The Power of Three and New Year’s Resolutions

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I used to make long to-do lists – 10 items at least. I would get so frustrated because I could never get them all done. Usually, I only crossed off a few of them. I felt like a failure. I mean, I’m home ALL day – I should be able to get more done. Since then, I learned that I wasn’t a failure. My list was just too long. Ten is not the magic number. Three is.

Three is manageable. Three pushes me a little, but not so much that I give up. Three helps me focus better and accomplish the most important things.

So, with that introduction, I’ve chosen three broad goals for 2014.

  1. Health
  2. Home
  3. Happiness

Why these three?

  1. Well, for the past 10 years, I guess, I’ve wrestled with fibromyalgia. Add to this a love of (addiction to) sugar and a recent switch from stay-at-home mom to sedentary accountant. What do you get? Fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and an extra 30 lbs.
  2. I have my dream home – a little, 1916 farmhouse with nary a picture on the wall and little space for accumulating things. I’ve also noticed that when I’m organized at home, everyone’s day runs more smoothly.
  3. The first two goals started with ‘H’ and really, who couldn’t use more happiness?

I’m planning on sharing what works for me as I work on these goals during the year. I’d love to read your great ideas, too, so feel free to share.

Happy New Year!

-Jennifer

 

 

 

Balancing Work, Family and Guilt

I’m feeling guilty again. Is it just one of the plagues of motherhood? Guilt for working full time while my kids are home all summer. Never mind that they sleep until noon. Guilt for not working part-time instead of full-time. Guilt for enjoying my time at work.  Guilt for vegging in front of the TV or computer when I get home from work instead of making dinner with them.  Guilt for not seeing my kids as much as I’d like because they’re teenagers and would rather hang out with their friends than their nerdy mother.

(Speaking of which, my 16 year old son just blew in, introduced a new friend, rattled off his plans, grabbed two frozen pizzas and a bag of Cheetos, and raced upstairs to grab who-knows-what.  I won’t see him again until midnight so I purposely stood at the bottom of the stairs so he HAD to hug and kiss me before he left.)

I know that guilt DOES have a purpose. When my oldest daughter was in high school, she used to accuse me of making her feel guilty. I reminded her that sometimes we feel guilty BECAUSE we’ve done something wrong. As a mom, though, it can be hard to distinguish between guilt that is for a purpose and guilt so we can beat ourselves up for not being the perfect person we’ve concocted in our minds. Sometimes I announce that maybe I should quit my job. The kids just look at me like I’m crazy. So that means I’m just going to have to use the guilt to help me find balance. Meal planning or Pinterest? Dinner or TV? Taking necessary time to relax or fiddling away the entire evening after work? Doing dishes with my kids so we can chat or watching more TV?

I think I have my answer. I can’t do it all, but I can certainly pick what’s most important to me and my family and concentrate on that. I feel better already.

 

 

Date Night

During our 25 years of marriage, my husband and I have tried to have a weekly date night. We don’t go out every week, but we do what we can. When the kids were little, it was especially tough. We aren’t good at planning dates in advance, so it was usually Friday night when we were desperately trying to find a babysitter. Any parent knows your chances are slim to none at that late date.

When my husband became a police officer, we had to start being more flexible to keep up date night. His days off have changed periodically over the past 15 years. Sometimes he worked in the evening and date night turned into date day while the kids were in school. When he worked weekends, we discovered the magic of Tuesday nights. A small popcorn was only $2.oo on that night at the uncrowded movie theatre, and there was never a wait at a restaurant.

Three years ago, I started working outside the home. Since my husband works Friday and Saturday while I work a regular work week our schedules have become even more of a challenge. I’m raring to go out on the weekend while he sits in a tired stupor on the couch. I have a hard time transitioning from ‘work to play’ mode during my work week. But we don’t give up.

We’ve had lunch dates on his day off where he picks me up from work and we try out restaurants in the area or take an hour to peruse an antique store. Sometimes we get to the weekend and discover that both kids still at home have made plans to sleep over at their friends houses, so we have the place to ourselves. That’s always fun!

