Saturday, December 7, 2013

Goals for 2014--Updated on 12/30/14!

I think I'm just wired to set goals.  I'm not sure I'm wired to complete goals, but I set them with the best intentions.  I've always made New Year's resolutions, but rarely stuck with them.  Of course, few people ever knew what resolutions I made.  I didn't share them because I didn't want anyone to know if I failed...which I almost always did.

There's something very motivating (and terrifying) about making goals known to others.  I've experienced a renewal of accountability in 2013 through, of all things, Facebook.  I joined several groups on Facebook in 2013, mostly related to fitness.  In these groups, which are private, you post daily how you worked toward the goal of the group.  For example, I joined a fitness group where I had to post a sweaty picture of myself after a workout and a record of my daily consumption of calories.  I was on a team with other members and earned points for every posting.  If I didn't post (which means I didn't work out or eat well), I was costing my team points.  Talk about pressure!  All I can say is:  it worked for me.  I lost 20 pounds and got in pretty decent shape. 

Because of this first FB goal group, I decided to sign up to run a half marathon.  My longest run at the time was a 10K with lots of walking.  It was going to take a lot of focus and training to run 13.1 miles, so I joined another FB accountability group to keep me (literally) on track.  Well, goal achieved.  I finished that half marathon on November 8th and am doing another half in February.  So, I'm now sold on accountability and motivational groups.

With these things in mind, I've decided to set some goals for 2014 and make them...gulp...known. 

Financial Goals:
1.  Save more, spend less...
It seems like every time we get some savings built up, some crazy unexpected event happens (a new puppy with parvo, one of our trees falling on our neighbor's house, two unplanned surgeries, and so on...).  It's time to get serious about the savings account.  Life isn't getting any cheaper and our daughter is 2 years away from a driver's license (eyes wide with terror).  Having a more substantial emergency savings account will certainly help ease the stress I feel from my huge weakness in life:  FEAR.
Update:  Did pretty well.

2.  Set a realistic budget and STICK TO IT!...

Obviously, this is a necessary step to achieve #1.  We have a budget, but still can't seem to get it just right.  Dave Ramsey needs to personally come have a sit down with this family.  I plan on using his Total Money Makeover book for 2014.  In order for our budget to work, we need to use cash instead of the check card.  It hurts more to use cash and we will be less likely to buy the "stupid stuff". The check card is the death of many budgets, including ours.
Update:  Did it!  YNAB (You Need a Budget) software is awesome!  I literally know where every cent is, where it's going, and where it went.

3.  Purchase new living room furniture with cash...

We have horrible, hand-me-down, living room furniture.  It's old, ugly, torn, and way too big for theroom.  The tables are stained with marker, scratched mercilessly, and way out-of-style.  We have mismatched bookshelves and a huge TV console that takes up half the room.  Let's put it this way, my kids are programmed to hide in the dark and pretend no one is home if the doorbell rings to keep ANYONE from seeing the house (even the UPS delivery man).  New furniture and refinished floors are topping my must-have list.  With two kids and three dogs, this needs to be some heavy-duty, indestructible, easy-to-clean, furniture.  Furniture is EXPENSIVE!  My goal is to buy this furniture in the early fall so we can enjoy movies and football and friends.
Update:  Terrible.  This is again a goal for 2015.

4.  Save for a Disney World vacation...
We went on a great Disney and Universal vacation in 2011, but haven't been anywhere since then.  My kids beg weekly to go back to Disney, and I want nothing more than to take them again.  My husband loves it as much as the kids, so we are hoping to find extra income to pay for this through extra jobs.  We hope to take this vacation in 2015, so we will have 17 months to save.  We'll see...
Update:  Didn't do great on saving due to those stupid budget busters that creep in each year, but we're still on track to go in 2015!

Family Goals:
1.  Eat at home more...
This will certainly help with the financial goals, but it's not easy for this family.  I am a terrible cook and a poor meal planner.  I work long days and I despise the grocery store.  Our kids are involved in sports and church activities, so we're often out late multiple nights a week and eating out frequently is the solution for dinner.  But, even when there is no need to eat out, I'm still likely to want to.  I like eating out.  No planning, prep work, cooking, or clean up.  Right up my alley.  My kids are also super picky and I get irritated when I actually fix a meal and they won't eat it.  I've got to step up and get cooking in 2014.  I just need to think about new furniture and Disney World to help motivate me in my weak moments.
Update:  Did much better in 2014 and have an even better plan for 2015. 
2.  Take advantage of more local events...
Chattanooga has a lot of things for a family to do that are either free or very cheap.  We rarely take advantage of them!  I blame myself because I am such a homebody.  I like to be at home and it takes a lot to get me out the door.  I also don't like crowds, so that makes things challenging.  There's always so much catching up to do at home on the weekends when most of these events happen.  In 2014, I want my family to get out more and make more memories.
Update:  Nope.  We're still boring.
3.  Spend more family time together...
It seems that we're often at home together, but not actually spending time together.  I'm sure we aren't the only family caught in this rut.  With an almost 14 year old and a 6 year old,  it's not always easy to find "family fun" that everyone can enjoy.  In 2014, I'd like to find more ways to spend family time at home that everyone looks forward to each time.  My plan is to schedule family nights on a monthly calendar.
Update:  We've done much better with this, especially lately.  We're eating more meals together instead of eating in stages and we spend about an hour each night in the living room together.  More progress planned for 2015.

