From Goal to Action: Self-Care

Well, dear readers, we’ve spent the better part of the last three months breaking down my goals into actionable steps, and we’ve finally made it to the last goal: self care.

I’ve posted about self-care before, you can read that post here. And I’m happy to report that the foot surgery referenced in that post was successful, and I’m back to running (and increasing my distance) without pain.

This year, I’m continuing along the same lines as previous years’ goals: to practice self-care through movement, healthy eating choices, and intentional rest.

As the first quarter of the year draws to a close (already), I’m happy to report that I’m making good progress on this goal. As spring draws ever closer, more delicious veggies are becoming available so incorporating them into our diets is even easier. Daylight savings time (love it or hate it) is now in effect, which means it’s lighter later, making evening outside movement just that much easier. A friend has set similar goals to mine, and we’ve made it a regular routine to run together at least once or twice a week.

The less glamorous stuff? Well, I’m in dire need of a dental cleaning, and as we are moving into the second quarter of the year later this week, I’m beginning to think about the action steps I’ve already taken, and what I need to change or accomplish in the next 3 months. (Scheduling a dental cleaning being one of them).

One action step I’m taking this year as part of self-care is to schedule some sort of writing retreat a couple of times a year. Ideally, I’d like to do this once a quarter, but life schedules don’t always allow for that. My first retreat of 2023 is coming up next week, and I’m so excited. A few days away to write, plan, dream… It’s going to be good.

Other action steps for self-care I’m planning for the upcoming quarter:

  • schedule necessary preventive healthcare appointments
  • continue including movement in my daily routines, adding core and strength workouts
  • planned physical and mental rest (I actually put this in my planner!!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. It’s definitely helped keep me motivated to keep implementing my action steps! Thanks for coming along on the journey!

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

From Goal to Action: Family Life

My daughter was around 8 years old when we first started including corned beef and cabbage into our St. Patrick’s Day traditions. Even though my dad’s side of the family is heavily Irish American, we just didn’t really celebrate with traditional (or even American-ized) Irish foods as I was growing up. I’ll never forget her response when she saw the full spread on my mom’s dining room table.

“Where’s the corn?”

We love to tell this story every year when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, and we’re looking forward to our St. Patrick’s Day meal (minus the corn). I love that we incorporated this tradition into our family story all those years ago.

We definitely love our traditions in our family, but as my kids get older, it’s sometimes harder to keep those traditions alive. One of my solutions has been to adapt my old traditions and enjoy new experiences, which may or may not become actual traditions.

In my goal planner for this year, I wrote that I hope to “create fun experiences/connections within our family.” Last year, we had the opportunity to travel to Ireland to meet up with my youngest, who was interning in London at the time. While we weren’t all able to go, travelling together is something that we’ve always enjoyed. It’s something I would love to incorporate more into our family’s future but navigating how to do that with adult children who have their own lives seems a bit daunting at times.

I have moments when I think I do pretty okay at meeting this goal most of the time, and then I’ll have a week where it feels like all we did was watch TV together all week. (We do love enjoying movies together, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.) But I don’t want to become the in-laws who do nothing but watch TV when everyone comes to visit. I want to be the fun ones.🙂

So how can I accomplish this goal? Through intentional action steps.

With adult children, it’s important to recognize that not everything is going to revolve around our family unit anymore. Over the last few years, I’ve been learning to be okay with that. One way I’ve been retraining my own heart and mind is to be intentional about enjoying my children one on one. My husband and I are both trying to plan coffee, lunch, or dinner dates with each of our kids on a more regular basis. Monthly

We love family game nights, too, but finding the right mix of strategy games vs. role playing games vs. card games has always been tricky. I’ve made it a quarterly goal to learn some new games this year. Quarterly

As I mentioned earlier, I’d love to incorporate more family trip type of experiences with our adult children. Navigating the financial commitment, coordinating the schedules, and choosing things that have a wide variety of options for my very different people has prevented me from fully pursuing this yet. (Maybe a goal for next year?) If you’re a parent of adult children and you’ve successfully figured out how to do family trips, I’d love to learn from you!

From Goal to Action: Teaching

You might not know it based on what I focus on in my writing, but I am a teacher. I’m an elementary music teacher, which brings its own set of challenges and rewards, but I’m also a teacher outside of the classroom. Over the years, I’ve taught professional development classes to my colleagues, I’ve taught in small group Bible study settings, and I’ve even had the opportunity to teach at church on a Sunday morning. (That was a humbling experience).

