Category Archives: Goals

Writer’s block?

I’m in a sort of writing limbo these days. I feel this urge to write all the time, every day, like a craving for chocolate.  The difference is that writing requires too much effort on my part, whereas eating chocolate is just easy and divine.

I’m not sure why this has become such a struggle for me. I blame it partly on the fact that the magazine I usually try to submit devotions to every couple of months still has not released their theme questions, which makes it really hard to write pointedly about any of their scheduled topics.  Every time I check their website, I hope those questions will be there to spark some inspiration. But alas, only the theme titles are given, which are sometimes rather vague.  And so, when I have these good intentions of starting a draft, I let myself go back to Facebook and recipe browsing and don’t get any writing done at all.

Then there’s the obvious problem: time.  As a mom of a toddler, I don’t have an abundance of free time like I used to.  I can’t binge-watch Gilmore Girls for six hours anymore.  I can’t lounge in a recliner reading chick lit for long.  I can’t spend half the day shopping for nothing in particular.  The days I’m not working are dictated mainly by my son’s schedule and needs.  Yes, my husband is there too, but even with the two of us, there’s still no shortage of things to be done at any given moment.  The two hours or so when he naps each afternoon are a godsend, but they fly by too quickly.  Do I spend that time working out?  Do I make some healthy freezer meals ahead of time (something on my mind with a new baby on the way in just a few weeks)?  Do I take a nap? Do I run errands, clean house, do laundry, call my mom?

All of these are valid reasons not to do something, but not really excuses. Yes, I am pretty busy every day, but there is still time left over when I could be writing.  Even twenty minutes a day would be beneficial, and I would feel like I’m getting somewhere.  I tend to choose exercise, or cooking, or reading, or just watching zombie movies and Doctor Who with the hubs, rather than writing.

The other major reason for my laziness is that I can’t seem to narrow down what I want to write about.  My blog isn’t for income, it doesn’t have to follow any set format or quotas, it’s just for me.  Yet, I always wonder what would grab the most interest for readers.  Even though I only have a handful of followers, and a few Facebook friends who sometimes read what I share, I definitely care what they think.  I care what you think, if you’re kind enough to be reading this right now.

I want to write something that matters.  Maybe not to a lot of people.  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with reaching a small audience, but I still want my words to matter to people in it.  I want to take the time necessary to home the right words for what I try to convey.

The thing that paralyzes me the most is this insecurity about what I have to say.  Daily, thoughts flit through my head, ideas for new blog posts, but then I second-guess myself.  Who really needs another article about gaining patience with toddlers?  Or another complaint about the state of public education today?  Or another commentary on the weather, or another devotion on perseverance through trials, or another recipe for zucchini-carrot-flaxseed muffins?  Who cares about my memories of my two brothers as we grew up?  Who needs to read about my son’s milestones, or how nervous I am getting about baby #2’s impending arrival?

Yep, I don’t quite have a handle on where I want to fit in the blogging world.  It shouldn’t matter to me this much; I should stick to writing what I know and if I feel led to share it, to do so.  But the little voice in my head keeps holding me back.

Who knows? Perhaps I will get up the nerve to publish this piece, despite its rambling nature.  I think I’m not alone in this struggle.  Regardless of how insignificant our work as creative people may be, we still yearn for meaning and purpose in what we create.

Wishing each of you a safe space in which to express whatever your creative little hearts desire…

Kobe

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My brother’s dog provided the inspiration for this post.  He’s everything you want in a dog–fun, playfulness, friendship.  Mike takes him out on his ultra-marathon training runs in the mountains and parks near Denver, where he lives these days.

This dog has no shortage of energy.  He loves to run.  He loves to play and get dirty.  He especially looooooovvvveesss  fetch, but there’s one catch. (Ha, ha…get it?)

Kobe, like many other dogs (so I hear), absolutely despises letting go of his frisbee for his master to pick up and throw for him.  He will run like the wind when his frisbee or other toy is tossed into the distance, dutifully bring it back to his master, but then…does he simply drop the toy so his master can throw it again and keep the game going?

Of course not!  Kobe has to hang on, clutching that frisbee between his big, sharp teeth so tightly, I don’t know who other than my brother can dare try to wrench it away.  (Although I’ve been fairly impressed at my parents’ audacity and courage–even at their age, with four replaced limbs between the two of them, they play wholeheartedly with Kobe).

