Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Reflection

As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to report and reflect on the goals I set at the beginning of the year.
    1) Finish the first draft of my memoir. A manuscript ready to send in to publishers would be even better. This means I will need to spend a good chunk of my free time working on it. No big new projects until this one is done.
    • Key metric: Chapters with the bulk of their content completed (i.e. the main stories I want to include in the book) by the end of July shutdown. July-Dec: Editing, editing. 
    Result: DONE! Just today I finished editing the 50th and final chapter. Two more rounds of editing, and then the book will be 'done' (that is, until if/when it is picked up by a publisher and they require further editing). I've laid out a schedule that has all the editing being done by February. 

    3) Invest in my important relationships. Husband, nieces, nephews, sisters, brother, parents.
    • Seeing my core family (brother & sis-in-law, parents, younger sister, older sisters and their families) several times this year. So far I have seen my mother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nieces and 2 nephews so far this year, and it's only January. Plans include (in chronological order):
      1.  Visit to see my sister in February Result: Result: Done, plus several more visits out there! Saw her about once a month, and it was so good. Our relationship has blossomed. 
      2.  Celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her, her husband, another older sister, and her husband. I've never been to Vegas so it will be interesting to experience a new place. Result: Done. Can't say I really enjoyed Vegas, but I know it meant a lot to my sister. 
      3. My college friend's wedding, which is near my sister so I will get to see her as well. Result: Done, and I was so glad we went. I know it meant a lot to my friend, and it was a beautiful wedding.
      4. Celebrating the same sister's birthday with my mom and sisters for a girls' weekend in Asheville, NC. Result: Done, and we all had a good time. 
      5. Spending a long weekend with my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and sister this summer. I love hanging out with them, and want to be proactive about making that happen. Result: Done, and Catherine still talks about how much fun she had. We went swimming, kayaking, painting, biking, video gaming - it was a great time. 
      6. Thanksgiving with my parents in SC Result: Done!
      7. Christmas with my husband's family in AR Result: Done - just got back yesterday. 
      8. Probably another visit to see my brother around the holidays. Result: Will be done! Planned for next week. 
    • Sending birthday cards to all those whom I can't celebrate with in person. I know it feels so nice when I get cards on my birthday. It's a simple thing to do to remind those I care about that I love them. Result: I sent a handful of cards, which is more than last year but not as much as I would have liked. 
    • Continuing to be a part of my little sister's life, and witnessing her journey toward recovery. I will help where I can, but I acknowledge every recovery is different.  Result: This has been one of my proudest achievements of this year. My sister and I have grown so much together - she is an integral part of my life. 
    • Dates with my husband, spending dedicated time for conversation and reflection. Also, hiking, particularly some overnight hikes. Something special to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary this year. Every year I realize more and more how blessed I am to have my husband. Result: Done! Most weekends we went to either a coffee shop or to a winery. Only one overnight hike. Unfortunately, I was in Japan for our anniversary and we didn't end up doing anything special. I kind of wish that we did. 
    B goals
    • Be more caring and helpful at work, and invest in relationships with my coworkers. Continued technical competence and learning is important too. Result: I certainly learned a lot more. The project role was completely new to me, and so was the technical area I was assigned to after my promotion. I did a few things to nurture relationships with co-workers. 
    • Continued involvement in our church, particularly our small group. Result: Not done. Almost no involvement in small group. 
    • Switch to a project-based role in my department in May/June. Work days will be much more predictable and less chaotic than they are with my current production-based role Result: Done...until I had to leave in December. None of this I would have predicted for 2015, and I'm trying very hard to look at it as an opportunity, not a loss. 
    • Work less when possible. I spend too much time at work. We don't need the money, and it doesn't make me more productive.  My goal is to take at least 15 vacation days in 2015, which will require me to use some of my overtime for vacation time, instead of getting paid for it like I did in 2014. Result: I did end up taking a lot of vacation time. As far as working less, it's hard to say. When I was in Japan, there was a lot of pressure to work longer hours, but when I was back in the U.S. it wasn't so bad. 
    • Begin planning a trip for 2016 to Napa Valley with my husband for our anniversary.Result: Not done. Due to the job situation, we'll probably put it off at least another year. 
    • Train for and run another trail race. Not a big deal if I don't do this, but it would be nice. Result: Not done, but I"m okay with it. 
    • Possibly going to court again to testify on my sister's behalf Result: Done, with success - she is safe. It was so stressful, but we did it. 
    • Possibly moving to a slightly larger house that is hopefully closer to work. Result: Not done, and it's a good thing as I don't have the job anymore. 
    • More Japan travel, including a hike to the summit of Mt. Fuj! Result: Four trips to Japan total, so I think that covers it. As far as the Mt. Fuji climb - not done - we were ready to go, but decided not to due to the weather that weekend. Kind of wish we had, as the weather turned out to be okay, but given what we knew at the time, it made sense. 
    In summary: 2015 was a good year and a difficult one.
         The good:
                        My relationship with my younger sister grew into one of the biggest joys in my life. 
                         My relationship with my husband deepened
                         I finished the first draft of my book
                         I got a promotion at work 
                         I got to explore Japan
                         I didn't have any major health issues

         The bad:
                        I left my job, working for my 'dream' company
                        I grew a little more distant from God
                        That's it? Hmm. Maybe 2015 was overall a good year, then. 

