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Over the past couple of years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about decluttering my physical space – purging unused possessions, cleaning out the basement, and somehow (through a combination of diplomacy and cloak-and-dagger operations) paring down the kids’ outrageous toy collections.  I’ve thought about those things a lot, and done them a little.  (My Buy Nothing community on Facebook has helped, but I still have a long way to go.)  But what I haven’t thought much about, even as I have fretted about the effect of screens on my life and worried about unknown consequences of being surrounded by Wi-Fi signals all the time, is the idea of digital minimalism.

As a rule, I think I probably spend less time on screens than most people do.  Since I look at a computer screen all day for work, I try to limit the amount of time I spend looking at a screen when I’m not at work.  I don’t watch much television, and the only time I spend on the computer outside of the office, most weeks, is writing this blog.  And I am necessarily curtailed in how much time I spend on my phone, because if I look at it too long, I get debilitating headaches.  So I keep my phone use to a few select functions and try not to scroll mindlessly.  But lately, even this limited phone use has come to feel like too much.

In connection with my word of the year – element – I have been considering how to weed the overly complicated from my life and get back to what is simple, and phone use definitely falls within the “overcomplicated.”  But I hadn’t thought about the digital noise and distraction as clutter until I listened to Episode 184 of Sorta Awesome: How to find freedom from our screens.  (Fittingly, I listened to it in the car, while driving, so was not at all tempted to scroll through Facebook while the show played.)

In the episode, Meg and Kelly discussed a host of fascinating topics: charting the evolution of their own online lives, talking about the complications of being the only generation who remembers life before the internet but has adopted the online life fully (our parents are not in the digital universe in the all-absorbing way that we are, and our children don’t know a different way of life), discussing iPhone’s new screen time feature, and talking about their goals for digital decluttering.  I found the whole episode utterly fascinating, shouted “PREACH!” at the car radio about a dozen times, and placed a hold on the book they recommended – Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport – at the library.  (It seems I’m not the only one who is interested in these topics.  I’m fifteenth in line for the book in the holds queue, and the library only has one copy, so it will be awhile before I get to read it.)

Meg and Kelly also cemented my own plans to bring more intentionality to my online life.  Since iPhone rolled out the screen time monitor, I’ve been tracking my phone use (somewhat) regularly and, because I am a goals-oriented type, taking great satisfaction in seeing the numbers creep down as I pay more attention to what I am doing.

According to the screen time monitor, last week I spent an average of two hours and two minutes per day in using my phone.  (I suspect that number is skewed by the fact that I captured the data at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, when I had spent a grand total of 43 seconds on the phone checking work email and taking two screen shots.  But let’s go with it.  In any event, it’s still more than I would like.)

Here’s what I was doing during those two hours and two minutes per day.  (App use has been on my mind a lot lately, as I have consciously cut way down on Twitter, about which more in a minute.)  By far, my most used app is Instagram.  This doesn’t surprise me, as Instagram is the only social media app that I actually enjoy and that I use for pure pleasure.  Facebook followed Instagram, which did surprise me a bit, because I don’t think I’m on there very much.  After that – mail, which I mostly use for making sure I’m not missing anything important when out of the office.  Other honorable (or dishonorable?) mentions went to the kindle app (which I rarely use, but did actually read a long-form short story on last week); safari (mostly for reading articles); and feedly (my blog reader).  Since I usually have the screen turned off and the phone in my bag when I listen to podcasts, and I know I spent more than an hour listening last week, I suspect the time reflected above was in scrolling my downloaded episodes while deciding what to listen to next and deleting the episodes that don’t interest me.

As a part of this general pondering, I have been giving thought to what I consider the big three apps in the social media world – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – why I use them, and how I want that use to change.

Twitter: I have all but eliminated my Twitter use.  I was really only using the app to keep in touch with a couple of friends who are heavy Twitter users and to get the news (from reputable sources only, thank you).  But I’ve come to realize that Twitter was making my life worse, not better.  It’s tempting to scroll mindlessly through, and most of the time, I close the app feeling considerably less happy and less optimistic than I was when I opened it.  So I decided to wean myself off of Twitter (and it’s working – as you can see, it’s not one of my heavily used apps on the above list).  I moved the app to the last screen on my phone, so I have to consciously and intentionally navigate to it.  The next step will be letting the few friends I communicate with on Twitter known that they will need to text me instead, and then deleting the app.  That’s in the near future.

