How to control the unknown: Journaling during the pandemic

Recently, I rediscovered my love for journaling. I currently have two journals: a bullet journal where I track my bookish creative needs, and another journal where I focus on mental check-ins before bed and other writing.

With the recent pandemic sweeping the globe, I noticed my journaling habits dwindling. I have been glued to my phone, scrolling through Twitter and Facebook to try to make sense of it all. I couldn’t believe what I read, but seeing that everyone was facing the same issues somehow made me feel less alone. The issue with this, of course, is that people don’t always post the most encouraging or factual things on social media, so those notions of connectivity also brought panic, uncertainty, and a lot of anxiety that I could not curb.

I decided to unplug — to only focus on the positive things — and pay more attention to books (more than I already do). I am working to exercise daily, eat healthily, and be mindful of what I can control. I slowly started journaling again, readying myself to write down what I was feeling. I realized that I was avoiding journaling because it was easier to harbor anxiety and fear rather than see it on paper. It’s been a few days now, and I am enjoying the process and act of journaling. It has helped to record my thoughts and activities during this time and work through them rather than avoid them.

I found myself this Sunday morning scribbling in my journal, feeling much like Jo March when she has a moment of inspiration and needs to get it down. I wrote six pages of free prose, mostly detailing what is happening, how I feel, and how my husband and I are coping during these troubling times. I wanted to share some of it with my readers, for I feel like this is how we might all feel. I also want to start sharing more of my writing with others, which takes a lot of courage.

Here are my favorite snippets:

As a homebody, this is certainly a lifestyle that I am used to, but I find myself gripping to my humanity more and more as we encounter outside individuals on our walks or in the grocery stores. As someone who is so introverted, I find myself craving extroversion. Technology is keeping “us” connected through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…Google Hangout, FaceTime and Zoom and “we” are having virtual Happy Hours and game nights. Families are joining each other for dinner in their respective living rooms. Why haven’t we done this before? Last week, my friends and I got together for a virtual chat. We laughed and caught up. One friend said: “We should have been doing this all the time anyway!” It’s true. Why wouldn’t my friends and I schedule regular time to do this? When we can’t get together physically, why don’t “we” embrace technology and still be together socially?

I hope that we all appreciate the simplicities of greetings: a smile, a handshake, or a “hello, how are you?” as we pass each other on the street. Why did we lose that in the first place? Ian and I went for a walk the other day, and every person looked at us and said “hi,” as if they were also craving that social interaction. Before, we wouldn’t get a glance from half of the people we crossed paths with. Where did humanity go? Does it take us to all be locked in our homes to strive for politeness when someone passes by?

I hope we learn to appreciate each other more — that we continue to take better care of one another and of ourselves. What about our planet? What about appreciating those on the front lines all of the time? Or asking those “what about them?” questions when things go wrong? I hope we don’t lose sight of that — taking care of each other.

After this is over, I hope that we continue to pick up more books, appreciate the small things like getting an iced coffee or an ice cream cone. I hope more people browse bookstores or work to support small businesses. I hope that we call our friends more, FaceTime with our grandparents regularly. I hope that we exercise and crave to go outdoors and take care of it. These things were always options, but now it’s something that we want to do and share.

I hope that we rediscover hobbies during this time- our love of books, favorite movies, playing or creating music. I hope that we are creative – that we paint, write, draw. I hope we are OK if we do none of those things but take time to look within ourselves and know that we are resilient … that we are strong and we can regain control and maintain that control when the world seems to have lost it. I hope we can just “be” and know that if we do anything, it is good enough. Enough with comparing ourselves on social media, thinking that we are not good enough. Enough with the drive for money and the greed to be successful. Can we continue to check in with one another? Can celebrities and musicians continue to share their talents?

I hope we act silly; that we dance. That we come out of this stronger than ever.

I am so excited to see all the creative work that comes from this. I can’t wait to see all the art, read all of the prose, and listen to new music. I hope to create my own work, academic and personal, during this time. I hope to learn how to be OK with my work, breathe slowly and be patient with my craft — to continue being diligent as a writer. I want to be loud; I want to praise others for their talents and help others feel safe and not alone. It’s time to be there for each other.

Kassondra and Ian go Bragh!

Tomorrow, Ian and I will head to Ireland for 10 days! This trip has been a dream of ours for the past 6 years (honestly, it’s been a dream of mine since I first watched “P.S. I Love You!”)—and it’s finally here! I hope you will follow our adventures. We plan to post as much as we can. Thanks for following!

-The “O’Mangiones” 😉

 

 

10 Ways to Take Advantage of a Snow Day

Happy snow day, all! If you’re anywhere in New England (and beyond at this point) you are currently snowed in!

I love snow days— you get to stay in your pajamas all day! Not only that, but you have the opportunity to have some “me time” whether it is checking off items on your to-do list or indulging in some well-deserved self-care.

Sometimes, however, the opportunity of a snow day can be overwhelming. You may find yourself asking: “What should I do?” Self-doubt about how to best take advantage of a snow day is tough, but just remember that if what you are doing brings you joy, it is worth it! I know that I struggle with this, so I decided to come up with a list of 10 fun (or productive!) things you can do while you’re snowed in:

Read a book or do some crossword puzzles!

