balance · simplifying

How I Want To Use Facebook

I don’t hate Facebook. In fact, I like it a lot.

During March 2019, I took a step back from all social media. And for me, social media is mostly Facebook. I don’t use Twitter; I have an Instagram account, but I rarely use it.

It felt good to take a step back from Facebook. While I enjoy aspects of it, I really don’t like the mindless scrolling. Also, I am definitely one of those people who gets jealous and anxious when I compare my life to the news feed version of other people’s lives, and I don’t like that part of Facebook at all.

I’ve written about this in a few other posts, but in case you’re a new reader – I decided to step back from social media in March 2019 after hearing Cal Newport, the author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work, talk on a podcast. His advice is to only use social media and apps that support your values. After some careful contemplation, I’ve decided that occasional Facebook usage supports several of my values: family, friendship, connection + community, creativity, and (sometimes) books + reading + writing.

It’s pretty obvious how Facebook helps with family and friendships, right? My family uses Facebook a LOT, and so do many (though not all) of my friends and colleagues. 

While I dislike scrolling mindlessly, I enjoy the times when I use Facebook intentionally. I like it when I am really and truly paying attention to what I’m reading. And I enjoy writing comments on things my friends have shared. ACTUAL COMMENTS – not just the like button!

I like using Facebook to share my blog posts, and I follow lots of people and pages about writing. I’m also in a couple of really fun Facebook groups that are focused on books + reading; I get and give a lot of good book recommendations via these groups. 

But my most favorite reason for using Facebook is events. I am ALWAYS *interested* in events happening in my community, especially since having kids. I like to know if there are kid-friendly activities going on that I can bring the boys to, and I like to support and attend events thrown by my friends.

I learned a lot by stepping back from Facebook. I learned the role I want social media to play in my life. Here are the ways I want to use social media:

  1. Connect with my community by getting info about events my family can attend.
  2. Celebrate and share life’s moments with words and photos.
  3. Interact with people I care about, through Messenger or posts, with intention.
  4. Engage in communication that supports things I value, like books + reading or blogging/writing.

And, finally – here are the limits I’d like to put in place regarding my social media diet:

1. Only use social media on the iPad. (This one might be hard to follow, so we’ll see how it goes!)

2. Hide or unfollow anything that is uninteresting or causes me to feel bad.

3. Share blog posts, whenever I want.

4. Mostly focus on just checking my notifications – the little red number that tells me when someone is interacting with me directly. (I’ll still scroll occasionally, but I’m going to try to limit my scrolling to 1 or 2 times a week.)

I really loved taking this time away; it helped me appreciate social media for what it brings to my life, instead of drowning in the negative feelings it sometimes inspires.

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books + reading

OMG What To Read

This morning, I spent 45 minutes on Goodreads, and it wasn’t until I was done that I felt like all was right with the world. Like I could move on with my day in peace.

I often have mornings like this – when I can’t decide which book I want to read next. At the end of my Goodreads session, I had identified 40 books that were vying for “Next Book To Read” in my life currently. FORTY!

It was too much.

So I retreated, and I embraced the joy of rereading for the moment. I rediscovered two of my all-time favorite books – Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. These women are incredible. They’re my role models. Their writing lives cause me to become envious and inspired; my hope is that I linger on the latter.

It’s been challenging to find time for blogging recently. For the next month, in addition to working and mommying, I am college-ing for the first time in 8 years. My job requires my to take one grad school course; I’m taking it online, and it started on March 25th and runs until May 18th. The timing is unfortunate – job + infant + toddler + beginning of farming season + limited amount of time for self-care is about to get smaller = blech. 

But, it is what it is.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why it feels hard to find a book to devour at the moment. Every book requires too much focus and energy. Maybe I only have enough energy right now to cozy up with two old favorites that I’ve read a dozen times. And it helps that these two rereads are delightful and inspiring and hopeful in a way that I find unattainable as a tired chubby mama with limited time to exercise, write, or just be. 

So I’ll allow myself to delight in the comfort of books that are old friends, and I’ll allow myself to publish a brief blog post that is more of a mind wandering than a profound essay examining life intelligently.

And I’ll enjoy today.

balance · recovery

10th Step FTW

I’ve been trying to limit my time on my phone. To do so, I have deleted a lot of the apps that were cluttering up my life. The idea is, I delete as many apps as possible for 30 days, and then at the end of that period, I only add back in the apps that support my values.

