Goodbye 2016

I have spent some time this morning decluttering the house. While I packed away Christmas decor, tossed out old files, and loaded the car with boxes of the latest donations, I started to reflect on this past year. It went by in a flash, but I am truly humbled by the last 365 days.

Highlights of the past year remind me of more good times than bad, which is something I haven’t always been able to say every December 31. What I have always been able to say, regardless of the ups or downs, is that God is good. He is faithful, and He continues to bless me with undeserving goodness and mercy.

This year, we welcomed two new family members — Michael David (born May 23) and John Carter (born September 12). Both of these handsome boys are my great nephews, born to my two oldest nieces, Jessie (Carter’s mom) and Katie (Michael’s mom). Being an aunt is an honor that I do not take for granted. I’m certainly not the best aunt, but I love all of my nieces and nephews (and now great-nephews) with all of my heart.


Michael (above)


Carter (above)

I ran a few races over the past 12 months. Six to be exact. With each 3.1 miles completed, my back felt better and I became both stronger and faster. After the struggle that I had last year with my back injury, I was happy to end the year at the same pace that was once my fastest.


I spent a few days in Myrtle Beach at one of my favorite conferences – Women of Joy. It is nice to get away for two nights and soak in some Vitamin Sea. I am most as peace where the ocean meets the sand. Between the sun, sand, and salty air… and the wonderful worship that fills the conference center over those 72 hours… I always come back rejuvenated and restored.



Author and speaker, Lisa Harper at Women of Joy 2016

I finally made it to Chicago this year. Five of my friends and I took an extended weekend girls’ trip up to the Windy City. We laughed a lot, we bickered a little, and we made lifelong memories over the course of five days. We ate great food. We saw historical landmarks. And we even caught a game at Wrigley Field. Little did we know we were watching the World Series Champs in action.

Shortly after returning from Chi-town, I received my biggest blessing of all — turning 40. Some people dread getting older but to me, it’s a privilege. When I say that I am grateful for my days, I seriously mean that I am grateful for every.single.day. As y’all know, I’m on a mission to make the most of this life that I have been given, and embracing every second is the best way to ensure that!

I took Mom to see Dolly Parton in concert this year. Dolly is someone that she has listened to as long as I can remember. I grew up to Mom playing Dolly albums on the record player… Here You Come Again, Jolene, and Two Doors Down are just a few of the Dolly songs that are part of my Life Soundtrack. It was really awesome to get to see Dolly perform them live with Mom sitting beside me. So much fun!

As I look ahead to the new year, one word comes to mind and sums up my goals for 2017:

Focus

Focus on the good.
Focus on what matters.
Focus on my health.
Focus on my family.
Focus on new distances.
Focus on making dreams a reality.
Focus on fun.
Focus on staying on budget.
Focus on staying on track.
Focus on my mission!

I admit that I can easily be distracted. As a matter of fact, I should still be in the office decluttering but I stopped to write this post. 🙂 I don’t want to lose site of my ultimate goal… my mission to make the most of life. I want to live minimally, eat clean, travel places that I’ve never been. I want to push past the comfort zone of 5Ks and train for a 10K. I want to spend more time on this blog, sharing life with y’all. I want to give freely, bless others, and be creative. I want to finish projects that I’ve started. (Boy, does THAT require heavy focus!! haha) I want to dream bigger than I ever have before, and not lose sight of all that I am capable of… and all that God wants me to experience.

What are your plans for the new year? Will you make resolutions for 2017? Do you have certain goals that you would like to accomplish? Comment below and share YOUR dreams with me. Let’s join together and encourage one another as we focus on a mission to make 2017 the best year yet! Happy New Year, friends!

Life Update: December 26, 2016

Where do I even start?

I guess it would be polite to begin with hello, and Merry Christmas! It blows my mind that my family and I celebrated the holiday yesterday and I still do not feel like it’s Christmastime. I have truly struggled to get in the holiday hustle and bustle this year. And I have already taken down and packed up the decorations. But I did have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that those of you who celebrate it did too.

