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Some Days

Some of these days, these isolated but crowded, boring but loud days, some of them are like this:

  • rainbow-watercolorThird grade social studies research that leads YouTube samba lessons in the family room;
  • A video for Kindergarten art class that inspires a boat made of egg cartons, a cardboard box transformed into an ocean;
  • Sourdough starter frustrations that result in a delicious loaf of bread, even if it doesn’t rise quite enough;
  • Collecting worms in the driveway between rainstorms;
  • Early morning yoga as the day brightens, the cat snoring on the couch behind me as I try to ground into another week – week 5 here at home. Inhale, exhale, repeat;
  • Painting at the table together when I can’t focus on work for a minute longer, talking about mixing colors, warm and cool, and how they land on the page;
  • Negotiations over watching a show ( “how about two episodes if we fold laundry while we watch?” Ok.), and then more negotiations over who holds the remote;
  • Arguments over which music to listen to, which dance choreography to learn, Easter candy ownership, and who didn’t pick up the Barbies;
  • Zoom rehearsal for Moana, Jr., Shiny heard across the house, over and over;
  • Sad moments, leaning into one another, remembering everything and everyone we miss, what else will be cancelled, the uncomfortable unknowns, acknowledging that this is really so very hard;
  • The rain and wind pounded against the house today. Inside, it’s just us, together. We hold hands and say grace before dinner, like we do every night. Gratitude for our food, family, and friends, sending up prayers. These days, no one is rushing off to dance class or missing dinner for a meeting. We’ve had dinner together for the past 32 nights in a row, and counting. We pass the slightly-flat freshly baked sourdough bread and the Easter dinner leftovers. We talk about what we’re reading, plan our next movie night, make plans for when the sun returns.

Today, this is what it’s like.

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Isolating, Together

Here we are, so very very here. Here in our home. Here with each other. Entering week 4 of social distancing or physical distancing or social isolation or lockdown or whatever phrase you prefer. I haven’t entered a building other than my home since Saturday, March 14.

We work from home, learn from home, see loved ones on our screens, entertain ourselves, create, exercise, cook and bake, slow down and miss so very many things.

Charlotte’s gap-toothed smile is filling in with adult-sized teeth and she’s mastered riding a two-wheeler.

Evy, newly 9, is exploring a budding interest in baking and also misses everyone deeply.

Our suburban street has filled up with walkers, bikers, runners, families looking for a breath of fresh air. We wave, smile, understand that the answers to “how are you?” are probably only partially true.

As a family, we try not to sink down into stasis. We get dressed in the morning. We limit our screen time and do our best to focus on creating, reading, connecting. Outside time every day, hikes every weekend, we move our bodies and it’s always the right thing to do. I find rare moments of solitude in walking, running, yoga.

Without these things, we get grumpy, short with each other, whiney. Things feel even harder.

None of this is easy. It’s immense gratitude mixed in with frustration, disbelief, grief for what we’ve given up.

I mourn the things that are being missed: milestones, moments big and small, rites of passage, moments to gather, community, ritual, work, celebration.

I am grateful that I’m with my people. That we can all be home. That we still have jobs. For our home and yard. For a garden to plant and a stocked pantry. That we have the time I used to long for: unscheduled evenings and weekends, time to relax into our home, time to do things that have long sat on “to do” lists. It’s nearly impossible to imagine, but I’m sure that someday, when calendars are once again full, we’ll be nostalgic for this time.

And this is how it goes. Sad and grateful. The weight we carry, the gifts we’re given.

 

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Social Media Sabbatical: Observations and What Now?

ss sabbatical

For the month of July, I was off social media.

Mostly.

I deleted all social media apps from my phone.

My job includes managing the social media accounts for my organization, so I still had to look at Twitter and Facebook on my work computer. And I admit, I posted to my personal Twitter a couple times.

But no Instagram. Only the tiniest bit of personal Facebook engagement (our garage clean-out meant selling some things on Marketplace).

Facebook and Instagram are easily my biggest time-sucks and attention drains, and can definitely have a negative impact on my mental health. Giving myself a timeout from these networks was necessary.

So, now it’s August, and technically my sabbatical is over. I’m still digesting what I’ve learned and how to proceed. Honestly, I’m feeling anxious about coming back online.

