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Life In Boxes

We’re in! Our life is in boxes, and we still have a ton to get done at the old house. But we are living in our new home and loving it.

My blogging routine is still going to be a little off this week. I’m currently typing this on my phone, because we don’t have internet set up yet. And it still seems difficult to write about the topics that are most relevant to me at the moment: habits, routines, rituals, and my work toward living a minimalist lifestyle. We are slowly unpacking, and we need to buy a ton of things: towel racks, shower curtains, baby gates, furniture. Our family to do list is long, and the time we have available to tackle different tasks is limited.

So, I’m going to do my best to stick to my regular blogging schedule – posts on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Hopefully the posts will get more substantial as my internet access and mental energy improve.

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How To Slow Down & Be Intentional When Life Is Crazy Times Five

When I sat down to write this post and glanced at the title I’d written – how to slow down and be intentional when life is crazy times five – I literally laughed out loud.

There are times when I write blog posts that I think might be helpful to others. And then there are posts that are just about me throwing my hands up in the air and admitting that I have no expertise or insight to offer.

Life is crazy right now because a) we’re buying a house and moving to a new town, b) we’re closing up shop for a small business, c) my job is hectic and stressful lately, d) ugh packing ugh, and e) we’re just a regular ol’ family with two young kids.

We start the moving process on Friday – three days from today. And I’m experiencing anxiety in various forms. I’ve got did we buy the right house anxiety, I’ve got so much to do anxiety, and I have my entire life is in boxes anxiety. Yesterday Tamara asked me what would help me to destress this week.and I couldn’t come up with anything.

This morning, I have three ideas for getting through the next three days. Exercise; everyday self-care; and aggressive mindfulness.

EXERCISE

You know how you can go off your exercise routine for a few days, and sort of still feel okay? But then a few more days go by, and then suddenly you feel lethargic, heavy, and like you’re busting out of your jeans? That’s where I am today. I don’t know how to squeeze it in this week, but I know that I always feel less stressed and more capable when my body feels strong and agile.

EVERYDAY SELF-CARE

Eat well. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Take your time. I think that the little things are important during times of stress. I mean, they’re always important – but the impact that healthy choices can have on my mood is significant. Things like staying hydrated and maintaining a calm state of mind are going to help me this week.

AGGRESSIVE MINDFULNESS

When I am stressed – and sometimes when I’m not – I fall into the habit of listening to Netflix constantly in the background of my life. Recently, I’ve been listening to and watching old episodes of The Good Place – while I’m washing dishes, while I’m getting ready in the morning, while I’m making breakfast.

It’s not good.

I started listening to books about mindfulness last week, and I checked out a few books from the library. Then yesterday, it hit me – I know how to be mindful. I can totally do it. In fact, I do it all day long at work most days. I don’t need a book, and I don’t need to learn a new technique.

I just need to DECIDE to do it. I need to CHOOSE that I am going to be mindful.

We close on the house in three days. THREE DAYS – that’s not that long. I am going to attempt Aggressive Mindfulness – no background noise – for the next three days. I know it will help me, and three days is a short enough time that I think I can attempt it without feeling overwhelmed. Three days of doing one thing at a time fully.

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Update

Life is crazy times five right now. And for me, one of the side effects of life craziness is a struggle to focus and figure out what to write about.

Usually, blog post topics just come to me. But right now, all I think about is packing. Once I’m home and the kids are in bed, I look around at things in the house and I think, Can I pack that yet?

Because we’re MOVING. To a new house. I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around that yet! And I’ve moved many times before – at least 10 times in the last 15 years, if not more. But – and this is important – I have never packed up my entire life and moved it to a new home while parenting two kids. I know everything’s going to get done, but the HOW of it all is not clear to me.

I’m sure I’ll write more about the new house and our homemaking goals eventually. But right now, as we sign paperwork and pack nervously, I don’t think I’ll want to write too much about the new house until everything is signed and sealed.

So then – what do I write about? I had lots of posts on deck related to habits, routines, and rhythms, but those are going to change when we move. And this move is going to be such a great opportunity to form new household and family routines. It seems silly to write about new school year habits when they’re all going to change in less than a month. (LESS THAN A MONTH.)

I expect to write a few posts checking in on how my self-care and stress level have been as the school year has started. (Spoiler Alert: they both could be better.) And I expect to have a few filler posts, mini check-ins or brief gratitude lists. The length and depth of my posts may vary until we’re more settled, but my goal is still to post twice weekly. Stay tuned!

