Thursday, January 31, 2013

52 Day Goal Update

A couple weeks ago I blogged about a new goal format for the year - setting goals in 52 day chunks throughout the year. The smaller time period would allow me to change goals that aren't working rather than scrapping them all together. The idea came from Jon Acuff.

Here's an update of how my goals are working so far in this first 52 day section of the year:
Spiritual (daily devotions) - I love the three apps I am using. As of this past Sunday (I check in on my goals each week on Sunday to keep them in my head and to refocus where I have gotten off track), I have only missed one day. I would like to keep up with this goal for the year and I feel like I've set a good foundation so far.
Financial (use gift cards, not credit cards to buy books) - as I was pulling together financial records for our tax preparation, I was embarrassed by how many books I bought for the school. A few is a nice gesture. This was ridiculous. This was manic. I want to exercise more self-control this year. Hopefully the plan to only buy books with gift cards will help with that.
Physical (Weight Watchers) - I have signed up for Weight Watchers and am slowly getting back into the swing of that. So far, we have been eating like we usually do and figuring out what points values go with our usual meals. The next step is to find some alternatives that don't burn through the points so quickly. I get about half the points each day that my husband gets (which is annoying), so I have to be much more careful in my planning.
Social (be more social) - I've discovered that I have an inertia problem. (Inertia is a body at rest wants to stay at rest). Once I get home on Friday afternoon, I don't feel like doing anything on the weekend. I just want to rest, dig into home activities, etc. I have to make the commitment to being social and force myself to follow through. I always have a great time once I go, but getting myself there is what requires the work.
Mental - my goal for this (reading on an e-device) was kind of lame, but I have done that. I have finished 4 books on my Nook this month.
Career (put 10 new books in the library every week) - In the three weeks of the school year, I have placed 83 new books in the school library. I found myself pretty sick of new books by the end of last week, though, so I started on a new project. We'll see if I keep up with 10 new ones this week or if I take a break.
Family (reclaim bedtime routine of reading) - we have gotten back into the routine of reading a book at bedtime during the school week. We finished the first book in the Wings of Fire series (The Dragonet Prophecy) and have started book two.

So far, I am pretty happy with my progress. I feel like I am taking manageable steps to form a life I want for myself and my family. Here's to the next half of the first 52 days!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Please Pardon My Plank

I have been enjoying my devotional reading this month, but I realized one day that I was spending an awful lot of my time reading thinking things like, "So-and-so needs to read this" or "This is just what that situation needs."

But I've realized that it's God's job, not mine, to speak to so-and-so or into this or that situation. It's my job to look inward, to apply the wisdom to the "plank" in my own eye, so to speak, and let God deal with me. There's plenty there to work with.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shine On

"Like light in a closed pot, showing through the cracks, God works through our imperfections."
~ Joyce Meyer, A Confident Woman devotional app, January 5, 2012

As I have mentioned before, I am an only child, and I come by my perfectionism honestly. This quote is very comforting to me as I get older and realize how futile perfectionism is.

I read a book once, about childhood memories and how they shape us. The author suggests the reader examine how he/she would finish this sentence: "I only matter when ...." My answer is "when I get things right." I hate failing and I hate making mistakes. I get stressed out at school because I want to have the "right" plan, the "perfect" plan right now. I want to have the big picture already figured out. But that's ridiculous - I haven't even been in my job for 2 years and the dynamics of classes and students are changing all the time.

This idea of God, shining through the "cracks" in my not-so-perfect plans, is a comforting reminder - one I probably need to stitch on a pillow or something so I will practice it until it becomes part of the fabric of me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What's Your Boat?

In my devotional reading a couple weeks ago, the author talked about the passage where Jesus walks on water and calls Peter to get out of the boat. She talked about having the confidence to step out of the boat in faith.

Sometimes we are so comfortable where we are, we are reluctant to step outside that place, even though what awaits us is fantastic.

