Mission Driven Monday--Ashlee Gadd

Meet Ashlee Gadd!

She’s the founder of the popular blog, Coffee + Crumbs, a place where mothers across the world share stories of hope and grace. If you've ever longed to feel safe, known, and encouraged, and loved, then Coffee + Crumbs has a place at the table for you. In this episode, listen in as Ashlee talks about what it means to be a mother and how she’s thriving in a new (albeit short) season of rest. She's a 3 on the Enneagram, an Achiever, so I thought it was pretty funny when she talked about how she tricks her brain into resting by making a list of all the ways she's going to rest during her month-long and well-deserved sabbatical. This mom with three little ones is holding it all together and living her best life now. Join us as we follow our mission, not the madness.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’
— Erma Bombeck

Important links from this Episode:

Coffee + Crumbs Blog

Ashlee’s Personal Website

The Magic of Motherhood, a book that’s a “love letter to mothers everywhere.”

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Mission Driven Monday--Julie McKevitt

Meet Julie McKevitt!

Have you ever wondered if your heart was big enough to welcome a child into the world? What about a second one? Have you ever wondered if you could make space for a new opportunity when the one that’s right in front of you is practically perfect in every way? Have you ever wondered if you have the courage to forge a new way?

Artist. Entrepreneur. Mother. And social activist.

Julie McKevitt paints the world with kindness and invites others to do the same. In this episode, we talk about staying grounded even while dreaming big and how sometimes the hardest won battles are those between husband and wife. This is a story about BECOMING. Join us and follow your mission, not the madness.

Important Links from this Episode:

Paint Love: Extraordinary arts programming for youth facing poverty and trauma

Julie’s Instagram: Follow the Kindness Day journey

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Choices and Consequences: Is Unpaid Work Holding You Back?

Dream Jobs

I write a lot about finding your purpose and figuring out the work you’re meant to do.

I blame it on my childhood.

We’re asked at a very young age what we want to be when we grow up. We usually reply based on what we’ve seen, either in our neighborhoods or on TV. There’s probably a disproportionate number of people out there who wanted to be things like teachers, doctors, and policeman.

When my son was in kindergarten, he wanted to be a garbage man (his words, not mine).

At the time, we thought it was funny and cute.

Hanging off the back of a truck, wind whipping through your hair…what could be better?

He’s 15 now, and his new dream job is one he calls “fragrance mogul.” I don’t think he’s seen many of those around, but he likes girls, and I guess he’s started caring about whether or not he smells good when he is around them.

There’s a bunch of kids going off to college, and they are stressed to the max. Everyone is asking them where they are going to school and what’s their major. Students like my daughter, with ambiguous majors like Leadership Integrated Studies, get asked a follow-up question, which is typically a variation of “What do think you want to do with that someday?”

How could she possibly know the answer to that question?

Our first jobs rarely determine our final destination.

Case in point: I used to work in a hardware store, and my first job out of college was as a trainer in a gym.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is necessary. Work is good. My daughter’s been working since she was sixteen. All the jobs we have in life prepare us for the work we’re meant to do.

Humans were created to work. But there are so many different kinds of work and ways in which we can work and possibilities for the future that I would never want to lock my 19 year old daughter into just one way of thinking. She’s young and smart. I’ve never told her to choose a major based solely on the fact that she needs something concrete, something “she can fall back on.” I have faith that she can figure out work because she’s figured out so many other parts of her life.

And she’s got time.

So many of the jobs that sound interesting to me now did not even exist when I was her age. I never could have imagined the work I’m doing now. But (and this is the big thing), I knew what kind of life I wanted, and therefore everything I was learning would not be wasted, no matter what the future held.

Choices and Consequences

But the point is that we often don’t think about the consequences of our choices.

Twenty years ago I made a choice.

I made a choice to leave full time paid work in order to stay home and do full time UNPAID work. It was a choice I made, and the consequences were many. I have no regrets because this unpaid work has been fulfilling in other ways

If my son had thought through the consequences of being a sanitation worker, a valiant occupation to be sure, and something we can’t do without ( Does anyone remember New York’s great garbage strike of 1968?), he may have chosen a different path—even as a kindergartener. However, he didn’t think about the fact that it’s pretty stinky riding behind the garbage all day, that HE would be pretty stinky, too, by the end of it, and that lifting garbage bags hour after hour is some kind of back-breaking labor. In hot weather, on cold days, and even when it’s raining, sanitation workers are on duty.

The garbage never stops.

But just because we get older doesn’t mean we think about the consequences of our work. Maybe you have found yourself on the business end of a poorly executed choice. For example, I once thought it would be fun to run a company, which would probably mean time away from family, travel, late nights, stressful working conditions, and possibly even more education.

Is that what I really wanted?

We make the choices we can live with.

And all choices are not created equal.

As I’ve watched my children get older and my friends, stay-at-home moms mostly, go back into the workforce, I’ve noticed that even now we forget what our choices mean.

We want so-called REAL work because it means that the years we spent at home raising our children, volunteering at school, and keeping house were not wasted. We can add value. And if we can, we should…Right? And let’s be honest—kids don’t get less expensive as they get older. We trade diapers and preschool for drivers ed and tutoring. They need and want more than we can possibly give them.

Going back to work is the next logical step.

So we go back to work and discover that we are still needed at home, that children still get sick, that teachers still have conferences, that the laundry and cooking do not cease simply because we are not there to do it. We can enlist the help of our spouse and kids, but everyone is busy. So, so busy.

And we realize that what we really want is not necessarily more money, but more time. The kids are getting older. They will leave us soon. We only have four more summer vacations. Three. Two. One. And then suddenly they are off to college. And family vacations are a thing of the past. At least the way they used to be.

Where did the time go?

