Intentional Living: Making 2020 A More Intentional Year

Happy Tuesday, loves!

Today marks the first day back to school for the kiddos after a two-week Christmas break, and I’m all mixed feelings and sad about it. On one hand, it’s so nice to get back to our really amazing routine, which includes no one coming into our office all day long asking for snacks or telling on a brother or a sister or wanting help with something innocuous.

On the other hand, it means that our house is empty save for the two of us all day. The quiet is nice because we do both work from home, and I’ve taken on a few new projects and clients that are taking up a significant chunk of my time (time I already do not have).

But, I already miss the slow days of Christmas break. We were very intentional this Christmas break, and that included cancelling all of our plans the last week of the break and staying home (okay, okay…we cancelled because I’ve had a headache since the 29th. It’s been off and on a migraine, and it’s been aggravated by four nights of absolutely not one minute of sleep, terrible allergies thanks to the fourteen inches of pollen we got that week, and also by the strep throat I was so lucky to catch. I spent the entire week in bed or on the couch with a blanket, a pillow, and my heating pad. I wrapped it around my neck hoping for some relief from the tension and the pain.

I’m happy to say that today I’m much better. My throat is 80 percent better. My allergies are better. And my headache has dulled to a constant throb that’s really only unbearable in the evenings and the early mornings. I’m trying to figure out when I have time to see my doctor about it, because I’m sure it’s not a good sign. I’m not ignoring it; I literally just didn’t have the energy to get up off the couch for nine days. I tried taking the kids bowling with friends one day, and that didn’t work out too well. I did a date night with my husband and our friends another night, but I was so low-energy and didn’t feel really present.

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But, I digress. I really did enjoy the slow, intentional, beautiful time we spent doing nothing. I’m actually glad that I ended up sick and our travel plans were cancelled because my body obviously needed that time to rest. I needed unhurried days and lazy evenings. The kids needed it. My husband needed it. We all needed it. It was good for our souls, and I tried holding on to that as long as I could.

For the first time since the kids began going to school and we’ve been parents, I actually didn’t want to go back to the real world. I didn’t look forward to the kids going back to school (I always look forward to that). I don’t want to go back to waking up at 5 and working in bed to ease a bit of my stress and keep the day flowing. I don’t want to go back to Craig needing to have Addy to school so early, and to having an extra child in the house for two hours before I take the little ones to school at 9 every day. I don’t want to go back to only having one free night a week at home – and even that night is not free because that’s the night we have to get everyone’s homework done ahead of time since there just isn’t another night we can do it.

The late nights, the over-scheduled calendar, the early mornings; it’s killing us, and that’s not how we want to live 2020. 2019 was too much for us, and we aren’t doing that again. Here’s to a slower year, a more manageable schedule, and more time to simply be. When the kids are tired and asking to cancel plans and lay low, you know that it’s too much (don’t even get me started on my stress level). Here’s what I’d like to accomplish in 2020.

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Get to A Place Where One Schedule Change Doesn’t Cause an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety. Have we talked about that? As a Type-A personality, I have a lot of it when I’m not in control of the schedule and how things are going in my life and the lives of my family. But, it’s been aggravated in the past few months to a point where my anxiety is often through the roof and more frequent than ever. Between the girls’ cheer schedule, Addison’s new school start and end times, and having all four kids in school with homework and excessive event schedules for the first time, I’m a wreck. I write more than 20,000 words a day for my clients, and I edit dozens of articles per day. My deadlines are daily, they are tight, and I have never missed one in more than 12 years of running my business.

And that’s why when one thing goes wrong or changes, it throws me totally off balance. I’m down to having approximately 4 hours a day to get all of this done. If someone gets sick or something comes up that requires my attention, I have fewer than that, and it’s killing me. This year, I’m looking to gain back my time and make it so that when something goes wrong or comes up at the last minute, I don’t have a literal anxiety attack wondering how I can rearrange things, get things done, not miss a deadline, and still be where I need to be. That’s my goal.

I also think that will put an end to my headaches (well, that and continuing to get my Botox injections) and ease some very heavy burdens. I must remember that I can do anything, but I cannot do everything. I forget that sometimes, and it’s caused my to put myself in a situation that I cannot control, and it’s had an ugly effect on my attitude, my patience, and my anxiety.

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Travel Less

Honestly, you guys, I love to travel more than anything in the world, but we are just tired of packing and unpacking and repacking and doing it all over again. Significantly more than half our weekends last year were spent in hotels, which means more than half the weeks of last year, I spent an entire day packing. If you don’t have a family of six, I envy you (and my husband packs for himself, so I really only pack for five). It takes a solid day to organize outfits for all of us, to pack them, to check lists, to launder the twins’ and Ava’s blankets they sleep with, to remember the travel pillows, and the chargers, to get tablets all the way charged, to pack snacks for planes, and snacks for car rides, and to pack activities such as crayons and coloring books to take to restaurants.

It takes a full day – even when we are leaving for just a night or two. And this means I spend one day every travel week packing. That means I lose a full day of work. I’m already working ahead to make sure I get all my weekend deadlines handled before we leave, but it also means I’m spending Monday-Thursday also working ahead to get Friday’s work done and the following Monday’s work done on top of all the weekend stuff and my everyday stuff. It’s stressful. Those are the weeks that hurt me the most.

That’s why I’d like to travel a little less this year. I’d like to plan more intentional trips with a lot of meaning, extra time, and fewer quick weekends away. They are always fun, but they often bring me more stress than they do pleasure. It’s a lot.

