#ONEWORD2016

Amazing what can happen when I choose to spend time in my art studio! Made this one this morning at, you guessed it, 5am.
Amazing what can happen when I choose to spend time in my art studio! Made this one this morning at, you guessed it, 5am.

I’m sure you’ve heard about #oneword by now, right? It’s been around for a while. The gist is you choose one word at the beginning of the year and use that word to improve yourself throughout the course of that year. I’ve attempted it in the past. Multiple times. I came up with a word, wrote it somewhere, and then hoped for the best. If I remember correctly, past words of mine were Simplicity, Enough, and I think even Change. Except that I haven’t.

Changed, that is.

I keep repeating the same years, over and over and over again. I mean, sure, some things change. The kids keep getting bigger, after all. But this rut that I’ve gotten into has just not gone away. It’s exhausting being this stuck and constantly spinning my wheels but getting nowhere. But, I had an epiphany.

I haven’t changed because I haven’t done anything differently. 

I know, right? It’s like, whoa, that’s some deep stuff! Seriously, though, I have been waiting for changes to happen instead of actually doing the things that need to get done to see some changes. (Duh.)

I know it sounds ridiculous, just waiting for change. In fact, I KNOW it’s ridiculous. I’ve been living it, for crying out loud! But I think many (most?) of us are waiting for the next thing before we decide we’ll make a change. The next season. The next event. The next house. The next job. The next {fill in the blank}.

But change ain’t gonna happen if we just sit back and wait for it. Trust me, I know. My years keep ticking by… If you want something different for yourself, you have to DO something to get there. You want to have better health? Reading all the health blogs in the world won’t get you there. You have to DO something, like eat better and exercise. You want to get out of debt? Reading all of Dave Ramsey’s books, while inspiring, won’t make it happen unless you DO what he tells you to do in those books. You want a cleaner house? Buying all the fancy supplies and setting up schedules won’t work unless you DO the things it says to do on those scheduled days.

You want a better life for yourself? You have to DO something for it. (Amazing concept, isn’t it?)

In order to DO something, you have to know your options. You have to know what it is that will get you where you want to be. And then you have to decide to do it. This is the trickiest part for me. See, I’m awesome at researching options. I can research the heck out of things, and then overthink them, and then get overwhelmed, and then freeze. A dear, smart friend calls this “analysis paralysis”, and I totally have that. To. A. Tee. So, how do I change?

I have to make a choice.

A-ha! And there is it. That’s my word of 2016. Choice.

I have been a perpetual decision-deferrer. (Is that a thing?) I have no opinion about anything, or so it would seem, and I constantly avoid decision-making. I’m not sure if over the years I thought it would be better, maybe more peaceful, to just let the other person decide? You know, so they’re happy? I dunno. But I’ve gotten worse and worse at making choices. (Unfortunately, that’s rubbing off on my kids which is annoying the heck out of me, so we must remedy this problem post-haste.) On the other end of the spectrum, because I’m a researchaholic, I tend to give myself way too many options when needing to make a choice, and then I can’t decide what to do or how to start so I just don’t. I do nothing. Add a lack of DO-ing to the lack of decision-making and it’s a recipe for perpetual sameness, folks.

I read an article (researching again, surprise!) about strong women and things they do and don’t do. (I’d post a link but I can’t remember where I saw it…. sorry about that.) One of the items in the article that stuck out to me is they do not apologize for making decisions. They make decisions and stick with them because they know what’s best for themselves. They don’t doubt themselves. They don’t question themselves or their actions. Decisions are a sign of strength and are powerful.

Choice: The opportunity or power to make a decision.

So, that’s where I’m going to start this year. I’m going to consciously make choices about what I do each day. I can choose to be lazy (default setting) or be active. I can choose to be the same day in and day out or to change. I can choose to DO or not. Either way, it’s a choice. My “choosing” perspective has already helped! I chose to get up at 5am this morning, for example, because I know I have better days when I take time for myself first. I chose to clean the house today instead of letting it go just “one more day” because it really needed to get done. I chose to start meal planning again because I know that’s the only way we will eat better as a family. Could I chose to sleep in and then be cranky and unproductive? Of course! Could I choose to continue to live in a less-than-kept house and cringe when others visit? Sure. Could I choose to just wing it with our food and struggle daily with what to eat? Yep.

Could I choose to stay the same, repeat another year, and end up in the same place yet again? Yes.

But I don’t want to.

Choice. One small word. One world of difference.

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#5amclub

It’s been about a week since I started myself on a 5am Club routine. And you know what? It’s been remarkably easy for me.

