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Invented Charm Posts

Hello, Little Miss

We welcomed my daughter, Iris Paloma, in June and she rocked our world this summer in the best way. She’s amazing! Nick and I are so happy. Her brother is in love and shows her a lot of affection.

I knew there would be big changes going from one to two kids, but I never had a concrete sense of how I’d see those changes. There are literally more people I have to keep track of, that’s for sure. We all got a virus in mid-August, and it’s been a lingering thing that’s turned into secondary infections. Nick got it first, then my son, then me, and just when I thought I was getting over it, Iris got it. I cannot tell you the number of trips to the doctor we’ve taken. I literally can’t because I’ve lost track. It’s an infinite number of tissue boxes and cough drops and antibiotics…

I’m a highly sensitive person and having alone time cut down further by a precious little baby is really hard. I’ve had to loosen some of my standards and let go of some of my ideals in this transitional season. Here are some of the changes I’ve made:

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When You’re Done

I’m 36 weeks pregnant and I’m just done. Done with it all, and yet there’s not much I can take off my plate. We still have to eat three times a day at least, laundry needs to be washed and folded, Rory needs a responsible adult to watch him and engage with him for 12+ hours a day, etc.

But still, there are some things I’ve figured out to help me cope with being over it that are worth a post. I think this advice is applicable to anyone who is in a really challenging season of life, not just their third trimester of pregnancy.

Lower your expectations and ask others to lower their expectations of you

There’s no sense in pretending you’ve got boundless energy when you don’t, so get everyone on the same page as you. Give yourself grace, and be honest with what you’re capable of doing, even if it’s half as much as usual. I didn’t do this when I was pregnant with Rory, and it’s a huge regret. I tried to power through every ache and pain, and I took on way more than I should have professionally and personally.

Currently, one of my biggest hurdles is keeping up with planning and cooking meals. I’ve relied on my partner to take on even more of the cooking duties, and when I’m the one in the kitchen I’ve had to majorly scale back what I cook. Sometimes our meals aren’t all that balanced, other times they don’t really hit the spot, but at the end of the day we got food on the plates and tummies fed. That has to be enough for now.

If you need to scale back in any area of your life, it’s okay. When your situation changes and you have more energy, you’ll be ready to go back to your usual routine or have the energy to create a new one.

Ask for help and make it easy for others to offer you help

The hardest part of this might just be identifying specific areas where you need help, or if you’re generally the person everyone counts on it might be asking for help at all. Get really clear with yourself about why you need help and try to let go of any guilt or judgement. Don’t compare yourself to others who appear to have it all together; appearances are deceiving. If something is tough for you, you deserve to ask for and receive support.

Have a list going on your phone or in a notebook of things that need to get done but that can be outsourced. For me, this has meant asking my mom to pick up a pair of maternity leggings when she told me she was out shopping already, or asking my friend to pick up eggs at Costco when she was already making a run. It may seem small, but both examples were a huge help and solved an immediate problem for me. Not having to run out to the store meant I had energy to do things like take my son to his swimming lessons.

When you’re in a really hard season of life, you have to find ways to work smarter, not harder. You’d be surprised how people respond to pleas for help–I’ve found that most people want to help if the requests are reasonable.

Set aside time for fun

Having fun is often the first sacrifice we make in a difficult time, but I think it’s worth preserving. Fun is a natural release valve for tension. If you never make time for fun, you’re always going to feel stressed. I can’t escape being physically uncomfortable and the worry that comes along with being this pregnant, but I can give myself a break to enjoy myself and forget about my cares for a couple of hours at a time.

During the last month I’ve gone to get a pedicure, had two massages, went to dinner with a friend, and had a fancy afternoon tea with another friend. If I hadn’t made the effort to set up these activities, I would have stayed at home feeling sorry for myself and mindlessly scrolling on the internet. It may take a mindset shift to prioritize your own fun and sense of enjoyment, but it’s worth it. It might sound like a lot of time to take off from my regular responsibilities, but all of these activities were one to two hours max once a week.

You have time for fun, I promise. If you have time to worry, switch things up a bit. Spend one hour you’d normally spend down a rabbit hole on the internet and call a friend for a chat while you make yourself a delicious chai latte or paint your nails.

