February 24, 2016

3 Ways to Determine Your Priority

Determining our priority can be difficult.

Most of us try to juggle many responsibilities in a day and urgency usually gets first place. We may not always know what our top priority is because we're so busy stomping out fires from urgent needs.

Here are three ways I've found to determine what my top priority is in any given season of life:

1. What is most valuable to me?
I heard Chalene Johnson once ask, "What would you be devastated without if it was gone tomorrow?" Career? Relationship?  Family? Faith? Finances? Pet?

Determine what this is and you will have the key to setting boundaries and deciding what you let into your life. Your priority may change, or it may be one constant value in your life. Whatever it is, keep this in the forefront of your mind with each decision you make.

When my kids were smaller and needing me more often, I had to make the decision to cut some activities from my days so I could spend time with them. My kids are older now and not in need of being physically cared for like they once were; so my season has changed. I'm needed now for emotional support more than physical so that changes my priorities. Since my kids are not home in the daytime, I can teach and pursue other interests. But in the evening, I make it a priority to be home for talking and/or engagement. Building relationship with them is very important to me.

2. What are you skilled at or enjoy doing?
This is where your gifts come in. What do you naturally gravitate to? What do other people tell you you're good at? Take notice, get real close to what you do and why.

What is it exactly that you love about that thing? I found that meeting with friends one-on-one is my favorite way to connect. I don't really like parties or getting together with large groups. When I prodded myself to understand why, I realized it's because I love talking intimately and really connecting on a deeper level. But that rarely happens with a large group. In a large group there is much more small talk and catching up for fun and while I enjoy that for awhile, as an introvert, it's exhausting. Just understanding this about myself helps me choose which activities I'll be involved in. Less parties, more one-on-ones.

3. What are you obsessed with or learning?
Think about what you're learning right now. Think about why you're learning it. Is it just for enjoyment? Then it might reveal a passion you have. Is it to solve a problem? Is it because you love learning? Evaluating what you're learning right now and why you're learning it, will help you determine that priority. If you're pursuing something or wanting to pursue something, it should be a priority for you.

You may find one common thread answering all three questions or you may have different answers for each one.

If you have three different answers, is there a way to combine them? If not, try to evaluate which one should take the lead and continue to pursue that first. Work on the other two each day as well, even if it's just fifteen minutes.

I'll give you an example in my own life.

My answers are: family, connecting one-on-one and painting/writing.

Since these are my priorities, I try to be available to my husband and kids as much as possible and really listen to them (looking in the eyes, putting my phone away, stopping what I'm doing). I'm also pursuing friendships one-on-one in coffee shops but also on Periscope (a live-streaming app). Since I have more free time in the day, I've been pursuing my long-time passions of writing and painting on the days I'm not substitute teaching at my kids' school.

These things work together for me because of the time they happen during the day. When I'm pursuing my passions and Periscoping, my husband and kids are in school, at work, studying or otherwise occupied. When they're home, I'm enjoying them.

These three categories satiate my need for community and learning.

What are your priorities are in this season?

February 17, 2016

Simplify Your Blog with Features

Features simplify your blogging routine.

I first heard about features almost four years ago from Elsie Larson's course, Blog Life. The features idea connected with me and I incorporated a system for this blog. 

I designate a certain type of post for each day. I usually post M, W, F. On Monday, I post about capsule wardrobes or outfits ideas. Wednesday, I post tips and Fridays are dedicated to personal growth.

A feature is something that has a form but is ever changing.

It's like a column in magazines ~ always there but ever-changing. Features can be a list: outfit of the day, favorite ________ (things, books, blog posts, movies). Or they can be roundups of: posts, recipes, instagram photos. These are examples of features that have form but can be changed weekly and present themselves as a fresh new article.

Recurring features help you know what you need. You'll know what photographs, links and research to do. 

Your features need to be a topic you LOVE!

Otherwise it will get tedious and boring. I absolutely love creating outfits and sets of clothes each week. It gives me a burst of creative pursuit and I get to work with new clothes without spending money! It hones my skill of helping others with their wardrobes because I practice with new sets.

My other features are a bit more loose. Giving tips leaves it open enough for me to not feel trapped but formulated enough that I can pull a post together fairly easy. Under the umbrella of TIPS, I have shared how to create a capsule wardrobe, meaningful gift ideas and now blogging help. 

I tend to be a how-to junkie, so sharing what I'm learning along the way reinforces what I'm doing. It's a joy for me to share tips with others. This comes naturally in life so it makes sense that this would spill over into my blog posts. 

Make a feature out of something you share naturally in life!

The last feature I share on Fridays, is more about personal growth. This began because I love sharing my process with others and being held accountable. A community full of honest seeking people is important to me. I realized that to build community with others, you have to be vulnerable and open. I wanted a place to share my deeper thoughts, personal growth and what I'm struggling with. I wanted a space for us to grow together; a place for others to gather around because they're struggling too or have encouragement to give. So I created this feature to publish right before the weekend ~ a relaxing conversation over coffee or wine.