Facebook: Much as I would like to give Facebook the Twitter treatment, I can’t get rid of it as easily.  I use it for a few different reasons – mainly to keep in touch with friends and family who use Facebook as their primary social media and to participate in my Buy Nothing neighborhood gifting community.  (Ironically, my digital decluttering efforts are hampered by my physical decluttering efforts.)

Instagram: This is the one social media feed I keep because I actually enjoy it.  The opposite of Twitter, I usually close out of the Instagram app feeling happy and refreshed.  That’s a function of my carefully curated feed, probably.  My Instagram feed is about one-third nature photos, one-third bookstagram, and one-third pictures of my friends’ adorable kids.  (With a couple of food accounts, like Martha Stewart and Sourdough Schoolhouse, sprinkled in for cooking inspiration.)  I know that Instagram has had its problems with bullying and with people feeling inadequate because of unrealistic content, but I haven’t experienced that.  My feed has been a completely positive and relaxing place, and it probably helps that I use Instagram entirely for me, because I like the square pictures and the familiar filters.  My account is private, I don’t care if anyone follows me or not (although I am gratified when friends “like” my photos, so please don’t stop!) and I use the photos in my home decoration and family yearbooks because I think they look good.  I have shifted much more of my digital life and my social media activity to Instagram and I am happier for it.

I’ll have more to say about physical and digital decluttering soon, I expect, so I’ll end with this: I know I’m never going to be able to divorce myself from screens.  I use them all day at work, and the phone is just part of life.  But my happiest moments don’t include it.  Real joy comes from crunching through leaves or smelling fresh soil and flowers on the hiking trails with my family, from the satisfying work of kneading a loaf of sourdough in my kitchen, and from golden afternoon light at the library as I sit with a book while my little buddy plays in the children’s room.  My phone should be enhancing those joys, or it’s not worth having.

Are you trying to cut down on your screen time?

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No-Resolutions 2019

Here it is February 15th, and I’m just now getting around to talking about New Year’s resolutions, which should give you a clue as to how I’m feeling about them this year: ambivalent.  Usually, I love New Year’s resolutions.  I love setting them, planning out how to tackle them, and checking in with them all year long.  This year, I just feel meh about setting goals.  It’s been a hectic, roller-coastery few years, and I sort of feel like I need a break.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I didn’t set resolutions one year.  Well, that’s not exactly true – I did, but I only had one resolution.  The year was 2006, and my resolution was to pass the Bar.  That was it.  That was my only goal for the year.  Well, I guess that and graduate law school and find a job, but I knew the one was going to happen and I trusted the other.  Both worked out.  And so did the Bar thing.  And I remember the week after I took the exam: my friend Jenn and I drove up to our pal Seth’s house on Lake George.  We swam and paddled around in Seth’s kayaks and ate ice cream and barbequed and listened to the Minne-ha-ha fire a fake cannon at the next door neighbors and watched the sunset and I thought: “I have nothing else going on this year.”  It felt good.

When I sat down and started thinking about what I wanted my 2019 to look like, I realized that I didn’t want to make a list of concrete goals or resolutions, like I have the past few years.  It has been so hectic and exhausting, and to be honest, I’m a little bit burnt out and I need to refocus.  So I decided that this year, I am only going to have one goal: do more of the stuff that makes me happy, and less of the stuff that bums me out.

I don’t even know what that looks like, but I do have some ideas.  I would like to be more focused and present, to give my undivided attention to whatever I happen to be doing at the time.  Less worrying about the kids’ school performance or social calendars when I’m at work.  Less connected to the office when I’m at home.  (Hey – I’m a realist.  I know that I can’t totally disengage from work in the evenings, and that sometimes personal stuff pops up during the day and I have to deal with it.)  I’d like to be on my phone less, a lot less.  I’d also like to grant less mental real estate to the energy vampires.  What I’m saying, I guess, is that I want to get back to a simpler frame of mind and a less distracted lifestyle.

Along those lines, I did want a word for the year, and I think I have one.  It hasn’t stormed into my life the way home did in 2016, or whispered to my heart like gather in 2017, and it doesn’t feel necessary like begin in 2018.  But consistent with my one goal of focusing on the important and life-affirming stuff and whittling away at the distractions, the word that I seem to want to follow in 2019 is element.  Which means… what, exactly?  I’m not sure, but I look forward to finding out.

