What I’ve Learned During My Blogging Hiatus

Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post. I miss writing for me and really hope I can get back to blogging, but let’s back up a bit and you’ll see why I haven’t written.

2016 has been a busy  year.

I changed jobs last December, my husband’s role at his company changed in January and he started to travel much more, one of our dogs hurt his knee and later had surgery, our other dog wasn’t doing well in the spring and we had to put him down in July (one of the hardest things I’ve ever done), we’ve been doing home improvements to the house…..and I’ve barely felt that I’ve been able to take a deep breath all year.

Most of the time, this doesn’t feel interesting enough to write about. It’s life, right? It’s what families with two working parents and two middle school and high schoolers deal with on a regular basis. (Side note: how the heck is it that I have a child who’s in high school?) It’s carpooling and figuring out how get the kids where they need to be, fitting in all the errands and grocery trips and being thankful that there’s this wonderful thing called Amazon Prime to make at least some things easier.

In the midst of all of this craziness, I’ve had a hard time feeling like I’ve got it all together. I live by my calendar and have felt like I’ve been going a million miles an hour all year. It’s not a way I want to live. I like having downtime and over the last few weeks I’ve started to find ways to try to get some into every day.

Enter yoga and meditation. 

I’ve been meditating with one of Andrew Johnson’s apps on my phone for more than a year. It helps me fall asleep. I was trying to go to yoga last spring at a local studio, but it got really hard to get there regularly. Between my kids’ schedules, the fact that the classes are across town and the fact that I don’t want to get home from yoga at almost 9 p.m., I stopped going. But I loved it and knew I wanted to find a way to incorporate a regular practice into my life. I discovered the Down Dog Yoga app after a Google search and I can do a 15-minute restorative practice before bed. It’s helped. I got an email about a sale so I could unlock all the member-only features, and the pricing was so good that I purchased the membership. I think I’ll like having it and will really be able to do more with it.

mindfulness-isnt-difficult-we-just-need-to-remember-to-do-it-sharon-salzbergI’ve also tried to practice mindfulness in hopes to be more focused and calmer. The Calm app has been on my phone for a while, but I’d only used it once. They offered a free trial of one of their most popular features last week and I had ten minutes at the end of a particularly busy day to try it and figured I had nothing to lose. I felt wonderful after I did it, so I’ve been trying to use the app after dinner if I can fit it in.

What I’ve learned through all of this is that I need strategies for me to ground me a bit and help me slow down. My favorite past time of going to get my nails done isn’t cutting it anymore, especially when I’m cramming an appointment into my lunch break. I need regular exercise, I need to breathe. I need to try to slow down when I can and mindfulness, whether through meditation or yoga, seems to help. And writing for me, something I haven’t taken the time to do in a long time, also feels good, so if you’ve made it this far in my attempted return to blogging, I thank you.

 

Taking Time for Mom

hands

I love having my nails done—I loved nail polish when I was a little girl and was always giving myself manicures, complete with base coat and top coat, even when I was 10 or 11. I generally find going to a salon for a mani/pedi to be a relaxing experience. I used to joke with my husband that when I got a full-time job after gradutation, I needed to make enough money to be able to pay my student loans back and get more regular manis and pedis.

Well, eventually that has kind of happened. I found an amazing salon that is relatively close to our house and is near my office and I’m there about every two weeks. I love it and I love that time for me.

Between my work schedule, commitments for the boys’ schools, sports schedules and my husband’s schedule, my time is limited, but making time for me is important for me. As mothers, our natural tendency is to “go, go, go” and take care of everyone else but ourselves, but I become a very cranky mom if I don’t do something for myself. In addition to regular manis and pedis, I find that it’s important for me to get enough sleep and I’m generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 p.m. I know a lot of people seem shocked that I go to bed that early, but I also get up at 4:30 a.m. in the morning to do the next thing I need to do for myself—exercise! While I’m more naturally a morning person rather than a night owl, getting up at 4:30 is hard some mornings. It’s become a habit, however, and it’s the only way I’m going to get some necessary exercise in. I had slacked on exercise around Christmas last year and then had an injury from a fall in January and realized through the course of physical therapy that exercise is a must and not just to keep my weight down.

