Gosh. Thank you all for the warm welcome back. I worried for a time that my intentional absence would leave me with no one left when I finally returned–but here you are! & you have been so kind & understanding of the choice to walk away for awhile. & I can tell you–I am truly so so excited to be back here. Like, my mind is racing with ideas. & I cannot wait to write!
Before I dive too far into any one thing, I think it’s important to address what has brought me to this place of peace. I have overhauled our life in some really drastic ways in the last two years, but shutting out the internet and welcoming books (real books! like, with pages!!) has probably been the biggest positive shift I chose to make.
It all started in the dead of winter. The holidays had come & gone. I was constantly exhausted. I desperately sought time alone and the only place I ever found it was at the gym. The problem with: I was working really, really hard when I was alone at the gym. So that time to be creative or sit with a book or catch up with a friend was still missing. There was still no downtime. Add my early bird (as in, 5:30/6am riser, neeeedy son) and my night owl (9pm to bed, one more snuggle daughter) and life was just not working. I was spending several hours after the last one finally went to sleep piddling around the house, mentally making a tally of all that I wanted to do and all that I was too spent to actually do. It was defeating and destructive to my sense of accomplishment. I mean…my house is my job and it’s a disaster…and I have nothing else…and…WTF did I DO today…and…I am getting dumber by the day because I am not learning ANYTHING! (running on repeat through my head) That’s not good self talk. So after I checked the internet for the bazillionth time, seeking escape from my messy living room, I went to bed about midnight and was then awakened, while it was still dark outside, by a child who just wouldn’t sleep another second. (As if that was anything new.) What could I do? How could I make this better?
& so I brainstormed. I remember a part of one of my favorite books that I read years and years ago (remember, my first one is my sleeper–so back then when I read books) and knew that was part of my answer. There is a particular section in Steady Days where the topic of being rushed comes up. Nothing good ever happens when mama is rushed. & my mornings were so rushed. I was too tired to give my son what he needed at the early hour when he first woke up. I was hitting the snooze on him, which made me more and more agitated with each thing he did to try to rouse me before my preferred 7am wake up time. & mornings suuuucked. I got up at the last possible second, tried to get the kids ready while I got ready, so we could get to school on time and it just sucked. I felt like a bad mom. I was not nice. They were struggling to make sense of my inability to manage the morning. & I knew I wanted to be better. So I did something crazy.
I decided to become a morning person.Now, those of you who already are morning people are probably snickering…it took you this long to discover the beauty of a silent morning?! But for those of us night owls–we just cannot even fathom lights out at 9:30 pm. FORGET an alarm that goes off before six. You craaaazy. No. Thank. You.
But I did it.
It started as an experiment. I set my alarm for 5:45am. I was in bed by 9/930 (painful!! So much time left in the day to do stuff!!) & then I made myself get up early. Then the second week, I set it for 5:30. By the third week, I was up at 5:15, going to bed sometime before ten, and often getting a whole 45 minutes to sit on the couch in silence and read before my kids got up. Or shovel the driveway, getting a bit of exercise in the silent darkness. There is really something beautiful about a quiet house in the morning. & it feels very different than a quiet house at night. The transformation that happened when I got to take care of me (or my home) for just a little bit, before I had to take care of someone else, was life changing.
It turns out that my early bird boy is perfectly happy co-existing with me in the morning. He just wants someone up with him while he plays with his trains. & so that’s what we do. I get up, get dressed, take a little me time to read & then when he gets up, I start chores. Often, I have breakfast made before we have to go up & start the [highly unpleasant] task of waking the night owl. That’s never fun. But it’s a whole lot easier when I am already awake & have plenty of time to let her hit snooze within my easy morning.
[image by Kate L Photography]
Back when I first started this, I definitely relied on my hot cup of coffee to start my day. & often, the thought of my favorite mug warming my hands and the smell of it was enough to get me going. Since, (& I will elaborate separately) I have cut out most of my caffeine intake and no longer drink coffee first thing in the morning. Outrageous, I know. WHO am I? I tell you…it’s been a very, very transformative couple of years. :) & it feels great.
& beyond the morning routine change, the ability to keep up with the news and politics (which I really enjoy!) and the reintroduction of real books has nourished me in a way that was lacking. I always have something to talk about, beyond my kids, because I am always learning something. That’s part of my puzzle that can’t be forgotten–my own personal growth. I found that reading on the iPad just didn’t do it for me (no screen, please!), but I also didn’t want to buy books, because I’d always feel bad, & like I was wasting money, if I ended up not liking a book and abandoning it. Again, making myself feel like a failure, and not allowing myself to move on to something I may really enjoy, before finishing the last. Thus, leaving me stuck with a shitty book that I would never finish and nothing on the horizon in nourishing reading-land. Deciding what is and isn’t worth your time to read is just another one of those empowering moments. Not finishing everything you start, because you decide it’s not worth your time, is powerful. It’s owning your precious time & filling it with value–NOT you being a failure for giving up something that is not worth your time. Important lesson I learned, right there.
So I put together a list of what I wanted to learn about & read, and requested books at the library. (the LIBRARY!!) Why I had not thought to get books for ME at the library, when it was a weekly part of our routine for the last five years ANYWAY, is beyond me. But it gave me the freedom to get what I wanted and make the conscious choice to let it go if it was just not working for me. Recently, I have started checking out audiobooks using the app Overdrive (where you can access the library’s selection of books, then download them on to your iPhone for a while & listen while driving without an internet connection, or while doing chores, exercising at the gym, etc.) It’s been really great & I highly recommend it. Some of my favorites: Rising Strong, The Magic of Tidying Up, The Nesting Place, Wheat Belly, It Starts with Food, The Plantpower Way, All Joy & No Fun, The Creative Family…and each deserves its own discussion. But for now–if you need some recommendations, there you go! :)
Oh, and no Facebook on my iPhone. Ever. IG? Sure, but that’s because I keep it private and use it to really interact with those I care about & am inspired by. It’s a very controlled feed. But Facebook? Maybe a few minutes a day, on my desktop only. & hide, hide, hide those on the feed that are time-suckers, anger inducers. I limit Facebook, too, to really the only people I care about and am inspired by. & a small number of groups that I participate in & seek encouragement from.
Finding time to read and find quiet and start the day on my terms has been a huge part of my sanity. & Mornings are so much happier this way! Every morning? No. But there sure are a whole lot more pleasant ones than there used to be!
[image by Kate L Photography]
As a side note, you are going to start seeing some general housekeeping around here. Some editing & restructuring to make things flow a bit better, so my site is easier to navigate. One exciting thing I am working on is an Amazon Shop that will be my own personal curation of all of my favorite things. Hopefully I can, once & for all, rid us of the broken links that are sitting in My Baby List post! I am so excited to have everything I love in one easy-to-find place! I don’t have time to blog everything that I love & use, but you will soon find my favorites (books, cook books, kids literature, toys, games, kids gear, kitchen gadgets etc.) all in one place. It will also serve as an affiliate program to keep my site financially viable, but free of sponsorships and ads, which is just the way I like it. Look for the Amazon Shop link in the sidebar, for my ongoing collection of stuff I love, and that makes my life easier! Happy Shopping!