balance · self-care

Intervention

A few days ago, I woke up feeling like I’d spent the whole night running into a brick wall.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about this morning; I was just done. I was sick of eating junk food, watching TV all night long between J.J.’s feedings, going too many days without a shower, and forgetting to brush my teeth or wash my face.

That day – the day I woke up feeling like total crappity crap – I plotted out a little intervention for myself.  I decided that I was DONE with:I’m exhausted. My self-care’s been lacking ever since J.J. came home, and I just have not been able to figure out when to exercise and how to maintain some semblance of healthy self-care.

1. Eating junk food all night long during J.J.’s feedings;

2. Having a TV show constantly playing in the background while at home with the boys;

3. Ignoring self-care and hygiene; and,

4. Zoning out of my life because I’m feeling too overwhelmed to zone in.

It’s only been three days, but I’m already feeling so much better.

It’s so hard to keep from slipping back into old habits. When I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I always, always, fall into my vices of caffeine, junk food, and background TV noise. It’s inevitable; much as I wish it weren’t so, this is just what I do.

I’m not going to waste any time worrying about when I’ll slip back into these vices again. Today, I’m just grateful that I feel a little less out of control. I showered this morning; I’ve gone for a run every day for three days; I haven’t been watching TV on the phone while playing with my boys; and I feel hydrated and (somewhat) well-rested. Life is good.

I may be six years sober, but this still made me laugh out loud.
balance · self-care

Every Little Moment

When I am tired and overwhelmed, I fall victim to old habits. Specifically, I start to become addicted to reruns of my favorite television shows, playing them in the background throughout my days.

Ugh. I hate this habit of mine! It’s something that soothes me when I’m feeling anxious or stressed, and that’s not a bad thing. But it also is a habit that causes me to be less present in my life, and that is not a good thing.

Things are looking up lately. Our two-year-old has been slowly returning to his usual sleep routines after six weeks of tantrums at bedtime, nightmares (I think?), and wanting to fall asleep with the door open, a light on, and a parent lying in his bed. Our five-month-old has started eating solid foods, and I’m praying that a full night’s sleep will happen within a few months from now.  And, thanks to my new job working at a County school, I’ve been lucky enough to have several snow days recently, which have been great opportunities to rest and recenter in the midst of the chaotic life of a working parent.

As I take stock of these tiny bits of progress, and as I start to feel more rested and energetic, I’ve started to think about all the time I spend listening to old television shows. And then I’ve started to think about what I really want to be doing with that time – reading books, listening to the audiobooks on my syllabus, and thinking about my novel, plotting it out in my mind.

All those little moments – while I’m doing dishes with Edgar, while I’m feeding J.J. in the middle of the night – they all add up. And I want to use every little moment of my life to be doing something wonderful – whether it’s being present with my boys, working on my dream project, or educating myself on the variety of topics of interest to me.

Every moment counts. Every little moment. Here’s to hoping I can use them all to be healthy, wise, and well.

goals

Kindness Always (February 2019)

I started off 2019 doing something a little different with playful + peaceful. I chose a theme to focus on in January. This was a very loose theme – I didn’t feel tied to it, but I did try to think of a few posts that related to this theme, and it helped me to brainstorm and to focus my writing all month long.

The theme for January was rhythm and routine. Even though I’m not quite done with all of my rhythm and routine posts, I’ve decided to announce my theme for February: kindness. 

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I thought of this during December 2018. I kept seeing Advent kindness calendars on Facebook, with a kind action for every day of December leading up to Christmas. I love this idea, and I think I’m going to try it out next year. I especially love the idea of involving Edgar and J.J. in this Kindness Advent as they get older.

I chose kindness for February because I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday all about expressing love for the world around you. (I’m not so into it as a romantic holiday; I’ll eat the chocolates if Tamara gets me some, but they’re not required or missed if they don’t show up.)

Lately, it almost feels like life is too full and to busy to even think about all the things I want to do! My life is work, child care, and sleep. It’s hard enough having the energy to be patient and kind with the three humans I live with; do I have the ability, the time, to do kind things for acquaintances, for strangers?

Of course I do.  Even if I can’t get it done, I’m at least going to give it a try. I think that sometimes just TRYING to be kind makes the world a little bit better.

I’m not sticking with any one kindness calendar; I’ve reviewed a few different ones, so that I’ll have lots of ideas to choose from.

Happy Heart Day; be kind.

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balance · self-care

Snow Days

The very best thing about working at a school is not the kids, the hours, or the actual work I do every day.

It’s the SNOW DAYS!

Oh, boy. Nothing makes you feel more like a little kid then finding out that school’s closed because the world has been covered in a beautiful, playful white blanket.

This year, the snow days we’ve had have come at the absolute best times for me. They have magically arrived during weeks when I have felt completely stressed and overwhelmed with the monotonous chaos that is life as a working mother.

When I am overwhelmed, what I crave most is a free day. A day to relax and to reset. This has been for always, not just since I become a parent. I used to call them days of rejuvenation, and I would capture them with a page in my journal full of intentions and plans for how to regain my center.

DAYS OF REJUVENATION – that’s exactly what these snow days are for me, and I appreciate them even more this year. We got the call from the adoption agency about Baby J.J. on the second day of school, and then I used six weeks of leave (most of it unpaid) to be home with him this fall. Because of this, taking a personal day to address my mental wellness is not an option for me this school year. Which means that snow days are IMPORTANT and APPRECIATED to the max.

My most recent snow day was blissful – a lazy wake-up, sipping (rather than guzzling) my coffee, a run down the snowy road, some writing time, some cuddly baby time, a little time to get organized, and (sigh) an hour or so of tidying the house. It helped that this was a day when Edgar attended pre-school; his school was not closed, so the day had even more opportunity for rest than a typical weekend day does in my world.

