I jotted down this list during the past year, during various writing periods. I never intended to post it. It was mainly just for me. (I’m selfish that way.) I don’t fancy myself a self-help guru or a inspirational blogger, no, I just like to write. But as I do fancy myself a little short on material, er, ah, that is, okay at the moment with posting such an introspective list, I’ll do it. Just for you, Gentle Readers, here are a few things that (in my humble opinion) could make your lives better in 2013. I’d like to see your list, by the way, that you’ve undoubtedly scribbled someplace–on an envelope or the corner of a napkin, perhaps? What are you doing to make this year even better than 2012? Here goes:
1. Put things away. And teach your children to put things away, while you’re at it. I would guess that (roughly) 105% of our stress here at home is because we often fail to put things away. I forget. Bryan forgets. Little Mack . . . well, you get the idea. At this moment, there are library books scattered about, just daring themselves to be lost, laundry sits on the floor where Amalia folded it, shoes are scattered hither and yon, and snow clothes are piled up next to the stove. We struggle with this. We would be better people, happier people, if we could just remember to put things away, and that “Company’s coming!!” shriek and ensuing panic-stashing–we wouldn’t know it. Which would be a very good thing indeed.
2. People will become what you expect of them. This is one of my little secrets of motherhood . . . visit my home for a day, and you’ll see it in action. I catch little Mack (who can be quite unpleasant to his sister) actually saying something to Amalia that could be perceived as sweet. I pick up on this unexpected gift like a grounder zipping towards me through the dust on the baseball field. “What a nice thing to say!” I say. “You are such a gentlemanly little boy! Amalia is so blessed to have a brother like you!” Mack beams, and puffs his chest out a little. Well. He didn’t realize it was such a big deal, what he said. Amalia looks at me like I’ve just sprouted a horn out of my forehead, but I ignore her. Mack didn’t even realize that he was so special, but Mom has said it, so it must be true. The day turns on its axis and is more pleasant overall.
Another example: Malachi is working on his math, though he’s upset about having to do an entire three pages. He finally finishes the last problem, through tears and frustrated gnashing of teeth. He turns to me and tearfully asks if he can go play now. I check the math, first. He’s done a good job. “You are so smart! You are so good at math!” I say, and I release him from school time. He frolics away, feeling good not only because he finished something difficult, but also that he is so good at math. I could write longer on this subject, writing a “conversely . . .” scenario, imagining the results if I had snorted to Mack “You are so unpleasant to your sister. You are a rotten little boy.” Or “Math is not your subject, is it? You are really bad at it–just like your mother!”. But I won’t do that. It hurts to even imagine the look on his face if I had reacted in such a way. So on we go . .
3. Take time to play. I work too hard. I admit it. At any one time, I’ll have at least a dozen projects I’m excited about, that I’m trying to snatch time for. I’m a long-distance runner. I’m learning to play the banjo. I love watercolor painting. I’m writing a novel. Blah, blah, blah. But I’m so thankful for my children. They keep me from working myself to death, by their sweet entreaties of “Let’s play, Mama!” Amalia loves Catan, and many days end with an hour or two of Catan before bedtime. I love this. Mally and I schedule regular play-dates nearly every day. These almost always involve aliens, helmets made out of colanders, masks, and our two dogs Ollie and Bea. These moments are also the best parts of my day. Playtime, I’m sure, is great for my blood pressure, my mental health, and my creativity. And it’s fun! Invest in your children. Play with them. Make memories. Take pictures. You won’t regret it.
4. Write thank-you notes. But first, read the book 365 Thank You Notes by John Kralik. If you can’t get to that book, just write thank-you notes. And while you’re at it, teach your children to write thank-you notes. (And by the way, Michael’s quite often has nice packets of thank-you and other notecards for 50 cents to $1.00. Score!) People just don’t do this much any more, but I know how I feel when I get a hand-written note: grateful. Special. Blessed. Take the time to bless somebody in this way. I know you’re thinking of somebody you could write a thank-you note to at this moment. Such is the comic connection I am privy to with my Gentle Reader(s).
