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House things, St. Patrick’s Day, and time

It’s hard to believe I have just one more week of maternity leave. I’m grateful for the 16 weeks paid leave for my employer, and I’m actually eager to get back to a working schedule, but there’s really never enough time.

As my maternity leave winds down, I do recognize that I will be losing some of my free time, and am now rushing to finish off tasks around the house before I go back to work. Over the past couple weeks I’ve focused on making some small, but impactful changes in the living room downstairs to make it more livable. I set up a paper mail workflow in the corner so I can toss mail in a box when I don’t have time for it and it’s easier deal with it when I have a few minutes here or there. I also bought a key holder for the wall, and MJ showed me how to use his electric drill so I could hang it properly, and now our key table isn’t such a mess. Admittedly, I also shoved a bunch of boxes full of pending house project stuff into a closet so I don’t have to look at it anymore, but having it in the middle of our living room wasn’t doing anyone any favors.

The other big project this month was replacing our fence. Some big wind storms last year did a number to our fence, collapsing it entirely in one long section, and requiring to be stapled back together on another section. While working on those portions, we also discovered that a section we thought looked fine was actually infested with termites. MJ spent a bunch of time researching materials and settling on Trex composite, because it doesn’t require maintenance and looks better than vinyl tends to, and then had a multi-month search of finding a dealer who would install it here. Then there was wrangling of all the neighbors we border to let them know about the project. Thankfully it all went pretty well in the end, even if he did have to check in on the installers while they were working to make a few little improvements to their plans. The rest of the back yard needs a lot of work, but I’m really happy to have a functional fence out there again! And we couldn’t reasonably do a landscaping remodel without replacing the fence first anyway.

We also kind of celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this year. Our au pair Claudia did crafts with Adam to decorate the wall, and we dressed ourselves and the boys in green. In the afternoon we had some green cake and that evening we enjoyed a round of Guinness. I’m not sure if it’s the kids or the pandemic that are changing holidays for us, it’s probably a little of both. We have little buddies to dress up with now! And anything to break of the monotony of pandemic life is quite welcome, even if it does take energy that I frequently find lacking.

I also had my last visit with my liver doctor on St. Patrick’s Day. As I’ve mentioned, I put on a lot of weight in my 30s, and was diagnosed with NAFLD several years back. I’ve had high liver enzymes and an annual visit booked with a liver doctor since the diagnosis. With both pregnancies I also had intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (a liver condition), and with the second I had my enzymes spike so high that they were in dangerous territory. It was pretty scary, especially since my father died from liver disease in his early 50s. Thankfully, my last blood work came back the best we’ve seen in years. All my values are down, and close to normal! Coupled with what looks like no long-term damage to my liver, based on tests I had done before I got pregnant with Aaron, my doctor declared that he doesn’t need to see me again unless there’s a problem. I’m convinced this reversal in condition is due to me adjusting my diet, exercising more and ultimately losing weight. One more reason to stick to it.

Cycling back to the beginning of this post, as a parent of two now, I’ve been thinking about time a lot. I reflect back to 2015 when I read 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and how I let it nearly ruined my life. I started scrutinizing every free moment I had, placed guilt upon myself for watching TV, and made serious commitments to more than I could deliver on in a healthy manner. If I’m honest, it made my life amazing for a while, I hit several life goals, optimized loads of tasks. I still reap the benefits today. It was actually a really valuable book in many ways! Then I nearly burnt myself out. “Nearly” is key here, being immersed in open source communities where burnout was discussed was important to me avoiding the depths with which other fell to, but I did hit a low point. Learning to relax after that has been a whole de-programming exercise. I internalized so much of the message of the book where every moment is filled with value, and reflected that back to others in my life in increasingly unhealthy ways. Now that I find myself with even more serious time restraints, I want to avoid falling into that again. I’ve started making a rotating list of what I want to do in my limited free time, and have included everything from studying for the Ham radio Technician license to reading comic books. I’ve also ditched the guilt. I don’t watch much TV, I never did! But it’s an enjoyable part of being human, especially when I’m tired.

With my last week of maternity leave, I look forward to lots of baby snuggles and then getting my home office ready to return to it. My desk drawers are overflowing with stuff that I’ve been meaning to sort through for some time, and it would be nice to start work again with a more organized space.