When You Feel Stuck

When You Feel Stuck

 I'm not sure what it says about me and my life right now that finding the energy/motivation to write this post has taken me much longer than I care to admit, but here we are. Laziness is the mother of necessity or something, right? (I know that's not what the saying is. Let me live.) 

The last few months have been weird, and I'm not just talking about Covid weirdness (because nothing is weirder than that). I have had two different job opportunities unexpectedly open up and then even more unexpectedly fall through, leaving me with feelings ranging from disappointment to a full-on existential crisis that had me convinced I was a failure at pretty much everything. (To quote Father of the Bride: "Why would I overreact?? NOBODY IN MY FAMILY OVERREACTS!") 

The dizzying ups and downs of considering full-time employment and all that would mean for me and my family, especially with a new baby, back to deciding it would be okay to be home, then considering it again, and then not... ugh, let me off, please. It was basically a two-month long roller coaster and the person running it was one of those carnies that keeps the ride spinning for way too long and laughs maniacally when you pass by looking green (ask me how I know those people exist. Thank you, Cumming Fair). 

So, there was the whole "will they or won't they" situation, which is sometimes charming as a plot device in a sitcom but rarely in a possible career move. Then, in addition to belatedly adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom to two thanks to the pandemic, I have suddenly found myself with not only no prospect of a job but also with the same nagging, low-level anxiety I've felt for months and months... the kind that shows up when I'm not writing. 

Clearly the only person feeling stuck here is Amy Jane. 

Overall, I've just felt stuck in a lot of ways. How do I use my gifts to do more than write an occasional Instagram caption that really connects with someone? How do I take the years of input (all my reading) and figure out a useful way to turn it into output (helping others with these resources)? Most of my "stuck" feeling is work or creativity-related, but any parent who has had both or all of their offspring screaming at them within the space of a few moments has also felt that "I'm about to run away and never come back" mental crisis that, even if it only lasts for a few minutes, has you mentally calculating the cost of a plane ticket to ANYWHERE ELSE. (I know it's not just me.) 

Obviously, I feel guilty about this. I love my girls and at the end of the day, I know I'm supposed to be with them. I've been making plans for homeschool, I'm trying to enjoy Amy Jane's tiny-ness while I can, and overall we have a jolly time. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that over the last few months (as we all have, thanks to quarantine) I haven't felt stuck emotionally, mentally, and even physically (hello, postpartum self).

What to do about this? SURPRISE! There are several books I'm about to share that have helped me and that I have returned to frequently. But the first one I want to talk about contains what I consider the key to the rest of the advice. It's The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi, and here's how it will change your life:

Name what matters

That seems so simple, but it has been profoundly effective for me. I've practically been chanting it about everything under the sun. And not only is it the foundation for all the other principles in Kendra's book (which you need to order immediately) but also it WORKS. Naming what matters forces me to actually dig into why I care (or don't) about something, whether it's meal planning (don't) or reading (do) or preschool or a relationship. It makes me see that I can make space for what actually matters to me (because let's face it, I do have lots of time, screaming children notwithstanding) and I can, as the subtitle says, "ditch what doesn't." 

I love that the book is not a "rock on, girlfriend" kind of woo-woo thing, although I think Kendra would certainly encourage me to rock on. (ha!) It's also not a "I do this so you must also do this." It's so applicable to every life stage and situation and I honestly don't know a woman who couldn't benefit from reading it. (Men too, really.) It is endlessly practical and gives actual actions you can take, which is great for people like me saying (in my best The Kid voice), "But what do I doooo?"

When I'm stuck, naming what matters is really clarifying. FOR EXAMPLE. Today Alice was, um, "challenging my authority." I could feel myself going crazy, and while Alice raged in one room and Amy Jane raged on her play mat (why all the rage, my children? why?) I was for SURE feeling stuck. More like trapped. Like Chilean miner trapped (too much? okay). Anyway. In that moment, even though I don't even think I consciously used the phrase, I named what mattered by reminding myself that what matters to me is to be a calm and kind parent. (I was feeling neither calm nor kind because of all the rage.) But I pulled myself out of that kind of instant "EXCUSE ME?' mode that we can go into when our children are being disrespectful and steam is pouring from our heads like a fog machine. (Again, just me?) 

That sounds like a small thing, and to be honest, it was a fairly brief moment of the day (it felt like an eternity, but that's neither here nor there). The point is, this principle helped pull me out of it. It also helped me get myself in gear and write this post, since what matters to me is to be writing more often and losing the yucky, shame-y feeling I get when that doesn't happen. 

SO. The Lazy Genius Way. In the words of Woody, "If you don't have one, GET ONE." He was talking about moving buddies but truthfully this book would be an excellent buddy for moving through life (see what I did there?) and I can't recommend it enough. 

Here are a few more books to help if you're feeling stuck:

-The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. Fun fact: Emily and Kendra are BFFs in real life! Honestly, consider this book included on every book list of mine forever and ever, amen. (A bonus EPF pick, especially for those who want to create but feel stuck: A Million Little Ways. SO GOOD.)

