My To-Do List

If you’ve spent any time with me lately, you’ve likely NOT heard me ramble about work-life balance…because it’s so raw and I don’t know what to say.  My work-life balance has been changing a little bit after several years of being in bare minimum career maintenance mode, and it’s weird.

Since I ramped up my efforts to build my client list (a marketing effort which consisted mostly of prayer and not immediately screaming “NO” when someone made a referral), I have been blessed with a steady stream of clients and work. I am no longer working “very” part-time; I work part-time. This comes with increased client management responsibilities, more deadlines to keep track of, and some slight changes in personal identity.

For about two months, I’ve been saying “I probably need to start saying no to any new projects”—but in those two months, I’ve said “no” exactly 0 times.  Here’s why:

-I genuinely like the projects and am so jazzed by (most of) the work that I do. I take on my clients’ missions and invest in my students’ futures.  I love getting e-mails from students thanking me for helping them learn and grow, coming back from meetings with my brain whizzing with ideas, and getting lost in research as I write narratives for my clients’ grant proposals.  I didn’t have an outlet for my passions, I’m not sure that my life would feel as meaningful. I know that I am called to be a present and engaged mom, but I don’t feel called to push down all of the things that I know and can offer the world in favor of having empty laundry baskets.

-It’s hard to say no to new clients who want to work with me, or to existing clients who would be a great source of continued business when I have a long-term interest in building a small business (or at least a job for myself) in this field.

-My counted-on contribution to our family income is all I “need” to do. But outside of that, I have hopes and dreams for our house, vacations I want our family to go on, and 529 accounts that I want (“want?”) to fill up.  Contract/freelance work = $.

Coming back to reality, however: at this point, all of my scheduled childcare time for the fall is booked with projects…so any new “yes” I say to work is a “no” to time with my kids, family, and/or personal time.

It’s tough to figure out the right balance between “this project pays for a month of your preschool tuitions, freeing up funds for a family vacation that will build priceless memories” and “this project makes me miss time with you and/or takes up any time I have to recharge, resulting in memories of time with a babysitter or a cranky mom.”  And I’ve had to accept that I’m not going to make the right call 100% of the time, because actually saying yes is new.

Trying new things is messy.  Add that to a life that was already a little less than put-together and it’s…well, messier.
photo-on-1-20-16-at-7-48-amBut there’s fun in the mess.  And with every messy challenge comes opportunity.

And so: I think that the challenge for me at this intersection of my kids’ development and my business growth will be to clearly define and act from my values.  The time I spend parenting will change and fluctuate as my kids move towards school readiness, but the value of my parenting time will not decrease, and the quality of that time should not, either.

This challenge also means I have the opportunity to experiment with new projects, clients, and work styles and schedules—and the opportunity to learn more about myself, my family’s needs, and what my future could look like—IF I pay attention.

Also, I realize that I am SO blessed to have these opportunities and choices. When I was fresh out of college, I wrote a description of my dream job. I wanted to work for a nonprofit organization, write professionally, be an adjunct professor, have the flexibility to work from home and coffee shops instead of always needing to be in an office, be able to cook a hot lunch (LOLZ, clearly of the utmost importance), and have time during my day to exercise, play with my then-imagined kids, and invest in other people.  In other words, way too many things, some ludicrous things, and also essentially what I do now.

The kicker is that when I left full-time work, I didn’t intentionally set out to achieve this life; I was just taking steps of obedience and looking, like, one foot ahead until I suddenly looked up and realized that I am actually living that dream (minus the daily hot lunch because it turns out that once I had more than one child, I began to struggle to even make a basic sandwich. If we could slightly tweak the goal to “making a latte after lunch,” though, nailed it). 

Even though this life is what I dreamed of, it’s not always perfect or easy or 100% fun.  It’s called “work” for a reason!  So when I begin to angst about the difficulty of balancing work and family and my soul, I have begun to tell myself: you are tired.  It’s time for a break.  Go for a walk with a friend.  Talk with your husband.  Watch a show.  Read a book.  Write a blog post.  Go to bed.  If your lifestyle can’t support Sabbath—something needs to change. 

