Sunday, January 10, 2016

Some Goals (and Pictures) for the New Year

**A reflection on some of my goals for the year, with some of my favorite pictures of our family from a photo session this fall.  I adore each one and think they reveal our family's personality so well.  I guess that's what happens when your photographer has been capturing our wild since Cruz was a baby.  Darcy Dempster is terrific, check her out here.  

The older I get, the more I seem to be aware of the changing of seasons and the opportunities that exist within them.  Whether it be climate seasons or life seasons, every one is new and different, each with its own beauty and its own set of challenges.  My inner voice frequently whispered, the days are long but the years are short, a few months ago when Mila was all over the place (physically and emotionally) and it just felt very hard keeping up with two little ones, two jobs, and a new space.  One minute, I would be so overcome with love and adoration for them and the next, I'd swear under my breath and want to pull my hair out!  Oftentimes in those moments, I would think about them being teenagers and that would quickly reset my appreciation for toddlers. :)  Simiarly, Christmas is such a magical, joy-filled time of year, but it also feels overwhelming to me.  Our spending increases, our calendar fills up, and I'm in a constant battle to juggle the end of the semester with the simple things I love most about the end of the year.  And now, just a week away from turning two, my awareness of the changing of seasons is at a high as I stare a little longer at Mila when she falls asleep, knowing all too well these days of her babyhood are slipping through my fingers. 
But more on my little lady two year old at another time...

While January is cold, a bit barren, and not as pretty or exciting as other months or seasons of the year, I always welcome its arrival like a breath of fresh air.  With all the abundance of Christmas, I have learned to love the barrenness of January.  It's hard to take the tree down, but the extra light and extra space offers clarity and motivation to start fresh and get ready for a new season and new year.  I am blessed with a long winter break to help me in these endeavors, and I have savored every bit of the last two weeks.  I've spent time with the kids, making crafts, having tea parties, and laying in bed snuggling. I've weeded through storage tubs and kitchen cupboards, cooked nutritious meals, and cleaned out our basement, providing ample space for the kids to ride bikes and play hopscotch.  I've sipped tea slowly at night before bed, started a workout regimen with Beau in the morning, and planned sweet details for Mila's birthday party.  But most of all, I've had space to feel replenished, to feel more in control of my life, and to think deeply about my goals for this year ahead.  Now if I can just keep this attitude into a new semester...

My last two Januarys brought big changes to our norm and didn't provide a lot of space for goals or resolutions.  Last year, we found ourselves in the thick of transitions as we began a new year in Allison, caught in the tornado of building our house, living in my parents' basement, moving, and managing the rest of our daily lives.  My resolution was to survive and eventually get settled, and fortunately a year later, those are two resolutions we conquered, thanks to patience, prayer, and the village that lifted us up.  And the year before, I started the new year nearly forty weeks pregnant, preparing my heart to make room for two little hearts.  I was nervous and excited to meet my daughter, and my only resolution was to figure out how to be the best mommy I could to two.  It's a resolution that's at the forefront of my prayers every year, to love them and do what's best for them, day in and day out.

This year, though, without any big changes planned in our near future, I have felt motivated and been thinking often about some goals and changes I hope to make for the year ahead.  My resolutions are ongoing and are not meant to be conquered and checked off like a task on a to-do list, but are more like themes I want to focus on getting better at in 2016.  These themes are not only important to me, but areas I know I can do better in, with some clear action steps I'm excited about trying.  I know I have the space to commit this year, and know that if I can be more intentional about getting there, the results would lead to a happier, more balanced me. 

Here are the themes I've conjured up and some of the action steps I've already began to implement.   


I am the type of person who thrives when life feels organized.  Over the years, I've developed a system for managing my to-dos, creating meal plans, and making sure we all get where we need to be going.  As I continue to get to know this house, I realize I unconsciously weaved this desire for organization into many areas of our space as well, and my goal for the new year is to tap into those areas and create a simpler, more functional home for us to spend many years in.  We gained more square footage, and a lot more storage, but I've quickly realized that the more storage you have, the more libel you are to fill it up.  In addition to that, when we moved in in March, it all felt like kind of a whirlwind.  We unpacked boxes, unloaded it in closets, and didn't take the time to go through everything and find a space with more intention.  Now that we are starting the year here, I'm looking forward to a thorough and deep run through every corner, nook and cranny of this house, with a better understanding of what we need and how I want things to look. 

