balance · self-care

Monthly Mantra: Slow It All Down

Here’s my new idea for the blog: monthly mantras.

Stay with me.

I started out 2020 planning to have a theme for every month, and it didn’t work out at all. Maybe it will someday. I always enjoy making the lists of themes, for sure! But my blogging is a little more sporadic than thematic these days.

For August, I changed it up. Instead of announcing a theme and making a list of goals, I just gave myself a mantra: keep it simple. I remembered it, too, as the month progressed. If I started to get overwhelmed, I just asked myself what the next right thing to do was, and I did my best to focus on that and nothing else. Not always easy – but simple.

I love the idea of a monthly mantra, and I’m sticking with it for September.

This month, my biggest worry is: How do I transition to the new school year, and maintain my commitments to service work, community activism, side hustle private practice, writing, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) family? 

Whoa. I get overwhelmed just writing the list! So, a mantra is definitely in order. And the one I have chosen is: slow it all down. 

When my life gets crazy, I have a tendency to be off and running. I get less mindful, less present, more productive, and increasingly stressed. I need to remind myself to slow it all down before the month and my days start running away from me.

When I slow it all down, I can see what’s doable and what’s not. I can see when I need to say no to new commitments or take things off my plate. I can see when I need more family time, a long run, or a healthy meal. I can see – when I stop it all from going by too fast.

Cheers to slowing it all down, and to my new monthly mantra tradition! May it be more successful than my 2020 themes, and may it help me to remember what’s really important every single day.

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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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self-care

What’s Your Oxygen?

Give yourself oxygen first.

We’ve all been told this, right?  Especially parents or caregivers or professional helpers. It’s related to the airplane safety guidelines that flight attendants announce at the beginning of every flight

When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.  Why? Because if you run out of oxygen yourself, you won’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask.

It’s a simple metaphor. It’s powerful, and it’s true. But how often do we take the time to think about exactly WHAT our oxygen is? What are the things that we need to do to keep ourselves safe, strong, and breathing so that we can give our best service to the people around us?

I decided to think about this in my quest for everyday self-care. I am not great at self-care, which is one of the reasons why I write about it constantly. And I am ESPECIALLY not good at everyday self-care – just the little things we do (or don’t do) on regular days to keep ourselves healthy and well. Like NOT eating bedtime candy. Or drinking water so I don’t get dehydrated. (Note: getting up to grab a drink of water right now!)

If I’m going to give myself oxygen first, I have to know what I need. And the same is true for all of us. I sat down one day last week and I scribbled these words on a piece of paper: Writing. Sleep. Healthy food + diet. Reading. Conversations with friends. Meetings. Time to putter around. Running. Time outdoors + nature. Adventures. Doing something new. Travel. 

I am pretty good at making time for things I need to do for self-care. But we can’t make time to give ourselves oxygen unless we know what we need.  What’s your oxygen?

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balance · self-care

April 24

The announcement was just made: April 24.

Across the state of Maryland, schools will be closed due to the coronavirus pandemic until April 24.

In some ways, it’s unsettling. There are several school districts that have closed until the end of the year, but our state is planning to re-evaluate and re-assess as the weeks progress.

I’m glad to have some information, but it does feel slightly uncertain. On April 20th, will I get another update saying we’re closed for longer?  Or will we be back to school?

No one knows. We all have to sit with that uncertainty.

That said – for now, for today – I have more info than yesterday. And that means that for today, I can set intentions for the following:

  • Every day, I will wake up at 4 a.m. to write. This will continue. I will write, write, write until my boys wake up!
  • At some point between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., one of the boys will wake up. We’ll get them dressed and have breakfast and then have some free time – unstructured playing, cuddling with books, etc.
  • This would be a good time to go running! 
  • Once everyone has eaten and dressed, we’ll head outdoors – to the Gunpowder River, to Irvine Nature Center, to Oregon Ridge – for a family hike and adventure.
  • When we get home, there will be several windows of time:
    • We’ll get home from our hike at around 10 a.m., give or take some time. So there’s a window from about 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. that is open.
    • The boys’ nap time will be from 1 to 3 p.m. I think that the boys’ naptime will be the best time for me to do work; if I have more to do, I can keep working past 3 p.m. until dinnertime.
    • There’s playtime between 3 and 5:30 p.m.
  • We’ll eat dinner at around 5:30/6 p.m.
  • The boys will go to bed at 7 p.m. After they’re in bed, it’ll be a good time for an AA meeting, cleaning, and reading before bed. I can write, if I can muster the energy, or I can finish up any BCPS work I need to get done.
  • I’ll try to get to bed by 9 p.m.

That is a glorious plan. I know it will change – the world is uncertain, and it’s not all up to me – but I like this plan a lot.

If we go back to school on April 24th, that’s 29 more days at home with my boys. The world is in crisis, and things are stressful. But this time is also a tremendous gift. The gift of time with my wonderful family. It’s hard and it’s wonderful. And/Both, as Glennon Doyle would say.

29 days. It is what it is. My thoughts and my prayers continue to be with – well, with everyone. Because this is a “whole wide world” kind of thing, and we’re all in it together.

inspirational quotes on a planner
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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.