January 2020: Health and Longevity

For 2020, I’ve scribbled out a happiness project that I’m going to implement throughout the year.

I’m so excited about it. I love making resolutions and setting goals. I love giving myself time to reflect on who I am and how I strive to live my life.

For the first month of the year, I decided to focus on Health & Longevity. I spent a long time debating what theme to focus on for the beginning of the year. The other top contenders were Service and Mindfulness. Those two are really important, and they’re coming – but I ultimately decided that focusing on healthy habits would be the best way to start my year.

Ever since Edgar was born, I’ve felt an awareness of my mortality and my health that I never had before. I never worried about my own health in the past. I sometimes worried about the health of people I love, but not mine. Once I became a mother, I think I became aware of the loss my children would experience if something happened to me, and it caused me to think about my health in a completely different way.

I also care a lot about feeling healthy and strong, and I don’t feel as healthy and strong as I’d like to. I’m aware of this as Edgar gets older and bigger; sometimes, picking him up or carrying him briefly causes me to lose my breath, and that’s frustrating. I also feel this motivation to want to run fast and be strong for the safety of myself and my family. Once again, that’s something I didn’t think about before becoming a parent.

My final reason for wanting to focus on health and longevity is because I know how wonderful I feel when I am exercising, eating well, and feeling strong. I want to have that feeling, that strength – it helps me to be able to do the thing I want to do, to have energy the be the best version of myself.

Here are the resolutions I’ve come up with, for my month of Health and Longevity:

  1. Use medication less frequently. For years, I’ve experienced insomnia,and I often utilize medications like Tylenol PM or Simply Sleep to combat it. I worry about this habit and its effect on my long-term health. So I resolve to use medications less frequently or to stop it completely.
  2. Exercise every day. The effect of exercise on my health and my mood is significant. I really want to make exercise a daily priority.
  3. Go to two AA meetings a week. This may seem unrelated to health and longevity, but it’s not.
  4. Healthy vegetarian eating with limited sugar and sweets. ESPECIALLY after dinner. I have a ridiculous habit of wanting to eat something sweet right before bedtime – basically, as I understand the science of the human body, the worst time to eat sweets.
  5. Meditate every day. 
  6. Eliminate diet soda and limit caffeine. 
  7. Do the adulting tasks that are necessary for your health and longevity. Take your medicine. Make all important doctor’s appointments – physical, dentist, orthodontist, GYN.
  8. Put your phone in your purse while you’re driving. You will not be healthy if you crash your car because you’re using you’re phone while operating a moving vehicle.

This might seem like too many resolutions, but when I tried, I could not eliminate any. As I type this, it’s January 3rd, and I’m eager to get these January resolutions on paper so that they feel more “official to me.” Additionally, Edgar just woke up, so my writing time for today is done.

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All The Resolutions

This is the time of year when I make a hundred goals and resolutions for myself, and then I forget them all by February.

THAT’S OKAY. I’m going to make them all anyway. With a minor twist.

I’m utilizing my 2020 happiness project to make small resolutions throughout the year. But as far as my overall Official New Year’s Resolutions For The Year 2020, I will have two. Exactly two. No more, no less.

If I have two resolutions, then I will remember what they are.

And for my bigger goals (finish your novel, stop multitasking) and my smaller goals (better bedtime hygiene, less caffeine), I’ll use my happiness project to keep those resolutions front and center.

Ahem – presenting, my two new year’s resolutions:

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  1. New photography habits.
  2. Think and plan ahead.

BOOM. Done.

Just kidding. I am of course going to elaborate.

My first resolution is new photography habits. My digital photo life is a mess. I have thousands of photos. and I do almost nothing with them, other than the occasional social media post or text. The new habits I want to form are:

1) Deal with photos right away. Delete the ones that are blurry. Decide on the best one. You don’t need 19 pictures of Jonas with yogurt on his face that looks like a Santa beard; pick the best 1 (or 3) and delete the rest.

2) Set up an automated system for where you’re going to PUT the photos. Are you ordering prints? Are you making a baby book or a memory book? A calendar? Put them somewhere purposeful. 

This resolution falls under the label of “simple but challenging.” I’m really hoping that I can form these new photo habits by setting this intention, but I know it will be difficult. I have friends who do this automatically, and it seems like magic: Picture taken. Album made. Photo shared with or texted to me (if the boys are in it) within hours of when it was taken. But those friends who do this are also way more organized than me in general, and tend to be better at adulting than me. I am accepting of the fact that I’m not uber organized about many things – but I would like to target this specific habit and try to handle it better.