Now… to explain my recent absence. Y’all. Some days I shouldn’t be allowed to get out of bed. haha

Two weeks ago, I was trying to be proactive. I had wanted to transition my Etsy inventory over to this website for a while, and December 10 seemed like a good day to do it. So, that morning, I got an early start on creating a page, importing media, and researching the best way to display my online store. [I should probably mention here that, although I have been a blogger for 6 years, I’m still not all-that-savvy with all-things-Wordpress.] I found a great tutorial with sample HTML codes and carefully followed instructions to assure everything was perfect. When I was finished with the first of many planned pages, I clicked the publish button and waited anxiously for the page to refresh… to see if everything looked good. I didn’t want to code all pages if there was something that needed to be tweaked.

At that moment, my heart sank. Where was my page? I clicked the refresh button beside the URL. Nothing!! My page was solid white. Trying not to panic (although I was already having a full-on anxiety attack) I convinced myself that it would be no big deal… I would rekey my Dashboard URL and delete those codes, or even that particular page, and all would revert back to normal. Um, nope. That didn’t work either. Why did that not work?!! I got sick to my stomach; my head hurt; I think I was on the verge of a breakdown. With the click of one button, I had lost every post that I had ever written since 2010.

Of course I Googled for WordPress tips and tricks to help me revert the damage that I had done, but everything that I found either didn’t work or was too complicated. I had to walk away. It tore me up, and shut me down, for a few hours.

Then it dawned on me… I used a third-party hosting company! Maybe they would be able to tell me what to do to get my page back? After 15 minutes on the phone with my hosting company, it was evident that whatever I had done was irreversible via WordPress. I wanted to cry. What had I done?

The technician placed me on hold for one last attempt for him to save the day and when he returned, he had found a work-around. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a free work-around but it would restore some of my posts. He explained that the hosting company occasionally backs up accounts, and mine had last been updated on December 1.

The process took a while to complete. I had to fill out a service ticket, they had to process my payment, and then they had to compete the restore. I had lost four posts – 12/5, 12/8, 12/12, and 12/15. (And of course I don’t have them saved anywhere else.) I didn’t have any posts scheduled for 12/19 and 12/22 by the time my page was back up and running, it was the week before Christmas and the holiday chaos had begun. I was upset that I had lost posts but given the fact that my website had been restored otherwise, I couldn’t dwell or complain. I’m so unbelievable grateful for my hosting company!

Today, I’m back on track. I spent some time this weekend scheduling topics for the upcoming year, and I have some exciting things in store for 2017. I hope that you’ll subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss any of my future posts ….including my online store! 😉 I will figure out a way to post my inventory without crashing my site again. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Comment below or message me on Facebook!

#Thankful

I am so grateful – every.single.day – for this life. Too many things to list… the good and the bad… I am thankful for it all.

An extra-special thank you to all of you who follow along on this mission of mine!

 

Wishing you and yours a veryHappy-Thanksgiving-2016

Motivation Monday: Mistakes

Art school taught me a lot more than art. It taught me perspective, open-mindedness, and constructive criticism. It also taught me to accept my mistakes, to really look at them and not turn away, and how to correct them.

I never expected that the knowledge I gained in art school would be applied so often to my everyday life.  As a graphic designer in corporate American, it was my job to correct mistakes – including my own! Let me share with you my first BIG mistake at my first job out of college. It was a Y2K publication for the city’s utility division. I typeset and designed a brochure at the city’s request, to let everyone know that all of their computer systems would run smoothly on January 1, 2000. What didn’t run so smoothly was my mistake, that wasn’t caught until after thousands of brochures were printed and distributed. I had left the L out of public, not once but a few times. How embarrassing! I know I ran spell check but since pubic is a word, it wasn’t recognized as a mistake.

I was fortunate to eventually work with a team of proofreaders, who could catch mistakes like that before they were even printed. I eventually went on to work for a publisher with editors, who did not hold back to point out every little problem from the improper use of a comma to an extra space after a period. With every red mark that came back to me, I examined my mistakes closely before correcting them.

