Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Club Week 6

This week's chapter is subtitled Scheduling.  (In case you are just popping in, we are reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and discussing a chapter each week.)

Scheduling is one of my favorite topics! I love routine. I love doing things the same way in the same order day after day, whether it is my homeschool, my housework, my errands, or my hobbies and interests. However, I have failed at scheduling a regular blogging time for almost two years now. The older my children get it seems the less discretionary time I have.  I have every intention of blogging on a regular basis, but I have failed to figure out how to fit this into my daily routine. As I reread Better Than Before, I hope I can troubleshoot this. I would love to blog 5-6 days a week like I used to!

One of the quotes I like from this chapter is, "Scheduling also forces us to confront the natural limits of the day." (Rubin 73). As much as I like to cram my planner with "to do" items each morning, the reality is that there is only so much time in the day. For the most part, the items I schedule on a regular basis get done. I have a few non negotionables (like homeschool, cooking supper, Bible reading, laundry), and those things are easy for me to do each day. It's the sometimes items that cause me so much trouble. Gretchen refers to these as fixed  and unfixed habits. Some of my unfixed habits that require decision making are running, blogging, extra chores like bills and online banking, emailing, and now wedding planning. Trying to fit these things into my already full days is hard!

For example, right now I have the goal of running 20 miles each week. That means that I don't have to run 7 days a week. I usually meet Leanna one morning a week for a 6+mile run. That leaves me 14 miles or less to run alone each week. Every week I wrestle with what days to run? How many miles each day? If I skip Wednesday, then I may have to run Saturday.....on and on I go through this in my mind, every. single. week. But for Crossfit, it's a non-decision. The class meets at 1:00 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I cannot go on Wednesday because of the English class I teach on Wednesday afternoons. So I go on Mondays and Fridays, unless I am out of town. (or if it' s December and I have a million things to do to get ready for Christmas and my college girls and their fiances are here, so I skip Crossfit for 6 weeks!) Why can't I workout a set-in-stone routine for running? Even after consistently running for 10 years!

I love the power hour that Gretchen discusses. This is one of those ideas that I really want to try, but I have not yet. I have no problem creating the power hour list. It's finding the hour to do it in!

One more thing I gleaned from this chapter is that our habits must be sustainable. I tend to always want to try new things (in some areas), and I often set unrealistic expectations for myself.

What about you? Do you like to schedule your habits? Do you have any tips for someone who cannot seem to find time to do certain tasks?

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Club Week 5 and Some Other Stuff

After a long break from school (since December 13!), we began our second semester today. I had planned to begin the day after we arrived home from Disney World, but both Sam and Leah began to get sick on the drive home. They both ran fever and coughed until Friday. They are still not 100%, but they are well enough for us to do a full day of school, go to CrossFit, and run errands.  I predict early bedtimes for all tonight. Clay actually began his schoolwork last week. He will graduate on May 9, so he is diligently working in his courses in order to be completed by that day.

I have also taken a long, long break from CrossFit. I have not been since the end of November!  I have run some, but I really let my exercise slide during the month of December. Between houseguests and preparing for Christmas and all that entails, I chose not to make time for exercise for a few weeks. However, I did set some exercise related goals for myself for 2017, and so far I am keeping them. I think I shared that I plan to run 20 miles and attend two CrossFit classes per week when I am home (not traveling). I have run almost every day since we got home from Disney, and I started back CrossFit today. What a workout!  I will probably not be able to get out of bed tomorrow!  The workout was called "The Seven". It was 7 rounds of 7 repetitions of 7 exercises for time. Mercifully there was a time cap of 40 minutes, which means even if you have not completed all 7 of the sevens by 40 minutes, you are done anyway! In case you are wondering, here are the seven things we did:

  • 7 handstand pushups
  • 7 thrusters
  • 7 toes to bar
  • 7 dead lifts
  • 7 burpees
  • 7 kettle bell swings
  • 7 pull-ups
(Seven times through)

Don't be too impressed. I used the 15# bar with no weights for the thrusters, I cannot do toes to bar so I did knees to chest, my dead lift weight was 55#, my kettle bell was the smallest at the gym, and I had to do jumping pull-ups. Scaled pretty low!  But I did finish, and I know I will need Motrin in order to sleep tonight.

Now the book:  Better Than Before--Chapter ? "First Things First"

I agree with Gretchen that the following four areas are important ones to consider when establishing new (or breaking bad) habits. Sleep. Move. Eat and Drink Right. Unclutter.

