Fall Mountain Getaway

We did something new this year: we rented a cabin in the mountain region of our state for the weekend. We wanted to finish celebrating Jai’s second birthday in a fun, outdoorsy sort of way, so we settled on trying a cabin.

It’s much too cold to camp with our supplies and I love trying new experiences so this was a great opportunity.

One thing about living in a major metropolitan area is that there aren’t enough opportunities to connect with nature, especially when raising a little one. So I try to brainstorm ways to get Jai out of the city and into the country to gain similar experiences I had as a child. Getting a cabin made the most sense given how rural the location.

It was a special win because Ash is not a big camper and getting him to a place with wi-fi accessibility is much easier than getting him to a place without. With a working fireplace, I was in my own happy place.

Plans & Adjustments

The trip itself was well-planned and we came well-prepared. The weather, however, did not cooperate. We’d hoped to go for a hike one day of the trip, but had to opt for staying in the cabin or finding alternative plans due to the rain and cold.

Cold is fine for hiking. Rain, cold, and wind? Not so much with a toddler.

Instead, we ended up being tourists in the area. We went to an antique mall to walk around, a cafe that has a petting zoo and play area and driving around to enjoy the scenery. Overall, it was a great way to spend the day despite having to make changes to our initial plans.

Enjoying the Break

I made sure to spend the weekend off of my phone as much as possible, especially keeping away from social media. I worked on a crochet project I started a while back and played some card games with my family once Jai was in bed. We didn’t turn on the TV once (though the cabin had one) and enjoyed the beautiful mountain view from our back porch.

We were in the heart of Appalachian mountains and I could see why people settled into the mountains so long ago. The views alone are worth it.

Coming back to the urban area was less of a drudgery than I thought, as I tend to hate the stress that comes flooding back from it. But I have to admit that I love my proximity to a lot of things that you don’t get in these rural areas.

Plans for Next Year

It was such a wonderful experience to spend a fall weekend in the mountains that we want to make it a yearly tradition for Jai’s birthday month every year (until he says “no more”). Given how much he loves nature, I suspect this will be something we will be doing well into his adulthood.

Getting away tells me how important it is to take a break from normal life as much as possible. I understand that it isn’t always feasible financially, but making some time where I don’t have to interact with the outside world for 48 hours does have its benefits.

What do you do to get away from it all? How did you come up with that as your solution? Leave your suggestions and stories in the comments.


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Evicting Toxic Tenants, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part post about coping with toxic friendships. I previously discussed the formative relationship that led me to seek out toxic friendships, the anger connection that was the center of these friendships, how I chose to ignore the red flags, and my own toxic role in these friendships. What follows is a continuation of my self-reflection and how I’ve worked towards being healthier in my quest to remove toxic friendships out of my life. 

Read part one here


Preventing Healthy Relationships

By engaging in toxic relationships, I prevented myself from being receptive to healthy friendships. I do have healthy relationships, but the ratio of toxic relationships outweighed the healthy ones since childhood.

I am lucky to know people who want to establish a healthy relationship with me. Unfortunately, in the past, I haven’t done enough to nurture these friendships though I am trying to do more as I change my friendship patterns. I am not quite there yet, but I am hoping I can reach out and do a better job reciprocating once I’ve healed.

There are three main reasons why I stifled healthy relationships: one, the toxic ones took up more time and energy so I couldn’t think about fostering another friendship; two, I didn’t think I deserved healthy friendships because of my own low self-esteem; and three, I was so uncomfortable with the healthy dynamic that I did not know how to handle it.

I found myself suspicious of any healthy relationship. Clearly, the other person wants something out of me and I was unwilling to give it to them. Ironically, I was willing to give a toxic person everything and more, but when the relationship had an equal dynamic I didn’t know how to handle myself. I found myself freezing and not pursuing the friendship hoping it would go away.

Emotionally healthy people scared me for the longest time. I resented that they highlighted my own inadequacies because I never measured up in comparison. I wanted to be where they were without doing the emotional legwork.

I sabotaged healthy relationships throughout my life, which I deeply regret. I don’t know how many awesome friendships I’ve missed out on in favor of the toxic ones. I am very lucky for the healthy ones I have today, and I recognize how patient these friends are with me and how they pursued my friendship with no expectations.

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Evicting Toxic Tenants, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part post about coping with toxic friendships. Today I will talk about the formative toxic relationship in my life, how I connected with others to encourage a toxic relationship, the red flags I ignored, and my own role in a toxic relationship.


For the month of August, I am writing about tidying up the home life: from cleaning the house to effectively organizing my time.

