The beginning of a year always feels like such a blank slate, doesn’t it? A new notebook, a clean page, ready to be filled with the messy, beautiful, aspirational and mundane details of daily life. I love this time of year, with it’s reflections and gratitudes, planning and goal setting. It suits my personality well–the planner, organizer, label-maker part of me and the creative, dreamer, wonderer part of me.
But before I start a new year’s intentions, I always look back to measure last year’s intentions–whether I was realistic or lofty and whether or not I met my own expectations. And if not, why not? Sometimes, life just takes a different turn, throws us a detour and we have to adjust our course. But sometimes, it’s because we get lost in the day-to-day of life and we forget our bigger dreams or aspirations or significant shifts in doing or being. I find it helpful, reflecting on those questions. If you don’t want to read my reflection, just skip to the next section for 2018 intentions. I always get inspiration from reading the intentions of others.
Many people remember 2017 as a mess of a year, and nationally and globally, it sure was. But within the walls of our home and the bubble around our little family, 2017 was sweet, and that’s how we will remember it. In this past year, there were so many celebrations.
Theo turned one. And then he proceeded to grow into a delightful, charming, funny, independent, loving, adventurous, curious, particular, snuggly little boy. We spent countless hours in the park this summer, watching for trains, turning over rocks to find crabs or playing on the playground. At home, we played hide-and-seek (the best!), built towns and construction sites out of legos and sang Big Green Tractor over and over and over. (Theo’s favorite toy is his antique John Deere tractor, and he loves that song). We read books for hours every day and watched as Theo’s imagination grew and flourished. Every day, I thank Elie for making me a mama.
Elie and I grew as parents, and we continued to grow even closer together as husband and wife. Our marriage has never been stronger. We are a great team and we love and adore and support and champion each other. We’ve continued our weekly date nights and we even did a few short getaways to Seattle and Vancouver, just the two us. To this day, after seven years together, having a baby, raising a toddler, helping each other deal with challenges, and supporting each other through family illness, we have never once raised our voices at each other or had anything that could be termed a real argument. I attribute our relationship to kindness and grace, and I feel so grateful.
Elie pulled off the biggest surprise birthday celebration for me, making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Elie turned 50! And we had a party with 50 of our closest friends and family (blog post coming soon).
We traveled, to California, Kentucky and Arizona. We drove to the Oregon Coast for the July Fourth weekend. We took the ferry to San Juan Island, and we made more trips to Vancouver than we can count.
We spent lots of intentional time with dear friends, and our weeks were filled with coffee dates, play dates, park dates and pancake breakfasts.
We spent lots of time with our family, traveling to Vancouver every week or two. We visited Granny/GG in Kentucky, and Papa Jim came here to visit.
I taught my first cooking class! The first since I was pregnant. And there is a lot more to come in 2018.
Elie built a new building in the lot in front of Samuel’s Furniture and it now houses a Starbucks and a Windermere Real Estate Office. He will likely be doing more projects like that in 2018, or something entirely new.
We finished a three-month remodel on our home, one that had us living with dust and temporary walls for much of the beginning of the year. But it opened up our space to make our home more family-friendly, and we love the result. It was well-worth the inconvenience.
As a family and with Samuel’s Furniture, we started supporting the Family Resource Center of Bellingham Public Schools, helping to ensure every child in our community has a bed, a warm blanket and a table for their family to gather around, a home in which to make memories.
Aside from celebrations, there were the day-to-day victories of taking care of ourselves, mentally and physically, emotionally and spiritually. When you have limited ‘me time’ in a day, it can be challenging to cover all of those areas, but we made progress.
We went to church more in 2017 than we did in 2016, but this is still an area for a lot of growth. But, Elie and I have faithfully continued our daily gratitude practice, and sharing our gratefuls is one of the best parts of our day.
I started walking again every day, with Theo when the weather was good and on the treadmill at nap time when it was not. I got to an occasional yoga class, and I started going to a weekly ‘Monkey Gym’ class with Elie. I even got to my first Barre3 class. (And 2017 was a year of fitness for Elie! He works out and/or plays tennis almost every day. I’m so proud of him!)
