Thursday, July 12, 2018

Erin Condren 2019 LifePlanner Review and Coupon

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

If you know me, you know that I look forward to the arrival of my new Erin Condren lifeplanner every year. 


Before we get into the review, I'd like to state for the record that I purchase my own Erin Condren products and am not compensated in any way by the company. I just really like the products. Should you decide to give their LifePlanner (or anything else EC) a try after reading my review, I'd really appreciate it if you'd use my personal referral link (you will save $10 as a new customer, and I will get a $10 credit, so it's a win/win! After you sign up for an account, the coupon is emailed to you). 


First, a few details: There are not a LOT of options for the LifePlanner. You can get a hardcover book or a spiral bound now (which uses interchangeable covers); I love the look of the hardcover, but there's only one design option, and the calendar and weeks are undated, so I'm sticking with my spiral until EC ups their hardcover game. With the spiral, you can personalize your cover (many of the designs, you can choose any color combination you want), and you can choose the color of your spiral (I picked black). You can also choose if you want remaining months of 2018 + 2019 or just 2019. I always buy my LifePlanner in the summers, but I only get it for the upcoming Jan-Dec year. I personally like a less heavy book, but I want to be able to start planning for coming years. 


This year, I used the collage design, which I also used for my first EC planner. I've used all the photo design options now and wish EC would create some more, but this one is cute. 




This year's freebies include a large coil clip, a couple of gift tags (we use them for wine bottles, compliment cards (which I don't personally use, but they're cute), and a 20% off coupon to give to a friend (leave a comment if you're interested). I don't clip in my pouch because I like my book to stay flat. I love how the backs of the covers are dry erase. I always write my student's accommodations in sharpie for each semester. Then I erase them for the new semester. It helps remind me to make sure everyone is getting their accommodations on a daily basis. 


The paper quality, like last year's, is really elevated with these books compared to years prior to 2018. I actually think the paper is better this year than in 2018. 

This 12 box spread is supposed to be for monthly goal setting, but you could use it for anything. Like other years, the start of the book also contains an at a glance calendar for July 2018-December 2019. 


The start of each month has a ruled page...last year's design was funky, and I like this plain but practical approach better. 



Monthly spread has stayed the same. I track my weight on this spread and also track my bills on the column to the right. I never forget to make a payment. Putting a mini version of the next month's calendar at the bottom of that right hand column is a new addition, and I love it.


The big change I made this year was switching from vertical view to hourly view (you can also choose horizontal). The hours each day run from 6AM to 7PM with two blank lines at the bottom of each day). My schedule is sure to be a little more chaotic next year, so I appreciate having more space to write down commitments. I like that they added check-off circles to the column on the left and kept the thankful thought box (they don't label it thankful thought anymore, but I still use it for that).


The notes section this year still includes lined paper. There is also dotted grid paper and coloring pages. I love these llamas; though I have yet to make use of my 2018 coloring pages (I think the idea is supposed to be de-stressing, but I don't personally want to use my downtime that way). 


This contacts page is a great addition to the planner. They even made a contacts tab, so you can easily find it. 


2020 at a glance...love this page for jotting down dates of upcoming conferences, weddings, and special events. 


EC improved on the stickers this year and added some really cute designs. I've been terrible about decorating my planner this year, but I love doing it when I have the time. 





I get a lot of use out of the back folder, but I don't use my perpetual calendar. Maybe I should start using this "important passwords" page though because I constantly forget my passwords to websites, and it's really annoying. 


It will be interesting to see if having a child necessitates moving to a Google calendar. I've had a lot of success with paper planning thus far and hope it continues to be a good system for us.

Happy planning!
<3
S

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Another Austin Recap

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It has been nearly a month since my last check in style post, and so much has happened since then. After a few weeks at home where our focus was mostly on relaxation and family time (and some writing for Brendan), we headed back to Austin again. We celebrated my birthday a day late with family (photos by Amanda).

Amanda made this gorgeous and delicious FBI cake. She's winning cousin of the year! I need to bake her a cake since she's made two for me this year.  


The next day, Brendan gave my parents a ride to the airport. They headed to Las Vegas, and we looked forward to getting a change of scenery in Austin with the house to ourselves.

Our morning walks instantly became cuter as baby fawns are populating my parents' neighborhood.


When it's just the two of us in Austin, we always make it a point to try new restaurants. I loved Chi'Lantro. Two words: Kimchi Fries. 


