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Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Forced Slow-Down

The first snowfall
 Just a few minutes ago I received the notification on my phone that our schools are cancelled tomorrow.  It has now been two weeks since our five children have attended school!  I don't remember ever being out this long, even when growing up in the much-more-wintry upper Midwest.

At first it is fun and novel.  However, our particular storms brought sheets of ice which limited our level of outdoor fun.  So we stayed active indoors where we were grateful to maintain our power and internet service.  When at last we attempted to head out on Sunday, our car wound up in our woods.  The sight of us climbing, slipping, sliding and grasping back up the hill in our Sunday finest could have made us a finalist in America's Funniest Home Videos.

Things started to thaw a bit at the beginning of the week, and then we received several inches of
I don't even want to talk about it.
snow. My youngest child had a birthday on Wednesday and I hadn't been able to get out for gifts, so I thought I would sneak out late Tuesday afternoon before the sun went down to grab a new movie and game at Walmart.   I didn't make it a mile up our road before I lost control on the ice and ended up in the ditch, too!  I was just sick to my stomach to call Mr. Wonderful and tell him what happened.  Two cars in two ditches within three days.

On Wednesday, we received five more inches of snow.

The mail has been delayed.

Our garbage hasn't been picked up in two weeks.

We missed the last high school musical of our daughter's senior year.

A birthday party, basketball awards and a daddy-daughter event have been delayed.

We haven't been able to go to church, boy scouts or gymnastics.

Obviously, things haven't been normal around our place for a while.

I keep telling my husband that "We're never having a normal day again!"  It feels like the "Groundhog Day" movie and by the middle of this week, I was struggling to maintain my normally optimistic attitude.

Extra care on the waffles because we have extra time on our hands.
The thing I love about a typical snow day is that it creates mandatory togetherness and abandoning our standard busy schedule.  We have open hours to bake, create, play, read and explore outdoors.  We did all these things and enjoyed it fully.  The children have genuinely behaved so well and gotten along for the most part.  They joined forces to create townships made of Lincoln Logs and other sculptures of Legos.  Even the youngest eagerly anticipated our readings from the "Little House" series which was my go-to method of distraction when we just needed some calm.

 

Each of these moments I have loved and I believe the winter snows of 2015 will be folklore in our family's history.  But I am very much craving normal.  I am desperate for sunshine.  I miss the freedom of coming and going and the predictability of routine.  I'm taking a deep breath, I'm looking ahead to a forecast of a warmer, albeit damp, week.

Spring is a crazy-making busy time of year for us all.  I know I will long for a day of no schedule and I will crave a moment to slow down.  Our vehicles will be repaired and the pantry will be restocked.  I would never choose to be this unproductive for two weeks, but I will treasure the memories (and madness) and trust that the sun will blaze once more.  Instead of being all together with cozy covers and carefree days, we will rush individually from one demand to the next.

The ice and snow will thaw and this moment that seems frozen will melt into reality that is speeding by too quickly.

Has your life been altered by things you can't control?  Is anyone else enjoying/enduring and endless snow day?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"The Rush Hour of Life" - On Being Forty

That's me now, spending my day at the office.
Recently, I've read about the, "Rush hour of life,” when career and child-rearing peaks collide.  Most people in this age category are still reasonably young, but many things are on the decline: health, fertility, those travel plans you were certain would happen by now or the certainty of a bank account that hasn't quite accumulated the anticipated goal.

Most days I'm grateful for the chance to live and arrive at this place, but I don't love everything about being forty.  I do not like the way my skin heals more slowly and my feet are angry that I've been wearing heels for more than twenty years.  I don't love my wider waist or more bountiful bottom.  I find I have less tolerance for complainers and dismiss those who aren't willing to work hard for what they want.  

