a year of living simply: week 18

Hi, friends! How is your week going so far? Mine is off to a good start! I picked my sweetie up from the airport on Sunday after his “boys weekend” in San Diego with his high school buddies. I must admit, I was relieved to see him walk down the stairs to baggage claim with no cast on his arm or crutches! {Those crazy guys do a pretty intense Olympiad of sports competitions!} It was nice visiting with him Sunday night and yesterday morning before I left for tutoring commitments. This morning, I had an excellent PT session, met with my lovely friend Trish from church, ran a few errands, stopped by the gym to lift weights, and am meeting up with my dear Dana for dinner tonight after a tutoring sesh with a new client. All in all, a pretty great day!

me and dana my bday

LOVE. HER.

It’s finally cooled down a little here in California, and yesterday was the first day that sort of felt like the beginning of autumn… overcast skies and a hint of chill in the air. I’ll take it! I love the autumn.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the victims of the horrendous wildfires sweeping across Northern California. My heart breaks watching the news footage. Sending all good wishes that the fire is under control ASAP — and that we might get some precious, precious rain to help the efforts of the firefighters!

Moving on to our year of living simply challenge

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to examine your morning routine, and perhaps try making some changes to see if you like what happens. During the summer, I dabbled with getting up earlier in the morning {which meant going to bed earlier, as well!} to feel like I “get a jump on my day” and have some quiet time before the rest of the world awakens. I have always been a natural night owl, but I love the peace and calm of the early morning. I found that I really liked this earlier time schedule, and in general have kept my rising time earlier than it used to be: around 7 a.m. as opposed to 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Of course, some mornings if I wake up feeling particularly tired {and I have room in my schedule} I let myself sleep in a little later. It’s important to listen to your body!

One thing I worked on this week was to stop pressing “snooze” and just GET UP. Sometime in the last couple of years, I got in the bad habit of pressing snooze multiple times each morning, and — though addictive in the moment when “just five more minutes” seemed like a dream come true — I didn’t like the tone it set for my day. I associate the “snooze” button with negative consequences: not having enough time, rushing out the door, feeling “behind” when the day has just started. Plus, I want to energetically leap into each day, excited about the projects and activities I have on the calendar.

So, this week I put a moratorium on the “snooze.” And, I learned that even when I felt a little groggy when I first turned off my alarm, once I got out of bed, washed my face, drank a glass of water, and put my contacts in, I felt energized and ready to face the day. I think I will always be one of those people who wakes up feeling a little groggy; that’s just me. It doesn’t mean I need “five more minutes” of sleep. The grogginess usually melts away within a couple minutes of getting up, before I’ve even taken my first sip of tea!

tazo pumpkin spice chai tea

When I thought about my ideal morning, I realized that I wanted a little more calm, quiet, “me” time before leaping into my day. Reading in bed for twenty minutes with my mug of tea first thing in the morning feels indulgent, like I’m on vacation — but, really, why can’t I do this every morning? Why does my routine have to be eating my bowl of oatmeal in front of my email inbox? It doesn’t. In fact, it shouldn’t. When I have a bit of quiet time to journal and read in bed first thing in the morning, I feel more centered and focused to dive into the day’s tasks.

I want to try expanding on this a little further and maybe doing ten minutes of yoga and/or meditation in the morning, as well, before I venture out into the world.

picnic view

I love misty Bay Area mornings like this.

This week’s challenge is to examine your nighttime routine. What are your habits at night, before you go to bed?

  • What time do you go to bed? Is it generally the same time every night, or is it scattered?
  • When do you start “winding down” before bed?
  • What are your “winding down” activities? Do you read? Watch T.V.? Play games on your smartphone?
  • Do you stay up later than you intend, or do you usually get to bed about the time you planned to?
  • How is your sleep quality? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Do you wake up a lot during the night?
  • What is something that makes you feel relaxed? Is there a way you could fit that into your nighttime routine? What would that look like?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your nightly routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  

Questions for the day:

  • What did you learn from examining your morning routine? Did you make any changes?
  • What is your nightly routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Judgment

Happy Thursday, friends! I have a bit of a lower-key day today. Planning to do some writing + editing work at home, and then I’m meeting up with my sweetie for dinner. Thinking about whipping up a batch of these classic cookies as a treat! Allyn is heading out tomorrow for a boys’ weekend with his best friends from high school, and I’m going to drop him off at the airport in the morning. It’s a rowdy sports weekend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed nobody hurts themselves. #rememberyourenot18anymoreguys 😉

air hockey, guys, games, guys weekend

Allyn and his friend Justin played an intense round of air hockey at my birthday party.

