#BestLifeby35: Choose Your Word

It’s January…the month where bitterly cold weather meets goal setting. Definitely a bizarre combo, but since we are inside so much more this month, it’s really a great time to set some goals for yourself. But might I suggest you shift your initial goal setting focus?

Obviously in January, we know how trendy it is to set (hashtag) goals. In fact, you may choose to skip the reading of this post because you’re so over reading blog posts about goal setting. But as a goal-oriented person who loses focus without goals, I found myself wanting to write about my process in picking a word for 2018.

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As you may know, I have started a blog series I have entitled #bestlifeby35, which basically covers my journey toward living the healthiest life I know how to live by the time July 18, 2018 rolls around and I turn the big 3-5…halfway to 40….holy buckets.

(Check out my first post in this series about Intentional Time.)

In the last few years, it’s been trending to choose a word for the New Year. Now I initially rolled my eyes at this process, as I thought it was a little cheesy. But I felt myself losing focus on what I truly valued in my life in 2017, and when 2018 showed up, I was willing to try whatever it took to regain my focus.

Your word of the year is essentially a mantra, focus, or something that is to define your purpose throughout the year. As a word person, I admittedly took WAY TOO LONG in picking mine. But reading Lara Casey’s Goal Setting Blog Series helped my process along. It helped so much, in fact, that I purchased Lara’s Cultivate What Matters Intentional Goal Planner.

I followed the process Lara outlined…I looked back at my 2017, looked ahead to my future, analyzed the common threads, looked words up in the dictionary to see if the definitions resonated with me, and ultimately decided where my 2018 focus should lie.

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The definition was the deciding factor. I loved the two definitions: a person’s principles or standards of behaviorone’s judgment of what is important in life.

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For the past year especially, I have prayed for guidance in the area of balance. The striking visual I often see in my mind (when I stop to think about life’s demands) is an  overworked server at a restaurant striving to carry 17 plates around a crowded room. I think at this point, though, it’s up to me (with God’s help) to delineate by using my value system. I think it’s about taking life one day at a time and carrying out my duties and tasks based on what I value. What I value most will always come first, and if there is time afterward, then the other tasks will be completed. If not, tomorrow is a great time to tackle those.

2018 is a year when I define that value system and let it guide my life.

It’s a word I will display in a few places (on my desk at work and at home…and on a bracelet…thank you, Instagram ads). It’s a word that will help me to ask myself fruitful questions: Right now…in this very moment…am I doing something of value? Is the time I’m spending right now in line with my value system? That thing that I’m not doing right now…is that a good choice, given what I said I value? 

The truth is, you don’t need really anything to help you choose and live out your word. But above are just a few things I have done and purchased to help my process. So after you have chosen your word, please share it with me in the comments! I would be honored to pray over your word and that it helps you to live a joyful and prosperous 2018!


#BestLifeBy35: Intentional Time

HAPPY 2018 to you! I hope this post finds you well-rested and motivated to crush your 2018 goals. I have about 813 goals I want to achieve, and my biggest problem in New Year goal setting is overwhelming myself by setting too many goals and trying to make them happen all at once. I hope to change that in the New Year by starting slowly…

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In an upcoming post, I am going to show you how I’m approaching goal setting in the New Year, but today’s #bestlifeby35 post is all about intentional time.

The phrase intentional time is a loaded one with ambiguous meaning. It could mean taking a look about how you spend your time and asking yourself what your intentions are in this activity or that activity. That’s actually a really fruitful practice that I have done in the past and that I plan to do again very soon. But I also take intentional time to mean my morning “clarity” time. I intend to focus my day during the first 20-30 minutes I’m awake by setting myself up for success.

FORMER ME: Hmm…let’s scroll through social media for 30 minutes because I know I have to be awake, but I don’t want to get out of bed. Oh, let me just go ahead and compare myself to that stylish and beautiful lady I’ve never met in real life…AHHH. How can it be 6 AM already? I still have to get ready, pick the kids’ clothes out, pack my lunch, and do a million other things in like an hour. I would then make myself (and my family) miserable each morning because I felt so rushed. Then I would get to work feeling agitated and stressed BEFORE seeing any of my students! UGH…I’m not proud of it.

I had to take a long, hard look at my practices and decided that I needed more focus and perspective in the morning. Ultimately, I cut out most of my social media time, replacing it with quiet time. It sounds very kindergarten, but just stay with me.

Here is a closer look at my morning intentional time:

  1. Get up before everyone else in the house. OK, you can totally roll your eyes at me right now, but I am going to suggest you wake up 30 minutes earlier than everyone in your house to create space in your day for intentional time. Over the years, I could not STAND IT when people told me I needed to wake up earlier, but here we are. Then I make myself a cup of coffee.
  2. Go downstairs into a QUIET space, away from all distractions.
  3. Since I’m a Christ follower, I like to start my time reading The Word. I suggest something focused so you don’t have think about what to read each morning. Planning ahead will maximize your morning intentional time. Right now, I am almost done with Havilah Cunnington’s study I Do Hard Things. (Side note: I will be writing a review of this study upon completion. I am 75 percent of the way finished. I am a Truth to Table member, so I have access to her studies for free. Check out Truth to Table HERE.) I will watch her video, read that daily section in the book (via PDF online). I will reread scripture and journal about key concepts. Then I will go into quiet prayer time.
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Truth to Table is amazing. If you are a Christian working mom, there is nothing out there quite like it…so many ways to access Biblical teachings on a time crunch.

I end my intentional time by planning out my day, making lists of everything I need to get done in all areas of my life. (More on my planner choices for 2018 coming soon.)

I often finish my intentional time in the car on the way to work by listening to an uplifting podcast or listening to worship music. I often listen to Havilah’s podcasts, but most recently, I have been listening to Elevation Church podcasts.

I know…I know. You are most likely annoyed that yet another person is telling you to wake up earlier. But do you know how much my quality of life has changed by this simple practice? My head feels clear, and my heart is prepared for the day. I feel like I can conquer the day – and as most of you know, my day is pretty full in that I am a mom of two little ones (ages 3 and 6), a full-time high school English teacher, and a LuLaRoe Retailer. Even when my schedule is completely full, I KNOW without my intentional time, I won’t be nearly as effective. Now, I’m not perfect, and sometimes I miss a day here and there. Let me say that I feel a difference when I don’t have my intentional time.

I would love to hear your thoughts on intentional time…what are your favorite ways to set the tone for your day?


#BestLifeBy35: The Series

Um. I just recently came to the realization that I am going to be 35 in 2018. Holy cow. What put it in perspective for me? My mom had my youngest sister when she was 35, right when I was entering my senior year of high school. At the time, I thought she was really old. (Sorry, Mom.) But honestly, here we are! Ha.

When I look back at my life thus far, just like any one of you, I remember highs and lows, joys and disappointments, times of heartache and frustration, times of bliss and near perfection.

But a lot of my life has lacked true intention.

Sure, I have always been decently self-motivated. A few close friends and family members have told me that I’m one of the most determined people they have ever met. But when I really think about what motivates me to achieve certain goals, whether big or small, I think most have been achieved in a spirit of competition or people-pleasing. If I achieve this goal, I will be considered successful. If I make this happen, so-and-so will be proud of me. If I can just do this, then I will win. So in other words, I don’t feel like the why behind my striving has often been truly deeply intentional.

Sad to admit when you’re 34. But true.

I’m not sad to see 2017 go. I will say goodbye to many struggles, frustrations, and disappointments. But I’m so ready to say hello to new beginnings and an exciting journey of self-discovery.

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The #bestlifeby35 blog series operates under two goals: 1. to keep myself accountable for being truly intentional in my life and being more authentic with you, my reader, and 2. helping you as my reader discover some insights and daily practices I have/will go through that will help me align my goals and desires to truly intentional behaviors that will ultimately cultivate my best life. I hope that what I share will help you in some way to cultivate your best life as well.


LuLaRoe Jaxon jacket (size small), LuLaRoe Elegant Amelia dress (size small), Groopdealz (Journey and Crew) booties. Style post on these pieces coming soon!

No, there’s not ever a life that has been lived or will be lived in a perfect way (besides the life of my Savior, Jesus), but I intend to make choices that will bear fruit in my life physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. And I want to take you on that journey with me, my friend.

I would love for you to examine the parts of your life that need some fine tuning and join with me! If you document your life on Instagram, I would love for you to use the hashtag #bestlifeby35 (even if you’re nowhere near the age of 35!) so I can cheer you on in your journey toward self-discovery, enlightenment, and joy.

I look forward to what is to come in all of our lives. Thank you for your support in 2017, and I look forward to connecting with you more in the New Year!






The Coolest Thing I’ve Done in My 34th Year

Most of my Friday nights consist of sweatpants, Halo Top ice cream, and my kids fighting me to stay up later. But one Friday a few weeks ago, I did something kind of awesome, though I would also like to vouch for the awesomeness of sweats and Halo Top.

I got a tattoo.

I like to say it was about a year and a half in the making, but in reality, it was about 19 years in the making.

At age 15, I felt the need to start expressing my “alternative” style, that rocker edge. I dyed my bangs (and only my bangs) bright red. (Like why, though….) That didn’t go over so well, so out came the red. At age 17, I begged my parents to allow me to get my eyebrow pierced. After all, I told them, I am first in my class academically. I never get in trouble. I’m a good kid. Let me get an eyebrow ring. (Amazing logic, right?) The answer was a firm heck no.

At that point, I mostly abandoned the edgy side of my personal style, and when I became a teacher right out of college, my edginess still stayed dormant. It actually started coming out again in about 2010 with my first nose piercing, and three nose piercings later, I can honestly say my nose hates nose rings, as each has gotten infected and/or failed to heal properly.

