The year of momentum

I’m a planner. By the time eighth grade rolled around, I already had my entire high school course load mapped out. My senior year in high school barely began, and I knew every class I was going to take for my college major and which clubs I was going to partake in. My dad would chuckle and remind me, “When people plan their lives, G-d laughs.” It wasn’t long before I understood my father’s meaning: I graduated from a college I never intended to attend; I reside in a place I never dreamed of living; and my career doesn’t remotely resemble what I studied. Still, I plan. But with much more flexibility and the knowledge that it can all go to s#*! at any moment.

Last year, my planning stalled. For lots of different reasons, I threw my hands up in the air and asked, “Why bother?” You know what happened? Nothing. I didn’t blog. I barely wrote. I created virtually nothing. I stood still. Sure, I thought about doing all those things, but life circumstances paralyzed me. Spending the better part of the year spinning my wheels, I ended the year (in terms of my personal goals and passion projects) in virtually the same place where I started. And that felt BAD.

As 2016 was moving toward the rear-view mirror, I stumbled upon Belong Magazine on Instagram; and as I got to know the founder, Brooke, through her daily photos and accompanying words, she became an inspiration. I recognized her struggles with her goals as my own, and her encouragement to take baby steps became a mantra of sorts in my head. The one thing I did a LOT of in 2016 was read, and so I added books like Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear to my reading list.

All of this inspiration led to my one little word for this year…

momentum: one little word 2017

Belong Mag’s Instagram post a few days ago sums up the reason behind my word momentum perfectly: “If you don’t take a step forward, you’ll always be in the same place.” In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert told a story about her mother that beautifully illustrates the concept of doing your future self a kindness. This resonated with me to the point of almost haunting me. It is my future self that I must keep in mind when faced with the choice to move forward or remain in place. From something as simple as trying to decide if I should take five minutes to make a sandwich for lunch, I think of future me, who is going to be hangry if I opt to do something else with that time. When it comes to my goals, I must also think of the future me and make decisions that leave her in a more positive place than she was.

What is your one little word for 2017?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Photo credit: Mubarak Fahad via / CC BY-NC-ND







2016: The Year of RELEASE

It’s been two years since I’ve committed to One Little Word because the only word in my vocabulary during that time was “survive”: survival of profound loss, survival of learning how to be a mom, and survival of all the “adulting” that went on in between. Although things finally feel like they’re settling into a new normal, I didn’t plan to choose One Little Word this year. But then, during a late-night cuddle session with The Toddler Who Refuses to Sleep Through The Night, I began mentally listing my goals for the year, and I realized they all had one thing in common: release.


Goal: Release myself and my home from all the material things that neither bring me joy nor are essential to keep.
Plan: Using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy as guides, I will focus on at least one category per month to tidy up so that hopefully I have a simpler household come this time next year.

Goal: Release myself from the negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, and unattainable perfectionism.
Plan: I have two strategies going into this one. The first one I saw on Facebook, and I really like it. It’s basically a form of aversion therapy. Whenever you say something mean about yourself, something you wouldn’t let anyone say about your best friend, you have to give up your phone for 30 minutes. The second I credit to a friend of mine: Turn the negatives into action statements. So instead of saying, “Ugh, why can’t I ever remember to call So-and-So on her birthday?! I’m the worst friend,” you’d re-frame it: “After I call So-and-So today, I’m going to put an alert on my calendar so that I’m notified of her birthday every year.”

Goal: Release myself from financial stress.
Plan: Asking for help is not one of my strengths. I always think, I can do this, no matter what this is. Confidence is one thing; stubbornness is another. No matter how many years I’ve spent attempting to budget and whatnot, it’s time to bring in the experts. In addition to making calls and attempting to lower rates on cell phone bills, etc., I’m going to work with a professional to get out of as much debt as possible this year (school loans, I’m looking at you), create a budget that’s realistic, improve my credit score, and make sure I’m putting enough in savings, retirement, and college funds. Normally I’d be stressed just thinking about this, but having a plan, not just a goal, is freeing in itself.

