January 2017: A Look Ahead

Instead of doing a “year in review” for 2016, I decided to do a “look ahead” for the month of January.  I thought it might be fun (or scary) to lay things out for my month on the first day of each month and then do a check in at the end of the month and see whether my planning came to fruition or fell by the wayside.  There will be some affiliate links below.

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January is a relatively relaxing month for me.  Grades are in and I don’t start teaching again until the 23rd.  BUT, this year I am in the midst of a course redesign for one of my classes and I will be working through the final stages of that before implementing in the Spring.  But, I don’t have any teaching or grading to do, which is a great relief.

I have decided to do Stephanie O’Dea‘s calendar pages for my “homemaking“.  I only got a month to see how they work out, but I absolutely love the way they look and the motivational messages on each page for January.  I was using Motivated Moms calendar and it worked okay, but I like the fun and more motivating design of O’Dea’s.  So, we’ll see if I can keep up with it.

We are going to my in-law’s for a few days this next week and I plan to leave my laptop at home (!) and just deal with absolute emergency work things while I’m there (hopefully there are none).  I’m going to be focused on reading a book for a new book club I’m starting on January 10 (we are reading The Girl With All the Gifts).  I will also be reading Blogging For Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs in an effort to learn more about this blogging thing and take me to the next level, hopefully.

When we return, my DD heads back to school for a day, then we have to head to Stanford for a heart clinic appointment. We will also be starting a new activity for her – our local regional children’s theater!  She loved doing the school play and a couple of friends of hers are signed up for this production, so she is going to do it as well.  She will have a practice every Monday and Wednesday until the end of April for it so, it will mirror her rehearsals this Fall, but now she will have to be there EVERY day (for her school play she got quite a few days off while they worked with the bigger parts).  So, the Stanford trip will be a quick one.  We will leave after play practice on Monday, appointment on Tuesday morning and drive back so I can make the book club meeting that evening.  Wednesday of that week, I have a parents’ meeting for our Girl Scout troop because we are headed into cookie selling season (!), then a service unit meeting for Girl Scouts on Thursday.  That weekend, we may be traveling back down to my in-laws for another visit as my hubbie is going for a competitive shoot in Ojai and that Monday is a school holiday, so we can stay an extra day, but that is a crazy week right there.

The next week, I have a Girl Scout meeting with the girls where we will start our Money Manager badge.   That Saturday, there is a Digital Cookie Training session that my DD will probably go to for Girl Scouts.  Then…SPRING 2017 SEMESTER BEGINS!!!

My schedule this Spring is four days a week, but days mostly instead of two evenings/nights, which I think I will like much better.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach at my Community College regional center here in town (I had to commute 20 minutes to main campus in Fall, so this is a welcome relief as well) from 9 – 10:15 a.m. and then another class goes from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.  So, I think I will try to stay between the two classes and do prep and grading.  It is nice because I don’t have people coming by to talk to me there like I do at my full-time teaching office hours, so I can actually get quite a bit done.  So, I’m done teaching completely on Mondays and Wednesdays at 1:45 p.m.  On Tuesdays, I have office hours at my full-time, four-year University from 10:30 – Noon and then I teach two classes back-to-back from 12:30 – 3:15 p.m.  I then have a break when I can come home and actually eat dinner with my family before returning to teach my one night class at 7 p.m.  Thursdays, I’ve scheduled office hours from 9 – 12:30 p.m., I then teach until 3:15 p.m. and I’m done for the week!  I am really looking forward to this schedule.  I am hoping that with this schedule, we can have family dinners together at home every night.

The last weekend of January, I travel to St. Louis for a Speech and Debate competition.  I am gone Thursday night through Monday afternoon (I think) so, I will have to plan something for my students for that Monday.  And then Tuesday is the end of the first month of 2017.

So, yeah…that’s my relaxing January.  Now that I type it all out, it doesn’t seem all that relaxing.  But, I know that not having classes and grading makes a huge difference in my life, so it will be somewhat relaxing for me.

What’s your January looking like?

Be More Organized: I Make Piles

First off, I would like to warn you, do not do a Google search for “I make piles” without some additional term like “organizing” or “cleaning”.  Turns out, pile is another name for hemorrhoids.  Who knew?  But, now we all do.