Last weekend I realized that we hadn’t been out for a few weeks. I put my foot down and insisted we go to a movie. We drove to the theatre with plenty of time available to grab a quick chicken sandwich from the nearby fast food joint since I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. My husband paid. When we got to the theatre, I selected Olympus Has Fallen. After telling us the cost of our movie, the young man at the ticket counter had to wait while my husband and I stared at each other – each expecting the other person to whip out a debit card.

Me: Aren’t you going to pay?

Him: But you asked me out.

Me: Yes, but if I didn’t ask you out, you’d never take me.

Him: ‘sigh of resignation’

Now that we’ve solved that little problem, I look back at the theatre employee while my husband digs in his wallet. The young man is smiling as he watches our little display. At least he’s not looking at my husband with pity.

My husband and I love going to the movies and always chat after. We both agreed how stupid it was, and pointed out the especially unbelievable parts with derision and feeling. I ended the discussion with, “That movie was so bad. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money on it!” And then I cackled with laughter for a long time while he just shook his head.

I think this means that I’m paying for the next date.

 

 

 

Fitting In Exercise

Even though my last job was a bust, some good did come of it – I think I lost a couple of pounds. I never weighed myself so I can’t be sure, but my clothes seemed a touch looser. The first question I asked myself was, “How?” I didn’t start exercising or anything. I can hardly believe that a couple of tiny changes in my daily routine could make a difference, but it’s the only possible answer. So here’s what changed:

1.  I had to walk from the parking garage a few blocks to the office, then I walked a couple of blocks to get lunch, then there was the walk back to the parking garage.

2.  The office kitchen was down the hall from my desk so it was a purposeful trip to go look for goodies.

3.  I didn’t snack at my desk as often as I used to because the other employees didn’t either. I didn’t want to look like the snarfing, eating machine that I really am.

But here’s the rub. I’m back at my old job where I walk 15 paces from the parking lot to the front door; my office is right next to the kitchen and treat cupboard; and my very thin coworker always keep candy on her desk that she never eats, but it calls to me no matter where I am in the building. (It’s a small building.)

So what’s a sedentary accountant to do?

Today I tried to recreate the old job routine: little walks in the morning, noon, and after work. I got the morning walk and noon walk in today. I’ll keep working on the evening walk.

Morning Walk

I wanted something quick and easy, but during Christmas break, I lent my athletic shoes to my college-age daughter to wear while she worked at the butcher shop. Now I just call them the “meat shoes”. I refuse to wear shoes with meat drippings on them so that wasn’t an option. I considered strapping on my velcro walking sandals to use with the treadmill in the garage, but it was folded up and a pile of bicycles was in the way. (Plus I thought the sound might freak out the new baby chicks.) Can you believe that I haven’t given up by now? Next best thing was just some muddy boots and a sweatshirt of my son’s I found on a box. I even took a picture for you.

DSCN1599        DSCN1602

(By the way, it’s rather difficult to take a full body picture of yourself when the camera can only get an arms-length away. And yes, I’ve been married so long that my idea of sexy is cutoff pink pj’s and a green, checked flannel shirt.)

I took some pictures of our property while I roamed around, too.

DSCN1623       DSCN1624

The picture to the left is looking at our neighbor’s barn. The picture on the right is looking at the back of our barn and house. The goats are keeping the grass down nicely which is good because our riding lawn mower is a piece of junk.

DSCN1610

What a muddy horse!

DSCN1616

This is Miss Bianca.

DSCN1607

Mia definitely has her eye on something, but I don’t know what it is.

Hope everyone’s morning was as nice as mine!

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping It Real

I’m going to blog about my day today so you can see why I chose ‘Keepin’ It Real’ as my blog tagline.

At work, I sat at my desk reconciling bank statements and making journal entries while plugged into You Tube so I could listen to Fun. You know. The music group. My daughter introduced me. I jammed out silently to ‘Carry On’ and ‘Some Nights’.

I carried the good mood all the way home where I was met by my son and….a chicken. It took me awhile to notice there was a chicken wrapped in towels resting quietly on the kitchen floor. Not what I expected. My daughter informed me that her leg is hurt. I don’t know what the blankets are going to do, but she’s now relaxing in the cat carrier.