I’m a happier person when I do small things for myself. I’m a firm believer that women need to take time for themselves and that there’s truth to the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, then no one’s happy!” It’s not always easy—finding a yoga class that fits my schedule right now is hard, so I get it—but it’s important to do something that works for YOU, no matter what stage of motherhood you are in. I couldn’t go for regular manicures when my kids were younger. Life was too hectic with small children and money was tight, so I did try to paint my nails weekly after they went to bed and with the fast-dry polishes, they looked okay and it made me feel like I was doing a little something for me. When I went back to school, I treated myself to a coffee out or a lunch out at Panera once in a while when my schedule allowed for it to do something little for me. I found it refreshing. What do you do for YOU?

Another school year done!

I am writing this just a few hours after submitting my final assignment of the semester–and of the school year!  It’s amazing to me that two years ago, I embarked on this journey with a lot of excitement, a lot of fear and a lot of hope.IMG_0857

I had no idea what to expect when I went back to school.  I remember having so many questions.  “Could I do it?” “How would I juggle it all?” “Was I smart enough to handle the work it takes to get a bachelor’s degree?”

I feel very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people along the way–from great professors, great classmates, and great administrators to great professionals in the field of public relations. There is a communications professor whom I had in my first semester, I had her this past semester and I will again have her in the fall.  She is amazing.  She’s encouraging, inspiring and she has a demeanor about her that I can only hope to have one day.

Yesterday, at the end of our final class meeting, she handed out the sheet in the photo below.  It’s so appropriate for me.

Cheers to the end of another year–and the persistence and determination that has gotten me through!

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

The spring semester is in full swing for me—so far so good. With the Martin Luther King holiday this past Monday, I haven’t even had a full two weeks of school.  Ask me in a month how it’s really going, as it’s kind of hard to tell right now.

One of the things I struggled with when I went back to school was meal planning and making sure I was eating right.  It’s easy to get caught up in cafeteria food for breakfast and lunch and then do take-out or prepackaged processed garbage for dinners for the family.  It’s a vicious cycle when dealing with crazy schedules for all of us and we are just trying to get through every day without losing our minds.

Around Christmas, I became frustrated with myself.  I’d put on 10 pounds since I started school in the fall of 2011 and even then, I’d wanted to lose a few.  There I was on Christmas, really irritated that my wedding rings and jeans were really tight.  On December 27, I contemplated re-joining Weight Watchers.  I’m a Lifetime member, meaning and I reached and maintained my goal at one point.  My frustration with WW is the push for their processed low point foods.  I realize it’s a business, but the push for that stuff by certain leaders always bothered me.  When I did lose and maintain, it was with a leader who wanted her members to eat real foods.  I decided instead to use My Fitness Pal to log my calories and really try to learn more about nutrition and health and not just focus on “getting the most bang for my buck” in terms of calories.  It was going to be a challenge, but I really wanted to educate myself on this.

My husband and I watched the documentary Hungry for Change on Netflix over that weekend.  What an eye-opener!  We realized then that we needed to eat cleaner, more wholesome foods and also educate our children on this, as well.

Since then, I’ve lost almost 8 pounds.  My husband has lost about 10.  I’ve incorporated exercise back in to my life.  I had pretty much stopped exercising when I started school last year, despite a love of spinning.  My back started bothering me when I went back to school from carrying a way-too-heavy messenger bag and one of my joints near my hip was messed up for a while. I’ve been exercising regularly without pain and I feel good.  We’ve really changed the way we eat and changed how we shop for food.  We read ingredient labels now.  I had no idea that there was high fructose corn syrup in the supposedly whole wheat bread we’d been buying for years.  Ick.

We’ve made some positive changes.  It’s a challenge to fit everything in, but it’s what we need to do in order to maintain our health and embrace an overall sense of well-being.  After all, life can’t be just about working hard.

photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com
photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com

Time to “rock” 2013!

(I couldn’t resist the title of this post–go ahead, have a laugh at my expense and call me a dork. I know you want to if you have an idea where this is going.)

First things first: last semester was kind of miserable.  It was a huge challenge for me and also for my family.

I’ve mentioned frequently that I am not a fan of science courses. I struggle with them.  Science is not my thing. I don’t get it. Unfortunately for me, two lab science courses are required at my university, so I had to deal and try to make it my thing, at least for the semester.

Last semester’s science course, geology, kicked my butt. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but suffice it to say that leaving my house at 6:45 a.m. for tutoring sessions twice a week was not fun. It was hard for me, it was hard for my husband and it was hard for my kids. I worked harder for that course than any other course I’ve ever taken. There was a ton of homework for the class AND a paper AND a group project. There were times my husband said he forgot that I was taking other courses because all he ever heard about or saw me working on was geology.

