Rainy day reflections

I’m sitting here at Barnes and Noble, drinking an iced coffee and eating a pumpkin muffin. Today it’s raining all day, but it feels like fall, and that is something to be celebrated. Jonathan encouraged me to steal a couple of hours away this afternoon (sweet man!). I should be working on guided reading lesson plans, which is purportedly what I came here to do, but instead I want to return to my long-neglected blog.

I haven’t been writing for a couple of reasons: 1) I forgot how much creativity good teaching requires. I also forgot how tired I am by the end of the day. After Jonah is asleep and I have time to myself I haven’t been able to muster the energy or creativity to write anything. 2) I have been deliberating on what to write publicly about my job. More on that below.

We’ve been in Atlanta as a family for a little over a month now. For the most part, the transition has been a dream. For example:

  1. We absolutely love our new home. We are settled in and about 97% of the way unpacked. The house is such a blessing for our family and so much more than we could ever have afforded or expected to have on our own without family support.
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    Our backyard view
  2. Jonah has transitioned amazingly well to my mom watching him during the week. He didn’t seem to really be phased by the change. He absolutely loves his Nonni and looks forward to going to her house. At the same time, he talks often (every day or two) about all of the family we left behind in NC. When Jonathan’s parents visited over Labor Day, Jonah picked back up with them as though we had never been apart. I like to think that his heart is big enough to hold love for the multitude of people who inhabit his world.14262843_1607457612887825_1594653374_n
  3. Jonathan quickly and easily got a job working from home that he will likely be able to continue once he starts school in the spring.
  4. We think we have found a new church home here.
  5. I’m loving my job. If you remember, during my job search I got a very, very strong sense that this job was the one that was right for me, though the others seemed to make more sense practically. I haven’t been disappointed.

As I mentioned above, I’ve made the decision that the wisest course of action is not to talk about my job in detail on the blog. This may seem like CYA (cover your …), but my school system tends to get a fair amount of attention, and I’m just trying to be smart. Here are the important points:

  • I feel more effective than I ever have as an ESL teacher. The time away from the classroom in an administrative role made me a better teacher.
  • I feel respected. I’m not a novice teacher anymore. It’s nice to have people come to me for help instead of it always being the other way around.
  • I like working with almost all older students. Upper elementary, baby!
  • Many days I am home at 3:30. That is something I never would have predicted when we decided to move to Atlanta.

6. I feel a great sense of balance in my life since we moved. Jonathan and I are getting         more date nights out and quality time together than we have since Jonah was born. Being home earlier in the afternoon means more time with Jonah. Even though I’m now commuting 25 minutes to work, I’m actually spending less time in the car than I did this previous year between taking Jonah to and from daycare, going to and from tutoring, my in-laws house, etc.

This will have to be all for now. Thanks to everyone who hung around and waited for a new post from me! I promise it won’t be this long until the next time I write. In the meantime…enjoy fall!

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How Yoga Helped Me Take Myself Seriously

It all started with a Groupon.

About two months ago I began doing yoga. I’ve always wanted to try it, but all the studios I had looked at were pretty expensive, and as the working mother of a toddler I didn’t see how I had the time. At the beginning of March Jonathan found a Groupon for a local studio and suggested that we buy it, and I agreed.

I started going to classes and was immediately hooked. The combination of pushing my body outside of its comfort zone plus mindfulness and proper breathing did wonders for me physically. I felt better.

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public domain image via pexels.com

Soon I noticed that something strange was happening. During and after class, I began to have lots and lots of ideas to write about. I’ve enjoyed writing for a long time, but have always been very much a slave to inspiration, meaning that I would only write when I had a great idea–which wasn’t often. But once I started doing yoga, the ideas just started flooding into my mind. Yoga inspired me, and I started writing multiple times a week. I haven’t stopped yet.

Then, I got the crazy idea that someone else might want to read what I was writing, and that they might even pay me for it. Why not submit some posts to some other websites and see what happens, right? Can’t hurt. And two weeks later, I had five posts featured on BlogHer, including one I was paid for, and two accepted for publication on YourTango and Scary Mommy.

I think yoga has inspired me to write in three ways: 1) I am actually exercising on a regular basis, which benefits my body and mind, 2) the mindfulness that is a part of yoga practice helps me to clear my head and focus on my breathing, so when I do begin to think of other things again the ideas flow freely, and 3) yoga and writing are both things that I am doing only for myself. They are mine–not part of my roles as wife, daughter, mom, employee, just Holly.

