2012 New Years Resolutions in Review

There’s nothing like a sister to keep you in line.

While making delicious Sugar Cookies together I asked my sister Becca “What kind of New Years Resolutions will you be making next year?” and she said “My life is so awesome I don’t need to make it any better.”

But, I have already turned to thinking about my next years resolutions, and have decided it’s time to end this year’s, a few short weeks shy of the end of 2012.

Remember – This is what I wanted to do –

1.    Lose 15 Pounds.
2.    Be a good friend.
3.    Read 10 Important Books
4.    Family First
5.    Practice Better Blogging
6.    Be An Active part of my Communities
7.    Improve my Sustainable Living
8.    Grow Spiritually

I declare absolute success in three of them (1,5, and 8), failure in one (3) and shades of gray in all the rest.

I made fairly vague resolutions this year (other than the weight and the books), and that could (and did) turn into a little bit of unfocused trouble around summer time.  I focused on the theory behind life, rather than acquiring skills or achieving milestones. It also forced me to consider the meaning behind what type of life I want, and person I am (becoming). I needed to think hard about the direction I see my life heading in for the next 3-5 years, especially as I embarked on the process of changing career direction – but that wasn’t really the goal, was it?  So, it was nice to consider the overarching nature of life and sort through elements that kept recurring over and over.

Here’s a few things that really stuck out to me this year.

I contemplated the nature of being a good friend, and decided that any life that was too busy to involve a couple phone calls each week wasn’t a good life.   I thought about how having a group goal is a great way to cement friendships (like writing a blog.)  I even made a new friend (or two.)  I also realized my view of friendships has changed a lot since high school and college.  I’m unsure if it’s possible to have the types of friendships I valued back then as an adult with a family.  I’m concluding with a bit of truism – it’s hard to be a good friend, and it takes a lot of work.

Once you start looking for ways to be involved in your community, you’ll see dozens.  But, this can lead to decision paralysis on how to actually participate.  At the beginning of the year I thought I saw about five or six ways I could have stepped up to take leadership in different areas of my life – school, church, work, mom groups.  As the year is ending, I’m seeing, really, about two things that I want to continue investing in over and over and coming back to next year.

Something about book clubs and 2012 did not work for me (or my husband.)  We each separately tried to start one, and the one I joined at the beginning of the year fizzled out.  We could barely even commit to reading the same book together!  We love reading… but apparently books clubs weren’t in the pages for us this year.  Perhaps in the future.

I didn’t make any goals about being a more organized person this year, but more than anything I’d say that that has been what has shaped the second half of my year.   I think this was mainly a function of the fact that the more I committed to – the more I needed to balance work, play, and rest.

Now, perhaps you’ve noticed the decreasing frequency of posts over the last several weeks. Part of the implications of becoming more involved in my communities has been more time spent doing things, and less time spent writing about them.

In fact, I’m only expecting an increase in involvement over the upcoming months. I love writing this blog, but I love participating and writing at Connect Shore, studying for my classes, learning about environmental psychology, and being involved in Salem. I also love activities that don’t involve being on the computer – crafting, running, and who knows, maybe learning to take better picture with my camera.  There’s a tension there I don’t want to resolve by sacrificing sleep, so I’ll be blogging a lot less.

Also, as my friend Marta wrote in response to my latest Secret of Adulthood – “I love how your example of adulthood off the rails is… eating too many muffins.”

Maybe I don’t need to blog quite to frequently about how I’m becoming an adult… because, if eating too many muffins is the most serious thing I can come up with (and I’m dispensing advice about time management) then I’ve definitely reaching adulthood.

I’ve got a great idea for a series of posts going forward in December (particularly after classes end in two weeks) and into January. And I might talk about New Years Resolutions 2013… But for the most part, I’m planning on existing outside this space more in the future, especially after spring semester starts the third week of January and I throw myself into three classes and a graduate assistantship. (Yikes.)

As always, you can catch me over at Connect Shore, and I’ll update here whenever I feel the need to really get up on my soapbox.

