Wednesday, December 31, 2014

An ending; a beginning.

Oh, 2014, you were a banner year in so many ways.

In 2013 I learned a lesson on acceptance, and vowed to approach 2014 with humility, focusing less on what I already know/am/have and more on how I can do/be better.  Somehow, by February, this sentiment evolved into hard determination.  I was ready to stop making excuses for myself, stop telling myself that I'm fine the way I am, that there's nothing I can do to change things, that I am willing to take opportunities but only if they come up and knock on my door.  I threw caution to the wind and started betting heavy on myself, putting myself out there fearlessly and trying to make things happen.

And things did happen. I am ending 2014 in a place very different, physically and mentally, from where I began.

My goals for 2014 were modest.  I wanted to finish my MBA, and I did.  I wanted to earn a certification in Toastmasters, and I did not, but I made good progress.  I kept this little blog going.  I wanted to PR in a distance, and I did, and also exceeded my wildest dreams for the year by training for and running the Long Beach Marathon.

Can 2015 get any better?  Honestly, I doubt it.  The coming year is going to be a different one for me, I think.  My primary goal is to be less goal-oriented.  Ha!  Hear me out, though.  My theme for the coming year, the word I choose to be my mantra and guide and point of reflection, is: MINDFUL.

Through all the wonderful things that I've experienced this year, I've still had a vague feeling of uneasiness.  It's hard to put a finger on it, exactly, but its a sense that maybe I'm missing out on some of the best parts of my own life.  Living it, but not feeling it to the fullest extent.  I suspect this might have something to do with how immersed I have become in technology.  Necessarily so, for the most part - my job revolves around software and computers, one of my primary hobbies is keeping up this blog, and I really do enjoy capturing moments and sharing my life via social media.  Still, it is easy to feel unbalanced, living this way.  Feeling like my closest human connections involve a keyboard, and that I'm living life through the lens of my iPhone.

I'm not setting hard and fast goals here, not saying I will put my phone down for x hours every day, or only check Facebook so many times a week.  Instead, I aim to be mindful of how technology permeates my life.  That might mean unplugging more often, or stopping before I check a friend's profile and consider if that's really the best way to get in touch with them.  This isn't a quantitative goal that can be measured, but it is the theme by which I choose to live this year.  Connect.  Consider.  Be more involved with my tangible life, instead of my life on the screen.

Good enough?  Not really.  Being me, I can't let it go without laying out a few things I intend to work on in 2015.  Those are:

1.  Participate in a speech competition through Toastmasters.  I did competitive speech in high school and was pretty good at it, but didn't have the discipline, maturity, or support to take it to another level.  I want to give competitive public speaking another shot this year, not necessarily with the goal to win, but just to see if I can discipline myself to practice and prepare well enough to bring my best performance to a competition.

2. Join a professional organization and/or start working on a professional certification.  Sub goal: kick ass at my job.  After so many years of floundering and exploring, I finally understand where my strengths are and what I want to do with my life.  My current job is a step in the right direction.  I just need, once again, discipline and mindfulness to grow and make the most of it.

3. Celebrate my 30th birthday in the best physical shape of my life.  I've come to really understand my body in the last year - I know what kinds of exercise give me the best results, and I know how to eat in a sustainable, satisfying and healthy way.  I have the tools, and I intend to put them to use in the next few months. Training for another half marathon PR, strength training 2-3x per week, and regular early morning P90X3 sessions combined with a simplified, paleo-esque diet should get me where I want to be when I usher in a new decade of my life.

Mindfulness is the thread connecting all these things. I intend to simplify this year, and be mindful of how I spend both my money and my energy.  I will devote more of myself to creating experiences rather than making/collecting stuff.  I will turn down the noise, literally and figuratively, and seek substantive connection with my loved ones instead of knowing them primarily through their status updates.  I will actively cherish and nurture my family, while mentally and physically preparing myself for the changes that lie ahead (another little Ojo maybe?  Not yet, but soon we hope).

I will be mindful of how I spend my time, cognizant that every minute gone is a minute of precious life that I will never get back.

Happy New Year to you and yours.  Go make memories.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Decking the Halls

Last year I put up my first Christmas tree (as an adult) and attempted to decorate for Christmas, thinking Amaliya, at 17 months old, would care.  She didn't.  I still enjoyed basking in the extra light the gaudy tree lent to our perpetually dim apartment.

