Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Do We Hesitate to Share and Celebrate Our Successes?

  This is my 100th post on the blog! I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and celebrate. Initially I felt a little silly wanting to celebrate something as small as a blog post milestone, but then I thought, why shouldn't I celebrate? It's something I'm proud of accomplishing.

  It also got me thinking about how women often seem reluctant to celebrate things they consider to be an accomplishment because others might not see them as such. They are excited about achieving a goal but downplay it because they are afraid someone might try to squash their joy or belittle their accomplishment.

  It's not unreasonable to think that someone may try to undermine our excitement. Most likely it's happened to all of us at some point in the past and is why we are now hesitant to express our elation when we do something that fills us with pride.

  Why do we allow others to dictate how we ought to feel about an accomplishment? Additionally, why do others (or sometimes even ourselves) try to rain on others' parades of celebration?

  As parents we often encourage our kids to be proud of their accomplishments. They put their dishes in the dishwasher by themselves? High five! They learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels? Great job, let's send a video to Grammy and Grandaddy! They aced a test? Let's go for ice cream! We are so great at supporting and cheering on our kids.

First day of preschool!
  And kids are naturally excited about even the little things. They think everything is amazing and don't worry about tamping down their joy. I'm sure somewhere along the way they learn to tone down their excitement, possibly from their friends and/or the adults in their lives. I don't want to think that I might be responsible for my children's loss of enthusiasm about celebrating the big and little things in life. If they don't see me celebrating my successes, what picture am I painting for them about adulthood?

   So why do we tend to downplay our successes and accomplishments? Are we afraid of having joy over something because we feel that if we do, it is opening the door for something bad to happen to even us out? Bad stuff is probably eventually going to happen to us. That's life. Why not celebrate the good when we have it to help carry us through the challenges and set backs?

  Are we worried that celebrating our accomplishments might make others feel bad about not achieving the same thing? Some people do believe that when others succeed or achieve, that it is taking away from their ability to do the same. This is a fear of scarcity, that there won't be enough for everyone, but that's not true. There is room for everyone. We ought to see others' success as validation that achievement in this area is possible and an invitation for us to also attempt it. When one person strives and achieves, it should to give us all permission to do the same.

  Belittling others' accomplishments most likely stems from jealousy. We are working on our dreams and goals which is quite admirable. Other people may feel that they are unable to do the same so they try to keep us from succeeding or feeling good about our success so that they won't feel so bad about not making efforts toward their own goals.

  So, yes, some people will not consider publishing one hundred blog posts to be anything noteworthy, especially on a small, unknown blog like mine. But, to me, it's one hundred times I've sat down and worked on my writing. It's one hundred times I've attempted vulnerability and connection. It's one hundred times I've sought to encourage someone else on the journey of life. That's a big deal to me and one I find worthy of celebration.

Where the magic happens. :-)
  In fact, I want to encourage us all to be proud of our accomplishments and celebrate them whenever they happen. It's okay to be excited about reaching a goal or milestone. Our success does not mean failure for someone else. Celebrating our achievement does not mean we are gloating. It is inviting others to share our joy.

  We should celebrate and be excited with those who are celebrating. We should be inspired and encouraged by others' achievements. We should be cheering others on as they head toward their goals.

  Today I'm celebrating one hundred posts! What are you celebrating? Have you successfully lost 20, 30, 50, 100 pounds? Did you win a local sports competition? Have you had an article published somewhere? Do you get complemented on your children's good manners? Can your son tie his own shoelaces? Do you have a baby or toddler and were able to take a shower today? Did you land a big client or order for your company? Did you streamline a process at work or home? Please share one (or more) of your accomplishments with me so we can celebrate together!

  To make this more of a celebration, I am going to give away a few things to people who comment on this post with an accomplishment or success they've had. I will draw five winners at random on Friday, September 2nd to win one of the following items:

  • An orange beaded necklace

  I look forward to hearing about others' successes and accomplishments. Let's celebrate together!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Parenting Through the First-Three-Years Fog

  This year I have felt much more like myself, by which I mean more like the person I remember being before I became a mother. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and I love my kids. I have learned, grown and changed (hopefully for the better) so much because they are part of my life. I would not go back and change things if I had that option. I am just saying it felt like I got lost a little when I was introduced to motherhood.

