Posted in ebb & flow, motivation, storytelling

When it’s hard to write

I accepted a challenge on Halloween to blog daily.

Beginning November 1, I’ve shared my writing here every day.

Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes less so.

I was never worried about having enough to say; I have plenty of thoughts to share and writing is so much easier for me than talking.

I expected my biggest hurdle would be time, since that’s what it’s always been in the past. (Or that’s what I let it be.)

I was wrong.

It’s energy.

When I have a bad day at work and/or The Kid is needy and/or The Climbing Daddy is not amazing, it’s hard to write. There’s just not a lot of juice left, and the things that are in my brain are typically not appropriate to blog about.

I’ve been able to work through that. I feel that the quality of those posts is lower, but I don’t know what readership might think. My favorite posts and the favorite posts of the masses rarely match.

The biggest time factor is that I don’t write then hit publish. I write and let it sit and edit and maybe let it sit again and edit again and then hit publish.

I have never gone back to a post for the first edit and changed nothing. There is always something to tighten up. (If you do writing, you should edit, too. Just sayin’.)

Sometimes, the time between writing and editing is only an hour or two, but usually it’s a day or more. It’s not often that I write and you read on the same day.

I’m liking this challenge so far. I haven’t been working on my book as much as I’d like, but I have a plan in place to spend more time on that during and after spring break. The goal is to have it done in 2019.

I love it when someone discovers my blog and is interested enough to click through and keep reading. Happens from time to time. I add a follower or two every week; up to 31 so far. My mailing list, which receives a week’s worth of posts once a week, is steady.

But mostly, I’ve been writing every day, and that feels good.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering

Right now…

From my Facebook memories:

“Lots of sirens in the distance. I am snuggled in my bed. Every now and then, I am struck by just how different everyone’s experiences are right in this moment.”

I wrote something similar at some other point as well, while a few close friends were going through drastically different things simultaneously: one had a baby the same morning another closed on a house while another had a parent die while another was packing to move out of her house and marriage.

Sometimes I think with a long view about people’s life paths.

But in this case, I’m thinking just about this moment in time.

In the time that I’ve spent writing, people have died, people have been born, people have been taken to and released from prison. Kids have started and ended school. Job shifts have started, ended, and dragged on. People have been intimidated and liberated. Loves found and lost. Ignorance perpetuated and eradicated. All of these interactions have involved at least two people, sometimes many more. Ripples begin to move.

It’s amazing anything works at all.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope

Everyone is tired

The political climate is sucking the life energy out of us.

There is too much to fight to be able to do it all.

There is too much going on even to stay on top of it all.

There are too many giant steps backwards, undoing decades of work.

There are too many people whose humanity we’ve forgotten or have further degraded.

But on a personal level, as a person who is not immediately impacted by any of it (see: privilege), it’s impacting: people are tired.

Not tired from being too busy—that’s always been a variable.

Tired from all the stuff.

Tired in that “I need an evening to myself” kind of way, but it’s now a relentless fatigue, even with quiet time or fun time or whatever time built in.

People are in touch less. Harder to talk with, even just about day-to-day stuff. Harder to get together with.

I don’t have an actionable solution.

I don’t know how to shift energy expenditure.

I don’t know how to spend the day at work and have energy when I get home, how to give to work what I end up giving to family.

(I’m saying “I” but it’s not just me—I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen people—initiated by them—in the last two months.)

I don’t know how to be aware of what’s going on in my country, my state, my town, my school district, my and my son’s schools without it draining energy at every level.

I want to talk to people about health, about diet and exercise and nasty chemicals in common household items, about raising kids to be mentally healthy (to the extent that we guide that), about cooking and playing and painting and writing and on and on and on…

…but who has energy left to examine their habits, much less change them, when it takes all the energy just to make it through the day?

How do we fix this, friends? How do we reclaim our energy and connect with the people around us?

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness

Accountability to self

Who are you doing it for?

Are you doing it to better yourself? (In what way? Why?)

