A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a friend. It was lovely. I mean, Edgar was there, too, so we were frequently interrupted by random WHY questions about anything and everything, but it was still great.

When I got home, I found that I was feeling envious of my friend. I was comparing my current situation to hers, and subsequently feeling jealous.

Let me explain.

My friend is awesome. She is an entrepreneur, a therapist, and a yoga instructor.  and she is currently running two businesses – a private therapy practice and a children’s yoga business. We talked together about my envy; I explained to her that I mostly felt jealous of how inspired and motivated she is. And that is accurate.

However, by the time I got home and was chatting with Tamara about it, I found myself making mental plans to become a certified yoga instructor (the last yoga class I participated in was in July 2019) and to open up a private therapy practice (which Tamara politely explained to me that I decided I wanted to postpone until our kids are older).

Why does this happen? When we compare ourselves to others, it’s almost always problematic. I know this – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t fall down that rabbit hole repeatedly.

The thing is, usually when envy strikes, I am envious of someone who has what I actually want. Like a blogger who is making good money writing from home about the things she’s passionate about. So why did I spend half a day feeling envious and confused after a coffee date with a friend who is doing awesome things – but not the awesome things I want to do?

I decided that it was about clarity of purpose. I envy my friend’s inspiration and motivation, for sure – but that doesn’t mean that I want to pursue the specific goals and dreams that she is pursuing. And in the midst of this crazy life – little kids, full-time job, new house, adult responsibilities – it’s easy for me to become unclear about what my priorities are.

A few years ago, I hung a bulletin board on my bedroom wall and pinned three flowery note cards to it. There was a single word on each of the three cards: family; service; writing. My three priorities. The three purposes of my life. Loving and caring for my family; being of service to others, however I can; and writing. When I started feeling distracted and disgruntled, and making plans to become a yoga instructor, I remembered these three words and it helped me to come back to center and remember what I care about the most.

This is all related to my birthday funk. When I start to feel regretful and worried about achieving my goals, it helps me to have clarity of purpose and a plan of action. My clarity of purpose, I decided, is those three words – family, service, writing – plus three more: adventure, wellness, and simplicity. When I think about the past and the future, I think a lot about adventure and travel; they’re important to me, and they have often been neglected due to other responsibilities. When I think about life right now, I realize that wellness is a theme running through everything; I can’t achieve my goals if I’m not taking care of my overall mind-body-soul wellness. And finally, the priority of simplicity is really about frugality and minimalism – living simply and saving money.

Thinking about those six priorities – family, service, writing, adventure, and wellness – helps me to focus. When I am clear about my priorities, I don’t get sidetracked making plans to open up various businesses that aren’t in line with my current plans and passions.

Now that I’ve been writing my way through my birthday funk, I’m a little grateful for it. It’s so easy to get lost in the chaos of life as a working parent with little kids. I’m happy to be reminding myself of my goals, and getting some clarity about what’s most important to me in this life.

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My Birthday Funk + My Plans To Get Out Of It

Can I be honest? I’ve been in kind of a funk since my 37th birthday.

I am not usually someone who feels bummed about getting older. But, dude – 37 is an adult. Like, 36 was, too, but 37 DEFINITELY is. I could say that I’m in my late thirties; that would be an accurate statement.

And I am not where I want to be, professionally, creatively, and personally.

My family is wonderful and amazing; they are my rock. I am so grateful for my wife and my two boys. But everything else feels wishy-washy and unclear.

The reason why I’m writing this is: the next few blog posts on playful + peaceful will be all about the baby steps I’m currently taking so that I can get really clear about what my goals and priorities are and then get even clearer about the steps I can take to achieve my goals and keep my priorities at the forefront of my life.

I often write about habits, goals, and priorities, but I felt that the cluster of posts coming should be placed in context. And that context is: I’ve been in a funk, and I’ve been really struggling with regrets. Regrets about time and money I’ve wasted on the wrong things, and regrets about opportunities and dreams I’ve not yet pursued.

NOT YET PURSUED. I am using those words very intentionally, because I know that there is time. When I get into a funk, my mind becomes a cluster of “Not Enough” thoughts. There’s not enough time. I don’t have enough talent. We’ll never have enough money.

One of my wise and gentle friends reminded me today: You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. And I know that this is true – even when it doesn’t quite FEEL true.

So, please be prepared for a whole lotta posts on habits, dreams, goals, clarity of purpose, and life alignment. If you’re an Enneagram person, I’m a 4 and we are ALL ABOUT the navel gazing and self discovery. Let’s do this.

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All The Resolutions

This is the time of year when I make a hundred goals and resolutions for myself, and then I forget them all by February.

