Creating Space In a Crowded Week

This week has felt mentally crowded. Frank’s had to work late in preparation for the tax extension deadline so bedtime has been on my own. But what’s really thrown me for a loop is that Elle has decided to stop napping. Right when I thought I was going to have two mornings a week to myself and an afternoon of quiet, it’s become a battle.

IMG_0627I decided to handle this shift in routine like the mature and capable adult that I am. I grumped and threatened and got really, really annoyed. How dare my three-year-old ruin my ME time?!

Often, my go-to defense is to turn inward. I go into a self-sufficient mode, I don’t ask for help, and I don’t vent to my friends. This usually doesn’t help anything. I finally emerged from this space, went for a walk with a friend, Voxed another friend who has kids farther along than mine and gained some perspective.

I realized I need to recalibrate my expectations. Much like sleep regression, we need to start a new naptime training and move toward “quiet rest time.” Maybe on the days when it’s too much of a fight, we run errands or do other chores. Maybe we’ll go for a hike. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the woe is me feeling isn’t helpful. It has me reflecting on the ways life so often doesn’t go according to plan. I expect to enter a new season with grace and ease, floating through the transition beautifully. The reality usually is something quite different.

I hope what I’ve learned from this start-of-the-school-year nap boycott is to step back and assess what I can do when life doesn’t go according to plan. I know I can always throw a fit, but maybe there’s another way. Maybe next time, I’ll go for a walk first or Vox my friend with the gritty parts of life.

That’s what community is all about. I’m hoping that by leaning in, I find space to breathe this next week. That this crowded feeling eases and we move into a new rhythm.

How do you deal with the unexpected? What’s your best way of dealing with these crowded weeks?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “crowd.”

A Time of Possibility and Responsibility

In her retelling of an ancient Potowatomi story about maple syrup, Robin Walls Kimmerer ends the tale with this reminder:

“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility. And so it is that it takes forty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup” (p 63). Braiding Sweetgrass

IMG_0503We are three weeks into Bea’s school year and one week into Elle’s. On Tuesday, I came home to a quiet house and got more writing done in those couple hours than I had all summer long. On Thursday, I had a meeting at 10:30, right in the middle of my morning. I read and checked social media and wasn’t very productive until midmorning. And then the meeting got canceled. I had another hour or so before pickup.

What to do? I thought about calling the morning a waste and finishing my book. (Which I think would have been a totally acceptable option!) Instead, I checked the list I had dreamed up midsummer and picked one thing to do on it. It wasn’t much – just cleaning out outgrown clothes – but it felt like a good accomplishment.

I had to put into practice my head knowledge: I knew my list would take a while and that I’m in this two-morning-to-myself routine for a while. And yet, when confronted with actual practice, I spent an hour flailing and unsure.

This season reminds me of Kimmerer’s description of maple syrup. On one small level, this is a time of possibility and responsibility for me personally. As I transition to some breathing space in my own schedule, I’m reminded that the sap only comes when it’s ready. That this is a process.

I want to keep the enthusiasm and wonder of the possibility of this time. And I want to it to transfer to the time with the girls. Because really, these five hours every week are a small portion of my days. They are still filled with all the wonders and disciplines and moments that filled our days before.

How do I hold this possibility and responsibility together? How do I remember that this time doesn’t need to be stressful but appreciated as the gift it is?

What about you? Does it take you a while to transition to a new schedule or season? What are your best practices? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rush.”

Books Referenced:
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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Let There Be Fairies!

The other day, we realized that we needed to replace our much-beloved but irreparable Jesus Storybook Bible. The binding was broken and fixed many times, pages were falling out, and the reading experience was precarious as we kept the book together. We got the same version for Elle (who, we realized, has never owned her own Bible!) and got Bea the Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

IMG_9344She opened it and read aloud, Out of this love, God spoke. “Let there be light.” And there was day. And there was night.

