Few things bring me the satisfaction of writing a list. When I was about 10 I had a whole notebook dedicated to lists: a list of my favorite words, a list of things I wanted to be, a list of activities to try, a list of my favorite books, a Christmas list and birthday list (both started a year in advance). I almost exploded with joy when Jordan received a new notebook for her birthday this year and she turned to me and said, “I’m going to use this new notebook to make some lists.” I told her about my first notebook with a sense of nostalgia. She thought my list of words was weird, but I bet in no time she’ll have a similar one.
30 years later and I have the same love of list-making. I have lists in several places: in the notes app of my phone, in the blank pages in the back of my daily paper planner, and in my trusty notebook. I have lists of gift ideas, a list for what I need to accomplish in a week, a list of books I have read, a list of items I’d like to add to my wardrobe, and a list of short term and long term goals amongst others. I have a list of things I want to now, things I want to do this Christmas, things I want to do next year, and things I want to do when my children are grown.
My long-term goals are self explanatory; a bucket list for life, and include such items as taking my family to Hawaii, writing a book (not just starting a billion different books), performing in a play again, and going cage-diving. My short term goals are practices that I feel are needed in my life right now. They are areas for strategic improvement. This list changes after a season of life.
I am a generally happy person. I am aware that life is good, and that I am blessed. I don’t suffer from the same mom-guilt that many do, in that I am strategic about creating time for myself to read each day, and creating regular time with my friends, sometimes with our children and sometimes without. That being said, I find a satisfaction in looking at my good life and seeing where I can be better. I like having focus areas to work on. And that starts with a list.
I have been learning about how if you do something long enough it will become a habit. When something becomes a habit you no longer have to think about it; it becomes automatic. I am working on a few new practices right now, that I hope will become habits in my life.
- Create a morning routine just for me: In August I read Girl, Wash your Face by Rachel Hollis and began listening to The Purpose Show podcast by Allie Cassaza. Both of these women stress the importance of having a morning routine; getting up an hour earlier than you normally would, in order to have time for yourself. Allie’s routine, as described in her podcast, was prayer, meditation, journaling, reading the Bible and reading a book. That really resonated with me, and I devoted myself to giving it a try, a real try. The problem is, I love to sleep. I once set my alarm early for an entire school year, attempting to go to the gym in the morning. And every single day for the entire school year I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. I have no problem hitting the snooze button over and over, until I have eeked every possible moment out of my night, but I found that this practice was just not serving me. I was still tired, even though I was getting extra minutes of sleep, and my mornings felt frantic. I was perpetually rushing out the door every. single. day. I decided to give a morning routine a try. I set my alarm for 45 minutes earlier than usual (because a full hour seemed ridiculously early) , getting up at a time that I didn’t deem physically possible for me, and guess what? I am enjoying every minute. I use the 45 minutes to pray, journal, read my bible and read my book club book. I have prepped my lunch and prepped my crock pot during these minutes. I have sat silently and contemplated gratitude. I have slowly sipped a cup of coffee and talked out loud to myself about what is going on in my life. And I have been leaving the house on time every single day. It hasn’t been easy to rise every day, but it’s just the first minute that hurts. I look forward to creeping down the stairs to a dark kitchen, making a pot of coffee, and snuggling up on my couch with my books and blanket. It has been 6 weeks now, and I’ve only missed a couple of days when I was battling my back-to-school-snot. I feel like I can almost consider this a habit, but I am nervous to be over-confident in my ability to continue waking up when it’s dark outside.
2. Be committed to a healthier lifestyle: working out more frequently and eating better: This has been my battle for 20 years. Why is it so hard for me to work out regularly and eat healthier foods??? I have been going to the gym about twice a week for several years, but even when I’m there I’m definitely not pushing it. I have actually sat on a bike and pedaled at a turtle’s pace just so I have a place to quietly read while my kids place in the Kids Club. I have ran approximately 5 times in the last 20 years, and have no cardio workout in my rotation whatsoever. I played half a game of tether ball with one of my students a few weeks ago and was seriously winded. In addition to my reluctant fitness routine, I suffer from a major sweet tooth. It is nothing for me to take down an entire row of Oreo’s in one sitting. Just last night I was reaching for the cherry tomatoes to snack on, and in a compulsive movement found 6 fun size candy bars in my hand instead. Of course I ate them, and 2 more for good measure. Why???
