Hello! Welcome to another goals post for my monthly goal-setting series. If this is your first visit here, thanks for joining me! Over a year ago I decided to start setting three specific goals for myself each month. My objective was to be more intentional (my 2019 word of the year) in my day-to-day life. It turned out to be such a great experience! I’m back with my November goals and hoping to keep this momentum going! This series is designed to share those goals with you as well as to provide me with more monthly accountability.
“In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog. Food is better in November than any other time of the year.”
― Cynthia Rylant, In November
At the end of last week I glanced at the calendar expecting to find another few weeks between then and now, and yet here we are already. Our October was packed full of adventures and autumn goodness. We’ve been checking off our bucket list left and right. We successfully survived our first legit tent-camping experience (we lasted 4 nights!). We’ve gone apple picking and done our share of cider drinking. We spent several days in the mountains with dear friends and got to go on some incredible hikes.
I’ve cooked black-bean-beer chili twice already and we’ve all eaten our weight in candy. There was Halloween decorating, costume donning, and lots of pumpkin carving. A few rainy days over the past week even offered up some grand puddle jumping opportunities. We’ve officially brought out all of our cozy sweatshirts and wool socks. And we even had our family photos taken for our holiday cards!
We’ve also been doing a lot of reading this past month. We are definitely a book loving family. I would even go as far as to name reading in my top 3 favorite hobbies. Nothing quite enhances the autumn-vibe for me as being curled up on the couch in the early morning moments of the day with a good book in my hands. A warm blanket tucked around me, my favorite cider-scented candle flickering on the table. A cup of steaming coffee within reach. And the essence of a good book merging two of my very favorite things – autumn and reading.
One of our favorite family pastimes is to all pile up in the boy’s bedroom under a cozy afghan with a huge stack of seasonally themed children’s books. Now that Halloween is over, we’ve shifted (slowly) from our favorite pumpkin books to some others that we love. There are so many good ones in our collection.
A few of our favorites are:
- In November by Cynthia Rylant
- Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler
- The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann
- Sweep by Louise Grieg
- Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Allsdurf
The past two weeks I’ve been really working hard to get back on my game with my morning ritual.
Ever since September when I was struggling through the hardest days to keep my head above water, I’ve been completely out of sync with how I best begin my days. One thing that has become very clear to me is how much the absence of my morning ritual inhibits my creativity, my mood, and even my ability to feel grounded in my days. It’s amazing the huge impact that writing morning pages can have on me, emotionally and mentally. Taking time to ground myself intentionally through journaling, meditation, prayer, and gratitude, and even by simply sitting in the predawn silence of our house is such an important way to set the tone before the chaos of the day erupts around me.
I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately, especially related to the concept of giving myself permission to feel alllll the feelings. For most of my life I have tried to stay in the positive-feeling zone. That’s the area in which I thrive. When life throws me curve balls, my objective has always been to recalibrate towards positive as quickly as possible. I’ve found that I am too often dismissive of negative emotions I experience. I don’t hold much space for myself to feel sad, lonely, angry, anxious, and frustrated. I’ve spent so much energy trying to keep my focus solely on gratitude that I don’t often allowed myself to experience the vulnerability of those other emotions.
Lately I have been learning how valuable it can be to honor my feelings (all of them!) and I’m trying to lean in to the grace and permission to feel them all.
As a Mama raising young children, I feel so inspired to continue exploring and pursuing the power of inner acceptance. There is so much of me just waiting to break open, heal, and guide me toward understanding and personal growth. I want to model these things for my children and teach them the importance of honoring ourselves, our feelings, our spirit, our creativity, and our souls. This is every day work for me. I don’t know if it will eventually become second nature (a girl can hope!), but for now I’m embracing it as much as I can and continuing to work on it daily with intention.
Now for a quick review of my October goals:
>>Try some new recipes!
