Tag Archives: Balance

Wonder Walk – A Short Story

One day, a little girl took a walk through the forest. As soon as she entered the trees, she saw a bird flying. It was gliding up and down, dipping between branches, and flitting through shadows cast by the trees’ leaves.

When the bird landed on a branch for a rest, the girl said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” the bird tweeted back, cocking its head.

“Why are you flying all alone? Aren’t you lonely?” The girl asked, wishing she had someone to walk with.

“Oh no,” the bird replied. “Mother Finch always reminded me that even when I was alone, I didn’t have to be lonely.”

“Hmm,” the little girl said, thinking.

“And she also always reminded me that it is a wonder to wander.”

“Oh?” the little girl asked.

The bird nodded its head and ruffled its feathers and leaped off into the air again for another bout of flying.

“Hmm,” the girl said again, to herself this time. “That sounds nice.”

And she continued on her walk.

Soon she came upon a beautiful purple flower hanging high in a tree.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello,” the flower radiated a pleasant scent.

“What are you doing up there?” The girl asked, tilting her head back to look up.

“I asked the tree if it would help me climb up to the sun,” the flower replied. “Mother Wisteria always reminded me to get a good dose of pure sun each day so I would stay healthy.”

“Hmm,” the little girl said.

“Mother Wisteria always reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help. And Mr. Tree doesn’t mind.”

“Yeah?” The little girl said. “That sounds nice.”

And she continued on her walk.

She came to an opening in the trees where moss grew on the ground right up to the edge of a small pond. The water in the pond was smooth as glass and was the color of a deep blue gem.

“Hello,” the girl said.

The pond did not respond.

“Why are you so quiet and still?” the little girl asked.

“Mother Lake always reminded me that it’s good to be quiet and still sometimes.” The girl tasted a sweet moisture in the air that drifted off of the pond.

“But why?” The little girl asked. “It doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“There is a time for fun. When the fish want to jump and the ducks want to swim, I move and splash and play with them. But when I have some time to myself, I like to be calm. It helps me to reflect.”

“To reflect?”

The pond remained silent and still.

“Hmm,” the little girl said, leaving the pond to be quiet and still so it could better reflect.

She continued on her walk.

Five little bunnies jumped out of the bushes ahead of her.

“Hello!” the girl called.

“Hello! Hello! Hello!” The little bunnies answered back. They hopped and darted around so quickly, it made the girl a bit dizzy.

“Why are you all jumping and rushing around like that?” The little girl asked.

“Because!” one of the bunnies said.

“Mother Rabbit always said!” another bunny said.

“It’s good to jump around!” said yet another bunny.

“And to hop!”

“And to chase!”

“And to skip!”

“And to move!”

“Because moving makes you feel good!”

The bunnies hopped and laughed and dashed off into the bushes again.

The little girl smiled. “Oh, I see,” she said.

And she continued on her walk.

Then the ground became firm as she came to the side of a great stone mountain.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello.” The air felt cooler in the shadow cast by the mountain.

“Why are you so hard?” The little girl asked.

“Do you see the animals and plants that call this place their home?” The mountain asked.

The girl looked around and did notice lots of other creatures looking quite comfortable. “Yes,” she said.

“I am hard so they are stable. Mother Earth always reminded me to be strong and confident in my place. Then I would be best able to help others find their place as well.”

“Ah,” the little girl said. “That is nice.”

Then she asked another question. “May I climb to your peak?”

“Yes.” The mountain remained solid under her feet.

So she continued her walk up the mountain until she reached the very top. It had taken her a long time and night had settled in.

On top of the mountain, she was higher than everything else in the forest. She could see the tops of the trees and the sky stretch all around her. The moon shone golden and bright in the sky, even higher than she, surrounded by countless yellow stars.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello.” The light of the moon bathed the mountain and the forest below in a soft, warm glow. The stars twinkled.

“How did you get all the way up there?” the little girl asked. She craned her neck as far as it could go, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see all of the illuminations scattered across the black sky at once.

“We have always been here,” the moon replied.

“But what do you do up there?” the little girl asked.

“We are possibilities. We live in the sky because, as Mother Universe always reminded us, it is big enough to hold all dreams.”

“Oh,” the girl said. “That is lovely.”

“Thank you,” she said to the moon. “Thank you,” she said to the stars.

Then she turned and looked down. “Thank you,” she said to the mountain, the pond, the animals, and the plants.

And then the girl finished her walk.

She settled. And fell asleep. And dreamed.

 

The End

When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Buying vs. Borrowing Books

I love to read. I love books. And I love to read books. To me, those are all different statements. And the fact that they are all true for me create a bit of a paradox for my minimalist lifestyle.

I know minimalism is a completely individual experience — finding what sparks joy for me, figuring out what is essential for me to be both calm and productive, figuring out what I enjoy most — but sometimes that can be kind of a long and arduous process. I do still think it’s worth it. Even if I have to a lot of internal debate first.

A topic that has plagued me for years is whether I should buy or borrow books. Although, realistically, it’s pretty obvious to me now that it’s going to be some mix of the two. I just had to figure out how, exactly, to mix it up.