Willa enjoyed her first Star Wars experience as we found Star Wars, The Last Jedi on Netflix. 


Amanda and Matt had us over for the most delicious dinner ever! They made lamb and popovers. Plus, they had ice cream. They are both winning cousin of the year! 


We were out the door early on the 4th of July for the neighborhood parade. Once a small gathering, the parade now has sponsors, includes the mayor, and every street in the neighborhood fills with people parking. Luckily, we could just walk. Willa slept through most of her first parade. 






That night, we drove to Elda's house for dinner and fireworks. Elda made us dinner, and we loved visiting with her and her friend Carolyn and enjoying fireworks from the balcony. It was a cloudy night, but we could still see lots!


The next day was our five year anniversary. Brendan picked my parents up from the airport that afternoon, and my mom was back home in time to babysit while we enjoyed dinner at Barley Swine. We took a family picture before we left. 


This was our first visit to Barley Swine, which Amanda and Matt recommended to us. We opted to do the chef's 10 course tasting menu, and it was a really enjoyable meal. The ambiance at Barley Swine is really pretty and intimate, the service was outstanding, and they really went out of their way to add special touches for our anniversary. If you are celebrating a special occasion, it is worth the splurge. We'll be remembering that meal for a long time! 

The next day, we visited with my parents. Then my mom babysat again, so we could meet Cassie and John for dinner and see The Antipodes at Hyde Park Theatre. The show is by Annie Baker, and this is the second US production; amazing show: funny, weird, and a must see for any writer especially. Love HPT and how much their shows make us think. Few things in Austin have stayed as wonderful as I remember, but HPT is still a true gem.


July 7th is Corley's birthday, and we got to spend the day together! She met Willa, and then we got to do brunch just the two of us at Chez Zee. She lives in Sacramento now, so it was such a joy to see her for the first time since our trip to San Francisco in March 2017.


Later, the celebrating continued at Pinthouse Pizza! We saw Cassie and John again plus some people we went to HS with that I really enjoyed catching up with. I had my first true breastfeeding in public experience too. 


We headed home on Sunday, and Lola & Zoe were ver happy to see us. We have plenty to keep us busy before our next trip! Hope everyone is loving summer! 

<3

Thursday, July 5, 2018

5 Years, My Dear

Greetings faithful blog readers,

On our wedding day five years ago, I had no way of knowing all the places (both actual and internal) that our marriage would take us. As the sun went down that night, we stood under a live oak tree and made promises and exchanged rings; our family and closest friends surrounded us. Afterward, there was delicious food and hours of dancing, and I was so happy that it made me nervous (as good luck always does).






These five years have gone by quickly, and I'm proud of the life we've built together: one that has given us both space to grow, one where we each honor and celebrate and accept the other. 

There was a time in my life when I didn't even believe it was possible to find that kind of relationship, but early in our marriage, we made one simple rule, and I think it's worth sharing here. The rule is: we can't lose our cool at the same time. Such an easy rule right? But there really is an art to it. This goes beyond being a courtesy because, at times, I really do think our physical and mental well being depends on adhering to it. 

It can simply mean taking on a small but essential responsibility as an unspoken agreement, like how Brendan will make sure we both get out of bed while I'll ensure we both get to work on time, but the most important use of the rule is during difficult times. Those times when the other person is struggling, and you have to be the one thinking clearly enough to help. There are times that one of us has made the other eat, taken care of everything at home, has put aside their own grief just to let the other heal. There are times each of us has tabled our own concerns and taken care of both of us to ensure the other has the time and space and clarity to write. When an international flight is missed, the rule ensures that at least one of us remains clear minded enough to find a hotel and rebook it. When one of us is a little too drunk, we can take for granted the other will be able get us home (and make sure ibuprofen and water is next to the bed). The rule accepts that anger, depression, self-depreciation, frustration, mistakes, and bad decisions are inevitable. The trick is to simply sometimes be the one to stay out of the muck, so you can pull the other person out. 

The other day, we were talking about how marriage is about so much more than love. It's about weathering the experiences that break you with someone else...it's about knowing the other person will be there when you can't remember what to do. Our rule ensures that even when you are at your worst, there's one person who remembers how much they love you at your best. 


The day we got engaged, we promised one another that we would always treat each other so well. We've learned what that looks like for us--the honesty, support, and empathy we need to give. 


Love has much to teach us. It teaches us about each other and about ourselves. When you think you've learned everything about the other person, you find there is still more to know. There are new adventures and surprises. 


