My 2014 Resolutions: EFFORT

I’ve been working on this post for well over a week. It’s been a draft that I just keep adding to and tweaking till it felt right. Finally, 14 revisions later, the big reveal!

If 2014 wants to be nearly as awesome as my 2013 was, it’s got a lot to live up to. But, I have high hopes and want to use every day to work toward changes. I’ve read articles that suggested making much smaller, achievable goals like giving more hugs or eating more leafy greens, but I decided to go big this year. I want to be ambitious. I may not achieve all my resolutions, and that’s OK. I at least want to put forth that effort to try.

I was inspired by Charlene’s blog post about picking one word to define your goals, your year, and for me that word is effort. Because I need to make much more effort in each of the areas below that I’ve made resolutions. Here’s to effort in 2014!

Financial goals

GET OUT OF DEBT!  I am already working hard on paying off my credit cards, and just instituted Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to help me get there faster. In just 6 months, I think I can eliminate half of my credit card debt, and I WILL stick to that plan. I’m very motivated for this one. Because otherwise, no house for me, and I badly want to be in a house. And be able to comfortably afford it without living paycheck to paycheck. Once my cards are in a much better spot, we will…

Build up savings. We need to be saving for a house and an in general emergency fund. I have some in savings already, but I’ve dipped into it for bad reasons, and that also has to stop. With proper budgeting, meal planning, couponing, checkbook balancing and planning ahead, I should never ever have to touch my savings again except to put more in or take some out for that house or major emergency.

Pet-related goals

Last year, I had a resolution to walk my dog more often, and while I succeeded a little bit, I still didn’t do it nearly as often as I should have. I blame the combination of laziness and frantically planning my wedding, then the summer and fall to follow with more commitments than I’ve ever had and a seriously busy year. Anyway, no more excuses! This year, I’m carrying over that resolution again: to walk Brick more often, and if I can’t because of whatever reason, he at least deserves more play time and training.

My other dog-related resolution is working on ways to keep Brick from jumping on guests when they come in the house. I knew it was a nuisance, but just never took the time to really correct the behavior. I would use “band aids” by physically preventing him to jump and holding him by the collar as guests entered, then letting him loose once they were settled. But this just builds his excitement even more. I’ve made some small steps already to work on it by using common sense and basic training techniques, but I know there has to be even more I can be doing.

Relationship goals

Always put effort into my marriage. Like I want to give 100% in my job, I need to give even more to my marriage. I need to be more patient in general, but also with my husband. I need to stop interrupting and really listen. I need to be there more, like emotionally present and understanding.

I also really want to do regular date nights. Not too often, because we have a house to save for, but if we can find cheap way to dedicate to connecting on a regular basis, I think it will do us a lot of good. Now that I’m meal planning for us to save money, we haven’t actually gone out just the two of us, for a long time. And I miss it! Some days we can stay in and have a planned activity, or do free activities like picnic in the park, but we also really enjoy eating out, so we’ll fit in some of those trips as long as we can afford it and do it wisely (i.e., with coupons, gift cards, during happy hour, etc.).

Personal goals

Work on my punctuality and time management. One of my biggest flaws, in my opinion, has been that I am perpetually late. I rarely am on time for most things. It annoys me and I hate that about myself, but I just can’t seem to find ways to fix it. It’s not intentional by any means; it just sort of happens. I lose track of time. I get caught up in XYZ and realize all of a sudden, ‘OMG, I need to be there NOW!’ and rush out the door. That leaves me feeling frantic and upset that I let that happen, and I hate that I made people wait on me. I’ve got to find some ways to fix that. Anyone got some tips?

