Why I Blog

I know everyone who blogs has their own reasons for doing so, and I don’t think any are better or worse than the others (unless you’re using your blog to spread misinformation or cause harm, but let’s assume for the sake of this post that that’s not the case, OK?). 

But let me tell you the reason I blog – and the reasons I don’t. 

I didn’t start a blog (this one or the many other blogs now peacefully resting in the blog graveyard) for fame or acknowledgement. 

I didn’t start a blog to become an influencer – I also don’t buy or recommend enough stuff for that to make sense, but that’s besides the point. 

I didn’t start a blog to show the world what a brilliant writer I am or to put out a perfect product. 

I started a blog, specifically this blog, to create a habit – consistency in a time where nothing feels consistent, some routine in a time when everything feels upside down. I started a blog to build my creative writing muscle, to keep it in shape, to remind myself that when I’m not struggling with writing, I actually really enjoy putting words on paper in my own way. It’s public practice, a forum where I put out imperfect work and work on getting over my fears that if I release something flawed into the wild that I’ll be incredibly embarrassed or mad at myself or that someone will hate it and tell me so (none of these things, for the record, have happened – yet). I started a blog to hold myself accountable, to finish what I started in a very public way, even if no one else actually cares. In short, I started a blog for me. 

Why do you blog? (Or why don’t you?)

The Six Podcasts Getting Me Through the Pandemic

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I don’t know about you, but before COVID-19, I was not a huge podcast person. I had a few I listened to if I was out walking or when we took long road trips, but on my commute or when I was relaxing at home, I preferred reading books or listening to music. However, being stuck at home all day, and, now, not having a full-time job, I have leaned into listening to podcasts while I take care of stuff around the house or draw really bad crayon art with my son.

Here are the podcasts that I’ve really enjoyed the past eight (!!!) months:

  1. What Should I Read Next?”: I am a huge bookworm, and this podcast is the perfect escape during these unprecedented times (do we think that’s going to be called as the phrase of the year?). The host, Anne, has the most soothing voice, never fails to tap into what her guests might like to read, and I finish every episode with at least four new books I want to read (the library has stopped letting me put books on hold). 
  2. Up First”: As a person who lives in the nation’s capital, I am surrounded by news, and I have a hard time really shutting that off. But lately, while I want to stay informed, I can really only handle so much, so earlier this year, I turned to an old favorite. With most episodes clocking in under 15 minutes, NPR’s Up First is the perfect little hit of news every day so I know what’s going on, but don’t spiral over all of the details.
  3. Be There In Five”: If you like pop-culture deep dives and reminiscing about the 90s and 2000s as only millennials can, then this is the podcast for you. This one-woman show delves into all of our fluffiest interests in the most intellectual way, and I always feel a little smarter after listening, or at least a little more seen, than I did before I started the episode. The episodes are pretty long, so I never had enough time to really get into these eps before, but now, with longer stretches of time in my days, it’s one of the podcasts I look forward to most.  
  4. The Slowdown”: Feeling stressed? Over stimulated? This short podcast is one of my favorite things to turn on when I’m heading out for a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air and clear my head, maybe get my creativity flowing again. Each episode starts with host and Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, reflecting on life recently, and ends with her reading a related poem. Also, not for nothing, if Tracy K. Smith launched her own meditation app, I would download immediately. Her voice is that calming. This podcast is currently on hiatus, which makes me so sad, but I highly recommend listening to the extensive back catalog. 
  5. Forever35”: One of the first podcasts I really got into, and it never fails. Love the guests, love the friendly banter between Kate and Doree – this podcast just always makes me happy. Even when they’re talking about heavier topics, it feels like candy for my brain, and for that I am incredibly grateful. 
  6. Higher Learning”: I am not a Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, but I watched Rachel Lindsay’s season because I think she seems wonderful. So when I was looking for new podcasts to listen to during the pandemic, I gave this one a listen and have really been enjoying it. She and her cohost Van Lathan get into both current events and pop culture, but in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve just doomscrolled through Instagram and Twitter like you did before the election (oh, just me?). As I’m not a huge pro sports fan, I normally skip ahead on those convos, but I love hearing their takes and their banter on everything else.

