Christmas Experience Gifts

I am all about experience gifts for Christmas. I just, as I’ve said a few dozen times before, don’t think kids need a lot of toys and hate the idea of buying something that gets tossed aside a week after Christmas and never played with again. That’s why we really try to focus on opportunities for experiences. Things like tickets to concerts and sporting events, memberships to museums or passes to the zoo, even the theater. I would much rather skimp on “stuff” so my kids can have experiences like travel and culture and theatre.

Here are a few local deals for Minnesota experience gifts:

Minnesota Children’s Museum

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Basic memberships start at just $99, with the deluxe priced at $129 and that includes a free guest each visit and free admission to the Children’s Museum in Rochester too. I’ve heard that you can get $15 off ALL memberships on Black Friday but you can use my discount code: 141019053 for $15 off a Deluxe Membership through 12/31/14.

Minnesota Zoo

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Purchase a full year of fun and adventure for family, friends, or employees with a Minnesota Zoo membership. Starting Black Friday (11/28) thru Cyber Monday (12/1), Holiday Gift Household Plus Memberships ($155.00) can be purchased for the price of a Holiday Gift Household Membership ($130.00). Memberships are good for free admission and parking all year long, special members only events, discounts at over 100 zoos nationwide and a $2 discount at the Imax. The Household Plus Membership includes one free guest each visit.

The Minnesota Zoo will also be honoring troops this Holiday season. Military personnel (active, retired, and civilian*) will receive free admission, free parking and half price admission for family members through January 4, 2015. Discount offers also at our food courts and gift stores available.

Children’s Theatre Company

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You guys, this is a phenomenal deal at the Children’s Theatre Company! So for $100 you get 4 tickets to the show of your choice. {You book the show, date and time.} You can choose between- Snow Flake, Huck Finn, Peter Pan the Musical or The Biggest Little House in the Forest. All four tickets must be redeemed together for the same show, date and time. That makes the ticket price $25/each! Want to go to all four shows? Good news! There is NO limit on how many vouchers you can purchase and redeem!

 

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Science Museum of Minnesota

Memberships start at $99 for a family and that includes a free Imax EVERY visit! How can you not find the value in that?

 

Do you do experience gifts? What do you have planned this Christmas?

 

My Third Stitch Fix.

My third Stitch Fix arrived Friday afternoon and I was really excited. I waited to open the box until I knew I’d have time to try on every piece and had high hopes after such successful fixes this past summer.

You guys, I was bummed.

This is my least favorite fix.

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Here’s what I got:

Daniel Rainn Rivera Damask Textured Blouse $48
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I hated this. Shapeless and too flowy for my liking. I would imagine this is one of those overpriced tops I would purchase and wear one time and never again.

Decision: RETURN

Rune Porter Legging $38

I almost didn’t try these on because I have leggings of the $8-$15 variety from Target and Old Navy but I did and I will say they are probably the most comfortable, quality leggings I’ve ever worn. I think $38 is pretty steep for a pair of leggings but I also don’t want to lose my $20 style fee so might get them anyway.

Decision: UNDECIDED only because I don’t want to lose my style fee

41Hawthorn Colibri Solid Tab Sleeve Blouse $48

I bought a top by this brand in my last fix and I do really like and wear that one. I like the fit, the fabric and the length on this one especially because it’d be a good top for leggings or skinny jeans. That said, I do not love the color.

Decision: UNDECIDED…

Sweet Rain Thomas Striped Raglan Sweater $58

My stylist included a note about styling this with leggings which before I unfolded it was excited about that prospect but….leggings are not pants, people. I could never wear this with leggings and I really don’t love it.

Decision: RETURN

Look by M Torrey Twist Cable Knit Infinity Scarf $42

I knew before I even put this on that I wouldn’t keep it because $42 for a scarf? Need I say more.

Decision: RETURN

So this Stitch Fix was pretty awful and I’ll admit I had some high hopes to get my through the holidays. The first two weekends in December I have FIVE different events to be at so I had hoped for a few options. All that said, I’m not giving up. I plan on scheduling another fix for either late December or early January and maybe might go add some more specific instructions on my profile.