Your features should reflect what is valuable to you.

Not everyone has features for every time they post; some people prefer the spontaneity of writing miscellaneous articles. You can choose to have one feature or many; they can even revolve. I've seen blogs that have features for the first of the month or every other Friday.

Use this tool to reduce the stress of trying to pull a post out of thin air.

What features have you seen and really enjoyed? What features would you like to create if you had/have a blog?

February 12, 2016

Alternatives to Emotional Eating

I shared last week about my struggle with emotional eating (here) and have for the last few weeks been more intentional about noticing when I'm running to food for emotional reasons versus hunger.

I've made a commitment to take five minutes before running to food to ask myself, "What are you really hungering for right now?" 

It has been illuminating. Doing this has revealed that I tend to turn to food most often in the evening when everyone is home and we're all active or chatting or watching a show. I think it feels like the work day has ended and it's time for relaxation and that, to me, has included food. I find myself wanting to munch. Asking myself why, has helped me dig into what's going on inside my mind that's leading me down this path. The themes that continue to pop up are: feeling unproductive, feeling nervous/unsure, and celebrating.

To help myself deal with these emotions, I compiled a list of options. 

When I ask myself what I'm hungering for and it's not food, then I look at this list to see what connects with what I'm actually needing.

Here's the list:
Take a bath
Do yoga
Coffee with a friend
Deep talk with a loved one
Clean out
Family outing
Call a friend
Play ukulele
Sit outdoors with a book
Work outside
Listen to a podcast
Serve someone
Write a note
Go on a date with my husband
Listen to my favorite songs
Grocery shop (I hate this but it feels productive)
Walk dog
Learn something new
Take a meal to a sick or elderly friend
Go to a class or take an online course
Coffee shop
Used bookstore
Barnes and Noble

I only share this list to encourage those who are struggling through something similar. May it inspire you to make your own list. 

Your needs and wants could be very different than mine, so go with what feeds you. 

This list has saved me many moments when I couldn't think exactly WHAT I needed but knew I wasn't physically hungry. Connecting with something on the page, helps me deal with my emotions in the best way and stay away from eating mindlessly.

Do you have any other ideas for me? What would be at the top of your list?

February 10, 2016

Your Most Versatile Shoe

You know those shoes you grab again and again? 
The ones you wear everywhere? The ones you love to pieces and hope no one's noticing how often you wear them? Yeah, those are your most versatile shoes.

Versatile shoes are the ones that aren't snobby about which clothes they go out with. 
They're friends with almost every piece in your closet. They're fairly comfortable and broken in. They accentuate your best features. And you love them!

The ankle boots (in photo above) happen to be my versatile shoes. They can be grabbed to go with almost every outfit in my closet ~ jeans and tee, go! Top and skirt, go! Casual dress, go! Sweater and pants, go!

The importance of a versatile shoe is that, like any of your closet favorites, they give a peak into your style. They show what you love wearing and what clothes you feel your best self in. 

They reveal your wardrobe values.

If you love heels, then you may value looking professional or high style. If you love tennis shoes, you may value agility and the ability to be active. What are your favorite shoes telling about you? What do you value? 

Once you understand the reason behind your favorite shoes, take another look at your wardrobe. Does it reflect those values all the way through? Are there some pieces that don't fit? Those you can part with.

Stick with what you love, it tells the truth about you!

I love my ankle boots because they come off professional, go with everything but most of all they are comfortable. Comfort is one of my wardrobe values! If it hurts, it's out. It took me a long time to find ankle boots that worked for me, but when I did, I snatched them up!

Once you know what your wardrobe values are, it makes cleaning out the closet easy. It also makes replacing clothes simple. You'll know what kind of clothes you're looking for. Your most versatile shoes are a clue to get you started.

What is your most versatile shoe?

February 8, 2016

Lady in Red

With Valentine's day around the corner, I thought it'd be fun to show a variety of red dresses for date night on the town. If you remember, I'm a bit partial to a red dress. Unfortunately I don't own one right now, but it brought back great memories! In this set, I added some low-key dresses along with more flirty ones, since I prefer less ruffle. 

My three favorites are: the boatneck shift dress on the top right corner, nautical wrap dress (2nd to right, bottom) or the schoolish one, (2nd to left, top).

When it comes to dresses are you more vintage, flirty or low-key? Which dress would you choose for a night out? 

February 5, 2016

Emotional Eating and Me

I'm a food pusher.

I didn't realize it until watching Stephanie Bryant's scope one day. She referred to her mom as a food pusher.  I felt hit in the heart. It struck a cord with me ~ I'm obsessed with food. I push it towards anyone around me but especially my family. So much so, my kids asked me if I was hungry as a kid because I seem so focused on their eating or having something with them to eat at all times. (For the record, I was never hungry as a kid) But somewhere along the way I put an importance on food that doesn't belong there.

