Life in a Time of Unrest

When we last left off, I had every intention of sharing with you my 30-day gym update. I had started the year talking about my intentions; then my meeting with a personal trainer through my work; followed by my first full week at the gym. And then COVID-19 hit America. I started working and going to school from home. I was a month behind on my masters project, due to my mothers illness at the start of the year, and honestly, not having a commute gave me an extra hour each day that made it easier to complete. It was not easier to try to finish without meeting with my advisor, or to not get to graduate (yet!), or to go from working on a bustling college campus to being alone all day with two cats.

I continued a modified workout routine that includes a lot of walking on the trails by my house, wrapped up my last semester of graduate school and was excited to take a rest but then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. If you don’t want to think about politics or the state of the word, I recommend skipping down to the first heading. I hope that my transparency will be a source of comfort, not conflict.

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I have been working in public education for over a decade, not counting my work while in college. And I have been committed to being an educator in public education since high school. My work is intricately tied to eradicating systems of oppression – my focus is on untying the mental knots that keep us thinking through the dominant lens by changing the way we talk. I try really hard to embody compassion, understanding and joy.

Lately, I’ve been outwardly angry. And disappointed in myself for that.

More than anything, I feel blindsided by my white friends, who simply don’t know that their line of thinking is rooted in white supremacy. I don’t feel blindsided by white supremacy, but rather that they don’t know. That’s confusing to me and it is a good reminder that I carry my own ignorances:  I live in education, where every day people see the impact (good and bad) of systems, where we are nationally criticized all the time and respond by saying “we’ll do better,” and where people critically analyze sources before assuming they’re accurate.

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That’s my real world. But it isn’t the majority. Folx don’t know the ways that they fight against or give in to the system, turn their noses up at national criticism, and assume that something with a percentage is a fact. And that’s fine. It’s actually fine. I hope that I can make waves in education so that individuals moving forward will examine and assess things differently, but we’re all allowed to be different, and hold to different ideals. That is actually the beauty of America.

The shame of America is that its system reflects ideals that injure entire populations – ideals that are held and defended by its people. It’s hard to jive with freedom of thought (which is usually totally my jam!) when the ideals include people being murdered or children starving or one group being privileged over another.

And so I’m worn out. I’m worn out from 100 conversations a day in my personal and professional world that require me to think about what will happen if we X instead of Y. What population is impacted by Z and will that impact be negative? I am finding myself spouting off in small moments because my every day is so wrought with a lack of closure. But the truth is: that’s how it’s been since I picked education and my white burnout doesn’t help anything. And, at the end of the day, I picked it and I’m not going to leave it, so I have to take educations lead and say, “I’ll do better.”

I’m unwilling to agree to disagree (why do we love this phrase so much?) because that’s what got us here in the first place and, honestly, it feels really anti-American when you read our founding fathers. Instead, I’ll do better. And part of how I want to do that is by revising my 2020 intentions.

Let’s talk about doing better

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When I first wrote them, I broke my 2020 intentions up into three categories: physical, mental, emotional/spiritual health. Then, from there I did a breakdown of what practical steps I could take towards those things. I’m going to put them here with some notes about the steps I’ve taken or hope to take:

Physical Health
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Eating more plants and lean protein – Yo, I’ve got this really great lunch I’m going to share with you that’s almost 100% plant-based (the dressing isn’t…and no, it’s not a salad). I’m also opting for vegetarian whenever possible. Meat is nauseating to me lately. 
Walking for entire lunch break – Pretty much every day, unless it rains. If it’s raining during lunchtime, then I walk in the evening.
Gym three times a week – In Michigan, gyms have been closed since March (or April?). I think maybe I’ll do like an exercise week in the life kind of thing to share what I’ve been doing to stay sane while working from home.
Track progress here – totally haven’t been doing that, but get ready, folx! It’s coming!

Mental Health
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Keeping school organized – keeping school organized by being DONE!! I have some steps I’d like to take in my professional career that I’m not sure I’ll share here, but I think I could share how I organize and stay on top of them… We’ll see. This is a tricky spot. What would you like to see?
Managing Expectations – At the start of the COVID changes, D and I decided to do things 3-5 days at a time. We just couldn’t plan for things because we didn’t know what was going to happen and we were both up to our eyeballs in stress (when you’re the operations person and all of your operations go remote…). That’s been the best move for us. 
More-than-a-month meal plan – This is probably a post all in its own. We’ve had so many changes to food since I started working at home. I’ll do that. I’ll write a post on that.
Weekly routine – We’re starting this! D and I finally started talking through our week. We haven’t really been because what even is a week anymore? But, not having the structure was stressing us both out more than we realized, so we’re moving past three days at a time.