New Pod Honorable Mention:

How Did You End Up There?”: Full disclosure, I was a guest on Jenn’s podcast (more on that later!), but even if I weren’t, I would still love to hear about all of the roads people have taken to get to the careers they’re in now. Quickly becoming a fave over here, especially as I work to sort out my own professional life! 

Are you a podcast listener? What are you listening to?

Can I Tell You How I’m Turning Into My Mother?

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Can I tell you how I’m turning into my mother? 

I remember weekend mornings, my mom the first one up. Carrying a mug of coffee from room to room, her hair not quite in place, wearing her terrycloth pink bathrobe over flannel pajamas, almost year round, as we figured out what to do for the day. As we got older, Saturdays and Sundays were more scheduled with swim meets and tennis matches and dashing off to see friends, but the image of these weekend mornings at home is seared into my mind. 

Nowadays, since we never leave the house, every day feels like a weekend, and I feel myself slipping more and more into that memory. The other day, my son asked me to play and we sat on the ground with blocks, him with his water cup, me with a mug full of no-longer-hot coffee. We built a train and pretended to race it along an imaginary track, as I breathed my coffee breath his way while we giggled. 

The other day, I ordered my second pair of flannel PJs for the holidays, after slipping into the first pair early, in the midst of my election anxiety, and discovering what a comfort they were. I also ordered a plush bathrobe for myself for Christmas (which my husband has agreed to wrap so I can pretend to be surprised and delighted in December), though mine is chenille and gray, because the idea of donning what amounts to a wearable blanket, during these months of endless, dayless days, sounded pretty good. Maybe Mom had the right idea. 

As much as I’m looking forward to a return to normal (whatever that will mean), with activities and restaurants and daycare, I’m trying to soak these mornings up, where I feel at least a little like my mom, and wonder if she felt like me, watching her children grow and figure things out as she sipped her coffee before really starting the day. 

I don’t know if this is just the circle of life doing its thing, or if I’m turning into my own special iteration of my mom, but I’m holding my lukewarm mug of coffee and these memories close.

Lately: A Few Favorite Recent Reads

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Whew. What a week, huh? Now that we’re all taking a collective breath and a short hiatus from panic donating to various candidates and rage posting on social media, I thought I might share a few things I have actually taken pleasure in reading recently. Partly because I like sharing, and partly because my brain is still mush. Enjoy! 

  1. The vicious cycle of never-ending laundry”: as someone who actually likes doing laundry (yes, I actually fold it the same day it’s washed!), learning the history of it and the lack of advancement over the last 50 years or so was fascinating. Laundry is still an endless chore that we haven’t really turned into a luxurious experience. But my favorite line?  “I always think about the change that came with the advent of electricity,” says Jessamyn Neuhaus […]. “Electricity could ease the burden of women keeping house, but also when they turned on those electric lights, a lot of people were like, ‘Shit, my house is so dirty.’” 
  2. For now“: I love Nora and everything she writes, but I really felt this. Doing less, or at least not doing more, in the middle of a pandemic isn’t exactly a new thought during this time, but the way she lays it out is lovely. I’m ok doing less right now and not adding anything to my to-do list. 
  3. 22 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Into Your Own Weird, Perfect Holiday”: after a lot of weighing the pros and cons (and now, surging COVID numbers!), we have decided to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving as a family of three. So I love so many of these ideas, especially those related to giving back and learning about who lived where we live before it was “discovered.” And though we’re probably ordering in for the meal itself (pulling together a full spread in a tiny house with a very tall toddler who can reach literally everything on counters and the stovetop sounds like a nightmare), I’m definitely going to make a few pies so we can do a little dessert competition.
  4. Tenisha Yancey Is a Michigan House Rep With a Felony Record—and It’s Helping Her Design Legislation“: I loved this interview, partly because I’m from Michigan and partly because I think everyone deserves a second chance, and this shows the power of doing just that. 
  5. The One Dish: Thanksgiving 2020 and How to Deal”: Another Thanksgiving article. I loved reading what various food folks and entertainers consider their must-have Thanksgiving dish, the one that makes them feel some semblance of home or normal, even when times are as weird as they are now.

