Saturday, August 31, 2019

Summer 2019

We've been back in school for four days, and nothing is like I thought it would be. For the first year in FOREVER, I was not excited to start again- I'm usually chomping at the bit. The boys weren't necessarily ready to celebrate just for the sake of newness, like in the past. They're starting to have their own personalities, and no level of enthusiasm from me can change their opinions. But we made through the first week! We did packed lunches and dinners at the table and homework time, all things I really REALLY wanted to be a part of our school year routines. We held off on takeout until Friday, which is a weird milestone that helps me know I'm staying organized. I battled a head cold and still kept my shit together (kinda) and this is how I know the year is off to a good start.

Before I get too far into celebrating a single well-run week, I want to take a quick peek back at the summer we're leaving behind. It truly was the most successful summer I've lived in a long time. It was a combination of purpose, rest, ENORMOUS amounts of time for myself, and a few sweet trips that went really well. 

First off, I worked this summer. We had a very long break, due to very few snow days, and so my 5-week summer school job technically only took up half the summer. There were three weeks before and two weeks after to go on trips, see friends, and do our normal summery activities. The five weeks in the middle, I taught a summer school class Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 to 12:30. You read that right. Where were my kids during this time? At a summer camp (on the same site as my job!) that they attended Monday through Friday from 8:30-4:30/5. DO THE MATH, LOVELIES! I had hours and hours of unscheduled time to fill as I pleased, and it was MAGICAL. I felt stimulated by my short work day and pampered by my free time. My kids swam, went on field trips, and spent lots of time with friends. This set up was PERFECTION.

What did I do with my time? Some long held-off chores, like getting my engagement ring fixed and resized (it had to be cut off after some postpartum swelling right after I had Milo), some lunches with friends, some (very few) trips to the gym, and lots of hours in front of an air conditioner, playing Stardew Valley. I got back into the habit of posting articles to Book Riot. Every Monday, one of the boys had therapy in the early afternoon, and the alternating set up gave me one-on-one time with my sons throughout the whole summer. 

I fell deeply into a nighttime routine that I've kept even in the new school year. Set out clothes for tomorrow, take a shower, do some skincare, get cozy with candles, and read a few chapters of a book. I've been working my way through the giant three-volume compendium of Anne of Green Gables titles that I've had since I was a child, and it is truly the best way to calm down before bed. My nighttime routine has always been a mess, and if I took my makeup off I considered it a win. This new routine is super calming and feels great, especially when I follow it up with a few ASMR videos. That was another touchstone of my summer- ASMR. I've even started listening when I'm working at my desk (there's an amazing video playing as I type this) or getting ready for the day. Every other person in my house is completely freaked out by ASMR so I'm alone in heaven, but it's okay. I appreciate it enough for all of us. 

I didn't do a lot of reading this summer, which disappointed me at first, until I reminded myself that I've been writing more and using my planner more consistently. It's almost a journal at this point, with more notes about what actually happened than upcoming appointments recorded. I did read an excellent YA book with a fat heroine (If It Makes You Happy), a few graphic novels, and a few books about ADHD. 

We had a family vacation to Pennsylvania- we went hiking, explored some underground caves, when to the Central Lancaster Farmer's Market, and spent a day at Sesame Place. Ben and I spent three days in Portland, Maine on the first grown up vacation we've had since we had kids. Both trips were GOOD, and brought us closer in different ways. 

It was actually on a day trip to Wingaersheek Beach that I had a thunderclap realization- we're clicking in to this season of life. It's easier to anticipate what my kids will need- on a day at the beach, during the school year, for a solid dinner. I'm starting my third year as a Media Specialist, and I'm less surprised by the different events that happen and more organized around what I need to accomplish. It's not perfect, and I have to be ready for constant flux, but it's slightly easier, and slightly better, than it was this time last year. It's just going to keep getting better (and weirder) as we go along.

