Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back at my word of the year - trust

It's a funny thing about these words - if you even do a bit of thinking about it, your life reveals what it needs.

I see that some people just grab someone else's word that sounds good. I say that because I read Ali Edwards's post yesterday and in the comments people were like, "oh yes, LISTEN sounds good. I think I'll take that as my word".

Um, no.

I'm spontaneous myself sometimes but that just does not sound like a good way to choose YOUR guiding theme for the year ahead!

Anyway, before TRUST I had the sense of what needed to happen (surrendering, giving up control) but I didn't like the word surrender for me as it felt too passive for my personality.

And then driving up the street to work, one part of a praise song (Holy - Vineyard Music, track 12) had a "I will trust in You...." refrain and it jumped out and arrested me and I KNEW that that was my word.

For Julia and maybe one or two others that wonder, there are two types of the "word of God" - logos which is the Bible and then rhema which is that word that is JUST for you.

This was the rhema word of God for me.

So the job search progressed and in April I was so SILLY as to think that was it and I didn't need to trust anymore! I said to D, "since I have my new job maybe I should choose a new word?". Lord! D said in his "way", "hmmm, I don't think that's how it works, Marsh. You need to keep trusting". Right.

And you have all been watching me this whole year as I trusted sometimes hour by hour and minute by minute (in meetings with him) and certainly on a daily basis, more than I ever have before. With the infertility, I trusted God and prayed hard for the 5 minutes before each shot, and then it was over and I could block it out until the next day. Not with this.

Julia said something so nice to me in the comments (twice - I saw that other one too :)) the other day.

I think that TRUST was the right word for you. I learned so much (just by watching you deal with the most trying thing that you'd had to deal with in YEARS) what it actually means to TRUST and to surrender fully to Him. Thank You.

Thank YOU. I'm totally human and have asked God maybe too much this year, "I get it! I'm meant to trust! I do, now please get me out of this mess." And the other favourites "why me? Are you trying to kill me?" a la Job in the Bible.....

And a small part of me (the rational part) is saying at least if this has shown even one person (Julia) a glimpse more of Him, then it's been worth it.

But make no mistake, I'm ready to testify of His goodness in different ways. Right?

To round off this very long post....

this year I trusted God fully and that has made all the difference... to me, to my sanity (look! I'm still sane and I'm still standing).

It's been a hard, hard year and I'm very happy to see the back of it because I do sense that I'm closer to the end of it (hopefully in the 90 - 100% range :)).

Here is a glimpse of my word for next year - can you guess what my word is?

PS this is post 344 for the year - tied with 2010 - and I think 1795 overall

Monday, December 30, 2013

{2013 review} Books read

Here's a post I wrote this morning that a lot of you may be interested in - how I do my goal-setting and year in review.

Right, moving along.

I've mentioned before how I love Goodreads. That hasn't stopped because it beautifully replaced my little pink notebook. Well, if I loved it anymore, I'd marry it!

This year I set a goal of 65 (last year my goal was 60; I hit that in October so I increased it to 70 and made it on 31 Dec!) and for awhile there it looked dicey because those anti-anxiety meds made me so sleepy but since I've been off them since Tues 17th :) I'm a night owl and I'm reading properly again.

I also set a goal that I wanted to get through 15 non-fiction and 15 physical books (it didn't necessarily have to be the same 15...)

the last 30 books I read...

So far I've finished 67 books (Goodreads tells me I'm at 103% of my goal :)) and I will hopefully finish one more... if it kills me!

Of those 67, 24 are non-fiction which is probably the highest in any one year for me, and guess what? I read 20 physical books - YAY!

20 off my bookshelf!

(Confession - I went to the bookshop on Sunday and added about 3 more).

Best non-fiction this year
  1. Lean In
  2. Carry on, warrior
  3. Hypothetical future baby
  4. My one word
  5. Unglued
  6. Your 4-year-old: wild and wonderful

Most disappointing
  1. Taming the work week
  2. Grace for the good girl
  3. Sparkly green earrings

Fiction I most enjoyed this year
  1. The daisy picker - Roisin Meaney (I've even given as gifts)
  2. Never look away - Linwood Barclay 
  3. The art of friendship - Erin Kaye (gifted too)
  4. The mystery of Mercy Close - Marian Keyes

Best new authors discovered
  1. Roisin Meaney
  2. Erin Kaye
  3. Linwood Barclay
  4. (Sinead Moriarty was last year, I think?)
How many books have you read this year?
Fiction/ non-fiction split?
What were your favourite (new to you) authors or which books would you recommend for me?