Goal: Release my dreams from living solely in my mind.
Plan: If you were with me during my heyday of blogging, you know that this is one I’ve been struggling with for years. While I’ve made a lot of progress on certain things, like getting an article published and becoming a contributing blogger, there’s a lot more I want to do that I’ve constantly put on the back burner for excuse after excuse.

anne lamott quote

I do a pretty good job of living without “what if”s. To borrow from one of my favorite poems, I don’t want a dream deferred to fester like a sore. The plan is a little fuzzy at best. I’m going to start with writing down the dreams and steps I need to take to attempt them. Then, I’ll start following the steps. Note, achieving the dream is not the goal; finally attempting it is.

What is your One Little Word this year?

Photo credit: “Monarch Release” by kcolwell via / CC BY-NC-SA


14 of 2014: the book edition

The silver lining to the cloud that is my child’s aversion to sleep is the amount of reading I’ve done this year. Hoping to read two books a month, I surpassed that goal, reading an average of three books a month for a total of 37 books at the time this was written (a 38th may appear depending upon the next few nights of sleep).

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My favorite 14 books read in 2014 are as follows (ordered by date read):

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Whereas I felt Suzanne Collins’ ending to The Hunger Games trilogy was a copout, I thought Roth ended the Divergent series bravely and perfectly.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I was surprised to find this touted tear-jerker rather uplifting.

3. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

A fun read, this had a Buffy, the Vampire Slayer type of campiness to it.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Romance is not my favorite genre; however, Stephanie Perkins does it right. She made me want to grab my passport and book the next flight to France.

5. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

While not her best in the series, I enjoyed how Clare ended her epic tale.

6. Run to You by Clara Kensie

Told in six installments, this paranormal thriller was full of unexpected twists. It kept me on my toes, as well as the edge of my seat.

7. Lux: Opposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A page-turning end to a creative sci-fi series, Lux, Armentrout makes me want to have a close encounter.

8. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

This was an eye-opening read about our justice system. Though the TV version has been greatly dramatized, I found the tamer real-life account to be more harrowing.

9. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Having a great fascination with Zelda Fitzgerald since high school, it was fun to read this (admittedly fictional) interpretation of her unusual life.

10. The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Two of my favorite genres, dystopian YA & vampire YA, are a beautiful marriage in the hands of Kagawa.

11. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

A thought-provoking coming-of-age story about how the present affects the future & how our dreams for the future can affect the present and what it means to be happy. Having been a HS junior in 1996 like the female protagonist, I also loved the nostalgia of this great read.

12. Looking for Alaska by John Green

This book stayed with me. For weeks.

13. Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Forman does a brilliant job showing how just one day can affect a greater expanse of time in one’s life – in this case, one year.

14. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

This moving story, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and Shawshank Redemption, is so well told, I now want to read everything Gaines has written.

What are your favorite reads from 2014?

2013: The Year of Balance

As was probably evident in yesterday’s visual year in review, 2012 has been a fun but busier-than-before year. Thus, to say that I bit off way more than I could chew with my goals this year is an understatement. That said, I still have a lot to show for oh-twelve.

In the midst of the crazy that was my work life this year, which included planning and executing three community-wide events, writing three English units and editing two language arts textbooks, designing and editing six newspapers and twelve newsletters, and launching and maintaining several social media campaigns, I still (though it beats me how) managed to accomplish just shy of half of my 12 of 2012 goals:

My happiest victory is that I actually read 12 books – WOOT! I’m hoping to do the same (or better) in 2013.

Equally exciting for me is that I continued practicing Hebrew so that I can read it – albeit SLOWLY – and more importantly understand some when it is spoken. I’m already signed up for another Hebrew class in January, so I’m hoping that my communication skills in this language will continue to improve in the new year.

In addition, I finally made a decision and temporarily closed my Etsy store, enjoyed more date nights with Hubby, and wrote. A LOT. YAY!

Moving onto my one little word, I experienced renewal of spirit, relationships, budget, and home. Renewal of body is an ongoing challenge, as is renewal of balance. Which brings me to my one little word of 2013…

This year, I will have ONE goal: to practice (not achieve) balance. I have a feeling that by practicing balance, other goals will incidentally be achieved as a result. More importantly, though, is the knowledge that a focus on balance will make for a happy Cheryl.

What is your focus for 2013? Whatever you choose, I hope it makes you blissfully happy!

