Saturday, October 27, 2018

Coping Strategies for Shit Times


Some really scary health things are happening in my house right now. I never withhold information to be mysterious, but this isn't my story, and so I can't gush every detail the way I usually do. Everything is going to be okay, but this fall is shaping up to be different than I planned. I've never been more grateful that I took a semester off library school, that I freelance with an organization that supports it's contributors so gracefully, that I have family medical days at work, that my family is ready to swoop in and buy plane tickets and make me pumpkin chili at a moment's notice. I do not take this support network for granted. 

Still, I'm scared. I'm making connections to past trauma. I'm sad to see people I love in uncomfortable situations. I'm emotionally drained. My body is doing it's "let's-shut-down-shit-is-getting-heavy" thing. I can feel stress curling around the muscles in my upper back. All I want to do is sleep. Sometimes, that's the answer. But that's not going to get my family and I through the next few months. SO...

Here is a list of things I do when everything is falling apart. They might not be the things that YOU do when everything is falling apart. The goal for me has been to do things that serve future me- the me that will be stressed, sore, and scared PLUS have to go to work, or figure out the holidays for my kids, or take a block of time away from all responsibilities and be a caregiver. Typing this is list is a literally a way to shake off my depressive feelings and remind myself that there are clear-cut accomplishables that will help.

1. Move
I don't FEEL like it. But I know that movement is going to save me right now. I'm not calling this "exercise" because that conjures visions of working up a sweat, forcing yourself through drudgery...that's not the goal. If you can't afford to get a massage, STRETCH and give your muscles some kindness. If your body is feeling stiff and stifled, walk outside and let the cold wake you up. I am always happier when I read, but I haven't been prioritizing reading...getting myself on the elliptical with a book improves my mood and wakes me up and is generally A Good Thing. Putting movement on my list helps A LOT, especially in times of crisis when it's socially acceptable to let it slide. It's a reminder that moving your body is not something you have to do, but something that can help you.  

2. Cook
When this bad news first crashed into the family sphere, my first impulse was to cook and freeze tons of dinners. It was a smart move. A big batch of a soup, a bunch of marinated meat...even when my brain was fried mid-week, there was no excuse to buy takeout that wouldn't nourish us- dinner was already set. This weekend I want to lay in bed and order lots of Chinese food (a prospect made more tempting by the fact that we were paid and could actually afford this), but I know that I'll be happier and feel stronger if I make a grocery list and chop up a bunch of veggies. THERE IS A TIME FOR TAKEOUT...it is coming. But right now, but I'm going to type "soup" into pinterest and be a suburban mom in the best possible way.

3. Plan
Christmas and Thanksgiving are going to look different this year, full stop. I'm hating the out-of-control feeling I have not knowing where we will eat turkey or what our funds will look like mid-December. One way to handle it? Do everything possible to be ready for the most hectic time of the year RIGHT NOW. Your girl who is, at the mo, struggling to shower regularly has made a Google doc with a spreadsheet with every person we're buying a Christmas present for, a budget range, and gift ideas, as well as place to check off when the gift was purchased and when it was wrapped. I've already scooped up a few gifts using Halloween sales and made plans to take a family picture for our Christmas cards. I'm not usually this on top of things, but it's giving me a small sense of control in an out-of-control time. 

4. Comfort
If I'm good at one thing, it's comforting myself. I'm watching my comfort shows with zero shame. I'm turning to Christian mommy blogger podcasts with increasing regularity- I find them deeply soothing when I'm stressed, in particular ones that detail chores, housekeeping, and other homemaker-y routines. (This is strange to me, too, and I'm currently exploring this in another essay. Stay tuned.) I'm making time to play with stickers/washi tape/highlighters in my planner and on our family calendar, because it makes me happy AND makes me feel like we're more organized. Is is the BEST use of my limited mental bandwith right now? Actually, yeah. It comforts me.

5. Forgive
Yourself, when none of the above works. About half the time recently, these tenants above have kept me breathing and kept our family running. The other half, I've used my gym time to eat an entire box of Triscuts while sitting in my car, or took a two hour after-school nap while my kids play too many video games. It's survival, honey. It's not pretty. It's okay. Video games and Triscuts are coping methods, too. Do what feels good. When it doesn't feel good, reassess. Or write a blog post about what feels good. 

Pinterest is my friend right now. I have a private board which I am unlocking called BEST SELF. It's a board of reminders about who I want to be, what I am up against, and what I am capable of. I look at it once a day. I'm also stockpiling yoga stretches and soup recipes and cutesy stocking stuffers as I'm trying to be my most productive survivor self. If Pinterest is one of the things that further stresses you, DON'T CLICK. For me, it's almost like a weird template with ideas I can take or leave, and right now, it's helping.

How about you? What are some of your basic coping strategies when shit is hitting the fan? What strange thing comforts you? I hope you're doing okay <3 

Monday, September 17, 2018

This is not a library school post.


Last year, around this time, I started library school. All of my dreams were coming true at once, and I was so freaking optimistic. My kids were both in school full time. I had the job I had always dreamed of. I was in classes full of likeminded people. I was sure I had peaked- I felt weird guilt about how great every single part of my life was. Funnily enough, it wasn't the cakewalk I thought it would be. I overscheduled myself with grad classes and ended up having a really tough fall. I stopped all my medication and my mental health was a mess. I was out of touch with my family, and my marriage and relationships with my kids really suffered. And I stopped writing.