Checking In with New Years Resolutions

Here is what I’ve accomplished nine months after I first made my Resolutions –
This is a smooshed-up review of August and September

1.    Lose 15 Pounds – Success! I have a few races (4 Miles in October, a Turkey Trot in November) planned for the rest of the year and a hope to maintain the success I’ve had through the now impending Holidays.  I might possibly achieve my pre-pregnancy weight (a 6 pound loss still) by the end of the year.  However – I feel satisfied with what I’ve completed so far and look forward to increasing the amount of weight i can lift and decreasing my mile time. (both goals for next year I think…)

2.    Be a good friend – With the solidification of my new organizational method (I mentioned it briefly in this post) I’ve been able to gain more of a sense of accomplishment with this goal.  Now I’m able to look to at least 7 or 8 concrete, measurable steps I take toward meeting it each week.  This was a good instance where re-framing the issue came in handy.  I also wrote this post determining what I thought being a good friend was in adulthood anyway.

I only somewhat think this is true…

3.    Read 10 Important Books – I read 2 important books for my career, one each in August and September.  Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge.  At this point I’ve lowered the bar quite a number of times on this goal, so much so that I’m not sure it’s as meaningful as I intended in January.  I’ve got three more books I’m planning to try to read for the rest of the year, but I will have to think more carefully about making a similar goal next year.  I want to strive to avoid tunnel vision academically but also don’t always find the impetus to read difficult primary documents in my free moments.

Not an “important book” but certainly an enjoyable book!

  4.    Family First – Again, the organizational method to the rescue.  Its easy to see what steps to take to put my family first and to see that I’m celebrating them as integral and necessary to my own development and happiness.  Also, our family vacation in August was simply amazing!

Family Vacation at Cape Cod

   5.    Practice Better Blogging – Stuck to my schedule here, made a “Posts for the Rest of the Year” spreadsheet in order to copy Relishments (haha… but really, yes.) and working on the “better title” thing for Connect Shore.

6.    Be An Active part of my Communities – Over the course of this year I’ve been surprised how much this goal snowballed.  By that I mean, the more I reached out, the more I was drawn in.  The more time I spent searching for facebook events to join, groups I could increase my participation in, and saying “Yes!” the happier I felt.  Sometimes as a stay at home mom I question whether I’m an extrovert, but then I remember the charge I get from volunteering, conversing, and being a part of groups.  I am a very active part of my communities – and will enjoy even further participation in the future.  Most notable in September – I signed up (finally!) to volunteer with Green Salem and really did make it to an Art Throb launch!  I also was able to propose leading a book club at my church.

7.    Improve my Sustainable Living – Farmer Dave’s farm share is winding down, but we’ve found a winter share through the end of the year. I’ve been trying to get more careful about writing down what I want several weeks before I need it to give myself time to look for used items without pressure, which has somewhat been working.  I’ve been improving my theoretical understanding lately of sustainable development by working slowly through this primer (its a pdf) by Robert Kates.  As I read along I’m careful to search for other sources of material.  I’m hoping that this study will translate into career opportunities in the future – but it’s very open ended right now.  Also, I signed up to hear Bill McKibben (and others) speak in November in Boston – I’m excited!

http://www.350.org/

8.    Grow Spiritually.  It’s totally subjective of course, but over the course of the year I’ve been trying to be more grateful and to mutter under my breath “people succeed in groups” whenever I feel a twinge of jealousy over others opportunities.  Yet, coupled with prayer, I think I have found myself more content, joyful, and satisfied with my life. (Even though I’m still not famous, like a riffed on as my number 2 lie I’ve believed in this post at Connect Shore)

Beginning the process of co-leading a devotional book club at my church (see the above poster) has also increased my ears to hear spiritual leading from God, and caused me to love Him more.  And again on the organizational method – breaking the day into segments has provided natural times to pray, and weekly reminders to reflect – both potent reinforcers.

How are your New Years Resolutions Going?

A Disreputable Confession about Trying to Keep your Blog on Track

In that little side bar on the corner I state briefly the things this blog is about, “living sustainably,” “aging wisely,” and “reading responsibly” while living on the “North Shore.”  In my about page I’ve written clearly about how I think sustainable living is more than just being green, but also about finding balance in your own life, and knowing what works for you, ie: self knowledge.  So, in general I try to keep the blogging balanced between these four aspects.

However, you might be asking yourself, “Where’s the book post this month?”

It’s true, I’ve gone the whole month without blogging about any books, or any life lessons I’ve gotten from reading.  The reasons for this, out of concern for YOU gentle reader, not because I haven’t been reading anything.