My second resolution, which is related, is to think and plan ahead. This is another area that is not my strength, and I really want to work to improve this aspect of my life.

I don’t think ahead, and I’m not a huge planner. I’m not a completely fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person; I used to be, more so than now, but I definitely plan more now that I’m a parent. I pack bags ahead of time, and I make packing lists and grocery lists. Honestly, though, I am HIGHLY motivated in that area, because if I forget to pack snacks, then it’s ME VERSUS TWO HANGRY TODDLERS OUT IN PUBLIC. That’s terrifying.

But, for non-terrifying circumstances, such as a friend’s birthday? I rarely think ahead. This is problematic to me for the following reasons:

  1. I would love to do small, meaningful things to celebrate others. However, I rarely think about other people’s birthdays or special occasions until the day of or the day before, which doesn’t give me much time to do something sweet or surprising for their special day. I can call – I can text – but I’d much prefer to think ahead and write a meaningful card that they get in the mail or via e-mail that day. If I plan ahead, I can be intentional about showing love and gratitude in meaningful ways.
  2. When I don’t think ahead, I’m pressed to do things in not ideal ways. For example – for my sister’s birthday this year (December 10), I didn’t really start thinking about a gift for her until the 6th or the 7th. I decided to get her some books, which is great. HOWEVER – my sister loves to shop locally, and tries not to support big companies like Amazon when possible. So it would have been way more meaningful for me to find her books in a local bookstore, or from a site like Thriftbooks, and mail them to her via USPS. But, I didn’t have time! So I used Amazon Prime. (Also, it was a cluster and didn’t get there in time, but that was user error.) If I thought ahead – like, in November – I could do something for her that was actually as thoughtful and intentional as I strive to be.
  3. If I don’t plan ahead, I sometimes miss out on things I might enjoy. I hate the feeling of a weekend day that sort of falls flat because we didn’t go out to do anything special. Don’t get me wrong – I love a rambling Do Nothing Saturday, when the boys just kind of play and frolic and we putter around enjoying that we don’t need to be anywhere. But I don’t like it when I realize we need an outing, and haven’t had the forethought to look into any special events in the neighborhood that we could enjoy.
  4. Not planning ahead gets equally difficult at work. There are things I’d love to do for the children and families I work for, but I get so consumed by the day-to-day that it’s challenging to think ahead. This will get better as I get more efficient in my job – I’ve only been there a year – but it’s definitely an area I want to improve.
  5. I’ve been getting so sick and exhausted by all the STUFF in my life and in the world. Ideally, when it comes to clothes and toys and gifts and household items, I’d like to buy them secondhand. That feels more sustainable and better for the world. However – that definitely requires thinking ahead. I bought Edgar a couple of Christmas shirts this year, and I really wished I’d started looking for them in secondhand shops back during the spring or summer. I’m sure I could have found a few things, and they would have been cheaper. And I would have felt way better about the purchase, because it would have supported a secondhand shop and a local business, and not contributed to the production of more STUFF in the world.

WHEW. That was a lot. But it shows pretty clearly what my motivation is, when I talk about planning and thinking ahead of time. I want to be able to be more intentional with my choices, and I want to maximize my enjoyment of my time and the world.

I’m really excited about these two resolutions, and I really want to stick with them. I really, really do. Help me out, Universe. Help to make my 2020 a year of awesomeness.

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2020 Happiness Project

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to do a Happiness Project for 2020.

A happiness project, a la Gretchen Rubin, is a yearlong effort to make monthly resolutions with the goal of increasing personal happiness. I’ve attempted happiness projects previously, but I’ve never stuck with them for an entire year. I’m not sure I’ll stick with this one all year long either. That might sound pessimistic; I don’t mean it to be. I’m realistic about my follow-through on projects like this, and I think mapping it out is as valuable and fun for me as following through on it would be.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she chose a theme for each month and then made 3 to 5 small resolutions related to that theme. Her themes included topics like Energy, Parenting, Marriage, and Play. I love the idea of using a theme for each month, and also tying that theme into my blog posts for the month. (This, too, I have attempted previously – having a monthly blog theme.)

For my 2020 themes, there’s not just one word for each month; it’s often a pair or a trio of related words, all related to the resolutions I plan to make, try out, and write about.