Personal Goals:
1.  Organize, Renee, organize...
I say this every year, but I just can't take it anymore.  Before the producer from Hoarders shows up at the door, I am going to get rid of, for lack of a better word, stuff.  Lots of stuff.  We do not live in a big house.  We have stuff everywhere.  It makes me sad, angry, depressed, and defeated.  I must organize this house, and I will have to do it (mostly) alone.  This is not a goal for the other members of my family.  They are fine with the narrow trails through each room.  I am not.  I am going to make a realistic plan for organizing throughout the year.  After all, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  The stuff that survives the cut will have a place.  A place for everything and for everything a place.  There are tons of tips for organization and purging clutter online.  This will be a 12 month project.  I must succeed.
Update:  Not even close to finished, but making improvements.

2.  Run, Renee, Run...
I finally got serious about running in 2013.  I completed my first half marathon in the upright position, had a personal best 10K time, and am in the midst of training for the Disney Princess Half in February.  I want to do at least 2 half marathons in 2014 along with several other races.  I really like a 10K race.  The distance is enough, but not too much. I'd like to really improve my 5K time.  I would love to run a 5K in under 30 minutes.  Races really motivate me to stick with the training and challenge me to improve my pace times.   I feel great after a run and I'm learning a lot about myself, especially on long runs.  Hopefully, I can avoid injury and keep running.  It also helps to keep some of the weight off.
Update:  I was doing great until October.  I've been on the injured list since then, but plan to start training for an April Half in the next week.  It's going to be hard to start all over again, but I'm not stopping now!

3.  Read, Renee, Read...
I set a 2013 goal of reading 40 books.  I'm probably going to fall a few books short of that goal for
one main reason:  Social Media.  I spent way too much time in 2013 on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  I played way too many levels of Candy Crush and Farm Heroes Saga.  I don't think it's a bad thing to check social media daily, but I seemed to be overly connected.  I would like to substitute a bunch of social media time for reading time.  I already own enough books to fill up the next 20 years, so I need to dedicate more time everyday to reading.  I do start my day with devotional reading, so I plan to keep that going.  I'm going to set a goal of 36 books for 2014.  Three books a month sounds like a good number.  Hopefully, I can read more.
Update:  BOOM!  67 books in 2014.  

4.  Write, Renee, Write...
Writing is therapeutic.  Whether it is blogging, journaling, or writing a book review, I need to get back into the habit of writing in 2014.  My goal is to write at least 2 times a week during 2014.
Update:  There's really no need to talk about this...ever.  Epic fail.

5.  Eat better, Renee, eat healthy...
As I mentioned earlier, I'm a terrible cook.  That has made unhealthy convenience food a staple in our house.  I want to eat more clean in 2014.  I've also learned that running well requires eating well.  I can tell a real difference in a run after eating junk and a run after eating well.  It's time to clean up the diet, wean off the sugar and processed foods, and fuel properly.
Update:  Not going well.  A goal for 2015.

Well, that should be enough, I think.  I know none of these goals are unusual or uncommon, but I still think the accountability of making them known will help me stay focused on achievement.  I plan to update throughout the year about the progress (or lack thereof) made on each goal.  I would love to have some accountability partners along the way.  If you set yearly goals and want to share them, I'd love to read them and help encourage you along the way.

I hope 2013 was good to you and 2014 will be even better. 

Happy New Year!



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Film Review: Inheritance

I am home with my sick, but rapidly recovering, 5.75 year old son today.  One of the side effects of his "illness" is wanting me to be right by his side at all times.  This doesn't bother me at all (he's only little once), but it does prevent me from accomplishing the chores that I could have gotten done on this unexpected day off of work.

Instead of watching ANOTHER episode of Scooby Doo, I decided to stick in the ear buds and watch something (not animated) on the iPad.  We have an Prime Membership.  It rocks.  One of the many benefits of this membership is the unlimited, commericial free, instant streaming of movies and television shows.  We watch movies and tv series often this way.

