Ringing In A New Year

It always feels biter-sweet to me to take down the Christmas decorations. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I just love the hunkered down feeling. I always try to take quiet moments and just sit and enjoy the Christmas lights and the quiet that seems to come with winter, even here. When it’s time to put everything away for another year, while I love the fresh clean feeling of space after it’s all down, it’s always hard for me to put things in a box and close the lid for another year. As I did it the other day I just kept thinking about the anticipation come November when it’ll be time to bring it all out again. And then I cleaned! :)

I feel like this year I’m easing into the new year. Usually we come back in a flurry of travel, and have a day or two to unpack and settle back in, then it’s back to work. This year has involved sleeping in, slowly getting things like my 2014 day timer set up, and tidying things and thinking about what I want to see happen in 2014.

I’m not a big “resolutions” fan. They seem fake and like you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you can’t do what you set out to do. Over the years I’ve set small goals, and if I don’t make it, it’s okay. As I’m thinking about the year, these are the things that I’ve decided I want to focus my attention on.

Health

Weight Watchers:
I haven’t done an update in a while – maybe two months? The truth is, I hit a road block in November where I hovered at the same weight for over a month. I realized that the issue was I was anticipating the holidays, and all the stuff we would be doing. I love to celebrate the holidays as fully as we can here because I think it adds a sense of normalcy that helps us to feel more at home, so for me this involves having food that is familiar to how we would celebrate back home, just scaled back a bit. This means Christmas treats and special meals like the traditional turkey dinner. My problem was that I was starting to find reasons to not track my food so I wouldn’t feel ashamed about eating the stuff I liked. I finally go to the point where I realized I was sabotaging myself by telling myself I shouldn’t want those things. Most of them are things I wouldn’t normally eat in any major quantity through the year, just at Christmas. I didn’t want my success to date to be for naught, so I got honest with myself and when I realized I was starting to look at tracking my food over the holidays in a negative way I made the choice to stop, and give myself a break. I know that for this to work over the long term I can’t ever let my relationship with Weight Watchers become something that I look at with disdain. So I took a break, and gave myself permission to eat what I wanted for the rest of December without guilt. I weighed myself weekly as I normally would, just to keep tabs on things, and it was a good reminder, but at no point did I tell myself I couldn’t have something. I enjoyed everything, and listened to my body. I also knew that come the beginning of January we would be going back to our normal eating patterns and normal food that was available in the house.

The great news? When I got on the scale this morning to do my weigh in I was less that one pound up from the last time that I was regularly tracking. And today was my “back on track day”. I’ve been having internal conversations with myself to gear up to it and as I woke up this morning it was kind of freeing to know that today was the day to get back into routine. I’m not harboring any negative feelings and am looking forward to getting back on track with things. I know this program works for me, but I also need to give myself space to enjoy life if it’s going to work over the long term.

Drinking Water:
You would think that 8+ years of living in the Caribbean would have me in a place of sufficiently hydrating every day, but sadly, no. Drinking enough water every day is a major challenge for me and I feel the physical effects daily. Often I feel sluggish, and I can get headaches. My first word of advice for anyone else is to drink more water, but I don’t do it enough myself. So, a goal for this year is to make a bigger effort in this department.

Today I downloaded a free app for my phone that lets me check off glasses of water each day, and it has alarms that you can set that go off at your chosen times to remind you to stop and drink. I want to try it through January and see if it helps me get more fluid in my body, and in turn how I feel if I drink enough.

Another part of this is not just hydration, but also replacing electrolytes. Living in Canada I didn’t have an issue with this, but here we sweat a lot more, even with little activity. A person can hydrate, but if we don’t replace those electrolytes our bodies have to work harder. It’s not something I’ve really put a lot of thought into, but a friend here who was drinking a lot of water told me she was still feeling sluggish until she started drinking one glass of Gatorade per day. Chris and I are going to try it and see how it works for us.

