Focus 2013: The Year of ….

Last year I wrote a post about using Focus and Priorities to establish a new version of New Year’s Resolutions.

For 2012 I chose to Focus on five areas of my life; my priorities for the year:

1. Husband
2. Son
3. Home
4. Spirit
5. Community

with a generally challenge to focus more on “Family” and less on me.

I’m surprised that I actually kept this in mind all year.  This was a year to help my husband start on a more healthy and productive path in his life after years of too much sacrifice in too many areas and to make my self as available as I could to my son.  I’m quite proud of how I spent my year with my “Focus” and shifted priorities in mind.

This year I wanted to do the same – set myself a focus and reevaluate my priorities.  Now this was a little challenging because my 2012 priority list is hard to change so I hope it can be unspoken that this year’s list includes items that will always, naturally fall behind priorities like my child and husband.

After much hemming and hawing I’ve decided that 2013 is to be the Year of “Health” – within this focus word I have assigned my top 5 priorities (all related to my focus).

  1. Body
  2. Mind
  3. Marriage
  4. Friendship
  5.  Home

Body – I need to find a way to give myself time to properly care for my own health, something I’m not so great at and something that fell to the side after a year of choosing to focus more on others – this will come from a variety of sources – examining my food and drink, exercise and finding ways to avoid the pitfall of  schlumpy-mommyness.  I feel fairly confident that sometime this year we were starting trying to expand our family and I want to be prepared.

Mind – Even though I’ve been out of school for years I want to find more ways to continue to learn – this might be expanding my reading or listening material and might also include less time spent online or following certain types of news.  A healthier spiritual life is also included in this priority.

Marriage – Ben and I can be very dedicated parents, but I want and  I think we need to find ways to refocus on the marriage part of the relationship a little more.  We’re approaching our 5 year mark and I can definitely feel the need to reevaluate certain things, like how we spend time together, so that we can continue to foster a healthy marriage – not only for ourselves, but so we can set a good example for our children.

Friendship – I live a very family focused life, which I truly enjoy, but I do know that I need to better foster the friendships I have and maybe step out of my home a little more to expand my local social circle – I am extremely introverted in real life so actively seeking new friends of any kind is quite a big step for me.

Home – I want to continue to learn more about making my home a healthier place for myself and my family – I know we’ll be putting in a veggie garden this year and I hope to continue to make more contacts and learn more skills that will support this goal of a healthier home.

So with all this in mind – I say goodbye to the Year of “Family” and say hello to the Year of “Health”.

Are you setting a New Year’s resolutions, choosing a Focus or reexamining your priorities for the year? Please tell!

Advent and Christmas Recap

Our Advent season is over and our Christmas season will soon be winding down as well.  I plan on keeping decorations and lights up until Twelfth Night if I can, but haven’t really planned too much else – if there’s one thing I’m learning about living out a more traditional liturgical year is that it’s never good to force too many new traditions at once.

With that in mind I felt I wanted to share our ups and downs of our new practices and see what’s made the cut for next year.  So without further ado our Advent Recap

The Advent Calendar:

  • I liked having a system to count the days, but I didn’t like feeling tied down to certain activities each day – often they felt rushed and it was a stretch not to feel bad for missing a good portion at the end due to illness and unexpected travel.  
  • I think next year will be more of a count down of days with activities filled in as they naturally arise.

Advent Wreath:

  • I’m glad we started this tradition, but it will probably take another year until we find it’s right place in our day to day activities, but it’s definitely a tradition I’ll hold on to. 
  • Maybe next year we’ll even remember to light all the candles (that last weekend was a little crazy in our defense)

Feast Days:

  • I really enjoyed starting a St. Nicholas tradition of books and chocolate – we’ll be keeping this for next year!
  • I really liked Haley’s idea of setting out a new pair of shoes and will be considering this for next year as well – I’m playing with the idea that pair of shoes that gets set outside the door get donated to charity later that day.
  •  We didn’t do too many more Feast Day celebrations this month – I don’t like to jump into ones that I don’t feel called to at the moment so I’m glad I didn’t push this.

