2017 has been a year for the Sheppard history books. It has been a roller-coaster of events and emotions that have often left my head spinning. As I look back at the lessons I have learned this year, a few have left a lasting impression, including:
1. Desert Gardening is Not for the Faint of Heart
A majority of our grocery budget goes to fresh produce. For years, I have wanted to tackle organic gardening and save myself a little money at the supermarket. Early this year, when most of the country was buried under snow and ice, we were sowing seeds in our new raised garden bed.
Watching them start to grow felt like Christmas!
Soon, some plants were thriving, and we were able to eat fresh herbs on a routine basis. Then, the weeds started to grow in the form of nutgrass that took over our entire yard, choking the good grass like a hungry monster. It quickly filled our garden, requiring near daily weeding to keep it at bay. Let’s just say that weeding the garden every other day was never going to happen, so it started to get out of hand.
Then, warm weather came, bringing birds to eat all the tomatoes. Some other critters dug into the melons. Bugs ruined the cauliflower and cabbage. The cucumbers and lettuce were bitter. Green onions, carrots, and basil defied the odds, however, and grew like gangbusters. In fact, we had so much basil we didn’t know what to do with it.
Overall, our gardening experience was a flop. It is going to require a whole lot more work and education to be successful, I’m afraid. Desert gardening is no joke, people. My hat is off to anybody who knows what they are doing. I am going back to the drawing board.
Plus, I don’t love gardening. There, I said it.
2. Paying With Cash Feels Like Getting a Raise
This year, we decided to amp up our budgeting by paying for everything with cash, Dave Ramsey style. That means I go to the bank twice a month and pull out enough money to cover our expenses and when it is gone, it is gone.
While I don’t love going to the bank and worrying about sorting cash into envelopes, it has done wonders for our budget. Before we started doing this, we consistently went over budget in many categories each month. Since we instituted the envelope system, we have stayed in budget almost every month. In fact, we usually have extra money. It’s like we got a raise! How is that even possible?
Well, I did stop going to Costco routinely because I have no self-control in that place. Also, it is much easier to see how much money I have to work with when it is in my hand and not the bank. Not only that, but it is infinitely more difficult to part with a couple of Ben Franklin’s than to swipe a card without really thinking.
3. The Anticipation of Saying Goodbye Is Much Worse Than the Actual Goodbye
In May, my eldest son graduated from high school.
Five weeks later, in early July, he left home to serve a two-year Mormon mission in Hawaii.
In the days and weeks leading up to graduation, my emotions were all over the place. One minute, I was blinking back tears. The next, I could not wait to watch him fly away and leave his mark on the world.
After watching him walk across the stage and get his diploma, we only had a few weeks to get him ready for his two-year Hawaiian adventure. The last few days before he left were the hardest. In the midst of ordinary life, I could not help thinking about how this would be the last time we would do this or that together for at least two years.
I shed many tears in the quiet of my room during those final days, wanting to keep it together in front of him because I was THRILLED he was going on a mission. I knew it would be a life-changing experience and I was not about to hold him back. But, man alive, the anticipation was brutal because I knew my life would never be quite the same. My season of having all of my kids under one roof was over, and that broke my heart just a little.
By the time we got to the airport to see him off, I was done crying. He was as happy and confident as I had ever seen him. It was hard to watch him walk away, but I was at peace. It was no longer about me at that point. He was ready to fly, and all I wanted was what was best for him.
He has been gone for almost six months now, and I have learned that:
4. Being a Missionary Mom is Amazing
I still miss him like crazy; I assure you. Every week, I count down the days until Monday when he can send me an email and, if I’m lucky, I catch him online and chat back and forth over email for a few minutes before he has to go back to work.
Some weeks are rough, especially when I can tell he is struggling with sickness, discouragement, or 369 bedbug bites (yes, he counted). But it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life to watch from afar as he grows from a quirky teenager to a humble (though still quirky) servant of the Lord.
There is nothing that makes me happier than to hear him say week after week, “I LOVE IT HERE! The people are amazing. The Aloha Spirit is real. And, though this work is hard and stretches me far outside of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
I wouldn’t trade it for anything, either.
5. Early Morning Workouts Are The Way to Go
Since the beginning of the school year, I have been going to the gym twice a week at 5:00 am with my husband and daughter. While I do not enjoy waking up at 4:20 to leave the house by 4:40, especially now that it is dark, I LOVE getting my workout in early enough that I can shower and be completely ready for the day before my kids leave for school.
I am MUCH more likely to exercise if I do not have to plan my day around the gym. There is never a conflict at 5:00 am, so it is perfect for me. Now I must figure out how to get to bed early on those days, which is tricky with nocturnal teenagers in the house. (Also, naps are my friends…)
6. Tieks Have My Heart
I had been drooling over Tieks ballet flats for a couple of years and finally got a pair for Christmas last year. I LOVE them!! From wearing them to church to walking for miles in New York City and Boston to an impromptu New England hike in the rain, they have been my shoe of choice all year long.
Yes, they are expensive but worth it! They feel like slippers and, after a year of frequent wear, are still in fantastic shape. After saving for a few months, I just purchased my second pair in a more neutral color. I rarely wear any other kind of shoes these days. I will be a customer for life!
There you have it! What were your 2017 takeaways? Tell me about them in the comments section.