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that, as the teacher, I am the chief learner. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have expertise in a given subject. I do. But it means that my perspective should never be that I have the be-all, end-all answers to everything. My job as the teacher is to foster a love of learning, a love of music, a love of Scripture (whatever my subject may be) in my students. How can I do that unless I continue to be a learner myself?

There have been big changes in my work life this year that I’m still adjusting to. I changed schools, which means I’m learning how to forge new relationships with an entire school full of new (to me) students. The change has been good, and I feel more at home in my teaching in many ways than I ever have. It could be easy to sit back and rest on my current level of expertise.

But. (There’s always a but).

If my role as a teacher is to be the chief learner, then my goal can’t be to reach a level of expertise and then stop. My goal has to be to continue to learn, to stretch, and to grow. Just like I am continuing to stretch and grow as a writer, I need to apply that same mindset to other areas of life, including teaching.

As I’ve been breaking down my other goals for the year, I’ve been sharing my action steps for first quarter. I’ve also been reminding us along the way that we are playing the long game here, not trying to fit everything in during the first half of the year. Which is why my action steps for this goal aren’t actually being implemented just yet. Sure, I’m attending PD at work and always learning more about my students, but my intentional work around growing as a teacher won’t happen until the second, or even third quarter of the year.

Here’s my practical application for this goal this year:

  • Attend a summer professional workshop in a content area that pertains to my day job. (Assuming there are sessions offered in my area that make financial sense to attend).
  • Teach in small group settings as needed by our church family. (Fall 2023)

That’s it! Small achievable steps that will grow me as a teacher, and (hopefully) have a positive impact on my students, no matter what setting I’m teaching them in.

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

From Goal to Action: Writing

On January 8th, 2019, I sat down to write. Writing, while always an on and off part of my life since my first short stories in fourth grade, had increasingly been feeling more like a calling than a hobby.

I had a few hours to myself at home, which was practically unheard of at the beginning of 2019. Between a busy family and teenager’s schedules, alone time was not something that I often got back then.

I’d planned to spend my evening (that glorious promise of an evening alone with no interruptions) working on a manuscript that I’d started during the summer of 2018. I’d worked on the project on and off since then, halfheartedly adding words during NaNoWriMo 2018 (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place each November), but was losing direction and steam quickly, especially with the other demands of work, momming, and life in general cropping up all the time. I’d barely begun to whisper to myself that I could, in fact, name myself a writer, and I was excited to fill my evening with words.

Yet when I found myself in front of a blank document on my computer, I felt nothing but inadequate. I’d come home from an especially long day at work, and my creative energies felt tapped. I was worried about the weather, because it was freezing rain and my still-somewhat-unexperienced 18 year-old driver had to drive home after work. So even though I’d been looking forward to creative time alone, I couldn’t get into the zone. I gave up, and turned my thoughts to what it takes to be a writer.

I didn’t really know much about the publishing process at the time, so I decided to spend some time digging in, learning about what seemed magical and mysterious at the same time. Almost immediately, I found myself in yet another state of overwhelm. What was a query letter as opposed to a book proposal? How do I go about building a platform? You mean they won’t even look at me unless I have at least 10,000 followers?

While on other days this sense of overwhelm might send me into tears, on this particular January 8th, I didn’t cry. Instead, I allowed a sense of discouragement to permeate my being. This writing gig? It’s hard, and I was in the middle of a hard place, drowning in discouragement and too much information. I felt like this was one particular dream that would always be out of reach.

In the years since that January night, I’ve learned so much more about the process of writing and what it takes to be a writer. I’ve joined some writing associations, and have spent time with fellow writers, digging deep into serving my readers, writing query letters, the editing process, and so much more. And while it’s definitely overwhelming at times, I’ve learned the wisdom of how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

I’ve grown as a writer as well, allowing my “book babies” to be picked apart by writer friends and critique partners, and while it’s not easy, it’s shown me strengths and weaknesses in my writing, and given me the confidence to keep showing up to this writing life.

This year, I have one, big, overarching goal for my writing life: to continue to grow and learn in creativity and the business of writing. What does that look like in practice? Here are a few action steps I’m taking this quarter:

I am working hard and diligently on finishing editing my current manuscript. Editing, in some ways, is even harder than writing the first draft. And it requires a lot more creative energy and brain power. I find that blocking time to work on edits away from distractions is the best option for me, so I’m scheduling “chunk time” to make this happen on a weekly basis. Weekly

I continue to send out a monthly newsletter with insights on curating our own legacy, fun tips or friends to follow, and the occasional short story or poem. Monthly

Attend a writing conference to learn from industry professionals and writers who are ahead of me on the publication journey. Quarterly

I try to read at least one “craft” or writing business book each quarter. My first pick for 2023 is “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue” by James Scott Bell. I’m looking forward to learning more about this part of the writing craft, especially as I edit my current manuscript. Quarterly

In the coming months, I’ll be making a decision on how to proceed with my current manuscript, which will potentially require more research, more stretching, and definitely more learning. If you are a praying person, I covet your prayers as I move ahead with this project.