Be happier. I have a bit of a temper. I have anger issues. I have little to no patience when it comes to certain things. The dumbest part is it’s usually over really small, stupid things. I think the root of it is that I’m not very understanding of strangers’ situations. The biggest issue I have is with people that I think are inconsiderate. Most any time I go to the store, I rage about someone who is blocking an aisle and seems oblivious to it. I get upset that a child is screaming and stomping around next to me. What a waste of emotion to get worked up about that! Maybe the person is just really sidetracked about something in their life, or is intent on reading the label on something to make sure it’s a good product and simply didn’t see me. So instead of steaming that they’re jerks, I should step back and give them some slack. And maybe that screaming child is simply acting out because he’s sick and doesn’t feel well but doesn’t know how to contain it, or maybe he’s neglected or dealing with his own issues and is simply acting out to get attention from his parents. Who knows, but it’s not worth me self-sabotaging my own shopping trip because I can’t handle a few people who are doing something I think is annoying. Get over it and move on! Really, what I think I need to do is notice all of the good in the world around me, not the bad.

Worry less. I have a tendency to overanalyze. Many tasks I have to do I obsess over. And anything that happens in my life I obsess over. Every little thing gets me worked up. If I overdraft in my checking account, I think that I’m doomed and will end up homeless soon because I can’t manage my money. If my husband doesn’t text me back within a couple minutes while he’s out at band practice, I think he got stuck in a ditch and is dying.

I have to consider every scenario. Which made planning my wedding particularly hard. I thought that if I didn’t give my bridesmaids awesome gifts, they would hate me and not be my friend anymore. If I had to choose a caterer, I contacted every single caterer in a 30-mile radius, stalked their websites and Facebook pages, picked out my theoretical menu and calculated the cost at each. Because if I didn’t have the perfect menu at the right price, obviously my guests would be disappointed in the wedding and never speak to me again. What a waste of time and emotional energy! Let’s focus on the things that truly matter. Otherwise do a quick, rational analysis and move on.

Kick butt at my job and other commitments. Now that I’m in a job that truly fulfills me, where I feel appreciated and respected, I want to do my absolute best to reassure them and myself that I am the right person for this job. That means trying to not get sidetracked, staying on task, doing things ahead of schedule and putting 100% into everything I do.

I need to apply these same principles to my volunteer and freelance work. Because why bother with any of it if I’m not going to be doing my best at it?!

Eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been surviving off junk food and couch potatoing for years. It’s got to stop. I have already been doing significantly better with my meal planning, but I need to be even stricter about it. I have meals planned now, but not snacks, so I still reach for those chips far more than I should. I’ve found that healthy food CAN be yummy too, so I want to keep trying and discovering new things that are better choices. Similarly, I’ve found some cool beauty and household products that are organic and natural, and I’d like to  be more conscious of the things I put ON my body and use in the house, too.

I also need to be more active. I used to do sports in high school, then pilates around college … but then I got lazy. We have a free gym at my new workplace. I should use it. I should dust off those pilates DVDs and do them on the weekends.

Maintain the house and organize more. I do a pretty good job at basic home maintenance, doing a few things every single weekend like sweeping and Swiffering, wiping off the counters and cleaning the toilet (and my husband vaccuums every weekend and does the dishes every day, bless his heart), but there are some areas that I let accumulate too much stuff. The kitchen table is absolutely awful, and the day after I get it looking presentable again, it’s messy once again. I need to come up with some kind of better filing system or a mail organizer or something to keep the clutter off the table. Our spare bedroom is also a disaster zone and the dumping ground for anything we can’t find a good place to put otherwise. We clean it up if we expect company soon who will be staying in there, otherwise, some days it’s like an episode straight out of Hoarders. Not even kidding.

Likewise, I need to tackle small spaces that have too much “stuff” too. I’ve done a couple closet clean ups, but I want to do a massive overhaul. I still have things in there I know I’m never going to wear again. And you don’t even want to see the magazine rack. I literally have magazines piled up on top of it feet high from 2007 and on. I will stop subscribing to new magazines, even if they are free (that’s been my downfall. A free subscription to Oprah, Brides and Better Homes & Gardens? Don’t mind if I do! But I never read them. I throw them in the corner.), until ALL my current ones are gone, and I will slowly start getting through the ones I have. Goal: Read one old magazine a week. Bring it to work to flip through on breaks.

