Butterfly Wings

Vulnerability is butterfly wings.

Not the wings of a newly-freed woman,
fresh to adulthood and blind to the dangers,
but of sunken-eyed parents who read
writing on walls, on news, on faces.

They’ve used their wings hard
in pandemic tornado winds and in icy frosted tones.
Deep fears have struck those delicate wings
with the challenge of raising good.

Some days their bright wings bring them high
with beautiful, fresh views below to remind them
that hard work, warm hugs, honest words
make the vulnerable tears worth it.

And the days that there is only so much
energy to soar at ground level, low and slow,
their butterfly strength still shines through
like the days of cocoons and naps, still there.

Butterfly parents aren’t warned about the
uneasy, restless, suspenseful part of the job.
That the more they learn, the less they know
and that each new phase makes them blind again.

Butterflies laugh when someone exalts
the brilliance in their wings, especially on
the days they feel caterpillar deception
writhing beneath the surface, marking time.

The lesson in butterflies is resilience.
That fragility can come with an innate strength,
and that those shockingly brilliant wings
can carry butterfly parents on a lifelong journey.

 

This essay was written thanks to a monthly theme from Illuminate, a writing community from The Kindred Voice.

Read more stories on VULNERABILITY  from some of the other wonderful Illuminate members:

Quitting Cold Turkey by Mia Sutton
Anxiety Hangover by Christine Carpenter
with love, eunice by Eunice Brownlee

Silence isn’t Nothing

There are about a dozen times a day that I tell myself I should write. Some days more. And some days I give into the craziness of working motherhood and the ping pong ball effect of an anxious mind and give myself the grace, but I still hold onto the “should.” It follows me like a quiet shadow.

My social media feed is filled with some amazing writers and poets and authors – nearly all of them mothers – who share the gamut of writing experiences. There are those that bring light to the struggle of putting words to page, pushing their way through the web of issues to come out the other side, at least with a flash of their own words and thoughts in an occasional caption or newsletter. Some share flowing, fanciful poetry while others tell a powerfully real story of their own possession. 

Then there are THOSE ones – the ones that equally motivate and inspire me with their beautiful words, but also leave me feeling like a deflated balloon – that create a tangible end writing goal, share accountability Instagram Stories of their notebook or laptop screen filled with words and a cup of coffee in hand like clockwork, and achieve that final intention. All the while, these fabulous women provide their favorite writers’ quotes about writing even when we don’t have anything to write about, that it’s not the end piece that makes you a writer, it’s the act of writing, and so on and so forth.

I love all of these women. I love the ones I know well and I love the ones I’ve never interacted with. I love their honesty. I love them for simply doing. I love them because they remind me that wherever I am in my journey, it’s okay.

However, the more that I don’t write, especially in a way that people see – through a blog, through a newsletter, through a poetry challenge, through my social media feed, through published works – the more detached I feel. And when one feels detached to the process of writing, the weight of writing grows heavier, making it more and more impossible to pick up.

I’m beyond lucky to have a creative husband who writes and understands this process. We both struggle with time and the weight of creativity – and the anxiety and stress when we put it down. The more that time rolls by, the less we are writers.

This is when we start to doubt. When we pick up the pen and the ink well is empty. When we start typing and the words have no connection. When we reread a paragraph and have literally no recollection of writing it in the first place. We become our own stranger.

I’m a Type 9 empath who has a difficult time compartmentalizing my concerns and issues. Throw a case of anxiety into the mix and things magnify. If I were to write down all of the places that my thoughts bounce in five minutes, the list would be long. Here’s just a taste…

Which method will work best for finally finishing off the basement office closet: having the shelves too short but using cool brackets or creating a more built-in look with lots more work? {Research for hours and hours.} How do we get our youngest potty-trained…and what’s up with her hitting phase?! How do we teach our son about technology addiction, or is it okay for him to find comfort in his Nintendo Switch with how crazy things are in his life right now? Will our daughter ever bounce back academically from her COVID kindergarten school year? I have gotten fat (this goes down a longer rabbit hole). I only exercise sporadically; I need to be more mindful about it…same with eating. We should try hiking. Or skiing. But I need the proper boots, or the proper snow pants. Ugh, the entire house needs a purge. TOYS EVERYWHERE. I never bought those pot and pan organizers for the kitchen. I wonder if it’s even plausible to consider a socially distanced, isolated vacation this summer. Where? The library floor isn’t finished yet and I have to weed through the entire reference section. How much time would it take to… 

If you saw how many tabs I have open to research most of these issues, it would be a direct look inside my scattered mind. My brain is an unending corn row of open tabs.    

