Wanting It All

Is it possible to have it all? Well, not “all,” but everything that’s important to you?

I find myself struggling lately (well, for a while now, but more so lately) with wanting too much. And I go back and forth with being convinced I can manage it all if I schedule my time properly and being convinced that something is going to slip — and being afraid that that something will be my kids.

The problem is that everything I’m trying to fit in is important to me. My kids, of course. My future aspirations with grad school and beyond. My Usborne Books & More business and building relationships with schools and libraries. My involvement with Avery’s school and the local library. My websites. The only things that I want to cut out are the things that I can’t: working my regular job, and household chores and responsibilities.

Sometimes I wish I had only one or two things I was passionate about, that my life had had a clear path and the winding path I discussed last week was a little shorter. Then perhaps I would be established in some of these areas already and adding more wouldn’t be a problem. But everything I just mentioned, everything that I want to fit in, is coming together at the same time. And trying to fit it all in is proving to be a difficult puzzle. Are there too many pieces? Or will it just take persistence to get it all to fit?

I have a little bit of time to figure things out — mainly, this summer. Involvement with Avery’s school will mostly be put on hold during the summer. Grad school doesn’t start until the fall. That means I have just under three months to determine what has to give or discover a way to make the pieces fit.

My first step is to determine if there’s a way to build my Usborne Books & More business. If I can bring in more income with that, then perhaps I can find a way to at least cut back at my job. I also, as previously discussed, will continue to work on my big cleaning projects so my house is in better shape.

Next comes laying the groundwork for the rest – building a foundation so as much as possible runs smoothly with minimal input from me. I’m talking about getting my websites settled and establishing a regular routine that allows for brief updates. I’m also talking about establishing a routine (not just a schedule, but getting myself into a real routine) of light household maintenance so projects don’t build up. And helping create courses of action for the school PTO and Friends of the Library so I can be involved without it seeming like an urgent, huge endeavor every time.

And, most importantly, I need to get as much of this out of my head as possible, so it doesn’t invade the time I have with my kids. Too often I find myself distracted when I should be engaging my kids. I’m too preoccupied with other tasks to be fully present. I need to “set it and forget it” so I can focus on these other tasks at times when the kids are not around and really enjoy the time I have with my kids.

I have a lot on my plate. That’s nothing new! But it’s time to determine what’s getting eaten and what’s getting dumped.

 

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A Winding Path

It’s no secret that I believe everything happens for a reason. I’ve said it often enough! But sometimes it’s interesting to take a moment to look back and see what brought you to where you are, especially when you’re feeling frustrated or bemoaning the fact that it’s taken so long to get there!

The other day it occurred to me that as much as I wish I had reached my current point sooner, every experience I’ve had thus far has played a role in getting me here. I’m thinking specifically of my career, as this has long been an area in which I’ve struggled. Not knowing where I would end up, what I wanted to do long-term, caused many a moment of stress. Yet, looking back, I can see how every career idea I’ve had has led me to where I’ve finally ended up.

Let’s evaluate, shall we?

My first career aspiration, back in high school, was to be a teacher. Then I changed to social work, wanting to help impoverished areas. Then it was media: journalism and television. And throughout there has been an overabundance of retail experience. Of course we cannot forget the writing: the books and the websites. Now, the ultimate goal is to become a librarian, working with children.

Can you see how it has all come together?

Working with children, wanting to inspire and motivate them to read, is the teacher in me. I hope to help lower-income children, in particular, as they often lack the exposure to reading materials — there’s the social worker. Libraries today are carriers of information, entertainment, and technology — here comes the media. And working with people — helping them, guiding them, solving problems — well, that’s the retail aspect. Writing is simply a show of my love of the written word, and what better way to express this love than in a career that leaves me surrounded by books?

While I would love to have come to this conclusion earlier, I must admit that my experiences have provided just that: experience. They have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. And when I go to find my ideal job, each one will boost my resume, pushing me toward the position I’m meant to have. Everything happened for a reason.