This goal was the BEST one I’ve set in a while and oh my gosh I’ve been having so much fun cooking again! That is so refreshing after 6 months of building resentment for all the meals I feel like I’ve cooked! I was so drained and bored with the same things (especially spaghetti!). The new cookbook that my sister told me about – The Defined Dish by Alex Snodgrass has been a godsend.
I have already tried 5 new recipes from it and every single one has been a hit with the whole family. We aren’t doing Whole 30 but she makes it easy to swap out ingredients to accommodate it. Every single meal I’ve made has been fairly simple, without too many ingredients, and doesn’t take a terribly long time to prepare. These are all really important elements of what makes a favorite recipe for me. I am loving that cooking is finally feeling like fun again!
Here are our favorite recipes so far:
- Weeknight Lamb Bolognese
- Easy Ground Turkey Curry Lettuce Cups
- Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage, Broccolini, and Roasted Red Peppers
- Curried Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Chicken Fajita Lettuce Cups
>> Participate in my friend Lyndsay’s 30-Day Challenge with Lattes2Lunges
I originally signed up for challenge because I wanted to support my friend in her exciting new endeavor. I’m usually quite bad at staying motivated for challenges like this. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again for the people in the back… I am NOT a fan of exercising. Don’t get me wrong – I love being active. But my ideal “fitness” is a sneaky kind of exercise where you can do it without realizing how hard you are working. This is what I love most about tennis (and soccer!). It’s such an engaging activity. Competitive, entertaining, challenging, and an awesome physical outlet. And best of all – I run all over the tennis court without ever realizing how much exercise that actually amounts to!
It’s no secret that I have been lacking motivation since the beginning of quarantine back in March.
Participating in this challenge was really great because it truly helped keep me on a healthier track this past month. There are lots of reasons I fall into unhealthy patterns. Stress and anxiety are the biggest reasons for me. The past several months (YEAR?!) has not been short on either of those things. When my emotions get overwhelming, I tend go down a rabbit hole of comfort-eating, pouring that gigantic bowl of cereal after staying up waaay too late at night, and end up feeling too tired to move my body during the day.
Rainy days are the worst. Between tennis, hiking, taking my boys on long walks around the neighborhood, and riding my bike – I find ways to get moving when it’s nice outside. But when the rain rolls in and things get cancelled and the gloom settles, I really struggle to rally. This challenge was the boost of accountability I needed this past month. There were several evenings I walked laps around my kitchen island because I’d neglected to find a more enlightened way to move earlier in the day. I’d pop in my headphones and turn on an audiobook and get those minutes in! Maybe it wasn’t the best version of exercise, certainly it was a bit dizzying making all of those small laps, but the intention was real. And that is what made this challenge work for me.
I know how incredible the benefits of being healthy are to my mind, body, and spirit.
More often than not, in this season of my life, it feels difficult to prioritize my fitness. Back in the day I could play soccer for hours any night of the week that I wanted. Nowadays, with two toddlers ruling the roost, things look a lot different than they used to. The bottom line though, is that I want to lead my children by example. Being an “active” family has always been important to Paul and me. Making time to prioritize my health and fitness is something that will not only support both of those statements, but it will ultimately help me continue to work towards being the best version of myself.
I signed up for Lyndsay’s November challenge too so if you feel inclined to join me, let me know! You can also find more details about her challenges here.
>> Finish two books by the end of this month
I am happy to report that I successfully finished TWO books I had been reading. The first one I finished was The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and it was really enjoyable. We read it for my virtual book club. The reviews were fairly mixed (I gave it 4 stars!) and generated a lot of really interesting discussion for us. The second book I finished was Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love books that speak directly to my creativity and this was one of those. There were so many parts that really resonated with me. The author sheds light on attitudes, approaches, and habits needed to help us live our most creative lives.
Of course as soon as I finished these, I promptly started two new ones because that’s just how I roll – haha!
