At the 11th month – On goals & gratitude

November is unique. Before I had children, I thought of it simply as the month of Thanksgiving, between the very-autumnal October and the beginning of winter in December. It’s taken on a different feel now that my children are in elementary and middle school… and now that I am in middle age! Read on for this more-personal-than-normal post about this season.

There are lots of things about November that apply to no other month.

Days, nights and changing light!

Come Sunday, everyone’s circadian rhythm will get off-kilter as we “fall back” an hour and say goodbye to Daylight Savings Time. This means it will be a lot easier to get to the bus stop at 7:15 a.m. because it will feel ridiculously bright!

And kids will be done playing outdoors by the time darkness falls around 5:30 p.m. Most parents appreciate that earlier bedtimes feel a little easier during this transition period, but there is some havoc to get through until the new times feel established in our bones.

If you’re a parent who cares about outdoor play and movement, this means homework time will have to shift to later. I’m not the greatest at routines, so I’m hoping that the earlier falling of darkness will be a nice cue for my kiddos and that the specter of only a few hours left of daylight will inspire my less active child to make the most of what’s available. And to put a lid on the afternoon snacking window!

Days. (Count ’em!)

Let’s be honest: While November is great for spending time with children, it is not so great for productive forward momentum on projects that require children not be around! There are three days off for Thanksgiving plus Election Day and Veterans Day.

This is also the time when temperatures drop, which means viruses replicate faster and children might come down with colds that keep them home. I can recall many more days missed from school for illness in November than in any other month.

And it’s not like parents are immune. I had a bad respiratory illness last year that I managed to treat with lots of herbs and essential oils, but it took a while, and it took a toll. I had a similar bout in November a few years back. I am working hard to stay optimistic and to boost my immune system, but I would be lying if I claimed I wasn’t a little worried about succumbing again this November.

For those of us who rely on school for childcare, school holidays add up to at least five days – a full work week – lost as far as work goes. Some people pay for it with sitters or with staying up late. I can’t manage either so just have to shift focus during this special month!

And yet, there is a lot I feel pulled to do.

Impetus to write

Years ago I went to a yoga class after which the teacher mentioned something about writing a novel in a month. At the time, I had no ambitions to ever be a novelist, and I thought it was a quirky challenge that was not for me.

A few years later, I learned that not only is it National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) but for a while it was also National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). In 2012, I set out to commemorate NaBloPoMo by taking a photo and writing a poem each day on my personal blog, Crunchy-Chewy Mama.

I did it! The last poem, with links to the whole month’s worth of poems & posts, is here and my reflections on what I learned about setting an intention are here.

I tried again in 2013 but got sick and didn’t make it every single day, and the writing was not very poetic or polished. Here is the final November 2013 post with links to all the other posts that month. I made it most days in 2015 and enjoyed taking fall photos to accompany some of the posts. Here is the final November 2015 post with links to the other posts.

Then last year I decided that November is The. Worst. Possible. Month. to do anything. See above re: days off!

(Yes, I realize that other people manage to do a lot, including doing a 30-day Gratitude Challenge, volunteering and maybe even buying holiday gifts more than a few days ahead!)

Even if few people actually read any of my entries any of those three years trying my hand at the daily challenge, and even if I didn’t quite make it every year, those writing-heavy Novembers made an impression. November feels like the time to write.

In June of 2012, the concept for a novel came down from the sky, and it’s been in my head and heart ever since.

One chapter of my novel appeared in a book released a year ago this month: Abundant Grace, the final anthology in a series of books featuring DC-area women fiction writers from Paycock Press.

I have thought about NaNoWriMo more this year now I’m feeling ever more determined to bring this project to some kind of rightful conclusion after working on it in stops and starts for the past five years.

In fact, my novel is largely fleshed out. But it has sat for months in all its 100,000+ words, waiting for me to whittle it down and restructure the chapters into a non-linear narrative.

And that feels challenging to do while I’m still working a lot on my health and my older child’s health and wanting to write here all manners of health and wellness news.

After recently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I was inspired to return to the novel for its own sake, to see the project through to some kind of completion before the idea gets tired of waiting for me to pay attention to it again.

With respect to writing here for the Mindful Healthy Life, there are so many partially completed posts I haven’t gotten to. I always feel better when they are completed, but given parenting and volunteering commitments, they don’t always happen in a timely manner, especially not when I am trying to make an eBook revision happen or successfully share about #SaferSkincare or natural medicine through essential oils, other things I’m passionate about and that have the potential to contribute financially to my family.

So how to structure November?

Goals for the Month

1. Fiction

I want to work on my novel every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes of writing or if it has to just be rereading to remember what has been done and what hasn’t! If I can manage to get out of my house for a full day – housesitter, anyone? – I would really love to do some mapping and come up with a more global structure plan.

