2018 – Looking forward

This is a fantastic time of year for thinking. We think about what we really believe. We think about the folks who are close to us – or maybe not as close as we want and intend. We think about what we did in the year past. And then, at the end of our thinking time, we think about what we want to do in the coming year so that when our thinking time comes again, we’re satisfied in retrospect. New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap, but if you view them as the annual tradition of thinking hard about where we are and where we want to be – and what we need to do to bridge that gap – it seems more like a virtuous tradition than an exercise in futility.

Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to in the new year.

New Attic
We are finally for reals I swear this time kicking off our attic project. When we brought our drawings to contractors the number they agreed on came back, uh, much higher than we were expecting. More saving was in order to afford it. So after a few false starts and stops (and having cleaned it out and refilled it a bunch of times) we’re now planning to really actually do this thing. Our original start date was in January, but I’m guessing it’ll be more like February given the lack of start date from our contractor. I’m a little nervous. Fun fact – I am not abundantly supplied with taste. I know home renovations can be really disruptive and tiring. And it’s another project to manage. But on the flip side, Grey is a tween. Not sharing a bathroom with him will be great! And our new bathroom will be amazing. And it will finally clear the logjam of projects so we can also do some of the smaller things I’d like to have accomplished. And insulation. And a clawfoot tub and steam-shower. So much awesome.

New Jobs
Adam and I are both getting started on the new roles we landed ourselves last year. It’s always the phase where you need to prove yourself by working extra hard. You have to learn fast, work hard, be patient and show up early. The rewards are great, but there will be no mailing it in during 2018!

The kids
They’ve had a great year so far. I’m looking to help them find good strategies to be 100% on the ol’ homework turning in (my mom has a plan to help with that!). I’m also continuing to try to expose them to things that might inspire passion in them, and when they find it to support them. They’re a huge and joyful part of my life!

I usually plan out all our vacations for the year this week – and this year was no exception. It’s not as ambitious as last year. We have three camping trips (one without kids, possibly). We’re headed to Mexico in February and Washington State in August. I really want to go backpacking AND go to Ashland. I’m getting another week of vacation this year (Adam is not) so in my contemplations on how to do this, I’ve struck on the idea of doing a guided backpacking tour after he’s gone back to work. (Don’t feel too sorry for him – he usually does about a week of gaming conventions while I stay home with the kids.)

Stoneham History
I have two things I’ve been planning to do here for a while. One is run a fund-raiser to put up signs for the Nobility Hill Historic district. I’m not in it, but I can see the cool kids from my house. This is just a matter of getting a design finalized, canvassing the neighborhood to let folks know what we’re doing (and ask for $$$$) and then getting it installed. It’s already a Historic district. I’ve also been saying for a long time that I’d consider being on the Stoneham Historical Commission. I should probably actually get around to doing that. It’s just hard with the timing. But now that the kids are more independent, I have a little more time to do stuff like that. Finally, I’d really love to finish the story I was working on set in Stoneham. I’m like 10k words from done. But I have a hunch they’re the hard 10k. And I haven’t really been able to work up any momentum.

I don’t think it’s lame that after the indulgence and excesses of the holiday season, we all take a moment to reset ourselves to a healthier baseline. I did ok in 2017. I ran 107 miles this year, usually in 5K increments. I did a very rigorous climb. I’ve kept pretty active. I eat a lot of healthy food, but I also eat a lot of unhealthy food. I’d like to make at least an incremental improvement on my health and fitness. We’ve talked about putting a treadmill in the abandoned basement laundry room (once it’s been moved to the 2nd floor). But I think I need to find a few more ways to sneak healthiness into my life.

A few people noted that I wasn’t in the Christmas Card picture we sent out. It’s true. And it’s kind of lame. I signed up for another round of digital photography classes, to refresh what I learned two years ago. I’d like to do a good job of documenting our life in photographs, since they mean a lot to me afterwards. And I want to make sure I’m *in* plenty of the pictures, however I think I look.

What are some of the things you’re looking to do in the coming year? What are you looking forward to?

More or Less

More happy memories
More happy memories

I, more or less, have the life I want to have. I am married to the right person. I have kids I really like. I have friends, hobbies and fun activities. I have a career that is well positioned for the present and future, and which I (usually) enjoy. I like my house. I’m somewhere between liking the way I look and being at peace with the way I look. I do meaningful things in my religious life, and in a more limited way in some volunteering activities. I would not want to make sweeping changes to my life in this new year.

But, as always, it is a time for reflection, readjustment and readiness.

The very biggest thing I would want to change, I have changed. I sincerely hope the new job waiting for me in January will be even a portion as well-suited to me as it seems from the interview stage. I believe this will have cascading effects on my energy, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, attention and other areas that have been lacking of late.

That one big one out of the way, here are my mores and lesses.

