We made it to the mountain!

So after a week with chain restrictions on I-70 and ski equipment piled in our bedroom and tripping me in the dark…

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… we finally made it up to ski.

I had “ski day” on the calendar. We woke to clear skies in Denver, but continuing chain laws up in the mountains. I don’t own chains. Sam doesn’t like our driving in bad weather.  The girls woke up, and I broke the bad news… and then at 11:30, I checked the highway department’s website one last time. In sorrow, almost. (The same way I keep checking my news feed for some change in the last year’s election.)

The road was open! No restrictions. The girls and I piled into the car, and 15 minutes later we were on our way. At two o’clock, I was paying 50 cents (for an hour of parking) to park in the town lot, and we carried our skis up to the lift.

Doing the math, it seemed like an awful lot of work for an hour and a half of skiing. But watching their faces as they set off down the mountain and zipped through the adventure zone told me it was totally worth it.

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And an hour and a half was a perfect way to find our ski-legs for the first day of the season.

Wishing you happy trails of all kinds, friends!

Early January Daybook

Outside my window: Snow.  I knew it was coming and had planned to take the girls skiing, but then CDOT closed the highway because of all the accidents.  So no skiing. The irony is not lost on me.  By the time I had finished my to-do list this morning, the kids had a bunch of neighbor children over to play, so I didn’t even make it out snowshoeing. (Looks like I might have another chance tomorrow.)

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In the kitchen: Beef noodle salad bowls, from Pioneer Woman. (Google it; I can’t get the link to work.)  They always get 6 thumbs up around here, and they don’t require a lot of beef.

On my mind: The January Money Diet.  This is the third year I have participated in a series of challenges to pull our finances into control.  During last year’s diet we saved a significant amount of money on non-essentials that was able to go toward our trip to London. Eliza’s challenge for day #2 this year was to go on a home scavenger hunt to find treasures you already have but aren’t using.  I unearthed some empty picture frames that were so dusty I had to vacuum them, but they look great on the wall.

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Around the house: mostly chaos.  I got the Christmas tree down and the ornaments packed away, but the rest of the decorations are up until tomorrow (Epiphany).  We are making slow progress on our new Harry Potter puzzle.

In the school room: We’re on break till Monday, but I did manage to complete the syllabus for Jonah’s comparative governments class.  I have a little grading to finish before we start back next week.

Our Eclipse Glasses arrived yesterday.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about the solar eclipse next summer.  I reread Annie Dillard’s essay Total Eclipse and found myself completely unable to explain to my family why I am over the moon (haha) about it.  There was a total lunar eclipse during my first week in Haiti, and the experience was amazing. I was in the kitchen trying to express this to my family, and all they could say was, “Why are you crying?”

Sam went off on this whole rant about how he saw the last one in 1979 at school so why is the 2017 one so amazing?  (Hello!  He remembers seeing the eclipse thirty-eight years ago! This was the first thing ever he told the children about his elementary school experience, but was it a big deal?  Apparently not.)  Anyway, the children are  but they are not impressed. Good thing they’re not in charge of our home school, or we’d never do anything cool.

August 21, 2017. Put it on your calendars.  Here’s the map to the see if you’re near the belt across North America where the solar eclipse will be total.

Grateful for:  the privilege of attending a lovely birth last week.  My dad’s generosity in driving my kids home from their once-a-week school, even when the roads are terrible.  A finished draft of my new novel. (I’m sure it won’t be the last draft, or the last novel.) Feeling better after the cold that knocked me flat on Tuesday.

Praying for: Mandy. Beth & family. Eileen’s family. So many of my patients who are dealing with bad news or challenging diagnoses.  Truth.  Hope.

 

What didn’t work in 2016, and what I’m going to do about it

The list of what worked in 2016 was longer than this list of what didn’t, but these are some big issues without easy fixes.

What didn’t work for me in 2016:

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The election. While I am not solely responsible for our political system or the incoming administration, I did not do enough to speak up, specifically in the areas where I have experience and authority: health care, caring for the vulnerable, and education. I don’t know what form(s) exactly my speaking up will take, but I am convinced I need to contribute more to the conversation.

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Finances. While we ended 2016 in the black, money is pouring out the door. We have 18 months before we have to start paying college tuition, and I’m feeling a need to get a handle on the flow.

