balance · self-care

Staying Grounded

The list of things I need to do to feel grounded on a day-to-day basis is long.

I didn’t notice how long the list was until I became a parent with limited time available for self-care.

The things I need to do to feel grounded every day are: read, write, do yoga, go for a run, spend time outdoors, spend time with my family, meditate, and go to a recovery meeting. It was hard to get to everything on the list every day even when I was an adult without kids. Now, it sometimes feels impossible.

Last Saturday, I hit a bit of a wall. I woke up to Jonas’s crying, which is never my plan. I almost always plan to wake up before the boys so I can squeeze in one of my grounding activities before the day gets going. Lately, however, I can’t seem to get myself up and going until it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll hit snooze over and over and over – and I’ve never been a snooze button person! Throughout my life, I have bounced out of bed the first time my alarm sounds, excited to go for a run or write or just get started with my day.

Not these days. I’m exhausted. And I feel trapped, because the strategies I have previously used to unexhaust myself – a weekend away, a mental health day from work, a long run – are much harder to arrange than they used to be.

This past Sunday – the day after I hit my metaphorical wall – I forced myself to wake up at 4 a.m. ON A SUNDAY – a day when there was a chance I’d be able to sleep until the luxurious time of 6:30 a.m. I need sleep, but I decided that what I needed more was an hour to myself in the morning. I hate rolling out of bed and crashing into the day bleary-eyed and half-asleep.

I woke up a few minutes after 4. I sat on my yoga mat and did some mindful breathing and a short body scan. I did six minutes of yoga and stretching. Then I climbed back into bed with my laptop to write. I did this again on Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I found it too exhausting to get myself up that early. On Friday I went for an early morning run, which was a great start to the day. On Saturday, I got myself up before the boys (Tamara goes to market really early on Saturdays), and I squeezed in a few minutes of grounding activities before the boys started to stir. On Sunday, I went for a run early, and then on Monday I was so exhausted from night feedings that I hit the snooze button five times before I finally put my feet on the floor.

It's called balance
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What I’m saying is – it’s hit or miss. Some days, I wake up early and use that first hour of the day to center myself. Some days, I’m wiped and I crash into the day with bleary eyes. And that’s okay. I love when I am able to start my day feeling grounded and centered. On the days when that can’t happen, I’m going to practice self-compassion and do my best to incorporate activities throughout my day that will help me to stay grounded. (More on that soon!)

Today I squeezed in a quick run, a few mindful moments, and a little writing time before the boys woke up. I also listened to my mindfulness audiobook, The Mindful Kind, on my way to work. I feel happy and calm and Kerriannish, and that’s a lovely way to start the day.

 

mindfulness · self-care

Thoughts On Mindfulness & Self-Care

I’ve been reading a lovely book about mindfulness. It’s called The Mindful Kind and it’s written by Rachael Kable.

Currently I am reading the chapter on self-care. Which is wonderful, because I continue to a) be obsessed with learning about and talking about self-care, and b) suck at actually doing self-care myself.

One thing the author talks about is her previous practice of saving all her self-care for weekends and holidays. I thought about it for a long time, and I realized that I do the same thing. I will elaborately plan out my snow days or my vacation weeks with self-care activities, but on regular work days, I pay little or no attention to my daily self-care. No wonder I am burned out by Friday afternoon!

I wrote about my adult coping skills in a February 2019 post. I didn’t love my list. The healthiest and most reliable coping skill for me was to write. Utilizing writing as a coping skill is talked about a lot in The Mindful Kind. It’s actually mentioned as a therapeutic way to transition from work to home – and that’s how I’m using it at this exact moment. Right now, as I type this, it’s the end of a work day, and I’m in my office at my job. I am feeling squirrely – antsy and overwhelmed. I’m excited to go home, but my afternoons are tricky. I often make unhealthy snacking choices and end up feeling lethargic and cranky until I’m able to crash into bed at the end of the day. (SEE? My weekday self-care sucks!)

