This has been the quickest summer break I've ever had.
I actually found a blog post from 2018 (the year I took over my current position at school), that I titled "The Shortest Summer Ever", but I am here now to concede that that statement was inaccurate.
The summer of 2018 was NOT, in fact, the shortest summer ever. It was most definitely the summer of 2023.
I had my last day of work on July 3rd and spent the rest of that week celebrating Independence Day, getting the girls in for orthodontist appointments, and attending an all-day softball tournament that weekend.
The following week, I chaperoned our older two girls in Lincoln, Nebrasks at CIY Move, an amazing conference for teenagers, where they grew in their faith, grew closer to each other, and enjoyed week of dynamic speakers, worship, and relationship-building.
This past week was our church's Vacation Bible School. It was a great week, where we focused on doing what Jesus says, believing who Jesus is, sharing what Jesus did, and going where Jesus leads. It was exhausting and wonderful and so very meaningful to lots of kids and adults.
And now...I have one week left.
I go back to school on August 1st...in eight short days.
And surprisingly...I'm okay with that.
Over my career in public education, I have spent many "final weeks at home" dreading the school year, working to finish all the tasks on my to-do in a frenzy as the summer came to a close, and just not really enjoying very much of it.
However, I have learned a thing or two over the past few years and I want to share some of these things as we close the chapter of summer and move into fall.
1. Self-reflection is key.
We MUST be willing and able to look inside ourselves to reflect on all of the things.
What is driving my internal need to accomplish more and more each day?
Why do I behave the way I do?
Why do I feel that way inside when I think about or see a specific person?
Why does my mind fill with concerns regarding specific parts of my life that I cannot control?
I could continue typing on this list of reflective questions for the next several weeks. The list could go on and on and on.
Here is the kicker though:
When we ask these questions, we have to REALLY take time to listen to our answers to make CHANGES based on those answers.
This is not natural. This is a SKILL that must be practiced.
Here is an example of how I have been working on this skill.
(Fair warning: this is kind of vulnerable for me...I'm just going to lay it all out there!)
I ask myself this question:
What is driving my internal need to accomplish more and more each day?
And then I mull over the question in my head. I even might write something down in response to this. I finally end up with the answer that I feel is the most closely aligned with my truth.
I feel the need to accomplish more and more each day because at some point in my life, I have bought into the idea that my own productivity is tied directly to the happiness of my family. I have thought to myself on many occasions, "Once I accomplish ___, we will be able to live peacefully in our home." Once the house is completely decluttered and organized...once all of the home projects we have on our list are completed...once we have a small business that has a sustainable income to allow us more time at home...once we can afford to retire...THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.
But God has been changing my heart over the last three years.
I could continue to live in this place of wanting things to be perfect before I allow myself to enjoy them completely, or I can be content where He has placed me.
I have had to reflect deep within myself and I have had to make the conscious decision to choose contentment.
We will do what we can with the time we have available, and we will build in intentional time of rest and relaxation. We will do big projects on certain days and we will end those work days with a bonfire or a game of softball in the yard or a night at the drive-in movie.
My self-reflection has led me to focus heavily on balancing the "to do" list and the "to connect" list.
I've also been working on how I interact with others. Sometimes, there are things that I feel the urge to say that do not need to be said. I listen for the still, small voice of God when these things come into my mind and I use self-control to not say them.
And sometimes, there are hard things that NEED to be spoken, in love. I pray for discernment in these situations -- God, is this something you would like me to engage in or are we not ready to have this conversation? Am I in a good place to be able to deliver this message with grace and empathy? Am I in a place to be able to listen with humility?
It is prideful for me to believe that I have all the answers in every situation, so I am working hard to remember that I can listen & learn from others. I don't have to have all the answers. I can gain new information, chew on it for a while, and ask God to help me see where that new information fits into His plan for me.
After studying habits for the last few years, I have finally found a really healthy morning routine that is working well for me. Self-reflection has allowed me to adjust and revise this routine until it clicked into place.
After reading several books by Gretchen Rubin, I've learned that we need to pay attention to the natural rhythms of our bodies when we are planning our activities for the day.
I am a morning person, or a lark, as Rubin calls it. I do my best work in the morning. So after I shower and get ready for the day, if I'm home for the day, I almost always launch straight into my to do list. I try to accomplish a lot before lunch time, so my afternoons can be spent writing, relaxing with the kids, or napping.
