Monday, August 31, 2009

Fresh Start Monday

Yay! I’m back on schedule! I’m starting the next two weeks of my Life Zones today. I really like the idea of a fresh start on a regular basis, because it really helps me to stay motivated to work on these things. Newness is invigorating and “they” say that we all have the tendency to lose motivation after working on something for a period of time. So why not use everything in my arsenal to keep up my motivation? Of course, I do intend to continue working on the changes I implemented before, so I’m definitely not abandoning those things. But, by bringing in new things, I feel my motivation kicked up all the way around. This is something I’ve learned from my Worship Pastor – keep things fresh and new to keep them alive. We need fresh air, water, and food everyday for our bodies to keep them alive, plants need fresh air, water, and soil on a regular basis to keep them alive. I need fresh pursuits on a regular basis to keep my motivation alive. Does that mean my motivation will never wane? Of course not; I’ll still have those days when I’m tired or not feeling well physically or emotionally, and I’ll still need to make myself do things sometimes that I simply don’t feel like doing. I can already foresee a major challenge to my motivation in the next couple of weeks – Shawn is going out of town for a few days this week and a few days next week. That means I will have to do more, will be more tired, and more overwhelmed. I will have to figure out how to juggle Todd’s and Sadey’s schedule with Korrynn’s school schedule, and I still need to do everything that I need to do. But I’m up for the challenge. (And I’d better mean it if I’m going to say it, so I don’t say it lightly!) I plan to stay on the wagon, and if I fall off, I’m going to get back on!

So that being said, here’s my Life Zone challenges for the next two weeks:

Personal – I’ve found that with the school schedule I have less time in the morning for computer time, which translates into less blogging time. So I’m going to start getting up at 6:00 every morning to give me adequate time. That also means I need to go to bed sooner (This is a biggie for me because I like staying up late, though lately I haven’t been able to. So I fall asleep on the couch or recliner when I could be upstairs in bed. It’s the idea of going to bed “early” that I have to get my head around.)

Relational – Making daily one-on-one time with my husband a priority. We are currently taking The Marriage Course, so we have some extra motivation in this area. When Shawn is out of town this means that we’ll need to talk on the phone without distractions.

Physical – Jogging 2 miles 2 days a week via the Wii. I decided that this is one goal that I really need to keep working on. I haven’t come close to making this a regular part of my life yet.

Home – Making sure that there are no dirty dishes left in the sink before I go to bed.

Social – Finding ways to perform my volunteer duties more efficiently. I still need to work on this because the new school schedule has been an obstacle here.

Financial – Working more closely with Shawn on the budget, setting short-term goals (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) for our money rather than just tracking our spending through the budget spread sheet. (I’ll go more in depth on this in another post.)

So there you have it. I challenge you to set your own goals and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to get a discussion going and to build a support network. This blog has helped me feel less alone in my daily challenges, and I my prayer is that it does the same for others as well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So Sorry It’s Been So Long…

Wow, I never expected almost two weeks to go by between blog posts. Life has just been a whirlwind lately. Between going out of town, church activities, school starting, and illness I haven’t had much time to sit and write. I thought I’d have time to write while we were out of town, but apparently I was kidding myself, and it’s taken me a few days to adjust to the new schedule. So, I apologize for not posting a blogging break notice. I haven’t focused much on my Life Zones either, and I put off No Procrastination Day. :) Apparently I need the motivation of blogging to keep me on task. If I know I’m going to write a post about how well I’m doing, then I’m more likely to do well. Crazy, isn’t it?

