January 26, 2016

Fresh Slate?

January is the traditional month for change. New year, new resolutions, new opportunities to make changes to ourselves, our lives, our homes.

I've been thinking for a long time of simplifying. Not downsizing because we really cannot afford to move right now. But we do have a lot of stuff in our home we could do without. And there are other areas which could stand a little more focus and a little downsizing as well.

Last year, Wil Wheaton had a blog post about making changes in some small areas, tweaks to make his life better in health, creativity, and overall living. He called it a reboot and I suppose that's what I need to do as well.

I need/want to:

Increase my exercise. I've been diagnosed as pre-diabetic for the last few years and I need to get serious about losing weight and keeping it off. I lost 10 lbs last year, but got lazy and regained it. I have an elliptical and I need to get on it no less than 5 times a week for at least 20 minutes.

Increase my intake of healthy fruits and vegetables. I fell down on the job of making sure I was eating more healthy foods and decreasing my carb intake to help my blood sugars. I need to buy veggies and get them chopped up on the weekend so that I have something easy to grab.

Decrease my screen time in the evenings. I need to put down the computer or tablet and pick up a book or my knitting. I don't need to be mindlessly scrolling through crap when I could be escaping into a good book or working on a gift for someone.

Read a variety of books each month. My hope is to read at least 6 different kinds of books a month: non-fiction, my book club's selection, YA, mystery, Christian (fiction or non) and fiction (whatever fits the category like romance, general fiction, SciFi, etc). So I really need to put the screens away at night.

Knit more. I have yarn, I have patterns. I have friends and family who enjoy receiving things I make and to whom I enjoy giving. I need to make my list of projects, put the yarn into bags with the patterns and just grab one a month.

Decrease the clutter in my home. I need to get down to the items I love, have meaning for me or serve a purpose. I've decided to do Snail Pace Transformations' 30x12 Challenge so I can month by month decrease the stuff in my home taking up valuable space better used for loved items or nothing at all. I also determined to be mindful about where I was going to donate the items, to not just use Goodwill, but also Salvation Army and more local charitable thrift stores.

Purpose to spend time in Bible study. I really suck at keeping this up. I do well for a week or two and then find myself doing rapid catch-ups on the weekend to be ready for Monday evening Bible study.

The above is enough.

I'm hoping to once a month do a check-in post to see how I'm doing. Since I also suck at posting, we'll see how that goes.

March 15, 2015

March is a lion?

We have had the most beautiful weather this month (at least up until this weekend where we are finally getting some rain per the normal weather patterns). The unseasonably warm weather has brought nature to life much earlier than anticipated. The tulip trees (some of you know them as magnolias) were beginning to bloom in February. FEBRUARY.

Beautiful weather did make for a wonderful time at this year's Rose City Yarn Crawl. Ten of us roamed across the Portland Metro area to six yarn stores (there were 15 participating), enjoyed lunch in the sun and enabled yarn and pattern purchases for one another.

You can clearly see we visited Twisted, Knit Purl and Dublin Bay. But we also saw Littlelamb and Ewe, Close Knit and Blizzard and enjoyed some ice cream at Salt & Straw. I didn't purchase something at every store we visited, but I definitely enjoyed each one.

I have definitely continued to be busy. Even with the Saturday off for the yarn crawl, it was still not a restful day for me. School, work, practicum, and activities continue to keep me hopping.

Still not getting up to exercise. I have managed to get in a walk here and there, but they are not regular activities. I had a checkup and a mammogram though to get some baselines. I am happy to say the girls are in fine form and no issues there. My checkup shows I do need to pay more attention to food and exercise as my sugar levels remain elevated enough to keep me in the pre-diabetes watch zone.

I am a poor, poor crafter. I have cast on Rob's hat and have knit perhaps 5 rows on it. I had the original goal to finish it in January, then I pushed it to February. It may become my March goal.

I have 14 books towards my goal of 75 for the year. I finished the following books since the last post:
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)
  • Yes Please (Amy Poehler)
  • Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen)
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen)
  • Waking Kate (ebook, Sarah Addison Allen)
  • Harbor Island (Carla Neggers)
  • Rock Point (ebook, Carla Neggers)
  • Tapestry of Fortunes (Elizabeth Berg)
  • Thanksgiving Prayer (Debbie Macomber)*
  • How to Bake a Perfect Life (Barbara O'Neal)*
  • Turquoise (Marilyn Griffin)*
  • Second Time Around (Beth Kendrick)*

Of those books, the last four are starred because they were also part of my empty shelf challenge.