Have you read anything you’ve really enjoyed lately? Share with me so I can read something other than the rollercoaster ride that is political news in the US!

NaNoWriMo 2020: Third Time’s the Charm

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This November, I’m incredibly anxious about a lot of things. The election tomorrow is obviously a big one – I’ve donated, written letters, text banked, and talked about the importance of voting nonstop, but I am terrified and the pit in my stomach will not go away. We’ve also got Thanksgiving, which we’re not going home for this year, which brings its own kind of anxiety about letting people down in the name of keeping them safe and keeping us sane. And then, of course, the increasing number of COVID cases we’re seeing across the country. I sometimes wish I could be blissfully ignorant about everything going on, but I don’t actually think we do well as a society when that’s the case, so here we are. Me full of dread and you reading about it.

One thing I am not (as) anxious about this November is writing. I have decided, for the third time, to sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and this time I am really committed. I have an outline, some questions I want to try to answer, and some rough descriptions of characters. I am not totally at ease here since fiction is not my normal genre, but I am excited for a challenge. I also haven’t entirely decided if this was brilliant of me to sign up this year (great distraction, a goal to focus on!) or completely idiotic (how distracted are you going to be after the election!? And with a toddler at home!?). 

Anyway, it’s Day 2 and I’ve only written like 600 words after I got through brainstorming a few scenes yesterday, so we’ll see how this goes! 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Share your tips or your topic for your project – I’d love to hear them!

Who I Am Right Now

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Who are you right now, in this moment?

I am a mom, a partner, a communicator, a freelancer, a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I’m a creative person and a writer and a reader. A curious person trying to soak up as much information and experience as she can, even when the world she is experiencing is rather small. I am an empathizer, a worrier, an anxious person who sometimes just needs to shut down to begin processing what’s going on around her. And right now, especially, I am uncertain. 

I am uncertain about so many things- the future of our country, what togetherness looks like now and in the future, who I’ll be personally and professionally in five, ten, twenty years. I am standing on a cliff, and can’t be sure whether it’s safer to stay or jump, because despite the precariousness of what’s below, everything racing at me from behind is incredibly scary as well. 

I wish I had a more definitive answer to who I am right now. I wish I felt firm where I stood, but the sands beneath my feet, probably much like that beneath yours, keep shifting. I am a person who, even after 35 years on this planet is still forming, still asserting and revising opinions, still adjusting the lens through which I see the world. In short, I am only certain that I am uncertain. 

Who are you right now, in this moment?

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been working my way through the “Name Your Anchors” series of writing prompts from author Molly Caro May. The post above is a result of one of those prompts.

On Productivity and Not Wanting to Do Anything

You know Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song”? No? Well, if you’re not familiar with this 2010 pop gem, it goes a little something like this:

Today I don’t feel like doing anything

I just wanna lay in my bed

Don’t feel like picking up my phone

So leave a message at the tone

‘Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything

Yesterday, that is exactly how I felt. Except…I have a toddler. A curious, energetic, nonstop toddler. So it didn’t matter that I didn’t feel like doing anything – doing nothing is not an option when you have a small child in your house. Because even lying on the floor while he plays, is not “doing nothing” – believe me, I’ve tried it, and it’s more work than playing because I’m in defense mode, protecting my head and neck the whole time. 

Anyway. While my son naps, especially on weekends, my husband and I do have a few hours to ourselves. We usually spend that time cleaning, organizing, getting caught up for the week ahead, and then each take a little bit of time to relax (for me, that’s usually writing or reading in bed). But yesterday? Our house was a mess, there was a basket of laundry waiting to be put away, and I had a lot of unanswered emails, and I just…didn’t want to do it. I wanted to lie in bed and read. 

