a year of Wooden: final wrap-up

Hello there, friends! Now that we’re into 2015, I’ll be embarking on a new year-long challenge on Monday… but first, I wanted to do a final post wrapping up this amazing 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
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece

December’s final challenge was to brainstorm a list of activities for each of your three happiness terms. This was really helpful for me — I now have a list of tasks that are guaranteed to make me feel happy and fulfilled. If I ever feel bored or unsure what to do, I can look at this list and come up with a game plan quickly. For example, doing yoga is something that makes me feel connected; volunteering at my church makes me feel helpful; and writing a page of my novel-in-progress makes me feel productive. This, in turn, makes me feel happy.

Looking back over the year, it has been quite a fulfilling journey!

year of wooden collage

I was looking back in my journal from the end of 2013, and I found an entry where I asked four big questions to the universe. These were issues I was really struggling with, causing me uncertainty and worry. They were:

  • How will I know when I meet the person I am meant to be with?
  • Where am I supposed to be living at this time of my life?
  • What is the next step for my career?
  • How can I give more to others?

Now, a year later, all of these questions have been answered for me:

  • I met my sweetheart and felt connected to him immediately, and our relationship has opened up a beautiful new definition of love in my life.
  • I have created a community of friends and connections, personal and professional, in the Bay Area, and — for now at least– it feels like home to me, where I am meant to be living in this season of my life.
  • I feel much more confident in my writing and teaching career, and satisfied with my decision not to pursue a Ph.D. but instead to write what I want to write, what makes me come alive.
  • And I have become involved with a multitude of service and social justice endeavors through my church, which has become one of the cornerstones of my life.

three grand essentials

I thought I was happy a year ago — and I was. But now I feel a much deeper happiness: a happiness that stems from being at peace. I feel secure. I feel connected to my inner self, and to the greater world outside myself. I doubt I would be feeling this way if not for the growth, reflection and discipline of this yearlong challenge. I am so grateful for the insights and teachings of Coach Wooden, one of the wisest human beings to ever grace the world with his presence. Though this official “year of Wooden” is drawing to a close, I will carry these principles with me for the rest of my life.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite-ever quotes from Coach Wooden:

wooden success quote

Here’s to striving, day by day by day, to become the best we are capable of becoming… and celebrating the journey along the way!

Question for the day:

a year of Wooden: week 46

Hello there, everyone! Hope your week is going splendidly, and that you are able to take some time for yourself in the midst of the craziness of this holiday season to reflect on what matters most in your life.

We are into our final weeks 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.

Last week’s challenge was to break down what “happiness” means to you in three specific terms. We all say we want to be “happier” but what does that really mean? It’s different for all of us. Last week, your challenge was to rainstorm a list of all the terms that you associate with happiness. Then, place a star next to the three terms that are most important to YOU and your own individual happiness.

After much reflection and soul-searching and self-honesty, here are the three terms I came up with for my own sense of happiness. To me, feeling happy is feeling:

  • connected
  • helpful
  • productive

For this week’s challenge, brainstorm a list of activities for each of your three terms. For example, for me, doing yoga is something that makes me feel connected; volunteering at my church makes me feel helpful; and writing a page of my novel-in-progress makes me feel productive. This, in turn, makes me feel happy.

A quick note: I want to make sure to note the difference between happiness and pleasure. Something that makes you happy might not necessarily be 100% pleasurable as you are doing it. And that’s okay. That’s the way it should be. For example, I do not usually feel joyful as I type every word of my daily writing goal. Writing, for me, is happiness, but it is also difficult. Hard work is hard! Work is work! But the right kind of work leads to a greater sense of joy and fulfillment… the sturdy, beautiful kind of happiness that lasts.

Question for the day:

  • What are the terms that you chose for your own individual happiness?
  • What activities could you do to make you feel this way?

a year of Wooden: week 45

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. Last week’s challenge was to take something you didn’t like about how you spend your day, and fix it. The thing I disliked most about my daily schedule was realizing that I try to multi-task too much! A lot of this is due to checking email throughout the day — yet my inbox still feels overflowing and unmanageable.

This week, I made a few small, simple changes. First, I went through my inbox and ruthlessly unsubscribed to mailers. I realized there were a lot of messages I’d get week after week and just delete them, or not have time to read them, so I took the time to go through and unsubscribe. My inbox immediately felt more manageable.

The second thing I did was try to change how I tackle email. I am a big procrastinator when it comes to my inbox. I’ll receive an email, open it to read it, but then put off replying. So the email sits there, sits there, sits there, with me maybe reading and it and putting it off once or twice more in that span of time, before I finally open it yet again and reply {while feeling bad that it took me that long to reply.} I know, as I type it all out here, it seems like an insanely inefficient system — I don’t really have an answer for WHY I would put off answering emails in this way, other than I didn’t always feel like answering them and it was always easier to just put it off “till later.”

The simple change I am doing now is this: I read an email, and reply to it right then, if at all possible. Occasionally I will need to wait to reply because I will need to do something or research something or write something in order to reply, but I am finding that 80% of the time I can reply right away. Then the email is gone from my inbox, takes up no more of my brain space, and suddenly checking email becomes way more efficient!

workstation

On a related note, I stopped having my email open constantly and instead try to check it only at certain points of the day. In this way, I am trying to turn email into a specific “task” I complete, rather than a constant drain on my time and attention.

I’m not saying my email habits have suddenly morphed into perfect stress-free productiveness, but I have noticed a definite change in the past week with these simple changes.

If any of you have tips on managing email effectively, I would love to hear them!

