Links for Your Weekend

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Hope your weekend has been lovely, friends. My mom, brother, and sister were here for a (too short!) few days and we had such a fun time with them.

What kinds of preparation do you do for overnight guests? This list from The Art of Simple has some fun pointers, but this is my favorite hosting tip. (via The Art of Simple and Cup of Jo)

I have a short work trip coming up this week, so time this week will be spent checking up on my work wardrobe. While browsing some of my favorite archives for inspiration, I stumbled across this great career tip. (via Capitol Hill Style)

It’s in the 60’s again here, but some parts of the country are deep in the throes of winter. January blues beating you down? Try these tricks. (via Glitter Guide)

Every year, I swoon over this Valentine Card series. (via Oh So Beautiful Paper)

Good advice on being too nice. (via LifeHacker)

A brutally honest article about the privilege of a freelance career. In a world where ordinary industries are rapidly changing and “I work from home” is becoming commonplace, we need to have honest discussions about the support networks (i.e., the traditional jobs of hard-working spouses) that allow such careers to flourish. (via Salon)

The SUV-vs-minivan debate is weekly in our home. (via The Washingtonian)

5 Ways Motherhood Made Me Better at My Career

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It is a difficult thing to be a mommy. It’s a difficult thing to have a successful career. Combine the two and you have a really difficult thing. (It’s also difficult, for what it’s worth, to step away from a career to be a mother, but that’s a different discussion.)

The media, blogs, and the publishing industry frequently light up with discussions of the work-vs.-baby battles with pieces about time management, balance, mommy guilt, how mothering makes careers harder, how having a child hurts a woman’s earning potential, how careers make mothering harder, how the mommy wars at work or on the playground damage women’s careers….ya de ya da.

These are relevant, important discussions and they need to be happening. But I want to focus on something slightly different for a minute. In many ways, having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to my career. Becoming a mother actually improved my work skills. Here’s how:

1. I’m better at time management.

Time management is no longer a healthy life choice, like working out or eating spinach. It’s a survival skill. There used to be 24 hours in my day to be divided up however I saw fit. Now there are 24 hours in my day divided between two of us, me and Baby. Certain things are non-negotiables, like his meals and the time I spend nursing or changing diapers or doing his wash. Others are not predictable, like his sleeping patterns. I am learning that have to be ruthless with the slots of time that I do get to control if I hope to get anything accomplished in a given day.

2. Motherhood has made me a more committed worker.

Here’s how this works. I love my baby and treasure my time with him.When I didn’t have a child, I could be fairly open-handed with my commitments. I could dabble in different arenas to see if I liked them. I worked for free occasionally to snag a gig that would bolster my resume. Now the generous availability on my calendar is gone. If I commit to a project, it’s time spent away from Miles. It’s time for which I have to fight, hard.

So I only commit to a project or a goal if I am really committed to it, lost sleep and time away from Miles notwithstanding. If I am willing, for a couple of hours, to choose your gig or contract or project over time with my baby, you know that I’m in it for real.

3. Becoming a mother showed me that I was capable of pushing myself harder.

I think it goes without saying that having a baby – the actual labor part – is hard. Epidurals or not. Quick labor or not. It is a hard thing to have a baby. That’s why we call it labor.

Women (like me) who can’t run two miles to save their own life suddenly become capable of a very difficult task of pushing a baby out into the world. Then, once the labor part is done, there’s a newborn. And taking care of a newborn is, hands down, no contest, the hardest thing I have ever done.

Every baby brings a different challenge (or so I’ve heard), but Miles has gone weeks without sleeping for more than two or three hours at a given time. And amidst the exhaustion and the tears and the absurd attempts to snag a few more minutes of extra sleep, I learned that I was capable of things I never knew I could do. I could get up every hour of the night and then lead a conference call at 8:00 am and actually sound coherent. I could nurse a baby and brainstorm proposal ideas at the same time. I could fit insane amounts of activity in during Miles’ 30-minute nap (see #1).

It’s sometimes challenging to find ways to push myself harder, but my baby did the pushing for me – and I survived. And learned that I could do a lot more in a day than I thought was possible.

