Early August Festivities

Well, I told you guys all about Book Bonanza and my trip to Dallas the other day, so now it’s time to catch you up on everything that happened before that trip. It’s been such a busy month!

Greg and I spent the first few days at the Secret Cottage – a beautiful little place we discovered a few years ago.

This was our third visit there – we first went for my 30th birthday, then again for our 11th anniversary. We’re talking about going again in January for our 20th anniversary of being together – mostly so we can officially say we’ve stayed there for every season! It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but I bet it would be especially cozy in the dead of winter with the fireplace and snow covered trees surrounding it.

We were only there for two nights, but it was such a wonderful break from reality. I think it’s the first vacation we’ve ever taken where we seriously just chilled out and did basically nothing. We only went out once to get lunch because I hadn’t packed enough food. It was such a nice trip!

Right after that, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson came to visit! They spent the first day hanging out at our house. I think this was the first time ever that Hudson didn’t take a really long time to feel comfortable with us. Maybe he finally knows who we are from visit to visit?! He was having so much fun exploring everything and trying to pet the cats.

We went to the pool for awhile. The water was pretty chilly, so Hudson just hung out on the edges. It was quite a challenge getting the three of them in a photo together – impossible to get them all smiling!

We had a pizza and snack party afterward. Hudson is just the cutest!

Midpost PSA to tell you if you’re looking to make your own cold brew at home, this is a fabulous combination. (I should write a post on coffee soon!) I really prefer to buy cold coffee drinks at coffee shops and wanted to up my game at home this summer, making my own instead of buying the premade jugs of cold brew. I’ve been trying out a lot of different brands, especially the fancy brands that make a specific blend for cold brewing. This Sunny Spot by Grounds & Hounds has been my favorite by a mile. It’s so good. It’s even better with this new Nitro Creamer. If you’re local, I found it at Woodman’s. Unfortunately when I went there a few days ago to buy another bottle, they were all expired. Hopefully they’ll stock some fresh ones!

We spent that Sunday at my parents’ house to celebrate Timmy’s birthday a few weeks early. It was a beautiful day with lots of time outside.

Annie was feeling very jealous of all the attention Hudson was getting. She definitely likes to be the baby of the family!

Greg saying goodbye to Hudson. ūüôĀ

On Monday morning all of us, except Greg, went to the State Fair! The boys and I got there a few hours earlier than everyone else and walked around the mostly deserted park checking out some of the animals.

We normally start our annual fair visit with a bag of apple cider donuts. But Shepard was feeling especially hangry and couldn’t wait until 9:00 when that side of the WI products building opened. So they settled for kringle slices instead.

Then Shepard and I got grilled cheeses. I’ve reached the point where I can’t eat anything remotely sweet in the morning or I have a massive headache all day long, so grilled cheese was perfect!

We found Hudson! And he had already found a donut.

Caden wanted to get a baked potato. That reminded me that he LOVES baked potatoes, but I never, ever make them. Poor deprived child!

We split up for a little bit because they wanted to watch the pig races and we didn’t want to sit in the sun for that long. Shepard was already being pretty difficult about everything at that point. The whole day was really very up and down. Caden was FANTASTIC. Shepard was really testing my last nerve. There was a lot of either miscommunications or simple ignoring of when I thought we were going to be meeting back up with everyone after brief splits, which was extremely frustrating to me. A lot of wasted time on our part, thinking they were coming to us, when they were instead just doing something else without letting us know and we had to go hunt them down. It’s hard going to events like that as a large group. It’s hard for me to accept that not everyone is like me in the way that they think and go about life. But…yeah. Let’s just say I had a really good time with Caden. I think maybe next year Shepard can stay home and have a Daddy day!

I think the cream puffs were Hudson’s favorite treat!

The boys and I finished our day (at like 1pm lol) at the super crowded building that sells our favorite beef sticks. I also finally found a coffee option that sounded good to me. The boys had a great time looking at all the hot tubs for sale – until Shepard became infuriated that I wouldn’t buy one. Because we totally have the set up to just buy an enormous room sized hot tub and stick it in our house. ūüėõ

We said our goodbyes to Hudson who was off to find a place to take a nap. We won’t see him again until possibly late October.

Finished up our fair visit with Shepard getting some cotton candy – what he wanted from the minute we arrived. I was disappointed to realize that once again I filled up on all our regular foods that I didn’t have any desire to spend the money on something unique. NEXT YEAR.

After fair day, I was just super busy getting packed up for Dallas and trying to make sure Greg and the boys had enough food at home for easy meals to last them while I was gone. It was a very chaotic two days!

Back at home this week, I’ve just been trying to get settled back in. I still haven’t been feeling the greatest, plus just SO TIRED. I thought I’d come home from my solo vacation feeling relaxed and rested, when the opposite was definitely true. I’ve tried to lay low this whole week. We did go grocery shopping asap on Wednesday morning, followed by some school haircuts. I’m not particularly thrilled with either of them, but at least I know Shepard’s will grow out looking really cute! Caden fought tooth and nail to have a haircut at all and you can barely notice a difference. But…that’s what he wanted. And I said I’d be respectful of their personal body choices.

Otherwise I’ve just been working! I finished up six new dolls this morning and took two custom orders that I’ll start working on tonight. I’m happy to be back at it, but also really feeling the pressure to make as many as possible as fast as possible. There are basically just two weeks left of summer and my goal was to keep prioritizing my family and making the most of the days we have. But honestly…I want September. I want school. I want regular schedules. I want quiet days. I want to only make lunch for myself. I want to take naps where I don’t have to be in the next room with one ear open to any shenanigans that might occur. Summer is EXHAUSTING. But it’s almost over and I think I can survive. Hopefully. ūüôā

Book Bonanza

We’re already halfway through August and I have so much to catch you guys up on! But I’ll start with my most recent excitement – a trip to Book Bonanza in Grapevine, Texas!

Book Bonanza is an event that started last year, created by my favorite author Colleen Hoover, her sisters, and her team at The Bookworm Box – a bookstore and subscription service that Colleen also founded and uses as a tool to donate thousands upon thousands of dollars to charity. I wasn’t aware of Book Bonanza until it was actually happening last year and I was SO jealous. I definitely jumped at the chance to go this year – buying my ticket last September and preparing for it in the following eleven months! If you read my monthly book recaps you’ll notice I’ve been VERY heavy on Book Bonanza authors the last few months, trying to make sure I fit in as many of the most highly recommended books that I could before I had a chance to meet those authors in person.

The event this year (and all future years) was held at the huge Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. There were around 150 attending authors and close to 2000 attendees. It was a massive event, but SO well organized and thoroughly planned out. There were multiple facebook groups (attendees and those planning to go solo) with plenty of opportunity to meet people ahead of time, talk books, and really get hyped up about everything. This was my first time in Texas, so I decided to really take advantage of the trip and added on a few days in Dallas afterward to do some exploring. After eleven months of planning and paying attention to everyone’s insane game plans for getting author signatures and all the other prepwork that went into this event, I was actually feeling pretty apprehensive about the trip by the time I left. But all in all, I think it turned out pretty great!

I was able to take an uber to the hotel from the airport with a fellow solo attendee to cut back on costs (one time lol) and was really excited to able to check into my hotel a few hours early. After a little bit of exploration I decided to eat at their Riverwalk Cantina. It was a Mexican restaurant that was entirely enclosed, but also had a river running through it, giving you the appearance and feel of sitting outdoors at an adorable little cafe. Their chips were so tasty! The brisket tacos were good.

Book Bonanza didn’t officially begin until Friday morning, but we were able to check in and pick up our swag bags on Thursday afternoon. They also had a smaller version of their bookstore completely set up, where basically everyone immediately ran to after checking in! That began my weekend of standing in lines. SO MANY LINES. The cool thing is that everyone was just so happy and excited to be there, that the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I didn’t really make any new friends – I also didn’t even try – but it was great to have that camaraderie and be surrounded by so many book loving kindred spirits.

I realized pretty quickly I really should have brought more snacks! There were technically nine different dining options inside the hotel, but I only ever walked by three of them – two very expensive sit down restaurants and more of a convenience store type place. I wasn’t hungry enough for a full meal, but also didn’t want to skip eating all together, so I picked up a turkey sandwich (that was gross) and an enormous peanut butter Texas sized cookie. My original intention for the night was to head out into Grapevine and explore a little. But I knew I was too tired for that, so I thought I’d just read in my room and rest up for Friday. But there was just so much excitement going on in the halls, that I kept going back out to just walk around and soak it all up. And check out the bookstore a few more times!

Friday morning kicked off with a welcome panel of authors that have had their books made into movies or tv shows – Colleen Hoover (Confess), Caroline Kepnes (You), Anna Todd (After), and E. L. James (50¬†Shades). After that everyone split up and chose between six different options of author panels each hour for the next three hours. The first one I went to was called “ROMCOM,” which was pretty funny. The only author I had read from that group was Avery Flynn. Next I went to “Giving Us the Giggles,” which was hysterical. I hadn’t read any of those authors – but I plan to! I finished with “Redeeming the Bad Guy,” which turned out to be a much more serious discussion than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the panels – and doing something other than looking for author signatures. My only regret was that I should have chosen to go to panels with authors I already knew, rather than choosing by topic alone. I might have had more fun with it. Though I did really enjoy seeing how many of the authors seem to be genuine real life friends with each other. I guess it never even crossed my mind that writers seek out other writers and form some great friendships!

After the panels was a two hour block for lunch – which most people took to stand in line for the first signing block at 2:00. I got in line for lunch, which turned out to be a sandwich that looked a whole lot like the one I bought the night before. So I took it to my room to eat later (which I never did) and chose instead to go back to the Cantina for their lunch buffet. Allllll the chips I could eat. Actually, very few people were in the restaurant and I felt like the waiters were all staring at me, so it was kind of a very uncomfortable meal. But it was delicious!

The line was already so ridiculously long by lunch time (many people also skipped the panels to get an earlier place in line), that I gave myself a little break and didn’t join the line until 2:45 – when I expected everyone would be in the room by then. Nope! The line snaked through the entire convention center and the entire indoor river area. It was insane. I was least interested in getting author signatures – when I went to my first book signing last summer (Colleen Hoover’s), I felt so awkward and stupid, it was an experience I never really wanted to repeat. And then I came to Book Bonanza, where this was like the whole point. I honestly would have probably skipped it entirely, but I had a few books preordered from authors and the only way to get them would be to face the crowds! The more popular authors went by a wristband system, so you got a numbered wristband and then waited for your number to be up – ensuring only about 15 people would be standing in a line at a time. Of course the two authors I whittled my list down to – because of the preorders – had long waits. I ended up walking back and forth to my room multiple times during the block.

