November 2019 Recap

November felt like such a long month. Which was odd when every other month has been flying by. So many things happened and the days just kept coming! Overall it was an emotionally overwhelming month in both good ways and bad. I only gave myself three goals to focus on, but they were big ones. I think I did pretty well.

1 – Focus on health above all else

It seems like I spent every waking minute thinking about my health in November. Mostly agonizing over what I could eat, when I would eat, what I could make, what I had to avoid, how I’d survive when it felt like the control was taken away from me. Plus all the accompanying guilt when I realized just how terribly I’m letting my kids eat too, putting them on the exact same path I am on, but not knowing how to drastically change their diets without a war on my hands. It’s been exhausting. But it’s actually been easier than I expected it to be to make some healthier swaps and eliminate, or mostly eliminate, certain foods from my diet. I’m still taking it relatively slowly, not making EXTREME changes and not doing anything that’s going to make myself feel crazily deprived and depressed. For the most part I’ve cut out almost all processed foods since about mid October. The first couple of weeks were really hard and then all those cravings that used to rule my life disappeared. It was incredible. I feel like I’ve been a slave to my salty snack and sweet dessert cravings for my entire life and now after a few weeks of forcing myself to say no, I finally have control. I’m still having a tiny amount of chocolate almost every day, but JUST a tiny amount and it’s enough to satisfy me and move on. The hardest thing to eliminate has been coffee creamer. I haven’t yet. I assume it’s a big contributing factor to fake junk that’s destroying my liver, but none of the substitutions I’ve tried are coming even close to hitting the spot. I don’t want to give up coffee since I’ve become so obsessed with it in the last year, but I also don’t want to drink it if it’s going to taste like crap!

Cutting out white refined carbs has been a little harder. Baking has always been such a huge part of my identity. It’s also one of the biggest ways I’ve been able to show love to my family, through special breakfasts and desserts multiple times a week. I’ve been experimenting with a few gluten free and whole grain recipes, but it’s just not the same. If I had to give up ALL grains I wouldn’t survive. I consider myself pretty lucky that whole grains are good for me! But I keep finding myself wanting to rely on them a little too heavily to keep me satisfied. Brown rice and certain whole grain breads have proven to be great alternatives and I barely miss the white stuff. But I do miss baking and knowing whatever I make is going to taste amazing.

Avoiding fast and fried foods has been pretty easy too. My only real issue was when I was in North Carolina and never had a ton of readily available options. But I did my best. I did eat at Taco Bell the night of Caden’s lego league competition. But other than that I’ve steered clear. I think it’ll really only upset me when I go to a sit down restaurant and see all my favorite fried foods as an option. But I haven’t been to many restaurants lately because of that fear.

2 – Go to the Hope*Writers Conference with an open mind and heart

Though it already feels like ages ago, I definitely did this! I honestly think that conference was one of the very best things I’ve ever done for myself. But it also kind of feels like a dream, in retrospect. It’s easy to get super excited about your writing aspirations when you’re away from home and away from responsibilities and surrounded by people with the same dream. Then you come home and you’re hit again with all these lifestyle changes you need to make on top of all your regular responsibilities and the added pressure of running your own business at the busiest shopping season of the year AND Christmas just around the corner. I was affirmed at the conference that I am a writer if I write. And I DO write. But not nearly as much as I’d like. Or as elequotely or with a solid direction. My biggest fear in going to the conference was that I’d get there and only feel like I’m failing at one more thing in my life. I didn’t really feel that while I was there because the community of writers was so encouraging and kind. But now that I’m back at home and I can barely even get a word to the page for days at a time…it’s discouraging. But I’m really glad I went to the conference.

3 – Buy/Craft/Plan at least 1/2 of the Christmas presents

So Christmas shopping has basically become my full time job this last week. I was desperate to figure out what to get everyone and at the best possible prices during all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. I’m trying not to agonize over it and become extremely stressed out the way I was last year. I have a lot of people to buy for! My original plan was to MAKE a lot of gifts this year, but it’s clearly not going to happen. I couldn’t even get new dolls in my shop, let alone explore other crafting avenues for gifts. Oh well. Looking at my list I’d say I’m probably 75% done right now. Basically just the hardest people left – the male in-laws. I am very relieved that a few weeks ago I didn’t have a clue what to get the boys – literally not a single idea. But a few things came to mind recently and I’m close to being set with them, I think.

That’s about it! I’m glad to have just survived November. It was a hard month, mostly because of all my liver and diet changes. But the vacation and conference were a great escape from reality for a few days. And I came up with a great Black Friday sales plan, putting November at my biggest month of sales ever, despite not selling a single doll the first two and a half weeks of the month! We’re obviously already a few days in (no time!), but I’m excited about December and hopefully having some down time in the midst of the crazy to have fun and relax and remember all the reasons life is good.

October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

October has shaped up to be one of the busiest and hardest months I’ve ever had. It’s been filled with a lot of great pockets of time connecting with friends and family. But it’s been alternated with so much stress and anxiety and emotional overwhelm. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of so many things go at once that are important to me in order to just survive my day to day life. I stopped filling out my bullet journal and organizing my tasks and giving myself a solid plan of what to work on every day. I stopped writing even the weekly blog posts that tend to ground and guide my weeks, and haven’t even considered writing anything beyond the occasional journal entry. I stopped listening to most podcasts in favor of soaking up the very rare silence or just listening to music instead. I slowed down so much on doll making, going up to a week at a time without even picking it up. And I’ve stopped reading. Not entirely. But this has been the slowest book month I’ve ever had. Lack of actual time is a big reason why, but I’ve definitely picked mindless phone scrolling over reading way too often.

