Pandemic Self-Care

Everything is so hard right now. I say this as a person with extreme privilege, and I admit I feel so much guilt for even sharing that things are hard when I have been more than lucky during these crazy times. That guilt has kept me quiet, especially online. I decided to delete a few of the social apps from my phone and only check for work (which is my job, so I can’t completely disengage), but it wasn’t a planned hiatus. I just really haven’t known what to say.

I still have a job. So does my husband. I am still working from home. We have good Wifi access. My kids are schooling from home indefinitely. It isn’t easy (especially as I have become the de facto home teacher, which is certainly NOT in my wheelhouse), but many days it’s not totally awful either. I only know a few people who have gotten sick, and all are doing well now. All of the grandparents are okay.

And yet, it’s still hard. The days feel endless and also there is no time to get anything done. I have a friend who described having kids at home remote learning all week like having toddlers again. Every time I get started on one task or another, I’m drug away with a “Mooooommmmmm!” I have been able to keep up my productivity at work by logging in after hours or on the weekends to catch up. It’s the biggest election season of my lifetime, and I am the chair of a political action committee. I feel like I’m constantly working, advocating, teaching or parenting…and it’s all in the same space. And with a teenager and tween in our home, there are lots of emotions flying around. Our kids have handled this better than I could have imagined, but it still really sucks. I’d guess we are more cautious than about 80% of the people they know when it comes to social distancing, which means I’m the mom who says no a lot. In the last few weeks we’ve opened up our bubble, but we still aren’t allowing the kinds of activities that many of their friends are participating in, and that is hard. They miss their friends, their schools, their feeling of normalcy.

Me too.

And knowing this doesn’t have an end in sight just makes it all so much more difficult. I am, as always, very active during this political season, but again, I’m keeping it offline, at least on my personal accounts. I’m not sure why….maybe because I am sick of preaching to my own liberal bubble or I don’t want to argue with strangers on the internet anymore, but I haven’t felt the need to post and share and advise and comment. I have campaigned for amazing candidates, dropped literature on doorsteps, made phone calls, donated funds, and done what I can. I have reached out to everyone in my life to make sure they have a voting plan. I can barely watch the news, but I do listen to at least 10 minutes of NPR a day so I feel informed. I am trying. This marathon that began in 2016 is nearing it’s (hopeful) end, and I am more than winded. If you have a friend who is politically active, reach out to them. We are very tired.

Last year around this time I was in a major car accident. I sustained some injuries to my neck and back, which luckily cleared up by early this year. But in the last two weeks, the pain has returned, seemingly out of nowhere. Last week I was laying in bed reading when my sweet son came into the room and said he had a surprise for me. I didn’t want to get up, but I drug my tired body from my bed and down the stairs. He had set up an elaborate “spa” in our living room. He stacked pillows on the floor, had moved all my house plants to fill the room, and had rain sounds playing from the TV. He told me to lay down and then proceeded to give me what may be the best back massage I’ve ever had!

Last night he pulled me aside again, and this time he had set up his spa in my bedroom. He had built a cave out of pillows, and he had me lay down and stick my head inside. Inside this pillow fort, he had set up his iPad, and had it playing episodes of one of my favorite shows, “The Good Place.” He then rubbed my back while simultaneously hand-feeding me candy corn from a bowl he put next to the bed. This kid….

Everything is hard. But everything is okay too. I am just trying to keep swimming. And when all else fails, candy corn.

*Photos in this post by Sahsha Kochanowicz

Lucy in the Snow 2017

Snow Days and Chasing Slow

Lucy in the Snow 2017

The last few weeks have been short ones around here. We got back to a somewhat normal schedule after the holidays, just to be slammed with more days off of school for the kids than I can count.

Just kidding, I’ve counted. Twice.

Basically with the combination of national holidays and inservice/teacher learning days, we have four-day school weeks from now until mid-February. Which, let’s face it, isn’t ideal. Not only does this make my work schedule difficult, it is hard on the kids as well! It’s almost impossible for any of us to get into a groove when our schedule is all over the place.

When I’m faced with these types of working mom problems, I tend to get extremely over-stressed and anxious. I find myself making lists in my head of everything I won’t be able to do because I won’t have the time. I torture myself by looking at the social media feeds of my competitors and colleagues, seeing all their perfectly lit images and the work they have been doing, and instead of cheering them on, I feel resentful. I worry that I’m falling behind, yet again, and that I’ll never get ahead of the game. I decide that I’m destined to fail, resign myself to my bed with some fuzzy socks, ratty PJs and Netflix. Why bother even trying, right?