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Be More Present

If I learned one thing during Christmas break, it was that I love not having my phone on me. It’s hard for me to do that when the kids are at school.  I need it where I can see if a teacher is calling or texting me. I need it in case something happens to one of the kids and someone is trying to contact me. But, I also did a thing. I moved my social media apps to the last page on my phone, and I took all the other apps off that page. They are now by themselves. I cannot see if I have a notification, and it’s been glorious. I often use Instagram for work-related things, so I won’t get rid of that app, but I’m probably going to say farewell to Facebook this year. I just have to get into the habit of emailing/texting my grandmother and my father-in-law photos of the kids more frequently since I basically let Facebook do that for me. I’ve found myself only using it for months now to post things. I rarely scroll through and check anything out. I can’t even see most of my ‘friends’ stuff anymore since it’s turned into one giant add, a long list of ‘read this article,’ and all that jazz. There’s no point.

I like being disconnected. I like being out of the loop. I like being focused on my kids and my family. It’s good stuff, and it brings actual joy to my heart. My does not. It brings me frustration because I don’t get why people can’t spell or use proper grammar or avoid tying in all caps. It brings me annoyance when I actually see an article I want to read and it’s nothing but popups. It brings me aggravation when someone says something about something they posted on Facebook and I didn’t see it because I don’t see anything other than adds and long, long, long lists of posts from the last 2-3 people whose friend requests I accepted. What’s the actual point?

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Unschedule

I’m not filling my calendar this year. I dislike looking at it and dreading the weekend because it’s so busy we don’t have time to relax or chill. I dislike always being busy. I want to be able to accept last minute invitations. I want to be able to have spontaneous fun. I want to be more in control and less obligated. I’m unscheduling us, so don’t be offended if I say no to your requests or invitations. I genuinely need more down time in my life, and saying no is the only way I’m getting it.

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Be More Positive

So, maybe, potentially, possibly, I’m a little cranky when I’m tired and feeling unfulfilled. So, on that note, I’m working on being more positive. It’s not easy for me to be in a good mood when I’m overwhelmed, but I’m working on it. I’m going to seek the positivity in all things rather than see the negatives. I’m going to try and be as positive as I can, and I’m going to shower that shit onto everyone around me as often as possible.

Basically, in 2020, I’m taking back my life. I’ve given far too much of it to too many people, activities, events, things, stuff, whatever. I’m minimizing this year, and since I’ve never been a fan of ‘stuff,’ my new minimalist approach is not about stuff.

2020, I’m ready for you and all the beautiful, glorious more intentional moments you have to offer.

2020 Goals

Happy New Year!

It’s 2020 – the only 20/20 I’ve had in my life since I was like 9 and began wearing glasses. Some say it’s the year of clarity because of that, but I like to think everyday is a day of clarity if you open yourself up to it and really make the effort to see things for what they are. More importantly, though, how was everyone’s New Year? Did you go out and have a party? Did you do something fun and unexpected? Did you have a low-key New Year?

We are low-key NYE people. We’ve had our years of going out and partying, but we really enjoy the simple NYE events the most (fun fact – I have always, always been an early to bed early to rise kind of gal – even when I was a teen. I was always in bed before 9 pm and I am most definitely not ashamed of that. A girl needs her sleep).

This New Year’s Eve was a very low key one. It’s been unseasonably warm – is that a thing? Can it be unseasonably warm in Florida given that we don’t have actual seasons? I don’t know. Whatever – in Florida. Like, 80 degrees and downright hot and miserable and really obnoxious. I dislike it, most definitely because it brings the pollen. And, unfortunately, the older I get, the more the pollen makes me suffer.

It gives me a nasty sinus headache, and I cannot sleep. Fun fact – I haven’t slept more than 2-3 hours in five nights because of it. The good news is that I can ignore the headache during the day as it’s just a dull throb with medication. I was fine to host, so we had some of our favorite people and very best friends over for the evening. My husband is an amazing cook, and he put filets on the grill, made his famous smashed potatoes and roasted some of my favorite veggies.

It was fabulous. I had a decadent bottle of red wine, the kids had fun with some imaginative art projects and outside time, and we laughed – a lot. Even better, everyone was gone by 10 pm, we put the kids to bed, showered, and rang in the new year sleeping peacefully in our bed. It was amazing. I didn’t feel great on New Year’s Day, but I spent the day resting, and that was really good for me. Craig spent the day playing with the kids and having fun with them while I rested, and I am always appreciative of that when I’m not well. I know my body, I know when I need rest, and I know what happens if I ignore that need. It’s not good.

Now that the New Year is here, I’m just excited. I’m happy to put 2019 behind me (you can read about why I thought it was the best worst year ever here) and start fresh this year. It’s a big year for us in so many ways. My husband and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage this year. Our oldest daughter will celebrate her 12th birthday, which means that it’s her last birthday before she becomes a teenager. We have so many fun things planned. We have so many amazing adventures ahead. We have so much to look forward to and to be thankful for.

That said, it’s also a new year. That means it’s time for new goals. I already talked about how this is going to be the year of quality for us. Quality over quantity in every aspect of our lives. But, it’s not the only goal I’m going to make for myself this year – obviously. So, here we go (because if I don’t share, who will hold me accountable?).