I hope to get to the point that this stuff becomes so internalized that I become internally motivated. Integrity is something I strongly desire to increase in my character. That being said, I’m very grateful for this format. I think that there were days that even Jesus had things that He didn’t want to do, and that little push from His environment helped Him along. After all, the Bible says that He was fully human as well as fully God and that “[t]his High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Heb 4:15 NLT) Hebrews 12:2 even says that He endured the cross, “[b]ecause of the joy awaiting him” (NLT). He struggled violently within Himself against going through with the cross to the point of sweating blood. He asked the Father release Him from the cross because He knew that He would endure one of the most horrific things a man could ever face. Yet, He utilized the knowledge of His Father’s will and of the impending reward to give Him the push He needed to go through with it. What an amazing example! If Jesus can sacrifice His desires and go through with something as terrible as the cross, using whatever means necessary to get Him to that place, then I can certainly sacrifice my own petty desires and use whatever means necessary to complete each task set before me.

So for the rest of this week I’ll continue working on the Life Zones I outlined before and start fresh on Monday. I’m also going to make today my “No Procrastination Day” for this week. What are my No Procrastination goals for today? Make bread, do laundry (washing, sorting, & folding), do dishes (it’ll probably take two loads), unpack at least one suitcase, and work on a special project if I have time. That should be enough to keep me busy today. ;)

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Voyage Into Bread-making

I recently learned about Fight Back Friday, and thought that this would be a good opportunity to share about how I have recently embarked on an adventurous voyage into the world of making my own bread. :) And, while the primary focus of this blog is the changes I’m making going forward, I’ve been wanting to tell you about this recent change that I made prior to embarking on my journey into Life Zone changes. I told you before how I was inspired by a friend’s blog. In particular I found it intriguing that she made bread for her family on a regular basis. At first I thought it was interesting, but at the time I never thought I would ever make my own bread. For one, as much as I love cooking, making anything with yeast, especially bread, always intimidated me. (Yeast – such a terrifying little monster…) You have to get the water temperature just right to bloom the yeast without killing it. You have to mix everything just right in the right proportions so the bread won’t be mushy or too tough, and then you have to let it rise, and rise, and rise. I thought it would take a big chunk of time out of my day. Plus, a failed pizza dough experiment a few years ago didn’t do anything to relieve my aversion to making bread products, either. (If this turns you off to making bread, too, please keep reading. It’s really not so bad, I promise!) So, when I read my friend’s posts about making bread I just thought, “Well, isn’t that special?” and went on with my day, and didn’t think much more about it until months later.

The thing is, I like good, grainy bread that doesn’t stick to your teeth or poison your body. I had read the South Beach Diet, and heard all the stuff on conventional media about the importance of whole grains. (I now know what a fallacy the South Beach Diet is, but at least it made me somewhat more conscious of my health and pointed my thinking in the right direction.) I tried a variety of “whole grain” breads that are sold in conventional grocery stores. Most varieties I found to be lacking in terms of flavor and many seemed like little more than dressed up white bread. The breads that I really liked, and that I felt were healthiest for my family, cost almost $4.00 a loaf! And we’re not talking about loaves as long as your arm, either. These loaves weren’t even as long as my forearm! And as quickly as our family goes through bread, we probably spent nearly $100 a month (yes, that is a “one” with two “zeros” behind it) on bread alone! Well, as I mentioned before, we started restructuring our budget a few months ago and discovered that we really needed to cut back on our food spending. I thought about my friend who lovingly makes bread for her family. So, I decided to tackle the yeast monster and start making my own bread. I could do it if only I tried, right? I just needed practice. After all, people have been making bread for thousands of years and haven’t been conquered by the dreaded yeast monster yet, at least as far as I knew. So, it couldn’t really be all that hard. I just needed to start doing it. So, I did, as simple as that.

