Joy in 2012, Final Review

Here it is at last.  The last day of 2012.  I look out the window at our snow-covered backyard and pause for a moment in wonder at all that transpired this year.

My heart is grateful.  Deeply grateful. The Lord has been so kind to us, always there, always guiding and lifting us.  I have learned so much this year about Him, and also about me.  It wasn’t an easy year, but we made it, and we made it with a lot of happy memories.    So, since “feeling more joy in 2012” was my #1 goal, I am declaring 2012 a smashing success.  I developed habits of looking for things to be thankful for, even if I’m just thankful for what didn’t happen.  I worked on smiling more, laughing more, putting a spring in my step, singing songs that make me happy/grateful, collecting and memorizing and quoting to myself scriptures and quotes that bring joy.  I learned that I can cultivate happiness in my heart even when my husband didn’t have a job, or when he couldn’t walk, or when one of my children was having a challenge that made me sick.  I learned so much more about casting my burdens on the Lord as I knelt in prayer to talk about the things I could change and the things I couldn’t change.  I haven’t had a knot of stress that He didn’t take when I thought to ask for it.  I feel so indebted to my Heavenly Father to his generosity to me personally and to my family this year.  His goodness overwhelms me.

So, with reference to my Joy in 2012 introductory post , here is my official report on the year.

#1.  Find Joy
Print a copy of my joy picture and hang it in the house:
My teenagers revolted against this, so my reminder had to be a small, private one.

Turn my gratitude tree into a joy tree:

This worked well until my husband got tired of a tree in the kitchen and I moved it to the basement.

Make a chalkboard to post positive thoughts/quotes for the family:

I made the chalkboard and hung it up, but didn’t change quotes or have everyone memorize them like I wanted to.

Make joy books for the children:

I wrote in these daily through April, when the intensity of life got the better of me after my son’s ankle surgery.  We never really found our way back to normal before my husband’s injury threw us for another loop.  I thought I’d start them up again in August when the children went back to school, but the habit was lost and I completely forgot about it.  I did love doing it, though, and may start them up again sometime.  I’ll give what I have to my kids to read as a little New Year’s gift.

Work on implementing the 7 Habits, specifically, letting go of the unimportant and putting first things first
.  I worked earnestly at this all year, sometimes with more success than others.  I  didn’t feel as productive as I hoped to, but I do feel good about most of my decision when it came to prioritizing.  We had a few of our children who really needed a lot from us this year and my husband and I had to communicate well and be on our game non-stop but I feel that we rose to the challenge, had our priorities straight, and things worked out.
D isplay in the kitchen what goal/habit I’m working on:
Again, as our injuries piled up many of the details of this goal were swept away, and this was no exception.

Continue to read from holy scripture daily:

I learned so much from the scriptures this year, and this habit was essential to my everyday life.  I love this time.

#2 Personal Well-being
Drink more water.
This was specifically tailored to reduce headaches, which I was able to do.  I have had to adjust my life to make sure I get sufficient sleep and if I do that, the headaches are much less frequent or intense.  I lost a little bit of weight this year, but not what I had hoped to lose.

Read at least six good books in 2012.

Of the seven titles I listed in my original post, I finished Middlemarch (loved it!) and started The Greater Journey but haven’t completed it.  I did, however, read a number of other titles I hadn’t listed.  I read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell.  I also read a fantasy book (I rarely read fantasy) called Daughters of the Forest (can’t remember author), and a couple of other novels which are also escaping me at the moment.  And of course I re-read one of my favorite books of all-time:  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Sometimes things just aren’t right in my world until I read it again.  I owe a lot of the reading I’ve done to my sister, who had the awesome idea to srtart a book club for all the women in our family.  We take turns choosing the book and have a monthly conference call to discuss it.  I have LOVED participating in this book club and having such wonderful women to talk to about it.

#3 Housekeeping
All I can say here is that things have generally continued as before.  When life is somewhat normal, I stay on top of things ok, but when someone has surgery, when we’re sick, or when soccer season is in full swing I fall behind.  So, some of the time I didn’t let the laundry pile up, but in the crazy times I did.  Everything was like that.  I guess that means partial success.

In the basement,
I did go through all the children’s clothing and we got rid of everything my youngest son and daughter had grown out of.  The papers still need help and the food storage was assessed but now needs it again.  I did reorganize the entire basement so we could have a better fun zone down there for everyone to use, complete with ping pong table, air hockey table, double shot, and a large open space for whatever game they feel like playing.
O rganize my recipes:
didn’t happen.  Just never got around to it.