I’d like to strip away the unnecessary stuff and pare life down to its elements – to the important things and the things that mean something – to cut through noise and clutter and emotional adverse possession by people and situations that don’t deserve my attention.  I’d also like to spend as much time in nature as possible – that is to say, in my element, and out in the elements – connecting with what is true and meaningful and cutting out the digital noise and constant clamoring that makes me so anxious.  So I think that’s what that means, but we’ll see.

Did you set goals for 2019, or are you taking a madcap approach to your resolutions this year?

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We are entering the winter season, when so many of us find the days long and grim and difficult.  I am actually not minding winter so much this year – I’m not sure why, because it’s been a colder and snowier one than the last few years (although still mild compared to what we weathered in Buffalo).  But for whatever reason, the dark days and cold nights aren’t bothering me too much.  Maybe I’ve finally learned how to find joy in the season.  Or maybe I’ve just been too busy to notice.  Either way.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the things, little and big, that are saving my life lately:

  • Looking back at the golden sunrise pictures I snapped during a glorious hour of running on Miami Beach, then sticking my feet in a surprisingly warm Atlantic Ocean, during a magical stolen hour on an otherwise jam-packed business trip last month.
  • My cordless electric kettle, which my mom gave me for Christmas, after I complained to her about the completely untenable hot water situation at my new job.  I brought it to work and a colleague and I have gleefully brewed loose leaf tea every day since.
  • The independent children’s bookstore near my house.  We have a gauntlet of five (!) kiddo birthday parties to attend between mid-January and mid-February (we’re two down, three to go as of press time) but presents are all taken care of.  I walked to the store and bought everything I needed – they even do free gift-wrapping in store – and the gifts are sitting on my console table, ready to grab as I walk out the door with Peanut, Nugget or both in tow.  I always seem to find myself behind the eight ball when it comes to gift-buying for kids’ parties, and it’s been lovely to have one thing DONE and off the list.
  • The beginning of summer vacation planning!  We have one trip already booked, but there is a lot still to discuss – and gear to acquire – for that one.  And we have to decide where to go with the kids later in the summer.  We are having a delicious time weighing the options.  (Smith Mountain Lake is the current frontrunner, but it’s not a done deal.)
  • Kitten Purrlooza at the library.  You can’t even imagine.
  • Evening snuggle time with my baby boy.  Every night after Nugget’s three to seven stories (he’s a negotiator) he curls up in my lap and I rock him to sleep and then hold him for another 30-45 minutes – that last part is just for me.  The days in which he will fall asleep in my arms are numbered, and I am determined to enjoy EVERY SINGLE ONE that I get.
  • Celestial Seasonings honey vanilla chamomile tea.  I used to drink it all the time and recently rediscovered it.  I forgot how lovely and warming it was.
  • BOOKS, of course.  Always!  January has been a library-heavy month, but my own shelves are calling to me.  Sometimes I get lost in just looking at the books – but more often, I’m lost between their pages.  That never changes.
  • My new Rothy’s!  I finally took the plunge.  I’ve been hemming and hawing because they’re so expensive, but it occurred to me that my freakishly small feet might fit into the girls’ loafers.  They do!  Half-price Rothy’s?  As my BFF Rebecca said, I won the genetic Rothy’s lottery.  (I have the forest green loafers with the gold sunburst embroidery, and I am wearing them around the office every day, and they’re SO comfortable.)
  • My favorite gigantic soup pot, which is bubbling away on the stove every weekend, cooking up a huge batch of homemade soup for the week.  (My favorite thing to eat in any season, but especially in winter.)  Related: my Hydroflask food container, which keeps my soup hot until lunch every weekday.

What’s saving your life these days?

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2018 Goals: Final Accounting

2018 was a strange year.  Some things were really good – I changed jobs, and I’m hopeful that my professional life is back on track after the detours of the last five years.  And the kids continued to grow into smart, fun people that I enjoy more and more every day.  Of course, as you all know, we also had a hard year with the unexpected loss of a close family member, and the world definitely looks different at the beginning of 2019.  My wish is that this year brings healing on many fronts.  But before we can turn to all that, I need to look back at my goals for 2018 and see how I did.