If you have goals and dreams that feel overwhelming at times, I hope you are encouraged by this post. I still get overwhelmed at times by the many facets of what it takes to write and publish a book in the age of social media, traditional and self publishing, and instant access to information. But the action steps that I’ve put in place over the years have helped me understand the process a lot more. And once the mystery is taken out of it, it’s a lot less discouraging. I’d love to hear what action steps you are taking this month!

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

From Goal to Action: Home Life

Housekeeping. Besides ironing and grocery shopping, it’s probably my least favorite chore. And for years, I’ve had loads of help with this area of my life: assigned weekly chores for my children to help complete. But now that they are older and have their own lives, it doesn’t quite work to have a chore chart that we complete every day.

Don’t get me wrong. My nest isn’t fully empty just yet, and those who still live in my home are almost always more than willing to pitch in and help out when asked. But I’m looking ahead to the not-so-distant future when my nest will be empty, and the routines I need to have in place to keep a welcoming home environment once my helpers have all left.

I’ve yet to find the perfect plan that works for me. There are probably hundreds of printable housekeeping schedules out there with daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal tasks to be completed, but in the interest of transparency, here’s how that usually goes: I print or pin the schedule, and promptly forget about it. When I get home from work, I promptly forget about it. I start dinner, sit down for a few minutes to read or decompress, or go to the gym, and I forget about it. (Do we sense a theme here?) Housekeeping just isn’t on my priority list until someone is supposed to come over, and then we run around the house, cleaning like mad-people.

One thing I recognize in myself: I am sentimental and have a lot of stuff. But stuff leads to clutter, and more things to dust. I’m not going for a home that looks like a spread in a home magazine, but I would enjoy the freedom to only have to do a light cleanup prior to guests arriving than the full meal deal.

And of course, we can still work on normalizing lived-in homes, not caving into the pressure of keeping up an unrealistic image that doesn’t reflect the true way we live our lives. But there is certainly something calming about having a clean home, and I, personally, need to find some systems to put in place to help my future self.

So how am I doing this? Well, baby steps, I guess. Here’s how I’m breaking down this goal into action steps:

  • Before bed, make sure my personal belongings are tidied from our main living spaces (kitchen, living room, dining room) Daily
  • Systematically declutter and give away items that we no longer use. Weekly
  • Keep a running list of repairs/projects that need to be completed and schedule service checks on overdue items. Monthly

A next step that I hope to implement during the second quarter (remember, this is the long game for these yearly goals) is to complete a deep Spring clean in April and then implement a “keep it clean” weekly plan to help with the big stuff.

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

From Goal to Action: Life Rhythms

The needles click-clack in rhythm with Murder, She Wrote, and I sit at her feet, mesmerized by the sound, the way her fingers deftly throw the yarn for each new stitch, the way the blanket seems to magically unfurl with each new row.

I learned the art of yarn craft, first knitting and later crochet, at her feet. Literally. My grandma would prop her nyloned feet on the ugly green footstool, and I would sit next to it, slowly moving my own needles at a painstaking pace. Stab, wrap, through, off. Not too tight, not too loose. It was a lesson in frustration.

At some point, I stopped. I don’t remember why, but the allure of yarn moving through my fingers was left behind in favor of hours on the phone with friends and boyfriends, of teenage-hood and homework, of books and music.

Somewhere in my late 20s, my fingers began to feel that itch again. This time around, I started with crochet. Simple things like dishcloths and scrubbies. Easy. I graduated to hats, then to ear warmers. Soon I found myself wanting to try actual garments, but realized that crocheted garments are a bit bulkier than what I prefer.

My grandma’s shoulder had protested knitting by then, and I feared I might never learn her skills, might never know what she knew to pass it along to my own children. Instead, she gave me a copy of the cutest little green book that is still my go to when I forget how to do something. I also turned to my own mother, who had recently rediscovered her own love of knitting.

While none of my own children have yet to take up the skills of yarncraft, I find other ways to pass along the tradition and my own love of making something from nothing. Hats, socks, dishcloths, even hand-knit Christmas stockings have made their way into the hands of my children as the years have passed. With each new skill I learn, from working with yarn to cooking or writing, I look for ways to invite my family to share in the fruit of my labors, if not in the actual activity itself.

