My New Year’s Resolution 2018

I spent a lot more time thinking through these personal goals that this post got really long. I think I’ll just discuss my New Year’s Resolution briefly here and then give it its own post.

My New Year’s resolution for 2018: Be a more conscious consumer.

By “conscious,” I mean my first focus is going to be on reducing my impact on the earth’s resources by NOT partaking (as much as I reasonably can) in products that can’t be re-used, composted, or repurposed, or in products that take a lot of resources to make. (Hence my specific goal of not buying any clothes.)

Next focus will be on supporting necessary products that support sustainability.

When I’ve obtained as much information as I need, we will be investing in some kind of tool that will help us compost our food waste.


I grew up in a small town. In a forest. In the 90’s, when every year the whole school would gather in the cafeteria and watch that video with the dinosaurs singing “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!”

Recycle Rex is kinda proud that stupid song was stuck in my head for 20 years.

One of the first rules I learned at school was “Don’t litter.” Any kind of store besides the local grocery store was about 12 miles down the hill. I did not grow up consuming a lot. I didn’t even realize that I lived my life exceptionally close to the natural world.

I went to college in a town that shared very environment-focused views. I walked everywhere. I brought my own grocery bags with me (10 years before they even made that law!). I re-used plastic produce bags and bought my kitchen supplies at a thrift store.

Then when I moved to this larger town where I currently live, with more amenities, and started making money, I started to lose it. I fell into the consumerism pit. I bought nice clothes for work. I bought so many craft supplies. (I paid off my car!) I started clicking on advertisements on Facebook and getting the things. No, Stephanie. It’s a trap!

Sometimes the silliest things can bring you back to your original principles. Luckily I know some people in the world who really hold themselves to that which we should all strive for – a life where our existence as an individual and species makes as small of an impact as possible so others (human and not) can share the space. And I saw a video about straws and how devastating they are for the wildlife in our oceans.

And then I saw a video about microplastics. (That link isn’t the video I saw, but it explains some of it.) Basically, when we throw away synthetic textiles they don’t decompose. But as those polyester jumpsuits in the landfill start to come apart over time, tiny synthetic particles get washed away into…you guessed it…our oceans. Microscopic organisms eat the particles, bigger organisms consume those and collect more particles over their lifetimes, and the particles accumulate more as we go up the food chain.

And that’s when I became horrified.

Watching “Planet Earth II” hit the nail in the coffin for me. Now there’s no way I’m not going to do everything I possibly can to reduce my personal impact.

“Zero Waste”

A childhood friend of mine is part of the Zero Waste movement – a movement where individuals reduce, reduce, reduce, then reuse, then recycle (or compost), in that order, with a goal of sending as little waste into the landfill as possible.

I’ve been checking out a number of Zero Waste blogs and Youtube videos. It’s very doable but requires a bit of work in the beginning. I’m excited to make this part of my life. I find the name “Zero Waste” a bit deceptive – it really is just about taking steps toward “Minimal Waste.”

I’m going to share some of the steps I’ve been taking and plan to take to reach this goal. (I created a very comprehensive checklist for my house – If you’d like me to share this let me know!)


One very big way I plan to reduce my impact this year is to not buy any clothes. New or used. I don’t need any new clothes, especially after buying all those clothes for my surgery recovery time. It takes a huge amount of natural and human resources to produce new clothing, and again can we mention the synthetic fibers in the ocean? So this year, no new clothes.

I bought one pair of flats last month for work and those are the only new shoes I will have this year. I bought some fancy secondhand sunglasses off of eBay and I’m pretty sure I’m set for life there.

I will reduce my purchasing of new craft supplies for work. I have all the supplies I will need, for several years probably, to write nice notes for my students on fancy paper.

I’m switching all of my bills to electronic statements. I took my name off the mailing list for junk mail.


So, that closet full of clothes? I don’t wear them all. I plan to actually repurpose some of them into produce bags for myself and maybe others if my sewing skills are up to par. Brian’s old ratty undershirts are going to be rags for when the kitties have an accident.

We got two lovely sets of cotton napkins for our wedding, which have already proven not only great for traditional napkin purposes, but for tea towel purposes.

Anything that comes in a jar will be repurposed to hold raw ingredients. I plan to reuse spice jars for spice mixes. Later I will buy spices in bulk.

I’ve been using my own water bottle for years! (It’s a plastic Camelbak, unfortunately.) I like the straw for drinking water while driving…but if I lose it I’ll replace it with a steel one.

I’ve been baking oil-free muffins in silicone baking cups for months. They are amazing!

I have invested in reusable feminine pads. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time for me to try them, so it’s one last cycle with conventional protection. My remaining feminine products will be donated to a local shelter.

Still to Do

SO much. Including establishing a compost system, figuring out a routine for buying in bulk in our town which is a bulk bin desert, and creating little car kits for eating out. There is a lot to be desired about how we handle our pet waste.

