Moderate Expectations

January 1st, 2022 announced itself this morning with brilliant rays of sunshine and frigid temperatures. It’s nine below as I write this with no hope of climbing above zero today. I’m glad I enjoyed a good, brisk walk yesterday when it was a balmy nineteen degrees.

Jack and I spent last evening with a few neighbors celebrating the passing of another calendar year. We played some games, shared food and drinks, and experienced much laughter. Good stuff for the soul! The gathering wrapped up before midnight, but I managed to keep my eyes open at home until the fireworks announced that 2021 was officially gone.

Today is the day we’re supposed to contemplate all that transpired in the past year and subsequently imagine the vast potential for the next. For me, it’s tempting to focus on the world’s shortcomings and pin my hopes on leaving them all behind. That would be nice, but I simply can’t believe it was all for naught, or that the kind of strife we see on the news lately can ever just go away. I realize as well, that it was really just my own naivete that would have me believe we only recently embarked on such troubled waters.

If the past two years have taught me anything, it is to lower my expectations. In spite of everything that is wrong in the world, I can be grateful every day for a hundred different reasons. I can’t simply dismiss 2021 as a lost cause. After all, in the past year, Jack and I continued to be safe in our jobs. Our children grew and succeeded in their own lives. We were blessed with a beautiful grandchild. We continued to be surrounded by good friends.

If I’m going to resolve to do anything in the next year, it is to strive to be a better person, both for those around me, as well as for myself. Maybe then the world will feel like a much kinder place than I’ve given it credit for.

Lucy says, “Happy New Year! And please turn up the heat!”

Vittles and Visions

It never fails that when I’ve been on a not-cooking binge, I circle back around, getting highly motivated and ambitious to prepare meals that taste good and are at least slightly less bad for our health. It was a quiet weekend around our place, which made it easier to spend time menu-planning and grocery shopping.

It wasn’t just general guilt about our poor eating habits lately that had me focused on what we’re consuming. Jack had a routine blood draw last week. He has these done in order to keep an eye on certain indicators in his body that may be impacted by his autoimmunity and the medications he takes to manage it. He’s had trouble keeping his liver numbers in a good place and last week we learned they are elevated again. And while this could be due to his medications, we also know there might be things he can do to make positive changes on his own, such as lose a few pounds. Just another reason to pay more attention to what we’re putting in our bodies.

So Saturday morning found me sitting at the kitchen island with my laptop, surrounded by cookbooks. I decided to create a spreadsheet of some favorite meals and listed them along with the specific ingredients needed for each. The plan is to build on this spreadsheet so that I’ll ultimately have a quick-pick list of meals that’s also an easy reference for my grocery list. I included a few new recipes from an InstaPot cookbook I recently bought, and I made two of those meals this weekend. On Saturday I made Thai Pumpkin Chicken Soup, which we both deemed to be interesting though it’s probably not something I’ll make again. Jack had two helpings of last night’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili and he also took it to work today for lunch. I really enjoyed that one as well and it will definitely go on the list for future meals.

Hopefully all of this will help us stay on top of our nutrition a little better from now on, though I think I’ll still give meal kits a try. There are weekends when Chesney and Farm Boy come to visit and the whole food thing falls apart because I’d much rather have fun with them than spend time at the grocery store. But even that is just a matter of planning ahead somewhat.

In other news, we were supposed to return to our bowling league this weekend after it was shut down in November thanks to COVID. Jack and I opted not to participate in the second half though. Since his health has seen some pitfalls in recent months, we just felt it was best to play it safe. Plus, bowling under the current restrictions (masks on, limited mingling with friends, and having to leave as soon as the games are done) just takes away all of the fun.

It’s hard to stay busy and entertained sometimes with all of the official and self-imposed restrictions on ourselves. Our kids have continued to visit periodically, but otherwise we’ve been fairly careful. As much as I look forward to the weekends after working all week, they often start to feel long and boring before Monday comes around again. I wanted to give myself a good project to fill the quiet this particular weekend. I’ve never made a vision board before, but I’ve been contemplating making one since the year began. Last week in a team meeting, a coworker shared the one she had been working on and it made me ambitious to get started myself.

I checked out a few how-to articles and then made a stop at the dollar store yesterday to buy a board and some double-sided tape. Thankfully, Jack had a stockpile of outdoor magazines and catalogues from the past year that he had yet to recycle. I spent the afternoon clipping words and images that spoke to me. After dinner, I got to work organizing my clippings on the board and then securing them in place. The effort reminded me of art projects I’d done in my school days which made me feel just a little bit silly. But I didn’t really care. It was an enjoyable way to spend a quiet, cold evening. Certainly way better than zoning out in front of the television. I’m not sure the end result truly qualifies as a vision board, but I was proud of it anyway. It ended up being a sort of potpourri of goals, inspirations, positive messages, and things that are simply important to me. It includes references to family, faith, and the outdoors, as well as ambitions about writing, work, and fitness, all things that I strive to improve with each day that I live. I know when I look at it, I’ll see words and images that are uplifting and inspirational.

I’m really happy with it. And who knows? Maybe this will become something I do at the start of each new year from now on!