2017 Goals / Powersheets Review

We’re 19 days into 2017 and I have to say, so far, I have liked this year, minus the news that someone close to me is sick.

I usually do some posts about goal setting around the New Year, but this year, I took it offline and went through Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system.  Powersheets are not for everybody—my mom said “this is a NIGHTMARE” when I showed her the book, and David kept karate-chopping the air and saying “POWERSHEETS” dramatically whenever I would talk about it—but I’m really enjoying the way the system encourages you to break down bigger goals into small action steps.

I’ll keep my 55 pages of “whys” and “what I want to cultivate” to myself in case you’re on Team My Mom and all of this make you want to barf, but I still wanted to share a few of my goals, in case they encourage anyone else!

My big goals for the year are: 

  1. Establish a pattern of intentional action, celebration, & rest.

  2. Infuse my life and work with more creativity.

  3. Develop a deeper awareness of God’s presence and voice. Live with awareness of spiritual reality.

  4. Keep cultivating a fun & flourishing marriage.

  5. Embrace and enjoy this season. Engage in the little moments and enjoy them as gifts. Use what I have now instead of looking ahead/behind.

  6. Be proud of how I use my energy.

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Through the Powersheets process, I created small action steps that let me see that I am making progress on these goals. It’s really energizing and encouraging.  Here are a few of my daily goals for January that fit into the big goals:

Read the Bible/have quiet time every day.  I’ve been waking up whenever my first child wakes up (usually between 5-5:30) and giving them a little bowl of dry Cheerios to eat in their bed with some books.  Then I go out to the kitchen and journal and read with my tea until 6 am when the kids are allowed out of bed. I’m using the One Year Bible and so far, I’m keeping up!!! At one point, I got three days behind and almost gave up because every day is a lot of content, but I spent two nights catching up and I’m back on track! Whoohoo! Since I have committed to this goal, I am also going to bed earlier, so I feel better rested in general.

Complete one cleaning task per day. I made a list of all the “once a month” cleaning tasks, and am doing one per day. (For example, today, I washed our windows, mirrors, and appliances.)  This way, I don’t have to strain to remember what should be cleaned—I just consult the list and see what seems like fun not awful to do that day.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.

Have “present lunch.” I’m trying to sit down and engage in conversations with or read to my girls during lunch time, instead of shuffling through the mail, cleaning up the dishes, scanning my e-mail, texting a friend to coordinate afternoon plans, etc.  Mealtimes are hard for Zoe and she often doesn’t eat lunch on Riley’s schedule, so the bonus of living out this goal is that I often end up getting 1×1 time with each girl.

Sit down for 1×1 reading time with each girl each day.  We usually do a bedtime story, but I want to do more reading with each girl.  So far, this has been the hardest goal because my children do not sit still for long!

img_9330My weekly (non-work) goals this month are:

Take a Sabbath each week–celebrate and rest! I started this over the fall, and felt the desire to continue to grow in this area.  I am reading an amazing book that is deepening my practice of and commitment to Sabbath.  One great idea from the book: make dinner easy on your Sabbath day.  The last two weekends, I have picked up a prepared meal from our grocery store on Sabbath, and it really lets me sink deeper into relaxation when I know that dinner is already taken care of and there aren’t any dishes!

Work out four times. I have been in a steady routine of 3x/week for the last year, but I was ready to challenge myself! Having this goal “forces” me to exercise one evening or weekend day each week, which builds on my weekly “Sabbath” goal since I find exercise really fun and recharging!

Listen to a podcast each week. This encourages my creativity and can also encourage me spiritually and/or in my marriage, depending on which podcast I’m listening to!  My favorite podcast is The God Centered Mom, but I also really enjoy Creative Empire, Coffee & CrumbsInspired to Action, and just about anything Lara Casey puts out.

Complete weekly life planning. Figure out what our obligations are, what we’re eating, who’s buying the groceries and when, what the girls and I will do during our time together, when David and I will work out, what my work projects are and when I’ll do them, and what needs to be done around the house.