This makes no sense in my head because I reeeeaaaallllyyyyy like sleep. You know those people who need very little rest and have an “I’ll get plenty of sleep when I’m dead” attitude? That’s the opposite of me. If I could stay in bed for 10 or 12 hours, that would be heaven. Maybe it’s because that’s the only break I have in my day, but bedtime is definitely my favorite time. Well, after wine time, of course.

So, what gives? Why have I not struggled at all since I started? How have I managed to wake up and even get out of bed before my alarm a few times? (I admit, starting this during the weekend of the time change was genius. Accidental genius, but genius nonetheless! )

First of all, I’ve still been getting plenty of sleep. I’ve been in bed by 9pm most nights, and I’ve been falling asleep pretty much immediately. (I am NOT a night owl. Once the sun goes down, I’m ready to go down as well.) In fact, I’ve learned that 8 hours of sleep must be my sweet spot because on the two nights where I was so exhausted that I went to bed by 8:30, I was awake on my own by 4:30 and ready to start the day. Of course, if I start having interrupted sleep from small people in my house, I’m sure I won’t be nearly as rested… but so far that hasn’t been the case. *knock on wood*

The main reason I’ve been excited to start my day at 5am? Peace and quiet. I’ve been getting up and having time all to myself. I don’t have that during “normal” hours. My kids are up early, and Hubby comes home when they’re getting ready for bed, so I never have time just for me. Yes, there have been occasional hours here and there where the kids are outside playing and I’m technically “alone”, but those times are filled with laundry or dishes or cooking or cleaning or guilt about all the other things I should be doing. So daytime hours are not mine.

But at 5am, I’m alone. It’s dark and it’s quiet. The day hasn’t started. There is nothing that I have to be doing for the kids or the husband or the house. (Well, I have to let Daisy out, but I can handle that.) I have time to just focus on me. So, what have I been doing during my 60+ minutes of solitude before others wake up?

First I have my big glass of water. I started this habit in January, and I’m quite proud that I’ve managed to keep it up. I drink at least 16oz of water with lemon oil, supplements and such before I let myself have coffee. Did you catch that? Before I let myself have coffee. I put a major consequence in there for waiting too long on the water in the morning. Talk about motivation!

After that, I stretch a little. I’ve been trying to do some of the basic stretches I learned in my yoga class. I love yoga, yet somehow managed to stop going right when I was getting decent at some of the poses. Do you know what happens when you stop going to yoga and then later try to stretch at home? You realize that you’re getting old, stiff, and make weird cracking noises. Sigh. I also started to do push ups after I stretch a little. I do five “good” push ups for now. And hey, five is way better than none, right? (Baby steps, people!) It’s a huge bummer for me to only be at five because, back in the day, I was strong. (That’s one of the things I plan to will work on for myself, but that’s another post….) For now, five it is, and I’ll work my way back up. Gotta start somewhere, right?

After that I bring my well-earned cup of coffee down to my art studio in the basement. No, I’m not back in touch with my inner artist – yet. I go down there to read my Bible. It’s the only room in the house that’s my own, has decent lighting, and doesn’t squeak when I walk. Spending a good 30+ minutes reading the Word and journaling about it gets my day going in the right direction, and I could use all the help I can get. I’m working through Proverbs now because I wasn’t sure what else to do. I do a chapter each morning. (For those of you who don’t know, there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so a chapter a day works for a month-long study.)

Ultimately I’d like to add more during this amazing time that I’ve made for myself. I’d like to run again (when it’s warm). I’d like to pick up a paintbrush again. I’d like to write more. But for now, I’ll stick with my baby steps of stretching, push ups, and reading. Once my habit is securely set, then I’ll start tweaking.

Until then, it’s early to bed for me!

And yay for those of you who are up with me! YOU are part of the reason I get my booty up – I know I need to put my wake-up post on my Facebook page! So thank you!

 

Nearly a Year

This post has changed dramatically within the last few hours. Let me explain…..

When I woke up this morning, I was a grump. My back hurt because we need a new mattress. I’ve been staying up too late and staying in bed too long which adds to the grumpiness. Technology hated me this morning, which did not help the situation. And today is my one year anniversary from starting this blog. (My first post wasn’t for another month, but the blog address itself was born one year ago today.) You know what? That made me even grumpier.

Why?

Because I decided to go back and read my first few posts. And as I read them, I realized nothing had changed. I mean, some things changed, like homeschooling, for example. But as a whole for myself, nothing changed. My mental state is the same. My attitude and issues are the same. My blocks that keep me from moving forward and making any significant changes are the same. The same. The same. THE SAME.