4. Becoming a mother made me better with people.

Having a baby is a very humanizing project. Suddenly, I have something in common with all of those women on the playground or in the airport or at the grocery store. Women I will never see again exchange knowing smiles with me as we board separate flights. “Oh, you too? I hope these kids don’t scream the whole flight.” Lines at the store become venues for passionate conversations about strategies for baby sleep, about time management, about all possible aspects of a baby’s health.

I suddenly realize that the people I interact with are not just blank masks – they are parents and children. They were pregnant once too, or they held their babies all night, or they kept someone up all night. Or all three. And I am suddenly much more prone to ask them how their day was and mean it, to get to know them, to connect on some human level, to forgive them if they cut me off in traffic.

5. Becoming a mother made me more creative.

I have never been a very crafty person. Paper and glue and art sort of eludes me like snow in Florida. I used to be the person that helped keep all of the items in the figurative box at work. Suddenly, though, it’s like a switch was turned on. Part of it is just that I want to make our home beautiful, because I want Miles to grow up in a beautiful home. I want to record our memories so that he can show his children his baby albums someday.

But part of it is that I suddenly see the world from the perspective of a baby. And it’s a lot more fun – a lot more of a let’s-grab-the-pink-cup-and-squeeze-the-blue-elephant-and-laugh-at-the-bubbles kind of world than I’ve given it credit for. Life is FUN and I want to teach Miles to appreciate the fun the world offers. And to do that, I have to learn to appreciate it more too.

Do you agree? How did motherhood change your career dynamics?

Conversations About Hospitality – with Amy

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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. This month and next, we are chatting about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Today, my lovely friend Amy agreed to chat with me. Amy is a wonderful hostess who pours her heart into events, whether it’s dinner with another couple, small group at her house, or an elaborately planned bachelorette party. She’s a classic extrovert (the opposite of me!) and watching the energy and excitement with which she plans is inspiring. (She also has two of the cutest twin girls EVER.) I was so excited when she agreed to answer these questions.

What is your favorite event to host?

I really love hosting life event parties like baby showers and wedding showers.  Celebrating with others over blessings that God has given them encourages me personally and spiritually.  Watching God work in people’s lives and throwing a party to celebrate that makes me beyond happy!

What is the most ambitious event you’ve ever hosted?

My sister’s wedding shower, which was out of town (4 hours away).  My sister and I are only 18 months apart and very close.  Throwing her a shower was important for me, not because she and I are close in age, but because I am inspired by her and wanted to show off her diligence to God’s will.  She waited until she was in her 30’s to marry and was happy with her singleness and where God had her.  I wanted to invite all her friends and throw a “perfect” shower to celebrate her faithfulness and uniqueness.

What was your favorite event to host? 

My sister’s shower was the most special to me but a baby shower I hosted for a single female friend of mine had the most impact on me.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

Spinach dip!  I’m a big fan of dips and I think finger food is always the easiest for guests.  

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

For my sister’s shower I recorded a video of her now husband answering questions for a game and we could not for the life of us get the video to play on the TV.  So when it came to the game I had to play the video on my phone, which could not really be heard by a room of people.  It was a flop as the video was meant to be a hilarious icebreaker to set the tone.  OOPS!

Why are you motivated to host? 

I truly believe my spiritual gift is hospitality.  God gave me an outgoing personality and a deep care and compassion for others and their needs. Getting the chance to celebrate with others in the ways God has blessed them (babies, weddings, etc.) brings me more joy and excitement than anyone would think.  I get to see first hand how God is at work.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015? 

I will soon have my twins’ 6th birthday (in April) to plan! Children’s parties at this age are so fun. I like to keep my schedule open so that I can celebrate any occasion with friends and family as things arise – we always have things to celebrate.

Any tips for those who would like to host more in 2015?

Those who host often get excited over the details, the food, the decorations, their house’s cleanliness, etc.  I do, of course, worry about those things as I don’t want to poison anyone or have an unsanitary home.  Sometimes, though, I am so busy running around making sure people have drinks or food that by the end of the event I realize I didn’t have one meaningful conversation.