Well, not quite. I searched out a bunch of whole grain bread recipes on the Internet, and got all the ingredients that I didn’t already have (like yeast). I even went to Whole Foods and got some rye flour, and a few other things. So, I read the recipes and the how-tos and started measuring and blooming and mixing and kneading and waiting and baking. (Though, for my very first attempt I used the bread machine for the mixing and rising and then baked it in my oven so the final loaf would be a bit more practical than the giant cube that the bread machine produced. The funny thing is that the bread machine – which is borrowed from my in-laws – has been sitting nearly untouched in my house for years because I had great intentions of making bread, but never followed through. Now that I’ve tried the thing, I don’t want to use it. It over-kneaded the dough.) Let’s just say that my first few attempts fell short of being the best bread you’ve ever eaten in your life. We bravely choked down those loaves anyway. I certainly needed practice – and help! I have a friend who is an accomplished baker come over and help me out. I couldn’t seem to get the final consistency quite right. I could do all the reading I liked, but I really needed someone to show me. Since her wonderful instruction (Thanks, Terry!) each batch of bread has gotten better and better. It really doesn’t take as long as I thought it would. Is it less convenient than buying bread from the store? Certainly; but really, only a little. Plus it’s soooo much healthier than pretty much any bread you can buy in the regular grocery store.

About the time I started making real bread was also when I started reading various “domestic goddess” blogs, and I started learning more about nutrition and real food (which is how I found the Food Renegade blog). My bread isn’t quite the most nutritious it can possibly be yet. Bread made from freshly milled flour is far superior to bread made from flour that you buy in the store, as 90% of 30 nutrients found in wheat grains disappears within 72 hours after the milling is complete (see this article). So I’m saving up for a grain mill so I can mill my own flour. You’re probably thinking that I just went from being a nut (albeit a likeable nut) to a freak. Well, the more I learn about the state of food in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and what it is doing to our bodies, the more of a freak I’m willing to be. Around 100 years ago it was quite normal for families to grind their own wheat, or at least get flour that had been ground that day from a local mill, and make their own bread. God says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are ruined because they don't know what's right or true.” (The Message) How many of our bodies are ruined because we eat the poisonous food products from conventional grocery stores because we don’t know the truth about those products or what our bodies need to function as God created them to? Because of convenience and ignorance we eat food products sold to us by mega companies whose main goal is to feed their wallets instead of nourishing our bodies. Anyway, that’s another post entirely. I encourage you to do your own research and feel the scales fall from your eyes, as I have. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel to take charge of my life and my health and the health of my family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quick Update

I don't have a lot of blogging time this morning, so I'll just fill you in on how "No Procrastination Day" went. I got to everything on my list except for the Worship Team project (I decided to relegate that to travel time tomorrow). Also, I was only able to start on the kids' bookshelf. I think I did pretty well considering that Shawn wasn't here and I had to get us ready for church by myself. Hooray for "No Procrastination Day"! (Can I really be saying that?) Of course, this morning Todd undid everything Korrynn and I did with cleaning up the bookshelf, so we'll have to start again. ARRRGH! Oh, well!

As for today, I'll try to gather stuff from my list to pack so we'll have something to wear while we're out of town (can't go around naked at the in-laws!). I can't do much actual packing till Shawn gets home, though, because the suitcases are in the attic and the attic door is jammed. So, I'll have to let him "man-handle" it (heehee). I also need to finish the laundry (as if laundry is ever finished), get another round of dishes done, and try to structure in time with the kids. My life is CRAZY! (As though your life is totally boring and you never have anything to do. That's a big fat NOT! Am I right?) I certainly wouldn't have it any other way, though. My kids make my life crazy and I am beyond grateful that they are a part of my life. Hard to imagine that there was a time without them. Now I don't ever want to know a time like that again. Okay, I'd better stop all this sappiness before I start sobbing uncontrollably. Have an amazingly blessed day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Procrastination Day

Wednesday has rolled around once again. Time for "No Procrastination Day" number two. (Hard to believe it's already been a whole week, huh?) I was wondering if momentum from last Wednesday would spill over into the other days, but it didn't, much. There was a little bit of momentum last Thursday, but once my parents left with our kids, the motivation waned. I did do okay Monday and yesterday (Sunday I didn't even have a chance to procrastinate), but I probably procrastinated at least as much as I didn't. So I think having an established "No Procrastination Day" is necessary for me. While I don't have anyone coming over tomorrow, there is a trip I need to get ready for. Friday morning we're heading out to see the in-laws. There's laundry that needs to get done, clothes that need to be folded, and packing to be done. I find packing very overwhelming, so I'll actually be more motivated to procrastinate though you might think the opposite would be true. Not for me! If there's a big task looming over my head I will probably try to avoid it as long as possible. So with "No Procrastination Day" I'm challenging myself to take that packing bull by the horns!

