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!

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:

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…

Hound dog selfie

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:

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?


Project Life 365 – Day 1 – Resolution

Well, it happened, the new year is upon us. ┬áLuckily, the Mayans were mistaken and it looks like we’ve got some more time to spend here on this beautiful planet of ours.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about 2012. Whew! What a ride! Amazing highs, gut-wrenching lows, and so many unexpected twists and turns in between. But, I guess that’s life. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the Universe throws a wrench in your plans, derails you from the direction you’d been going, and sends you rolling down a completely different path.

Sometimes, in the midst of all the chaos, you lose sight of the bigger picture.

Now, I’m not a big one for New Years Resolutions. The way I see it, those are made to be broken. We get all excited in our champagne-fueled, end-of-the-year delirium and we come up with a list of seriously unrealistic expectations for ourselves that we have no way of living up to. Lose 50 pounds. Quit smoking or drinking. Get organized. How’s that for vague? If we can’t even specify what we want to organize, how can we really expect to begin? It’s no wonder that most people don’t even bother making resolutions, and only a handful of seriously determined individuals actually end up seeing them through.

So, instead of a “Resolution”, I’m going to challenge myself instead. I’m not the sort of girl who has ever been able to back down from a challenge. I come from very stubborn stock. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. It might take me awhile, and I might even take some detours along the way, but I always get where I’m going, one way or another.

So, this year…

I’m challenging myself to write more–whether it’s paid articles, handwritten letters, one of those unfinished novels cluttering up my desk drawers, or here on my blog as part of this Project Life 365 Photo Challenge.

I’m challenging myself to read more because, well, let’s face it, I used to read at least 2-3 books a week and I miss it.

I’m challenging myself to shoot more for myself–hence, this Project Life 365. I truly believe that the art of photography, the real beauty in photography, is finding a way to translate your own unique perspective of the world, your own unique vision, into your work. These days, there are far too many photographers out there who are stuck in a rut, trying to recreate someone else’s vision, and the images just end up feeling flat and lifeless. I’ve said from the very beginning that my writing and my photography are not two separate things. I couldn’t isolate them if I tried. My writing should paint a very vivid image in the minds of my readers and my photography should tell a story. If they don’t, I’m doing something wrong. My photography style, much like my overall sense of style (ahem, my signature flowered boots), is mine and mine alone, and it’s time to own it.

I’m challenging myself to find greater balance in my life. I think I’ve done relatively well with this. Hell, I’ve had people tell me I’m the calmest, most serene person they’ve ever met. If only they’d met me about 12 years ago! Truth is, it’s hard to find your own personal balance in this crazy, topsy turvy world, and it’s even harder to maintain it. And yet, finding that balance is absolutely vital to be able to reach your full potential. This past year, I sold myself short, allowed myself to be pulled in too many different directions, and allowed some of my relationships and my time with my family to suffer because of it. So, in 2013, I am making it a priority to put myself and the people most important to me first, and not to worry as much about the things that can wait.

I am also challenging myself to get healthier. I’m not talking about an unrealistic goal on the scale or an unsustainable deprivation diet. I’ve been there, done that, have a medical record to prove it, and I’m never, ever doing it again. What I’m talking about here is just getting back to the basics, getting my ass up to exercise (even just a little) everyday, and being more mindful of the choices I’m making in my diet because, let’s face it, eating frosted sugar cookies for breakfast on any other day but Christmas is just ridiculous.

And so, I begin 2013, not grateful that 2012 is over, but grateful instead for the many blessings. The hard times, the frustrations, the pain, the joys, the laughter, the victories–they are all part of the ride. It’s true that 2012 was a particularly rough one, but I am thankful for wonderful family that I get to be a part of, and for all the amazing people I get to call my friends.

I’m wishing you all a very happy New Year filled with blessings! Hold on, and appreciate the ride.

Christmas gifts from my hubby to help me start my year off right. A new pair of flowered boots to replace the ones I’ve been wearing since college, and two new books to add to my reading list.
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