Emotional/Spiritual Health
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Embrace the weekly plan – ready for it!
Use the free counseling at work – Telehealth for the win!
Go to church more than twice a year – Y’all. I’m super on the fence about church. I’ve been a long time non-believer who loves to go to church and the general attitudes of Jesus (per the gospels), but man. The more I see people in abusive relationships defending their abusers and then yelling at me (or friends in general yelling at me) for not being more Christian the more I’m like, “effing patriarchy” because Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Do others have this problem?
Meditate – On it. I’d like to share a little about this too, if folx are interested.
Write for fun, not just for school – That’s actually why I’m back here. I hope it will help and keep me from being so angry.

I also have a little mental list going of some projects I’d like to take on around the house. I have really been thinking about where our money goes and who benefits from it and how to change that, but I think that’s probably going to be a different post since this one was VERY long.

Thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate feedback, thoughts and intentional criticism if you have some.

It’s going to get better. Or at least, we can figure out how to be better. That’s something within our realm of control.A. Rose (1)

 

& Cookies, July Part I

I’ve been an avid blog reader for the last six years and my favorite posts are always the personal, here’s-my-life-in-the-last-month-rounded-up kinds of things. I was thinking about this, and about my cousins son whose favorite time of the day is Cookie Time, where he, his mom and his grandma have milk and cookies. So I was thinking about the idea of having milk and cookies with people I like, but I stopped being able to drink milk around age 25, so here we are: & cookies.

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I got to start off this passed weekend with D’s parents and two nephews. They came over for tacos and stayed for laughs. Those two boys love hanging out with “Uncle D” and playing games, and they’re great little helpers in the kitchen!
No AC pro-tip: put a fan in the kitchen, for the love of all that is good.

I did some hardcore grocery shopping: 3 stores, 2 hours, 1 month worth of food, including cat food (not including weekly perishable purchases): under $140! I’ve talked quite a bit about grocery shopping here and here. But I don’t know that I’ve really given an overview of how I’ve managed to bring my grocery bill down as far as it is. Maybe I’ll do that sometime soon; would that be interesting to you?

The other piece is that I got this Tide Ultra and successfully got D’s work pants (read: jeans that are coated in layers of motor oil) clean after just one wash! I can’t even believe it. It was like the laundry version of Christmas!

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I went Downtown with my adorable, amazing bestie this week. She’s basically the greatest mom of three. When she isn’t working, she’s doing things for others. It felt really good to facilitate a little mini-vacay for her. How happy she is in the picture above: that’s how much she smiled the rest of the time.

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These are the incredible skills of my cat, the Pirate King, who has been waking me up by screaming non-stop every morning. Ugh. Do you know cats that do that? What causes it? He gets fed in the evening, including treats. Maybe he just wants snuggles?

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And, of course, I had to include some 4th of July fun! My sister and I spent too long in the pool, followed by D and I spending too long in the pool, followed by more pool. Wanna know the key to a Florida girls heart? It’s swimming.

I should probably say some stuff about sunscreen and not letting yourself get melanoma buuuuut….

 

Have a great weekend, folks!

A. Rose (1)

A Weekday in the Life

It makes me feel like a total creeper that I love to read Day in the Life posts from bloggers but I totally do. I did a half-hearted version when I talked about what my Saturday Morning looks like. But the other day, I read this one from one of my favorite bloggers and I thought about making one about the weekday, as a way to truly reflect on where my time goes. I thought it might help me. So, hold tight! Here we go!

Note: If it’s snowing or snowed the night before, all of the morning gets bumped up about 20 minutes, except the part where I get to work around 8am.

6:30am – “Wake up. For the love of all that is good, your day will be so much better if you wake up.”

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Alarm Clock

A few months ago, I realized how much I was on my phone, so I challenged myself to leave my phone in the kitchen when I went to bed. The first step to that was buying an alarm clock. I have yet to regret it.

6:32am – “Brushing your teeth will help you wake up. Seriously.”

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Similar Kettle / Travel Mug

I usually brush my teeth while I get a cup of tea started and take my make up out of the case. By the time I’m done brushing, the tea is usually ready. I pour the hot water in and sit down to do my make up.

6:37am – “I bet you can do your make up faster today than you did yesterday.”

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Dark Eye Shadow / Shadow Pallet / Light Eye Shadow / Brush was bought at Walgreens? like, a decade ago / Concealer / Mascara / Blush (similar) / Mirror (compact) was made by my oldest sister out of a Cover Girl powder that she hollowed out and put a Tori Amos quote on

I feel like that’s not the “normal” feeling about make up. I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to my face. Eye shadow, mascara, blush, under eye concealer and done. I don’t know if this theory holds water or not, but my mother has gorgeous skin. She’s 60 and I’ve never seen her have a breakout, uneven tones or any kind of blemish. She also has never in her life worn a full face of make up. I don’t know if the two are connected, but I’m going to roll with it, because it justifies me not having to spend the time on it. The result is usually something still tired but a little perkier looking.

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6:47am 
– “Why is my hair like this?”