    Gratitude. Thank you God, for my life. 

                         


    Friday, October 2, 2015

    Monthly Goals #15

    See previous post for preface to these goals.

    Family/others:
    1. Support my sister during the final custody hearing. This might include testifying on her behalf, but at minimum means being there and being strong. Result: As good as could be expected. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and I can't even describe the sense of dread I had for the day leading up to the hearing. But God gave me the strength to get through it, and it did not crush me. Now, the results are in His hands. 
    2. Support my husband at his first food show for his new product. This will be a little challenging for this introvert, but it's a great opportunity. Result: very good. It wasn't too difficult once I started getting into the swing of it. We sold over 150 packages, and got a really favorable response. It will be exciting to see where the business goes next. I'm proud of both of us for stepping outside of our comfort zones. 
    3. Try to enjoy the time with family this month. (Sister/dad one weekend, parents another, mother-in-law another).  Result: Good.  
    4. Provide Celebrate Recovery meal at our church 1x. Requires preparation for 60 people.  Result: Good, except I don't think the meal I prepared was great. However, everyone got fed almost on time and there was plenty. It was a huge effort especially with starting the new job at work, and I got through it (with help!)  
    Work:
    Prepare for my new role as an assistant manager at work in the following ways. I've gotten a promotion that was somewhat unexpected but very appreciated, and I have a lot of work to do to prepare. I should have all of October to do so. Specifically:                
    1. Prepare and complete handover to my replacement   Result: Done. Very easy given that we had worked so closely together.                                 
    2. Minimum weekly review of sectional yearly targets until I know them backward and forward. This is my primary purpose as manager - to enable and ensure my team contributes to reaching our department targets, so I need to know these by heart.   Result: OK. I don't think I know them all by heart but I know the main ones.      
    3. Listen to at least 1 Manager Tools day for a total of 30 this month    Result: I typically listened to at least one during the weekdays on the way to or from work, but not as much on the weekends. I estimate I listened to at least 20, which I'm okay with.              
    4. Review Policy manual   Result: Done, and initiated and participated in one HR training session as well.                                                                              
    5. Take the 3 online learning courses recommended for supervisors  Result: Not done, but that's okay. Found out they either aren't needed or available.            
    6. Make sure my access to necessary systems is in place     Result: Done.          
    7. If my assignment is in a technical area I'm not familiar with, begin learning this area, using our department technical training material     Result: OK - reviewed 2/5 modules then had to start the new job rather quickly and have barely had time to breathe since then.                         
    8. Seek out practical advice for first steps from at least N=2 A/Ms that I respect and are known for doing good work     Result: Not really done directly, although I have asked for specific help. 
    9. Seize opportunities to network. This is an area of weakness for me, and relationships are critical to being a successful manager. Result: OK. Went out on a spontaneous dinner with coworkers one time, and also went to a celebratory launch event at the recommendation of one of my mentors. The latter wasn't that great in terms of networking, but I'm still glad I showed up for the face time.

    Personal / spiritual / self-growth:
    1. Look for opportunities to practice going outside of my comfort zone. For example, yesterday, I walked to the front of spin class while it was still going on to get a towel to wipe down my bike when I had to leave early. It's hard for me to go in front of people like that, and my initial instinct was just to sneak out without wiping down my bike, but that wouldn't have been cool. So I sucked it up, and it was fine. Things like that. The more I do it, the more I will build my confidence.  Result: Good. I've kept a log of this, and there were over a dozen times I stepped out of my comfort zone - sometimes just little things, but they still count. Not one single time were there bad results from doing so.
    2. Read, read, read. Books about management, primarily. Goal is to finish at least 3 books this month. They say great leaders usually are well-read.  Result: Good. I finished The First 90 Days, Strengths-Based Leadership, and almost finished Now You're In Charge
    3. Do yoga at least 2x. This is so helpful in reducing stress and just good maintenance of my body.  Result: No good. Didn't even do one session. Wish I did though.
    4. As soon as I receive my devotional book in the mail, begin doing devotions each morning. Beginning goal is 4 out of 7 mornings each week. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. Result: Not good - did a few days and then trailed off. Hard to invest the few extra minutes in the morning when I'm already rushed. I'd like another shot at this next month.   
    5. In light of everything else I've got going on this month, I'm going to relax the writing goals a bit. My goal is to edit an additional 5 chapters. This will definitely be a challenge, but my book is still very important. Thinking ahead, that will leave 37 chapters to edit for November/December. I can get some done over Christmas shutdown, maybe 2/day x 10 days at the most. I might not be able to finish the first editing this year. We'll see.    Result: Actually did pretty well with this and edited all 5 chapters. Typically I spent at least one weekend day working on it, in spite of everything I had going on.                                      

    A Challenging Month Ahead

    October looks to be a challenging month.

