gratitude

5 Things I’m Grateful For (July 2020)

Okay, so the summer writing schedule has been COMPLETELY off track.

And yet – I’m grateful, for these five things and many, many more:

  1. The library. Oh, the library. We visit the parking lot of our local library at least twice a week to pick up books, and it is glorious. I definitely miss being INSIDE the library – browsing and playing and plopping down on the floor to read books we’ve just pulled off the shelves. But for now, I’m just so grateful to have books readily available, for me and for my boys.
  2. The work of Ibram X. Kendi. I’m currently reading Stamped From The Beginning together with a college friend, and also Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, which is a YA version of the first title. They’re both fantastic, and I’m learning a lot of history that I either forgot or was never taught.
  3. My beautiful home and our array of working fans. Our air conditioning is currently broken for the fourth time this season. THE FOURTH TIME. Luckily, since we’ve never had AC before now, we have a collection of box fans that we can break out when this occurs. I am sitting directly in front of one right now and radiating in the breeze.
  4. A wonderful few days at the beach with my sister and her family. It was so nice to get away and to enjoy the ocean and the sunshine and the company.
  5. Breakfast activities with E and J! I’ll probably write more about these at some point, but they are basically quick little activities that we do every morning while the boys eat breakfast. I got the idea from my awesome sister-in-law, who I think heard about from the website Days With Grey. It took a little while to get into a routine with it, but now the boys really like it (most days) and it’s a great little part of our mornings.

Happy August, everyone!

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all the things · Uncategorized

Oops (Yet Again)

So much happening. So much to process. So little writing actually getting done!

Last week, I noticed that I made a blogging error – a post was published that was still in draft form. SIGH. I wish I could say this was the first time I did that!  It’s not, and it likely won’t be the last.

Then, since realizing that error, I have also missed posting days on July 10, 21, 25, and 28. YIKES.

It does make sense that the blogging and the fiction writing have both slipped. I’d like to get back on track – as I indicated in my recent post entitled Getting Back On Track, LOL – but there are a few real things in the way:

-A few big items on my to-do list that are hanging over my head. Really trying to take care of a few big things – paperwork, household things – that have been causing me low level stress for a long time.

So much to read and learn. I’ve been reading a lot of articles and publications that I don’t usually consume. This is partly related to the antiracism resources that have been shared recently on social media, and partly related to working with my local chapter of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice).

Some part-time work. Usually my summer is work-free but I’ve taken on a bit of part-time work from home.

SLEEP!  My sleep schedule is SO off!  It’s bonkers. I’m staying up late reading (or dealing with a four-year-old who has a LOT of things he needs to tell me at 10 p.m.) and then completely failing at waking up at 4 a.m. to write!

I have switched my mindset a little these past few days. Basically, if there’s something on my to-do list that is plaguing me – I’m trying to get it done, even if it means setting writing aside for the day. The work I’m doing with SURJ is important. Keeping my home tidy and sane is important – especially these days, when our home is our haven, our safe place, more than ever before. Spending an hour on Zoom with a friend is important. Contacting my councilman about the local Police Reform bill on the floor is important.

Spoiler Alert: it’s all important. And the writing is, too. I’m a little sad that my summer writing hasn’t been working out as I’d planned. But I also know the things that I’m doing day-to-day are extraordinarily valuable. AND these are – ahem, prepare for an overused word – unprecedented times!

So, oops. But as always – time to reset and move forward. Onward.

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self-care

Laughing Out Loud

Everything is heavy right now, and it should be. Between the global pandemic and the civil unrest related to racial justice, there is so much happening.

During the moments when I have needed a break, my stress relief recently has been one particular category of entertainment: Netflix comedy specials.

It started with Trevor Noah. I love Trevor Noah. I find him hilarious and intelligent in all the best ways. But I’d never seen his stand-up specials on Netflix. So now – home due to the COVID pandemic, and really in need of some laughter – I checked out his special Son Of Patricia. It was exactly what I needed. Hilarious and enlightening and distracting without being fluff.

I can’t remember the exact order of the specials I’ve watched. But I think it was right after that first Trevor Noah special that I watched Dave Chapelle’s 8:46, which was predominantly his reaction to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent civil uprising. He is incredible. I’ve watched three more of his Netflix specials since. I’ve also watched Michael Che Matters; Donald Glover: Weirdo; Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (and then multiple episodes of his Netflix series Patriot Act); Aziz Ansari: Right Now; Sarah Silverman: A Speck Of Dust; and Michelle Wolf: Joke Show (also binged old episodes of her short-lived Netflix series). I’m also partway through Trevor Noah: Afraid Of The Dark and W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro. 

