Resolutions: set yourself up for success

On Friday, I shared my 2012 resolutions and my 2012 resolutions spreadsheet. When deciding on my resolutions, I thought about my intentions for this year and what I wanted to achieve and then thought about what steps I could do to make them be my reality this time next year.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions or goals yet? It’s not too late, you know. But I’m sure you don’t want them to be like this:

If you haven’t made your 2012 resolutions yet (or if even if you have), here’s some tips to help you set them (or revise them) to set yourself up for success.

When writing resolutions or setting any type of goal you want it to be SMART:

Specific–make the goal something very specific

Measurable–make the action item something you can quantify

Attainable–you want a goal that is actually within your reach

Realistic–set goals that you know you can meet or are just a bit of a stretch

Time-bound–set a time frame for your goal

For example: If your intention for 2012 is to lose weight, you’ll want to set SMART resolutions that support that intention coming true. So instead of saying “go to the gym” a SMART goal would be go to the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes. This is

Specific–saying what you will do for how long and how often

Measurable–you can say whether or not you achieved this

Attainable–if you have a gym membership or means to get one this would be attainable

Realistic–3 times a week is do-able whereas every day may not be

Time-bound–there’s a time period in which to measure this.

And that’s that. Then you go on working toward it.

I’d love to know:

What are your SMART resolutions or goals for 2012, this month, or this week?

If you want help setting smart goals, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at thingsafterrings@gmail.com. I’m happy to help.

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Gym membership and marriage

Love this article from the Wall Street Journal about conquering the gym:

The 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym.

The one that sticks out to me the most is this analogy comparing the gym and marriage:

26. A successful gym membership is like a marriage: If it’s good, you show up committed and ready for hard work. If it’s not good, you show up in sweatpants and watch a lot of bad TV.

I love that!  Because it’s so true. Just having a gym membership and showing up isn’t going to get you in shape and just being in a relationship isn’t going to make it stimulating, satisfying, or happy.  You have to work at it.

Sometimes it’s harder than others.  Sometimes you’re pumped to lace up the sneakers and rock out to your Glee on the elliptical and sometimes you have to repeat “just get out the door” over and over again to get yourself there.

Sometimes you’re excited to listen to your significant other and share your thoughts/feelings/experiences with them and other times you have to remind yourself to be patient and loving so you don’t rip their head off.

But when you do put in the effort, it feels so damn good.

Resolutions 2012

I’m sure my friends will find it hard to believe that I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution before.  I’m a pretty goal oriented person and I’m all about making myself better so you’d think New Year’s resolutions would be right up my alley. But it’s true, I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution before.

For some reason I’m really excited for 2012.  I think it’s going to be a really good year and I’m excited to see what opportunities it brings, and what I can accomplish this year.  But I want to play a part in what the year holds and what my life will look like on January 1, 2013.  Last weekend I used my Saturday morning to draft a letter to myself in which I described exactly what I want my life to be this time next year. I used the intentions I described in my letter to form my 2012 resolutions.

My 2012 Resolutions

  • Contact each member of my family once per week
  • Entertain once per month
  • Two HH/lunch with girlfriends per month
  • Contact two out of town friends per week
  • Go shopping twice per month
  • One item off blog to-do list per month
  • Do something toward my future business once per month
  • Stick to weekly/monthly cleaning schedule (more on that later)
  • Put extra money to my lowest student loan each month
  • One date night per month
  • One item of love-to/mean-to list (a list of things that I’d love to do or have been meaning to do and just haven’t done yet)

There they are!  I’m excited for these.

None of my resolutions are earth shattering, at least I don’t think so.  But in meeting each of these resolutions I will be a little bit happier. And isn’t that what resolutions are all about?

I’d love to know:

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  What are your resolutions for 2012?

 

PS–I’ve created a spreadsheet to track my resolutions throughout the year:

Resolutions Spreadsheet

Thanks to my friend Jen for that idea. I modeled my resolutions spreadsheet after hers.