So, to update on yesterday, I did limit my computer time, though I could have limited it more. I tried to sneak some in during meal times. The kids and I worked on getting there bedrooms cleaned. Still not playtime, but we're getting there. I got some laundry put away and a couple of small loads washed (I figure two small loads equals one regular load). I still need to catch up on some folding, though. I didn't exercise yesterday, feeling the need to let my sore muscles rest, and remember I'm only shooting for twice a week right now. As far as volunteer duties, I completed everything I needed to do for yesterday in my allotted computer time, though I do have a couple of projects I need to catch up on.

My biggest flub yesterday was in the financial zone. Remember that I mentioned that I did procrastinate yesterday? Well, I had picked a recipe to make Monday that I didn't allow enough time for, so I was going to make it yesterday. Well, yesterday I was trying to nap and do some reading in the afternoon. I let myself take too long. I was looking at the clock thinking that soon I needed to get up and make supper, while convincing myself that I still had plenty of time. Well, I don't remember what time it finally was when I got up, but lets just say that I'm terrible when it comes to planning ahead. I started making the recipe, Mushroom Casserole, but I didn't look ahead to see what the total cooking time was. I got all the prep work and preliminary cooking done (by myself since Shawn is out of town right now), but it was after 7:00 and there was still an hour of baking to do. I almost cried! We were all hungry and I had done all that work, but still there was nothing to show for it! I called Shawn on the brink of tears and asked if I could order a pizza. So I gave the kids some bread while we waited for the pizza. I felt guilty because I hadn't planned ahead, which resulted in me giving the kids food that was not healthy for their bodies (which I understand even better with all the research I've been doing lately, which I'll get to in future posts) or for our budget. So I really need to get better on the planning ahead thing.

So what are my no procrastination goals for today? Get the laundry folded and at least two loads washed (yes, it's against the one-load-a-day rule, but sometimes the rule needs to be bent); make a list of everything we need to pack for the trip; work on one of my Worship Team projects; get the kids' bookshelf cleaned up (with their help); get the dishwasher emptied and reloaded; get the casserole in the oven early enough for an early supper (it's Wednesday - church night) and get off this computer so I can get to everything else on the list! ;) I know it sounds like a lot, but most of it won't take long if I'll just get started! Oh, and the kids need baths today, since we didn't get to it last night when supper was so late. So that might be too many things for my list for today. I'll just have to do my best.

I like chronicling my progress and lack thereof like this. I actually find it encouraging. Even though I haven't done anything perfectly yet, I can see that I am progressing. This is really big because I'm a perfectionist. I'm actually okay with making mistakes! That's just one of the things that lets me know that God is behind this and is empowering me on this journey.

So what are your no procrastination goals for today?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Life Zones Status Update

