• Encouragement,  Goals,  Lifestyle

    Don’t Waste your Break

    It’s that time of year again– summer break! Or, at least it is for all you Northern Hemisphere folks. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re rugging up for winter. Thankfully, we have a two week break coming up in a few short weeks. I couldn’t be more excited!

    Over the last few years of teaching, my husband and I have come to realise that I don’t do well with extended time off. I can vividly remember one day about four weeks in to my first summer break where I had reached the end of my rope. Kent worked full time at a summer camp, so my downtime was his busiest time of year. When he got home from work, he excitedly asked me how my day was going. I immediately burst into tears because I hadn’t done anything that day! I napped, not because I was tired, but because it passed the time quicker than being awake. It happened again this year, but was only made worse by me being homesick for my family at Christmas at the same time. Honestly, we began to dread breaks.

    I can’t change that teachers have massive breaks, more-so than workers in other industries. If I wanted to stay in teaching (which I do), I knew that I’d have to find ways to cope with these times. I thought about what the main difference was between my life during the school year and during breaks and here’s what I came up with:

    After going non-stop for so long, an extended time off can be a shock to the system. As teachers, we work so much on structure. We have routines and procedures. We have weekly commitments that fall at the same time: library time, staff meetings, specials, etc. When I’m on break, all semblance of structure goes out the door. Going from a lot of structure to none is really unsettling and often leaves me feeling lost with what to do with such an extended period of time in front of me. These instances have been a wake up call to me about how I should prepare for break times.

    It wasn’t that I needed to avoid break times– I just needed to give structure and purpose to them. I know some of you are cringing at that. Honestly, I was too! I didn’t want my breaks to be regimented, but I did need a little more guidance than waking up and thinking “hmm, what will I do today?”

    Enter: The Break Time Bucket List

    While perusing one of my favourite blogs for inspiration, I came across this post on a summer fun list. I love Emily’s approach to having a Summer Fun List in order to make the most of your time off or to make the most of the season you’re in. I decided to adapt her approach to meet my need for a little structure on school term holidays.

    Instead of giving myself a schedule for my break times, I decided in the weeks leading up to my school break, I would make a bucket list. My bucket list consists of anything I’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten to, as well as things that are purely fun. This has been such a great solution for me. Sometimes I plan ahead and think of what I want to do on each day, but on days where I don’t I can just look at the bucket list and pick something to do that day.

    I drafted my bucket list on a blank page in my Powersheets so that I’d have it for easy reference next month.

    While many of these things do fit into my yearly Powersheet goals and could be made into an item on my monthly Tending List, they aren’t extremely time-specific. Therefore, I’d rather not include them. Also, having it as a “Bucket List” makes the time away from school feel more set apart and special.

    This is the first school break where I’ve had no travel plans and haven’t had anyone coming to visit. To me, what’s most is amazing is that, unlike previous breaks, I don’t feel anxious or worried about what I’ll be doing while on holiday. It’s quite the opposite– I couldn’t be more excited to get started on this bucket list. Sixteen days to do what I want sounds pretty great to me!

    Do you have any way of structuring your break times or do you go with the flow? Either way, I’d love to hear about what you’re doing on your upcoming break in the comments below!

  • Goals

    April Goals

    As a teacher, I’m used to April signifying the “beginning of the end or school.” We’re beginning to prep for standardised testing, kids are getting antsy, and we’re all counting down the minutes until spring break. If that’s you right now, I know how you’re feeling. The exhaustion from working the last three months without a break is no joke. Know I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this!

    Now that we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, April brings my favourite season: autumn! Even just yesterday I could smell that a neighbour was using their fireplace. The smell immediately reminded me of the year we lived in our little white house in rural North Carolina. We regularly used our wood burning stove to heat our house. and husband and I texted each other almost daily about a great “fall tree” we found, the kind where the leaves are vibrant orange or deep red. So, April… bring on the sweater weather, apple/pumpkin fall-themed desserts, and crisp mornings. I’m so ready for you!