Real Work

I want you to know that the work you’re doing now IS real work. It’s important, and it matters. In a LinkedIn article I was reading just last week, 91% of employers say that soft skills are more important than hard skills when looking to hire a new employee. These skills are becoming increasingly important, not just in the workplace but everywhere. Those are certainly the skills I can practice, teach my kids, and cultivate in a variety of non-traditional unpaid ways.

Just because I was (and still am) what some would call a stay-at-home mother, I don’t necessarily do a lot of staying home.

According to the LinkedIn report, these are the soft skills companies need, but have a hard time finding:

1)    Creativity
2)    Persuasion
3)    Collaboration
4)    Adaptability
5)    Time Management

Where better to practice these skills than in the context of motherhood and volunteerism and community service? 

Think about what you’re doing right now. If you’re not doing REAL work, can you think of anything that’s preparing you to lead with the soft skills necessary for the future?

 It’s so easy to think that time spent at home and time spent not earning real money, is wasted time. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your soft skills are getting stronger every day.

 It is possible to chase your dream without running away from your life.

You are not stuck.
You are not stigmatized.
You are not a doormat.
You are not a slave.

You are smart, and special, and someday (but maybe not now), your dreams will actually be closer than you think.

 You will not always have children at home.
You will not always need to be the one who does the cooking and cleaning.
You will find, if you’re willing to share now, that which you have, that when the timing is right, you will receive exactly what you hoped for.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
— Galatians 6:4-5 MSG

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Mission Driven Monday--Dara Buczynski

Meet Dara Buczynski!

Dara Bucynski opened Ephiphany Athens in 2014. But her life of faith and adventure actually began many years before. After adopting a daughter from the Ukraine and learning more about orphan care there, Dara decided to use her gifts to partner with global organizations caring for children around the world. Her beautiful boutique is grounded in a simple truth: "God decides you're beautiful." May this episode inspire you to follow your own mission (not the madness) because where purpose lives, love thrives. Thanks, Dara!

Important Links from this Episode:

Epiphany Athens: Check out their new arrivals! Free Shipping over $75!

Heart for Orphans: provides support and care for teens aging out of the orphan care system in the Ukraine and the former Soviet Union

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
— Proverbs 31:25

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Mission Driven Monday--Kristen Witzel

Meet Kristen Witzel!

What makes your heart happy?

Meet the Founder and Executive Director of KidsBoost! Kristen is a mom and former hospital Child Life Specialist who turned her passion for generosity into an opportunity to mentor kids taking on service projects to raise money for the organizations that matter to them. In this episode, we talk about how the challenges of being a single mother and how being an entrepreneur helped her find meaning and purpose in the work she was clearly meant to do.

We both have kids who just finished fifth grade and are about to embark on the adventure of middle school. I think it’s interesting how ideas percolate over time, building tension, and ultimately inspiring us to take action.

As moms, we want to pursue our dreams and also do ALL THE THINGS. Is it possible? Kristen says she spent years living off peanut butter and a prayer. She’s working to build a culture that values working parents as they raise kind and generous kids while using their own gifts to give back to the community.

You don’t want to miss this incredible story.

Important links from this episode:

Does your kid have an idea for a project they’d like to pursue? KidsBoost would love to help!

KidsBoost: Creating a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others

The Moment of Lift : How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

Big Magic: Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Mission Driven Monday--Jen Guynn

Meet Jen Guynn!

Everybody wants their kids to care about their community, but not everybody knows where to start! How do you find the projects that include families and allow KIDS to be a part of the process? Kids love to play and they love to help. Guess what? There’s a place for them!

Because my husband works at a church, and I’ve been leading an adventure club for girls for the last five years, people are always asking ME how they can get their kids involved in service. I’m not the expert, but I know someone who is, and here’s what I tell them—Check out Pebble Tossers! They are the leading platform for kids to find the opportunities and resources that will fuel their leadership skills for a lifetime.

In this conversation, Jen and I talk about proudest accomplishments, how we’re practicing mindfulness in this new season, and future dreams. The world is full of incredible opportunities—somebody needs to seize them!

Important Links from this Episode:

Pebbletossers—Start a ripple of giving! Their mission is to empower and equip youth to lead through service. Ahhh…don’t you just love that?

Plywood Presents—Get your tickets now—ATL Ideas! A festival of all things good!

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Mission Driven Monday--Amanda White

Meet Amanda White!

What does it REALLY mean to find meaning and purpose in your life?

Today, Amanda and I addressed one of the biggest tensions we have as moms: Am I JUST a mom? Is that enough? Who am I and how do I navigate this changing, crazy world?

“I start fast.”
”I work hard.”
”I finish strong.”

That's Amanda White in a nutshell.

She's a writer, blogger, mom, and empathetic friend. Today, she's your friend too! I loved talking about what she's learning and how she's growing. Seriously, y'all, there's so much wisdom jam-packed into this episode. Don't miss it. Follow your mission, not the madness.

Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,—‘Wait and hope.’
— Alexandre Dumas--The Count of Monte Cristo

Important Links from this Episode:

Oh Amanda: Helping You Impress God’s Word on Your Kids’ Hearts

Truth in the Tinsel: Experience the Christmas story with your kids

A Sense of the Resurrection: An Easter experience for families

The Disciplines of the Christian Life by Eric Liddell. ”I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

We Choose Virtues: Inspiring Character that Lasts

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram journey of self-discovery

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place .... Rest in God alone, O my soul, for my hope comes from Him.—Hebrews 6:19

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The Best Advice My Dad Ever Gave Me

Do you remember that episode of Friends, when Rachel’s mother leaves her husband and crashes head-first into Rachel’s life? Rachel is mortified, and her mom is certifiable, but she did say something that always stuck with me, probably because it struck a little too close to home. She said,

“I went straight from my father’s house, to the sorority house to my husband’s house.”

