Nothing gets me back in “writer mode” faster than an opportunity to reflect, set goals, share lists, etc. So on this first day of a new year, here I am looking back on what worked to make life a bit easier, lovelier, or more inspired.
- Walmart Grocery Pickup. My sister and closest friends swore by it. They told me it was a life saver/life changer/the greatest thing that’s ever happened to anyone ever. I kept NOT doing it. Then I did it. I went online and put stuff in my grocery cart as I planned out our meals. I told the Walmart store just 7 minutes from our house (that I never frequented because: Walmart) what time I would be there to pick up my stuff. I waited for confirmation that everything was ready. I put my 4 children in the van, drove to the store, chatted with the friendly man or woman who did all the hard work for me, opened up the back of the van and let them put everything in. Life saver. Life Changer. The Greatest thing that’s ever happened to anyone ever.Even when the wait is longer than I want it to be. Even when bread gets squished. Even when the chips are crumbs. Even when they don’t have what I want and it’s substituted or just left off or they forget something or the laundry soap spills (and in those cases their customer service is fantastic and they go above and beyond to make it right)…even then, it’s worth it. I highly recommend it.
- Goodwill. I’m not sure at what point in the year I started frequenting Goodwill, but very quickly it became a family affair that resulted in my husband and I having “new” clothes for the first time ever. A clothing budget was always something we wanted but never had. If our growing kids needed something, we made it happen or begged grandparents for help. But if we needed or wanted something? We waited for birthday or Christmas money and then felt lame and sorry for ourselves for “having” to spend it that way. After pregnancy, and thanks to nursing, I lost a lot of weight and had nothing to wear. Goodwill allowed me to keep myself clothed without a huge price tag. And those kids who keep growing? I kept them in jeans, shorts, and shoes when they needed them.It’s also true what people say: you can find REALLY GREAT STUFF at Goodwill. Name brands, stuff with tags still attached, barely used, gently used, trendy, “I may as well give it a shot because it’s only $3” good stuff. I feel like I have a style for the first time in my life because I’m willing and able to take a $3 risk. If I’ve received compliments on clothes this year (and I have), 99% of the time I’ve been wearing something from Goodwill.
- eBay. My Goodwill shopping actually started out with an eye for sellable items. I had friends who were having huge success selling clothes on eBay, and the income they were bringing in was helping their families pay down debt, cover school tuition, and changing their lives. But once I got into Goodwill, I was finding clothes I wanted to keep! Now it’s both: I find things to keep, and I often find things to sell. I haven’t put the time into it that some of my friends have. It’s not a business, by any means, but there have been many months where the money I’ve made on eBay has helped our family when money has been tight.
- Morning Pages. This is a simple practice that many writers use to shake out the cobwebs in the morning and get themselves ready to write. The basic idea is to write 3 pages of free-flowing thoughts first thing every day. There’s no over thinking or editing, it’s just writing. Almost every morning during their summer break, the kids and I gathered at the dining room table with our special notebooks and pens (bought just for the occasion) and set a timer for 20 minutes. I told them to limit themselves to two pages of their notebooks (because they are all artists who love nothing more than filling up pages with their creations). I encouraged them to write if they wanted to, but tried not to put too many rules and restrictions upon them. We ALL loved it, and they’ve requested Morning Pages many days since. It’s hard to make it happen in the busyness of the school year, but we will definitely do it again this summer.
- A new Instagram account. At some point early in the summer, I got the idea to start a new account, public this time, all about our family of 6 enjoying Oklahoma City together. It became a fantastic way to explore all that our city has to offer as far as shopping, eating out, and enjoying time as a family. It even led to a side job of writing restaurant reviews! I’ve so enjoyed writing the column, as well as challenging our family to eat and shop local, get to know the names and faces of small business owners in our community, and spread the word about the benefits of this practice.
- Book Club! I LOVE reading but usually hate book clubs because of the pressure I always feel to say something insightful or intelligent. But I wanted to gather women in my church to read and discuss some great fiction, and we did! We enjoyed 3 books together before school started and made life crazier. We plan to continue this year.
- One word: OPEN. For the past two years I adopted a word for the year, then lost sight of it somewhere along the way. But at least for a while, the word OPEN was fresh on my mind. It was on my mind when I got a text early in the year from a woman from my church who lives in my neighborhood and was looking for help with childcare. While my first inclination was to say, “Uh. No. 100% no.” I thought about it. I ultimately had to say no, but that conversation led to a friendship with this woman and the motivation to give other things a chance. I was open to and said yes to being a house mom at my kid’s school and to working for my church again.
So there are a few things that worked for me. Here’s to staying open, to finding margin, to boundaries and healthy “yeses” and “nos.” Here’s to another year of growth and change.
Happy New Year!