Own Goals

Original Photo: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

This year I had goals.

This was new for me. I’m not typically goal-oriented about anything. But I felt that this year I needed to push myself and have a clear direction for where I was going to focus my attention.

I only realized the last few weeks that those goals didn’t match anything I really valued.

Oops.

Instead, I noticed that they tended to reflect what I thought made other people successful, or even worse — what I thought other people would think would make me a success.

These are both terrible guides for goal creation, as at no point does it factor in: what does success look like for you? I decided it’s entirely possible to view someone as successful and not want that level or type of success for yourself.

I was glad I had this epiphany of sorts, albeit a little later in the year that I would have preferred. I felt liberated in shedding myself of these ambitions. I mean, I won’t say I had adopted a “hustle or bust” attitude this year, but I took regular measured steps on my to-do list. Still, I was so glad to stop feeling the pressure, even just from myself, to work towards something that ultimately I didn’t want.

But, it was also uniquely stressful. I was now left without any direction and nothing to motivate myself but work for work’s sake. Which, let’s be real, it may sound good to just love to do the work. And I love my work. But that’s not always enough to get it done. What I lack in motivation, I make up for in deadlines (but I didn’t know what those should be anymore!)

Now goal-less, I gave myself time to just think about it. I had to sit down and actually ask myself, “what do I think success would look like for me?” (which I hadn’t thought to ask before). Once I had a better idea (which took way longer than I anticipated), I then had to decide what does that mean for my goals — what steps do I actually have to take to get to that kind of success?

I’m pleased to report that after this thought-exercise of sorts, I have a much better understanding of what I value, and a better sense of direction for the purpose of my work. I don’t know if it was a matter of my goals being wrong from the start, or if I had just changed over the course of the year. But, I definitely underestimated the value of checking in– not just with my goal progress, but with my goals themselves.

My goals may now sound silly, if I said them out loud. And I don’t want to say what they actually are, because that always seems to make them ten times harder to reach! They may not be taken seriously, or be understood by others. Or maybe when I share them, people will just go “of course, that makes perfect sense!” But either way, it doesn’t matter. Because this time, they are really mine.


Happy holidays!

Italy

Buon Ottobre!

I am not a good traveler. I would love to frolick through the airport to my gate, stopping for friendly chatter with the locals, Starbucks, and a selfie. But instead I get to the airport a few hours extra-early “just in case” — and am in line to check my bags before the airline agents are there yet. I don’t mean to, but travel is chaos. And I do not handle it well. I try my best to stay on schedule and organized, but that means I have to work very hard to relax enough to actually enjoy my trip…

Going to Italy this last month for my first international adventure was a gift. My husband had been numerous times before, so he took care of all of the planning. My only request was to see the Spanish Steps, until I realized that wasn’t the Appian Way, and that in fact I didn’t want to worry about it this visit anyway.

Instead, we got to see so many amazing museums and churches and ruins. We ate so much pasta and gelato and more gelato and more gelato. Like, seriously, they started recognizing us at the gelateria next to our hotel. We were regulars within a week. (I’ve never been treated like a regular at the restaurant at home that I’ve been going to for nearly a decade now!)

I had kept my expectations grounded, considering every rave review I’d heard of Rome and Italy to be influenced by equal portions nostalgia and romanticism. But I have to admit, I was amazing. I really enjoyed the two weeks, and never tired of the art and architecture of that beautiful country. And gelato.

I did quickly tire of Italian television. Hours of The Amazing World of Gumball re-runs in Italian that still somehow cracked us up despite the language barrier.

I know what you’re thinking — “you didn’t learn Italian?” No. I really really tried, thanks to months of Duolingo. But forgot it instantly (thanks jetlag, maybe?) and what I remembered I was barely confident enough to use. “Grazie!” and “Il conto, per favore” and “l’acqua naturale” were my staples. (“Thanks” “check please” and “still water” (instead of the much more popular fizzy water)).