On my 2017 intentions, I wrote that I wanted to enrich my “life/mind/soul outside of mama-related activities”. Amazingly, I did almost everything on my list and then some. Elie and I attended an Enneagram workshop together. I took a pasta class and a three-day sourdough bread workshop. And I went to a weekend food and travel photography retreat on Lummi Island. I also wanted to read more in 2017, something other than parenting books or books on sleep. I didn’t read a lot more fiction, but I joined a book club, something I’d been wanting to do for a long time. So now I have accountability.
Meal prep! I’m patting myself on the back for this one, because this year I really did it. Not every week, but I didn’t miss many. I planned a menu at the beginning of the week, stocked the fridge and always had healthy snacks and ready-to-make ingredients on hand for dinner. It made meal planning and prep so much easier, and I’m hoping to share more of those tips this year.
You might recall that one of my goals was to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle in 2017, and we did experiment with that for the first half of the year (and I have been both vegetarian and vegan in the past). We concluded that, for our family, it works best to be conscious consumers of animal products, and to make animal products a small part of our overall diet. I’ll talk more about this in the coming year.
On the blogging side of life, that certainly took a backseat this year. I chose to spend more time with Theo, instead of working on the blog, a decision I don’t regret for a heartbeat. And (the increasingly shorter) nap times are filled with housecleaning and laundry and meal prep and squeezing in a workout. But, I did work for the past few months on rebranding LisaSamuel.com and that relaunch will be happening soon. And I do have a lot of fun things in store for the blog this year.
I switched my purchasing habits last year, buying almost exclusively (when possible, and reasonable) from ethical and sustainable brands/manufacturers, including Theo’s clothes and toys, our clothes, furniture and other household products. I will be blogging more about this process in the coming year.
2017 was a good one, and I think we fulfilled our intentions for that first full year as a family, to be curious and open to discovery. To be kind and present, to let go of perfection, and to pursue what brings us joy. To cherish our family and to be good friends and neighbors. You can see a full list of last year’s intentions here.
Every year, I use a similar process to set my intentions for the year. One thing you might not know about me is that, in a prior life, I led strategic planning projects for local health departments and community organizations. Strategic planning–goal setting or action planning–is ingrained in me. I love the process, and it works.
I dream big dreams and set a vision for my life and then work backwards. What are the daily or weekly things I need to do or accomplish to make that dream or vision a reality? It may take a little luck and it will take a lot of hard work. But it’s possible.
Want to read the Bible cover the cover? Dedicate a few minutes each day, and it will happen. It took me over a year, but I’ve done it.
Want to run a marathon? Pick a race at least six months away and sign up. Join a running club or enlist a running partner and stick to a training schedule. I’m not a strong or fast runner, and I’ve done it.
Want to get your MBA, or another advanced degree? Figure out how you can fit it into your life, whether it’s an executive weekend program or night classes or a distance program. You can do it. I’ve done it (while raising stepchildren and working full-time). I also went back to school in my mid-30s to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Want to have a kind, loving, supporting marriage? Envision it. What do you need to work on in yourself to make that a reality? And what qualities do you want in a partner? Write it out. I’m thankful every day for this one.
Want to become a mama? Envision it. Pray about it. This one is just luck, but it can happen. It happened to me, when I never thought it would be possible.
Setting intentions each year is simply a way of being intentional about living the vision for your life. What do you really want in life? What kind of person/professional/wife/mother/friend/community member do you want to be? What are your big dreams?
It’s attainable, but only if we set ourselves up for success with daily actions to make that vision come to life. That’s where intentions come in. You’re describing a daily/weekly intentional practice to help you live the life you want. For Elie and I, we do this exercise in intention-setting together, and I’m looking forward to bringing Theo into the process, as soon as he is old enough.
At the close of each year, Elie I reflect on the past year, our celebrations, our challenges and how we did on our personal and family intentions. Our discussion is something similar to the first part of this blog post, but more personal and in-depth. Then, Elie and I revisit the big vision for our life–what we want our life to look like and feel like, both personally and as a family, this year and in the future. Sometimes it changes slightly–like in 2015, when we decided to have a family. And sometimes it stays the same from year to year. Once we have a common vision for our family and for ourselves, Elie and I each apply that vision to develop individual intentions and actions for the year. We write them down and then share them with each other, so we can support and champion each other. It’s a wonderful process and one we’ve refined each year that we have been together.
