6 Life Lessons from 2018

Life is funny, isn’t it? For much of my life, I was eager for time to move faster (especially during the hour before the munchkins’ bedtime), but now I’m finding it slipping through my fingers like grains of sand. This year seemed to have flown by in a few blinks of an eye—one minute I was enjoying the warm days of summer; the next thing I knew, it was time to turn on the heater. Even though we’ve had our tree up for a few weeks already, I’m amazed that it’s Christmas again. I wonder if each and every year from now on will pass by just as quickly? And what will be the results of those 365 days, year after year? 

Yup, I’m feeling a bit sentimental and nostalgic and whatever other emotions one feels during mid-life. Maybe even a bit philosophical. But the one thing I wish I felt less of was anxious. Frazzled. Rushed. I long to feel the freedom and spontaneity of my youth. To feel invincible and hopeful. To believe I had all the time in the world to do all the things I wanted to do. To joyfully experience that funny and beautiful thing called life.

After 43 years on this earth, I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned at least 43 lessons about life. Some of them—okay, who am I kidding!—most of them (especially the ones about parenting) have been hard to swallow. Still many are being ingrained into that thick skull of mine. I wish I were less stubborn and more flexible to learning, but the upside is that life likes to present the same lessons to me, over and over again, so I get plenty of practice changing my perspective and attitude. What joy, right? Ha! 😉

Fortunately, writing really helps me process these life lessons, which is the reason why I started this blog in the first place—to rethink everything I thought I knew about being a perfect person, wife, mom, etc. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy making up stories this past year that I’ve put blogging and processing on the back burner. Which is why I thought it’d be good to write down the life lessons I learned in 2018. Here they are in no particular order, except that one that my tired brain is cranking out. 🙂

  1. Everything takes work. Marriage takes work; parenting takes work; my relationship with God takes work; writing and selling books takes work; friendships take work; housework and chores take A LOT of work. I’ve come to see that work mean putting in the effort and time, but most of all, the intention. When you have the desire and motivation to push you, what seems like work becomes less laborious and more a way of being, of living.  
  2. Balance is key. You have to take care of yourself, so you can take care of those around you and do everything that life requires of you. Downtime is essential (here’s a great podcast about why) and a non-negotiable.
  3. Run your own race. The only person you need to compete with is yourself. Get wrapped up in your own progress and growth. 
  4. Give yourself credit. Don’t shortchange yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments, including the everyday ones (especially cooking and laundry!). Doing the same thing day in and day out is a lot harder than people think.
  5. The little things add up. Doing the same things on a daily basis, as mundane as they may be, builds character in the long run. I love how Romans 5:3-4 puts it: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I know suffering seems like a big word, but I like to think that living in this imperfect, fallen world is an experience in suffering. It’s not always easy to love people, to stay positive, to find joy in work, or to have faith in God. But when we put one foot in front of the other, open our eyes and engage our hearts, we start to have more purpose in doing, being, and believing. Life becomes sweeter and more fulfilling as we persevere and learn and grow.
  6. Soak in all. the. moments. Take time to appreciate the ordinary because these moments will one day be the fodder of nostalgic conversations. Make memories, and make them well.

What life lessons did you learn in 2018? I’d love to hear them and learn from you. Thank you for following me on my recovering perfectionist journey this past year. I so appreciate your support. 🙂 Till next time, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lessons Learned from the Small Things

Since the end of a year usually gets me thinking and reflecting, I asked the munchkins a question on the last day of 2016 to get them thinking and reflecting: What did you learn this year?

They answered me with blank stares and full mouths (it was dinnertime), so I tried to help them out a little.

“You guys learned to swim!” (Which was nothing short of a miracle for two kiddos who had never intentionally put their heads in the water before this summer. Now they race to see who can jump into the pool first!)

“We learned how to knit.” (Thank you, YouTube videos.)

E finally swallowed and added, “I learned algebra.” (Simple algebra in 4th grade? Craziness, I tell ya.)

I turned to C and reminded her, “You learned how to do a handstand!”, to which she enthusiastically nodded.

Wow. What a year.

These were some major milestones for the kids, milestones I wish could be captured in more than a few words or sentences.  Saying, “You guys learned to swim!” doesn’t do the experience of learning how to swim justice. Five words aren’t enough to describe the endless hours it took for E and C to overcome their fears enough to trust us to hold their hands when they gave up their swim floaties. To trust that their goggles would keep the water out of their eyes (and still go underwater even when they didn’t). And to trust that the fun of jumping into the water would be worth the butterflies they felt in their stomachs as they stood on the edge of the pool. Learning how to swim was a culmination of years and years of patience, perseverance, courage and faith for all of us, especially the patience part for hubby and me. 😉 Even though it seems like the kids accomplished this achievement in 2016, you could say they started learning how to swim 10 and 7 years ago.

