Day 13 – Two week check-in

Okay, so I set some goals for myself at the beginning of this year. Nothing too crazy (at least I didn’t think so at the time), but nothing ever goes according to plan now does it? After these whirlwind first two weeks of the year, I figured I better do a little check-in with myself and see how things are going.

Goal #1 – Write every day. Surprisingly, so far so good here. Now, I’m not writing the great American novel, or even a whole lot worth reading, but at least there has been time set aside and words being put to paper every single day. Gotta say, I’m proud of myself on this one.

Goal #2 – Write one letter every week. Two weeks down. Two letters written. Boom! Onto the next.

Goal #3 – Read one book a week. First up, Radical Candor by Kim Scott. To be fair, I started reading this just before Christmas, but it was slow going and got set aside with the holiday craziness. I didn’t want to try and start another book until I finished this one, so I decided to count it. (Hey! My blog. My rules.) Great read. Stepping into a new leadership role in my career and hearing about this book from some of the leaders I look up to made me want to read it. A lot of the advice and suggestions should be obvious–things like caring deeply about other people, giving the time and space needed to look at things from multiple perspectives before making big decisions, and the importance of being honest and direct without letting emotion take over. Leadership has become something of a buzzword, and I think a lot of people spend a lot of time talking about leadership without really being able to clearly define what good leadership actually looks like. The book is well-written, and it definitely prompted me to reflect on the people in my life who showed me what a leader should be.

My second book of the new year is Five Plots by Erica Trabold. I found out about this book when I was catching up on some of my writing magazines over the holiday break. Erica Trabold is originally from Nebraska, and the book is a collection of her lyrical essays that explore how her life story was shaped by the Nebraska landscape, just as the Nebraska landscape was shaped by the people who lived and settled there. The writing stunning. Trabold was the winner of the inaugural Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize, and if you take the time to read her debut collection, you’ll see why. Anyone who was born, raised, or feels a connection to Nebraska should pick up a copy immediately. I already ordered one extra copy to send to some family who have moved away and still miss “home,” and I’m sure there will be more orders coming soon. The book is way good good not to share.

Goal #4 – Exercise 30 minutes every day. Well, if I’ve fallen off the wagon anywhere, it’s here. Now, I will say, I was good right up until this weekend when Henry got sick. Some mornings I was waking up at 5:00 to do 30 minutes of rowing and 30 minutes of writing (how’s that for two birds with one stone?). Other days, I was making sure I took a break during the day to get my steps in around campus during lunch, or simply counting the amount of walking I was doing in between meetings and from my car to my office and back toward my daily amount. As busy as last week turned out to be, I’m giving myself a little grace here and saying that I earned two full days of being lazy with my sick kiddo snuggled in on the couch.

Tomorrow’s a new day. Back at it. Let’s go.

Day 1 – I Got Goals

The first day of 2019 started just like the last day of 2018–lying in bed, trying to soak up a few extra moments of sleep before getting out of bed, trying to soak up the last moments of laziness left in this holiday break. But even if the days are largely indistinguishable outside the numbers on the calendar, there is something exciting about the beginning of a new year. The next 365 days stretch out before me with the unblemished smoothness of a field of fresh fallen snow. I’m holding a blank notebook in my hand, and I’m excited to see what sort of adventures will unfold.

If we’re taking a bird’s eye view, I’d say 2018 was a pretty good year. (But you know I default to optimism). We finally finished the renovation project on our investment property. The kiddos are both healthy and doing well in school. Stevie got to spend a few days in New Orleans (even if it was for a work conference instead of a vacation or our long-awaited honeymoon). And I had the opportunity to step into an exciting new role at work.

But all that said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement (there always is). And there is a definite need to find some balance. The kids are hitting an age where we’re busy with activities. Cadence is currently involved in swim team, piano and guitar lessons, and wants to do dance team at school next year. Henry is starting soccer in January. And 2018 was definitely a year where Stevie and I both felt pulled in a few too many directions–bringing work home nights and weekends, serving on committees, playing in sports leagues, volunteering. The new year gives us an opportunity to try and find that balance–to scale back where we need to scale back and to tackle some new challenges.

For me, regaining balance means setting aside the time to do the things that feed my soul.

It also means protecting that time.

My writing has always been the thing that keeps me balanced, yet it’s always the first thing that gets shoved aside by…well…by anything and everything else that comes along. I’m constantly back burnering projects, using work or kids or other obligations as an excuse to push my writing to the bottom of my priority list. Neglecting my writing and shutting down that creative outlet always ends up taking a toll. So, that’s where my focus will be in 2019. Well, that and continuing to work on getting physically healthier–that’s aways a work in progress.