  I don't think I'm the only one who feels that my whole life changed when I became a mother. I entered into a new culture of being entrusted with another's complete well-being. Of learning everything I could about another human being and managing their time, creating eating, sleeping, playing, and bathing schedules. Scheduling doctor's appointments and keeping track of just about everything another person did so that I would be able to answer all of the doctor's questions. And, of course, doing all of this on an erratic and inadequate sleep schedule. Not to mention simultaneously dealing with my own physical, emotional and mental recovery.

And then doing all of that again less than three years later while also managing a very mobile, opinionated, mostly toilet trained, desirous of all of your attention individual.

Again, I love my kids. I know that most everyone has very similar experiences in parenting, but I am giving myself permission to admit that it is at times challenging and exhausting and, every so often, I live in survival mode.

  But now my kids are six and three. My youngest is toilet trained, can get mostly dressed on his own, feeds himself and just started at preschool three mornings per week, allowing me some precious me/alone time. And, so far, it has been so refreshing and restorative (because I haven't allowed myself to spend all of my time doing chores or running errands).

  I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago whose youngest is still months away from her first birthday. I was saying how I feel so much more like me these days and it is because I am out of the fog that is parenting the first three years of a child's life. Those years are so demanding of parents. The kids need you to feed and change them. Sometimes they won't allow anyone else to feed them. They can be very clingy so you spend most of your day feeding and holding them. If/when they finally go to sleep for the night you are DONE with being needed or touched. You just want to get away to your own little bubble to rest and think.

  You are often worried about whether they are eating enough, sleeping enough, going to choke on the banana, having enough stimulation/variety in their diets/tummy time/books read to them/wet or dirty diapers. You are constantly monitoring their moods, activities, body temperature. They consume all of your brain and most of your time. No wonder I didn't feel like my former self. Not only was I physically different, but my brain had received an influx of new information that needed to be processed constantly.

  Eventually they begin to feed themselves (which can turn into a battle because you're concerned they'll starve themselves or be nutritionally deficient), learn to crawl and walk on their own (which means baby-proofing the house, still losing a few items that you loved, and kissing a lot more ouchies), and start saying words (and you will regret teaching them "mommy" when they get to be two and say it every three seconds). You love seeing all of the new milestones and the beginnings of independence. But they still need you to help them change their clothes, teach them to be polite and enforce the house rules, brush their teeth, and work around their nap schedule (I love naptime!). They may still want to be carried everywhere and cling to you when in an unfamiliar environment. You still have to get past the looming hurdle that is toilet training.

  Usually sometime between three and four, your precious child is reasonably independent. They have few toilet accidents. They feed themselves and usually eat at least one vegetable and meat to supplement their snacking preference. They can get mostly or completely dressed for the day. They can play on their own a bit. They are (hopefully) still napping or having some quiet room time each day for your sanity break. They can tell you when they are hurt, hungry, sad or mad. They are more adventurous and not as reluctant to be separated from you (my experience, at least).

  There are still challenges like them having their own opinions and not always wanting to obey. Or picking fights with their siblings. They can't yet read or write on their own but I don't mind cuddling and reading books now that I am not always being touched by someone.

  Now that my children are older, I am rediscovering my passions and taking time to refresh myself. I have realized just how important self-care is and have time to do it. It is not easy when you're in the younger years and fear what will happen if you take a shower while the little ones are awake and unsupervised. If you're sleep deprived because your baby or toddler doesn't sleep through the night, of course you're going to be more run down and space out when you get a spare minute.

  Parenting kids through their first three years is tough (in my experience). It takes a lot out of you. But, take heart, it's just a season. You will once again have time for things that fill you up. Your kids will grow and change and you will do the same with them. You may be sad to leave the baby stage, but you have so many others to look forward to - school, activities, kids being old enough to do their own laundry. Give yourself grace. It's okay not to love every minute of every season.

