Note to Self.

I had a student at work ask me recently for advice. I gave her the advice that really, I needed for myself. What I said:

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Intentionally develop your voice. I love how Sheryl Sandberg (my patron saint of all things business) says it: “People aren’t brands. That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely – I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.” Practice pitching ideas – in meetings, but even with friends. Practice disagreeing with people – forcefully or sweetly. Practice writing on a personal blog because you are the boss on that blog (side note: Learn to be the boss. Own your decisions). Know the rules before you break the rules, so to speak. Practice and refine, so that your voice can bend to accommodate the audience or the topic, yet still stay true to your essence.

Engage in the disciplined work of moving towards your goals (and be ok with your goals changing). For a few different seasons in my life, my priorities did not revolve around creative practices. I needed international experience, so for over a year, my discipline revolved around the daily study and practice of Chinese. My “creative” practices felt to the wayside. They felt fluffy and less important. There are seasons – with a newborn or acclimating to a new country, for example –  when it can feel impossible to create, but totally possible to observe. So observe, instead. Progress can come in different forms.

Read, as much as possible. This is something that comes naturally to me, because I’m a librarian’s daughter, because I consider myself a curious person, and because I love words and ideas. I’m an ENFJ, and I especially love how words and ideas act as the inputs that allow me to draw connections across genres and disciplines and areas of learning. It may take 4 months to finish reading a single book. Or you might juggle between 18 books at a time (me, currently). Reading is like eating your veggies. It makes you healthier.

It’s ok to be “behind.” I recently completed – and I use the term completed loosely – a writing workshop. “I’m so behind!” I emailed to the instructor. She replied, “There is no behind. There’s just where you are.” I love that. Start where you are, with what you have. Jess Connolly wrote, in my new favorite devotional, Always Enough | Never Too Much: “Maybe it’s time we look down at what He’s given us and get busy multiplying it. Maybe we should stop thinking about when we’ll get more and start thinking about how about how we can give what we’ve got.”

Make time to appreciate art in community. In my 20s, I was part of a book club where we not only read books together, but we cooked together and ate at the cutest cafes. I am one thousand percent a goals person, and the working life comes easily to me. In other words, I can be overly pragmatic and very intent on “accomplishments.” Communal appreciation of beautiful and interesting things pulls me out of that tendency and brings much needed balance and richness to my life. Don't sacrifice joy on the altar of work.

Leave room for white space. This has been a game-changer in my life. Since I’ve started the practice of a “daily office” – regular time for Scripture reading, centered prayer, and silence – I’ve noticed that the days I practice are more balanced and more centered than the days that I don’t. Also: margin is everything. Silence and margin are two sides of the same way of being that have been hugely impactful in my journey to maintain healthy habits, develop new insights, and engage in purpose-driven growth.

Laundry Room Design.

For the last six months, we’ve done very few home improvement projects. The constraint has been budget, mostly, but also energy. When you don’t have the money to go shopping, it’s a bit of a buzzkill to even be looking, am I right? I’ve been following all the designers (and design bloggers) on Instagram, bookmarking inspiration and a few products, but mostly I’ve been on hiatus from all things house.

Until – a few things happened recently. First, I started scheduling “creative” time in my day – a 40 minute minimum where I write, practice hand-lettering, dream up room designs, etc.  Second, I came across the perfect wallpaper, and the inspiration started flowing. My creative time took a design turn, and here I am now with a laundry room inspiration board.

Side note: this wallpaper (Orange Crush) was the one that started it all. Orange groves have a special place in my heart, and I thought, we should put this in our house somewhere! But our house has its own personality, and Orange Crush in Onyx did not fit it.

No 17 Ridge House Laundry Room

Then I came across this Lulie Wallace wallpaper on Anthropologie, and it was the one. I love that Lulie Wallace prints are pretty, with spunk. The muted tones of blues and grays with pops of green better fit the aesthetic of our house, and since laundry is primarily women’s work (ha!), the laundry room was the perfect place to embrace a more feminine look.

For this room, I wanted to balance the floral print with a touch of galvanized steel, birch butcher block, clean cabinet lines, and classic marble (with a more whimsical honeycomb design). Initially, I thought that we would spend $1,000 tops on our laundry room, but then I started running the math. With the cost of materials and labor, even with DIY-ing several things, our budget now is a more realistic $3,500.

The breakdown:

MATERIALS TOTAL: $2,445

Add about another $1,000 for labor to install the tile and the wallpaper, and that brings it to about $3,500. I hope we spend less than this, of course. I almost always buy things on sale – like the wallpaper, which I purchased at about half of the regular price.

We’re going to tackle this project in bite-sized pieces along with a powder room renovation (black shiplap! brass light fixtures!) across the hall, also with a $3,500 (I hope) budget. I wish we were DIY geniuses, but the whole renovation process is so new to us (and there’s the whole full-time jobs, businesses, toddlers, baby-on-the-way thing too). For now, the plan counts for something, right?

The Middle.

It’s April now, the in-betweenest of all the months – in between winter and spring, not the beginning of the year, but not yet the summer. The middle.

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That’s where I find myself right now, in the middle (cue Maren Morris).

I’m not a new mom or a newlywed, but I’m still a young mom and a young-ish wife. I’m not super early in my career, but I also haven’t yet built the thing that I want to build. I’ve passed the discovery phase of my 20s, and now I’m learning how to undo patterns and habits that have rooted their way into this new decade.

The saying – when the student is ready, the teacher will appear – has never been more true in my life than in these last three months. My life since January has felt like a bootcamp in life skills: finances, emotional health, communication in marriage, parenting. I’ve been a sponge, soaking up new skills, shedding old perspectives, adopting new paradigms.

For one thing, we’ve stopped using personal credit cards completely. And I don’t mean that we use a credit card, and we pay it off every month. I’ve literally closed down credit lines. It’s one less thing for me to manage, and I will never go back.

Emotional health has become a real pursuit for me. We went to marriage counseling for the first time. I’m wrapping up a study on the subject with women from my church. Dates have become a weekly non-negotiable priority.  I’m learning every single day better ways to give and receive love, so that I can be the best mom and wife possible.

I’ve had a onslaught of gray hairs appear that I attribute to this particular learning season, but at the same time, I am enjoying this season so much because I have a glimpse of what’s ahead for our family. I have total and complete faith that our family legacy is being built, day by day, right now, in this season, in this year.

I am the farthest person from a marathon runner, but there is a special place in my heart for athlete analogies. I’m in the slog of the training phase. It’s slow. It’s hard. It’s sweaty. I’m moving a single step – a single action – at a time, but I’m confident that I’m heading in the right direction. The beautiful thing about this “race” is that it could be 26.2 miles, or it could not. Maybe it’ll only be 3 miles because God’s timelines and God’s ability to fulfill are infinitely greater than our own. Good news for us non-runners.

Books for the new year.

I love the fresh start of the new year.  The beginning of January is one of my happiest times of the year. I set my goals and intentions the last few weeks of December, and seeing them in action gives me so much satisfaction and joy.

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A theme that’s already started emerging for me this year is help and coaching. It’s harder to accomplish goals in a vacuum. One of my self-care goals for Q1 of the year is to get our youngest sleep-trained by the end of the month. If you know us, you know that we are incredibly lackadaisical about kiddo routines, which has backfired! After three years running of sleep deprivation, I finally bit the bullet and hired a sleep consultant. I don’t want to jinx it, but so far, it's been a game-changer.

Books to me are like consultants that live in your bag. They are such low-barrier ways to access expertise and a fresh perspective.  No better time to start a reading kick than in the new year. My January reading list:

Work

Lifestyle

Home

Spiritual

  • She Reads Truth Bible – I have it in the Navy LeatherTouch and love it - it feels so special.
  • The Soul Tells a Story - all about the discipline of writing and the practice of creative pursuit - motivating and inspiring.

What are you reading? I'd love to know!

Welcome, 2018.

It feels kind of fitting that this is the last day of 2017. New Year’s Eve, and I’m feeling impatient and burned out, like I’ve felt for so much of this year. Nothing’s working today – our internet, the baby’s sleep schedule, even my latte was subpar. I burned the bacon and cut my hand on foil (???).  Break out the champagne – I need a new day and a new year.

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When I reflect on 2017, I can’t say that I knocked my goals out of the park. Twenty-seventeen was the year of parenting two under 3 and working full-time. That’s pretty much it.

And yet (because there’s always God’s goodness) –  there was our first house, and Judah’s first birthday. There were parties and dinners with friends, getaways and a gala.  We got to watch our boys grow. It was a yearlong season of trial and error and no sleep and long days. It was a year of beauty, and blessings, and also a very ordinary kind of hard.

Going into 2018, I’m not working on big milestones, but a day-to-day that’s aligned with my priorities and values. In past years, I’ve chosen a word to describe the theme for the year: intentional, present, creativity. This year, I’ve chosen a chapter: Proverbs 31, a vision for daily God-seeking, housekeeping, child-raising and working.

My goals for the first quarter of 2018 stem from my priority buckets: self-care, relationships, personal growth, resources, and work. I use a Day Designer, and I love that for each goal, there’s a section for monthly actions, a weekly routine, a daily habit, and what progress looks like. I’m ready to turn the corner into 2018, with lots of scaffolding via coaching, scheduling, and microactions. I’ve hired a sleep consultant, found house cleaning help, and signed up for a women’s study. I’ve penciled coffee dates with the hubs into my planner and financial check-ins. Baby steps. Progress, not perfection.

We’ve been sick for the better part of December, and off work for this last week. This time has been so crucial to helping us slow down, readjust our priorities, and remember what it’s like to have margin. I’ve really lowered the bar for myself these last few weeks, trading in “adventures” for hanging out at home, and big organizing projects for just one load of laundry. Even today, we had plans to go to Cortina’s for lasagna and tiramisu, and instead I made a weeknight bolognese, in my sweatpants, with leftover pecan pie for dessert. In many ways, these weeks have been the perfect transition to a new year. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in 2017, it’s that simpler is so often better.

Tomorrow, we’ll have breakfast while watching the Rose Parade, a tradition for me ever since I was a little girl. In the afternoon, we’ll head to our favorite bed & breakfast, with a room overlooking the water. It’ll be our fourth year there, our annual family retreat starting off the new year with each other.

We were together. I forget the rest.
— Walt Whitman