I'm currently reading the Neil Patrick Harris autobiography and I need to read this month's book club selection, One Good Dog by Susan Wilson. We're working on a BINGO challenge this year.

I have not been very good at doing my study first. I've been lazy, wanting to sleep as long as possible before getting out of bed. Likely from the last year of busyness. This is the last week of the current Bible study and then I'll get a couple of weeks off before we tackle a shorter study on Gideon.

My mother-in-law, Bonnie, is in the hospital. She went in on Thursday evening and is struggling with fluids, heart  and kidney issues. She is in her 80s and a lovely, loving woman. My husband and his oldest brother are the children still in the area so they have been with her and Rob's dad, Raye, over the last few days. They have had conversations with the doctors on prognosis and treatment, with each other on their parents and with their spouses on the difficulty of all of this.

My sister-in-law is likely to come out to stay with them once Bonnie is stable enough to move home. Raye and Bonnie had been making adjustments for their age and abilities, equipment in the bathroom, Meals on Wheels deliveries, having their sons come over to do the yard and household chores. But this event takes it into a new place, one where we have to seriously consider one without the other and the care of this remaining parent.

When I asked Rob how his mom was doing, he said she was doing well. She's calm, reading her books and likely still having the quiet life she had before, just in a different setting. She did talk to Rob about Lily, her cat, wanting us to take Lily in when Bonnie can no longer care for her. It feels like she is preparing for her time to come to an end, as gently as she can with her children. But this is my take based on Rob's reports to me and how he appears to be handling it.

I'll be able to see her today when we go down (school and work has kept me busy when he would go). I guess I'll see for myself how she is doing. I am praying for peace for us all through this.

January 10, 2015

A rare Saturday off

Since starting practicum last April, the majority of my Saturdays have been spent working at the store. Practicum takes up 12 hours a week which definitely reduces my availability to work more hours so I let the owners know they could book me for Saturdays on a regular basis. And they have.

But this month, I actually get two Saturdays off! An unexpected blessing which Rob and I took advantage of by going out to breakfast to our usual place, the Kitchen Table Cafe.

No progress here to report. I didn't get up to exercise, but I did pop on to the scale. I was weighing in at 203.6 pounds on Monday which isn't unexpected as I have tended to go between 200 and 203 for the last few years. Remembering small goals is easier to focus on, I'm going to aim to lose 5% of my current weight as a goal. That means losing 10 pounds. As a reward, I'm going to treat myself to a manicure. I like having my nails painted, but I usually do it myself and it chips and looks ugly within days. Why not let a professional do it and enjoy it longer? The last time I had a manicure almost 5 years ago for my brother's wedding.

I spent New Year's Day knitting on headbands for one of my nieces using the Whitney pattern. I was going to crochet a flower for them as well, but my crochet skills are seriously lacking. Instead, I went to JoAnn's and found a crocheted flower and a fun button to make into a pin she can add to any of the headbands.

I did attempt the crocheted flower one more time at Knit Night and was much more successful with the help of a friend. Once she explained the pattern, it was much easier to do. I didn't do the 3rd row called out in the pattern as it would have made the flower HUGE. I think I'll do a few more in different colors for her to change out her look.

Rob's Corps of Discovery hat will be cast on this weekend. I'd hoped to do it at Knit Night but the crocheted flower took up the time :)

I haven't yet grabbed a book from my shelf. I'm reading my library books and I need to read my book club book. I've finished The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen and The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore.

This month's book club selection is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. It was already checked out at the library, Barnes & Noble was too expensive and I didn't know when I'd be in to Portland to get to Powell's. But Amazon Kindle had it for $1.99 and that was just right.

I have made a point of getting up and getting my Bible study done before I do anything else in the morning. Mind you, it's a fairly quick study to get done (the week's lessons are broken into 5 days with four questions per day) which makes it easy to maintain at the moment. I've already completed the first week and am almost done with the second week. We start this upcoming Monday, so I am hoping to continue to be ahead of the game each week.

