Thankful Tuesday

I’ve been back at work for about three weeks, and I am definitely off my blogging schedule.

It’s amazing how easy it is to slip back into old habits! Especially when you’re dealing with the return to full-time work and a hectic house hunting schedule. (YES – WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE. I’m sure I’ll write about it in detail at some point, but it’s way too stressful to get into at this moment.) The old habits currently challenging me are bedtime candy and excessive caffeine.

The good news is – I see it. I can see myself slipping, and I am able to hit my pause button and reset. Also, eventually we’ll buy a house, which will allow me to go for a run after work instead of driving around looking at houses and then eating dinner in the car on the way home.

A few weeks ago, I was way ahead of my blogging schedule. That meant my posting stayed consistent until today, when I ran out of scheduled posts and realized I needed to post something immediately. I decided to take this as an opportunity to practice gratitude. So this post is a mid-month check-in regarding what I’m grateful for lately.

  1. The new Netflix special from Brene Brown. It is wonderful. She is wonderful. Watch it if you haven’t already!
  2. A great recovery book I’ve been reading (almost) every morning. It’s called Drop The Rock: The Ripple Effect and I am finding it so inspiring and valuable; it’s really helping to keep me centered.
  3. My amazing new office space at work. It’s beautiful and I love it.
  4. My daily gratitude ritual. Every day, I send a text to my sponsor with three things I’m grateful for. I don’t do it at the same time every day, and I sometimes forget. The neat thing is – I often remember to do it at times when I notice that I’m getting stressed and cranky, and then writing the post helps me to remember how great my life is.

Cheers to a thankful Tuesday and a (hopefully!) regular post this coming Saturday!

parenting · self-care

What Makes You Feel Like Yourself?

It can be hard to feel like yourself when you are busily parenting all day every day.

You are always YOU. Yet there are different versions of you. Mommy Kerriann doesn’t do all the same things that Just Plain Kerriann does. She doesn’t always like all the same things.

For example – Mommy Kerriann loves the beach, but might opt out of a beach trip under certain circumstances. Mommy Kerriann might decide that the amount of preparation and gear and attentiveness involved with bringing a baby and a pre-schooler to the beach might fall into the category of Not Worth It.

But, Just Plain Kerriann? That girl will NEVER EVER EVER pass up a beach trip. It won’t happen. A spontaneous beach trip that makes no logical sense in the grand scheme of life is one of the things that makes her Just Plain Kerriann.

I often reference one of my favorite podcasts, The Girl Next Door, in my blogging. One of the co-hosts of The Girl Next Door, Erica Ladd, sometimes mentions the times she asked herself this question as an overwhelmed new parent: What makes me feel like myself? 

I love this question. It forces you to think back to B.P. – Before Parenthood. What were you like? What were the things that made you who you are? I think a lot about the kind of mom I want to be, but I sometimes forget what makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann. I have to squeeze my eyes shut and remember – when I was in college, when I was doing AmeriCorps, when I worked at an outdoor ed center – those times in my life when I felt very Kerriann – what specifically was it that made me feel like me?

  1. I feel like myself when I get to spend time at a coffee shop all by myself with my journal, a book, and my laptop.
  2. I feel like myself when I am wandering around a used bookstore.
  3. I feel like myself when I am being silly, playful, and creative. Like when I make up funny and nonsensical stories to make Edgar or Tamara laugh out loud. Or when I turned Edgar’s bedtime routine into a treasure hunt. (The treasure was a library book we’d read 30 times already, but he didn’t seem to mind.)
  4. I feel like myself when I’m reading a really great book, one that I have trouble putting down and want to prop up and read while I eat my breakfast or read frantically while I’m stopped at a stoplight.
  5. I feel like myself when I blow dry my hair. Like, all the way blow dry it so that it feels and looks healthy.
  6. I feel like myself when I spend time with an old friend.
  7. I feel like myself when I have energy! For me to feel energetic, this usually means I’m running regularly and eating well.

This list is a work in progress, as are most of my lists! I hope to add to it whenever I discover something else that makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann.

What makes YOU feel like Just Plain You – not Mommy/Daddy You or Work You?

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Who I am as a mother is also who I am as an individual.


self-care · writing

Knowing When To Take A Break

When I sit down to draft my Monthly Goals post, I rarely know what I’m going to write. Drafting the blog post helps me to consider what I want to focus on and make decisions about what priorities to set. One of the greatest gifts I’ve gotten from the blogging life is this space where I can explore my goals and priorities in the way that’s most helpful to me: writing it out on a blank page.

It was mid-August when I sat down to write out my goals for September, and the first thing I considered was my writing. That, all by itself, is an achievement. For the past year, I have truly made writing a priority. I no longer need to remind myself that I want to post on the blog twice weekly; the habit is firmly ingrained. (Pay no attention to my accidental beach vacation hiatus! That was a fluke.)

