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!

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?


New Years Resolutions – July Edition

It’s been about two months since I reviewed my New Year’s Resolutions so I feel like we’re due for a re-cap here.

 Lose 15 Pounds – total pounds lost so far this year – 13! – I am so close to meeting my goal, and I’m pretty dang proud of myself. I’ve been running three or more times a week and lifting weights at least twice a week.  I’ve also got a lot of clothes to go through by the end of the month and decide whether to discard or keep them or give them away.

Be a good friend – I honestly thought summer would be a time of non-stop hanging out with people all the time… and that hasn’t quite been true. But I have been spending more time with a few new friends of mine, and of course, my lovely co-bloggers at Connect Shore. I’ve been trying to teach Ethan how to be a good friend – which for him mostly means, not hitting people in the face, or on the head, or at all. And suddenly, I found myself asking – what does friendship look like in adulthood? I think I should probably spend a little more time defining “friendship” instead of just meandering through life trying to do it better. Yeah, That’s probably a blog post that’ll show up in August.

Read 15 Important Books– I can’t say that I read any of the books I marked as important in July. But I caught up on a great deal of fiction books that I had wanted to read – Gilead, Game of Thrones, Little Women and Me, That Hideous Strength for a few. And reading fiction after quite a bit of statistics readings in June was a welcome change.

Family First – I’m proud to announce that we managed a rough draft of our family mission statement. It’s scribbled into a corner of my notebook, the one that I use as a planner, idea jotter, and list holder. Hopefully as we ease into what will probably be the most relaxing month of the year, I will be able to approximate an appropriately beautiful representation of these idealistic thoughts.

Practice Better Blogging – Ha. Honestly, I thought it was too hot to blog in July. I sat on my couch reading said fiction books and felt only a small bit of guilt about my lack of posts. Hey, it’s the summer, right? Now that it’s been back in the 70’s I find the ideas are coming back, and I’ve been toying with looking into attending a blogging conference sometime in the next six months.  (Looking back on last year, the same thing happened.  July really IS too hot for blogging.)

Be An Active part of my Communities – What are my communities again? Oh yeah, Church, Blogging, Salem, Moms. Hmm… I think I’m gathering dust here… not sure that’s a good thing.

Improve my Sustainable Living – Got the compost bin. Finally. Eating my weight (well, at least my left leg’s weight) in vegetables from Farmer Dave’s CSA every week. Learning to check Craigslist before buying anything is my goal for august. Also,I’m going to have to sort out my thoughts on Amazon offering used options for almost everything. Is this a good/sustainable thing, even if it’s still shipped from six states away?

Grow Spiritually – I was reminded this month how important journalling is to my spiritual growth. If I can get myself to take a moment to pause and pen some words, I’m well on the way to appreciating God’s hand in my life. I realized I’d never make a good missionary because I have a hard time seeing God’s work when it’s happening and therefore giving credit where credit is due. It’s only in retrospect that I’m able to definitively say “That was an answer to prayer.” Certainly something to ponder and improve upon in the future.

Other Great July Things: Got the assistantship for Salem State, learned to crochet, and saw a beautiful friend get married in Pennsylvania.

How I Motivate Myself to Lose Weight and Keep Running: The Story Continued

This is Part Two of my motivational running and weight loss story: to read Part One go here.

So, there I was, somewhat adrift in college, dissatisfied with my weight, the direction of my life, my whole identity even.  I really didn’t know much about what I wanted in life, or about my own self then..  I didn’t start to sort it out until the following summer after I worked another summer at the same Christian summer camp and processed what had happened that first year of college.

What turned me around by the end of that summer as I came back to the school in the fall?  A lot of interconnected things like: prayer, making friends, and the safety of both my college and my camp as a place to explore newly emerging identity.    It was a complex mix of many factors, but the general result was:  I was happy.  Deliriously happy sometimes.  I started running again, and I ran all year first outside on the trails at college and indoors in the gym.  I lost twenty pounds and I felt pretty good about my self-image.

And then, I got sad again.  Why?  Perhaps the prospect of leaving a safe environment, perhaps the stress of graduation?   I gained back five pounds and felt adrift, but not as much as I had three years prior.

During my final semester at college, I lacked any career ideas, so I planned on a trip to New Zealand to work on organic farms through WWOOF.  This was a very good choice.  Before traveling I had some basic nutritional knowledge gleaned through the process of reading women’s magazines and hearing sound bites from doctors.  However while in New Zealand I got to visit people who made their living working with food.  They had whole different ways of eating and viewing food than my family and certainly than other college students.  Also, with all the time I had on my hands (some of these farms were fifty miles out in the country, no internet access, lots of sheep.) I had plenty of time to process my life experiences up to that point.  I came back a changed person with a fairly solid identity.