Before I get into my specific intentions for this year, I think it’s important to note that we are–I am–very lucky and blessed to live life the way we do. Elie and I are both at home with Theo. We are financially stable. We can hire a nanny when we need one. My mom (Mimi) lives next door and comes over often to play with Theo. We live in a safe, loving community. We are surrounded by good friends. We love our family. For the most part, everyone is healthy. I don’t take any of those things for granted, and I give thanks for them every day. I just don’t want you to read this and make comparisons, because that’s not what this is about. By sharing goals and dreams and aspirations, we can hold each other accountable, cheer each other on and lift each other up. I know I get inspiration from other bloggers, and I hope you find inspiration here, too.
And now on to my intentions for 2018.
My intention for 2018 is to move from discovery to action. Personally and as family, we will pursue only what brings me (us) joy. It’s YES! or not at all.
The following intentions are organized by the different roles or centers in my life.
This goal has not changed from last year, but why change something that is working? Our marriage is the cornerstone of our family. I will continue to make my marriage to Elie a priority: being present, spending time, practicing kindness, listening, being understanding and accepting of differences, checking in regularly, giving love. (Activities: regular check-ins, weekly date nights, supporting Elie in pursuing the activities that bring him joy, snuggling as much as possible)
Be a loving, nurturing, playful, and open-minded mama to Theo. Be present. Be patient. Help him to develop his own independence, and give him opportunities to grow. Note: When I’m with Theo, I don’t look at my phone or any media, other than taking photos or videos of him. I am reaffirming that commitment. (Activities: continue daily snuggles/reading time/tickle time/playfulness, get on the floor and play, gymnastics, swim lessons, more playdates, start preschool in the fall!)
Continue to make my friendships and relationships with family a priority. (Activities: telephone dates with out-of-town friends and family members, continue to get together with in-town friends weekly, visit Vancouver at least twice a month, visit my Dad in Mississippi or have him come here, visit my Granny and the Lair’s in Kentucky, visit McKenzie and Evan in California)
To maintain our home as a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for friends and family to visit. For it to be a place that creates wonderful childhood memories for Theo. For it to be organized and serene (because that makes life easier). (Activities: reorganize all storage, closets and drawers, create a new ‘big boy’ room for Theo)
Body & Health
2018 will be my year of fitness! While I was way more active last year, walking at least five miles every day, I don’t feel as fit. I want to get strong again, so I can throw Theo up in the air. (Activities: continue daily walks, plus three classes a week–Barre3, yoga and Monkey Gym with Elie).
Focus on the health of my family by continuing to do weekly meal planning and prep, so we always have healthy meals and snacks readily available. (Activities: continue weekly meal planning and prep).
Read more! (Activities: Read one book per month, attend bi-monthly book club meetings (six books a year).
Continue to focus on my spiritual practice and continue to figure out how to develop a spiritual practice/traditions that works for our family. (Activities: continue daily prayer, continue saying prayers nightly with Theo, continuing daily gratitude as a family, attending church as a family at least once a month)
Learn/do one new thing this year! I’m stealing this from Elie’s list, and I have no idea what it might be. I’m open to suggestions! Learning to play tennis will be on this list one day, but I don’t think this is the year to commit that amount of time and practice.
We have a lot of fun travel planned this year, and we’re excited to start traveling again as a family. (February: Mexico (Todos Santos and Cabo), April/May: Japan, August/September: Israel, plus visits to family in Mississippi and California).
Continue to support the Family Resource Center of Bellingham Public Schools, helping to ensure every child in our community has a bed, a warm blanket and a table for their family to gather around, a home in which to make memories. (Activities: organize blanket/sheets drive so every bed comes with linens, other activities as needs are identified).
Try to buy less: reuse, repurpose or recycle whenever possible. (Activities: Consider each purchase. Is it really something we need? Will it enrich our life? When purchasing, try as much as possible to buy from ethical and sustainable brands/manufacturers, including Theo’s clothes and toys, our clothes, furniture and other household products).
I’m writing my big personal vision here: I want to publish a cookbook.
To make that a reality, I will:
By writing all this here, it holds me accountable, AND it makes me really excited for all of the fun things ahead this year. I will be referring to this list often over the next year.
What are your intentions or goals for 2018? Let me know, and I’ll cheer you on.