I am sitting here in my quiet kitchen, reflecting on 2020 and looking ahead to 2021.
Wasn't 2020 just absolutely insane?
There is no way that I can sum up our experiences this year in one simple blog post.
Our family spent 6 weeks in quarantine, due to COVID-19. Harlee and Matthew spent 8 weeks, I contracted the virus in September and am still fighting some of the symptoms right now...four months later.
So many friends of our lost family members to this terrible virus and we are still praying for them every day.
A tornado blew our barn away and caused some damage to our house and several other buildings on our property. However, this unfortunate circumstance truly jumpstarted some pretty big property improvements.
We rebuilt the barn, fenced in our property, built the Rustic Rooster (a loft playhouse for the girls), and are almost finished with our detached garage...complete with a kitchen, workout space, and bathroom.
When school started in August, I totally fell off of the blogging wagon (again), but learned a lot about leading a school during a global pandemic.
It's been a year to remember and I would be lying if I said I wasn't ready to forget most of 2020 and move forward.
One of my 2021 goals is to blog every week, so look for a post soon about my word-of-the-year.
Love, grace, and peace from the farmhouse tonight, friends,
So we did.
Now -- I can't complain.
My brother and then his wife contracted the virus. While they did feel kind of crummy for a few days, they experienced mostly mild symptoms as they stayed at home. However, because of the dates of exposure and symptoms and all the rules & recommendations from the CDC, my niece and nephew have to quarantine until August 15th. So -- please be in prayer for them!
Full disclosure here -- as a school administrator, the last six months have been a blur.
I have said several times that I feel like we are living in a movie. This doesn't seem like real life, as we make decisions about how to deliver instruction to children in the safest way over the next school year.
While my 10 1/2 month school-year contract officially ends on June 15th and begins again on August 1st each year, this summer there have been too many decisions to make to really take much of a break.
And then...quarantine happened.
Sure, I continued to work on giving input for school reopening plans and I did continue focusing on some of my school duties over the last few weeks.
But I also spent many hours every single day over the last two weeks working alongside Mr. Farmhouse and the girls to complete projects that we have been planning to get to "someday".
Not being able to leave the house for two weeks isn't ideal.
If we weren't in quarantine, I wouldn't have had to cancel our annual well-child checkups for the girls, piano lessons, & tutoring.
Mr. Farmhouse could have been working and I wouldn't have had to miss a few in-person meetings at school.
We could have allowed being stuck at home for two weeks with no symptoms to be irritating and a reason to complain.
However, last night, as Mr. Farmhouse and I rode the Ranger through the field moving hot-wire for the cows, I looked around and smiled.
Thank you, Lord, for this time we have had together. Thanks for slowing us down and giving us the opportunity to connect deeply before we all head off into the unknown of this school year. Thank you that my brother's family has had mild symptoms and that they have the opportunity to work from home. Just thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen
Back to the real world today, friends.
Sending gratitude to God from the farmhouse,
I've never thought of myself as a minimalist.
In fact, I would lean more towards the term "maximalist".
I've always been someone who has felt the need to keep most everything. I'm the mom who has a tub for each of the girls from every single year of their schooling. My mantras used to be "we might need that someday" and "just in case".
I have ALWAYS kept excess in all areas -- clothing, kitchen gadgets, bath & body products...you name it. Always.
Now, I have gone through periods in life where I've done large decluttering projects and have organized the various spaces in our home...only to quickly fill them back up over a period of months (sometimes weeks).
Things started to change for me when I left my teaching job in 2018 and moved into an administrative position, as the Director of Special Services.
This meant moving from a large classroom with a nice-sized storage closet to an office.
An office with no storage closet.
An office with no cabinets or cubbies or shelves.
This was a mindset shift for me that took some work.
I wanted to have everything I would "need" at my fingertips.
This meant that I first had to go through EVERYTHING I had in my classroom and make some decisions.
After thirteen years of teaching (10 of them in the same classroom), this was quite a task.
I started by moving everything away from the shelving units that would stay in the classroom. I would stack everything there that would stay in the classroom for the next teacher.
