types, it has resource cubes and player markers. When the game is over, there are two approaches to putting everything away: sweep everything into the box and shove the lid back on, or sort the pieces, like with like, into plastic baggies so that they're easier to locate for the next game.

Similarly, having containers for types of things saves time when I'm cleaning. I have a basket on my dresser that I really should be using to contain my jewelry and make-up. (Yes, I have jewelry and make-up, but I rarely wear it because I can never find it!) There's a shoebox on the floor of our bedroom full of medication. (The shoebox should be somewhere more secure and out of the way, yes, but when my husband needed some cough syrup he knew exactly where it was.) We've put a catch-all bowl on the kitchen counter, which is not particularly tidy but it has saved us a ton of counter space because everything in it used to be spread out over the available flat spaces.

TM taught me that taking the time to make containers for alike things, and to put them back in those containers when I'm done with them, makes actually using my house and my board game a lot easier.

I'm sure I can derive more organizing and decluttering principles from Terraforming Mars, but I have procrastinated long enough now. ^_^

(no subject)

I've learned to stop playing the "mine is worse" conversational game with people.

You don't realize you're playing this game until the other person takes their turn - one-upping whatever self-deprecating observation or grief-airing you've just expressed. No matter how much more you stretch your own terrible thing, the thing they're talking about is much worse, and they'll interrupt or talk over you to emphasize how much worse the thing is - even if it's their own flaw they're talking about.

Fortunately, being aware of the game makes it a little more easy to avoid forcing others to play it. I try to not one-up people. There's a thin line between sharing related anecdotes and one-upping, though, and I'm a little paranoid about falling on the wrong side.


Convictions and why I am Baptist

A pastor I didn't like but agreed with on a lot gave a sermon once on Convictions, Beliefs, and Preferences, that has shaped a lot of my thinking about denominations at a foundational level. It's sometimes surprising to run into people who do not sort out their thoughts on things in this way. It's also hard to define the different levels without using the word "belief," so little-b belief will be "a thing you think is true."

Convictions are truths that you believe to the utmost that you are able. You would die rather than deny these beliefs, and they shape how you view everything else in the world. If forced to give up a Conviction, the fundamentals of your life are shaken or destroyed.(Ex: "I know that my Redeemer lives.")

Beliefs are beliefs that you have confidence in, but if they're proven wrong, you'll alter them. You may choose not to die for your Beliefs, though you might make lesser sacrifices to support them. If forced to give up a Belief, you are shaken at a deep level, but can generally continue on with life as it was. (Ex: "God means for me to be married to this man.")

Preferences are beliefs that are influenced by how the world makes you feel. They affect your day-to-day life, and may change without much fanfare. You may or may not make sacrifices to accommodate your Preferences. If forced to give up a Preference, you might feel irritated for a period of time. (Ex: "Hymns are better for worship than praise music.")

I am Convicted that my Convictions make me part of Christ's Church, an eternal spiritual body of people assured of salvation after they die. Therefore, I share membership in this Church with people who I thoroughly disagree with at lower levels of belief. We are all working - or being used by God - for the same end, which is God's glory. I owe my brothers and sisters in Conviction all of my love and support.

My Beliefs lead me to membership in the Baptist denomination, rather than Catholic, Methodist, etc. It leads me (reluctantly) to be a Calvinist. I think that it can be difficult to work effectively with people I do not share Beliefs with - more accurately, I think other Church members would be more effective if they shared my Beliefs. ^_^ I would be uncomfortable supporting the teaching of Beliefs that I think are wrong, which is why we struggled with the idea of joining the Presbyterian church. Things that are Preferences for us are Beliefs for them, and some of our Beliefs differ. But if we were in an isolated place with only one church, I would gladly join that church as long as they supported my Convictions, even if they didn't support my Beliefs.

My Preferences lead me to membership in a specific congregation. I like the way a church worships, enjoy a pastor's more intellectual sermons, like the classes offered, like the social activities provided. I think other Church members would be more effective if they shared my Preferences, but I'd never admit that out loud, because it'd be silly. I'd pretty readily join a church that did not conform to any of my Preferences if it supported my Beliefs and Convictions, though I might still look for a church that met my Preferences as well.

Sometimes my Convictions are only others' Beliefs, or even Preferences. (I Believe/Prefer that how mine are sorted is how they should be sorted, depending on the particular belief.) I think that church denominations that consider other churches to be "out of communion" with them are making statements about how their Conviction set doesn't match the other church's Conviction set. This will become more common among denominations, like Catholics, who merge a lot of what I consider "Beliefs" with their Conviction set. (The more vital, fundamental beliefs you have, the fewer people will match that list.)