    There's the big reason: I've gotten a promotion at work. It happened like this. I was encouraged to apply for an assistant manager opening back in June, and I decided not to apply. My reasons mostly revolved around not believing I was ready, but after some reflection I realized that probably few people actually feel ready, and that I might be passing up a big opportunity just because the timing wasn't convenient for me. Looking ahead, I also realized I was going to level out in terms of learning and challenge in my current role quickly. The stress was lower, but so was the challenge. It's been my experience in my career that the things I've been most afraid of doing usually end up being the most worthwhile.

    So when the next opening came in July, I applied. I got an interview, and I got the promotion. The news was officially released this week, and it feels surreal. I'm excited and terrified. But that's a whole other post.

    Work is soon going to be completely different. Instead of being responsible just for my individual performance, I'll be responsible for the performance of my team. People will be looking for me for guidance, and I need to provide it to them regardless of how I feel. The hours will be longer and the stress will be higher. In return, the potential to make a lasting impact on my company and my team is greater. Overall, I'm grateful and glad for the opportunity. But it does change things.

    There's also some other challenges coming up in October. I will be visiting family 3 out of the 5 weekends, a good activity but it can be a little draining. Another weekend, I will be supporting my husband at an all day food show, again, a good activity but draining. Finally and most importantly, my sister's final custody hearing is in late October. I am on the witness list, and may be called to testify again. This is obviously a very emotionally difficult task. Even if I don't testify, the whole ordeal will be extremely stressful. But I need to be strong for my sister.

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    Monthly Goals #14

    Well, at least we're not yet halfway through the month before goals are set! Maybe one of my goals should be being more timely with my goals.

    The majority of the remainder of this month will be spent in Japan, so the goals take that into account.
    1. Participate in end-of-project-stage party with co-workers and even enjoy it. Result. Done, and had a great time with good conversations. This is how these kind of events can and should be.
    2. Ready Cherry by Mary Karr, who is one of my favorite memoirists. Result: 75% complete. This book wasn't nearly as good as the two others by her that I've read: The Liars' Club and Lit. I think in part because there weren't any great obstacles to be overcome in this book, so the story wasn't very engaging. I'm okay with not achieving this goal, as it turned out to not be as valuable as I thought it would be. 
    3. Listen to 10 more Manager Tools podcasts. I've already listened to almost as many this month but I'm not counting those. These are useful for helping me build a new skillset. Done. I listened to these on the way to work and while working out. They are very helpful in defining the 'how' of management, such as giving verbatim examples of how to have challenging conversations. This is a worthwhile activity to continue. 
    4. Go for one trail run after I get back from Japan. I'm planning on running the one I usually do in November this year. Result: Didn't happen. I was pretty jet-lagged the weekend I got back from Japan, and didn't feel like doing much more than yoga and walking. I'm glad I went to yoga, though. 
    5. Talk to my sister 1-2 more times on the phone, including one time while in Japan. My relationship with her is so important. Result: Done, including a long conversation in Japan about her life goals. I can't describe how wonderful it is to have this incredible person in my life.
    6. Send Introduction to my book to a couple of family members to review. This is the first time I will have shared any of my book, so it's a big step. Result: Not done. 
    7. I'm not going to have a lot of time to write during the rest of this month. My goal is to complete Book Proposal draft and edit three more chapters. Stretch goal is to edit five more chapters. Result: Book proposal draft still not complete. Stretch goal complete of editing 5 more chapters, for a total of 8/50. 
    Reflection: Being in Japan for 10/15 days remaining in the month at the time I set these goals made it challenging to complete some of them. In the future, monthly goals need to be set in the beginning of the month to give enough time to achieve them. 

    Sunday, August 16, 2015

    Monthly Goals #13

    1. Complete interview to the best of my ability on Tuesday. Somewhat as a surprise, an opportunity for a promotion at work has come up. I wasn't expecting it or planning on it, but after much consideration and encouragement I decided to apply. I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but I am at peace with either getting the position or continuing in my current one. I'm really trying to commit whatever happens to God. If I get the promotion, then it is for Him. If I don't get it, then it is also for Him that I will continue in my current role.
    Result: Done. While I did OK with my portfolio, I don't think I did a good job of preparing for the questions. If I had to rate my performance, I'd give myself a 5.5 out of 10. Nothing exceptional. I've done a lot of reflecting on this, and have some strategies of how to do better next time. But, there may not be a next time - we'll have to wait and see if, despite not being my best performance, this was 'good enough.'

    2. Complete Chapter Summary for book. I will have some time for this while traveling to Japan, but that's about it so I will need to plan to get it done on the flight and between flights. This will be a challenging goal to achieve, but I think it will help with ensuring I have a strong outline, and it is needed as part of my book proposal.
    Result: Not done. I have, however, finished all of the raw content for the book. Each chapter is up to its targeted word count. Now what remains is:
    • Book Proposal (75% done)
    • Chapter Summary: (25% done).
    • Editing all 50 chapters (5% done)
    It is so overwhelming. Each day's work brings me closer to being ready to pursue publishing, and that's, quite frankly, daunting. But my decision to do this has already been made. I don't need to have second doubts. Sharing my story is one of my life purposes.

