community · family

Local Bucket List & Neighborhood Surprises

One day earlier this week, Edgar and I drove to Hammerman Beach, a little beach on the Gunpowder River that is located in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Tamara and I have explored a lot of Gunpowder Falls, especially the section of river that runs through our area of Maryland, but not much of the eastern side of the park.

Today’s excursion was part of a little bucket list I’ve been writing in my head – things I want to do that are in my neighborhood. I’ve been thinking and writing about wanting to live more locally. (See my post on living local here!) I have a tendency to just sort of exist wherever I am – not really absorbing the world around me as thoroughly as I could. It’s one of the reasons I am a below-average tour guide. People ask me questions about the place where I’m living, and it’s rare for me to have the answers at my fingertips the way some excellent tour guides do.

Hammerman Beach isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, but it’s in Maryland, which is the state I’ve called home for ten years. TEN YEARS! That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere other than New York. And while I’ve never been that into crabs or the Baltimore Ravens, I do enjoy getting to know the landscape and sights that are within a day’s drive. The beach was small, sweet, and beautiful; Edgar actually said the word “beautiful” for the first time, repeating after me as we looked out at the sparkling river.still-what-i-want-in-my-life-is-to-be-willing-to-be-dazzled-to-cast-aside-the-weight-of-facts-and-quote-1

Last weekend was another good chance to explore a local event. Our farm is about five minutes away from the New Freedom Farmers Market, but I’ve never attended; we don’t sell our produce there, and I didn’t realize just how close it was. Then a friend suggested that I attend an event held at the market once a year called Yogis Take The Park and IT WAS AMAZING. The vibe was very open, loving, hippie-esque – it reminded me of a lot of places I lived and visited in my twenties. I never thought I would find that kind of vibe so close to home. We have lots of great friends and neighbors who are open and liberal-minded, but I also am keenly aware that we live in the only district in Maryland that is represented by a Republican conservative. (FOR NOW. Election Day is November 6, 2018! Vote for Jesse Colvin!)

My local bucket list adventures will continue!  I’m so grateful to live in a place that has the familiarity of home and the potential for surprises.

balance · goals

What I Wanted

A few months ago, I drafted a blog post called “What I Want: A Living Document.” I never had any intention of publishing this post. I started it because I was desperately trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my work and my life.

Becoming a parent really changed the way I think about work. I’ve always known that it’s really important to me to like my job, and to feel inspired and motivated by my work. But my patience level for my work life decreased significantly once I became a mother. My guess is that this happened because I utilize a lot of patience and energy in parenting and now have way less patience for the trials and tribulations of work life.

One of the reasons why I started making a list of What I Want is because what I want has been constantly changing throughout the past year.  I’ve really been lacking clarity about my goals, and I find that so unsettling. I like to feel sure about what I want – when I feel indecisive or unsure, I feel lost.

I wrote this little list over a year a go: Things I want to be – A writer. A therapist for children. A farmer. A mommy. A wife. Peaceful. Loving. Kind. Healthy. Strong. Graceful. Faith-full. Mindful. Sometimes I just like to look at these words. There are times when I am all of these things, and there are times when some of them feel so far off from what I am in the moment.

Now that I am getting a fresh start, with a new job as a school social worker at a local public school, I am wondering if I got everything that was on my list. (SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t. But I’m still really excited about everything that I’m getting that was on my list!)

1. I want to learn more about meditation and mindfulness. YES. I can definitely do this at my new job! I’m going to be working with middle school students, who would TOTALLY benefit from this kind of intervention.

2. I want to live closer to where I work. YES! My new job is about 20 minutes from home, which is half my current commute.  WINNER.

3. I would like a school job, with summers free.  OMG YES. So happy and grateful that this one worked out.

4. I want a job that enables me to love and serve the world in the best way I can. I think so? I hope so. But I’ll have to start to know for sure.

5. I want my WHOLE life to be an honest representation of who I am.  I want everything in my life to connect, to be aligned – my job, my writing, the farm, and my family. I don’t know about this one. My fingers are crossed!

6. I want to do crisis intervention work AND/OR grief and loss work with children and young adults. I am pretty sure this will be part of my job, though I guess I’ll have to start to see for sure.

7. I want to feel good about going to work every day, especially on Monday mornings. I REALLY HOPE THAT THIS ONE IS TRUE FOR MY NEW JOB. Usually, the thing that gets me out of bed is feeling useful and connected to the children I am helping, so there is a high likelihood that this one will work out.

8. I want a job that is less mainstream – a little more counterculture. NOPE. Working at a public school is pretty mainstream.

9. I enjoy being a leader, and supervising young social workers. NO. But that’s okay! There will be time for that later.

10. I want to feel free to be my authentic self, at home and at work. Maybe? I think some of this is up to me. I’ll write more on that in the fall!

