Random Thoughts & Updates

Hello friends! I had coffee with a couple of girlfriends the other morning. One mentioned that she’d seen my post on my time study and block scheduling up on the Living Well Spending Less Facebook page. The other gave me a shocked look. “You’re still blogging?”

If posting once a month counts as blogging, then yes. Yes, I am. The truth is I miss it. The reality is that things have been chaotic here, for reasons good and bad. I thought I’d fill you in. First up? The not-so-good.

Holding hands hospital

My 79-year-old father became quite ill after complications arose from surgery. He’s been in the hospital for over a month now, including a very scary stay in intensive care. I’m relieved and happy to report that he’s on the mend in a rehabilitation facility now, and he should be going home in the next week or so. While I’m anxious for him to be able to go home, it has been mildly amusing to tell people my dad’s in rehab.

I’ve been blessed to have aging parents (my mother is 80) in remarkably good health. Blessed and naive, as now that I’ve been through this experience I realize what an incredible burden so many of you caregivers are facing. Managing your own family while simultaneously trying to care for elderly parents is challenging and exhausting. I was reminded of how I felt after I had my first child. All the years prior, I thought I knew what I could do to be helpful to new parents. Newsflash: I had no idea. It wasn’t until I went through it myself that I realized how incredibly unhelpful I’d been, but also what was truly helpful. Some people seem to have a natural ability to sense what is needed to care for and comfort others in trying times. God bless these people, but I’m not one of them.

As I come through the other side of this experience, I feel badly for the missed opportunities to help friends who’ve undergone something similar in the past. Instead of dwelling on how I failed them, though, I’m thankful for the insight on how I can be a better friend next time around. A few things I found very helpful myself:

  • Gift cards. We ate out a lot, and I found myself looking for a daily pick-me-up at Starbucks. Gift cards to coffee shops and local restaurants helped ease the financial burden of extra visits.
  • Phone calls and texts. Just knowing others were thinking of me and my dad was a comfort. It was also wonderful to have a few close friends willing to just let me vent and say things that weren’t always nice or selfless.
  • Offers to entertain kids. A win-win for everyone in the family: the kids can get a break and have some fun, the parents can spend the time they need at the hospital without worrying about child care.
  • Wine and/or chocolate. No words needed.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been busy with clients! On my List of 100 Dreams, I stated that I wanted to start my own social media consulting business. I dove in earlier this year and business is starting to pick up. I’m managing social media and digital content for a local non-profit, and I’m starting to take on individuals for social media consulting and strategy development. My focus is on helping individuals and small business owners/entrepreneurs develop a plan for how to use social media to their advantage. My mission is to make social media manageable and not scary for those who know they need it but don’t know where to start. So if that sounds like you or someone you know, send them my way!

Viburnum in bloom

A few other things:

* I haven’t forgotten or given up on book recommendations. I couldn’t possibly, as I’ve read some really good stuff this year! That post is next on my list.

* Our twentieth wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks! We’re celebrating with an overnight stay at the 21c Hotel in Cincinnati. Twenty years seems absolutely crazy to me – too monumental and respectable for the age and experience I actually feel.

* May looming around the corner reminds me that summer is almost here. I’m at that familiar place where I’m both excited for the laid back pace of summer and panicky that I don’t have a plan for what our summer will look like. This summer feels even more unknown than usual. We’d been tentatively planning for Elena to go to Spain with relatives, but just this week realized it’s not going to work out. We’d left the summer open as we tried to plan around her, but now it’s just … open. I’m hoping to nail down some plans and hopefully arrange a hasty summer trip for the four of us. Any suggestions?

Any big updates or random thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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Hello Again

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Well, hello there. How are you? Let me just dust the chairs around here, open the windows and let some fresh air in. It’s been awhile since this little corner of the internet has seen any activity.

I did what I said I would do and I took a little summer vacation … and it was wonderful. I feel as if every August I reflect back on the summer that was and feel either immense relief that it was over, regret over missed opportunities, or both. This year I feel neither. Instead I am content. It was a good summer. It was the perfect mix of adventurous and relaxed. And for the first time I can remember, it felt as if I was truly intentional about enjoying the season of life I’m in right now.

Had to escape #coltscamp for a bit. It was blazin' hot. This helped.

In the process I learned that savoring where I am right now, both in the season of the year and the season of parenting older kids, involves a whole lot of letting go.

I let go of the notion that every day needs planned to the nth degree.

I let go of the idea that activities and outings are the only way to measure the amount of fun we’re having or how good of a mother I am.

I let go of my usual standards of cleanliness and perfection. (See photographic evidence below of dead flowers and a NERF modification station taking up residence on the dining room table for several weeks.) Having the kids pitch in and help, which was one of my few goals this summer, means not standing over them and explaining why one should vacuum in this precise pattern or load the silverware in the dishwasher this particular way. (Husbands, of course, are excluded from this delightful aspect of my personality.) Sometimes good enough is preferable over perfect. Actually, good enough is always preferred over perfect, something I will spend the rest of my days trying to put into practice.

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This little internet sabbatical also allowed me to let go of the need to produce work for the sake of looking productive. Walking way from creating in this space gave me room to reflect. It’s forced me to truly think about what I love versus what I love the idea of.

I love the idea of being a writer. I love the idea of sitting at my computer every day, steaming mug of coffee on my desk, surrounded in silence and pouring life-changing thoughts and ideas from my soul onto the screen.

I still love the act of writing, but I don’t love everything that goes with it anymore. And by “it,” I mean the idea of blogging as work intended to provide income. I don’t love the time it takes away from my other responsibilities and relationships. And I’m starting to think I’ve safely hidden myself behind the screen in an effort to avoid pursuing what I’m meant to do with my life.