    I didn’t do a goals post in February or March… oops! But here are some big things I was able to cross of my Tending List:

    • Pay off student loans. From the beginning of January to the end of March we paid off over $7,000 USD of my student loans. It finally feels like we’re in the home stretch of paying everything off and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
    • Run an 8km. When my husband signed us up for Round the Bays, I said my goal was to finish the 8.4 km run in an hour; however, training didn’t go quite to plan and I mentally had scrapped that goal, resigned to the fact that I’d have to walk some. When the day of the run came not only did I run the entire time, but I also beat my goal of an hour! I kept telling myself “just one more km til you walk” or “just 3 more minutes” until I got to the 2 km to go sign… at that point, I knew I could make it!
    • Read the entire Bible in a 2019. Granted, I’m not done with this goal yet, but I’ve made a ton of progress! I’m almost a quarter of the way finished. I’m reading along with The Bible Recap podcast, which has been tremendously helpful in unpacking and explaining what I’ve read each day. Having a great accountability partner has helped too (looking at you, Sarah).
    • Make it through our School Camp! It was a tiring three days, but the kids loved it. I felt almost like I was a camp counsellor for a few days and it was really meaningful to be able to interact with my students in this way instead of with my teacher hat on.
    Two of our kids dressed up as me and and my coworker for their activity group’s skit! Seeing those boys walk around in heels, lipstick, and dresses was hilarious!

    On my calendar this month:

    • My trip to America! One of my dearest friends is getting married, so I’m journeying back home to be a bridesmaid. I’ll also get to see lots of friends and spend some quality time with my family. I’ll be gone for around two weeks.
    • My Mother-in-law and Father-in-law’s birthdays are this month, so we’ll have a few family lunches to celebrate!
    • An engagement party for one of my coworkers!

    Things I’m loving right now:

    • Cooler fall temperatures (obviously)
    • How to Money podcast— Kent and I are currently following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step plan, but we’ve also learned a lot from this podcast! Our favourite episodes include: Before You Buy a House (#65), Actually Buying a Home (#67), Front Loading the Sacrifice (#74), and How Much Do Kids Really Coast? (#75). While we won’t be navigating this for a while, I think Teaching Kids About Money (#61) could be a good one too!
    • My new Lorna Jane workout clothes. I had always just gotten my workout clothes from Old Navy, but have recently felt convicted that it’s okay to invest money in something you wear almost every day. I have been really surprised at the difference between my new athletic wear and what I had previously. There’s so much more support, durability, and I just feel better in it.

    April Goals

    • Monthly celebration prep
    • No working while in America
    • Read 2 books (It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way & Where the Crawdads Sing are my current two)
    • Bake something for fun (my MIL’s birthday cake)
    • Pay off $5000 NZD in student loans
    • Set up automatic tithing at our church
    • Print 5 new recipes to try
    • Intentionally date Kent

    What are your goals for the month of April? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

  • Goals

    January 2019 Goals

    I don’t know about you, but I find January both exciting and daunting. I love the idea of change for the better, whether it be starting a new way of eating, a new exercise plan, or forming new habits; however, this year I’ve realized that I have a big problem with sticking through things until the end, which is why I find January really daunting. It symbolizes a fresh start, but I have trouble believing that I’m capable of making lasting change. That’s a large part of why my word for 2019 (and focus for this blog) is “endurance.” The definition of endurance is, “the capacity to last or withstand wear and tear,” which is a quality I want to cultivate in my character. In other words, not give up when things get hard or when I simply just don’t want to do it! That was a hard realization, but in the weeks since I uncovered it in my Powersheets prep work I’ve found myself tapping into that realization when I’m faced with something I don’t want to do. That’s pretty empowering and motivating!

