Reflecting on 2018 & Looking Forward

Confession time… When I released Life is But a Dream four years ago, I had huge dreams and goals of writing full time. A few weeks after the release, it was clear to me that quitting my day job was not an option. LIBAD sold less than 25 copies. I gave away about 600 in the hopes that people would read it and leave reviews. They didn’t. (PS reviews are vital to an author’s success.)

Writing is my passion. I may not be perfect at it, but I am proud of the work I do. Every ounce of me is poured into the stories I write (just ask my husband what it’s like trying to get my attention when I’m knee deep in a WIP).

Four years later, I decided on a whim to try again. I wrote Happily Ever Never in February of 2017 and completely forgot about it. When I set out to release a second book, I had two other manuscripts sitting on the back burner. But as soon as I reread Janna’s story, I knew hers was the one I wanted to share.

This time I didn’t have any huge dreams. All I wanted was to get another book in the hands of the readers that supported me. I arbitrarily picked a number as my big goal of how many copies I wanted to sell. Initially, I set that goal for launch week. While I didn’t hit it, HEN sold more copies in week one than LIBAD did in four years.

Progress, not perfection.

Today, two months after its release, I am just five copies away from that goal.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me with reviews and your purchases. I hope Janna’s story has touched you in some way.

I look forward to 2019 and all that I have planned. I can’t wait for you to meet the characters that have been in my head for so long.

Here is a little sneak peek into what to look for 2019:

  • Lie, Baby, Lie – February 5, 2019
    Caroline Davis has a one track mind. She wants a baby, and she’s willing to do do anything to get what she wants. Her husband, Ben Davis, promised her she’d have her wish. But a secret from his past threatens to ruin Caroline’s plans. Can she forgive his lie of omission or will she take matters into her own hands?
    Reese is desperate for a child too, but years of infertility and loss have jaded her. For Reese, secrets and lies have become second nature. The secret she’s kept from her daughter, Lily. The lies to her husband, Greg, about pregnancy tests. Reese hides behind these lies, protecting her family from truths that could hurt them.
    Their lives are woven together in a way neither women understand. How can two women in such different life stages have so much in common? An unlikely, fragile friendship is born, but can it withstand the secrets and lies?
  • Walk Like Her – June 2019
    Cassie Landon is the daughter of the perfect Belle Meade society woman, but she’s never quite lived up to her mother’s expectations. Her job isn’t good enough. Her boyfriend isn’t well-bred enough. She isn’t enough. When her father dies, a family secret is unraveled leaving Cassie to pick up the pieces and figure out where she belongs.

 

Indie Author Giveaway

Nine Authors.
Fourteen Books.
One Winner.

Four years ago when I published my first book, I didn’t know what to call myself. Anytime I told someone about my book, it was with the caveat that I’d self published as if there was something inferior about it. But the more I looked into traditional publishing, the more I was convinced it wasn’t for me.

Flash forward four years and I decided to finally put out another book. This time, I found a community of Indie Authors. Like me, a lot of them have full time jobs and families. They get up earlier and stay up inhumanly late to write, edit and promote their labors of love.

Suddenly I no longer felt like “just a self published author.” I was an Indie Author and I found myself loving this community that I wanted to help promote and support. This the idea for the Indie Author Giveaway was born.

Nine amazing authors and fourteen books in a wide variety of categories.

To enter, head over to Instagram and find this post and follow the instructions.

Bex Jalise (Instagram: @bexjalise)
Unlikely Events
Community Youth Center Director, Rachel Langford, wants nothing more than to live an uncomplicated life far from her ex-husband Simon and his world of privilege and betrayal. But three years after the divorce, her ex father-in-law threatens her livelihood and that of the Youth 

Center that has been her second home since childhood, forcing Rachel to do the unthinkable and turn to Simon for help. And help from Simon always comes with a hefty price tag and with nothing but complications. Faced with memories she’d rather forget and people who would rather forget her, Rachel is thrown back into the life she ran from. With Isabelle–Simon’s perfect new wife–trying to be her friend, and Finn Barton–the city’s most eligible bachelor–vying for her attention, will Rachel be able to keep her end of the bargain to save her precious Youth Center before old enemies and old wounds force her to run like last time?

