Mighty Life List
Aug 30 2011

How Do You Fight Insomnia? My 10 Tips.

10 Tips for Fighting Insomnia | Mighty Girl

Tempur-Pedic asked me to track my sleep habits with a Fitbit and share the results. This is the first time I have been paid to sleep, but I have made it a professional goal to pursue further opportunities in this field. You know how to reach me.

Raise your hand if you ever have trouble sleeping. Actually, if it’s 3 a.m. you can let your hand fall listlessly by your side, I already saw you on Twitter.

A few of you have asked me how I like my Fitbit. Until Tempur-Pedic asked me to use one to track my sleep, I never bothered to learn how. Now, after sleep tracking for a week, I think it’s the most useful feature. It proved something I always suspected about myself. When my health and stress levels are in order, I have a straightforward relationship with sleep. Things have been going better lately, which means the worst night of sleep I got last week looked like this:

While waking up 11 times may not be ideal, I’ll take nearly nine solid hours of sleep any day. You can even throw in a nap, and I will not complain.

When I’m under heavy stress, however, my body prefers to be conscious enough to fret. As you might imagine, a few months ago I was awake. For weeks.

Because insomnia is such an indicator of anxiety for me, I do everything I can to get my sleeping habits back to normal. These are the top ten tricks that work for me:

1. Clear your head. Anxiety is a stimulant. I put stressful tasks at the top of my to do list in hopes of making headway before bed. For larger tasks I find it helps me to make a plan — a detailed list for the next day, an outline of a project that will take weeks to complete. If my worries are more emotional, I write stream-of-consciousness in a journal. This way I don’t waste sleep time worrying about things I can tackle in the morning. Speaking of which…

2. Keep a pen by the bed. There will always be something you forget to write down. Something so pressing that it jolts you from sleep at 3 a.m. Don’t regain consciousness while you worry about remembering the important thing. Write it down and roll over.

3. Get off the couch. Exercise. Harder than you usually do if you’re athletic. One of the less-touted benefits of strenuous exercise is that it exhausts you. Perfect.

4. Stop the nightly grind. This isn’t an issue for everyone of course, but I grind my teeth in my sleep. I didn’t realize how much it was waking me until I got a mouth guard, and so I mention it here. Consider it, my stress-ball friend.

5. Clear out electronics. They say you need to remove even the tiniest lights if you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythms, and maybe that’s true. Illuminated clocks are so accusatory they might as well have an exclamation point after the time. But the little charging lights on my computer, phone, iPad, camera? Those are more of a problem if I’m already awake in the dark. Each one is a tiny siren song, coaxing me to conquer another level of Plants and Zombies. Not to mention how often my phone wakes me with a late-night text or call from one of the many inconsiderate louts who I have come to love. So when I’m having trouble sleeping, all the gadgets go in the living room.

6. Don’t play dead. When I’m up, I just get up. I won’t stay in bed awake for more than fifteen minutes because I don’t want my bed to become a place where I worry about not sleeping. I’ll take a bath or go read on the couch, any activity I can do supine. And if you fall asleep in the bathtub? Success.

7. Stop taking uppers. No more caffeine. If I can’t sleep, I stop ingesting stimulants because they are chemically designed to keep me awake. (I’m wacky that way.) I’ll take a two-day withdrawl headache over a month-long stint as a zombie.

8. Shower before bed. The warmth is supposed to sleepify you, and maybe it does, but I find it relaxing just to climb into bed clean. Sleeping with freshly shaved legs is also a nice bonus.

9. Get stuck. I get regular acupuncture, and I almost never have trouble sleeping on days when I have a session. The effect is similar to a good massage.

10. Powder your nose. When you finally do get to sleep, the last thing you want is to be woken by your bladder. Use the bathroom right before bed, and limit liquid intake an hour or so before you (hope to) go to sleep.

According to the Fitbit, my bout of insomnia is mercifully in past. To whit:

BAM! How you like that, Insomnia? Come and show your face, if you got beef! Or perhaps you should come back in the morning when I’m awake. We’ll discuss your behavior over a leisurely breakfast. You can do the dishes.

So that’s what works for me. How about you? How do you get to sleep?

Let me know if you need me to come over and spoon.




If you want more information on how to buy a good mattress, you can get it here. The folks at Tempur-Pedic want me to remind you about this, “This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, because we think you deserve to get your best night’s sleep every night.” Thanks, Tempur-Pedic. You’ve got my back. (Pun brought to you by Maggie as a reward for reading the fine print. You’re welcome.)

Aug 29 2011

Democracy by Joan Didion

Read this, please. So many of the best parts are dependent on character development and context, so these are the best parts of Democracy by Joan Didion that make sense in this format and don’t give everything away:

You did all right.
You filled your dance card, you saw the show.
Interesting times.

Water under the bridge and dynamite it behind you.

Many people are intolerant of the accidental, but this was something more: Jack Lovett did not believe that accidents happen. In Jack Lovett’s system all behavior was purposeful, and the purpose could be divined by whoever attracted the best information and read it most correctly.