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12 of July 2012

Looking at my 12 goals of 2012 this month was surprisingly exciting. I’ve kept on keeping on, and I think I’m finally beginning to make some REAL progress!

  1. Finish writing my novel. –> When I look at my 12 goals, this is the one I fear will genuinely not get done. I picked my novel back up about a week ago (that’s forward movement at least, right?) and was completely overwhelmed. Now that I have taken on a few more freelance jobs, I worry that there just isn’t a prayer of a chance I can make time to achieve this. That said, though, I’m still going to try and at least move in that direction. Before my next 12 of 2012 post, I’m committed to outlining how to fill in the plot holes that are currently glaring at me in my manuscript.  
  2. Write. Period. –> Now that I’ve been blogging more, I’m doing less journal writing, and I’m totally OK with that. My goal here was simply to write, which I’ve consistently been doing a decent job of throughout the year. Yay!
  3. Submit another article for publication and/or return to content writing. –> I’m still doing a lot of work-related content writing, but more exciting is that my muse finally spoke to me, and I have an idea for an article I want to write and then submit for publication. Go me! 
  4. Read 12 books. –> Eight books in seven months – WOOT! I finished the latest Mortal Instruments book (*thud*) over the weekend and just finished an adult novel (what?!), entitled The Saturday Wife, for a book club meeting tonight. I’ve also been reading The Happiness Project with a friend of mine, trying to “do the book” as we read it, so this title will probably be in progress for a little while. I’m not sure what I’ll pull from my TBR pile tonight. I’ve had my eye on Daemon for a while, so maybe I’ll finally grace him with my presence.

  5. Have more date nights with Hubby. –> We had a wonderful date afternoon last month, having lunch at Moe’s and seeing Prometheus in the theater, but being conscious of our budget, we’ve been enjoying a lot more unofficial date nights at home, making dinner for each other (Hubby makes a mean mac ‘n cheese) and watching all things Gordon Ramsay. We still treat ourselves, though; we’re looking forward to going to dinner and seeing Joan Rivers (yes, Joan Rivers) tomorrow night.
  6. Try at least one new recipe each month Try 12 new recipes. –> I’m six-and-a-half recipes in now, the latest of which include a ravioli lasagna, and the “half recipe” (because it was so easy that I feel guilty for counting it) was this concoction that I modified for July 4th dessert.
  7. Make a decision about my Etsy store. –> I decided in April that, because I didn’t have time to “do this right,” I would – at least temporarily – close my Etsy store. Last month I learned of a local craft show that I could very easily and cheaply participate in this November. If you’re a “regular” around here, you know that this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while (I even applied to a show once and was turned down). I don’t know that this opportunity will ever come about again, and so there’s a huge part of me that feels compelled to do it. If I do, though, several things have to happen. First, I’d have to budget some money to increase my inventory. I’d have to also budget time for the same reason. More relevant to this post, I’d need to reopen my Etsy store so that the traffic I get at the show would be able to shop and order after that date. I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, I think, what money? What time? On the other hand, I think, this might be your only chance to give this a real shot. On the other hand, I think, is it okay to reveal this other part of your life to your very small community? Are you secure enough in yourself to not care what these people think? On the other hand, I think, if you want to ever be serious about crafting for profit, this is your best chance at doing it. Needless to say, I need to make a decision about this soon, the show being only four months away. I think my next steps are to make a list of what I’d need to do to participate in the show and then evaluate it to see if it’s even possible to do, both time- and money-wise, and then I’ll ruminate from there.  
  8. Complete my scrapbooking WIPs: iScrap, Me the Abridged Version, and Everyone Can Write a Little. –> There’s no way I can spin this optimistically; I very simply have not paid attention to these.
  9. Keep up with Project Life. –> I’m not in the “keeping up” stage yet, but I’m definitely catching up!
      1. # weeks into project: 14
        # weeks prepped: 6 
        # weeks scrapped: 4
        # weeks blogged: 4

