The Year of You

learning to live without limits

Starting from a happy place — July 29, 2017

Starting from a happy place

First things first. I want to take this minute to explain why I keep up with this blog. I think it started as one thing and has morphed a bit, and now I am just kind of going with it. What you are about to read (or have read from me in the past) may seem idealistic or ridiculous or sometimes downright impossible…and I understand that. At different times in my life, many things seemed unfeasible for me and there are lots of things now that I want to do that feel impossible. Everyone should absolutely do what works for them and their priorities and their life. I never intend to write from a place of judgment (except when it comes to people who don’t like watermelon…those people are just idiots). Instead, I try to write from a place of positivity and growth. If through my experiences, I can give one person something that benefits their life, then I am happy. Finally, my posts are in no way intended to be “look at my perfect life, I have it all figured out”…because my life is not perfect and I very rarely have anything figured out, but when I do stumble upon something that works for me I want to share. I am on a daily quest for growth and if I can help someone on their journey then that is a good day.

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about my morning routine, and how I could refocus this routine to start each day feeling a little better. I thrive on personal growth and my morning just didn’t feel like a reflection of me and my priorities. I would often feel very frazzled and exhausted by the time I dropped my son off at daycare at 7:00am, and this frazzled state would follow me throughout the day.

I firmly believe in the power and benefits of a good morning routine and taking control of your day using each morning as an opportunity to set the pace. If you feel successful in your morning, your confidence, motivation and discipline will be with you the rest of your day. The morning is also when I feel like I have the most motivation and willpower. After several weeks of researching the morning routines of successful individuals or individuals who I admire, I decided to take action and give some new things a try.

Thinking about it now, my former morning routine was such a time waster. It included checking my many forms of social media to see what I missed and just generally wasting time trying to get my mind and body to wake up. I was often left feeling like I lost valuable time, and aside from feeling like I wasted time each morning, I wanted to feel better…to feel happier walking out the door each day. I reflected on how happy I was each morning while on vacation and wanted to replicate some of those activities. I would run on the beach at sunrise and then sit down with coffee and my journal and enjoy the silence before everyone else woke up. This was my time. I loved this time, and that feeling of peace.

During those weeks of routine evaluation, I started to map out what I wanted my morning to look like incorporating activities that are important to me. I knew I wanted to include some form of physical activity to get my body moving and wake myself up. I also wanted to include something to get my brain going for the day; something to learn from and to also set my priorities.

Starting with the physical activity, I decided that walking my dogs would fit perfectly in this new routine. I would get some extra steps each day, my dogs would get a walk in before it got too hot and I could also listen to a podcast to get my brain activated. It was perfect. To accommodate the addition of my morning walk meant that I would need to wake up 15 minutes earlier each day which sounded so. terribly. painful. On that first day, I adjusted my alarm to get up a bit earlier and forced myself out of bed. The action of getting out of bed earlier than I really needed to (or wanted to for that matter) was so powerful. I was starting my day with discipline. Forcing myself out of the warm comfy bed to do something that in that minute felt super undesirable. This small action of my feet hitting the floor was my first win of the day.

After returning from our walk, I knew that I wanted to include meditation. Meditation was one of those activities that seemed impossible to me, but I still really wanted to give it a shot. I had been trying to meditate on my own for a few months, but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t find the right time in the day and it was frustrating.  I decided to start using the app Headspace and it has made this practice so much more achievable for me. It removed the barriers and made the practice of meditation seem so simple. I can’t say enough about how much meditation helps me throughout my day. I am able to handle the “noise” of my day so much more effectively. My decision-making abilities seem clearer and I just feel a bit more at peace.

After I meditate (which typically takes less than 10 minutes), I start to organize my day which includes my “To Do” list. I prioritize the personal and work related items that I want to accomplish that day. Once my list is complete, I grab my journal and very simply write three things that I am grateful for. I believe that starting your day from a grateful place allows gratitude to build and expand throughout your day. It shifts my mood and cultivates more awareness. It helps me be more mindful in my decisions.

From my alarm until finishing my gratitude journal entries is 35 minutes.  The rest of my normal morning of getting myself and the kids ready and out the door by 6:45a picks up from here. By 7:00a, I feel like I have already accomplished so much, and on most days that frazzled feeling is gone. My brain and soul are ready to go and I’ve already logged a few active minutes. I carry this energy throughout my day.

For me, routines and habits are the foundation of a successful day. Small changes to my morning routine helped me become more present by rethinking my daily activities. I challenge you to think about your morning routine. What small changes can you make to get yourself out the door in a happier place? I challenge you to jot down a few items over the next few weeks. What would you include in your ideal morning? Incorporate a few of these changes for yourself.  If the changes don’t feel right, make adjustments. The final point I will make is that it is so important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach here. What I do works for me, but you need to do what works for you which is why I encourage you to think about what makes you feel good and determine your priorities.