In fact Carla Lovett made a convincing army wife… indifferent to her surroundings, passive in bad climates.

…she resolved to reconstruct the details of occasions on which she recalled being happy. As she considered such occasions she was struck by their insignificance, their absence of application to the main events of her life. In retrospect she seemed to have been most happy in borrowed houses, and at lunch.

“‘Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.’ W.H. Auden. But I don’t have to tell you that.” He paused. “The English poet.”

In fact they did run into each other.
Here or there.
Often enough, during those twenty-some years during which Inez Victor and Jack Lovett refrained from touching each other, refrained from exhibiting undue pleasure in each other’s presence or untoward interest in each other’s activities, refrained most specifically from even being alone together, to keep the idea of it quick.
Quick, alive.
Something to think about late at night.
Something private.

“There was a sound in the autopsy room like an electric saw.”
“Right.”
“What was it.”
“It was an electric saw.” Billy Dillon shuffled and cut the cards. “Don’t dwell on it.”
Inez said nothing.

“Why air family linen?”
“Exactly,” Dwight Christian said. “Why accentuate the goddamn negative?”

The click of her heels struck her as unsynchronized with her walk.

“Listen, Inez said. “It’s too late for the correct thing. Forget the correct thing.”

When novelists speak of the unpredictability of human behavior they usually mean not unpredictability at all but a higher predictability, a more complex pattern discernible only after the fact.

“Anyway, we were together,” she said. “We were together all our lives. If you count thinking about it.”

Vocabulary:

balletomane – a devotee of ballet

casuarina – is a genus of 17 species in the family Casuarinaceae, native to Australasia, southeast Asia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean:

codel – Abbreviation of congressional delegation, government-paid trips abroad, designed to give lawmakers first-hand knowledge of matters relevant to their legislation.

crazy eight – A wild card

D.S.C. – Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.

guard hairs – The longest, coarsest hairs in a mammal’s coat, forming the topcoat (or outer coat). They taper to a point and protect the undercoat from the elements. They are often water repellent and stick out above the rest of the coat. Guard hairs add the sheen to the coat of an animal.

hemotoxins – toxins that destroy red blood cells (that is, cause hemolysis), disrupt blood clotting, and/or cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage.

kapu – refers to the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. The Hawaiian word kapu is usually translated to English as “forbidden”, though it also carries the means of “sacred”, “consecrated”, or “holy”.

liana – A liana is any of various long-stemmed, woody vines that are rooted in the soil at ground level and use trees, as well as other means of vertical support, to climb up to the canopy to get access to well-lit areas of the forest:

merc – mercenary

moue -a little grimace

Nisei – a Japanese language term used in countries in North America, South America and Australia to specify the children born to Japanese people in the new country.

quarter mastering – In land armies, especially US units, it is a term referring to either an individual soldier or a unit who specializes in distributing supplies and provisions to troops. The senior unit, post or base supply officer is customarily referred to as “the quartermaster”. Often the quartermaster serves as the S-4 in US Army, US Marine Corps units and NATO units. In many navies it is a non-commissioned officer (petty officer) rank for personnel responsible for their ship’s navigation. In the US Navy, the quartermaster is a position responsible for the ship’s navigation and maintenance of nautical charts and maps.

schitzy – slang for schizophrenic or exhibiting the effects of hallucinogenic drugs

Silver Star – awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States not justifying one of the two higher awards – the service crosses (Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross), the second-highest military decoration, or the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration.

Aug 25 2011

Small, Good Thing: My Business Card


(Photo from Oh Happy Day!)

I’ve had a version of these business cards for years, though never as lovely as the ones Jordan made as a gift, above. (Thank you again, sweets.)

They’re blank on the back, so I write in whatever information I’d like a particular person to have. I can put an @ in front of the “Maggie,” write just my phone number, a little note, whatever.

For me, they’re perfect — evergreen information, versatile, google-able only insofar as I’d like them to be, and they double as social cards so I don’t feel like I’m “doing business” at a party when someone asks for my contact information. Yes, I know I am alone in thinking about this. Allow me my WASPy pleasures, they make me feel alive.

Aug 23 2011

“Some Hungry Guy” Video with Repurposed Artwork

I first saw a rough cut of this music video at MaxFunCon, when I took a class from its director, Benjamin Harrison. It’s made from the artwork of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, and it makes me sentimental for things that never happened to me. An excellent argument for copyright expirations.

Aug 23 2011

Wardrobe Basics from Real Women

Right now, my closet looks like the wardrobe rack at an amateur theater company — bright, bedazzled, schizophrenic. As an avid thrift and vintage shopper, my dresser drawers overfloweth. Still, I seem to wear the same ten things again and again.

The clothes I buy on a whim always get the most play, and that got me wondering about other women’s wardrobe standbys. So I asked some stylish girlfriends about their basics.

Susan Wagner from The Working Closet

“My go-to item this summer has been the khaki City Mini from J. Crew.”