While perusing the documentaries available, I stumbled on Inheritance.  It was released in 2008 and is the extraordinary and gut wrenching story of two women, Monika Hertwig and Helen Jonas.
Monika never knew her father.  Like million of German children, she lost her father in WWII. She was not yet a year old when he died.  At age eleven, Monika finds out that her father did not die in battle as countless other German soldiers.  Her father was executed; hanged as a thief.

Helen, however, knew Monika's father very well.  She was only fifteen when she arrived with other Jews at the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland.  Monika's father was Helen's warden, her torturer, and her nightmare for nearly two years at Plaszow.  He made her one of his house maids, exposing her to daily humiliation and beatings (but, most likely, saving her life).

Now, take a step back with me to December, 1993.  Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List opens in theaters.  My husband and I went to see it on a Saturday afternoon.  We had planned to go to dinner afterwards, but neither of us had any appetitie when we left the theater.  Seeing that film changed me.  It was one thing to know about what happened in The Holocaust.  It was a whole other thing to see it.  I have not seen Schindler's List since then.  I do not need to see it again.  I do believe everyone should see it see what man can do to man.  I remember it very well.  It's seared into my brain.  I had a particular problem, after Schindler's List, being able to see Ralph Fiennes in any other films.  No matter how heroic or dashing his character may have been, to me he was always that horrific, evil, sadistic, Nazi who thoroughly enjoyed killing and torturing his prisoners.

Monika Hertwig saw Schindler's List in the theater, also.  But, her experience was very different from the millions of others who saw the film.  Monika was waiting to see her father on the screen.  Monika's father was Amon Goetz, the commander of the Plaszow camp,...brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes.

Can you imagine?  Can you even fathom?

When Monika sees Helen Jonas interviewed in a documentary about the survivors of Plaszow, she writes her a letter asking to meet her.  Inheritance is the story of the two women and the very different scars they bear from the same man's choices.  It's also a story of hope and learning from the past.
As an avid fan of documentaries, I will tell you that this is not the best film you will ever see.  It isn't slickly produced with wonderful background music and dramatic editing.  It's just very real.  The pain in these women and the emotional journey they take will certainly move you.  I do not hesitate to recommend it.

4/5 stars

Note: This documentary is not rated, but because of the topic and some strong language I would be cautious about allowing children under age 16 to see it without adult supervision (and a good history lesson beforehand).
"Every father in a war should think about his children."--Monika Goetz Hertwig


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go

After reading A Monster Calls back in October, I knew I wanted to get my hands on more novels by Patrick Ness.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into!  The Knife of Never Letting Go is a roller coaster ride with little chance to catch your breath.  There were a few times I was actually physically tired because of what was going on in the story.  Don't plan on reading this one for a few minutes before bed.  You won't be able to put it down.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Easy comparisons to The Hunger Games and the Divergent series can be made, but Knife is a unique and creative dystopian novel with a bit more sci-fi than these others.  It's gritty, dark, and intense, but holds just enough hope and optimism to keep the reader totally off-balance.  The ending is a merciless cliffhanger, so I'm really glad I already own the rest of the series.  You will not want to let go of this novel or the characters you meet.

5/5 stars for The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness      

Book Review: "Do What You Can" Plan: 21 Days to Making Any Area of Your Life Better

I follow Holley Gerth's contributions to the wonderful blog, (In)courage, so I was excited to read this short e-book she wrote for the new year.  It's only 60 pages, but it's packed full with inspirational and motivational truths.  Studies show that it takes 21 days to form new, or break old, habits.  This book is divided into 21 short chapters, one for each of these habit changing days.  Gerth encourages her readers to set faithful goals and dream God-sized dreams.  She asks thought-provoking, and sometimes tough, questions but remains encouraging and judgement-free.  I recommend this book for anyone looking for her place in the world.  A practical and affirming read.
4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: State of Wonder

  The first book I've completed in 2013 is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  I wish I had amazing things to say about it, but it was just....dare I say it...average. 
  Patchett wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Bel Canto, so I really wanted to love this book.  I didn't love it.  It just never grabbed me. I kept waiting to get to the good part, but there wasn't really a good part.  I have rarely ever, and I mean ever, not finished a book...but I was tempted at times to quit this one.  I am glad I finished it and I will certainly read other Patchett novels. 
  Patchett loves exotic locations and characters.  She had those in State of Wonder, but the story just never took off for me.  Many have given it excellent reviews, but I was never engrossed by State of Wonder.   
  If you are interested in scientific research for major drug companies, fertility drugs for women well past the age of fifty, and/or the Amazon jungle, this may be a book you will enjoy.  Definitely read Bel Canto.  It's amazing.

3/5 stars for State of Wonder