Needed: Battery Recharging

Happy New Year!

I always love the promise that a new year brings.  I have some general goals for the year, but no real resolutions, except one: to go back to my new month’s resolutions.  Since most new year’s resolutions are forgotten by February or March, better to have a goal for the month, rather than an entire year.  Besides, needs change month by month.  What I need to do in July is often very different than what I need to do in January.

This month, my goal is to sit down for 30 consecutive minutes every afternoon.  Maybe with a cup of tea and a book.  Not with the computer or any sort of work.

I’ve resolved this in the past, and I generally do it.  But then I get away from it, especially during these busy months.  I don’t think I sat down once from noon until about 7 pm yesterday.

As for the coming year, who knows what the future may bring.  A few weeks ago, Bill and I sat on our living room couch and looked around.  We remembered where we were 10 years ago: we had two little boys, we lived in a tiny fixer-upper house; we struggled to make ends meet and thought that life was oh-so-hard.  We had no clue.  We tried to picture our life in another 10 years, and of course, this was impossible.  Chances are very good that one year from today, I will be sitting at the same computer at the same desk in the same room.  Chances are extremely slim that I will live in the same state six months after that.  Long term planning is necessarily relatively vague: to be healthier, wealthier and wiser.

What goals and plans do you have for the coming year?  But mostly, what are you going to tackle this month?

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New Year’s Resolutions

I suppose many people posted resolutions yesterday. Resolutions never start on January 1st, of course. That day is a freebie. It’s a holiday.

And this year, with the 2nd and 3rd being a weekend – and Epiphany, too – I don’t see how resolutions could start then either.

Mondays are always good for fresh starts. So, nothing I post applies yet. This is all stuff for next week and beyond.

First of all, DIET. I’ve been eating way too many Russian Tea Cakes (made with pecans, not walnuts, BTW) and drinking too much eggnog. I’ve put on the usual 5 or so holiday pounds. Time to stop. This year, in fact, I think is the perfect year to go vegetarian. Why not? I hear it’s healthy, so let’s go healthy. I’m going to eat only organic, locally grown, raw fruits and vegetables. And since local temperatures are in the 30’s, I’m pretty sure this will mean no fruits or vegetables until we move to Georgia. But it’s what they say is the best way to eat, and I’m all about doing the best things. I’m also going to make my own bread, from my own ground wheat, grown locally and organically. And since I’m not going to be a vegan (really, there is no harm to a chicken when you take the egg), I’ll churn my own butter to put on top.

Next, EXERCISE. Three marathons. I can do it. I just need to set my mind to it.

SLEEP. 10 pm to 5 am every day. No exceptions.

READING. Two books a week.

WRITING. I know there’s a 500 page novel inside me. I will get it out.

DECLUTTERING. I’m thinking Japanese simplicity. We don’t need toys anyway.

PRAYER LIFE. Daily rosary followed by daily Mass. With all the kids. Just think how many souls will get out of purgatory.

BEING A WIFE. Dates once a week with my husband. I will not get annoyed by his behavior. I will not nag him. I will not complain about how many hours he works or if he is late for dinner or if he doesn’t like my tofu and bean sprout stir fry.

MOTHERING. I will never raise my voice. I will never get angry. I will follow through on all declared punishments. I will never ignore noises from three rooms away when I know they are misbehaving. I will always get up immediately to respond to a child who is ignoring a direct order. I will hug my children at least 5 times a day, especially the older ones.

MONEY. I will put half our income aside for the children’s college fund. The other half I will give to the poor.

Dream big. I am pretty sure I will have as much success with these resolutions as I would with any others.

New Month’s Resolution for April

Yes, I know it’s the fifth of the month, and I never even did one for March (I had one in my head, I just never posted it), but I am finally getting around to this.

Unless you have experienced it yourself, it is impossible to convey the stress that is involved in the few months before a soldier expects to deploy. Add to it the uncertainty of exactly when (a date and a time) that the soldier will physically depart and also the sudden learning of obligations (trainings) that he will have to do beforehand (away from home), and his time left begins to seem very very short.

Heck, it is very short.

Oh, and then there is this psychological thing called detachment. It’s an emotional defense that has human beings trying to cope with an impending loss by acting as though the loss has already occurred. It stinks.

Anyway, chief among my anxieties is the thought that Bill won’t be around to do any little projects that come up, so, unfortunately for him, I’m listing “things that must be done before July” like installing a clothesline and organizing the garage. And since I want to try to enjoy the last few weeks he’s here by doing fun stuff like Busch Gardens (still allowing service members and families in for free) and Colonial Williamsburg, it’s really “things that must be done before June.” And since in May, we have Katie’s First Holy Communion and my entire family coming in as well to simultaneously celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, my sister and her family staying for another week having flown all the way from Alaska, and then Bill leaving directly after that for a week of training, it’s really “things that must be done before May.”