If it's a school day, I structure my work day similarly. I try to knock out my biggest tasks early in the work day. I build in a few short breaks for myself throughout the morning, but I try to push through and get a lot accomplished before 1:00. Around 1:00, I try to take time for people. I visit classrooms, make phone calls, and attend meetings. Before I leave for the school day, I prioritize my task list for the following day and clean my office up so I'm ready to start strong the next morning.
So what does all of this mean?
We all have areas in our lives that God is calling us to make some changes. We are too busy or not busy enough. We are prioritizing the wrong activities. We are so staunchly set in certain beliefs about how the world should be that we are unable to connect with people. We are neglecting our Bible study because of other meaningless tasks and when we do study the Bible, we're not applying it to allow God to transform our lives.
We MUST self-reflect.
And in that self-reflection, when we feel that nudge from God to make changes, we have to MOVE.
Soaking up this last week of summer break and reflecting on who I am in Jesus here at the farmhouse,
Today was my LAST day of work for the 2022-2023 school year.
I am officially on summer break.
And while I will definitely need to stop by the school at some point over the next four weeks, I am looking forward to a RESET throughout the month of July.
I will admit...our July is PACKED.
It just kind of happened.
Softball is over for the younger two girls, so we'll have a few days off right now, before our youngest heads off to church camp Thursday & Friday.
Saturday, our oldest has a softball tournament out of town.
Sunday, we get a day at home, before the older two girls and I head off to Christ in Youth Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska for five days.
We'll come home for a day before Vacation Bible School kicks off on Sunday, the 16th.
It sounds crazy, but after VBS, I'll have ONE WEEK off until I go back to school. One week.
At the end of my last week off, we're going to take a little surprise road trip to wrap up our summer fun!
Even in this busy summer, we had set some goals for ourselves.
We are going to make time for fun
We are going to knock out some home projects.
The girls and I decided in late-May that this would be the summer that we marked some of our items off of the ol' "procrastination list".
We have had a few things on the list for the entire six years we've lived here. Things like "paint the stairwell" and "hang Mattie's ceiling fan" keep getting moved farther and farther down the task list.
Well, that will not be the case when I go back to work on August 1st.
We have a plan and we are sticking to it!
So far, we've marked several of these "to do" items off of the list.
I painted the basement stairwell one afternoon and I will be painting the upstairs stairwell tomorrow.
We finally moved a huge pile of welding materials away from the front of the barn and down to the concrete pad with the rest of Mr. Farmhouse's stash.
The hammocks we bought late last summer have finally replaced the frayed ones that were under the Rustic Rooster.
The rest of the list includes things like painting the barn, powerwashing & restaining the deck, adding slats to the bottom of the porch, removing the doors of the coat closet and painting/wallpapering it, and possibly the biggest undertaking -- getting the basement completely clean.
I know it sounds crazy to try to fit so many things into four short weeks, but I feel like I have REALLY let things go at the house over the last six months.
So while we are prioritizing fun and relaxation, we're also going to work hard to mark some things off of our list to help us feel more in control walking into the 2023-2024 school year.
I. Can't. Wait.
Trying to get our lives together here at the farmhouse,
In some ways, it's hard to believe that I haven't written a blog post since October of 2021.
In other ways, it just makes sense.
Last October, when I wrote that blog post, we were just finishing up the first quarter of this last school year. From that point on, it felt like we were meeting ourselves coming and going.
This school year, we had a child in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary. This made for some interesting schedules and lots of nights where Mr. Farmhouse and I split up to attend the girls' activities, often accepting help from the grandparents and aunts & uncles to get the third daughter where she needed to go.
I know this is something that parents have accomplished for many, many years...but for us, it was the first time that we were really pulled in three different directions, on top of career and farming duties.
If we're being honest -- our home suffered because of this. I don't think we were ever caught up on laundry or dishes and our mud room became a dumping ground for our belongings as we ran in to change clothes quickly and head out to the next event.
As Gretchen Rubin states in her book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, "it's easier to keep up than to catch up..."
And we are to the point where we desperately need to catch up.
However, we WILL NOT spend the whole summer "catching up".
We have three more summers left with our oldest daughter Harlee here at home, so we are going to work hard to create beautiful family memories in the midst of taking back our house.
