Expanding the horizon on reading and starting at the heart

As a part of my reading goal this year I wanted to get in some books that support growth. Growth as an individual, as a business, and as a wife. I wanted to explore books beyond what I have read in that past. In years past I have read lots of fiction books in all sorts of genres, but this year I wanted to have a bit more purpose and thought to the books I read. One of the books that I was able to read very early in the year was Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance by Greg and Erin Smalley. I received this book through Tyndale Publishers and was excited to dive in to my first marriage book.

This book was so easy to get into and easy to relate. I was impressed with how Greg just jumps right into the interactions he and Erin had in figuring out marriage. I was able to see things in my own marriage and experiences that I have been through with my husband in learning to understand our differences and work together. In fact I have requested my husband to read this book because I felt like I was able to get so much insight from it and saw many points that would be helpful for him to understand me a bit better.

The book is structured around the 12 items they have laid out as their secrets to happiness. Each chapter brings insight to their world and how they have discovered the importance of each marriage secret. Greg is the main viewpoint in the book, his whit and insight on his own blunders as a husband brought straight laughter.  Erin’s interjections are well timed and also bring good humor to the learning process of marriage.

Though it is not all fun and games this couple has found a way to bring some fun into reading about marriage and creating a better understanding of your partner.

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance

 

Do you have a reading goal that you are working on this year? Have you created or found a list of books to read through? Let me know in the comments, I would like to get more ideas on what to read this year. I have set a goal of 65 books for myself this year as a pure guess. I have never tracked my reading before so it will be interesting to see where I land. You can follow my reading journey on GoodReads and see what I have in my current reading, already read and what I would like to read (maybe not all for this year, but we will see how far I get).

Working in the Margins

Have you ever felt like you have just too much to do? I know silly question right, of course there is too much to do. It doesn’t matter if you are a working Mom in or outside the home, stay at home mom or even a mom at all. Living in a Pinterest world, it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you are not doing enough or even failing. Let me tell you we can all be in that moment but it is time to let it go. I am not saying that Pinterest should go away, not at all. In fact I love using Pinterest, but as it was originally intended, as a pin board of websites. I try to be realistic about what I pin (old pins are a different matter and I am still working on cleaning it up).
I have been reading a book call The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. In this book this Full Time working Mom, blogger and crafter explains how she works it all in. The thing I really love about this book is the author, she is really living in the midst of theoretical too much. I feel like I am reading a book I would have written. I have already implemented several of the ways she talks about fitting things in, like reading. I always have a book available so if I am ever waiting in line or find I have a few minutes I usually will pull out my book and read a few pages.

I still get caught up easily with paging through social media, but it is a habit I am trying to break. In fact a few months back I went through my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts and removed my cconnections to pages I don’t need to follow anymore. There was once a time I signed up for many contests, coupons and other incentives, but I don’t really read anything from them anymore so they just take up my time as I scroll past them. Now I am more true to follow those that I want to see updates from and I find when I do check for updates it takes a lot less time to scroll through. There are still times that I get lost in the depths of the internet and become unproductive but it is a work in progress, and a daily struggle.

Reading this book has helped me see the need to better define what I enjoy doing in my “spare time” or the designated Me time. I am working to focus better on the things that really bring me joy, like puzzles. I have forgotten how much I love puzzles. My 4-year old has really gotten into puzzles recently so now I like to get an hour with him to work on puzzles. At first I made it so he does his and I do mine but the kid is so good, he helps me with mine. I love this special time with him. When we are not working on the puzzle together I have the board on my dresser in my room and I will work on it for a few minutes before bed. Like a good book though it is easy to get sucked in when I get a lot of pieces to fit. My goal is to work in more time to spend with my son to work on the puzzle because it brings me the most joy. This will allow me the joy of working on a puzzle and spending time with him, but it also helps me avoid the time warp of getting sucked in before bed. I can then focus my just before bed time on something else more important for that time of day.