Top 3 house projects I wanted to deal with:

Finish headboard and curtain for girls room:

done, but I just realized I never took pictures!  I’ll have to do that.

Finish headboard and side table for guest room:

The headboard is done here, too, and I love it.  The side table is another story.  I sanded it but never painted it.  Seriously!  Why did I not paint that thing yet?

Deal with yellow bathroom:

I still hate it but I haven’t done anything about it.  Honestly, most of my hesitation is simply not being sure what I want to do in this space.  But now it’s driving my husband crazy too, so I’d better get to it!

#4  Motherhood/Planning
Put first things first.  Find the pause button in our lives and use it:
Partial success here.  At times I felt great about our margin, but when it’s crazy, well, it’s crazy and then some.  I’m more at peace with it all, though, because I’m being mindful about it.  I recognize that life will always be crazy with a group our size, and I’ve learned to savor the brief moments of pause when they come.

Cut all spending to essentials so we can reach ambitious financial goals:

Well, that was interesting in a year when we experienced unemployment, a pay cut, and more medical problems than ever before, but we did our best and a few things worked out the way we hoped.   Really, we were amazingly blessed.  Things could have been so much worse.

Seek excellence:

Well, I did interview a few people about this, and read some interesting things about it, but didn’t walk away feeling like I have the magic ticket for instilling a hunger for excellence in my children.  This is also a stage in my own life where things are so intense that I often feel like I’m sacrificing excellence in many areas just to cover all the bases.  I’ll keep trying here.

Read books that will help me see my life more clearly and make good decisions:

I didn’t read all the titles on this book list, either, but I read several books.  They were:  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey, Margin by Richard Swenson, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute, 29 Gifts by Cami Walker.  All of them were awesome but if you haven’t read either of Gretchen Rubin’s books, I would definitely recommend The Happiness Project over Happier at Home.

Disconnect from everything when I pick the children up from school and focus on them:

I did this, and it helped.  The after school hours are so intense for me with all the activities, personalities, homework. lessons, and so forth.  I wish I had a magic wand to wave in those hours to make them more sane, but we got through and I suppose that’s enough.

Teach the children to set goals and work at them:

While I wasn’t as methodical as I planned to be, they did all set goals and we did work at them.  Many of them reached great goals this year.  That felt a Read more books aloud in the evenings:
We did more reading.  Christmas reading was a special joy.

#5 Creativity
Spend 15 minutes being creative every day:
I did this most of the time.

Conquer my fear of the blank canvas:

Still working on this, but I am getting better.
I did learn how to letterpress, not with an antique press, but with a little Lifestyle Crafts press.  It is a lot of fun and I hope to do it more.
I did NOT sew skirts for all my girls, or an A-line dress for my two youngest girls, and I did NOT master free-motion quilting enough to do an entire quilt.  I still have three quilt tops hanging in the closet, waiting for me to do this.

I had a much longer list than I posted, however, and from that list here are some of the things I DID do:  I read The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and we learned how to make rosewater lassis, an Indian drink I fell in love with last December at a holiday dinner.

#6  Quilting
No new quilting fabric:
miserable failure here.   I did use a roll of batting, a 15 yard bolt of white fabric, and thousands of yards of thread.   It was a fun year for sewing, especially when I started getting up at 5 a.m. so I could sew for a little while before waking my family for school.

Twelve quilts:

Well, I finished eleven, and if I decide to do the binding on another one before the night is over, I’ll hit twelve.  This does not include the table runner, pillows and smaller projects I made.  The 11th quilt is waiting for my camera, and it happens to be one of the other goals I listed.  I finished the Blockapalooza quilt along… finally.  I enjoyed quilting so much this year and am really thankful for that creative outlet.

Quilts for my kids:

I had hoped to give them each a quilt for Christmas.  I got six quilt tops finished and the last two designed.  One of them is that 12th quilt listed above, waiting for binding.  I have a lot of basting and quilting to do!  I’m thinking I can finish these by February?  Maybe?  I haven’t taken pictures of any of these projects.  They were the 5 a.m. projects.
I did enjoy learning to sew curves.  I have some curvy quilts I’d like to piece in 2013.
I never started the Farmer’s Wife quilt with my sister  and I didn’t finish the pillows I had on the list, but I did make a couple of really fun pillows this year.
Also not on the online list, but something I manged to do:  try hand quilting with perle cotton.  Loved this!