As I consider the rhythms, routines, and traditions I want to cultivate in my home this year, reflecting on my hobbies and the way I spend my “free” time is a big part of that. My family loves stories, and we spend a lot of time escaping into books, movies, and TV shows. But when I consider my own legacy, I want to leave behind more than memories of me curled up in my favorite chair with a book. Life rhythms that move me outside of my living room are healthy, and working on projects that I will pass on to others gives me joy.

Compared to some of my other goals, this one is a little more involved, which is why it’s so important to me to break it down into action steps. Without a plan, my many yarn and paper projects will sit idly on shelves until I feel like working on them (meanwhile my craft stash grows ever larger). And (insert shamefaced emoji here) I’ve fallen behind on my family yearbooks, which is one of my family’s favorite legacy projects that I create each year.

So how am I breaking this so-bit-it’s-sometimes-overwhelming goal into bite-sized pieces this quarter? Like this:

  • Spend 10-15 minutes working on a Legacy project each day. Daily
  • Invite a friend for a walk outside once a week. Weekly
  • Work toward completing one Legacy project each month. Monthly
  • Keep a running list of the projects that I hope to accomplish/create this year. Yearly

I’m happy to report that I’ve completed my first Legacy project as of writing this post. I finally finished my 2021 family yearbook. (sooooo behind) On to catching up on 2022!

What are your hobbies and interests? How do you create life rhythms that support these ways being creative or enjoyment? I’d love to hear what projects you might be working on, or how you plan to adjust life rhythms to make room for what you love.

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

From Goal to Action: Finances

Like most people I know, talking about money is not my favorite subject. In fact, I’ll often go to great lengths to avoid conversations about money. As someone who can be a bit of a perfectionist, handling money, saving for retirement, and making wise financial decisions in midst of a “keeping up with the Joneses” society, can often feel like a minefield of failures. Like many of us, I’m doing the best I can with what I have, while still learning how to do better.

This feeling of running a minefield when it comes to finances is one reason that I chose the word “steward” in my goal for the year. As I break down what it means to steward something well, I realize that there’s an assumption being made.

Steward (verb): to manage or look after (another’s property)

The assumption here is that the finances that we are stewarding do not belong to us. My husband and I operate under the belief that everything we have belongs to God, not us. This belief informs decisions we make regarding our family, our careers, and our finances. It frees us to follow what we believe God has called us to, regardless of financial sacrifice or gain. It’s quite amazing, really.

I intentionally kept this goal simple this year. I don’t have lofty dreams about being debt free in 30 days, or becoming financially independent so that work isn’t a thing anymore. Not that either of those are bad, I just know they aren’t currently attainable goals for my current life situation. And setting goals that aren’t attainable feels like walking back into that minefield and purposefully stepping on one.

There are a lot of voices out there that will give you advice about what it means to steward finances well, where to focus your money, and those can all be really helpful. But what I’ve found in nearly 27 years of marriage is that the most helpful thing for stewarding finances well is to be on the same page as your spouse when it comes to spending money.

For us, we’ve tried to find a balance of enjoying nice things and paying down debt. We lived on ramen and frozen pizza for many of our early married life, and while going back to that type of diet might help us pay off our house faster, we also recognize that healthy eating and quality of life (ramen for dayzzzzzz, ugh) are also higher on our priority list than they used to be. We’ve also had some unexpected medical bills this last year that took priority over some of our plans. And when life happens, you adjust.

Ultimately, this goal comes down to making wise decisions as we spend our money this year. Here are two action steps that I’m implementing this quarter:

  • complete one “getting ready for taxes” task each week (finish by February 28)
  • continue making regular monthly payments toward debt, including extra payments as we are able

That’s it! Those are my easy action steps for this goal. How about you? Do you have any financial goals this year? I’d love to hear what actions you are taking to make your goal a reality!

From Goal to Action: Relationships

I recently shared my 2023 goals and what worked and what didn’t in 2022. Starting this week, I’m breaking down each goal into specific action steps to help me make progress on my goals.

As I break down each goal, it’s important to take the long view. This goal-setting process isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And when it comes to relationships and community, this long view is even more important.

Deep friendships are rarely formed in the space of a day. Time, shared experiences, and trust are all needed to create deeper relationships. The action steps I’m listing today are daily, weekly, and monthly actions I plan to implement over the first quarter of the year, helping me implement rhythms and routines that create an atmosphere in my life where relationships can flourish.

How do I do this? Let’s break it down into some action steps.