But like I said, most of what makes me Baptist is on my Belief list, and not my Conviction list. To continue the Catholic example - picking on them just because I'm more informed about them than about Anglicans or Lutherans - I hold a Belief that when the Bible refers to the authority of the Church, it refers to, variously, the authority of the local congregation, or the wider Conviction-sharing Church, and not a single denominational authority structure. I believe that Catholics hold a Conviction that their denomination is the authoritative church. For me, that's not a Conviction mismatch, so I feel "in communion" with Catholics. But for them, I deny one of their Convictions, and so am out of communion.

For another minor example, transubstantiation and the variations thereof are a Preference for me. I prefer the belief that the significance of communion is in the action and the spiritual state a person brings into it, and that no physical or spiritual transformation occurs to the bread and wine/juice. But this belief isn't one I believe in strongly enough to even merit Belief status. If my church has a good argument (that jives with our shared higher beliefs) for transubstantiation, then I'd probably go along with it. I believe that this is a Belief or even a Conviction for some other denominations.

I think that the CBP system makes for a good way to evaluate the fit of a church for me.

NF guilt and Performance

My (INTP) husband commented last night that he hates NF guilt. "Not NFs," he qualified, "just the guilt." He feels like he knows some really awesome NFs who are afflicted with guilt that makes them less happy than they deserve to be. I'd definitely agree with his assessment - of other NFs.

It made me think this morning a little about the source of the guilt, especially as it relates to my self-perception in my different roles: wife, daughter, pharmacist, etc.

I realized that most people, in evaluating their performance, can average things out. "Today was terrible, but last week I was brilliant, so on average I do okay!"

For me (and I would be interested if other NFs see it this way too,) my self-evaluation is more like one of those big "It Has Been X Days Since The Last Workplace Disaster" signs.

The closer that number gets to infinity, the better my view of myself. But every time I screw up, that sign totally resets. "Look, I screwed up today. I am a terrible person." Then the next day, even if it's a good day, the number is still only 1. "Yeah, today was a good day, but I am sill making up for screwing up yesterday." Two good weeks later, I might start to get comfortable again. But as soon as another mistake happens, it all crashes down again.

Performance is running away from the sign, trying to distance myself from the terrible person I know I am, and only being able to get so far at a time. Th length of that leash, the maximum amount of time between sign resets, is the measure of how good I am, and it's never good enough.

Now, we rarely view other people that way. We average things out for me - and as long as we like them (aka they haven't crossed one of the famous NF "unforgivably awful person" lines) we give the a huge, average-raising outlier point of "Not me!" They are obviously better than us by nature of not being us. So their mistakes have less impact on their overall valuation.

Does anyone else feel this way? Does this seem accurate?


Grove City drifting

Some good friends passed through the city last Friday with their adorable son, who despite not feeling well was winningly charming. I may steal him away someday soon.

I had a scare today when I forgot where my wedding dress was and thought it was lost in the move. I didn't know if I was emotionally attached to it previously, but today taught me that I am.

I am kind of drifting. I need to focus on my studies and I am not.I can only resolve that tomorrow will be better. I am hoping that when my thyroid mess get adjusted again, I'll have more energy and be less cold all the time. I do manage to get some errands done each day, but I need to start making to-do lists and following them.

Sunday, an elderly lady at church invited us over for lunch along with seven of our peers. This is apparently something she just does, have a house ready to welcome groups of visitors. That is something I aspire to. It's a little of what I envisioned for how we'd be there for the OSG this year. We'll see how that shakes out!


Game night and working

Game night at Bell's last night gave us our first ever 6 player game of Eclipse, a game easiest defined as all the things tahmthelame would hate most - IN SPACE! Empire building, tech researching and flying big fleets of ships at other people's big fleets of ships and rolling dice until most of them are asploded. I'd be interested in seeing if we could make that a regular thing, though we're also open to trying the variety of games that the crowd there seems to be interested in. The people there were a nice range of ages and backgrounds, with several women (though none joined our Eclipse table.) I hope we continue to make connections and grow relationships there.

Tomorrow is Internet at home day! We are currently at the college now that Brian has access to the buildings and the network there.

Tomorrow is also "get rid of cardboard boxes day!" as someone from Craigslist is stopping by to take them off our hands.

When we packed to move, we threw our laundry detergent into a garbage bag, to keep it from leaking on anything, but foolishly put other things in the by with it. Least disastrously, our shower curtains, but most disastrously, our TV and DVD player remotes. :(. Predictably, the laundry detergent bottle split open so now we are without any way of controlling the television or DVD player. When did they stop putting buttons that function on the machines themselves? Was this true of VCRs and their remotes too?

Brian has agreed with me that the apartment needs more decoration, which is a nice thing to agree on, though I think we still lean different ways on what kind of decoration we should have. He understandably leans away from the overtly feminine, which requires a mental gear shift from me. I grew up in family where Dad didn't care what the house was decorated with, while my Mom and my sister both got heavily into decorating and design. (My sister even went into it as a career and designs commercial medical offices.) Color and theme are very important to me, possibly and irrationally more than utility of the space.