    3. Support the team during my Japan work trip.
    Result. I think I did an OK job of this. I got done almost everything I was tasked with getting done, and helped others out a little. There was one night I stayed until 8 to support someone else's activity (admittedly, I needed some of the output from it, but I did help more than was expected). This helped improve the working relationship between myself and my Japanese counterparts, which was an unexpected but welcome benefit.

    4. Enjoy a weekend with Tokyo with my husband, including a bike tour and dinner out. Make some memories. Don't stress, especially about eating. Just enjoy the time.
    Result: We had such a good time. I enjoyed several wonderful meals with my husband, and discovered the delicious delicacy that is ramen. I'm seriously hooked on the stuff. Overall, experiencing Japan with my husband was an incredible experience and we made some lifelong memories.

    5. Hike Mt. Fuji with my husband and coworkers. For real!
    Result: This did not happen due to weather, but to be honest, I don't regret it much. Fuji isn't a particularly scenic hike. It would have been a good team-building experience and would have earned us some bragging rights, but neither was enough motivation to overcome the cold, wet weather forecast and sacrificing a night of sleep. As it was, my husband and I enjoyed the extra weekend in Tokyo instead. Lesson? It's OK to give up goals sometimes, as long as it is a conscious decision and the pros and cons are considered.


    Sunday, August 2, 2015

    2015 New Year's Goals Mid-Year Report (from Japan!)

    I happen to be finishing this post from a coffee shop in Japan - I'm here for work, with the weekends free to explore the area, including finding places to write (see A Goal #1 below!)

    The first six months of 2015 have come and gone, and that means it's time for a status check on the New Year's goals and resolutions.  Periodic checkpoints are important for gauging progress - otherwise it's easy to let these goals slip from sight, and soon the year is over. So in the spirit of holding myself accountable toward reaching these goals, here's my mid-year report.


    A Goals
    1) Finish the first draft of my memoir.
    Key metric: Chapters with the bulk of their content completed (i.e. the main stories I want to include in the book) by the end of July shutdown. July-Dec: Editing, editing.

    Status: First, I've quantified the metric by setting a target overall word count of ~100,000 words. I picked this target based on benchmarking of similar memoirs. I've also established a framework of 50 chapters of about 2000 words each. The book is divided into Parts I and II.

    In addition to a word count goal for content, based on research I have found that I need a book proposal, chapter summary, and completed first three chapters. That will sure help with a boost of motivation if I'm fortunate enough to be accepted by a publisher at this stage. I don't know that I will, but I might as well start getting the rejection letters out of the way!
    With that said, here's where I am at:
    1. All 50 chapters have topics and most of their content.
    2. Word count: 96, 639 words.
    3. Book proposal about 40% done
    4. Chapter summary about 30% done
    5. Sample chapters done with content, just need editing.

    Based on this new information and not needing a completed manuscript prior to submitting query goals, I've modified my yearly goal to the following (side note: it's perfectly OK and recommended to modify targets as new information becomes known):
    1. Target word count: 100,000-120,000 words (ultimate word count is around 100,000, but word count should drop after editing)
    2. Book proposal complete
    3. Chapter summary outline complete (may tweak later as editing occurs)
    4. Sample chapters edited

    2016 can then be spent primarily editing all of the above and submitting query letters/proposals.

    How will I achieve these 2015 targets?
    1. Weekend work. I can spend usually at least 4 hours/weekend writing
    2. Japan travel. I can write some while on the 13 hr plan rides and at airports.
    3. Travel days / time-off: Every time I take a trip to Japan, I get 1-2 days off.
    4. Christmas shutdown: 1-2 weeks of no work during Christmas time. Some will be spent traveling to/from family, but there will be downtime as well.
    2) Invest in my important relationships. Husband, nieces, nephews, sisters, brother, parents.
    • Seeing my core family (brother & sis-in-law, parents, younger sister, older sisters and their families) several times this year. So far I have seen my mother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nieces and 2 nephews so far this year, and it's only January. Plans include (in chronological order):
      1.  Visit to see my sister in February. I've seen her 4 times so far this year, including a week long visit here where we made all kinds of memories. My goal is to see her at least three more times this year.
      2. Celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her, her husband, another older sister, and her husband. I've never been to Vegas so it will be interesting to experience a new place. Done.
      3. My college friend's wedding, which is near my sister so I will get to see her as well Done.
      4. Celebrating the same sister's birthday with my mom and sisters  for a girls' weekend in Asheville, NC. Done - it was fun. I need to think about what I want to do for my 30th next year.
      5. Spending a long weekend with my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and sister this summer. I love hanging out with them, and want to be proactive about making that happen. Done!
      6. Thanksgiving with my parents in SC Should happen. I also saw my family for a day trip to Knoxville in July.
      7. Christmas with my husband's family in AR  Should happen, aided by all the frequent flyer miles I've been accumulating on my trips to Japan. 
      8. Probably another visit to see my brother around the holidays Maybe during winter shutdown. 
    • Sending birthday cards to all those whom I can't celebrate with in person. I know it feels so nice when I get cards on my birthday. It's a simple thing to do to remind those I care about that I love them.    I sent cards to my dad, my stepmother, my friend Katie, and my brother so far. Remaining this year are my grandmother, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and sister.
    • Continuing to be a part of my little sister's life, and witnessing her journey toward recovery. I will help where I can, but I acknowledge every recovery is different.  Yes - she is doing amazing and so is our relationship. We text and/or talk almost every day. I do my absolute best to pick up whenever she calls and to be there as much as I can. I've seen her several times this year, and each time our relationship benefits. I have another visit planned this fall, and maybe around her birthday in December as well (might take her skiing for the first time!)
    • Dates with my husband, spending dedicated time for conversation and reflection. Also, hiking, particularly some overnight hikes. Something special to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary this year. Every year I realize more and more how blessed I am to have my husband. We average about once every other week. It's been fun and we both agree it's a great venue for sustained conversation. 