There are always people and things to celebrate, even small things need to be recognized and celebrated!  Find others, even people you don’t know well, and take the initiative – throw them a party to celebrate blessings.  Keep the food simple so you can spend the time talking and engaging with the guests.  When guests arrive, make sure things are set up so that you’re not running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  

In summary, find any reason to celebrate, keep the food simple so you are not chronically checking on it, and, above all, make sure to spend the time at the event connecting with others!

Thanks, Amy!

Don’t forget to check out the first conversation in this series with Kathy.

Friday Links

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What do you have planned this long weekend? We are going to head down to Houston for a day trip. Any tips or suggestions?

Here are a few fun links to enjoy with your coffee this weekend. Hope you enjoy some rest and time with loved ones! Thanks, as always, for reading this blog, dear readers.

I wish I had learned this lesson a long time ago. So true! (via Cup of Jo)

If you don’t have weekend plans, you could try falling in love this weekend. (via The New York Times)

Thinking about starting a memory-keeping system in 2015? Ronnie chats about her system. (via Life Captured, Inc.)

Coffee obsessed? If you’ve run out of ways to improve your morning joe, try using a better coffee cup. (via Forbes)

I realized the other day that I’ve basically ignored the multi-billion dollar trend that is Pinterest until – Tuesday of this week or so. Whoops. So I’m trying to catch up. Here are some tips that I found helpful. (via Nineteenfortyone)

Her illustrations are lovely. (via Glitter Guide)

My latest blog crush featured this birthday party for her daughter that is just the cutest. (via Jenny Collier)

Expecting? Here are some suggestions for registry items. (via Thoughts by Natalie)

I’ve done this. Er, I need to do this. Who else needs to create tangible milestones to measure goals for 2015? (via Classy Career Girl)

Need to improve your listening skills? (Who doesn’t??) (via The Happiness Project)

 

6 Months: A Snapshot

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you….no, really. The hospitality series will be back next Monday. But last weekend, we hit a landmark worth noting.

Our little guy is 6 months old! Miles has grown by leaps and bounds and it seems as thought every day brings a new “trick”. He is such a happy, lovely baby. I can already tell that we have a little extrovert on our hands because he makes friends everywhere he goes. Whenever we meets someone new, he stares at them for a few seconds and then his face breaks into the biggest, cutest grin.

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He got lots of cuddles over the holidays while we spent time with family. My mom had a beautiful red sled and the most adorable snow suit waiting for him so we took him (brief! It was coooold!) rides in the snow and he was such a good sport (even when we tipped him over by mistake – whoops!).

Here’s a quick snapshot of Miles at 6 months:

Loves: Mum-Mums (which are little rice crackers that dissolve and are perfect for babies starting to try out foods). Miles isn’t enormously keen on food yet, but he loves to grab a Mum-Mum and feed himself. He knows exactly what to do with it and spends a loooonnnngggg time getting part of it into his mouth while spreading the rest of it all over his body. Supposedly the crackers are dissolvable but somehow he manages to get so sticky!

Miles still loves his binky, his toes, and his (many!) stuffed animals. He also loves cuddling in Mommy and Daddy’s bed and likes to hang out in nothing but his diaper. Mimi (my mom) found him his first bouncy seat toy over the break and he adored it.

Tries: To scoot towards toys. He also wants to grab whatever I’m holding. He especially loves taking the mail from me and trying to eat it while I’m holding him with one hand and opening it with the other.

Learning: To sit for periods of time without help. Miles can sit all by himself now, but I’m afraid to leave him alone for very long because he inevitably tips over. He’s also finally learning to sleep in his own crib. I’ve always been so reticent to try any kind of sleep-training but things went from bad to worse around here right before we started traveling for the holidays. We’ve tried a couple of mild sleep-training tricks and they seem to be working, so here’s hoping! I put the Rock-and-Play away for good so that I’m not tempted to let him back into it in the middle of the night. (I think I’m the least disciplined of the three of us!)

Laughs At: Mommy’s rendition of the “A,B,C’s”. He inevitably cracks up when I break this one out. He laughs at tickling now and “Peek-a-Boo” as well.