You might be asking, so what? It’s the weekend, do what you want! Which I would agree with in normal times. But we are not in normal times. We are in pandemic times, and our son is home with us all day, every day, with no breaks, so two hours during naptime (three if I’m really lucky) is all of the productive free time I get, no matter the day of the week. Because of this I often feel like I need to use up every second of it. 

But yesterday, I was just not feeling it. The productive “but you should…” side of me was losing a battle with the “but it’s Sunday, relax!” side of me, and in the end, I let the latter win. I told myself to take a breath, think about what would happen if I didn’t do those things (uhh, nothing), and channel pre-pandemic Heather, who had fewer qualms about squandering her free time on a Sunday. With that, at 1:30pm, I jumped in the shower, put on clean PJs, and flopped myself into bed with the book I had been trying to finish all week. And it was lovely! 

During this time of relaxation, my mind started wandering to my definition of productivity, and how I assume it means I always have to be on and doing, instead of simply being and resting. Because really, aren’t some of the other things I’m doing right now (not including scrolling Instagram), on top of taking on some consulting work, productive? Isn’t trying to raise a human being to be a good, well-rounded person productive? Isn’t doing something for myself, like reading a novel or working on my writing passion projects, productive? And isn’t simply resting productive?  

So yes, yesterday, I let myself do nothing. But I engaged my brain and was productive in a new way, not in spite of the fact that I was trying to rest, but because of it. Perhaps we would all be more productive, if we stopped trying so hard to be exactly that? 

The Anti Multitasker

I hate multitasking. I do. 

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I realize this is not a unique opinion, but I really, truly dislike multitasking. I have never been good at doing more than one thing at a time, and I enjoy the simplicity of focusing on the task at hand. I like to do the thing, while I’m doing it, and that’s it. 

I’ve always been pretty sensitive to distractions, but I didn’t really think about it as not being able to multitask well until I hit adulthood, especially when it came to work. I never liked studying with the TV or music on (instrumental jazz or classical notwithstanding). I didn’t mind playing sports that seemed boring to others, like swimming and running. In fact, I kind of liked how “boring” they were, because I could really focus. When you’re swimming miles a day, the rhythm of your strokes becomes soothing, not dull. I also have always enjoyed studying alone (I suppose this is not the first time I’ve mentioned it), and reading is an activity I have always liked to do solo – doing both, I’m incredibly sensitive to the noise and comfort around me. It doesn’t have to be silent, but I like things to be a certain way, to be just so

And then when I started working, especially in my communications/PR career, where the pace can be intense, I found myself attempting to multitask more and more. And things were never just so, the tasks at hand were never my sole focus. I felt constant pressure to do as much as possible within my work day, writing emails during calls and IMing with colleagues as I mapped out strategic plans. And though I worked remotely a lot of the time, whenever I had to work in an open-floor-plan office, I wanted to tear my hair out (another rant for another time). I already knew that I was a person who needed space and time to focus, but was trying to resist who I was at my core in order to get the job done, and getting really frustrated and flustered in the process.

Though studies have shown that multitasking does not, in fact, make us more efficient, it doesn’t stop people from trying to do it or from pushing the ideal of multitasking onto other people. But perhaps it’s time for everyone, especially those of us who are on the extreme end of being anti-multitaskers, to accept this truth and allow people to work within their natures. 

Again, this is not a new or original idea! But it’s an important one. I’m not arguing for mindfulness here, exactly, but I don’t know that anyone is at their best when they try to meet the demands of two tasks at once. And honestly, sometimes it seems like more work, more for me to think about, in order to make my life that efficient. Yesterday, I unloaded the dishwasher, and that was it. It was silent, I was not listening to a podcast or music and I wasn’t on a call. I just did it. And thinking about, “oh I need to find my headphones and then turn on a new podcast” before I could unload the dishwasher or pick up stuff around the kitchen just seemed like it would have slowed me down. It wasn’t worth it to me to “maximize” what I was doing by learning or absorbing information while I did it. Sometimes, I like quiet and just not doing or thinking of anything else while I fold laundry or jot down my to-do list. And most of the time, there’s enough going on in my brain anyway. 