  I am loving my kids' current ages. I am not loving homework time. I don't particularly care for the illnesses that appear when school starts. I love that they play well together. I love watching my six-year-old gain confidence as she learns new abilities like reading, riding a bicycle, dancing and playing the piano. I enjoy the imagination and creativity of my three-year-old. I love his sweetness and hearing him tell me he loves or likes me at least once per day (I know that won't last). I love that my oldest can help the younger one with things when needed. Every parent loves a specific stage in childhood. Right now I feel like this is my sweet spot.

How old are your kids? What age(s) do/did you enjoy the most? Did you also feel like the first three years of a child's life were the most challenging for you and your identity? If not, how did you successfully manage motherhood and self-care during the early years?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Disillusioned Giveaway

   Christy Barritt's newest book Disillusioned officially released on Tuesday, August 9th. I had the privilege of receiving a free e-book copy of the book early to read and review.

   Nikki Wright's brother Bobby was captured by ARM, a terrorist group in Colombia, several years ago. He recently escaped and contacted her to bring him back to the states and help him recover and heal from his experience. The military wants to debrief him, Bobby says he needs time and Nikki has done all she can to honor her brother's wishes (especially since she believes the government thinks Bobby is guilty of desertion and working with ARM).

   Nikki hires a security company to take them from the hospital to a safe house but instead are kidnapped by unknown people. They manage to escape and Bobby calls an old friend he trusts to help them find a safe haven so Bobby can try to remember what he learned while being held hostage in Colombia. The person he calls is Kade Wheaton, the man who broke Nikki's heart eight years ago. Can Nikki put aside the past and trust Kade to keep them safe while helping Bobby uncover the information hidden in his brain? Do the news reports that Bobby is actually in cahoots with ARM and is back in the U.S> to carry out a terrorist attack have any merit? Will Nikki be able to discover the truth and who is trustworthy?

   This book was so riveting! I was hooked from the beginning and struggled each night between being a responsible adult (which meant putting the book down in order to get a good night's sleep) and plowing through the book to discover the conclusion (and being useless the next day for my kids). I will not say how the struggle ended. Christy made the decision even more challenging as many chapter ended suspensefully, enticing me to begin the next immediately.

   I loved that the plot paralleled a story from the news that does not have a clear cut explanation and tons of speculation. We often wonder about the true story and I enjoyed reading one interpretation of what the story could be.

  I enjoyed reading this book and constantly speculating about who might be good, who might be bad, and who was trying to get to Bobby and Nikki. The twists and turns in the story kept me guessing throughout the book. I enjoyed it so much, that I'd like you to have an opportunity to read the book, become engrossed in the story and constantly try to guess the conclusion just as I did. To accomplish this goal, I am going to give away a copy of the book.

  To enter for a chance to win, all you have to do is comment below and share with me a great book you've recently read that you would recommend I check out (I love books!). If, for some reason, you cannot get your comment to post, please email me (mybyrdlife at gmail dot com) with your book recommendation and I'll count it as your entry. Entries will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, August 18th. Winner will be selected on Friday the 19th.

***Update: Since there were only two entrants, you both will get a copy of Disillusioned! I'll be contacting you soon to send it your way!***

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Least Favorite Chore(s)

   Everyone seems to have that one chore that they cannot stand. The one they put off as long as possible until it is impossible to ignore. It probably pops right into your head when you think of your litany of household chores or errands.

   When we were first married, my husband was quick to share his most hated household task: laundry. He essentially said he would be willing to do anything else as long as I would do laundry. I don't really know what specifically he doesn't like about the task. If I had to guess, based on my own feelings and those of my daughter who has recently started doing her own laundry, it'd be the folding and putting away part. But, really, I don't mind doing laundry as long as no one else minds that it may not get folded and returned to drawers the same day.

   When we had the discussion, I could not really come up with something I disliked so much that I could commit to it being the one task I would (almost) never do again. I wasn't a huge fan of doing the dishes but using gloves makes it less bothersome (a now mandatory accessory since I've developed eczema on my hands).