In which areas are you working on habits?

Sleep: I slept only 6 hours a night for years. Many years those 6 hours were broken by nursing babies or toddlers that did not sleep through the night. About two years ago Jimmy gave me my first sleep tracking device and I made myself sleep 7 hours. I cannot believe how much better I felt with just one more hour of sleep. I love sleeping 7+hours! But the reality is most days I feel like I need the time more than I need the sleep. I fluctuate between waking up at 5:00 AM (my preferred time to arise and get things done) and 6:00-6:30 (I feel best when I sleep this late, but I feel like I start my day behind). My current sleep habit is to set my alarm for 5:00 most days, but once or twice a week I choose to sleep in. Just sleeping a little longer two times a week makes me feel good on the 5:00 AM days. That is what works for me.

Move: I have already shared my exercise habits.....I run either on the treadmill or outside at least 5 mornings a week. I run after I have drunk coffee, done my Bible study, fixed Jimmy's lunch, and started a load of laundry. Once a week I meet a friend (usually Leanna) to run a longer run. I have a watch that tracks my steps, and my goal is 10,000 steps each day. I have no problem getting those steps except on Sundays. I normally do not run on Sundays, and I sit down way more than usual since  I attend two services that day plus a Bible class. It does not bother me that I don't get 10,000 steps on Sundays. I expect not to. 

Also, I agree with Gretchen, if you act energetic, you will feel energetic!

Eat and Drink Right:
Jimmy and I were just saying last night that through our 25 years of marriage we have tried so many different forms of eating and exercise too. I'm glad health and fitness is an interest for both of us. Currently we are on Day 6 of the Whole30 again. I'm really not sure why we are doing Whole30 again....Lynn wanted to start after our Disney trip, and I guess I wanted to offer her moral support. Plus, Jimmy and I had gotten back into the habit of eating way too much sugar over the holidays. I was drinking Coke several times a week....and we just wanted to jump start our new year. (I feel like my new year began when we got home from Disney.) 
As far as drinking goes, of course we don't drink alcohol, but I do love my Coke! Our family drinks lots of water because it's basically the only beverage we keep in the house except for coffee. Lots of coffee. (I do keep canned Coke, little juices, and Gatorade in our schoolroom refrigerator, but the kids know that those are for special days, not for every day drinking.)

My favorite habits of all fall into this category. I love to clean out and organize things--drawers, closets, rooms. Clutter makes me anxious. I can deal with my house not being super clean, but I cannot bear stuff lying everywhere. We clear all counters and tables and pick up all the stuff on the floor, stairs, etc. every single day. Sometimes more than once a day. I strongly agree with Gretchen that clearing my space clears my mind. I can't think with clutter everywhere. 

So what about you? What foundational habits are most important to you? 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Disney 2017

Our family went to Disney World January 10-17. In fact, we left exactly at 12:00 AM on January 10 (Monday night/Tuesday morning). We followed Lynn and Kelly and their family on the 12 hour drive to Orlando. The four adults took turns driving and trying to sleep. We stopped around 6:00 AM at a Cracker Barrel for coffee (lots of coffee) and breakfast.
 The Mims and Johnson Children at breakfast.
(They slept all night in the car!)

We kept on driving and driving, and finally we arrived at the Florida Welcome Center. Yay!
 Reluctantly posing at the Welcome Center. I always stop here when traveling to visit my college girls, and I always make my kids make a picture here.

We got to our hotel, checked in, unpacked the cars, and were at Disney's Hollywood Studios by 3:00 PM. After 2-3 hours of broken sleep, the adults were ready!  

Do we look sleep deprived?

By Tuesday night we were joined in our hotel by Lynn's sister, Lesley, and her family and our friends Greg and Esther and their family. We were a party of 22! We had matching shirts to wear each day, and we had the best time!  This is the 5th Disney trip that Lynn and her family and my family have made together. This is the second time Lesley has joined us, and the third time for Esther and her crew. There is definitely never a dull moment with all of us!
Leanna and her family and Stacee (both are Jimmy's cousins) and her family were also at Disney World for four of the days we were. We met up with them some at the different parks. That made us the occasional party of 32!