Is there something God is calling you to that seems scary and exciting at the same time? Will you choose to summon the courage to stand up and step out of the "boat" and take the chance?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Required Reading Vs. Choice

A couple weeks ago I came across this blog entry about reading and the power of choice. I really enjoyed it and quickly shared it on FB.

Then I clicked on the comments that were on the original FB post and was surprised to see an angry one from a secondary teacher who felt attacked by the writer as a teacher who uses required reading. While I could follow the person's train of thought, I think she missed the point the writer was making.

My understanding of required reading is this: We require students to read classic literature to create common cultural references. We require students to read one piece so that we can teach them analysis and about symbolism and other skills with a text everyone can relate to.

There's nothing wrong with those things. But many people will tell you that they stopped reading for fun when they became overwhelmed by things they were required to read for school. Many "readers" talk about how nice it is to finish college and get to read "whatever I want!"

Choice matters.

This is one of the reasons I've never joined/started a book club. If I have managed to carve out time to read, I want to use it on something I'm going to like - something in a style I prefer or that has a plot that has intrigued me.

I think there is a place for both. I know that when my son's teacher read a Hank Zipzer book to her class, all the books I have from the series in the library were checked out, many for the first time ever. This teacher exposed her students to material they might not have tried otherwise. This classroom "required" reading was a benefit to the students.

Over Christmas break, I had to coerce my son to finish a book that he had 95% read before break began. He didn't resist because he didn't like it, but he had already taken an AR quiz on it and in his mind, the book had served its purpose. He wasn't compelled to finish anymore. But the day I bought him a new book in a Lego series he enjoys, he was reading every spare moment until he finished it. I no longer had to cajole him into picking up a book - he did it willingly.

Choice matters. I hope we as parents and as educators never forget that.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Year. Same God.

I saw this thought posted on a church sign recently, and it really captured my attention. No matter what season of life you or I are in, God is the same.

God is the same for my friends who finalized their adoption of two children at the end of 2012 as He is for another friend who has chosen to give up her business and home here in the states to live in Africa with the baby she is adopting while she waits for the powers that be to finalize her adoption (a process that has had a slew of road blocks so far).

God is the same for my friends who are celebrating healing in the bodies of their family members and for other friends who have had to say a final goodbye to their parents in the last month or so.

God is the same when I am feeling complete joy or contentment with my life as He is when I am railing at Him for trials and seemingly unfair circumstances.

There is comfort in the unchangeableness (how's that for a word?) of God. I can count on Him to be the same yesterday, today and forever.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bible Apps

I have plenty of spiritual books and devotionals in my house. I go through seasons where I dig them out, set them by my bed with a notebook and a Bible. I use them a couple times before they become just a pile of things I have to move if I want a pair of socks from my dresser. I thought maybe if I used my phone - something that is with me all the time, and that I use for time filling activities like checking Facebook and playing games - I would be more likely to create a routine that would become a habit. I chose three apps to try these first 52 days of 2013 for my goal of spiritual growth.

The first is a devotional app by Joyce Meyer, called Joyce Meyer Ministries.  I picked Joyce because I have always enjoyed her preaching and her down to earth view of life and faith. I've only used the devotional piece, but there are also videos and radio programs to listen to. It was a free app and I've really enjoyed it. The readings are short, but I often find a nugget I want to write down and think about more.

The second is another devotional app by Joyce Meyer, based on her book The Confident Woman. I paid for this one ($3.99), which makes me reluctant to dump it, but I am not enjoying it as much as the free app. It may be that I am more interested in the general life messages of the free app than the "confident woman" messages of the paid app.

Finally, there's the free Bible reading app called BiOY for Bible in One Year. This app reminds me of my favorite part of writing Sunday School curriculum when I did that for the Church of God - the Bible passage commentary. Every day there is an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and a section from Proverbs or Psalms. You click on the section, and you can read the text of the passage. Click back for the commentary on each section, based on a theme/anecdote that the author uses to tie the three passages together. It's a great resource and I look forward to using it each day.