I was about ready to give up, when in the final ten minutes the volunteer for Penny Reid let me stand in her line, even though my number wasn’t anywhere close to being called. I love Penny’s Winston¬†Brothers series, and two of her newest books in the Dear¬†Professor series. I was really excited to get to meet her in person – and get my photo with Cletus, one of my all time favorite book characters!

Penny told me that she loved my braids and my earrings, which is why she wrote about watching me creepily. Anyway, most of the attendees were there just to get those author signatures. Everyone had carts full of books. I only ended up bringing three books from home – and then didn’t even attempt to get them signed. I can understand the excitement of seeing authors you adore, but it was hard to muster up enthusiasm (for me) to talk to people I haven’t read before. While I was waiting I did get a few authors to sign a Book Beau I had bought (it’s a padded book case), but every single one of them asked me what my favorite of their books was and I had to hem and haw and finally admit I hadn’t read them. AWKWARD. I was more than happy to skip the signing blocks on Saturday. It’s just not my thing.

Right after the signing, there was an event called Rocking at Book Bonanza, which was basically another signing with only 26 of the authors in a different location. We were all given a free autograph book for that one, so I stood in line for the book and promptly went back to my room! The evening ended with a Q&A session between Colleen, Anna Todd and actor Hero Fiennes Tiffin and a showing of their movie After. It was a late night! But I was excited to see the movie since it only lasted about a week in the theater here. Everything that made me so incredibly angry about that book did not come through in the movie, so I’m definitely interested in continuing the series to figure out why it’s such a phenomenon!

So, I kind of played hooky from Book Bonanza for most of Saturday. The only thing on the schedule was a four hour signing block, another bagged lunch which I assume would be the same turkey sandwich, and then another four hour signing block. I had no interest in any more signing attempts, so I had a somewhat lazy morning and then took the first available shuttle bus into downtown Grapevine to do a little shopping. It was already SO HOT by then. I’m trying not to be annoying about this because obviously it was Texas and it’s August and it’s just going to be hot. I knew that. Clearly. But it didn’t take away from how hot it actually did feel. I’ve never felt so disgusting and sweaty and suffocatingly hot in my life, every day that I ventured outside. It was awful.

I walked through Grapevine’s indoor farmers market and their small outdoor one. It was fun to see all the stuff, but also depressing because I would have loved to have bought some salsas and hot sauces, but I just didn’t trust the airline’s ability to not break a glass container in my suitcase. I went into a couple of stores and bought a few spices at a spice market. I finally had a very late breakfast of this amazingly delicious sugar donut – fresh from the fryer – and a mocha at a coffee shop (that was not good). I only lasted two hours before I was more than ready to hop back on the shuttle and go back to the hotel.

I took a little break back in my room and then spent some time walking back and forth to get boxes from BB’s shipping station, pack up all my books and swag, and go back to ship it all out. I forgot to take a photo of all my stuff before I packed it up, and I don’t have it yet at home, so I’ll have to add that on later! I ended up with quite a stack of new books – most of which were free. I even ended up leaving eight free books behind because I was pretty sure I’d never read them, so why pay to send them home? I still had a lot of time before the evening festivities, so I took an uber to a Mexican restaurant I had researched. It was good. I picked that one because it was across the street from an enormous mall – making the price of my uber ride a little more worth it. I walked the whole mall, but nothing was unique or special about it. Kind of a waste of an afternoon, honestly. At least I got some good food out of it.

At 6:00 there was a cocktail party put on by Passionflix. I stopped by to see what it was and got a small plate of cheese and crackers. I wasn’t really in the mood to try and mingle with strangers – most of which had buddied and grouped up after standing in so many lines together. I went to my room again and finished the night at the closing ceremonies and karaoke night. This was a charity event, and in the end it raised $80K which was split between multiple causes. Once the ceremony was over, the authors did karaoke and eventually anyone could participate. I stayed about another hour until I figured that was enough!

Anyway, I really had a great time on Friday, but for obvious reasons felt pretty disconnected on Saturday. I’m definitely glad I got to experience it and be at such a fun event, but I’m also not sure it’s something I’d do again. Next year they’re changing the scheduling up a bit and having it over three days, which does sound intriguing. But two years in a row would be a lot. This was an expensive trip! The hotel alone – yikes! (But worth EVERY PENNY to have a room to myself to relax in!) Book Bonanza has opened my eyes to the possibility of seeking out OTHER book conferences and events, though. My original uber friend was telling me about a few that she’s been to where it’s almost all panels and speaking. I think that might be more my thing! I’ll have to look into those possibilities in the coming years. ūüôā

On Sunday morning I packed up and ubered to my next hotel in downtown Dallas. I planned to store my bag and go exploring, but I was actually able to check in already at 10:30! My first stop was a walk to the Dallas Farmers Market. They have a permanent indoor building which is all smaller restaurants – one of my all time favorite things to seek out in larger cities. And because it was the weekend they also had an outdoor market set up, also with many actual meal food booths. Very little produce! And a crazy number of stands that just sold infused waters and juices and teas. Texans at least know the importance of staying hydrated in that heat!

I got a mango juice outside that was divine and after three walks around the building landed on jerk chicken sliders from a Caribbean restaurant inside. That was by far the best meal I ate on the trip. It was so spicy and SO delicious. I picked up some macaroons to eat later, though I’ve realized for the second them they really just don’t appeal to me.

I went back to my hotel afterward and picked up a fresh watermelon infused iced tea from the attached coffee shop. It was really tasty! Then I finally took a nap – the only nap I took the entire trip! I somehow thought this vacation was going to get me so rested up. No such luck! I honestly felt so icky and crappy the entire trip. I know I’m showing you a lot of good food pics, but most of my meals I only ate about half of. I’m not sure if it was simply the heat or I was actually sick, but physically it was a really rough trip.

In the evening I went for a walk about six blocks around my hotel and saw the JKF Memorial and some other downtown sites.

I was stuck again with not feeling great, not being particularly hungry, but not wanting to just skip another meal since I was already only eating like one meal a day, so I stopped at this wing place I had researched ahead of time. I only ate a few bites – really should have just skipped it.

Monday was my last full day and I was bound and determined to try and suck up my heat wimpiness and make the most of it. For breakfast I had a cold brew at the hotel.

I took a walk to the famous cattle drive sculptures. That was cool to see!

Next I took an uber to the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. I was under the impression this was going to be a long street filled with unique shopping opportunities, but in actuality it was just a single block with a handful of stores that weren’t set to open for another one to two hours later than when I got there. There was no way I was going to just sit outside that whole time, and I didn’t want to wander too far, so I stopped at the first restaurant I happened upon. I thought I was going into just a coffee shop, not a sit down place, but figured I might as well stay once I was there. I had banana bread french toast with fruit.

The shops ended up being a disappointment. There was one local artist place that I waited an extra hour for it to open and bought a couple of 4×6 prints. The main reason I wanted to go to that side of town in the first place – for a unique bookstore and a grilled cheese restaurant – were rendered pointless since I had just eaten something else (and was feeling really sick) and the bookstore didn’t open another two hours. So I picked another random place online and ubered to an antique store, also assuming there would be other places nearby to check out. Nope! That one was on the side of a highway! I was totally over exploring in the 112 degree heat at that point and went back to the hotel.

One of the first restaurants I had researched was called Wild Salsa. I was so excited when I realized it was only a block from my hotel. I realllly wasn’t feeling up to it, but it was my last chance to eat there, so I headed over on Monday night for dinner. I have to say I’ve had way better Mexican food in Madison for a whole lot less money. I just went back to the hotel for the rest of the night. Though I should point out that my Dallas hotel had a giant bathtub and I had brought a bunch of pampering things, so I was plenty happy to have the time to just chill out and relax. It’s just hard to shake the feeling of not doing enough, when I’m on a vacation to see a place I’d never been to before.

I had zero ambitions about doing anything else on Tuesday morning, so I went to the airport three hours early and just walked and walked and walked. I picked up this honey butter chicken on a jalapeno biscuit from Whataburger and it was the second best thing I had to eat on the trip – shocking!

The rest of my day was very long, but mostly uneventful. It was one of the worst plane rides I’ve ever been on – I honestly was on the brink of a panic attack because it was so flippin hot and I felt like I was suffocating. The airplane couldn’t counteract the heat from however long it was sitting in Dallas. That combined with the turbulence made for a pretty miserable flight. But I rewarded myself with a stop at Home Goods and Marshall’s before coming home to my family! They were all very excited to see me. I missed them too.

And that was my trip! I’m really glad I went and I did genuinely have a good time. But I really have no desire to ever go to Texas again, especially not in summer. It also reminded me how much more joy I find in vacations with outdoor spaces to breathe and appreciate beauty. Big cities are SO not for me. It was a great break from reality, though, and is really going to help launch me through these final weeks of summer. Solo vacations are the best!

A Full Complete Happy Person

This afternoon I listened to the latest episode of a podcast called Empower Her that my friend Lexi recommended to me. This is the first time I’ve listened to this particular podcast and it was basically a 20 minute blast of hard truths, but things I (and probably many women!) needed to hear. The episode topic was on boundaries, which is definitely something I struggle with. But the thing that really jumped out at me is how many times the host, Kacia, said the words “what I need to do to be a FULL COMPLETE HAPPY PERSON.” That description really got me thinking about what I need in my own life to be a full complete happy person. I decided I definitely needed to make a list to help me remember these things when life starts feeling tough. I challenge you to write one as well!

Time to Myself

This is probably the biggest one. The biggest truth for all introverts, right? We need time alone to recharge. Not enough time to ourselves and we basically implode. This is the number one reason why summer is so hard on me. Even though my kids aren’t in my face and needing my attention every minute of the day, they’re still HERE. I crave quiet and solitude like I can’t live without it. I think the most important time of day for me is right when I wake up. I’ve always been a very early riser and I revel in that 30-90 minutes I often have before anyone else comes downstairs. But there are also days where a kid gets up early and follows me down the stairs. Those days my heart immediately sinks because most of the time it’s the kid that wants to talk talk talk and is doing his own reveling in some one on one attention. The one little extrovert of the family. Don’t think I’m terrible because I’m glad to have the bonding time with him too. But it sets me up for emotional exhaustion from the get go and it’s so hard to recover from that. I also really need time to myself in the afternoons to read and rest. It works out perfectly during the school year. It’s much harder in summer. And I always end my day alone, reading in bed. I essentially need a good chunk of time all three points in the day to feel the best. If I’m not getting those regularly, then I need to get out of the house and find it elsewhere – usually at a bookstore or movie or dog park or walk.

