Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Pointless Lists

Merry and bright!
Fake it 'til you make it, internet friends.

This month has been hard for me, but I got through, partly because my Holiday Resolutions were solid, and also because Eric is a rock and took it upon himself to do all of the shopping for the girls, get the Christmas tree, and literally stand over me to make sure I got our Walker Family Christmas Form Letter written and Christmas cards out. I suppose that sounds a bit controlling, that last bit, but honestly, I needed the motivation and the support. 

Oh, wait, I did do the stockings and one "random" box of bits for Johanna, and I bought my brother the most awesome Sasquatch shirt EVER, but that was it. Eric said that someone on Abby's basketball team made a joke about how men don't do anything to get ready for Christmas, and he was a little offended. 

As he should be. I'd like to go on record that Christmas 2015 would not have happened this year if not for my darling husband. He takes good care of us, and no, I don't think it's a slap to my pro-Feminism leanings to say so. We all need someone in our corner. Everyone needs an Eric.

Books read:
This is where my list gets even sadder because I read ZERO books this month. And after my great go of it last month, too! One problem is that I got four more books all at once from our city's e-library and I just... I don't know. It depressed me for some reason. I started reading Nick Offerman's "Gumption," mostly because he's hilarious and I thought it would lift my spirits a bit, but it turned out to be kind of boring. I'm sorry, Nick Offerman! I love you and I feel terrible saying that. But I never did get past like the sixth chapter.

Ah, well.

Movies watched:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. YOU GUYS. I almost let my anxiety get the best of me, but I went to the movie theater to watch this little flick with my family, and it was amazing. Now THAT is a Star Wars movie! Loved the story, broke my heart near the end, loved the characters, the acting was great, the effects were just right, JJ Abrams is a genius. I give it all the stars! Now we're collectively depressed because we have to wait until 2017 for the next one.

Light update:
Ah, light! My idea of using a word to guide you through a year has changed as the year has progressed -- gone from "inspiration to action!" to "just try to embrace the feeling." I've got a new word picked out for 2016, and I'm not planning to use it for anything besides the cultivation of my soul. Wow, that is probably overkill on the drama, but I'm not sure how else to explain it. I will use the word simply to remind myself of what I'm ultimately going for, not to add to my to-do list.

If you'd like to come up with a word for 2016, here's something to help you: Susannah Conway has a free workbook and e-course to help you figure it out.

Project 333 update:
I'm looking forward to another year of P333 and minimalism. I've pretty much got my next rotation nailed down, and to make it more of a challenge, I've decided to stick to the strict 33 count, including shoes and leggings and scarves. I came to this conclusion after wearing the same long-sleeve turtleneck sweater four times in one week without anyone noticing. Let's see what happens when I'm truly pared down...

Have you been thinking about starting your own Project 333? Here's Courtney Carver's website to help you figure it all out. My advice: Start slow. And make edits if you need to. I promise you will not be sorry, and you will never go back to an overflowing wardrobe that contains nothing to wear.

One small announcement:
I'm going to retire my monthly Pointless Lists at the end of the year. I've been thinking a lot about this, because apparently I need more hobbies, and I've come to the conclusion that I just don't need to do them anymore. Four years of pointless lists is enough.

It's been a good run.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A look back at 2015

As seen on a recent walk around town.

Christmas is over, New Year's is just around the corner, and I am trying to make sense of what the hell even happened in 2015. I was talking with Abby on Sunday, and said I knew this year would be hard, but I didn't expect it to be this hard. She said that we just thought it would be hard in different ways and that's why it seemed to be overly difficult.

My kid is so smart.

Well, whatever. This year seemed to be the best of times and the worst of times, but I think that's pretty much how it is every year. You can't have the sweet without the sour. Or something. I think I read that once. I think I'd much rather have all sweet, though, thankyouverymuch. The sour sucks.