So, here are the goals I set for myself:

  1. Write something every day – Even if it’s just one sentence, I’m committing to putting pen to paper every day in 2019 and I’m going to fire up this blog again to help hold myself accountable. Brace yourselves.
  2. Write one letter a week – There’s something fabulous about a handwritten letter, and I’ve been seriously neglecting keeping in touch with some of the people I love the most who live far away. So, I’m going to spur my writing momentum by choosing one person each week and send a handwritten note.
  3. Read one book a week – Cadence had an assignment over the holiday break that included counting all the books in the house. There are 1,571. Call me crazy, but I’m ridiculously proud that we have cultivated such a library. But at the same time, I’m ashamed that the busyness of life has stunted my reading just as much as it has my writing. So, I’m recommitting to reading by challenging myself to read one book every week in 2019. I’ve already got a few lined up, and I’m ready to dive in.
  4. Exercise for 30 minutes each day – Walking, using the rowing machine in the basement, Insanity, fitness apps, yoga…doesn’t really matter what it is, I’m committed to getting in better shape this year. In 2018, I managed to shed almost 15 pounds just by paying closer attention to what I eat and cutting down on sugar and empty calories. Now it’s time to get my ass moving.

How about you? Got some goals for the new year? Share your goals in the comments and we can be accountabilibuddies!

Alright 2019, let’s get this started!

Ringing in the New Year like a Hound

If there’s anything that our sweet Electra is really good at, it’s reminding me of life’s priorities. For all the crap we give our hound about being a bed-hogging rabbit-killing food whore, she really does know how to keep it simple. The only thing Electra ever really gets agitated about is food. And can we blame her? We all need food and water to survive. So if that’s the only thing that really makes our dog go all Jekyll and Hyde, then I’d say she is the only one in this house (and probably most of the civilized world) that really has her priorities straight.

I mean, I like to think of myself as a pretty easygoing person, but let’s face it, there are days when missing a green light on my way to work can set me on edge for the rest of the morning.

Stupid, huh?

But how many of us fall into that same trap? How many of us spend way too much time and energy focusing on the trivial little things we can’t control, things that (in the grand scheme of things) don’t even matter much anyway?

Be honest now.

I, for one, know I’m a helluva lot happier when I just let the little things roll off. Some days it’s easy. Other days, I have to make a very conscious and deliberate effort to shift my focus off of the minor annoyances and onto the things and the people who really matter. But let me tell you, it’s worth the effort. Every time.

So, I’m starting this new year the way Electra is. I’m hanging out in the house, being lazy, enjoying some good food, and searching for the little rays of sunshine that keep me warm and make me happy.

Smart ol’ hound, isn’t she?

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New Year. New Start. New Project

Right now, millions of people are hugging and kissing and popping bottles of champagne as they ring in yet another new year. I’m sitting in my living room, my hubby and hound dog beside me, my babies sleeping soundly upstairs as I listen to fireworks popping off in the distance.

And I’ll tell you the truth, folks, there is no place I would rather be.

I mean, I get why people get so crazy as they count down the seconds and watch that big ol’ ball dropping in Times Square. It’s a new year, a brand new beginning…even if it is really just another day, another tick tocking past midnight, another series of moments that might pass as quickly and unceremoniously as the rest. It’s really nothing more than a symbol, a man made tradition to mark the passing of time and the turning of another calendar page. But what it gives us is hope, and hope is really the most important thing we have to hold onto.

I’ve never gotten really crazy about celebrating on New Year’s Eve. When I was a kid, it was an excuse to stay up past midnight. In my teens, I often spent the night babysitting kids in my neighborhood while their parents went out to party. During my years in college and living in New York, I hung out with friends and rang in the New Year cheering on my hubby (then boyfriend/fiance) as he tried to bring home the coveted beer pong championship belt and drinking champagne on the roof of Romoser Hall.

And as for resolutions…I’m not really a big believer in them. Most people don’t even manage to make it out of January with their resolutions in place because, let’s face it, anything you think you’re resolute about when the clock strikes midnight and you’re shit-faced and singing and feeling rather invincible tends to get quickly forgotten or modified when you wake up the next morning with a wicked hangover and a whole long list of the same old responsibilities. So no, I don’t really go for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I tend to start each year with a couple challenges for myself, or a few goals I’d like to reach in the next year, and as long as I keep making strides in the right direction, I consider it a personal victory.

A year ago, I challenged myself to reach two goals: 1) Figure out how to make NY-style pizza and 2) Finish my memoir. I crossed the NY-style pizza off my list a couple months ago (and I have to admit, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for that one). As for the memoir…well, that’s still a work in progress, so I’ll roll that one right over to 2016.

So, here’s what I’ll be working on in 2016:

1. My memoir – I’m still in draft stage, and need to dive back in and really commit to the project. With so many other things happening in my life (my job, my family, a new baby, travel, housework, sleep), it has gotten way too easy for me to just put the project aside. So my goal this year is to work on two chapters a month, and to post at least once a week on the project’s Facebook page. If you’d like to follow along on Facebook, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/InASeaOfStrangers

2. My writing – Outside of the memoir work, I really need to start writing regularly again, whether it is just journaling, freelancing, writing letters to friends/family, or blogging. To help keep myself motivated (and keep writing, keep writing, keep writing), I’m committing to another 365 Project here on my blog in 2016. I’m going to post something every day. It might not always be the most interesting read or the best photo, but it will be something that captured my attention and that I want to share, even if it’s just one word or one photo. And it starts right now.