Dislikes: Nap-time! Every nap time feels like a battle around here, recently. He also still doesn’t love tummy-time and inevitably rolls out of it as soon as Mommy or Daddy walk away.

Excited for: Our routine! Well, Miles might not be, but I certainly am. Today marks the start of our first full normal week back home.

Every day with our baby boy is such a gift. What was your baby like at 6 months? Prepare me!

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Links for Your Weekend

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Happy weekend! My work started back up last week and Mark had to leave the house for drill weekend this morning at 4:45, so reality has officially hit this house.

I need to unpackanddolaundryandcatchuponemailandgetaheadonplanningandmealplanandscheduleourlifeandcleanoutthebabysclothesandpackupChristmassendoutafewmoreChristmascardsandallofthatkindoffunstuff. But it’s so good to be home and back in our routine.

Did you set New Year’s resolutions for your blog or business? This great list of apps will help you on your way. Where have these been all my life?? (via A Subtle Revelry)

I want to read all of these. (via Chatting At The Sky)

Where stolen iPhones go. (via Wired)

Minimalism and memory-keeping. Can they co-exist? They’d better, since I only have about a 1′ x 1′ area for storing supplies. So let’s take the crap out of scrapbooking this year, shall we? (via Cathy Zielske)

In case you need to present something to somebody (all of us, right?). (via Forbes)

That time the Bon Appetit kitchens cleaned out their cupboards. (via Bon Appetit)

When I got married, I made an earth-shattering discovery. Mark and I had different password systems! Cue Real-Life Marriage Compromise #1. Have you ever thought about what would happen to your computer passwords if you disappeared?

I’ve been spending some time tweaking the design of this blog. The archives are a long project, but the About page has been updated after mooooonths of staleness (is that a word?). Will you jump over there and proof-read for me? Points for the first reader to find a typo!

What are you reading this weekend?

 

Photo Organizing, Planning Creative Projects, and My System for a Project Life Baby Album

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If you’ve been reading this blog (or following me on Instagram) for very long, you already know that I am obsessed with everyday photography. I love chronicling our adventures and everyday life. This year, one of my big-picture goals is to create (there’s my Word!) actual photo books with the thousands of pictures that exist only as digital archives.

I love Becky Higgins’ Project Life system and will definitely be using it this year as I turn digital pictures into hand-held memories. I’ll be blogging more about the specific books later on, but today’s post is about a breakthrough I experienced as I tried to plan Miles’ baby book.

Some people can simply sit down and create – photo collages, cards, quilts, whatever. Many kudos to them. I am not one of those people. I love to create, but for me to create effectively, I need specific parameters. How long? What’s the goal? What are the limits? What materials am I using? Endless options leave me utterly paralyzed.

So when I sat down to create Miles’ baby book, I froze. What should be included in a baby book? Where do you start? WHEN does it begin? How long should it be? What is the theme? How cohesive should the color and layout be? How many pictures should I include?

I created a note on my phone in an attempt to plan. And then I stared at it. While we waited for the plane from Kalamazoo to Chicago. While our plane was delayed from Kalamazoo to Chicago. While we waited in Chicago for our next flight. On the plane from Chicago to Dallas. I scoured blogs to glean some inspiration from other baby book plans. My brain started to race as I tried to figure out how to take my thousands of baby pictures and turn them into something usable, organized, beautiful, and enjoyable. Finally, last night while we watched Moneyball, I practically had a breakdown. I think Mark thought I was losing my mind. (Talk about #firstworldproblems.)

I had so many pictures and so many options that I was simply overwhelmed. I couldn’t simply keep staring at my thousands of photos and trying to plan each page one by one. I needed limits. I needed to know exactly what the parameters were before I could effectively begin to pull pictures and then I needed a clear system for sorting and organizing my photos.

So I did what I always do when I am struggling to write: I created an outline of sorts, a clear design for my vision.

The Layout

My Project Life baby book plan thus far is this:

I only plan to use Design A Pocket pages. There will be one large (4″ x 6″) and two small (4″ x 3″) journaling cards per page and five slots for pictures. Knowing that each full spread (a back and front pocket page) will include 10 pictures helps me immensely since I can choose pictures in multiples of five.