My First Stitch Fix
My Second Stitch Fix

Have you tried Stitch Fix out yet? What have you liked or not liked? If you haven’t signed up yet what are you waiting for?

For a $20 styling fee, you fill out a questionnaire and all of your likes/dislikes when it comes to clothing, style, price points etc and a stylist puts together five pieces they think you might like. Hate it all? The only cost is the style fee. Love it?  Your $20 style fee goes towards your purchase and if you buy all five items you receive a 25% discount.

If you sign up and use my link I receive referral credit {it costs you nothing more or less by using my link, I’m just disclosing that I will receive credit}.

 

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas at the Children’s Theatre

Miss E and I had the pleasure of going to opening night of the Grinch on Friday night at the Children’s Theatre. I’ve seen this show a couple of times at the same theatre but will never tire of the story, the colorful costumes and characters and the songs. It’s catchy and funny and heartwarming and you will leave with the Christmas spirit.

Most everyone is familiar with Dr. Seuss’ beloved Christmas story- The Grinch, played by Reed Sigmund, doesn’t like Christmas or the Who’s or anyone in Whoville for that matter. He tries to ruin it for the small and happy town but his heart grows thanks in large part to Cindy Lou Who and the love she shows him.
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Other company actors cast in the show include: Traci Allen Shannon, Gerald Drake and Autumn Ness. But perhaps it is the role of Cindy Lou Who played by Natalie Tran that steals the show. Natalie has been with CTC since she was 6, she’s 9 now.

Another show-stealer? Old Max played by H. Adam Harris. His storytelling ability and believable character is amazing.
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We loved the show. Each time we see a production at Children’s Theatre Company, it’s better than the last. The vibrant colors, exuberant singing and stage energy and beautiful message are all reasons I’d recommend seeing it. If you don’t leave feeling warm Christmas fuzzies you might want to make sure YOU’RE not the Grinch.

It’s good for all ages, from the tines to the older ones, though I’d suggest ages 2 and up.

There is a short intermission and of course refreshments are available for purchase. {Cookies from Patricks, anyone?}

All in all it’s another first rate show from CTC. So thankful to have this wonderful Children’s Theatre in our community.
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Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is at the Children’s Theatre Company through January 11. Tickets are available online now but they do expect to sell out.

If you go: Arrive early and enjoy the lobby decorations from Bachmanns, pre-purchase your intermission snack and ENJOY!

Disclosure: I was given tickets to opening night thanks to a relationship I share with the Children’s Theatre Company. All words and opinions expressed are mine.

Three Holiday Style Tips for Busy Moms-

It’s the holidays which means family pictures and family functions and work parties and all sorts of stuff you need just the right outfit for. Don’t want to run out to the Gap or spend boatloads at Ann Taylor Loft? Me either.

I used to LOVE shopping. Then I had a kid, or three, and decided that ain’t nobody got time for that.

Between household shopping and kid shopping and Christmas shopping, the last thing I want to do is go out shopping for myself. I can’t imagine I’m the only mom who feels this way which is why I put together these style tips for busy moms.

1. Stitch Fix.
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I’ve raved and raved about Stitch Fix after I received the first two shipments. I have another one scheduled to come next week and I can’t wait. Obviously you have no idea what’s coming but I’ve got faith in my stylist and am pretty sure there will be at least something I can wear for upcoming events.

2. Personal Shopping at Macy’s.

Confession: I did this for our family pictures this year. I don’t think it’s cheating to have someone help you put together outfits and color schemes, do you?

This is what I love about this service. Two things I really loved about this: 1. it’s FREE. 2. it’s ok if everything’s not from Macy’s. IMG_9829

I worked with Natalie at the Ridgedale Macy’s and she initially sent me a photo of some outfits she picked out after I sent her sizes and our last year family photo. I wasn’t exactly keen on the outfits from the get go which is why honesty is important. I emailed her back and explained how it wasn’t what I had in mind and we set up a meeting. In the meantime, I realized I really loved one of the outfits Miss E had already and wanted to find a way for her to wear it in photos. I brought in a couple things we had at home  that I thought worked well together for a couple of us and she helped me figure out what else would work for other members while also staying in our budget. In the end while some of our outfit pieces were purchased from Macy’s, I also was able to use things we already owned from Old Navy and Tea Collection. I will definitely utilize this service again in the future. If you’re interested in trying it,call your local Macy’s and ask to make an appointment for personal shopping!