PS everyone says Me before you but I'm not a fan of crying books!
PPS Linking this post up to Modern Mrs Darcy where everyone is linking up their favourite reads of 2013

I need you to help me choose a photo for a canvas

that is an A0 canvas - can you see how ginormous it is? (as I warn the kids regularly, it could kill them it's so big)
above that couch is where I want something ginormous and dramatic in black and white (I believe the decorators call these "statement pieces")
I bought an A0 canvas for that wall but I'm stumped - I don't know which photo to choose.

D and I agree that we should choose something "timeless" (not of our family).

It could be a photo I've taken or one from our photoshoots, if you can think of any that would do that space justice.

Or just weigh in and I'll go out and take the photo!!!

Maybe from our travels? NYC? Charlotte? Thailand? Ireland?

What do you think?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Everyday moments

the instagrammers will have seen this project life card - kendra wrote me a love note. BTW, I gave them each ONE card one day and for days after that I'd just find these cards all over the house (they got into my stash).
grips - they are going to be the death of me. I buy a pack of 6 nicely matching and then two days later, we can only find 2 - 3. These days if I can't find two matching ones, I just put any two. Take that, perfectionism :)
our photoshoot images were packaged so beautifully I squealed! BTW, I see Eve posted lots of photos from our shoot.
printables from the internet. I'm very proud of myself this year - I didn't download one set of printables and I had MORE than enough gift tags. I also learnt about the double bow from a friend at work - did you know about the double bow?
probably my most favourite dish in the kitchen at the moment - colour, size, perfection :)
favourite spices at the moment - I use the garlic and herb for my cream-based dishes (chicken and broccoli, chicken and mushroom, etc.) and the chilli and garlic for anything tomato-based, after I take out the kids' portions
photo by Connor - latest batch of donated books and a puzzle. I love decluttering with this boy - he is "worse" than I am (RUTHLESS). He tells ME I'm not throwing out enough.
What's happening on your side of the world?

How ruthless a declutterer are you?

PS K and D are slight hoarders....

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Organising my holiday list

when I run out of vases, I use bowls!
I thought I'd share something I do to make my weekends and holidays most enjoyable for me.

I like to have 3 things present in order to most feel that a holiday or weekend was a success:

  1. relaxing time (by myself, with D, the kids, etc.)
  2. productive time (cooking, organising/ tweaking spaces, editing and sorting photos, tossing paper, decluttering, that sort of thing!)
  3. out time (errands, time with friends, going out to eat/ gym, etc. - this is the extrovert in me - I need some people interaction)
So as I said, I had 12 days total out of the office.

On Christmas Eve, I made a list (I'd show you a pic but it's not pretty - it's more than a page long...) of things I want to get done in those 12 days.

And then every day I pick a few things and just do those.

My days always have a combination of all three but it's really nice to know I'm being intentional about getting to those things I always mean to, but don't do (sorting out document folders on the computer, for instance).

From my instagram, you've seen I've sorted out almost everything in the house already (and we're just ending day 3 of our holiday). My bedroom is sorted - clothes, shoes, bags, scarves, etc. I've donated quite a bit - the bag is ready to go to church tomorrow. My desk drawers and craft drawers in the study are sorted (I do have two shelves I want to tackle tomorrow afternoon) as are the kids' clothes and toys.

BUT I realised that there are too many computer things on my list - lots of photo stuff, documents, downloads, paring down, deleting PDFs I don't need, etc.

I also need to delete this year's photos off my iphone but I can't seem to figure it out as it doesn't show folders when I connect it to the PC (and obviously I can't go click click click through 2000-odd photos).

this is what my dining room table looks like at the moment - I'm quite taken with that tree and the silver balls
This time I've upped the ante.

I now write a list of things I got done that day every night as I jump into bed . Because usually the start of the holiday is great and towards the end I can't remember a thing because of the holiday blur.

This way, I just look at my notebook and I feel accomplished :) Especially because half the things I get up to aren't on my original list!

Once I'm done with Dec pics (just finishing off Christmas ones - most of them are horrible), I have a folder with 482 from the last 3 days and then I can tackle those iphone photos.

Do you have a holiday list?

Friday, December 27, 2013

{Friendship Friday} Friendship recap, the 2013 version

One of the main reasons I LOVE doing a review at the end of every month, and year, is that if I don't, I can be clouded by recency or one event and base all my feelings on that instead of seeing the whole picture.

