Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.13.2019

Despite my highest hopes, this last week went nowhere near as smoothly and joyfully as the week before. Mostly due to circumstances beyond my control, but…nonetheless, it’s been a pretty crappy week.

On Monday it was pouring, but I also really, really needed to run errands. I did them as quickly as possible in the midst of a horrible headache. Then I spent most of the day doing various food prep and trying to get a bit of work done. I felt so disjointed and frustrated for once again expecting too much of  myself and not living up to my own ridiculously high standards.

Monday night brought the terrible news that my uncle had been found dead in his apartment. I won’t divulge all the details, but cause of death is still unknown. He was very reserved and had really isolated himself from the rest of the family for over a year. We’ve all been in varying degrees of shock and grief as we try to deal with everything. My uncle didn’t have a significant other or any kids, so the bulk of taking care of everything he left behind has fallen on my mom and my remaining uncle and a few cousins. It’s an undertaking that nobody was prepared to deal with. But, it needs to be done.

That clearly set the tone for the rest of my week. I wasn’t sure if my help would be needed for anything, so I cancelled my Tuesday morning friend date and my Thursday craft night. I kind of went into a shell and just didn’t really want to interact with anybody. I barely knew my uncle, but it’s still so hard to realize he’s gone, and with it any opportunity TO know him.

Despite being in such a little pit of sadness, I tried to keep busy working and taking time to read and rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like I desperately needed to get out of the house and do something – anything – so I went to Walmart and just wandered around for over an hour and then stopped at a new coffee shop for a treat before heading back home to work some more.

Adding a bit to Thursday’s sadness, I was getting instagram bombardment of the start of that craft retreat I was supposed to be at. The AMAZING craft retreat at The Whatever Craft House in Kansas. The one I had my ticket to and then had to beg to be let out of once I realized my maker friend bailed on me and I didn’t want to do the 12 hour drives there and back by myself in unpredictable winter weather. I know in the end it was probably best I didn’t go. But it was pretty hard seeing everyone’s awesome photos and everything I was missing. I wish it could have worked out for me.

Friday morning brought a spark of joy when I got the email that my 23andme results were ready! I’ll maybe do a full post on this at a later date, but it was really exciting to see everything they could find out from my vial of spit! The ancestry reports were not much of a surprise since my mom’s side of the family has always kept extremely detailed records going back hundreds of years. But I loved that I could look even further in depth to see exactly which areas of the countries my ancestors were from. My Irish ancestors were from all over, but most heavily in the areas that I’ve visited myself AND were my favorite part of the country. My English ancestors are only from London, so I think I definitely need to add that to my travel bucket list. My German ancestors were from the northernmost regions. I didn’t get that far north in my high school trip to Germany, so I’ll have to go back there too. 🙂 Anyway, it was just really cool to see. And since my sister-in-law took the test last summer, I was able to combine my ancestry reports with hers so I can now give the boys definitive numbers on their own ethnicities. It has definitely gotten pretty muddy by their generation, but they are still predominantly 40% Irish/English, which is cool.

Knowing I really just needed to get out of the house, I kept my plans to go to lunch with my friend Laura. I worked in the morning and then she picked me up and we tried this new place called Full Mile in Sun Prairie. It was such a nice place! And really great to just have a chance to hang out with a friend. I desperately needed it. We prolonged our outing by getting Starbucks afterward and then shopping through Menard’s (lol).

I spent Saturday helping my parents, uncle, and two cousins start the work of clearing out my uncle’s apartment and looking for important paperwork that will help everything from now on go more smoothly. Honestly, it’s a task that’s probably going to take weeks. SO MUCH WORK. We all put in a full day and then went back again this morning. I bowed out after a couple of hours today. It’s overwhelming. My mom and uncle will continue to work all week while everyone else chips in between their jobs and families. I have another cousin flying in on Wednesday to help too. I hope for everyone’s sakes it starts picking up speed and can be completed earlier than expected. I think we made a lot of progress this weekend, but there is still a lot to go.

Sunday Intentions

Moving ahead to this week. I really need to get some work done. January is just flying by and I’ve not been as productive as I had hoped to be! I have eight dolls that are half done, so I’m hoping I can complete them by Tuesday afternoon. I also need to run a few errands tomorrow, but I was apparently very overzealous in my shopping last week as we still have a pretty full fridge! I should try and get some walks in with Annie too. I’ve been neglecting her (and my whole family). Actually, we did walk to school last Wednesday and Thursday since there wasn’t any ice and it felt SO GOOD. I think I’d be pretty happy if we just continue on with this almost snowless winter. It sure makes my life easier!

It sounds like Wednesday night as much family as available will be gathering for a dinner somewhere. The one good thing about a death in the family is that it brings everyone else closer. I’m kind of ashamed of how rarely I see my cousins that only live half an hour away from me. Not counting this weekend, it’s been an entire year and a half since we’ve been together. We’re all so busy. But maybe from now on we’ll try harder?

On Thursday, Greg and I are celebrating 19 years of being together. (We keep celebrating this since we were together 6.5 years before we got married, so this original anniversary still feels very significant!) We usually go on a fancy date every January, but this year I happened to see an awesome groupon deal, so we’re going on a little one night getaway. I do feel a bit bad going in the middle of everything that’s happening. But…it’s already paid for and everything and I think Greg and I need the little break from reality. The boys and Annie will have a sleepover that night at Grandma’s and then hang out at her house until we come back Friday, as there’s no school.

And I expect next weekend might be more family or apartment cleaning stuff. I’m leaving it open if I’m needed.

Anyway, that’s about it! A lot of unexpected emotions swirling around these last few days. But I’m trying to keep busy if that’s what it seems like I need or take breaks if that’s what I seem to need. I’m trying to keep my schedule pretty loose and flexible. It feels much better to help out when I’m needed, than to stick to some pre planned agenda. I think I need to work on being better about that in general.

Have a good week!

January 2019 Goals

Happy new year!

Is everyone as THRILLED to go back to school and work tomorrow as I am?! These last couple of days have seriously just sucked the life out of me. I think because we were so jam packed busy the first half of winter break, we’ve been ridiculously lazy and unmotivated the second half. I’ve resigned myself to only wearing pajamas because getting dressed is too much work. I’ve been eating super crappy food because I haven’t had the energy to go to the store and buy fresh food to cook with. I’ve been laying in bed for hours every afternoon because I don’t want to face any people or responsibilities, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep at night. I haven’t been getting any exercise and I haven’t been giving Annie any exercise, and I feel like I’m about to lose my mind with the constant noise of video games and annoying youtubers. I miss walking (no chance for awhile after the ice that showed up last night), I miss quiet, I miss listening to my podcasts and watching my tv shows during the day, I miss only having to make a meal for myself, I miss working, and did I say yet that I miss QUIET? Tomorrow is going to be awesome.

Anyway! Our New Year’s Eve celebration was really lame and barely worth mentioning. I got too tired to make the meal I planned on, so we had chicken nuggets and jalapeno popper dip for dinner, with giant cookies for dessert that nobody wanted  to eat because I mistakenly believed my family preferred crunchier cookies since they complain every time I make softer ones… I drank too much sparkling juice and felt painfully full, so I never opened up the wine I’ve had waiting in the fridge for at least four months when a celebratory alcohol needing moment might pop up. Greg was in a bad mood from the get go because there was a huge dump of heavy snow that took way too much time and energy to shovel away. I was in a bad mood because I was so strung out from being surrounded by loud and obnoxious noises the last twelve hours (plus eleven days). We settled in and watched the movie Mowgli with the boys and sent them to bed at ten. And we finished the year watching Bird Box. Both movies were way too stressful and angsty to pair with the moods we were all currently in to begin with. It’s the first year in ages that I actually stayed up until midnight, but I probably would have been better off just going to bed when the boys did. Lame city, you guys.

So I’m really excited to jump into January! Fresh starts and all that jazz. I’ve been pretty lax with my productivity in the last month, so it’s time to take a deep breath and tackle some big goals. Ideally I think I’d like to stick with about three accomplishable goals a month so I can readily have them on my mind with every decision I make. But I’m going to go a bit above and beyond this month and flat out expect more from myself. We’ll see how it goes.

1 – No excess spending

This is the biggest one. After six weeks of crazy present buying and being way too indulgent with picking up things for myself, I need a bit of a detox. My plan is to avoid all online shopping – not even any looking. No new books, coffee, clothes, snacks, or treats. The only things I’m allowed to buy are perishable foods and household items we absolutely can’t live without – like cat food, which is just about gone. But I’d also like to get more creative with a lot of the random food we have stored in the basement and figure out ways to use it before buying anything else. My only exceptions to this rule is if I find birthday presents for my mom and Shepard (the February birthdays), and if I find an awesome Valentine mug. Since I decided to have rotating seasonal mug collections, I’ve been itching to find one or two great Valentine choices. So if I happen to see one in one of the few stores I’m allowing myself to walk in this month, I have permission to buy it. 🙂 Everything else? Off limits.

2 – Lose 3 or more pounds by the 30th

I have my next doctor’s appointment on the 30th to recheck my liver levels and blood pressure and everything. I was doing so great for about two months, and this last week just totally let go again. My original goal for this appointment was to lose 10 lbs since my appointment at the end of October. I’ve been hovering at the 10 or 11 pound mark for the last month. I want to get a lot more strict with myself and push for at least 3 more pounds and obviously still a lot more after that.

