January Things I Learned + Books I Read

Again, I’m keeping with a theme here for 2021. When I track and reflect on certain aspects of life I tend to feel more invested in myself and my growth. One of my most favorite ways to do that (and years I have witnessed the biggest growth) is through the process of documenting what I am reading and what I am learning (although the things learned are not necessarily the things I’m reading…)

I keep a running note on my phone for those light bulb moments…

Here’s my list for January:

Things I Learned:

Old Navy clothing tags have funny messages on the back

I have shopped and worn things from Old Navy for a long time and I have literally never paid attention or noticed this until recently. Some of the things on my tags say, “This is so you,” or “You wear it so well,” and “See you on the flip side.” Apparently there’s an entire Reddit thread with lots of very funny things people have found on the tags. I don’t know why but this just hit me so funny. I love a subtle sense of humor and whomever is behind this idea should get a gold star.

James Clear speaks to my soul

Finally getting around to reading his Atomic Habits and I’m just trying so hard to savor every chapter, paragraph, and idea. I did have a huge aha moment when he wrote, “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Seriously, I felt like this is literal truth. Most of the goals I set only come to fruition if I have a system in place for tracking them and implementing them. I have already seen tons of progress (like this fourth blog post of the year…) but systemizing my routines and plans. Google calendar has been a huge game-changer for me.

USA Jobs Resume Writing Class

Since we have been here, I have been attempting to get all of my ducks in a row to rejoin the workforce. I studied for and retested for my Tennessee Teaching License to be reactived. I have gone through some employment training. And I have applied for several jobs, including one I was hired for as a substitute teacher. Accepting this job was mostly a way to dip my toe into the federal hiring system. I have since applied for a more full time role and in doing so I visited the Fort Campbell Spouse Employment Center and was helped GREATLY by one Abrell Jones. She spent over an hour with me updating my USA Jobs profile and getting the wording “just right” on my resume for a specific job. HUGE HUGE HUGE learning curve. Thankful I have these skills in my employment toolkit now.

The Financial Diet: Financial Minimalism Starter Kit Course

In my attempts to be a lifelong learner I have decided to pursue taking advantage of online courses that are offered and available. Teachers come in many forms and this year, when I come across freebies or interesting pursuits, I am signing up and showing up. I’ve followed TFD for a while now and love the content they put out. This course was brief and really didn’t get into much that I wasn’t already aware of or doing, but I’m still glad I attended and paid attention.

Thomas’s College Choices

At our house, we are beginning the early conversations about college with our oldest son, Thomas. He’s halfway through his junior year and it is now time to get focused his plans. We have had so many discussions and talks and are trying to help foster good critical thinking in him for what he wants to do and where he would like to attend college. How this has looked in our family started with us asking him to research six or seven schools he might have any interest in attending. From there he initiated getting more information online. And I dug deeper into where these schools are located, what the enrollment is, what majors or fields of study are offered, the total cost, and what the admissions and policies are for the G.I Bill and Yellow Ribbon programs. We have narrowed the field from seven down to five. Thomas takes the ACT next weekend and we will continue moving forward from here. We have one campus visit planned in April and he’s signed up for a summer program at one college as well. So much for us all to learn in this process.

Not All Funerals Are the Same but All Are Meaningful

Thankfully I have not had to attend a ton of funerals, but those I have attended seem to all take a different shape. As an example, my grandfather died in 2019 and there were actually TWO funerals for him, so many soloists, all eight cousins spoke, it was very lengthy, very spiritual, and very elaborate with lots of speaking, singing, and fanfare. Conversely, my mom’s sister recently passed away and her funeral was very different. There were only two brief speakers, there were no live soloists–only cover music that was mostly non-religious. Instead the major focus was on her family and there were several songs-worth of a photo slideshow. I know one major difference is that my grandfather died in his late 90s and his service was more a celebration of his very long life… his death was expected and somewhat of a blessing as his quality of life had diminished significantly. My aunt’s death was premature and unexpected. The surprise and deeper level of grief was palpable. I guess what I learned is that your funeral is kind of your last goodbye to the life you live on earth. In many ways it can be reflective of the impact or legacy you’re leaving behind. One thing I learned about my aunt was of her deep and abiding love for her kids, her husband, her grandkids, and every other person she welcomed into her life and home. For me, it was a challenge to live like that!

Be Brave. Be Bold. Just Ask.

One of my “fun” goals for 2021 is to be more conversational with the people I interact with– especially strangers. If 2020 taught me much it is that I need connection with people. I have considered easy ways I can do this and for me a super-simple way is to just be friendly with people like cashiers, store attendants, gate guards, bank tellers–people who are just doing their jobs and who might appreciate a personal word spoken to them. (I have a friend that does this so well–she is the person who inspired me…) Very recently I was downtown at a local boutique and was making small talk with the store worker. We chatted about a few things in their store and before you know it, I had an opportunity to deliver a dozen of my clay earrings I’ve been making with the intent that the boutique may stock them regularly if this first batch sells well. This was a small thing that turned into a bigger thing.

Things I Read:

I’m going to keep it brief with these book reviews. In fact, I’m going to try to mentally distill the overarching idea into one sentence per book.

The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

Life is short: you have more influence over your own life than you realize.

She Come By It Natural by Sarah Smarsh

Life is short: work hard, play the long game, and stay true to who you are.

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott

Life is short: we’re all fighting our own battles so forgive, be merciful, + give the benefit of the doubt.

Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton

Life is short: the parenting years are even shorter so relationships > rules, memories > systems, personal preference > society’s expectations.

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