Outdoors/Fitness

  • Another 12 Months Hiking Project – Done!  You can click back through my recaps, but I kept my commitment to get outside and hit the trail in every month of the year: January; February; March; April; May; June; July; August; September; October; November; December.
  • Complete the 52 Hike Challenge – Done!  I’ll have more thoughts on this coming soon – promise!  It was a challenge, indeed, but I made hiking a real priority this year and I was able to fit in more than one hike a week all year long.  And it was wonderful.
  • Get into a workout routine – not done.  Although I moved a lot this year – between the 52 Hike Challenge and toddler-wrangling, I didn’t sit still very much – it wasn’t in any formalized way.  In the fall I got back into Barre3 via the online workout portal and ran another 5K, but even then, I can’t say I was really consistent about anything.  It was just a function of the way life shook out – busy and stressed for most of the year at work and with parenting, then changing jobs and adjusting to a new office dynamic.  A consistent and predictable workout routine fell by the wayside.  I felt the lack of it, and I do hope this changes in 2019.

Relationships

  • Be a “yes mom” – a work in progress, but I made progress!  At the beginning of the year, I really, really wanted to say “no” less and say “yes” more.  The way I saw it, “yes” should be my default if the kids make a request that isn’t going to hurt them or anyone else.  And I worked hard at this, and at being intentional about saying yes.  Sure, buddy, pick up that giant stick!  Of course we can bake a cake, sweetheart!  I think I’ve definitely loosened up, and my relationships with the kids are all the better for it – and so many memories have resulted from my saying “yes” to things.
  • Try to chill out overall – another work in progress, but again, progress!  I’ve always been a high-strung person; I know this.  It’s who I am and I’m not likely to change anytime soon.  But I think I have chilled a bit this year.  Part of that, I believe, is due to getting a new job.  I chose to view the job offer as a vote of confidence and, instead of tying myself into knots about whether I was worthy of the vote of confidence (well, there was a little of that) to have faith in myself and in the legal skills I’ve acquired in twelve years of doing this.  And that has really helped.
  • Go on dates – done!  Yeah!  Steve and I worked hard at making couple time a priority this year, both through quiet game and movie nights at home, and going out more.  We made it to see several movies, out for a couple of dinners both as a couple and with friends, and we even climbed a mountain together.  He’s my partner in everything, and I know we’re going to keep going strong with this.  (It helps that we now have a roster of three fabulous babysitters!)

Personal/Self-Care

  • Pack my lunches – done, and hoping to keep the momentum going in 2019!  I wanted to make a practice of packing lunches to save money, mostly, but also because it’s so much healthier.  I wasn’t great about this at my old job, but with a fresh start in a new job I’ve mostly managed to pack lunches every day.  I’ve done batch cooking over the weekends to have plenty of options, and have tried to streamline the routine so that packing three lunches every day – instead of two – is not so daunting.  My goal is only to buy lunch once a month – it’s going well!
  • Step away from the screen – always evolving.  Well, I’ve worked on this and some weeks, it goes really well – other weeks, less well.  I’ve never been a big TV person, and I’m still not, but the convenience of swiping onto my phone and scrolling through Facebook or Twitter is a different matter.  I’m making a conscious effort to cut down on both of those apps, and budgeting my phone time so I spend more time on Instagram, which I actually enjoy, then log off and go back to my book.  Thanks to the new iPhone screen time alerts, I know when I’ve done well and when I haven’t – and it’s a pretty even split so far.  But at least I’m being mindful about it, and I think that’s progress.
  • Explore natural healing and wellness options – a little.  I really wanted to dig into wellness over the year and explore some natural and alternative health options.  I did a little bit – I continued using my essential oil diffuser and working on combinations of oils to ease stress and promote good sleep.  And I started doing some research into vegan vitamins – I found a B12 supplement I like, but am still on the hunt for a multivitamin, immunity defense and stress relief supplement.  (Any recommendations for me?  I like gummy vitamins, but they need to be vegan.)

