An Intentional Year

Have you ever had an idea and felt like the next moment you turned around someone was copying you, even stealing your idea? You think of an outfit that would be cute to wear and the next place you go, you see several people wearing it. You think of a unique baby name that is just SO original, no one else would EVER think of using it and then you meet a parent who has a new baby and there you go – there’s your original, unique name. This happens to everyone. We are all influenced by social media, name brands, television and the list goes on. It’s not surprising that our new, original, unique idea is exactly inline with well… basically everyone else’s. Which is exactly why most of us are currently filling trash bags with unwanted clutter and clothes, organizing our kitchen utensil drawers and standing all of our shirts, which are folded in thirds, up on their sides in our drawers. Thanks Marie Kondo… 

I have this hunch that our new laundry folding technique isn’t the only thing we all currently have in common. We are all feeling similar struggles, we are all trucking through similar trenches and we are climbing similar hills. For weeks (months if I am being honest) I have had the idea for this post brewing in my mind, this post about the New Year. I have struggled to find the time to get the thoughts and ideas down on paper… err my computer screen, but at last, here I go. 

Oh, time… what a double edge sword you are. Time is truly a force that can’t be reckoned with. No matter the effort, you will never outrun time. When talking about my children and time, I have often said something along the lines of “I wish there was a pause button,” “I wish they would stop getting older” or “I wish I could freeze time, right where we are.” Although I honestly have those thoughts, the truth is, I could never actually push that “pause button”… if such button happened to exist. I want to turn the page on their lives, our lives, and see what the next adventure is. In the same moment, it pains me to think about never being able to turn the pages back. Once the pages are turned, they are just that. It makes me think of a that blog post was floating around on social media a few years ago about how we only get 18 summers with our children before they are “grown.” This post does an amazing job at making you feel inspired to make the most of your children’s summers. I was on fire the summer after I read it. I was squeezing in all kinds of activities, making a summer bucket list happen, and skipping all sort of chores around the house so I could try to soak up as much “summer time” with my kids. It was a fantastic summer but the days didn’t move any slower. The pages just kept turning and I would even go as far to argue, they turned even faster. The author, Rebecca Cooper, wasn’t telling us how to make our summers last longer, she was wise enough to know that was a waste of energy, her big push to us was to make the summers count. 

So back to my New Year’s Resolution… or idea… or maybe it’s a goal? No matter what we call it, my focus for 2019 is to live, especially parent, more intentionally, purposefully and connected and I believe the key to that is the way we use our free time. Just like Cooper’s “Eighteen Summers,” I’m not here to tell you how you can get more free time but I am here to point out a few ways we can make the most out of the free time we already have – how to make it really count. I know I am not the only one hoping for this in the New Year. I have come across several social media posts where people are describing these similar feelings and hoping for a more intentional 2019 as they set new life rules for themselves. They must also be feeling the lack of quality with their free time and the burden of technology that I feel at times. 

Oh the smartphone… don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone but I’m going to be honest, most days I think it might hurt me more than it helps me. I love how efficient it has made me. I pay bills faster, I respond to emails sooner and stay more connected with friends, all because of my iPhone. Im getting more things done but Im starting to wonder at what cost – what have I given up without even realizing it? I often have to “hide” my own phone from myself. Yes, you read that correctly. I put my phone on top of the fridge a few times a week in order to get my to-do list done. I feel like a child even admitting that but it is just necessary sometimes. If I don’t hide it, I find myself spending 10 minutes here and another 10 minutes there looking at useless internet junk. I know I am not the only one… what starts as an email check, leads to a weather report check, which leads to a Pinterest check, which leads to me deciding on a new house project (that I don’t need), that then leads me to figuring up the cost of that said house project and then… wait… I don’t think I actually ever responded to that work email… and the cycle continues. A few weeks ago, my husband and I turned a show on to watch and then while it played in the background, we both stared at our phones. Once I realized what we were doing, I couldn’t help but question how we spend some of our free time. 

A few mornings a week I take my son to preschool and then take my girls to their school, which starts about 30 minutes later. I try to get some productive things done during that small window of time. I drop off recyclables, I return library books or squeeze a quick car wash in. Most often, we still make it to their school about 15 minutes before the bell rings. Sometime before Christmas, it dawned on me that most days I was pulling into the drop-off line, putting the car in park and pulling out my phone. I cringe as I type this… I get 15 uninterrupted minutes in the car with my 3 sweet girls before they part from me for hours and I was spending it on the phone. AND even worse it was usually to look at social media, where the majority of people are posting pictures of their kids. I was not talking to my kids so I could look at pictures of other people’s kids. As of the New Year, I have been putting the phone down, even turning the radio off, and enjoying more “car conversation” with my kids. Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I talked plenty before but I certainly am not upset about even more uninterrupted time with them. When they are grown and have moved out from underneath my roof, I know I won’t be saying “Man, I wish I had pinned more stuff on Pinterest.” I do have a feeling I will remember some of these car conversations though. 

