Archive | February, 2019

The Best Advice That Changed My Life in 2018

26 Feb

Pinnable Template Title

Self-improvement is one of my favorite genres to consume, via books, magazine articles, podcasts or something like a TED talk. I’m constantly looking to acquire more information to be better, to improve, and more than anything else — to learn. I feel like I have been on a journey for the past few years, assessing how I live, how I think, what matters to me, and what I want for my family in the future. As a result, I’ve been consuming more to help guide me to a better understanding of what that really means and have a lot to share with you. I realize it’s nearly the end of February, but this is usually when most of us are struggling with our New Year’s resolutions, so it seemed like a timely moment to share some advice and tips that really inspired me. I hope they inspire you too.

You can afford anything, but not everything.”
– Paula Pant, Financial guru and host of the Afford Anything podcast

I love this because it applies to both money AND time. You might remember my post raving about an article I read in Oprah magazine last summer (in an old issue) about how to define your life’s purpose. I talk more about it below, so I won’t get into it now, but Paula’s mantra is one I remind myself of daily. I love to shop for gifts, for example. That isn’t something that will ever change. But too often, I go overboard, spending more than I planned because I can always justify splurging on people I love. The thing is, left unchecked, those extra spends here and there add up. By reminding myself that I can afford anything, but not everything,” I’m reminding myself of those other financial dreams I want to save for — like a wedding anniversary trip to Paris this spring or fall.

Fix “the wedge.”

After completing one task, instead of taking a break, ask yourself: what is the highest value item I could touch next?” I’m completely guilty of feeling like I’ve earned a break after completing any challenging task. This reminded me that I’m wasting valuable momentum, not to mention quiet time while the kids are usually already busy or engaged in solo play, so better to make the most of it and tackle something that is high-priority. My To Do list is more easily tackled thanks to this simply productivity mind-shift.

Caroline hard at work coloring, hopefully not on the desk


Estimate three hours if you’re doing anything with kids.

– Emily Carmack, Mama blogger at The Freckled Fox

Are you noticing that many of these bits of advice aren’t really meant to take be taken literally, but rather, intended to refocus your mindset? When Emily shared this, she explained that she used to feel frustrated with her kids (she has a large family) whenever they’d try to get out the door to do anything; something I really relate to with a 3-year old and a 1-year old in the house. She gave an example of grocery shopping.

She shared that once she started automatically assigning a three-hour window for all outings involving the kids, those outings became a lot less frazzled. I think it’s because it re-establishes expectations. I know for myself, I am still adjusting to my new life as “Mom.” I enjoyed the heck out of my 20’s! Being free to do as I pleased at the drop of a hat… those were the days! Add to the fact that I’ve been self-employed for so much of my career and it’s even easier to understand how navigating with not one, but two young kids can be really difficult to adjust to. I didn’t find one difficult, but it was the jump to two that really threw me for a loop.

I often remind myself as I’m juggling both kids getting out the door that it’s actually laughable that women who leave the workforce to raise children are asked to explain themselves and how they kept their head in the game during that time. I’m doing CEO-level work here: multitasking, engineering, practicing resourcefulness, negotiation, psychology, helping guide develop of interpersonal relationships and personal development. But more of this another day.

A HUGE thank you to you, Emily, for this advice. We are all much happier for having a less crazed exit from our home, and we don’t cram so much into our days now.


“Forget most of what you just wrote.”
– Martha Beck, writer

I realize you need more context to get something out of this, so I implore you to read Martha Beck’s article, The Simple Daily Habit That Keeps You Aligned With Your Purpose.   I know I sound like a broken record because I’ve already written about this article but I’m not exaggerating when I say that this advice rocked my world last year.

What I learned by ‘forgetting most of what I just wrote’ was how to align all my daily To Dos with what I truly want out of life. She details how to do a quick exercise in the article I linked to, but the gist is to make your usual To Do list, then scan while paying attention to what you most want to do, and really taking to hear those tasks you’re dreading.

I might fantasize about getting certified to teach Pilates, but when my daily To Dos include making pesto from scratch, running to the post office to mail a package, and sorting the kid’s excessive piles of clothes, my priorities are out of whack. In paying attention to those tasks I keep assigning myself — cooking a lot of stuff from scratch, overcomplicating things by insisting I have to DIY them, and not delegating home maintenance stuff to my husband, I’ve realized my “life priorities” don’t match up with my dreams. Changing this means that suddenly, there is a window of time to work towards what actually fulfills me. Mind. Blown.