Oh, wait… is that not what you were wondering? Are you surprised to find that we watched television? Hours of it, no less? That’s fair. I didn’t expect it. And judging by the size of the TVs in our rooms, the hotels didn’t guess it either.

But the reason we were watching so much television is also the reason I think we managed to enjoy our trip so much.

Siesta.

I had really only heard about “siesta” as a Spanish cultural norm. But apparently it can be pretty common in Italy too. And we adopted it wholeheartedly. I really think it kept us sane. Every day we would enjoy a small breakfast and cappuccino, venture out to a museum, have a relaxing lunch, and then head back to the hotel for a few hours. Then, go to another museum or sight, before a late and long dinner somewhere.

That seista was the perfect break in our day. We went nearly everywhere on foot, and even if we took the subway, we still spent a while in lines or hours walking through the museums. Add a late-summer heatwave and crowds of likeminded tourists and we were exhausted every day by two o’clock. We used the break to rest our poor feet, enjoy some air conditioning, re-hydrate, and research what we wanted to do in the afternoon (and more importantly where we would eat dinner!).

It felt very weird to spend hours hiding away in our hotel. Almost wrong. Like we were wasting precious time in our limited stay. There is so much to do on vacation, especially in places like Rome and Florence… But what might have been lost in adventure, we made up for in appreciation. By remembering to rest every day, we stayed consistently in good spirits and excited about what we were doing. I think if we hadn’t stopped now and then to rest and recover, we very likely would have gotten so fatigued that we easily could have lost an entire day or two to exhaustion. And that would have been worse, in my book. After all it was still vacation, and the point was equally to escape from the busy-ness of our daily life as much as it was to explore another country.

Travel is still chaos. International, even more so, I’ve learned. But I’m so glad we were still able to rest and enjoy time off as we experienced the extravagant and lush vistas of Italy.


Do you have ways to stay rested during a busy vacation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Ciao!

Thirty

Original Photo: Brooke Lark / Unsplash

In my social circle, I’m one of the last to turn thirty. There seems to be a lot of mystery about it, as the closer each of my friends approached their thirtieth birthday, the less and less they wanted to acknowledge their aging. This doesn’t seem to be a new phenomenon, as I’ve had one aunt in particular who has remained 29 for decades…

But I guess I’m odd in looking forward to turning 30. In fact, I’ve been telling people I’m thirty for a year now. I’m READY.

I can’t say I necessarily feel thirty. I don’t think anyone would claim I’m particularly mature, and when left to my own devices I can seem pretty helpless (lunch? That’s a thing I have to do EVERY DAY? Uuuggghhh.) But as someone who repeatedly got carded to sit in the emergency exit row of a flight only a few years ago, I’m looking forward to being older, and hopefully I seem it now, at least a little… Seriously, you have to be 15 for those seats! FIFTEEN! It’s not a compliment at that point…

I guess I hope that 30 brings wisdom. I hope that wisdom brings confidence. I hope I don’t use that confidence to belittle others who are still “just figuring it out.” I feel like I heard that a lot when I was just out of college. Older people reminding me that I’m a newly established adult wobbling around and learning as I go. Now that I’m older, what a bunch of bull. I’m probably less wobbly, but I’m definitely still learning and figuring it out.

May I never speak the words “you’re just a kid” unless it’s specifically to encourage a younger person that there is no rush in figuring it all out! It’s myth to think otherwise. That myth is the origin for the “mid-life crisis” after all. A major change at forty is no less significant than any other age, but it’s also not any more so either. It’s only because we expect ourselves to be “figured out” and “settled in” that it’s a crisis. But change is a part of the process, at every age.

I didn’t think that at thirty I would have two cats (I’m mildly allergic to them after all), or that I would have a degree I don’t use (but don’t regret pursuing). I never would have guessed that my parents would move away to get ready to eventually enjoy retirement, but that my brother and sister-in-law would be my neighbors instead. I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be an artist. I don’t think I would have expected to work part-time at a warehouse for years, and quit on Thursday morning because I realized if I didn’t right then at that moment then I’d never have the courage to leave, and that was worse than quitting. I didn’t realize just how incredibly supportive my husband is for cheering me on and how much he believes in my ability to reach my dreams. (although I shouldn’t be surprised, he’s the best.)

