Things bringing me joy this week

The perfect chocolate croissant and coffee in the early morning.

The pinkish hues popping up everywhere lately.

Talking with my Tootsie and feeling transported back to dorm nights when life was full of carefree happiness and self-reflection.

Rubbing my sleeping son’s chubby little baby toddler feet in the palm of my hand.

Asking Glenn if he would still hold my hand when we’re old and wrinkly and him responding, “I solemnly promise to always hold your hand.”

I’m still working on my “theme” for this year. I haven’t quite found a word (or phrase) that encompasses everything I want to work on, but I’m getting there. Until then, I figure I’ll just bask in the things that bring me joy.

Lean In: Year End

Summertime has always been my period of “newness.” New Year’s Day doesn’t hold much meaning to me, I like the celebration but the resolutions seem ill placed in the year (though fun things like bucket lists are totally acceptable). It’s likely because my birthday falls in July, but I have found over the years that this is the perfect time to reflect on who I am in that moment and take stock of the good and not so good. It is also when I set a plan for the next year.

Fitting, then, that last year is when I took a good hard look at how I was living and decided that I was not happy with where I found myself. Jack had just had his first birthday, and Glenn and I discussed trying to conceive again by his next birthday. To say I was not ready is an understatement. I had carried so many issues through the years, and while Jack’s birth brought infinite happiness and love to my life, frankly- I still needed to deal with my personal shit before I could be ready for another.

So one night, while holding a sleeping baby in my arms, I made a list on my phone of everything that was plaguing me. Everything that quietly troubled me when everyone else was asleep. And I decided it was time.

After weeks of reflection, I was finally able to give that list a name, a word that helped me face it all and finally deal with it. “Lean In” became my motto. Lean into everything that scares me, Lean into the hard things, Lean into the things that will take time, Lean into it all.

And I can honestly say with 100% certainty that this year has been one of my personal best years in a very long time. I have not been perfect this year, I am still learning, I have taken things up and then set them down after a time, but I am happy with where I am standing- far further along than where I was last year.

So, for my personal record- I am putting here the list I made that night with a much smaller boy in my arms. And then I’m going to delete it from my notepad and close my 31st year all the while looking towards the much brighter one ahead.

Before I have another baby:

1. Lose weight and get in shape; find a way to fit exercise into my daily schedule and learn to say no again to things I don’t need and don’t really want.

This time last year I felt absolutely unhealthy. I had spent my “birthday month” eating and drinking too much, and my body felt gross. I was lethargic and greasy and felt like I had no control whatsoever. So on July 31, I decided it was time. I wasn’t going to go crazy on a strict diet and exercise routine, I knew that it wouldn’t last. Instead, I started in the laziest way I could possibly start because I knew that’s the only way that would stick. I calorie counted, though most days I would eat enough calories to just hit maintenance, not actually lose weight. But I started adding more vegetables and healthy foods to my day, and as time progressed I got better at eating a calorie deficient. In fall, I finally asked one of my coworkers if I could join her in walking the stairs. At only 15 minutes a day, it was a far cry from the recommended daily exercise, but it was more than I had been willing to do before, and that was one more step in the right direction. As of July, I am down over 30 pounds, just shy of a weight (and my final goal) I haven’t reached in over a decade and completed a long-term goal to do a week of yoga classes every day. I still have to practice saying no to things I don’t actually need, but I am so much better than I was last year, and I’m grateful I built up that ability over time. I am happy with my body today.

2. Define my career: Apply for jobs, look into possible classes, and decide my five-year plan. Do I want to go back to school? If so, shall I stay where I am for the second baby and go to school so I can start a new career after the child is 1? Do I try to continue in editing? If so, what direction should I take?

Coming to terms with my career is the most important thing that I accomplished this year. While my health is number one physically, I spent over a decade questioning and worrying about what my life would be like career wise. I also spent so much of that time constantly engaged in this concept of being an imposter, with this terror that someday someone would find out that I’m not good enough and my life would be ruined.

So many events from this year have helped me get to where I am now. I broke down in front of my husband one night and confessed how terrified I was about it all. He had never heard me talk about it, so deep was my shame and anxiety, but once he did he put my fears to rest by his sheer love and faith in me. My son, who had witnessed my breakdown, toddled over and rested his hand on my cheek. I felt even worse for a second, having made him concerned, but Glenn even took this moment and changed it into something special- relaying that it was good for Jack to see me deal with my emotion and life challenges, that in doing so he would also learn to deal with them.

Having my husband’s and son’s faith in me, I turned outward. I finally took the steps to talk to people in the area I believed I would work well in. I reached out to family friends, including a manager of the department I would want to work in and spent much needed time asking everything I could about the position and how I could work my way into that career. The manager suggested a program I had already been looking into, albeit reluctantly at first, and it gave me the drive to begin it. I am now in my second class and doing quite well. I still have two years to go, but I am happy to do it- I’m developing my skills for the future at the same time as I’m learning new things to help me in my position now.
Finally, I began therapy (3) and this also led to a huge breakthrough in January. I relayed my same fears to her over a couple sessions and it finally came to a head when I realized that I was worth it. That the imposter syndrome was in my head. I am still young and still learning, but I am willing to learn, and that makes all the difference. I still have days when I question myself, but so often now I am reminded that my work is valid and useful.

