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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.

sunflower selective focus photography
Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

 

 

 

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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!

white blank notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

 

balance · goals · Uncategorized

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!

white flower close up shot
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

 

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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!

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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!