3 – No fast food

I think going without fast food in November was really helpful to resetting my system. I didn’t go overboard in December, but I did stop for food three or four times simply because I was really hungry and that was easy. Really, going hand in hand with my no spending, I’m just not going to allow myself to eat anywhere unless it’s using one of my gift cards (Chipotle or Qdoba!), or on a date. Dates get a free pass for any kind of food.

4 – Make 20+ Valentine dolls

Valentine’s Day is one of my biggest holidays for sales. I think because I usually take most of December off and then I’m freshly motivated and start pumping out pink and red dolls in January, everyone is itching to buy them. I’ve picked up a lot of new fabric in the last few weeks and I’m really excited to start creating again. But hopefully only in small batches so I don’t overwhelm myself and get burned out. I think making 20 should be relatively easy, though. It’s a pretty quiet month. (so far!)

5 – Read 4 books from my shelves

In my new bullet journal I wrote out all the books I own that I haven’t yet read. Want to know the number? Probably not, lol. 113. And there are three smaller areas of my house where I didn’t even count those books. So, I have a lot of books to read! One of my favorite hobbies is researching new books and getting excited about all the possibilities. As I was organizing my shelves and writing down all those titles yesterday, I was so excited about the books I already have. I genuinely want to read a lot more of them this year, even though the majority of them are nonfiction.

6 – Have a great anniversary getaway

Desperate to get something on the calendar for just the two of us and not ready to plan an actual anniversary vacation in May yet, I found a really great looking hotel through Groupon and booked us a night in mid January to celebrate our 19th year of being together. I think it’ll be really great to have two full days to ourselves.

7 – Spend time with friends

I’m hoping this will happen! When a bunch of us got together a few weeks ago on two separate lunch occasions, we all made a point of wanting to do that more often. I already set up a craft night and plan to get back into hosting those as well. And I’m trying to get together with one of my friends who moved away. I don’t want the months to keep passing by with no girl time on the calendar. I’m going to make it happen!

I think that’s enough to keep me busy this month! Happy January, everyone!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

I recently discovered that instead of writing straightforward lists of resolutions and goals for the year, some people chose to write out what they’re looking forward to in the new year instead. It’s still a way to get your greatest hopes and dreams for yourself out in the universe, but you’re writing them as something to look forward to instead of something you have to do to make your life better. I loved this idea and became a lot more excited thinking about 2019 in these terms. I still fully plan on giving myself smaller accomplishable goals at the beginning of every month to truly focus my time and energy, but for the year as a whole I’m really liking this format instead!

In 2019, I am looking forward to…

1 – Becoming a healthier and more energetic human being.

I’m going to use what I’ve learned in the last two months and continue to take better care of myself. I’m going to go back to only eating the foods that I know will make me feel good and avoiding things like fast food which I know will make me feel bloated and gross the rest of the day. I’ll walk Annie as often as I can and find exercise videos to do in the house when I’m too freaked out to risk slipping on ice if I go outside. I’m going to continue to take my internal health into consideration with many of my choices because that’s what has a greater influence on my motivation than the number on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

2 – Having a better work-life balance.

I think a lot of my work frustration in the last few years is that I expected to be able to just jump into making this a full time job now that my kids are in school all day. I need to – and I WILL – accept that I only have a part time job slot in my life right now. And THAT’S OKAY. The internal war has been waging for years on what I should be giving the most of my time to and no matter what option I choose, it feels like the wrong one. This year I am going to give myself grace and remember that sewing dolls is not the most important thing in my life. People matter more. Life happens. I still want work to be part of my life – but only PART. I’d like to strive for only working 20-30 hours a week with as few nights and weekends as possible. I’d like to prioritize my family and friends if I’m in a busy season where that truly matters more. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it or start worrying what other people think of me. I believe I can have the best of both worlds and this is the year I’m going to figure out how to do it.

3 – Going on vacations!

I’m excited about going on some fun and much needed vacations this year. Greg and I have a one night getaway scheduled in a few weeks to celebrate 19 years of being together. In early February we’re going to Nebraska to see Guster play with the Omaha Symphony. We may or may not bring the boys, but either way we’ll be staying with my brother and spending some time with Hudson too (as long as the weather holds out!). In the middle of February we’re all going Florida to see Universal and Harry Potter World with Greg’s parents, which should be an awesome family vacation. In August I have tickets to Book Bonanza, which will bring me to Texas for the first time. I’m hoping we can take an actual three or more night vacation somewhere new and special for our 13 year marriage anniversary in May or June. Greg has been talking about wanting to take one or both boys to San Francisco, so if that happens I’ll either do something special with the remaining kid or have one heck of a staycation by myself! We’re hopefully going to have a really full year of getting away and making some amazing memories.

4 – Reading all the books and tracking them closely.

Reading is and forever will be a huge part of my life. But it still deserves a big spot on what I’m looking forward to in the new year! I’m hoping that maybe audiobooks will eventually win me over and might start replacing some of my tv time. I think I could be much more productive sewing that way since I don’t need to constantly be looking at a screen! But I also have to get better at paying attention with my ears. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading MANY of the physical books I have on my shelves. I’ve re-fallen in love with physical books and may have gone a bit crazy buying them in the last six or so months. Now I need to read them! I’m also looking forward to tracking them much more closely on the Book Riot tracking spreadsheet, as well as continuing to track on my own spreadsheet and Goodreads and writing about them every month.

5 – Really just tracking all the things!

I’ve used a bullet journal for most of the past year and it’s been an awesome way to keep track of my daily to do lists, meal plans, work hours, gratitude lists, etc. This year I’m planning to take things a step further and track things like how much money we save, how much weight I lose, the dates we’ve been on, the books I’ve read from my shelves, as well as all my usual stuff – tv, podcasts, movies, happiness levels, etc. I want my bullet journal to basically be the one thing I can’t go a single day without sitting down in front of and writing in. Not because I have to, but because I love it so much.

6 – Writing more and reformatting my website so it’s more accessible.

I really do love to write! This year I’ve found the most joy in writing recaps and intentions and lists of things I’ve consumed each month, with books being my favorite. I feel like most of the stuff I write about is really personal and is probably much more interesting to me than anyone who happens to read it. And I’ve been okay with that. But I would like to try just a tiny bit harder at growing my readership. I will be more active on instagram to promote my posts, plus just more about my everyday life. And I’ll figure out how in the world to reformat my website so posts of similar content can be grouped together and easier to find. I have no clue how to go about doing that, but I will learn!

7 – Reenergizing my relationships.

Mostly with Greg. But also with friends. And maybe with Greg AS my friend and not just my parenting partner, which is sometimes what it feels like. I want to make monthly OUT OF THE HOUSE date nights a real and exciting thing that I cherish and look forward to more than anything else in the month. I want to kiss more and laugh more and find things to do together that we both enjoy besides just watching tv every night. I love watching tv together, but I think we need something more. I also look forward to spending more time with my friends and maybe making some new friends! This last year has been so weird with me being locked away in the house for so many months and everyone just being “too busy.” Well, guess what? If it’s important, we will make time. And I’ll start taking the initiative again to make sure those things happen.

8 – Using my cookbooks and making actual meal plans on a weekly basis.

I adore cookbooks. I have a ton of them. But when it comes to making my meals I always just look to pinterest because it’s fast and easy and convenient. But my cookbooks are overflowing with amazing inspiration and new ideas and foods that will bring us all joy and excitement. I plan to start with just picking one cookbook at a time and finding 2-3 meals I want to make from it in the next week or two. Nothing crazy or elaborate or stressful. Just take the five minutes it requires to open a book and find something fresh to make. It will be so worth it.

9 – Having one massive, mega, crazy garage sale and then donating whatever is left.

Our garage is overflowing with items that didn’t sell at our last garage sale, two years ago. I fully planned on having one last summer, but then didn’t feel up to it with my lack of walking abilities. This summer, hopefully right in early June, it will happen! And when it’s over I’m not going to save everything for some future sale. This is it. I want it all gone. It’s going to feel AMAZING to get rid of all those boxes of things we no longer need. It’d be great to make a little money in the process, but really – I just want it all gone.

10 – Learn how to be good at hand lettering. 

I usually have some hobbies at the back of my mind that I never seem to get to. This year the only thing I can think of are these two new hand lettering books and brush markers I got for Christmas. I would like to go through each of those books carefully, practice, and become pretty awesome at writing things out fancy and cool. I have no real purpose for this other than my bullet journal and my own enjoyment, but it’ll be worth it!

I think it’s safe to say that 10 is enough! I truly think that 2019 is going to be an amazing year. Happy new year, everyone!

Reflections on 2018

2018 was pretty much a year I would like to forget. Reflecting back, there’s really not a whole lot of joyous events that can redeem for all the sucky health related things that happened this past year. The whole year was just plain HARD. But I also think I learned a lot about myself and was able to come out ahead, despite all the trials I had to face.

January did get off to a good start with a lot of fresh enthusiasm for exercise and taking better care of myself. I did a 30 day yoga challenge and if I remember correctly, I only missed one day – if that. I was so proud of myself for following through on something that was really tough for me. I was also doing a lot of walking outside every chance I could. I was on track for really changing my habits around and getting in better shape. And then that awful day at the end of February went and ruined everything.