Reading

  • Read fewer books – EPIC FAIL.  I really wanted to slow down, savor my reading, and read more classics and chunksters, so I set a goal of 52 books for the year – a pace of one book a week.  I bombed hardcore and ended up reading 113 books this year.  Hardly slowing down, and I don’t think I’ll ever break the habit of tearing through books to find out what happens.  But there’s always re-reading, right?
  • Check some classics off my TBR – done!  I love reading classics, and I can’t get enough.  This was a fairly classics-heavy year for me, which is just how I like it.  There were some older classics – North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell; Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen; Summer, by Edith Wharton; and Scenes of Clerical Life, by George Eliot, to name just a few.  I also delved into some forgotten classics, like the Brensham Trilogy by John Moore, and more modern classics like Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner, and The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende.  And more – this is just a smattering.  Here’s hoping for even more time spent with these treasures in 2019.
  • Continue to make diverse reading a priority – done!  I set the goal to, once again, have more than 33% of my book list devoted to people of color, LGBTQ+, own voices, and other marginalized groups.  I think this is the third year in a row that I’ve made this goal, and every year, I’ve achieved it.  This year, I landed around 35% – a little less than last year, but I’ll have the exact figure when I crunch the numbers for my 2018 reading recap posts.  I think this is an important goal and a good thing to bear in mind when choosing books, but for 2019 I’ve decided not to set any goals around reading.  Looking for different voices and experiences has become second nature to me, though, so I’m sure they’ll still be on my list come next December.

One Word: Begin

When I set my one word for 2018, begin, I suspected – hoped, really – that 2018 would be a year of new beginnings.  There were some areas of my life and my family life that I thought needed a reset and a fresh start, and I resolved to work on bringing those about.  As it turned out, 2018 was a year of many transitions – some welcome, others very much not.

  • I started a new job.  This was the main transition I was hoping to bring about in 2018.  There were many reasons why I felt my old job – much as I loved some of the people there – was not a good fit for me.  This isn’t the place to go into them, so I won’t.  But I was quite unhappy and really in need of a new start.  I spent most of the year working on a “super-secret-not-a-baby” project, which was a highly organized and turbocharged job search – seeking out opportunities, sending resumes and follow-up correspondence, and going on job interviews consumed a huge amount of my time and energy last year.  It culminated in an offer that, after a great deal of consideration and discussion with Steve, I decided to accept.  I haven’t been in the new position long – I started in mid-November – but I am liking it so far and I’m hoping that this is the end of my job-hopping phase.  I want very much to settle in, make partner, and be around for the long haul.
  • Steve started running!  Okay – this is a beginning for him, and not for me.  But he’s enjoying running, and it makes him feel great – and I’m delighted for him.  And just a wee bit jealous that, thanks to his remote work arrangement with his firm, he can slip out for a lunchtime run whenever he wants.
  • We began a commitment to date nights.  I’m not good at leaving the kids, even for an evening.  I’m too conscious of how precious and fleeting these “little” years are, and I want to soak it all in.  But I have also started to recognize that my marriage needs nurturing, too – and so I’ve finally caved to Steve’s ongoing campaign to find babysitters and arrange semi-regular date nights (beyond just a movie night with the baby monitors set up on the coffee table.)  We now have a roster of babysitters and plans for a whole week’s getaway without the wee ones, next summer.
  • Peanut and Nugget transitioned at school.  This is a two-part beginning, and one part is a little bittersweet.  Peanut had done two years of Junior Kindergarten in her school, and she never really clicked with her teachers.  (Nor, from what I’ve heard since, did many of the other kids – which is unfortunate.)  We had a lot of frustration, miscommunications, and general stress around her school for the past two years, and we were thrilled to move on to Kindergarten, a fresh start and a new set of teachers.  So far, the K teachers seem to “get” Peanut, and I couldn’t be happier.  As for Nugget, he left his beloved nanny and headed off to join Peanut at school.  The nanny and I cried buckets, but the new Preschooler was delighted.  He really did need to be in a classroom, and he was ready for more structure and a wider group of friends – so it was the right thing to do and his first few months at school have been a joy.  He’s got a team of teachers who adore him, and they have a big ramp and a bunch of little cars – what’s not to like?  He’s really happy and enjoying this new phase.  (And I still text with our old nanny and have her over to babysit ALL THE TIME.)
  • We experienced an unexpected loss.  I’ve written a fair amount about the sudden, completely out-of-left field loss of a close family member and how stunned and bereft it left us, so I don’t really want to say more.  This has been a beginning, too – the beginning of a different world without someone we loved in it.  We’re still learning how to walk in it.  And I so wish this was not on my list of transitions in 2018.

I’m sure there were more beginnings and transitions, but these are the big ones.  I’m still mulling over my word for 2019 – I think I have one, but I want to sit with it a bit more, and I’ll report back.

How did you do on your 2018 goals?