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So, I’ll admit it.  I make piles.  Everywhere I go.  I have piles on my dining room table, piles on my bar area, piles in my garage and piles in my office at work.  My husband also makes piles.  My daughter is quickly learning to do the same.  In some ways, it feels like a little bit of organizing.  After all, stuff isn’t spread out all over the place.  It is in a nice, neat pile.  Well, okay, it is in a pile (not always so nice or neat).  But, at least it is in one place.  Sometimes I even put my piles in a basket.  Doesn’t that look nice?  The problem is, the piles seem to multiply.  Piles begat piles.  I ended up getting rid of our living room coffee table because it was just a magnet for piles.  We now have limited space to put our drinks or snacks, as I talked about in this earlier post.  But, the question I have to ask is, does that outweigh the fact that I don’t have as many piles in the living room now?  It is a difficult question to answer.  The problem is that I can’t get rid of every flat surface in our home, so at some point, I have to figure out how to control the piling.  Here are my top three ideas for getting out of the piling habit:

  1. Act immediately and make it quick.  We are a family of procrastinators as well as pilers.  When asked to do something, we will often say, “I’ll do it in just a second.” or “As soon as I finish this…”  The problem is that we often forget by the time we finish what we are doing or get the motivation to actually get up and do the task.  I often come in with mail and instead of just going through it right then and there and throwing 90% of it in recycling where it belongs, I will throw it on our dining room table.  There it sits.  Weeks later, it still sits.  And there are a number of piles around it and on top of it.  I have paid late fees because of this habit.  And it takes only a minute or two to actually go through it and figure out what needs action, what needs recycling.  I will also pile dirty dishes in the sink throughout the day.  It would take literally seconds to rinse the dish(es) and put it in the dishwasher, but instead, I choose to pile it.  At the end of the day, I have a daunting pile of dishes with crusted on food or sticky residue and it takes me a lot longer to get them rinsed and loaded.  If I were to just act immediately on something that needs to be done and then make it as quick as I possibly can (avoiding perfectionism, which sometimes gets in my way), I would have things DONE at the end of the day rather than piled up.
  2. Purge and purge more.  We are also a family with a lot of stuff.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are hoarders, but I have a whole walk-in closet full of scrapbooking stuff, my husband has a garage half full of competitive shooting and fishing supplies, my daughter has the other half of the garage full of books and toys.  We have many of those same things in the house.  We all have a lot of clothes.  I have a lot of pans and dishes and such.  I tend to have a lot of papers to grade for my classes (although I’ve tried to go as electronic as I can).  We have photos and trinkets and blankets and lots of food stuff.  When there is this much stuff, it can seem challenging to find a place for everything and put everything in its place.  I realize this.  I have been decluttering.  But, what I really need to do is purge and purge more.  So, what’s the difference between decluttering and purging?  Well, to me, decluttering is getting rid of stuff you don’t want anymore.  Stuff that isn’t useful or attractive.  And trust me, we had a lot of that type of stuff.  But, purging means getting rid of stuff even if you still want it, just to lower the volume of stuff that you have floating around your house.  That is what I need to do.  Because with a family like this, if we have a lot of stuff, we’re going to have a lot of piles.  I need to shift my perspective towards purging stuff that is NOT NEEDED.  Not just the stuff that is not wanted, but stuff that is not necessary to our day-to-day or month-to-month lives.  My daughter learned all about wants and needs in first grade last year and I need to live like a first grader in 2017.
  3. Embrace space.  As a communication professional, I often focus on the value of silence in all its awkward glory.  Silence creates space for people to think and sometimes for people to talk who otherwise would not get heard.  I need to think of surfaces like silence.  It will feel awkward at first.  It will draw our eye and we may feel the desire to make a pile since it isn’t being used for other things.  But, instead, we need to view it as a space to give us room to think and breathe.  We need to view it as a space to let things be noticed that otherwise would be lost in the chaos of piles.  A family photo.  A meaningful trinket with an important memory tied to it.  So much we own does not hold any of that value or meaning.  They are taking up valuable space and silencing what is really valuable and meaningful.

