New Year’s Thoughts, 2021

Normally at the close of a year, I spend a little time looking back at what worked and what did not. I like to examine the year’s goals (which recently have been hopes for tweaks in my routine more than resolutions, per se) to see what was “successful.”

But 2020 isn’t a year I can evaluate that way. I haven’t even looked back at last year’s “goals.”  Any metric I would normally apply to 2020 feels pointless. Did Sam and I increase our giving to causes that are important to us?  If we did, I’m sure it wasn’t enough. Did we move the needle toward a more sustainable life at home? Did I write as much as I’d hoped, or meet my exercise goals? No, I didn’t: there was an f-ing pandemic. I didn’t exercise, or write, or spend quality time with my people in any of the ways I had hoped in 2020.

But 2020 was still a success, and I know this because I wrote it down in real time. Day by day, I recorded in a 10-cent spiral notebook (3 of them, actually) exactly what happened last year. In excruciating detail. I can look back and tell you the day that school was canceled. The day that one of my long-time patients died. The day my daughter and I were supposed to leave for Spain (and instead stayed—you guessed it—at home.) The day my friend entered isolation for COVID-19, and the day she emerged. The day I ran/walked a 10K by myself instead of in solidarity with my BRF and 998 strangers.

I can tell you that one of my kids became an activist and somehow used the pandemic as a vehicle to fuel her work. One of my kids had the courage to start working through years of hurt I’d caused him and honored me by letting me do that with him. One of my kids wrote some fantastic college entrance essays and is seeing it pay off.  One of my kids asked for help, and we listened.

Whether you are a Big-Picture Goals person, a Small Habits Reap Big Rewards person, or a person who thinks New Year’s is a crock, I’d encourage you to write it down.  Instead of (or in addition to) looking forward at goals we may or may not accomplish this month or year, take a few minutes each day and record what did happen.  It might be a list, or a doodle, or some stream of consciousness notes. You don’t have to start it January 1, or even the first of any month.  Start today, whenever that is.  Write down three things you’re grateful for, even if those are as mundane as indoor plumbing, a really good apple and the morning quiet before everyone else wakes up. At the end of the week, or the month, or the year, you might discover amid the chaos there was more to celebrate than you thought.

What worked for me in 2019

What didn’t work for me in 2019

What worked (or not) for me in 2018

What worked in 2017

What worked for me in 2016

What worked (or not) in 2015?

What worked (or not) in 2014

Do you keep a journal? What is your favorite part of it?

What worked (or not) in 2018

For the past few years, I’ve used Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2-question template for evaluating the year past. As I sat down this year to ask “What worked for me in 2018?” and “What didn’t work for me in 2018?”, most of the answers come in mixed bags. Some part of my system worked, while another part didn’t. Unfortunately I don’t see any quick fixes for the latter, but please pipe up if you see a glaringly obvious solution (or a splendidly clever one!) I’m overlooking. Untitled

Finances: We paid for a year of college. Granted, we had significant help from my parents, but we did it.  We are one (hopefully) sixteenth of the way there. Hooray! I credit automated transfers to savings, the January Money Diet (in the past found at Happy Simple Living) and including the kids in some of our frequent talks about the budget.  It’s hard to include them without freaking them out, but for the most part, we walked the tight rope, and they have some understanding what the budget looks like.


Reading: I read a ton of books.  What worked here was leaving them lying all over the house, using the library’s audiobook loans while driving the kids all over town, and a brief slump into a turtle phase while I was trying not to think about Jonah’s leaving for college.

We became a house with cats again: This one is really a mixed bag.  We adopted two cats at the end of 2017, and one of them got terribly sick. (Like $1000-vet-ICU-bill-and-then-euthanasia sick.)  It was heartbreaking and expensive, and for twenty-four hours we thought we were going to be the source of a local rabies outbreak. How’s that for irony?


Anyway, we adopted a third cat and have been a happy home with two cats again, except for the allergies and cat litter. It turns out that two cats pee twice as much as one cat does. (Who knew?) Anyone have a brilliant solution to the cat litter problem? Anyone? Bueller?

Devotional reading: A challenge from our priest last Christmas spurred me to read the Bible chronologically this year. We happened to be on ancient history, so much of my school prep dovetailed with the old testament in a really enlightening way.


