Practicing Parents

A Syllabus of Ideas and Goals and Dreams


~by Jill Clingan

I live well by a syllabus.  When I was in college and graduate school, I studied my classes’ syllabi with both a great deal of anticipation and a great deal of apprehension.  At the beginning of each semester, I would sit on my living room couch and carefully copy each assignment into my student planner so that the reading assignments, papers, and tests for the next four months of my life were neatly recorded.  I might have felt terribly overwhelmed as I looked ahead to what had to be accomplished during that semester, but at least I knew what was coming.  I had my scheduled lists of goals and accomplishments that needed to be met, and I knew that, somehow (and sometimes with weeping and gnashing of teeth), each assignment would get done.

I have often said since then that I wish I had a syllabus for my day-to-day life.  How much more organized I would be–how much more I could accomplish–if I had my life’s tasks handed to me on neat, stapled pages organized into weeks, days, assignments, and points awarded per assignment.

I am sure that there are time management books out there written on how to manage one’s life like a college class, and I should probably read them one of these days, but I tend to get overwhelmed when I read time management books.  Or I get bitter (see the last essay I wrote for Practicing Families).

But I thought that if I could come up with an idea on my own, as amateur as it might be, there was a chance I might follow through.

When Christmas ended and the New Year approached, I started the inevitable New Year’s Resolution conversation in my head.  One early morning, when I was journaling about potential ideas and goals and dreams for the new year, I got to thinking…what were my ideas and goals and dreams last year?

And I had no idea.  I am sure I had Ideas and Goals and Dreams, but I couldn’t remember a single one.  I pulled my journal from a year ago off of my bookshelf, but that journal was one of two I somehow dropped in my pond over the past year, so the pages…and the Ideas and Goals and Dreams…were really blurry and hard to read.

journal in water

And anyway, last year was kind of blurry and hard to read.  I kind of feel like last year, instead of being a year of Ideas and Goals and Dreams, was, quite frankly, just a year of survival.  Matt’s job was incredibly stressful.  My hormones crashed.  Etc.

So I wanted this year to be different.  I wanted to come up with some Ideas and Goals and Dreams that I would not only remember a year from now, but that I just might have accomplished a year from now. Instead of coming up with a list on my own, I enlisted the help of Matt, and on New Year’s Day we came up with a list of things we wanted to accomplish this year.  Some of our Ideas and Goals and Dreams are individual, some are for us as a couple, and some are for us as a whole family.  We have some rather vague items on our list, like this one: “Adulting is overrated.”  But most of them are much more concrete and attainable.  Here are a few of our goals and how we are striving to accomplish them.

Get a master calendar.  This item is actually the only one we have crossed off of our list.  We went by an office supply store one day, picked up a dry-erase yearly calendar that we could hang on the inside of our coat closet, and started filling it out.  Most of the stuff we wrote on the calendar hasn’t happened yet (like painting the basement…and the kitchen…and…), but some other stuff has like…

Monthly family trip to the city.  Granted, it’s only the beginning of February, but we have managed two trips into the “city” already, and that’s about as many intentional trips as we made all of last year.  We don’t live that far from the city, in case you are imagining us washing and ironing our Sunday best, hitching up our horse and buggy, and passing into the city limits with eyes agape.  But ever since we moved to the country, even though it’s only thirty miles outside of the city limits, it’s been harder to manage trips to the Country Club Plaza or the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or our favorite coffee shop. But a few weeks ago we met my parents at an Italian restaurant on the Plaza and then wandered in and out of stores and under the Plaza’s famous Christmas lights for a couple of hours, and this past weekend we visited the Chinese New Year celebration at the Nelson.  So yay us.

KonMari our house and lives.  This one I have to break down into segments, but I have managed to KonMari my clothes, my books, and my kitchen, which has been rather life-changing.  This week the master calendar tells me I need to have all of my papers KonMari’ed by Sunday.  {We’ll see….}

Exercise consistently.  When the holidays happened exercise quit happening, but now Matt and I exercise together five(ish) mornings a week, and I am feeling really good about that accomplishment.

I could keep going (we have plenty more goals), but here’s the most important one of all, I think:

Saturday meeting–discuss dreams and administrative stuff in hot tub with espresso.  

Maybe you don’t have a hot tub or you don’t like espresso.  But I am pretty sure that if we didn’t have this meeting every week, none of this (or little of this) would be happening.  Every week we go through each item on our list.  Every week we get closer to ticking something off of that list.  It makes me look forward to this week…this month…this year.

I realize it’s sort of late for a post on New Year’s Resolutions.  But then again, it’s not, really.  Despite the fact that Valentine’s Day can be kind of fun and that my birthday is on the last(ish) day of this month, February kind of stinks.  It’s still cold.  It’s still gray.  Spring seems eternally far away.  So perhaps this would be a good time to look ahead with a little hope, a little espresso, and an encouraging dose of Ideas and Goals and Dreams.

{And if you worry about your list falling into your hot tub or pond or bathtub, Target sells a notebook that’s waterproof.}


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