Finally, here are a few tricks that I use on myself to establish new habits and routines:

Establish a plan in advance of when you expect to start the new activity. By establishing a plan, you are making a commitment to yourself and no one wants to start the day disappointing themselves.

-Now that your plan is set, prepare for the plan. Make it super easy on yourself and set out anything that you might need so that all you have to do is grab and go. For me this is setting out clothes and the dogs’ leashes for the walk. The less I have to do, the more likely I am to follow through.

Establish and build discipline. Knowing that you can sleep 15 minutes longer, but you get your butt out of bed instead…that right there is discipline. I feel like discipline isn’t discussed enough, but discipline breads success. Establish this discipline within the first five minutes of your day and that small insignificant action of getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button feels like a huge win.

Anchoring new habits with familiar habits. When starting a new habit, build it into an existing habit or routine. Combine activities that feel familiar with activities that are new.

-Finally, reward yourself. I love coffee….I mean really love it, but I don’t allow myself to have coffee until after I’ve completed the most important parts of my morning routine. It is my reward after finishing my gratitude journal entries.

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My obsessions this week help make this new morning routine possible.

Headspace App: The Headspace App provides guided mediation in the form of short three to ten minute sessions. The initial sessions are free, but it requires a subscription the further you get. I love this app. I have tried meditating on my own, but often felt like I was wasting time sitting quietly with my eyes closed. This guided meditation ensures that I have a successful session.

Gratitude Journals: I don’t have a special gratitude journal, but instead I make entries in my normal journal. Every morning I write very short entries describing what I am grateful for that day. It starts my day in a grateful place that changes my state of mind for the day. My journal of choice comes from a store in Australia called Typo. When I was there for work earlier this year, I stocked-up (and thankfully so because shipping to the States is $40).

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Small Buffalo Journal (lined) from Typo. Its glittery and perfect. I love it.

Ink Cards App: Unrelated to my morning routine, but worth the obsession. I have used this app on and off for several years. Little known fact….I am adamantly against traditional greeting cards such as Hallmark cards or really any card you can find in a store. I often refuse to buy cards unless the card is the vessel to hold the gift. If I must buy a card, I’ll try to find something clever on Etsy…OR I will use Ink Cards. Ink Cards allows you to pick a card template, add a photo, enter the address and off it goes. The typical card including postage is $1.99. I will  use this app to send cards to grandparents or other out-of-town family members just to let them know that we are thinking of them. From start to finish, it takes no more than three minutes to prepare the card and complete the transaction, and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face.

 

Obsessions: the summer edition — July 20, 2017

Obsessions: the summer edition

This week I’ve decided to do a post exclusively on things I am obsessing over this summer. I haven’t included any obsessions in the last few posts, and thought what the heck.

So here we go, here are the things I have been obsessing over this summer.

Target’s Monthly Beauty Boxes: Love them. Seriously. Target comes out with a new box each month filled with full size and sample size beauty products. I have found some awesome products through these boxes (each box typically costs $7.00). Some of the products that I’ve received are also on my obsession list:

  • Sun Bum Tan Wipes: I am a pale individual. Due to a considerable amount of  lake and beach time this last month, I have somehow managed a tan, but most of the time I am an unnatural shade of fluorescent white. The sun just doesn’t like me…and that’s okay. When I have an event coming up like a wedding, I’ll use these wipes on my arms and legs two days before the event to take the edge off my paleness. They are super easy to use and I haven’t had any issues with streaks. Love them.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Lip Shine in Radiant Rose: This was a full size sample from the target beauty box, and has become my go-to lip gloss. I don’t know what else to say about it…I just really like it. I’ve ordered it in two other colors, but don’t tell Jason…I am supposed to be working on my online shopping problem.

Podcast Speeds: Big shout out to the Wall Street Journal for recently publishing an article on using the speed feature of the Apple podcast app. I had no idea that this existed, but this feature has changed how I listen to podcasts. I always seem to have more podcasts than I have time to listen. By increasing the speed to 1.5x (this seems to be the fastest I can go right now, 2x speed just sounds like chipmunks), I am now able to consume more podcasts and still feel like I am actively listening. It’s amazing how quickly your brain adjusts to the increased speed….and yes, I realize that I am a huge nerd but I love podcasts.

Watermelon: There are so many watermelon haters out there…and honestly I just feel bad for them. How can you not like a good seedless watermelon in the summer? I know this fruit is at the bottom of the list of healthy fruits, but it’s delicious and I love it and it just screams summer.

Jason’s famous margarita: I’m really picky about my mixed drinks. I like to know exactly what is in them so I can figure roughly how much sugar I am consuming. Jason created a “skinny” margarita for me that he has refined over the last few months and I don’t feel guilty drinking it. The recipe includes five basic ingredients: Tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar, ice.

Recipe: One shot lime juice, One shot orange juice, Two shots tequila, agave nectar to taste, Ice.