My bookshelf is organized neatly, but has far too much in it. I recently came to the realization that of all the books I own, there are only a very small handful I actually ever intend to read more than once. So after I offer the ones I have read and won’t again, or never have and never will, to my friends, what is left over is going to Goodwill. End of story. On a kind of similar note, the recipe board in my Pinterest is overflowing with the same thing – stuff I’ve tried and won’t make again, and some things I pinned for fun that I never really plan to make or do. I will organize my pin boards and delete pins that aren’t useful. Who wants to scroll till the end of time trying to find that one recipe that I did actually like? Of the probably 100+ recipes pins, there’s only 5 or so that I have made and were successful enough I would make again.

My email is also full of clutter. I need to unsubscribe from newsletters that I just scan and delete anyway and work at getting my unread count to 0. I have 500 unread emails in my box right now. That’s down from 1,100 I had about a month ago when I did one round of purging. Don’t worry, I do scan it every single day for things from friends, coupons, blog related or other important things, but 90% of the junk I get I don’t care about. Arby’s has a new sandwich? Who cares; I haven’t been there in years! Unsubscribe please.

Be more fashion conscious. I’ve been working on my style more in the past yearish, but I can be even better. I have too many slept-in-too-late-throw-on-the-first-thing-I-see days. I saw a pin that had a weekly outfit organizer – it was a shallow, long storage tub that had cubes for each day of the week. I’d like to try each Sunday planning my outfits for the rest of the week so it’s one less thing I have to think about in my morning haze. After my closet is more cleaned out and I have the money to, I also need to add more staples to my wardrobe. I need more versatile pieces like plain T-shirts and tanks, cardigans, jeans and boots that I can rewear and accessorize in many different ways. Plus a few statement pieces for days when I feel a little wild. Rawr.

My faith. I grew up in a religious household in a religious family. But since I’ve been on my own, I’ve let my religion slide. Granted it has changed a little bit – I question some things and just don’t think I’m ever going to be a super religious person in general, but a few core basics of religion in general I miss. I used to pray, all the way through high school. Then in college I stopped. Who knows why. No good reason. I didn’t prioritize it. But now that I’m an adult and may have children on the horizon, I want to take some time for reflection and remember what values are important to me. I still won’t go to church every Sunday, read the Bible frequently or pray over every meal I eat, but I should fit in SOME aspect of faith back in my life. Which is pretty much nothing right now, which makes me feel really ashamed. Praying when there’s something worth praying about is something I want to do again. And maybe even expanding my horizons and reading up on other religions, or just spirituality in general, would benefit me. Remembering and trusting that something out there is bigger than me. I lose sight of that a lot.

Read more. I read about one book every other month for book club, but I have so many more books I want to read, some of which I already own. Set aside some time each week to read for fun too.

Blog goals

Schedule time in my day/week to devote to posting, as well as reading and commenting on other blogs. I was beating myself up for awhile because I felt like I was starting to fail already, but thanks to the advice I received, I realized that I can only do what’s achieveable, am inspired to write and have the time for. The goal will be at least one post a week, but if that doesn’t happen, that’s OK. If it’s more, even better!

I’m considering making a blog calendar so I have set goals and topics I should be posting about. I’m not sure if that will work for me, but I like the idea of scheduling that time. Of course, I can switch it around, but having some kind of outline might make me feel better about this whole thing.

Accountability

If I want to have greater chances at success at these goals/resolutions, I need to make a plan how HOW I will try to achieve them. My first step  will be literally penciling some of them into my planner. I live by my planner and setting deadlines for myself, so if I see that next Tuesday I’m supposed to organize the closet, I will. Simply saying, “some day” doesn’t work for me. I need to define specific times I’m going to work on tasks.