In the end, I got a B+. You might be wondering, “Why did she kill herself for a B+?”  I did horribly on all the exams except for the final. I got C-/Ds on them. However, there was so much additional work that, in the end, my average came up to an 83 and then the professor curved up to a B+. I also ended up with an 86 on the final, but that was because the professor changed the format of the exam and I didn’t have to do the dreaded (for me, anyway) multiple choice questions.  That was where I’d lose the most points.

The rock kit my son got for Christmas.  He decided "rocks were cool" this semester, of all semesters.
The rock kit my son got for Christmas. He decided “rocks were cool” this semester, of all semesters.

Because of this class, I really neglected a lot–my family, myself, my health–and struggled with “balance”. I’ve really put a lot into perspective and while this journey of being a full-time college student and having a family is difficult, I need to find a way to focus on eating better, fitting in exercise, lowering my cholesterol, and getting a better night’s sleep. I’ve started some habits that I hope to continue. I have a better schedule for the spring semester and I hope that will help me accomplish these goals.  I don’t expect any of this to be easy, but I hope I can find a way to make it all come together.  I can’t live on cafeteria food and coffee or my health will decline.

Last year was a great year.  I’ve accomplished a lot, but now it’s on to bigger and better things!  Make 2013 a great year!

In the thick of things!

I’m 2 1/2 weeks into the semester and I’m going at full-speed.   There have been moments this week when I’ve felt like I could fall over from fatigue.  I’ve done homework every night after the kids have gone to bed, with the exception of last night.  I had my hair cut and colored this week and had a textbook and notebook on my lap while I was under the dryer.  I bring textbooks with me when I bring my kids to appointments or activities.  I read in my van while waiting for them to get out of school.  I don’t really stop much.  I am constantly working on some schoolwork.  That’s ok.  That’s what I signed up for. 

I love it, but I’m tired.  I don’t expect to rest much until December when winter break begins.  It begins on December 20th for me, since my last final is the 19th..  I’m sleeping in that day (Sweetie, consider yourself warned!) and I can’t wait. 

This has been an adjustment.  I realized this morning that I haven’t been near the washer or dryer since Sunday.  I used to do laundry every day.  Now I cram it all into the weekend.  Fortunately, we now have enough clothing to get us through the week.  There was a time when the boys were growing and the seasons were changing when we just didn’t have enough and I had to do it mid-week for them. 

I also tend to vacuum more in the morning at 7am, instead of later in the day.  I clean the bathroom at weird times instead of on a schedule.  I do it when I realize I have a few extra minutes to wipe everything down. 

I also must give credit to my husband.  I could not do this without him.  He’s a saint.  He takes the kids to school three times a week, although this week he took them an extra day to make that particular day easier for me.  He doesn’t complain when I have to do homework at night.  Don’t forget, we haven’t been married that long and we really do enjoy spending time together.  🙂  He got them Tuesday night from after-school care so I could go to “Meet the Teacher” night at their school.  He made dinner that night and went over their homework with them.  It was a long day for all of us.  I left the house at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t return until 12 hours later. 

One of my classes is harder for me than the others and I have been unsure of some things in it, so I met with the professor this morning at 7:30.  He gave me some feedback and info and asked if I could work on some aspects of my research paper (not due until November 2nd) this weekend and meet with him again Monday morning.  He will give me more feedback, which will ultimately help my paper and help me receive a better grade.  Great, but ughh!  I called my husband after my classes today and told him about the meeting.  The morning routine can sometimes stink and I feel like I’m leaving him hanging to get everyone out the door.  That is my perception, but the reality is that my husband handles it all just fine.  Mornings are generally ok in our house because we have a strict routine, but I feel bad.  Instead my husband said, “Amy, do what you need to do.  It’s not a big deal.  If this is going to help your grades, do it.” 

I feel very fortunate to be part of a great team with my husband.  When I get through the semester, I will share my successes with him.  When I receive the degree that I am working so hard towards, I will receive it knowing that I share the success with him.  I will know that, while I did the work, it could not have been done without him.  Balancing a family and a full-time college schedule is daunting.  I’m grateful that my husband helps me and I’m glad I’m showing my kids that hard work pays off.