Be Present: A Look Back at My 2019 Goals

Jan 4, 2020

My focus for 2019 was to be present. This was prompted by a desire to truly connect with my kids, husband, friends, neighbors, and the world around me. Little did I know that the year would bring some real challenges where an ability to be present and live in the moment sometimes made all the difference between a good and a bad day.

I spent the first half of the year working diligently on my goals only to abandon almost all of them in August. Interestingly, the ones I held onto were those I had originally put in place in an attempt to keep me anchored and present. The projects were forgotten; the habits were life-saving. 

In November, I began to resurface. The intensity with which we lived August, September, and October had relaxed into something much more manageable and quiet. I revisited my goals and decided to make a real effort to complete them before the end of the year.

Nothing gives me a thrill quite like accomplishing goals, so I ended 2019 on a high note by checking off three of my goals in the final week. It was a mad dash to the finish line, and it felt good. 

Still, even with all of that pulsing ambition, it wasn't enough to pull out a perfect score. I'm okay with that. No, really. I just took a moment to think about it, and I feel content with my efforts. I tried my best, but I didn't turn into a maniac trying to get everything done in a rushed or superficial way (something that has possibly happened in the past). 

Now that the year has ended, a little reflection is in order: some confessions, some excuses, some celebrations. Using the same format as when I first presented them in January, here are the categories, my goals, and my thoughts on each one:

Habits I Wanted to Make
  • Edit photos on a weekly basis--I instituted this habit at the very beginning of the year, and I stuck with it, even during the time that Aaron was in the hospital. Sometimes I was late by a week or two, but for the most part, I stayed on top of the editing (with the exception of the end of August, which I somehow didn't realize I'd never edited until I was looking back through photos this week). It has helped that I almost never use my real camera anymore so all of my editing can be done on my phone while I'm riding in the car or waiting in line or sitting at a soccer game. This is a habit I plan to continue in 2020.
  • Write 2-4 paragraphs for "This and That" posts at the end of each week. I tried to dedicate some time every Sunday to summing up any important happenings or anecdotes. This made it so much easier to compile my "This and That" posts at the end of each month. Both this goal and the one above confirmed something that I already knew about myself: I would rather work on a goal in small, consistent steps than have it consume my entire life for hours (or days, as the case might be). In December I neglected this habit, which I deeply regretted when it came time to write my monthly update. 
  • Write book review within three days of finishing the book--Or how about, stop writing book reviews altogether? This goal was going so well until the summer. I'd like to blame it on all of the medical things that took over my time, but to be honest, I had already begun to slip before then. We'll see what happens in 2020, but overall I'm feeling a less pressing need to record all of my thoughts after finishing a book. 
Places I Wanted to Visit
  • Go on a family vacation in the summer--We went to Lake Tahoe the week before Aaron was diagnosed. I'm sure we would have cancelled it if we'd known what was going on in his body at the time. But we didn't, and it was a blissful five days with my brother's family. Besides that, we also took our kids to Disneyland, went to southern Utah for spring break, and took a couple's trip to New York City. Not too shabby before all of our plans for adventure came to a screeching halt in August.

  • Take my kids to the Joseph Smith exhibit at the Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City--I'm not even going to pretend with this one. I didn't do it. The sad thing is, it wouldn't have been at all hard to do (especially pre-August), but I just never prioritized it. But with 2020 being the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's First Vision, it's probably better that we waited anyway. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
  • Try new restaurants that are close to home--I failed to keep a list, but these are the places I remember: Caputo's, Meier's, Layla, Iced, Copper Kitchen, Real Taqueria, A Pig and a Jelly Jar, Harbor, Cheddaburger, and Tradition. Out of all of those, my favorite was probably Copper Kitchen, mostly because their beet salad basically blew my mind, and I dream about it more often than I should admit. This was a really fun goal and one that I'm sure we'll continue in 2020 (in fact, we already have plans to go to a new place tonight). 
  • Go to a Utah temple I haven't been to before--I went to the Draper temple with my friend, Sarah, and was planning to just count that for my goal (even though I felt like it was cheating just a little bit since I had been to a sealing there previously). But the temple I had in mind when I made this goal was actually the Provo City Center Temple, and I had a hard time giving that up. So five days before the New Year, I convinced my mom to go with me, and we had a lovely afternoon in the temple. 

Projects I Wanted to Complete
  • Sew a dress for myself--I ended up sewing two dresses for myself. The first one was made out of the wrong fabric and felt like I was wearing a stiff burlap sack (plus, just when I was almost done with it, I noticed a big flaw running through the fabric). So I purchased a nice lightweight linen when we were in New York and remade the exact same dress. The result was much better, and it is going to be the perfect neutral canvas to wear some of my knitted pieces with (see below). Also, it maybe rekindled my love of sewing (if only I didn't have to drag out all of my equipment every time I want to make something!).
Dress #1

 Dress #2
  • Knit a lace cowl--This is my crowning achievement of 2019, or at least it feels that way. I fell in love with the Prism cowl back in 2017. I attempted to make it but ended up ripping it out in total frustration after just seven rows. After a year of other projects (including some lace and chart reading), I decided I was ready to tackle it again. I cast on in March and wove in my final end on December 31st. It represents close to 200 hours of focused work (no mindless knitting here), and I am insanely proud of it. (Plus, it pairs perfectly with my handmade dress!)

  • Landscape the front of our house--I was overthinking it, and then one day in the spring, Mike just decided to buy a bunch of random bushes and plant them in the front and back yards. It isn't perfect, but sometimes done is better than perfect. (I'm excited to see how much they've grown in the spring . . . or how many we've inadvertently killed.)