It is all about what is important to you, and joy is up at the top of my list. Typical morning time for me has been spent catching up on recorded TV shows from the night before, reading and a cup of coffee, but some mornings I have something specific to do like write this post. I am often limited on the times I can actually get on my computer and put the words out there, sorry about my sporadic posts I am still working on consistency. In order to avoid a late night and lack of sleep I often write my posts as an email to myself then transfer it later, this way I can keep it as a draft until I have most of what I wanted to have written and I can work on it from anywhere. When I first started to get this blog up and running I was up late at night more nights than I every enjoyed and it made my days be off as I was not getting enough sleep. Sleep should never be sacrificed. Balance is the next important piece, you still have to be able to get the needs met.

Putting it all together, it is really okay if you don’t have a perfectly dusted and spotless house, in fact my mom always jokes that if it is time to dust it is time to pack up and move to a new house. I agree, dusting is not something that brings me joy so I avoid it whenever possible and it does not bother me if the TV stand has dust on it most of the time. The dishes do need to be washed and the clothes as well but it is rarely a must do it now situation. One this that helps me with this is the structure I have been building into my days to try to avoid a pile up of either. Sometimes they do pile up, right now there is a basket of clean clothes to be folded from yesterday’s laundry and the choice is there to put my computer down and lose the few minutes I have for this and fold the laundry or let it go that the laundry is sitting there. I am choosing to let the laundry sit for now. It is easier to fold that when the kids are around than it is to use my computer.

How do you handle your margin time, are you sucked into the things that leave you feeling less productive, or have you found a way to be productive in the time in-between?

31 Days is a long time…

I have fretted over this post for months (notice this was a challenge done in October), but this is something I think is really important. In October of 2015 I joined a spending freeze challenge. I was excited about this challenge, I was looking forward to new ideas on savings and cutting and innovations of using what you had. I started out so strong on the challenge of doing away with my frivolous spending this month. I had a great solid week of not only no spending but also cutting back on expenses too.

The second week was okay, but I lost momentum fast. A few things contributed to this eventual failure. One of the biggest things, I had an unexpected amount of cash that came to me, I was awarded for some work I did and was given a gift card award (don’t be thinking huge amounts here, but it was enough to use at more than one store). Since this was not technically income it was easier to spend, also there were a few things that needed replacements (work clothes and such). The tipping point of spending the money, peer pressure. Several people wanted to know what I was going to spend it on, my husband was one of the most encouraging of spending it on myself somehow.

After that was started it was easy to go out to lunch again and just use that card once or twice, keep in mind this was not a very large amount and it was used up quickly. Once I had gone out for lunch once or twice it was hard to get on the bandwagon again to freeze the spending.

Another contributor was I was not drawn to some of the challenges presented to my throughout the month. After the first two weeks I felt like I couldn’t compete any more. I was at work so I couldn’t go through my closet and re-purpose an old shirt to make it new. I was luck enough to pull off cleaning my cupboards to see what we had for food the week before.

This challenge still means a lot to me and I plan to try again but with a better idea of what to expect. Also I am working on my own list of ways to keep me going throughout the month. I lost motivation so early in the month I felt like I wasn’t able to get much out of it.

Great Things from this experience:

  • I was able to cancel several “subscriptions” that were not necessary
  • I was able to get some really great freezer recipes that were not just for the crock pot (I have a mostly hate relationship with crock-pot meals as I am not home during the day so they end up being in for too long…every time).
  • I challenged myself to try to do more with social media during this time, which gave me a more stable platform to keep going (I know somewhat odd thing to see here in the middle of a blog post but this challenge gave me more visibility on Instagram specifically).
  • It helped me see my spending more clearly. The focus on lunch along is a big deal to me. I had been good to bring my lunch for a long time but I became comfortable going out.
  • I know I have too much “stuff” in my house and I am working on pairing it all down. Summer Garage Sale is going to be HUGE!

 

I know that when I signed up for this challenge I encouraged a lot of people to join me in  it and see what they can get out of it. My expectations for this challenge were never to get rich off my savings, this I knew was just not happening, but I was game for following along the challenge and getting what I could out of it. I hope that if you did join in you were able to find value in the time you put towards it as well.

Let me know your thoughts on the challenge, I would love to create some type of 31 days challenge for myself someday, maybe 31 days of drinking coffee, now that I could do!

Getting out of this funk

I have been trying to get out of a funk that started late last year. I know the holidays can throw everyone off with schedule changes and way, way too much food. Not to mention all the cookies, oh the cookies I think my body is on a revolution to get away from all the sugar I ingested over the last 2 months.