So, April will be a busy month with lots of organizing and cleaning. My hopes are to do the closets in the master bedroom, the storage area (with a weight bench that needs to be put together – we’ve been here for 9 months now) and the garage which are all areas where I need Bill’s help. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it all, but I hope so.

New Month’s Resolution for January

I promised that my New Month’s Resolutions would reflect back to my New Year’s Resolution to be more organized and to take the running of the household more seriously. Last month, the plan was to organize the office and the school room. I got the office done, except for printing out five labels for the clutter-management boxes I bought. It’s been days and days, and I can actually see my desk most of the time, a vast improvement over its usual condition. It is unrealistic for busy, involved people to completely avoid a certain degree of paperwork clutter. Better to make it all pretty, or at least hidden, and retrievable.

The schoolroom is a big task, and I just didn’t get to it last month. This month, I will.

I also need to sit down and plan out meals for the month, something I have been trying to do since October with fairly good success. But since Lent begins this month, I think I will go ahead and plan out most of the meals through the beginning of April. I’ll leave one day a week for “something new,” but the rest of the days will just be simple, inexpensive, and routine (perhaps a two-week repeating cycle). Then I can focus on buying the ingredients in advance, so they are on hand, and perhaps even doing some prep work in advance (like cooking and seasoning taco meat and putting it in the freezer), so that crunch time meals are stress-free.

What is a New Month’s Resolution? Every month I look at where I need to focus my attention. Perhaps I’ve been procrastinating on certain chores. Perhaps I need to spend some extra time with one or more of the kids. Perhaps I’d like to try a new habit. New Month’s Resolutions are not grandiose plans to lose ten pounds or declutter the entire house or give up smoking (of course, I don’t smoke, but if I did, this would not be the venue in which I would give it up). New Month’s resolutions are short-term commitments; they are easily attained goals; they focus on what is needed right now, instead of what is best for a lifetime.

Do you have a new month’s resolution?

New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of the school year, I volunteered to be the “Cookie Mom” for Katie’s and Jenny’s Girl Scout troops. {If you live in Northern Virginia and you want cookies, just let me know.} In November, I had to attend a training session to learn how the whole program works. The woman doing the training mentioned that being Cookie Mom was a great résumé builder, especially since you would be responsible for thousands of dollars of cash.

{Tangentially, it was then that my friend, Rachel, turned to me and asked if I kept an up-to-date résumé with a tone that suggested but of course you do, right? If I didn’t know Rachel very well, I might have been tempted to lie and pretend that I was all hip and ready to jump into the real world any time a lucrative offer came along. Instead I said something about God knowing what was on my résumé.}

{Also, tangentially, when I relayed the whole “responsible for great sums of money” line to my husband, he seemed to think thousands of dollars of cash was chump change. I had to remind him that despite my high salary and responsible-sounding “Engineer” title, I never handled actual money or even an inventory. He, on the other hand, was personally responsible, as a 30 year old Company Commander, for millions of dollars worth of equipment, including tanks, and I’m sure he’d be more than happy to brag about how many millions of dollars his department’s operating budget is. But I don’t think most people do jobs where they are responsible for seven-or eight- or nine-figure budgets.}

Well, like Bill, I don’t really think handling even $5,000 cash is truly a big deal. But I’m also not interested in building my résumé either.

{On another tangent, it reminds me of looking back at my senior year high school yearbook picture which lists all my “accomplishments.” I think it says that I was VP of the German Club or some other position. I barely remember that. I know I didn’t lie when I filled out the data form, but I also know that I remember the things which truly meant a lot to me, and those which were less important, I have forgotten. Being a Cookie Mom, I predict, will not rank among my cherished memories.}

But the talk of operating budgets and large sums of cash got me to thinking about my own household budget. Thanks to direct deposit and the ability to pay bills electronically, I don’t have to handle actual cash most of the time. And although my household operating budget will likely never be remotely near the seven-figure level, it certainly exceeds any amount the girls’ troops will generate in cookie sales.

This is actually quite an enormous responsibility, this running of the household finances and the household in general. Although ideally it should be a shared responsibility between me and Bill, who is oh-so-experienced in managing budgets, realistically, this burden falls primarily on the shoulders of anyone who is married to the military.

