Posted in Blog

Seeking Solace and Silence

It feels like most days she is constantly busting her buns to do nothing more than maintain homeostasis. Before dawn she arises to begin the day while her family stays nestled all warm in their beds. There may not be gumdrops dancing in their heads, but she senses their peacefulness. Rather than be jealous that they slumber while she works, she tries to enjoy the only calm part of her day. It is the thought of coffee coursing through her veins that her get out of bed most days.

Once caffeinated, she busts through her work to-do list, focusing first on difficult tasks while the silence reins. Some days she gets minutes, other times hours, but she cherishes what she can get regardless.

Once the house begins to stir, chaos ensues. There’s always someone who needs something, be it a hug to chase away a scary dream or a change of bed sheets. These moments interrupt her calm and any attempt at deep focus. She does not hate these interruptions, just that it means she must pause her work tasks in the middle of her flow. The seconds tick by, and she knows she’ll be back at her computer later in the day than she hoped. Work is abandoned…for now.

Life shifts to keeping the household operational. People are clothed, fed, and cleaned. The house stirs while the dog slumbers. (Lucky girl.) All chores abandoned the night before are tackled now: dishes, laundry, picking up, wiping counters. Children log into virtual school and tend to stay focused. Two hours pass in a flash.

Work beckons by late morning. Calls are endless. She joins them with more caffeine in hand and a basket of laundry to fold at her feet. There is rarely more time for more deep work. She races to lunch time trying to get done only those tasks that must be completed before the day is out. It usually feels like there is only time to react before she is pulled away with a request from someone else who needs something from her. Does she have more to give? Her energy is draining. Coffee won’t help now.

She feeds the family. Children gripe about what is served. This is par for the course. She is getting tired now. The children have also grown restless of virtual school. The afternoon is full of interruptions, questions, whining, and requests. Her workday is waning and deadlines loom. She must return to work. Calls continue. She logs off by late afternoon, giving up on the day. Work will be there tomorrow.

This is the dead hour. There is often nothing planned, and this small pocket of time often offers some spontaneity. The children may want to play. They may take walks or play cards. She may read or clean or actually talk with her husband that shares her abode. This is a blissful time if she can step away from work.

By twilight in this winter season, she is out of energy. Everyone’s demands and requests of her time have drained her to the point of exhaustion, but there’s still more to do. Again, people must eat. She finds this highly annoying. This supper meal results in the most commentary on how undesirable the cuisine is to some. Afterward, there is food uneaten and another stack of dishes. Children must then be compelled to complete what they often deem torturous tasks like reading or taking a shower. Their independence has increased, reducing the burden on the parents. This is a blessing. There are cuddles and cute moments but also sometimes tantrums and stubbornness. I’m stubborn too. I get it.

By 8pm, she is “off duty.” Lately she has been climbing into her bed to snuggle under her covers. Although she drifts off to sleep quickly, it is not restful while her mind listens to the sounds of her children talking to each other from their beds down the hall. Tomorrow comes too quickly.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Self-Care Products

Given the sameness of every day, I have found that “spoiling” myself with some self-care products has been a nice stress relief. Here are some of my favorite products for an at-home spa day.

  • Sally Hansen’s Diamond Strength nail polish, particularly the Brilliant Blush color. It’s under $4 at Walmart! I love how long this brand lasts and its light shade with a shimmer. I’ve even attempted my own french manicure with this color as the base. I need some practice, but it’s certainly cheaper than a spa manicure.
  • Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel is awesome! Stay with me here. It is kind of gross, but it’s so worth it. This is the best brand I’ve tried. You wrap your feet in these booties with “6 types of natural extracts” for one hour, wash it off, and wait for your feet to peel over the next several days. (You’ll want to wear socks.) Afterward, your feet are extra soft and worth the gross peeling feet stage.
  • Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer keeps my skin moisturized without feeling sticky like you can sometimes with lotion. It is quick and easy with a sweet subtle scent.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel is a great facial moisturizer that is light and feels hydrating. A little bit goes a long way, which makes the small bottle last a while.
  • The Bow Ties and Bourbon scent from Bath and Body Works is one I love that my husband even tolerates well. It’s a seasonal scent, which means when I see it, I need to grab it immediately. I particularly like the “wallflowers” room air freshers and leave them in my bathroom so every time I walk in I get to smell the scent.

Husband, if you are reading this, bookmark this page for Christmas! *wink*

Happy Friday!

Photo by Camille Brodard ~ Kmile Feminine Creative Designer on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Weighted Blankets

I am a huge fan of weighted blankets. So much so, that the 15 lb. one I use comes with me on road trips so I don’t have to sleep without it. They are often noted as a tool to help people relieve their anxiety, which I could see being helpful. I didn’t purchase one specifically for that reason. I had just heard they are relaxing and wanted to see for myself.

Given my addiction to it now, I’d say it works as described! It’s not like you put it over you and immediately feel calm. It is more that it feels like a hug….or perhaps like the weighted cover that the dentist puts over you before an x-ray. The first time I used it, I declared it did nothing for me and then feel asleep on the couch 15 minutes later.

