Saving My Live – COVID-19 Edition

We are just over 24-hours into a stay at home order and on day -5 of home learning. Our spring break started this gradual-but-fast lockdown and I’m so thankful we had a full week to rest, get outside, and not worry about schedules, routines, and the rest of the school year. This past week has been a “soft start” to finding new routines and rhythms. We’ve gotten outside as much as possible, knowing that even our trails may be taken away if we’re not responsible.

Frank and I were reflecting on the tension of this new normal. In some ways, staying at home and together suits our family dynamic well. The girls love slow mornings, self-guided learning, and playing together (most of the time!) Frank has moved his office to the basement and we are so thankful for the fact that he already had a dedicated space mostly set up – it didn’t take much to switch over completely. I created workspaces for the girls in our library, right in the center of our house. And yet, there’s always that reminder that this sweet time is happening because the world isn’t normal. While I love having Frank home for every meal in the midst of tax season, I also recognize that this shouldn’t be happening.

But also in the midst of all the unknown, spring is arriving. The bulbs in our front yard are blooming and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on those seasonal changes that are saving my life. Like everything else, they look different than usual and specific to our circumstances. I think it’s important to mark these moments and I hope you will, too in the coming days and weeks.

In no particular order, these are my current lifesavers:

Republic of Tea Daily Greens
I had bought these packets of dried micro-greens back in January as an impulse buy at World Market and have been mixing them into water for occasional mid-afternoon energy slumps. These days, I’ve made them part of my daily routine. Usually, I enjoy them after our outdoor excursion while the girls are watching some pre-dinner screentime. I know it’s mostly psychological but in these day of limited freedom, I enjoy an extra boost of greens.

Nivea Creme
I brought several tins of Nivea Creme back from Paris last May and bought a few more this winter because Bea’s hands were drying out from the soap at school. With increased washing, I would massage it into her chapped hands each night. Now that we’re home and not using industrial soap, her hands have healed but using the creme has been a nightly help as we’re all still washing more than usual.

Quiet Rest
We haven’t done “quiet rest” since Bea was four years old. (I never really tried when Elle gave up her naps.) But now that we’re in close proximity and together all day long, an hour after lunch in our own bedrooms is necessary. Bea listens to an Audible book, Elle watches Storyline Online, and I’ve been working my way through Me and White Supremacy. I leave my phone downstairs and try to keep this time to truly rest. Earlier this week I was feeling heavy and sad and I was thankful for time to nap and rest my body.

Nightly Opera
We’ve started watching the Met Opera channel each night after dinner. We usually just get about a half hour in before bedtime but it’s been a fun way to end our evenings. Some operas spark our imagination and the girls beg for more at breakfast. This week is all Wagner and it’s a bit intense so we’ll just start it but usually don’t continue. We’ve never watched an entire 3-hour performance but I love introducing the girls to one of my favorite things.

Outdoor Spaces
Last but certainly not least is getting outside every day. I’ve never been so thankful for our backyard but there’s also something wonderful about getting out of our neighborhood. We have a state park just ten minutes away with a large network of trails. It’s been easy to find secluded areas to play and explore without running into other people. Watching other areas in the world and in our nation shut down even more because people aren’t following instructions, I want to be sure to get the girls out on trails as much as possible in case they close.

I know that these lifesavers will likely change often but for now, these simple things are what keeps me grounded. We are doing our best to follow the most extreme version of the guidelines so that we can help flatten the curve quickly and effectively.

What is saving your life in these early days of spring? How are they different in light of COVID-19?

Review: Take Back Your Time by Morgan Tyree

This year was a pivotal year for my schedule. With Elle in school three mornings a week, I found myself with enough extra time to catch up on dreams and projects while also enjoying the last days of full-time stay-at-home motherhood. It took some weeks of adjustment, but I slowly found a rhythm emerging between time for writing and creativity, volunteering, and taking care of health and fitness.