All in all, I am happy with my app finds and the routine I have started for the year regarding spiritual discipline. Do you have any apps or other resources that you use in your faith journey?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


As I mentioned on  Saturday, I am working through a few new apps to help me with some spiritual growth in the new year (I'll talk about the apps I'm using on Thursday).

On January second, in my Old Testament reading about Adam and Eve, the writer said something like, "in spite of everything God had given them, Adam and Eve were looking for something more and succumbed to temptation."

Satisfaction. Contentment. Adam and Eve weren't content with all they had - they wanted more. They wanted the one thing God denied them.


I live a comfortable life in a country that has no concept of its own abundance. Yet I often want more - a house with one more room, more books, more stuff. How many of my goals for 2013 would be achieved simply by developing a contented spirit, choosing to be satisfied with the life I have right now?

This idea has grabbed hold of me enough that I am already thinking of changing my word for 2013 (maybe it's silly to try to pick a word before January! I keep choosing one and changing it a few weeks in!). Maybe "satisfied" is a better focus for the coming year.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Goals/52 Days

Over the New Year's holiday I read a blog post from Jon Acuff called, "Why I Quit New Year's Resolutions (And What I Am Doing Instead)."

This really resonated with me because I routinely bail on my New Year's goals by February. Acuff described my experience perfectly - the goals don't work because they are determined without any clue what the new year will hold by way of opportunities and challenges.

The idea of tackling the year - and my goals - in 52 day chunks seems like a great way to change the course for me. I am gradually working on my first set of goals, and I feel optimistic about them because I know if they stink, I will get to change them up in late February.

Jon recommends setting goals in seven areas: Mental, Spiritual, Physical, Financial, Social, Family and Career.  Here are mine for the first 52 days of 2013:

Mental - read one book per month (so one in January and one in February) on a device (Nook, Kindle app, iBooks). This is to help me actually use the books I have downloaded onto a device - and reading is always a winning goal.
Spiritual - download a devotional/Bible reading app and use daily. I want to be more intentional about my spiritual life this year. A colleague posted the following on Facebook:  “We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.”   I don't know where she posted it from, but the sentiment challenged me. I have found a great Bible reading app and a couple devotional ones that I am doing every day. I'll post about those another day.
Physical - Join Weight Watchers in January. It's time. It worked well for my husband and I when we did it 6 years ago and I'm ready to get back to it.
Financial - only use gift cards or cash to buy books. We have worked really hard to pay off our credit card, but trips to the book store, at least for me, get pricey. It's too easy to swipe the card and worry about paying for them later.
Social - engage with friends in person - not just Facebook. This one is a little wimpy. I would love to make it more of a "invite friends to our home once a month" sort of goal, but I have issues with feeling comfortable with others seeing our house. It doesn't make sense. We've done a small "gathering" the last two years before Christmas and have really enjoyed it. But I have many more years of house-shame to overcome. Maybe that should be my goal instead - banish my house-shame by inviting people over.
Family - reclaim our bedtime reading routine, starting with Wings of Fire/The Dragonet Prophecy. We've gotten out of the habit of reading together at night and I want to get back to it. So far in the new year, we are doing better about being consistent.
Career - Put 10 new books out in the library every week. Before Christmas break I killed myself, working late even when I was sick, to get a big crop of books cataloged for the library. Now they essentially just need their coverings - laminate or those plastic sheets that libraries use on hard cover books with paper jackets. I brought three bags of books home to work on over break, and I ended up taking all three bags back to school, untouched. I really embraced the idea of a "break" for Christmas break, but I am still committed to getting new materials into kids' hands asap. So, we'll try for 10 a week and see how it works. Hopefully I can actually do more.

So, those are my goals for the first 52 days. What goals have you set for 2013?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blast from the Past

P.S. I Love You

This book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year. Doesn't really look like my style, huh? But it was - about 30 years ago.