There are things I know about myself now that I consider to be the greatest gifts of middle age:
  • Managing my sleep is the best way to ready for whatever life presents.  It's the best way to serve my family because only when adequately sleeping can I manage the surprise challenges each day presents.  Eight hours of continuous sleep is one of life's great pleasures.
  • Everyone facing a new opportunity is winging it and only by moving forward will I gain confidence.  
  • When someone is extremely charming, I am not dazzled.  I am cautious.  
  • My mother taught me so much more than I realized about practical, daily living - thank you!
  • Peer pressure never really ends, but it's so much easier to stand alone and find the ones who like me just the way I am.  
  • Family really is the best.
  • Soul mates are made over time by investing in a relationship daily (and nightly!).
  • When I don't know what to wear, choose something black.  Add red lipstick.
  • Laughter is the quickest way to heal friction in a relationship, but taking time to work through the deeper issues is worth it. 
  • Taking care of myself makes it possible to care for others well.  
  • Good health doesn't happen on accident and I am the only one responsible for this body.  I wish this wasn't true, but it helps me to realize steps needed to feel well.
  • Kindness covers a multitude of wrongs.
That's me 40+ years ago ...
I wish the chunky thighs were still cute!
There are still so many things I want to accomplish in life and there is a growing sense of the need to get going if it's going to happen!  Dreams are wonderful and inspiring, but they become disappointments without a plan of action.

I think "Rush Hour" is a term that rightly describes the way I feel most days.  With children at home from grade 1 through 12, with the duties and responsibilities they bring, plus working, managing a home and building a marriage...well, somedays I feel there just isn't enough time.  But I don't want to rush through this season.  So many treasures are found in the moments ticking by everyday.


Birthdays always make me ponder the state of my life, much like the New Year but with even more personal introspection.   Happy birthday to me and may you enjoy a great day, too!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Saving My Life Right Now

Many times we grumble about what isn't working, what is frustrating us and what might be driving me nuts!  But today I joining in a challenge to share what IS working for me - What is saving my life right now:

image via: pinterest 
1. Meal Planning - it might sound like a chore, but having the weekly menu on the fridge saves my sanity.  I resent hearing "What's for dinner?" from the crowd at my house for whom that seems to be the question of the day.  Somehow, being asked that as if I exist only to cater to each individual appetite, but when the menu is posted, the question stops.  I begin the week knowing I'm armed with all the ingredients needed and no last minute trips to the store will be necessary.  I feel on top of it!

Via: Glamour
2. The glammed up ponytail - sleek and simple,but most of all QUICK. Giving myself permission to embrace a simple pulled back style has been lifesaving.  Learning to bump the front and style it with a bit of sass has been mood boosting.  The fact that my husband loves it - bonus!  I

3.  Getting outdoors - The winter season inhibits my sunshine and affects my mood way more than I realized in the past.  On days that the sun is shining, I make it a point to get outside for at least a half hour and I always notice a bump in mood and energy.  Now, we just need fewer gray days!

4. Black, white and a closet cleanup - I get fatigued by making decisions every moment of the day and getting dressed is an area in which I can simplify the choices.  Over the past year my husband spoiled me with a few trips to "The Market" and my wardrobe is much more streamlined.  I've eliminated most of what I do not love and doesn't feel great from my closet (shoes included) and I'm looking forward to another purge in April.

5. Asking for Help - I've been more proactive about requiring help in the kitchen, around the house and with things that benefit the whole family.  I'm not sure the rest of the crew shares my relief, but expressing that I'm weary and letting the process go to the teens or even the little ones has been a big relief.  Thank you, family, for stepping up even when it's not always fun.

I won't even begin talk about what isn't working: bedtime, the scale, laundry routine?  Today is for acknowledging what going right!  What's saving your life right now?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I learned a new word: Kaizen

Recently, on The Art of Simple, Tsh shared a word that was new to me but fit in with my style of goals and change.  The word is Kaizen.  It is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and was introduced to the West during the 1986 Olympics.  The basics imply that there is no end to goals, only continued striving for better.  Small, continual changes that create improvement over time.  Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis and always improving.

For me, the part that works is the small, continuous aspect.  I don't have to cut all the carbs or immediately start running five miles per day.  I can do something to improve today, I don't have to do everything.