I have weird hair. It’s incredibly thick (like, if I put it in two braids, one of those two is the thickness of most peoples one braid if they were to braid all their hair one time… if that makes sense…) – even the strands are thick – and coarse. It naturally curls in every which way and usually heat causes it to straighten out unless I use a crap-ton of hairspray. If I wake up late, it goes in a ponytail and I just roll with it. But, I’ve been trying really hard lately to actually do it because I feel better when I do.

7:12am – “Thank goodness I picked out my clothes the night before. Sheesh.”

There’s no picture of this because it would just be a picture of my closet. I just group four or five outfits together and that’s my version of setting out my clothes for the week. #lowkey

I always forget that I’ve picked out my clothes the night before until the point of getting dressed. I don’t always do this, but I try to. Sometimes, when I’m really on top of my game, I’ll pick out five outfits on Sunday night!  That doesn’t happen often.

I own a very limited number of work clothes (about 7-9 outfits) which helps to keep things simple if I don’t pick things out the night before. Maybe I’ll write some more about how I got to a point of a limited number of outfits. Would that be something  you’d be interested in?

7:20am – “Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch. Wallet, keys, phone, planner, lunch.”

Planner / Cat Clutch (similar) / Cup / Food Storage Container / Work Tote

I pack my bag in the morning. Sometimes I do it at night, but it’s almost always first thing in the morning. Depending on the day, there’s a lot of different things I might take with me. I almost always take breakfast and lunch. If it’s winter, then non-snow shoes come with for me to change into at work. School stuff and snacks are a must. On Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I leave my house at 7:30am and get home around 9:30pm, so I usually have a decent amount of food with me.

7:25am – “I shouldn’t wake him up. But I don’t want to not say ‘I love you’ and then drive through the ice.”

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D works four jobs with unpredictable schedules (ex. one of them is snow plowing, so sometimes he doesn’t have any hours of that for two weeks; sometimes he works 40 hours in a row without sleeping) and so I do my best to respect his sleep, and he does his best to respect mine. My most favorite and D’s least favorite part of the day is when I creep into the dark bedroom and say goodbye. He’s always warm and soft feeling and so I gently tell him that I love him and to have a good day. Often, I sit on the bed and put my socks and snow boots on while I talk to him. He hates that I wake him up as it’s happening. But every evening he says thank you to me for it.

7:30am – “I’m glad I have Spotify.”

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Seriously. This is not an ad. I just really feel that way. I drive anywhere between 30 – 90 minutes to work, one way. Having good music, where I don’t have to use my hand and skip the songs, is a must.

I also try to use this time to get ready for work. I don’t make a mental to-do list. I don’t get paid to think about work when I’m not there, so I don’t do it. Instead, I sort through conversations I had the night before; what kinds of things I need to do on my lunch break; and plan out my evening. Some days, a song comes on that gets me thinking about other things and I, instead, use the time to reflect on my relationships with friends and family. It helps. A lot.

8:00-ish am – “Tell the family you’re not dead. Don’t forget.”

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I’m really lucky to work in a place that’s flexible about what time you arrive when it’s snowing out. Most of the office lives 30 minutes away, with some as far as an hour and a half. So, when the snow comes, we all just adapt if someone’s not here. Before I get out of my car, I text my mom, dad and sister and let them know I got to work safely.

Note: I never did this before I lived here. My parents didn’t really care and my sister and I talk so much that she pretty much always knows where I am. But now that I drive on windy roads through fields with strong winds and big hills, my parents are always nervous, so I send the text. 

Slightly After 8:00 am – “Knock out what you can.”

I usually start my morning slowly. I drink my tea and check my emails and knock out as many little things as I can. This doesn’t always work as planned, but it’s what I try for.

Around 9:00am – “It would probably good to eat breakfast at home.”

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That’s what I tell myself every time I pull out a literal bowl of breakfast at work. I usually eat yogurt, fruit and granola. I keep the yogurt and the granola at work and just transport a mason jar of fruit back and forth.

Sometime between 11:00am and 2:00pm – “I should probably use my lunch break to eat.”

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I don’t though. I usually eat lunch around 2pm. Instead, I usually use my hour lunch break to take a walk and then do homework at my desk. I don’t really recommend this but I can’t figure out a better way to get through grad school.

My job is 50% database management, 50% putting out fires that are comprised of the very real emotions of young adults. Talking about a typical day is impossible because you never know who’s going to come in crying, who’s going to scream at you because they’re actually just scared, or if nothing at all is going to happen. I freaking love it.

5:00pm – “Maybe earlier than 5pm. Never later than 5pm though.”

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I leave work at 5:00pm. This time of year, the sun is starting to set. Depending on the weather and how much snow is on my car, I get home between 5:35pm and 6:15pm. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I drive directly downtown (about 45 minutes from the campus I work on) to the other campus to take classes until 9pm. But let’s pretend it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

On my drive home, I usually call D to figure out what he’s doing, and spend the rest of the drive home thinking about the good pieces of the day.

5:45pm – “I know you were alone all day. I missed you so much.”

