In 2019, I’m going back to one of my first loves: writing occasional blog posts about what’s going on in my life. My only goal is to reflect on each month and as it draws to a close, take note where my intentions and actions intersect. I’m calling this 12 part series, “The Art of Paying Attention.”
I’ll keep these updates brief. They are mostly just for my own accountability and contemplation. Taking inspiration from Emily P. Freeman’s “What I Learned” series I participated in a few years ago and the act of “soulful listening,” I know this exercise will be valuable for me. I hope you also find some inspiration of your own.
Each month this year, I am keeping my intentions (or goals) to no more than six or seven small but significant items that help me to live out what is most important in my life. Below are the intentions I set for July and a short note on how I found myself paying attention.
July seemed to both fly by and last forever. Below are the intentions I set and a few thoughts about each one.
Enjoy Big Canoe:
Most summers, we have had an extended family vacation with either my family or Ryan’s or both. This year, instead of a traditional beach vacation, we decided to go to the mountains with my extended family to a resort area called Big Canoe, in the North Georgia mountains.
The area was beautiful. The cabin was nice but could have had larger common areas; there were sixteen of us in what turned out to be a too-small space. The amenities in BC were fun and we enjoyed spending the 4th of July holiday with family.
Paying attention: While we have always tried to make extended family vacation happen, Ryan and I have since had several talks about whether or not this will continue to be something our nuclear “family of five” will get to continue much longer. For a variety of reasons, this was a somewhat less than restful vacation. In this particular season, we have had very limited “family of five” time to invest in getting away and being together. There is a vast difference in a TRIP and a VACATION. We like to take “trips” home to see family, and “vacations” are things we seem enjoy in much smaller numbers and settings. It is difficult to accommodate the wishes, needs, schedules, rhythms, and personalities of sixteen people in one house for an entire week. We are also sensing just how little time we have left before our own kids will be leaving the nest and we want to maximize our memory making and feeling like we come home from a vacation truly rested, restored, and refreshed.
Exercise + Move My Body:
Prior to our June/July travels, I had made going to the gym and doing weight workouts a priority. While I can’t say I truly LOVED going, I always left feeling glad that I went. Upon our return to Fort Polk mid-month, we hit the are-we-aren’t=we PCSing frenzy and getting unpacked and trying to relish summer and see all of our friends who we’d missed for almost a month. The bottom line–I just didn’t find my “umph” to get back to the gym.
Paying Attention: In place of the gym, I have gotten up nearly every weekday around 6:00 am to take a morning walk. This time each day is sacred. I get out before the brunt of the heat sets in (don’t worry, it’s still plenty humid) and I walk for about half an hour. The steps/walking is good physical exercise, but I find that the time outdoors in nature, seeing the sun move higher and higher into the sky, hearing the birds, and breathing the fresh air is most beneficial to my soul.
Stay In Today Each Day:
Since February (really) we have been in waiting mode about our supposed, upcoming December move. I’ll spare you all of the exact details, but the gist is that we should have been on an “identified to move” list in February. We were not. Ryan immediately emailed. No response. He emailed again. And again. By May and early June, his chain of command began messaging and calling. When Ryan finally got a response it was more of an “oops, sorry, didn’t see your messages, it’s too late now because winter assignments have already been made,” kind of vibe. While we ultimately see God’s hand in all of this now, those months of waiting and feeling forgotten and unheard were incredibly trying. I know better, but I allowed this waiting period to define a lot of my emotions and feelings. Knowing whether or not we would be moving is quite vital in planning your life and I knew I would need the goal of “stay in today each day,” as a visible, tangible reminder to myself.
[We are extending our time at Fort Polk an additional six months and will be (actually, quite happily) getting back on a summer move cycle.]
Paying Attention: So the truth is that this goal or mantra should be a lifelong, daily goal or mantra. I’m a long time quoter of the Matthew 6 “do not be anxious about tomorrow…sufficient for the day is its own trouble…” verse. But maybe for the first time in my life, I actually put that into practice. Throughout the month I would catch myself thinking ahead months from now or strategizing some scenario in my head and I would stop and switch my thoughts. Sometimes I would give myself a new thought and other times I literally would say outloud: “Nope. Stay in today, Claire. Enjoy today. Just DO today.” And it would help me sooooo much! I even got to the point I was sharing this same advice with others. Look at that wisdom, huh!
Finalize School Plans:
One of the greatest, weightiest decisions that was initially tied up in our PCS plans was what we would be doing for school for the 2019-2020 academic year. Back as early as January, I’d already told my principal that I didn’t have plans to return to my 4th grade position. (Partly because I thought we would only be there half the year and I knew for continuity’s sake that wasn’t ideal for a principal, a teacher, or a classroom full of students. Partly because I realized that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a fourth grade teacher in a small, private school…that’s another post for another day…).
