On Writing, and Being Known

“You certainly have a way with words… when you take your time,” my 11th grade US History teacher said as he handed my paper on Hemingway back to me, a big red “A” scrawled on top.

Writing has always been my thing. It’s as natural to me as drawing air into my lungs. I discovered the transformative power of journaling at an early age, filling page after page of cheap spiral bound notebooks with both the mundane and the significant events of my life. I’ve written love letters, hundreds of LiveJournal entries, and one slightly ridiculous poem about sugar cubes. I’m often not sure how I feel about something until the words are flowing through my pen. Words are my super power.

unknownlandscape

unknown landscape, 4″ x 6″. Shot and printed sometime in college, probably 2005.

I’m quite certain my journal literally saved my life the year I was 20, the year my anxiety caught up with me and I was drowning in depression. My mental state was roughly equal to the surface tension of water. I couldn’t turn off the tears, I’d lay on my bed in a ball and imagined myself sinking into the mattress and then disappearing completely. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to be here anymore. Practically every night I dreamt about something horrible and unspeakable happening to one of my five siblings. It was the most desperation I have ever felt in my entire life and I never want to go back to that place (my thoughts from that time still terrify me on a truly primal level). My journal then was an anchor made of paper, the thing that kept me rooted in place, the thing that allowed me to occasionally pull up for air from the darkest depths while my brain healed itself with therapy and medication. And time.

But gradually, I stopped writing as much. Life became full with graduate school, and full-time employment, and a man who knew how to love me even when I was having a full-blown panic attack in our bathroom. My brain wasn’t telling me as many lies, not going haywire over every perceived danger. I still kept up my journals, but I would go weeks between entries. There are many things that happened that I did not even give a cursory mention.

Although writing has been my gig since I left my library job at the end of 2012, I have not been taking my time. I’ve been writing, but not my own stories. Not the stories that matter, not the things that help me make sense of where and who I am and how I even got to this place.

I signed up for Known, a creative storytelling workshop with Coffee + Crumbs, because my creativity has been at all time low, because I’m starting to forget what it feels like to be anything other than a wife and mom. I love being those things; my husband and son are my everything. But I know there’s more depth to me than that.

Since the workshop started earlier this month, I’ve filled pages and pages of my journal with notes from the weekly lessons. And I’ve written, a tsunami of words. I’ve written about a loss I’ve never shared and the boy who had my heart when I was eighteen, and what it feels like now, to be 32.

I forgot what this felt like.

Of being exhausted not because my insomnia is back (again) but because I’d been writing after I put the baby to bed and couldn’t turn it off, memories of things that happened over a decade ago suddenly flooding back like it happened yesterday. Of feeling buoyant because I was putting my words out into the universe instead of letting them weigh down my heart and clog up my brain. Of the satisfaction that I’d made something today other than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut into tiny squares.

This is what it feels like to practice my craft. I pour another cup of coffee and I keep going, taking my time.

 

The stories of our own lives require active searching—learning to look through our memories in a new way. To find story in your life, you must engage imagination with memory; you must invent a line of continuity—not from nothing, but from the raw materials of your life. It’s like reading a pattern in DNA or figuring out the possible anagrams in a word. To find story in your life, you have to know what you’re looking for.

Tristine Rainer, Your Life as Story

June Recap + July Goals

It’s halfway through July and this post has been languishing, mostly finished, in my drafts. But better late than never, eh?

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First, a recap of my June goals:

Self-care

  • Pick a weekend for a ‘momcation’ and make a hotel reservation
  • Continue fine-tuning nightly routine Done, but still room for improvement. Building solid routines is a life goal for me right now (so much easier to raise a family with routines in place), so I’m going to continue to work on this one.
  • Try dry brushing My husband thinks I’m weird. 

Health + Wellness

  • Work on increasing water and vegetable intake Probably? I need to figure out a good way to track this
  • Schedule appointment for MTHFR testing Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an appointment until mid-August, and even then I can’t expect any answers from that appointment. 

Work

  • Attend Mommycon I was in bed with a sinus infection the day before the conference, so I was only able to go to a couple of sessions in the morning, but I’m glad I went. 
  • Submit at least 1 piece to a contributor network Nope
  • Continue working on editor spreadsheet No progress on this

Family

  • 1 date and 1 at-home date with husband (at least!) Half done since we managed an at-home date. 
  • Try 3 process art activities from First Art for Toddlers and Twos with E 2/3 done, he played around with paint on a canvas one day and made a sticky collage. I was really impressed with how long he stayed interested in his painting activity. The sticky collage wasn’t as well received.
  • Edit, upload and print photos from April + May 2015 (yes, I’m really a full year behind!) I really need to prioritize this

Just for Fun

IMG_4636

July Goals

Self-care

  • Continue fine-tuning nightly routine and track progress in journal
  • Known workshop This is a writing workshop from Coffee + Crumbs and  I am so very glad  signed up for it
  • Momcation at the end of the month

Work

  • Add 10 entries to editor list
  • Submit at least one piece to a contributor network

Family

  • Edit, upload and print photos from April, May and June 2015
  • 4 activities with E from Artful Parenting 101
  • At least 2 at-home dates with the husband. I’d aim for a real date in there, but my parents (aka free babysitting)  will be out of town a lot in July.