So what’s an edgy girl to do? Answer: get a tattoo.

Over a year ago, I found a picture of a diamond on Pinterest. Yes, this is the point of the story that falls in the “basic” category, just like my deep-seeded obsessions: Target and Starbucks. So like anyone basic, I started a tattoo Pinterest board, and even after a full year, I was still very much attached to the geometric diamond design.

My husband, who has 8 (?) tattoos, and I ventured into a tattoo shop (No Regrets in Champaign, IL) after our Friday night sushi date, and the rest is history. I can’t say enough about Robert, my tattoo artist. He was so friendly and thorough. The pain wasn’t as bad as I had expected. My pain tolerance is pretty high (I have given birth to two babies over 10 pounds), but don’t get confused about me: my tolerance for being mildly inconvenienced isn’t high at all…




I wanted the diamond on my wrist to be a constant reminder of these principles:

Even when I don’t think highly of myself, God sees me as His precious jewel.

Diamonds are the crown jewel, and that is a gentle reminder that though many aspects of life may be beautiful, I need to remember to focus on the best of the best of those aspects of life. My “diamonds” are my faith, my marriage, and my family.

Diamonds are beauty made from intense pressure. I have inflicted intense pressure on myself my whole life to please others and to be the best at everything I do, but there is true beauty in the life I have created for myself, one that is imperfect but still beautiful.

Oh, and I think the design is really cool, too.

I’m already planning my next one. I can totally see how tattoos become an addiction!

Hi again.

I am a firm believer in the Instagram bio telling the story of who you are. Now granted, it may sound a little ridiculous, but I think there’s something so telling about describing yourself in 150 characters. We can project the selves we want others to see. And one of the words I have added to mine recently is authenticity. So I think it’s time I start unpacking my thoughts on style blogging and Instagram in general.

I have given both too much power.

I have taken a month off out of necessity, and it felt really fruitful to take a backward step and evaluate why I use both (blog and Instagram). In the meantime, I reopened my private Instagram account reserved for people I actually know, where I can post 847 pictures of my kids or any mundane task I find amusing without “fear” of losing interest or followers. But what is at the heart of caring if I lose followers or interest? What purposes are my blog and its Instagram counterpart serving?

I am not naive enough to believe I am a spokesperson for all style bloggers on Instagram, but we all started an account for a reason. Maybe a few people in our private lives appreciated our style. Maybe we wanted to cultivate something just for ourselves in the mass chaos that our lives had become when we were (are) in the thick of raising little ones and going to work every day. Maybe – deep breath – why we started has a little bit of an attention-seeking truth behind it, an ugly truth we never wanted to surface.

For me, about three years ago, I wanted to write about style, to connect to my outside world while navigating the foreign land of northeast Iowa with two babies under age 4 in tow. But as I expressed in my last blog post, my purpose became twisted and unfocused along the way, and blogging/Instagramming became detrimental to my life.

The answer for me was to take a gigantic step back, hands raised, almost in a fearful awe of what negativity transpired while I was so hyperfocused in growing my blog and its Instagram counterpart. Though I have been noticeably absent from my blog Instagram account, I did catch a post recently shared by a few ladies I follow…and it was upsetting, for this exact purpose. It put the blame on the user. It made the user feel shame and guilt for allowing online presence to define her. To some extent, I realize accountability is a factor. Yes, we should step away from our phones and back into our reality when social media gets too heavy. But what if it’s beyond that point of realization? Do we still guilt and shame that user for not being in the right state of mind to step away? Lots of ugly is to be found when we guilt and shame others, even if it we are trying to share a post that is “helping” them see the error of their ways. For me, the only answer was to step back, but I know others out there are probably in a similar state but have not stepped back.

So why am I here again?

I don’t think the answer is to permanently step away from my blog and Instagram because there is a lot of fruit that grows in both spaces but ONLY when both are cultivated and well tended to. And the cultivating tools are in my hands alone. I have known since I was in third grade that writing is a way I can express myself, and my love of writing has grown into a life passion and career for me. The best teachers of writing are writers themselves.

So why do I continue to blog? My answer, my why is simply this: I want to write, I want to share, and I want to cultivate a community where women can come and read about my life as a working mom who is busy, whose focus is never on the same task for more than five minutes, who is being pulled in 865 different directions (I need that jacket, I need to make homemade treats for my son’s class, I need to do something about the frizziness of my hair, I need to clean up my diet, I need to exercise today, oh wait. When was the last time I swept the floors again?), but who still finds the value in expressing her personal style, though others may dismiss that value placed on style as vanity. I would respectfully disagree.

I am a firm believer in the Instagram bio but also a firm believer in style and image as empowerment and confidence. P.S. I’m so glad you’re here, and I am excited to navigate through life with you once again. But I’m also deeply grateful for my time away, which provided me with a healthy perspective shift. Stay tuned. I have so much to talk about.