Thirty isn’t going to start at all as I anticipated. But the wisdom with turning 30 is that I’m a-okay with all of it. Even if it’s hard stuff, like making sure I eat lunch everyday, or running my own business, I know I am capable. I have the capacity to be able to do these things, even if it’s not right away and I’m still just figuring it out as I go.

Maybe thirty won’t be so different after all. But I’m grateful for it all that same.


As a birthday gift to me, tell me what your favorite lunches are! I don’t have much interest or skill in cooking. So, what are your go-to sandwich combinations, or toppings for an egg (I did learn how to cook that, at least). Let me know in the comments below!

Hello 2019

Original photo credit: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept it; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

At a glance, I don’t quite understand why a New Year is so exciting. It’s just a date on the calendar.

Most of the time, it’s important for me to stay in the present. My anxiety often comes from the past or the future. The present is where I am, and where I try to focus.

But I appreciate that the New Year is a time to contemplate the past with a graceful judgement. It’s a time of contemplation– of reminiscing and goal-setting. We get to purposefully celebrate where we have been, reflect on what we’ve endured, and recognize what we’ve accomplished. It’s probably not healthy to look back all the time, but one day can’t hurt.

I seems silly to pick one day to set new goals for the future, when we could realistically do that at any time. Every day offers new possibilities and potential. But if that’s one day, what does a year bring? 365 new and wonderous days. That’s a lot to consider. After all, some goals take time, require gradual progress, and setting intentions. Some goals NEED 365 days, not just one. And maybe there is something comforting about starting a New Year together. We all have resolutions of some kind, to varying degrees of formality. And knowing we’re starting this new thing together is a weird form of accountability, or at least relateability.

Like, we all know the gyms will be packed starting today, and the regulars will be annoyed. But they all had to pick a day to become regulars too. Maybe next year you’ll get to be annoyed with the rest of them. That’s community, my friends.

My favorite way to celebrate the New Year is to write a letter to myself. No, you can’t read it. But in general, I like to talk about the things I remember most clearly for the year. I’m surprised by what leaves the biggest impressions. And I write about what I learned, and what I want to do in the next year — what I want to work on, where I want to go (literally or figuratively). I’ve only done this two years so far, but it’s been a rewarding experience. It helps me to put it all down on paper, the thoughts and feelings that linger as the year turns once more.

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If you have resolutions or traditions for the New Year that you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear them!

Happy 2019!

Transition

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This year I feel particularly sensitive to the changing of seasons — and not just thanks to my allergies. It seems as if the bright red and yellow leaves are nature’s caution that it’s time to slow down, and consider my transition into Winter.

Inktober seemed to echo this message. The dailiness of taking note of what makes Fall particularly cozy not only was a drawing challenge, but a challenge to pay attention. A reminder of years past with campfires over a rather rainy and cold Halloween weekend. Mementos from a spontaneous weekend hike. Lots and lots of yummy food. Thick socks and warm sweaters… I’m not usually one who rises up to meet a challenge. Do you know how many 30-day yoga programs there are? A lot. And I’ve given up on a fair share. But this challenge, I really enjoyed and looked forward to each day.

But I’m glad to change things up now that it’s November. I’m ready to slow down and work on more involved projects. (And eat six pounds of Halloween candy.)

I know I’ve mentioned hygge briefly before, but I thought now would be an even better time to talk about it — you know, before winter is over. The concept of coziness, hygge, and the permission to rest, seems to me to be as important as ever. I never have as much energy in the Winter, and I’ve decided this year that just has to be okay.

I plan on crocheting more blankets, to go with the other piles of blankets on our couches. I hope to notice the little things and practice gratitude for the season, not just a day. I want to read as much as I can about the things that I enjoy. I will light wonderful, not-cheap candles that make our house smell like a magical forest. I am going to cook a lot of not-instant oatmeal and top it with honey and red plum jam, because it’s flippin’ delicious. (It’s also the peak of my cooking skills. And I actually enjoy the process… of slowly heating water.)

