2016 Resolution Updates: September

Back in the Saddle… Feeling Sore

Back-to-school fever hit me in late August and I decided to get back into the monthly resolution saddle.

I thought about what is really important to me, what I’d like to achieve if I had superhuman powers and a staff to cater to my every whim. Don’t laugh – that’s how some of my to-do lists used to look like! I didn’t group my priorities into any particular categories at that time but, looking back, I covered the basics for my physical and emotional needs: exercise, connection with friends and family, and one-on-one time with my two older children on a more consistent basis.

With the enthusiasm of new beginnings, the first week went very well. And really, if I lower my expectations from perfect to reasonable, the whole month went well.

One of my goals was to be more aware of sharing loving hugs with my family rather than perfunctory ones. My eldest child often asks for hugs. I pretty much always give the hug, but it’s not always a loving hug. I felt guilty about that. I could throw out excuses like being busy or sleep deprived, but I knew I would feel better if I took the time to transmit my love with a hug every day.

Instead of ticking a box for my hugging objective, I complicated matters by writing an initial for each person in my family. Ok, it’s not rocket science, but it multiplied the work of my single tick by four. The fuzzy nature of the goal made it hard for me to keep track – had that hug before breakfast been a loving hug even though it was brief? Did length of time even matter?

While writing this post, I’ve just had an epiphany that will hopefully help me to work on my hugging goal in October. Instead of trying to clock up one meaningful, loving hug with each member of my family every day, I should associate every single hug with a chance to transmit the deep love I have for each of them, no matter what craziness has just gone on, or how many things I have to do right this minute. Doing the same thing every time is often easier than doing than doing it only some of the time. It’s worth a try anyway!


2016 Resolution Updates: April

I am guilt-less-ly taking a break from keeping resolutions from April until the overwhelming urge comes up again later this year, no doubt.

April had me waiting…and waiting…for Baby #3 to come along. Any day now, I thought, but she kept us waiting until the end of the month.

It’ll take me a while to get into the groove of being a mom of three, and I want to enjoy the experience as much as I can.

Thanks to everyone who keeps checking up on me here. I will be back  🙂

Ukulele Life Lessons #3

I decided “Happy Birthday” was the perfect song to turn my attention to first. Everyone knows it. I’ve been singing it all my life. How difficult could it be?!

I checked out a few videos on YouTube. The first couple didn’t sound remotely like the “Happy Birthday” song to me, but I did say before I do not have a musically-inclined ear. The finger-picking video tutorials made more sense, but surely those were too difficult for an absolute beginner like me?!

In the end, I found a compromise  – a simple finger picking of the first note, and strumming for the rest. The intended audience didn’ t seem impressed on the occasion of his second birthday, but he did ask me to play it again the next time I got the uke out. So I’m going to take that as (the only) sign of encouragement 🙂

Ukulele Life Lessons:

  • Simple and familiar is a good place to start
  • A hint of difficulty can set the tone and make you appear more accomplished than you actually are 😉
  • Just because you feel unappreciated doesn’t mean that there isn’t at least a glimmer of interest and admiration on the other side.

2016 Resolution Updates: March

Hmmmm…March is when my “tick the boxes” system started to go awry…or so I thought.

The parts of my life I chose to work on were:

  1. Nesting. So if I change the language to suit the last part of my pregnancy, rather than referring to this project as the evergreen decluttering, would that make any difference? The urgency I felt at having so little free time to myself before Baby#3 arrived definitely forced me to up my game. I made a significant dent in some of the problem areas of our home. Now on to the Maintain Game, while raising three kids.
  2. Writing and planning. I worked in a few spurts on this. Again, there was a certain degree of urgency, as I realize I probably won’t have a lot of time to write for a while after the baby is born. If I do find time to write somehow, it’ll likely be sleep-deprived nonsense.
  3. Connecting with friends. I wanted to lend a hand to friends by sharing useful information, lending a physical hand, or just reaching out and saying hello without any obvious reason – I know it always warms my heart when I hear from a friend I haven’t been in touch with in a while.
  4. Photobooks. This is a huge unending project, but I had stripped it down to a reasonable scale. At the beginning of the month, I had a firm deadline in mind – the website I use to print my books were having a 60% off sale, so that was a huge incentive. Unfortunately, I ran into a “can’t find the pictures from a particular trip” problem. I realized there was no point in skipping over an important trip just to make progress – I would regret that – so the photobooks project stalled while I went in search of those photos. On the positive side, I took careful notes of the points I had finished, and where I wanted to pick up from the next time.
  5. Movement. I was really busy this month, so although there wasn’t intentional movement in a cardio session, or X minutes of strength exercises, kind of way, I definitely moved around a lot!
  6. Ukulele – make progress on the next song. No excuses, I practised maybe twice 😦   In creating this goal, I didn’t pay enough attention to when I was going to practise. I thought after my kids went to bed would be a good idea, but when I actually had remaining energy left after that happened, I worried the music (noise!) might wake them up. I tried to practise while they were awake, but both of them wanted in on the session. My younger child is only two, so he just thinks it’s Mommy’s toy. All he wants to do is reenact my string-breaking experience!
  7. Celebrate! I marked this on my calendar 12 days out of this month, so that’s pretty good. We had a birthday in the family, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and a few cherry blossom picnics to celebrate. In addition, there were a few savored moments that might have passed me by had I not chosen to focus on celebrating the little things this year.