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  • Meal plan. For several reasons. Number one – because I am so tired of going to Publix 5-6 times a week because we don’t plan. We cannot go into that store without spending at least $100, and that’s on top of the big trip we take on Sundays for what we pretend is our ‘shopping for the week,’ knowing we will be back another 4-5 times. Do the math. It’s a gross waste. Number two – I’m tired of the “what do you want? I don’t know, what do you want,” conversation every night. Number three – we are already home for dinner so infrequently that we shouldn’t have to order take out because we can’t make a decision or we lack one little ingredient and can’t cook what we want when we are home. Number four – I love being organized and making lists, so I bought a meal planning calendar, and I want to use it. Five – we are healthy eaters regardless, but this will take things to the next level.
  • Find more patience. I’ll struggle with this, but I’m going to try. I’m not a people person, and it’s probably because I’m so impatient with them as a whole. It’s so easy not to be ignorant and ridiculous, yet I find myself wondering why it seems so hard for so many. Thus, my lack of patience. Being a mom of four also makes patience a thing, too, right?
  • Stop apologizing for being myself or not living up to other’s expectations. I say fuck a lot. I don’t have a lot of patience (though I’m working on that). I like what I like. I’m not easily impressed. I have strong opinions. I think wrong is wrong. I don’t have time for negativity. I think jealousy and insecurities are ugly and pointless. Some people just aren’t my type of people. I’m good with who I am, and I don’t need or want anyone’s approval – but I’m also no longer apologizing for my opinions and feelings.
  • Be more intentional. With my time, my energy, my words, and my focus.
  • Write a book. Fun fact – I wrote one in 2019, but I have this gut instinct that I’m meant to write something very specific, and I’m working on that now.
  • Tackle two of the last and biggest remodeling projects in our house. We bought our dream house in 2015, and we have two things left to do. I, however, am a Type-A perfectionist, and I’m good at putting them off because the idea of living in a construction zone with four kids while also working from home for a few weeks really gives me anxiety and makes me feel like I’m having a panic attack. But, we want them done, so we’re doing them and I’m going to suck it up and try not to be a raging nightmare bitch when my life feels like it’s out of control (fun fact – I’m an obsessive compulsive neat freak because I can control that, and I like control. I have four kids, so many things in life are totally and completely out of my control, but a clean house and great makeup are inside my realm of control. And I can be a little uptight about both.)
  • Spend more time outside. It’s good for the soul.
  • I probably have more, but I can’t think of them right now.

What are your goals for the new year? I’m not a resolution maker, but I love a new list of goals. I think goals are amazing, and I think that it’s easy to keep adding to your goals, expanding upon them, changing them up to make them more of what you’re actually looking for throughout the year. I love that.

2019: The Best Worst Year

Quality.

The degree of excellence of something.

It’s a simple word. Not even a fancy one. Regardless, it’s the word I am focusing on in my life in 2020. It’s the word I want to embody the year we’re about to live. I want to look back a year from now, and I want to feel as if I’ve made that happen.

I’m going to be honest with you. I walked into 2019 excited for the new year. I’m always excited because we have always been so fortunate to have one amazing year after another. That’s certainly not to say that we haven’t had bad days or that we haven’t been through experiences that have brought us to our knees in tears begging God to change us. We have. We’ve done it a few times – namely in 2010 when we suffered miscarriage after miscarriage trying to have our second baby.

That year brought us to our knees more times than I can count – and we’ve been so fortunate that the rest of our years have been so beautiful (sprinkled with moments that weren’t pleasant, but very, very good as a whole). We’ve been so fortunate, and that is not lost on us.

2019 was a strange year. It was a year I cannot even put into words. It’s a year that is filled with so many amazing memories – I mean, we honestly had the most phenomenal year. But it’s also a year that humbled me. It’s a year that brought me so much clarity. It’s a year that hurt me more than any other year of my life.

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We were only 7 weeks into the new year when our sweet son, only 4-years-old at the time, suffered a Grand Mal seizure. To this day, after four days in the hospital and every single test you can imagine, we have no answers. It was not febrile. It was not the result of head trauma. It wasn’t anything explainable, which is why it’s called an unprovoked Grand Mal seizure.

It was the worst five minutes of my life, followed by the worst half hour of my life when he stopped seizing and was completely unresponsive, followed by the worst four days of my life in the hospital watching his little body go through test after test, followed by the worst year of my life waking up in the middle of the night in a panicked sweat, tears streaming down my face, and fear in my heart as I raced across the house to his bedroom to make sure he was still breathing. Night after night after night.

I cannot even put into words the fear and terror in my heart every single time my phone rings while he’s at school and I see the name of the school scrolling across my phone. I just know that they’re calling to tell me he’s seizing again. I’m wrong – Thank God – every single time, but that fear never subsides. Every single time I hear a thud anywhere in the house or outside, my heart stops in fear as I race to the sound to make sure he didn’t fall and hit his head – because the chance of him suffering another seizure is increased exponentially after suffering from one.

It never gets easier.

I know we are fortunate that this wasn’t worse. I know we are so blessed that every single one of his tests came back negative and void of any complications or health problems or concerns. I know this. I also know that no answers suck because there’s no way to prevent or avoid what you don’t recognize or know to prevent or avoid.

I’ll never forget the moment, about a month after Carter was released from the hospital, when discussing his seizure with a woman when she commented, “I don’t know why you’re so panicked about it. It happens all the time to people, and it’s not that big a deal,” in the most callous, most disgusting display of ignorance imaginable.

