Conversations about Joy – With Rachel

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On Monday mornings around here for a few weeks, I will be having chats with friends about joy. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

For the first blog in this series, I asked Rachel from Balance and Blueberries to participate. Rachel (who was one of my bridesmaids) has the most exuberant spirit. She has more energy than almost anyone I know! Even when she’s stressed or overwhelmed or sad, Rachel still has such a passion for life, maybe even especially the little things that fill normal days. So here is Rachel’s take on joy:

Are you naturally joyful?

I’m totally a glass half full kind of person. I tend toward the positive, and naturally look for the silver lining.

What brings you the most joy?

The people in my life, hands down—my husband, my family, my friends.  Without relationship, this life would be a joyless existence.

What is a little thing that regularly brings you joy?

Connection—I am so grateful for the close relationships I have, and connecting with those people brings me a lot of joy. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming—a text, a phone chat , lunch,  a coffee date, a newsy email.

When do you struggle to find joy?

When I’m too busy and my calendar has a thing designated for every waking hour of every day for days on end, I find even the things I once enjoyed become a burden. Bob Goff says, “The battle for joy is usually fought on the pages of our calendars.” What truth! When I’m rigidly scheduled, I do this, do that, do the next thing, and fall into bed exhausted when I get home. I don’t have time to spend with my husband. I don’t have time to stop by my mom’s house for lunch. I don’t have time to meet a friend for coffee. So what do I think I accomplish with all the hustling? I’m not sure, but I’m definitely not adding to my joy! 

How are you pursuing joy right now?

I’m simplifying. I’ve dropped a couple of my freelance gigs, which has done wonders in the calendar department, and thus the joy department! I’m also becoming much more selective when it comes to projects or gigs I accept. I’m working hard to put my people-pleasing ways behind me and to keep my priorities in line.

What is the key to a joy-filled day for you?

 “This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Ultimately, it’s a choice. Spend your days looking for the things which bring you joy and you’ll find them—they’re there. Even in the mess and the busyness, they’re there.

Thanks, Rachel!

Links for Your Weekend

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Happy Friday! How has your week been? We’ve been juggling some colds around here – no fun! But everyone seems to be on the mend. Mark is in and out a bit this week with travel for interviews and work, while Miles and I are excited to go visit my side of the family next week.

Sharing a few links from around the web that I’ve found encouraging, interesting, or inspiring is one of my favorite parts of each week. Have you read anything interesting this week?

Also, I’m starting a new series on Monday. I’ve been asking lots of people about joy – whether it comes easily, how to pursue it, the challenges of maintaining it. I’m so excited to start sharing these conversations with you!

Until then…

How smartphones are killing conversation. This is a tough one for me, since my job lives and dies by technology, but it’s a good reminder of the intrinsic, eternal value of face-to-face communication.

This sweet video about an afternoon ritual makes me want to gather some friends for tea.

Multiple uses for that expensive vanilla bean pod.

Hotels that boast libraries.

Setting a table correctly.

Weekend Adventures: Georgetown

Weekend Adventures: Georgetown

Weekend Adventures: Georgetown

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Mark’s Fall Break spanned Thursday and Friday of last week, so we put some carpe diem into practice and left town. We visited Austin for a few hours, exploring Barton Springs and walking around the grounds of the State Capitol before meeting a friend for dinner.

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Mark even practiced some baby-wearing. We love our Ergo!

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My family has deep roots in a little Texas Hill Country town called Georgetown. I have lots of early memories playing in the childhood hometown of my grandparents. Georgetown used to be just another little cute town, but now Austin has grown so much that Georgetown feel like a sort of extended suburb of Austin. We drove up to Georgetown late Thursday night and woke up early. After some Texas-shaped waffles, we were ready to explore!

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There is an idyllic square with stores that brim with cute antique furniture, old books, and adorable tea towels. A grand old courthouse sits in the middle of the square. (My great-grandfather was once a judge there and his picture is still inside! Hashtag family history.)  We also visited the home of my great-grandmother and took some pictures of Miles on the enormous Southern front porch. (His toleration for the photo-shoot was short-lived, clearly…)

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Mostly, though, there are THE RIVERS. It’s really one large river (the San Gabriel) and a smaller fork. There are lots of fun parks scattered throughout the city that center around little cement dams built on the river during the Depression.

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It was so fun exploring the parks where my grandfather and dad played as teenagers. We even dipped Miles’ toes into the clear water, although he didn’t seem to be a huge fan.

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Weekend Links


Happy weekend! Anything fun in store for you? Mark’s Fall Break fell over Thursday and Friday so we took our weekend early and took a little road-trip around the Austin area. We explored,, met up with some friends and extended family, and spent some time in Georgetown, a gem of a little Hill Country town where my dad’s family has deep roots.

Saturday is finding us back hard at work. I’m catching up on my email backlog and Mark is putting in his reservist time.

Would you teach your infant to swim? Mark and I both love spending time around the water and we both think it’s so important to teach water-survival skills to children early…but THIS early?

This video of 7-year-olds at New York’s finest restaurant is seriously hilarious.

Some food styling tips.

A unique method for inspiring dinner conversation.

I’m obsessed with this leather bag.

I cannot wait until we have a yard and I can raise chickens.

The “Why” of Memory-Keeping

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Taking photos, journaling, blogging, methods like Project Life, – anything that helps to record precious memories is a form of memory-keeping.

But sometimes it’s important to step back and remember the “why” of memory-keeping. Especially when I don’t have time to do a lot of elaborate memory-keeping, when I only have time to actually take photos but none to edit, organize, or journal, reminding myself why memory-keeping is important for continual motivation.

Two quick caveats:

1. Sometimes memory-keeping seems to fall into the category of “things Moms do to keep busy” category. I firmly believe that memory-keeping is important for everybody (tweet This). Memory-keeping might look different if you are single or don’t have children or if you are a young guy, but everyone should record their memories in a way that is meaningful. I’ve recorded memories for as long as I can remember, but my process has changed countless times over the years. Journals, simple photo albums, blogging, notes on my computer, elaborate scrapbooks, albums printed by services like Snapfish, and systems such as Project Life have all played a role in my memory-keeping.

2. Memory-keeping looks different for everyone (tweet this). For some, memory-keeping involves a simple journal. For others, it is associated with elaborately designed photo albums. For others, it’s blogging. For some, it’s a process like quilting or art journaling. Maybe it simply means taking photos and storing them digitally. Or maybe your memory-keeping involves videos or recordings.

Our “why”- our motivations – defines our process, our goals, and our markers of success (tweet this). It’s difficult to stay motivated in any area – relationships, careers, or hobbies- without a defined “why”. (More on that later).

So here is a list of seven reasons for my memory-keeping, part of my “why”.

1. Memories are defining. What I’ve done, who I’ve known, and where I’ve been have helped shape me.

2. So Protecting memories from disappearing is worthwhile. The things we’ve done and the paths we’ve walked are meaningful, so recording those memories and protecting them from disappearing is a worthy goal.

3. Memories are motivating. Seeing where my family and I have been helps encourage me to continue working towards where we are going. Remembering struggles overcome and good memories made helps encourage me (and them!) to continue pressing on.

4. Memories bring joy. A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and ordered about 300 prints of digital memories. Mark and I had fun browsing through the pictures. Seeing Mark become excited over memories that I’d recorded reminded me that memory-keeping is something that can be so simple but is something that can bring immense joy.

5. Memory-keeping helps me prioritize and make choices. As I make choices about how to spend time, knowing that I’m recording memories for our family helps me prioritize well. When I’m choosing between two options, sometimes I ask myself where/how the best memories will be made. Another way that Mark and I phrase is with the question, “What is the best story?” This method of choosing has hurled us into all sorts of ridiculous situations (traveling to Albania at 6 months pregnant, ending up in Italy with nowhere to stay, living with three roommates for the first year of our marriage…), but we rarely regret making a choice that will leave us with a good memory!

6. Memories remind me of lessons I’ve learned. No one wants to repeat mistakes. Journaling and other methods of processing my memories helps embed lessons I’ve learned and keeps me from repeating mistakes, while encouraging me to continue repeating good patterns.

7. Memories remind us of our blessings. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34:8, which begins, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Memory-keeping is a way for me to remind myself of the blessings God has poured out on me and my loved ones. It’s a method of relishing the good things that have happened and encouragement to look forward to the good things to come.

