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It’s A Book Thing

This weekend, I spent several delightful hours at The Book Thing, a free (!!!) bookstore in Baltimore.

Yes, the books are literally free. It’s magical. Nothing is alphabetized, which would drive some people crazy. For me, it adds to the serendipity of the place. I wandered the aisles, feeding Edgar graham crackers and watching out of the corner of my eye as he looked through a book about airplanes, and every once in a while, a book would catch my eye and I’d slide it off the shelf and into one of the five reusable shopping bags I’d brought. (The all-star customers showed up with shopping carts. GENIUS.)

My goal for this weekend’s trip was to stock our Little Free Library full of new books, and I was able to find a lot of my favorites at The Book Thing! It was amazing to browse and know that there was no limit whatsoever to how many books I could take. It felt similar to how I feel when I check out 20+ books from the library – like I’m splurging in a way that hurts neither my bank account nor my personal well-being. (Unlike the way I feel when I realize I’ve spent $100 at Target in 20 minutes, or when Amazon packages show up at my house and I can’t remember ordering anything. THAT feels gross.)

There were so many great titles there. I took about 60 books home! And I was amused by the frequency of certain titles. I saw at least five copies of Empire Falls by Richard Russo and The Kite Runner, both great books. Why so many copies? Why those books? It’s a mystery.

A friend of mine asked about the Little Free Library and my trip to The Book Thing, and I explained – I want to stock the library with my favorite books (I’m trying to only include titles that either I or Tamara have read and loved) so that they can be read and loved by others. Kind of like my own little literary public service project for my community. It is simultaneously pointless and purposeful. I love it. More Wild Peace Farm Library updates to come!

self-care · Uncategorized

Changing My Perspective

I’ve been getting pretty stressed out by the ups and downs of everyday life lately. And I don’t think it’s necessarily because my life is hard right now – I think that a lot of the time, when I feel stressed, what I need most is a change in my perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of perspective. Our perspective is EVERYTHING. When I’m struggling with perspective, it’s often connected to anxiety about the future and making assumptions.

UGH. Assumptions are the absolute worst.

There’s a veryveryvery old (possibly Taoist) parable about a farmer that I’ve been thinking about this week.

There is a story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills. When the farmer’s neighbors heard, they said to the farmer, “Oh no! How unlucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A week later, the farmer’s horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer, saying “How lucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Then the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, and he fell off its back and broke his leg. The neighbors cried, “How unlucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe not, maybe so. We’ll see.”

Several weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found in the village. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. The neighbors said, “How lucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe not, maybe so. We’ll see.”

We don’t know the future. We don’t know the effect of things that happen today on the days to come.

But I act like I do. ALL THE TIME.

I look for a job for a long time. I can’t find what I want. I’m devastated, because clearly this means I will never have happiness at work ever, ever again.

But I don’t know the future. I don’t know what’s coming down the road. We waited for two years for Our Baby to come home, and at the end of the first year, Tee had a major health crisis. Now, it didn’t occur to me at the time – but I really don’t know how we could have handled that crisis while also caring for an infant child. Emotionally, mentally, physically. We would have made it work, of course. But it would have been a big strain on our family at a time when we really needed to be focusing on attachment, bonding, and joy. (And, of course, that baby wouldn’t have been Teddy, who was 100% meant to be ours.)

We don’t know the end of the story, and making assumptions is rarely helpful. I do not have the detached nature that I imagine a Buddhist monk has. I do not allow events to simply happen, and then watch them, non-judgmentally, drift by as I mindfully contemplate the present moment.

I wrestle. I struggle. I try to bend circumstances to my will whenever possible.

But I strive for a little more faith, a little more trust, a lot less ego, and no more assumptions. Because we don’t ever know the end of the story – we just make assumptions and jump to conclusions and (if you’re me) forecast disappointment with the perverse aim of preparing yourself for the worst.

Which, in my experience, never works. Preparing myself for the worImage result for perspectivest to happen does NOTHING to make things better when the worst DOES happen. All it does is robs me of the joy and peace I could be experiencing in the present moment.

So – perspective. Shifting the way that I look at my circumstances so that I can see them in a different light.

And gratitude. So often I find myself reaching for what I don’t have instead of appreciating what I do have.

And TRUST. For me, it’s not just about trusting that most things usually turn out okay, or that the universe or my higher power or whatever will take care of me. It’s also just about having trust in others in my day-to-day life. I may make mistake and trust someone I shouldn’t trust. But overall, I am a much happier and healthier person when I assume good intention in others.