-Do Over by Jon Acuff. This is definitely one to read if you're wanting to switch careers, start a side hustle, or otherwise shake things up in your career. I'm a long-time fan of Jon Acuff and this is so helpful and practical. 

-Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. The subtitle is "listening for the voice of vocation" and it has so many good thoughts about your calling and purpose in life. I read it in January and still think about it often.

Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons. The four rhythms are Rest, Restore, Connect, and Create, and I still think about what she says about input/output all the time. 

Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler. Jen has become one of my favorite authors in the last couple of years. She is a little crazy and truly unique but in such a good way. This is a great book on finding and strengthening your gifts.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. I think so many people could benefit from reading these "reflection on life and art." Plus I find that Madeleine's words have a way of dusting off the cobwebs of my mind somehow. She always offers a new perspective, even from decades ago.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Goodness gracious, this book! I need to reread it at least once a quarter. =) It is such a powerful reminder that we can take ownership of our lives, find joy in Christ, and truly thrive despite the big and small difficulties of raising children in this crazy world. 

There you go! I hope one or all of these can help you make some progress, feel less weird (by 2020 standards), and name what matters. May we only be as stuck as the current Covid circumstances require us to be! 

Book Review- Modern Parents, Vintage Values

Book Review- Modern Parents, Vintage Values

Nearly every time I ask for topic suggestions for book lists or posts, someone requests "parenting." I've been meaning to put together a list of those for a while, and I've accumulated quite a stack on the subject, but today I want to focus on one book in particular. This is not the first book I have read by these authors, and after becoming familiar with their work over the last year or so (even though they are hardly new to the parenting/counseling scene with decades of experience), I can't recommend them highly enough.

Modern Parents, Vintage Values Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan is so helpful, encouraging, and above all, practical. It has three sections: Modern Parents (addressing issues all parents have to address at some point), Vintage Values (the beliefs that never go out of style and ones we want our children to possess), and Timeless Truths (reminders for parents that although this is a hard job, we can do it).

In the first section, Modern Parents, Sissy and Melissa walk through all kinds of problems facing our families: lack of respect, the internet, entitlement, safety with strangers (in person and online), and more. Some of these problems are timeless, but others (like social media and gaming) are of course more recent, and all of them have been exacerbated by the constant use of the internet. The authors do not suggest burying our heads in the sand or unplugging our routers (however tempting that may be) but offer suggestions as to how we can combat these issues in our children and in ourselves. 

In Vintage Values, Sissy and Melissa tackle this list chapter by chapter, providing reasons and reminders as to the importance of values like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, and responsibility. This section is full of ways to teach your children these values, how to implement them into our home, and how to do it without constantly lecturing. Of course, the best way, the authors suggest, is to model these values ourselves (easier said than done!), as our example to our children is more powerful than any lesson or activity. 

Finally, the Timeless Truths section offers a few reminders about why these things are so important and, more importantly, how we are equipped to handle them. There are four brief chapters--Take Heart, Have Life, Seek Hope, Give Love--and each of these will encourage any parent, no matter how frustrated or hopeless they may feel. 

Sissy and Melissa are not just "armchair" parenting authors. They have worked with children, teens, and families for decades at their counseling center and camps in Nashville, Tennessee. There are dozens of illustrations and stories taken straight from their real-life experiences with real families who have put their biblically sound advice into practice over the years. My favorite thing about this book (which I hinted at before) is that it's so practical. Big-picture, philosophical parenting books have their place, but nearly every parent I know would much rather be given concrete examples and advice to follow, especially when it comes to having hard conversations that we'd rather avoid. (To quote "The Kid," "But what do I DOOO?") Each chapter includes a list of ways to implement that particular topic or value, and each chapter ends with a "Sunday Drive" activity, a way for you and your child to connect over something fun and meaningful. There are so many ideas that you could pick one or two per week and easily plan several months' worth of activities!

I'll be honest: I'm sitting here writing this review while both my girls are napping, and even though we're only halfway through our day, I have already run the gamut from pity party to Dragon Lady. Because of the pandemic, I've only been "flying solo" and adjusting to life with two kids for about a week (even though Amy Jane is five months old). I have not been handling it like I planned to, and more often than not I've felt like a mess. So, as you can imagine, revisiting these words as I looked back over the book just now could not have come at a more perfect time:

"You can't remove yourself and your own story from parenting. As your children stomp around your house, they will inevitably step on your stuff, your pain, your sin, your unhealed wounds from your own childhood. They will remind you of areas in your life where you struggle. They will remind you of things you missed when you were growing up. You will be left discouraged, disheartened, and feeling childish...

Rise... your children are calling out to you. God did not make a mistake when he made you the parent of your children...even with your insecurities, pain, and darkness... Rely on what God has placed inside of you, and there is so much. Take heart. Have courage. Rise. You can do this. Jesus is calling you." 