Some of them aren’t things I can schedule though, like being more patient and listening more, so I’m going to print out my resolution list and post it on my fridge, maybe even in the bedroom, bathroom and my work cube, so I see all the time the things I need to be focusing on. Maybe I’ll fit in some blog posts about it too!

Again, to me, making resolutions is about acknowledging areas in which I can improve upon and making the conscious effort to work toward those things. It’s self-awareness. Even some amount of effort or small success is worth it. I’m not setting out thinking I will accomplish all these things, because I probably won’t. But I will try! That’s the promise I’m making myself. Wish me luck. We shall see!

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2013: What a Year!

Seriously. WHAT A YEAR. 2013 was crazy. It was without a doubt, the busiest, biggest year for me, probably ever. So far anyway.

To start with, I got married, had amazing bridal showers and a bach party, honeymooned in ‘Nawlins, had a second reception in my hometown in Indiana, and did all sorts of exhausting yet fulfilling tasks the whole way, from changing my name (post coming soon just about that process!) to planning the whole darn thing.

Thumbs up for my bridal showers

Thumbs up for my bridal showers

I got married! Whee!

I got married! Whee!

Honeymoonin' 'Nawlins style

Honeymoonin’ ‘Nawlins style

And that was just the wedding-related stuff! Yes, there’s more! Much more!

I also changed jobs. Twice. In a year. While I don’t like job-hopping, it really was all for the best. In March I left a job that I loved but had been at for many years, and for various reasons, I needed to leave. I took another job doing social media for about 7 months, where I learned so many cool new skill sets and had tons of fun going to free concerts, but my heart was longing to be a writer again, and so just before Thanksgiving, I started as an Internet Copywriter and Proofreader at a vitamin and health food company. Which I LOVE by the way. I really think this is where I was meant to end up, and I hope to be here for many moons to come.

Outside of the full-time work, I also took on freelance blog writing for a local custom dog products company, which gave me so much fulfillment in those months doing social media when I just had to be writing more. But even though I do that for work now again, I love it too and have no plans to give it up. (Shameless plug: Read my blogs here if you so wish!)

Oh, and you know, I also started THIS BLOG! Best decision ever!

My Ups (Besides getting married and starting new jobs, of course!)

-I became a bridesmaid for my bestie in Fargo who got proposed to in an epic way (flash mob in the park!), and we’re now planning her wedding and shower, which is so much more fun than planning your own wedding, dontchaknow.

-I became an official aunt to four nieces, one nephew, and now one more on the way! I also gained some new sibs, which is totes cool since I’m an only.

My new family! Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography.

My new family! Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography.

-We vacationed several times. In February, we celebrated our 8-year dating anniversary with a trip to St. Cloud and dined so much we waddled around uncomfortably full but so happy. In August, we met another couple at a campground for a weekend retreat of grilling, beach time, campfire hanging and general laziness. In September, we visited friends who had just moved to Canada and had a housewarming/board game playing/eating lots of food party. And in October, we went to our first professional sports game and saw the Vikings play the Panthers.

-Book club continued and we gained one new member. In all, I think we read four books this year (hey, don’t judge, we’re all busy people) — Malala, Gone Girl, Lean In, and the Snow Child.

-We combined car insurance and saved so much money!

-I couponed much more, watched sales more, started using money-saving apps like Cartwheel and ShopKick, made weekly meal plans, donated old stuff and decluttered the house. That makes me feel like such a good wife.

-I was interviewed in the paper about my extreme phobia of needles.

My Downs

I wrecked my car. Three times, technically, according to my insurance claims, though none were my fault! The first time was right when I started my first new job, and we had a big blizzard the day before, so roads were awful. I slid and my brakes locked up as I came up on the car in front of me at a stop sign, so rather than hit them, I turned into the snow drift, which turned out to be more of an ice cap than soft stop that dented Leslie good (yes, I name my car! Leslie the Legacy – she’s a champ). Then a month later, the day before my bridal shower, some jerkwad plowed into me going around a corner because he was too busy texting to look and see me coming and caused almost $5,000 worth of damage! Thank God I had good insurance, though I still had to pay my deductible and over a week’s worth of car rentals because said jerkwad didn’t have his own insurance (grumble grumble). Then lastly, on the interstate a semi truck in front of me kicked up a nice-sized rock, which hit my windshield, cracking it and nearly giving me a heart attack. Again, thank God for insurance because that time I didn’t have to pay a dime. Progressive, I am so thankful for you this year.

