Resolved

I’ve been feeling the itch for awhile. The itch to write again, to get back to this space. And January the first just seemed like an appropriate day to do it. After all, I began this blog on January the first two years ago.

Every year, I go back and forth… to make New Year’s resolutions or not? This year was going to be a NOT, but then I decided to blog, and somehow I found myself making them.

I therefore resolve —

To take my vitamins every day. To drink more water and less soda. To move a little each day, even if it’s just a walk in the sunshine or splashing in the pool with my kids.

To pick up my YouVersion daily Bible reading plan again. And stick with it this time.

To set an alarm clock for the same time each morning, at least a half hour before my children wake up. To go to bed on time each night (by 11:00) so I’m not tempted to just turn it off and go back to sleep.

To be intentional about time spent with my children. To participate in the things they are interested in. (This will probably mean I have to learn to play Skylanders.) To yell less. To listen more. To encourage and celebrate creativity even if it means I have to grit my teeth and put up with messes.

To start the practice of daily writing again. I may not will not blog every day, but I want to at least write every day. Maybe some of what I write will later turn into a blog post. Maybe not. Maybe it will end up on my other blog. Or maybe it will stay tucked away in my private, pen and paper journal. Whatever happens to the words, I want to write.

January first is a good day to begin again. But really, any day is a good day to begin again with God. I want to remember that the first day I fail to follow through with one of the above!

Catching Up

I’ve been blogging again over at The Campbell Chronicles, trying to recap the last few months of 2013. You can catch up with all our family news over there. I will link to individual posts below as I get them up.

Eventually, I’d like to start writing here again, but I’m not sure when that will happen. I think it’s safe to say that the Writing Project 365 was a total bust. But I did enjoy writing again, doing something just for me. I should probably rename this blog at some point, though, since I doubt I’ll try to write daily, at least for awhile.

Two Weeks Later

I’m back. I think. Honestly, I suppose only time will tell.

The last two weeks have been busy. We had a field trip with our homeschool group. Alex had a school festival. We had overnight guests for nearly a week and spent several days taking them to see the sights. We had a group of folks from church over for dinner one night. We had Date Night. We went to my niece’s birthday party. In addition to all that, we have been continuing with our Spanish studies. We committed the months of April and May to focus on formal study (3 hours per day, 4 days per week) because once summer hits with all the short-term groups coming, we will not be able to devote as much time to that. And I have been focused on research curriculum and planning for our next year of homeschooling, so much of my computer time in the evenings has been given over to that, leaving me little in the way of time or functioning brain cells for writing.

This blog is never far from my thoughts, though. I “think” things to write all the time. If only there was a way to actually translate that thinking into a blog post while I was thinking it! On the other hand, maybe that wouldn’t be very pretty! Writing helps me take my muddled thoughts, organize them, and then present them in a way that is (hopefully) clear and understandable to others. And in the process, I come to a better understanding of myself as well.

Starting Again

GAH! Has it really been 15 days since I did my daily writing practice? I should probably rename this blog “Writing Project 300.” It just doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Writing Project 365.”

I think the hardest part (for me) of picking something back up after I’ve slacked off for awhile is just knowing where to begin. That, and fighting the urge to explain make excuses for my long absence. I’ve been toying with the idea of implementing a blogging schedule (writing about certain topics on certain days), just to eliminate some of the work of deciding what to write each day. My two ongoing weekly projects right now are the Stay Awake Challenge (Seriously need to do some catch-up-work with that! Sheesh!), and my chapter-by-chapter review of Unrooted Childhoods. I’d like to start writing and sharing some more poetry, so maybe one day a week for that?