   More recently I have "ughed" at menu planning. I don't have a strong preference on what I eat each day - I eat the same couple of breakfasts and lunches all week long without issue. Variety is not that important to me. But dinner with two young kids is a challenge when you know they "will not care for" most of what you prepare. I think I add stress to it because I know my husband likes food more than I do and I want him to be happy with whatever we're eating. I do know that he'd be fine showing up to the table to whatever was prepared so I make this task worse than it should be (especially since we discuss the menu together until it's complete). I think we both have the same feelings about the process. Once we have a menu it's fine. Neither of us have an issue cooking as long as there's a plan in place. It's just getting there.

   This week, though, I think I finally found my most loathed chore: cleaning the shower. I don't mind cleaning the sink, tub or toilet. What is it about the shower? It might be that it's usually still wet from the last shower when I go to clean it. Removing soap scum from the shower door is a pain. Moving the wet bottles of shampoo and soap around while I clean the shelves gets me sometimes. Getting rid of all the grime between the wall tiles (this is about equal whether it's real or faux grout) and on the rubber seal of the door and the various other cracks where moisture likes to sit can at times be tedious. Having typed my issues onto the page, dealing with all of the wetness seems to be the underlying issue. For some reason it really bothers me and I would not miss not having to deal with it ever again.

   So there's my current worst chore. I'm sure if I hear others' answers it might change. I've definitely had worse tasks (like cleaning poop out of the carpet during potty training) but it (thankfully) was not a task I had to tackle each week for perpetuity. Please share your least favorite chore with me so we can commiserate together about being responsible adults.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sometimes Chasing Your Dreams Requires Learning New Skills

  I am on the precipice of diving deeper into the world of writing and blogging. I have been reading Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff because I feel like this adventure will be similar to a job transition. I've been a SAHM for the past six years and, while I will continue in that role, I will also be trying to focus my free time on learning and growing in the writing world. One section of the book talks about our skills and the importance of keeping our current skills sharp and honing new ones. I assessed my current set, considered what skills I would need for the new endeavor, and thought about general life dreams. I compiled a list of skills I'd like to learn or improve.

1. How to use Create Space (and the e-book equivalent) to make my book available on Amazon.

   Four years ago I published a book, Between Us Girls: Navigating College Life as a Christian Woman, using a self-publishing company. About two years ago it went out of business, leaving me with my manuscript and about fifty paperback copies of my book. My goal is to update and/or revise the contents and then republish it by early next year so that people who could benefit from the information have easy access to it. Create Space seems like an excellent avenue for my plan but I haven't ever used it before.

2. How to speak conversational Spanish comfortably.

   I was a double major in college and Spanish language was one of them. I studied abroad twice to increase my fluency. I think I did fairly well if I was able to write a ten page paper and perform a group skit in my classes by the end. However, with language it is very true that if you don't use it you lose it. I have a number of neighbors that are from Spanish-speaking countries and could easily have conversations with them but I am too concerned about sounding terrible. But I will until I get into the habit of speaking regularly. I have downloaded the Duolingo app but have not even opened it. That needs to change.

3. How to navigate Twitter.

   I have an account. I think I created one so that I could enter some contest Ellen DeGeneres was doing on her show several years ago. I don't understand re-tweeting and tagging people. I think I understand hashtags from their presence on Facebook. I am sure it could be a useful platform for my writing and blogging but I need more knowledge. I'm sure there are plenty of people I know who are fluent in tweeting and could give me a beginner's course.

4. How to play the piano.

  This is another skill that I have some knowledge and understanding of. I took two or three years of piano in elementary school. It is a skill I regret not continuing. I thoroughly enjoy music and like being able to recreate a song I've heard before but don't know the actual music. Thankfully, my daughter expressed interest in learning the piano and received a full-size keyboard for Christmas. She is going to start lessons this fall and I am hoping having the keyboard in the main living area will encourage me to sit down and play at it. Maybe I'll seek out some advanced beginner music to help me practice.

5. To be more generous.

   If you've been reading my monthly goal review posts, you are familiar with this already. One of my goals this year has been to grow in generosity. I tend to focus on myself and my family and it's really challenging for me to use resources (time, money, etc) on others. I have seen more growth in this area and can see that I am more generous than I thought (or maybe the goal has helped). In Do Over, Jon stressed the importance of being generous when working on a goal/dream/hustle. Being generous affects all areas of your life positively and I am all about more joy and goodness.

