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Monthly Mantra: Choose Happy

I am a big believer in the power of attention and attitude.

There are always reasons to be sad or stressed. There are also always reasons to be happy and grateful. We feel the way we feel, often, based on what we pay attention to – where we focus our energy.

For example: when I focus on the pervasiveness of social injustice, the uncertainties associated with my job (when schools will open and how), and the monotony of being in our little home bubble with few opportunities for novelty or socializing – I get stressed and sad. It’s a real bummer. 

But when I focus on how grateful I am to have a steady job, the health and well-being of my family, and the gift of having time at home with my boys – I feel happy and appreciative. 

I had a different post scheduled today, but it’s the third day of November and it’s Election Day. I’m going to have a really difficult time if today doesn’t produce the result I am hoping for. For a few days last week, I was experiencing some anxiety just related to the actual day part of Election Day. Like, what was I going to DO for the 12 hours while other people voted and there was little to no news about results to consume? How was I going to survive that mental stress?

Here’s how:

  1. I’m text banking ALL DAY LONG. All the shifts – some double shifts. My brain will be fried tonight, but it’s worth it.
  2. I’ll have a masked and socially distant playground date for me, the boys, and my sister-in-law and nephew and nieces.
  3. I’m going to remember this: whatever the result is, the sun will rise tomorrow and we will continue to fight for what is right and just in our country.
  4. I will choose happy.

Fretting all day long will do nothing to improve my circumstances. And fretting all month long will do nothing to reduce the isolation, loneliness, and stress of the pandemic. 

There are days when Stressed and Sad will win out – that’s just life. But, whenever it’s within my grasp this month, I would like to choose happy and focus on the good rather than the overwhelming. 

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Resetting Our Routine

We survived September.

It was a rough transition, from summertime to fall and work and school. And one of the ways we survived was this: significantly lowered expectations.

I haven’t done breakfast invitations regularly, and I haven’t done a whole lot of pre-planned activities – things like crafts, sensory play, games. I’ve been trying my best to get into a routine with work, and to keep the boys engaged and happy with as little screen time as possible.

I am not exactly in a routine with work, but it’s getting better. And I’ve set an intention this week to return to my morning routine with the boys (including reviewing the calendar and doing a small job) and to re-commit to daily breakfast invitations. It was fine to take a break, but – I miss them! It’s fun for the boys, to do some crafting, sensory play, artwork, etc. But sometimes I think it benefits ME even more. Being at home with small kids during COVID times can be lovely; it can also be monotonous. Sometimes, I need the benefit of some kind of new and novel structured activity even more than they do!

My plan for the reset of our routine is this:

  1. Follow our regular morning routine – get dressed, brush teeth, breakfast + activity, calendar, and job.
  2. Have a breakfast activity on every week day.
  3. Try to incorporate at least one additional activity every day. NOTHING FANCY. Painting counts. Play dough counts. Oobleck counts. Basically, anything that’s not screen time or “go entertain yourself” counts. I would love to do more than one activity a day, and many days, we do! But for the days when I’m literally multi-tasking between work and home all day long, it feels good to me to know that we’re going to do something that’s focused and intentional together at some point during the day.
  4. This is Extra Credit Bonus, but sometimes I actually put out a super low prep “breakfast invitation” for post-naptime as well. That can be a rough twenty minutes, after the boys wake up from nap, so it’s nice to have a little surprise activity waiting for them so that they can ease back into life in the awake world.

Happy October, everyone! Every day is a new day to reset.

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Monthly Mantra: Enjoy It All

I’ve been thinking about a Monthly Mantra for October 2020, and what I came up with is this: Enjoy it all.

I actually thought about it when I was enjoying myself during a ridiculous moment. I was in the dentist’s chair, getting a cavity filled. I was super anxious, so I’d brought headphones and was listening to an episode of Designated Survivor while the dentist did her thing. In the midst of crazy COVID life, when I’m with my kids 24/7 and constantly multi-tasking, it was sort of enjoyable to just lay back and listen to a show. Weird, right? But it was a moment, and I enjoyed it. That’s what I want – to enjoy all the moments.

This is a crazy time. It’s challenging in a lot of different ways. I hate multi-tasking, working from home – but often, I have my boys in reach at times when I wouldn’t usually. I love that my co-workers get to play peek-a-boo with Jonas, and I love that I can take a five minute break and play Mama Whale Baby Whale.