There have been plenty of good things that have been filling my time that I definitely don’t regret. A group of my friends threw me a little birthday lunch, which was really awesome. It meant a lot to me that they cared about celebrating with me in the midst of their own crazy busy lives. I’ve also had two morning coffees at my house this month – with another one happening on Friday. I had a lunch date with another friend. And I have a lunch date with a friend this week as well. It’s been great reconnecting with everyone after what felt like an incredibly long dry spell. Female friendships are so important and we should all fight to keep them alive and thriving.

I’ve been dipping into some Cricut projects – really the main reason I wasn’t sewing for awhile there. These are the first three projects I did, using free files I found online. I was most impressed with how the mug turned out and might just focus on making more of those for gifts on upcoming holidays. I designed one myself to make for my friend Julie’s birthday and it turned out really nice. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed using my graphic design skills. But it also feels like starting completely from scratch – forget all those college classes and degree from a million years ago! So it’s very time consuming, requires a ton of research and searching for free things to work with before I can entirely design my own, and – I’m not that great at some of it. The main reason I wanted a Cricut was to make stencils and wooden signs. I’ve done a couple of stencils on canvas so far and they haven’t turned out at all. I’m hoping it’s just because of the canvas. I bought some wooden planks a few weeks ago to start practicing for real, but we haven’t found a time yet for Greg to help me use the rotary saw. That thing scares me.

Last weekend we got to spend a lot of time with Hudson, Timmy, and Brittany. The boys and I joined my mom in babysitting him on Saturday night and on Sunday we celebrated Brittany’s birthday. He was so much fun to hang out with! He’s talking so much and giggling and laughing about everything. His favorite thing was wrestling with the boys. He liked joining in on all their random snacking too.

It’s hard to go so many months in between seeing him, but it’s fun to see how much he’s changed in those time periods. He’s such a little cutie.

This last Thursday night we finally had some free time, so we carved pumpkins. Except that I was SO tired – it’s been a pretty sucky week, but more on that in a minute. Shepard had just cut his thumb playing gaga ball and didn’t want to get it full of pumpkin juice. And Caden was just not wanting to participate because he never wants to participate in ANYTHING. So Greg did all the scooping, we drew the faces, he did the carving. And he did it all in record time!

I worked on cleaning and making our pumpkin seeds. We always do one batch of salt, one dill and salt, and one chex mix flavors.

On Friday night we walked to the annual town bonfire. I always think it’s just a really nice memorable thing to participate in each year. It wasn’t quite as fun as last year because there was no DJ and Caden had zero interest in playing with his friends. I don’t know what’s been going on with him lately, but he’s having a rough time. Or he’s making choices that are making him feel like he’s having a rough time because he refuses to even try to be friendly with people anymore. But Shepard had a blast.

In a single day I actually made six little boy dolls from start to finish. It’s the first time I’ve made boys in almost two years. It’s the first time I’ve made dolls this small in probably at least six months. Dresses and long hair are what take the longest, so boys are very speedy! They all sold instantly. I started a second batch right away. I’ve needed a break from fall and Halloween dolls. Seasonal dolls kind of drag me down. It’s hard to feel super inspired when I feel like I have to make them. I don’t like being told what to do! So it was fun to throw in something different.

Last night we had our annual Halloween party with the grandparents and the city trick or treating. I wasn’t feeling super inspired this year, so I just made my annual pizza snake and a few snack mixes. Cindy brought caramel, apples, veggies and dip and sparking caramel apple cider. My mom brought a ham and cheese mummy and two desserts. It was a nice evening! Caden was being especially moody, but he perked up a bit as we were trick or treating. He was dressed as a dabbing taco. Shepard was his favorite youtuber, Unspeakable. Only one person recognized him and most people probably wondered why he wasn’t wearing a costume.

Annie was a rainbow and received A LOT of attention. The boys lasted longer than years past, but Shepard was still antsy to get back home and help hand out with Greg. Caden went back out for a few more houses.

Later in the evening there was a flashlight pumpkin hunt set up for older kids. I had signed Caden up thinking it would be something really fun to do, and extra special since only he was old enough. But he DID NOT want to go. But we were already planning to take Willow with us and I was sure he’d cheer up once he got there, so we went. It ended up being inside because it was raining by then, but we had to stand around for 40 minutes waiting for it to begin and he was moping and scowling and begging me to go home the entire time. Once the whistle blew he seemed to kind of enjoy himself, but it definitely wasn’t the fun memory I was expecting to make.

I just don’t know what to do with that kid. He’s always been like this – never wanting to do anything outside of the house. But it seems to be getting even worse. It’s infuriating trying to find this balance of encouraging things that might surprise him, while also realizing he is VERY much like me emotionally and not wanting to push him into more than he can handle. It’s hard to make him do things when I’m also in this season of life where new things are being thrown at me and added to the calendar every single day and I feel like I’m absolutely drowning, no matter how much fun those events might be. Despite the fact that he was super excited about the idea months ago, we didn’t force him into joining basketball this winter – a 3-4 night weekly commitment that he was flat out refusing to do. The deadline was this week and I just let it slide, even though Greg wanted to make him do it. I felt like that was just going to guarantee three months of all of us being miserable. I DID, however, make him sign up for chess club again. He loved it in spring, but wanted nothing to do with it this fall. They included a few younger grades this year, so Shepard actually joined too, which is probably the only reason he was convinced to go (he wasn’t “missing out” on game time if Shepard was with him at school). I’m trying so hard to help him with a balance, but he doesn’t make it easy. Ever.