Limiting Christmas During Advent:

  • This was a challenge this year and I’m going to give and take different bits and pieces next year.
  • I loved not putting up our tree until after 2nd Sunday and then only with lights.  We planned on decorating with Henry, but 4th Sunday Night rolled past so I stayed up late and put a few ornaments on the tree and decorations around the house while everyone slept.  Both Ben and I like the idea of of Christmas appearing overnight and it was great to see Henry’s face when he saw the tree “magically” decorated the next morning.
  • I either need to find more Advent music next year or go back to listening to Christmas music – Ben commented how strange it was not to have it in the house this year and it just didn’t feel right.  Rather than part of the celebration I think Christmas music is part of our “preparation” so more Christmas music will be back on the table to keep spirits bright.

Limiting Commercialism in Christmas:

  • I still feel like I fail a lot in this category – I want to make more by hand and buy more local and fair-trade, but I feel this will come in time so I’m not stressing too much at the moment.
  • Another successful year of limiting gift giving – our PJs, Stocking and 3 present rule still feels like plenty and it’s great to see my side of the family begin to embrace it.  I’m finding we’re giving more thoughtful, needed or really wanted items and I think I can feel the difference between quantity and quality in our gift giving.
  • We did stretch the 3 gift rule a little for Henry, because what we wanted to give him came had so many parts – but I was so happy to see it come together with pieces we already had, things given to him by other relatives and a lot of second hand to fill in the rest.  I think his train and track collection will be a gift we’ll be passing on to grandchildren some day. 
  • Even though I thought that my giving of second-hand gifts last year was thought strange by most of my family I was thrilled to see it embraced by my parents and in-laws.  Henry’s train collection is about 90% second-hand and 10% gifts from others.  Henry’s gifts from my in-laws were fantastic (and non-train related) and I think 100% second-hand – a couple toys and small stack of books for our collections.  They eagerly boasted of their finds and I love that they are comfortable with our ideas of gift giving enough to do something like that.
  • Even with our limits on gift giving Henry still came away with a great collection of trains and accessories no one was denying this and it opened up a great conversation about limiting the gift giving for his 2nd birthday in February – I now feel that a request of “presence not presents” will be warmly received and even thought of as a sign of prudent parenting by our parents and grandparents.

Encouraging Christ in Christmas:

  • I take the blame, but also admit that my crazy work schedule got the best of me and Christmas Eve Mass was a wash.  Next year we plan on starting to take Henry to the early children’s Mass so we can guarantee we get to church.  Not having to work next Christmas morning will help this immensely too in case something comes up.
  • I’m thrilled to see how attached Henry became to his little Nativity scene that has rested by his bed all month and while I know he doesn’t really understand the Holidays yet (at all) I can’t wait to see how far he comes next year.
  • I’ve got a list of books that I want to get a hold of for next year for personal or family prayer and reflection – bringing prayer and the like home is still a struggle, but one I’m facing up to as best I can.

Overall I think it was a lovely holiday – we ended up having a few unexpected events including weather and a death in the family which kind of threw a kink in the works a little and my work schedule made for an interest pattern of Christmas Days, but overall I’m happy.

I’m thrilled that, barring anything unforeseen, I will have my first real Christmas Day off with Henry in 2013, and tried not to dwell on the fact that I had to work  – I offered it up as a prayer, as best I could, for the folks at my hospital who didn’t get to go home at noon or who had to celebrate the entire holiday in a hospital room.  We got our “Christmas morning” as a family the day after, but it was our first Christmas Morning together so it was worth the wait.

P.S. Are you on Facebook – Follow MollyMakesDo  and remember you can link up any of your Advent and Christmas post this week thru Saturday Night – Go HERE!

The Stockpile

My first year living in Oregon, in 2009 I was doing my weekly visit to the laundromat when I happened to start overhearing the conversation of two older ladies next to me.  It was a normal conversation for the most part – they were catching up and and in true Ashland-Hippie Style talking about all their latest forays into selfsufficiency and various Hippie type things.

I drifted in and out of hearing the conversation, but nearly dropped my book when on hippie lady said to the other this gem I’ll never forget.

Well I think we’re pretty well prepared for 2012 – we got the garden by the house (up the mountain), some gas stored for the jeep and a satellite so we don’t loose our internet connection… and of course we’ve still got a lot of that food leftover from Y2K….”
Folks I’m as glad as the next person that the world didn’t end today.
But please, for all thing good and holy…
NOW IS THE DAY TO THROW AWAY YOUR Y2K STOCKPILE!