The Practicality of Dreaming
Straight-laced accountant by day. Anonymous entertainment blogger by night. Pia Carboni has 

grown comfortable with her double life. That is, until a nameless commenter on her latest article becomes a regular fixture in her inbox. What started as innocent banter, soon causes Pia to question how satisfied she really is separating responsibility and passion.
When her digital confidant reveals himself as her moody client, Ben Myles–whose favorite hobby seems to be finding new ways to insult her–Pia’s two worlds collide.
Once their online personas are out in the open, can Pia and Ben unplug their digital relationship and bring it into the real world? Or are some connections better left wired?

Marie Kammerer-Franke (Instagram: @acnbooks)
A Charming Nightmare
What would you do if one morning you woke up and found that you were a relic; a 40,000 year old artifact. All that remained of the movers, shakers, and candlestick makers? What would be your reaction to being informed that you are quite literally older than dirt? (And yes you will have to explain what dirt actually is) Would you cry? Would you feel ill? Or would you do as I did? Get furious and start a big ol’ hissy fit sized war.

 

 

 

Sister’s Lament
It really wasn’t that long ago that I was kidnapped from Earth. When you think about it, it was only minutes ago that Catch stole me from our present. And if we’re breaking down time, it was seconds after stepping into this future that I, Aylin Morgan, started a war.

Four years later and Sister Elara is suddenly a General in war spanning galaxies.

I fear for us; I fear for her. But I can’t speak, Elara’s war has cost us all the water on Elpis. Without Catch to save the day I’m afraid my mouth will be too dry to scold our future children into peace.

Andrea Nourse (Instagram @andreanourse)
Life is But a Dream
Poised. Graceful. Organized. Yes, Rebecca Jane has it all – Kyle, her handsome, loving fiancé, her dream career and her five-year plan. She is successful and driven and up for a promotion as long as her evil co-monster, Hannah, stays out of her way as they tackle an interesting, new client together. 

Rebecca is on the verge of greatness – at least in her own mind. 

As it usually does, her past finally catches up with her. Now, at thirty, Rebecca is questioning who she is and the choices she made along the way. Is she really ready to settle down and be Mrs. Kyle Turner? 

Rebecca is forced to reevaluate everything she thought she ever wanted and to finally face the fact that she never really let go of the past.

Happily Ever Never
Janna Hargrove’s life wasn’t a fairy tale, not even close. She’d never imagined her life would have its happily ever after moment. Until she met Ryan. The moment their eyes met, everything changed. She knew he was the one – he was the happily ever after she deserved.Five years into their two-year plan, Ryan finally popped the question. The moment was everything Janna had dreamed of. She had the man, the ring, the wedding date, the house, the career and the plan for 2.5 kids living in suburbia bliss. Everything was just as she’d always dreamed, designer dress and all.

Everything she’d ever wanted was within reach.

Until it wasn’t.

 

Elle Linder (Instagram: @ellelinder_booksellelinder_books)
The One That Matters
A star is all the light she needs…

Two years after Marie’s divorce from her abusive husband, she is struggling with battered self-esteem. Falling in love isn’t high on her priority list as she deals with a deteriorating relationship with her son, Jackson, and her controlling ex.

On a reluctant girls’ night out, her dance partner turns out to be Parker Nichols, the sexy, charismatic star of her son’s favorite TV show. Parker is intrigued with her, but Marie isn’t interested.

Everything changes when Jackson finds Parker’s business card in his mom’s purse and contacts him. Marie’s once-angry son begins to soften, sparking hope for her and possibilities for love in unexpected places.

But what will it take for Marie to trust again?

Kristen Granata (Instagram: @Kristen_granata)
Collision
Merritt Adams was used to taking care of herself. With her mother’s selfish abandonment, and her father’s shocking suicide, she is convinced that nobody will ever stick around for long. However, after she is mysteriously rescued from a fiery crash, Merritt needs to learn how to accept help, and love – even when it comes from an unexpected source. Trying to create a new life for herself will be difficult, and so will resisting the charms of someone she swore she would never show interest in.