5. Look at people when they talk to you. And look at people when you talk to them. Make eye contact. This especially applies to your children, who will feed off of eye contact like it’s their last meal. This especially applies if you spend hours of the day on the computer, as many people now do.
6. “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Life is tough. Bad things happen. Sometimes people will disappoint you. But if you are able to shrug off the bad things and dwell only on the good things, you’ll be much happier. Don’t hold grudges. Try to forget the tough stuff. It helps to count your blessings every day.
7. Buy the stainless steel pads, not the Brillo-type pads. Trust me on this. One day my mom was at my house, and she noticed my used Brillo pad, sitting in a puddle of rusty water in my sink. “Oh, I always buy the stainless steel pads,” she said. “They last forever.” I never ignore such a recommendation, especially from my mom, so the next time I was at Wal-Mart, I bought a package of the stainless steel pads. They’re great! And they do seem to be lasting a long, long time. And if I can buy a useful kitchen item for less than $2.00 that will last forever, well, I’m a happy gal!
8. Exercise vigorously every day. Even if you can only spare a few minutes–do whatever you like to do. Walk the stairs, take a quick walk around the block, do some sit-ups and push-ups, push in an exercise DVD. Dance with your littles. You’ll live longer, feel better, and have much more energy. If possible, exercise with somebody else, and it will be more fun. Although (trust me on this) doing P90X with a six-year-old boy is a different experience from doing it alone. You must not take his peals of laughter too seriously.
9. Accomplishing A Big Task will do you wonders. There is something on your to-do list that you don’t really think you can do. I know it’s there. Just do it. Push past your fear, or whatever it is that is holding you back. You’ll gain confidence, energy, and a spring in your step that will spur you on to even Bigger Tasks.
10. Finish what you start. If you set out to make muffins, for example, don’t stop until the muffins are baked and your mixing bowl is washed, your ingredients are put away, and the counter is scrubbed clean. You’ll feel so clever later when your friends drop by unexpectedly, and not only can you offer them fresh muffins, but you can allow them to walk through your kitchen without blushing.
11. Drink water as if your life depended on it. Because, actually, it does. And remember how blessed you are to have access to clean drinking water. I like to fill a wide-mouthed quart jar with ice water, slices of lemon, and a sprig of fresh herbs (parsley is good) in the morning, and swig away at it throughout the day. It gives me energy and makes me feel good, and I like to feel good.
12. Set goals, write them down, and read them every now and then. I’ve heard many times the statistics stated on how much more productive you’ll be if you just write your goals down. I think if you take the time to write them down (and then to read over them occasionally) you take them more seriously, and you keep them uppermost in your highly distracted mind. On the days when I don’t make a to-do list, I flap and flounder about like a fish out of water. My list (I keep mine on a yellow legal pad) keeps me focused and plus I get that sense of accomplishment whenever I cross something off the list. There are lots of websites and books that can walk you through the process of setting goals and accomplishing your dreams. This is not one of them. Although, the next item can help a great deal.
13. On that note, Read Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time [Paperback] by Brian Tracy.
This short little book provides the 21 most effective methods for conquering procrastination and accomplishing more. Do you procrastinate? I mean, who doesn’t? I downloaded a copy of it onto my MP3 player, and I’ve listened to it countless times. If you have big plans for your life, but are struggling to get everything done, and have problems with procrastinating (and who doesn’t?) read this book.
14. Don’t spend everything you make. Hoo boy, I could write a long time on this one, especially after watching the shameful antics in Washington concerning the use of money, but suffice it to say that you must save a bit of what you make and sock it away for a rainy day. Because a rainy day will come. The washer will break, the car’s transmission will desire replacing, your child will need expensive dental work, and in fact all three of these could very well happen on the same rainy day. As Dave Ramsey says, “Life happens.” Make sure you’re ready for it when it does.
15. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayers and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God and the God of peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus your Lord. . .” Phil. 4:13. This probably should have been in the #1 spot, but oh well.