    B goals
    • Be more caring and helpful at work, and invest in relationships with my coworkers. Continued technical competence and learning is important too. One of the most rewarding experiences I've had was mentoring a new engineer who became my replacement.  I'm also trying to be more social - one thing that I did to help with this was plan and host a going-away dinner for a favorite manager. This was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but it was well worth it. Recently, I've been encouraged to seek promotion, and after some reflection, I believe that I can learn the skills to do well at the next level. It's scary, and I don't 'feel' ready, but nonetheless, I'm going to go for it.
    • Continued involvement in our church, particularly our small group. Small group has disbanded as the leader has left our church. But there's rumor of a step study starting soon that I really want to join. We've now been going to this church for six years. I no longer volunteer in the nursery, so I'm going to begin helping out at Celebrate Recovery by cooking the meal about once a month. 
    • Switch to a project-based role in my department in May/June. Work days will be much more predictable and less chaotic than they are with my current production-based role. Done, and it's definitely been nice to have more predictable days. I'm learning new skills in this role.
    • Work less when possible. I spend too much time at work. We don't need the money, and it doesn't make me more productive.  My goal is to take at least 15 vacation days in 2015, which will require me to use some of my overtime for vacation time, instead of getting paid for it like I did in 2014. I have worked less overtime so far in 2015 than I did in 2014. I try to leave work at a reasonable time - some days this is not feasible, but when I have a choice I am more often choosing to put a "comma" on the day and leave. This has helped me actually become more productive during the time I am at work when there is more of a fixed end than an open one. I have switched my overtime bucket to earning comp time instead of more money. 
    • Begin planning a trip for 2016 to Napa Valley with my husband for our anniversary.  Haven't done anything toward this yet except consider Sonoma Valley as well. 
    • Train for and run another trail race. Not a big deal if I don't do this, but it would be nice. Been slowly doing more off-road running as the weather is getting nice (did one yesterday, in fact). I haven't picked a trail race yet, but I might just run the one I usually do in November.
    • Possibly going to court again to testify on my sister's behalf  The hearing has been scheduled in October. I'm not going to worry about it right now, but I know He will give me strength to do what is needed when the time comes. 
    • More Japan travel, including a hike to the summit of Mt. Fuj! Looks like there will be several trips to Japan this year. I've already been on two. It's starting to get a little old, but it is an interesting experience to have longer trips in a different country. Mt. Fuji looks like it will happen in a few weeks.

    Overall, I think the mid-year report is a good one, and that there is a positive outlook for the end-of-year. My book has progressed more this year than in any year so far - I'm really starting to feel the momentum. I'm also starting to feel more trepidation as this means I'm getting closer to possible publication, but I keep reminding myself of the purpose of the book, which is to show what God did in my life. It's just one story, but maybe someone needs to hear it. I'll keep moving forward in faith.


    Sunday, April 5, 2015

    2015 New Year's Goals: A Quarterly Report

    I recently attended a talk given by Kim Hodous ("The Kitchen Table CEO") who started a small business making jewelry at her kitchen table that grew into a seven figure company (you can check out her story here). One of her key points was that while it's great to set yearly goals, it's important to review them more frequently to keep them from sliding out of focus. She even recommended keeping one's goals on a piece of paper and carrying it around everywhere for spontaneous review opportunities! I agree it's valuable to review my goals on a frequent basis - it's very helpful not just for focus but also for evaluating progress. We monitor "key performance indicators" in our professional lives - it makes sense to do it for personal goals as well.

    In the spirit of this, here's my Quarterly Report! Updates in blue.