Appreciation —> Happiness

Yesterday Jess shared this nugget of wisdom over on Makeunder My Life:

“Stuff doesn’t make people happy. The appreciation of stuff makes people happy.”

As soon as I read this in my Google reader I stopped and immediately posted to Twitter:

Then I pulled up MML to get the URL, hit “Tweet,” and continued reading.  The next line was “Yep, go ahead and tweet it.” And then I felt like a complete tool.  But that’s not the point of this.

The point is that Jess’ statement is so true. The beautiful duvet we got for our wedding doesn’t make me happy; the sight of it on a nicely made bed and the thought of the comfort it provides makes me happy.  Owning a new black cardigan doesn’t make me happy; appreciating that it was exactly what I was looking for, is soft, fits me perfectly, and was only $17 makes me happy. The diamond earrings I got for my wedding don’t make me happy; appreciating their beauty and the fact that they go with everything and I can wear them every day makes me happy.

I think this statement applies to relationships too.  Having a husband/boyfriend/partner doesn’t necessarily make you happy.  Appreciating the laughs you share, the thoughtful things they do for you, the comfort you feel when resting your head on their shoulder or getting a big hug, that’s the stuff that makes you happy. This goes for family members, friends, co-workers, kids, and probably pets as well.

So it’s true appreciation yields happiness.

I’d love to know:

Who or what are you appreciating these days?

PS–A big thanks to Colleen for teaching me how to take a screen shot today!

What’s for Dinner? Wednesday: How Sweet It Is edition

Happy Hump Day! Aren’t long weekends great?  Having an extra day or two to relax and unwind is a wonderful thing.  But long weekends are a gift that keeps on giving: a short work week before or after.

But after two short weeks of work, the last two days in my office have had me feeling wiped out by 3:30. All I wanted to do when I came home today was take a nap.  After my 15 minute power nap on the couch, I was still pretty drained so I was happy to see that the meal we had planned for tonight was actually pretty speedy.

Me, as we sit down at the coffee table to eat: “Wow, this is going to be soo good.”

Mike: “Yeah, where’d you get this recipe?”

Me: “Where do you think?”

Mike: “How Sweet It Is?”

Me: “Uh, huh.”

[I get most of my recipes here so this is no surprise. Like the sangria and cookies I made for NYE, the fish sticks we had for dinner earlier this week, and the crockpot recipe we’ll have tomorrow or Friday.]

Me: “Don’t you love Jessica?”

Mike: “Yeah, is she single?”

What?! Isn’t my referencing her blog and bringing her delicious recipes into your life enough? I mean, I know she has a good sense of humor but come on!

So anyway, this is what we had for dinner:

BLT Salmon Tacos

These were really good, though I think I’d have much more to say if I hadn’t literally inhaled my first one.  Yeah, I kind of felt overwhelmed after that.

After Mike wolfed down his tacos in like four bites: “Mmm, yeah, that’s a keeper. I’d definitely have that again. That would be good in the summer too.”

Remember when I told you to make “try one of Jessica’s recipes” one of your new year’s resolutions? Yeah, I meant that.  Have you?

For dessert, we shared a Karen’s Birthday cupcake from Baked and Wired that I picked up on a lunch walk with my friend Allie.

And, I just put in the last 5 loads of laundry from our bed bug situation.  Good. Day.

 

 

The day we’ve been waiting for

January 3

The day we’ve been waiting for. No, I’m not talking about the Iowa caucuses or the return of Parenthood tonight.  We’ve been looking forward to today because today is our LAST BED BUG TREATMENT.  Hallelujah!

After today, and some serious laundry and mopping, our bed bug fiasco will. be. over! I can’t wait to put our duvet back on the bed, put our clothes back in our closet and dresser, our books back on our bookshelves.  I’m excited to have our kitchen table back (it’s been holding a bunch of our belongings) and to push our furniture back against the walls–we’ll have so much space to walk again!

So even though its back to work today after a great  4-day weekend, today will be a great day.

I’d love to know:

What does January 3 hold for you?