I know it’s been a few days since the last post. The past few days have been a bit unusual for various reasons, and I simply have been unable to sit down and write. So here’s a brief update on my progress in the Life Zones I’m working on:
Because of how the last few days have gone, yesterday is really the only day I have to report on. I did okay in the personal and relational arenas, but because of the crazy weekend I was wanting to catch up on some stuff, so at first I tried to cheat a bit with my computer time. (Yeah, I know…) The computer wouldn’t let me, however. It has an issue that acts up every once and a while and it chose yesterday morning to act up (providentially, perhaps?). So I finally put the computer down and helped the kids clean the playroom. Not exactly playtime, I know, but it desperately needed to be done and it was way too hot to go outside. So while we didn’t play together, we did accomplish something together.
In the physical area, I didn’t do anything last week. I didn’t run at all last week, not one step! But I did run last night. It was quite an effort to do it. I’m way out of shape, and running is one of my least favorite exercises, but I did it! I ran for 30 minutes, and felt good about the accomplishment. I even feel sore this morning to prove it! I’ve also been doing fairly well in the home area and doing one load of laundry a day. Still not getting it folded and put away every day, though. I’ve got to work on the follow through with the laundry so I’m not constantly playing catch-up.
As far as the social element goes, I’ve just tried to squeeze my volunteer duties into my restricted computer time, but I probably need to be more proactive about it. I think if I figured out some sort of structure there it would probably help me a lot. Maybe if I devoted a couple of days to Worship Team stuff and a couple days to blogging and a day to surfing/social networking during my computer time (or something like that) I will be able to fit it all in. I may just have to play with it a bit and tweak it till I find a structure that works. My hang up here is that I’m not the greatest at structuring my time. I’ve tried doing the lists and the daily schedule, but I either get frustrated by the list because I can’t get to everything on it, or something happens that totally wrecks the schedule, so I usually just give up on it. The other problem is that I’ll get bored with a routine after a while and instead of changing it up a bit, I usually just drop it altogether.
Now on to the financial zone – we’re still working on keeping to our budget. We did overspend last weekend, though. Shawn received travel money from work and the kids were staying with my parents, so we had TWO date nights! (Now you know why the weekend was so unusual…) We really needed the time, but we probably could have done it with less money. Our favorite thing is dinner and a movie (I know, cliché), but we rarely get the chance to do it, so that’s what we do on dates when we have them. Plus it was really hard to resist seeing Transformers and G.I. Joe in the theater. I grew up watching those cartoons and pretending I was Scarlett every Sunday and Wednesday night before church started when I was a kid (while all the boys were various other G.I. Joe characters). Can I just tell you that Transformers ROCKED!!!!! God was talking to me through it, too. It was an amazing experience! (Yes, I know it still doesn’t justify overspending. This is just a glimpse into how my mind works.)
I learned something last week about disciplining my mind. Off and on I have problems with insomnia. I’ve tried various ways to deal with it, the main way being laying in bed and trying to go back to sleep. If I get up I’m usually wide-awake from the effort and won’t go back to sleep at all. The problem with laying in bed is that there’s nothing to do but think or pray. I try to pray, but my mind usually wanders too much. So, I usually start thinking about something, and get a strong urge to look it up on the computer. I then decide that I’m not going back to sleep anyway (after laying in bed sleepless for an hour or more), so I get up and get on the computer. Well, on this particular night I tried that, but didn’t go back to sleep (duh!). Around 5:00 or so I decided to go ahead and do my Bible reading for the day. Within a few minutes I fell asleep, not because I was bored (I actually find God’s Word pretty fascinating – you should see how marked up my Bible is), but because, through reading the Word, I was able to bring my mind back in line. I slept for a couple of hours more and finished my reading when I woke up. If I’m going to see lasting change, my mind must be disciplined. I must make choices that bring my mind in line with the Word of God and the God-given desires in my heart. God knew I needed sleep that morning, so when I made the choice that allowed Him entrance into my heart, He was able to provide me with the thing I needed. If I constantly make the choices that allow Him entrance into the moment, He will provide me with what I need and empower me to accomplish what I put my hand to.
You know, structuring changes and blogging about it is really helping me to examine why I do what I do, and gives me a better perspective on myself. I’ve known about my hang-ups for a long time, but have often felt powerless to do anything about them. I’m so grateful to God for this outlet. I’m really optimistic that the outcome will be good and beneficial for me, my family, and those around me. I’d love for you to join me! Anyone can join me at anytime. Just read this post for a review (I introduce Life Zones toward the bottom). You can focus on just one thing at a time or more. Structure it so that it best fits into your life and what you are able to accomplish. Make sure to drop by and comment on your progress. Together we can hold one another accountable and see God accomplish great things in and through us!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No Procrastination + Soap Nuts = SUCCESS!

