Happy New Year! (And a Little Post on Winter Decorating)

First of all, Happy New Year! Even though I started my blog a few days before New Year’s last year, I’m still celebrating my 1 year blog anniversary today since I started the blog as part of a New Year’s resolution. I’m more than a little proud of the fact that I managed to blog an average of once every 4 days… a major improvement for a girl who has failed at keeping every other blog I’ve started!

So with the holidays winding down, I’ve been thinking a lot about winter decorating. I’ve googled, I’ve read post after post, but I hadn’t found anything that was up my alley (read: affordable and simple) until I read this post from over at The Inspired Room today. I love the ideas for slowly transforming my apartment as winter progresses, and I love the idea that small changes can make a big difference. I’m setting January 6 (The Epiphany) as the date on which the Christmas tree will come down, and winter decorating will commence. It’s nice to enjoy the holidays just a little longer, and it gives me time to collect a few items for the transformation. Plus, as a school teacher who goes back to school in just a few short days, it gives me something to look forward to at the end of the week. I’ll be updating with pictures soon!


Christmas in Michigan

It’s my last night in Michigan. I’m sitting here in the living room, ensconced in what was once my favorite chair in my grandparents’ house trying to put into words what the last few days have been. After years of being held at bay, the constant march of the sands of time are finally taking their toll on my family. We’re changing, and with each passing day, the reality of that change seems to hit closer and closer to home. I mean really, we’re not getting any younger here.

So I came out to Michigan this year because I loved being here last year. One of my big regrets is that we missed so many Decembers in Michigan with the family, and I’m bound and determined not to miss any more. I promised myself I’d take pictures this year… to share with you, and to have for posterity, but I failed in that regard. The reality is that it’s hard to capture in a photograph what this time here is like. We spend most of our time together, sitting in the living room, or in cars heading out to malls, or movies, or bowling, and reality is that doesn’t photograph particularly well and so I chose this year just to live this time. I don’t regret it. It was well worth every dollar I spent to get here, and every minute of sleep that I sacrificed to be here. I hope there will be a next year.

First Snow

It snowed on Monday. Not school-cancelling piles, but a nice coating that still made commutes quadruple in length since it was the first snow of the season. Since my commute’s only 5 minutes normally, I still appreciated the snow for its picturesque qualities by the time I got home, and charged up my camera battery so I could take a few pictures.

I love this picture. I wish I could have spent more of Monday afternoon by the Christmas tree, watching the snow softly fall, but it wasn’t to be.

I had errands to run.

I had Christmas cards to send, and laundry to do, and so I was sent out into the cold once more. But look, how pretty!

New Year Preparations or A Post of Lists

Just short of one year ago, I started this blog as an attempt to chronicle my own Happiness Project. While I admittedly failed in my chronicle, I don’t think I completely failed in my project itself. As the year draws to a close, I recognize a number of changes I have made in my life that have contributed dramatically to my own happiness. And so, without further ado, the things I have learned in 2010 which also, coincidentally, are the things I hope to keep doing in 2011.

  1. Living alone is the single most important thing for me as an introvert. It’s not that I don’t love people… it’s that at the end of the day, coming home to an empty house and the knowledge that I don’t have to say another single word elicits a literal sigh of relief. Every. Single. Time.
  2. Clean eating makes my body happier. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my processed box of Whole Foods macaroni and cheese… but I don’t love the feeling of lethargy and cravings for more calories that I feel immediately after consuming it. The feeling of satisfaction and energy after a meal of whole foods is well worth the extra effort it takes to prepare.
  3. On a related note: I love cheese. Cheese does not love me. 2011 will probably be a year of finding more balance here.
  4. Following my dreams, even at the expense of uncertainty, is a major happiness booster.
  5. I am built for community. I love mine, and going out of my comfort zone to see the people in my community is worth it.
  6. Learning to lean on people is worth the risk.
  7. Boundaries are important. It is okay to set them, even when they are way overdue or sometimes cause initial pain.
  8. Money isn’t everything… but even though I budget well it is one of my biggest stressors. Going where I could make more money was a good decision, but continuing to budget will be important.
  9. I thrive on routine and predictability
  10. Planning each week ahead of time is really worth the investment of time. Not only am I more efficient each day, but it enables me to better live in each moment without worrying about what comes next.