These are the themes I’ve come up with for 2020:

  • January: Health and Longevity.
  • February: Service.
  • March: Mindfulness, Meditation, and Presence.
  • April: Minimalism and Decluttering.
  • May: Writing. (Get geared up for Summer Writing!)
  • June: Traditions, Celebrations, and Rituals.
  • July: Community and Friendship.
  • August: Habits, Simplifying, & Adulting.
  • September: Education and Awareness.
  • October: Laughter, Fun, & Play.
  • November: Being Intentional.
  • December: Life Alignment.

The topics I didn’t have room for were Balance; Rhythm & Routine; Travel & Adventure; and Goals. I’m including them in case I end up deciding one of these themes doesn’t work.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to make resolutions, or just reflect on the ways you’d like to live your life, a happiness project can be super fun and helpful. As I’ve been crafting this post, I’ve been drafting my posts for next year – developing resolutions that relate to each theme. I’m pumped to get started, because, as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading for a while – I love a good fresh start!

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Monday Morning Ritual

Last Monday morning, I got an idea while I was on my way to work.

I was in a grumpy mood. Ever since becoming a parent, I have disliked Mondays. I don’t like leaving my kids to go to work. It sometimes helps if we’ve had a fantastic weekend doing fun things as a family – or sometimes that makes it even harder to get started with the work week.

This school year has been a little bit better than the last two years were. Prior to this school year starting, I also was struggling with the Sunday blues – that feeling of dread and anxiety some people get on Sunday afternoons when they realize they’re about to face five days of work starting Monday morning. But that’s been better since school started in September 2019. I feel a little bit more confident and comfortable at my job this year, and the Sunday blues have been eradicated.

But Monday mornings? Those still suck.

So last Monday, I was on my way to work and I started using speak to text to do some “writing.” I opened up a Word Press post on my phone, hit the microphone button, and just started talking – about Mondays, and about my goals for the day, the week, and the year. It was really helpful. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Basically, by “writing” a blog post using speak to text while I’m driving, I’m sorting through my thoughts the same way I do when I’m sitting in my armchair at home with my computer on my lap.

That morning, it occurred to me that I really need a Monday morning ritual that centers me and/or gets me excited for the week ahead. And I realized something: a Monday morning is a fabulous time to set an intention for the week ahead.

Here’s a few things I know about myself:

  1. love setting a goal for myself. Be more present. Write more. Exercise daily. Whatever the goal, I love to identify it and write it down somewhere with every intention of achieving it.
  2. I struggle to follow through on my goals. I forget what I’m working toward because I’m distracted by the minutiae of day-to-day life.
  3. One of the only reliable strategies I have to form a new habit is using the strategy (a la Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before) of the Blank Slate. A new house, a new car, a new phone, a new job – I tend to use fresh starts like these as a jumping block for cultivating new and better habits.

When all of these things swirled around and came together, I realized: I can attempt to use my Monday morning commute as a time to reflect and set an intention for my week.

I love this idea. I have so many goals on my mind lately – partly because I’ve been skimming Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours and partly because I’ve been jotting down resolutions for 2020. But when I have lots of goals, it’s hard to bring them all to the forefront of my mind, especially as a busy working parent who’s juggling a lot of responsibilities. If I use Monday mornings as a time to (using speak to text) write about my intentions, I can narrow my focus and zero in on the intention that’s the most crucial for me during that particular week. I’m going to give it a try; we’ll see how it goes.

The funny thing is, writing this post helped me to remember something. When I was in my early twenties, I remember playing a game with two of my college friends. We were on the Staten Island Ferry, and we started talking about what our different friends who be if they were a (fill in the blank). For example: If Kerriann was a holiday, which holiday would she be? If Matt was a subject in school, what subject would he be? It was silly and fun and pointless. And one of the fill-in-the-blank categories we chose was days of the week. We decided that one of our fun-loving party-going friends would be a Saturday night; we decided that one of our even-keeled, reliable friends was a Tuesday. And we – well, it was either all of us, or just me – decided that if I were a day of the week, I’d be a Monday.

This made sense to me, at the time. I loved college, I loved the work I was doing. I didn’t have the pull of little kids at home that I wanted to be with. I invested a lot of energy and enthusiasm into every job, activity, or class I attended. The start of the week never bothered me, because I made the best of everything and I always found something to be excited about.

