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The End of the Blog as I Know it (and I feel fine)

I was up at 4 in the morning the other day. I brewed a cup of Irish breakfast tea and sat at my desk. I relished the cold, dark morning quiet and spent an hour thumbing through this year’s journal. What. a. year.

Last January I was coming out the worst depressive episode I’ve had since college and I believed I was over the hump of a tough autumn and winter of mental illness. If only I had known that 2016 would be so full of crappiness. This year my grandfather died. Three acquaintances died in horrific ways (a suicide, a hiking accident, and a car wreck). My marriage nearly fell apart and a month ago I was searching for a divorce attorney. My daughter was hurt by a stalker and that is a wound that seems to open up fresh each day. My son had a difficult spring at school and the summer was spent handling violent tantrums and meltdowns that had us visiting a psychologist and wondering how to help. This was the year that we poured close to $3,000 into van repairs and had other costs that sent our budget into the red. We moved, which is always a stress. To top it all off, our country elected a seething hate pumpkin for president.

2016, get thee behind me.

Now, 2016 wasn’t all bad. I had some quality time with friends and I enjoyed focusing on writing. I’ve accomplished a lot at work and was accepted to graduate school. But the best parts of 2016 are the small daily moments: the kids acting silly in the car, hot coffee at my desk, long talks with the teen, and my cat curled up and purring on my chest. Those are the moments when I can feel the weight and burden of this year fall away.

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing some free writing. Simply opening my journal and writing – listing- all the things that matter to me. On that quiet, dark morning a few days ago I looked at those lists of important things. Books. My kids. Social Justice. Graduate School. Marriage. Therapy. Cooking. Sleeping well. etc….

Ya know what wasn’t on the list? BLOGGING. It never even crossed my mind.

A brief survey of my blogging this year tells me that I have talked about my lack of motivation or the pressure I put on myself to blog regularly at least a half dozen times. All of you dear readers are very kind and encouraging and tell me to just blog when the desire hits and to not worry about the rest. The probably is that I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. This blog hangs over my head and becomes part of a to-do list that is never completed.

So, I’m taking a break. A long one. My “goal” is to not blog for all of 2017 and then reassess. Instead I plan on being on Instagram (@nerdybookgirl), Litsy (@nerdybookgirl), Goodreads and Twitter (@nerdybookgirl).

It is a relief to type this. I feel free. Now I can spend those early mornings reading or writing in my journal and not stressing over blogging.

Yup. I feel more than fine.

 

2017 Planning Planners for Planning

I sure love my bullet journal. Before bullet journaling I had a planner, a notebook for lists and ideas, a journal, and an assortment of notepads and sticky notes. I didn’t go anywhere without at least three notebooks. It was ridiculous.

My bullet journal system has changed and evolved and I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. As 2017 approaches I’m figuring out what my 2017 bullet journal will look like. There are a few things I know for sure I’m going to change, but I need some help with figuring out other issues.

I’m fairly certain I’ll be changing my future log: In the past I’ve had just a space to jot down upcoming events that are well over a month in the future. What I need is for the front of my journal to have a page for each month of the year so I can write things down to the day. Seriously, I plan things way in advance. For example I have a doctor appoint for Atticus and one for me scheduled in January. Those appointments were scheduled in mid-October. I need to be aware of work projects, meetings, Sam’s school and work schedule and any other events going on before I book doctor appointments and other events. I need more than a list, I need a firm date to write stuff down. I don’t feel that I’ve explained this well, but in a few weeks I hope to have a few pictures to illustrate.

How many journals to have? I know I said I don’t want to go back to having more than one journal, but hear me out. I think I’m going to have three bullet journals next year. One will be my holy bible of bullet journals, one for work, and one specifically for graduate school. The work bullet journal will stay on my desk at work, but I’m hoping it will help me plan a bit more into the future and allow me to better balance special projects and events with my daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. The graduate school bullet journal will mostly be for taking notes and planning out my projects and papers. .

