Backyard Justice

Last week, I returned to the University of Denver for the first time in over 10 years. I’ve signed up to take a month-long enrichment course and the class is located in the same building as my grad school classes. I pulled up a desk to the circle and took out my notebook. As I went to swing the hinged desk over my chair, I noticed that I had selected a right-handed desk. No problem! I scanned the room for a left-handed version, but none were to be found. I propped my notebook in my lap and took notes in the slightly awkward but totally manageable way I had learned long ago.

BackyardBeing left-handed in a right-handed world is not an injustice. My rights aren’t being removed; it’s annoying but not threatening. But it reminds me of ways in which injustice starts. Often, it can begin as a minor annoyance, but it stems from the fact that those who make decisions make them for the majority of the population. Rather than design ambidextrous desks, the expectation is for left-handers to adapt.

Of course, this is an incredibly trivial example of injustice. However, my goal is to open my eyes to see those seemingly minor “inconveniences.” It’s easy to bring my blood to a boil when outrageous discrimination and acts of injustice occur. But what about all those minor situations in which people are slowly dehumanized and made to feel less-than? Those all build up and create something that is much more complex and harder to dismantle than the big issues.

This month, I’ll be joining with hundreds of other writers to participate in the Write 31 Days challenge. The goal is to write every single day for the month of October. Short, long, pictures, ideas – the rules are loose and the purpose is to have fun and improve the craft of writing.

I’ll be writing about Backyard Justice for these 31 days. What does practicing justice in the space of my own home look like? I’m not an activist – I’m constrained by nap time and school pickup and the life of a mom of little kids. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t practice justice. I’ll be using Micah 6:8 as a guide:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV)

I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

And, if you’re a writer and interested in joining the challenge, link up over here! You have until October 6th to join the community.

Setting a Rhythm to My Days

Autumn is here! We went from a record-high on the last day of summer to rainy and chilly temperatures by the second official day of fall. This week has been cold and rainy, too which has me all snuggly and ready for hibernation.

IMG_6482While I may be in a cozy mood, Elle has decided to totally switch up her nap routine this week. Some days she’s woken up super early; other days I’ve had to wake her so we can pick up Bea on time. Yesterday, she decided that napping just wasn’t for her. I know this is a typical two-year-old regression, but….

I didn’t realize how much I depended on those two hours each afternoon to be a better mom. I knew they mattered and long ago, I’ve made nap time my time. Very rarely do I do household tasks during these quiet hours. This is my time to write, to read, to send emails, to knit or do nothing at all. I use these precious moments as a time to recharge for the intense after school, before dinner hours.

I know this is atypical and that (hopefully!) we’ll be back on track today or by next week. But it has me thinking about those routines I depend on. How I take for granted moments I have each day to recharge and remember to be fully me. I suppose losing things I find routine is how I best appreciate them.

This regression also has me thinking about how to intentionally use my time. How do I set a rhythm to my days that includes quiet hours but isn’t dependent on them? How do I reframe my mindset to finding rest, even in moments that aren’t peaceful? I’m not sure I’ll ever have those answers or find that magical balance but in some ways, I’m glad for the opportunity to reflect on those moments.

Of course, I’d take a solid nap time above reflective lessons any day!

How do you set a rhythm to your day? Do you need daily stretches of quiet or are you able to find energy in activity? How do you respond when life happens and things are thrown off?

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

Being Content with More

Mo! Again! Mo! One of my favorite learning-to-speak mix-ups is when Elle confuses more with again. I’ll be spinning her in her swing and she’ll shriek in the midst of laughter, mo! mo! ag’n! While making cookies, she’ll lick the batter, demanding, ag’n, mo!

IMG_3210Already, she’s outgrowing this sweet mix-up, understanding that more is used for quantities and again is used for an experience. I love that she’s understanding words and language but it’s a reminder that these sweet explorations are fleeting and that, before we know it, she’ll be articulating her wants and needs in full and clear sentences.

There are so many times I feel like all I can say is mo! without much articulation. When I stopped working,  my mom offered to take Elle once a week while Bea is at preschool. I decided to use this time for me – not for errands or chores. So, on Mondays I have two quiet hours to write or plan or do something that is significantly more challenging with kids around.

I’ve already noticed a change in having these hours but I see others who are farther on the journey and think, If only I had more… More time, more creativity, more direction.

I’m not content to recognize this gift of time and the slow process of getting better at something. I often think my journey needs to mirror the journeys around me. As I type this, I know this is silly but the feelings are still there when I’m feeling discouraged.

I’m learning to be grateful for more and to recognize that more looks different in different seasons and for different people.

Where is an area of your life or your time when you wish for more? How do you find time for more?