Me in the Wairarapa Valley in New Zealand: 2006

Over the course of the next year I dropped twenty pounds without much effort, and I maintained this weight for three years, which was something of a novelty to me at the time, having fluctuated for the past eight years, mostly trending upward.

So where does the running pick up again?  About two years after returning from New Zealand.  I made a semi-conscious effort to find more athletic friends and started hiking, playing soccer, bike commuting, lifting weights, and yes, running.  I continued to eat healthily, and had a special place in my heart for farmer’s markets and CSAs.  (and growing avocados from pits.)

I ran sporadically (less than 5 miles a week) for about a year, and then got serious. I wanted to improve my soccer game, and I wanted to be f-a-s-t.  I applied myself, found a great group of runners, lost the last of the weight I had gained in high school and college, and succeeded in being the fastest runner I’d ever been as well as the best soccer player. At the end of that summer I got married to the man of my dreams and went blissfully into the sunset of another stint at WWOOFing and international travel.


At this point the movie will end, but if you want the psychological analysis stay tuned.


Part of me thinks this crucial turning a year out of college had to do with general maturing of my brain, which psychologists and scientists are saying doesn’t happen till your twenties.  As this NPR article puts it – “…insight requires — that’s right — a fully connected frontal lobe.”

With my full connected frontal lobe I figured out a few crucial lessons that made my life a lot better.  First, that you can improve yourself beyond your baseline capabilities by setting short and long term goals. Second, that to reach these goals you must practice, and possibly even sacrifice in the present.  Third: that a short term setback doesn’t equal long term failure.  Fourth that there is great satisfaction in tangible accomplishments, like getting an A in a class, or finishing a race.  But there is also a great deal of satisfaction in intangible accomplishments like having good community or doing small steps toward long term goals – like daily eating more fruit.

 Another part of me chalks the whole thing up to better communities supporting me.  Friends, family and work colleagues, a healthy romantic relationship, and especially a robust spiritual life all allowed me to safely strive for difficult goals, which is turn fed into a sense of self-efficacy and contentment.

Right now I may have returned to the same weight I was five years ago, but I have all the great relationships, friendships, personal goals, wisdom, and nutritional knowledge that I built in the time since then, and because of that, I can wait a little longer to lose the weight.

 Looking back on your life do you notice themes?  Do you have a great success story? What is the story you tell about yourself?

Motivated to run again? I am.

How I Motivate Myself to Lose Weight and Keep Running:

Lately I’ve found myself slipping into a “can’t do” attitude with my goal of weight loss and a return to my pre-pregnancy physical condition.  Lots of days I want to sit on my couch in my pajamas reading Time Magazine or the latest YA book until noon.  However, in the past whenever I’ve been distressed with a lack of progress I motivate myself with my “rags to riches” weight loss and running story.  I wish I had pictures to include – but they are all packed away right now. Meanwhile – It goes a little like this.

– Cue the dramatic music and dim the lights, the story is about to begin! –

I grew up in a soccer-van type of family.  All four kids played for at least a couple seasons on the town league, and some of us were good, and some of us weren’t.  Although I liked to play, I wasn’t the most driven player.  My dad always said I was the type to have to be mad to play well, and I only got mad when we were losing.

In high school after seasons of only so-so soccer ability, I decided to try something new; cross-country.  I didn’t pick the sport with the most enlightened mind.  In fact, I knew nothing about it.  But since this was the first year the sport was offered, every runner counted in the goal toward finding five runners for each team (boys and girls) to qualify for a match. So I showed up.   Two weeks before classes started on a hot August day I was on a field that was mostly football players and soccer stars.  What happened next involved my Walmart sneakers and I jogging two laps around the school building.  Reader, I barely made it that half-mile.  That was the beginning of running.

Since this is a story about two things (weight loss and running) let me provide you with a little nutritional background as well.  I also grew up in a carbs and snacks kind of family.  We were always eating, usually crackers or candy, and at meal times the vegetable portions were small and the rest, well, the rest wasn’t.  “Seconds” was a routine part of these family meals, and slow mindful eating was a totally foreign concept as well.   Along with a penchant to view sweets as rewards for all occasions and successes, I didn’t exactly have good foundation for healthy eating.

When it came to cross country I was mostly people oriented and hardly performance oriented.  I loved the feeling of participating in a team sport, running with my friends, and identifying as a “runner.”  But, when it came right down to improving… I didn’t. The hard truth is, I didn’t apply myself very well.  I started out intending to run during the off-seasons, but really I would start running again in August each year after an 8 month hiatus with another three pounds under my running shorts.  I won no awards, merely came out of the whole experience with was a sense belonging and some accomplishment of consistently showing up and working hard.  I also took some (perhaps misguided) pride in being the “slowest runner” on the team.

