self-care

Laughing Out Loud

Everything is heavy right now, and it should be. Between the global pandemic and the civil unrest related to racial justice, there is so much happening.

During the moments when I have needed a break, my stress relief recently has been one particular category of entertainment: Netflix comedy specials.

It started with Trevor Noah. I love Trevor Noah. I find him hilarious and intelligent in all the best ways. But I’d never seen his stand-up specials on Netflix. So now – home due to the COVID pandemic, and really in need of some laughter – I checked out his special Son Of Patricia. It was exactly what I needed. Hilarious and enlightening and distracting without being fluff.

I can’t remember the exact order of the specials I’ve watched. But I think it was right after that first Trevor Noah special that I watched Dave Chapelle’s 8:46, which was predominantly his reaction to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent civil uprising. He is incredible. I’ve watched three more of his Netflix specials since. I’ve also watched Michael Che Matters; Donald Glover: Weirdo; Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (and then multiple episodes of his Netflix series Patriot Act); Aziz Ansari: Right Now; Sarah Silverman: A Speck Of Dust; and Michelle Wolf: Joke Show (also binged old episodes of her short-lived Netflix series). I’m also partway through Trevor Noah: Afraid Of The Dark and W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro. 

My life right now is kids, COVID stress, and social justice work, with little bits of writing and reading in the margins. Almost every moment is just heavy. Enjoying stand-up specials is a perfect “break” for me.

And – do you know what’s great about the stand-up specials I’ve been watching? Many of these comedians are activists and strong progressive voices. So watching their Netflix specials didn’t feel like checking out completely from the work that needs to be done. It just felt like taking in information from people with a talent and flair for finding the funny. A break from the heaviness without completing stepping back from current events and the work that needs to be done, by me and throughout the world.

I am not a big advice giver. But lately, I find myself recommending this particular bit of self-care to anyone who seeks guidance on how to deal with their current level of stress. So if that’s you – DO IT. Find someone funny, and watch their stand-up special, or just little YouTube snippets of their comedy act. The perfect break, and a great way to laugh out loud – one of the best medicines for our crazy times.

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goals · writing

Getting Back On Track

I knew my summertime writing schedule would get off track, and it has.

A few things caused me to fall out of my routine. We had out-of-town visitors; Tamara and I have both been busy with meetings and tasks for a social justice group we’ve been working with (more on that at some point); I’ve been in a rough cycle of too much caffeine -> staying up late -> sleeping through my morning writing time; and, fill-in-the-blank miscellany. (Like, a good friend and I are reading Stamped From The Beginning together, and occasionally we meet for book club during the kids’ nap time, which is my main fiction writing time.)

And, my whole routine is just sort of off. I’m in a bit of a reading rut, which in this case means that I am reading seven books simultaneously. SEVEN BOOKS! They are (ahem): Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi; The Mothers, a novel by Brit Bennett; The New Jim Crow; Me and White Supremacy; How To Be An Antiracist; Raising Good Humans; and The Lines Between Us. 

In the big picture, life is good. My summer with the boys has been lovely so far. I’m thrilled to be done with working-from-home multitasking, and to be able to give the boys my full attention. We’re spending lots of time outside. The library is open for curbside pickup so we’ve been reading a bunch of new books.

But I can feel my writing routine slipping. And you know what? It’s okay. I’m trying to carefully balance “This is a priority for me” with “Other things are important priorities too”. The reading I’ve been doing is really important. The social justice work I’m learning about and taking part in is important. Being a peaceful and playful and patient parent and teacher to my kids in the midst of a pandemic is important.

I worry that I’m just procrastinating – abandoning my summer writing goals. But when I take time to reflect, I know I’m not. As of today, I’ll be back on my 500 words a day (minimum) writing schedule. One thing that is tricky is that I have a few different writing projects taking my attention lately, so it’s difficult to make a hard and fast goal like “This summer, I’ll finish the first draft of my novel.” There’s definitely a part of me that is committed to finishing my main project (working title Lucky Baby) but I also have other projects inspiring me and I don’t want to limit myself when it’s hard to get focused and working at all.

When I get frustrated, I remind myself that I’m a mom with two kids under 5 (Edgar just turned 4!) and trying to accomplished a major creative task for which I have zero training. Just writing those words out helps me to be a little gentler with myself.

Today is a fresh start and I’m excited to get back to work. Stay tuned.

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goals · traditions

July 2020: Traditions + Celebrations + Rituals All Year Long

I am excited about this post. But – I’ve been procrastinating about it for a long time.

The thing is – I really want to be a person who celebrates holidays and festivities in a sweet and thoughtful way. But it doesn’t always work out.

The main roadblock is that I’m not really a planner. I’m working on it, for sure; my two resolutions for 2020 were to improve my photography habits (HARD FAIL on that one) and to think/plan ahead. And it’s been better this year than previously. But left to my own devices, I am more likely to realize St. Patrick’s Day is coming on March 17 than on March 10. I get caught up in my day-to-day life and I just forget.

Having kids has helped me in this respect. I feel motivated to teach them about holidays and to make plans to celebrate, and thus I am better at planning ahead. Better – but still not great.

So my goal for this month is to really think about the kinds of traditions, celebrations, and rituals I want for our family all year long. I have a few books to look through, some notes I’ve jotted down over the past few years, and I’m excited to give this topic some thought.

