Motivation Monday: My Summer Morning Routine

A few months ago, I posted a "day in my life" blog that followed me through an average school morning with the girls. I wrote about the challenges of me not being a morning person while raising two morning people, the extra challenge of those little people waking up every day not conveniently already boosted by their ADHD meds (and don't tell me it's not real either - I used to think that too until God started laughing and gave me these kids), and the way those things work against the rough edges of how PTSD impacts me personally on a daily basis. I wrote about what a relief it is to finally find my few minutes alone after dropping the kids off at school, especially as the transition to life as a single mom largely with an absentee co-parent became ... well. Exhausting.

So how do I change it up with summer upon us?
There's no dropping the kids off at school, and due to me not thinking ahead, there was no summer camp either. I'm a broke single mom struggling to make ends meet without much outside help, I'm building a brand largely by myself (or I was until just recently), and I'm still struggling to take care of my own mental health and wellbeing. To top it off, I don't have an awful lot of local sources of support in the way of friendships and family - my mom is too sick and lives almost an hour away, so does my cousin, and all my best friends are childhood friends that I'm still close to despite the fact that we now live all over the country.

Time to innovate.
Or more like, time to look at every moment of my day, assess them, and choose some that can belong only to me. Because otherwise, I'll go stark-raving mad and turn into a very bad sort of mommy. Overworked and underpaid, indeed.

During the school year, I'm considerably more strict about things like bedtime and wake-up time - because I must be. My kids are in bed most nights at seven, because they need some downtime or they can't fall asleep. They read and sometimes talk quietly until about eight, and that's "lights out" time for them - it gives them time to themselves to pray or think as they wind down for bed. In the end, the way it tends to work out is that Eden is asleep by around 8:15-8:30, and Joey is out by around 8:45-9:00. Another benefit of keeping them both on the same time is that no one is keeping anyone else awake by being loud elsewhere. This sets them up for a good night's sleep - and an early wake-up. During the school year, they're up at six and expected to be ready for school by 7:15, or 7:30 at the latest.

But in the summer, that sort of goes out the window. They wake up when they wake up, and we go to bed whenever the evening wraps up - or whenever I "can't take any more of this DAY!" Generally, this is anywhere between 7:30 and midnight. In general though, I try to get them to bed by around 9 or 10, because that leaves me an hour or two to myself. I spend this time listening to podcasts, watching youtube, reading - or writing, if there's a deadline I'm in danger of not meeting. Usually, this is when I'm able to give some focus to adult conversation too, so it's when I'm actively messaging friends and family, catching up with what we're up to.

And in the daytime? Well, in the daytime, I'm just making my way from one minute to the next - with varying degrees of coping skills and productivity. On the good days, when the kids behave and play well together, when I can focus and concentrate, when the words come to me almost as if by magic, then I spend my non-momming moments scheduling social media posts and writing blogs or Patreon writings, meeting one deadline at a time, aided by a calendar I would be helpless without. It sounds busy and maybe even tedious when put that way - but it is the one thing in my life that's truly fulfilling aside from my work as a mother. But even the good days are tinged with the screen of PTSD - I'm careful to avoid triggers, I'm watchful and exhausted, hypervigilant and overly cautious. I live by lists and schedules, and single motherhood only makes it all more overwhelming, even on the good days.

On the bad days, I'm thankful if on the good days I was able to get myself a little ahead of deadlines. It's an ebb and flow, with a guarantee of both good days and bad ones - and a certain pressure to make the good days count because they're outnumbered by the bad. On the bad days, when my kids are extra hyper and extra combative with each other, when Joey's full of teen sass and Eden's anxieties are on high alert, when they're suffering because their dad has come and gone from their lives again, picking them up and then discarding them at will, when motherhood stands in the way of writing because I love my children and they must come first ... when I can't focus and words won't come, when financial stress and loneliness hit me, when I'm so depressed I'm too bored to even eat ... then I wait when I can, and I force one shaking foot in front of the other when waiting isn't an option. If there's a deadline standing in the way of a mental health break, I force myself through, figure out how to plan better for next time, and schedule myself some downtime - even if the only way to get that downtime is to get up early.

Mornings, Ugh!
I am not a morning person. I'm just not. Or perhaps more accurately, I am not a morning people person. I don't want to be spoken to, touched, or expected from, and the only person I tolerate well on a face-to-face basis in the morning is my dog. I can do messaging, and I usually have my phone in my hand first thing in the morning, answering things that came to me while I slept (or attempted to sleep) the night before. This works because I can do it on my time, in accordance with my tolerance level. In general though, I need time to wake myself up mentally every day, to acclimate to the world I live in.