My wish for us is that we continue to discover together and to give each other grace. I hope we can embrace life with bravery because we know that we can always turn to each other for strength. I hope our daughter knows that strength is there, in abundance, for her. 

Here's to the best five years and all that's to come. Here's to at least one of us always keeping our cool!
<3 S 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Donate Your Birthday

Greetings faithful blog readers,

As my 31st year comes to close, I cannot believe what a life changing and exciting year it was. From finding out we were expecting to giving birth to our beautiful baby girl to helping her grow into a three month old, this year has brought big changes and the most intense love. The year also brought exciting opportunities: my chapbook with PANK was released, I had the opportunity to attend the Tin House Summer Workshop, and I celebrated five years working in a place I love. I spent this year in many exciting places: Taos, NM; Portland, OR; Connecticut and Maine, Austin, TX; Tulsa, OK; and Maui, HI. It was a very special year: one that fills me with gratitude and appreciation beyond what I can express, and now I'm excited to spread some good karma and give back a little.

I started participating in Donate Your Birthday the year I turned 25. The concept is simple: each year, donate your age in dollars to an organization of your choice. I always look forward to this small way to give back.

Often, my charity picks are inspired by books I'm reading. I've thought a lot recently, after reading Evicted, about the needs that we all have, and the need to feel safe and loved tops the list. After the loss of our Pediatrician this month, I read that one of the charities she loved was Centers for Children and Families, so I went to the website and read all about it. This center offers individual, martial, and family counseling to residents of Midland and Odessa at reduced or no cost to the participants. No referral from a doctor or agency is required, so there is not "red tape" in accessing these services. They also offer bilingual therapy, therapy dogs, and free services for military and their families. The credentials of their counselors are so impression. From the website:

"We currently employ 11 Licensed Professional Counselors, ten of whom have Masters Degrees, and one has her Doctorate and is a degreed nurse.  We have a counselor available who is bilingual and is a Registered Play Therapist who helps children/teens heal from stressful or traumatic experiences. We also have a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, two counselors who are certified in Anger Resolution, five who have received Trauma training and one who is a Licensed Chemical Dependence Counselor."

Clearly, this organization is doing important work out in our community, and it feels wonderful to support them.

I also donated to Midland College's SOS (Support Our Students) fund. When unexpected emergencies crop up, they can hinder a student from completing courses they've started and that can create major barriers to completing their educational goals. Examples of emergencies this fund can help with include food, housing, daycare, legal help, transportation help, medical assistance, and utility bills. 

Do you donate your birthday? If so, what organizations do you love? 

<3 




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What To Do, What To Do

Greetings faithful blog readers,

You may be wondering if my two week disappearance is because I'm too busy to write while taking care of a baby. The short answer is no. The long answer is that I'm so horrified by some recent actions of our administration that I feel like I cannot in good faith write about planners, breastfeeding, my chapbook, working out, or all the other day in the life stuff on my mind. Instead, I took my friend John's advice and read this book (more in a minute), donated to this organization in honor of my brother's birthday, emailed my senators, and did some serious soul searching about what I believe our country should be, what I believe humanity means, what is in my control, and what isn't.  What is one to do?


I highly recommend reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. This book is an excellent ethnography that gives the reader an emotional connection to each person profiled. The writer does an excellent job removing himself from the third person narratives, and his agenda is really quite simple: we need to have more compassionate policy that helps all people have an opportunity to parent, work, and live with dignity. After you read this, watch The Pruitt Igoe Myth on Amazon Prime. I re-watched it after several years: it's so heartbreaking and related to the issues Evicted discusses. Honestly, both this movie and book changed many of my view points and increased my awareness of how our country works as did my experiences. A few more thoughts:

Point #1: Don't be afraid to change...life is too short to feel like you need to spend it defending or justifying your past views. You can't work to change systems you don't really understand, and you can't really understand without looking at the bigger picture.

Point #2: Don't let yourself become saturated by news that depresses you without taking action. Even though I'm pretty sure my senators do not listen to my views, I still write to them. I vote. No excuses. I also continue to live and enjoy my life. To let your great fortune and the wonderful memories you could be making pass you by would be a tragedy.

Point #3: I discovered the meaning of life, and I really strive to live by it. Spoiler alert: it's not all about me (or you). We have to help other people. That's what makes human beings human beings: our ability to empathize and step outside our own bubbles and imagine what someone else is going through and then extend a helping hand. This is what draws me to reading and writing. Reading is always a good use of time.

