• 2019.

    What better way to follow a 2018 recap than with some thoughts on 2019. I meant to write this in January but, here we are.

    For the first time maybe ever in my life, I feel really clear about what I want for this year. I can point to a few things that have helped me gain this clarity and that is what I am sharing today. It is a good sign that we are a few months in to the year and I still feel connected to these tools.

    PowerSheets.

    Freaking PowerSheets. I have been wanting to jump on this train for a couple of years but I always forget about them until they’re all sold out. How typical. This year my little fingers hit “purchase” in the very minute that they went on sale. Major win.

    If you aren’t familiar, PowerSheets are sold by a company called Cultivate What Matters and it is a proven method of goal setting, refinement and making progress. Their whole sctick is “progress, not perfection” and that has always spoken to me. PowerSheets arrive in the mail in a beautiful, cheery bright yellow box and begin with 45 pages of self-discovery before even letting you doodle your goals for the year. There were moments that felt like true therapy; processing the past year, what “identity boxes” I place myself in and need to break away from, and sorting through the fears that hold me back. Whew. It took me AWHILE.

    So now these pages hold my goals for the year (I have 6!) and spaces for me to monitor even minuscule progress. I pull them out every Monday morning to remind myself of my goals and to check-in on the sub-goals of each month. So far, it has felt like a lot to keep up with, honestly…but I suppose that is part of the point. It takes accountability to keep up with growth and to continually reaffirm the promises we make to ourselves. I’m not sure how it happened, but these sheets don’t cause me any guilt when progress isn’t as quick as I’d hoped. They just serve as a reminder of the things I know are important to me this year and the pace at which I complete (or don’t complete) my goals is truly irrelevant.

    Essentialism.

    On our drive to Charlotte on Christmas Day, we listed to the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

    A+. Highly recommend.

    In a nutshell, here is what has stayed with me. In all things, focus on less, but better. Less, but better. This might mean less meetings, it definitely means less stuff and for me, it also means setting boundaries that allow me to say “no” so I can say “yes” to better, more fulfilling commitments.

    Tidying Up.

    This is definitely no longer original due to the popularity of the Tidying Up Netflix Series, but it is no less inspiring to me. Awhile ago, I read Marie Kondo’s book about tidying and, while it was interesting to me, it spurred close to no action at all. Womp. The series, however, created major urgency for me. There is something about seeing the change, listening to the stories and hearing all the dramatics that made it a necessity that I begin decluttering our home. Immediately. I started with my clothes, as she says to do. It was a dream of a Friday night.

    I cannot lie – it makes a sizable difference. Having less things is always good, but it was the folding and organizing that really made me feel the change. I ended up with an extra drawer – an entire extra, empty drawer! Such a departure from shoving and stuffing and pushing the drawers shut.

    Following my clothes, I tackled a couple of our catch-all drawers. You know the ones I mean. It truly makes such a difference. I know where things are. I am more inclined to throw things away that are not necessary so as not to reclutter. And I don’t cringe every time I glance toward the cabinets. Dramatic but true, it helps me breathe easier.

    I have a long way to go, but I am proud to say that for the most part, I’ve kept up with the folding of the clothes and the organizing of only the things that spark joy! Tidying is a theme in my PowerSheets goals.

    Word of the Year.

    Drumroll, please…

    My word of 2019 is nourish. 

    A few months ago, I went to a yoga class where the instructor utilized a short poem to set intention for the hour. Something about it has clung to me ever since. This is my mantra for the year – nourish myself continually in the form of kindness and in sustained ways, nourish the lives of my tribe and our home.

    Go ahead, read it again. And slow down this time. It’s good, isn’t it?

    Although this post comes a bit late in the year for “new years goals,” the Cultivate team preaches that there is no magic in January 1. Every day is a good one for progress.

    Be softer with you.

    -Jamie

  • 2018.

    Every year, I mentally start my end-of-the-year reflection by saying “wow, this was a big year.” So, I don’t really want to say that here but…truly, it was.