I’ll include 1 full-size cover photo and 1 full-size photo for each of his first 12 months. There will be spreads dedicated to each of my three baby showers (one full spread or two depending on whether ten or twenty pictures is more consistent with my selection of photo), spreads dedicated to immediate and extended family, and three spreads chronicling my pregnancy, Miles’ ultrasounds, etc. I also plan to dedicate three spreads to the birth story, delivery, and first few days in the hospital. Each month will have four or five spreads loosely based on the number of weeks in the month (although the books will be organized by month and not by week).

This added up to just under 80 full-spread pages and a clearly defined number of photos. Defining the number of photos and choosing to organize the book by month rather than by week was an enormous relief to me. Since it’s not clear to me (especially during the first few weeks) exactly which week a picture falls into, trying to sort the pictures by week would have been a terrible task. (If you are more organized and know exactly which week a picture falls into, kudos again to you!)

Sorting the Photos

Next I had to begin to sort through photos. I already have my photos archived outside of Photoshop by month. (There are also photos on various online accounts that my family took on various phones and cameras.)

I created a separate folder dedicated to the baby book and created a numbering system consistent with the 5-pictures-a-page approach. I assigned each page a number; for instance, my first baby shower will fall into pages 8-9, so the beginning of the file name is “8-9″, followed by an underscore and a number 1-10.

I copied and pasted (and downloaded) pictures that I selected and renamed them within the new folder. So, for instance, the pictures selected for the pages chronicling my first baby shower are titled “8-9_1,” “8-9_2,” all the way through “8-9_20″.

This naming system and my page number/title list helps me know exactly what pictures are missing, how many more pictures I need for an event, which events may require an extra spread or more careful culling, etc.

Suddenly, I have a clear plan and goal and I’m excited to start combing through my archives again. Instead of being overwhelmed, I’m inspired. Clear steps have a way of doing that.

I love this system and now I know exactly how I can begin with the other photo books I need to complete. I can create the folders and outlines now and begin culling photos and moving and renaming photo copies as I have time. I’ll be able to clearly track my progress, easily sort the photos into the appropriate pages, and motivate myself to work on projects that have, previously, been overwhelming.

I’m so excited to get to work! What kinds of systems do you use to organize your photos in a usable way? What album are you working on right now?

Conversations About Hospitality – With Kathy

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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. This month and next, we are chatting about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Today, one of the best hostesses I know – my mother! – agreed to sit down and talk. Through the years, Mom has hosted an enormous range of events, from birthday parties to showers to work parties to political fundraisers for groups of all sizes. Even though I’ve been witness to her wonderful hosting on so many occasions through the years, talking to her about her hosting memories provided me with a delightful new perspective. Also, although she isn’t currently blogging, her former blog Bona Vita has a wealth of wonderful recipes upon which I frequently rely.

What is your favorite event to host?

Showers of any sort. You can focus on the theme; you can be elaborate; it makes the guest of honor feel so special. The guest-list is generally all women who gladly comply with dress codes! Every one is (generally) well-behaved. Children are often welcome. Because I think people don’t expect as much from a shower, they are pleasantly surprised when the hostess expends extra effort.

What is the most ambitious event you’ve ever hosted?

A formal Christmas dinner party in my home for over 100 people (my husband’s Operating Room team) a few years ago. I served stuffed herb-roasted turkey breast and filet-mignon, twice-baked potatoes, raspberry pine-nut salad, several appetizers, and desserts.  I served it buffet style at room-temperature. The presentation was elegant and festive. 

What was your favorite event to host?

A spontaneous New Year’s Eve party with several of my young adult children and their friends. Eeryone dressed up; we served terrific finger-foods and desserts; it was snowing outside. We had Chinese lanterns and a lot to drink! You should always have great music – it covers those awkward pauses and sets the mood.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

I’m pretty eclectic – I use different dishes for different occasions. I love tarragon chicken salad for sandwiches at showers, cilantro chicken for a main dish at a  dinner party, great breads, exotic cheeses, always baby quiche!  Fun alcoholic and non-alcoholic punches are good. 