Then I opened up some tubs to put my personal belongings in that would either need to go home with me, go to my new office, or be donated elsewhere. I wanted to be able to be out of the classroom sooner than later, as there was already a new teacher wanting to begin preparing her classroom for the next year.
So I pushed through, sorting and tubbing, sorting and tubbing. As I got a tub filled for my new office, I would carry it down there. As I got a tub filled to go home, I would carry it to my car.
I was out of my classroom in less than a week.
THIRTEEN YEARS of teaching, emptied out within a week.
Full disclosure, when I got home with the tubs of personal items, I carried them straight to the basement, where they sat until December 2019.
However, the items in my new office at school needed to be dealt with.
I arranged the office furniture in a way that would be inviting and functional and I opened the first tub.
I was brutal with my discarding process. The full office reveal is HERE.
We can still keep the things we love and need. I can still choose to decorate with signs on the wall, photographs of my babies, and various cozy pillows & throws. We can have all colors & textures in our home and we can have a few extra paper goods stored away, too.
The difference in how we were living our life before we started on this "cozy minimalist" journey and how we are living it today is all found in the purpose of the possessions we have chosen to keep.
The difference is found in where and how we store items.
It's found in the intentionality of what we choose to display on our walls and surfaces.
It's found in the ability to maintain an orderly environment with less possessions.
Last week, I wrote about my dream and commitment to write a book.
In an epiphany of sorts, the day after I wrote that blog, I started to journal about our journey from chaos to (mostly) clutter-free. The words started pouring out and I realized that this was probably a good place to dive into my first book.
As I sit here writing, I look around and am so grateful for the peace that has made its way into our house over the last four months.
Thanking God for personal growth here at the farmhouse,
The book is basically the written version of the writing class Lamott teaches.
I've always felt the pull to write.
and someday -- a novel.
So this is me committing to this idea in writing...to you.
I want to write a novel.
I've dreamed about it since high school. When I was teaching third graders about the writing process and helping them learn to become better writers, in the back of my mind, I was always composing my own stories.
I have started so many times.
I get through a few chapters or get through developing a character or two, and I kind of fall off of the wagon and halt the process.
Six months later, I start again.
I'm giving myself the gift of done.
And hopefully, giving the world (or at the very least, my daughters) some sort of written gift in the process.
Typing away here at the farmhouse,
There is a phrase that I have used over and over in my lifetime.
Life can change in an instant.
Until this point, I have used this most when discussing moments of tragedy in the lives of my friends and family members.
However, over our school's spring break during the first week of March, we started to hear more and more about the Coronavirus crisis in our country.
Within a few days of the original mention of the virus, we had extended our spring break into the next week...and then the following week...and then through the rest of March.
Just four short weeks later, we are now under a state-wide "stay-at-home order" and we won't be returning to school in the foreseeable future.
Just. Like. That.
Track season. Gone.
Piano lessons. Gone.
Dance class. Gone.
Family trips to the grocery store. Gone.
Eating out at restaurants. Gone.
Yes, life can change in an instant.
And just like that, we're navigating the world of "home-schooling". The girls have some assignments from school they are working on and we are really getting back to the basics of reading books for fun, exploring outdoor play, and being creative "just because".
Just like that, we're worshipping via Facebook Live on Sunday mornings and connecting with believers all over the country. We're watching sermons cuddled up on the couch and taking communion with homemade bread made by our daughter. The girls are spending over half an hour every morning studying God's Word together...an opportunity they would not have if it weren't for our current situation.
Just like that, we're practicing softball outside in the evenings, riding the ranger around the gravel roads, and having art class with sidewalk chalk under the sun.
Just like that, our house is clean, laundry is caught up, and we have decluttered more unnecessary belongings than I ever would have thought possible.
Just like that, we are eating out of our pantry and freezer, only going to the store for necessities. We're making meals at home and sitting around the table every single night. We are laughing and telling stories together and taking time to enjoy each others' company.
Just. Like. That.
Just a little over a month ago, we were meeting ourselves coming and going every night.
We were leaving the house at dark and getting home at dark.
We were running kids from one activity to another every single evening.
Yes. Life has changed.
There are many challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many scary aspects of this virus and I am thankful that there are so many people in our country taking it so seriously.