So, what did I DO for a whole year!? I mean, how could I have made zero progress? Don’t get me wrong, there were some baby steps in there, but nothing stuck. My cleaning routine for my house went well for a month, then we all got sick and I stopped. My No Excuses July was the best month I’ve had in a long time because I was doing something for me, but then July ended and I stopped. August rolled around and I was back to being sick of myself, so I stopped posting because the whining going on in my head was unbearable and I did not want to have to put you guys through it. Again. So I stopped posting.

I stopped moving forward. But do you know what didn’t stop?

The excuses.

Oh, we all got sick and I got out of my routine, so I’ll just try again another time.

I rocked July, but hey, now it’s August 1st, so it’s ok for me to take a short break. I’ll start running again next week.

I have a great blog idea, but I just don’t have the time right now with homeschooling, so I’ll just do it later.

Another time. Next week. Later. Someday. Next month. Monday.

These words are the bane of my existence. I always rationalize that I will start some other time. I even do it in the morning…. Oh, look, it’s 6:24. Might as well wait til 6:30 to get up.

My issues are insane.

So, my originally planned blog post this morning was all that stuff above. It was me beating myself up again about the lack of change and the regrets of doing nothing to “fix me” and on and on and on. I’m quite certain there were some witty quips in there as well, but I forgot to write them down and they’ve since left my brain.

So, what changed?

I sat down to do our budget for next month before I started writing and found out that an extra paycheck this month will help with paying down some of the debt that we’ve had forever. Progress! I took a look at my oil business and noticed that we have officially surpassed our best month in the short time I’ve been working it. Huh, more progress! Small little changes have been working in some areas, but I’ve just chosen not to see them and instead have focused almost completely on my (internal, made-up) problems. I’ve kept telling myself that I’ll never change, or I’ll never get out of this rut, or I’ll never be able to pay off the debt or build another successful business….. But you know what? That isn’t true. Those small successes with the debt and the business were enough to change my whole attitude around in a very short time. So, if I can do it there, what’s to stop me from making the changes to improve my household and my health? To improve my relationship with my family? To improve my relationship with me? So, what’s stopping me?

I am. Plain and simple. I’m allowing excuses to run every aspect of my life, and then I’m feeling sorry for myself and allowing myself to wallow in my pity-party-woe-is-me hole. I’m allowing all my negative self-talk to win every time. I know I can beat it – I did it in July for crying out loud! – so, why not now?

But see, that’s the key. Now. Not Monday. Not next month. Not tomorrow. Not later.

NOW.

Now is when I need to (re)start. Now is the only way I will be able to look back a year from today and see significant changes instead of feeling regret of another year of the same crap all over again. Now is the time, but this is a two part issue. Now sounds good, but it can’t be for just a week or just a month. If I put a time limit on it, I have a bad habit of stopping just when things are on a roll. I need to start now and continue until the changes are made. Until the habits are set.

So, then the question becomes…. How?

Again, my mind automatically goes through all the reasons why now isn’t convenient. Now is too hard, too cold, too whatever. (It’s really, really hard to argue with your own mind and win, especially when your mind has won the arguments 99.9% of the time in the past.) So, how do I win this argument? How do I make this time different? Thankfully, this past weekend gave me the answer.

Do it.

That’s all. I have to just do it instead of thinking about it. Oh, I should probably clean the bathroom but…. Nope. Just do it. I really should reach out to so-and-so but….. No. Do it. I have to really get serious about setting up schedules in this house, maybe later….. Do it. Do it now!

You will never get it done if you are always going to start tomorrow – unknown

I think the only way I will succeed at anything I want to do is to not give me the opportunity to argue with myself. If there is no time to rationalize or justify excuses – or even come up with excuses – things will get done. So that’s my new mantra starting now.

Do it.

(In fact, that’s how this post managed to be written.)

So, here’s to new beginnings! Not next year or even next month. Now.

Why we are choosing to homeschool

A recent entry in my art journal. This quote hit home, but I cannot remember where I originally read it.
A recent entry in my art journal.

Today is the big day! It’s the first day of school for the kids in our area! There will be a collective shout of joy from many moms and maybe a few misty eyes from others. But all in all, starting today, the kids will be busy at school.

Well, except for mine.

By far, the biggest question we get asked when we tell people we’ll be homeschooling this fall is “Why?”, followed by looks of pity that scream why in the world would you want to do that?!?! (Just kidding. Sort of.) And no, there were no issues at school. No bullies, and her grades were great. It has nothing to do with the enrichment program dissolving or the high school closing, although that did build our confidence that this is the right choice for us. And no, we’re not doing it to “stick it to the system”. (Vive la révolution!) We’re not doing it because we think we’re better or because we think we’re smarter. We don’t think your kids will suffer and ours will excel. The short answer is we’re doing it because we believe this path is currently the right one for our family.