3. Wardobe Consultation with A La Mode Wardrobe Consulting.

I’ve written about Carly and what she offers in the past. She has an amazing eye and can style anyone. She also is really good at helping you figure out what looks good on you and what doesn’t, what basics every closet needs and can help you as much or as little as you’d like from a full consultation or just helping find that just right outfit for the company work party.

What are your tips and tricks for putting together just the right outfits for holiday events?

 

*Affiliate links were used in this post.

 

Giving with World Vision this Holiday Season

We all have those people in our lives who need and want nothing this Christmas. Yet, you want to do something, give something and you want it to mean something.

Enter World Vision’s gift catalog. With over 250 gifts available from World Vision this Christmas there is truly something for everyone. Prices start at just $16.

What I really like about their gift catalog is there truly are options to give a gift in someone’s name if they truly don’t want one more “thing” in their life. You can have a card sent from World Vision explaining your gift and it’s meaning and everything.

Examples are gifting a goat {$75} that will nourish a hungry family with up to 16 cups of milk a day, chickens {starting at $25} that will give a family eggs and daily protein. You can donate money to help stock schools with school supplies, help girls who have been sexually exploited and even designate a donation to disaster relief.

While World Vision is known for their international works and child sponsorship opportunities, they also are committed to helping families in poverty in America too.

You can donate money to a cause that goes directly to help a family in poverty in America. Just $18 goes to feel a family for one day or $22 will give a child a backpack with essential school supplies.

In addition to the ways that you can gift and donate in a friend and family member’s name, you can also buy a physical gift that is made by local workers or artisans in various countries.
UntitledLike fair trade coffee from the One Cup Project or serving spoons handcrafted in Kenya, cinnamon from Vietnam or a cuff bracelet from Old Delhi, India. These gifts not only have meaning but the money used to purchase them goes back to help support individuals in those communities.

We sponsor a child both via World Vision {and Compassion International} because it has proven to be a powerful thing for our kids and each other. We love getting notes and pictures from them and also love talking about how different life is in their respective countries, Mexico and Indonesia. Especially compared to here.

I just don’t think you can go wrong supporting them or shopping via their holiday catalog. World Vision would like to give one of my readers a Silver Vines Cuff.cuff

This adjustable silver cuff bracelet has an intricately laced vine pattern designed by artisans in Old Delhi, India. This piece of jewelry is the result of once mis-treated women banding together to support their families through Fair Trade practices. 

You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post but I did receive an in-kind gift from World Vision. All words and opinions shared above are mine.

Christmas Cards Deals & Steals {Christmas 2014} UPDATED 11/20

I’m asked a lot about when the best time to buy Holiday cards is and the answer I give all the time is that the best time to buy cards is when you are ready to spend a chunk of time looking at the options out there, what works best for your photo and the current deals.
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I’ve decided that I’ll post a round up of the best card deals each week and update all season long. I might miss one or maybe you’ll see a better deal. Just let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

So this week, here’s the best Christmas card deals-

Pear Tree Greetings: This is where we got our cards from this year and I love them. They are based in Minnesota. I was super impressed that not only were most cards double sided but also that I ordered them on a Sunday and had them by Thursday!

Best deal right now: 50% off their BEST cards through the end of the day Monday {11/17}  by using EARLY50 SAVEJINGLE to save $15 off orders of $75 or more, $30 off $100, $80 off $200.

If you use my link you will save $20 off your first order of $40 or more as well. {I’ve heard this can’t be combined with other offers but worth checking.}

Tiny Prints: You know I love me my Tiny Prints even if I didn’t order through the this year. I also love that with Tiny Prints a designer goes over your card and will call you if there is anything they see that might need editing. {I had this happen a few years back.}

Best deal right now: 30% off site wide with SWSALE30. This ends SUNDAY NIGHT {11/16} 
30SALENOV is good for up to 30% off site wide ends 11/20.