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I snuggle the cat when I get home and then I change my clothes. When I lived in Florida, I would take a shower after work. I usually didn’t wash my hair until before bed, but I had to do something to get the heat off me and it signaled that I was home. Now that it’s the opposite of 100 degrees here, I just change my clothes and put my slippers on, because slippers mean home to me.

6:00pm – “What should we make for dinner, kitten?”

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I’m pretty good about taking meat out the night before for dinner, but it doesn’t always happen. Around 6, I start figuring out dinner and set up at the dining room table to start my homework. If D is going to be there soon, I’ll start dinner (if it’s my turn) while I read. If he’s going to be working through the night, dinner is usually a grilled cheese or some applesauce. If he’s there, he usually watches TV with his headphones on while I do my homework and we eat separately. Twice a week, he does the cooking and while he cooks, I put my homework away so we can talk. Either way, whenever we’re both done, we do dishes together.

8:00pm – “If you don’t stop doing homework soon you’re going to be writing in martian.”

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I know two hours isn’t a lot of time, especially compared to what I did in undergrad, but after a full day of emotionally draining work, two hours of theory is a lot. So, instead of trying to push myself past my breaking point, I do two hours every day, except the weekends. On the weekends, I get the bulk of it done.

I clean up the kitchen table and usually one other cleaning thing – the bathroom, picking up clothes, sorting through something. I try to do one little area so that I don’t completely lose my weekend to cleaning.

8:30pm – “What about a shower? I should take a shower. I should always take a shower.”

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I freaking love showers. My sister calls the shower her “reflection chamber” and feel like that’s 100% accurate. Most of the time D and I take a shower together – sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s actually because we do some of our best talking when we’re trapped in the same tiny place together.

9:00pm – “Remember that time you wanted to start a blog?”

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Yep, that’s right. 9pm is prime blog-writing time. No. No, it’s really not. I usually sort through pictures, come up with ideas for posts, try to figure out how people actually get followers, wonder if I actually want followers, get distracted by Pinterest, plan out next weeks meals, realize I was thinking about blogging, start over again from the beginning.

9:45pm – “Remember that time you said you were going to relax more? Do that.”

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9:45 is usually when I crawl into bed, turn on Pretty Little Liars, and lie to myself about how I’m just going to finish the 20 minutes left on this episode.

11:00pm – “Honey, you said you were going to sleep at 9:30…”

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Every night, D reminds me of my constant mission to go to bed on time and how I’m not accomplishing it. Not in a mean way. He just points it out. I make an excuse. He suggests that I might be making an excuse. I huff about it. He lets it go. Then we hug and go to sleep.

I’m not a good sleeper. And as you can probably math from all of this, I usually get about five to six hours a night, which isn’t good for anyone in my life, least of all: me. I really am working on it. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and have set a reminder for 9:30 to start winding down so I can try to be in bed by 10am.

D and I have been talking a lot about what I could take off my plate and put on his to create more time in my day so I can sleep. The housework is the big conversation because right now it’s technically divided equally (in terms of a time/effort combo that we agreed on), but I’m still either not getting enough sleep or not getting enough relaxation. I’m open to suggestions! For real! I know I won’t last long at this pace!

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Thanks for sticking it out, if you made it through this whole thing. I actually didn’t know a day in my life would have this many details and it was really nice to reflect on it.

How to Survive Grad School (while working full time)

Truth? I don’t 100% have the answer for that. Classes started January 8. I’m taking two: one on Mondays and a hybrid one that meets six Wednesdays a semester. For context, I’m at work from 8am – 5pm and have anywhere from a 30-90 minute commute, depending on the weather. And usually on Saturday night I help D with work from 9pm – 4am.

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So, there’s not buckets of time, which I’m trying to figure out how to manage. So I thought I’d write down my top 5 things I’ve figured out so far, to help me remember.

1. Don’t be Hyper Organized

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I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but the thing is: life happens. And it happens. And it happens. I believe in being structured and having a schedule, but I include in my schedule the chance to miss a day of homework. I think it’ll help me out to actually write out how I came up with my current homework schedule, which is working really well.

2. Get Good at Saying No

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Yep. I know. Annoying. BUT, here’s the thing about saying “no” that took me a long time to figure out: you’re actually being kind to other people when you acknowledge your own limitsIf I tell you I can do something at a time when I’m overwhelmed, I will likely only give it a max of 80% of effort. How does that help you? Whether that’s a conversation or a pie, you aren’t helping by giving only a portion of your attention of something to someone else. So, get good at “no.”

I’m a big fan of “no, because, and.” “No, I can’t come over because I’ve only gotten 10 hours of sleep in the last three days and I want to be able to give you my full attention.” “No, I can’t take on an extra project because I have four going right now and I wouldn’t be able to give you my best work if I added another.” People almost always are like “Yeah! That’s totally fine!”

Note: use this with your boss sparingly.