I love this, but I haven’t been perfect at it. I have a tendency to download several apps on a whim. I’ll think, I need to meditate more often, and then I’ll download 3 or 4 meditation apps so I can try them all out and see which one is best.

I had a moment like that early in the month, related to my sobriety. I’m six years sober, and I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for AA and the 12 steps. I recently have been trying to step up my program – attend more meetings, increase my service to others, keep sobriety more present in my daily life. So I found myself in the App Store on my phone, searching for an app that might play some audio AA literature.

I didn’t find that – BUT I found an app that is absolutely rocking my world, and helping me to keep recovery at the forefront.

It’s called simply 10th Step, and to understand how helpful it is to me, you have to understand what the 10th Step is in the 12 Step Universe. This explanation is going to be crude and brief – there’s no way I can explain it eloquently in just a few sentences.

But, here’s my attempt: There are 12 steps. (Duh.) The first 9 steps are all about the work – and it is work! – of getting sober, turning your life around, and cleaning up the messes you made while you were drinking or using. Then, you get to the 10th Step, which is about taking a daily inventory of how you’re living your life.

So the 10th Step is a check-in. You’ve done a bunch of work, and you’ve cleaned up your life. And then you keep going, keep living your life – and the 10th Step is about checking in with yourself every single day to see if you’re keeping yourself on the path of happiness, peace, and sobriety.

The first 9 steps are about WORK. The 10th step is about MAINTENANCE. Which explains why I suck at it. I am FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC at doing something that is hard work for a brief period of time. I can give up coffee. I can train for a race. I can do a crash diet. But I have a really, really, really hard time making a habit out of doing something that’s good for me on a daily basis – meditation, for example, or yoga, or the 10th Step.

So I’m cruising the app store, downloading a bunch of apps related to AA literature that all turn out to be useless to me, and then I find the 10th Step app. And it’s super basic. I open the app, and I click Tenth Step Nightly Inventory, and I answer a series of questions about my day. Such as, did I have any resentments toward anyone? Was I kind to others today? Was I dishonest at all? Is there anything I need to discuss with someone, right now, at once?  I click yes or no, and I add a comment if I want, and then I close out the app.

THIS IS AMAZING. These kinds of questions – asking myself, am I on track, am I working my program of recovery – this is EXACTLY what I need to every evening to maintain my sobriety and keep myself on the right track./ But I’ve never been able to do it via journalling or a podcast or a prayer book.

It definitely helps that I’ve deleted so many apps from my phone, and that I’m trying to limit my phone time overall. Sometimes I absent-mindedly pick up my phone, and Facebook’s not there, nor Goodreads or Instagram or anything else distracting. But then I remember that I can do a 10th step inventory – a productive and spiritual use of phone time.

I really hope that this app continues to be useful; sometimes the novelty wears off and I slip back into old habits. But, I know how important this daily inventory is, and I feel committed to keeping it up. 10th Step app FTW!

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balance · simplifying

My Month As A Digital Minimalist

This month has been educational and eye-opening. I really have enjoyed taking a step back from my phone, and I’ve learned a lot about my digital habits.

I’ve written in previous posts about my March 2019 experiment. Inspired by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, I’ve spent this past month striving to maintain a digital minimalist diet. Now, since “digital minimalist diet” is probably not a helpful term for anyone who’s not familiar with Newport’s work, here are the basics of what “digital minimalist diet” meant for me during March 2019:

  1. I tried to use my phone less.
  2. I avoided all social media. (Exceptions did apply.)
  3. I tried to limit my screen time overall.
  4. I used the Screen Time feature on my iPhone to check in and see how often I was using my phone, how many times per day I picked it up, and which apps were consuming the most of my time.
  5. I transitioned to using my iPad and my laptop for a lot of online tasks.

I took a lot of notes throughout the month. The following are my lessons learned, in no particular order:

I pick up my phone a LOT. Seriously, I cannot believe how often I pick up my phone. I used the Screen Time Feature on my iPhone to track this, and the number was often over 100.  OVER A HUNDRED TIMES A DAY! I’m sure that it was over 200 on many days as well. That seems insane!