In addition to the buzz surrounding Merritt’s tragic headlines, everyone is talking about the charismatic Chase Brooks’ return home after spending two years in California aspiring to become a rock star. What people don’t know is the real reason why he had to leave his dreams behind. Saddened by his return, Chase is even more saddened to see how broken and alone his childhood classmate, Merritt, is.

Two sad souls could be good for each other, couldn’t they? Merritt isn’t so sure… and after she finds out who pulled her from the mangled car that night, her life will be changed forever.

Please note that this ends in a cliffhanger. The sequel, Avoidance, is currently available on Amazon, though – so you don’t have to wait to find out what happens next!

Avoidance
After the shocking return of her mother, Merritt Adams is faced with emotions that she had buried deep inside of herself for almost a decade. While the love of her life is busy fulfilling his dreams, Merritt is left to her own devices. Searching for solace in all the wrong places, her avoidant behaviors spiral out of control. If she doesn’t learn how to take responsibility for her actions, she could end up on rock bottom – alone.

T.J. Cutler is an MMA fighter who knows all too well what happens when one tries to run away from his problems. He may be the only person who can get through to Merritt, having lived through his own nightmarish childhood. T.J. can teach Merritt how to fight against her demons, but she needs to prove that she is committed to following his rules.

Life is full of choices, and Merritt needs to start making the right ones. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Lindsey Richardson (Instagram: @Lindseysablowski)
Clara and Claire
On the night of her 20th birthday Clara Nasso witnesses an illegal act of magic.
The following morning, two lives are changed forever.
When Claire Kanelos, daughter of the head counselor, disappears from the island of Ninomay, Clara is kidnapped and taken there by a Council member. Her unmistakable resemblance to the missing woman, and the disturbing facts that come to light, convince Clara to stay and play the role of Claire –at first, for one night only, and then indefinitely.
Though Clara grew up hearing stories about the rich and powerful mages that filled Ninomay, all she finds there are liars and mysteries. And Ezra, the only person who can see through her disguise. He promises to help her return home, but how can Clara leave when secrets are unraveled every day and a killer might walk freely?
When she might be the key to Claire’s survival?

Kiersten Hall (Instagram: @khallbooks)
Corner Confessions
Meet fourteen individuals who have decided to clean at least one skeleton out of their closet by confiding in a complete stranger whom they meet at a local coffee shop. Unassuming and safe with no judgments passed, learn about these secrets first hand, as if you were a fly on the wall listening in during their confession. Everyone has a secret. What’s yours?’

 

 

 

 

I Do Fifteen Years of Wedding Misadventures
“This book is a MUST READ for anyone who is planning on getting married or has already taken the trip down the aisle!” 15 years of memories from 1,400+ weddings as a professional videographer. There are plenty of entertaining stories to share with the readers! Chapter titles include: * Where’s Grandma? * Can I Get Your Autograph? * Who Brought the Gun? * Calisthenics in Formal Wear “This book is a page-turner! Once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down until you’re done!

 

 

Vanessa Rasanen (Instagram: @vanessarasanenauthor)
Soldier On
He’s fighting for his country. She’s praying for his safety. When tragedy strikes, can their marriage and faith survive?

Charlie and Meg Winters are no strangers to the military life and the challenges it brings. But when an IED rips through his convoy killing his friends, the loss proves almost too much to bear.

Meg finds her trust in Christ wavering, and secrets she’s been keeping for years drive a wedge between her and her husband.

What if everything Meg believes is a lie?

What if Charlie finds out what she’s done?

Can Meg and Charlie save their marriage or will the horrors of war and the ghosts of their past tear them apart and forever shipwreck her faith?

R.S. Williams (Instagram: @Lilnovelist)
The Collective
Tilly Gregson never knew a world outside hers existed. If four years of the starving-university-student diet didn’t kill her, this dissertation just might. All that is on Tilly’s mind is finishing her work, getting her degree, and spending time with her friends before the end of the school year.

Then along comes Harvey, and he shows her a world beyond her imagination full of magic and time-travel and pirates.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jenny who is a member of a secret order, waltzes into Tilly’s life to add one final nail to her dissertation’s coffin. Nothing prepared either of them for the hardships they are about to endure. The girls have to work together to survive, but as it turns out Harvey is more dangerous than he first let on.