I did that, too, but it’s a choice I’d make over and over again. My husband’s house became our home. And wherever we are all together is always my favorite place to be.

But before I moved out of my parents’ house for good, my dad said this:

“Never do anything the first year of marriage you don’t want to do the rest of your life.”

You’re welcome. :)

It was the first piece of advice I ever received from someone I respected who had been married for a long time.

And it’s advice that has served us well. I never would have imagined then that all the things I might have done during our fairytale first year could have come back to haunt me.

What it did was open up a line of conversation about the things we both wanted to do and how we were going to share responsibility and contribute to our joint household in the future. I don’t mind doing the laundry; he likes to fold the clothes. I like to cook; he’s always happy to do the dishes. I will gladly pick up discarded socks and underwear as long as the last one out of the bed in the morning accepts the responsibility of making it. These trade-offs have worked well for us. These are small things, I know. But we were only 21 when we got married. We still had a lot to discover about ourselves and the world—especially as we embarked on other firsts—navigating our first jobs, figuring out graduate school, giving birth to our first kid, and purchasing our first home.

They say how you do anything is how you do everything.
We wanted to get it right.

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought it would be fun to highlight the best advice our dads ever gave us. As a blog written primarily for women, it’s easy to leave the guys out of the content I share. But I’m a product of both my mother and my father. I was lucky enough to have a dad that made me feel valued and loved. I believe girls need both female and male role models. And my dad is one of the best!

Because of him, I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted to one day marry. What had been modeled for me growing up was good enough to keep the tradition going.

When I asked some friends to tell me about their own dads, they eagerly shared some of the best advice they ever heard:

Lean into the hard things, you will be glad you did and come out stronger than you thought you were.
— Jennifer Snyder's Dad

Strength is often defined as the ability to withstand pain. Women learn to withstand a lot of pain, and I love that Jennifer’s dad is the one who told her that she is stronger than she thinks. Our bodies can withstand so much more than we give them credit for. But there’s also other kinds of hard things (i.e. relationships, careers, kids), conflict we’d like to avoid altogether, but rememberTHERE IS NO GROWTH WITHOUT PAIN.

Good advice, Dad.

My dad didn’t give a lot of advice, but he asked a lot of questions, which usually got me thinking in the right direction.
— Melanie Dale's Dad

Two things I love about this piece of advice: It’s a proven fact that asking more questions makes us more likeable, so Melanie’s dad was smart to ask questions, especially when Melanie was in middle and high school. Parents can seem so out of touch at that age. We like our friends more than our parents, so Dad asking questions was a great strategy for keeping the communication lines open. I think questions are also a great way to help us understand the WHY behind the things we believe and the things we do. You better have a good answer if you’re about to do something dumb!

Good advice, Dad!

Write down your goals and dreams so you can go back and see what God has done and see your success. Unwritten goals are just wishes.
— Amy Myers's Dad

This is one of my favorite pieces of advice. Bill Gates said that people overestimate what they can accomplish in one year, but they underestimate what they are capable of accomplishing in ten years. Writing down your goals gives you a framework for celebrating all the wins along the way.

Good advice, Dad!

Be blessed and be a blessing.
— Sara Stewart's Dad

Oh, this one is just beautiful! What a great piece of advice because it’s so others-focused. Isn’t it true that when you are a blessing to others you yourself are the one who ends up blessed?

Good advice, Dad!

Try to understand what other people are experiencing. Give them a chance. There is something good in all of us.
— Jennifer Turner's Dad

My friend, Jennifer, has a heart of gold, and she got it from her dad. She finds the best in everyone, and everyone loves her because of it.

Good advice, Dad!

Remember, it’s what’s CAUGHT, not what’s TAUGHT, that matters most.
— Ginny Starr's Dad

This is one of those quotes that popped up again and again. Our role models always SHOW us what’s important rather than TELL us. Show, don’t tell, is good advice for writers, and it’s good advice for us.

Maybe you didn’t grow up with a dad who shared a lot of wisdom with you. Maybe you grew up at the school for hard-knocks or had to find your own way or had a lot of strong women who guided you through those early, pivotal years. No matter how you got to where you are today, I hope you will share what you’ve learned with the next generation. We are always better together.

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Mission Driven Monday--Amber Pert

Meet Amber Pert!

Amber Pert helps turn young dreamers into real-life doers. Her Navigator book series chronicles how leaders across a range of disciplines built their brands. Amber is passionate about purpose, and she brings it to life through the inspiring words she shares with young leaders. I loved hearing about her vision for the future because kids truly ARE our future. Experience is a great teacher, but for young people--learning from the experiences of others is EVEN BETTER. Follow your mission, not the madness.

Important Links from this Episode:

Wellspring Crew—Information and Navigator Book Series

Book she recommends: Measure What Matters

And a book I recommend: Barking to the Choir by Father Gregory Boyle

Millennials and Money

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Make Everyday a Great Day

Yesterday, I made my daughter’s last school lunch.

It wasn’t anything special—a thermos of macaroni and cheese, some carrot sticks, a granola bar, a fruit snack, and a juice box.

Later, I asked her why she didn’t eat the macaroni and cheese. She said, it just didn’t look good sitting in the thermos after all those hours.

And I said, “Well, the good news is next year you can start packing your own lunch!”

And then it hit me: I just packed her last elementary school lunch.

Would I have made her something different if I had known?

I don’t know.

That’s the thing about endings. Unless you’re counting down to the last day of school before summer vacation or the last day of pregnancy before your baby is due, an ending is easy to miss. It’s easy to miss because what we’re actually counting down to is a NEW BEGINNING.

I don’t remember the last time I made my daughter’s bed.
Or tied her shoes.
Or gave her a bath.
Or washed her clothes.