So funny. I don’t love Mondays currently – but I used to. And it’s because I have always been a person who loves a fresh start and a new week. I’m so glad I remembered this about myself, and I really hope this new habit helps me to start my weeks off with a better outlook on the week ahead.

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Monthly Goals (December 2019)

It’s December, and once again, I did not spend my entire year planning or purchasing gifts to give for the holidays.

And you know what? It’s okay. Maybe next time.

I think that’s a good mantra for a person like me, who is often thinking of things that would have been awesome at EXACTLY the moment when it’s too late to do the thing. I just thought of the perfect present to give my mom at EXACTLY the moment when she’s opening the present I bought her because I couldn’t think of anything good. Maybe next time. 

For now, I am so excited for the holiday season. My boys are big enough to be enchanted by a holiday train garden and a Christmas tree, and I’m so excited to celebrate all month long. This year, there’s only a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – just about three weeks. Let’s do this! Here are my goals:

  1. Be 100% present throughout December. Enjoy the holiday season to the max.
  2. Create your 2020 goals. It’s so much fun to think of goals for the new year, and I’ve been writing out a plan a la Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to potentially follow for 2020.
  3. Help others in every way you can.
  4. Maintain your blogging routine.

Merry Whatever!

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goals · mindfulness

Mindfulness + Goals

I’ve been learning about mindfulness for years, and yet I still feel like a beginner.

These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how little time I have when I’m just daydreaming and letting my thoughts wander. In the age of iPhones and Netflix, at any moment, I can have a TV show or a podcast playing while I do something else. And I do that a LOT. I rarely bring my full, mindful attention to the task at hand. And I am definitely less mindful when I’m feeling stressed or have a lot going on

In his work, the writer Cal Newport (author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work) defines solitude as time when no input is being experienced – so, time when you’re not reading, listening to a podcast,  watching television, but are simply allowing your brain to either rest or to process all the other input you’ve had recently.

If that’s what solitude is, I currently have very little of it in my everyday life. I am constantly multi-tasking, and I often am listening to a podcast or a TV show while completing other tasks. There are worse habits, of course, and I don’t want to beat myself up for having a very human 21st century struggle. But also –

I don’t want to waste my time.

Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my mortality. I’m not sure what it is exactly about having kids that causes this shift, but I know I’m not the only parent who has experienced it. The time to do everything I want to do in my life is not limitless.  And the time I spend listening to podcasts and watching TV is time I could be thinking about blogging or fiction writing. I read once that Toni Morrison used to scribble down paragraphs while she was in traffic, because she was a working mother with limited time to write. I want to be THAT kind of writer – the kind who uses every available moment.

And I know that I lose a lot of valuable time when I’m constantly playing on my phone or re-watching Jane The Virgin. 

So, mindfulness. I sometimes think it’s the secret to achieving ever single one of my dreams and goals. And while I have always struggled to form and keep this habit, I’ve been doing two things well lately:

  1. I’m using the Headspace app to refresh my mindfulness skills and meditate. I’ve completed a three minute meditation three days in a row. It’s only three days, but it’s something!
  2. I’ve been putting my phone away – usually in another room, charging – when I get home from work. It hasn’t been perfect, and sometimes I’m tempted to just go add something to my grocery list or see if I have any texts. But I’ve been doing this pretty consistently, and it’s making my time at home with my family SO much better.

There are so many goals that I have that mindfulness will help – cutting back on caffeine, writing a novel, eating healthier. I could be wrong, but I think mindfulness is the answer. And it’s a great time of year to focus on being more present – the time of year that is all about family and celebrating. Wish me luck!

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Monthly Goals: November 2019

Not surprisingly, my goals for November 2019 are mainly going to be focused on house and home. Things are slowly getting unpacked, and there’s so much to do, from hanging towel racks to building a fence to establishing routines for us and the boys related to schedule and cleaning.

  1. Unpack and declutter! Follow this maxim: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. 
  2. Extend your break from fiction writing. I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a “until  2020” thing. Once the moving is done and farming season is over, I want to dive back into novel writing.
  3. Make a huge list of things to do and things to buy. (SO. MANY. THINGS.)
  4. Establish new habits and routines related to exercise, cleaning, phone-free time with the boys, and family. I am all about using a move as a chance to start new habits! (Including meetings. That needs to be a priority ASAP.)

Happy November! So much to be grateful for.

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