So, that’s it.  In 2017, I am going to focus on purging.  I used to do the Flylady system and some things have stuck with me despite me not really using her program anymore.  I still do things in 15 minute increments much of the time.  I think I’m going to go back to her 27 fling boogie each day.  Purging 27 things each and every day in 2017 would yield 9855 less things in our house.  Even if I take a week off here and there it will still make a significant difference in the volume of stuff in my home.

Here is to a 2017 with less piles and more smiles!

What’s for dinner? Trader Joe’s Edition

I followed through with making dinner tonight (one of my DO items for 2017, but getting an early start).  My daughter and I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up some premade burger patties for my husband to put on the smoker and I always taste test (and usually buy whatever it is).  Tonight, we seemingly hit the holy grail!  My daughter’s favorite soup is the black bean soup at Panera and they were serving their Latin Style Black Bean Soup with their precooked pork carnitas.  So, we bought the supplies for both the hamburgers and the soup and came home.  BTW, for hamburger patties (4), hamburger buns (8), pork carnitas and black bean soup, along with a bag of fuji apples – and a second bag to boot because there were a few bruised apples in it, so the cashier said he would have to damage it out anyways and we could just take them, SCORE! – it was only $26.  Not bad for two meals plus (we have a ton of leftovers from tonight).  I let my daughter decide which meal for tonight and she chose the soup.  I thought it was a little watery when we tasted it (I like thick black bean soup), so I added a can of black beans and a can of corn (both drained of liquid), heated up the carnitas in the microwave for three minutes and shredded it into the soup and heated it all up again in the microwave.  Total prep time, probably 10 minutes!  I took three of the hamburger buns (since we only have four patties for tomorrow) and made those into garlic bread and served them with the soup.  It was all very yummy, super easy and pretty cheap.

 

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Little box of magic

 

I do feel like if I went to Trader Joe’s every day just to do the taste test, I would be a better cook.  They always have super easy recipes and all the fixins right there.  Sometimes they are serving something I would never eat, but most of the time, it is tasty and somewhat healthy.

If you are interested in a few other recipes for the Black Bean Soup, you might want to try the following.  I probably will!

Black Bean Nacho Soup

Another one similar to mine

 

What would you ask of the wizard?

This weekend is my daughter’s stage debut in her school play, Wizard of Oz.  She has worked hard and although she doesn’t have any speaking parts (she is part of the Lullabye League, but they just pretend to sleep and snore), she sings a couple of songs and had two parts (Lullabye League and Flying Monkey) which required her to learn quite a bit of choreography and timing.  It has been fun to see her build confidence and was great to see her have a really good time last night.  Here are some photos:

It is a very cute production and her Principal has worked incredibly hard on it for the past few months.  It was a standing room only crowd last night and we have two more shows, one tonight and one tomorrow afternoon.  I don’t know if she will continue to love drama and performing, but it is a lot of fun while she does!

The production made me wonder what would I ask the Great and Powerful Oz for, given the chance?  What do I feel like I am most lacking in my life?  And am I really lacking that thing or, like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, have I had it all along and just didn’t know it?  It is a more difficult question than one might think.  We often answer questions like this very flippantly and without much thought.  “I would ask to be rich.”  or “I would ask to be younger.”  or some such thing.  But, thinking about the characters in the play, they ask for a heart to love others with, a brain to be able to understand and reason through things and courage to protect others and be a force of good.  But, Dorothy is who I most identify with.  I think I would wish for my home to feel more like a “home” in the emotional sense of the word.  A home that is happy and comfortable and warm and welcoming and full of joy.  A home where love prevails and everyone who enters can feel that presence.  Don’t get me wrong, our home isn’t lacking in love and we do have a good time at times, but the decor and the feel of our home is very much thrown together.  We don’t have many family photos on the walls.  Our furniture is mostly hand-me-down and not coordinated.  Our surfaces are often piled high with stuff.  It doesn’t always smell great because of the animals.  Our carpets are stained.  The paint has dulled over the years.  There are things that need to be repaired.  It just kind of reeks of temporariness even though we’ve been here for over seven years.

So, for 2017, I am going to choose the word “home” for my word of the year.  And I am really going to focus on “homemaking”.  Making a home that does all the things I listed above.  Making a home that I would happily click my heels together three times and go to any time I am stressed and tired and needing comfort.  Right now, I often want to click my heels to get away from my home!  I want that to change!

So, what about you?  What would you ask from the Great and Powerful Oz?

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