Will they be able to stop Harvey before he destroys Jenny’s order? On their adventure, Tilly and Jenny find friends in the most unlikely of places–and betrayal just around the corner.

Official Rules & Entry RequirementsIt’s here!
The Indie Author Giveaway… 9 Authors… 14 Books… 1 Winner!

Titles include: A Charming Nightmare, Sisters Lament, Collision, Avoidance, Soldier On, Unlikely Events, Clara and Claire, Corner Confessions – A Novel (Book 1 of 3), “I Do” Fifteen Years of Wedding Misadventures, The One That Matters, The Collective, Happily Ever Never, and Life is But a Dream

Must be following all author accounts (@acnbooks, @Kristen_granata, @vanessarasanenauthor, @bexjalise, @Lindseysablowski, @khallbooks, @ellelinder_books, @Lilnovelist, & @andreanourse). You know the drill. Do not follow to unfollow, or you will be banned from all giveaways.
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Tag 3 friend on this posts.

EXTRA entries:
Share this post on your story for 24 hours & tag me so I can count it. (+1)
Tag 3 friends on each authors’ post. (+1)

Disclaimer & rules gibberish:
Open to US or APO addresses only.
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Must be 18+ or have parents’ permission to enter & share address.
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Ends Fri 11/29 at 11:59pm CST.
Winner will be announced by 12/15/18.

Happily Ever Never Available Now!

Happily Ever Never is now available on Amazon, iBooks and Google Play!

Amazon
Google Play
iBooks

Janna Hargrove’s life wasn’t a fairy tale, not even close. She’d never imagined her life would have it’s happily ever after moment. Until she met Ryan. The moment their eyes met, everything changed. She knew he was the one – he was her happily ever after.

Five years into their two-year plan, Ryan finally popped the question. The moment was everything Janna had dreamed of. She had the man, the ring, the wedding date, the house, the career and the plan for 2.5 kids living in suburbia bliss. Everything was just as she’d always dreamed, designer dress and all.

Everything she’d ever wanted was within reach.

Until it wasn’t.

Adventures in Breastfeeding

The familiar feeling of an impending letdown alerted me that I was now thirty minutes past my normal pumping time. My shirt and bra were getting tighter and the pain was beginning to distract me from my current task. I glanced towards the back of the office to the room that was supposed to be reserved as the “Mother’s Room.” It had a sign posted and a reservation schedule by the door – because my boss thought it would be too awkward to have the room listed on the calendar as “Mother’s Room.” He’d nearly vomited at my original suggestion of “The Milk Barn.”

I sighed audibly and got up. As I walked back to the room I contemplated all the mean faces and side eyes I would give the person who’d ignored every sign and was occupying the very room I needed. My irritation was growing by the second and I almost pitied the person on the other end. Almost.

I knocked quietly and waited. No answer. I knocked again. After the second non-response, I tried the handle. The door was locked. Awesome. I knocked one last time, but again, no answer. Someone had locked the door and closed it behind them as they left. I could feel my eyes starting to burn as my breasts reminded me again that I desperately needed to pump. Taking a deep breath to quell the tears, I found our office manager and asked for the key to the room.

“We don’t have one,” he said. “How badly do you need in there?”

My face flushed and I had to again force back tears, “Pretty badly.”

My co-workers, sensing my frustration, sprung into action. They tried to jimmy the lock with a paperclip, personal credit cards and random keys found in the office. Nothing worked. My pumping room was locked down tighter than a white collar prison, with my pump and supplies inside. Had they been at my desk, I likely would have just popped by boobs out and started pumping in front of everyone.

Maintenance finally showed up an hour later and I ran into the room to relieve the pressure. I may have also given in to the tears that I’d been fighting.

Now that I am nearly seven months into my second go-round as a working, breastfeeding mother, I am quite used to the variety of hurdles that come with this.  am committed to providing for my daughter as I did for my son. I do believe that breast is best (for my children) and worth every sacrifice. But this does not mean I am immune to feeling the stress and frustration.

