Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Move Forward in 2015

Dear friends,

Are you ready to move forward in 2015? It's been popular the past several years for bloggers to choose "one word" for the coming year.  In 2013 I chose REFRESH. I didn't do this again in 2014, but I already know what mine is for 2015: FORWARD!

My ten children and
four grandchildren on Christmas
Now that Christmas frenzy is over, I'm eager to start the new year off right. Yes, I'm definitely taking the time to have fun with my family before school starts again, but I'm also trying to be productive around the house. For now I'm mainly focusing on organizing (starting with my own bedroom and closet), paperwork, and personal goal setting.

I need to make some MAJOR progress in so many areas, but I realize that I have to take changes in small increments. I've felt stuck for so long in the ruts of my own attitudes and habits and now it's time to ditch the procrastination and MOVE FORWARD one step at a time!

Let's think a little bit more about goals!


I found this quote by Orrin Woodward recently: "A goal is planned conflict against the status quo." I'm ready for that!

I decided to set goals in several key areas of life. They are:

  • Family - nurturing and training my children
  • Health and Nutrition - diet, exercise, medical care
  • Homemaking - organization and household routines
  • Home Schooling - just one child this year!
  • Spiritual and Emotional Growth - reestablishing devotional life and getting more involved in fellowship
  • Personal and Professional Development - productivity skills, creativity, and preparing to re-enter the work force in a couple of years
For each of these areas, I wrote several goals, along with specific actions. One of my adult daughters recently posted on Facebook about goals needing to be S.M.A.R.T. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. When I worked on formulating my own 2015 goals in the past few days, I tried to think of that. I asked questions like, "Why do I want to do this? Is it necessary?" and "What steps do I need to take? Can I pull it off?" and "When is my deadline for each phase?" and "How often do I want to do this?" and "Why am I not already succeeding at this? What is my weak spot here?"

For example, on my Health and Nutrition page, one of my goals is consistent exercise. Here is what I wrote:
  • Exercise for muscle strength, cardio health, weight loss, joint relief.
    • Work out at the YMCA at least once a week during spring semester and twice a week during the summer. Do at least 2,500 strides on elliptical and assigned reps on at least four FitLinxx weight machines. Start swimming in April.
    • Walk or bike one mile at least once a week. (Fix bike tires and find helmet.)
    • Use exercise DVDs and resistance bands at least twice a month.
For each major goal area, I also included a list of books I already own that could help me succeed. To make this more practical, I gathered all of these books and placed them on one shelf right next to my desk.

In addition to getting insight from books and web sites, I'm also asking for help from others. My 22 year old daughter is going to help me tweak my goal list. I am talking to my other kids - especially the six who still live at home - about what they need from me and how they can cooperate with what I'm doing. I have been meeting with two different Christian counselors, one to help me with accomplishing my goals and the other to help with parenting issues. I am also planning to consult a nutritionist since I have a few medical conditions that are food sensitive.

I am using iPod apps to help me keep track of goals, schedules, and tasks. The three I use most are ToodleDo, Calendar, and Evernote.

I also think, "What can I do to increase the likelihood of following through with each goal?" One of my teenagers who has been asking for healthier home cooked meals has promised to help me plan and cook. That will be fun and keep me on track, and will also go toward my "teach my kids household skills" goals. I don't particularly like cleaning up after meals and usually put it off until just before I go to bed. I am going to try getting it down by 8 PM from now on, but I realized I'd enjoy it more and stick with the task longer if I could listen to music at the same time. That would also help me accomplish another goal of playing more Christian music to help me grow spiritually. That's why I bought an extra iPod speaker for the kitchen yesterday. I listened to Sara Groves' song "Strangely Ready" while putting away dishes after dinner. Seems like a good soundtrack for moving forward!

Another problem area is keeping track of receipts and expenses for the family bank account and my personal credit union account. I recently bought a pretty flip lid box for my desk (fits behind my laptop) to hold receipts so they won't overflow my wallet. I can download transactions from my credit union's web site into a spreadsheet. Tonight I had the computer sort this list by payee, and then I took my pile of receipts (six weeks' worth, including a lot of Christmas ones) and sorted them by payee into piles on my floor. That made it a lot easier to match them up than doing it by date. Then I just had to itemize the expenses into categories on my spreadsheet. However, what would make this a lot less arduous is becoming disciplined enough to take 20 minutes every week instead of letting it pile up and forgetting what I bought. (It's not always clear from the receipts.) I need to schedule a time for that, but I also have to get over the emotional block of not wanting to deal with finances. It's not so hard once I get going with it.