Give yourself all the rewards

I started putting stickers in my calendar for doing mundane things like the dishes and laundry. I have a whole system of stickers, in fact, to denote how good of a job I’m doing on a day to day basis. I buy myself junk food when I’m grocery shopping. I hit the drive through after playdates. I bought a new red lipstick a few weeks ago after running a million annoying errands to get ready for Rory’s birthday party.

My normal self would have felt a lot of guilt and shame for so many indulgences, but I’m literally a different person right now. If you’re not sleeping normally, overworked, pregnant, undergoing treatment, grieving, or transitioning through a really tough phase you need to be extra gentle and kind to yourself. Now is not the time to be regimented, stingy, harsh, or judgmental. Go ahead, eat the cookie.

Of course, be responsible. Don’t plan a Vegas bender just for getting through a work week, but give yourself a reasonable reward for getting up when you just really want to lie down.

Release whatever or whoever weighs you down

If there is something or someone holding you back or weighing you down, let go. Wish them the best (internally/figuratively), and move on with your life. Unfollow, hide their status, and ignore cards, texts, or emails. Maneuver around whatever guilt trip is set up for you. You are wise and know what’s best for you, so trust your gut.

We all have relationships or habits that no longer serve us, and often we keep them around longer than we should. The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome. During a chaotic season is the perfect time to make a change, to release, and let go. I swear it’s going to be okay.

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Serendipity Space

We are back in Santa Barbara for Nick’s work trip. It’s been hectic commuting for work and back up to Solvang where my in-laws live. They’re kindly putting us up and hanging out with Rory all day while Nick works and I play. I hitch a ride to town and then see where the wind takes me. Literally. It’s super windy here and I feel like I’m getting pushed around!

Usually I try to plan what I’m going to do while in town–run errands, see friends for lunch, take walks at the beach or on campus, write, etc. Sometimes I over plan and end up feeling like I’m pressed for time (or stuffed because I scheduled two lunches on the same day by accident). I approached this trip a little differently. I decided that it was really important for me to have alone time. I wanted to work on the novel I’m trying to finish, have time for blogging, and squeeze in some good old fashioned journaling. I brought some novels, which I have yet to crack.

It’s been great not feeling rushed, but I miss seeing ALL of my friends! I know it’s not possible to see everyone over the course of a few days unless you can get a firm commitment ahead of time. I’ve become more acutely aware how little flexibility most of my friends have in their daily schedules, and I’m trying to honor that by not putting pressure on anyone. I’m left with a lot of free time, and honestly, I am trying to fill it with writing. But so much of writing is also spent avoiding writing…

I’m working on reframing these unscheduled hours as serendipity space. It’s a concept I heard about on the Edit Your Life podcast. It’s the idea that if you over-schedule yourself, you miss out on serendipitous opportunities, those little happy accidents that only happen by chance and can’t be planned. One example of that on this particular trip occurred when I sent a random email to my friend Jamie who also moved away from Santa Barbara not long after we did. Our partners still work for the university remotely, and we both have family in the surrounding areas. Over the course of our exchanges I mentioned we’d be in town in early February, and then out of nowhere she turned out to be heading here for a memorial service. We agreed to play it by ear, and if it worked out that we could meet up, we would.

Jamie and I were able to meet for coffee yesterday, and catching up after not seeing her for two years felt great. In a lot of ways we follow along with each other’s lives in our new towns and new homes, but there’s so much we don’t say on social media and it was nice to talk about those things. We both tend to be fairly private people, but we know which topics we reserve for face to face (or at the very least, in the privacy of a text or email) that only a long friendship can inform. If I had filled my calendar with appointments and plans, I never would have been able to say yes to meeting with Jamie.

Serendipity space is the kind of practical magic anyone can create if you’re willing to leave blank space on the calendar.

Image by Jess Watters via Stock Snap.

 

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Five Holiday Problems with Easy Solutions

Christmas is upon us. I hope you have your shopping and wrapping done. I hope you have a meal planned, maybe some cookies already baked and ready for Santa. But if you don’t, that’s okay. I’m here to give you permission to opt out (and by you, I mean me). You don’t need another holiday gift guide, what you need is to cut yourself some slack.