After the birth of my third child, I needed to improve my physical health.  I wanted to be a runner, but I had never run as a habit in my life.  I could walk and so I committed to walking at least one mile everyday.  I decided to be just as committed to that as I was to brushing my teeth and it was a habit that stuck.  Within a year, I was walking much more and was able to try running.  I began with the goal of running one mile.  The first run, I ran half a mile, then walked the rest.  I kept doing it every day.  Soon I pushed the goal and then stretched it a bit more.  Quickly I worked up to running a mile, then two miles.  The small daily pushes feel much more manageable to me.

I want my tupperware cabinet to be less chaotic, so I'm slowly replacing all the mismatched pieces with orderly, stackable coordinates.  I haven't found an afternoon to do the whole thing (which would totally work for some people) so I just get a new piece or two when I can, and then toss older ones as I use them instead of washing and stacking them.  Eventually, I will have fewer containers and a more orderly cabinet.  This works for me.

image via learningrebels.com
Without knowing the word that describes the concept, I have applied it to reading, to organizing, to changing personal habits, reaching out to others, and more goals I want in my life.  It works for me and saves me from feelings of failure when I don't accomplish it all at once.

The strategy can be applied toward almost any area. Often the concept is used in business.  It makes sense in personal relationships, fitness, community involvement and even relationships.    Another area in which this makes sense is in gardening - I don't have the energy to transform an entire lawn in one season, but bit by bit, it will improve.  I get excited just thinking of all the possibilities!

In some ways, this sounds like the opposite of my mantra that "You are Enough," but actually it fits right into that model.  Today, I am enough.  But that doesn't give me permission to stagnate and stay the way I am right now forever.  We must each strive for progress, not perfection.  We can't be perfect, we can be better.

Have you heard of the concept of Kaizen?  Do you recognize any benefits?  Are you a dive right in person, or make little changes type?  I don't know why this is so exciting to me, but I think I love the possibilities that feel within grasp.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Moody Monday Randomness

It's a wintry January Monday morning here and the clouds are hanging low over the mountains.  I'm almost sure it must be snowing up there, but there are only little flurries down here in the valley.  It's been busy in our household and here is my general Monday randomness:

1) I hosted my first sleepover party for my 9-year-old daughter.  She had the best time ever, but neither of us has recovered.  She takes after me in that we both need our sleep!  It was so worth it to foster her friendships, get to know her people and do something just for her.


2) The puppies are growing!  They are now three months old and doing much better with going
Photo taken by nine-year-old, excuse the cropped head!
outside to use the bathroom.  Each one knows his name and has a distinctive personality. Teddy is never going to catch up to Bilbo in size and will always be a runt.  The next doctor visit will include some snipping!

3) Remember the Less & More?  The scale isn't saying any less and this is when it gets hard for me!  I want instant results and that's unrealistic.  How do you stay motivated?

4) I'm missing family and need to schedule a time for us to all be together soon.  We had fun Facetiming on Friday and need to do that more often.  How do you keep in touch with far-away friends and family?

5) My husband is the best!  I just had to brag about something and he's the #1 thing to brag about.

I hope your week is fruitful and productive, but also enjoyable and pleasant.  Make some time to do something for yourself and to invest in others.  Scratch off things on the must-do list, but take time to think about your want-to list, too!

I love hearing from you and hope you will stop by again soon to say hello.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Setbacks

We all have setbacks.  I know this, and yet I feel like I get so discouraged.  As if the path should always move forward, always progress and always be straightforward.  Did you hear the false thinking?  "Should" and "Always" are trigger phrases that help me identify my own false thinking.

The gray winter months can blind me to my "Why."
The purchase of a new water heater has been a significant financial setback to begin the year.  It seems impossible to get ahead of the necessities and enjoy some margin and extras in the financial department.  My husband works hard and we enjoy a generous income.  I work hard, too, and add to our families financial income.  It's just so frustrating then that some of my dreams get side-stepped by the necessities.  I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this reality.

I have a constant struggle in health department.  One time during a physical, the doctor said to me, "Good health doesn't happen by accident."  Prior to that statement, I kind of thought it did!  I assumed people were either born thin or with a penchant to gain weight, that they either had the luck of good health or the curse of health struggles.  Hearing that doctor put the control into my hands let me become responsible and I determined to be healthy on purpose.  As much I wish otherwise, weight is included in that and knowing I'm the only one who influences the number on the scale is more responsibility than I sometimes want.