So as the school year ended I knew that I personally wouldn’t be returning but Ryan and I were uncertain of what our plans were for the kids. I tried to set aside all of my obsessive thinking and planning about that decision for most of June and July. I wanted to enjoy summer and our trips and not have that hovering over me. Ryan and I continued to pray and have a few short discussions about our decision. We both agreed that whether we got word to move or not; whether we would be here for the fall semester or all school year long–returning to homeschooling was the right decision for everyone involved. We did take into account our kids own wishes and input. The consensus was unanimous.
Paying Attention: As luck would have it, I ended up writing an entire Homeschool 2019-2020 blog post and you can read all about it right here.
Complete One TPT Item to List:
It is my goal to continue adding resources to my TPT page because once you go to the trouble and work of making something available there, there is literally no more work to do. More resources = more sales. More sales = more passive income. Which, by the way, happens to be one of my favorite ways to earn income.
I continue to have success on the TPT platform and was even contacted this summer about several of my more popular resources being added to a pilot program where some selected school districts are making “administrator” accounts and allowing teachers to wish list items that the school would end up paying for. Anyway, there’s more to it than that, but the epiphany for me was that I need to take advantage of having more time freedom and make a plan to amp up my TPT Store.
My best selling items have traditionally been 100 question multiple choice tests over novels or educational movies. I decided to make a test of Fahrenheit 451.
Paying Attention: I checked out the book from the library. I got started on the test. I have about 20/100 of the questions finished. It is a slow going process, because I am having to reread the book slowly and carefully. I’m creating thoughtful questions based on the content of the book. I’m developing the question and four answer choices for each one. When I taught high school English there was a truth universally acknowledged: If the test is quick to grade (multiple choice) is takes a long time to create. If the test is quick to create (essay test) is takes a long time to grade. It is this exact phenomenon that proves why my tests do so well on TPT. Teachers are willing to pay someone else to do the long, laborious work of creating the test so that they can give it out and run it through a Scantron machine. The bottom line is that I got busy and let other projects (some worthwhile) and other distractions (hello Netflix, books, social media) get me off track. I’ll keep plugging away at this test and hope to have it listed soon!
Invest In Our Fort Polk Community:
I do believe there’s nothing like returning from a summer of travels and being met with unexpected news that your assignment is extended to cause you to suddenly be grateful for your community and have a renewed interest in your investment to it. I’m sure other military affiliated folks can attest, once you know you are moving there’s a part of you (whether consciously, subconsciously, or both) that just begins to pull away–to retreat–to want to remove yourself piece by piece from what you’ll be leaving. I’d like to think that I hadn’t fully done that yet, but I could see traces of that mindset settling in.
About a day after we confirmed our status as Summer 2020 PCS, I just mentally dug in and said to myself, “Claire, this is home for now. Go forth and make it awesome.”
Paying Attention: I can say that I immediately formed a Fort Polk middle and high schoolers homeschool Facebook group where we can organize social and extra curricular events. I organized and already hosted a July IF: Table. I have been more intentional about meeting and connecting with new families at chapel and in our neighborhood. In addition, knowing we are here for the full school year, I have extended my availability to continue facilitating a PWOC study for the full year. Other noteworthy “We are staying here so might as well stay settled in” shifts: Kate and Mae are getting the word out that they are available to babysit, Ryan hung a shelf for me in our bathroom, I outlined another book to write before we leave here, we are adding another adorable Boykin Spaniel puppy to our family, and ultimately I have found myself feeling much more settled and optimistic about the year ahead.
July Blog Post:
So those were my July intentions and how I particularly paid attention to them. Below are some other July highlights.
- This was the first month, I didn’t list “Read Three Books” as a monthly goal. I still read some books– I read Then She Was Gone, reread much of The Complete Enneagram, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Lessons from Lucy.
- Another major highlight for July that has been really lifegiving to me, is that most of this summer I have been up early enough in a quiet enough house to do my Bible reading aloud. In July, I switched up my Bible translation and have continued the read aloud sessions with my beloved Message Bible. Over the past few years (and several books later), Eugene Peterson continues to become one of my favorite modern church fathers. If you don’t love him already, this “A Life Well Traveled” may change your mind.
- Thomas, Mae, and Kate all three volunteered at the chapel LEGO camp this month. Guess who did not volunteer? Moi. They loved every minute of their week and I loved every minute of mine.
- We updated Mae’s bedroom to include storing her set of twin beds and putting up her full size Jenny Lind.
- July was marked by lots of movie nights, game nights, pool visits, and time spent with our friends and family.
Onward to August!