Already this summer, we've visited the Kansas City Zoo, toured the Hallmark Visitors' Center & Kaleidoscope, attended a Royals game, and we've taken a mini-vacation to Phillipsburg, Missouri (more on THAT trip later...).
We've also already filled a 6-yard dumpster and gathered up over 20 tubs of belongings to sell or donate. We have gotten almost caught up on laundry and have marked off a few tasks off of our "list of things we have procrastinated on throughout the school year".
You might recall some of my plans for the year 2021 that I wrote about back in January.
I shared about using each week to set goals, breaking down our big projects into smaller, manageable chunks -- instead of setting big annual goals that often seem unattainable.
We are making good progress on several of our goals for the year, by taking an hour or two each week to work on them. Our detached garage/canning kitchen/man cave is almost finished. It's been a long process, but by knocking out a few tasks here and there each week, we're closing in on the finishing touches.
We've done a lot of outdoor clean-up this year, by working for one Saturday a month or so to knock out some big areas of the property.
I wrote daily through March 8th and have 22,179 words in my first draft. My goal is to get to 60,000 words by the end of the year. I think that's still doable. I have six chapters finished, so far.
3. Blog Each Week.
This is only my 10th blog post of the year, so as you can see -- I'm a little behind on that.
After spring break, school became a whirlwind and I just had to put something on the back burner. Unfortunately, it was blogging.
I've got some catching up to do! :)
4. Lose 15 pounds.
Following my experience with COVID-19 in September, I realized I had developed an allergy to dairy and sensitivity to gluten. Changing my diet to not include those things helped me to lose 15 pounds with no problem.
I have slowly started introducing these things back into my diet and I will admit -- I don't feel as well.
So I probably need to remove those things again.
Whole30 coming again in August!
5. Read 40 books.
As of last week, I had finished my 21st book and am almost finished with my 22nd and 23rd.
So I'm right on schedule for the challenge.
Happy Almost August, Friends!
Taking in the last few days of summer break here at the farmhouse,
Four whole months.
That's how long it's been since I posted over here on the blog.
It's like spring break got over and all the sudden, we were flying 80-mph in a 55-mph speed limit zone to the end of the school year.
Today is my first official day of summer break.
Sure, I'll be back at work once a week or so to tie up some loose ends and to do some preparation for next school year, but officially, I can stay home if I want to.
I'm reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
It's all about doing little things each day to contribute to happiness.
Inspired by Rubin's book, I've decided to embark on my own "Mini Happiness Project".
I'll chronicle my plan and progress here to share, starting today.
So let's just jump right in.
Rubin's happiness project was a 12-month endeavor.
I'd like to start TODAY and have my first little leg of my happiness project go through September 30th.
I'll do some of the prep-work right now in June to allow me to be prepared to do a 3-month focus with my Farmhouse654 friends from July through September.
My Daily Focuses for the Rest of June will be:
It's been just over a month since I blogged on the last day of school.
I had big summer plans for the blog.
I would share the continuation of our decluttering journey.
I would post about our garden.
I would showcase our farmhouse projects with everyone, as we finally marked some of the items off the list that we've been putting off all school year.
I would finally get those items finished that we had been procrastinating on.
And I will say...we have made progress.
I am so excited and looking forward to my new position for the 2018-2019 school year.
I have thoughts and dreams and a vision for what the Special Education department will look like in the future.
However, there are still some responsibilities lingering from last school year and I would like to take care of these things before going back to school in August.
This is a time of transition and I need to be proactive in my planning and preparing.
I need to be intentional in my learning and my personal summer professional development.
I need to be "vision-minded" as I close out last school year and look forward to next year.
I want to be able to start fresh in August and to offer a fresh start for my staff members and students.
And to do that...the groundwork must be laid now. This summer.
This last Friday was my predecessor's final day.
He's now retired and already enjoying life in Galveston, Texas. (Congratulations, Fred!)
We took him out to eat on Friday and then I went back to school and starting moving my personal belongings down to my new office.
When I walked out of the building that day, I vowed to not come back until July 9th...taking this week to relax and enjoy my family.
Taking this week to watch our town's annual 4th of July parade, to shoot off fireworks, to get some projects completed around the house, to go to the lake, and to just spend time with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
There is still much to be done...on the farmhouse and in my new office, but those things can wait.
Happy "Stop Week" from the Farmhouse, friends.