"So, how did 'No Procrastination Day' go, Steph?"

Thanks for asking! I feel like it was a success. I got several things accomplished yesterday that I could have let myself put off till later. I even emptied the dishwasher! This is something that I usually leave for Shawn to do. I would fill the dishwasher and he would empty it. But yesterday I didn't just fill the dishwasher. Oh, no! I emptied it, too! Of course, the extra motivation of people coming to the house today may have had a tiny influence. ;) There were a couple of incidents of procrastination yesterday, however: in the afternoon while the kids were sleeping I finally got my lunch and sat down at the computer. I needed to take my shower before church (naptime is the best time for me to accomplish this), but I did allow myself to linger at the computer about 30 minutes more than I should have. The other incident was at bedtime. Shawn was out of town last night, so after I got the kids in bed I thought I would have my usual Stay-up-late-because-Shawn-is-out-of-town-and-I-hate-sleeping-in-an-empty-bed-nights. That didn't happen. After dosing off in the chair downstairs for an hour, I finally got up and went to bed. So for the most part I did well, and the little bit of procrastinating I did allow myself was relatively inconsequential. (Except that in my grogginess last night I forgot to make sure both of the cats were out of the house. I'm hoping I won't find a cat-pee surprise waiting for me downstairs. The cat also woke me up at 5:30, so I didn't sleep as long as I could have.)

I also got my NaturOli Soap Nuts yesterday. So far I LOVE them! The sample pack I got has a bottle of the liquid as well as a muslin bag with five soap nuts. I used the liquid in the dishwasher. I did 1/2 tsp in each cup because our dishwasher is TERRIBLE! The Soap Nuts liquid performed at least as well if not better than a commercial dishwasher detergent. I only found a couple of things that did not come clean (there were a few things that I needed to rinse or wipe off, but with my dishwasher, believe me, that's clean). On average we're usually stuck with 5 or 6 items that don't come clean (and sometimes even more). Shawn has taken the dishwasher apart and cleaned the thing out. It's just cheap. I think because the house used to be a rental, the former owners put in the cheapest appliances they could find.

After I did the dishes I worked on the laundry. I ran an empty load to start with, with 1/2 tsp of Soap Nuts liquid to clean out the washer and remove any remaining residue from commercial detergents and fabric softeners. Then I washed a load of clothes on warm using the soap nuts and no fabric softener. The clothes came out clean and soft! I checked something that had been a little stained before I put it in the dryer to make sure it was clean, and all the stains had come out! I'm going to wash a load of towels later today to see how it does with the softening. Whether you're supposed to or not, I always wash towels with fabric softener. You can always tell when a towel has been washed without it, and I HATE stepping out of the shower and wiping down with a scratchy towel.

On a final note, I decided I should add one more "Life Zone" to my change structure: financial. We've implemented a budget recently, and for the time being we'll continue working on adjusting it. We're having a hard time making room for unexpected things. We also are putting Todd into preschool two days a week to encourage his speech development (if it weren't for his speech we wouldn't even consider preschool), so we need to make room for his tuition. I'm looking into an online tutoring job to get some more income, I just have to brush up the subjects so I can pass the competency tests. I need to make sure to work some study time in every day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday – No Procrastination Day

So here’s a little update on yesterday to start with. I did fairly well in the morning with my computer time, though I did allow myself to go a little longer than I should have. In the afternoon I was on about 30 minutes and then I crashed for awhile, so all in all I did okay. But it ended up being pretty easy to stay off the computer most of the day yesterday. I had an appointment for my volunteer job at 11:00 that ended up going for 4 hours! I’m the personal assistant to my church’s Worship Pastor, and we do most of our communication via phone, text, and email, so I feel like the occasional long meeting is fine. I do most of the work from home, which is one of the reasons I need to examine how to do the work more efficiently. I have to figure out how to fit my duties into my restricted computer time.