Title this one "Mom, the amount of leg you're showing makes us uncomfortable."

This summer I loved feeling balanced, connected and in the moment. With myself, my friends and my family I had the summer I always loved the idea of and the summer I actually experienced together. I have to wonder if leaving the daily grind of blogging had something to do with it. And I’m contemplating that what I love the idea of and what I’m actually good at may be two very different things.

Reflecting in this way has been incredibly scary for me. Looking back at where I thought I was headed and where I find myself now, I feel untethered. What am I meant to do? I’m anxious, dreading the question of what I’ve been up to. Even a simple call during the day from Mike makes me break into a bit of a sweat.

“What are you up to?” he’ll casually ask.

Folding t-shirts. And fending off a mid-life crisis and my anxiety by reorganizing the LEGOs. What are you up to?

I also feel a bit ridiculous and ashamed. I am quite aware of my good fortune to have both the time and the choice to wonder what I should do when I grow up. And so I put on my very best phone voice when anyone asks what’s next, and say something chipper about exploring my options, enjoying the journey, blah blah blah. I mean, really. Who am I to complain or feel lost when there are terribly awful things happening all around us?

But what if all this caution in choosing our words, this care that we take take to put things in perspective when we think of or speak of our pain, is keeping us from feeling what we were designed to feel?

Panama City Beach

We are designed to feel shitty sometimes. And we are allowed to feel bad, sad, anxious and mad about both the Big Stuff and the Little Stuff. I know that in the grand scheme of things, my ambivalence about whether to stop blogging and my worries about finding work that’s right for me is small potatoes. But these burdens are my small potatoes, and to dismiss them doesn’t solve the deeper work I need to do to find a purpose and path. Also, small potatoes makes excellent home fries, and who doesn’t love fries?

I think this need to wrap up our uncomfortable feelings and loose ends in a tidy box, whether it’s for a story shared with everyone or the story we only tell ourselves is keeping many of us from living an authentic life. When we hustle to make everything look pretty again, it often turns out a mess.

So if you don’t mind, I’m going to stew in the corner with my basket of doubts and small potatoes. There is no lesson or witty ending just yet. I’m not going away, but I think you will notice a different feel in this space. I’m still writing, and some of that writing will still find a home here. I’m just not sure how much or how often.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Have you been through a career change or life transition that had you feeling lost as well? What helped you through it? What would you do differently if you could make those choices over again?

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The Short List: May

Pacific Park Ferris Wheel Santa Monica

Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links.

Summer break is here! Are the kids out of school where you live yet? While we’re all ready to be done with early mornings and homework, I kind of wish we’d go into June and not go back until after Labor Day. You just never know about Indiana weather in late May and early June. Just the other week we needed our winter coats and had a freeze warning!

Speaking of summer break, I’ve been doing some thinking. I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years now, and I’ve never taken a true vacation. I may skip a week or two of posting when things get crazy, but I’ve generally tried to make sure I’ve had at least one or two posts up every week … for a decade! Summer is always tricky for me, as I’m not great at writing ahead and so I always feel pulled between blogging, real life, and parenting.

Unlike other years, I’ve noticed a new feeling when it comes to this blog, though. Instead of feeling like I want to write here, I’m feeling like I have an obligation to do so. I think, more than anything, I’m tired of the hustle. The hustle is everything but the writing. It’s the staging of photos to make everything pretty for Pinterest. It’s trying to come up with witty bylines for Facebook and Twitter, and the self-promotion. It’s worrying about page views and likes and shares. I don’t want to hustle anymore, and I’m not exactly sure what that means for me, for my writing, for this blog.

And so I’m going to do what my heart wants and what my head has been so scared to do in the past: I’m going to take my own summer break. I’m going to finish up my California trip write-up as well as a round-up of the books I read this spring, and then I’m going to step away for a bit. I really and truly don’t believe it will spell the end, but I’m hoping it will give me time to think about what’s important in my life right now and spark that creative flame again. I don’t have many summers left with my kids. To spend another one hustling while their childhoods march away just as rapidly doesn’t feel right this year.

I promise I won’t leave you hanging, though, wondering if and when I’ll ever return. In the meantime, you can always find me on Instagram. I’d love to connect with you there as well, if we aren’t connected already. And if you’re dreading your own hustle, whatever that might mean for you, I encourage you to take a step back as well. The things that mean the most to you will still be there when (or if) you decided to rejoin the race.

In lieu of the normal short list, I thought I’d share a few things that spoke to me as I thought about what I wanted this summer to look like and how I could be more intentional about enjoying this season.

This episode of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier, is part of what sparked me to really think about summer break. I’m always so hopeful it will be different from the other seasons, and then I’m disappointed when it’s over and it feels like I didn’t enjoy it to its fullest. Here’s to having some experiences that make summer feel truly different from the rest of the year.

This article about how making time for books made the author feel less busy really resonated with me. As technology creeps into every aspect of our lives, I find that taking the time to shut the “chatter” out and read a book is extremely calming and restful.

I just finished Julie Lythcott-Haims’ “How to Raise an Adult.” In this article she talks about skills every 18-year-old should master before leaving for college (something she also discusses in the book in more detail). We’ll be working on these skills this summer!

I was craving a gin and tonic a couple of weeks ago, and accidentally bought club soda instead of tonic water. I made a gin rickey, and inadvertently discovered my official drink of summer (although the dark and stormy will always be near and dear to my summer heart).

I hope you have a wonderful summer! In the words of one of my favorites, Garrison Keillor: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

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