You can see where this might be a problem for a mother of two ADHD morning people people. So in the summertime, I get up early anyway, even as my children celebrate their break from getting up early. And aside from my usual wake-up time, it looks like this:

7:00 AM: The alarm goes off, vibrating softly against the table next to my head. If this doesn't work, it gets more persistent, ringing slowly louder and louder until I wake up panicked at the sound and slap it into silence.

7:05 AM: I'm out of bed, bleary-eyed and praying that Chance won't start doing his very vocal yawning thing that tells me he's ready to get up and go outside for a pee. I'm ready for one too, but I don't tell him that because I'm trying to be quiet and not set off the mom-dar that tells the girls I'm awake so they must get up and get hyper. I love them, but at 7:05 I'm praying they won't do either of those things. I put my pants on in silence, one eye on what I'm doing and one eye on the dog, eyebrow lifted in silent pleading instruction to keep quiet.

7:10 AM: By this time I'm on the back porch, greeting the birds and the sun and God himself while Chance greets the morning grass with an enthusiastic washing away of the morning dew. We're still in silence for the most part, and this is the only part of my day where I feel alone and actually enjoy it. On the porch, I activate my phone's screen to start answering messages and checking notifications while I wait for Chance. If I leave him out there alone too long, he barks.

7:30 AM: I'm back in the house. Chance has done his business and is on the couch, quietly waiting for the girls to wake up. I'm at the dining room table with my laptop, tablet, and phone, as well as my Jesus Calling (Morning and Evening) Devotional, my water, and my (recently added) bottles of LoveBug Probiotics. I start every morning with LoveBug now, and then get going on trying to reach my 100-ounce water goal.

7:35 AM: Time to check my deadline schedule. On a good day, I check in with confidence and then get going on whatever is due next, whether that's a refill of my social media, a new blog post for you guys, or a new Patreon something for the Undaunted community who steps up every month to help support my writing. This is done with a sense of gratitude and pride - in general, I was a child who felt unheard, and I have been a woman who felt unwanted and discarded. Writing is such a beautiful way for me to express myself in a way that allows people who care to appreciate what I'm saying, while allowing people who don't to move on - I'm so grateful every day for this gift. But on the bad days, I look at that schedule with helpless confusion and hopeless defeat, uncertain of the future and haunted by the past. Either way, I have to try - so whatever's next, I come at it as best I can.

Sometime between 7:40 and 10:30 in the morning, one or the other (or both) of the girls will wake up and come downstairs, wanting drinks and hugs and breakfast and attention - and to be counted as first. When I'm ahead of deadlines, I give them that right that minute. I take my fingers from the keyboard and I turn to them. I greet them lovingly if not always with 100% welcome, and I smile to myself because now I understand why my Grandmother used to always sigh with frustration when I woke up early. If I can get back to writing after that and finish what I needed to write for the day, then I do. If not, then I come back throughout the day when I can.

The routine itself varies, with some things fitting perfectly one day and not so perfectly the next, with things rearranged and ordered in the way that best fits that individual day and how that day is influenced by the individuals that are part of it. Either way, the morning routine will almost always, almost without fail, be 97% guaranteed to include the following:

  • Coffee. I drink one cup every morning, strong. It used to always be Folgers Gourmet Selections in the Mocha Swirl, but since Folgers lied to me and I can't ever seem to find it anymore, I'm currently drinking Wal*Mart's Great Value brand in Mocha. It's not quite as good, but it isn't hiding from me, either - still, if Folgers wanted to remedy this situation by sending me the lifeblood which we commonly refer to as coffee ... well. I wouldn't send it back, now would I? (Please address coffee packages in care of the Smartass at PO Box 12035, Knoxville, TN 37912.) 
  • Water. Because if I'm gonna reach that 100-ounce goal on anything even resembling a regular basis, I have to start early.
  • Jesus Calling. I don't read this every day unfailingly, but I'm trying to build the habit. I like the way God uses it to poke fun at me now and then, or to tell me something I've been asking about. Which brings me to ...
  • My Rosary practice. I'm not always great at doing this daily yet either, but I'm getting better and better about it, slowly and surely. I'm not Catholic, so I don't necessarily use the specific prayers of the Catholic rosary - but I DO use a Catholic rosary necklace that I beaded myself. One day I'm going to buy myself this beautiful one that's made of sterling silver and amethyst beads (my birthstone) - but today is not that day, and that's why it's just waiting on my wishlist right now. Anyway, I have a set of prayers that I chose for myself, and in my practice, I'm working to memorize those - they're very helpful in a meditative sort of way, and they help to keep me focused so that I don't start out praying and end up at Wal*Mart buying hot dogs for dinner.
  • Yoga. I've been wanting to get back into a regular yoga practice for a while now, and I recently found just the thing to get me (and Eden) up and moving. When the routine we're currently loving gets old, I'll find us another and then we'll alternate those until we're ready to add a third. Eventually when I know and am comfortable with enough poses to feel like I can create my own routine, I will.
  • Protein. At least once a day, I'll open and enjoy a Core Power protein shake. If I'm having liquid breakfast with my water and coffee (because apparently I secretly actually WANT to drown myself?), then I drink either an 8-ounce chocolate (that's 18 grams of protein!) or strawberry-banana one. If I'm indulging in a sweet breakfast but want to at least pretend I'm being healthy, then I'll use a vanilla one as milk and pour it over cereal - which works well because they're actually made of milk anyway.
Sounds so organized, doesn't it? Like a great morning routine where everything's all put together and just right? All set for a productive day, right? 