I guess it is all part of the game, to a dog.  Part of their excitement is directly tied to the epic battle between dog and human.  Who will emerge the victor, holding the frisbee?  It’s clearly not all about the throwing and retrieving.

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Kobe in action

Unfortunately for the dog, many humans will grow frustrated/nervous/tired of the battle to get the frisbee away from him to throw again.  Thus the game ends all too soon.

I wonder if  Kobe realizes in his little doggie brain that he’s shooting himself in the foot.  Does he inwardly understand that the more he struggles, the less likely he is to get what he wants–another toss of the frisbee and another chance to run and fetch it?

I feel like the answer must be no…otherwise, why wouldn’t he catch on and realize he has to play by human rules (and their pesky need to keep all limbs intact)?  Then again, perhaps it’s more an issue of wanting two things at once.  Kobe wants to run and fetch the toy.  Kobe wants to hold on to the toy, triumphantly.  Both of these goals are singularly important to a dog.  Thus, he refuses to back down.  He is tough.  He is strong.  He is playing with his master.

The only problem is, Kobe can’t run and fetch the frisbee if he continues refusing to drop it.

You are probably wondering, why am I rambling on and on about someone else’s dog?  Cute as he is, Kobe is not the point of this blog post.

No, Kobe is a creature that shows me something God may have been wanting to teach me for some time now.

Kobe is much like me.  I, too, want what I want, when I want it.  I, too, find it hard to focus on anything else at the moment I want something.  And I, too, stubbornly cling to MY way of doing things, even when it doesn’t lead to what I wanted in the first place.  Even when what I thought I wanted turns out to be unsatisfying.

Sound familiar to you, perhaps? No? Please, don’t tell me I’m the only one who hovers in the land of selfishness.

I hold on to my Frisbee, whether it may be a relationship, a sense of security, a financial gift, whatever, thinking that eventually, I will get everything I want.  Perhaps, while I’m waiting, so utterly frustrated that God isn’t acting to bring me something else I desperately desire, He is simply waiting for me to drop whatever it is I’ve been clinging to.  Perhaps he just needs me to let go, so he can be free to give me the other blessings that have been available all along.

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Mike and Kobe

 

Sugar fast–birthday

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Let’s just start this post off with the happy truth: I’m most definitely NOT giving up sugar for my birthday.

My so-called sugar fast has been going great (it’s not even an actual sugar fast, just a buying-candy fast).  I started it back in mid-April and have only bought candy twice since then.  If you are my friend Taryn or if you’ve known me for more than, like, five minutes, you recognize this as a tremendous improvement.  I love candy so much and was known to be crazy obsessed with it at times.

But I’ve been much better about it.  Occasionally I get a few pieces of candy from someone (such as my boss at our monthly faculty meetings), but overall I have been avoiding it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Out of my house, stays out of my tummy.

So here I am to say that this week, I’m taking a little hiatus from my candy-purchasing embargo.  My birthday is this Tuesday, so I’m going to be a little extra indulgent towards my sweet tooth.  Some say that’s one of the keys to sticking with many diet or lifestyle changes–allow yourself the occasional controlled “cheat” day or meal, and then keeping to your improved lifestyle will be much easier.

Thank you to the Foreign Candy Company for supplying my school’s foreign-language club with Bon-Bons, these delightful little chewy fruit candies that the students just go nuts over.  They arrived on Friday, just in time for my birthday week, and yep, I broke my rule that day to get myself a bag of strawberry-flavored treats!  I honestly worried that they might sell out by midweek, as popular as they are with the kids here.  That package was tasty, and I don’t feel the need to stock up on bags and bags of it or anything.

Anyway, I am looking forward to enjoying a little break from my rule, and just enjoyed a delectable Ghirardelli chocolate…mmm! I will gladly return to abstaining from candy-buying by the end of this week, though.  (My hubby asked, only partly in jest, if I’m also going to drop my rule for Halloween week, Thanksgiving week, Christmas, etc.).  Ha!  Nope!  I really don’t think I will.   Maybe once a month I’ll give myself a free pass, but no more than that.  I’m excited by how much less I crave the stuff compared to before, and how much more I savor the candy treats I get now that they’re so much rarer.  Now, they are an actual treat!  Plus, once the other school-group candy fundraisers begin, I have an excuse for saying no!

