Posts Tagged ‘Self Improvement’

Now that I have revisited my assorted aspirations for 2019, I am ready to draw up a list – a Very Loose List, mind you – of aspirations for this year. It WAS sort of fun to revisit last year’s list and see what I’d prioritized and what I hadn’t. And I don’t feel particularly bad about any of the things I failed to do. In fact, I feel kind of pleased that I accomplished ANY of them.

I plan to take the same kind of approach to this year’s aspirations. On this day and time, they are important and worthy of attention. But I am not going to put a huge amount of pressure on accomplishing anything outside of keeping myself and my child alive. Even my husband is ON HIS OWN, for keeping-alive purposes.

Here we go!


  • Read 30 books. Last year, I read 23 books. Reading just… falls by the wayside. And that’s ridiculous because I LOVE to read, and reading helps inspire and inform my own writing. So I want to really prioritize reading this year.
  • Buy new sport bras. Like last year, I am borrowing this undergarment goal from Stephany. Thanks, Stephany! I have probably around a dozen sports bras. But they are all terrible. Half of them are from high school and college, which, you may recall, took place TWO DECADES AGO OMG. So these sports bras have put in their time and deserve to retire. The reason I keep them around is because they are so comfy when the sports bras I have purchased in the past few years are so horribly UNcomfy. They are too tight or pinch my armpits and at least one of them has created a skin tag on my back which I DO NOT LIKE. One of them has a decorative trim that has come loose and another has a piece of padding that continually folds over on itself and both of these things make me feel unkempt – not that I am at my most kempt while exercising, I understand this – and in general I just hate all of them. What has prevented me from just getting rid of these awful torture slings, you ask? Cheapness, I answer. Sports bras are EXPENSIVE. But I am committing to, if not replacing ALL of them, at least buying two or three new ones that I actually like. I wear a sports bra probably five days a week, so this is a reasonable thing on which to spend money, SELF, ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS LOGICAL ARGUMENT?
  • Exercise five days a week. My husband and I got each other a recumbent bike for Christmas, so now we have that and a treadmill AND I still have a package of barre classes I purchased when they went on sale at the end of last year. Plus I have an abundance of exercise videos and the whole entire internet at my disposal. There is no reason for me to not exercise daily. It lulls the hamsters in my brain and elevates my mood and gives me more energy.
  • Limit my phone usage to one hour per day. Hahahahahahahaha. This is probably the most wild and ambitious goal of all, but I am going to try it. I have set the timers on my phone which is the first step. The second step is to stop hitting “ignore time limit” every time I reach it.
  • Find a good balance of social/solitary time. It seems like I have this bad habit of swinging wildly between over-scheduling myself with social events and then reacting to all the over-stimulation by hiding away and doing absolutely nothing and then reacting to feeling isolated by over-scheduling myself with social events. Repeat. I am an introvert. I know this. I should limit my social activities to once – maybetwice – a week, which should help still the pendulum.
  • Take better care of my skin. I have found a combination of facial oil and moisturizing lotion that I like. I have acquired some moisturizing spray. And now I just need to make sure I wash my face EVERY NIGHT.
  • Practice the piano. I am stealing this one from Nicole, and, admittedly, it is a wild and ambitious goal that I am unlikely to accomplish. Who will even know, anyway, as I do not plan to track my playing on a spreadsheet or even mark it down on a sheet of paper I could leave handily on the piano. So why aspire to do something I have so little faith in doing, you ask? Well, we have a beautiful hand-me-down baby grand piano and I have thirteen years of piano lessons under my belt andI have a bunch of sheet music of songs I’d like to learn/re-learn. Plus, playing the piano is something that would definitely enhance my life, so I am going to give it the old half-hearted try. I will attempt to play the piano twice a week this year. No specific time requirement – just sit down at the piano and noodle around for a while.



  • Find a new regular babysitter. I don’t really know how to go about doing this, but our current list of sitters has kind of fizzled out. By that I mean the three young women who regularly sit for Carla are more likely to a) be busy or b) not respond at all when I ask if they are available… and I feel like three in a row of those things really means I should stop bother them.
  • Go on more date nights. My husband and I really enjoy each other’s company. We need to spend more time alone. And I would like to try to see some movies together, like, in an actual theater. Sounds very adventuresome.
  • Undertake more weekend adventures. This is a carryover from last year. It was fun to go on little weekend trips, which I hope we can do again. And for the remaining weekends… Well, maybe we can try to dedicate one weekend day to loafing at home – which we all prefer to do – and the other day to adventuring. I know my husband is on board with this, so maybe together we can make it happen.
  • Plan a trip to visit my niece. We just need to make this happen.
  • Read/skim one parenting book a quarter. That seems like a VERY achievable goal, right? I have a ton of parenting books on my to-read list, but I have SUCH a hard time getting through them. So I need to make it a clearer goal, to read them and then share what I’ve learned with my husband. And then, I suppose, implement the useful ideas.
  • Emphasize/encourage more adventurous eating. Carla eats enough of a variety of foods that I feel like she’s getting adequate nutrition. For instance, when I make her dinner, I can be sure there is something from each category – protein, carb, dairy, vegetable, and fruit – on her plate that she will actually eat. But when it comes down to it, the list of foods she eats is very, very short. Which means that her meals look very similar, from day to day and week to week. (Right now, the only vegetables she will eat are sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and frozen green beans. That’s IT.) Lately, I have been applying a Pick Your Battles philosophy to this aspect of parenting — there are other battles more worthy of picking — but I really do want to help encourage her to eat beyond that list. I’m not sure how to do it, but I think one of the aforementioned parenting books could help.