Yeah. But then there's ...

The Part You Don't See From The Outside
As organized as I like my routines to be, and as hard as I try to keep them steady and dependable and trigger-free, the truth is, I don't live alone in a cave in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Other people are part of my day, and even though they're family-type people that I'm mostly used to and generally prepared to be around, they're still people with their own rough edges and their own triggers and their own quirks. Sometimes there's drama. Sometimes there's tension. Sometimes words are said or things are done, and sometimes feelings are hurt which must be soothed. Sometimes the "morning" routine must be worked around constant interruption and then it takes all day long. Sometimes I wake up in a PTSD fog, and it takes me an hour of that "morning" routine just to convince myself to make my first cup of coffee.

But whether the morning routine takes three hours or nine, you can bet I'm working on it. It's the beginning of a little productivity trick I like to use called "habit stacking" - partly because it gives me a solid routine to build each day on, and partly because doing things in that way helps me combat my tendency to forget just about everything all the time.

Wow, this is a LONG post! If you've read far enough to be reading this, thanks for sticking around!

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is Skechers Shoes. I'm usually a barefoot kind of girl, and when I can find a reason to not wear shoes, you can bet I won't be wearing them. It means working extra hard to take care of my feet, but I'll take that trade in the value of comfort and freedom. Maybe it's the central Florida redneck I was raised as, or maybe it's the east Tennessee hillbilly I've embraced becoming. It's definitely not anything to do with being a hilljack of any kind - those hilljacks are a bunch of pretentious bastards.

Anyway, school's starting and winter's coming, which means my family has been in the market for shoes. And when I'm wearing shoes, I'm wearing Skechers. Currently, my Skechers are from the Flex Appeal line, and I love how lightweight they are while still being supportive enough for the foot I broke back in the spring of (I think) 2012. I love them for the girls, too!

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Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
Since this post was such a long one, I'm going to attempt to keep this outro short and sweet - wish me luck with that!

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  1. I can definitely relate to your tough mornings. There are some days when my morning activities take all day for me, too. But it sounds like you're working really hard to help your business, as well as your family, and you should be proud of that. I'd love a more detailed post entirely about "habit stacking", it sounds like it could help me!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I'll definitely add a post about my habits and how I stack them (as well as how I use that technique to get through the day) to my blogging calendar!

  2. This is really inspiring. I only have a husband and puppy and find morning routine difficult. It's something I've been challenged to work on with my life coach. Every morning now I put my hands on my face look in the mirror and tell that girl I love her for one minute. It's the best I've got so far. I love that you find time for you in the middle of single parenting. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. I love that you do that - that you stand in the mirror and acknowledge yourself with love and acceptance!

      So many of us are taught not to do that, and it breaks my heart - I'm STILL learning to love myself and to discard the limiting beliefs I've accepted as truth over the years, and so much of that begins with simply acknowledging myself as a person, giving me credit for doing the best I can in any given moment, and working to grow and improve on that as I'm able to. with the same mercy and the same grace I would give to anyone else. Honestly though, THAT is what has been the hardest - reminding me that I count too, and making me believe that as fact.

  3. Habit stacking is a great way to build up a routine and still be gentle enough on yourself to exercise grace and still be effective.

    Since you're already on your phone most of the morning, have you considered testing out routine-building apps? As a decidedly not-morning person, I've found the prompts in the morning help with getting my mind engaged and in gear faster.

    1. I've definitely used routine-builders and habit-trackers. I actually use several apps on a daily basis to get me through each day and help me reach the goals I set for myself. That's how I got into habit stacking as a practice, too ... I just started trying to make sure I did this one thing daily. Then once I started getting good at doing that BEFORE I ran out of daylight, I started working on doing another thing.


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