These are my ideas for everyday self-care:

  • Eat healthy food, all day every day. (THIS ONE IS SO HARD LATELY.)
  • MOVE all day long! (My current job is more sedentary than I’d like. I am encouraging myself to stretch and jump and dance and walk whenever I get the chance. Little dance parties with Edgar and Jonas are helping!)
  • Slow down. (I get so caught up in the pace that is set by others; I have to be intentional about allowing myself to speak slowly, take my time, and not rush from activity to activity mindlessly.)
  • Take mini breaks to write when you start to feel out of sorts.
  • Spend time outdoors. (I’d always rather be outside, but sometimes the need to clean the house means I’m inside cleaning while Edgar plays in the yard. That’s okay, but it’s better self-care for me to be outdoors.)

I’m going to write more about everyday self-care soon; the Mindful Kind book is really helping me to think about this topic, and there will be more to say! Stay tuned.

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blogging

Categories Galore

A few years ago, I reviewed every single blog post on playful + peaceful and sorted the posts into categories. It took forever, but once I started sorting, it felt important to categorize every post.

This blog started because I needed a creative outlet. I’d been an adoptive-parent-in-waiting for about two years, and we’d been officially on the wait list for almost a year. The blog helped me a lot. It gave me a space to process the thoughts and feelings I had about the wait.

My writing on the blog evolved as time went by. The wait continued. I wrote about the wait, but I wrote about other things, too – the books I read, my writing, podcasts, self-care, and anything else that popped into my head and then spilled out onto the page.

Then Edgar came home, and the blog continued. It moved from being a way I processed the adoption wait to a way I processed everything. 

That’s why thinking about the categories on the blog is important to me. It helps me to organize my thoughts about what I want to write. I recently looked at the list of categories again, trying to decide which ones I wanted to keep in the mix.

When I reviewed the categories, I noticed things. One of the categories I haven’t used in a while is play; I love writing about play, but I haven’t written about it in forever!  The same with grief + loss and personality, which are two topics I want to explore but haven’t much yet.

These are the categories I’m keeping in the mix. The list starts with the categories I usually write about the most frequently; it ends with the topics I rarely write about lately, but want to keep in mind when I am brainstorming and planning my editorial calendar.

playful + peaceful – blogging categories

  • Balance. (This can be about work/life balance, or about balancing being a parent and being a human, or about balancing the ways I nourish my heart, soul, mind, and body, which was the original theme of the blog.)
  • Self-care. (I write about what I need to read! My self-care sucks. I need to read and write about it as much as possible!)
  • Writing. (These three – balance, self-care, and writing – are the categories I use more than any others.)
  • Books + reading.
  • Parenting.
  • Goals.
  • Mindfulness. (I am hoping to write about this more! I’m reading a great book on mindfulness and trying to start a daily mindfulness practice. I also have meditation  and presence as categories, but I think those will end up being subcategories to mindfulness.)
  • Adoption. (I love writing about our adoption journey. I’m hoping to write about it more and more, especially as the boys grow and we start learning more and more about the experiences of being an adoptive parent in the world.)
  • Blogging.
  • Flow/Life Alignment.
  • Mental health.
  • Farming.
  • Podcasts.
  • Poetry. (Just something I use from time to time when I find a beautiful poem to share!)
  • Recovery.
  • Wellness.
  • Simplifying.
  • Gratitude.
  • Community.
  • Friendship.
  • Family.
  • Creativity.
  • Personality.
  • Grief + loss.
  • Play.
  • Goals.
  • All The Things or Thought Of The Day. (Just two catch-all categories I use for my monthly summary posts or for posts that don’t really fit into any other category.

This feels like a lot, but I like it! I like looking at this list and thinking about topics I want to explore. The category for this post is blogging. Enjoy!

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goals · parenting

Please Don’t Assume My Toddler Is Straight

I was chatting with two other mothers, a few months after my first son was born, and the conversation shifted to a topic I’ve always found strange.

“Thomas is already engaged to Elizabeth,” one of the mothers joked. Her son, Thomas, was three, and the other woman’s daughter, Elizabeth, was just a few months younger.  “They’ve been betrothed since birth.” They laughed together and I smiled awkwardly, the way I do when I’m feeling uncomfortable but don’t want to cause unnecessary conflict.

I have always found this habit – joking about babies or young children dating or flirting or marrying – weird and awkward. I’ve gotten a lot more uncomfortable with it since becoming a parent myself. It might have to do with not wanting to adultify children when they’re little, which I (unfortunately) see happening all over the place. Like when a mom at the library saw her toddler son smiling at me and asked him teasingly, “Are you flirting, Jacob?”