In the morning, I wake up and journal and pray.  And towards the end of writing my honest reflections to God, I am always startled to realize that I didn’t have a situational problem; I had a gratitude problem, or was tired, or just needed to say no, or needed to set up an extra babysitting day but also plan a fun family activity to balance it out.  It isn’t actually that hard when you don’t carry all the burden of doing all the things perfectly all the time.

I don’t always know the “right” answer to the “should I take on this client/project” question.  And I won’t always get it right.  But generally, if I pause before responding, prayerfully consider a project, and move it through the filter of the important “to-do” list that I have developed below—I might.

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My to-do list: 

(1) Be an engaged and present mom and wife. I am there for my people when they ask me to be. I put down my thing/to-do and engage when they want to engage. I stick to clearly defined work times and don’t multi-task.  I work in my office or at my Starbucks office—not in the playroom.  I may leave things unfinished at times; this bugs me but I choose the better thing.  I’m there—fully present—for the big moments.

IMG_5178.JPG(Zoe before her first day of weeklong camp this summer! I was happy I could be there to talk her through nerves at drop off and see her excited face at pick-up.)

(2) Manageable and enjoyable work. I curate my projects/clients to a manageable list. As possible, I go for the enjoyable projects. I don’t need to “wow” on every project—meeting expectations is okay.

(3) Treat my soul with respect.  My life has time for quiet time.  I make time and space for a weekly Sabbath—a day or two with no “work work,” unless it’s one of my two grading hell weeks.  I make space for fun things with friends that seem like a waste of time from a productivity standpoint, because these friendships so greatly enrich my life and fun is actually important. I fight for alone time now and then.  I make time for reading. I pay attention to patterns in myself.  If my physical, mental, and emotional self all feel ragged—I talk about it and make some changes.  I “find rest in the incompleteness of the present moment as I learn to recognize the goodness of what is, [and trust] that what is needed for the future will be added at the proper time” (Sally Breedlove, Choosing Rest).

On that note, I’m going to go to bed!

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What I’ve Learned Working Part-Time

I dream of being part of a really cool community of part-time working moms who occasionally get together for coffee and conversation about their experiences and how they make it all work. In reality, I don’t know many moms who work part-time, despite efforts to meet them.

So, in case you’re a part-time working mom who also feels a little isolated from the full-time SAHM conversations AND the full-time working mom conversations, I’ll initiate and share what I’ve been learning along this journey…and I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

What I've Learned

1. I’ve learned to define my own success.  

I recently stumbled on this fabulous video with personal examples of what I’ve learned over the last 2.5 years—that “success” can (and should) have a very personal definition.

To me, “success” in this stage of life means being with my girls most mornings and afternoons, taking on projects that excite and challenge me yet have fairly predictable project timelines, building skills and relationships that will help me transition to increased employment in the future, achieving a certain profit margin between my childcare expenses and the work that I take on, and achieving a certain yearly income. “Success” right now also means only taking on projects that are 90% portable and able to be done from home (or the beach, or my parents’ house, or wherever the fun flexibility of SAHM life may take us…yes, I’m spoiled!) 

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To someone else, this vision might not seem very “successful.”  To another person, it might seem overwhelming.  But for me, it’s perfect, because it’s my version of success.

2. I’ve learned that God will give me enough time to do the things I’m called to do.

God does not call us to lives of frustration and striving—He wants to equip us for the tasks that are ours.  I’ve learned over the last 2.5 years that the things that matter most (from God’s perspective!) WILL happen if I prayerfully surrender my time to God and let Him assign and direct my steps.

Letting Him assign my steps means that I recognize that I’m not in charge of what I take on—that I have a running dialogue with God about what tasks are actually “mine” and what should be someone else’s.

Letting Him direct my steps involves a lot of short prayers about my priorities each day, praying that He will let me know what is most important in that day, in that hour, in that minute for me to do.  I pray that He can help me focus and work productively and energetically on what is most important to Him.  And then I try to listen for His voice of “this is important now” or “this isn’t important now” and actually obey.

3. I’ve learned to accept that sometimes the house wins, and sometimes work wins. 

It has been critical for me to accept that some days/weeks/seasons are more work heavy and others are more house-and- family-needs heavy, and that I can’t hold myself to a standard of perfect balance between the two.

