Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24th, 2017


This weekend, I'm going to make some decisions. 

It's my first weekend of summer vacation. I'm spending almost the entire time with friends- on a lake in Maine, at a lovely lunch destination in New Hampshire. I'm going to have a lot of driving time to think and to listen. I'm going to have a lot of time away from the hectic pace of work and family to process everything bouncing around my ridiculous brain. I'm going to absolutely embrace the damn magic of this gift of a weekend.

And I'm going to make some decisions.

Last weekend, I talked with my mom. Really talked, with the barriers down. When I was young, I was a bitch at home, and I didn't have a good relationship with my mom. When I got older, we got incredibly close, but I was so scared of returning to the bitch-daughter status that it was hard for me to be real. This weekend we were real. About the deaths in our lives. About the things we wanted for ourselves a long time ago. About the things we would need to do if we wanted to live the lives we had planned, or even if the plans changed. We ate lobster rolls and fried clams and had one of the most personal conversations of all time under the cover of the bluegrass live music that was playing right next to us. The dude started playing You Are My Sunshine, the song that, in our family, represents all the men who have died before their time, and we started openly sobbing. It was that kind of day.

My mom said two things that have stuck with me big time. She used the phrases "small life" and "I'm not going to let moss grow under my feet." These things resonated so hard I could feel them vibrating in my chest. I can talk FOREVER and I can't find words to explain how those things made me feel.

I haven't fought for much. I haven't taken any risks. The biggest thing I've done that includes even a modicum of self sacrifice is going on medication, and I benefit as much as my family. I got a teaching degree because someone said I'd be a good teacher. I got a job in a district and I stayed there because it's safe and because you get better at it every year. I had one kid because I like kids, and just as much because it's what you do when you've been married awhile. Without much thought, another came along quickly. We moved because we ran out of space. It's a wonderful life, one I truly love. But I wonder how I can add intentionality moving forward.

I spent my teens and twenties dabbling in other people's lives, trying on different personalities, exploring what I liked. Sometimes I cringe when I look back and see how clueless I was, but I try to be patient with myself. It was all work that brought me here, to this strangely pivotal time. I've felt strongly in 2017 that I am at a turning point. And I feel it even more strongly this weekend.

So I'll drive, and I'll think. I'll be with friends and enjoy their company and pay close, close attention to what words and ideas make me light up. I'll make some lists. I'll make some decisions.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Things Making Me Happy

At the end of last week, I had a minor mini breakdown. My anxiety skyrocketed. I fought with my husband- not a novel thing, but I recognized old patterns in the way I couldn't drop it, stormed away and stormed back again, louder this time. I isolated myself from people who I wanted badly to see. I stood at coffee counters, firmly telling myself I'd feel much better with tea or water, and walked away with large drinks full of stuff that would make my heart race. Little bells went off- this isn't normal. This isn't right. The little bells are lifesavers and such proof that I've come so far. I thought about how crappy I'd felt on Thursday and Friday, and felt sad that that used to be every single day.

The culprit was yoga, or lack thereof. I had been going once a week to an hour long class and then doing SUPER LOW EXERTION workouts on a little elliptical I keep in my office a few other times. It was nothing that was sculpting my body or blowing my mind, but apparently it was keeping things together. I got thrown off my routine two weeks ago when I had to be out on weeknights, and exercise dropped off the plan. I felt the difference SO HARD. And I felt so lucky to be able to notice, analyze, and trace back to the source. This is a skill I took forever to develop.

Anyway, that awareness is making me happy. So I thought I'd share a few other things making me happy right now.

1. Horoscopes
I love them so much. Right now I'm really, really into the Astrotwins. They have daily, weekly, and monthly horoscopes for every sign and I check in every morning. I love how reading horoscopes lets you see how you're feeling about yourself- whatever person-specific things bubble up as you read are the things you are holding close to your heart. I don't overthink them, but I let them inspire me. I also check out Susan Miller and Chani Nicholas.



2. New Clothes
I don't buy new clothes very often, but I splurged during Modcloth's Memorial Day sale. The thing I love about Modcloth is the community aspect- the reviews are full of honest and detailed descriptions, especially from fat people. This makes me feel so much more comfortable shopping. I know they were recently bought by a different company and am warily keeping an eye on how things play out, but for now, the business side of things went well! I bought a romper patterned with umbrellas and storm clouds, a LBD for my sister's bachelorette, a green skirt (which I own in yellow and get countless compliments on), a heart-patterned tank top, brown saltwater sandals, and a red dress patterned with ice pops for my anniversary party. I have to try everything on this weekend, but I wore the romper to Book Expo this week in New York and no one tried to sell me tickets to the Statue of Liberty, so I think I blended in among the city people. Being a fat girl in a romper was a fashion goal achieved! 


3. Summer plans
Last year was the summer of moving, and house stuff took up every second of my time, This summer is the summer of family, and that's where my focus will be. My sister/best friend is getting married in October, and this summer brings a lot of pre-wedding celebration. My son was diagnosed with a developmental delay at the end of the school year, and we're going to be trying to keep a loose "homeschool" schedule so we can work on behavioral tasks he needs to nail before heading back to school. My husband and I have been married ten years in June, and that needs it's due attention. School goes almost all the way through June this year, but we're left with 8 solid weeks to breathe before everything starts up again. I hope to make the most of them.