 

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Midsummer Musings

There’s no getting around it – this has been a weird summer.  And not the good kind of weird.  Lots of rain, lots of sadness, lots of solo weekends with the kids as Steve has been traveling every few weeks.  Lots of work stress and some disappointments on the professional front.  The garden’s a dud (but the weeds are thriving).  We’ve barely hit the trails at all, we’ve only been to the pool once, we haven’t picked blueberries and we haven’t kayaked once (unless you count a failed attempt I made while visiting my parents’ lake house – Nugget cried if I got more than five feet from the dock).  I bought the kids their own kayak paddles to use at Fletcher’s Cove and on vacation in the Adirondacks this summer, and they’re still in the boxes.  All things considered, it’s just… not shaking out.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some good stuff.  I don’t mean to throw myself a pity party here – or at least, not for too long.  We made it to Cornell Reunion and to visit my folks (including my brother and sister-in-love), and we’ve done a little hiking – Bash Bish Falls was a highlight.  Peanut sang a solo at the camp talent show.  I started baking bread.  But even with those highlights, it just feels like the earth is off its axis.

But I’m a naturally hopeful person, and I’m convinced we can still turn this ship around and salvage one of my favorite seasons.  Our family vacation is still ahead of us and I’m looking forward to long days of hiking Adirondack trails, splashing in Mirror Lake and sipping local Lake Placid brews.  I’ve read some wonderful books and I have a big stack of more summer reads waiting for me.  And right now, as I write this, the kids are running around the house playing “Magic Tree House,” and their little voices lift my heart like nothing else.

It’s been a weird summer.  But I’m finding joy where I can, and there’s more on the horizon.

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On Living Slow

Recently I was walking home from the Metro after another evening of working late – tired, of course, and hungry, because as usual I didn’t know that I’d be working late by the deadline to order dinner on the firm.  As I trudged up the steps to my front door, I waved hello to my next-door neighbor, who was gardening in her front yard.  She waved back, then frowned, and said “You must think that I have no life.”

I thought about that.  There she was, enjoying the peace of a long summer evening with her hands in the dirt, transplanting bunches of echinacea.  And there I was, just hoping that I’d made it home in time to kiss Nugget good night before he fell asleep (no hope on Peanut, who sacks out at about 6:45 every night).  “On the contrary,” I told her, “I think you have a lovely life.”

I wouldn’t classify life as particularly exciting at the moment.  I’m not a Hollywood starlet or an Olympic skier, or Meghan Markle.  But it sure does seem to be fast-paced.  My weeks are often spent at a breakneck speed, rushing to and from work, school or camp, and home.  From the time the kids wake up until the time they drop off to sleep, I’m either parenting – bumping around the kitchen making lunches, searching for sandals and lost toys, breaking up fights – commuting, or working.  If I’m lucky, some of those hours are made up with reading stories or playing trains.  But no matter what, it is constant.  And it feels as though it’s all happening at the speed of sound.  That’s not a comfortable or enjoyable pace for me, and I’ve found that the only way to get through this extended busy season is to take every opportunity I do get to slow down.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a life lived at a seasonal pace.  Even in high school, I dreamed of retreating to the mountains to live in a little cabin surrounded by lavender and mountain laurel.  I’d keep chickens, grow a big garden, and spend my days roaming the trails, swimming in a pristine lake, and writing the Great American Novel.  In the winter, I’d snowshoe through a balsam forest and then come home and curl up under a cream-colored blanket.  In the summer, I’d strum a guitar by a campfire – never mind that I don’t know how to play the guitar – and stockpile garden bounty for the colder months.  (Basically, I wanted to homestead before I knew that homesteading was a thing that happened outside of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel.)  Sometimes, in this fantasy, I had a family.  Other times, I was blissfully alone.  Of course, I knew that it was never going to happen.  But it sure was fun to think about.

I may not be living in an isolated mountain cabin.  My busy lawyer-mom life is a far cry from the hermit life I dreamed of living.  That’s a good thing.  I’d much rather live this life I’m living, hectic as it often is.  I wouldn’t trade my husband and kids, or our bustling city lifestyle.  But I do try to slow it down, especially on weekends when I have the luxury of doing so.  I love the slow things in life – long leisurely lunches, complete with a crisp rosé in the summer.  Picnics in the sunshine.  Long walks through peaceful wooded paths; bonus points for a breathtaking overlook.  Reading for hours.  Sipping a cup of tea while watching the rain pour down outside my window.  The extended process of bread-baking.  Sitting curled up on the couch in the children’s section of the library, watching my kids play with the latch boards and bead boxes.  Knitting a shawl.  Paddling my kayak down my favorite (gentle) stretch of Potomac or around an Adirondack lake.  The rhythmic sound of my running shoes on the Mount Vernon Trail.  Long conversations with a good friend.