TPSAVE50 is good for $50 off any purchase of $150 or more through 11/26 {Tiny Prints tells me this is the best deal they will have ALL season!}

Paper Culture: I bought my professional Christmas cards through them this year because I had a voucher through zulily. I’ve never ordered anything through them before but was impressed with the selection, the quality and also the speed. I ordered them on a Monday and had them by Thursday.

Best deal right now: 25% off all Holiday cards and 20% off non-Holiday cards. No code needed but deal ends SUNDAY NIGHT {11/16} 30% off all Holiday cards right now through 11/23. No code needed.

Minted: They did Miss F’s beautiful birth announcements. Seriously, gorgeous. They are typically on the pricier side but they are not your typical cards and you likely won’t end up with duplicates from friends and family if you order from Minted.

Best deal right now: 15% off orders of $150 or more, 10% off orders of $100 or more with code JOY4

Shutterfly: They are part of Tiny Prints but definitely cheaper and a perfect place to order cards if you already upload your photos there.

Best deal right now: JOY2ALL for 50% off cards ends SUNDAY NIGHT {11/16} Ongoing- CARD40 for 40% off most cards and

SCORECARDS for new customers only. You get 10 FREE cards for every 50 ordered.

SHAREIT for 40% off everything site wide!

SHIP39 for FREE shipping on orders of $39 or more.

For any customer- Spend $50 or more before 11/24 and get 3 FREE gifts in December.
Shutterfly Free Gifts

Snapfish: I’ve never ordered from Snapfish before and really don’t know much about them but they do do holiday cards.

Best deal right now: 50% off site wide with code TWINKLE14. 60% off all cards with code SUGARPLUM

Other Christmas card ideas:

Order a card design on etsy. You email the shop your photo and they send you the .jpg. Upload and print at Costco {or wherever you get photos} and purchase envelopes and you’re set. We did this one year a few years back and I LOVED our card. Super convenient to be able to print a few extras when you need them instead of running short.

Target, Walmart, Costco, Walgreens all offer various photo Christmas card options to for a pretty reasonable price.

*Affiliate links were used in this post.

 

 

Remembering Where My Hope Lies.

The kids had a snow day today and J had a scheduled day off so our day looked a lot different than we pictured it but we did it. We juggled kids and so much snow. I tried to manage a couple of conference calls and J tried to get on top of some emails and I even managed to get a few loaves of pumpkin bread baked before we headed to a city meeting tonight.

Our church has been looking into buying a property in our city. This isn’t quite the time or place to go over all the details and ins and outs of why and why it wouldn’t work but let’s just say it’s been a long, daunting, challenging process. And it has, at times, felt hopeless.

As I sat at a meeting last week, I couldn’t help but look at the faces of some of those making the decisions and feeling as though there minds were made up, they don’t want to hear how great this could be or why we are for it, they just want to vote, deny and move on.

I admit I went in to tonight’s meeting feeling much the same and as I scrolled through Facebook as the meeting began, someone else at the meeting had posted pray for tonight’s meeting.

So I prayed a silent prayer and I’m sure many others both present and not present did the same. “Lord, if this is your will, move.”

City staff spoke and then the city attorney, each of the five council members weighed in and just as soon as I thought they would all vote against it, they decided to break for 10 minutes while city staff and the city attorney could meet with officials from our church.

Most people stuck to themselves, chatted with those from church but see, I’m a little crazy in that I can’t sit there awkwardly staring at the people I know, people I’ve voted for, people I live by as though this is an us versus them sort of thing so I walked right up to the front of the room and chatted with each of the council members one by one. One handed me a cookie, another a few tootsie rolls and yet another entertained my invitation to our church once I learned he doesn’t have a church home.

Finally after the 10 minutes turned closer to an hour, everyone found their seats and the decision was made after some legal speak to extend the decision, continue the meeting so that the city and the church could talk about some logistics and conditions on the property.

Now I know this isn’t a yes. I know that there was no vote and that we’re not one step closer to a yes but I couldn’t help but think Lord, you moved.

Right now, Miss E sings and sings and sings. She sings One Direction and Taylor Swift and sometimes even songs she probably shouldn’t be singing but lately, she’s been singing a song she learned at Awana and I can’t help but think she’s been singing the truth I need to hear, to see, to rely on.