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

Enjoying Two Cups of Coffee

When I was teaching and single, I never drank coffee. There wasn’t much time in the morning and I preferred a cup mid-afternoon to combat that slump. When Frank and I got married, I started drinking a cup because it was already made. Though, really it was just about half a cup before I’d dash out the door. I have vivid memories of one of my elementary teachers having coffee breath and I did not want to be remembered for that attribute, so once I brushed my teeth and left the house, that was it for the day.

img_3739Now, staying home with the girls, I enjoy 2 cups each morning. No matter the chaos of bright-eyed girls running around, I’m usually able to enjoy those two cups in relative calm – not needing to gulp them down or scald my mouth.

The other day I wanted to get just One Thing Done before breakfast. It needed my attention and would have taken less than 10 minutes, uninterrupted. Of course, the moment the thought crossed my mind, my two interruptions swarmed and I had to put the project aside.

It’s easy to get frustrated with lack of alone time and even more frustrating when the things I need to do aren’t for me, but for commitments I’ve promised to others. I envision a quiet house, a slow rise and cup of coffee, and breakfast before the day begins.

And then I think, In what world?! My job right now is the girls. And when I had an “actual” job that morning only existed on the weekends. I guess I have this vision of being retired mid-thirties, enjoying the luxury of time I haven’t worked for.

So today, I’m grateful for preschool that starts at 9:00 and is only 5 minutes from our house. For time to enjoy 2 cups of coffee, even if the environment around me is swirling. And the reminder that I can slow down in the midst of chaos.

What is your morning ritual? Do you ease in or get up and go? Are you a coffee drinker?

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

When Getting Up Early Fails

I was talking with a new friend the other day about finding time to write. One of her kids gets up at 5:15 everyday, on the dot and has since he was a baby. I asked if she had gotten the alarm clock that turns green and I clearly struck a nerve. Yes, they had. No, it did not work.

img_3740We’re in a fairly good sleep pattern these days, with bedtimes going smoothly and the girls sleeping through the night. Bea does use that alarm clock, meaning I know exactly when she’ll be jumping down the stairs. Elle is still on that blissful 12-hour-a-night cycle, and I’m enjoying it.

The other day, I thought I’d set my alarm about 45 minutes before Elle usually woke up. Other moms manage to have quiet moments in the morning and when I read about those early morning hours, a cup of coffee and a journal or book in hand, it sounds idyllic. I wanted that, too!

The moment that alarm was set, Elle knew it and decided to wake 45 minutes earlier for about a week. I turned that thing off and went back to waking up and hoping for the best. Some days, I’ll get up and read or write. Others, I lie in bed until I hear stirrings from her room.

Books and blogs have been written about the importance of finding time for ourselves. That we can’t let these little years take away our identity and sense of self.

I totally agree with this. I look back at these early years of motherhood already and see ways in which I’ve been able to pursue interests and passions that I didn’t have the time or energy for while I was working full-time.

And yet, in my enthusiasm to find this Me Time and really take care of myself, I’m reminded that I walk a fine line doing that. My full-time job right now is motherhood. While I’m lucky enough to have a support system in place that gives me moments and hours and even a day occasionally to myself (thanks, mom!!) I’m mostly here, writing in the margins and with my helpers nearby.

This friend recently wrote her own blog post about the magical 22 minutes of a kids show, and how so much can get done in that time. For a while, I relied on those 22 minutes, getting so much done during one Daniel Tiger episode. Until we had a kid who is just uninterested in screen time. No matter how I try, Elle just does’t engage with TV. Which is a good thing. But those 22 minutes? I long for them, some days.

In the meantime, I’m assessing my goals and visions. It’s not like I want to write a book or blog everyday… right now. I’m actually very much content to tap away at this little blog when inspiration strikes and keep it strictly in the hobby realm.

Because right now, I’m getting ready for kindergarten roundup and a year with just Elle by my side and the reality is that these tiring, intense, nonstop years really do pass so quickly. I’m learning to savor every moment and remember that my Me Time is simultaneously kid time.

(Also? A year ago, I wrote about this same thing. Clearly it’s a recurring theme!)

When and where do you find time for yourself? Moms, did elementary school change things? When does “me time” become easier? (Or is that a myth?)

The Habit of Forming Habits

This fall has been filled with 30-day challenges. From our Whole30 cleanse to setting an alarm at 9:00 each night for bedtime to this Write 31 Days challenge, I’m liking the benefits of these short-term, habit changers.

livinSetting a goal and sticking to it these days is a challenge in itself. There were many days this past month I wasn’t sure I’d have the time or patience or energy to write. I tried to keep about two days ahead in my posts, knowing that life would get in the way. Even with this buffer, half of the challenge happened during the tax extension deadline, leaving me alone with the girls a lot more. Add a week-long trip to visit Frank’s family to the mix, and I was reminded why I always declined to participate in this challenge in the past.