Before the summer slipped away, I just wanted to write down how things went. Focusing on the positives helps me realize what I want to bring into the school year. There will be less white space in my schedule for sure, but I hope I can remember how much pleasure downtime gave me. One on one time with my kids is vital, and solid routines can give me so much peace. I know this year is going to be great because I used this summer to truly recharge. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

You're reading my diary

This story about diaries is breathtaking. It's illustrated and lovely. It caught me unaware this morning, during an internet browsing session I had to talk myself into. I've been sleeping a lot this week (10 hours a night) and I thought another foggy, rainy morning in bed might be just right. But I dragged myself up and made coffee and hoped that a little aimless clicking might motivate me to finish my work for this course I'm taking. And then I found this. 

"But you're still cognizant that someone might pick the lock and read the pages, and it still matters so much that a stranger likes you. So your diary is never all the way true."

I kept diaries in high school, and recently restarted one when I first became a contributing writer for Book Riot. It was such a weird time in my life, when I was finally getting this chance I had really dreamed of, and I found myself feeling deeply stupid and inadequate. The people I worked with were really, really smart about books (duh, because it was their job) and I desperately wanted them to like me, or be impressed by me (? Ashlie.) and I spent a lot of time poring over our back-channel communication in the editorial Slack account, grasping for times where I might reach out and make a connection, then terrified that I had said the wrong thing in the wrong way. At that time, Book Riot was instrumental in teaching me the way that books and politics intersect, the way that reading can be an act of activism, and the role I had as a teacher and a writer who recommends books. My mind was crammed with information, and for awhile, I worried much more about how I looked and was received during this education than actually getting it right. 

So I bought a diary.

I wanted a place where I could admit that I felt less-than. I am a big oversharer on the internet, but I couldn't even blog about feeling like I didn't have the intelligence I needed- intelligence and literal book-smarts where such a big part of the identity I crafted for myself. The diary was a DUMPING GROUND. I beat myself up for fighting with my husband, mispronouncing Yuyi Morales' name (and calling her 'him') to a publishing rep at a book conference, loving love triangles (the trope that every Classy book industry person I saw was rolling their eyes over), and in general being too green, too awkward, and too unimportant. Looking back, this is also where I wailed when my son's preschool teacher hated him (she did) and when we discovered he might need an IEP for educational support (he did). It was different than my usual online "Parenting is hard and my kitchen floor is messy" stream-of-consciousness. It wasn't a general, feel good, we're-all-in-this-together conclusion. I don't know if it's a coincidence that this was around the time my doctor prescribed me antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. 

There's not a big lesson-learned ending here, unless you count the fact that I can't find the diary now? I think I started it in 2016. I do a lot of reflection in my passion planner. I do less general sharing on the internet, not at all on purpose, but I feel like I have less time. And most of the things I decide to pour myself into are more about my outreach than my image. That is one of the most beautiful things about getting older. Of course I still care about how I look, but it's much easier to accept that not everyone is going to like me or be interested in my take. Working in a position that serves an entire school instead of a set number of kids/fellow teachers has taught me that universal acceptance is impossible. Learning that the people who run even a super-thoughtful, super-intelligent website are still humans who mess up and, most importantly, have different opinions than my own has let me be more confident in my own intelligence and comfortable with knowing what I don't know. 

I might need a diary again one day. Writing is still the best way to sort thoughts and figure out how I feel. Sometimes things are too close or too much a part of someone else's life for me to type until it makes sense, then hit publish and hope it helps someone else. But I'm glad I'm at a point in my life where I'm more comfortable admitting my stories of humiliation, my messes that can't be swiped with a sponge.  

Thanks for reading my diary.

Image credit: Maria Luque 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Entering The Middle

I came here because I miss writing. I write. It's one of the only things that I've always done. My mom came to visit recently and brought a bunch of things I wrote when I was in elementary school. There was a strong program at the school I went to from grades 2-5, and I didn't realize my mom had saved these books. They're cringe-y and sweet and sometimes- kind of good? I've always liked words. I've always been proud of how I can string them together.