Sometimes the things I read are interesting to me, but I know are of little interest to you. For example,  Augustine’s City of God, an epic tome I’ve been challenging myself with along with some others in a reading group.

Other times, they are useful to me, and probably interesting to you, but I’ve got nothing new to add to the conversation.   For example, tips on organizing your home.  In this case, I’ve been basking in some sage advice a la Julie Mortgenstern, because I really needed it.

Finally books relating to my graduate classes about organizational consulting.  Although there are a lot of really interesting things to say about creating job satisfaction, the technical aspects of employee turnover aren’t relevant to this particular blog.

Have I read anything lighthearted this month?  Heck yes!  I read the following hilarious and rollicking adolescent literature novel which caused me to think a little bit about a common phenomenon in my life.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

This is a tale of introspection, machinations, boy-girl relations, and female empowerment bundled up in some magnificent wordplay with a fantastic tone. It’s about Frankie, a quirky, headstrong, and yet entirely self-controlled female protagonist (and therefore entirely different from Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan) who decides that rather than enjoy life they way it is handed to her by the status quo she will envision how she can subtly change said status-quo through jokes and social criticism. (This is a lot like the French bohemians of the 1850’s, but that’s a story for another time and place.)

The scene that caused my self examination is a more incidental vignette.  After a particularly embarrassing incident happens to the boy Frankie is casually dating, he “stood, raised his arms in victory, and proclaimed himself the grodiest human being in all of Alabaster.”

Question: How often do I do that, claim the things that embarrass me?

Answer: Almost Never.

I might claim the things that are part of my character (forthrightness), writing style (didactic), and economic class (old car, basement apartment), but very rarely do I claim things which embarrass me.  These are really trivial things like taking the wrong stairway to class and ending up on the wrong floor or  having excellent name/face recognition. I try to quickly get through those incidents, or minimize the damage.  But a good time could be had by all if I learned to laugh at myself a little more.

What types of things are you embarrassed by, and how can you claim these incidents?

6 Reasons You Could Blog

The post I’m about to write is thoroughly and utterly out of order.  Blogging sages all over the internet would wisely counsel you to examine your motives for blogging before you even type in the url address of a blog platform.  Unfortunately I didn’t get that memo until it was far too late.  They also agree that you should research your niche before you start, build up a stock pile of posts (also before you start), and write posts with titles like “6 Reasons you should blog.”  Or include lots of pictures of cute kittens.

Well, we’re 2 for 5 now.

Most bloggers no doubt blog because it seems “natural” for them to do so for a variety of reasons.  Here are the reasons I blog –

1.  As the act of a “granddaughter.” You know that old phrase,  “grandfathered” in?  That is how I feel about blogging.  I kept a journal as a kid, then when I was 16  and had steady access to the internet I had a blog at Diaryland.  I moved to Xanga then Livejournal then Blogger.  Somehow, I managed to end up here at WordPress.

2. As a way to recall what I’ve done, and things that I’ve read, while at the same time processing and connecting the arc of thought-action-memory.  On some days I see this blog as pulling a fragmented life into a whole.  On other days I see it as compartmentalizing a jumble of connected sensory experiences.

3.  As an act of creativity.  I take this several ways.  It is creative license to string words together, to choose verbs and nouns from the dictionary.  In another sense it is creation to combine disparate things into an integrated space – consider interior decorating as a similar act of creativity.  Finally, it portrays life itself as an act of creativity since (lifestyle) blogging can really only reflect life already tasted.

4. As an act of community.  Even though right now I feel like I have a very small blogging community around me (I sometime miss those old blogging platforms like xanga), it is still my way of seeing how other people think and move, in a different way than viewing them in 3D life, or reading the newspaper.

5. Because my most important heroes were both writers and doers and journallers.  The people that I most admire were (and in some cases are) reflective enough to journal, committed to writing about their thoughts, and then, participating in shaping the world around them in both action and written word.

  1. Finally.  I enjoy the statistics graph on WordPress a great deal.

Are any of these the reasons you blog?

The New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, of course I made New Years Resolutions! Any interest in finding out what they are?

As an incorrigible list maker.  (I think most blogger’s are.) I am also, of course, obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that last year I made over 50 of them for 2011, and that I was in the works of making fewer for 2012.