One of my favorite books to lean into when life has too many moving pieces to nail down my ability to write and I no longer know myself as a writer is Wild Words by Nicole Gulotta. From learning to write in the margins and recognizing that writing looks different as we experience different seasons, I am able to breathe a little. And what is better for your thoughts – and, hence, writing – than some fresh air?

I’m trying to breathe and allow my writing to rejoin me by leaning into and honoring the silence. Silence – and a lack of writing – isn’t nothing. It’s part of the process. Viewing it as a break rather than a final, doomed divorce can be freeing. Beating myself up because I’m not doing what I think I should be doing – and, really, any time that word enters our vocabulary, we would do well by condemning it – is only going to make it worse. Shifting my mindset by recognizing that simply living and experiencing life can give my mind the room to breathe it then opens my brain up to the possibility of creating in a nurturing space.

A flame can be sparked with just a gentle breeze; pressure can often smolder it.

By embracing the silence, by not ignoring it nor admonishing it, can we give the flame the room and time to spread. And once the wildfire spreads, writing becomes more exciting and inspired.

Optimist on Purpose

Even before the pandemic, I didn’t consider myself to be a hopeful person.

I was raised as a realist. Looking back, I probably would have become a big, blubbering optimist if our father hadn’t died when I was three years old. Instead, my pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mother mourned in silence and paved a stalwart path of fortitude for the four of us all to walk. And, so, it stuck.

It’s not to say that I’m great at handling awful things or disappointing setbacks. I cry over seemingly small things. My temper is a bit of a demon I’m working to overcome. I’ve carried a lifetime of depression and, more recently, anxiety in this invisible backpack that, at times, becomes unbearably heavy. I have also grown a very thin skin for people who whine unnecessarily or, though capable, are unable to do things for themselves. It vexes me, and cynicism sometimes sets in.

But, out of the dozens and dozens of lessons the pandemic has fashioned, one of the biggest is that of hope. I feel cheesy just typing those words, but the truth is that as gnawing as despair sometimes can be, there’s a constant sunbeam of hope that touches everything.

Humanity needs hope. It doesn’t say that anything wonderful or perfect or heartwarming – or, these days, even normal – is guaranteed; it simply says that it might

It might happen.

So, my biggest pandemic lesson – and it may help you, too – is this: try to be an optimist on purpose. It’s difficult to change oneself, but there are parts of ourselves that we can make choices to hone a bit; every day is a choice and how we look at it is all about the “might.” Start looking for the might. Any forward motion or even a simple glance towards the future counts as hopeful.

Kids are exceptional at this. A Christmas list to Santa is brimming with hope. It’s belief. It’s looking forward to something with sheer excitement. It’s gratitude. It’s possibility. It’s a glimmer of hope that shines in their eyes.

Blowing out a birthday candle. Saving up coins and dollars in a piggy bank. Answering, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids are hope experts.

One hope of mine? I hope to let my kids teach me their ways.

I’m not always good at following through, whether it’s because I don’t know enough to

I used to start planning our summer vacation after Christmas. The sullen reality of the post-holiday slump always calls out for some hopefulness. This year, I’m looking around me, instead, for hope by taking control back in small ways. I may not make those summer plans because summer may not be normal yet. Sometimes admitting possibilities can temper hopes in order to help new ones grow.

I’m creating the hope, myself, by doing some other planning. Putting actual garden plans in place and purchasing the seeds I actually want to grow. Setting up a seed growing station before supplies become scarce. Buying fabric to learn new sewing projects. Setting reading goals for myself to work through my to-be-read pile. Investing in myself as a writer.

These steps don’t seem like much. They’re small and quiet in a world of big, thunderous movement. But, right now, when things seem so uncontrollable, a bit of self-driven forward motion seems like just the ticket.

And what is hope except for an optimistic glance forward?

__________________________________________

This essay was written thanks to a monthly theme from Illuminate, a writing community from The Kindred Voice.