3. Sleep is Your Friend

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My moms cat is hilarious

When I was 20, I could operate on 3 hours of sleep a night and still submit/create fabulous work. Now that I’m just a few months away from 30, getting around 6 a night is a serious struggle. I will adapt, but I also know that if I drop below 6, or don’t get more than that on the weekends, I’m going to turn into a zombie who can barely make sentences. I am willing to forego a lot to ensure that I’m getting enough sleep. It doesn’t do me any good to be half-asleep in class, and it’s risky to be half-asleep at work.

4. Meal Plan/Prep on the Weekends

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I cannot stress this enough. You can totally fly through life and never meal plan if you’re better at choosing healthy options than me. I just really like foods that don’t contribute to my overall health and what I’ve found is that when I don’t have something already with me, I’m not going to stop somewhere and get a salad – I’m going to stop somewhere and get a fried thing, or a carb-filled thing or a thing full of refined white sugar.

On the weekends, I fill up four mason jars with fruits (I keep yogurt and granola at work), make three or four salads, bag fruits and veggies for snacks and plan dinners. I look at my class schedule and my homework schedule and use that to determine how much of whatever it is I’m making. I take leftovers with me to class and on heavy homework days, I make sure to throw something in the crock pot the morning of. This is giving me good, natural energy and saving me a lot of money.

5. Post Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing

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In undergrad, I had to get homework done. I needed A’s and I needed to get through it to get a job. That was it. I learned a lot. I had a lot of fun. But it wasn’t in my soul the way this program is. On some level, I’m in grad school because I can’t move up and get a better job with more pay without it because the field I’m in. That’s never not going to be true. But what brought me here is the idea that I cannot stop caring about children and education and the things that influence both. I would stop being me if I stopped caring.

And so all over my desk at work and all over my house, are these reminders that the purpose of me going isn’t to get it over with: it’s to be fully inside of it and soak up every little detail as best I can. That’s what will make the difference in the end.

 

What I’m Learning to Avoid

Have you ever read The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot?

It’s a poem about a man, so consumed with anxiety that he asks himself these absurd questions like “Should I dare to eat a peach?” My favorite line in the poem is “I measure my life in coffee spoons.” I think about it frequently and often use it to describe how I’m feeling.

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Prufrock was so anxiety riddled that he could only focus on these small increments of time. And he had to focus on them. He had to measure his life using the smallest measuring device he could think of. And he missed life because of all the measuring.

I do that a lot. I time things – laundry, cooking, my drive to work. I’m in a constant state of measuring and missing out on living. And I’m trying really hard to make that different.

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Which seems like the opposite of what’s happening by writing. Here I am, sharing thoughts and ideas on saving time, saving money, saving space, but saying that I want to stop being so focused on time.

The truth is, I do all these things so that more of my time is flexible. Certain piece of life need doing – laundry, bill paying, grocery shopping. Those things might change over the year, but you’re always going to have things in your bucket. So I’m trying to figure out ways to do them and use the least amount of time possible.

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And more than anything else, I’m trying to get right with all the times I fail at it. All the times I wake up 30 minutes late; all the times I forget to turn the dishwasher on; all the times I decide to watch TV instead of whatever I’m supposed to be doing. What’s that line from that song? “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans?”

I don’t want to be too busy to see it. I don’t want to be too busy to love myself through my mistakes. And I don’t know if this is the right way. I just know this is the way I’m doing it.

Christmas Truths

I usually start my holiday shopping in September. I start thinking of presents in July. I have my decorations out before Thanksgiving. I prep myself perfectly to just have a restful holiday and not get sucked into the overwhelming, oh-my-gosh-it’s-Christmas-and-I-didn’t-do-this-and-this-and-this.

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Instead, this year, I got super sick and had my gallbladder out, while trying to work full time and go to school. #brilliantplan

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So, here we are, six days from Christmas. One day from one sister arriving, four days from another. Five days from my brother-in-laws family being here. I still haven’t finished half my handmade presents. I haven’t even gotten the stuff to make my dads present.

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I took a walk on my lunch break today and I thought about feeling overwhelmed and I looked at the snow. I remembered the year my mother went to Chicago and broke both her feet slipping on ice on some stairs. She was there because my sister had a life-saving surgery. Three days later, my paternal grandmother died and two days after that my uncle. My mom came back to south Florida, my father went to Chicago. He and my sister were together for that Christmas in Chicago. The rest of us were in South Florida. It felt so strange.

 

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My parent’s dog is too cute for words.

I can remember in the middle of the night during that time, getting out of bed and finding my mother at the kitchen table, wringing her hands. We talked.

I am not of any organized faith, though I would say that my faith in certain things is incredibly strong. My mother is a very strongly and quietly Christian and many of our conversations are rooted in understanding the others faith. I told her that night, ‘Luke 2:19, momma. “But Mary gathered up all of these things and pondered them in her heart.”‘

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When the shepherds and wise men and angels come to the manger and praise the newborn baby Christ, Mary takes it all in. A new mother, surrounded by strangers, with her baby sleeping, away from home. She gathers it all up and feels it.

