Especially in the winter.
And this winter has been a rough one.
From sub-zero temperatures to snow & ice, keeping animals fed and alive has NOT been easy.
To be honest, we have lost a few calves this winter...
We have spent money trying to keep other calves alive...
We even had our bottle calf "Patty" spend four days and three nights in the farmhouse basement (with the two older girls).
And yet...all over the Midwest, farmers have been out in this junk all day.
Mr. Farmhouse will work until 4:30 and then get in the truck and go feed cows and make sure they're all safe and sound before coming home at dark.
Ice will be need to be chopped.
Hay bales will need to be unwound.
New babies might need to be taken inside and warmed up.
Some farm days are enjoyable.
Some farm days are miserable.
All farm days are hard work.
Saying a prayer from the farmhouse for those out working in this weather and thinking about our farmers,
And let's be honest...it can be so dark and gloomy outside!
Days and days of inside recess. Need I say more?
In the education world, the "third quarter slump" is alive and well.
But this year...I'm not in the classroom.
I'm sitting in an office doing a job that I love working with a team of leaders and staff members that just warm my heart.
I have lamps and a little peaceful fountain and I can use the restroom whenever I want.
We have had a few unexpected days off and I feel like I'm basically in control of my house right now.
And I'm still feeling the "third quarter slump".
I think sometimes this time of year is just hard.
This time of year is often lacking sunshine.
Illness is making its way around.
It's cold...and sometimes snowy or icy, making it hard to get from point A to point B.
It's dark when we leave the house and often dark when we get home.
And let's be real here...some of us feel like we have already failed at some of those goals we set on January 1st (less than a month ago).
The winter blues are very real, but there are a few things I've found that help me to heave myself out of that third quarter slump when the days feel long and not as enjoyable as we would like them to.
For example, participating in the Farmhouse654 12-week challenge has given me some direction over the next twelve weeks.
My days are filled up with purposeful tasks that help me to meet goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year.
Another example would be the fact that Matthew and I have booked a cruise for mid-July for our 15-year-anniversary. This helps me to be hyper-focused on a few financial and health goals I would like to accomplish before then.
There are some projects around the outside of the house that we would like to get finished before next school year. This winter, we are working on identifying these projects and breaking them down into manageable steps we can start NOW.
In fact, Mr. Farmhouse and his crew (our dads, brothers, cousins, Harlee) got the outside fence posts put in a few weekends ago when we had a spring-like day! And he's out there again today...at 19º. Brrrr!
2. Keep Moving
This weather makes me want to hibernate.
I want to run to the car in the morning, drive to work, do my job, leave work, and come straight home to curl up in my bed.
I don't want to do anything extra...including housework, cooking supper, or especially exercise.
However, I have found that when I set a schedule to get some movement into my days, I truly and honestly feel better.
Even if it's only three times a week, if I can get onto that treadmill and force myself to DO something...it really makes a huge difference in how my week goes.
3. Turn on the Lights
It's no secret that sunshine is good for the soul.
Seasonable Affective Disorder (SAD) is the scientific name for the winter blues.
While experts have lots of suggestions to help beat the winter blues, they all seem to agree on one thing...the importance of LIGHT!
Turns the lights on and turn them on early.
Start the day with artificial lights on to trick your body into thinking that rest time is over and it's time to get going.
Open blinds or curtains to let as much natural light as you can throughout the day and SOAK THAT STUFF IN!
4. Stay Connected
When we are feeling down, we sometimes have a tendency to slowly separate ourselves from others.
We spend more time at home.
More time cooped up inside.
More time disconnected from others.
There's a fine line between taking some at-home rest & relaxation with your own little family and putting up walls to start and build a barrier with the outside world.
And it's all a slippery slope.
The more time we spend disconnected from others, the easier it is to not let people in.
The more days we go straight home and avoid human interaction, the easier it becomes to think of that as the "norm".
Stay connected with others. And not just online.
Meet up with a friend for coffee.
Make a phone call (gasp!) to a friend.
Go out and run errands...talk to people!
5. Do Something
Finally...do something. Do ANYthing.
Sometimes the winter blues can become extreme and paralyzing.
And sometimes it is hard to make yourself do anything above and beyond your necessary daily responsibilities.
