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April Jeppson: Slowing down and focusing on what brings joy

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

“New year, new you!” “Phew — so glad 2020 is over!” “Well 2021 has to be better than this!” Am I forgetting anything? I feel like these are the phrases being tossed around this week. So much hope for the new year, when in reality it’s all just a mindset. My new year could have started in July — it’s whenever I’m ready to turn the page and start fresh. Before I leap headfirst into a pile of goals and wishes I may never finish, I want to take a moment and appreciate the last year.

April Jeppson

I think we can all agree that this past year taught us to slow down. I’ll be the first to tell you that I enjoy staying busy. I currently have five jobs. I don’t do each of them every day, but I pepper them in where they fit. Up until 18 months ago, I didn’t have a full-time job. I relied on many smaller gigs to help pay the bills. Even after I started working more full time, I still enjoyed the variety of hopping from place to place.

I was forced to slow down. With no job to head to after work, I found myself at home every night with my family. It honestly felt odd to be home that much. I was so used to going all the time that it took a few weeks for me to accept this slower pace. In doing so I got to know my family better.

My son and I went on walks where he would open up to me about his ideas for his next book. In fact, going for walks as a family became a fun little ritual this spring. We’d get done with dinner and head out to “slap the bird.” (I live not far from a park that has a picture of a bird on its wooden sign. Giving the bird a high-five was our signal that we could turn around and head back home).

We camped as a family. I grew up camping with my folks, grandparents, friends — playing cribbage and eating food out of tinfoil is just something we did. I’ve always wanted to take my entire family camping, but in the spirit of being honest, I don’t like to do things that I don’t like to do. So the thought of taking a baby or toddler camping — well frankly, that sounds miserable. Crying, wetting the bed, carrying them, the bug bites, making sure they don’t run off — I’ve just been waiting for my children to get a little older and for us to have a little more time. Well this year we got out the tent, and we camped. And my kids can’t wait to go again next year.

Brian taught the kids some German. Hans mastered the art of making pancakes. Emma can do her own hair and help with her sister’s hair. I was able to take my son out and show him how to shoot a gun. We changed the words to songs and completely ruined them. Now every time the song comes on the radio, we sing our made-up lyrics and laugh. We’ve played more board games and watched more movies together than we have in three years combined. We’ve snuggled more, laughed more and loved more, too.

I’m thankful for the roadblocks that 2020 gave us. It forced us to take detours and go in new directions. In the process of learning how to adapt to this new normal, I learned a lot about myself. Slowing down helped me see what I was doing out of habit, versus what actions actually brought me joy. I’m truly grateful for my family and the opportunity I’ve had this year to get to know them better.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.