Isn’t that a lesson for all of us?

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And so inside of the rush and traffic and birthday parties and holiday parties and calls from far away friends, I’m trying to sneak moments where I gather them all up and ponder them in my heart, even the feeling of chaos. How lucky am I to love so many people that I choose to spend my time finding them the perfect gift? What fortune is in my life that I get to see my siblings during the year? How honest I have grown with myself that I can feel frustration and give it a name?

It’s easy to forgot, or to shame oneself for getting caught in the present rush. It makes it feel much less like a rush when you’re able to be grateful for the work that lets you buy the presents, despite the traffic.

Luke 2:19. It’s not just for Christmas.

& Cookies

November just whisked itself right past me.

At the very end of October, I had my gallbladder out & spent about two weeks recovering.

I had visits and calls from family and friends. My brave mother took me to surgery and brought me home. D cared for me the rest of the week and was a total rockstar. I will say, for any folks out there that might be facing this now or in the future: it’s not as bad as it is in your mind. My incisions hurt more than I thought but for less time than I thought they would. Take the medicine they give you, listen to the doctor, keep everything clean and you’ll be just fine.

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It’s been about a month now and I no longer need as much rest as I did two weeks ago. I basically feel normal now! Probably from all the help I got from this kitten! I still don’t fully understand what I can and can’t eat, but I’m definitely starting to get it, which made Thanksgiving a little complicated, but with every meal I learn a little more.

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Sister’s Boots / My Boots (similar)

My dad is a veteran, so my sister and I took him and my mom to lunch for Veteran’s Day, which turned out to be one of the coldest days we’d had so far. The restaurant was crowded with other veterans and people who came up to say “Thank you,” to my dad (love it!). My sister and I huddled around this little heater that was set up in the lobby.

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We’ve only gotten a couple of flurries so far this year. I’m excited for more; it would be nice to have the beautiful snow to go with the cold. D works for a snow plow company during the winter, so we get to ride around in this during the winter! I prefer my cute little car, but as soon as the ice gets on the road, I’m sure I’ll be batting my eyelashes, trying to convince him to drive me the hour to and from work.

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Salt & Pepper Shaker / Pie Plate

I thought I burned the pumpkin pie this year. It turns out that when you have a deep pie plate, you have to either make more filling, or keep your pie crust almost at the same height as the filling or else it looks burnt. The pie itself was just fine and only the top part of the crust was burnt. There was only one piece left at the end of the night, with five pies and seven people, so I suppose I can say that it turned out delicious.

How to Make Grocery Shopping Less Boring

I don’t like grocery shopping. I try to tell myself I do and it doesn’t work. But I’ve learned some things that make it more bearable.

Step One: Split it up!

I do two different kinds of grocery shopping: a monthly big shop and a weekly little shop. Once a month (sometimes every other month depending on the weather) I drop around or over $100 and I always buy certain staples that either go in the freezer or pantry. Here’s a little breakdown of what that monthly trip looks like:

Grocery List

So that’s a lot of food, but it accounts for usually eating with D, plus hosting people for dinner. I usually have left over of everything except chicken and vegetables. I’ve found that this makes it easier to budget and it’s much easier to grocery shop weekly for twenty minutes and only spend an hour and a half in the grocery store each month.

My weekly grocery list looks something more like this:

Get Some Groceries

Way more confusing. & mostly produce. This means that I can spend most of my time in one area, meaning I’m in and out much faster. The weekly grocery shop has turned into a game that I play, which makes it much more fun!

Step 2: Bring Minimal Supplies

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I bring a very limited amount of things with me when I go grocery shopping: reusable bags, grocery list, headphones, my clutch (similar here) & my phone. If you think about it, it’s really all you need and holding on to your purse just slows the whole process down.

Step 3: Treat Yo Self

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My grocery store has a Starbucks in it and when I do my big monthly shop, I definitely am all about a White Chocolate Mocha (or a White Chocolate Hot Chocolate if it’s night time). But I can’t justify a $4 coffee every week (that’s $20 a month!), so I bring my little coffee mug with me. Yes, I do feel slightly ridiculous. Sometimes I bring my travel mug instead, which makes me feel slightly less ridiculous. I’ve found that having a drink (even just some water) actually makes me feel relaxed, more than anything else.

Step 4: Rock Some Tunes

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My Driving playlist is my go-to for everything, basically, because it’s the right mix of feelings. I don’t always listen to music while grocery shopping if I go early in the morning. But if it’s the afternoon and I want to be in and out as fast as I can, I put headphones in and it helps me stay focused on what I’m doing, and also helps me to enjoy the fact that I get to pick through beautiful, fresh produce.

Step 5: Make it About Others

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I try to challenge myself on each grocery trip to find something for someone else. If it’s under $4, I get it for them (last weekend I got my Chicagoian dad a bag of this popcorn). If it’s more than that, I take a picture of it. My cousin’s girlfriend loves skulls and bright colors so I texted this to her with a little note that I was thinking about her.