Five Holiday Problems with Easy Solutions

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How to be More Efficient with the Time You Have

I often feel my focus is very split between my day to day activities and those lurking to-dos that require way more attention than my toddler will let me give to them. I have more to do in a day than I feel like there’s time to do it. I write reminders upon reminders. I block off time just to think. I’ve got lists about lists… It doesn’t always come together perfectly, but I’ve come up with my best ideas to be more efficient with the time you have, whether you’re scatter brained like me or if you’re just in a frazzled season of life.


Don’t put things off.

I received two invitations for upcoming parties, and instead of losing them like I usually do, I actually RSVPd immediately. I called and emailed the party organizers within minutes of getting the invites, wrote the dates down in my calendar, and just felt very on top of things for once. Consider if the thing you need to do is quick and if it is, just do it. Don’t put off making a decision if it’s something that can be done without much hemming and hawing.

Seize every opportunity.

During our summer getaway, we were strolling during our last morning in Carmel by the Sea. There are tons of cute shops there and suddenly it struck me that I could get a jump start on buying gifts for several holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries upcoming. We bought really fun food gifts at a cute boutique and it was an enriching experience because we were smelling and tasting things and looking at all the beautiful packaging. I crossed off every person on my list who had an upcoming celebration—in total SIX people who I would have had to shop for individually at a later point. Take the opportunity that presents itself, whether it’s an unexpected chunk of time in a waiting room that you can use to review your budget or a cool boutique that can serve as a one-stop shop. It really helps if you review your calendar frequently and look ahead at upcoming events and significant dates. Speaking of dates…

Set a date.

Ever since I started doing You Need A Budget, I always consult my budget before I make purchases. I had a bridal shower to attend this summer, but I knew I didn’t have enough in my July gifts budget to buy anything. On the first of August I made my new budget, put in the money I needed for a gift off of my friend’s registry, and then took action. I still purchased the gift well in advance of the shower, but I did so only after consulting my budget and my calendar. It took some impulse control not to just buy the gift immediately, and I still do advocate doing things immediately when possible, but it’s just as efficient to complete tasks on a set date.

Group tasks together.

This isn’t a new concept. I’ve written about it before when I wrote about a Power Hour, which I learned about from the Happier Podcast. It’s one of my all-time favorite tips! I love to employ this tactic by grouping together tasks I dislike. I recently took a free afternoon to round up a bunch of gifts that needed to be mailed. I wrapped the items, wrote cards, packed the boxes, printed shipping labels, and dropped them off at the post office. I find it’s more efficient to do a bunch of things at once, especially if I don’t love the task.

Calendar several months in advance.

I recently committed to something that I had to back out of, and I feel terrible, but it was my mistake for not flipping through the pages of my calendar. I was so focused on stuff in October, that I forgot about a trip in November. To maximize efficiency, always look forward in your calendar. I find that during busy seasons, it’s most helpful to plan two to three months ahead. Update your online and paper calendars at the same time, and start to-do lists. Take a long view of things so you’re not caught off guard.

Image credit // Jess Watters via StockSnap.io

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Binge Worthy this Summer

It’s been a while. A hot minute. I can’t claim that I’ve been up to much lately. I think the longer I go between posts, the more I feel like I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. So here I am tapping the microphone. Yep, it’s still on.

follow me on Instagram @inventedcharm

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What I’m Loving Lately

It’s the spring 2018 edition! But first, just a quick recap of what I’ve been up to during my absence from the blog. From my lack of posting, you may think I haven’t been up to much writing, but I have been slogging through posts (about our house, toddler life, and motivational tips) in stolen minutes here and there. Mostly, I have just been enjoying the spring without the same sense of franticness I had in the winter. It does mean that I haven’t been that motivated to get anything finished and posted. I’m going to work on that. 😉

The following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a very small percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.

Spring Obsessions

The Outdoors

Just the general concept of it… Ha! We try to go to the park or spend some time in nature a couple times a week. I appreciate the green spaces around Modesto so much now that I have a small child. We explored the biggest park in town a few weekends ago and Rory had so much fun running down all the little hills. I don’t remember loving hikes or nature walks when I was a kid, but I find myself loving them more now.