Rachel Hollis wrote that we aren’t comfortable breaking promises to other people, so why are we so comfortable breaking promises to ourself? That really resonates with me. I would never commit something to my husband and flake on it. I wouldn’t cancel on a friend unless the situation were dire. So why do I cancel on myself when it comes to being more healthy? I am not letting myself off the hook with this one; I need new habits. I am fueled by a big birthday looming over me; afraid that when I hit this milestone I will really fall apart. What I have decided on is this:
- Workout five times a week for 20-30 minutes, even if it is from home. In the past I have swore that it’s impossible to get a good workout at home. I was probably making excuses because I am lazy.
- Quit eating sugar every day. A treat is a treat, not a nightly routine.
- Plan out my meals to be sure I am including more vegetables. Our fruit game is strong, but our vegetable game is suffering. It takes around 40 tries for your palette to acquire new tastes, so I can’t give up the first time the kids shut a veggie down.
I just discovered the Boss Body Method on Instagram. I believe that it is a whole diet and fitness regimen, but I am currently just accessing the workout clips on the ‘gram. Each workout is around 20 minutes long, and requires no equipment. The first time I did a workout I thought I was dying. I literally collapsed to the floor at least 12 times, unable to complete the set that was expected. Jaxon followed me around, cheering me on, “You can do it mom!” Those little cheers forced me to pull myself off of the carpet and do more reps. The next day I went to the gym just so I wouldn’t have to do the workout again. I have attempted 4 more workouts since, and am finding that I like the feeling of sore muscles; it has been awhile. I realize that it sounds a little lame to put off a workout when it does not require me driving to the gym or buying any special equipment. And, I reluctantly admit that it is a little bit fun when Jordan is working out with me. She collapses before I do, so it inflates my ego. I have planned out meals for one week, and am due for another set today. I only took one nibble of Shia’s treat after lunch, instead of having several of my own. I am a looooong way for making this a habit, but it’s a practice I will continue to work on. Any miracle tips are appreciated in the comments.
3. Write: A conversation with my dad reminded me that I am a writer. His belief in this was so complete that he took it as fact. Amber would write a book. Since starting this blog I remembered that. It is a fact. I am a writer. I will write this blog with the belief that people will read it. I will write a book. Maybe even more than one. Last week I was listening to a podcast of Jen Hatmaker interviewing Kwame Alexander. He is a beautiful writer writing books for young people. He said he first began this adventure in writing for young people by writing things for his daughters to read. It gave me a book idea. What if I were to write a book for Jordan to read when she is in the 8th grade? What if my words help her to grow and mature, and to navigate complicated times? I have another book idea for Jaxon and Shia. What if I actually took those ideas and did something about it? Writing is a habit I hope to develop, 20-30 minutes a day to start; me and my screen and the quest to tell a beautiful story. This is a habit I am excited for.
4. Live out my faith so that my children can see my relationship to Jesus: Having a relationship with God is so much more than reading my bible, praying and attending church. If I love the Lord, then my life will reflect that. I will do as Jesus did. I will love unconditionally. I will be seen in the margins. I will touch those considered untouchable. I will prioritize people. This is what I desire my legacy to be. I want to practice radical hospitality. I don’t want to be ruled by fears. If you know me well, you know that my neighborhood is a little shady. There is so much pain right outside of our windows. We rarely walk our streets, but when we do I am hyper-alert, battling fear of the unknown. I don’t think this is Jesus’s way. I don’t want to be negligent, but I don’t want to be ruled by fear either. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors. How might these neighbors benefit from me seeing them as the people they are, not the fearful figures that I regularly see them as. This is a difficult balance for me, as I am rather wimpy, and am fiercely protective of my children. How do I teach them to love and serve with words alone? The answer is: I don’t. I don’t want to turn my eye to the homeless on the off-ramp. What does it cost me to give $1? The answer: it costs $1. I am working to extend myself in this area, knowing that 6 little eyes are always watching me. My generosity should be prevalent in our lives, not a one-off or a Christmas tradition. I truly admire my husband for the way he sees people. God is constantly putting people into his path. Sometimes those people need a meal, sometimes they need a pair of shoes, sometimes they need a conversation. Who is God putting in my path that I am not even seeing?
So these are my practices of this season. I am really hopeful that they will become habits for the remainder of my lifetime. The practices above are a lot, but guess what? I am capable. I can do these things. When I finally tackle these practices, and they are truly habits in my life, there will be so many more things for me to try. I will go back to the lists, asking myself: what do I want and need right now to live a better life? I will joyfully create the lists I need to plan out every detail of these goals, and feel the ultimate satisfaction of checking off a completed task. I know that I can do hard things, and so can you. Sit down, write it out, and get ready to transform.
P.S. What do you want to read about in this blog? Leave me a comment, and I’ll add your ideas to my topics list. You know I have one of those!