On days like this, I think it's important to just START.
Do ONE thing.
And then do another thing.
Take it moment by moment, task by task.
Do something and then sit down and rest.
Do another thing and then sit down and rest.
We sometimes need to work through our days (or evenings) like this...just babystepping our way through some of those tasks we tend to put off during the winter.
Sometimes those first few tasks can get our motivation rolling enough to make some serious progress...even on a hard day.
Here's the deal.
The winter blues are real.
They can come at different times and at varying degrees for all of us.
For my dear friends struggling with clinical depression, I know that these five suggestions won't cure that.
There are medications and therapists and lots of options for support available and I hope and pray that you are taking advantage of these things.
However, maybe...just maybe...focusing on some of these suggestions will help to lighten the blow of the dark & cold days that comes with this season.
Day by day,
Goal by goal,
Step by step.
We can do this.
Looking forward to spring here at the farmhouse,
There is a metal ornament representing each year of our marriage...starting with a wedding picture from 2004 and going through some of our major life events.
The birth of each of the girls is represented with hospital pictures and 2016 when we took our trip to Florida includes a beach picture.
I love being able to look at the pictures on these ornaments and be taken back immediately to the moment they were photographed.
Some of these photos are professional (thank you, JcPenney, Amy Kostuke Photography, & Spread Your Wings Photography) while others are just snapshots.
It's amazing for me to think that almost fifteen years of marriage can be summed up in these ornaments. What a blessing they are to me.
Reminiscing here at the farmhouse this morning,
PS -- I get my ornaments at Mpix, in case you missed that link above. You can purchase your own right HERE.
"Everybody up! It's 9:30 and we have things to do!"
Monday was a snow day and the two older girls were still asleep.
"Up and dressed to shoes by 9:45, please!"
I started down the stairs and Harlee shouts from her bed, "Wait...dressed to shoes? What does that even mean?"
So I explained that that meant getting completely dressed and ready, including shoes.
"But we're staying home today." Harlee said (whined?).
"Right, but we have a lot to get done, including work in the basement, and it's just easier to be productive in shoes."
After breakfast, we were downstairs purging and organizing the storage items in the basement and Claire says, "I think you were right...it IS easier to work in shoes!"
In fact, I get so comfortable going from one task to another in my good ol' house-cleaning shoes that I often find myself walking through the grocery store, pumping fuel at the gas station, or even heading into meetings in them.
Thankfully, Crocs are almost back in style these days.
So what about you? Do you wear shoes to clean in? Any specific pair of shoes or just whatever you're planning to wear that day?
Rocking the Crocs at the farmhouse,
Secondly, we have dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. It's like the children get dressed in every corner of the house. And of course, Mr. Farmhouse sometimes drops his dirty clothes DIRECTLY beside the hamper.
And finally...we haven't built a laundry habit that includes at least one load a day.
As part of the 12-week challenge, I chose my January daily habit to be one load of laundry a day...from start to finish.
Through the washer, through the dryer, folded, AND put away.
Last fall, I started to make my bed every single morning. Even if I got nothing else accomplished during the time I had before leaving for work, I still made my bed.
And now...I don't even have to think about it.
Since starting the "one load a day" laundry habit, although I can't say I'm to the point where I'm doing laundry automatically, I can definitely notice a huge difference.
In fact, I only have one load that could even be done right now because we're all caught up on the rest of our clothes.
Some of you might have read my post about zone work this week and thought to yourself, "What? She only dusts once every eight weeks?"
The short answer is "Yep, true story!"
But the long answer is that each week, I try really hard to do a weekly home blessing.
Since we have been picking up (almost) every evening for 15 minutes, the floor and flat surfaces are staying fairly clear (except for the dining room table today...don't look at that until we have time to clear it off tonight!!!).
I read (in the FlyLady's book) about the concept of a Weekly Home Blessing...taking about an hour a week and doing a "clean sweep" through the main rooms of the house.
During the Weekly Home Blessing, you set your timer for 10 minutes and complete one task in each section.
The whole point of the Weekly Home Blessing is not perfection...it's just keeping a basic handle on some of the things we tend to put off.
Plan to find an hour between now and next week to do a Weekly Home Blessing...you won't regret it!