Now I have my own 15 lb. weighted blanket, and I purchased two other 5 lb. weighted blankets for the kids. It works really well for one of them, but less so for the other kiddo. However, if either one of them starts to stir a lot when they have snuck into bed with my husband and me, throwing a weighted blanket on them keeps them still. That alone makes it worth the purchase to me!

Posted in Blog

Friday Favs: Netflix’s Middleditch and Schwartz

I haven’t been writing for the blog much lately with the pandemic’s shelter-in-place order in effect, mainly because it’s hard to find the time (or more so the energy) to write when I’m dual-hatting my career and homeschooling two little kids. I’m literally on the run from 6am when my alarm goes off so I can log into work before everyone else wakes up to 8pm when the kids are in bed. Then, I’m toast and out of power. Sometimes I muster up the energy for additional work after tucking the kids in, but it’s low-key items….trying to place online orders, catching up on the kids’ school emails (never ending!), getting organized for the next day, etc.

My husband understands our need to reset and unwind on the regular though, and he found this great Netflix special for us this week that I loved. I was in tears laughing through Middleditch and Schwartz, a Netflix comedy special featuring Thomas Middleditch (best known for his role in Silicon Valley) and Ben Schwartz (from Parks and Rec and the voice of Sonic).

It’s an improv special showing the pair onstage delivering their performance to a theatre full of people (soooo 2019). There is no script. Middleditch and Schwartz walk onstage, provide a quick intro, and then ask the audience for a prompt based on an event coming up. They pick a random person’s suggestion from the audience, have a few minute discussion with them about the scenario, and then start the skit.

Middleditch and Schwartz play everyone and switch roles regularly. It’s hilarious to see the diversity of the characters, the well-crafted jokes they build in real time, and the confusion that mounts as they add people to the scene. My only gripe is that only three episodes were released.

If you need a break from the 24/7 news cycle or just a good laugh, check it out and let me know what you think.

Photo by Claire P on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Managing Stress

My work life has been more stressful than normal lately, and I’d be remiss in not acknowledging it here. Working in a project-based world means that sometimes multiple projects surge at once, each simultaneously desiring my attention. All project issues seem to run through me, and many feel like a fire that must be immediately addressed. I recognize that I have a complex about being a bottleneck for getting work done. I like to move ASAP on items others are waiting on from me, adding to my stress level.

The past two weeks in particular have been crazy at work. So many projects need my time, and I’ve been facilitating meetings and preparing for a business trip during normal working hours. I’m a part-time employee, but my projects have needed full-time hours lately. There’s no way I’m getting work done while the kids are awake (and I don’t want to cut into my family time with them anyway). So, I’ve been getting up early and/or staying up late to finish to-do items. I’m exhausted.

How do I manage the stress? Well, it depends on the day, and I’m still not always good at it. Here’s what I’ve found to be the most successful for me.

Talk It Out

Sometimes I just need to vent and let it all out. I need to release the pressure valve and share my stress. My poor husband has been the brunt of it lately. The sweet man wants to help me solve my problems and make the stress go away, which is incredibly kind. My mother is also a Godsend. She listens to my ranting whenever I need it, and it’s very much appreciated. I always feel a bit better just talking about what’s bothering me. It requires me to put the stress into words and ultimately organize my thinking on the issue. Sometimes it leads me to seeing a way out all on my own.

Get Perspective

What has usually helped me is to stop and look out my window. When I do, I see life outside my four walls. My problem doesn’t seem that great when I realize there are others out there with likely more significant challenges than whatever I’m encountering.

I remember doing this a lot at my college library that sat upon a hill overlooking the campus and town. I would be stressing about some test or project, then look up and see people walking around outside the size of ants. They each had their own issues and problems going on too outside of me. If I could think about others and imagine them navigating their lives well (e.g., managing a chronic illness, battling addiction, deciding how to come out as LBGTQ), my stress level would calibrate. If others can handle their stress with grace, so can I.

Also, in most cases, my issue that was causing me stress would not really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s not until I stopped and gained perspective that I would see this.

Acknowledge the Good

My job is demanding and sometimes high stress. I don’t have slow days at the office. I’ve never been watching the clock waiting for the day to end. I’m always too busy. Every half-hour of my time is being billed to my clients, so I’m focused and dedicated to make those charges worthwhile.

But, when I step back and think about it. My job has several perks.

  • I work from home whenever I want (i.e., every day).
  • I have flexibility on when I work, as long as I get my work done well and on time. If I want to take a date lunch with my husband during his lunch hour, I can. If I want to volunteer at my son’s school for the afternoon, I can. No big deal.
  • I am well compensated.
  • The work itself of creating learning products for clients is of reasonably difficulty and interesting.
  • I have some really great team members and now friends I work with.

And, on top of my good career, I have a wonderful family. I have two adorable kids who are tons of fun, our senior pup, and a strong marriage to my middle-school sweetheart (!!). I have much to be thankful for.

Okay, I feel better having written this post. Perhaps it, in and of itself, served as a mindfulness exercise. I may need to re-read it each morning as I head into a long workweek of travel and full-day workshops.

Here’s to a reduced-stress workweek!

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash