the new new year

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." - You've Got Mail

Ah, the start of fall and a new school year. Here in Florida, it doesn't feel anything like fall, nor will it for a long time. In fact, temps are in the 90s, humidity is hovering between 90 and 100%, and it feels like over 100 degrees during the day. Perfect beach weather - not great for loading small children into car seats. But I digress.

I love a new school year for the feeling of newness it brings, and a renewed commitment to routine and order. Listen, I adore summer as much as the next gal, but with two small kids in the house who thrive on routine, I am actually relieved to be back on a schedule. I can't help but feel like the start of school is like the second coming of the New Year, because new routines are being set, and with them the opportunity to improve.

My One Word Theme for 2016 is

Prepare

 - I'm dedicating myself to being on time (it's not in my nature - I have to work at it!), planning my week ahead of time, packing and laying out clothes the night before, and getting up before my kids. All of this is an effort not to rush, not to be urgent all the time. It's really been working for me to keep my mind focused on an idea, rather than striving for 5-10 different written goals. I find that "preparing" fascilitates good habits, like Bible reading, exercise, writing, and cleaning.

With the NEW New Year - the beginning of school, I want to add a One Word Theme to focus on during the months of August through May (the duration of our school year), and that is

consistency.

A little bit every day, with the focus on

every

day. I have to say - it will be hard work to change this about myself. I often feel like I need large chunks of time to dedicate to something, or I can't do it at all. But that leaves me procrastinating until I have more time, and that almost never happens.

I see this helping me in a few areas:

• Bible Study - getting up early to read 2 or 3 chapters - nothing huge. Usually ends of being 20 minutes of reading.

• Writing - I made a commitment to myself to write more consistently, so as soon as I'm done with my Bible reading, I get to pour myself a cup of coffee and write until Teddy wakes up. It actually feels like a treat, since I pair it with my coffee and some quiet time. (Pippa might be up by this time, but she gets to watch her TV show)

• Fitness - I am so done with feeling self conscious about my stomach, due to separated abs from my last pregnancy. I'm working a little bit each day on healing exercises, but also on walking 2 miles a day (or more) pushing the double stroller and holding the dog's leash. I've already noticed improvement in the area from a week's worth of short, but consistent, workouts.

• My business - we're kicking off a 90 day game plan, and I'm committed to helping serve those who said they are ready for a change in their health and their income. This is hard to balance with being home with my kids and teaching, but per the advice of a mentor, I'm getting organized, and making sure I do one thing for my business each day, no matter how small.

• Correcting papers - I have to say, I have often left a stack of papers because I felt like if I didn't have  time to correct all of them, then I wouldn't even start. No more this year! A little bit at a time will prevent the overwhelm.

• Reading - 10 pages each day before falling asleep.

But the beauty of it is that there are no goals I can "fail." It's a mindset of designing my days and weeks to faithfully fulfill my roles and use my gifts. I find there is a feeling of satisfaction in being consistent - I feel responsible and dependable, and that is empowering. It's also liberating to not have a specific goal, deadline, or number to hit. "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." So says Aristotle.

Do you renew your goals around the start of school or in fall? I would love to hear them!

morning routine


Ever since reading this article I have been crafting my perfect morning routine. 

Full disclosure: I'm pregnant, and have a 2 year old, so there are many mornings where I can't start my morning routine until I get some food in my stomach, because I'm simply too nauseous. There are many other mornings where I set my alarm for the crack of dawn, only to find that my 2 year old also set her internal alarm for that time. 

So yeah, every morning doesn't end up being a serene hour of meditation, candles, and soft music, but that's the season of life I'm in right now! And that's ok. I'll take a 5 minute devotion if that's all I can get. And at 38 weeks 4 days pregnant, we'll be adding a newborn to the mix any day now...that means my morning routine is in for another shake up. 

Anyway, here are the elements of my morning routine as it stands right now. 

Devotion and Bible Study

Each morning I read a short devotion, followed by 1-3 chapters of the Bible. My favorite devotions come from Proverbs 31 Ministries, especially if I'm on the road and all I have is my phone. I also use the WELS app to find devotions. I'm on the hunt for a new favorite women's or mother's devotion book. Open to suggestions! 

As for my Bible study, I recently finished reading the Bible cover to cover, so I have been kind of "floating" with no particular plan in mind. Some days I do a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs, and a few chapters in the New Testament gospel and epistles - they're just packed with good news, good advice, and good examples. I really would like to dig in to some of the prophets again, but always feel like I need some guidance from the People's Bible.

This portion of my morning always comes first, and usually ends up taking anywhere from 5-15 minutes...depending upon if a child wakes up.

Meditation and Prayer

Don't laugh. Well, ok, you can laugh if you want. I always think of the episode of Parks and Rec where Ron Swanson is forced to try meditating:

"All told we were in there about 6 hours, and no, I was not meditating. I just stood there, quietly breathing. There were no thoughts in my head whatsoever. My mind was blank. I don’t know what the hell these other crack pots are doing."

During this time I pray, then I follow up with quiet focus on my goals as though I have already achieved them. I always thought meditation was ridiculous witchcraft, until I started listening to the Mechanic to Millionaire podcasts. From there, it was like when you buy a car, and you start seeing that car everywhere on the road. Every successful person I listened to or read about suggested getting up early to focus on your goals, your vision board, and do affirmations. I have now written my goals on a 3x5 notecard in the present tense ("I am so happy and grateful now that..."), and use my imagination to create vivid detail of what life i like once these goals are achieved.

Time: 10-15 minutes

To Do List

If I haven't already done this the night before, I take a moment to write down the 5 most important things I want to get done that day. It can be for my business, house cleaning or organization, preparation for teaching Spanish class, or boring adult things like making doctor's appointments.

Time: 3 minutes

Coffee and Pleasure Reading

If Pippa has not woken up yet by this point in my morning routine, it feels like the most luxurious spa time I could imagine. I pour a hot cup of coffee and open whatever book I'm reading, or peruse a few of my favorite blogs.

Time: however long it takes to drink a cup of coffee, or until Pippa decides to wake up.

Exercise

I would like to say this is a consistent thing I do before my child wakes up, but pregnancy nausea requires that I eat first, and let my food settle before any activity. Maybe once Baby #2 comes along and we're settled into a good routine, I could include this before breakfast.

Now that we're in Florida, I like taking the dog for a walk in the morning before it gets too hot out, which is also a great time for me to do some personal development by listening to a podcast or team call.

For now, I'll settle for a workout with my 2-year-old fitness buddy. She actually loves working out with me, and even does push-ups and squats! I got her a dumbbell for her birthday so she could lift free weights with me, too. The only downside is that she's really picky about the music I play (I don't find the Itzy Bitzy Spider in Spanish to be that motivating).

Starting my morning with some quiet time with God and my goals ensures that I face the day with a positive mindset. I no longer get annoyed when I hear Pippa stirring for the first time, because she's not interrupting cozy sleep. I can be more generous with my time, and more present with those I love because I have gotten my mind right for the day.

Most days this means getting up in the 5 a.m. hour, but I am learning to love the freedom getting up early gives me more than the extra hour of sleep.

What elements make up your morning routine?

working from home - a learning curve


What a weird world we live in. Jobs are no longer things like "farmer," "seamstress," and "banker." (Although those jobs still exist).

Now people have job titles like web designer, dog walker, blogger, and independent consultant.

There are about a zillion and one ways to cobble together a living from the comfort of you own home. There are about a fillion more ways to piece together 86 part time jobs as your own employer. It's kind of awesome. 

Some people call these "side hustles." Others call it: "my husband is a teacher and I'm staying home with the kids so we have no money so I better figure out a way to change that." It's an official term.

Anyway, that's me now! I'm working from home! It's one of the most exciting, stressful, confusing ways I've ever decided to make money. 

I'm still a rookie. I've only been doing it for six months. I'm learning as I go. I am still trying to figure out the best schedule for Pippa and me. Working from home is one thing. Working from home but also being a stay at home parent is another thing altogether! Inspired by Molly's thoughts on working from home, here are mine:

>> plan your day...kind of  on the advice of a more experienced mom and friend, I try to write out the top things that need to get done the next day. I think Zig Ziglar was also a proponent of this strategy. I used to do this on notecards. Now I just write it on a giant mirror I use as a white board. With kids, you can do your best to stick to a schedule, but they often have minds of their own. The list keeps me from being overwhelmed with "to-do's" when Pippa goes down for her nap. 


>> get non-work stuff done when your child is awake  I used to panic, trying to get work, blog, devotions, chores, and exercise all done during one hour and a half nap. I realized that was impossible, so I decided to do computer-based work when Pippa is sleeping. Now I have her "help" me with chores and exercise with me. It's not a perfect solution (she did scratch me in the face in the middle of a "serene" yoga session), but it works for now. 

>> do your work in your "office"  before we moved we had absolutely no extra space to put a desk. In our new place, we have a loft area that works both as a playroom and an office. I have my very own desk, vision board, and fitness orb that is also my desk chair. When I bring my laptop to the sofa, MUCH less work gets done. More surfing the net happens. It's not productive. When I stay in my desk area, I have my vision board, my mirror/white board, and my calendar to keep me focused. Plus, Pippa can play in her kitchen if I have any loose ends to tie up after her nap. 

>> work in mini blitzes  I can only stay focused on one job for so long before I feel burnt out. I strive for about 45 minutes of good, solid work before I take a break to read a blog, get a cup of coffee, or throw in a load of laundry. I don't really have other people to motivate me and hold me accountable, so I have to find little tricks to keep me working. Which leads me to my next point...

>> be a boss  specifically, your own boss. If I don't hold myself accountable, no one will. If I decide not to do income-producing activity, there is no income. I have to give myself goals with deadlines. I have to write down my goals and read them aloud daily to stay motivated. I have to stay organized. I have to be focused on my "why" (which is why my vision board is right above my laptop). If I don't treat myself as a professional, then this is just a hobby, not a job. I must continue my personal and professional development without prompting from anyone else. Luckily in my job I get to earn as I learn.

 >> socialize  working from home, and being a stay-at-home parent can be lonely if you let it. I have to force myself to get out of the house each day to interact with other people. (The library has become my best friend - free and full of other parents and kids). I also have an amazing group of women around the country working toward the same goals. We have a message thread going to help motivate and support one another. 

>> be flexible  no explanation needed. 

Any other tips from experienced work-from-home veterans?

the power of your mind

-or-
"What the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common."

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite books to read was Bringing Up Bebé by Pamela Druckerman. This was because it offered a laid-back perspective on pregnancy and raising children that most of the other books could not seem to capture. In fact, I'm fairly certain the majority of books aimed at informing expecting parents were written by an evil troll living in a dark cave whose sole purpose is to fear-monger the crap out of everyone about every possible scenario that could go wrong. 

But that's neither here nor there.

Druckerman presents a world where parents are confident and relaxed. They don't feel the need to do mountains of research. They don't feel the need to compare their decisions with others, fretting what others will think. They actually enjoy the process of child bearing and raising their children. 

(Honestly, a ton of the parents I know in the United States are actually a lot like this.)

Anyway, Druckerman posits that the trick to parenting with ease and confidence is to realize that you are there to educate your child, and to set limits and stand firm in them. Among other things. But those were my big take-aways.

From Day 1, you are your child's tour guide and teacher. You are teaching her how to fit into your family. You are showing him how to eat, sleep, and behave in an acceptable manner. You are in essence civilizing a wild beast. 

It's also important to set limits and be consistent with them. When you say no, you mean it every single time. You don't get upset, you don't rise to the child's level of emotion. You model patience for them. My favorite line from the book which gives confidence and authority is, "It's me who decides." Sometimes this phrase is more for the parent than for the child. You have to remind yourself that you are in charge, and you make the decisions. You have faith in yourself as a parent, a teacher, an adult who knows better than a child. When you start doing these things, you almost carry yourself taller.

* * *

A few months ago, Justin and I got sick of our normal rotation on Netflix. We stumbled upon a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and decided we needed a refresher course on training Pablo. He's been getting pretty rude lately, counter-surfing and begging for Pippa's food. 

We quickly realized that we had started out as great pack leaders when Pablo was a puppy. We trained him, we set boundaries, and we enforced them religiously. But once we got him to the point where we were happy with his training, we grew lax. We let him do things that we used to be strict about, and he started to act out.

He needed  us to be confident pack leaders. He needed those limits and daily training to feel secure. And we were not providing that. 

Lately we have been working on re-training him with calm, assertive energy (a phrase Cesar loves to repeat). He advises you picture yourself as someone powerful you admire (Cleopatra, Gandhi, that teacher you were always scared of, etc.) and project that energy to your dog. 

* * *

So what do the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common? They carry themselves tall, they project confidence, they have faith in what they are saying. One can't help but follow someone with these qualities. It's inspiring to see in others, and energizing to try yourself!

Currently I'm working on applying this principle to all areas of my life. Pippa is developing more each day, and with that growth comes an emergence of her personality. She is so funny and vivacious - but she's also stubborn and willful. I am enjoying the challenge of teacher her patience.

I'm not as much enjoying the challenge of teaching Pablo patience and boundaries. We're getting there.

I'm also applying this concept to my work with Isagenix. I'm working toward some big and exciting goals, and every day I must build my confidence anew that I can and will achieve these goals with God's help, persistent and consistent action, and the support of my close family and friends. I am carrying myself tall, projecting confidence, and having faith in what I am saying and doing. 

* * *

Our minds are a powerful thing. We can use them for good or evil. Positive thoughts attract positive results, while negative thoughts attract negative results. Do you have faith in what you are doing? Are you confidently working toward a goal? How are you using the power of your mind today?

currently reading: daily rituals {part 2}


My ulterior motive for reading Daily Rituals; How Artists Work was to stumble upon that one magical habit that would transform my own daily routine. I don't think I'm the only person searching for increased productivity in my creative work, and I also don't think I'm alone in seeking meaning and joy in the habits that make up my day.

Thusly, I took notes on the practices of the greats. I wanted to know how they ate, when they worked, and whence they drew inspiration. I compiled a list of aspects to consider when setting up your day to maximize creativity.

1. early to rise - most of us don't have family money or a patron who pays us to sit and write all day. This is unfortunate. However, many of history's greatest artists were in the same boat. A good number of them found success by putting in a few solid hours of work before their day job, or before their family arose.

2. eating + drinking - some relied on continuous cups of black coffee or green tea. Some made a hearty breakfast, or snacked on sugary sweets throughout the day. Whatever it is that gives you energy, whether it's a healthy green smoothie or a few extra lumps of sugar in your coffee like Immanuel Kant, build it into your day. Just know that several of these creative geniuses met with an untimely demise due to poor diet and excessive use of substances.

3. know thyself - what struck me about almost all of the people highlighted in the book was that they were self-aware, especially when it came down to work habits. They knew if they were more productive pre-dawn or post-dusk. They knew if they needed complete silence or a bustling café. Figure out how you work best, then go and make it happen.

4. location, location, location - some worked standing up in the kitchen. Some shut themselves in an office. A few even worked from bed in a supine position. If you don't already have that sweet spot in your abode, you may need to head to the local library or coffee shop to get those creative juices going. This may also mean investing in a writing desk, or arranging your kitchen table into an inspiring work station.

5. activity - a long walk was a common habit of the greats, but others included swimming, daily calisthenics, or a light jog. It seems many of the most genius ideas were conceived during a leisurely stroll.

6. interests - from entertaining friends to cooking gourmet meals, maintaining an interest outside of your creative work can help to refresh your mind. Enjoy a nightcap with your significant other, hit the cafés and bars to soak up the social scene like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, or hold lively dinner parties to exchange ideas.

All of these habits are worthwhile to cultivate. However, the most important piece of advice I gleaned from this book was the act of creating every day. Some of the greats would put in a full 8 hour day of writing only to end up keeping 2 sentences. But almost all of them said the same thing - it adds up. Produce every day and after awhile you will see the results.