She does all those things all by herself. And clearly—trust me, I know—she’s old enough to make her own lunch. It was just one of those things I said I’d keep doing while she was in elementary school, and then all the sudden elementary school is over, and the one thing—THE ONE THING—I was holding onto isn’t even a thing anymore! I did it for the last time, and I did it just like all the other times.

My friends, you are about to enter the golden years, ages 4-10, when love from you and friends for them come fast and easy.

 I’m not going to be the tired old mom who tells you how fast it goes. You have to learn that on your own.

But I have no remorse about telling you to find a way to make all the times so good that even if it’s the last time, it’s okay. Beginnings are even better.

As my daughter walked her elementary school hallways for the last time, she asked me, “So…did you make a ‘last-day-of-school’ cake?” For the record, I have NEVER made a last-day-of-school cake. I just told you how bad I am at remembering the endings. I do, however, always make a first-day-of-school-cake, so instead of cake, we’ll come home and eat watermelon and throw water balloons at each other (just because we have some in the garage we’ve been saving for a special occasion), and then we’ll probably do what we do on most regular days—decide that it’s going to be a GREAT DAY.

And if everyday is a great day, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first or the last. All that matters is that we’re ready for what’s next.

Because the end of elementary school isn’t about graduating from the fifth grade at all; it’s about going to middle school, a magical place where freedom lives and friendships are hard and homework really cramps your style. My daughter is ready. Who am I to hold her back?

Let her make her own lunch!

2026, here we come!

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Mission Driven Monday--Steen Jones

Meet Steen Jones!

Steen Jones is a serial entrepreneur and writer who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She has a husband, two beautiful teenagers, and a treehouse office that would make Tarzan jealous. When we say "Follow Your Mission, Not the Madness," what we really mean is: FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY. The world is full of beautiful things, and as seasons come and go, there's time for enjoying ALL of it. I hope you enjoy this fantastic conversation.

I promised you some pictures of Steen’s amazing treehouse office, so here you go!

The outside of Steen’s Treehouse—a tranquil little spot in the woods!

The outside of Steen’s Treehouse—a tranquil little spot in the woods!

The treehouse office—Inside. I think anybody could find their muse here!

The treehouse office—Inside. I think anybody could find their muse here!

Important Links from this episode:

And fun fact: We talked about Steen’s first business, COLORS, which trained women coming out of the sex industry on how to crochet. In the pic above, Steen’s wearing some of them. And in the pic of ME on this website, I’m wearing some of them too!

Steen’s TedX talk at Georgia Tech

Buy the book, The Door Keeper by Steen Jones

Learn how to WAKE YOURSELF UP with Wim Hof. Follow him on Instagram! Here’s everything you need to know about the Wim Hof Method.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Book, Big Magic

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Mission Driven Monday--Monica Lage

Meet Monica Lage!

What started as a senior project grew to be one of the premier entrepreneur camps in the country.

Meet Monica Lage, the founder of Break Into Business, where kids move from idea to pitch to profitable business in just five short days. Monica says launching Break Into Business and being present for her children is the hardest thing she's ever done. (And this is coming from a person who has an MBA from Harvard!) She makes it look easy, but don't be fooled--Monica has worked VERY, VERY hard.

One of the things I love most about the Break Into Business business model is its emphasis on generosity. That's a core value of Monica's, too, and it shines through loud and clear. Monica is following her mission, not the madness, and inspiring hundreds of kids along the way.

In THIS interview, Monica confesses that she's learning how to be INefficient. What? You'll have to watch to find out what she means.

Want to learn more about how your kid can be a part of Break Into Business? Click here!

If you have a child between the ages of 9-14 and live in the Atlanta area, this is a summer camp worth exploring!

Kids build real businesses and have the chance to earn real money. And this summer is extra special—camps just for GIRLS and even a camp for kids who want to learn more about SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP are available. Campers also have the opportunity to sign up for one of Break Into Business’s fall accelerator programs. USE CODE GIRLBOSS FOR $30 OFF GIRLS CAMP THROUGH 5/17/2019.

My own son participated in camp for four straight summers and loved every minute of it. He loved hanging out in Atlanta’s coolest co-working spaces, pitching his business, and coming home with cold, hard cash in his hands. I am a thoroughly satisfied customer and recommend B. Camp without reservation!

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You Can REST, but You Can't QUIT

There’s nothing like the month of May to remind you how tired you are. Moms and kids alike are counting down the days until school is out and dropping the ball on all sorts of stuff. You may remember this blog post by Jen Hatmaker that went viral a few years ago:

A few weeks ago, I forgot to take my son to church. The church we’ve been attending every single Sunday for the last ten years. The church where my husband is the actual pastor. That church. As I was getting off the exit, Aaron called me and said, “Forgetting someone?”


In my defense, I normally drive two kids to church on Sunday, and since my younger daughter had a friend spend the night the night before, I did have two kids in the car—one was mine, and one was our neighbor.

So yeah, I forget someone. And I didn’t even have time to go back home and get him.

Two weeks after that, I forgot about a club meeting being hosted at my house. I might have begun thinking I was in the early stages of Alzheimers, but since my co-leader forgot about the meeting too, and she’s nearly a decade younger than me, I didn’t feel so bad.

We’re all in this together, folks.

May is filled wth sports tournaments, dances, end of year parties, and tests. Our brains are TIRED.

I was behind a bus on my way home from a meeting yesterday afternoon, and I counted 17 kids who all exited the bus while staring down at their phones. They were zombies.

But who could blame them? If I wasn’t the one driving, I probably would have been staring at my phone too! And truly, I do find myself zoning out at the end of everyday. It’s a conscious effort to keep going.