Are you a multitasker? Or are you in the anti-multitasking club with me?

Five Things I Have a Hard Time Following Through On

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As a person who constantly overcommits, and then probably underdelivers (mostly to myself, since professionally, I unnecessarily beat myself up about what I’m achieving and who I might be letting down while still usually producing a good final product), I can tell you that I really wish I were better at following through. I set very lofty goals, and then when I fail to meet them completely, I struggle to stay motivated. This is definitely related to my all or nothing personality/outlook, but here we are. Below is an incomplete list of things I have not been able to stick to that, honestly, just hang over my head all the time. 

  1. A regular exercise routine. For a former personal trainer, I sure am lax about my fitness. Don’t get me wrong, on most days I move my body in some way – I do at least 15 pushups and squats almost daily, and I take my son for two walks around the neighborhood a day, weather permitting. But beyond that? It’s pretty hit or miss. I keep starting routines (full body workout, MWF! Two runs per week!), but the second I’m derailed by something like a busy day or a minor illness, it feels like I have to start over.  I’m constantly battling between two selves: the one who has been type A and very regimented all of her life, and the other who wants to live and not lapse back into the unhealthily strict behaviors that plagued her throughout college and a good chunk of her 20s. Would I like to improve my cardiovascular health and feel like I could do 50 jump squats without being out of breath? Sure, but I also really would like to read this book while I have two hours of peace while my son naps, so….
  2. A consistent writing practice. When I left my full-time job, I said I would set up a schedule to write every single day. But… it didn’t work out like that. Sometimes when my son was napping, I needed to get stuff done or run errands that I couldn’t do when he was awake. And sometimes, I just wanted to read and decompress for a bit while I had a break. And almost every day, I needed a minute to switch over from mom mode to writer mode, so I didn’t have the full amount of time I expected to have. I have journaled almost every day for the past year, but while I’ve gotten a few exciting ideas from jotting down my thoughts or daily happenings, sometimes it felt like I was simply going through the motions and not really writing the way I thought I should be. I have been able to write here a little more consistently lately, which I’m proud of, but I’m still working on what an ideal writing practice would look like. 
  3. Good sleep hygiene. I have always been a night owl, but I also really love sleep. Now, with a child and a job and a partner I want to spend time with, sleep has been less of a priority, even though I know getting more of it will improve my life pretty much all around. But I am always trying to squeeze in more hours to my day after we lay our son down to sleep at night, which results in me going to bed much later than I would like. I try to set up goals for myself, like “in bed by 10!” but then I get in bed and stay awake reading for two hours or looking at TikTok until I drop my phone on my face. To be fair, I haven’t tried the more extreme things like putting my phone in another room, but that’s probably where I need to go from here. 
  4. A long-term career. To anyone who has met me in the last couple years, I seem to have a career. I work in health communications and PR, and I’ve steadily moved up the ranks, even as I’ve had a child and gone into freelance mode a couple times. But this is not my first career (or even my second), and I don’t think it will be my last. I’m hoping I can make one move transition smoothly into the next, without having to start over, but I really have no idea what my “career” will look like five, ten, or 20 years from now. Knowing myself and my curious nature, I don’t think I’m ever going to feel like I’m in the one right career for me. But as I write this, maybe I’m OK with lacking follow through here. 
  5. Keeping up with friends. I feel like everyone feels this right now, though, right? We’re all socially (and physically) distanced, so our normal methods of seeing one another, whether it’s a couple times a year or a couple times a month, are not available. I had hoped, though, with the pandemic that I would find time to catch up with friends I had previously felt too busy to reach out to, since we were all suddenly video chatting and calling and texting more. And that happened for a bit in March and April, but then…we all got Zoom fatigue, and as we learned that the pandemic wasn’t going to be over anytime soon, I (along with a lot of people) started to retreat and turn inward. I felt like I had done that so much in my early and mid-20s, thanks to a long bout of depression (more on that another time), that I didn’t want to repeat it. But this pandemic is tough, and putting more pressure on ourselves for certain things isn’t worth it – it still bothers me that I wasn’t able to follow through on this one, though, because I miss people! 