Happy July!  Ritual Numero Uno – summertime equals sunshine, sand, and ocean. Looking forward to (distanced) beach days and river hikes all summer long.

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books + reading

What We’re Reading Lately (Kids Edition)

One of the byproducts of the current civil rights movement happening in our country is a plethora of reading lists being shared on social media.

I love a good book list. My kids are 3 and 1, and we haven’t talked a lot about race yet in their lives. I typically use books as a strategy for talking with them about various topics; we read books about the dentist in the days and weeks before an upcoming appointment, we read books about holidays, and we read a ton of books about moving before Moving Day last year. Edgar, who is 3, loves to read books together, so it’s a great way to explore something new within the context of something comfortable and familiar.

Whenever I see a book list, whether it’s for kids or adults, I always make a bunch of library requests. I am an avid library requester, which is why, once curbside pick-up opened up last week, two librarians had to team up to carry the 35 books I had requested to my car. (This was an especially big load, as it also included books I had requested BEFORE the libraries closed due to COVID 19!)

The book lists I used as resources were a mix of books about racism, race, and civil rights, and books that simply feature people of color living their lives. I think that our “library” – I’m including books we own and books we frequently check out of the library – is pretty diverse. But I’m always looking for more suggestions, and I try to be intentional about seeking out books featuring people of color as main characters.

Here are some of the awesome books that we’ve discovered thanks to recent reading lists:

Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This book is SO FREAKING CUTE. It’s great for both of my boys; I think it is probably intended for a younger audience, closer to Jonas’s age (he’s almost 2), but Edgar adores it. Sweet, simple story of a baby’s day; rhyming and rhythmic and soothing; and it features ALL the sweetest and most tantrummy aspects of baby/toddler life, so that’s enjoyable for all.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima. Edgar loves this book. A little girl who loves to wear costumes (and has two dads, so bonus diversity!) goes on an adventure involving penguins and an orca. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE?

Saturday by Oge Mora. This one makes me cry. Sweet story of a girl and her mother spending Mom’s only day off going on fun adventures.

Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper.  This is my favorite book about Juneteenth so far. It explains the holiday through a conversation between a young girl and her dad. Great for Edgar’s age – he’s almost 4.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. This one we bought rather than borrowed. It’s adorable, and powerful. It really does feel like Kendi is attempting to capture the messages of his adult book, How To Be An Antiracist, in baby/toddler/preschooler language.

The Colors Of Us by Karen Katz. I really like this one, and I think the boys will enjoy it more once they stop asking for Harriet and Please Baby Please (see above) over and over again. It’s a good book for exploring differences in skin color in an understandable and kid-friendly way.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Wonderful book about different ways for children to use their voice to say something. It’s sweet and colorful, with a good rhythm to the text. It’s powerful, and the pictures are beautiful and enjoyable.

We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates. This book features the Sesame Street characters and is a good intro into differences in facial features, hair color, and skin color. The message is: “We look different, but we’re also the same.” It’s a good intro book – to be followed later by a deeper explanation of race and racism later.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. A story about a dad doing his daughter’s hair. So freaking sweet.

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. This book is about a little boy who wants to dress up like a mermaid. My FAVORITE thing about this book is that the story does not include any skepticism or negativity about the little boy wanting to dress up in lipstick, a flowery headdress, and jewelry; he simply likes what he likes, and his abuela supports him by finding him a necklace. My boys don’t really have any understanding (to my knowledge) of why a little boy wouldn’t wear lipstick or jewelry or dresses, so I appreciate a children’s book that celebrates different ways of being without highlighting how our society sometimes treats people who don’t meet societal expectations.

SO MANY GOOD BOOKS. Nothing I love more than sitting on the couch and starting to read a book, and then watching Edgar come sprinting toward me, dropping toys as he goes. Happy June 2020 – and, if you know a book I should request from the library to read with my kids, please share!

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goals

Wrapping Up June 2020

What a strange time we’re living in.

I don’t know about you, but anytime someone asks me How are you?, I feel like laughing. How am I? How are any of us? We’re fine, except for COVID and civil unrest and the glaring uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring.

That said, I’ve been happy with my June 2020 goals. I had three goals for this month:

  • Make a concrete and realistic plan for summer writing.
  • Set a goal – including word count – for summer writing.
  • Make a summer bucket list.

My bucket list is drafted, but not quite finished. Let’s be honest – it’s not as wild and crazy as I would have hoped. It’s simple, and sweet, and I’ll share it soon.

My goal for summer writing, currently, is to write 500 words every day during the boys’ nap. I actually think I’ll raise that word goal eventually, but for right now, it feels good – I hit the mark with relative ease and I can even get it done on days when there are a lot of other things on my list of things to do. If I keep to 500 words a day, that means a total of 30,000 words for the summer.

Now, I would really like to finish a draft of the main novel I am writing this summer – but I’ve been skipping around a little and working on other fiction projects. So I’d say my summer writing goals are:

-Write fiction (500 words) every day.

-Finish a draft of my primary novel, word count irrelevant. (I imagine it will be about 50,000 words.)

I really liked using the mid month check-in to keep my monthly goal(s) front and center, and I’ll try that again for July.

Cheers to a summer that is cozy, pleasant, productive, and progressive. I’ll be phone banking (or something similar) for the Democrats for the 2020 election – I’ll be working with a social justice group (more on that at some point) – I’ll be reading and learning – and I’ll be writing my little heart out. Happy July, everyone!

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