Here is where I really need help. Having a weekly layout is my favorite component of my bullet journal. I love being able to see the week’s tasks, meals, and appointments in one spot and I like tracking my daily chores and weekly goals in this layout. HOWEVER, going to graduate school on top of working full-time and having three kids has me worried. I am really going to need to focus and use my time wisely. I feel like it would be helpful to have a weekly layout AND the schedule for each day. All of my days are not the same and I’ll need to divide up household tasks, kid stuff, and graduate school assignments with precision and effectiveness. Is doing my weekly layout and then having a half-page or page for each day too much? Is it possible to combine my weekly and daily spread someway? I’m not really sure. I’ve been down a Pinterest rabbit hole trying to visualize everything. Hit me up if you have suggestions.

In the meantime, check out the beauty of my spread this week:

 

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Once a Month Meals

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I work full time, my husband is in college, I have three kids, and I’m starting graduate school in January. Family meal time is important to us and we eat 95% of our dinners together and at the table. Healthy, delicious meals eaten as a family is a priority to me, but y’all I was on the struggle bus. We’re on a tight food budget and I need to make a $400 a month grocery budget for five people stretch (that figure doesn’t include non-food items). My time is also budgeted as Atticus likes to go to bed well before 8pm and we’re not all at home until 5:30 or later. How to fit in dinner, bathing, chores, stories, playtime, and cuddles in roughly two hours?

I immediately thought of once a month cooking, but in the past I found even figuring out how much stuff to buy overwhelming. The only exception is that when I was pregnant with Atticus my “nesting” took the form of once a month cooking. I made 25 meals in two days just a few weeks before Atticus was born. I had memories of many dishes, puffy feet, and crying into some ice cream. I didn’t know if I wanted to approach once a month cooking again, but then I landed on a perfect system.

The answer: Once a Month Meals.

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Cooking in my tiny apartment kitchen in October

Here’s how it works as laid out on their website:

  1. Plan

    Pick a menu based on the 7 different dietary preferences we offer, and customize to make it your own!

  2. Shop

    Gather and purchase your ingredients from your optimized, ready-to-go Shopping List.

  3. Prep

    Chop, dice, and slice to prepare all your ingredients according to your Prep Sheet.

  4. Cook

    Follow our customized, step-by-step Cooking Instructions to prepare your freezer meals quickly.

  5. Freeze

    Cook, package, and freeze your meals according to your Recipe Cards for proper storing and freezing.

  6. Serve

    Prepare or reheat your meals and serve by reading the Label or your Thaw Sheet. Then serve and enjoy!

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Roasting all the things in November

I’ve used the meal plans twice and I’ve learned several things along the way.

  1. Follow the recipes. Every recipe I made from Once a Month Meals was awesome with the exception of when I try to cut corners. For example, I hate making meatballs and meat patties. I tried to turn a Salmon Sweet Potato Quinoa patty into a meatloaf type thing and it really didn’t work. I no longer pick those types of recipes that make me impatient.
  2. Be smart about cutting corners. Frozen chopped onions = lifesaver. Using bagged “shredded” carrots instead of whirring them up in the food processor = totally not the same and I bungled a recipe.
  3. Mini-menus. If time and space are an issue, then do two mini-menus a month. This also helps with money. I’m paid weekly so I rarely have enough cash for a month long cooking shopping trip.
  4. Assess the needs of your family before planning your meals. I’m the only person who takes my lunch to work (my husband eats free in the cafeteria as a job perk and my kids eat at school) and none of us eat breakfast “meals” in the morning except on the weekends (we are much more likely to just grab a granola bar or yogurt). I really only need the dinners. For some odd reason I did two rounds with dinners, lunches, and breakfast. It was kind of a waste of money and time for me. In the future I’m just going to do dinner mini-menus.
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Onion chopping salvation

I’m having a cook day on Saturday the 17th and I already have my meals planned for my mini-meal making session. I’ll be cooking up:

There’s something for everyone here. There is a range of menus to address dietary needs and you can also pick recipes based on preferred cooking methods (i.e. instant pot or slow cooker). If you don’t like a recipe it is easy to swap it for something else and you can adjust the portions and it will recalculate the shopping list, prep list, and cooking instructions.

It is $16 a month, but I’m saving so much money and time. On cook weeks I spend just over $100 to $120 on food and on weeks I’m not cooking I spend $50 on food. Another bonus? No dishes at night from prep work!

Let me know if you’ve tried a system like this and what you thought about it. I’m pleased as punch with Once a Month Meals.

 

 

Note:  I am not being paid or compensated in anyway to write this review. I just really like this service!

