The Pulse of Essentials

It's taken me awhile to find the pulse between what is essential in life and what is not. I've whittled it down to my main essentials, which are: family, passion, community, education, justice and faith. They encompass the heart of what I care about; and what I'm steering my life towards.

Everything else is just the cracklins on the bottom of a Long John Silver's meal. Yummy, but not necessary. 

I used to live life like a game of dodgeball, running around trying to dodge failing or disappointing someone ~ the equivalent of chasing the urgent and diminishing the important. People would need help with something or need a favor or need a project done and I said yes, when I wanted to say no. If I mustered up the courage to say no, I felt guilty. Berating myself, I'd pour over it again and again, trying to see if there was any way I could jump through the other person's hoop and actually do what they wanted. 

But over time, through the wisdom of good friends, mentors and inspiring authors; I learned how to say no. In fact, I went through almost a year of pulling back from all my obligations and paring back to the bones. What I found was freedom. Without dodging all the balls, I could actually focus on the few important things I wanted to pour myself into. I was more productive, more creative, more present.

And yet...it's so easy to forget this lesson. While I've trained myself not to commit to anything until I've thought about it, I still have those times I forget or take on a bit too much. I'm better at spotting it when I have and take care not to add more.

Finding the why behind what I agree to is always important. If I can pinpoint what I'm hoping to gain out of doing something for whomever is asking, then I can objectively evaluate if this goes along with my essentials or not. If, perhaps, I'm wanting to help out a friend; well that's not wrong, but is this the right time? If I also have my college daughter coming home that day and she's wanting to spend time with me, then that may change my priorities. But if I am free and clear then it might be a yes.

Sometimes however, I know that what I'm asked to do will drain the only energy I have for my essentials. Those times I decline whether my schedule is clear or not.

I've found these questions to help me in my decision-making:

1. Why do I want to do this?
2. Is this part of my essentials?
3. Would this time be better spent on other things?

The why is the biggest part. If I'm wanting to do something to impress someone or keep someone from being upset with me, then I know those are selfish reasons and I'm not doing it out of love. If I'm not doing it out of love then I won't be the best person for the job. Or if I feel the task is necessary, then perhaps it's my attitude that needs to shift.  When I genuinely want to help and I can't uncover wrong motives, then I can forge ahead with a clear conscience.

What about you? Do you find it difficult to say no? What are your essentials?

Five March Goals

Wow, I cannot believe February is gone. This year is moving crazy~rapid. But I'm happy we finally got snow at the finish line of winter. I know there are people who've had heaps of it and hate it to death, but we'd not missed one school day by the end of January and I was feeling miffed. To my happy surprise, February brought several little snowstorms that gave us just enough slickness to stay in ~ and I adore staying in on a snow day!!

But today's post is about goals and now it's time to find out how I did last month on mine:

1. Write 1000 words each weekday. I should've given myself a little more slack than a thousand words each weekday. I should've just set a number goal and worked to achieve it; even if it didn't happen each day. Ah well...I did get writing done and that's the important thing.

2. Practice Spanish sounds and spellings in my Anki trainers (by Fluent Forever) daily. Yes! I'm getting faster at this by the minute which makes me so happy!

3. See the movie, You're Not You. I can't believe I didn't finish this one ~ seeing movies is one of my favorite things, gah! It just seems with snow days and various things I didn't make it to the theater. Well, hopefully I can catch up to watch it in March.

4. Get rid of two more garbage bags of stuff. I did, I did! And I could probably unload even more from my kitchen. I'm determined to do that soon.

5. Read two books. Oh yes, delicious ones. I love you, library.

That's not too bad a start for the year, but I hope to get even more goals marked off for this month.

Here are my five March goals:

1. Stay off the scale. {Did you chuckle?}This may seem like a silly one, but I'm giving myself a month off from checking weight. What is it with us and being obsessed with this number? I want to just focus on eating my best and staying active so I feel good. Staying off the scale will give me that chance.

2.  Write 5,000 words this month. That's a low number for an entire month, but I'm going to set myself up for success this time!

3.  Read a memoir and a writing book. These are two of my favorite kinds of books, so this is a pleasure goal.

4.  Reduce clutter in the kitchen. I'd love to see at least one large bag gone by the end of the month.

5. Surprise someone in need of company. We've had lots of sickness with elderly friends who might like a visit.

What are you hoping to do in March?

I Wanna Be Stargirl

I read Stargirl this week and was again blown away by the beauty of this story. I read it a few years ago when my daughter read it for school. I tend to make reading assignments for my kids a reading assignment for myself because I need to be informed on what they're reading, right? {Let's be honest, it's just an awesome excuse to read!}

This story impacted me in a huge way. It's told through the eyes of a high school boy and reveals how a new student, Stargirl, changes his perspective. Stargirl seems to be completely unaffected by any social norm. She is loving, giving, musical and full of surprises; but she goes against what most people consider normal so she's not received well. I'll admit, there's a part of me that wants to be her ~ so wholly unaffected by the opinions of others that you live life with absolute freedom. 

"She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew."

If you have children in your life, gift them with this book! Or just gift yourself, it's a powerful story.

Five February Goals

I'm really looking forward to another year of setting little goals each month. Like last year, I didn't set any monthly goals for January because I was busy setting up my yearly goals, so February marks the beginning of my monthly goals for 2015.

Here are my five goals:

1. Write 1000 words each weekday. I'm working on a writing project at the moment that I'm really excited about. It's been a long time since I've had time to focus on writing but I'm at a season of my life now where I'm able to. The hardest part is actually sitting down to start each day, but crossing off a list and putting a sticker on my chart helps motivate me. I had an almost perfect record in January so I'm hoping I can beat it in February.

2. Practice Spanish sounds and spellings in my Anki trainers (by Fluent Forever) daily. This is something I never thought I'd say, but I am LOVING learning Spanish! These cards make it super fun, it's like playing a game each day. I find myself recognizing words and sounds that I don't remember knowing and it's just super exciting. I can't recommend enough the book Fluent Forever if you're wanting to learn a new language!

3. See the movie, You're Not You. This movie looks inspiring in the best way. It looks like an incredible movie on friendship in the midst of a horrible disease and the power one person can have in giving hope.

4. Get rid of two more garbage bags of stuff. This doesn't seem to be a difficult one for our family, we have a giveaway box by our door that somehow continues to fill up as we de-clutter our lives. But this goal is for me, personally. I want to get rid of two garbage bags full of MY stuff.

5. Read two books. I lap up books like they're chocolate pudding, but sometimes I can get sidetracked with life so I'm putting this as a goal this month to keep myself on track.

What about you, what are you hoping to do this month?

What I've Been Reading Lately

I found an article yesterday that said hobbies you loved as a child are most likely the hobbies that will refresh you as an adult. My favorite childhood pursuits were reading (so surprising), music, and asking a million questions, which surprisingly all still ring true today.

Now for the real reason you opened this post, the books:

Here If You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup. This book--mwah! This is a bea-u-tifully written memoir about a woman whose husband dies unexpectedly and how she moves forward, eventually becoming a chaplain to game wardens. While it may seem that game wardens in Maine wouldn't have much need for her, you'll be surprised. Her well-told stories of hunting for lost ones, comforting grieving families and encouraging wardens will captivate you. This book is moving, funny and inspiring. One I would highly recommend.

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod is chalk full of helpful and hilarious tips on moving forward with creativity (not to mention his fun business card art). He has the ability to wryly kick you in the pants while making you laugh. I set this book down, grabbed a pen, and started creating!

Because I'm insatiably curious and still love to ask questions, do you find that your hobbies today are similar to the hobbies you loved as a child?