The same can be said about other areas of my life, as well. I wouldn’t have my beautiful children if I hadn’t gotten married. I wouldn’t live where I live, making a difference in my community — a community I feel attached and committed to, where I feel I can thrive and help others. Every person I’ve met has affected my actions, my path. Every decision I’ve made has led me to where I am. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I’m happy with where I am. And I know I’m where I’m meant to be.

I still have a long way to go, but I know now that I’m finally heading in the right direction. The pieces are starting to fit together in a way that makes me feel complete.

How are your pieces coming together?

 

A Day — and a Room — For Me

When you’re a mom, a daughter, an employee, a business owner, and an individual, it’s easy to get pulled in a million directions. And sometimes what’s a priority for one part of you conflicts with what’s a priority for another part of you. That was my life this week (and, if I’m honest, has been my life for a while now!).

This week felt like about three weeks rolled into one. And yet I still feel like I didn’t get much done. I was busy with set-up and break-down of Teacher Appreciation activities, which had me at Avery’s school a bit more than usual — and ate into some of my free time. I was trying to catch up and build a surplus of work-from-home hours for my day job. I received disappointing news and good news with my book business, which had me up and down and trying to reach out to people. I was getting the ball rolling with my grad school application. I was brainstorming and researching to figure out how to help Avery with his impulse control issues and his struggles with the divorce. And I was trying to stay on top of household tasks, while also working on cleaning up the library.

*phew*

I could really use a day off. And, with this being Mother’s Day, I would have the perfect opportunity for one. But instead, since I don’t really know how to relax, I’ve decided to use today to work on the library. Not because I want to clean and organize, but because I have wanted this room for quite some time. And while the furniture we bought for it has been set up, way too much clutter has already invaded the room, and it’s a mess. This room, in my mind, is going to be a bit of a haven. Yes, I have to share it with the kids when they’re around, but when they’re in bed, I envision myself reading and writing and working in this room. But before that can happen, it has to be neat.

This morning I plan on working to clear up the clutter. Then I’m heading down to Ikea to pick up a few more bookshelves and a few more supplies. Tonight I’ll put the bookshelves together and, time permitting, I will start filling them up and putting things where I want them. I have ideas (don’t I always?), and I’m hoping they’ll work out as I imagine. The final piece of the puzzle — moving my chaise into the room — will unfortunately have to wait. I don’t have a clear path through which to move it! I have to clear up other areas of the house before I can move that piece of furniture. But if I can get everything else set up, I’ll be happy.

Will it all happen today? Probably not. But I’m going to do my best. And, once it’s complete, I’ll be able to check off one big thing from my goals this month. But that’s not the real goal. The most important thing is having a room where I can work, be with my kids, and just be myself. Who knows what will come from a room made for dreams?

A Little Crazy

What an exhausting week! I don’t know if it was the attempt to go (mostly) screen-free, the fact that I was busy with Teacher Appreciation Week prep, the kids not behaving, or just life — but it was a crazy week! OK, let’s take this step by step…

I have definitely been busy this week, between trying to get things wrapped up for Teacher Appreciation Week (which is my fault, I know), trying to get the ball rolling for grad school, going on a field trip with Avery’s class, and attempting to stay on top of everything else. My brain is frazzled from being pulled in a million directions! Add to that the fact that I’ve had less time to take care of everything because of screen-free week, and I’m about ready to collapse! Why did screen-free week mean I had less time? Because….

Screen-free week is tough! OK, for me I had to have some screen time because I was waiting for responses and needed to communicate with people, and I had to stay on top of assorted responsibilities. But I definitely cut back considerably, and I cut out Netflix and Hulu completely. The biggest challenge, though, was with Avery. Avery loves screen time. He feels lost without it. Which means that if he didn’t have his normal screen time, I had to play with him. I didn’t really mind playing with him, but I usually take the time that he’s distracted to get other things done. So not having that time messed me up, especially during a week that I had so much going on. I really could have used that free time!