One day, the scale displayed a number five pounds heavier ... in one day!  Yes, we had chocolate cake in the house, but I never dreamed what could happen so quickly by losing focus.  It felt like a huge setback, even though i'm certain the gain was temporary.

Last year I had a very bad sprain in one ankle and developed plantar fasciitis.  The sprain slowly healed, but I have had pain in my foot every single day since February of last year.  It's been a big setback.  I cannot run as fast, I'm less motivated to move and it's just frustrating indeed.

Recently, a character issue I've been praying and working on with one of my children seemed to be improving.  I was hopeful and happy to move beyond the challenge.  But we seem to have a setback and the same issue is emerging again as the stress and demands of life push issues of control to the surface.  What I thought was mostly settled is now back into a daily task of necessary, consistent discipline.  It's no fun for either of us.

I'm writing this for myself as a reminder that setbacks are part of life.  The true test of character is the daily moving forward in the face of setbacks, obstacles, disappointments and failures.  I need to admit when I have a setback, learn from the circumstances then refocus my drive on the end-goal.  Hopefully, the "end" is far into the future and I have plenty of time to correct my habits.

What about you?  Have you had any setbacks recently?  Did you set New Year goals and are you already falling short?  What can you do to remember the why so that you can be motivated to get back on course?  




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Little More of This and a Little Less of That...

It happens to so many of us when January arrives on our calendars: Eat well, exercise more, get healthy, save more plan now.

I'm susceptible to all the articles and pins that tell me how to look better and feel better.  It's everywhere this time of year.  Truthfully, after holiday travel and indulgences, I look forward to a simplified diet but my family still expects meals on the table each evening.  What's a girl to do?  My goal is to truly learn to cook well and wisely for my family.  The goal is flavorful and nutritious fare within a reasonable time frame and budget.  There is going to be more protein and whole foods with less starches and sweets.  I'm not expecting it to happen overnight, just looking for progress, so I'm going to quantify this by stating that I'll incorporate four new menus into our cycle of meals.

Regarding exercise, I've met some personal goals in the past year regarding quantity and consistency.  This year I'm going to strive to be a bit more holistic in my approach.  I did a lot of running: Almost 1,200 miles and four pair of shoes worth!  It was great for my energy levels and let me indulge more at the table.  It also created a lot pressure on my feet and strained my already-weak ankle.  I want to add strength training and toning exercises along with more stretching this year.  I don't have a full plan in place yet and will work on that over the next few weeks - just in time for my next birthday.  I'm envisioning more miles at a time, but less days on the "track" and specific plans in place for strength and stretching.

Around the house, we have dreams of updating our living room furniture and adding a kitchen back splash.  These ideas then open the door to more plans: new counters, paint the walls, personalize the artwork and decor.  I'm sure some things will happen, others will not and I'm just thankful for the home in which we are blessed to live.  The space itself is working well, now the goal will be to make it look and feel like a representation of our personalities.  I will make choices that represent fewer frivolous and meaningless knick knacks and more purchases that reflect planning and strategy.

Our finances need consideration as we realistically prepare for a child in college next fall.  We can't allow the summer childcare expense to surprise us as greatly as it did last year.  We are tweaking our budget to make the best use of each dollar we earn.  During and impromptu budget "meeting" (if you consider date night a meeting), we confirmed our commitment to tithing as it demonstrates obedience, faith and fights selfishness.  I'm so grateful for a husband that leads our family in this way!  There will fewer extravagances and more thought into our purchases over the next twelve months as we spend and save with intention.

This consideration of things that need to be addressed is necessary for me.  I need to take time to consider the direction things are moving in my home and life so that it doesn't just happen, but is directed by my values and true goals.  I no longer expect major overhauls or instant changes on January 1.  Instead, I seek to make note of what is working, what needs to shift and start moving in those directions.  Year in and year out, I like seeing the shape of my life as it is refined to reflect me.

Do you make resolutions or set goals?  Do you choose a word or a focus each year?  How do you keep on-track for daily choices that mesh with your long term vision?