I’m the first to admit that this seems to be an odd path for us, mainly because we moved into this area a number of years ago specifically for the schools. (Go figure.) I mean, just about a year and a half ago, I was counting down until Pumpkin would be starting kindergarten full-time. So, what gives? Why in the world have we decided to start this new adventure and take on not only raising (which is exhausting enough), but educating our kids as well?

(I almost did not publish this post. I can’t write it without sounding like my choice is best, because for our family, it is. But by writing about why I believe our choice is best for us and our circumstances, it’s going to be read that any other choices are less than the best. That is not at all what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to tell you that homeschooling is the best for your kids, because it may not be. Remember, this post is not about you and your kids, it’s about me and mine. Ok?) 

Family Time

While this list isn’t really in any sort of order, family time is by far the most important reason we are choosing to homeschool. Hubby’s schedule is such that, during the school year, he rarely sees the kids. He sees them briefly before the bus takes them away, but he gets home after bedtime. He works all day every Saturday and most holidays. Typically, Sunday is the only day we get to spend as a family, and usually that day gets used up with chores around the house or other outside family parties or gatherings. So, our family time is virtually none during the school year, and that is not ok.

By homeschooling, Hubby will get to see the kids much more often since he leaves for work in the afternoon. He will get to be involved in their lives with what they are learning and doing. He will be teaching them right along with me, every step of the way. We will get to have “family meals” most days instead of just on Sundays. Basically, we will get more quality time together, and that’s huge for us.

Learning about our kids, with our kids

I’ve often said that the little girl that got on the bus in kindergarten is not the same girl that got off the bus last year, and I don’t just mean because she has been growing up. She has changed and forgotten who she used to be. For the past 4 years, she has spent a lot of her waking time at school, changing a little each day and being molded by the school system. I want to get to know her again. I want to know what makes her tick, how she learns best, what inspires her. I want to get to her core and have her learn what it means to be herself – her true self – and not what others expect or want her to be. Fortunately, Pumpkin hasn’t un-learned who she truly is yet, and hopefully we can keep her that way.

Finding their talents and passions, and cultivating them

I believe everyone has a gift, or even multiple gifts. I also believe school can squash those gifts by directing kids to be “successful” instead of “happy”. Do I want my kids to be successful in life? Absolutely! But our idea of successful and society’s idea of successful may be two very different things. I want my kids to recognize their gifts and have the time and opportunity to let those gifts grow and flourish. I want to see my kids’ eyes light up when they figure something out or when they find what brings them joy. Can they find their gifts at school? Maybe. But right now, I’m not willing to chance it. Above all, I want my kids to be kids and not little grown-ups. My kid doesn’t need to be college ready at age 9, thank you very much. I truly believe childhood keeps getting taken away from our kids, and this is one way I can slow it down a bit.

Incorporating faith

We are a Christian home. Our faith is important, and it’s becoming increasingly more important as the years go by. I want my kids to have a strong faith. I want them to know God. I want them to learn what Christian living is supposed to be through serving others and volunteering and through their own personal quiet times with God. I know Christian values are not taught in school and can even be frowned upon. Political correctness and this whole “easily offended society” we live in makes me crazy. Am I going to brainwash my kids? No. Am I going to teach about other faiths and beliefs and diversity? Of course. Am I going to let my children choose their own path as they grow older? Absolutely. But my job right now is to be sure that I’m bringing my kids up well, and the best way I know to do that is by incorporating our faith into everyday life.

Life lessons, not just random facts

How much do you remember about what you learned in school? If you’re like me, I’m going to say not a whole lot. Sure you remember social engagements, sporting events, teachers….. but I’m sure there’s not a whole lot of the “learned” stuff left in there. Why? Because lots (and lots and lots) of what we learned we do not use. Ever. Nowadays, it’s even worse because the kids are learning what they need to know to pass tests and not learning because the lessons are important in life. Do I have stats to back that up? Nope, this is all purely my opinion and speculation, as well as my own past experiences in school. Could I take the time to research all the stats and such and report it here for you? I guess if I really wanted to I could. But I don’t. I have too much life to live.

I want my kids to know how to be independent adults when the time comes. I want them to know how to grocery shop, how to cook, how to clean, how to change the oil in their cars. I want them to know how to find answers to questions and work through problems. I want them to know how to be responsible for themselves. I want them to know that it’s important to take care of the bodies they were given by eating healthy and being active. I want them to be good stewards of their belongings and realize that money does not equal happiness. I want them to know how to take care of their finances and budget and stay out of debt. I want them to know what it means to be generous – with their money, with their time, and with their gifts.

