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.

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.

 

balance · goals

All The Things (January 2019)

This month has been a blur. I’ve been exhausted, foggy-eyed, and short on time and energy. Life hasn’t has that much variety – it’s been predominantly work, child care, and sheep. But – there have been some things.

Things I’m Reading: I finished Louise Penny’s latest (Kingdom Of The Blind) early this month. It was good, and I always love an Inspector Gamache story.

I started a new John Boyne book, Crippen, but then took a break one snowy day to read From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a children’s book my sister loves and I’d never read before.

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I’ve been working my way through Story Genius by Lisa Cron, which is FANTASTIC and going to be a read-while-you-write slow burn kinda read.

I am currently taking a break from Crippen to read Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint Of Liars. I discovered a copy in the Little Free Library at Oregon Ridge, and since it’s been on my TBR list forever, it seemed like an omen.

Things I’m Watching: I’ve had Amazon Prime forever, but I only recently discovered that I can watch movies and T.V. shows via the Amazon Prime app. It’s been great timing, since I often watch TV on my phone during J.J.’s night feedings. I started the month re-watching all six seasons of Sex and the City (major nostalgia for my college years) and now have been working my way through re-watching The Newsroom.

Things I’m Getting Better At: I’m trying to transition to using photos I take on the blog instead of photos I find online. I’ve done pretty well this month! Trying my best to snap photos throughout the day. It really takes effort, especially when my days are as plain-and-simple as they are lately.

Monthly Writing Goals: How Are Things?: My biggest writing accomplishment this month has been my blog posts. I have FINALLY gotten back to posting two posts a week, every Tuesday and Saturday, and I even had a few bonus posts, adding up to 10 posts total for the month.  WOO HOO! I was also proud of myself for re-evaluating my goals halfway through the month, checking in with myself and realizing that some goals were too far out of my reach and needed to be adjusted.

Happy January!  Well into Quarter 1, and I’m feeling okay. I’m tired and sluggish, but I’m moving forward. Keep it coming, 2019!

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balance · goals · parenting

Tired + Tired

It’s mid-January, and I have never failed at my new year’s resolutions so quickly before.

However, this time – TOTALLY not my fault. It’s not about procrastination or laziness or motivation, not at all!  It’s all about my kids.

Baby J.J. isn’t sleeping through the night yet. He’s 4 months old and it’s to be expected. BUT NOW. My Edgar – my two-year-old precious A plus amazing sleeper – has started having sleep struggles.

WTF.

That means Tamara and I just shifted from getting a solid 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, while the other dealt with Baby J.J. – to now NO ONE IN THE HOUSE GETTING ANY SLEEP EVER.

I am still so so happy and grateful for my little family. The big picture is beautiful and blessed.

The little picture, though? The little picture is a tiny thumbnail photo of a family of four, totally exhausted and cranky and struggling. (With the exception of Baby J.J., who is developmentally appropriately able to function on his consistent diet of 2.5 hour naps throughout the day.)

Prior to the new year, I decided that I couldn’t wait until J.J. was sleeping through the night to start maintaining my focus on exercise, meditation, recovery, and writing. I recommitted to prioritizing my self-care and my goals despite my current life circumstances.

And yes – this still needs to be true. If my word of the year is NOW, then I have to do this stuff NOW and not later.

When I get overwhelmed, I think about this: If I can write now, I can write anytime. When I think about my goals for the year, my writing is one of my main priorities. And, while things could definitely get harder, I am pretty tired and have limited time – so really, if I can blog regularly and get some fiction writing done right now, even if it’s the bare minimum, then just imagine what I can get done when I start to actually have time and energy!  For me, the most important thing right now is ROUTINE – rhythm and routine. If I can get some kind of routine happening now, with two kids under three, a full-time job, and no sleep – well, it’d be a miracle. The kind of miracle you get when you work your butt off.  

balance

A Good Weekend

It’s Saturday morning, and my goal is pretty simple: a good weekend.

A therapeutic, restorative, pleasant, calm, connected, and fun-filled weekend.

I’ve been stressed lately – tired from night feedings, adjusting to the new job – and so my weekends have been all about crashing and burning and barely putting myself back together by 4 a.m. on Monday morning.

I’ve been trying my best to take care of myself during the week so that my weekends can be more fun-filled. And so now, it’s Saturday morning, and I am pumped to have a weekend that feels more like an adventure and less like a two day recovery period from a bout of the flu.

A good weekend will look really different for different people. After some contemplation, here’s what I’ve come up with – my ingredients for a good weekend:

Time with my family. Preferably some of this time would be just hanging out together at home, and some of it would be going out for an adventure together. (And our kids are under 2, so an adventure can be as simple as a 45-minute visit to a holiday train garden!)

Time with friends or extended family. Just one event per weekend is usually enough for me! Coordinating plans with others can be challenging; sometimes, time with a friend also means a shorter nap time or a later bedtime, and those are things we pay for in Toddler Land. But I find that having just one opportunity to meet up with friends or extended family really adds to the value of my weekend.

Time to exercise. This is especially important at this moment of my life, when there is little to no time to exercise during the week. On weekend days, I like to go running during Edgar’s nap time, and I get really disappointed when I can’t squeeze in at least two runs per weekend.

A little Kerriann time. My ME time often includes writing or reading, but it’s different for every individual, of course. It’s hard to imagine a solidly awesome weekend that doesn’t involve some ME time.

Adventure! This doesn’t have to be anything wild or crazy. But it’s nice when the weekend includes at least one opportunity to do something new, different, or special. This can often be folded into one of the other ingredients, like family time or friend time. I find that the weekend feels longer and more memorable when there is something out of the ordinary on the agenda.

Lots and lots of good sleep. As much as possible!