Moving on to today’s topic… a few people have asked what questions we are discussing in the Young Adult Community Circle I am leading at my church, intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations. I thought I would share these questions here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

Week One Topic: Home

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 2

Theme: Judgment

  • In what ways do you notice yourself judging others?
  • What are you most judgmental about? What do you get annoyed by? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you judge yourself most about? Why?
  • What do you feel others judge you about? Have you ever had an experience with someone else negatively judging you?
  • How does your self-perception differ from others’ perception of you?
  • How can you step away from judgment and give others, and yourself, more grace?

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.”
Earl Nightingale

a year of living simply: week 17

Hi, everyone! Hope you had a fun, relaxing Labor Day weekend. Mine was a nice mix of working on projects, taking long walks in the sunshine, lounging with a good book, and Netflixing “Orange is the New Black” {I’m a tad late to the party and just started watching… but I can see what all the buzz is about; that show is addicting!}

It’s hard to believe it is already September. The summer flew by! Yet also, it felt long, in a good way. My summer was filled with so many experiences and big events — graduations, travel, teaching, celebrations — that looking back at the beginning of the summer seems like a long time ago. I was talking to Allyn the other day about how July 4th seems like an eternity ago, since a lot has happened in my life since then: I traveled to Chicago to meet up with Holly {+ T.Swift in concert!}; went home to have a few weeks with my family; taught my Eighth Annual Summer Writing Camp; my brother moved to NYC and started his new job; I taught two weeks of Communication Academy camps; I gave my first-ever sermon at church and launched a Young Adults Community Circle; I house-sat/dog-sat for my aunt’s family for a week; I stepped out of my comfort zone and did Improv for the first time… and, I signed with an amazing literary agent {my dream agent!} to represent my novel to publishers. All in all, it’s been a very busy and very exciting couple of months!

This photo encapsulates my summer... exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

This photo encapsulates my summer: exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and new adventures… squinting and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

However, unfortunately, my year of living simply posts went on an unintentional summer hiatus. The entire blog went on a bit of a summer hiatus. At first, I was stressed about it. I felt guilty for not posting. I made lists and tried to figure out when I could wedge in the time.

But then I realized: that was exactly the opposite of what my year of living simply is intended to be.

It’s not about shoe-horning more and more stuff — even meaningful stuff you enjoy — onto your daily to-do list.

It’s about letting yourself do less.

It’s not about rushing around and cramming every minute of your day with stuff.

It’s about letting go. Giving your days margins. Giving yourself grace.

summer grace

So, I gave myself margins and grace. During a crazy-busy season of my life, I let some things lay dormant. Including this blog. Including this year of living simply challenge.

In many ways, I feel like that in itself was my simplicity challenge this summer. Having the faith and the patience to let go, to set it down, and know that the time would come when I could pick it back up again.

And so. Here we are. Summer is drawing to a close, and autumn is upon us. I feel the whirlwind settling a little. I feel that anticipatory energy I always love in the autumn. The start of a brand-new school year {even though I am no longer in school, I still feel the energy!} A blank slate. A row of freshly sharpened pencils. Brand-new notebooks. A new schedule of classes with different teachers and people. {Literally or metaphorically!} Possibility, sparkling everywhere you look.

And I think it’s the perfect time to bring back my year of living simply challenge. I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back on schedule. Ready to refocus on simplifying my life and reflecting on what matters to me. I hope you’ll join me!

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous sixteen posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

In honor of the back-to-school time of year, this week’s challenge is to examine your morning routine. What are your habits in the morning?

  • When your alarm goes off, do you push snooze, or do you leap out of bed?
  • Do you scramble around feeling rushed?
  • Do you never know what to wear, or wear the same outfits over and over?
  • Do you forget things at home?
  • Do you never have enough time?
  • Do you wake up feeling tired, or are you energized for the day?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your morning routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  
morning

Questions for the day:

  • How can you give yourself margins and grace in your ife today?
  • What is your morning routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Home

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have something fun planned for tonight + this weekend! This afternoon I have some tutoring and work on the agenda, and then I’m meeting up with Allyn and some friends in the city for dinner and a movie! Should be fun. Tomorrow I have a full day of tutoring, an evening meeting at church, and a picnic dinner date with my sweetheart. And then Sunday I’m leading another session of our Young Adults Community Circle at church!

