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On Resolutions and Goals for 2016

January 7, 2016

I’m not big on resolutions (or “revolutions,” as Sophie thought they were called). If I want to do something, I’m the type that decides and simply does it. That being said, the thought of a clean slate to begin anew pleases me. And often times, a new year can bring about that feeling.

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I wrote the other day that 2015 was a year of newness, adventure and non-stop. It was certainly a good year and I’m not complaining. But the pace (especially the last quarter of the year) was a bit rough on me. I work very hard and constantly push myself. I say “yes” more than I should say “no.” This is especially true when it comes to work projects since money is definitely a motivator for me.

While these can certainly be commendable characteristics (especially for an entrepreneur who makes a living solely on her own work), when the tendencies are coupled with my introvert nature, it very quickly takes a mental and physical toll on me. That means when I’m not working, I feel exhausted and deflated. I try to make up for Monday through Friday’s insanity and crappy sleep by crashing on the weekends. But we all know that two nights will never make up for five!

I so often find myself thinking, “If I can just get through tomorrow, this week, etc., then I can rest tomorrow.” But here’s the thing: Tomorrow never comes. Not the way I mean it here. There’s never a perfect day without work, chaos, emotions and the like.

I don’t believe in a sacred idea of balance. But I’m tired of uttering this phrase. I realize I can change this situation by taking care of today. That means thinking hard about what I commit to, and finding ways to allow myself to rejuvenate.

balboa park

When I write my year-end closing post this December, I’d like to write about feeling calmer and with more inner peace. So with that in mind, here are a few of my personal goals and resolutions for 2016.

  • Before saying “yes” to anything (a work project, social event, Sophie commitment, etc.), take a few minutes to answer the question: Will this make me feel calm? Will I just want to cancel this plan when the day comes?
  • Commit to writing my novel. — Do this by writing daily, taking classes, embracing my characters and giving them a voice.
  • Practice daily personal writing. — This means writing on this blog with more regularity, scripting more personal essays, and journaling with Sophie (a new project we started). Getting things out of my head and onto the paper/screen will help decrease my stress level.
  • Engage in regular yoga, stretching and physical activity that brings mental clarity. — I HATE the new year recommitting to exercise and dieting — this is NOT that type of goal. My thought here has to do with engaging my body in ways that will help me physically feel less stress. I want to continue regularly walking my dogs by myself in the evening. Doing this last year gave me so much solitude, fresh air, exercise and time to reflect. I felt so refreshed! I want more of that feeling in my life.
  • Take more Friday “vacation” days. — As I wrote earlier, I push myself very hard, and weekends are not always restful for an introvert with a kid (especially a very extroverted one). I want to take a few Fridays each month as solitude days for myself to recharge. By the way, I dislike using the word “vacation” in this sense because it implies it’s a luxury; it’s really self-care.
  • Get my photos in order. — I haven’t quite recovered from losing my entire collection last year. Believe it or not, my photo library is something that I need to have in order to feel calm, especially since I use the images so much personally and in my work. I need to go through my computers, online accounts and social media profiles and save all the photos to a cloud system like Flickr and then organize them by date (as well as an external drive). I also want to order new prints to replace old photos in frames hanging on our walls. This may seem trivial, but those outer images contribute to my inner calm.

Doing these things will (hopefully) provide a sense of calm, and allow me to mentally focus on my work and aspects of life that really matter to me. Here’s to 2016!

What are your goals for 2016? How do you help yourself feel calm and peace in life?

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Monday Musings ~ January 4, 2016

January 4, 2016

Happy New Year! Here are a few thoughts as we start 2016.

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1. How was your holidays and new year? Ours was fairly low-key and I stayed off the grid quite a bit. I expected to ring in 2016 with energy and enthusiasm. I have enthusiasm, but it’s tempered by the fact that I’m down with a lovely cold and am exhausted (despite sleeping in the entire break). So while everyone was posting pictures on Facebook of their new year’s weekend hikes, you should know that I was doing the complete opposite. Not that I’m complaining, as I do appreciate the health I have. And let’s face it, I’m not one to hike even when I’m feeling great. (Dog walking, yes … hike, not really.)