I got my sister and I each a sign in December for our houses that says “Be Still.” It is to remind us to do just that – be still in the moments and soak them up. These days of young children and all the busyness that comes from that is what we wanted for so long. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in homework, work schedules, meals, bath time and bed time that you almost start to run on auto pilot. 2019 is a new start for taking each day in as it’s own page – this day, with all that it has to offer, will never come around again – surely we will miss something if we are staring at our phones. If we put down the phones, iPad, or screen of your choice and fill that time with something more meaningful, I think more quality free time will leave us with a sense of better balance. AND that’s just the start…

Tidying up our closets and getting rid of some of your junk (Thanks Marie!) is also a great start to having less “stuff” to distract your eyes and your mind. Clutter prevents my brain from settling down, which I know prevents me from enjoying family time. I am famous for saying “just a minute” for 20 minutes while the family waits on me to watch a movie. I have one of those brains that can’t relax and enjoy an activity if I see dishes in the sink, laundry that needs to be done, a rug that needs to be vacuumed… I am woking on letting some of those things go. The truth is there will always be laundry, there will always be dishes, there will always be something out of place and then there will always be some more laundry – there just seems to be so much laundry. I can’t prevent us from having dirty dishes and laundry that needs to be washed but I can get rid of toys we don’t play with, piles of old magazines, old decor I took down and never hung back up, books we read and don’t plan on reading again and don’t even get me started on DVDs. I have always loved the freeing feeling I get from donating our family’s unwanted/unneeded stuff. Continuing this, possibly simplifying the contents of my house even more, is certainly a must do. Reduce and let go in 2019 for more peaceful free time. 

Clean up your inbox. I’m famous for letting my inbox grow to an unmanageable number of emails. I certainly cannot respond to work or school emails in a timely fashion when they are hidden amongst 400 other emails. I am trying extra hard to check my inbox more frequently as well as actually deleting the read or unwanted emails. To take that a step further, I have recently taken the time to unsubscribe to emails. I have to do this a couple times a year, especially after christmas. When you order things online you often have to start with giving them your email address to set up an account and then you are on that retailer’s email list. After all the online christmas shopping I did, my inbox was way out of hand. Take a minute and scroll to the bottom of all those emails and click “unsubscribe.” DON”T WORRY you will not miss the advertisements! First of all, there is ALWAYS a sale going on. Secondly, do you really need more suggestions on things to buy? The answer is no – we are currently cleaning our closets out, not trying to add unnecessary stuff to them. Clean out your emails in 2019 so you can relax more when free time is presented. 

Read a book. I know this one sounds simple but the truth is it’s becoming something I do less and less. I read plenty – this week alone,  I have read about pesticides on our food, Costco and it’s declaration to stop selling Round Up, whether or not it’s fair that Adam Levine can perform a Super Bowl Half Time Show shirtless but a female can’t, which then lead to me reading about the infamous Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “wardrobe malfunction” of 2004 and then I read a bunch about Sally Rides, the first American woman in space, while helping my daughter on a school project. Reading is not my issue, its just the lack of reading from an actual book. Reading a book, with it’s pages in yours hands and the lack of a bright light to stare at, just feels different. It’s relaxing in a way that reading on screen will never be. In my efforts to reduce our stuff and our budget, I rarely buy books and I have cancelled all my magazine subscriptions but now I find myself missing written text on pages. I believe a more relaxing end to the day, the kind that comes from reading a book, can lead to a better night’s sleep. A well rested night always makes me more patient and understanding with my family (and really anyone else!). Go the library, check out books, admire them on your nightstand and enjoy their content and raise the standard of your free time in 2019.

Don’t put off until tomorrow, what can be done today – easier said than done but oh so wise. I can easily put together a mental list of things I have been saying I am going to do for awhile now and yet, there those things are, still just ideas on a list. Heck this blog post alone has taken me 2 months to complete. I have pledged to make this New Year the year I quit procrastinating. In the month of December I said the phrase “I have always wanted to….” at least 3 different times and I was talking about 3 different ideas. Why not just do those things? I recently completed a project in my house that I started 4 years ago. The project was not hard and it wasn’t expensive. The next time I hear myself saying “I have always wanted to…” I am going to immediately move that item to the top of my to-do list. Checking things off my list that have been lingering around in my mind for awhile makes me feel like I deserve to sit around and enjoy free time with my family. Don’t put things off to the next day in 2019 or you may feel like you never have free time. 

Let’s write more in the New Year – the reasons why seem endless. I recently ran across some old notebooks from college. It was fun to thumb through them and read not only the notes that I had taken in class but also the doodles in the margins on my notebooks. One thing I was surprised about was my handwriting. It was by far neater than any grocery list I have recently scribbled – it made me really think about how much I currently write compared to the past. I am not sure about you but I just don’t do much pen on paper writing anymore. When my children were born, I went with journals that had just lined paper inside them instead of traditional baby books. It was an idea I stole from my mother-in-law and I love it. I love when my mother-in-law pulls out her journals for her boys (each child having their own journal) and reads parts of them to the family – I want that for my children too. The idea would certainly work better if I took the time to write in them far more than I have.

I only keep cards that have handwritten messages in them and I mean more than a sentence. What if we ditched cards all together and just did handwritten notes… don’t get me started on the price of a card. A handwritten note always means much more to the person receiving it. That amazing Facebook post for your child’s birthday – write that down in a card to them, same goes for that shout out to your significant other. In a world of digital, it will mean so much more for that special person in your life to have a tangible note written on paper to look back at in 20 years from now. Handwritten notes will become such a novelty compared the digital lives we all live. So whether it’s for better handwriting or to put more original thoughts and meaning on paper — lets start writing more in 2019 and add more meaning to your free time.

I can tell you right now I will still look at Instagram in the preschool carpool line as I wait alone to pick up my son. The next time I see a funny meme on Facebook, I will most likely repost it and tag my sister. I know for a fact, I will pin a dozen home projects on Pinterest this year (possibly this month) but I have set a goal to do all of these things a little less this year and not when I am in good company. I’m going to make an intentional effort to balance my smartphone time with plenty of face-to-face conversation with my family, hopefully read some new things, write some meaningful notes and it would be pretty amazing if I could do it all while my inbox is somewhat up to date.

If we can implement these changes, we can create quality free time – whether you have hours of it or 20 minutes a day. I have a feeling if we focus on a healthy balance to it all, the connected feeling that we desire in the New Year will follow – So heres to an intentional year for us all…