Guys, try this. Not only will your productivity soar, you’ll feel happier.

Focus on 1% improvements.

I’ve never been the type who can successfully use visualization as motivation. Maybe I have too much of an all or nothing attitude. I can’t just increase my daily movement, I must set a goal to go to the gym every day for a month. I can’t just read more, I need to join a book club and use a bullet journal habit tracker to track 1-hour of reading every night. You get the idea.

Yet, focusing on 1% improvements and imagining what someone who is successful in whatever way I want to be successful would do in any given situation has been enormously helpful. Maybe because it’s not me I’m visualizing per se? Who knows. But I’ve lost almost 15 lbs with minimal effort and have read almost 6 books over the course of two months.

How? I didn’t go to the gym every day for a month or commit to reading every night for an hour, that’s for sure. I accomplished this by simply getting more steps each day, tracking it with a pedometer, and more recently, a FitBit Charge. I don’t fight for the closest space to the gym door or grocery store entrance. I walk to any destination that is within a mile. If the weather cooperates, I might take a quick walk around the neighborhood in the evening.

And for the reading, I realized how many podcasts I consumed in a week and just swapped in some audio books. I also connected to the local library’s digital collection of ebooks and downloaded or reserved everything I could possibly want to read in 2019, and coordinated all the technology to work together to deliver books to my iPhone and Kindle. Now I can either read or listen to whatever I’m currently reading, in small pockets of free time. I “read” on that evening walk I just mentioned, while in the car, or if I’m just sitting on the couch with the kids while they watch Daniel Tiger or Sesame street in the morning. And my favorite “treat” of all is choosing to forgo an hour of TV in favor of a luxurious whole hour of reading in bed in the evening. (Small pleasures!)

To connect this tip with a variation of another tip I mentioned earlier: “You have time for anything, but not everything.” I used to scroll through Instagram while I sipped my morning “wake up” coffee and snuggled with the girls on the couch. Was “Mindless Daily Instagram Scrolling” on my list of “Things I Want to Do More of?” Nope. But making the time to exercise and read were. So I bid farewell to that and now we either all read together, or if they still insist on their show, I discreetly read while they’re snuggled next to me. Thirty glorious minutes of reading. Without any effort.

What is my point in sharing all of this? That I encourage you devote some time thinking about what you want and aligning what you do everyday — in 1% increments — to working towards it. I always remind myself not to worry about the time it will take to achieve something, because the time will pass anyway. When I look back on all the times I thought about doing things and then decided not too, I want to shake myself.






Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Update: Jan. 2019

3 Feb

classic winter style ideas
Since I moved to a semi-capsule wardrobe in my quest towards minimalism last summer, I’ve become very choosey about what and how I buy. I used to paw through the sale racks at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom rack in the hopes of uncovering a gem, and sometimes, I did. Very rarely have I ever paid full price for anything at a major brand retailer. But more often than not, I’d come home with $100 worth of “just OK and I picked it up because the price was right.” Nothing that made my heart really sing. Then, months later when the skirt or the shirt was still unworn in my closet or drawer, I’d feel such frustration with myself for another stupid purchase. And I’d head out to shop again, determined to make better choices, and the cycle continued.

Now? I shop from a list. I’ve pared down my wardrobe to such an extent that I know what the holes are. For example, I know I like a certain type of tank top to layer under shirts. I almost exclusively reach for this ONE style of tank, more than any other I ever kept in my drawer “for variety.” But these tanks only come out seasonally, in early summer, so I’ve been biding my time, waiting to buy. Did I run out and buy “just something” to get me by. NO!

Something else I don’t do? Is follow fashion “influencers” who inspire the “buy-buy-buy” mentality. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I do follow them, but I view what they’re pushing with a microscopic lens now.  I appreciate a great recommendation — like a Lululemon yoga pant dupe: HELLO, I am ALL EARS. Come to mama.  But I won’t whip out a credit card to buy anymore. First, I’ll analyze my current workout wardrobe, determine if there is a need, and if, and only if, I do actually need the item, will I consider purchase. But I usually sleep on it for a week or two. And you know what? I have saved SO MUCH MONEY because I usually forget about whatever it was and determine that I didn’t truly “need” it to begin with.