2. Have you seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet? We saw it and loved it! I’m fascinated by the new characters, enjoyed the presence of the classic characters, was happy with the focus on storytelling rather than battles, and how much it reminded me of the original movie. As someone who works in marketing, I’ve been fascinated how Star Wars is an entirely difference “force” with the Disney marketing and merchandise power behind it.

3. Really interesting article on the $500 million battle between Hasbro and Mattel for the Disney princess franchise. Yes, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are worth THAT much!

4. Have you been watching Marking a Murder on Netflix? It’s fascinating, sad and disturbing all at the same time. Bryan and I watched it with our mouths open the entire ten hours. When it’s done, you’ll find yourself sucked into the online vortex of theories and behind the scenes articles about the documentary.

5. Speaking of television, I could write an entire blog post on the Homeland finale — or more specifically — how much of a disappointment it was. Without actually writing said post, I will say that it left me so mad for so many reasons, especially because the season was SO GOOD up until that episode. I also felt the ambiguity of the ending (which was done purposefully by the production team, by the way) was cheap. What did you think? Am I overreacting?

6. This map of an introvert’s heart — sums me up nicely!

7. I just realized this Monday Musings was quite a bit of television and movie fodder. Perhaps because that’s been my life the last two weeks.

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re musing about this week!

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Looking Back at 2015

December 31, 2015

If I had to pick three words to describe 2015, they would be these: new, adventure and non-stop. We began 2015 by introducing Cody to our family. It’s strange to think he’s only been with us for a year because he’s such an integrated part of our family now. When he came to us he was energetic, yet shy and fearful. One year later, it’s like he never belonged anywhere else. He is so confident, loving and happy. I am also thankful Casey and Tess are still with us and are happy members of the family as well.

We were fortunate to travel to different places and have a few weekend getaways. Work kept me very busy, which is a good thing when you’re self-employed! Sophie became a “kid,” complete with learning how to read and write with ease. She has opinions and is certainly her own person. I read many books, binge-watched a lot of television and accomplished a few writing goals. We have a good life, and I’m grateful for it everyday.

One of the reasons I love making these photo collages (below) is it gives me a chance to reflect on all the memories during the year and seeing how much joy and love exists. Of course there are always challenging, depressing and tough times; this is real life and mine is certainly not immune to those aspects. But what keeps me sane is trying to focus on the positive and reflecting on the happy times. 2015 collage 72015 collage 52015 Collage 42015 collage 62015 collage 12015 Collage 32015 Collage 2Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being a part in my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2016!

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Making Sense of the World and How I Can Have an Impact

December 16, 2015

The world feels like it’s in utter chaos lately. Paris, shootings, Beirut, bomb threats, dictators, ISIS, refugee crises, and presidential politics … I find myself going through each day feeling helpless and confused. These are not feelings I passionately share on Facebook, nor have I written about them here on my blog. But the truth is, in my 40 years of life — even after September 11 — this is the most powerless I’ve ever felt. The world is vast and these problems seem unsolvable.

For quite some time now, my mind has been plagued with one question: How can I — one insignificant individual — have an impact on what’s happening in the world?

peace on earth

I did some soul searching and reading, and came up with a few ways I can personally make a difference. This not a political post or a debate starter, and I’m not trying to convince you how or what to believe. This is my way of figuring out how I can do something (anything) to stay sane in such an insane time.

I can be informed and understand what’s happening. How many of us really understand ISIS and everything that’s happening in the world? In a bout of feeling completely helpless, I did some research to help me understand the foundation for this conflict and global terrorism. After reading this incredibly helpful article and others like it, I had a new-found awareness of what’s happening and the knowledge to talk about it more openly. Having a greater understanding helped me feel so much more empowered.