Daily Connection with Greg

Greg and I don’t have a ton of things in common. And we don’t honestly spend a whole lot of time together because he’s usually doing something with the boys whenever they’re all home (which is basically all the time). But I still feel like most of the time we have a pretty strong connection because we make a point of talking to each other throughout the day. He’s at a computer programming and is usually able to message with me throughout the day. I can tell him any random thing that comes to mind without feeling like I’m bothering him too much. Though I try not to be TOO annoying. We also end almost every single night watching a tv show together while he rubs my foot and ankle. It’s not a lot of time, it’s nothing extravagant, but it’s a routine that I think we both depend on to be in touch with each other despite all the distractions of family life. And we usually have one night a week where the grandparents take the boys, and we can spend more together. Once or twice a month we usually have a date night out of the house, which I think is our best way to connect.

Books

I don’t think I could survive without my books. I’m pretty sure a day has never gone by in my life without at least a few minutes to read. I NEED THEM. Reading is my greatest escape from reality and my all time favorite way to spend any available down time. Even when I’m not actually reading, I’m always on the hunt for more books, researching new authors, checking the weekly new releases, following bookstagrammers, meandering through bookstores, contributing to bookish conversations on facebook, tracking all of my own reading habits. It brings me such unadulterated joy. A day with little time to read is never a very good day.

Creative Outlets

Fortunately for me, being creative is my job. I love the thrill of creating something new. It’s how making ragdolls became such an obsession that turned into a pretty lucrative part time job. I hold that creativity so tight that I often struggle with accepting custom orders or remaking dolls that I’ve already done because it so strongly stifles my desire to always be thinking of something different and unique. Most of my creative energy is funnelled into doll making these days, but I used to direct it toward baking. Which I also still really enjoy, I just don’t have as many people or places to share the finished products with, so I try not to bake as often as the urge might strike. I also love being creative with decorating my house and putting together gifts for people.

Writing

Writing really is the greatest fuel for my emotional well being. It’s so cathartic as I gather my thoughts and spit them out into the world. Most of my writing is actually in the form of daily emails to my best friend. Which certainly helps maintain our almost 30 year friendship. But I do wish I could put more of that energy toward other writing projects. It’s just nice to have a response! I also go through spurts of writing journal entries, I just find it hard to get in the habit of that because there are always so many other calls on my time. I went through something really tough last fall, though, and writing extremely long journal entries is the only way that got me through it.

Female Friendships

This is the biggest hole in my life because it’s the hardest thing to accomplish on my own – I really need another person to have a fulfilling friendship! I think if I could design my perfect friendship life, it would be to have a standing weekly night out with maybe 1-3 other moms. Not enough of a demand on my time that it feels overwhelming, but often enough to really connect with a few people and truly feel like we care about each other. It feels so tricky for me because during the school year, the moms that are still available during the day almost all have young children and are only interested in getting together for play dates. I have no kids at home anymore, so of course I’m not asked out. I’m almost always available at night because Greg is a super parenting partner and our kids are rarely involved in things, but everyone else is SO BUSY. It’s nearly impossible to schedule something, especially once you get more than two people involved in the planning. Spontaneity is nonexistent and when it takes over a month, sometimes more, to actually get something on the calendar it ends up feeling pretty depressing. The last time I tried to get together with two of my closest friends it took us five months to find a time that worked. FIVE MONTHS. Even when I do get things scheduled, someone almost always cancels. And then I feel rejected. Honestly, I think of all my attempts to gather people together in the last year, I’ve been fully rejected at least 75% of the time. And maybe people just don’t like me! So I need to find the people that do. Female friendships, even in the busiest season of life, are so important. I truly believe that.

Close Extended Family

I think this is pretty important for general family happiness. We’re so lucky that our kids are growing up with grandparents so supportive and immersed in their lives. I’m so happy to have my mom, who I text totally ridiculous pet pictures to all day long because she’s the only one who would appreciate them. She’s probably the only person in the world I actually have a ton of things in common with, so I’m glad we have that bond. I do wish I were closer and relationships were easier with all our siblings. There sometimes feels like a lot of strain in those relationships and I honestly don’t think it’ll ever go away unless we spend a lot of time together just living life. And…that’s not going to happen. But it would be nice!

Good Food and Lots of Variety

I spend way too much time thinking about food. I honestly wish I didn’t. But…it’s also a great avenue for creativity and personal pride. I love finding that perfect cookbook that is going to provide me with a plethora of incredibly flavorful meals. I am obsessed with walking through every grocery store I ever come across, searching for unique chip flavors or spice blends or ethnic sauces or hearty breads or smoked cheeses. Whenever we go on vacation I spend so much more time searching for restaurants with delicious food than looking for things to actually do. I’m also constantly on the hunt for great new coffee companies and flavors, and most recently – hard candy companies (because hard candy helps me eat less!). I really love food, especially spicy food. And I love new and special treats. It adds a lot of joy to my life.

Exercise and Dogs

These go together because I basically don’t exercise without Annie at my side. (More accurately – pulling me down the sidewalk.) In those few months after I broke my ankle last year, I was LOSING MY MIND not being able to go on walks with her. In part because I know she didn’t understand it and was overly hyper and it was so frustrating not being able to do anything about it. But also because walking really is a great way to get fresh air, burn some calories, and just generally be healthier and happier. I’m struggling this month because my allergies are just so terrible I’m avoiding long walks at all cost. It sucks to know that as summer goes on the mosquitoes are also going to get even worse. But I’m definitely happiest getting a really long walk in first thing in the morning. I just need to be a whole lot better about actually doing it, even when it’s tough.

Space of My Own

Much like needing time to myself, I also need space to call my own. I’ve honestly been pretty selfish about it since we moved into our house three years ago. I have the entire dining room as my sewing room. Which I genuinely do need the space for because it is my real job and I spend every day there. But I’ve also basically claimed the living room as my own as well. It’s definitely the best room in the house. And everyone else is welcome to be in here, but there are no electronics in this room (except my computer). They like electronics more than an awesome room, so it’s mostly mine. Last year Greg bought me an amazing huge and cozy chair, and I really went all out making it into the best book reading corner of all time. I love it there. I can’t say this for my sewing room, but I do put a huge amount of effort into always keeping the living room clean. It’s a sacred space I can always count on to offer peace and quiet, even if the entire rest of the house is in disarray.

Solo Vacations

This is something I started maybe four years ago, when I decided to take a winter weekend trip to Galena on my own. Since then I’ve gone to Door County, Chicago, and Minnesota for solo vacations. Coming up in August I’m going to Texas on my own for six days! In November I’m going to North Carolina for five days. Honestly, even if it’s just a single night in a hotel room an hour away – it is SO WORTH IT. I see it as an absolutely necessary retreat for my soul, to get away from my life and to do lists and constant stress, just to spoil myself with great food, awesome shopping, beautiful nature spots, and endless time to read and relax. It might feel hard to justify the expense of a vacation by yourself. But it’s honestly about my favorite thing in the world. I can guarantee you it’s really helping me get through these harder days of summer, knowing I have an amazing trip coming up in less than two months. It’s going to be the perfect reset that’ll leave me refreshed and ready to tackle those final weeks of summer and the crazy pace of September.

Lots of Treats

Okay, so maybe I sometimes go overboard on this. But I try to keep myself motivated to get through the hard times with plenty of treats to bring me up. One of my favorite things is to get lunch at Qdoba or Chipotle almost every week after I’ve run all my errands. I also like to take special shopping days to my favorite stores when I know I need a break from life. I enjoy treating myself to a new book if something comes to my attention that sounds amazing. I sometimes splurge and order myself some special chocolate or candy that I won’t have to share with anyone. I am obsessive about taking an afternoon break every single day to read, at least try to nap, and then make myself an amazing cup of coffee when I wake up before I get back to work. I enjoy looking for little things that I know will make me happy – my most recent discovery is Maybelline Baby Lips. They’re so cheap and every single color makes your lips look amazing! I mentioned this a month or two ago, but gifts are my love language, and I’m not getting many gifts from other people (Greg got annoyed with me for saying this, but it’s the truth!). Which is fine! But it’s also why I gift myself things. It may sound super selfish if this is not your thing. But it’s a form of self love that truly keeps me happy and motivated and better equipped to deal with life when things are hard.

Well, this turned out to be quite the list! If you made it to the end – congrats! (lol) Now write your own list and refer back to it when you need a reminder of how to reset your life to become your own full complete happy person.

Our Colorado Vacation

At the beginning of the month, Greg and I took a trip to Colorado to celebrate (a little early) our 13th anniversary. I’m still not sure if the timing of the trip was the greatest idea because we really needed to get away and didn’t want to wait until late July when it next worked out best. But it also left me frantic and more overwhelmed than ever to get back home having missed an extremely valuable week in keeping up with everything that needs to be done in the month of May. I don’t think I’d purposely go with that timing for a vacation again, but the trip itself was definitely worth it! We really had a great time exploring a state that neither of us had ever been to before.

Wednesday

We began our trip on Wednesday after bringing the boys to school. Even though we had a direct flight and no delays, it felt like one of the longest travel days ever. But we finally made it to Boulder in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained that entire first evening we were there, but it was the only day we had bad weather, so I can’t complain.

Our first order of business was getting SOMETHING in our stomachs. We ran out of time to eat at the airport as planned, so we found a coffee shop first thing and I got a mocha and Greg had a smoothie. Then we went to the Boulder Farmers Market, which was our main reason for heading straight to Boulder from the airport. It was their first Wednesday market of the season and fairly small, but still worth checking out! Every booth had samples and at least half of them were various hot sauces and dips. We bought a sample pack of six sauces to bring back home with us that were delicious. Then we walked around Pearl Street, checking out some of the shops. We were basically the only people there! It was my favorite of all the shopping areas we went to. My favorite store was the Art Market Gift Shop, filled with cool things local artists made.

We also went to this amazing kitchen store called Peppercorn. They had the biggest selection of cookbooks I had ever seen. Absolute heaven!

We had dinner at a restaurant called Mountain Sun. The decor was very eclectic and unique. Greg had a chorizo burger and I had a blackened chicken sandwich. This was probably my least favorite meal, though Greg liked his. I also just wasn’t feeling the greatest that whole day and not super interested in eating anything. After dinner we headed to Target to buy some water and soda and then checked into our hotel – The Westin in Westminster.