The day I slipped on that invisible bit of ice and broke my ankle in three places and severely sprained it enough to probably ruin my tendons forever was the worst day of my life. The proceeding surgery and months and months of recovery were a nightmare. The pain alone was horrific, but there was also so much stress and frustration and depression that came along with suddenly not being able to do ANYTHING for myself. There were weeks of slowly crawling across the entire house in blinding pain so I could shower and have one tiny bit of normalcy. Not that that was normal either since I had to wear a bag on my leg that cut off my circulation the entire time I had it on and I needed Greg’s help with everything. I lost control over what foods I could put in my body, what things needed to be shopped for, my ability to take care of my kids or Annie, and I felt completely useless, and worthless. You’d think with some forced down time I could have gotten some reading or rest in, but the pain was so bad and my concentration was completely shot. I was so angry and depressed all the time. I felt like I lost a lot of my friends, or at least the depth of our friendship. (Though the entire situation also showed me who my truest friends were, for which I am grateful.) When Greg had to go back to work I was suddenly on my own with a crazy hyped up dog that I couldn’t do anything for, even if she was practically attacking me because she desperately needed to go to the bathroom. The recovery was so much harder than I ever would have expected. Even now, 10 months later, I’d say my ankle is only at about 60% what it used to be, and the doctor told me that it might not get any better. That’s a sucky diagnoses at age 34.

On top of all my ankle stuff, which really just felt like what the entire year was all about, Greg was also going through some things and had to have surgery in August. It went fine, but he had to suffer through months of pain before the hospital could get around to putting him on the schedule. That definitely didn’t add any joy to our summer.

At the end of summer I was officially diagnosed with high blood pressure and was put on medication. A month later after a bunch of blood tests and an ultrasound, I was also diagnosed with mild fatty liver, which is basically an irreversible condition that happens when you’ve just spent thirty years not taking very good care of yourself. Both things were a huge wake up call that I think I really needed to finally make some changes in my diet. Both conditions would also really be helped with more exercise, but my ankle is still making that quite difficult, especially at this time of the year when I’m scared to death to walk outside for any reason if there’s even the tiniest possibility I might slip on snow or ice.

And to just add to everything else, I’ve also had an infected toe on my left foot for the last nine months. I was on three rounds of antibiotics that didn’t do a thing to help it. Finally, now, it’s just about back to normal.

We also finished up this year with both Shepard and Greg needing glasses. We are just on a roll with health crap. The good news, maybe??? We used up our massive deductible after my surgery at the end of February, so everything else the rest of the year has been “free.” But we also had to spend most of the year paying that deductible off which didn’t leave a lot of extra for vacations or fun.

Speaking of vacations, I did have to cancel my original spring trip I had planned to DC in April because of my ankle break. Originally the physician’s assistant told me that I should probably be okay to still take the trip, which in hindsight was absolutely ridiculous since I still couldn’t even walk without crutches until over a month after that trip would have happened! Fortunately, I was able to go in October and despite some lingering pain, I was able to enjoy it.

We weren’t able to have a big anniversary trip this year, but Greg and I did spend one night away at the end of May to celebrate 12 years together. Honestly, I was still in so much pain from trying to walk that I really don’t remember any of it.

In August, I was feeling well enough to go ahead with the trip I had planned to Minnesota to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing. I spent two days going to basically every TJMaxx and Marshall’s in the Twin Cities. 🙂 Then I drove down and met Greg and the boys in La Crosse for two more nights. That trip was overshadowed by the bedbug Greg found the first morning we were there. That was the first of not one, not two, but THREE bedbug scares/issues we had in three months. For the record, we never had any bedbugs in our actual house and the third issue turned out not to be bedbugs at all. But all three incidents were enough to make us wary of going to hotels ever again.

In September I was able to go on another little trip by myself to Chicago to see my favorite podcast, The Popcast, live. Greg’s sister joined me for the show which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that trip even more because I happened to come across an amazing vintage market on my drive down. I’m planning to go to that market annually, it was SO amazing. I finished up the month going to Cranberry Fest with my parents as usual. Though between my ankle and my mom’s hip, it was a bit more of a subdued adventure than usual.

One of the saddest things that happened this year is that my brother and his family decided to move to Nebraska for new jobs. It came as an incredible shock after the rest of the family made the wrong assumption that they were in Wisconsin to stay after they just moved back a year earlier. We’ve still been able to see Hudson about every two months or so, but it’s really sad we can’t all be more actively involved in each other’s lives the way we thought we were going to be when we were given that new (and only!) nephew/cousin.

In Heartstring Annie related news, despite being out of commission for a month or two after breaking my ankle, plus taking almost all of October and December off for more personal time, it’s been my biggest year for sales. I made 224 sales and sold 297 dolls. Plus all the dolls I made that didn’t sell, and dolls I made for gifts and giveaways. That’s a lot! It kind of surprises me, especially at the moment when I haven’t had a single sale in over three weeks. This year has really proven to me that the more I put into it, the more sales I will make. I have a big enough following now that when I make something new, it almost surely sells right away. I got a lot more creative this summer and pushed outside the traditional Raggedy Ann boundaries. It was really fun to follow my more artistic side instead of constantly letting “what people want” force my creative path. I’ve definitely had some serious ups and downs trying to decide if sewing dolls is really what I want to do with my life, but after a month of trying to let myself focus a lot more on writing – my other favorite careerish prospect – I realized that I really do like making dolls for money and keeping the writing as a hobby. So for now, that’s what I’m going to keep doing!

I do think that in the midsts of all our trials, Greg and I have become closer this year. I never could have gotten through those horrible months without him. Without a single complaint he took on full time parenting and dog caring all while still working his full time job and doing everything around the house and out of it. He was truly amazing. I don’t think I would have lasted a week if our situations had been reversed. I don’t believe caretaking is in my genetic code! We definitely still have plenty of ups and downs. It’s really hard to stay connected in this stage of parenting when our kids still need us and want us (mostly him) and our attention constantly. We’ve also gotten a lot busier this year. But he is an amazing partner in life and incredible dad and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. We’ve been trying to make date nights out of the house a more regular thing again and I look forward to prioritizing our marriage more in the coming year.

I think Caden has grown a lot this year as well. We still struggle – a lot. I might regret saying this, but I truly think he’s gotten better in the last few months. He’s becoming more mature. He’s also had to take on more responsibility, walking Shepard home from school when I couldn’t last spring. It worked out so well and I started feeling like it was such a waste of my time  to go myself that he picks Shepard up every day after school this year too. We continue to get raving reports from his teacher about how amazing he is in class – so helpful and smart and patient with his classmates. I still think he’s using up all that patience and helpfulness while he’s at school and saving very little for at home with his us, but…it’s okay. He’s getting there. I’ve been very proud of him lately, especially over the holidays when he’s usually at his worst. He’s really been great this Christmas.

Shepard continues to surprise me in how helpful he can be when he wants to be. He usually makes breakfast for both him and Caden every morning. For the kid who took seven years to fully potty train, it still comes as a surprise when he’ll just randomly start doing things that seem so beyond his years. Or at least things that are beyond Caden’s limited capabilities – usually in the kitchen. He has such a curious and silly spirit and is always up for new things and helping people with projects. Ask him to read for ten minutes or clean his room, though – NOT going to happen. His crazy stubborn streak is still very much alive and well!

And things continue to be well with my sweet babes. Jack and Rory turned 13 in April and are still healthy and well. Jack is starting to have some issues, but nothing decisive yet – he just drinks a ton of water and goes through a massive amount of litter. Both cats are pretty grumpy with each other and Annie, but love being around the four of us more than ever. And my beautiful Annie is happy and wild and still lives for the chance to play with other dogs at the dog park. Despite those rough few months (in which a few friends did help me out by bringing her out to play a few times a week), I think all three of the pets have had a really good year!

So looking back on the year, it was not as bad as it could have been, that’s for sure. I do think I grew as a person and I think I needed those internal health scares to really get me thinking about what I need to change to live a long and prosperous life. I can’t think of any ways that breaking my ankle helped me out. That just sucked. But it is what it is and I just have to keep working and hope it gets better. I’m glad to see this year come to a close, though. I think 2019 will be a much more exciting and joyous year and I can’t wait for it to begin!

Christmas as a Gift Giver, Life as a Gift Giver

Many people by now have heard of the five love languages – the five ways that everyone experiences and expresses love, developed and thoroughly researched by Gary Chapman over twenty years ago. These love languages include receiving gifts, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. Each person usually has one or two languages that they are dominate in and that is how they express their love and how they best experience love from other people, particularly their spouse and family.

When I first read this book as a young adult, it felt groundbreaking to me. I finally had validation for one of the biggest parts of my life. A part of my being that so few people seem to understand or appreciate. You see, my dominant language is receiving gifts. The language that I believe is the least understood and the one that people will probably look down upon. When I say that I need to get gifts from people to feel loved, I sound selfish and greedy and materialistic. When I give gifts to people, if I do it the extent I actually want to, I’m often made to feel ashamed and rebuked for “going overboard” or flat out anger at me because they don’t have anything to reciprocate (which is not why I give!!).