Some observations:

  • According to my phone’s Screentime app, I looked at my phone far far less. And when I did, it was usually to read a text, take a picture, or use Google maps. I feel a lot better about that than I do about picking up the phone to mindlessly click through Instagram stories.
  • I read four books in July totaling 1,679 pages, and I’m a couple chapters into a fifth. Being on vacation for five days was part of that, but that’s quadruple what I usually read in a month. One of things I’d hoped to get out of this month was a shift to other (better!) uses of my time. I feel good about this one (and also depressed about all those wasted scrolling hours of the past).
  • The word sabbatical was important. Focusing on the positives of spending time in other ways is energizing. This wasn’t a punishment or a detox, but a choice to make time to intentionally recharge, reflect, and engage in deeper activities.
  •  Healthier habits. I have been much much better about going to bed at 10:30 and waking up early to fit in a run or a walk. Also: I’ve started running with no music, no podcasts. Embracing quiet seems to be a side effect of this sabbatical. It’s lovely – who knew?
  • I missed seeing what my friends were up to. I did more one-on-one texting and it was a good month for seeing friends, but I did miss the little glimpses into daily life, keeping tabs on what my loved ones are up to. I felt a bit out of the loop. That said: Many of those one-on-one conversations went deeper and were more meaningful than “liking” their most photographic moments. Of course.
  • Social media gives me a false sense of social fulfillment and connection. I felt like I was keeping in touch with loved ones by seeing their posts, but was I? Is commenting on a photo the equivalent of being a good friend? Eliminating social media made me realize how much I want and need more meaningful time with the people I love and don’t see enough of. More good conversations, silly laughs, dinners to linger over, summer evenings, simple real life connection. And I can reach out and make the time for those things.
  • It’s harder to keep up with community events without social media. That’s both good and bad. I find out about a lot of things through FB and Instagram, and without that connection I missed a lot. (But that forced slow-down isn’t all bad. The FOMO anxiety quiets down a lot when you don’t know about the eight events happening this weekend.)
  • I really don’t need to tell everyone about everything. And I don’t need to know everything or see every post.  It should be obvious, but I forgot that I don’t need to know who went to dinner last night or what everyone thinks about a certain movie or every moment of an acquaintance’s vacation. And, likewise, I don’t need to share it all. I’m going to be more intentional about sharing less, keeping some things just for those close friend and family conversations, embracing more privacy for myself and my family. It’s so easy to fall into the “share everything” habit, or to start thinking of your life in terms of posts, and of course to start the dreaded comparisons. I fell too deeply into that, and it didn’t feel good.
  • As Cal Newport predicted, I started using other apps that refreshed. Like the Weather app. Oyyy. Habits are hard to break. Especially in the beginning, I still had that craving for hits of new information. Every morning, TimeHop was a treat. I started checking the weather more frequently. Yikes, digital withdrawal is real and I’ve become conditioned by my phone in so many ways.
  • People noticed? I was surprised how many people told me they missed seeing my posts and/or asked about how my offline month was going. There’s something sweet about that, about knowing that things I share can make others happy, about acknowledging the shared world we create on those networks and our power to influence that world. It’s something to think about, along with the above. So much of it is about the intention behind how we use these networks.
  • July is glorious. And it was nice to experience it offline. My garden is bursting and bringing me so much joy. Our time at the lake was impossibly beautiful. My kids have spent the summer getting dirty and sweaty, swimming and dancing, making things and being with friends. We’ve spent time with our extended family. We took in shows and music and art together. We spent time with dear friends, shared ups and downs, celebrated and supported. Taking the time to show up, look up, and notice the little moments is always worth it and much easier to do without unimportant distractions.
  • Sometimes I want to share interesting things or crowdsource answers. I missed the social medias for that.
  • Look around, look around. Everyone is on their phone. All. The. Time. I knew this, and still, the amount is shocking. Put your phone away, close the computer, engage.
  •  My 8-year-old noticed a difference. Oof. Yeah. She noticed that I wasn’t looking at my phone much. We talked about it. We talk a lot about screen time, about what other kids do and what our family does. We are a low-screen family when it comes to the kids, but we talk a lot about technology use. This was a wake-up call to practice what we preach.
  • What now? This is the big one, and like I said, I’m nervous. I’m good with keeping the Twitter and Facebook apps app off my phone and occasionally using the desktop versions. Instagram is a tougher one. I generally like Instagram, but I don’t want it to dominate my brain and I don’t want to fall right back to old habits. The desktop version is very limited and almost unusable. Can I put the app back on my phone and limit my use? Do I have the self-discipline for that? It’s an uphill battle against an app that’s engineered to keep my attention, but I’m going to try. To start, I’m again cutting the list of those I follow, and scaling back my own posts.
  • I’ll be doing it again. I needed this. It’s silly how much this technology has impacted my habits, my brain, and my well-being. A social media sabbatical every few months (or when I need it) would be a good thing.