    A Goals (in order of priority)
    1) Finish the first draft of my memoir.
    • Key metric: Chapters with the bulk of their content completed (i.e. the main stories I want to include in the book) by the end of July shutdown. July-Dec: Editing, editing.  Status: Main chapters topics have been assigned with the exception of a few at the end. There are about 100 chapters (wow!). 75% of the chapters are more than 50% complete in terms of content (not editing). The main stories I want to include are in there for the first half of the book. The second is a little farther behind. I need to focus on content creation and less on editing to reach the July goal.
    2) Invest in my important relationships. Husband, nieces, nephews, sisters, brother, parents.
    • Seeing my core family (brother & sis-in-law, parents, younger sister, older sisters and their families) several times this year. So far I have seen my mother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nieces and 2 nephews so far this year, and it's only January. Plans include (in chronological order):
      1.  Visit to see my sister in February. Done, as well as another visit in March. Our relationship has deepened directly as a result of these visits. Both times we've had good conversations and just enjoyed spending time together. My favorite memory from the first visit was rollerblading together and seeing the look of pure joy on her face that was reflected by my own. On the second visit, I had an almost surreal experience hiking to the top of a hill and sitting with her while listening to music - it was amazing. I can't believe how blessed I am to have her in my life.
      2.  Celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her, her husband, another older sister, and her husband. I've never been to Vegas so it will be interesting to experience a new place. Done, although it was kind of a mediocre experience. I enjoyed seeing my sisters and making some fun memories with them, but I didn't care for Vegas and there were a lot of people at the house that I didn't know. I kind of had this image in my mind of it being time for just my sisters and me but that wasn't the case. On the positive side, it was nice to experience warm weather in the middle of winter and some of the sights in Vegas were interesting. My favorite experience was the Cirque de Soleil show - first I had been to and the acrobatics and music were amazing.
      3. My college friend's wedding, which is near my sister so I will get to see her as well Done! So happy we went and an added bonus was seeing some of my Virginia Tech comrades for the first time since graduation six years ago. It was very special to me to be able to be at Matt's wedding - it was a beautiful, simple ceremony held in the Old Town Hall in Fairfax, VA on Pi Day - a fitting day for a mechanical engineer to marry a math major!
      4. Celebrating the same sister's birthday with my mom and sisters  for a girls' weekend in Asheville, NC. Busy planning it - should be a lot of fun.
      5. Spending a long weekend with my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and sister this summer. I love hanging out with them, and want to be proactive about making that happen. Also planning this - looking at week of June 8. We'll fly my sister out here, go hiking/camping, then drive up to our brother's place and hang out there for a few days.
      6. Thanksgiving with my parents in SC
      7. Christmas with my husband's family in AR
      8. Probably another visit to see my brother around the holidays 
      9.  Possibly going to SC for the 4th of July weekend. One of my sisters is moving down there this summer so it will be a good time to see them again as well as my parents and other sister's family. In addition, we have a couple of friends down there we'd like to see too.
    • Sending birthday cards to all those whom I can't celebrate with in person. I know it feels so nice when I get cards on my birthday. It's a simple thing to do to remind those I care about that I love them.   I sent a birthday card to my dad but I don't think anyone else yet. Hmm, I need to get a calendar together for this. 
    • Continuing to be a part of my little sister's life, and witnessing her journey toward recovery. I will help where I can, but I acknowledge every recovery is different.  Yes. So much progress - it would take several more blog posts to describe all that we have learned and shared together. The growth of our relationship has brought me  indescribable joy.
    • Dates with my husband, spending dedicated time for conversation and reflection. Also, hiking, particularly some overnight hikes. Something special to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary this year. Every year I realize more and more how blessed I am to have my husband. We've been to our favorite winery several times already. I absolutely love the time for conversation with him without distractions. It's fun to talk about a variety of topics from our careers, family, his business, vacation ideas, and anything else. The wine is good too! We're thinking about an overnight in Louisville for our wedding anniversary, although an overnight at a winery might be just the thing. There's a theme here!
    B goals
    • Be more caring and helpful at work, and invest in relationships with my coworkers. Continued technical competence and learning is important too. One of the experiences I have had is mentoring a new specialist - it's been interesting to transition from being the student to a teacher. I've worked hard at investing in relationships at work. It's a balance between helping when it's appropriate and taking on responsibility that isn't mine. I still have a lot of room for improvement here. For technical competence, it seems like every day I am learning something new. I have attended one social activity outside of work and enjoyed it (a German restaurant/bar where we had dinner and played darts). Wouldn't mind doing that again!
    • Continued involvement in our church, particularly our small group. We've done small group 2 times so far this year. Haven't been very involved in church activities unfortunately. I think I would like to plan another church hike like we have done in years past.
    • Switch to a project-based role in my department in May/June. Work days will be much more predictable and less chaotic than they are with my current production-based role My transition in May should be finalized soon, and I've already begun some handover activity (both toward my new role and handing over from my current role). I'm looking forward to more predictable days.
    • Work less when possible. I spend too much time at work. We don't need the money, and it doesn't make me more productive.  My goal is to take at least 15 vacation days in 2015, which will require me to use some of my overtime for vacation time, instead of getting paid for it like I did in 2014. I have worked less overtime so far in 2015 than I did in 2014. I try to leave work at a reasonable time - some days this is not feasible, but when I have a choice I am more often choosing to put a "comma" on the day and leave. This has helped me actually become more productive during the time I am at work (I know, shocker)
    • Begin planning a trip for 2016 to Napa Valley with my husband for our anniversary.Haven't done anything more than talk about it yet, but still wanting to do it. We might look into Sonoma Valley too, based on recommendation from my boss.
    • Train for and run another trail race. Not a big deal if I don't do this, but it would be nice. Been slowly doing more off-road running as the weather is getting nice (did one yesterday, in fact). I haven't picked a trail race yet, but I think I will target one in September/October as well as the usual one I run in November.
    • Possibly going to court again to testify on my sister's behalf This might not even need to happen again, which would be just fine by me, although I am prepared to do so if it does.
    • Possibly moving to a slightly larger house that is hopefully closer to work. Due to my husband's work situation, this probably won't be happening this year. A positive is that I'm therefore going to move forward with planting a garden - this year will be the biggest one yet!
    • More Japan travel, including a hike to the summit of Mt. Fuj! Looks like there will be several trips to Japan this year - I am so excited.
    Conclusion: I think I'm making decent progress toward the goals. There is plenty of room for improvement but that is good - I would question setting these particular goals if there wasn't. Next up: Mid-year report in June!