I saw a few posts about people naming their year as a part of or maybe instead of a New Years Resolution. I jumped on this bandwagon (not all that typical of me I know) and I choose a word to name my 2016 year.

STRUCTURE!

Big and bold. What I want most out of this now here year is more structure. Last year we had a lot of changes happen and though we were able to implement a lot of great things we lost our structure for a few reasons, holidays were a big one.

To create this structure I started to put together some actionable goals that will help make this year a year of structure.

It all gets started with one thing, schedules, simple and sweet. I did a lot of work last year in creating a morning schedule of sorts so that I could work in the time to work out. This schedule got slacked on a bit with the dark and cold mornings. I let my boys sleep a bit longer, thinking this was going to be helping them more. Really I think it made the chaos return along with lots of stress. Not to mention the number of missed workouts which means I lost some momentum and the weight (cookies) piled on.

I am back to striving for a set time to drop the boys off so that I have time to work out this will create consistency for everyone! This set time will in turn mean that I need to be better about the preparations the night before.

Secondary to schedules I have created a list of checklists I wanted to post around the house by using framed lists as whiteboards so we could make sure we are staying on track.

After schedules there are a few clean up projects I have on my goals sheet to help clean up the clutter and simplify the home.

The last thing I have made a special note for is vacations. This past year with all the changes I feel like we did not make enough effort for family vacations. I want to change that this year and make sure we are setting up those dates early so that we can really enjoy the summer months with our family and create those special memories both my husband and I had growing up.

I also set a reading goal and plan to track my progress for once by using GoodReads. I have had my account for a while but never really used it for much. This is the year to start using or get rid of!

Structure to me is going to be a relief. No more flying by the seat of my pants. Creating and accomplishing is what I am aiming for. I have a few things in mind that will pop up here along the way. Did you create a word for your year, month or even a week? Let me know I would love to hear about what the word means to you.

Oh the ease of getting carried away

Part of the fun of writing this blog is signing up for all the amazing offers out there to see what is really worthwhile and what really is just not worth it. In the process of all the offers I see I can easily get swept away with an amazing one or two or three… when I realize I am getting in too deep and spending too much time I (try to) re-evaluate and determine is this the best use of my time, am I getting the best output for what I am putting in, am I spending more money than I would if I didn’t use this?

I have recently joined a reviewer program where I place requests for items at a discount (or free, I like free), if approved I can purchase the item at a discount in exchange for my honest review of the item. Simple right? Well it is simple and so simple it is easy to get carried away.

Just after Christmas I had over 30 items that were sitting in my queue waiting to be review, some I was waiting for the arrival but many had already arrived. I had 4-5 packages coming each day leading up to Christmas (honestly I really like that part).

So, re-evaluation time. How much time am I spending on this? I take a few minutes each day to browse the site and place requests, a few minutes to place any orders I have been approved for and a few more more minutes to write a meaningful review. I am not including the time to test, and use the product as I am trying to purchase items I use in my everyday or can be added right in without extra time. Overall the time on this is not too much,right now but I can see it becoming overwhelming. It is hard to not want to check the site multiple times a day to see if anything new has been added (always hate to miss out on something).

Am I spending more money by doing this? This is a bit more difficult of a question, yes because I am not budgeting for some of these specific items and since I am at the mercy of the seller on whether or not I can actually purchase the item it is difficult to know when to budget for it. At the same time no because I am for the most part requesting free items, under $1 items or items I would need to purchase anyway. It would be easy to start requesting things that just sound cool or seem like a really great deal. I have had a few items that I should have looked more closely at before requesting.

Is this the best use of my time? In the long run, no. I need to make sure that I am careful about the amount of time I spend on the site and need to be very particular about the items I request to review. It is not just the time but it is easy to end up with too much stuff in general.

At this point I am still getting some really great items and I am planning to keep going but I am setting limits for myself to make sure I don’t get too carried away if I can help it. The first guideline I am setting up is the need to research an item further before requesting if it is not a consumable item. I recently reviewed a few articles of clothing that I was really excited about until they arrived and some were not what I had expected but upon looking more closely I may have been able to tell some of the differences from the post. Sometimes, you really get what you pay for.