Here are a few other random ideas that may find their way into future blog posts:

  • a series of posts on “the work of a missionary,” focusing on some of the aspects of mission work that aren’t quite as glamorous as “seeking and saving the lost,” or “telling others about Jesus,” but just as vital and necessary.
  • James Bond and the objectification of women — We finished our marathon the other night, which means I have now seen every James Bond film ever made (24 to be exact). So, I feel semi-qualified to write a post like this!
  • I promised to share the experience of getting my Ecuadorian driver’s license, which I finally accomplished today  — yay, me!
  • My sis and I are in the middle of watching the third season of “Downton Abbey,” and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that when it’s over. (Confession: I already know what happens in the end, thanks to Facebook, but I’ll wait to share my opinions until I’ve actually seen the whole thing.)
  • Maybe I’ll buckle down and finally write my kids’ birth stories.

So, did I whet your appetite for more?

It’s good to be back here!

Scattered

Sometimes, when I write, it flows easily.

Other times, not so much.

I have been staring at my screen for over 10 minutes without writing a single word. It’s not “writer’s block” in the sense that my mind is a blank. On the contrary, I have so many different thoughts swirling around in my head that I don’t know where to begin, or which one to focus on tonight, for this blog post.

I suppose it’s more a problem of organization. When I can’t organize my thoughts well, I can’t write well. When I can’t focus on one thing at a time, I can’t get organized. I feel scattered right now. I need to collect myself and my thoughts, but I’m not sure where to begin.

What do you do when you’re feeling scattered? Are you a list-maker? An exerciser? A cleaner? A music listener? A nap-taker? A crafter? A pray-er? What helps you order your muddled thoughts and reclaim inner tranquility?

Time for a Check-up!

I can’t believe February is already over!

Since I am 2 months into the Writing Project 365, I thought it was time for a little self-evaluation. I started out strong in the month of January with 30 posts in 31 days (only missed one day!), but in February, I slacked off a bit and only wrote 16 posts in 28 days. I hope I can get back on track with daily writing in March.

I am also 5 weeks into the Stay Awake Challenge (still have some catch-up work to do there)… and thought I would evaluate how I’m doing on each challenge so far:

  • Sleep – Um, not so great. Still staying up too late. Last night, I was asleep by 10:45, and I felt great this morning! But that was the earliest I had gone to bed in several nights. I definitely need to be more intentional about this!
  • Start where you are – Trying to see my life more as a process, a journey. Trying to walk that fine line between being content with where I am right now (and not fighting or denying my feelings) and striving to improve, to get better. It’s a delicate balance.
  • Set intentions – Haven’t done very much of this, mostly because I can’t seem to remember to do it! Like most other habits, it probably just takes time to develop.
  • Rise early – Doing a bit better with this. Alex being in school 3 days a week is really going to help with this, since I need to be up and have him ready to go out the door by 7:15. I’m thinking about starting to set my alarm clock for 6:00, not 6:30, to give me a half hour of true Quiet Time before they wake up.
  • Unplug – Doing better at monitoring my own computer time. My kids’ screen time is now being curtailed more than it was (another side benefit of Alex being in school 3 days per week).

I like what both these projects are teaching me — about discipline and the importance of practicing a little every day if you want to get better at something, about “waking up” and savoring life rather than just wandering around in a daze all day. I like that I’m doing something just for me every day. I like that I have a place to share some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain. And I LOVE when people comment, either on the blog or on Facebook, or to me personally, and let me know that they get it, they understand, they have some of the same thoughts, feelings, doubts, fears.

I like knowing I am not alone.

Stay-at-home motherhood can be very isolating. So can being a first-year missionary, living in a new country, learning to speak a new language. This space allows me to reach out to a virtual community, to make connections, to be heard and understood. This is why I write. Oh, sure, it would be nice to be one of those bloggers who could actually make money with her blog, but at the end of the day, it’s the desire to be real, to know others and allow them to know me that keeps me writing.