Anyway, as I sit here and think about the past (almost) 365 days, these are the things that stand out for me. I'm trying to be all zen and like, there is no good nor bad, it's just our perceptions, except right now zen is alluding me so you get this:

The Good
  1. Our trips to California and Sunriver were amazing.
  2. I got farther in my zero waste journey.
  3. I continued to be a minimalist. And a damn good one. ;)
  4. I discovered the joy that is art journaling.
  5. I learned I tend to be self-destructive, which may seem bad, but that revelation has been a real eye-opener for me. It helps me stay on track.
  6. My husband is darling in so many ways. We celebrated our 20th anniversary!
  7. My girls are smart and make parenting extremely easy.
  8. Let's not leave out Skilly. He's the best. Well... mostly.
  9. I loved my year in the newsroom -- every single minute of it. That's not to say that sometimes I don't want to ram my head through a wall, because frustrations are normal and they happen, but you guys! I get to read and write all day long! That doesn't even seem like working.
  10. I started acupuncture and reflexology, and that has made a big difference in my overall health and mental well-being.
  11. I embraced the light. Sometimes I had more success than other times.
  12. My hair is finally its natural color -- from root to end!
The Bad
  1. We lost Eric's cousin Aaron and my grandfather. We found out that Uncle Bob's cancer has spread to his spine and blood. We learned that sweet Celia, our friend and hairdresser, has cancer and there's nothing that can be done about that. We also lost our kind neighbor and friend, Tom.
  2. Just so many funerals.
The Ugly
  1. I fought anxiety a lot this year. I did allergy elimination through my acupuncturist, and I think with that and my monthly reflexology appointments (just for relaxation), I'm better overall. I still have some general and social anxiety, which can be a pain, but I also have tools to get myself through it.
  2. Accepting that my grandparents are getting older.
  3. Grieving. Grieving is so super hard, you guys.
  4. Just getting through December. But I did it.
You know what, 2015? Thank you for the opportunities, and the good times, and the lessons learned from all the rest. Here's to a more peaceful 2016.

Friday, December 18, 2015

In which I decided to just tune out

These penguins are not worried about staying abreast of the latest news.
P.S. Our neighbors have Christmas spirit to spare.

This week, I've been intentionally not turning on my television.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin would be so proud of me!*

It's not so much that I watch a lot of television and need to curb the habit (I think TV is super boring), but I am known to flip on the news most nights. I like to know what is going on in the world and in my own backyard and get the weather report and stuff and things.

But lately... it's just been dragging me down. All of it. I have enough trouble during this time of the year staving off depression without help from the outside.

And then I read a little blog post called "The Life-Changing Magic of Intentional Ignorance." This in particular stood out for me:
"Sometimes intentional ignorance is the best choice you can make for yourself." -- Sarah VonBargen
And I was like, that is amazing!

Seriously, what a novel thought: You don't have to watch the news (ironic, since I'm The Media), or open all of your email, or read every blog post by every blogger you follow. It's okay to just turn it all off and go do something else.

For me, that something else has been a lot of journaling (both art and written), and trying to sort through the year that was 2015 and think about what I'd like 2016 to look like. It's been rather enjoyable.

I'm still getting the news -- I mean, it's kind of hard NOT to when you write for a newspaper -- but moderation seems to be the key to my overall sanity.

I think I'm on to something with this intentional ignorance thing...

*Boy, talk about a blast from the past. I loved this song in college.

Monday, December 14, 2015

"It's Christmastime and we've got the spirit!"

I've actually been listening to Christmas music this year (well, "winter music" might be a better term for some of it), which speaks well for my mental stability, actually. My holiday resolutions are working!

I have been trying to figure out a way to share my favorite songs for this time of year, but unfortunately I am 43 and not as technically advanced as I'd like to think. So instead of giving you a nice tidy playlist link to click, here's what I managed to find on YouTube. You can click on whatever you think you might like and forget the rest, I guess. :)

Trisha's December Playlist of Awesome:
This year's love: David Gray
Better Days: Goo Goo Dolls
Beautiful Things: Gungor
O Come Emmanuel: John Berry
My<Dsmbr: Linkin Park
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: MercyMe
Silver Bells: Ray Coniff Singers
Christmas in Hollis: Run DMC
Winter Song: Sarah Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
Song for a Winter's Night: Sarah McLachlan
Soul Cake: Sting

Happy winter!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Good-bye, Walmart

Ah, it seems like just yesterday I was breaking up with Safeway,* and now here I am calling it quits with Walmart. It's kind of the same ordeal: I go in and I go in and I think about how great it would be to never go in again, but I always do. Until one day the proverbial camel's back is broken, and then?

