What worked (or not,) 2022 version

The medical system and our health insurance: we gave our medical system (and health insurance) a work-out in 2022, with my mother-in-law’s multiple hospitalizations, our son’s ankle fracture and ankle reconstruction, my multiple knee injections, Sam’s PE, my dad’s heart attack and my mom’s two hospitalizations. We used to be the people who paid in and never used our insurance… no more! Nonetheless, we are hoping for a much healthier 2023.

most of our family at Judy’s 80th birthday in March: this worked!

Counseling: we continue to work with multiple therapists who by God’s grace have been a good fit for our family. I am grateful for their care for us and our willingness to let others in. Unfortunately, our health insurance does not have adequate mental health coverage, and we pay a second mortgage in therapy. We are incredibly blessed to be able to do this, and it’s totally worth it.

Finishing homeschooling. We ended on a good note, graduating Mo from high school and finishing middle school with Phoebe and transitioning her successfully to our local high school. It was never all roses and pony math, but we had a good run, and I’m grateful for it.

Exercise: despite my knee problems, I managed to stay active, with more strength training than previously. I rode my bike to work consistently through the spring and summer. It wasn’t ideal (I would love to be running,) but it worked.

walking the Mac n Cheese 5K with friends

Writing: I published the third book in my medical suspense series this October. The book was a challenge to write and grew me in ways I hadn’t expected, but I am proud of it and the work that went into it. I’m still finding my way with my newest book in progress, but I continue to enjoy writing. Thanks to you who have supported my writing with your reading!

writing in the middle of the day, in the kitchen! (note the zinnias)

The garden: I didn’t have a huge yield, but what did grow made me really happy, especially the herbs. Also, my neighbor introduced me to a local food coop we used instead of our CSA share, and between that and the farmer’s markets, we enjoyed a ton of local food. Also, I had enough zinnias to have a bouquet in the kitchen continuously from August to October.

Dilly beans from August

My work: I started tracking my hours spent working at my job. Doing so allowed me to see how many hours I was really spending on it, which allowed me to see when enough was, in fact, enough. I had the opportunity to mentor a few of our newer providers, which I love doing, and took on a medical student this fall. (We haven’t been able to have medical students in the clinic since spring 2020.)

Youth group: our church has a small but lovely group of teens who meet with me regularly for youth group. As we regathered post-Covid (mid-Covid?) one of them asked to do a regular Bible study, which I had been reluctant to suggest. (Why? I’m not sure.) We started with Mark 1 in the early spring and are nearing the end. Our priest gave me an amazing commentary to guide my study, and it has been fascinating and challenging for me and the kids. They have great questions and observations, and meeting with them Sunday morning is a highlight of my week.

at The Bookworm in Edwards, one of our favorite bookstores

Reading: I had more time to read this year and made the most of it, finishing 104 books in 2022 and abandoning more than a few. I supported indie bookstores, discovered new-to-me authors who had long backlists to enjoy, made the most of the Denver Library’s incredibly accessible online system, read in multiple formats, didn’t beat myself up for rereading favorites, kept multiple books going at the same time and didn’t feel any pressure to finish anything I wasn’t enjoying. It was great.

The short trip: we used to be people who saved up our vacation days and went away for as long as we possibly could, but this has become very difficult with of multiple different school schedules, the challenges of Covid-19, and the cost of putting kids through college. We have become fans of the short trip and managed to get some of us to Chicago, Vail, Wheaton, Columbus, Guatemala City, Champaign, and Estes Park.

one perfect day in Rocky Mountain National Park

All right, friends, that’s a wrap! I wish you the joys of savoring the good in your year and looking ahead with hope.

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 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.