What I realized when I sat down to write my September goals is: I need to take a break from writing the novel.

I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d hoped to this summer, and that is okay. I am making plans to incorporate novel writing time into my regular routine once the school year starts. But right now, as I transition from staying at home with the boys to working full-time once again – the thing I am most concerned about is maintaining everyday self-care, establishing good routines, and developing a healthy rhythm for the new year. I want to meditate. I want to plan ahead regarding snacks and meals so that I don’t end up eating Commute Candy whenever I’m stressed out. I want to manage my to-do list so that I don’t have low-level anxiety that’s with me subconsciously all day every day.

None of that has anything to do with writing.

It’s about exercise, diet, meditation, and living in a way that is unhurried and intentional. And I don’t feel I can do that while also feeling the pressure to cram in writing time every morning, evening, and nap time.

I feel really good about this decision. It can be so hard to know when we need to step back from a project or activity. When we take a break, it can feel like we’re quitting or being lazy. BUT WE’RE NOT. Especially when we do it with intention. I get to choose what my number one priority is, every minute of every day.

So I’ll take a break, and I’ll revisit the novel in October or even November. (I hear November is a great month to write a novel!) Stay tuned.

beverage break breakfast brown
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Everyday Self-Care

All summer long, my self-care has been pretty great.

It’s not perfect – it never is – but I’ve been exercising, eating well, and making time for writing and reading whenever I can.

white ceramic mug filled with brown liquid on heart shaped coffee beans
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It’s so easy during summertime! The weather is gorgeous, the days are long, and there are few demands on my time. Just keep these two children alive and semi-entertained. The best thing is that I don’t have to deal with the drive home at the end of the work day; that’s when I often find myself stopping to pick up an unhealthy snack in a stress-induced haze.

Now, however, the school year has started, and I need to find a way to incorporate self-care into my everyday routine. This is always my weakness when it comes to self-care – the maintenance. I’m great at taking a day off or a weekend to take care of myself; what I need is to develop strategies for maintaining good self-care on a daily basis, so that the stress and chaos of LIFE and OTHER PEOPLE don’t interrupt my commitments to being healthy, intentional, and present.

How do people do this?!?!  My pattern is: excellent self-care, then stress out and crash and burn, then resume good self-care again. I don’t know how to take care of myself and then KEEP taking care of myself indefinitely.

However, I am hopeful. I’m refreshed after a great summer, and I now know that the key for me is developing a plan for self-care that is all day every day no matter what. It’s not about whether or not I go for a run. If I meditate before work and I run after work, but I spend the entire work day getting swept up in chaos and eating unhealthy snacks, then that’s not good self-care. And, let’s be real – when I don’t take care of myself during the work day, there’s almost zero chance that I’m going to actually go running or be a present and playful parent once I get home.

These are my tips for maintaining everyday self-care, which I’m going to test out and report back on midway through the school year:

  1. Plan ahead. Make sure you have healthy food available, at home and at work. Pick out your outfits ahead of time. Think about what’s coming – weekends away, late days at work, meetings at other schools – so that you can plan for it. YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT SELF-CARE ON THE FLY; that’s when you eat trail mix for lunch.
  2. Stretch and move and dance all day long! I don’t always have the time to exercise as often as I want. But I find that it is helpful if I just think of every moment of my day as a time to stretch and utilize energy. Like having dance parties with the boys! That’s not a workout routine but it’s definitely exercise. When I remember to move and stretch throughout the day, it helps me to not sink into a sluggish state, which then helps me to actually prioritize exercise when I really get the chance.
  3. Allow yourself time and space to think before you speak or act.
  4. Keep self-care at the center of your mind, your heart, and your life. 
  5. Keep the Planning Central space clean and clear. There’s a desk in my living room where I like to keep my planner. I think of it as “Planning Central” – it’s the place I can go to when I’m dealing with my to-do list or my schedule. When I keep that space clean and clear, it’s easier for me to feel focused and motivated to stay on track.
  6. Maintain your recovery work. Go to meetings, write your daily gratitude list, do your daily inventory, and stay in touch with your sponsor. When you make these things a priority, the rest of your life (including mental health and daily self-care) seems to magically fall into place.
  7. Do a morning and evening check-in every day. I have a plan for my morning and evening routines that includes doing a little check-in with myself – a time to ask myself, Have you slowed down? Are you being intentional about your choices?
  8. Be RUTHLESS about making sure you have time to slow down and check in with yourself. Don’t let anyone else set your pace. And don’t let yourself get caught up in chaos – yours or anyone else’s.
  9. Whenever you get off track – AND YOU DEFINITELY WILL – just get going again as soon as possible. Without beating yourself up for being human, please and thank you.