It is what it is, right now, this life we’re living. We have to deal with what we’ve got, and what I’ve got is a lot of blessings. And I’m going to enjoy it all as best I can.

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5 Things I’m Grateful For (September 2020)

This month has been bonkers. It’s been a rough transition from summertime to the school year. That, combined with the uncertainty of COVID times and the horror of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, has made for a pretty tough month.

1. The final season of The Good Place has FINALLY come to Netflix. I’ve never been more in need of something to binge that’s hilarious but also familiar. Bonus: I’m also really eager to watch The Social Dilemma.

2. Edgar has started attending an outdoor nature preschool three days a week, and it is the best thing that’s happened to us all year. He loves it, and it’s already been helping him so much. Edgar is an introvert and a homebody, and he’s never once complained about being stuck at home with us. But I’ve noticed little things – a little boredom, a touch of restlessness, a decline in social skills, an increase in irritability – that I’ve chalked up to COVID side effects. Those things have all improved since he started school. He goes on hikes every day, he comes home with crazy collections of sticks, rocks, and bark, and he’s much less toy-obsessed than he has been in the past. Seriously – best decision we ever made.

3. New books by two of my favorite authors! All The Devils Are Here and Troubled Blood both came out this month. I actually BOUGHT them, which is something I almost never do. It’s been delightful to curl up with a novel. I’ve been reading a ton lately, but mostly nonfiction, which is great but not really the cozy vacation that I enjoy with a new novel by a favorite author.

4. Edgar is newly obsessed with sea creatures, and it’s adorable. I spend a lot of my day answering questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish. (And a lot of my day looking up the answers to questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish.)

3. OUR NEW KITTEN! A friend in North Carolina had a little of kittens and drove our new family member up to us last weekend. We’re still trying out names. We’re all obsessed with him, especially Jo Jo, and he’s been a sweet bit of joy in the midst of stressful times.

I was surprised at how easy it was to come up with 5 things I’m grateful for this month, because it’s been a really tough month and a challenging time. My mood has not been great. One of the amazing things about gratitude lists is that it helps us to shift our perspective to focus on the good, even during times that don’t feel great. So maybe Thing # 6 is this: I am grateful for the perspective provided by gratitude lists. Happy September, everyone!

Just a Jo Jo and his Coco! ❤
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Oops (Yet Again)

So much happening. So much to process. So little writing actually getting done!

Last week, I noticed that I made a blogging error – a post was published that was still in draft form. SIGH. I wish I could say this was the first time I did that!  It’s not, and it likely won’t be the last.

Then, since realizing that error, I have also missed posting days on July 10, 21, 25, and 28. YIKES.

It does make sense that the blogging and the fiction writing have both slipped. I’d like to get back on track – as I indicated in my recent post entitled Getting Back On Track, LOL – but there are a few real things in the way:

-A few big items on my to-do list that are hanging over my head. Really trying to take care of a few big things – paperwork, household things – that have been causing me low level stress for a long time.

So much to read and learn. I’ve been reading a lot of articles and publications that I don’t usually consume. This is partly related to the antiracism resources that have been shared recently on social media, and partly related to working with my local chapter of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice).

Some part-time work. Usually my summer is work-free but I’ve taken on a bit of part-time work from home.

SLEEP!  My sleep schedule is SO off!  It’s bonkers. I’m staying up late reading (or dealing with a four-year-old who has a LOT of things he needs to tell me at 10 p.m.) and then completely failing at waking up at 4 a.m. to write!

I have switched my mindset a little these past few days. Basically, if there’s something on my to-do list that is plaguing me – I’m trying to get it done, even if it means setting writing aside for the day. The work I’m doing with SURJ is important. Keeping my home tidy and sane is important – especially these days, when our home is our haven, our safe place, more than ever before. Spending an hour on Zoom with a friend is important. Contacting my councilman about the local Police Reform bill on the floor is important.

Spoiler Alert: it’s all important. And the writing is, too. I’m a little sad that my summer writing hasn’t been working out as I’d planned. But I also know the things that I’m doing day-to-day are extraordinarily valuable. AND these are – ahem, prepare for an overused word – unprecedented times!

So, oops. But as always – time to reset and move forward. Onward.

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