With both my children, I started new jobs around their fifth month of life. Both times I agonized more about when to tell them I needed to have a space and the time to pump than salaries or benefits. I constantly worry that my need to pump will be an inconvenience to others, but I also find myself becoming highly annoyed when they are inconvenienced or weirded out when I mention my need.

image2While I was pumping for my son, I started traveling for work. Thankfully, I produced enough to have a freezer stash to use for him. Work travel as a pumping mom is a challenge – calling ahead to ensure your hotel room has a refrigerator only to find out upon your arrival that they do not, but you can bring your breast milk down here and we will store it (and accidentally freeze it, meaning it will thaw and spoil before you make it back home), getting excited to learn the airport has a mother’s room only to learn it is in the terminal you are not flying out of. You haven’t fully lived if you’ve never had a twenty-something TSA agent ohh and ahh over how thick your breast milk is, “WOW this looks like whole milk! I normally see watery milk, but this is THICK! And, dang, it’s like a gallon!” all while your boss and co-worker wait patiently for him to finish scanning the bags so everyone can make it to the gate in time.

Aside from the travel challenges, far too many companies do not consider the needs of working mothers. The law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for mother’s to pump (the laws are a little more intricate than that, but I am going to skip the legal ease), but many either do not care or do not have the space for it.

I am fortunate to work in a corporate setting, but I have seen how difficult it can be for mothers that work in retail or restaurant environments. My career has led to be in those positions momentarily as I am pumping and starting new jobs. During those times, I pumped in my car because the restaurant or store I was in did not have a private space that wasn’t a bathroom or monitored by cameras. These instances were rare inconveniences for me, but for many moms, this is a reality of life every single day and most don’t fight it.

Part of the issue is the fear of asking – similar to one of the arguments of why women are paid less – because we are afraid of making requests or asking for what we deserve. This is something I struggle with regularly, both in pay negotiations and asking for time and space to express milk for my child. At some point, we as women need to stop apologize for existing and start demanding for our proper space.

However, like any mom, I make the best of the situation and make it work. Even if that means pumping in my car in the heat and humidity of a Nashville summer.

An excerpt of this originally appeared on Our Epic Blog and can be found here. 

Happily Ever Never

“Deep down, I knew that you were too good to be true
But every piece and part of me wanted to believe in you
But now it’s happily ever never”

The words played over my car speakers as I sat in traffic. I’d been listening to “Peter Pan” by Kelsea Ballerini on repeat for weeks now.  I’d crank it as loud as my Camry would allow and sing along at the top of my lungs (horribly, sorry fellow commuters).

On this particular day, sometime in early 2017, I heard those two lines a little louder than normal. I started the song over and listened again. The wheels in my brain started turning; a story was unfolding. Who was this girl and how had she fallen for this Peter Pan? How had she ignored the voice that nagged at her?

I sat in traffic and pictured this girl, a girl I’d now named Janna, and the boy, whom I called Ryan. What was their story and how did it fall apart (no spoilers here folks, the book is called Happily Ever Never, you know it’s coming), and more importantly, how does Janna grow?

As I pulled into the parking garage at work, I had a good idea of their story. I pulled out my phone and started making notes as I walked to the elevator and then through downtown Nashville. Their story was so perfectly clear.

When an idea or story comes to me, usually as snipers of scenes or conversations and, almost always inspired by a song, it consumes me (more apologies to those around me) until I get their stories out. The characters nag and nag, filling my brain with dialogue and backstories.

To some, this idea may seem foreign. But, to my fellow imagineers, this is the process. For so long, I ignored these stories or simplified them into short lyrics or stories I told myself and then let fly away. Every once in a while, these stories become too big to stay in my brain and I start writing. And writing. And writing.

That’s what happened with Happily Ever Never. It happened when I wrote it in early 2017 and again now as I’m editing it to share with you.

When I was trying to decide which book to publish next, I’d initially chosen a different manuscript. I had it printed, started editing and stopped. I didn’t love the characters, they didn’t speak to me anymore. Janna kept nagging. I opened the preface that I wrote and started reading. Then chapter one, two, three … you get the idea. She pulled me right back into her story and I knew this was the book I had to share. I’ve now read it four times in the editing and revision process. Four times in a month and I still love it.

My plan is to release in October, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get early access to the first three chapters (starting 9/21, I’ll be sharing the first three chapters exclusively with my subscribers).