    To help me meet my large annual goals, I have a “tending list” to help me focus my efforts on smaller steps each month. Each month is also broken down into monthly, weekly and daily goals. My January tending list is below. I’ll be sure to share my progress, along with my February goals, at the beginning of February. Each goal on my tending list feeds into a larger goal. As a reminder, my larger annual goals include: 

    • Create a legacy that endures
    • Love my body well
    • Cultivate faith
    • Be bold in my career
    • Hospitality

    January 2019 Tending List

    Monthly Goals

    • Create Google Doc for debt paydown.
    • Make list of 6 finance books to read in 2019 and schedule out when to read them.
    • Create a ½ marathon training plan.
    • Buy a binder for the Donnell Family Recipe Binder
    • Create New Years bookmarks
    • Add 5 paid products to Teachers Pay Teachers
    • Write 3 blog posts
    • Create a Bible/Worship playlist on Spotify
    • Buy and fill in perpetual calendar with important birthdays and anniversaries
    • Monthly celebrations preparations


    Weekly Goals

    • Listen to 1 Dave Ramsey podcast
    • Check in with Sarah re: Bible Recap 
    • Sign up for barre classes
    • Make running plan

    Daily Goal

    • Phone down, eyes up (<1 hour social media per day)
    • Bible & Bible Recap Podcast
    • Eat a vegetable for lunch

    Do you have a word of the year? If so, what made you decide on that word of the year? Tell me in the comments below!

  • Goals

    2019 Goals

    And just like that, another year has come and gone! It feels like 2018 flew by, but maybe that’s just because it included a lot of big things. I assumed the team leader position for my grade level, I completed my most challenging year of teaching yet, and, most of all, we moved countries. Most of my 2018 goals centered around our big international move, and while I’m glad that our move is in the past, we’re still settling into our new lifestyle and home. Honestly, even though I still don’t feel completely settled, I’m glad that many of my goals for moving internationally are now in the past—they’ve been completed!

    I’ve never shared the details of my goal setting with a large audience (or really anyone), but it’s something I want to do this year for two main reasons. For one, I think that sharing your goals with those around you can help you stay more accountable. I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before and have been doing a lot of reflecting on how I’m most motivated to meet my goals and form desirable habits. I’m a bit of what she calls an “obliger,” I’m motivated by external accountability and obligations, but really struggle to stay internally motivated. What better accountability than posting goals for everyone to see? Second, I’m hopeful that it’ll encourage other teachers (hopefully you!) to set goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. It’s hard to know your destination if you never name it. When we make goals, we see where we want to be and can identify action steps to get there. As a big planner, this really resonates with me and I wouldn’t be surprised if goal setting theories and ideas also resonated with many other teachers. After all, what percentage of our week do we probably spend preparing and planning? Maybe don’t answer that question…

    I have five big goals for 2019, each of which has a bunch of smaller goals or action steps associated with it. The five goals are…..

    My 2019 Goals!

    Why? As Kent and I get closer to 30, we are beginning to think of our financial assets in a different way. We’re still laser focused on getting rid of debt, but our motivation has shifted slightly. We still don’t want to be enslaved to our debt (after all, the Proverbs 22:7 says “the borrower is slave to the lender.”), but we’ve also begun to think of our finances in relation to how we’ll provide for a future family. We want to be able to take care of our family, to buy a home for future children and others to enjoy, and to set them up well to be able to meet the demands of life. 

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Creating a Google Sheet to track progress! I’m motivated by visuals, so I’m hopeful seeing the progress will keep me motivated.
    • Set up automatic payments to student loans
    • Monthly spending meetings with Kent
    • Create list of finance books to read. My goal is to read 6 per year, so one every two months.
    • Miniature contentment challenge
    • Subscribe to Dave Ramsey podcast and listen to 1 episode per week. Kent and I are avid Dave Ramsey fans and listening to his podcast gets me really excited about getting rid of debt!
    • Unsubscribe from store emails
    • Sell big things in the US that we don’t plan on using again
    • No spending (daily goal)

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate progress by going out to dinner with Kent to commemorate being debt free!