DSCN1583

 

DSCN1584

My son decided to take a stand and refuse to go his church activity. He’s pretty strong, but I was able to inch his chair away from the computer where my husband took over. Since my husband was heading to the church anyway, he stuck out his lower lip and made a sad face that his ‘buddy’ wouldn’t be going with him. Guilt won out. I proceeded to yell for my youngest to get ready, too. She informed us that she was going to starve to death since a hotdog is not enough of a dinner. I suggested my husband just throw her over his shoulder since she’s tiny. She kept her dignity and walked out the front door with the guys.

I’m blogging, listening to more music, and alternately dancing and eating chocolate chip cookies for dinner. ‘Cause I can. ‘Cause I’m just so darn happy to be happy again!

Hope all my blogging friends are having a good day too.

-Jennifer

Life Is Too Short to Be Unhappy

Quick recap of the last 3 months: Start new job, keep telling myself it will get better,  get super stressed out and depressed, quit new job, go back to old job, discover happiness again.

Ok, that was the Reader’s Digest version, but thankfully it leaves out all the gory details. (Well, maybe not gory. I’m an accountant after all, not a cop like my husband.) So what did I learn? Sometimes it takes getting what I want to realize that I don’t really want it. I didn’t know until this experience that I value happiness over almost everything else.

My family learned that what they want is a happy mom and wife. It’s been two weeks since I went back to my old job. (Can I say how thankful I am that my position hadn’t been filled?) A couple of days ago after talking about my day, my son asked, “Are you happy now, Mom?” When I gave him a big, genuine YES, he replied, “I’m glad.”

 

I’m Not Forgetful, I’m Excercising

This is what I tell myself after my third trip upstairs. It goes kind of like this:

Sleep in for an hour after the alarm rings. (Why do I keep setting the alarm for 5:45 a.m.? I never get up.)

Shower, dress, makeup.

Carefully make my way down the stairs. (The steps at the top of the stairs are deceptively narrow. I wonder if they are original to the house – before building codes required the crazy rule of each step being identical and deep enough for your foot.)

Eat a quick bowl of Rice Chex then run back up the U-shaped stairway to brush my teeth.

Walk down the stairs, sliding right hand down the handrail.

Realize I need socks to wear with my boots.

Run back up the stairs.

Grab thick, white socks from my son’s room. Head downstairs again.

Look for my scarf.

Run back up the stairs.

Grab flowered scarf and take a moment to reminisce that it’s the same scarf I wore during my interview for my last job. Run down the stairs. Who has time for the handrail at this point.

Congratulate myself for exercising and drive to work instead of taking the lightrail so I won’t be late.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Rolls

My second favorite Thanksgiving food, after my mom’s dressing, is rolls. Usually, I buy Rhodes frozen dinner rolls, let them thaw and rise, pop them into the oven and feel very impressed by my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast. (Well, one year I purchased premade rolls from the grocery store along with a premade pie and brought it to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving. Let’s just say that my offering did not pass muster. I redeemed myself the next year with a tray of Rhodes rolls fresh from the oven.)

Last year I decided to make homemade rolls. I searched for a recipe on Thanksgiving morning and gave it a whirl. I don’t remember what happened, maybe I burned them or they didn’t rise, but I had to make new ones that were finished right before everyone sat down to eat. SAVE!!

This year, my 13 year old daughter offered to make rolls on Wednesday. She followed her mother’s example, searched for a recipe online and proceeded. When I got home from work, there were rolls in all phases around the kitchen. Some baked, some rising into monstrous size, and large blob of dough in the refrigerator bursting from its plastic wrap and beginning to make it’s way down the edge of the shelf. A sad and tired girl had been convinced by her older brother (who has NEVER made bread of any kind) that she needed to double the recipe. The rolls didn’t taste great and she was pooped. I gave her a big hug, ate five rolls and told her we’d start again on Thanksgiving morning.

The recipe I found the next day was absolutely delicious and very easy. The link from allrecipes.com is here. The directions are for a bread maker so here’s my adaptation using my KitchenAid mixer.