My November Goals 2020
1. Floss my teeth every day.
This one may seem a little silly but I assure you, it’s a good one. I went to the dentist at the end of last month and I swear she absolutely could tell how inconsistent I am about my flossing habits. Turns out I have several spots that could potentially turn into cavities but might not if I truly and consistently commit to flossing every day. She dropped a few less than casual comments about setting a *flossing reminder* on my phone and how I might consider carrying floss around in my purse, both of which gave me just enough of a nudge of embarrassment to put myself in check. This is just one of those habits I need to build into my every day routine.
Why is this one of my November goals? Because I’m a grown-ass woman and I should already be doing this. I love my teeth. I want to keep my teeth healthy and hopefully have them for a long time! And I have horrible dentist-anxiety so I definitely don’t want to have any more cavities!!
Action plan: Buy my own floss! Paul always keeps our little container on his side of the sink so I’m going to buy my own and put it on my side so it’s easy access for me when I go in to brush my teeth at night. I also plan to set a reminder on my phone (as recommended!). I’ve been wanting to establish more of a pre-bedtime ritual and this might be a little push I need to get that going.
2. Do one load of laundry every day
When I was in college (so many years ago), most of my friends were from St. Louis which was a short drive away from our campus. They would go home on the weekends and lug their hampers full of dirty laundry along with them bragging about how their moms would wash and fold it all for them while they were visiting. I had to drive 6+ hours to get back to my hometown so, needless to say, my trips back were less frequent. There was definitely a high level of envy I felt for these friends whose mothers were so willing to do their bidding.
In the meantime, I was stuck doing my own bidding in the dormitory basement with the crapped out old coin-guzzling washer and a dryer that took about 3 cycles of running to actually dry anything. Also there was an unidentified laundry jerk that lived in our building. If you dared leave the basement while your load was “in” cycle, this person would sneak in, pull your still-wet clothing out of the dryer, and literally throw it all onto the floor in order to put their own wet load in on your quarter!
Can you imagine the audacity?!
So one fall semester I decided I was going to come up with a fool-proof laundry strategy. In my not-yet-fully-developed pre-frontal cortex strategizing state, I decided I would get as much wear out of my clothes as possible before having to submit them to the dirty pile. This included multiple wears of stinky soccer socks and sports bras… gross, I know! My plan was to take every single item of dirty clothing home over fall break and have my mom wash and fold it all for me in one fellow swoop.
By the time break finally arrived, I was really pushing it. I’m pretty sure I bought a new pack of underwear and socks just to make it through those final days. As I lugged those baskets full of foul-smelling dirty clothes out to my Volvo, I could almost imagine the fresh-Tide-scented relief I would experience as my mom obliged to my plan. It was a long time for me to hold out. But I just knew it was going to be worth it. I still remember pulling up in front of my house, dragged the largest load out of the backseat, and up the front steps. I clumsily unloaded it all into the corner of our kitchen where the stack washer/dryer unit lived). My mom listened with a smirk of amusement on her face as I shared my plan with her.
“Well,” she said without missing a beat, “unfortunately our washing machine is broken right now so I guess you’ll just have to take all of this up to the corner laundry mat to do it.”
I think my jaw may have actually hit the floor. Not only had I waited all the way until fall break to actually do my laundry, but I had also just driven it over 350 miles only to ultimately end up, at the laundry mat, doing it all by myself after all. It was a devastatingly foiled plan and one I’ll never forget.
// A few years ago I decided to observe the season of Lent my own way (even though I’m not Catholic) by attempting to improve an area of discipline in my life. I pledged to do one small load of laundry every day for 40 days. It was a total game-changer. You may be thinking, a load a day?!? WOW that’s a lot of laundry. Yes, yes it is. Back then Paul and I both worked in the ER so we had to wash our scrubs after every shift. We were also both playing a ton of soccer (which equals lots of stinky gear!). And then we had our normal every day clothes and linens to wash.
Fast forward to 2020 and now we have even more!!