    Sunday, January 18, 2015

    Looking Forward: A New Year's Goals Post for 2015

    2015. What does this year have in store? So much of life is unpredictable. Some of it good, like promotions or marriage. Sometimes it's something that has the potential to be devastating, like car wrecks or cancer. There can be 'lucky' opportunities that come up, and there can be unfortunate setbacks. There's a lot that it is outside of our direct control.

    Last year, I had a combination of both with my youngest sister coming back into my life after speaking up about the abuse she also suffered at the hands of our mother. My father got temporary custody of her, and for now she is safe. But it wasn't easy to achieve that. From me, it required a lot of mental anguish, painful decisions, and ultimately having to face my mother again - this time, by testifying against her in court. The experience was unpredictable, but yet there is no doubt that God's hand was in this. It was necessary for my sister's freedom, yet difficult as a painful reality had to be faced and handled wisely. It brought me back to face my past again, this time with the maturity of an adult but also the lingering fear of the helpless child of long ago.

    I believe that God can ultimately turn any experience into something good, even when it seems nearly impossible. Even the entire experience of humanity, which has its moments of joy and happiness but is marred by suffering and eventual death, will be transformed into something beautiful by Him. It will end well because it leads to His glory.

    Speaking of individual experiences, it's time to look forward to what's next in 2015. So much cannot be planned, but some of it can be, and I want to seize the opportunity to do what I can with what is within my control.

    A Goals
      1) Finish the first draft of my memoir. A manuscript ready to send in to publishers would be even better. This means I will need to spend a good chunk of my free time working on it. No big new projects until this one is done.
      • Key metric: Chapters with the bulk of their content completed (i.e. the main stories I want to include in the book) by the end of July shutdown. July-Dec: Editing, editing. 
      2) Invest in my important relationships. Husband, nieces, nephews, sisters, brother, parents.
      • Seeing my core family (brother & sis-in-law, parents, younger sister, older sisters and their families) several times this year. So far I have seen my mother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nieces and 2 nephews so far this year, and it's only January. Plans include (in chronological order):
        1.  Visit to see my sister in February
        2.  Celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her, her husband, another older sister, and her husband. I've never been to Vegas so it will be interesting to experience a new place.
        3. My college friend's wedding, which is near my sister so I will get to see her as well 
        4. Celebrating the same sister's birthday with my mom and sisters  for a girls' weekend in Asheville, NC
        5. Spending a long weekend with my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and sister this summer. I love hanging out with them, and want to be proactive about making that happen.
        6. Thanksgiving with my parents in SC
        7. Christmas with my husband's family in AR
        8. Probably another visit to see my brother around the holidays
      • Sending birthday cards to all those whom I can't celebrate with in person. I know it feels so nice when I get cards on my birthday. It's a simple thing to do to remind those I care about that I love them.   
      • Continuing to be a part of my little sister's life, and witnessing her journey toward recovery. I will help where I can, but I acknowledge every recovery is different.  
      • Dates with my husband, spending dedicated time for conversation and reflection. Also, hiking, particularly some overnight hikes. Something special to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary this year. Every year I realize more and more how blessed I am to have him.
      B goals
      • Be more caring and helpful at work, and invest in relationships with my coworkers. Continued technical competence and learning is important too. 
      • Continued involvement in our church, particularly our small group. 
      • Switch to a project-based role in my department in May/June. Work days will be much more predictable and less chaotic than they are with my current production-based role
      • Work less when possible. I spend too much time at work. We don't need the money, and it doesn't make me more productive.  My goal is to take at least 15 vacation days in 2015, which will require me to use some of my overtime for vacation time, instead of getting paid for it like I did in 2014.
      • Begin planning a trip for 2016 to Napa Valley with my husband for our anniversary.
      • Train for and run another trail race. Not a big deal if I don't do this, but it would be nice.
      • Possibly going to court again to testify on my sister's behalf
      • Possibly moving to a slightly larger house that is hopefully closer to work. 
      • More Japan travel, including a hike to the summit of Mt. Fuj!
       This is the last year of my twenties - I hope it is a good one and I intend to try to make it so.