When D and I were talking about 2013 a few days ago, I said well, there are only two things that went well in 2013 - my relationship with God and support from friends, both real life and blog friends.

We'll talk about God some more in my "how did this word of the year work out for me?" post but for now I want to talk about friends.

this one was taken in Feb - look how happy I look!

Really and honestly, you guys have been truly amazing. AMAZING!!!

As I said in my thanksgiving post, more than I could ever ask or think!

I've received so much support, encouragement, emails, SMSs, comments, gifts and notes in the mail and PRAYER that I have truly felt like I wasn't alone, even though I was physically going through that crazy. I could feel the prayer cover going into the day, and I always had at least 3 - 5 people I could quickly email to say "I'm going into a meeting with him at X am; please pray for me" and I felt it.

I feel like I'm gushing but each of you who have reached out to me (especially when I couldn't reply to your notes/ emails/ SMS most of the time) I count as a partner on this journey.

Mind you, I'm not through it yet but I'm definitely on the other side of the middle, closer to the end of CrazyVille. I can feel it!

my random collage!

But let's move on.

One of my highest values is connection and I truly savour one-on-one time with my friends. I come away with a full love tank - and the extra babysitting money I pay Nanny S to wait til D gets home is worth it.

Some people feel strange about leaving their kids now and again - I'm a better mother when I'm content and it's important for our kids to see us having other interests besides just them.

(off my soapbox)

I kept my spreadsheet again this year and the numbers tell me I had exactly the same number of friend encounters as I did last year (81) although I have a suspicion quite a few of them fell through the cracks, especially the ones during the work day (friend lunches).

Names down the first column and months across the top. I colour co-ordinate it (the only way I can get Excel to work with my brain is to make things pretty) with new friends in red that year, and then I make the one on one dates purple :)

this new friend supported me so much at work - she is a tough cookie, tells me things I don't like but that help me immensely (like "you know they're never going to support you in that meeting - they're all covering their own a$$es")

Then for the interesting bits:

1. Last year I met up with 12 new friends (7 SA; 5 USA); this year I only met up with 5 SA ones. BTW< that is plenty because I'm also trying to maintain these friendships and sometimes not doing a very good job of it.

Special mention to Laura - we'd met ages ago at a photo workshop, and then tried to meet properly last year after becoming proper blog friends and that didn't work. This year we nailed it - 4 meetings this year! :)

2. Last year I had 29 one-on-one friend dates (my favourites); this year.... 37! Averaging at least 3 a month.

That's probably why I feel so supported. The doctor asked me how I'm dealing with my stress and I said, "I talk! I have an extensive support network and I make sure I reach out regularly"

Did you know there's research that people who have friends/ family support experience the effects of stress less? So talk, people :)

I'm really happy with that number, by the way.

All in all, a GREAT year of friendships.

How was this year of friendship for you?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

{2013 review} money and finances

Today I've been busy decluttering, tidying, tossing, sorting and ..... the best part, BUDGETING!

(I'm not being sarcastic. Part of rounding out a year is for me taking stock... properly... of every part of my life and money is the oil that greases a lot of wheels, right?)

End-of-the-year budgeting is obviously a much bigger procedure than the monthly one and I let my nerdy side totally play tonight.

In our budget, we have three sets of savings which we call joint savings, Marcia's savings and D's savings (you can see I set up the spreadsheets...) That's separate from the forced savings (pension and provident funds - your 401Ks, my American friends) and RAs, unit trusts, etc. My extreme goal is to live on the lower of the two incomes and save the entire higher income. We're not there yet but we're making good progress.

The good bits

I set a big, juicy savings goal on my birthday in August and I've already surpassed it by 26% (yay overseas holiday next year!)

All but about 5 receipts from 2013 have been tossed! Yay - no clutter

(do you keep your receipts?)

The not-so-good bits

We're doing great at saving jointly... but not so great at actually keeping the money.

Remember it doesn't matter how much you make/ save if your lifestyle is too "big" for your salary.

Interestingly (and this is so weird I double-checked my calculations), we only "retained" 40.3% of our savings... and of the amount we spent (59.7% obviously), we spent exactly 40.3% on holidays. How weird is that?!

Granted, I'm happy we're holidaying "well" but I'm not so happy about the rest of it being frittered away on nonsense (Mr P Home!!!!).