I am also working through some internal cleaning: my mental headspace. Living healthy doesn’t exclusively mean eating right or exercising on a regular basis. It means being mindful of my emotional and mental health as well. It’s easy to focus on the external stuff, like what I eat and how much I exercise, but very hard to concentrate on the energy I give to thoughts, interactions, and even friendships.

Friendships are a sticking point in my internal life.

I have a lot of people I consider friends, some I consider close friends, and fewer considered best friends. In my 30+ years, I have a lot of failed friendships and until recently, rarely did I focus on the successful friendships, but much of my mental energy went towards the unhealthy ones.

Many, if not all, of these failed friendships, were toxic in nature. It is important to note I am not talking about friendships that died due to time, distance, and a lack of communication. The toxic friendships generally did not have geographic issues nor was there a lack of time for the friendship, they failed for other reasons.

When the friendships were dying or at a clear end, I would repeatedly reflect on my perceived failures: lack of perception for the warning signs from the beginning, my role in encouraging the negative friendship, and the length of time I allowed myself to endure the unhealthy dynamic.

What follows is my experience with toxic friendships, the self-reflection I needed to complete to move towards healthier friendships, and the fallout from these situations. This process wasn’t easy, and I am nowhere near finished with it, but I wanted to share my current position both as catharsis and hopefully to show that there isn’t anything wrong with you if you realize you’re in a toxic friendship.

My Toxic Origin Story

I am rather lucky that I can point to the origin of my toxic friendships. It was one individual in my life and how everyone surrounding them responded to their toxic behavior.

It was a family member that I dealt with since I was six years old. I have allowed geography to cut them out of my life which helped me heal, but the scars and patterns remain today from the experience.

This person controlled everyone around them with such toxicity, that the only way to reasonably handle them and keep familial harmony was to give in to their desires. We would eat on their terms. Do activities on their terms. Listen to their problems on their terms. There’s video evidence of them completely changing the mood of the room when they walked in for my sixth birthday. This video saved me from believing I imagined their behaviors when they tried to gaslight me as I grew older.

What I saw growing up with this relative was the following:

  1. It’s important to love a toxic person no matter what. Unconditional love will help them.
  2. Give that toxic person whatever they desire because that’s part of the expression of love. They are broken and only you can help fix them by giving into them.
  3. How they treat you is a measure of your worth: if they treat you badly then you are doing something wrong. If they treat you well, then you are doing something right. Always strive to be treated well.

I dealt with this relative for 18 years, which straddled my formative years on how to foster friendships with others. Unfortunately, what guidance I received to navigate my troublesome peer-relationships didn’t match the example I was given regarding this ever-present familial relationship.

So instead of seeking healthy friendships, I sought the relationship I was most familiar with: a toxic one. I don’t know how many friendships I’ve had that were toxic on some level, and that’s the thing, not all these relationships were toxic in the same way.

Think of it as gradations of toxicity. Sometimes I can overlook toxic behavior because the time spent with the person is more important than the slightly toxic behavior they exhibit from time-to-time. With others, they wrapped up so much of my time and energy that it was a drain to think about the next time I would see them. I will be focusing most of my post on the latter.

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Revisiting a Phone Detox

On Monday, I decided to take a much-needed break from my phone and putting restrictions on my usage for Jai’s sake and my own. I found the process both daunting and freeing and plan to keep the forward momentum I’ve gained by limiting my phone usage.

How the Week Went

Overall, I found myself to be more productive.

While I still found I spent a lot of time on my phone, it was doing more productive work like checking my social media accounts for the blog, interacting with other bloggers, and whatnot. But more importantly, I found myself no longer making excuses for getting ahead and working on some side projects that have been on the backburner for a while.

I am not surprised at how much of a distraction my phone is in my life.

I suspect that I use it as a tool to keep me from pursuing more important personal goals. I am someone who has an insecurity when it comes to the threat of failure, so I use my phone as a means to distract myself from the task at hand. If I don’t complete a task I’ve set out for myself, I can’t fail. It really doesn’t make sense when you look at it objectively.

The point is this: my phone was used as a means to keep me stagnant. I waste time doing unimportant tasks with no tangible benefit in order to avoid tangible productivity that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This week I turned towards more tangible tasks.

I worked off of my paper planner more which increases my productivity versus my electronic calendars and apps. Try as I might, I can’t get away from the allure of physically writing something down as a means to commit something to memory or plan something out.