Isn’t that the case with a lot, if not most, of the lessons we learn in life? Learning something new takes time—minutes, hours, days and years of time.  And the little mundane things we are learning today are necessary and important lessons we need in order to accomplish something bigger in the future.

That’s what I was thinking about the other night when C and I were wrangling some yarn. You may think the word wrangle would apply better to a herd of cattle or horses, but believe me, this yarn had a mind of its own. It was perfectly coiled when I bought it, but over the course of a few weeks, it had become a crazy tangle of a mess. And before I could use it again I had to tame the wild beast.

This beast has a cute name though: Cupcake Sprinkles. 😉

So that’s what we set out to do. I found one end and began wrapping it around my hand while C picked it apart and released its knots. She kept exclaiming, “This is going to take hours!” to which I replied through gritted teeth, “No, it won’t!” Truthfully though, it did take most of the evening to unravel. But through it all, we persevered. We cheered when we could pull more than a foot of yarn at once and booed when we encountered a knot. I was impressed with C’s patience and complimented her on it, especially when we traded tasks and I got the hard job of untangling the knots. When we traded back, she told me with confidence, “Watch and learn!” as she masterfully tamed that yarn, inch by inch. It was a wonderful sight (and a relief!) when we were all done.

Lesson learned? The task of unravelling the ball of yarn may have seemed mundane and a waste of time, but it was much needed and in preparation for something bigger. Like being able to knit this cute hat for my niece.

As you can see, I did a lot of knitting over winter break. 🙂 I also made a hat for C to match her cousin’s, as well as a bag for her stuffed chick (not pictured here).

So, yup, as we start this new year, I’m reminding myself to take baby steps as I set my goals. Sure, I’d love to be able to write more books than I did last year, but what’s important is that I just show up and write. Word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. Because all these small steps will add up and come together to form something beautiful  … just like that crazy ball of yarn did.

Here’s the song C and I listened to on repeat(!) while we were wrangling the yarn. It’s called, “Up, Up and Away” and it’s from one of the American Girl movies, Grace Stirs Up Success. The main character in the film also learned the importance of taking small steps (ie. cracking an egg with one hand) in her quest to become a Masterchef Junior baker.

What small steps are you learning today that will help you to accomplish bigger things in the future?

Life is Like Waiting for Water to Boil

The kids and I stopped by a friend’s house last week, and she marveled at how tall they had gotten. I replied in an uncertain voice, “Oh yeah? I guess so.”

Considering we hadn’t seen each other for over six months, I figured she was probably right. Definitely right, however, was more like it. E’s pants which I had recently hemmed now looked unseasonably short as they skimmed his ankle bones. And C just mentioned that a shirt she had worn a few months ago no longer covered her tummy well. Even with this evidence of growth though, I had a hard time recognizing it.

I wondered why, and realized it’s because my perspective is so limited.

I see the munchkins day in and day out – that’s 365 days out of 365 days! And as any parent knows, every one of those days can feel long (though the years are short!). Trying to capture the kids’ daily growth is like waiting for water to boil. You stare and stare at the pot on the stove, even lifting the lid every ten seconds to look inside, but it still feels like it’s taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r for anything to happen. It’s hard to notice the tiny bubbles forming on the side of the pot as the water heats up. It’s also easy to discount the role of those bubbles because they appear so insignificant. But it’s that slow and easy simmering action that eventually produces bigger and bigger bubbles, ones so powerful that they “cannot be disturbed or disrupted by stirring or by dropping ingredients into the water” (thank you, www.wisegeek.org!).

That’s what it’s like for me waiting for my kids to “boil” (aka. mature). I witness their daily sibling wars, hangry meltdowns and homework struggles. I make them the same cheese quesadillas for lunch and the same pasta or fried rice dish for dinner. It’s like I’m running in a hamster wheel trying to keep up with them, and I see the same view of them every day. But the view is a lot bigger from outside the “cage”, and even bigger over the course of time.

Thinking about the kids’ growth shed some light for me when a good friend asked me the other day, “Do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to this year?”

My immediate reaction was to answer, “No, not at all!” If I could have, I would have wanted to write more and publish more books. And, of course, to sell more. It’s easy for me to list all the “mores” that I wish I had accomplished this year. But when I proceeded to tell this to my friend, she shook her head and exclaimed, “You did a lot!”

Hmm?! Her words made me step back for a moment. Maybe, similar to the situation with the kids, my being too close to the action makes it hard to recognize and remember the progress.

With today being the last day of 2015, it’s natural to want to reflect on the past year. What did you accomplish? What did you wish you had accomplished? Are you closer to, or farther from, doing or getting or becoming _____?

What about regrets? I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and memes about forgetting the past and starting over. I’m sure these were written to encourage and motivate us to do better and more in the new year, but reading them just leaves a bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.