Spiritual
I’ve been going to a Bible study weekly with a group of other missionary ladies from our area and I’ve really been enjoying it. I want to be more intentional about working on my Bible study lessons through the week rather than madly working through them the day before so I get more out of them.

I also want to find a good devotional so I can be more regularly reading my Bible. I know it’s key for helping me stay centered in all areas of my life, but often it’s the last thing on my priority list.

Time and Organization

Social Media – Facebook:
I’m becoming less and less in love with Facebook. Recently Chris and I have been really reminded that it’s a very poor platform for conversation. The whole thing has always been funny to me in the sense that I think it gives us a sense of more importance than we really all need. I was hardly ever on it until the earthquake, then it was the fastest and easiest way to keep everyone updated on things here. Since then, it’s just kind of stuck. But, I don’t love it. In fact, when I think about how I use it, I often feel frustrated. I waste a lot of time scrolling through status updates that aren’t always that interesting. I have people on my “friend” list that I never communicate with in “real life”, and because of it I feel limited in what I can share because it doesn’t feel personal any more.

This year I want to be intentional about stepping back from Facebook. I’m not leaving it behind, but rather being more intentional about how I use it. I think limiting myself to one check per day and setting a time limit to it is healthy. It’s so easy to kill hours on there. I also decided that I’m not going to post or get involved in hot button conversations. It’s not the platform for where those “conversations” should be happening. The truth is, a lot of people will say things on the internet that they would never say to someones face, and I don’t want to be part of those conversations any more. I’m going to limit my use of Facebook to occasional status updates and photo postings, and only share the information that I think is truly valuable or important. It’s also a time thing for me. I need to better use my time. Facebook isn’t it.

Blogging:
I know that people love reading our blog, and I enjoy writing it. The problem for me is when I start comparing myself and my blogging to other bloggers. It’s so easy for me to feel inadequate, usually in the realm of how frequently I post, and that there aren’t a ton of pictures. The truth is, I have ideas for blogging all the time. The catch is I don’t often have the time. When I do sit down and blog I am frequently interrupted and it takes even more time to finish a post. This post for example, I’ve been interrupted by the kids more times than I can count. I sometimes have a window in the mornings during the work week where Chris is gone to take Olivia to school, and Alex is happily playing outside, where I can have focused time on the computer. When those moments are there I can get a lot done, but it’s hit or miss. I need to step back and stop feeling like I’m not meeting the mark on this one. Our present reality is that time is limited. Aside from the fact that I’m a wife and a mother to young kids, one of which who is still home during the day, I also have a lot of responsibilities with the mission administratively and otherwise. I just don’t have the time to post more than once or twice a week, no matter how much I like the idea. So, for this year, I’m releasing myself from any expectations and will blog when I feel like it and when I have time. I’m not a professional blogger, I’m a wife, mother and missionary.

Homefront

Menu Planning:
This is something I’ve been doing for years, and I plan on continuing. Where I need to be more diligent is checking the plan in the morning, even earlier in the week, and doing any preparations needed whether it’s making a loaf of bread to have with dinner (I use a great no-knead recipe that literally takes about 10 minutes of work) or looking ahead and making sure I put everything on the weekly market or shopping list that I need so I’m not scrambling come dinner time. We’ve found that meal planning helps to save money, so that’s another big part of it for me. As I plan I want to be intentional about planning meals that are lower cost, but balanced and enjoyable. I can’t tell you how often we talk to people here who talk about a poor diet, yet Haiti is bountiful in fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, rice, various meats… I could go on. Anyway, I want to be more intentional about being prepared, and eating what’s available to us and seasonal. We benefit health wise, and the mission benefits with lower food expenses.

Organization:
I did quite a bit of work last fall to go through the house and purge each room. Now I need to stay on top of it. I’ve already put together a check list for each room that is a great reminder of what needs attention. Yonese is great with helping keep things tidy through the week, but it’s my job to control our stuff. I have a binder that I used to keep myself organized through the holidays, and I plan on making it work year round for general household organization. Part of it will have space for meal planning each month, and there will be the check list to go through the house and stay on top of keeping things organized.

