Yearly goals

April catch up


When I set my word of CHOOSE for 2017 I was interested to see how I would manifest it in my life. I said that above all else I want to CHOOSE family and writing this year, the two things that are most important to me.

At the time I had a very full plate: working full time, parenting two little boys, co-running a household, co-hosting and producing two podcasts, co-owning Copper Quail Style, working part time as a freelance writer, exercising regularly, being active in a book club and trying to write for myself on this blog. On top of all that maintaining friendships and relationships with family, not to mention Chris!, which I want to add since that does require time and energy as well. WHEW.

I've realized that essentially since Dashiell was born - four years ago! - I've been filling my plate, heaping it ever more full. I've tried to be intentional about how I spend my time. And, indeed, when I surveyed all the things I was doing I saw relationships and pursuits that I loved. However, I was at a point where I was spending most days and nights working. I've had the energy to work post-bedtime since Dash was a baby because my creative work brings me fulfillment. But sometime in the past few months I started packing my days too full and wasn't giving myself enough time when I could not accomplish something. It made my full time work and creative work much less fulfilling and even stressful.

So, I did a lot of thinking. I decided to step away from Copper Quail Style, which was just launched last summer. I'm so proud of what my friend Becky and I created. Along the way I learned so much, which was one of my main goals with the venture. I am happy that it will continue in the capable hands of my friend. I also turned over the editing of Matrimoney to Chris, which gives me back a weeknight about every other week. I've also been intentional about not making many plans for the weekends and only trying to commit to things I really want to do (if they aren't required). 

What I have left on my plate feels much more manageable. I no longer have a stress knot in my stomach. Hooray! Taking things off my plate is so satisfying and has made a big difference for me already. I can already point to the following things that I've been able to do because I've made the room:

+ spend two or more weeknights reading and going to bed early

+ traveling to Austin to be with family with less than 24 hours notice and staying for five days after my grandmother passed away in early April

+ Making last minute plans to meet a friend for a Saturday morning park play date

+ Have one or more weekends per month with NO plans and having time for spontaneous family adventures

+ Working in the yard, which is something I love to do

+ Going for a long walk around our neighborhood after bedtime 

Reading The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck recently was great timing and emphasizes the importance of taking stock of what really brings you fulfillment and how you spend your time. In my case I don't think there are too many things that I don't care about taking up my time (I'm grateful for that and have worked to make that the case!) but I still just had too many things going on.

Taking a couple things off my plate has me thinking about how to get back even more unstructured time that I can spend with my family, writing and on other things. For example, I've been wanting to take better advantage of the amazing museums and cultural resources near us. I'm so excited to go to the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit in the next few months!  

It's good to shake things up every now and then, to take stock of values and compare that to how I'm spending my time. And look! Time to write a blog post, hurrah!

2017: CHOOSE


In October, even when it was still hot, my thoughts were pulled towards the new year and what goals I would set. My day to day was feeling too busy and I was craving reflection and focus. In six years of developing a practice of goal setting I've found that a few quiet moments, a blank piece of paper and a pen (or even a fresh note on my phone) can be incredibly calming and powerful.

By my own design and doing my life is full. In 2016 I filled my plate more than I ever have. I got a sense of where the edge is for how much I can handle without sacrificing (too much) from what matters - taking care of myself and being healthy, being the best parent I can be, and being a supportive, present partner to Chris. 

A new year is an opportunity to reflect and focus, or refocus. Recently I came across a quote from Nikki McClure, the artist of the beautiful calendars I buy every year. She says:

"'What should I do differently?'  sounds much better than 'What should I have done differently?'" What a perfect sentiment for starting a new year.

All this was on my mind when deciding on my word and intention for 2017: CHOOSE. 

Here's how I want to practice CHOOSE in 2017 the goals that will support my intentions...

CHOOSE family and writing

When I ask myself what truly matters to me, what brings me fulfillment above all else, the answer is so clear to me: family and writing. When I'm faced with a new opportunity or a request for my time I want to choose family and writing above all else. For new commitments that would take away from time with family or writing I want to be ready to say "no," unless they return significant fulfillment (or are required of course).  Ultimately how I spend my days is how I spend my life and I want my days to reflect family and writing.

In addition, I want to lean in to my writing craft. I'm hoping to blog consistently at least once a week, or more, and to explore submitting essays or ideas for publication. This inspired a daily writing goal:

+ Practice creative writing for at least 15 minutes each day. Any writing for work doesn't count for this. My creative writing includes blogging and writing in the memory journal that I keep for the boys. I plan to use the same daily goal tracker that I did last year to establish a daily sunscreen habit.  