I also can’t expect myself to do both roles perfectly.  I am not a full-time housewife.  I am not a full-time worker.  My attention is divided because of the roles I have chosen.  I’ve had to accept that, and part of that means that I have given up on trying to be outstanding at both domains all the time.

I try to let whatever is most important win—not what is most pressing.

Sometimes, this means relaxing my standards for house cleanliness or what constitutes a healthy meal, working through all of the “relaxation” time in a weekend because I have a work project, or barely parenting for 20 minutes.

Photo on 9-22-14 at 8.18 PM8:18 pm.  If you aren’t going to sleep, you’re going to watch me write a grant.

Other times, this means putting a project away before it’s “perfect” to drink a glass of wine with David, folding laundry instead of taking careful notes while on a conference call, or saying no to a speaking engagement because the event is being held during Zoe’s swim lessons and I enjoy watching her swim.

I don’t always choose the right domain to focus on.  But I am grateful to have both, and try to steward both well.

4. I’ve learned to own—and learn from—my choices.  

If I get stressed or aggravated with the balance of a certain time, I remind myself that each season is the result of my choices.  I’ll lean into whatever needs to be done and finish it up—but I also pay attention to see if I can learn anything.

For example, I worked with a client who has great programming and a good reputation.  It’s easy to win grants for them (in 15 hours of work, I helped them win over $75,000). But it was hard to write grants for them because they ignored project timelines and gave me information last minute.  Their work style (which I could not change) resulted in me spending multiple afternoons working while Riley sat in an Exersaucer fussing and Zoe watched TV (this is NOT my parenting style).

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It was tempting to stay on the client, because winning grants builds my reputation and shows that I am “successful.”  But I didn’t feel successful at my other, more important role as a mommy when I worked with this client.

I recognized that I was choosing stress by choosing to keep working with this client, so I passed them on to someone else who could accommodate their last-minute work style.  I now ask more questions about a client’s work style before accepting them as a client.

I have learned that I don’t operate in a vacuum.  Every time I accept a new project, I’m choosing a little extra stress and maybe some time away from my family, and so I have learned to think carefully about the project to make sure it’s worth it.  Sometimes, it is, and I say yes and own the choice I made and its implications.  Other times, I say no and remember that I’m not “losing” them—I’m choosing something better—and own that choice.

I’ve also realized that by working part-time, I end up missing out on a few opportunities.  My girls miss playdates and parties sometimes because of my work schedule, and I can’t always relate well to the conversation topics or stressors of full-time SAHMs or working women or feel understood by them.  But again, I recognize that this is a result of my choices—choices I am blessed to have.

5. I’ve learned how to schedule work time.  

Right now, I work 10-12 hours a week & have childcare 6 of those hours.  I’ve played around with different levels of childcare and different times of day for the childcare.  I’m pretty fond of my current 2-5 pm twice a week, because honestly, 2-5 is my least favorite time of day with my kids and they’re probably better off with someone else twice a week during that time.  I get to do all the fun morning activities with them, and then leave them in someone else’s energetic arms.  No guilt in that!

2 pm isn’t naturally my strongest work time, but I’ve learned to make it so (and coffee helps).

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Also, since I do about 50% of my work in hour-long spurts during the girls’ naptime, I’ve learned to leave good notes for myself about where I stopped and where I was headed when I end a work session.  I keep a master deadline spreadsheet and do some weekly planning each Sunday to map out the week’s work tasks.   Each naptime and work session has a task and a list of back-up tasks, which (mostly) keeps me from puttering.

6. I’ve learned to savor this wonderful gift.  

I am very grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work, both with my girls and with students and clients.  I am thankful that our world has evolved enough that I can contribute to it beyond my role as a mommy.  I am proud and thankful that my 2.5 year old does this:

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and that she also sets herself up at my desk and says:

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“I work like mommy.” 

This is a beautiful life.

What I Do

I have been trying to write a variation of this post for a few months.  Every time I sat down to write it, the words that came out were academic, impersonal, distant.  I had a truth I wanted to share, but somehow, it was getting stuck.