As we work to get through the current crisis, I hope and pray that we can be intentional in continuing to connect with people.
And maybe...just maybe, we will be able to use this time as a reset for our families.
A reset for our communities.
A reset for our country.
Maybe when we again have freedom to congregate, we'll remember what this time felt like.
So many stories of people helping people.
The everyday miracles that are coming to light during the time we are spending "stuck" in our homes.
Feeling hopeful in the farmhouse tonight, as we spend our time together -- apart,
Something happens on Friday afternoons, as I prepare my desk at school for the next week and lock my office door before heading home.
I feel a sense of accomplishment at tasks I've been able to complete through the week and a sense of relief at the idea of a few days "off".
The week's end is a time of reflection and a time of looking forward to the future.
I've developed a routine for Friday afternoons that has helped me to leave the school with a sense of peace and contentment.
It hasn't always been this way though.
I used to stay at school late into the evenings playing catch up from the previous week and organizing my post-it notes of tasks that I needed to accomplish the following Monday.
Thanks to Google Calendar and a few books, like The 12-Week Year, I have figured out a better system.
I began to wonder if the same concept could work at school.
First semester of the next school year, I decided to try it out.
When I got back to work in August, I made a 12-week plan for first quarter.
I made a list of all the things that needed to be accomplished between the beginning of August & the end of October.
I started to divide them out based on what dates I needed to meet certain deadlines and then I took it a step deeper and divided the tasks by days during that week.
This was working fine, but I found myself writing and re-writing my lists for each day and it started to become a disorganized paper mess. Yes, the tasks were getting finished, but it was exhausting to keep up with my paper system and I hated the "cluttered feeling" that my desk had at the end of each work day.
That is...until I found Reminders.
One of the things that Google has added over the last year is the integration of "Reminders" into the Google Calendar platform.
Essentially, I can make my "to do" list using Reminders.
The difference in using this platform is that I can give my "Reminders" a date and time!
The magic of Google Reminders is that the tasks AUTOMATICALLY MIGRATE when you don't mark them complete!
Each morning, I open my calendar when I get to work and look at any tasks that have migrated over to the current date. I check for a few things. First, I love to see if I completed the tasks and just forgot to mark them complete. Next, I see if the tasks are still relevant. If not, I delete them. If they are, I assign a time later the same day or later in the week to work on these tasks.
On Friday afternoon, when I start to prepare my office and desk for the next week, I now open up my Google calendar and look at the tasks I was unable to complete during the week.
I look at my upcoming weekend and the next week's calendar and I fill in any tasks that I need to complete.
I collect any resources or materials I might need to complete these tasks and I put them in folders I have labeled with the days of the week.
Then I clean off my desk, turn off my lamps, and head out the door.
Feeling good at this week's end,
You may remember at the end of 2018 when I shared about my morning routine on the blog.
Although I knew how important a morning routine was, it wasn't until I read The Power of Habit last year that I learned how beautifully automatic mornings could become.
Another example might be reaching for your house keys to unlock the door as you walk to the house when you get home.
ââThese sequences of events are automatic.
You don't even think about them.
There's practically no thought necessary to get the mail from the mailbox or unlock your house.
Did you know that humans are wired to make a specific amount of decisions each day?
We each have a certain decision-making capacity and we often use a lot of our decisions on meaningless activities.
(Sidenote: This is often why people make poor food choices late at night. They've hit their decision quota for the day, so they're unable to effectively decide "no ice cream" is the correct option.)
By creating healthy habits in our morning routines (and in other areas of our lives), we create automatic sequences and cut out decisions.
Make your morning routine a habit.
Here is my morning routine:
Now...in all honesty, over the last few months, my third and fourth steps have gone away.
I injured my hip while training for a half-marathon back in the fall and I wasn't able to workout for several months.
Now I'm healthy again and will need to re-train myself to include that working out habit in the mornings. For now, it's a daily decision.
The beauty of the habit cue is that we have the power to change our habits.
Last summer, I started experimented with habit loops.
When my feet hit the floor every morning, I would turn around and make the bed.
Within two minutes of my alarm going off, I have already accomplished something and now every time I walk by the bedroom through the day, I will remember that accomplishment.