Since leaving my art career and joining healthcare, I have somewhat become the editor. I work now as an auditor, reviewing provider documentation for errors. Finding mistakes isn’t a bad thing. Imagine if we, everyone, always did everything right. The world would be stagnant and there would be little room for learning and growth.

When I meet with providers to share the results of their audit, I approach it with the same thinking – here is an opportunity to grow. I share with them ways to correct their mistakes and better care for their patients, capture lost revenue, etc.

Not all providers are receptive. Many providers are perfectionists. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I personally want a provider who not only strives to do their best, but cares for me in the same manner. However, many providers have always excelled in life. I imagine they were valedictorians or deemed “Most Likely to Succeed” in their high schools; they probably graduated with high honors from college. It’s just who they are. So, the thought of me… an art school grad turned auditor… sharing with them that their documentation could use improvement, is probably like a black belt being told by a swimmer that their karate uniform isn’t as white as their peers. I have had some providers so upset that they shut me off completely, refusing to change.

So, I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise to me when I recently asked a law firm to correct the spelling of my name on a legal document they had recorded for me, and they told me it was no big deal. No big deal to correct the mistake? No… they meant the misspelling was no big deal. I was floored. Was I being over-sensitive? Was I wrong to ask them to fix this? I started to question myself. Maybe I should just let this go? But the legal document was recorded under a name that wasn’t mine, or rather didn’t match in spelling, and that could cause more problems down the road.

The more I tried to justify who was right, the more I realized that – in general – humans do not like to admit that they could possibly be wrong, or that they have room for improvement. I include myself in this. Despite my education and experiences, and feeling like I do accept responsibility for my mistakes and make an effort to correct them, I am human and I’m not perfect. Everyone has room to grow in character… always.

Not everyone accepts responsibility for their mistakes, though. Not everyone wants to make an effort to do their part. If they did, would it solve a lot of problems? I truly believe it would be worth the effort to try. Take, for instance, the recent situations throughout the United States involving law enforcement and African-Americans. Instead of each party believing (and arguing) that what they have done is right, what if both saw their mistakes and worked to fix those. After all, it is easier to change ourselves than it is to change someone else. Instead of only seeing our perspective, maybe we should consider everyone’s perspective. It really isn’t that difficult to do, but we do have to make a conscious effort to retrain the way we think; to be less self-aware.

Today, I want to encourage you to rethink mistakes. If someone asks you to correct a mistake that you have made, own up to that mistake. Take control of it, analyze it, and correct it. Approach mistakes in a positive manner. Consider what you could have done better, and how you can avoid it in the future. If you find your own mistake, don’t discredit it. We learn from those too.  Change a misspelling, say you’re sorry, or simply agree to disagree and work on solution – these small acts can (and will) motivate many and provoke a wonderful ripple effect.

Life Update: September 27, 2016

Hi friends!

As you know, from time-to-time, I will post a quick blog about what I’ve been doing and/or projects that I’m planning. Usually when there is a short break in my posting schedule, that means I’m up to something.

And I’m definitely up to something!

I have wanted to get my online store ready for a while now. It has been a dream of mine for over a year, but I never took the time to sit down and make it happen. I thought the mood may eventually pass. Instead, my desire to create an online store has grown! I think it is finally time to make this happen.

I’m still writing blog posts. I have several on the horizon — some in the works with some great sponsors and some that are ready for publishing. But I am also taking some time to create art as well. I am building my inventory of hand-lettered cards and signs, typography/prints, and digital designs. I plan to launch my online store very soon (so please subscribe to my blog so that you’ll receive an email as soon as it’s open!) and sell at a few local craft fairs, too. Being an artist means so much to me, and I am looking forward to sharing my work with you soon.

In addition to my artwork, it’s running season again! (I’m an outdoor runner, and train very little during the hot and humid NC summers.) I begin mentoring on Monday with a new group of trainees who will be completing their first 5K in December. I will personally have my first 5K of the season at the end of October.