Start with the personal.  The answer came tonight as I made pizza for my family.  As I spread the pesto and washed the mushrooms and grated the cheese, the words began.  And as I am learning to do, I baked the pizza and plated the food and praised the toddler and put the pajamas on and sang the goodnight song, holding off the flow of words but not losing the spark.  And now I sit down to write these words, that once were choked and now are loud:

I am finally proud of what I do. 

So here’s the personal: when I first became a stay-at-home-mom, I was proud of myself for making the decision to stay home, but I felt mixed about the decision itself.   I was proud that I had made the decision based on my values instead of societal pressure, but I still felt societal pressure.  Additionally, my success at work had become a huge part of my self-worth, and taking it away left some definite holes (this actually prompted some positive growth, but growth isn’t always easy).

On a day-to-day basis, caring for my daughter and seeing the benefits of my work with her took away this angst.  I knew I had made the right choice for her, and honestly, I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, so it felt like the right choice for me as well.

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But when I had to admit to other adults what I did full-time, it was a different story.

For about a year after leaving my full-time job, I dreaded the “so, what do you do?” question that people would ask at parties and networking events.  I didn’t know what to say.  Did I tell them what I was capable of, or what I was currently doing?

After a few social events fraught with these instances of panic and pause, I asked David, “what do I say when people ask me what I do?!”

He mildly replied, as someone who was not experiencing an existential crisis would, “maybe say what you do?”   

But to me, the answer “I’m a stay-at-home mom” somehow reflected “I am June Cleaver and hoped and dreamed that I would find fulfillment in the home as a homemaker.”

I knew people who had dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom since second grade.  These are the same people who spend lots of time on Pinterest and who can make pie crusts from scratch.  THOSE people were the stay-at-home moms.

I was not.  I hadn’t spent my whole life waiting to be a wife and mother; I was surprised when I wanted either.  I liked working and advancing professionally.  I’ve only made two pies ever, and both burnt.  And so even though I found myself happy as a stay-at-home mom, it didn’t seem like enough. 

So, “I used to be a —–” is what I would settle on, feeling like a fraud, “but now I’m a (hurriedly under my breath) stay at home mom and I do consulting work part time on the side too.  Man, this bruschetta has a kick! Gotta go get some wine! I hope I never see you again and that you don’t remember this conversation at all!”

It’s hard to put into words exactly why this role was hard to own, but I think some commentary from our culture will help:

From an article on depression among executive women: 

“Choose a female-friendly employer, said Harriet Greenberg, a partner at Friedman LLP, an accounting firm in New York City. Its open-door policy and flex-time option help women cope. If a woman stays home for a few years to chase kids, ‘she’s welcomed back,’ she said.”   (Source, emphasis mine.  The semantics kill me! We couldn’t possibly be imparting anything of VALUE during those times with our kids…nope, just chasing them).

From a conversation last Friday with a new colleague: 

“So, what did you do before children interrupted your life?”

From a conversation with a man (who has children!) two summers ago: 

Him: “So, you left your job? Do you actually find that spending your day caring for your child is fulfilling?
Me: “Yes, I do.”
Him: “Really??”

From a conversation with a recent (female) college graduate: 

“I bet you can’t wait to get back to work, huh?”

I’m not trying to be overly sensitive, nor am I skewering anyone quoted above for their word choices.  These comments and excerpts reflect a larger debate in our culture over the value and necessity of a stay-at-home parent.  I understand why we have that debate, and from a sociological and historical perspective, I think it’s important that we keep discussing it.

But I hope that conversation evolves a little to say this: act from your values, ignore the critics and “shoulds,” and make yourself proud.    

As a woman, I’ve been told everything from you should of course stay home with your kids; how could you leave them? to if you don’t go back to work, you’re betraying all women. How do you ever expect your daughter to respect you if you don’t?

On that spectrum, I’ve experienced everything from congratulations, you’ve made the best decision for your kids! to rolled eyes at a university faculty meeting when I said that I was a mostly stay-at-home mom and an abrupt silence at a professional luncheon when I mentioned my kids.

But I’m learning to be okay with it.  Because it’s my life, and I’m acting from my values.  Yes, they are values that surprised me, but it’s okay to be surprised by the evolution of your life. Accepting that evolution is called “growth.”