    Why? This sounds pretty self-explanatory, but I think it’s really important! When I first think about this goal, my mind automatically goes to eating well and exercise; however, it’s more than that! It’s getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and resting when I need to. It involves going to annual doctor appointments, finding a new dentist, and positive self-talk. I can be really negative about my body and unfortunately often equate this with self-worth. I want to change that.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Attend barre class 3 times per week
    • Create a 1/2 marathon training plan
    • Sign up for a 1/2 marathon
    • Wear Apple Watch regularly and close rings
    • Schedule weekly workouts on Sundays
    • Eat a vegetable for lunch
    • Track daily meals
    • Go on a walk after dinner
    • Sugar free/dessert free weeks
    • Create Donnell Family Meal Binder
    • Plant Nanny daily check-in
    • Positive self talk

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate this goal by buying new workout clothes or an outfit that I love!

    Why? This is one goal that always shows up annually on my Powersheets Goal Planner. I want my life to be centered on my faith, so it’s essential that I make that a core annual goal. I’m excited for this year because a large portion of this goal involves one of my closest friends! We’re going to be reading the Bible together using The Bible Recap, a podcast put out by D-group. We have a daily chronological reading, then we listen to a 5-10 minute podcast that unpacks what we just read for the day. I’m also excited for my weekly check-ins with Sarah. We lived together at UNC-Chapel Hill and would’ve done something like this as roommates, so it feels a bit like old times.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Read my Bible and listen to Bible Recap podcast daily
    • Weekly check-ins with Sarah
    • Create a Bible reading/worship playlist
    • Join a volunteer team at church
    • Memorize 1 Bible verse/month
    • Set up automatic giving for tithing
    • Pray
    • Gratitude journal
    • Bible before phone

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate making progress by ordering a scripture art print for our home.

    Why? I think as women we often feel as if we’re hesitant to take big steps in our career. I absolutely love teaching and would gladly do this job for the rest of my life; however, there are aspects I love about teaching that I can’t do as much of when I’m in the classroom. I love school (as in, being a student) and want to always keep learning. Starting this blog and beginning my TPT store have helped me continue learning. I still have a lot I still have to learn about content and resource creation, but I’m really enjoying the process and it makes me really excited for the upcoming school year (our school year starts in February). I’m also going to be attending a class at one of our local universities to learn Māori, the indigenous language in New Zealand. Learning it has become a bigger focus in primary schools recently. I’m hoping that by taking this course I’ll be better equipped to teach it to my kiddos!

    How? Some mini-goals include:

    • Create a 2 week planning cycle.
    • Go through 40 Hour Teacher Workweek again.
    • Post weekly on Teaching with Endurance.
    • Take photos of classroom activities.
    • Take a class in Te Reo Maori at AUT.
    • Lok for teaching conferences/workshops to attend in New Zealand.
    • TpT Podcast
    • Weekly teaching reflection
    • Complete Understanding by Design planning document for unit 1 of math, reading and inquiry over summer holidays (right now!)

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate progress by treating myself to a new font set or signing up for a teaching conference back in the States.

    My sister and I overlooking Waihi beach on our road trip to Rotorua and Lake Taupo in October 2018.

    Living across the globe from many of your closest friends and family can feel pretty isolating. Making the trip out to Aotearoa can be really expensive, so I don’t feel like I can bank on many visitsregardless how close I am with people! Luckily, I already had one visit from my sister and her boyfriend shortly after arriving in New Zealand and have another to look forward to in just a week (!!!). Most of this goal centers around loving those around me and far away well. I’m notoriously bad at thinking of things to gift people or buying cards to send at the last minute. Sometimes I even write cards and then neglect to send them! I’m hopeful that this goal will help me be more intentional with this. If they live close, this might mean inviting them over for dinner. If they live far, it might mean sending little gifts or cards to let them know I’m thinking of them.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Input birthdays from Facebook into planner
    • Buy a perpetual calendar
    • Schedule monthly prep days
    • Host people at our home once per month
    • Make a list of low-cost activities to do with others
    • Social media free weekends
    • Phone away when with other people (“Phone down, eyes up”)
    • Plan Skypes with friends and family in the USA
    • Respond to Facebook and text messages (anyone else notoriously bad at this?)
    • Create note home postcard to share good things with parents of my students
    • Find an organisation to join

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate this goal by writing a letter to close friends telling them what I love about them.

    I’m really excited for these goals and for what’s to come in 2019! Do you set goals for yourself? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!