Here are a few things I’m LOVING this year.
Time. After a prolonged season of financial strain and working several jobs to help with bills, this year I was able to tone down to just full-time motherhood and teaching at my beloved home school co-op. I do not regret the time I spent in network marketing (I hope to post more on that later). But the sweetest part of this year, by far, has been the ability to prioritize what is most important to me rather than just survival.
During summer break in grad school, I was at a study session at a friend’s house. She cut a lime in half, took a deep whiff, and said, “During the semester I had forgotten that I loved the smell of limes.” It’s things like these that make life the richest, and it’s these that are the first to fall when we’re under stress, right?
There are times in everyone’s lives when we have to buckle down, put the things we love on the back-burner, and do what’s necessary. During these times, one of my biggest coping mechanisms (a flawed one, to be sure) is to say, “I thought I needed those things, but now I’ve moved beyond needing them. I am mature enough not to need them.”
But as I’ve written before, these passions are gifts from God, keys to help me (or you!) enjoy the unique life I (or you!) have been given. I’m not so sure it was “mature” at all to abandon writing or reading or teaching. It helped me cope to think so, but hindsight is 20/20. Lesson learned: be careful to weigh why I’ve “moved beyond” certain things. Was it a true movement, or was it born of bitterness, or harsh necessity?
YNAB. On a completely practical note… This budgeting software feels almost like a game. Using it has motivated me to check our budget every day, reconcile our accounts every day, and give a job to every single dollar we make. (Plus, 10 minutes a day versus a daunting 2-hour session each week is a huge improvement.) It costs money to use, but its results are equivalent to having given ourselves a raise. I highly recommend it.
Grocery Budget Bootcamp. Speaking of giving ourselves a raise… I have our grocery budget down to an obscenely low amount. I shy from sharing specifics, but I can assure you that when you look at the size of my family, you would not believe my grocery budget. What’s more, it doesn’t involve couponing or growing my own food, AND it’s healthier than it was before. Yep, I’m bragging a little bit here, but not to toot my own horn: to toot this lady’s. Her online course Grocery Budget Bootcamp has already made me back triple what I paid to take it. (I took the Basic course because I am a cheapskate, if my mysterious grocery budget brag hasn’t made that clear enough).
And no, she didn’t pay me anything to make that endorsement. I’m not sure she knows I exist. But I strongly and passionately feel that her course has changed my life for the better just as much as Marie Kondo did, if not more.
Having my kids do chores. I read this article and started having my toddlers help around the house. THEY LOVE IT. They keep asking for more to do! Further, I love it. It’s so easy to fall into doing chores myself because it’s “easier” or “quicker.” But taking the time to have them help with dinner or laundry is well worth it for the connection, the help, and the way to occupy them without resorting to screen time.
Going outside a lot. I read this article and became very aware that my sedentary and bookish lifestyle keeps me from taking my kids outside as much as I should. And it’s so easy. Slap some sunscreen or Arbonne’s Detox Oil (read: the only bugspray that keeps mosquitoes away from our second-born) on the kids and they’re good to go… and all I have to do is sit and supervise, no Pinterest-mom stress necessary! It’s amazing how much they find to do out there.
Writing. Oh, writing. Such a deep sense of well-being comes from being able to create again. I’m working on my epic fantasy (just to tease you, I’ll say that just at the moment I’m researching medieval warfare, mushrooms, Morse Code, and tides–all for this book).
Throughout my dabbling in fiction, I’ve had no patience for focusing on anything but characters and their interactions. And that’s still the most fun part! But I finally took the time to focus on world building (thanks in large part to this excellent workbook by Janeen Ippolito), and it has completely revitalized my story. I’m SO EXCITED, but, novice that I am in the ways of marketing a work in progress, I am not sure exactly what to share about it yet except to say that it is based on biological rhythms and is heavily influenced by Brandon Sanderson.
THIS BLOG. During our sparse financial years, we focused on one thing: endurance. Hope and faith and encouraging each other were all part of that journey, but endurance was the key. I learned a lot, but I also did not have “leisure” to examine and improve other aspects of life. So I began this year sick of some long-term patterns in my life that had started off as indulgences but had become burdensome:
- Constantly comparing myself to others
- Assuming the role of victim of circumstances rather than using agency in my life
- A sense of melancholy about the fact that nothing ever lasts
- Smartphone addiction, even though I still didn’t like my phone
Midway through the year, they have all been dealt mighty blows. Not death blows, mind. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume that I’ll never struggle again. But I have to say that writing posts on this blog have been ways to work on some of these faults. My post about Mr. Rogers rooted up a lot of the pride of comparison and threw it in the burn pile. Lettie from The Greatest Showman inspired me to have agency in my own hurts and trials, but it was writing about it that solidified it into a mindset. My melancholy was slapped into shape when I wrote this post. My smartphone addiction began to fade when I wrote this post, and since writing this other post, I’m constantly forgetting where I put it and sometimes leaving it in my purse all day (SCORE!).
I had all these thoughts bouncing around in my head before starting a blog, but somehow putting them to public words makes them real. I have to own them. And so I thank you for bearing with me, because this blog has been extremely therapeutic. I hope you’ve benefited a little, too!