And with this in mind, my New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Enjoy this season of living alone. It is hopefully only an interlude before a return to family life.
  2. Buy whole foods. Eat whole foods. And enjoy the occasional indulgence.
  3. Find a way to cut down on the cheese in my diet… but really enjoy every bite I do eat.
  4. Make a list of new dreams now that I’ve achieved many of my old ones.
  5. Say yes to opportunities to spend time with the people I love.
  6. Be vulnerable… even when I don’t want to. Allow people to help.
  7. Be thoughtful about boundaries I am setting. And then stick to them.
  8. Use Mint.com to establish a new budget… and then enjoy the new-found freedom.
  9. Be more thoughtful about my routines… and then look forward to them each day.
  10. Lay out a plan for each week, stick to it, and avoid getting sucked into the television. That’s the one sure-fire plan buster for me!

Oh… and just a few I probably should do more of:

  1. Spend time reading the Word every morning. Every. Morning.
  2. Get more exercise.

Still to come – a 2011 “Bucket List!” What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Perspective Shift

I popped into my favorite coffee shop the other day on my way to work and came across a box asking for submissions that turn the usual New Year’s Resolution Routine on it’s head. The box was labelled simply “What Would You Resolve Not To Change About Yourself in the New Year?” (Or something like that… I don’t completely remember most things that happen before 8:00 in the morning.)

After seeing that box, it was as if a lightbulb suddenly went off. How many times will I resolve to change 10 things about myself in the new year, and then fail? What if I did resolve not to change something instead? Wouldn’t it be nice to acknowledge that I am already doing some things well, and then intentionally keep doing those things? Why yes, I think it would.

And so, as I wind down the last 20 days of the old year, I’ll be reflecting on what went well. Expect the New Year’s Resolution post to hit your screen just under three short weeks from now… but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your resolutions? Are you resolving to change something, or are you resolving to continue just the way you are?

An Odd Assortment of Thoughts

For those of you somehow outside of the 24 hour news cycle, Elizabeth Edwards died on Tuesday. I wasn’t going to comment because my blog hasn’t been terribly political, or even really terribly connected to pop culture, but it’s been on my heart nonetheless. Edwards has long since been my favorite political spouse, and even in light of the craziness that consumed much of her life in the public eye, at the very least I found myself with some respect for the way that she carried herself in the light of a devastating diagnosis. Her death had been a long time coming, but I still found myself disbelieving somehow. She’d been a part of my public consciousness for so long, it was hard to imagine that she’d made her last mark on society. Edwards’ passing gave me just a minute’s pause to think about how I am using my own life.

Last year I read an article in the New York Times about people who are “procrastinators of pleasure.” I instantly saw myself in the definition, quickly resolved to “have more fun” and then largely went about my pleasure procrastinating ways. While I did manage to spend a few of my gift certificates, that was largely because I started making more money, and thus felt that the pleasure could be recreated, and not because of some great shift in my thinking. Case in point: for years I looked forward to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed. I religiously checked her website for updates, logged onto Amazon to see when details were available, and couldn’t wait to pick up my copy at the bookstore (this is a particularly big deal since last year I fell in love with the library, I NEVER buy books unless they’re from a favorite author). I picked it up just short of a year ago, when I went to hear Ms. Gilbert speak in Cambridge and have yet to even crack the spine. Why? Not because I’m not interested, but because there isn’t another book to read after this one. I was SO looking forward to reading it, and when it’s done, it’s done. What will I do then? (Logic tells me that I’ll do the same things that I did this year when I wasn’t reading the book…)

Here’s the thing though, life is fleeting. I’m putting off my pleasure, but what for? In the end, it’s about the moments, about living each one to the fullest. And you know, perhaps if I start truly taking pleasure in each moment, I’ll find more pleasure in life altogether.


New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Read Committed (and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.. I picked them up at the same time last year, and have been procrastinating actually reading them for the same reason).

For the Love of Sweats

I have meetings every day after school this week. That’s right- every day, and most days, I have evening plans too. So upon arriving at home this afternoon, and with nowhere to be aside from in my bed or on my couch for the next few hours, I felt inspired to break into verse. And so, without further ado, a haiku for your reading pleasure:

Finally at home

Quickly changing into sweats

Ahh such sweet comfort