There's my list. It's quite ambitious. I'm not planning to start on all of these right away, but it's nice to have it somewhere visible. It will remind me of these learning desires and, possibly, cause people I know to ask me about them which would help create accountability to actually move forward on them.

Is there anything you want to learn or relearn that you could benefit from sharing with someone? Please share in the comments and I will do my best to encourage you to work on them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

July Book Review

  It looks like I devoured some fiction titles but perhaps that's because it's summer so I'm on a short learning break to fit in more entertainment (or most of these reads came up available on my digital library account and I had to read them before they returned themselves from my Kindle). Having read seven books in July I have officially completed and passed my goal of 50 books in 2016! Of course, I'm not going to stop reading so you'll continue to see monthly reviews from me. Let's see just how many I can finish before the end of the year! If you want to check out my thoughts on previous months' reads, check out the blog posts from JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril, May and June!

  You may have noticed that most of my reviews are positive and books I would recommend to others. There is a reason for this. No, I don't manage to read only quality books. As an avid reader who is also a wife and mother I know that my available time to read is limited. I have given myself permission to not finish books that I am just not interested in. Life is too short for terrible books. So, generally, when I pick up a book, I read two chapters. If, after two chapters, I do not care what may or may not happen in the rest of it, I give myself permission to stop reading it and move on to something else. It might be interesting to have a list of "started but never finished books" but I don't care to make time to do that. Since this is a review of finished books, generally they caught my attention early and kept it until the end. Anyway, just wanted to share that in case someone was wondering. 

1. Son by Lois Lowry

   Hurray, I finished the four part series! In this book we begin at the same village where the first book begins. We are in the same time period except from the point of view of Claire, a girl who was chosen as a BirthMother. Each child, at the age of twelve, is assigned a role in the community based on what the leaders deep the best fit. BirthMother is generally the assignment for girls who don't have much capacity for higher learning. We meet Claire as she is giving birth to her first Product and something goes wrong during delivery. The baby is saved through a c-section but Claire is removed from her BirthMother role and sent to work in the Fish Hatchery. She has a longing for the baby she birthed and is able to spend time with him (not usually the custom of the village). She is becoming increasingly discontent with the ways of society and one day hops aboard a delivery ship as it's leaving. She ends up washed up in a community nestled between a huge cliff and the sea. No one ever leaves or comes from the outside. When she's healthy again she finds someone who once left (but returned seriously injured) who can train her to climb the steep cliff out so that she can find her son. 
   It's an engaging tale that does eventually weave all of the stories together from the previous books. I enjoyed the series all together and would recommend it, especially as a good series for teens.

2. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

   I had previously read all of the Lisbeth Salander books and was curious to see how the new author would do in regard to the series. This book takes place about a year after the third book ends. I appreciated that the front of the book had a list of characters and short descriptions so that it would be easy to pick back up with the people and storyline. Millenium the magazine and it's crew have brought in a company to finance them but it is beginning to change the integrity and structure of the magazine. Mikael Blomvkist needs a new story to shoot the magazine back into the spotlight and get rid of all of the speculation that he's a washed up journalist. He receives a tip from a former assistant to a computer scientist and Mikael thinks there may be a link to Lisbeth so he agrees to interview the scientist. The scientist ends up being murdered before Mikael can talk to him. And the adventure quickly picks up. 
   I thought that the story went well with the other books and has quite a few return characters. The book has a decent ending but is still open enough for another book to be written. If it is, I will probably read it as well.

3. Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage by Ed Wheat and Gaye Wheat

  My three main focuses of non-fiction reading are marriage, parenting and spiritual growth. This book contained information for two of those. I was a little wary about reading this one in front of others and even more so sharing that I read it here on my blog but it was a really good book that I think could benefit many engaged and married couples. I am planning to hold on to my copy for when my kids get older and can benefit from the information it contains. 
  It was beneficial that Ed is both a medical doctor and a therapist as his well-rounded knowledge provided a lot of useful information. It covers basics, potential issues and talks a lot about God's design for sex within the marriage relationship. If you are interested in improving all types of intimacy and openness in your marriage, read this book. It can spark good, open, helpful discussions. I highly recommend it!

4. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

  I have read nearly all of Jane Austen's novels (6 of 7, and I only recently found out there's a seventh) and enjoyed them all thoroughly. I thought it would be interesting to read a modernization of one to see what the story might be like in our time. I liked that I already knew the gist of the story and how it would end. I was curious about the creative license the author would take.
  I did not particularly care for all of the "modernization" of the book. It seemed to try to fit in as many current issues and controversies as possible. I know that I am somewhat conservative in my tastes but it was too much for me. If you like the Pride and Prejudice story and don't mind being inundated with a lot of topics of contemporary debate, then you might enjoy this book. I can't freely recommend it and am a little sad about that.

5. Disillusioned by Christy Barritt

   Nikki's brother Bobby was captured by ARM, a terrorist group in Colombia, several years ago. He recently escaped and contacted her to bring him back to the states and help him recover and heal before being debriefed by the military. Nikki has done all she can to honor his wishes (especially since she suspects the military thinks Bobby is guilty of desertion and working with ARM). When leaving the hospital for a safe house, Nikki and Bobby are kidnapped by unknown people. They manage to escape and Bobby calls an old friend he trusts to help them find a safe haven so Bobby can try to remember what he learned while held hostage. The person he calls is Kade Wheaton, the man who broke Nikki's heart eight years ago. Can Nikki put aside the past and trust Kade to keep them safe and help Bobby uncover the information hidden in his mind? Do the news reports that Bobby is actually in cahoots with ARM and is back in the U.S. to carry out a terrorist attack have any merit? Will Nikki be able to discover the truth and who is trustworthy?
  It is a riveting story and Christy drew me in with an engaging and fast-paced story line. Many chapters ended on cliff-hangers and I often continued reading to learn what happened next. I was eager to find out whether Nikki, Kade and Bobby would escape from danger each time and be able to uncover the truth about ARM and Bobby's alleged involvement with them. There were many twists and turns in the story that kept me guessing about who was trustworthy and who might be part of ARM. It is a contemporary story with themes relevant to our country's current events. The characters were people I rooted for to survive and succeed in uncovering the truth. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy action, adventure, espionage and a little romance. Christy has a number of other books already published and I look forward to reading some of her other ones. I anticipate them to be just as entertaining and enrapturing as this one.
[Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Also, this book is officially available on August 9th.]

6. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  I enjoyed this book so much! Nadia is a Lutheran pastor who does not look like your typical pastor or have a typical pastor background. This book tells her story of how she became the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS). She talks openly about her struggles with being a "good Christian" and many of the issues that are divisive within the Christian community. I loved her honesty and truth. I loved how she showed her own struggles with different parts of Christianity. She shows how Scripture has been shown to be true and transforming in her life. 
  It was a very encouraging book as a woman in the Christian faith. It also was encouraging as an imperfect person prone to selfishness and sin. This book will probably make many people feel uncomfortable, hopefully in a good way, one where you consider and re-evaluate your thoughts and beliefs on various subjects. It is not a light-hearted read. I would recommend it for anyone who has wrestled with how we are to love as Christians and what we have been taught a Christian ought to look like.

7. The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

  Ellen, a hypnotherapist, has just met a man, Patrick, through Internet dating and likes him but is on a date with him where he's acting strange. She thinks he might be about to end their short relationship so she is practicing breathing techniques to prepare herself for the let down while he's in the bathroom. When he returns, Patrick reveals that his ex-girlfriend has been stalking him for the past three years. Ellen is intrigued and wants to know more about his stalker. Ellen soon learns what it's been like when she discovers that the ex-girlfriend has been also stalking Ellen, pretending to be a normal hypnotherapy client. Will the stalker ruin their relationship? 
  I have enjoyed all of Liane Moriarty's books. There is not a consistent formula for how the story will turn out. Each time I have no preconceived notion of what is going to happen or how the story will end. Will it turn out happily? One never knows? Will there be some heartache? Probably, but in what form? I was thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. I liked that the POV switched between Ellen and Saskia (the ex-girlfriend). I enjoyed seeing both perspectives and learning more about motivations and their thought lives. It's a good fiction read.

