What didn’t work for me in 2019

See my previous post for what DID work for me in 2019.

What Didn’t Work for Me in 2019

I’m such an optimist that this answer is always smaller than its companion reflection. All the same, there were a few standout things I tried that did NOT work.

  1. My gym membership

I used to have at least one patient a month who came in to my office to get a note to help them cancel their very expensive monthly gym membership. My situation isn’t quite that extreme, but I did buy a half-price membership to the rec center.  Sam is really good about using the rec center’s gym, and I’m… terrible. In past years, I’ve gotten my money’s worth (mostly) because I used the gym (or even just the locker room) while my kids were at swim team, but they’re not doing that any more.

Since last February, when I bought my pass, I’ve used the gym once.  That’s a $184 visit to the gym.

According to mapmyrun, I did manage to work out 126 different times outside the gym, which is a work-out every three days (more or less).  I think next year I can pay the daily fee if I decide to use the gym on top of that.

Scenes from a recent run outside the gym…
  • Trying to use my two hours in the morning to accomplish All The Things

I’m not sure why I think this is going to work, but I consistently expect to write for an hour, work out, plan for the day, begin my food prep and have a devotional time, all from 5-7am.  Oh, and sometimes meet a friend for tea. Weirdly, I can’t seem to fit it all in.

I’m pretty sure variations on these themes were what didn’t work for me in 2018, either. At least I’m consistent. What about you- what didn’t work this year?

What worked for me in 2019

A few years back, I started a year-end review framed by the two questions, “What worked for me this year?” and “What didn’t work for me this year?” (The questions came from Modern Mrs. Darcy; the answers are my own.) Here’s what worked for me this year:

  1. Leaving the twinkle lights up all year

All right, so this photo is from this morning. But imagine the room
without the stockings and still with the lights. Cozy, right?

When we took down all the Christmas decorations last Epiphany, we left the twinkle lights up.  They make those long winter nights (and long, dark mornings) so much cozier.

2. Asking, “How can I support you in this?”

I’m a problem solver, and my go-to response when someone tells me they are hurting is always to try to fix things. This might work most of the time for my own problems, but it’s counterproductive as I try to support those around me. The last thing I want to do (especially for my kids) is make them think that they don’t have the resources to find solutions to their problems.

Asking “How can I support you in this?” has been especially helpful with my kids. It shows I trust them to find a solution, and that I have their backs as they figure it out, whether “it” is advanced academic work, dating, mental health, taking up cello, dancing, travel, or balancing school and work.

3. Writing questions down and leaving them up for everyone to think about

This idea comes from Julie Bogart’s book The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning and Life. She suggests writing questions of all kinds on sticky notes, posting them somewhere you’ll see them a lot… and that’s all. She promises that seeing them every day will produce multiple answers and follow-through, even without intentionally revisiting the questions. Our two “how” questions have prompted significant changes in our driving:biking ratio, the trade-in of our larger minivan for a more gas-efficient vehicle, and a reduction in the plastics we bring into our home. (One of our other questions was, “What will happen to Spiderman now that Sony and Disney split?” I’m not saying that they worked it out just because I put it on a sticky note, but…)

4. Listening to audiobooks

I have three different audiobook apps on my phone (two from the library in addition to Audible), and while it’s confusing, using them has made my reading life so much richer.

5. Bowls

I have changed our cooking to include many more “bowls.”  It has made the challenge of cooking for two vegetarians and 3-4 omnivores easier. (By “vegetarian,” I mean a teenager who won’t eat meat but doesn’t necessarily eat vegetables. By “omnivore” I mean a person who will eat meat but on the whole is just as picky as the aforementioned vegetarians.)

Our bowls are built with a base (salad, roasted vegetables, rice, quinoa, farro or pasta), a variety of toppings (fried eggs, roasted tofu, meat, vegetables, seeds and nuts) and a sauce. My two favorite sources for bowl ideas are Run Fast. Eat Slow and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow by Elyse Kopecky & Shalane Flanagan. I think it’s the variety of sauces that make this feel like you’re not eating the same thing twenty-one times each week.

  • The kids’ cleaning schedule

A few months ago, I told our kids I was frustrated with how much cleaning I was doing, especially when I saw them sitting around having screen time. They came up with a plan and have faithfully followed through with it. It has been a real gift to me, and seems sustainable.  I’m trying to be as faithful in using my free time for the writing and studying I was missing.

What worked for you in 2019?

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

What Worked in 2014

Anne’s recent post on what worked for her inspired me to think about what worked around here before I set goals for 2015.  I am so often focused on fixing what didn’t work that I change what is working. Proverbial baby and bath water.  So I made a list.

1. Our new home.

After seven months of being a guest in my parents’ home, I am so grateful to be home.

But even before that, we were spending so much time in the car.  Just for his work commute, Sam saves 112 hours a year commuting. That 28 minutes a day is the long enough for a short run, or a leisurely conversation, or half a child’s soccer game.  The library was a twenty minute drive each way; now it’s a ten minute bike ride (or a three minute drive).  A wide path is a block away, and we walk (or bike or run) it daily.
We also took advantage of some of the other neighborhood activities, like Shakespeare in the Park (“All’s Well that Ends Well”– 10 points if you can name the movie I’m quoting here) and a Frozen sing along.
The Tempest in the park
2. The daily schedule.