CHOOSE gratitude

Gratitude, like goal-setting, is a powerful practice and one that can be done anywhere without anything. I've written before about cultivating gratitude, like appreciating our house as it is, and while I do feel that I've cultivated a practice of gratitude, it's one that can always be strengthened.

For example, even though I've come to really love our home I'm always seeing things I'd love to change. It's a fun ongoing project for me, and especially so as I'm starting to feel more confident in expressing my taste and style in our home. But it's a fine line of being excited to make changes reflective of our style versus falling into the "want, want, want" and comparison mentality or to see every single thing that needs a fix or update.

Parenting two little boys can certainly bring frustration. Especially when I feel as if I can't complete a task or the house is a wreck. I want to choose gratitude in those moments as well. I can be thankful for my boys and being their mother, and remember that the house being clean isn't what matters. I know these years, while so demanding, will be what I look back on with nostalgia and longing, and I'm grateful to be living them now.

+ Be cognizant of thoughts of comparison or frustration and actively choose gratitude. 

CHOOSE action

I'm anxious and at times overwhelmed by the events in our country and around the world. I have mostly disconnected from the news for this reason although I do want to be aware. As we head into a new year I'm anxious about the new administration and president of this country and about the atrocities taking place abroad. Instead of dwelling in worry or sadness I want to CHOOSE action towards creating the world I want to see. This will include:

+ Creating a contact sheet for my local and national representatives. I want to make my voice heard and to pay more attention to how my representatives are voting. I learned from Pantsuit Politics that a phone call can be more impactful than an email. 

+ Make a list of nonprofit organizations to support. I can make a donation in a matter of minutes and support the people doing good and heroic work around the world.

CHOOSE savings

In 2015, Chris and I laid out an aggressive savings plan for ourselves. We want to save close to $100,000 in five years so that we can pay off our mortgage or achieve some kind of significant financial flexibility. In 2015 we saved $20,000, in 2016 we saved $16,000 and we have a goal of saving $20,000 in 2017. 

We had a little breakfast goals meeting recently and went over our budget and savings goals. We both need to commit to sticking to our personal allowance/entertainment spending each month, and to be better about tracking spending on gifts and the house. I want to be very intentional about spending and tracking my money. I want to CHOOSE savings over buying, knowing that saving will get us closer to our big goal. To CHOOSE savings I want to:

+ Check Mint at least once per week, categorize transactions, and assess monthly budget spending.

+ Have twice-monthly budget review meetings with Chris. We talk about finances all the time but have gotten away from sitting down with our computer, looking at Mint and the budget, and having more in-depth conversations. These budget meetings always make me feel more committed to our budget and saving so I think it would be a great tool as we work towards our big goal.


And that's it! I'm excited about these CHOOSE goals but also curious how my intention will manifest in other ways this year. 

Wishing you light and love as we start a new year together! Happy 2017!

2016 (ha! Dash is wearing the same sweater!)






The Year of Kelsey in review

Year of Kelsey in review | RISING*SHINING

Every year is significant but this past year felt especially so for personal growth. Heading into 2016 I hoped that over the year I would begin to emerge from the intensely demanding period of having two boys under three, waking many times during the night and breastfeeding. I was looking forward to reclaiming my body and energy, and focusing some of that new-found energy on myself.

So I declared 2016 The Year of Kelsey. I made goals of building a capsule wardrobe, a capsule skin care and makeup routine, going on creative field trips and traveling by myself. I worked on these goals all year and as The Year of Kelsey wraps up I feel really good about the progress I made.  

+ Create a capsule wardrobe of timeless, quality pieces.

I started 2016 with a limited wardrobe. I had worked to get rid of clothing I didn't love to wear or that I was just never going to fit back into - despite losing just about all of my pregnancy weight there are just changes in my body that are here to stay!

I've been "figuring out" my style for a while and am finally starting to feel confidence in what kind of clothes I want to wear: classic, pulled-together, understated and with a hint of my modern aesthetic. I've also realized that I prefer simplicity and eliminating choice. I don't love shopping and while I do have a style preference I don't want to spend time and effort on my style. I want to buy clothes that fit well and look great and then wear those until they wear out.

Over the year I invested close to $1,000 to update my wardrobe. There are still items I would love to add to my capsule wardrobe, like tall boots, but I've eliminated stress about clothing from my life. I don't feel an urgency to purchase new clothes because I feel like "I don't have anything to wear." And the clothes that I do have feel like good expressions of the style I want to have. It feels really good.