But when is there a perfect time? When am I going to have time every single day for an entire month to write in solitude and when creativity strikes at the right moment? Never. Like any challenge, there is no good time to begin. When we looked at the calendar for the Whole30, we realized that there would always be a reason not to do it – barbecues and holidays and family events happen all the time. So, we picked a start date and went for it.

That’s what I’ve learned most from these challenges – life continues to swirl around us, whether or not we’re committed to being intentional. The choice is creating space for the discipline of writing, of eating better, of going to bed early.

Creating a start and end date is human nature, I think. I’ve read quite a few books in the past few years about taking a set amount of time to live out experiments: 7 by Jen Hatmaker, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall all take an overarching idea and set aside one-month intervals to complete an experiment. These books are successful because we recognize the need and benefit to setting short-term goals that result in life-changing practices.

Before starting this Write 31 Days challenge, I was in a slump here on the blog. For a couple years, I had faithfully been writing at least twice per week but over the summer, lethargy set in and I had trouble getting ideas pinned down. I’d write on the fly, I got lazy, and cycled back to “taking a break,” even though that break wasn’t intentional. This month of writing and the accountability of announcing that goal reset my creativity. Even though I won’t commit to writing every day, I hope to bring more intention to the days I do write. I want to stick to a schedule, to plan ahead, and to balance fun, intention, and the casual nature of blogging.

As for taking a month to really look at my strengths, I would highly recommend this. Whether or not you’re in the StrengthsFinder camp, take some time with your favorite personality test. Write out real-life stories of how you see these attributes at work in your own life. This month was a rediscovery into how I best function as a human being, and I’m glad I took the time to really delve into that. It’s been a good awareness reminder of all that I can offer to my communities.

One of my goals in November is to map out 2017 with habits and goals for myself. What are things I’d like to do better? (Laura Tremaine did this a few years ago. I may need to reread her series for inspiration.) You can pretty much do anything for 30 days and I’d like to start living a life of intention, of self-improvement, and of always-learning. Maybe creating life-giving habits is the habit I need to form most.

What are some habits you’d like to form? What are your thoughts on short-term goals?

Thank you for joining me on this month of self-discovery! I’ve so appreciated your comments,  engagement, and encouragement!

livin

This post is Day 31 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Finding Sustainable Practices

We just got back from a week visiting family in Philadelphia. We took an early flight, waking the girls up before dawn, not getting coffee until the plane had taken off. But, the payoff is getting home before noon, getting a load of laundry started while the girls take a pre-lunch, post-plane bath. It means taking naps and quickly getting back into a normal routine.

img_1988
Children’s garden at Longwood

Our annual trip to the east coast is falling into a rhythm. We always visit Longwood Gardens, an incredible estate filled with winding paths, tree houses, a conservatory right out of the pages of Miss Rumphius, and an enchanting children’s garden. We always spend at least a little time at Linvilla Orchards, playing and eating apple doughnuts. We take a family trip into Philadelphia, seeing the sights and instilling the exposure to history in the girls. This year, we visited the Betsy Ross House, something Bea had been talking about since our last (disappointing) visit to the Liberty Bell.

We spend time playing with cousins, baking with MomMom, and exploring the forest. Bedtimes are stretched and naps are taken in the car. Sweets are eaten more than normal and special treats are the norm.

In so many ways, our regular routine is thrown out the window. But, it’s been neat seeing the routines that are established, even if the visit only happens once a year. It’s amazing what Bea remembers from past visits and what she expects from each one. The magical thing about cousins is that it’s pretty easy to pick up right where the relationship left off.

Parenting in a different home, in a different city, on a different schedule looks well, different, too. A lot of the burden is lifted, as Frank and I are together the whole week. Aunts help manage emotions and redirection is better received when it’s from a fresh adult. Because we’re out of our element, behavior is often not even an issue. Bea is too busy having fun with her cousins.

In a lot of ways, this month of delving into StrengthsFinder has reminded me of parenting on vacation. I’ve had to put what I know about myself to the test, in uncharted territory. Opening up, examining my personality in such a public way, has made me more reflective of what I do in my daily routine. What works, what needs improving?

Now that this challenge is almost over and life can go back to “normal,” I’m wondering what my take-aways will be. How will I transfer all I’ve learned this month into a daily practice? That’s always the key, isn’t it? Taking what we’ve learned, testing it out in the real world, and then tweaking it for the long haul.

How do you take what you’ve learned and turn it into a sustainable practice?

livin

This post is Day 30 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.