Oh, how I dreaded making this white board schedule.  Its main benefit, I suspect, is that I can no longer set ridiculous expectations for what we can accomplish in one day.  Gone are the days of planning to clean all the baseboards, put away the winter clothes, read the complete works of Emily Dickinson and take a nature walk in one day.
3. Working out while the kids are at swim team.

Planning the afternoon for my workout time is counter to many fitness “experts,” but it’s working for us.  Knowing that I get an hour (or more) of uninterrupted running time gives me a reason to push when the kids feel lazy and don’t want to bother.  Knowing that I have 75-90 minutes with no other demands on my time has pushed me past the 30 minute run. Now my “regular run” is anywhere from four to six miles.

one of my favorite places to run

4. My doctor.

2013 was rough for me health-wise.  In January I started seeing a new (to me) doctor who not only listened to me, but also encouraged me to listen to my body.  2014 wasn’t perfect, but we’re getting closer.

5. Monthly meal planning.

It’s so easy for me to fall into a cooking rut. Looking at a whole month at time helps me to try more new meals here and there and make sure we’re not eating pizza every week. We spend a big chunk of our budget on food because we buy local, organic sustainably produced foods whenever we can, but planning by the month makes it more affordable.

6. Our cooking “curriculum.”

I had planned a very formal cooking course with the children for this year that I scrapped in favor of watching some food TV and encouraging challenges like Chopped At Home and asking the kids to prepare dinner from start to finish.  They have all gained skilled and confidence in the kitchen. (I’m still waiting for their palates to broaden…)

7. Regular blogging.

I’ve had a great time participating in link-ups like {phfr}, Short Reviews (formerly known at twitterature) and 7QT.

8. Visiting relatives in Chicago.

We changed things up this year, visiting family in Chicago in the summer and staying home over the winter holidays.  We are a big family ad putting us up is always a challenge, made harder when lots of family descends at the same time.  Our off-season visit gave us time with individual family members instead of as a huge group.  Then we flew Sam out for various weekends when we could do the most good. I think it works for this season.


bowling fun with Aunt Mandy

9. Our church home.

We’ve been there 10 years.  We all are growing, learning and serving.

10. Our new homeschool “school.”

We have always used a once a week enrichment program to supplement our homeschooling.  This year we tried a new program, and all the kids are enjoying it.

Your turn. Feel free add a link or list in the comments.  Thanks for your support and conversation in 2014!

2014 Aspirations

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  Or do a longer set of goals, like 101 in 1001?  Or perhaps you choose a theme word for your year.

I have done both resolutions and the a set of 101 in 1001 goals (twice).  For me, goal setting helps me focus on the end, and then the means don’t seem so overwhelming.  I have many interests and many responsibilities, and prioritizing my goals helps me say “no” more than I would otherwise.  (I stink at “No.”)
This year I am going to choose a theme word.  (I know you can guess it.)


I want to work on making our home a place of welcome:

  • for my husband and children
  • for our friends
  • for the stranger (I’m not sure quite what this will look like yet, but I have some ideas.)

I want our home to be a place of grace.  That means I have to set that tone in my words, in my attitude (and not just to others, but to myself, too.)  Home needs to be a place of safety, where we can be brave and fail and ask for forgiveness and then receive it and live it.  I want to fill our house with prayer and worship and to see the fruit of those practices pervading the rest of our lives.
I want our home to be a place of learning.  Of course I have all sorts of ideas about what that will look like– especially the cozy reading spots with good lamps and no TVs.  But it also means we need to have places where new paint and shiny floors don’t make me want to say no to messy paints and cooking experimentation and digging holes in the back yard.

I want our home to be a place of health.  I think it will be easier to set new habits of walking and biking in lieu of driving if we do it from the beginning.  The kids became proficient bikers this fall, and I don’t want to lose that.  I have a chance to restock my pantry and fridge, and I hope the staples I put there (and the way I organize them) will promote healthy food choices.


Are you setting goals for the new year?  Add a link to your post (or add your word for the year) in the comments.  I’d love to hear.

Resolutions… Hopes?

I feel hesitant to make Resolutions this year… I keep thinking of Nicholas Cage’s wandering stream-of-consciousness meditation aloud on the word “resolute” in National Treasure and feel a little like that.  I had really good resolutions, and God took me somewhere I hadn’t planned to go.  Or that I had hoped for it but didn’t even know how to ask.

So I have some ideas about how I want to be faithful to follow the roads now before me, but I don’t know that there won’t be a fork, and I want to be open to following the fork when I come to it.
“A lady came to a fork in the road.”

“Why didn’t she pick it up?”

(See what I mean about stream-of-consciousness?)

So without further ado, I want to:

  • Run 400 miles in 2012.  (I ran 125 miles last year.  I said I wanted to increase my mileage.  Always so helpful, Sam said, “But you only ran half the year, so you should run 500 miles this year.”)
  • Be ready to go overseas if my skills can be used there.
  • Be outside more.
  • Eat more dinners on china at home.
  • Get comfortable at the new hospital in which I’ll be working (going back to doing some teaching, so I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to feel at home there…)
  • Memorize Scripture.  How much?  A lot…
  • Write a first draft of a novel and rewrite another well enough to query it.
  • Be both disciplined and flexible in our homeschooling so that we learn every day and laugh every day.