12. I want to learn more about personality work (Myers Briggs et al). Maybe! I think I can probably incorporate this into my work if I want to, which I definitely do, since I am a major personality type dork.

13. I like helping other people think about what they want to do for work and for life. I think when I wrote this, I was thinking of working with young social workers. But if I apply this to working with young adults, then I am absolutely getting that, too.

Wow – I feel like I got so, so close to exactly what I wanted! And, the bottom line is – what I do for my day job isn’t even the point.

All these months, while I have really thought about what I wanted, what I wanted came down to this: I want time to be with Edgar and Tamara, and I want time to write. If I  could snap my fingers right now and make a professional dream come true, it would have nothing to do with a job as a social worker. My professional dream would be about writing fiction and being paid to do it.

And this new job, with summers free and a manageable daily schedule, will give me exactly that. I am so, so grateful.

balance · self-care

Humor

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of messages from the universe about humor.

I love to laugh, and I am someone who laughs relatively easily during certain periods of my life. In fact, how much I am laughing is probably a good indicator of my level of stress. When I’m overwhelmed, NOTHING IS FUNNY; when I’m feeling good, almost everything can be a source of laughter.

There’s a little meditation book that sits on my bedside table, and one of the readings for this month was about humor.  This was one of my favorite parts: “…when we raise our sights, look at the world with lightness in our hearts, expecting to enjoy the day, the people, the activity, we’ll succeed.”

Sigh. That is beautiful. I agree that when I have expectations that things will be awesome, they usually end up being pretty great. And even when they don’t – it’s better for me to be optimistic than to worry. Worrying about the future does nothing except make me miserable in the present.

I am taking these little messages from the universe about humor seriously. Lately I find myself physically, mentally, and emotionally stressed about the state of the world. I’ve been seeking out laughter, fun, and comedy because I need it badly. Primarily, I’ve been finding laughter in stand-up comedy; Ali Wong’s new Netflix special and Michelle Wolf’s new weekly show on Netflix are making me really happy. (As is borrowing my sister’s Netflix account.)

Things feel so much lighter today than they have recently. And I feel a big motivation to seek out laughter, especially at times when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve heard it said that there’s always something to be grateful for. I think there’s probably always something we can laugh at, too, even in the bleakest of moments.

 

books + reading

Welcome, Little Free Library!

Last Christmas, Tamara gave me one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received:

YES! A little free library. Dreams do come true!

For those who don’t know, a little free library is a little mailbox-type construction that’s chock full of books that are free for the taking. You can take any book you like, and you can leave books, too. There are little free libraries all around the country, and I have always felt like a little jolt of delight whenever I’ve spotted one.  (Click here for a website with more info!)

Our farm is located right on the NCR Trail, so, while we live amongst hundreds of trees and lots of undeveloped land, we also have passersby coming through our property every day. So I decided it would be fun to have a little free library here at the farm, for visitors or neighbors on the trail to utilize. Tamara built it for me and presented it to me on Christmas morning; we just put it up a few weeks ago.

I wasn’t sure how successful my library would be. So I took a picture of it, filled with the books I’d placed carefully inside, so I’d be able to tell if it was being used.

IT IS!  Several of the original books are gone and there are new ones there, too!

SUCCESS! So fun. Hopefully there will be lots of library updates to come!

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balance · writing

Wow

For months, I’ve been dreaming about taking a break from work – having some time to rest, to recuperate, to reset, to recharge.

Even though I am two days into my Summer Sabbatical, I still can’t believe it’s really happened. I am on vacation. I’m resting. I’m recuperating.

The last four years of my life have been exhausting. Wonderful, at times – but exhausting. There were two years of the adoption wait, and then two years of caring for Edgar and learning how to be a parent. And, for the last two and a half years, my work life has been a source of stress – and I am not very good at compartmentalizing. When work is draining, life is draining; when work is stressful, I can feel myself experiencing a low level of stress all weekend long.

And then – today. Today was incredible. I dropped Edgar off at school – I went for a four-mile run – I ran several errands – and then I came home, and I have spent the entire afternoon focused on writing. I’ve written blog posts. I’ve organized some of my fiction writing in Google docs. I’ve sorted through drafts of short stories, figuring out what I want to work on first and next.

I haven’t had this kind of uninterrupted time in what feels like forever. I feel like I have time to get organized, to actually contemplate what I want to write about, and why, and when. I keep waiting for the stress of job hunting and work to creep back into my body, but then I remember that I am really, truly on vacation from my work life, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my time off. Sometimes I give them the small-talk-chit-chat version – “oh, this and that, nothing big” – and sometimes I share the honest truth: “I have wanted to be a writer for my entire life, and I’m hoping to use this break to set myself up so that this lifelong dream can come true.” (It’s not predictable which of these versions will come out. Really just depends on my mood, my state of mind, and my bravery at that particular moment.)

