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Category: life

An overdue update

It’s been a long minute since I’ve posted on this blog. Lately, I’ve had an itch to pursue my creative passions, so I’ll be writing here once again.

Let me update you on how I’ve been over the last few years. I’m still a full-time mom, with aspirations of writing, actively working on my craft. I’ve returned to a regular writing and reading practice, and that’s been hard won during the pandemic. I still love listening to podcasts. I dabble in yoga. My ideal day includes a walk in my neighborhood, a trip to the library or farmer’s market, and eating homegrown tomatoes. I am a novice once again in the kitchen, having to adapt my cooking and baking to be allergen friendly. I advise wayward students here and there, and would like to offer my services more widely if anyone needs guidance about higher education.

My kids have grown up a lot! Rory just celebrated his seventh birthday, and is finishing the first grade. He’s a great reader, loves video games and Star Wars, and is doing baseball this season. Iris will be turning three in June. She is fearless when it comes to climbing, and very chatty about all topics from gardening to movies. Both of my kids were diagnosed with food allergies after a couple of puzzling and frightful years. They are otherwise healthy and active, and even though things like cake and ice cream are stressful for us, they give me no guff about eating fruits and veggies.

Nick still works remote for the university, and my next planned post will be all about how we’ve learned to travel with him for extended stays. Despite living in the central valley, Nick’s favorite hobby is mountain biking, and he loves the trails here. He keeps us in batteries and lightbulbs and always has a project or three going on our fixer-upper.

I post on Instagram without much regularity, but you can find me there if you send me a message. I hope you’ll come back soon and check out what else I’ve been working on.

Our trip to Big Trees during spring break

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Life in the age of a pandemic

How’s it going out there? What are you up to? 

Oh, me? I’m okay.

I’m usually a stay at home mom, who now just stays at home all the time with both my kids. I’ve lost that saving grace aka preschool, which used to guarantee three solid hours of my oldest being educated and cared for by professionals.

My kids don’t understand why we FaceTime so much, why we exchange things with loved ones in an awkward dance on our porch. We don’t make promises anymore about plans with friends or trips to the park. On walks I carry hand sanitizer because no matter how many times you tell a five year old not to touch anything, he will forget and accidentally run his finger along a chain link fence. We don’t go on walks anymore because people don’t know what six feet apart means. I don’t like feeling like I’m in a game of chicken to see who will flinch first. Inevitably, I walk off into the ditch while the other person holds their ground.

Every cough, every sneeze, and every runny nose puts us on high alert. And if you know us at all you know our family has had SO many colds this past year. Before we are entirely over one we were onto another. My son came down with something the week after we took him out of school. Was it a coincidence that he picked up a common cold or had he incubated something deadly? Knock on wood, we’ve been the healthiest ever since he stopped going to school.

I recognize how good we have it. Nick already worked remotely and he can continue to do so safely from our attic .I didn’t have a job outside of the home to lose or a job I must now try to do while also caring for my kids. Our overall security hasn’t changed, but everything feels different. Scary. Uncertain. Risky.  

The messages don’t make sense. They say, “Stay home.” Only leave the house for essentials. But my Instagram is filled with local businesses encouraging our patronage in these tough times. Pizza has been deemed a necessity, but what about cake? Is there room for frivolity? The stakes feel so high. I’m a reasonably good cook and I don’t need someone to make me dinner, but damn it sure is nice. Coffee is my love language. Is a once-a-week coffee reckless or am I single-handedly keeping a mom and pop shop afloat, thus making me a true patriot?!?

I reach out to friends and family via text, different chat groups, Instagram, Facebook. Those little pings of communication are a lifeline to the outside world, a reminder that I’m not alone, and that when this is all over, we will hopefully all see each other again. Even if a relationship is a little broken, I have no intention of discarding it at a time like this. I’ll patch it up with tape and hope it’s enough to see us through.

It feels awkward to ask if I can call, especially those friends who I’ve gotten out of the regular habit of talking to, like I’m admitting how weak I am that I need a pep-talk to get through a very banal day. I hope that my vulnerability and willingness to try is encouraging for them, too. Maybe it’s permission they didn’t know they needed to reach out and ask for help. I’m here. I’m home. All the damn time.

I see my parents with a backyard between us. But we’re negotiating those terms, and I’m terrified. My mother says if it’s her time, it’s her time. This doesn’t placate me in the slightest.