Now, three months into our school year and with some awkward breaks to mix up the schedule, I’m realizing that I may need a bit more structure to my schedule. It’s one thing to think, Monday mornings are for writing! and quite another to sit down in front of my computer at the library and realize I have no idea where to start. I’m so used to squeezing life into the margins, the wealth of time was crippling!

Enter Take Back Your Time by Morgan Tyree. In this conversational but focused book, Tyree empathizes with women of all walks. From working moms to business women to stay-at-home moms, she understands the stress and struggles of time management.

I’ve read business-based books before and found them helpful – to a point. What I loved about Take Back Your Time is that Tyree acknowledges and affirms all sorts of time constraints. She writes specifically to a broad audience and I felt seen in the pages of her book.

Filled with easy-to-implement strategies and structures, Tyree gives her readers tools and resources to start their time management revolution right away. None of her ideas were so complex that I put them off for another day. They were all simple enough to start right away. She also reminds her readers that, like any habits, new structures will take time and tweaking. I loved that she recognizes that these aren’t systems that will be perfect right away – this is an ongoing practice.

If you’re in a place in life where you see spaces of time where you know its being wasted or misused, this is the perfect book for you. Tyree will help you hone your hours and emerge with more space in your days.

What are tools you use for time management? How do you prioritize moments in your schedule?

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion,

From Homemaker to Social Activist

Recently I found out that Frank had been putting my career as homemaker on our tax forms for the past six years. When I found out, I did not love that title. In his defense, apparently, this is an accepted phrase that won’t get your return flagged by the IRS. I pushed back against this antiquated term – I’m so much more than a simple homemaker!

51BEYPk-dtLWhen asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my childhood answers ranged from nurse to missionary to artist to teacher. I wasn’t limited by the realities involved in pursuing a vocation and I loved dreaming of all the things I could do. I always assumed I’d be a mother because that’s what most women in my life were.

And yet, when I read books, I identified with the characters who dreamed big dreams and pursued artistic careers. I wanted to go on adventures and live an exciting life. I never connected with the quieter characters, even if they more reflected who I was – and am.

When I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I, of course, imagined myself to be most like the character of Jo. Partly because she’s the story’s protagonist and partly because she’s the sister who accomplishes it all. She travels (though not as she imagined she would), she pursues a career, and she gets married in the end. Unlike housewifely Meg, sickly Beth, and flighty Amy, Jo seemed to grapple with all the things I could imagine myself working through those same issues.

I look at my life now and see myself most in the character of Meg, staying home with the girls, struggling with my own high expectations of these years, trying to figure out what it means to live a domestic life well. In the story, Meg is the responsible oldest sister who follows the path laid out for her. Though she doesn’t marry a wealthy man, she does marry someone who befriends her parents and is approved by all. She is content living close to her parents and figuring out life as a wife and mother.

As I reflect on these characters, I suppose I have a bit of each sister in me. These days, I do identify most with Meg. When I was living abroad, Amy’s homesickness and exploration resonated with my experience. As I dabble in the world of writing and pursuing creative dreams, Jo’s experience of finding her own story hits home in so many ways. And, though I love to venture out and explore, I also love creating a safe space for our girls, just as Beth dreamed of.

Reflecting on these characters makes me want to go back and reread this story before my own girls are old enough to experience it. It’s been years since I’ve read this classic and I wonder how my perspective would shift if I read it as a mother. Would I see the world through Marmee’s eyes more clearly? How would I respond to Jo’s hopeless romanticism?

Frank just filed our taxes again and told me he changed my occupation to unpaid social activist. Maybe I have a little of Jo’s feistiness and desire to change the world after all.

Have you read Little Women? Which sister did you most identify with? Is there a character you imagined you’d grow up to be like?

A (1)This post is Day 4 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the A Literary Life. You can find the entire series over at my A Literary Life page. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Filling This Season With Rose-Colored Memories

Some of the most important relationships I’ve formed as a young mom are with women who have children around my own age. My mom, my aunts, mentor moms at MOPS, and other women I’ve met along the way who have helped with advice, perspective, and a listening ear.