When I was brainstorming what types of things I wanted to resolve I wrote down dozens of ideas.  Seeing the sorts of things I wanted to accomplish in 2012 written out helped me organize the details into large goals, which could be comprised of smaller objectives reached by various strategies.

You might notice some of the language in the last paragraph that I use to talk about these 8 things: resolutions, accomplishments, goals, objectives, strategies.  I learned a lot of this terminology as a case manager for adults with cognitive disabilities.  Even though I no longer work in that position, I find that language very useful in my day-to-day life as well.

Loosely, I think of resolutions as unperformed actions.  This is my current-self wishing to be a different-self in 12 months. Goals are nearly the same as resolutions, but more theoretical and idealistic.   They are big and broad, whereas objectives are focused.  You might think of objectives as nouns, and following them are strategies behaving as verbs.  My strategies are what will actively turn my objectives into reality.

I know some of my Goals are going to change over the year, and some of the strategies are going to evolve to fit this.  However, here are my goals as I’ve conceived them now.

1. Lose 15 pounds.  (I know, so cliché.) Prior to being pregnant I knew how to eat as a (very) active, single young woman with a job where I stood or moved for approximately 4 -5 hours, and exercised for about an hour a day.  Things have changed in my life as well as with my body in the last year. I’d like to re-learn how to eat and exercise to fit my current lifestyle.  I’d hope this results in a weight loss of 15 pounds.  Some of my strategies for this include finding exercise partners, eating more mindfully, and getting back into the habit of lifting weights 3 times a week consistently.

2.  Have (or Find, or Make) a consistent friend group.  I know a lot of people, and I would consider many of them close friends. However, I also consider a number of them “loose cannons.”  They don’t know each other and hanging out with all of them separately is time consuming (though delightful) “work”.  I’d like to merge some of my friendships, and I’d like to (counterintuitively) see less people more often.  I am least sure of how to accomplish this goal, and would love advice!  I think a way of doing this would be to invite more people over, or start more recurring activities.

3.  Read 20 Difficult Books.  One of my side projects is this blog about sociology, which is pretty much just book summaries.  I want to read the ISI list of 100 Sociology Books of the last century in 10 years.  Therefore I’d like to read 10 books from the list this year.  I’d also like to read 10 seminal works in other fields, some of those books you always say, “Oh yeah, It’d be good to read that.”  For example: Wealth of Nations

4. Family First. Now that I’m a mostly stay at home mom a lot of my accomplishments of the week are cooking, chores like grocery shopping and bill paying, caring for my son, and being a good wife.  Three years ago I would have thrown up even thinking that, and writing it just made me gag a little.  But, times change.  I would like to perform these tasks with the most joy possible, and the least complaining.  Doing that is way harder than writing that just was. Some of my strategies for this include: keeping up with documenting our trips and daily activities through photos and tangible mementoes, being thankful for small things, and planning “spontaneous” activities.

5. Practice Better Blogging.  Over the last year I’ve really started to enjoy blogging a lot, so I’d like to get better at it.  First off, I’ve finally figured out that what I have can be called a “lifestyle blog.”  (Who knew? Probably everyone but me.)  I finally figured out what my “niche” was, and now I’d like to focus on writing more on those topics.  I’d also like to write more creatively, humorously, descriptively and of course, regularly. Also, I’d like to find a blogging community with others that write on a fair number of the topics I write about.  Finally – I made a facebook page.

6. Be a Part of my Communities.  I consider myself to be part of several communities; my church family, my friends, and my physical place –  The North Shore.  I would like to spend more time this year strengthening my ties in my communities. I really enjoy my Tuesday morning mom group in Salem already, but I think I could be even more involved in the area through: making a soccer team, volunteering, attending some of the networking events around town like the Salem Wine Women, and the Green Drinks.  I think the other two communities can be strengthened as part of my goal to be a better friend.

7. Improve my Sustainable/Local Living.   In 2011 I stopped composting, but I’d like to start again in 2012.  I’m already a zealous recycler, but I could be doing better.  I’d also like to be part of a CSA, make “real” purchases at small businesses, which are over 25 dollars every month, and simply learning more about “Green” business, technology, and other innovators by reading websites.