Last Minute Holiday!

 *Another repost from last year – one of my favorites – with some new additions*

Trying to figure out those last few gifts, but out of ideas, time or money?  Here’s a few ideas that many of us could put together from odds and ends in the house –

For a  few links and Pins of these ideas Last Minute Holiday Pinboard!
If you’re feeling a little crafty and need a reason to de-stash how about:
Have you done anything fun and homemade for the holidays?  Please share your projects with us!

    The Reason for our HolyDays

    On Friday, my husband, son and  I were attend the funeral of my husband’s great uncle.  We walked together through the graveyard and visited the grave of my husbands Grandfather, two of my husbands Uncles and a baby Aunt who only lived in this world for a month.  Theresa, the little baby, was buried in a long line of children during a time when it was all too common for a family to know the loss of a darling little one.  Most of the stones only had one date to record.

    We held the hand of our little boy tightly as we walked back to the car discussing our thankfulness for the times we live in and grief we have yet been spared.

    We did not know, at that time, what had happened in Connecticut.

    ************

    Oh my friends I wish had words of wisdom to impart even days after this tragedy has occurred, but I have none to give.  I have cried, held my little guy close and even curled up next to him while he slept just for a few more moments next to him.

    I contemplated calling an early end to our link-up.  Celebration in the face of such horror never feels quite right, but instead of going quiet and dark we continue on and I hope you will join us for the rest of the week.

    We – Haley, Tammy, Hannah and I did not start the Little Holydays idea as a way to brag about our crafts or fancy traditions.  We did not start LH to show off piles of presents or beautiful Advent Calendars.  We started Little HolyDays with the hope that we could inspire more parents and families to take a step back and savor the little moments that special times can bring.

    Those of us who are mothers, in any sense of the word, know all to well the reality of being a parent – the worry and fear that so easily accompanies joy.  We know how precious and fragile life is.  There are no certainties in this life.

    We must make joy when we can and so we continue on for the families of 27 precious souls.  We will find ways to make more of our days special and sacred while we can. 

    ***********

    On Saturday night Ben and I went on a date rare date and saw “The Hobbit” and it couldn’t have been a better movie to see at such as time.  It was an escape yes, but not without a little bit of meaning to me.  Ben reached out a gave my arm a little squeeze as Ian McKellan spoke these words and tears ran down my cheeks knowing that it was all too timely an assessment.

    “Saruman thinks that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”
    And that is why we’ll continue on with our Little HolyDay celebration because it’s the little, everyday things done by ordinary people that have the power to overcome our darkest times. 
    I hope you will continue to share with us your little celebrations from last week and any of them in the days to come.  I hope that you will continue to take little moments from your days and weeks to make the memories that support us during our darker days and I know you will continue to hold your dear ones close during this holiday season for yourself and for those who now can’t.
    **********
    MollyMakesDo
    <a href=”http://mollymakesdo.blogspot.com” target=”_blank”><img alt=”MollyMakesDosrc=”http://i1145.photobucket.com/albums/o515/Mollymakesdo/DSC_0740-1.jpg” />
    ***********
    We are three Catholic bloggers who love to observe the liturgical year to deepen our families’ faith and build up the domestic church. We would love to hear about your family’s celebrations and traditions! Please join us in “redeeming the time” in this Year of Faith by sharing your posts about feast days, liturgical seasons, etc. in this new linkup. We are starting at the beginning of the Liturgical Year: The Season of Advent!
    Today Tammy and Hannah @ DualingMoms are hosting the link-up! 
    Don’t forget to stop by my wonderful co-hosts Haley@Carrots for Michaelmas and the wonderful Mother/Daughter Duo Tammy and Hannah @ DualingMoms for more great posts and ideas today and throughout the week.
    Todays link-up will be live until Midnight Friday and your always welcome to leave a message on Twitter or in comments of any posts if you’d like a post to be added to our Little HolyDays Pinboard.

    For the three of us, this link up is a way in which we plan on exploring and deepening our Catholic faith, but we would really love to hear from bloggers of all denominations and practices.

    We welcome you to share your own feasts, festivals, and celebrations as they fall within each week of December. 

