I Finish Things

A few years ago I moved away from New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not because they aren’t great ideas, or because I was having trouble keeping them. Instead it was because I was discovering that focusing on a single goal stated in January was not always going to be the best way to use my time in March, May, and November of the year coming up. I’d had years where my resolution was kept, like my Marathon year in 2008. But I’d also had years where my resolution had to be forfeit because everything in our lives changed. You know, like when we moved to a new state.

So, last December, instead of making a resolution, I set an intention for the year. A mantra I’d repeat to myself that embodied the life I wanted to live. That mantra was “Focus.” I’d repeat it to myself when I was getting distracted on facebook. I’d say it in my head when I was getting frustrated with the kids and losing my temper. I said it to myself often while I was suffering through the annual “No Training Brazier Half Marathon.” I made it my intention every time I went to my yoga mat, or to do a skill on the gymnastics floor. It was really effective. It didn’t define what I was doing, it defined how I did it and what kind of person I was.

“Focus” motivated me to set education goals for the girls and keep them on track. It helped me remember to exercise even though I quit my gym membership. And it helped me use my one day of personal time well enough to complete a picture book manuscript and submit it for publication (still waiting for the response on that one).

This year I’ve decided my new mantra, which I hope will not replace “Focus” but compliment it, is “I finish things.” I have struggled in the past with quitting half way through a project, and just walking away. There are times when a chapter must come to an end, and I respect that. But what I’m hoping will happen instead is that my newly found focus will help me only start things I fully intend to finish. Just like everyone else, I only have a small amount of hours each week for my own projects and I want to see those projects through to the end.

I’m almost always working alone and one of my struggles is having no external force telling me when the job is done. Somethings can drag on forever, or I can stop them suddenly because it’s “done.” Honestly, I’ve just learned that I’m not setting clear enough guidelines for what I’m trying to accomplish. If my mantra is “I finish things,” then I’ll have to be more honest with myself at the start of a project what exactly it is that defines “finished.”

So, what about you? Are you a resolution person, or an intention person? I’d love to hear what your focus is going to be and what you plan to finish in 2015.

Our Village

This post is a big shout out to my village. I couldn’t be the homeschooling mom I am without it. Somehow I moved and within a year I found a fantastic group of families to help get the day-to-day done.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

On a typical week, I find myself in need of help getting from point A to point B with these 3 girls with me at all times. By far the most challenging thing about homeschooling is the lack of alone time. There is no time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. No quick run to the store without finding 4 pair of shoes before you go. It’s exhausting. And sometimes it’s impossible.

When I find myself in a bind, I have a handful of women I can text saying, “hey when we see each other at Lego class today, can you keep the kids for a half hour while I go to the Chiropractor?” Recently, I dropped my kids off with one family for a few hours so I could drive another family to the airport in the middle of the day. On my way back I picked stuff up at the store for a third family we were all going to see in the afternoon. All the kids got some extra play time, no one’s family was put out, and all the work got done.

Now that I’ve found myself in a group like this, I can’t think of living without it. I’m happy to bring anyone’s kids back to my house from a class we share because I know the favor will be returned at some point in the future. No one is keeping track, and no one is abusing the privilege.

A large representation of our village's children.

A large representation of our village’s children.

If you don’t have a village like this, I recommend finding one quick. It starts with making time to get together on purpose. If you get along with someone, and your kids happen to get along too, sit together on purpose at the activities you share. Soon, your friend will say something like, “I’m really not looking forward to taking the kids with me to get the oil changed on the way home.” This is your chance.

Offer to bring her kids to your house so she can do the oil change on her own. Don’t worry if your house is a mess. You just saved her day, she’s not going to judge the dishes in your sink, I promise. When the chance to help arrises again, offer again.

The next part is even harder. Now that you and your friend have some report, it’s time for you to unashamedly ask for help the next time you need it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just ask. You know you’d be happy to help her, so believe that she’s happy to help you. The worst that can happen is she is not able to, and she says no. Big deal. You can ask another time and it will probably work out. After a while, you’ll have an extra set of eyes and hands when you need it most, and this sometimes lonely job of parenting just won’t feel so big anymore.

Shifting Priorities

First, a nod to our new ten-year-old who inspired us to blog. Happy birthday to our sweet O (I’ve made the choice to start using initials in our blog posts and public social accounts because the kids are getting old enough to require that level of privacy). I feel honored to be her mother, and am overjoyed at the young woman she is becoming. You can see some one of her awesome ideas here.

Next, some news about our family and me. Moving to California was a really great choice. We’re all very happy here and thriving. Rob is enjoying his new job (if not so much the commute). Homeschooling has been a great choice as well, and the girls are learning just as quickly as they were in traditional school, but they are getting more sleep and living with less stress and hurriedness. I’m hopeful that as they get older and become more skilled at balancing their own priorities they’ll start learning even more deeply the things which they are most interested in. It’s already happening to some degree, like with From Scratch News, but I can see so much more potential for growth with all the free time homeschooling can provide.

And now for the sad news. Honestly, I’m not sure how public I’ve been with this because of how difficult it was to come to the decision. I’ve decided to take a longer hiatus from doula work. I waited about 6 months after our move to start working, and I was getting some opportunities to work which excited me. Without giving away any private info about my clients, the births were so much harder on my kids and on Rob here in CA than they were in Ohio. Having family to pull together to help out was such a difference in support for us, and without it the kids were really suffering. When O is old enough to be the babysitter for an hour or two, I’ll head back to doula work but in the meantime I need to put my kids and homeschooling first. I spilled a few tears, but it’s time to move on.

So what am I doing instead? Everyone knows I’m too high energy to not have something going on the side. It’s not easy finding work I can do which I can keep in the margins of my first priority which is schooling and raising these girls. But I have a few solutions which are working out well. I’m teaching sewing classes on Friday afternoons while the girls are away at their enrichment classes. I’m building websites for friends here and there which is fun. But I’m most excited about a manuscript I’ve finished for a children’s picture book. I’m in the company of a couple of children’s authors in my kids’ park day (here and here) and it has inspired me to take my own shot at it. I’m in the editing phase but plan to be submitting it to publishers in the coming months. Leads and personal experience is definitely welcome.

When people told me that it would take a year to settle in after a move, I believed them. But what I didn’t expect was that a cross country move wouldn’t just change my location, but it would also change my priorities. A lot of the plans and work I was doing were very location-centric. I haven’t really changed the person I am through moving, but my position in the community has changed by necessity, and so my contribution has changed as well. It’s definitely taken a whole year, and I’m not even sure the transition is complete, but I’m finally more certain of where my spent efforts will have the biggest payoff. When you only have a few hours a week to spend your efforts, a good ROI is a high priority.