February 10 2017

The Importance of Family Dinners

The Importance of Family Dinners

If you have children, you most likely already know how important it is to eat dinner as a family. We did this almost every night when the kids were growing up. The kids were allowed to help get dinner on the table by helping whoever was cooking or by setting the table. We would let them help plan menus for the week and voice what they were “hungry” for. Each child of course had favorite meals. We would talk about how it wasn’t good to eat the same thing more than one day a week. How we should try to plan a variety of different meats or even some meatless meals throughout the week. Eating together as a family affords opportunities to bond and many teachable moments.

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January 12 2017

​SMART Goals 2017

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Ok, we have a new year and that means I need to bunch of new goals. I have been setting goals for years, but it seems I write them down, post them to the group that asks us to set the goals and then proceed o forget all about them until December when I dig them up and look them over to see if I have managed to actually, accidentally get any of them done. Usually, the only ones I got accomplished were the ones I would have done anyway because I certainly wasn’t deliberately trying o get any of my goals done. I decided that since I found this shiny new obsession called bullet journaling, that perhaps I would do well to really think about my goals before setting them this year and once they were recorded in my bullet journal I should actually try to actively get them done this year.

So I saw some folks in the bullet journal community talking about the importance of setting SMART Goals. So I, of course, Googled it and came up with lots of helpful websites and graphics. I decided I liked the looks of one of them so I saved it and tried to stick to what it said when it came to creating my goals this year. I will include the graphic in this post in case you want to see if the goals you have set for yourself are SMART Goals.

So, I won’t bore you by telling you what makes a smart goal because you can read them for yourself in the colorful graphic.
I split my goals into categories. I’m not sure why, but I’ve done this a few times before, so decided to stick to the established system this year because it seemed like a decent idea at the time.

FAMILY FUN GOALS:
1) Do a cabin weekend
2) April trip
3) Annual Hockey Trip for the kids’ birthdays

You are probably saying that these sound easy enough and you’d be right. I actually marked the first one off after New Year’s weekend because hubby and I decided the cabin was the way we wanted to celebrate the new year. (See my previous post and pictures of the cabin.) We already have the April trip planned because we planned it during our trip last April. The hockey trip is a matter of hubby and the two grown kids settling on a NY Rangers game that fits everyone’s schedule and is somewhere in the midwest. We actually did the 2015 trip in March 2016 and the 2016 trip in November 2016 because that was the way it worked out with the NHL hockey season schedule.

FITNESS GOALS:
1) Get 6 hours of sleep a night
2) Drink 6 cups of water a day
3) Continue using MyFitnessPal app

None of these is easy for me. I usually drink only water after work, but almost never drink water earlier in the day because I need my caffeine fix and so I drink my unsweetened iced tea instead. Yes, someday I will need to break the caffeine addiction, but this is not the year for that goal. I log into MyFitnessPal daily when I am at home, if nothing else, to record my weight each day. I am trying to do better about recording what I eat and drink in the app because I know when I do so regularly and stay within the caloric recommendations, I can lose weight. The sleep thing I have been trying to do better about since before I had kids (25 years ago) and it just isn’t happening, but I continue to try.

HOUSE GOALS:
1) Clean out my home office
2) Declutter the landing
3) Declutter my clothes

My office is an eight-foot square that was, in a former life, a breakfast nook. It has a built in china cabinet, an L-shaped desk, half of which has a hutch attached to it, three file cabinets with six drawers of files and four drawers of assorted junk between them and my desk has one of those long drawers for pens and such too. I am very good at cramming a lot of stuff in a small amount of space, unfortunately. Most of the stuff is just there at this point and needs to be gone through, sorted and decluttered. The clothing can always use a good culling. The landing is full of furniture waiting for the master bedroom to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs out. Seriously lofty, those goals!

PERSONAL GOALS:
1) Do some genealogy
2) Take three writing classes 
3) Read for thirty minutes a day

I was looking at the website just yesterday to see what classes are being offered at the local writers center. Reading is not hard, but I don’t always make time for it every day and I really should. I used to do genealogy all the time, it was my passion from the time I was in fifth grade until I started working full-time over ten years ago. I miss it, I can’t remember where I left off so jumping back into it might be difficult.

SPIRITUAL/CHARITY GOALS:
1) Pray daily
2) Read 15 inspirational fiction books
3) Crochet 26 hats to donate to charity (12 of 26 done)

Ok, so I already pray daily, but perhaps I should expand my prayer list a bit. I prefer to read inspirational fiction but want to make sure I am reading mostly in this genre. I attend three crochet/knit meetings a month where I can usually get an entire hat crocheted, but I don’t always get to attend the meetings and don’t always finish a hat at each meeting. I have already completed four hats this year toward the goal. Hats are my thing, I rarely deviate from the one hat pattern. Carpel tunnel could be a serious issue in achieving this goal.