People say they’re willing to risk it all to get their hair done/eat at a restaurant/see their grandkids/fill in the blank. No one says they’re willing to suffer an awful, painful, slow death to fill in the blank. No one says they’re willing to witness the suffering of others, but that’s what we’re doing when we expect normal life to resume. And we want 20% off with free delivery.

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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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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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Fall Check-In

We are half way through November! I wanted to check in with how I’m doing on the fall I designed. Have you tried this out yet? I’ve written about it multiple times (here and here), but it’s a subject that I still really love. It’s a tip I learned from the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin. I get such satisfaction from making a plan and sticking to it.

1. Enjoy the season by going to an apple farm or pumpkin patch with my family.

We took Rory to a small apple farm in one of the next towns over. It was quiet and had a little playground, and was a quick and easy outing. We could have stopped there, but we upped our game and went to Apple Hill in Placerville, CA this weekend!

I picked up some frozen apple turnovers to enjoy later from Apple Pantry Farm and Rory had fun checking out this vintage car. 

It is something I grew up doing and I LOVE IT. It allows me to go wild and buy tons of apples and apple products.

Apple dumplings, apple fritters, and apple donuts from Boa Vista. We always stop here and load up on our trips to Apple Hill.

We had the best time, and the weather was perfect–it was sunny and crisp.

If you want to look at actually stunning Apple Hill photos (and not my quick, unskilled and unedited ones), check out this post about Apple Pantry Farm from Farm Tots and peruse the apple hill tag for other great posts.

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Let’s Nano

I’ve slowed down to almost a stop on blogging. Not because I had some plan to, but I suppose I’m just living the fall I designed. I’ve been busy with a toddler and a home that’s in a constant state of flux.

This is the extent of my decorating for fall. You don’t want to see the state of that whole room.

We traveled for Nick’s work last week, and that wore me out. When we got home from the trip Nick thought it would be a good time to drill holes in the wall to run the A/V cables properly. The house feels like a danger zone.

Imagine our shock when we discovered the wall was pink behind the mirror we took down and our TV doesn’t cover it up.

This week there’s Halloween, and I’m prepping to start National Novel Writing Month. Again.

I’m looking through my files and I realized I’ve participated since 2007 off and on. I think I missed 2014 and 2016. I was pregnant in 2014 and in 2016 we had our house on the market and were in the process of moving. I somehow managed to “win” during years I was buying my first house and moving, changing jobs, and facing health crises. I also participated but didn’t “win” for many years.

There’s no real trick to writing and completing a novel in thirty days. It’s simply a matter of math—knowing how much time you have to write and getting your words done—but there is magic. I always feel a kind of electricity when I’m writing, the flow of words to screen or pen to paper. Now that my life is fuller than ever I have gotten better about channeling that energy and turning it off and on. I used to spend so much time during Nano just spinning my wheels, not knowing what I wanted to say, and typing words simply to get to 1,667 per day. Some years I just stopped because I couldn’t get the words to come out at all or I wasn’t willing or able to find the time.

I feel like this year will be different. I have better tools at my disposal—ten years of novel writing experience, knowing how to work in fits and starts, a voice that’s ready to be heard, and the confidence that I can follow through and finish a project. November 1st is when I’ll start this new story, but November 30th won’t be the last day I touch it, and that’s a commitment I finally feel ready to make to myself.

Best wishes if you are participating! Come find me, I’m inventedcharm there too.

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Design Your Fall

I’m back with my fall bucket list! I really love this concept I heard on the Happier podcast (episode 67), and I had success with it this summer so I thought I’d do it again for fall. Having been born and raised in California, I’m not sure I’ve experienced a true autumn, but I love the concept of warm drinks, crunching leaves, and cozy nights.

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Say Goodbye to Summer

I never thought it would be time to say goodbye. Summers here are often long and crop up in place of spring and extend well through fall. But this year we seem to be having defined seasons. I wrote about spring in my spring capsule wardrobe post—it was mild and rainy, sunny and never hot. And then a switch was flipped and we had so many days of 100+ degree weather in a row. When I look at the forecast I don’t see anymore 90 degree days on the horizon. I feel like I need to mourn the season a bit, because I finally got used to summer.

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When You Say Nothing At All

I’ve been at a loss about what to write lately. There’s a lot going on with me, with friends, with family. It’s hard to process everything, and maybe that’s the problem—I can only process it bit by bit.

I was listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and working on a project when I suddenly realized the song I most wanted to hear was When You Say Nothing At All by Alison Krauss. The music couldn’t be more different, but it’s a good analogy to talk about knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. For me it was as simple as acknowledging my feeling and switching a song on iTunes, but for everyone it will likely be a different process.

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