That said, I was in Anthropologie recently, drooling over all the beautiful cuts and fabric and workmanship. I always feel so energized just walking around those beautifully styled shelves, don’t you? I was tempted to buy at least 5 things that probably would have actually filled some gaps in my wardrobe, but do you know what I did instead? I came home, went into the Anthro website, and pinned to my hearts content. Whatever caught my eye while I was in store, I looked it up. I noted the reviewer comments, assessed if I felt like the price was worth it for the value, and if I still “loved it” and felt like it met the style parameters I’ve defined for myself, only then could I officially “pin” it to my Pinterest Style Inspiration board.

What you see above, at the beginning of this post, is my final selection. All in, this is hundred of dollars worth of merchandise. But now I have it all in one spot and can check-in regularly to see if I’m still as smitten. I can look at how the pieces work together — because with a capsule wardrobe, all the pieces MUST work together. I can see where there is overlap. I also benefit from some outfit inspiration so I can shop my own closet and determine if there is anything similar, or that might be worn similarly, to anything that I’ve pinned. All without spending a dime.

Now, ultimately, I’ll reassess in a few weeks and decide if I want to actually purchase any of the above. And if they sell out? No big deal. There will always be the next thing, but at least now, when I’m pinning the next time, I’ll be able to notice if there is a pattern developing — for example, if I pin ANOTHER pair of nude suede flats, then I might be persuaded that it’s time to buy. But for now, I’m just window shopping. ❤

Our New Approach to Valentine’s Day

2 Feb

Brian and Wendy Engagement - Series 1-27

It might surprise some readers to learn that Valentine’s Day isn’t high on my list of favorite gift-giving occasions. Maybe it’s just where we are in our lives as parents (utter chaos with two little ones!) but the idea of giving some trinket of affection when all we want is 8-consecutive hours of sleep seems silly. And over the years, the ritual of hunting down the requisite chocolates/flowers often feels forced, commercialized, and impersonal.

Therefore this year, I suggested a new approach. Now I should remind you that “gifting” is one of my love languages. I will never NOT find immense pleasure in gift-giving, because for me, the thought and care I put into selecting what I give someone is the highest expression of my love.  Now I know some couples don’t gift at all, choosing instead to put effort (and funds) towards travel or other large purchases, but I personally, wouldn’t find much satisfaction in that. I’d rather prioritize the effort and care of gift selection and keep travel or saving for large purchases a separate aspect of our lives.

Still, in an effort to take some pressure off, I suggested that Brian and I take turns “gifting” and planning out how we will celebrate various anniversaries and occasions throughout the year. He is planning and gifting for me this Valentine’s Day, and I’ll plan and gift to him for our wedding anniversary. Squee!! I’m already giddy!!

I can’t take credit for this brilliant idea though — I learned this awesome tip from Jordan Page of Fun, Cheap or Free. In one of my YouTube walkabouts last month, I watched the above video where she and her husband explained how they plan out their entire year in advance using Google Calendar, (including date nights) and how they alternate planning and gifting each other for Valentine’s Day and their Anniversary. The idea absolutely thrilled me. (Here is a link to the post detailing how they do it.)

Immediately, I set up a standing Saturday night date night for Brian and I which we alternate planning. Brian is in charge of planning our next one and it’s almost silly how excited I am to see what he is planning. When we first started dating, he planned the most fun, interesting, and different dates. We went to museums, lectures, wine tastings. It was a constant flow of new and different activities and adventures which “fits” both of our personalities really well.

Brilliant, right? After so many years with a partner, who doesn’t long for those exciting “dating” days. Well, this is exactly how to re-inject some of that back into your life. Another tip I remember reading sometime in the summer of 2018 was to just book out a bunch of dinner reservations, put them all on your calendar and then when you see the reservation — boom: you have plans for the night without having to agonize over what to do and when. Possibly another idea by Emily Ley, who I’ve blogged about before.

Anyways, I strongly encourage you to consider this approach if you’re feeling a little weary of the traditional “roses, chocolates & dinner-out” type of Valentine’s Day. Spice it up! And alternate planning and spoiling your partner.