    At the end of 2017, E and I both started new jobs which brought us to a new city (although old to us both). Those two things are actually enough challenge for an entire year, so I’ll let that be the frame for this post. Starting a new job and moving to a new city and living in a new home create a lot of chaos in routine and headspace. Those things serve a plate full of really tight knots to be untied…some of which still remain.

    Here is a little recap of the lessons I learned and things I particularly loved in 2018.

    Vision Boards.

    I started my year with one of my favorite new traditions – creating vision boards with my besties. We did it the old school way – with scissors and magazines and poster boards. Not only did I love the actual process of it all, but I really cherished getting to understand their goals for their year. We met for dinner following this day to talk more in-depth about the things we hoped for and what was important to us at that time. 2019 Vision Boards are being created tomorrow – I’m looking forward to learning about how I can support them in their year to come. We’ve got some big things on the horizon!

    Word of the Year.

    Previous to creating our vision boards, I had identified my word for the year – contentment. I’m a big fan of having a picture of how you want to grow, but being able to center it around one word. It is easy to remember just one thing.

    Contentment was a challenge for me. I have a tendency to always wish for more. Yearn for better. Understand that I have not yet reached my potential, and worry so much that I won’t. Recognizing the anxiety this stirs in my heart, adopting contentment was my way of encouraging myself to rest in what is, and not what could be. It was my way of giving myself permission to relax, to be calm, to allow life to settle. It was also a reminder to practice gratitude.

    Focusing on contentment served me well this year. It allowed the dust of the move to settle, allowed me to really sink into my new job with an attitude of “let’s stay for awhile” rather than “okay, what’s next,” and at one point in the year, gave me the powerful reflection that I truly have everything I’ve ever wanted…that about knocked me off my feet.

    Wellness.

    Man, oh man, do I feel like we tried it all in 2018. I made a decision when we moved to no longer be a member of a gym. Our apartment is truly about 50 steps from the gym on-site, and I felt that it was a solid way to save some money. I think I was pretty successful, actually.

    I started the year following a program shared with me by a friend that involved light cardio and strength training. I created a routine that even involved the same friendly faces in the gym each morning, and did an okay job of keeping up.

    Mid-year, we took a swing at the keto diet. Elliot joined the gym at work and signed-on with a personal trainer. He killed the game. I did not have as much success, but I did take a few lessons away from going keto. First, it gives you tremendous control over what you are eating, and I really, really valued that. I knew what I “should” eat and what I “shouldn’t”, and that definition worked really well for me mentally. This control and understanding eliminated the constant guilt I feel about food, even when we would bend and indulge in pizza and wine. I experienced no guilt and I still can’t get over it because it felt so wonderful and foreign. I’m taking that feeling into 2019 – I need to learn to get there without a diet. I also learned more about what my body likes and what it doesn’t. My body needs carbs to operate optimally. About half way through our collective journey, I reintroduced healthy carbs and now I know that is the best for me.

    In July, I started the OC4 Challenge. This was a 90 day fitness challenge and you all, I LOVED it. I estimate that it took me about 120 days to finish this 90 day challenge, but I finished. What I confirmed from this is that I stay committed when I have a workout plan to follow. Without that structure, I flail, waiver and slaaaaack. This program gave me a workout to follow each day, and gave me the flexibility to make it work with my life. Highly recommend. I also proved to myself that I could continue workouts, even while traveling. I visited many hotel gyms, got up early after late nights, and kept this promise to myself. MAJOR CLAPS OVER HERE. I am proud of that.

    Toward the end of the year, I discovered Be Well By Kelly and her book, Body Love. Almost every day since October, I have had a smoothie for breakfast. I don’t have many conclusions quite yet, but her approach to the science of food is intriguing to me and I plan to continue to learn more in 2019.

    Travel.

    I planted my feet in a whole lot of places this year: Virginia (University of Richmond), Iowa (Iowa State University), Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, IRELAND (conclusion: go.), Texas, New Jersey (Rutgers), Pennsylvania (Lehigh), Washington, D.C., Indiana (Ball State), North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. I might be missing a few. Whew. Equal amounts work and play, it was a great year for experiencing new places. My biggest takeaway from these adventures, ironically, is that I like to be home. This is new for me. I am so grateful for opportunities that allow me to see the world, and I’m equally grateful that home is such a comfortable place to be.