Then there is home schooling my nine year old. I've been dabbling lately with a workshop approach to math instead of relying solely on her (frustrating) workbook.  The goal is not to "finish the book" but to build and maintain sustainable fluency in the key skills. Doing the work hands-on and orally seems to work best for her. I'll be reading more on this next week, and gathering my supplemental materials. While I was organizing my bookshelves, I found a book with fun paper math manipulative pieces to punch out. Works for me!

That's enough about my goals!  Here are a few web sites to help you get going with yours!

I'm planning to attend a free "New Eyes for a New Year" webinar by Lisa Grace Byrne at noon on New Year's Day. It's about self-care for "More Calm, More Clarity, More Vitality in 2015." Join me?  (P.S. I had already signed up for this workshop since I get her e-mails, but then I found this guest post on Simple Homeschool, which I also receive by e-mail: How Small Shifts Can Lead to Big Impact.  Be sure to read it, especially if you can't watch the webinar! Here is how her article starts... "All around us there are messages about the New Year — new possibilities, new opportunities for change, ways to set your resolutions and meet them! Do you feel like you already missed the boat? For years if I didn’t wrap up all my new year’s dreams, goals and action plans in a pretty little bow right when the clock struck midnight New Year’s Eve … I might as well just can my ideas and settle back into life as-is. And when I did think about what kind of growth and change I wanted in the new year, I bought into the idea that either I had to go for massive change or give up shifting direction at all."  So true!  Lisa goes on to explain how it's the little things that often make a big difference - especially since they are doable for busy moms!

Oh! One last link that I found after I posted this article: Stay Focusd is a Google Chrome extension that can block out web sites for a specific period of time so you can focus on work. Give it a try!


This post is part of my Get It Done series. The other entries so far are:

Moving forward,

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Do I Blog?

Dear friends,

Why do I blog?

I know that to some people, blogging seems like a waste of time. I can't imagine not blogging. 

I wrote down these ideas quite a while back and just now found them again. Here's why I blog.
  • Creative expression is therapeutic to me.
  • People say my words are encouraging and practical.
  • It helps friends and family get to know me better.
  • It preserves family memories.
  • I feel like I have an important God-given mission and message.
  • My blog posts are multi-purpose, since I incorporate them into my e-magazine and family letters.
  • It's a good place to put my photos into a life context.
  • I love nature photography and this is a good place to showcase my best pictures.
  • I can post excerpts of my books, which are no longer in print.
  • This is a way to start compiling my own memoir, Pilgrimage & Jubilee.
  • I can collect poetry, mine and others.
  • I can feature worthy causes and organizations.
  • I can record instructions and recipes I want to use later.
  • I can help equip other moms with homemaking and parenting skills I have acquired in the past 30 years.
  • I can participate in the on-going conversation in the blogging community.
  • I contribute to link parties.
  • I can make a comment on someone's blog with a link for more information.
  • My blogs are a quick way to link to answers to commonly asked questions.
  • Writing helps me to process life as I read my own perspective later.
  • The blogs can be read via readers like BlogLovin or by e-mail subscription.
  • A lot of people visit from Google searches!
  • I never know which post will make a big difference in someone's life.
  • My blogs are an accomplishment that brings me great joy and satisfaction.

What would you add to this list?

You might also like this post from a few years ago: On Mommy Blogging: Image, Identity, Authenticity and Freedom

Come visit all my blogs at:

God bless!

Virginia Knowles

Monday, December 1, 2014

From Autumn to Advent

Dear friends,

Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is coming! We're transitioning from the Autumn season of pilgrims and pumpkins to our celebration of Advent with Jesus and the manger. 

There are a lot of helpful links in this post. Please click on them if you like pretty pictures and practical ideas! You can open them in a new tab and look at them when you're done with this post.

For starters, you can see our Thanksgiving pictures here: Happy Thanksgiving from My Home to Yours!

After Thanksgiving dinner, we laid towels on our air hockey table to use it as extra space to dry our china plates. I just haven't gotten around to putting them back yet, though I did at least stack them. I kind of like the way the light reflects off of the pile! It takes so much effort to put them in the high cabinet over the refrigrator that I might just leave them down in a more out of the way place a few weeks until we use them again at Christmas. 

On Black Friday, I started a little bit of Christmas shopping for my family. I didn't get up that early, and I only went to Target and Walmart. That was quite enough for me, especially since I took a few kids along! With ten children and four grandchildren, I've still got a long way to go on buying presents. Whenever I get something, I put it in a bin in my bedroom so I can find it easily later. When there is a lot more, I'll start sorting it into bags for each person.