Are you just trying to impress people?

When you eat junk hiding in the bathroom, or tell your people you went to the gym when you didn’t, or pretend you ran faster than you did… why?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do every day. Even with time off, I’m not doing all (or even most) of these things every day.

So I decided to make a chart. It’s on my dresser and tracks a week at a time. About me. For me.

On it, there are all of the self-care things that I need to do every day and all of the things that in theory I would do every day but realistically don’t have time for. But I could do all of them a couple of times per week.

Exercise. Stretch. Foam roll. Meditate. Work on my book. Spend time with friends. Eat produce every color of the rainbow. Sleep. (Enough.) Put stuff on the stupid plantar wart.

This just helps me to monitor, and to keep things a little more in the forefront of my mind.

There are a lot of things on there. I decided before I made it that it’s not a daily to-do list; that would just be stressful. More of a “how am I doing this week?” list.

Things change when you monitor them, and I believe this will spur change for the better. We’ll see.

I also have sweets and caffeine on there, just to keep track of my intake of those. Many (not all) of the teas I drink in the cold mornings are caffeinated, and I don’t have much issue with that. But if I have too much or drink it too consistently, then I get a withdrawal migraine when I stop. And I don’t want to drink enough caffeine to go into withdrawal.

Sweets is just to make sure that what I think I’m doing and what I’m actually doing match, and it includes all of ’em. Even if I just take a Peppermint Patty out of the candy jar at work. (Oddly, those have been tempting. No other candy is. Though I’m typically only at that school during my fasting period nowadays anyway, so it’s irrelevant.)

Nuts and bolts for copycats: I made the list, organized it, wrote it on a sheet of white-lined paper, and put it in a picture frame. You can write on/wipe off dry erase markers on glass. It’s so much nicer looking and uses less plastic.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering, storytelling

Tell me your story

I’ve heard so many stories of people’s celebrations … so many stories of Christmases not exactly as planned but still lovely … of new beginnings … of “probably the lasts” … of new traditions with old people … of old traditions with new people …

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. If you haven’t, please do, regardless of the happiness of the story. What made this year special? Or extra-happy? Or extra-sad? Or some odd combination of lots of things that maybe don’t even usually go together? With or without photos. I love to hear your stories.

Posted in ebb & flow, food, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, tips

The path and the results

Yesterday, I posted more or less the transcript of my session about sugar, and I promised you that today, I would give you advice on dealing with all of that information and what you can expect as a result of your hard work.

Read labels. (Ask me if you don’t know how—I’ll teach you.)

Use a journal or an app or whatever works for you to keep track of how much sugar you’re currently taking in. All of it. Read ALL of your labels. There is sugar hiding in so many foods that aren’t sweet.  This is not to judge—it’s to know where you’re starting.

The current WHO recommendation is less than 18 grams per day of added sugars.

If you’re over that, look at where you can start shaving it down.

If you’re like me, “moderation” is bullshit and you need to just cut it until it’s under control. (I’ll write more about this thought another day.)

If you’re like me, you’re an emotional eater and you need to make a plan for what you’re going to do when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re stressed, when you’re whatever state of being causes intense sugar cravings.

Overeating sugar is a SUPER COMMON PROBLEM. There is no shame in this. You are not alone, and anyone who judges you is wrestling with the same problem and can’t face it yet.

Your value as a human being has no connection to how much junk food you eat.

I’m not gonna lie—quitting sugar is hard. Partially because we have been trained to believe we deserve it (see decades of being rewarded by parents, teachers, etc. with candy, ice cream, etc.). Partially because it’s ubiquitous, so it’s difficult to avoid contact/temptation. Partially because sometimes people in our lives react badly to us trying to live better and make it harder for us. (I’ll write more about this thought another day.)

But it’s worth the work.

When you quit sugar and it loses its hold on you, you experience liberation that you didn’t even know you needed.

You stop thinking about food all the time.

You stop shaming yourself for eating crap all the time.

You save time and money by not seeking out and buying junk all the time.