What is your “why”? I’d love to challenge you to write out 5 or 10 reasons or motivations behind your memory-keeping. Or share in the comments or on Twitter (@emilyamccord).

Monday Morning Links


Does it feel like October is rushing by to anyone else? Just me? It’s a little crazy around here. Mark is studying for finals and I have some work deadlines looming. Next Saturday will be the sixth Saturday in a row on which one of us has been out of town or we’ve had guests.

Earlier, I was typing “On bright notes, Miles is learning to sleep consistently…” Then we had last night’s rage-fueled sleep-protest. Which bring up…Miles and sleep. Two words that have not gone well together since the first day that he arrived. So that’s been going on. It’s getting so much better, but whew.

Why am I sharing links on a Monday? Because Friday links are pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I left you all hanging. So here you go, friends.

This new blog about bilingual parenting, started by a friend in D.C.

Reasons to keep choosing those books on the bedside table.

Best book-club modification ever. Who wants to start one?

My new favorite blog is this beautiful collaboration.

I’m trying to convince Mark to move to Alaska to start a peony farm with me.

A Day in the Life

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Working from home and caring for our three-month old is a sanity-strengthening exercise. On the one hand, I’m unarguably the most mature person in the room for most of the day. On the other hand, by about 4:00 p.m. on days with no conference calls, I begin to wonder if the English language has been permanently reduced to overly inflected speech and farm animal sounds.

Some days seem like a blur of “Miles-conference call – Miles – notes – Miles – dash through 30 emails – Miles -dinner – Miles – project – Miles- 30 more emails – bed.” Sometimes I wonder if I could be more efficient, be a better worker, be a more attentive mom. Ok, not sometimes – every day.

So I tracked myself for a day. Here’s a little peek into our whirlwind.

5:45 a.m. Miles begins to wail. I pretend that it’s just a dream and continue to hide under the covers. Mark nudges me. I give up. Two against one. I feed Miles.

6:30 a.m. I stumble into the kitchen and start heating the water for the French press.

6:45 a.m. – Knock out some invoicing and emails.

7:00 a.m. – Start perusing the contents of the fridge for smoothie supplies. Get sidetracked cleaning out the fridge. Remember that I’m making a smoothie and refocus. 1 banana, the rest of the raspberries, orange juice…

7:15 a.m. – Mark walks into the kitchen and splits the smoothie. We drink them while we do a devotional together.

8:00 a.m. – Mark leaves. I jump on a conference call.

8:40 a.m. – Call is over. I hear Miles stirring in the bedroom. From then until 10:00 a.m. is Mommy-and-Miles time. We sing, tickle, talk, do tummy-time, and get dressed. Miles nurses again and falls asleep.

10:00 a.m. – I work, do laundry, straighten up the house, and shower. I feel very productive until I get sidetracked on Facebook trying to track down someone from church. I remind myself to reconsider deleting my Facebook account.

11:45 a.m. – Miles is awake. More tummy-time and singing. Miles practices in his Bumbo chair and plays on the floor. Mommy gets lunch.

1:15 p.m. – Another nap for Miles. More work for Mommy.

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2:00 p.m. – Miles spends 20 minutes trying to eat his stuffed cat, Murphy. I send videos to my parents. “Look at how adorable your grandchild is! And so talented!” We read “The Story of Jesus” (the edible cardboard version). I keep working while Miles plays in his gym.

3:00 p.m. – I conduct a phone interview. I take notes on my laptop while sitting on the floor by Miles. He is sufficiently entertained by the strange faces I make in between questions and by his gym for the duration of the call. When the call ends, Miles eats again and we head to the grocery store and Home Depot. Miles sleeps, waking briefly to greet the checkout guy at H.E.B. At Home Depot, I check to see if I am the last person of the season to look for outdoor cushions. I am, and there are none in stock. I briefly consider buying a white pumpkin instead. Miles wakes up. I leave the pumpkin.

5:00 p.m. – It’s a beautiful afternoon. Miles eats again. Then I put Miles into his Ergo and we walk to the mailbox.

5:45 p.m. – Miles continues to eat Murphy and sits in his swing nearby while I start chili. I decide to add mushrooms. I provide Miles with a running monologue while I cook. “Garlic is really the key here, Miles. And try to use fresh basil.” I wonder if there is a market for cooking shows for children 2 years and younger.

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6:45 p.m. – Mark comes home and leaves again to run. I bathe Miles. Mark and I eat. Miles tries to eat Murphy again. I decide that the mushrooms are a good addition. Then I google “Are mushrooms healthy?” and find out that there is an entire group of people who think that mushrooms are potentially carcinogenic. I tell Mark that I’ve raised our collective chances for cancer.

7:30 p.m. – I try to put Miles to bed. Mark protests and takes Miles from me.  They play.

8:15 p.m. – Miles starts to wail. I feed him once more and put him to bed. I’m working on a more structured nap/bedtime system. He drops off almost immediately. Success! I drink a glass of wine and start to work on a blog post while Mark does homework.

8:45 p.m. – Mark finishes his homework. We find another disturbing documentary on Netflix (this one is about people who have escaped from cults) and turn it on. Miles starts to wail. So much for bedtime. We play with Miles and watch the documentary. Miles finally goes to sleep only well after it ends. We are failures at bedtime.

11:00 p.m. – Sleep!

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3 Months: A Snapshot

3 Months: A Snashot

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Our little guy is 3 months old today! It wouldn’t really be honest to say that “time has flown” and “I wish time would stand still.” Every day with Miles has been precious, but I’m so excited by the new things each day brings with him and I can’t wait to see what the next days and weeks hold. Every day now he discovers something new. (Also, the first few weeks of sleep were pretty brutal. I don’t really wish them back.)

So here is a little snapshot of our boy at 3 months.

Enjoys: Cuddling, watching Mommy and Daddy make faces or funny sounds (sometimes he even tries to imitate them!), watching himself in the mirror, playing with the rings and animals in his baby gym, going for walks outside.

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Milestones: Laughing and his first day at the beach. He laughs at his reflection in the mirror; he laughs at us – he even laughs at the ceiling fans! Miles is such a smiley, laughing baby. We are blessed to have such a happy little guy. Miles and I spent a few days in San Diego with my side of the family and Miles dipped his toes in the Pacific Ocean and felt sand for the first time.

Hates: Tummy-time. It’s seriously the worst. Some expert who clearly did not have children said that babies at this age should spend 90 minutes on their tummies. Miles protests loudly at the 60-second mark.

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Discovered: His tongue, his feet, his fists and his reflection. He loves to stick his tongue out and spends a good portion of the day trying to get his entire hand into his mouth.

Learning: To hold his head straight. I think we’re going to find a Bumbo chair today. I was nervous about getting one before because he couldn’t stabilize his own head, but I think he is ready for it.

I am in love with this stage. Miles can interact and respond (and is sleeping so much better!) but is still such a tiny baby. I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds.

What was your favorite stage for your infants?



Friday Linkage

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Friday is here! It’s been one of those weeks. Mark is out of town again, leaving Miles and me to fend for ourselves for a few days. We deal with this by having long complex conversations about the state of the world (read: Emily talks to Miles at way-above-grade-level-about-everything-she-would-say-to-another-adult-if-they-were-around) and by binging on How I Met Your Mother and Blue Bell Cookies-and-Cream ice cream.

But in other news, there are some great line floating around the web this week. What are you reading this weekend?

The revival of thank-you notes.

Why we should practice more kindness.

How geniuses schedule their time.

This author attempts to make a case for a kindergarten canon. Do you agree with his selection? Have you read all of these? (I haven’t.)

I love this “A Day In The Life” idea.

These cards are so cute.




Friday Linkage

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Hello, friends!

We have a fun weekend ahead. Mark’s birthday, a visit from his parents, another game . . . what do you have planned?

Here are some fun pieces to browse.

If you read nothing else this weekend, read this (via Enjoying the Small Things via Camp Patton)

Some advice from a ballerina. (via Kinfolk)

An inside look at the dangers of farming. (via Modern Farmer)

Anyone else feel like a lot of blogs are “shutting their doors” these days? Young House Love and Annapolis and Company are taking undefined breaks. But scroll through their archives for some great DIYs (YHL) and photography tips (AandCo.).

What are your fingerprint words? (via Slate)

I’ve been embarking on a challenge to use first-person pronouns less in emails. It’s hard! (via NPR)

See you next week!