So I had my annual doctor’s exam a few weeks ago. Which is more intensive than it used to be since I started having blood pressure and liver problems last year. All my female parts are in good working order and my blood pressure is under control with my meds. But my liver – it’s not good. I had to go back a second time since I hadn’t fasted the first time to get my labs done. I got the results the next day and my cholesterol is high and my liver values have doubled since February. NOT good. I won’t try to interpret the numbers on my own just yet, but I’ve been referred to a GI doctor and will see her this Wednesday. I obviously don’t know what she’ll say and what next steps might be, but this was the wake up call I guess I really needed to start genuinely changing my life around. And I’ve been going through all the shame and depression and mourning that comes with a self-induced disease that I have to somehow buck up and change entirely on my own if I want to stay alive. It sucks.

Changing my diet is basically the hardest thing in the entire world I can imagine doing. Last year when I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with mild fatty liver, I was upset, but also motivated to start losing weight. I joined Noom, I started tracking food, and then I did really well for about four months when life took over and I gave up. This year, I don’t want to focus on losing weight. Because that feels temporary. Something to strive for, achieve, and then fall back into old habits. This time around, I NEED to change. I need to change basically everything. And I’m so, so overwhelmed by it. And honestly….just really sad. Refined carbs are the biggest contributor to fatty liver. And…I live on refined carbs. Hence my self induced disease and dealing with the shame that this is all my fault. I did this to myself. And I’m maybe doing it to my kids by allowing them to eat the same way I’ve eaten my whole life. So now not only do I have the pressure of changing my own diet, I’m also responsible for the three other people in my family and trying to change their diets too – which is SURELY going to be met with so many riots and anger and additional stress. I really don’t know if I can handle it.

I’m still waiting to see what the GI doctor specifically tells me I need to do, but I’ve started this week by eliminating almost all my usual carbs, trying out some keto recipes, adding green tea to my day, finding ways to add bone broth to many meals, and avoiding as many bad fats and sugar as possible. I’ve found some good ideas and worked on looking for substitutions to my favorite things to try and not make it feel like I’m suddenly doomed to a life of deprivation. But I’m also really struggling with how I’m going to live with this long term. I don’t like soup, unless it’s loaded with cheese and chips or crackers. I don’t like salad unless it’s covered in ranch and croutons. I have no idea what to eat for breakfast that will fill me up and not have carbs in it. I’ve been having yogurt with granola and bananas every day this week and while it is filling, it’s not really what I crave. It’s too sweet, mainly – I never like to eat sweet things in the morning because I get headaches from it. I honestly think I’d be okay giving up most desserts and sugary things, but I don’t know how to give up the salty things I basically live for. English muffins, chips, sandwiches, peanut butter toast, tacos, rice bowls. This whole week I’ve been cycling through feeling hopeful about some new ideas and absolute depression at how many things I have to let go of forever. I can’t encourage bad behavior by thinking I can eat most things in moderation. I know I can’t. I have to say give them up or this is never going to work.

Anyway, this whole process is just beginning and it’s been hard. But I honestly can already tell the difference in how I feel. Yesterday I was going up and down stairs over and over again and realized hey – my legs don’t hurt as much as they usually do. I’ve had some extra energy and have been taking Annie on two walks every day. And I haven’t given carbs up completely – I did still have grilled cheese and some amazing tomato soup twice this week, and I had a few small pieces of the pizza snake last night. But just not having anything refined for breakfast or lunch is already starting to help. And I want to hold on to those positive changes I can already see after such a short period of time and start craving more of that instead of only thinking about how much I’m losing. I have a long road ahead of me.

Well, usually when I write these monthly recap posts, I just address how I’ve come along on my goals for the month. And I’ll just sum it up quickly by saying I’ve been an utter failure this month! I couldn’t handle it. I did read SOME of my seasonal book stack. I have been taking a lot of walks, but haven’t done any yoga videos or enforced the idea of doing it first thing in the morning because so many mornings have held appointments or important errands. My daily writing practice has only come in the occasional early morning journal entry. And I did go to the theater – Greg and I saw Downton Abbey for my birthday date. I was still hoping to go on my own at some point, but there hasn’t been anything worth seeing.

I think that’s it! I’m finishing October off with a Culver’s fundraiser with Shepard tomorrow night, lunch with my friend Laura on Tuesday, the doctor on Wednesday, and a coffee morning on Friday. My trip to North Carolina is in just a week and a half, so I’m also trying to prepare for that. There’s been a whole lot of anxiety and doubt about that trip as well. It’s hard to feel excited about a writing conference when I haven’t been making writing a priority in a long time. But I have to trust that how I felt when I signed up was true and this WILL be a good thing. But now I also have the added stress of trying to find restaurant options ahead of time that will support these new dietary needs without getting there and having a ton of anxiety every time I need to eat. There’s just so much going on. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in January??

September 2019 Reflections

Well, folks, September is going out with a bang. Today has been one of the most chaotic and frazzling days I’ve had in a long time. I’ll spare you all the whiny details, but I will tell you I had to renew my driver’s license and took THE WORST photo of all time. Which super sucks after I spent so long trying to fix my hair and makeup and wear a great shirt (which I’m pretty sure isn’t even in the photo at all). It shouldn’t matter, but it really bums me out I’m going to have to look at that every single time I have to open my wallet for like the next ten years. Maybe it’ll be my constant motivation to lose some weight.

Anyway. Goals-wise, I think September was a pretty successful month! I’m going to keep this really brief because I signed up to take an online writing class that starts in twenty minutes. But because I feel like I’ve succeeded at absolutely nothing today, I’m determined to actually get one of my end of the month posts written!

1 – Meal Plan Every Week

I did this! It actually felt like a really easy month for dinners. Maybe because I was just focusing on finding creative ways to use what I already had stocked away in the freezer, instead of being bogged down by pinterest and cookbooks and searching for the next new thing. I mean, I LOVE finding new recipes. But life was way too busy this month to add that to my plate. And you know what? It worked out great! Though maybe my family would disagree after eating tacos like six days in a row after Caden’s birthday!

2 – Watch Less, Listen More

I listened to two audiobooks this month. Which is a lot for me! I wish I had done more, but it really needs to be something I WANT or I’m not going to enjoy it. And despite my best efforts, I work SO much better when I’m binging a great tv show. But there are certainly aspects of the dollmaking process that are a better fit for ears only and I’d like to continue trying to listen more than I watch.

3 – Read Atomic Habits

I was hoping to finish this book by the end of the month, but I’m not even close. I really struggle with reading self help books quickly because they seem to be filled with such vital information and if I add too much to my brain at once I’ll short-circuit! So I’ve been making very slow progress on it, but I love it! It’s already given me so much to think about and start putting into practice. I fully intend on finishing it up, hopefully in October.

4 – No Working on Weeknights

I’m pretty certain I only worked at night one time in the month of September, but it was a night Greg and the boys were gone. I did technically edit photos and list some dolls last Thursday after we got back from my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner (and Greg called me out on it), BUT I really wanted them listed before I left for Cranberry Fest at 5am on Friday. It was a desperate situation.

5 – Take Care of Me

It’s definitely a work in progress. There were many days this month where I really felt like I was always doing the best things for myself – mainly: READING. I read a lot in September. Even on the craziest days, I somehow found time to slow down and do something I love. I do wish I had connected with people more. I saw some of my friends. We had a lot of larger family time for all the birthday festivities. But I’ve had almost no time alone with Greg and really no one on one time with my kids either. I started this whole new exercise regime last week, which has in turn helped me make some better eating choices (today I definitely fell off THAT wagon – ugh, the stress!). It’s a start.

Overall, September was a really good month! I’m always cautiously hopeful that things will go well once birthday season starts, but prepared for the worst. Other than a somewhat cold-ridden emotional Caden off and on, there really wasn’t anything BAD that happened. Which is honestly a miracle. I’d say that fall is off to a very good start!

August 2019 Reflections

We did it, guys! We survived August! Whew, what a month. It really flew by, but the things I did at the beginning of the month feel like a lifetime ago, so I guess it actually dragged on. I was busy! A mini vacation with Greg, a string of days with my family, my six day vacation in Texas for Book Bonanza, a ton of daytime activities with my kids, prepping for school, and ending with Annie’s bit up ear fiasco. A lot happened! I’m glad I kept my goal list pretty short. Overall – I think I did okay. Honestly, the best that I could.

1 – Family First

I almost didn’t even feel like I had a choice in the matter, but the boys really did come first during all of our days together. I kind of went MIA in the evenings, trying to either work or read. I haven’t spent much quality time with Greg. But I put the kids first and really tried to make every day special in some way. Even if it was just going to a park or walking to a local coffee shop for ice cream. We did SOMETHING together just about every day. And that feels like a summer well lived to me.

2 – Read like crazy!

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have set a goal of 15 books for the month because I was frantically trying to cram in more than half of those in the last week and a half. Why do I instantly rebel against so many goals I set for myself, but things like this I absolutely cannot let go of? Maybe because reading is fun?? 15 was a lot, though, in the midst of everything else. But I did it! I actually read 16. Though I sort of a little bit cheated by adding in a handful of graphic novels. Middle grade graphic novels at that. After August I’ve hit 99 books for the year. The pressure is really on for whatever book I pick next when I hit my goal of 100!

3 – Enjoy Texas to the Max

I did my best, I really did. I was so worried about missing out on things at Book Bonanza that I was constantly walking back and forth between my room and the conference center to just be part of the exciting book lovers’ paradise. I do regret not trying a little harder to make friends with people and for getting a little too obsessed with exploring Grapevine on the third day instead of just doing all the BB stuff. But I had fun nonetheless! The Dallas half of my trip wasn’t the greatest – it was SO DANG HOT. But I had a lot of time to read and rest and just relax, which was the point of that half of the trip anyway. My favorite thing was checking out all the amazing food at their farmers market.

4 – Prep and Plan a Ton of Dolls

This did not happen. Well, I did make 12 dolls for the shop. And I decided to take on 3 custom orders because so many people keep asking me for them. But then one of those custom order recipients decided to complain and argue with me that I did not use red thread on her doll’s nose (it was “burgundy,” she claimed), making it clash with her RAINBOW hair and dress. I apologized that she wasn’t happy about it and explained how I have only used one shade of red crochet thread for years and years and definitely did not accidentally use a shade darker for her doll (as if I even had any!). The whole ordeal upset me so much and basically turned me off from ever wanting to make custom dolls again. They’ve never been my favorite, but it’s nice to make people extra happy with something that has special meaning just to them. At any rate, I reallllllllly wanted to have a batch of fall dolls ready to list on Tuesday morning after I walk the boys to school. It’s not going to happen. There’s just no way. I haven’t even started and don’t want to spend every waking minute the next two days working. I’m frustrated, but I don’t know what I could have done differently to end this month on a better note. I’ll just have to make up for it in September, somehow.

And that’s it!

July 2019 Reflections

July is over! Where did it go?! These last few weeks really sped by, but we packed them pretty full. It was much more of a go go go lifestyle than I’m used to in summer. Though at the same time, we really haven’t done that many things I thought we’d be able to do. But dwelling on that will only make me feel like a failure and I don’t feel like I failed at all this month. It’s been a good month.

1 – Live by the mantra “No Extras”

Okay, I definitely failed at this one. I did cut my spending A LITTLE. But…PRIME DAY, you guys. I definitely indulged in a few book purchases, as well as some extras I didn’t absolutely need. I also went a bit crazy buying some new yarns for doll hair. It wasn’t great. But I also MAJORLY cut back on my in store purchases because I barely ever went to them.