Overall, I didn’t do as badly as I first thought for someone who was finishing up a full-time job to go on maternity leave, and doing my best to prepare our family for the new baby.

A pat on the back wins out over recriminations 🙂


2016 Resolution Updates: February

March is here, and today is my day of reckoning for February.
Looking at the calendar, it’s not as impressive as January was. I’m not too worried about that, because a few of my January goals were of the mini-habit type, which meant I could complete three or four of them in less than five minutes.
Some of my February goals, on the other hand, were a bit more involved so I knew that I wouldn’t be checking off everything every single day. Superwoman, I am not!

I tried a gratitude experiment following the format I learned from a friend late last year. For years, she wrote three things she was grateful for every day: a person, a place, and a thing. I wrote it straight onto my calendar, so it wasn’t as involved as a journal. Simplicity was key to me actually writing it every day, though. I’m generally the type of person to count my blessings, but the place to be grateful for was a challenge some days.

I called this habit nesting rather than decluttering in the hope that the change of moniker would bring me greater success than the numerous times in the past when I have attempted to declutter, but haven’t gotten very far. I made definite progress, although not as much as I would have liked. Nesting is on the agenda again for March, and it will be for as much of April as I am still pregnant!

I was pretty consistent with my writing until the end of the month, when I ran out of steam. I thought I would have made progress on the planning front, but that didn’t happen. Once I had sent Book #2 to some beta readers, I switched my focus to another project instead of finishing off all the bits and pieces that would make Book #2 as complete and ready to release as possible after I go through the feedback from my beta readers, and another round of editing. I don’t regret it, because my brain needed a change, but I want to get back on track in March.

I wanted to make time for a few small, manageable crafts. I didn’t arm-knit a scarf, which had been on my want-to-do list, but I knitted a necklace. That idea had been floating around my head for a while. My 4-year-old DS was very interested, so we started to make one for him when mine was finished. He wanted to do it himself- of course! That was a good exercise in patience for me! I included my ukulele practice under crafts too, and mastered the birthday song.

I did several prenatal yoga workouts in the first half of the month, and always felt better…except until I didn’t 😦 I strained a muscle around the 10th, and the rest of this resolution fizzled out after that, even though I feel completely better now. Yet again, I realized that if I don’t carry out a new habit every day, it’s so much harder for me to keep it going. I’ll be giving it another go this month.

I wrote a review of this affirmation & visualization app. You can find the link over there on the left-hand side. I have been using it since late last year, but I wanted to develop a habit of visualizing every day. I managed to do that – just missed a couple of days. I hope to keep this up, too.

Throughout the year, I’ll be keeping my watchword, Celebrate, in mind. I enjoyed celebrating Pancake Tuesday with some galettes [Breton-style buckwheat pancakes]. They were a big hit in our house. We also had a family celebration for DS2’s birthday. I played him the birthday song on my ukulele and he was mightily unimpressed! 😉

Evernote Snapshot 20160302 073015

App Review: Persimmon

The Basics

The premise of this app is that you set up an affirmation in each of seven life areas*. You then use the app in the morning to focus on your seven goals for twenty seconds each. At the end of your day, you are asked to answer yes or no to the question “Did your actions move you closer to your goal?” If you indicate yes, you can write down what steps you took or what you achieved.

*The 7 areas are: career & business; finance; spirituality; health & fitness; learning & creativity; love & relationships; family & friends.

The Positives

+ I like the simple design.

+ You can tweak or edit your goals at any time.

+ The app prompts you to close your eyes and visualize for 20 seconds in each section, so I don’t have to worry about timing myself, or think about how long I should visualize for.

+ If you use the app as indicated twice a day, you are forced to think about what you did during the day to further your goal. This brings an element of personal accountability to the app, too.

The Negatives

  • It only shows a log for the previous 5 days.
  • As far as I know, I can’t go back and check the evening log of what I did on a particular day to work toward my goals. I’d like to be able to access that record.
  • More photos to choose from within the app would be helpful, and make it easier to get up and running in the beginning.
  • There is no alarm or notification to nudge me to use this app. I could solve this easily by setting an alarm myself, but having it linked to the app would make me less likely to ignore a generic alarm.