Goodness! That passage alone has me fired up and ready to face the rest of the day. (I'll have to revisit it to face the rest of the week, but at least it's there waiting for me!) I really love this book, y'all, and I absolutely know it will be a blessing to you. 

More by the authors: 

I received a free copy of this book from B&H Publishing  in exchange for my review. 

Amy Jane- Five Months

Amy Jane- Five Months

Well, everyone. If it feels like I just posted one of these updates, it's because I did... our four month update was almost two weeks late but this month I was determined to post it on time because if I'm learning anything about myself right now it's that I have to have/set deadlines for myself or things will never get done. (This applies to so many things... library books, closet clean outs, exercise. I'm an Obliger and I need accountability.) 

With Alice, I was also so careful to plan ahead and have her monthly pictures and posts done on time or even a day or two early. HA. To quote Michael Scott, "Well, well, well... how the turn tables." But I'm TRYING (Amy Jane, if you're reading this in an apocalyptic future, I really am trying!) so here we are. Five months to the day. Give me all the gold stars.

Weight/Length: She is 25 inches long and a whopping... 12 pounds (and some change). She's a string bean! 

Nicknames: Many variations of Bean (String Bean, Small Bean, Little Bean, Beanie Baby, Baby Bean, etc.) Sisert. Toodles. Toot Sweets. Drooly Scrumptious (clearly a lot of these are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang themed).

Sleep: Still 11ish hours at night (little angel) although this morning she woke up early, apparently ready to seize the day and celebrate the first full day of our girls only club now that her daddy is back at work. She's still a very sporadic napper, as was her sister. We can't have it all. =)

Eating: Every three hours pretty much on the nose. She stretches to four occasionally but not often. I might start trying solids a little sooner than I did with Alice since she could use a little fattening up! =) Also she's starting to spit up a little more (yuck) but thankfully she spits up FAR less than Alice did. I am haunted by that child's amount of spit up.

Clothing: So, we are still in the same boat with these lanky legs... she needs 3-6 or 6 month stuff for the length, but her waist is SO tiny! We are mostly doing rompers and dresses since separates are so tricky. 

Mood: I feel like she's either super happy or super grumpy with not a whole lot in between right now! More happy than grumpy, thank goodness. She doesn't necessarily want to snuggle or be held all the time but she really doesn't like to be left alone or without attention of some kind (much like her mother, she both craves and rejects alone time). 

Loves: Daddy
Rolling around
Her cactus teething toy
Her paci
Chewing her toes (ew)

Doesn't Love: Being cold
Her carseat
Being hot
Being hungry/wet
Looking at the camera at the same time as her sister

What I Want to Remember/Milestones: She is rolling over/scooting around constantly. She's SO strong and can hold her head up for long periods of time. She's also already trying to pull up on all fours (um, no ma'am) and I have a sneaking suspicion she'll be an early crawler. We've gone to the beach twice and she was not a fan (see her dislike of being hot and wet) but did much better in the shade and enjoyed the breeze. When I think about the last few months I'll picture her in the carrier and Alice in the jogging stroller on our long family walks that have become a cornerstone of our quarantine/covid time. She loves riding around in the carrier with her daddy! She's also starting to "talk" a lot more and is very chatty (she's trying to catch up with her mom and sister. We're a talkative household). And she's starting to grab things and get a good grip on her bottle, paci, toys, etc. 

What I'm Looking Forward To: Um... this pandemic to be over? Okay, wishful thinking. I am looking forward to the holidays, Al's birthday, lots more matching outfits, perhaps cutting a feeding soon (fingers crossed), trying some solids, getting into a routine with just the three of us here at home... lots of little things but nothing big in particular other than starting homeschool with Alice in a few weeks! (More on that later, I'm sure.)

Me: Oh man. Speaking of holidays... in the last week I have felt the urge to 1) decorate for fall and 2) listen to Christmas music. (Don't worry... I did not indulge either of these temptations.) But I think personally (and probably everyone, honestly), I've never been more anxious/desperate to rush into the next season of life. Surely covid can't follow us into October and Alice's birthday? What about Christmas?? I know that it will still be a reality by those times, but there is just something magical for me about both autumn and winter (especially the holiday season) that transcends all the fear and anxiety of our current situation. (Oh, and there's an election. Don't mind me, I'll just be burning the internet to the ground.) But I'm really trying to be hopeful and look forward while not wishing away the days I'm in right this minute. My girls will never be this little again. Even though nursing feels eternal right now, it will be over soon. Alice will be FIVE in two months. Amy Jane is still such a tiny baby and I don't want to be so focused on all the dumpster fires in the world and getting past them that I miss out on my own little magic moments with my sweet girls. (Sometimes the dumpster fire is in my own house, but that's neither here nor there.) 

There we go. Amy Jane, your mother loves you. Let the record show I finished this post with two hours to spare. And now I'm off to bed because you and your sister are siphoning my energy like little elfin thieves.