I should say, that over the last year or so I’ve realized that while I like things organized in the sense that I want our house to be organized because it’s small and we need to know that things have their place, where they are, what we need etc, BUT we also need to be able to live here. As in, while I enjoy the 5 minutes post cleaning where everything feels fresh and sparkling and it’s in it’s place, that’s not reality most days. Most days the floor needs to be swept and there are things on the counter that need to be put away and shoes splayed three feet away from the door. That is just the way it is right now. When we build and move to the new land, there will be more space and new ways for us to store things and live. But that is not now. I have to relax to a certain extent and accept that there are four people in our house and we all have different needs. So organized, but not anal about it.

Personal Care

I’m really horrible when it comes to doing things to take care of myself. Little things like actually washing and moisturizing my face. Seriously. So, I want to work on that.

I have back problems, and repeatedly my chiropractor has told me that simply taking the time to stretch certain muscles will do a lot to relieve that. So, I want to work on stretching and see if I can help my body heal. I’m good at complaining about it, but not doing the work to help it get better. Stupid, I know.

I want to finally grow my nails. I’ve been a life long nail biter, but I want to grow them. Not crazy long, but so they look nice. Olivia loves “doing nail polish” and the crazy thing is that Chris has become her go to person to have her nails painted. I like having polished nails and toes, I just don’t take the time to do it. So, I want to do it. I have a bunch of fun new colors and glitter polishes coming with Chris’ parents (thank you Ebay!) to have fun with. When I take the time to polish my finger nails, they grow and I don’t bite them. So, that’s a goal.

I want to be more intentional about looking after my skin. I’m 35. It’s time. I’m not a person who is crazy worried about wrinkles, but also don’t like when my skin feels dry or rough. I know that when I take the time for a day or two in a row to take care of my skin it feels better. Again, it’s a laziness thing. Time to grow up a bit!

Hobbies

Knitting:
I know I’ve mentioned on here that I enjoy knitting and really started to pick it up in the last year or so. It’s relaxing for me and gives me something to do with my hands. I’ve also realized after talking to a lot of people that it’s one of those things that comes naturally to me, and that already in the last year I’ve challenged myself with projects that most people don’t attempt in their first year of serious knitting. I know that for me it’s a case of needing something new to challenge me and keep my interest. After we came back from holidays in August I started working on Christmas stockings. Wow, pushing through to finishing number four was a trial. It was too much of the same thing without a lot of variation. I love how they turned out, but wow, I was happy when they were done.

My goal for this year is to have fun with my knitting and enjoy it. I had set out to make several Christmas presents, but as the holidays got closer and things got busier it became more and more of a burden. I was loathing how much knitting I “needed” to do. Then I realized that I didn’t “need” to do any of it. So I stopped. And I knit a dishcloth, because I needed something different and small and mindless to get my groove back. I switched up the gift giving and no one but Chris and I were any the wiser (except now my parents will be wondering what I didn’t make). And I felt free and enjoyed the holidays without the pressure of be a slave to my knitting needles. A couple of days ago I cast on a sweater for Alex to wear when we go camping. It’s my goal to knit each of us a sweater for the summer, but that’s a loose goal. And it might sound crazy to want that for the summer, but when we go camping mornings are often very chilly for us because of the fact that we live in the Caribbean, so having something to bundle up in until it warms up is needed. And, we can wear them when we go home in the winters. Anyway, I’m having fun on Alex’s sweater and am anticipating the yarn coming with my in-laws for Chris and I. I love the words “If you’re going to spend two plus months knitting a sweater, you might as well use good yarn!” Especially when they’re uttered by my husband :) (As an aside, if you know anything about Chris and his “special” sweater, you’ll understand what a big deal it is for him to have actually asked me to make him a sweater…) So, knit more and have fun with it. If I need a break from one thing, cast on something else that is exciting.