Leslie got a little beat up this year, poor girl.

Leslie got a little beat up this year, poor girl.

My Firsts

-With my upcoming wedding as an excuse, I treated myself to some new beauty treatments for the first time. I got my first brow wax, facial and professional dermabrasion. The facial was relaxing and amazing. The microdermabrasion was kind of terrifying. It was like one of those rollerball perfumes where the ball was sandpaper and was rigorously pushed into and around my face like a jackhammer. Ouch.

-I did one of those restaurant tours, both of which were themed around bacon, so I ate some amazing baconified dishes around town with my foodie friend.

Baco, aka taco with a bacon shell

Baco, aka taco with a bacon shell

Maple bacon cupcake

Maple bacon cupcake

-I went to the county fair in Fargo for the first time and saw another free concert (Hinder, which was just like listening to them on the radio. meh!) and ate so much fried food on a stick.

Fried mac and cheese.

Fried mac and cheese.

Deep fried banana with sugar and caramel. The highlight of the fair, for sure.

Deep fried banana with sugar and caramel. The highlight of the fair, for sure.

-We started our home search and took a homebuyer’s education course, met with a realtor and looked at two houses.

-I joined a professional group that meets now and then to talk ab0ut our trade. I went to a few Meetups so far and find it so inspiring and helpful, and it makes me feel grown up and connected.

-I took control of our finances and made a real financial plan to tackle our debt and save for that first house. Thanks to Amberly for the inspiration! Blog post about this coming soon too. What a process, but so worthwhile. Wish I had done it sooner.

-I became more conscious of my style and finally took to heart that looking good makes you feel good, so I try harder now at having a nice appearance. This included buying into some trends and purchasing my first fashion scarf (cat print, of course), cool yet practical boots and skinny pants. Having a friend that’s a Lia Sophia advisor helps a lot too since I get awesome jewelries from her.

New Fave Things I Discovered

-Belvita dunked in coffee. I had been eating Belvitas for awhile, but one time this year I dunked it in my coffee on a whim, and my world changed. It’s been my breakfast at least three times a week now ever since.

-Quinoa. How had I missed out on this for so long? I think I thought it was “hipster” or “healthy” so never bothered, but now with my new job that’s made me more health-conscious, I gave it a whirl, and it is just so amazing.

-HGTV. Again, how did I missed out on this so long?! I’ve never been inclined to tune to this channel before, but once we started talking about getting a house, I thought what the heck and recorded some House Hunters and My First Home. I was hooked. Apparantly my husband is too because he discovered Property Brothers just recently and we watched about five episodes of that in a row.

Things I Learned

-It’s important to be open and honest with your feelings to those you love. When you hold back, all it does is enforce poor communication and unclear expectations. I learned this during wedding planning, my wedding itself, and many times after. It’s something I have to try hard at, but I’ve found it makes a world of difference and makes you closer to those you love and enforces bonds.

-I don’t like tea. I have been trying to like tea for awhile now, and gave it another shot very recently, but I find myself choking it down every time. The bigger moral of the story is it’s OK to admit something isn’t working. Give up and move on so you can focus energy on the more important things. This means I need to bring my new box of tea to a friend who does sincerely like it. Present coming your way, Jenna!

Wrap Up

Again, what a year. I have no clue how I made it through. I’ve never felt so busy in my whole life. But, I did it, and that makes me feel good. I can tackle anything now, right? We’ll see, because I have some lofty resolutions for 2014, which I shall reveal soon!