In closing – an amusing poem from Valerie Cox about the assumptions we make and how wrong we can be,

The Cookie Thief

by Valerie Cox

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,                                                                 with several long hours before her flight.                                                                            She hunted for a book in the airport shops,                                                                      bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,                                                        that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .                                                grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,                                                        which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,                                                            as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.                                                                    She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,                                           thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too,                                                                       when only one was left, she wondered what he would do.                                                With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,                                                                      he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other,                                                                                  she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.                                                  This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,                                                                        why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled,                                                         and sighed with relief when her flight was called.                                                            She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,                                               refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,                                                                     then she sought her book, which was almost complete.                                                     As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,                                           there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair,                                                                                the others were his, and he tried to share.                                                                            Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,                                                                    that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

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Balance & Motherhood #body

Oh, man – this mommy thing is tricky.

I love it.  I’ve waited for a long time to be a mother, and it’s the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced – pure delight.

However, I’ve noticed that I’ve been struggling to recalibrate – to figure out how to maintain good self-care as a new mother.  As always, when I am stressed – even when it’s good stress! – I slip back into my vices.  For me, it’s candy, junk food, caffeine, and TV.images-2

When things change in your life, you have an opportunity to achieve a brand-new equilibrium.  That’s what’s been happening with me, as I adjust happily and tiredly to having Teddy – Our Baby! – home.

The biggest area of struggle with me in New Mommy Land is #body.  Figuring out how to get the exercise I need while also spending as much of my love, time, and energy on Teddy as I possibly can – that’s challenging.

And now, my return to working full-time is looming.  I’ve been working part-time – two or three days a week – since Teddy was born.  My work days have been long, to make up for having Thursdays and Fridays home with Teddy.  That means, from Monday to Wednesday, I get through my days via sugar and caffeine.  Then I spend Thursday trying to physically and mentally recover from that (while snuggling with Teddy, of course).

13428539_281200155561683_1916385237470219006_nHonestly, that’s always been one of my major work patterns.  I often power through my work days with caffeine and no food.  I get through the day – but then, when the work day is over, I am DONE.  Wiped out.  I come home and I crash.  When I didn’t have a kid, it was fairly easy to take the time to recuperate.  Now, if I were to come home and need to crash and burn every night, I wouldn’t be present and alert for precious Teddy time.  And that’s just not how I want to live.

Additionally, I’ve had to spend a lot of time working from home while being on part-time maternity leave.  That’s been a big adjustment for me – one of my primary self-care strategies is to leave work at work – mentally, emotionally, and, most importantly, physically.  So, as much as I’m dreading being away from Teddy five days a week, I’m also eager to get back into a regular routine and find a balance that works for my career and for my family.

Here are the strategies I’ve come up with so far:

  • Leave work at work.  I’m planning to leave home at 6:30 a.m.  I’ll work my butt off until 4 p.m. – though there will be breaks to look at the Teddy photos that Tee will send periodically!  And then I will leave work at 4 p.m. to drive home.  I will maintain those boundaries, and once I leave work, I will focus on my family and my self.  It’s never been so important to practice mindfulness – keeping myself in the present moment.  
  • Take a walk with Teddy after work.  Even when it’s dark out!  That’s what head lamps are for.  Teddy loves being in the Ergo, snuggled into my chest, and an early evening walk will help me to get some much-needed exercise.
  • Make the most of the weekends…  Before Teddy, I used to throw a few things in my purse on a Friday when I was going away for the weekend.  It was easy to just kinda go with the flow.  Now, my plan is to be more intentional about how I spend my time.  Life’s too short.
  • including exercise!  It’s going to be really hard to get any running in on winter weekdays.  So it’ll have to be saved for Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Slow down.  Take it easy.  Stop trying to power through anything and everything; stay in the moment.  This is your life.

Man.  Well, we’ll see what happens.  November 28th is the big day; until then, it’s vacay in Vegas, baby!

 

 

 

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Resolutions, Big and Small #heart #soul #body

If I were a day of the week, I’d be a Monday.

I love the beginning of a fresh new week.  (A little less now that Monday means I have to leave Teddy for three work days in a row.  Being a working mother is not my fave.)

I love fresh starts and clean slates.  And I’ve been finding myself making many resolutions, big and small, that I’d like to put on paper.