Speak my people’s love languages. Looking at this goal each week helps remind me to speak love to my family members in the way they receive it, not just the way that is easy/natural to me.  For Riley, my cuddler, I seriously just have to remember to sit down throughout the day and make my lap available to her.  It’s a simple way to love her, but I’m not the “sit down” OR “cuddle” type, so I have to remind myself to do it. Within ten seconds, she’s usually on my lap, so I know it’s filling her little love tank.

img_5274(Fun fact: Zoe took this photo!)

With the Powersheets system, you check in every day and every week and indicate with progress bars and check boxes how you’re progressing towards your goals.  I have found that it is really easy to remember to do this, and it’s so motivating to see that I am actually making progress on goals that otherwise feel abstract.  I love looking at my week with the goals in mind and deciding when I’m going to take small steps that add up to meaningful goals, instead of just hoping that I have time to take the steps.  I also really enjoy the Powersheets philosophy of setting meaningful goals, pursuing progress over perfection, and taking small steps that add up to your big goals.

Basically, if you’ve been on the fence about Powersheets, I either just convinced you to purchase them, or run far, far away, depending on your personality type.

This weekend, I’ll be checking out a potential future kindergarten for Zoe, organizing our storage room with David while my in-laws watch the girls (we’re turning it into a home gym space!!), meeting a friend for coffee, and skipping church and taking the girls to the beach to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday.  I’ll also be starting my friend Brittnie’s new book.  I can’t wait!

What are you up to? 

Quarter One Report

Well, the first quarter of the year has passed, and although my life these days is more “get that play dough out of your mouth” and less “get me that report by Friday,” I still like the idea of a quarterly report and thought I’d do a Q1 check-in to see how I’m progressing on my 2014 goals.

  • Goal Area One: Gracefully serve my family and be a hands on, present, thoughtful, intentional mom.
    • Intentionally structure our weeks so that Zoe and I spend time each week in music, learning about/experiencing nature, physical activity, reading, and social activities.  Take weekly field trips to the children’s museum, zoo, parks, etc.
      This is going really well.  I kept track of all of Zoe’s activities and experiences in March.  The list of experiences filled up a front and back sheet of paper (and I didn’t write any experience down twice, even if we repeated it) so I think I am doing a really good job of this.  We’re also doing a lot of sensory play activities and art projects.
      photo 4-3
    • Swim lessons in the late spring or early summer
      I am still trying to convince David that this is a good idea.  Chime in with your most horrific drowning stories, people! I also discovered that a nearby dance studio offers baby ballerina classes for Zoe’s age group and has a summer session.  BABY BALLERINA CLASSES.  Now I’m torn about which to tell you to lobby for…make your own decision, I guess.  (Or stay out of our marriage.  You know, the healthy option I should have been advocating to begin with. )

    • Create a good eating plan for Zoe as we phase bottles out.
      It would help if Zoe would eat something besides the same 20 foods over and over again, but we ARE phasing bottles out and she is down to two a day now.  She is more adventurous at snack time than meal time, so I am trying to make sure that I provide healthy and mostly homemade or very low processed options for her snacks…unless we are on a beach trip.  Then she gets ice cream 🙂photo 1-3

      In response to my health consciousness, Zoe learned the word “Cheez-It” last month.  I didn’t grow up eating Cheez-Its, don’t buy them, and didn’t even know that you spelled “Cheez-It” with a “z” instead of an “s” until I Googled it three weeks ago.   I gave them to her ONCE at playgroup because another kid had them and she was begging for them.   Apparently it was an experience to remember, because she can identify them in or out of the packaging and say “Cheez-It” with perfect diction.

    • Build on Zoe’s “rules” as needed to keep her safe.
      Added to the list: 1) we brush our teeth in the bathroom—not while running through the house and 2) no playing in the trash can.  Added to my life: a pouty face.

    • Begin to introduce spiritual concepts to her at an age-appropriate level (“pray,” etc.) along with concepts of basic manners (“please,” “thank you,” giving hugs and caring for friends, etc.)
      She loves to pray! She insists that we do it before dinner and gets mad if we forget.  She claps when we are done.