I do not have all the wonderful pictures of the week on my laptop yet. Uncle Kelly obtained a Disney Photo Pass for us. It has many, many pictures on it, but I don't know yet how to download them to my laptop. Jimmy took pictures with his camera and phone, and everyone else took pictures with their phone as well. I think we all uploaded them to our Disney dropbox....I just need to figure out how to access them!  Anyway, I have a few pictures to share from my phone.

 The men and their backpacks!
Kelly always brings his army backpack, and we always  bring our navy blue Lands End backpack with "Johnson" monogrammed on the back. Sadly, I forgot to pack our backpack! So I bought this cute Mickey Mouse backpack in the hotel gift shop. Everyone loved Jimmy's backpack!   :)

This is on the Primeval Whirl ride at Animal Kingdom. We were bumped, jolted, and slung around!

 Sam, Jimmy, and Clay
These are our new Disney shirts for this year.

 Lynn and I rode Splash Mountain three times in a row on this morning.
We should have stopped at two! After this picture we got drenched!

The very last day of our vacation Olivia, Brian, and Julie joined us!  Their college is just 70 miles from Disney, and they had no classes because of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We went to Magic Kingdom that day. It was the first time Julie had ridden Splash Mountain in 8 years! (Normally when we go to Disney World in January, Splash Mountain is closed for refurbishment.)

Jimmy, Julie, and Me

I'll share more highlights as soon as I figure out the picture deal.

Lynn and I have gotten this Disney vacation thing down to a science.  Esther has joined right in with us wholeheartedly, and I think we wore Lesley out!  :) But it was all so much fun!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Club Week 4

In our Book Club we are reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.
This week's chapter is titled, "We Manage What We Monitor:  Monitoring"

I really like this quote at the beginning of the chapter, "If we want something to count in our lives, we should figure out a way to count it." Doesn't this just sum it all up? We have to keep a check on ourselves. If you are keeping track of something, whether it is counting calories, tracking miles you have walked or run, reading a certain amount of pages in a book, or praying for people on a list, you are so much more likely to achieve your goal. Monitoring motivates!

I also like how Gretchen discusses monitoring your time spent on something you feel like you never have time for. Or how about monitoring your time wasters? How much time do you actually spend scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Pinterest?

Monitoring can help you achieve your goals, but it can also help you see where your time is going, especially if you feel you don't have enough time to work on achieving your goals.

What about you? Has monitoring a behavior or activity helped you keep a good habit? Has monitoring your time helped you identify time wasters or hidden productivity?

Chime in!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bookclub and Wedding Dress Update

First of all, THANK YOU! to all of you who responded to me via Facebook, Facebook Messenger, by commenting on my blog, or texting me. I appreciate your help so much!

And the result is:  Olivia found the perfect wedding dress!  We bought it Saturday!  A friend of ours who read my blog post kindly went to a bridal store in her town (about 80 miles from here) and asked if they had a dress in the style we were looking for. They did! And since we had been at my parents house (to spend the night so Jimmy, Julie, and Big Sam could run a marathon and Clay a half, but the race was cancelled due to ice and freezing cold temperatures---another story) and would be passing through Starkville on our way home, Olivia, Leah, Sam, and I stopped by. The dress was beautiful! It fits her perfectly, and only needs hemming.

So now on to our bookclub!  Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, chapter 2 (the chapters are not numbered, but this chapter is titled, "Different Solutions for Different People:  Distinctions".
What a fun chapter! As I read through the descriptions of each set of pairs, I frequently would say to myself, "It depends....". While for some of the choices I definitely am one or the other, but for some of them it really depends on the area in my life.

Here is the rundown of the distinctions and in which one I chose to categorize myself. (Depending on the habit I was considering.)