I prefer my margaritas frozen, so we use our small ninja to blend the ingredients. If you aren’t going to blend the drink, I recommend using a shaker to mix the agave through. Enjoy!img_4822

 

Riding a Bike: Last month I rode a bike for the first time in 15 years. I use spin bikes fairly regularly, but riding an actual bike was different….and harder. I liked it so much that I borrowed a bike this past weekend and spent an hour touring my neighborhood. Bike riding is great cardio plus you stay a bit cooler than if you were to go for a run. It’s also a great way to creep on your neighbors and check out homes that are for sale. Bike riding also pairs perfectly with a podcast at 1.5x speed.

Next Time: I have been fascinated with morning routines lately. In my next post, I plan to talk about my routine, the changes that I have recently made to this routine and why I think it’s so important to start your day out right.

 

My Daily Journey Back in Time — July 14, 2017

My Daily Journey Back in Time

I have an absolutely terrible memory; it has steadily declined since having kids. Early on as a mom, I realized how important it was for me to remember the everyday moments…the memories that probably don’t warrant a picture, but are momentous nonetheless. In July of 2012, I started keeping daily notecards to record these “little” momentous daily events. My inspiration was from Pinterest…obviously, right? Pinterest was life at that time. Now that I have been doing these daily notecards for five years, it has become a part of my daily routine. Right before I go to bed each night, I find that day’s notecard and jot down the important parts of the day. It takes me no more than two minutes and one of those minutes is spent reading the lines from previous years.  It’s my daily journey back in time, and I am so thankful that I started doing this.

Each index card represents one day. If you were starting today, you would write July 14th  at the top of the index card. One the first line you would write “2017”, and include a sentence or two describing the highlights from the day. Each day you would do this, and just move that day’s card to the back of the box once complete. As a side note, I realize that there is probably an App to do this, but that’s just not for me. To each their own, but just as I prefer writing in my journal over typing out an entry in an online journal…it just loses something for me. 

For anyone interested in starting this, here is what you need to know. It is really super simple. First, you will need to procure two things. 1.) At least 366 lined regular size index cards (366 because of leap year). 2.) A recipe card box to hold the index cards, make sure it is large enough. I bought mine on Etsy because I wanted something a little nicer than the plastic ones.

Link to Index Card Holder Similar to Mine

A few tips from my five years of doing this.

  1. Don’t write about the weather…unless it is something crazy.
  2. Don’t say “today was a good day”. 2012 Lauren has a few of these and they drive me crazy now. Explain what was so great about the day.
  3. Don’t leave out the unfavorable moments. If it was momentous, include it.
  4. If you are going on vacation or traveling, bring those day’s cards with you. It will make it easier to keep your routine instead of trying to remember what you did that day when you get home.
  5. If you can’t think of anything to write, do a “point in time” review. “Ex. Chase is really into soccer right now and loves all things Pokémon. Shane is really into trucks right now and loves watching Octonauts.” I will do this every now and again when it feels like an ordinary day. It’s fun to look back at their progression. You can do this with anything, favorite foods, toys, activities. Maybe they are currently obsessed with the color yellow. Write it down on a day when you are struggling to come up with something.
  6. I think it goes without saying, but you don’t have to always write about your kids.

These notecards have been such a blessing to me. When I started doing this, I had no idea how much I would appreciate these each day. From remembering Chase’s obsession with dragon’s to the oddity of Shane smelling like scrambled eggs as a baby…(yes, weird). I don’t think I would have remembered these little momentous daily events without my notecards.

 

 

Camping, dancing and reunions: Our Independence Day week — July 9, 2017

Camping, dancing and reunions: Our Independence Day week

Every Independence Day we spend a few days at Bull Shoals lake with Jason’s family. You can say what you want about camping (and believe me, I hate most things about camping), but you can’t dispute that it is a time for enjoying the simplicity in things and slowing down. This year was probably our best trip yet. Every year the boys enjoy the lake more, and despite a rainy day, we still had so much fun on the lake. As I was laying in my raft on the lake, I would catch myself in a state of full appreciation. Appreciation for my family and the time together, appreciate for the relaxation, and appreciation for the beautiful sunny days.  I could feel my brain storing these moments as memories.

Jason and I left the boys with my in-laws mid-week and we drove up north for the wedding of one of Jason’s best friends from college. This wedding has been many years in the making, and the celebration of this couple was perfect. Add in a full night of dancing with Jason (I think I logged 200 active minutes of straight dancing) which may or may not have included me performing a full rendition of Footloose with one of the groomsman (one can only hope that someone recorded it) and you pretty much have one heck of a party. It was so great to see this group of guys that have stayed so close. I wish we could see them more often.

Our final stop of the week was back home for Jason’s 15 year high school reunion and our hometown picnic. We made the drive home and Jason was able to catch up with some of his good high school friends. I always look forward to the picnic, but this year may have changed things for me. I often write my blog posts mostly for my own sake,  but if you take one thing away, I hope it is this: Be thankful for what you have. Appreciate the good times. Appreciate the simple times. These will be your memories.