3. My body – After two babies and a whole lot of slacking on even the most basic fitness, I’m seriously out of shape and hating it. Finding balance when it comes to my body image and self-esteem has always been a huge challenge for me, and I know I need to be mindful about making healthy choices to achieve my weight loss and fitness goals. So, to help ease myself into it, I’m jumping on the fitness tracker craze. I’m sure there will be more to come, so stay tuned.

4. My connections – There is really nothing more important to me than the people I love, but sometimes with all the other plans and obligations and distractions of daily life, I feel like I fall short in showing these people just how much they mean to me. So, this year, I’m also challenging myself to be a better wife, a better mother, a better sister, a better friend…hell, I’m challenging myself to be a better person. I’m challenging myself to be more present, to connect and reconnect whether it is through a face-to-face conversation, a text, an email, a handwritten note, or even a smile and a quick hello to the people I pass on the street.

It’s been one helluva year. All in all, I’d have to rank 2015 as one of the best so far. It certainly wasn’t without its hardships. There were plenty of those, believe me. But maybe I’m a little older, a little wiser, a little less concerned with the penny ante bullshit and a lot more focused on the things that really matter, because all those difficult things just sort of faded away and made all the really great things that much more amazing. And as I sit here in my cozy living room, listening to the fireworks, surrounded by the people I love the most in the whole, wide world, I am so very thankful and excited to see what 2016 has in store for me.

Bring it.

And here’s a little hound dog selfie to help ring in the new year…

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Well, Hello 2015

Stevie and I have pretty much accepted the fact that our lives are always going to include a certain level of chaos.

It’s okay. We’re learning to embrace it.

Because somehow, things always have a way of working out. Things might not always go according to plan (in fact, they rarely do). And sometimes the end result is quite opposite of what we originally intended, but still, there always seems to be some order in the disorder. And sometimes the things we never knew we wanted turn out to be exactly what we needed.

Funny how things work out.

For us, 2014 was a year of self-discovery. New jobs, old jobs, new opportunities, new life. In the last few weeks alone we found out that we have a new baby on the way, decided to sell our house, accepted an offer, celebrated Christmas, rang in the new year, and decided to put an offer in on a new house.

It’s been one helluva ride since Thanksgiving.

We’re rolling into 2015 on a wave of possibilities, and we’re excited to see what comes next.

Stevie and I aren’t really big on New Year’s resolutions, but I have two personal goals that I plan to accomplish this year, in the midst of all the other happenings.

1. Finish my memoir. It’s been sitting around in this “draft” stage for long enough and, come hell or high water, it’s time to move forward. I already started a Facebook page for the project, and I need to get back in the habit of writing regularly (and hopefully blogging regularly) to finally get it done. If you want to follow the project, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/InASeaOfStrangers

2. Make NY-style pizza. Stevie and I are tired of the lack of true NY-style pizza here in Nebraska. So, I’ve been researching some recipes and dough-making methods and I’m determined to master making NY-style pizza before the year is out. With my mother-in-law’s sauce, some freshly grated mozzarella, and the right dough, it’s going to be epic, and I’m determined to do it.

How about you? What are your plans for 2015?

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Another Year Goes By

The clock keeps ticking, and in just 2 hours and 4 minutes, it will be 2014.

Seriously, how did this happen?

2012 was a helluva year for us. We ran ourselves to the point of exhaustion, worked too much, traveled from the northeast to the west to the southwest and back east again. And in the midst of it all, we lost Stevie’s mom. By the time the summer ended, we just wanted the year to be over.

When 2013 began, we were optimistic, simply because it wasn’t 2012 any longer. We knew that it couldn’t possibly get any worse. And we were right. Things looked up for us this year. Cadence started (and LOVES) full-time preschool. I got a new job and have been absolutely swimming in freelance work. Steve started taking classes and is looking forward to diving into more programming. We took an amazing family vacation to Disney and had a blast. We have been saving. And we’re starting to feel comfortable.

After the long hard road we traveled in 2o12, we feel pretty good about where 2013 has taken us. And we’re looking forward to where 2014 will lead.

We’re moving in the right direction, and we’re in it together. If you ask me, it’s a pretty good place to be.

And while I don’t really believe in making “resolutions” per say, I do have one major goal that I intend to accomplish in 2014, and I hope that you’ll all come along for the ride…

Ater reuniting with my birth family in 2002, I knew that the very first book I would write would be the memoir of my adoption and reunion and all the tumultuous years in between. I started writing the story in 2008 and have yet to finish it. This year, I pulled the half-written manuscript out of my desk drawer and started writing again. In the next few weeks, this blog will be undergoing a major renovation, and part of that will include a space for me to share excerpts from the story as I finally bring the project to a close. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me on the Facebook page I created for my upcoming memoir, In a Sea of Strangers.

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Whatever the new year brings, I know it will be one helluva ride. And I don’t know about all of you, but I’m looking forward to it.

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