More: paper art. I have this huge collection of stamps and papers and brads and fun things. I believe that rubber stamping is somewhat waning as an “in” art, but I never did it because it was popular. And in truth, I could scrapbook and stamp for years without having fully utilized the complete extend of what I already own. I want to make and send cards. I want to scrapbook big events. I want to sit at my desk and feel creative.
Key constraint: time & attention. It requires 15-20 minutes where I have no supervision over my children whatsoever. The stamping stuff is, by necessity, physically distant from the main living space, so it requires intention to find myself doing this.
Next step: Clean off stamping area and make inviting.

Less: fussy meals. I’m a good cook. I cook several full big serious meals a week. I like to think that my children benefit from meals with real ingredients, and that I do too. But the prep, fighting over “yes you must take one bite” and cleanup afterwards consume a tremendous amount of my already limited discretionary time. Time spent chopping onions is time not spent playing Quirkle with Grey, reading Scooby Doo to Thane for the umpteenth time, or modelling that reading is a thing our family does by sitting on the couch and reading instead of making dinner. This one is a hard one because cooking good healthy meals is generally something one aspires to do more of. I still want to have that outcome, but somehow magically spend less time doing it.
Key constraint: Habit & preparation. I would need to identify “lower prep” meals and make it easier to make those meals – this would require test driving some more recipes. I need to quash my instinct to add “just one more thing” to the menu, which invariably makes the meal 15 minutes past what I wanted. And I need to not take this too far — this is a striving to moderation.
Next step: Perhaps a list of 30 minute or less recipes? Add a “Friday forage” night to the weekly menu? Challenge myself when I think, “Gee, I don’t have anything planned this afternoon, why don’t I make moussake” with a “Or I could make pork tenderloin and stamp three cards instead”.

More: reading & video games. Sometimes I feel like our lifestyle is a hot air balloon, and one by one I’ve dropped all the “fun but not really productive” activities like bags of sand off the side. Each choice was valid and necessary, but all work and no play makes Brenda cranky. I suspect that this feeling has a lot to do with the massive push that always happens to me in the last quarter of the year, with birthdays, Mocksgiving, Christmas, etc. and this is a somewhat self-correcting problem. Still, I want to feel as though it’s ok to waste time and goof off and not do something useful, and I think that I need that. The Economist recently had a series on video games, and talked about the ingrained human need for play. In an attempt to maintain altitude, I’ve tried to ignore my own need for play. That’s ok in short durations, but I do not think it is durable.
Key constraint: Time. Both of these are absorptive activities – this is an area where I have weak willpower to stop, which means I can be afraid to start. For me, opening a novel at 9 pm is a very bad idea, since long experience has taught me that the most likely outcome of that evening involves 1 am and a very cranky husband. This is also time I’ve used in the last year or two to be social (yay neighbors!) which is also a really important and valuable thing to my mental health.
Next step: Well, I just got a co-op game for XBox (my poor husband must be all like, “I thought this was MY present?!?!”). With the reading, I have yet to solve this problem. Audio books have helped a bit, but I’m not sure that’s the entire conclusion.

Less: clutter. Time, once again, to take a hard look at the objects that inhabit my living space and question their right to exist and take up the rays emitting from my eyes. Perhaps a few visually distracting areas can be redone to be more contained.
Key constraint: energy. Just looking around now, the last thing I want to do is to start tackling some of those rats nests, and it’s relatively early and I have tomorrow off. If not now, when?
Next step: Discrete periods of time. Saying to my husband, “Let’s take half an hour and go through the china cabinet” has proved an effective strategy in the past.

Other mores:
– Playing music
– Going to concerts or musical events
– Healthy and fun exercise (no longer mutually exclusive with video games!)
– Seeing friends I rarely see
– Do all my pt for my knee

Other lesses:
– Fewer empty calories
– Less conflict with my three year old (and I want a pony too!)
– I would love to in general be less rushed and less efficient… a little more leisurely and less hard on myself

So, what about you? What do you want less of in 2012? What do you want more of?

2004 Resolutions

Despite my deference to all of you who think that New Years resolutions are dumb, I have a pair. I do think that the new year — buffered as it is by time off — is a good time to consider what you have done with your life, and what you hope to be doing. In general, I’m pleased with my life. I love my husband more and more with each passing day. I actually really like my job (even though I’ll be working today, it’s at least my own call). I feel like I contribute to my world through my work at church. There’s nothing quite like feeling that I actually *do* have an impact on these kids, and that their experience of adolescence is different because I am here. I could be skinnier — but I’m not horribly obese. I have made concrete plans to do stuff I always wanted to do this year.

So my resolutions are small things, but things that have bothered me.

1) I hereby resolve to remember and celebrate the significant days of my friends and family with cards. I like sending cards. I like rubber stamping cards. I like staying in contact with the people I love. I have the organizational capacity to put these things all together. I will send people cards for their birthdays and anniversaries.

2) I hereby resolve to memorize one poem a month. Again, I have the capacity and the ability, I just need the determination and organization. I am planning, this weekend, to find the 12 poems I want to memorize for the year, and print them out, and put them in various places. I love having poetry memorized, and there is no reason I shouldn’t do mor eof it.

I have a vague recollection of a third resolution, but it must not be very important if I can’t remember it. And I don’t want to resolve to do stuff that I don’t find important to me.