    Margins of time.

    Believe it or not, all of these new things created tremendous margins of time in my life. Unused time in the morning, hours of unused time in the evening. Most days, these hours do indeed become filled, but I’ve filled them with things I love – cooking, community, volunteering. The way that I use these margins of time is on my list for review in 2019, but I learned this year that I value margin. I need margin to achieve my best.

    Early mornings.

    One way I manufactured time margins is that in 2018, I started getting up at 5:15 each morning. Let me rephrase: my alarm goes off at 5:15am each morning. Although I did not keep record, I estimate that a majority of mornings, I did get up and head straight to the gym. My workouts are over by 6:15am, I have until 8:00am to get to work and I live 4 minutes from the office. I’ve come to really value that time in the morning to write, read, review the day with E over coffee, make our lunches, make (and have time to sit and drink) a smoothie and at 7, turn on the Today show. Working 8-4 has been another highlight related to time in my year. I LOVE having a productive morning, and having time in the afternoon to do all the things, or none of the things.

    Growth.

    I’ve blogged about some of the other powerful lessons I learned in 2018. Some of the most notable to me were about smashing comparison, navigating finances, and trusting that I’m worthy of sitting at big tables. I took on new leadership roles, admitted that challenges felt too large and decided to jump in anyways. I learned a whole lot about marriage, became even more grateful for it and was delighted to celebrate the marriages of many that I love. The vision of becoming a mom came true for the pretty lady on the right up there – what a tremendous joy to welcome her sweet baby boy! It was a year filled to the brim with growth, stretching and trying to walk calmly through both sunshine and rain.

    It was one for the books.

    Thanks for being part of it.

    Into 2019 we go,

    -Jamie

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  • Grateful Still.

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday on social media. I love reading about what and who my friends love and being surrounded by gratitude for a whole 24 hours. I know that the Thanksgiving we celebrate, all light-hearted and cheerfully, is not exactly the same sentiment that the day actually marks, but somehow history has transpired to give us a day to acknowledge gratitude annually, and I am here for it.

    A spirit of gratitude is one of the things that initially drew me to E. On our first date, in fact, it was a topic of conversation. He was the very first person I’d ever been on a date with who talked about the “practice of gratitude.” I was intrigued. It was even a whole season before Thanksgiving.

    What does that mean? What does it look like to practice gratitude?

    To me, it means allowing the good to cut through the tough, the imperfect and the painful. It means looking at the very thing that is causing pain, and instead of wishing it away, being grateful for however it is serving you while you work out the kinks. It means holding space for the frustrating and digging beneath it for the miraculous. It means coming home from a beat-up day at work and still saying “I have a job, we have what we need, and I am grateful.” It means believing that everything you have was once everything you wanted.

    Can’t you just feel it? Can’t you feel how it cuts through the pain and allows the sun to shine just a bit? It isn’t a remedy, but man is it a soother. It lifts your eyes from the floor, encourages hope and offers perspective.

    Gratitude isn’t our default though…and that is why E called it a practice that July.

    Imagine if next Thanksgiving marked a year of practicing gratitude. That in every day, we thought about what and who we are grateful for and, even better, we told people that they are on our list on other days of the year. I have to believe that changing our thoughts might just change our circumstances, because the mind is powerful and we have the ability and gift to make our worlds brighter, by something as simple as gratefulness. This doesn’t mean resigning to the fact that this is as good as it gets, and some days gratitude is really difficult, but it frees a space in your mind and heart for happiness alongside each step.

    Grateful to and for you!

    -J

  • Veggie Frittata – A Recipe!

    I really like to cook. Cooking takes me to my happy place. Give me a clean kitchen to dirty, the time to try a new recipe and a husband to feed, and I will be the happiest. I prefer cooking over baking though and this is important for you to know as you read on. I prefer cooking to baking because I don’t like things to be exact. I’m one of those “add a bit of this, add a bit of that” type of cooks and the preciseness of baking just really gets me down. You’ll notice as I start to share recipes that my measurements are not exact and my timing is general…you’ll just have to go with it.