It's over.

On Tuesday, Johanna and I were wandering around our local Walmart for well over an hour, trying to nail down a fairly modest list: Abby needed a few items, Eric wanted a certain brand of cereal, and I wanted to get Johanna's class obligations taken care of (i.e. canned food drive, class gift exchange present, mittens and socks for a warm clothing campaign of some sort, etc.). Having been going to this particular Walmart since it opened (1993? 1994?), you'd think I'd be able to find everything I need right were I'd expect it to be.

Wrong! Everything is always moving around in that joint anyway, but recently they've begun to really revamp the whole ordeal, putting in a grocery section (g.r.o.s.s.) and... I don't know. Adding self-service check-outs or whatever. But nothing is where it kind of should be, the rows are so close together that you can't have two carts pass each other in opposite directions, and it's so packed that you'd think there was no other show in town.

So as I'm walking down the same stretch of aisle AGAIN trying to find Abby's contact solution, it occurred to me that there is absolutely nothing in this world that I need so badly as to have to come to this store. When you want to punch everyone in the throat, and you are normally a very peaceful person, this is when you know it's time to say buh-bye.

As Johanna and I exited the building (she was getting a headache and I had just had it with finding everything on my list; Kenny Rogers was right -- you gotta know when to fold 'em), I announced that I was NEVER COMING BACK. I'm not going to list out all of the reasons I hate everything about Walmart (like I did with Safeway, which was rather entertaining, but I'm on a time crunch today), but I think it's safe to say that I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT WALMART.

I feel good about this breakup. I'm okay with spending three total extra dollars to get my items somewhere else, especially when it means A) I won't have to go into that hellhole and 2) I'll be able to get in and out much more quickly and C) maybe I'll be able to find what I'm looking for in the first place.

* Turns out I broke up with Safeway in 2011. How times flies! In my defense, I'm at that point in my life where 10 years ago and yesterday are pretty much the same in my mind.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Minimalist (or maybe just lazy) meal planning

"So you see, children, your mother is more than happy
to wait on us all and does not feel imposed upon in any way!"

I don't have many good ideas, but sometimes I am rather a genius. Sundays have become my "Cook All The Meals!" days, and while this means that I don't always have time to take a nap like God intended (day of rest? anyone? no?), it also means that I don't have to worry about feeding the fam when I come home famished and exhausted from work during the week. 

I actually stole this idea from Abby's friends' mom (friends plural because they're twins. Abby is actually the triplet in this scenario, now that I think about it), who casually mentioned one day that she makes three different meals every Sunday so she and her girls can eat a nice dinner no matter what their schedules are like, and I was all, that is BRILLIANT.

Because if you're already messing up your kitchen, you may as well go big.

I'm not really a menu planner, so I just ask Eric and the girls what they want to eat for the week. If they each give me one idea, that week is taken care of. If they don't, that's cool because coming up with one idea is way easier than coming up with multiple ideas.

So far I've been gravitating towards the casserole-esque -- turkey pot pie, lasagna -- and the soup -- pozole and taco. This Sunday I branched out and made hamburger patties (uh, that was almost too easy) and teriyaki chicken. But really, I'm willing to try just about anything. I heard that if you can find it in the freezer case at the supermarket, you can make it and freeze it yourself, so I guess I'm putting that theory to the test.

My other motivation for doing this, aside from the fact that not having to think about dinner six days in a row is the greatest gift I've ever given myself, is that the week of Christmas is going to be insane in the membrane, so if I have a nice stockpile, I can feed everyone WITHOUT EVEN TRYING.

I told you I'm a genius. Even if I have to rip off my good ideas.

Hey, it's occurred to me that you're wondering about side dishes. Well, let me tell you about this beautiful thing called salad. You make it and then you let people pick at it all week! And when that runs out about Thursday, you just start cutting up apples and calling it a day.

We just want people fed, right? It doesn't have to be pretty. ;)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday resolutions

See how Santa is already burned out? METAPHOR.