What is the follow up to this comment?  I smiled awkwardly (yet again), and then I started thinking about my other concern, other than adultifying little kids. My other concern is about the assumptions we make about the sexual preferences of our kids from a very young age. I wondered if the Library Mom would have teased her son about flirting if I was a man. I don’t know this woman at all, so it’s impossible to guess. But my experience has been that people make these kinds of flirting jokes only in a male/female interaction, and to me that’s a sign that our society (or at least my neighborhood) is still a pretty heteronormative place. I don’t hear a lot of jokes about boy babies being betrothed to other boy babies, or about girl toddlers flirting with other girl toddlers.

There are so many assumptions that we make about the people our kids will grow up to be. We make assumptions about the things they’ll like and the things they’ll do. And when I say the assumptions WE make – I am including all the woke progressive people in the world as well.

Let’s take Thomas, for example, who is (jokingly) betrothed to Elizabeth. Let’s fast forward fifteen years to Thomas dating.

Why have we already decided that Thomas will be dating a female?

It’s 2019, and the world is more accepting of the LGBT community. The two mothers I mentioned in my opening story are both straight, and they have been welcoming and supportive of my same sex marriage and our adoption of two children. They are open-minded, welcoming, progressive, and loving.

But they are assuming that their children will be straight. And there’s a thirteen-year-old gay girl, ashamed and scared, inside of me that wants to cry when she realizes this.

One of the things that made being gay and coming out painful for me was that the world assumed I was straight. There was a default sexual preference, and it was straight; to be anything other than straight required me to “come out” of a closet, even if I hadn’t realized I was in a closet at all. Having to come out implies that there is a “norm” sexual preference and that you have to identify yourself as other if you don’t share that preference.

When I think about my two sons and their potential romantic lives, what I want is for them to never have to worry about “coming out.” They could be presumed straight, and then come out of the closet in adolescence or young adulthood, like I and many others did. But – should they have to? Why, in 2019, would we still be making assumptions about our children’s sexual preferences?

I don’t want to make any assumptions about my sons, but it’s a natural thing that we do. It’s human. We have to be extremely conscious and intentional if we want to not make assumptions about others. I catch myself caught up in it all the time when I meet an adult my age who is great with kids who doesn’t have any children of their own. I start wondering if they want kids, or if they’re hoping to grow their family.  It takes intention and effort for me to remind myself that wanting to be a parent (a feeling that is intensely strong for me) is not something that every adult in the world feels.

It takes effort. It takes intention. It takes change.

We’re all learning and growing, as individuals, as families, as societies. During my experiences as an LGBT young adult, the world learned to accept, and to respect. The federal law for same sex marriage came into effect four months after our wedding day. The next step, in my opinion, is for us to move from accepting to not assuming.

Now, rewind back to my awkward smile after Thomas’s mother and Elizabeth’s mother were laughing about their children getting married someday. Remember how I often just smile awkwardly at these moments?

Well, that day, I sort of didn’t.

“What if your kids are gay?” I blurted out gracelessly.

I wish I could say that this conversation evolved into a courageous talk with me expressing my thoughts and feelings eloquently and the moms hearing it. But it didn’t. They kind of laughed and nodded, agreeing with me that this was possible. I didn’t say much else to follow up.

But I asked the question, and I asked it out loud. That’s big for an introvert and overthinker like me.

The main point of this post is that my sons, Edgar and Jonas, are not yet available for betrothal. They’re too young, and too unwilling to bathe, for any marriage arrangements to be made. They also haven’t decided yet if they want to get married, or who they’d like to be boyfriends or girlfriends with someday, if anyone. And my hope is that, rather than a big, significant coming out talk, what they experience is an ongoing, accepting, and loving conversation with their parents and their community about who and what they love, with nothing assumed and everything on the table.

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books + reading

What To Read – An Ongoing Dilemma

Every few months, I experience a dilemma that disturbs my peace of mind. It is one of the First Worldiest of my First World Problems; it’s something that really could not matter less, and yet I feel mild distress until the dilemma is resolved.