Day One

January 1, 2012 was a good day.

We got up and relaxed and then picked up breakfast items at Starbucks.  We came back and made coffee in the mugs Mike got me for Christmas and had breakfast.

Then we had our money conversation where we figured out our budget, made some goals, and came up with a plan to monitor our variable budget lines: the tracker below.

Our current goals: allocate money each month for life events (i.e. friends’ weddings, Christmas) so we don’t have to put those things on our credit cards, and pay off the lowest of my student loans by the 4th of July. In addition to those two joint goals my goal is to pay off my American Express by April 1. (You can read more about our various accounts here.)

Our other new plan is to chat each time one of us gets paid about upcoming expenses so that we can stay on top of things and continue to be on the same page. Usually we’d just chat when the accounts were getting low, or after one of us randomly checked our online banking. This often left us frustrated and feeling like “we have no money.” But that’s a reactive way to deal with things and we don’t want to be reactive, we want to be proactive. Being reactive leaves you feeling out of control but being proactive will leave you feeling on top.

After our talk, I got in bed to read Catching Fire (the second in The Hunger Games series). I love laying in bed reading especially when it’s sunny out and the sun shines through the window. Of course I fell asleep.  Then I woke up to our neighbor talking on the phone and wishing someone a Happy Birthday! Like not OK. This happens pretty regularly (mostly at night when I get in bed at 9pm) so I figured it was a good opportunity to knock on the door and tell her.  She didn’t answer the door.

We had lunch and did laundry.  Folded it while listening to an old episode of the Dave Ramsey show.  Have you listened to this show? It’s crazy how much debt these people have paid off. Mike and I find it inspiring.

Then we headed down to the National Mall to throw the frisbee around. It was a warm day for winter, Mike was wearing shorts, and when my heart rate started to get up after a few good throws and catches, I took off my jacket.

Sometime in the last two years, Mike and I started throwing the frisbee around. I’m not sure why but I’m so glad we did. Mike really likes to play sports, any type of sport, and when we throw the frisbee around I feel like his buddy.  It’s also exercise, I can get a pretty good sweat going and feel my heart pumping. And it’s a good time for us to chat. When we lived in our old apartment, we’d walk up to the mall and toss it around on the lawn in front of the Capitol. Now that we live further from the Mall, we’ll have to make more of an effort to get down there to do but I really hope we do that more.  Why not take advantage of the great city we live in?

We stopped at Pinkberry on the way home for a light snack.  And then hit the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner.

We made a butternut squash calzone , using the filling from Jessica’s stuffed shells, with a gorgonzola cream sauce on the side. OMG was this good.  I think Mike almost died of satisfaction.

Then we watched Crazy Stupid Love.

January 1, 2012 is reflective of a lot of things I hope the rest of the year will be filled with: productivity, fun, quality time together, creativity in the kitchen, and relaxing time. We were out and about but also home. We were productive but also had time to play.

I’m really hopeful for 2012.  I think it’s going to be a great year.

I’d love to know:

How did you spend January 1, 2012?

Good talk

source

Last night Mike and I had a really good talk about money.  We talk about money on pretty regular basis, have worked out numerous budgets over the last couple of years living together, and often the conversations end with me frustrated and stressed.  But last night, the conversation went differently.

We created a budget a few months ago and have been trying to live within the parameters of it since. But we spent too much in November and then with the bedbugs and Christmas presents in December we’re kind of feeling like we’re not in control.  We’d like to get on the same page and really be on top of things going forward. So in preparation for a larger conversation about money, both of us have been thinking a lot about it.

When Mike picked me up for dinner last night, we started chatting about what we’d both been thinking so far: how we should allocate our money, the logistics of paying bills, budgeting, planning to attend friends’ weddings, go on vacation, save, buy Christmas gifts, pay down debt, etc. And we were on the same page.  Mike would say something and I’d say “Yeah, I agree, that’s a good idea.” And I’d say something and he’d say “I was thinking the same thing” or “You’re right.”