WRONG. Because I don’t have to live fast in order to find success, and the whole idea of hustle equating happiness just doesn’t resonate for me anymore. When my kids have a day off school, I enjoy being with them. I like stepping away from the computer and being present as we throw snowballs at each others heads or read books. I don’t feel lazy when I’m in my PJs with them until 11 a.m. I feel happy. Joyful, even!

Tate in the Snow 2017

So why I am I torturing myself? When they were babies and I worked out of the home full time, I felt guilty for missing all these moments. When I started my own business and they were in preschool, I felt guilty because I couldn’t work as much as I wanted to. Now I’m feeling guilty when they have days off elementary school. I keep waiting for the next phase of life, when things slow down, but I’m starting to think that’s NEVER gonna happen. There will always be something pulling me in one direction while another is pushing me the opposite way.

This year I am planning to focus more on being present, but also on listening to my inner self when it comes to my schedule and work. I am finding doubling down on hustle when it comes to work isn’t always resulting in success. Instead, when I focus on doing what feels right in all facets of my life (working, creating, mothering, reading, meditating, eating chocolate, whatever) the success seems to follow. Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked to read the new, beautiful book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, which really speaks to this topic. Erin chronicles her journey from a fast life, to a slow life and back again…and her conclusions aren’t what I expected. Instead of being a book about slowing down your life, this book was more about the question of why do we believe we have to have any particular sort of life for it to be a happy one? I related so much to her journey, and it made me think twice about my goals. Do I want a fast life? Do I want to be a minimalist? Do I want to disconnect from the internet and live in a yurt? Do I want to move to New York City and take my kids to school on the subway? Do I want neither? Both?

Chasing Slow

Do I have to decide?

Maybe we can just be balancing along the middle…sometimes wanting to throw out everything we own because the clutter is strangling us and other times buying a shirt on sale just because it looked cute online. Who knows? But for now, I can only be where I am. And I am a mom of two kids who are growing into grown-ups faster than I can fathom, so if they have a day off school, I’m probably needed on the front lines of the snowball fight. Afterward, when they are sipping on hot cocoa and fighting over marshmallows, I’ll likely sneak away for a little editing session or to answer a few emails. I’m not perfect, but luckily, no one is.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

If you’re looking for more info on this topic, the podcast “The Lively Show” is an amazing listen. I recommend starting with this episode!

Kansas City Moms Blog Secondary Infertility

KCMB : Our Journey Through Secondary Infertility

Kansas City Moms Blog Secondary Infertility

I’m over on the Kansas City Moms Blog today talking about my experience with secondary infertility. This is something I’ve written about before, but never in as much detail. I think it took a few years for the sting of it all to wear off and for me to get to a point where I could talk about it. There was so much depression and disappointment in those years, it took a while for me to feel normal again. As a women, I felt like my body was broken. And as I’d had one child already, I felt like my own infertility issues were not as important. I worried people would think I was selfish because I already had a child, while so many others who struggle with infertility don’t.

“Months went by with no positive results. At this point, my mental and emotional state began to crumble. I wasn’t sure what to do, or who to reach out to. Most infertility groups were geared toward women who had no children. My one healthy pregnancy locked me out. I felt guilt over my sadness, thinking I should just be quiet and be grateful for the child I DID have. I was deeply depressed and confused. I felt like it was a cruel joke, that I could get pregnant when I didn’t want to, but now that we were financially stable and trying for a child, I couldn’t make it happen. My husband was supportive, but he couldn’t understand exactly what I was going through, and in turn, I stopped confiding in him. I felt like a failure.”

You can read more (including our happy ending to our fertility journey) over at the Kansas City Moms Blog.

Joy to the World (or something)


Anyone else feeling burnt out by the holidays? I’m sure it’s just me, wandering the house at 2 a.m. mumbling incoherently about broken packaging tape dispensers and running out of ribbon. Where is all the ribbon, y’all?! It didn’t just disappear. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I bet the dog ate it all. He has an odd look about him.