WRITING GOALS:
1) Finish one of my previous NaNoWriMo novels
2) Publish something
3) Participate in NaNoWriMo (and hopefully win again)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I LOVE NaNoWriMo! I have participated and won for the past four years. I have four unfinished manuscripts (just over 50k words each) to show for my efforts along with one Camp NaNoWriMo unfinished manuscript (just over 30k words) and a non-fiction book as yet unfinished. Thus, goal number one. Once that is completed, it would be nice to actually publish one of those six books. That goal could also mean writing and publishing a short story or article of some kind. Come November, I will be writing another 50,000 words on some new project.

So those are my 2017 goals for what it’s worth. The thing I’m not good at it checking in on those goals occasionally and planning to make sure they get accomplished. If you have any tips or tricks for how to actually get yourself to accomplish the goals, please contact me by email or leave a comment.

January 5 2017

Weekend Getaway

So, the hubby and I did something really cool this year over New Year’s weekend. We decided we wanted to get away from the city and we went to a cabin for the long weekend with no television, no WiFi, and sketchy cell coverage. It was great!
We ate at the local Pizza King on the way into town Friday night. It was the only thing open besides maybe a bar or two. Even the grocery store was closed already and it wasn’t nine o’clock yet. We brought a bit of food from home, but would need to visit the grocery store once it reopened on Saturday.
The cabin came equipped with two twin beds, a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper, but you must bring your own sheets and blankets. It also has a coffee maker and filters, a two-slice toaster, a microwave, as well as a full-sized stove and refrigerator. Hey even supply the basic pots and pans, but you must bring your own food, drinks, plates, silverware and cooking utensils. We usually bring an electric teapot and at least a cookie sheet. When we grocery shop, we try to buy things that don’t require much in the way of seasoning or condiments so we don’t need to buy all that stuff and haul it back home or throw it out.
Now you might be asking why we would want to get away only to have to cook our own meals, and have nothing to entertain ourselves with. Well, the biggest reason is to get away from the stress of work and the idea that if we are home for the long weekend, we should be working on unfinished home improvement projects. So hubby and I have been to these particular cabins numerous times over the years so we know what we are getting into and how to pack for the trip. We keep plastic tubs stocked with the bedding needed for all the beds at the cabin, so when the time comes we just grab the tub and load it in the car. We have in years past, when the kids were much younger, brought along portable DVD player and several movies they wanted to watch. The problem with that is the screen was barely big enough for one person to watch at any given time. We both brought along our laptops, hubby so he could play games that didn’t require internet and me so I could write, though I barely go mine out and did no writing. Hubby brought along two Christmas themed jigsaw puzzles that have been in the family and traditionally get worked almost every year. We worked one on Saturday night, then hubby put it away before breakfast on Sunday morning. We, of course, brought a few books and magazines to read. I brought along my crochet basket and managed to get three hats made. I also took my bullet journal stuff so I could work on the spreads for the new year. We thought we might go hiking but never got around to it. It was very relaxing, nothing planned except make simple food when we got hungry. It was very quiet, nobody visiting, no extra people around to keep us from some much-needed rest. This is the first time we have gone to this particular park without at least our two kids, who are now adults, along for the fun. It was very different this time, but in a good way. I could see a bunch of writers getting together and renting one or more cabins for a weekend to just write. It would take some planning and cooperation if six writers were to all stay in one cabin, but it could really be fun. So, if you need a chance to just get a way and have never been to a state park cabin for a weekend, you really should give it a try.
Note: The photos below were taken at Whitewater Memorial Park in Liberty, Indiana.
 
December 18 2016

​When you can’t find time to write…

Make a writing date with someone else who needs to write, go to Panera or some other writing-friendly place that doesn’t mind if you hang out for a couple of hours. Take out your notebook and pen, laptop, tablet or whatever your writing tools of choice are and do word sprints together. Mix it up, start with some short 5-10 minute sprints then do a longer one, maybe 25 minutes. Have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is writing and editing an entire blog post, or writing your holiday newsletter, or a short story or article.
Have a goal and set aside some time to write with other writers. Make it a regular writing date.
We started a group after NaNo last year and we meet every Thursday night at a Panera (we rotate amongst a few local ones on an odd schedule) and we write. I get my dinner and eat it then I won’t let myself eat the 99 cent pastry I always let them talk me into until I have written at least 500 words for the night. Some Thursdays we have just 1 or 2 of us, sometimes we have as many as 8. It is sad when I am the only one to show up, but I have made the comittment to show up and write and I just do the writing sprints anyway, then maybe during the breaks between sprints, I grab a drink refill or read some in whatever book I am currently reading. When we have more people, we can chat and catch up between sprints, but during those sprints we write.
Our Thursday Nights Writing @ Panera Group has a closed Facebook group page just for us where we can post the events, let each other know which of several Paneras we are meeting at that week and also post who is going to be able to get there and who will be elsewhere that week.
Being part of the Thursday writers group has made all the difference in making me into a year-round writer instead of a November only writer. If you don’t have local friends, make a virtual date and meet via Skype, or Google Hangouts or FaceTime or whatever. Hold each other accountable, show up and write. It works. For me, writing is a group thing. I used to get really down after November because all the hype of NaNoWriMo was over and I needed that energy to write, having a regular writing date each week has made me keep writing in my life throughout the year. Make no mistake, I don’t write with the frenzy or frequency during the rest of the year that I write during November, but the meetings of fellow writers once a week means that no matter what else is going on in my life during the week, on Thursday, I will take the time to write.
Basically, everyone has time to write if they want to write. You may easily find excuses as to why you have no time, but they are just that…excuses. I have dragged my computer to work with me in November and written while I ate lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. Give an honest look at how you send your time. Do you watch tv? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube or Twitter? Do you check your emails. Chat on the phone, text back and forth with friends? Read the newspaper, magazines or books? You can choose to do these things or you can choose to write. Not writing is a choice you have been making, I guarantee if you REALLY want to write, you will find a way to do so just like you find a way to do other things you want to do. If you have to, carry a notebook and pen with you into the bathroom and multi-task for 10 minutes a day. Ok, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone there. My point is you CAN find time to write, you just have to want to write.
The real question here is, what are you willing to give up or cut back on to MAKE time to write? Think of all the time you would have to write if you gave up making excuses and just do it!  
December 15 2016