2 – Work as much as possible to earn a break in August

I made 31 dolls in July. I didn’t have a very consistent work schedule, but probably averaged three full days a week of sewing, with a few hours here and there the other four days. I might have actually had more productive days than I have during the school year because I knew how focused I had to stay on work days in order to buy myself some freedom to do fun things with the boys the other days. I also had 27 sales in July, selling 32 dolls. For summer, that’s pretty great. Especially since none of those were holiday/seasonal dolls – just fun and creative dolls I made purely because I felt inspired to! I still don’t exactly feel like I earned a few weeks of vacation, especially since I didn’t adhere to my no spending rule. But…I want to enjoy my trips as much as possible and I’m not going to add on the pressure to sew any more until after I’m back from Texas.

3 – Enforce the no screens before noon rule

So, give an inch and they take a mile, right? ONE TIME I let them play early. Because a friend was over and she was upset about something and they were trying to cheer her up. I was really busy and just wanted them to leave me alone, so I gave in. And every single day since then they beg me allllll morning long to let them play early. SO FRUSTRATING. But besides that one time, I’ve stayed strong. I really wish they’d just accept it and move on with their lives instead of spending all morning every morning moaning about the rule. But…it worked.

4 – Go to at least 3 Madison dog parks

We went to two. And the second one was today. It was so hard to find the time! Plus it’s been crazy hot for most of July. I love the Madison dog parks, but it’s so hard to justify driving that far and not be able to run any errands or go into any restaurants or anything afterward. So earlier in the month we went to the Token Creek Dog Park. And today we went to one in Sun Prairie. BUT we took Annie with us to Cedar Lake on the 4th and we took her to a family reunion at a big park last week. So, four new places.

5 – Read my shelves, including at least 2 nonfiction books

I did read a few books from my shelves, but not as many as I had hoped to. I’m still madly trying to pack in my Book Bonanza authors, and those books are all on my kindle. I’d definitely like to stay focused on reading my actual books in the coming months.

6 – Make a wish list of things to do with the boys this summer

I never made a formal list, but we did come up with a few ideas here and there that we’d like to do before summer is over. Many of those we’ve already done! We went on an awesome two night vacation in Warren’s earlier this month, had a Madison foodie day with Grandma, and did a few local things. There are a couple of restaurants we’d still like to go to this summer, and a few outdoor things if the weather and time allows. But I think we’re doing a pretty great job of finding low key, yet memorable ways to spend our summer.

7 – Be intuitive to what I need – emotionally, physically, mentally

To be honest, I’ve had some emotionally rough days this month. But I’ve also had a lot of good days. I feel like I really hit my stride in taking proper care of myself and being alert to what I needed day by day, hour by hour. It definitely helped I had five friend get togethers! I had a great date night with Greg and we’re heading out tomorrow for a little getaway. I spent a few days hanging out with my mom, a few days with the other side of the family too. And I’ve done lots of fun things with the boys. The only thing I’ve really been lacking is substantial time to myself. But I’ve been making the most of the moments I can find. Today I was really itching to do something just for me, so I went to the antique mall to just walk around and hunt for treasures to add to my dolls. It was exactly what I needed. The only thing I’ve really been missing out on is solid chunks of exercise. I try to walk Annie when I can, but it’s hard to do in the hottest days. I should be doing things in the house, but…it’s hard. It’s really not the priority it should be. Survival is my only goal in summer!

That’s it for July! It’s probably one of the best summer months we’ve ever had. I usually try to give myself a break from sewing deadlines in summer, but I think having that outlet and direction to most of my days has been a really good thing. I start getting too emotional and anxious when I feel aimless. I really don’t have any regrets about the past month, and for summer? That’s AWESOME.

June 2019 Reflections

We’ve officially survived 1/3 of summer! I think overall, June went pretty well. It definitely helps to have the boys in summer school, giving all of us the structure we really need. I definitely felt guilty when I saw so many people I know going on trips and taking their kids to do really exciting things every day. We were more in survival mode over here. I’m sure I’ll do my best to give us some grand adventures in July and August, but for June I really liked the simplicity of every day being pretty much the same, with a weekly walk to the farmers market and lots of nighttime swimming at the pool. My kids really thrive on simplicity. I’ve learned my lesson time and time again in past summers that when I think taking them somewhere is going to be amazing, they usually end up hating it. It doesn’t stop me from trying, but it does help me not feel so guilty when we go weeks without anything “special.”

I only had four goals for June and I’m not sure I really did that great at accomplishing them. But…it’s summer. Here’s a quick recap.

1- Read like it’s my job!

I only managed to read 11 books. I gave up on two. One of the 11 was a cookbook and one was a pretty short book I read in an hour or less. I really did try to only pick out books that brought me joy, however. It was just hard to find the time and the justification to read a lot. The garage sale took a massive amount of my time the first half of the month and work swallowed up the second. I really wanted to read two amazing nonfiction books that I felt would set me up for some better mental health this summer, but I rarely sat down with them. They will probably be added to my July goals.

2 – Have one awesome fresh start clutter clearing garage sale

We did it! I think it was actually really successful too! We priced everything so cheaply because we truly just wanted to get rid of it. The last day we did fill a bag for $1, which cleared out probably 2/3 of what we had left after the first two days. The only downside is that it’s now been over two weeks and we still haven’t finished cleaning up from the sale. Greg took all the remaining clothes to Goodwill immediately that day. And he’s slowly been cleaning out the piles and piles of empty tubs. But some of the tables are still set up, all of the books, most of the random household stuff. We’re maybe going to donate it to the preschool garage sale in town, but it’s still a matter of packing it up and bringing it over there. It feels like too much work.