Have you read any of the ones above? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear about a great book you've read recently!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Seventh Month Goal Review

We are now in to the second half of the year. Seven months is a long time to work on goals. How have I done? I've recorded each month's summary. Below is July's record. You can read about JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril,  May and June on the linked pages.

1. One arts and crafts time with the kids each month

  I have been trying to clean out unnecessary items since returning from vacation. The craft closet was waaaay out of control so I wanted to get in there and organize/declutter. I put together a bin of miscellaneous arts and crafts supplies and let the kids go through them to make their own creations this month. I thought J would want to use the paints. He started with Dot paint markers but quickly switched to glitter glue and pom poms when he saw his sister using them. It was nice giving them practically free reign to see what they would come up with. They seemed to enjoy their craft time. We also were able to use or throw away a few things as well. Win-win-win!

The finished creations
   I overachieved (sarcasm) this month and we had a second crafting day where we played around with string and beads. Jackson strung some together for about ten minutes before he became bored. Kaitlyn and I each made a bracelet and a ring. I was impressed at her creativity.

K made the pearl bracelet
2. Blog at least twice per month

   I am glad that I cut my very ambitious initial goal of weekly posts in half (per the suggestion of Jon Acuff when I did his 30 Days of Hustle group) before officially declaring my ambition because I would be failing more months than succeeding (thus far I have had four or more non-recurring-type posts only twice in seven months and I doubt they were posted once per week). I have not gotten into a regular writing rhythm yet. I tend to write spontaneously rather than use prompts, which perhaps I should be doing to increase my discipline in writing. I am hoping to be able to write more once both of the kiddos are in school at least part-time in about a month. I enjoy writing and I want my posts to have meaning for me and my audience. I'm sure the quality of my writing would increase with more frequent practice but right now I'm doing what I can.

  Anyway, in addition to monthly and reading reviews I blogged about my self-care epiphany, what I have learned from my 3-year-old about building community and thoughts from ten years of marriage. If you have any suggestions for topics I ought to write about, please leave them in the comment section.

3. Grow in gratitude, contentment and generosity

   I am definitely grateful for my family, our home, my husband's job, etc. I have not kept up with my gratitude prayers this month. I have spent more regular time in prayer journaling and reading the Bible, which definitely includes some thanksgiving.

  Now that I'm back home I have been focusing on decluttering and getting rid of things we don't need. I've done most of the craft closet, the bathroom cabinets, the kids' rooms, our downstairs closet and multiple side table drawers. I've thrown out at least three trash bags from this effort and have a full Goodwill bag. I participated in a consignment sale to get rid of things the kids don't need anymore. I had them go through their clothes and remove things they thought they wouldn't wear anymore. I'm enjoying the process. There's still quite a bit more to go through - my clothes for the second round, pictures and keepsakes, books, whatever's in the attic - but I feel like real progress is being made. I'm trying to make more of an effort to put things back in their newly designated spots so I don't have to root around for them later.

  I believe I mentioned doing some yard saling out west. I didn't buy much at the sales (turns out not a lot of people are around to sell things over the 4th of July weekend). Nothing of note. I did do some shopping at the outlets with my aunt and purchased some clothes for my kids. I feel like I was much more contemplative of potential purchases than in the past.

  We purchased school supplies for our kids and for a church event. I tried to be more purposeful about being flexible with my daily plans/schedule, allowing for suggestions from the kids and opportunities to spend time with others. This is a big challenge for me as I like to push through my agenda (which tends to be me-focused). I'm slowly seeing changes and growth here.

Monthly Verses:

  I have had Ephesians 5:1-2 on the chalkboard in my kitchen since May. I am leaving it up there in the hopes of ingraining it deep into my heart. I could stand to grasp the concept of loving others better.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

What goals were you working on in July? Have you added new goals as the year has progressed? Have you completely dropped any goals started in January? Have any suggestions for blog post topics?