(This is the quote that hangs in my daughter’s room. She’s a runner.)

Unless you puke, faint, or die KEEP GOING.
— Jillian Michaels

I don’t want to wish away May. It’s a beautiful month. We’ve finally said goodbye to winter. The grass is green, the trees are filled with leaves, and warm weather greets us every morning. The key to having an awesome May is the key to every busy season: PREPARATION.

In September, I know that May is going to be busy. This should not be a surprise. I have a calendar. I know what sports my kids’ play. I know there will banquets and teacher appreciation and graduation parties. I know all of this MONTHS in advance. None of it should take me by surprise.

1) Begin stocking the gift closet after Christmas or at least take notes on things you see that would make great gifts. These are some of my favorite go-to gifts for graduates: You can purchase this or this and it will be here in two days. And of course, cash is always appreciated. No advance planning necessary.

2) Plan easy meals: My kid-friendly favorites are these Ham & Cheese Party Sandwiches, Homemade Pizzas, or anything that uses a grocery store rotisserie chicken (Chicken & Noodles, Chicken Tacos, Broccoli Rice)

3) Remember to exercise. This is the one thing you’ll be tempted to drop immediately. After all, who has time to exercise? I say, who has time not to? I love to work out in the morning, but during this season, I realized I just couldn’t do that every day. On the days I can, I do, but on the days that are just too busy I settle for running up to my gym while my daughter is at dance. I can only get in 30-40 minutes, but that’s enough time to do what I need to do. Plus, I don’t feel guilty about wasting time in the car or resentful because I didn’t get to exercise at all. If all else fails, just take the dogs for an extra lap down the street. That’s all it takes—a little bit extra and you’ll feel great.

4) Schedule a day to spend time with friends. There’s a lot to celebrate, but in May it’s almost never about you. Even Mother’s Day comes with pressure to honor our own parents and grandparents and spend time with our children. It’s lovely, of course, but celebrations are important for morale. They give us hope and remind us that we have friends and purpose, and that life is fun. Grab coffee with a friend, go for a walk together, see a movie while the kids are in school. (I did this today and lingered an hour longer than I probably should have, and I don’t regret it for one second.)

5) This post is about rest. It’s about taking a break for a moment when what really sounds good is taking a break forever. As the school year draws to a close and the kids are cleaning out their desks and throwing out all their old papers, think about how you can implement this same ritual at home. This is a great time for you to take a personal inventory of all the things you really don’t need anymore (Say goodbye to all the yucky water bottles and lunch boxes. Say goodbye to all those papers you’ve been saving just in case.). Get rid of the stuff you can see, and then get rid of the stuff on your calendar. What do you want to continue? What is coming to a natural end? What makes you feel alive?

Enjoy your summer, and we’ll talk about next year in August.

See you soon!

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Mission Driven Monday--Amber Robinson

Meet Amber Robinson!

I met Amber at the Indiana Christian Writers Conference back in 2012. She was writing a book called Mercy Rising and working on a number of other projects. But she's not only a writer--she's a composer, pianist, and teacher, and her newest book, Piano Lessons for Kids, is making waves across the U.S. In this episode, we talk about Essentialism, Mission Statements, the lives we live, and the legacies we leave. I wish we lived in the same city because I know my life would be better if I could make time with Amber a regular part of it. Amber will inspire you to make music, create art, and just get out there and PLAY. Be like Amber and follow your mission, not the madness. I’m cheering for you!

Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.
— Booker T. Washington

Thinking Tree Books: This is an awesome resource! You’ve heard of home-schooling and un-schooling, but have you ever heard of FUN-schooling?

Mercy Rising: Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion

Piano Lessons for Kids: Piano Lessons for Kids is the inventive book that unleashes a student’s imagination and love for music! This self-paced, 168-page book spans a semester or a school year, depending how often you visit the subject – once or multiple times in a week.

Adults need no prior musical training and are encouraged to learn right along with their kids. The audio/video materials make this possible.

Students will learn not just to read notes, but also to hear music, compose, and tell a story with the piano – all with songs they really want to play. Separating it from other method books and online programs.

This book – with essential audio/video instruction – solves the problem of having to purchase separate books for note reading, music theory, listening skills, and composing – it’s all here, in one book.

Essentialism: This book by Greg McKeown is THE BOMB, and if you’ve ever struggled with saying YES to too many things, this is the book to help you prioritize well.

The 90:90:1 Rule: For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your work day to the one best opportunity in your life. Nothing else. Zero distractions. Just get that project done. Period.

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There's No Place Like Home: Discovering Your Heart's Desire

‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.’

’That is because you have no brains,’ answered the girl. ‘No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.’

The Scarecrow sighed.
— The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

When I was in college in Indiana, I would sometimes come back home to Georgia on an airplane. The first such trip was right before Thanksgiving in the fall of 1992. I hadn’t been home since I left in early August, and although I loved college, I was also homesick—for a hot bath in a clean house, a hot meal cooked by my mom, and a hot date with my far-away, long distance boyfriend. As the plane descended over Atlanta, I first saw the pine trees, green towers dotting the foothills and then the city, and even before my feet touched the ground, I was instantly transported back to this place I loved.

Early April is a beautiful time to be home. The cherry blossoms and dogwoods are blooming, and I noticed little buds peeping out on all the other trees. Lawn mowers are beginning to buzz, and a few people have begun pressure washing their driveways and decks. Life is exploding all around us, and this week, we get to appreciate it. All of it.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Scarecrow couldn’t understand why Dorothy would want to go back to a place that was dry and gray. He didn’t understand the places we love are never really about the places themselves. They are always about the people. Dorothy could overlook the deficiencies in Kansas because as they say “love covers over a multitude of sins,” be they agricultural or otherwise. (In Georgia this week, I’m overlooking the billowing clouds of yellow pollen swirling around me.)

