Be kind (to yourself)

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I’ve wanted to write a New Year, 2019, post all January. I want to talk about what I am pledging to do with my time this year, and I want to find out what you have set as your goals or resolutions for 2019. I am realizing that there are many reasons that folks don’t subscribe to the January goal setting frenzy, but I think that because it’s my birthday month I feel additionally on-board with the resolution setting set.

If you abhor resolutions that center around an arbitrary date of the year you may consider this post alternatively titled “Lessons from Dedicating 30 Days to Yoga.” You see, I began this year with many intentions– like bringing more peace and patience into my life, and renewing my commitment to not buying new things. For reference, that didn’t really work out for me as a year-long endeavor. Mostly because I came to the project grossly underprepared to support myself. More on that later.

But this year, I am still evaluating and cornering my spending habits, I’m still seeking to be a parent that speaks more peace to my children, and I’m still trying to be a human that is more patient with her fellow humans at large– in the classroom, on the road, at the grocery store, on the news, and on and on.

Instead of putting immense pressure on myself to be all that I wanted to be on January 1, I decided that I would first engage in a yoga practice that lasts the entire month of January. This was one of the best moves I’ve made in terms of beginning a New Year, and I hope I’ll remember how cleansing, enlightening, grounding, and opening this journey has been.

One of these personal revelations is a two-part story with yet another alternative post title: “The difference between being hard on yourself and kind to yourself (even honest with yourself) is not that you need to stop being too easy on yourself.”

Allow me to explain. Four nights ago I was doing Adriene’s (Yoga with Adriene) Dedicate 30 Day Yoga Journey. Nearing the end of her practice we were lying in a final Shavasana. The practice had been about sweetness and Adrienne was saying, “Sometimes it’s not only about WHAT we do but HOW we do it. Consider that.” Now this is an idea that I subscribe to. We should all think about what we are doing. Why we are doing it, how we are doing it are keys to the ‘what’. Adriene went on, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself or can you get more in the habit…”

My video stopped streaming at this exact moment. And I was left trying to figure out what Adriene was going to say next. The truth is that when I finished her statement the only thing that I could come up with was, “Or are you in habit of being too easy on yourself. Do you need to push yourself harder?” In other words, do you cut yourself a break too often, are you lazy, apathetic, flawed? And on and on and on with the self-denigrating comments. I was ready to get on the wagon and stone myself for being a push over. Why didn’t I see that this was the same thing as being TOO HARD ON MYSELF?

My video eventually reloaded and Adriene said, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself, or can you get more in the habit of finding practices that help you, get you, in the habit of being sweet to yourself. EVEN WHEN YOU MESS UP.”

Stunned silence from my mat.

Can you be kind to yourself? Even when you mess up? Can you? Can I?

This brings me to my next story. Hang with me here. There was once a girl who couldn’t spell. That girl was me, I’m still that girl. And I don’t know when I began to believe or it was pointed out to me that I could not spell. (I hope at this point you are already seeing the irony of this reality as I am an English teacher. An English teacher who can’t spell.) Apparently, not even being a school Spelling Bee champion served to solve this self-image notion.

But this not-being-able-to-spell thing has been something that has haunted me for my entire life. Not just academically, but not being able to spell became something of a self-forecast for all of my failings, all the stuff I couldn’t do. It became a sign that I wasn’t cut out for success.

Well from this girl– me– came a sweet little boy– P. As it turns out, he showed some of the same phonetic unawareness that his mom had/has. That mom– me– told this little boy– my son– that he “could not spell.” Just like that, “You can’t spell.” Just like I had been told.

Now I tried to forecast some solutions to this problem by explaining that he could memorize words and thereby overcome his failing. “We can’t spell.” I kept telling him, like we were rowing this boat called “Can’t Spell” together. Fast forward to Parent-Teacher-Student conferences 2019.

As we concluded our meeting, my son’s sweet teacher asked if I had any questions for her and I felt that this would be a great time to bring up the spelling thing. I explained, “I can’t spell. And I’m worried that this might be the case for my son. It appears that he doesn’t have phonetic awareness.”

His teacher stoped me in my tracks and said, “Oh! That sounds just like me! Your son can spell, he just needs to practice with different variations of each phonemic pairing. It wasn’t until I was a teacher that I  realized there were certain vowels and sounds that were patterned through language. But you know what? (She turns to my son.) For every one of these patterns there are times when the rules apply and there are times when the English language breaks those rules! You CAN spell!” She declared with certainty.

Just like that. “YOU CAN SPELL!” With all of the vigor and certainty of a seasoned educator who knows that as she bolsters students to believe in themselves they will fulfill those prophecies and SPELL.