Point #4: Thinking about what we can do locally is a great use of time. Since we don't get to influence national policy nearly as much as we can influence local policy and organizations, try to figure out where you are needed. After learning that Dress for Success is starting a chapter in the Permian Basin, I will be combing through my professional wardrobe for gently used pieces to donate to a great cause.

Point #5: Some issues are really not about politics but just about doing what is good and just. We've had some pretty terrible laws that oppressed people or allowed violence to perpetuate. We shouldn't use laws to justify our behavior or letting the bad behavior of others slide (read Emerson and Thoreau for a beautifully worded version written by someone that doesn't have to change their sheets right now).

Point #6: To me, one thing that makes America so special is the diversity of our population. Honestly, diversity is our strength, but some are trying to turn that into our weakness. We shouldn't turn against each other.

Point #7: I don't have all the answers but neither do you. Remember that no one ever knows it all. Keep striving to understand other people: people that aren't just like you aren't worth any less than you are. Everyone is loved by someone. I always remind myself of this.

Point #8: Sometimes you need to take a yoga class or participate in some form of self care. Do it.

Point #9: I think all Americans really want to think of ourselves as good. We shouldn't be so quick to think everyone is out to get us. The world is changing but we can't just "pass the buck" when it comes to our responses. What do we want our children's children's textbooks to say about this period of our history?

I don't have a tenth point, and I have to change my sheets.

I hope to check in with some upbeat content. But it felt good to brain dump.
S

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Austin Recap + Summer Plans

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Thanks for sticking by me whether I'm a fast or slow blogger! We returned home from Austin on Saturday and have been getting back into our normal groove this past week.

Austin was a fun and exciting break from the norm. In addition to the family reunion, we got to catch up with a lot of friends. Willa had two play dates with other babies (though I can't say she really knew what was going on--at least the moms had fun!) The secret date that I mentioned in my last post turned out to be dinner at Blue Dahlia Bistro and seeing Paul Simon in concert. Brendan scored us amazing seats right on the floor, and I could not help but tear up during the opening song--America. It was a spectacular concert, but I told Brendan I refuse to plan him a secret date because his will be impossible to top! Thanks to mom (Lelie) for babysitting. It was nice to be together and out on the town...though (true life) I did have to pump in the car before the concert.






I took Willa out on the playdates on my own; it always feels like such an accomplishment getting us both ready and out of the house. Here we are in our brunching attire. 


It was great to have some family time and friend time. I didn't get pictures, but we also did a couple's date with Matt and Amanda at DK Sushi and went to Lick Honest Ice Cream after. So good. I love our double dates and will take all the cousin time I can get!


We had friends over for dinner, which made it easy for me to be with Willa for her dinner. 

Cassie Meets Willa 
I also got my hair done, and Brendan used a Christmas giftcard to pick up some new equipment at Precision Camera. The week went by so quickly! 

Beyond seeing family and friends this summer (in Austin, Connecticut, and Maine), we don't have any other summer plans. We're both really enjoying the time off and thankful to be able to spend so much time with Willa. She continues to be a happy and easy go lucky baby. That may not last, but I'm enjoying it while I can! 


While I joke that we live in "groundhog day" in which everyday is the same (feed, change, play, nap, repeat), the truth is that everyday is a new adventure too. Even something as simple as a baby pool turns into something neat when you're with someone experiencing it for the very first time. 



While I do have some goals in mind (writing, organization, and future planning type stuff), we've been taking it easy since we got home. I've been binge watching season two of 13 Reasons Why and catching up with friends via phone dates. Going from giving birth to caring for a newborn to finishing the semester to teaching an online class to traveling with a two month old was a lot, and I'm content to relax a bit. I've been able to ease up on the pumping schedule too and now only do that three times a day (in addition to breastfeeding all day...but it's better than the six pump per day schedule I had before Austin).

On a terribly sad note, Brendan and I were shocked and very saddened to learn that Willa's pediatrician, Dr. Ackerman, a mother of three, was killed in a cycling accident last week. We've given our condolences to her family and will be donating to one of her chosen charities in her honor. We saw her a lot as we troubleshooted Willa's slow to gain issues, and she was a really kind person. Please, please, please drive safely and remember that distracted driving is never worth it. I cannot stop thinking about her family and how this loss will affect them. Be careful on the roads, especially during the summer when more kiddos are out playing.

We hope everyone will have a fun weekend. We're looking forward to celebrating Brendan's first father's day on Sunday.

<3


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