I really think this is the crux of the whole issue: When I started taking care of myself in one way it enabled me to take care of myself in other ways, too. When I started believing that my writing was worth taking seriously, I found out that other people thought so, too. And that’s an empowering thing.

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public domain image via pexels.com

As women, we seem to have a tendency to discount our gifts. Maybe you have a little hobby that you dabble in now and then but you don’t think that it’s worth showing to other people. Or you downplay your strengths at work in order to not seem pushy or like you’re showing off. And this benefits nobody. It doesn’t help the people who would benefit from your gift, and it certainly doesn’t help you.

So I guess the moral of this story is to find whatever it is that inspires you, and make time for it. Don’t be afraid of the gifts that you have. Embrace them, and find others that do, too. Make yourself a priority. Take yourself seriously. And try yoga–it’s the best.

The Real Reason Parents Are Always So Tired

A question for the ages: Why am I always exhausted?

Seriously. Every night if I don’t have an extra cup of coffee/can of diet coke after Jonah is asleep, I’m nodding off on the couch by 9 pm (usually in full makeup/contacts/without brushing my teeth). I don’t really want to admit the amount of caffeine I am currently consuming in a day, lest you warn me that I’m permanently damaging my body.

Now granted, I do wake up early in the morning. Jonah is normally up around 6:00 am. But this doesn’t really explain anything, because 9 pm to 6 am is plenty of sleep. Jonathan and I are actually fortunate because Jonah is a great sleeper who hasn’t woken up in the night on a regular basis for over a year now.

So there’s no obvious reason for it. I’m just…exhausted. Like this guy.

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public domain image via pexels.com

I know I’m not the only one. It’s something of a badge of honor among parents of young children to talk about how tired we are. But barring extraordinary circumstances, like a child up in the night, why is this, exactly?

I think I’ve figured it out. By the time I get to the end of the day, I’ve juggled the following responsibilities: feeding Jonah. playing with him. getting him dressed for the day. feeding the dogs. working (and all of the mental energy that entails). coming home. feeding Jonah again. feeding myself. playing with Jonah. giving him a bath. reading to him. putting him to bed. cleaning up. playing with the dogs. feeding the dogs.

No wonder I’m tired!

(In case you’re wondering, Jonathan has an equally long, different, list.)

I think as parents of young children, we have so much on our plates on any given day that by the time we get to the end of the day, we’ve just about reached our limit and have to shut down. Even if we did get enough sleep the night before. Really. Do not pass go, do not collect $200–your energy for the day stops here, whether you want it to or not.

I figure that as our child(ren) get older, my daily limit will keep inching back, little by little. Maybe someday I will consume less caffeine and go to bed a little later. I think by the time Jonah is 18 I may only be drinking two cups of coffee a day, and I may even go to bed at 10:30 with no problems. A girl can dream, right?

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Are you tired? Why?

Life essentials and self-care

I’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks. I’ve just been really happy recently, after not being so happy for a while. Nothing special has happened, so it’s taken me a little while to figure out why this is.

I’ve realized that I’m happy because I have been reading and writing every day. Jonathan and I have been doing better about maintaining a clean house. We’ve been cooking regularly instead of eating fast food and take-out. I’m spending time outside. I’m getting enough sleep.

These are the essentials of my happy life. I feel content because I am reading great literature, writing and creating on a regular basis. A lot of these things boil down to picking what is right for me versus what is easy. It’s easier to binge-watch tv at night after Jonah is in bed rather than make time to write. It’s easier to get Chick-Fil-A for dinner every night instead of cook. These things may be easy, but they don’t make me happy. Instead, I’ve been trying to simplify my life and focus on the things that I know are good for me.

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan wrote recently about the challenge of self-care for busy people, particularly busy moms, and that really resonated with me. I realize that self-care is what this is all about. For women especially, it can be so easy to push ourselves and our own emotional needs to the side in trying to fit it all in and take care of everyone else. But I’ve learned that choosing the easy option is not what is best for me or for the people who depend on me. My goal is to choose a life that is simple, that prioritizes physical and emotional health, and that involves time for myself and the things that wake me up inside.

take time

What are your life essentials? Do you feel that self-care is a challenge to fit into your life?

