What was your theme for 2016?

What was your theme for 2016?

I know a lot of people who start the new year with a word for the year. I’m always so inspired when I see the words people choose, and I have tried many times to do this. For some reason, I’ve never been able to look ahead and select one word as my focus for the next year. One thing I do much better is look back and review the past.

As I’ve been thinking about 2016, my theme for the year was “seeking clarity.” I know it’s not one word. I wish I could say that my theme was “clarity,” but I’m not there yet.

When I think about what made 2016 unique, my mind automatically goes to Feb. 10. That was the first day of Lent, and the day that right in the middle of an episode of Alias on Netflix, it became clear to me that I needed to respond to the nagging in my heart to give up watching television shows.

The most positive side effect of this change was that I now had at least an hour a day, if not more, to pursue other interests. I started devoting more time to my creative hobbies. I discovered podcasts and started listening to shows that helped me in my spiritual walk and work life. I subscribed to Audible and began listening to more audio books. All of these things have had an impact on helping me seek clarity in what I love to do and what makes me unique.

For the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus on a few books that have made a big impact on my year and my theme of seeking clarity.


One of the first books I listened to this year was called, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. The book helps readers identify the key areas of their life and take an inventory of how they are doing in each of these areas. The writers actually have an online assessment if you want to do that an easier way. I remember sitting on the beach while we were on spring break in March, and going through the top 12 areas of my life. I wrote down how I was doing in each area and how I wanted to improve this year. I loved creating that baseline that I can look back on at other points to see how I’m progressing.


We’ve all heard the adage that “less is more,” and this book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, helped me see how that applies to so many areas of my life. The author, Greg McKeown, helps readers think about the clutter that is keeping them from focusing on what really matters. This applies to all areas of life, but has been a great tool in my work life. Thinking this way helps me ask myself if I am doing tasks that someone else could do or focusing on the things that only I can do.


I read StrengthsFinder about seven years ago, and felt a need to go through it again this year. I was thankful that our entire staff at work actually went through it together. The book comes with a code you can use to take the StrengthsFinder test online. You also can take the test online for $15 without purchasing the book. Having greater clarity about my strengths, as well as those of my co-workers has been incredibly useful in helping me focus on what I do well, while asking for assistance in areas where I struggle.


I have become a huge Gretchen Rubin fan this year. I read two of her books, and faithfully listen to her podcast. Happier at Home and Better than Before both focus on one of the topics I’m obsessed with in life: habits. Better than Before gave me a better understanding of some of the reasons we create habits and changes I can make to break bad habits. Happier at Home has transformed the way I think about each month. It inspired me to think about what makes each month unique, changes I can make to cherish the time and how I can set monthly goals.


A few other books that made an impact on my this year were Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, who also wrote The Power of Habit. I also enjoyed Born for This by Chris Guillebeau and The Sleep Revolution by Ariana Huffington.


I guess it’s fitting that one of the books that will conclude my year is The Road Back to You, which I addressed in my last two blog posts. This book has been huge in helping me understand not only myself, but the people I love most.

What about you? As you look back at 2016, did your year have a theme? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

(This post includes affiliate links to the books that influenced me in 2016.)


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practicing gratitude, part 2

practicing gratitude, part 2

When I think about November, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT how beautiful it is. In my mind, November is the transition from fall to winter. It’s the month when the vibrant colors of October start to fade. It’s the month of dark evenings and cooler weather.

As I thought about ways I could practice gratitude this month, I decided I would challenge myself to post a daily photo showing the beauty of November. Lots of people share posts each day about what they are thankful for. I decided I would try to do this through photography.

Honestly, I had my doubts about how successful I would be. But, as always, you will find beauty when you look for it. And during the first week of November, it’s been easy to find.

The trees have been amazing.



The weather has still been fluctuating from cool evenings to warm days, bringing eerily beautiful foggy mornings.





I’ve been able to catch a few sunrises.




And some gorgeous walks through fallen leaves.







Seeing the farmers out in their fields makes me appreciate the bounty of the season.



Week One of my gratitude photography project has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the month brings!

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October habit tracker

October habit tracker


“If you want a change, you have to be willing to make a change.”

I have been listening to Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Happier At Home,” and that line has been ringing in my head. It’s so simple, but so true.

As you all now know from doing the math on my family date canvas, I’m 47 years old. I’m old enough to act like an adult. And yet, many times I seem to think I’m just going to start doing things adults do without any effort on my part. I will suddenly start adulting.

I will start making my bed every morning. I will send thank you notes on time. I will floss my teeth every night. I will feed my family nutritious and well-balanced meals.

But if I don’t ever take any action to do any of these things, why do I think they will magically start happening on their own? I’ve always loved setting yearly goals for myself, but after listening to Rubin’s book, I am realizing how powerful it can be to set a monthly goal.

In “Happier at Home,” Rubin took one year and gave herself a set of habits to accomplish each month. Many of them were so simple. For example, she decided to give warm greetings and fond farewells when her husband or two daughters entered or left the house. How easy is that? And yet, how often do the kids go off to school with nothing more than a “Bye, Mom!” shouted from downstairs while I’m getting out of the shower upstairs.

I also love how she used certain months to tackle larger goals, like actually uploading her photos to Shutterfly and getting her photo albums printed. I’ve been inspired to make a list of some nagging projects that I could accomplish if I would just set aside a few minutes each day to get them done!

At the beginning of October, I decided to start things off with a habit tracker for the month. At first, I tried creating one in my bullet journal, but I was quickly dissastified because it’s not nearly neat or cute enough. Instead, I redesigned it on my computer and printed it out to keep in my planner. (Here’s one you can download.) My habits for the month include reading my Bible everyday, making my bed (again!) and walking 12,000 steps each day. I’m also tracking my weight each day.

I’ve started a list in my bullet journal of the larger projects I want to tackle as well. I think it’s time for me to admit that our old home movies that are stored on VHS aren’t magically going to convert themselves to DVD. All of the photos on my computer aren’t suddenly going to show up on my door step in the form of a photo album. And we only have a few more years that these wonderful children are going to live in our home. I need to be more intentional in a few areas with them!

How about you? Do you have any new habits you are trying to create? What are the big projects that you need to tackle? I would love to hear!


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