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn't you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it's that — if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is!
Scarecrow: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you -
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart -
Glinda: No, she had to find it out for herself. Now those magic slippers will take you home in two seconds!
Dorothy: Oh! Toto too?
Glinda: Toto too.
Dorothy: Now?
Glinda: Whenever you wish.
Glinda: Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home'.

It seems too easy, doesn’t it? Like the thing we really want couldn’t possibly be right in front of us. But what if it is? What if your peaceful, purposeful life is right here?

We live in an amazing time in history, in a world that’s more connected than it’s ever been before. I can talk to my sister-in-law in China instantly any time I want. And for free! My teenage son is in California (without parents!), but I can track him on my iPhone, and my husband is getting his doctorate in Ministry (he’s such a smarty pants!) right from his office desk.

It’s fun to go away and see new things. Truly, there is no substitute for experience, but never for one second think that your heart’s desire must be somewhere out there. It might be right in your own backyard.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21

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Mission Driven Monday--Amber Humphries

Meet Amber Humphries!

The motto at Mission Driven Woman is "Follow your mission, not the madness." It's a joy to meet someone who is fully embracing her mission, and Amber's is "Peaceful Home, Adventurous Life." She is an entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and singer/songwriter. Amber’s many talents have led her to embrace saying "no" to fear (she's a city girl turned mountain woman) and “yes” to inspiring and empowering women in all stages of life transition. Amber is thoughtful and wise. One of my favorite parts of this conversation was when we talked about success and what that looks like during different moments in our lives. Also, I love the idea of warring opposites, and it seems to be a common theme among the women I interview: Big and Small, Open and Closed, More and Less.

People often say to Amber, “Wow! You’re living your dream life!”

Her response—”Why aren’t YOU living your dream life?”

Fun fact: Amber and her husband composed our Forever We theme song, and Amber sings the lead vocals. You can listen to the song here.

Important Links from this Episode:

blog http://www.citymousemountainhouse.cominsta @citymousemountainhouse
music http://www.jaredandambermusic.cominsta @jaredandamber
health journey http://www.amberhumphries.cominsta @amberhumphries

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Your Magical Staycation: Stay Home, Save Money, and Have Fun

We’re on Spring Break this week, and it seems like everybody I know is either at the beach or at Disney World. Except us. I’m not complaining. Home is my favorite place in the whole wide world. And besides, I’ve already been to Disney World, and the rumors are true—it’s every bit as magical as they say: The cast, the rides, even the lines. The magic is in the details.

But you know what’s NOT magical? The crowds, the prices, and the wait times. And depending on the season—the heat. If you weren’t already planning to go, maybe those four things alone have convinced you to SAVE YOUR MONEY and STAY HOME. I’m kidding (sort of), but if you do find yourself at home like me this Spring Break, there are some things you can do to make your staycation feel a little more magical.

When I was kid, I had lots of time to play. We didn’t need a fancy schedule because there was nothing to remember. Go to school. Come home. Do homework. Go outside and play. Repeat. These days, my kids have their own color coded tab on our family’s electronic calendar. When we have downtime, it takes them a couple of days to decompress. We can help them by jump-starting those creative juices with some ideas of our own.

Make It Monday:

Crafty moms, this is your day! I’m not that mom, but I can surf Pinterest like a boss, so you (yes you) are bound to find the perfect craft just by going straight there and typing in something like: “easy crafts for toddlers” or “easy crafts for teens” or “foolproof crafts for moms.” I’m not crafty, but I do like to cook, and sometimes I even let my kids help. My son wants to learn how to make sushi, so I bought a simple kit from Uncommon Goods. And my daughter likes to bake. We can crack eggs and whip cream all day. I found a simple recipe for chocolate croissants I can’t wait to share with some friends we’re planning to see this week!

 Try it Tuesday:

There are so many things to try! Does your town have a skate park? Load up the bikes and scooters and roller blades. My first and last time on roller blades I crashed into a car and ended up with a badly bruised tailbone. That was almost twenty years ago. Maybe it’s time for me to strap in and get ready for the ride of my life once again. The skate park has many flat areas, is fully enclosed, and is safely removed from the parking lot full of cars. If all else fails, I’m not too old to get on a razor big wheel and go to head-to-head with the local kindergarteners. This is my year to be brave and try new things!

 Water Wednesday:

Middle of summer? Great! A warm Spring day? Better than perfect! Spread a tarp in the middle of your grass, drag out the hose, and pour on the dish soap. The kids will have the time of their lives. The grass will be ruined, but I promise it will grow back. Middle of winter? Take a bath! You can read more on the perfect bath here. We have a huge tub in our master bathroom, and I never let the kids use it. They would think it was a real treat! Don’t have a bathtub? Don’t worry! My favorite part of going to the salon is having my hair washed. Wash the kids hair in the sink. It’s a wonderful relaxing experience. (Warning: They will beg you to do this every time!)

Thinking Thursday:

We live in Atlanta, so there are several great museums. My favorite is the Civil Rights Museum. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library is also a fun outing. If I don’t want my kids to THINK they’re thinking, then I’ll take them someplace like the Sweet Auburn Market, a fantastic place filled with strange foods and exotic people. Want to stay home? Great! Your kids might think they hate documentaries, but there are lots of interesting ones. I used to make my son watch them as punishment for not getting his homework done, but an unexpected side effect was that he actually fell in love with them and even now is a bit of a history buff. (My current favorite is Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about Fred Rogers, and you can find it on Amazon Prime Video.)