I've now set up a spreadsheet (as with the groceries one) and I'll be monitoring it very closely next year.

Some things on my list for next year are holidays, a dishwasher, new bed, kitchen table, and new carpets in the bedrooms (we've been in this house 8 years and haven't replaced those ones. The other carpets in some of the living areas will be 5 years old in January and you can see we have active kids.

Since I have the info, here's some additional detail if you haven't already clicked away :)

Month Highest expense
Jan-13 Ballito
Feb-13 Kulula tickets to Plett
Mar-13 Fridge (new to us, but secondhand)
Apr-13 Photos
May-13 Hospitality/ Gate Motor
Jun-13 Plett accommodation
Jul-13 Extra airfare to Kulula
Aug-13 nothing interesting
Sep-13 Santa Shoeboxes
Oct-13 Canvases and photoshoot
Nov-13 Ballito flights and accommodation
Dec-13 Nanny S's bonus

Am I the only one who does this?

Have you analysed your spending/ savings for the year yet? Anything interesting?

PS my joint savings spreadsheet goes back to 2006 so I had a look at all the IVF stuff. 2008 was a bad year financially (UK trip PLUS two IVFs) and then 2009 was almost just as bad for the 5 months of newborn twins!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The aftermath

if you could see the lounge...... this is about a 100th of the mess that was
straight after the guests left

Jhb people who enjoy the sunny weather - sorry... today's grey skies and the spitting rain were for me. Totally from God. D and I enjoyed the weather SO much.

We had a great day - church, home, D touched the chicken (!), all the cooking worked out, we spoke to everyone who needed to be spoken to (my parents - it is a BIG deal if we don't speak on Christmas!!) and there was a tremendous excess of gifts (that's a story for another blog post). My father told me his wife, her 3 sisters and her mother all rotate hosting the Christmas lunch so each person only hosts once every 5 years. Suits me just fine :)

Best moment of the day:

I was playing my favourite Christmas CD (The Plain Truth - on itunes) and Connor said, "ooh, Mummy this music makes me feel so happy inside" and D said, "that's because the music is worshipping God"


I love to see my kids "get" these concepts so young. I had to wait til I was, what, 19?

Did you have a good day? (whatever good means for you)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, everybody

Those of you who are FB friends will have seen the last photo but since this is such a special place for me (TONS of free therapy), I want to show you some more of our photoshoot pics.

I've literally only logged on to post this and on my other blog, and then I'm jumping straight back into my book!!!

Tomorrow I'll be roasting my second chicken EVER (the first one was on my 36 things list years ago..... I since decided life is too short to roast chickens - remember I have a thing about touching raw meat... tomorrow D's touching the chicken and I'm bossing him around, so it should be ... interesting!)

Over the next week, I need to blog my 2013 review, my 2013 books read (for the nerds among us), my word for the year (yes! I have it!!!) and my goals for the new year (prizes for everyone who gets what goal number 1 is :)).

This afternoon, K and C helped me set the table - it was VERRRRRY cute - so I'll have to take some pics in my dining room after church. I also got them to make place cards (yes, Pinterest is coming alive in my house - LIES! it's all a ploy to keep them out of my hair so I can get on with cooking...) which was a hit. They wrote each person's name, stamped the card to smithereens and washi'd it.... it doesn't look very cute (certainly not Pinterest-worthy) but their little hearts were 100% immersed in the project. Yes, I will Instagram!

But best of all, 12 days off work starting tomorrow. YESSSSS, baby!

Merry Christmas, all!

If I'm not too knackered, I may post a pic or two of the "aftermath".

Who's hosting your Christmas lunch?

PS Deanna, if you're reading, was it you guys who go feed the homeless every Christmas? I had some very guilty moments driving home seeing people scrounging in the bins...

Monday, December 23, 2013

I'm nearly there

Friends, I'm a half day away from 12 days out of the office.

I can't WAIT!

this is what the table looks like now. I LOVE this white paper tree - R0.99 on sale after last Christmas

I was a machine at work today...in between the odd chit-chat. My desk is sparkling, all my papers are sorted, my cubicle photos are pared down and tomorrow I attack all those emails and folders. And hopefully I'll get my 2013 goals review done too.

I also went shopping after work - no looking at prices, I just bought what I wanted for D and some pressies for me too (Julia, I got two dresses!!!). The Christmas cards are all written and I'm DONE.