4. Be Your Own Book Club
IT'S BACK! Our June pick is THE HATE U GIVE, a wildly popular YA novel dealing with the Black Lives Matter movement and a young black girl torn between two worlds. I've been hearing nothing but great things about this novel for months now, both from the industry and from friends, but what really tipped me over was the fact that Cult of Pedagogy (a teaching website I love) is also reading it as part of their summer book club. The chance to hear about this important book from an educator's perspective was too much to pass up. I'm going to try and focus a lot of the discussion on Instagram and on the Be Your Own Lady Facebook page. Let me know if you're reading along!



What's making you happy?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

In Which My Planner Makes Me Face The Truth About My Schedule


Things I have learned about myself since I've started using a Passion Planner:

1. Mondays are my best day (so now I know I need to seriously frontload my week)

2. If I fall out of the habit of checking in nightly, I fall apart in a completely disproportionate manner.

3. When I take the time to add stickers and happy-making tape, I'm happier and feel more organized.

4. I have too many things going on.

5. I have too many things going on.

6. I have too many things going on.

There is nothing cute or brave or impressive about having too many things going on, especially when you struggle with time management like I do. And I seriously do. I've been living my life in such an oblivious way for SO long, but anyone who knows me realizes that I am never on time, I am always doing things last minute, my house has to be terrifically filthy before cleaning becomes a priority, and I have no way of measuring how long things will take me to complete. I am just learning how bad I am at this part of my life. 

I sat in an IEP meeting for my son yesterday and read pages of gorgeously written reports about the way his brain and body work. Comparing what he can do in a separate tiny room to what his teachers see in his classroom and what our family sees at home. He's smart and strange (the reports are peppered with weird things he said or did over the course of his testing, it's amazing) and struggling. Sitting in a room of professionals who know him well, we realized that he doesn't have the planning skills he needs to succeed. He knows a lot, but doesn't know where to start. And sometimes really simple tasks seem so hard that he gives up and throws an out-of-scale temper tantrum. It's supposed to be ridiculous behavior. And I sat there thinking, "Me too, sweetheart. Me too."

I'm loving using a Passion Planner because it calls for constant self-reflection, and one of the biggest truths it's showing me right now is that I am taking on too much and doing a lot of things poorly as a result. I'm not doing a good job of regularly blogging here, maintaining the book club, keeping up with my Book Riot duties, participating in my novel writing group, planning my sister's wedding festivities, running the school newspaper, and still being a good friend, a present mother, and holding down a full time teaching job. Writing down that list, I started getting the weird pride rush- Look at everything you're doing! This is the problem. It seems like a badge of honor. I have to remind myself that I'm doing very few of those things WELL. And most weeks, by Thursday, I am so overwhelmed that I shut down and pull the blankets over my head before it's even dark outside. I am not thriving.

Ways I'm pulling back:

1. I put out a call on social media last week for people to share their reviews of the March selections for Be Your Own Book Club, and from here on out, the book club will exist on social media, but not with official blog posts. 

2. I've taken a step back from my novel completely. I had been miserable when I didn't write and felt extremely stale and forced when I did. I get The Check In, a Tiny Letter for writers written by one of my favorite authors, Amy Spalding. A few weeks back I replied to her Tiny Letter, and she wrote back (which was a fangirl moment for sure). Her advice was to take a break, maybe even work on a different project, and try to actually miss your characters, So I've taken it out of my rotation, at least until my next excerpt is due to my group in June.

3. Posting will continue to be sporadic here. After The Lady Project Summit, I was really fired up to be more consistent and try to interact more, but I think it will have to remain my free-association journal and random confessional for awhile longer.

4. I'm publishing two more issues of the school newspaper, and then using the summer to decide if a school book club would be more beneficial to myself and the students in my school, or whether to revamp the way I run the newspaper for next year.

5. When I schedule exercise like an appointment, I pay attention, so I'm going to do the same for one-on-one time with my kids. It has to be as much of a deadline as my other work or the guilt of not hanging with them will crush me. It also has to fit within the limited lines of a daily time block- if the block is full of various other responsibilities, the family time won't happen.

Some things that won't change: 

1. I'll still be active on Instagram and Twitter (because I like it and I meet a lot of friends there) 

2. I'll be focusing more on my Book Riot duties (because it pays and has opened so many doors for me and because I'm so proud to be a part of it)

3. My sister's wedding year is still a huge priority for me (because she's my best friend and because it's really fun).

None of this is NEWS, per say. It's just me thinking out loud, because that's what I do best. It might be a nice reminder for you, if you're forgetting that you can constantly adjust or that you need to give yourself permission to do less. Anyone else feel like confessing? Are you taking on too much? What can you pull back from? What are your non-negotiables? I'd love to hear I'm not the only deluded one. 


*Passion Planner notes: I'm obsessed with this thing. I'll write more about it at a later date, but right now there are some great sales you can take advantage of. Through May 8th, the colorful undated planners are HALF OFF. If you enter XANDRA10 at check out, you'll get 10% off (I got this code from Heroine Training when I bought mine), and if you enter ashlieelizabeth@gmail.com as your referral email, I'll be forever grateful. All images in this post are from the gorgeous Passion Planner Instagram account. I am in no way affiliated with Passion Planner, just REALLY into them.