I was stunned into silence again. Here I had been telling myself (for years) that I couldn’t spell. I had been telling my son that he couldn’t spell. I had been practicing this can’t over and over and over. My son’s teacher continued, “The wonderful thing about spelling is that you do need to memorize how to spell words. Once you can recognize different patterns like ‘r’ controlled vowels– er, ur, ir, or– then you can begin to memorize which words use which patterns.”

I nearly fell off my chair. More than that, I was ashamed for telling my boy that he couldn’t, that he didn’t, that he wasn’t able to. Nothing better than strapping yourself to your failings and then just clinging to them! In that moment I remembered my yoga, the moment that I was so certain that my instructor was going to tell me that perhaps if yoga wasn’t working for me or working a change on or in me I was being too easy on myself.

I realized that I am constantly falling into this belief that if I will just push harder, do more, press into my present with more resolve, then– and only then– will I come out conqueror. But in those moments, on that mat and in that classroom, I realized that I need to be a whole lot kinder to myself and to those around me.

You, my beautiful friend, thank you for reading this post. I’m learning, slowly and steadily, to pass on the power of believing in yourself to my kids and to my deeper self. You, me, we all need to be more kind to ourselves. Happy 2019!

XX,
Megan

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7 Ideas to Update Your Family Smartphone Habits

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Christmas is upon us! As we skate through the holiday season I wanted to share some of the ways that I have found to both evaluate and update smart phone usage in your home. After all, the Holidays are a time to connect with our families, enjoy time spent with friends, and remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year.

In the age of digital-everything, I’ve found that while I might have a desire to be on my phone scrolling and rolling my way across the internet, my propensity to pick up my phone doesn’t always bring me what I’m looking for– JOY! In fact, the more I spend precious weekend minutes (and hours) on my phone the more bothered, bugged, and dissatisfied I become.

Engaging in an era of constant technological reinvention can feel exhausting. However, as we realize that smartphones are tools– tools that have a very functional, serviceable purpose, yes– the better we will be able to stave off the smartphone toll– disconnection, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

My phone can call up my latest dinner recipe, play my favorite song-set, cue my most recent to-do list, and give me access to my current yoga routine. To me, these are all winning ways to use my phone. I can also admit that I’ve used my phone as a babysitter (hello most recent trip to the salon), and I’ve used it as a kid-entertainer (hello date night for mom and dad). We call this the “cell phone trick”, but as parents we always need to check ourselves in terms of how much screen-time we’re allowing. Kids can’t and shouldn’t be responsible to either enable or limit their own media consumption. That job still rests on the shoulders of thoughtful parents.

Getting your Instagram fix is fine, but if you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through your feed over and over you might want to choose a few other activities that keep your attention and bring human interaction.

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Add an app to track your usage

One of the best ways to find out how much you really use your phone is with an app to track your usage. With a recent iOS update, my phone began giving me a weekly “Screen Time” report. Now whether this was always available on my phone and I didn’t use it, or whether this is a recent Apple installment, this weekly Screen Time report is a great way to get a picture of your phone use!

I’ve really liked knowing how much time I’m spending on my screen, and it enables me to see how much time is spent on the individual sites on the internet as well as on apps that my kids use like Minecraft. For example, last week I spent a total of 20 hours on my phone. To me that sounded like A LOT. But when I saw how much I spent on my meal planning website, the clock that I use as a timer in my class each day, and the time that my kids played on various apps (about 5 hours total). I felt as though I was a more aware user. For me this awareness brings the opportunity to evaluate, re-set if necessary, and scaffold my phone use for the next week!

Put your phone away at dinner. Period.

This hard and fast rule has really changed the atmosphere in our home. I’ll give my husband and I a pat on the back for continuing to honor family dinner, and I’ve written about the power and importance of this daily ritual here on Refined + Rugged. But making sure that family dinner doesn’t devolve into a family internet surf has really helped to make the precious moments of the day we get to spend together even more meaningful.

A lot of families have cell phone use rules, and I hope that yours is one of them. My philosophy is that having rules and usage guidelines that apply to EVERYONE in a family helps to communicate to ourselves and to our kids that the human is in charge of the phone not vice versa.

As we have set specific times that phones are not allowed or not present, I have watched the way that our interactions with one another grow in meaningful ways. We spend more time outside, we spend more time talking and laughing together, we spend more time reading, playing instruments, getting in a workout, doing homework, participating in activities in our community. As our cell phone usage goes down, our engagement with one another invariable increases, and our happiness quotient generally rises. Win!

Create Times when Phones are Acceptable

Along with being sure that you have hard and fast rules for putting away your phone, it is also wise to make sure that you have times when phones are appropriate. For example, we really do take dates in our small town and leave our boys at home to play games on the phone, watch TV, or generally have screen-time. Because we are only a few blocks away, it feels like getting more bang for our buck to have the smartphone act as our babysitter.