You don’t spend so much time feeling guilty.

Your moods are better.

Your energy level is higher.

And eventually, you can have a sweet here or there without it becoming all-consuming.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m saying it will be worth it.

And I challenge you to instill eating habits in your children that will help them not to have the same struggles that you have.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, motivation

Sometimes, you need to go with inspiration

The Climbing Daddy suggested a few weeks ago that over winter break, maybe we should paint the living room.

I was very excited about this! As far as I’m concerned, the best reason to own instead of rent is to be able to paint real colors. Most of our house is still need-to-sell-it tan.

We were talking in the last few days, and decided instead to paint it before our Christmas Eve Eve party on Sunday.

So the plan was:

Thursday: move furniture. Tape and do other prep.

Friday: paint.

Saturday: move furniture and undo other prep.

He actually moved quite a bit of the furniture yesterday morning after I went to work before he went to work. (I got a surprise text with photo!)

I moved the rest after I got home before he did, and did inventory on what painting supplies we had.

Priorities: we went for a run before continuing the evening.

To buy the paint, we ended up at a different store so we looked through chips again and ended up with a color similar but brighter than what we had originally chosen. Happy day!

We stopped off at an Indian restaurant for dinner, thinking that eating in would only take marginally longer than ordering out, would be fresher, have less trash, etc.

We were wrong. They were very slow. But the food was really tasty. But they were very slow.

In the course of conversation yesterday, we decided to go climbing this afternoon. But that was going to take a chunk out of painting time. So since there was still time last night, I decided to do all the cutting, and then just the rolling would be left for today.

The Climbing Daddy is not a huge fan of painting and as such, doesn’t do it often (well, I don’t do it often, but often enough), so he was having trouble. I told him that I’d take care of it (since I enjoy it), and he could hang out or go to bed or work on other things. (He got some good stuff done while I painted!)

And then … after cutting, I rolled, because it was so close to done and rolling doesn’t take that long and … then it was after midnight.

Usually, blog posts get written a day or more ahead of time so I can let them sit, then revisit and edit (tomorrow and Sunday’s are already done), but this one? Not so much. I’ll let it sit an hour before I edit and share.

It’s Friday! I’m sleepy (though I woke up an hour before the alarm! There was time to write!). I’m excited (the living room is green!). It’s my last day of work for two weeks (so many grades to do today…).

Honestly … this painting story is the kind of story that I’m excited to tell but very few if any are excited to listen to, so instead, I decided to share it here <smile>

The moral of the story is—sometimes, it’s worth going with the flow and energy on a project, especially if it’s work that might not be as exciting when the scheduled time comes.

And unless the daylight shows a lot of touching up to do (artificial light is showing a few spots), this afternoon, I’ll take a nap before climbing.

Happy Friday!

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Perfectionism, skill, imposter syndrome

I am a recovering perfectionist.

For a long time, everything had to be just right. Edit, erase, start over. Make sure there’s always a straight-edge handy. No streaks, no cracks, no chips.

I realize this is fear-based.

I’m better about it. I don’t spend an hour carefully curating which font I’m going to use on slides for public presentations. Find one, make sure it’s good enough (primarily: legible), and spend the time on the real work.

I’ve hand-drawn cards for my students with music notes on them that are not each exactly the same. Someone volunteered to laminate and cut these cards for me, and they’re not all the same size. Deep breath, use them anyway, they still work fine.

However…

I am also not always a good judge of “good enough” versus “the best I can do right now” (which might not really be good enough).

I was looking through pictures from an old blog the other day. I had shared quite a few recipes, and there was one pic with each … and many of them were not good at all.

These kinds of realizations make it a little bit harder for me not to get thrown back into perfectionism, or into give-up-ism, or just into heightened self-consciousness.

Ultimately, my photography skills are limited (though that’s on my to-do list, and has been longer than I’ve been blogging) and my photography tools are limited (phone, though a real camera is on my wish list).