{When Bill deployed to Kosovo in 2003, the first thing that broke was the oven. “Bill, I broke the oven,” I told him. “OK,” he said. Such is the level of involvement an Army wife might expect in her away-from-home-for-months-at-a-time husband in the management of household affairs. Next up was the transmission in the mini-van. “It’s not worth fixing. Get another one,” he decided. Easy for him to say. Have you ever tried to test drive a car, a lone adult, with three little kids in tow, all who require child safety seats? But I was happy enough that I could easily obtain his opinion on whether to repair or replace.}

Sadly, I do not think I have taken this responsibility very seriously. And not just the budget but the whole running of the household, in general. Recently, I had to email someone for her snail mail address, again, having apparently deleted her email from weeks ago with that information. The kids and I went to the dentist just before we moved from Kansas in June, and I’ve been telling myself for 6 months to get appointments with the new dentist. I generally think of it at eleven o’clock at night.

Why is it that I tolerate a lackadaisical attitude toward home management when I never behaved that way when I worked for pay? When I left my desk at the end of the workday (way back when), it was neat as a pin. Everything was filed or placed neatly in my in bin. There was no dust. My “hot” to-do list was placed squarely in the middle so I knew exactly what I had to begin when I arrived in the morning. Addresses and phone numbers were consistently updated and kept in the same place (this was in the day before everything was done on the computer). I never missed deadlines. I never forgot appointments. I was much more pro-active than reactive.

It’s not that I want to treat my family as employees – cordial, yet detached. It’s that I want to bring my talents to organize and manage and multi-task and plan and budget both time and money into play when it comes to my home. I don’t want to merely say that my grocery budget is $800 a month, I want to be as hyper-vigilant in meeting that budget as if my job depended on it. I want to eat like a king the last week of the month (or the last month of the year) because I was so frugal at the beginning (or take the money saved and splurge on some luxury).

I don’t want to dig under the pile on my desk for a phone number. I don’t want to climb into my closet looking for that bag of fabric I’m sure I put in there somewhere. I don’t want to have to move a pile of junk in order to use my copier (as I’m doing right now).

So, my resolution for this year is to treat my running of the household more as I would treat my running of a business. My monthly resolutions will reflect this goal. This month’s focus will be on organizing the office and the school room so that the two areas which cause me the greatest headache and where I spend much of my time will help me succeed in my mission.

And I’m going to run 15 miles a week and lose 10 pounds.

And pray more. And read more.

And hug the kids more.

The usual stuff.

New Month’s Resolution for December

Some future year, I will have the wreath and candles out of storage in time for dinner on the First Sunday of Advent.

Some future year, I will have all (or at least most) of my Christmas shopping done by the end of November.

Some future year, I will spend lazy Sunday afternoons addressing Christmas cards and have them all ready for the postman by mid-December.

Some future year, I will string popcorn and cranberries and decorate the evergreen trees (I don’t have any evergreen trees here) for the birds.

Some future year, my desire and creativity regarding homemade gifts will not exceed the time and energy available for doing them.

But since it is the beginning of December, and none of the above will be happening this year, I am going to focus on letting go of those ideas. The wreath will come out today (I hope). The shopping will get done (online, mainly). The cards and the treats for the birds and the homemade gifts will get done, or not, as usual.

Ultimately, it boils down to pride. I want to put on a good show. If things aren’t “perfect” it means I am not perfect. Failure to meet my own unreasonable expectations makes me stressed and frustrated and grumpy, and that isn’t fair to my family, and it certainly isn’t fair to me. I can’t do it all. And I must humbly accept that.

What is a New Month’s Resolution? Every month I look at where I need to focus my attention. Perhaps I’ve been procrastinating on certain chores. Perhaps I need to spend some extra time with one or more of the kids. Perhaps I’d like to try a new habit. New Month’s Resolutions are not grandiose plans to lose ten pounds or declutter the entire house or give up smoking (of course, I don’t smoke, but if I did, this would not be the venue in which I would give it up). New Month’s resolutions are short-term commitments; they are easily attained goals; they focus on what is needed right now, instead of what is best for a lifetime.

Do you have a new month’s resolution?

New Month’s Resolution for November

It’s time to wean from the caffeine.

I hope to have my coffee down to a 50-50 split by the end of the month.

Perhaps I ought to add “take a daily nap” to my resolution?

What is a New Month’s Resolution? Every month I look at where I need to focus my attention. Perhaps I’ve been procrastinating on certain chores. Perhaps I need to spend some extra time with one or more of the kids. Perhaps I’d like to try a new habit. New Month’s Resolutions are not grandiose plans to lose ten pounds or declutter the entire house or give up smoking (of course, I don’t smoke, but if I did, this would not be the venue in which I would give it up). New Month’s resolutions are short-term commitments; they are easily attained goals; they focus on what is needed right now, instead of what is best for a lifetime.

Do you have a new month’s resolution?