I think the difference between that conversation and some of our prior conversations is that we were both on board, both thinking about the issues separately before we came together. In the past we’d sat down to chat about money and we’d ask each other questions we didn’t have the answers for. Then I’d get combative and frustrated when Mike didn’t know exactly when the cable bill is due. But this time we’re both brainstorming, both thinking about potential budgets and different ways to allocate our money. We’re thinking about where we’ve gotten stuck in the past and how we can prepare for those types of things going forward.

We’ll have a more detailed conversation this weekend where we lay out real numbers, come up with a plan to manage our money and communicate about our money on a monthly basis, and decide on long term goals. I hope that by preparing individually for this longer conversation ahead of time, it will be more productive and substantive.

From our conversation last night, I’m thinking it will be.  We were very much on the same page and talking to each other as partners and teammates.  It’s exciting to plan our life together.

Christmas before Mike

Before I started dating Mike, Christmas wasn’t a happy time for me. No holidays were.

In my family, holidays were occasions that magnified the underlying unhappiness of our family. Holidays were a reminder that our family was irreparably broken. That we were not as happy or perfect as we pretended to be.

They were days that we were forced to spend together because everyone else was spending the day with their family.  And we couldn’t go outside because it was too cold.  So we were trapped inside with a mother and father that didn’t get along. And that tension permeated everything. Even if there wasn’t an outburst or blatant fighting, I could feel the tension.  I knew something was wrong.

I got sick almost every Christmas. And almost everything Thanksgiving.  I’m sure it was all the stress built up in my body.  I remember being sick for a lot of holidays–fever, vomiting. Ironic for the girl that didn’t miss a day of school from 4th grade through high school graduation.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got sick when I had to stay home for extended periods of time.

It wasn’t a happy occasion.  We didn’t really have traditions. Activities that are typically fun holiday traditions like decorating the tree were just chores for me because they were painful.

Of course there were good moments: when I got Barbie roller-skates, extended family Christmas parties where the boys got Hess trucks and the girls got China dolls. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I all slept in the same room and read Christmas stories. We busted through stockings and presents within a half hour and spent the rest of the day playing with new toys and watching a new movie.

But overall I’d say I felt trapped.

I’m not sure how my siblings would describe Christmas at our house.  I wonder if their memories are as painful as mine.  If they have vivid memories. I really don’t remember the holidays.  I really don’t remember a lot from my childhood.

Christmas at Mike’s house was a very different experience. Starting with Thanksgiving, his dad’s favorite holiday, the Christmas season is Mike’s favorite time of the year. They’d all decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies. It was definitely the most wonderful time of the year, a time of family, and joy.

So when Mike and I started dating, he shared his child-like awe and wonder and excitement about Christmas with me.  And over the years, Christmas has slowly become a happy time. A time to enjoy the company of family and friends, to slow down and take it all in. I know that in the years to come it’s only going to get better.

The Little Things: Christmas 2011 edition

Back in DC after a very busy but great holiday weekend with our families in PA.  Here’s a list of the little things that made this weekend great:

  • pulling up and seeing Christmas lights on my Dad’s house after years without them
  • the smell of a real tree
  • seeing It’s a Wonderful Life at the old Newtown Theater on Christmas Eve
  • waking up with my husband on Christmas morning
  • giving a great gift and the smiles that follow when it’s opened
  • sitting in front of the fire
  • Mike and I putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner with perfect timing for serving
  • coffee in a Christmas mug
  • laughing with Mike’s parents
  • the huge smiles on my siblings’ and Dad’s faces while iceskating on Christmas day

  • seeing a picture of my mom and me from my wedding day hanging above her desk at work
  • holding hands while iceskating
  • seeing Mike back on skates after 3 years
  • good conversations with Mike’s cousins
  • the decision to bring cheesesteaks and hoagies to Dad’s to eat a chill dinner with everyone at home
  • seeing old friends at the annual Christmas and little hot-dog party, especially one I haven’t seen in a while