My grocery store has more than just groceries; it’s more like a Michigan-only, super clean and friendly Wal*Mart. So I try to give myself a little leeway and spend some time in the Home section, not just strictly spend my time in the food area.

I also don’t always do this – sometimes I get all the way through the check-out lane and discover I got too focused and forgot, so I take a look at my coupons, and if I somehow ended up with coupons for baby formula or something, I pass them to another shopper who I see has a little one. And if all else fails, I give a stranger a compliment and a nice smile.

Step 6: Time Yourself

I know, I know. That sounds so weird. Here’s what happened: I usually do my grocery shopping in between loads of laundry. When I do the laundry, I set a timer because it’s in my apartment complexes basement and I will forget it. Like, for days. So one day, I thought to myself, “I have an hour. What can I do with an hour?” And my grocery list only had like, 10 things on it and my grocery store is 5 minutes from my house. So I tried it — what was the worst that could happen? I got groceries and laundry done at the same time! It. Was. Amazing! So, it became a thing. I do keep my timer on, but I also run the stopwatch on my phone to see if I can get below a certain time.

I tend to like any kind of game, and this is the most compelling grocery shopping game I could come up with.

Step 7: Don’t Leave Your Keys in the Car

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Do you know what that’s a picture of? My car keys, and my wet dress. Because in a freezing, torrential downpour the other day, I couldn’t find my keys as I was leaving the grocery store. I was partway through the parking lot and going through my coat and nothing. I don’t often lock my car, so thankfully, I was able to put the grocery bags in the back and shake my coat out and quickly toss it on the bags and didn’t end up too drenched (my hair would tell another story). I finally told myself to just sit in the front seat and start to retrace my steps, and when I sat down, I found my keys!

This a recurring problem in my life. Remembering what you did with your keys definitely makes for a more pleasant trip to the grocery store!

Step 8: Remember that it’s Okay.

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This was the most soothing image I could find.

Sometimes you spend more than you mean to (would it be good if I talked more about the money of things?). Sometimes it takes a literal 45 minutes to get through the check out lane. Sometimes you totally blank on the fact that you’re having six people over in the middle of the week. Sometimes you get home and learn that you now have seven boxes of pasta when you thought you had none.

Whatever.

That happens to everyone who goes grocery shopping and you know what else happens? Sometimes you spend less than you thought you would. Sometimes you get to talk to the awesome person in line behind you and make a new friend. Sometimes you end up making a super delicious brand new thing for your friends because you have no time to go back to the store. And sometimes, you learn that a friend is having a hard time and you just so happen to have all that pasta you can give to them right at that moment.

They’re just groceries. It’s only a very small chunk of your life and you’ll figure it out eventually. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I go.

 

What I’ve Learned about Laundry

Let me start this off by saying that I am not a laundry expert and what works for me may not work for you, but what works for me has been working for me for over a decade.
The main, life-saving thing I’ve figured out about laundry is that I don’t have to do as much of it as my mother.
Wait, what? I know, I know. But, I grew up with six people in my house. Three of us wore uniforms to school and played sports and had play clothes. The four of us girls were particularly good at trying on an outfit, discovering it was “wrong,” throwing it on the ground and a week later, assuming it was dirty. Meaning my mom did, at a minimum, eleven loads of laundry a week. When I first went to college I did seven to eight loads a week. In my mind, moms way was the right way so I needed to model what I had seen.
A few years later I realized that I don’t have four children. My cat doesn’t wear clothes and honestly, since I work in an office, if the weather is nice, a lot of times I’ll change right out of my work clothes and into something else and hang my work clothes right back up to be worn again before washing.
I kept some pieces of moms methods though. I’ve tried many different detergents (someday I’ll tell you my peanut butter story) and fabric softener/dryer sheet combos. I like Tide detergent and Downy fabric softener the best, which is what she uses. And I sort my clothes into piles on the floor, just like she did.
laundry floor piles
I don’t make a crazy amount of piles. Mostly I separate out whites/towels, sheets/pillowcases, everything else. If D has things here, I separate his out too because they tend to be covered in motor oil and don’t want to risk that getting on my clothes. I put the piles on the floor the night before I do the laundry so that they can’t be missed.
Because of the length of time it takes to wash vs. dry, I usually wash whites first. It takes 28 minutes to wash whites & over 40 for most other things, but the dryer is pretty much always an hour. So I knock out the shortest wash first.
Mixture of Whites
I was doing whites and towels separately for most of my life. Then one day I realized: whites and towels get washed at the same temperature and typically with the same intensity. So I started putting them together and made one less load because, unlike my mother, I don’t actually have 11 loads worth of laundry.
Sort sort sort
I do my laundry every week, regardless. My sisters can all tell you the laundry motto of the family: do smaller loads more often. The reason for that is actually because the laundry isn’t what’s annoying: the folding is. If you have less to fold at a time, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed.
As I fold, I sort into piles the way that they’ll go into my drawer: jammies, worker clothes, leggings, t-shirts. I make a separate pile for things that will be hung up.
Even Sort Hanging
I sort what will be hung up too. If I’m already in sorting mode, I figure I might as well. Having things already sorted down makes putting them away even easier.
 