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All The Things (June 2019)

This summer is off to an amazing start.

I’ve been getting lots of exercise, and I’ve been really happy with our plans and adventures for the first five days of summer.

When I looked back at my June goals, I noticed that I had not made much progress with my plans to have early morning grounding activities and an evening adulting hour. And, as always, that is okay. My goals are there to guide me, not to make me feel bad.

Here are all the things for June:

Things I’ve Been Reading: Currently I am on page 5 or 10 of about 6 different books! I think the number one contender for my attention is City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I just scooped up from the library yesterday. I just finished Recursion by Blake Crouch, which was good.

Things I’m Nervous About: Writing! I got some good work done on the novel last week, but bringing the novel back into focus just reminds me of how much work I still have to do. It’s not just the writing – it’s thinking through the entire plot and deciding about what’s going to happen and when it will happen. I want to work on it a little every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. But that can be really difficult!

Things I’ve Been Watching: Rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 of Veep. Also the Women’s World Cup!

Things I’m Grateful For: Seven years of sobriety, a beautiful start to my summer, a healthy family, a great new book to read, and a good night’s sleep in my future tonight.

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As Planned As It Gets

My summer is as planned out as it’s going to be, and I feel fine.

I originally thought I’d plan out our summer in pretty intricate detail. It would be a loose plan, and very flexible – but a plan with a detailed agenda and lots of fun things to check off the list. In fact, one of my June goals was: Make a big, awesome plan for my summer schedule, including a daily schedule for each day of the week (loose, but daily), and an overall calendar for the entire summer.

Yeah – that’s too much.

I am a planner, and yet not a planner at all. When I took the Myers Briggs personality test over a decade ago, I scored as a big-time P in the Judging vs. Perceiving category, which is all about how you deal with the world. The Js prefer a more structured and decided lifestyle while the Ps prefer a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think I’m still a P – but maybe not as big of a P as I used to be. Life has shown me that I’ve needed more structure, for my mental health, for my kids, and for just adulting in general. (Like, we can’t just roll out of bed and then grab coffee with a friend from college – not when we live in different states, work for a living, and have families and a bunch of other responsibilities!)

I’ve always thought that I should be a subcategory – Ps don’t make to-do lists and Js make them constantly, but what about people like me who a) love to make lists but b) either lose them or fail to check off the items on the list completely? That’s ME.

I am also someone who engages in Aggressive Summer Planning for a few weeks but then hits a wall and decides that the rest of my summer planning will be left to chance, spontaneity, and fate. We’ll see how it goes. Summer starts NOW!

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Aggressive Summer Planning

There are 11 days left in the school year. Said differently, it is two weeks until summertime!

I am so, so excited to have the summer free for writing, self-care, and spending time with my boys. It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to work at a public school.

I have noticed recently that one of my weaknesses as a human is my inability to plan ahead. It became clear as Mother’s Day approached. I started to daydream about creating a Shutterfly book with photos of the boys to give my mother. This daydream began on Saturday – the day before Mother’s Day. Sigh.

One of my big life goals is to get better at planning ahead. It was easier to just go with the flow when I was younger, but being an adult requires planning, whether it’s scheduling play dates or thinking through a travel itinerary.

When I started thinking about this, I realized that I want to be extremely intentional about planning out my summer. There will be vacations and play dates and beach days. There will be days when the boys go to day care and I have the day free for farming and writing, and there will be days when I am home solo with the boys all day while Tamara works.

I actually wrote a private post, just for me, that is extremely detailed with how I want to spend each type of day. But that seemed a little boring and “in the weeds” for a blog post! So instead of a play by play of how I’ll be spending every single summer day, here’s a list of some of the themes I am hoping to cultivate this summer:

  • Lots and lots of writing time! On my days with no kids, the goal is to write as much as possible. I am excited to try this out and really motivated to finish a draft of my novel this summer. (Which is an ambitious, but totally doable, goal.)
  • Adventures. I’m creating a huge summer bucket list, filled with activities to do with the boys. It includes places in and around the city to visit and things to do at home.
  • Exercise. Yoga, running, or biking. Preferably running – a long, long run every morning.
  • A slower pace. Time for the boys to gently wake up, and time for me to wake up and do some grounding exercises. Life will be less rushed in summertime. I think I need the rest, and I think the boys do, too, especially Edgar. He can get pretty wiped with four days a week of pre-school and early morning wake-ups.
  • Everyday self-care. This might be my biggest goal for the summertime. It’ll take a big change in my habits! I really want to incorporate self-care into my everyday life and routines so that I stop crashing and burning twice a month all year long. 
  • Morning and evening check-ins. This goes together with the goal of a “slower pace.” I want to cultivate a habit of checking in with myself (and my planner) every morning and every evening.