Picture it: me, sitting on the floor of my living room, with a stack of between 3 and 12 books in front of me, trying to answer a simple question –

What book should I read next?

books on bookshelves
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It is an utterly unimportant question. It doesn’t matter at all. And yet – it’s a decision I have to make, and I often feel slightly off-kilter until it’s made.

This dilemma highlights a fact about me, something that I am guessing is not true for everyone. The fact is that I am always, always reading a book. I might set the book down to take care of children, to go to work, to operate heavy machinery – but on every single day of my life, there is a book somewhere, in my bag, on my nightstand, in my car, with a page dogeared because I am in the middle of reading it. If I finish a book, I immediately select a new book to read. Sometimes I read the book slowly, somethings quickly. But there is always a book.

The role that reading plays in my life is huge. Reading is my hobby, my joy, my coping skill, my graduate school, and the books I’ve read throughout my life have really made me the person I am today.

So when there ISN’T a book I’m currently reading – a situation that usually only lasts for a few moments or hours – I feel like something is really wrong.

Usually, the main book I am reading or about to read is a novel. I am a fiction girl. I love getting lost in a mysterious or suspenseful work of fiction. I read mostly contemporary fiction, and I often get recommendations from an awesome book-obsessed Facebook group that is amazingly called We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie.

The dilemma is this: if I don’t have a novel that I am ready to read next (which happens occasionally), then I usually pick up a nonfiction book. I’m not a big reader of nonfiction, but there are 10 categories on nonfiction books currently on my bookshelf. Those books are there because I sincerely want to learn about these various topics.

HOWEVER. It’s really hard for me to commit to sitting down and read an entire book, cover to cover, on parenting or mindfulness or writing. My favorite way to read is one book at a time; I’d rather choose one book and read it from beginning to end than be reading two or more books at a time. But it’s hard for me to do that with nonfiction. Those books don’t tend to be as gripping to me, and now that I’m a parent, I don’t zoom through a book in two days. So I get a little antsy sticking with one nonfiction topic for a week or longer.

I also struggle with the challenge of wanting to have read a book. Like, No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel is on my list. I’ve read about 25% of the book, and it’s wonderful. But I can’t say that, at the end of a long day of work and parenting, I want to read that book. I just want the knowledge in that book to be surgically implanted in my head, really. (Is that possible? Please message me if you know of any free and painless knowledge implantation surgeries I should pursue.)

It’s a constant question I ask myself – how do I make myself read the books I want to read for the knowledge rather than for the entertainment value? I am always appreciative of a writer who can impart knowledge and be entertaining, but in my opinion, this is a rare talent.

I’m not going to answer that question today. I am going to list the ten categories of nonfiction books that are on my Goodreads “OMG What To Read” shelf as well as on my actual TBR (To Be Read) bookshelf:

  1. Writing: There are several books on my shelves (at all times) related to the craft of writing. They are mostly books that I’d love to read to improve my writing ability or learn more about how to write or the creative process.
  2. Mindfulness/Meditation: I love (in theory) reading books about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life. I also have a long-standing goal of maintaining a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.
  3. Sobriety: It’s always helpful for my sobriety to read AA literature or books about addiction and recovery. These are sometimes daily devotionals (a reading for every day of the calendar year) or a book devoted to a specific topic, like emotional sobriety or character defects.
  4. Parenting: SO. MANY. PARENTING. BOOKS. The books on my shelf recently are mostly related to discipline – how to teach wild and crazy toddlers to be functional human beings. It’s a topic of high importance at the moment.
  5. Race: This is a recent addition to my list of categories. I have several books on my list about race in America that I’d love to read – How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston is at the top of my list. This is an ongoing interest of mine, but I’ve gotten increasingly interested in this topic due to current events and becoming a transracial adoptive parent.
  6. Spirituality: An ongoing interest of mine. The Untethered Soul and Traveling Mercies are both on my OMG What To Read list at the moment.
  7. Self-Help: This category often overlaps with spirituality or sobriety. But currently, the self-help books on my To Be Read list are focused on healthy eating; I’ve noticed that I (still) don’t have the healthiest relationship with food and eating, and there are several books on my TBR list focused on that issue.
  8. Humor: I have a bunch of memoirs and books of essays written by funny people on my shelf. These are technically nonfiction, but for me they would serve as a mental break rather than an educational resource.
  9. Adoption: I definitely want to learn as much as I can about issues related to adoption. I want to be an informed and aware adoptive parent for my boys.
  10. Transracial Adoption: Ditto to above. I want to educate myself about transracial adoption so that I can be the best parent possible to my kids.