Thursday

We started our day mid morning at a restaurant right by the hotel called Snooze an A.M. Eatery. This is a chain restaurant around Denver which is apparently VERY popular in the mornings. I have to say, it did not disappoint!! Greg loved his french toast and my sandwich was incredible! It was a soft but toasty everything seeded bun with green goddess cream cheese, an egg, bacon, and some sort of citrus vinaigrette arugula. So good.

I took a picture of this same view on Wednesday afternoon when it was completely gray with the windshield coated in rain. This day it was so much nicer!! We could actually see the mountains as we headed toward Estes Park.

We drove all the way up to the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and then decided against going in. There’s a $25 fee and at the beginning of May, very little of the park is actually open due to so much snow left on the roads. Instead we drove back to a little information building and walked around.

So I mostly wanted to go to Estes Park because my parents are having their vacation there next week and I didn’t want to find out they did something really cool that we had missed because we chose not to drive that far into the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t really find much to do there, other than walk around the little town and stop at a few mountain and lake scenic spots. It didn’t help that we were FREEZING and definitely not dressed for such high winds and cold temperatures and snow beneath our only pairs of shoes.

We drove really high up to Lily Lake, which had a simple trail around the edges. But I was way too cold to even attempt it, plus there was still snow and slush on everything. But it was pretty! We had enough after that and headed back east.

Our next stop was the Sawmill Ponds hiking area near Boulder. It was a 1.2 mile loop that took you past 18 different ponds! I think this might have been my favorite thing we did on the trip because it was absolutely gorgeous and there was hardly anybody else there.

I will admit that the trail was so deserted that for the first time in my adult life I had to pee “in the wild.” I was desperate!

So beautiful! Perfect weather, perfect everything. I loved it there.

We had dinner at another really unique place called The Sink. We got some happy hour martinis, jalapeno poppers, and a delicious bbq chicken pizza. It was all really tasty!

Before heading back to our hotel we stopped at another park to view the Flat Irons in Boulder. I think Greg would have liked to have walked a little further into the trail, but my legs were SO tired and that martini hit me harder probably than anything I’ve ever had before (I almost never drink).

But we sat on a big rock and just enjoyed the views. We really loved all the gorgeous nature areas we could just pull off of and revel in. Our best vacations together are the ones filled with beautiful outdoor sights.

I felt pretty bad about it, but we went back to the hotel at 5:30 because I was so tired. Strangely, this was the vacation that Greg wanted to go go go and I wanted a little more resting time. We’re usually very much the opposite! Though to be fair, I was still waking up at my normal time, meaning I was awake 4-5 hours before him every day!

Friday

I was a little on the cranky side Friday morning. Mostly frustrated with my body and how out of shape I’m in and how much my ankle has just wrecked me from ever feeling normal and good. We went to The Denver Biscuit Company for a late breakfast, which is a restaurant I absolutely wanted to check out. But the wait took forever and then we were seated at the bar and the food did not sit right with me. Greg had a chicken biscuit with local honey, stone ground mustard, and pickles. I had a Nashville hot chicken biscuit with ranch dressing and pickles. Somehow the combination of flavors on mine just did not taste great, but I wanted to go there so badly I tried my best to finish it off and then felt kind of crappy for the next half the day.

Our next stop was the original Tattered Cover Bookstore. We realized later they have locations all over, but I think we went to the biggest one. It was amazing! So big and unique. Our only sadness is that only a small portion of the store was actually used (and cheaper) books. But we spent quite a long time just looking around at everything. I bought two books and a notebook.

Our next stop was the Denver Botanic Gardens. Honestly, I was not that impressed. I think Olbrich Gardens in Madison is nicer. And it’s free! I was also just cranky and tired and not feeling great, so all the wild and loud school groups touring, plus all the very slow elderly people looking at every single plant, were just all getting on my nerves. It was hot too! That Colorado sun is blazing, even though the temps were only in the 60’s. I’m not sure how long we actually spent here, but it wasn’t probably more than an hour. There were certainly some pretty flowers, but nothing that blew me away. It all felt a bit artificial and contained compared to the amazing mountain views just twenty minutes outside the city.

Next we searched out Union Station. I love food markets and Denver apparently has like five or six of them. Once we realized how horrific the parking situation was, we just picked one. It was kind of a nightmare trying to find a place to park that wasn’t going to cost a fortune and then we had to walk so far to get there. I was surprised to see how few stores were actually in Union Station, which is, in fact, a working train station. But it was cool to see and Greg got some ice cream and I had a delicious blackberry honey latte. I love checking out new coffee shops hoping they have some sort of signature or seasonal drinks. This is the first place on the trip that actually did. After the station we walked a few blocks to Milk Market, another food market. That one had tons of options, but we were saving up to eat at a taco place. We finished our two hours we paid for of parking by checking out the Millennium Bridge.

We had dinner at a place we both found independently on our searches and really wanted to go to, Tacos Tequila Whiskey. They just had a menu filled with tacos and salsas and you filled out which ones you wanted. Greg had some sort of fried chicken and pork tacos. I had a saucy chicken and a vegetarian one with grilled cheese and poblano peppers and corn in a chipotle sauce. They were SO good. I ordered another vegetarian one and Greg ordered their special taco, which was pork belly and some sauces. Overall, a really delightful meal!

Our next hotel was in Colorado Springs and the traffic was pretty terrible for a Friday evening, so we took a short detour to Matthews-Winters Park to walk around and sit by a stream. It was SO beautiful there. Everything was beautiful really! But this particular spot was like in the center of a valley and we had mountains on every side. I loved it.

We managed to go to these new mountain ranges every night about the same time – they were amazing to see in person, but terrible for taking photos when the sun was hitting at exactly the wrong spot!

We finally made it to The Academy Hotel in Colorado Springs. We were here for three nights and I was really disappointed to see that our only window looked over the hotel lobby/pool/breakfast area/fire pit resting area. I can’t believe anyone would design a hotel next to the mountains and not let every room have an outdoor window!! I think the hotel tried really hard to still provide a great experience with an awesome breakfast and lots of amenities, but the lack of a view made our room just feel very dark and depressing.

We finished the night going to Ute Valley Park, a few miles from the hotel. Gorgeous! There are no bad views in Colorado if you’re outside!

Saturday

On Saturday we split up. The entire reason we picked Colorado in the first place was so Greg could visit one of his college friends before he moved out west. He was planning to take a trip no matter what, so we combined it into our anniversary vacation. We had breakfast at the hotel and then went to Poor Richard’s, which was a unique book/gift store. Then we wandered around Colorado Springs until Greg eventually got picked up and I did some more shopping on my own. I’m not sure if it was because it was so early and a Saturday, but Colorado Springs seemed SO much nicer than Denver, in terms of just walking around and checking out shops. And ease of parking! I had lunch at TByrd’s Tacos with a chicken and fried avocado taco. They were good, they were just unexpectedly both piled high with onions (descriptions both said peppers) which I had to take off, which then took off most of the sauce and cheese. But it was a good choice for eating on my own.

I really liked the store Terra Verde and some fancy chocolate shop where I bought these blonde pearls which were AMAZING. I really wish I had bought the bigger bag. I stopped at Pikes Peak Lemonade, at the recommendation of someone on facebook. I don’t like lemonade, but I tried a few samples and then bought a raspberry puree iced tea. My only complaint about Colorado restaurants is that they don’t seem to believe in using ice with their water, so it was nice to have a refreshing cold drink! I was pretty tired after that, so I went back to the hotel for a nap. Then I sought out this recommended Decadent coffee shop for a coffee, which I didn’t really like much.

I met Greg and his friend for dinner back in downtown Colorado Springs at Bingo Burger. I wasn’t super hungry, so I just got the loaded tater tots, which were sooooo good. I love that in Colorado they have green chile things added to so many menu items. I had some version of them on almost everything I ate the whole trip. Loved it.

Greg and his friend spent the day at Seven Falls, exploring the outskirts of Garden of the Gods, eating, and playing at an arcade. Greg and I went back to see the official Garden of the Gods park after dinner. Amazingly, very few people showed up in my photos, but there were a ton of prom kids everywhere posing for pictures. But the further we walked the less crowded it was. I’m really glad we went that night instead of saving it for morning as planned.

I kept looking for the “kissing camels” part of the rock and we didn’t find it until the very end. I realized last night going through my photos it was actually right at the entrance and I had already taken a photo of it without realizing!

We finished the night seeing the Balancing Rock. Couldn’t avoid getting extra people into those pictures.

Sunday

By Sunday we were kind of floundering on what to do. I didn’t plan the second part of the trip as well as the first because everything was really up in the air with Greg’s friend and I didn’t want to overschedule us. But, I should have found the time to make some solid lists of ideas because it would have avoided some stress of the day. But I think it worked out okay. We started at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, which I didn’t realize was something we had to pay for as it’s also a museum and large gift shop. The dwellings were a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it was still really interesting to see and imagine the Pueblo Indians actually making their lives in such cramped quarters.

The only time of the trip we had perfect selfie lighting! ūüėÄ

Where they baked their bread.

As we continued down the road toward Pikes Peak, we stopped next at the top of a mountain for Cave of the Winds. The shortest tour was an hour and a half and cost a lot, so we opted to just walk around the grounds. We were there for the mountains anyway, not the caves! Plus we didn’t have anything with us to get warmer underground, as that was the hottest day of the trip so far (only low 70’s, but that sun!).

I was legitimately terrified driving up this mountain, but the views at the top were stunning. We actually spent quite a bit of time here just walking around and taking it all in.

Caden really likes ropes courses, so we took a photo of this one to show him. Even though he’s scared of heights and it’s hanging off the side of a mountain, he said he definitely wants to do it and expects us to take him to Colorado ASAP just for this attraction. I couldn’t even go on the overhanging decks because I was so freaked out.

We stopped in Green Mountain Falls (thinking there would be falls, but if there were, we never found them) and walked out to this little island gazebo. There was a drawing next to the walkway of the town in winter with all the kids ice skating on the pond. It was so idyllic.