It might not seem like the biggest deal in the world when a child is fine, but anyone who can say that it’s not a big deal and that it happens all the time and it’s just a thing has never stared at their child’s seizing body on the ground, foam and vomit seeping from his mouth while his body shakes uncontrollably. They’ve never seen their child go instantly still while turning bluer by the moment as his little body is struggling to take in air. They’ve never looked down at their lifeless child and thought to themselves, “Oh my God. This is the last time I will ever hold my baby,” because there was no breath and no recognizable pulse and you thought your baby was gone.

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To those who don’t think that this is a big deal – keep feeling that. Keep feeling that and keep feeling the bliss that comes from having never been in a situation where your baby’s life was in question. You are the lucky ones. You are the ones who don’t know the fear that grips your heart and the instantaneous nightmare that comes to mind when your child’s lifeless body is suddenly flashing before your eyes when you lie down and close your eyes at night.

You’ve never laid awake in bed for hours on end night after night after night crying yourself to sleep while your husband holds you and worries for you and shares your fears and hopes that you’ll eventually get some sleep. You’ll never know that it’s like to go through almost an entire year living in a total fog from exhaustion and sleep deprivation and worry. You are so lucky you don’t see your son’s lifeless body every single time you close your eyes. At home. In a plane. In a hotel room. When he’s cuddled up next to you on the couch on movie night. You won’t know that terror, and you are living the very best possible life because of that.

That one moment, those 5 minutes, that half hour, that four days, defined an entire year for me. In fact, it may define my entire life. I don’t know. There are aspects of it that do get a bit easier each day, but the fear never settles or becomes more manageable when you’re not with your little boy and the phone rings and it’s the grandparents who are with him, or the school where he goes, or your husband when you’re not home. That fear consumes me. It eats me alive from the inside out, and it’s affected my entire year.

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I can’t just get over it. I can’t just accept it because it happens to people all the time. I’ve had so many beautiful men and women reach out to me to share their stories so similar to ours. My heart hurts so much for each of them, while simultaneously feeling so much appreciation and love and respect for those who do this all the time, for those who live this every single day of their lives. For those who have it so much worse than we did or do. Those people are the real heroes.

That one moment, though. That one moment shaped an entire year. It took so much of the joy from my life in so many small ways while also providing me with the opportunity to learn new ways to feel joy. For example, I feel just a little less joy and excitement and pleasure when I’m away from my kids. I know I need the time away to recharge, even for a few hours on date night, but I feel a little less joy in that time because of my fear. On the same note, I feel so much more joy in the simplest of things. The moments I hear the twins bursting through the master bedroom door and running to my husband’s side of the bed at some ungodly hour where the sun isn’t even up yet on a Saturday morning asking for pancakes and bacon in their ‘inside’ voices (their inside voices are the same as their outside voices, in case you were wondering).

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The joy I feel in those moments is indescribable. They’re alive. They’re well. They’re so normal and so unaffected, and they’re so sweet. I find so much joy in those moments.

It’s amazing to me that a year filled with so many beautiful trips, so many moments that bring laughter and joy, and so many days spent with the people who fill our hearts to the top with so much love and enjoyment, and so many hilarious memories, and fun adventures, and amazing things can be a year I look back on and feel relief when I realize it’s almost over.

I know, realistically, that January 1 is nothing more than a brand-new day just like today was, and tomorrow will be, and the day before yesterday was; but it holds so much more for me this year. It holds so much promise for a better year. A year of healing and of quality.

Our lives in 2019 were filled with quality. We weren’t lacking in it at all, but it was also busting at the seams with quantity. Approximately 30 weekends in hotels. Almost 100 nights in beds that don’t belong to us. More activities and nights spent with half our family here and half there and so very few opportunities to spend just a simple evening together at home.

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None of our travel is work related, at all. The only time it’s even remotely close to work related is the weekend my husband and I spend in Tampa every December for his work Christmas party – and it’s not like that’s mandatory. We just love it. I say that because I’m sure it’s easy to wish for more time at home and less time in hotels and less time in the airport when you’re not really given a choice in the matter because it’s work-related. But, ours is not work related, which alternately makes me feel fortunate and sad at the same time. There’s a certain irony in feeling annoyed and overwhelmed and irritated about packing and traveling and being away from home when all the trips are your choice.

I don’t want to feel like that in 2020. I don’t want so much of everything in the new year. I want more quality, less quantity, and more time to focus on what is good in life. I want more lazy mornings in my own home. I want more weekends spent making spontaneous plans. I want more, but I don’t want more for the sake of more. I want more quality.

I want 2020 to be a year that I can look back on one year from today and know that quality was abundant in our lives and that we derived so much pleasure from each moment rather than simply living the motions. I want this year to be the year that moments of fear and terror are fewer and further between. Our pediatric neurologist told us that if Carter can go a full year without a secondary seizure, his chances of having another one decrease significantly.

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I want February 17, 2020 to be a day of celebration because he made it a year without a second seizure. I want it to be a day of happiness. I am putting a lot of pressure on that one day because I have this feeling in my mind that making it to that day without incident means that I will finally relax a bit, breathe a little bit easier, and maybe even sleep through the night without waking in a panicked sweat. I hope it’s the first night in a year that I don’t get up in the middle of the night and sneak across the house to put my hand on his chest and feel him breathing and still wake up the following morning with a happy, healthy, beautiful little boy to love.

2020 – I have big plans for you.

2019 – I let you own me, and I will never let that happen again.

2018 Reflections and 2019 Goals: Happy New Year

Happy Tuesday, loves!

And Happy New Year!