Unfortunately for us, Greg’s least dominant love language is receiving gifts. Though strangely enough, him giving me gifts is one of the things that made me fall in love with him. As 15 and 16 year olds, he would give little gifts every month on our anniversary of being together. He’d give me a sweet piece of jewelry or sentimental gift every January on our yearly anniversaries. He’d shower me with notes every day and write me full notebooks when he went on trips away from me and bring me flowers for no reason. He showed all signs of being a huge gift giver as a teenager, but it must have just been him blinded by young love because that is absolutely not his personality now.

I don’t mean for this to be an attack on Greg by any means. But it’s definitely something that has made our marriage more challenging over the years. He’ll buy me obligatory birthday and Christmas and Mother’s Day presents. But picking me up something on a random day just because he thought of me? Definitely not. In turn, the little things I get to show him that I care every week often go unnoticed or unappreciated. I honestly can’t do a day of errands without picking up at least one special little treat for each of my family members. I put so much thought and effort into every holiday gift, always giving little things on every possible occasion. The response is most often that I shouldn’t have. And no, not in a cute little way he didn’t really mean, but NO, you shouldn’t have, because it’s not important to me.

To be fair, Greg’s dominant love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. Want to know which two are at the absolute bottom for me? Right. So no matter what, we’re always missing the mark with each other in how we’re giving and what love language we’re receiving and internalizing AS love. I’d say the thing that’s holding us together is that acts of service are both pretty high for each of us. Acts of service can often been seen and felt as a gift, so I’m not feeling depleted entirely. Acts of service are quietly going about your days doing as much as possible to make the lives of the ones you love easier. Because we both do so well with this, our household responsibilities are split pretty evenly and for the most part, run smoothly.

Anyway, like most of the world, Christmastime is when I think most often about gift buying. It’s also when I spend way too much time thinking about my highest love language. I do it for birthdays too, but at Christmas, when every single person that means anything to me deserves a special gift in their hands, my brain kind of explodes. I want every gift I buy or make to have meaning and be valued. Most of our siblings and their significant others and parents have been making it significantly harder on me because they don’t create wish lists anymore and we don’t spend enough time with them to get the best ideas of what they might like most. And no, I’m not going to buy something just to buy something. It NEEDS TO BE thoughtful and well received. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, but it does need to fit who they are and what they will like. The pressure is real high, you guys. I love it. And it consumes me and maybe sometimes destroys the season for me.

Christmas as an inherent gift giver can be pretty overwhelming. I’d say I devote about a solid month of my time to all things Christmas gift related. The thinking, the research, the price shopping, the actual buying, the unpacking of all the online shopping boxes that arrive at once, the hiding in the house, the creating, the wrapping, the dividing for each location, the measuring out to make sure everyone is getting roughly the same amount of gifts with roughly the same value. Then there’s the actual in store shopping, where I often find my best gifts to give because I go on these treasure hunts and almost always happily stumble on something that’s perfect for someone and can’t possibly be passed up. But then I need to reassess again to make sure everyone is still getting about an equal amount of gifts. I also have to spend time making sure I have things for neighbors and teachers and postal workers (yes, because they work dang hard for me at this time of the year!!). And then there are the friends I want to get gifts for simply because they’re my friends, but I have to constantly be reigning it in because I don’t want them to feel like I expect something in return, because I don’t. There’s really quite a bit of reigning it in this time of year, which is starting to ruin the season for me. I want to give what I want to give. I don’t want to be criticized for giving too much or judged because I have a generous spirit and have a really hard time saying no when I come across a gift that will be perfect for someone. Unfortunately, all these adverse reactions to my gifts is truly starting to wear me down and take a lot of joy out of the one thing I seem to do really well.

Then there’s a part of the Christmas season that’s hard to talk about when your love language is RECEIVING gifts. The actual gifts you want for yourself. How can you talk about this without sounding like a selfish child? I don’t think you can. But yeah, I really look forward to opening my own gifts. I’m a pretty reserved person and it’s very unlikely I will outwardly gush over a gift given to me, which maybe makes it seem like I don’t care. But believe me, I really, really do. I get so excited about one of the only times of year I get gifts from Greg. I love that the boys still usually make some sort of art project at school that is meant to be a gift because the handmade and personal things are truly the most treasured. Really, any gift that shows a person knows ME is a gift I will treasure. Adversely, a gift that clearly has shown no thought at all is worse than no gift at all. Another thing that causes more trouble than good at this time of year. A gift with no thoughtful intent means nothing. I try to counteract these possibilities by trying to ensure my tank is going to be filled up, even if it means taking measures into my own hands. I spend a ton of time cultivating wish lists of things I would be truly joyful to receive. I make lists for the boys to try and ensure they will also get things they’ll truly use and enjoy. I’m in charge of filling my own stocking (and all the rest), so I use that as an excuse to pick up all kinds of little treats for myself. This year I even took things a step farther and bought myself two different advent calendars – a sticker advent from Pipsticks for the entire month, and a bookish 12 days of Christmas advent surprise box from Once Upon a book Club. In this time of the year when I’m focusing so much on gifts for others, I’m also giving myself two little surprise presents every day to keep ME happy. No, of course it doesn’t mean as much as someone else gifting me surprises. But self care and self love are important and this is what I do to fill my own tank at Christmastime.

There really is no point to this post, other than I needed to get it off my chest. I’d say in my whole circle of people close to me, there is only one , maybe two, other people whose stronger love language is gifts. Everyone else? It really doesn’t matter to them. Which is unfortunate to all of us! I am simply putting it out there to everyone that if you’re given a gift this Christmas season, or for no reason at all at any other point in the year, just be thankful for it! Don’t say you shouldn’t have, don’t comment on the expense, don’t flat out refuse to accept it. Don’t belittle the time and effort and thought that a person put into picking out that gift for you. They didn’t have to, but they chose to, because they love you. It matters to them. Maybe more than you’ll ever realize.

My Favorite Things

Last night I hosted my fourth annual Favorite Things Party. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions! It’s a great way to see friends and celebrate the season together in a unique and fun way. It’s also an awesome way to give and get some really cool presents! (I am ALL about presents!) All you do is invite a group of great people over and ask everyone to bring three of their favorite things in a certain price range (I did $8-10 this year) wrapped and ready to give. Provide a bit of food (I always do a mega cheese tray and wine), let everyone else know they’re welcome to bring their own treats if they choose, and then gather and enjoy! After a proper amount of time to linger and eat you have everyone put their name three times on paper in a bowl and go around the circle drawing recipients for each of your gifts and explaining a little about why that item is your favorite thing. It’s really fun, you’re pretty much guaranteed to go home with three really great little gifts, and you have plenty of ideas for other special things you might want to check out later. It always turns out to be a great night!

As I was thinking about my favorite things for this party, I decided I really ought to do a blog post of my favorite things of the year. I kind of have a tendency to get totally obsessed with certain items and I just want to share them with the world! I’ve been considering doing a more regular post on my favorite new thing of the week or month, so keep a lookout for that! 🙂 In the meantime, here’s a pretty comprehensive list of everything I’ve been obsessed with in the last year.

Formula 10.0.6 Peeling Face Masks

This was the first item I picked out to give at my party. I first tried the orange Get Your Glow On Peeling Mask earlier this year when I saw them at Target and picked a few up as little Valentine gifts for some friends. (They don’t sell them at the local target anymore, but you can find them at Ulta and target.com.) I think the peeling masks are so much more fun and feel so much more useful than sheet masks (which I’m not against, I just like the peeling!). This one smells great. I was really excited to see Ulta put out a sample set of all six of their masks this Christmas. I immediately bought one for myself and my party gift. Funnily, my friend Laura is the one who ended up with it – one of the friends I gave the original mask to at Valentine’s Day, who I also gave a set of masks to for her birthday last month because she told me how much she loves them, and she brought these masks as one of her own favorite things to give! They’re great. 🙂

Bones Coffee

So I only started drinking coffee on my 33rd birthday when my mom gave me a Keurig that I wanted pretty much just because the cool robin’s egg blue color matched my kitchen. In the last 14 months I’ve become a bit of an addict. While I definitely love my Keurig for its speed and ease (the boys especially love it for making their own hot cocoa whenever the mood strikes), I’ve really been venturing out into “real” coffee the last four or five months. I don’t really like the way any of it tastes in the Keurig’s reusable cup, so I’ve since acquired a french press, an aeropress, and from a Cyber Monday sale – a little pourover. I think I like the taste from the french press best, especially with this brand of coffee, but the pourover is really winning me over because it’s so much easier to clean (with our plumbing issues I have to try crazy hard to not get ANY grounds going down the drain). Anyway, I think I just came across Bones from a random facebook ad and took a chance on it buying multiple sample packs over the last few months. And I love it! It’s incredible to me how each of the flavors comes through so strongly (I only liked flavored coffees). My favorite flavor is one that they had this summer as a limited edition – chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake. The chocolate, the strawberry, the cheesecake – every flavor was so distinct in every sip. I’ve liked every flavor I’ve tried except perhaps the chocolate orange. But I’m not a huge orange fan to begin with and the flavor was super strong on that one.