I am so lucky to have the job I’ve had for these past five years. I don’t want to go anywhere, and if given the choice- I won’t. I love my job and those I work with. But I won’t fear (as much at least), the possibility that one day I will have to move on. The economy has become harder to find a job, but I am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. As of today, I enjoy my work and am making myself better with every action I take.

3. Go to therapy and get over this I’m not worthy shit and the whole hospital trauma. Deal with this once and for all.

I can’t say that I am at peace with what happened to Jack, nor what happened to my dear friend and her son. I don’t think that it’s something that I will be able to resolve completely, truthfully. The difference is that I have taken this year and talked about my experience. I talked about it so much, and with everyone, that was willing to listen. And after a year, I am willing to go through pregnancy and birth again- something I could not have done last year. Not everything in life is able to be tied up with a pretty bow at the end of the day. I still smell hospital soap and cringe, I still feel a deep ache when I think of that time, and I still fear what this next birth will be like- or whether we will have to face any number of heartbreaks. But I am willing to try. Jack is worth all that ache and more, and my next child will be worth it all too.

4. Become the best editor I can at work so I can be confident that I’m a hard worker. Don’t allow myself to screw around and be diligent about all my duties so I know that I am a vital part of my group. Push myself to be aware and learn new things.

This was very much part of #2 in retrospect but also focused more on my day to day activities and how they worked in conjunction with my imposter syndrome. I am not perfect, and I want to continue to strive to be better. This year, however, has been a great one. I’ve accomplished so much, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. And this next year I will learn even more and become even better. I have so many people to look up to, mostly my own mother and mother-in-law, and I want my own children to see me and respect who I am as a worker just as much as I respect them. That is my long term goal and one I know I will reach.

5. Get yours and Glenn’s finances into order. Grow up and stop spending so much on shit we don’t need.

This is one that I took over in March of this past year. We went on a massive financial diet in April and May, though in June I let go (it is the month of celebrations, as everything in our lives occurs that month pretty much.) July has been better, but admittedly, I do need to pick this up again. Nevertheless, we’ve saved enough for a new roof, and this is a major accomplishment.

6. Redirect your want of recognition to wanting it from yourself. You don’t need to show off.

This is definitely something I’m still working on. I have always been someone who likes to know that I’m doing well, getting an “A” in life. But slowly I’m learning that it really doesn’t matter what other people think, it’s how I know I am doing. Nevertheless, this is definitely one of those things that will take me longer to put into practice.

7. Breathe in Jack as my only baby for now.

All day, every day. This year has been the year of toddlerdom- and the tantrums that come with it, but I love every day with him. All I can think is how big he seems, yet that he is actually still so small. I try to soak it in every moment I can.

8. Suck it up and go back to school if necessary. Your kid needs to be able to look up to you and see a confident woman that feels like she’s good enough.

Again, part of goal #2 and something I have begun the very long process of. I am happy that I got the drive to begin, and I know it is worth it, even if it’s just the experience.

9. Continue to be a bad ass.

*After writing this post I realized I had first written about “Leaning In” exactly one year ago today. How’s that for timing?

A New Season: Spring

Happy official spring!

Finally! The weather may not have caught up yet, but I can see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. In the cold, grey days of March, it was such a pleasure to think of the bright and bold things to come.

As you might have been able to tell by my last post, the end of winter tends to be a down point in my year. It’s the strangest thing, but it’s pretty consistent (and annoying at that). But at last, we can rejoice in sunny days, brighter colors, and fresh and crisp food! Everything comes down to food, you know.

In celebration of the warmer season, here is a collection of things that I’m ready to bust out for our first Spring dinner. We’ll invite some close friends over, light up the grill, and enjoy the warm air outside under the clear evening sky!

To Drink

Drinks of course can be non alcoholic or alcoholic, but I find the second kind to be a bit more enjoyable. This pomegranate-grapefruit paloma is just right with a bit of the winter citrus but a distinctly warm weather feel. If you prefer something without any extra work, a fresh lemonade or a crisp glass of rose will absolutely do the job!

Pomegranate Grapefuit Paloma 

To Eat

Early spring may seem a bit early to break out the big guns on the bbq. Instead, ease in to the season with a grilled pizza. It’s easy to make, gives your party goers something fun to watch while they wait, and is ridiculously delicious. We tend to go the traditional route with our toppings, since my husband isn’t fond of straying very far, but I am dreaming of a caprese with balsamic reduction. Heaven in my mouth.