Want to hear something funny? This is my least favorite time of the year. Well, December 26 – August 31 is my least favorite time of the year. I live for September 1 – December 25. The rest of the year I could actually care less about. There’s something so magical and amazing about those four months, and I get a little sad when they are over.

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Of course, I love the new year and what it means. I love days each of my five loves were born. I love our wedding anniversary. I love the fun we have all year. I just don’t feel the same magic every single day the first eight months of the year. But I do the moment September 1 arrives. Every single day until Christmas is magic.

The magic that happens the rest of the year is more situational than it is every moment, and that’s where I feel I love it just a bit less. Also, I don’t care much for being hot. Ironic, for a lifelong Floridian, right?

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It’s a new year right now, and that’s significant for so many people. While I’m a firm believer in making changes and starting over any day, any time, and for any reason you feel the need, there is something so magical about starting over on January 1. It’s like the slate has been wiped clean, the new year is here, and there is just too much to be excited about.

 

Reflecting on 2018

 

What. A. Year.

Okay, so we say that every year. But it’s amazing that every year seems like the most amazing year and it cannot be topped, and yet the following year always manages to top it. That’s certainly not to say that there are not moments in which life is not the best ever or that we don’t have low moments, but we are fortunate enough that our low moments and our down moments are few and far between, and they are far outweighed by the good. We are big on choosing happiness, and that works for us most of the time.

2018 was a fun year in so many ways. It brought at least one getaway or trip every month, which was our goal.

We took the big girls to New York City for the first time. Craig and I have been going a few times a year for the past 12 or 13 years, and it’s our favorite city. But the girls have never been, and we decide they were finally old enough. And oh my goodness, did Craig make sure they had the best time. He made reservations at our favorite restaurant, Il Tinello, one night. They got to stay at our favorite hotel and meet our favorite doorman. He made sure that every dinner reservation he made was for a great filet for Ava, since it’s her favorite.

He took them to American Girl and let them go to town getting whatever they wanted. We went to Times Square and they disliked it as much as we do – so we know for certain we never have to go back there again. We took them to the Plaza for brunch. We took them to Saks to go shoe shopping because that’s my favorite pastime there. We took them to see the Statue of Liberty from the Ritz Carlton, and to tour Tiffany’s (because I can’t leave NYC without a new little blue box) and to every Starbucks and to Central Park and everywhere in between.

 

We visited my grandmother in Texas twice in 2018. She’s almost 100, and it’s our priority to spend a few weekends a year with her these days. The kids went with us for four days the first time, and Craig and I went alone to spend a whirlwind 24 hours with her – and my parents and brother and extended family – in November.

Craig and I went on a cruise with our four favorite couples for a long weekend. Cruises are not my favorite, but these people certainly are. Craig ended up definitely, totally, almost ruining night one for me when he got SO sick, but our friends made it hilarious, funny, and enjoyable, and of course, he definitely made up for it the rest of the cruise.

We spent a long weekend in West Palm, we spent a long weekend with our families in Orlando in a fun rental house doing nothing but enjoying the time we have with one another. We spent long weekends at the Omni Championsgate, at the Gaylord, at Disney, in New York, the Caribbean, Tampa, Naples, and more.

Our best friends bought a river house, and we spent so many Sundays there making memories with them and all of our kids. We celebrated our 10th year of Wednesday night dinners with them. We exceeded our goal of having 6 date nights with no kids with them (we made it to 9), and I cannot even tell you how much we laughed. We spent more time outdoors being athletic than ever before. We ran two 5k races. We went to the gym together. We had more family movie nights. Addison found a love of baking, which means she and I get to spend more time together.

We had more fun, made more memories, and celebrated so many things. We met our goals for the year much earlier than we thought we would, and then we killed them the rest of the year. We failed in some areas (I’m looking at you tiffanyraiford.com….I didn’t blog as often as I said I would simply because I put my clients first. The blog is a fun hobby for me, but the writing I do for my clients is my priority). We didn’t do nearly all the stuff around the house we wanted to do, but we did other things we didn’t plan on doing.

2018 was a fun year. It was also a year for learning – as they should all be.

One of the best things I do all year is spend some time looking back at the lessons we learned.

For example – we can do anything, but we cannot do everything.

Quality people are the best people.

Giving back is always the most important thing we do.

Quality is always better than quantity.

Forgiveness is always the answer.

What other people think of you only matters if you’re unhappy with yourself – change your life and learn to love yourself and it won’t matter how others view you.

The best times are the simplest times.

A full calendar is not my favorite.

#backtobasics is everything good in life.

We all make mistakes, and we should learn from them, take ownership of them, and move on to become better people.

Kids are kind of assholes, but they’re super cute.

Life is good, and I appreciate the hell out of that. I don’t take that for granted, and I am filled with grace and gratitude because of it.

Goals for 2019

What will this year bring? I have no idea, but I do know that there are some new goals I’d like to make. There are also some old goals I’d like to continue to live by.

I will continue to live with these goals:

  • Always say no if you’re not 100% invested in it from the start (life is too short to go about it doing what you don’t want to do)
  • Give grace
  • Practice gratitude
  • Put my marriage first
  • Spend more quality time with the kids
  • Re-evaluate anything that makes me second guess my own life and make changes as needed to get back on track if I feel off track or unhappy with anything in life.
  • We will spend at least one weekend per month traveling

 

I have set these goals for 2019.