    Please take a moment to visit the other linkers and leave a short comment to let them know you were there! 

    As moderators of this link up, we will reserve the right to remove any offensive or off-topic posts as we see fit, in order to maintain a positive and understanding atmosphere.

      http://www.linkytools.com/thumbnail_linky_include.aspx?id=176601

    Meaningful and Memorable


     *This is an new version of a similar post from last year.  I felt the message still rang true*

    Stuff.

    I don’t know about you, but I know very few parents who really like extra stuff.  Figuring out how to celebrate the holidays and birthdays were on the top of my list when I found out I was going to get to be a parent.  How to make things memorable, but keep the stuff at a minimum.  How to make things meaningful and not material.

    We have one year under our belt so far; rather successful in keeping the “stuff” to a manageable amount.  One of the keys to managing stuff, around the holidays, in our home is to stay a beat ahead of everyone else.

    When trying to figure out the holidays last year I had a bit of a revelation … I can’t control other people.  I can beg, plead and make all the overarching announcements I want, but I really can’t control what Henry’s grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles get him or in what quantities.  We will always try to offer up suggestions like giving experiences and “Please for the love of all things good and holy no “My Own Little Ipad”, but our influence on others stops there. 

    There will be things brought in to our home that wouldn’t chose ourselves, but the intention is good and that’s what I need to honor as a wife, mother, daughter and daughter in law. 

    I might sigh at the big hulking plastic contraption that now takes up a good amount of space in my living room, which some how continues to make noise despite all my best efforts, but I can’t deny the thought that went into the purchase.  Someone loves my son.  A friend or family member chose that out of a desire to make my son happy.  There are children around the world that would love to have such a thought directed towards them.  So in the end I learn to love whatever they give.

    However, we can control what we do and what we bring into our own home. 

    After much hemming and hawing we have arrived at a plan for Christmas (and a trial run last year).  While I don’t love copious amounts of unnecessary stuff, I do love the Holidays – I love stockings, Santa, presents and everything in between and it’s been a challenge to find the right balance between memory making and stuff piling.

    We could give into every whim and spend a couple K that we don’t have buying things that we’ll only have to upgrade in sixth months when the Ghost of Steve-Jobs-Past issues out the next best do-hickie the world can’t live without.

    Or we could forsake the holiday as an evil pagan tradition and shut up our home to the blinking lights and toss the plate of cookies out the front door, saying “Get behind me, Santa!”

    Yeah… not so much.

    Instead, we’ll do Advent and we’ll do charity.  We’ll do Midnight Mass and Nutcracker Ballets.  We’ll do thoughtful Holy music and silly secular songs.  We’ll do Santa and family and way too much food and we’ll do presents.

    We’ve got a plan for that last part and this is what it’s come down to-

    • Christmas Eve Pajamas – a new set of pj’s for each member of the family to be changed into after Christmas Eve service.  We like to cuddle up to our favorite version of A Christmas Carol in something comfy.
    • A Stocking and Santa Presents – A couple small presents and treats – perhaps a book or movie or small toy and definitely new socks and underwear. (Santa is highly practical in our home).
    • The 3 Gifts – Mom, Dad and each kid will get three main presents off their Christmas list.  Kids (and adults!) can make a list of more than 3 items, but will understand that 3 is what they will get come Christmas Day.  We hope to tie this into the gifts of the Three Wise Men.
      • While our kids are young we also take advantage and give them a variety of used and new gifts – at the moment Henry doesn’t know the difference.  If someone else playing and outgrowing something means I can give my child a better quality toy and break a bit of a consumer cycle than I’ll do it.  Not everyone thinks this is great – I’m not sure all my friends and relatives “get it”, but for now I’m a mother with a budget who’s trying to do right by her family.

    I was worried last year that our present “limit” would amount to a scarce looking assortment of gifts under our tree but I’ll tell you – 9 presents, a Stocking, plus the gifts to and from our immediate relatives spread from under our little 4 ft. tree and across the fireplace with no hint of mean parenting or childhood deprivation.

    And in my humble opinion a little deprivation might be worth the trade off in the future as I take my own advice and spend less time in the stores, less time with stuff and more time with my friends and family trying to make the HolyDay meaningful and memorable …. without the Stuff.