Just for Fun

Notes on June

Happy Friday, Happy July. Here are some good things I found on the internet over the last month:

june links

Kelsey has some good advice for fitting in creative projects when you have lots of demands on your time.

The things we don’t want to inherit from our parents: “My dad died on my first day of eighth grade. I was sad, but he’d been so absent in my life that I was also, to some degree, fine. I stopped thinking about him as much, stopped talking about him with pride like I had when I was younger. I didn’t want to celebrate him, I didn’t want to mourn him. I just didn’t want to deal with him.”

I really enjoyed reading about Mandi’s fitness journey with weight loss and nutrition. I love hearing how moms with small children make their health a priority!

This has me convinced I need to try morning pages.

I was never a Lisa Frank fan but this is an interesting look into the company.

Finding time to read as a busy mom.

I just discovered the Cohesive Home podcast and I love it– short episodes about simple living with kids.

And I found a recent episode of Janet Lansbury Unruffled particularly helpful as we deal with curbing E’s aggressive behavior.

LOVE this planner and stationery IG feed.

Currently | June 2016

currently

Loving the 90 degree temps. Summers in Central Texas definitely aren’t for the faint of heart, but the hot weather and extra sunshine does wonders for my mood.

Reading The Nest. I’m not super into it (possibly because I started it and stopped it a couple of times and am still having a hard time keeping track of all the characters even though I’m 80% done with the book). Next up is One True Loves for book club.

Teaching a lot of Stroller Strides classes this month.

Eating this honey mustard chicken salad over and over again. So good!

Wearing linen everything. I picked up some linen shorts, a drape-y linen tank, and two linen blend dresses from Gap and they are basically all I want to wear right now.

Excited about the Artful Parenting 101 eCourse I signed up for.

Attending MommyCon in a couple of weeks.

Wanting a new jogging stroller. The 2016 Stroller Strides dualie was just released, so I’m hoping the single isn’t far behind!

Watching The Bachelorette. I’ve never watched it before, but man, am I hooked.

Planning a budget-friendly refresh of our family room. I’ve got my eye on the Ektorp sofa from Ikea because of the washable slipcover. Exactly what I need in my life right now!

Drinking Topo Chico Twist of Lime like it’s going out of style.

Goals for June

Hello? It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this space. Life has been a bit too full this past year, and like many other things, blogging fell to the bottom of the list. And yet the funny thing about writing for a living is that it’s really so much easier when you are also writing for fun. So I’m making a commitment to myself to be back here a bit more regularly (once a week? a few times a month?) in the hopes that completing freelance projects starts to feel less like pulling teeth.

And in an effort to live a more balanced life, I sat down and thought about what I would like to accomplish this month.

June Goals

Self-care

  • Pick a weekend for a ‘momcation’ and make a hotel reservation
  • Continue fine-tuning nightly routine
  • Try dry brushing

Health + Wellness

  • Work on increasing water and vegetable intake
  • Schedule appointment for MTHFR testing

Work

  • Attend Mommycon
  • Submit at least 1 piece to a contributor network
  • Continue working on editor spreadsheet

Family

  • 1 date and 1 at-home date with husband (at least!)
  • Try 3 process art activities from First Art for Toddlers and Twos with E
  • Edit, upload and print photos from April + May 2015 (yes, I’m really a full year behind!)

Just for Fun

7 Commandments for the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was swell. I, for one, am glad to be back in our usual routine though this first week has felt exceptionally long. As previously mentioned, I am a huge fan of setting New Year’s resolutions and goals. And while I have plenty of those this year, I took it a step further this year by also thinking about what “rules” I would give myself for living well in 2016. New Year’s resolutions for mothers, in a sense. Here’s what I came up with:

New Year Resolutions for Mothers

  • Be mindful of what comes into your home. Clutter is one of my biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to maintaining a tidy home. I’ve found it helpful to just not bring things home in the first place. This goes for buying things that I could really survive without or accepting free things that I don’t really need. I recently came across an old post on Gretchen Rubin’s blog about the 27 most important rules for keeping your house in order (that’s some evergreen content right there). Worth a read, and if you want to keep up with any other gems I find online, be sure you’re following me on Twitter.
  • Use your library card, and otherwise be a good steward of your money. I’ve fallen into a bad habit of just buying books because it’s slightly easier than borrowing. But this a) leads to piles of stuff (the actual books, plus the packaging it arrives in), and, b) deprives me of the opportunity to support my public library (which, having been to library school, is actually something I feel passionately about). It’s really not the best use of my money.
  • Write for yourself. If I were a superhero, words would be my superpower.  Words are my thing. Writing them, indexing them, wrangling them into digestible bits of information. I don’t want to sound like a tortured soul, but I’m a better person when I’m writing. And more specifically, when I’m writing a lot. It’s easy for me to get so focused on client work that I forget to write just for fun, and then writing, regardless of what I’m writing about, becomes a whole lot less enjoyable. I don’t want that. I’m committing to writing more words, just for the heck of it.
  • Live your truth without apologies. My life, for better or for worse, doesn’t look like anyone else’s. I’m grateful for that. I think, in this world of over-connectivity, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that my reality is one that should be pitted against my peers. But what is there to gain? In 2016 I want to keep my eyes on my own paper, so to speak.
  • Build routines, even especially when you don’t want to. I thrive in routine, but I am incredibly resistant to starting them. A certain routine will sound like a good idea to me, but when it comes time to repeat it for the twelfth time, my inclination is to say, “ugh, this again?” and make up an excuse to skip it (“I’m really tired. It doesn’t really matter if I wipe down the kitchen counters before bed.”). Except it does matter to me later on (when I wake up to a dirty kitchen or when I have to dig through a pile of laundry to find something clean to wear). I think I’ve gotten a lot better at forcing myself to do things repeatedly to the point where it eventually becomes second nature, but there’s always room for improvement.
  • Keep your home smelling like lemons. A few months ago I had this sudden realization that I wanted my home to smell like lemons. Lemons are fresh, clean, and energizing. Not a bad vibe for your home, right? “Clean” is subjective, and maybe impossible to achieve with a toddler tornado and four (hairy) pets, but the smell of lemons? That’s a clear yes or no. Despite my best efforts, my home does not always smell like lemons. Sometimes it smells like trash that needs to be taken out, but this gives me a clear destination to work towards.
  • Be kind. Both to myself and to others. I think if there’s one thing we can all agree about the current state of the world is that it needs more kindness. I’m not likely to achieve world peace by speaking more gently to my husband or not laying on the horn when someone cuts me off while driving, but it couldn’t hurt. Ripple effects and all that.

Creating Really Awesome Free Things by Jamie Dorobek

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Creating Really Awesome Free Things by Jamie DorobekCreating Really Awesome Free Things by Jamie Dorobek
Published by Adams Media on November 6th 2015
Genres: Family & Relationships, Activities, Crafts & Hobbies, General
Pages: 224
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

100 kid-friendly projects from the creator of C.R.A.F.T.!
Get ready for some serious family fun! Filled with 100 fun crafts, Creating Really Awesome Free Things helps you develop your child's creativity, imagination, and fine motor skills--all while using common household items. Each budget-friendly project features step-by-step instructions and keeps kids entertained, engaged, and learning all day long. You and your children will love recreating one-of-a-kind crafts like:

Memory Game
Egg Carton Flowers
Key Wind Chime
Ring Toss
Lion Mask

Complete with photographs for every project, Creating Really Awesome Free Things promotes hours of playtime fun with the entire family!

The really awesome blogger behind Creating Really Awesome Free Things, Jamie Dorobek, recently published her first book. Like her blog, it’s called C.R.A.F.T., and it features over 100 Seriously Fun, Super-Easy Projects for Kids. Jamie was kind enough to send over a copy for E and me to review, and I’m so glad she did!

Craft by jamie dorobek

This book is a parent’s dream come true. First of all, it’s jam-packed with projects (it really feels like there’s more than 100, but maybe that’s because they’re all awesome?). I can see the projects appealing to a wide range of ages, from toddlers to tweens. And everything’s made with super simple supplies, stuff you probably already have hanging around the house (that’s the free part!). This is the book you’re going to want to have in about 3 weeks when the holiday excitement is long gone and everyone is BORED and tired of being stuck inside (assuming you don’t live in Texas, anyway, it was 80 degrees the day I wrote this post). There’s also tons of full-color photos and interesting little facts sprinkled throughout (did you know sushi is traditionally a finger food?).

Craft by jamie dorobek bird feeder

E and I decided to tackle the bird feeder on page 210. It took all of 2 minutes to gather supplies (an empty toilet paper roll, peanut butter, a knife, and birdseed), which was good because that’s approximately the attention span of my crafting assistant. E enjoyed spreading the peanut butter on the toilet paper roll, I coated it with bird seed, and we hung it on a branch visible from our backdoor. I saw increased avian activity in the backyard a couple of hours later, so I’m going to call the project a success!