I had a few people ask me what topics and questions we are covering in the group, since I wrote about how the community circle is intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations than you might traditionally have with people you are just meeting. I thought I would share these questions with you here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps just with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 1

Theme: Home

  • What does “home” mean to you?
  • Where are you currently living? Does it feel like home? Why or why not?
  • Who are you currently living with? What do you love about your living situation? What do you struggle with?
  • What thoughts do you hold in your heart about your childhood home? Do you return there often?
  • Where have you lived that has felt like home?
  • What dreams do you have for a future home?

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

-Maya Angelou

a year of Wooden: week 44

Hi, friends! Hope your week is going great! We are into our final month of this year of Wooden challenge. For December, we’re focusing on my favorite item of Coach John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Make each day your masterpiece.” In other words, we’re tying together all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown through the past eleven months!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece.

I believe the foundation of “making each day a masterpiece” is having a true awareness of how you spend your day. In that spirit, last week’s challenge was to keep an activity log for one or two or three days about how you spend your time — every minute of it! The goal of this was to create an honest assessment of how you spend your days — which is, in turn, how you spend your life.

The past few months, I’ve already started making a conscious schedule choice to get up around the same time most mornings and go to bed around the same time most nights. That has helped a lot with my daily routine, feeling refreshed, and waking up naturally without needing an alarm. I also do not “waste” time watching TV or surfing the Internet; I watch a handful of TV shows very intentionally and do little-to-no online shopping. So those were the “gold stars” of my schedule! 🙂

However, looking at my detailed daily run-down, I saw there in very clear letters something that I already knew about myself, but didn’t really want to face — I try to multi-task too much! Anyone else have this problem? I know productivity experts warn against multitasking, but for some reason I still chase that “busy busy busy” feeling. And what happens? I’m rushed and burned out and empty, feeling like I’ve gotten nothing done all day. A lot of this is due to checking email throughout the day — yet my inbox still feels overflowing and unmanageable. Something needs to change!

Atos - Zero Email - Zen and Stress

This week’s challenge is to take something you didn’t like about how you spend your day, and fix it. Maybe you feel rushed every morning getting ready for work, and a simple change of waking up ten minutes earlier or not hitting snooze will change the pace of your mornings entirely. Or perhaps you’re always saying you want to read more, but you tend to spend evenings watching TV just because it’s on — that could change if this week, you make a conscious choice to turn off the TV and read in bed for half an hour before falling asleep each night.

I’m eager to hear how this week goes for you! And remember, this isn’t about overhauling your entire schedule in one week. We’re all about the small, little-by-little, day-by-day changes here. Pick one small thing to change, do it every day, and see how you like it. We’ll check in again next week!  

Question for the day:

  • What is something you disliked about your daily schedule?
  • How might you make a small change to create a different effect?

a year of Wooden: week 43

Hi, friends! We’re officially three days into December, which means we are moving into our final month of this year of Wooden challenge!

For the month of December, we’ll be focusing on my favorite item of Coach John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed {which you may have been able to guess from the title of this blog!}… Make each day your masterpiece. In other words, we’re going to be tying everything together — all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown through this challenge the past eleven months!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece.

Before we move on to December, let’s wrap up November, when our focus was to pray for guidance. Last week’s challenge, in honor of Thanksgiving, was to pray about everything you are grateful for and journal about your feelings. After a week of praying about everything that I am grateful for, I felt filled with abundance and joy. On a related note, I wrote an essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul about the wonderful life changes I experienced from the simple act of counting my blessings each night while falling asleep. You can read it here!

Moving into December, I think the foundation of “making each day a masterpiece” is having a true awareness of how you spend your day. What is your daily routine? Once you know all the details and idiosyncrasies of your routine, you can work on squeezing all the richness out of your days as possible. 

In that spirit, this week’s challenge {which was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Nicole Antoinette} is to keep an activity log for one or two or three days about how you spend your time — every minute of it! For example:

  • What time do you wake up?
  • What time do you go to bed?
  • How often do you check your email?
  • How much time do you spend browsing the Internet or watching TV?

It might feel a bit cumbersome at first to keep track of your day like this, but it is an important step. You are creating an honest assessment, there on paper in black and white, of how you spend your days — which is, in turn, how you spend your life. Be as detailed as possible!

And be honest. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV or playing video games; be honest and keep track of how you feel. If you notice feelings of guilt or discomfort about any parts of your daily routine, take note of those feelings. We’ll unpack all of this next week!  