The Great Housekeeping Slide, 2010-2015

When I was growing up, my family’s house was spotless. Maybe not really, especially when my siblings and I were young, but that’s how it always seemed to me. That has been the standard to which I’ve compared myself since the beginning of my adult life. However, it’s occurred to me recently that my cleaning and housekeeping habits have…shall we say…evolved over the years. For me, the beginning of marriage and of my adult life occurred at the same time–2010–so this is where I’ll begin to describe what I’ve started to think of as the great housekeeping slide.

Year 1 of Marriage: 2010-2011

  • apartment
  • full time job
  • no dogs
  • no kids

The first year that we were married, Jonathan and I lived in your classic one-bedroom, one-bath, nondescript beige apartment with wall-to-wall carpet. Jonathan vacuumed and I cleaned the bathroom once a week on Sundays, and I cleaned the kitchen every night. This was super simple because we cooked probably less than 20 times the whole time that we lived there.grelot apartment

cleaning-lady

I’m so happy to be cleaning my beige apartment!

Year 2 of Marriage: 2011-2012

  • small rental house
  • full time job
  • one dog
  • no kids

Marriage year two began with our move to North Carolina. We moved into a charming but grungy 1920s bungalow in the student area of town. This house was very not clean when we moved in. Our landlord had no policy regarding the condition of the house upon tenants vacating, so when we moved in the house required some very serious scrubbing, the kitchen in particular. While we lived here we got a puppy, Zelda, who was (and is) sweet as can be. With the dog came dog hair, but luckily this house had one of those very old, very weathered wood floors that show almost no dirt. I vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom in this house every two to four weeks. I don’t remember Jonathan really cleaning at all while we lived here.

Bruce St. Bruce St. kitchen

Years 3 and 4 of Marriage: 2012-2014

  • small-medium house of our own
  • full time job
  • 2 dogs
  • pregnancy and delivery (2014)

In May 2012, Jonathan and I moved into our own first little house. It was a split level that ended up being not entirely practical for our family, though we weren’t thinking about that at the beginning. We redid the floors and I loved them. Shortly after we moved in, we added Juno the dog to our family. Juno’s a long-haired pup, so that upped the dog hair level in the house considerably. I tried to clean pretty frequently, until…I got pregnant.

hill n dale

In 2014, I was teaching 2nd grade, pregnant and constantly tired. I just couldn’t bring myself to care too much about the state of the house when I could be doing much more urgent things like sleeping.

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Jonah was born in December 2014, a week early due to my preeclampsia. Someday I’ll write his birth story. The first month of motherhood passed in a happy haze of diapers, breastfeeding and sleep deprivation. Obviously no cleaning happened during this time. After I started to get back on my feet I tried my best to get things under control, but I found it very difficult to manage work, motherhood, marriage and taking care of the house.

Year 5 of Marriage: 2015-2016

  • medium-large house
  • full time job
  • 2 dogs
  • Jonah, sweet baby boy

At the end of July we moved into our current house, the “old girl”–so named because of the exterior color scheme, and because it was previously owned by an elderly lady.

audubon house

I love this house so much. I love everything about it–the size (roughly double the size of our old house), the backyard, the neighborhood, the layout, the colors, the quirky details of a house built in the early 50s. It’s a great fit for our family. I can’t see myself wanting to move ever again.

My priorities have changed as a result of motherhood, and I have learned that that’s okay. Where I used to feel guilt if I didn’t get around to housekeeping, now I tend to give myself more of a break, and realize that I’m just doing the best I can. Because honestly, when do I have time to clean? I’m either at work, taking care of Jonah, spending time with Jonathan or sleeping, essentially. During my stolen moments to myself, do I really want to spend time cleaning? No. I’ve leaned that an important part of being a good mom and wife is taking care of yourself, and if that sometimes (often?) means that things don’t get cleaned, that is alright. It’s more important to me that I am a good mom and wife, and someone who has time for my own interests and hobbies, than that I have a Pinterest-worthy house.

(I do know what I’m requesting for Christmas and my birthday, however!)

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I’d love to hear from other working moms: When do you clean? How do you find time for it in your busy schedule? How in the world do you ever have time to get it all done?

Envy

I’m not proud of something that I felt today.

