Looking Back

I have lots of thoughts rattling around in the old noggin, and hesitate to even try to put them in a blog post.  But let’s not let perfect be the enemy of the good.  Move forward, and blog even if it is not fully comprehensive.  Right?

Here’s a few things that worked for me in 2016:

1.  Buy what works, even if it costs a little more.  It applies to my hair, which I have been wearing wavy for the past few months.  My bestie from childhood (shout out to Heather!!!!!) told me about devacurl products (not to be confused with diva cup.  Different.) and I invested the big bucks in September to give it a go.  For a typically $2 suave shampoo girl, it is darn pricey- but worth it because it works and I like the way my hair looks down now.  Win!

Hair model

It also applies to pens, jeans, and a wool rug I want to eventually buy for our dining room.

(Never forgetting to spend well within your means, of course.  My friend Lee-Ann chimed in about that and I could not agree more.)

2.  Bullet journaling.  I started this back in February and have figured out how it works best for me.  I keep both the daily and the long-term to-do’s corralled in one place, along with my book log (I read 77 books in 2016!), books to read, gift lists, and the monthly calendars.  I don’t use the index much at all- I just put a paper clip on the pages I flip back to a lot.  Simple (for me) and a single place for lots of stuff I want access to on a regular basis.

And I like that it is pen and paper.  

Some of the year was sour (looking at you, election 2016)

3.  “This is a fixable problem.”  I say this to myself a good bit when I am frustrated by something pretty trivial.  Like when my kids take my pens out of the jar in the kitchen, so when I want to add to the grocery list I don’t have a pen.  I am a smart woman and can certainly fix this problem.  I fashioned a little paper container out of notecards I have on hand and packaging tape (also already in the kitchen) and tacked it up on a bulletin board, beyond their reach.  Now they stick with their markers and art supplies and I have a pen when I need it.    

This also applies to meal planning, having too many lists in too many places/see number two on this list, and feeling the time-suck of social media (see number 4).  These are fixable problems.  

4.  Gratitude.  I am struck- really surprised all over again, at least once a day- at this crazy, full life I get to live.  My kids are fun little humans who push my buttons and highlight my weaknesses and make me laugh and who I adore.  Like heart explosion adore.  They are nuts…and imperfect…and I am so thankful I get to have them in my life.  What a gift.  My husband is a man of extremes and adventure (for example), makes me laugh quite a lot, and often sees life and relationships in a way that is upside down from me, and I am thankful for that.  If our family does anything remotely out of the ordinary, day to day routine it is because of him.  I keep the train moving and he suggests different, fun destinations.

Also- our house and our neighborhood.  Someday I will write out the story of how we ended up in our house because I do not want to forget the details.  But I love love love our home and feel grateful on a daily basis that we get to live here, with great people all around us.

And some of the year was as sweet as my 15 year old nephew holding his 2 year old cousin’s hand while she wears roller skates. A 2 year old on roller skates. I mean.

5.  Counseling.  2016 was a new stage of life for us as a family.  For the first time in ten years we were not moving/changing jobs/pregnant/trying to get pregnant/recovering from pregnancy/sleep training a baby/breastfeeding/walking through major medical issues.  We just were.  

Happy in our jobs, enjoying our kids, loving our home.  Pretty settled.        

So it seemed like it was time- and I actually had the margin again- to refocus on a few things.  Like marriage, post-survival mode.  And parenting as we are just starting to see headier, more emotionally complicated years ahead of us.  I found a great counselor and have met with her off and on for the year.  (If you don’t like the first counselor you meet with, give it a good solid try and then feel free to move on.  It is not unlike any other relationship where sometimes you click and sometimes you don’t).

I am a biased source- I am a counselor.  But here is something that happened this morning, that reminded me why I think counseling is worth the effort.

One of my kids had some anxiety about returning to school today.  This child has a classmate that causes some anxiety and fear.  I emailed my child’s teacher and school counselor last night, but was not really feeling that optimistic about the situation.  I said something to that effect to a friend this morning– I just had zero imagination for how this classmate situation could resolve well.   Jenn was pretty quick to respond- “No, that is a really big deal in schools these days.  The staff get a lot of training in how to deal with it.  They will know how to handle it.”   And I thought “Oh right.  I don’t have a good roadmap for how this will resolve, but this is not my area of training and expertise.  Of course they’ll have something to offer here.”

I have gone into counseling before with that similar thought process- I have zero imagination for how this could improve…I have tried a bunch of things and they are not working…what else could someone offer me?

Spoiler alert: a lot.

I would have taken us to the same old boring playground. He took us on a three hour hike to the cliffs of death. His idea was better, even if my nerves were shot up there. Yay for marrying someone different from me!

What worked for you in 2016?     



Most of us will take down our Christmas decorations sometime in the next week.  Personally, I like to have everything down a few days after Christmas.  I love the decorations while they are up, and then I love when my house has breathing room again after they are down.  That means pulling down my three big Rubbermaid bins from the attic and filling them back up with all of the lights and mugs and tea towels and cute things.   

Here is permission, from me to you, just in case you need it.  

If you come across a Christmas decoration that you don’t really love, don’t repack it for another year.  Don’t put it in the Rubbermaid bin.  Don’t haul it back up into the attic.  

Chipped mug (that you don’t even like that much)? Stained tea towel?  No question- toss them.

The “perfectly good” stuff?  Somewhere, right now, there is someone who cannot wait to hit up the thrift stores after Christmas.  That person cannot wait to lay eyes on that one decorative item that you are pretty “meh” on.  So just do it- give it to her.  Make her day.  Donate that stuff.

Spent good money on it?

Loved it when you first got it?

You can still donate it, and I bet you won’t even miss it when you haul your stuff out again next year.  

I have a bunch of my mom’s old Christmas decorations- ornaments, of course, but also a wooden nativity set and some Christmas angels and Santas.  The kinds of things you put on tabletops and mantels.  Last year I was packing up our decorations and realized that there was this one angel decoration that I didn’t really care for anymore, and had not liked for a few years.  It always shed its angel “hair” and was supposed to hold a tiny candle but the candle always tipped over.  I never would have picked it out in the store.  But it was my mom’s, so I wanted to think long and hard before passing it on.

I pondered it for a bit and realized that I have a few specific things of my mom’s that I love- like the nativity set, for example- that I am excited to pull out year after year.  I also buy a boxwood wreath or two, which I love the look of and reminds me of her.  (My mom would litter the house with boxwood for about one week every December, making wreaths with and for whoever wanted them.)     

So last year I donated the angel to the Salvation Army instead of packing it up.  I donated a bunch of ornaments, too, and probably a few other things that I don’t even remember.  Sometimes I get to donating and really get on a roll.  

You can do it, too.  

Merry Christmas, from the pragmatic decorator.  

Pretending they all have the stomach bug. (One actually did.)