Holidays

Here is the difference between being depressed and grieving. Last year – from Thanksgiving on – I was mired in depression. My therapist worded it best when she said, “depression feels like emptiness and emptiness hurts.” Last year I could look at a brightly decorated tree, the wee faces of my cute kids, or bask in the warm hum of Christmas activity and feel nothing but hollowness.

How different this year has been! There are some very painful and personal struggles right now, but I am still able to relish the good. I can grieve my hurts and feel joy. I’m going to focus on the good of this season. I cooked a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for Sam, the kids, and my friends, Nicky and Eric. We forgot to take pictures because we were so engrossed in eating cheese, drinking coffee, and chatting late into the night. Sam and I decorated with the kids and each kiddo got an individual mini-shopping trip and time with me to pick out little gifts for their siblings. Some good friends threw an amazing 1st birthday party for their little girl. The kids baked “Christmas tree brownies” that turned out more like lumps (but they tasted delicious). I’ve addressed some Christmas cards  and wrapped gifts. I had breakfast and a morning shopping for yarn with my mom. My evenings are spent crocheting and enjoying the glow of our tree. I hope your holidays are off to a great start!

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Landing

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I’m trying to exist in the tension right now. The tension that whirs and knots in the mind and body when you realize that everything is heinously bad and so beautifully good at the same time. How am I even managing to vacillate between the two? I’m not even vacillating; each moment I’m pulling ragged breaths of heartache and joy, disappointment and hopefulness.

Right now the awful parts. The guy that hurt my daughter is most likely not going to jail. When we left court just over a week ago we thought he was about to be arrested on a separate indictment in another case (a case that involved grabbing a different girl by the throat, threatening her with a knife, and forcibly detaining her). As we were exiting from our hearing the deputy had this young man in a chair and was calling about a warrant. For some reason the warrant didn’t come through and he left without being arrested. Then we found out my daughter’s phone was processed and there wasn’t enough evidence for a warrant. We’re still keeping the GoFundMe up until we hit our goal because we’ll probably end up back in court with this guy at some point and I want to know that we can retain an attorney. As of today we still have no legal resolution and it hurts.

Now we try to heal and move forward. One day this guy will go to jail. He is 19 and has already hurt multiple young women. I pray he goes to jail before he kills someone.

Here comes all the hard work of moving on, of surviving. Therapy, yes, but more than that. She has school assignments, chores, and a job. I cannot pour all of my time into her because I have a job and two other children. We do our best and that’s what we’ll keep doing.

What’s strange is how I can feel such opposite emotions at the same time. I’m sitting in this tension between the discomfort of fear and worry while I also sit in the comfort of love and warmth.

The tension between competing emotions is what has been so hard about continuing to blog or talk about my life. I’m not even sure if I’m wording it correctly now. There has been countless joy and comfort in the past few weeks that has been a companion to the pain. I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Hope on Saturday. There have been big mugs of coffee and cozy mornings under piles of blankets. Atticus has requested “Jingle Bell Rock” on repeat because it “puts the spirit of Christmas in my heart, mama.” Tonight I came home from work and Sam put out Christmas lights and tomorrow we’ll decorate the tree and drink cocoa. There are all the books I plan on reading, and the softness of yarn, and my cat purring. I got into grad school and I’ve started a social justice book club. Life is moving, growing, changing and endlessly messy.

I feel disgustingly privileged and vapid given the current political climate, but I’m focusing on kindness and warmth this season. I’m not avoiding the task of advocating for political change; I’m involved politically and in social justice causes, but we have to remember why we want to change the world. If I teach my children to value kindness, to be mindful of their surroundings, and to look for the light, then I feel like I am truly working to change the world. I want my kids to be the comfort and change in times of conflict.

Now, for some of the good:

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Have Courage and Be Kind

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I drafted a longish post about the election, fallout, and what we can do.

I don’t have it in me to that post right now.

I have this very real family tragedy I am handling.

I am hurting, but I have friends who are actually put in danger by this election.

I am overwhelmed with fear, exhaustion, and revulsion from the personal to the political.

What do I do?

I deactivated my Facebook account (related to the political state of things) and I deactivated my Snapchat (related to the personal state of things).

I’ll still be on Instagram and Twitter and Litsy (nerdybookgirl).

But I’m going to focus on my family, my friends, my health, kindness, and writing.

Be safe. Be kind. Be courageous. Be the light.