Candles from TJMaxx and Marshall’s

The third gift I gave at the party were three little candles from Marshall’s in holiday themed scents. I’ve always loved candles, especially in wintertime, but in the last couple of months I have been seriously obsessed. I have to look at them in every store I go to, but my favorite place to buy them are discount stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s because you can get the most bang for your buck and most of their candles really smell amazing. My favorite company, and the one they seem to sell the most of, is DW Home. The cinnamon scents are always a sure bet, but I like a lot of their pines and vanillas too. Though Greg is apparently super sensitive to pine scents now, so I’m not allowed to burn them when he’s home. 🙁 If you enjoy candles and don’t want to spend a ton of money on them, I highly recommend checking out these stores. The variety is huge and it changes with every season.

Third Love’s 24/7 Perfect Coverage Bra

I was on the hunt for a new bra for over a year. I tried so many online companies and went to pretty much every store I could think of that sells bras for more (ahem) well endowed women. It was so discouraging. I had heard about Third Love a million times because they’ve sponsored so many of the podcasts I listen to. But I was pretty turned off by the price. Eventually, armed with a good coupon code, I decided to give them a shot. And I will never go back! They are seriously the most comfortable and well fitting bras I have ever tried. I did their fit finder quiz and they recommended a size different from what I’d been wearing and it worked so perfectly. The only downside to Third Love is that they seem to sell out very quickly whenever they have a size in stock. Also, if you need the bigger sizes, this is the only style they sell them in so it’s the only one I can vouch for. It’s taken me about eight months, but I’ve now acquired six of them and threw away all my old ones. These are the best and SO worth the price to have something that fits properly and will last a long time.

Mantraband Bracelets

I discovered Mantrabands when I was laid up after my ankle surgery. Something about the simple cuff with words of encouragement so plainly stated really resonated with me and what I needed during those months. I have four of them now and wear them when I’m feeling a little down on myself or my life. I really like that they come in multiple colors and have so many different mantras to choose from. There have been a couple times in the last few months they’ve even offered the chance to write your own mantra on a band. I think these would make perfect gifts for anyone going through a time of struggle and needs a little uplifting.

Mezzetta Habanero Hot Sauce

This has been my favorite hot sauce for probably the last eleven years. I have very vivid memories of stopping at the only store in Minnesota that I knew sold it on my way home from work before I had Caden. Because it’s been such long standing favorite and I eat it multiple times a week right now, it definitely deserves a spot on my favorites list. I love spicy food, tacos are my true love, and I need a good hot sauce to spice everything up. I’m not a fan of cayenne based sauces, jalapeno sauces are rare and kind of weird, but habanero – the best. Over the years I had a hard time getting ahold of this because it was only available on their website with massive shipping costs. But now it’s on amazon and makes me so happy! It can never, ever go away.

Only Love Today Book

I’ve been reading this book for over a year. Not because it’s crazy long or hard to get through, but because I want to savor each little nugget it has to offer. It’s hard to describe exactly what kind of book this is, but I’d probably call it a bit of a devotional, with less (but not no) emphasis on religion/God. I think it’s an amazing book for anybody who has children living at home with them. Rachel Macy Stafford offers so much wisdom on putting those little lives and your relationship with them above everything else because love is what truly matters in life. Each “chapter” is only a page or two long and I usually read one a day during my morning quiet time. I can’t recommend this book enough!

Cool and Unique Mugs

My coffee obsession has come with a mug obsession. And I’m pretty picky about what I like. For awhile I was mostly using handmade pottery mugs that I picked up at craft fairs. But more recently I’ve gotten addicted to checking out Marshall’s or TJMaxx for mugs. Every once in awhile I find an amazing one – and it’s usually the only one there (like this pumpkin spice llama mug above). I’ve started collecting so many that I only have space to store 10ish at a time, so I’m now fully committing to have an arsenal of mugs to rotate by season! This was definitely my favorite fall find. A few weeks ago I found an amazing Santa one I use almost every day.

TJMaxx/Marshall’s/Home Goods

Okay, yes, I have a problem. Like seriously, an absolute addiction to these stores. I can no longer pass one up, EVER. I think this began when we lived in Minnesota and every month or two I’d drive to the next town over to visit their TJMaxx Home Goods. I’ve always liked stopping by them when I’m shopping in an area with one, but lately – I NEED to go in. Always. When I took my Minnesota vacation in August by myself I went to every discount store in every town. That’s seriously all I did for an entire day. I think I like them so much because every visit is like a treasure hunt. The stock changes so rapidly. Lately, with all the fun seasonal things out, I’ve been going to the closest Marshall’s almost every single week. I can’t stop. I’ve already mentioned candles and mugs are my favorite things to look for, but I also really love checking out the bath and beauty section, the food area, the blankets (they have THE BEST blankets) and pillows, and the small stationary/notebook section. The only areas I rarely look at are clothes, which I guess is the bulk of the store. But there are so many treasures to be found around the edges! I’ve also realized that one day every week or so, tjmaxx.com offers free shipping. Dangerous! I’ve gotten a few great blankets and pillows online that I haven’t seen in store. I’m super excited that they’re currently building a TJMaxx and a Home Goods store right between the Target and Costco I shop at every week in Sun Prairie! I can’t wait!

Bombas Socks

This is a new obsession, but already a favorite. I’ve never been that excited or interested in socks, but with the shifting winter weather I had been getting frustrated with all the lighter weight socks I wore all summer (needed tennis shoes every day for my ankle – lame!). Bombas had so many great coupon codes around Black Friday that I decided to check them out. And I LOVE THEM. Definitely pricey, but they seem to be very high quality, very thick and comfortable, and they offer coupon codes pretty often. I love these so much that (spoiler alert) a lot of people might be getting a pair for Christmas this year!

Frostbeard Studio Candles

My brother gave me this candle for my birthday and I loved it so much! I’ve heard of Frostbeard Studio before, but had never ordered a candle before. I loved that it’s a candle for book lovers (great marketing for book lovers! :)) and it actually smelled amazing. I’ve since ordered a few more in Christmasy scents. The Bookstore one is still my favorite and I really like Christmas in the Burrows. I currently have Bah Humbug lit right next to me. These candles are definitely more expensive, but I use it as a little treat to myself when I’m sitting down at my computer or in my chair to read for a long period of time. It doesn’t appear to be available at the moment, but I’m really hoping to get their Bookworm and Old Books scents sometime in the future.

Coffee Gator Pour Over Kettle

If you’re making coffee in any of the methods I talked about above, this is almost an essential accompanying item. Also – all of those coffee things are really only best if you’re making one cup/coffee for only one person. Which works great for me, but maybe not the best if you drink more than a cup at a time or are making for multiple people. Anyway, this little kettle is so much cooler than microwaving water and trying (and often failing) to get the perfect temperature. This one will tell you when it hits the ideal temperature. I love it! It really works great with the same company’s little pourover in teal that I bought last week.

Scribbles that Matter Bullet Journal

I started a new bullet journal at the beginning of this school year and this is the brand I went with. It’s really so great! The pages are really thick and it lays flat when opened. I’ve tried many other journals that regular bujo’s recommend, but this has definitely been my favorite. I love all their fun color combinations too!

Pentel EnerGel Pens

Last year I was all about Papermate Flair pens. Which I still LOVE and use every day in my bullet journal. But this year I’ve discovered these and use them everywhere else. They write so smoothly and the colors are great. I of course have a rainbow set at my desk and blues in the area of the house where I actually have to sign important things. 🙂

TACOS

Tacos have been my favorite food for as long as I can remember. But it’s only been in recent years that I realized tacos can be soooo much more than seasoned ground beef, hot sauce, and cheese in a hard taco shell. I’ve become seriously obsessed with tacos in all their flavors and forms. Whenever I go on a trip I’m immediately looking for cool taco joints. I went to a few amazing ones in DC this fall. There’s one in Madison called Bel Air Cantina that we all love. I usually eat at Chipotle or Qdoba every single week on my big errand days. I recently bought a tortilla press and figured out how easy homemade corn tortillas are to make. I often whip up chicken tacos for my lunches multiple times a week. I even occasionally eat egg breakfast tacos – and I don’t normally like eggs! I try to make Taco Tuesday an actual thing and try different recipes every week. I have at least six different taco cookbooks. This is my most recent one and I love all the simple yet delicious ideas it has. Tacos are the one food I could never, ever live without. SO GOOD.

A Space of Your Own

I fell in love with our house because of this living room. And because the tv and video games and everything are in the family room at the back of the house, I’m the one who spends the most time in this pretty area (where my computer also is). I realize not everyone can basically claim a room mostly for themselves (and their dog!). But I think it’s so vitally important to try and carve out a little nook for doing whatever makes you happiest. When we lived at our apartment, that was my sewing area. And while I also have a great full sewing room at our house, my favorite area is my little book corner with the amazing gigantic chair Greg got me for my birthday. I try to spend at least a little time reading there every day. Sometimes I just sit and savor the comforting solitude. It’s awesome in December when I also get to take in all the Christmas decorations and candles. This is pretty much my favorite place in the world and I’m so lucky I get to spend my time in it every single day!