A couple tips to make laundry easier:
  • Before I go to bed every night, I put my clothes in the laundry basket. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes I come home, do a quick change and leave again, which means clothes quickly start to pile up places. I’m also notorious for leaving a stack of cardigans on a kitchen chair because that’s where I got hot.
  • When possible, wear it again. Clothes aren’t made to be washed a bazillion times. I tend to keep a very limited closet and so I change when I get home from work and hang my work clothes to air out. If it’s hot or I walked a bunch with my puffy coat on or just generally got sweaty, I through it in the basket, but otherwise, I save myself the headache of the wash.
  • Wash the load with the shortest wash-time first. This sounds really meticulous, but I found that I wash something that took 45 minutes, then throw it in to dry for an hour while something that took 28 minutes was washing and I’d be really annoyed by the fact that my wet clothes had to sit there that long.
  • If you have kiddos, chances are your mom knows a lot about how to manage the laundry. I’m not a great resource for this. I just know that she did about two loads a day and that worked for her. If I had been a more attentive daughter, I would know when she did those loads, but I was too busy teenaging to pay attention (sorry mom!).
  • If you have a particularly small load, toss in a blanket or two. I do this all the time. I have a bunch of blankets in my family room and at the change of the season I will wash them all in one load. But between now and then, I just toss them in when I can. I don’t have small children with jammy hands and the cat is very particular about his blankets (his get washed when I wash my bedding), so the others don’t get dirty very quickly.
 
Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve figured out over the years:
  • Doing laundry once a week means I know exactly how much to budget for laundry & helps me keep my load smaller.
  • If I do the laundry every week, there’s less clutter in my house because there isn’t laundry everywhere.
  • Smaller loads means less to fold and put away.
  • My moms methods are awesome for a mom with a lot of kids. I’m not a mom with a lot of kids, so I have to adapt.

How Did I Get Here?

I don’t believe that we can understand right now without understanding what came before it. A thousand trees have lead me to this place, and a thousand bouts of deep laughter.

Family

Those tiniest of feet are mine

I grew up in a coastal town in South Florida with five of the best people I’ve ever met: my mother, my father and my three older sisters. Each of us is very much our own, and very much part of each other.

college

I spent my college years studying Literature and Religion at a large state college in North Florida. I went for college and stayed for the trees and the amazing job I had working with college students & non-profits.

many houses

With a high population of college students, the city I lived in was incredibly transitory – meaning I moved 11 times in the eight years I lived there. My ability to swiftly load a minivan with boxes and move a couch on top of my car are two of the things of which I am most proud.

grateful

A lot of things happened when I turned 24 and I moved back home to be with and help my parents. I took a number of jobs – ghost writing, working with a publisher, marketing a real estate company & tutoring college students – all at once. It was a blissful nine months of risk-taking, beaching and helping the family prepare to move north, to Michigan!

Campus

As much as I grew up in South Florida, I grew up in Michigan. My mother is from here; three of the four of us were born here; and I spent every summer from the time we moved (when I was 2) until I was 21 here. I’ve been living here since 2015. At first I stayed in my parents house with one of my sisters and her husband and my parents. I worked in a hotel for a few months before beginning work at a university that’s tucked into the trees.

And then Javier and I moved again, to a little apartment six minutes from my mom and dad!

Mudbog

In June of 2016, I jumped as far out of my comfort zone as I could come  up with and went to a mud bog (where big trucks go into the mud and try not to get stuck). While I was there, I met a tall, quiet man who I still can’t get enough of.

I don’t super-love trucks, can’t eat twelve tacos in one sitting, and often can’t get out of the details of my own brain. None of those things are true for him, and because of that, I think we balance each other out pretty well.

 

After a million moves, a million jobs, a million cities and ideas, I’m finally holding still. I work full time and am a part-time masters student. Between those two things and the rest of life, I’ve learned to thrive on structure. I love lists, meal prep, cleaning plans – anything that can be put in order or give my life order.

But that’s not always realistic. Sometimes you have to move again. Sometimes you can’t afford curtains and have to figure something else out. Sometimes you turn your back for one minute and the cat is on your kitchen counter eating the corn, or has laid down where you’re supposed to be working.

That’s life. It’s messy. It doesn’t always have clean lines and perfectly made beds and end tables that match. I struggle with that. And while I don’t think I’ll ever hit the point where I’m 100% comfortable wearing pajamas to a cook-out, I am learning how to get right with it. And the learning is messy. So I thought I’d try to write it all down – successes and failures – to help me to remember to trust the process and that life is about living, not arranging.