We drove as far as Woodland Park, trying to get some good photos of Pikes Peak, which never happened. We stopped at a place called Coffee Leo where I ended up getting a chocolate banana coffee shake and an everything bagel for a snack. The one frustrating thing traveling with Greg is that our eating (okay two things – also our sleep schedules) schedules are so polar opposite. I was STARVING by the time we ate this around noon, and he was still full from his small hotel breakfast. We didn’t have a plan for any specific restaurants that day, so I convinced him to get a bagel too (they were so good!). Afterward we stopped in Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City for me to walk around and check out the shops. I wasn’t prepared for how touristy they were going to be. But it was still nice to see what was there. I was pretty exhausted and we were getting pretty crabby with each other by that point (lack of a plan is never good for us), so we went back to the hotel so I could take a nap.

Because it was Cinco de Mayo and Mexican food is always best, we decided to join the masses and went to a Tex Mex place called Chuy’s for dinner. After a ridiculously long wait (about an hour), we engorged ourselves on all this food. I know Mexican food never photographs well, but it was SO good. My chimichanga was on a bed of Colorado green chile sauce with a side of green chile rice – perfection!

We stopped one last time at a “scenic overlook” right off the highway before turning in for the night.

Monday

Our last day kind of turned out to be a bust. Our flight was at 7pm and our original plan was to spend the day in Denver doing whatever we missed on Friday. But neither of us liked Denver that much and didn’t want to deal with the traffic and people again. So we were packing up and trying to decide what to do when we got a text from the airline that our flight had been cancelled! I’ve never had that happen before. Fortunately we were able to quickly book another flight four hours earlier. So we originally would have gotten home after midnight, and now this put us at 8:30. Which is a lot better! I’m not sure why I didn’t pick that flight originally, unless it were a lot more expensive. So it worked out, it just ended up being kind of a waste of a day. We went to Castle Rock and checked out a few shops, returned the rental car, and then spent a long time at the airport. This is the only photo I took the entire day. I had a super dry and totally generic $10 turkey sandwich with a peach tea and Greg had a giant bowl of Asian food. We made it back in time to surprise and say goodnight to Caden. Shepard was already sleep.

And that was our Colorado vacation! It was genuinely one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. I had so much fun seeing all the beautiful sights with Greg and we got to eat a lot of great food. What more can a girl ask for?!

Positive Pep Talk

I am drowning in negativity lately. I’ve been blessed with the wonderful ability to internalize every single bad vibe that floats my way, or anywhere even near me. I am always reading between the lines and analyzing facial expressions and actions, hurt by things that may have been – or more likely were not – intentional, and harboring that hurt pretty much forever. I am overly sensitive to any conflict aimed at me or others I am close to. Injustice, duplicitous conversations, and unreliability can set me off in an instantaneous rage, at least internally, and it eats me alive. Basically, I’m a real fun person to know!

There has been so much going on in the last few weeks that has constantly fed into all the bad thoughts and feelings that I no longer feel like I can get away from. A lot of it doesn’t directly affect me, but I’m still absorbing the blows like they do. I’ve also been dealing with a lot of personal attacks as well. People have been making me feel worthless and less than and inferior and it isn’t fair. I’ve also just been in CONSTANT battles with Shepard and his strong-willed personality that has increased tenfold since his eighth birthday. The fact that these battles are over the stupidest things makes it even worse. Bit by bit all of it is just chipping away at me and leaving me either empty or flat out crazed depending on the situation.

I was planning to write all about these situations, though in abstract form to retain some semblance of anonymity, but realized nobody really wants to read that, right?! So instead I’m going to dig deep and try and find some positive things about myself and my life right now that can help me focus on the good, let go of the bad, breathe, and smile.

I know who I am.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve always kept an identity all of my own. There are so many women that have kids and suddenly lose themselves. Or they set aside their lives, placing all of their hopes and dreams on hold for eighteen plus years, with the assumption they’ll have time for the things they want to do later. What if they don’t?? There are definitely seasons of sacrifice and those baby and toddler and preschool years are always going to be tough when kids need you for their very survival. Don’t get me wrong – if motherhood is what you WANT to identify most strongly with, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you don’t need to sacrifice who you are in the process. I like the fact that even when Caden was a baby and literally breastfed round the clock for about twelve hours a day for over an entire year, I never stopped thinking about and doing the things that made me ME. Those unique hopes and dreams for myself have only clarified and multiplied in the years since.

I work really dang hard.

It may mostly be in my head. But there have definitely been many, many occasions over the last ten years where I felt belittled or shamed for being a stay at home mom. There are even years where I’ve felt that way about myself. I was really, really smart in high school and college. My entire identity was wrapped in my grades and my accomplishments. And then I gave it all up to stay at home with my kids – a job I’m still not entirely sure I was right for. But it’s the choice we made and the choice we’re sticking with and I don’t regret it. I may not have taken the career path I originally saw for myself, but I work HARD, you guys. I give just about everything I do my best effort. Why else would I be constantly writing these blog posts about my goals and evaluating how I did at them? Sure, it may sometimes come across that I’m living the life of leisure, going out for lunch or coffee dates, taking a break every afternoon to read and nap. What you don’t see are the days like today when I was awake and working for three full hours before anybody else was even up. Or all the time I spend organizing and planning to make sure our schedules and family life run smoothly. Raising kids is no easy task! Heck, raising PETS is no easy task! Sometimes I think taking care of all of Annie’s needs is more overwhelming than the boys’. Or it’s at least a lot more inconvenient! Anyway, I may not have a typical 9-5 professional career that would surely bring me a lot of pride. But I DO work all the time. I am actively trying to be my best self every waking minute. And that’s not something to be ashamed of.

I am a successful business owner.

I’m not sure why I always downplay this. I often don’t even bring it up with new people because “I make dolls” is not usually something strangers respond very enthusiastically to. I mean, it’s kind of weird. If you’re not already immersed in a community of makers through social media or an avid craft fair/vintage shopper, this is an avenue of work that most people don’t understand. Should I say I’m an artist? A designer? Sometimes I say that I sew, but then people assume I’m a seamstress, which I want NOTHING to do with. When I do try to explain exactly what I do, most people comment on how that’s a nice little hobby and I agree and say it’ll never pay the bills, but it’s allowed me to stay home with my kids and for that I’m thankful. But…it’s more than that and I think I need to start owning that. I’ve now run Heartstring Annie for just about six years. It’s a business I kind of started on a whim, just to bring in a little extra fun money for myself, but also to give me a bit more of an identity outside of my family role. It’s grown into what I do consider my full time job, even if I don’t always put 40 hours a week into it (at least not in the last year or two when I’ve actively tried to stop letting it overtake my entire life). No, I don’t usually make enough money to even cover our mortgage, if it came down to that. But it brings in enough money for me to take solo vacations multiple times a year, buy clothes from sources beyond what I can find the cheapest, and it allows me to splurge on special gifts for people throughout the year. Last year, I made 224 sales, selling 297 dolls. That’s almost a doll a day. Business is absolutely thriving. I can’t keep up. This is so much more than a hobby, and even if people think it’s weird, that doesn’t discredit what it is and what I’ve built. Also, I think I’m pretty great at it.

I have an awesome family.

I have a seriously awesome husband. Greg has been nothing but 110% supportive of anything I have ever wanted to do. He has been an incredible dad from day one – I can honestly and truly say, there is NOTHING I would have ever changed or wished for more of in his role as co-parent. He works so hard for us, providing a stable and substantial enough income that I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do – for the past ten years, but also for all the years to come. He never makes me feel bad about who I am, he never belittles me for anything, he never shrugs off my sometimes crazy emotions. He’s been a steady and stable force in my life for the last nineteen years and I know I can count on him for anything.

I also have some pretty great kids. Yes, Shepard has been fraying my last frazzled nerve these last few weeks with his ridiculous arguments over EVERYTHING. But he has bloomed so much in the last few years and I’m so incredibly proud of him. In preschool and 4K and even many days of kindergarten, I had to literally carry him kicking and screaming into school because he didn’t want to leave me and the comfort of home. Now? He is fiercely independent. He knows who is he and he’s not going to back down from that. He is friends with everyone and the most popular guy around. His silliness and laughter can light up a room and even though I think it’s going to be getting him into more and more trouble as he gets older, I am proud to call him my own.

There’s something very strange that happens when one of your kids is suddenly less than a head shorter than you. I feel like Caden has grown up so much in the last year. Whereas Shepard is always a wildcard, Caden is completely responsible and reliable. He definitely has a strong-willed personality as well, but I think he is growing into a person that can be counted on. He is so smart and we’re told by his teachers every year how he’s the most helpful kid in the class. I believe he’s going to go far in life and I can’t wait to watch it happen.

I also have an awesome set of in-laws and mom who provide a great support system to the four of us. I’m so glad that we live near each other and get to experience life together. It’s invaluable to our kids.

I’m¬†not¬†going¬†to¬†be¬†hot¬†this¬†summer!

I loathe summer. It’s my least favorite season – because of the weather, because of the lack of structure, because I have zero time to myself. It’s been especially difficult since we moved into our house because it’s SO HOT that I can’t even function. We added a window air conditioner to the kitchen last year that at least helped when I was in there, but did little to cool any other room in the house. But this week we decided to invest in a REAL air conditioner! It’s still going to only cool the lower half of the house (with two window units upstairs), but I’m confident we’re all going to be so much more comfortable this year. Trust me, I will be a much happier person if I’m not sweating and breathing in muggy air 24/7.

I’m¬†going¬†on¬†vacation!

In less than three weeks Greg and I will be off on our 13 year anniversary Colorado vacation! I’ve been doing a lot of research and we at least now have a solid thirty or so awesome restaurant options (lol). I have quite a list of things to see and do too. I think it’s exactly the break from regular life that we need. Our schedule these last months of the school year are crazy town. It’s going to be wonderful to get a reprieve and spend some solid time together. Something that has been pretty sparse lately.

If¬†all¬†else¬†fails¬†–¬†books.¬†

Always reliable and always the best form of escape. And at least in my case – always abundant! I think I need to spend more time actively avoiding the internet related things that are stressing me out. Read more. That should always be the answer.

Okay, this concludes my personal pep talk. I guess it sort of became a defense of who I am and justification for why it’s okay to be me. But – it IS okay, and I’d do well to remember that!

10 Things to Tell You Prompt: What are you assuming about others?

I’ve been thinking about this particular podcast prompt for a couple of days now and I’m still not quite sure how I want to delve into it. Most of my assumptions about other people are in terms of how they must be thinking back about me. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t the point of the question, but that’s the only way my brain can seem to wrap around it. So I guess I’ll just go with it!

1 – I assume that nobody else is having the same struggles with their children that I am.