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I have been injured since late August. I am finally walking several miles at a time again, gearing up toward running, but I spent 4 ½ months injured. No es bueno.

Partially because of #2, and partially because I am lazy, my exercise fell off the schedule. Even if (or because) it’s going to be several more months before I’m running regularly again, I need to find a new pattern for my exercise, so it meets both my mental and physical health needs.

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I want to spend more time in prayer. While I found a way to use my very limited free time for lots of writing, it squashed out regular morning quiet times. The days I began with prayer went better, so I am committed to making prayer a priority in 2017.

Your turn. What didn’t go well in 2017 and what are you going to do about it?

What worked for me in 2016

In the spirit of looking back and then forward, I have spent some time reflecting on what worked for me in 2016. A later post will detail what didn’t work, and what I plan to do about it.

What worked for me in 2016:
I made my writing a priority, and it paid off. I wrote regularly, which made the time I spent more productive. When I don’t write at least every other day, I lose all momentum. Also, I met regularly with my critique partner, and her wisdom and accountability were immensely helpful.

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I am working in the hospital again, attending deliveries and taking care of new babies. I love both. This was an unexpected opportunity after I thought I had given it up for good, and so far it’s working well on many fronts.

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I have made a concerted effort to be a better advocate for my patients. This has meant a lot more phone calls to other doctors and medical providers- sometimes having to beg for help on my patients’ behalf- but it is paying off in better care for my patients.

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Monthly meal planning. The longer I do it this way, the easier I gets. We’re eating more vegetables, which is good for everyone.

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I feel like my biggest accomplishment this year was growing out my hair. (That shows you how I feel about 2016.) I found a salon that specializes in curly hair, and I finally can live with it again.

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Calling up our refugee friends and getting together with them. It used to take a ton of energy and effort.   On the way back from church on Christmas Eve, the mom asked me (via her son, translating) all sorts of questions. It’s progress, and I’m grateful.

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We are spending more time with our parents. Sam has been traveling to Chicago to see his family every 3-4 months, and I’ve been spending one weekend a month with my parents. It costs us a lot in terms of our nuclear family time, but it is good and important.

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I’ve started asking for more help.  Sam and the kids have really stepped it up at home, and at church I have just said no, though not as often as I probably should.

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I’ve stopped listening to the radio on my way into the clinic each week. It sounds like a small thing, but those 15 minutes of prayer before I have to face so much sorrow and sickness is a real gift, and it has made a huge difference in my empathy and focus.

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I hope to continue all of these habits in 2017. What were your successes in 2016?

Next up: what didn’t work, and what I plan to do about it.

10 Boredom Busters for Kids on Break

Are you on a holiday break?  Are your kids whining about how they’re so booooooored?(I’m all in favor of a little boredom, but sometimes my kids need a suggestion or two.)  Do you need some ideas for how to keep your children happily occupied without a screen? Okay, a few of these involve screens, but only for how-to advice.

  1. Throw them out into the snow.  Make forts, angels, etc.  Have them shovel all your neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways.

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2.  Teach them how to make paper snowflakes.  Or better yet, have them figure it out with a handy internet video. Here’s a link for making them six sided. My kids are learning all sorts of things from how-to videos: crochet patterns, dance steps, card tricks… As always, just be smart and keep your computer in an easily-visible spot in your home so you can see what they’re clicking.

3.  Turn up the music and have a dance party.

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4.  Pay them to clean out your basement.  Or garage.  Or junk drawer.

5. Make and decorate cinnamon ornaments. (Hands down, these are the best homemade ornaments we’ve ever made.  We made some in 2011 and gave them to friends who still tell us how well they’ve held up.)

6. Bake treats.  If you can’t bear to eat more sugar now, freeze them for a snowy day.

7. Better yet, make some dinners ahead and freeze them for January.

8. Have a rope-skipping contest. Or push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, cartwheels…

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9. Pull out the sewing machine and part of your fabric stash and let them have at it.

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10. Have a singalong. (It doesn’t have to be Christmas carols.)  There are a whole bunch of apps for your smartphone that let you turn any song in your music library into karaoke, without an expensive machine.

What’s your favorite holiday break boredom buster?