Recommended for…

People who’d like an easy, user-friendly introduction to affirmations and visualization.

My 2 yen

I still get distracted from time to time – nothing to do with the app. I’m still working on making visualization a daily habit. Some days and some goals are easier to visualize than others, but I plan to continue using this app for another few months, at least. At that point, I may try out another app to see what else is available out there. If anyone has recommendations, I’m all ears 🙂

Seven goals is a lot to handle. I think this app is probably more effective when your goals cover just a couple of life areas. Even though I have written a goal for each of the seven life areas in the app, they all relate to two overarching goals: my family and my writing. Any more than that, and I might have given up by now!

Practical Details

Available on iTunes. Free.$2.99.

Languages: English, Russian.

UPDATE: As of March 21st 2016, the app now costs $2.99


Using Gretchen Rubin’s Strategy of Convenience to Blast through my Resistance

Longstanding conversation between me and my Inner Critic [aka, a reality check I don’t really want to acknowledge]

ME: I want to declutter the junk room in my house.

INNER VOICE: I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…a million times!

ME: I will declutter the junk room in my house.

INNER VOICE: Yeah, really? When is that going to happen?

ME: I am decluttering the junk room in my house.

INNER VOICE: Now, you that affirmations only work when there’s a bit of elbow grease involved, right?

ME: Sigh…

What is it about this project? I’ve been saying I want to declutter the junk room in our house for the last few years, so I obviously have quite a bit of resistance to the task. If I sold or passed on some books and clothes, it would clear the way for me to arrange the items that need to be in the room. Until I do that, I’m not even sure how much space there would be available to use it as a study area/ guestroom/ craft space… So many ideas, and so little motivation to get working on what needs to be done. Why?

Recently, I re-read the chapter called “Strategy of Convenience” in Gretchen Rubin’s latest work, Better Than Before. I had put the strategy to good use in other, smaller areas of my life, but I hadn’t thought about using it to tackle this huge, daunting project.

In a completely-fed-up-with-the-situation mood, I took pen to paper and started to write out the reasons, excuses and feeble inventions of my imagination that were keeping me from taking action.

I want to sell some books, clothes and other items, but…

1. I’ve never posted anything for sale online before, so I don’t know how much time it will take to deal with questions etc.

2. I’m afraid I’ll make mistakes and make someone angry!

3. I always forget to take photos of the items during the day while the light is better.

4. It’s a pain in the neck to write up descriptions and decide on asking prices.

5. It takes a long time to post the messages (I guess?!)

6. I don’t know how to work out the postage costs to add to the advertisements.

7. I don’t have all the supplies I need to wrap up the packages.

8. I hate it when I have to go to the post office. It’s far from my house and located in an inconvenient place.

Oops…not much positivity there! Maybe I should just trash the whole lot and be done with it?! I have considered that option, but I hate the thought of wasting perfectly good books and clothes more than the thought of doing all that work. Or do I…? Hmm…

Now, my task is to work out how to make all these objections more convenient and manageable. The Holy Grail would be to make them more pleasant to carry out, so that I will finally be able to reclaim the junk room – although I feel that’s a very big ask. Let’s see!

Numbers 1 and 2 can be summed up as fear of the unknown. Well, I’ve been here before. I’m pretty sure I have the T-shirt. Intellectually, I know there is nothing to be scared of. The only way to conquer the fear is to dive in and just get on with it. As for making these objections more convenient, I’m going to break the project down into a series of manageable steps. I’ll commit those to paper, so I don’t have to waste any brainpower in thinking about what I have to do next.

3. The next time I think “Oh no, it’s too late to take photos,” I’ll get a pile of books together and put them on the kitchen table. That way, I’ll be reminded to do the task as soon as possible after breakfast.

4. To make the experience a more pleasant one, I’ll keep a tally of how many items I put up for sale, and give myself a reward for every batch of 10. The reward may or may not be a food item – chocolate is a pain-reliever after all 😉

5. In order to cut down on the time required, I’ll make a template for the information I need to include in the descriptions.

6. I’ll check the Post Office website for pricing information. I’ll also ask a few people I know who have plenty of experience in selling online for their recommendations on how to go about the process, the best way to ship books versus clothes etc.

7. Actually, I probably do have a lot of what I need. What I should do is gather all the bits and pieces together in one place, so that I don’t have to go searching for things when the time comes.

8. This is kind of a cheat. I do hate going to the post office, but if I use my lunch hour to go to the one near my work, it’s really not so inconvenient. On the days, I need to go to the post office, I’ll prepare a quick, easy-to-eat lunch so I’ll have plenty of time available. I may work in another reward here for after I’ve finished a dreaded post office trip!

Phew! The list still needs a bit of work, but I’ve seen through some of my flimsy excuses already. That wasn’t quite as hard as I expected. Hopefully, I’ll be able to say the same of my decluttering project!