Since becoming a mostly stay-at-home mom who works an average of 5-8 hours a week, I’ve earned $40,000 in grant funding for nonprofits, taught college classes, trained youth professionals, nonprofit employees, youth, and parents in our area, and helped a nonprofit organization completely recreate its evaluation plan to better measure their impact, to name a few projects.

But the most important thing I do? Undoubtedly, is care for and nurture these two girls.  

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Now, truth: it’s sometimes the most boring thing that I do.  It’s often the most thankless thing that I do.  It’s not sexy and it doesn’t look great on a resume (or apparently, to a female-friendly accounting firm).  But in my core, I know it’s the best thing for my family now, and honestly, I find so much joy in it.

And admitting that latter part? Is huge for me.  Because I’m finally admitting that what I do as a stay-at-home parent matters, and that it’s okay to have made this choice—and to enjoy it.

Our culture doesn’t always value it.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

So what do I do?

I’m a stay-at-home parent.  And I’m finally proud of it.

Seizing My Moment

Ten minutes ago, Zoe went down for a nap.  I tiptoed out of her room and immediately straightened my hair, threw some professional clothes on, and rushed to sit down.

I have a few minutes to write before I have to leave for my office.  And I’m seizing my moment.

I walk around every day wanting to write.  It’s how I process.  But motherhood is time consuming and exhausting, and leaves little time or energy for much else besides falling onto the couch in a stupor when she’s “down” for “the night” (questionable terms around these parts anyway.)

“Get up early and write!” would be my advice to my old self.   Um, yeah…by 8 am yesterday, I had already been up for 3 hours, fed a tiny human two meals, played in between, made scones from scratch, been urinated on, cleaned urine off of wood floors that I had just cleaned the day before, showered, given a baby a bath, dressed her, and performed her elaborate “Eczema Exorcism” routine (face wash and three lotions–and still a new red spot today.  AHH!) 

This season is not about me.

But somehow, I’m the most joyful I’ve ever been.

Fun fact about me: I like things to be neat.  A few years ago I decided that I needed a manageable, healthy place to channel my perfectionism and I’ve chosen to pour it into having clean surroundings.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m rigid about it, to the point that I can barely function with clutter (when I left working full time, several rooms in my old office building suddenly started looking like something from Hoarders because everyone was so used to me cleaning them up that they never bothered developing their own organization system.)

This was my living room a few weeks ago.  Mid cleaning.

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And you know what I thought as I looked at it? This is beautiful.  This room has never looked better.  

The room looked like this because nine fun babies, mine included, had been exploring, gabbing, crawling, teething, moving all around it.  What a joy it is to watch them embrace life with open arms and one-and-two-toothed smiles.

What a joy it is to hear my daughter’s voice call out at 3 am and see her smile when I enter the room because she knew I’d come and tend to her needs.

What a joy it is to be so exhausted that I fall onto the couch at night, because it means I’m truly pouring my all into my days and THAT means I’m truly living.

What a joy it is to have a mess in my home because that means we have relationships.

What a joy it is to lay Zoe in her bed for her nap, calmly tell her goodnight, close the door, make a caffeinated beverage and work my tail off until she wakes up.  Yes, some days I wish I had fewer responsibilities to balance, but we will be able to retire someday because I worked during naptime and that is when I will relax 🙂 I thank God every day for a job that accommodates my desire to be home with my baby.

What a joy it is to be writing this blog post…still…three weeks after I started it…faithfully typing away in ten minute segments in between motherhood and housework and work because that means I am learning to handle and even embrace this season in my life, where it’s not about me but I can still be me.

I’m thankful.

 

Three Things I Never Thought I’d Do

This post doesn’t need much of an intro: motherhood changes a lot.  Here are three things I never, EVER saw coming in my life.

1.  I never thought I’d purposefully sing horribly to my child.

I have a decent singing voice.  I grew up singing in show choir and concert choir and church.  When I pictured motherhood, I always imagined myself sitting in a rocking chair and singing to my baby while I fed him/her.  Our bond would be unbreakable, my music beautiful.

In reality, my voice puts Zoe to sleep immediately.