 Fun Friday or Friend Friday:

Surely your kids aren’t the ONLY ones who are home this week! Invite a friend to play (You need a break by now), but if you truly do feel like the zombie apocalypse has happened and took everybody you know with them to Zorp, then might I suggest a trip to a local assisted living or nursing home? There’s something truly magical about youth and vitality and when your kids share it with others, a beautiful thing happens. Take some treats (sugar free are great for those who have diabetes) and a fun game. We simply blew up a few balloons and purchased some cheap plastic paddles from the Dollar Tree. Our kids had a blast playing a modified version of Badminton/Tennis with their new friends.


You did it! You had a magical week, creating memories your kids will cherish forever. And it wasn’t too hard. You can do anything for five days. And I bet you didn’t even miss the long lines, greasy food, cramped hotel room, or endless car ride at all.

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5 Ways to Grow Your Resume as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I wish I had a dollar for all the times someone has asked me, “Are you just a mom?”

When my kids were little, I got this question all the time. I didn’t know how to respond. What did that even mean?

Am I just a mom?

I wanted to say, “ Are you just an accountant? Just a teacher? Just a dentist?”

I’ve been a mom for almost 20 years, and in all that time I can honestly say that I was never (not once) just a mom.

Sometimes I’ll hear moms say they’re dishwashers and chauffeurs and tutors and short order cooks.

All true.

But they are also managers, CEOs, advisors, and attorneys.

Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
— Becoming, Michelle Obama

You are not just a mom, although the long days spent wiping snotty noses and changing dirty diapers can trick you into thinking it’s work that will never end.

You don’t have to wish those days away. In the midst of all that has to be done, there are things you can do to bump up the wow factor on your resume.

1) Volunteer. No good work is ever wasted. I spent a decade volunteering at a local hospice, even though I had no desire ever to become a health practitioner myself. Those years taught me how to live well, how to be with people in the midst of their pain, and how to navigate hard conversations—skills I value to this day.

2) Contract a few hours a week. Find extra hours in your day to do something you love—and get paid for it. When I had extra time, I reached out to a mentor of mine to see if there was anything I could do to help her with her own work. Because she was a writer, I was able to assist with research, eventually gaining enough experience to write special features and small articles for our community magazine.

3) Lead something in your community. My husband and I have always attended church. It’s part of our weekly routine, and for a season I coordinated something called Sisters of Support. Basically, the SOS was a network of volunteers commissioned to bring meals to families experiencing hardship in our community. I coordinated the volunteers and supplemented what was needed on a weekly basis by making an extra chicken pot pie or batch of brownies here and there. I was already cooking for my own family, so making extra was no big deal. I led a team of almost 80 volunteers, and I was able to do it all from the comfort of my own kitchen workspace.

4) Find a place to network. I would have gone crazy if I had stayed home all the time. Being a mom is hard work. When my kids were little, I joined my local sorority alumnae group. Each month’s meeting promised the opportunity to meet someone interesting or learn something new. Eventually, I was elected President, and so in addition to the new friendships, I gained valuable leadership experience. Sisterhood doesn’t have to end just because college does!

5) Cultivate hobbies. The worst thing you can do is to spend so much time caring for your kids that you lose yourself. If there’s something you love to do, keep doing it. Just being a mom allowed me the freedom to experiment in the kitchen (I even learned how to use a sous vide), go on long walks (sometimes with a kid—or four—in tow), read books (you can learn a lot from reading children’s books, and I’ve led lots of kid lit book clubs), and practice writing (look, I’m still doing it! :))

Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re just a mom. There’s something to learn in every season. And even if you don’t incorporate any of the suggestions listed above into your daily routine, I guarantee you’re gaining valuable experience leading people, managing teams, organizing your household, strategizing for the future, and TCB’ing all that other stuff employers think is important.

You’re a rock star! Keep going!

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Journaling as Art

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
— Benjamin Franklin
The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
— Gustave Flaubert
Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers
— Isaac Asimov

I have always loved to write.

I’ve spent my whole life writing. Unfortunately, a lot of journals from my childhood were maimed or destroyed. And I’m the only one to blame. When I read them later in life, I was embarrassed about some of the things I wrote. Knowing I would be mortified if anyone read the words I penned, I scribbled out things and tore out pages. I know I’m a different person than I was back in those days, but the world will never know about the conversations that shaped my current thinking, the people I loved and hated, and the unfounded worries and fears that colored my early years.

In an old hope chest of my grandmother’s, I discovered one of her old journals. It begins with these words, “Today I turn 20. Gee, but I still feel just 16!” There’s a couple of months of truly boring entries that read like an agenda and then seven full years of radio silence. She probably felt a lot like me—either she didn’t think her life was interesting enough to write about or she didn’t want to remember a reality that was painful at the time. My grandmother has been dead since 1987, so I’ll never know for sure what the 1920s meant to her. I do know this, though. If you want to really understand a person, all you have to do is look at what was going on in the world when they were in their 20s.

Maybe that’s why I have five journals now. Maybe it’s my feeble attempt to be known and remembered by all who come after me. Maybe it’s how I make sense of a world gone topsy turvy.

I was in my 20s during the 1990s, a time rife with terrorism scares and the Gulf War, when grunge was in and the characters of Friends and Seinfeld seemed to be having all the fun. My 20s included the Oklahoma City bombing, the explosion of TWA Flight 800, the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the Columbine High School shooting, Y2K, and of the course the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. No wonder everyone my age is so afraid of everything.

I thought getting older would take longer.
— Heather Burton

Once as our family was on our way to Hilton Head, our best friends and neighbors were coming home from their vacation in Hilton Head. The kids in our car were texting the kids in their car, making sure that we waved as we passed on the interstate both going 70+ miles/hour in opposite directions. It was a blur, all hands waving frantically out of the car windows on both sides, the kids in our car screaming, “They’re coming! There they are! They are!” But really it was just a whoosh. There they went.

