Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Goals for 2014

I love the new year. Not just for resolutions, but because it's a fresh start... a chance to reflect on last year's highs and lows, what I learned, what did and didn't work, what I did and didn't accomplish.  Even though I can set goals anytime of the year, the new year brings a fresh perspective to my hopes and dreams, both new and old.

As most people know by now, my husband and I are expecting our first child - he/she is due in June 2014! And while we are excited and amazed that it's really happening, the reality of having a baby of course comes with some anxiety as well as a huge learning curve. Don't worry, friends and family, I've already been extensively reading up on parenting techniques, overlooking current and future budgets, and researching childcare. But in the meantime, I'm also trying to live in the moment and enjoy each moment of this pregnancy.

My husband and I also just moved into a new rental house - our first house together! We were tiring of the apartment lifestyle and wanted more space and privacy. The great thing about living in the suburbs of the Pacific Northwest is that you can find decent housing out here at a totally reasonable price. Some of the apartments we looked at prior to moving were MORE expensive than our house - how is that even possible!? I'm so happy we made this decision, although we have had a few minor qualms in the new place. It's so worth it to have our own space and privacy.

Anyway, with that mini update I'll share some of my goals for this year. I would love to read what you guys are dreaming of for 2014!

1) Paint the house (interior)

We are renting this house on a lease for 18 months - the longest I will have ever lived in one place other than my Mom's house! It's the first place that I really want to make my own. It's also the first place our baby will experience, even though she won't remember anything about it - babies can definitely sense the energy in a home and in their environment, and I want this to be as special and homey as I can make it. My goal is to paint each room before the baby gets here. Oh and of course, I have some special ideas for the nursery, too!

I've been thinking about a nice neutral grey for the living room walls.

2) Plant a garden

Well, to be honest, our garden needs a LOT of work. Our "garden" is nothing more than a few unkempt bushes out front, some scattered grass here and there, and a giant back yard - of dirt. My first goal for our yard is to plant grass seed in the spring, and hope that it sprouts and grows by summer. Not to mention, Penny gets horrendously dirty paws from running around in the dirt. It'd be much nicer if she could just run out and potty on the grass, instead of Matt having to lift her back into the house to avoid staining our carpet! So, once we get the grass seed down in spring, I also want to start a small vegetable garden bed either in the front or backyard.

In addition to being able to grow our own vegetables and eat them for free, I want our kids to have the experience of planting, growing, and "harvesting" their own vegetables. I never thought I'd say that, because I hated gardening when I was younger (we also weren't gardening for food... it was to pull weeds!) but it's interesting how becoming a parent changes you. I also feel that we are so disconnected from the food we eat and buy at the grocery store.. I'd like to at least be able to show my children how food is actually grown and consumed.
An example of the gardening I'd like to start in our backyard

3) Establish a sizable savings

To be perfectly transparent, my husband and I have had financial struggles ever since our wedding planning days. I've had quite a few job changes, from the job market being somewhat inconsistent (I had a lot of temp work off and on before finding a full time job). Thankfully, my husband and I are in a much better situation now with regard to jobs and income - he even got a brand new job he will be starting in January! So, things are definitely lining up for us, but it's still going to take a lot of work on our part to establish a good size savings and stick to a pretty tight budget.

I've read quite a few books on debt management and budgeting, but I find what works best for me is just to map out each payday before I'm paid. I'm not salaried, I'm hourly, but most of my paychecks are the same amount. I usually send Matt an email which shows how much is coming in, and how many expenses we have. Sometimes we don't have enough to pay all of our bills (that's the reality of most young newlyweds) so we sometimes have to adjust or move things around. It's been a struggle integrating our spending styles and budgeting techniques into our marriage - that's probably the biggest struggle we've had since getting married! We wanted to implement as much trust as possible in our relationship, though, and have thorough transparency with regard to spending. If he's spending a little too much on coffees or if I'm overspending on cosmetics (bad habit...) we make sure to hold each other accountable for that.

Another thing that's helped us is to always budget money for savings and for spending. Although we've had to exhaust our savings in recent months (big security deposit on the house, a few household items we couldn't live without, etc) we are always working to build back up into that savings and leave it untouched - emergencies only. With a baby on the way, it becomes even more crucial to put smaller needs aside and keep an emergency fund available, should we run low on diapers or need emergency child care for any reason.