I definitely recognize that parenting is a struggle in one area or another for basically everyone. Nobody has a perfect child. Nobody is a perfect parent. I don’t mean to say that my struggles are WORSE than anyone else’s. But I also assume that nobody can really understand the exact kind of struggles we have. Unless you are my husband, I can guarantee you do not understand the full extent of the struggles we’ve had these last ten and a half years of being parents to our particular children. And sometimes in the worst of days it’s very easy to think that nobody else is going through what we are and couldn’t possibly understand what it is like.

2 – I assume that others do not think I am important/a high priority/a valued person in their lives.

Again, unless you are married to me, or you birthed me, I have a pretty steeped belief that nobody really cares all that much about me. I hold the assumption that most people that are connected to me just kind of put up with me. And if I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind. And often in sight, I’m also not really valued for what I can bring to the table.

3 – I assume other makers have their lives figured out.

This is a hard one for me. I follow a lot of other creative makers on instagram and facebook and they always seem to have their stuff TOGETHER. I feel like my own creative business is such a mess of trying to find balance, struggling to stay motivated, and debating on how to promote myself without feeling like I’m trying too hard. I hold the strong assumption that at least for most of them, they just sit down in the morning and work all day, nary a struggle to be had. Which is completely the opposite of how I feel in my own work.

4 – I assume nobody sees me or understands me completely.

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately and am not quite sure how to explain it, other than I feel like everyone I know can only relate to a small part of who I am and not a single person out there can feel connected to me as a complete person. I feel like the choices I’ve made in my adulthood have alienated me from a lot of deeper friendships and sibling/sibling-in-law relationships. And now that I have a handful of mom friends that relate to me in terms of family stuff, they don’t seem to have any of the extra stuff in common with me, which alienates me in different ways. I am in so many facebook groups filled with kindred spirits, but can’t seem to find any of those people in my real life. I don’t need or want to only be friends with people who are exactly like me. But lately I feel the differences between me and others have been so hindering with very little connecting points drawing us together anymore. It’s lonely to feel so misunderstood and outcast all the time.

5 – I assume other people think I’m a pretty crappy mom.

I feel like we’re getting into my deepest and darkest secrets now. This one has been at the forefront of my mind these last few weeks as some school/kid related issues have been brought up around town. It’s made me think about how little I know about what goes on in my boys’ days. I am a thousand percent not a helicopter parent and like to let my kids have freedom to make mistakes and try to figure out their own problems. I will of course advocate for them if a specific incident were to occur, but as long as they seem happy and healthy, I’m good. I feel like my kids are smart and learning well and it’s not my job to constantly be interfering with the system. If they were struggling, I’d feel differently. It just seems like lately, my lack of fight and vigor, might be misconstrued as simply not caring and being a pretty bad mom.

6 – I assume other families always have fun on vacation.

Please tell me I’m wrong on this. Guys, there is a reason that more often than not lately, I go on vacations BY MYSELF. I feel like family vacations are almost always disastrous. With the exception of our recent Florida trip, which still had some struggles, but was overall pretty good, every family trip we’ve ever taken has not been enjoyable, at all. Even my vacations with Greg are often disappointing. We just never want to do the same things or have different ideas of what a vacation should be (relaxing vs adventurous in our case). I get so excited about vacations and always come home from them full of regret. When other people go on vacation? It looks so fun and easy. It makes me wonder what in the world we’re doing wrong. Or, see #1 on this list.

7 – I assume everyone else knows who they are and are good living the life that they chose.

Ugh, this is a big one. I spend every day wondering about the choices I’ve made and trying to figure out the core of my identity. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I never know if I’m doing the right thing, living the life I should be, making the best choices. One day I feel like I have it all together and the next day I’m a total emotional mess. Why does it seem like nobody else has these struggles?!

8 – I assume that very few people are interested in this little blog I keep.

This just ties into everything I’ve already talked about, but I think about it all the time. I would love for my writings to be “popular.” I know that people look at my site because I can see the traffic statistics. But nobody comments, EVER. Only a handful of people I know follow my facebook page for post updates, and almost all of them are related to me in some way. I assume that if anybody was really my friend on facebook they would see that I also have a business page and a blog page and follow both, and if they don’t, they probably don’t care at all. I struggle with promoting myself and feeling self indulgent, trying to force people to know more about me if they don’t actually care. I assume that the people who do read this probably just do it to humor me. I hope saying all this doesn’t offend anyone, because I truly appreciate the ones that read all my posts. I just wish I could make more of this platform, but I don’t know how to do it, when I feel like the majority of the people in my real life aren’t interested, so why would strangers care?

Okay, I think that’s enough assumptions for one day! After re-reading this I kind of feel like I’m a very obnoxious and exhausting person to be around, so my assumptions must surely be true. But hey, I wanted to write more this week, and I am. Do with it what you will!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.13.2019

Despite my highest hopes, this last week went nowhere near as smoothly and joyfully as the week before. Mostly due to circumstances beyond my control, but…nonetheless, it’s been a pretty crappy week.

On Monday it was pouring, but I also really, really needed to run errands. I did them as quickly as possible in the midst of a horrible headache. Then I spent most of the day doing various food prep and trying to get a bit of work done. I felt so disjointed and frustrated for once again expecting too much of  myself and not living up to my own ridiculously high standards.

Monday night brought the terrible news that my uncle had been found dead in his apartment. I won’t divulge all the details, but cause of death is still unknown. He was very reserved and had really isolated himself from the rest of the family for over a year. We’ve all been in varying degrees of shock and grief as we try to deal with everything. My uncle didn’t have a significant other or any kids, so the bulk of taking care of everything he left behind has fallen on my mom and my remaining uncle and a few cousins. It’s an undertaking that nobody was prepared to deal with. But, it needs to be done.

That clearly set the tone for the rest of my week. I wasn’t sure if my help would be needed for anything, so I cancelled my Tuesday morning friend date and my Thursday craft night. I kind of went into a shell and just didn’t really want to interact with anybody. I barely knew my uncle, but it’s still so hard to realize he’s gone, and with it any opportunity TO know him.

Despite being in such a little pit of sadness, I tried to keep busy working and taking time to read and rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like I desperately needed to get out of the house and do something – anything – so I went to Walmart and just wandered around for over an hour and then stopped at a new coffee shop for a treat before heading back home to work some more.

Adding a bit to Thursday’s sadness, I was getting instagram bombardment of the start of that craft retreat I was supposed to be at. The AMAZING craft retreat at The Whatever Craft House in Kansas. The one I had my ticket to and then had to beg to be let out of once I realized my maker friend bailed on me and I didn’t want to do the 12 hour drives there and back by myself in unpredictable winter weather. I know in the end it was probably best I didn’t go. But it was pretty hard seeing everyone’s awesome photos and everything I was missing. I wish it could have worked out for me.

Friday morning brought a spark of joy when I got the email that my 23andme results were ready! I’ll maybe do a full post on this at a later date, but it was really exciting to see everything they could find out from my vial of spit! The ancestry reports were not much of a surprise since my mom’s side of the family has always kept extremely detailed records going back hundreds of years. But I loved that I could look even further in depth to see exactly which areas of the countries my ancestors were from. My Irish ancestors were from all over, but most heavily in the areas that I’ve visited myself AND were my favorite part of the country. My English ancestors are only from London, so I think I definitely need to add that to my travel bucket list. My German ancestors were from the northernmost regions. I didn’t get that far north in my high school trip to Germany, so I’ll have to go back there too. ūüôā Anyway, it was just really cool to see. And since my sister-in-law took the test last summer, I was able to combine my ancestry reports with hers so I can now give the boys definitive numbers on their own ethnicities. It has definitely gotten pretty muddy by their generation, but they are still predominantly 40% Irish/English, which is cool.

Knowing I really just needed to get out of the house, I kept my plans to go to lunch with my friend Laura. I worked in the morning and then she picked me up and we tried this new place called Full Mile in Sun Prairie. It was such a nice place! And really great to just have a chance to hang out with a friend. I desperately needed it. We prolonged our outing by getting Starbucks afterward and then shopping through Menard’s (lol).

I spent Saturday helping my parents, uncle, and two cousins start the work of clearing out my uncle’s apartment and looking for important paperwork that will help everything from now on go more smoothly. Honestly, it’s a task that’s probably going to take weeks. SO MUCH WORK. We all put in a full day and then went back again this morning. I bowed out after a couple of hours today. It’s overwhelming. My mom and uncle will continue to work all week while everyone else chips in between their jobs and families. I have another cousin flying in on Wednesday to help too. I hope for everyone’s sakes it starts picking up speed and can be completed earlier than expected. I think we made a lot of progress this weekend, but there is still a lot to go.

Sunday Intentions

Moving ahead to this week. I really need to get some work done. January is just flying by and I’ve not been as productive as I had hoped to be! I have eight dolls that are half done, so I’m hoping I can complete them by Tuesday afternoon. I also need to run a few errands tomorrow, but I was apparently very overzealous in my shopping last week as we still have a pretty full fridge! I should try and get some walks in with Annie too. I’ve been neglecting her (and my whole family). Actually, we did walk to school last Wednesday and Thursday since there wasn’t any ice and it felt SO GOOD. I think I’d be pretty happy if we just continue on with this almost snowless winter. It sure makes my life easier!

It sounds like Wednesday night as much family as available will be gathering for a dinner somewhere. The one good thing about a death in the family is that it brings everyone else closer. I’m kind of ashamed of how rarely I see my cousins that only live half an hour away from me. Not counting this weekend, it’s been an entire year and a half since we’ve been together. We’re all so busy. But maybe from now on we’ll try harder?

On Thursday, Greg and I are celebrating 19 years of being together. (We keep celebrating this since we were together 6.5 years before we got married, so this original anniversary still feels very significant!) We usually go on a fancy date every January, but this year I happened to see an awesome groupon deal, so we’re going on a little one night getaway. I do feel a bit bad going in the middle of everything that’s happening. But…it’s already paid for and everything and I think Greg and I need the little break from reality. The boys and Annie will have a sleepover that night at Grandma’s and then hang out at her house until we come back Friday, as there’s no school.

And I expect next weekend might be more family or apartment cleaning stuff. I’m leaving it open if I’m needed.

Anyway, that’s about it! A lot of unexpected emotions swirling around these last few days. But I’m trying to keep busy if that’s what it seems like I need or take breaks if that’s what I seem to need. I’m trying to keep my schedule pretty loose and flexible. It feels much better to help out when I’m needed, than to stick to some pre planned agenda. I think I need to work on being better about that in general.

Have a good week!

January 2019 Goals

Happy new year!