This weekend will be taken up with household maintenance chores: replace a light switch, put away the Christmas ornaments (and also thin the herd of decor we don't use), picking out flooring for the bathroom repair work we are having done in February and some NFL football now that we're in playoffs.

Now off to conquer!

January 01, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

It's New Year's Day. The time of year people look back and reflect on the previous 12 months and then plan for the next 12 months. And think "I can do better this year."

My planner, pens, highlighters
and my current to-do journal.
I'll admit I tend to be a planner. I have my 2015 calendar and January is already filled with my work and practicum hours, my activities with Bible study, book club and knitting group, my Friday classes. Next week, it will fill with more information as I get my class syllabus and fill in the readings to be done and assignment due dates. I have a pen with 4 colors of ink, multiple highlighters and mechanical pencils to color code to my heart's content. Buying this planner was the result of online searches for the "right" planner for me. Do I buy a pre-made? Buy the pages and create my own? Which then led to what size? 3-ring or disc? I finally got tired of it and bought one similar to my 2014 planner. It's not "perfect" for how I like to work (I'm a big list maker), but I was getting bogged down in the variety of planners available. I can always purchase another planner later.

So, 2015. Based on my experiences in 2014, what did I want to do in 2015? Well, SIMPLIFY is a word that immediately comes to mind. But so does CHANGE. How this will happen I'm not entirely sure, but it will be an ongoing process. But using those words for a springboard, I'm going to focus on just four areas for 2015 for personal goals.

My elliptical. I need to give
it a name since we about
to become good friends.
I need to make changes here. I'm overweight and far too sedentary. I have an elliptical I've moved into the small spare room. Ignore the mess, please.

I need to commit to using this at least 3 times a week for just 30 minutes. A small, simple change which would benefit me greatly.

While I own a Fitbit, but I need to be more deliberate, more committed, more caring about my health. I can up with any number of excuses for not making time. It's time to stop doing that.

Rob and I did a little 5k walk for charity in early December. I've been thinking I should look at doing more of those. And put them in my calendar.

The Yarn Armoire
One of the names I call myself is Knitter. 2014 didn't see much knitting from me, though. At Knit Nights, I tended to do very little knitting and more socializing. My school/work/practicum schedule tended to tucker me out and knitting took more brain power than I had available.

I want to change that in 2015. I gave away quite a bit of yarn in October of 2014 and now it's time to knit what I kept. I'm thinking of putting together 12 bags, one for each month.

Rob's been so patient in waiting for the socks and hats I've promised him for the last *mumble mumble* year(s). It's time to knock those out for him and reward his patience this year. I have other people I need to knit for (stuffies for my nieces Sam and Katie, gloves for a friend and her son), but Rob's getting bumped to the front of the line.

Monday nights are when I facilitate a Bible study at church. We start a new study on Joshua in just a couple of weeks. Being a table leader ensures I get the lessons done, but I had a tendency last year to procrastinate and wait to get the lessons done. Not. Good.

This year I'm committing to doing my lessons before I do anything else in the morning. My alarm will go off, I get 2 hits of the snooze bar (being realistic here!) and I'll get out of bed long enough to grab my Bible and study before diving into the Word. I just started doing this for the last 3 days and so far, so good!

While Knitter is one of my names, Reader was my name long, long, long before that.

I tend to read between 60-80 books in a year, books I've bought for pleasure or for book club or books I've borrowed from the library. But I have a lot of books accumulated which have yet to be read. So, 2015 will see me attempt an Empty Shelf Challenge.

Other Empty Shelf Challenges I've seen online start with an empty shelf with the goal of filling it up throughout the year. I'm doing the opposite - I plan on emptying this shelf of these books. There are just over 60 books here to be read and their fates determined (keep or donate).

I'll end up reading more than these books over the course of the year (book club and my library's habit of providing free access to wonderful books), but these will make up the bulk of my reading.

Oh! and one more goal. I'm planning to blog more often than I did in 2014. I need an outlet for thoughts, for accountability, for fun that isn't Facebook.

Hello, 2015. Come on in and let's get to know one another.

January 24, 2014

Learning Again

This new year has gotten off to a start. A start. It feels new, rocky, overwhelming, exciting, tiring and frustrating. I want to get a million things accomplished and I want to crawl back into bed until spring. Everything to be done swirls around me and can feel overwhelming and I feel like the man in the picture below. In a place of safety in the midst of the storm, but feeling a little trapped too.