All that said, you can expect lots of blog topics heading your way. I will have some great fall recipes for you, running tips as we transition to cooler weather, blogs featuring NC Triad businesses, fall and winter fashions, and some holiday DIY projects. I’m on a mission to make this fall the healthiest and most creative yet. I hope you’ll join me!

 

NC Blogger Network Triad Meetup

UPDATE: This event is being rescheduled. When a new date is available, I will update everyone with a new post. Thank you!

Hello blogger friends! I am hosting a fun meetup next month, and I hope that you will join me. It will take place on Thursday, September 1 at 6:30pm.

This will be the first NCBN Triad Blogger Meetup of 2016, and my first meetup hosting as NC Blogger Network’s Triad Ambassador.

The event will be held at the newly re-branded Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar at Friendly Center in Greensboro. Enjoy an evening of socializing, free appetizers and a drink special* (complements of the restaurant), and the chance to win a door prize.

NCBN Triad Meetup
During our event you’ll get to mingle and network with area bloggers and their influential friends, gain insight about the NC Blogger Network (if you aren’t already a member) and learn who is blogging practically in your own backyard.

The meetup is open to all members, non members, and bloggers in general. Seating is limited, so be sure to grab your tickets early, and please bring a friend! Click here to RSVP.

*You will be responsible for purchasing your own drinks and any additional food.

Motivation Monday: Start Small

Life is overwhelming. From our every day To-Do lists to our goals and dreams, the anxiety of stepping out to tackle all that life has to offer can stop you in your tracks. No one knows this better than me. Just in the last week alone, I have been overwhelmed five times. Seriously! Cleaning the house put me in a tailspin because I worried over what room to start first. Creating a meal plan for my new color-coded diet took me two hours because I felt like I had too many meals to categorize. And don’t even get me started on this website. Do you know how many blog ideas I have in my head? I have started them all, but finished none. It is often paralyzing, and results in unfinished chores and missed deadlines. (Yes, this Motivation Monday post is officially a week late!)

I tend to focus on the big picture. I want to see the end result. I want to reap the benefits. Who doesn’t? But if we’re so focused on looking ahead to the finish line that we stop taking steps forward, we’ll never complete the race.

There is one common factor that can help us in achieving all of our aspirations, no matter the goal. START SMALL.

bigthingssmallbeginnings
It has been said that one of the top habits of a successful person is their ability to start small. Katie Ledecky is an Olympic swimmer from the US, who holds the current world record for the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She began swimming at the age of six. Although she was born into a family of swimmers, Katie couldn’t swim the length of the pool at such a young age. Although she was determined to get to the other side, she often had to hold onto the rope for help. Did that make her less of a swimmer? No. She knew that in order to reach her destination, she had to continue forward even if it meant slowing down, reassessing her focus, and occasionally reaching out for help. Her small, yet persistent beginning has taken her to her second Olympics, where she continues to succeed.

Like Katie, I also want to reach the other end of the pool, so to speak, on several goals. But the difference is that I seem to always ungracefully jump into the water and then flail around somewhere in the middle. There is no forward movement, no focus outside of the end results, and I never reach out for help.

In order to overcome the sense of being overwhelmed by our goals, we must think on a small scale. What plans to you have? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to better your health? Do you just want to get your house clean and organized? Let’s think about how we can ‘reach the other end of the pool’ in these types of scenarios.

Most small businesses start with brainstorming. Many of us can dream up ideas. But did you know that there are steps forward in the brainstorming process that we should take BEFORE we advance to the ‘next section of the pool’? When we’re in this initial phase, we should slow down and take the time to focus on questions like, “What could go wrong with this business and how would I solve it?” and “What are the main things I want my customers to know about me?” After you have considered all of the questions that may arise about your business in general, then move onto to the next step… gathering resources. This may be your opportunity to ‘grab the rope’ by reaching out for assistance. See the pattern? Small, slow, and steady progression forward.