I’m not writing about this because I am asking for solutions (but hey, if you’ve been there and have tips, I’m open), but because I figure, aren’t we all struggling to follow through on one thing or another these days? And as much as I feel like I struggle with following through on certain goals and commitments, I’m proud of the things that I’ve been able to follow through on: a solid relationship with my husband (despite a pandemic, a toddler, and stressful jobs); my dedication to my role as a mother, even though I never felt a super maternal pull growing up, and I sometimes I take a few extra minutes when I run upstairs for “one quick thing”; and for taking the time to remember that I am a whole person, who is always curious and thinking of ways to bring more creativity to my everyday life.  

Where do you struggle with following through? Or are you one of those people who meets all of your goals all of the time? (If so, what is your secret and are you human?)

I Need Space

Of all the things I’ve learned about myself during this pandemic, the most astounding is how much space I need. Though it shouldn’t be so surprising that I learned how much breathing room I require when the world of almost everyone I know has shrunk so significantly. 

Photo by Sharmaine Monticalbo from Pexels

While some people have found more time to devote to leisure and side projects lately, around here time is precious. We now have a very active almost-two-year-old son at home with us full-time (and have since March), and any free moment we had during our work days is completely gone – part of the reason I transitioned to freelance work. Two adults working in high-pressure jobs while trying to alternate on childcare (and now attempting to teach colors and numbers and letters!) was tough. But even with a reduction in work hours (and a three-month complete break, which I was lucky to be able to take), time is scarce, and a two-hour window during naptime usually gives me just enough time to quickly clean up from our tornado of a toddler and write or work for 45 minutes. Of course, we’re not unique in having less time – I think every working parent who does not have childcare or does not feel comfortable using available childcare feels the same way. 

And we’re also not unique in feeling trapped in our space. Before the pandemic, our 1000-square-foot home in DC felt like plenty of space – after all, we had the whole city to roam, with different neighborhoods to explore every weekend and what felt like endless options for culture and food. But now, with three of us at home at all times, it can feel like… a lot. Our bedroom is now a makeshift office, and the kitchen table in our one-room main floor is taken over by laptops, pens, and toddler board books (open concept is a little less appealing when everyone is home all the time). When our son is napping, we can each find our own space, either by heading to different rooms or one of us going on a walk, but the rest of the day, it feels a bit like we’re breathing down each others’ necks, especially when we’re not used to working in the same space, let alone with a child, no matter how happy he is. And if we have any visitors (very rare these days and only after they’ve quarantined), our house seems to contract even further, even though I love having people we’re close to around, especially in these times, which makes me feel conflicted and guilty and ungrateful.  

I wish I had a solution for this space issue, but I really don’t. I share all of this because I know we’re not alone in feeling too much togetherness, too few moments to ourselves, too little control about… everything. After six-plus months of this, I’ve only come up with a few workarounds that keep me feeling like I’m hanging on by more than a thread. Things like…taking an extra five minutes when I say I have to use the bathroom, which I mostly use to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. Or making sure that, if nothing else, I at least do a few squats and pushups a day to get my blood pumping. Or not feeling as bad if I just want to lie down for an hour after putting our son to bed, because I want our fluffy comforter all to myself for a bit. Because the things that worked before – getting out of the house to go to the gym or get coffee, taking the occasional day off from work while my son was at daycare, meeting up with friends for a glass of wine – are no longer options, so I have to make do with what’s available to me now. 

During this pandemic I have learned so much about what I need to maintain my mental health, my relationships, my productivity. Mostly because I haven’t had as much of it as I require to really thrive. 

I need space. 

To care.

To connect. 

To create.

To speak.

To think.

To be my whole self. 

For now, I’ll keep finding little ways to make space, but here’s hoping 2021 is a little more wide open. How are you carving out space and time for yourself right now? Is it working?