Last year, I white-knuckled through the holidays with a forced grin on my face. It was a weird, strange, difficult year, and acting my normal holly, jolly self seemed wrong. Like that pair of jeans that was just a little too tight. I wanted to button them up, but that pinched look of pain on my face was obvious even with that silly smile I was wearing. This year is so different. Different and wonderful and joyous and lively and did I mention wonderful? I feel like myself again, only better or more childlike or something. I am that annoying mom who is super excited to make our Elf on the Shelf take a bath in marshmallows. I know, I know. I can’t stand myself either.

But along with this giddy glee of the holidays, my perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head. I often refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist (amongst other things), and it’s times like this when I lose a little control. I am so in love with this season, I want to do every single thing I can to squeeze every last bit of fun out of it, even if all that squeezing isn’t actually that fun to begin with!

For example, I love putting up Christmas decorations. I just adore getting all those twinkle lights out and hanging them all over my house. If it were up to me, we’d have twinkle lights all year ’round. So I pulled out all the decorations, starting with the beast, our giant, pre-lit, fake Christmas tree. Now, I know, real trees are the better smelling option, but our dog eats ribbon and I’m sure he’d destroy a real tree. Plus, if you’d seen my houseplants, you wouldn’t want me to be in charge of an indoor tree. Our pre-lit tree is about six years old and not one light works. Not one. Last year I swore when I took down the tree in January I’d remove all those broken lights, but then January came and I was tired, so the lights stayed put.

A week ago I cursed my January 2014-self, and decided once and for all, I was removing those dang broken lights. I had an hour to kill while the kids were busy, so I set to it….and five hours later (!!!) with cuts all up and down my arms from fake tree branches, I was done. I probably was legally insane by this point, but I was on a roll, so I kept going. Why not, I couldn’t get crazier, right?


An hour later, as I cursed and yelled at a bulb-lit sign that said “joy,” which wouldn’t stay put on the mantle, Lucy mentioned, over the strumming of the Vince Gauraldi Trio, it was a little bit funny how I was screaming and cussing at a “joy” sign. Point taken, kiddo.


Since that fateful day, I’ve been trying to keep it as simple as possible. And when I get too overwhelmed, I’ve been stopping. I stop, I sit, I watch Love Actually. Because, friends, it turns out, love actually is all around. As long as all the bulbs on my tree stay lit, that is.

Gratitude, Silliness, and the Lessening of Obscene Hand Gestures

A few months ago I joined a gratitude group. Yes, I know it’s all a little woo woo, but for this recovering cynic, staying positive can be pretty hard work. So when I heard some friends were starting a group all about thankfulness, I was totally in. I love journaling about the happy things in my life, but because I’m only accountable to myself, I tend to let the task slide in favor of seemingly more fun items (like rewatching the entire Fringe series from beginning to end because I’d forgotten how incredibly hot Pacey Witter Peter Bishop looks in a sharp peacoat). Soon I’m grumpy, surly and an all around Grinch, and before you can say “Are you PMSing or something, Megan?” I remember I haven’t been very grateful lately. Mystery solved. Someone call Angela Lansbury.

So I joined this gratitude group and basically we just send little messages to each other via Facebook where we tell the others something we’re grateful for that particular day. Everyone comments on each other’s sharing and it’s really quite lovely and uplifting. Sometimes I share simple things, like when Tate finally napped or when Lulu rode her two-wheeler for the first time. Other times I share deeply personal items, like when I looked around me and realized my life, which was in such chaos not so long ago, felt good and real for the first time in a long, long time.

I don’t know when gratitude changed my life, but I’m sure that it has. A few days ago, a car cut me off on the highway and instead of honking my horn and waving obscene hand gestures, I took a deep breath and told myself that person must be on the way to something really important. Maybe their wife was in labor or maybe their kid was throwing up at the nurse’s office in school? Who knows? I just sent a little prayer into Universe that they get wherever they are headed safely. I know, right? I can’t believe myself either. Who am I?!

I can tell you I am not a person for whom this comes easily, and I’m just as likely as you to scoff at the silliness of it. But I’m also a person whose blood pressure is lower and sleeps better at night. My brain is not wild with the craziness of the ungrateful (and therefore always needing MORE MORE MORE) person I was before. I am not looking to fill some hole in my life with more stuff or more people or more food or more throw pillows or more blog posts…I’m all filled up. Is this because of gratitude? Maybe. Can I prove it? Nope. But I’m gonna keep my glass half-full anyway, just in case.

@dallasclayton just gets it. #rainbows

Image by Dallas Clayton

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