Good luck to you with whatever your goals may be, readers.  Keep on pluggin’ away!

Beyond comfortable

So I’m on currently on a “put myself in uncomfortable situations” kick.  Not sure what brought this on, but twice now in a week I’ve willingly done something that makes me feel…awkward.  Anxious.  Out of place.

First was the staff dance that teachers and other adults in my school perform every year at the Homecoming assembly.  Yeah, I’m not big on dancing-at least not in that situation.  I’m all for shakin’ it on the dance floor at a wedding, but the teacher dance has always been an activity I avoid like the plague.  Making a fool of myself in front of the whole student body is not my thing.  I figure, I probably embarrass myself unintentionally during class at least once a day anyway, so why add to the humiliation by doing so on purpose?

It was so sweet being on maternity leave last year at Homecoming time, so I didn’t have to deal with it at all.  Almost every other year of my career, I was in charge of Student Council, which meant I was basically in charge of ALL of Homecoming.  I figured that, plus fall cross-country coaching, should excuse me from pressure to participate in anything else.

Anyway…back to the point.  I’m attempting to do the teacher dance this year.  I still, admittedly, have zero desire to do it, but here are a few reasons that override what I want.

Sometimes, as teachers, it’s good to let students see our goofy side.  It opens up conversation and builds connections.  Plus, I’m no longer a coach or club sponsor, so I do feel I ought to be involved in something in the Homecoming festivities.  And the biggest reason for making a fool of myself  in a dance routine?  It’s important to step outside of our “comfort zone” once in awhile.  Students are required to do stuff they hate, stuff that doesn’t interest them, stuff that terrifies them, on a regular basis.  Some are uncomfortable with reading, or group work, or tests, or speeches, or artwork, but they have to try all of these at one point or another.  Everybody has to go along with something they dislike from time to time, whether for work or relationships or general life-sustenance.

Doing this dance is my feeble attempt to show students that they shouldn’t be content just doing what comes easily or naturally to them.  There’s value and purpose in venturing beyond those things.  You never know where that first step into uncharted territory may lead.  You might discover a hidden talent or passion.  You might create a new friendship.  You might gain opportunities you never even knew existed.

For me, this is just one brief dance routine with coworkers, which I don’t expect to enjoy, but it’s yet another tiny step towards a braver me.  Heck, I was petrified of public speaking when I began teaching, but I did it anyway.  I found that once I got to know the kids, it wasn’t public speaking at all.  It was simply sharing subjects I love with others.  It still scares me an awful lot, but that’s nothing compared to the fear I had thirteen years ago.  There have been some rather amazing experiences and moments with my students.  Having the courage to face my fears is what brought me into those magical moments.

So, even if I look like Elaine from Seinfeld when we perform in a few weeks, it’ll be okay.  I’ll know why I’m doing it, and I’ll attempt to hold on to a shred of dignity (but I confess, I plan to be well-disguised the second we step onto that gym floor!).

Here’s to trying what isn’t easy!  After all, how many worthwhile things in life ever are?

First night in Haiti

After over a year of serious planning (plus a number of years before that during which the dream took root in my heart), I was actually there.

In Haiti.

The real Haiti, the one that conjures images of dirt and orphanages and voodoo and poverty and primitive living.  Images that are, sadly, all too accurate.

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It was absolutely surreal.  I couldn’t believe I was really there, seeing the thatched-roof huts and middle-aged women peddling bananas and paintings and trinkets on the roadside.  Orphans swarming around my legs like puppies clamoring for attention.

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And yet, despite the crazy knowledge that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, in a way, it all felt rather…mundane.

I had such romanticized notions of how Haiti would be, how inspirational and heartbreaking and life-altering the experience would be for me.  I had raised support from my church family in order to go, labeling it a “mission trip” and feeling rather noble.

But then I arrived in Port-au-Prince.  My friend and I maneuvered our way through the hectic airport, met up with the orphanage staff that had picked us up, traversed bumpy dirt roads for an hour and a half in a hot, dusty Jeep, and at last arrived.  This orphanage would be our home for two and a half weeks.  Just a blip in our lives, really, but at this moment, it felt like it would be a lo-o-o-ong stay. Suddenly I no longer felt equipped to handle the physical demands or the emotional aspects of volunteering with orphans.