I remember this book from my childhood. I don't remember much about the plot or why I liked it, but I remember reading it over and over and over again. As I was putting together my Christmas list this year, I decided to ask for it (there were copies on Amazon going for a penny) and see if I could discover what captured my attention as a teenager.

Yep, I got funny looks when I unwrapped it, and stranger ones when I squealed for joy when I saw what it was. We'll see if the story lives up to my memories in the end.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fun Cross Stitch Finds from Etsy

Pixel People - Star Wars - A New Hope - PDF Cross-stitch PATTERN

[photo and pattern by weelittlestitches/Jacqueline - you can view the item here.]

Avengers Cross Stitch PDF Pattern Download
[photo and pattern by pixelpowerdesign/Sergei Vozika - you can view the item here.]

I found these while tooling around Etsy and I fell in love. I can't begin to say how excited I am to start stitching these. The patterns were emailed to me, so I can get started as soon as I wrap up some of my other tasks. I love the "geeky"-ness of them. I think they will look great stitched up and framed on a wall in our house - they combine my love of cross stitch with the comic book/book/movie icons we love.

It you've never checked out Etsy and you like crafty and/or handmade things, set aside a couple hours and check it out. I did a search for "cross stitch" and there were 250 pages of responses (not all family-friendly, just by way of warning....). There's jewelry, hand bags, and all sorts of other treasures. I added a lot of pins to my Pinterest boards thanks to Etsy this Christmas break.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reading Year by Year

In July of 2007, I started keeping track of what I read. At the time, I started reading kids books so I could make some recommendations to my sister-in-law of books my niece might enjoy as she was starting to read. From July to December of 2007, I read 115 books. Sure, there were a lot of kids chapter books in there and picture books, but that's a lot of books in six months.At the time, I was writing and doing a little bit of consulting, but otherwise not working outside the house.

In 2008, I read 112 books for the whole year. The end of 2008 was when my son started Kindergarten and I started teaching part time and subbing.

In 2009, I read 235 books. That was a good reading year! I taught part time for the first part of the year, then had a free summer, and then subbed in the fall.

In 2010, I read 203 books. This was the year I started working at the court house. There was no homework and few "bringing-work-home" situations, even though I worked year round.

In 2011, I read 146 books. This was the year I spent the summer in Wisconsin taking care of my dad's estate and then started teaching. Still a good amount of reading.

In 2012, I read 137 books.

Not bad for a full year of teaching and a full summer of working at school. I noticed as I went back through the books from 2012 that the months where I did a lot of reading, it was mostly picture books. Maybe it was a shipment from Tiger Tales or a book fair month where I had a room full of new picture books to try out. Either way, those were the only times I did a LOT of reading. I'm hoping to have a more relaxing summer this year where I can do some more reading. I have a lot of books waiting to be read - and new ones coming out every week!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Little Word 2013

It's time to pick my word for 2013.... I'm having trouble settling on one.

It doesn't help that I picked several last year before sticking with one. I tried all sorts of I'm-getting-my-stuff-together goals and plans last January that didn't even make it to February.

This year, I at least want to have my word, even if I don't set any other goals or plans.

I thought about keeping last year's word - SAVOR. It's still a good one and still something I need to remember.

But I'm contemplating the word SLOW for this year.
SLOW down
Take things SLOW
SLOW down my thoughts
SLOW down my plans
SLOW down my pace
SLOW down my expectations

Don't rush through the moment or the day or the week...or my life.


What do you think? Do you pick a word? You can read a smidge about the practice of choosing a word here - this is a link for a class that focuses some activities on the word. I have thought about taking it, but I never finish those because I get too busy. So I'm going to save my money this year, but there I still love the idea of picking a word... You can also go here to read some of my musings on past words I've chosen (and some I've chosen and later discarded).

If you are picking a word, I'd love to know what it is. Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Happy 2013!!