This year is different.  I knew she would care, and I wanted to put in the extra effort to make magic for her.  I dragged the Christmas tree and our box of tired, overused garlands out of storage.  Since funds are tight this year, I ran to the thrift store and bought 6 random bags of assorted Christmas junk for $15.

Which is why we have handmade ornaments on our tree that were not made by anyone we know.  

I hot-glued stuff to an ugly straw wreath base and came up with acceptable festivity for the front door...

... ordered a $10 star from Amazon (a splurge)...

... and, with the addition of a batik stocking sewn by a dear friend, I called it good.  Halls = decked.  The two-year-old is overjoyed, fingers her stocking on the way down the stairs and says, "Mama, Santa Claus is going to be here!"  That, friends, is worth every penny and hot glue burn.

I've written before about how we struggle to find a sense of Christmas spirit,  and how, little by little, we are carving out our own traditions as a family.  This year Amaliya is older, and it's all starting to come together for her. We've been checking out Christmas books from the library, and as a result she is thoroughly enamored of snowmen, Santa, lights, sleigh rides, jingle bells, the Christian Christmas story, candy canes, and sparkly trees.  She has a little book of Christmas carols and knows them all by heart.  She's made it worthwhile, all the effort that goes into making memories this time of year.

Behold!  My childhood works of art.  The 3rd grade (4th?) pumpkin-seeds-on-a-pog poinsettia, the 4th grade (5th?) beardless Santa star.  The 1st grade silver and gold macaroni masterpiece that I was (hell, am) so proud of.  We may or may not bake Christmas cookies, we may or may not leave treats out for Santa, but I was determined that we would start an ornament tradition of our own this year, so that Amaliya can accumulate her own stash of sometimes-weird, sometimes-gross, often-nonsensical treasures to adorn her adult Christmas tree one day.

So we did!

If I've learned anything over the years, its that you don't become a family instantly when you get married, or when you push out a baby.  Forming and solidifying familial bonds is a continuous process of accumulating, amalgamating, taking all your random bags of junk and hot-gluing them into something new and beautiful and uniquely yours.

Day by day, Christmas by Christmas, we're getting there.

I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season, whatever you celebrate.  Go out and make memories!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Ojos lately

 Lately, we've been...



Hanging upside down....

Potty training.... (or not)


Sharing her first hot chocolate...

Decorating our Christmas tree....

And wearing our Christmas socks....

Enjoying holidays with family.... and loving life.  So much. 

This year has been.... not a rollercoaster, per se, but more like a journey by hot air balloon.  We're soaring, the scenery is changing rapidly. I am nervous and breathless and exhilarated.  What a ride.

My husband starts a new, full-time job a week from tomorrow.  This has been a long time coming and is a welcome, and necessary, change.  It will also double his commute time.  The whole family will be adjusting - Amaliya will be in daycare four days a week now, instead of two.  She and I will be on our own in the late afternoons.  My morning runs, if they happen at all, will need to wrap up by 6:15am.  This is forward motion and is bringing us closer to our long-term goals as a family. No change is ever without stress, though, so I am bracing myself for some potentially difficult months ahead.

I'm feeling more or less settled in at work, four months into my new career. Post-marathon recovery went smoothly, and I am looking forward to training again (I'm starting a half marathon training plan tomorrow, and hoping that I can make it work with the new schedule).  I've taken up oil painting, which deserves a post to itself, but suffice to say that this blog has unfortunately taken a back seat while I pour my creative energy onto the canvas.  I have no plans to abandon this space and hope to start posting weekly again soon.  Thanks for sticking with me while I find a new balance.

Amaliya is doing wonderfully, of course. She's made another massive growth leap in the last two weeks - she looks different, her sentences and thoughts are suddenly more robust and complicated, and her attitude is off the charts.  Potty training was a bust for reasons I did not expect, but more on that later.  She is super excited about Christmas trees and snowmen and carols, and comes downstairs every morning proclaiming, "Santa Claus is going to be here!"  Holidays are infinitely magical through the eyes of a child.

I hope you all are doing well and enjoying a fabulous holiday season. 

How is your December going so far?  Any fun traditions you're starting with your family?