I love this plan, and I’m going to check back in on it monthly.


September 2019: Monthly Goals

Oh, boy.

My summer vacation is over.

I’ll be honest; I am not excited about returning to my full-time job. I’m not not excited; I just prefer full-time mommying and vacationing and playing to adulting all day long.

However – I always love a fresh start. And when you work in a school, the beginning of the school year is the Other New Year’s – a time when you can make resolutions, set intentions, and develop new routines and rituals.

My theme for September 2019 is going to be rhythm. Last year, I started out the school year ready to maintain some good habits – and then Baby Jonas came home, and my life got way more joyful but my routines got way off! This year, I’m hoping to start off the year with energy, enthusiasm, and discipline. (I mean, I’m still exhausted – but I think a year of night feedings has helped me to officially adjust to getting by on limited sleep.

Here are my goals for September 2019:

  • Start the school year off strong! Follow the awesome plans and schedule you made for the year. Try to get into a regular routine with weekly planning dates, meditation, and exercise.
  • Take a break from the novel. You’ve done good work over the summer! You’ve taken some great first steps. For the month of September, focus on your blog. If you happen to work on your origin scene, a la Story Genius, then that’s fine – but it’s not a #goal currently.
  • Embrace your plan for everyday self-care. I am extremely nervous about maintaining the self-care habits I formed over the summer! That’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to worry about novel writing for the first month of the school year. I won’t get ANY writing done if I just continuously crash and burn every few weeks due to crummy self-care.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR. Let’s do this.

leaves hang on rope
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5 Things I’m Grateful For (August 2019)

  1. Vacation. We spent a beautiful week at the Jersey Shore with family and it was just lovely.
  2. A job with summers off. I can’t express strongly enough how grateful I am that my job allows me the chance to reset and recharge every summer and fall.
  3. The new Laura Lippman book. It’s called Lady In The Lake and it was one of those easy, addictive, un-put-down-able reads.
  4. Watching old episodes of FRIENDS on Netflix. OMG I love this show. It brings me right back to high school nights on the couch, running to the phone to call my best friend during commercials.
  5. Edgar’s new catchphrase. When he’s upset about something he has to do – brush his teeth, sit in time out, get dressed – he starts crying and then mournfully says, “But it’s gonna take a while!” It is hilarious and adorable and I love him oh-so-much.
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books + reading

The Audiobook Project

The school year is coming, and while I don’t feel too excited about returning to work, I am happy about the mission I’m going to accomplish on my commute.

There hasn’t been much time this summer for listening to audiobooks. My Audible library is chock full of books, mostly nonfiction, that I want to listen to. These books are mostly informative rather than entertaining; if I’m reading a great novel, I like to read a paper copy. But a book about parenting, adoption, or meditation? With books like that, it’s easier for me to listen than to read a hard copy, especially now that I have young kids and limited time for reading.

I don’t love commuting, but I like thinking of it as a time when I can accomplish something like this – educating myself on topics I want to learn about, like parenting, adoption, race, meditation, recovery, mindfulness, and writing.

Additionally, I recently spoke with someone about nonfiction books, and she has been busily plugging through a lot of great and informative reads. A big difference for her and me is that she focuses on one book at a time. I have so much trouble doing that, when it comes to nonfiction books! I get distracted reading or listening about one topic for an extended period of time.

But I’m going to give it a try. When the school year starts, I am going to listen to one audiobook at a time. My commute is a total of about 45 minutes each day, and these books range in length from 3 hours to 10 hours or more. That means I could listen to a short book in just 2 days and a longer one might take two weeks or more.

This is my list; it’s in the order I expect to follow, but I’ll keep that pretty flexible. Lately, the universe sort of tells me what book I need to prioritize. Edgar has a tantrum and I reach for a parenting book; I start to feel distracted and unfocused and I open a book about mindfulness. So we’ll see! I’ll check back in on this project with an update in a few months. Stay tuned.

  1. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham.
  2. Refuge Recovery, Noah Levine.
  3. How To Raise An Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims.
  4. How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, Joanna Faber and Julie King.
  5. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Dr. Laura Markham.
  6. Drop The Rock, Bill P., Todd W., & Sara S.
  7. The Gift Of Failure, Jessica Lahey.
  8. Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
  9. Word By Word, Anne Lamott.
  10. Aware, Daniel J. Siegel.
  11. Get Out Of Your Mind & Into Your Life, Spencer Smith and Steven C. Hayes.
  12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig.
  13. Meditation Now Or Never, Steve Hagen.
  14. Start Here Now, Susan Piver.
  15. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla, Marguerite A. Wright.
  16. No Drama Discipline, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
  17. Stein On Writing, Sol Stein.
  18. The Body Keeps The Score, Besser van der Kolk.
  19. The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer.
books on bookshelves
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