We also have a weekly Minecraft club at our library. I was originally reticent to sign the boys up for an hour of game time each week. However, instead of causing MORE screen-time later in the week, it has allowed us the freedom to play and game and the freedom to say, “No, you had your screen-time on Wednesday.”

Saturday morning is another time we allow our kids time on the smartphone or smart-device. Hard working parents need breaks, but I have found that it is best to have these as scheduled times. If my people know that Saturday morning is one time they will be able to watch television, play Minecraft, and use apps like “The Elements”, we all have this screen-time to look forward to rather than allowing it to rule every minute of our lives or make a fight when one isn’t needed.

Remember that Small People are Watching

The more our world engages in the digital universe the more we may find ourself interfacing with technology. Remember that individuals, partners, families really can make a difference in digital citizenship by evaluating and then limiting smartphone and smart-device usage.

As I look at the way I use my smartphone, I have been reminded that in most cases when I am on my phone some small set of eyes is watching. Try this for an afternoon or a day. Turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer or in a desk and then go out with the purpose of observing the way that other people use their phones.

Think about the fact that for most children the ideas, images, examples, and trend-setters for smartphone use are the adults in their life. For the most part they walk about without phones watching the way the the world around them chooses to interact with technology. What would the smartphone world look like to you if you were a child?

For example, we have strongly encouraged reading in our household. A few nights ago my boys were soaking in the warmth of their good reads in front of a glowing fire. I have been guilty, in these moments of silence when my children are engaged, to take the time to peruse my phone. In other words, my children are engaged in the real world, they are learning, reading, growing and expanding their sweet minds, and I am taking my “phone time”.

How does this look to them? Because as much as I may pretend to limit my smartphone usage, there are certainly times when I should make the executive decision to TURN IT OFF. I made the choice then and there to grab a book, highly recommended to me by our school librarian, and read.

Make a list of all of the activities you like to do without your smartphone

Maybe you’re not an avid reader so picking up a book isn’t appealing to you. Instead of a book, what you should look for is an enterprise that excites you that is not linked to your phone! While writing this post, I was encouraged to make a list of all of the activities, projects, and endeavors I can opt into before I pick up my phone.

While your list may look different from mine, the idea is the same– make the time and take the opportunity to do things that don’t involve digital isolation. Even when you are commenting a friend’s Facebook post or latest Instagram update you do so in a vacuum in that very moment. You are all alone. What are other things you can do to keep your spirits high and your outlook positive in the coming year?

When you’re stuck scrolling, just turn it off!

In the end, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone on a Friday evening– STOP! One of the most powerful realizations about your phone is that you are in charge. So if you do end up in the internet’s web far out into the galaxy of google searches, it might be best for all to simply put the phone down and walk away.

Take Stock of your Situation

Just as you might look at the Screen Time stats on your phone, take the time to evaluate your phone usage over time. Sometimes we take a couple steps forward and then a couple of steps back. I am advocating a constant analysis of the ways which smartphones can be corralled, limited, and controlled as a mode of human convenience rather than a time-sucking monster.

My ultimate concern is that we model for our little humans the kind of digital citizens we hope that they will be one day, and that we leave the rising generation with the skills to realize that they are the masters of the digital world, not vice versa.

I hope your Holiday really is merry and bright. I hope that the love and connection you create transcends technology. I hope that reigning in your phone will put you back in the driver’s seat of your sleigh. Sending you love and well wishes from an average human fighting the good fight to unplug, unwind, and fully enjoy this special time of year. Happy Friday, friends.

XX, Megan

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Oregon: Road Trip Part II

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To the Coast

Portland to Crater Lake, Crater Lake to Bend the beginning of our road trip is posted in Oregon Road Trip: Part I (here). After a few days in Bend it was time to move on in our journey. We packed up the van and headed to the coast where we planned to spend the rest of our trip.

The Oregon coast is one of the most breathtaking places to visit. Rocky and craggy, moody and weather beaten, the weather can be warm (rarely), but it is almost always characterized by hoary morning hazes and sometimes torrents of rain even in the summer months. Our first stop was Wax Myrtle State Park (pictured above and below).

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Oregon: Road Trip Part I

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Embracing Van Life

This summer we headed out on an epic Oregon road trip in Olive, our 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia Weekender. Over the life of Refined + Rugged I’ve shared some of our other camping, hiking, biking adventures, and road trips,  and I wanted to add this trip to the list of fabulous vacations that practically anyone could re-create. This entire trip could also be scheduled for fall through this gorgeous state. Hint, hint, get behind the wheel and live!

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Spring Style in the City

Smile Sunglasses Stripes Spring 2018

I’m throwing it back to this outfit from Spring 2016 for part of this post. Why? Because I still LOVE each one of these pieces, I still wear each of them, and this rig is the perfect example of Spring layering at its finest! It’s also an outfit that is perfect for travel to your favorite city during Spring.

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