    1. Play with my Library of Memories at least once a month. –> This has become much easier for me to do now that I’m engaged in Project Life. I even started a digital scrapbook page last week that will slip nicely into our “People We Love” album after displaying it in this awesome scrapbook page holder that Hubby surprised me with a few weeks ago.  
    2. Blog two to three times per week. –> WHOA, did I come from behind on this one! I have posted every weekday so far this month! I have so many ideas in my head that I’ve actually started keeping a running blog schedule again. It feels GREAT to have my blogging mojo back. 
    3. Continue practicing Hebrew. –> This is not something I’m actively doing, but I’m amazed at how much I’m picking up by hanging out with people who speak the language and reading books (like The Saturday Wife) that contain a sprinkling of Hebrew words and phrases. 
    For the first time all year, I feel like I might actually achieve these goals, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Thanks for all the encouragement so many of you have given me!

    12 of June 2012

    If I ever attempt yearly goals again shoot me I now know that it’s imperative for me to see them on a daily basis, written out in a prominent location in my house, because when it comes to To Dos, out of sight, out of mind. Looking at my 12 goals of 2012 can cause me to be a pouty platypus if I’m not careful; the idea behind this was to feel motivated, not guilty, and so I’m pulling out the rose-tinted glasses this month.

    1. Finish writing my novel. –> Six months down with admittedly not much progress, but the good news is that I have six months left to Make. This. Happen. Hubby and I actually have a little deal going. There was a project he really wanted to do (that he’ll be guest posting about one day soon, no pressure, my dear) that he began talking himself out of because he wasn’t sure it would be good. The smarty pants that I am, I attempted to use his words against him, “Remember when you told me to just finish my novel and not worry about how good or bad it is?” He very quickly retorted, “So that means if I do this, you’ll finish your novel?” Touché.  
    2. Write. Period. –> This is still happening several times a week. Yay!
    3. Submit another article for publication and/or return to content writing. –> So much content writing! From website blurbs to newspaper articles to presentation summaries and grant reports, content writing is in full swing (though admittedly not the kind I thought I’d be doing). And I still have hopes for squeaking out another possible publication before the year’s end. 
    4. Read 12 books. –> Six months gone, six books read. I’m super proud of myself for staying on target with this goal. I love reading so much, but it’s often one of the first things to go when I get busy and stressed. I finished Mockingjay in April and read the 12th Sookie book, Deadlocked, last month. I started the latest Mortal Instruments book this weekend and am also finally getting around to reading The Happiness Project. 
    5. Have more date nights with Hubby. –> Last month, we had a blast going to see The Avengers, eating at our favorite southwest & far east restaurant, and double dating with my cousin and his girlfriend.

    6. Try at least one new recipe each month Try 12 new recipes. –> I’m five recipes in now: tzimmes, baked tortilla chips (tortillas + olive oil + garlic herb spice mix), cheesecake-filled strawberries, corn and tomato tilapia (corn & tomato “salsa” over parmesan-crusted tilapia), and a six-layer bean dip (refried beans + sour cream + black beans + [diced green chile peppers + diced tomatoes = Ro-Tel] + sliced black olives).
    7. Make a decision about my Etsy store. –> Completed in April (although I’m starting to rethink this one, but that’s a quandary for another day).
    8. Complete my scrapbooking WIPs: iScrap, Me the Abridged Version, and Everyone Can Write a Little. –> This goal depresses me every time I look at it. I guess that says it all, huh?
    9. Keep up with Project Life. –> I have reset this goal but am going to extrapolate upon this in a separate post.
    10. Play with my Library of Memories at least once a month. –> Holy crow, I actually did this in May. In fact, I got so wrapped up in digital triage that I was almost late to my student’s bar mitzvah service! And bonus! I FINALLY started organizing my digital scrapbooking elements so that I can begin “power scrapping” one day soon.  
    11. Blog two to three times per week. –> Seeing as this is only my 15th blog post of the year (OMG, seriously?!), I have not been bringing this goal to fruition. Since there is no way to actually achieve this goal now, I’m going to revise it. The new goal is to post an average of once/week so that I add at least 28 more blog posts to my catalog for the year. 
    12. Continue practicing Hebrew. –> Does practicing Spanish count? I actually have learned (and used) a few new words since my last check-in. This isn’t great progress, but it’s better than nothing, right?
    So what have I learned this month? 
    • I need to make my goals visible so that I don’t forget about them in the midst of the craziness called life. 
    • Not every goal will receive equal weight every month.
    • Despite disappointments, I still have plenty of baby steps to celebrate. 