2. Website writing

In addition to welcoming new partners to the site and sharing all the cool things I learn about on social media, I have so many pieces of writing I really want to finish or create! However, I am going to try consider it a success if I get up just one new post a week this month.

For starters, I want to do a recap of the Children and Screens Summit on November 1. I would love to do recaps of all the terrific events I’ve attended this fall – Namas Day Yoga Celebration, Achieving Optimal Health Conference, Women’s Health & Wellness Day, Take Back Your Health Conference – even if they are photo-heavy and light on content. I gained a ton from these events that I am still processing weeks and even months later. That journey will never really be done, but a blog post can be!

So don’t be surprised if the blog is a little light on new and upcoming content. I could surprise myself or agree to cover something I don’t even know about yet, but my focus regarding the site needs to be on the eBook.

3. eBook

My goal in doing the eBook Guide to Holistic Family Living is really to put in one place the top resources for holistic-minded families in Metro DC. Every time I learn of a new cool small business or resource, I can’t stop myself from adding it! There are already more than 500 listings in there, and I’ve got dozens more waiting in the wings plus updates to the calendar, new partners, and some formatting improvements. I won’t be able to update it again anytime soon, not without sponsorship or some bigger collaborations, but I’m excited to add in some great businesses and organizations and promote the book more widely than I have previously.Mindful Healthy Life eBook Guide to Holistic Family Living cover

4. Health

I wrote in the spring about my journey with Lyme. In the past few months, I’ve started feeling a lot better in strength, outlook and mental clarity, but there is still room for improvement.

It’s always a challenge for me to balance the things I want to do out in the world with what it will cost to my family, to my fatigue/strength, and to our bank account.

I have said no to a lot of things and should have said no to others. I also have been very glad for many of the yeses!

Just yesterday I decided to go ahead and register for BlogHer18 Health, which will be January 30-31 in New York City. I attended BlogHer in 2012 and 2013 but haven’t made it since and am excited to go to this event, which is focused on those of us who are passionate about writing and educating about health and wellness.

I will have to thoughtfully consider the travel logistics for a minimal drain on energy and on finances. That is no small feat given my dietary requirements and need for sleep! But an event in New York focused on health felt like something that would benefit me in a lot of ways.

I’m also totally inspired by the speakers and honorees that will be at ShiftCon Eco-Wellness Influencer Conference in early February, but getting out to California is not in the cards this year.

5. Home

It has been a little over a year since I started the KonMari method of purging a la The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I made some great progress until I got really sick last November and, until early February, I was just getting by. Since then, the tidying up has comein fits and starts with an ever-widening pile of items to sell and donate populating our living room. When you refuse to trash, things take longer to get rid of! But I hope to dedicate a few quality chunks of time to finding new homes for some of these items before my daughter puts any more of them back in circulation!

Without going into great detail about my kids or my marriage, I’ll also say that it’s important to set intentions with regard to respect, love, gratitude and intention. We are spending lots of time and energy on wellness of various types – physical, emotional, spiritual, relational – and will continue to do so.

I am hoping that things will get clearer, just as the sky and the view through the woods get clearer as the brilliant leaves fade and fall.

6. Beyond

I’ve been in a period of reflection on the notion of purpose for months now, spurred in large part by my health, my older child’s health and opportunities that have been terrific and also disappointing, sometimes both at once. Most of this work has been internal, in reflection while walking in the woods and in writing scratched out in the pages of my journal when I can’t sleep at the middle of the night. Some I’ve discussed in conversation with friends and colleagues.

It’s an evolution. Just as I won’t work right now on distinct, stand-alone chapters of my novel for publication or share the whole thing until it’s reached a shape that feels right, I’ve been holding off on writing publicly about this mid-life searching but am hopeful that will shift at some point in the months to come.

I’m working on cultivating gratitude for this season and beyond, to dwell less in a place of distraction and more in a place of ease with what is.

Thank you for your support and for reading.

Whatever the season, whatever the weather that we share in the atmosphere or that roils inside your heart, I always wish that you find and cultivate strength and the ability to trust in the journey.

Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life and the author of its Guide to Holistic Family Living in Metro DCJessica volunteers on issues related to wellness in public schools and was the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria Chapter of Holistic Moms Networkwriter working on her first novel, Jessica offers copywriting, editing, writing coaching and holistic business consulting services.  Learn more at and in Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A. Follow Jessica on Facebook at MindfulHealthyLife, on @Twitter @MindfulHealthy and on Instagram at @mindfulhealthy. Jessica’s personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama, on Facebook at CrunchyChewyMama and on Twitter @CrunchyChewy.


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