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t suggest to snuggle up with a good book! During a busy day, do you ever stop and wish that you had time to sit down and read that book or magazine you’ve been dying to open? Now is the time to unwind, relax, and add some books to your Goodreads list! Reading is a great way to keep your brain stimulated and even reduces stress!

Declutter and organize

Have you been eyeing a closet or drawer in your home that needs organizing lately? Take some time and declutter, clean out, and organize your home! Taking time to clean up will not only get you off the couch but will also put your mind at ease and make your home seem more open and inviting.

Movie/TV marathon

Whenever it snows, I always have the biggest urge to sit on the couch and binge-watch some my favorite movies—particularly the “Lord of the Rings” or “Hobbit” series! So, grab some blankets, some snacks, and watch something you love!

Bake something delicious

There’s nothing better than some comfort food on a cold, snowy day. I love to bake muffins, cookies, or a yummy bread when it snows. What’s on the menu today? Apple cinnamon muffins! Yum!

Exercise!

Sitting for a while can make my body super stiff and sore, so I try to add some exercise during my snow day! Even if it is some yoga, stretching, or a soft workout, your body, and mind will thank you!

Rest

Life can be so hectic between jobs, school, kids, and other obligations. Take some time today for yourself and indulge in some self-care! This can mean taking a nap, sitting in a warm bath with candles, writing, playing video games or a board game—the list goes on and on! Make some time for yourself; you deserve it.

Listen to music

Have you downloaded an album or two and struggled to find the time to listen to it? What a great opportunity to take some time and discover your new favorite jam! You can listen to music while cleaning, relaxing in a warm bubble bath, or cuddled up on the couch.

Visit a local coffee shop (if it is safe to travel)

After being stuck inside all day, visiting a local coffee shop and taking in the scenery is a great way to reconnect with the outside world. If it is safe for you to travel, find a local coffee shop and take in its warm and welcoming atmosphere. Order your favorite beverage and bring a book, journal, or project you are working on and enjoy the sounds, smells, and sights.

Go for a walk

When the weather calms down, bundle up and go for a walk around your neighborhood and take in the beauty of fresh-fallen snow. I know that one of my favorite things to do during a snowfall is to go outside, close my eyes, and listen to the silent peace that snow brings!

Learn something new

Take advantage of the free time and start a lifelong goal you may have. Do you want to learn a new language or start playing an instrument? Do you want to learn how to code or discover a new place in the world? Get cracking and see what you can accomplish!

 

What do you like to do on a snow day? Share your feedback in the comments! 

8 Ways to Experience Hygge this fall

I discovered the magic of “hygge” a year ago when I stumbled across the book, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking. I remembered reading how the Dutch are the happiest people in the world, and I always wondered how. The answer: “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word acknowledging a feeling or moment that gives you complete happiness. One can experience hygge alone or with friends; the only condition to experiencing hygge is that you are able to enjoy and recognize living in the present.

Some buzzwords that surround hygge are “cozy,” “comfort,” and “charm.” These are three elements that I take pride in when choosing my hygge. Wiking writes: “Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day.” To “do” hygge is to you create simple rituals without much effort; you make your personal life an art form.

Fall has arrived—the perfect season to try out some hygge practices. Hygge is not just restricted to the colder months, but for someone like me who loves bundling up in blankets with a cup of hot chocolate, this is when I experience the most hygge. Here are some fall activities for you to try to bring some hygge into your life:

Light some fall-scented candles
Candles are already so calming and peaceful, so why not light a Pumpkin Spiced Chai Latte candle and get the full fall effect?

Read a book
As an avid reader, sitting in my comfy chair with a steaming mug of tea or coffee and a great book is ultimate hygge. Since it’s Halloween season, try picking up a horror/spooky book to get you into the Halloween spirit!

Layer up!
Three of the best things about fall: sweaters, scarves, and boots. I love bundling up with scarves and jackets and dressing for the cool weather. Did I mention flannels?!

Buy some fall decorations—or make your own!
When the first leaf hits the ground in September, I make a mad dash to the nearest craft store and load up on fall decor. I love crafting; it’s such a fun way to unwind, relax, and spark some creativity! Here’s an example of one of my fall decor pieces this year. I went to my local craft store and bought these pumpkins and leaves, and created my own chalkboard sign:

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Road Trip!
Get in your car with a friend or two and take a drive to a cool town or place and explore. Go to a trendy coffee shop or a museum; or go to a park and take in the views! Everything is beautiful this time of year—get out there and enjoy it!

Have a movie night
Invite a friend over and have a movie night or watch a movie on your own. This time of year, I love to sit on my couch after a long day with a warm blanket and watch Halloween movies—especially classics like “Halloweentown” and “Hocus Pocus!”

Go on a walk/hike through the autumn leaves
Head outside and enjoy the sweet, crisp autumn air. Going for walks gives me the chance to slow down and enjoy the beautiful foliage—and I love hearing the *crunch* of fallen leaves under my feet!

Pick your own apples/pumpkins—and get to baking!
Make your way to a local pick-your-own farm and grab a hot apple cider, some warm fritters, and pick your own pumpkins or apples. Then…make a dessert when you get home! A fall dessert favorite in our home is warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream on top. Yum!

 

What do you like to do in the fall? How do you “hygge?”