Every three months (this time 6 months because of COVID), I pause and reflect on the past season and share with all of you.
This season was a time of working at home, cancelling events, moving things to virtual, just trying to survive, advocating for myself and others, and taking care of myself so that I can take care of others.
Online to do lists
At home for chores, I have been using an app called Tody for years now. It really changed the game for me in keeping up and keeping track of what needed to get down. For work, I started having my to do list on a Google Sheet. I can add new items, move things around that take more priority and have multiple tabs. When I was using notebooks and planners for my list, things got lost easily. I make a new sheet every month and just copy and paste what didn’t get done. This has helped me keep track of what I’d done and is nice to go back to when needed.
Working from Home
In March, on Friday the 13th, it was recommended for me to pack up all the stuff I needed to work at home. I remember watching the governor a couple times with coworkers during lunch, realizing that the coronavirus was coming here. Pete already brought his stuff home the week before, so I knew it’d be my turn soon.
When Zelie’s preschool moved to distance learning, we didn’t really have the financial cushion for her to join Christopher at the home daycare. So we shuffled things so they could both go 3 days a week. We were getting lunches from the school district when they weren’t at the home daycare. We ate from the freezer and pantry (I KNEW there’d be a zombie apocalypse to be ready for!)
I was really struggling to cram work into the time the kids were out of the house, and cramming the rest of my work into when they were unconscious or melting their brains in front of a screen. It was not ideal at all. I think one of the hardest parts was I was trying to work in an environment where a 2 and 4 year old live. It’s normal for a young family to have toys (everywhere) and some crumbs on the floor and crayons and colored pictures and dishes and laundry and and and… but it’s difficult to work in that environment because you’re either constantly distracted, or wasting time I could be working trying to pick up a little bit.
Once we were done paying for preschool tuition for the year, we had both kids going to the home daycare four days a week. As soon as I had the ability to go back to work (taking temperature checks, wearing a mask when not at my desk, and sanitizing everything), I took advantage and went back and my productivity has increased exponentially.
One crucial piece to youth ministry that I really learned during this season was the importance to ministering to the parents. The parents are the first teachers of the faith. My job this spring for Confirmation was to email the materials for the week, make a video, and communicate and build relationships with parents. It was the most I had talked to many of the parents this whole year, and that wouldn’t have happened without the COVID. This next year I am inspired to continue to empower the parents and give them faith formation too.
I started paying attention to the news
I was already listening to The Newsworthy, a short, mostly unbiased 10 minute podcast with some general national news. Once COVID hit, I added two local ones that are 5 minutes and 1 minute. There are a couple others that I subscribe to with more political news, but I’m trying to balance listening to the news more but not listen too much and get stuck.
This was something that was already important to me. I was very aware of the struggles that black, indigenous, and people of color experience. After George Floyd died in Minneapolis, very near where I went to grade school, a revolution began, and the world was forced to pay attention. I have taken the time to listen, to learn, and to speak out against racism, and I am continuing to do that. My recommendations to you are to listen to the podcast, Ask Fr. Josh, who is a black Catholic priest down in Louisiana. I also want to recommend a podcast called 1619, which is a short podcast series by the New York Times that talks about different aspects of black American history that I have never thought about.
I have struggled with parenting littles ever since my first was born. I have a very difficult time with babies/toddlers/preschoolers crying and having tantrums. This is completely normal behavior for kids at this age, but it is still hard for me. I have gone to monthly therapy since my son was born (during COVID it’s been every other week or weekly), and we have worked on parenting quite a bit. I love my therapist and her specialty is young families.
Another resource is the podcast Unruffled by Janet Lansbury who talks about respectful parenting. I have listened for probably over a year now, but I think some things are really starting to click with me. Young kids have a LOT of feelings, and it’s really important for them to be able to express that. Here is a episode that I recommend.
This was my first year at my job. It used to be full time but was now going to be part time. I knew it’d be a difficult year. So I tried to be transparent on what I was or was not able to accomplish. It often felt like I was trying to learn how to change a tire on a moving car. Now that I am finishing up my first year, I have a better idea of what it takes, but I think something that was really important was for me was to communicate what I couldn’t or couldn’t do given my abilities and parameters. And things are better because of that.
Get off your phone and go to bed
One thing that I started doing once the kids were in bed…was to just get read for bed. I was getting stuck on the couch scrolling and scrolling and getting stressed out because I was tired and reading people fight on social media.
What to do when everything is polarized
I have been in more intentional places to have tough conversations, especially with the election coming up and COVID and the discussions around racism. I have mostly stopped scrolling because I was getting upset and realized that most of these conversations are better in person. That’s not always the case either. I have learned that when someone just wants to tell you what they think and aren’t interested in listening or having a dialogue, that it is not worth me having these conversations with them at this time. I have been putting up a lot of needed boundaries. Another thing that I started doing was just muting people if their posts are stressing me out.
Make habits stupid easy
Now that I’m working, I have been trying to have better morning and bedtime routines. In the fall, I really nailed the kids’ bedtime routine, so I knew that I could set up something similar for myself. I came across an app called Fabulous and did their free week trial. It suggested starting with just drinking some water every morning for three days in a row. That was a super easy goal that I knew I could accomplish. Then it added exercising for one minute every morning for three days. Just one minute. I didn’t have to worry about getting exercise clothes on, or bundling up to go outside, or carving time to get to the gym. I just attempted five pushups, some jumping jacks, and running in place, for a total of one minute.
Here I am now from drinking zero water to drinking some before bed, and when I wake up, at least a bottle a day. I’m now exercising about five to ten minutes every morning, and I’m taking my vitamins every day. I have even been incorporating different prayers, reading, and journaling. The app is very encouraging, helps you start small, and gives you good visuals to help cheer you on.
I have learned that I have very high expectations in my work performance, and that I need to take that way down. The Fabulous app has some work habits that I have been working on, like keeping my email inbox clean, making my to do list each day, then picking the three most important tasks, then starting with one. I often felt like I was trying to do five things at once and was thinking about 20 different things, so I have learned that I can actually get more done by just focusing on just one thing at a time.
Do not beat yourself up
It is inevitable that a wrench will get thrown into my days. I work at least one night a week. Some days the 2 year old gets up 20 times. I know that I won’t always achieve my bedtime routine, and that’s okay. Life happens, and you’re trying.
So this spring and summer, I just tried to take care of myself, and improve my systems and to do lists at work and home. Fall, it’s so good to see you.
I’m looking forward to chatting with you next time! Until then, let’s take small simple steps towards being more intentional.