Photography
I won’t lie. At least once a day I find myself thinking, “My new camera is coming, my new camera is coming!” I’m so excited that it’s coming with Chris’ parents :) But, it also means I need to be committed to actually working on how to use it well. I had so much fun playing with our friends camera when we did our family pictures that it has me completely excited to get mine. I want to be intentional about learning how to use it well, and practicing with it regularly. And, it doesn’t hurt that I have two super cute subjects to practice with. I also want to set the time aside to work on editing those photos and actually sharing them. Ahem. So, maybe you’ll see more pictures on the blog this year… That is, whenever I get around to posting them because I’m not pressuring myself, remember? :)

So those are the big things for 2014. They are gentle and good for me types of things. Things that improve my quality of life and things that are worth working on. No guilt. No shame. No feelings on not meeting the mark. Maybe as 2014 comes to a close 12 months from now I’ll be able to look back on the year and feel a sense of peace and happy accomplishment. Maybe :)

What goals have you set for yourself this year? Do you even set goals, or hate the whole practice all together. 

~Leslie

Perspective

I feel like coming back from our summer vacation always leaves me feeling fresher and gives me new perspective. Our first few days back last week were full of tidying and cleaning and sorting – things that I just didn’t have the energy for before we left.

Olivia doesn’t go back to school until next month, so I’m trying to find a different rhythm than we have through most of the year because I have one extra kid to keep entertained 4 days per week. She gets lunch at school, so we don’t have to worry about much more than throwing a snack and drink in her bag, and then feeding Alex bits and pieces of whatever we find in the fridge through the day. Having her home means I actually have to think about lunch and do something a bit more pulled together for the kids. Also, she’s just flat out bored right now. The last couple days have given us rain in the evenings, which means the driveway is a mud pit right now. Thankfully the kids have been avoiding it, but it also means they can’t ride their bikes, increasing the boredom… Sigh. I will admit, today I realized I’m more than happy that she is in school these days and that for four days per week we have a better chance of accomplishing work things.

I read a blog post last week that got me thinking about all this balance stuff. Basically the point was that we each need to find what works for us. For some people having a super organized home is what works for them. They have the time and energy to commit to organizing it in the first place, and then to maintaining it over time – because while organization does simplify life in many ways, it still takes regular maintenance.

It got me thinking about what my priorities are around the house. What do I need to have to feel sane, and what is less important? I realized something very valuable – I had been working, at least mentally, a bit too hard to be and do certain things that really just weren’t “me” or “us” if I was really honest with myself.”

I say “mentally” because in many cases I was having conversations with myself about what I “should” be doing or being or focusing my attention on, rather than looking at what really makes us work and what makes us happy as a family.

Let’s talk about the household “state of being” for a bit, because I think this is probably the biggest area for me.

Both Chris and I have parents that have tidy homes. Are they spotless. Nope. But they are tidy with comfortable, open spaces not filled with stuff. Yes, there are little, shall we call them “collections” around the house. Like the mish mash of odds and ends on the phone desk that both of our families seem to have. You know, pens, purses, paper clips, phone cradles and chargers, post it notes etc. For the most part though, it’s clean and tidy. Stuff gets picked up and put away.

How does that translate over to our home, having had that example? Well, I like a tidy house. It makes me feel peaceful. I am SO very grateful that Yonese helps keep our house tidy through the week because it’s a lot of work here. The windows are open every day, all day, and we can literally sweep several times per day and have piles. In hot climates, the outdoors are an extension of your home, so it’s natural that the outdoors come in. We also live in a small space, so when things are crazy, the space feels crazy and then we feel crazy.