Google images
Our household is still full with three families. Many times it feels like 7 against 3. Or 7 and 1 against 2. Or 7 and 1 and 1 against me. I often feel like I'm in the center, offering stability and advice to everyone when what I want is for someone else to make decisions and take care of grocery shopping, chores, managing finances and offering encouragement on all of those things to everyone else. For someone else to listen to the concerns everyone has with everyone else when you have 10 people in a 1500 square foot home.

And we are going to grow by one. My niece and her husband are expecting a baby who will come as we transition from spring to summer. And I was not able to be excited for them.

I know some of it is my stress levels. I am working again; it is not full time, but it is something I can do and leave behind me when I walk out the door after my shift. And working is good, but it also means the time I had for studying and doing the household chores has been curtailed. I am still a student and this quarter has more reading than I anticipated and is pushing me in new ways which are good and difficult.

I keep reminding myself this is a season. And seasons come and go; the quietness of winter gives way to the new life of spring. Spring moves on to the growth and bursting life of summer who in turn gives way to the harvest of fall. And then fall moves over to the quietness of winter again.

But my quiet is not here. It is not around me, it is not in my home. And many times, it is not in me. The maelstrom of thoughts, intents, need-to-do lists, must-happen-now items, how-will-we-manage concerns seems as if it is only quieted at night in sleep.

Google images

Although it can be hard to remember in the midst of it, I can always be thankful I am not alone in the storm of my thoughts and life.

September 27, 2012

Changing Seasons

I always look forward to the Fall.  The weather cools and I'm more comfortable, kids in the neighborhood go back to school and a new Bible study starts at church.  This year, all of this has still occurred, but has taken on deeper meaning.

With the temperatures finally at a daytime level I enjoy and so wonderfully cool at night, my comfort level has been changing. It's always amazing to me when I see just how God intends to work in my life - it's as if I just woke up to the specifics of His grace at that moment.

I lost my job in July. I wasn't the employee I needed to be. No matter how unhappy I was, it was still a blow to the ego. But I also rejoiced in it. I had freedom to find what would make me happy, time to see what God would reveal in this next phase of life. So while I'm out of work and the comfort of that steady paycheck, I've also had time to enjoy my cousin and our relationship, time to vacation with my sister, her girls and my parents, time to clean out my house to make room for family. And He has shown me what I really need to be able to live.
Taking the dinghy back to the boat

Fall and kids going back to school has always meant the neighborhood was quieter during the day, but didn't overly affect my home since our children are grown and out on their own. In August, our little household of three (Rob, my cousin and I) grew to 10. We were able to step in and help Rob's niece, husband and children by providing a home to stay in for a time. And they have 4 school-age children and a 9-month-old. And school has taken on a more hands-on approach for the household.

I have also decided to go back to school. I start tomorrow to earn my degree in Social Work. It's only one day a week, for 11 quarters, but it's enough to have me checking my bag to make sure I have everything I need.
Fall Quarter 2012

Thankfully, I have Bible study to keep me grounded. We just started Beth Moore's new study on James and already it's encouraging me.

James 1:2-3The Message (MSG)
Faith Under Pressure

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
I'm headed into a  new season with family, school and comfort levels. It's going to be exciting to see what He does with me and in me.

August 28, 2010

One Step at a Time

I was inspired to give Spark People another try after seeing the success of a woman at work. She too had been struggling with her weight, but she's taken the bull by the horns and really jumped into SP and Couch to 5K. And she looks great!

It really got me thinking about what I was doing - which was just thinking and not doing. At all. I kept coming up with excuses, kept feeling sorry for myself, kept thinking "if only."

* If only I had enough time
* If only I could afford a gym membership
* If only I could find the right program, motivation, etc

BUT: *If* I want to change, I *only* have to take a small step. Standing still isn't helping me, so a step forward will.

This week there were a couple of articles that really spoke to me. One about changing the "2 steps forward, 1 step back" to "1 step back, 2 steps forward." The idea of deliberately seeing the positive instead of the negative.

The other article shot holes in my excuses - I did watch TV off TiVo, so what's an extra half hour wait while I get in a quick walk? Or taking the commercials as an opportunity to quickly get some housework done?

I've been tracking my food this week to get back into the habit. Next week, I'll continue tracking food, but add walking to the routine.

One step at a time.