I love to read. I enjoy perusing magazines, learning from non-fiction text, and experiencing a really great story. It is my favorite hobby and form of entertainment. Now, if I only go by my love of reading, borrowing books makes perfect sense. I get all the knowledge and story without spending any money or accumulating any clutter. I absorb the information and then return the medium. But…

I love books. I think books are beautiful. I think they smell wonderful. I think they are lovely and I love having them around. I like to re-read books. I like that I form a type of relationship with the physical book as I form relationships with the characters. I like the memories that get soaked up in the pages as I read — like where I was, how I was feeling, what the weather was like, and how I changed. I also like to support authors for creating art that moves me. So it makes sense for me to buy books, too, because I appreciate more than just the stories — it’s the experience the book brings about as a whole as well as the world the author creates. But books can be expensive when you read a lot. And they can be big and heavy and take up lots of space. What about an eReader then? Well…

I love to read books. I have an eReader that I use occasionally and I do like it. It stores a lot of books, there are a wide range of books to download, it’s easy to use, and it’s very small and light. I can even borrow ebooks from my library. But it’s also missing that je ne sais quoi. It doesn’t provide a look, feel, and weight unique to each book. It may have a slight smell, but it’s electronic-y and not book-y. It just seems a bit… impersonal. It’s like having a very knowledgable robot that can tell me things all day long instead of me meeting actual people and learning about them from them. And as with all technology, it will become obsolete — the hardware will get old and the software won’t be supported anymore. Plus, I have to make sure the battery is charged. (I usually realize it needs charging when the screen blanks out in the middle of my reading.) So although an eReader seems like it would be the perfect minimal solution for an avid book reader, it’s just not for me.

My solution? Compromise. Maybe this is a no-brainer for some people, but I just wanted an easy go-to answer. Like, I only borrow books to save money (and space) or I only buy books to support authors and keep my reading slow or I love my eReader! It’s perfect for everything! but it’s more complicated than that. Although, when I stop really thinking about it, I know in my heart what to do in each situation. I would just over-think it and muss it all up. But if I go with my gut…

  • I know when I truly want to buy a book — to support the author, to have the beautiful artifact on my shelf, to be able to revisit the story whenever I want, to be able to share it with my friends and family.
  • I know when I’d be fine borrowing a book — if it’s an author or story I’m not sure of, whether I’m reading it just because of a book club or recommendation, if I only foresee myself reading it once, or if it’s not available as an ebook.
  • I know when to get it (borrow it) on my eReader — if it’s an author or story I’m not sure of, if the physical book is overly huge or hugely expensive, if it’s a recommendation, if I’ll only read it once, or if it’s only available as an ebook.

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean needing to set up strict rules to govern ourselves and what we consume if that’s not what will actually work with our lives. The purpose of minimalism is to remind us to be mindful of how and why and what we consume. Life is diverse and imperfect and malleable, just like us. And I think that is beautiful and interesting, just like all of our stories.

Practicing minimalism does encourage me to step back and analyze myself when needed, but I appreciate how I can still be flexible enough to just go with my gut sometimes, too.

Making Religious Holidays My Own

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I went camping. Being Easter, it was a holiday for only some. I grew up celebrating Easter. Andrew grew up celebrating Easter. But neither of us would call ourselves religious now and don’t believe in Jesus as the one and only messiah. So why continue to celebrate it? Partly because our families still do, but we’ve come to see it a little differently.

For Easter, Andrew and I have decided to celebrate the arrival of spring, specifically with the first camping trip of the year. We share meals and traditional foods (pufek [spelling??? which is a German bread], liverwurst, and strammer max for me) with family. We don’t dress up or go to church. We spend time together outside, enjoying the freshness of spring, and send the children out on a little egg hunt just because it’s a fun game to play outside. And of course we eat chocolate. Easter, for us, is not about Jesus, but about family and nature and getting out to enjoy the warmer weather.

It’s similar with Christmas. I don’t celebrate the coming of our lord and savior or whatever. But I do like a lot about the holiday, such as the sharing, coziness, warmth, and love. So when I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the coming of cuddly winter with the closeness and coziness of my family and friends. Since it’s also so close to the end of the year, I reflect back on that year and celebrate it for what it was. Then I celebrate the coming of the New Year with new beginnings.

It didn’t take a lot to get here — just a little shift in thinking. It helps that Andrew and I are on the same page with these religious holidays, too. Celebrating in this way, I am able to comfortably share traditions with my family and friends without feeling like I’m sacrificing my own beliefs or pretending to follow others. I’ve come to enjoy these times again instead of constantly questioning the history and purpose, as I did a few years ago. I am now at a good place with them and feel content.

Perhaps a shift in thinking is all it would take for you to have a more enjoyable holiday?

9 Easy Ways to Watch Less TV

I don’t like everything about tv (as you can see here), but I think watching some is okay. In addition to making sure we watch “good” tv, we would probably benefit from watching a little less of it, too. So here are a few changes we can make to our lives or homes to make tv-watching a mindful event instead of a mindless habit.