This is my first post about Aggressive Summer Planning. However – my aggressive summer planning can not possibly be contained in one post. I have at least two more drafted, with my Summer Bucket List and a proposal of weekly/daily routines that I want to establish over the summer. Stay tuned!

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My Digital Minimalist Diet

This is it – March 2019. The month when I spend 30 days observing a digital minimalist diet and taking a much-needed step back from my beloved iPhone.

I don’t know exactly where I fall on the spectrum of addiction to my phone. I’m probably not the worst phone junkie in the world, but I definitely use my phone more often than I’d like to. The idea of cutting back on my phone usage came from a few different places: this NY Times article by Kevin Roose; this Ezra Klein interview with Cal Newport; and just the general feeling of YUCK that I get when I know I’m not living my life in a healthy and present way.

When I decided to try out this digital minimalist diet for 30 days, I got excited and a little nervous. I got nervous because I use my phone a LOT – especially when I’m anxious. I find myself checking it even more frequently when I’m in a nerve-wracking social situation, and it sometimes helps to calm me down when I’m sad, frustrated, or nervous. I got excited because deep down I KNOW I want to change my relationship with my phone, and it’s exciting to think that maybe with hard work I can shift some of my daily digital habits.

A few days before this endeavor began, I sat down and tried to think through the logistics. I definitely was not going to live completely without my iPhone – not even close. We don’t have a landline, so my phone is my only connection to Tamara, the boys, and our extended family when I’m away from them all.

I also was not going to live without other tools for technology. I’d use my laptops, both at work and at home, and I’d use our iPad. In fact, my guess is that I’ll be using the iPad more often than I usually do; I think by shifting some of my digital diet from my phone to the iPad, I’ll be able to decrease the time I spend using technology, since the iPad most definitely does NOT fit in my back pocket.

The big goals of these 30 days are as follows:

1. No social media.

2. Delete as many apps from my phone as possible.

3. Significantly reduce the amount of time I spend on my phone.

There are two major challenges I’m going to face with this digital minimalist diet. The first is my bedtime routine; I usually fall asleep listening to a podcast or a TV show on my phone, and I want to reduce or eliminate that habit. The second challenge is TV.  Recently, I’ve been using my phone a LOT – way more than usual. This is mainly due to watching TV via the Amazon Prime app on my phone.

Oh, television – I love you and I hate you. A few weeks ago, I was ready to give up watching TV indefinitely – but that was because I was so frustrated with my annoying habit of watching reruns of my favorite shows over and over when I’m anxious. I’ve been tired and stressed and subsequently watched almost all eight seasons of Monk on my phone over the course of the past month.

However, something shifted for me at the end of February. I started to remember why I actually love TV. If it’s a good show, then it’s smart and funny and highly entertaining. There are two shows  that there are 2 current shows – The Good Place and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – that I love to watch and am 4+ episodes behind on currently. I also started to watch 2 new-to-me shows via Amazon Prime – The Good Wife and House – and I’ve been enjoying them tremendously.

So when I sat down to figure out my plan for March, I got a little puzzled when it came to television. On the one hand, I want to cut down on my screen time; on the other hand, I enjoy TV and this time of my life (low energy, midnight feedings) is sort of a perfect time to enjoy some new TV shows. It would be lovely if I could just sit, holding and feeding J.J. mindfully, fully present and in awe of my baby boy – but that’s not really me. I am literally holding a sleeping J.J. as I type this blog post on my iPhone.

For now, my plan is to just focus on using my phone less. I’ll use the iPad if I want to watch one of my new TV shows, and I think just making that switch will help me  decrease my TV time. It’s harder to go get the iPad to watch a show than it is to take my phone out of my back pocket to watch something.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, and I’m ready. Expect updates on my successes and failures in my All The Things post at the end of March!