This week, I’m kic14713651_1232169696803295_428702590802770506_nking off my week working on a new program that I am feeling excited-but-ambivalent about.  It’s called the Whole30 Program, and it’s all about food – spending 30 days with a lot of foods eliminated from your diet and then reintroducing them one by one and evaluating how the food affects your mood and your functioning.

I have a complicated relationship with food, so in general I avoid dieting of any kind.  However, I’m pretty excited to do this – to learn about how eating dairy affects me, what foods might cause acne or lethargy, etc.  (See this website for more info!)

That’s Resolution Number One – eat well.

And for Resolution Number Two?  Wean off tea and coffee.  With the Whole13731494_1205377216191497_7174134648435293177_n30 Program, this will happen pretty organically.  I’m allowed two cups of coffee each day, but no cream.  When I drink coffee, I typically am drinking a cup of coffee-flavored Organic Valley half-and-half, so I’m thinking it’ll be natural to cut back.

And then, there’s Resolution Number Three – improve my bedtime rituals.

My current bedtime ritual is crap.  I don’t need to read articles on sleep hygiene to know that I am doing it all wrong.

I really, really, really want to be realistic about this goal.  I set this goal for myself all the time – I want to try to fall asleep without listening to a book or a podcast, specifically.  I am frequently able to achieve this in the short-term but have trouble sustaining it.

Pretty soon, 200Teddy’s going to be getting into a standard bedtime ritual.  He goes to bed at around 8 p.m. each night – that’s when we start the process, at least.  And as we work toward having healthy sleep habits for him, I really want to try to have them for myself, too.  This mean: no phone, actual pajamas, and no late night snacks.  

I’ll write more about sleep later.  Fingers crossed that tonight will be a good night’s sleep for all!

 

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Surprising Sunshine #heart

When I was a child, I watched the movie Lady and the Tramp and I fell in love with one of the first scenImage result for lady and the tramp puppy under treees.

It’s Christmas, and under the Christmas tree Darling (a young married woman) finds a pretty box with a bow on it – a present from her husband, Jim Dear.  IT’S A PUPPY.

I’ve had this dream for a long time.  And I’ve dropped hints to Tee about it many, many times.

Then, one day in June, Tee made this dream come true!

This was just weeks before Teddy came home, and I was in a pretty horrible place.  The entire year prior to Teddy arriving was intensely difficult for me and Tee.  I’m only now beginning to process it, now that I’m so happy that joy is literally spilling out of me.  Just yesterday, I started tearing up thinking about how hard things were – hoImage result for kitten ecardw I’d sometimes start to cry just because someone asked how I was doing, how I’d find out we weren’t getting a baby and quietly sob in my office for ten minutes before moving on with my day.

It was awful.  Which is such a contrast with the breathtaking joy I feel today.

Anyway – Sunny came into our lives at a perfect time.  She really helped me to get through those last few weeks of our adoption wait.

And now, she is a crazy kitten-growing-into-a-cat, who thinks all of the baby toys are hers and likes to pounce on my head while I’m sleeping.

Having Sunny come into my life was a dose of joy at a critical time of need.  And a dream come true.  #heartimg_0802-2

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Write Every Day #fewersnapshots #moremurals #soul #mind

I can’t do everything every day.

BUT –

No, really.  I can’t.

heavy-sigh

This is one of the lessons I am learning now that I’m (sorta) a grown-up.

I have a tendency to TRY to  do everything every day.  Yoga, soccer, phone calls – books, writing – friends, family – biking – cooking – baking.

YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING EVERY DAY.

That said, I am realizing the benefits of daily writing.  Today, I was running/walking on the trail – two minutes running followed by a minute of walking – and I started thinking about the SNAPSHOT post I’d write when I returned home.

I realize that most of my recent posts have been snapshots.  And there’s a good reason for that: with the addition of my sweet and cuddly teddy bear, it’s been diffic13419022_10154134920806291_7680534232901108928_nult to find pockets of time for writing.  Which means I am forced to produce snapshots of what’s been happening in my life in balance, rather than widening the lens to take a broader picture – a panoramic view, perhaps – something more expansive – something that looks at themes and motifs rather than simply what is.

It seems impossible, given my current situation, to write every single day.

But I’d like to make more time for it – more time for self-examination, for introspection.  More time to reflect and to help my mind to settle.

Writing helps me to settle my mind.  On days like today, when I feel a little scattered, it helps me to center.  It helps me to answer questions, like Why was today so unproductive? or What can I do to make tomorrow better?

It helps me.  And it makes me happy.  And I always want to make time for the things that make me happy.13051507_745898945553289_8299554909559919198_n