16. Take the time to celebrate. I love the way my kids’ eyes sparkle when we celebrate–anything, really. We have many traditional celebrations throughout the year–birthdays, the typical holidays, etc.–but I’ve found that little impromptu celebrations are just as important. Celebrate that first lost tooth. A good ACT score. Passing the driving test. Life is full of these moments. Buy ice cream. Blow up a few balloons. It doesn’t take much. Take pictures. Make memories that your kids will treasure. Life is so short. Celebrate as much as possible.
18. Call somebody today. Call somebody every day. Don’t try to make it through life on your own. Nurture friendships and family relationships. Tie those strings and appreciate the people that God has put into your life.
19. Take a nap if you want to, and don’t feel guilty about it. With each of my babies, I got into a routine as soon as possible of taking a nap with them in the middle of the afternoon. I am an introvert (see here for proof) and that hour away from the fray of familyhood was exactly what I needed to make it through the day with a sweet and peaceful heart. I still do this, whenever possible. Little Mack no longer takes a nap, but I rigidly adhere to his need for an afternoon “Reading Hour,” no arguments allowed!
20. Don’t forget the magic of touch. Give your husband or wife a kiss, rub your son’s back, hug your little daughter. This is a tough ole’ world, and “fortifying hugs” are essential.
21. Make granola. Trust me, this will make your life better—to have a big ole’ tub of granola in the refrigerator at all times. It’s marvelous for breakfast or a snack with milk, and it’s delicious on yogurt, too, and so much better for you than the over-sweetened stuff in boxes at the store. Find a recipe you like, or put a note in the “Comments” section below and I’ll share mine with you. I pile mine full of ingredients that my family love: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and they have no idea that it’s also full of wheat bran, wheat germ, raw honey, and all the things that are so good for them, besides!
23. De-clutter every day. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day, you can de-clutter a drawer or a shelf, finish one room and go to the next and in time, your home will breathe easier and so will you. A cluttered home, on the other hand, will result in a cluttered mind. You need your mind to be clear and focused, don’t you? Plus, you really don’t want your kids to have to go through all your junk after you die, right? So take care of the clutter.
24. Make yourself a rocket chart if you want to accomplish something that seems out of reach. Here’s how.
25. Limit yourself to checking your e-mail, Facebook, etc. only twice a day. And put your phone away, if possible and check messages on it twice a day, too. Talk about clutter! Constantly referring back to your e-mail or FB will result in mental fogginess and vagueness of mind. Tell yourself (sternly) that you will only check electronics twice a day. You can do this, Gentle Readers! Try it. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done, and how much more accessible you will be to your family.
26. Read a good book. Remember books? Remember the thrill of having a great book sitting by your bedside, waiting for you to read the next chapter at the end of the day? Put down the magazines and newspapers full of bad news, push aside the time-sucking computer, and just enter the wondrous land of imagination that an excellent book affords. Then read another. If you don’t know where to start, ask a reading friend what they would recommend. Go to the library and ask for suggestions from your local librarian. I love anything by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the Bronte sisters. Someday I’ll come up with a list of My Favorite Books, but I don’t have one yet.
27. Make a pie and then invite somebody over to help you eat it. You can even buy a pie (not as good as homemade, but some are passable) if you don’t think you can make one. Serve coffee.
28. Put a scoop of ice cream in your coffee. Why, you ask? Why not??! My Grandma Kuehner was a healthy whole-foods nut before there were such people roamed the earth, and her one treat every day was a scoop of good ice cream in her morning coffee. I figure if my health-foodie Grandma could have a scoop of ice cream in her coffee, well, then–so can I! And so, Gentle Reader, can you.
29. Get up early. This will force you (because you’ll be falling asleep on the couch, otherwise) to get into bed earlier, which will probably mean less time in front of the TV, which will mean you will get more accomplished in your day. I love to write, but I need quiet for writing. The only time my house is quiet is between 5:00 and 7:30 each morning, so that’s when I write. I enjoy this time so much that it’s not hard for me to get up early. Try it–make it a habit–you’ll be glad you did!
Well, that’s all for now. I do hope you, Gentle Reader, have made your own list of what could make your 2013 your best, most productive, happiest year yet. I’d love to hear some of your suggestions, by the way, if you want to share them with me in the Comments section. Happy New Year to you, and God bless.
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