When it comes to my health, I don’t want slow and steady progression! I saw a quote yesterday that read:

“Two days into my diet and I’m still not skinny? This is bulls#!*”

Right? I want immediate results. Don’t you? And that is the number one reason why most diets and exercise plans fail. We jump in… all-in… with no small steps planned. We would be better off setting smaller goals. Want to lose 30 pounds? Your first goal should be 10, and only 10. Interested in a 5K? Your first goal should be one mile. Once you’re comfortable with that distance, then you can focus on two. Need to change your eating habits? Pick one thing to slowly remove and replace it. Cookies to fruit. Chips to carrots. Don’t try to give up everything at once. And most importantly, reach out for help! Have an accountability partner. Download an app to use. Join a group in your community with similar goals. All of these things are small steps toward your ultimate goal.

For me, instead of looking at how unorganized my entire house is, I have decided to focus on one room at a time. I am not going to rush. I am allowing myself one week per room. I will start small and take the slow and steady forward approach, beginning with the room that I use the least and work toward my busiest, most cluttered space. Being able to finish one room will not only give me the satisfaction of completing a small goal, but it will also motivate me to tackle the next, more unorganized, area of the house.

Let’s make a promise that the next time we’re feeling overwhelmed by our big dreams and lofty goals, instead of abandoning them, we’ll continue forward, slowing down from time-to-time to reassess our focus on smaller steps, and reaching out for help when needed. Big things are in our futures!

When Life No Longer Revolves Around Food

Thoughts From a Recovering Food Addict

I can recall, in the not-too-distant past, when I would encourage monthly potlucks at work. There was always something to celebrate. Birthdays, holidays, weddings, babies, retirements … a random Thursday! I could truly turn any day into a reason to host a potluck. Why? Because I loved food. And ultimately, that’s really what I celebrated with every passing potluck.

Food also comforted me when I was worried, became my confidant when I was angry, and helped me pass the time when I was bored. Food had control of my life. I lived for food. And it was killing me.

Last year, I learned about my food allergies after suffering from many health problems including: belly issues, muscle pain, migraines, and chronic fatigue. I had no idea that these symptoms were subtle signs of my body’s rejection of dairy proteins. The moment I was diagnosed, my life changed. Suddenly, I had to analyze every morsel that went into my mouth. I had to read every single ingredient on the packaging. I had to search the websites of restaurants in advance to learn if they would have allergen-free menus when I arrived. It was a painstaking processes. It didn’t take long before I realized that buying pre-made cookie dough in the grocery store, or grabbing a quick meal from a drive-thru just wasn’t worth the effort that I had to put into it. I started reaching for simpler foods with less ingredients to decipher. When I wanted something sweet, I grabbed whole foods… dates, apples, strawberries, or grapes instead of contemplating whether that dark chocolate candy bar was really made of dark chocolate or some kind of blend containing milk fat. My perspective changed, and slowly… I stopped celebrating food.

Despite now knowing many dairy- and gluten-free products at a glance, I’m still in awe of the transition that I have made. Not physically, but mentally. I have entered a phase in which I could easily begin celebrating food again. I know where to find allergen free cheesecakes and pizza, and which fast food restaurants are safe. But I don’t live for food anymore, because I’ve learned the joy in celebrating the moment instead.

A great example of this is how I chose to celebrate my birthday. In the past, I celebrated with about four slices of a large, stuffed crust pizza and an oversized slice (or so) of a 9″ layered cake from my favorite bakery. That was typically preceded by a sweet, carb-heavy breakfast and followed by dinner out on the town. This year, however, food played a very small part in my day. Instead, I started my morning with an hour-long massage, followed by time with family, and ending with a concert and dancing with friends. I barely remember what I ate that day. Throughout the day I had a bottle of my favorite juice, likely a protein bar or some other healthy snack(s), and I did stop by Zoe’s Kitchen for a delicious Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Gigi’s for a gluten free, vegan cupcake! (I still eat sweets… I just eat a cupcake instead of 1/2 the layer cake now.) My point is, I enjoyed life. I relaxed, I laughed, and I celebrated the moment. Memories far exceeded the calories this year.