Exercise: I was having a good exercise year until the first of October, when I broke my toe. You’d think I would have just upped the yoga and waited to heal, but instead I sat around feeling sorry for myself, and I lost two months of fitness while it healed. Now I’m back to where I started a year ago. I think the problem is that I really have one good block of time I can count on every day, and I’ve been using it to write instead of exercise. I need to carve out a second chunk of time and make movement a priority.


Screen time: This is the one area that abjectly didn’t work. As I have used my phone for tracking more things (and children), it’s harder not to pick it up at every spare moment, and it’s really hard to tell my children to put down their devices when my face is glued to a screen. So here’s to big changes in 2019.

What about you?  What worked for you (or didn’t) in 2018?

What DIDN’T work in 2017

I posted a few weeks ago my list of what worked for me in 2017. The less fun list is here: what didn’t work for me.

I don’t necessarily have solutions for these, which is maybe why it’s taken me a few weeks to post this. I like solutions, but maybe some of these don’t have answers. These problems are just going to sit there, like the neighbor’s cat on my fence who taunts me and runs away when I yell at him at the window, and then comes back an hour later. I’m not going to move; my neighbor isn’t going to keep his cat away from my chickens. We are at an impasse. Also, I don’t particularly relish talking about things that bug me; it feels like whining.

Here we go.


I used to have a small group of homeschooling moms with whom I met regularly. For a few years, we met each month to discuss a reading. In other years, we got our kids together to hike when the weather was nice or do crafts when it wasn’t, and then we’d talk. As the kids have gotten older, a lot of them have transitioned into formal schools, and some of my friends have moved away. I no longer have a homeschooling mom community, and the kids’ day at their homeschool school is my day in the clinic, so I’m never the one doing the drop off, pick up or volunteer hours. It’s hard homeschooling high schoolers, and I could use some advice. More than that, I miss my friends.


Too much screen time

As my kids have gotten older, we have increased their access to the internet and screens in general. This has led to my own increase in screen time, and the perils of that (for me) have included a feeling of hopelessness from too much news. I want to talk news and politics and current events with my teenagers, but I find it overwhelming. (Plus, my daughter put Cookie Jam on my phone and I quickly developed an addiction to it. I have now joined Cookie Jam Anonymous and am working through the twelve levels steps.)


Not enough outside time

The increase in screen time and the decrease in outside time have gone hand-in-hand. As my kids have taken on tough online, AP and college courses, we have become more tied to a schedule, which has made long afternoons digging in mud at the side of the lake nearly impossible.


Our house is a mess. I am grateful when we have friends over, because it temporarily pushes cleaning up to the top of the list. It’s gotten so bad lately that Owen has taken to cleaning up.


(This photo has nothing to do with anything, but I like it. I wonder who took it, since I’m usually the photographer.)

Getting together with our refugee friends

We had our refugee friends over right before Christmas for breakfast and games. It was not great. I realized we hadn’t spent significant time with them for almost a year, and that’s a really long time when you don’t have much history together. I want to know them better and get past the awkward smile-a-lot-because-that’s-all-we-can-really-do, but we have so little time in which to do that.

I think that’s what most of this list boils down to: time. I don’t have more than 168 hours/week and never will. I used to be manage our 6 schedules and plan them to our best advantage, so that swim team for 3 kids happened at the same time as a swim lesson for child #4, during which I could take a run. Then we’d have three hours to play outside, or take a hike, or volunteer every week at an ESL class.

Now, child #1 is on campus from 8-2, child #2 has a music lesson from 2-3, child #3 is in dance class from 4-5:30, and child #4 wants to be home all afternoon so she can play with her friends. I can’t streamline it, but I still have to be the driver, which means that my time is chopped up into all sorts of little sections that are too small for what I want time for.



Last January, Sam and I went away to Mexico for five days. It was stunningly beautiful, and we were so grateful for the friends who stayed with our kids to make this happen. We wanted to minimize decision fatigue, so we went to an all-inclusive resort, thinking it would be delightful to be able to eat any time we want and spend the rest of our time on the beach. We learned really quickly that we were not resort people. I felt like I was trapped on a cruise with a bunch of drunk strangers, and the only people I really wanted to talk to (other than Sam) were the restaurant and housekeeping staff, who were lovely. (The whales were also lovely, but harder to talk to.) In the future, we will skip the resort, even if it means we have to cook for ourselves.


We did manage to get away for a weekend in October (thanks, Mom and Dad!), which did work for me, and as time with our oldest (and money for vacations) will soon be very limited, I think we will have to plan more short road trip-type getaways.

Your turn: what didn’t work for you in 2017?