3 – Embrace the chaos

I feel like I did well at this. Though I might only feel that way because I’m having a relatively good day TODAY. I know I’ve had my share of emotional meltdowns too. It’s hard having everyone home almost all the time. It’s harder having all of them home and feeling like I have to spend my entire day making food and cleaning up after them because nobody can be bothered to help me no matter how many times I ask. Clearer rules and more emotional fortitude on my part need to be woven into our days to make the rest of summer a success.

4 – Designate Writing Wednesdays to work on my Hope*Writers course

Ugh. Fail. AGAIN. I think I did one video lesson earlier in the month. And I wrote one blog post beyond my usual weekly/monthly posts. Not great!! Wednesdays ended up being really busy out of the house days. But that’s not really an excuse. I just decided to devote most of my time to other pursuits. I’m not sure assuming I’ll find any real writing time during the summer is a good idea. Obviously I hope to! But I think forcing myself to have a solid day devoted to it is something I should wait until fall for.

I’m not as concerned about sticking with my goals in summertime, but it’s still nice to have them to try and guide my time and energy. June felt like kind of a bust, but I have some good ideas stewing for July!

May 2019 Reflections

This long, insanely busy, and thoroughly exhausting month has finally come to a close. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a pretty great month filled with a lot of awesome memories. But it was also overstimulating and too chaotic for our introverted homebody thriving family. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re all ending the month with a variety of mysterious illnesses. We’re so burnt out.

Despite the crazy, I think I did a fairly good job of completing all of my goals for the month – except the one I failed at miserably. But I refuse to berate myself over it because there was honestly NO TIME. It was way too ambitious to think I could have fit it in.

1 – Have an awesome vacation!

We did! I loved seeing Colorado for the first time with Greg. After what was also an unusually busy April, it felt at the time like a good opportunity to get away. In hindsight, I don’t want to take a vacation the first week of May ever again. It made the rest of the month way too stressful trying to play catch up. But the vacation itself was great. Probably one of the best we’ve ever had! Colorado was so gorgeous and we had the greatest time just reveling in the natural beauty and eating a lot of delicious meals. It was a really special way to celebrate our 13th anniversary.

2 – Treat myself to a special Mother’s Day weekend

Honestly, this already feels so long ago that I don’t even remember exactly what I did. But I know I protected that Saturday before as a day for myself as if my life depended on it. I believe I went to the farmers market, shopped at all my favorite stores, and ended the day with a movie. It’s one of my favorite May traditions.

3 – Do a 6 year Heartstring Annie anniversary giveaway and sale

I was worried this wasn’t going to happen since I had to keep pushing it back after the trip. But I was able to pull it all together last week with a special giveaway and a two day sale. Somehow, unbelievably, it was a record breaking month for income. And it was my second highest month of all time for number of dolls sold. Almost all of those happening in the last week, which is crazy. I also celebrated my 1000th Etsy sale, gained a lot of new followers after the giveaway, and drummed up some new customers. Of course the highs are always followed by the lows of not being able to have this consistency with new inventory and oodles of sales a day all year round. But it was certainly a month to be proud of myself and all I’ve accomplished to create this successful business all on my own while balancing a ton of other things in the last six years.

4 – Finish my Hope*Writers 90 Day Directions course

This was my big fat fail. I didn’t even open up my coursework ONCE. Not one single minute put into this class over the entire month. I’m disappointed in myself, but there’s just no way I could have handled it. I was busy all day with work and errands and household chores and busy all night with kid things. There was literally no time at all for extra writing or learning about writing.

5 – Go through all my new cookbooks

Okay, so I still haven’t gone through all of them. Namely, the two I got myself for Christmas and are still sitting in the exact same spot I set them five months ago. But I did go through three of them AND made recipes from each of them, which is really saying something. This last week in particular I’ve been trying really hard to focus more of my time and energy into creating good food. I was desperately craving that outlet after weeks of barely having time to scarf down sandwiches in the evenings, let alone make real meals. It’s been a surprising source of joy.

Overall, I’m just proud to say I survived the month. We went on a six day vacation. We celebrated Mother’s Day, Greg’s 35th birthday, my Heartstring Annie 6 year anniversary, our 13th wedding anniversary. Shepard had soccer practices and games 2-3 times a week and loved it. The boys had dentist appointments. Shepard cracked his head opened, needed staples, got the staples removed. I went to a Happier with Gretchen Rubin live podcast event in Milwaukee. Shepard had a poetry reading at the library. Caden had a music concert. I hosted a week of doll related specials. I had a night out with friends. I had a dog park date with another friend. We had an anniversary date night. We went to the farmer’s market in town a couple of times. The boys walked in the Memorial Day parade. Greg took the boys to Cedar Lake for a day. We got to spend an evening with Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson. And we started the massive undertaking of getting ready for a huge garage sale in a few weeks. It has been A MONTH. It was grand, but I am so very happy it’s over.

April 2019 Reflections

Another month behind us. April felt rough. It was honestly an extremely stressful month for me. It’s normally one of our quietest months of the year, but this year it was so filled with angst over everything coming up that I could never really relax or enjoy myself. There was just too much to do. I hate this side of myself, the inability to just find joy in life, no matter how crazy it is. I like knowing that everything is under control and April seemed to be slipping through my hands day after day. My goals for the month weren’t at the forefront of my mind the way they usually are, but I think I did okay despite the circumstances.