I think my thyroid medicine dose is too high right now, but I've been delaying setting up a bloodwork appointment... I have been tired and cold for the last few weeks, and gained about 20 lbs since starting the medicine in... March? I am possibly blasting too much of my thyroid hormone away. I am waiting to set up and endocrinologist appointment until I am on B's insurance.

I've been rewatching the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother at we have on DVD, and have returned to my original assessment that the show lost a lot of its heart after season 2. My personal discontinuity begins right before Britney Spears begins her cameo, though it includes the later Intervention episodes. Season 7 was definitely the low point of the series, with none of the characters ending up in a different place from the start of the season. I am looking forward to season 8 appearing on Netflix.

Meanwhile, B and I have been watching The X-Files from the beginning, something neither of us has ever done, and reading the awesome webcomic Monster of the Week alongside it. It is pretty beautiful how much the Mulder-Scully relationship clicks from the first episode. Krycek has just made his first appearance, which I have somehow remained completely unspoiled for so I was all "Noooooooo. No way!" (I was partly confusing him with Doggett? I suppose?)

Shopping in Grove City is hard. Aldi's has good prices and food but poor selection. County Market is expensive with occasional good sales and great selection. Save-A-Lot seems cheap but their frozen vegetables weren't, so I'm assuming their quality is on the low end, and they have limited selection as well, though better than Aldi's. Wal-mart has very limit groceries. We have avoided the outlet mall so far, though I guess I should start paying attention to what happens there.

It hasn't really hit yet that this is home, now. It still feels like summer camp.


Haunting Grove City

We met with the pastor of COPC last night, which was really fun. He helped us move furniture, took a real interest in how we'd gotten to where we were, and made it clear that the church would be very accepting of our different opinions as long as we were willing to teach according to the Reformed faith. ("Our congregation is mostly a-mil, but we do have some post-mils! Well, possibly one, that I know of." [We are kind of pre-mil leaning, so that was interesting.]) He also let us know that not believing in infant baptism was just fine, as long as we'd be willing to talk about it at some point, and gave a few examples of people who'd joined the church without believing in it and subsequently had converted to the church's way of thinking and were now happy.

So... That'll be an interesting journey. It makes it clear to me that good parenting will involve teaching our kids exactly why we believe what we believe, and how to distinguish good teaching from bad. (And that it's OK to go to an assembly of believers who teach things we don't agree with, as long as they're teaching the important stuff right!)

We're getting our internet nowadays from the Grove City Library, which is a good change except that I can't play my iPad apps. ^_^ Armstrong comes out Thursday to install stuff, which will be nice.

We're going to the beach for a week starting on Friday, but after that, I'm looking forward to really getting settled in and inviting people over/visiting people after that! We also have not yet been to Bell's, and I want to do that soon. Possibly today!

Having a dishwasher makes cooking and cleaning up afterward a lot easier, and so our kitchen has stayed just about clean despite my being so tired and unmotivated. Husband has also built us some IKEA furniture that looks really good and serves its purposes really well.

I love that our division of labor works out best for both of us. I go grocery shopping, cook, clean the kitchen, and he builds furniture and sorts out the computer and laundry, and we are both happy. Marriage FTW.

Tomorrow is B's first real meeting with the college, so that'll be interesting. Stuff has apparently been shaken up a little since he was hired, but we don't have a lot of detail about what happened or how it will affect B's workload.

The pastor warned us specifically last night that he sees a lot of professors throw themselves too much into their work, neglecting their families and themselves, and B should set clear boundaries. I was a little surprised by his vehemence, not having realized this was a common problem in academia. I trust my husband to have his priorities straight, but it'll be interesting to see what the demands on his time actually are.

We're trying to make our second bedroom into an office of sorts, a place suitable for working on school stuff and painting miniatures, etc. It's also our library of both books and games, and, at the moment, a repository of all the boxes we so cleverly labeled "Miscellaneous" before moving. (Note: not actually clever, do not do this.) Our couch in the living room folds out into a queen-sized bed, so I'm assuming that's where guests will stay when they come. The 2nd bedroom can also probably still fit an air mattress, so there's that. I'm planning on doing a geeky gamer theme in there, decorating with all our geeky stuff and maybe making more.

I finally was able to schedule my NAPLEX and MPJE, which are the medicine and law exams required to become a pharmacist. Pharmacists are the only medical professionals who have to take a law exam to be licensed, because medications are so tightly regulated. So, a month from tomorrow, I'll be trundling down to Pittsburgh for four hours of exams, and then again the week after for my law exam. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around studying so much material over so great a length of time... I'm ready for it though.