  • Revise my manuscript. Now that I have all (most) of the words, I need to go through and put everything in a readable order and fill out the places where I just wrote in filler words and basically transform it from a rough draft into something I can send to beta readers.
  • Invest every single month. I am in charge of funding several investments we have. It’s a very simple process, done completely online. And yet I get freaked out by the wild movements of the market and the prospect of losing all our money and sometimes just… don’t invest.
  • Put money into a personal 401(k). Since I am earning money, even if it’s a tiny bit, I can put it into a retirement account. My dad helped me set up an individual 401(k) and I need to put what I earned last year into it before April.


House Projects

  • GALLERY WALL. My husband is on board. He has given me full control over the gallery wall, and just needs me to present him with my vision so that we can make it happen. THIS WILL HAPPEN. 
  • Fix the freaking toilet. I have purchased and installed FIVE flappers in our toilet. Perhaps it is a much more finicky and complicated repair than it seems based on viewing YouTube videos of the process, and I am merely missing some crucial element. Perhaps there is something else wrong with the toilet that I am unable to diagnose. In any case, I have reached the outer limit of my flapper-installation/toilet-repair knowledge AND PATIENCE – if you have never had to adjust and readjust and readjust and readjust AGAIN the length of a flapper chain while crouched uncomfortably over your toilet tank you have lived a good life indeed – and need to call in a professional. For my sanity.
  • Sharpen our knives. A local knife sharpener sets up camp at the grocery store at various times throughout the year. I want to load up all our knives (how???) and have him sharpen them, because they are woefully dull and therefore dangerous.
  • Purge old items. We have a bunch of stuff to get rid of. For one thing, I think it’s time to relieve our basement of Carla’s play kitchen. I can’t remember the last time she’s used it, and she’s had it since 2014, so it’s fulfilled its duties to our household. Plus, there are many other things that we just do not need in our basement – two giant duffels that my husband has owned since I’ve known him and has never once used in all those 19 years; the battered remains of our old footstool, which my husband cannot bear to throw out despite it being so gross we had to replace it, the pots and pans we replaced but are still holding onto for some reason, TWO coffee makers that we definitely do not need, tons of shoes I do not wear or Carla has outgrown, I could go on.  I need to decide if I am going to host another garage sale next summer (host? Is that the verb I am looking for? Do I mean “throw”? But that makes it sound like a party which it most certainly is NOT.) or if I am going to find somewhere to donate all the assorted items I need to get rid of. That requires calling places, which is unappealing. But a garage sale is a TON of work, which is also unappealing. MOST unappealing is playing hostess to a growing junk heap in my basement, though.
  • Have a realtor come evaluate our house. My husband and I are really, seriously thinking about moving out of this house. But we will not do so for about three years. If there is work we absolutely need to do to make our house more buyer-friendly, I want to do it now, so we can enjoy it before we move out.
  • Touch up the outside of the house. We have a stain on the siding above our front porch. The paint is starting to peel from the trim around the garage door. Our front door has seen better days. The front porch could use some fresh paint. I need to look into what it would take to make this happen.


(WHAT is WITH the spacing in this post??? Maybe I need to make Master WordPress Formatting Issues one of my goals.)

Well. That seems like a good, sturdy list. I fully expect some of these to fall by the wayside, and for other priorities to pop up. But from this vantage point, these seem like worthwhile and achievable goals.

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Making and tracking resolutions is not really my jam. But last year, for the first time I can remember, I made a big list of Very Loose Aspirations for the year. I wasn’t particularly worried about any of them (except the writing of my novel), and I made the list more for fun than anything else.

I thought it would be fun to revisit that list of aspirations and see which goals I prioritized and which ones I didn’t. (It was kind of fun.) Here are the results:


Aspiration: Be in bed by 10:30 every night. 