    • Continue to give her lots of time with her extended family and help her learn their names through FaceTime and photos.
      I want to make her a photo wall to help with this goal, but I don’t want to just tape photos to the wall (nor do I want to put a ton of frames on the wall.)  Does anyone have any cool Pinterest-y photo projects to share?

    • As the one who spends the most time in a caregiving role, do my best to create a family culture that is loving, peaceful, gentle, & fun, where Zoe feels safe, secure, loved, & valued.  Zoe won’t benefit from a ton of formal instruction on faith and values this year—but I want these things to be so obvious by the way that we live that she has a foundation for the future.  I’m with her the most, so I have to live it the most.
      I feel like our home has been very peaceful and loving lately, and we just took a family vacation to the beach which helped make some fun family memories.  The biggest threats to me achieving this goal are fatigue and being distracted by less important things that feel urgent.  I pray that I can focus on what matters.
      photo 3-3
  • Goal Area Two: Be a thoughtful, loving, present wife who prioritizes David’s needs.
    • Pay attention to what he says.
    • Purposefully save energy for him.
    • Make dates a financial priority.
    • Continue doing devotions together each week and pray together more often.
    • Speak his love language.
      The last few months have been a sweet time for our marriage as we have grown closer and more tender towards one another in our shared grief.  I think we are doing a great job at loving each other.  That being said, our last date night involved going to a worship service (#pastorswifeprobs) so we need a romantic evening out stat.  I also want to pray more together before bed and make sure we do our couple devotion most Sundays.
      photo 2-3
  • Goal Area Three: Physical Health – I want to care for myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Physical health isn’t the most important thing in my life, but the way that I treat my body affects the other parts of my life, my emotions, and my ability to have the energy I want to have for my family.  I want my physical state to enable me to confidently tackle everything else in my life…not to distract me or slow me down.
    • I want to be intentionally active most days of the week.  Ideally, I would attend my stroller fitness class 2x/week and work out 1-2 other times per week at our gym or walking 2-3 times per week.  I feel the best physically and mentally when I do this.
      I have been doing a good job attending stroller fitness classes twice a week, but I need to utilize David’s babysitting services more so that I can go to the gym on the weekends.

    • Eat healthfully because it gives me the most energy…but still eat dessert regularly.  I unintentionally lost weight when Zoe was born and spent a good part of the year struggling not to lose more weight and to put weight back on.  I am back at a healthy weight for me and need to continue to eat more than what I am actually hungry for so that I can be as healthy as possible for my family.
      Success.  However, I am ready to begin eating a bit more mindfully again.  
  • Goal Area Four: Spiritual health and personal passions:
    • Continue daily morning quiet times.
      I have had to adapt this goal to “doing a daily quiet time.”  Some mornings, I am able to get Zoe to sit quietly for a few minutes while I do it at my preferred time.  Other days, I do it during nap time or read scripture while spooning yogurt in her mouth or cooking dinner.  Flexibility isn’t my strongest skill, but I’m working on it 🙂

    • Continue listening to sermon podcasts when I get the chance during the day.
      I have done this all of twice in 2014.  Note to self: do it more!

    • Use my new prayer journal a few times a week to be more organized with my prayer life.
      This fell by the wayside because I got mad at God and seeing my old prayers was making me more angry.  I’m back to praying, but not in my prayer journal.  I did make a prayer bulletin board that helps me visualize the people that I am praying for, which has been neat.

    • Try to carve out two times a week for writing.  Improve my writing and clarify my sense of purpose for my writing.  Read writers who inspire me and encourage me to be better. 
      I attended a writing class in February and have been doing plenty of reading.  I’ve been trying to write twice a week, even if I don’t publish it, and most weeks I meet this goal.  In the upcoming quarter, I want to clarify my writing goals further. 