Read more stories on HOPE from some of the other wonderful Illuminate members:

Stay Hopeful, My Friends by Christi Jeane
hope in the time of 2020. by Eunice Brownlee
Shifting Sands of Hope by Mia Sutton
In It Together by Laci Olivia
The 2020 Storm by Adeola Sheehy
Hope Over Survival by Sarah Hartley
A Story About a Dog by Jenn Norrell
Both Fragile and Enduring by Danni Brigante

Some Things Never Change

“Go to sleep, girls.” My increasingly annoyed voice carries over their hushed murmuring and the sound of a slow mechanical lullaby. I am struck by how easily the words fall from my mouth.

My mind suddenly goes through a cloudy flashback sequence as if from some 1980s sitcom. And, actually, I am transported to the ‘80s again with my sister, Mary, and instead of a mother’s voice like my girls now endure, it’s our frustrated father standing in the hallway, hands curled into fists jutting into his bony hips, uttering those same words.

We weren’t unlike Harper and Hannah, Mary and I. Mary, too, had flowing hair down her back and a propensity for cozy, long nightgowns. By nature, she was the quiet one, filled with a motherly maturity. I had an innate combustibility, ignited by either mischief or laughter…often both. Many a night I found glee out of bringing down Mary’s well-behaved walls in a fit of giggles. So, too, do Harper and Hannah’s personalities intermingle and support the other.

Memory is a funny thing. It might have only happened once. It might have happened countless times. It might have been when I was first sleeping in the same bed as my sister as a toddler, or a bit later and closer to the time of his death.

But, in my mind, the echo of our father’s angst growing to its height occurs in one glorious, guilt-riddled moment. The final threat that we’d be spanked if he heard “one more peep” out of us was just enough to bring our noise down several decibels…but there was no way that he didn’t still hear our stifled snickers. I like to think that he had selective hearing and didn’t actually intend to follow through with the deed. Or maybe he knew at that point that his cancer was terminal and that it simply wasn’t worth the energy (or, if he was in touch with his foresight, any additional future trauma it might inflict).

It’s one of the small handful of memories I still carry of him, and it’s ghostly at best. The giggles, his frustration, and the sense of my childhood bedroom are there, but the one thing that I’ve agonized over since we lost him is that I have no recollection of his actual voice. There are no recordings. No well-planned goodbye messages. No letters to open on special days to tell me that I mattered. None of those romanticized things that movies suggest are left behind out of sage and thoughtful planning by the terminally ill. 

All that’s left are faint memories, and the occasional bright red cardinal. His voice may be gone, but the few, simple words remain.

And my girls remain. As they speak across the room in their beds, sharing secrets and nonsense. They continue the legacy of sisters, and I’ll continue the legacy of a frustrated, secretly laughing, parent.

It’s the least I can do to ensure that some things, undeniably, never change.

The Times We Need

Lately, it seems like even the good days are burdensome.

I walk the halls of my two-thirds empty school building when the day is done and, muffled, ask through my mask, “How was your day?”

“Good…no complaints,” I hear in response. But all of our eyes tell the same story; we’re wiped.

I have had lots of lessons with English classes lately that have given me life. I hadn’t really missed being around lots of people and rather dreaded leaving the safety of our family’s cocoon, but the feeling of a job well-done was sorely missing. So, it’s hard not to find a bounce in my step that hadn’t sprung in quite sometime.

Bounce or not, though, the exhaustion and turmoil is seen in everyone’s eyes. The drain of daylong screens. The emotional anguish when the only response is crickets and joyless eyes. The overwhelming dread that, despite hours of planning, a simple glitch can throw the whole lesson out the window in a quick moment. The strife of unfulfilled connections with the students sitting in the room with us. The bleakness that we’ve only been at this for a month and it feels like six.

And these larger feelings don’t speak to the smaller, less important but gnawing sensations that occasionally rise to the top. “Why can’t we use the Pit?” “Why can’t we sign out books?” “It’s not even as bad as the flu; why do we have to go through all this?” It’s all too much to argue and reason with.

The challenges of life carry such a weight and noise that it’s impossible to ignore them, but the harmonies fly around so lithely and loose they’re easy to ignore.

So, while it’s all too easy to hold on tightly to the awfulness and dread, we must find time to dig – daily – to find small joys. Beautiful birds and brazenly red leaves, a brief laugh and warm mug of coffee.

I like to think that this is why humans have clung so dearly to holidays. They’re really ritualistic constructs designed to allow us to recognize – whether by resting and restoring or celebrating and rejoicing – a moment in time. To remind us that we’re alive and we’re taking part in shared experiences.

