Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dreaming of Spring

I thought I would start this post with some scenes of summer to help us all through this yucky winter.  We've had storm after storm here, which has taken away all the novelty of snow.  It also makes me realize that I need better boots, but that's neither here nor there.  We haven't played in the snow because in addition to the snow, it's been very VERY cold, and not fun to go out in.  We are warm weather people.

The other thing that gets me through the end of winter is my 40 Days, 40 Bags house clean out.  When its done, it's wonderful to throw open the (clean) windows and let the sun in.  I started doing it in 2012, when I first discovered the blog Clover Lane.  It was very helpful before a move, and now that we are settled in a house, it keeps things under control.  We have no idea how we ever fit this stuff in an apartment.  Last year, I did some of the challenge, but I was dealing with health challenges and school.  This spring, I do not have as stressful as a semester, and hopefully I'll remain healthy.  

What is 40 Days 40 Bags?  Well, it takes place over the course of Lent (hence the 40 actually gives you Sundays off), and the goal is to evaluate and clean your house, freeing your mind up for higher pursuits.  Rather than giving something up, which doesn't have an impact on me, I choose to prepare myself for spring and Easter.  

Step One: Divide your house / life / dorm / apartment into 40 parts.  Include your car, computer, garage, and even your office at work.  I will post my 2014 list soon, but you can see the older posts under the word cloud.  

Step Two: In each area, take EVERYTHING out.  Clean, repair, evaluate.  Try all your clothing on.  Clean everything (even the inside of your drawers), and decide what stays, what goes, and what gets donated.  Sarah at Clover Lane suggests having certain supplies on hand, such as black trash bags, paper towels, and Magic Erasers.  Be sure to touch everything.  Stop putting those decisions off.

Step Three: Put everything back.  This can sometimes be the most difficult part.  When I clean out my craft closet, I have to detangle everything and then figure out what is the best way to keep it all in order.  Clothing is easier.  The kitchen is near impossible.  

By Easter, you'll have deep cleaned the entire space you dedicated to looking at.  It's a great feeling. 

Spring can't come soon enough!

- M.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Things.

I love to make lists.  I enjoy crossing things off, then throwing the list away.  It's very gratifying.  However, I tend to make lists that never get thrown out, because they are overwhelming and half of the things never get done.

I picked up a trick from Real Simple wherein you limit yourself to a to-do list of so many items, usually 5 - 7.  According to them, anymore than that is rather ambitious.

For example, my list today was as follows:

1. Grocery shopping
2. Workout (angry eyes kept me from this in a trade-off for self-care)
3. Read "Tales from Facebook" (I read at bedtime)
4. Read "The Irish-Americans" (see above)
5. Crochet (just after I finish this post!)
6. COMM 150 syllabus

I use a Moleskin weekly / daily planner.  On one side, it has the days of the week, broken into two sections M-F, and the other side is just lined paper.  In the back, there are about 5 pages of lined paper as well, for long-term lists.  I use those pages to write out my 40 Days, 40 Bags goals, research projects, and crochet to-do lists.  I've used this planner for about 5 years, and I don't plan on switching anytime soon.

How do you keep the to-do's straight?  What methods do you use to keep productive?

- M.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lean and Mean in 2014.

Our word of the year: Simple.  Streamlining things always makes me happy, so that should help make the year a success.

Goals for 2014:

1. Continue working on a healthier lifestyle: Despite some health problems (eyes!), I have been exercising more and being more conscious of what goes in my body.  That said, I need to double my efforts and see some results.  I want to be back in shape before I even consider having a second child (which won't happen until at least 2016, so I have some time to enjoy being in shape).  I already put together a school schedule that allows me to go to the gym twice a week, and I got a ballet fitness video for Christmas!  I started taking dance in the summer, and I was able to start teaching dance in September. This equals out to about 12 hours of dance a week. I've slimmed down, and I've continued putting good things in my body to make it work well!

2. Complete 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge: I did a half-hearted version of this, but February and March were very challenging months.  The first thing to go was the 40 Days challenge, which takes place over Lent.  It's a way to purge and cleanse your life before Easter.  It's my annual Lenten challenge, rather than trying to give up something.  I'll post more about this closer to Lent.

3. Potty train Elliott: I was hoping to do this over Christmas, but he is simply not ready.  I'm hoping to start over Spring Break.  He'll be 3 in July, but I know boys can be more challenging to train than girls. This happened...sort of. It didn't take long to potty train him with pee. We really went crazy with small rewards (M&M for each successful trip) and even our parents helped by getting him some rewards. However, we are still not night trained or able to go #2. So, the work continues.

4. Budget better and start saving for a Disney trip: I could budget better, simply put. I want to find a better way to make our food budget stretch further too.  Since I'm not working full time (yet), I will use pocket change to save for our Disney trip, which we are hoping to take in two years.  Once I get a better job, I will also (finally) start a future fund for E (money for college, trade school, what-have-you). Nope. Didn't happen. See #5.

5. Get a job that is fulfilling and helps pay the bills: My assistantship ends in May, so I need to get a job that begins in June.  I need some specific work experience, but with my education, I'm hoping to double our household income. This will make 4 easier too! Tried as I might, I did not find a full time job after May. It has been a frustrating experience, which might also account for my lack of posts. I know 2015 has to be better on this front.

6. Organize the house more effectively: We organized some things this year that made life oddly easier.  I would like to extend that throughout the house.  I hate looking high and low for things that should just have a spot.  Once I've purged in step 2, I want to make it easier to find the things we keep (the things that matter). Still working on this, but we made strides. 

7. Complete a rough draft of at least four dissertation chapters: I want to graduate in 2016, so I need to stay on track with writing.  I have the beginnings of a few chapters, so I should continue making progress through the year. Yes! I completed a final draft of my chapter on crosswords and rough drafts of my Disney chapters (2), the Olympics, and my introduction. 

8. Finish coursework and maintain GPA: I should finish coursework in May, and I'm already registered, so this should be the easiest goal on the list. Yay! I maintained my 4.0, finished coursework on time, and I passed my comps in October with flying colors. This is what I am most proud of this year. 

It's an attitude adjustment. My other mantra should be "live intentionally." I want to pay better attention to what goes in my body (thanks MyFitnessPal!), where my money goes (, and what happens to my time.  I need to think long-term, worry about myself and my family, and less about what others think.  Elliott will probably start pre-school, I'll probably start a new job.  It's going to be a big year!

- M.