“My God is so big and so strong and so mighty

There’s nothing my God cannot do”

In three days they may vote no or maybe they’ll wait two weeks to do it. Maybe they’ll vote yes and we’ll all find the conditions agreeable. But either way I am remembering that my hope isn’t in any elected officials, not the city staff and not even the legal process, my hope is in Him because as my kids continue to teach me, there’s nothing that He cannot do.

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Lately Photo Dump.

Fall has been a busy and full season but it has been so good. I am feeling as though I am in the “sweet spot”. I’m not overwhelmed by projects but have enough to keep busy, the kids schedules aren’t insanely packed with activities but just the few things they love and want to do and we aren’t coasting through the days/weeks one thing to the next. Sure there are busy days and times but for the most part we aren’t in that place of survival mode in which we fall into bed exhausted and worn down and do it all again the next day. We’re in the place that we are picking and choosing the things we want to do, the things we love to do and falling into bed grateful and content.

It’s been awhile since I dumped a great bunch of pics so here goes.

Last weekend, the little girls and I were in Chicago and after my conference and after our Halloween celebrating we went to the American Girl Place. You guys, this is something I dreamed about way back as a freshmen in college, walking the streets of downtown. I wanted to have a daughter to take there for brunch. Yes, yes, we have an American Girl Store at the Mall of America but it is not the same. 

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It was a dream come true morning and so fun.
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{Yes, of all of the wonderful, yummy options on the menu she ordered oatmeal and a yogurt parfait.}

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So thankful for special friends to share it with.
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Once we got home we hit the ground running and Miss F had surgery at Children’s on Tuesday morning. She finally got herself a set of tubes in those ears of hers. So many people ask me why we’re going the tube route when they clearly didn’t help Miss E. I just explain that they are both different kids and Miss F’s issues are pretty common/straight forward ear issues and Miss E’s weren’t.
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She did great, my love for Children’s grew even bigger. {I mean, seriously, they just KNOW and “get” kids.} And even though she threw up the entire car ride home, we are thankful that her little ears are on their way to healthiness.

We voted later on that day, something I love including my kids on.

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And of course we dreamed up a super, simple service project and invited you all along.

Tomorrow we’re headed to Green Bay for our last {planned} trip of 2014 and I am looking forward to a few hours in the car catching up with J and seeing our family there, too.

What are you up to this weekend?

 

Evie’s Bags.

I saw him from across the street and I knew. I knew my little girl, with her bleeding heart for others, would stop and want to help him. Wind blowing, the crisp air biting our cheeks, we rushed across the street, me carrying Miss F, our friends just ahead of us and Miss E starts reading, “Home lllllesss….”

“and hunnnnn gry. Mom, he is homeless and hungry. We need to help him.” She stopped right smack on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Delaware in downtown Chicago. Her feet are glued to the ground, she will not budge until we do something, anything to help this man who’s sitting on the sidewalk, blankets and trash all around him.

I dig my hand in my coat pocket and grab a handful of change and hand it to her and she bends down, sticks it in the mans plastic cup and while dozens of people are walking every which direction around us, she makes eye contact with him as he says, “Thank you.”

She tells him you’re welcome and we are on our way and I am ever aware that she is on the lookout for more souls she can help. She looks back at him as we turn the corner and says, “I’m so sad he is homeless.”

Hours later we are en route home, a seven hour drive ahead of us, I tell her I am proud that she stopped and helped that man.

“Oh mom, it’s what I do,” she says. “I help people.” And she grins a solid grin that she does so well and says, “Don’t forget we need to make some bags for people.”

Yes, yes. I say and nod.

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With the Holiday season approaching the requests of your time, money, resources are plenty. I am not under any illusion of otherwise. But this year we’ve decided that Miss E, our almost 6 year old, is on to something.

Her heart, you guys. Her heart for others, for homeless, for hungry, for those out in the cold. She doesn’t understand why it is that some people have homes and others don’t. She doesn’t understand why some people are so hungry and all she wants to do is make it better.