Is everyone as THRILLED to go back to school and work tomorrow as I am?! These last couple of days have seriously just sucked the life out of me. I think because we were so jam packed busy the first half of winter break, we’ve been ridiculously lazy and unmotivated the second half. I’ve resigned myself to only wearing pajamas because getting dressed is too much work. I’ve been eating super crappy food because I haven’t had the energy to go to the store and buy fresh food to cook with. I’ve been laying in bed for hours every afternoon because I don’t want to face any people or responsibilities, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep at night. I haven’t been getting any exercise and I haven’t been giving Annie any exercise, and I feel like I’m about to lose my mind with the constant noise of video games and annoying youtubers. I miss walking (no chance for awhile after the ice that showed up last night), I miss quiet, I miss listening to my podcasts and watching my tv shows during the day, I miss only having to make a meal for myself, I miss working, and did I say yet that I miss QUIET? Tomorrow is going to be awesome.

Anyway! Our New Year’s Eve celebration was really lame and barely worth mentioning. I got too tired to make the meal I planned on, so we had chicken nuggets and jalapeno popper dip for dinner, with giant cookies for dessert that nobody wanted¬† to eat because I mistakenly believed my family preferred crunchier cookies since they complain every time I make softer ones… I drank too much sparkling juice and felt painfully full, so I never opened up the wine I’ve had waiting in the fridge for at least four months when a celebratory alcohol needing moment might pop up. Greg was in a bad mood from the get go because there was a huge dump of heavy snow that took way too much time and energy to shovel away. I was in a bad mood because I was so strung out from being surrounded by loud and obnoxious noises the last twelve hours (plus eleven days). We settled in and watched the movie¬†Mowgli with the boys and sent them to bed at ten. And we finished the year watching¬†Bird Box. Both movies were way too stressful and angsty to pair with the moods we were all currently in to begin with. It’s the first year in ages that I actually stayed up until midnight, but I probably would have been better off just going to bed when the boys did. Lame city, you guys.

So I’m really excited to jump into January! Fresh starts and all that jazz. I’ve been pretty lax with my productivity in the last month, so it’s time to take a deep breath and tackle some big goals. Ideally I think I’d like to stick with about three accomplishable goals a month so I can readily have them on my mind with every decision I make. But I’m going to go a bit above and beyond this month and flat out expect more from myself. We’ll see how it goes.

1 – No excess spending

This is the biggest one. After six weeks of crazy present buying and being way too indulgent with picking up things for myself, I need a bit of a detox. My plan is to avoid all online shopping – not even any looking. No new books, coffee, clothes, snacks, or treats. The only things I’m allowed to buy are perishable foods and household items we absolutely can’t live without – like cat food, which is just about gone. But I’d also like to get more creative with a lot of the random food we have stored in the basement and figure out ways to use it before buying anything else. My only exceptions to this rule is if I find birthday presents for my mom and Shepard (the February birthdays), and if I find an awesome Valentine mug. Since I decided to have rotating seasonal mug collections, I’ve been itching to find one or two great Valentine choices. So if I happen to see one in one of the few stores I’m allowing myself to walk in this month, I have permission to buy it. ūüôā Everything else? Off limits.

2 – Lose 3 or more pounds by the 30th

I have my next doctor’s appointment on the 30th to recheck my liver levels and blood pressure and everything. I was doing so great for about two months, and this last week just totally let go again. My original goal for this appointment was to lose 10 lbs since my appointment at the end of October. I’ve been hovering at the 10 or 11 pound mark for the last month. I want to get a lot more strict with myself and push for at least 3 more pounds and obviously still a lot more after that.

3 – No fast food

I think going without fast food in November was really helpful to resetting my system. I didn’t go overboard in December, but I did stop for food three or four times simply because I was really hungry and that was easy. Really, going hand in hand with my no spending, I’m just not going to allow myself to eat anywhere unless it’s using one of my gift cards (Chipotle or Qdoba!), or on a date. Dates get a free pass for any kind of food.

4 – Make 20+ Valentine dolls

Valentine’s Day is one of my biggest holidays for sales. I think because I usually take most of December off and then I’m freshly motivated and start pumping out pink and red dolls in January, everyone is itching to buy them. I’ve picked up a lot of new fabric in the last few weeks and I’m really excited to start creating again. But hopefully only in small batches so I don’t overwhelm myself and get burned out. I think making 20 should be relatively easy, though. It’s a pretty quiet month. (so far!)

5 – Read 4 books from my shelves

In my new bullet journal I wrote out all the books I own that I haven’t yet read. Want to know the number? Probably not, lol. 113. And there are three smaller areas of my house where I didn’t even count those books. So, I have a lot of books to read! One of my favorite hobbies is researching new books and getting excited about all the possibilities. As I was organizing my shelves and writing down all those titles yesterday, I was so excited about the books I already have. I genuinely want to read a lot more of them this year, even though the majority of them are nonfiction.

6 – Have a great anniversary getaway

Desperate to get something on the calendar for just the two of us and not ready to plan an actual anniversary vacation in May yet, I found a really great looking hotel through Groupon and booked us a night in mid January to celebrate our 19th year of being together. I think it’ll be really great to have two full days to ourselves.

7 – Spend time with friends

I’m hoping this will happen! When a bunch of us got together a few weeks ago on two separate lunch occasions, we all made a point of wanting to do that more often. I already set up a craft night and plan to get back into hosting those as well. And I’m trying to get together with one of my friends who moved away. I don’t want the months to keep passing by with no girl time on the calendar. I’m going to make it happen!

I think that’s enough to keep me busy this month! Happy January, everyone!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

I recently discovered that instead of writing straightforward lists of resolutions and goals for the year, some people chose to write out what they’re looking forward to in the new year instead. It’s still a way to get your greatest hopes and dreams for yourself out in the universe, but you’re writing them as something to look forward to instead of something you have to do to make your life better. I loved this idea and became a lot more excited thinking about 2019 in these terms. I still fully plan on giving myself smaller accomplishable goals at the beginning of every month to truly focus my time and energy, but for the year as a whole I’m really liking this format instead!

In 2019, I am looking forward to…

1 – Becoming a healthier and more energetic human being.

I’m going to use what I’ve learned in the last two months and continue to take better care of myself. I’m going to go back to only eating the foods that I know will make me feel good and avoiding things like fast food which I know will make me feel bloated and gross the rest of the day. I’ll walk Annie as often as I can and find exercise videos to do in the house when I’m too freaked out to risk slipping on ice if I go outside. I’m going to continue to take my internal health into consideration with many of my choices because that’s what has a greater influence on my motivation than the number on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

2 –¬†Having a better work-life balance.

I think a lot of my work frustration in the last few years is that I expected to be able to just jump into making this a full time job now that my kids are in school all day. I need to – and I WILL – accept that I only have a part time job slot in my life right now. And THAT’S OKAY. The internal war has been waging for years on what I should be giving the most of my time to and no matter what option I choose, it feels like the wrong one. This year I am going to give myself grace and remember that sewing dolls is not the most important thing in my life. People matter more. Life happens. I still want work to be part of my life – but only PART. I’d like to strive for only working 20-30 hours a week with as few nights and weekends as possible. I’d like to prioritize my family and friends if I’m in a busy season where that truly matters more. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it or start worrying what other people think of me. I believe I can have the best of both worlds and this is the year I’m going to figure out how to do it.

3 – Going on vacations!

I’m excited about going on some fun and much needed vacations this year. Greg and I have a one night getaway scheduled in a few weeks to celebrate 19 years of being together. In early February we’re going to Nebraska to see Guster play with the Omaha Symphony. We may or may not bring the boys, but either way we’ll be staying with my brother and spending some time with Hudson too (as long as the weather holds out!). In the middle of February we’re all going Florida to see Universal and Harry Potter World with Greg’s parents, which should be an awesome family vacation. In August I have tickets to Book Bonanza, which will bring me to Texas for the first time. I’m hoping we can take an actual three or more night vacation somewhere new and special for our 13 year marriage anniversary in May or June. Greg has been talking about wanting to take one or both boys to San Francisco, so if that happens I’ll either do something special with the remaining kid or have one heck of a staycation by myself! We’re hopefully going to have a really full year of getting away and making some amazing memories.

4 – Reading all the books and tracking them closely.

Reading is and forever will be a huge part of my life. But it still deserves a big spot on what I’m looking forward to in the new year! I’m hoping that maybe audiobooks will eventually win me over and might start replacing some of my tv time. I think I could be much more productive sewing that way since I don’t need to constantly be looking at a screen! But I also have to get better at paying attention with my ears. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading MANY of the physical books I have on my shelves. I’ve re-fallen in love with physical books and may have gone a bit crazy buying them in the last six or so months. Now I need to read them! I’m also looking forward to tracking them much more closely on the Book Riot tracking spreadsheet, as well as continuing to track on my own spreadsheet and Goodreads and writing about them every month.

5 – Really just tracking all the things!

I’ve used a bullet journal for most of the past year and it’s been an awesome way to keep track of my daily to do lists, meal plans, work hours, gratitude lists, etc. This year I’m planning to take things a step further and track things like how much money we save, how much weight I lose, the dates we’ve been on, the books I’ve read from my shelves, as well as all my usual stuff – tv, podcasts, movies, happiness levels, etc. I want my bullet journal to basically be the one thing I can’t go a single day without sitting down in front of and writing in. Not because I have to, but because I love it so much.

6 – Writing more and reformatting my website so it’s more accessible.

I really do love to write! This year I’ve found the most joy in writing recaps and intentions and lists of things I’ve consumed each month, with books being my favorite. I feel like most of the stuff I write about is really personal and is probably much more interesting to me than anyone who happens to read it. And I’ve been okay with that. But I would like to try just a tiny bit harder at growing my readership. I will be more active on instagram to promote my posts, plus just more about my everyday life. And I’ll figure out how in the world to reformat my website so posts of similar content can be grouped together and easier to find. I have no clue how to go about doing that, but I will learn!

7 – Reenergizing my relationships.

Mostly with Greg. But also with friends. And maybe with Greg AS my friend and not just my parenting partner, which is sometimes what it feels like. I want to make monthly OUT OF THE HOUSE date nights a real and exciting thing that I cherish and look forward to more than anything else in the month. I want to kiss more and laugh more and find things to do together that we both enjoy besides just watching tv every night. I love watching tv together, but I think we need something more. I also look forward to spending more time with my friends and maybe making some new friends! This last year has been so weird with me being locked away in the house for so many months and everyone just being “too busy.” Well, guess what? If it’s important, we will make time. And I’ll start taking the initiative again to make sure those things happen.