  • Lark or Owl?  I am definitely a lark. I stay up later than I intend most nights getting Leah and Sam to bed, turning off the lights, setting up the coffee pot, reading for a few minutes, etc. but I function so much better and more efficiently in the early mornings. In fact, I am pretty much done mentally and physically by suppertime. My preferred wake-up time is 5:00 AM.
  • Marathoner, Sprinter, or Procrastinator? Well, in the running world I am definitely a marathoner, literally at some points in my life. I am NOT fast. But in all areas of my life I prefer to work on projects, tasks, housework, and anything that requires planning with a slow and steady pace. I tend to begin working on things way before they are due, and I like to make lists and charts to plan and mark my progress along the way. Sometimes my life gets hectic, and even though I have a slow marathon plan, as the deadline approaches I sometimes have to sprint to catch up!  I do not consider myself a procrastinator at all. :)
  • Underbuyer or Overbuyer? It depends. I overbuy items like toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, washing detergent, toothpaste, school supplies, etc. Anything that would be highly inconvenient to run out of. However, I underbuy clothes and shoes for myself. I usually am at Walmart or Old Navy buying some item of clothing I need for a vacation the day before we leave!
  • Simplicity or Abundance Lover? I think I lean more toward simplicity. I like to have adequate amount of supplies that I need, but I do not hoard things, nor do I like a lot of clutter in my home. In fact, clutter is my enemy! :) I like an empty shelf, a half-full drawer, and I love quiet. No background music for me!
  • Finisher or Opener? Both. I love to try new things! But I usually finish whatever I start. I like the satisfaction of finishing a project, of meeting a deadline, of planning an event, or of completing a running plan.  I will not knowingly open something I do not plan to finish.
  • Familiarity or Novelty Lover?  Definitely familiarity. That's why we are about to take our 8th trip to DisneyWorld (the 5th trip with Kelly and Lynn) and why our other vacations are at the same beach (Seaside) or a national park. I like doing the same things in the same order every day. Too much novelty in my day stresses me.
  • Promotion or Prevention Focuses?  I think I focus mostly on promotion. I get a lot of satisfaction from keeping my habits, and if my family notices and compliments me, well that's just icing on the cake!  :)
  • Small Steps or Big Steps?   I like to take small steps. I set goals that I know I can achieve, then after that I raise the bar a little bit higher. Baby steps. Baby steps. 
At the end of the chapter Gretchen poses a series of questions. I wrote my answers in a notebook. Pondering the answers to these questions can help you figure out how to best motivate yourself to keep your habits and achieve your goals.

So how does this look in real life? I'll take personal Bible study for an example. Let's say that I have a goal of increasing my time spent reading, studying and meditating upon God's Word. Based on how I answered the sets of pairs above, here is how I would strive to meet my goal.

1. Since I'm a lark I will set time aside each morning for my Bible time. My goal is 45 minutes each morning. 
2. As a marathoner, I will select a reading and studying plan that stretches out the task over a set period of time. Like reading the Bible in 90 days or copying several books of the Bible in 6 months.
3. I will underbuy for this habit. All I need is my Bible, Frixion pens, and a notebook or two.
4. I want simplicity during my Bible time. Quiet. No people around. (Which is why I wake up at 5:00).
5. I will be a finisher in my Bible time. I will not "open" a different method of studying every couple of days. I will choose my method and my routine, and I will stick to that for the duration of the goal.
6. I prefer familiarity in my Bible time. I do the same things in the same order each morning.
7. Bible study can be both promotion and prevention focused. 
8. As in most areas of my life, I like to take small steps. A little each day, building slowly, but hopefully retaining what is most important. 

What about you? Did you like choosing which pair better described you and your habits? What would you like to share?

We will read Chapter 3: "We Manage What We Monitor:  Monitoring" next Monday.
Enjoy the reading!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wedding Dress Woes

Yesterday Olivia, Leah, and I spent the day in Memphis at three different bridal stores looking for Olivia a wedding dress. Olivia has a picture of the perfect wedding dress that she found online. It is from a well-known company (Allure) and that brand is sold in most bridal stores. However, the dress was discontinued in June of 2016, and as far as we can tell, no store in our area has it. One bridal shop we visited yesterday called the Allure warehouse to see if they still had the dress in their stock, and they did not. :( Actually they did have one, but it was ivory, and Olivia wants white.

We have found a few online stores that advertise they have this dress, but I am not going to buy a wedding dress online (wedding dresses are non-returnable, and who knows what I may end up with!), plus since I know the Allure warehouse no longer has the dress, where would they get this dress??

The dress is Allure M535. If any of you who live in a reasonable distance from me happen to be in a bridal store and see this particular dress, please contact me!

So, Olivia tried on lots and lots of wedding dresses. And just like when I was looking with Julie, there are no wedding dresses that fit our tastes! Both girls want a high neckline in both the front and back (just like a regular dress), and they both want some sort of sleeve (cap, flutter, or short). Guess what? There are no wedding dresses that fit that criteria. Either they are strapless, backless, or have a plunging neckline.  And very, very few dresses had sleeves...and if they had sleeves, they had no back, etc. If we can find a dress similar to the one in the above picture, Olivia will be so happy!
And let me also say that I want to find a pretty dress "as is". I don't want a piece of fabric sewn in to cover the back and then make the dress look tacky....know what I mean? Is that too much to ask?