  • Spend less time on my phone. Considering I run my business from my electronics, it’s not always easy to step away, but I’m going to do more than just put my ‘do not disturb’ on from 8 pm to 7 am. I’m leaving my phone in another room at 8 pm – and I’m not checking it at all after that.
  • I’m practicing patience. It’s not something I have much of, but I’m going to teach myself to have more.
  • I’m going to be more in the moment.
  • I’m reading more books.
  • I’m going to be better about gossiping. It’s easy to get caught up, and I dislike thinking that I’m not immune to that.
  • I’m going to surprise my husband more. He does such a good job of being sweet and doing wonderful things for me all the time, and I’d like to do more of the same for him.
  • Spend more quality time with our families.
  • Say yes to anything that sounds exciting and fun.
  • Travel at least one place we’ve never been with the kids and without the kids.
  • Relax more

 

Essentially, I like to spend my time becoming a better person. I don’t always make it in every aspect, but I am so down for trying harder and making strides anywhere and everywhere. I don’t set health goals because I work on that every day regardless. It’s not something I have to set my mind to, so I don’t set those goals. I always value my faith, my marriage, and my kids above everything else, too. I always make it my goal to focus on those things, so they’re not things I need to make goals, either.

The new year is a wonderful new start for everyone. If you’re struggling with what to do, here are some thoughts. Make it a goal to be a better person. Let go of things that bother you. Let go of anger, resentment, insecurities, and things that don’t make you happy. Trust me – when you learn to let go of that stuff, you definitely live better. Focus on the good in life, and create more of that. Make a list of things you aren’t happy about in life, and then change them. Don’t worry about what other people think. Don’t compare your story to everyone else’s. Pick your friends wisely. Grow up. Laugh more. Worry about yourself instead of everyone else. Own your shit. Be yourself. Do you, boo.

It’s a brand-new year, and that’s super exciting. Enjoy it, love it, make it yours – and always laugh more.

#BackToBasics in 2018 (And Happy New Year!)

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Happy 2018!

It’s time to get #backtobasics in life.

I’ve already shared how 2017 was such a phenomenal year of growth for us prioritizing our family, being more intentional with our time, and slowing down a bit to enjoy the little things. 2017 was a sweet, sweet year for our family. It’s hard to top, but we say that every year (except 2010…that was a terrible year filled with loss and low points from two miscarriages – and we were done. Ready. Over it. You’ve never seen two people so excited to say farewell to a year as we were that year!) but we work hard to make our years count.

We’ve made goals, conquered goals, and moved so far beyond goals it’s amazing. We had a 10-year plan when we were first pregnant with our first daughter 10 years ago. We had this vision of where we wanted to be in our careers and in our lives a decade later, and we took that plan, smashed it into a million pieces and exceeded it before we hit the 5-year mark at that point. We made new goals and we conquered those.

It’s been sweet. We work so hard, we prioritize what’s important to us, and we make it happen. I’m proud of us. But we’ve also let excess and abundance become a little too much in the past few years – which we know we are fortunate to have – but we sometimes forget the simple things.

And that all came to light a little more than a week ago during date night with some of our favorites. In fact, I’m going to credit my brother from another mother, Geremy Crouch, for his brilliant insight on this one. It was a simple comment about how we still can’t believe that after almost 10 years we are still celebrating our Wednesday night dinner tradition. We sometimes have to cancel and sometimes life gets in the way, but we manage to celebrate Wednesday nights 90% of the time with our families.

And that led to Geremy’s #backtobasics. 10 years ago I was pregnant and there was no baby in the picture. Then it was one baby and one pregnancy. Then it was two babies for so long. Now it’s 7 babies, four major career changes and serious life changes that have been so amazing. It hit all of us at that table that you’ve probably never seen a group of people come so far as we did 10 years ago – but something is missing.

The basics. 10 years ago life was just as sweet in a simpler way. It was less scheduled and frenzied, yet we still managed to spend every weekend having the best time. But it was unstructured. Our calendars weren’t booked months in advance, we weren’t obligated to things every time we turned around. It was fun because it was what we wanted to do in the moment versus what we were expected to do, scheduled to do, on the calendar.

The basics were good. And this is the year we are getting back to that. Less is going on the calendar, and the Raiford family is getting back to the basics. Lazy nights at home with a spur of the moment BBQ. More fun in the moment. We have so much fun, but sometimes it’s less fun when everything is scheduled so far in advance. The most fun is the fun you don’t see coming.

This weekend, for example, we were working hard on a big project (more to come…) when our friends text and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We’re coming over and three and bringing dinner and hanging out,” and it was fun. Simple fun. That’s the kind of stuff we miss, because we never have time anymore with all that we have scheduled. Which, of course, is hard with four kids and their schedules, our schedules, and our travels.

But this year, it’s back to basics.

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  1. We’re setting hours

There’s something that has become a big problem over the years; and it’s easy to see why. For one, we let it. We want to help, and we want to accommodate people, and we’ve been very, very bad about telling people we can’t do it because we’re working. People assume working from home means we have all the free time in the world and we can stop what we are doing to chat when they want to stop by during the work day or whatever. It’s exactly like us asking you to take time off work to help us with our errands or to entertain us when we are off and want to hang out.

Craig works for someone else and has hours. I work for myself, but every time I’m volunteered for something or someone asks me to do them a favor or they just show up during the workday, that’s time I have to spend making up when I should be enjoying dinner with my family, helping put the kids to bed, or even sleeping. I have to make it up, and nothing is as frustrating as being up late at night catching up on work I couldn’t do because of interruptions. We love and want to be there for the people we love, but we simply can’t do it at the expense of our own peace or our own work.