You know, all the stuff they *don’t* teach in school.

Does that mean my kids won’t learn about explorers and science and history and math…? Of course not. But my kids will learn a little differently than yours, at a different pace than yours, and in a different time frame than yours. Is one way right and one way wrong? Nope. Just different.

And different is good.

Nurture a love of learning, not a love of “good grades”

This one hits home for me because I was good at school. I had the good grades and the competitive nature to want to be one of the best in academics. So, I learned at school how to take tests and to anticipate the areas I would need to focus on to get the grades. After the test, the information was gone. I rarely retained anything after midterms. I didn’t learn because I wanted the knowledge. I just did what I needed to do to get the grades. I lost my love of learning in the competitiveness of academic success.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think healthy competition is good. I just don’t believe that learning to get the good grade is as effective as learning because you want to know more. I want my kids to be passionate about learning and to realize that learning isn’t just confined to within the walls of a school.

Flexibility

You know what I’d love to do someday? Travel. Once of my dreams is to travel the world with my family. You know what doesn’t work with that? Rigid schedules. With my kids getting older, it’s harder and harder to pull them out of school for something “fun”. Vacations need to planned around school breaks, when the rest of the world takes vacations and prices skyrocket. Spur of the moment opportunities need to be rejected because there’s a big test that week or there will be too much homework to make up.

You know what? It’s our life. I want us to be able to enjoy it while the kids are young and want to hang out with us. If we decide we want to go camping on a Sunday-Tuesday (because that is what would work best with Hubby’s schedule), then I want to be able to do it without having to worry about too many days missed at school. If the weather is gorgeous and it’s a perfect day for the zoo, I want to just go to the zoo without having to call the school and make up a story about why my kid won’t be there (or risk the dreaded “unexcused absence”, since quality family time doesn’t count as an excusable reason). When my sister comes to town to visit, I don’t want the kids missing out on quality time with her because of school schedules. Peanut is getting old enough to go hunting with Hubby. I want her to be able to go a few mornings with him – even on school days – to experience one of his favorite things with him.

I want to let me kids sleep in after a rough night of storms instead of dragging them out of bed before they’re ready. I want to be able to finish that movie with them even though it’s getting late on a school night. I want them to be able to enjoy breakfast instead of rushing through it to make it to the bus. (And for those of you that are thinking “well, they have to get ready for work in the morning someday so you’re doing them a disservice”….. Remember college? How early did you get up then? Exactly.)

Will we travel or camp during the week? I don’t know. But if the opportunities arise, I want to be able to just pick up and go without having to clear it with an outside entity.

Expanding horizons

I loved learning about mythology when I was younger, and Greek mythology was my favorite. You know what we didn’t spend much time on in school? Yep, Greek mythology. I mean, we did spend some time over the years, but I would have loved to go so much deeper into it. I even took a class or two in college, when I could fit it in my schedule.

Is Greek mythology something important in life? Not necessarily. But it was an interest. Who knows where it would have taken me. It may have opened up other opportunities through museums, travel, in the art world, literature…. But I’ll never know because in school you have only a limited amount of time to get through each topic. And in school, kids don’t have the same interests in the same topics. It’s basically a one-size-fits-all system. And yes, they can always explore the topics on their own outside of school, but with all the homework eating away their precious minutes, when would they find the time?

But what if you could have studied deeper into that one thing that interested you to see where it took you? (Some of you may have and are working your dream jobs – kudos to you! That’s a rarity, so you are a lucky one!) What if you were able to spend weeks on volcanoes, instead of just a few days? What if those math equations spoke to you (I know, that’s a stretch) and you were able to grasp even more than you thought possible? What if that study on plants would have turned into a career in botany where you could have traveled the world to discover new species? What if….

I want to give my kids those chances, without the “what ifs”. I want them to explore until they’ve learned their fill and decide to move on to something else. I want them to learn about what excites them and triggers their natural curiosity.

 

I understand that not everyone can homeschool. I know that everyone has different circumstances. We all want what’s best for our kids. For most, school is the best (and sometimes only) option. This post is not a “mom shaming” post, by any means. I didn’t write this to seem like my way is the better way. Heck, I could very well be back on the “yay for school” team next fall. It’s just insight as to why we are choosing this path. It is a choice, and it’s a big one. And right now, it’s the best choice for our family.