My life right now is kids, COVID stress, and social justice work, with little bits of writing and reading in the margins. Almost every moment is just heavy. Enjoying stand-up specials is a perfect “break” for me.

And – do you know what’s great about the stand-up specials I’ve been watching? Many of these comedians are activists and strong progressive voices. So watching their Netflix specials didn’t feel like checking out completely from the work that needs to be done. It just felt like taking in information from people with a talent and flair for finding the funny. A break from the heaviness without completing stepping back from current events and the work that needs to be done, by me and throughout the world.

I am not a big advice giver. But lately, I find myself recommending this particular bit of self-care to anyone who seeks guidance on how to deal with their current level of stress. So if that’s you – DO IT. Find someone funny, and watch their stand-up special, or just little YouTube snippets of their comedy act. The perfect break, and a great way to laugh out loud – one of the best medicines for our crazy times.

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goals · writing

Getting Back On Track

I knew my summertime writing schedule would get off track, and it has.

A few things caused me to fall out of my routine. We had out-of-town visitors; Tamara and I have both been busy with meetings and tasks for a social justice group we’ve been working with (more on that at some point); I’ve been in a rough cycle of too much caffeine -> staying up late -> sleeping through my morning writing time; and, fill-in-the-blank miscellany. (Like, a good friend and I are reading Stamped From The Beginning together, and occasionally we meet for book club during the kids’ nap time, which is my main fiction writing time.)

And, my whole routine is just sort of off. I’m in a bit of a reading rut, which in this case means that I am reading seven books simultaneously. SEVEN BOOKS! They are (ahem): Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi; The Mothers, a novel by Brit Bennett; The New Jim Crow; Me and White Supremacy; How To Be An Antiracist; Raising Good Humans; and The Lines Between Us. 

In the big picture, life is good. My summer with the boys has been lovely so far. I’m thrilled to be done with working-from-home multitasking, and to be able to give the boys my full attention. We’re spending lots of time outside. The library is open for curbside pickup so we’ve been reading a bunch of new books.

But I can feel my writing routine slipping. And you know what? It’s okay. I’m trying to carefully balance “This is a priority for me” with “Other things are important priorities too”. The reading I’ve been doing is really important. The social justice work I’m learning about and taking part in is important. Being a peaceful and playful and patient parent and teacher to my kids in the midst of a pandemic is important.

I worry that I’m just procrastinating – abandoning my summer writing goals. But when I take time to reflect, I know I’m not. As of today, I’ll be back on my 500 words a day (minimum) writing schedule. One thing that is tricky is that I have a few different writing projects taking my attention lately, so it’s difficult to make a hard and fast goal like “This summer, I’ll finish the first draft of my novel.” There’s definitely a part of me that is committed to finishing my main project (working title Lucky Baby) but I also have other projects inspiring me and I don’t want to limit myself when it’s hard to get focused and working at all.

When I get frustrated, I remind myself that I’m a mom with two kids under 5 (Edgar just turned 4!) and trying to accomplished a major creative task for which I have zero training. Just writing those words out helps me to be a little gentler with myself.

Today is a fresh start and I’m excited to get back to work. Stay tuned.

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goals · traditions

July 2020: Traditions + Celebrations + Rituals All Year Long

I am excited about this post. But – I’ve been procrastinating about it for a long time.

The thing is – I really want to be a person who celebrates holidays and festivities in a sweet and thoughtful way. But it doesn’t always work out.

The main roadblock is that I’m not really a planner. I’m working on it, for sure; my two resolutions for 2020 were to improve my photography habits (HARD FAIL on that one) and to think/plan ahead. And it’s been better this year than previously. But left to my own devices, I am more likely to realize St. Patrick’s Day is coming on March 17 than on March 10. I get caught up in my day-to-day life and I just forget.

Having kids has helped me in this respect. I feel motivated to teach them about holidays and to make plans to celebrate, and thus I am better at planning ahead. Better – but still not great.

So my goal for this month is to really think about the kinds of traditions, celebrations, and rituals I want for our family all year long. I have a few books to look through, some notes I’ve jotted down over the past few years, and I’m excited to give this topic some thought.

Happy July!  Ritual Numero Uno – summertime equals sunshine, sand, and ocean. Looking forward to (distanced) beach days and river hikes all summer long.

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