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SOOOO during our feedings, I have to sing to her like Gloria from “Modern Family” to keep her awake.  Here’s a snapshot:

Avoid our house at mealtimes unless you have ear plugs and an internal well of patience.  If you’re tone deaf, on the other hand, feel free to stop by.

2.  I never thought I’d drive with my newborn on the Interstate.

The Interstate is my personal nightmare. On occasion, I will very begrudgingly hop on, but the entire time I pray GODPLEASHELPMENOTGETHITBYTHESEIDIOTSOHGODPLEASE, maniacally sing songs trying to ignore my fear, and take deep breaths to try to stop my hyperventilating and sweating.  It’s a roller coaster ride for me, one I thought I’d avoid with my children.  Because generally, adults should seem calm and in control around kids, right?

But last week, I piled the tiny love of my life in the back of the car for an Interstate drive.  To pick up breast milk.

Yup.  You read that correctly.  We are supplementing Zoe’s formula-based diet with donated breast milk from two healthy friends.  One of them had her baby 9 days ago and messaged me when she got home from the hospital last week: I have about 10 ounces of rich yellow transitional milk. If you want it, it’s yours.

Of course I wanted this precious milk.  The only problem: our friend lives about 45 minutes away by Interstate, an hour plus by alternate routes…and Zoe eats every 3 hours.  If we wanted the milk…I had to face my fears.

So my baby and I set out on a terrifying Interstate adventure.  For breast milk.

Never thought I’d write that sentence.

It ended up going okay.  I sang Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” over and over and over again, hoping Zoe couldn’t sense my nervousness as I defensively drove like our lives depended on it.  BECAUSE THEY DID.  (Florida drivers, would it kill you not to read the newspaper while driving 70 mph?!!)

3.  I never thought I’d become a stay at home mom.

I NEVER in a million years thought that I would claim this job title.  I loved my job and was thrilled to have the opportunities that I did there.  But having Zoe has changed so much for me.

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It’s you and me, kid.  Get used to it.

I could talk about this decision for hours (and I did.) But the main point is this: God led me to this decision.  

Staying at home was definitely not my starting point, definitely not in my plans, and definitely not something I really WANTED to consider, to be honest…so for me to even begin considering it was a miracle.  For me to feel peace and joy about it was truly God’s direction in my life, His gentle whispering of better plans than my own, His gentle question: will you surrender to me? 

The stubborn part of me would like to say I fought Him hard, but I didn’t. Instead, I followed his direction to think about the kind of mom I want to be.

I want to be present, non-stressed, joyful, and energetic—a mom who has time to answer all the “whys” and to play and to smile.  I want to be the one who teaches my child about God and how life works—because I don’t know if someone else will teach her what I want her to know. I want to be consistent for her, available to her—not just home for breakfast, dinner, bath, and bed.  I want to give Zoe rich experiences with her extended family—which is difficult to manage with two full-time jobs when none of our family lives within driving distance.

As I honestly surveyed my life, I knew that if I continued in my level of position, I would not have the energy or time I want to spend with Zoe or my family.  Many women can work full time and be great moms, but I care so much about my work that I end up sucking at managing my work-related stress and pressures and setting boundaries. David’s summer travel schedule and school schedule are not conducive to me working full time with a daughter.  Our family would have to sacrifice too much just so I could be “professionally fulfilled” and so that we could have a little more money.  Zoe deserves better.  David deserves better.  I deserve a better experience as a mother, and honestly, my heart yearns to be with her.

So last week, I resigned from my position.

Thankfully, my boss was open to me continuing with our organization in a very part time consulting role! So I will be working 5-8 hours/week, mostly from home, doing some public speaking/training, some program evaluation, and some grant writing.  This means I can obey the pounding in my heart, but still stay involved with the organization I love and keep my toe in the “professional water.”  I couldn’t be more pleased.

I was talking with a friend on Friday and she said she had been praying almost every day for six weeks for my heart to be open because she felt that I needed that prayer, whatever it meant.  I know what it meant, and I am just so thankful for the power of prayer, the loving act of people praying for me, and God’s quiet, gentle grace as He makes us into the people He wants us to be.

Motherhood has been full of fantastic surprises, and I’m excited for the next batch of surprises to come.