It wasn't useless hardship. I've come really far with self examination over the past year. Right around Christmas, when the shit was really hitting the fan, I set myself a group of goals, and they helped me prioritize my life. I pulled back on my classes and finished my first year as a Media Specialist. I got a great therapist and started taking a new medication that I never skip. I committed to communication, and I talk to husband and my kids a lot about things that bother me. I'm working really hard not to be defensive when they bring up the same to me. I'm still hard to live with at times. I still shut down when things get too real. I'm still scared to watch shows or movies that might make me feel emotions. But I'm working on it and I'm very happy in a real way- an earned way.

One really tough part of this past year is I completely stopped writing. My blog posts were just for library classes (sorry about that). I wrote very few Book Riot articles. And my fiction stories were completely abandoned. I dropped my writing group the second I got my new job, and I deeply regret it. There's no way I could have done them the justice they deserve on top of my courses and my scattered lifestyle anyway, but I miss them. I miss my friends and I miss reading each others' work and being deeply invested in the process of writing. I know I'll have it again, one day, and right now I'm trying to make that be enough.

This fall, I'm cautious and optimistic. We have a big huge calendar hanging in the kitchen, a shared Google calendar that we update religiously, and my personal planner- every detail of our lives is written down three times at a minimum. That helps. We have a weekly meeting where we talk about events and chores and every family member can bring up issues (Milo, day one: "I want to talk about how much you guys are on your phones." Ouch.) None of the classes I need are being offered this semester, so I'm taking a break, updating my paperwork with the Department of Education, and trying to be super organized so when classes pick back up, I won't fall to pieces.

I think all the time about what I know was the best year of my life so far: 2015. I had two kids that were so cute, a handsome husband who had just redone our back porch into a little writing oasis that made my heart soar. I had a job that I was good at, that I had been doing long enough that I no longer agonized over every single detail. I had friends I adored, and spent the fall being fawned over as I turned 30- shows, fancy hotel stays, luxurious meals, surprise parties. I ran a book club, blogged, wrote 500+ words of fiction a day, went to the gym regularly, tried new foods and beers all the time, and felt amazing. I felt amazing. 

On paper, my life is "better" now. We bought a bigger house. I got my dream job. My kids are older, out of diapers, in school all day with childcare significantly less difficult. It's all "better," but so, so much harder. And that annoys me. Why is it harder now? It's obvious. I leveled up. I can't have a cozy, lived in feeling in a house automatically- that shit takes work. I can't be an expert at a job in the first year- that shit takes work. I can't anticipate my kids' every need when they're in a completely new section of their development- that shit takes work. 2015 was so great because I had reached the ceiling for that part of my life. I'll think of it fondly for a long, long time. And now, back to work.

(Art via Pinterest by Camila Rosa- her work is absolutely amazing and you should buy some of it.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

LBS 850- Module 12 THE END

It's the last day of my Emerging Technologies for Libraries class, and we're revisiting the Top Ten Tips lists we made at the beginning of the summer. While my big ideas haven't changed, I have definitely acquired a ton of new tools to help me reach my goals. I have two major take aways- I need to make time to stay on top of these tech developments, and focus on the TYPES of tech, because there are too many tools to keep track of without sorting them.

As far as making time is concerned, I know it needs to be a part of my routine in order to take root. Last year I was very worried about staying on top of age=appropriate titles for elementary school when most of my pleasure reading was YA. I implemented a daily silent reading timing as a part of my routine and when the students were reading, so was I. I used the time specifically to read things I would want to add to or recommend in the library. I'm going to set up a similar daily time period to stay up-to-date with tech. MY administration mandates a consistent typing practice, so during the class typing time, I will research or work on tech tools. 

For the sorting, Barb organized things for us during Module 3 into ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF, FIND NEW STUFF, and FIND NEW BOOKS. For my students, I might choose categories like "FIND NEW INFORMATION, ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION, PRESENT YOUR INFORMATION" Being able to describe the tools and figure out what category they belong to will help students realize how the tools will be used and if they need it or not.

Below is the list I posted at the beginning of the semester. It still stands, but thanks to this class I have a ton of new tools to flesh out the list and meet my technology goals.

10. Don't overwhelm yourself. Pick a technology that you're already somewhat familiar with on a personal level and leverage that for use in the classroom. Then move on to new things.

9. Focus more on the types of technology (communication tools, research tools, databases, etc) than the actual products. Products change, but the needs remain the same.

8. Give yourself time to play with new products.

7. Give your students time to play with new products.

6. Seek out professional development about new apps/tech- so much is available, a lot of it for free!

5. Use social media (Instagram and Twitter!) to seek out other educators who are doing similar work- these connections will inspire you and keep new tech on your radar.

4. Figure out the curriculum connections before you choose the tech to teach- use these tools to enrich the education already taking place.

3. Check and find out what your students already know before you plan your lessons. Especially in this 2018 tech-heavy world, students already know A TON. Check in before you plan to teach them.

2. Ask students what they wish they could learn. Ask them how they would use the tech they want to learn. In general, involve them in this process.

1. HAVE FUN! The future is now.