    Welcome to recipe #1! A vegetable frittata. I made this last weekend for a friend who just had a baby. They’re super easy to make, super delicious, and really easy to reheat. Easy but feels kinda fancy – my fave.

    You will need:

    • 2ish tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • about 5-8 petite red potatoes, diced (just enough for your liking)
    • a handful (technical term) of spinach
      • Note: you can literally use any veggies you love and/or have in the fridge
    • 8 eggs
    • handful of any kind of cheese you want – I used colby jack shredded cheese here
    • Paprika
    • Garlic powder
    • Salt and pepper

    What to do:

    1. Preheat your oven to 400°
    2. You need a pan that you can use on the stove and in the oven. I used a cast iron skillet. Put that on the stove and heat to a medium temperature. Add a tablespoonish of olive oil.
    3. Dice up all those veggies. Throw the potatoes in the pan. Give them about a 5 min head start
    4. Add the bell pepper and onion to the pan and let them cook until softened. This could take about 15 minutes and you will likely need to add another tablespoon of olive oil to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan. Extra olive oil will also coat the pan to prevent the eggs from sticking!
    5. Season the veggies as they cook with paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir frequently!
    6. When those seem about done (they should be soft but not mushy), crack 8 eggs into a bowl and whisk
    7. Add cheese to the egg mixture and mix
    8. Toss in the spinach to the veggies and let wilt for about 2 minutes
    9. Pour in the egg mixture evenly into the pan
    10. Let the pan sit for about 30 seconds – watch for the edges to firm up and then transfer to the oven
    11. It should need to cook for about 8 minutes – the top should be firm but not dry when it is done
    12. Take it out, sprinkle some cheese on top and serve or let cool to store

    Yum – enjoy!

    -Jamie

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  • Decisions, Decisions.

    I need to talk to you a little bit about peanut butter.

    Yep, the life lesson of this week is brought to you by peanut butter.

    Yesterday, I made my weekly trip to the grocery store.  I had a definitive shopping list but still found myself wandering up and down each aisles because…what if I forgot something? And then I walked right into the peanut butter aisle.

    Have you ever noticed how many peanut butter options there are in this aisle? Really…take a glance next time. There are creamy varieties, crunchy varieties, even NON-PEANUT varieties of peanut butter. There are options that remind most of childhood (Jif for me, Peter Pan for E), options that have honey (yes, please), and options that are new to the party (almond is as exotic as I get). There are shelves and shelves of options that range in price, size, ingredients, familiarity, flashiness and likely taste.

    You know, making a decision about peanut butter is just like the way we make decisions on the rest of things in life. The factors that went in to selecting my jar of peanut butter that day were reflective of the factors that I use to make any tough choice.

    For starters, this particular store did not have the brand that I normally buy. What a total bummer. So, then I was presented with a decision and had to choose a factor to prioritize over the others. What was more important…price or ingredients? Was I up for trying something new or am I staying away from risk?

    There are always a million varieties available to us. At each step, we have to weigh what factor will play in with priority. Will it be price this time? Will it be convenience? Will it be a choice to align with a goal? Every single time we choose peanut butter, we could consider a different option. Really. There are so many options. And every time we’re faced with a fork in the road, the factors we allow to show themselves are going to be different. At some point, we have to allow a factor to win out so that we can shake ourselves free of weighing the options. Sometimes I get stuck weighing the options for a remarkable amount of time. Like in the peanut butter aisle.

    In the end, one thing is always the same no matter what we consider. Eventually you have to reach your arm out and grab whatever jar you choose. Shove aside all the other taunting options and just gently place that choice right down into your cart and move ahead with purpose. Grab, place, and go. More than likely, it will taste great and if it doesn’t, you’ll have a chance to make another choice soon enough. Because one thing is true about every decision – they’re rarely unchangeable.

    I’ll chose the creamy variety with the fewest ingredients. Off brand. Organic is a bonus.

     

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