  • No televisions in the bedrooms – here are 18 good reasons why.
  • No televisions in the kitchen – cooking shows are impossibly fast to follow along with IRL anyway. Plan the meal first, cook following written reminders if needed, and eat together if possible. Even if we need to eat alone, we can be more aware of tastes, flavors, and textures, thus enjoying the meal better than if we were distracted by a screen.
  • Better still, have only 1 television in the house – even if you have room for more televisions in your home, consider keeping only 1, and don’t make it the focal point of the room. Living rooms and family rooms are for living and family. Design a room around social interaction and it’s more likely that memorable social interaction will happen. And then, even when we’re watching tv, we will be doing it together, cooperating about what to watch, and sharing the experience.
  • Turn the television off when you’re done – just makes sense, doesn’t it?
  • No televisions in the car – long drives are great opportunities for conversations, listening to music, enjoying silence, or letting the mind (and imagination) wander. Traveling is an experience — enjoy the unique surroundings.
  • Go to restaurants that don’t have televisions hanging everywhere – I really don’t like televisions in restaurants. Nobody’s really watching them (there’s too much noise), but their flashiness can be huge distractions, even to someone who is trying to ignore them. Restaurants without televisions are getting harder and harder to find where I live (especially without paying $20+ per plate) and I think it’s a shame.
  • Don’t stream videos to distract children – children need to learn how to occupy themselves, be patient, be pleasant around others, and be present. The only way they will learn to do all that is by practicing. We need to let them have lots of opportunities to practice.
  • Limit the amount of time spent watching – the other options are more decide-and-be-done, whereas this one takes some self-discipline. If you have the willpower, create guidelines for yourself, such as: only 2 movies per week, only 2 hours tv per day, only 3 episodes per day, or whatever.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming subscription – You don’t have to cancel all of them of course, but if you have less to watch, you will watch less. Getting rid of cable also gets rid of commercials (win!). And having less subscriptions means you’ll save money.

Just imagine all of the other things we will be able to do now that we aren’t spending so much time watching tv.

Children and TV | Minimalist Kids

I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.

At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.

I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.

No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.

Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.

Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.

Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.

Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.

 

Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:

  • Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
  • Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
  • Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
  • Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
  • Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids 
  • Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities PBS Kids
  • Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
  • The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD

Dealing With Overwhelm

I get overwhelmed sometimes and I must admit that I’m not always the greatest at dealing with it. But I’m working on it. I have identified where some of my weaknesses are, and I’m trying new things to better handle it.

Right now, when I get overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start and it practically paralyzes me. So when I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed, I immediately take a step back and decide to take some time to relax instead. Letting my body rest and relax is better than accumulating the negative affects of stress, right?

Except, relaxing in the face of overwhelm is just a form of avoidance and it makes the problem worse in the long run. I need to relax, of course, but I need to be mindful about it, too. I can’t just relax when things get too hectic because then I would just relax more and more while the chore pile grew and grew to ever more unmanageable heights. I need to take steps toward the top of my to-do mountain with realistic mental-health breaks along the way.

I’ve tried scheduling things out during the week to help spread the busyness. Budget balancing on Mondays, vacuuming on Tuesdays, appointments on Wednesday, laundry day, etc. But I had trouble sticking with it. In reality, the circumstances of my life right now are just too unpredictable to fit in daily boxes. So I created weekly task-lists instead.

I find using a Bullet Journal helps in determining what is really important. If it gets written down, it is priority. (I only allow 1 page for my weekly to-do list, with items written on every other line. That creates a max of 15 tasks per week, or an average of 3 per day.) This helps clear some of the mental clutter. If something doesn’t make the list, it’s easier for me to remember that I don’t have to give it any mental thought power — at least until a later date. This gives structure, but isn’t too rigid. A rigid structure is inherently fragile; When there is more room for improvisation, there is more room to succeed.

When things get to be just too too much, and I find my frazzled mind is affecting my mood, I find stream-of-consciousness journaling helps a lot, too. I’ll take some time — maybe 20 to 30 minutes — to just write about how I’m feeling. I’m not consciously trying to figure out why I’m feeling a certain way, but sometimes it emerges on its own. I mostly just complain. I write about how things are (not great) and how I want them to be instead (wonderful). Just getting those concerns (complaints) out somewhere helps me get past them and move on. I no longer feel bogged down by the weight of the suckiness and feel free enough to do something, anything, and that sets me on my way to a more productive day.

I must say, though, that I don’t only journal to complain. I probably complain for a few pages once every few months. But I compile a list of daily gratitude every night before I go to sleep. I think this is important to note as gratitude journaling is also beneficial. If complaints are the only thing we’re writing into our expressive universe, our energy is unbalanced. Daily thankfulness (or other affirmative expression) tips our expressive energy scale to the positive, making it more likely for the wonderful to come into our lives.

Learning how to successfully deal with overwhelm will be a lifelong feat. As we grow, we learn, we change. It is important to adapt as we realize certain practices are no longer serving us and continually explore ways to cultivate the best lives for ourselves.

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.