As you know, Julie and my mother are sewing her wedding dress, and it is beautiful!  However, I am not giving up on finding the perfect dress for Olivia!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Few More Goals

How is your new year going? Have you set any goals? Are you keeping them so far?

I decided how I was going to cover my gospels reading each month. I plan to divide each gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) into 6 readings, and read one gospel each week. So this week I am reading 5 chapters of Matthew each morning and on the sixth day I will read 3 chapters.

I set a running goal for 2017. I want to run a total of 1000 miles this year. That is an average of 20 miles each week. Until last year had little difficulty reaching this goal since I was training for marathons or at least keeping a consistent long run. I ran only 699 miles in 2016. I have run 10 miles so far this week! I also decided to record my miles on Daily Mile again. If you are on Daily Mile please ask me to be your friend!

I am still working on my reading list. I am currently reading the play Our Town in preparation for the English class I teach. We are also reading Huckleberry Finn later this semester, and I have not read that before. I did read Our Town in high school, I think.

My homemaking goals for 2017 are to keep up with my weekly housecleaning chores and to tackle a few major projects throughout the year. In January I plan to completely clean out my closets and drawers--all my clothes, using the Konmari method. I have divided my house into four zones, and I aspire to clean each zone each week--one zone per day. Other major projects I have include a big clean-out and reorganization of Sam's room, helping Jimmy clean out his workshop, and deep cleaning the entire house (ceiling fans, baseboards, light fixtures, windows, etc.)

I think that's all my goals for now!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ringing in the New Year

Happy New Year!

I spent several hours yesterday making plans for 2017 and transferring information to my new Erin Condren planner. (Love those planners so much!). I used cute stickers and wrote all my family's birthdays, Jimmy's days off, and vacations and such for the entire year. Next, I started on my 2017 goals. I began with prayer and looking through my Bible for verses to inspire me this year. I also chose my word for the year:


I jotted down verses that would help me be joyful and also to be mindful in my service to the Lord and my relationship with Him. My original list included nineteen verses, mostly from Matthew, but I chose one more to have an even number of twenty. I copied the references of the verses in the back of my planner, but I plan to also write them throughout the planner. I want to read these verses on a regular basis and also memorize them this year. Hopefully I can blog about them as well. 

Here are my focus verses of Scripture for 2017:
  • Matthew 5:16
  • Matthew 6:21
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 7:21
  • Matthew 11:28-29
  • Matthew 16:24
  • Matthew 22:37-39
  • Matthew 23:11-12
  • Matthew 25:40
  • Matthew 26:41
  • Mark 4:19
  • Luke 6:45
  • Luke 10:41-42
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • James 1:2-5
  • 1 Peter 3:4
  • 1 John 5:3
  • Psalm 46:10
  • Isaiah 30:15
I have made my tentative Bible reading and study plans for 2017. I want to do the Bible in 90 days at some point, but not right away. I also plan to finish copying Galatians, and copy the other books of the New Testament that I have not copied yet. Another goal I just decided on today is to read all four Gospels once a month. I don't know my method for this yet, because I just made this goal about two hours ago.....may one gospel each week?

Julie and I both mapped our Happiness Project goals for each month. Here are my themes for each month:
  • January:  possessions
  • February:  health
  • March:  books and blog
  • April:  service
  • May:  pleasure (hobbies, fun outings, etc.)
  • June:  homemaking
  • July:  homeschool
  • August:  mothering
  • September:  friendship
  • October:  marriage
  • November:  eternity
  • December:  family
This all sounds great, but the reality is I will probably live the theme of WEDDINGS from April until the end of July....because guess what???  Olivia is engaged to me married too!  So I have two weddings to prepare and plan weeks apart!
June 3:  Julie and Sam
July 22:  Olivia and Brian

The last category I brainstormed ideas for is books. I haven't made my long range plan yet, but I always have a list of books that I want to read. I am reading a few books right now, but I want to create a booklist for 2017. I will share that when I complete it. 

Olivia, Julie, Sam, and Brian are all here for another week, and we are enjoying them all so much. My house is full, and of course so is my heart.

Oh. I am going to restart the book club (Better Than Before). If you are participating, continue to read the first chapter on distinctions. I will post about that chapter Monday, May 9.

Happy 2017!