    It’s all about making progress, no matter how big or small.

    12 of April 2012

    Had one of my goals for the year been to travel more, I could have crossed out that puppy in a hurry. As it were, my 12 goals of 2012 require dedicated time and attention. So how’s that going, you ask?

    1. Finish writing my novel. –> Finish? Bwahaha! Inspired to finish? Yes! Making time to finish? YES! I’m finally back to having a schedule, and while it can’t be as consistent as the one I had when I first started writing (I have to make a schedule on a weekly basis since my “life schedule” now varies week to week), it’s doing its job, helping me make good use of my time and keeping me focused.   
    2. Write. Period. –> This one I’ve had no trouble with. Though I can’t say I’ve been writing everyday, I can say that I’m writing a LOT. It’s mostly been personal writing – journaling and the sort – but it’s good putting pen to paper, no matter what the paper says in the end.
    3. Submit another article for publication and/or return to content writing. –> I had a few ideas for articles this month that wound up not being such great ideas once I fleshed them out, BUT at least my muse is starting to speak to me again. And in the meantime, I’ve been doing some content writing for the community paper I became Managing Editor of a few months ago. 
    4. Read 12 books. –> I’m up to four and am about to finish a fifth by the weekend (so right on track). Since my last 12 0f 2012 recap, I’ve read Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves (you can win a signed copy of her book here) and the first two books of The Hunger Games series, the third and final (*sniff*) book currently in progress. 
    5. Have more date nights with Hubby. –> They’re not always official “date nights,” but we have been spending a lot more time together thus far this year, despite my constant travels. This is a Good Thing. (The local restaurants and movie theater like it, too.)
    6. Try at least one new recipe each month. –> I’m officially changing this from a monthly goal to a year goal: “Try 12 new recipes.” I tried a new-to-me tzimmes recipe that I brought to a Passover Seder this past weekend. I, of course, didn’t make it the way it’s written because where’s the fun in that? I’m the girl who looks at a recipe and tweaks it before even trying it. In my version, I used only baby carrots and raisins, doubling the recipe, adding a few pinches of nutmeg, and omitting the zest and salt. It was delish.
    7. Make a decision about my Etsy store. –> Due to lack of time, I think this decision has sadly been made for me. Until I figure out how to make time – not necessarily for the production of items, but for the “business side” of things – to do it right, I’d rather not do it at all.
    8. Complete my scrapbooking WIPs: iScrap, Me the Abridged Version, and Everyone Can Write a Little. –> *Sigh.* I need a few days staycation to knock these out once and for all, especially since I want to create a second volume of Me and ECWL.
    9. Keep up with Project Life. –> Yes and no. I’m doing a really good job of taking the pictures, but a terrible job of getting them printed and put into my binder. Likewise, I’m doing well collecting memorabilia and keeping track of what I’ve done on which days, but not so great with writing journaling cards and getting it all put together. I found out by accident while having coffee with a local friend last month that she is a big Project Lifer. We’ve talked about getting together and Project Life-ing together, which I know would better keep me on track. Similarly, April and I have been talking about having a virtual Project Life crop to get ourselves up to date. Since I have a small break in my freelance work, I’m hoping to use the hours normally set aside for that to get caught up in the next week or so.
    10. Play with my Library of Memories at least once a month. –> It hasn’t happened yet, but I realized earlier this week how easily I can MAKE this happen. So watch out, Library of Memories! I’m coming for you! 
    11. Blog two to three times per week. –> This week? Yes. This year? No. Now that I am scheduling my time again, though, I’m hoping this becomes a “yes” for all the weeks that follow.
    12. Continue practicing Hebrew. –> Again, yes and no. I have fallen behind with my formal studying (I can’t tell you the last time I attended class), but I’m practicing reading pretty much every week thanks to Temple services, and having friends who speak Hebrew fluently is helping me pick up words and phrases.

    The verdict? Not a great job of consistently keeping on track thus far, but it’s getting better, and now that I have a better handle on my time, I know it will continue to do so. Here’s to the productive eight months that lie ahead!