8 – Using my cookbooks and making actual meal plans on a weekly basis.

I adore cookbooks. I have a ton of them. But when it comes to making my meals I always just look to pinterest because it’s fast and easy and convenient. But my cookbooks are overflowing with amazing inspiration and new ideas and foods that will bring us all joy and excitement. I plan to start with just picking one cookbook at a time and finding 2-3 meals I want to make from it in the next week or two. Nothing crazy or elaborate or stressful. Just take the five minutes it requires to open a book and find something fresh to make. It will be so worth it.

9 – Having one massive, mega, crazy garage sale and then donating whatever is left.

Our garage is overflowing with items that didn’t sell at our last garage sale, two years ago. I fully planned on having one last summer, but then didn’t feel up to it with my lack of walking abilities. This summer, hopefully right in early June, it will happen! And when it’s over I’m not going to save everything for some future sale. This is it. I want it all gone. It’s going to feel AMAZING to get rid of all those boxes of things we no longer need. It’d be great to make a little money in the process, but really – I just want it all gone.

10 РLearn how to be good at hand lettering. 

I usually have some hobbies at the back of my mind that I never seem to get to. This year the only thing I can think of are these two new hand lettering books and brush markers I got for Christmas. I would like to go through each of those books carefully, practice, and become pretty awesome at writing things out fancy and cool. I have no real purpose for this other than my bullet journal and my own enjoyment, but it’ll be worth it!

I think it’s safe to say that 10 is enough! I truly think that 2019 is going to be an amazing year. Happy new year, everyone!

Reflections on 2018

2018 was pretty much a year I would like to forget. Reflecting back, there’s really not a whole lot of joyous events that can redeem for all the sucky health related things that happened this past year. The whole year was just plain HARD. But I also think I learned a lot about myself and was able to come out ahead, despite all the trials I had to face.

January did get off to a good start with a lot of fresh enthusiasm for exercise and taking better care of myself. I did a 30 day yoga challenge and if I remember correctly, I only missed one day – if that. I was so proud of myself for following through on something that was really tough for me. I was also doing a lot of walking outside every chance I could. I was on track for really changing my habits around and getting in better shape. And then that awful day at the end of February went and ruined everything.

The day I slipped on that invisible bit of ice and broke my ankle in three places and severely sprained it enough to probably ruin my tendons forever was the worst day of my life. The proceeding surgery and months and months of recovery were a nightmare. The pain alone was horrific, but there was also so much stress and frustration and depression that came along with suddenly not being able to do ANYTHING for myself. There were weeks of slowly crawling across the entire house in blinding pain so I could shower and have one tiny bit of normalcy. Not that that was normal either since I had to wear a bag on my leg that cut off my circulation the entire time I had it on and I needed Greg’s help with everything. I lost control over what foods I could put in my body, what things needed to be shopped for, my ability to take care of my kids or Annie, and I felt completely useless, and worthless. You’d think with some forced down time I could have gotten some reading or rest in, but the pain was so bad and my concentration was completely shot. I was so angry and depressed all the time. I felt like I lost a lot of my friends, or at least the depth of our friendship. (Though the entire situation also showed me who my truest friends were, for which I am grateful.) When Greg had to go back to work I was suddenly on my own with a crazy hyped up dog that I couldn’t do anything for, even if she was practically attacking me because she desperately needed to go to the bathroom. The recovery was so much harder than I ever would have expected. Even now, 10 months later, I’d say my ankle is only at about 60% what it used to be, and the doctor told me that it might not get any better. That’s a sucky diagnoses at age 34.

On top of all my ankle stuff, which really just felt like what the entire year was all about, Greg was also going through some things and had to have surgery in August. It went fine, but he had to suffer through months of pain before the hospital could get around to putting him on the schedule. That definitely didn’t add any joy to our summer.

At the end of summer I was officially diagnosed with high blood pressure and was put on medication. A month later after a bunch of blood tests and an ultrasound, I was also diagnosed with mild fatty liver, which is basically an irreversible condition that happens when you’ve just spent thirty years not taking very good care of yourself. Both things were a huge wake up call that I think I really needed to finally make some changes in my diet. Both conditions would also really be helped with more exercise, but my ankle is still making that quite difficult, especially at this time of the year when I’m scared to death to walk outside for any reason if there’s even the tiniest possibility I might slip on snow or ice.

And to just add to everything else, I’ve also had an infected toe on my left foot for the last nine months. I was on three rounds of antibiotics that didn’t do a thing to help it. Finally, now, it’s just about back to normal.

We also finished up this year with both Shepard and Greg needing glasses. We are just on a roll with health crap. The good news, maybe??? We used up our massive deductible after my surgery at the end of February, so everything else the rest of the year has been “free.” But we also had to spend most of the year paying that deductible off which didn’t leave a lot of extra for vacations or fun.

Speaking of vacations, I did have to cancel my original spring trip I had planned to DC in April because of my ankle break. Originally the physician’s assistant told me that I should probably be okay to still take the trip, which in hindsight was absolutely ridiculous since I still couldn’t even walk without crutches until over a month after that trip would have happened! Fortunately, I was able to go in October and despite some lingering pain, I was able to enjoy it.

We weren’t able to have a big anniversary trip this year, but Greg and I did spend one night away at the end of May to celebrate 12 years together. Honestly, I was still in so much pain from trying to walk that I really don’t remember any of it.

In August, I was feeling well enough to go ahead with the trip I had planned to Minnesota to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing. I spent two days going to basically every TJMaxx and Marshall’s in the Twin Cities. ūüôā Then I drove down and met Greg and the boys in La Crosse for two more nights. That trip was overshadowed by the bedbug Greg found the first morning we were there. That was the first of not one, not two, but THREE bedbug scares/issues we had in three months. For the record, we never had any bedbugs in our actual house and the third issue turned out not to be bedbugs at all. But all three incidents were enough to make us wary of going to hotels ever again.

In September I was able to go on another little trip by myself to Chicago to see my favorite podcast, The Popcast, live. Greg’s sister joined me for the show which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that trip even more because I happened to come across an amazing vintage market on my drive down. I’m planning to go to that market annually, it was SO amazing. I finished up the month going to Cranberry Fest with my parents as usual. Though between my ankle and my mom’s hip, it was a bit more of a subdued adventure than usual.

One of the saddest things that happened this year is that my brother and his family decided to move to Nebraska for new jobs. It came as an incredible shock after the rest of the family made the wrong assumption that they were in Wisconsin to stay after they just moved back a year earlier. We’ve still been able to see Hudson about every two months or so, but it’s really sad we can’t all be more actively involved in each other’s lives the way we thought we were going to be when we were given that new (and only!) nephew/cousin.

In Heartstring Annie related news, despite being out of commission for a month or two after breaking my ankle, plus taking almost all of October and December off for more personal time, it’s been my biggest year for sales. I made 224 sales and sold 297 dolls. Plus all the dolls I made that didn’t sell, and dolls I made for gifts and giveaways. That’s a lot! It kind of surprises me, especially at the moment when I haven’t had a single sale in over three weeks. This year has really proven to me that the more I put into it, the more sales I will make. I have a big enough following now that when I make something new, it almost surely sells right away. I got a lot more creative this summer and pushed outside the traditional Raggedy Ann boundaries. It was really fun to follow my more artistic side instead of constantly letting “what people want” force my creative path. I’ve definitely had some serious ups and downs trying to decide if sewing dolls is really what I want to do with my life, but after a month of trying to let myself focus a lot more on writing – my other favorite careerish prospect – I realized that I really do like making dolls for money and keeping the writing as a hobby. So for now, that’s what I’m going to keep doing!

I do think that in the midsts of all our trials, Greg and I have become closer this year. I never could have gotten through those horrible months without him. Without a single complaint he took on full time parenting and dog caring all while still working his full time job and doing everything around the house and out of it. He was truly amazing. I don’t think I would have lasted a week if our situations had been reversed. I don’t believe caretaking is in my genetic code! We definitely still have plenty of ups and downs. It’s really hard to stay connected in this stage of parenting when our kids still need us and want us (mostly him) and our attention constantly. We’ve also gotten a lot busier this year. But he is an amazing partner in life and incredible dad and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. We’ve been trying to make date nights out of the house a more regular thing again and I look forward to prioritizing our marriage more in the coming year.

I think Caden has grown a lot this year as well. We still struggle – a lot. I might regret saying this, but I truly think he’s gotten better in the last few months. He’s becoming more mature. He’s also had to take on more responsibility, walking Shepard home from school when I couldn’t last spring. It worked out so well and I started feeling like it was such a waste of my time¬† to go myself that he picks Shepard up every day after school this year too. We continue to get raving reports from his teacher about how amazing he is in class – so helpful and smart and patient with his classmates. I still think he’s using up all that patience and helpfulness while he’s at school and saving very little for at home with his us, but…it’s okay. He’s getting there. I’ve been very proud of him lately, especially over the holidays when he’s usually at his worst. He’s really been great this Christmas.

Shepard continues to surprise me in how helpful he can be when he wants to be. He usually makes breakfast for both him and Caden every morning. For the kid who took seven years to fully potty train, it still comes as a surprise when he’ll just randomly start doing things that seem so beyond his years. Or at least things that are beyond Caden’s limited capabilities – usually in the kitchen. He has such a curious and silly spirit and is always up for new things and helping people with projects. Ask him to read for ten minutes or clean his room, though – NOT going to happen. His crazy stubborn streak is still very much alive and well!

And things continue to be well with my sweet babes. Jack and Rory turned 13 in April and are still healthy and well. Jack is starting to have some issues, but nothing decisive yet – he just drinks a ton of water and goes through a massive amount of litter. Both cats are pretty grumpy with each other and Annie, but love being around the four of us more than ever. And my beautiful Annie is happy and wild and still lives for the chance to play with other dogs at the dog park. Despite those rough few months (in which a few friends did help me out by bringing her out to play a few times a week), I think all three of the pets have had a really good year!

So looking back on the year, it was not as bad as it could have been, that’s for sure. I do think I grew as a person and I think I needed those internal health scares to really get me thinking about what I need to change to live a long and prosperous life. I can’t think of any ways that breaking my ankle helped me out. That just sucked. But it is what it is and I just have to keep working and hope it gets better. I’m glad to see this year come to a close, though. I think 2019 will be a much more exciting and joyous year and I can’t wait for it to begin!