(That’s why I’ve given myself permission not to have a photo with every blog post. If I don’t have one or can’t relatively easily take one that works for the post, I’m going without. It’s not a photo blog—they’re here to enhance or to attract, but the words are what I’m here for and, I assume, what you’re here for.)

And you see how defensive I immediately became? Oof. Brains are funny. And this post isn’t supposed to be about photography! So then I debate: edit those paragraphs down (or out) and stick more closely to the topic, or keep them in and let it be more real?

Today, real wins. Paragraphs stay. (Sometimes, I choose to stick to the topic more closely.)

This rabbit hole occasionally brings me to this: what is life like for people who don’t have this problem? People who can create the details (like the font, or the photo), and be satisfied with it, and be correct that it is satisfying, and then move on? Or is that one of those things where I’m comparing my insides to others’ outside and everyone who creates anything has this struggle in some capacity? Or am I expecting to be able to do something easily that others have spent hours working on?

That happens with my students. Often. They see that I can play instruments easily. They see some other students who can play their instruments easily. And they assume they “just can’t do it.” When really … they need to put in the time.

I would take better photos with more practice, for sure. Would I choose fonts more easily?

How do you differentiate between imposter syndrome and just needing more skill?

What’s your experience?

Posted in about me, ebb & flow

Take a little break

The creeping crud is creeping around here. The Kid has missed two days of school. I’m just starting to get a little stuffy. The Climbing Daddy has been coughing a bit.

This afternoon, The Kid and I needed something a little different. So we took coloring sheets and colored pencils out back on the porch, sat in the sun, and colored for half an hour.

Half an hour outside in the sun, unplugged, relaxing, together.

Good for the heart, mind, body.

I’m not in a regular habit of relaxing like that, and I know many others aren’t, either.

Take some time to recharge. You’ll feel better. You’ll be a better mom/spouse/friend/employee.

Posted in ebb & flow, gifts, hope, mindset, podcasts, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: creativity (and so much more)

TED has started a new podcast series called TED Interviews, where Chris Anderson interviews people who have give TED talks about their talks, and they get more in depth.

I haven’t quite listened to all of them, but all that I’ve listened to have been captivating. (As of this writing, there are only six of them.)

I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, mostly known for writing Eat, Pray, Love. (I haven’t read it.)

First, they got into creativity. She talked a short bit about the history of creativity (who knew there was one?!) I loved the imagery in what she had to say:

“The way I describe it is the way I’ve empirically experienced it, which is broken down in my life to this notion: that ideas are living entities. They have consciousness. They don’t have matter. They can’t be seen, they can’t be felt, they can’t be proven, but they have will. And the way I picture it—and it’s sort of whimsical but I have also literally based my life on this—is the universe is sort of swirling with these ideas that wish to be created and they’re constantly looking for human collaborators because for some reason we have this oddly sensitive consciousness that can hear them and find them. And so the way I picture it is they sort of just roam around being like, ‘Are you my mother? Are you my mother? Are you my mother?’ And every single human who is struck by inspiration describes the experience exactly the same way … there’s this distraction where the idea sort of consumes you and in that consuming which can take months, weeks, years, the idea is interviewing you and asking you, ‘Do you wanna do this thing with me or not?’ And that’s the most important conversation that I think human beings can have, is that dialogue between your willingness to cooperate and show up and make something with this idea and manifest it and the idea’s desire to be made and the question of whether you are indeed the right partner.”

Whimsical was a solid word to describe the idea, but I love the imagery. Even more, though, I love the ownership of the work, and how the idea doesn’t just come and magically happen—it’s a partnership. “Your labor is the contribution to the miracle.” (She says that later.)

She talked more about that in other places in the podcast as well.

They also talked about curiosity vs. passion, enchantment vs. empiricism, fear, memes (not the pictures on the internet), secular magic, dark night of the soul, why to do the work if it’s likely to fail, and quite a bit about grieving.

It’s an hour long, and it’s well worth your hour. I listened to it twice, in addition to the bits I listened and paused so I could transcribe.