Blessing the Farmhouse ten minutes at a time,
These daily routines are so important to help keep the house manageable.
And when I started following the FlyLady 10-15 years ago, I learned how important cleaning zones in our homes can be too for those "deep-cleaning" tasks.
The basic concept is for you to divide your home into various zones.
I used to try and make sure I was getting through every single zone every single month.
However, starting this next week, I think I'll put my house on an eight-week zone rotation.
Today, and for the rest of this week, I'll be focusing on deep-cleaning the front porch, the living room, and our deck.
I make a list of tasks to get these three areas "all spiffied up" and I work on that list for 15-30 minutes a day (depending on each night's activities).
So...your task for today is to divide your home into zones.
You can decide how many.
You can decide what types of tasks to put on your zone lists.
The important part is to start to develop some habits for deep-cleaning a little at a time, instead of just constantly being stuck in the cycle of having a BIG cleaning day every few weeks.
Working my zones at the farmhouse this morning!
Let's be real.
I know what I need to do.
When I want to make healthy choices, I can.
I am completely capable of making the right call when various food choices are in front of me.
I've studied and implemented the Whole30 program.
I've eaten using a Keto lifestyle for weeks (sometimes months) at a time.
I did Weight Watchers for over a year and lost between 15-20 pounds.
And then, one day, I'll feel so good in my own skin that I'll make the choice to eat something that isn't a healthy choice.
Something like a donut from Koehn's Bakery...
A pumpkin pie blizzard from Dairy Queen...
Or a blueberry scone from Starbucks.
And you know what?
If I had consciously made a choice to have a scone and a caramel macchiato and get right back on track, that would be great!
And slowly, my weight creeps up and my pants feel a little tighter and that Stephens double-chin becomes a triple-chin.
And before I know it, I'm throwing a kid on my lap or in moving them in front of me every time we take a picture.
I'm wearing flowy layers because I don't feel comfortable in my more fitted clothing.
And I'm digging out my jeans that are a size bigger because I feel better in them.
But the thing is...it's never about how I look.
It's about how I feel.
When I'm making good food choices, my joints are less achy.
My face is clearer.
I'm less irritable.
I have more energy.
So that's why when I got the email announcing the "Biggest Loser" competition at school starting this Monday...I knew this was a great opportunity to start again.
Through the Farmhouse654 12-Week Challenge that several of us are going through this year, I'm working towards making my dream life a reality...with goals related to our home, relationships, finances, personal growth, and of course, health.
Yesterday, my Harlee-girl and I spent the day together.
She slept in while I got my morning routine finished, then I woke her up to head to the school.
I had a few things I needed to get organized before staff and students came back today.
After a few hours in my office, we grabbed some lunch and went to get pedicures...the last little treat for her 12th birthday.
She decided on a manicure and I got my toes done.
When we were finished, there was time for her to spend a gift card that she got for Christmas and to pick up my WalMart grocery order, before heading to get our eyebrows waxed and my hair cut.
Here’s a little before & after of the eyebrows...her first experience having them waxed!
I took off my tennis shoes and peeled off my socks...or tried to.
But they were STUCK to my big toes.
“Oh no. This is not good.” I thought.
Sure enough...my toes had not been dry when I put my socks and shoes back on at the nail salon.
No worries though...I think they’re fine.
Just a little added texture.
We made it.
It sounds crazy to say that. I just keep thinking, "Wasn't 1996 like a few years ago?"
Anyway, for so many of us, waking up on January 1st brings a renewed sense of motivation and excitement for what can happen in this fresh new year.
Over 2018, I read several books to work towards becoming the best version of myself that I can be.
Almost every single one of them spoke in the beginning about the importance of having a vision for your life.
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift
Your vision has to be yours alone.
Picture the life you want and decide TODAY to take steps to get there.
I'm hosting a "Twelve-Week Challenge" group here on the blog and over on Facebook.
So that's my one non-negotiable daily habit.
However, I have some other habits that will definitely help our days run more smoothly, so I have listed nine other daily habits that I would like to track each day.
I love using a habit-tracker for things like this, so I created one on Google Docs to track my progress.
You can view MY January habit-tracker HERE and follow along, if you'd like.
If you would like a printable BLANK copy of my habit-tracker, click the image below.