8. Grow Spiritually. There’s a couple main parts to this, finding a Christian woman as a mentor or attending a Bible Study, practicing a few spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, study) with my husband more regularly, and hopefully discerning a vocation/calling for myself with prayer and study.  (As you may notice from my posts about work, I’m kind of lost in this area.)

That’s about it!  I’m looking forward to tracking my progress on the first of the month each month, and developing in as yet unforeseen ways.  Anyone got any resolutions they want to share?

Measurements

40″ 31″40″ or Blogging as a form of Self-Improvement

Sunday is my day to take stock of life.  It’s the day where I create the most lists because I sit down and journal about the Sunday sermon at my church, what happened last week that I want to change, and what tasks and things there are to do next week.  In addition I try to spend a little time ruminating on how to improve my life in the upcoming weeks and months.  What projects, hobbies, and activities do I want to add or drop…etc.

I came to the conclusion that this was an important thing to do last year after reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.   I have been keeping a journal since first grade, so it wasn’t without precedent. Since I am an avid journaller I frequently come across different methods of journaling which interest me, but not enough to commit to them.  For example, writing 5 things I am thankful for every day.

Blogging is one form of journaling, but I merely change my tone here.  I also attempt to have the content reflect a more integrated, happier, life than what fills my journal.  (Unfortunately, often nothing but complaints and wishes for the future.)

This year I have been rereading some of my life changing books, of which The Happiness Project is one.  I wish it were a more dignified tome to list as a “life changing” book, more along the ranks of Augustine’s Confessions.   Yet, over the weekend, The Happiness Project snuggled up with me in bed. Rubin’s project was to make herself more happy by attempting concrete actions, many of which echo with me when I read the book. (Such as her list of “Secrets of Adulthood.”  I’ve got my own which I add to constantly, which I’ve decided to start blogging about in tribute to Rubin.)

It was in her book that I learned that I’m a satisficer with regards to clothing and that started me on the pathway to correcting that flaw, and has improved my wardrobe, albeit very slowly and with a major setback due to pregnancy.  Her phrase “easy to be heavy, hard to be light” also fits in tidily with another phrase of my coworker’s “focus on the positive” that I try (and often fail) to embody.  But, I’m trying.  Still, the conclusion of the book is that for all her resolutions, the one that helped her the most was her Resolutions Chart.  This chart was her way of measuring her progress with a gold star; yes or no, did I complete my goal for the day.

This compilation of data for her however, is nothing like what I read about on Sunday.  It seems doable.  The latest quarterly copy of GOOD magazine  is devoted to data,  and I opened it up to one man’s beautifully quantified life.  Nicholas Felton is his name, and he’s been keeping records on himself since 2005 and publishing annual reports.  It’s like journalling and blogging on steroids.  Or perhaps like being in the hospital and being monitored by an EKG machine.

Which evoked a few questions I hadn’t contemplated before: is measuring yourself a sign of health, or sickness?  And secondly, is more of it better?  Finally, for whom are you measuring?

My private journals are certainly a form of very inefficient measuring.  I don’t do it every day.  I don’t write about the same things.  I don’t follow the same format.  Looking back in the journals doesn’t always reveal that I annotated events.  For example, my wedding day, a day I recall as the best of 2010, is merely alluded to on August 28th with the opening sentence, “Married Lady.”

Could I improve my journals by writing every day?  Possibly.  If what I was trying to achieve was an accurate measure of one day to another I could draft up a simple inquisition form and fill it out each day in the journal with some additional comments.  Certainly this would make it more scientific.

Felton’s records are extremely scientific in this regard, but are they are form of health or sickness?  Certainly, they are funny and well presented; something a great deal of blogger’s aim for with their beautiful photos that I envy.  And he notes many of attempts toward better health (exercise, eating), but often just the “best” moments.

Are his records “better” than other people’s blogs?  I don’t know.  I don’t think that that can be measured.  His records are certainly better at measuring his own life than another person’s blog about her own.

Why all this measuring?  Rubin decided it helped her become happier.  Lots of bloggers seem happy.  Writing in Journals has a glorious history stretching back to… I don’t know, forever.  But Rousseau (1755 First Edition of Confessions) and Pepys (1660, journal) come to mind quickly.  Perhaps data collection is just a product of the scientific revolution, and journaling is an extension of that.  If so, I suppose self-discovery is the latent end to it all, or theorems.

And the manifest end?  Reams of internet publication.