Although I emailed the coach at my college to receive a training plan for the summer, and contemplated joining their cross country team, I didn’t run very much over that summer either and also gained ten pounds at summer camp.  When late August appeared and I stepped onto my college campus, I was too ashamed to join the team, or even meet with the coach, sure that I would once again be “the slowest runner on the team” as I had always contented myself with in high school.

This time, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to keep that title and I didn’t quite know how to overcome it, or the weight gain.   Over the course of that first semester I stepped foot in the gym about 5 times, and gained twenty-five more pounds due to poor eating habits, unlimited cafeteria food options, late night eating, and the type of crippling identity crisis that hits a fair number of college freshman.

This is the point I consider the “low” of my story.

Which makes it a fitting time for a commercial break.

The March Celebration of Progress

The monthly review of how my New Years Resolutions are being thought and acted upon.

My resolutions have been driving change, small, good change, like thankfulness, and celebration.  I’ve kind of been realizing lately, that although it may be important to strive for authenticity, to search out how to live a life fully integrated and absolutely meaningful, it certainly isn’t always necessary to go to New Zealand and back to do it.  (Been there, done that.)  Sometimes, Salem, and the surrounding towns, are good enough.

That said, here’s how the goals are coming:

1. Lose 15 pounds – I lost two more pounds in March, and have been able to run for 20 minutes at a time two times.   I have been combining mostly walking and running on a treadmill, but I’m looking forward to running outside in April.  I’ve also got a story coming for you all about how running has been in my life for a looong time… and trying to lose weight.

2. Be a Better Friend – In March my husband and I went to three parties, hosted one book club meeting, and I met twice with my blog group.  I saw some faraway friends, planned a movie night, and met a couple new people this month.  Unfortunately, one my my mom groups fell apart.  That is, I think it did, since I didn’t see them all of March.  At this point, I can either decide to join another (brand new group) or attempt to salvage what is left of that group?  I’m not sure yet.   I’m realizing that this goal, which started out as “Make a friend circle” is mostly just about how to be a better friend in general, and what friendship looks like through life transitions like having a baby, getting married, and choosing a more differentiated life path.

3. Read 15 “Difficult” Books.  I’ve been reading Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God is Within You, the book that inspired Ghandi, Jane Addams, and indirectly Martin Luther King Jr.  It’s accusatory, incendiary, and revolutionary, everything you’d expect from a historical figure like Tolstoy.  This is my third difficult book of the year, if I intend to make 15… I’ll have to really step it up in the next 8 months!

4. Family First – Going places and making memories is a big part of what I think a family should do, but we were running into difficulty with things like fatigue, scheduling conflicts, and money woes.  So, my husband and I decided to switch off planning one activity each week which counts as “family time.”  This is an easy way to explore and doesn’t put all the pressure of planning on one person.  We also make an attempt to have events be free and local things, like Salem’s Book Swap a few weeks ago, and Winter Island on beautiful March evenings.

5. Practice Better Blogging – A bit of a dud in March, it continued to be really difficult to post with internet time limited to less than two hours each week.  I’m looking forward to resuming a more “full” schedule in April.  I’m also getting more and more excited about the collaboration going on for my group blog and our launch date sometime in June.

6. Be Part of my Communities – Big plusses in this area with my quest to pick up more trash off the streets, attend more church events (like our Square Dance!) as well as make a meal for a new mother.  As for being part of Salem, I visited the museum twice, made quite a number of purchases downtown (like at Mud Puddle Toys – purchasing some cars for Ethan).

I’m considering joining the Wicked Running Club in Salem this month… but we’ll see if I can run 30 minutes at a time, that’s my goal for an entry point!

7. Seek out Spiritual Wisdom  – This month I began reading Francis De Sales’ spiritual classic “Introduction to the Devout Life.”  deSales says that the devout life is the sweetest life one can live, and his book is a combination of tips and meditations.  I also joined a Bible Study which I plan to attend for the next ten weeks, at which point, I’m hoping to find a spiritual director.

8. Live Sustainably  – In March I tracked where we drove our car and what trips we took, and I’ll post that data another day.  I also SUCCESSFULLY cooked my first beans that didn’t taste awful.  If you remember, this was something I wanted to try in January, but I somehow managed to create an awful-tasting mess. Twice.  Not so in March, I purchased some Adzuki beans (which are quick cooking), and made a quinoa, bean, broccoli salad.   Success.  Oh… And we started using cloth diapers two to three times a day, talk about a successful month!

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?