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The kids were soooooooo freaking adorable.  When we first stepped into the nursery, dozens of babies and toddlers met us, faces streaked with snot and dirt, reaching up grubby hands to  be held.  Heart-wrenching.  Precious.  Also kind of terrifying, truth be told.

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Who was I to do anything for these children?  Yes, I could spend a few weeks with them, playing and singing and snuggling, but then I would return to my comfortable life and they would be left here awaiting adoption.  This particular orphanage is run in a very efficient and loving manner, and every effort is made to care for the children as well as get them adopted by loving families as soon as possible.  But given the nature of international adoption and the mountains of paperwork and money required to accomplish this, it takes time.   So my purpose there was to love the kids for a short period of time as a way of bridging the gap between their arrival at the orphanage and their eventual placement with an adoptive family.

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I’m ashamed to admit this next part.

That first night in Haiti, I regretted ever coming there.  I wanted my own bed, my own hot shower, my own home, and everything familiar and comfortable.  I didn’t want to be in Haiti, sharing bunk beds and showering only every other day for ninety seconds, living with a bunch of other volunteers who were undoubtedly better with children than I was.

I was a fraud.

I had traveled all this way, planned for all these months, and now all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wasn’t cut out for this type of service.  I felt like more of a baby than the kids I was assigned to love.

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See her bewildered expression?  That’s pretty much how I felt that first night.

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I’ll return to this story in upcoming posts, but for today, I want to leave you with this thought:  When have you struggled with unmet expectations, particularly when you’ve disappointed yourself?  How do you deal with that kick in the gut, the realization that you may not be all you thought you were?  Do you back away in fear, never to face those situations again?

Or do you persevere, allowing Christ to be the strength you lack?

Sugar Fast Update

So the no-buying-candy streak lasted nearly two full months.  It began April 17 and ended today.

Not bad, right? Fifty-three days without incident, as my sign would read if my resolution were a factory or something involving dangerous machinery.  Although, come to think of it, a mere fifty-three days wouldn’t inspire that much confidence if I were a prospective employee at said factory.  But I digress.

What triggered the slip-up?  Super crazy exhausted stressful driving!  My baby boy and I were heading home from my great-uncle’s memorial service only to discover that anywhere we needed to go was fraught with delays and detours.  Ugh.  After almost two hours of stalled traffic, missed turns, unclear street signs, lack of GPS, and a slightly crabby toddler in the backseat, I did finally break down (not literally with the car or anything) and buy a package of gummy bears at the Walgreen’s where I asked for directions.  Even though I was finally getting close to where I needed to be, my tension level was so high, I just didn’t care much about my rule at that particular moment.

So I gave in to a moment of weakness.  We all do, right?  (Please say yes–I can’t stand being the only imperfect one!)

We can’t let temporary slip-ups derail the whole experiment.  We acknowledge the mistake and move on with fresh resolve.

Observations so far:

1) I definitely have been eating MUCH less candy during this time.  The only times I’ve indulged were at a few get-togethers, including my cousin’s baby shower this past weekend.

2) The candy I’ve had has seemed more of a treat.  Exactly as it should!  Not an everyday thing.

3) Sort of contradictory to #2, I don’t enjoy candy the way I used to.  I’m not giving up sugar by any means, but I’m finding that my tastes lean more toward baked treats, anything made from REAL ingredients.  I tried making chocolate mousse out of nothing but avocado, cocoa powder, and honey that was ahh-mazing! I love my cookies and enjoy them much more than fake-tasting candy.  The gummy bears I ate today were completely unsatisfying and made me feel sick.  So actually, this was a productive end-of-streak; it reminded me of how much better real food tastes and strengthened my resolve for the next several months.

Bummer to have to start the count over again, but such is life.  I’m feeling pretty darn good about my fifty-three days.

How about you?  What’s the tally for you and your specific goals?

 

 

Sugar Fast

I am a sugar addict.

Oh, what a relief to finally admit it on paper (well, online, technically).

Hi, I’m Kate and I’m a sugar addict.  (“Hi, Kate…”)

I confess: I frequently experience incredibly strong cravings for Skittles, chocolate chip cookies, and Twizzlers.  It is not unusual for me to consume three Subway cookies after lunch and still want Lucky Charms after dinner, plus a handful of other sugary snacks sprinkled throughout any given day.