We are also setting better hours for ourselves. We both love what we do – a lot – and that means we can’t really put it down. We are workaholics, and we aren’t ashamed of that…but we do know we need to stop, put it down, and disconnect a little better so we don’t wear ourselves out or lose too much of our time with our family.

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  1. We’re disconnecting

My phone is set to “Do Not Disturb,” from 8 pm to 7 am, yet I constantly check my phone when it’s in that mode. I take calls, respond to texts, social media…whatever. It’s a time suck. This year, that disconnect is happening. We’ve both agreed it’s time for us to put down our phones and focus more intentionally on one another. The kids are in bed, and we’d rather spend that time with one another without interruption.

So…if you need us after 8 pm, sorry! (If it’s an emergency, we do set our phones to ring out loud if it’s a repeated call).

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  1. We’re being more intentional

We just want to be more intentional, more present, more focused on what’s good and important in life. We want to be in the moment, and we want to enjoy it. And we’re going to practice. More patient, kinder, more in the moment. It’s what’s up this year.

  1. We’re being more positive

I like to think we are positive people, but I think there’s room for more. We take a lot for granted, and we can get a little caught up in our first world problems and make them bigger than they are. I mean, is it really such a big deal if I paid for overnight shipping and my package doesn’t arrive for over a week?

Yes, yes it is a big deal, and yes I’m going to make sure everyone knows how unhappy I am – but that’s my point. I have a hot temper, and I can let things like that really suck the positivity out of entirely too much of my time. This year, I vow to be more patient, more positive, and less reactive.

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  1. We’re enjoying the simple life

We love nice things, and we love traveling, and we love adventure, and we love a lot of things. We work hard, we play hard, and we surround ourselves with the things we want. And we’re not ashamed of that, but we also love life a lot – we love one another, we love our kids, and we love our people. And this year, we’re going to get back to the simple life of enjoying the love we have in our lives first and foremost.

We’re playing more. We’re traveling more. We’re dating more. We are very fortunate to have great parents who make it possible for us to plan date nights every other week and to plan weekends away 5 or 6 times a year. But this year, we’re dating more in between those things.

We are making it a point to take a night every week where we just make dinner for the kids, get them to bed at their bedtime, and then we’re going to get back into the kitchen and cook together for ourselves, sit on the deck and enjoy dinner and a great bottle of wine, and just enjoy our home and the simple life.

  1. We’re going to grow

The thing about goals is that once you achieve them, you want more. We’ve done that, and we have new goals, new things to achieve, and new expansions to make. So, this year we grow. We do that. We make it happen, and we learn every step of the way.

To grow, we are going to live more in the moment. Say no to what doesn’t work in the moment, yes to what does, and grow by learning to make decisions based on our wants and needs rather than the rest of the world.

  1. We’re going to focus more on our faith

Our faith is important to us, but I will admit we are quick to put it on the backburner when we have too much going on. Not this year. This year we are making it our priority again. We aren’t allowing ourselves to take it for granted just because we are too comfortable where we are. Amen.

2017 was amazing, and 2018 is off to a pretty sweet start. We spent the New Year at home with a gorgeous bottle of wine, some amazing filets, and a killer dinner. The kids went to bed, we relaxed, and we fell asleep around 10:30. We woke up at 8 am with the kids to a cold and rainy day (and a minor panic attack because our deck makeover was meant to be finished today but the rain is putting a major damper on that and I don’t like being off schedule and off kilter or living with things undone…but it’s a good lesson in patience, right?).

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you’re able to open your minds to allow this year to be everything you’ve dreamed it will be

2017: The Year of Quality Over Quantity

2017 is over. Can you believe it? I swear the years go by faster every day. I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that it was New Year 2017 just a minute ago and now we’re mere days away from ringing in 2018 with abandon. Anyone? Just me? No?

2017 was good to us. It had its up and downs of course. Life is far from perfect in the Raiford household, but it’s really good – we’ve worked really hard to build a life of freedom, and we are enjoying every second of it.

It’s been good to us, but we always have room for growth. And that’s what 2017 brought to us. It was a year of growth. We call it the year of quality over quantity. It’s difficult to explain, but we had a moment at the end of 2016 – somewhere before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving – when we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives.

We were getting ready to go somewhere and do something with our girls, who were 8 and 5 at the time, and they both sighed. “Can’t we just stay home for once? We always have to go places. We’re tired,” they whined.

Wait. What?

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Their lives are good. Were they really complaining about spending the evening with their friends? Were they really being ungrateful about all the fun we provide them? Weekend after weekend of traveling, of spending time with friends and family, of going to BBQs and pool parties and Christmas events and Disney World. Were they really complaining?

They were. And what made it even worse was that we knew what they were saying. We were also exhausted. We were never home. In 2016 we didn’t even take a trip for our wedding anniversary like we wanted because every weekend was pre-planned with some event, function, party, etc. We had no free time – we were actually scheduling free time in our calendars. We were tired. It wasn’t that we weren’t having a great time – we definitely were. But we were just worn out. Run down. Tired.

We have four kids. My husband has a career he loves, and it keeps him busy. I have my business to run, and it keeps me busier and busier everyday with new growth, projects, and clients. We have four kids. The twins were about to turn three (side note – I’m dying over here thinking they will be four in less than three months. I mean, I was just pregnant with them!), and that many kids doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

We knew we had to make some changes. We wanted to be more deliberate with our time. We wanted to learn to say no to being overscheduled. We wanted to start planning things for our family to do together just us so we could really spend some quality time with the kids. The twins were more fun than ever, easier to travel with, easier to take out.