As part of my bedtime routine, I've laid out my workout clothes and my clothes for the day.
Once the bed is made, I put on my workout clothes and head outside to run, to the basement to the treadmill, or to the living room to workout with a video.
It is automatic and once those clothes & tennis shoes are on, it sure is easier to get that movement taken care of first thing in the morning instead of having to decide to fit it in later in the evening.
After my workout, I start the coffee pot as I walk to the shower.
When I'm out of the shower and ready for the day, I make coffee and do my Bible study.
Cue (feet hit the floor)
Enjoying my mornings at the farmhouse,
Last year, I set a goal of reading 30 books in 2019.
I probably met this goal, but I can't say that with 100% certainty because I didn't track my books after about January 15th.
This year, I'm using Goodreads to track my books and I've already finished book number 1.
My first book of 2020 (which I will admit, I started in the last few days of 2019) was Outer Order, Inner Calm.
About the book from Gretchen Rubin's website:
One of my biggest take-aways from the book was this quote..."Nothing is more exhausting than the task that's never started."
I am the queen of systems and procedures and lists.
Sometimes my "task list" includes upwards of 100 items.
After reading this book, I went through my list and moved most of the items to a specific scheduled block on my calendar.
This simple act was a relief because by giving each task its own specified time, I "started" the process of marking the item off of my checklist.
The piece of advice to schedule time to work on tasks is just a very small example of the wealth of knowledge Rubin shares in this book and I would highly recommend it.
It's the first day of 2020.
When the clock struck midnight in the wee hours of this morning, we moved into a new day, a new month, a new year, and a new decade.
If you read my post about brainstorming for the new year, you have probably already printed and filled in the 2020 dream sheet I created. If not, grab one of your own here.
Now that you have identified some of your dreams and goals for 2020, let's move into being a little more specific in our goal-setting.
I created another printable to help us get specific about the things we want to accomplish in 2020.
Because January 1st is on a Wednesday this year, I am giving myself the next four days to plan and get organized to dive into another 12-week challenge.
Today, let's identify our goals for the year and get organized in our plan for accomplishing those goals.
Remember...less is more!
Don't create some elaborate plan to do 1,500 different tasks in 2020 or you'll burn out by January 11th.
Instead, create some manageable and measurable goals that you can stick to!
Thanks so much for keeping up with life at the farmhouse in 2019.
I'm looking forward to growing together over the next 365 days.
Happy 2020 from the farmhouse, friends.
Print your goal sheet to write out your goals or type them out to print!
Editable 2020 Goal Sheet
Yesterday, I had a day of shopping with my mom and two of my sisters-in-law.
On the way home, we stopped for coffee.
Last night, we had a family Christmas and didn't get home until past 11:00 p.m.
I got the girls to sleep and fell asleep myself around midnight...and was awakened by a five-year-old needing a drink about 3:00.
The caffeine from the coffee must have kicked in about that time because it's now 6:00 a.m. and I haven't been back to sleep.
Finally about 5:00, I decided to go ahead and get up and get the day started.
I've been dreaming about 2020 ever since.
Each year, about this time, I start to put together some goals and dreams for the new year.
I used to be someone who came up with these elaborate plans for January 1st and crashed & burned by about January 5th.
Over the last few years, however, I've really begun to focus on implementing some simple daily habits that will help me to make my long-term vision a reality.
Build a home my girls will look back on with fond memories.
Build relationships with others that will lead to mutual growth. Build each other up.
Continue to build a healthy marriage.
I didn't set too many specific goals in these areas yet. I just took the time to write out some of my hopes & dreams for 2020.
Some of the items on my list include projects, like creating a "quiet time" area in my office and making an action plan every month to mark off some of my "procrastination tasks".
Some are daily habits -- working out every day, drinking enough water, planning healthy meals for my family, and reading my Bible & journaling my prayers.
Some are just goals -- sending more personal cards via snail mail and being intentional in everything I purchase for our home.
Are you ready to dream for 2020? This is the first step in building the life you want over the next twelve months.
Feel free to download your own worksheet below and take some time to brainstorm today!
Up early, dreaming about the future here at the farmhouse,