This quarter, I also made the hard decision to stop working for the nonprofit I’ve been working for for the last 4 years.  I am still doing some consulting work here and there, but I want to be more strategic about what I do now that Zoe is down to one nap and my work time is limited.  I want the projects I take on to build new skills, build new connections, and allow me to use the skills I am most passionate about, and I want to do project-based work instead of weekly work so that I have more time to spend on writing and enriching activities with Zoe.  Although it was a big adjustment at first, it was a decision I made from my core and I am glad I made it.

IMG_2013Moving forward, I want to continue my success with the goals that have been going well and pick up the pace in a few areas.  I welcome conversation about how these goals (or your own goals!) are going in 2014!

 

2014: Bring It, Part III

I’m sure you have all been waiting with bated breath for the conclusion to this short series, right? 🙂

But really…I continue to have interesting conversations as a result of sharing my goals and goal-setting process, and I LOVE knowing what my friends are working on and where I can pray for, encourage, and support them.  In that spirit, here are my 2014 foundations and goals—the things I’m hoping to build the year on and around.

  • Gracefully serve my family and be a hands on, present, thoughtful, intentional mom.
    • Intentionally structure our weeks so that Zoe and I spend time each week in music, learning about/experiencing nature, physical activity, reading, and social activities.
      • Take weekly field trips to the Children’s Museum, zoo, parks, etc.
      • Swim lessons in the late spring or early summer
    • Create a good eating plan for Zoe as we phase bottles out.
    • Build on Zoe’s “rules” as needed to keep her safe.
    • Begin to introduce spiritual concepts to her at an age-appropriate level (“pray,” etc.) along with concepts of basic manners (“please,” “thank you,” giving hugs and caring for friends, etc.)
    • Continue to give her lots of time with her extended family and help her learn their names through FaceTime and photos.
    • As the one who spends the most time in a caregiving role, do my best to create a family culture that is loving, peaceful, gentle, & fun, where Zoe feels safe, secure, loved, & valued.  Zoe won’t benefit from a ton of formal instruction on faith and values this year—but I want these things to be so obvious by the way that we live that she has a foundation for the future.  I’m with her the most, so I have to live it the most.
  • Be a thoughtful, loving, present wife who prioritizes David’s needs.
    • Pay attention to what he says.
    • Purposefully save energy for him.
    • Make dates a financial priority.
    • Continue doing devotions together each week and pray together more often.
    • Speak his love language.
  • Physical health: I want to care for myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Physical health isn’t the most important thing in my life, but the way that I treat my body affects the other parts of my life, my emotions, and my ability to have the energy I want to have for my family.  I want my physical state to enable me to confidently tackle everything else in my life…not to distract me or slow me down.
    • I want to be intentionally active most days of the week.  Ideally, I would attend my stroller fitness class 2x/week and work out 1-2 other times per week at our gym or walking 2-3 times per week.  I feel the best physically and mentally when I do this.
    • Eat healthfully because it gives me the most energy…but still eat dessert regularly.  I unintentionally lost weight when Zoe was born and spent a good part of the year struggling not to lose more weight and to put weight back on.  I am back at a healthy weight for me and need to continue to eat more than what I am actually hungry for so that I can be as healthy as possible for my family.
  • Spiritual health and personal passions:
    • Continue daily morning quiet times.
    • Continue listening to sermon podcasts when I get the chance during the day.
    • Use my new prayer journal a few times a week to be more organized with my prayer life.
    • Try to carve out two times a week for writing.  Improve my writing and clarify my sense of purpose for my writing.  Read writers who inspire me and encourage me to be better.

There are a few categories and goals that I am keeping private for now, but those are some that I felt comfortable sharing online.  I am already really enjoying 2014 and am so excited for the rest of the year to unfold.

Photo on 1-4-14 at 6.31 PM #2

 

 

Day in the Life: 9 Months*

(*Yes, Zoe is actually 10 months now but I am just now getting around to posting this “Day in the Life” that I wrote when she was 9 months old. Putting in the photos was my hang-up!  Forgive us–I’ve been just a bit busy over here!)

If you’re just joining us, I’ve been trying to post a “day in the life” post every 3 months so that I can keep track of how Zoe is growing and developing over time! Feel free to read our 3 month and 6 month posts.

The 3 month post has all my “disclaimers” about this project, but to review: I am not Martha Stewart and do not kill myself to keep our house clean or make elaborate meals, I work part time, Zoe is bottle fed, my husband works down the street and stops by a lot, and I do not detail diaper changes in these posts because that’s boring.  And without further ado, here’s our day!

SEPTEMBER 17, 2013:

6:00 am Zoe screeches to wake me up.  She has been sleeping through the night most nights recently and tonight was no different.  SCORE!! I get up and make her a bottle and let David keep sleeping.

6:10 Zoe enjoys a bottle while I start my quiet time: an online study on Daniel.

6:30 Zoe and I sit on our living room rug.  She plays while I drink my coffee and try to finish my quiet time. I say “try” because I don’t think you can truly call it a “quiet time” if a toy is screaming “ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT, GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM” on a loop as your baby presses the button over and over again.  We roll a ball back and forth and Zoe gets really excited about it, so I get all of her balls out for optimal ball play.

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6:50 Daddy comes out.  The following adorable scene takes place (click it to enlarge if you want and imagine a baby voice saying “dada!!!” for full effect)

David and Zoe 2

6:50 David and Zoe throw a toy to “dog” a few times before he leaves at 7:00.  After he leaves, Zoe and I continue her “dog” theme by playing with the dog bed and reading a book about dogs.

Zoe and dogsZoe’s latest “leap” is supposed to be categories.  Can you tell?

7:15 Breakfast for both of us! Zoe eats Cheerios, banana, yogurt, & corn (hand feeding herself everything except the yogurt!)  I eat an oatmeal pancake with yogurt and blueberries.  While we eat, we listen to a morning worship playlist I recently made on my new obsession, Grooveshark.

8:00 I clean Zoe, her tray, and the floor up and we both get dressed.  If you haven’t heard, getting dressed is a HILARIOUS game also known as “keep away!”

Zoe clothes

Needless to say, it takes a while to get clothes on her body.

8:30 I put Zoe in the stroller and we take “dog” on a walk through the neighborhood.  Zoe eagerly looks for cats, pointing and shouting “CAT!!!!!” whenever we see one.  I come up with a joke: what diagnostic test does Zoe perform on our walks? A CAT SCAN.  I tell Zoe and Java and neither of them laugh.  May need a little work…

9:00 We’re back home! Zoe has a bottle while I read blogs.

9:15 Zoe falls asleep.   I catch up with personal and work emails, type up our day so far, and do some dishes.

9:45 I have a business call for a nonprofit board that I’m a part of (I’m actually the president, which I thought would be “fun.”  We haven’t gotten there quite yet.) I fold laundry in between referencing documents.

10:25 Off the phone.  In a very rare moment of stay-at-home-momdom, I don’t know what to do with myself next.  This particular work week I am working 14 hours total facilitating workshops, but I’m working with a team that’s doing all the prep work so I don’t need to do anything ahead of time.  Since I’ve been working more hours than usual for the last two weeks, I’ve been a freak about time management and I’m caught up with my chores.  There’s…nothing to work on.  Weird! Wracking my brain, I decide to clean the bathroom, then realize that David’s best friend has all of our bathroom cleaning products at his house.  I text him and ask him for it back, wishing it could teleport to our house.  Then I putter around anxiously.  I hate unstructured time so much.  AHHH!!

10:45 Zoe wakes up and I pounce on something to do.  This is her face when I go in her room:

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I talk to her in an animated voice and she slowly wakes up.  She’s SO CUTE!

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As soon as she seems ready, we head to playgroup.

11:05-12:15 Tuesday playgroup! I love these women and babies so much.  I’ve noticed lately that if Zoe is not sitting on my lap while she plays, she wants me to be right next to her.  She frequently checks to make sure I’m still there by reaching her hand back to feel me.  If she can touch me, she’s okay.  If she can’t, she turns around, holds her arms up, and cries until I pick her up.  It’s sweet.  I stay right next to her as she excitedly plays with new toys.

12:25 Home from playgroup and time for some lunch.  David is finishing up his lunch and Zoe enjoys greeting him before he heads back to work.  For lunch, Zoe eats peas, yogurt, peaches, and bread with pesto (my little foodie!)  I top a whole wheat pita with pizza sauce, goat cheese, & mushrooms and bake for a little “pizza” lunch for myself.  A few bites in, I begin to feel sick.  I have a hard time finishing the meal.  (Postscript: I realized a few days later that the pizza sauce had gone bad!! Eww, and no wonder…)

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While we eat, we listen to Zoe’s “Nursery Rhymes” station on Pandora.  I try to pay attention to her reactions to songs and “like” or “dislike” the songs so that it’s truly Zoe’s station.  Her station has slowly merged into Motown with the occasional Barney.  That’s my girl.

Zoe begins dancing and waving her hands to the music, so I hand her a spoon that she can beat to the rhythm.  She loves rhythm.

IMG_1516After a while, I take the spoon away so that I can clean her up.  THE INHUMANITY!

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1:15 Bottle time! I catch up on news on CNN.com while Zoe drinks her bottle.

1:30-2:15 One of the rhythms I’ve tried to set in our day is an after-lunch “reading time.”  We cuddle on the couch and I pick out books based on what Zoe has been around lately (if she’s shown an interest in cars, I get out our car book…if we’ve been around animals lately, I get out animal books…if we have been around other babies, I get out books with photos of babies…if she’s been making a lot of sounds with her mouth, I get out books that let me make funny sounds…why am I still typing? You get the gist.)  At first, Zoe just tried to eat the books and/or hit me with them, but now she actually sits on my lap, listens, and turns the pages.  She is also really into “lift the flap” books.

David happens to stop by to make a cup of coffee and takes our picture.  Aww.

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2:15-2:30 Zoe has been teething for the last 2 days, so in a “teething only” act she lies down on me and just relaxes.  I point out shapes in the ceiling (in related news, we are getting our roof redone soon…)

2:35 I lay Zoe in her bed.  No protest whatsoever.  Then, I Facebook a little, catch up on our day on this blog post, and read a book.   As mentioned, I don’t have much to do today.  My stomach is still hurting and I don’t feel good, so taking it easy actually appeals to me on a physical level, if not a mental one.

3:15 Although I don’t feel better, I decide to get up and accomplish something.  I dust the house.

3:45 Zoe wakes up.  I want to take her to the park today so I get us changed into “park appropriate clothing” (for her, a swimsuit, sunscreen, and sun hat) and put her in the car.

4:10 We arrive at the park! It’s a beautiful waterfront park with a splash pad and playground.  I take Zoe through the splash pad, push her on the baby swing, and help her “climb” and pull up on the toddler playground.  We meet a 3 year old girl who wants to talk and sing to Zoe, so we hang with her and her grandmother for a little bit.  Zoe loves big kids and is very happy to be around one.  It’s so cute 🙂

4:50 We leave the park.

5:05 Home! Time for a picture…

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…and our usual family evening dog walking session.  We spy lots of cats!

5:30 David gives Zoe a bath and changes her into her PJs.  Meanwhile, I make an easy dinner: vegetarian burritos and salad for David and me, and carrots, pears, peas, and pieces of whole wheat tortilla with almond butter for Zoe.

5:45 We eat dinner.  Note to self: don’t eat burritos when you have already been feeling sick to your stomach.  I feel worse.

6:15 Dinner’s over.  We play with Zoe in the living room.  She is REALLY into standing these days and shows off her tricks!

Standing

She also gets interested in my camera and takes a selfie.

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6:50 Zoe starts rubbing her eyes and looking sleepy, so I begin her wind-down ritual for bed and give her a bottle.

7:20 Zoe is really cranky but won’t go to sleep.  I bring her back out to the living room and try to show her some toys and books.  She is very disinterested and keeps rubbing her teeth and crying.   I think her teeth hurt.

7:30 I don’t know what to do with her, so I decide to try something new.  I give her a cold teether from the fridge and let her lay on David and me for four songs worth of a “Praise Baby” DVD someone gave us.  She has only watched TV once before (when I was sick and David was out of town…such a bad combo) and she seems soothed and intrigued by the novelty.

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7:45 I don’t want her to watch any more TV.  She is obviously tired but disinterested in playing, so we take her for another loop around the neighborhood in her stroller.  It’s almost dark outside.  This finally seems to calm her and let her know it’s bedtime.

8:05 David gives her another few ounces of her bottle and lays her in bed.

8:20 Bedtime sticks…for now! I’m working most of the day tomorrow, so I prep Zoe’s food for the day for her sitter and pack my lunch.  My stomach STILL hurts, so I sit through yesterday’s episode of “The Colbert Show” and call it a day. I’m in bed by 9:00.  David stays up because he is not 85 years old.

I can’t believe that next time I write one of these “day in the life” posts, my baby will be ONE YEAR OLD.  I am indescribably grateful for every moment with this beautiful and perfect gift from God and I am trying to savor every day!

Newborn9Mos

Grace in Unexpected Places

For the last 1.5 weeks, I’ve been in Minnesota on a working vacation.  And I’m kind of having a love affair with Minnesota right now.

Here’s why: I can sit outside without risking immediate death from suffocation.  I’ve been eating delicious veggies nonstop (who knew swiss chard was so amazing?! The geniuses who put my CSA box together, that’s who!) Wild turkeys and their adorable babies.  Bunnies.  Deer.  Wildflowers.  People gardening in their own yards (someday, we’re going to visit and Zoe is going to incredulously say “people garden without getting paid for it?!” Heavy sigh…)  People biking everywhere.  Outdoor markets.  People who have known me for years (this morning, one of my mom’s friends called me just to say that I am a great mom and that she has had so much fun watching me grow over the years.  Seriously.)  Popcorn from our favorite popcorn spot, the one Google can’t find.  Coffee from Caribou.  Getting to see my best friend.   Newspaper headlines about rattlesnake bites and a grocery store remodeling instead of rape and murder.

And the casualness.  Oh, the casualness.

Usually, the lack of glamour in Minnesota makes me roll my eyes.  But after spending the last 11 months in my proudly pretentious area with no real break from its constant drum of “look cool” and “act cool” and my constant inner drum beat of “I will not give in to this, there are more important things, gahhh maybe my life WOULD be better if I had those Tory Burch flats…” let’s just say that I find the silence and lack of inner conflict refreshing.

People, I’ve been taking daily walks in ugly T-shirts and a freaking camouflage hat advertising an exterminator that I stole from my brother and no one even looks at me funny.

I’ll pause and let you re-read that sentence.  And then maybe look for return tickets for me because I’m clearly going a little too far with my newfound freedom.

Anyway.

In the past I haven’t always been as charitable towards Minnesota.  At times, I’ve referred to being here as “doing time” or “being trapped.”  And it’s true.  Minnesota has never been my choice.  My parents moved me here against my will three days before I started high school.  I never felt very attached to the state, even when I grew close to the people.  I got out of here as soon as I could and came back only for what I viewed as forced periods of time in between exciting adventures.  After my freshman year of college, I didn’t even bother changing my laptop clock back to central time.  All summer, I calculated two hours difference instead of having to admit that I was here.

But there came a time when I HAD to admit it.  I had to come home for a while to deal with some really ugly things in my life.  And even though I didn’t want to be here, I eventually had to face the truth: I was in the place I least wanted to be in, in a situation I didn’t want to be in…and maybe there was a reason for it.  Maybe there were things for me to learn that only this place, these people, could teach me.  And so I stopped running and stayed still.  Finally.

That year, I watched the frozen ground turn soft again.  I watched the dead come back to life. And I slowly felt my heart thaw.  As winter turned to spring and then the warmth of summer, I walked these hills on stronger legs and marveled at the salvation I had found here.  When it came time to leave, I actually cried.