On Saturday morning, I made our first scrapple of the year, using the blender to mix leftover turkey and stuffing with chicken broth and cornmeal. Then I cooked the mush to a stiff consistency, chilled it in loaf pans overnight, sliced it and fried it in my electric skillet. Yum! It's a favorite family heritage recipe for me!

On Saturday, we also started putting away the autumn decorations...

And getting out the Christmas decorations!

Daddy got out the Christmas decoration bins
from our storage unit for us.

"Something old...

Something new...

On a little stand outside the front door

Something borrowed... 

(Actually, I inherited this from my mom.)

Something blue..."

Our mailbox used to be an ugly black.
You can see its springtime transformation here:

Not-So-Extreme Makeover: The Front of Our House

Something broken 
and fixed again, too...
The base of our lighted Christmas star came off,
so I had to rig a way to attach it to the tree.
I used a paper clip, a green rubber pen grip,
and a rubber band colored green with a
permanent marker.
Yup, it worked!
The tree still isn't fully decorated.
Just the lights are on.
I honestly don't have the patience
for much else right now.

In the middle of all the cooking and decorating on Saturday, we took the time to stop and see some of our homeless friends near a bus stop about a mile from our house. Many of them live in the woods, and some have physical and psychiatric disabilities. We brought them oranges, blankets, tarps, a backpack, huge zip-top plastic storage bags for keeping their bedding dry on rainy days, and lots of warm clothes, including new underwear and socks. These dear people are so worth it to me. And what is Christmas, but for giving to those who really need it? You can read more about ministry to the homeless here: What Love Looks Like: Reaching Out to the Homeless.  For the record, there is a lot that is screwed up in my own life. My point is not to make myself look good, but to extend the same kind of mercy I have needed and received from God and others.

These fleece blankets were on sale
for $1.88 each at Old Time Pottery,
so my friend Charlotte asked me to pick up
ten of them for her to donate
to the homeless here in the Casselberry area.
These blankets aren't as thick
as the fuzzy ones at Deals for $5,
but they still make a good extra layer of warmth.
When I bought these on Sunday, there was another
lady with a cart full of them, too. She's giving them
to homeless people who live in downtown Orlando. :-)

Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent at Lake Baldwin Church (a small Presbyterian congregation), so our liturgy was full of carols, Scripture readings, and prayers for the Christmas season. You can see more here: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Strength in Hymn: Advent)

This morning, we got out our box of Christmas books and filled our basket in the living room. See: My Favorite Christmas Books.

I'm just home schooling my nine year old daughter this year, and we're taking the month of December for our Advent Adventure unit study. Books, crafts, cooking, music, Bible, Christmas around the world and throughout history... And yes, we'll keep up with our math, too.

A booklet I made for my family years ago.

My favorite posts on Christmas with kids!

This afternoon, we took a trip to Leu Gardens to enjoy the Leu House museum decorated for Christmas, as well as the rest of the extensive gardens... I'll try not to compare my house and garden to theirs!

Lots of botany for a science field trip, right? 

 You can see the rest of my photos here: Christmastime at Leu Gardens.

I've still got a whole lot of organizing to do in the house to transition from Autumn to Advent, including sorting out more of our warmer clothes. (We're in Florida, so this process is delayed a bit.) Then there are still the regular piles of laundry and paperwork and everything else! It may be the Christmas season, but we still have to live our daily lives.

At least we can do it listening to Christmas music!  Celine Dion has a good reminder for us: Don't Save It All for Christmas Day.

Don't get so busy that you miss
Giving just a little kiss to the ones you love
Don't even wait a little while
To give them a little smile
A little is enough

How many people are crying
People are dying...
How many people are asking for love

Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find a way to give a little love everyday
Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find your way
Cause holidays have come and gone
But love lives on
If you give on

How could you wait another minute
A hug is warmer when you're in it
And Baby that's a fact
And saying "I love you's" always better
Seasons, reasons, they don't matter
So don't hold back
How many people in this world
So needful in this world
How many people are praying for love

Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find a way to give a little love everyday
Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find your way
Cause holidays have come and gone
But love lives on
If you give on

Let all the children know
Everywhere that they go
Their whole life long
Let them know love

Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find a way to give a little love everyday
Don't save it all for Christmas Day
Find your way
Cause holidays have come and gone
But love lives on
If you give on

What does your family like to do in December? Do you have special traditions?

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles