Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Review

I know everyone is saying this, but can you believe it's the last day of 2013?!? This has been a big year for me! I got married, we got a puppy (my first dog!), and I turned 30. Phew!

I've also become more consistent about posting (or at least, I'm trying to anyway). On Thursday, I'll share my posting goals for 2014, including at least one series that I have in the works.

And for fun, here are some blog statistics:

I started this blog on June 9, 2009.

My most read post was the first entry of the 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life series. That's the first entry I linked to my Facebook account, so that's no coincidence!

The post with the highest number of comments was Blog Every Day in May: May 11 where I had to sell myself in 10 words or less.

My least read post was actually a two way tie between this one and this one.

The most fun post to write was 'Twas the Night Before Finals.

I have published 132 posts (including this post).

I have 7 more posts sitting in my Drafts folder.

I have approximately 15 million more ideas for posts in 2014, give or take a couple.

Hope everyone has a great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day! Stay safe! =)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Twas the night before finals...

'Twas the night before finals, when in the library
Not a student was talking, and no one was merry.
The librarian sat at the front desk and waited,
In hopes that searches could be demonstrated.

The computers were full, and students were writing,
Checking due dates and page counts and citing
And in my office, I stared at the wall,
Wishing that I could see some snow fall.

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to my door, hurried and quick,
Ran out the front like a lunatic.

The shimmering green and well-maintained lawn,
Gave the look of a new morning, close to dawn
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a gigantic brain; I screamed in fear!

With two spindly legs and a tiny cap,
I heard students shouting "hey, what the crap??"
More wrinkled than raisins and bright as a flame,
Brain man whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now John! now Susie, now Bob and Marie!
On, Larry! On, Sara! On Karen and Bri!
I have come here today to see you at college
Now pay attention as I hand out some knowledge!

As the fall wraps up and the tests begin,
Remember this wisdom that I hold within.
So if you want to succeed on all of your tests,
Listen to me, give your minds a rest."

And then, in a twinkling, I heard a loud noise,
The bangs and crashes made me lose my poise.
As I drew in my breath and turned around,
Through the door Bookman came with a bound.

He was dressed all in tweed, from his head to his toes,
And his jacket had leather patches on the elbows.
A backpack of books he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
His long skinny face was as red as a beet,
When he walked, he tripped over his gigantic feet.

He was tall and thin, looked like a light pole,
And I laughed when I saw him; I lost self-control!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke few words, but his words were blessed,
"You all may be stressed,
"But don't worry about grades,
For I can assure you, you're all getting As!"

He ran out of sight as he waved to the crowd,
All of the students were cheering and loud.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
"Happy Finals to all, and to all a good-night!"

*Some of the lines in this are the exact lines from the "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". They were just too good not to use! =)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Review of Kroger Skillet Meals

On a night like tonight-cold, rainy, and nearing the end of another busy workweek (after a short holiday week)- the absolute last thing you want to think about is what you're cooking for dinner. But, if you're like us, then you don't want to blow your money on another mediocre fast food meal or resort to eating grilled cheese. Luckily, Kroger Skillet Meals came to our rescue! 

Kroger Skillet Meals are a handy, ten-minute solution to the nightly dinnertime dilemma. They come in a variety of flavors, but we tried the chicken stir fry flavor. The instructions were extremely easy, and the meal really did cook in only ten minutes! That's such a refreshing change from some meals I've cooked that are still cold or underdone even after cooking them the recommended amount of time.  

The skillet meals have several servings in a bag (forgot to check how many, but I want to say three), so they're filling on their own. However, we decided we wanted a little extra with our dinner, mainly so we could have leftovers for tomorrow's lunches. We decided to make Kroger brand garlic bread and a Kroger Fresh Selections house salad along with our stir fry. I know garlic bread and stir fry might seem like an odd combo, but it was delicious! The salad was great too! My husband is not a huge salad eater, but he polished his off! I'm sure the bacon, cheese, and ranch on it couldn't have hurt.

The husband's plate  

I did not check the ingredients list or nutrition information for any of these items, but I suspect they're pretty much in line with similar products, so those who are very health conscious may want to sit this one out. I did notice that everything tasted "real", meaning it didn't have a frozen or fake taste like you get with some frozen dinner kits. If you're interested in trying the skillet meal, garlic bread, or salad, let me know because I have a few coupons to hand out. (I also have some coupons for a few types of Kroger Home Sense cleaning products: laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets, disinfectant wipes, and fabric refresher spray. I don't have time to do a product review blog on those items, but they've impressed me so far).

Overall, this isn't something we would eat every night, but we both enjoyed the taste of the meal. I would like to try a couple of other varieties also. I can't speak for the price since I received coupons to try these products for free (see disclaimer below), but Kroger brand items are generally pretty reasonably priced. Give the Kroger skillet meals a try, and let me know what you think! Leave a comment and tell me what you tried and how you liked it. Also, leave a comment if you're interested in receiving a coupon to try the skillet meal, garlic bread, and salad at a discounted price!

Disclaimer: I received a free Kroger skillet meal of my choice, free Kroger salad kit, and free Kroger garlic bread as a BzzAgent, but all opinions above are my own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What a puppy's focus taught me about my faith

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a little...scattered. I don't mean to be, but my brain just doesn't really like to focus on one thing at a time. My husband and brother sometimes laugh at me because they will think a conversation is over, but if I think of another detail I want to add, I'll bring it up hours later, without any context (at least my mom and I can keep up with these conversation fragments. Thank goodness!). This is how my brain usually operates:

Funny Cry for Help Ecard: Ask me about my A.D.D. or pie or my cat. A dog. I have a bike. Do you like tv? I saw a rock. Hi.

Since I have this, blessing, as we'll call it, focus and discipline are two areas in which I struggle. I just finished a 21-day posting series about discipline, so I've got good tips and ideas to help me in that area, but I didn't really have any examples on how to obtain focus...or so I thought. One day when I was playing with our puppy, I noticed something. He stayed intensely focused on whatever toy we were playing with or treat I had until he was given a signal to retrieve it or take it from me. I know this may not be news to some of you out there, but this is my first dog, and it fascinated me! It didn't just happen at playtime either. Whenever I did chores, if he thought there was a possibility that he would receive a reward, he would stare at me- even if he was in another room or the hallway. 

I don't know what you have, but I want it, so I'm going to stare at you...
How in the world does this relate to my faith? Well, to me, it's a constant reminder to stay focused on my Savior. Hebrews 12:2 says "We must focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." My pastor has said a number of times that if we are getting offended by people or things of the world, then we are focusing on the world instead of on Jesus. Just as our puppy expects a reward when he stays focused on whatever I have, Christians can expect a reward for keeping their focus on Him. James 1:12 says "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." By remaining steadfast, or focused, we are assured of God's promises and faithfulness, even when things don't always seem to be going that well. We can rest in knowing that as long as we have our eyes on Him, we will receive the ultimate prize: the MilkBone of eternal life (I know, I know, but I had to tie it back in with the puppy somehow, right?).

So the next time I play fetch with him, I'm going to remember to focus on the Lord and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the unexpected lesson from that crazy little pup.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 21 (Discipline Begets Discipline)

We made it! I can barely even remember the first couple of days of this challenge, so I'm glad I'll be able to go back through these entries and quickly remind myself of what I need to do to start new habits.

And, on a confessional note, I haven't been doing too well with my original habit of walking the puppy every day. It gets dark early, the weather is bad, I've been sick, excuse, excuse, excuse. I guess it's a good thing I can reread this series!

Enough about that though, let's move on to the new stuff. Yesterday's exercise was to pick a couple of quick things from my to-do list and do them. I had a couple of little tasks around the house (primarily laundry and cleaning related) that I kept putting off. It felt nice to just do them! It's like what Paine said yesterday; it's nice to free up the mental space that you're spending on these little menial tasks.

Now, for our last chapter. Paine starts this chapter by reminding us not to get overwhelmed if we still have dozens and dozens of tasks that we still want to complete or if we didn't have the best track record with this habit. She reminds us to just keep plugging away and to look at the positive benefits that sticking with our habit have brought us. Her habit was to get up early, and her positive benefits were having time to a more meaningful quiet time every morning, finding time to exercise every day, and getting things done before her children wake up, among other benefits. Have any of you found additional benefits that sticking with your habit has brought? When I was more consistent with the puppy walking, I did notice that I felt better after doing that short walk, I spent less time as a lump on the couch in the evenings, and he was a little less spastic at night. Crud. We've got to start walking again!

Our final exercise is to make a list of all the improvements and progress that we've seen over the last 20 days. Paine reminds us not to dwell on the areas that still need major work but to instead be encouraged by the progress we've made.

I want to thank everyone who has followed along with the entire series, especially those who have provided encouragement and feedback. I have a couple of series' planned for 2014 (another book series like this and one that I'm working to cobble together). I'll keep the Facebook and Twitter notifications active so anyone who is interested in following along can do so. I've also got a box on the right side of the page where those who would rather receive email notifications of new postings can sign up there.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this series, and if anybody has suggestions for content they'd like to see in the new year, please let me know. Happy Thanksgiving, and stay disciplined!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 20 (Do It Now)

Hmm, I'm sensing a theme in these chapters...

Yesterday's exercise was to read an article and make a plan on how to stop procrastinating, start planning ahead, and begin getting things done early. My thing that I focused on was my morning routine. I open the library every morning except Fridays, which means I should be at work at 7:25. This isn't tough considering that we're up at 5 on weekday mornings, and I don't have to leave the house until about 6:45-6:50. That should give me plenty of time in the mornings to have quiet time, get dressed, walk the pup (if it's not raining), and eat a frog, right? Wrong! I very rarely plan ahead, so I'm usually rushing in the mornings to try to make mine and Will's lunches, figure out what we're having for breakfast, pick out my clothes for the day, and finish chores that I should've finished the night before, like folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher. So usually I'm running around like a crazy person in the mornings, and I leave later than I should, so I drive faster than I'm supposed to, and arrive at work as a frazzled mess! My quiet time usually gets cut short or completely skipped also because that's a "luxury" that I can't afford when I'm running behind. Argh! So, I sat down and made a time block schedule of how I'd like for mornings to go. I also modified Flylady's Before Bed and Morning Routine lists to reflect my needs a little more and give me some guidance on how to be more efficient at night and in the mornings. I'm thankful I have a few days off before I have to test these new routines though! ;-)

Today's chapter again encourages us to do things now. For example, instead of thinking about answering an email and looking at it in your inbox, just do it. Instead of continuously putting off little jobs or writing them down on your to-do list, just do the job and get it done. I am SO guilty of doing this. I'll say that I need to do something ten or twenty times at least instead of just doing it. I spend more time thinking about getting a task accomplished than it would actually take to accomplish it. As Paine says, most of the time, it only takes a few minutes or less, and then the task is no longer nagging you, taking brain space and energy, and it's done!

The exercise for today is to pick at least two or three tasks on your list that can be done in less than two minutes and do them right now! (In all honesty, I'm not going to do this right now. It's almost bedtime for me! But, I promise, I'll do it in the morning!).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 19 (Get It Done Early)

Oh man, it seems like the last portion of this book was written just for me! Look at today's chapter title. If you know me reasonably well at all, then you'll know that getting things done early (or even on time sometimes) is definitely not a strong point for me. Can't wait to dive into this one! But first, let's look at yesterday's exercise. 

Yesterday we were told to ask ourselves if we're doing the best that we can with the energy, gifts, talents, and resources that each of us have for whatever season of life that we are in. Honestly, I'm not. I'm in a good season of life right now (newlywed-ish and childless) where I have a good amount of free time, and yet, I'm not spending that time, energy, or talent on working on my goals and dreams. Despite reading this book and writing about it daily, I'm still practicing a lot of the bad habits that inspired me to take on this challenge in the first place. I'm doing better, and as she advised us to do in a prior chapter, I'm celebrating the baby steps that I'm taking, and striving to do a little better each day.

Okay, now onto the chapter that probably speaks to me more than any other chapter has so far! In this chapter, Paine talks about an article that she read that talked about how getting things done early is the key to success (reading the article is one of today's exercises, so I'll link to it there). "Get it done now" is a Flylady concept too, plus, it's something that my mom and husband both try to impress upon me. I'm constantly amazed at how much faster my husband gets chores finished because he'll just get started whereas I'll hem and haw and procrastinate until I've wasted half the day thinking about how much I don't want to do something! I guess this goes hand in hand with the "do the hardest things first" chapter also! 

Paine talks about how she's made a lot of excuses for her tardiness in her life, but almost always it boils down to procrastination, improper prioritization, and a lack of planning ahead. For example, she said that instead of planning to leave 30 minutes before she needed to be out the door, she would wait until 30 minutes before she needed to leave to take her shower, get everyone dressed, gather up whatever they need to take with them, and get everyone out the door. I can definitely relate (Mom and Will, if either of you are reading this, stop laughing at me...)! I hardly ever plan ahead or account for obstacles, so I'm constantly frantic and frenzied. However, Paine says that even though knowing the problem is good, it doesn't fix anything; we actually have to make changes if we want to experience any benefits. This seems like common sense, but to me, it's really helpful! 

Today's exercise is to read the article Paine talked about. It's called The Secret of Success for a Work-At-Home Mom, but Paine promises that it will encourage people who don't fall into this category. 

(Side note, she's right; I just read it, and it does have good, practical tips in it. It's by the same lady who wrote the Eat the Frog article, so if you enjoyed that one, you'll like this one. Other side note, I started reading the Eat the Frog book today and wasn't impressed. It seemed a little over complicated to be a book about simplifying your life). 

The other exercise is to choose an area in which you especially struggle with being behind or running late. Write a simple plan for how you are going to stop procrastinating, start planning ahead, and begin getting things done early. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 18 (Embrace Your Own Uniqueness)

Yesterday's exercise was to evaluate your goals and make sure they are based upon what is best for your family. Since my family right now consists only of my husband, myself, and our puppy, this one was a pretty easy one! The puppy automatically agreed that the goals would be fine for him (ha!), and I have an extremely easygoing husband who just wants me to be happy and accomplish my goals, so I know that they'll work for him to. Phew. It's good to have an easy exercise!

As you might have guessed from the title of today's chapter, it's about making sure that are happy with yourself. This is such a great reminder and great chapter that I'm going to share it in its entirety and pretend like copyright laws aren't really a thing. Hey, this is educational use, right? ;-P

Here it is:

"You can spend all of your life trying to measure up to someone else. You can fritter away hours of time wishing you had her hair or her figure or her energy or her gifts.

But you are not her. You are you.

You have unique gifts, talents, and abilities. You can improve upon what God has given you, you can wisely steward what He has given you, but you cannot change who He has created you to be.

So instead of living life wishing you were someone else, embrace your own uniqueness. Don't feel guilty if you can't get up when she gets up, or decorate your home like she decorates hers, or fit into the size of jeans she does, or juggle all the activities and responsibilities she does.

Your life and goals are going to look different from others--and that is completely okay.

In fact, if everyone was a carbon copy of each other, wouldn't life be dull and colorless?"

Good stuff!

Today's exercise is to ask yourself if you are doing the best you can with the energy, gifts, talents, and resources you have in the season of life that you are in. Paine says that if you are, you can move on without guilt, even if your life and goals look completely different from someone else's that you know.

Hope everyone stays warm and dry tonight! Brr!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 17 (Stop Comparing Yourself to Others)

This is the third day in a row that I've been really excited about the chapter topic because I feel like it's really speaking to me! But, before we talk about this one, let's look at yesterday's exercise. Paine wanted us to read an article and make a list and action plan for things we procrastinate on. Honestly, I only did the article one because we ended up being busier than I expected today, and I just didn't do my list...or, you could say that I procrastinated on it! I do have a list of things I'm procrastinating doing (my "eventually" list), so I guess I need to just work on my action plan now. The article had good advice in it, including don't try to accomplish more than 10 tasks a day. It's a short read, so take some time to check it out.

In today's chapter, Paine reminds us that we're all in different places and stages in life. One of her major takeaways is that you need to do what is best for you in whatever life season you're in. As Jon Acuff says, "don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle." This is a great lesson, but it's something that I (and maybe some of you) have a lot of trouble remembering and need constantly reinforced, especially when I'm working on my goals. Paine says to consider what your family's needs are and your own strengths and weaknesses, then choose goals that work for your family, even if they're almost the exact opposite of what works for someone else.

Today's exercise is to evaluate your goals and make sure they are based upon what is best for your family and not something you feel you need to do because someone else is doing it or someone else told you that you should do it. Do what works for you!

Breaking down goals: Losing 50 pounds

Weight loss is the bane of my existence. If you go back through these postings, you'll see many, many of them relate to weight loss experiments, attempts to get in shape, etc. And that's just what I posted about on here. I've been battling my weight off and on since college, and it feels like it's going to be a lifelong battle, especially since metabolism starts to slow at 30 and it becomes harder to lose weight.

What's even more frustrating is that I weigh more than I ever have before. I've gained 20 pounds since getting married, so I'm that much further from my goal. It's easy for me to get overwhelmed and a little depressed at the thought of having to lose even more weight, but I'm trying to be positive and break this down into smaller steps.

I've done complicated rewards systems for myself before that didn't really work (obviously not or this wouldn't be an issue still), so I just picked some significant dates for myself, including some holidays and birthdays and thought about some realistic goals for what I could lose in those time frames, and here's what I came up with:

  • down 5 by end of year
  • down 10 more (15 total) by Valentine's Day (our 3 year dating anniversary)
  • down 5 more (20 total) by wedding anniversary (March 9)
  • down 5 more (25 total) by Will's birthday (March 31)
  • down 5 more (30 total) by Easter (April 20)
  • down 10 more (40 total) by Memorial Day (May 26)
  • down 10 more (50 total) by birthday (July 16)
There's a big gap between the last two goals, but I've always heard that the last few pounds are the most difficult to lose (I've never gotten to that point, so meh).

I plan to be more diligent about logging my food on My Fitness Pal (I'm amberiam on there if you'd like to be friends or gently harass me). I'm also not buying any more junk food. Even if I say that it's "for Will," I end up eating it, and usually a lot more than I need to. I know that sweets are a huge weakness for me, so I just don't need that temptation at home. I'm also working on getting more exercise, including walking, body weight exercises, and Wii Fit (don't laugh! My muscles are sore!). Being the list-a-holic that I am, I've been working on creating a workout plan for myself. I've also been working on some fitness goals, including a 5K on December 15 and a half marathon in February. 

So why am I writing about all of this? Well, for one reason, I've heard that sharing goals like this with others makes you more likely to succeed. I guess one reason for that is because then people will ask you how your goals are going, and you won't want to confess that you're not doing well. Another reason may be that they keep you accountable by looking at what you're doing and seeing if your actions match the words that you have said. Those are my theories anyway. 

I weigh in on Thursday mornings before eating or drinking anything. I'm not going to post my weight on here each week (although, talk about accountability...sheesh!!), but I will post a brief snippet about my progress either weekly or on my monthly 30 during 30 recaps. 

Would anyone like to be accountability partners? If so, leave a comment here or send me an email/Facebook message, and we can work out the details!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 16 (Do the Hardest Things First)

No, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no. Okay, I've practiced saying no more than I say yes, so I've finished step 2 of yesterday's exercise! =) In all seriousness, I did look at the activities and commitments on my plate through the end of the year, and it honestly wasn't horrible. I think I'm doing a better job with saying no than I thought! There are a couple of things that I'm going to drop for various reasons, but otherwise, I was happy to see that this one wasn't as bad as I thought. Now, onto today's topic.

Oh man, this is another tough topic for me! It's funny because I just listened to a podcast from Joyce Meyer earlier this week that had the same message. The podcast was from July or August, and it talked about getting yourself ready to face the day, and Meyer suggested doing the thing you dreaded the most first thing in the morning so it would be finished. I have such a hard time with that. I procrastinate and procrastinate on tasks I don't want to do until I'm having to rush to do them, or until I just have to drop them and disappoint someone who was relying on it to be finished (and that someone is myself sometimes...). So, what can I do to overcome this problem?

Paine suggest two things:

1. Eat the frog first: This is based on the Mark Twain quote, "If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day." This is also the premise of Eat That Frog, the book about discipline that I chose to read based on Day 13's exercise. The idea is that if you do an awful task first, you'll get it out of the way so you can enjoy your day more and be more productive and fulfilled. Also, as Paine says, you'll have more momentum for the rest of the day.

2. Save the best for last: Reward yourself with some of the tasks you enjoy doing once you've accomplished your most dreaded tasks for the day. I normally operate in the exact opposite way, so this will take some getting used to but will help me become more disciplined and productive!

Today's exercise also has two parts. First, read the article Start Your Day By Eating a Frog. Next, determine what you tend to procrastinate on and develop a plan of action for making it a first priority. This one may be ugly for me because I procrastinate on a lot of things. Eep.

Friday, November 22, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 15 (Say "Yes" to the Best)

Day 15 already! Wow! I can't believe that we're wrapping this up next week. As I said yesterday, I plan to do another series like this after the first of the year. If anyone has any suggestions for books or topics, please let me know.

In yesterday's exercise, Paine asked us to think about what things are hindering our success in following through with our goals and what steps we can take to set us up for better success. I think one of the biggest things that's hindering my success is my negative attitude. As you may have seen in a couple of these posts, I've been a little negative towards this book because the premise isn't quite what I thought it was, and I thought it should've done X, Y, and Z, and it doesn't really seem to be helping me, etc, etc. Thankfully, a couple of lovely ladies have gently steered me back onto the right path and have helped me get rid of that "stinking thinking" (I know, I know, but I love things that rhyme). So, I guess the steps I can take to set myself up for being more successful are just to go back through the steps Paine suggests, remember to take things slowly, and not get discouraged if I feel like my progress is slow or nonexistent. Also, I can reach out to those around me for guidance and straightening out if I need it! Do any of you want to share your hindrances or tips for overcoming them? Don't be shy; what you say may be really helpful to someone else! 

Today's chapter is a tough one for me since I'm a bit of huge people pleaser. Paine starts out her chapter by saying the same thing, and I'd guess this is a pretty common theme for a lot of people. However, Paine points out that every time you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else, and that something else may be more helpful to your goals than what you've said yes to. She says that when you try to do it all, you'll end up frustrated and depleted, so your best strategy is to really consider the cost of each commitment before you make the final decision of whether or not to participate. I'm getting much better about this than I used to be, but I still have a ways to go! 

The exercise for today has two parts:

1. Evaluate all the activities and commitments on your plate right now. Choose one that really doesn't matter or isn't helping you move closer to your long term goals, and get rid of it. If it's something that involves other people, make sure you don't just walk out on them without tying up all the loose ends first.

2. Make a habit of saying no more often than you say yes. The peace and order you'll begin to experience in your life will be well worth the initial difficulty of actually saying no. 

This is going to be a tough exercise! Hope it goes well for all of you following along

Thursday, November 21, 2013

30 During 30: Month 4 Update (October 17-November 16)

I'm behind on this one! Perhaps updating my blog more regularly should be one of my 21 Days to Discipline goals!

I had a much better month 4 than month 3! The semester is a little slower now with not as much instruction, so I feel like I don't just crash when I come home!

I've been doing well on the repeating monthly goals, like date night and girl night. After the first of the year, I will work more on having coffee with potential friends. I decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo (goal #27) this year because I didn't really have any idea for a novel, and I chose to spend time on other pursuits. So, that goal is crossed off the list by default! We are starting to better with our tithing (goal #5), so we're working towards that one. I've been working on all of my spiritual goals over the past couple of weeks, so I feel like that section is going along, full steam.

Unfortunately, the other sections don't feel like they're going very well. For example, my goal to lose 50 pounds (goal #7) is going in the opposite direction. I started tracking my weight loss about seven weeks ago, and I've gained three pounds. That's just going to make it that much tougher on me! I also haven't been working on my financial goals either, so I need to focus on those two sections and figure out how I can accomplish or at least work towards those goals. In an earlier entry, I said that I was going to write about breaking down my goals, and I still plan to. I think that will help me refocus and dig into accomplishing what I want to before July.

I can do three push ups, so I'm 10% of the way to completing goal #10. Man, I've got some work to do!

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 14 (Set Yourself Up For Success)

Like last night, I have a couple of things I want to say before jumping into the series. I was pretty frustrated with myself last night and ready to make drastic changes and cut everything that might be remotely threatening to my quest for more self-discipline until one of my Facebook friends made a great point: keeping those things will help me more because I will get to exercise the self-discipline skills that I am learning. I'm so glad she wrote that! I can't completely remove everything in my life that might be the slightest bit distracting. That's ridiculous to think so! Instead, I have to use Paine's tips to apply discipline and focus to my life and learn how to balance the fun and the serious. I'm so thankful for all of the wisdom I've been receiving from people thanks to this series! I'm going to have to do another series like this after the Christmas season!

Now, let's get back to it! =)

Yesterday's exercise was to read a book about self-discipline. This is my favorite and the easiest exercise so far! I found Eat That Frog, one of the suggested books from yesterday in eBook format from the library, so I've loaded it onto my iPad. It's only a 3 week checkout, and it seems like a pretty short book, so I don't think I'll need to set page number goals like she suggested. 

Today's chapter is about setting yourself up for successfully achieving your goals. She gives the example of trying to achieve the goal of getting up early, you can do things that will help you to be more likely to succeed, such as go to bed earlier, get up and immediately start exercising, or buy an alarm clock without a snooze button/feature. 

The exercise for today is to consider what things are hindering your success in following through with your goal(s)? Also, what steps can you take to set you up for better success?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 13 (Read Motivating Books)

Before I jump into the content, I just want to thank everyone who's reading this series. I got some really encouraging feedback this morning that made my day, so I appreciate anyone who's hanging in there with this series, even when I've been less-than-positive about this series!

Now for the review! Yesterday's exercise was to look at what distracts us from focusing on our goals. Mine is the Internet/Facebook. I can fall down the rabbit hole of Internet browsing or looking at Facebook posts for an hour or two before I even realize it. Paine asked us to think about how we're going to remove distractions. For me, I've decided to deactivate my Facebook account in a few days. I did it over the summer, and while I can't say that I was super productive, it did make a difference for me. For the Internet, I'm going to either install a timer extension/site blocker or use a regular timer so I know how much time I have to accomplish what I need to. Also, games and apps on my phone/iPad are very distracting, so it's time to do some major deleting. These things may seem extreme to some, but I'm ready to be focused on my goals, be disciplined, and to live a life for Christ, rather than for the Internet or Facebook. (Phew, can you tell I wrote some of this after church tonight? We had an awesome healing service at Joy Church tonight, and then I came home and almost immediately logged into Facebook. Ridiculous!)

Today's chapter title- Read Motivating Books- called my name! =) Paine suggests three books that are great for inspiration on the subject of discipline: Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Achieve Tomorrow's Success. I've actually read 168, and it was a great book about time management and prioritizing goals in order to accomplish what you really want to, instead of spending too much time pursuing things that don't matter...like Facebook. Sheesh! I think I need to re-read it and read the others though. The exercise for today is to choose one book or audiobook related to self-discipline to read over the next month. Paine suggests setting page number goals per week to help you stay on track if you need to. Make sure to visit your local library for a good self-discipline title and save money on buying a book (or visit their website and download an eBook or audiobook!). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 12 (Discipline Demands Focus)

Yesterday's exercise was to find an accountability partner, then create a specific plan for how the two of you would hold each other accountable to your goals. I'm not going to lie; my plan was basically to ask Will to make sure I stay on track with walking puppers. No big specific plan there. I like the idea of an accountability partner, and I know that I can find plenty of people to help me with it, but I still feel like this book isn't quite what I thought it was. I need discipline to do little things, not just huge life goals. Do I need an accountability partner for all of my goals? Do I need to have someone call me and make sure I'm doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and packing my lunch at night instead of two minutes before I have to leave? I'm looking for ways to improve my discipline so I can get all of those little things done, as well as the big goals that are on my "eventually" list.

With that said, let's move on to Day 12. The title of the chapter- Discipline Demands Focus- intrigued me. I really have trouble with focusing on the task at hand and getting things finished in a reasonable amount of time. In fact, even as I've been trying to write this, I've gotten distracted by a couple of different tasks and websites and have to keep reminding myself to finish this so I can go to bed!

Paine has two keys for maintaining focus. First, remove distractions. Are you getting sidetracked by the Internet instead of taking the puppy for a walk (uh, not that I'm talking to anyone in particular here)? Then remove the distraction of the Internet until the task is done. Use an extension to limit the time you can spend on the Internet or the times when you can be online. If your goal is to lose 5 pounds but you can't stop eating the brownies in your kitchen, then get rid of the brownies and don't make anymore! Okay, that seems easy enough. Her second key is to focus on a small piece of your goal at a time. She reiterates the Day 9 lesson of breaking goals down into baby steps so you have small, manageable tasks to complete instead of being overwhelmed by a huge goal. It took me a couple of readings to understand how this one related to maintaining focus, but I finally figured out that it allows you to microfocus on each portion of your goal so you can have small victories, instead of being discouraged and losing sight of the prize at the end of the discipline tunnel. This one is a little more difficult for me to use on my goal for this series, but I'll definitely use it for future goals!

Today's exercise is consider what is distracting you from staying focused on your goals and figuring out how to remove those distractions. Also, she says that if you haven't yet broken your goal down into smaller pieces, now is the time to do so. This exercise also involves setting specific time frames for each of these smaller pieces. I think that I need to look at a goal besides walking the puppy for this portion. I don't know if that is the best goal to long term plan, break into smaller pieces, etc. Sigh. I am learning things from this book, but it's just not what I expected!

How about you guys? Anyone learning anything to help them develop discipline?

Monday, November 18, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 11 (How to Find An Accountability Partner)

Yesterday's exercise asked us to think about whether or not we had cheerleaders and potential accountability partners to help us reach our goals. I definitely do! Not only do I have my husband, but I also have my family (including my parents, brother, and in-laws!) and a couple of close friends who will keep me on-track and motivated if I ask for help. How did everyone else do with thinking of potential accountability partners?

If you had trouble, you're in luck because finding an accountability partner is the focus of today's chapter. Paine suggests starting with local friends and family to see if anyone would like to join you in keeping each other accountable to one specific goal on a regular basis. She also says that if you can't find anyone locally, ask friends online through social media or any other online groups you're a part of. She even suggests looking for online support groups for the goal you're working on, which is a good idea for some of my future goals where I may need support from people going through that specific phase at that point.

The exercise for this chapter is to find a local or online accountability partner and create a specific plan for how each of you will hold the other accountable to your goals. Work out details like how you will communicate and how often you will check up on each other.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 10 (You Need Cheerleaders)

Well, I completely missed yesterday's entry. We were out most of the day and evening, so by the time we got home, I didn't even think about writing. I'm only going to do Day 10 tonight, and I'll finish on the Friday after Thanksgiving instead of on the actual day; no harm, no foul. I'll be completely honest also; I'm not as impressed with this book as I was when I read other people's recaps of it and when I skimmed through it. It seems kind of repetitive, and I don't feel like it's helping me accomplish my day-to-day goals, but maybe that's because I'm not doing everything to the letter as I should be. I'm going to recommit to it starting with my Day 11 entry tomorrow and see if that helps.

Moving right along...the Day 9 was to break one of my larger goals down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. This goes along with the idea of breaking down the goals on my 30 during 30 list. I chose the goal of our family becoming debt free and more financially secure. I made a multi-step, three-year plan that will help make the overall goal more manageable, and I'm scheduling review time reminders on my Wunderlist account so I'll remember to look at the goals to refocus and recommit if needed. 

Today's chapter talks about the importance of having people around you that will remind you to stay on track with your goals. They don't have to be physically near you; the idea still works if your cheerleaders are virtual or texting you to keep you encouraged. The exercise for today urges you to consider whether or not you have cheerleaders in your life who are helping push you closer to your goals. If not, think about people you might ask about becoming your accountability partner.

Hope everyone is staying safe tonight!

Friday, November 15, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 9 (Break Your Goals Into Bite-Sized Pieces)

Making this a quick one because it's later than I thought it was! We haven't written down our goals and posted them, but we had a good discussion about them. So, I guess we get partial credit for yesterday's exercise. Does that go against everything the book says about being more disciplined? ;-P

Today's chapter suggests taking a goal or two and breaking them down into smaller, baby steps. She gives an example of losing five pounds in six weeks and breaking it down into goals like tracking calorie intake and finding an accountability partner. Her main point is to make sure that you're not overwhelmed by your goal and breaking it down is the best way to do that.

The exercise for tomorrow is to take a larger goal and break it down into bite-sized pieces and create a plan of action for the next few weeks or months. Set up a weekly "appointment" with yourself to review and re-evaluate your goal and how things are going. Paine also suggests that if you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed with the goals that you have set for yourself, then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate; figure out if you need to give yourself more time or tweak the goals a little to make them more realistic.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 8 (Put Your Goals On Paper)

Yesterday's exercise asked what negative thought patterns I needed to squelch. I'm not going to get too deep here, but I definitely have a problem with negative self-talk. Even as I've been doing this series, I've been thinking things like "I won't be able to finish this" or "this is just another project that I'm going to start and fail." Nice, huh? The second part of the exercise asked what I would do to replace these thoughts with positive, inspirational thoughts. I'm learning Scriptures, especially those about the power of words and the mind, so that's one way I'm going to get the negative thoughts out of my head. Another thing I'm going to do is just to remind myself that it is a slow journey and just because I'm not always 100% on point doesn't mean that I need to give up! How do you guys replace negative thoughts and self-talk?

Today's chapter is interesting to me because it's something that Will and I have talked about doing a few times but haven't done yet. Paine says that in order to make sure your goals have purpose and weight to them, they need to be written down. She links to goal-setting worksheets from Project Management Skills and Cigna Behavioral Health (too lazy to link tonight. Maybe another goal of mine should be not to wait until close to bedtime to write...). She also suggests putting the goals in a conspicuous location and reviewing them often. Coincidentally, this is the exercise for today, so I know what we'll be doing after work tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 7 (Resist Negative Thought Patterns)

7 days in already! Woo hoo! And now that I've fixed my mistake, we're on track. =)

Yesterday's exercise was to step back and consider whether or not I'm being realistic about my discipline goals or need to tweak anything in order to achieve better success. I do think I'm being realistic about my first habit that I've set. I'm not quite sure what she meant by discipline goals. If she's referring to the list that I made a few days ago, then I do think I'm being realistic, but I guess I won't know for sure until I try implementing those things!

Now, to day 7. Today's chapter urges us to remove the words I can't from our vocabulary and keep a positive attitude, rather than having the mindset that we're probably going to fail at this, just like every other goal/challenge we have ever undertaken. She says to surround yourself with people who will inspire you and motivate you. If you can't think of anyone like that, leave me a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter, and I will be glad to be that person for you!

Today's exercise (which I just realized she calls "practical application". I like that better!) asks what negative thought patterns you need to squelch. Also, when they arise, how will you replace them with positive, inspirational thoughts?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 6 (Be Realistic)

Alright, now we're back on track after my little blog/book mixup . I changed the content a little for a couple of days and only had to add one day, so it wasn't as messed up as I thought! Take a minute to go back through the days and see the new info! =)

Yesterday's exercise was to read the Michael Hyatt article and consider what obstacles lie in my path for my chosen habit (15+ minutes a day of puppy walking) and to create strategies to help me be prepared for them. Hyatt's article echoed what Paine has been talking about: prepare for obstacles and have strategies to overcome those obstacles. I enjoy Hyatt's writing and have been a subscriber of his blog for a while now, so it was a good reminder and reinforcement to read his tips, especially today when it was cold and rainy/snowy, and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was walk the puppy! But, the cold weather was one of my perceived obstacles from yesterday's exercise, along with being too tired, so I was ready! My strategy for the cold was to bundle up and walk more quickly! I know that's not earth-shattering or very exciting, but strategies for overcoming obstacles don't always have to be magic. My strategy for overcoming the obstacle of feeling tired was just to remind myself that it's a really short time frame and that puppers and I will both feel better after finishing the walk. Also, it makes him tired earlier, so it will benefit me more than if he's wound up all evening! Plus, I'm such a nerd that I get a little excited about having a check in streak on Daily Feats for this goal! Hey, whatever works, right?

Now onto today's chapter. Paine starts out by saying that she's constantly tempted to set goals that are unrealistic. SHE'S PREACHING TO THE CHOIR! I'm so bad about not only setting way too many goals but they're also usually unrealistic. For example, I won't just say that I'm going to walk the puppy at least 15 minutes a day; it's got to be I'm going to walk him to this particular spot every time, then let him spend time outside in the back yard, and do this and that and the other. I very much overcomplicate things and then when part of my "perfect" plan gets messed up, I just quit. By being realistic and starting small, I'm more likely to stick with things and not get so crazy if things don't go like I think they're supposed to. That's more beneficial in the long run because it's better to have some hiccups and keep going rather than to abandon yet another habit. I don't remember who said this (Jon Acuff maybe?) but "some is better than none." So true!

The exercise for tomorrow is to step back and consider whether you're being realistic about your discipline goals. Do you need to tweak anything to help set yourself up for better success? If so, tweak it now! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 5 (Anticipate Obstacles)

Keeping it short tonight because it's been a busy day, and we're all tired!

I made my list today. How did that go for anyone else following along? I realized that my number two habit isn't going to be getting enough sleep; it's going to be consistent quiet time. That will make me happier, even if I don't have enough sleep! ;-)

Today's chapter talks about what to do if you want to give up. Paine's three suggestions (on the blog, not in the book): anticipate obstacles and prepare for them beforehand, be realistic and make realistic goals, and resist negative thought patterns. She has a lot of good advice on perseverance, so check out what she had to say.

The exercise for tomorrow is a two part one:

1. Read Michael Hyatt's article on 5 Steps to Developing Discipline.

2. Consider what obstacles lie in your path as you seek to implement your chosen habit over the next 18 days. Create strategies to help you be prepared for them.

This should be a good exercise! Hope everyone has a good rest of the night! We're off to catch some zzz's!

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Oops!!

I just realized tonight that I've messed up! I've been using her blog as a template for these postings instead of the eBook, and I counted my days to make sure I was correct and found that there weren't 21 days on the blog. So, many of the days and exercises on here were actually two days worth of content in the book. Sigh. 

I'm going to take some time tomorrow during my lunch break and after work to get the postings straightened out and back on the right track. There may be a flurry of things posted tomorrow as I get everything fixed, so I apologize in advance for the newsfeed/Twitter overload!

I'll get Days 5 and 6 posted tomorrow also, so we'll be caught up and back on track. I know this isn't a huge deal, but I want to do this the correct way for those who are going through this process and these steps. Also, as a librarian, I feel like it's my duty to organize this and redo the mistakes. ;-)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 4 (Focus on Habit at a Time)

Yesterday's exercise was to choose one small bad habit to commit to reverse or one good habit to try to implement for the rest of this challenge. I had a couple of good habits  that I was trying to choose between: getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night or walking the pup at least 15 minutes a day. Although both of those would be really beneficial to me and Will, I decided to implement the puppy walking goal first. He has been kind of crazy/hyper lately, and I've definitely been slacking on taking him out daily (especially on weekends). Plus, it wouldn't hurt me to get some exercise! I already had a Daily Feats account from a couple of years ago, so I added that as a goal to track.

Today's chapter is about the importance of only implementing one habit at a time. This is a huge one for me because as those close to me know, I get kind of overenthusiastic sometimes when I want to make changes and end up burning myself out trying to change too much too quickly. Paine talked about how it's better to master a couple of habits per year and be consistent with those rather than starting 30 things at once and mastering none. My pastor has talked about this before too, but it's never really gotten through my thick skull!

The exercise for today is kind of a long one, so I've copied it verbatim from Paine's site instead of trying to summarize it:

"Sometime in the next 24 hours, find 15 minutes to sit down and make a list of all the good habits you want to develop in your own life and the bad habits you want to reverse. This is not an exercise to overwhelm you; it’s an exercise to just get it all written down on paper so it’s not sitting in your brain nagging at you. :)
Once you’ve made an exhaustive list, prioritize the top three habits that will make the most difference were you to implement them tomorrow. Then, take a deep breath, set your paper aside in a safe place (if you’re prone to lose things, consider emailing yourself the list or saving it as a file on your computer!), and keep working on the habit you’ve already committed to make your focus for the next 19 days.
When you feel like the current habit you’re working on has truly become a habit, you can then pull out your exhaustive list and start making the next thing a priority. Remember to take it slowly–even if you’re tempted to accelerate onto the next habit."
Can't wait to do this one (I'm a list-making nerd)! I guess my number two habit is going to be getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 3 (Start With Small Things)

I didn't realize that my pictures from yesterday weren't showing up. It should be fixed now. Thanks for letting me know, Aunt Lorrie! =)

Yesterday's exercise was to choose one simple habit to change that I could resolve to follow through with for the next 24 hours. I decided that my simple habit was going to be to take the puppy for a walk after work. I don't always do that, especially now that it's getting dark earlier, but it makes a huge difference in how calm he is at night. Even a short walk helps!

Today's chapter talks about how important it is not to be discouraged by small changes. She even says that moving in the right direction, even at a microscopic rate, is still moving forward. This chapter really resonated with me because I always want everything to change immediately! It's so easy to get discouraged when you don't think you're making any progress!

Today's exercise is to choose one small bad habit that you will commit to reverse or one good habit you will aim to implement in your life for the next 20 days. She suggests a few tracking resources on her site if you want to visually track your progress. I've got a couple of ideas about what I want to do, so be sure to come back tomorrow to see which one I chose and what the task for day 3 is!

Friday, November 8, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 2 (Discipline is a Process)

Welcome to everyone who's reading via the Facebook link! I made the choice to start posting my blog entries on there because I want to really ramp up my writing and become a more consistent blogger in 2014, so I thought I'd get a head start by shamelessly self-promoting myself now.

Yesterday's exercise was to choose one small project that's been nagging at me for weeks or months and complete it in 24 hours. As a chronic list maker and procrastinator extraordinaire, I had a lot more tasks like this than I care to admit! I finally chose to work on my purse bag:

I only started carrying a purse again recently, so I wasn't sure what all was in this bag. I had friends tease me a couple of years (yes, years) ago about all of the junk in it, but that still didn't prompt me to clean it out. It became one of those perpetual to-do list items that got shifted from list to list. I've got many, many other tasks like that, but this one seemed relatively quick and painless and I knew I needed a small victory to start off with. Here's a blurry picture of what was in it:

Some of these thing disturb me! Like, what is that single blue tinted pill at the bottom right? It's hard to see also, but there's black stuff on that green tube of lip gloss in the center. Ick! Those things, along with the Splenda tablets, eye drops (who knows how old those are?), the lip gloss without a lid, the two random lids, all of the mints/medicines, and the flattened Crystal Light packet got thrown away. I've also reduced the number of silver barrettes down to one. I don't know why I had three in there!

I also realized that I was missing a few basics in there, like paper to write on since I had a pen and pencil in there! I added paper, newer mints, my beloved apple pie gum (Jen!), lotion, and headache medicine.

What was your day one task? Are you just jumping in today? Welcome, if you are! =)

Now, on to day 2.

Today's focus is on the process of discipline. Paine says that we have to realize that you can't just go from zero to 100% discipline overnight; you have to resolve to change something and then follow through with it. She also says that it's easier to set small, simple, achievable goals and stick with those over the long haul rather than trying to change everything overnight and being burnt out after a couple of days. Now I know she's talking to me!

Today's exercise is to choose one simple thing that you can resolve to change today and then follow through with it for the next 24 hours. Only choose one thing, even if there are a hundred things you're ready to change!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Day 1 (Discipline is a Choice)

Lately I've been feeling lazy. I wake up every morning with the best intentions to do A, B, C, and D, but usually by the end of my day, I just plop down on the couch and waste time playing Candy Crush or watching mediocre TV with my husband. There's nothing wrong with relaxing, but I'm starting to realize that I lack discipline in my life. I read a review on another blog (can't remember which one, unfortunately) about a book by Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom called 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life, and I had to have it! The book has 21 tasks that help you build your discipline muscles and actually get things done, rather than just writing about it!

So today, I'm starting on Day 1. Coincidentally, by starting today, I will complete her 3 week program on Thanksgiving, so I'll be able to carry my new found discipline into the crazy holiday season!

Here's something that stood out to me on page 4:
"Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done, even though you don't want to."

Ugh. It's like she's talking to me here!

Today's exercise is to choose one small project that's been nagging at me for the last few weeks or months and start and complete it in the next 24 hours. I'll report back on what project I chose tomorrow, along with Day 2's task.

Also, if anyone is interested in following along, here is the series on her blog: http://moneysavingmom.com/2011/11/21-days-to-a-more-disciplined-life-introduction.html. There are a few differences in the eBook, but from what I skimmed on the blog and in the book, a lot of it looks the same.

Here's to discipline!

(Note: I'm doing this completely on my own. No review copy or requirement to blog; I just wanted to make some changes!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A review of Lead by Morning: 365 Days of the Present Principle

Mornings can be hectic. It often seems like there's not enough time to do everything you need to, much less adding in "extra" things like quiet time, reflection, and exercise. Claire Diaz-Ortiz has come up with a simple acronym and a plan to help with that very problem. Her PRESENT Principle contains ideas on how to make the most of your morning, through prayer, focused reading, scheduling, and other habits to build upon. The book also contains guided meditations for every day of the year for those who need a bit of a jump start on the principle.

While this is a great idea in theory, I've found myself having trouble doing these things on top of an already hectic morning. Perhaps I need to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier. I know I need to do more planning at night also, but honestly, a seven step routine on top of normal morning busyness seems like a lot to me. I did have some good takeaways from the book and will be attempting to add some of these things to my own morning routine, but I think this principle is better suited to those who have a good amount of time to devote to their morning routines (so I guess I'll look at it when I retire...ha...)

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Lead by Morning, but all opinions are entirely my own!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

30 During 30: Month 3 Update (September 17-October 16)

Ugh, yet another month that feels like it got away from me, and another month where I felt like I didn't really do anything. I probably went on a date night with Will, and I may have done something with a female friend, but I can't even remember. This has been a busy season at work, full of instruction, research consultations, and a lot of other little things. I've been behind on projects there and in my personal life, and I haven't really been updating either of my blogs. But, I'm not going to beat myself up. I'm going to brush myself off and start fresh right now.

Here's to a more productive month 4!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's Fall!!

We're almost two weeks into fall now, and I'm so excited! I know that everyone and their mama loves fall, so I'm just glad to be part of the cliche. When I started trying to figure out why I loved fall so much, I came up with a few reasons:

1. Candles: For some reason, I don't like to burn candles during the summer. I've done it before, but generally, I don't like to think of having an open flame going when it's already fifteen million degrees outside. Also, if I burn candles that smell like food, it makes it seem like I'm domestic and wife-ish, instead of just acting like I'm covering the smell of burned ground beef.

2. Shaving less often: I think all of the ladies (and any man that shaves his legs...no judgement...) can appreciate this one. I bet our water bill will be cheaper too...

3. Pasty white legs get to hibernate: Ever since I quit going to the tanning bed a couple of years ago, I've not been able to get my legs to quit being a glowing shade of white, somewhere between the shade of milk and glue. I've tried tanning lotion, but I don't always blend it in evenly. There's nothing worse than looking down and seeing a dark brown streak on your ankle that makes it look dirty. So glad to put those legs away for a while!

4. Football: I don't know much about football, but I'm learning. I'm more excited about harassing people when their teams lose. Also, UT and the Titans are doing fairly well, so for this year, I'm a football fan.

5. Not sweating every time I walk outside: Between walking the pup and going to and from my car during the summer, I glistened straight up sweated buckets every time I went outdoors. Summer is nice if you can lounge around in the pool; otherwise, keep me indoors! Now that it's fall, I can spend time outside and be comfortable. My clothes, skin, and the people around me appreciate that.

6. Pumpkin lattes: Yes, I'm one of those people. I'm not limited to loving just the famous, starts-with-an-S-coffeeshop kind either. I'm an equal opportunity pumpkinist.

7. Cardigans: As a librarian, I think it's some kind of requirement that I like cardigans. Luckily, I liked them even before I started librarianing, so I'm set! I know you can wear them year round, but they're just better in the fall.

8. Tights: They cover stubble and white legs, plus you can get them in so many different colors. It's the little things in life, right?

9. Bonfires: Not to sound like an arsonist, but I love how fire looks. I can stare at fire for hours! Bonfires are nice in the fall because they keep whatever side of you is facing the fire toasty warm and the other side freezing cold. It lets me know how my food feels while I'm cooking it.

10. Halloween: I don't like the scary parts because I'm a wimp, but I love watching Linus wait for the Great Pumpkin, seeing babies, children, and pets in costumes, and eating candy (even though I need to lay off the candy ha ha)

11. Thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas: I know that the holiday season is stressful, and it's tough to balance visits to two sets of families, but I love how people are just nicer around Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, there's food. Always food... ;-p

12. Leaves: I'm not responsible for yard work, so I can enjoy leaves without worrying about raking them! The main reason I like the leaves falling is that they're a free chew toy for the puppy. Plus, it doesn't gross me out like it does when he eats worms!

Any other fall fans out there? How about fall haters? Fall does make my allergies worse, so that's one strike. I'll take it though, since I can wash down my allergy pills with pumpkin coffee!

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Review of Packing Light

Have you ever just felt meh? There's not necessarily anything wrong; in fact, if you were to describe your life to someone, you'd realize just how blessed you were. But despite that, you just feel like you're coasting through life, and you know there has to be something more.

Allison (Ally) Vesterfelt had that same feeling. Her life in Portland, Oregon was perfectly fine; she had a nice roommate who she got along with, a job she enjoyed, and hobbies and friends that made her happy...or so she thought.

When Ally confessed to her friend Sharaya that she had always wanted to take a road trip and visit all 50 states, Sharaya came up with counterarguments to every objection that she had for why it wasn't a wise idea.

What would happen to Ally's routine life when she pared it down to the basics and hit the road? How would she learn to shed her literal and metaphorical baggage in order to live a fuller life and find out who she really was? Most importantly, what would Ally do when she got home and had to return to a "normal" life?

Packing Light came into my life at the perfect time. I've been feeling a little blah lately, and I've been in need of a little shaking up. Although I can't take a cross-country journey like Ally and Sharaya, I can get rid of the physical and spiritual junk that's holding me back from packing light and living a fuller life.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Packing Light, but all opinions are entirely my own!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

30 During 30: Month 2 Update (August 17-September 16)

I'm a couple of days behind on this update because it's been a little crazy at work this week.

I'll just be honest; I didn't do so hot from August to September. I don't know if it was because work picked up or what, but it was nothing like the first month. I went on another date night with Will (#18) and had a sushi night with my mom and another female friend (#19). I also determined that I'm not going to work on my website design certification (#30) right now because I could only pay for it by going into debt or really stretching our monthly budget, and it just wasn't worth it to me. Plus, there are a lot of good, free training sites that I can use to gain some skills. But, that's about it. It's a marathon, not a sprint, right?

On another, not-so-good note, I weighed myself one day while at my parents' house and found out that I've gained a good amount of weight during our six months (!) of marriage. So, I've changed my goal 7 from lose 40 pounds to 50. Le sigh. I've decided to participate in Peak 313's 5 week Living and Active Challenge. I'm a couple of days behind on starting this one too, but I'd like to hit the ground running (semi-literally) tomorrow.

Anyone else participating in this one?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blogtember: September 9

Monday, September 9: Take this short personality test and respond to your results. (at the end, find the detailed profile of your personality account - click "click to view" under "You" and "self awareness and personal growth." You can even google your type and find more info on it!)

Okay, this one surprised me a little until I started reading more about it. I'm an ISFP, which means Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving. As you can see below, I don't have strong tendencies in any of the categories

Your Type
Introvert(33%)  Sensing(12%)  Feeling(25%)  Perceiving(22)%
  • You have moderate preference of Introversion over Extraversion (33%)
  • You have slight preference of Sensing over Intuition (12%)
  • You have moderate preference of Feeling over Thinking (25%)
  • You have slight preference of Perceiving over Judging (22%)

I fully expected to be an extrovert because I can have conversations with anyone and have never really felt "shy"; however, introversion doesn't necessarily refer to being outgoing. The questions in the test seemed to talk more about how I felt when I was around large crowds, whether I would rather have fewer friends, stay home versus go out, etc. I'm definitely a homebody, and I don't feel energized by large social gatherings, so I think that's where the introversion came in.

I read more about these traits here and here. I think these sites were really insightful into some aspects of my personality, such as why I didn't like taking online classes! Is there anyone reading who actually knows me and would like to comment on my perception versus my actual personality?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blogtember: September 6

Friday, September 6: A story about a time you were very afraid.

In October 2009, life was going well but busy. I was almost two years into my current career. I was taking professional development classes through an online community college program, and things were moving right along. 

Then my dad's heart decided to stop working correctly.

I lived at home at the time, and I still remember my mom coming into my room around 2 or 3 AM and telling me they were going to the hospital. We didn't know what was going on at the time, but later on, it was revealed that if things hadn't gone the way they did- if the doctor would've sent him home instead of doing this one particular test- then this story (and all of my stories) would have a very different ending. 

During the midst of all of this- heart surgery, my mom staying overnight with him, driving downtown to his hospital- my brother had a massive seizure. So massive, that we had to call 911 the morning it happened and have him taken to another hospital. Neither my mom nor I knew what was going on or how to fix anything. I'd like to say that I prayed and felt peace about the outcome of everything, but I didn't. I was scared. I was stressed. I took it out on my coworkers. I, inexplicably, made batch after batch of mini muffins for my brother and me one night. But, in the end, everything worked out. My dad is healthy. My brother is healthy. The fear is gone, and I am strong. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blogtember: September 5

Thursday, September 5: Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered. 

Do it now. Seriously. It doesn't matter if "it" means a chore, something fun, or something that's always seemed impossible, just do it. If you can't do it all at once (like I can't just abandon my current life for 3 months and go to the beach like I said I wanted to yesterday...), then break it down into manageable steps. What do you have to do to get there? Work backwards. I could choose where I want to go and when, then figure out how much money it will take to get there, then break that down into steps, etc, etc. But the point is, just do it now. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got something to do...now. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blogtember: September 4

Wednesday, September 4: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do? (bonus points for fun photos from Pinterest, but don't forget to cite the source!)


Just me, the husband, the pup, and a stack of books and magazines. I might not even put on pants the entire time. TMI?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blogtember: September 3

Tuesday, Sept. 3: Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.

How is it just the first prompt, and I'm already tired of this blogging challenge? I guess I'm tired of describing myself, who I am, where I came from, what shaped me, etc. Truth is, I've been in a rut for a little bit. It's not that anything bad is happening necessarily; it's just that I feel kind of just...there. Maybe it's just because I'm in a routine. Maybe it's work stuff. Maybe it's settling into married life. Maybe it's all of those things or none of those things. Who knows? The point is, I just don't feel like explaining yet again that I'm Amber from Tennessee and all of the other million little details. I love to write and blog, but I'm starting to feel kind of meh about this also. Hopefully the other prompts will inspire me a little more and help me shake this funk.

So, uh, yeah, welcome if you're reading this for the first time. I'll try to dial down the cranky a notch or twenty next time...

Friday, August 16, 2013

30 During 30: Month 1 Update (July 17-August 16)

This month has flown by! I'm sure I'll say that every month though. Maybe that's just how it happens when you're 30! ;-)

I completed a goal already! I finished writing and sending the wedding thank you cards (goal 22) on August 11. 1 down, 29 to go, right?I've added the list to the left sidebar so I can mark out goals and put the completion date instead of having to update the original entry.

I have made some progress in a couple of others also. I've been doing research on goal 6 (learn how to really study the Bible), and I've been better about doing a daily devotional/bit of quiet time. We also went on a date night (goal 18) on July 28. It was technically more of a day date, but I'm counting it anyway! I've also started a posting schedule for one of my blogs (goal 25), worked on my online website and portfolio (goal 29), and sent off the application for the website design certificate courses (goal 30). Phew!

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to post how I'm breaking down some of these goals, such as memorizing the Bible verses, losing that pesky 40 pounds, and remixing my wardrobe. As weird as this sounds, I can't wait to dive into these goals!

Does anyone else have any goals they're working on, or any tips on how to break them down into more manageable steps?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

30 during 30

As promised last year (sorry! Life and marriage and such got in the way), here is my hopefully not cliche 30 before 30 list, which has now turned into a 30 during 30 list since I hit the big 3-0 already! This is a list of 30 things that I would like to accomplish in the next year before I turn 31 years old.

The 30 During 30 List:

Spiritual Goals:
1. Memorize 30 Bible verses
2. Lead someone to Jesus
3. Volunteer to help at more church events
4. Get involved with another area of ministry at church
5. Become a consistent tither
6. Learn how to really study the Bible

Physical/Health Goals:
7. Lose 50 pounds
8. Run an entire 5K
9. Finish a half marathon in under 3 hours
10. Be able to do 30 consecutive real push ups

Beauty/Fashion Goals:
11. Learn to effectively put on eyeliner (seriously...I missed that day during girl school)
12. Learn how to remix every item of clothing into at least 3 different outfits

Financial Goals:
13. Finish Dave Ramsey Baby Step 1
14. Reduce debt by at least half
15. Save at least $4,000 towards a new (to us) car to replace Will's truck
16. Learn how to create and stick to an effective monthly household, zero based budget

Relationship Goals:
17. Celebrate 1 year of marriage (this is a slam dunk!)
18. Go on a real date night with Will at least once a month
19. Hang out with female friends at least once a month
20. Invite a female I'd like to become friends with to have coffee every couple of months

Organization/Domestic Goals:
21. Finish unpacking/putting stuff away/purging
22. Finish wedding thank you notes
23. Create an 8 week rotating meal plan
24. Stick to Flylady's plan so the house always looks presentable!

Writing Goals:
25. Post on my blogs more consistently by creating a posting schedule
26. Sell at least 4 pieces of writing
27. Finish NaNoWriMo in November
28. Finish writer website/online portfolio

Career Goals:
29. Finish librarian website/online portfolio
30. Work towards the completion of website design certification

There you have it! I've really thought about these goals to make sure they are "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). I think that will help me be a lot more successful than I've been in the past with vague goals. As always, I plan to come back and update as I complete goals or make progress in others. Does anyone else have any before or during 30 goals?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Review of The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin MacPherson

I'll start this out by reiterating this in bold, italicized, underlined print.

I am not pregnant.

Okay, now that my husband is relieved and my grandma is disappointed, I can continue.

I chose this book because although I'm not expecting a baby right now, we do plan to have children within the next 3ish years, so I thought it would be interesting to read it and save it for when that time comes. After reading it, interesting is definitely not the first word that comes to mind. Instead, I now think of pregnancy and giving birth as terrifying. Kidding, kidding of course (but only somewhat). MacPherson does a wonderful job of breaking down symptoms that most women will experience during each trimester of their pregnancies, but she doesn't sugar coat anything, which is great and horrifying all at once!

MacPherson is an expert on pregnancies, having had three children herself. Her straightforward, humorous, friendly tone is reassuring and comforting, especially when conveying information that may make pregnant women (or future pregnant women) wonder why they ever decided to make such a life changing decision. She also sprinkles "Time Out for Mom" sections throughout the book that allow women to stop and reflect upon the miraculous journey that they are on through Scripture and prayer. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is planning to become pregnant or is currently pregnant and wants the inside scoop on what their body is going through!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, May 31, 2013

Blog Every Day in May: May 31

Today's prompt: A vivid memory

Oh goodness. I tend to vividly remember lots of things (and completely disregard others). Hmm, since I've talked about my husband/wedding quite a bit this month, let's shift gears and talk about another family member: my little brother.

My brother and I are 8 years apart. I remember asking my mom for a brother, sister, or puppy. She chose a brother. ;-) He was born in September. On the day he was born, my aunt picked me up from school, and we went to Sonic. I think I had a chocolate malt. I also think I punched my straw through the styrofoam cup, but that could've been another time. We went to the hospital next, and a lot of my family members were in the delivery room waiting. I very vividly remember my mom yelling my dad's name at one point. Now that I'm getting close to that point in life where we will have children, that part scares me a little terrifies the crap out of me!

I don't remember when I saw him for the first time or holding him or even when he came home, but I remember the things leading up to it. I guess that Sonic drink was more memorable than my brother! Ha!