I won’t deny it.  I have known for a long time that my obsession with sweet food is dangerous.  I know my noshing is out-of-control at times.  I have plenty of friends who claim to be just as addicted to sweets as I am, but I’m pretty sure I could out-eat any of them in a contest.  Whenever candy is required, people know I’m the girl to see.

When loved ones bemoan their addiction to smoking, I agree with them that smoking is a filthy, deadly habit that they should never have begun.  But I also am thinking inwardly, “I’m not that different.”  What I am doing to myself, my body, is perhaps equally self-destructive and foolish as smoking three packs a day.

So, here I am once again, resolved to cut back on the junk.  I vow to eat less candy, fewer empty calories.  I should probably say none, but knowing me, going cold turkey would be a setup for certain failure.

I have set up some parameters for myself now.  Only in a couple of areas am I saying, absolutely none.  1: Soda is out, as are sugary juices. 2: I will not buy candy.

Notice I didn’t say I will not eat candy.  My husband, wise man that he is, suggested I just don’t buy any more candy, at least for awhile.  Out of sight, out of mind.  If it’s not in the house, he reasons, you can’t eat it.  I know, I know– totally obvious, right?  But it is not easy for me.  So that’s my other hard and fast rule for the foreseeable future: no purchasing candy of any kind.

Brilliant.  Now, he first brought this idea up about a week before Easter.  Ah yes…Easter, the special time when we believers recognize Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  That is the original meaning of it, after all.  Sometime in the last two thousand years, something else crept in and began overtaking its sacred purpose.

Marshmallow Peeps.  Jelly beans (Starburst ones, not the regular original jellybeans, which are pretty gross, if you ask me).  M’n’Ms flocked with festive pastel pinks, blues, yellows, and purples.  Chocolate bunnies (although, to be honest, I’ve never been very impressed by their taste or quality).  Still, the lure of Easter candy threatened to derail me from the get-go.  I can’t even begin to guess how many jelly beans I’ve eaten in recent years between Valentine’s Day and Easter.   Plus, I would always try to hit the stores the day after Easter, to take advantage of the sales.

Something surprising happened after the implementation of the no-buying-candy rule.  The first time I went to Target, I glanced for a second at the Easter candy aisles, but walked right on by.  No struggle.  No inward debate over whether or not I would go ahead and cheat.  No friends or family members forced to pry family-sized bags of Tootsie Rolls out of my hands as I protested weakly, “Just one more!  I can quit anytime, I promise!” I just thought, nope.  Not gonna do it.

It was actually rather freeing.  Easier than anticipated.  That day and in the following shopping trips, instead of stocking up on bags and bags of candy, I walked on by.  I used to tell myself “well, I can give it away at school” (true, but I’d usually finish off most of it myself before I got the chance). I liked knowing that was one thing I could simply say no to.  I saved money and didn’t have all that sugary poison hanging around my house, hidden in various cupboards in vain attempts to deter me from eating it.

It’s only been a little over a month, but I’m so glad my man got me to make this change.  I’m not craving candy as much as I used to…hmm, perhaps because I’m not eating it every day? Notice, I didn’t say I can’t have candy…occasionally.  I thought that might be a little too drastic while starting out.  I’ll allow myself a little something once in awhile if someone else buys it, but I won’t buy the family-size bag anymore.  So I indulged in a few Peeps over Easter weekend (my husband’s family was roasting them …come on, there’s no way I’m going to say no to that caramelized deliciousness).

But out that’s it.  Since April 17th, those three or four Peeps, plus a weird gummy candy my friend gave me at her bridal shower are the only candy I have touched.  Scout’s honor.  If you knew me, you’d recognize this for the HUGE accomplishment it is.

Yeah, I still want my Cinnamon Toast Crunch or some sort of baked good before the day’s end.  I’m only human.  Baby steps.

Maybe one of these days cookies will be off the menu as well.  I don’t know.    Baking is just too much fun…

By the way, I’ve been trying out recipes from Chocolate-Covered Katie lately, too.  I’m not a vegan, but her blog boasts delicious lower-fat, lower-sugar dessert ideas!  Chocolate Chip Mug Cake…Snickerdoodle Dip…Chocolate Cake with a Crazy Ingredient (it’s cauliflower!).  Check it out!