“It has an elastic “paperbag” waist that is perfect with a tank or tee and a skinny belt and a great A-line shape that makes my legs look thin (score!). I just bought the winter version, which is wool rather than cotton/linen, in bright dahlia, because it’s the perfect skirt and will go with everything I own and require no thought at all when I get dressed in the morning.”

Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo

“I’m obsessed with Emersonmade’s skinny jeans. They’re ridiculously flattering; honestly, they make me feel so sexy and shapely when I wear them.

“They’re super dark because they’re dyed with indigo. I wear them all the time, with T-shirts or blouses or sweaters.”

Katie Spence from Your New Favorite

“It is so very hot in Austin that mostly I wear skirts and dresses to keep things breezy. My favorite skirt this summer has been a chambray skirt that I got at Land’s End, but which is currently sold out.”

“However there is one on sale at Madewell that is almost identical. Lately I’ve been obsessed with natural fabrics, like cotton chambray and linen.”

Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day!

“These Gap slim crop pants in black. I can wear them with ballet flats or heels.”

“People dress up more here in Paris than in the US so these are my version of casual everyday pants.”

Rebecca Woolf from Girls’ Gone Child

Had to think about this because I don’t fit into any of my “usual” go tos (Ed note: Rebecca is currently 32 weeks pregnant with twins!), but last Fall it was this little corduroy half-jacket my friend Dani got for me at a thrift store:

(Ed note: If you want a crop jacket of your own, here are two to consider: 7 For Mankind Leather Crop, and a pattern for a simple cropped blazer.)

“My ‘go-to outfit’ is the dress + cardigan + booty + sock combo:”

Melissa Cotton from Poppy Cotton

“These are the most perfectly iconic ballet flats I have ever come across, and I have bought so many over the years looking for the perfect look and fit.”

“They are truly transformative to both my legs/feet and my outfit, quietly underscoring my entire fashion identity — classic and pulled together with a nod to the mid-century.”

Margaret Stewart from Fountly

“I have a dress I got this summer from Anthropologie that has proven to be the most versatile article of clothing I’ve ever owned. Seriously. I took it on a month long trip and wore it morning, noon, and (literally) night. Was great for sightseeing, casual or fancy meals, and (genius!) also an incredibly comfy nightgown.”

“Normally I shy from things without a waist; it’s my best feature! But in hot weather, it’s too binding to have a fitted anything! This thing was so damned comfy.”

Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom

“A scarf from J.Crew. It’s silk, but feels more like cotton, which I like.”

“It’s a warm pink and it has an almost florescent pink printed pattern. I picked it up on clearance last summer and I’ve worn it way too many days over the last year.”

(You can still find a couple of these babies on eBay, happy bidding.)

Interesting, right? Thanks, ladies!

Ok, team, now you. What’s your favorite item of clothing? If you have a link, all the better.

Aug 22 2011

Tattly Makes Temporary Tattoos that Don’t Suck

Tina from Swissmiss sent us some of her Tattly temporary tattoos for design nerds, and I’m smitten.

This one made me so happy while it lasted that I briefly considered making it permanent.

Apparently Hank had the same idea, because he’s started asking for a tattoo. A real tattoo, like all of our friends.

I just found a pack of candy cigarettes hidden under his bed. Tattly, you’re a bad influence.

Aug 19 2011

How to Dress for Outsidelands

I went to Ousidelands with Mai from Fashioni.st, and she’s doing a whole series on festival fashion if you want to check out what people were wearing. (That’s one of her photos above.)

Mai and I were talking about how San Francisco weather requires a very particular style of dress for outdoor events. It’s colder here than people expect, and that’s true year round. Layering is key, especially for women. A few tips for balancing sanity with style:

Plan your outfit around sane shoes. You want flats with a closed toe. If you wear sandals your feet will get filthy, you won’t be able to dance in crowds without getting stomped, and in the evening it will get cold enough that you won’t be able to feel your toes. We’re not even going to discuss the idiocy of wearing heels in the dirt. Your smartest option? Boots.

Layer on top. The crowd shields you from wind, so you’ll be okay in something sleeveless if you’re dancing, but you’ll mostly need long sleeves — sweater, blazer, whatever. If you’re sensitive to cold (I’m looking at you Los Angles), you might want two thin layers on top of your tank.

Accessorize for warmth. You’ll want a hat or scarf after dark. Invest in a cotton, knit or silk scarf, something lightweight to maximize your bag-footprint to warmth ratio.

Keep it convenient. You’ll be using porta-potties all day. Reconsider leotards or body suits, especially in combination with tights. Tights in summer? That brings me to my next point.

Plan to keep your legs covered. Pants are a smart option no matter what time of year, but if you want to wear a skirt or shorts, throw a pair of tights in your bag, even if it’s the middle of summer. You’ll likely want them all day, but even if we have unusually warm weather, you’ll be pretty miserable without them after 4 p.m. or so.

Bring a little bag. It’s nice to be hands-free, but nicer to have a travel sized sunscreen, a place for cash and ID, sunglasses, and somewhere to store your scarf, sweater and tights when you don’t want to wear them.

See you next year.