*Deep Breath*

OK, so the week is coming to a close. Screen-free week ends tonight, and I told the kids we would watch a movie tonight as a return to normalcy. But, despite the challenges, I don’t regret attempting to go screen-free. Both Avery and myself had been relying on it way too much, and we needed the break. Moving forward we both need to limit our screen interactions. That being said, I did learn some things:

  • Avery is at a loss when he can’t have a screen. I already kind of knew this, but I realized I need to help him learn how to (1) find other things to do, (2) become more self-sufficient without a screen, and (3) play. Avery’s version of playing often involves throwing, hitting, kicking. Fine when he’s outside playing soccer or baseball. Not so fine when we’re inside the house and he’s picking up random things and throwing them. His impulse control is sorely lacking, but I also think his brain is just moving too fast for his body to keep up. I need to work with him to slow him down so he can actually process what’s going on and make better choices.
  • Emily is fine either way! She doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other if she has a screen. This doesn’t surprise me, as she’s never been one to go for the electronic toys as much, and she’s usually happy either playing with her animals, making a puzzle, coloring, or some other quiet, easygoing task.
  • For me, some tasks are way too boring without a screen! I have gotten into the habit of multi-tasking with screens. I will have a TV show or movie running while I do tedious or monotonous tasks. It was hard going back to the time before I did this, when some tasks would nearly make me fall asleep!
  • I need to reset my defaults. As with Avery having screen time as his automatic entertainment default, I was using it as a diversion and time-killing default. I would have a screen while eating breakfast, a screen while getting work done, a screen while the kids were playing outside. I’ve been using screens too often to fill up those little bits of time that sneak into our days, and yet I would complain that I didn’t have time to read (I’ve checked out books from the library, renewed them, and still not gotten through more than a chapter or two). If I can keep the screen off, perhaps my mind can slow down a bit, and I can catch up on other things. It’s going to take more than a week to really get there, though.

I’ve read that some people, having experienced the screen-free week challenge, will opt to keep it going. They will, perhaps, choose to go screen-free during the school or work week, and only have screens from Friday evening through Sunday evening. While an interesting concept, I don’t know if my family could do that. Avery truly does love his screen time, and while we do need to cut back overall, that is truly what he enjoys doing. So I think at this point I just need to evaluate when and how much screen time is appropriate, and go from there.

As this crazy week comes to a close, I have a lot to figure out. I also need to catch up on rest! Unfortunately I have more ideas and research than I have time, and I have to figure that out, too! I see many more crazy weeks in my future…

It’s Gonna Be Tough

For a while now I’ve been letting my fear or lack of motivation get the best of me. My projects have suffered, my confidence has suffered, and I’ve been disappointed in myself. But now I’m determined. I’ve set deadlines for myself, and goals for myself, and I’m trying my darnedest to make it happen. And, slowly, I’m starting to feel like my old self again.

This coming week is going to be a bit of a test. And it will take a lot of willpower and determination to get me through. Why? Two reasons: deadlines and a new challenge.

The deadlines I’m referring to are the goals I set myself for May 1. I need to have my A Life You Want website up and running, and I need to have my kitchen and bathrooms cleaned. Since I’m not quite as far along as I would have liked, it will be a struggle to meet the deadline. But I’m still determined. I have made progress in all of the goals: I’ve worked on the kitchen, tackled one of the bathrooms (though not completely), and worked on the website. I was originally going to have all of today to myself (Kevin was supposed to have the kids), so I probably would have had a much easier time of things, but we switched days, and now I have plans with the kids (it was my idea — I kind of shot myself in the foot there). Now I have to scramble to get it all done in time. Can I still do it? We shall find out!

The new challenge I mentioned? Well, this week I have decided to participate in national Screen-Free Week. If you want to learn more, you can head to the website: www.screenfree.org. The basic challenge is to refrain from screen-related entertainment for a week. You’re still “allowed” to use screens for work and school, but you challenge yourself to avoid screens any other time. No games, no Netflix, no turning to the screen for mindless entertainment and passing the time. The idea is to rediscover all of the great activities you can do without screens, and pull yourself away from a screen addiction.

I decided to take on the challenge because Avery (and myself, if I’m honest) has gotten a bit too attached to screens. I mentioned the challenge and he started crying. It’s the entertainment he turns to whenever he looks for something to do. And half the time I don’t even know if he’s enjoying it — it’s just his default. He needs screens in the morning, in the car, in the evening. And there are so many other things he enjoys that he misses out on because he always reaches for a tablet or phone or TV.