Daybook: St Nicholas Day

Out my window: It’s cold. A storm is blowing in, and it smells like snow. Sam bought a heated water reservoir for the chickens, though, so hopefully none of us will have to thaw their water today.

In the liturgical year: It’s St Nicholas Day so the shoes, full of Dove chocolates and ornaments, are lined up by the fireplace. Normally I put Trader Joe’s chocolate coins in them, but it didn’t happen this year. I don’t think the children will mind. #chocolate.

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Maybe I should have vacuumed before snapping this photo.

Last year I was able to get my paws on my favorite St Nicholas book, The Baker’s Dozen. The children were asking for it yesterday, but I saved it for today.

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Around the house: Sam put up the twinkle lights this weekend, and our refugee friends came over to decorate our tree and have dinner.  It was a blast.  Jonah suggested we play Snorta (we’re always looking for games that don’t require reading) and everyone was laughing.
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My reading/praying chair is right there next to the tree. It needs a light for easier reading, but it’s bathed in the scent of the fir tree. I’m trying to figure out how to replicate that for the rest of the year without resorting to hanging a pine tree car air freshener from the ceiling.

In the school room: We’ve almost finished our first semester.  The next two weeks of school are lighter, but we should have time to wrap up The World of Christopher Columbus and Sons and The Mysterious Benedict Society, and read some of our Christmas books.

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Christmas books

Grateful: for the kids’ school choir performances last weekend.  Somehow their teacher pulls together 3 days of once-a-week school rehearsals into a super concert.  Owen had a solo (a teaser from the musical they’re doing in February) and rocked it, and the girls had a blast.

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The Great Salt Lake, one of many weird things between here and California

We celebrated Sam’s year of health (it’s been a year since his healing, can you believe it!) with a Thanksgiving road trip to California, and the only mishap we had in our 18-year old minivan was a burnt out headlight (for which the officer, after looking at my bedraggled just-drove-15-hours family, gave me only a warning).

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California Thanksgiving football game

For our new niece, who is healthy and arrived safely a week ago.  Hooray!

And finally, I’m grateful that my physical therapist gave me permission to start a couch-to-5K program yesterday.  My fitness (and my sanity) are almost completely gone, but my foot is doing so much better.  Time to get the rest of me back to health.

Praying for: for my patients, who are trying to make plans in case a January 21st deportation separates their families.  For Mandy, Ruth, Eileen, Christine and DB.  For our friends ministering in the Philippines and Fiji.  For the discipline of quiet this Advent to pray

Warning: your storage is almost full

Do you see this warning regularly on your phone?  I do, and I’m starting to take it as a metaphor for my life.

My phone has all sorts of apps on it:

  • my photography apps (a camera and multiple apps to store and share my photos)
  • several e-readers (for books, news feed and blogs, as well as a Bible app, the Book of Common Prayer and another that has daily devotions)
  • apps to keep track of everything (finances, our home security system, our solar power, and our grocery lists)
  • music and exercise apps (and I can’t even use the exercise apps right now, sigh)
  • apps to keep track of my children (Find my Phone, Find my Friends, and several ways I track their online presence)
  • and then the gigabytes of medical information I use on a regular basis at work.

No wonder I’m of out storage.

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I’m out of mental storage as well.  I’m not talking about long-term memory here, but short term.  RAM.  I’ve been making meal plans but don’t make it to the grocery store to have all the ingredients on hand.  I reserve library books and don’t make it to the library in time to pick them up before the clerks reshelve them.  I showed up on day 2 of a two-day CME not realizing I had the dates wrong. (I missed the whole first day.)  I’ve been missing appointments and forgetting to call people back or respond to emails in a timely fashion. Thank goodness Sam pays the bills, or those would be late, too.

The obvious solution would be to quit my job, send my children to boarding school, and play Tetris till my thumbs fall off.

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Since that’s not an option, I’m going to follow my tried-and-true method of letting go of my perfectionism (just look at my kitchen floor for proof I’ve let go), taking a deep breath first, and keeping the calendar to one page.  I have stopped reading and listening to most of the news, and turning instead to prayer.  I’m still reeling from the election and full of fear, honestly.  But I seem to be doing better by taking long (and short) walks.

How do you find more RAM?