The Most Difficult Part

Night time was the hardest time to manage because I tried to ration my time out with my various apps to save for bedtime. I have a very bad habit of needing to use my phone to fall asleep. Looking at a phone screen up to three hours before going to sleep can affect you sleep health and habits. I fall asleep most nights with my phone on and in my hand.

Not good.

I bought a dimmable book light and pulled some books I’ve been meaning to read and put them by my head to help facilitate the process of turning to books as a means of falling asleep rather than my phone. I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting there.

Kat, a blogger at the Lily Cafereminded me of this on Monday: remove the phone from the bedroom altogether. Having at least one phone is a good idea in case of an emergency so it would have to be Ash’s, but I should probably leave my phone charging in the kitchen at night.

It will prevent me from reaching for it when I wake in the middle of the night. I find that once awake and on my phone, I have a harder time falling asleep. I start thinking about things as I read social media or I get wrapped up in banal game tasks that an hour or two has passed without me falling back to sleep.

Known Personal Benefits

On the nights I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone I found that I slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning. This, in turn, helped boost my productivity.

By reincorporating books in my daily life I am rediscovering the joy I had of reading. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years because it’s easier to have on in the background when chasing a toddler.

Jai is also helping reignite my love: he will sit for extended periods of time in his room just flipping through his books. He’s not reading, we’re nowhere near that yet, but he is looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy whatever is internally playing out in his head.

Some days I am able to entice him to naptime by putting a favorite board book in the crib and he’ll sit contentedly flipping through the book until he falls asleep or throws it out of the crib.

This week I’ve taken to reading my books to him. They are dry, boring parenting books, but books I’ve been meaning to read for the blog and for myself. I read during the times I would be on my phone to distract myself while he engaged in independent play. Sometimes he wants to hear me read, other times I read silently.

Either way, it feels good to be doing that again. I feel guilty about reading books while in graduate school because I feel like I should be reading academic books rather than pleasure or enrichment books. I am learning to let go of that guilt and just enjoy the hobby that drove me to graduate school.

I also feel my time spent with Jai is more meaningful and no longer squandered. Sitting in a corner of his room while on my phone always felt like I was taking his toddler moments for granted. My biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret spending time on my phone rather than interacting with him.

I do not believe every waking moment should be spent interacting with Jai, having the independent play and alone time away from mommy is good for his development, but I also would rather spend my idle time doing something productive and less distracting. My absorption in my phone is so full that it can be hard to break away versus I find it easier to put a book down when he needs my attention.

Moving Forward

This week was a small step in decreasing my dependence on technology. I had my moments where I had to pause app limits because it was necessary to spend an extra five minutes on a problematic app for communication purposes.

I find that I still used my phone more than I would like, but it was getting down to a more acceptable time sink.

I plan on keeping my app blocker and further limit my technology usage by incorporating productivity extensions on my browser. I don’t want to stop using technology for fun altogether because as I stated on Monday, technology has always been a hobby since childhood, I just want to manage that time better and make sure it doesn’t take up all of my time.

Technology isn’t the enemy in my life, it’s a fantastic tool that I want to use and embrace. I just want to make sure that I am being healthy both as a means of achieving my personal goals and avoiding stagnation while modeling balanced behavior for Jai as he gets older.

 


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Taking a Phone Detox

When Jai wakes up in the morning ready to be taken out of bed, the first thing Ash reaches for is his glasses. The first thing I reach for is my phone.

I wish I could say it’s because I have a bunch of important messages that I need to check from overnight. But it’s not.

The main reason I feel the need to instantly check my phone is for a resource/time management game and social media sites like Facebook or Reddit. I need to see what happened overnight, make necessary adjustments, comment, upvote, downvote, like, subscribe… I need to interact with the digital medium.

And then respond to any important messages.

None of what I am doing is so imperative that it must be the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.

My name is Deborah and I am addicted to my phone.

I am not being flippant about this, I genuinely believe I have an addiction to my phone (and technology). This has been a long-standing addiction, something I’ve dealt with since before Jai was born. I believe my addiction got worse due to countless hours of breastfeeding when Jai was a newborn and never scaled back as he got older.

When you are stuck with a little one on your breast with nowhere to go, reading and interacting on your phone is the easiest and most entertaining means to pass the time.

Now that he is more aware of what is going on, I need to be mindful of my phone usage, particularly around him.

I have this overwhelming fear he’s going to get the message that he’s less important than my phone. With my current phone/technology usage – it’s unavoidable.


This post isn’t about shaming parents who use technology, it’s about my problematic usage of technology and an attempt to have a healthier relationship with it. This post isn’t about passing judgment on others’ technology usage, but an examination of my own.

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