It seems overwhelming to move toward this lifestyle, but I think we can check something new off the list fairly often. Every check is a step that reduces our impact. Everything we do is important and we have to acknowledge the small steps we take. I’ll be updating on this regularly.

Have a lovely day!



My SMART Goals for 2018

Hey friends! Get your ponchos because you are in the splash zone of one of my teaching tools and it’s about to get drippy in here.

In this seventh year of my teaching career, I’ve started structuring my units and content around the goals of the students. And while it’s easy as a 5th grade beginning band student to say your goal for two weeks from now (or one year from now) is to “be better at the trumpet,” you may feel overwhelmed about the process of creating an action plan unless your goal includes these criteria:

  • Is it Specific? What about your trumpet playing do you want to improve? Maybe range? Articulation? Breath support? Endurance? Tone (the answer to this one is always)?
  • Is it Measureable? How will you know if something is better? Can you put it up to a metronome and measure how fast you’re playing that passage? Can you play a note for 10 seconds longer than you could before?
  • Is it Achievable? No, young student, you will probably not be able to play the Haydn concerto two weeks from now. But you will probably be able to expand your range by two whole steps if you worked on it!
  • Is it Results-based? I visualize an improved version of myself doing the thing I’d like to achieve with my goal. It has to be something you can attach to an end result.
  • Is it Time-bound? This one, in my opinion, is the MOST important when you are first starting to set SMART goals. Even if you fail to achieve the first goal you set, at the end of your time frame you now have new information about what you need to change and how long it will take for you to try again next time. Couldn’t get that passage up to 120 BPM, but could get it to 90 from a starting place of 78? Okay, next goal will be 108. (A little more than what they achieved next time because they now know the route to get there.)

So that’s my format with goal-setting that I use with my students. I give them space to discuss as a group what their goals as a whole band will be, and then they have some time to journal about what their personal goals should be as well. And what if they don’t reach the goals they set? This is okay in my class. Failure to reach a SMART goal is not really failure. It’s just a way to inform what our next goal should be. This takes the bad, “I’m not good enough for this,” personal feeling out of it and focuses students on the tasks.

This year I have a few personal goals and a New Year’s Resolution to reduce the amount of waste I produce as a consumer. For this post, I will be sharing my personal goals for the year.

My Personal Goals for 2018

Physical Fitness

The context of this is that I went into this year having just had a major shoulder surgery. Before my shoulder became such an issue, I was exploring my limits as a runner. I had finished two half marathon races and seen improved results (and physical feelings after) between the two. I also was practicing yoga 2-3 times per week, strong practices, in a studio environment and was frequently exploring those limits as well.

Of course having to keep my shoulder immobile for 6 weeks is going to put a damper on my fitness regime. So here are my physical fitness goals for this year:

  • Run a half marathon race in the fall (October or November) with a time of 2 hours 30 minutes. A half marathon (13.1 miles) is a familiar distance for me and this is all about getting close to where I was. My first half marathon time was 2:26, and the second was 2:15, so I’m giving myself plenty of buffer room. I’m walking about 3-5 miles per day right now. Obviously I can’t run until my sling is off Jan. 25, but once that’s off I plan to start small. (1 mile at a time in the beginning…that seems like such a small distance but will probably feel much longer when I start back up.)
  • Resume a regular yoga practice of 2-3 times per week, gentle enough to protect my shoulder but strong enough to strengthen my other muscle groups, by June. The 6 month mark after my December 15th surgery is when, according to my PT plan, I should be able to “resume all activities.” So if I follow through with the plan and follow all protocol I should be okay.

It’s important to know that when you’re working with a time frame as long as a year, there might be a need to adjust your goals as you find yourself getting closer faster or slower than you expected. You go with what feels good to you. You will probably not stick to your goal if your routine feels like torture, or if you don’t find it challenging enough.

Financial Goals

I’m going to be candid about my financial context: 7 years after finishing schooling, I’m finally starting to feel like paying off my 8 outstanding student loans is achievable. All of my loans are currently less than $5,000, most are between $1-2k. I have paid off 2 of them completely (once when I got a substantial tax return, and again when I got overlapping paychecks from a change of employment). It feels GOOD.