I was in a conversation with someone I am directly connected to. I obviously won’t say who it is. I see this person about once a week and will for the indefinite future. She is a newlywed married to a young guy who got an awesome, high-paying job straight out of college. He is five years younger than me and makes roughly double my income. Let’s call her husband Mike. Today this girl and I were talking about her job search. She was trying to get a certain kind of job to get hours to apply to a graduate school program.

“How’s your job search going?”-Me

“I have a lead on a job at _________. Oh by the way, Mike and I have decided I’m not going to try to go to (type of graduate school).”-Her

“Oh really, why not?”-Me

“Because Mike has such a good job, we decided that it wouldn’t be worth the money for me to go. It would be better to put that money toward his education. So I’m planning to just get a part-time job.”-Her

“Oh, why not full time? Because you don’t have to?”-Me

“Yeah, because I don’t have to. Since Mike makes so much money, there is no reason for me to work full-time. It makes sense to have one of us home to take care of the apartment, make dinner, stuff like that.”-Her

I felt physically ill when she said this. Even now, thinking about this conversation makes me feel queasy. It took everything I had not to say, “OH HOW NICE FOR YOU” in a really bitchy tone of voice. Instead, I bit my lip (literally), stood up and went outside to get some fresh air.

Important to know: This person has made comments like this before. “Mike and I are really comfortable… blah blah blah.” And she knows that my husband is unemployed right now and looking hard for a job.

Jonathan and I are so blessed in so many ways. In general we are pretty comfortable and have no reason to complain. Since he lost his job at the end of July, things have been tight, but we are making it. He’s been looking hard for a job and has had some interviews, but nothing has come of it so far. During our marriage to date, there has never been a time when I wasn’t the main breadwinner, for a variety of reasons. More on that saga another time. Recently I have been feeling a bit resentful about this, even though I like working, and I love my job. I’ve been wishing that I could spend more time with Jonah. I think I am tired of HAVING to work, of having to be the dependable, responsible one. Is it wrong to want to be taken care of for a change?

I’m a little scared of how honest this post is. Stuff from the deepest, darkest part of my heart is coming out.

So back to this conversation. Hearing this girl, who doesn’t have a child, who doesn’t even have pets, talk about how she doesn’t really have to work and needs lots of time to take care of things at home, made me feel sick to my stomach with envy. There–I said it. i am envious of how easy life is for her. I’m not proud of it. Obviously lots of people make more money than we do, but I’ve never felt before like I felt today. Today, it was personal. I can’t recall ever feeling as acute a sense of wishing I had what someone else has as I did today.

What’s funny is that I have never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. As someone who thrives on a schedule, I’ve never thought I would be happy without one. I tend to get stir-crazy when I’m at home too long. On the other hand, I would love more time with my baby. Isn’t that the working mom’s dilemma? I do think a goal of mine might be to work part-time someday when we can afford it. And obviously it would be amazing if Jonathan made enough money that I didn’t have to work, even though I probably would anyway.

People, choose your words carefully. Think about other people’s situations in life before you speak. And clearly don’t spout off about how comfortable you are if you know someone else is struggling. As for me…I need to be content with what I have.

A Beginning

A few months ago, I wrote over at great books and where to find them about how I needed something for myself, something that belonew-beginning-16510-1920x1200nged to only me. Since my husband and I had our son in December, I spent a lot of this spring feeling like who I am as a person was to some extent disappearing, being subsumed by who other people needed me to be: wife, mom, teacher, etc. I wasn’t sure what exactly to do about this, but the idea was germinating in my mind that I needed to be better about carving out time for myself to pursue my personal interests, and just to be me. I think a lot of moms (particularly new moms) probably feel this way. I think some of that was just new mother blahs, and I am happy to report that for the most part I’m feeling better now. But the feeling like I needed a new hobby or personal interest to pursue has remained, and this blog is somewhat a result of this feeling. Writing has always been an outlet for me, but I haven’t been intentional about setting aside time to do it. I would only write when I felt inspired, rather than setting aside the time and writing whether inspiration was there or not. It is my goal this year to write regularly. Since I am about to start a new, less time-consuming job (yay! more on this later), I will try not to let busyness be an excuse to not write.

I’m so excited for what the future holds, and I can’t wait to use lovelyintrospection to document it.