I no longer plan office potlucks. We rarely have them now, and no one seems to mind. I have had the opportunity over the last few months, however, to help plan celebrations with others; things like baby showers and baptisms where food generally seems to take precedence over the actual event. It’s eye opening to me to see the amount of, and variety of, food that folks feel should be available at these special occasions. I didn’t realize the effort that I used to put into planning and preparing an event around food until I removed myself from that. I can now see how much effort others put into it. Food first, then all of the other details later. Those kind of events generally end in tummy aches and leftover casseroles for days.

I still enjoy food. I love trying new recipes and occasionally meeting friends at restaurants. I think it’s great to serve food at events. I don’t want this post to come across as my being anti-food. But I do ask you to stop and consider the intent of food at your next event. Make sure you’re not like the old me… celebrating mac & cheese and red velvet cake, making memories with pasta salad and chocolate chip cookies, and overlooking the real reason you’ve gathered together. I promise that you will be more likely to remember little things like the way the bride smiled at her new husband when they thought no one noticed, than the way the chicken salad sandwiches tasted. At the end of the day, your hearts will be more full than your bellies.

Living Right

Yesterday, I attended a funeral for the father of a friend. He was 95 years old, and lived a wonderfully full life until his health rapidly declined. The memories that were shared about this precious man were incredible to hear. He truly was someone who “lived life right.” That isn’t to say that he didn’t make mistakes. We all do, including him. But he was described as someone who “believed everyone was as honest as he was.” He worked hard, he loved hard, he put others first, and he never harbored bitterness or negativity. I think a lot of that had to do with his faith, but a lot of it had to do with his character too. He never worried what others thought of him because he was always considerate and confident in his intent. His funeral was short and sweet, because his long life had already told the story of what a kind soul he was.

Shortly before arriving to the funeral, I received a Facebook message from someone with whom I once volunteered. I would consider this person an acquaintance; not really a friend since we had never done anything outside of events together. However, if I ran into this person around town, I would speak. I would ask how he’s doing and genuinely care about his response. His message was questioning why I had unfriended him on Facebook. He was immediately defensive and questioned what he had done wrong to cause my actions. He wanted to know what he could do to “fix our friendship.” After the funeral, I learned that a short 30 minutes after he contacted me, this individual had also posted a rant on his Facebook timeline. It stated something along the lines of “if you’re going to unfriend me… please be an adult and send me a message as to what the problem is.” He continued by stating that if “you’re not adult enough, you did not need to be on my friends list anyway.” It was full of bitterness and negativity, and self-consciousness.

Of course when I confronted my acquaintance, he explained that the rant was about someone else. I started to question if that was an honest statement… but I didn’t. All I could think about was the beautiful celebration of life that I had just witnessed, and how much society today puts more weight in social media friendships than they do about living life right. I can’t begin to imagine what someone sees and experiences in 95 years on earth, but I often wonder what previous generations must think about my generation and those that follow. When did unfriending someone on Facebook become the judgement of our character? When did bullying someone behind a computer screen become so acceptable? When did honesty and putting others before yourself become a thing of the past? Why are people so bitter and negative these days? When did we lose our dedication to do the right thing and be our best?

I haven’t been able to get my friend’s father off of my mind. What an incredible example this man was to his family and friends, and to his community. It really makes me think about my life as I enter into my 40s. If my health rapidly declined, would my funeral be short because my life was full? Or would I be remembered for my Facebook rants and my constant unhappiness? It is really something to consider, isn’t it?

When you work hard, love hard, and put others first… you don’t have to worry what people say about you. You can be confident that your life speaks volumes for your character. In my next 40 years, I want to live a life so full of love, kindness, honesty, and selflessness that the only words that need to be spoken at my funeral are “…until we see you again!”