1 – No unnecessary spending

Okay, so I failed at this one. I didn’t want to put off the gift buying I needed to do for May, so I went ahead and ordered Greg’s birthday presents and Mother’s Day presents, which was acceptable, but then I always find Mother’s Day gifts and also buy something for myself from the same store because I can’t help it. I also ordered a lot of summer clothes for myself. And I’ve been on a desperate hunt to find new sandals, which resulted in like six different online orders and five of those returned because my feet are ridiculously wide, even more so since the broken ankle and nothing fits. I also bought a few books that I shouldn’t have, and two new pillows to spruce up the futon in the living room. And I purchased quite a few things for the raffle baskets I’m working on for school. I think when everything feels out of control, I turn to retail therapy way too often. I recognize this and I’m trying to turn it around, but it’s hard. I like pretty new things. I like to treat myself with gifts (like new books) because gifts are my love language and I’m not getting them from anyone else, so I might as well get them for myself. Especially when I’m stressed out and exhausted and just want to find some tidbits of joy. Anyway, I will definitely admit I failed 100% at this goal for April.

2 – No fast food

I did okay. We did eat at Culver’s before Shepard’s concert, which I was assuming would happen and it’s fine. And there was one day last week where I was desperately needing a day away from my life, so I treated myself to a sausage biscuit from McDonald’s (my fast food breakfast weakness, even though I don’t generally like sausage at all, so it’s a weird choice), a Starbuck’s cold brew, and Qdoba for lunch all in one day. Don’t judge me. 🙂 I’m not sure I can call it fast food, but I also got a fried chicken sandwich and fries at the movie theater last Saturday and felt like total crap for the next 24 hours, which is a good reminder of why I’m trying REALLY hard to stay away from all things fried. So yes, I admit I had a bit of weakness, but overall I think I did pretty well. With the exception of this last week, I barely ate out at all. And I tried to make better choices when I did.

3 – Take a walk every day

I meant to record this in my bullet journal to be absolutely certain I followed through, but…I didn’t. But we walked to school every day except yesterday when it was raining. We went on a few evening family walks. There were two or three days where I went on much longer walks with Annie. I walked to the post office midday a couple of times. It wasn’t a great month for exercising, but it was better than the months before!

4 – Read a new cookbook

Okay, so I cheated a bit on this and instead of reading one of the cookbooks I intended to read, I bought a new one and read it immediately. And it was amazing. So I definitely want to carve out some time in the next few weeks to go through all the others I haven’t yet looked at. It’s so wonderful getting that new inspiration of things to make. It’s just a matter of forcing myself to sit down and do it.

5 – Finish two or more shelf books

I read three. Though one of them was that new cookbook, so it probably doesn’t count. And one was a new April released book I had pre-ordered, so that probably shouldn’t count either! But I’ve been verrrrrrry slowly reading my huge stack of nonfiction books too. One of these days they’ll all finish around the same time and I’ll have a crazy nonfiction filled month of book recaps!

6 – Plan for May

Ready or not, May is here (well, almost)! I think I succeeded at this, stressful as it was. All my Heartstring Annie doll making plans were what stressed me out the most these past few weeks and I ended up rearranging and changing what I wanted to do multiple times before it felt right. I ended up making teacher dolls this last week and saving my giveaway doll and hopefully a sale for next week after we get back. Vacation is fully planned out with tons of options and a loose itinerary. I have some simple Mother’s Day gifts bought and ready to go. I have Greg’s birthday presents. I’ve made significant headway on my raffle baskets, I just need to finish making all the dolls to go in them. I think our May calendar is pretty well scheduled and planned out, as long as nothing new pops up. The only thing I’m not prepared for is teacher gifts for our own teachers. Though if the ones I made for the shop don’t sell, I might just take them back, though I’d prefer to do something a bit more personalized. We’ll see on that. But overall, I think all the stress of this last month was worth it because May is going to be pretty awesome! And I’m prepared for it. 🙂

March 2019 Reflections

We survived March! March is such a blah month. The weather constantly toys with us – sometimes spring actually arrives, sometimes it ends up being the worst month of winter. I think we were a bit more on the lucky side this year! But still – a long and dragging month that I’m glad to put behind me.

I think I did a pretty good job of meeting most of my goals this month, though I really had a lot of them and probably expected too much. But for the most part, I’m proud of myself for staying a lot more focused and driven than I was in February and January. I’ll do a quick recap!

1 – Prioritize WORK – Complete 4 batches of dolls

I actually completed 6 batches and 32 individual dolls! I sold 24 dolls, which is 8 more than February. I averaged about 4 hours a day of working, on the days that I worked. I even took almost a whole week off because of all my emotional drama. Overall, I’d say it was a highly productive month in the doll business.

2 – DNF books I don’t like

I definitely did this. As I wrote in yesterday’s book post, it was actually a really bad month for reading until I finally got a couple of winners. I only documented one DNF because most of them I only gave about 2-3% on my kindle before I decided I wasn’t in the right headspace for that type of book.

3 – Start a yoga class

This was the easy one since I was already signed up for it before March began. It’s gone relatively well. I’m glad I took it. I like that we do a really different series of poses every week. It’s been challenging.

4 – Go on a date with all three of my boys

Did it! I had a full day with Shepard as we got pizza, went to multiple stores to find him new shoes, stopped at Marshall’s for me, and ended with Starbucks frappuccinos for dessert. Greg and I checked out a new restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to, walked around a board game store, and got DQ blizzards for dessert. Caden and I had tacos yesterday. We also went all four of us out for Mexican last weekend, which is a pretty rare and special occurrence.

5 – Take Annie to a Madison dog park

I failed at this one. Mostly because with all the melting snow and flooding this month, all “grassy” areas have simply been mud pits. We did go to the Columbus dog park eight times and we’ve walked to school every day but one this month. Plus some extra night and weekend walks. So she’s getting her exercise, I just haven’t carved out enough time to bring her all the way to Madison. Hopefully soon.