Stay tuned 💗

 

 

The Threenager

My son turned 3 in June. Everyone warned me about this age. Two isn’t the terrible year, they told me, the year of the threenager is. I remember thinking, yeah, two hasn’t really been that bad. I braced myself for three. At least I thought I did.

Nothing could  have prepared me for three. Especially the three that comes after your sweet, gentle soul of an only child becomes a big brother in the months leading up to the big third birthday.

The tantrums. The mood swings. The willful disobedience. The potty training regression. The sleep regression. The behavior regression. The yelling, the hitting, the arguing … I was not prepared for any of it.

Lord, help us all.

I am going to be brutally honest here (judge me if you must), no age or moment has challenged me as a parent more than three. I doubt my decisions daily – both my parenting decisions and my decision to become a parent. This boy tests me in ways I’d never even imagined were possible and I fully understand the words my mother used to say to me when I was a teenager – “I love you always, but I don’t like you right now.”

Typing that I realize just how big of an ungrateful asshole I sound like. But until you’ve been kicked, slapped, screamed at and peed on by your adoring child all within the span of a minute, you have no idea how trying these moments are.

Every once in a while I will start to wonder if maybe my child is worse than the other threenagers I know. Could there be a bigger issue? Then, as if the Facebook Mom Group Gods are listening, a fellow threenager mom posts a story that mirrors the one I’d just barely survived.

Nope, he’s a normal threenager. Thank you Jesus. I think.

But, three isn’t all bad. We have so many amazing moments and are making lifelong memories – this kid is a steel trap and remembers everything. EVERYTHING.

He adores his baby sister and loves to help with her. He can make her smile and laugh in a way neither her father nor I have mastered yet.

He shows compassion for his friends, sister and family. I can already tell he is going to be empathetic and caring towards others.

He gives the best hugs and is always up to a bedtime snuggle. His favorite thing is to give “Avengers” hugs … we have a Hulk big, a Black Widow hug, a Spider-Man hug … you get the idea.

 My son has become his own person – he has ideas and an amazing imagination. He makes up stories and loves telling them to us. My favorite? The one he insisted his teacher hit him and his friend on the head with a broom and ended up in timeout. It took some work, but we finally got him to tell us he’d made up the story. We’re working on learning the difference between the truth and a lie and when and how to use our imagination to make up stories.

We can hold real conversations and he is capable of telling me what he needs. He’s observant to the world around him and can, for the most part, hold his own.

Some days it’s hard to remember that he’s still a toddler. He uses complete sentences and has moments of pure genius as he works through his own logical approach to life. At times, he’s so mature that I forget how quickly he can slip back into threenager mode. I have to constantly remind myself that he is still just three years old and he has all these big emotions that he’s just now learning to cope with and process.

And, I am still learning how to parent a threenager. I’m sure I’ll figure it out sometime around his fourth birthday.

The Simplified Planner

I am and always have been a complete and utter office and school supply addict. I love the feeling of writing with a new pen on a new notebook. It is only rivaled by the feeling of cracking open a new book. Despite this, I’ve never quite found a planner that I could stick with and actually enjoy using.

I have always been scattered between appointments on my phone, work email and calendar and random to do lists. But, as my maternity leave with AB was ending, I knew I needed a better solution. I needed a way to simplify my schedule, the kids’ schedules and my husband’s. Oh, and keep on top of every day tasks at home and work.

Just writing that brings back the anxiety I felt then. How in the world was I going to keep it all straight and organized without losing my mind.

Enter Emily Ley and The Simplified Life. I saw the book at my sister in law’s and fell in love with the aesthetic. Yes, I totally judged the book by its cover … y’all, it’s gorgeous. So, I looked it up on Amazon and read the description. I knew it was exactly what I needed and I ordered it. This was around Christmas time, well before AB was born, and it sat on my dresser unread until April. I had a few weeks left of my leave and I decided to crack it open.

It spoke to me in a way I don’t know that I can explain. They way Emily writes is so relatable and the tips are so easy and simple (it is called the Simplified Life) that I immediately took action. I decluttered my house like a pro. It was cleansing and I was sold. I’ve been following the principles since I returned to work in May. The difference it has made in our life is immeasurable.