Even with nowhere to go, with two small kids can go through a LOT of clean laundry in a day. Then add in Paul’s scrubs. I wash those completely separately and with strict precautions to safeguard against any potential covid exposure. Our exercise clothes make up at least one load a week between 3-4 days of my tennis outfits, Paul’s workout clothes, and our combined soccer uniforms (when soccer is in season). And we change our household sheets/rotate towels every week as well.
Needless to say, there is a lot of laundry that has to be done in this house and I’m the one assigned to that chore. I struggle to stay on top of it. Getting behind ends up feeling like there are piles of laundry to tackle at every turn and it is always a huge and overwhelming task. So this month I’m going to try to build some better habits and start small.
Why is this one of my November goals? Hopefully this goal will help me find the pair of missing leggings that I wanted to wear last week and couldn’t dig out of the piles of laundry anywhere! Just kidding (kind of). I’m really just sick of feeling overwhelmed by such huge loads. I feel like I never having time to fold clothes while they are hot out of the dryer. When I do get them folded hot, it seems like it’s never a good time to put them away. Inevitably we end up with piles of clean clothes piled everywhere! Overall I just want to build better laundry habits and stay on top of the process.
Action plan: Keep the loads small. Start one in the morning, swap it out and fold during nap. And when I finish I have to PUT IT AWAY! Wash, rinse, repeat.
3. Start a Family Thankfulness Project
A little over a month ago I was feeling really discouraged about how to best encourage/help instill gratitude into my very young children’s hearts. Lately I’ve been noticing some unfavorable (mostly age-appropriate) behavior that suggests it’s time we kick gratitude to a whole new level around here. We have a book called The Berenstain Bears – Get the Gimmies. In it, Brother and Sister Bear want everything in sight, and they throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Our two little brother bears have started behaving somewhat similarly. Anybody else get that dang Amazon toy catalog delivered by mail? Well, that has carried in a whole “gimmies” vibe in itself.
One of our family mottos is to keep an “attitude of gratitude.” Lately I have been discovering this is a challenging concept to teach toddlers.
Paul and I try to model gratitude as much as we can. We certainly expect them to say please and thank you. And we talk to them about privilege and gratitude often. But I’m just not sure how to best help it all sink in. So I decided to ask my very wise friend Kristin for her suggestions. She has two boys a little older than mine and has some incredibly creative ideas for raising them right.
In common Kristin fashion, she came through with flying colors! She told me about something she started when her youngest was about 3 years old called “morning gratefuls.” Every morning over breakfast they each list 2-3 things they feel grateful for. She said it has been such a special ritual for them and often helps her feel more grounded in her own gratitude!
When Paul and I used live in Chicago, every November we would commit to doing a Thankfulness Project together.
It was essentially a daily gratitude list that we worked on for the whole month. We kept a running eraser board on the fridge and we each filled in 3 things. It was a good reminder for us to stay present in daily gratitude, despite the cold weather, difficult days of work, and living far away from friends and family. Both of us felt like it was such an intentional way for us to focus on the blessings in our lives. We haven’t done it in years so I think this November is the perfect time to reinstitute this tradition.
Why is this one of my November goals? 2020 has been a rough year and I think this is a perfect time to bring this tradition back into our lives. Not only will it help us recenter ourselves in gratitude, but it will be an excellent way to include our kids and model thankfulness. I am excited to see how this might evolve into a daily practice for our family. I’m looking forward to what November will hold for us as we take this goal on together.
Action plan: Bring back the eraser board! Use our bedtime routine with the boys to ask them to share things they feel grateful/thankful for. Make sure to share ours as well. I’d also like to use a little space in one of my journals to jot my own list down daily. This will offer me some additional reflection on all of the blessings in my life.
I’ll be back next month to update you on how well I kept up with these November goals. And to share my upcoming goals for December!
What are your November goals?
I’d love to know what you’re striving for this month.
Drop a comment below!