6 – See friends at least three times

Done. I saw my friend Laura twice as we first tried to do this succulent planting event that sold out before we got there and then re-did it the next weekend. I also had coffee with my friend Katy. I have it marked in my bullet journal that I saw a friend a fourth time, though I can’t remember this happening… They all happened at the beginning of the month, so I’m due for more!

7 – Take Mom to Manna Cafe

Another fail! Well, I’m pretty sure I never even asked her?? But I know she’s had a lot going on. We DID go out to dinner after one of our yoga classes! I haven’t been to Manna since January and really want to get back. I tried to take Caden there for dessert after our date, but he wanted no part in that plan.

8 – See a movie by myself

I didn’t do this one either, but only because there wasn’t anything I wanted to see. I’m interested in Five Feet Apart, but after reading the book I decided I need to be at home for that kind of emotional movie watching experience. I hope there’s something coming out soon!

9 – Read two nonfiction books

I kind of snuck this one under the wire when I read a short graphic memoir yesterday right before writing my book post tot make sure I had that second nonfiction goal met! I also read Inheritance a few weeks ago. When I set this goal I really wanted to read some of the more life enriching books I have all over the house, but I wasn’t really in the mood for that this month.

10 – Eat better

This was too vague of a goal and I did a really crappy job of it. My scale is broken (okay, it just needs new batteries or something), but I’m pretty sure I’ve gained back all the weight I lost at the end of last year. I went out to eat A LOT this month. And ate so much crap at home. So many desserts. So many amazingly delicious lunches that I created just for me, but were then so good I couldn’t control myself from overeating them. It’s been a bad month. High priority goal for April will be finding a solid way to change this.

And that’s it! I write these recaps mostly for myself as I’m sure they’re not too interesting to anyone else. But…this is a good space for me to hold myself accountable, so I’m sticking with it!

February 2019 Reflections

As expected, February just flew by! It was such a fun, crazy, chaotic month. Despite my schedule, I think I did a fairly good job with my goals.

1 – Don’t give up on the life I want

I was pretty depressed about the state of my friendships in January. In February I had a glimpse of what it must actually be like for all my friends that have busy schedules every month of the year. It really IS hard to make friendship a priority when you’re barely hanging on. I think I learned that I can’t be so hard on everyone and I can’t always take it so personally when I feel rejected. I’m not ready to keep accepting the position of doormat, but I’ll try to be more understanding in the future. Overall, I don’t feel like I gave up this month, or even felt as down as I did in January. I still had time to get lunch with one friend and coffee with another. I’ve been trying hard to stop playing the martyr in other areas of my life and actually MAKE CHANGES when I start to feel dissatisfied with something. Nothing annoys me more than people that complain and whine about their totally changeable circumstances. I refuse to be one of those people and try to remind myself often to DO SOMETHING if I’m unhappy.

2 – Have two wonderful family vacations

I’d say this was a huge success! Horrible drives not withstanding, we had an awesome time in Nebraska earlier in the month and then an amazing memory filled trip to Orlando. No, the trips weren’t perfect, but they honestly went a whole lot better than I was expecting. It was really great!

3 – Celebrate Shepard

Despite what I may have thought in the past, Shepard’s birthday was FAR from overlooked this year! We had a little birthday party for him in Nebraska, we celebrated as a family before we went to Florida, we did basically everything he wanted on his actual birthday IN Florida, and we had a family party for him when we got back. It was basically three straight weeks of birthday celebrations. We did skip out on a friend party, but I don’t think he even cared, we were so busy with everything else. Plus half his class has birthdays within a month of his, so he’s been really busy going to everyone else’s parties!

4 – Get the boys real haircuts

Did it! They were NOT happy. Caden is still mad that I didn’t let his unruly hair just keep growing in fifty different directions. His was shaped a bit more and I really like how much more grown up he looks. Shepard’s haircut was less drastic and didn’t turn out a whole lot different from how we usually buzz it down. But I still think it was really cute. I’m not sure continuing to get “real” haircuts is in our future, but maybe every couple of months for a nice clean up!

5 – Don’t forget about Valentine’s Day

It was pretty low key this year in between two big vacations and birthday festivities, but I think it turned out to be a pretty nice holiday! I took Annie to the dog park in the morning, let myself relax and read for most of the day, had a coffee date with Laura in the afternoon, made some easy yet festive treats, and gave all my boys a couple of gifts.

6 – Re-read two favorite books

Did it and LOVED IT. That little shelf right above my chair holds copies of my absolute favorite books, the ones I’d read again, but never actually do. After this month, it’s going to be a priority. Revisiting those stories that made me feel so much happiness are totally worth picking up again, especially when life is crazy or sad and I just want to know what I’m getting myself into during my relaxation time.

7 – Have a romance filled reading month

Okay, I tried, but wasn’t super successful. I just wasn’t really in the mood for romance, especially when the storyline was sub-par. With the exception of Hate to Want You (and my two re-reads), every romance book I picked up was pretty lame.

8 – Prioritize a few minutes of self care every day

I forgot this was one of my goals. I’d say it’s the only one I really failed at. This month was just plain crazy. I think the only real self care I took part in was squeezing in naps the days that I could – which was far less than usual. I realize naps are a pretty big self care method that not a lot of people have opportunity to do. But most days it just feels like such an absolute necessity to my survival, that I don’t see it as a way to treat myself anymore. I wish I had given myself more grace to read and laugh and connect over the month.

Overall – a pretty successful month. It was a lot of fun, but I’m kind of glad it’s over. I am SO ready to get back to my mostly boring and low key life!