This is hands down my favorite time of year.
We had an amazing summer, one of the best summers I can remember since EVERYONE is out of diapers and they let me sleep in (praise hands alleluia). Like any good New Englander, I relish the feeling of change each new season brings. But as the nerdy academic I once was, the fresh clean slate that fall brings – with a new school year, and all those sharpened pencils and blank pages waiting to be filled – is my favorite. Summer margaritas feel so good, but purposefulness feels so good come fall.
As my kids fill their backpacks with supplies and checklists, I thought I would share with you a few of the things I am packing in my mental back pack, my new school year supplies to help me and my crew have a successful year.
1. Better Than Before: I started reading this at night and in the morning as we were getting organized for school. I am a big believer that books come to you when you need them, and this is the perfect example. Even though I loved this summer, I felt like we were all in the summer slide. As lovely as it was to be there, I wanted all of us to move forward in many areas.
This book helps do just that – it is chock full of the real life quandaries and wisdom that I am looking for right now. And she universalizes them so you feel like you are not alone. Here is a sample:
“From my observation, habits in four areas do most to boost feelings of self-control, and in this way strengthen the Foundation of all our habits. We do well to begin by tackling the habits that help us to:
1. sleep 2. move 3. eat and drink right 4. unclutter
Foundation habits tend to reinforce each other – for instance, exercise helps people sleep, and sleeps helps people do everything better – so they’re a good place to start for any kind of habit change. Furthermore, somewhat mysteriously, Foundation habits sometimes make profound change possible. A friend once told me ‘I cleaned out my fridge, and now I feel like I can switch careers.’ I knew exactly what she meant.”
See what I mean? This book cuts to the core of so much. It is helping me build a strong foundation. And I don’t know about you, but I find helping my kids form good habits is brutal. The force of resistance is just. so. strong. If I am doing good with my own habits I set a better example and have that much more resiliency when they push back on healthy food and earlier bedtimes.
2. Trading mindless screen time for reading. I am a big reader, but this summer I was often so tired from our active day or trying to wind down after lots of celebrations and libations, I would choose mindless TV or iPhone zoning instead of a good tome. I frequently looked up after ‘just checking my phone for a minute’ or ‘watching just one more show’ (Walking Dead, I am looking at you) and see that the window I was going to read in had passed. The big stack of books that I was dying to read didn’t seem to budge. My kids are at ages where it is hard to read while there awake (unless they’re in front of a screen, which I am not encouraging). So, bedtime is my only time to chip away at it. Enter my no-phone zone after 9 pm rule.
3. Weight Watchers. There are a million diets out there, and what I have learned with kids is I can’t stick to any of them while I am on the go. Plus I love bread. I love the support of WW and as Rubin points out, Monitoring and Accountability are keys to sticking to any habit change. I lost 10 lbs. in the spring doing it, and I think I have maintained this summer doing Paleo-style eating 80% of the time. I just want to be as strong as I can, and this will help me get there. (Update: I group of friends introduced me to Isagenix, and I am doing that now instead of WW. I can’t speak highly enough of it, the nutrition, the energy I have, and the ease of doing it, and have since stopped doing WW.)
4. Keeping Some Fun in the Schedule. One of the things that made me so happy this summer was that I was constantly surrounded by people I loved, doing fun things in nature. It is so essential to me to make sure I schedule face time with people instead of getting lost in the world of books and social media. I think a lot of people feel this way too. Life seems to hum a little sweeter when we have things to look forward to, so I’m on it. Lunch dates, coffee dates, and get togethers are my jam. It takes a little work but I am always filled up when I do it.
The flip side of this for me is it is so easy to say yes to too many fun things and then have me forgetting my other habits like self care and rest and order. I need to balance fun with slowing down and slow days. We just happen to have 4 kids, my husband has a very social job, and we live in a vibrant community. So when I say some fun, I mean saying no to some things.
5. Choosing Joy. I don’t know if it was turning 40 or just being settled in our life, but I have this clear sense of how much better I feel when I am choosing to see the good despite the shortcomings and mistakes and problems in the world. And in myself. And in other people. When I am around other people who also choose joy I feel happier.
Mean people suck. Don’t be one. And don’t let one take you off your game. Choose joy instead. Take the good and leave the bad.
6. Consistent Running/Writing Schedule: Aside from food blogging, which I love, because helping people make good memories with food is and will always be my favorite, I am at my happiest when I have a consistent running & writing schedule. They work in tandem for some reason: the running lets my mind wander about what I am writing about and gets all my energy out, and the writing has me sitting for long stretches, craving a run. I have had a number of sweet spots since my big kids have been in school when I am consistently doing these things together, and some not so sweet spots when I drop one or both of these and I am just not getting ‘out’ whatever it is that kicks around in me.
Breaking down my big goals into small goals usually involves scheduling the time. It is simple, and once I schedule it, it is very easy for me to be disciplined about it. (But read Rubin’s book because you may be a different temperament! No this not a paid endorsement.)
7. Ignation Detachment: St. Ignatius is the founder of the Jesuits, the religious order that runs my alma mater Boston College as well as many other institutes of higher learning. I was telling my best friend that I am at peace with my food memoir not being sold yet – my agents are marketing it (it is only half done and I am writing the other half now). It has gotten some rejections but lots of positive feed back at the same time. I know it will find a home, and that I just need to keep writing. Which makes me a real writer, according to Steven Pressfield.
When I told all this to my best friend, she said, ‘sounds like you have Ignation Detachment.‘
I had to agree with her. I have felt so much peace about everything in life lately, and I want to keep cultivating it. I am excited to read Shauna Niequist’s new book Present Over Perfect, and I suspect it has a lot to do with this whole concept of detachment. I feel like I am there, but I still can’t wait to read it to reinforce this peaceful perspective. (To learn more about Ignation Detachment visit here and here.)
So, as we start another school year, I will leave you with a quote strait from my college campus. I loved BC’s old gothic buildings and thick tall trees, especially in the fall when all the leaves would become a symphony of fluorescent color in every shade of flame.
There was a prayer on the wall at the Bapst Library, the oldest and most gothic structure there, and where I often chose to study. It was right next to a medieval-style archway you had to use to leave the library, so you couldn’t miss it. No matter how worried I was about a test or relationship or outcome of a situation, I would glance at it and know how right it was.
I am not there all the time, but when I am, it is such a sweet spot between surrender and joy.
Happy Fall, friends! xoxo Katie
St. Ignatius Prayer
Lord, take all of my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my will.
Everything I am is yours; do with it what you will.
Only your love and your grace are sufficient for me.
-St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – July 31, 1556)