Question for the day:

  • How did last week of praying for guidance go for you?

a year of Wooden: week 42

Happy Monday! Before we get into this week’s year of Wooden post, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your kind comments, emails and words of encouragement after my post last week! It is always a little scary to make yourself vulnerable, but one of my goals as a blogger is to be honest with you guys — not to edit my life into a Pinterest-worthy highlight reel, but instead to give you a true picture of my ups and downs, highs and lows, nitty-gritty daily living. Thank you for always being so supportive!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray about a big dream or goal you have for the future. I have a variety of dreams and goals I want to pursue — sometimes the trickiest part is choosing what to give attention to, and what to put on the back-burner. Thanks to last week’s prayers, I feel more centered and focused heading into these finals weeks of 2014. Excited to see what 2015 will bring!

This week’s challenge, in honor of Thanksgiving, is to pray about everything you are grateful for. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

a year of Wooden: week 41

Hi, everyone! Hope your week is off to a wonderful start. Monday means that it’s time for a new year of Wooden post!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray for guidance about something in your life that gives you questions or uncertainty. This past year I’ve experienced some setbacks and frustrations in my writing career, and even though I can’t imagine being anything other than a writer — writing is what I love deeply at my core — there have been some moments of doubt the past six months when I wondered if I was being realistic to think I could make a career out of it. But I kept plugging along, because that’s what I do. I kept writing and editing and sending my work out, logging rejections and sending my work out again, writing and writing and writing until my wrists ached.

Looking back, I think this “dry period” has been crucial for me — as an artist and as a person. I truly know now that I am writing for the love of it, writing what I want to write, writing what MATTERS to me, instead of worrying about money or marketing or selling or career-building. Although those things are important in their own way, they should never be front and center. As one of my favorite writers Elizabeth Berg told me, “First, please yourself.”

Which all goes to say that this past week, I prayed about my writing career, letting out all the questions and uncertainty and insecurities I have been bottling up inside me. And what did I receive in return? A resounding sense of peace and confidence that I am doing what I am meant to be doing. I received tangible confirmations this week, too: an acceptance for a short story I submitted months ago to North Dakota Quarterly; an update about a song-cycle being composed at Carnegie Mellon based upon a series my poems; and exciting developments regarding the novel I’ve been working on for the past three years.

All of this reminded me of one of my very favorite quotes by Coach Wooden:

things work out best quote

This week’s challenge is to pray about a big dream or goal you have for the future. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

a year of Wooden: week 40

Happy Monday, friends! Just like that, it’s the start of another week. How was your weekend? I hope your week is off to a great start! I don’t have much on my agenda today other than worktime… hoping to plough through some tasks and make headway on a couple projects, because later this week is packed with fun things: friend date with Allyson on Thursday, going to my cousin Arianna’s play on Friday, and attending an event in San Francisco on Saturday night with Allyn as part of his MBA program. Woot!

Now it’s time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray for guidance about an issue in your life that causes you worry or stress. Lately I have been feeling stressed out over little things — running late; not feeling like I have enough time in the day; always rushing. I don’t like the feeling, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make it better. For the past few weeks, it’s felt like no matter how much I tried to de-stress and savor daily life, the more stressed I would become about NOT being able to do so! I was trapped in a downspiral of stress. However, after two or three days of praying and journaling, I felt a LOT more at peace. My go-go-go, hurry-hurry-hurry feeling began to subside. Even on Saturday, which is my most stressful, harried day of the week, I felt more centered, balanced and calm.

This week’s challenge is to think of something in your life that you have questions or uncertainty about. Each night this week, pray on this issue. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

a year of Wooden: week 39

Happy Tuesday, friends! My arm is SORE from getting my flu shot yesterday! Other than that, it’s a fairly quiet day around here: working, eating yummy food, going to yoga class tonight. What are you up to today?

Now it’s time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge… and a new month means a new focus!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

But before we move on to November, let’s wrap up our October challenge: Make friendship a fine art, focusing on new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to nurture and celebrate one of the new friendships you created this past month. I reached out to Allyson and made plans to get together again next week after I teach in Fremont. And I also made a new friend, Stephanie, at the Asante Africa dinner on Sunday night, so I’m hoping to get together with her sometime in the near future!

are you my friend

Now, moving on to the month of November! Our challenge for this month comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

This week’s challenge is to think of an issue in your life that causes you worry or stress. Each night this week, pray on this issue. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

prayer quote Wooden

Question for the day:

  • What friendships did you nurture in the month of October?
  • Do you believe in the power of prayer?