My goal is to stay on top of this throughout the year in a way that's manageable and even fun.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found this really great tool for keeping me on track: Home Storage Solutions Declutter 365.  There is a printable calendar for every month with a simple organization task for each day.  There is a Facebook page with daily insights and reminders, and looking ahead at the calendars, it seems the developers have thought of everything.  I love that January starts with the kitchen, and I have enjoyed going through my silverware drawer, adding a new knife block and utensil divider to better organize my drawers, and making some changes to what I want included on my countertops.  I love that the calendars connect to the seasons, and include things like going through seasonal clothes and organizing school supplies before school starts, and organizing recipes, makeup bags, and sock drawers, things you wouldn't typically think to do.  As I declutter and reorganize, I hope to also add more personal touches to our space this year, print some pictures for the walls and add some of the smaller details now that the big stuff is in its place.   


This is a goal that Beau and I are both dedicated to getting better at in the new year.  While it's not necessarily a goal to lose a set number of pounds or run a half-marathon, it's more about creating a healthier lifestyle for our family.  It's about going to bed at a decent time and working out in the mornings together, a task that's hard for us to make a habit, but one that always reaps rewards when we make the choice to do it.  It's about taking the time to eat breakfast, plan meals, and make the time to prepare them at night.  It's about taking baths, lighting candles, and being active as a family.  It's about making choices that make my body feel good.  Here are a few of those choices I'm committing to in 2016...

-I'm going to drink less Diet Pepsi and more water.  74 ounces a day, to be exact.  I want to be more deliberate about cutting up lemons or keeping mint sprigs on hand to class it up and add things like green tea to my daily indulgences.  I found an old drawer I had scored at a vintage sale this summer and made it my tea station.  I purchased a variety of teas, a tea infuser, and a pretty jar of honey, and now love heating up a cup and fixing myself some tea.

-I am going to be more deliberate about integrating wholesome, clean, power foods into our daily diet.  Breakfast smoothies and quinoa salads, almonds and fresh fruit always on hand, and less junk food in our pantry.

-I love breakfast foods, but rarely take the time to make them in the morning.  The last two weeks, I've prepared a breakfast each day and have discovered the important power this has to kick start my day in such a positive way.  My plan is to prepare a week's worth of breakfasts every Sunday and have them ready to go once we're back at it next week.


On my last day of the semester, I was leaving Cedar Falls High School after facilitating an evaluation conference with one of my students and his mentor teacher.  As I left the building for the last time in 2015, I noticed a single copper penny on the sidewalk on my walk to the car.  And you know what I did?  I stopped, picked it up, stuck it in my coat pocket, and walked the rest of the way with a smile on my face.  The rest of the day, I noticed pennies everywhere.  Not necessarily copper pennies on the sidewalk, but other small little gifts that often go unnoticed -- a sweet smile from an elderly man in the Hy-Vee aisle, finding just the right gift I knew Beau would love, or the taste of cinnamon in my chai latte as I did my last minute shopping.  

While I'm quite certain the factor of time has a lot to do with my ability to stop and pick up life's pennies, I think it has a lot to do with mindset and perspective, too.  Since that day, I've kept that penny in my coat pocket, and every time my hand brushes across it, it serves as a simple reminder to stop, take a breath, and notice what's around me.  Whether that be my kids, my husband, a stranger in the grocery store, or a really pretty day, it's so I not get so caught up in what I have going on that I forget what's really going on.  

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Big Magic, in which she writes about how to cultivate a more creative mindset.  She says that as an adult, she finally gained "the perspective to appreciate the value of her own joy.  She stopped feeling like she was nothing more than a consumer, nothing more than the sum of her daily obligations and duties."  I know all too well days when I feel like I am operating as nothing more than a consumer, moving through the motions of daily obligation and duties.  But I also know what brings me joy, and it's often nothing more than those small gifts, those little pennies strewn all over this world.  I just have to train my eyes to see them and train my mind to stop and pick them up.


Finally, I want to make time and find ways to feel inspired.  Life is busy and it's easy to become consumed with the daily grind of work, schedules, and laundry.  It's never-ending.  But I also know that the daily grind can co-exist with things that inspire me, and that enough inspiration makes the daily grind a lot more manageable.  There is so much that drives me and inspires me, and I want to make more time for those things and less time for the things that distract me or squash these bouts of inspiration.  I want to cook new meals and try new things in the kitchen, keep taking pictures, and carve out deliberate time to date my husband, whether it be dinner and a movie or charcuterie and Breaking Bad snuggled up on the couch.  I want to deepen friendships, read the Bible, and watch Chip and Joanna.  I want more game nights and dance parties, and less Facebook and Instagram.  I want to read, learn, and stretch my current understanding of something.  And although I already know of hobbies and interests I love, I want to be inquisitive, open to new ideas and inspiration I'm not even sure of yet.  As Liz Gilbert writes: "You have treasures hidden within you - extraordinary treasures - and so do I, and so does everyone around us.  And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small."  

Looking forward to a year of continued settling, of working towards a better me, of enlightened perspective, and new inspiration in this year ahead.  What themes are at the top of your new year's resolutions?  


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