Grilled Pizza

While you’re at the grill anyways, you might as well throw on some seasonal fruit. Sprinkle slices with a little brown sugar and grill it up. Once you have a nice crust, top it off with some vanilla ice cream and call it dessert. We’re not here to be fancy, we’re here to relax and eat well.

Grilled Peaches

This recipe is a little more complex, but still incredibly easy. Plus, look at it. Seriously.

The Setting

Some of my favorite warm weather moments are the nights that you talk with your friends outside in the warm air. Imagine sitting back on your chair, chatting with your friends under the soft glow of these pretty lights strung up over you.

Outdoor Lighting

Ahh, isn’t that better? Oh spring, I’m so happy you’re finally here!

Living The Good Life

Last August, I began a search to really redefine the way I lived my life. When Jack was first born, I was taking every day as it came and just doing what I needed to do to get by. Over time, though, as he grew and became more independent, my own actions didn’t follow suit. I was still doing the absolute minimum of getting by, and I was miserable with how I was approaching several aspects of my life. But the end of summer came with the resolve to fix my approach.

I made a pact with myself to be more mindful, to direct my actions to something useful, something I wanted to accomplish. To lean in and achieve what I wanted out of life. This process has been slow, but as I have learned in the past eight months- time passes anyway, I might as well use it to my advantage.

I am significantly happier now than I was back in August, my body looks and feels healthier, I feel like I have direction in my career (and I’ve FINALLY made peace with where I am now). Overall I’m just more content.

However, I have noticed that I started slacking on my mindfulness the past few weeks, and this has had a profound effect on my level of joy day to day. Instead of feeling rejuvenated, every day I felt like I was under a bit of a cloud. While it’s good to be a peace with where you are, I’ve found that I’m truly happier in a daily sense when I feel like I am working towards a goal.

With that, I’ve reevaluated my daily schedule so I can take steps towards mindfully leaning in every day. It’s not the full-scale renovation I did half a year ago, but a little booster to what I’m already doing. A reminder of what is important, and with it- the intention of creating more joy in my day to day life.

The next month will focus on the following-

Participating at home: I constantly catch myself looking down at my phone throughout my day, especially when I’m at home. I already work 40 hours a week, and so often I feel like I’m missing a significant portion of Jack’s childhood (and my relationship with Glenn!). Back in August, I was determined to put my phone down for several hours a night and instead be fully present for playing, preparing and eating meals as a family, and talking with my husband (and son) about their days. Since I have strayed from this practice, I’ve noticed that at the end of the night I’m disappointed that I didn’t make more of my free time.

This month, I will make a point of participating in the life that is going on around me. Whether it be a making dinner, a dance party, or even a tantrum- I want to be present.

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Seriously, you wouldn’t want to miss out on stuff like this.

Choosing healthier foods more often: This seems obvious, but I’ve noticed that the more I’ve lost weight the more I’m compelled to give in “just this once” since “I’m doing so well”. This, of course, is not self-sustaining and I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made.

I really want to take this month to retrain my brain to not give in just because it’s there. I will be more mindful of everything I eat. I don’t want my actions to be influenced by outside factors, I want to be the one making the decisions that shape my body. Treats are fine (and strongly encouraged!), but I want to make the conscious decision to enjoy them rather than realize after I’ve already begun to eat them.

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Walnuts and honey are healthy, right? And goat cheese is milk. It counts.

Getting outside: This action made a massive impact on my general happiness. Since our schedule is pretty packed during the week with work and a long commute, I don’t often get outside. When I started doing long walks on a trail outside every weekend, I noticed a distinct change in my attitude. I felt significantly more refreshed, happier, and willing to be more active.

This month I will take a few hours to go outside and get the movement my body craves. I will breathe in the crisp morning air, I will look at the beauty of the nature that surrounds me, and I will be so damn thankful that my body allows me to do this. I am so lucky to have this opportunity, and I should take full advantage of it.

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This doesn’t do the view justice

Begin classes: I really accomplished a lot in finally determining what direction I wanted my career to take. While I’m an editor right now, the work that I do is in a very limited field. This has always been a source of deep-seated concern since I wasn’t sure how to direct my focus when it came time to move forward. I didn’t know what I would want to do, and I had no clue how to do it. In the past six months, I’ve finally found a niche I believe I would work well in. I’m still incredibly lucky to have a stable job, with no signs of needing to change it anytime soon, but I want to prepare myself if something ever happens. I spoke to people in the field and found a program that could help ease me into the market. It’s been a month and a half since I decided to start this new era of school, and I kind of put it off. But the new semester is beginning soon, and this is just the push I need to begin. I’m looking forward to learning something new and having a career that my children can look up to.

This doesn’t quite fall into the mindful category, except that I want to be aware that this is still very much a resolution I want to accomplish, even though it will take a significant amount of time. So I will begin by taking the introductory course this month and sign up for the class that will begin in April.

I already feel significantly lighter after writing this all down and I’m looking forward to putting my plans into action. I’ll check back in a few weeks to make sure that I’m doing everything I want to live my best life.