IMG_8445One thing I’ve heard from them all is that, while the little years are hard, they never regretted staying home for that season. It’s fast and before you know it, the kids are in school and need you in different, less time-consuming ways. (I typed this last sentence at the same time Elle climbed into my lap. Time-consuming, indeed…)

I know that, by the time I’m a grandma, I’ll look back nostalgically. Maybe these women are looking at life through rose-colored glasses. But I kind of want that. I want to look back at these years with fondness, letting the hard moments fade. I want to look back and know that this was a good choice for our family.

I’ve been thinking about this perspective lately. I feel like it can apply to so many areas and life decisions. What will we look back on without regret? What choices will we make that, when we’re looking back through shiny memory, we’ll smile fondly? I suppose this is like successful businessmen looking back and never regretting saying no to a client and yes to their family, even if it felt like a big decision at the moment.

I just dropped off Elle’s preschool registration for next year. She’ll only be gone two mornings a week but that glimpse into future freedom has me reflecting on how I spend my time. What am I doing with those “free” moments? How will I make choices now that will help me look back on this season without regret, with fond, rose-colored memories?

What about you? What are choices you made (or are making) that will define how you look back on life?

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

Doing What Only I Can Do

Even though I quit my job after Bea was born, I quickly found a new identity about a year later working at an incredible museum. Title-wise, it didn’t get much better. Mom and Museum Educator? Pretty cool.

IMG_3982A few weeks ago, I officially quit this pretty cool job. Life has gotten super busy and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A friend once advised, Do only what you can do. When taking inventory, only I could be wife to Frank and mom to Bea and Elle. But for as much as I loved this job, I knew someone else could do it and do it better.

I confidently made my decision, had a great conversation with my boss, and embraced really being present in this fleeting preschool season.

This past week two small things happened to shake that confidence. One was an offhand comment from a working-mom friend about how much time I have. Another was the response from a stranger who told me that it was cute that I stayed home.

In reflection, I am amazed at how quickly that confidence can be shaken. I know my identity is so much deeper than the job that I hold. I know that the decision we made was the best one for our family. I know that my days are busy and that being a full-time mom is a full-time “job.” And yet, that confidence wavered when my decision was so quickly dismissed.

I think that, no matter which path we embrace; no matter which life choices are best for our families, there will always be moments of hesitation and question. Because none of these choices are The Best. They are the best for us, in this moment.

What are some in-the-moment choices you’ve made that you see being temporary? How do you embrace the season you’re in?

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

Keeping the Future Open

I never paid much attention to my LinkedIn profile before Bea was born. I had been at the same job for seven years and, while the lure of other districts or overseas experiences was tempting, I was content to stay put. About a month after the newborn fog started to lift, I had sudden stress about my resume. Who would hire a stay-at-h0me mom? What does one even put for that gap? Would I ever be employable again?

Who needs a job when you can have hammock time?
Who needs a job when you can have hammock time?

Fortunately, these anxieties were calmed as Bea and I found a routine and I settled into a groove of enjoying my baby and getting to know other moms. About a year later, I got a part-time job working at an art museum. As an art history major with a graduate degree in education, being on a team of gallery teachers seemed too good to be true. The job’s flexibility and the fact that I was able to combine two of my passions has been an amazing experience.

As we think about our next child, some of those same marketability fears have started to creep in. What do I want maternity leave to look like? What are my priorities in this phase of life? How can I keep my foot in the door but also focus on my family?

One of the most amazing things about working part-time and having a more independent child is the ability to pursue interests that had always been put on the back burner while I had a full-time job. Is now the time to pursue those other interests?

And then I step back and realize I’m trying way too hard to control the future. I am amazed at the doors that have opened for leadership opportunities, for teaching experiences, and for use of my time and talents in ways I could not have imagined. As we near this next phase of family life, I need to stop and let go. To remember that when I stop trying to over-plan my life, doors open to possibilities far beyond my imagination.

What is your view on women and family and work? How do you find life-balances and holding careers loosely?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.