She closed the book and declared in a deep voice, Let there be fairies!

Nothing happened. She looked at me, shrugged and said, Well, that didn’t work!

As we were talking about the creation story, Bea told me she wanted to go to heaven to be with God and Jesus because she was sure they would give her wings. I just want to be able to fly…

Did you ever play the game where you had to choose a superpower? The version we played always gave the choice between the power of flight and the power of invisibility. There are a couple interesting articles about who you are based on your choice (essentially if you choose flight, you’re a leader who doesn’t mind the spotlight) but for me, this spoke less about Bea’s potential for leadership and more about a childlike wish for freedom.

I’m often in awe of how Bea interprets the Bible. She picks out details and asks questions that I have long forgotten. She reminds me that, to have “faith like a child” means she interacts with the stories and text with deep curiosity and big questions. Somewhere along the journey, those questions become more thoughtful and based on experience and research. Somewhere, the curiosity becomes hedged as answers are expected.

The older I get, the more I’m able to let go of the answers. I’m even learning to let go of the questions. I’m learning that approaching life with a lens of curiosity is amazing. Bea doesn’t even ask the question, Can I create a fairy? but simply declares, Let there be fairies!

Maybe this is what it means to have faith like a mustard seed. I need to let go of the structure of the questions themselves and approach life with more of a declaration.

What would your superpower be? What does having faith like a child mean to you?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “fly.”

Books Referenced:

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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

When You’re Done Adulting, Go Home

I had one of those days, with a sticky comment to mediate in a group I manage followed by an intense breakfast conversation about business and identity and life-choices. I went to the park and was met with yet another conversation that would have been a fun,

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Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

lively debate over drinks but turned into what felt like an attack in the middle of the playground. By noon, I was done “adulting.”

So I did what any 36-year-old mom would do. I called my mom and asked if we could come over for lunch. As the girls got settled with mac & cheese and Pinkalicious, I felt myself slip into the safety of processing life with my parents. I was hugged and affirmed and felt so much better.

The day was still exhausting. I felt like quitting everything and becoming a hermit for the summer. And, while breaks are important, that’s not really how conversations continue or conflict is resolved, is it?

My biggest takeaway is the importance of having a safe place. I’m thankful my parents live close by and that, when I walk in the door, I’m just their daughter. It’s what I hope my girls will feel when they’re grown – that, no matter where life takes them or how small or big the hurt is, they can come home and just be our daughters.

There’s something profound about that experience, of being known and held. I know for some, that will be found in friendships rather than family relationships but, regardless of who is holding me, I’m remembering to turn to community when I really want to retreat. To reach out when I feel overwhelmed. And to find people who simply hold me, no matter what.

Do you have a place you can return when life gets hard? How do you cope with too much “adulting”?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “return.”

Searching for Moments and Space

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about pause and creating space lately. Mostly, this is because I’m not doing a very good job at actually creating these places in my day and so, I’m looking for moments that already exist.

IMG_8829From walking to school to the poetry I’m reading and all those other little moments, I’m learning to find what is already there.

It’s hard. In my mind, I know that every Tuesday, I have an hour and a half to write. And then it takes some time to settle in and I switch a quick load of laundry and… There’s always something else. For the most part, I’m pretty protective of my time. But I also love meeting up with friends because, without those face-to-face connections, community is hard. I use some of my “me time” to volunteer in Bea’s classroom because creating relationships with her teachers and classmates is a high priority.

In my imagination, I’d love to have a little writing shed in our yard or a weekend cabin to retreat to. Really, that shed would go unused because the reality of this phase of life is that all my work happens in the middle of everything, at the dining room table. And weekends are filled with all those little moments that create our family’s culture, not retreating somewhere on my own.

We were talking about this balance the other day in my MOPS group. Of loving these years and struggling to create time and space. Of pouring ourselves into our kids and families and recognizing those outside things that fill us with life and joy.