It is the sound of our everyday, as we cook and drive and clean and care for our families. Time marches on, whether we acknowledge it or not. We count down the days until vacation or graduation or Christmas or till the kids are out of the house. "It’s almost here,” we shout, and then it’s gone, and before we know it we are 25 and having our first baby and 33 and having our last, 40 and everybody’s in school and suddenly our firstborn is in college.

I don’t like to talk about getting older because at my age, the trend is to play a game of Who’s the sickest? The most tired? Had the most surgeries? Sleeps the worst at night?

I don’t mind getting older.
I just don’t want to look older or feel older.

So maybe that’s why I write. I write because writing is so firmly grounded in the present. It’s right now and it’s write(!) now.

I write to remember, but also to dream.

In between graduating from college and building my family, I wrote it all down, and apparently (from what gleaned from a recent re-read of an old journal) I was really, really tired. So very, very tired.

Today, I keep five separate journals. They are stacked on my desk, scattered on the couch, stuffed in bags.

Prayer Journal: where I write down a favorite Bible verse everyday and keep track of prayer requests. (I love to look back and see how God answered those prayers.)

Dinner Journal: where I write down what I cook every single night of the week. (Boring? Maybe. But when I’m feeling stuck, I can always look back and go, “Oh I forgot about that recipe!”)

Book Notes Journal: where I write down things I want to remember from books I’m reading. (A book is never a waste of time, and how else would I be able to internalize all those nuggets of wisdom?)

Creativity Journal: where I write down questions I’m thinking about and interesting things I’m pondering from articles I read or people I meet. (This is the one journal I’d be devastated to lose! It’s how I make sense of everything happening around me.)

Line a Day Journal: Where I write down what’s going on with our family, sometimes an interesting quote, or even a note about the weather. (This book is the condensed Readers Digest version of the story of my life.)

It might be nice to have just one journal where I could keep everything neat and organized, but I don’t write in every journal every day, and I don’t fill up the journals at the same rate. Plus, my life isn’t neat and organized so why should the recording of it be that way? My life is messy, but beautiful in all the best ways.

I know a lot of people that don’t keep a journal because they just haven’t found one that works for them. I’ve never understood that argument. We are not consumers; we’re creators. The act of creating a system that works for you is cathartic in itself. My journals feel like art to me, each one an unique symbol of the life I’ve both created and lived.

Multiple journals are way better than my old system—a labyrinth of sticky notes scattered all over the house—jammed in books, stuffed in drawers, and attached to the insides of cabinets. Finding those notes later often left me wondering if I were drunk or crazy when I wrote them. Let us not confuse laziness for art.

Get a journal. Write it down. You are an artist.

What is a life? Practice, Plan, Prepare (Repeat)

Every week, I interview a woman I admire for Mission Driven Monday, and every week we ask the same three questions:

1) What are you the most proud of?

2) What are you learning right now, in this season?

3) And tell me about your aspirational future, the future YOU. Who do you want to be?

I have loved these interviews because I’ve learned so much about the people in my life, some who have entered it for a specific season and others who are part of my core team.

During introductions, I talk about some of the big things they’ve done in their lives, some of which are very impressive, but when I ask them the question, “What are you most proud of?” common answers include:

  • Staying the course

  • Persevering through the hard stuff

  • Wanting to quit, but keeping going

  • All the little things that have made me who I am

And it made me think about how we’re all just waiting for that one big break, the big opportunity that will make all our wildest dreams come true. And for some of us certainly there are pivotal circumstances. Some of us are outliers and have met interesting people or been in the right place at the right time, but more often than not, it’s the consistent, daily deposits that have truly shaped who we are today.

All those successes and failures rest not on one big opportunity but on the habits cultivated by a lifetime of consistency.

It would be easy to give up.

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
— Bill Gates

Sometimes it’s only by looking back that we are able to see that it’s all the things we did leading up to the big break are the things that made the difference.

I just finished reading the book, Sully, by Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed the irreparably damaged Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009. Hailed as a hero, his life has not been the same since that one event. Precious few chapters of the 350+ page book are devoted to the events that actually transpired that day. (The entire flight lasted just five minutes). Everything Sully and the crew did to land that plane was the result of careful practice, planning, and preparation. Not only had he logged 20,000 flight hours by the time he took to the sky on that fateful day in 2009, but years prior he had started a corporate safety consulting firm, and spent his formative years training as a fighter pilot with the US Air Force Academy. All that routine stuff wasn’t routine at all; it was the foundation for the remarkable event that catapulted his life and career into the stratosphere.

What are you doing to practice, plan, and prepare for your big moment?

The success or failure of your own life defining moments will rest on the merits of what you did every single day leading up to it.

Do not despise this small beginning, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
— Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

We don’t get our kids when they’re teenagers because we need all those years leading up to the drama of it to prepare. We can’t be the boss at our first job because we haven’t got the experience. And despite really, really wanting to be a fluent in Spanish or a concert pianist, I know it’s impossible without practice.

That’s why what you’re learning in this season, right this very moment, is so important—because when you think about your aspirational future, the future you, you need to know what it takes to make those dreams come true.

Moments make a life.

Ask anyone who has had to say goodbye to someone they loved.

Of course they remember the big stuff—the wedding, the birthdays, the promotions—but it is often the small stuff—the way they chewed their meat or got dressed in the morning that evoke the sharpest emotion. The fingerprint they left on the world was forged through all the small decisions they made, the everyday kind of stuff that’s boring and predictable—and necessary.

Anytime is a great time to begin thinking about what we can plan, practice, and prepare.

Think about what makes you proud. Are you persevering in the midst of insurmountable challenges or feeling crushed under the weight of responsibility and redundancy? What are you learning right now, in this season? And when you think about your future—what’s the plan? Are you prepared? Are you practicing?

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