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

I’m never dressed on time!  We made all of the cupcakes and bundt cakes for my daughter’s wedding last summer. Somehow we never got around to frosting anything until midnight after the rehearsal dinner and I frosted cupcakes and bundt cakes until 3:00 am. The wedding was wonderful but the frosting crisis was a nightmare. 

What is your hosting “signature”?

I don’t like to use paper goods  – I almost never use them for events. 

Why are you motivated to host?

I love to cook and love to entertain and love great conversation! 

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

We’re taking a long vacation next summer with family members coming in to join from all over the country – so casual entertaining for extended family! The challenges of that will be working with an unknown kitchen and serving large numbers over five weeks. 

Any tips for those who would like to host more in 2015?

Be spontaneous! Always have ideas of some dishes you can serve on short notice. Don’t shoot for perfection – it’ll only frustrate you. Go with the flow!

Thanks, Mom!

Friday Links

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Happy Friday! What are you doing for the first weekend of 2015? We’re in Michigan with my family for a few more days and are loving the cozy time.

Regardless of what you’re doing this weekend, these links will provide some fresh inspiration for the first week of the new year.

Thoughts on the newness that the coming year holds. (via Darling Magazine)

Some interesting thoughts on “natural childbirth” and the power of terms. (via Bundoo)

This photo series is the sweetest. (via Life:Captured)

Are you the worst one in the room? You should be. (via LifeHacker)

Some unique photo projects to inspire your 2015 lens. (via My Photo Central)

In the nation’s capital, the elderly couple next door might be hiding all sorts of secrets. (via The Washingtonian)

 

My One Word and a New Year’s Resolution for 2015

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It’s the first day of 2015! Don’t you just love the fresh new start that the turning of the year brings?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a number of 2015 goals and projects, but first I want to talk about the My One Word project. Have you heard about it? The idea is to pick a theme for the year, a word to tie goals, plans, and action steps together.

I knew as early as November what I wanted my word for 2015 to be. Ready? My word for 2015 is CREATE. In 2015, I’m especially determined to:

~ Create craft projects (and bring them to completion).

~ Create relationships (or improve existing relationships).

~ Create memories (and record them!). 

~Create words (and read them!).

I’m the kind of person who needs a structure and a checklist to accomplish my goals. So to help motivate myself towards my goals, I’m making a plan.

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CREATE CRAFT PROJECTS.

I’m giving my plan for craft projects a name. It’s called CREATE2015. Every month, I’m going to create some kind of craft project (or finish something that’s been sitting unfinished in a box for too long!).

To keep myself motivated (and to motivate you to work towards your resolutions), I’ll share my monthly project on here on the 1st day of every month and then progress on the 15th, 16th, or 17th of the month.

So what’s my project for January?

4 mixed paper journals. 

Ever since I saw these mixed paper books from Elise Joy and this mini-book from A Beautiful Mess, I’ve wanted to try to create an mini mixed-paper journal. (Another example is here.)

I started two back in November and am thrilled with the project and the process so far.

CREATE RELATIONSHIPS (and improve existing ones!).

This item is an umbrella that encompasses a number of goals that I want to work towards. I want to be better about keeping up with old friends. I want to network professionally more intentionally. I want to work towards building deeper friendships in our new home. I’m still figuring out how to create a productive tangible plan for myself, but I love Anne Runyan’s 4 x 4 networking challenge.

CREATE MEMORIES (and record them).

I am determined to catch up on my memory-keping this year (leaning heavily on Becky Higgin’s Project Life system). I’ll share more on this in a few days, but I’m excited to start January by organizing my pictures, backing them up safely (thanks to a practical Christmas gift from my husband!), and creating an action plan for 2015 memory-keeping.

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CREATE WORDS (and read them).

Words have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but the adventures of 2014 (having a baby, moving, changing jobs) meant that I read (and wrote) less than is normal for me in 2014. In 2015, I’m determined to get back on track, writing and reading regularly, both professionally and personally.

I’m so grateful for everything that 2014 brought to me and my family. But I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store!

So what is your One Word for 2015? Goals? Projects? I want to know! Let’s chat about goal-setting in the comments.