A Little Late: What worked for me in 2017

This was the year– wait, last year was the year— of late birthday presents (here’s looking at you, Phoebe!) and missed deadlines and leftovers gone bad in the fridge. So it only makes sense that I’m getting around to my reflections on what worked for me in 2017. (Tomorrow… if all goes as planned… I’ll post what didn’t work for me in 2017.)

Reading: this year I discovered the secret for my enjoyment of audiobooks. 1.5x speed. The narration all felt too slow to me when I listened to them on 1x, and on 2x the readers all sound like junior high boys. 1.5x speed is just right.

My reading chair. Not necessary for audiobooks.

Writing: This year, instead of focusing on outcomes (x number of pages or words written each day), I set time goals for myself.  Sometimes it’s just not flowing, but I can still manage to sit in my chair for 20 minutes most days.  The upshot was two finished manuscripts.  Also, meeting with my critique partner regularly keeps me motivated and hold me accountable to my goals.


I wish this were my every day writing space! I could spend a lot more than 20 minutes there.

Food: My goal for the year was for us to eat more vegetables on a daily basis. I started trying to add a second vegetable to our evening meal (e.g., salad and roasted cauliflower). For the most part it worked. Our summer CSA share makes a huge difference for 18 weeks of the year. We all love eating up what our farmers send us.

Also, I was trying to promote more kitchen autonomy for the kids (which does not promote more eating of vegetables, alas). It worked, and the only person who almost amputated her fingertip was me. Ahem.

Prayer: For the first half of the year, the app Pray As You Go was a huge help to the regularity of my prayer. I’m not sure when I stopped using it daily, but I did. From that point on, my prayers were mostly, “Jesus, help!” (He did.)

Phoebe chose to be confirmed, and I had the privilege of co-teaching her confirmation class. We taught them the Nicene Creed week by week, and the process of working through it to teach was a huge encouragement to me.

Financial: The January Money Diet helped us put a little bit in savings, and some new habits grew it a little more. I also worked my way through Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin’s Your Money or Your Life, which was really helpful.

Running: At the beginning of 2017, I was clawing my way back from an injury. I basically had to rework my entire gait from the ground up. The emphasis I had to put on yoga and my PT exercises has made me stronger, and I definitely appreciate each run much more.

Scenes from an October run.

Hair:  I know this is frivolous, but I used to be the girl who used Lubriderm’s Every Day Moisture with SPF 15 (yes, lotion) as her styling product. I finally have two hair products that work for me. (Ouidad Whipped Curls and Ouidad Botanical Boost.) Also, I found a stylist who hasn’t once suggested I color my hair. I’m sold.

Coming next: What didn’t work for me in 2017.

From the archives: What worked for me in 2016.

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 (or not) in 2015?

It’s the end of the year, folks. Naturally my thoughts run toward self-examination.   What worked in 2015? What didn’t?

What didn’t work:

  1. Working in the hospital. Too many computer modules required (in both clinic and hospital- same material, twice) to maintain my privileges.  I spent all the time I allotted for learning more medicine doing required computer classes on what to do in case of fire or a bomb threat. I gave it up and will practice medicine only in the clinic. This is a loss but I think it’s time.
  2. Mummifying the chicken. It worked once when we did it in 2005, but it didn’t work in 2010 or in 2015, either. (After a week, my whole kitchen began to smell like rotting flesh.) It symbolized to me the need to let go of my second grade experience with Jonah and be in the school we’re in now with Phoebe.
  3. Not enough unstructured time outdoors. This is a symptom of the big kids’ lethargy. I’ve raised a bunch of homebodies.  How to fix this? Not sure.
  4. We live in a country where a grand jury says it’s okay to shoot a child with a toy gun because he didn’t look like a twelve year old. I have a twelve year old. He’s big. It’s not his fault. His body is big, but he’s still a child. I don’t want to live in a country where it’s okay to shoot big children because they don’t look like children.  (Or, like the shooter in Sandy Hook, because they’re small.)  I don’t know what to do with that. I’m still listening and waiting, but I am at a loss for how I can change it.
  5. My exercise time. Last year, working out while the kids all swam in the afternoon, was great. This year one swam, one danced, and the other two expected me to entertain them (or pay them to entertain each other) while I drove from pool to dance studio and back. Fail. Also: all running with no strength training breaks me down. My brain doesn’t get any groovy feelings from doing my PT, but it’s necessary in order to keep running.