  • Decorate Ian's bedroom--I love decorated spaces, but I am not a decorator. I just don't seem to have a vision for it. I don't know how to use space very creatively, and I am very distrustful of my own taste and preferences. So in the end, I didn't change as much as I wanted to, but I still: purchased a new chair, swapped out the rug, found a perfect bedside lamp, rearranged the furniture, painted the walls (credit goes to Mike), and hung up pictures. I still would like to find a good way to display/store picture books, hang a mirror on the opposite wall, and possibly do some kind of window treatment (although I don't want it to make the room feel smaller . . .). Also, Ian is going to be moving out of his crib in the next couple of months so that will change things, too. But for now, here is a before and after shot.

  • Read Saints: The Standard of Truth, Volume 1--This was the only goal I made that had anything to do with reading. I listened to this book off and on throughout the year. I found myself needing to take breaks from it because, quite frankly, it was rather faith-shaking and disturbing. I think I grew up with a rather glorified view of the early pioneers and founders of my faith, and although it's true that they made a lot of sacrifices and had strong testimonies, they also made a lot of mistakes and succumbed to many human frailties. I am still wrestling with how to move forward with some of this information. 
Things I Wanted to Do to Be More Present
  • Notice the eye color of the person I'm talking to--If you've noticed me gazing uncomfortably into your eyes over the past year, this is why. Haha, I'm just kidding. I actually dropped this goal after the first month or two, but I think it had the long-term benefit of increasing my attention to others. I maybe didn't always consciously notice the color of their eyes, but I noticed other things about them, and that helped me in my sincere interactions with them. 
  • Observe what the sky looks like every day--This might have been my very favorite goal of 2019. What a gift it was to consciously notice the sky every day. I saw things I never have before and felt sweet gratitude for the world I live in and the beauties all around me. I would encourage everyone to just take a minute to look, really look, at the sky each day and see how it makes you feel.

  • Limit phone use by setting weekly time and usage goals--Oh, this goal. I tried so many different things to break away from the chains of my phone. And many of them worked. But all of them felt really restrictive--not like I was becoming less addicted to my phone, but more like I was forcing myself not to look at it. I do much better at abstaining than moderating. But abstaining doesn't really seem like an option in today's world, at least not completely. Yes, I could delete my accounts on Instagram and Facebook. Yes, I could switch back over to a flip phone so that I wouldn't have access to my email or the internet. But what I really want is to still be able to have my phone for when I really need it but not feel its constant pull to use it and look at it. Here are some of the effective things I did to help me manage my time on my phone: daily blackout times, not looking at my phone after I went to bed, earning social media time by listening to a talk first, setting a time limit on certain apps, deleting apps off of my phone, and staying off Instagram on Sundays. Like I said above, these things have worked, but they haven't changed my actual inclination or desire, and that's what I really want.
  • Write down three things I'm grateful for every night--I was really good with this one for the first month or two of the year, and then I reinstituted it when Aaron was in the hospital. But other than that, I haven't done the best with actually writing down my gratitude (which is kind of funny since I'm already writing in my journal every night so it would be so easy to do). I believe in the power of gratitude though, so I'm trying to figure out a way to make it a tangible part of my 2020.
  • Continue with weekly special time with my kids--I wrote an entire blog post in October 2018 about my love of one-on-one special time with each of my kids. Soon after writing that post however, some of the boys started to resist it (Maxwell had already been complaining about it for quite some time). I think I made that goal in the hopes that I could power through and save it, but instead, I decided to let it go. It was meant to be a time each week that my kids looked forward to, but it seemed to be having the opposite effect. So instead, I decided to not force my kids into my own rigid ideas of quality time but rather listen to them when they asked for something and then do my very best to agree to whatever it was. If one of them wanted to play a game (or jump on the tramp or read or talk or make something), I tried to say yes. It wasn't easy for me; I like things to be on the schedule so I can plan for them; and I don't like taking a break if I'm in the middle of something that feels important. But being spontaneous felt more genuine. Maybe that will change this year. I don't know. But for 2019, that's what felt right. 
I remember at the beginning of 2019 feeling rather silly for choosing "Be Present" as my theme. It seemed a little cliche. But I couldn't deny that I felt drawn, almost compelled, to choose it. 

As I committed to be present every day, a funny thing happened. I delighted in the very simplest of things: clouds cradled between mountain peaks, a brilliant orange sky on Halloween night, a poplar tree that inexplicably wouldn't drop its leaves (even though its two neighbors did), an old house in minty paint that I never noticed before even though I'd driven past it a hundred times, the smell of pine in the air. These things have brought me an inordinate amount of joy.

And the thing is, they have always been there. I used to notice them only when they were highlighted in some way. But this year, I sought them out, and they rushed to show themselves to me. It's been kind of magical actually. 

Now I'm turning my attention to 2020. I have my theme; I've narrowed down most of my goals. I'm ready to commit to something new.


  1. This is great! I am trying to narrow down my goals for this year as well so its nice to get some good ideas! Also I love your sky goal! That is one thing I absolutely love about plein air painting- it forces me to notice so many details of this beautiful world that I normally don't! :)

  2. I love your dresses! Also, I understand what you are saying about Saints. I chose not to read it because I knew it would upset me and I didn't want to deal with it.

  3. Loved reading this post and your recap of your year's goals. I love looking at the sky too. And Ian's room is just lovely. I'm amazed by all that you've managed to accomplish during this very busy year with unexpected challenges. Kudos to you! And I'll be waiting to hear about your word for 2020.


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