Friday, July 25, 2014

Meditation (Day 6/30): Aligning Mind and Body

My mind is completely at odds with my body.  A few days ago, someone asked how the transition period was going and I said it was going well.  She told me I seemed relaxed and I agreed that I was pretty chill about the whole thing.  Later that day, I reassessed to discover that I had headaches, a stiff neck, a sore back and my face was breaking out.  So I decided to commit to 30 days of meditation to even things out.

Disclaimer: I have a hard time with the concept of meditation. I’m an obsessive planner.  I live in the future.  The concept of thinking only of the present is not intuitive for me.  BUT, people who find healthy ways to cope with stress are much happier.  AND, sociological research suggests that men take time for themselves when they are caregivers while women don’t.  I usually like a good Zumba class or a pedicure, but since things are so all over the place, I’ll try meditating for 10 minutes a day.

Here’s why I’m skeptical of meditation:
  •          I don’t have time to sit and do nothing.
  •          It’s impossible for me to think about nothing.
  •          I don’t have a place that is calm and quiet.
  •          It seems like a bunch of hooey.

 Here’s what makes me want to try it anyway:
  •  I need to practice being focused.
  •   My partner gave me a good visual for meditation: imagine you’re on the dock of a river watching your thoughts float by.  You can have thoughts, but don’t engage them. Put your thought in the river, watch it float by, then re-focus on your breathing.
  • I pick the most quiet of the “not quiet” times/places and set an alarm on my phone for 10 minutes. I listen to the sounds (cars driving by, birds, etc), then try to re-focus on my breathing.
  • It could be hooey, but I feel a little better after 5 days.

I’ve tried mornings, afternoons, and evenings. I’ve fallen asleep. I’ve been unable to float my thoughts down the river without engaging them. I’ve been motivated only by the decision to write this post.  Some days go well and some don’t…but I’ve got 24 days left in my 30 day challenge.  Who’s with me?

*photo credit:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strategies for Smoothing Big Transitions: "Life with Kids" Edition

Life in the D.R. will be a big adjustment for all of us, and I would like to be intentional about making that transition smooth – especially for my little ones. My partner and I have lived there before, but I can remember how jarring it was to be in a place where everything was so different: sights, sounds, traffic, weather, language…you name it.  In order to buffer some of the culture shock, there are some things I’m trying with my 3 year old before we leave. I’ve spoken with others who have moved to a different country with young children and here is what they suggest: establish a routine early, front load with information, commiserate on bad days, and do fun things together.  I guess I’ll have to report back later to determine how well they worked, but perhaps they can help with big transitions for your kids…or yourselves!

Establish a Routine Early: When things are changing, kids may not feel like they know what’s coming next.  I created a calendar for the month before we leave so my 3 year old could see what to expect each day.  (See the picture in this post.) Some things are weekly (ie. church on Sundays, story time at the library on Tuesdays, the visit to the train museum on Fridays).  Other activities are special days (blueberry picking or birthday celebrations).  Daily routines are also the same: breakfast, morning activity, lunch, nap, afternoon activity, dinner, bedtime.

“Front load” with information:  The first thing adults do when we have to deal with something new is research it: we consult the internet, friends, and colleagues to create a mental picture of what’s ahead.  To give my preschooler a mental picture, we have “DR School” in the afternoons on Monday through Friday.  DR School is a 30-minute lesson on the Dominican Republic mostly in Spanish.  Week 1 is “Geography, Climate, Community, and Creatures”. This includes YouTube videos of Dominican kids and a heads up about rain and bugs.  Week 2 is “Food, Culture, and Sports” so we’ll eat Dominican food, learn about music, dance merengue and play baseball.  Week 3 is on transportation, money, and housing so we’ll look at guaguas and learn about different types of houses.  Here’s a sample lesson:

Tuesday: Climate, Weather, Beach
·         Read: “Cuando Voy a La Playa” (poem); color a picture of the beach
·         Watch video about rain
o   what do you see? do the trees look the same as the trees here? what does the rain sound like? what do buildings look like?
o   Song: “Una gotita sobre mi casa”
o   Activity (math): addition - Cuantos gotitas hay?
Vocab: playa, arena, merienda, lluvia, gota

Commiserate on bad days: Parents probably already do this but my tendency with this move is to make the D.R. a great place for everyone all the time.  Realistically, though, there will be bad days there - just like we have bad days in the U.S.  So, I will have to resist the urge to say, “Baby, those bugs are not that scary” and instead say, “yikes! let’s fight them off together!”

Do fun things together: Other parents are clear on this one – remember to make the memories that will go in the scrapbook! Do something fun as early as possible.  This will give kids a positive experience in the country early on.

What has worked for you during big transitions?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Itchy Discomfort of Transition

"Those who put on itchy 
sweaters start every day 
from scratch." -unknown

This week marks the beginning of seemingly perpetual transition for our family…and I don’t love it.  We move out of our apartment in 2 days.  We live in limbo with family for 3 weeks.  We live in limbo in the DR for 1 week while we try to find a more permanent apartment.  We settle in for 10 months, then try to transition back to the U.S. (look for preschools, neighborhoods, employment for my partner).  We live somewhere for 1-2 years while I write up my dissertation…then we may move again when I graduate and look for faculty positions.

It makes me exhausted to think about.  Really, I’m tired.

Granted, I’m probably tired because the only time we have to pack boxes is when the kids are sleeping.  So that means late nights trying to decide how much I really need two staplers.  But transition is uncomfortable…like an itchy sweater.  Nothing too serious, but just enough to bug the crap out of you. 

I’ve also had to come to terms with my personal frustrations during this phase. I’m sad to leave Durham.  We’ve lived here for 4 years – the longest time I have lived anywhere in my adult life.  I’m anxious about what lies ahead.  Even though I have faith that amazing things are ahead, uncertainty makes me uncomfortable (see This Kaleidoscope Life entry).  And I don’t like living out of boxes and suitcases.  

But you know what? I am so lucky to have this opportunity for our family.

So, we are visiting our favorite places in Durham for the last time, making lists on dry erase boards to quell my anxieties, and labeling each box with details so I can find things if I need to.

Let the (itchy) fun begin!