The reason I chose computer time as one of the first things to work on is that it is probably the biggest interference in my life right now. I know you all understand just how very easy it is to sit down at the computer for “a couple of minutes” and end up being on there an hour or more. Computer time definitely gets in the way of housework, family time, etc. Plus it doesn’t help that I’m an excellent procrastinator. (If you need tips on how to procrastinate better, just ask me. I’m an expert!) ;) The computer easily becomes another excuse to procrastinate, so I believe it’s vital that my computer time be one of the first things to change so that I can be more successful with the changes to come.

I’ve decided to establish every Wednesday as “No Procrastination Day.” I’m not going to be very successful at establishing changes in my life if I’m allowing myself to procrastinate. This will be a challenge, for sure. It means that every time I want to say, “I’ll do it later.” I’ll have to stop myself and do it right then (as long as that thing that needs doing isn’t waiting on a diaper change – the diaper change will have to come first, I suppose.) Hopefully I’ll get really good at No Procrastination Day, and I will be able to expand it to two days a week, then three, then four… I just reread the post I wrote last year about procrastination for inspiration. Back then I had a strong desire to stop procrastinating, but I failed to follow-through. I mean, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow, right? Hehe. Seriously though, I think by establishing a protocol and working it into the new structure for change that I’ve made I can nip this thing in the bud.

So what are your challenges with procrastination, and what have you done that has helped to procrastinate less or not at all? I’d love to get a discussion going about this. Have an awesome No Procrastination Day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fresh Start Monday, er, Tuesday

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but it obviously didn’t happen. When I wrote my post on Friday, I had every intention of posting about and carrying out my first set of changes yesterday. In fact, that was my intention all the way through the weekend, and when I woke up (at 3:00) Monday morning. That was my full intention until our regular 9:00 Monday morning appointment left. Then I started feeling tired and I let myself sit down at the computer instead of remaining mindful of my intentions. I ended up staying on the computer WAY too long yesterday and did not fulfill my original purpose for the day. (Please don’t ask how long. I don’t EVEN want to go there!) Let’s just say that I accomplished very little of what I needed to yesterday.

(“Stephanie, stop beating yourself up. We all make mistakes.”)

Oh, I know (believe me I KNOW). Actually, I’m not beating myself up; instead I’m taking responsibility for my poor choices yesterday. And, really, yesterday was not a totally wasted day. I did get the basics done and a couple of other things as well. Yesterday also reiterated to me just how important it is for me to make these changes. If I do not start living purposefully and start making conscious choices for each hour of each day (within reason – life happens no matter what is on my agenda), I will continue making the mistakes I’ve made in the past. So, I’m going to start over today and start making those conscious choices.

So, here's the plan: I’ve decided that the best way to structure this journey is to make small changes in five six areas [I decided after thinking about a couple of days, that there is one other area I should add] of my life and focus on them for two weeks. After two weeks I will continue to implement those changes while shifting my focus to five six new changes. Knowing myself as well as I do, there are so many things that I want to change that if I just focus on one area I will not see myself progress quickly enough and will get discouraged, plus it will take a long time to get to all the changes I want to make. But at the same time, I can’t try to change everything at one time either, or I will burn out very quickly. Of course, I have the freedom to adjust this structure if I find it isn’t working. [Edit] I also have the freedom to continue focusing on any particular area indefinitely if I feel the need to do so. These five six "Life Zones" are the areas that impact everything in my life: personal (relationship with God, habits, mental discipline, emotional discipline, academic study), relational (as a wife, as a mother, with extended family, with friends), physical (primarily eating habits and exercising), home (housework, organization, gardening, home improvements, etc), social (civic involvement, community outreach, volunteering, etc.), [edit] and financial (budgeting, prioritizing, spending, saving, giving). So, here is the set of changes I’m going to implement today and focus on the next two weeks:

Personal – Restricting computer time to early mornings before the kids are up, and in the afternoons during naptime. If need be I’ll set a timer to make sure it happens.