So I've been keeping a journal of all the moments I want to eat that are not related to fueling my body but are attached to some emotion. I'm doing this as an experiment. I'm not judging myself or putting limits; just observing. I'm sitting back like an amused observer and watching what my subject does.

She's weird, my subject. (Yes, I'm talking in third person)

I've notice that I can be super determined as long as it's within a time limit. Like the time I fasted forty days on water, or the time I gave up sugar for two months, or the two times I did Whole 30. I shine when there's a time limit. But when the time is up, I settle back into familiar bad habits. I turn again to using food like a bad relationship. I let it comfort, entertain, and relax me.

Hilary Silver also did an amazing scope on emotional eating and she said something that broke me wide open:

When you turn to food, you damage relationships. 

Instead of turning to the ones who love you, you're turning to food. Food is not a person. Food cannot heal. I left that scope feeling a little teary. I don't want to be withholding relationship from real people!

These are my thoughts today. I'm writing them here so if someone else finds themselves face down in a pile of mashed potatoes or chocolate, they can watch my journey.

I'm hoping I can get to the point of overcoming this. I want to let food do what it was intended to do ~ fuel my body. I want to stop using it to meet my emotional needs. I need to stop. I don't want to damage the relationships around me.

I'm very good at saying, "It's not soooo bad" and dismissing it. 

But the first step to overcoming is admitting there is a problem.

So here it is. I'm admitting it. Just me being honest with you and hoping I won't make cinnamon toast that I'm so desperately craving right now ~ especially feeling vulnerable sitting here in front of you admitting my problem.

Food has always been a constant for me. It's been there for me. I know that sounds so silly to say, but I'm just writing what I know is true. Thinking about giving it up for entertainment, comfort and relaxation feels scary and quite honestly I'm grieving. It's like saying good bye to an old friend who wasn't really a friend but who is familiar-enough-you-want-to-keep-around kind of friend. And it's a death of sorts to say goodbye.

So for now, I'm watching, digging, writing and noticing when I struggle and why. I'm hoping I can uncover the reason or reasons that I'm so driven to use food to fill a deeper hunger. 

My plan is to take five minutes when I'm feeling "hungry" to evaluate if it's true hunger or if I'm wanting to eat for another reason. 

If it's true hunger, I'll fill my body with good foods. If it's emotional longing, then I'll fill myself with what I'm actually needing instead of food.

Stay tuned.

This topic will be continued . . . 

February 3, 2016

5 Meaningful Gifts for Your Loved Ones

We often think about gifts of love as big gestures with an even bigger price tag; but most meaningful gifts are those from the heart. 

Think about the epic scene of John Cusack holding the boom box in the movie, Say Anything, it's the gesture itself that pulls our heartstrings.

Here are 5 Meaningful Gifts you can give your loved ones:

1. Texts of admiration.
I once sent a friend forty texts of everything I loved about her throughout her fortieth birthday. I'd pre-written all my messages in a notebook so I could just enjoy delivering them throughout the day. A showering of love, so to speak. She told me later that it gave her so much to look forward to and brightened her day!

2. Art (painting, song, comic book, flower arrangement, quilt, poem). 
You may have hidden talents that no one sees but those closest to you. Don't leave them hidden. Use your gifts to create a special work of art for the ones you love. Include things in your gift that interests your friend or loved one. No matter what kind of art you create, it can be personalized to let them know how much they mean to you.

3. Scrapbook
A scrapbook can be made with ready-made materials you have on hand OR with creative materials. You can create a front and back cover from cereal boxes or any hard objects. Use various materials for the middle "pages" (foil, post-its, fabric, scraps of paper, notebook paper ~ get creative). Place photos you have on hand or print some paper ones. If you don't have photos, you could draw "photos" or even stick people sketches with subtitles at the bottom to tell your stories. Write short messages throughout the scrapbook of memories or sweet thoughts about your loved one.

4. Re-create a Special Moment
Like the girls in Parent Trap, use what you have to re-create a special moment from the past that you and your loved one shared. Maybe cook a meal and/or decorate the room. Leave them clues about what moment it was or notes on how special that moment was to you.

5. Love Letter
Simply write a beautiful love letter. Tell the person one reason why they are special to you and how they've impacted your life. It doesn't have to be decorative, your words will mean enough. But if you want to get fancy, you could study word-lettering or calligraphy to create your message with a flourish.

It doesn't have to be hard to let someone know how much you care about them, and it certainly doesn't need a big price tag.

We don't have to clutter our homes with more stuff, we can give experiences and tender expressions to make our appreciation known. So whether you're gifting a spouse, sibling, child or friend, remember, it's the actual thought that counts!

Which one of these would be fun for YOU to receive?

February 1, 2016

Hot to Cold Weather Capsule

Our weather has been flipping so quickly that in the morning it can be spring-like and in the evening like the dead of winter. So I thought it'd be fun to show outfits that go from hot to cold. Layers are always important when the weather won't make up it's mind. Let these outfits inspire you through the wishy-washy weather season.

What's your favorite go-to layer?