I like to walk into my room and see the bed made. I don’t like walking on things. I like to look at the kids room when I walk by and see the floor. I like to look at their shelving unit and see the books with books and the toys with toys. I hate having stuff all over my counters, at least in the places I work in when preparing meals. Overall, I like having a tidy house. Looking at a messy house makes me feel stressed. Chris will tell you, often when he drives visitors to the airport I spend that time cleaning and getting our home back in order after what is usually a busy week of early mornings and late nights. And then, after I’m done madly doing dishes, washing floors, doing laundry and putting things right I sit and enjoy it for the 5 minutes I have before he arrives home or the kids come in from outside and undo everything. But those 5 minutes – bliss!

Saying all that though… I’ve realized in the last week that for this season in our lives I need to not worry so much about certain things, because that worry was actually causing more stress in our home.

We’ve recently been trying to have a lot of conversations with Olivia about taking responsibility for our choices, actions and stuff, and that being part of a family means we all work together to make things, well, work. That means we all do certain things to make our home more enjoyable to live in, to clean it etc. And, we don’t always like doing those things, but they need to be done, and since we all benefit, we all contribute. Some of the things that were stressing me out were the messes left by the kids. So, the solution is that now that Olivia is old enough, she gets to help clean up. Today she cleaned her room after her and Alex had been playing in there. And she did a great job. Along the way she’s learning things like how to know where the top of the sheet is by the size of the seam. She’s also learning that sometimes the “fun” choices lead to not fun clean up, like when you and your brother splash water all over the bathroom floor and you have to mop it up – two nights in a row.

I’ve decided that I’m going to chill out a bit about certain things. I’m going to admit that while I like the idea of having a fabulously organized home where everything is in labeled containers and on shelves lined with pretty paper, that’s just not us right now. Part of having a happy, organized home, is finding a system that everyone is willing to work with. If I’m barking at everyone all the time because they aren’t working with my system, then it’s not working. No one is happy. They feel nagged and I feel unappreciated. Finding a system that works for us is what makes everyone happy. And you know what? I’ve realized we’re actually doing pretty good. Do I have stuff on my counters? Yep, in some places. But I do regularly stop and take a few seconds to sort and straighten and move anything out that isn’t supposed to live there.

For the most part our things all have places to live. After we got back, as part of the unpacking process I sorted through most of my clothes and all of the kids clothes. We stocked up on a bunch of new stuff, so before putting it in on top of the old I sorted out things that didn’t fit, didn’t get worn, or had bad stains. I moved some things around in the kids room to make it work better for us and the phase we’re in, and I cleaned some things out of my linen closet that we don’t need. It all feels good and it helps us function better. And, I try to do things like that at least once a year, especially if we’ll be or have been traveling because we’ve probably stocked up on certain things. If I know what’s there, I know what we need or don’t need.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will always have a “junk” drawer, which is really the place in our kitchen where we keep all the things that don’t really fit anywhere else. I actually planned a junk drawer into our kitchen layout. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the bathroom vanity cupboard has needed to be cleaned out for about two years now. I know what’s in it, it just needs some organizing love. And, maybe I’ll get to it sometime, and maybe I won’t. I’m okay with the fact that there will be times where our room gets stashes that need to be cleaned out, and that we probably have sippy cups hiding under the furniture. It’s not worth stressing about anymore. This is who we are. I have to accept the fact that I live with 3 other people, two of which can barely or can’t even wipe their own butts. I have to be reasonable in my expectations of what those little people can do, whether it’s making the mess or cleaning it up. When they get older, they can be more active not only in the butt wiping department, but also in the cleaning up department.

Yes, I’m very much looking forward to moving to a new house when the mission relocates because it will be a house that we’ve designed from top to bottom, and that I’ll have a very hands on relationship with. I’ll be able to build in and designate storage for everything, and then as we move – actually put things in those places so we just start with them being there. That’ll be nice, but it’s also a ways away. For now, I’m going to be happy with what we have, and enjoy it more along with the people I get to do this crazy life with, and worry less about whether there are wet foot prints on a freshly mopped floor.

~Leslie