Relational – Taking time to have playtime with the kids, outside whenever possible.

Physical – Jogging 2 miles 2 days a week via the Wii. (I read an article recently that said that the best exercise to increase your energy levels is moderate jogging for 1.7 miles, twice a week. It takes 6 weeks to start feeling the full effects, and then you can increase the intensity of your exercise routine.)

Home – Getting back into my one-load-of-laundry-a-day routine (the lack of laundry detergent wasn’t the only reason I haven’t kept up with this routine.

Social – Finding ways to perform my volunteer duties more efficiently.

[Edit] Financial – Getting our spending in line with our budget.

I need to add that I haven't chosen any of these things lightly. I've prayerfully considered where to start and am proceeding as I feel God has shown me to. He is a light to my feet and shows me my path a little at a time with the Ultimate Goal (Christ) ever in sight (Phil 3:14).

If you’d like to join me by adapting this system to your own life, you are more than welcome! You can work on just one life zone, or all five six, or even add more if that fits best into the structure of your life. Leave lots of comments and let me know how you’re doing and we can encourage each other along the way. If you just want to follow along, you can join my blog (where it says “Join this site” in the right-hand column) to make it easier for you keep up with my posts. And, don’t forget to tell your friends and family about me. The more the merrier! Have an awesome “Fresh Start Tuesday”! ;)

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Soap Nuts?!" Are You Nuts?

Well, maybe. But there's nothing nutty about Soap Nuts other than their name. But, first, a little background. In the past few weeks I've been trying to come with an alternative to grocery store laundry detergent. I detest the chemical laden products that most stores sell. I can't even go down the detergent aisle without holding my breath because of the chemical smell. I've wondered about the new "green" versions of the name-brand products, wondering if they're really any greener than their "regular" conunterparts or if they have simply been "greenwashed" to make the guilt-ridden consumer feel better about purchasing their products. Then there's the whole cost issue. Laundry detergent is very expensive, especially most "green" versions. In the past couple of weeks or so I've been researching making my own laundry detergent, but I still wasn't completely comfortable with some of the ingredients I would need to use, nor was I very excited about the inconvenience of it.

Enter Soap Nuts. I came across and article about them last week on the Passionate Homemaking blog. (She's even having a giveaway of NaturOli's Liquid Laundry Detergent Concentrate and Green Cleaner - EXTREME 18X through tomorrow. For the giveaway, click on the "Passionate Homemaking" link above.) Despite their name, Soap Nuts are not nuts. They are actually the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry Tree, specifically, Sapindus Mukorossi. (Google it. It's all over the internet.) These fruits contain a very high concentration of saponin, a naturally occurring detergent. From the research I've done, I've learned that they clean very well, as well as soften clothes (which means no more spending money on fabric softener), not to mention they're VERY economical, costing as little as $0.07/washer load to use. For the liquid form it is recommended that you only use 1/2 tsp per load! Plus Soap Nuts can be used for almost any cleaning job around the house, and the liquid form is gentle enough for personal hygiene use as well. The main thing to watch out for when you're purchasing them is quality because apparently there are some very low-quality brands out there. According to the research I've done, NaturOli's quality is superior to other brands.

So, I've purchased a trial pack of NaturOli Soap Nuts on ebay. Hopefully it will come tomorrow, because I've got several loads of laundry waiting in the wings, breaking my one-load-of-laundry-a-day rule. I've been holding off on purchasing more laundry detergent. I really did not want to buy any more supermarket stuff. So in the coming days I'll let you know how it goes. If all the praise out there is true, I will soon have a new, cost-effective, truly green & sustainable laundry detergent!

BTW, don't forget to leave your comments or join my blog!