I started following Emily and Simplified on Instagram and absolutely fell in love with the Watercolor Floral Planner cover that launched in the 2018-19 Academic Planner. I ordered the daily edition on launch day and not-so-patiently waited until the August 1 launch day … which was just two weeks after I started my new job (more on that in a later post).

Let me start by saying this Planner is gorgeous. The cover is perfect and I need this pattern in every aspect of my life (thanks to May Designs, I’m gettting close with notebooks, tumblers and a phone case). It’s legit one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. The gold accents on the corners and coil are both practical and beautiful.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits, the Simplified Planner is loaded with subtle, simple planning tips. There is prepwork that helps you think through your routines and build a plan that is executable in your daily life. This was crucial for me as I set up my planner.

I start each month by filling in all the important dates – birthdays, work commitments, kid events, etc. – and then on Sunday, I transfer those to each day.

The daily layout is by far my favorite planner layout. The time layout is great for keeping track of work meetings and family commitments and the To Do on the right helps me keep track of daily deadlines and chores.

In addition to the planner, I also purchased the color coding dot stickers, flag stickers and a few other sticker accessory packs … what can I say, I went all in on this Planner madness. Oh, and the Happy Stipe Pilot V5 Pens. I’m a G2 girl, but these pens are amazing as well. I flip between both now.

I can honestly say I’ve never been this organized in my entire life. I could say this is all thanks to the planner, but it’s truly a combination of reading The Simplified Life and using the planner – it’s an unstoppable combination.

 

Another weird side effect … I actually look forward to finishing tasks so I can mark them off. Pilot Frixon Highlighters are beyond perfect for this … pastel and erasable.

FYI The Calendar year version launches on September 5 at 10am Eastern.

My Kid Won’t do THAT

Y’all remember life before kids? Back when you were on the outside looking in and full of wild ideas and judgement … you know, all those “when I have kids …” moments? Don’t look at me like that, we all thought it. We’ve all said it.

So, to make us all feel better and laugh at ourselves (or, maybe, just at me), I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the things my kid won’t do that he does, in fact, do.

  • Eat McDonald’s. Weekly. Sometimes twice.
  • Know there are toys in the Happy Meal & he certainly won’t play with them before he eats.
  • Watch TV.
  • Have a tablet.
  • Throw a tantrum.
  • Throw a tantrum in the middle of Target.
  • Scream in a restaurant.
  • Run away from me in a restaurant.
  • Wake up at 4am. Every. Single. Day. Of. His. Short. Life.
  • Have a pacifier.
  • Suck her fingers/thumb.
  • Have play weapons.
  • Take over the house with toys.
  • Eat different dinners/meals than the rest of us. I will NOT cook two dinners.
  • Eat candy. Definitely not as an entire meal.
  • Be bribed. I would NEVER bribe my child with any of the above tactics. Nope. I will never negotiate with candy, toys or screen time.
  • Eat in the car.
  • Tell strangers about his penis.
  • Lick the handicap railing in the restroom at Costco. )Wait, that’s super specific. Who’s kid did that? That’s horrible. Yeah, that was my kid and I had no idea I was supposed to add that to the My Kid Won’t do That List.

What are some of the things you swore your kid wouldn’t do, but totally does?

Girls’ Night Out – Lisa Steinke & Liz Fenton

It’s been a hot minute or year since I read an actual, physical book that wasn’t nonfiction. Audio books have been a staple of my life for the last year and I found that I can only listen to nonfiction while driving … because I like to imagine the fiction and that doesn’t exactly bode well for being behind the wheel. If you check out my Good Reads list you’ll see a plethora of political memoirs with a few fun books mixed in. Not going to like, this makes me feel a wee bit smarter than I was before. Can’t say for sure whether or not that statement is rooted in actual fact.

I recently took a new job with a nine (9!!!!) minute commute, which all but annihilated my audio book time. So, I needed to fill that void and to be honest, I have really missed getting lost in a good women’s fiction novel. I suggested an online book club to my mom group and BAM I’m back in the business of reading for FUN!

But, I digress.

The first book we chose to read was Girls’ Night Out by Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton. The book is centered around three friends – Ashley, Lauren and Natalie. Ashley and Natalie have a business together called BloMe (for real) and have a big offer from Revlon that could change their lives for the better, if only they both agreed on the outcome. Lauren is recently widowed and we quickly learn that she had a falling out with her two best friends at her husband’s funeral – but, we don’t learn the details until much later in the book.