What if when we reflect on 2015, we reevaluate the year through a wider and deeper lens? How about celebrating the baby steps of faith you took to do something out of your comfort zone (even if you were pushed out of it)? Or being thankful for the challenges you faced, and even those you failed at miserably, because you learned more about yourself through them?

And how about looking at the past year through someone else’s lens? Like that of a gracious and kind friend who doesn’t hold the same set of high expectations that you hold for yourself. Or that of a spouse who witnesses all your ups and downs, and still has faith in you. Or a parent who supports you in doing what you love and encourages you to keep going.

The great thing about a new year is the fresh start it offers. But let’s not forget or dismiss the days and years that brought us to today. All the life lessons God so patiently taught us in order to help us grow up. Those are the small bubbles simmering in us that will someday soon produce a rolling boil.

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix/freedigitalphotos.net

And if there’s more that we want for this new year, let’s make that “more” count. Let’s strive for more faith, more hope and more love. 🙂

Cheers to a wonderful 2015! Thank YOU for walking along with me in this strange and amazing journey called life. 😉 I look forward to more blogging fun in 2016.

Take a listen to this cool song by Pentatonix, appropriately called, “New Year’s Day”.

What did you learn in 2015? What do you want more of in 2016?

7 Life Lessons Learned from Shopping at Costco

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Costco?

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Let me give you some suggestions to get the ball rollin’.

~ $1.50 hot dogs (plus soda)

~ churros

~ ice-cream sundaes

Yum, yum, yum. 🙂

You can probably tell I love visiting our neighborhood membership warehouse club (as defined by the Costco.com website). And when I say visit, I mean visit. You don’t go to Costco just to shop, you go for the whole experience. The food (free samples, people!), the entertainment (ie. self-playing pianos) and the amazing selection of products. It’s a happy place for adults and kids alike.

A trip to Costco also provides an educational experience. There are actually many life lessons you can learn from shopping there, as I’ve come to realize over the many years that I’ve been a member. Let me share some of these lessons with you. 😉

7 Life Lessons Learned from Shopping at Costco

#1 – It’s a jungle out there. You’ll meet all types of people in this world and most of them will be nice and considerate to you. However, don’t be surprised when people show a different side of themselves when they think you are in the way of what they want. In these circumstances, be the bigger man (or woman) and step out of their way. You can always get the next free sample.

#2 –Patience is a virtue. You will need to wait a lot during your lifetime – to finish school, to meet that special someone, to get your dream job (or any job), to have kids and to hope those kids you were blessed with will grow up and no longer need you to wipe their behinds one day. So take a deep breath and practice waiting in whatever stage you’re at right now, even if it’s just for a free sample cup of a Vitamix smoothie (the only green thing your kids will willingly put in their mouths). Patience is one thing you can never have too much of.

#3 – People value patience. Even if people don’t want to be patient themselves, they value the trait in others. So yes, the guy making the Vitamix smoothie sample will notice you (along with your eager kids) waiting on the sidelines for a sample and may even hand you a cup over the horde of customers fighting for theirs.

#4 – Bigger is not always better. You may be tempted to compare what you have – house, budget, car, family, social circle, job – with what your neighbor, friend, relative or acquaintance-who-friended-you-on-facebook-friend has. But know that having a bigger anything often means having bigger responsibilities and worries as well. Sometimes life is a lot simpler when you stick to the small, manageable things. That way you don’t end up with a half-eaten extra large bag of chia seeds in your pantry.

#5 – Don’t get distracted. Know your plan and stick with it. If you need to meet a deadline, don’t go online. If all you need to buy is toilet paper, don’t go near the frozen food section. If you decide to try a free sample, do so and walk away – fast. Don’t get talked into buying an extra large bag of chia seeds because they are the latest health food trend and everyone’s eating them.

#6 – Choices are not refundable. You may be able to return a used Christmas tree or queen-sized mattress at Costco one whole year after you bought them (true stories!), but you cannot – I repeat, cannot – refund the choices you make in life. So choose wisely. And just as you would read reviews for any big ticket purchases you make, be sure to listen to the “reviews” of your friends and family when making those life-changing choices in life (ie. your potential spouse).

#7 – Enjoy the little things. It’s the little things in life that make up the bulk of your life. The hugs you give and receive from loved ones. Winding down a busy day with an episode of your favorite TV show. Curling up with a good book. The warmth of the sun on your face. A fresh, cinnamon-y churro at the end of your shopping trip. Take time to be present in all these little moments and you’ll find so many big reasons to be thankful for in life.

On that note, I think I’m going to make a visit to Costco today!

Since it’s Friday, here’s The Cure’s song, “Friday I’m in Love” for your dancing pleasure. 🙂

What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Costco?