THAT’S OKAY. I’m going to make them all anyway. With a minor twist.

I’m utilizing my 2020 happiness project to make small resolutions throughout the year. But as far as my overall Official New Year’s Resolutions For The Year 2020, I will have two. Exactly two. No more, no less.

If I have two resolutions, then I will remember what they are.

And for my bigger goals (finish your novel, stop multitasking) and my smaller goals (better bedtime hygiene, less caffeine), I’ll use my happiness project to keep those resolutions front and center.

Ahem – presenting, my two new year’s resolutions:

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  1. New photography habits.
  2. Think and plan ahead.

BOOM. Done.

Just kidding. I am of course going to elaborate.

My first resolution is new photography habits. My digital photo life is a mess. I have thousands of photos. and I do almost nothing with them, other than the occasional social media post or text. The new habits I want to form are:

1) Deal with photos right away. Delete the ones that are blurry. Decide on the best one. You don’t need 19 pictures of Jonas with yogurt on his face that looks like a Santa beard; pick the best 1 (or 3) and delete the rest.

2) Set up an automated system for where you’re going to PUT the photos. Are you ordering prints? Are you making a baby book or a memory book? A calendar? Put them somewhere purposeful. 

This resolution falls under the label of “simple but challenging.” I’m really hoping that I can form these new photo habits by setting this intention, but I know it will be difficult. I have friends who do this automatically, and it seems like magic: Picture taken. Album made. Photo shared with or texted to me (if the boys are in it) within hours of when it was taken. But those friends who do this are also way more organized than me in general, and tend to be better at adulting than me. I am accepting of the fact that I’m not uber organized about many things – but I would like to target this specific habit and try to handle it better.

My second resolution, which is related, is to think and plan ahead. This is another area that is not my strength, and I really want to work to improve this aspect of my life.

I don’t think ahead, and I’m not a huge planner. I’m not a completely fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person; I used to be, more so than now, but I definitely plan more now that I’m a parent. I pack bags ahead of time, and I make packing lists and grocery lists. Honestly, though, I am HIGHLY motivated in that area, because if I forget to pack snacks, then it’s ME VERSUS TWO HANGRY TODDLERS OUT IN PUBLIC. That’s terrifying.

But, for non-terrifying circumstances, such as a friend’s birthday? I rarely think ahead. This is problematic to me for the following reasons:

  1. I would love to do small, meaningful things to celebrate others. However, I rarely think about other people’s birthdays or special occasions until the day of or the day before, which doesn’t give me much time to do something sweet or surprising for their special day. I can call – I can text – but I’d much prefer to think ahead and write a meaningful card that they get in the mail or via e-mail that day. If I plan ahead, I can be intentional about showing love and gratitude in meaningful ways.
  2. When I don’t think ahead, I’m pressed to do things in not ideal ways. For example – for my sister’s birthday this year (December 10), I didn’t really start thinking about a gift for her until the 6th or the 7th. I decided to get her some books, which is great. HOWEVER – my sister loves to shop locally, and tries not to support big companies like Amazon when possible. So it would have been way more meaningful for me to find her books in a local bookstore, or from a site like Thriftbooks, and mail them to her via USPS. But, I didn’t have time! So I used Amazon Prime. (Also, it was a cluster and didn’t get there in time, but that was user error.) If I thought ahead – like, in November – I could do something for her that was actually as thoughtful and intentional as I strive to be.
  3. If I don’t plan ahead, I sometimes miss out on things I might enjoy. I hate the feeling of a weekend day that sort of falls flat because we didn’t go out to do anything special. Don’t get me wrong – I love a rambling Do Nothing Saturday, when the boys just kind of play and frolic and we putter around enjoying that we don’t need to be anywhere. But I don’t like it when I realize we need an outing, and haven’t had the forethought to look into any special events in the neighborhood that we could enjoy.
  4. Not planning ahead gets equally difficult at work. There are things I’d love to do for the children and families I work for, but I get so consumed by the day-to-day that it’s challenging to think ahead. This will get better as I get more efficient in my job – I’ve only been there a year – but it’s definitely an area I want to improve.
  5. I’ve been getting so sick and exhausted by all the STUFF in my life and in the world. Ideally, when it comes to clothes and toys and gifts and household items, I’d like to buy them secondhand. That feels more sustainable and better for the world. However – that definitely requires thinking ahead. I bought Edgar a couple of Christmas shirts this year, and I really wished I’d started looking for them in secondhand shops back during the spring or summer. I’m sure I could have found a few things, and they would have been cheaper. And I would have felt way better about the purchase, because it would have supported a secondhand shop and a local business, and not contributed to the production of more STUFF in the world.