I read an email from Jennifer Louden (I linked to her Satisfaction Finder about a year ago) today and she said something about lowering your standards being freeing not lazy, and I decided there and then I'm not killing myself hand writing (because that's one of my "things") out 30 cards. I think I did 12 for our very, very closest friends and family, and that's it!

Woolies wrapped all D's gifts - what a relief.

So I'm done.

Now I just have to cook Christmas lunch. I can tell you I'm not having people over for at least 5 years :) That's a topic for another blog post.

In other news, L and I both LOVE Oh Holy Night and we're now You Tubing all the versions to decide on the best one.

Dear Lord, like I need more obsessions :)

However, I generally prefer male voices so The Plain Truth's one is the best male one for me (look on itunes), and Mariah's is the best female one. But as I said, we're still You tubing it.

Your favourite version????

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Favourite bits of decorating the house for Christmas

I'm very slowly becoming less Scrooge-like :)

this is on my coffee table (previously Connor's crib)

The kids have a ton of very small things under the tree and there are one or two for others and actually a couple for me too... bought by me.

I keep going to buy presents for other people and I come out with stuff for me - at CNA the other day I bought myself about 20 lovely pens in a bag, at Clicks the other day I bought myself a little gift set because it sparkled :) and at Poetry yesterday (my first time in a Poetry shop which explains why my bank balance is healthier than it could have been) I bought myself some more treats. The guy asked if it was a gift and I said, "yes, for me"!

Anyway, since I have work tomorrow - I know, I must surely be one of the 1% in SA still working, let me get on with the "afters" as Laura mentioned in yesterday's comments.

you can look right up through this section of my house - the openness is what I love!

I realised that I actually don't have a picture of the full tree. Use your imaginations :)

Things I love to do:
  1. Use up all my clear vases (which is 95% of them - I have a thing for clear vases) and fill them with Christmas tree decorations :)
  2. Use up all the fruit bowls and... fill them with more Christmas tree decorations.
  3. Put little Christmas tree ornaments everywhere... everywhere. 
  4. Oh, and candy canes. This is probably year 3 for some of them. Until they go all squishy, they'll be doing their real job ...of decorating the tops of vases.

(I'm nothing if not predictable)

had to crop tight because I found my kids' school visible in the background. Do you like my reflection? :)

So this ornament thing that seems to go on all over the world except SA? Or is it something I don't know about?

There's a nice blog for people like me. She wrote something the other day that said "love the look of chalkboards; hate the dust" (that is me to the T!). Same with these ornaments for every year. Love the idea - hate the thought of the clutter and "having to keep" the things for sentimentality's sake. When I get tired of things, I want to happily toss!

Of course, there are many ways to decorate your home for Christmas and other holidays.

entrance hall table - yes, those are the same wire trees the kids made last year. They actually haven't moved the whole year :) Why fix something that's not broken? (I've told you about my one friend who leaves her tree decorated the whole year, right?)

Connor did this one
this looked like this for about a week and then I got irritated and took the remaining ones down and hung them from a vertical piece of ribbon, so only the beaded garland remains
Connor's tree
Kendra's tree
this one moved from the keyholder. When I sent my client a photo of it and gushed about how much I love it, she sent me another one (!) for this year. That one is not as Christmassy so is in my study. Needless to say, I LOVE IT!
thankfully, these pegs have cards now.
I had to take this photo - my watch and the ornament matched!

i love these little ladies! This flying one is my favourite
this one looks like she's saying "aaah, freedom" :)
from Mandy! LOVE - it missed the tree last year - I think it arrived on 2nd or 4th Jan (I have it on Instagram somewhere...) but it now has a firm place.
I love these white wooden ones too
And bonus, this year the kids have actually left everything as I set it up. Except for the washi tape - that they won't leave alone at all.  I found Kendra practically wallpapering an envelope this afternoon.

So on a scale of 1 - 10, I'd say I'm a 5. I make some effort but I like to still see my house. And to be honest, on the 6th Jan, I can't wait to take it all down and give the place a good clean (there are some of us out there who like cleaning).

Where on the scale are you?

I want to hear from the Americans too! (this is probably a 1 for you :))

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Everyday moments

gift from a supplier last year - I LOVE IT!
First day of decorating
stringing some beads
photo by Kendra
the before...
Connor helping to choose angles to instagram :)
at my work Christmas lunch - only pic of people
at work - we are so blessed to work on a campus like this
work function again... of course I love doors
view. turned out to be a beautiful (and very hot and sticky) day!
How was your Saturday?


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