BOOKS

I’ve saved my ultimate favorite thing of all time for last – BOOKS. I absolutely adore, love, and lust after books almost every minute of every day. I’ve loved reading for always, but this year actual books in their physical form have become so beloved to me. Granted, I still really like reading on my kindle because it’s easier and more portable and can be done in the dark. But I love BOOKS so much. I want them all. I want to research them, look at them, hold them, shop for them, think about them, read them, share them, gift them. If all anybody ever gave me for the rest of my life was books I would be so very happy. My favorite of the year has been The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I read it back in February, but I still think about it often. It was so fun and delightful and a delicious romance. I know it might not be for everyone, but I loved it soooo very much. I’m so excited for Thorne’s next book coming out in January!

I think that’s about it! I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but this is a pretty comprehensive list of everything I’ve been obsessed with this year! I would LOVE to hear about your favorite things!

December 2018 Goals

I’ve been having a hard time coming up with goals for December. I like my monthly goals to be measurable so I can look back and clearly see if I met them or not. But measurable in December feels overwhelming and like way too much pressure. My general attitude for December is to slow down and be open to enjoying life in ways that I have a hard time with in any other season. So even though it might be tough to decide if said goals have been accomplished, I’m going to structure my intentions for the month around them anyway.

1. Keep making healthy choices (DO NOT GIVE UP)

I was doing so great with this for about a month. Then Thanksgiving happened. And a lot of Thanksgiving pie leftovers. And a birthday party filled with delightful foods I’d been denying myself all month. And then I started buying awesome unique Christmasy treats and sampling them as they arrive. Then I started eating a dessert – or two – every day. Then the processed foods started creeping back in. Then the sidewalks got icy and my daily steps decreased by at least half every single day and I haven’t found anything to do in the house yet to supplement that regular exercise. In just over a week I’ve hit such a downward spiral and I’ve been losing so much motivation to stay strong and make the choices I KNOW will make me feel better. It doesn’t help that the rest of my family has become a group of nonstop grazers. They snack alllllll day long. I’m trying to put a stop to this and get them to actually eat more at meals, but it’s not working very well. So on weekends when we’re all home I feel very resentful of all their eating when I’m supposed to be saying no. My willpower has faded fast. But I don’t want to give up. My weight has pretty much plateaued the last two weeks. Which is better than going back up, but I still have a lot I’d like to lose. And really, I just want to FEEL good. So even though there are going to be tons of extra parties and treats and get togethers this month – which I’m definitely going to allow myself to indulge in if it feels worth it – I want to be making better choices all the rest of the time. Keep eating good breakfasts that fill me up. Keep making actual homemade lunches instead of waiting until I’m so hungry that I just grab a bag of something crappy. Stay away from the fast food. Try to limit the sugar. Find a way to exercise in the house. Basically, just stay on track and do not give up.

2. Prioritize people and memories

It’s well known that I have a very bad habit of putting my own agenda and to do lists above basically everything else. I want to be better this month. I’d like to be more emotionally available in the evenings and weekends when my family is home. One thing I’m doing to try to facilitate this is to have Twinkle, our elf, bring some family activities to do together every few days. Today he brought four small Christmas perler bead kits because I know we’ll have time tonight to all sit down and work on them together. I’ve also got some new board games, a holiday puzzle, and gingerbread houses in the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to a nice date night with Greg this Friday and there might be time to squeeze in a mini date with each of the boys before the month is through. There’s also tons of opportunity for large family stuff around Christmas. I just want to be present and open to spending time with people and stop revolving my life and energy around things that genuinely don’t matter in the big scheme of things.

3. Be done with everything by December 16th (possibly the 12th)

I usually like to take most of the month off from sewing because there are lots of handmade things I want to do for gifts and get too stressed trying to do it all. Unfortunately, since I took basically all of October off from work, I’m still just so very far behind on doll making. I’m not sure how much more I can do in the next week and a half, but I’m going to try my best. But come December 16th – I’m done. I will officially be “on vacation” the last two weeks of the year. Ideally I would also like to get all Christmas prep done by the 12th. That’s the day I have my next ortho appointment and find out if I need a bone graft surgery before the year is out. I’m praying I won’t need the surgery at all because that would suck. But if I do need it, we’re hoping it happens before the 31st so the surgery will essentially be free since we used up all our deductible in February with my first surgery! I really do not want to start another year with a pile of medical bills. It’s incredibly stressful not knowing if this will happen until the 12th because it’s kind of a big deal and something that needs to be planned around! I’m just hoping to have absolutely all presents bought and wrapped by the 12th with a freezer full of easy meals just so we’re prepared for the worst case scenario.

4. Read. A lot!

December is basically my time for fluffy reading. I just want happy and sweet and uplifting books to fill my life. Most of the books are also relatively short, so I’m going to shoot for 12 books this month. It really doesn’t matter, but most months I read 9-11, so it’d be nice to have it be my biggest book month of the year, and also round out my total books for 2018 at 120. Basically, I just want to give myself permission to sit down and read and enjoy the decorations and candles and piles of blankets and pillows any time the mood strikes!

I think with all the potential uncertainty I’m facing right now, four intentions are enough to keep me busy and focused for the month! I’m sure the days are going to continue to fly by and I just want to make the most of them and feel like my time was well spent, precious memories were made, and I truly lived my LIFE to the fullest – focusing more on people and doing the things that make me happy instead of only thinking about what “needs” to be done.

Happy December!

Mid-Month Check In

One of my top goals for the month was to challenge myself to write something every day. I thought that the challenge would inspire me and actually get my creative juices flowing because I had permission to write before and above all else every single day this month. Usually, writing is pushed aside, even though it’s the thing I want to do the most. But when I’ve been giving myself the chance to make it a top priority? I suddenly have nothing to say.

The biggest struggle has been actually putting it first. I keep assuming that if I wait until evening I will have thought of something amazing to talk about by then. Instead I’m exhausted, my brain hurts, and writing is really the last thing in the world I feel like doing. I’m also highly distracted by the fifty other things I hadn’t gotten to yet that day and hope to squeeze in before bedtime. Writing under those circumstances is not enjoyable or affirming. It’s just another task on my to do list.

Overall, I’ve found myself just about as dissatisfied with life as I was in October, when I basically took most of the month off from work, thinking that was the source of my anxiety. And it really is still a pretty large contributing factor. I just do not feel like I’m producing enough and I can’t understand why. I guess if pressed for a solid reason, the answer is probably that I used to spend every waking minute sewing. I’d easily sew 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. Aiming for more balance in my life, now I’m lucky to get in 5 hours a day and I try pretty hard not to work much on weekends. I think it’s better to live this way, but it doesn’t change the fact that I used to make maybe 20 or more dolls a week and right now I’m struggling to even get a handful done. Last week I made six. This week it appears I’m making four. And most of those ten were custom orders – which is obviously still money in my pocket, but it leaves a huge amount of customers anxious and waiting for Christmas dolls that should have arrived in the shop by now and haven’t. It makes me wish I hadn’t worked so hard all those years (when it didn’t feel like work because I genuinely loved giving all of my time to it) because I set myself up with unrealistic expectations for how much I can produce in a week, now that I’m trying to find more balance in my life with everything else going on.

Another source of frustration is my lack of making self care a priority. I wrote about this last week, but I’m doing a pretty poor job of living that way myself. At night when I fill in all the tracking boxes in my bullet journal, I have a box for self care. I sit there for a minute and think back on my day and try to decide if at any point during it I put some area of my health or happiness before a mundane task or chore and the answer is almost always no. I have not been prioritizing myself and my enthusiasm for life has clearly been lacking. This isn’t the kind of life I want to live, but again and again and again it just keeps coming back to my stupid to do list and everything I SHOULD be getting done, yet no matter how hard I try I never feel like I’m doing enough. And how do you fit in a break for self care when there are six loads of laundry waiting to be folded, a pile of dishes at the counter, and you know you haven’t had a solid conversation with your husband in a week? I KNOW everything would feel better if I took the necessary time to feed my own soul first, but in practice it is so incredibly hard to do.

This whole weight loss ordeal has also been getting me down. I was using the Lose It app for a couple of days after I cancelled Noom. And I did really like it. It made calorie counting more fun because it attached little images to everything you ate during the day, and it gave me a more manageable amount of calories to strive for while still telling me I’d lose weight. But the actual act of counting – and more importantly, just needing to THINK about counting every minute of every day was making me so distressed and angry. This is why I hate actively trying to lose weight. It takes over your entire life and whether you want to or not, you’re forced to think about it with every decision you make during the day. Or it’s at least that way for people like me who work at home and have constant access to food and no one to witness me eating day in and day out. The stress of counting everything and feeling like I had to starve myself in the morning when I’m most hungry to try and save calories for dinner when I clearly would still want to eat the dinner I was making for my family was making me absolutely miserable. So…I stopped. It might be temporary, depending on how this week shapes up. Maybe I need that accountability even if it feels like it’s ruining my life. But I’d like to think that I’ve been learning enough after a few weeks of tracking, and because this is the first time I’ve genuinely wanted to live a healthier life, that I’ll continue to make better choices. And even if the weight doesn’t drip off, I’ll at least FEEL better. And while I don’t want to be defined by the number on the scale (more than a number!), I am continuing to weigh in every morning so I can keep myself in check and evaluate what I did right or wrong the day before and continue to improve how I take care of myself physically.