I can have compassion and focus on humanity. As I said above, I’m not here to preach about letting refugees into the country and I don’t seek to change your opinion on the subject. But I do think making an effort to connect and be present in humanity is important in order to turn the focus from evil to good. I was beyond moved by this powerful article by Mandy Patinkin as he describes his experience visiting Syrian refuges in Europe. This particular passage hit me hard:

“I saw death behind me and life in front of me.” My family might have spoken the same words in Yiddish or Russian or Polish as they made their perilous journeys away from their homes. As I listened to the stories of these new generations of refugee families and thought of past generations of my own, the fear-mongering news cycles faded away, and I saw clearly that we cannot fight fear and hatred with more fear and hatred. We must not allow the horrific actions of madmen to cut us off from our humanity.

I can choose to remove hate from my daily encounters. I had a powerful realization the other day that I have control over some of the messages of hate I see around me. It started when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw an extremely offensive photo comparing Obama to Hitler. I really don’t care if someone likes Obama or Trump or Clinton (or anyone else for that matter). But engaging in that kind of language does nothing but promote blame and fear. I unfollowed that person because eliminating hate from my life is one small thing I can do to have an impact.

I can raise my daughter with intention and in a community that’s reflective of the world. Sophie attends a public school where Caucasian students are in the minority. For her, cultural differences are the norm. Diversity is not a buzz word in her life; it’s a way of life.

I can use the skills I have as a writer. I have a platform, and the ability to skillfully use words to share my thoughts, ideas, frustrations and joy. If these words can reach one person and make a difference in just one life, perhaps I’m doing some good in this world.

I don’t know what the next few months, years or decades will bring. I imagine it will get worse before it gets better. I worry every day about the world Sophie is inheriting.

These are small things I write about today. And to be completely honest, I have no idea if any of this will do any good. But I can only hope the small and thoughtful will make a difference in the larger collective. At least that’s what I tell myself and hope for … because what else can I do?

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Monday Musings ~ December 7

December 7, 2015

Ready to muse? Here are a few thoughts for today.

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1. How many of you know it’s Pearl Harbor Day? It’s important to remember these important dates in history, especially in light of everything going on in the world today.

2. Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. We had potato latkes and lit the menorah. Sophie played dreidel and we gave her a few presents. We are not huge gift-givers around the holidays. I tend to give Sophie a few things at Hanukkah, such as a board game and something she’s asked for.She gets other “fun” things from Santa (you can read here why we decided to embrace Santa Claus). I’m not sure she was thrilled with her board game this year; although she was happy to receive Bob the Minion. It’s a balancing act giving Sophie nice gifts and the things she asks for (aka junk that she won’t really use). We don’t have an unlimited budget; so I prefer to spend money on experiences, and buy her the things she needs during the year. I would love to know how you handle holiday gift-giving with kids!

3. We decorated for Hanukkah and Christmas this weekend, and my holiday music playlists are on heavy rotation. If you’re wondering why this Jewish girl loves the holiday season, you can read about it here. My opinion (read: fear) of the Elf on the Shelf, however, has not changed over the years.

4. Speaking of the holiday season, I enjoyed this quick read from “Simple as That” about ways to simplify Christmas. I tend to be very ambitious and want to do so much. This year I vowed to only do things that I really want to do and say “no” more often. I love what she said about focusing on why we do things. I’m trying to incorporate that into all my actions this season. First action item: paring down the holiday card list.

5. Great list of book on this article: “21 Books From the Last 5 Years Every Woman Should Read.” I added many of the books to my “to read” list.

6. I found myself nodding in agreement while reading this article about not limiting screen time for kids. On that note, one cool thing Sophie started doing completely on her own is putting the closed-caption on every time she watches a show. She told me she likes to see the words as she hears them. I thought it was a cool way to encourage reading and word recognition with television, which benefits both auditory and visual learners.

7. Fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times about the prevalence of young women living with their parents like it’s the 1940s. As a GenXer, I can’t understand it at all. But then again, I’ve seen a lot of people in these situations. So who knows!

8. Finally, last night’s episode of Homeland! It took me hours to get my heart rate down!

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re musing about this week!

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