And I also like to think that life likes to throw holidays at us at just the right time.

With the turning of leaves and the crisping of air comes a vivid reminder of my anniversary and, just as if someone knew that it might be the perfect time for Meg to take part in some deep introspection and appreciation, we are gifted with our tenth year.


There’s something about those round numbers, isn’t there? As if we’ve done something. We’ve really DONE something. Looking at our three children and their various stages of life, our two mischievous yet precious cats, and the fact that we, ourselves, have definitely reached an unspoken stage of our own lives (ones with gray at our temples and aches and pangs in the morning), we really have done something.

But, this year more than any the celebration holds so much uplifting importance. Most can agree that 2020 has been absolutely awful, but there’s good to be found.

The meaning of strength and fortitude behind a tin wedding anniversary is no accident. We have discovered over the past 6+ months how much we can get through together. How much we can rely upon each other when we hit our respective bottoms. The fact that we do, indeed, still work well together. That our family is, ultimately, the very most important thing to all of us.

And, most importantly, our bond of friendship – best friendship – is stronger than ever.

So, in times of COVID-19, when we’re still keeping the reigns pretty tight on our social distancing and limiting non-essential travel, how does one celebrate their tenth?

Pretty low-key, actually. Same as birthdays, same as holidays. But the beauty and meaning behind the day gets to have its own spotlight that way, and since we met and fell in love doing community theater together, isn’t that appropriate? So, no trip to Vermont. No special night out. No pile of gifts. And it actually sounds lovely.

Lots of reflection and looking through photo albums and answering sweet, curious questions from the kids. Maybe play some Vitamin String Quartet and a handful of favorites from our reception to have a dance party with the kids. We’ll order a nice meal in and give the kids hotdogs. Maybe I’ll make an apple pie like my mother did for our “cake cut.”

We’ve already started chatting and contemplating about who we were when we met, the things we did when we were dating, the feelings that evolved and continued to support us through several phases of life. One thing that stands out is the simplicity of it all. Of course, it never feels simple when you’re in the thick of it, but given the turmoil of life now, it’s helpful to see things – then AND now – clearly.

The simplicity and quiet joy is exactly what life calls for at the moment, and I’m so grateful for the gift of it.

Growing Old Connections

I can feel the dirt sneaking its way into my gloves, leaving grit in my fingernails. The fabric is coated in rubber, but soil seems to happily ignore this feature. I pause and find gratitude for the small level of protection. Gratitude and slowness in the moments that are slow enough to notice have been my saving grace during quarantine.

While each day, hour, minute seems to jump in levels of uncertainty, moodiness, job duties, and needs, we’re now mostly able to ebb and flow as a family along with the fluctuations. 

For the most part, we’re sharing an inflatable life raft. When someone falls out, we’re nearby to pull them back to the reality of the boat. When one of us starts flipping out over homework or an infuriating social media moment, we’ll regroup and remind each other just to focus on the motion of rowing, together.

Togetherness will get us through.

Strangely enough, this doesn’t apply to being with anyone outside our raft. Right now, our mental health and ability to survive relies solely on keeping our little life boat afloat.

When we were first starting to get the hang of the situation, emotions ran high and we threw spaghetti at the wall trying to determine what would work for us to keep a semblance of normality. We had uncomfortable Skype and Zoom calls. Unnatural attempts at driveway-window chats. Facebook Kids. Anything to try to connect with nearby family, but none of it seemed to stick or work to form connections.

Turns out, what worked the most was us. Our closely knit group of hilarious, creative, passionate little people…and the two parents who are just lucky enough to get to share in their lives.

Emotions still run very much hot and cold; I can’t change who I am just as much as our two-year-old can’t change her own speech delay. We are who we are, and somehow we’ve all grown to accept each other with far greater understanding while being squished together in close quarters. 

But, while we miss the family and friends and connections outside our home (and, sure, chat via the window or a good, old-fashioned phone call), my connections have started coming from unexpected family members.

The ones that have long since passed.

As part of my quarantine birthday this year, my husband renewed my Ancestry account. I hadn’t worked on my family tree since our firstborn was still in diapers. Two more kids later and it seemed like no better time than to give me a distraction with doors into the past.

What can I say? He gets me.