Last year, I got married, we combined incomes into one bank account, we got a roommate whose rent check goes directly into savings, and we got a new car. So lots of financial activity going on in my life. Still, the thing that by far has the most interest to pay off and is the stupidest thing to have hanging over my head is that student loan debt. So with that in mind, here are my financial goals for this year:

  • Pay off at least one student loan. Okay, so it’s a specific debt, measurable because when it’s paid it will be gone, results-based because it’s about getting rid of it, time-bound because I will do it by the end of this year. But how will I achieve this? Maybe this next one will help –
  • Don’t buy any clothes. This should be the easiest one. It’s a goal achieved by NOT doing something. Same goes for sunglasses, jewelry, and probably shoes. I may make an exception for running shoes if my current pair wears out.
    I’d love to be a person who is so organized I could say “I’ll take the money I saved from not buying clothes and put it towards this other thing!” But I don’t buy clothes unless I’m in a place where I don’t need a clothing budget. Therefore, I have no idea how much I spent on clothes last year. I judge myself often for this quality of my character. I’m working on it.
  • Put money aside (specific amount I will keep private) for a big summer adventure. One of my best friends is getting married this summer, and I am the maid of honor! So I’m going to be traveling for awhile.
  • Start saving for a new clarinet this fall. My clarinet I’ve had since 2005 broke last summer. Like, the wood cracked and the repair cost is more than the value of the actual clarinet. I’m heartbroken as playing chamber music is a really big part of my life. But here is an opportunity to become a better musician with a better tool. And until then, I have my trumpet.

Professional Goals

I’m basically taking a gap year in the middle of the school year – I worked for 4 months, will be on disability for 3 months, and will be back at work for only 3 months. So my professional goals for the remainder of this school year?

  • Stay calm and take at least 2 weeks to assess the progress students have made in my absence. I will breathe. I will reinforce behavior expectations I set at the beginning of the year. I will remember that kids are only human and it’s easy to forget the small stuff in band. I will be candid about mistakes when I make them in front of the students.
  • Reduce clutter in the context of my unusual teaching situation. Actually organize the file box that lives in my trunk. Keep the original music parts in a folder in the file box and do not accidentally give them to students. Only bring materials I will absolutely need to my classroom situation.
  • Brainstorm and memorize at least 3 activities students can do in the inevitable situation that some kid’s valve gets stuck and I have to fix it right then and there.
  • Figure out a better classroom system for teaching clarinet players to play over the break. What will the other kids be doing at that time???

I know, my job is very specific.

Staying SMART

It would be irresponsible for me to say, “This is how you create a SMART goal and these are mine!” And then for me to leave the post without giving you any ideas or tools for staying accountable to your goals.

I have to admit that this part is very challenging for me as a person. I reach out in a thousand directions and don’t often follow through with every route I explore. Everyone has different methods of self-monitoring that work for them. Here are some things that work for me:

  • Google Calendar. (Or a paper calendar!!! Or a planner!) There are probably a thousand easier ways to keep track of your time-bound goals, but looking at a calendar helps me the most. I use the reminder feature constantly to remind myself to do my shoulder exercises, to help process how many days I did this or that or the other, keep track of what lesson I taught the third grade classes last week, and (VERY important since I am an itinerant teacher) where to be.
    I only went to the wrong school once so far this school year!
    A thing I do that helps me immensely: I color code my time commitments. Each school is its own color, doctor appointments are lavender, social plans are orange, music ensembles are dark purple, and I think volunteer things are yellow. When I start running again, I think they will be “Flamingo” colored.
  • Mint. I love this app. You can keep track of all your money-related accounts, your credit card, student loan debts, savings, etc. They inform you of your credit score (which for me has risen 250 points since using this tool). They have a tool you can use to help fund your financial goals – a specific “Goals” tool. They also categorize your expenses for you. (Maybe I could find out how much I spent on clothes last year after all…)
  • The 8,000 health tracker apps out there. Yeah, if you have a smart phone, there aren’t any excuses if you plan on achieving your goals. I use Runkeeper because they have good half marathon plans. I will take the workouts they schedule for me and jot them in my Google Calendar so I know when I’m done teaching that day, “Oh, I have to go home and run 4 miles.” Or if I have the foresight to look the day before, “Oh, I should bring my running clothes with me so I can run 4 miles before I get home.”
    I don’t feel a big need to track my food intake, but I’ve heard good things about Chron-o-meter if that’s a goal for you. Shop around for apps that will help you achieve your goals!
  • A journal or notebook. If one of your goals is to limit your screen time (which I’m having trouble with lately) you may consider using a notebook or journal to help keep track of your goal progress. There are a plethora of ways you can do this. Some ideas:
    • Give each goal its own page or group of pages.
    • Write down specific action steps for each goal.
    • When you’ve worked on one action step, record what you did to get there. And maybe, how did it feel? What did you learn? How might you approach this differently next time? What failed? What felt comfortable or uncomfortable? (Sorry, my teacher is showing.)
  • Friends. Share your goals with your friends. Do it. Do it! Share your progress. Share your failures. The more you talk about your goals to the people close to you, the more presence they will have in your everyday life. Your friends will be curious and ask about your progress. Your friends will hold you accountable. Your friends may even feel empowered to work with you toward their own, similar goals. A mutually beneficial friendship. What better thing is there?

I hope this post has been helpful for you in your journey. What did I miss? What have you done that’s worked for you? Please share in the comments! And have a lovely week.