This week’s challenge is to break down what “happiness” means to you in three specific terms. We all say we want to be “happier” but what does that really mean? It’s different for all of us. For some people, happiness might be associated with feeling strong and capable. Others might associate it with feeling needed. Others might associate it with feeling connected to other people. Brainstorm a list of all the terms that you associate with happiness. Then, place a star next to the three terms that are most important to YOU and your own individual happiness.

We’ll build on this in next week’s challenge!

Question for the day:

  • What is something you disliked about your daily schedule?
  • What small change{s} did you make? What was the effect of these changes?

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?

butterscotch pudding cookies

I am usually a triple-chocolate cookie kind of girl, but I found myself in a butterscotch cookie mood last night after seeing this recipe on the fabulous food blog Two Peas & Their Pod. What makes these cookies unique is the secret ingredient: pudding! This gives them a lovely moistness and keeps them fresh-tasting for days. {If they manage to last that long!}

This is a quick and easy cookie recipe that makes a few dozen cookies — perfect to take to a Thanksgiving gathering as a sweet alternative to classic chocolate-chip cookies. Or make a batch and send some to a friend, as I did. The pudding helps the cookies stay moist, which makes them a good choice to send through the mail.

butterscotch pudding cookies

(recipe adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod)

– 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 2 snack-size cups of butterscotch cookies
– 2 large eggs
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 cup white all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 cup butterscotch chips
– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips {if desired}

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Using a mixer or a whisk, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add in butterscotch pudding, eggs, and vanilla extract.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Stir in the butterscotch chips and chocolate chips.

5. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges and set. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

How are your Thanksgiving plans coming along? I hope you are having a wonderful week!

❤ Dallas

———————————-

– Time spent: 40 minutes
– Cost: about $5.00

marvelous monday: little oases of rest in a hectic, busy season

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s that time of year … the holidays are upon us. All weekend I’ve been seeing not just Thanksgiving decorations in stores, but Christmas decorations, too! Some houses in my neighborhood have even put up lights and lawn ornaments. {Which I’m admittedly not used to, coming from California, but it does make sense here in Indiana where you want to get the lights up before the first snow hits!} It seems like Christmas season sets upon us earlier and earlier every year … which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me, a girl who starts playing Pandora Holiday stations in October. I love the warmth and comfort of the holiday season!

Still, the holidays bring with them a lot of busyness — gifts to buy, special meals to cook, cards to send, relatives in town, parties to attend, and just a general hectic pace of life that can be overwhelming. Coupled with the approaching end-of-semester obligations and deadlines: final papers and projects to grade, class presentations, meetings — and for me this year, a completed rough draft of my thesis to turn in — and life can quickly feel out-of-control crazy-busy!

I’ve started doing a brief stretch and deep-breathing routine each morning to get my day off on the right foot, which I’ll share with you later this week. But something else that has helped me keep my sanity and approach the holiday season with a grateful heart {as it is meant to be celebrated, after all!} is to take little breaks throughout the day to slow down, take a breath, and reward myself for the work I have gotten done. Even just ten or fifteen minutes away from my computer or pile of dirty dishes can be enough to clear my head and make me feel worlds happier and more refreshed. Here are some of my “oases”:

  • making a phone call to my friends or family
  • reading a chapter of a good book or a story from a magazine
  • taking a power nap
  • going for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
  • daydreaming with a cup of tea

How do you keep your sanity and stay energized during the crazy-busy holiday season? What are your little daily oases?

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes …

Notice anything different?

That’s right, you’re not going crazy: we’ve got a new name!

“Day-by-Day Masterpiece” stems from one of my favorite-ever quotes {I love it so much I have it posted above my writing desk and as my cell phone background} … it comes from the late, great John Wooden, who was a huge inspiration to me and my family. One of the maxims he lived his life by was, “Make each day your masterpiece.”

I find that quote so inspiring because it reminds me that each day is truly a treasure and a blessing. Each day is something to savor. Making your day a “masterpiece” does not mean making each day “perfect.” Far from it — masterpieces are full of mistakes, trial-and-errors, messes and wrong turns and laughter and spontaneity. Indeed, I think that’s part of what makes a day a “masterpiece” — the surprises give our lives variety and richness.

To me, a masterpiece day is a balanced day. Time with my friends, family and loved ones; time spent pursuing my writing goals; physical exercise and delicious, healthful food; quiet time to reflect and relax. Love, laughter, daydreams, peace.

I started this blog to keep track of my steps towards becoming more organized in my day-to-day life and tackling those hidden {and, okay, not-so-hidden} trouble spots that were adding stress and frustration to my life.

Something I’ve discovered is that “organization” doesn’t just pertain to the material possessions you own or how clean your home is. It’s more a way of life; a way of thinking; a way of approaching your day.

So I wanted to give the blog a new title to reflect upon how it has grown and expanded in the past six months since I started chronicling my organizational journey with you.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be sharing my organizational projects and day-by-day progress with you. But as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve really grown to love cooking and baking and sharing healthy recipes here. I also am delving more and more into simplified, frugal living — everything from couponing to saving money on date night to selling things on Craigslist. I am participating in the monthly book club over at Peanut Butter Fingers and am hoping to start up my own monthly book club on here. {I’d love to have you join me!} And I’m really passionate about living “green” and doing our part to protect our precious environment. I’m hoping to expand that part of the blog in the coming months. Finally, it really inspires me to follow along with Crystal’s weekly and monthly goal-setting over at Money-Saving Mom, and I want to do something similar on here — I’ve already posted about goal-setting and to-do lists. I want this blog to be a place where we can be sources of inspiration for each other!

So how do we make our days masterpieces? That’s what I’m hoping to explore in this blog!

Making the most of each day, being grateful and mindful, living with passion and joy and love — to me, that is a masterpiece day. And you know what masterpiece days add up to, right? A masterpiece life. What more can any of us ask for?