When I think about it, though, it’s accurate. It accounts for every time I pick up my phone to do anything, and it all adds up. The number of pick ups definitely went down this month, especially once I started tracking it. I’d reach for my phone, and then decide – This can wait. It made me want to be more efficient with my pick ups, too – like, if I’m going to use the phone in ten minutes to start Google mapping somewhere, then I can wait until then to see if I have any text messages.

I made a couple of adjustments to help me pick up my phone less. First, I changed my phone to grayscale. I don’t know how much this helped; I’ve definitely been using my phone less, but I’m not sure how much grayscale would help if I wasn’t working so hard to limit my phone usage in general. And secondly, I changed my lock screen – and this adjustment was DEFINITELY helpful! Now, when I absent-mindedly pick up my phone, the screen has a visually appealing image that says WHAT DO YOU WANT TO PAY ATTENTION TO? in all caps. This is especially helpful to me when I pick up the phone absent-mindedly while I’m with the boys. I mean, what do I want to pay attention to? My kids, or my phone?

This kind of critical, mindful thinking about my phone usage is brand-new to me, and it’s definitely made a positive impact on my life. I’ve been learning to pause and say to myself, Do I really need to do this right now? Maybe I’m driving. Maybe in a few minutes I’ll be using the phone for something different and I should consolidate my screen time. I’ve also been able to zero in on many of the reasons WHY I reach for my phone so often; I’ll write about that more in a different post!

Even if all I do is check in on my screen time usage using the Screen Time function, it makes my overall numbers better. My phone keeps track of how many times I pick it up each day, as well as how many minutes I spend using the phone and how much time I spend using each individual app. Sometimes, over the course of the month, I would find myself reaching for my phone, and then I’d stop, simply because I didn’t want to add an additional “pick up” to my numbers. I also would take note if I had a lot of screen time for the day; if I was using the phone more than usual, it would encourage me to put the phone away for a while and try to focus on being present in my actual day. So really, just the tracking itself helped to decrease my overall time on my phone.

Using the iPad is helping to decrease my screen time. For March 2019, I decided that I could watch as much Amazon Prime as I wanted, no limits – except that I had to use the iPad for all my TV time. I didn’t really track this, but I think it decreased my TV time a lot! Just the simple inconvenience of having to reach for the iPad instead of the phone, which is usually in my pocket or my hand, helped me to watch TV less.

I tried to also use the iPad rather than my phone for Internet and apps like Goodreads. Again this helped me to decrease my screen time, just from the inconvenience of reaching for the iPad as opposed to the phone.

I like Facebook. I did allow for several exceptions to my “no social media” rule this month. I posted on Facebook on Edgar’s adoption day, Tamara’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday. (See my dad’s birthday post here!) I also looked on Facebook once to check on a message from a friend, and once to look up fun events happening in my area for the weekend. I’ll write more about this in a later post, but I feel like the way I used Facebook this month is the way I’d like to use it always.

I definitely could use some more solitude. The definition of solitude, according to Newport, is time when you’re not receiving any input from other minds. And I didn’t have a lot of solitude this month – I still am inclined to listen to a podcast, an audiobook, or a TV show in the car or while I’m doing the dishes. However, I definitely had more solitude than usual this month, and baby steps are better than standing still.

WHEW! So much to think about! I was thrilled with how much insight I gained this month. I’m going to keep this digital minimalist thing going, and I still have a few changes I want to make, adding back in apps that support my values and evaluating the whole social media thing. More posts to come.

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goals · writing

April 2019: Monthly Writing Goals

It’s spring! The weather is beautiful. and it’s almost summertime. And the summer is when I’m going to get A LOT OF WRITING DONE NO MATTER WHAT.

My goals for this month are pretty basic. I’ve abandoned the hope of getting substantial novel writing done at this time. J.J. is sleeping way better, but until he’s sleeping through the night, early morning or late evening writing is nearly impossible because I’m exhausted. I do still have my afternoon nap writing time on the weekend days, but that’s not always a given (need to have both boys asleep at the same time!) and I often use those chunks of time for blogging. So for now, I’m just aiming to get myself in gear so that when summer arrives (or when the sleep situation improves), I am READY to get some good writing done.