I have read a few of Lisa & Liz’s books and I have enjoyed each one. I love their method of storytelling from multiple characters and perspectives. The writing is seamless, but each character’s personality is distinct. The same is true in GNO. Early on Ashley, Natalie and Lauren are all well-developed and defined. And they stay true to character throughout the book.

When I first started reading GNO, I was afraid I was about to embark on the female version of The Hangover. Natalie wakes up along on the beach after a night of drinking. Her dress is wet and she is covered in sand and has no memory of how she got there. She also quickly discovers that Ashley is missing. From there the book turns into the mystery thriller I was expecting.

(I am going to attempt to write this review without giving away any spoilers … but, just in case, you’ve been warned).

Although the book dives right into Ashley going missing, I felt the first few chapters dragged a little and I was speed reading to get to the reveals (Why was Lauren so mad at Ashley? Why was Natalie so desperate for this Revlon deal to happen and why was Ashley so against it?). The book wove in and out of timelines as well as character POVs in order to set the stage for Ashley’s disappearance, so it takes some time to get to the juicy bits of the plot. Normally, I can guess the answer to the mystery (an annoying trait I am sure comes from my own desire to be a writer), but not in this case. I was way wrong on what happened with Lauren and Ashley at Lauren’s husband’s funeral and I was only partially right on what happened to Ashley.

As much as I love Lisa & Liz and their writing and dynamic characters, I could not find a single redeeming quality in any of the girls. I found Lauren to be too whiny, Ashley too demanding and Natalie too much of a doormat. I kept reading and waiting for something to flip my opinion, but even in the end, the girls didn’t evolve. They left vacation the

same as they came to it, well almost – can’t really spoil that part for you. This disappointed me. These three girls went through a major life changing event not only on this trip but in the year leading up to it and none of them learned anything or made any efforts to change. Perhaps this is grounded in real life, but I was missing the “lesson,” if you will.

I devoured this book in three days – even stayed up past midnight reading and woke up early to finish it the next day (as a working mom with two kids, midnight is WAY past my bedtime). I enjoyed the shifting perspectives and timelines and the writing kept me turning the page to get to the next reveal. The one negative is that I never actually cared what happened to the characters – I wanted to, but I was more interested in the what than the who. If that makes sense. I loved the story, but not the characters.

In all, I enjoyed GNO and it was a great first read in my return to fiction journey.

 

Setting the Tone

I try to make my bed every morning. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I do this for two reasons … first, because my son absolutely loves messing up the pillows and it’s his bedtime “treat” and because it helps set the tone for my entire day.

I haven’t done any scientific research, but anecdotally, I have noticed a dramatic difference in my level of productivity on days I make my bed versus days I don’t. I believe (also, not scientific) that this is all psychological.

The visual of the bed being made is usually the last thing as I see as I head out the door and one of the first things I see when I get home. When the bed is made, I feel like I have my shit together. The bedroom feels more orderly and it’s almost inspiring.

Same goes for the dishes. My husband will be the last person to tell you this … though he should be the first, he’s just too nice … I suck at dishes. I suck at cleaning. I suck at housework.

I’ve found that when the dishes and laundry pile up, I won’t do it. Period. I will leave it for him to do. (Sorry hubby).

Conversely, if the dishes are caught up or there’s just one load of laundry, I am all over that shit. I’ll unload the dishwasher and get (unjustly) irritated when my husband leaves dishes in the sink if the dishwasher is dirty and not full. One load of laundry? I’ll fold that bitch as soon as the dryer buzzes.

Since returning to work after AB was born, I’ve been making an effort to stay on top of these things because I know they won’t get done if I don’t. Well, they will, my husband will just do it all (sorry, again). Part of this is due to being insanely inspired by The Simplified Life by Emily Ley (its life changing y’all), but also because I have always felt guilty for not helping more with housework.

That said, I’m still not mopping the floors and I won’t stop asking for a house cleaning service. But, I will (try to) make the bed every day and help keep the dishes and laundry from exploding (like they did this week).