mindful

Just One Thing

I did something yesterday afternoon that I haven’t done in a while. I sat down with my daughter and we played together, uninterrupted for about half an hour. Sadly, this rarely happens anymore. When I play with her, she usually doesn’t receive my full attention. The other portion is given to her baby brother, cleaning and chores, school work, and the one that I feel most guilty about: my phone or laptop.

We enjoyed our time together. We played with her Calico Critters toys out on the backyard deck of the family’s home away from home in the Truckee Tahoe area. We were surrounded by nature, peaceful weather, and quiet. I forced myself to not think about anything else. I lived in the moment (ish) and let go of all of the surrounding thoughts that I usually can’t turn off. I snapped some pictures, and tried to get right back to what we were doing, since my phone can easily take over during these times If I let it.

The next day, I was able to enjoy some rare quality time with my own mom. It was just us. I realized it had been so long since we had done this. It was brief, only a few hours. We went to the gym together and then to the grocery store. We caught up on the latest updates of family and friends. We did some people watching, debriefed about it, and laughed. She does so much as the primary caregiver for my kids while I’m at work, and we are so blessed to have her. I see her everyday, but the times that we just get to hang out anymore are few and far between. The gym and grocery store just turned into amazing memories for my paperless mental scrapbook.  

Spending exclusive time with my daughter and my mom individually reminded me again about how important it is to value people rather than things. Sometimes things do need to be a part of it. I can’t play Calico Critters without the actual Calico Critters. However,  I can give up the other items that aren’t as important at the moment. Time to set aside the phone, papers, and the Swiffer for a bit.

So here I go with a very risky new habit shift. I used to be proud of how well I can multitask. Things get done so efficiently when Jenn is in the house. Or classroom. I realize now that it comes with a small cost that can add up over time. My brain gets strained a bit each time I try to do more than 2 things at once. Maybe that’s why I feel less focused and more disorganized lately. The people who really need my undivided attention such as my kids, my husband, and my students may also feel the effects in the long run.

I think it is time for me to outgrow my multi-tasking mentality, because soon, my daughter will outgrow her toys and her tolerance for her mom.

Calico
The epitome of happiness. 

Until then,

We will see if my home and classroom completely fall apart if I try not to multitask for at least some part of the day. I have a feeling life will go either way.  

declutter

You Are Allowed One Personal Item

I had one of the dreaded teacher dreams last night. Thanks a lot teacher brain, there are still 16 days of summer left before I begin year 14. At least I got an idea for a post. The following however, is not the scary dream I had. It’s reality. Enjoy.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my arrival to work in the morning on a typical school day. My teacher bag rests uncomfortably on my shoulder. The straps get all twisted and dig into my skin. The bag itself is overloaded. I have my plan book in there. I like the really cute, thick spiral notebook kind that has all the bells and whistles and stickers and pockets. There’s a pencil bag full of writing tools too. A stack of papers that need to be graded is stuffed along the sides. They might go on an extended ride in the bag for a few days before I can finally sit down to grade them at home. The current novel or picture book that I’m planning on reading to my class is wedged somewhere in between papers and other items.

Of course, in addition, I need my personal purse with my wallet, phone, sunglasses, and other necessities. So now we are talking about some bag inside another bag action happening. Sometimes there’s even an additional shopping bag in the mix that is full of classroom items that I just couldn’t help but buy because they were a good deal.

All of these items hang on my shoulders, forearms, wrists. The collection also includes my lunch bag and the drinking vessel that contains my caffeinated beverage of the day. Sometimes my laptop bag is hanging on for dear life on the tip of one of my fingers. The all important 40 oz Hydro Flask is also either crammed in the teacher bag or hanging on to a different finger, testing the limits of strength and flexibility. Heaven forbid I should become dehydrated during this awkward, imbalanced walk across the parking lot.

Teacher bags2
It’s not as fun as it looks.

If I planned ahead properly, my teacher keys are already around my neck on a lanyard. If they’re not, I have to stop, drop, and dig. Walking up to the entrance of school is quite the production on most days. I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me because she goes to school here too. Sometimes there’s a mini set of helping hands available for the small fee of a tiny sip of mommy’s iced coffee or energy drink. Oops.    

Once again, a collection of stuff has added an extra challenge, and literally extra weight to one of my daily routines. It hardly seems fair to feel this flustered, as well as experience an ever so slight degree of physical pain before the school day officially begins.

When things get really out of hand, I bust out my rickety old plastic fold-up rolling cart. It’s hideous. My back and shoulders find some temporary relief. Then I have to end up spending additional morning minutes unloading the thing before the bell rings. My back is strained again. No carts or wagons for me, I just won’t do it. Driving up to my classroom to unload stuff and re-parking the car isn’t happening either.

So the big question is, what is actually really necessary to haul to school everyday? I’m not getting any younger, and 40 (*gasp) is around the corner in a couple of years. It would be nice to have a functioning neck and shoulders throughout the remainder of my career, and somewhat healthy posture. It’s not a goal of mine to end up naturally standing lopsided without even realizing it because my body is growing accustomed to being weighed down by bags. Can I possibly lighten the load and eliminate some items?

This school year, I’ll be exploring some new options and routines in an effort to be kind to my body, while also cutting down on the amount of stuff that I cart back and forth to school. Ideas that I’d like to explore:

  • Ditch the actual physical plan book and do the work digitally (scary!!)
  • Be more mindful when buying supplies or items for the classroom. Keep an updated inventory of what I already have.
  • Manage time efficiently during contracted hours and take less work home (I hear the scoffs already)
  • Spy on other teachers in the parking lot and find the ones who don’t carry much at all. Interrogate them and find out how they are able to roll up to school and not look like they’re about to take a week long trip somewhere.

Feel free to comment with some ideas or suggestions on how I can still work efficiently and carry less. Extra points if you’re a teacher! 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy the next  16 days because it’s STILL SUMMER. Many props to my teacher friends and all the kiddos who have already started their year. 

declutter

Things Always Come Back

Things

I purchased this wall decoration while my husband and I were in the process of selling our first home. We worked hard to stage the house for potential buyers. That meant decluttering and shoving all of our possessions behind closed doors. Our realtor and the internet highly suggested to “depersonalize” our house. We did our best, but we were still living in it at the same time, so it was stressful. We stripped the walls of any photos or items that would show evidence that we had jobs, a kid, a life. I put a framed wedding photo away and replaced it with this “thing”.

I knew that I was on the verge of a huge transition that would involve dealing with ALL THE THINGS. All the things in our little house that would have to be sorted, trashed, recycled, shredded, given away, packed up, (burned?). Buying this knick-knack was a joke. I was entertained by the irony of it. I also thought that maybe it would help me put the message into action, and it would magically help me with the craziness that was ahead of us. Did it give me the strength to just get rid of everything and start fresh in a new house? No. Obviously it came back to prank me again as I’m purging away in our current home.

I had time for Bed Bath and Beyond on that fateful day. Looking back, I probably should have just taken my daughter to the park down the street instead. I was stress shopping and wanted some retail therapy. When I swiped my card, I was fully aware that I was actually spending money on this thing that encourages people not to have things. I fully believe in the message that this tchotchke promotes, especially now, as I try to shift some habits. I don’t need it written on the wall. Or shoved in a cabinet. Or on the floor where it currently is now because my daughter took my picture with it and then we moved on. I better make final arrangements for this thing.

Until then…

If there’s ever time for Bed Bath and Beyond, I will make alternative plans.