The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – E.E. Cummings

Thinking Inside the Box

Carlee HansenAt the end of last October, I started a family journal. As much as I love writing, I am less than stellar at telling Dear Diary all about my day – at least I haven’t been as good at it once I stopped having a different crush every week and my journals evolved from lock-bearing, rainbow-covered hardbacks to something a little less ostentatious. Journaling is time consuming and arduous and frankly, most of my days aren’t filled with events that reach ‘write it down’ caliber. So for years I’ve brushed off the need to record my personal history and move on to more critical matters, like recording my favorite television shows.

Anyway, last October I kept having this want to write things down for my kids – the activities that we did, the places that we went and so on. Partly I wanted them to remember our history and traditions and carry them forward; but mostly I just wanted some ammo for when they get a little older and try to tell me what a crappy mom I am: “Uh uh uh, March 4 last year I took you to the Treehouse Museum. Who’s the crappy mom, now!?” The more I thought about this (and saw how sassy my girls can get), the more sense it made.

Enter the box.

On one of my many trips to the largest retailer in America who shall remain nameless because I’m not being paid a commission, I purchased a less-than-flashy index card box. Wait, strike that. I think it was my mom who was running to said retailer and asked if I needed anything and I shouted in anticipation, “Yes! A cheap box to hold index cards! And index cards!” Yes, that’s how it went.

Important side note: if this ever-popular retailer would like to talk about commissions for mentions on my blog, you know where to find me. That is all.

Anyway, I filled my box with index cards and got to work. Every day I wrote a single sentence(ish) – something we did, places we went, laundry that was folded, something. Some days were fun (last year on October 29th, Mack went bowling for her first time and scored and 87) and others lacked the luster that I would hope would go on each card (there are countless days that say words like “laundry”, “Lunchable” and “movies”. Probably more than I want to admit.). But the point isn’t the content (exactly). The point was to write something down. And I’m proud to say that I made it. 365 days of cards, each with a bit of information about what we have done as a family in the last year. And I learned a few things along the way. Let’s be honest, you knew this was coming:

You might think that writing a simple sentence every day is a pretty easy goal. Well, Snobby Sally, it wasn’t for me. Just remembering to open the box was a task. There were times when I had to play catch-up (thank the heavens for iPhone calendars) for an entire week. (Also thank heaven that my goal wasn’t 100 push-ups a day. Am I right? Imagine catching up on those suckers.)

Take away: don’t procrastinate because catching up is miserable. Shout out to all my high-school peeps struggling with this on a daily basis, yo!

If you’ve been to my house in the last year, you’d have noticed that whatever my table décor was at the time, it was always accompanied by this little blue box. I had to put it there so that it would annoy me enough to stay up on my entries. And it worked. So, in true Stephen Covey fashion, I submit this as a truth: If you want to accomplish something that is hard, you better put it right in your face. Like right in your face. Like look at it every time you pass the table, in your face. You have to constantly think about your goals, look at them, and dream about them (I only had like six nightmares about index cards in the last year. Pretty good, I’d say.).

I once read a poem called “The Will to Win” that I repeat (the first couple of lines) in my head whenever I have a goal to reach. Even though my goal was “only” to make a journal entry each day for a year, I had to repeat this to myself because I struggle. Although it’s probably more applicable if you are training to be the next Tiger Woods, I still found it helpful for me to stay on task . . . and to stop having dreams about giant, blood-sucking index cards.

The next thing that this little project taught me was about time – it’s limited and if you are going to fill it, fill it with something that is worth writing down. This doesn’t mean daily trips to the zoo or “Firework Tuesdays” or anything even close to that. Let me explain:

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of “down” days over the last year – ones filled with tedious tasks like grocery shopping at (your name could be mentioned HERE, big retailer man!), or nursing kids back to health with unlimited iPad games and popsicles. But as I’ve wrapped up the year, I’ve become ‘okay’ with the fact that that is my life! Lots of plain-Jane days interspersed with noteworthy moments like a mom and daughter date to Lagoon, funerals of relatives and their loved ones, trips to the lake and first steps.

My goal this year was just to write something down. Anything. And I made it. My goal for this year is to notice. I’m not going to change anything about the way I parent (although I should) or the activities that we do (although I should) but I am going to take the time to notice the miracle moments every day. Amidst the laundry and shopping and homework, there are amazing, noteworthy things to write down like my daughter telling her first knock-knock joke or my baby falling down six stairs and giggling at the bottom (don’t call CPS – this doesn’t happen often) or my husband bringing home dinner because he knew I was tired. These are the legacy moments that I want my kids to look back and remember – the ones that show our character (even if they won’t prove what a stellar mom I was by visiting Chucky Cheese once a month).

The last thing that this little project taught me was probably the most important: I can do hard thing. I can do annoying things. I can do things that I have a bad attitude about. And I can do them for a whole YEAR! It’s astounding, the resilience of the human spirit, isn’t it?

But what’s more important is that those things become less annoying, less hard, less tedious when we see them for what they actually are: important. We set goals because something behind the goal is important to us. I’ve found that the mean (the goal) is very rarely what I’m after; it’s what I gain in the end that is why I set goals, this little blue box included.

My goals: I want to remember my family at this stage of life. I want my kids to remember our traditions and the things that we did. But most of all, I want them to remember me. I want them to see what I thought was important, that I saw them sharing (that one time) . . . and that I noticed.

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Carlee Hansen

https://www.carleehansen.com

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