Craft by jamie dorobek bird feeder 2

There are many other projects in the book that I’d love to try with E, like the ziptop bag sheep. C.R.A.F.T. is a great addition to our library of craft books, and I can’t wait to dive into it more.

Bored with Motherhood: How to Bust Out of a Mama Rut

What to do when you're bored with motherhood

 

Having a baby is a lot like being thrown to a pack of wolves: pure survival mode. Everything is uncharted territory while you get to know this tiny human you’re tasked with keeping alive, and your daily to-do list is reduced to the bare minimum of eating, sleeping, and making sure you’re both (somewhat) clean. But sooner or later, life with this brand new little person becomes routine, and you might look up and realize your life has become a dull, never-ending cycle of naps, grocery store runs, and laundry. In short, you’ve found yourself bored with motherhood. It can be disheartening, especially for a mama who previously fancied herself an interesting, well-rounded individual. But never fear! There are plenty of simple ways you can bust out of this rut and put a little pep back in your step.

bored with motherhood

Bored with Motherhood? 7 Things to Try

Get sweaty.

Love it or hate it, exercise is good for you. Aside from the obvious reasons for working out (burning calories, toning muscles that got a little flabby during pregnancy), those endorphins can’t be beat for making you feel like you could kick some serious ass and take on the world. I swear by Fit4Mom (and really great option for mamas who are ready to work out but not ready to leave baby in the care of someone else), but a Y membership is also affordable and usually comes with childcare. Can’t leave your house? There are tons of exercise videos on YouTube.

Find your tribe.

Being around other moms who are in this same season of life can be very uplifting and energizing. If you’re not blessed with a group of friends who all had children around the same time, you might have to do a little leg work to find your tribe. Join MOPS or MOMS club, or find other local groups of like-minded parents on Facebook (Babywearing International, Hike It Baby, and a free forest school all have large, active groups in my neck of the woods) or meetup.com

Get out of the house.

Pretty much every SAHM/WAHM I’ve met swears by getting out of the house once a day. Again, Fit4Mom is perfect for this, but you can also look into some classes or memberships that are appropriate for your baby or kiddos. Swimming, Music Together, Gymboree, Little Gym, children’s museum, zoo, aquarium, story time (not just at the public library, many bookstores and toy stores have weekly events, too) are all great options for infants to preschoolers. It’s easy to spend a fortune on classes and memberships, but there are probably a ton of free events in your area, too.

Switch up your routine. 

It sounds silly, but even shopping at a different grocery store can feel new and different. You might even discover that you spend less time or money shopping at a new store versus your previous go-t0.

Squeeze in some pampering.

Schedule a pedicure, pick up a face mask and new nail polish on one of your thrice-weekly Target runs (don’t tell me I’m the only one that ends up there more than once a week), even taking 30 seconds to slather on some night cream can help you feel so much better about yourself.

Give yourself permission to be creative.

A creative challenge can be good for your soul, too. If you have a hobby that you’ve largely abandoned since becoming a mom, jump back into it. Or pick up an entirely new hobby. Let’s face it, some hobbies just aren’t very compatible with parenthood, particularly if it involves leaving the house. If you’re looking for something cheap, easy, and totally relaxing, try an adult coloring book. Pairs nicely with a podcast or audiobook.

Workout your brain.

Motherhood certainly does a great job of turning your brain to mush. Want to feel smart and up-to-date again? Grab a book of crossword puzzles, Sudoku or logic puzzles (I always hated math, but I did love logic puzzles!) and start forging new neural pathways to replace the ones your kid destroyed. They’re also strangely relaxing and gives you a chance to use a different part of your brain (you know, the part that doesn’t calculate how little sleep you got last night). Read a book off the current best-seller list or grab a news magazine (The Week is my favorite).

Notes on November

horsesI hate being cold (I know, I know, I live in Austin, but basically every time it gets below 60 degrees I can no longer feel my hands) but I do love this time of year. There’s a lot going on and life is full, but there’s also the pull to reevaluate, to shake things up. The past two years I’ve missed out on that post-Christmas navel gazing. In 2013, I’d just had a baby and in 2014 I had ptosis surgery the day after Christmas. I’m truly glad both those things occurred (my kid is awesome, having surgery over the holidays meant my mom was available for childcare), but I’m really looking forward to some serious introspection next month, unhindered by recuperation.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, including an early birthday celebration for my almost-two-year-old (we’ll have another small party on his actual birthday). And now we’re rolling on to Christmas, counting down the days with advent activities. But before then, here are a few things I found interesting over the last month.