I’m leaning into these small spaces. It’s still frustrating on some days but the more I look for those moments that are already here, the more I seem to find.

How do you include moments for yourself in a busy day? What seasons did you find this easier or harder to do?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “include.”

Squeezing Thousands of Years Into a Minute

I’m reading a book about the history of food and modern farming. I find it incredible that, even though we’ve been farming since 8500 BCE, it’s still a blip in the history of humanity and digestion. Our bodies still haven’t adapted to a sedentary, grain-based diet. (See: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, pg 4.)

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Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

If 150,000 years can be compared to a minute and a half, I need to rethink my view of adaptation. I ask the girls to adapt all day long – from an unplanned errand to a switch in who picks up Bea from school, teaching flexibility is a surprisingly big part of the parenting process.

Or maybe it’s part of the human process. I like a predictable schedule and often wish I could adapt to surprises and changes with more grace and ease. The reality is that I need time to process new ideas and perspectives. I often read the news or a book and then need to dig deeper, figuring out this (new to me) information.

I’ll emerge and want to talk about it with Frank, only to realize that I’m unloading a bunch of internal processing in the course of a conversation. Essentially, I’m asking him to squeeze hundreds of thousands of years into a couple minutes.

Ok, my analogies are mixing but what I’m remembering is that adaptation takes time. Yes, in the course of human history, 150,000 is a blip. We haven’t been farming all that long so of course our digestive systems haven’t had time to adjust. And yet, we’ve been farming long enough that none of us have any ties at all to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We wouldn’t know how to survive, even though it’s the foundational norm.

I’m giving myself grace as I deconstruct and rebuild foundational norms, whatever they may be. When I get discouraged at the slow pace of society in general, I’m remembering that these long years are a blip in history. I need to stretch back and remember that life is a slow process and adaptation is often imperceptible.

Are you able to adapt quickly or do you need time to process? How do you ground yourself in history?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “adapt.”

Books Referenced:

51INTf4BPsL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Paying Attention to the Spark

Whenever I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, I turn to the experts. I might search for a book or a webinar or an article in hopes of getting unstuck. If someone has gone ahead, I want to learn from them! Often, this works. I get a piece of inspiration or am distracted just enough to refocus.

IMG_8753But sometimes, I’m still stuck. The other day, I listened to a free webinar from an expert that turned out to be an hour-long sales pitch for a paid site. (You get what you pay for?) I got a few nuggets from the beginning but left feeling at a loss. I had been given just enough information to feel even more confused.

I chatted with some friends who aren’t even part of this particular field, let alone experts, and through our conversation, a few ideas were sparked. I was able to take those small nuggets and figure out ways to use them.

It’s a reminder that, while the experts are important and valuable, there are so many moments in which I find the help and inspiration I need from sources that aren’t proven or expert at all. When I put aside my to-do list and focus on playing with the girls, I feel refreshed in other areas. When we get outside and soak up the sun, when I turn off the noise of social media and Google searches, when I read a really good fiction book unrelated to anything I’m working on, when I remember to pause and breathe and take in the big picture – this is where I’m refreshed and most likely to unstick my thoughts.

I know this isn’t breaking news – that getting outside and turning off all the voices is healthy – but it’s news I need to remind myself of again and again. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, instead of looking for the answer, I need to just be in the moment. The answer will come (or it won’t and I’m learning to embrace that, too) but most often it’s a little spark at the back of my mind.

Today, I’m putting aside a lot of ideas and papers. I think I’ll even stack them up and put them in the basement for the weekend. The girls and I are meeting friends for a ramble at an open space and we’ll run and soak up the sun. And I’m sure some ideas will show up in the midst of living life.

How do you get unstuck? What experts do you find most helpful? Where do you turn when you need to get away from books and overthinking?

Linking with Five Minute Friday, a  time to write without editing. (As evidenced by so many run-on sentences in this one!) Today’s prompt is “stuck.”