I follow quite a few simplicity blogs (which you have to admit is kind of ironic because how hard can simplicity be?), and over at The Simple Year a couple weeks back, Tracy posted this:
Today it occurred to me that New Year’s resolutions are improperly timed. Resolutions are more necessary at this time of year. Then, when the new year arrives, you didn’t eat too much or spend too much or drink too much.
You know what, Tracy? Word up.

And, then, like the Universe was actually trying to teach me something, I read THIS from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less:
Things build up day after day, week after week, and month after month. A new year offers hope for a clean slate, but we sometimes forget about the opportunity of a new day. Why do we have to wait for January 1st for a fresh start?
(You should actually read this entire post, which is entitled "Create the Promise of a New Day with a Clean Slate." Go ahead, I'll wait...)

Reading Tracy's post inspired me to make my own holiday resolution list, and Courtney's reminded me that every single day is an opportunity to start over, no matter what has happened the day before. My mother likes to say that we choose to have a happy heart; why can't we choose a daily clean slate?

The holidays are, traditionally, kind of a rough time for me. My introverted, minimalist heart does not like all the commotion and chaos and advertisements telling me I need to buy this or spend this much so the people I love know that I love them. Add to that the sadness I feel this year after losing my grandpa (you guys, how can he be gone? I still can't wrap my mind around that, even after six months), and... let's just say I don't really look forward to December at all.

Which is kind of a dismal way to look at what is supposed to be a magical month.

So I took this whole notion of holiday resolutions very seriously is what I'm saying. What did I want out of this month? This holiday season? From myself?

Not the complete list, but here are some of the (better, perhaps overly optimistic) intentions I came up with:

1. To survive. I don't have to get through this ordeal prettily; I just need to get through. Pressure off!

2. To remember that this time with my family is a gift. It's easy for me to forget that I love these people more than anything in the world. Abby is already a junior in high school; Johanna turns 11 in just a couple of weeks. Eric is the rock on which my world is built. We're in the golden era of our family. This is the time to enjoy it.

3. Is this XYZ self-destructive? If it is (staying up too late, eating that eighth cookie, forgetting to introvert, not exercising, forgetting to be kind), then I will NOT DO THAT THING. (This is actually a new life resolution, now that I think about it.)

4. It's okay to feel sad and miss my loved ones. I'm not likely to forget that we lost Gramps this year, and I always miss my Grammie M something terrible this season too. Oh, and the anniversary of my miscarriage is Dec. 6, and Grandpa M's death Dec. 12. I will remember them, I will send them my love and hold them in my heart, and I will be sad when I am sad -- and happy when I am happy. Hey, it goes both ways.

5. It's okay to be frustrated but it's NOT okay to be a jerk. Yeah. I'm not actually all that great of a person to be around sometimes. But there's no reason to lash out when I find I'm not surviving, remembering to enjoy time with Eric and the girls, feeling self-destructive and sad and overwhelmed. I can choose to have a happy heart and make my Mommy proud! ;)

6. Take all the naps! (I think that's pretty self-explanitory.)

...And if I fail at any of these (and, let's face it, I will), I can start over the next day! Or even that next minute. (Courtney is a genius.)

Besides keeping these resolutions in mind, I'm also making time for a couple of other activities that are just good for my soul: Courtney's 31 Gifts You So Deserve (can you tell I'm a big fan of this woman?) and Bishop Robert Barron's Advent Reflections. Both are delivered via email each morning; I try to read them when the house is quiet, but if the world is against me, I wait until lunchtime. I've been making journal pages based on Courtney's gifts (it's not too late to sign up, by the way... there's a nominal fee, but it's totally worth it), which has been both a great way to not only appreciate them, but be creative, present in the moment, and open to the magic of the season. The same goes for Bishop Barron -- I copy passages that resonate with me so I can look back and be reminded of what Advent is about, not just in December, but always.

My journal is getting quite the workout these days, actually. It is AWESOME.

So that's the roadmap I'm following this month. I am hopeful that this will be a peaceful December in my heart and soul because of it.

What would make your holiday resolutions list?