#6  Gardening
Turn the back section of the yard into more garden space:
We were starting this project when my husband got hurt and ended up on crutches for a couple of months.  Hopefully next year!

Grow 80% of our garden from seed.

I would say it was more like 45%, but it sure was fun!  And something of a gift, given the fact that I was completely overwhelmed by being the only parent who could walk all summer.

Grow a salsa garden
:  I wouldn’t say it was the salsa garden I pictured, but we sure made a ton of fresh salsa and LOVED every bite.  In fact, my husband has become the fresh salsa maker around here.  It’s delish.

Grow Bells of Ireland:

I planted some seeds but they didn’t make it.  I’ll try again in 2013.

Add sand to make my dream lavender garden:

Didn’t happen for the same reason as the first gardening goal.

Grow my own Cinderella pumpkins
.  Same as Bells of Ireland, but I already have seeds for next year!

#7  Record Keeping
If there was an area that I really botched, it was this one.  I just blew it, plain and simple.  I did print a few pictures, but not many.  I journaled a little, but not much.  I pretty much just didn’t show up in this area.  And I’m heartily sorry for it.

#8  Friendships
Make a new birthday list :  I got this mostly done, but still didn’t manage to get birthday wishes where they needed to be in many cases.  I’m disappointed in myself here.  Same with writing notes.  It’s like I forgot pens and paper existed this year or something.

Call a friend weekly
:  I worked at this, and many times the call was to one of my sisters, who are my great friends.  It was nice to talk more.

Do something with friends monthly:

I was successful with this, and it enriched my life greatly.  I feel so fortunate to have forgiving friends who care about me even  when I don’t reach out like I used to.   I am blessed to know a lot of incredible women and I’m so thankful for their influence in my life.

Phew!  I’m done!

What a list.  Lots of success, some glaring failures.  It’s not easy to post lists like this, but I have loved being accountable to myself for these goals, and feel that overall I’m a better goal keeper than I was before I started blogging my New Year’s resolutions.  I feel pretty good about 2012, especially given the many unusual things that came our way this year.  I’m thankful for the good things that happened and feel excited to improve in 2013!

Stay tuned for the new yearly goal!

Joy, week 51

Tonight is the night.  Eight makeshift beds make the room an obstacle course as they slowly calm down, some more willingly than others, for our annual tradition.  On December 23rd the children all sleep around the Christmas tree.  It’s been a tradition since I was a girl, and we’ve continued it with our own children.  The only bad thing about it is the slight panicky feeling I have when I consider what still needs to be done in the next 24 hours.

Still, this night only comes once a year, so we’re going to dim the lights and read Christmas stories until everyone falls asleep.  Tomorrow will bring a day divided between the kitchen and the wrapping table and hopefully it will all get done!  Here’s what I know:  Christmas will come, no matter how much I get done, and we’ll make great memories and it will all work out.  Like millions of other parents, I’ve had so many ordinary moments with my children this week that are more precious to me because I’m thinking of families in Connecticut whose only wish would be to have their dear one back for one more hug, one more story, one more anything.

We had a great week, a busy week.  Lots of doctors appointments, errands, visits with friends, delivering of small delights.  We celebrated a birthday this week; my 4th daughter is now five years old.  Everyone seems to be mostly recovered from the junk we were all down with last weekend.  We attended a beautiful performance with the oldest five children, a Christmas tradition that is always a healing experience for me.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  For the record, and for the sake of honesty, here’s how it’s playing out.  My husband opted to read the stories tonight because I still sound like a frog, so I’m sitting here typing as I listen.  Our oldest was asleep almost as soon as he held still, his body trying to recover from his recent injury and the junk we’ve all had.  The other boys are willing participants, listening quietly to the story from their chosen spot.  The girls are another story.  Our fourteen year old wants to sing and dance and wrestle… anything other than working WITH her parents.  The three year old decided to play with her eight year old sister and a mis-directed kick resulted in a bloody nose.  Except that she said nothing about her bloody nose, but walked to the bathroom, then decided she didn’t know what else to do, so she walked back, dripping blood all over the place.  After the long pause for cleanup and emotional calming, we’re back in the family room for more stories.  The ten year old is torn between listening and following her big sister’s obnoxious example.  Angry about it all, our fourteen year old goes to the basement to kick soccer balls at the ceiling in the area directly beneath us all.  It makes me laugh as I watch the circus.  I’m reminded how much WORK it is to preserve traditions, especially in a large family with a spectrum of ages and stages.  I know it was like this for my parents, too, but they stuck with it, and instead of remembering the bloody noses we have the gift of accumulated memories, years of consistency distilled together to leave us with a golden memory and glittering letters that say “ALWAYS.”  So we persevere, reminding ourselves that our children will leave home with that same accumulation of memories, and in this case, at least, it will be as golden as the one I left home with years ago.