Here are my goals for April 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
  2. Continue reading Story Genius. (I’m giving up on finishing it! This is a “write as you go” kind of book.)
  3. Get all of your novel writing transferred into Novlr. (More on that at some point!)
  4. Continue a modified digital minimalist diet.
  5. THINK about the novel as much as you can! Use your commute, and use voice memos. Plan things out and try to write at least 2,000 words this month.

So far, my monthly writing goals have been a great new ritual. Here’s hoping April brings more of the same!

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all the things

All The Things (March 2019)

I’m enjoying writing these monthly summary posts. It feels like a good opportunity to reflect on the month and see how things have been going personally, professionally, and creatively.

Here are the things for this month:

Things I’m Reading: Not much, sadly! I did finish reading Daisy Jones and The Six. I’ve been listening to an audiobook version of Drop The Rock, which is an AA book, and I’ve been enjoying that a lot. There are also 8 other books on the “Currently Reading” shelf of my Goodreads: Between The World And Me, How To Be Less Stupid About Race, Story Genius, I’m Chocolate You’re Vanilla, Freefall, The Dreamers, Come Rain Or Come Shine, and Unsheltered. I don’t love operating like this – reading a whole bunch of books at once – so I’ll probably zero in on one or two soon.

Things I’m Watching: I have been super into old seasons of The Good Wife recently. SO GOOD.

Things About Writing: I got a trial version of Scrivener, and I’ve been trying that out. I’m not sure so far – I find it a little overwhelming – but I’m excited to keep at it and see if it helps with my creative organization. Plus, the blogging is continuing to go well – 2 posts a week for all of 2019!  🙂

I’ll write a lot more about March 2019 when I reflect on my digital minimalist diet in another post.  Stay tuned!

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parenting

Get Your Coffee First

Toddlers.

They’re adorable and lovable. They’re also irrational, illogical, and exhausting.

Our older son, Edgar, is two years old, and I truly love this age. He is cuddly and sweet. He loves to learn and to be independent. But MAN – when he gets thrown off by something, whether it’s hunger, needing to poop, or the fact that his favorite bulldozer shirt is in the laundry, it takes an enormous amount of patience to help him through it.

The tone for our day is set during the first moments of the morning, and on weekdays, our day starts early. Edgar has to wake up by 6 a.m. at the latest if we’re going to get him to school and get me to work on time. Usually, I am downstairs, getting dressed and gathering my things for work, and I hear Edgar start to toss and turn on the baby monitor. Sometimes he’s still sound asleep at 6 a.m. and I have to wake him up. No matter what the situation is, I can expect some resistance on his part. It might be just some mild wrestling with his pajama shirt because he doesn’t want to take it off, or (worst case scenario) every single step of the getting ready process is a struggle – Edgar struggling against every task that needs to get done, and me struggling to keep myself calm and composed. 

I have found a trick for helping our mornings to go smoothly, and I think it’s a metaphor for one of my overall parenting strategies. It also has almost nothing to do with actual parenting.

The trick is: Get your coffee first.

Brewing the coffee is one of our morning tasks, and either Tamara or I usually get it going soon after we wake up. But, even if Edgar has been rolling around and calling out “Time to wake up?” to me for a little while, I make sure that I have a steaming hot cup of coffee, turned brown paper bag color with half-and-half, in my hand when I climb the stairs to get Edgar’s morning going.

I found out by accident that this was something I needed. I noticed that my voice was calmer and I felt less rushed to get him moving if I had already just done this tiny thing for myself. I think that sometimes, as a mom with young kids, there are times when we can only realistically engage in tiny moments of self-care.

That’s why there are days when I hear Edgar starting to fuss and roll and wake up, and I ignore the mommy instinct to go cuddle him immediately, and I wait until the coffee is ready. I pour it into my favorite mug, I add half and half, and I climb the stairs to Edgar feeling like I can take my time and enjoy our first few moments together. I can enjoy them – and I am the best at enjoying them when I get my coffee FIRST.

My big picture parenting strategy is: you have to give yourself oxygen first. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. You also can’t teach your kids to live a calm and happy life if you’re not living that way yourself.

So get your coffee first – whatever that means for you. Then you’ll be able to exude the endless amounts of patience, silliness, and wit it takes to navigate life with kids. Or at least, you’ll give it a pretty good shot.

six white ceramic mugs
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