Getting it all wrong

We attended an awesome sermon on Sunday about seeking first the Kingdom of God, and everything else falls into place. I’m trying to put that into practice in my life. I *thought* I was already sort of doing that. But now, I am pretty sure I was wrong.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Well, dwelling, actually. Maybe even wallowing. I’m finding this mom thing to be hard and time consuming and no one listens and everyone is making me crazy and why can’t I do what I want to do and how am I supposed to find my gifts and purpose in life with these little people interrupting all my deep thoughts and inner conversations… and… and…!!! Poor me, right? So I’ve been praying “show me what I’m supposed to be doing” and “help me figure out how to fit more in my day” and “help me to see what I need to do to be more successful”.

Apparently, I’ve been too wrapped up in me.

You see, I’ve been reading a lot about big dreams and all these people that are so inspiring and successful. And I want that to be me. I want to inspire! I want to be important!

I’m sure I’m meant for more than just this, right…?

So, Tuesday morning, I’m searching through my Bible and looking up stuff on children. Mainly discipline related. Maybe even something involving “smiting”. Because no one is listening to me these days!!! 

Instead, I was led to Psalm 127:3. Do you know what it says?

“Children are a gift from the Lord….”

That stopped me right there. I know I’ve heard it before, but reading it – when I was literally searching for ways to get them to listen to me – made me freeze. Children are a gift. You know what’s funny about gifts? They don’t have to be given. There is no obligation for someone to give you a gift, no matter what society tells you.

This one verse reminded me of all the heartache we faced over 10 years ago with fertility treatments that didn’t work. These words brought back all the tears and the unanswered questions about why we couldn’t conceive. This moment made all the years of continued failed attempts at pregnancy – with both of our girls – come rushing back. This verse reminding me how much I wanted to be a mommy, back before I was able to be one.

MY children are a gift from God.

What if I am supposed to do just this right now? What if I start treating my kids like the gifts they are, instead of making them feel like inconveniences when I’m doing something “important”? What if I’m supposed to be here to inspire my girls and not the masses of strangers out there? What if being here and present for them day in and day out causes them to become women who inspire the masses and change the world?

I’ve not really thought of that. I selfishly want it to be me that’s big and important. I want people to know me – which is funny because the majority of the time, I just want to be by myself. I see myself more as the reclusive artist/writer who lives a quiet life off the grid. Hard to do that AND be big and important.

So maybe my focus has been all wrong. Maybe it’s not about me finding myself. (At least, not right now.) Maybe it’s about helping my kids find themselves, to become what they are supposed to be. To find and use their gifts. Who knows, they may be the ones that change the world someday.

#AugustInspiration

My first attempt at Faith Journaling

 

My art faith journal
My art faith journal

Today, I tried something new for my early morning time. Today, I decided to go into my new art studio and do something. Since I know myself and I know that decision making is hard for me – and nearly impossible at 6am – I determined last night before bed that I would try my hand in a little faith journaling.

I took a class about faith journaling last week with Nicole (www.nicplynel.com) at a local art studio. It was exactly what I needed to get the spark of inspiration going. I’ve been wanting to start quiet-time Bible studying, as well as more artsy stuff in my brand-spankin’ new studio, so what better way than this? I’ve not started either endeavor for the simple reason that I could never find the “perfect” time or the “perfect” space, and I’ve been afraid to not have the “perfect” outcome.

But, it’s #NoExcusesJuly, right? And perfection is overrated.

So this morning, I quietly made coffee and crept down to my new space. I put on some soothing “nature” music, and started reading the introduction of a book I had bought ages ago studying the book of Isaiah. Why that particular book? To be honest, I don’t know. Months (years?) ago, verses from Isaiah would pop up regularly – enough for me to notice and realize I should probably look into what God’s trying to tell me. So, I bought the study book, and it sat on my shelf ever since. Last night while deciding where to start my faith journaling journey, this book popped into my head. Well, that was easy.

I didn’t even get through the introduction before a verse or two jumped out at me. Go figure. I made myself stop reading after the intro, not because I didn’t want to continue, but because of time constraints due to my early risers. I didn’t even make it into the “meat” of the study yet, but I knew that if I kept reading, I’d run out of time to play with my new art journal from the class.

And do you know what I realized as I got down to my last 10-15 minutes to play before the kiddos would start looking for me? I need to replace my paints. I guess years and years of non-use tends to dry things out! But I didn’t let that stop me! No excuses means no excuses! (insert face of determination) So, instead of painting, I just used my watercolor pencils. With a limited amount of time, it’s not much, but it’s a page that’s no longer blank. Do I love it? Not really. In fact, I didn’t even want to post the picture. But it’s a start, and right now, that’s what I need. A start.

I imagine my pages will get brighter and more appealing as I go along. Hopefully I will be able to spend more than just a few minutes at a time as well. But, for now, I’m happy with just one quiet morning a week, all for me, my art supplies, and my Bible for inspiration.