I entered this month knowing I needed a break, and inspired by some things I’d been reading and listening to.  If you’re interested in trying it, here’s some inspiration:

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Reasons Not to Write

  • It’s too late
  • It’s too early
  • I’m not an expert on anything
  • It’s scary
  • I don’t have anything to say
  • I have too much to say
  • What to say??
  • What if ______ reads it
  • It feels too exposed/vulnerable
  • It’s all been said
  • None of it’s been said
  • I do words all day, I’m tapped out
  • I can’t find my creativity
  • I’m not really a writer, anyway
  • This season of life centers on foundations, and that isn’t very exciting
  • Can I write and maintain our family’s privacy?
  • Uninspired and/or jaded
  • So many things started and left unfinished
  • I don’t know where I’m headed
  • Afraid of being boring/too much/overwrought/simplistic/yammering on/pointless
  • Where to begin?

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Curation and Creation

paperwhiteIn five days I will turn 38 years old. Age is so strange. But anyway, birthdays and reflection and here I am back on this blog that I abandoned two years ago.

The word that I chose to define my 2019 was Curate. Two months in seems like a pretty good time to check up on that.

What am I curating? Why bother?

To start, I’m working on curating the words that flow into my eyes and ears. Curating the way I spend my time, the things that fill my home. Getting back down to what matters. Finding some white space.

It seems simple enough, and sometimes it is. Cleaning out a kitchen drawer, throwing out the tongs we’ve always hated or the 43 bread tags we’ve accumulated – that’s all pretty easy.

Unfollowing dozens of social media accounts, unsubscribing to podcasts I don’t listen to and newsletters I don’t read – it’s time consuming, but it isn’t hard. Staring at my phone for 30 minutes before bedtime? Does not fill me up. Reading or writing during those minutes? Yes please.

There are bigger areas to curate, bigger questions to answer. But just like curating the kitchen drawers, the key seems to be starting small. Envying people who are doing the work while I put off doing the work? Not fulfilling. Creating something, anything? It feels good, even the tiniest movements toward creation.

It’s been two years since I’ve written here. So this, I suppose, is a start. Inching back toward creating in this virtual space that’s mine, but also very much out in the world. It’s a bit scary, but here we go.

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Reading, February/March 2017

This year has me wanting to consume all the media, all the podcasts, all the blogs and books and news and music and theater and audiobooks – looking for… answers, comfort, solutions, hope, the silver lining.

And at this point a lot of that media and art consumption is half-finished. But the best of it is worth passing along. And instead of a bunch of social media posts, here are some links all in one place:

50 Things We Learned About Feeding Kids in the Past Six Years  (by a couple of my favorite food writers)

Hands Free Mama This book and blog are helping me along my journey of less time looking at my phone, more time being a present parent. I hate how much time my phone steals from me, and it’s a hard habit to break. The tips and worldview of this book are practical and helpful. What moments are you missing when you’re looking at a screen?

The Pushcart War – this is one of my husband’s childhood favorites, but I’d never read it. I’m reading along now as he reads it to our kindergartner – it is the perfect thing to read for this moment of resistance, persistence, and sticking up for each other.

Dear Warren – The Gates Foundation’s Annual Letter  – Read this to feel better about the world and the progress being made. The Gates Foundation has had an incredible impact on advances in medicine and public health around the world.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – I’ve been recommending this book to everyone. Our dear friend Julia gave this book to Evelyn for Christmas and we all love it. Accessible, one-page stories about all types of women from all periods of history in all different fields, accompanied by dynamic illustrations.

The Four Tendencies quiz – I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s writing (and podcast) on happiness. She put together a short but helpful quiz to help you figure out your tendency when it comes to habits and life. Learning about my tendency has been really helpful when I think about setting up habits and goals (I’m an Obliger).

The most charming Instagram account there ever was.

 

 

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To Start the Year

Here are some things I’m reading, listening to, and doing to start the year – and to prepare for what’s ahead:

The Tail End. If you need a reminder that time is precious, this is it. I plan to reread it every few months. (via Maggie Mason.)

Happier With Gretchen Rubin. I really like this podcast, and Rubin’s books. Small, concrete ways to hone in on the things that make for a happier life. Learning about “The 4 Tendencies” and how your tendency shapes your habit-forming is a game-changer.

The Good Mother Myth.  I’m finally getting around to reading this on my kindle. This is the perfect read for this moment in my life when I’m really trying to figure out what makes me and my family happy, rather than what the blogs/Pinterest/Instagram/magazines say I should be doing. The essays on motherhood here are honest and real – it’s a refreshing read.

Design Mom – the book. I reread this all the time. I love Gabrielle Blair’s approach to setting up family spaces, thinking about your home, and making your home work for your family.

Resolved: Be Good…Most of the Time (This post is a good January reminder. You should also read Jenny’s books. Her approach to food and family is excellent.)

Top Mighty Girl Books on:

Raising Race Conscious Children I want to do more and better on this front.

 

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