Here are some of my favorite items of clothing purchased this year:

+ High-rise skinny ankle jeans. Were these jeans designed specifically for me? Unlikely. But they are my favorite jeans ever so I like to think that maybe they were. I only have two pairs of jeans - in dark denim wash and dark grey - and they are this cut. 

+ Black blazer. I've wanted to wear a blazer for years and I still get a tiny thrill every time I wear mine. Wearing a blazer makes me feel so pulled together. I wear it to work now that it's cooler or with jeans and a blouse for a date.

+ Flowly blouses. Pictured above, and similar to this and this.

+ 24/7 classic t-shirt bra. Favorite bra I've ever owned. I have two and plan to get another this year.

+ Pea coat. In my signature plum color. :) 

 + Create a capsule skin care and beauty routine.

Similar to my feelings about clothes, I don't want to spend a lot of time or mental energy on skin care and makeup. I want to take care of my skin and have a makeup routine that leaves me looking pulled together but natural (and diminished tired eyes, ahem). But I don't see myself ever being someone who has multiple mascaras or eye shadows. I want to find the one thing that works for me and then not think about it.

To figure out what to buy I read my favorite Beauty Uniform posts and talked to girl friends for makeup recommendations. (Last year, Erica and I chatted about beauty uniforms if you'd like to listen in.) And over the year built a skincare routine that I love and that leaves my skin feeling healthy and smooth. This includes wearing sunscreen daily which is a habit I set out to acquire in 2016. 

I also started consistently painting my nails this year! Thanks to tips and encouragement from my neighbor and nail guru Erica. I've mentioned that I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles and painting my nails helps with this so much.

Here are my favorite finds:

+ Orly Bonder base coat, Seche Vite top coat and Essie nail colors. Using these I can paint my nails on the weekend and the color will last through the week with minimal chips. My favorite color right now is Carry On, and I love to do one nail with Penny Talk.

 + Paula's Choice toner and exfoliator. I also loved this article and this one explaining what these products do (granted, they are written by the company but I still found them helpful). I've noticed that my skin feels smoother and looks healthier when I use these consistently. Plus I love the simple twice-daily routine of wash-tone-exfoliate.

+ Paula's Choice Resist Youth Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 - my daily sunscreen. Light, non-greasy and no lingering scent of sunscreen.

 + Go on at least three creative field trips.

I love the idea of creative field trips - any kind of outing with the simple goal of being creatively inspired. This year Chris and I attended a talk by Johnny Depp, I went to a lunch-time poetry lecture and recorded my birth stories as part of the Creative Push project.

Certainly I found inspiration at many other times this year but having a creative field trip goal did help me to glimpse all the creativity and art that surrounds me. I'd love to keep seeking it out and have plans to see Push Comes to Shove: Women in Power with this awesome lady in early January.

+ Take a solo trip.

This is one I didn't get to do. But I did have an awesome writers' retreat with Erica and Sarah and an amazing adventure to the Pacific Northwest with Chris. While a solo trip didn't happen this past year I'd love to make from time to time. Although I love to meet new people and be social I'm an introvert and relish quiet and time alone.


Becoming a mother a little over three and a half years ago was the most significant and best change of my life. It's a role and identity that is the most demanding and the most rewarding. As the boys get older I have more time and energy to invest in myself, and over the past year I felt that shift. My Year of Kelsey goals highlighted the importance of investing in myself even as I give so much to others.

This year I invested in a foundation for taking care of myself - a quality wardrobe and reflecting on my style, taking care of my skin and finding a simple makeup routine, nurturing my creativity, and traveling without my children. By establishing this foundation I don't have to spend as much energy on these things in the future (especially the wardrobe and skin care/makeup) which lets me extend myself to things that really matter, like my family and my creative pursuits. A perfect place to start a new year.

P.S. New Matrimoney episode today is us chatting about our 2016 finances - what we made and where ti all went.

Committing to daily sunscreen

Committing to daily sunscreen | RISING*SHINING

We all know that the secret to keeping your skin health and looking young is to protect it from the sun (not to mention to prevent skin cancer). Despite knowing this my habit of using a daily sunscreen was, until recently, a B- at best, maybe a C.

Starting in high school I would occasionally get into a habit of using a daily  moisturizer with SPF although it never seemed to stick, I think because I never found a product that I loved. But I live in Arizona where we have 300+sunny days per year. Even if I'm just driving to work or at my office desk next to a window I'm getting sun exposure, eeek! Suddenly my C on sun protection seems like a critical issue to address.