Fast-paced things have never drawn me.  Steve loves fast cars and shoot-em-up video games; I don’t get the attraction at all.  I’m glad he knows what makes him happy, and glad to indulge him in his own personal joys.  But for me – I want something simpler.  I want time, time with friends, time with family, time with my kids.  I want quiet, and peace, and rest, and when I get those things I try to make them last.

What slow things make you happy?  Or do you like to live at a faster pace?

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2018 Goals: Midyear Update

It just occurred to me that we’re more than halfway through the year now, so a check-in on the goals I set at the beginning of January would be timely.  2018 hasn’t been the great year I was hoping for – both in the world (I suspected this) and personally, so far.  The first half of the year saw me putting in so much time at work that there has been little time to do anything else.  I’m not afraid of hard work, certainly, and I’m grateful to have a job and to be busy – but when you’re working every weekend until the end of April, it’s hard to find time to consistently do anything else.  Any spare time I have had this year has been reserved for the kids and for Steve.  Some years are like that, and again, I’m grateful to have them all and for this life that I am leading – but in the second half of the year, I am hoping for a little more time for me, too.  I know where I’d like that time to come from, so we’ll see.  With that disclaimer:

Outdoors/Fitness

  • Another 12 Month Hiking Project.  This is one area I can say I’m succeeding in!  It helps that hiking is something I can do with my family, and something that 3/4 of us really enjoy.  (Peanut isn’t always excited about trail time, but she’s learning that this is something we do as a family.)  I’ve been out on the trails every month of the year and have taken you along for the ride.
  • Complete the 52 Hike Challenge!  Again, I think I’m on track with this one.  I’m a bit behind – at 24 hikes for the year, so far, but with a hiking vacation coming up I’m expecting to make up the difference by fall.
  • Get into a workout routine.  This hasn’t happened yet – displaced by work and a preschooler who seems to wake up earlier every day.  It’s easy enough to say “just get up early and work out,” but when the three-year-old gets up at 5:00 a.m. as it is, how much earlier am I supposed to be waking up to sweat?

Relationships

  • Be a “yes mom.”  I’m trying – I’m trying hard at this one.  “No” has never been my default, as it is, but I’m working hard at thinking before I say no to the kids.  You want to go to the playground?  Sure.  Paint this rock at the kitchen table?  Why not!  Check out a stack of mind-numbingly awful Disney-themed easy readers from the library?  Go nuts (but I may sneak-return them when you’re not looking).  I’m sure there are times when I do say “no” unnecessarily – what parent doesn’t? – but I am trying.
  • Try to chill out overall.  This one – well, again, I am trying.  But it’s not going as well.  I’ve been feeling ground down by work pressure that has seemed never to end.  I recognize that we all have our pressures, and I am in a better position, thanks to all the hours I banked in the first half of the year, than my colleagues who are worried about making their billables as the end of our fiscal year approaches – barring some catastrophe, I’m in good shape there.  But it’s not been easy to chill out in general, when I have been working as much as I have.  It had to happen, but I could sure use a pressure valve, and I won’t make that my family.
  • Go on dates!  I’d give myself a solid C in this area.  We are going on dates, in large part because Steve recognizes that we have to throw our babysitter some work or she’ll stop responding to us and won’t be available when we actually need her (i.e. when the nanny calls in sick).  We’ve had a few dinners out, and we’re seeing Hamilton at the Kennedy Center this weekend (!!!!!).  But as with everything else, I could do better at this.  Part of my issue is, I feel like I get so little time with the kids as it is, given the crazy hours I’ve had to work this year, that I jealously hoard any hours I do get with them.  But I do recognize that it’s important to nurture my relationship with Steve, and that our healthy marriage is a gift we give to the kids – and date nights are a part of that, because we need that time for the two of us.  Getting into that mindset has helped a lot with my guilt at leaving them when I don’t have to, and having a couple of trusted babysitters (including our beloved nanny) has also made a difference.  Maybe we’ll make that grownups-only Billy Goat Trail hike happen this fall after all…