Sweet Dinner Rolls

2 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast (or 1 package)

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm milk

1 egg, beaten slightly

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tsp salt

3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, softened

Microwave the water and milk for 45 seconds to one minute. (I make it feel like a really warm bath. Not so hot that you can’t keep your fingers in it.) Add the yeast  and about a teaspoon of the sugar. (I measured the sugar and just took a big pinch out.) Let it rise for 10 to 15 minutes until it’s foamy. If it doesn’t foam, start over.

Place the water/milk/yeast mixture, egg, butter, remaining sugar, and salt into your mixing bowl. Mix briefly then add flour 1/2 cup at a time. (When I measure flour, I always fluff it in the bag or container first then scoop it into the measuring cup. This way it doesn’t get too packed down.) The dough is sticky so add just enough flour so you can handle it. Add a little flour to the counter top and knead a few times. The dough is wonderfully soft.

Grease a bowl with oil and roll your dough in it then cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double. Divide dough in half and roll out on lightly floured surface. Roll each half into a 12-inch circle, spread with softened butter and cut each circle into 8 wedges. Start at the widest part of each wedge and roll gently.

Place point side down onto cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam. Curve each roll a bit so it gets a crescent shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pat yourself on the back for being so darn amazing and talented then eat rolls to your heart’s content.

The Grass Is Always Greener

I know when I’m working more than I want because I start daydreaming about being a stay-at-home mom again. I spend  more and more time perusing cute blogs with pictures of domestic bliss. You know, beautifully decorated and CLEAN rooms where happy children are enjoying one on one time with Mom as they create craft projects or bake together. I imagine having dinner prepared every night at just the right time so we can all eat together before running off to activities. There would be warm cookies from the oven when the kids get home. The birds would sing and the sun would always shine. Oh, sorry, I really got carried away. You get the picture, I think.

Then I remember why I went back to school and got a job. I remember how exciting it is to learn new things. I look back at how much confidence and independence I’ve gained. I’m happy that I’ve been able to help realize dreams for myself and family such as buying our little farm house with land for my husband, helping one daughter pay for college and another get her very own horse.

So I guess this post is saying the way to avoid ‘the greener grass syndrome’ is gratitude. Tonight in my prayers I will thank Heavenly Father for guiding me to a job where I can get my CPA license without working the demanding hours that public accounting would have required. I will thank Him that I have family close by that pitches in and helps me juggle career and home. I will thank Him for a husband who takes on new responsibilities like grocery shopping, making appointments, driving kids to orthodontic appointments, and even making dinner on occasion. (Those chicken enchiladas were delicious, honey!)

My heart feels lighter already!

 

 

The Old, The New and Public Transportation

I like variety, but change…not so much. The past two weeks have been all about change. I decided the time had come to work on getting my CPA license which meant leaving my old job. It’s taken all the extra energy I have to adjust from working with a total staff of 13 in an older building in NE Portland to my new downtown job where a staff of 140+ people covers 2 floors. It’s meant saying goodbye to coworkers who have become family. It’s meant crying because I’ll miss my boss who has become my friend. (Poor guy, I blubbered in my typical fashion, but he took it well.)

The new job means meeting new people, learning  a new accounting system and procedures, and generally feeling like a dork. It’s means taking public transportation – the light rail train named MAX.  MAX has it’s own set of challenges and changes, namely people. Lots of different kinds of people. It means little personal space and getting up close with sounds and smells. My favorite.

For instance, on my first day of work, I listened to a man with a cold snort every few minutes for most of my trip. I don’t mean a little sniffle. I mean a full on, loud, I-really-mean-it, SNORT. After 35 minutes, I couldn’t tune it out. The more I tried not to hear it, the louder it seemed to get. And then it struck my as funny. I tried hard not to laugh and therefore succeeded in just smiling. Finally, I relieved the tension by texting my husband about it. His reply? “Did you offer him a kleenex?” No sympathy from a man who has ridden MAX for 14 years.

I’m pleased to say that even after some tears, I think I’m beginning to adjust.