Result: Incomplete. Actually, I have no idea! I would guess that I head up to bed at about 10:30 to 11:00 pm each night, on average. But there’s really no way to track this without TRACKING it, and I am unwilling to do that. I feel pretty happy about


Aspiration: Ignore my phone.

Result: Incomplete. If anything, I have grown MORE addicted to my phone. I installed an app that tracked my phone usage and eventually turned it off because it was so horrifying.


Aspiration: Do a practice German lesson every day. 

Result: Incomplete. I realized that I just don’t like learning languages and gave up on this one.


Aspiration: Exercise three days a week on average. 

Result: Complete! Although I don’t know for sure because I didn’t track it, I feel like I was pretty successful at this one. There were a few lulls throughout the year, but nothing that lasted more than a few weeks.


Aspiration: Eat better. 

Result: Incomplete. I really devolved into a whole lot of Eating My Feelings in September and wasn’t ever really able to get back on top of eating healthful foods in healthful amounts. I currently weigh more than I ever have, which doesn’t feel great. But I’m working on it.



Aspiration: Finish the first draft of my manuscript. 

Result: Complete! It’s strange to me that I don’t feel more elated about achieving this goal. I’ve been working toward it for nearly FOUR YEARS. I think it’s because there is still so much work left to do.


Aspiration: Figure out what to do with the short story I’ve been working on for a few years. 

Result: Incomplete. Did not think about this once.


Aspiration: Set up an interview with a subject expert for my next novel. 

Result: Incomplete. I found that thinking about this project was distracting from my primary project, so I put it on hold.


House Projects

Aspiration: Finally get someone to come fix the ice maker. 

Result: Complete! Our ice machine is fully functional.


Aspiration: Find out what it takes to stretch the carpet in the upstairs hall. 

Result: Complete! I hired someone to come stretch the carpet, and he did, and it is SO MUCH better.


Aspiration: Look into the cost of new windows. 

Result: Complete! I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about windows. I had a BUNCH of window salespeople come over, assess our window situation, and offer estimates. It became very overwhelming – how do you decide between very slight differences in window quality and appearance??? how do you choose to spend $10,000-$20,000 on something that probably won’t increase your home value??? – so we did not replace any of our windows. But we COULD because now I know the options.


Aspiration: Revamp the living room in six parts.

  • Put up a gallery wall. 
  • Result: Incomplete. Started collecting artwork, but never got them on the walls.


  • Replace the ottoman.
  • Result: Complete! We got a new ottoman with inside-storage from Target. I love it.


  • Replace the side table. 
  • Result: Incomplete. I finally found the exact side table I want, but it is MUCH more than I want to spend. And my husband and I decided not to buy any new furniture until we move into a new house (several years down the road).


  • Convert our wood-burning fireplace into a gas fireplace. 
  • Result: Incomplete. We did not even look into what this would take. In fact, I don’t think we even mentioned it again until Christmastime, when my husband idly told my father we were thinking about it.


  • Paint the baseboards.
  • Result: Nope. I did look at them several times and THINK about painting them. But thinking is not quite the same as doing, when it comes to baseboard paint.


  • As long as we’re dreamingI’d also love to paint the fireplace, get some curtains for the sliding glass door, and stain our buffet. And get a new couch.
  • Result: Nope to all.


Aspiration: Get additional craft storage for the kitchen. 

Result: Complete! We bought a set of these IKEA TRONES cabinets and installed them in the hallway between our pantry and laundry room. Yes, they are technically shoe cabinets, but, as I envisioned, they are perfect for storing construction paper and in-progress artwork.


Aspiration: Figure out what to do about our grill. 

Result:  Complete! My wonderful father fixed our grill while we were in Europe.



Aspiration: Eat dinner together twice a week. 

Result: Complete??? Tentatively??? As with all the goals that actually require tracking to see if I accomplished them, I have no real idea. I THINK we ate together as a family more often – we were especially successful during the summer, when Carla could go to bed a bit later than she does during the school year. And we are definitely better about trying to make it happen when we can. We also started having family movie nights most Fridays, which I think counts. Even though we end up eating together in the basement in front of the TV, rather than at the table, it is a really nice tradition and I hope we keep it up.


Aspiration: Do more weekend adventures. 

Result: No idea. We did take family trips to Toronto and Kentucky. And I remember that, shortly after we got back from Europe, my husband and I took Carla downtown to see if we could have a European-style day-of-walking-and-enjoying-the-city-sites. We also took Carla to see a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. And, I mean, we attended SO MANY birthday parties. So maybe we were more successful at this than I think. Okay, I am going to count it as complete.


Aspiration: Go on a date night with my husband more often (every six weeks?). 

Result: Incomplete. I do NOT think this happened. In fact, I cannot remember the last date night I had with my husband… so that’s not a good sign.



Aspiration: Be more patient and less yell-y.