And so, starting January 1 this year, I set out to commit to a new habit of wearing sunscreen every! single! day! Because the sun is so intense here I want to wear an SPF of at least 50. I purchased La Roche-Posay mineral sunscreen SPF 50 because of Gemma's rave reviews in her Beauty Uniform profile (my favorite Beauty Uniform profile yet). I like the product a lot and mix it with Trader Joe's Nourishing Daily Moisturizer. However, La Roche-Posay is not cruelty-free and so when I finish the bottle I plan to look for a different product, perhaps Paula's Choice?

Committing to daily sunscreen | RISING*SHINING

To add accountability to my new habit I purchased Elise's 2016 goal tracker. I had it printed on cardstock and used magnets to put it inside my bathroom medicine cabinet. Every morning after I put on my sunscreen and moisturizer I fill in the day's circle with a highlighter (which I'm keeping in my bathroom drawer). I'm surprised at how motivating filling in a little circle is and how much I hate to miss a day. I think I'm on my way to a new habit and fabulous skin when I'm 70!



Hello 2016, come on in and make yourself right at home!

I love to greet a new year and after the intensity and sleepless nights in 2015 I am even more eager to jump into 2016. The boys are at great ages and I already feel a shift happening in our lives from a "someone always needs something right now!" phase of parenting to "hey I think we can handle this (most of the time)!" phase of parenting. And we are hopeful that soon we'll have two boys sleeping through the night consistently (even if they wake up in the 5 am hour...) which feels like a game-changer.

Chris will be on sabbatical during the fall which should have a relaxing effect on our whole family (since he won't have the usual teaching and meeting demands). Plus sometime in the next few months I will finish nursing Cedric and will end three and a half years of continuous pregnancy and/or breastfeeding (I can't believe it)!

Which brings me right to my theme of 2016: The Year of Kelsey.

It's a little cheeky but I am serious about earmarking time and money to invest in myself. I recognize that I do a lot and pour myself into parenting and working and maintaining relationships, all happily so, but I have a sense that investment in myself will go a long way to being able to continue to bring so much energy to my relationships and endeavors. 

I've been looking forward to some of my 2016 goals for a while knowing that 2015 wouldn't allow for much outside of just trying to find routine. And so I'm happy to share what I'm planning to accomplish in 2016 for The Year of Kelsey and otherwise:

+ Create a capsule wardrobe of quality, timeless pieces.

I've been thinking about this since I was rotundly pregnant and very far away from being able to fit into a wardrobe that would fit me for years. Our endeavors in simplifying plus the fact that I really don't enjoy shopping for and thinking about clothes have me eager to work on this. I'll share more about how I plan to create my capsule wardrobe soon which includes trying out Stitch Fix!

+ Create a capsule skin care and make-up routine.

At 32 it's time to get really serious about taking care of my skin, including sunscreen (we get 300 sunny days a year here!). I want to find quality products and a simple routine that make my skin feel great. And then I want to not have to make decisions about skin care and make up for a while because, like shopping for clothes, it's not a place where I want to spend much energy. As I do some research and make decisions about the products I will buy I'll be sure to share, and I'd love to hear your tips! I'm particularly interested in products that are cruelty-free.

+ Go on at least three creative field trips.

I first heard of the concept of creative field trips through Elise's podcast and I love the idea. I firmly believe you must fuel your creativity and that's what these field trips will be for. One might be to see a museum exhibit, or to go somewhere interesting and write. I'm not sure yet what I'll do but I know that the point will be the experience and not necessarily producing anything at the time.

+ Take a solo trip.

About half way through 2015 I started to look forward to the end of pumping and as an encouragement decided that I would treat myself to a solo vacation of at least two nights once I finished nursing completely. Since July 2012 I have been continuously pregnant and/or breastfeeding and when this chapter of my life is finished I want to set aside time to celebrate everything my body has gone through and entering the post-baby mothering years.

+ By the end of the year, eat dinner all together at the table more often than not.

Currently we do eat dinner together each night, but it's gathered around the kitchen island and rarely at the dining room table. As the boys get older I'd like to shift our dinners to the table.

+ Save $20,000 in an investment account towards paying off our mortgage.

In 2015 Chris and I set a goal of saving $100,000 in an investment account over the next five years with the goal of paying off our mortgage and giving ourselves significant financial flexibility. We achieved our goal of saving $20,000 in 2015 and we hope to do the same in 2016. We have potential travel plans that might challenge our savings goal but I think the mark of a good savings goal is that it should hurt at least a little bit so we're going for it.

HAPPY 2016, friends! I'd love to hear what you're planning for 2016.