What worked?


  1. Something is better than nothing. Small steps toward small goals. Small pleasures. They add up.
  2. The January Money Diet. A month with no unnecessary spending reset our ideas of wants v. needs after the indulgence of the holidays and gave us a head start on our financial goals for the year.
  3. Being bold and releasing my book. Now that I’ve stopped rewriting that story, I can work on the next one. Which begs the question: what figurative story am I still rewriting in my head instead of moving onto the new one?
  4. Persistence and embracing the awkward silence. I want to be a person who knows people who are different from me. But that means that when we get together, we are different. I have to listen.
  5. We have a really wonderful community here who showered us with love when Sam was sick and recovering. What a blessing.
  6. Taking more time alone/apart. I went away for a weekend with 3 girlfriends last January and came back encouraged and recharged. I backed off during the summer. In October, I spent my birthday weekend alone. Both my jobs (at home and at the clinic) require me to talk and listen and analyze and explain. I need more silence. I need less doing and more being.

What about you? What worked in 2015? What didn’t?

2013 Retrospective


  • Get comfortable working at the (new to me) hospital (check)
  • Run (still trying to eke out those last 3 miles to complete 1000 since I started back in 2011)
  • Write
  • Spend more time at my parents’ house (check)


Things I learned:

  • commuting sucks the life out of you
  • there are not enough hours in the day
  • I like being in control (maybe I knew this before, but…)
  • that I have fallen out of the habit of reading books.  Is this from lack of time? Or general malaise? Is it a result of reading bit articles online? Or because I can’t litter the house with my dog-eared books to have one to pick up whenever I have a chance to sit for five minutes? (I am hoping the latter.)  Most of the books I read this year were fiction repeats, or new-to-me parenting books.  I needed the familiar fiction to dig me out of the hole the parenting books threw me into
  • children should not have iphones


Things the children learned:

  • Jonah: how to take the bus and that he really prefers reading to all other activities
  • Owen: confidence in riding his bike more than just around the block, and that he needs an organized exercise activity (think: sport) to get him to exercise
  • Moriah: how to knit, and how having a quiet activity for her hands helps her mind focus
  • SweetP: that she really wants to read. And that keeping her room clean is hard.


New Years

What is it about taking down the Christmas decorations that turns my mind to fresh and new?  I guess it is a changing of seasons of sorts.  This year Sam did it without me (bless him!) and all I had to do was find the well-hidden Christmas tree drop-off.  Which I couldn’t do at first, so J and I left the tree tied on top of the car while we went to lunch.  Alas, no one helped themselves to our tree while we were eating.


After we found the tree drop-off and managed to get the huge thing off the car, we saw a bald eagle on a telephone pole.  Actually, we had seen him ten minutes earlier (or maybe we saw two different bald eagles?) but I was going 45 and couldn’t really stop to admire him.  J didn’t even see the first one.  But the second one?  He seemed like a sign.  So we stopped and looked until J saw him.  Really saw him.


Anyway, my neighbor cleared out her basement, and my friend Renee cleared out her budget, and I am left wondering what I’m supposed to be clearing out to make room for the new.


And then in prayer the answer comes: discontent. Covetousness.  An old word that simply means not being satisfied with the riches already lavished on me.  Not sure what that’s going to look like this year (or if I even want to embrace the call.)  Sometimes I’m so full of wanting more that there’s no room to enjoy what I have today.  So maybe I need to go with that for 2013.

Are you clearing out the old to make room for the new?

Halfway through 2012… How Am I Doing?

My mapmyrun log tallied my miles (199) for the year, and I realized 2012 it was halfway done.  What had I planned?  Running 400 miles in 2012— so I’m on track.

Then I wondered what else I had planned for this year.  And where am I?

Well, I’m on track to go overseas and use my skills there… though it’s kinda funny that when I wrote my resolution, I hadn’t even learned the skills I’ll be teaching in Thailand.  God’s good.

Being outside more?  We’ve had a lot of meals on the porch.  We’ve camped once and hiked a few times, though the smoke these past few weeks (and the front-range fires) have made that hard.
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Eat more dinners on china at home… I don’t know if it’s more that last year, but we do.

Get comfortable working at the new hospital… that’s stuck in paperwork la-la land.  So no progress there.

Memorize scripture… not so much.  Time to get on that one.
Writing?  Lots.

Learning and laughing every day?  Check.

Have you checked in with your new year’s resolutions?  Have you made new ones?