It's time that I accept that I am in a different part of my life right now. For several years, I was absolutely obsessed with fiction writing. It was the biggest part of every day for me. I've spent the last two years, since I became a school media specialist and started library school, waiting until the next thing calmed down so I could pick fiction writing back up. Missing the process itself isn't even as exhausting as constantly feeling a like a failure for not getting it done. And yet the idea of shelving it is still pretty scary. I have a singular focus at most times (there is a lot to say here about things I'm realizing as I'm in the process of learning about ADHD through the diagnosis of one of my sons) and when something is in front of me, it's important to me. When it's put somewhere else, it can permanently disappear. I don't want my stories to disappear. But I can't keep tearing myself apart trying to do something that doesn't fit in right now. 

My undercut is growing out. For the first time since I shaved part of my head in November 2017, I'm really not feeling my look. And there is absolutely nothing I can do. I have half a head of past-pixie length hair, and half a head of hair that falls to my shoulder blades, and until I'm in a place where I can sacrifice my messy bun, that's just how it's going to be. An awkward in-between time. The end goal- having hair that's one length, a fresh canvas to play around with- is visible but still a good distance away. I've always been impulsive and bad at long term planning, but I'm holding on. Sitting in my awkwardness, because I know something better is coming. 

All my sisters are having babies. Five new babies to our family in a single year. That's a hell of a lot of beginnings. I'm watching the fumbling, the figuring out new routines, the rewiring of entire families, and I have so much admiration. It's such exhausting work to start completely over, to remake something that was already made to make room for new things that are not temporary. New normals. I don't miss the beginning. And yet I'm a little bit envious, because I am in a middle. An awkward, ever-shifting middle. I had gotten really good at the beginning, and then we moved out of it, and now I feel clumsy and unskilled again. Figuring out which things about my children are permanent, and not byproducts of flying through growth stages. Starting a new career (yes, a dream career) and realizing how it's less of shift and more of a COMPLETELY NEW THING that requires a completely new skill set. Realizing that life is never going to slow down, and making time for exercise, my husband, and my friends is non-negotiable.

Very often, I want to get in bed and sleep and sleep and sleep. This is not a reference to physical tiredness. I can't tell if it's a depressive episode, laziness, or overwhelm, but it's not the world's healthiest coping strategy. But at least in this middle, I can see it for the slightly troubling thing that it is, and wonder, "What's missing?" Schedule a date with my husband. Force myself to start a book that I know will suck me in. Let myself free-associate in a blog post, because nothing soothes my depression like the sound of my own voice. 

I've officially accepted it. I'm in the middle. 

Here is what I'm leaving in the beginning: the excuse "I have TWO KIDS" (this was something I said with panic/wonder/annoyed overwhelm the first three years that it was true), working on autopilot (acceptable when you've had the same career for a decade and your skills are fire- not when you're new new new and you've got a lot to learn), bonding with my husband only over our kids (this one is EASY to fall into), defining myself singularly (I CONTAIN MULTITUDES), taking friends for granted (oh my friends I love and need you and you're worth the work to connect).

Here is what is coming with me: recognition that I can be toxic and messy and need to keep working on myself (the pinnacle has not been reached), enduring gratefulness to have a school library position (a dream I didn't even know was a dream until a few years ago and I reached it SO FAST!), the work of letting go of needing to be liked (you don't have to like me), my three degrees (I can celebrate that! Three degrees! THAT IS BADASS), my mulletish undercut (grow, baby, grow), a newfound appreciation for identifying and nurturing mentor relationships, a closer connection to my mother and sisters, my planner habit, a fledgling bullshit detector, an understanding of when to stay quiet...I'm realizing that I could go on. I've got some tools.

Here's hoping I keep carving out time to write down my thoughts. Here we go, Middle.

(I'm struggling to find an image credit for this gorgeous picture- if anyone has any leads, let me know!)