And with that I’m going to take my disgustingly behind schedule, sleepy self and sign off so I can lay by the three year old and get her to sleep.   I’ve been going through my list of goals for 2012, crossing off many and shaking my head at my failure in others.  I’ll report in full soon, but right now it’s time to be a mom.  A very lucky, happy mom.

Merry Christmas!

Joy, week 50

It has been good for me to see the word “Joy” so many times this week.  With nine days left until Christmas and only fifteen days left in the year, part of me wants to hide under a blanket, take a long nap, and pretend it’s October!

It’s been a wonderful holiday season so far.  I’m enjoying my children, loving the sights and sounds of Christmas, reading Christmas stories to my heart’s content and generally aware of my countless blessings.    At every social event I’ve attended I’ve been able to really focus on the people I’m around.  I’m feeling like my life is full of wonderful people and friendships I treasure but don’t deserve.   It’s a good place to be.

In fact, we’d decided that since we’ve been so blessed we ought to plan a couple of simple, casual holiday gatherings for friends and neighbors.  I had the plans all worked out and was ready to deliver invitations when one of the children came down with a fever.  I decided to wait a day and see what would happen, since ten people under one roof can make the rounds of a virus something of an event.  Sure enough, it got worse.   I’ve consistently had three or more children crashed and sleeping on the couch all day for the past week and after days of being coughed on by my little ones, I woke up feeling awful myself.    One of the parties I wanted to have would have been held right now and instead we sit as a family with blankets and cough drops and homemade chicken noodle soup.  The bodies on the couch and the bodies up and around change places as doses of ibuprofen wear off or kick in.    My brother and his boys decided to brave the germs and flew from Denver to visit over the weekend.  We loved seeing them.  Our oldest son came home from snowboarding last night with what might just be a broken collarbone, so we have that to take care of tomorrow.  My husband and I have had a big decision to weigh this week, and I always forget how much time, talking and emotional energy it takes to make these decisions even when they’re good decisions.

I’m supposed to help with a holiday party at the school on Wednesday, and we had planned to have a birthday party for my daughter on Thursday but she’s the one who’s been hit hardest and running a fever of 103.5 all weekend.  I’m thinking it will have to be postponed until after the holidays, and I hope she’ll understand.

Yesterday my youngest walked into the room with bangs.  She’s never had bangs before, especially the kind that are three inches long in one spot and 3/4 inch long in another.  This makes us 8 for 8, with every one of our children cutting their own hair as toddlers.  My four year old was in on it, too.  She gave herself bangs early in the year,  and it was almost all grown out, but now half of the “bangs” are much shorter bangs and she looks like kind of a mop.  Or maybe they have mullets.  I don’t know.  We’ll see what we can do to fix it.  As soon as I have the energy to do it, that is.

Given all these little speed bumps I’m crossing things off my list and deciding what can be postponed.  Christmas crafts and projects might not happen after all and the cards just might be mailed for New Year’s.  But it’s ok.  Christmas is right here.  It’s the feeling in the room as the toddler jumps on her Daddy to be tickled, as the children play songs on the piano, as we enjoy steaming mugs of hot wassail while we laugh and talk together.  We’re doing just fine when the glow in our eyes match the glow of the lights, even if we’re blowing our noses every five minutes.  The Lord is so generous to my family, and I’m aware that his windows are wide open.  For this I am grateful, and I’m grateful for the lessons that sickness can teach me about simplification.

SO.  I have nine days to see how much I can salvage of my original Christmas plans, and then a week after that to wrap up year.   Today while I was rocking a little body my mind wandered to my sewing room and started planning the quilts I want to make in 2013.  Surely that’s a sign that I’m on the mend!  I hope tomorrow will bring an increase in energy, a clear mind, and little bodies that have strength.

Life is joyful!

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