As 2020 begins it feels right to be reviewing everything and that is what I have been doing so much of lately. My quiet moments so far are filled with making lists and taking notes. Writing is hard work and review posts like a 2019 Holiday Review, Books I Read in 2019 or Book I Plan T Read in 2020 are the most time-consuming. For two years now I have struggled to create these posts and keep life on track through the bumpy entry to a new year. That brings me to my first lesson learned for 2020.
Take Better Notes
I have got to figure out the art of capture. I see a lot of people who seem to do this effortlessly. I am working on it by setting up a few systems like morning pages and my happy planner that also serves as a catalog of the ideas that hit my head. Morning pages are a struggle for me at this season of life. My mornings are so chaotic this school year since we added two school-age children who have what I consider to be a really late school start time of 9:15. It is hard to get anything that requires quiet and focus done before they leave for school. So this year I have made it easy by gathering my things and having them ready for when I get home from drop off. I also do not have a 100% or nothing attitude to this practice of capture and reflection. As I become increasingly oriented toward this process, I may be moving at the pace of a lumbering sea turtle on land, but I am moving in the right direction and that is what I am requiring of myself at this moment.
I am pretty dedicated to analog ways (I will never give up using pretty notebooks and smooth writing pens) but that does not mean that I can’t use some technology to keep track of things. I use the calendar on my phone in this way, to capture the appointments and commitments of the future and then as I process through the weeks I use those details to make a plan for each day that is actually doable, a good plan for each week with realistic goals. For me, it all starts with taking better notes so that I can be proactive and productive instead of reactive and explosive.
Take on a Challenge
This January I took on a few writing challenges. One in the Hope Writer community and one as part of a book launch for Meredith McDaniels book In Want and Plenty. There was something so magical in writing every day and hitting publish. To participate it required a dedication to sitting down in the quiet and pondering what I was going to say. I had to carve that time out and find quiet to concentrate. It was hard and you will notice I said I participated not that I completed every exercise every day. I moved in the right direction as often as I could and it gave me the feeling of what being a full-time writer will look like. I needed that fresh vision because the chaos of this moment in foster care moving closer and closer to adoption is exhausting and I am ofter tempted to scrap this whole thing and go back to bed. The feeling of being a writer on a small scale with a minimal commitment made it a little harder to give up on this dream of writing when the February days drizzle by and give way to spring and sunshine, rebirth and adoption.
Take a break
You guys need to know something about me…I love the news. I always have loved the news. When I was six I had a total crush on Peter Jennings. We met every evening at 6:30 for years and I loved him. I enjoy being informed about the world and thinking about politics and how big national decisions affect everyday life. I just love this realm where ideas meet the real world. It fascinates me. But let’s be honest about the way the news has changed. The days of meeting your newsman at 6:30 or 11 to hear the rundown of what’s happening in the world are over. The landscape that has replaced it of 24-hour news on demand that fits your world view is in no way better. So I took a few weeks off from the news around Christmas and the New Year. It was wonderful. When I came back to see what was going on it was all impeachment all the time and I turned it off again.
Beyond those weeks I have also made these rules for myself about the news I am reading and listening to.
My rules for taking in the news around the world:
-not first thing in the morning
-not every day of the week
-have a good alternative to choose instead of the news- always have a story to listen to on audible or a podcast on something other than the news, current events or world view.
Take the Kids to the Grocery Store
My little kids have been out of school a lot this winter. Once they were out on a random Wednesday for a teacher workday. Who puts that on the calendar? Someone who does not have school-aged children, that’s who. At the same time, I am getting ready to be done homeschooling. I will graduate my oldest this spring and send my second to a mix of dual enrollment and outside classes in the fall. I am releasing the idea of homeschooling the newest Hartmans and that is a little sad to me. It is a complicated choice to keep them in school and send them to two different schools but I am convinced it is right for them. I was feeling sad about this when I was at the grocery store with my little guys on one of their random days off. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity that nearly knocked me down. If I lined up all the things they need to learn from most important to least important, I still get to teach them through the most important things! All the moms who send their kids to school every day are nodding. They are so proud that I finally understand. It seems simple but the clarity that came while we were at Aldi getting our weekly groceries was so freeing. I gave a whole lesson on value as we stood choosing our granola bars and I realized that I am not giving up teaching them, I am prioritizing teaching them a few things instead of everything. I will have to maximize these moments and that is the shift in thinking I needed going from homeschooling to sending my kids off to school every day. Someone else can teach them math, while I focus on teaching value. There will still be time to read to them and with them, to travel and discuss. It will just look different and it is exactly what they need. I have always said, “Every mom does not need to homeschool and every kid does not need to be homeschooled.” Here is my chance to live that without giving up all the opportunities for teaching them.
As you look forward to spring, I hope you will also look back at winter and take note of what you are learning and how you are changing.
You can follow me on Instagram to see my writing challenges and see how I work through most of this publicly with lots of pictures of my happy planner.