For me, I’ve turned to screens too often as a distraction, as a way to keep from getting bored. But what I’ve noticed? I waste a lot of time and miss out on things, too. I say I don’t have time to read, yet I have time to check Facebook a million times a day? And when I don’t have the option to have a screen, such as when I’m driving, I am able to think so much better. I come up with new ideas, or figure things out, or solve problems. I need to back away from the phone and computer to clear my head.

Now, of course, cutting out screens completely is not an option. My job relies on a computer, for one. I also need screens to work on my businesses and websites. So what I’ve decided is that I will “allow” myself screens at work (though only work-related screens — no watching Hulu while I’m working), and I will go online for a half hour in the morning, and a half hour in the evening. This will enable me to catch up on anything business-related I may have missed, plus work a bit on my websites. I am allowing myself access to e-mail and messaging, but no Facebook in between, no games, and no videos.

There are a few benefits of this. First, it will give me time to reconnect with my kids. I don’t spend enough time playing with them. I’m expecting to have fun, whether I’m excited about the prospect or not. I suspect I will also come up with a bunch of new ideas (not that I need more, but it keeps my mind sharp!). Also, it will encourage me to focus on my cleaning and non-screen tasks – and will show how much time I really am wasting with a screen. I’m calling this a detox and reset: a way to kill any addiction and reset our defaults to a time when we weren’t so dependent on screens.

The challenge starts tomorrow (April 30) and ends Sunday (May 6). My first deadline is Tuesday (May 1). It’s going to be a crazy week! But through it all I’m pushing myself, changing my ways of thinking, and building confidence — even if I’m not completely successful. Progress is a win! And I’ve already made more progress over the last couple of weeks than I had in a while.

It won’t be easy, but I’m determined. Wish me luck!

Bit By Bit

Bit by bit, I’m trying to pull myself back into confidence and motivation. I’m trying to push down any doubt and anxiety and do things. So far I’ve written down several big projects and set deadlines for them, with one big overall deadline of the beginning of the school year. Why then? Because I’m hoping to start grad school, and I’ll need the time after that to focus on school work.

I’ve created deadlines at the beginning of each month, from May 1 through September 1 (with the note that the September 1 deadline is actually when school starts, since I don’t know the exact start date — though it will likely be at the end of August). I have deadlines for business projects and deadlines for cleaning projects, and, yes, they overlap. But that’s simply because some of my “free time” is more conducive to one project than another (especially when I take energy levels into consideration).

The first deadline is, of course May 1, and it is quickly approaching. What’s on the list? For business-type projects, I am finally finishing up the A Life You Want website. I’ve even announced on the site that it will be launching on May 1, to hold me accountable (not that many, if any, people visit the site, but still…). A Life You Want has remained on my to do list, partly because I have a book out there that coordinates with it, and partly because I think it’s important and has potential to help people. But I want to see it DONE! While I do plan on posting on the blog moving forward, the overall site will remain mostly static, so it will not require much work once it’s up and running. So that will be a big relief once it’s finally completed. For cleaning projects, I am finishing up my kitchen (the big stuff — I realize that dishes never completely get finished, and I will have to keep up with regular maintenance), and I am deep-cleaning my bathrooms.

Other deadlines are as follows:

  • June 1: Apply for grad school (the deadline for the fall semester is June 1), and clean the library and playroom. I also have Usborne Books & More paperwork to take care of.
  • July 1: Get Children’s Reading World up and running (I’ve made a list of what this entails), and clean the living room (if you saw the state of my living room, you would understand why this gets its own month!).
  • August 1: Update Creative Endeavors inventory and web presence, and clean/create the basement playroom.
  • September 1: Clean the rest of the basement

Of course there are other important tasks that need to be handled along the way, like potty training Emily and figuring out her preschool, signing up both kids for summer camp, tackling the yard, assorted Usborne Books & More tasks, and more, plus miscellaneous to do items. I’ll definitely be busy over the next few months!