WHEW. That was a lot. But it shows pretty clearly what my motivation is, when I talk about planning and thinking ahead of time. I want to be able to be more intentional with my choices, and I want to maximize my enjoyment of my time and the world.

I’m really excited about these two resolutions, and I really want to stick with them. I really, really do. Help me out, Universe. Help to make my 2020 a year of awesomeness.

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2020 Happiness Project

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to do a Happiness Project for 2020.

A happiness project, a la Gretchen Rubin, is a yearlong effort to make monthly resolutions with the goal of increasing personal happiness. I’ve attempted happiness projects previously, but I’ve never stuck with them for an entire year. I’m not sure I’ll stick with this one all year long either. That might sound pessimistic; I don’t mean it to be. I’m realistic about my follow-through on projects like this, and I think mapping it out is as valuable and fun for me as following through on it would be.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she chose a theme for each month and then made 3 to 5 small resolutions related to that theme. Her themes included topics like Energy, Parenting, Marriage, and Play. I love the idea of using a theme for each month, and also tying that theme into my blog posts for the month. (This, too, I have attempted previously – having a monthly blog theme.)

For my 2020 themes, there’s not just one word for each month; it’s often a pair or a trio of related words, all related to the resolutions I plan to make, try out, and write about.

These are the themes I’ve come up with for 2020:

  • January: Health and Longevity.
  • February: Service.
  • March: Mindfulness, Meditation, and Presence.
  • April: Minimalism and Decluttering.
  • May: Writing. (Get geared up for Summer Writing!)
  • June: Traditions, Celebrations, and Rituals.
  • July: Community and Friendship.
  • August: Habits, Simplifying, & Adulting.
  • September: Education and Awareness.
  • October: Laughter, Fun, & Play.
  • November: Being Intentional.
  • December: Life Alignment.

The topics I didn’t have room for were Balance; Rhythm & Routine; Travel & Adventure; and Goals. I’m including them in case I end up deciding one of these themes doesn’t work.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to make resolutions, or just reflect on the ways you’d like to live your life, a happiness project can be super fun and helpful. As I’ve been crafting this post, I’ve been drafting my posts for next year – developing resolutions that relate to each theme. I’m pumped to get started, because, as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading for a while – I love a good fresh start!

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Monday Morning Ritual

Last Monday morning, I got an idea while I was on my way to work.

I was in a grumpy mood. Ever since becoming a parent, I have disliked Mondays. I don’t like leaving my kids to go to work. It sometimes helps if we’ve had a fantastic weekend doing fun things as a family – or sometimes that makes it even harder to get started with the work week.

This school year has been a little bit better than the last two years were. Prior to this school year starting, I also was struggling with the Sunday blues – that feeling of dread and anxiety some people get on Sunday afternoons when they realize they’re about to face five days of work starting Monday morning. But that’s been better since school started in September 2019. I feel a little bit more confident and comfortable at my job this year, and the Sunday blues have been eradicated.

But Monday mornings? Those still suck.

So last Monday, I was on my way to work and I started using speak to text to do some “writing.” I opened up a Word Press post on my phone, hit the microphone button, and just started talking – about Mondays, and about my goals for the day, the week, and the year. It was really helpful. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Basically, by “writing” a blog post using speak to text while I’m driving, I’m sorting through my thoughts the same way I do when I’m sitting in my armchair at home with my computer on my lap.

That morning, it occurred to me that I really need a Monday morning ritual that centers me and/or gets me excited for the week ahead. And I realized something: a Monday morning is a fabulous time to set an intention for the week ahead.

Here’s a few things I know about myself:

  1. love setting a goal for myself. Be more present. Write more. Exercise daily. Whatever the goal, I love to identify it and write it down somewhere with every intention of achieving it.
  2. I struggle to follow through on my goals. I forget what I’m working toward because I’m distracted by the minutiae of day-to-day life.
  3. One of the only reliable strategies I have to form a new habit is using the strategy (a la Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before) of the Blank Slate. A new house, a new car, a new phone, a new job – I tend to use fresh starts like these as a jumping block for cultivating new and better habits.

When all of these things swirled around and came together, I realized: I can attempt to use my Monday morning commute as a time to reflect and set an intention for my week.

I love this idea. I have so many goals on my mind lately – partly because I’ve been skimming Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours and partly because I’ve been jotting down resolutions for 2020. But when I have lots of goals, it’s hard to bring them all to the forefront of my mind, especially as a busy working parent who’s juggling a lot of responsibilities. If I use Monday mornings as a time to (using speak to text) write about my intentions, I can narrow my focus and zero in on the intention that’s the most crucial for me during that particular week. I’m going to give it a try; we’ll see how it goes.