  • Read one book about friendship this year. I’ve chosen Messy, Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover. I’ve read this before, and it’s really good. I’ll be starting it in February if anyone wants to read along. (Yearly)
  • Make time to message or chat with at least one friend every day. This can be existing friends, new acquaintances, or church members that I’m building relationships with. (Daily)
  • Invite a friend to walk with me once a week. This one’s a two-fer because it also gets me outside and moving my body! (Weekly)
  • Work with church leaders to plan once a month social gatherings. (Monthly)

How do you curate deeper relationships within your home, church, work, or friendship communities? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment to join the conversation.

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

2023 Goals

We are almost a week into the New Year, and some of us have already given up on our New Year’s resolutions. That’s assuming that we actually set any. This is why, several years ago, I switched from resolutions to goals.

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time of year again. Sharing my updated annual goals has become a bit of a tradition around here. And if you know me… well, you probably already know that I’m nothing if not a sucker for a good tradition.

I know, I know. There’s a lot of mixed feelings this time of year around resolutions and goal setting. Personally, I’m energized by the idea of a reset, and January 1 seems like as good a time as any.

My goals for the coming year are pretty similar to last year. While I made progress on nearly all of my goals last year, there are aspects of them that I didn’t fully accomplish, or ways that they have changed slightly.

I love using the Powersheets Goal Planner from Cultivate What Matters to help me determine my goals each year. This is my 6th year using them, and I’ve made significant progress on some major life goals since I started. Over the years, I’ve learned how to make goals and break them down into actionable steps so that I can actually accomplish the things I want to do.  I highly recommend using some sort of goal planner as you prayerfully consider what goals you want to achieve this year.

Thanks to my Powersheets helping me stay on track, I was able to make good progress on my goals in 2022 and am looking forward to see what I will accomplish in 2023. I posted about my 2022 goals here.

What worked in 2022:

I made good progress on many of my goals for 2022. My first two goals last year had to do with editing, submitting, and writing a couple of new projects. I was able to nearly complete these goals, and am now in the editing stages of my two new manuscripts that I worked on in 2022.

I also made some good progress in developing content for my monthly newsletter, as well as delving into personal Bible study and learning. And while I wasn’t able to move my body every single day, I did carve out a solid summer routine and was able to get back to running twice a week before the weather turned nasty in November.

What didn’t work in 2022:

Consistently developing content here on the blog was a struggle in 2022. I feel like I went in fits and starts a bit. I’m still working out what it means to consistently serve you, my readers, in ways that are meaningful and helpful, while also having time to work on my passion projects, namely, my fiction writing.

One thing that is hard for me, especially during the winter, is getting outside instead of watching movies or TV all the time. I am wholeheartedly in love with stories and storytelling- always have been. So when I’m presented with a choice to go do something outside (especially when it’s freaking cold) or curl up with a movie or book, I’ll choose the story almost every time. I know this isn’t always the healthiest choice, which is why I’m continuing to make this a carryover goal from last year.

My 2023 goals:

  1. Curate deeper connections/friendships within our community.
  2. Steward finances well.
  3. Cultivate life rhythms that include more time outside and/or working on Legacy Projects (more on those in another post).
  4. Create a warm, inviting home environment.
  5. Grow in both the business and creativity of writing.
  6. Expand my expertise in teaching.
  7. Create fun experiences/connections within our family.
  8. Practice self-care through movement, healthy eating choices, and intentional rest.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be breaking down each goal into some action steps and sub-goals and pulling back the curtain on how each goal is going throughout the year. I’d love to help support you in achieving your goals as well. If you need some tips for goal setting, check out this post. I invite you to share them with me, and together we can achieve some big things in 2023!

Did you know that I send out a monthly newsletter? Subscribers get extra tips and tricks for curating rhythms, routines, and traditions to leave a legacy that matters. They also get access to exclusive content like recipes, creative writing, and so much other fun stuff! Newsletters drop near the turn of the month. Click here for access.

Traditions: Christmas Movie Nights

There’s no denying it: my family loves a good movie. One of our most cherished Christmas traditions is revisiting our favorite holiday movies every year. Sometimes we’ll make a special treat to go along with it (Sticky Popcorn is always a favorite) but often we just pile into the living room and hit play.

Here’s a list of our Top Ten favorite Christmas movies (listed in no particular order):

  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • A Christmas Story
  • The Polar Express
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Holiday
  • Christmas with the Kranks
  • White Christmas
  • The Grinch (both the old cartoon and the newer version)
  • The Santa Clause
  • Elf

There are so many more that I could add, but these are the ones that have been a part of our family’s story for years. I’d love to know what you would add to our list! Drop a comment with your favorite holiday movie!!