Personal / Self-Care

  • Pack my lunches.  Another solid C.  I was doing so badly with this at the end of 2017 that there was really nowhere to go but up, and up I have gone.  I don’t pack every day, but each month I’ve done a bit better.  Again, it’s been hard because of the volume of work I’ve had this year.  When you’re putting in 65+ hour workweeks (something that has happened, more than once) then any additional task seems so onerous as to be impossible.  I also pack lunches for the kids every day, and sometimes filling those two lunch bags require all of the mental energy I have in the morning – I have nothing left to devote to deciding what I will pack for myself.  But as with many habits, it does get easier.  It’s not easy yet, but I’m working on keeping the fridge stocked with healthy and homemade options for me as well as for the kids.
  • Step away from the screen.  What I have discovered is that there are two aspects to this goal – one is going well, and the other less well.  I read an article fairly recently that basically said, instead of worrying about kids’ screen time, worry about your own – don’t be zoned out in your devices around them.  That article made a huge impression and caused me to (1) fret a lot less about their time watching cartoons on the iPad – a losing battle, and also, see “be a yes mom,” above; and (2) make a conscious effort not to be on my phone around the kids.  When they’re present, the phone is usually in another room, unless I’m expecting an urgent call or email from work or am responding to something that cannot wait – but I don’t scroll Twitter or Facebook, or even my beloved Instagram, in front of them.  It’s definitely cut down on my screen time, which is good – for my relationship with them, and for my headaches, which my phone exacerbates.  That said, I could really do better about not mindlessly scrolling through my phone after they go to bed.  That’s my reading time, but I’ve been so mentally drained lately that I’ve turned to social media instead of books way too often post-bedtime.  I want to be better about that.
  • Explore natural healing and wellness options.  There’s very little to say about this goal.  If you’ve noticed, there’s a theme to this update, and the theme is – I’ve been working so much, I haven’t had time to do this.  As with the workout routine, packing lunches, etc. – this is a thing that I’d very much like to do, but it’s fallen by the wayside as work has consumed every free minute I’ve had most weeks.  Since I’m a naturally hopeful person, I do hope to make this a priority in the second half of the year.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Reading

  • Read fewer books.  According to Goodreads, I’d read 49 books through the end of June (and have logged five more since, for a total of 54).  That puts me on pace for about 98 books for the year, if I don’t pick up the pace – considering I had wanted to read 52, I guess this goal is a failure.  But I sort of knew going in that it would be.  I seem to land around 100 books for the year no matter what I do – that’s my sweet spot, apparently.
  • Check off some of the classics on my TBR.  Ooooh, this is one I’m doing fairly well with!  Of the 54 books I’ve read so far, about 15 of them are classics – including two Elizabeth Gaskells, one George Eliot, and one E.M. Forster, all from my TBR.  I have loved classic lit since I was a teenager, and I’ve been gravitating to it more and more as a comforting escape from the burdens I’m carrying in everyday life.  There’s nothing better than sinking into a really beautiful piece of literature.
  • Continue to make diverse reading a priority.  This is a tough one when you gravitate to classics – there just aren’t as many pieces of classic literature by people of color, due to historic discrimination.  So it takes some planning, and I try to choose diverse books for my literary fiction and nonfiction reading as much as possible, to make up the difference.  (I also try to read those classics by POC that are available – for instance, I have Their Eyes Were Watching God on my library stack at the moment, and I’m looking forward to picking that up soon.)  This is a goal that takes real planning and effort, but I think it’s worth it.  I’ve been making diverse reading a priority for a few years now, and it has enriched my reading experience tremendously.

Well, I think I’ve rambled enough.  I don’t feel like I want to write about my word for the year – begin – at the moment.  It’s on my mind all the time, and I’m trying to follow where it leads, but I don’t feel ready to talk about where this is going.  At least, not right now.

As you can see, the theme of 2018 so far has been – not enough time.  Not enough time to focus on me.  Not enough time with my kids.  Not enough time to work out, or go on date nights, or do so many of those things that make life worthwhile.  I wish that wasn’t the case; I wish I had something more uplifting to say.  Maybe reviewing the goals I set at the beginning of the year will give me the push I need to prioritize them when I can, and to be gentle on myself when work and parenting eat up the entire week and I have nothing left to give by Friday (which is something that happens, and not infrequently).  What can I say?  I’m very much a work in progress.

Did you set goals for 2018?  How’s it going?

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