The funny thing is, writing this post helped me to remember something. When I was in my early twenties, I remember playing a game with two of my college friends. We were on the Staten Island Ferry, and we started talking about what our different friends who be if they were a (fill in the blank). For example: If Kerriann was a holiday, which holiday would she be? If Matt was a subject in school, what subject would he be? It was silly and fun and pointless. And one of the fill-in-the-blank categories we chose was days of the week. We decided that one of our fun-loving party-going friends would be a Saturday night; we decided that one of our even-keeled, reliable friends was a Tuesday. And we – well, it was either all of us, or just me – decided that if I were a day of the week, I’d be a Monday.

This made sense to me, at the time. I loved college, I loved the work I was doing. I didn’t have the pull of little kids at home that I wanted to be with. I invested a lot of energy and enthusiasm into every job, activity, or class I attended. The start of the week never bothered me, because I made the best of everything and I always found something to be excited about.

So funny. I don’t love Mondays currently – but I used to. And it’s because I have always been a person who loves a fresh start and a new week. I’m so glad I remembered this about myself, and I really hope this new habit helps me to start my weeks off with a better outlook on the week ahead.

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Monthly Goals (December 2019)

It’s December, and once again, I did not spend my entire year planning or purchasing gifts to give for the holidays.

And you know what? It’s okay. Maybe next time.

I think that’s a good mantra for a person like me, who is often thinking of things that would have been awesome at EXACTLY the moment when it’s too late to do the thing. I just thought of the perfect present to give my mom at EXACTLY the moment when she’s opening the present I bought her because I couldn’t think of anything good. Maybe next time. 

For now, I am so excited for the holiday season. My boys are big enough to be enchanted by a holiday train garden and a Christmas tree, and I’m so excited to celebrate all month long. This year, there’s only a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – just about three weeks. Let’s do this! Here are my goals:

  1. Be 100% present throughout December. Enjoy the holiday season to the max.
  2. Create your 2020 goals. It’s so much fun to think of goals for the new year, and I’ve been writing out a plan a la Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to potentially follow for 2020.
  3. Help others in every way you can.
  4. Maintain your blogging routine.

Merry Whatever!

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goals · mindfulness

Mindfulness + Goals

I’ve been learning about mindfulness for years, and yet I still feel like a beginner.

These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how little time I have when I’m just daydreaming and letting my thoughts wander. In the age of iPhones and Netflix, at any moment, I can have a TV show or a podcast playing while I do something else. And I do that a LOT. I rarely bring my full, mindful attention to the task at hand. And I am definitely less mindful when I’m feeling stressed or have a lot going on

In his work, the writer Cal Newport (author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work) defines solitude as time when no input is being experienced – so, time when you’re not reading, listening to a podcast,  watching television, but are simply allowing your brain to either rest or to process all the other input you’ve had recently.

If that’s what solitude is, I currently have very little of it in my everyday life. I am constantly multi-tasking, and I often am listening to a podcast or a TV show while completing other tasks. There are worse habits, of course, and I don’t want to beat myself up for having a very human 21st century struggle. But also –

I don’t want to waste my time.

Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my mortality. I’m not sure what it is exactly about having kids that causes this shift, but I know I’m not the only parent who has experienced it. The time to do everything I want to do in my life is not limitless.  And the time I spend listening to podcasts and watching TV is time I could be thinking about blogging or fiction writing. I read once that Toni Morrison used to scribble down paragraphs while she was in traffic, because she was a working mother with limited time to write. I want to be THAT kind of writer – the kind who uses every available moment.

And I know that I lose a lot of valuable time when I’m constantly playing on my phone or re-watching Jane The Virgin. 

So, mindfulness. I sometimes think it’s the secret to achieving ever single one of my dreams and goals. And while I have always struggled to form and keep this habit, I’ve been doing two things well lately:

  1. I’m using the Headspace app to refresh my mindfulness skills and meditate. I’ve completed a three minute meditation three days in a row. It’s only three days, but it’s something!
  2. I’ve been putting my phone away – usually in another room, charging – when I get home from work. It hasn’t been perfect, and sometimes I’m tempted to just go add something to my grocery list or see if I have any texts. But I’ve been doing this pretty consistently, and it’s making my time at home with my family SO much better.

There are so many goals that I have that mindfulness will help – cutting back on caffeine, writing a novel, eating healthier. I could be wrong, but I think mindfulness is the answer. And it’s a great time of year to focus on being more present – the time of year that is all about family and celebrating. Wish me luck!

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