I’m not too worried about avoiding my cellphone to be present, although I’m trying to mindful of how often I’m on social media for no reason. I also don’t really care about how cozy the lighting is — currently the chandelier over our dining table (and main light for our living room) is burned out and I have no idea when we’ll fix it. Not a priority, we have lamps.

It doesn’t have to be complicated to slow down and transition from the energy of Summer to the stillness of Winter. It would be counter-intuitive to stress about relaxation, and whether I’m doing it right, or following the rules of hygge. But I’m definitely going to try.

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What are your favorite traditions for Fall? Do you do anything to specifically adjust to the coming shorter days? Let me know in the comments!

All About October

“Draw every day.”

It’s probably the number one piece of advice given to artists, particularly those who draw I suppose. It’s also something I struggle with. No matter how much I enjoy drawing, I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I’m focusing on other business issues, sometimes I don’t really have an idea (I’m not big on just doodling), and sometimes I’m just too busy. Yup.

But it’s October!

So I’m finally going to challenge myself and draw every day this month, as a part of Inktober. I’ve considered it in years past, but not early enough to plan ahead and/or other lists of things to draw wouldn’t really resonate with me. So this year I’ve planned ahead. I bought a designated sketchbook, rounded up my favorite pens, and created my own list of drawing prompts. Yay!

I decided my Inktober should have a theme, and it’s something I actually am pretty good at doing everyday: being lazy — I mean, cozy! Since that might be a bit too narrow on it’s own, it’s technically “A Cozy Fall” because they go together so naturally. So think big fluffy blankets, and… well, that’s about it. 31 days of drawing blankets! …Just kidding, but you get the idea. (Oh goodness, what have I signed myself up for??)

It doesn’t hurt either that this super chill drawing theme for Inktober coincides with my husband’s October tradition — watch as many scary movies as possible. I’ve grown to appreciate this tradition, but admittedly horror is not my favorite genre. So to counter-balance it, spending time every day drawing chill “hygge” stuff seemed like a good idea. (Oh goodness, what have I signed up for??)

If you would like to keep up with my Inktober drawings, I’ll be posting them weekly on Instagram (great time to start following if you aren’t already)!

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Last but not least, October is also the 2nd anniversary of Summer Child Designs! So to celebrate, I’m offering 20% off select items in my Etsy shop for the month of October. Yay!

 

Hello Fall?

Hello Fall

I don’t think I’m the only one who equates September with the start of all things Fall. I know that you know that this is the unofficial beginning to the pumpkin spice latte season…

But the more I think about it, the more I am becoming convinced that September is actually a mash-up of some of the best parts of Summer and Fall.

Examples:

Kids are back in school. Sure, the bus stop in the middle of my commute is kind of a bother, but in exchange I get to walk around Target in the middle of a weekday and enjoy a relaxing experience.

It’s not too cold for farmers’ markets to disappear yet. It’s also, in theory at least, getting cool enough for the orchards to open. I’m too lazy to do either, but if fresh produce is your thing, September is definitely a great time for both! Cheers to bountiful harvests!

Speaking of “cheers” — if it’s hot out, a radler beer is a refreshing and still-available choice. If it’s a cooler day, bring on the Oktoberfest… Try your best to save the pumpkin beers for next month (if you can wait that long)!

The days are still long-ish. Well, longer than they will be in a month or so. One the rare days I feel particularly social, I can go out and enjoy a nice late evening dinner with friends. But if I just really want to go to bed early at like nine, I can without having a brilliantly bright sunset mocking me for being so old. So that’s definitely a win-win.

Basically, September is a last-call to enjoy all the things remaining on your Summer to-do list. But it’s also a great time to get into the spirit of Fall and plan for cooler weather, warmer drinks, and enjoying that bit of calm before the flurry of holidays at the end of the year.

Well done, September!