Life With Seven Kids

Four days it’s been this time since I did my daily writing. Every time I take a break, I feel like I should offer some kind of explanation as to why I’ve been gone from this space. I really do enjoy the practice of writing just a little each day. It’s something I do just for me, not for anybody else, and that’s a good feeling. Especially when you are in that season of life where it seems like your world revolves around caring for others and making sure they are dressed, bathed, fed, taught, loved, kept organized, and so on. It also forces me to think in a different way than I normally do when I’m at home all day taking care of my kids.

So, here’s my explanation this time — for the past two nights, we have been staying at my sister’s house and taking care of her kids along with our brood. Seven kids, ages 7 and under, altogether. Josh and Julie spent the week in the Galapagos, playing tour guides and translators to a group from the States, and we volunteered to keep the kids for two nights while they were gone (the kids spent the other two nights with their grandparents). It’s been fun, but crazy, leading me to wonder how people with lots of kids actually DO this all the time!

Of course, I know that it’s physically impossible for all these kids to be ours, considering their ages. And I also know, from experience that you “grow” into your family. God normally doesn’t dump seven kids in your lap all at once! You have one, and then awhile later, you have another one, and so on. I remember, when we just had Alex, I would look at people with two or more kids and wonder, “How do they do it?” I felt like I had my hands full with just my one, and couldn’t imagine adding a second one to the mix. And then we had our second, and we just — adjusted. We learned to make things work with two kids. And the same thing happened when we had our third. So, I know this principle would hold true if our family continued to grow.

At the same time, though, I am thankful we DON’T have seven kids right now. Before I had any children of my own, I used to think having a large family would be cool. And don’t get me wrong — I still think large families are awesome! I know there are lots of benefits to growing up in a large family, and I stand in awe of families like the Duggars with their 20+ kids. But the more years I put under my belt as a mother, the more I think that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be the mother of lots of kids. And a smaller family is definitely more conducive, logistically speaking, to life on the mission field!

We have had lots of fun these past few days with seven kids. We made Valentine cards; we had pizza for dinner one night; we made and decorated Valentine cupcakes — and ate them of course! I read stories at night with a tangle of children all either sitting on my lap or pressed in against my sides or hanging over my shoulders. I brushed and braided my nieces hair. I walked them to school this morning, and they proudly showed me their classrooms. It’s been an enjoyable couple of days!

At the same time, I think I’ll be glad to go home tonight with just my 3 boys! These days, being a mom of three is enough for me!

Taking the Stay Awake Challenge

When I first started this little experiment a month ago, I really wasn’t sure the direction it would take. I didn’t want to assign myself a topic to write about for the entire year because I thought that would be too restrictive. I didn’t want to follow a series of writing prompts for the same reason. I wanted the freedom to follow my heart in choosing what to write about each day, and while I enjoy that freedom for the most part, there are also days when I sit down to write and have no idea what I’m going to write about.

But a few weeks ago, I discovered the Stay Awake Challenge on Awesomely Awake, one of the blogs I read. You can go read all the details about the challenge here and join in if you would like. Basically, it is a once-a-week thing. (I can do a prompt once a week… that still leaves six days for free-writing.) Each week, a writing prompt is posted along with some photography tips and suggestions. (Cool! Combines two things I want to get better at this year!) But beyond that, I love the whole idea of the challenge, which is to be mindful, to be present, in short to stay awake!

I have been ruminating a lot on the concept of choosing a word or a theme for my life for the year. There is a website, My One Word, and even a book by the same name, which detail the process of choosing your word and then living it for the year. I am intrigued. Since I have foregone New Year’s resolutions for several years now, this seems a viable alternative that would still give my life focus and direction.

And I already know what I want my word to be for 2013: Be Present (Yes, I know, it’s really two words. Get over it.)

I spend a lot of time either feeling sad and regretful and guilty about the past or worried and fearful about the future. I feel like I’m missing a lot of my life right now because I’m not fully present in it. It’s like living underwater. I look at my kids and I think, I want to be here for them, I want to enjoy them right now, at whatever both-frustrating-and-delightful stage they happen to be in. I don’t want to look back when they’re 18 and realize, I missed it. I missed it all because I wasn’t fully present in the days as they were happening. I want to wake up and really experience my life, the joy and the pain together, because I think I’m starting to realize that you can’t anesthetize yourself against the one and still expect to feel the other.