This time around, it took me over a week of skimming various books to decide that I wanted to focus on two: This Is Where I Leave You, a novel by Jonathan Tropper, and The Mindful Kind, a book on mindfulness by Rachael Kable. I feel so much better having made that choice.

It also has occurred to me that maybe I don’t need to have a book I’m in the middle of at every second of my life. But I decided to ignore that thought and enjoy being lost in these two books until my next what to read dilemma arises. Stay tuned!

closeup photo of assorted-color book lot

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books on bookshelves

goals

May 2019: Monthly Writing (and PERSONAL!) Goals

I have an idea for switching things up this month, but I have no idea how effective it will be.

I’ve really liked my monthly writing goals posts, even though they haven’t always resulted in me accomplishing my goals. (Cue sad face emoji, please.) Even when the goals aren’t entirely accomplished, I feel like I get closer to my target when I set my intentions clearly at the beginning of the month.

There’s a blog I sometimes read written by Kelsey Wharton of The Girl Next Door podcast, and on it she writes a monthly post with a list of her goals. I want to try this out, to see if it helps me at all with any of my non-writing goals.

Here are my goals for May 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging schedule, every Tuesday and every Saturday. (Eventually, this will stop being a goal and just be a habit, but I slipped a little during April so want to keep it on this list for now!)
  2. Exercise every day – yoga, running, or walking – no matter what. It can be five minutes long but it cannot be skipped!
  3. NO BEDTIME CANDY. I often will snack on something chocolate right before bed or while I’m feeding Jonas during the night. I really want to stop this habit; I’d like to feel healthy and fit as the summer approaches, and right now I feel unhealthy and unfit.

I can’t think of any other goals right now; really, exercise and healthy eating is my main goal at the moment. But I’d like to use this as a place for,more mundane goals as well, like applying for passports for the family or starting our hunt for a new house. I’m guessing my monthly goals posts will continue to evolve.

Notice I haven’t included any fiction writing goals for May – but in June, I will be BACK IN BUSINESS and ready to write. I’m so excited for summertime – my first completely free summer in years. Yes, I’ll have two young kids to chase around – but that’s my choice, and my summer, and it’s going to be delightful.

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all the things

All The Things (April 2019)

It’s 5:08 a.m. as I type this. It’s a rare moment when I’ve taken care of Baby J.J. all night long, but still was able to get myself out of bed at 4:45 a.m. I did approximately three minutes of yoga and now I’m busily typing while my coffee brews.

This month has been busier socially than the three months before it. It’s springtime, and I’ve made lots of play dates with friends. That has unfortunately interfered with writing and exercise time; I’m still doing both, just a little less frequently than I’d like.

Here are the things for this month:

Things I’m Reading: I’ve basically been fretting about what book to read next all month! I have a Goodreads bookshelf titled “OMG WHAT TO READ” and there are 50 books on it. I ended up listening to two old favorites on audiobook this month – Carry On Warrior and Tiny Beautiful Things. I’ve also been slowly working my way through a good novel (This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper) and reading pieces of other books when the moment strikes me. I DO NOT LIKE READING LIKE THIS. But I’m finding it hard to zero in on one book. I’m hoping the May Book Of The Month selections inspire me to choose one to read. Stay tuned!

Things I’m Watching: I’ve been watching reruns of Dead Like Me, a TV show from 2003 – 2004 that only aired for two seasons, while feeding J.J. at night.

Things About Writing: The blogging is still going great, but my novel writing has not. I don’t know if I can make a big push until the end of May, when I’m done with the (annoying) grad school course I’m taking right now. But maybe I can? I’ll evaluate when I write my monthly writing goals.

I think that’s all the things for now. It’s been a joyful April, with Baby J.J.’s adoption finalized and lots of time with friends and family. Now we’re cruising until SUMMERTIME!

pink flowers on trees
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