It’s definitely going to take practice. I can feel myself being pulled in different directions. Right now, I keep thinking that I should get up and do the dishes. And then my better self gently reminds me: You did not quit your job so you could be more prompt about doing the dishes. 

I am so grateful for this day, and for this summer. I am so happy to be taking care of myself and taking baby steps toward my creative goals.

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farming · writing

Routines

I am happily setting into my summer sabbatical.

I’m also doing a lot of planning for the next phase of my life, the one that will follow this sabbatical: the fall of 2018, when I will have a new job, and a chance for a fresh start.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about the most is routines. Today is harvest day, and Edgar and I spent most of the morning outside. He played with a hose and some buckets while I cut flowers for bouquets to be sold at the farmers markets this weekend. It felt really good to actually be a part of the harvest for the first time in a long while!

I laid Edgar down for his nap at around one o’clock, and then I immediately grabbed my laptop and sat on my bed to do some writing. Today my main focus for writing time was the mystery novel I’ve been writing. One of the things I’ve been contemplating is how to approach my concentrated writing time. Like – should I try to meet a word count every time I sit down to write? Today was challenging – I haven’t worked on the novel for a while, so I was easing myself back into the story. When I’d written over a thousand words, I stopped; I am thinking that maybe writing a thousand words per day might be a good goal for me, but I’m not sure if it should be a thousand words per day or a thousand words each time I sit down to write for a chunk of time. (Any and all advice on writing habits is welcome!)

Yesterday, Tamara asked me to talk the dog for a walk right after I laid Edgar down for nap. While this was a reasonable request, I declined. The reason I declined was my desire to form a strong association between Edgar’s naptime and my writing time. I can imagine being flexible with this down the road, but for now, I want to form a strong and automatic association between these two things. I have wanted to have time to write for SO LONG! But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, and I want to take this endeavor seriously.

did take the dog for a long walk later in the day! But I felt proud of myself for being honest and committed when it comes to my writing routines. Here’s to keeping my butt in the chair!

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balance · goals

Summer Sabbatical

Today is the first day of my Summer Sabbatical, and it feels awesome.

I’m starting a new job in late August, and my last day at my old job was yesterday. It feels like a giant weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. After daydreaming about a new job, one that is a better fit for my family, my lifestyle, and my goals, for months and months, I have found a new job.

AND – I am taking over a month off from working. A little break. A vacation. A mini-sabbatical from the grind of work life. I’m thinking of it as my Summer Sabbatical. It will be a time to rest, to reflect, to recharge my batteries. A chance to reset my system and to get myself ready for a wonderful fresh start.

Wow. I feel amazing. I can feel my body start to tense up at times, as if I’m clenching, waiting for anxious thoughts about work tasks and job hunting to come – and then I remember that those anxious thoughts no longer apply to my situation, and I relax and come back to the present.

WOW.

Now that I am getting exactly what I’ve wanted – new job, great schedule, six weeks off – I have a tiny little anxious thought. It’s nothing like the constant work-slash-job-hunting anxiety that’s plagued me for the past few months, but it’s there – this tiny little fear.

Because, if I now have everything I need to take some big steps toward my goals – WHAT IF I DON’T SUCCEED?

I am mostly excited, that’s for sure. But I also feel a strong sense of purpose. I want to use my mini-sabbatical time to achieve my goals. I don’t want to allow laziness, fear, or anxiety to keep me from doing what I want to do.

These are my big, lofty goals for my sabbatical:

  1. Finish my freelance writing course.
  2. Take care of EVERY SINGLE ITEM on my TTD list so that I can have a fresh start.
  3. Create a system for getting tasks accomplished and managing my TTD list (including general household maintenance) all year long.
  4. (This one is connected to #3.) Start setting aside some Sunday planning time – a little date with your planner to look at the week ahead and make sure that tasks/writing/running/meditation/etc are going to get done.
  5. Kick my caffeine/sugar habit.
  6. Exercise a LOT and form a GOOD exercise routine, one that I can maintain once the new job starts.
  7. WRITE. I am hesitant to set specific goals here. I might try to meet a certain word count whenever I sit down to write. I’d like to stick to my “write a draft of your novel by the end of the year goal,” but I’m  not feeling confident about which novel to write. I’d like to set up a regular writing routine, one that I can maintain once the new job starts. But really – this goal is just to WRITE and to ENJOY WRITING.

That’s it, for now. Seven goals. Seven goals that are more about creating routines for how I want to live than crossing things off of a bucket list.

This time is a gift. It’s partly a gift from the universe, and it’s partly a gift that I’m giving myself. I am so, so grateful.

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