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…In quietness and confidence is your strength… Isaiah 30:15 NLT

Mid-month check-in

Photo Credit: Google Images
Photo Credit: Google Images

Well, it’s about halfway through the month. Have you been taking part in my #NoExcusesJuly challenge? If I’ve inspired even just one of you, I’ll call this a success!

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that I’ve stuck with it this long. The accountability factor is HUGE! By me posting most days on Facebook, I’m forcing myself to do things I’d typically (very easily) talk myself out of doing. Plus, there’s Hubby with his no mercy approach, reminding me about my “no excuses” goal.

What have I been up to this month? Well, so far, I’ve gotten up early each weekday morning and have consistently gone for a run 3 days a week. That’s probably my biggest accomplishment thus far. I’ve also managed to do little things that I may have talked myself out of in the past…. I’ve cleaned up my kitchen each night, even when I really didn’t want to. I’ve gone to a yoga class that I’ve been putting off for months because there was always an excuse not to go. I’ve finished projects around the house that I’ve been delaying. All in all, it’s been a successful month! And we’re only half-way through!

So, why did I start this challenge for myself? Well, I have goals that seem hard to reach when I look at the end result. This challenge is helping me to break it down and take my baby steps, and it’s keeping me consistent. For example, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the 5am club because I know I will be so much more productive if I use these early morning hours. I started setting my alarm at 6am, now this week I’m at 5:50am, next week I’ll go down to 5:40, and so on. Baby steps will get me there! Also, I’ve had a goal for years to be able to easily run 3 miles. If you’ve noticed on my Facebook updates, I have been working my way up. I’m at about 2 miles now without too much trouble. Do I plan to be up at 5am and running 3 miles by the end of this month? Nope. But this month is helping me to stay accountable to those goals I set for myself, little by little. Can I reach those goals maybe by the end of August? Yes, I think I can, because I’m not allowing any excuses to stop what I’m already doing. In fact, now that I’m on a roll with these few things, I will be looking into other areas that I want to improve and start adding them to my list of baby-step changes.

So, how about you? What have YOU been doing this month, or, if you haven’t jumped in, what can you begin doing right now to make some positive changes in your life? Remember, baby steps + no excuses = results!

No doubt

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Image credit

Do you have doubters in your life? We all do. Heck, most of the time I’m my biggest doubter! But sometimes, you make a decision and you know deep down in your core that it’s the right move. You may not know why, or how, but you just know.

Hold on to that. The doubters may not see it, but don’t let them take that conviction away. Will you make mistakes? Of course. But some decisions can change your life. Some moves, however unconventional, will pave the way for the life that you’ve only imagined. It will be a decision that is hard, or unusual, or against the norm of society. But sometimes? It’s a decision that opens the doors of opportunity that few will ever experience. Those are decisions that 99% of the population won’t choose. They’ll select the safe route. The well traveled path. The 99% will just do what they’ve always done, and what everyone else has always done, because it’s easier.

Don’t be the 99%. Take risks. Make plans. Do what’s best for YOU. You never know what will happen if you don’t try!

#AugustInspiration

An art studio for me!

I’m giddy as a school girl! Why? Because I have a space to call my own within my house! I have my own haven. A cheerful nook. An art studio of sorts. (Granted, it’s in the laundry room, but I’ll take it!)

I have some before and after shots for you. Pardon the quality and lack of editing – I took them from my phone and was just too excited to upload them to care. And, I still haven’t figure this whole making-a-blog-post-look-pretty thing, so they are not centered or grouped together or anything. They’re just there. And that’s ok.

So, our basement is unfinished, other than a couple of walls here and there. It’s been on the list of things to do in the house since we moved in 6 years ago. *Hopefully* it will get done within the next year, and slowly but surely little bits have been getting accomplished. It started with some storage shelves in the back room, and then Hubby got himself a workshop set up in the furnace area.

Well, Hubby wanted me to have a space – a spot to escape if needed – and so the laundry room idea was born. Our laundry room space it pretty large. I always envisioned a bathroom in there eventually. But it was drab and boring and, well a laundry room. But, what better place to call my own? No one would want to step foot into a room dedicated to a chore, right?

We began the idea sometime last year. Hubby painted it a bright, obnoxious green (my choice) because I wanted to cheer it up a bit. At the same time, he added some wire shelves under our staircase for storage of odds and ends. I don’t have any pictures of the original, unpainted space (that I can find), but I do have pictures from before the floors were done!

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Here’s a view of the shelves under the stairs. Full of crap.

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See? Green. But a happy, cheerful green!