We wanted to be more deliberate, and we wanted to have more time at home. We bought our dream house in 2014, and we’d spent very little time in it – even though we both work from home – just enjoying it. Our kids were tired, we were tired. We needed some change.

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Que New Year’s 2016-2017. We decided we’d learn to say no to things that didn’t work with our schedule instead of saying yes to everything and killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Sundays were a no-no for plans. Sundays would become our day as a family. No plans other than church and relaxation. If we wanted to do something, we’d wake up and make that decision, but we agreed no making Sunday plans.

And I cannot even tell you how good this year was to us. We had more free time – though I am ashamed to say that more free time is still not nearly enough free time – and we were able to schedule so many of the things we were never able to find time for in the past. Sundays became very well spent in a slow, sweet manner. Mondays were so much nicer because we were prepared, organized, and rested because of those slow Sundays.

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The kids are so much happier. They love the quality family time we are spending together, and they love the ability to sometimes get to stay home and enjoy the many things they never got to enjoy before. We took more bike rides and golf cart rides. We took more walks. We played outside a lot. We baked cookies and had family movie nights and spent weekend after weekend at Disney World just enjoying what they wanted to do. We slept in, we made big breakfasts, we took day trips to our favorite places. We traveled.

My husband and I were able to find the time to schedule five long weekends and trips this year. Just the two of us. Just to spend to quality time together (we do have four kids….). From New York to Fort Lauderdale to California to South Carolina to Naples, we earned plenty of frequent flier miles this year. We had another three or four single nights away a little closer to home in Tampa in Orlando. We dated. We laughed. We focused on our marriage a lot more this year. It was good.

We also made it our goal to spend at least one weekend a month out of town with the kids. Tampa and Orlando are easy drives, and we wanted to really get some serious use out of our Disney passes this year. We made sure to schedule a few of those weekends away with just the big girls to spend a little quality time with them, but we made it a point to really enjoy this new stage the twins are in that makes life so much simpler.

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I think the highlight of my year – and I’m so serious – was when we were flying home from a fun vacation in North Carolina and two total strangers came up to us at two separate times in the airport and on our flights and told us what well-behaved, delightful kids we have and how well they travel.

If that’s not a mom’s dream come true…

Quality.

It was all about quality this year. We are getting older. The kids are getting older. We were changing. Maturing a bit, growing up a bit, and our wants and needs were evolving. It was time for us to focus our priority on doing what makes us happy and what makes us feel good rather than making sure every day in our calendar was filled.

As a result of focusing on quality, so much of our life has changed for the better. The kids are less exhausted, and they’re so much easier. We can load them up, take them out, sit down at a nice restaurant, and we don’t have to worry they’re too tired or cranky to behave. We are less exhausted, so we aren’t as grouchy or as impatient as we were in the past.

We are more focused on our work, and it’s shown in both of the advancements we’ve made this year. Craig has never been more ebullient. I’ve been able to find the energy to expand my company and take on some major new clients, as well as focus on a change of direction in some of the services I offer.

It’s hard to explain, but slowing down has really made a change in our lives. It feels good to be in control, and it feels really, really good to spend so much quality time as a family. I didn’t even realize how much I like spending time with these little animals until this year because I’ve been on autopilot for so long.

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Now that I’ve written a small novel, I want to share with you how we made the change to focus more on quality than on quantity in 2017 if it’s something you want to do, too. I’m also working on a post about how we’re getting #backtobasics in 2018 for later.

Be Deliberate with Your Time

Learn to say no. It’s not easy, but sometimes you just have to say no when you’re tired, not feeling well, not up for it, not in the mood, when you have other plans, when you just want to relax. Sometimes you just have to say no. It gets easier each time, and it’s going to change your life. Remember – your time is valuable. It’s too expensive to dish out so frequently on things that aren’t as valuable to you.

Focus on Your Health

Get some sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that sleep is too important to miss out. A few late nights here and there are fun, but nothing beats a good night of sleep followed by feeling good the next morning. There just isn’t enough time to waste not felling well or being too tired to function all the time.

Work out and eat good food. Nothing feels as good as being healthy, and nothing feels as good as moving your body and fueling it with things that are good for you. I don’t feel well when I don’t work out. I don’t have energy, I’m crabby, and my body gets really angry with me when I don’t feed it well. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my favorite unhealthy things; I do. I just do it in moderation (mostly…we all have our moments).

Take a Rest Day

For us, leaving Sundays open and unplanned has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but doing this most weekends has been amazing. Nothing makes the week more exciting, more productive, and better than being well rested and prepared.

Get Organized

Life is better when it’s organized. I can’t sleep if my house isn’t clean. I can’t leave the house if it’s not clean. I can’t function if things are out of place or order or ignored. It’s not who I am. I know not everyone is such an obsessive neat freak, but it really is easier to get through life when you’re organized and on top of things.

Do What You Want

If there is something you want to do, do it. It’s better to do it now than keep waiting on it. Find the time. Make the time. Do the things.

Thank you, 2017

Thank you for helping us grow, for changing our hearts, and for allowing us to prosper. Our life is so filled with abundance, and we are so grateful and thankful for the opportunities we’ve found, created, and been given this year and the years before. It’s been more than a little exciting to exceed our goals, to surpass our dreams, and to have the opportunity to spend so much time together. Here’s to 2018 and all the blessings, lessons, and new beginnings in store.