So this month, we’ll be packing up bags. As many as we can pack and we’ll be handing them out all month {hopefully winter} long.
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Will you join us? Will you help Evie and her plight to help others? Let’s start with 100. We can do that, right? 100 bags for others. In less than 24 hours, we surely surpassed 100 so new goal: 500! FIVE HUNDRED bags to help others! Help us?!

Here’s how you can help support Evie’s bags-

1. Make your own bags and hand them out to those who need them. This doesn’t have to be just a Minnesota thing because there are homeless and hungry people everywhere. Now if you live far, far out in the suburbs, the idea of finding people to give these bags to might seem challenging. Call your local food shelf or drive in to your local big city.

2. As you put together the bags, keep it simple. A former homeless man I know said to avoid personal care items but include things like a snack and water and gloves. The Dollar Tree often has things like hand warmers that would be a great addition. I’m guessing we all have extra Halloween candy laying around that would be a good addition.

3. Include a personal note {no last names}. Evie’s note of choice:
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4. You can pass along those bags to us and we’ll pass them along OR you can tally the amount you make to give out and let us know so we can include them in our count and if all this is too much for you and you would rather donate to Evie’s bags, shoot me an email at samarapostuma at gmail dot com and we will work something out.

5. Share this post. Invite your friends, coworkers, neighbors to take part to create some bags together.

Bonus: Will you take photos? Photos of your bags? Photos as you hand them out? And send them to me? I would love to do a compilation.

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The thing that strikes me the most when it comes to Evie and the way she wants to help is the way that she truly sees people. She is unafraid, she is not awkwardly looking away as some of us adults do, she is not uncomfortable. Her act of helping those who need help is her way of saying, “I see you and you are loved and may this little bit I have to offer, help you.”

So will you see those who need help this season, will you remind them that they are loved and will you offer whatever little bit you have to offer to help? If my little Evie can do it, I think we all can.

 

Related Post: Her Heart

Unpacking Storyline

It’s Monday and it feels like one of those Mondays. I’m not sure where to start. Miss F and I skipped our weekly ECFE class so I could run all of the errands and we’ve arrived home four hours after we left with groceries and items on our list galore. It’s nap time and I’ve got dinner in the crockpot, half the groceries put away and baskets and baskets of clean clothes to fold and put away.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Storyline Conference at Willow Creek. As soon as I heard of the conference, I knew I had to go. Donald Miller, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle all sold me from the get go but it was the confirmation of a friend who wanted to go along with me and another who offered to watch my kids if I brought them that did me in.
 Many of you know that I have turned down countless conference opportunities this past year. There seems to be a conference happening every week somewhere and it always has a component it seems we want or need. But this one was different.

I knew that I wanted to go for professional reasons, but I also wanted to go for personal reasons.

What’s your story? I say that countless times a day to my little F if she grows discontent. What’s your story? I’ll ask H when I see a football or hockey scuffle happening outside the front door. What’s your story? I’ll ask Miss E as I see her mouth drooling chocolate when she wasn’t supposed to be eating treats.

But I rarely ask myself what’s MY story?

What is my story and what is it I want my life to be about?

I have spent much time this year refocusing and resting and trying to re-prioritize yet I still find myself flying by the seat of my pants on deadlines and schedules and trying to do just one more thing.

I say yes to many things I should really say no to because I don’t want to disappoint anyone, don’t want to get left out of future invites and mostly just because I don’t know how.

Storyline Conference was good for my soul. It made me sit, it made me think, it made me pray. What is my story? What is my life about? Where am I going? What is the next right thing?

I loved hearing Momastery talk, she is a breath of fresh air when it comes to authenticity and truly being a “truth teller” and I loved hearing Shauna Niequist, someone I have long admired and adored for the way she tells her story and encourages others to do the same. Donald Miller was thought provoking and funny, Scott Hamilton, inspiring. I could go on and on, each speaker left me wanting more.
UntitledThis isn’t a recap or a review or really anything sensical except for my way of unpacking of taking all the swirling thoughts out of my head and putting them on paper. I am home and life just keeps on going but the foundation is in place and it is time to make sure my life and my story are aligned.

What is YOUR story and how are you living it?