4) Put myself first

I've gradually gotten better at putting myself first. I've learned to set boundaries with family, friends, my husband, even my pets (seriously!) and at work. I can't stress enough how important it is to set boundaries with people. When people upset you, talk to them. Tell them it's not okay with you. You don't have to abrasive, but it's incredibly important to say "I really can't talk right now" or "I really need this amount of time/space to get this done" and so on and so forth.

I encountered an "interesting" situation at work recently where I was told I wasn't performing at a high enough standard. Specifically, I was told, "You set the bar really high, and now your performance has slipped." I quickly came to my own defense, outlining everything I was working on, and said, "This is what I can do right now. If it's not enough, I'm sorry, but I'm doing my absolute best." Even when you are told that your work performance needs improvement, it's an important time to say "I'm sorry, but I'm already stretched thin. I can get 'x' done if you give me 'y' resources to do it; otherwise, I'm going to continue at the pace I'm working."

Setting boundaries with bosses, no matter how high pressure your job, is vitally important to your physical and mental well being. Also - take those "feedback" situations as an opportunity for growth. Explain what you've already accomplished and ask your boss for reasonable suggestions on how they think you should be managing your time or resources. If the suggestions are unreasonable, such as "work as much overtime as needed to get this done" or "work harder" it's especially important to put your foot down and tell them what you need. If they are being harsh just to be in control, ask for specific suggestions, such as "How do you manage your time? What works for you?" If you don't bother communicating, who is the one who ends up miserable? You, or your boss?

Never assume that because you are reporting to a boss (or anyone with authority, including parents, elders, older siblings) that you can't set boundaries. If you don't, you will get walked on for the rest of your life and people will come to know you as someone who works hard but is always frustrated or someone they can walk on to do their bidding.

Not only in work, but also at home is where I've struggled to put myself first. My pregnancy has slowed me down! Your body talks to you when you're pregnant, and if you listen, you'll know when you've had too much - too much stress, too much food, the wrong kind of food, not enough oxygen, anything really. I think women are incredibly blessed to be able to experience such a connection with their own body during pregnancy. Being pregnant has certainly raised my awareness about what I can handle on a daily basis. And wow, was I handling a TON before this baby came along!!

Bottom line, my goal for 2014 is to continue standing up for myself in any situation, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable, and to take more time for myself to do things like take long baths, put on makeup for no reason, listen to music, paint, write whenever I feel the inkling, watch TV all day if that makes me happy, and ask others for help with things like chores and errands.

5) Complete at least one DIY project

I love looking through Pinterest and reading DIY books or blogs like YoungHouseLove and watching Property Brothers for hours on end. But how often do I actually complete one of those projects? Never! My goal this year is to complete at least one DIY project - whether it be re-purposing a coffee table from a thrift store, or creating a makeshift frame from an old lampshade (you never know!)

This bench was reupholstered from a thrift store and looks brand new!

6) Start a YouTube Channel

I have been addicted to a variety of YouTube channels for almost 2 years now. It's like watching my favorite TV shows - I wait in anticipation for my favorite "vloggers" to post a new video. The channels out there range from beauty to cooking to inspiration - all offering a different perspective from the unique individuals who are willing to talk to a camera. There's something about that person talking to the camera that makes for this unique experience that is so unlike a TV show - it seems more personal, as if you really know these people.

I have a lot of great advice and experiences that I'd like to share, and as much as I hate being on camera (I'm my own worst critic) I want to face that fear and start doing something that will reach other people. Something I've noticed about successful bloggers and YouTubers is that they are both fearless and creative - willing to put themselves out there and risk the criticism that comes from having a public audience.

I want my channel to focus on the same principles of my blog - Beauty/Life/Project. What that means to me is focusing some time and energy on beauty (cosmetics, skincare, health, exercise) some time on life (marriage advice, family advice, health and well being) and some time on projects - crafts, DIY, cooking, anything hands on. I love writing, but there's something different about connecting with an audience through speech and demonstration.

Is that all...?

Those are pretty hefty goals, but all of them are totally achievable! I used to set huge goals for myself - get into college by X date, graduate in this by X date, lose this many pounds, run 7 times a week. But as I get into my late twenties, I've just begun to realize that expectations need to be realistic. If I aim to paint my house and grow a garden by February, I will be sorely disappointed when my grass doesn't sprout and my tomatoes are dying before they were even planted. I've learned not to set goals that are so high that they become impractical to achieve.

Besides, I'm having a freakin' baby next year - isn't that a big enough achievement as is!?

I would love to hear your goals for 2014!! If you have any you'd like to share, leave them in the comments below or link me to your blog!

lots of love,