In the nook area that you see above, there used to be an ugly yellowish/orange-ish countertop with nasty cabinets underneath. (We ripped those out right after we moved in.) So, this space just became another area to collect even more stuff. BUT, with a little work and a direction, it has potential. First, we needed to do something about that floor….

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Hubby working on filling a leaky crack he found in the concrete floor, after removing the old vinyl flooring. Because nothing is ever easy in this house.

Hubby put in some some wood-look vinyl sheeting we found on clearance (because it’s a basement, and we’re cheap). It looks great with my green walls! Then he added a countertop that we found as an as-is piece at Home Depot, and he made some shelves for storage of my supplies. Today I decorated with items I bought exactly for this purpose a long time ago to make it cheery and less basement-y, and…… Voilà!

{{Happy Dance}}
{{Happy Dance}}
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Here are the shelves Hubby made that serve a dual-purpose – storage space with plastic tubs to keep my supplies organized and support for the countertop.
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Yep, that’s my washing machine on the right side….
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I decided against a door. I may change my mind and get one that locks if the kids find me….
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A better picture with the flooring and the walls and it all tying together. Love!
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And then there are these shelves. Yep, still full of crap. Eventually, they will be emptied and all of our crafting supplies will be on them, because our future finished basement will have a crafting space for the kids! (Not in my space, of course.)

I’m so excited to have this space for myself! I’ve been wanting to get back into my artsy stuff for a long, LONG time. (Little known fact: I was an art major in college for a year. Seriously!) And now, I have the space to do so without it being in our living space and in the way. And without little people grabbing at my stuff.

It’s not completely finished yet. Hubby still wants to add trim, and I still have to clean off those shelves under the stairs, but it’s a huge improvement over what it was! And now, there is no reason for me NOT to make time for myself down there and dabble a bit!

Another project crossed off the list! #NoExcusesJuly

Dreams

Our big, crazy dream list and "someday"s
Our big, crazy dream list and “someday”s – not in any particular order. Just wrote them as they came to me.

I recently started writing down goals.

I’ve never been one to write them down. In fact, I’ve never been one to really “dream” at all. Living paycheck to paycheck tends to suck the dreams of “someday” away.

We have been fans of Dave Ramsey for years, and we have his Financial Peace University set. When we first read Total Money Makeover, it kicked us in gear. That was probably about 5 years ago. We read it on a road trip down to Florida when I was pregnant with Pumpkin.

Then life happened. Best intentions, right?

Well, this past fall, we re-evaluated things. We got back on the cash budget bandwagon and started having our monthly budget meetings. That took a huge amount of pressure off of me, because trying to figure out all the finances all the time by myself was awful. So now, we’re a team again and have been working towards the same goals together.

Since then, we’ve rolled that snowball and paid off two more debts. (Woohoo!) But financial freedom isn’t the point of this post.

For years, Hubby has wanted to go onto a 10-month contract with his company. He has never loved having to scramble to find hours over the summer months, and as much as he loves his job, he would not miss being “off” in June and July. He has never considered it a real option because, again, the paycheck to paycheck thing kind of holds you back from taking a pay cut by choice. But, we’ve talked about it, prayed about it, and have been “pretending” that we have to live on what he paychecks would be if he did take the pay cut. (Added bonus – that money has then been rolled into our snowballs, helping with those two now-paid-off debts!) For the most part, it’s been doable, but barely. There were a couple of months where we couldn’t put that full amount towards the snowball – we just couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there. There were other months where there was no real problem because he was working extra coverages or substitute teaching. But none of those “extras” are guarantees, so the idea of cutting down to 10 months still seemed doubtful.

Not anymore.

We started on a journey together, as a team, with these essential oils. We doubted – at first – that they would really do much for our income. But, we tried it. It started bringing in a little extra money and helping our family with wellness issues to boot. We started seeing a bigger picture, and we started dreaming. We’ve never let ourselves really do that before because it just seemed to set us up for disappointment. In April, I started writing down monthly goals and started a list of some of those dreams. Some, like going down to a 10 month contract and paying off debt, seem reasonable (but still a struggle in current circumstances). Others, like my dream cabin in the woods, seem like they would never happen.

Well, the paycheck we received in April allowed us to reach that first dream. We officially bring in enough money from this oil journey to get Hubby down to a 10-month contract. We have enough monthly income from it to more than cover the pay cut. So, as of August 10th, he will officially be on a 10-month contract. We are reaching our dreams!

Where will this journey will lead us? We still want to be debt free as soon as possible, so that’s the next dream to reach. After that, who knows? We’re learning to dream big!

And you know what? It’s awfully nice to be able to put a “completed” date next to something on that dream list.