There are a number of other factors that have been contributing to my general malaise this month. I’ve had almost no connecting time with Greg. I think we need a real date, or something, but we’ve just been so busy. We’ve also been dealing with an onslaught of ten year old attitude problems. And “attitude problems” is putting it mildly, believe me. It’s hard to muster up much joy when every single night is hour after hour of battling and everyone just wanting to escape to their own corners of the house to just not have to deal with any of it anymore. Family time is supposed to be those sacred hours when you’re all together and you’re all made better for it. I feel like family time in our house just brings out the worst of us all. And I don’t know how to change that. The truth is that I’m often not even part of it because I’m still dealing with my stupid neverending to do lists every night. I’ve been trying to get the boys to help out more because hey, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if I had help. I don’t want to ask Greg for more help because he already works so hard during the day for us and then he spends every possible minute trying to keep the boys happy at night, at the sacrifice of never, ever having a minute to himself. But it makes sense that at ages 10 and 7, our children should seriously be held more accountable to help out around the house. They’re part of the family too. But at the mere mention of doing something unpleasant they retaliate in extreme anger and I usually just give up. Which leaves them resentful of me for even asking, me resentful of them for never helping out and putting everything on me even though I’m at least supposed to be working ON WORK all day too. And then it comes back to me being exhausted from to do list items and having nothing left to give Greg and him being exhausted from sassy and angry children to have anything left for me.

Anyway! I didn’t mean to ramble on quite so much and sound quite so depressing! To be honest, last week was just pretty sad because of those two trips I thought I was going to get to take next year and now neither of them are happening. I was also taking this all natural mood enhancing vitamin thing that I found at Costco, figuring it couldn’t hurt, right? Well, I think it did. I stopped taking it this week and I feel so much better about everything. I’m also going to release myself from my writing daily challenge and just write when the mood strikes. If I have something to say then I still have full permission to make it my highest priority of the day. But it’s no longer a requirement. What should be a requirement, though – SELF CARE. I think I should require myself to do something joyful and lifegiving every single day, no matter what. Ideally that will happen in the evenings when still working on household chores starts to really grate on me.

As for work, it still needs to happen. I still need to make those dolls. But maybe I need to set better boundaries for myself to help limit my anger over never feeling like I’m producing enough. I usually take it day by day and just work as much as I can in between doing everything else. But maybe I need to get better about setting nonnegotiable hours where I will do or think about nothing else except sewing. I’d probably get more done just by avoiding all the multi-tasking. I’ll have to think on this one.

I’m hoping the second half of the month will be much happier than the first half. It’s exciting that Thanksgiving is already next week with Christmas just around the corner! I’ve been having so much fun working on my holiday shopping and hope to make a pretty great dent in my lists by the end of November. There is a lot to look forward to and I think now that I’m starting to shake that funk I’ve been in for the last few months, I can finally start turning things around.

ONEDAYHH 2018

Yesterday was the second year I participated in Laura Tremaine’s #onedayhh social media challenge. It’s an instagram movement for people all over the world to post random snippets of their day, on the same day of the year. I love this challenge because it’s not about being fancy or trying to glamourize your life. Rather it’s about sharing in the mundane, the boring, the everyday moments that are similar yet unique to us all.

To be honest, my day of sharing this year felt incredibly chaotic. It was definitely a pretty typical day for me, but I also didn’t feel like I had a moment of downtime to go photos of other people using the hashtag, which is kind of the whole point! Then again, that’s pretty telling of my life in general lately. On Laura’s final photo last night she commented on how documenting the day really made it clear how many things she’s trying to juggle at full capacity every single day and not doing the greatest job at it. I definitely feel the same way, but don’t really know what to do about it. It’s so hard trying to do everything. It’s hard working at home and not being constantly distracted by the zillion other things that are always going on and always need to be taken care of too. I can so relate to that neverending struggle.

Anyway, in case you were not following along on my instagram or facebook page yesterday, here was my day!

5:03 am – Daylight savings has really messed me up this week. I am on such a strict internal clock that it’s nearly impossible for me to sleep beyond 5 anyway, and this week it’s been closer to 4 each day. Yesterday it was about 4:45, so I’m getting there!

5:30 am – Showered and ready for my morning quiet time. Jack is always waiting for me. He really wants me to open the french doors so he can run upstairs and wake everyone up. But he settles for meowing at me and trying to sit on my lap or get me to pet him, all while pretending he doesn’t actually want the attention. Anyway, I have a plethora of devotional books I choose from each morning, usually reading from two, and then I finish planning out my day in my bullet journal.

5:53 am – As a rule, I try not to work this early in the morning. But I had some custom orders I really wanted to finish and knew it was going to be a busy day, so I tried to make a bit of progress. Most mornings I try to focus on doing something positive and lifegiving FOR MYSELF until 6:30 when it’s time to start mommy duties.

6:12 am – I brought up the space heater the other day because I’m freezing all day long. (Greg is NOT happy about this. I don’t know why it’s okay to run ceiling fans and extra fans in every room of the house all summer long, but one space heater in one room during winter is so sternly frowned upon…) The boys like to fight over it. Because they like to fight over everything.

6:36 am – Trying to put together a wooden golden snitch. They received these wooden building kits last Christmas and just rediscovered them in their rooms. They’re definitely pretty tricky for kids to do. Especially kids with zero patience.

6:42 am – Packing lunches, making breakfasts. Two things I despise doing in the morning, but there’s no way around it!

7:24 am – On our way to school after digging through the basement trying to find appropriately sized hats and mittens (Caden is still wearing mine anyway). Most mornings I try to go on an extra walk with Annie after the boys are at their schools, but it was so cold yesterday and I had so much to do, so I headed straight back home.

7:56 am – Finally time for breakfast. I try to hold off on eating until after the boys are at school, so I have time to actually make something, sit down, and enjoy it. If I try to eat earlier I end up scarfing down something I shouldn’t, just for the sake of staving off my hunger. Yesterday’s breakfast was particularly hard because I’m getting really sick of the limited number of things I’ve been allowing myself to choose from each day. The boys have been eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfasts and it is KILLING me not to have one too. Donuts, pastries, muffins, etc – I’m fine without those. But a savory bagel with jalapeno cream cheese?? Oatmeal, even with the toppings, does not compare.

9:16 am – Getting in an hour or two of work on my first Christmas dolls of the season. I had hoped to have a lot done this week, but I made the mistake of opening the shop up to custom orders and ended up with a couple that were all extremely complicated and time consuming to arrange, so it reallllly slowed me down this week.

10:46 am – Swinging by the post office to mail some dolls. It’s been a pretty good week for sales!

11:04am – I stopped in at the Christmas open house of Twisted Sister, one of my favorite shops, even though I rarely find things I want to buy anymore. This trip I found a large vintage plastic deer I plan to put with a big doll and a 1950’s puzzle of the United States that I’m going to take apart to make a huge batch of state themed dolls.

11:45 am – I stopped in at Kohls to return something and ended up standing in the boys section for ages trying to find Caden some new pants and pajamas. They always have such a tiny selection of the things I actually need that I wasn’t very successful.

12:55 pm – After a stop at Aldi, finally got back home and threw together a lunch of leftovers. It was just a rough day food wise. I’ve never wanted to get fast food so badly, but I’m trying so hard to stick to my goal this month of never getting food out and about unless I carefully planned it out. Which I did not. Most days I’m ready to eat lunch at 10, so pushing myself until 1 and being that desperately hungry was just a recipe for not liking whatever I was going to make myself.

1:08 pm – Nap time with Rory. This is when it started to feel like I was losing control of the day because I try to read and nap closer to noon, so I have more time in the afternoon to get more done. I only read for a few minutes and had a fast and restless nap.

2:15 pm – These three love to fight over who gets to sleep by me. Generally Annie rarely comes upstairs, but ever since I got back from DC she’s sticking pretty close to my side. There’s an understanding that nap time is when the CATS get Mommy time, but every once in awhile Annie thinks it’s great fun to jump up on the bed and get everyone riled up. The cats have also been fighting with each other lately because they don’t think there’s enough room for both of them.

2:29 pm – Coffee time. Went with a fancier mocha this time.

3:14 pm – The mail has been coming later in the day making it a lot harder for me to hide my packages before everyone comes! Can you tell I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping this week!? Though to be fair, both of those huge Target boxes only had one thing in them with a ton of plastic bubble fillers.

3:33 pm – Trying to get dinner put together. Should have done it a couple hours earlier to make it actually hot enough to eat by 5! I usually try and do a lot of dinner prep right after school, earning myself a bit more time to do something I want to do in the half hour before it’s time to cook and eat. Somehow that feels much more rewarding and efficient to me.

3:37 pm – Trying to cook more healthified breakfasts and lunches means making a much bigger mess all day long. Also try to get that done before dinnertime when it all gets piled back up again.

3:54 pm – Spending a tiny bit of time with Annie outside watching the boys play kickball. They were getting along really well yesterday!

4:19 pm – See, I had time to fit in something I wanted to do! Took a break to read the last chapter of my 100th book of the year! Probably the most exciting thing to happen yesterday, as I have a 100 book challenge for myself every year. Unfortunately, this is one of my lowest rated books of the year – I did not like it.

5:14 pm – Chicken tortilla soup for dinner. I blew my healthy eating for the day by having way too many fried tortilla strips. They’re just so dang good.

5:48 pm – Literacy Night at school.