Where is my Christmas Spirit?

I am normally very into Christmas. I used to enjoy the whole picking the perfect gift for each person on my list thing. But lately, my Christmas gift list just seems too long. I feel obligated to buy for everyone on the list and that turns it into a chore. The truth is, I rarely spend much time with any of the people on our gift list, so I don’t really know what the perfect gift for each of them would be any more. I’m not sure when this happened. Perhaps it was when the nieces and nephews began growing into adults and bringing dates to family gatherings. Then they get married or move in with their significant others. Sometime they married into ready-made families and the gift list grew exponentially. At any rate, it is somewhat overwhelming.
I love the way my sisters and I handle the holidays. We get together sometime near the holiday, well within a month of it usually. We each bring a wrapped gift valued at about ten dollars. The gift can be anything, but preferably some of them will be suitable for the men or teens and not just to one particular person. Sometimes we get a lot of gift cards, though they are wrapped creatively so it isn’t always obvious that is what is inside the wrapping. 
Once everyone is gathered in the designated location and the wrapped gifts are on the table, someone figures out how many of us there are and makes little slips of paper with that many numbers and folds each number up so they all look the same and puts them into a bowl. Someone volunteers to go around and have everyone select a folded slip of paper. The person who draws number one goes first. Number one gets to pick from all the wrapped gifts and open the gift they choose. They hold it up and show everyone. Number two then has the option to choose a wrapped gift from the table or take the gift from number one. This goes on until everyone has had a turn. When the numbers have all had their turn, anyone who had a gift taken from them gets to pick another one from the table and open it. If this happened a lot, they re-pick in the same order they picked in the first time around. When everyone has an unwrapped gift and the table is empty, number one gets the chance to take the gift from anyone else, and that person essentially ends up trading gifts with number one. After that is all over usually folks start asking others if they want to trade gifts. 
Sometimes the gifts are great, other times the gift is destined to become a white elephant gift offering or go into the donation bag. It doesn’t take hours like it does when a big family gets gifts for each and every other member and the group must sit around taking turns opening gifts so everyone can see every gift each person received. The point is spending time together and having fun, our little “Dirty Santa” game is how we have turned the holiday and a bunch of family members on very tight budgets into a fun and memorable experience. Sometimes, we learn a lot about each other by seeing what sort of gift each person contributes to the game. Some choose to bring a gift they would love to go home with themselves, sometimes it is more of a gag gift. Sometimes it is something edible like candy and the person opens it and passes it around to share with the group. We used to have separate groups for the kids and adults. Then the kids started growing to adulthood and wanted to be in the grown up group. We have a lot of fun and everyone seems to be relieved that they only need to come up with one gift per person in their own family unit. Sometimes, the person gets a great deal on a gift worth ten dollars and other times the person spends ten dollars on a gift worth much more. It doesn’t really matter. The gifts are just a fun way to get every one together in the same room to spend time together. 
I sometimes wish we could do this for the other side of the family too. There are just so many people and many of them are on tight budgets too. There are a few options, we can give a family gift, but that is difficult too as the kids are getting older. My family used to draw names about a month before the holiday, this used to be easy if we were all together for the Thanksgiving holiday as we could draw names then. We gave this up eventually because it didn’t really allow us to invite others to join us. I rarely managed to draw the name of the person I had found the perfect gift for, so that was a bit of a downer. 
All of this is to say that this year for whatever reason, I am having trouble getting into the Christmas mood. It has helped some to listen to Christmas music. It also helps when hubby is willing to help with the shopping and not just leave it all up to me to figure out. Of course it is too soon to talk about what sorts of gifts we chose for the various family members. You never know who might actually be reading this blog post. I keep thinking that eventually the mood will hit me and hopefully when it does it won’t be after the holiday season has ended and the new year has descended upon us.
So, what family holiday traditions do you have? Are you in the Christmas mood this year? Do you have any advice to share on what a body can do to enjoy the holiday season more and dread the gift shopping less? Any hints you can gift would be greatly appreciated.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!