So, while I enjoy the occasional chat with my own mom, one of my favorite connections is to people I’m revisiting or, better yet, meeting for the first time. My husband’s long lost family from Italy. My grandmother’s British side, leading me to wonder how they would’ve felt about the deeply rooted Irish contingency that took over most of my bloodline.

Having experienced the life-shaping loss of a parent at a young age, death and the relationships we share with the departed are large, looming life themes for me. The grandparents who stepped up helped mould my mind, my sentiments, and my philosophies, and gifted me with the perspective of history. 

Each time that I click a new leaf and discover a new name, I greet the person with excitement. I wonder a hundred or more things about their life.

I make assumptions about the difficulties that they must have endured simply to survive in a certain place at a certain time. I give thanks that they did, and know that the tough survival instincts many of us have lost aren’t truly lost; they were passed down, but have laid dormant until this very unique, challenging time. 

It’s here to slow us down, to make us sit with discomfort, and recognize our ability to do hard things in order to survive and thrive. I live my 21st century life, performing my job and teaching my kids through technology. But the historical passion and interest I’ve always had is bubbling to the surface like sourdough fermenting; I may not be living with such difficulties, after all. Seeing these names and reading my son Farmer Boy everyday brings it all home. A pinch of perspective can have soothing effects.

So, as I continue to turn the dirt in my hands and plant new seeds in my brand new raised bed, I’m feeling more connected than ever.

Hoping to see new leaves spring forth, a bridge between now and then.

I’m learning the lessons they teach from the grave. Their resilience. Their ability to create a life and survive with far worse circumstances. I yearn, more so, to know those lessons that have disappeared. The common sense connection to nature and the seasons. When to plant, when to prepare (always). How to sustain a family. 

My garden is late this year, but I will grow for them.

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Together, Apart”.

Changing the Narrative

It’s funny. As a traditional Enneagram Type 9, I have an incredibly difficult time creating and maintaining habits.

Blogging. Exercise. Drawing and painting. Getting back to the piano.

Pretty much anything that I do for myself is a slog.

So, why the heck, amidst one of the most stressful times that most humans have encountered, did I decide to take part in an online writing challenge?

Maybe it was because it was, literally, a small challenge – haiku. Maybe it was because it flexed just the right amount of creative brain power. It gave enough structure to guide, enough prompts that I could lean into someone else’s theme with my own individual experience, and was short enough that it took very little time away from my burgeoning work, parenting, and teaching life.

Most days, it recharged my battery in five to ten minutes, giving me a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that I’d shared something of myself and for myself, before returning to others’ needs. And even those days that were particularly challenging (like the prompt “Made You Laugh”) or that seemed oversimplified or predictable, I still showed up.

I still. Showed. Up.

So, all of April, I created. By my birthday on May 1st, I had accumulated 30 days worth of haiku. Some days, it was one simple 5-7-5 poem. Other days, I made several separate poems or one long piece with 5-7-5 stanzas. I ended with what my husband suggested as my first book of Pandemic Poetry.

While I doubt I’ll do much with it, the time taught me much. My main takeaway is that writing is still my outlet.

See, there have been points where I felt no purpose behind writing anymore. I knew that I wanted to, but couldn’t see a reason. And then, as it tends to do, daily life took me away.

It’s so strange and surreal that this strange and surreal time is what brought me back to realize – sometimes just showing up is the reason to show up.

For this type 9w1 to announce publicly that she’s making a shift to this blog is scary but hopeful. Over the years, I’ve dug deeply into the sod of this site, sharing about the early days of marriage, of house projects, of philosophies and how-to’s and recipes. None of it is wrong or bad, but I’m hoping to flex my writing skills away from the “articles” of yore.

I’m hoping to grow new fruits. To try my hand at a new type of gardening. Of a whole new language. Still sharing my experiences and hopes and attempts at life, but telling it as the story unfolds.

And I’m hoping that you’ll find yourself nodding, or thinking, or laughing along, or maybe even feeling that your story is worth telling, too.

Here’s to showing up and telling our stories. 

Trying

I wasn’t going to post about the start of a new year. Lately, it seems like my previous few posts are sparked by the urgency of a New Year’s celebration; a “word of the year” or a philosophy to focus myself. I’ve started two, possibly three pieces about this very topic, and all have veered off the road only to land gently in the no man’s land of forgotten writing.

Don’t worry; it’s a comfortable, albeit irrelevant place to be.

But, something that I noted to my husband in passing shortly before the clock struck midnight that evening has bubbled up today, so I figured I’d share it. Why not?