So. Be Present. My word (okay, two) for 2013. And it fits pretty well with the Stay Awake Challenge, which is one reason I decided to give it a go. Since I’m a little late to the party, I’ll be using the next few days to catch up.

Poetry and Creativity

One thing that I’m kind of hoping this habit of daily writing will do is free me up to be more creative. I feel like most of what I write these days is more utilitarian in nature. It’s like the missionary version of technical writing. I write our newsletters. I update our family blog. This week, I’ve been working on our year-end report, trying to condense our first year in Ecuador into a few pages for our sponsoring and supporting churches. I don’t mind doing these things, and it’s one way I feel like I can help and support Rusty, even when I’m spending most of my days at home with the kids. But creative writing has really fallen by the wayside in the past decade or so. And this is the kind of writing that I always dreamed about doing.

In high school, I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of it was probably not very good, filled with overused clichés and teen angst. However, there were a few pieces that I still think had real potential. I was taking a creative writing class and writing a lot — not just poetry; we experimented with all forms of creative writing. We were required to keep a daily idea journal, and I was constantly scribbling in it. And then I went off to college. And I got busy with life and making friends and and my classes, which did not include creative writing. (And, by the way, does anyone really have time for creative pursuits in college? I don’t remember even reading a book that wasn’t required or assigned for 4 whole years.) I was still dabbling in poetry from time to time, but then I got my heart broken. And after that, I just stopped altogether. For several years.

I’ve tried to return to poetry from time to time over the last few years, but it never quite “flowed” like it did before. I even started a private journal online at Penzu about a year and a half ago, in an attempt to create a space that would function as a collection point for my creative ideas and thoughts, a kind of online “idea journal,” like the one I kept in high school. I have written in it exactly one time.

I still have hopes that I will start to make good use of the Penzu journal, so I don’t intend for this blog to replace it as my “idea journal,” but I am hoping that the discipline of daily writing will help me stretch some of my creative muscles that have atrophied through years of disuse. And I may continue to do as I did yesterday and share poetry and other more “creative” pieces from time to time.

Journaling (written Jan. 15)

We have spent the last three nights away from home, from computers, Internet, and technology. I knew I wouldn’t be able to post to the blog, so I took my journal with me and wrote in it each night while we were away. This is the first entry, written Jan. 15 in the city of Ibarra, where we stayed the night on our way to Kumanii.

I am trying to write a little each day, but I am doing it on a blog, “Laura’s Writing Project 365.” Still, when I’m away from my computer or there’s no Internet access, I need a way to still get in my daily practice, so I turned to my journal. My sadly neglected journal. It has been 15 months since I last wrote here. So much has happened. So much has changed. So much water under the bridge. (Note: 15 months ago, when I last wrote in my journal, our family was visiting Spain with my parents (we were still living in Portugal), and Benjamin was only 1 month old.)

I used to be such an avid journaler, used to pour out my heart on lined pages at least once a week. But over the last decade, it’s really fallen by the wayside. I still “write” — in my 10-year journal, in my prayer/gratitude journal, on our family blog. But I’m not “writing my heart” in any of those places.

Honestly, I think the practice of writing my heart has must become too difficult in recent years. Too many conflicting feelings, too many raw emotions. Writing used to help me sort all those out, but these days, it’s almost like they’ve become too complex to deal with through the time-consuming process of writing. Or maybe, I’ve just become more busy and less patient. Easier just to push them to the back burner, to never really deal with them, and all the while they simmer, barely beneath the surface of the “me” I present to the world.

Not the healthiest thing, I realize. I think that is part of what I am trying to redeem through the practice of daily writing.