East La Loma Park after a spring rain storm

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Treat Yo’ Self Ideas

I’ve been making great strides with my 2018 habit changes, but I have been struggling to find ways to treat myself. My favorite thing ever is a good ol’ Treat Yo Self day, but generally speaking, mimosas and fine leather goods are not sustainable or attainable healthy treats. On the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin often talks about how using food, drink, and shopping as treats undermines the positive habits changes we are trying to make. For example, one of my big goals this year is to stick to a budget and get back to saving monthly. My partner and I even started using the You Need a Budget app to better track our spending. It’s been going great so far, but the last thing I want to do is treat myself with shopping when what I want most is to save.

I think occasional planned indulgences that are food or shopping based are fine, I just want to get away from the notion that they are treats. We are all so busy with our daily lives  that we may feel depleted and drained. That’s why treats are effective at staving off burn-out. I’ve pulled together a list of experiences that are very simple, low cost or free, pleasurable treats.

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Happier Habit Changes

It’s 2018. Whoa. How’s it going for you thus far? Did you make some resolutions, pick a word of the year, or create a gratitude journal? I made a little notebook in my Notes app for 2018 goal setting, and I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts to keep me inspired and motivated. So far I’m batting 9/10 most days. It is pretty amazing, but yet I’m totally obsessed with one of the things on my list I can’t seem to do: write everyday.

Maybe it wasn’t realistic to create an all or nothing kind of goal when it comes to writing. But when I made that goal I thought I could totally do it. I did write every day in November through about December 23. So what is stopping me from having perfect 10/10 days?

I decided to use Gretchen Rubin’s Checklist for Habit Change to pinpoint where I went wrong, and I think I figured out some areas of my goal that need improving. If you’re having a hard time getting and staying motivated about a goals/resolutions/intentions for 2018, hopefully this post will resonate with you. Regular listeners of the Happier podcast will definitely recognize these tips.

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You Have Permission to Skip Everything

I had grand plans for this holiday season. I was going to post about Designing my Winter. I had a bunch of ideas–go ice skating, watch Love Actually at our art house theater on a date night, make a gingerbread house from scratch. But it’s a week until Christmas and all I’ve managed to do is put up a tree, have a couple peppermint mochas at Starbucks, get some shopping done (and not even all of it), and get my holiday cards out. Phew.

I have talked to a few friends about how stressed out I’m feeling. I’m constantly moving, working on writing, doing housework, parenting, etc. But I feel like I’m just treading water. During the holidays we have to do all our normal things, and then fold in all those extra obligations. And I have been trying, but to no avail, I can’t seem to fold in anything extra.

Every year I love to bake, but this year I just haven’t gotten to it. And when I think about doing it, I spin out into a panic. I had a total meltdown about it this weekend. I cried, I thought I was a terrible friend for flaking out and bringing store bought cookies to a get together. But the store bought cookies were fine. They were actually really tasty, and my friends didn’t care. It cost me seven bucks and just a bit of my pride.

Now that I can be a bit more reflective about how the first 19 days of December have gone, I will say that I think I’ve put my energy in the wrong place. Or maybe it’s not wrong, but next year I might choose differently. I have to accept that where I’m at in life means I don’t have room for everything. I want to do. I don’t want to give up a single thing, but if I don’t pick and choose carefully I’m not going to enjoy the holidays at all.

In the midst of writing this post, I got a call from a friend and we decided we aren’t exchanging gifts with each other or our families. I had been wanting to ask her that for weeks, but I never had the nerve. But I had to face facts: I’m down to the wire and I don’t want to do anymore shopping. I’m calling it. My holiday shopping is done, and sorry I’m not sorry if I crossed you off the list.

If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone. Be gentle with yourself. Chose to do things that will bring you joy and skip everything else. Honestly, here’s my permission to skip everything if that’s what is going to bring you joy.

This is the first year since Rory was born that I was able to do cards, have them printed, address them, and get them in the mail BEFORE the holiday.

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