Actually, that encompasses the thing: why not. (Statement or question, it goes both ways.)

I said that I’d like to give “trying” a go. Trying harder to follow through with goals I set last year. Trying out new types of creativity to see what sticks. Trying, all while finding a pared down, simplified life that works best for us.

So, while we’re both focusing a lot on purging, simplifying, and specifically bringing some of the old into our rather 21st century lives (in my case, in hopes of applying those principles to causes I find near and dear like environmentalism and minimalism), I’m “trying” to prioritize myself, as well.

Exercising more. Slowing down more. Searching for what fills my bucket more. 

In Fall, I joined Exhale, a place for creative moms to get (back) in touch with their own creativity and connect with like-minded women. I have virtually met several amazing mothers with varied backgrounds and enjoy bouncing ideas and accountability back and forth. But, as I often do, my mind wanders and I continue to look for ways to apply my creativity.

So, be on the lookout, if you’re interested, for some different means of showing myself, my family, our life. Shorter bursts of writing. Different subjects. Even blog hop-induced photo journals.

There are other areas that I’m considering some “trying” beyond the blog, as well. Perhaps knitting or sewing, painting or sketching, or even finally learning how to use my DSLR camera. But since I’m leaning into the fact that I, by nature, meander and follow my fickle passions, I’m not putting anything in a definitive manner.

And if you’re a creative – parent or otherwise – what’s your favorite outlet? Do you relish in showcasing your talents and interests, or keep them for yourself? I’d love to chat and hear more in the comments.

Focus Time

My phone is my lifeblood.

Fact. Truth. Sadness. Reality. But, for most of us these days, we are incomplete without our phones. They help put our daily puzzle pieces together, get us out of binds, solve a problem in seconds flat, and connect us to people that we might not otherwise be able to find the time to connect with. Add a thousand other uses for a cell phone, but you get the point.

On the other side of that coin, we often feel guilty for our phone use. Sometimes this is totally legit; we should be more active members of the world around us, specifically when it relates to our kiddos and loved ones. I can feel my body shift when I hunch myself over and bend my fingers to type out a message. And don’t get me started on texting while driving.

But, I’ve come to realize that we shouldn’t feel that immense guilty burden simply for our phone use. Personally, I think it’s the fact that I am not intentional with the time spent with my phone – or anywhere else, really.

Think of every time you have a question, or realize that your child needs new pants, or something breaks, or you wonder what the news is, or simply find yourself board and you grab your phone and instantly start searching. You open every email, article, or link in hopes of reading it…some time. How often do we get back to these ideas and, then, clear them away?  

I could consider myself an informational hoarder. I currently have 31 tabs open in Safari. Blog posts. Recipes. Organizational prompts (that should speak to my psyche right now). Articles. So many Christmas gift ideas. A closet organizer and search for a new bed for our girls’ room. The new Disney+ lineup. A writing group I belong to. Home DIY blog posts. Facebook. The local news. Resources I checked out while at a conference for work recently. Two grocery orders. A Black Friday ad that I have no intention of using. A new rug for our bedroom.

There’s a lot of hope in those searches. In perusing them, I can also see a desperately juggling mother who only has enough time for quick spurts of inspiration only to be pulled back to reality. “I shouldn’t be looking this up right now.” I (and many of us) spend free time going back and seeing what we can work on.

Let me repeat that. Our. Free. Time. Work. On. Those words are true and deliberate.

What is our free time meant to do for us, particularly as parents? Isn’t it meant to be time to recharge, to either get a task (or two) done and then have a moment of “me” time to feel whole again? At least, that’s the hope. Have you ever spent an entire nap time going down the online rabbit hole only to look up and see a child standing there; nap complete, mama frustrated.

Which scenario do you see in your life more? For me, it’s the rabbit hole. Sure, I usually do have to actually get something done, like an online grocery order or something, but it takes far longer than it should because I tend not to focus just on that one thing. Cell phones are turning us into multitaskers who instead of task completers.

This leads me to a new challenge for myself. You may assume that I’m going to say “No phone use…” but that defeats the purpose. I do, actually, need to get a task or two done. Like, I legitimately need to pull the trigger on the purchase of the closet organizer and a bed for my daughter’s room. But, it’s impossible with all the other thoughts going through my brain via my phone.