Result: Complete. While this is something that I will always continue to monitor/work on, I DO think I made big strides this year in being more patient and less yell-y. Especially with Carla. I have a hot temper that flares up quickly (and extinguishes quickly, as well), so this is something I definitely need to stay on top of.


Aspiration: Host friends for dinner. 

Result: Complete! We had friends over several times this past year – which includes the big dinner party we hosted. I was going to say that my enthusiasm for hosting fizzled out toward the end of the year, but we did  have people over for Halloween and then we hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas for our families, so I think I can give myself a pass.


Aspiration: Buy new underwear. 

Result: Complete! I bought myself between 8-10 new pairs of underwear, and also got rid of some of the underwear that was hole-y or otherwise cluttering up my underwear drawer.


Aspiration: Read 40 books. 

Result: Incomplete.  I read 23 books in 2019.


Well, if I did the math correctly, I have a 50% success rate. That sounds pretty dismal, except when you consider that a BUNCH of those incompletes came from my wildly ambitious living room plans.

I have to say, I accomplished more of these things than I thought I would. Still lots of room for improvement, but a pretty successful year.

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I try to be a good inhabitant of our planet, as much as a human can be. But I’m not great, and there is a LOT of room for improvement. I have become hyperaware of how much trash we produce, for instance, and we are just a little family of three. But with room for improvement comes opportunity, so I have been keeping my eyes out for ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Two areas of greatest waste in my household are paper towels and plastic bags. I have become an expert at bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, and I am really working on bringing my reusable produce bags, too. (I really need to buy more of them, because I inevitably end up using plastic bags anyway and then feeling annoyed at myself. Baby steps.) I have effectively retrained my brain to use reusable containers instead of Ziploc bags for things like snacks and leftovers. I can still improve in that arena, too: I use a lot of Ziploc bags to marinate and freeze meat (although I am getting better about marinating things in glass dishes instead), and I am in the early stages of researching and thinking about buying reusable silicone zipper bags to use as a replacement. But I’m not there yet.

It takes me a while to change. And I think at this stage of life, I still want things to be fairly convenient. Listen, I know that this is not a good argument against doing something that is better for the environment. But I think we all do what we can, and even a little step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction. Probably I should be composting and bicycling Carla to school each day and avoiding plastic at all costs but I am making changes, and that has to be worth something. Ugh. I am sure Swistle has written about this before… Yes, yes she has: “Environmentalism, Swistle Style” and you should go read that and we can all feel better about our own willingness/ability to change. I’ll wait.

See? Doesn’t that feel better? I guess it boils down to: I can do better, of course I can, we all can. But I am doing SOMETHING and that is NOT NOTHING.

This is all to say that I have been thinking about reusuable paper towels for a long time. First, I discovered that they existed. This was A Revelation to me; I had no idea! Then I started reading about them. Then I thought seriously about buying some. Then I did a test run of No Paper Towels (using washcloths instead) to see if I could justify trying them out. Then I went through a long period of using paper towels as per usual. And then I mentioned the reusable paper towels to my husband, and he got on board, and I bought a package.

These are the reusable paper towels I bought:

Paper towels

photo from amazon.com

My main concerns were fourfold:

  1. Would they be an adequate replacement? I wanted to be sure that the reusable paper towels acted as much like a replacement for paper towels as possible. In my trial period, I’d been using microfiber washcloths, and that was fine… but it wasn’t like paper towels. They were the wrong size. They felt wrong. I had to stow them in a plastic bag in the laundry room until I had enough to wash them. What I wanted was… paper towels. Just… reusuable ones. I was able to determine through research that this was impossible. Sure, the resuable paper towels I got LOOK like a roll of paper towels. But once you use them, you can’t put them back on the roll. So you have to find a way to store them after that first use. Hence…
  2. How and where were we going to store them? We got a new piece of furniture for the hallway between the pantry and the laundry room, so I kind of figured I would put them in one of the drawers. I could lay them all out flat and store them there, and hopefully it would be easily accessible enough to still be convenient to use. I also planned to employ the old bag-hanging-in-the-laundry-room trick to keep the soiled cloths between washings. Instead of a Target bag, I would use one of my reusable veggie bags because it is breathable. And then once we had a whole bagful of soiled cloths, I could wash them.
  3. What was I going to do about really germy messes? Wiping down the counter after Carla eats dinner is one thing. But what about using a reusable paper towel on spilled chicken juice? Even if I give it a thorough rinse afterward, I don’t know if I want that hanging around in my veggie bag until I have enough towels to justify a load of laundry.

The last concern is the least concerning:

  1. Were we going to accidentally throw them in the trash, wasting money and nullifying any environmental benefit?


So there you go. I bought the towels. Now, we have to USE them. Next time, I will tell you what I think.

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