Blessings of 2012

In my last post, I said that I wanted to reflect on a few of the biggest blessings in my life in 2012.  Obviously, Zoe’s adoption was the biggest blessing of my year, but there were a few other quieter stories that I think will be fun to share.

1. The blessing of meaningful work.

I’ve been working for the same nonprofit for about 3 years.  I am very passionate about our mission, and I feel so blessed to get paid to do this work because I know that I am making a difference every day.  Still, I’m an “idea” person, and I kept seeing ways that we could do the work even better.

In January 2012, I was promoted to my dream job within our organization, which meant I finally got to put all the ideas swirling around in my head to good use! The last year has been an AMAZING year of professional growth for me.  I have learned a LOT about our focus area of social and emotional learning, managing people and organizational change, creating relationships and partnerships, program creation and evaluation, budgeting, and vision casting.  I’ve made great relationships and had some neat opportunities to travel, speak, and train others.  I am so grateful to God for the blessing of meaningful, energizing, pour-yourself-totally-into-it-and-love-it work.  It was exactly the challenge I needed for my 26th year of life.

2. The blessing of a crazy extravagant romantic getaway.

Since getting married, David and I have made it a priority to go on a “romantic getaway” every year.  We’ve been to St. Augustine, Savannah, and Amelia Island (I’d recommend any of them!)  We usually drive to our destination, stay at a budget B&B over a long weekend, make sandwiches for lunch, and eat nice dinners out.  It’s always really fun and special and we feel extravagant for 3-4 days.  Other than that, we’ve always always vacationed with our families, as I only have 2 weeks of vacation time and when it takes you a full day of flying and driving to get to your family, you don’t have time or money left over for a longer romantic getaway.

But this year.  Oh, this year!

First, I got a raise.  Then, my office closed for 10 days and my boss encouraged us all to “go have fun!”  David and I didn’t have to think twice—we knew this might be our last chance to take a vacation without kids.  We were going to fly somewhere, spend money, and have an adventure!

Enter California! We spent 10 glorious days wine tasting, hiking, biking, eating delicious food, and enjoying the beauty of California.  We didn’t know that we would have Zoe within months, but God did, and He blessed us with an unexpected opportunity to have extravagant FUN as a couple first.

3. The blessing of my sister.

When we found out that our baby would be joining us, oh, A YEAR earlier than planned, I kind of freaked out a little.  I knew I wanted to create a cozy, bright, gender-neutral space for our baby, but I am awful at decorating…and I only had a few weeks before the baby would be here!

Enter my fabulous sister.  Kelsey had recently resigned from her job and her husband had recently deployed.  Basically, she was bored and I was needy, so I asked her if she would like to “Trade Spaces” (except I wouldn’t do anything to her space…so probably there is a better show reference, but I don’t watch HGTV.)  Anyway, she said YES, convinced her husband of the dire need of this situation, and flew down for a week!

IMG_0295

IMG_0298I was kind of a wreck that week.  I don’t cope well with mess and disorganization, I had no artistic vision, and I was stressed to the max about my ability to get everything done before Zoe’s arrival.  Plus, I suck at crafts.  But Kelsey created “mood boards” for the room that guided all of our decision making, dealt with my stress and emotional outbursts, and stayed up til 1 am every night creating a lovely space for Zoe.

IMG_0007In 2012, I was SO blessed by my sister.  And every time that I walk into Zoe’s nursery, I think about how much I love you, Kels.  Thanks for blessing me!

IMG_0299Pausing for a picture in the middle of the creative process around 11 pm

4.  A broken toe.
I mentioned in another entry that I broke my toe during our second week with Zoe.  Though it was really painful, it’s actually been a blessing.  It has taken away any option of going to the gym (as tennis shoes HURT) so instead, I’ve been taking a walk with Zoe every day.  In the process, I’ve been able to bond with my baby, enjoy the Florida winter, stave off some “I’m in the house ALL THE TIME” crazies, and get in a great day-to-day rhythm with Zoe.  I’ve noticed that going outside improves both of our moods.  It’s been so fun to start each day wondering, “what pretty park should Zoe and I visit together today?”

So that’s it! A few of the biggest blessings of 2012.  What blessed YOU in the last year?