So, my ultimate goal is, with everything, to simplify. When it applies to my phone use, it’s to reduce the outside distractions. To only use my social media once a day, unabashedly, but then to ensure that my other use is during one of those “free times” and with a specific goal in mind. FOCUS TIME.

If you’re doing this along with me, it might help to make a prioritized short list of the things you “need” to do. For me, it’s ordering the bed and closet organizer. Then, to check and stick to our Christmas list before searching for a good price and ordering.

This alone should shave off all that extra time of looking things up only to see them pile onto the open tab grave site. 

I’d love to hear – what’s your biggest struggle when it comes to your phone use? What’s one step you can try to help battle this issue?

Pebbles

I have about two dozen posts I’ve either started or would like to write. Updates on Hannah (and all the kids, really). At least two chats regarding the Monkees, plus the details of eating dairy-free while on a glorious trip to NYC to see them in concert. Decluttering, simplifying, and general house posts are lower on the list, along with parenting topics. I’m sure I’m missing something.

But I can’t seem to finish a one. And it’s not for lack of will or trying.

Life’s just overwhelming…which seems to be the new norm. It’s not by any terms a complaint. Just how things are right now. Hannah’s up throughout the night, whether from teeth or an unknown allergen, and Beardslee keeps Dave awake with his own nagging. Add the daily grind and it’s hard not to feel either exhausted or down…or a mix of both.

The kids and I are finally on spring break, so I hope to do some spring cleaning with a mix of resting (I’ve had some health issues lately so this is a must), a bit of family fun, and, yes, maybe even writing. Or, maybe not.

But I recently found myself explaining how it currently feels to a friend, and then to Dave. It’s the best metaphor to explain life right now, and to realize how much we’re actually accomplishing each week, each day, each hour.

Maybe you can relate.

Every task that we accomplish, even those things that we do routinely that seem too mundane to add to our to-do lists, are pebbles. Some are small, quick jobs. Others are larger rocks that take multiple steps to complete. Then there are the boulders that you never seem to check off your list, leaving them to do at a later, less busy time.

These all drain our energies, both mentally and physically. We don’t realize the toll that day-in, day-out meal prep for 3 different diets (5 people altogether) takes, plus silverware, drinks, condiments, and clean-up. Multiplied by three meals. Or laundry. Or drop-offs and pick-ups. Or any attempts at cleaning. To say nothing of the tasks we face at work.

Then there’s the guilt. The guilt of not doing enough “extras” for our kids. The guilt of not keeping up with friends or sending birthday cards or seeing family as much as we’d like. The guilt of not finding a new eye doctor for way-too-many-years. I could go on…but these are stones that we keep pushing forward with us to the next day, hoping that we’ll finally toss one of those guilts away tomorrow when we cross it off the to-do list, finally.

It’s easy to feel the weight of all those pebbles and stones and rocks everyday.

But it’s just as important for us to turn around every now and then. To look back. What do you think you’ll see?

It’s the old stones of everydays past. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that your family won’t remember but that you know have nourished their bodies and souls to get them to today. The diapers changed, baths given, books read, tearful baby bedtimes soothed, meltdowns averted. The cat pans changed, vet visits accomplished, moments of petting that have added up to a loving, trusting furry friend relationship.

Speaking of relationships, those stones behind you are the connections, brief as they may be, with your spouse, that add up to that good, safe, comforting place you cohabitate together. The laughs you share amid the chaos, the rare conversations you’re able to actually finish, the shared side-eye over an irrationally screaming toddler, or the pat on the back to let each other know you’re on the same team. These pebbles matter, and they create their own hill, far different from the one you began laying over 10 years before, but far more fulfilling than you ever realized was possible. Your very own hill that will only grow stronger as you continue on together.

But that hill is part of a larger mountain of everyday pebbles.

Looking back, you’ll see the things you’ve forgotten but that your weary mind and body can’t. It, after all, lifted every one of those stones. It placed them, minute by minute, as you accomplished things both grand and minuscule. Day after day, year after year.

You’ve built yourself a mountain.

So, the next time you feel anxious or sad or guilty that you just can’t seem to keep up with life, let this be your reminder to stop and turn around. You’ve been far busier, moment by moment, than you may realize.

Allow yourself the chance to ease your body and mind. Rest. Contemplate. Embrace the slowness of the moment. Because when you get back up, the job of moving pebbles only continues.

And this, after all, is what makes up life. Your very own mountain.