Now you may be saying to yourself: “this sounds like more planning, not more doing. Where’s the action?” Well, I have been taking action, as well. I have finished typing up the original blog posts for A Life You Want, and typed up a couple of the articles I have written for it, as well. I have worked a bit on the kitchen. I have looked into financial aid for grad school. And I have called a potential school for Emily and gotten an application. And, though they’re not on the deadline list, I have two vendor events scheduled this week for Usborne Books & More: one today, and one on Friday evening (and I’m hoping Friday’s event will lead to bigger things, but we’ll have to see). It may not be as much as I would like, but it’s a start. And if I can keep going this week, I know I can make serious progress. With determination, I know I can even reach my deadline goal. And isn’t that the point? I work well with a deadline. So having one should help, right?

Along the way, I’ve already felt the pull to do the tasks that are later on my deadline calendar. And I knew that would be the hardest part. I want to do everything and get it done NOW! But that wasn’t working, and it’s not practical. So I’m using whatever willpower I have left to discipline myself and keep myself on track. With a little luck and determination I’ll be checking stuff off before I know it!

Overcoming Fear

When I was younger, I had no problem jumping into new endeavors. Starting my own business, self-publishing a bunch of books, tackling any idea that came my way. Somewhere along the way I became scared, or hesitant, or reluctant to keep up that attitude. I’ve discussed this before. Maybe the long stream of failures made me gun-shy, or I’m simply older and wiser now, and more inclined to realize the possibly negative repercussions of my actions – especially since kids are now involved. Or maybe life has just gotten busier, and my confidence fell by the wayside. Whatever the reason, I find this change in attitude is taking its toll. Suddenly it’s as if I’m too scared to take real action on anything.

Nothing is more frustrating than have things I need to do — things I want to do — and feeling like I’m not making any progress in any of them. I finally know what course I want my life to take: what I want to do professionally and with my kids and in my home. And yet I’m stuck getting nowhere.

I can make excuses: I’m too tired, too overwhelmed. I don’t have time. There are more pressing things that need to be handled. Yet somehow I find time to check social media and e-mail a million times a day. I have the time and energy to plan and tweak and make lists. So what’s really holding me back? Is it fear? What can I do about it?

I think there are a few issues here that I need to address:

  • Fear of failure — and of success. What if I fall on my face again, this time with what I believe is my “purpose”? What if I succeed — and discover this is not what I want to do, or that it’s more than I bargained for?
  • Uncertainty of priorities. Obviously my kids come first, yet there are so many other things that I want and have to do that I’m not sure what to tackle first, which leads to my getting nowhere, doing a little of this and a little of that until I’m just frustrated that nothing’s getting completed. But what do I do first?
  • Staying healthy, and addressing personal needs. Often the times I have available to tackle my projects are when I’m most tired: early morning or evenings, when the kids are in bed. At that point all I want to do is relax. But where do I draw the line? Is it just a question of determining how important the tasks are? Or of finding a balance?

As with everything, my way to figure out the answers is to think about them. As a problem-solving introvert with a knack for looking at all sides of an issue, I can often evaluate the problem in my mind and process what will be the best course of action. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Game plan:

  • Limit my social media and other screen time. Have scheduled times when I can check Facebook and e-mail, and stick to it.
  • Push myself to stick to my planner. I’ve worked hard to create a daily and weekly schedule that fits my needs and wants. And yet I keep deviating from it. That has to stop, at least most of the time.
  • Set deadlines. Look at my many projects and determine when I would realistically like (or need) to have them done (ASAP is not an option!). Then, prioritize based on urgency and tackle them, one by one (or two by two, depending on the projects and time availability).
  • Fake it ’til I make it! In the beginning, especially, it will be difficult to have the confidence and motivation. I think (I hope!) this will change with time.

Once I get back into the habit of getting things done, and I start seeing progress being made, I think I will feel better. At least that’s what I’m hoping! I hope that getting closer to my goals will keep me going. I’m tired of being stuck

The fear and uncertainty are still there, and they likely will be for a while. But if I can prove to myself that success is an option, perhaps they will fade away. If I can show myself that I really can reach my goals and get where I want to be, then perhaps I will once again be confident, motivated, and happy. What have I got to lose?