6:29 pm – Trying to get these crazy kids to leave. Shepard pouted the whole way home because he was having so much fun and didn’t want to go.

6:47 pm – I didn’t think I’d get even close to my step goal for the day, but then we walked to and from school for Literacy Night and I only had 1400 steps to go, so I grabbed Annie and we hit that 10K.

7:22 pm – About the time I decide I absolutely cannot be productive anymore for the day, so I settled into my chair for twenty minutes of my 101st book. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages. My book club always has so many rave reviews for it.

8:42 pm – Settling in for our nightly tv time. We finished the first episode of that new Sabrina netflix show and were both pretty meh on it. Then we started the other new netflix show, Bodyguard. Possibly better, once we wrap our minds around that thick accent.

9:45 pm – A bit later than usual, calling it a day. I read about ten minutes and went to sleep. Overall – fun to document everything, but also kind of wish this wasn’t such an accurate representation of my life right now. Always running from one thing to the next, never having time to solidly sit down and get anything done. I wish I could say things would slow down soon, but I thought November would be that slow season and every week just brings more and more new things to the calendar. It’s exhausting!

Self Care Practices

I am a big believer in self care. I know that if I don’t do something for myself on a daily basis, everything in my life starts to go downhill fast. When I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or sad, I try to actually stop and think about what I need in that moment to lift me back up. Or if I can’t stop what I’m doing, I plan out something maybe more elaborate or time consuming that I can do for myself as soon as possible.

I define self care as doing anything that brings your soul joy. It doesn’t have to have any purpose other than it makes you happy. I feel like sometimes self care is seen as being overly indulgent or selfish or something that only spoiled people can have. And that’s just not true. Self care is loving yourself so you have love to give to others. Self care is giving yourself treats and pockets of time with no agenda other than to boost you up with joy and happiness. Self care is living your best life so that you have a longer life to live. It is vitally important and worthy of your time. YOU are worth taking care of.

The activities you choose to take care of yourself are different for each person. But I have a list of things that work for me that I thought I’d share today.

READ

Reading is always my go to because it can happen anywhere at any time and is virtually free. It’s the reason I wanted a huge cozy reading chair so badly for most of my adult life. I created a small oasis with the sole purpose of providing me a comfortable spot to relax and read. I also have books in just about every room of my house, started and bookmarked, just waiting for me to pick back up. Reading is an amazing escape and with the right genre at the right time, it can be the best pick me up. YA and romance are my favorites when I need a real mood booster.

WRITE

I know it’s not for everyone, but I can’t go a day without writing. Generally it’s in the form of an email (or two) to my best friend, but I’m trying to start shifting more of that energy into something more creative. When I’m extremely stressed out or irritated, nothing will cool me down faster than to sit down and just brain dump on the page. Writing is incredibly cathartic when I’m down and energizing when I need a lift. If you feel like you have a lot to say and nobody really to say it to – just write it down! It helps, I promise.

TV OR MOVIE AT A SPECIAL TIME

Nothing feels more special and indulgent than going to the movie theater in the middle of the day or sitting down to watch your favorite tv show at a time you wouldn’t normally watch it. I LOVE going to the theater by myself on a random Tuesday morning. It feels like such an escape from reality. Ideally I’d like to work this into my schedule once a month just because it’s such a treat. I also love saving my absolute favorite show (The Resident) to watch while I eat lunch – with NO sewing in front of me. This is pretty rare because it’s soooo hard to justify watching tv without multitasking. But when I do, it feels amazing. I also adore having a special movie night to myself, but Greg is only gone at night like two times a year, so that’s extremely rare for me. But I definitely make it happen on those super rare occasions I have the living room to myself in an evening!

BE CREATIVE

Since my entire life revolves around creative pursuits right now, I don’t turn to this option often. But it’s out there! It’s fun to try a new craft project, start something special for yourself or as a gift, or do a project you’ve been wanting to work on forever and never seem to find the time for. It’s so affirming to make something by hand from start to finish.

GO FOR A WALK

After breaking my ankle and not being able to walk for three months and then having four more really tough walking months, it’s been hard for me to shift my thinking and see this as a way of self care. But I’m really getting there. I’m slightly in panic mode about it because I know once the snow and ice come, there is no way I’m walking outside any more than I absolutely have to – I never, ever want to break a bone again. But at the moment, I’m trying to go on extra walks with Annie in the evenings just because I genuinely want to. It’s a good stress reliever after which is oftentimes a stressful dinner hour with super whiny kids.

GO TO THE DOG PARK

Get the fresh air, without needing to do the exercise (unless you want to) – plus be surrounded by cute dogs! Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get myself over there, but I never regret it. I love seeing Annie’s joy when she has freedom to just run and run. I love when there are other dogs she can play with. And I love when it’s just the two of us and we can soak in the fresh air and silence and beautiful scenery. It never fails to lift me up.

PLAN A SPECIAL SHOPPING TRIP

If you enjoy shopping. 🙂 I LOVE shopping, too much. I run almost all my errands out of town every week so I can go to more of the places I like with the best prices. Which is fun, but necessary. The real joy comes from planning and going on more niche shopping trips. For me, that’s maybe a few hours at the antique mall looking for new doll supplies. Or checking out the area thrift stores every few months. Or like this week, going to multiple stores that are releasing all of their Christmas inventory. Even if I don’t buy anything, it’s so fun to get out and see something different. Though who are we kidding, I’m usually going to buy something. But that’s how I find the best gifts for people and unique house decorations – something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

GO ON A DATE

I don’t know about other people, but I think it’s incredibly hard to stay connected to Greg when we don’t have any time away from our kids, our house, our neverending list of responsibilities. We’re fortunate enough that we usually have a weekly at home date night when the boys go to Grandma’s house, but I think it’s even more effective when we actually leave the house. I have something to look forward to, I have something to dress up a bit for, I don’t have to do any cooking or cleaning, and it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll feel closer to my husband afterward.

SEE YOUR FRIENDS

Friend time is so important. I always struggle to write about this because I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone that might read this. I wish friend time was a bigger part of my life because it’s almost always life-giving. It’s a chance to connect with someone outside your family, it’s time to vent and get things off your chest, and it’s usually a whole lot of fun!

MAKE A MEAL YOU WANT TO EAT

I’d say about 90% of the time, I want breakfast and dinner to be easy and fast. It’s stressful making food that everybody likes. It’s never fun trying to put together a meal when the whole family is hungry and cranky. But every once in awhile, when I know I might have some extra free time in the afternoon, I like to sit down with a beloved cookbook and pick out a meal that I truly want to eat. If I know the kids won’t eat it, then they can just deal with some chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly. I think it’s totally worth it to give yourself the freedom in the kitchen to actually create a delicious and incredible meal every once in awhile. For me, since I work at home, I’ve been trying to do this more often at lunchtime as well. If I have some amazing chicken tacos prepped and ready for my lunch, I’m a lot less likely to snack on crap all day long.

BAKE SOMETHING

This used to be my ultimate self care. I’ve loved baking my entire life. It’s kind of fallen to the wayside in the last few years because my family has very strong opinions on what they do and don’t like, and most people are watching their weight and just don’t want baked goods as a temptation. Which is kind of a bummer! But if there’s some sort of occasion (or create an occasion!) that might require a fancy dessert, go for it! Or just bake a loaf of bread! The reward of making something so simple can be such a delight.

RESEARCH SOMETHING

For me, it’s new books. I already have more books on my kindle than I’ll probably ever read. Same with books on my shelves. But you better believe that doesn’t stop me from my standing date with my computer every Tuesday to check out the new releases! I’m constantly looking at book blogs, listening to book podcasts, and grabbing book fliers from the library and bookstores about upcoming books. It’s my favorite hobby – besides actually reading. It’s free, it can be done anytime, and it makes me so happy. I also occasionally like to research things like future vacations, presents for people, or clothing I might want.

GO ON A TRIP

I know this isn’t always a feasible option, but if you can make it happen, it is SO WORTH IT. Solo vacations are kind of amazing. Greg always encourages me to go when something pops up (Colleen Hoover’s book signing in MN last August, The Popcast live show in Chicago, my trip to DC, my Book Bonanza trip to Texas next summer). But occasionally I try to get a night or two away with absolutely no agenda, like when I went to Door County last fall. It’s definitely an indulgence to justify a hotel and travel expenses and food just for a vacation by yourself. But it’s so refreshing and amazing, I totally think it’s worth it – at least once a year.

CREATE AMBIANCE

This is another super easy practice that can really give you a personal boost. I love having spaces around the house that are carved out for relaxing. While most of the house is filled with clutter and kid or technology related things, there are a few spots that I try really hard to always keep clutter free and clean. In fall and winter I love having scented candles lit in every room to add a huge cozy element to the house. Recently I added a candle to my desktop which I light every time I’m going to be at my computer for a longer stretch of time. It makes me ridiculously happy. I also like to do things like play soft worship music in the morning when we’re getting ready, use linen sprays on my bed and furniture, buy the softest pajamas I can find, have multiple blankets available on every couch and chair, and spray my favorite perfume on whenever the mood strikes. There are so many tiny little things you can give yourself every day to amplify the joy in your life.

This is far from an exclusive list of self care ideas, but these are my favorites and what work for me. Hopefully the list might prompt you to take charge of your life and start giving you a few options for your own self care plan!