      Thursday, January 1, 2015

      2014 Reflection

      2014 was a good year in some ways, and a tough year in others. Let's get through the tough first:

      The tough:
      • I "volunteered" (aka said 'yes' without fully understanding the extent of what I was undertaking) to coordinating our entire 300+ person departmental portion of our plant's open house. It was an overwhelming task that took hundreds of hours from my already overburdened work responsibilities. It was incredibly stressful and there was not much benefit to my professional growth nor really a significant long-term contribution to my department. I did get to meet and work with more people than I normally would have, which was good. Overall, it was not a great experience though, despite some positives. In the future, I will be much more careful before jumping to commit to something in an attempt to please.
      • Testifying on court about the abuse on behalf of my little sister. 
      • Might seem like a small thing but I got my hair cut WAY to short. Never again!

      The good:

      My little sister
      • My 13 year old sister, with whom I had no contact for 7 years for a complicated set of reasons, came back into my life due to her courage in speaking the truth. Her bravery motivated me to speak my own truth on her behalf and confront some of my demons. And now, she is in my life again, by the grace of God. I did not expect this blessing this year, and I receive it - her- with gratitude.   
      • Hugging her again for the first time in 7 years.
      • Rollerblading for the first time together. Independently, this was one of our favorite past-times that we didn't even know we shared.  
      • Getting to know the incredible, funny, smart, and strong girl she is. I am blessed to witness her own journey toward freedom and recovery.
      My brother and sister-in-law
      • My relationship with my brother deepened. I really came to a better understanding that his experience growing up was different than mine, and that was OK. It didn't threaten my memories or sense of what's real. 
      • Wedding dress-shopping with my sister-in-law-to-be, and the next day early morning coffee and conversation with my brother.
      • Their wedding in May. My brother was SO happy, and having this lovely lady as a sister-in-law has been a huge blessing to me. I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness as I watched my sister-in-law walk down the aisle. They are perfect for each other, a love story that was fifteen years in the making. 
      • Having my brother and sister-in-law over and laughing and playing games until late at night.
      • Pre-Christmas get-together at their house. Playing with their pets. Sitting on the couch until the wee hours of the morning laughing hysterically at funny TV shows. 
      My husband
      • He quit his job and came back home. OK, this warrants some explanation: We had been separated due to his job during the week since August 2013, and it was really hard to be apart. After some prayer and reflection, he left the job in October 2014 (it was supposed to be a year-long gig, so it was time). Having him home has been comforting. We don't want to be apart like that again.
      • Continue to learn how to love and how much I love my husband. God was very good to me in giving me him.
      • Enjoying wine and live music with my husband. We found a nearby winery we really like, and sharing that time and conversation with him is a very pleasant past time we've both come to enjoy.
      • Christmas break together. We had a stay-cation and I enjoyed a routine of sleeping in, drinking gourmet coffee, making pancakes, writing until lunch, working out, more writing, then evenings binge-watching TV shows with my husband. So pleasant. 
      My job/career
      • I continued to learn and do reasonably well in my 'new' job (I had started in Sept 2013). There was internal and external confirmation that this role is a good fit for my skills and ability. After a few years of trying things after college, it seems that I've narrowed down what is a good match.
      • Getting better at my job and getting positive feedback from multiple people. There is a lot of satisfaction in doing good work.
      • Two mentoring relationships at work that helped me grow.
      • Going to a nearby university with some coworkers to talk about careers in engineering with students 
      My spiritual health:
      • We began to get involved in a small group at church, which had been one of our spiritual/community goals for a while. It's been slow, but we are forming relationships with other believers. I particularly enjoy the conversations we had regarding what we were studying. It feels good to be part of a community.  
      • Continuing to work with my counselor on recovery and healing. Despite the relapse, I did make progress in my emotional and spiritual health 
      My fitness
      • Hikes. Lots and lots of hikes with my husband
      • I began doing a lot more trail-running, including one race. I really enjoy it, and it doesn't hurt my hip as much as regular running. Some of the happiest times I had were cruising down a trail, navigating the terrain and anticipating what's around the next bend
      My family
      • Having fun at a family wedding with my husband, sisters, brothers-in-law, parents, nieces, and nephews
      • Sleepovers with my niece. They are so much fun.
      • Having our Christmas meal at out house with my husband, parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew. It was so fun. I really enjoyed preparing the house and meal for everyone. It felt so peaceful and perfect, from playing Go Fish with my nieces to laughing at dinner with the adults. I love my family.
      Other:
      • My sister's courage also enabled some healing in my relationship with my father. The relationship is still tenuous but it is better, and helped me learn to extend the same grace that has been extended to me.
      • One of the girls that was in the youth group I co-led when I was 19 moved to the same city as me, and it was really neat to reconnect with her. She has been a source of encouragement to me. 
      • Becoming friends with one of my coworkers who went through some similar experiences as I did. We connected before we knew that about each other, but we have a deep bond now.
      It was a difficult year in some ways, but listing it out, I can definitely see the good far outweighs the tough. I can definitively say that 2014 was a good, blessed year.