I do a happy, silly dance every time there’s a snow day. I feel grateful, and blessed. And when the snow day is done, I typically go to sleep that evening knowing that the next day I’ll face the world as a calmer, more rested, and happier Kerriann than I was the day before.

 

balance

Adult Coping Skills

I spend the majority of my day talking with children, young adults, and parents about coping skills. This is typical for a clinical social worker. After all, everyone experiences stress, sadness, irritability, or discomfort, and even the best therapist in the world can’t make that stuff go away. What we can do is help others to develop healthy and reliable coping skills.

A few days ago, I woke up feeling extremely cranky. The night before, I’d lost my temper and spent the evening using my angry mommy voice with my toddler, and I was feeling sad and frustrated about that. And then, there was all that other stuff that’s been challenging lately – lack of exercise, which leaves me feeling antsy and sluggish, and lack of sleep, which leaves me feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

There I was, sitting at my desk at work, thinking: How am I going to get through today? And that’s what got me thinking: what are MY coping skills? What tools do I rely on to get me through a crummy day?

It took me longer than I would have guessed to come up with any – but, y’know, it’s hard to identify your coping skills when you’re right in the middle of an angry/cranky/tired day!

These are the skills I came up with:

Text frantically with Tamara, my sister, or a friend.

Drink a delicious latte. (Yay Starbucks!  The gingerbread latte has been lifting my spirits this winter.

Write it out. Drafting a blog post is a really good for me; it helps me to clear my mind and to recenter myself.

Buy something on Amazon. No one said these were good coping skills.

Start a brand-new journal. Even if you have to irresponsibly buy a new one when you don’t need it.

Check out a thousand books from the library. This is a slight exaggeration – but only slight. I think borrowing library books enables me to ‘buy’ a bunch of books without spending any money. It also feels luxurious to borrow 20 or 30 books, even knowing that I won’t be able to read them all.

That’s all I’ve got for the moment, and I’m not really happy with the list. Ideally, it would include a few more uber-healthy, easy, and free coping skills. Like a little meditation – a time for just being, for utilizing a mindfulness tool in the moment. Another coping skill could be silence – just spending a few minutes in the quiet, breathing in and out. But that’s not a habit I’ve been able to cultivate thus far in 2019, or throughout my life overall.

Progress, not perfection. Onward!

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Jane Lazenby Art (http://janelazenbyart.com)
balance · parenting

Afternoons

My afternoons have been delightful lately.

I started a new job last summer as a public school social worker. Overall, when it comes to lifestyle, this is one of the best work situations I’ve ever had. My day starts early; I have to be in the building  by 7:15 a.m., which would be difficult for some people but is no problem at all for a morning person like me. During the summers, I’ll be off from school and home with my boys, which will be such a gift. And my work day ends at 2:30 p.m., at which point I am free to go home and enjoy several hours of daytime play with my family before the sun sets at five o’clock.

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These afternoons have become really precious to me. If it’s not too cold outside, Edgar and I bundle up and wander around the farm and down on the NCR trail. We crunch through the snow and Edgar learns to ride the balance bike he got for Christmas. Sometimes Tamara takes Edgar out to play, and I entertain J.J. and veg out the best a mom can, watching old episodes of America’s Next Top Model while J.J. drinks a bottle.

It’s all delightful. The afternoons have always been a tricky time of day for me. When I was drinking, that was my will-she-won’t-she time, the time when I got anxious and stressed and found myself driving to the liquor store to pick up a six pack (clearly I really mean a twelve pack) of beer.

Now, I just feel so grateful that the afternoons are a space in the day when I can have special time with one or both of my boys. I’m especially grateful in the winter, when the days are so short, to have daylight hours in the afternoon to be outside and playing.

 

goals · writing

February 2019: Monthly Writing Goals

Of all the intentions I set for 2019, the one that has served me best so far is my monthly writing goals.

I decided that I needed something extra to keep me on track with my writing. Last summer, I wrote a lot and I had big plans for my writing routine as the school year began, and then – BAM! A beautiful baby boy – my too-cute-to-describe J.J. – came home to our family. My writing routine came second to the bliss and stress of babyhood, and I have no regrets about that.

But as the beginning of 2019 approached, I had an idea – I would write a blog post every month and I would set some writing goals for myself to accomplish over the course of the month. This ritual would be a way to check in with myself. I’d keep my writing goals at the forefront, because I’d be reminded of them every time I did any work on the blog. Additionally, having a few clear goals makes it easier to recognize when you’re not achieving your writing goals at all.

I really got to see how this ritual was helping me during the last week of January. I was looking ahead to see what blog posts were scheduled to be published, and I saw a draft of this post. I reviewed my goals from last month and realized immediately that one of them – reading through the two novels I’ve drafted – was not done yet. There were only a few days left in the month, so I abandoned the book I was reading (The Patron Saint Of Liars by Ann Patchett) and spent every spare minute reading through the novel drafts.

This was such a great example for me of why we set goals. If we never set clear and specific goals for ourselves, then we don’t recognize when we’re not spending the time we need to achieve those goals. I was super proud of being able to accomplish my January goals. Yes, I had to adjust them partway through the month – you can read about that here – but I feel like I accomplished way more than I would have if I hadn’t put those goals down on paper the way I did.

These are my goals for February 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
  2. Finish reading Story Genius.
  3. Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write at least three times, and write a few words.

The third goal isn’t very ambitious, but I struggled to decide what steps I should take next with the novel. I’ve really been enjoying reading Story Genius, and I have a feeling that the more I read, the more mini writing tasks I’ll complete. Maybe, after I’ve read more of the book, I’ll do another round of Let’s Reevaluate – we’ll see!

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