A few days ago, I went through a box in the basement.  A box from that time.  It would have been triggering at one point, and at another point it would have made me cry in sadness, but this time, I just pulled out item after item from my life and smiled.  Here was the photo of my best friends from our junior year of high school and the shawl a friend gave me on my trip to Greece.  Here also were the letters my friends wrote me during that winter.  The books I wish I never had to buy.  The photos that show a girl so in need of grace.  The journal, full of punishing writings I no longer feel condemned by.  And a pair of jeans I had forgotten about.

I tried them on.  Perfect fit.

I’m not wrapping this post up in a bow because…life is not like that.  But those jeans made me smile.  This place has surprises for me still.

He has surprises for me still.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a middle school baseball game to attend.  I’ll be the one in a camo hat.

Want more? This song says it all.

Cookies and Cliches

Today, I found myself living a cliche…or at least as close to a cliche as our lives allow.

David’s been gone for 7 days on a business trip.  Now, he’s a youth pastor, so his version of a business trip is taking 62 high school students to Jamaica to help orphanages and schools. Think fewer steak dinners and Powerpoint presentations and more “holding kids’ lives in your hands” and power tools, and you get the picture…but still.  Husband on business trip.

Meanwhile, I’ve been the wife and mom at home, balancing the weight of the household on my fragile shoulders (or whatever,) ready for my husband to return so things like “mowing the lawn” and “taking a shower without feeling like a child-neglecting monster” can occur.

Naturally, if we’re going to truly live up this cliche, I HAD to make cookies during Zoe’s naptime to welcome him home.  I mean, I’m a stay-at-home mom and wife.  There are STANDARDS, people.

And so I whipped out my cookbook, preheated my oven, and got baking.  It was a vegan recipe, but other than that, pure cliche.

Right about the time I found myself running an extension cord outside so that I could use my hand mixer without waking Zoe up, I had to laugh out loud.

This is my life.  This crazy person baking cookies half indoors, half outdoors to celebrate her husband’s return while her baby naps is…me.  

At one point in my life, I had dreams.

They did not include being a stay-at-home mom.

They did not include being married at 22.

I wanted to live alone in a big city until I was 28, then maybe get married.  Maybe.

Definitely not to a youth pastor, though.

I wanted a high-powered career.

I wanted to be the one on business trips, not the one waiting at home baking cookies.

I would have viewed today’s scene as the ultimate failure, a waste of my potential, the collapse of my dreams.

But you know what?

This afternoon as I splattered cookie dough on my door frame and washed bottles and fed my daughter sweet potatoes and wiped away baby tears and sang “The Wheels on the Bus” and and waited for David to get home, I didn’t feel like a failure.  I felt like a happy, whole person.  I didn’t feel like a person whose dreams were UTTERLY DESTROYED.  I felt like a person whose dreams had surprised her and then come true.

I think the one of the worst things we can do as humans is to limit ourselves and our journey to a predetermined path.

It’s natural and good to set goals and create a vision of our future.  But every day we experience unexpected circumstances—things we never could have predicted when we sketched out our futures.

If we refuse to let those experiences shape us, if we refuse to let our ideas and visions change, if we refuse to let ourselves be surprised by unwitting passions and preferences…we refuse to let ourselves grow.  We go through life unfeeling, untouched.  We leave less of a mark on the world because we don’t let it leave a mark on US.  And THAT’S a waste of potential.

Allow your dreams to grow, change, and seemingly even shrink if you’re doing what makes you happy.  Allow yourself to think bigger than whatever future you’re pigeonholed yourself into. Allow yourself to be surprised.

And if cliches make you happy…let yourself live them up.  It’s your life.  ENJOY IT.

photo-37“But it would be a dry kind of perfection that made no allowance for some flexibility, for the possibility of local re-arrangements within the overall structure–perhaps following the cycle of the seasons, or perhaps to accommodate changing preferences.”  –Michael Balston in his book “The Well Furnished Garden”