My 2018 reviewed: A year of chickens, more or less

When I look back at 2018, I see how my theme for the year, Prepare, made sense. In January, I thought of it as using 2018 to prepare for entering my 50s in 2019. In June, after I lost my dad, I thought of it as preparing myself for whatever may come: loss or acquisition, joy or pain, health or sickness.

Here’s a quick overview of what my year looked like.

Animal Math

We increased our animal count to 15 with an impulse buy of spring chickens. “Peep peep peep,” they said. We brought them home in a box and built them a house with scrap wood, horse jump standards, an old storm door and creativity.

Little did I know we would have a Problem with Roosters. Of our seven chicks, we ended up with three roosters. Maybe they will get along because they were raised together, I thought, hopeful after reading online articles about roosters that got along. Maybe they will be like brothers.

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They grew big and strong with bright red combs and critical eyes. They began to crow. They were like brothers…Cain and Abel-type brothers. Now we had three roosters that wanted to start a death match daily, and one chicken house.

A good side of social media is it allows you to find people with more chicken-raising experience who are willing to take your roosters. We found a new home for the roosters without blood loss in our own personal poultry Sparta.

We are back to 11 animals. A critter?/dog?/coyote?/hawk?/owl? ate two of our hens. A neighbor gave a sweet white chicken to us named Leah.

If you doing my animal math for 2018 it went like this:

1 pony +
1 horse +
3 cats +
2 dogs +
1 fish +
7 chicks –
3 roosters +
1 neighbor chick –
2 hens =
11 animals

Work

Work is great. Logan and I both still work at Mizzou. We enjoy our coworkers and feel lucky to have good jobs with good benefits, which brings us to…

Money

We started an aggressive debt payment plan in 2017 through a program as part of my work’s Wellness Incentive. We worked with Tina, who has since started her own business of Widow’s Wallet. We put one quarter of our income to our student loans and mortgage. We hope to be debt-free by the end of 2019! Stay tuned!

Part of what made this possible was shopping at Aldi’s. I love Aldi’s! It’s small, it’s simple, it’s cheap. Even when I go wild with the European chocolates, English cheddar cheese and German spice cookies, I don’t devastate our budget. So many treasures at Aldi’s—just love that place!

Another part of our plan was Uber Frugal Month, guided by the Frugalwoods. We did Uber Frugal Month in July, where we lived on $4 day each for food and didn’t buy any non-essentials.

I used this cookbook, Cheap and Good by Leanne Brown (the PDF is available free!), which has a lot of delicious ideas! If you want or need some tasty, cheap eats, it’s a good way to go.

We plan to do another Uber Frugal Month in January to recover from the spending binge of December (a winter’s worth of hay, property taxes, Christmas shopping and general winter-blah-motivated overspending).

I also read the writings from Trent Hamm on the Simple Dollar blog for inspiration on being more financially responsible, a constant effort for me.

Family

It broke my heart to lose my dad. I was touched by my stepmom’s loyalty and love. There’s nothing I can do to speed up the grieving process. It’s my first holiday season without either of my parents alive. I take the moments as they come and look for the happy ones, more on that later.

We enjoyed time with my son and his girlfriend at their house. My son is quite the good griller and they’re both good cooks. We had some good meals at their place. I think I am finally content with being an empty-nester.

I loved having my in-laws visit in the fall and we got to be tourists together in Rocheport, Missouri. It’s a cute town with shops, bike rental for the Katy trail and little cafes.

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Logan and I are having a honeymoon period with our time together. We like to go on day hikes and trips to little towns together. Nothing like a road trip! During our trips and commutes, we enjoy listening to podcasts such as:

Creativity

I love reading! Some of my favorites from my local library were:

Food-related fiction for fun

  • The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Non-fiction for decluttering

  • Remodelista: The Organized Home: Simple, Stylish Storage Ideas for All Over the House by Julie Carlson
  • The Clutter Cure: Three Steps to Letting Go of Stuff, Organizing your Space, & Creating the Home of your Dreams by Judi Culbertson
  • The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify by Francine Jay

I wrote every day this year. I made a book for one person. I continued to work on my public speaking skills in my Downtown Toastmasters club (come visit us!).

I crocheted every day. Some of my creations included

Movies

We are movie people and we saw some fun ones this year. We are looking forward to the fabulous Christmas movie season!

Thank you, random people in movie theaters, for indulging our movie poster model fantasies, and taking photos of us.

Spirituality

I am still active in my church and invite you to attend with me if you are curious about the church experience or need a new church home. (Warning: My heart is in the songs, but I’m a terrible singer. Fortunately we have a strong ensemble that is much louder than me and more inspiring!)

One of the highlights of my year was a spiritual retreat on a lake with two friends. It revealed to me how much I need to simplify my life. I came home and began a home reorganization project. I tend to hold onto every little thing, but I don’t need to. I can trust that a good future awaits me.

I have to keep reminding myself that my true self is a beloved child of God.

My job is to love everyone, rejoice and pray constantly. Simple and hard, as all good things are.

End of year wishes

I have three wishes for you: hope, awareness and happy moments.

My first wish for you is that you have hope. Hope is powerful. Hope is energizing. If you have hope, you will keep your heart full. I know there is a lot of pain in the world. For every celebration, another person mourns. For each promotion, there is someone dealing with a job loss. As one person wins a race, someone faces failing health. If you have hope, you can see beyond the pain of the moment.

My second wish is awareness. No matter where you are in life, there is good. It might be unexpected kindness, a glimpse of a beautiful sky or a hot drink to warm you up. I heard that our mind’s nature is to live in the past or the future while focusing on the negative. It takes conscious effort to be present and find the good. Be aware of the freedom you have to move around and experience life.

My last wish for you is happy moments. Even in the midst of tough circumstances, you can find happy moments. Hold them close. What will 2019 bring us? I imagine it will be a mix. Some things will try our patience and just wear us slick (a Missouri saying that I appreciate). Other things will make us laugh and dance and sing (badly? but joyfully! Yes! No matter what, let’s sing joyfully in 2019).

God love and bless you,
Gen

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